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The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 352 pgs.
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The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman follows Eva Cassidy aboard the Lurline on its way to Hawaii where she will serve as an army nurse in Pearl Harbor. She has secrets, and she’s hoping that despite her new name and faked documents, she will be able to use her nursing skills and send money to her sister, Ruby, who was struck with polio, in Michigan. Aboard the ship, she is immediately drawn to Lieutenant Clark Spencer, a man with secrets of his own.

“He reminded Eva of her father, who was always requiring her to answer her own questions and solve her own problems.” (pg. 29)

Ackerman’s WWII setting is well rendered, and the scenes where the Zeroes attack and the harrowing chaos of the hospital are vivid and frightening, especially viewing it from the point of views of her characters. Whether with Spencer trying to save himself and the men around him as bullets shower down on them or with Eva running from a lecture hall to the hospital.

“With fewer new injuries coming in, the nurses busied themselves cleaning up the place in between surgeries and tending the wounded. You could hardly see the linoleum under mud, soot, and blood. Beds and sheets were soiled, and so were the men.” (pg. 250)

The love triangle between Eva, Clark, and Billy — her hometown boyfriend who helped her get her job and wants to marry her — is wrapped up a little too neatly in the end. There also is a government conspiracy that is a little too thin, given that one of the key players is not as high level as one would expect, as well as some other nuances. None of this detracted from Ackerman’s lovely story about a woman wronged and looking to still fulfill her dreams and build a new life in paradise. The attack on Pearl Harbor looms large but it is not the heart of this story.

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman’s well-researched novel is a delight in terms of its heart. The resilience of humanity and its ability to pull together in times of crisis are its main themes. Eva Cassidy is a strong woman who lost her compass — her father — only to find she’s as strong as she was when he was alive. She just needed to tap into her strength for herself and those around her.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Sara is the bestselling author of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at www.ackermanbooks.com. Connect with Sara: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Narrow Bridge by Robbi Nester

Source: the poet
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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Narrow Bridge by Robbi Nester explores the degrees of fear we face throughout our lives as things change. The first section of the collection sets the tone for the whole, as each poem focuses on change — a desire to be something you’re not in “Mermaid to Woman” and a re-imagining of Beethoven as a whale in “The Making.” There is a certain fear in change, but Nester calls on the reader to see the beauty in being something different, something that evolves.

 From "The Making" (pg. 3)

If Beethoven were a whale, he would
groan a song as monumental as his bulk,
one the waves would write -- always
in suspension. They would take an hour
to break along a shore so distant
none of us could fathom where it was.

Nester explores the changes that happen during childhood, traveling miles and moving to a new home, and how scary those moments can be. But there are times where the reader still sees the wonder of change as the narrator plays “capture the moon” with a compact mirror. Imagination takes center stage in the second section, and my daughter really enjoyed these poems when I read them aloud to her. She was reminded of the tents we made in our old house’s living room, and she began thinking up her own games to play in the car.

Section three explores the darkest reaches of fear, including a poem for the Sandy Hook school shooting. There’s also a lament for what America has become.

Sandy Hook (pg. 33)

...The teacher tries
to hide us, but bullets fly
so fast. Now she won't 
wake up, no matter how
I shake her. No crayon
could ever be that red.

In the final sections, Nester explores the fears of the past and places them into context. She broadens the scope beyond the fears of a younger self about her unruly hair and the wiser self who sees those imperfections as par for the course of life. “My past/quivers beneath the lens of memory,” she says in “Picture of a Life.”

Narrow Bridge by Robbi Nester is an exploration of life — its bumps and moments of joy — to find the light. She reminds us to push through and “recognize the stranger” in ourselves. She calls on us to reach beyond our fears and ourselves into the unknown to find beauty in the vacillation and uncertainty of change.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Robbi Nester is the author of three other books of poetry: a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), and two collections—A Likely Story (Moon Tide, 2014) and Other-Wise (Kelsay, 2017). She has also edited two anthologies: The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes, 2014) and an Ekphrastic e-book, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees—celebrating the photography of Beth Moon, published as an issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal.

Christmas at Darcy House by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 5+ hrs.
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Christmas at Darcy House by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Julia Eve, is a variation that takes some liberty with Darcy’s reserved character when it places Elizabeth Bennet directly in the path of Mr. Wickham and a marriage proposal. Darcy unexpectedly finds Elizabeth to be in London, and his efforts to forget her after removing him and the Bingleys from Hertfordshire are for naught. Her fine eyes are there beckoning him to get closer, but for her part, she cannot understand why Darcy would want to dance with her at a Christmas ball or even be in her company after the things he’s said.

