Saturday, August 24, 2019

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #47 - The Mysterious Mannequin

I grew up reading Nancy Drew, and by 1979, I had purchased and read all 56 books that had been published at that time (the yellow spine editions, which, in the case of books 1 through 34, meant I had read the revised texts for those books). This included book 47, The Mysterious Mannequin.  Since that time, I have collected  Nancy Drew books, as well as many other children’s mystery series; but, I have honestly not gone back and re-read many of those first 56 Nancy Drew books.  So, when our Central Florida Sleuths reading group decided to read The Mysterious Mannequin for our August get-together, well, let’s just say it was almost like reading the book for the first time - - again!

By the time The Mysterious Mannequin was published, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, the daughter of Edward Stratemeyer, who created Nancy Drew, was writing the manuscripts for all of the new Nancy Drew books being published.  The later books in the series (such as The Crooked Bannister, The Sky Phantom, The Thirteenth Pearl, etc.) were not good reads at all, so I wondered how this story would be.  Imagine my surprise when I started reading the book and found myself really enjoying it.  The mystery was unique and engaging, and the dialogue was very well-written.  The banter between some of the characters was fun to read and breathed new life in Nancy, Ned, Bess, George, and their friends.  It actually left me wondering if Harriet actually wrote this manuscript, or if someone else ghosted the book. However, from the sources I was able to locate online, it appears that Harriet did, indeed, outline, write, and edit this book.  A close friend of mine even shared some photographs that Harriet took while on a vacation in Turkey, which trip provided Harriet with information for this particular mystery (which was partially set in Turkey).

The mystery begins when Carson Drew receives a package from Turkey – a intricately designed rug that Carson can only assume was sent by a former client who was wrongfully accused of smuggling. There is no message, so Carson and Nancy wonder if perhaps there is a message woven into the rug.  The two of them, and later Hannah, Ned, Bess, and George all join in, search carefully along the border of the rug to locate any potential clues for a hidden message – and eventually they discover that his client is wanting them to search for a mannequin that used to sit in his store window and bring it to him.  Of course, the client left the country two years ago, and no one has seen the mannequin since…

It was actually rather fun to read along as Nancy and her friends return to the rug time and again to locate more parts of the message; rather than the clue just being dropped in her lap as happens in many of the mysteries, the young detective has to really work for it in this one.  And when a stranger breaks into the house and tries to steal the rug, it was cute to see Togo (Nancy’s pet terrier) jump in to help Nancy keep the rug away from the intruder!  It is also nice to see the financial aspect of the sleuths brought into question. When the trip to Turkey is decided, there is a question raised as to how the girls will afford it (something that usually is never a concern for Nancy and her friends). The fact that they get a group discount through the travel agent, and then obtain lodging with friends rather than a costly hotel brings some realism to the tale that makes it all that more believable.

There are a few scenes in the story that seem rather superfluous – Ned being asked to hold a potential witness’s baby, and Helen (Corning) Archer joining the girls for a game of tennis – but, these scenes add some humor, as well as rare moments of characterization that you don’t often see in the series.  For instance, when Ned is asked to hold the baby, he is rather reluctant, and Nancy has to hold back her laughter at how uncomfortable and uncoordinated Ned is with trying to hold the baby. And the scene with Helen ends with the girls in the gift shop, where Bess accidentally knocks over a vase, which shatters, leaving the girl to wonder how she will possibly afford to pay for it!

The only true drawback to this mystery is the fact that there is so much talk about Turkey, but Nancy and her friends spend very little time there at the end of the book.  It would have been nice to see the young sleuths spend a bit more time in Turkey, so readers could get more information about the country, its people, and its splendor.  (Also, the fact that Nancy figured out the location of the mannequin “off-screen,” so to speak, was a bit of a disappointment.)

Overall, the book was a satisfying read and definitely one of the better Nancy Drew books from that era.

RATING:  8 winking mannequins out of 10 for not only showcasing Nancy Drew’s skill as a detective, but showing readers just how human she and her friends can be with fun dialogue and banter!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Doctor Who - Molten Heart

When any series of books are written by different authors, you never really know how each book will turn out. Will the author capture the characters’ personalities? Will the author pace the story appropriately and keep the reader interested? Will the author give the story a great payoff in the end? And when you are talking about a series based upon an established television show or movie, then the bar is even higher for the authors. So, with each Doctor Who book, I always go into it wondering if the author will have a real grasp on this particular iteration of the Doctor, and whether he or she will be able to get the companions right.

