Sunday, January 30, 2022

Overcoming My Review Writing Slump

A response that Neal Shusterman (author of Unwind Dystology and more) made on one of his recent Facebook posts resonated with me.  The post and comments are well worth reading as there are several great tidbits.  Someone asked how to get past writer's block.  Shusterman replied as follows.

Write.  That might sound facetious, but it's not.  The way to get past "writers block" is to reframe it.  Sometimes writing is easy, other times it's extremely difficult.  That's not a "block" that's writing.  If you accept the fact that struggle, and frustration is a normal part of the process, and work in spite of it, eventually you'll be able to move forward.

I took the response to heart and concluded that I could use that approach with my reviews.  I am not reading much, but it would be nice to write reviews of the few books that I have read.  I have lost all motivation to write anything.  I realized that I could write something anyway, even if I don't like the book (which will be quite likely) or even if the review is inadequate.  If I could begin moving back in the right direction, I might be able to start reviewing books in a fashion similar to what I once did.

Last week I wrote a review for the first time in some time.

Carolina Hurricane by Marian Rumsey

After I published the review of Carolina Hurricane, I wrote up some thoughts on the last three Hardy Boys Adventures books.

Hardy Boys Adventures #22 Trouble Island, #23 Mayhem Express, and #24 As the Falcon Flies

That took care of some unfinished business.  I have mostly managed to write a review of the latest Nancy Drew Diaries book, although I am struggling somewhat. 

I decided that I should post my reviews of the Moonstone Mystery Romance series.  I wrote those reviews more than six months ago.  Those reviews were done when I still had some motivation.

I selected a random book that I have had for a few years, Girl Scouts in the Ozarks by Nancy Nance and started reading it.  I am writing a review!  I will confess that the book is a bit weak but has some interesting parts.  I find it easier right now to complain about a book than to write about a book I like.  Perhaps I can expand to writing about what I like sometime soon.

I give you fair warning that any reviews that I might write could end up full of complaints.  That's where I am right now.  I'm not enjoying most books much if at all.  If I do read a book, I probably still won't enjoy it that much.  If I write a review, then it won't be a positive review.

Some of my readers dislike negative reviews and have complained in the past.  If you are one of those people, you might not want to read my reviews.  Back around three years ago, I was beginning to spiral down down into this slump.  I read many books that I didn't like, but I did manage to review them. 

I was told that I was reading the wrong books, and I was given unneeded suggestions on where I could find suitable reading material.  Both then and now, most all books are the wrong book for me.  I can't change that.  I need to get in a better place, but it's going to take time.  I am the only person who can get myself in a better place.  I am the only person who can decide what I should try to read.

I do not need advice.  Any advice will set me back.  When I received the advice about what to read, it hastened my departure from writing reviews.  Actually, it was that and the command to quit reviewing Sweet Dreams and get back to reviewing children's series books.  Being told what to do caused me to lose much of the motivation that I still had at that time.  It's not surprising that I completely quit reviewing books.  It's going to be hard for me to come back from this, so...

Please resist telling me what to read or what to review.  I have a house full of books, probably around 10,000 of them.  Several times in recent months, I actually looked through the list of what I own and thought about which ones I could try.  I pulled various books off the shelf and tried to start.  I found that I could not summon any interest in reading a book that I have read before.  If I'm going to read, then I'm going to have to read a book that is new to me. 

The problem with that is that I don't know which ones I will like.  I try to read books that I will like.  At least, I try books that sound appealing, but I can't help it if the books do not hold my interest.  Some books start out great and then fall apart.  All I can do is try.  

The pandemic-related stress is off the charts, and my goal each day is to get through each day.  I will read as I can, and I will write what I can.  I will not cause myself additional stress by setting goals or placing any kind of requirement on myself.  I do not care how few books I read this year.  For the record, I am currently at 3 1/2 books read in 2022.  I will read what I can.  And that's good enough.  

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Moonstone Mystery Romance #1 Deadly Design

The Moonstone Mystery Romance series was published in 1985.  Five of the six books are quite scarce.  The only book that can be found easily is Something Out There in the Especially for Girls hardcover book club edition.

1.  Deadly Design
2.  The Shadowed Path
3.  Dangerous Beat
4.  Fatal Secrets
5.  Something Out There
6.  When Darkness Falls

I believe that this series was named after the Nancy Drew book, The Moonstone Castle Mystery.

In #1 Deadly Design, Charlotte has landed a job at an upscale boutique at Mission Square Mall.  Charlotte is thrilled about her job, and she really likes Steve, who works at the adjacent book store.  But Charlotte soon realizes that the mall is not a safe place.

I was about to return my sales book to the special place in the drawer when I noticed a slight thickness toward the back of it.  As I investigated further, I found a bulky note was stuck to one of the pages.  I pried the note off carefully, being sure not to rip the pages of my precious book.

As I opened the folded note I saw that it was composed of letters cut out of magazines or newspaper and glued onto a sheet of paper.  

BE VERY CAREFUL.  HE HAS A GUN.

Who has a gun?  The thought was so sharp that for a moment I was afraid I had actually said it out loud.  Was it the gang leader who had trailed me to my apartment building the night before?

Or was it Steve?

