Recent Reviews by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

 


Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York
by Renee Wendinger

(Legendary Publications / 978-0-615-29755-2 / 2009 / 180 pages / Hardcover $29.95)
Reviewed by Donna Aviles for PODBRAM

The orphan train movement of 1854-1929 was a 75-year period in American history when over 250,000 orphaned and abandoned children were transported by train from East coast cities to farming communities in the Midwest in search of homes. The brainchild of Rev. Charles Loring Brace who founded the Children’s Aid Society, the process was soon duplicated by other agencies, including the New York Foundling Hospital. Known at the time as “placing out”, the orphan train movement has come to be recognized as the forerunner of today’s foster care system.

Renee Wendinger, president of the Orphan Train Riders of NY and daughter of orphan train rider Sophie Kaminsky Hillesheim, has recently released Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York. A wonderful addition to other books available on this subject, Extra! Extra! takes a unique approach to the topic, educating the reader through archival materials such as newspaper articles, rider biographies, letters written by mothers who were forced to abandon their children, and original poetry. There are several books that delve deeply into the history of this time, but this work puts a very personal face on the subject that will no doubt grab the interest of anyone who is fortunate enough to pick it up.

A 170-page hardcover, 8 ½ x 11 book using high quality gloss paper, Extra! Extra! is divided into two sections. The first half of the book gives a concise history of the orphan trains, the Children’s Aid Society and the New York Foundling Hospital. There are many wonderful photographs and drawings on each page and, as someone who has studied and written about the orphan trains, I was thrilled to find new and interesting material and pictures. There are over thirty biographies of children who rode the trains and there is even an entry by Baby Peggy, a child star from the 1900’s who visited the Foundling Home in 1923.

The second half of Extra! Extra! is devoted to the Newsboys and Bootblacks of the time period. I was most struck to learn that although these boys worked for pennies a day, they had a strong code of conduct and were especially protective of one another. The reader will learn – through photos and news articles of the day – about the lodging, lifestyle, and struggles of the thousands of adolescent boys who often opted for the chance of a better life in the West (via the orphan trains).

Extra! Extra! is well designed and edited, published independently through Legendary Publications. This documentary type book has already gained the attention of professors at Brooklyn College who have developed a graduate level course based on Extra! Extra! entitled, Flight of the Social Classes in Urban Communities.

Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York is sold exclusively through Renee Wendinger’s website at The Orphan Train.



 

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Honest Sid:
Memoir of a Gambling Man

by Ronald Probstein

(iUniverse / 1-440-14187-8 / 978-1-440-14187-4 / May 2009 / 208 pages / $17.95 / $12.21 Amazon / $27.95 hardcover / $19.13 Amazon / $9.95 Kindle)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Sid Probstein lived the life of a gambler and bookie in and around the area of Broadway in New York City during the post WWI and Great Depression era of the 1920’s and 30’s. Sid lived by the motto, “If you’re going to live outside the law, you’d better be honest.” Friendly and well liked, as well as a master of impression, Honest Sid (as he came to be known) was skilled at covering up his shortcomings, creating the guise of success and accomplishment while in fact, he was often just one bet away from financial ruin. Ever the optimist, Honest Sid was quick to find the silver lining in every cloud that darkened his path. He lovingly pursued his wife-to-be, Sally and doted on his only child, Ronald, whom he came to view as his one big success.

Author Ronald Probstein provides for us, in Honest Sid: Memoir of a Gambling Man, a peek inside the social scene of two important decades in American history through the daily life and experiences of his father. Much more insightful than a typical history textbook outlining the facts and figures of a generation, memoirs such as Honest Sid serve to reconstruct the fabric of daily life for which written evidence is often scarce and would otherwise be lost to those of us who have not lived it.

Ronald Probstein left his father’s world of illegal gambling after graduating from high school in 1944 and enrolling at New York University where, during his sophomore year, he was offered a paid research position and awarded an academic scholarship to continue his studies. Probstein went on to become an eminent scientist and is now Ford Professor of Engineering, Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although they came to lead dissimilar lives (My father neither knew nor understood anything about science or engineering), the father-son bond remained strong until Sid’s untimely death. Mr. Probstein’s book is a loving tribute to his father’s life and is of greatest value to both his family for generations to come, and to those of us who savor the opportunity to step back and experience life in a different time.