Darcy’s character is impulsive at just the wrong moment, but for the right reason, as he sees no other way to save Elizabeth from Wickham and his advances. Despite his uncharacteristic behavior, Elizabeth’s response is spot on in many ways. How can they resolve their differences and learn to meet in love when so much has been said and misunderstood?

Kincaid has pushed the envelope here with her Darcy character, but as the story evolves you can see how desperate he is at the prospect of losing Elizabeth to Wickham. The narrator was a bit odd when speaking male parts, as if she tried too hard to deepen her voice. Darcy’s narration came off less reserved and more harsh, but so too did Elizabeth’s narration at times.

Christmas at Darcy House by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Julia Eve, is a fun Yuletide variation that will keep readers on their toes. If you want something close to the original character of Mr. Darcy, this is not for you.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audiobook, 7+ hrs.
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The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a heart-wrenching variation of Pride & Prejudice. Following a disastrous proposal at Hunsford, Darcy is determined to improve Elizabeth Bennet’s opinion of him and hopefully win her love. But upon his arrival at Longbourn with Bingley, a terrible loss has separated him from his love forever. She has not married another, but is presumed dead in a ship explosion. The devastation is written on Darcy’s face and is plain to even the most obtuse Bennets. Without any hope, he has set his mind to revenge — to find the French spy who caused the explosion and her death.

Kincaid has crafted a heartbreaking scenario in which Darcy with no training is thrust into an enemy nation bent on revenge. He is clearly ill-prepared for the task and a local doctor sniffs out his true identity pretty easily, despite his impeccable French. What begins as a revenge story morphs into a story of redemption when Darcy finds that Elizabeth is not dead, but very ill and remembers nothing of her life, including her name.

This Darcy is able to demonstrate his feelings because his barriers were crushed when he thought she was dead. With her alive, he has not qualms about expressing himself and his love. Whether he realizes it or not, he can redeem himself by caring for her and returning her home, even if he must don the disguise of being her husband to escape enemy territory. The audio narration here is perfect. Each moment between them narrated for dramatic effect without being over the top, and Zimmerman engages the readers emotions as Elizabeth struggles to remember her past and how she came to marry Darcy.

The Unforgettable Mr. Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a wonderful variation full of drama, espionage, double-agents, budding friendship and love, as well as Austen’s trademark misunderstandings and prejudices. What readers will love here is how well the amnesia story line is laid out and how hard it is for Darcy to navigate the truth and fiction when his heart is so utterly lost to her and she does not remember him. Well done.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

Giveaway: President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 11+ hours
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President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Lucy Emerson, explores what would happen if Mr. Darcy was a single man from a wealthy family who became president with an agenda that Elizabeth Bennet and her family support, but then he slights her by calling her unintelligent and ugly. Kincaid has created an untenable situation for Darcy in which he has vowed not to date while president and professes not to be lonely, even though he is. When he misjudges Elizabeth and it becomes fodder for the Twitterverse, how can he overcome his ill-timed statements about Elizabeth and get her out of his heart and mind for the good of the country and his presidency?

Kincaid’s narrative is in defy narrative hands with Lucy Emerson, whose portrayal of both male and female characters is spot on throughout the book. Darcy is proud and snobbish, as well as quick to judge, but Elizabeth is stubborn and oh so oblivious to his attraction to her when he clearly takes his time to greet her warmly, apologize for his previous words, and have her favorite wine waiting on Air Force One.

I love how Kincaid navigated the restrictions of being the president in this one, even if there is one moment when protocols were thrown right out the window. The scandal that ensues makes it all worthwhile, even if it is wrapped up neatly. The scandals in this book are pretty tame compared to our daily news reports.

President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Lucy Emerson, is my favorite of Kincaid’s books so far. I love modern variations, so if you are a puritan in the world of Austen, this is not for you. There’s humor, moments of sexual tension and release, and a lot of miscues between Darcy and Elizabeth. And Lydia….oh, Lydia…you’ll like her even less in this one.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Victoria Kincaid is the author of several popular Jane Austen variations, including The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth, Pride & ProposalsMr. Darcy to the Rescue, When Mary Met the Colonel, and Darcy vs. Bennet. All of her books have been listed in Amazon’s Top 20 Bestselling Regency Romances.  The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth was nominated for a Rone award and Pride and Proposals was recognized as a top Austenesque novel for 2015 by Austenesque Reviews.

