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Spotlight and Review: Pure Trash – The Story by Bette A. Stevens

In Book Reviews, Spotlights on September 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Bette Stevens is probably best known for her highly successful children’s book, Amazing Matilda. Now she has dipped her toes into the deep waters of young adult literature with her new book, Pure Trash – The Story.

Having already read Bette’s ‘Amazing Matilda’, I was delighted to be asked to read this one as well. Though aimed at an older audience, it is still written in the same generous and caring tone. Set in the 1950’s, Pure Trash highlights the sense of social injustice doled out when two children are condemned and forever tainted because of their father’s alcoholism and the family’s unmitigated poverty.

PURE TRASH book coverMy Review

Pure Trash is a short story focused on a day in the lives of two young boys, Shawn and Willie Daniels. They are extremely poor, have a drunken father, a long-suffering mother and live in a shack in 1950’s America; located near a small New England town in which bullying and prejudice is rife. They attend church every Sunday. This day (Saturday, and no school), having done their chores, is filled with gathering discarded empty bottles on their way into town, and collecting the returns money. The boys really look forward to this trip every week, as they are able to buy pop and sweets before returning home to fish with their father, who, by the time they get back, will have drunk enough beer to “catch his limit” and to, “’hold your (his) mouth just right’ or the fish wouldn’t bite”.

Despite the excitement of this weekly trip, Shawn is filled with dread at the thought of encountering the gossips, and other mean townsfolk, who call them names and laugh at them; all because of their poverty and their drunken parent.

On the way back from the trip, Willie falls off his bike and Shawn seeks help from someone he believes to be kind; someone who also attends the same church. But, he is surprised when he learns that cordially nodding to someone every Sunday in church is not the same as turning up on their doorstep and asking for help – at least not when your Shawn and Willie Daniels.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Told with great sensitivity, Ms. Stevens weaves a tale of intolerance and impassive bullying, the backlash of another’s alcoholism and the knock-on effects of abject poverty. The atmospheric descriptions set the scenes beautifully – I felt I was actually riding my own bike with the boys on their excursion. The whole timbre of the book, from the very first word, is that of compassion and understanding. I felt tinges of sadness, though. To the boys, this is all they know. They completely accept their father’s excessive drinking, and their mother’s frugality as she makes her house dresses out of “flowered chicken feed sacks”. There is no money to repair the house, but the boys’ father buys a brand new television set for himself, which sounds like an echo of so many households today. The boys do not envy others, instead they are grateful for what little they have. They find great joy in their natural surrounding; blue skies, hills and fields, and the simple things available to them. Such small treats as ice-cream and some pop are a thing pure delight.

This book is not just about poverty and making do, and being happy with what you have been given – albeit, through lack of knowledge. It is also about intimidation and small-mindedness, and the terrible indictment of the society that has risen from such behaviour, not just in the fifty’s, but of today as well. Such families do still exist and the intolerance continues as one generation begats the next and the tradition continues on both sides.  Perhaps it is all unavoidable, but it is sad how innocent children are made to suffer for the mistakes of their parents.

A sensitive and touching tale which is well-written, absorbing and entertaining. Highly recommended. 5 stars

Where to buy Pure Trash


About the Author

Bette A Stevens

Bette A. Stevens received her B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Maine at Orono before embarking on graduate courses in Curriculum Studies at Chapman University in California. Stevens is a retired teacher and author of two children’s books: AMAZING MATILDA: A Monarch’s Tale, an award-winning picture book and The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!, a children’s activity book. Stevens and her husband live on a 37-acre farmstead in Central Maine. PURE TRASH is a short story for the YA/Adult audience and a prequel to her upcoming début novel. 

