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review 2018-08-14 22:49
Review: Miss Behave
Miss Behave - Traci Highland

If you're in the mood for a light, funny book then you should pick up Miss Behave. The inclusion of Piper's advice column from the paper really made me choke on my drink a few times from laughing so hard. Highland does a wonderful job making Piper into a totally relateable and charming character.


This wonderful gem has a little bit of everything for you, family craziness, overbearing mothers, naked runs in the forest.... you won't want to miss a moment of Piper and Mr. Brookes chaos. Each new development in the story makes you laugh out loud and question your own sanity. Piper has a sarcastic wit that I would adore in a friend, and Mr. Brookes is a great match for her personality. Their banter and flirting is absolutely hilarious and swoon worthy.


I can't wait to read the next installment of the Anderson Family series. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy fun, romantic, sarcastic lead characters.

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review 2014-06-04 02:00
Review: Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her - Melanie Rehak

It's been very hard to write about this book and not make it sound sound like it's The Story of Mildred Wirt Benson. That's my bias right there - after reading so much about her (and then reading more online) I'm now a huge Mildred fan, and in the rest of this I'll have to try and restrain myself from just quoting Mildred's words and background info.

Now that I've confessed that up front, let me reassure you, this is not a book about just one person. This is a book filled with multiple biographies and chunks of US history - all of which are tied together by the Nancy Drew books.

The most biographical information is shared about:

Edward Stratemeyer: publisher who organized a "syndicate of writers." Stratemeyer would come up with the character names and book concepts, and he'd write plot outlines which would be assigned to various authors. Authors were paid for each book they completed and signed a form which gave all the rights to Stratemeyer Syndicate. All the books were published under pseudonyms and the company collected the royalties and answered the fan mail. (To be clear, no further money went to the writers, and they were told never to seek any public recognition for their work.)

Mildred Wirt Benson - the book covers her education and early life, and how she gradually learned to make a living from her writing. Because she needed money to support her family Mildred wrote throughout her pregnancy, and then while her husband was ill and then dying. By authoring books as well as working at the Toledo Blade (an Ohio newspaper) she was able to support her child after her husband's death. Mildred continued writing for the Blade into her 90s, dying soon after she'd handed in (what she didn't realize was) her last column.

Harriet and Edna Stratemeyer: Stratemeyer's daughters. The book covers their education and lives up to their father's sudden death in 1930s, when they were forced to take over management of the Stratemeyer Syndicate when a buyer couldn't be found for the company. Eventually Harriet became the sole manager of the company, and she took over all the plot outlines and finally the writing (via dictation) of the Drew books.

Nancy Drew - Edward Stratemeyer sketched out all the outlines for her early books, and Mildred wrote 23 of the first 30 (numbers  1-7, 11-25, 30 - to be exact). After 1953 Harriet, who had been writing the plot outlines as well as editing the Drew books for years, started both writing the outlines and the books. In later years Harriet became more and more fiercely protective of the character's image, possibly because publishers continually pushed to modernize her.

Issues the book touches on:

- women and college education (it was just beginning to be more "acceptable" for women to seek out a degree when Mildred and Harriet got theirs)
- women in the workforce before and after WWII
-women trying to balance demands of work with family life (this is not a new thing)
- the rise in popularity of children's/young people's literature
- parents/society leaders fear of children's literature teaching them bad lessons (1920s worry that books were having too much influence on kids reading them- does this sound familiar?)
- the publishing industry and payment of authors, use of pseudonyms
- changes in the publishing industry from 1930s to present day
- post war baby boom that created a huge audience of young readers
- change of Nancy through the years mirroring changes in women's lives
- Nancy Drew as a feminist icon/symbol
- power of fandom in re-publication of early, unrevised Nancy Drew books
- power of fandom in uncovering/popularizing Mildred's story

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text 2014-06-03 19:46
Nancy Drew in the 80s: Because I Can't Resist Quoting
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her - Melanie Rehak

Just finishing my review post - and when I read over this quote I thought that I really wanted to share all of it. And hey, why not? So rather than use it all in the actual review I thought I'd make a separate post.