Victoria has a Ph.D. in English literature and has taught composition to unwilling college students. Today she teaches business writing to willing office professionals and tries to give voice to the demanding cast of characters in her head.

She lives in Virginia with an overly affectionate cat, an excessively energetic dog, two children who love to read, and a husband who fortunately is not jealous of Mr. Darcy.  A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

***GIVEAWAY***

Victoria Kincaid is offering 1 audiobook copy of President Darcy to one lucky reader.

Leave a comment below with your email by March 13, 2019, at 11:59 PM EST.

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 112 pgs.
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Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field is an illustrated transition book from beginning readers as move from picture books to chapter books. Bear is a kind animal who is woken up from hibernation, but Rabbit is a disgruntled creature who has some bad habits, like eating his poo.

When the characters are introduced, you expect to see who robbed bear of her food, since the robber supposedly stood on her nose, but the robber seems to vanish in thin air. The illustrations in this story are gorgeous, right down to the wisps of snow falling. Bear calmly handles Rabbit’s cranky retorts and doesn’t even blink at being called “Idiot.” Personally, this household shies away from those words because they are hurtful and can have long-lasting effects, but kids in my daughter’s school and at her age certainly do use that word and others that are far worse. While I don’t like the use of it, I can see how it mirrors a child’s reality on the playground — only here the kids are animals and the playground is the forest.

My daughter reached for this book the moment it entered the house and started reading while eating breakfast. She didn’t eat much before school that morning. She was too absorbed in the story and she easily read the first pages on her own. Because it still has pictures, it helped keep her engaged with the story.

Talk of gravity and digestion, as well as how to build the best snowman, pepper the pages. Kids will learn something while laughing at the antics of these animals, and they’ll be thankful they did as they find Rabbit is later in peril.

Despite a few initial bumps, Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field ended up being a good story about overcoming initial differences and finding a friendship based on caring and giving.

RATING: Quatrain

Mother Earth’s Lullaby by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Carol Heyer

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 36 pgs.
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Mother Earth’s Lullaby: A Song for Endangered Animals by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Carol Heyer, is a delightful bedtime story read for younger kids. The rhymes make it easy for kids to be lulled into sleepiness. Each page has a cuddly illustration of an endangered animal nestling down with their family or in a cozy den. Each of the endangered animals featured in the book are described in the back pages, providing kids and parents information about where the animals live and how much they weigh, etc., as well as why they have become endangered.

My daughter read this one on her own, which was great to hear. She learned new words along the way, like slumber and wallaby, and she loves the words that mimic sounds, like flutter-flap. The book provides a gentle reminder to kids that they can feel safe falling asleep with their families and that the darkness will not harm them. It would be interesting to have a singer sing this lullaby on an accompanying CD to enrich the experience for kids.

Mother Earth’s Lullaby: A Song for Endangered Animals by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Carol Heyer, is beautifully illustrated and the rhymes were spot on. I liked that it was easy for my daughter to read for the most part, though there are some unfamiliar words that she had to work at.

RATING: Cinquain

If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur by Amy Newbold, illustrated by Greg Newbold

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur by Amy Newbold, illustrated by Greg Newbold, explores the various styles of painting from a number of masters, including Leonardo da Vinci. In the opening pages, young readers are treated to a step-by-step outline of how to draw a stegosaurus in crayon. Many kids begin drawing with crayons, and this opening page highlights how they can draw their own dinosaur before asking them what it would look like if a famous painter and/or artist used dinosaurs in their paintings.

Through imaginative renderings of famous paintings, the author and illustrator work in tandem to engage young readers in an exploration of artistic styles, famous works of art, and playful pretend games. In one instance, kids are asked to find how many dinosaurs are hidden in Diego Rivera’s painting. This was a great way to introduce my daughter to some famous works of art and she was stunned to learn that a can of soup became a famous piece of art. She asked if she could sell the soup from our pantry to make lots of money, and I told her that art is in the eye of the beholder. So we did have a good discussion about that.

One quibble I had as a parent with a young reader is that there are no pronunciation keys for some of the harder to pronounce names. These could help parents sound out the names with their children. I prefer these in books because it demonstrates that like my daughter, sometimes I need help pronouncing names. This helps her to feel less frustrated.