One of the more recent Doctor Who books, Molten Heart, definitely succeeds. Author Una McCormack must be a true fan of the show, and particularly of the new Doctor. She had Jodie Whittaker’s version of the Doctor down pat, with her blabbering, her confusion, and her ultimate saving ideas at the last moment; and she also managed to write the companions (Yaz, Ryan, and Graham) with their three distinct personalities, although admittedly, Ryan did not have his usual balance issues that he faces in the show.  However, that was not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story.

The Doctor and her three companions land on a planet that seems void of any life – at least, on the outside.  Take a look at the inside, however, and the travelers discover a world inside the world, where rock-like beings have lived out their lives never realizing there was a surface beyond their inner-globe. The problem is – one of the species was beginning to realize that something was wrong, and (like Jor-El and the doomed planet of Krypton), no one believed him.  So, he set off on his own to discover what is causing the fissures, the seething pools, and the decreasing of their seas of magma.  But he hasn’t come back, and his daughter is beginning to worry. Enter: the Doctor and her companions!

This adventure has plenty of what makes Doctor Who so…well, Doctor Who! There are unusual aliens, startling off-world adventures, dangers, misguided rulers, dungeons, last minute rescues, and, oh, yes, plenty of running. I mean, let’s face it – it wouldn’t be Doctor Who without the Doctor and her companions running, now would it? And when the Doctor discovers that other aliens have come before them, and that something happening on the surface is creating the fissures that threaten to crack the planet wide open, she takes it upon herself to find the cause and put a stop to it, even if that means facing down an interstellar corporation that has deadly security measures in place to keep outsiders from tampering with their technology.

McCormack provides a very satisfying adventure that could easily be translated to the small screen. In fact, as I was reading the book, I felt like I was watching an episode of Doctor Who, the images so clear and vivid in my mind (and it’s not easy for any author to write such a vivid picture, no matter how good one’s imagination is). I hope BBC books brings McCormack back to write more of Jodie Whittaker’s adventures as Doctor Who, as she certainly has a hold of what makes Doctor Who so special.

One interesting tidbit about the story is that the alien life forms that they discover within the planet are never actually given a species name. The characters have individual names (Ash, Onyx, Emerald, etc. – get the theme here?), but there is no identification of the actual species, which is rare, since Doctor Who normally knows pretty much every species she encounters on her adventures.  I’m not sure if this was intentional by McCormack to keep it a bit unique, or if she simply didn’t have a name for them.  Either way, it’s still a fun story and well worth the read.

RATING:  10 hungry lavasharks out of 10 for a thoroughly enjoyable Doctor Who tale that makes me even more excited about Jodie Whittaker's second season as the Doctor!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Dusk County Chronicles - Advance Reader Copy - Issue 2

Advance Reader Copy!
The Dusk County Chronicles 2
Publisher: Metal Ninja Studios
Publication Date (Forthcoming)
24 pages of story and art

The Dusk County Chronicles returns for a second issue, thanks to the creative talents of Joel Rodriguez (writer) and Roman Gubskii (artist). The nightmares that plagued this small county are not over yet, as Rodriguez and Gubskii provide four more tales of terror, providing unexpected twists on somewhat familiar stories...only this time, Rodriguez goes beyond the well known into the little known fairy tales, children's stories, and folklore to give readers more chills than before!

The book begins with "A Mother's Love," a story about the lengths a mother will go to protect her child. The story opens with a women carrying a little boy, running through the woods with the realization that monsters are real.  A shadowy creature is chasing them, and the woman is determined to do whatever it takes to protect her child.  Night has fallen, and she knows she only needs to last until the break of dawn, at which point, the monster will be gone, and they will be safe.  Or will they? Remember, in The Dusk County Chronicles, everything is not always what it seems...oh, and if you are wondering what story this was taken from? Well, there's mention of a bag and an umbrella, so you figure it out...

"Niki" is a completely different sort of tale (or is that tail?).  Dan is in the hospital, unconscious.  Michelle is attending, and her friend, Eddie, who is a police officer, is there to keep her company.  When she tells him Frank is on the way with the equipment they need, Eddie becomes a bit concerned.  "Frank's coming?" he asks. "Does he still have that damn dog?"  The dog in question is Niki. And then the lights go out. And then there is a "thud" in the other room. And then Frank shows up, bloody, missing a hand, with Niki. You see, Niki is a dog that looks like a wolf. Plus, Niki sees things. Niki knows things.  And before the night is over, Eddie will learn that outward appearances can be deceiving...

