Monday, August 10, 2020

Wishing Star Overview and #1 The Lost Summer

The Wishing Star series was published by Scholastic during the early 1980s.  Some of the books had previously been published and were reprinted with this set.

These books feature girls who have significant problems, such as alcoholism, pregnancy, eating disorders, and abusive parents.  While the books fall under the umbrella of the teen romance genre, they are more like coming-of-age stories where the girls experience personal growth or find a way through a difficult situation.

Since I prefer teen romance books where the romance is a subplot to a more significant story, these books are well suited to my taste.  I love them.

 1.  The Lost Summer, Joan Oppenheimer, 1977
 2.  The Girl Who Wanted Out, Bianca Bradbury, 1981
 3.  Blind Sunday, Jessica Evans, 1978
 4.  The Two worlds of Jill, Patricia Aks, 1982
 5.  Francesca Baby, Joan Oppenheimer, 1976
 6.  Too Much in Love, Patti Brisco, 1979
 7.  Don’t Look Back, Audrey P. Johnson, 1981
 8.  Katie, Deborah Aydt, 1980
 9.  I Don’t Want to be Your Shadow, Deborah Aydt, 1981
10.  Remember to Love, Dorothy Bastien, 1979
11.  Honey, Helen Cavanaugh, 1979
12.  The Great Lakeside High Experiment, Neil R. Seldon, 1982
13.  The Night Skiers, Dorothy Bastien, 1974
14.  Jealousy, Sheila Schwartz, 1982
15.  The Loving Year, Bianca Bradbury, 1982
16.  Walk Beside Me, Be My Friend, Joan Oppenheimer, 1978
17.  A Summer to Remember, Priscilla Maynard, 1982
18.  Secrets, Deborah Aydt, 1981
19.  Sisters, Audrey P. Johnson, 1982
20.  Why Did You Leave Me?, Jane Claypool Miner, 1980
21.  But This Girl Is Different, Arnold Madison, 1982
22.  Second Chance, Joan Oppenheimer, 1982
23.  What About Me?, Pat Lawler, 1982
24.  Who Needs a Stepsister?, Patricia Aks, 1982
25.  Far From Home, Jill Ross Klevin, 1982
26.  How Can We Talk?, Deborah Aydt, 1982
27.  Jody, Deborah Kent, 1983

Wishing Star #1, The Lost Summer, Joan Oppenheimer, 1977

For Susie, one drink makes the summer wonderful fun.  Two make her forget her mother's new husband.  And three?  She forgets all the things a nice girl should remember!

The the fun ends and the agony begins.  Susie just survives from drink to drink.  A bottle hidden in the bathroom; a thermos taken to work; and Buck only too willing to keep her well supplied.

When life becomes unbearable, Susie desperately reaches out for help.  But is it too late?

Susie's best friend, La Dawn, is African American, and part of the story is told from her point of view.  Most of the teen books from this time period do not feature diverse characters, so it's great to see one.  La Dawn has a great personality and makes fun, snappy comments.

In two different parts of the story, I get the impression that Susie might have been taken advantage of by a male while she was drunk or in need of obtaining liquor.  Early in the story, Susie has is uneasy about what happened when a boy, who is said to be a jerk, took her home while she was drunk.  She cannot remember any details, and that part of the story is not pursued.

Later in the story, Susie's employer lets her purchase liquor from him.  Susie reaches a point where she cannot afford to buy any liquor from him, and then she begs.  He replies, "Oh, now, sure, little Sweetheart.  You just come along back to the office.  You and old Buck, we'll work somethin' out.  You just come along, and we'll see about it."  The chapter ends with that statement, and the reader never learns what they worked out. 

This is an excellent book.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Book Reading and Reviews

I have three different groups of followers.

1.  Fans of vintage series books
2.  Fans of the vintage teen books of the 1980s and 1990s
3.  People who like my posts about eBay and other online selling sites


The three distinct groups overlap to varying degrees.  Some people are interested in all three topics, but others might only be interested in reading about vintage series books and eBay.

I'm pretty sure that the largest group is the series book fans, and many of those people are completely uninterested in my reviews of teen books.  In fact, a recent comment indicated exactly that and requested that I resume my reviews of the series books.  Readers can make all the requests they want, but the motivation has to come from within me.  It's just not there at this time.

It's too bad that nobody else publishes reviews of vintage series books on a regular basis.  I cannot be expected to carry the torch forever.  I don't know if it will be a continuing thing, but there currently is someone posting Nancy Drew reviews in a blog.  Check it out.

I stated multiple times in the last couple of years that I saw my reviews of vintage series books coming to an end before much longer.  I seem to have arrived at that point.

It's apparent from my recent failure to reread Rick Brant, Beverly Gray, and the books of Mildred Wirt that I have no current interest in reading vintage series books unless I happen to acquire a book that I have never read that actually appeals to me.

I may review one vintage series-like book in the near future, if what I purchased turns out to be what I expected.  Other than that possibility, I will not have any vintage series reviews in the next several months and possibly longer.  I will have some posts of interest about collecting topics, but I won't have reviews.

Any reviews will be of vintage teen books, because that is what I want to read currently.  However, I won't be reviewing Sweet Dreams, because I have about decided that the vast majority of those books are not of the type I like.  I have enjoyed only around one of every ten books that I read.  That makes it a bit hard to continue with the set.

Even for the teen books that I am reading, I am only somewhat motivated to write reviews.  It just seems like too much effort for too little of a return.  Some of the posts that I work the hardest on (usually on series books) get very little feedback, sometimes none at all.  There was a certain recent one, which I will not name, where I was surprised when it received no reaction.  Since I get very little feedback, I have to do this just for myself.  When my own motivation fails, then I have no reason to write reviews.

I am now reading the Wishing Star books, and I will probably get through the set and have reviews of the books.  I plan to read Windswept next, if all goes well.

At this point, I guarantee nothing.  This new school year could prove to be so disruptive that I might quit reading altogether.  Who knows?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Upcoming Hiatus for eBay and Etsy Stores Beginning August 9

I will be placing my eBay and Etsy stores on vacation on August 9.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay
Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

My district scrapped its plan to have all students in the building at the same time for normal school.  The plan changed to a blended schedule with just half the students in the building on any given day.  The new plan might be doable, but then again it might not.  Regardless, this will not be a normal school year, so I must focus only on it as the year begins, which is why the stores will be closed as school starts.  How long they are closed depends upon what happens with school and how disruptive it is to my life.  My store closure could be from two weeks to two months or even longer.

I want to mention what is going on with eBay.  

Offers and Shipping

When I reopened my store in May, I added a message to every listing that stated that I do not accept offers.  So far, the message has worked splendidly.  I have received no offers. Yay!

I have received a few messages asking about adjusted shipping on multiple items purchased.  Most were just people who were concerned about whether they would receive combined shipping.  There were a couple that I felt were actually fishing for a discount and knew not to ask because of the message in my listings.

One person who asked about combined shipping was unclear about how many books would be purchased.  I notice that these prospective buyers tend to withhold the actual number.  It would be helpful to know the actual number or at least an estimate so that I can formulate an answer easier.

In this case, the buyer mentioned that the books are "thin softcover" books, so they obviously felt that my combined shipping rate would grossly overcharge for postage.  Since I had no idea how many books this person wanted, I had to write up an explanation of several possibilities.  I realize that I could have stated my combined shipping with no explanation, but it's better in a case like this one to give a reassuring reason so that the buyer knows I'm not gouging.

I responded as follows.
When you complete checkout the postage will combine as $3.95 for the first book and $0.60 for each additional book.  If the cost of the books before shipping ends up at $35.00 or more (6 books should do it), then you will receive free shipping.  As long as you add the books to the shopping cart first and then complete checkout, then postage will be combined.

About the only way you might be overcharged is if you purchase 4 or 5 books. If you go with 4 or 5 books, then I can refund the difference if there is an overage.
I hadn't figured out my actual shipping costs in a very long time.  I have kept shipping for the first book at $3.95 for twelve years.  It's hard to know my actual cost per package, since I have never figured out the number of packages that I can pack with one roll of tape.  I also don't know how many packing slips and postage labels each printer cartridge will cover.  There are other costs involved as well, but I know those amounts, like the cost of each box.  I also pay eBay a fee on the postage charge.