Where to find Bette





Other Books by Bette A. Stevens

The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!
Amazing Matilda book cover

Spotlight and Review: Pie – An Old Brown Horse (That Knows What He Is Doing)

In Book Reviews on August 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm
Pie - An Old Brown Horse on his 39th birthday

Dedicated to Pie – 39 years old today

When I was asked by author Kandy Scaramuzzo to review Pie – An Old Brown Horse, I was thrilled. To add to my joy, the description implied this was a rescue story (“he was considered used up, with nothing left to give”). Put the words rescue and horse together and I am captured; my enthusiasm for, and love of, horses kicks right in. I couldn’t wait to give it a go. Ms. Scaramuzzo also provided me with links to an ‘interview’ with Pie, which is really sweet, but, better still; a short Book Trailer – which I urge you to watch (below). Preferably with a box of tissues handy. Here is my review of Pie’s incredible story.

This review is dedicated to Pie who is celebrating his 39th birthday today. That’s 107 in human years. Happy, happy birthday, Pie – what an astounding achievement.

PieMy Review

This is a marvellous story, told through the eyes of Pie (the old brown horse) himself. Pie had worked all his life on ranches until, having been gored by a bull and tangled in wire, he was left to languish in a small pen to recover or die. His working career as a cattle herder, and possibly his life, was over. He was no longer of any use to anyone, added to which he was already past retirement age. Then, having been bought by a livery keeper for resale, Pie’s life changed. A young girl came to know him well, and, having had an unfortunate experience with another horse, decided she wanted to buy him. From there he was brought back into work, a much gentler sort, and made useful again. This story takes the reader through the trials and tribulations of Pie’s life from the time he was gored until he is fully established as a therapy horse for autistic children, and on to his life as it is today.

Despite my passion for horses, I have to admit, I had no idea how things worked in Pie’s first life, and rather enjoyed reading about it. The lot of a cattle herding horse is a fairly hard one by all accounts, with few comforts to speak of. That is not to say they are mistreated in any way; it is just hard work, long hours and few luxuries. I strongly suspect the lot of a cowboy is just as tough. All of which is wonderfully and humorously described in the text. Kandy Scaramuzzo has her own free-flowing style of writing, which I found rather endearing, through which her inordinate love of horses, and her way of life, shines through on every page. The written interpretation of the communication between the horses tells us a lot about the authors understanding of them and their behaviour. The scene setting is perfect and the characters, both human and equine, are all vividly and entertainingly described in this heart-warming tale.

Pie and his pasture mate Durango March, 2013

Pie and his pasture mate Durango March, 2013

The story of this remarkable horse touched my heart and I am pleased it has been told. Cleverly written from Pie’s unique perspective, the reader is not only able to get to know Pie; a horse whose demeanour is bursting with courage, understanding and a sense of what is right, but also learn that all things have their place in life. Pie shows us that being old does not mean being without worth. Brimming over with enthusiasm and ever eager to please, he displays compassion and understanding in all things. And, there is no doubt – he does know exactly what he is doing.  His loyalty to the herd, especially those he is close to, is to be admired. His assessment of them and all their individual peculiarities seems spot on, and he always tries to do his best for them. Plus, he’s a hoot. He is certainly an extraordinary horse who has impacted on many lives with these attributes. In fact, his whole disposition made him the perfect choice to place with children who have special needs.

Pie’s enlightening memoirs are a wonderful eye-opener into the fascinating mind of this intelligent, heroic and warm-hearted old horse. I am just sorry I will never be able to meet him in the flesh.

To focus on any negatives here, such as editing issues – as I see some have done – would be totally unproductive; there are far too many positives. This is simply a splendid read for everyone, horsey or not, and I highly recommend it. (5 stars)

Where to buy Pie – An Old Brown Horse

Paperback at Outskirts Press

Book Trailer – Pie’s story It’s worth watching. It’s very short and very moving. In fact, seeing his injuries seems to bring his situation home even more.

Interview with Pie

About the Author

KandyKandy Kay Scaramuzzo is a seventh generation Texan who has her own brick at the Cowgirl Museum. She has taught in alternative education for over twenty years. Ms. Scaramuzzo is a member of the 2012 Strathmore’s Who’s Who. She has a BA in Criminology and MaedCT. She works in horse, dog, cat and snake rescues. Ms. Scaramuzzo has been a tester observer for therapy dogs for nine years. She ran a therapy horse riding program for autistic children for five years. She has been a recognized animal behaviorist for over 20 years. This is her first book about an exceptional horse. She feels it is important to give back to maintain the balance of a civilized society.