Please don't let it be Steve, I thought.  Anyone but Steve!

I really enjoy books that are set in stores or shopping centers and have an unknown danger.  I found this book to be interesting from the very beginning.  It's clear from early in the story that something odd is going on at the mall.  It's not clear who the culprit is.

Charlotte has legitimate reason to suspect multiple people of threatening her and following her.  I didn't guess the actual solution until the reveal towards the end of the story.  I think I could have if I had been thinking more in a certain direction.  The author did a good job of casting suspicion on several characters, actually to most of the characters.  I like that.  It's always more entertaining to be kept guessing, wondering what is really going on. 

This is an excellent book.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Hardy Boys Adventures #22 Trouble Island, #23 Mayhem Express, and #24 As the Falcon Flies

Early in the run of the Hardy Boys Adventures and Nancy Drew Diaries series, I found the Hardy Boys books to be vastly superior to the Nancy Drew books.  I no longer feel that way.  The Hardy Boys books now tend to bore me.  Part of the problem is the first-person narrative.  I have trouble telling which brother is the narrator.  I get confused, but even more importantly, I don't care which one is narrating.  I find the text to be uninteresting.

Hardy Boys Adventures #22 Trouble Island annoyed me.  All I could think about the entire time I was reading it was that I didn't know which race a certain boy was.  It bothered me a lot, all because the ghostwriter chose to be vague.  I shared the following in my post about the books I read in 2021.

I did not like the Hardy Boys Adventures book at all.  Since I couldn't be bothered to write a review, I'll say it here.  The ghostwriter tried to telegraph a certain boy's race to the reader by being as vague as possible.  This is what I wrote while I was reading the book:  "I am really annoyed that the son has medium brown skin but I don't know which race.  His hair can be tucked behind his ear.  What am I supposed to visualize?  It's an epic fail when I have no idea.  I decided just to picture a white kid who is really tanned."

I know how bad that sounds, which is why I included it here.  I actually have grown to enjoy diversity in books and media, and I enjoy learning about people who are different from me.  I love the diversity of the Nancy Drew television series on The CW.  I shouldn't have to do mental gymnastics while reading a book to figure out the characteristics of diverse characters.  Attempting to picture the kid as white was what enabled me to cope.  Even so, I was bothered the entire time I was reading, because I knew that he wasn't white.  Also, (SPOILER ALERT) the kid with the medium brown skin is the culprit.  
 
The kid being the culprit was also irritating.  The ghostwriter chose to be vague about the one and only potentially diverse character, and then made that person the culprit.  I was highly annoyed when I finished the book.  I felt like the vagueness drew more attention to the character than if the character's race had been explicitly stated.  Making that same character the culprit drew even more attention to it.


I also didn't enjoy Hardy Boys Adventures #23 Mystery on the Mayhem Express that much.  As I look at the notes I made, I realize that the Hardy Boys Adventures are now more like the Nancy Drew Diaries books were.  Hmm.  On page 35 of this title, the book has a bathroom joke.  How very earlier-title Nancy Drew Diaries-ish. 

Mayhem Express does have some Easter eggs referring to the older Hardy Boys books plus a reference to the Nancy Drew game Last Train to Blue Moon Canyon.

Earlier this month I read Hardy Boys Adventures #24 As the Falcon Flies.  I enjoyed it marginally more than the previous two Hardy Boys Adventures books, but still not that much.  I find that something is missing from these books that the earlier titles had. 

I do have to consider that a large part of this is just me.  I'm having trouble reading most all books at this time, so I may not be in the right frame of mind to enjoy these books.  On the other hand, I feel like something has changed.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Carolina Hurricane by Marian Rumsey

I am having trouble finding the motivation to read much of anything these days.  This problem has been caused by stress from the pandemic in addition to some other events.  There is nothing I can do about this problem; I will get past it eventually.

The upside is that I am willing to try just about any book outside of what would normally interest me.  I am uninterested in all of the books that I would typically take great interest in reading.  Since I won't be able to accomplish reading any of them, I can just as easily pick up something else and give it a try.  

I purchased a copy of Carolina Hurricane by Marian Rumsey in early December.  The book is a Weekly Reader edition from 1977.  The book was on the clearance shelf in a local bookstore.  I purchased it because it looked interesting, and it was cheap.  Books about storms tend to be good.

The other day, I remembered this book and thought, Why not?  I decided to read it.

In Carolina Hurricane, twelve-year-old Morgan sets out in his father's crab boat to collect the crab pots.  Morgan and his mother are concerned about a tropical disturbance that is offshore.  While Morgan works on collecting the pots, he checks the weather on the VHF radio.  He learns that the disturbance is now a hurricane.  Morgan turns towards home but ends up stranded in the storm.

The story has very little dialogue.  I prefer stories in which the protagonist is accompanied by a friend.  The dialogue improves the pacing and makes the book easier to read.  Conversations also add interest to the story.

Here are two pages from the story from right when Morgan begins to be in danger.  Click on the image to enlarge it so that you can read the words.  



I found the setting to be confusing and had trouble visualizing it.  The book does have a map; however, the map also confused me.  The map shows where Morgan is stranded, but he moves around a bit during that time.  I needed some more information.

