Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sweet Dreams #71 Too Many Boys and #72 Goodbye Forever

Sweet Dreams #71 Too Many Boys, Celia Dickenson, 1984

The beginning of junior year seems to be the loneliest time in Nan Whitman's life.  Her boyfriend, Mac, has just left New York for college, and Nan has to start at a new school, where she doesn't know anyone.  If only there were a way to make some girlfriends while Mac's gone.

Nan comes up with a surefire plan; she'll join a few clubs.  But her idea backfires—instead of girls, Nan only meets boys.  And the more clubs she joins, the more boys call to ask her out.

Nancy knows that Mac is the only one she can ever love—and she's promised not to date while he's away.  But with so many boys after her, how long can she hold out?

I did not like the premise of this book.  Nan is a bit foolish in her selection of clubs.  Does she really think girls will be members of the shop club?  What a fool!

Once I got past the stupid part of the book, I found the story to be enjoyable.  The second half of the book is very good.

Sweet Dreams #72 Goodbye Forever, Barbara Conklin, 1984

Kari Langtree is afraid to give her heart away; it seems that every time she loves someone, she has to say goodbye.  Her father died two years ago, and now her favorite sister has gotten married.  The pain of another goodbye is more than Kari can stand.

So when she meets Noah Walters on a cruise to the Caribbean, Kari's careful not to risk falling 
in love.  After all, the trip is only a week long; she doesn't want to end up with a broken heart when Noah goes home with this family.

But little by little, Kari feels her defenses weakening.  She can't resist Noah's warm smile or the way he lightens even her darkest moods.  She knows she's setting herself up for heartache, but maybe this time it will be different.

A character's name struck me as in bad taste, and I would not have thought anything of it a few years ago.  It was sometime in the last year or so that I was reading an old series book and wondered why all the porters on the train were called "George."  According to,  "[m]any passengers called porters 'boy' or 'George,' after George Pullman, regardless of their real names.  This was an uncomfortable throwback to slavery, when slaves were named after their owners." 

In this book, the Langtrees' steward is described as "dark-skinned" and from Jamaica.  On page 29, the reader learns that his name is George.  Ugh!  I thought of the Pullman porters, and it made me cringe.

I love the way this story flows.  It is just a nice story about a trip on a cruise.  If all of the Sweet Dreams books read just like this one, I would read every single book all the way through.  This book is excellent.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

American Adventure #2 Hollywood Ho! by Margaret Trent

In American Adventure #2, Hollywood Ho!, the Burkes, along with Mary, Bob, and Ted, have arrived in California.  Bob lands a temporary job with Western Union which leads to him getting a job as a stunt double, in a case of mistaken identity.  Jane also wants to break into the movies while Mary gets a job in a tearoom.  The Burkes make several short trips in California and experience a few harrowing adventures.

I have scanned the text of this public domain book.

Chapters 1-5
Chapters 6-10
Chapters 11-16

Sometimes Jane comes across as just plain dumb.  Jane and Mary hike up a mountain trail.  They soon realize that they are going in the wrong direction, but Jane spots a sign telling them not to descend by the trail that they are on.  The girls keep going up the mountain as a result of the sign.  They hike for miles and must be rescued.

On page 68, the Burkes watch the Yosemite firefall at Glacier Point.  I had never heard of the firefall and was rather appalled, thinking of how it could start a fire.  I looked up the event, and it actually did occur nightly until 1968, when it was discontinued.

These books remind me of the Beverly Gray series.  The Burkes encounter catastrophe at every turn.  In this book, the characters are in an earthquake, a hotel collapse, a forest fire, and a grandstand collapse.  The girls are chased by buffalo and attacked by a bear.  I must say that I really enjoy books with lots of crazy events.

The girls get sent to school on page 159, to Hollywood High School, of all places.

Bob matures a lot during this book.  It's interesting that the Burkes have taken Mary, Ted, and Bob into their own family unit, so to speak.

This is a very good book.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

eBay and Etsy Pandemic Update

On May 20, I wrote about how I had reactivated my Etsy listings and was in the process of getting my eBay listings back up one listing at a time.  The process was tedious and akin to torture, since I had to edit 191 listings individually.  Finally, I finished last night.

I could have done some of the editing through the bulk editor, but one task had to be done individually.  I wanted to clean up the extraneous HTML that was embedded within a majority of my eBay listing descriptions.  The extraneous HTML was an artifact of old listings copied and pasted over the years.  The embedded HTML sometimes caused problems, and I wanted to get all of it removed.

I copied each description into Wordpad on my computer to strip it of the HTML.  I deleted the HTML completely from the item description.  I then pasted my description back into the listing.  That got rid of the extra junk.

As I removed the junk HTML from each description, I also added the message seen below.

The issue with "best offer" is getting on my last nerve.  I do not have "best offer" activated in my eBay store.  That doesn't stop the buyers from trying.  They use the "contact seller" link to make a best offer.  Now all of my listings contain a statement mentioning that I do not accept offers.

I fully understand and accept that this will not stop the offers from rolling in.  I can only hope that slightly fewer prospective buyers will make offers.  I do not respond at all to most of the offers.  The only ones that I do address are the ones from people who get really pushy and start contacting me each day.  After two or three messages, I finally reply, declining the offer.

I had one person contact me several times, even going so far as to explain to me how I could edit the listing to lower the price for them.  Gosh, I never would have guessed that I could change the price on my own listing.  Wow!

The reason I don't accept offers is because my books tend to be priced at the bare minimum I will accept.  The biggest factor into how I price my books is what I paid for my books.  I tend to pay more than most people realize.  These neat old series books don't just fall out of trees.  I have to find them, both online and offline.  I have to pay good money for them.  I don't find that many bargains.

In order for me to accept best offers, I would need to raise my prices.  I call it "doing it the JCPenney way."  Put a really high price on the merchandise, then place it on sale at varying amounts all the time.  If I had fake high prices on my books, then I could accept lots of offers.  But I don't like playing games like that.  I refuse to do it.  So I don't take best offers.

I fortunately receive far fewer offers on Etsy, although I have already received one request this weekend for a deal on a multiple book purchase.  Due to the friendliness of the request, I did respond and decline.

