A wildly inventive but sometimes comical erotic novel.

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I AM BATHSHEBA

The biblical story of King David and Bathsheba, recast as an erotic drama.

As a young girl, Bathsheba is willful, defiant, and precociously curious about her burgeoning sexuality. She instinctively rebels against the patriarchal tyranny of traditional Jewish law, which she sees as leaving women as the voiceless disciples of men. She leaves home to find her grandmother, Mother Malka, a kind of erotic priestess who has an underground dungeon. Mother Malka not only mentors her in the carnal arts, but also tells her that the religious tradition in which she was raised is false—blasphemies that Bathsheba finds exhilarating. Mother Malka prophesizes that Bathsheba will become the lover of royalty, but the young woman’s parents arrange for her to marry Uriah, a dour man obsessed with his military duties. But when he goes off to war, she begins a sexual entanglement with King David—a torrid affair that eventually leaves Bathsheba pregnant. King David arranges for Uriah to remain at war; it’s a move that’s tantamount to an assassination, and a sinful transgression for which he’s deeply ashamed. But he nonetheless marries Bathsheba, and the couple have a son, Solomon. When Solomon grows into an adult, he’s less interested in erotic enjoyment than in his princely obligations. Bathsheba, however, selects a young virgin, Abishag, to become her sexual disciple, just as she was mentored by Mother Malka. In this way, Abishag becomes an instrument of Solomon’s future sexual emancipation—a process that first requires her to experience her own. Debut author Minx tells this entire story through diary excerpts, quickly shifting perspectives to allow all the main characters to speak for themselves. This recasting of the biblical tale is fiercely imaginative, transforming a story about a woman’s helplessness into one of personal empowerment and feminine exaltation. Also, Minx’s creativity is fearless—she never shies away from interpretations that flirt with what some might call sacrilege. For example, King David enjoys a passionate, if chaste, relationship with his best friend, Jonathan, that allows him to tap into his yearning for sexual submission. Far from being depicted monochromatically as an imperious king, preying upon vulnerable women, he’s revealed as someone who feels exasperatingly imprisoned within a man’s body. Minx’s descriptions of sex, though, can be more comic than dramatic—euphemisms for sexual organs, such as “lily, “bulbs,” and “petals,” drain the drama from many sexually charged passages. Also, she often expresses the inner monologues of her characters in a naïve, bowdlerized language that conflicts with the transgressions and taboos she describes. For example, as Bathsheba is initiated into the pleasures of submission, she thinks: “I’m ready for anything....I hope he enjoys this as much as I do.” At other points, the efforts to be shocking devolve into bewildering weirdness. While questioning Abishag, for example, Bathsheba resorts to peculiar interrogation techniques: “The Queen tore her blouse open and commanded, ‘Now suck them and choke. Choke and swear you are telling me the truth!’ ”

A wildly inventive but sometimes comical erotic novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 437

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2018

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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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