The Fancy Gap River and the various waterways all look to be about the same size on the map, yet that is not the case in the story.  I also was thrown off by north not pointing up at 90 degrees as is standard for a map.  Not being able to picture the setting diminished my enjoyment of the story.

I mostly enjoyed this book and consider it to be overall good.  It isn't anything special, but it's a decent read.  Also, it is my third book read in 2022, and that's an accomplishment.  Even more significantly, I actually wrote this review.  


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Running a Large Facebook Group Is Stressful and Not Fun

Sometimes I lose most enthusiasm for Facebook.  Right now, I partially feel as I did when I wrote the first post linked below, and it is currently because I'm sick of people who dislike how I run my groups, yet oddly won't leave those groups.  

Loss of Enthusiasm for Facebook and Online Interaction

Facebook Group Behavior

I remain bitter about how I was treated regarding my decision to allow group discussion of the Nancy Drew series on The CW. 

Finding a Middle Ground to Discuss CW's Nancy Drew

This recent post is about the time I was attacked by a collector who was angry because I purchased his books.

Unreasonable and Combative Collectors

I have been called a "bimbo" by one person and a "dumb broad" by another.  Someone else bleated at me (Baaaaa!).  One person said that I was a "pursed-up, corseted sideline referee."  Another person sent me a photo of Joseph Stalin through private message to indicate that I was exactly like Stalin.

You will notice that these attacks tend to include sexist remarks that were made because I am female.  It's interesting how often some angry men immediately resort to sexist comments when dealing with a woman.

It's been said that I take myself too seriously.  Actually yes, I do.  I take my responsibilities as a group moderator very seriously.  

Shouldn't I do that?  How very odd that I'm not supposed to take my role seriously.

Some dissatisfied members mention that they don't like being censored or told what to do.  Apparently some people feel that it is more important to have personal freedom in a private group than have the group be free from conflict.

I run several groups, but only one of them is a continual problem:  Collecting Vintage Children's Series Books.  The group is such a problem.

I will tell you exactly how I feel, and it may shock you.  I have often felt that the group is more trouble that it is worth.  At times, I have actually disliked the group.  I'm dead serious.  I have even considered (not really that seriously, just an idea) that I should step down as admin, leave the group, and create another one with a stricter screening process to keep the problems out.  However, I don't feel like throwing everything away, so I stick with the flawed group that exists.

I never would have created the group if I had known the trouble it would cause me.  If I could go back in time, I would not have created the group.

I didn't know how to run a group.  There was no training.  People who create groups do so out of a genuine enthusiasm for a topic.  I didn't realize that Facebook would advertise the group to the general public and that trolls and online sellers would join by the hundreds.  If I had known that would happen, then the group would never have existed.

That group is the only one that is a consistent problem.  It's not the general public that causes me stress, even though that aspect is a significant problem.  The series book collectors who want to have complete freedom to act as they wish are the problem.  I don't understand why people take something that should be happy and turn it into conflict.

It was in May 2021 that I was at a breaking point.  This is what I wrote about the situation:

It was in late April that I felt the very highest amount of stress.  Around then, problems on Facebook increased.  I manage some groups, and one group in particular is continually a problem because it has a bloated membership.  Several people kept submitting posts that were problematic for various reasons.

Those people might post about an extremely obscure series but not explain what it is.  We won't blindly approve something when we can't figure out what it is within around 30 seconds.  We repeatedly advised those people to explain their content, but they didn't seem to get the message.

At the same time, others used loopholes in the rules to get posts approved that shouldn't be in the group.  I won't get into the specifics of exactly what transpired, but I finally reached a point where I was done with letting people sneak things in under a loophole.  It just wasn't worth my time or trouble.  I have been stretched so thin the last few months, and I finally had enough.  No more loopholes.  On May 7, I decided that I was completely done with dealing with certain kinds of posts.

Allow me to explain further.  We also were dealing with people submitting screen captures from news networks.  The images featured series books in the background, but headlines about the pandemic and politics as well as the station logo would be in the image.  We couldn't have that.  It was quite time-consuming going back and forth with these people in order to get them to make the image appropriate for the group. 

Running a group is a volunteer position.  There is no pay.  I do it in addition to my own responsibilities.  Most moderation is done in the evening when people are off work, which is when they are on Facebook.  This means that I lose some of my own recreation time when I have to deal with difficult issues.

I was so fed up in May 2021 with the manipulation and attacks that I created a list of guidelines on what will not be approved in the group.  Creating the list was a way for me to vent my feelings without sharing them with others.  It also helped me to regain control and not let people manipulate me.  Here is that list.

Posts are not approved that

- mention books or series that are outside of our focus
- ask for help with completely off-topic subjects
- have screen captures from news networks or current event shows
- contain foul language
- have altered book covers
- are parodies/jokes about series books
- have books that look like series books but aren't
- mention the group rules
- mention the moderators or moderation
- have snarky comments
- contain an off-topic video even if a series book appears somewhere
- contain an off-topic link
- that are unclear (pictures/links with no explanation)
- offer to buy or sell books
- mention politics or social issues

All of the above examples were submitted to the group in the few months leading up to and including May 2021 and usually by prominent group participants.  It was ridiculous. 