I just did some figuring, taking a guess about the tape and ink.  My actual cost for the first book is around $4.90.  The next time that a buyer asks about lowering the combined shipping, I will reply that I take a loss on the first few books shipped.  With multiple books, I gradually break even.  I don't make a profit on shipping.

Managed Payments

I have been switched to eBay's managed payments.  This means that eBay now collects payment directly from buyers just like Etsy does.  I no longer receive eBay payments to my PayPal account.  The payments are sent by eBay to my bank account once every few days.

My workaround for eBay's failure to include tax on its packing slips no longer works for me.  I was going to PayPal to print a packing slip.  PayPal, at least, does show the tax paid by the buyer.  I cannot do that since the payment no longer goes to PayPal.

The reason that a packing slip must be inside the package is in case the shipping label gets ripped off of the package.  The buyer's address must be inside the box.  I do not wish to take the time to handwrite it, nor do I wish to correct the total by changing it on the paper.

I found an easy solution.  I print eBay's packing slip and cut off the part with the total on it.  I just put the portion in the package that contains the buyer's address.  I then turn the paper around and feed it through the printer again for the shipping label.  The result is that I now just use one piece of paper per transaction instead of two.  I am saving trees, one piece of paper at a time!


Additional Free Listings

I mentioned in the past that eBay didn't give me enough free listings for my store.  I only had 250 fixed price free listings.  From April through July, eBay gave each store owner 50,000 additional free listings per month.  Okay now, that's way too many, but I was glad this summer not to be limited to just 250.  I never did understand eBay's stinginess with free listings.  If we list more, then we sell more, causing eBay to collect more fees.  Don't we both win?

Apparently, eBay finally figured that out.  I couldn't believe it on August 1 when I saw that instead of 250 free listings that I had 350 of them.  That's really all I needed.  But get this.  I then saw that I had another 10,000 free listings for being in the managed payments program


I followed the link on the promotion to see how long I would get the additional free listings.  The change is permanent.


Ah, so eBay figured out that they make more of a profit when sellers are able to list more items.  It's about time!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Beverly Gray at the World's Fair Detailed Summary

I decided to write a detailed summary of Beverly Gray at the World's Fair since this book is not in the public domain and cannot be shared online.  This is the type of summary that I typically dislike which is the style that many people use when they review books.  I do not like this kind of summary because I would rather read the actual book than read a lengthy play-by-play of what is in the book.

In this case, most people cannot find a copy of Beverly Gray at the World's Fair to read, so a detailed summary should be helpful to those who don't own the book, since the book contains rather important events in the continuity of the Beverly Gray series.

Beverly Gray at the World's Fair should become public domain in 2031.  Unfortunately, that is still quite a few years away.

I have made certain to mention anything that is important to the chronology of the series.  There are quite a few conversations that I do not mention.  The conversations are interesting if reading the entire book, but they don't move much along in the plot.  Beverly Gray fans will understand that there is much inconsequential banter between Beverly and her friends, especially with Lenora, and I did not feel it necessary to try to summarize all of that.

I scanned a few key passages in the book and have shared them here.  The scans were kept to a bare minimum to avoid running afoul of the copyright law.

The following summary spoils the entire plot of Beverly Gray at the World's Fair.

............................................................................

Lois leaves for France to spend a year studying art.  Connie and Kathleen arrive in New York just after Lois departs and are disappointed that they missed her.  Connie and Kathleen will be living with Beverly and Lenora in the girls' apartment.

Lenora and Connie decide to go to Chicago to see the Century of Progress at the Chicago World's Fair.  The girls will stay with Virginia, who lives in Chicago.  Beverly and Kathleen decide that they will stay in New York to work.

Kathleen spots Mr. Crandall's name in the newspaper.  Mr. Crandall first met Shirley at Vernon College and promised her an acting role on the stage.  After Shirley graduated, Mr. Crandall hired her.  Unfortunately, Mr. Crandall just recently died of a heart attack.  The girls have not heard from Shirley in some time and wonder whether she is okay.  Mr. Crandall's play will surely close, and Shirley will have to find another role.

Beverly chances to meet Roger Garrett one day, and he informs her that he and Shirley's parents have heard about Mr. Crandall's death.  No one has heard from Shirley, and it is doubtful that Shirley will return since Shirley and her parents had a terrible argument when she left home.  Beverly was unaware that Shirley had argued with her parents, and this raises her concern for her friend.

Connie and Lenora leave for Chicago by train.  Meanwhile, Charlie Blaine asks Beverly to cover the Century of Progress in Chicago.  When Beverly arrives home, she finds Larry Owens waiting for her.  Larry is about to fly to Chicago, so Beverly agrees to go with him.  Right after Beverly leaves, Jim Stanton, who has just returned from South America, arrives at the apartment looking for Beverly.  Kathleen gives Beverly's Chicago address to Jim.

Beverly arrives in Chicago before the girls do, but she can't remember Virginia's address.  Beverly registers at a hotel and decides to meet Connie and Lenora when their train arrives the next day.

Beverly goes to find a restaurant and sees Shirley looking in a shop window.  Beverly can tell that Shirley is not doing well.  She is pale and worried.  Shirley reveals that her play closed weeks ago.  She cannot find another acting job or any other kind of job for that matter.

Shirley tells Beverly about the horrible fight that she and her parents had when she decided to go into theater.  They told her that she shouldn't ever bother to come home again.  Beverly wants to help Shirley, but Shirley refuses.  She wants to succeed without help from anybody.  She will not go home to be bossed by her mother.  She must get work on her own.



Beverly resolves to help Shirley no matter what.  After Shirley leaves the restaurant, Beverly follows her at a distance.  She sees Shirley enter a dirty three-story building.  Beverly steps inside as Shirley disappears up the staircase.  A sinister looking woman appears and calls after Shirley, but Shirley ignores her.

The landlady tells Beverly that the rent must be paid by tomorrow or else Shirley must leave.  Beverly decides to pay the rent for Shirley and then goes back to her hotel.  The next day, Beverly returns to speak to Shirley, but Shirley has moved out, probably because she discovered that her rent had been paid.

Beverly meets Connie and Lenora at the train station, much to their shock, then the girls get settled at Virginia's house.  They immediately head out to the fairgrounds to begin their tour of the exhibits.

Lenora purchases a movie camera, the Cine-Kodak Eight.  Lenora uses the movie camera to make memories of the exhibits and to film her friends while they are unaware.  The girls later enjoy watching the movies.

The girls go to see a show at the lagoon theater.  The show is like a circus, and it also features diving and swimming.  Paul Graham, a young diver, is announced as the next performer.  When he dives, something goes wrong causing him to hit the water at a strange angle.  Paul does not surface and has to be rescued.

When Beverly learns that Virginia knows Paul and his sister, June, she has Virginia take her to June's dressing room.  Once there, the girls learn that Paul is dead and that he had been shot before he hit the water!  There was no water in Paul's lungs, so he definitely did not drown.

Beverly spots Inspector Dugan, who was visiting the Century of Progress but is now investigating the murder.  Beverly strikes up an agreement with Dugan and the Chicago police.  Beverly will get the story first so long as she keeps quiet for now about what she knows.

The police suspect Paul's brother, George, because of a shared inheritance.  Beverly suspects John Cummings, who is a friend of June and Paul's family.  Beverly keeps the murder a secret from Connie and Lenora, because they would tell everyone.  Unknown to Beverly, Lenora follows her and figures out some of what is going on.  Beverly relents and tells Lenora everything, making sure that she keeps it a secret.  Later, Connie is told about the affair.

The girls go back to the lagoon and talk to the boat pilots.  They learn that at the time of the murder, one boat had a passenger who had a violin case with him.

Both June and her brother, George, have accidents while working in the circus.  The accidents easily could have been fatal.  Later, Lenora reveals that she filmed John Cummings loosening the wires that support June's trapeze.  Beverly is now certain that Cummings is the culprit.

Beverly receives a short message in the mail.  The note reads, "Thanks so much, S."  The envelope also includes the exact amount of money that Beverly paid for Shirley's rent.

The girls briefly discuss a new actress, Dale Arden, who is very good.  They have not yet seen her perform.