Where to find Kandy (when she is not on a horse)






Another wonderful 5 star review for Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

In Book Reviews, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor on June 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Huge thanks to ‘diebus’ for this fantastic review.

Educational and entertaining by diebus

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - Book Cover

“Mungai and the Goa Constrictor” by Amelia E. Curzon is as lovely a story as it is serious. Written for children and adults alike it should provide a good base for adult – child discussions on the ethics of animal welfare and nature preservation.
With a hint of Animal Farm and The Jungle Book this is a wonderful moral tale about two animals, one a boa constrictor, the other unspecified, and their ploy to use other animals and nature reserves to have an easy and wealthy life. Told from an animal perspective
There are beautiful scenes where animals use their natural abilities to create a mill and constructions and only gradually does it dawn on them what they do to their own habitat and environment.
The characters in the story are well-developed and make the story richer than just a moral tale, which I found quite a relief after reading the blurb. This is unique and intelligently written, exposing the idea behind the manipulating two, the naivety of the animals and the book distinguishes between the good and the bad ‘two-legs’.
Pleasantly sophisticated it may be too much for the very young readers, but could well be transcribed into a picture book with the right illustrator. It is a story and a book worth exploring.



Paperback on Createspace

Wow, life is good! – ‘Mungai’ has been given yet another 5 stars!

In Book Reviews, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor on January 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I have just received the most spectacular in-depth review for Mungai and the Goa Constrictor. My heartfelt thanks to the very erudite Jane Whiteoak for taking so much time to write this review. I hope many of you will find the time and the irrepressible urge to read it. 

Select a place..any where in the world and you most probably have heard stories about a pair to be very wary of, like Mungai and the Goa Constrictor! Likely, you’ll have heard them directly, from the innocent victims left strewn aside in their wake. This is a story about nature, reforestation, gold mining, animals both two-legged and four-legged and the most nebulous kind of all… that of the cold and calculating… psychological nature.
Mungai, escapes from a zoo by literally biting the hand that feeds him, to obtain his freedom. Along the way he connects with a self-centered, narcissistic snake named Goa. They instantly mirror and gravitate to the lack of conscience in each other and recognize “possibilities” of a greater future together. They exist in this world only to use everyone that they encounter to their own advantage.
Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - A Children's Book by Amelia E Curzon - book CoverThey formulate a plan to exploit a group of unsuspecting animals, promising great rewards in the future, if the animals do as they request.
Having every faith in the pair, the animals work laboriously constructing tables, chairs and baskets out of wood with the promise of hope and prosperity for their respective families. They listen attentively to Mungai and Goa, as the two speak with authority and are quite erudite in their knowledge of the woodland surroundings and little gold treasures. To doubt their sincerity would be erroneous as the animals would have a falling out with their peers and thus be made to look foolish.
Through manipulation and cajoling the two cause confusion every step of the way. The woodland and jungle animals work together in good faith but they are gullible and unbeknownst to them are being terribly misled. Their gold mining endeavours, are necessary to pay for new equipment, used by humans to work at deforestation!
They’ve all been told by the amoral pair, that the “trees are too old” and need to be chopped down, in order that new ones may be replanted in their place. The animals have no concept that they are working illegally and are actually chopping down their own habitat. The two ring leaders start to show a few cracks in their armour however, when they begin to live in loftier and loftier residences. Each move is scrupulously planned, to be farther away from the ‘workers’ each time and with every move they have obtained, through smooth talk, even greater security.( e.g. wolves acting as security guards).
Finally, a very observant crow, becomes extremely suspicious and tries in vain to alert the diligent trusting foreman, the badger. Of course, the badger doesn’t believe a word that the crow tells him, as he has complete and utter “misplaced” trust in Mungai and Goa.
The book is very engaging as one ponders, if this dubious duo will ever be seen for what and whom, they truly are. Amelia E. Curzon has done us all a huge favour, by shining a spotlight on and enlightening us, to the damage done to our society by these unconscionable and despicable human beings. Her insight into this behaviour and relaying this message, through the depiction of animals is truly remarkable. This is an excellent book that would be advantageous and fascinating to read, for all ages. It is a real page turner and I highly recommend this book to all!