For those who haven't read any Nancy Drew, her traditional description is that of a smart, curious, and adventurous girl, more interested in solving mysteries than anything else. While other girls were fixated on boys, dances, and dresses, Nancy was hopping in her car and driving off to look for clues to whatever mystery she'd stumbled onto. Nancy's two friends Bess and George (a tomboy who'd been given a boy's name on purpose by her family, in the early stories at least) willingly followed her into these adventures. Her boyfriend Ned was also willing to follow her lead - though he was now and then known to worry over some of her plans, he always deferred to her mystery-solving abilities. Nancy was the active sort who'd explore a problem herself rather than wait around for adults to help. She was polite and ladylike - these were books from the 1930s-1950s, after all - but the mystery-solving, active role was what many readers really liked about her. (Many other female characters of that time were passive - always having to wait for help, someone to drive them somewhere, rescue them, etc. etc.)


The following is an excerpt from Girl Sleuth about bringing the series and the character into the 80s. Think of the description I've given you and compare it to the following. (69% into the ebook, first paragraph is author Rehak's summary of the book):


The first volume of the Nancy Drew Files, titled Secrets Can Kill, was published on June 1, 1986. Clocking in at 153 pages, its cover showed a distinctly eighties Nancy with feathered hair and tight jeans... ...the plot involved Nancy going undercover at Bedford High to investigate a series of crimes - it was clear that not only Nancy, but Bess and George, had arrived in the present, and that S& S had identified “the interests and concerns of today’s teens” primarily as boys and clothes and the kind of superficial issues that the Nancy of old would never have considered:

"Nancy studied herself in the mirror. She liked what she saw. The tight jeans looked great on her long, slim legs and the green sweater complemented her strawberry-blond hair. Her eyes flashed with the excitement of a new case. She was counting on solving the little mystery fairly easily. In fact, Nancy thought it would probably be fun! "Right now," she said to her two friends, "the hardest part of this case is deciding what to wear."


"That outfit, definitely," Bess said, sighing with envy at Nancy’s slender figure. “You’ll make the guys absolutely drool."


"That’s all she needs," George joked. "A bunch of freshmen following her around like underage puppies."


"Oh, yeah? Have you seen the captain of the Bedford football team?" Bess rolled her eyes. "They don’t call him ‘Hunk’ Hogan for nothing!"


Bess and George were Nancy’s best friends, and they were cousins, but that was about all they had in common. Blondhaired Bess was bubbly and easygoing, and always on the lookout for two things: a good diet and a great date. So far she hadn’t found either. She was constantly trying to lose five pounds, and she fell in and out of love every other month.


George, with curly dark hair and a shy smile, was quiet, with a dry sense of humor and the beautifully toned body of an athlete . George liked boys as much as Bess did, but she was more serious about love. "When I fall," she’d say, "it’s going to be for real."

S&S in the first paragraph stands for Simon and Schuster, who'd just taken over publication of the series. Even though Nancy'd been around since the 1930s, publishers still hadn't figured out what made her appealing by the 1980s - at least to judge from this sample.


Ok, now I'm off to finish up the actual review. (I know, I keep saying that, don't I?!)

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text 2014-06-02 03:42
If You've Read/Liked Nancy Drew, I May Have Some Ebooks for You...
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her - Melanie Rehak

Because I've been easily distracted in the past few months I've been playing a steady game of musical reads - like musical chairs, only I pick up one book after another until I'm reading a small stack. So far it's worked well - this way I can always find a book to suit my mood. Girl Sleuth has actually been great for this - it's the kind of book you can easily set aside and come back to.


I'll go into more detail in the full review - but the short version is that generations of girls who grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries had no idea that the books' author Carolyn Keene never existed. It was a pseudonym dreamed up by the owner of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer would outline stories, then hand them off to authors who would be paid for writing the book but not allowed to ever mention their authorship. And of course there were no future royalties - that all went to Stratemeyer. While Stratemeyer may have thought up Nancy Drew, the true author of most of the books was Mildred Wirt Benson - though her books would be carefully edited for content by Stratemeyer and then later Stratemeyer's daughters who took over the business.


Here's the fun part - while Mildred Wirt's prose was often edited (she apparently liked the make her female characters more daring or use more slang than was allowed in the Drew books), she eventually went on to write many books under her own name. And she did so while continuing to write the Nancy Drew books. (I'll be gushing over her a lot in the review because she was such an interesting person, and seemed to truly enjoy writing.)