The next story returns readers to the station of DC-34, where a young woman sits, remembering the land of wonder she once visited (gee, any idea who she might be?).  "No Longer" is told completely in rhyme, and therein, the young woman finds her cherished wonderland has been turned into a nightmarish wasteland, with old friends dead, and those who aren't have become dark and deadly.  But just when she thinks her time is up, just when she thinks she's reached the end, her eyes flutter open and she sits up in bed.  It was only a dream. Only a dream.  But it wasn't a dream.  Remember, this is Dusk County, and in Dusk County, a dream is actually nothing more than ... a nightmare ...

The horror story that rounds out this issue is "The Toy Box," and quite frankly, this is possibly the darkest of them all, and that's no lie!  A father stops by a toy story to pick up something for his newborn son.  This toy shop is very special, as the owner practically raised the man when his parents left.  But the owner has recently died, and his son now runs the shop, carrying on his father's tradition. So, would he like to buy one of his latest creations?  He can make stringed puppets just as well as his father could - some would say even better! After all, they are so life-like.  So realistic.  So, do you want one?  Do you?  C'mon, don't leave me hanging...

The stories are getting darker, bloodier, and scarier - which means to say, they are getting better and better! Dusk County is not a place I would want to visit for real, that's for sure, but I definitely will be back for another visit when The Dusk County Chronicles issue 3 comes around!  After all, this is the kind of horror anthology title that is missing from comics today!

RATING:  10 burning mushrooms out of 10 for terrifying tales that will satisfy the most rabid horror fan!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Jade Necklace - a Mystery Story for Girls

Pemberton Ginther (series-book.com) is the pen name of Mary Pemberton Heyler, who was an artist as well as an author of children's books. She wrote three books in the "Mystery Stories for Girls" series published by Cupples & Leon: The Thirteenth Spoon, The Secret Stair, and this one that I am reviewing here - The Jade Necklace. All three were apparently published way back in 1932.

I have all three of Ginther's books in my collection, but The Jade Necklace is my most recent acquisition. I have read The Thirteenth Spoon and The Secret Stair, but quite frankly, neither of those books were very thrilling.  I did notice, however, that all three books are titled in the same format - the word "The" followed by an adjective followed by an object/noun. Not sure if this was intentional or just happened that way based on the stories. Regardless, I did not have high hopes going in to read The Jade Necklace. And it's a good thing I didn't get my hopes up, otherwise, they would have come crashing down as I struggled to get through the book.

Perhaps it was the time period in which the book was written, or perhaps it was simply Heyler's (nee, Ginther's) writing style, but the story was rather dull, the mystery tame at best, and the characters a bit too stereotypical (the timid heroine, the cruel and conniving guardian, the weak wife, the boisterous son, the pretty but dim daughter, the gossipy maid, the mysterious stranger, the underhanded foreigner, the odd neighbor, etc.). The mystery surrounding the jade necklace (for which the book was named, after all) doesn't truly come into play until the last few chapters, and even then, the mystery is not all that exciting.

Roslyn Blake, the central character in the book, is the stereotypical orphan, living with an overbearing and greedy guardian, who refuses to provide for her from the funds with which he was entrusted to care for her. She wishes to study music, but her guardian says no, as he "invested" her funds. While the author does not reveal it until much later, it is obvious from the beginning that the new house he moves the family into was funded with Roslyn's money. (Don't worry - that's not really a spoiler, since, as I say, it is more than obvious even to the most casual of readers.)  The Honorable James Chilton (as her guardian refers to himself and requires others to call him) was a friend of Roslyn's father, so when her father died, he entrusted his friend with the care of his only child. Chilton, of course, abuses that trust. He is a conceited, self-serving man who is ever vigilant for reasons to insult and degrade his own family, meanwhile putting on airs to all those around him.

The mystery (sort-of) begins when Roslyn's birthday arrives, and she opens a gift that her father had left for her when she reaches this age. It is a jade necklace that he claims is a reproduction, as well as a Chinese snuff bottle that appears to be quite valuable. (NOTE - I had to look up what a snuff bottle is, as I had never heard of it. Apparently, these were used by the Chinese to hold powdered tobacco back in the day.)  She wraps them both back up and at various times throughout the book, she pulls them out and looks at them, considers selling them, and puts them back.  An Easterner comes to stay with the family, along with his adviser, Mr. Han, and his servant, Hop Kee. Han and Kee both show an interest in Roslyn and her jade necklace at various points in the book, but several times, the box goes missing; but, each time, Roslyn finds it and vows to keep it safe. She ultimately discovers the truth about the jade necklace, which results in the only real suspenseful moment in the book - when Roslyn gets a sack pulled over her had and she is taken to the cemetery and tied to a stone angel.

