Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Reading: Nancy Drew versus Judy Bolton

Teen Detective Showdown!

I don't get a lot of time to read but when I do I enjoy reading books from the earlier part of the 20th century. I'm particularly attracted to writers from the 30's and 40's. As I've already mentioned on this blog before, I have a handful of magazines from those decades and I enjoy the short stories featured in them (although sometimes they're a bit corny). I much prefer novels, mind you, because they allow for greater character depth. Whenever I get the chance, I like to rummage through old book shops and second hand stores to see if I can find some vintage treasures.

A while back, I found a Judy Bolton book in an antique mall. I was attracted to the cover, a bare book without the dust jacket and a small tree pictured on the bottom corner. When I lifted the cover I was surprised to see a haunted house illustrated inside. I knew this book had to be worth checking out and for only $6 it wasn't a purchase I would regret. I did a quick Google search on the name and came up with a few results describing the book as one volume out of a children's mystery series. My best guess is that it was the poor man's Nancy Drew.

I never really read Nancy Drew books as a child. Like most kids, I was repulsed by the idea of having old things. I didn't take to vintage collectibles until my teenage years. I always gave Nancy Drew the brush off for that reason. After reading my Judy Bolton book, I felt it was time to give the Nancy Drew books a chance. I'm surprised by the results! First, I'd like to discuss each book briefly before I select a winner.

My Judy Bolton book is called The Haunted Attic, it's the second book in the series. The story begins with Judy moving into a new house. The house was gifted to her family after they lost their previous home to a bad flood. Once there, Judy discovers the house is haunted and has a dark past. As Judy and her brother seek out clues about the ghost, Judy deals with every day teen troubles involving the local girls at school. When not sleuthing, Judy spends her time planning a grand Hallowe'en party that she hopes will help win the affection of her classmates. As one would expect, everything is revealed on All Hallows Eve!

Because I don't actually own any Nancy Drew books I had to seek them out online, with some luck I managed to find the entire collection. To make a fair comparison, I selected a book that had a similar overall concept. In this case, I chose Nancy Drew and the Haunted Bridge. Nancy is competing in a golf tournament when she learns of a haunted bridge near the golf course. She becomes obsessed with the bridge; she feels there must be a connection between the bridge and a jewel thief that her father has asked her to locate. Together with the help of her friends, Nancy unravels the mystery behind the haunted bridge.

Both books were released in the thirties and have striking similarities; each deals with theft and a mysterious haunting; each protagonist is an intelligent young woman in her teens with a knack for problem solving. With that much in common, how do I choose a winner?

Who wins and why?

Judy Bolton wins! I really appreciate Margaret Sutton's writing style more than Corlyn Keene's. I found Sutton's work to be articulate and immersive. I could relate to her characters and felt that they dealt with more realistic subject matter. What I mean by that is, unlike Drew, Bolton deals with the harsh judgmental world of high school. She gets treated like crap by her peers and has difficulties coping with that. Instead of bogging the story down, this personal conflict sort of catapults Judy into action and allows her to overcome her fear of ghosts in order to solve the big mystery. In The Haunted Bridge, Nancy is inconvenienced a few times by an obsessive suitor but spends most of the novel running from point A to point B. I realize that this book comes later in the series, so there's no real need to indulge in Nancy's personal affairs, but it really makes the book lack lustre and rather incredible. It's all too convenient. It's like her dad is waiting in the wings or something, he's there so quickly, he takes her word on everything (obviously because he trusts her, this is Nancy Drew "girl detective") but really, it's all a bit much. The fact that she's so good at sleuthing she can determine a man's handwriting from a mere glance, I mean really? How the hell does she not have anything better to do with her time? She says everything so matter-of-factly that she comes across as kind of a pretentious bitch to me. Judy is a normal, relatable girl, who doesn't have these abnormal sleuthing capabilities. She solves the mystery at a nice even pace, whereas Nancy's story jumps around quickly and doesn't allow you to linger on any piece of information. To me, Judy has the capacity to be wrong, like any normal girl, but Nancy comes off as perfect. You really just want to see Nancy fall on her face.

Overall, I'd love to read more about Judy Bolton and less of Nancy Drew. I'll give Nancy another fair shot by reading one of the earlier novels, but I honestly found Keene's writing style to be too lack luster and simplistic. I'm also more impressed by the fact that the Bolton books appear to have an overarching supernatural theme to them; all of the other mystery/detective series from this time seem to deal strictly with reality based mysteries, like who stole this lady's fur coat? or what happened to so-and-so?

