Posts tagged ‘alcoholism’

MAKING THE BEST OF IT

Pure Trash

Written by Bette A. Stevens

PureTrash, pic

By way of disclosure let me say that I read this prequel after I read the full length novel. Some reviewers have indicated they felt the ending abrupt or incomplete, but I loved this short introduction to the characters of Shawn and Willie just as much as I did the full length novel.

Nine year old Shawn and his six year old brother Willie live in a run down house without plumbing along with their hard working mother and alcoholic father. The setting is 1955 when life for two poor boys was hard, but everyday life was simple. On a Saturday morning the two brothers ride their bikes, play with slingshots, and collect bottles for change they can cash in for candy and soda at the local general store. But the well to do town citizens look down upon them, and they are bullied for being “dirty trash” by children and adults alike. Anyone familiar with the baby boomer generation will enjoy and empathize with these lovable characters. Recommended especially for middle grade students.

Fun read for a lazy afternoon. Don’t miss the full novel, Dog Bone Soup.

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WHAT’S IN THE SUITCASE?

Mr. Brown’s Suitcase

Written by Kate Hughes

Mr.Brown'ssuitcase,pic

An interesting novel set in England explores the life at home and school of a middle school boy. Jez is understandably confused and bitter. His step-dad Steven is an out of work alcoholic who resents him, while favoring his two young sons Josh and Cal. Mum is so fearful of him that she has developed agoraphobia, refusing to go out alone even to shop for food. Jez has assumed responsibility for bringing food home and getting his brothers to school. He attempts to cover his problems by being a rebel at school.

One day, his teacher Mrs. Wright becomes ill. A substitute named Mr. Brown rapidly turns the tables on the out of control students in the class. Mr. Brown has only two rules; raise your hand to say something and treat others the way you want to be treated. At first Jez continues his mischievous behavior, but later becomes intrigued by the soft spoken man who makes learning interesting and rewards students by allowing them a peek in his secret suitcase. Jez is dying to know what is in it.

In the meantime, things get worse at home. Jez becomes the man of the house, but learns that he is not as tough as he thinks when neighborhood bullies try to lure him into vandalism and shoplifting. He discovers a hidden artistic talent which Mr. Brown encourages him to develop. Overhearing a conversation by chance, Jez decides he must act. He is really scared, but he forces himself to contact someone who will change all their lives for the better and give the family a new start.

This book honestly explores the issues of peer pressure, divorce, alcoholism and domestic violence that many children must face each day. The author does not preach or reveal solutions, but allows her protagonist to show the possibilities by trial and error. Children age nine or ten and older should find the story appealing and informative.

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GROWING UP MUCH TOO SOON

DOG BONE SOUP Launch Banner

DOG BONE SOUP is not only the title of Bette A. Stevens’s debut novel; it ranks high among the paltry meals that the book’s protagonist, Shawn Daniels, wants to forget. Plodding through mounting snow and battling howling winds, Shawn is ready to leave it all behind—living in poverty, Dad’s drinking, life in foster care, the divorce, the bullies….

Travel with Shawn Daniels through the guts and the glories of life. You’ll find them all in DOG BONE SOUP, a Boomer’s coming-of-age saga. Available now at “YOUR AMAZON”

From the Reviewers

“Dog Bone Soup is the poignant tale of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive in America in the 50s and 60s, when most others were on the crest of a wave. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. But most of all it will make you glad you read it.” ~ Charlie Bray, founder of the Indietribe

“In Dog Bone Soup, Bette Stevens captures the feeling and images of growing up in hardscrabble times perfectly.” ~ John Clark, librarian and author

DOG BONE SOUP

READ the opening Excerpt from Chapter One right here…

DOG BONE SOUP BW Border 2015The postcard arrived four days before my eighteenth birthday. All I had to do now was sign the final papers and light out for basic training. I could hardly wait to leave this place behind.

There were six of us ready to become soldiers. The other five guys were headed to Fort Dix. Soon as we were inducted, the sergeant who swore us in started calling us a bunch of lily-assed bastards and worse. When the jerk marched the other five guys off, I was happy as hell I wasn’t one of them.

