The Thin Wall
by Cheryl Anne Gardner
(Twisted Knickers Publications / 0-982-21451-0 / 978-0-982-21451-0 / Second Edition March 2009 / 124 pages / $7.99 / Kindle $2.39)
I think Cheryl Anne Gardner would describe her short novel as an erotic literary novella, and that description is certainly applicable. Ms. Gardner likes to walk on the wild side into brief excursions deep into the psychodrama of relationships, and her fourth book is no exception. Let’s cut to the chase right now and say that I cannot help but refer to Story of O, an earlier work that became quite famous for its descriptions of sadomasochistic relationships. There are two significant differences between the subject matter of the two works, and I feel compelled to let the readers know this in advance. First of all, Story of O is far more a tale of sexual arousal in the classically prurient manner, and secondly, the S/M in that book and movie is far closer to the commonly practiced rituals.
No, I have not read Story of O (at least that I can remember), but I did go to see the movie version with an S/M couple. I am not into that stuff, however you look at it, but only a nut would call me a prude. (Have you read my third book, The Last Horizon?) One of the key issues I remember from the movie is that small whips were often employed and great care was taken to never leave marks or do any significant damage. In contrast to this, although the scenes are very briefly described, the leading lady of The Thin Wall likes to cut herself and bleed profusely. She also likes to be threatened, cut, and abused physically in a manner that would be disapproved by the characters in Story of O. The lady has multiple scars and she is proud of them. I would think that in this time of AIDS and MRSA infections, this practice would be considered incredibly stupid, and I assume that many readers will feel the same concerns. That said, The Thin Wall is not at all repulsive or disgusting in ways that you might imagine, mostly due to the author’s brevity of the descriptions of the sexual encounters.
The Thin Wall is a short story about five old college friends, two women and three men, who are still socializing together at the ripe ages of their late thirties. None of the five are gay, but they are certainly independent singles who have little interest in marriage or children. They meet in the local pub on weekends and visit each other’s apartments and other locations for long-term, yet fleeting, sexual relationships. The plot is set in London and the author is quite obsessed with all things English, including odd spellings and phrases here and there that might easily distract the average American reader. No more plotline or character development will be revealed in this review, but the storyline is as much like The Big Chill or an episode of Friends or Seinfeld as it is Story of O. The five characters interact with each other in personal, revealing ways in a show-don’t-tell, pleasing manner, and there are enough surprises to keep the reader interested until the end.
The biggest complaint I have about The Thin Wall is undoubtedly its brevity. The storyline screams for more detail and the painting of more depth into the characters. Maybe I’m just too old to get it, but I do not understand why anyone wants to write or read such a short book. To me it’s a long short story. Is the book literary and erotic without being tacky or indulgent, just as the author intended? Absolutely. Is it composed, edited, and proofread at least reasonably well? Yes, as long as you include the caveat concerning the British language style, there are few obvious errors. I have to mention one of my favorite books, Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. At more than a thousand pages, it is the opposite of The Thin Wall in an obvious manner. The Witching Hour contains many chilling actions and events in the storyline, and the slowly creeping, in-depth descriptions of the many settings, characters and background stories effectively propel these shocks into the reader’s imagination. Although I recommend Cheryl Anne Gardner’s The Thin Wall to anyone who wants to enjoy a quick psychodrama, the same story fleshed out to four times its length with more varied settings, additional characters, and more extensive, carefully crafted descriptions would pack a much larger wallop.
See Also: The Kissing Room
The Splendor of Antiquity
Cheryl Anne Gardner's Website
Cheryl's Articles & Reviews at POD People
I'm not sure exactly why the guy you see pictured here calls his new POD review site The Boogle, but since this is a slow holiday weekend on the web, I thought I would throw my curmudgeon hat in the lake and be nice. Of course this being Memorial Day Weekend, my hat is the only thing I plan to launch in the lake right now. As The Fonz used to say about the Saturday night dating ritual, "It's amateur night". We went out on the lake last Wednesday, and we shall be keeping our hull dry until Tuesday! The only boating I plan to do this holdiday weekend is to work on the new 2009 edition of Ker-Splash! Mark McGinty is a newcomer to the reviewer scene, bringing lots of enthusiasm to the party. He has released only one book so far, Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy on Beaver's Pond Press in 2003. Part of the reason I feel inspired to introduce Mr. McGinty and The Boogle so promptly is the subject matter of his book, which appears to be quite imaginative. You can find his submissions details in The De Facto POD Review Ring Chart. I hope this newbie knows exactly what is about to come his way. I don't want to have to post another review site obituary within weeks of its launch. Good luck in your new endeavor, Mr. McGinty, you will need it!
