Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Marji Trilogy by John Benton

From the back cover of Marji:

As an heiress to her father's fortune, Marji had everything she needed to lead a comfortable and secure life.  But her new-found faith in God compelled her to leave that wealth behind.  Seeking to share her God with people who did not know Him, Marji moved away from her parents' mansion into a frightening arena of crime and degradation—the ghetto.

Daily Marji faced threats from angry slumlords, misunderstanding from her own family, and rejection from those she sought to help.  Just when she finally was able to open up a counseling center and begin reaching her new friends for the Lord, sudden danger shattered her dream and almost took her life...  Only her belief that God's love was greater than all the evil influences around kept her from giving up her ministry.

On page 108, Marji has been attacked by her neighbor, who feels that her counseling center will cause his pornography shop to lose business.  The man is strangling Marji when she suddenly hears a loud smack, and her neighbor falls away from her. Marji looks up to see a Catholic nun holding a two-by-four.  Way to go, Sister Mary Pat!

On page 170, Marji's counseling center has been heavily damaged after a bomb went off inside her desk.  Marji has a reason for not wanting the culprit to go to prison.  Sister Mary Pat tells Marji that this isn't a problem.  So long as Marji doesn't press charges, then the police will do nothing.

That is certainly the case with a case of assault and battery between two parties.  But what about a bomb?  Maybe the police were cavalier about bombs in New York City in 1980, but I'm certain that they would get a bit upset about a bombing nowadays.  That's terrorism.

From the back cover of Marji and the Kidnap Plot:

For two years, Marji Parker had struggled to build a ministry that would bring the healing love of Jesus to the sin-sick dregs of humanity on the streets of the Lower East Side.  Carefully concealing her identity as a wealthy heiress, she had gained the confidence of prostitutes and gang members, thieves and junkies—winning many an unlikely character to the Lord.

But just as her vision seemed to take on reality, Marji's daily mission became haunted by strange occurrences and intangible fears.  A mysterious black car now lurked around every corner... the mutilated body of a teenage prostitute appeared on the doorstep of her counseling center.. and rumors of a kidnap plot echo repeatedly throughout the underworld.

As the baffling pieces of this puzzle fell into place, Marji realized that her whole ministry was now in jeopardy—not to mention her life.

This book is extremely suspenseful.  It was apparent that Marji could be kidnapped at any time and that she almost certainly would be by the end of the book.

From the back cover of Marji and the Gangland Wars:

Marji had faced danger before in her ghetto ministry; her newly chosen world was populated by prostitutes, pimps, junkies, and every type of down-and-outer.  But when she helped Ratface feed his family and realized he was the leader of a street gang, she became embroiled in something more dangerous than she had ever faced before.  Could she gain the trust of two rival gangs and stop the coming bloodshed?  Would they carry out their threat to kill her?  Just how far could she become involved... and would God's protection be enough, this time?

This book opens with Marji being held captive at knifepoint.  Her attacker is a gangster named Ratface, who just needs help for his mother.  Marji agrees to help Ratface's mom.  She returns to her office, where she finds a thrashing, bloody rat hanging from the doorknob.  This is clearly a warning, gangster style.

This book is pretty interesting at first, but I grew tired of it.  Around halfway through, I began skimming so that I could get done with the story.

I overall greatly enjoyed reading the Marji trilogy.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Sherri by John Benton

From the back cover of Sherri

Sixteen-year-old Sherri Lenier could see no way out of her miserable family existence.  Her anger and resentment multiplied every time her alcoholic father lost a job and squandered the grocery money with more drunkenness.

Enraged and desperate, Sherri resorted to shoplifting to put food on the table—not knowing that one impulsive act would lead her into a habitual life of car theft, check forgery, furniture heists, and ultimately, a penitentiary sentence.

Hopelessly trapped in a revolving door of crime, Sherri sank deep in despair, until a guard tossed a unique paperback book into her cell—a book that introduced her to the one Person who could change her life forever.  

Here is a shockingly real picture of the pressures and influences surrounding many teenagers... and a faith-building example of God's power to free young adults from the lure and addiction of crime.

Content:  shoplifting, burglary, marijuana, physical abuse, alcoholism, car theft, forged checks, fake ids

I was amazed at how rapidly Sherri and Teresa begin stealing cars and continue doing so, parking them in a clearing in the woods.  They also turn to check fraud, which ends up sending Sherri to prison.

From page 152:

Because I hadn't created any problems, I was brought before the parole board after two years.  I was one of the lucky ones; they paroled me.  I think that my being white and living in suburbia had a lot to do with it.  I'd hate to think where I'd be, if I had been born in Harlem!

I found it interesting that in 1980 a white Christian male author understood that whether a prisoner is paroled does indeed have much to do with who they are and what they look like.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Lori by John Benton

From the back cover:

To Lori Hutton it seemed as if the world was against her.  She ran away from home to escape cruel parents, but found life on the streets even more cruel.  She turned in desperation to others, only to be deceived by her new "friends."

She was determined to find freedom; instead she found herself enslaved to the disgrace of prostitution.  Hopelessly entangled in the worst kind of human hurt, Lori felt that life was no longer worth living... Then Lori met Rich, a young man who gave her reason for hope and pointed the way to freedom.  In an ultimate expression of friendship, Rich risked his own life to help Lori escape from danger and leave her old life behind—forever.

Content:  physical abuse, streaking, shoplifting, four suicide attempts (pills, slashed wrists, hanging, jumping into the river), prostitution, abduction, violent rape

This book contains one of the funniest passages I have ever read in a book.  I posted it on Facebook while I was reading the book.

I wrote:

Lori is a troubled teenager who wants some painkillers.  She plans to have her younger sister, Peggy, steal the painkillers for her.  But Lori needs to create a distraction.

Lori strips off her clothes and runs around inside the drugstore while Peggy steals the painkillers!  I could hardly read due to how hard I was laughing!

This image shows that part of the book.  Click on the image in order to see it better.

Lori spends a weekend at a millionaire's house.  Lori has been hired to seduce the man's religious nephew.  On page 124, Lori and the nephew settle down to watch a television that has a six-foot screen. 

Okay, wait a minute.  That's impossible unless the image was projected onto a screen.  An actual television set could not have had such a large screen in 1980.  At that time, all televisions had picture tubes.  They were large and very heavy.  A six-foot screen?  Do you know how heavy that would be?

