Cover Image: Summer Sons

Summer Sons

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is a truly horrifying, gothic thrill. From the southern drawl to disturbing imagery, Summer Sons is going to stick with me for a very long time. I love this story’s queerness, rawness and utter disregard for my feelings. And can we just give some snaps for the brilliant narrator? *chefs kiss*
Was this review helpful?
This was one of my most anticipated books of 2021.  I got denied for the ebook a few months back but was thrilled when I saw another opportunity to listen to the audiobook.  I immediately requested and was ecstatic when I got the approval.  A huge thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Audio for the advance review copy via audiobook in exchange for my honest opinion.

This is one of the best fantasy slash horror books I have ever read with an intriguing plot, unique characters, compelling character dynamics and such exquisite writing!  I love that we are getting served more books falling into multiple genres!  I am by no means a horror reader but the horrors in Summer Sons were subtlety waiting there in the background.  

This is a story that feels like a fever dream.  The pacing of the entire novel is perfect.  Summer Sons delivers an incredible plot filled with the queer experience in a southern gothic setting.  

It is important to note that there are some things that occur that may be triggering for some readers so I suggest that you look into these triggers to see if it's something you're comfortable reading.

A note about the audiobook narration.  My listening experience is over 60% audiobook for the year meaning that I listen to a whole lot of audiobooks and various narrators.  The narration for Summer Sons is perfect.  The narrator has a southern accent that completes the story.

This is a must read for the fall season!
Was this review helpful?
Exceptional storytelling, dark and hard, heavy and raw. I loved it from beginning to that ending. Car races, grief, paranormal encounters, curses, finding out more about yourself, fall apart and get back together. I was captivated by the narration and how the story unfold, creating mysteries at every step and making my ask all sort of questions. I did guess the mystery for once, since it wasn't very hard, but that wasn't a bad thing since the story was so much more that only finding out exactly what happened to the MC's bff.

I loved how the characters were explored and analyzed, how I was always left wondering while at the same time I didn't mind not knowing and just finding out little by little everything.

The vibes of this story were immaculate; I had a movie playing in my head of every single scene and I just know this would make an excellent adaptation. I'd love to see it!
Was this review helpful?
With spooky season clawing its way upon us, might I suggest this book as a way to kick this time off?

Andrew has lost the person closest to him, and he doesn't understand how. Practically brothers, he and Eddie grew up together, so when Eddie kills himself during their first time apart from each other, Andrew immediately suspects foul play. He moves into the Nashville home Eddie left him and attends the same graduate classes at Vanderbilt. Andrew inserts himself completely into the life and relationships Eddie built here in an effort to solve his death. Was it really suicide, or did someone want Eddie out of the way for more paranormal reasons?

I really liked Andrew. When we meet him he is very much a person set adrift. The exploration of his grief in the beginning was so powerful and heartbreaking. So many breathingtaking thoughts and sentiments that really hit you in the gut. He's literally lost a piece of himself and doesn't even know why because a) it was so out of character for Eddie and b) Andrew wasn't there like he should have been. Worse still is that the terrible revenant currently haunting him probably is Eddie. And who wants to remember their best friend that way? Part of what makes this southern gothic mystery so compelling is how adamant Andrew is that Eddie did not kill himself, and you can't help but root for the same.

The mystery itself was really entertaining, despite the dark subject matter and the at times gruesome journey to finding the answer. The horror aspect was really well done when it involved the revenant following Andrew around. There is an element of dark academia with Andrew attending Vanderbilt and sorting out who to trust in the graduate program, but I don't know that I would use it as a strong selling point. Andrew only attends enough classes to make connections with the key players who may know more about Eddie's death, then blows most of it off. There's also a spice of Fast and Furious, which felt kind of ... odd? I don't know that the book would have suffered without it but I suppose it lent more to Andrew's and Eddie's personalities.

