Cover Image: Summer Sons

Summer Sons

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Member Reviews

I saw the synopsis for this one on the publisher’s instagram, late last summer, and I feel like I’ve been holding my breath, waiting for it, ever since.
Equal parts haunting dark academia and longing southern-gothic horror, this supernatural thriller gave me goosebumps. Repression and loss, codependency and grief all roll up into this possessive sort of yearning that made this story absolutely impossible to put down. It was just so expressively and atmosphericly written… you really FEEL every single thing on the page: the heat, the desire, the freedom of fast cars, the comfort in friends and found family, the desperate clinging to denial, and the release of self-acceptance. Everything I was hoping for and so, so much more. I’d absolutely suggest Summer Sons to anyone looking for a vulnerable, dark, twisted story, filled with unlikable and morally grey characters that you just can’t help but adore, doing unlikable and morally grey things that you just can’t help but hope they succeed at.
Reading this felt like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, all of my favourite pieces of all of my favourite stories coming together to make a wholly new image. Perfect. Absolutely loved this one and can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next.

CW: violence, death, substance abuse, driving under the influence, some homophobia,

🥃 a massive thank you to the amazing people at @raincoastbooks and @tordotcompub for the early e-copy. This was one of my most highly anticipated releases for the whole year and I’m so glad for the chance to have read it early.

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DNF at 50%. Not a bad book at all, it's well written and intriguing, however I'm personally finding it hard to get through and forcing myself to finish may impact my liking of the book so I won't be continuing.

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~bruised boys and fast cars
~queer -yearning- haunting
~the poetry of masculinity
~no homo, but let me feed you my blood and make you mine
~I did not know ghostly/demonic possession was a kink but that’s a thing now

Take The Raven Cycle and give it shark-sharp teeth. Cross the result with All For the Game. Feed the result gasoline mixed with blood; watch to make sure it laps up every drop. Give it breath like a southern summer, thick and humid and hot as chrome left under sunlight. Make it a nest of bones and secrets and sighs. Let it sharpen its claws on your wrists. Give it your throat.

Do all that…and then scrap it all, because Summer Sons is wholly its own, and no comparisons can do justice to the rich, simmering, chilling ache that is this book.

The comparisons are inevitable. But they’re wrong.

I’ve followed Mandelo’s reviews and think-pieces for years and years, so it was a no-brainer to request Summer Sons when it showed up on Netgalley. I never doubted for a second that this was going to be good.

But it’s not good.

It’s motherfucking breathtaking.

Summer Sons is the kind of book that wraps its fingers around your heart and doesn’t let go; rich and raw and enthralling, an alchemy of the worldly and otherworldly that is pure, dark, thrilling magic. Mandelo’s prose is deft and merciless as a scalpel, soft and deceptive as silk; the heat is scorching, the yearning searing and savage. The pages run with desire so thick it drips like honey – until it gushes like blood.

This is a book that will drag you under.

The official description does a perfectly accurate job of setting the scene for you: this is, on the most superficial of levels, a murder-mystery – even if Andrew is the only one who believes Eddie’s suicide was somehow staged. But although I wouldn’t say the hunt for Eddie’s killer or killers is a secondary plotline – Andrew would never let that happen – it still isn’t close to the whole story.

Or maybe it is, in that Andrew’s hunt becomes as much about searching within himself for answers as it is looking for them without. He has to stalk his own shadow if he wants to unravel every secret; dig deep into memories he’s locked away, thoughts he’s never let himself think, instincts and hungers he’s refused to acknowledge, never mind looked at too closely. To discover what the truth is he has to figure out what it was, and oh, the razor-wire-and-velvet tangle of toxic masculinity and queer longing is such a fucking masterpiece.

Because fuck yes, this is queer. ‘Till death do us part’? Death can fucking try.