I searched online for information on the largest screen size ever made for cathode ray tube televisions or monitors.  The largest I found was a 43-inch screen set that weighed over 400 pounds.  If a 72-inch screen were to exist, it would have to weigh up towards 1000 pounds.  

This book is interesting in that Lori's conversion occurs gradually during the last one-third of the story.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  

Monday, January 23, 2023

Suzie by John Benton

From the back cover of Suzie:

Her gun brought her everything she wanted... except happiness!

Suzie was a fun-loving teenager who was excited about the challenge of life.  But her unending quest for more excitement and power led her to places and events for which she was not prepared...

At sixteen, Suzie could handle a gun like a pro.  She found that her gun opened doors for her:  it commanded respect and gave her power over others.  Then Suzie met Billy who opened another door for her—into the seemingly exciting world of crime.  But the pleasures of robbery were short-lived; before long Suzie was a fugitive of the FBI.  She fled from state to state, always attempting to go straight, but always slipping back into crime.  Inevitably, Suzie landed in jail.  But instead of her imprisonment being the end of the road, jail opened up for her a whole new beginning.

Content: shoplifting, theft, shooting, sexual abuse father/daughter

Suzie decides that she must have a gun.  She shoplifts in order to raise the money, then she purchases one from a student at school.  Suzie wants to practice, so she heads to the city park.  Suzie proceeds to use a fellow classmate for target practice.  Fortunately, the bullet only grazes his leg.  

Suzie also practices with her gun by shooting out someone's tire from inside her home.  Later, she shoots a glass bottle of milk out of a woman's hand.  Suzie fires from her bedroom window.  This girl is incredibly reckless and stupid.

Suzie wants to practice shooting from her basement.  So that her parents don't catch on, she buys herself a whip.  She tells them that she will practice with the whip in the basement and refers to herself as "Suzie the Wonder Whip."

Later, Suzie's dad questions her, because he smells gunpowder.

From page 30:

"Oh, gunpowder," I said, thinking quickly.  "I thought you were talking about a gun.  I don't have a gun, but I do have gunpowder."

My father bolted up in his chair.  "What in the world are you doing with gunpowder and no gun?"

"Take it easy, Dad.  I hadn't told you about that yet.  You see, if you put gunpowder on the end of the whip, when it snaps, people think it is real powerful.  It's amazing to see them jump back.

"Last Saturday night I took my whip and walked down to the corner of Eighth Avenue and D Street.  Sure enough, there were some gang members hanging around.  I walked up to them, laid out my whip, reared back, and laid a mighty thrust forward.  When I jerked it, it snapped, and gunpowder went everywhere.  Dad, it was the funniest thing.  Those gang members took off running, as if they had been shot at.  I just stood there laughing."

Suzie's parents began laughing, and so did I.

On page 66, Billy talks about a battery trick.  The plan is for Billy to ask the clerk for triple-A batteries.  The clerk won't know what they are, so he'll walk away from the counter to check the battery display.  Meanwhile, Suzie will steal a stack of traveler's checks.

I found that interesting.  This book is from 1979, and I can't remember what kind of batteries were used in most devices at that time.  Looking at some online pages for old electronics, I believe that 9-volt batteries were often used.  AA batteries were more common back in those days.  I assume that AAA batteries were not yet being widely used at that time.

The book also contains a crazy scene where Suzie smuggles a gun into the jail by hiding it in her bra.  She is allowed to visit Wayne, who is in jail.  She is locked in Wayne's cell with him.  Suzie kisses Wayne, telling him where the gun is.  The two proceed to kiss passionately with Wayne groping Suzie as he maneuvers the gun out of her bra.  A drunk in another cell looks on and hoots his approval. 

This book is utterly hilarious.  I loved it.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

January Health and Selling Hiatus Update #3

Due to my current condition, I probably will not return to selling books until sometime between March and late May.  This week I had a severe autoimmune flare.  I have only once before had a flare this bad, and that one occurred in August 2016.  

Nothing else in this post is about books except for a small reference at the very end, so quit reading now if this doesn't interest you.

With recent developments, I want to revisit what I thought happened and give my current perspective.  I continue writing about this in case the information is helpful to anyone who should run across it in the future.

This is from my November 12 post:

My immune system has gone bonkers since I got the bivalent Moderna booster on September 23.  I have heard of people having strong vaccine reactions after having had Covid, and unfortunately, I seem to have joined the crowd.  I had Covid in July, and I believe my immune system has gone into overdrive in an attempt to destroy the vaccine...

I've been dealing with hives and the most intense itching ever.  I have memory problems and a poor mental attitude, the likes of which I typically see in a strong autoimmune flare.  The problem is that I'm not exactly flaring, at least not in a normal fashion.  I feel certain that this is from the vaccine.

When I came down with Covid on July 14, it wasn't bad.  My thyroid took a hit for a couple weeks, and I seemed to get better.  I now think that my thyroid didn't recover. 

I do recall that I had intense hunger during most of September, to a degree that I hadn't experienced in many years.  I used to be intensely hungry all the time before I was put on thyroid medication nearly 10 years ago.  What I experienced in September was odd considering that I was supposedly stable on my medication.  The intense hunger started a few weeks before I got the bivalent Moderna vaccine.  The hunger wasn't caused by the vaccine, so my levels must have already become unseated.

I worsened noticeably after I got the bivalent vaccine, so it was also a factor.  However, Covid itself started the flare that worsened with the vaccine and then significantly worsened during the last two weeks.

I was stable on Tirosint 50 mcg combined with NP Thyroid 45 mg for three years, the longest I have ever been on the same medication.  I had intermittent hives for the entire time I was on NP Thyroid and suspected that the NP Thyroid was the cause.  I put up with the hives because I didn't want to have to go through the difficulty of switching medication and then months of trying to stabilize.

In early December, my provider agreed with my request to drop NP Thyroid and change to Tirosint only.  My Tirosint dose was increased to 75 mcg, and I quit taking NP Thyroid.

The hives continued until right around Christmas when they began decreasing.  Since then, the hives have continued to steadily decrease and then disappeared a few days ago.  I have no doubt that the hives were tied to the NP Thyroid.  

