BETTE STEVENS – DOG BONE SOUP – AN INDIE BOOK REVIEW

IN HONOR OF INDIE AUTHOR’S DAY!

DOG BONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels from the original short story, “Pure Trash.” It’s particularly long-awaited for me because as soon as I read the short story, I wanted to read this book. The only problem was, Bette hadn’t yet written it.

But she did it. Dog Bone Soup is available for your reading pleasure. And what a pleasure it is.

Bette has the purest, freshest writing style I’ve read in many a long year. Reading her prose is like peering into an exceptionally clear, deep pool. It looks like the bottom is close enough to touch, but those waters run deep.

Bette Stevens is a class act, an author who knows how to tell a story. Her characters are real, so true to life, they practically leap off the page. In Dog Bone Soup, style and the story are blended to perfection.

dog bone soup collage

I’ve read a lot of books about rural poverty and for some reason, all those stories are set in the south. This is as far from south as you can get. It’s a timely and important reminder that poverty is not a regional issue.

Poverty is everywhere, from the biggest cities to the hidden hamlets where tourists never go. Children pay the highest price.

Shawn Daniels’ story is wonderful. It’s about growing up and coming of age for a poor kid from a dysfunctional family. His world is cold and hardscrabble. A drunken father, a vanishing mother. Foster parents with no love to share, teachers who can’t see past patches and frayed cuffs. Yet somehow Shawn forges a road of his own. Armed with courage, intelligence, humor, and grit, he grows into a strong young man with solid values. He creates his own future.

Sometimes, very little can be enough.

There’s nothing depressing about this story. How come? Because Shawn Daniels hasn’t a shred of self-pity in him. Despite the challenges he faces, Shawn is never down. Not depressed, discouraged, broken, or beaten. This kid has grit. Determination and a solid grip on his own worth.

Where does it come from? Mom, sometimes. A few others who see Shawn’s value and give him a hand along his path. A personal, hard-wired toughness that lets him see past the life he is living it to the life he wants — and for which he is willing to work. Mostly, it is Shawn’s own sharp intelligence which enables him to understand his world. It lets him trust his judgment without bogging down in unearned guilt. He makes smart decisions.

It’s a great story — and it’s far from over.

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.

DOUBLE MINT – GRETCHEN ARCHER – AVAILABLE JULY 21st!

I have loved everything Gretchen Archer has written, from her first book “Double Whammy,” to this latest, greatest entry into the Davis Way caper novels.

Double mint gretchen archer

Davis is growing into herself. Still madcap, but madcap in a Sherlock Holmesian way. She knows what she’s doing. She knows why she’s doing it. She sees connections between seemingly random events. How they form a pattern. The problem is getting anyone else to see.

She and Bradley make a great team. They have that “thing” which makes husband-wife detective couples so much fun — the ability to communicate so cryptically no one else understands. But they “get” each other … and it may save a life or two.

It serves them well as the complex plot unrolls. Finding themselves living in the Bellissimo Casino itself (it’s temporary, isn’t it?), in the most hideous apartment imaginable. There’s a conference of bankers going on and Davis can’t get in. Not even for a quick security scan.

Why not? What’s really going on?

Bankers who have their own security people? Who look and act like thugs?  What’s going on with that super-secure vault? What does the apartment’s previous occupant and (shudder) designer, have to do with it? Has Fantasy gone nuts? Where is No Hair when you need him?

Mysteries within mysteries call for Davis’s clever mind and extraordinary ability to see what no one else can see. Will anyone else “get it” in time?

Another taut mystery and hilarious romp through the world of casino gambling, mysterious bankers, and sealed vaults. Not to mention gigantic heaps of money. Or something like it.

RESERVE A COPY NOW. AVAILABLE IN KINDLE AND PAPERBACK.

Prepare yourself for a great mystery. An intelligently written, perfectly plotted, marvelously witty, clever detective tale you’ll love from start to finish. If you are anything like me, you’ll wish it would never end.

COME SLEEP O SLEEP – SIR PHILIP SIDNEY

96-BlueMoon-UB-4
Come Sleep, O Sleep …

Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw!
O make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.

Sir Philip Sidney


Note: If you are reading this sonnet out loud, “press” in Elizabethan English was pronounced “preese” to rhyme with release. Or anyway, that’s what my perfesser at collitch told me.