The dialects in the book are difficult to read - - not because of the way they are written, but because, with today's mentality, seeing the foreigners, as well as those of certain ethnicities, portrayed as being unable to speak naturally makes me cringe. Again, I realize this book is a product of its time, and back in the '30s, it was likely acceptable to portray Chinese and African-Americans in this way. But the fact that the author comes right out and calls certain individuals (such as the maid's mother) fat and an elephant is vulgar, and I am surprised the publisher allowed such insults to be published in a children's book.

Along with the mystery of the jade necklace, there are elements of mystery surrounding Mr. Wong, who has a Chinese name but looks very much European, as well as surrounding the Childtons' neighbor, Miss Bump, who is an author of romance novels with a flair for the dramatic.  Neither of these truly go anywhere, and the revelations regarding both near the end of the book were very bland. By the time the main mystery gets going in the last couple of chapters in the book, I had already grown tired and was ready for the book to end.

Having now read all three of Ginther's books in this series, I can say with all sincerity that I would not recommend them to anyone looking for an engaging, well-written mystery.

RATING:  4 gas-saving inventions out of 10 for giving readers a few humorous moments with Ling-Loo (Kee's pet monkey), Bob's driving antics, and Gladys's blunt observations.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Boystown, Season Four

Previously in Boystown:  Max and Emmet opened up their new restaurant/club, but Ben had other plans. To get revenge on all the people who he believed had wronged him, Ben locked all the doors to the club from the outside and planted a bomb in the basement - the only problem was, he got trapped in the basement with the bomb! As the grand opening celebration began, there was an explosion, and fire began to consume the building with all the party-goers trapped inside...

This was the perfect "season" cliffhanger, so I was definitely ready to pick up book four (or should I say "season" four) to find out who died, who survived, and whose lives are forever changed by the fire. Plus, we can't forget that Derek was shot at the end of book three and left to die, bleeding out onto the sidewalk in front of his home. Did he survive? Author Jake Biondi is the perfect soap opera writer! This man knows how to write drama, how to draw the reader into these outrageous situations, and how to keep the suspense and mystery going without drawing the stories out too long. There are plenty of jaw-dropping moments, plenty of racy and heated sexual encounters, and plenty of over-the-top soap opera tropes that left me smiling and wanting for more. Betrayals, lies, secrets, break-ups, cheats, schemes, attempted murders, blackmails, and so much more - I quite honestly have found myself liking this series more than Dynasty, The Colbys, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, Dallas, or any of the other nighttime soaps!

Every except _____ manages to escape the fire (you didn't really think I was going to reveal that, did you??), but some do not escape unscathed.  Logan has severe burns on his body that leave him scarred for life, and not just physically. Will his and Justin's relationship stand the test? Max and Emmet have lost not only their club, but also their home and all of their possessions. Plus, Emmet unknowingly signed away all of his shares to the Mancini family business to Rachel, thanks to the reluctant help of Keith and Jensen, who Rachel blackmailed into assisting her with her twisted plan. And with those shares, Rachel and Marco are set to take over the Mancini business - particularly once Marco reveals the identity of the missing Mancini brother. Biondi played it well, as the revelation comes at the most opportune moment, when everyone is gathered and the most amount of lives will be affected - particularly when it is revealed there is not one, but TWO brothers!

Meanwhile, Joyelle is revealed to be pregnant, which could change the life of either Tyler or Derek forever, depending on who the father is. Of course, with any good soap, nothing is what it seems, and the shocking identity of the father is certainly a revelation worth waiting for!

And speaking of poor Derek. He does survive the shooting, but the mystery remains - who tried to kill him? His brother, Justin, becomes the prime suspect when his gun is found not far from the crime scene. But Justin claims to be innocent. Is he?  Has he truly changed his ways? And how will this affect his upcoming nuptials to Gino Ciancio?  As this is going on, David is beginning his new relationship with Cole, who has finally put Derek behind him.  But has he really?  When Derek's divorce becomes final, who will Cole choose?  And speaking of relationships, Michael's comes to an end when he finds out the secret that Keith has been keeping from him.  Can Keith survive without Michael in his life?

