A sprightly, winning historical novel about an unexpected romance—between a young woman and her own power.

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MISTRESS SUFFRAGETTE

Set in Gilded Age New England, Forbes’ debut novel follows teenage Penelope Stanton as she struggles through dubious attachments and financial ruin to become a suffragist leader.

“Imagine being sent to a party with a gun pointed at your head.” In 17-year-old Penelope’s case, the gun is metaphorical but a burden all the same—her father’s bank has suffered huge losses during the Panic of 1893, and her erstwhile fiance, Sam Haven, has cut her dead because of it. Penelope’s mother is determined to marry her off quickly to save the family’s fortunes. But instead of meeting an eligible bachelor, Penelope falls for rakish, married Edgar Daggers, whose stolen kisses turn her into “ice cream melting.” She has just enough willpower to resist becoming Edgar’s “personal secretary” in New York and flees to Boston with her best friend Lucinda, who wants to “join forces with the women who seek to improve the lives of women.” Through Lucinda, Penelope meets bloomer-wearing activist Verdana Jones. She shocks Verdana—and herself!—by cogently defending “Irrational Dress,” saying that “corsets and petticoats offer some structure...in a world that unravels as I speak.” Verdana thinks they’re a great team, and soon Penelope finds herself caught up in the fledgling women’s rights movement, even as the tempting Edgar Daggers comes back into her life. What will win out in the end—clandestine love or Penelope’s desire for independence? A delight from beginning to end, Forbes’ novel is full of funny, authentic moments, like poor Penelope’s ignominious accident when she tries to ride a bicycle in skirts, and striking metaphors (“an uncomfortable silence loomed...thick as soda bread”). Forbes paints the smallest details of fin de siècle society—the pop music, the interior décor, the “Beecham’s Pills” Penelope takes for a hangover. In fact, the book feels like it was written at the time, reading like an alternate, feminist take on The House of Mirth’s “well-born lady in reduced circumstances” with a decidedly happier ending.

A sprightly, winning historical novel about an unexpected romance—between a young woman and her own power.

Pub Date: March 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946409-07-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: Penmore Press

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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