Here are some thoughts on a few as a bit of explanation.

Books that look like series books, have titles that sound like series books, or that could have been series books in an alternate reality don't belong in the group.  Saying that "this could have been a Cherry Ames book" doesn't make it a Cherry Ames book.  It isn't, and the post won't be approved.

The altered book covers are almost always problematic.  They are usually either political or include references to sex and drugs.  In other cases, a completely off-topic book cover has been altered to make it seem like a book from a certain series.  Those kinds of altered covers confuse members and are also a means where members attempt to get off-topic books in the group. 

Parodies, jokes, and cartoons tend to be just as problematic as the altered covers and for the same reasons.  Besides, we don't have a series book discussion group so that we can make fun of the books.  That's not what it's about.  Members have their own personal Facebook feed, and they can make fun of the books all they want in that location.

When members mention the rules or moderation, they usually do so in an attempt to undermine the moderators.  We won't approve posts that do that, and we will delete comments that do that.

Our biggest problem, which causes me great stress, is which books to allow in the group.  Members have different ideas on what is okay and what isn't.  The problem is how far to go with what we allow.

Let's venture onto the slippery slope.  Some people want the malt shop books in the group.  Those books could be considered okay, but how much further do we go?  Malt shop books are earlier period young adult books.  Do we then consider the teen books by Beverly Cleary to be okay, since they are very similar?  What about other books by Beverly Cleary? 

What about a stand-alone book like Junior Miss?  While not from a series, it's like the malt shop books.

If we allow earlier young adult books, then what about later young adult books like Sweet Valley High?  The Sweet Valley High premise was modeled after Nancy Drew.  The twins' father is Ned, who is an attorney.  Those are obvious nods to Nancy Drew, so we do have an argument for allowing Sweet Valley High.  It goes on and on.  Where should the line be placed?  We have to stop somewhere. 

To prevent us from including everything, we could disallow books published after 1980.  However, that would ban a large percentage of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books that exist.  That wouldn't work since those two series form the foundation of our core focus. 

If we place no restriction on what we allow, then we soon allow most everything.  If we allow everything, then we lose the group's focus completely and have no place to discuss series books.

To make a long story short, we decided to disallow all books that fall under the young adult/teen category including all romance books.  That omits the malt shop books, but it also reduces our problems with how far to go. 

We also have the reverse problem.  We must be careful not to be too restrictive with what we allow but at the same time not allow members to manipulate us.  

This is very hard.  I cannot overemphasize how it difficult is to decide, in all cases, which books to allow in the group.

We aren't always consistent.  It's impossible to be consistent as there are too many variables.  It does weigh on me, and I do end up annoying people who see the inconsistency.  

Moderators tend to feel that the most unpleasant part of moderation is having to decline posts.  I wish that members would understand that we are trying to keep groups on topic and that we do not enjoy refusing posts.  We hate it.

Just yesterday I declined a post where someone posted about their love of the Freddy the Pig books.  I'm sure the Freddy the Pig books are great, but they are outside of our focus.  I hate having to decline these posts.

That is why I sometimes publish posts in the group advising people that certain books are off-topic.  I only do that to try to reduce the number of posts that I have to decline so that I and the person whose post gets declined don't feel bad.  Whenever I post about what is appropriate or inappropriate, at least one of the members who dislikes how the group is run makes a negative comment.  When that happens, other members who have made it clear that they dislike how the group is run will hit the "like" button.  I wish they'd all just leave since they have a problem with the guidelines.  

A few years ago, I was removed from some series book groups due to the admin not liking a decision made in one of my groups.  I was even banned for a time.  The ban was lifted, but I have not asked to join those groups again.  I am not about to ask to rejoin any group from which I was removed.  

Since I can do without some groups, so can others.  Collectors who dislike my group should consider leaving instead of complaining.  There are other groups.  Those people could consider creating their own group, and then they could run it as they please. 

I was inspired to write this post when I learned that Jennifer Fisher was going to publish a post about the negative comments made about her Nancy Drew collection donation.  I decided that it was time that I say some of what I think about the state of affairs in the Facebook series book groups.  

The Nancy Drew Donation Dilemma - The Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection

Please note that my surname is "White" and that Jennifer Fisher is a different person.  I always have to make a statement to that effect since many people don't read past the first name.  

In closing, I am not anywhere near as stressed as I was in early 2021.  Sticking to the guidelines that I listed further up in this post has reduced my Facebook stress by a good amount.  Unfortunately, I do retain an overall negative opinion of the groups on Facebook.  Others have made similar comments.

One of these days, I'm going to focus on Reddit again:  Vintage Series Books.  I find that posts and comments on Reddit tend to contain more detailed commentary than what occurs on Facebook.  I spend much more time on Reddit than I do Facebook.  I love Reddit and think it has great potential.  The problem is getting people there.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

My Progress on My Set of Hardcover Nancy Drew Files Books

In 2019, I wrote about my decision to begin working on a set of the Nancy Drew Files books in hardcover library editions.  I started working on the set in around 2017.  

Nancy Drew Files Hardcover Library Editions

In that post, I mentioned that I dislike oversized books, so I have avoided the first 10 Nancy Drew Files in hardcover as issued by Grey Castle Press.  I am seeking hardcover library editions, which are approximately the size of the original softcover books.