As if all this were not enough, Michael's brother Mateo arrives on the scene as the new Chief of Staff at the hospital.  He bring his son, Hugo, with him. Hugo is harboring a secret from his father, though - he is gay. And just as he and Jensen begin to date, Rachel appears on the scene.  Only, she's not just out for Mateo - she has her eyes set on his son as well!

All of these relationships and machinations come crashing together as Season Four reaches its conclusion, giving readers not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR cliffhangers!  Someone is pushed over a balcony to land on the hard concrete far below ... someone who is pregnant has sharp pains stabbing through her abdomen as she collapses ... someone trying to escape his past is hit by a car, his body thrown in the air, only to land on the asphalt where a pool of blood forms around him ... and a wedding party takes off in a plane that is headed for disaster!  Oh, and did I happen to mention that there is a villainous return from the dead at the end of the book that definitely sets the stage for Season Five!

Biondi has quickly become one of my favorite authors. He brings his characters to life and makes them believable, despite the crazy situations and constant partner-hopping; and all the mystery, murder, and mayhem keep my turning page after page - it's nearly impossible to put the book down until I've finished it!  Thank God this is not a television show, where I would have to wait six months or more to see what happens next.  Instead, I can just go pick up the next book and start reading to see how these cliffhangers get resolved!

RATING:  9 totally unexpected birthday gifts out of 10 for keeping the twists and turns coming and making Alexis and J.R. appear tame compared to these guys!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Spencer & Locke 2 - an Action Lab sequel mini-series

Calvin & Hobbes are back! Er, no, wait...that's not right. Spencer & Locke are back! Yeah, that's it...

Okay, I was joking, but let's face it. The original Spencer & Locke mini-series by Action Lab was a whole lot of fun, and it was a clear take on the old Calvin & Hobbes comic strip from the newspapers. Only Calvin (a/k/a Locke) is all grown up, and his tiger best friend, Hobbes (a/k/a Spencer) is more than just a cohort in fun - he's a furious feral fighting machine out to help his best friend in all of his capers as a detective.

In this follow-up to the much-enjoyed first mini-series, Locke has a new outlook on life, has a daughter he never knew he had, and has a whole new villain to face down in the form of Roach Riley (a/k/a Beetle Bailey). Written by David Pepose, the story is a mix of dark violence and comic strip humor, with plenty of nods to some very recognizable comic strips (such as Marmaduke, Hagar the Horrible, Family Circus, Dick Tracy, Dilbert, and so on), and each issue opens with a full page strip of Roach Riley. These opening sequences definitely set the tone for the series, as they start out light-hearted enough, but that last couple of panels turn violently deadly - and are a foreshadowing of what Roach is doing within the story...

Locke is trying to lay low, figure out his issues - but when a local politician's wife seeks his help in protecting her husband from the madman who is killing all of the other political leaders in town (Roach Riley, perhaps?), he turns her down - even though she gives him the incentive of having his daughter removed from foster care and placed with him. It's a tough decision, but he knows his life is too dangerous for her. Star reporter, Melinda Mercury, is prepared to help him - and before you know it, Locke and his partner, Spencer, find themselves in the thick of things again.  Only this time, he has a daughter watching him, emulating him, and ... helping him?!?!

The story has plenty of emotional drama to it, as well as lots of action. The reader can easily sympathize with Locke - his wanting to keep all of his baggage away from his daughter so she will have a better life than he did; wanting to hold on to the more innocent times of his childhood (by hanging on to Spencer); unable to ignore a cry for help; and ultimately releasing all of that rage on someone that has done so much damage to the world.  But his actions in this story do not come without a cost. Locke pays a very high price, indeed!

Pepose also plays a lot more in this mini-series on the fact that Spencer is only just a part of Locke's imagination - that he's not real, and the actions taken by Spencer are actually by Locke, even though he doesn't see it that way.  At least, not until the very end of the fourth and final issue - and the reader is left to wonder if that ending could result in the end of Spencer.

The art by Jorge Santiago is very noir and gives the story its gritty, urban feel. Not a real big fan of the coloring by Jasen Smith. It is very heavy on the blues and reds, with lots of shadowing - honestly, it drew me out of the story in a number of places, and I had to just kind of re-read what I was reading to get back into it. But, it wasn't bad enough to ruin my enjoyment of the story.  This mini-series was just as good as the first, and leaves me hoping for a third one in the future.

