English: reading: Hardy Boys, Danger on Vampire Trail

The tutor talks briefly about a book he recently finished.

I still read Hardy Boys mysteries to my kids, now 12 and 14, especially before bed. It’s a special time; I’ve always enjoyed reading to the family.

Danger on Vampire Trail is number 50 of the Hardy Boys series. It’s different from most Hardy Boys mysteries in a few ways:

  • The story is set outdoors; the boys are camping.
  • The boys face trouble from characters who aren’t the criminals they’re after, but apparently cause them nuisance time and again.
  • There is an eccentric character whose participation is potentially distracting.
  • Fenton Hardy appears only at the beginning.

The boys struggle throughout the mystery, perhaps with fewer clues than in most of their cases. The pace of Danger on Vampire Trail seems a little slower than a typical Hardy Boys novel, possibly because they are meant to be (somewhat) on vacation even as they track the credit card counterfeiters.


Dixon, Franklin W. Danger on Vampire Trail. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1971.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Reading: The Dead Man of Varley Grange

The tutor brings up a title he read over the weekend.

Last weekend, we had some dreary weather that foreshadowed Halloween. My older son thought I might read a ghost story. I got out a book called Victorian Ghost Stories, then settled on The Dead Man of Varley Grange.

In a Victorian way, The Dead Man of Varley Grange is overdone. It’s as comedic as supernatural, and very entertaining. It explores the absurdity of the Victorian point of view.

The Dead Man of Varley Grange is probably much better read aloud to a group, then read alone. I like reading to people, and highly recommend The Dead Man of Varley Grange for that purpose.

Good reading:)


Victorian Ghost Stories. London: Senate, 1995.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

English: Hardy Boys Mysteries: Mystery of the Spiral Bridge

The tutor recommends Hardy Boys Mystery 45: Mystery of the Spiral Bridge.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I love reading Hardy Boys mysteries to my family. The tradition started, I believe, before my kids joined school. I’ve read dozens aloud during mealtimes, stormy afternoons, car rides, or bedtime. While it’s taken a backseat to the children’s other activities, it continues. Number 45, Mystery of the Spiral Bridge, is our current Hardy Boys mystery.

During its early chapters, Mystery of the Spiral Bridge didn’t appeal to me as I’d hoped. While there was lots of action, the plot didn’t seem unified: there were just too many surprises. Chapter XI, however, marks a turning point: the action settles in one locale, and its unique characters (particular to Mystery of the Spiral Bridge) develop. At the same time, under cover amongst many ex-jailbirds, the boys learn and begin using prison lingo to gain acceptance.

The prison lingo, along with a few other events and suggestions, gives the novel a darker feel than most Hardy Boys mysteries. Sudden, wild events occur in a way I can’t recall from others in the series. Yet, the gritty, hillbilly setting of the novel’s second half hosts the developments with credibility: Mystery of the Spiral Bridge becomes a page-turner.

I highly recommend Mystery of the Spiral Bridge.


Dixon, Franklin W. Mystery of the Spiral Bridge. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1966.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian language: what does Kabloona mean?

The tutor shares a term he discovered in the dictionary.

Kabloona is an Inuit term referring to a non-Inuit; the term particularly suggests a white person. It has been used to describe white people present to do specific functions: police, missionaries, etc.

Kabloonamuit refers to Inuit people who emulate White ways. They generally participate in the economy as a white person would – having a job instead of being self-employed, and buying clothes and food from stores.

Having learned only recently of the terms Kabloona and Kabloonamuit, I don’t know if they’re meant for conversational use. I’m intrigued I’ve never heard of them.


Collins Essential Canadian English Dictionary & Thesaurus. Glasgow:
  HarperCollins Publishers, 2006.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbel River, BC.

English: sedulous

The tutor brings up a word discovery.

Not often does a word catch my eye. However, thumbing through my Collins Essential Canadian English Dictionary recently, I noticed the word sedulous.

I can’t remember hearing sedulous or seeing it in print. Being in a rush that moment, I remembered the word and looked it up later. Here is its meaning:

sedulous (adj): persistent; tirelessly working towards a goal.

Since sedulous seems to be a complimentary term, one might expect to hear it more often:)


Collins Essential Canadian English Dictionary & Thesaurus. Glasgow: HarperCollins,

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

English: reading: Harry Potter: Tom Riddle and Voldemort, part 0

The tutor opens a discussion about Tom Riddle and Voldemort.

As I mentioned in my Jan 19, 2015 post, I’ve read the Harry Potter series to my children twice. We’re on our third time, midway through The Half-Blood Prince. We are about to embark on a memory of Tom Riddle.

Tom Riddle is a favourite character of mine from the Harry Potter series. Of course, he becomes the antagonist, Voldemort. We are led to believe that, by age eleven, soon to enter Hogwarts, Tom is already paranoid and predatory.

What makes Tom Riddle intriguing to me is his single-mindedness, as well as his charisma. Dumbledore admits that most of Tom’s activities at Hogwarts, while almost certainly ambitious, go undetected – even in spite of Tom’s popularity.

Perhaps, like with so many people, Tom’s best years are at school. After Hogwarts, he fades into the background, metamorphosing into Voldemort.