Cummings is confronted about the loose wires, but he claims that he was trying to fix them.  The girls remain certain that he is guilty.

Lenora reveals that she saw a violin case in Cummings' room that morning.  Beverly thinks of the boat passenger who carried a violin case.  Lenora coaxes Beverly into searching Cummings' room for the violin case.  Against Beverly's judgment, she agrees to search the room.  The girls find and take the case.  As the girls leave, they see Cummings, and hope that they weren't spotted.  The only item found inside the violin case is a bullet, which Lenora then loses.

Beverly is later accosted by John Cummings, who makes it clear that he saw her with the violin case on the previous day.  Cummings warns Beverly not to do anything rash.  Even though Cummings did not admit to anything, Beverly is certain that he is the murderer.

The girls visit Lake Geneva for the day.  Another boat rams the girls' boat, throwing all of them in the water.  Beverly is knocked out and has to be rescued by the other girls.  Upon awakening, Beverly recalls seeing the pilot of the other boat, and she believes that he was Cummings.

The bullet has been found again, and the girls take it to the police, who try to interview Cummings.  The man has disappeared.  Later, Beverly sees him digging through June's trunk in her dressing room.  Beverly searches June's trunk and finds a pawn ticket.  She doesn't know whose pawn ticket it is, but Beverly decides to turn it in to see what was pawned.  The pawned item is a sawed-off shotgun.

The girls go to the police, where they learn that Cummings insisted that the police search June's dressing room.  It is believed that Cummings planted the pawn ticket in order to cast blame for the murder on June.  While the police close in on Cummings, Beverly phones the story to Charlie Blaine.

The girls once again discuss the new star, Dale Arden, and think about going to see her.  Dale Arden was originally the understudy to the star of a play.  The star took ill on opening night, and Dale Arden performed, apparently much better than the actual star.  Ever since that night, Dale has played the role.  The girls wish that Shirley could get a chance like that.  Later, the girls see Shirley in an expensive car.

The girls have 10 days left in Chicago, and the girls give Beverly a surprise party for her birthday.  Beverly is shocked to see Jim Stanton, since she thought he was still in South America.  Jim once again begins to ask Beverly to marry him, but Beverly cuts him off.  Roger Garrett then sits with Beverly, and tries to put his arm around her.  Beverly immediately suggests that they dance.  Later, Beverly wonders what is wrong with her.  Why does she not want romance?


Beverly and Jim sit on a bench at the fairgrounds with Judy, who is Virginia's young niece.  Shortly after Judy wanders off, Beverly and Jim learn that a lion has escaped from the circus.  Beverly finds the lion as it is about to attack Judy.  Beverly lunges in front to push Judy away and gets raked on the shoulder.  Fortunately, Beverly will be alright.

The girls view a television demonstration at the exhibit.


With regret, the girls return home to New York City.  They settle back into their daily routines, and Beverly vows to start her novel.  As the days pass, Beverly works tirelessly on the novel and then sends it off to a publisher.  Beverly is devastated when the novel is rejected.  Jim finally convinces her to continue sending it off to publishers.

Roger decides to give a theater party.  Dale Arden's play is coming to New York City, and Roger wants to take all of his friends to see her.  When Dale Arden steps onto the stage, Beverly is shocked to discover that she is Shirley.  In just a few weeks, Shirley has become more confident with the ability to hold the audience's attention constantly.

During the second act, the girls notice that something is wrong with Shirley.  Her voice falters, and then she collapses.  Beverly and her friends go backstage to see her.  Shirley is very ill from overwork, and she desperately needs to take a vacation.

The young people spirit Shirley away from the theater and have her stay at their apartment.  Roger informs his friends that he owns a yacht, the Susabella.  He proposes that all of them go on an ocean cruise around the world.  He insists that Shirley needs a rest.  He points out how much Lenora loves adventure and how Beverly wants to travel.  The entire group agrees, and Roger says that they can depart as soon as everything is ready.

Beverly reflects on the future, deciding that whether she can go on the cruise depends upon whether her book is published.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Beverly Gray #5 Beverly Gray's Career and #6 Beverly Gray at the World's Fair

In Beverly Gray's Career, Beverly has graduated from Vernon College.  Beverly, Lois, and Lenora take an apartment together in New York City.  Charlie Blaine is now editor of the newspaper.  He hires Beverly to be a reporter.

This book introduces Hope Rodgers, who is an occasional character in the series, and Omar El Hamil, the Hindu, who will reappear slightly later in the series.  Roger Garrett is also introduced in this book, and he is an important recurring character.

I feel like Beverly Gray's Career is the book where the series begins to hit its stride.  This is probably a good starting book for most people who want to try the series.

In Beverly Gray at the World's Fair, Beverly and her friends visit the Century of Progress in Chicago.  While at the exhibition, the friends witness a murder and set out to solve it.  Meanwhile, Shirley loses her acting role and must find a way to become successful.

I enjoyed this book the first time I read it many years ago.  I read it for the second time in around 2008 and did not like it.  I was bored by the story.  I did not care about the man who died, and I did not like reading about the Century of Progress exhibits.

This time I set myself the task of writing a detailed summary of the story, which will appear in my next post.  I read a few chapters, paused to type up the major events, and then continued reading in the same fashion.  My interest in sharing the summary heightened my interest in the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it this time, easily the most of the three times I have read the book.

Note:  I did read additional Beverly Gray titles after these books, but I am disinterested in writing reviews at this time.  At least you do get the detailed summary of Beverly Gray at the World's Fair.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Beverly Gray College Books

I decided to read the Beverly Gray series again.  I have read the complete set, except for World's Fair, four times.  I have read World's Fair twice.

Note:  I didn't get very far.  The pandemic has affected me, and I lost interest during Beverly Gray's Romance.  I wrote only three Beverly Gray posts, quitting at World's Fair.  Beverly Gray is my second favorite series after Nancy Drew, but I am just not in the mood for vintage series books at this time.

The original name of the series was "The Beverly Gray College Mystery Series."  Fortunately, the series eventually became so much more than that.

The first four books are titled:

1.  Beverly Gray, Freshman
2.  Beverly Gray, Sophomore
3.  Beverly Gray, Junior
4.  Beverly Gray, Senior

In these books, Beverly Gray attends Vernon College.  Beverly rooms with Shirley Parker and later becomes friendly with her.  Beverly's other college friends are Lenora Whitehill, Lois Mason, Rosalie Arnold, and Anne White.  This group of girls becomes the Alpha Deltas.  Beverly meets reporter Charlie Blaine and aviator Larry Owens.

Beverly makes periodic trips home for holidays, where she spends time with the Lucky Circle, a large group of friends who are hard to appreciate.  Anne White is also a member of the Lucky Circle.

The Beverly Gray series has one significant flaw, which is that it has way too many characters.  The Lucky Circle group bores me.  The Alpha Deltas are better, since most of that group play an important role in the majority of the books in the series.  I don't get much out of the Lucky Circle group.

The only member of the Lucky Circle that matters at all (aside from Beverly and Anne) is Jim Stanton, who will play a role in many of the books.

I have always known that Clair Blank was influenced by early series books such as Marjorie Dean.  When I previously read the Beverly Gray series, I had not read Marjorie Dean.  Since I have now done so, I can easily see where Clair Blank structured the first four books to be like the Marjorie Dean books.

Beverly's mother, Helen Chadwick, is the most beloved former student of Vernon College.  Helen is basically Marjorie Dean.  So I consider Beverly Gray to be Marjorie Dean's daughter, for all practical purposes.

Parts of the first four books are slow in places, in particular the passages with the Lucky Circle.  I struggle to tolerate scenes that have an excessive number of named characters.  I have mentioned before that many authors make a big mistake when they include too many named characters in their books.  Focusing on a small number of characters is always better.

I skimmed all of the scenes with the Lucky Circle.  I also found the banter between Lenora and Lois to be unbearable and skimmed that as well.  I typically love Lenora and her interactions with the other characters, but on this reading, I did not care for the teasing between Lenora and Lois.  I found it obnoxious and not fun during the college books.