RATING:  8 trusty stuffed-rabbit sidekicks out of 10 for twisting the comic strip characters into a whole new idea and making it a great read!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Tom Swift Inventors' Academy, Book 1 - The Drone Pursuit

As the old saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again! And that is something Tom Swift knows something about. Not only is he an inventor from days of old, but the character has been reinvented not once - not twice - not even three times! No, Edward Stratemeyer's creation has been reimagined, recreated, and reinvented a total of five times since his original incarnation back in the early twentieth century. First, there was simply Tom Swift. Then, there was Tom Swift, Jr. Then, when Simon & Schuster took over publication, Tom Swift was sent into space. Then, to take advantage of the success of the Hardy Boys Case Files and the Nancy Drew Files, Tom Swift was reborn yet again. In the early twenty-first century, with the reboot of both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, Tom Swift saw publication yet again, this time as the Young Inventor. Now, in 2019, Tom Swift is given life one more time in Simon & Schuster's latest revival of the character in the Tom Swift Inventors' Academy series.

The one thing I've noticed about Tom Swift is that with each new series they come out with, Tom is updated and the stories are more focused on the up-and-coming technology of the time. And, of course, that makes sense when you are working with a series that is technology and invention based. The Drone Pursuit, which is the first book in this new series, centers around a new drone that Tom and his best friend, Noah, have built. They are planning to enter it into the upcoming competition and are testing it out in the school halls when it gets confiscated by the school janitor, who takes it down to the basement. Oh, and shortly thereafter, Tom and Noah, along with their friend Amy (who has a photographic memory) discover that the janitor bears a very strong resemblance to a criminal hacker known as Shadow Hawk. Who was never captured. And who could very well be working in the halls of Swift Academy. The question is - - why?

The story plays on the technology of today - cell phones, computers, video feed, drones, tracking, robotics, etc. And the students at Swift Academy are all top notch in the field, constantly experimenting and creating new things. Plus, with the school located right next to Swift Enterprises, the major tech company owned by Tom's father (Tom, Sr.), it makes it the perfect place for a hacker to come in and try to sneak into the Swift Enterprises' computers through a back door in the system. And when Tom, Noah and Amy discover that Mr. Conway (the janitor) has a computer in a locked basement room that somehow manages to not get shut down when a virus affects everything else in the school, the kids realize that they have to figure out what is going on fast, or Swift Enterprises' secrets could be stolen!

The ghostwriter for the series does not really give any introduction to the two main characters, Tom and Noah - rather, the reader is simply dropped in the middle of class with them as they are testing the drone.  Throughout the story, a few tidbits about them and their family and past are dropped, but not so much as to allow the reader to really get to know them. It's almost as if the reader is expected to know already who Tom Swift is and just go with it. And while the standard chapter "cliffhangers" are not overly exciting, the story itself does move at a pretty good pace, and there are some suspenseful, as well as humorous, moments throughout the books (the closet scene is definitely both!).  Also, with only 130 pages of story, there is not much time for lots of character development and rich descriptions - perhaps as the series progresses, the writer(s) will provide more info about Tom, his family, his background, etc., so that readers will have a good, well-rounded character, rather than a simple two-dimensional cut-out of a techie-kid.

One thing that I do have to mention, however, is the chapter names. Whoever had the idea to use chapter names that are very reminiscent of the episode titles of The Big Bang Theory deserves a raise. I love them!!  "The Evasion Equation."  The Communication Complication."  "The Extraction Distraction."  All of the chapters are named in this fashion, and I hope the publisher continues this, as it definitely brought a smile to my face with each one I saw!

And for those who are wondering - yes, as with the last Tom Swift, Young Inventor series, the books are written in first person (just like the Nancy Drew Diaries and Hardy Boys Adventures).  This seems to be the latest trend, so I doubt very seriously Simon & Schuster will publish any future Stratemeyer property series in third person - that seems to be a thing of the past (just like internal illustrations, which is something I still miss from these books).  Something interesting, though, that neither the Hardy Boys nor the Nancy Drew books do - this series has an author page at the end which simply reads: "Victor Appleton is the author of the classic Tom Swift books."  Not sure what prompted this author page blurb, or why they acknowledge Victor Appleton, when it is simply a pseudonym for who knows how many ghostwriters over the years.  Will be curious to see if this author page continues in future books of this series.

RATING:  7 weird ghost texts out of 10 for bringing this classic character back and providing a fairly palatable story that is worth the read.