When I wrote that post in 2019, I had managed to acquire 54 of the books in hardcover.  It was a decent start, but I had quite a ways to go.  I added some books to my set in 2020, but not that many.  In late 2021, I finally had some amazing luck in acquiring many of the hardcover library editions.

I purchased a large bulk lot of hardcover Nancy Drew Files in December.  This next photo shows an example of what the spines looked like when the books arrived.  


The spines had red paint at the top plus two library stickers.  I wanted those stickers off, especially the greenish blue ones.  I removed the library stickers to discover that on many of the books the library had cut a previous library sticker out of the spine, leaving a hole.  While I didn't want the library stickers on the books, I also didn't want holes in the spines.


The obvious solution was to put library stickers back on the books.  I could have purchased any cheap white sticker, but I wanted acid-free stickers so that they wouldn't yellow within a few years.  I also liked the idea of having authentic library stickers on the books.  Therefore, I purchased library stickers from Demco as well as tape that would be the right width to cover the stickers.


The spines look much better with library stickers on them.  I positioned the stickers exactly where the holes were.


I purchased some additional hardcover Nancy Drew Files books in early January.


I now need just 18 Nancy Drew Files in hardcover.

 67.  Nobody's Business
 70.  Cutting Edge
 85.  Sea of Suspicion
 91.  If Looks Could Kill
 92.  My Deadly Valentine
 93.  Hotline to Danger
 98.  Island of Secrets
 99.  The Cheating Heart
101.  The Picture of Guilt
105.  Stolen Affections
109.  Love Notes
115.  Running into Trouble
117.  Skipping a Beat
118.  Betrayed by Love
120.  Dangerous Loves
122.  Strange Memories
123.  Wicked for the Weekend
124.  Crime at the Chat Cafe

I am replacing my softcover books with the hardcover books due to lack of space.  I don't like the Nancy Drew Files books enough to want to keep both formats, so this was an easy decision.

Here is my set, which now consists of mostly hardcover books with 18 softcover books mixed in.








Sunday, January 9, 2022

More Nancy Drew Digest Hardcovers + Digest Values

Even though I now have all of Nancy Drew #57-175 in hardcover library editions, I am still interested in upgrades and variants.  I recently purchased three hardcover books with yellow spines.





I really enjoy the look of the yellow spine digest books and would love to get more of them in hardcover.

The Yellow Spine Nancy Drew Aladdin Books

However, I suspect that I am in the minority among collectors in how I feel about the yellow spine Aladdin books.  When I offer softcover Nancy Drew digest books for sale, the yellow spine books are slower to sell.  They often get passed over multiple times for the equivalent book in the white spine Minstrel edition.  I can understand why, since the Minstrel edition is the original format.  Most collectors want to get the earliest printing possible and prefer the original format.

I remember when the books were first reissued in the yellow spine format during the final couple of years that the books were in print.  Those of us who were avid collectors of the softcover books went around to our local stores trying to get all of the variants.  There are interesting spine misprints, including a funny one where #110 has "BOOK TITLE" printed on the spine instead of the actual title.



I had a blast collecting all of the interesting spine variants for the yellow spine books.  Now 20 years later, I'm not sure that any of the people collecting the digest softcovers are even aware of the variants.  These books seem to be largely ignored.

Remember that you can always click on a picture to see a larger version.




Interest in the softcover digests has increased in recent years.  In very good condition, the books are worth around $10 each.  Some books like #100 and ones with scarce cover art are worth more, while others like all of the yellow spine books are worth less.  

Interest in the hardcover digests has also increased in just the last few years.  There are now several people working on building complete sets of #57-175.  The value of the hardcover digests is on the increase, but it has not gone up that much as of yet.  If additional collectors should decide to work on sets, then that could change.  

I feel that the hardcover digests in very good condition are worth around $10 to $15.  An eBay seller has been trying to sell some of the books for $20 to $30 each for quite some time.  I think at least of one of the books may have sold awhile back, but the remaining books are priced at $20 and have not sold.  They are still priced too high for most people who are building sets, so I believe $15 is about the limit of what people will pay for most of the hardcover books.

The three hardcover yellow spine books featured in this post were part of a bulk lot that was priced higher than I would have liked.  I was uninterested in the rest of the books.  Lots containing library editions typically also include many books that are of very low value, but the sellers don't see it that way.  I decided that if I considered my cost to be $12 each for each of the hardcover yellow spine books, then the lot was worth purchasing and I could break even on the rest of the books.

If you have some interest in either the softcover or hardcover Nancy Drew digest books and have not begun acquiring the books, don't wait much longer.  I believe that within a couple more years that the books will be in much greater demand than they are right now.  The prices will most likely increase.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Nancy Drew Diaries #22 A Capitol Crime

This review is from May 2021, and I forgot to publish it.

In Nancy Drew Diaries #22, A Capitol Crime, Nancy heads to Washington, D.C., to find her father.  He has disappeared from a conference, and Nancy follows clues to trace his whereabouts.

I can't say much about the plot, because there are actually two mysteries.  The original case leads into another case, and I'll leave it at that.