Technically this book is very well done with a uniform, visually appealing layout and only a few errors in spelling and punctuation – easily overlooked by the engaged reader. I would have enjoyed the addition of some period photographs not only of the book’s characters but also of the NYC landmarks mentioned in the book and the family’s various living and workspaces. I enjoyed reading and learning about Honest Sid and can readily recommend Mr. Probstein’s book to anyone with an interest in the memoir genre or life during the pre-depression and Great Depression era.

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Megan’s Way
by Melissa Foster

(Outskirts Press / 1-432-74442-9 / 978-1-432-74442-7 / July 2009 / 304 pages / $14.95 / Amazon $13.45 / Kindle $5.99)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Megan Taylor is a single mom with a fourteen-year-old daughter, a tight knit circle of friends, a self-made career as a muralist, and terminal cancer.  When Megan’s Way opens up, Megan’s cancer, which had been in remission, has returned with a vengeance.  Although she has medication that may prolong the inevitable, she makes the difficult decision to forgo further treatment, effectively shortening her life and by extension she hopes, her daughter’s suffering.

 

Knowing that she will not be there for her daughter, Megan tries to gently push Olivia away in an effort to have her become more independent.  Not knowing that her mother’s cancer has returned, Olivia feels confused and hurt by her mother’s actions. She becomes increasingly distant and withdrawn, eventually acting out in a dangerous way in a bid for her mom’s attention.

 

Megan’s best friend since childhood, Holly, is married to Jack who has also been in her inner circle of friends for years. Peter is the fourth friend in the group and he has been in and out of a relationship with his partner Cruz, unable to commit totally – perhaps because of his mother’s abandonment when he was just a child.  All of these friends have a strong allegiance to one another and especially to Megan.  They also all have some pretty intense secrets for a group of adults that are so connected.

 

In her debut novel, Melissa Foster weaves a tale of friendship and love intertwined with threads of heartache, deceit and missed opportunity.  Her characters are complex and for the most part well developed although I did find some of their decisions and actions to be questionable.

 

 Holly, for example, is defined in the beginning of the story by her longing for the child that she and Jack are unable to conceive.  When her secret is revealed near the end of the book, however, her actions and negative feelings towards Megan are out of sync with the Holly that we’ve come to know. 

 

Megan and Olivia have an unexplainable, almost spiritual connection that allows Megan to feel the same pain that Livi feels even as she feels it.  This ability is witnessed by Megan’s friends on several occasions.  For some readers that would be a hard pill to swallow in itself, but with the final reveal, it is thrown even further into question. 

 

One of my favorite characters, and one that seems to have been overlooked by previous reviewers of Megan’s Way, was Jason.  He is a young boy that Olivia befriends after Megan’s passing.  Jason has lost his own parents to a tragic accident and his friendship and understanding are a key element in helping Olivia through the most difficult time in her young life.

 

Technically the book is well done with only a few, easy to overlook errors and a larger than normal font for an adult book.  What I really find impressive is the author’s presence on the web and the exposure she has been able to garner for Megan’s Way after only a few short months in publication.  Melissa Foster is clearly an author who entered the world of independent publishing with not only a vision for her book, but also a well thought out marketing plan.    

 

Megan’s Way arrived in my mailbox with Melissa Foster’s business card which reads in part, “A mother’s journey, a daughter’s will to survive, and a circle of friends shrouded in secrets.”  I was intrigued and dove right in hoping for a great read and I was not disappointed.  Thank you, Melissa, for the opportunity to get to know Megan and the gang!

 

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Southcrop Forest
by Lorne Rothman

(iUniverse / 0-595-49588-5 / 978-0-595-49588-7 / June 2008 / 184 pages / Ages 9-12 / $13.95)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Auja, a young red oak tree, has discovered an amazing creature nibbling on her broadleaves – a collective of tent caterpillars that can actually speak to her! With Southcrop Forest in danger of extinction at the hands of the hewmen and their rollers, the collective – known as Fur – is the only being that can save the trees from certain doom. But doing so will mean a long and arduous journey through dangerous terrain to gather a secret gift that will save Southcrop Vision (the trees’ ability to communicate with one another through their roots, soil and leaves) and the forests themselves. With constant encouragement from his new friend Auja, little Fur takes on the challenge, devoting his entire short life in a quest to save the trees.