See Also: Mark's Authors Den Page
This is not a review of the first book by the funniest author in the world. Don Martin unleashed Fester & Karbunkle in their first full-length feature entitled Steps Out in 1961. I like to pay homage to the master of nonsense words describing funny noises whenever I can.
The main purpose of this post is to republish the review of this website that appeared on the recently discontinued review blog, PODdy Train. Since the links to that site obviously are no longer in service, this is the only way to make this informative opinion from a person not directly associated with PODBRAM available to the readers. From now on, the links will take you back to this page at PODBRAM.
Before that review is reprinted here, I want to bring the readers up to date about some of the recent changes in the POD review industry. Not only has PODdy Train disappeared, but The PODler has ceased offering free reviews of POD books, too. You may have already noticed that there have been a few changes in the listings in The De Facto POD Review Ring Chart, as well as the links to other legitimate reviewers, both active and inactive, in the link list down the left column of this page. There are a few other reviewers whom you may have heard of, but have not found listed at PODBRAM. Maybe you have also noticed that a few of these unmentioned sites have been trouncing submitted books without reading more than a few pages. It's beginning to look a little bleak out there, folks.
The brightest new shining star, at least at this point in the era of POD book reviews, is The LL Book Review (LLBR), the site formerly known as The Lulu Book Review. Shannon Yarbrough's site has been gradually growing and improving over the past year, and a few changes have just been announced. Shannon has added additional reviewers, changed the URL and the website title, and added CreateSpace and Wordclay to his short list of accepted publishers. He has also revamped the site with an all-new, very professional, readable, and comprehensive look. He even scooped me with an interview with Mark Corker, the founder of Smashwords! I wanted to do that... if I ever got the time.
A few other established sites are still moving right along. POD People is still the pioneer of the group, the only one older (by six months) than PODBRAM. Her Odyssey is still a strong alternative site for POD reviews, the weakness being that the site reviews far less books than does PODBRAM or POD People. The Slippery Book Review Blog seems to be less and less interested in reviewing books and more involved with trying to tell other people how to review books. If you want to see just how much the whole industry except for a very few of us seems to have become lost in the Twilight Zone, read this carefully.
Without further delay, here is the review of PODBRAM written by the anonymous reviewer formerly known as PODdy Train. Thank you for the glowing words, PODdy Train, wherever you are.
PODdy Train Review of PODBRAM (4/11/09)
Another POD review site came onto the scene shortly after POD People. On July 12, 2006, a man by the name of Floyd M. Orr put a call out to iUniverse authors asking if they'd like a review. His introduction states...
Would you like an online review of your iUniverse book? The evidence suggests that tens of thousands of you would. After careful study of the POD market for about seven years, I am considering entering a new hobby, just to see where it leads me.
Floyd was smart and started by concentrating on only one self-publishing company, iUniverse, and it was a company he knew something about since he had published four books with them. Based on a search at Amazon, Floyd's books never caught on. Two of them only have one review each. But that doesn't matter. The popularity of his review site definitely makes up for it. It took a month, but Floyd's first post attracted 18 comments.
In August, his first 2 paragraph review went live. Though his introductory post spelled out quite a few of Floyd's guidelines, more specifications fell into place just two months later. And today it appears Floyd still gives books quite the white glove treatment - examining both the content of the story and the physical formatting of the book itself - but his tedious dissection of both plot and all the self-publishing faux pas didn't make authors stray away. I have always admired Floyd's blatant honesty: "I am looking for proof that iUniverse authors are capable of writing great books that deserve to be discovered and read."
Over 100 reviews later, a handful of author interviews, and countless posts about the POD Experience in general, Floyd now has eight other reviewers under him and calls himself the Editor-in-Chief-Curmudgeon. His blog has received much praise across the WWW, mainly for his detailed De Facto POD Review Ring where he outlines all of the other reviewers out there, whether or not they are open to submissions, and including a detailed list of genre codes for each review site.
Recently, Author Solutions bought iUniverse and it appears it had an affect on Floyd's review site also, but for the better. He changed the name to POD Book Reviews & More and opened his parameters to include all POD books, not just iUniverse authors, and more except for Lulu.com authors for some strange reason. Sorry, Lulu's.
His official guidelines include some tongue-in-cheek humor which I've missed from Floyd lately. It appears he truly has become the man behind the curtain while his review team pumps out quality reviews that don't oversell and aren't very biased. But that's too bad. I miss his dry wit that often shined in posts like the one outlining why he counts errors in books he reviews. Along with Floyd's "no holds barred" honesty and refusal to take place in the "slap fights," PODBRAM's consistency is a trait to be admired and other reviewers out there should take note.
The quality of book reviews, mainly those concerning POD books, has often been questioned. Reviewers have regulary been accused of overselling reads, but Floyd and I actually see eye to eye on the subject. Why bother with a bad review? Here's my thoughts exactly straight from PODBRAM...