Sleep is the balm of wit and the baiting-place of woe. Count on it. 

BOOKS I NEVER READ BUT SAID I DID

Today’s Daily Prompt is a duplicate of one which WordPress offered less than two weeks ago. So, here’s something else. It’s about books. We’ll split the difference, okay?


Ulysses James Joyce

It starts in school when they give you lists of books to read.

I was always a reader. Most of the time, I’d read most of the books on any list. The remaining few were not a big deal. Reading any book, no matter how thick, was rarely a problem for me. After all, I love books.

But literature courses inevitably include books that I would never read voluntarily. Maybe books that no one would voluntarily read. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that’s the entire point of literature courses — to force you to read books no one likes and maybe no one ever liked.

How about Silas Marner? When was the last time someone read that because it sounded like a fun read?

Despite current trendiness, Jane Austin was nobody’s favorite author in high school. I read it, but I didn’t have to like it. You may lob your stones this way.

Pride and Prejudice was the only book I ever threw in a lake. There, I’ve admitted it. I do not like Jane Austin. Not then, not now. Neither does my husband. We also don’t like the movies made from the books.

By the time I got to college, among the many books I did not read was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Not only didn’t I read it, I barely got through the Cliff Notes. But I got an A on the paper for my “unique understanding of the characters and motivation.” Good Cliff Notes, eh? I did read Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man and thought it wasn’t half bad. At least I could discern a plot and everyone in it wasn’t a prig — as they were in Austen’s novels.

I slogged my way through all of Dostoyevsky’s books. It was voluntary, but I still couldn’t tell you why I did it. Maybe to prove I could? I think the angst of the characters appealed to my younger self. Teenagehood was very angst-ridden.

I read all 1800 pages of Romaine Rolland’s Jean Christophe because my mother loved the book. She also had me read Growth of the Soil, Knut Hamsun’s depressing tale of grinding poverty and despair in the Norwegian highlands. I barely made it through Madame Bovary. War and Peace was a non-starter.

Growth of the SoilI never made it through anything by Thomas Hardy. Or Lawrence Durrell. I loved Larry’s brother Gerald Durrell. He was hilarious and wrote about my favorite subjects, animals. I slogged my way through Lady Chatterley’s Lover only because everyone told me it was hot. I thought it was dull. My brother had some books stuffed under his bed that were a lot dirtier and more fun.

I never owned up to not reading those important, literary masterpieces. When the subject came up — which it did when we were students and even for a few years after that — I would try to look intelligent. I’d grunt at the appropriate moments, nod appreciatively.

So yesterday, I was looking at a review I wrote last January about Dahlgren and realized I was lying about literature again. I hated the book. I didn’t merely dislike it. I found it boring and pretentious. It had no plot, no action, and as far as I could tell, no point. I mealy-mouthed around my real feelings because it’s a classic. Everyone says so.

So my question is: who really read it? Who loved it? Did everyone pretend because they heard it was a great book? How many people lie about reading great books when in fact, they never make it past the preface?

I’m betting it ain’t just me.

MY STORY, BY JAMES LEE BURKE

I’ve sort of already written my autobiography. I called it The 12-Foot Teepee. A few people read it, but a fresh approach would surely give it new life.

Or maybe a less fresh approach. Definitely a different approach. Less sentimental. Darkly descriptive. Faulkneresque with shadowy, flawed characters trying to get past their guilt and regret for bad choices, damaged relationships, and murky pasts.

How about James Lee Burke?

75-JLBurkeShelf-NK-08

I love your books, Mr. Burke. Not just Dave Robicheaux, either. I love all of them, the flawed, crazy, haunted, alcoholic, bunch.

Will you please write my story? Pretty please? You’ve got the right style. You can describe my abusive childhood while adding a sufficient amount of wry humor to highlight the ironies of my adulthood. You do flawed people brilliantly and God knows, I’ve got enough flaws for a series.

Bizarre characters and plenty of them. The legion of the weird have marched through my life. They hung around for decades and they aren’t all gone yet. I seem to emit some kind of magnetism which signals to the misfits, miscreants, loners, and strangers in a strange land to come to me. I call them “friends.” Or I did. Many are gone.

James Lee Burke

Mine could be the story which could be the movie you want to make. I know how hard you’ve struggled to get one of your wonderful books properly translated for the screen. So far, no dice.