Why am I mentioning all this now and not in the review? Because it only just now occurred to me to see if I could find Mildred's books online. And yes I found some - 24 of them! So if you want to see how these books hold up to the Nancy Drew books of your memories here's your Gutenberg link! If you've not read any "girl's books" from this era be prepared to giggle a bit over what was considered daring in those days - for example, participating in sports and driving a car. Also the wholesomeness of the kids' books in this era is as over the top as those old black and white short films they once showed...oh I'll just link:


The Home Economics Story - MST3K


A Date with Your Family - MST3K


Oddly they showed these kinds of old films (lots of hygiene stuff) to us in elementary school (in the 70s), because kids will watch anything if it means they get out of regular class. (Only recently did I wonder where the hell they got their hands on all those old films.) Anyway the sort of tone in those films is what I think of when I've read children's books of that period - what they considered "fun" and "dangerous" now seems laughable.


I haven't read any of Mildred's books myself - just looked at some of the artwork so far. Let me know if you find anything amusing in the bunch.

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text 2014-03-26 20:12
Random Amazon (US) Ebook Sale Alert! And hey, it's A Current Read of Mine!
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her - Melanie Rehak
Cosmos - Carl Sagan

Now you too can get the Nancy Drew book on sale too!


  Current US price: $2.99  (because I'm sure it'll be annoyingly different by country), Amazon page link.


I should add here that I'm only on chapter 8 - but I'm really enjoying it, especially the story of how one of the Drew authors (Mildred Wirt) and one of the publisher's daughters (Harriet Otis) both grew up and were educated - since women going to college was still a relatively new thing, as was women having a career in writing or publishing. Here, I'll toss out one of the quotes I had saved up for the eventual review, to give you an idea of what it was like for a student at Wellesley College, at the first dance where men were allowed (this is in 1920ish), 17% in:


"...In preparation for the big occasion, the faculty passed a rule that all dancers must maintain a three-inch distance from one another, so as to be "preventative of the 'turkey trot,' the 'bunny hug' and other recent substitutes for the staid old waltz and two step... Some of the girls are considering the availability of crinoline gowns as a precautionary measure."

And I helpfully linked both of those dances to wikipedia so you too could ask "wait, what?!" and then have an answer. I think there was actually a "turkey trot" at a wedding dance I once went to. And I had no idea what they were doing.


Anyway the book is full of the story of how the Drew books came into being, how the publishing industry of the time worked, and lots of interesting details of social history. So far it's great, and it'd be a quick read if I didn't stop getting sidetracked by the equally interesting books I have lying around waiting to be read.


I actually bought this book on the last sale - today's sale info is via Dear Author's Daily Deals column, which has tempted me into buying all sorts things. The column points out predominantly romance, but they regularly toss in other genres as well and I've bought scifi, romance, and nonfiction via their links in the past few months.


A price that EreaderIQ alerted me on since I have it set to email me whenever anything by Carl Sagan goes on sale...


  Ah, Cosmos. (Insert nostalgia moment here.) Probably on sale due to the current revamp of the series with host Neil deGrasse Tyson (who I think rocks), called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Which I plan to watch eventually, probably on my computer.


But here's the weird thing. When I bought this yesterday it was $4.59. It's just 7 hrs since the last time EreaderIQ checked the online price (and it was 4.59 then) but now that I check the Amazon page the price is $7.99. That is how insanely fast Amazon sales come and go. Dang. Amazon page link, if you want to check its price now. (And again, only the US store.)


Not that I'm shilling for you to join up to EreaderIQ (even though I have a page babbling about it), in fact I'd warn you that it's caused me to buy oodles more books that I probably should have, because when you get an email that something's on sale and you know it may be gone in a series of hours - well, I am soooo weak to that particular argument! (It's a self argument - one of those fun interior monologues. Now a ritual before I click the buy button.)


Here's my last dithering over Cosmos from this past November. I was debating whether to donate the worn hardback or to a library sale or not. Short version, I didn't - but that book went into storage (still no idea how long yet, sigh). I always meant to buy the ebook - and this decided me.


Also I just got an Amazon refund for various price fixed ebooks from the lawsuit - a huge $7, which means technically Cosmos was free. Thanks, publishers!


Eventually I need to post more reviews, since there are several books I've finished. But I'm going through an "I am a potato" state of motivation at the moment. I think it's mostly an end of winter thing.

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