The first four books are like the prequel to the Beverly Gray series.  I mention this because other people have been turned off from reading the Beverly Gray series based on the college books.  The rest of the Beverly Gray series is a bit different.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Hidden Clues #8 What Are Series Books?

The purpose of this post is to make clear the core focus of the Facebook group, Collecting Vintage Children's Series Books.

I am a collector of Nancy Drew and similar vintage series.  I have always centered more on the girls' books, but around six years ago I expanded to boys' books as well.  The genre of collecting that centers on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys is known as series books.

Unfortunately, we don't have a more descriptive name than that, so nobody understands us.  The biggest obstacle is the name, series books.  The average person thinks that series books can be any series ever published, but that's not true at all.  The books must be similar to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in a way that is impossible to explain to others who are not familiar with the genre.

I did not create this genre.  The series books genre has existed for decades.  Enthusiasts kept in touch through the mail and via publications that were devoted to collecting series books.  I first came in contact with other collectors in 1996.  They were well organized long before I ever came along.  It was logical that enthusiasts would continue discussing the hobby online, and that is what we do now.

In this post, I explain what is at the core of series book collecting, meaning the narrow genre defined by books similar to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate was an organization that created popular series for young people from 1905 through 1985.  The Stratemeyer Syndicate series were so popular that many others imitated them and created popular rival series.  The enduring influence of the Stratemeyer Syndicate on children's literature cannot be overstated.

The core series books genre includes all of the following:
  • books that were the forerunners to the books of the Stratemeyer Syndicate
  • books actually produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate
  • contemporary rival series to the Stratemeyer Syndicate produced by other entities
  • stand-alone books strongly similar to Stratemeyer Syndicate books
  • modern versions of Stratemeyer Syndicate books (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Bobbsey Twins) 

Books that were the forerunners to the books of the Stratemeyer Syndicate

In the late 1800s, Edward Stratemeyer was influenced by the books of Oliver Optic and Horatio Alger, Jr.  Early in his career, Stratemeyer had the opportunity to ghostwrite books published under their names.  The books of Oliver Optic and Horatio Alger, Jr. were obvious forerunners to those of the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

Some other forerunner series were the Deerfoot and Log Cabin series by Edward S. Ellis, the historical adventure books of G. A. Henty, the Hildegarde series by Laura E. Richards, the Kathie Stories by Amanda M. Douglas, The Little Colonal by Annie Fellows Johnston, Katy Carr/What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge, Ruby and Ruthy by Minnie E. Paull, Frank Merriwell by Burt L. Standish, Three Vassar Girls by Elizabeth W. Champney, and Witch Winnie by Elizabeth W. Champney.

Books actually produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate
Early Period (1905-1926)

The Stratemeyer Syndicate had many very successful series from the earlier years.  These series typically center on adventures that occur during the course of ordinary life.  The series include Amy Bell Marlowe, Barton Books for Girls, Baseball Joe, Betty Gordon, Billie Bradley, Blythe Girls, Bobbsey Twins, Bomba the Jungle Boy, Boys of Columbia High, Corner House Girls, Dave Fearless, Dave Porter, Don Sturdy, Dorothy Dale, Girls of Central High, Motor Boys, Motor Girls, Moving Picture Boys, Moving Picture Girls, Outdoor Girls, Radio Boys, Ralph of the Railroad/Railroad Series, Riddle Club, Rover Boys, Ruth Fielding, Tom Swift, Webster, and X Bar X Boys.

Middle Period (1927-1945)

While adventure series remained prevalent, the primary focus of a number of series switched to mysteries during this time.  Many people tend to think of mysteries when they think of Stratemeyer Syndicate books.  The books from this time include Barton Books for Girls, Baseball Joe, Betty Gordon, Billie Bradley, Blythe Girls, Bobbsey Twins, Bomba the Jungle Boy, Dana Girls, Dave Fearless, Don Sturdy, Doris Force, Hardy Boys, Honey Bunch, Kay Tracey, Nancy Drew, Outdoor Girls, Perry Pierce, Radio Boys, Ralph of the Railroad/Railroad Series, Riddle Club, Roy Stover, Ruth Fielding, Ted Scott, Tom Swift, and X Bar X Boys.

Later Period (1946-1985)
These series include Bobbsey Twins, Bomba the Jungle Boy, Bret King, Christopher Cool, Dana Girls, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters, Honey Bunch and Norman, Kay Tracey, Linda Craig, Mel Martin, The Tollivers, Tom Swift Jr., and Wynn and Lonny.
Contemporary rival series to the Stratemeyer Syndicate produced by other entities

These series were not produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate but were styled as if they had been.  Fans often confuse these series with ones actually produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate due to the strong similarity in tone and content.
Early Period Rival Series (1905-1926)

These series include Aunt Jane's Nieces, Betty Wales, Girl Scouts by Edith Lavell, Golden Boys, Grace Harlowe, Grammar School Boys, Jane Allen, Jerry Todd, Maida Westabrook, Marjorie Dean, Mary Jane, Molly Brown, Patsy Carroll, Patty Fairfield, Pee Wee Harris, Polly Brewster, Poppy Ott, Ranger Boys, and Tom Slade.

Middle Period Rival Series (1927-1945)

Rival series from this time period include Adventurous Allens, Andy Lane, Arden Blake, Bailey Twins, Barbara Ann, Beverly Gray, Cherry Ames, Cupples & Leon Adventure and Mystery Stories for Boys, Cupples & Leon Mystery Stories for Girls, Dave Dawson, Dorothy Dixon, Hal Keen, Hunniwell Boys, Jerry Todd, Judy Bolton, Linda Carlton, Lone Ranger, Lucky Terrell, Maida Westabrook, Mary Jane, Melody Lane, Mercer Boys, Mildred A. Wirt Mystery Stories, Nancy Pembroke, Outboard Boys, Pee Wee Harris, Penny Parker, Polly Brewster, Poppy Ott, Ruth Darrow, Sue Barton, Tom Slade, and Trailer Stories for Girls.

Later Period Rival Series (1946-1985)

The later period rival series include Beverly Gray, Biff Brewster, Brad Forrest, Brains Benton, Bronc Burnett, Cherry Ames, Chip Hilton, Connie Blair, Dave Dawson, Dig Allen, Donna Parker, Enid Blyton, Ginny Gordon, Judy Bolton, Ken Holt, Kim Aldrich, Kit Hunter, Lone Ranger, Lucky Terrell, Maida Westabrook, Mary Jane, Meg Duncan, Mercer Boys, Mill Creek Irregulars, Peggy Lane, Power Boys, Rick Brant, Robin Kane, Rocky McCune, Roger Baxter, Sally Baxter, Sandy Steele, Sara Gay, Shirley Flight, Sue Barton, Ted Wilford, Three Investigators, Tom Corbett, Tom Quest, Trixie Belden, Troy Nesbitt, and Vicki Barr.
Stand-alone books strongly similar to Stratemeyer Syndicate books

This is where it gets tricky.  People have a tendency to believe that any books they like that are loosely similar to series books fit within the core series books genre.  I know this to be true because I am afflicted by this same bias.  When a person likes something, they think it is okay to discuss even if significantly off topic.  We must be careful to include only stand-alone books that are truly similar to the core series books genre.

Most of the books written by Augusta Huiell Seaman are books strongly similar to those of the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  In fact, Nancy Drew ghostwriter Mildred A. Wirt Benson read Seaman's books when young and was undoubtedly influenced by them.  Seaman's books fall within our core focus for multiple reasons.

Stand-alone youth books set in schools from the early 1900s fit within our focus.  One example is Dolly's College Experiences by Mabel Gronise Jones.

Sometimes a stand-alone book reads just like a series book or appears to be a book that might have influenced a series book author.  The Highview Mystery by Lawrence A. Keating bears some similarity to the Three Investigators series.  The Ghost of Follensbee's Folly by Florence Hightower is strongly similar to several Nancy Drew books.  Whenever books like these are mentioned in discussion, the person doing so should explicitly state why the book is relevant.

Modern versions of Stratemeyer Syndicate books (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Bobbsey Twins) 

Since Stratemeyer Syndicate series are within our core focus, all modern and recent versions of those series are in our core focus.  In addition to the books, this also includes comic books, graphic novels, memorabilia, television series, and movies based on those series.