Lieutenant Richards called me into his office. “You’ll be heading out tomorrow, Private Daniels. Here are your tickets.”

We sat in his office and talked about my future with the U.S. Army. Then he handed me a schedule for the next day’s journey and we went over every detail.

“Now let’s get you home so you can get a good night’s sleep before you fly off to serve Uncle Sam, soldier.”

“Good luck Private,” the lieutenant said when he dropped me off at the house. We saluted and I stood there watching until his car disappeared over the hill.

I’d always liked army people. They called me Mr. Daniels and even sir sometimes. Now I was officially a private in the U.S. Army and I was ready to start a new life. I pictured myself in an officer’s uniform one day—a lieutenant, a captain, maybe even a general.

Mum and I didn’t get much more than a few winks of sleep that night. I don’t know how many pots of coffee she perked while we sat at the kitchen table and talked the night away. Of course, it was Mum did most of the talking. Once she opened her picture books, I felt like I was drinking in the life I wanted to leave.

Mum took all of those pictures with her Brownie—that camera was her pride and joy. None of us kids was allowed to touch it unless she supervised a picture taking every now and then. If Dad wasn’t around, it was me peeking through the lens. Mum was fussy about taking pictures just so.

Five books were piled on the table and we went through them one page at a time. Mum had a story for every snap shot. Some made me laugh so hard that I doubled over.

It was two minutes shy of three when she closed the last album.

“Thanks for staying up. I’ve got the alarm set for six and I know that won’t give us much sleep.” Mum pulled out her hanky, sniffled and hugged me before we turned in. My leaving would to be hard on her.

Willie was snoring away, likely dreaming about cars. I slipped in next to him and pulled away some puffs and huddled under them.

The minute I closed my eyes I started dreaming about my new life. No more freezing to death up north. I was headed for southern sunshine and I saw myself soaking it all in.

Bzzzzzzz. I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes, grabbed the suitcase and headed for the kitchen. Mum already had breakfast on the stove, so I ran outside to do my business and came back in to grab a hot biscuit and down it with a cup of steaming coffee.

I was half frozen and snow was whipping around me in circles when I headed out on the three-mile walk into town to catch that bus.

I shook flakes big as quarters from my jacket when I climbed the steps of the Greyhound. Two hours and I’d be boarding a plane headed to Fort Jackson. South Carolina was sure the place to be, especially in February.

### end of excerpt

About the author

BAS Author logo stamp 2015Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Bette A. Stevens is the author of award-winning picture book AMAZING MATILDA; home/school resource, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to DOG BONE SOUP.

Find out more about the author and her books right here on “YOUR AMAZON”

MY BOOK REVIEW

Dog Bone Soup

Written by Bette A. Stevens

DogBone,pic

Anyone who grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s or who has a grandparent or parent who has told them stories about it, will truly empathize with this coming of age novel. It touches on so many timeless issues like poverty, alcoholism, bullying, domestic violence, family relationships, and self-identify crises. There are many touching and authentic incidents described in a way that makes the characters so alive and appealing to the reader.

Shawn Daniels is the oldest child in a poor family living in a small rural town. They live in a unfinished house that has no bathroom, running water or heat, yet his dad finds money for a TV. Dad spends most of his time drinking or bullying the family. When a friend from school spends the night, everyone at school learns of Shawn’s plight and make fun of his situation. Shawn’s mother is very proud; she works several jobs to make ends meet. At the same time Mrs. Daniels refuses to accept help from “uppity rich folks.” Largely left to his own resources, Shawn accepts responsibility for the family, he learns about logging, gardening; he will do what is necessary by stealing apples or teaching himself how to milk a cow and then steal the milk. By the time Shawn is in high school and his mother finally divorces his father, he faces the difficult decision of whether to maintain his dream to attend college or accept reality and his self-imposed family responsibility. His choices are to leave home to join the military and perhaps face death fighting in the Vietnam War or living on another family’s charity while finishing high school.

This book is written from the heart. Though the setting is over fifty years in the past, the issues remain contemporary. I feel that the book is appropriate for young adults and adults or mature middle grade students. There are a couple of curse words. Well-written, worthwhile and powerful in scope and detail.

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