>>And he kept hearing Riley say he was your–on loop. What word should he put after? On paper, a sibling; in practice, something else. If Eddie had been Riley’s friend, he wasn’t that for Andrew. That friendship was a muted fraction of the real thing, the marrow-thing, that tied them together. Through the cavern and their hauntings since, through a life spent with Eddie keeping him leashed but cared for at the same time, he couldn’t find a label that fit where he needed it to go. Maybe instead, just a hard stop: he was yours.<<

And honestly, I think that’s where the horror is; not in the ghosts and curses and magic dark and tangled as ancient roots – although we have all of that and more – but in the toxic, intoxicating relationship Andrew had with Eddie, continues to have with his own sexuality. It’s as sensual as it is fucked-up, desperate and starving, terribly beautiful and beautifully terrible and oh, so willfully, adoringly blind. Of course Andrew is haunted by Eddie’s spectre; how could the grave part them? Even the reaper couldn’t untangle all the thorns and knots binding them together, suffocating Andrew even as he leans into them. When the haunting progresses to full-on possession, the reader can’t be surprised; it’s a foregone conclusion, an almost embarrassingly obvious metaphor for all the ways in which Andrew was and is possessed by his best friend. Eddie didn’t possess Andrew’s body in life, so he takes it in death – and maybe what’s terrifying is that the snarled-up, toxic masculinity they both grew up with finds that, literal ghostly possession, less frightening than two guys fucking.

There is so much to unpack here.

Mandelo’s prose has you smelling the burning rubber during the drag-racing, hearing the cicadas, sweating in the thick humidity of the story in your hands. It has your heart pounding and your stomach clenching and your knuckles turning white from holding the book so hard, torn between turning the pages as fast as you can and savouring every molasses-sweet word. It digs in deep and uncoils at a perfect pace; almost casually gutting the marble facade of academia to spill out the stinking backstabbing and racism in its guts; tearing open the macho bullshit and unthinking homophobia of a particular kind of asshole and prying out the emotions underneath, raw and pulsing. Summer Sons revels in the danger of razor-blade boys while calling them on their shit, subverting stereotypes about everything from the South to drug dealers while dealing with the reality of them.

And that reality’s not pretty, but damn is it compelling.

Summer Sons is more than I hoped for and everything I didn’t know to want. It’s been weeks since I finished reading it, weeks since I started drafting this review, and the story’s haunted me ever since. I want to read it again, and again, and again; I want it to be released already so I can talk about it with others who have read it. It’s so hard to put everything I feel about this book into words; I’m finding it impossible to distill down everything Summer Sons is into a neat little review for you. I have drafted and redrafted and this is as close as I’ve managed to come, and I know it’s still not good enough, but I don’t think I can do better. You’re just going to have to read Summer Sons for yourself.

This book is as sensual as it is terrifying, a Molotov cocktail in a beautiful perfume bottle, equal parts hot breath and bone-chilling cold. The mystery is as thick in the air as the humidity. It is luscious and skeletal, ozone and diesel and sweat and blood. It is brutal and it is decadent, hedonistic. It is exactly what it should be. It is perfect.

Preorder it immediately if you haven’t already.

(And someone still needs to write me an essay on the homoeroticism of being possessed by your best friend’s ghost, ‘kay? ‘Kay.)

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When Andrew's best friend Eddie dies suddenly, Andrew is left with a sizable inheritance, a house in Nashville, a new roommate, a Dodge Challenger, and an angry revenant. Andrew knows that there is no way Eddie would have killed himself, no matter what others claim, and sets out to solve the mystery of Eddie's death by discovering exactly what Eddie was up to in the months before he died.
A Southern Gothic tale steeped in dark academia, Summer Sons is an exploration of friendship, death, ownership, inheritance, and what it means to be truly alive while managing to be a tantalizingly spooky ghost story at the same time.

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4.16 stars
Enjoyability 6/10

Eddie and Andrew have been best friends since childhood and did everything together until Vanderbilt, that is. Although they were both admitted into their program, Eddie started his six months earlier. Just as Andrew was about to join him, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide and leaves Andrew everything he owns, including a gruesome phantom that hungers for him and a deadly mystery with roots in the past.

I struggled to get into the book. The chapters felt so long, and the car racing plot didn't do it for me at all. I am glad I stuck around, though, as at around the 60% mark Summer Sons became everything I was hoping it would be - atmospheric, fast-paced, deliciously queer, intriguing, scary, tense, and gory.