Zoologist Lorne Rothman, has delivered in Southcrop Forest a unique combination of science and fantasy designed, I believe, to spark the reader’s imagination as well as one’s conscience to the ecological dangers of over-cutting in our forests. Additionally, there is such an abundance of educational information intertwined throughout the story, as well as in the author’s end notes, that the book could easily be used as a classroom tool. Determining the proper age group for the book, however, might prove to be a challenge. Some of the well researched science and language is quite advanced while portions of the dialog and general story are more appropriate for a younger reader. The target audience might fall somewhere between 10 and 15 year olds, with careful oversight and discussion given to the younger end of that range to ensure that they fully comprehend the story and the science.

The book ends with an intriguing final sentence that leaves me thinking that perhaps this is only the beginning of Mr. Rothman’s eco-fantasy adventures!

 

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Calling Out Your Name
by Ned White

(CreateSpace / 1-442-13242-6 / 978-1-442-13242-9 / April 2009 / 206 pages / $14.95)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Woody Elmont of Ogamesh, Georgia, has more on his plate, and on his mind, than most sixteen-year-olds. His father abandoned the family when his mother was pregnant with Woody’s younger brother. His mom later died leaving her two sons in the care of their Aunt Zee. By the time the story opens, the tables have turned and the aging Aunt Zee is the one who needs to be cared for as her mind and body begin to fail. To complicate things, Woody’s younger brother, Tick, is mildly developmentally disabled with little understanding of right and wrong. Woody tries to be the man of the house and handle all these circumstances, but when Tick is sent to a juvenile home for shoplifting, Woody has a guilty sense of relief that at least one burden is in someone else’s hands. When Tick disappears from St. Anselm’s after a questionable fire at the facility, Woody feels it’s his responsibility to bring his “zoo headed brother” back home before he finds himself in even more trouble.

Calling Out Your Name by Ned White is an exciting and adventuresome tale of one boy’s journey toward adulthood as he makes his way across the country seeking to find and save his brother. The story is chocked full of well developed, believable characters who each, in his own way, teaches Woody meaningful life lessons. A unique and surprising twist at the end of Woody’s journey helps him to fully understand earlier events in his life and leaves the reader with a satisfying ending. Mr. White writes with an authentic southern voice, placing the reader in the center of the action, thus making for an engaging, enjoyable read. Technically, this book is professionally presented with only a few errors – nothing that causes the reader to become distracted.

Although billed as a “novel for young adults”, Calling Out Your Name is a story that will be enjoyed by both young and old alike. Mr. White is a talented writer – this is the second of his books that I have reviewed – and I look forward to reading more.

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Place by Ned White
(CreateSpace / 1-442-14874-8 / 978-1-442-14874-1 / April 2009 / 236 pages / $16.95 / Smashwords $2.95)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Abigail Sipes is a highly sought after, independent corporate consultant. Hugh Ogden is a brilliant computer software engineer who is eager to sell his cutting-edge company, which harnesses distributed intelligence, before the tech bubble bursts. When their paths cross during acquisition talks, the attraction is immediate and intense.

Divorced for the past six years with a daughter in college on the East coast, Hugh’s marriage was failed from the start and he longs for a sense of place, a connection to planet Earth, a life free from the ordinary and expected. Abby, at thirty-six, has been a widow for four years although she willingly admits that she “didn’t like him much.” An unspeakable, life-altering event from her past has damaged her own sense of place and is preventing her – literally – from moving forward with her life. Together, Hugh and Abby seek to build a new family and repair that damage in an effort to become whole.

Place, set in a post 9/11 America, is a thoughtful exploration of family connections both in the here and now, as well as across the veil of time and space. Very well written with a unique, matter-of-fact prose, this intriguing story may leave the reader rethinking their understanding of what can and cannot possibly happen. The back cover blurb…A wounded life in a fractured land, she keeps disappearing… does not begin to touch on the depth and complexity of this story. Definitely worth the read, I look forward to reviewing Ned White’s earlier work, Calling Out Your Name.

 

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Mysterious Magical Circus Family Kids:
The Chocolate Cake Turkey Lip Crumb Trail Mystery Adventure
by R. Hawk Starkey

(Outskirts Press / 1-432-73096-7 / 978-1-432-73096-3 / December 2008 / 192 pages / Ages 9-12 / Amazon $13.95)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Author R. Hawk Starkey grew up in the creative and unique environment of the circus where his parents performed as acrobats. Drawing from those early life experiences, Starkey delivers an adventurous tale of magic and mystery as the Circus Family Kids and their traveling caravan head over the mountains for a show in the next town.