The cast of characters in this book was fabulous! I really liked Riley, Andrew's roommate. There is a lot of image balancing for him in leaving behind the unfair redneck image attached to him while pursuing his higher education at such a prestigious institution, especially since he is the first in the family to go to college. On the other hand, his cousin Sam was really hard to jive with. Bro, I did not trust him one bit. Even after everything that happens, I still had reservations because of the type of person he is portrayed as. I feel almost bad about that, but it made for a very interesting reading experience. One thing I will say, I did not care for the drug usage in this book by characters. When used as it was in the context of this story, it's a personal turn-off.

Last note, it's almost amusing how much Andrew believes himself to be straight. This book is pitched as queer horror and that is absolutely correct, don't worry. Pretty much the entire cast is LGBTQ+, including the main character, no matter how in denial he is.

This was a solid debut and I would definitely check out more from this author in future! Rating this one 4.5 out of 5!
Was this review helpful?
While I was expecting all supernatural fantasy with Summer Sons, the book I read ended up being more focused on character development, questioning, and the murder mystery. And I was not mad about that at all. It delves into the pain and twisted feelings of grief, of loss, and being left. Summer Sons is an emotional book that steeps us in anger, frustration, and sadness. It begins with unanswered questions on every front. On who killed Eddie, on what their relationship was, and on who Andrew is going to be.

I'm not saying there isn't a supernatural element. There is. It just might not be as pronounced as you might be expecting. But through the fantastical, Andrew is thrust into the mystery of what happened, is haunted by the mysteries without answers. Andrew's journey of unpacking his toxic masculinity, of questioning his queerness, is emotional on a whole other level. And because of that, Andrew is almost surrounded by this maelstrom of confusion within himself and unanswered questions surrounding Eddie's death.

I was also able to listen to Summer Sons on audio book. This transformed the experience of being haunted to another level. Damron was able to so thoroughly convey Andrew's swirling emotions. All of the tension, unanswered silences, and confusion in his thoughts and voice.
Was this review helpful?
This is one of those books that drags you in and drags you under. The writing is fantastic and gorgeous in just the right way to wrap you up in the story without being over-the-top, and the author does an amazing job of putting you into Andrew's head and showing the mental state he's in. Grief. Drunkenness. Deadly visions of specters and murder. Sometimes you'll be confused about what's happening, but that's because Andrew is a disaster of a character and doesn't know either.

This book was *dripping* with sexual tension. I didn't even know a book could be so sexy while having so little actual sex in it. I've seen the words "sweltering" and "hungry" used in the marketing for this book, and yes, those are perfect words because of their multiple meanings. I didn't know if Andrew and Sam were going to fight or f*ck or both, but I did know you could cut the tension with a knife. It was all lingering touches and barely restrained fury and Andrew watching beads of sweat roll down Sam's neck. But there was also the relationship between Andrew and Eddie. That one is hard to describe, because it was in the past, Eddie being dead and all, but it---and Andrew's grief---was still such an important part of the book. It had such an intensity to it, not to mention the longing and desire Andrew hadn't even realized was there until it was too late.

That was another thing. This was an interesting perspective of a character figuring out his sexuality. He was so completely oblivious to it because of his own prejudice, until everyone else started pointing it out to him and he was pushed into confronting it.

The characters were interesting and flawed and good all at once. (No spoilers, but you can skip this paragraph if you'd rather go in completely unaware and get to know the characters as you read.) Andrew really was just a mess of a human for most of the book, and his treatment of Del was awful, but he, thankfully, had some growth. When Sam was first introduced, my thoughts were, "This guy is bad news," because he was kind of a jerk, and he has that menacing air about him and so much presence and confidence, but then I warmed up to him. Eddie was somewhat similar, from the glimpses we got of him---seemingly charismatic but possessive. I felt bad for Riley though, having to deal with, let's face it, the absolute worst roommate ever.