Books by Series Book Authors

Some series book authors wrote stand-alone books that are strongly similar to series books.  Some of the authors also wrote books that are not like series books, and those books fall outside of the genre.  Authors who wrote some series-like stand-alone books include Mildred A. Wirt Benson, Capwell Wyckoff, L. P. Wyman, Edward Stratemeyer, Sam and Beryl Epstein, Alma Sasse, Hal Goodwin, Howard R. Garis, Enid Blyton, Percy Keese Fitzhugh, Harrie Irving Hancock, and Virginia McDonnel.

What Series Books Are Not, or What Are Not Series Books

(Those of you who are well-versed in series book collecting know what I just did in the heading of this section.  You're welcome.)

This is another aspect that gets tricky.  Many series fall into a gray area between our core focus and series that are far outside of our focus.

What Series Books Are Not

Series books are not coming-of-age stories.  The character does not experience the usual childhood struggles.  Series books are the kind of books that librarians have traditionally hated, because they do not teach the reader anything.  The protagonist just solves a mystery or has an adventure.

Series books are not romance books.  Some series books have the slightest hint of romance, but only slight and just a trivial detail in the story.  Anything more than a slight hint of romance causes a book not to be a series book.

Series books are not biographies.  Some of the forerunners to the Stratemeyer Syndicate books fall close to that genre, but series books typically are not biographical.

What Are Not Series Books

Books based on television series, such as the Whitman authorized editions of Dr. Kildare, Gunsmoke, and others, are not series books.  Books by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary are not series books.  Picture books and Little Golden Books are not series books.  Readers, such as Dick and Jane, are not series books.  Mark Twain's books are not series books.  In general, Scholastic books are not series books.

The "Maybe" Series Books

This is where we really struggle.  Books that fall into this gray area tend to be tolerated if the group is overall strongly on topic at the time they are mentioned.  When the group strays from its focus with too many "maybe" posts or off-topic posts, then posts that mention "maybe" books will be shut down.

The malt shop books are in this category.  Malt shop books fall more into the young adult or romance genres, so they are not traditional series books.  Beany Malone, Janet Lambert, and others also fall into the "maybe" category, but they fit better in other groups.  Some Whitman series also fall into the "maybe" category.

The Oz books by L. Frank Baum are also "maybe" books.  Baum did write the Aunt Jane's Nieces series under a pseudonym, and that series is within our core focus.  The Oz books are not within our core focus, so they would be best discussed in a general children's book group.

Books to Avoid

Any series or stand-alone book that features religious content is inadvisable to discuss.  This is simply due to the varying beliefs of members and how we end up with conflict on such posts.  As an example, we cannot discuss the revised Chip Hilton books, because they have religious content.  The original Chip Hilton books as written by Clair Bee are fine.

Vintage series books that were offered by faith-based publishers can also be problematic, depending upon the content.

Books such as Enid Blyton's The Children's Life of Christ should not be offered for discussion.

These companion groups were created for those who wish to discuss other types of children's books.

Modern Children's Series Books
This group is for modern children's and young adult books.

Vintage Chapter Books for Children
This group has a loose focus, so most all vintage children's books can be discussed in it.

Vintage Teen Books
This group is for vintage teen and young adult books, especially from the 1980s and 1990s.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sweet Dreams #87 Programmed for Love and #88 Wrong Kind of Boy

This is the final Sweet Dreams post for now.  It will probably be a few months or longer before I get back to these books.

Sweet Dreams #87 Programmed for Love, Marion Crane, 1985

Katie's first computer course turns out to be full of surprises when the teacher assigns each student a secret computer pal.

Katie begins exchanging electronic letters with her mystery partner, STX1150, and she's instantly intrigued.  His letters are the warmest and most honest Katie's ever read.  But Bobby Allen, a boy Katie really likes, is finally starting to notice her.  And now that things are going so well with her computer friend, Katie's afraid to encourage Bobby—at least until she discovers who STX1150 really is.

Can Katie learn her computer pal's identity without losing her new love?

Courteney Cox is on the cover of this book.

I always find books with stories that deal with archaic computers to be interesting.  I guess it's just my thing.

This book isn't extremely interesting, but still, I found it interesting enough to get through it.

Sweet Dreams #88 Wrong Kind of Boy, Shannon Blair, 1985

Liz is thrilled when Laurence Chandler notices her.  He's smart, sensitive, and creative.  And he's not at all like her last boyfriend, Bud.  Bud was a member of her crowd.  He was cute, popular—and utterly predictable.

Laurence wants Liz to star in the play he's written for the school talent show.  Liz is ecstatic, but her friends aren't.  They don't like the power he has over her.  They warn Liz that Laurence may not be all he says he is.

Is Laurence as perfect as he appears, or is he all wrong for Liz?


I liked this book well enough to read it.  I didn't like the first boy, and I skimmed until later in the book.  At that point, I became very interested in the plot.  I really enjoyed how Liz makes new friends with people that she didn't think could be her friends.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Sweet Dreams #85 The Boy She Left Behind and #86 Questions of Love

Sweet Dreams #85 The Boy She Left Behind, Suzanne Rand, 1985

When Scott Driscoll asks Jill to his junior prom, it's one of the biggest thrills of her life.  But just as her romance with Scott begins to take off, Jill has to leave home for a job as a Senate page in the state capital.

Jill promises herself that she'll be faithful to Scott while she's away, but she finds herself spending more and more time with handsome, sensitive Rick Werner.

Now Jill must choose between Rick, who wants to be the only boy in her life, and Scott, the boy she left behind.


I didn't read this book.

Sweet Dreams #86 Questions of Love, Rosemary Vernon, 1985

When Sammi Edwards is chosen to represent her high school on the television quiz show "The Brain Game, " it's a dream come true.  Sammi's always wanted to be on TV.  And if she can win "The Brain Game," she'll have enough money for the new car she wants.

Sammi's determined to win—until she falls in love with Dave Handlin, a player from another school.  Dave's smart and good-looking and needs the prize money to help pay for college.  Sammi figures that it just might be better to let Dave win the competition.  But when her idea backfires, she discovers that love's even harder to win than "The Brain Game."

I definitely read part of this book.  I am writing these particular reviews around two months after I read or tried to read the books.  It's hard to remember anything.  I do know that I wasn't that impressed with the book.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Nancy Drew Diaries #20 The Vanishing Statue

In Nancy Drew Diaries #20, The Vanishing Statue, Nancy and her friends are invited to Duchess Strickland's party at her home.  The Duchess is very reclusive and hasn't been around other people in many years.  Nancy learns that a valuable sculpture has been stolen from the Duchess.  Nancy hopes to find the sculpture and prevent the possible theft of valuable artwork at the party.

Let's start with what I wrote immediately after I finished reading the book on June 23.
I just finished reading Nancy Drew Diaries #20 The Vanishing Statue.  I don't even know what to say at this point.  I really don't.

First, I purchased a digital copy last night after I heard that some fans are unhappy about one aspect of the book.  I like to form my own opinion before reading other opinions, so I had to get the book read.  My hardcover will arrive tomorrow, but at least I have already read the book.  I found it handy being able to highlight passages in the digital copy.  That made it easier on me.

Second, the Nancy Drew Diaries series is the most inconsistent of all Nancy Drew incarnations.  They just cannot settle down and stick with one premise/personality/whatever.  "Whatever" is a good word, in this case.

I feel deflated after reading this one.  It isn't bad; it is just a bit flat.  And strange.

As for the potentially controversial part, I think it is just odd.  There is something else that annoyed me greatly which has to do with vague coded language, but not the part that might annoy others, which also has to do with coded language concerning something else.  Just come out and say it.  Don't write in riddles.  Now I've probably got everyone wanting to read the book because of my coded language, but it's really not even a good book in my opinion.  Actually it might be, but I didn't enjoy it at all.  I think I got more out of the books that annoyed me, like Heliotrope Lane.
At present, I feel depressed when thinking about this book, as though it took something out of me.  Opinion on the book is split.  One reader really likes the book (warning - spoilers in the review) as does someone else who reviewed the book on Amazon.  The other Amazon reviewers very much dislike the book.  One reviewer on Amazon wrote, "I read over 200 Nancy Drew books, and this has to be the worst storyline ever.  Not worth the money."