Not only is this mystery not sabotage, it is also of a creative type that makes it refreshing to read.  In fact, it's about what I have come to expect from the Hardy Boys Adventures series. 

I have wondered all along why Nancy Drew has been stuck in Sabotage Land for nearly all titles in the series.  The writer acknowledges this in Chapter 1 with "Usually I help find items that have been stolen or track down saboteurs."  The books that actually point out the sabotage are among the ones that are better.  I knew right off that I was reading a book by one of the very few good authors of the Nancy Drew Diaries series.

The writer has knowledge of Nancy's past history.  The reader is told that Hannah has taken care of Nancy since Nancy's mom died when she was three.  Also, Hannah is away during this story because of her sister's broken leg.  That sounds rather familiar.

Nancy does show moments of weakness, but I'm okay with this when it isn't done in a sloppy fashion like what happened in certain other books I could mention.  The writer's skill makes all the difference.  After Nancy feels faint and is embarrassed, Bess tells her, "Being brave isn't about not being scared.  It's about doing what you need to do even when you are scared."

I always appreciate the use of "telltale" in a Nancy Drew book.

The reader learns that Nancy has helped her father solve "crossword puzzles and sudoku games."  This book gives off a Nancy Drew games vibe.  Sudoku is an important part of the Nancy Drew game, Shadow at the Water's Edge.  Nancy also searches various locations for obscure clues left behind by her father.  She picks them up as she finds them.

From pages 101-102:

After getting out, I took a deep breath and walked toward the guard station.  I've solved a lot of cases, and I know that people break the law for all sorts of reasons.  Most of them are good folks who got themselves in bad situations and made a poor decision.

I appreciate it when writers put statements like the above in books.  Most people are too judgmental of everyone who commits a crime.  They also have an unfortunate habit of blaming the family, like the family had anything to do with it.  The family needs support, not scorn, because their lives have been turned upside-down as a result of a bad decision made by a relative.

We get some commentary about malls failing.

I visualized Carson Drew as Scott Wolf (the actor who plays Carson on the show on The CW).  If you've watched the show, imagine Scott Wolf saying, "Nancy, it's okay.  I'm okay."  Perfect.

Nancy decides to steal files from a police station.  This is also just like the game version Nancy Drew.  It's also like the television show.

That was where I left off when I wrote this review last May.  I did not make note of how much I enjoyed this book, but as I recall, I considered it as very good.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Unreasonable and Combative Collectors

This post is from late 2018.  Quite awhile back, I published the text of this post in a private group on Facebook.  This is a story about a combative collector who was irrationally angry with me.

The situation began with this collector making a post about free electronic books in one of the Facebook groups.  This person believes that Simon and Schuster is greedy, and that the company should offer free electronic copies of all Nancy Drew books that are out of print.  This person believes that there is nothing wrong with offering pirated copies of copyrighted works.

Nobody supported this person's belief, and why would we?  We want Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to remain viable, and free electronic books are not going to help keep the two series in print.  Furthermore, offering free electronic books of works protected by copyright is illegal.  We are not going to support that. 

I had to shut down the thread since this person had become highly argumentative, trying to beat everyone down.  That's when he went off on me through private messages about his personal grievance with me.  This collector told me that he was still angry with me for purchasing his books. 

I made the mistake of telling him that he didn't have to sell the books.  He really went off on me then, telling me about medical bills and offering to show me proof.

Um, okay.  What I meant was that I didn't create the situation.  He didn't have to sell those particular books.  I do understand that sometimes a person is forced to sell items to raise money.  If those particular books were so important that he would be angry—one year later—that he sold them, then he should not have sold them.  This is the irrational world within which we live.

And if he is going to be angry, then he should direct his anger at his life situation and not at me.  I didn't create the situation.  When I see books for sale on eBay, silly me, I think that the seller does want to sell the books.

He also informed me that he doesn't have thousands of dollars to spend on books like I do.  I'm sure others have said that about other collectors who have shared expensive purchases.  After all, we are the privileged few who can spend lots of money on all that we desire.  Actually, no.

Most series collectors are not wealthy.  I certainly am not.  Those of us who make expensive purchases are making sacrifices.  Each of us has found a way to acquire certain items.

I sell books to raise extra money.  My sales finance my collection.  I don't go to the movies, eat out, or go on expensive trips, which gives me more money to spend on books.  Other collectors who have no more money than I do have made similar sacrifices.

Most of us focus on one aspect of collecting.  We pay higher prices for some items while not for others.

This person also told me that he paid something like $2,500 for the books that he sold to me for a few hundred dollars.  I am a bit skeptical, but let's say that he did pay that much.  If so, then he, too, has paid thousands of dollars for series books, contradicting his own statement of how he cannot afford that kind of money.  I find that rather amusing.

Also, this person wanted free electronic books to replace the books he sold to me.  Since I didn't agree about the free electronic books, I was evil indeed.  I had purchased his books, and I didn't support his idea about how to get the stories back for free.  That made me a very bad person.

I had to block this person on Facebook, since the messages kept coming with one attack after another.

I won't link to the post about the books I purchased from this person, but you can look in the blog archive at the posts from November 2016 to find a certain bulk purchase.