The books for which a deal was requested are selling extremely fast, so much so that I believe that I set the prices too low.  I'm sticking with how I priced the books, since most of them have sold.  I am certainly not going to lower the prices of books just listed that are selling fast.  It's not logical to do so.

I felt that I needed to address the media mail slowdown in my eBay listings.  My incoming media mail packages are taking around 10 to 14 days, so media mail is definitely running slow.  The slowdown had to be addressed because some buyers are very quick to accuse a seller of wrongdoing.  I had a buyer early this year get really upset over a delayed acceptance scan.  I have used red boxes to indicate the rather strong accusations made by the buyer.  Remember that you can click or tap on an image to see a larger version.

I didn't hear back from the buyer until the postal service finally did the acceptance scan, five days after the package was dropped off.  The buyer was livid, since the delayed acceptance scan clearly meant that I was a liar.

I especially like my first paragraph seen in the upper right.

The buyer didn't reply until the package arrived some days later.  The buyer was like a completely different person, thanking me for a great transaction.  She mentioned nothing about her previous accusations.  She left me very positive feedback.  I was baffled, to say the least.  My shrewd guess was that the package must have arrived in time for the birthday, which made everything right in the world.

That's why I feel I need to warn buyers about the media mail slowdown.  My outgoing packages will also be slightly slower than before since I am not always going to ship the next day.  By telling buyers that I ship on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they will be aware that not all packages will go out the next business day.

Sometimes I will deviate from my usual shipping schedule, like this week because of Memorial Day.  Several people purchased books this weekend.  I will go to the post office on Tuesday this week, since I don't want the packages to be delayed until Wednesday.  Going on Tuesday will probably cause me to shift the other two days to Thursday and Saturday.  Next week I will resume the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

When I closed my eBay store and Etsy shop in March, I knew that I could suffer a temporary setback in visibility, especially on eBay.  I have had two eBay transactions for a total of two books sold since my items were reactivated, which isn't great but better than none at all.  I expect that eBay sales will begin to pick up now that all of my items are back up for sale.

Etsy sales tend to be quite sporadic for me with great sales for a time and then nothing.  Since I reopened my Etsy shop last week, sales have been outstanding.  I have had 16 transactions with a total of 64 books sold.  At times, Etsy runs nearly as good as Bonanza/Bonanzle did for me in 2009 through 2011.  Bonanza/Bonanzle was a fringe startup site that could have been the next big thing, but the site's management squandered their traction by making some major mistakes.  Those mistakes were what caused me to close up my booth and head to Etsy in 2016.

In the coming days, I will begin to create new listings for books that have not previously been available for sale.  Any boys' series books will be on eBay, since boys' books do not do well for me on Etsy.  I suspect that Etsy buyers are predominantly women, which causes the boys' books not to sell as well.

I will be more likely to list Trixie Belden and Dana Girls books on Etsy.  Nancy Drew books with dust jackets and Three Investigators books almost always go on Etsy so that I can avoid a certain difficult person who purchases those books on eBay to resell on eBay.

Any books from more obscure series will go on eBay, since eBay has a larger audience than Etsy.

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pandemic Update: Risk Assessment and Changing Listing Practices

I mentioned the pandemic in three previous posts, linked below.  I find it helpful to read my previous thoughts so that I can tie them to my current thoughts.

In Book Prices, Increasing My Handling Time, and COVID-19, I revealed my concern about COVID-19.  I had wanted to publish this post for a few weeks, but I hesitated because of all the people who were bullying those who were concerned.  After I published the post, readers were supportive and mentioned their own concerns.

I mentioned how hospitals would likely be overwhelmed.  They weren't, but that's because almost all schools nationwide were closed for the rest of the school year, all sporting events were canceled, and many people stayed home for over two months.  Back in March, people said that if we succeeded in flattening the curve that naysayers would insist that we overreacted.  We did flatten the curve, and it appears that we overreacted.  However, it only appears that way because we were successful.

More people have died of COVID-19 in the United States in the last few months than have died of the flu during this entire flu season.  So yes, COVID-19 is worse than the flu, although a high number of deaths have been in nursing homes.

I also mentioned in my post that I was reducing my trips to the post office to just three days per week:  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

In Update on My Activities, I mentioned my fear about COVID-19 and how I was uninterested in listing books for sale.  I thought that school would end up being canceled for the rest of the year.  I was in mourning, since I had really good students this year.

The school year did end on March 13.  I went to the school yesterday to take care of a few things.

Time stands still in my classroom... a school year left unfinished.  I never did take a grade on those assignments since most students never turned them in.

Around one week after I published the above post, I pulled down all of my listings on both eBay and Etsy.  I was too paranoid to go into the post office at all.  I realized that going in was probably pretty safe with precautions, but I was too freaked out to continue to do it.

In New Experiences During the Pandemic, I mentioned all the apps and services that I had used for the very first time during the previous month.  I am certainly going to continue to use Google Voice for future student and parent contact.  I also will continue using Walmart Grocery Pickup for heavy items once I start going back into stores again.  Why struggle to get a 40-pound box of cat litter into a shopping cart?  A Walmart employee can put the litter in my trunk.

So here I am.  I have been carefully monitoring the daily updates on COVID-19 here in Oklahoma and nationwide.  Significant COVID-19 outbreaks are underway in both the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, but otherwise, Oklahoma looks to be trending down.

I am continuing to stay at home, out of stores and away from other people.  I became somewhat less paranoid after I read an enlightening blog post by Professor Erin Bromage.

The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them

If you are feeling scared about being around other people, please read Professor Bromage's post.  It really helps you to assess what your risk will be in various situations and help you figure out which situations to avoid completely.

I must begin to rebuild my confidence about being around other people.  I freely admit that I have developed a phobia about being in public.  I must work on this since I will be forced to be around others in June when I have to go in for lab tests and an appointment.

I actually want to start selling books again.  I really miss it.  I originally planned to wait until June to reopen my eBay and Etsy stores, but I realized that selling books will help me segue back into society.  If I start selling books again, then I will resume dropping packages off at the post office.  Going into the post office three times per week will build up my courage and confidence in being around other people.

