Archive for the ‘series’ Category

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Patty Blossom

May 18, 2017

For once, we’ve got a reasonably coherent plot in Patty Blossom. Wells uses the advent of a pair of ridiculous Bohemian types to draw out Patty’s feelings about Phil and Bill, and she finally comes to decisions about both of them.

Sam and Alla Blaney don’t call themselves Bohemians — they claim that only fake Bohemians do that. They’re pretty caricaturish, though. Alla wears shapeless cloths in ugly colors and parts her hair in the middle, and Sam has long hair and writes odd poetry. And actually, if there’s something that’s solidly in Carolyn Wells’ skillset, it’s parodying poetry, and I feel like there should be more of that here. I’m not a huge fan of Wells’ verse, and if one of her mysteries entertains me more than in irritates me I count it as a win, but I do like it when Wells’ other selves find their way into the Patty books. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Ruth Fielding Down East

December 10, 2016

It’s been a while since I read a Ruth Fielding book. PG has added a bunch of them over the last few years, and now seemed like a good time to catch up. Yes, I ought to be reading Christmas stories instead, but when the universe tells me to read Ruth Fielding, I read Ruth Fielding.

Ruth Fielding Down East is the first post-WWI one, sort of. The war is still happening, but Ruth and Helen and Tom are back in the US. Tom will go back overseas again for a bit, but the girls won’t, and it’s time for Ruth to transition back into the world of moving pictures.

I’d forgotten how bad W. Bert Foster’s writing can be (this is one of his last few installments in the series) and it’s bad here, but the worst thing about this book is the plot, and that’s presumably Edward Stratemeyer’s fault.

Ruth is supposed to be smart, is the thing. But when her top secret screenplay is stolen, she continues to keep it top secret, even though she suspects the thief will try to sell it to a producer. The rational thing to do would be to get some description of the scenario on record, so that if it shows up she has some proof that it’s hers. Of course, if she did that there would be considerably less drama when the scenario does resurface.

Character-driven plots are nice. Plot-driven characters, less so, especially when the character in question has been pretty well established through fifteen books. There’s no reason for Ruth to act like this, other than to make the plot work.

So, yeah, I found that infuriating. But somehow, Foster won me over. I think it’s the bit where Ruth stays level-headed during an emergency, saving her friends and getting back her self-confidence. Or the way everything gets wrapped up exactly the way you think it will, and it’s so ridiculous that it’s sort of nice.Or that the random bit about someone lost in the woods turns out to be thematically relevant. Or that Foster is going for something as complex as a theme at all. Mostly I think that Ruth Fielding, as a character, shines through the worst things her writers can do to her. She remains my favorite Stratemeyer product.

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Fernley House

May 16, 2008

Book five in the Margaret series is Fernley House. Margaret and Uncle John have just sent Basil and Susan D. home to their father for the summer, and they’re feeling kind of lonely, so they invite a bunch of people to stay: Peggy, her brother Hugh and sister Jean, and Gerald Merryweather and his twin Philip. Also staying in the neighborhood fr the summer is Peggy’s friend Grace Wolfe, who is the paid companion of an invalid who lives nearby. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Two Elsies and Elsie’s Kith and Kin

April 8, 2008

I haven’t been keeping up with writing about the Elsie books as I read them, but let’s forget about that and skip to book #11, The Two Elsies. The two Elsies in question are probably the original Elsie and her eldest daughter, but neither of them is particularly central to the story and several people have babies named Elsie at this point.

Anyway, a little background: in book #8, Elsie’s second daughter and third child, Violet, married Captain Raymond, a naval man and a widower with three children. Captain Raymond is away at sea much of the time, so Elsie and her father — he and his wife kind of moved in with Elsie after Mr. Travilla died in book #7 — say that the kids can come live with them (Violet is continuing to live at home, too). Max, the eldest, is kind of hasty and impulsive, but basically a good kid. Lulu has a bad temper that she has trouble controlling (in other words, she has a backbone, which means that she’s kind of alone in this series) but she is also scrupulously honest. Grace is a sickly but gentle little girl who soon becomes nearly as religious as Elsie was at her age. At this point, the books start to focus in on Lulu and her father, reworking the father daughter relationship that was so creepy in the earliest Elsie books, except that in this version, Lulu is pretty much always in the wrong, and also there’s a fair amount of corporal punishment, described in more detail than I wanted to read. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Betty Wales

March 25, 2008

I’ve spent the past week writing the first draft of my thesis, which is why I haven’t updated. But although I may stop writing here, I never stop reading, and one of the things that made working on my thesis the most difficult was that I became completely absorbed in reading the first few Betty Wales books.

I had a very strong sense of déjà vu all the way through the first half of Betty Wales, Freshman and then again through the second half of Betty Wales, Sophomore, and I’m still not sure whether I’ve read them before or whether it’s just because these college girl books are all so much alike. My best guess so far is that the beginning of Freshman uses a number of incidents that appear in lots of similar books, and that I did at some point — probably about six years ago — read Sophomore. Read the rest of this entry ?