Jane Whiteoak – January 14th 2013

Buy on

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Read all other reviews here

And yet another 5 star review! This has been an amazing few weeks for me!

In Book Reviews on June 5, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor~Young adult action adventure book

I have just received an absolutely wonderful review for Mungai and the Goa Constrictor from the lovely Catalina Egan, author of Bridge of Deaths. Please go over to Amazon and take a look 🙂

Wow again!

Another amazing 5 star review!  My second today! This review, for Mungai and the Goa Constrictor, is by the very accomplished Gigi Galt.  Thank you so much Gigi for such a great review.

Please take a look everyone.  It can also be found on Amazon at this link:


Another fabulous 5 star review for Mungai and the Goa Constrictor from the delightful and witty Scarlett Rains. Thank you so much Scarlett 😀

Please take a look, and whilst you’re there have a peek at the rest of Scarlett’s lovely blog. You’ll be pleased you did 🙂

Read a NEW excerpt from Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

“Truly, Curzon crafts an unforgettable story that speaks to the soul” – Claudia Moss (USA)  Reviews 5*****

Whilst the apes were trying to swing after him at the same speed, Gerald had an unfortunate accident.

He collided with a rather large, and not very friendly beast that, like Mungai, was of dubious origin. The beast had been asleep in the branches at the time, and was non too pleased by this unwanted intrusion into his dreams. He reared up on his hind legs, delicately balancing himself on the thinnest of branches, and lunged for Gerald.

“He looks like a monkey-meat lover,” thought Gerald, but he was frozen to the spot and could only think of his imminent death, followed by a prestigious military funeral, he hoped, for his few remains.

The unidentifiable creature grabbed Gerald by the feet, and swung him round and round above his head, and then hurled him skywards towards the canopy roof, where he became stuck between two branches. He was so far up, the others lost sight of him. On his own, with no-one to help him, he thought immediately of his ‘military training’ and decided to bring in the ‘vacate the high location’ manoeuvre. This manoeuvre was something only to be used in emergency situations, which he quite rightly deemed this was. He did not have much time, so he started straight away tearing off branches and bits of other vegetation, and weaving them together securely. He kept doing this until he had a large piece, three times his own size. He took one corner in each claw, and let himself fall backwards, down from the top. It was a very crowded tree. The growth from top to bottom was extremely dense. It cannot be said he sailed down from above, more bounced than anything. He bounced and he bounced and he bounced. From one branch to the other…sideways, backwards and forwards. Hanging upside down, he could not see where he was going. It was like blindfolded skydiving with obstacles. Much to his surprise, he found the jungle floor. It was not a soft landing.


Another Fabulous Review of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

In Book Reviews on April 28, 2012 at 1:20 am

Wow! Another fabulous 5 star review for Mungai and the Goa Constrictor from the delightful and witty Scarlett Rains. Thank you so much Scarlett 😀

Please take a look, and whilst you’re there have a peek at the rest of Scarlett’s lovely blog. You’ll be pleased you did 🙂

Review – “A Fable That Packs a Powerful Punch”

In Book Reviews, Books, Teen Fiction, Young Adult Fiction on March 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm
5.0 out of 5 stars “A Fable That Packs a Powerful Punch”, March 3, 2012
(Clarkston, Georgia United States)
This review is from: Mungai and the Goa Constrictor (Kindle Edition)

Kudos for Amelia Curzon and her impressive fable, “Mungai and the Goa Constrictor”!

Like the other reviewers of this work, I haven’t read an animal fable in years. The last I enjoyed was a film of “Charlotte’s Web” and a while before that, I read and taught “Animal Farm.” Truly, Curzon crafts an unforgettable story that speaks to the soul, reminding us to think for ourselves, to look inward for inspiration that drives us in life and to fearlessly turn back if we find ourselves heading down a path that doesn’t feel right.

