What Readers/Reviewers Say

Reviewers Praise the Quirky 1950s Memoir, The Trouble With Gumballs

The Trouble With Gumballs BookA cheerful, complaisantly innocent, and often very funny account of a young man's going west -- from New York to California where a pitchman's promise of "an easy part-time $100 a week" inducts him into the penny gum machine business. A little persuasion parts him from most of his capital- some $5000, for which he gets 100 machines and a route in Sonoma County--- along with the constant annoyances of jammed machines, busted globes, recalcitrant to resistant shopkeepers, fighting youngsters, and the continuous attempt to locate and relocate his machines. A year of this penny-ante game still leaves him a long ways from a profit, drives him to the desperate episode when he locks up a non-cooperative customer in a washroom, and brings him to the conclusion that he must go into Christmas cards. A bout with polio brings in his $100 a week (insurance) and his wife finally lands a "pigeon" to buy his route.... Just about as resilient as the product involved, and likable all the way.

Kirkus Review of Books

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A Humorist Emerges From Sonoma County

The writing of humor is such a difficult craft that few young authors try it, let alone succeed at it. There is an occasional Max Shulman, or Marion Hargrove, but the ranks of good, young humorists are almost perpetually thin. A former New York magazine editor named James Nelson might qualify as a good writer of humor.

His first book, The Trouble With Gumballs, is a funny account of his exasperating experiences as the owner and sole employee of his own gumball vending business in Sonoma County.

Arriving in Marin County, Nelson became intrigued with a business opportunity under which, for a modest investment, he could become his own boss. He could, under the opportunity, make $100 a week by working only four hours a week. Well, if he put in eight hours, to say nothing of 40 hours...

So begins Nelson's--and the reader's--excursion into the gumball business. If the reader stays with the author's first effort as a writer of humor (and he might as well once he gets into it, for some of this is very funny indeed) he shares the young man's elation at a sudden upturn in business, and Nelson's concern when a country store owner seeks to throw both machine and Nelson out of the place.

In his first effort, Nelson is by no means the new Robert Benchley, but it is an agreeable account of one man's bout with free enterprise. And any young writer who appears to be relaxed in the craft of humor writing, is someone to watch.

William Hogan, The San Francisco Chronicle

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Praise for the YA Frontier Novel On the Volcano

"5Q...5Q is our top rating for Quality..."
voya.com (Voice of Youth Advocates)

"... readers will enjoy seeing this heroine persevere and find a love of her own on the rough and tumble frontier..."

"A great adventure!... Will the MacDonalds ever find peace on their volcano...?"

"5 Stars... This is a novel for young adults and the parents who love them. Good parents know life cannot be sugar coated--there is ever present danger and unhappiness--but they also know the choices we make and the actions we take are the deciding factors in shaping an outcome. Whether we like it or not, we all live on top of a proverbial volcano..."

"...Although the book has been published for young adults, the story will intrigue readers of all ages... Exciting, captivating, and at times heartbreaking..."
acres of sage.com

"R (Recommended)"
bccb.lis.uiuc.edu (Center for Children's Books)

"If you like historical fiction, you'll love it."

"On The Volcano will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride which is both complex and will leave at least four people dead. This is also a tender love story packed with heart pounding action. It will have you turning pages from the beginning to the last page. A must read not only for the young adult 12+ but also for the young at heart. And any historical romance readers. A great read."

"intriguing young adult historical fiction... readers will enjoy Katie's survival On the Volcano when her first trip to town proves tragically devastating yet somewhat filled with hope..."

"...Your book was honestly one of the best books I have ever read, and I truly mean that!"
Letter to author, Caroline S, 13

"Five stars. Everyone please read this book. It's very entertaining."

"... I was riveted to the page... I love, love, love the voice...

On the Volcano