Monday, August 6, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (76)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

So one of my goals this year is to read a lot of mysteries and thrillers and that kind of thing, and I thought since I also do these old book posts as I want to read through books I own/get rid of books I don't want, I'd combine those goal and read some old books along the mystery/thriller theme!

Also, every book on this list is available on Kindle! That's interesting.

The Callender Papers by Cynthia Voigt

Published: Originally released in 1983, my edition is from Fawcett Junior and I believe it was released in 1984.
Genre: YA Mystery with some gothic leanings
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 182 plus an about the author and listings of other books.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: It's a libray reject.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Jean was barely thirteen when she agreed to work with Mr. Theil to catalogue his family papers. She was trying to be brave and independent, but he was a frightening man.

Yet, as she went through his papers, a nightmare unfolded. It was a cruel story from the past...events that long ago shook a peaceful village. And the more Jean learned, the more she knew she was in mortal danger...

Thoughts: Once in school my English class had to read Homecoming and my English teacher got kind of annoyed because I couldn't do any of the "predict what's going to happen" work as I had already read the book several times before that class. That has nothing really to do with this book, but it's a fun story to tell. Anyways, suffix to say, I'm quite fond of this author's writing, and I think it's really awesome that she's still writing today. That's a long freaking career and something to really be admired.

And in general I enjoyed this one, too. It has some good atmosphere and while I guessed the twist pretty late, it's not a bad mystery at all. I wish there had been more focus on the titular papers, since those kind of get swept to the wayside only to be brought back at the last minute.

As well, there's some racism towards Native people that I don't think is... inaccurate, let's say, for the 1894 time period, but was rather inappropriate for the author to write in the 1980s, and it's not challenged or anything. There's also some ableism regarding language around wheelchairs.

I have nostalgia for this author, and I did enjoy a lot of the prose and such in this, and the more Gothic atmosphere, so I will probably personally keep this, at least for now, but I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend you seek it out due to those factors. If you do, be aware of them. If there was slight editing to remove those, I'd totally change my mind, though, as it's an interesting book.

The Vandemark Mummy by Cynthia Voigt

Published: First released in 1991, my edition is from Fawcett Junior and was probably released in 1992.
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 209 plus about the author and acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: Library weeding.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): It's hard for Althea and Phineas Hall to keep explaining to people that their parents haven't broken up; they just have jobs on opposite sides of the country. It's hard to explain because they don't really understand themselves. And although neither one is happy about it, they almost like living alone with their dad, the professor, even if it is on the campus of a small college with practically no one their age to talk to and nothing to do.

But a strange legacy from a rich old man changes that. The mysterious Vandemark mummy and other antiquities are donated to the college with the understanding that Dr. Hall will take care of them. When something happens in the room where the valuables are kept, Phineas and Althea sense that there is danger in the air and that one wrong move could turn a summer mystery into murder.

Thoughts: One thing I find interesting about this is that while Althea is fifteen, Phineas is definitely the main character, with the book being told from his POV only, and he's only twelve. However, I would be very hesitant to label this middle grade - it's pretty solidly young adult. And I find it very interesting how that used to be much more common, for YA to have protagonists who were twelve or thirteen, and now that doesn't happen. In this historical period there was still a pretty solid middle grade/YA divide, however, when you compare books like this to books like Goosebumps or Baby-Sitter's Club. It seems like things were divided much more on a content basis than an age basis.

I find that very interesting on a historical level. The book itself... eh. It's really dated. Like there are a lot of references to stuff that really dates the book. Like the book references the 1989 Batman as just coming out in theatre, and that was three years before the book was even released. And there's a ton of that, which feels so much like the book was trying to be trendy or something? It's weird, and kind of unnecessary.

There's also... there's a lot of talk about feminism and I have trouble telling if the author is exaggerating or if that was kind of just the attitude at the time or... I don't know. It seems very exaggerated, like all the stereotypical "feminist" things that people say, but maybe that's what the author believed? I really don't know.

I also wish there had been a bit more history about the mummy and Egypt and all that. It seems a little lacking in that area. In general, I did like this, but despite my above stated nostalgia and fondness for this author, I didn't like this enough to keep it, and I think I'm going to be passing it along. Which is kind of shocking to me because I'm kind of a hoarder and I really like having complete book collections. But while I did enjoy this, I didn't enjoy it enough to keep it.

This Weekend Was Murder! by Joan Lowery Nixon

Published: First released in 1992, my edition is from March 1994 from Laurel Leaf
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 193 plus other book listings and I think an about the author but my nose is really itchy and I don't wanna touch the dusty book more than I have to.
Part of a series? It is the second of two books starring Mary Elizabeth, but you don't need to read the first to read the second.
Got via: Garage sale, I think, since there's no library stamp or anything on it.
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Mary Elizabeth can’t wait for the weekend to begin at the Ridley Hotel, where a famous mystery writer and a troupe of actors are coming to enact a murder mystery for 150 amateur sleuths.

Mary Elizabeth’s role is to discover the “body” in Room 1927, which is supposed to be haunted. But nothing prepares her for the real body she finds in Room 1927…

Thoughts: This was really fun. Compared to modern books, this isn't the least bit diverse, and that's a bit of a bummer, but this really is kind of nostalgic, easy fun. You don't get a lot of books like this these days, where it's not really meant to be super serious even if there is murder. It's fun murder. That's totally a thing. I really liked Mary Elizabeth's voice, and the lighter tone of this is great.

I really like that it's not too serious, or scary. For a lot of the book, the author almost seems to poking fun at herself, with the slightly silly author character, and the amateur mystery readers. It's a really fun idea, and executed very well. I'm excited to read the other book I have by the author, and I would love to read more, too.

The Specter by Joan Lowery Nixon

Published: Originally released I believe in 1982, this edition was probably from February 1993, which means it is about two months younger than me.
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 184
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Library reject!
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Dina is fighting cancer and is angry at the whole world. But when Julie, a nine-year-old survivor of a car accident, becomes Dina's roommate at the hospital, there's no time for Dina to keep on being angry. Because Julie is frightened. Desperately frightened. She's sure that someone caused the accident she was in ‒ someone who will return to kill her. Now she's insisting on being with Dina all the time.

But by befriending Julie, is Dina making herself the target of a dangerous killer?

Thoughts: Now this was a lot less lighthearted and much more serious. Besides like five nasty comments about fat people, I liked this. I really liked the blending of Dina's cancer recovery with the mystery plot, because it wasn't just a Lurlene McDaniel cancer book. (Which is not to say there isn't a place for those in my heart, but sometimes a girl wants more.)

This isn't the best of the best, but it's certainly not the worst. Bad attitude about fat people, possibly some kinda racist stereotypes, but a creepy story, and a good mystery with clues for the reader to figure out. I enjoyed this one, honestly, besides the fat comments. I would still enjoy reading more from the author, especially for my own personal nostalgia. I wouldn't necessarily recommend these automatically and whole-heartedly to modern reasons, but for nostalgia reasons, I'm keeping it. Mostly because I love the cover.

Alright, that's it for this one! This was certainly an interesting group.

Thanks for reading!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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