I do have some other concerns about selling again, because the USPS is struggling to meet demand during the pandemic.  I have made a few purchases, and media mail is quite slow right now.  Each of my incoming packages gets stalled at the Oklahoma City distribution center for three to six days.  I have heard that many USPS employees nationwide are out sick or are missing work due to fear of the virus.  Some USPS personnel have died of COVID-19.

International shipping is very problematic right now, due to the decrease in flights.  It also remains just as expensive as ever.  In High International Shipping Costs and Free Domestic Shipping, I explained that the United States subsidizes shipping rates for China, which is why our costs are so extremely high.  Buyers think I am lying about the high cost, and it doesn't help that USPS only offers international airmail and no surface mail.

In a strange twist, the pandemic has caused a lot of the outbound airmail to go surface by sea.  This means that international buyers are getting slow service for the very high cost of airmail.  This is just not a good time to purchase anything internationally.

Here are a few USPS bulletins about the situation.

International Service Impact – Alternate Transportation: Air to Sea Diversion in Effect 
International Service Impact – Alternate Transport: Second Air to Sea Diversion in Effect
International Service Impact – Alternate Transport: Third Air to Sea Diversion in Effect

I have been preparing to reopen my eBay and Etsy stores since yesterday.  Since this has been a complete break from selling that has lasted for two months, I have had time for reflection.  Some of my practices must change.  I already had decided to drop my one-day handling time in March, and I will continue with a two-day handling time.  I refuse to play eBay's games.  I figure that I have enough of a following that I can do okay selling books even if eBay suppresses me in the search results.

I must fix some issues.  Etsy now truncates descriptions so that buyers do not see important condition information.  I changed my listing style in late January and early February for new listings, but I was not motivated to change all of my older listings.  Since all old items were deactivated, I decided to start adding them back in one at a time, changing each description so as to avoid truncation.

This is what an older listing looks like.  Always click or tap on an image to see a larger version.

All of the important condition details are hidden.  I don't think most buyers open up that description area, which could then cause those buyers to be dissatisfied about the book's condition.

Here is what my updated listing description looks like.

By removing the general book information, which is already in the title of the listing, I can avoid truncation in most instances.

I have added a warning about media mail shipping time to the main page of my Etsy shop.  I have also created a "priority mail upgade" listing on Etsy for those who want to get their books faster.

This is going to take awhile to get my Etsy shop back up, but here is a link to what I have up so far.

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

I want to add a message about media mail shipping time to each of my listings on eBay, so I will have to edit them individually just like I am doing on Etsy.  I also want to add a note about how I do not accept offers.  I receive lots of low ball offers on my listings via messages on eBay.  I typically do not respond unless the buyer begins harassing me.  I only respond to those buyers to shut them down.  Contacting me each day is not going to make me accept a low offer.

I realize that stating that I do not accept offers will not stop most people from trying.  I just hope that I might dissuade a few of them from trying.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Right.  Nothing is visible on eBay, but it will be soon.  I took the store off of vacation mode, but I first ended all listings.  So the store continues to be empty.  I will begin adding the listings back in one at a time just like I am doing with Etsy.

By the way, my eBay store is a bit messed up since I have my store in the old format on purpose.  I'm not sure why eBay still allows sellers to use the old format when we supposedly weren't going to be allowed to continue using it.  While we can somehow continue to use the old format, we cannot edit it at all. 

If you look closely at the left side of my store,  you can probably figure out why I keep the old format, even though I cannot edit the old format.  I have an incorrect message about free shipping, but there's also something else there that isn't allowed in the new format store and isn't an option at all in the new format.

This is such an odd situation.  While I can somehow keep the old format eBay store, I cannot edit it at all, so I cannot remove what is not allowed.  Ah, the mysteries of eBay.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sweet Dreams #69 Call Me Beautiful and #70 Special Someone

Sweet Dreams #69 Call Me Beautiful, Shannon Blair, 1984

It's just a silly beauty pageant.  That's what Tina Steele tells herself when she's nominated as a candidate for Miss Spring Valley.  Of course she's flattered, but she knows there are more important things to think about.

As the pageant grows nearer, though, Tina finds herself worrying.  Is she pretty enough?  Talented enough?  Her boyfriend, Jeff, can't understand what all the fuss is about.  Every time Tina brings up the pageant, he starts talking about his debating team.

This makes Tina furious.  She's determined to prove to Jeff that the pageant is just as important as his big debate.  When she's crowned queen and every eye is on her, he'll have to admit that Miss Spring Valley is a pretty big deal.  Suddenly, winning the contest seems to be the most important thing in the world.

At first, I declined to read this book at all.  I'm not interested in beauty pageants.  A few days later, I tried skimming through the book.  I still wasn't interested, but at least I now know the ending.  I wouldn't have enjoyed the book if I had properly read it.

Sweet Dreams #70, Special Someone, Terri Fields, 1984

Katie's plans for a super summer are destroyed when her parents whisk her off to Arizona.  Katie doesn't know a single soul, and she's afraid it will be the most boring vacation of her life—until she meets Dave.

For Katie, Dave's a dream come true—handsome, charming, and an "older man," a college student taking summer courses at Arizona State.  Best of all, he seems to like Katie, too, and the difference in their ages doesn't bother him a bit.

But Katie's hopes for romance are shattered when she learns that Dave's plans are very different from her own.  Suddenly Katie's not so sure that Dave's her special someone.

I could see from the beginning that Dave isn't right for Katie.  Even though I didn't agree with how Katie feels about Dave, I stuck with the book because it is engaging.  As with many of these books, the second half of the story is better than the first.  This is a very good book.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

American Adventure #1 Crossed Trails

Introduction to the American Adventure Series

"It's—it's an animal, I'm sure!
It's coming this way!"
In American Adventure #1, Crossed Trails, Mary Lancaster finds a happy escape from an unpleasant stay with her domineering aunt.  Mary is invited by the Burkes, Jane and her parents, to travel with them across country.  Soon into the journey, Mary and the Burkes meet Ted, who is a waiter at a hotel.  Ted is worried about his brother, Bob, who recently took off for the west, hitchhiking first to New York City.  Both Bob and the Burkes have a series of misadventures on their separate journeys, and eventually, their paths cross.