My T3 and T4 levels have improved slightly since switching my medication.  However, my TSH, which indicates whether my body is getting enough hormone, has increased significantly.  That is, significantly for me.  My numbers are never very high.  Apparently some people can have a TSH in the hundreds, while mine is always in the single digits.  More about that later.

Since my TSH went up, that means that I'm not getting enough hormone.  I am now taking Tirosint 88 mcg.  We will reassess in early March, and I may have to go up again.  Changing thyroid medication is a hassle since it can take months to get the dosage right. 

I want to share my test results since the average doctor would think that I am just fine and need no medication.  My levels are normal, yet I am quite ill.  The thyroid lab ranges are too wide, which is why many thyroid patients remain ill and untreated. 

Most doctors don't test the T3 free level.  T3 is what gives us energy.  Mine has been decreasing during the last three years, but I've been overall okay.  My body thought it had enough hormone.  When you look at where I am now, it seems okay.  I am not okay.

Always click on images to see them clearly.

Most doctors do test the T4 free level.  T4 is the inactive hormone that gets converted to the the active hormone, T3.  My T4 is down at the low end of normal.  Most doctors would think that this is fine.  It's not fine.

My TSH indicates that my body does not think that it has enough thyroid hormone circulating.  This is where you can see that I have a problem.

Even so, I am barely above the top end of normal.  I am quite ill if my TSH is anywhere above a 1.  Most doctors think that a 1 is borderline too low.  Most thyroid patients need to be at the very bottom edge of the normal range in order to feel okay.  That is where I was for the last three years, even though my T3 and T4 levels were kind of low.  My body was happy with the hormone levels.  It's not happy now.

Unfortunately, many doctors believe that thyroid patients should not be treated unless or until their TSH is above 10.  Mine is never above 10!  Doctors doom their patients to being ill their entire lives.  When the patients complain that they feel horrible, the doctors tell them that their labs are normal and that they need to see a psychiatrist.  The patients then become very upset, just wanting to be believed.

In closing, I take all of this in stride.  I stuck with the NP Thyroid for way too long because I didn't want to unseat my levels and have to go through months of readjustment.  Getting Covid and then the bivalent booster blew everything up, so I took the opportunity to drop NP Thyroid. 

I'm glad that I did drop NP Thyroid, and I can ruefully thank Covid for placing me in a position to where I felt able to face the fallout from making that change.  I will continue to have some hives as a side effect of my condition, but they should be at a much lower level from now on.

Also thanks to Covid, I was at home on the morning of December 5 and was able to purchase some very nice books.  If I hadn't gotten Covid and hadn't become sick, then someone else would have gotten those books.  Even difficult situations sometimes have a silver lining.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Patti by John Benton

From the back cover of Patti:

Patti Jacobson is a young teenager from Duluth, Minnesota.  Hanging out in bars at the age of fifteen, she finds herself involved with the wrong type of people.  Convinced that she can make "big money" as a prostitute, she is caught in a miserable, degrading spiral of sex, crime and disillusionment.  Running away from her life in one city after another, it seemed that she would never escape the ruthless, sordid world of prostitution.

Patti is one of thousands of young girls who are troubled, confused, misunderstood... desperately looking for happiness.  Yet, there is hope for these girls.  Her moving story contains a powerful, positive message for all young people who are searching for meaning in a complex, impersonal world.  Find out how she frees herself from her hopeless existence and discovers a new, rewarding way of life.
Content:  abortion, car theft, prostitution

This book is especially crazy.

Patti gets arrested and bailed out by a young cop.  He forces her into a relationship, and she gets pregnant.  She has an abortion.  Later, Patti steals her pimp's car and drives it to her own house.  This seems rather... stupid.  Of course the pimp has no trouble tracking her down.  Patti then runs off with an escaped convict who becomes her new pimp.  The new pimp's main gig is to have Patti steal from truck drivers.

From page 81:

I knew what was happening to him.  He was having problems with his wife.  She was another of those frigid girls.  She probably cut him off—that was her way of penalizing him.  Some wives don't know it, but they drive their husbands to prostitution.

Of course it's the wife's fault.

From page 132:

I knew what he wanted, but he didn't know what I wanted.  As we rolled back and forth, I worked his wallet out.  He didn't notice.  I was even able to open it and grab the bills.

He was getting more passionate.  Would he reach for his wallet and offer to pay me?  I knew I could get a hundred dollars now, but the bills I felt in my hand were over that.

Suddenly I just lay there quietly.  "What's the matter?" he demanded.

"I feel something."

"Feel something?  What's the matter?  Is the mattress too hard?"

I laughed.  "No.  I feel something between my legs that isn't quite right."

He rolled over.  I sat up straight, holding the hand with the wad of bills underneath me.  "I hate to tell you this," I said, "but I gotta go to the bathroom and check myself.  You see, I, uh... It's really embarrassing, mister, but I've been about four days late, and I think it's happened."

His chin dropped.  "What a dirty break!"

Oh, my.  It's astonishing that these books were written by a minister and were actually sold in church bookstores. 

On page 157, Patti is solicited by a man and woman who are living in a camper.  The man explains their situation.

"One night we got into an argument, and I said I wanted someone else.  So rather than breaking up our marriage, we both decided we would have the same person.  So we agreed to go to bed with the same person, and you are it.  Now, young lady, don't take me wrong.  We are plain, decent people.  You can trust us."

This scene struck me funny.  "You are it."  Ha.  This book has many funny parts. I loved it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Crazy Mary and Cindy by John Benton

From the back cover of Crazy Mary:

The dramatic story of a young girl's faith that conquered alcoholism and insanity.

They locked her in a mental institution.  But was she really insane?  No one knew for sure, not even Mary herself.  One thing was certain, though— she wanted to get out of the mess that her drinking, her crime, and her defiance had created.  

Find out how Christ delivered her from hopelessness to a new life that had love and meaning.  Drawn from the actual experiences of the delinquent girls that author John Benton has encountered, here is proof that Jesus can transform anyone's life.

Content warning:  attempted suicide, car theft, police chase, homophobia

Mary is crazy in the sense that she continually makes the stupidest, most impulsive decisions.  She uses very bad judgment.

This is a good book.

From the back cover of Cindy:

There were two sides to her life—mother and streetwalker.