The story was highly original, I loved the mythology that Mandelo created, and the setting was fantastic! The Southern Gothic vibes gave me the best chills.

While the main characters, especially Andrew, Eddie, and Sam, were fantastic, some characters entered and exited the book without much development. Though their contributions to the plot were crucial, they felt random.

I understand the length of the book is intrinsically connected to Andrew's arc. His coming-of-age story and overall excellent character development benefitted from the slow burn chapters. However, I can't help but think that had this been a novella, it would have been phenomenal! A real gothic horror masterpiece. That being said, I still really enjoyed it and recommended it because the third act is pure genius!

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Lee Mandelo, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Summer Sons.

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When Andrew loses his best friend Eddie, he is paralyzed not only with grief but with understanding why. They have done everything together since they were children, until recently. Eddie starts his graduate studies early, even though they planned to go together. Eddie has been secretive, vague, and distant, and Andrew was hurt, but he still cannot process the fact that Eddie is really gone.
Andrew is sure there has to be more to the story than the official determination. He decides to find out what Eddie was doing, who his friends were, and maybe more importantly, who were his enemies. As Andrew stumbles from place to place and person to person, he discovers that Eddie was keeping more than one dark secret.
To me, this book was a slow burn but in the best possible way. There were so many layers to this story. Grief, loss, ghosts, secrets, fast cars, dark academia, and coming to terms with your sexuality. I would be reading an almost ordinary passage when suddenly, the horror would intrude and I gasped more than once knowing something terrifying and evil was coming.
The ending was sad and hopeful at the same time if that makes sense. I thought about all the revelations long after I finished Summer Sons. The writing was beautiful and I felt as if I was right there next to Andrew, crying, sweating, and figuring out how to move on.4.5 stars.

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Listen, I was in the middle of a few other books when I saw a tweet describing Summer Sons and I immediately abandoned those books for this ARC that doesn't even come out until September. This book definitely won't be for everyone but it was perfect for me.

Summer Sons is that type of messy book that I immediately fall for. Its characters and relationships are so raw and so visceral that you're pulled in and can't get out. The plot, like the sweaty Tennessee summer it's set during, is thick with tension. The entire story you're waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen - a death, a punch, a kiss - until it's suddenly happening without warning. The writing is similar, equal parts beautiful and gruesome, and painstakingly describing every detail when all you want to know is what chaotic thing happens next.

If you couldn't tell yet, I loved it.

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Summer Son is a unique story jammed packed with mystery, heart racing scenes, ghosts, and the coming to terms with death and life.

This is a slow burn story, that in all honesty didn’t need to be this long. It had so many drawn out moments that it turned an action-packed story into a slow, almost soulful story instead.

The characters themselves are interesting. One is coming to terms with a friend’s death, one is dealing with ghosts, and they are all trying to find they way safely in this life. By design or not I had trouble connecting to the main character, Andrew, he was very stand-offish, selfish at times, and cold. I was confused as to why I was supposed to care for him. Now, he did have some growth towards the end, so he was not a lost cause for me. The character of Eddie was the most compelling for me and his life and the mystery around his death was what kept me reading (and I won’t give anything away).
The trauma, emotions and mystery in this story is very palatable and read real. I felt everything at the same time as the characters and in that expect the story really worked from me, especially the ending. I wasn’t expecting it and with my inability to care for the characters I was beyond surprised at how much I felt for them, how much I understood their choices after. It is a beautiful if not heartbreaking ending.

The atmosphere in this story is well developed. The Southern aspects seemed to really enhance the story as did the racing aspect. I liked the raw feel of the story as well. There was something visceral about it that really impacted me. Was it gothic though? I don’t think I would have labeled it as such, but I tend to be very picky about stories with that label.

Overall this was an interesting story that left me thinking about if for days. It is like an ear worm song that gets stuck in you head. I didn’t fully enjoy it, but it did have an impact on me and left me with a lot to think about. 3.75 stars.