I hope you don’t take it personally. Hollywood murders most books. It’s totally not you. It’s Hollywood being Hollywood.

Stephen King is a great author who keeps trying, but ends up hating “the movies” do to his material. The only recent author who manged to escape that fate was John Irving. He wrote the script for Cider House Rules himself. Got an Oscar for it. Have you considered that?

Script-writing isn’t easy … even when it’s your work. Maybe especially when it’s your work. But I’m digressing.

Maybe there’s hope for you, if you have the right property. Me. Stop laughing. I’m semi-serious here. If you add your brooding, sardonic, Southern style to my outwardly ordinary upraising, meld it with the ugly reality of those years, and add a dollop of the bizarre life I’ve lived as an adult … In your unique style, how could it miss?

Good for you, good for me. It’s possible I’ll be dead by the time the book hits the virtual shelves and ultimately the silver screen, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll be a ghostly character, like the soldiers from In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. Maybe I’ll hang around to see the reviews.


Your Life, The Book – The Daily Post

THE BONES OF PARIS, LAURIE R. KING

BonesOfParis

The Bones of Paris
A Novel of Suspense
By Laurie R. King

Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell
Publication Date: September 10, 2013

Set in a strange world of weirdos, artists, authors and perverts in post World War I Paris, this Jazz Age murder mystery has some of the creepiest characters I’ve ever encountered in a long time. Historically, this was indeed a strange time. The Lost Generation of Hemingway, Fitzgerald in a Paris seething with new art forms and angst.

Flappers meet  old aristocracy. Painters and photographers hook up with roaming flotsam and jetsam of a displaced generation. These are people well and truly lost in time and space.

Amidst this odd collection of geniuses and madmen, comes private investigator Harris Stuyvesant, an American ex-FBI agent. Down on his luck and much in need of a paying  job, he’s gotten the plummy assignment of finding Philippa “Pip”Crosby, a young American woman. She’s been missing for months, last seen in the company of some of Paris’ more dubious denizens. Harris has previously met Pip, albeit briefly, and wonders if knowing her was how he got the job in the first place.

Tournee du Theatre du Grand Guignol de Paris -...

At first, Harris assumes she has gone off to do whatever young women do when they want to have a good time. Perhaps the Riviera or some other resort. She has nothing to hold her in any particular place. Inquiries lead nowhere. Her trail stops abruptly at the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre. Harris Stuyvesant finds himself in a world in which art and sexual depravity are indistinguishable. His fears for the young woman grow increasingly dark.

She’s not the only one who has gone missing in this murky society of the talented and the strange. In fact, more than a dozen missing women may have fallen victim to the same killer. The number of suspects keeps multiplying. Somewhere, a savage killer is roaming free and he’s isn’t finished yet.

I’ve read a lot of Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes books and enjoyed them very much. This was not the same style. In the end, though, I liked the book. It took me a while to get into it. The characters are smug, the élite of the art world, but they were also bores, boors, braggarts. Self-absorbed snobs — the kind of people I avoid. Eventually, as relationships began to sort out, I grew to like the detective and the French policeman with whom he is working. I even developed an affection for some of the women, though they will never be my gal pals.

This is a work of fiction, so despite familiar names — Hemingway pops up, along with Cole Porter — they are not real, though I suspect they were modeled on real people. It’s a good mystery. Harris Stuyvesant is an interesting guy. It’s well-written. If you like your villains insane and creepy, you have a whole slew of bad guys from which to choose. Harris Stuyvesant is a sturdy character with plenty of back story. I think he will grow up to be likable and interesting.

Laurie King is exceptionally literate. She uses lots of big words, so if you like your reading easy, this isn’t the book for you. The elegance of her language is one of her most attractive qualities as an author. I would have read to the end for that alone. The Parisian setting is well-drawn. You can virtually see and smell the city as you read. Especially smell.

The Bones of Paris is worth your time. Especially if you really like a bit of creepiness in your mysteries, The Bones of Paris has ambiance in abundance. It’s available as an e-book, Kindle, audio, paperback, and hardcover.