Cindy was a prostitute.  Turning tricks was the only way she knew to support her addiction to heroin.  But how could she take care of her little girl Melody when she couldn't even manage her own life?  Like many young girls today, Cindy was confused and alone in an impersonal, uncaring society.  Loving mother or drug addict and streetwalker—which person was the real Cindy?  CINDY is the story of her struggle to decide.

Content:  prostitution, drugs

Much of this book was not that interesting to me.  A good amount of the book is devoted to events surrounding the creation of the Walter Hoving Home.  This doesn't necessarily mean that the book is boring; I just wasn't interested in reading it.

I skimmed this book.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Reading the Harry Potter Set for the Third Time

This post contains some spoilers, but I assume that the only people reading this post are people who know the story of Harry Potter via the books, movies, or both.

After I last read the books in 2020, I wrote at length about my earlier problems with the series and how they were resolved when I finally revisited the books.

My Thoughts on My Rereading of Harry Potter

This is a summary of what I wrote, being as brief as I can.  I was heavily invested in Harry Potter around the time that #4 was first published in July 2000.  I joined a Yahoo! group that discussed Snape and whose side he was on.  I spent lots of time reading the messages in July and August of 2000 and possibly for a few more months as well.

Sometime after that, Rowling made a dismissive comment about the Snape debate, saying that he was bad, period, and that she couldn't understand how anyone could think otherwise.  Um, because she wrote him ambiguously?  If I had had better discernment, I would have realized that she was being misleading since readers were guessing the truth.  I didn't know that at the time, and her statement squelched most of my enthusiasm.  I deeply resented her for ruining our fun.

I found #5 difficult to get through; it was too lengthy for my taste.

#6 was devastating, and I wasn't very interested in the series anymore after I finished that book.

I had a habit of rereading every previous entry before each new book was released.  I am certain that I did not do so before #7 was released, because I mostly no longer cared.  Also keep in mind that the hype and media coverage surrounding each new Harry Potter book was intense.  It was way too much, and that lessened my enthusiasm.  

This is how many times I believe I had read each book prior to 2020.

#1 - 4 times     #5 - 2 times
#2 - 4 times     #6 - 1 time
#3 - 4 times     #7 - 1 time
#4 - 3 times

I stayed away from the series for many years because I was so annoyed at Rowling ruining my fun when it turned out that Snape was playing both sides after all.  I refused to watch the movies, and I refused to read the books again.  The Harry Potter series was dead to me.

In 2020 during lockdown, I read through all seven books and then watched all eight movies.  I got over my negative feelings and came to appreciate Harry Potter again.  I haven't thought much about Harry Potter in the last three years. 

This next part of this post has been taken from my January 1 post on the books I read in 2022.

In early November, Pocket presented me with an article about the All the Young Dudes Harry Potter fanfic.

Since I am constantly reading even if it's just stuff online, I followed the link.  I was immediately intrigued.  From the article:

It’s called All the Young Dudes, and it's a 526,969-word fic that currently has a whopping 7.5 million hits on the fanfiction site, Archive of Our Own.  All the Young Dudes is set in the era when Harry's parents attended Hogwarts (ahem, known as the Marauders era), and features both familiar faces, and a budding romance between two of the series' most beloved figures: Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.

The 188-chapter story has now spawned a fandom of its own.  For many original HP fans, the story has become canon, and the ways in which it extends far beyond the universe J.K. Rowling created are all part of the appeal.  All the Young Dudes has a huge presence on social media, spawned audiobooks, has 16,000 ratings on Goodreads, has been fancasted, and is even the subject of a conspiracy theory involving Taylor Swift. 

My mind blown, I decided that I must check this out.  My favorite Harry Potter book is Prisoner of Azkaban, and if this fanfic even remotely deserved its fandom, then I had to see for myself.  I started reading it, and I liked what I read.  I didn't know what to do with myself when I finished, so I had no choice but to read the Harry Potter series again.

And so I did.  I read straight through all seven Harry Potter books in November and December.  This time I did what I didn't think to do three years ago.  I remembered far more details this time than I did three years ago.  However, some parts were a little fuzzy.  Whenever I reached an important plot point where I couldn't remember specifics, I got online and ran a search for that information.  This then led me to reading lengthy discussions about those parts of the books.

The end result is that reading those discussions greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the series this time around.  One example would be when the doe leads Harry to the lake where the sword is.  I knew that the sword was placed by Snape, but I couldn't recall how Snape knew where Harry was.  So I ran a search and found the information.  This made my reading so much more fun this time around. 

In fact, reading discussions as I read the books harkened back to the fun I had in the late summer of 2000 when I read the Snape debate in the Yahoo! group.  

Even though I'm finished reading through the books, I am still thinking about them.  I have joined a few Harry Potter subreddits, and I now receive a daily digest email from Quora with suggested Harry Potter topics.  I'm having fun reading these discussions.

If I am correct about how many times I read through the books originally, this is how many times I have now read through them.

#1 - 6 times     #5 - 4 times
#2 - 6 times     #6 - 3 times
#3 - 6 times     #7 - 3 times
#4 - 5 times

When I read the books this time, I didn't bother with the epilogue.  I have no use for it.  I still feel that the last book should have had more falling action rather than wasting space on that epilogue.

I have thought a lot about how the eighth Harry Potter movie ruined the ending.  Harry should have fought Voldemort in the Great Hall just like in the book.  The final confrontation in the seventh book is perfect.  In fact, I read that scene at least three to four times at different points as I read through the seven books this time.  I love it.

I looked up the Horcruxes multiple times, because I kept forgetting about some of them.  The seventh book glosses over some of the Horcruxes, which is a flaw in the plot.  It helped to look up the information.

I found the last four books to be considerably less dark than I did previously, because I thoroughly understand the underlying plot, such as the agreement between Snape and Dumbledore.  Having a complete understanding of the story lessens the dark aspect of it.

With Harry Potter, rereading the books is quite fulfilling because the reader knows all the little secrets.  Rowling placed many clues throughout the books.  It's so easy to miss something, and reading online discussions has revealed much that I have missed on my multiple readings. 