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"Summer Sons" by Lee Mandelo is the dark southern gothic novel fans of horror have been waiting years to read. It's a gritty, coarse, and sinister story that dredges up ghosts from the past along with eerie family curses that thrive off violence and death. “Summer Sons” is a hauntingly grim thriller that doesn’t just set out to terrify audiences, but one that attempts to redefine the southern gothic genre in a way that is more inclusive and nightmarish.

Andrew and Eddie have a friendship thicker than being brothers and mutually haunted by ghosts. It’s a bond Andrew thought was impenetrable until Eddie starts his graduate program early at Vanderbilt and winds up dead. There’s undeniable proof that Eddie’s death is a suicide, but Andrew can’t shake the feeling something more sinister has taken place.

As Andrew loses himself in investigating Eddie’s death and attempts to fend off a malicious ghost that seems to want him dead, horrendous events from Eddie’s family history bubbles to the surface in the form of tragedies, murder, slavery, and family curses. It’s clear Andrew is way over his head, especially when he catches up with Eddie’s band of beautiful friends who are into street racing and hard drugs.

No matter how bad things get, Andrew won’t give up the search into his best friend’s death, even if it means being consumed by a malevolent spirit and an ugly history threatening to repeat itself.

“Summer Sons” carries some serious doom and gloom in the heavy subjects it touches on, but it also contains those light, good-humored scenes where guys act like guys. Not to mention there are some pretty great romance scenes that feel natural to the story. They’re not there to create drama, to take up space in the story, or to feel like an add-on in an already loaded tale. The bonds and relationships between characters developed in a candid way that audiences will appreciate.

The gothic/horror elements are disturbing the way they should be in a novel of this genre. When it comes to guts, gore and the uncanny, Mandelo doesn’t hold back. It’s a good sign the author understood their assignment and went above and beyond to create a terrifying masterpiece that horror fanatics will love.

Though the beginning felt stagnant, this is a tale worth holding onto. The first half of the novel doesn’t gloss over the effects of trauma or mental health. It’s an honest depiction of human suffering and how hard it is to beat vicious cycles of self-sabotage. When the story picks up, it’s impossible to not admire Andrew’s resilience and bravery to tackle his own demons and those of his best friend.

“Summer Sons” is definitely one to watch out for when it is released. Right now, the expected publication date is September 28th, 2021. A huge thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge (Tordotcom) for providing me with a free e-arc in exchange for sharing my honest opinion in this review.

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I had high hopes for this story with it being promoted as southern gothic and a mystery, however, it didn't give off those vibes to me. I didn't even get immersed into any sort of setting or atmosphere. The beginning was quite slow and I didn't understand why Andrew didn't immediately start trying to figure out what happened to Eddie if he believed it wasn't suicide. Instead, he goes to class, in which he didn't seem too invested in it? In fact, Andrew didn't seem too invested in much through the story and it got rather bland. This story wasn't for me until for a few moments at the very end.

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That is true horror in my opinion. Highly impressive book, for what I thought was a debut author, but no, she seems to have already some books under her belt and that may be why this one was as good as it was. Fantastic characters, very emotional and engaging story. I love it and will recommend it a lot!!

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LISTEN, I read “queer southern gothic” alongside “ghost” and “hot boys” and knew in my bones this was gonna be for me. Hungry and haunting and full of heart, Summer Sons didn’t disappoint.

Best friends since childhood, bonded by blood, and closer than brothers, Andrew and Eddie are damn near inseparable. That’s why when Eddie leaves Andrew behind, early admission to Vanderbilt in hand, everyone is a bit surprised, Andrew most of all. The separation wasn’t meant to permanent. Andrew was always meant to follow. But just days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies. An apparent suicide. Andrew decides to retrace Eddie’s last days - months, even - and as he does he begins to uncover the dark secrets left behind by the person he loved and trusted the most. Secrets that start to claw their way inside of him. Secrets that hunger for him.

What did I find in Summer Sons? Ghosts? Yes. Absolutely. Ghosts and other haunted, hungry things: grief and love and hard won truths. Summer Sons was everything I didn’t know I needed.

Thank you for this slow burning, heart filled ghost story @leemandelo + @tordotcompub.