Readers, this is a story for older children and, perhaps, keenly intelligent 12 to 13-year-olds. The vocabulary will send young readers running for a dictionary, although that is a good thing. The web of intrigue the mysterious Mungai and his sidekick Goa set for the charmingly sweet, albeit gullible, creatures is what could happen Anywhere in the Universe, if people do not learn to look beyond slick words and ill-wrought intentions of those who want to slither through life looking to live comfortably from the fruits of others’ labor.

I love the fate Curzon culls for both Mungai and Goa at the tale’s end! Read it for yourself to discover the hidden treasures and subterfuge taking place under lush jungle and woodland foliage.

Great literature teachers are going to have a delightful time creating learning centers and novel maps and an array of writing assignments for this book! Well done, Curzon!

March 3rd, 2012

View review on at

Review – A Modern Day Animal Farm Story?

In Book Reviews on February 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm

5***** review of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor by T. Levesque “The Kindle Queen” (USA)

This review is from: Mungai and the Goa Constrictor (Kindle Mungai and the Goa Constrictor Book CoverEdition)

Although, the storyline is altogether different, this one reminds me of the characters & personalities found in Charlotte’s Webb. I haven’t read anything of that genre since substituting grade school students more than 20 years ago. The story is reminiscent of a modern-day Animal Farm, but yet, not quite. I don’t want to say too much more, as not to spoil the story.
It is in my opinion that this book is geared more for the adult than a child. I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a young children’s book at all. Perhaps, for an older child of 12 or 13, maybe? Given the vocabulary alone in the first two pages, is proof enough that it wasn’t meant for little ones under age 5 or 6.
Regardless of the delightfully colorful, descriptive characters that any child might find visually appealing & attractive; the more critical part of this book, being the “moral” of the story, that is…..I feel, would not or, could not, be comprehended until a much older age.
I strongly recommend this book for ages 12 & up.

February 27th, 2012


Review – A Cautionary Tale

In Book Reviews on February 14, 2012 at 9:35 pm

5***** review of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor by Book Chatter – Cath               Mungai and the Goa Constrictor Book Cover

This book is aimed predominantly at children and so its not something I would normally read or review.  However, I have to say that I loved it and can not fault the story or the writing at all.

Not since reading Animal Farm as part of my year 7 English class can I recall reading anything from the point of view of animals living in a human like society.

And just like with that book, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor takes you on a journey of intrigue and quiet self-discovery. To a world that, were it not for the fact that the characters are jungle animals, it could be set in any school, town, business, or city near you.

Where the top dog is always looking for ways to be bigger and better with less effort, by taking more from the less worldly and more gullible underdog.

With great dastardly characters and lovable up risers, and set amongst the glorious, if disappearing backdrop of an undisclosed jungle, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor is a cautionary tale and a must read book for all.

An engaging and subliminally educational 5 Star read.

February 13th, 2012

Review – An Environmental Allegory for Our Time

In Book Reviews on February 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm

5***** Review of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor by Jason Sullivan (USA)               Mungai and the Goa Constrictor Book Cover

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor by Amelia Curzon is a wonderful story. It is allegorical in the tradition of Animal Farm, and I must admit I am a fan of allegories, but it is also a witty and fascinating story filled with a splendid collection of characters. There are important messages in this book. Themes such as responsibility, needs versus desires, and trustworthiness are woven into the plot. There is also wit and whimsy and a cast of thoroughly enjoyable animal characters.

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor is a fairly quick read and the action moves swiftly. There is never a dull moment. Many of the interactions between the animals will seem familiar as indeed they are insightful into human society. The animals have a certain irrepressible spirit that shines through, even in the worst situations, which is authentically heartening. One can’t help but despair, however, at the damage Mungai and Goa inflict upon the others through their greedy and self-centered behaviors.

Mungai is a sneaky and manipulative creature. He is not quite lovable, but certainly unforgettable! I think we have all met a Mungai at some point in our lives! There are also many animals on the good side of things. I liked Caw-Caw the crow and, of course, the outrageously named Captain Gerald Rupert Horatio Peanuts Brice-Copperbottom! Mungai and the Goa Constrictor is a charming story filled with much wisdom of the sort the world so desperately needs. I highly recommend it!

January 18th, 2012

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