If you haven't read the Harry Potter books in many years, you might want to visit them again.  It's great fun.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Carmen and Teenage Runaway by John Benton

From the dust jacket of the 1970 edition:

Carmen began her descent into the hell of drug addiction at the age of fourteen.  This is her story.  It begins with an unhappy home, a drunken father, and the discovery that a touch of marijuana relieves the pain for a while.  She soon discovers that heroin works even better.  It is not long before she, as have so many others before her, finds herself trapped by the narcotics that had at first appeared so friendly.

Through the horror of violence, prostitution, robbery, every form of deceit and fraud, Carmen struggles to escape.  But she cannot, and after an agonizing withdrawal she finds herself more firmly hooked than before.  John Benton has written a novel you will not forget.  He has looked into the heart of an attractive, forlorn, and suffering girl—one very much like the many who have sought his help at Teen Challenge Girls' Home.

But the horror and degradation are only half the story.  The other half is Carmen's discovery that the dedication of Christian people and above all the love of God can rescue her when every man-made program has failed  You will know pain in this book but you will also see, in clear and realistic perspective, what the power of God is doing among today's dope-afflicted teenagers.

As I review these books, I will include a warning about the content of each book for readers who might not want to read about certain topics.  The books have disturbing content that could be upsetting to some readers.

Content warning:  physical abuse (hitting, whipping), homophobia, drug and marijuana use, prostitution, beatings (by hand and with chains)

I read this book some six months before preparing this post, so I don't remember most details.  For that reason, I can't do a proper review. 

The book contains a glossary so that readers will understand all the lingo used.  Enlarge the images in order to see them clearly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

From the back cover of Teenage Runaway:

SIXTEEN... and on the road to nowhere.  Her mother, her boyfriend, her doctor, all wanted Becky to get an abortion.  But something her minister said made her pause—before she turned her back on the lot of them and became a TEENAGE RUNAWAY.

Becky is of one of thousands... young girls who are troubled, misunderstood, searching for happiness... caught in a miserable, degrading spiral of sex, crime, and disillusionment.

Her heartbreaking true story contains an powerful, positive message for teenagers and their parents.

Content warning:  abortion, rape, two suicide attempts (pills, slashed wrists), car theft

While I don't have any specific comments, I found this book to be pretty engaging.  There is always something crazy happening.

I do have one comment to make about my copy of the book.  Tammie Vogel had no idea when she wrote her name on the front cover of her book that it would be immortalized in a blog post.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

January Reading and Selling Update #2

Last night I published my overview and introductory post for The Living Hope Library Series by John Benton.

The Living Hope Library Series by John Benton

I will be publishing reviews of each book.  I hope that I can make it through the set and follow through with a review of each book.  I feel that using the word "hope" in this case, considering the series name, is a bit of a pun.  I don't mean it as such.  I sincerely hope that I can make it through the set and write reviews like I used to do.  We'll see.

Three of the books were read in June 2022, so those reviews won't be much more than the back cover summary and a single statement about how I felt about the book.  I'm not going to read those books again.  I want to work on the ones that I haven't read.

As of now, I have reviews finished for eight of the books.  That's not a bad start.

On Monday I mentioned the possibility of reopening my eBay and Etsy stores at the end of this week.  I have been going and and forth each day this week with no idea which way to go.  Open or stay closed?

While I haven't been feeling bad, I also haven't been feeling that great.  Each day this week, I have been quite tired in the late morning and have revived myself with an energy drink.  In the evening, I don't really feel tired.  In fact, I have insomnia, but I just don't feel that good.  I'm not sure how I'm doing.  

Whenever I have a thyroid medication adjustment, I go in six weeks later for a blood test to see how my levels have adjusted.  I will be doing that next week.  I feel like my levels may be off even after the dose increase.  I could need another dose adjustment.

I have continued to go back and forth on my decision whether to reopen my stores.  Tonight I finally came to a realization.  If I can't make up my mind which way to go, then I should stay closed.  And so I will stay closed.  Perhaps in a week or so I will reopen.  Perhaps not.  The store hiatus will continue.

I expect to begin posting the Living Hope Library reviews within the next few days and will stagger them two to three days apart like I used to do when I reviewed books.

I also have a review of the new Nancy Drew Diaries book, #24 Captain Stone's Revenge.  I will wait at least a few weeks on that one to give fans a chance to read the book.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Living Hope Library Series by John Benton

I'm typically not interested in reading works of fiction featuring religious content, just like I'm not interested in reading books featuring sports or science fiction. 

A member of the Vintage Teen Books group posted about the Christian books by John Benton last spring.  I paid no attention to the post at that time.  The books looked like the typical vintage teen books of the 1970s and 1980s with nothing extraordinary about them.  

Later, a member complained about the post, saying that it shouldn't have been approved (read the full story here).  This member felt that the books were inappropriate in light of then-current events (the overturning of Roe v. Wade).  They mentioned that the books have pimps in them and that we don't know how badly the girls are treated in the books.  Since we don't know how the girls are treated, we shouldn't allow them to be posted in the group.

I checked into the books.  I learned that the books were from The Living Hope Library Series and were written by Reverend John Benton.  Benton was the director of the Walter Hoving Home in Upstate New York.  The Walter Hoving Home took in girls who had slipped into lives of crime, including prostitution and drug abuse.  Each girl lived at the home for one year, and during that time, accepted Christ into her heart and through Christ was able to overcome her problems.

I didn't see a problem with having the books in the group, and I allowed the post to stay.  The books featured teenagers and were published in the 1970s and 1980s.  Why would there be a problem?  The complaint about the books did make me curious.  If I am told that a set of books is inappropriate and apparently controversial, then I'm going to see why for myself.  I purchased four of the books to try.

I finally read one of the books, Denise, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I started another book, Debbie, and could see that I was going to enjoy it as well.  I then compiled a list of titles and systematically went down the list, finding the cheapest copy of each book online.

Once I had the books on hand, I tried to put them in order, not succeeding until I paid attention to the list of titles in the front of each book.  It didn't occur to me to check for a list.  Duh.  I know better than to ignore the presence of a list.  Now I have the books in order.

Most copies of Carmen are in softcover with a copyright date of 1983, but the book was originally published in hardcover in 1970. 

This is the list of titles in order of publication.