Finally, consider this.  If this person had just contacted me and told me about his situation in a polite fashion, I would have found a way to help him.  He could have explained about having to sell the books to pay medical bills and then asked me to let him know if I ever ran across any of the books.  Do you know what I would have done?  I would have started looking for inexpensive bulk lots, and I would have helped him get a new set of the books.  He would have gotten his set and not had to paid that much.  Instead, he chose to attack me.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Books Read in 2021 and Why I Didn't Read More

As an afterthought, I realized that I should write up this post summarizing what I read in 2021.  Reading has not been a priority, and I struggled to finish many books that I started.  I also started quite a few books that I could not read.  I didn't care much about writing this post, but I became interested once I got started.

I began the year decently motivated, and then my reading output dropped.  It then dropped more and stopped completely for some time.  Looking over the monthly totals, I understand why it happened.  

January:  15 books

Friday Barnes #3 Big Trouble
Friday Barnes #4 No Rules
Friday Barnes #5 The Plot Thickens
Friday Barnes #6 Danger Ahead
Friday Barnes #7 Bitter Enemies
Friday Barnes #8 Never Fear
Nancy Drew Diaries #21 Danger at the Iron Dragon
Spirit Town by Suzanne Roberts
Bicycles North! by Rita Ritchie
Hardy Boys Casefiles #45 In Self-Defense
Windswept #17 Mirror, Mirror by Virginia Nielsen
Windswept #23 A Date with Danger by Edward Hunsberger
Windswept #27 Mystery Cruise by Carole Standish
Windswept #33 Weekend of Fear by Virginia Nielsen
Lou Dunlop: Private Eye by Glen Ebisch

February:  6 books

Windswept #4 The House of Three Sisters by Virginia Nielsen
Friday Barnes #9 No Escape
Moonstone Mystery Romance #5 Something Out There
Heartbreak Cafe #1 No Experience Required
Heartbreak Cafe #2 The Main Attraction
Heartbreak Cafe #3 At Your Service

March:  6 books

Hardy Boys Adventures #22 Trouble Island
Heartbreak Cafe #4 Catch of the Day
Heartbreak Cafe #5 Love to Go
Heartbreak Cafe #6 Just Desserts
Moonstone Mystery Romance #1 Deadly Design
Moonstone Mystery Romance #2 The Shadowed Path

I did not like the Hardy Boys Adventures book at all.  Since I couldn't be bothered to write a review, I'll say it here.  The ghostwriter tried to telegraph a certain boy's race to the reader by being as vague as possible.  This is what I wrote while I was reading the book:  "I am really annoyed that the son has medium brown skin but I don't know which race.  His hair can be tucked behind his ear.  What am I supposed to visualize?  It's an epic fail when I have no idea.  I decided just to picture a white kid who is really tanned."

I know how bad that sounds, which is why I included it here.  I actually have grown to enjoy diversity in books and media, and I enjoy learning about people who are different from me.  I love the diversity of the Nancy Drew television series on The CW.  I shouldn't have to do mental gymnastics while reading a book to figure out the characteristics of diverse characters.  Attempting to picture the kid as white was what enabled me to cope.  Even so, I was bothered the entire time I was reading, because I knew that he wasn't white.  Also, (SPOILER ALERT) the kid with the medium brown skin is the culprit.  

April:  9 books

Moonstone Mystery Romance #3 Dangerous Beat
Tom Swift Inventors' Academy #6 Augmented Reality
Moonstone Mystery Romance #4 Fatal Secrets
Moonstone Mystery Romance #6 When Darkness Falls
First Love from Silhouette #1 New Boy in Town
Roswell High #1 The Outsider
First Love from Silhouette #2 Girl in the Rough
First Love from Silhouette #3 Please Let Me In
First Love from Silhouette #4 Serenade

Eventually, I will hit "publish" on my Moonstone Mystery Romance reviews.  I am quite confident that "moonstone" is used in the title of the series as a nod to the Nancy Drew series.  I also have at least two First Love from Silhouette reviews written.  I need to publish those at some point.

May:  9 books

Roswell High #2 The Wild One
Roswell High #3 The Seeker
The First 30 Days: A Zombie Apocalypse Novel by Lora Powell
Thunderbolt House by Howard Pease
The Front Page Mystery by Graham Dean
First Love from Silhouette #8 Special Girl
Nancy Drew Diaries #22 A Capitol Crime
Hull-Down for Action by Armstrong Sperry
First Love from Silhouette #135 Bid for Romance

It was in late May that I began to go off-track.  On May 22, two of my teeth began to hurt and continued to hurt through the summer until they were removed on August 3.  The pain was consistently a 7 to 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Also in around late May, I threw myself back into my 30-year-long fandom of the Bee Gees.  This involved listening to all of the albums, watching biographies again, and buying merchandise.  In June, I decided to paint a room, which was a massive amount of work, since I had to move hundreds of books.  While all this was going on, my reading slowed to a crawl.

June: 3 books

You Should Be Dancing: My Life with the Bee Gees by Dennis Bryon
Hardy Boys Adventures #23 Mystery on the Mayhem Express
The Resistance Trilogy #1 Recruitment by K. A. Riley 

I enjoyed the Resistance Trilogy book enough to try the second book.  The second book lost me.

