An engaging, authentic depiction of life in Gold Rush–era California.

THE WHIP

In this debut historical novel, a woman disguises herself as a male stagecoach driver in order to track down the man responsible for the murder of her family.

Inspired by a true story, Kondazian conjures up the legend of Charlotte “Charley” Pankhurst, a 19th century woman who spent much of her life pretending to be a male. Charlotte, who was raised in an orphanage in Boston, falls in love with a runaway slave and bears his child. But a terrible act of cruelty leaves her mourning her family and planning vengeance on the man responsible. After Charlotte learns that her target is headed west, she decides to follow him. The old West is no place for a lone woman, however, so she disguises herself as a man and finds employment as a “whip,” or stagecoach driver. She has a series of adventures as she drives her coach up and down the California territory. She meets an actress named Anna, who later becomes her housekeeper; when Anna falls in love with her, however, Charlotte rebuffs her advances. Charlotte dons her female duds again upon arriving in San Francisco, where she falls for an outlaw named Edmund. However, her plan to take revenge for the death of her family is never far from her mind. The author, an actress, has written a novel about the old West that feels authentic in almost every sweaty detail (“The stagecoach was coming. The whole world was dust and pounding, pounding and dust”). Kondazian’s background in the world of make-believe helps her to convincingly render Charlotte’s transformation. The novel even offers a pansexual take on romance as both Charlotte and her lover seem to derive extra pleasure from the fact that she can be both a woman and a man.

An engaging, authentic depiction of life in Gold Rush–era California.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1601823076

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hansen Publishing Group, LLC

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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