I shall not give any book I review for PODBRAM less than three stars at Amazon or B&N. No book will ever receive a distinct star rating for its PODBRAM review, either. As many have said in this discussion, why would I choose to read a two-star book in the first place? Let me add, why would I go to all the trouble to create and edit PODBRAM just to damage, instead of help, the marketing of books I so carefully select to review? That's what the selection process is supposed to accomplish before the book is even accepted for review at PODBRAM.
And that's why you won't be disappointed with the outcome should your book be honored with a review from Floyd or the team at PODBRAM. In my eyes, he IS the leader in indie review sites on the net today, even when he was just devoting his time to iU.
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.
See Also: The Outskirts Press Release
R. Hawk Starkey's Tutor Page
R. Hawk Starkey's Photography Page
The Loose End of the Rainbow
by D. B. Pacini
(Singing Moon Press / 0-977-04972-8 / 978-0-977-04972-1 / March 2009 / 232 pages / Ages 9-12 / $12.95 / Amazon $10.15)
Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM
White Eagle and Paints-With-Words were born in the exact same minute while their tribe resided temporarily in a magical place known as The Loose End of the Rainbow. These special children were gifted with extraordinary powers and destined from birth to fulfill a prophecy. Seventeen years later, when all the adults in cultures across the world vanish in a single night, White Eagle and Paints-With-Words lead their tribe of children on a mystical odyssey to rediscover the Loose End of the Rainbow, while telepathically communicating with similar teenage leaders around the globe. The tribes of children encounter natural hardships and evilly enchanted obstacles on the way to their goal while learning lessons about man’s relationship with nature and the Earth.
D.B. Pacini’s fantasy, set in prehistoric America, strives to recapture the style and themes of many Native American legends. The Loose End of the Rainbow has received accolades from Gathering of Nations, WRITE ON, Shadagea Music, and many other sources, commending the quality of the author’s story-telling and positive themes of youth leadership for children and harmony with nature. The writing is carefully edited and often beautiful. The theme of the book is worthy of examination, and yet, overall the novel did not work for me.
One of the cardinal rules of writing is: show, don’t tell. I felt there was simply too much “telling” and “teaching” in this novel for it to engage young readers the way the author intended. There are copious footnotes explaining all references to names, plants, and animals – not to mention modern references to Martin Luther King, global warming, and more – which might have been better placed in a glossary at the end. Plot events do not drive the action inevitably forward; instead, each one is individually designed to promote a lesson from the author. Every event is explained to the reader as it happens, so that there is no suspense or mystery to the story. The author states her theme directly multiple times, rather than letting it subtly develop as the novel progresses. This might work for a children’s picture book or a fable, but not in a 200-page novel for intermediate readers who are accustomed to discovering theme and thinking for themselves.
Of course, this is only one reviewer’s opinion, and from the number of pre-publication endorsements received by this novel, other reviewers have felt differently. I would suggest that interested readers check out the links to other reviews before making their decision.
See Also: More Reviews of D. B. Pacini's Book
A novel of women at Gettysburg
by Peggy Ullman Bell
(Writers Club Press / 0-595-21841-5 / 978-0-595-21841-7 / February 2002 / 278 pages / $17.95 / Kindle $3.96)
Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM
For three days in July of 1863, war raged in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. When it was over, thousands of men on both the Union and Confederate sides of the conflict were dead or dying, and the lives of the residents of Gettysburg were changed forever. Fixin' Things, by Peggy Ullman Bell, is a tribute to those residents, especially "all the women who sacrificed their health, their lives, and their sanity to keep the [Gettysburg National Cemetery] from being a hundred times larger."
The story centers on the Loren family and their near relations. Like many people who lived close to the Mason-Dixon Line, their loyalties were mixed. The Loren women, Kathin and her younger sister Megan, secretly operated a station on the Underground Railroad. Kathin's sister-in-law, although born in Philadelphia, thoroughly adopted the slave-owning society of Maryland, where she lives with her husband Jason Mercer. Jason, a colonel in the Confederate army, is a kind and intellectual gentleman, while Kathin's husband Edwin, a captain in the Union army, is an abusive and foul-mouthed tyrant. When war comes to Gettysburg, family relationships and loyalties are strained. The Loren farm and their townhome, rented to a female blacksmith and a schoolteacher (tacitly recognized as lovers), become field hospitals and refuges for wounded soldiers on both sides.
In this well-researched novel, readers will grasp the immensity of this historic event, and recognize at once how the small community of Gettysburg was devastated. Churches and schools were desecrated and dismantled, overflowing with blood and offal and stuffed to the seams with the dead and dying. Fields and crops were trampled; wells and streams were fouled. Larders were emptied; supplies raided. And rather than fight back or protect their possessions, most residents of Gettysburg gave all they had and more than they could afford. They baked the last of their flour into bread for the hungry men, nursed the wounded in their own homes, and ripped up their petticoats and linens for bandages. In turn, many of the desperate soldiers became attached to their resident saviors, who hid them and shielded them from enemy soldiers and, in some cases, from their own army that would have sent them back into action.