The sad thing is that Sutton's work got pushed to the side due to the popularity of Nancy Drew. There was an overabundance of this genre at the time and shops only wanted to shelve what they knew would sell, so copies of the Bolton books are fewer and far between. You can purchase them without the dust jacket for cheaper but the books that were released later on are scarce and command high prices. You can get a torrent of the entire Nancy Drew series but you can't find much of anything for Judy Bolton. It's a real shame because I would love to read the rest of these books and see how the series holds up over time. From what I've heard from her older fans, the series was supposed to be really good and vastly underrated.

Happy Reading!  

Monday, 16 February 2015

Getting back on track

Blog writing and organization

Around New Year's, I had written a post on my sister blog where I established a few goals I had for blog content. I didn't end up doing any holiday posts for Feeling Sew Good and I'm disappointed with myself for that. I had planned on a few Christmas posts, as well as more fashion posts and even a review, but it never came to fruition. I never even disclosed my future intentions for this blog. I want to put more content into FSG because I really enjoy it. I've found that my tastes have evolved considerably, but I still have an attraction to vintage fashion. Perhaps not to the extent of fellow bloggers, I don't wear vintage every day, but I do like to incorporate vintage elements into my wardrobe so this blog is still very relevant to me!

Plans for the future

Spring is not too far in the future and it's known as a time for beginnings, I figure it's time to start anew! I want this blog to detail more than just sewing reviews, which it technically already does, but I want that to be more apparent than before. I didn't have much of a drive to write about vintage fashions as much as I wanted to sew them. This creates a kind of lag on the blog where you don't see much happening because I'm too busy sewing. Film reviews acted as a kind of filler to keep things up to date, but even they became few and far between. Here are my intentions for FSG in 2015.

In the future, I plan to...

Start a mini-series. I'd like to do a few posts exploring vintage hair and makeup. Now, I'm no beautician, so don't hold me to the standards of the various and insanely good makeup artists and hairdressers out there. These posts are not going to be step by step tutorials about how to do your hair or makeup (although maybe I might do something similar outside of the series). Instead, they'll act more as guidelines and discuss trends of different decades. I often find myself mashing various decades together to achieve my desired look, so I think it's nice to discuss the different trends that work and even those that kind of flop.

Review more films! Because I've watched more films than you can imagine and I want to share them with you. I think classic films are the best but I feel they're often overlooked due to their age. I think it would be nice to continue with these posts.

Ditch Disqus. I originally included Disqus on my blog because the provided comment form was distorted and not functioning properly. Disqus was highly regarded so I figured it would be better and more accessible, only it proved to be the total opposite. Not to mention that it's ripe with spam. At one point I had been slammed with tons of obnoxious spam comments and then for months there was nothing. Since returning to this blog I've noticed the spambots have come back, at full force. So adios Disqus! I won't miss you in the least. Take note that I will not post comments containing links in the future even after I leave Disqus, so please respect my decision! I don't like self-promoters anyways, it's not like I don't check your blog if you comment on my blogs, I always do.

Add magazine snippets. Something I did early on in the production of this blog was to give out a free, public domain pamphlet. I'm not sure what falls under public domain and what doesn't, and I'd like to research it a bit more. I might include snippets of the few vintage magazines or booklets I have. I personally love seeing things from old magazines so I figured this could be fun.

Talk about vintage sewing techniques and not just sewing reviews. Reviews are great, sure, if you're lucky enough to own the same pattern(s) as me, but for many that's not the case. Instead I'd like to delve more into techniques just to help beginners along in their sewing journey. I feel that these kinds of posts could be a valuable addition to the blog.

And of course more of my sewing, because what's a sewing blog without that?

I'm aware this is all talk until I take action, and I strongly hope that I don't let things fall by the wayside again! I've developed a plan of attack: I'll create batches of posts that will be posted at later dates. I've often found it difficult to write on a schedule, I'm the kind of person that writes more successfully when I'm in the mood to do so. I think batch posts are a good idea for generating good quality content. When I'm in a pinch, my writing is sloppy and it's not always clear what I'm communicating, so my biggest goal this year is to refine my writing and deliver better content.

Happy Sewing