July: 2 books

Sweet Dreams #113 Private Eyes
Sweet Dreams #153 The Perfect Catch

August: 4 books

Tragedy:  The Sad Ballad of the Gibb Brothers by Jeff Apter
Sweet Dreams Special #1 My Secret Love, Janet Quin-Harkin
Tom Swift Inventors' Academy #7 The Blurred Blogger
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

I liked the Tom Swift book for the most part, but I once again could not write a review.  I really enjoyed One of Us Is Lying.  I tried reading the sequel, but I found it boring.

September:  1 book

Fall of Houston #1 No Way Out by T. L. Payne

I thought maybe I could get back into reading by reading dystopian series.  Unfortunately, I found the Fall of Houston books to be not that interesting.  I did not finish the second book.  At this point, I quit reading for nearly two months and didn't even notice that I wasn't reading.  School was going pretty badly during this time, besides all of the pain I was in due to the aftermath of the tooth extraction.

October:  none

November: 2 books

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

In late November, I made another attempt.  Since I couldn't find any good dystopian books, I tried young adult mystery books.  I found The Inheritance Games and quickly read the two books that have been released so far.  Both books are excellent. 

Since I cannot be bothered to write reviews, I want to comment on a thought I had regarding Jennifer Barnes' treatment of race as compared to the Hardy Boys Adventures book.  On page 14, a character is introduced as a "Black man, forties, with a military bearing, who stood with his back to a wall and maintained a clear line of sight to both exits."  I knew immediately that this man was security and that he was Black.  A bit later, he is introduced as John Oren, and I already knew what I needed to know.  That made me happy.

Close to a month went by, and I tried to read again near the end of December.

December:  3 books

Arc of a Scythe #1 Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Arc of a Scythe #2 Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
The Wasteland Chronicles #1 Apocalypse by Kyle West

I tried reading the third book in Arc of a Scythe, but I didn't find it interesting.  I then got the idea to look for free young adult apocalypse books.  That gave me some different titles.  I found some that sounded promising.  I started to read one of them, but I didn't feel like I was enjoying it enough.  I then tried the first book in the Wasteland Chronicles series.  Oh, this was about my style.  I enjoyed it, so if the plot and writing don't fall apart in the second book, I should be able to read some books in January without difficulty.

I want to read, but most all books are unappealing to me at present.  I find that the only kind of books I currently find remotely appealing are ones about an apocalypse of some kind.  I don't need it to make sense, but I do want it to have occurred in the world we know, involve very little fantasy, and be written in an engaging fashion without a bunch of boring content.  Most of the books I try fail on one or more points.  I abandoned a number of books this year since they didn't end up meeting those conditions.

I mentioned the tooth pain that began in May.  My tooth and gum pain lasted a total of 4 1/2 months.  The pain was intense.  Once the teeth were removed, my gums became very inflamed.  It was an autoimmune reaction exacerbated by the stitches.  In short, I ended up with burning mouth syndrome which lasted for around two months.  I lost weight during that time due to how painful eating was.

I got my dental implants on December 22.  This wasn't anything near as bad as having the teeth removed, but I can tell that the gum inflammation has started up again.  I hope that it doesn't turn into burning mouth syndrome and also that it doesn't last for two months.  

As an additional unneeded problem, I acquired a virus with the dental implants, as best I can guess.  I've been so careful, so I'm pretty sure that was where I got the virus.  I went one year and nine months virus-free.  This one has been quite unpleasant, probably because it had been so long and my immune system hasn't had to fight an actual outside invasion.  

I tested negative for covid, so I'm confident that this was just a cold.  My overactive immune system saw the virus as a dire threat and launched quite an attack against it, causing me to be quite unwell for most of the last week.  My symptoms are lingering but gradually easing.

Reading is not my top interest at this point in time.  I'm much more interested in passive media.  

I purchased all three seasons of the current Nancy Drew television series on Amazon prime video.  I watched all of the old episodes again this fall.  I watched some of them more than once while I was figuring out some plot points.  That was fun.

I watched the three Netflix Fear Street movies back in July.  I recall watching the first movie on the day that I began taking an antibiotic for the infected teeth.  I felt so bad that day.

On Sunday, I watched the movie Don't Look Up on Netflix, and I watched it again a few days later.  The movie is an allegory about climate change, but the story works quite well as an allegory for the pandemic.  I have found the pandemic to be the most fascinating (and stressful) train wreck, so the movie capped it off for me.

I also watched the second season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix months ago.  It's a really cute show, and I especially adore Claudia. 

I watched Only Murders in the Building on Hulu this fall.  The show's plot ties in with the Hardy Boys books, which are prominently featured in several episodes.

I have kept quite busy, so it should be understandable why I didn't read as many books.  For a time, I thought that I wouldn't even make it past 50 books, so I'm pleased that I ended up reading 60 books altogether.  One study found that Americans read an average of 12 books per year with the median American reading just 4 books per year.  Reading 60 books is just fine.  

In closing, I want to express that I do not need any advice.  While most books do not interest me right now, I read as fast and with as much interest as ever when I come across a book that does interest me.  I haven't changed, but I have other concerns and interests right now.