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Much like the revenant in the story, <i>Summer Sons</i> is one of those books that claws its way into your mind and then lingers, haunting you long after you finish the last page. I was absolutely dazzled by this stunning debut. It's skin-crawlingly atmospheric -- Southern Gothic to its core -- and clever in its social commentary, while still centering itself around the exploration of identity. The ending was brilliant and beautiful. It is a slower paced read, so be sure to dive into this one when you're in the mood for a slow-burn.

I cannot wait for more of Lee Mandelo's writing. Thank you for providing a free advanced copy of the book!

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Disclaimer: I received an eARC from in exchange for my thoughts. Thanks, NetGalley!

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo explores themes of grief and loss and the horror that happens when you cannot let go. After the loss of his best friend, Eddie, Andrew moves to Nashville. He's determined to uncover the mystery of why Eddie passed. Slipping into the world that Eddie left behind, Andrew slowly unravels the dark legacy given to him. All the while dealing with the confusion around his desires and passions.

Mandelo has written a fabulous horror story that blends the mystery of personal loss with the ability to gain authentic love. They compellingly use rejection and death to bring readers into the world of self-discovery and queerness. Their writing is visual, and you can feel the heat of Nashville, smell the dust, and feel Andrew's pain in the hole that Eddie left behind.

Summer Sons is a quick read. The world draws you in, and the horror elements aren't in your face. Instead, they appear as fluid as the natural world we know. It's a dark mystery that leaves you satisfied and rooting for Andrew in the end. It left me thinking about my own queer path and discovery of authenticity.

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**Thank you to Tor and NetGalley for providing this eARC in exchange for an honest review. This book will release September 28, 2021.**

*That friendship was a muted fraction of the real thing, the marrow-thing, that tied them together.*

Something in *Summer Sons* wormed its way into my psyche and I don't think it'll be letting go anytime soon. And in no way should this book be aspirational, and yet... every page managed to speak to the spark of me that looks forward to the stickiness of summer nights in the south, the magic that can be found in the land there, and longs for a bond that can transcend the veil, even when it threatens to subsume you. Hell, it made me miss grad school, while accurately making several critiques of academia as an institution. And even though my experiences were nothing like this fraught, atmospheric daze, reading it made me feel equal parts *I want this* and *I miss the parts this reminds me of,* and *God I want to write like this.* This book is unsettling, raw and aching, sometimes funny, strangely gentle, and eerily real.

It was nearly impossible to read this book fast. I thought I was going to want to, but in the end I realized that would have been the wrong way for me to consume this story. Instead, I let it trickle in, because I have been down the road of tense boys with intense, uncertain relationships before (see the weekend I absolutely breathed in All For the Game my senior year of college, barely doing homework, sleeping or eating) and I'm trying to be more responsible now. But still, the pull to read was magnetic, even if the first half or so of the book was more languid than I had anticipated, and then in the last quarter I felt as if I was being inexorably dragged—in the best possible way—to the climax and conclusion. The writing, even when it's grim, is both poetic and familiar, and demands that you drink in every word.

The relationships and characters here are so much to handle. They are fully realized. They are damaged. They are sharp and unexpectedly tender and understanding. In them, I saw the broken but persevering and desperately loyal groups of friends that are more like family that I have loved over the years. There's more to the quote that I opened this review with, by the way, and I think that when you read it you'll be able to grasp the completeness and all-encompassing-ness of the relationship between Andrew and Eddie. I can't articulate the things that I want to about Eddie in this review, because I don't feel like those thoughts are fully formed, and maybe I want an excuse to reread. But Andrew... His development is phenomenal. I sympathized with him throughout, of course, because being haunted and dealing with the aftermath of your sort-of-more-than-best-friend's death is a lot, but once things come to a head and he can't live in denial anymore, he... I want to say blossoms. Which is weird, I know. But it's true. He finally *feels*, and feels like he has a chance at life. And I don't know if I have a legitimate reason to, but I felt like I could see parts of myself in Andrew, so maybe that's why I feel so attached. Riley, the roommate that Andrew inherits from Eddie, is great, and has some of the funniest lines in the book. His relationship with his cousin, Sam—or Halse, depending on Andrew's mood—is protective, both ways. And at first I was wary about Sam, but he shifts so subtly from the persona you first see him as to a full, complex person, and I really loved that. This is a slow-burn's slow-burn, and it continues to be right past ending; I love how it's done.