Even after the battle, the horror continued in Gettysburg. The wounded were legion; the town was bereft of supplies, and thousands of dead needed to be buried. (And, in a few weeks, orders arrived to dig them up and rebury them elsewhere.) In Fixin' Things, author Ullman-Bell explores the impact of this event on the fictional Loren sisters and their friends. Readers are transported back to an event of huge historical consequence in our country, viewed through the eyes of people who lived it personally, with all glamour and patriotism stripped away.
See Also: The Author's Website
Ms. Bell's Authors Den Page
Review of Peggy Ullman Bell's Sappho Sings
War on the Middle Class:
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back
by Lou Dobbs
(Viking Adult / 0-670-03792-3 / 978-0-670-03792-6 / October 2006 / 288 pages / $24.95 hardcover / $19.96 Amazon / $7.19 Kindle / $4.99 Amazon Bargain Priced Paperback)
Lou Dobbs has become quite a controversial figure over the past few years. I have been watching his shows since practically the beginning of his Moneyline program back in 1980, but I have always weighed his subjects and opinions against an opposite reality. I like to see what I would call rational Republicans present their views in an intelligent manner, and Lou has done a lot of that these past twenty-five years or so, allowing for the breaks between his various positions at CNN. Let me make it clear that I like his friend Ted Turner considerably more than I like Dobbs, and I totally agree with Ted that Lou has recently somewhat lost touch with his own persona. That said, allow me to critique his third book, which happens to be the one released at the time I was most a true fan of Lou. For a little perspective, consider that although I acquired the book soon after its release, I did not get around to reading War on the Middle Class until now, after Lou has already tossed his cookies again.
I am retired from a career in various aspects of the financial services industry, and I been reviewing all sorts of books for my blog over the past three years. I have been a prognosticator of the doom and gloom scenario for decades. Some of my favorite authors and economists are Nouriel Roubini, Paul Stiles, and Paul Krugman, so the subject matter of Lou’s third book fits squarely into my interests. The catch is that The USA Titanic has already hit the iceberg and now everybody has been talking the doom and walking the gloom. To my mind, Lou stepped off the wagon when he began is Independents Day rants and plugs for his fourth book on his daily show. He was at least on the right track with this one before the iceberg hit, but then he started to just sound like a closet Republican hawking his book.
Lou Dobbs did the citizens a favor when he began publicizing the Dubai Ports deal, the H1-B Visa scam, the comprehensive illegal immigration scam, and most of all, the Ramos and Campean debacle. These issues desperately needed someone to bring them to the public’s attention.
There is very little new information in War on the Middle Class if you had been watching Lou Dobbs Tonight regularly in 2005-6. All the usual suspects have been included for your repeated amusement: Dubai, H1-B, the Sensenbrenner bill that caused such an uproar, NAFTA, CAFTA, and Lou’s disdain for the teachers’ union. One of my minor complaints is that although the page count of the book is 276, Lou’s actual, composed text ends at page 212. The remaining sixty pages include a reprinting of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and The Amendments, followed by Notes and an Index. I have no problem with this normal set of back matter in such a book. I especially prefer that all of what would have been footnotes interrupting the reader have been compiled into the Notes at the end. The reprinting of the legendary documents, though, could have been forgone. Call me uppity, but when I buy a book by Lou Dobbs, I want to read as many words composed by Lou Dobbs as possible. I’m sure I can find The Constitution reprinted online somewhere!
The point I most want to make is that Lou Dobbs has an intelligence and depth of experience that is more often than not pushed aside by his many detractors to make way for the single-minded slap-fight over illegal immigration issues. Yes, I am as mad at Lou right now as anyone, but not over his stance on illegal immigration. What part of illegal don’t you understand? Lou’s wife is Hispanic, for gosh sakes! How is illegal immigration from a single country fair to all the legal immigrants from the same or other countries? How can the left-wingers be so in favor of a policy that Wall Street loves? I am so far left that I am holding on to the left wing by my fingernails, but Lou is on the money on this issue!
Taken at face value as a 2006 release, War on the Middle Class hits the target with a bull’s eye. The disgusting part comes from having watched Lou degenerate into secret messages sent to the craziest of conservatives over the past two years. As much as I loved Lou Dobbs Tonight back in 2005-6, I generally cannot bear to watch the show in ’09 without a handy barf bag nearby. Now I’m just waiting for the old pseudo-Republican gasbag to retire so the news program can become sane again as The Kitty Pilgrim Hour.
See Also: The BNN Review