This book is in the public domain, I have scanned it and the other two volumes since I feel strongly that this series is one of the really good A. L. Burt series.  The books are so scarce that most people will never be able to find them.

Chapters 1-7
Chapters 8-14
Chapters 15-22

This book had me on the very first page.  The introduction to the story is quite good.

I did think it a bit odd for Mary to be invited on a road trip in winter.  What about school?  On page 18, Aunt Sarah mentions how Mary will miss school.  Mary counters with a statement about how her mother feels that she can learn more on a trip than in school.

On page 90, Mary meets the author of the Clover Club Series, a woman named Mrs. Brent.  Mrs. Brent gives Mary advice, telling her to keep a diary of the trip so that she can turn it into a book.  On the final page of this story, Mary says that the title of her book will be Crossed Trails.

On page 189, Bob uses a kind of fake Spanish in order to communicate with a Mexican family.
"No coulda find," he said in what he considered an intelligible mixture of English and Spanish.  "Alla gone.  Sta muencho bueno," he ended proudly.  "Huh?  Not?"

"Sí!  Sí!" the fat mother of the family nodded, while a half-dozen grimy hands reached out to pat him affectionately.  "Sta muencho bueno!"
I get the idea that the Mexican family views Bob as a bit dim.

While this book contains statements that are racially or ethnically insensitive, I feel that the author tried to teach the reader about different types of people in a way that depicts them to be real and worthwhile people.  The text is certainly not up to today's standards, not by a long shot.  However, I feel that this author tried to be sensitive to minorities and tried to depict them in a good fashion.  Most old series authors wrote passages that were simply dreadful, outright making fun of minorities.  This author did nothing like that.

The above paragraph was written after I finished this book and before I began the other two books.  The third book contains more blatantly problematic racial stereotypes, but that does not change my opinion of this first book.

This book is a travelogue of sorts, but not of the boring type.  It is a travelogue similar to those of the Beverly Gray series.  This is the type of travelogue that I love.  The book has no historical facts in it, but the countryside is described in such a way that the reader does learn a bit about different parts of the country and a bit about history.

For instance, the Burkes stay at several Harvey House hotels in Arizona and New Mexico.  It was only when the family stays at the second Harvey House that I realized that this must be a chain of hotels and possibly a chain that actually existed in the past.  I had never heard of them, since they were before my time.

Harvey Hotels & Restaurants on Route 66

From the above link, I found photos of some of the hotels mentioned in this book.

The La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico

El Garces Harvey House Hotel in Needles, California

It was interesting to learn about Harvey House.

On page 248, Mary and Jane wait to see if Bob will get well.  They "felt curiously as though they were living in a strange suspension between dream and reality."  That accurately describes how many of us are feeling during this pandemic.

This book is thoroughly engaging and excellent.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Sweet Dreams #67 I Believe in You and #68 Lovebirds

Sweet Dreams #67 I Believe in You, Barbara Conklin, 1984

For the first time in her life, Penny Snow isn't looking forward to her summer vacation in Oregon.  In the past, a visit to her grandfather's beautiful beach house meant lots of swimming, tennis, and carefree good times.  But this summer Penny's grandfather is moving to a rest home, so she has to help empty the house that holds so many memories.  And because of her recent accident, she's afraid to join in the fun the way she used to.

The only bright spot in Penny's summer is her friendship with Bill Davis, he grandfather's young helper.  He has faith in her and believes she can be active once again.  But is his love enough to overcome Penny's fears?

I did not find this book interesting, so I did not read it.

Sweet Dreams #68 Lovebirds, Janet Quin-Harkin, 1984

Tiffany hasn't seen her film-maker father in the two years since her parents' divorce.  So naturally she's uneasy when her mother suddenly announces she's remarrying and taking a long honeymoon, and Tiffany has to spend the time with her father.  For the next five weeks she'll be helping her dad shoot a wildlife film in the dusty Australian outback.  

Australia is the last place on earth Tiffany wants to be; she can't understand the way the people talk, she's brought all the wrong clothes, and her father keeps telling her that she's spoiled.  It looks as if the trip may turn out to be a disaster. 

Her one hope for fun is Bruce Dawson, the handsome guide for the trip.  But unless Tiffany can hold her own in the rugged outback, Bruce will never even notice her.  How can he prove herself and win his love, too?

I twice tried to read the book and wasn't interested either time.  Please understand that I will never get through this set if I make myself read every book.  If the book doesn't grab my attention fast, then I will go to the next book in the set.  That's my only hope.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Arden Blake #3 Missing at the Marshlands by Cleo Garis

In Missing at the Marshlands, Arden, Sim, and Terry stay with Terry’s mother in Oceanedge.  A Russian painter stays in a nearby houseboat, and he has several mysterious visitors.  When the man vanishes, the girls begin looking for him. Meanwhile, the girls also hope to help an underprivileged girl named Melissa who lives in the area.  Melissa is mistreated by her father, and the girls want to help her.

I found it interesting that the girls tan on the beach and use tanning oil.  I don't know that I have ever read a vintage series book from the 1930s where the girls actually tan on the beach.

From page 67:

"Looks to me as though we've dropped right into the middle of another mystery," Terry announced, nodding her read wisely.  "Maybe there are always mysteries, but only wise girls really discover them."

This is a good book.

A. L. Burt books can be bad due to little care in proofreading, but this series is a solid one.  It is better than many Burt series, although it is not one of the outstanding ones.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Sweet Dream #65 The Two of Us and #66 Love Times Two

Sweet Dreams #65 The Two of Us, Janet Quin-Harkin, 1984

It's only the first week of classes, but Stephanie's already blown it with the in crowd of her new school.  She knows she would win their approval if she could just have one more chance.

What better way than to pose as her own twin sister and pass herself off as a rock singer?  It's a crazy scheme, but she pulls it off.  Sophisticated Stormy's an instant hit, and soon nobody even remembers boring old Stephanie.