Carmen, 1970 Teenage Runaway, 1976
Crazy Mary, 1977
Cindy, 1978 Patti, 1978
Suzie, 1979
Marji, 1980
Lori, 1980
Sherri, 1980
Marji and the Kidnap Plot, 1980
Julie, 1981
Debbie, 1981
Lefty, 1981
Vicki, 1981
Jackie, 1981
Marji and the Gangland Wars, 1981
Terri, 1981
Nikki, 1981
Connie, 1982
Valarie, 1982
Sheila, 1982
Denise, 1983  
Stephanie, 1983
Candi, 1983
Sandi, 1984
Augie, 1984
Kari, 1984
Tracy, 1984
Paco, 1985
Kristi, 1985
Lorene, 1985
Rocky, 1985
Renee, 1986
Lisa, 1986

These are not all of the Christian books written by John Benton.  They are the ones that I feel embody the spirit of the vintage teen genre of the 1970s and 1980s.

I've learned from reviews that I've read online that many young Christians read these books for what they called the "salacious details."  These books contain no description of anything sexual.  However, readers can fill in the details themselves, and one reviewer said that they did exactly that when they read the books. 

These books each feature a young person who gets caught in an endless cycle of drugs and prostitution.  The teen hits rock bottom multiple times.  Finally, the teen learns about Teen Challenge or meets Reverend John Benton and Mrs. Benton and is introduced to Christ.  The books are quite meta since John Benton wrote himself into the books.  Sometimes some of the Living Hope books make appearances in the books.  Carmen and Cindy are mentioned often with the characters commenting about how good the books are.

The books are extremely over-the-top, often with nonstop crazy events.  The protagonist can be expected to make the very worst decision in all situations with their life going from bad to worse to even worse. 

If you are like me and enjoy the crazy content of books like Sweet Valley High, then you will find that these books are like SVH on steroids. 

I will be publishing reviews.  In each review, I will give a content warning so that you will be forewarned about events that could be triggering depending upon your life experiences.

I hope that I will make it through the entire set and will follow through with a review of each book.  My stamina for reading and following through with reviews has been poor for the last three years, but perhaps I can do it this time.  I already tried to read through the books last summer and got sidetracked.  Perhaps I can succeed on this second attempt.  I have thus far made it through one-third of the books, so there is hope.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Early January Reading and Selling Update

I ended my post about the books I read in 2022 as follows.

I have started reading Suzie by John Benton.  This one is also hilarious.  Suzie buys a gun and practices in the basement.  To cover her practice, she also buys a whip which sounds a lot like a gun.  Suzie calls herself "Suzie the Wonder Whip."  OMG.  This is fun.

I am now feeling strongly motivated to read through all of John Benton's books.  I hope I can keep myself going, but going back to work could put a stop to it if I end up too tired.  I will read as much as I can this week and will hope for the best beginning next week.

After I read Suzie, I read Sherri and then Lori.  I posted about Lori on Facebook.

Lori is a troubled teenager who wants some painkillers.  She plans to have her younger sister, Peggy, steal the painkillers for her.  But Lori needs to create a distraction.

Lori strips off her clothes and runs around inside the drugstore while Peggy steals the painkillers!  I could hardly read due to how hard I was laughing!

For the scans of the text, follow this link.  You should be able to view the images even if you're not on Facebook.

Despite my initial enthusiasm, my ability to stay focused and continue to read books is quite weak.  I nearly lost my focus this weekend.  I started reading Marji... and lost my enthusiasm.

Marji is a wealthy woman of 25 years old.  She turns down the opportunity to run her father's company.  Rather, she wants to share God's love with the prostitutes and junkies of Lower East Side, New York City.  Very quickly I realized that this book would be different in that the primary character had it together and would be helping others.  I lost my enthusiasm, since I just wanted to read over-the-top crazy stuff.

I went around 48 hours without attempting to read past the beginning of the book.  I was at a standstill, and I told myself that I couldn't let this stop me from reading through my set of John Benton's books.

I didn't want to abandon the book, but sometimes that is the only way.  I will not attempt to force myself to read a book when doing so will cause me to quit reading completely.

When I read through the entire Sweet Valley High series, I ended up reading 171 of the 181 books in the set.  I skipped 10 books because I found them boring.  Someone commented, "Just curious, but why did you skip 10 of the special series?  You were so close to reading all 181, it seems like a shame to stop 10 short..."

What a way to invalidate my accomplishment of reading nearly the entire SVH set.  I replied, "I was already halfway sick of my SVH reading experience by the time those books appear in the set, so trying to read them might have caused me to quit reading the set.  It's better to skip a few books than end up stopping short of reading the set by 50 to 75 books.  I am quite pleased with myself that I read 171 of 181 books, even if others might think I failed by not reading every single one of them."


I want to read John Benton's books, but I'm not going to waste energy on a book if it doesn't interest me.  After 48 hours, I decided to give Marji another try.  I read a little more to give the book a better chance of grabbing my interest.  I quickly learned that Marji's family has a big secret.  Oh...!

I became intrigued.  Marji's family isn't as together as I thought.  Sure, they're quite wealthy, but the family has a black sheep.  Marji didn't even know.  Ooh, I wanted to know more, and I knew instinctively that Marji would cross paths with the black sheep.

The book had captured my interest.  I quickly read through all of Marji and then started on the second book in the trilogy, Marji and the Kidnap Plot.  I hope that I can keep going, but the last few days have been a reminder of how tenuous my hold on reading is.  If I end up finding any of Benton's books uninteresting, then I will be at risk of being derailed.    

On December 31, I wrote:

I expect for my stores to remain closed for at least two to three more weeks.  It could be a bit longer, depending upon how events play out.  Since I'm on winter break, I'm doing okay.  I am having spells of sudden deep fatigue, but I'm at home where it doesn't matter.  I can loll around for an hour or so until my energy level recovers.  The real test will be when I go back to work on January 6.  At that time, I'll truly know how I'm doing.

Now it's two weeks later.  I went back to work on January 6 for a half day of meetings and ended up wiped out on Saturday.  I slept for a few hours during the day and continued to feel quite tired all evening.  I spent the entire evening watching all four Bonita Granville Nancy Drew movies from the 1930s.  Feeling lethargic finally got me to watch all four of those movies, which I have never been interested in watching.  They were what I expected, but at least I've now seen them.