While even Voldemort has his moments, he’s not so attractive (to me) as Tom Riddle. Sitting here, sipping my coffee, I’ve finally wrestled with why. The answer is that Tom Riddle’s focus is personal development, while Voldemort’s is controlling others. An academic always appreciates personal development, but doesn’t have much taste for power. Controlling others, after all, doesn’t lead to self improvement.

I’ll be talking more about characters from the Harry Potter series in future posts:)


Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2005.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

English: Reading: Short Horror: H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Tomb”

The tutor shares some thoughts about Lovecraft’s short story “The Tomb.”

“The Tomb” is classic Lovecraft. First, it centres on an abandoned location connected with former greatness. Second, its narrator develops a connection to the supernatural world. Finally, the narrator’s exposure to that other world consumes him, so he cannot return to normal life.

In my experience, Lovecraft focuses on setting more than character development, which I appreciate. I read more for setting than any other facet of a story. In “The Tomb”, the narrator is irresistibly attracted to a wooded area, once part of the estate of a great family that returned to Europe after a tragedy. There the narrator finds the tomb.

Spending time around the tomb, the narrator has a supernatural experience whence he learns how he can enter it. The narrator’s experiences in the tomb cause him to prefer it to the everyday world. He comes to feel he belongs therein.

Eventually, the narrator casts his fate with the perished occupants of the tomb. He rejects normal life, seeking to be “reunited” with them. He suggests he may be a reincarnation of one of them who, mysteriously, never wound up in the tomb.

Three focuses I’ve noticed of Lovecraft’s stories:

  1. The supernatural world is much bigger than our own and surrounds us.
  2. The supernatural world can be entered surprisingly easily, either purposefully or by accident.
  3. Once a person enters the supernatural world, they may not be able to return.


Padgett, JoAnn, et al (editors). Classic Tales of Horror. San Diego: Canterbury
  Classics, 2015.

English: Reading: E. F. Benson: “The Room in the Tower”

The tutor shares about a late read.

Two days prior, I’d never heard of E.F. Benson. However, the horror anthology I mention in my post of November 10 includes his “The Room in the Tower.”

The title attracted me. Benson writes with gentlemanly ease, lulling you into the setting. The story is setting-focused, rather than character-focused, which plays to my taste. Benson describes the setting repeatedly, with a difference here or there from last time; the differences develop the story’s suspense. “The Room in the Tower” is written in first-person.

I highly recommend “The Room in the Tower.” It’s ten Classic Tales of Horror pages, but might be twenty in a paperback – the perfect length for an interlude.


Padgett, Joann (Ed.) et al. Classic Tales of Horror. San Diego: Canterbury Classics,   2015.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

English: Horror genre: horror short fiction

The tutor fondly returns to a topic he explored a lifetime ago.

I graduated from UVic in ’95; my first son was born in July ’02. During the intervening years I had lots of time. Pursuing computer programming and reading came naturally; I’m a born academic.

This is a much smaller town than Victoria. The local library, seemingly not so appointed as UVic’s, turned out to be a valuable resource. I simply learned to look a little more closely.

One section I discovered, wandering amongst the stacks, was horror fiction. I hadn’t read any since I was a kid; fresh from university, I scanned the shelves with trained instinct. I settled on a couple of anthologies of short horror stories….

Truly, it’s a pity that I can’t recall the titles I signed out. Their introductions proved very revealing. Often, the editor would point to H.P. Lovecraft’s work as the inspiration for nearly all modern horror short fiction – if not all modern horror fiction, period.

A few weeks back, we were in Costco. My oldest son, now 13, brought a thick volume from a table: could he have it? I examined the book; close to 1000 pages, it’s an anthology of short fiction. Glancing the list of authors, I added the book to our cart.

Perhaps, subconsciously, I bought that book for myself. Yesterday I picked it up to scan the authors more closely. I already knew they include Poe, Dickens, Henry James, and other greats. I wondered: is Lovecraft among them? Yes, indeed; four of the stories are his. I’m impressed. After all, Lovecraft, though well loved by readers of short fiction, is not so well known as Dickens or Poe.

I’ll be following up many facets of this post:)



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

English: Hardy Boys series: a Canadian connection

The tutor continues his probe of the popular Hardy Boys mystery series.

Back on Jan 19, I began about the Hardy Boys. I’ve not stopped reading them to my kids, now 11 and 13. In fact, we just finished Mystery of the Chinese Junk the night before last.

After writing the Jan 19 post, I came to doubt that The Tower Treasure, from 1927, and The Firebird Rocket, from 1978, were truly written by the same person. While theoretically possible, a writing career spanning that many years, in a valuable, but static, style, just seems very unlikely. A few times a month, spontaneously, I’d return to the issue to continue wondering: does the series use several ghostwriters, all posing as Franklin W. Dixon? The authorship of the books became a mystery similar, indeed, to a Hardy Boys case. Perhaps just as baffling, I never thought to research it.

Yesterday, I finally did inquire online about the Hardy Boys author. In fact, the series does use several ghostwriters. What do you know – a Canadian, Leslie McFarlane, wrote the first sixteen, and 21 in all.

So often, one finds a Canadian connection in what seems to be American culture:)

I’ll be talking much more about the Hardy Boys series in future posts.




Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.