Nobody except Charles.  He really seemed to care about Stephanie.  But what does he matter?  Isn't the glamour of being Stormy enough?

The story is very engaging, but I did skim parts after Stephanie becomes Stormy.  It's a stupid Jessica stunt, and Jessica stunts are only fun when done by Jessica Wakefield.  This is overall a very good book, despite Stephanie's stupidity.

Sweet Dreams #66 Love Times Two, Stephanie Foster, 1984

Twin sisters Claudia and Cassie are looking forward to their family vacation on Green Lake.  A whole month of boating, swimming, and exploring.  They're sure it's going to be a terrific vacation until they discover they've both fallen for the same boy.  And try as they might, neither one can help wondering whom T.J. will prefer—friendly, athletic Cassie or quiet, sensitive Claudia.  The girls have always been as close as two sisters can be.  Will that change if one of them wins T.J.'s love?

The story seems okay, but I wasn't that interested.  I read a couple chapters and then quit.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

What If Edward Stratemeyer Had Lived Longer?

This post is not as well written and complete as I would like, but I do want to publish it today.  So, here it is.

A couple weeks ago fans celebrated the 90th anniversary of the debut of the Nancy Drew series on April 28, 1930.  Nancy Drew's birthday is always a day to celebrate and reflect upon Nancy Drew's legacy.

But what about May 10, 1930?  That date is certainly no cause for celebration, but it is of great note.  90 years ago today, Nancy Drew's creator, Edward Stratemeyer died.  Stratemeyer founded the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book packager responsible for dozens of juvenile series, most notably Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins.  Those series have survived into modern times.  Both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series have remained in print continuously since inception in 1927 and 1930 respectively.

How would events have played out if Edward Stratemeyer had lived longer?  Much would be different if Statemeyer had lived.  Would his legacy have been more or less significant?  This will remain unknown, but we can make a few assumptions regarding some of the properties owned by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

The Statemeyer Syndicate was run by Edward's daughters, Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier, after his death.  If Edward had lived, his daughters would not have taken over the company, at least they certainly would not have done so in 1930.

Assuming that Edward had lived, I feel confident that the Dana Girls and Kay Tracey series never would have existed.  Those series were created by his daughters.  I love the Kay Tracey series and the first 12 Dana Girls books.  I would hate to have missed out on those.

In 2016, I wrote the following regarding the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.
The Hardy Boys series is more uneven than Nancy Drew in the years after Stratemeyer died.  My conjecture is that Harriet Adams took a greater interest in the Syndicate's girls' series offerings.  In fact, two new girls' series, Dana Girls and Kay Tracey, were created soon after Adams took over running the Syndicate.  We do know that years later that Harriet Adams was very protective of Nancy Drew and had taken sole responsibility of the series.  Not only that, Harriet Adams fancied herself as Nancy Drew.

For that reason, I feel that more effort was made to keep the Nancy Drew series even and that the Hardy Boys series floundered a bit in the years after Stratemeyer died.  Nancy Drew seems more consistent.
If Edward had lived, the Hardy Boys series likely would have been much more consistent.  But would it have been better?  Would it have lasted?

In 2011, I shared a theory about what I thought had happened with Nancy Drew.
Edward Stratemeyer died as the first three Nancy Drew books were published.  Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier had to scramble to get their father's business under control in the months after he died.  During the first few months, Edward Stratemeyer's secretary, Harriet Otis Smith, was responsible for keeping the business going.  Lilac Inn was the first Nancy Drew book published after Stratemeyer's death, but that book had already been written by Mildred Wirt, and Otis Smith edited it.

Grosset and Dunlap wanted the next book in the series, the one that was to become Shadow Ranch.  The trouble was that Shadow Ranch had no outline, and nobody knew what story Stratemeyer had wished to tell.  On page 133 of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak gives Stratemeyer's description of Shadow Ranch:  "A thrilling tale of mysterious doings at various places in the valley and around the ranch.  It remained for Nancy Drew to solve some perplexing situations."

Otis Smith wrote up an outline based on that vague description.  Since Shadow Ranch reads so much like an Outdoor Girls book, I wonder whether Otis Smith could have gotten some ideas from an outline for an Outdoor Girls book and changed it up for Nancy Drew.  She also could have used an outline for Billie Bradley or Betty Gordon, which were still in print during the early 1930s but soon ended.  It would be reasonable to assume that some outlines for those series were never used for books in those series. They could have been used for Nancy Drew.  This is pure speculation on my part, but I see such a strong similarity in tone between the original text Shadow Ranch and early Stratemeyer books that I feel this to be a possibility.
The Secret at Shadow Ranch is the book that introduces Nancy's friends, cousins Bess and George.  Nancy's two primary chums might never have existed if not for the death of Edward.  Dumping Helen Corning for Bess Marvin and George Fayne was a significant change that has endured to the present day.  That might not have happened if Edward had lived.  What would the Nancy Drew series have been like if Nancy's erstwhile chum Helen had remained Nancy's friend across the decades?  Would the stories have been as good?  Would the series have lasted?

On the other hand, what would Edward have created if he had lived?  We can guess which series never would have existed, but which ones would have been created by Edward?  We will never know.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Arden Blake #2 The Mystery of Jockey Hollow by Cleo Garis

In The Mystery of Jockey Hollow, Arden, Sim, and Terry stay at Sim’s house.  Their friend, Dot Keene, joins them.  The girls learn about Sycamore Hall, which is to be torn down so that a highway can be built.  The old house is said to be haunted, and the demolition workers are constantly frightened away by strange sounds.

Elderly Mrs. Howe claims ownership of the old house, but she cannot find the will.  If the will can be found, then Mrs. Howe will receive money for the house.  Arden and her friends look for the will as they search for the cause of the mysterious events that have frightened the workers.

Page 87:

"Sim was not yet an expert driver and often went blocks out of her way to avoid turning."

As I mentioned in my previous review, I like the bits of realism included in Cleo Garis' books.  Most old series books depict the protagonist teenagers as excellent drivers.  It is a refreshing change to have a teenage driver still be learning how to drive well.

On page 161, the negro cook is referred to as a "slave."  "If you’re going down, would you mind having that little slave bring me up some coffee?"