I wouldn't go that far, but I found this book to be distinctly uninteresting.  The only reason I made it through the book without skimming was that I was looking for the passages that made some fans unhappy.  If I hadn't been looking for subtext, then I wouldn't have been able to read the book.  So yes, I found the book quite boring. 

I am not sure if this book features another new ghostwriter for the series.  The book was definitely not written by the people who wrote a number of the other books, but it could be a repeat author.  A character from the previous book was mentioned, so that author could have been involved.  Most of the books have not mentioned characters from previous books.  One other book that mentioned a previous character did have the same author as the other book referenced.

Even if the ghostwriter did write one or more other books, the tone concerning one character shifted dramatically, so this book is quite inconsistent with the rest of the books in the set.  This series is consistently inconsistent.

There are at least two good things about this book, most noticeably the descriptions of Hannah's cooking.  Also, Nancy is not scared.  That's always good.

One character did look for the bathroom during the party, but quite fortunately, Nancy stays away from the bathroom in this book.

I have written before that many of these books—usually the ones I don't like as much—have an obvious solution to the mystery.  I knew who took the statue from near the beginning of the story.  I realized the culprit's identity during Chapter 2.  How stupidly obvious!

The plot does have a little bit of a twist that makes the story marginally interesting towards the end.  I personally think the vanishing statue plot is pointless and that the main plot should have been crafted around the secret learned by Nancy late in the story.  That would have made the book more compelling, at least in my opinion.

I found the artist characters to be exceedingly bizarre, and that was the aspect of the book that I found really strange that took away from my interest.  One man duck walks, for instance.  He's an adult, but he acts like a child.  The characters dress really, really bizarre.  I think kids might love the artist characters, but they are way too odd for me.

I will now segue into a discussion of the coded language in this story, so the rest of this review contains spoilers about that aspect of the story.

I don't like knowing anything about a book before reading it.  Each time something potentially controversial comes up in a Nancy Drew Diaries book, I hear about it soon after publication and before I have received my book.  I prefer to form my own opinion so I know my own reaction without having it influenced by others.  I have about decided to purchase the digital copy and the hardcover copy from now on so that I can read each new book on release day before the first reviews are posted.

I was careful with my wording in the above part of this post so as not to reveal what is in the book that upset some people.  I will now say and will be specific, so quit reading here if you want to read the book first before seeing what others think.

This first part is just me and my complaint about authors who use vague coded language when describing characters that are not Caucasian.  I understand the desire to avoid labels, but the description of the character should be done in such a way that the reader actually realizes the character's race. 

On page 32, a character is described as having "curly black hair, parted in the middle."  I guess I should have realized what that meant, but I have known a few white people with black, curly hair.  So that just went over my head.  On page 143, the mother of the character with "curly black hair" is described as having a "wrinkled brown face."

Oh.

I was so annoyed.  If I am to visualize a character as African American, then please be a little better at signaling that to me.

Again, I understand why we should avoid labels whenever possible.  However, there is no point in having an African American character in the story when the reader does not realize the character's race until fairly late in the story.  This actually made me angry.  One of my biggest annoyances as a reader is when authors fail to describe characters at all:  no hair color, nothing.  I like to be able to visualize the characters as different from each other.  An author who telegraphs that information to the reader as if playing charades is not being helpful.

The other coded language has to do with George.  We are apparently expected to conclude that George is a lesbian.  This is a surprising development, since there has been no sign of that in the previous books.  For many years, some fans have insisted that George is a lesbian, and the recent comic book series depicts her as such.  So this development is not something completely outside the realm of possibility, but it has never been implied in one of the actual Nancy Drew books.  That is, if one can conclude that George's lesbianism is even being implied.  There's that problem with coded language and how it can be too vague.

If George is supposed to be a lesbian, I don't care either way.  It is a nonissue for me.  My problem is the author's coded language which attempts to signal this revelation to the reader. 

Page 68:  "I bet George is going to show up in jeans and flannel," I said.

Page 68:  "With her rumpled T-shirt and short dark hair sticking up every which way..."

Page 71:  "I never wear earrings," said George, squinting at the screen.

Page 71:  "George's closet seemed to be filled with nothing but lumpy sweaters and hanger after hanger of wrinkled button-down shirts printed with zigzags, polka dots, birds, palm tress, lightning bolts, and bicycles."

George and Nancy are also a bit flirty with each other.  Ned isn't able to go to the party, so George goes as Nancy's date.  She dresses in a tuxedo.

All this taken together, we are being led towards a certain conclusion.

I believe that the author did this on their own.  I have stated in previous reviews that I believe that Simon and Schuster is allowing the ghostwriters free rein.  There is no quality control, which has resulted in a wildly uneven series.  This is just the latest chapter in the Nancy Drew Diaries debacle.

Some people think that George is to be a lesbian from now on.  That could be, but it's odd to do it in this fashion well into the series.  We will have to see what happens.  If past history is any indication, then the next book will feature George as a girly girl who is crazy about boys.  That's how inconsistent this series is.

I found the mystery to be sorely lacking in this story.  The plot is not sabotage, but I find boring sabotage more interesting than this non-mystery story.  I never felt that I had any reason to care.  The book bored and depressed me.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

July 2020 Pandemic and Blog Review Update

I never thought that I would become a pawn, but that is apparently now what I am.  The issue of whether to open schools or keep them closed is now the hot topic in politics.  Therefore, I now am just a pawn, nothing more.

I have been so disappointed since early this year when the pandemic was politicized.  And now, schools reopening has been made into a political tug of war.  This just sickens me.

We all agree that children need to be back in school.  There also need to be guidelines in place for this to be done safely.  I actually think that schools opening will be dangerous regardless and will result in many infections.  I am angered by the cavalier, dismissive attitude of some people in our government, both state and federal.

Fortunately, I am in a district that is providing us with face shields and masks and, most importantly, is requiring all faculty, staff, and students to wear masks.  Some local districts will not require students to wear masks.  I can't even imagine.

I actually have conflicting feelings.  I am apprehensive about going back, but I also would like to resume some normal activity.  I have been at home since March 13.

I am once again obsessed with Covid-19 and am on Reddit much of the time.  I have again quit reading books.

I have almost no interest in writing reviews.  I am going to publish reviews of the first part of the Beverly Gray series, but I didn't write reviews of all of the books I managed to read before I quit.  You will get my detailed summary of Beverly Gray at the World's Fair.  I wanted to provide the summary for the many people who are unable to purchase that book.  At least I did that before I lost interest.

I managed to write my review of the latest Nancy Drew Diaries book.  I almost didn't do it.

I have just six blog posts in the queue.  They will be published irregularly, probably around five days apart.  They may get stretched further apart if I don't get motivated soon.  I have doubts about getting motivated, since I am thinking about school more and more each day.

I will be putting both my eBay store and Etsy shop back on vacation by August 3.  If you want a certain book, buy it before that time if you can.  I don't know how long I will leave the stores down.  It depends upon how the beginning of the school year goes.  I expect it to be very stressful and busy.

I also always feel bad (fatigue, brain fog, aches and pains) during the first month of school.  My autoimmune condition always reacts to the start of school, and I usually have a temporary relapse.  I expect a medication increase in one week when I have my appointment, and that will also make me feel bad beginning around two weeks after the medication change.  I will likely already be unwell before I go back to work.  So expect my stores to be closed for some time, probably around two months like I did in the spring.

I probably will not be listing any new books this month.  I have no interest in doing so knowing that I'm going to be pulling the stores down soon.  It shouldn't matter, since the listings will remain in existence, although inactive, but I cannot muster the interest in creating the listings.

That's where I'm at right now.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Sweet Dreams #83 Love by the Book and #84 The Last Word

Sweet Dreams #83 Love by the Book, Anne Park, 1985

Lisa is miserable when she finds out her parents plan to sell the bookstore she's practically grown up in, until her friend Phil persuades her that they two of them can save the family business together. 

At first, Lisa works hard in the shop.  But when Kevin, the boy she's been dreaming about all year, comes in to buy his mother a birthday gift, she's quickly distracted.  Soon she's spending more and more time with Kevin and less in the shop with Phil.  Lisa senses that Phil is upset, but she never pretended he was anything more than a business partner.  And being with Kevin is like a fairy tale come true... isn't it?