The Circus Kids, with names like “Goodnight Irene”, “Sweet Lips”, and “Bobby Sock”, each have special powers that audience members assume to be illusions of some sort but which are, in fact, true magic. These magical powers come in handy as their travels lead them through one unexplainable encounter after another. Following a trail of ever moving chocolate cake crumbs which seem to point the way, the kids and their family caravan are met with quicksand, dinosaurs, storybook characters come to life, loss of gravity and much more as they forge ahead toward their destination.

Starkey has a unique, familial writing style and frequently uses nonsense expressions that may prove entertaining to the 9-12 year old reader. Throughout the fifty-eight short chapters, the author interjects some of life’s important lessons through the voice of the children’s Grandfather: Be kind to those who are different from you…Consider the power of your words…Protect our oceans and forests…Turn problems into adventures, just to name a few.

The illustrations throughout the book, by artist Gary Potratz, are quite enchanting. The portrait of Grandfather is especially well done. While I enjoyed the five young characters in Mysterious Magical Circus Family Kids: The Chocolate Cake Turkey Lip Crumb Trail Mystery Adventure, as well as a few of the magical encounters, I felt that the never ending stream of obstacles was a bit much. Everything and anything that could possibly have gotten in their way, showed up. One central mystery, as opposed to a multitude of quickly solved encounters, would have made for better plot development and a fuller, more intriguing story. As written, I would say the storyline is appropriate for the 6-8 year old reader if it were slimmed down and set in a larger font. A more concise, memorable title would be beneficial as well.





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Bark up the Right Tree:
Lessons from a Rescued Dog
By Jessie & Ruth Tschudin

(BookSurge / 1-439-21424-7 / 978-1-439-21424-4 / January 2009 / 112 pages / $12.95)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Jessie the black lab, rescued from a shelter and now living with her new family, has written her very own book to share her lessons learned in a whimsical, easy to read style that serves to shed light on the important issue of abandoned animals.

Impeccably edited and formatted for visual appeal, Bark Up the Right Tree has the added bonus of recapping Jessie’s experiences on the “PAWS For Lessons Learned” page at the end of each chapter. These are, in fact, universal lessons (take care of those you love, look for and bring out the best in each other, let go of the past, make good use of today) that can be taken to heart by dogs and people alike.

Jessie’s book, and her new life after being rescued, is spiritually inspired by her new owner Ruth who envisioned Jessie’s role in the Kids N Kritters campaign to help homeless children and animals find the loving families that they need. Through prayer and perseverance, this appears to be becoming a reality. Unfortunately, since the book only covers the first year of Jessie’s new “rescued” life, the story ends when she receives her Therapy Dog Photo ID. I would have liked to have read more about her work as a therapy dog, and her “Waggin’ Wagon” adventures that were referred to throughout the book but never truly materialized for the reader.

Bark Up the Right Tree includes many color photos of Jessie and her new family and friends, and the cover has a professional look and feel. I could easily see it being marketed at veterinary offices and pet stores. Jessie’s book is a delightful tale that will be sure to please animal lovers of all ages.

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Saints in the City
by Andie Andrews

(Outskirts Press / 1-432-71104-0 / 978-1-432-71104-7 / December 2008 / 372 pages / $19.95 / Amazon $14.36 / Kindle $5.59)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Based on the Biblical precept, do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it, Andie Andrews’ Saints in the City is a remarkable story that explores the easily overlooked connections between Heaven and Earth. If you are one to steer clear of the Christian Literature genre, I urge you to put any preconceived notions aside and give Saints in the City a try. The biblical aspects of this book are so easily and naturally woven into the overall story – a story of love and compassion, as well as betrayal and abuse – that you may well be turning pages late into the night.

Helen Baldwin, a transplanted Appalachian, finds herself living in urban New Jersey with her new husband Todd, an overworked Baptist minister. While Todd pursues his dream of becoming a famous televangelist at the expense of his relationship with his wife, Helen finds a sense of belonging and purpose working at the local soup kitchen. There she finds her own ministry of sorts as she spends time with the homeless, the mentally ill, the drug addicts and the war ravaged vets who frequent the center for a warm meal. When she becomes particularly drawn to one visitor, Helen risks the security of her well planned life to discover the connection that both reaches into her past and is destined to become her future.