As you may have figured out by now, this was not an action-packed story. It was slow and mysterious and tense and focused on the characters and figuring out what happened to Eddie. But it was deliciously slow in a way that never lost my attention. I had no idea where the book was going or what was going to happen. None. And I loved it.

There was not as much street racing as you might think, from how the book is marketed, but there was some, and the first race was written in a way that was so thrilling and fun to read.

I'm not super familiar with either the Southern Gothic genre or the dark academia genre, but I think this might have been a bit of both. There are also horror elements, because Andrew can see ghosts and is being haunted by the dangerous revenant Eddie has left behind, but it's not a scary book. More like a paranormal mystery.

I listened to the audiobook for this, and the narration by Will Damron was great. He sounded so natural and brought each character to life in ways that suited them perfectly. Voices were different enough in pitch and accent that I never struggled with who was talking. Female voices were fine. I initially wondered why the narration had a southern accent but Andrew's talking didn't, but then he mentioned how he'd gotten rid of his accent, though it still slipped into his speech sometimes, and then I felt like the narration decision made sense. I'm not familiar enough with southern accents to say if it was real or good, but I liked it and thought it brought a lot to the feel of the story.

Honestly, "Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble," is possibly the most accurate description of a book I've ever seen. Overall, this book was sultry, tense, and atmospheric, with messy, flawed characters, an intriguing mystery, lots of queer rep, dangerous ghosts, buckets of sexual tension, and gorgeous writing that pulled me in!
Was this review helpful?
Summer Sons is a dark tale full of grief. It follows Andrew as he moves to Tennessee  to investigate why his best friend Eddie killed himself, leaving Andrew devastated and alone. We spend a lot of time sitting in Andrew’s grief - the story is the slowest of burns. As a result, not much time is actually spent on character development, and I didn’t connect with Andrew fully until close to the end. 

The atmosphere in this book was fantastic - creepy, sweltering Southern gothic. You can almost feel the humidity and smell the decay. The grief is real and intense, and the emotions are raw.

I was not expecting all the racing. I know some people are saying the synopsis compared it to Fast & Furious, but the blurb I read did NOT say that. I skipped a lot of the middle because I could not care less about the cars. 

In the end, I’m glad I stuck with it because the ending is where this book shines. It’s grim and emotional and so good. Pick this up if you’re looking for a serving of emotion with your fall horror.
Was this review helpful?
This book was not for me. And by that I don’t mean I didn’t like it. I mean i was not the target audience for this book. This book is a screaming cry for the gay men struggling and fighting for their identity. And it was wrapped up in a supernatural southern gothic horror murder mystery to get there. 

The main character is painfully oblivious to why he is so so angry. And he is so very angry. His best friend dead, supposedly suicide, and he’s left behind gutted, confused and adrift in the world his friend had created for himself without him. You watch Andrew’s struggle unfurl as he’s figuring out not just what happened to his friend but what happened between them and it hurts you more than a little to think of the wasted time being afraid of who you are. 

If I look at it as just a gothic horror, it was well done, though I could have used MORE folklore. I wanted more of the backstory. More take weaving and less mystery, but the mystery gripped you as well. 

The narrator did a great job telling this story, but some of the sound mixing felt a little off. Quiet one second blaring the next.  If it was intentional it didn’t entirely hit the mark as it was more annoying than startling.
Was this review helpful?
This is the perfect moody book to read at the end of summer and beginning of fall. It puts you right in the humidity of the south with the eeriness of ghosty stuff. When I saw this being pitched as souther gothic dark academia I was all in. 

Our protagonist, Andrew is going through it when his best friend commits suicide right before he was about to move in with him at school. He inherits everything from Eddie, money, a house, his roommates, and ya know, some paranormal activity. While Andrew is trying to navigate life at Vanderbilt and the academic setting with a mismatched group of friends he is also being haunted by ghosts of his past and literal haunts. Moody, atmospheric, diverse, and gritty. This book had everything I look for. Seeing representation across the board (gender, race, sexuality) in a dark academia book is so refreshing. It really gets into the underbelly of prestigious academies but also Deep South mentalities. I loved every second of this.
Was this review helpful?
It took about 30% of the book to really get into it, but stick w/me while I discuss & stick w/the book as it is a great story.