Not only is drawing explored, but also painting, stamping, and more. Art is what you make it. In If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur by Amy Newbold, illustrated by Greg Newbold, kids can see how art is transformed with dinosaurs and it will get them thinking about their own art work.

RATING: Quatrain

Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories by Sarah Lerner

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 192 pgs.
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Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories edited by Sarah Lerner is deeply moving and filled with passion — a passion for making a difference and a passion for the lives that were cut too short and should be remembered. From students to teachers, these essays, poems, photos, and drawings will make you an emotional mess. Reading through this collection, you can tell how scared these kids were when the shooting occurred on Feb. 14 , 2018. The lives of these unsuspecting students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was upended by one school shooter.

The initial reaction was disbelief because many thought the second fire drill was just routine, but the rapid fire soon became the scariest thing they had ever heard. Many lamented they didn’t stick to their routines and wait for friends, while others wanted to have done more to save their friends. There was the interminable wait for their friends to respond, but the silence was deafening. The heavy weight of sadness was soon wielded as a weapon against those who dare not to talk about gun reform, with many kids marching and lobbying for change still.

From “Can’t You Hear?” by Alyson Sheehy

You can blame what you want, pull on whatever thread
Bully us into silence and treat us like we don’t matter.
However, don’t forget there is no future when all of us are dead
Although it seems that is still not enough for all lives to matter.

Can’t you hear the screams now? Cause they are only growing louder.

The speech from Emma Gonzalez is widely known, but it bears repeating.

From “We Call BS” speech by Emma Gonzalez

“The students at this school have been having debates on guns for what feels like our entire lives. AP Gov had about three debates this year. Some discussions on the subject even occurred during the shooting while students were hiding in closets. The people involved right now, those who were there, those posting, those tweeting, those doing interviews and talking to people, are being listened to for what feels like the very first time on this topic that has come up over 1,000 times in the past four years alone…”

Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories edited by Sarah Lerner must have been a cathartic experience for the writers, artists, and photographers who participated in sharing their stories, emotions, and trauma with readers. It’s a must read for anyone who does not understand the movement toward gun control. Our world has changed, our children are no longer safe in school, and more guns are not a viable solution.

Rating: Quatrain

The Poetry of Us edited by J. Patrick Lewis

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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The Poetry of US edited by J. Patrick Lewis is a compilation of poetry representing a number of aspects of our country. Broken down by region, the poems speak to New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Midwest, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Pacific Coast, and the U.S. Territories. Former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J Patrick Lewis chose more than 200 poems for the collection to demonstrate the diversity not only of our country, but the poets themselves. The color photos from the National Geographic archives are gorgeous and full bleed in most cases, ensuring this collection packs a visual punch as well.

Reading the poems in the New England section was like coming home, particularly when reading David Elliott’s “Boston Baked Beans: A Recipe,” which includes some wonderful unique speech that Boston is known for, even if not everyone speaks dropping their r’s.

This collection also includes some of my very favorite poems from Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, and other classic poets, but there are also contemporary poets throughout, including Ted Kooser, Jane Yolen, Lewis himself, Naomi Shihab Nye, and more.

The Poetry of US edited by J. Patrick Lewis is a wonderful introduction to our country for younger readers, providing them with just a sprinkling of our geographic diversity and a heap of cultural diversity. From the immigrants who come to our shores seeking a home to those who have lived here since the country was born, these poems and images seek to remind us of who we hope to be — a melting pot of diversity. Heartwarming photos of children being embraced in the nation’s capital, sweeping photos of Niagara Falls and mountains of majesty, the collection brings home the unity we can find together if we put our hearts and minds to it.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Editor:

Former Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis grew up in Gary, Indiana and earned a BA at Saint Joseph’s College, an MA at Indiana University, and a PhD in economics at the Ohio State University. Lewis taught in the department of Business, Accounting and Economics at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, until 1998 when he became a full-time writer.

Lewis is the author of more than fifty books of poetry for children, which find their shape in both free and formal verse and engage a wide range of subjects from history to mathematics, Russian folklore to the animal kingdom. His books for children include Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles (2009, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger); New York Times Best Illustrated Book The Last Resort (2002, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti and translated into more than a dozen languages); The Shoe Tree of Chagrin (2001, illustrated by Chris Sheban), which won the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators’ Golden Kite Award; and A Hippopotamusn’t: And Other Animal Poems (1990, illustrated by Victoria Chess). His collaborations with other children’s poets have yielded several collections, including Castles: Old Stone Poems (2006, with Rebecca Dotlich, illustrated by Dan Burr) and Birds on a Wire: A Renga ‘Round the Town (2008, with Paul Janeczko, illustrated by Gary Lippincott).