Reflecting, I can see that books that are about the difficulties of moving on, but with a more supernatural twist, are extremely my thing. And this ties into my feelings about the atmosphere of this book, but I feel like Lee Mandelo also truly nails the ache of longing, missed opportunities, and obsessive attachment. So much so that it's easy for me to forget that there was a plot outside of Andrew's grief and trauma and burgeoning relationships. But it's there, and when they crash into each other and things are resolved—with a moment in the forest that struck me hard in the heart and a text message that reminded me of an Avett Brothers song—it's with a strange sense of, as other reviewers have said, calm and relief.

Pairs well with drinking around a bonfire, the Kyla La Grange songs "Sympathy" and "Vampire Smile," blazing down a highway with the windows open on a summer night, the summerdark aesthetic, and Vin Diesel saying "I don't have friends, I got family."

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This book is one of my new favorites, and it's the PERFECT read for summer. It's fast-paced, daring, electric, and intense. It perfectly captured that feeling of heat in the south and made me miss the landscape so much. If you're a fan of the raven cycle, this book had a similar energy in the sense that it has that southern charm and every character had some Ronan in them. However, this book goes darker and deeper. I did kind of see the end coming, but it made sense for the direction the story was going and didn't make the experience any less fun for me. Overall, I had such a great time with this! If you're looking for something full of excitement and angst, this is the one.

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This isn't a book where much happens until the final 3rd. It's fun getting there, though, if a bit meandering—the vibes are immaculate (very queer, very strange)—but if you're looking for any plot for the first couple hundred pages, look elsewhere lol. But if you're interested in character study, and slow-burns, this is for you! Dark and surreal.

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*ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Let’s be honest from the start. I was hooked by this book the moment I saw the cover. My mind started racing (pun not intended… I think), imagining all the possibilities. I read a blurb that stated that it was the perfect combination between a southern gothic and Fast and Furious, and I knew I had to find out what it was really referring to. It seemed odd at first, this combination, but something creepy was involved… and I was intrigued.

And, let me tell you, the result is… fascinating. I was deciding the perfect word for it, bewitching came to mind, captivating, but I think fascinating fits just perfectly… because I could not look away.

Summer Sons started amazingly good. I loved the setting, the presentation of the characters, the slow pace. I knew something bad had happened to Eddie, and I suspected something creepy had happened with Eddie. I just needed to know more. And then all the folktale oriented details appeared on scene and it was just the perfect addition.

Sadly, when new characters started popping up, sometimes just for a brief conversation or two, it was difficult for me to differentiate them. I think this was my biggest concern with Summer Sons: Characters. Some of the background characters felt completely flat for me and did not care for them at all. I also tried to understand what Andrew was feeling, this mixture between internalized homophobia and the reality that was developing around him, but it was such a complicated task when all I wanted was to learn more about Eddie and his disappearance! I tried to like Sam as well, but his “evolution” felt kind of flat for me. Thank God we also had Riley! I really really liked him.

The creepy scenes, scarce at the beginning, all centre towards the end, were wonderful, and I found myself looking for them eagerly. And what an ending! The pace got so fast that I felt I was out of breath turning pages non-stop.

I have seen other readers complain about the length of Summer Sons. I must confess that it is a lot of pages, truly, and maybe it is a story that could have been told in a lot less, but Lee Mandelo’s style is something truly unique when describing, so I would say that, if you enjoy a southern gothic, you are into cars, or you really want to discover a mystery worth investigating… Go for it. Enjoy the ride.

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I requested this one because it might be a 2021 title I would like to review on my Youtube Channel. However, after reading the first several chapters I have determined that this book is not my tastes. So I decided to DNF this one rather than push myself to finish it only to give it a poor review.

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This was an excellent story--a queer, academia fast and furious with a ghost twist. It got a little slow in the middle, but picked up speed for a thrilling ending.

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