Today was the first day of the second semester.  For around 1 1/2 hours this morning, I felt like death.  I don't use the expression "felt like death" lightly.  I mean, it was bad.  I drank an energy drink and began to feel better.  Fortunately, the very worst of it was during my planning period, and I was okay for the rest of the day. 

I do want to begin selling again, but I must let this week play out to see how good or bad I end up feeling.  I will have an idea tomorrow when I will see how today has impacted me.

If this week goes okay, then I might reopen my stores later this week.  If this week goes badly, then I might end up waiting two or three more weeks.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I do want to reopen.  I have even thought of a few more items that I could sell from my collection.  

Friday, January 6, 2023

My Collection Parameters Part 5: Nancy Drew Sets

I have already mentioned how I have limited my sets of international editions and library editions.  This post covers my sets of Nancy Drew books as published by Grosset & Dunlap, Simon & Schuster, and Applewood.

With Nancy Drew, I would love to have everything, but I don't have room for everything along with my other collections.  

I don't care for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mysteries or the Nancy Drew On Campus series.  I tried reading both series and couldn't get past the first few books.  I found both sets to be lacking, so I sold them.

I did have the complete set of Nancy Drew Files #1-124 in softcover.  I then began building a set in the hardcover library editions.  I'm not that fond of the Files series.  I found the second half of the set to be very repetitive and often boring.  As I've worked on my set of hardcover Files, I've sold the corresponding paperback copies.  I still have a complete set of Files, but the set is now mostly hardcover with paperback copies filling in the gaps.  Eventually, I hope to have the complete hardcover set with no paperback copies.

I have all of Nancy Drew #57-175 in both softcover and hardcover books.  I have all of them in hardcover library bindings.  I have all of the softcover books in first printing copies, all cover art variants, and most titles in second printing copies without the first printing blurb on the front cover.

I do not collect the flashlight editions.  I owned a set for around a year quite a few years ago.  I sold them as my library editions sets increased.

I have true first printings per Farah's Guide of all Nancy Drew hardcover Grosset & Dunlap titles from #1-56.  I have all first printing picture cover editions.  I have most of the first printing revised text picture cover editions.  I do have some restrictions on what else I keep for these books.

I do not collect the picture cover editions with the Cookbook ad on the back cover.  That would make nearly another complete set of the books, and I just don't have space for them.

I do collect the picture cover editions with double oval endpapers.  I didn't for many years, but I finally ran across some in excellent condition.  I decided that the books are well worth having if in excellent condition.

These photos show my near-complete set of Nancy Drew books with double oval endpapers.

I do not try to get every Nancy Drew title in every format.  For instance, I don't care whether I have a tweed Old Clock with all endpaper variants (blue silhouette, digger, and blue multi endpapers).  It suffices to have the first wrap dust jacket printing and the first revised text printing.  I don't have to have all three endpapers in the tweed edition.

I have a number of thick books with the glossy frontispiece only, but I don't necessarily have all of #1-17 in that format.  It's not important to me to have all of them.

I do have all of Nancy Drew #1-13 with glossy internals, since I have all of them in first printing books matched with first printing jackets.

I do have a set of Nancy Drew #1-18 with dust jackets that list to #18 and have the blue silhouette spine symbol.  My set is shown in the next photo.

I mentioned in a previous post that I've sold many of my books that have pulp paper.  I decided to sell my Nancy Drew books with Dana Girls endpapers.  I never was concerned about finding all of them and never did have all of them.  It's just not a variant that is extremely important to me. 

I think this is because of my strong aversion to pulp paper.  The particular books that I acquired with Dana Girls endpapers were not in very good shape because of how cheaply they were made.  I didn't care to keep them.

I've gone back and forth on the Applewood editions.  I will always keep my FAO Schwarz boxed set of Applewood #1-8.  Since it would be too hard for me to get at my set, follow this link to see a picture of the set from Jenn Fisher's Pinterest.

That aside, I'm not concerned with having a set of Applewood editions.  Years ago, I sold all of my Applewood copies of #9-21.  I later became motivated to collect them again when the prices went up.  I found copies inexpensively and kept those copies for a number of years.  I sold them again in the last year. 

I like the old books better.  I don't need the Applewood editions and don't care for them because of how tightly bound they are.  The tight binding makes them harder to read than the older books.  I would prefer reading any old Grosset & Dunlap original text book over an Applewood edition.  I even prefer reading my library editions over the Grosset & Dunlap editions.  The last time I read through Nancy Drew #1-56, I read my library editions.

As with my previous posts, I have not mentioned all of my parameters, but this should give you an idea.

In conclusion, I have had to place parameters on my collection because I have too many interests which have caused me to collect far more than I can comfortably display and enjoy.  I also collect vintage teen books, and complete sets of Sweet Valley High, Christopher Pike, Dark Forces, First Love from Silhouette, and all the others take up a lot of space just like my series books do.  I have had to reduce what I have due to how very many books are of interest to me. 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

My Collection Parameters Part 4: Collectibles

Collectibles such as puzzles and board games take up a lot more space than books do.  For that reason, I am less enthusiastic about this kind of item.  I am mainly all about the books and not the other stuff.

I have the Nancy Drew board game from the 1950s, but I do not own a copy of the one from the 1960s.  I am partial to the earlier game and have no interest in the later game.

I do not own the Madame Alexander Nancy Drew doll.  It would only collect dust and be a nuisance to maintain.  Besides, I have never been interested in it.

I have never wanted the Nancy Drew Halloween costume from the late 1970s.  It would also be a difficult item to maintain and display.

I have no interest in any memorabilia associated with the Bonita Granville Nancy Drew movies of the 1930s.  I do have one lobby card, but only because I got lucky at an estate sale.

I will likely sell it eventually.

I recently sold the red and white Nancy Drew Diaries because they never meant anything to me. 

They are better off in the hands of someone who will treasure them.

I am also not interested in many of the modern collectibles.  Most modern Nancy Drew collectibles recycle artwork from the original 56.  I prefer collectibles that bring something new to the table. 

The Cobble Hill puzzles are very nice, but they have the same old cover art.  We've had postcards, notebooks, jewelry, and many other items with reproductions of the original cover art.  I would prefer to see something new that is inspired by the original cover art.  That is precisely why I collect the international editions.