The author provides just the right amount of descriptive prose to drop you smack in the middle of each scene, along with well-developed characters and surprising plot twists that kept this reader fully engaged right through to the last paragraph where the final, surprise connection was revealed. Suitable for the young adult through mature reader, Saints in the City will challenge you to look more deeply at those damaged by life’s demons and realize that through love and faith – and a few good connections – healing is possible.

Technically, I would recommend using italics or some other visual way of alerting the reader when the point of view changes to that of the narrator – St. Francis of Assisi in the form of Frankie the Addict. It would help those passages to flow a little more smoothly. I quickly caught on, but it was a bit abrupt. Additionally, I think perhaps too much of the story was given in the blurb on the back of the book.

Saints in the City would make a wonderful, thought provoking selection for any Book Club (I’ve already suggested it for my own!) so a list of Discussion Questions in the back of the book would be a great idea to get readers thinking in that direction. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to read and review this book and will seek out other titles by Andie Andrews in the future!


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Dirkle Smat and the Flying Statue
By Lynn D. Garthwaite & Craig Howarth
(illustrator)
(Castle Keep Press / 1-596-63553-3 / 978-1-596-63553-1 / April 2007 / 60 pages / $9.95)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Dirkle Smat and his Explorer Club friends are ready for adventure as they set out to determine the source of the midnight sightings in the sky over their small town. Some believe that it may be the Pegasus Statue in the town square that comes to life on a full moon, but how can a marble statue fly?

Author Lynn D. Garthwaite does a fine job of mixing adventure, gadgetry and perilous situations in just the right proportions for the curious minded young boy, keeping him engaged throughout the 41 pages. A sprinkling of well-drawn black and white illustrations throughout adds a visual element to the story that serves to hold the young reader’s attention as well. I especially liked the creativity of adding pages in the back of the book to start your own Explorers Club.

Although the book says that it is for ages 5-10, that is a broad age range and I feel that the nine and ten-year-olds would probably come away with a sense of wanting just a little bit more in the way of plot twists. I would recommend this book ideally for boys in the 6-8 age range who will undoubtedly be looking for other titles in this adventure series.

 

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Not Remembered Never Forgotten:
An Adoptee's Search for His Birth Family: A True Story

by Robert Hafetz

(BookSurge / 1-419-69258-5 / 978-1-419-69258-1 / April 2008 / 134 pages / $14.99)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

A beautiful, heartwarming – as well as heart wrenching - true story of loss, longing, and acceptance, Not Remembered Never Forgotten is a book that I will not soon forget. Robert Hafetz is a “sibling of circumstance” with all those who have been a part of the adoption experience. Although there are many books on adoption journeys, Mr. Hafetz’s approach not only covers his search to find his birth mother, her family, and his possible half siblings, he also addresses the almost always overlooked connection between infant and birth mother.

A therapist in the Pennsylvania Mental Health system, Mr. Hafetz explains, from a professional viewpoint yet with clarity for the layperson, the feelings that cannot be put into words when experienced before the infant has the ability to speak or the maturity of mind to comprehend fully. The notion that a newborn will “not remember” is an assumption that has been proven to be false time and again.

Although I am not a member of the adoption triad (birth mother/child/adoptive family), I found myself wondering if this connection that cannot be remembered but likewise is never forgotten, could also hold true with those who have lost their mothers at a very young age through death, divorce, or other permanent separation. I found Mr. Hafetz’s explanations of this pre-cognitive period of human development to be quite fascinating.

Along the way of his compelling search, Mr. Hafetz remarks frequently on the surprise assistance from strangers who have nothing to gain from aiding him in his quest. As one who stands outside the triad, I did not find that surprising at all. Those of us who know our birth mothers have a visceral comprehension of just what Mr. Hafetz is searching for and therefore would almost always be willing to help.

As the adoption process has evolved over the decades, it seems that there is some growing recognition of this early bond as we watch states move away from the secrecy of adoption to a more open and communicative approach. While that change is slow in coming, the access of the adult adoptee to his or her birth records would seem to be a basic right as a citizen that all states should be enforcing.

On a more technical note, the book itself is very well done. The front cover design is amazing both in its symbolism and quality. The back is similarly professional. There are very few interior errors – all of which are easily overlooked by the reader due to the fast paced, “I’m right there with you” storyline. The only thing I might add would be an index since there were several times I tried to go back and find things to read again.

