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.