This book is enjoyable.  It is better than the first book, although a bit odd in places.  For instance, towards the end of the story, the girls throw a Christmas party inside the house that is in the process of being torn down.  That’s a bit foolhardy. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Sweet Dreams #63 Kiss Me, Creep and #64 Love in the Fast Lane

Sweet Dreams #63 Kiss Me, Creep, 1984

Every girl at Cabrillo High has a crush on Richie Brennan—every girl, that is, except Joy Wilder.  Joy can't stand Richie's smug, conceited attitude or his stupid jokes, most of which are aimed directly at her.

The worst jokes are the romantic ones; Richie always kids Joy about being madly in love with her.  But one day she discovers that he's more serious than she thought.  Is Richie really a creep—or is he someone Joy can love?

This is the only Sweet Dreams book that I read as a teen.  Since I only read one Sweet Dreams book, I have little attachment to the books.  That's why my reaction is lukewarm to many of them.

I remember that I enjoyed this book years ago.  I did not like it as much this time.  The story is okay and very good in parts, but I didn't find it that compelling.

Sweet Dreams #64 Love in the Fast Lane, 1984

For as long as she could remember, Alison's life had revolved around her boyfriend, Marty.  She had even shared his interest in car racing—until he was killed in a tragic accident.  She didn't think she would ever get over him.  Then she met Billy Kendall.  Maybe he'd be able to open her heart to love again.

Instead Billy becomes a painful reminder of the past when Alison discovers his enthusiasm for motocross.   She can't ask Billy to stop racing, but she can't live with a heart full of fear, either.  Is she doomed once again to lose the boy she loves?

I did not find the beginning of the story to be very compelling, so I did not read this book.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Arden Blake #1 The Orchard Secret by Cleo Garis

In The Orchard Secret, Arden Blake, Sim Westover, and Terry Landry arrive at Cedar Ridge College to begin their freshman year. The girls are warned of a danger in the old apple orchard that is near the college.  They also hear about a missing man.  Meanwhile, Arden is disappointed to learn that the college's swimming pool is unusable, since Sim agreed to come to Cedar Ridge solely based on its swimming pool.  Arden thinks that the missing man might be in the surrounding area, and she hopes that she can locate the man and claim the reward so that the swimming pool can be repaired.

The opening of the book is not as good as it should have been.  The girls are not described until page 19.  On the first page of the story, Arden and Sim’s surnames are given, but Terry’s is not.  This is a bit awkward.

The first day of college is in session on page 63.  "Something of an organization was arranged, the roll was checked and corrected, names were asked and given, everyone was on edge and nervous, even the instructors."  I like that the instructors were said to be nervous, because this is true.  Cleo Garis included some little bits of realism in her books that I really enjoy.

This is not a strong book, but I find it enjoyable.  It is a good average book from the 1930s.  It isn't as compelling as the better older series books, but it is far better than the many substandard series books.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Sweet Dreams #61 Exchange of Hearts and #62 Just Like the Movies

Sweet Dreams #61 Exchange of Hearts, Janet Quin-Harkin, 1984

When Fiona arrives in sunny New Mexico from her home in England, it feels as if she's entered a whole new world.  But instead of enjoying her stay as an exchange student, she's miserable and homesick.  Most of all, she misses her boyfriend, Simon.  Taco West, the only boy on the ranch where Fiona is staying, is nothing like Simon.  He teases her and treats her like a pesty younger sister.

But as time goes by, Fiona finds that Taco has a gentle, tender side.  And she thinks about Simon less and less.  Should Fiona stay faithful to the boy she's supposed to love—or give her heart to the boy she thought she hated?

This post was prepared two months after I read this book so I remember little.  I noted that the book is very good.  Also, Taco is a stupid name.

Sweet Dreams #62 Just Like the Movies, Suzanne Rand, 1984

More than anything else, Marcy wants to be an actress.  Her lucky break comes when a big Hollywood film company decides to shoot a movie in her hometown.  Not only does Marcy get a walk-on part, but she also gets to spend time with teen idol Lance Newmark.  Best of all, Lance seems to think she has talent.

Marcy pours all her energy into getting more scenes in the movie and more attention from Lance.  Her old friends are quickly becoming strangers, but she tells herself it doesn't matter.  It will be worth it when she's a star and she has the boy she's always dreamed about.  Won't it?

I did not read this book.  The premise did not appeal to me.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Nancy Drew #57-64 Hardcover Flashlight Edition

In 2005, Nancy Drew #57 through 64 were issued in the hardcover flashlight edition by Penguin under the Grosset and Dunlap imprint.  The books apparently went through at least two printings, but even so, they are quite scarce.

The existence of #57-64 in the Grosset and Dunlap edition has caused many collectors to believe that the original Nancy Drew series ended with #64.  This is not true at all.  As I explained in "Hidden Clues #4 Collecting the Entire Nancy Drew Series," collectors make a mistake in stopping at #64.  The Stratemeyer Syndicate was responsible for all books up through #78.  Furthermore, the original Nancy Drew series did not end until #175.  It is a mistake to stop arbitrarily at #64 solely because of the hardcover format.

I did not purchase the hardcover flashlight editions of #57-64 when they were new.  I tend not to purchase some books when new simply because they are new, meaning easy to find.  I have this odd quirk of waiting until long after some books go out of print before I finally decide that I am interested.  It's like I am unmotivated in getting books that are very easy to acquire.  There's no challenge in buying new books.

However, the main reason why I was uninterested in these books was because I already had multiple hardcover copies in the Wanderer edition with dust jacket and in various hardcover library bindings.  Having the books in hardcover by Grosset and Dunlap wasn't that alluring to me, since hardcover editions were already commonplace in my house.

Most all other collectors felt differently than I did about the hardcover editions of #57-64.  They didn't own all the library editions, so these books provided a great opportunity for acquiring #57-64 in a hardcover binding.  Since collectors desire these books, they are worth more than the average flashlight edition.  #1-56 are worth no more than the original cover price, but #57-64 are out of print and tend to be worth around $20 each depending upon condition.