Having only been in publication in paperback since 2008, I would not be at all surprised to find Not Remembered Never Forgotten eventually picked up by a larger publisher for wider distribution.


 

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Mother’s Journals:
Parts 1, 2 and 3

by Zada Connaway

(PublishAmerica / 1-424-16969-0 / 978-1-424-16969-6 / March 2007 / 341 pages / $29.95)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

Mother’s Journals is the generational story of the Jakers family of Charabourgh, a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When Margery, the matriarch of the family, dies after a lifetime of sacrifice and toil, her grown daughter, Mary, discovers her mother’s writings among her personal effects and becomes captivated by the revelations they hold. A survivor of abuse who believes that she murdered her abuser, Margery struggled to raise her children and retain her dignity during the very difficult years of The Great Depression.

Margery’s granddaughter, Ellen, is a successful businesswoman in the hotel industry who comes under the romantic spell of her new boss and quickly accepts his proposal of marriage. When a move to Southern California and a new baby create changes in their relationship, Ellen’s husband Robert becomes disillusioned and controlling, displaying a temper and aggression that Ellen was unaware he possessed. Ellen is forced to flee to the safety of her family where she tries to regain her sense of self worth and start over. Relatives long lost return to their small town and old wounds are healed as this family reflects on opportunities missed and mistakes made.

Mother’s Journals is a story with much potential. Reading the content of Margery’s journals was most intriguing and very well done. Some scenes are graphic and difficult to read, but are necessary in order to convey the horror of the abuse that Margery suffered.

Many young women will see themselves in Ellen’s story of self discovery as she follows her immediate instinct to abandon her career in favor of staying at home to raise her child, only to find herself regretting that choice when her marriage deteriorates because of what she sees as her loss of ambition and hard edge.

Unfortunately, there are several abrupt character changes that leave the reader wondering, “What happened?” Relationships instantly exist and characters make decisions that make little sense given the circumstances at hand. With more plot development, these twists could have worked but instead, this reader was left scratching her head and filling in the blanks. Additionally, there were long periods of telling what happened when showing, through dialog and action, would have been much more engaging.

Detailed scenes of intimacy place this book at the adult reading level.


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Cloud


Cloud by Charles Henry
(Timestone – CreateSpace / 0-615-23388-0 / 978-0-615-23388-8 / December 2008 / 336 pages / $12.99)
Reviewed by Donna Nordmark Aviles for PODBRAM

The Souza Family is vacationing in Colorado when a day trip to the top of Pikes Peak touches off a most unusual and dangerous adventure. As a storm gathers and visitors are encouraged to start heading down the mountain before fog sets in, a small cloud floats in through the open hatch on the family van and is trapped when the doors are shut.

The family comes to realize that the cloud is a sentient being with a personality and emotion. Since the cloudling, which they name Zephyr, needs water and electricity for its survival, the family devises unique ways to recharge their new being, all the while trying to figure out how to return it to its family – the thunderstorm from Pikes Peak.

To complicate matters, the accidental trapping of the cloudling is witnessed by Rick Snyderman of Millennium Weapon Systems. Snyderman also observes the cloudling’s ability to shape shift and evaporate water. MWS is in the business of weapons development and Snyderman’s evil mind begins to conjure up ways to weaponize the cloudling if he can only get his hands on it. The chase is on as the Souzas track the thunderstorm’s eastward movement with the Millennium agents hot on their trail.
Cloud is a fast paced, imaginative adventure story of a family trying to do the right thing in the face of great danger. There are many near misses as the family is pursued, and just when you think this is it, they’re caught
, the family’s ingenuity kicks in and they escape yet again.

There are several Biblical references throughout the story that the author tries to debunk by attributing them to the actions of clouds, thus testing the faith of one of the main characters. In the end, there are no judgments made, just questions asked. It seems that the author wants the reader to question his or her own beliefs with regard to the Bible, however unconvincingly.

The cover design of
Cloud is beautifully done. The use of color and light is wonderful – the passing storm appears nearly photographic. The use of language and spelling are very good, but the text, unfortunately, is in need of a serious edit with regard to all types of punctuation. There are missing periods, dialog errors, and misuse of capital letters, colons and semi-colons. All, of course, are very distracting to the reader. The target audience for Cloud would probably be the pre-teen or teen reader with plenty to hold the interest of boys and girls alike.