Erotica fans may be disappointed by this thinly plotted bodice ripper.

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Cult of Beauty

THE SECRET LIFE OF A SUPERMODEL

Sex and drugs—mostly sex—overpower a young fashion model’s luxurious lifestyle in this graphic tale of desire.

Katie Wolfer, a 24-year-old supermodel, abruptly flees a runway show in Paris when she receives the news that her mother has committed suicide. All that’s left of her family is her wealthy stepfather, Daniel, and her two stepsiblings. Returning to New York, she takes up residence with Daniel and his children in their extravagant Hamptons home. Hungry for pleasure, Katie shirks off mourning her mother in favor of her own libido, and she engages sexually with everyone from the handsome man beside her on her flight from Paris, to her stepsister, Caroline, to a pair of young peeping Toms in the Hamptons. Finding her life in flux, she pushes forward in pursuit of sex, flirting dangerously with how sexual prowess shapes her identity as a young woman. No erotic stone goes unturned in her escapades: Katie finds herself in situations ranging from sex in public to group sex to bondage. However, the most troublesome of all her yearnings is what she feels for her stepfather, Daniel—would sleeping with him validate her new, open-minded quest for pleasure or condemn her as someone who’s crossed a disturbing line? The feverish addition of drugs, glamour and money leads Katie to a definitive answer in the novel’s final pages. Jumping on the Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon, this novel is packed with more sex than plot, as each chapter centers on a titillating and explicit sex scene. The sexual encounters tend to offer more pornography than passion, with a preference for cringe-worthy metaphors, including everything from “water snake” to “lollipop.” Katie’s brush with near incest seems gratuitous as the book struggles to up the ante on each chapter’s over-the-top escapade. While Katie occasionally reflects on how her reckless behavior affects her identity, her character is otherwise flat; readers learn more about her favorite designer miniskirt than her emotional landscape. The story is hellbent on showing an outrageous lifestyle, but the result is more confused discomfort than a compelling narrative about sexual expression.

Erotica fans may be disappointed by this thinly plotted bodice ripper.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 163

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2013

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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