The cover photo is fun, because the pictured books are Sweet Dreams books.  I can make out the titles Forbidden Love, Lights, Camera, Love, and Love Notes.

I read this book around a couple years ago.  I actually don't think I read all of it, but I can't remember.  I did not like the book as much as I should have.  A book about a book store is perfect, but this book didn't really do much for me.

Sweet Dreams #84 The Last Word, Susan Blake, 1985

Shelby loves to argue and always has to have the final word—at least that's what her boyfriend, Tom, says when he breaks up with her.  When Shelby goes to summer camp, she begins to think that Tom may be right:  everything she says gets her in trouble.

Then Shelby meets Matthew.  He's cute and smart, and Shelby knows he's the perfect boy for her.  But when she's up against him in a camp debate contest, Shelby's worried.  Will having the last word mean the end of a relationship once again?


Courteney Cox is on the cover of this book.

I don't think I managed to read this book due to lack of interest.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

2020 Middle of the Year Reading Update

Today I was thinking about how unmotivated I am to read books that I would normally greatly enjoy.  I abruptly abandoned what I was reading partway through the book and started something different.  I then realized that it's time for my middle of the year reading update!

I am not myself at all.  I'm too worried about school starting and about everything having to do with the pandemic.  I go back to work five weeks from today.  School starts six weeks from tomorrow.  Yikes.  I feel like I'm trapped on the Titanic headed for a disaster.

I have decided that my listings on eBay and Etsy will come down regardless of how we do school.  I just don't need to be packing books or answering buyer's questions in the evenings.  I expect that both of my stores will be closed from around August 3 through at least late August.  I will have to see what happens and assess my stress level.

I keep pushing my fears into the back of my mind, but August 5 creeps closer with each day.  And of course, everyone is deeply worried about school, not just the teachers but also the parents and children.  This is a such a mess. 

With all that is on my mind, I don't get much out of reading anything.

In "Books Read in 2019 and My Reduced Interest in Reading," I listed what I read in the years up to and including 2019.
My previous yearly totals for books read are as follows.

2014:  262 books
2015:  231 books
2016:  355 books
2017:  403 books
2018:  315 books

I ended up reading 185 books in 2019, which is pretty incredible considering how distracted I was.  This total is on par with what I believe I read per year leading up to 2014.  I did not keep track of my totals for those years, but I tended to read around 130 to 180 books per year in the years immediately preceding 2014. 
My precipitous fall in the number of books read continues.  I read just 54 books during the first half of 2020.  If my pace does not change, then I can expect to read just 108 books by the end of the year.  I can see a situation where my pace could increase, and I can also see where it might decrease further.

I have quit reading four different series so far this year.  I just lost interest and quit.  I tried reading some of Mildred Wirt's girls' books and quit after one volume.  I tried to continue Sweet Dreams, but I quit again.  I started reading Rick Brant, which is one of my favorite series, and then I lost interest after reading #6.  Most recently, I started reading Beverly Gray again.  Beverly Gray is my second favorite series after Nancy Drew.  My reading was going really great, but then I lost interest during Beverly Gray's Romance.  I quit reading Beverly Gray's Quest today. 

I remember when people expressed such disbelief when I was reading above 200 books per year.  That was what I wanted to do at that time.  There was nothing incredible about it.  I never understood why such a big deal was made about it.  These days, I would rather read about the pandemic online.  So of course my book reading has greatly reduced. 

I have been purchasing the Wishing Star and Windswept books during the last few weeks.  Those two series are young adult books that were published by Scholastic during the 1980s.  I now have most of them on hand.  I still lack around seven of them from both series combined.  That doesn't matter, since all of the books are stand-alone stories. 

I am going to try reading Wishing Star now.  I am in the mood for that kind of story, so this might go well.  I hope so, anyway.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

June 2020 Pandemic Update Part 2

This is in continuation to what I posted a couple days ago.  That post was already too long, and I omitted some information from that post.  My comment about not voting in November has concerned some of you, which is understandable.  The bottom line is this:  I will not wait in line at my polling place for 40 minutes to vote unless everyone is wearing a mask, and I will not search for a notary who has not met their limit on the number of absentee ballots that they are allowed to notarize.

I am comfortable with this decision because Oklahoma is probably the most conservative state in the nation.  Oklahoma's electoral votes always go to the Republican candidate, who typically wins the state with 65% or more of the vote.  It's never a question.  So whether I vote for the Republican or the Democrat is a moot point.  It doesn't matter, so I am comfortable with not voting.  However...

In the extremely unlikely event that Oklahoma becomes a battleground state, then I will find a way to vote.  Also, I hope that by November that my fellow Oklahomans will consider mask-wearing to be important.  Right now, most of them don't.

I don't leave my home much.  I do know that around one-half of people out in the early morning in my locality wear masks.  I have parked in store parking lots in the afternoon to check, and it appears that around one-fourth wear masks.

Today on an Oklahoma City message board, some people indicated that they have noticed a shift in Oklahoma City in the last week with mask-wearing on the increase.  I hope so, or we are going to be in so much trouble.

I want to show off my masks that I purchased on Etsy recently.  I have a problem with masks fogging my glasses, so I went with masks that have a nose wire.  These are the masks I purchased.




Even with the nose wire, the masks fog at times, but at least I can wear these masks.

I don't judge people who are out in society, even though I wish more of them would wear masks.  That brings me to another topic:  Covid-shaming.  Covid-shaming is when people shame others for their actions during this pandemic.  It goes both ways.  Some people are shamed for not staying at home and are accused of spreading the virus.  The people who instead stay at home are shamed for being too scared to leave their homes and for living their lives in fear.  The mask-shaming also falls under Covid-shaming.

Some people have started hunting for books again and have shown their finds in our Facebook group.  One member has taken it upon himself to begin shaming those people for not staying at home.  Another person then responded by shaming the people who stay at home.  We now have a rule against Covid-shaming.

I read an article today about how Covid-shaming doesn't work.

The Dudes That Won't Wear Masks

We cannot force people to wear masks by harassing them and shaming them.  I hope more of these people finally realize that transmission of the virus does decrease when most people in a society wear masks.

Some people think that the death rate for Covid-19 is inflated.  Other people like me feel that the death rate is actually higher than what has been reported.  I won't get into an explanation of why I think the death rate is actually higher, but it is tied to the hundreds of articles I have read since January.  I could certainly be wrong about the death rate, and that's fine.

I hope I am wrong, and I look forward to the day when I am proved to be wrong.  My belief about the severity of the situation, whether wrong or not, will keep me from making mistakes that could put my health and that of elderly relatives at risk.  In short, I am continuing to stay home, except for occasional excursions, until I go back to work.

I have read many stories about the lingering effects of the virus and how people have permanent lung damage.  We also don't know how this virus will impact people years from now.  The Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis.  Mono is awful.  I had it when I was 19, and I was sick for six months.  In fact, that virus was the genesis of my thyroid disease.  My body has never been the same since I had mono.  Epstein-Barr is a widely known cause of thyroid disease, other autoimmune conditions, and even cancer.  It remains latent in the body and can resurface years later.  It is an incredibly nasty virus. 

So what about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19?  We don't know whether it will ultimately behave like Epstein-Barr.  What if SARS-CoV-2 remains in the body and causes problems five or 10 years later?  We simply don't know at this time.  That's why so many of us are concerned. 

In November, I mentioned the problems with my thyroid medication.
In early August, I finally was near optimal for the first time in five years.  It was great. Unfortunately, Acella Pharmaceuticals changed to a different supplier for one medication I take, NP Thyroid.  While Acella claims that the pills did not change, they actually did.
And now we have proof of what we already knew.  The medication was finally recalled in late May.  Yeah, Acella lied when they said that the medication had not changed.  The pills were at first too weak and then they were overcorrected, making them superpotent.  When labs were done in March, we found that I had too much thyroid hormone in my blood.  We did not know that the particular pills that I was taking were superpotent.  My medication was reduced, and I was fine for a while. 