It was around three years ago that I suddenly decided that I should build a set of all eight books.  By that time, the books were long out of print and scarce.  When the books show up for sale, they are usually offered for $20 or more apiece online in individual listings.  The books are sometimes sold in partial or complete sets for $100 to $200.

I determined that I would not pay more than the original cover price of $6.99 per book.  That might seem like I was limiting myself too much, but I've always had great luck in finding bargains with a little patience.  I knew that I could do it, but it would probably take a few years.  This was a very low priority, so I wasn't concerned with how quickly I could accomplish the task.

I watched for bulk lots of these books on eBay as I checked the new Nancy Drew listings each day.  Bulk lots are my source of fun variants and hidden treasures.  They are also the means to get really good books inexpensively.  I love bulk lots.

I used bulk lots to begin building my set of #57-64 in the hardcover flashlight edition.  Over the last few years, I have purchased a number of small bulk lots of these books at inexpensive prices, within the cost of $6.99 per book.  I ended up with duplicates, which I sold.  #57 was oddly elusive in the small bulk lots that I was able to grab before others did.  #57 either came up for sale at a higher price than I wanted to pay or in bulk lots that others got to first.  I just could not lay hands on a #57, but I knew that I would eventually.

It was in April that I saw a bulk lot of all eight books on eBay at a very cheap Buy It Now price.  The lot had just been listed, and I got to it first.  Finally, I had acquired a copy of #57.

The books arrived, and I sorted through them, deciding which to keep and which to sell.  It gets really confusing, and I have to use sticky notes with these labels written on them:  new - sell, new - keep, old - sell, and old - keep.  For this latest acquisition, I used all four labels on various books.

This photo shows the books that I already had.

I once had several books with partially faded spines that all came from one of the earlier bulk lots that I purchased.  I had upgraded all of them except for #58.

This photo shows the books from the recent purchase.

As I compared my old and new books, I discovered that some books are the first printing and others are the second printing.  I decided to go with the better condition book, regardless of printing.  Even without caring about the printing, I decided to keep both copies of two titles, #61 and #64.

I mentioned that I love bulk lots in part because they are my source of fun variants.  The main variants that I find in bulk lots are books that have covers with a different tint.  It is very hard to spot such books in online listings, because of differences in monitors and mobile screens.  Even when I photograph books for my own listings, what I see on my screen is sometimes not tinted just like the actual book. 

A prospective buyer also never knows when a seller might have adjusted the color or contrast in a photo.  This makes it impossible to purchase tint variants online just by looking at photos.  Tints variants show up with some frequency in bulk lots, always unnoticed in the online photos but readily apparent once the books arrive.

#61 The Swami's Ring is seen below in the first printing followed by the second printing.  The first printing is thicker, and the cover art is darker.

#64 Captive Witness is the one that really fascinates me.  The first printing is shown first followed by the second printing.  The first printing is also thicker and darker in tint.

I am fascinated because I am reminded of another Captive Witness tint variation that I have from the original paperback edition.

The book seen above on the left is the first printing, and the one on the right is the fourth printing.  Notice that the dresses are different shades of red and that the covers are different shades of gray.  It's an odd coincidence to have two books from the 1980s and two much later books from 2005 from different publishers have a similar difference in tint in the red dress.  There is no connection whatsoever; this is merely a random but fun coincidence.

Most collectors scorn the flashlight edition Nancy Drew books, but even the flashlight editions have interesting variants.  Another variant which may be of interest to collectors is the textured flashlight edition.

Friday, May 1, 2020

My Thoughts on My Rereading of Harry Potter

This post contains spoilers.

In March, I decided to read Harry Potter again, since I needed something different in light of current events.  I have had a distaste for Harry Potter for many years.  It is only due to the pandemic and a need to escape that I decided to read the books again.  It had been 13 years since I read any of them.

In an old blog post from 2013, I explained why I had a problem with Harry Potter.
I read the first four Harry Potter books at about the time that the fourth book was published and volumes five through seven during the following several years as each of those titles were published.  I dearly loved the first four Harry Potter books, but I was somewhat soured on the series due to some dissatisfaction with the final three books.

Part of the problem was the extreme hype surrounding the series.  I hated trying to enjoy something while news reporters who likely had no interest in the series prattled on about various plot details.  It was so annoying.

I recall joining a Yahoo! Group and reading all of the speculation surrounding one of the characters.  I was then greatly annoyed by a Rowling interview in which she effectively shot down the speculation by making a statement about not understanding how people could be drawing certain conclusions.  That effectively ruined it for me.  Sometimes authors need to keep their mouths shut.

The funny thing is... Rowling's comments from that interview were purposefully misleading.  Again, authors need to keep their mouths shut and let their books do the talking.  She ruined it for me.

Furthermore, Rowling's books became wordier and wordier with each new book, and it became apparent that little editing had been done for the last three books.  The fifth book was particularly awful in that at least one-third of the text could have been removed, thus making the book far less boring.  The epilogue at the end of the seventh book was stupid and should not have been included.  It would have been far better to have had more falling action than to have included that nonsense.

Someday I might read the Harry Potter series again, but it is going to be a long time before I consider doing so.  I have too many bad memories of not enjoying parts of the last three books.  If the books had been carefully edited, that would never have been a problem.  It's a shame, really.
I find it interesting to read my comments from 2013 and realize how much some of my opinions have changed.  The most significant one, however, has not changed at all.

I remember the first time I read Harry Potter #1.  I loved it and found it captivating.  I read the book at least two more times years later.  I also greatly enjoyed it during those readings.  When I read the book again in early March, it fell flat for me.  I found it a bit boring.  I feel like most of the book is exposition.  It just doesn't have the punch of the later books.  Also, I remembered all details of the story quite clearly, due to multiple readings, so I wasn't that interested.

I think I used to like Harry Potter #2 less than #1.  The reverse is now true.  I like #2 a lot more than #1.  While I remembered the main plot of #2, enough was hazy for me that the book kept my interest quite well.  This trend continued throughout the rest of my rereading of the set.

I like this quote from book 2 in Chapter 18, "Dobby's Reward."
"It only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin..."

"Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more.  "Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle.  It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
Book 3 has always been my favorite, and it is still my favorite.  It is perfect, and I love everything about it.  I love Professor Lupin, Sirius Black, and learning about the dynamic between James Potter and his friends.  I especially adore the scene where Scabbers the rat is revealed to be Wormtail.
"Ron... haven't I been a good friend... a good pet?  You won't let them kill me, Ron, will you... you're on my side, aren't you?"

But Ron was staring at Pettigrew with the utmost revulsion.

"I let you sleep in my bed!" he said.
I laugh all through that scene.  I love it.

Book 4 is where the series takes a dark turn.  The first three books do have darkness in them, but the fourth book is where the series becomes quite dark.  If these books had been around when I was a child, they would have been too intense for me.  I was quite sheltered, and the scenes with Voldemort would have given me nightmares.

Near the end of the fourth book, Voldemort returns.  Cornelius Fudge refuses to accept Voldemort's return as reality.  He smiles and implies that Harry has lost his mind.  I just want to slap him.  But even more, I was struck during this reading by how much Cornelius Fudge reminds me of the behavior of the United States government and media during February 2020, when the American people were told that Covid-19 is "just the flu," that masks only protect healthcare workers and not regular citizens, that Covid-19 is a hoax, and that we should just go out and frolic with other people rather than let fear rule our lives.

This passage is from Chapter 36, "The Parting of the Ways."
"Voldemort has returned," Dumbledore repeated.  "If you accept that fact straightaway, Fudge, and take the necessary measures, we may still be able to save the situation."
Right, just like how the CDC should not have been so inept with getting COVID-19 tests out to the states.  Testing is still a problem, even now.

In this passage is from Chapter 37, "The Beginning," Harry has just given George and Fred his prize money to help them start their joke shop.
"If you don't take it, I'm throwing it down the drain.  I don't want it and I don't need it.  But I could do with a few laughs.  We could all do with a few laughs.  I've got a feeling we're going to need them more than usual before long."
I was also reminded of current events when I read that.

I really enjoyed the fourth book on this reading, at least as much as I did before and perhaps a little more.

I recall not liking the first half of book 5 years ago (refer to my comments above from 2013).  During my original reading, I thought that the time in Sirius Black's house is too long and boring.  I thought that the Ministry of Magic fight scene near the end of the book is too excruciatingly long.  I also found Dolores Umbridge to be too deeply disturbing.  The book was too dark for me at that time.

This time, I had no problem with the part of the story in Black's house.  It flows just fine and is not boring.  Umbridge is still awful, but I knew from my previous reading that she would be deposed.  While Umbridge is sickening, I delightedly looked forward to her fall.  The Ministry of Magic fight scene isn't as bad as I recall.  It is mostly fine, but I did skim some of it.

This passage from Chapter 11, "The Sorting Hat's New Song," also reminds me of people who have thought that the pandemic is a hoax.
Anyone who thought Harry was a liar had to think that Dumbledore was too or else that Dumbledore had been hoodwinked...

They'll know we're right in the end, thought Harry miserably...
Unfortunately, many people still think the pandemic is a hoax.

Also from Chapter 12, "Professor Umbridge," Umbridge declares, "The Ministry of Magic guarantees that you are not in danger from any Dark Wizard."

Sometime after book 4 was published, I joined a Yahoo! group that was devoted solely to discussion of which side Snape was on.  I checked that group often, reading the new messages each day.  I was enthralled.  I was utterly fascinated with Snape.  I just knew that he was somehow torn between the two sides.  I knew it. 

At some point after I devoted so much time to reading the discussions about Snape, J.K. Rowling made a statement that caused me to lose much of my interest in the series.  I don't know whether this statement was in an article or in a filmed interview.  I also don't remember the exact words.  All I can do is paraphrase what I recall hearing over 15 years ago.

J.K. Rowling said something like this:  "I am shocked that people think Snape is good.  He is clearly evil!"  I'm sure those aren't the actual words, but that is the meaning of whatever she said.  It was like a punch in the gut.  Why bother reading the rest of the books?

This serves as an example of when an author should not say anything at all.  Snape is a conflicted character.  He is a bully and just a horrible person to be around.  It is revealed in the final book that Snape indeed was playing both sides and that he was helping Harry, even though he treated Harry in the worst way possible.


Rowling deliberately misled fans when she should have not said anything at all.  Her statement about Snape truly did spoil my reading of the final books in the series when I first read them in the 2000s.  My enjoyment of books 6 and 7 was not what it should have been when I first read them years ago.  I was quite nettled when I reached the Snape reveal in book 7 and saw how Rowling had misled us.  Grrr.  It just spoiled the whole thing for me.

That's why I went 13 years before reading the books again.  I have been annoyed about Rowling's Snape quote this entire time.

On this reading, I found book 6 to be excessively dark, but I still enjoyed it more than I did years ago.  This time, I loved book 7.  I absolutely adored it.  That is, except for the epilogue, which I hated years ago and still don't like.  I opted to skim it this time.

I have a few thoughts on the characters.  I don't care that much for Harry's parents, particularly James.  In the flashbacks, James is so mean to Snape, and it's not clear that there was any real justification for it.  I feel that Rowling does not adequately show James' growth as a character.  I accept that James is supposed to be a really good person, but we aren't shown that at all.

I have never understood the Ron and Hermione relationship in the books.  It comes out of nowhere halfway through the series and never feels real to me.  I recently watched all eight films (for the first time ever) after rereading the books, and the movies show the development of the relationship far better than the books do.

My favorite book is #3 followed by #7, 2, 5, 6, 4, and then #1 in last place.  #6 and #4 are very close.  The reason I put #4 near the end and after #6 is that I don't care much for the romance aspect of that book.  It has always seemed forced to me.

Regarding the movies, #1 is my least favorite movie.  #4 is also in next-to-last place.  I don't know that I have a favorite movie.  All of the rest are around the same and quite enjoyable to watch, even though the movies leave out a large amount of what happens in the books.

In closing, my opinion of Harry Potter improved on this reading and my feelings returned to what they were before Rowling's unfortunate statement about Snape.  I am still irked about that, but I can overlook it.