Fans were excited when the recent Nancy Drew game was released at Barnes and Noble.  It's no surprise why; the game features new artwork.  The artwork is based on the original art, but is instead a fresh take on it rather than a reproduction of the original art.

I wish we had more items with a fresh take on the old illustrations.  Having the same artwork show up over and over gets a bit boring.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

My Collection Parameters Part 3: Thinning Out Book Sets

I prefer some books in printed format and others in digital format.  I only keep modern young adult books in a digital format.  I don't see them as collectible, and I just want them to read.  I am content to have them stored on my iPad.

I sold my Harry Potter set a few years back.  I now have the books in digital format only.  Reading the books on my iPad is much easier than reading such heavy books.  Selling the set freed up valuable shelf space.

I now favor the digital format for the current Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.  I am still purchasing the Nancy Drew Diaries in hardcover with jacket, but I am now also purchasing each book in the digital format.  For the Hardy Boys Adventures series, I have quit purchasing the hardcover books and am only purchasing the digital format.  I have sold most of my Hardy Boys Adventures hardcover books.  I want to read the books to see what is going on with the franchise, but owning the books is not important.

Around 10 years ago, I sold most of my books that had pulp paper.  I have seen a noticeable deterioration in those books in the 30+ years that I have collected.  Of necessity, I still have some books with pulp paper, such as a few first printing Nancy Drew books from the 1940s.

This book is a copy of The Mercer Boys and the Steamboat Riddle.  Since I do not own a copy of the Burt edition with good quality paper, I must keep the reprint that has pulp paper.

I have sold some of my older books that are now in the public domain.  My Ruth Fielding set is now a partial set because a couple years ago I sold all of the books that were in the public domain.  I also only kept one jacket style for each book.

I sold my entire Marjorie Dean set since all books can be read online.  I love the story arc of Leslie Cairns, but I can revisit those books through digital copies.  It's unnecessary for me to have the books.

I sold all of my Grace Harlowe books, including the Overseas set, simply because I didn't care for the books.  I couldn't get through the books on my first try, and I will never try reading them again.

I have also sold other sets, like Melody Lane, since I know that I will never read them again.

My Hardy Boys set took up way too much space.  I have sold many of my books.  I have kept one dust jacketed copy of each of #1-40.  I have the picture covers from #1-42 in copies that list to #40.  I have kept some of #43-58.  I sold the ones that I didn't enjoy reading since I'll never read them again.

I also reduced my Three Investigators set.  I kept all hardcover books.  I have all of #1-28 in hardcover and some of #29 and up.  For the high-numbered books that I don't have in hardcover, I kept a softcover copy.  I sold the rest of my softcover books.

Finally, I try not to keep multiple copies of very scarce books.  Whenever possible, I sell the duplicates so that other collectors can acquire those books.  

Please note that I do not judge other collectors who might own two copies of Tom Swift and the Galaxy Ghosts or three copies of Dana Girls #30 The Phantom Surfer in the beige spine picture cover edition.  I understand how that happens.  Perhaps you've made some good finds over the years, and you have trouble letting go of them.  Early in my collecting, I kept all duplicates until I found that I was running out of room.  I find that I sometimes I have trouble letting go of books that I have owned for many years even though I might have upgraded them.  It is a struggle.

Even though I made the decision to avoid keeping duplicates of very scarce books when I can avoid doing so, I don't always succeed.  I quite unfortunately have two first printing Nancy Drew Twisted Candle books and two first printing dust jackets.  I don't know which one to keep, so I'm keeping both until whenever I figure out what to do.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

My Collection Parameters Part 2: The Library Editions

When I first began collecting library editions, I purchased all kinds of library editions with no restrictions.  As my collection grew, I began to place some limits on which library editions I kept.  Complete sets of every kind of Nancy Drew library edition take up way too much space.  My library edition collection totals over 1,000 books.  If I had not placed restrictions on what to keep, I'd have at least double that amount.

Early on I kept all of the plain binding books that I acquired.  I quickly decided not to keep those since they aren't as interesting as books with some kind of design.  Here is an example of a plain binding that I have kept.

I keep this book because it is from a nearby high school, and the name of the school is printed on the spine.  Other than books with a special feature like this one, I do not keep any of the plain bindings.

I also limit what I keep for the patterned bindings.  I have a pretty large collection of patterned bindings, so I no longer feel that I need to keep every variant that I find.  

Since I have such a large number of patterned bindings, I now purchase only examples that are rather striking, such as what was used on these two books.

The above books are Nancy Drew books, Tolling Bell and Wooden Lady.

Not only do I avoid buying the less interesting patterned bindings, I also try to keep from having duplicates of the same pattern.  I used to own a good many Judy Bolton books in these two patterns.

I now have just the two examples seen above.

The green APC Nancy Drew library binding is one of my favorites.  It has five distinct subtypes.

I have never cared for the bright green books seen at the top.  The only bright green books I keep in my collection are the few titles that were done in the bright green with the yellow.  I think most or all of the set was done in the bright green with white, but I don't have those since I don't like them that much.

The bottom row shows three shades of green, each book with a different texture.  My very favorite type is the style seen with 99 Steps.  I love that shade of green the best, and the cover is smooth.  The bottom middle book is probably the type seen most often.  The green is darker and the texture more rough.  The bottom right book is slightly darker than the one in the middle, and the texture is even more rough.

By keeping only the two types of green APC books, I avoid having multiple sets.  I have just one set plus the ones with yellow.

This next picture shows a BTSB edition on the left and a Multi edition on the right.

I used to own a complete set of each binding, but I have sold off many of them.  I now have around 15 of each.  I settled on books in nicer shape and with a nice selection of binding colors.

These books are the Econo-Clad edition.

I have sold off many of my Econo-Clad books.  I used to have multiple examples of each title in different colors. I reduced my set to just one example of each title.  In some cases, I sold the only example of a title if it was heavily scuffed.  I do keep all of the Econo-Clad books with the yellow box on the front cover, even though some of mine are a bit scuffed.  

For the Cameo library binding, I want every title in every color with every style variant regardless of condition.

I have no restriction on them, and they take up a lot of space.  I have nearly 200  Nancy Drew books in this format.  I also have a good many Dana Girls and Judy Bolton library editions in this same style.  Since I won't place a restriction on my Cameo library edition set, I instead restrict what I purchase for my other sets.