I was supposed to go in for labs in early May, but testing for Covid-19 was still lagging at that time.  I decided that I felt okay and that I would wait.  That was a mistake.  I can now tell that I don't have enough thyroid hormone in my blood.  If I had gone in for those labs, my medication would have been raised again.  But then that was before the recall, and I would have been taking the superpotent pills again.  I was doomed either way.  I have 2 1/2 weeks until labs.  At least I'm not working now, so I can deal with feeling suboptimal.

I have learned that my school district is considering just two options for school.  Either we will have school as usual, or we will have all digital learning.  I think I can guess which way this is going.  I don't see how regular school is possible.

Since this upcoming school year will have a steep learning curve and will be very difficult to start, I have decided that I will have to put my eBay and Etsy stores on vacation when I go back to work in August.  I will leave them that way until I get a handle on my all-new teaching experience.  Hopefully, that will not be for more than a few weeks.  We'll just have to see what happens.

Friday, June 26, 2020

June 2020 Pandemic Update

I have had so many thoughts about the pandemic that it has been hard to write any updates.

I go back to work in 40 days.  I have a growing feeling that in-person school is impossible.  Distance learning will not work out well.  The students are unprepared for that format, so it will be incredibly difficult.  If we were to have in-person school, then students would have to wear masks.  They refused to wear their badges around their necks last year, and masks are much more intrusive than a silly little badge.

Virus cases are increasing in Oklahoma, although not at anywhere near the level of several other states.  However, we can see by other states what could happen here in a few more weeks, and it won't be pretty.

A saying in my family has to do with being forced to do something unpleasant.  The person who must do this unpleasant task will ultimately do it "either with or without a spanking."  The United States is going to be forced to do it "with a spanking."  And we are going to be spanked hard.

The government is gaslighting us.  I do refer to both the federal and state government, but my focus here is the state government.


Just stop.  It's not going to be okay.

Our governor believes that Covid-19 is no big deal at all, and our state government recently stripped mayors of some power during health emergencies.  This means that if a city in Oklahoma is having an outbreak that the mayor may not be able to put some restrictions into place without approval at the state level.  This is not good.

I voted absentee in the June 30 election.  This was the first time I have ever voted absentee.  I requested absentee ballots for the rest of the year.  However, I don't know if I will vote at all this November.

Oklahoma is just one of three states that has a requirement for absentee ballots to be notarized.  Even worse, notaries are limited in how many ballots they can notarize.

The requirement for ballots to be notarized was waived for the June 30 election, due to the election being within a certain number of days of a declared health emergency.  The health emergency has expired, which is ironic considering that Oklahoma's daily new cases are far higher than when the emergency was declared.

If Governor Stitt does not declare another health emergency, then it will be difficult to vote absentee in November due to the requirement to have the ballot notarized.  I simply won't do it.  You might be thinking, How stupid to refuse to do it.  This has to do with avoiding extra tasks due to my autoimmunity, which I will mention more later in this post.  I may very well be a disenfranchised voter in November.

Back in February, I read the subs on Reddit for probably an hour or so each day.  My opinion of this pandemic was completely formed by what I read on Reddit.  I knew back then that this pandemic would be a big problem and that masks would be necessary.

I was appalled when the pandemic was made political.  That never should have happened.  It is amazing how many people fell for the lies of the media and our government.  It is astonishing how many people continue to think this is a hoax and continue to think that masks are pointless.

I want to scream with frustration over all of this.

Now here we are.

Back in March, I had a worry in the back of my mind that I was able to ignore, but that worry is more on my mind these days, although I continue to push it aside.  We are still in the first wave, regardless of what some people say.  There will be a second wave, regardless of what some people say.  That second wave will occur this winter.  If we do not get a handle on the current situation, we are going to have a potential catastrophe this winter.

As I wrote earlier this year, I hope I am wrong.  I fear that I won't be wrong.

Back in February, I did some prepping.  Nothing crazy, but I knew that I needed to have a few months' worth of staples so that I wouldn't have to go to the store.  I actually have already had that habit for years.  It has to do with my autoimmunity and the desire to keep extra tasks to a minimum.  At any given time, I like to have enough nonperishable items like shampoo and toothpaste to last at least a few months so that I do not often have to worry about running out.

This is not hoarding; I simply stay ahead by a few months at a time.  So in February, I made sure that I had everything I needed to get me up to June.  I did do Shipt grocery orders and Walmart grocery pickup in March and April to get perishable items and snacks that I had not previously purchased.  But at least I didn't have to mess with most supplies, because I had them.

When I made my purchases in February, very few other people were doing it.  I could see evidence that people were already stockpiling beans, rice, hand sanitizer, and ramen noodles at that time.  It was interesting to see that a few people were buying supplies in February while most other people had no idea that other people were already getting their ducks in a row.

When the true panic buying began in March, I had what I needed as did everyone else who had been paying attention. 

Now it's time to get my ducks in a row once again.  I have seen scattered comments expressing the same from people on Reddit and elsewhere.  People who think like me know that we don't want to have to worry about certain staples this winter.

I have been so angry about by the lies of public officials and the media concerning the use of masks.  Even though a cloth mask won't stop microscopic virus particles, it will help mitigate the spread of the virus.  The point is that if most people will wear a mask when around others, saliva droplets will not be flying everywhere.

Whenever people talk, saliva drops fly out of their mouths.  Sometimes the droplets are large, but more often, they are tiny droplets.  It's actually pretty gross when you consider how much spit lands on you when you are talking to other people who are close to you.  Yuck.

I am also appalled that people actually think the masks have to do with government control.

I am going to the store again these days and am purchasing some items to make sure that I don't have to worry about those things going into fall and winter.  I go to the store at 7 AM and do this around once per week.  I go early when like-minded people are in the store, so more of us are wearing masks than not.  Also, fewer people are in the store at 7 AM.

The masks are a total pain.  I do have trouble breathing if I exert myself at all.  If I am moving slowly or sitting down, the mask isn't a problem.  If I am moving, then I feel short of breath.  I understand why people don't want to wear a mask, but ultimately, most people are going to need to do so in order for us to get this outbreak under control.

The craziest thing about all of this is that I may have been exposed to Covid-19 in March and may have gotten it.  I discount that greatly and feel like I haven't had the virus, but I also can't rule it out.

I will refer to two people as Person #1 and Person #2.  Both of these people got a virus in March, within days of each other.  Person #1 had a fever, a cough, and loss of appetite, but no shortness of breath.

Person #2 became very hoarse, had a cough, and felt bad.  This person minimizes everything and made the virus sound like it wasn't much.  I did not learn until much later that this person was having to use their inhaler around 10 times per day due to breathing problems and that they had never had that happen for any virus before.  I also learned that this person had to use their inhaler much more than usual for 2 1/2 months after acquisition of this virus.  This had never happened to this person before from any virus previously.  This person is still experiencing shortness of breath on random days.

So... I was around these people a lot.  I did get a low-grade fever that lasted a day or so at the time they were sick.  It was nothing really, and I am prone to transient fevers due to my autoimmunity.  Usually a fever is just my own body.  However, at the time I did think this was a virus trying to take hold.

I take 10,000 IU of vitamin D each day, which is under a doctor's orders due to my autoimmunity.  I can attest that vitamin D reduces fatigue and muscle pain and does help the body fight off viruses.  Most people would benefit from taking vitamin D.  However, do not take a high dose without getting your vitamin D level checked.

I began taking zinc and vitamin C in February as a preventative measure for Covid-19.  I purchased zinc lozenges in February to have ready if I came down with a virus.  When I felt this virus begin to take hold in March, I began taking the lozenges.  My body beat back the virus, so I didn't get sick.

I did lose my sense of taste for a week or so, but that happens to me several times per year as a side effect of my thyroid medication.  I can't consider the loss of taste to mean anything since I experience it regularly.

Two weeks after I had the brief encounter with the virus, I found that I had an unusual amount of chest congestion.  It was unusual, because there was no reason for it.  If I had had a bad virus, then sure.  I hadn't, so I was a bit mystified.  When much later I learned about Person #2's shortness of breath, I wondered about it.

Even if I did have Covid-19, that doesn't mean that I can't get it again.  We aren't far enough into this event to know how long immunity lasts.  So I continue to be very careful and hope that I can avoid getting the virus.