Shamelessly soapy and dangerously addictive.

THE SWAP

Who could have known that swapping spouses for one night could cause so much trouble?

High school senior Swallow “Low” Morrison has always been too tall, too intense, too strange. It doesn’t help that her parents are polyamorous, which, despite their Pacific Northwest island’s reputation as a haven for recreational spouse swapping, is still considered beyond the pale. After Low gets a glimpse of the ethereally beautiful Freya Light, she doesn’t hesitate to sign up for Freya’s pottery classes at her home studio. Before long, Freya is crossing boundaries with Low and shares a few of her darkest secrets. Freya and her husband, Max, a former professional hockey player, moved to the isolated Hawking to get away from a scandal that ruined Max’s career and tanked Freya’s status as a social media influencer. Low’s fascination with Freya quickly blooms into obsession, but Freya’s close friendship with Jamie Vincent, a local shop owner, threatens Low’s claim her. One night, Jamie and her husband, Brian, join Freya and Max for a night of magic mushrooms and steamy partner swapping. Jamie and Brian, whose relationship is already strained by their inability to conceive a child, are consumed by guilt, but Jamie isn’t about to let that night ruin her friendship with Freya. Unfortunately, Low witnessed all that night’s action from right outside Freya’s glass encased home, and she won’t hesitate to use it to her advantage. Of course, the fallout from that night, and Low’s simmering emotions, inevitably crescendos to a shocking point of no return. The narrative shuffles among all the major players except Freya, which adds to her aura of aloof perfection. As events spiral out of control, Harding’s deft handling of her characters makes it easy to believe that Jamie and Low could fall under the spell of someone like Freya, whose cool beauty hides dark multitudes, and nearly everyone in this passion play becomes delightfully unhinged in the end.

Shamelessly soapy and dangerously addictive.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-4176-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Well-drawn characters introduce the criminal underworld to the occult kind in a breathless and compelling plot.

HELL BENT

From the Alex Stern series , Vol. 2

A Yale sophomore fights for her life as she balances academics with supernatural extracurriculars in this smart fantasy thriller, the second in a series.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is a member of Lethe House, the ninth of Yale’s secret societies. And not just any member—she’s Virgil, the officer who conducts the society's rituals. In the world of Bardugo’s Alex Stern series, Yale’s secret societies command not just powerful social networks, but actual magic; it’s Lethe’s job to keep that magic in control. Alex is new to the role. She had to take over in a hurry after the previous Virgil, Darlington, her mentor and love interest, disappeared in a cliffhanger at the end of the first book. He appears to be in hell, but is he stuck there for good? Alex and Pamela Dawes—Lethe’s Oculus, or archivist/administrator—have found a reference to a pathway called a Gauntlet that can open a portal to hell, but can they find the Gauntlet itself? And what about the four murderers the Gauntlet ritual requires? Meanwhile, Alex’s past as a small-time drug dealer is catching up with her, adding gritty street crime to the demonic white-collar evil the Yale crowd tends to prefer. The plot is relentless and clever, and the writing is vivid, intelligent, and funny at just the right moments, but best of all are the complex characters, such as the four murderers, each with a backstory that makes it possible for the reader to trust them to enter hell and have the strength to leave again. Like the first book, this one ends with a cliffhanger.

Well-drawn characters introduce the criminal underworld to the occult kind in a breathless and compelling plot.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-31310-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

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FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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