DREAMING SPIES, BY LAURIE R. KING – AUDIBLE.COM

Dreaming Spies

Written by: Laurie R. King
Narrated by: Jenny Sterlin 
Length: 12 hrs 22 mins 
Unabridged Audiobook

I’ve been a fan of this series for some years. I have read all but maybe one or two of these wonderful modern Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell novels. I have enjoyed every one of them and hope Ms. King never stops writing them.

dreaming spiesDreaming Spies is the latest in Laurie King’s brilliant modern tales of Sherlock Holmes and his intrepid and scholarly wife, Mary Russell. While on a sea voyage to Japan — intended as a vacation — the journey transforms into a convoluted, multi-faceted hunt for a blackmailer, a priceless book, and a document that can save or destroy an empire.

As the intensity of the chase increases, Holmes and Mary form a peculiar alliance with a mysterious young Japanese woman. Twists and turns of plot abound. Nobody and nothing is who or what they seem to be. It’s impossible to know who is the hound, and who the fox.

I have always wanted to visit Japan and now, I feel as if I have. I was originally planning to read it as text, but this has not been a good year for my reading print. I finally gave in and acquired the audiobook. I’m glad I did. Jenny Sterlin, who has been the narrator on this entire series, is wonderful. As she always is. She will always be the voice of Mary Russell to me. The wife of Homes and the teller of this and all of Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes-Mary Russell books.

You don’t have to read the books in order, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt if you did. Each book in the series stands on its own.

Laurie King is an exceptionally literate writer. The elegance of her language is one of her most attractive qualities as an author. In many places, her prose is almost poetry, lyrical and as silky as a rose petal. I recommend the book and the series. If you like mysteries which you cannot predict, enjoy vivid descriptions of exotic climes, I think I can say without reservation you will like her novels.

If you always hoped Sherlock might meet a nice woman, get married, and get a life — in these books he does exactly that. All of your favorite Holmes characters will drop by for visits. Holmes doesn’t lose any of his detecting abilities. He is still Sherlock Holmes … but more human and more humorous than he was in the old days. Meanwhile, the world believes he is fictional … and that’s the way he prefers it.

Dreaming Spies is a great read. Every book in the series is good. Absorbing, exciting, unpredictable. Beautifully written. Summer is coming. Take a few with you on your next vacation. Print or audio, you won’t be disappointed.

DOG BONE SOUP – A BOOMER’S JOURNEY, BY BETTE STEVENS

DOG BONE SOUP Launch Banner

DOG BONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels from the original short story, “Pure Trash.” It’s particularly long-awaited for me because as soon as I read the short story, I wanted to read this book. The only problem was, Bette hadn’t yet written it.

But she did it. Dog Bone Soup is available for your reading pleasure. And what a pleasure it is.

Bette has the purest, freshest writing style I’ve read in many a long year. Reading her prose is like peering into an exceptionally clear, deep pool. It looks like the bottom is close enough to touch, but those waters run deep.

Bette Stevens is a class act, an author who knows how to tell a story. Her characters are real, so true to life, they practically leap off the page. In Dog Bone Soup, style and the story are blended to perfection.

DOG BONE SOUPI’ve read a lot of books about rural poverty and for some reason, all those stories are set in the south. This is as far from south as you can get and a timely reminder that poverty is not regional. It’s everywhere, from the biggest cities to the hidden hamlets where tourists never go.

Shawn Daniels’ story is wonderful story. It’s growing up and coming of age for a poor kid in a dysfunctional family. His world is cold and hardscrabble. A drunken father, a vanishing mother. Foster parents with no love to share, teachers who can’t see past patches and poverty. Yet somehow Shawn forges a road of his own. Armed with courage, humor, and grit, he grows into a strong young man with solid values. And a future.

Sometimes, very little is enough.

No matter how it sounds, there’s nothing depressing about this story. How come? Because Shawn Daniels hasn’t a shred of self-pity in him. Despite the challenges he faces, Shawn is never down. Not depressed, discouraged, broken, or beaten. This kid has grit. Determination. A solid grip on his own worth.

Where does it come from? Mom, sometimes. A few others who see Shawn’s value and give him a hand along his path. A personal, hard-wired toughness that lets him see past the life he is living it to the life he wants — and for which he is willing to work. Mostly, it is Shawn’s own sharp intelligence which enables him to understand his world. It lets him trust his judgment without bogging down in unearned guilt. He makes smart decisions.

It’s a great story — and it’s far from over.

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.