Fly With Me by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple is gorgeous. The photographs and reproductions of artwork are stunning, bring each bird to life for young readers. With these colorful pictures, it will be hard for young readers to turn away, and parents will be able to use this as a resource for not only the biology of birds, but also in geography lessons in which state birds are talked about. The giant state bird map is wonderfully detailed, as are the pages about migration, ancient birds, evolution and extinction, and so much more.

I originally wanted to review this book because poetry is included, and Yolen’s poems are always accessible to a number of audiences. I wasn’t wrong about that here, either, as her poems in this book are a great way to introduce young readers to birds. There also are poems from Heidi E.Y. Stemple, which are equally accessible. I loved sharing with my daughter how Stemple’s poem, “Vee,” not only examines the migration of geese but is also shaped like the “V” formation of geese.

Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Jane Yolen, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple is a collection that the whole family can share. It was big hit for its colorful pages and its poetry, but there is so much more to explore in these pages.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Authors:

JANE YOLEN is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature.

HEIDI STEMPLE was 28 years old when she joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published 20 books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children.
Stemple, her two daughters, her mom, and a couple cats live in Massachusetts on a big old farm with two houses.

JASON STEMPLE is an author and photographer. He lives with his wife and children in Charleston, South Carolina.

ADAM STEMPLE is a novelist and musician. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Shelf Life of Happiness by Virginia Pye

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Summie Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 170 pgs.
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Shelf Life of Happiness by Virginia Pye is a slow burn, because like happiness it can take time to see when you actually have it. Pye’s characters are all unique in their experiences from a young man rebelling against his perceptions of his father by looking to a career in skateboarding to an artist who’s big ritual signals an end to his long-fought-for break. These stories explore how long happiness lasts, and in many cases, these characters realize that their happiness happened long ago or that their current happiness may be cut too short.

From “Crying in Italian” (pg. 24)

“The children huddle, deciding if their longing for gelato can be satisfied with limonata instead. That’s the question, isn’t it? she thinks. Can one high, desperate longing be satisfied by something else instead?

From “White Dog” (pg. 36)

“From somewhere behind the house, two gunshots sounded rapidly, one after the other. Dunster flinched and Roxanne steadied him. ‘Enemy’s closer than we thought,’ he mumbled.”

Pye’s intimate portraits of these characters reveal the motivations we all have and the worries we carry about our own happiness. If something looks better in someone else’s life, don’t we covet it and wonder what it would be like to be them? We look and think that their happiness is better than our own and we either strive to emulate that which we see or we destroy what happiness we have in seeking out the “other” happiness. Then there is the internal doubt about our own happiness, the happiness we have in the moment — is it real or imagined? What is the shelf life of happiness? It’s probably different for everyone and some of us achieve more than others in terms of emotional happiness, but what does it even mean to be happy?

Shelf Life of Happiness by Virginia Pye offers a variety of stories exploring this idea of happiness and what it means in all of its forms. Some happiness lasts longer than others, and some characters soon realize the thing they thought they needed to be happy is not the happiness they had. Big questions for book clubs to explore and so much more.

RATING: Quatrain

PHOTO: Terry Brown

About the Author:

Virginia Pye is the author of two award-winning novels, Dreams of the Red Phoenix and River of Dust, and the forthcoming short story collection, Shelf Life of Happiness. Her stories, essays, and interviews have appeared in The North American Review, The Baltimore Review, Literary Hub, The New York Times, The Rumpus, Huffington Post and elsewhere. She lived in Richmond, Virginia, for many years and recently returned Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she grew up.

She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied with Allan Gurganus, Joan Silber, and Chuck Wachtel. In college at Wesleyan University she learned from Annie Dillard and F.D. Reeve. After graduate school, she served as assistant to Frances Goldin at her literary agency in New York City. Virginia has taught creative writing and literature at New York University, and later in Philadelphia, at the University of Pennsylvania, in high schools, community centers, and in her home. In Richmond, she helped establish and run James River Writers, a literary non-profit. In Boston, she now teaches at Grub Street Writing Center.