I’ll start w/the audiobook narrator-AMAZING! His southern accent, the voice he gave to the characters, & the emotions in each scene were perfect.

So why did it take me so long to get into the story? The beginning of the book is filled with lots of misdirection, hidden messages, and a few “wait, what?  I thought you said XX.’ The author places a lot of focus on begin extremely vague with the main character’s sexuality. So much that it brought me out of the story many times as I tried to piece things together. It would have kept me more engaged if the author just came out and said Andrew is (no spoilers) OR just not addressed it at all (as it didn’t add to/take away from the story), but finally towards the last 1/4 of the book it’s revealed.

The other thing that took me out of the story was the lack of info about the past that was being constantly referenced. At one point, I stopped listening to the audiobook to see if this was part 2 of a series as I felt ‘lost’ with certain scenes, it’s not.

The final concern was the relationship with Andrew and Eddie… again, the author was trying to be mysterious & vague, but it kept taking me out of the story, & the reveal wasn’t as shocking as I think the author had hoped.  (If you decide to read SumSons, message me and I can tell you their relationship so you can start off knowing and you won’t have to keep guessing… I promise knowing that they are (no spoilers) will not impact the story at all.

NOW, the good parts. I learned a new phrase, “Chuckle Fuck.”  It’s slowly becoming part of my daily phrases-I love it!

The author’s writing style was comforting… descriptive… it felt like getting a much needed hug.  Based on that alone, I know I will read future novels by them.

The heart of the book is a “murder mystery” that is spattered with paranormal aspects. Win and win!!! The story was a great one that I would highly recommend!
Was this review helpful?
Summer sons is a very good story. The characters and plot hooks all felt real and sucked me in. The story was easy to follow and kept me on the edge of my set till the final moments.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately, I have to stand on the other side of all of the positive reviews for Summer Sons and say that this book just did not do it for me- at all. At no point during the entire novel did I feel engaged.

While this one probably has more bloody fights, MDMA, fat blunts, fast cars, and fluid-covered jeans than your average Saturday night- I promise you, it still manages to be far less stimulating.

It’s billed as a southern gothic queer horror. There are queer characters, revenants/ghosts, and it does take place in the South. All of those things convinced me to request an advanced reader’s copy… “Sounds right up my alley,” I thought. Alas, It was not meant to be- this book and I.

First off, I would NOT qualify this as a horror novel. There really was not anything scary about it… even the tone felt more melodramatic than sinister or creepy. The characters (yes, they were indeed queer) all left me cold. Not a single one of them interested me and I did not care AT ALL about the plot. I made it through the full 10+ hours of this audiobook without caring once about anyone or anything that was happening in it.

The pace was glacial, there was far too much focus on academics (honestly?), and the story was bogged down by endless conversations surrounding the death of a character by some verrry whiny/3M0Ti0N4L people who, again, failed to interest me in any sense of the word. Banal things had too much detail, the story felt overdramatic despite nothing happening, and the horror and thriller elements were incredibly understated.

All of that being said, I think the narrator did a good job. I would listen to him again, if it were a novel by a different author.

Also, I’d like to add that while I failed to put anything positive in this review (I promise, I tried- I really couldn’t think of anything), it still is a 2-star read, rather than a 1-star for me. You will notice the frequent use of over- & under- prefixes in this review, as my main gripe is that nothing hit the right balance for me to be able to enjoy it. I am sure there will be plenty of others that will enjoy this one, I was just B.O.R.E.D.
Was this review helpful?
I jumped from ARC to audiobook and back again. Let me say if I didn't have the audio for this I may have DNF'd it. It was so slow the first 50-70% of the book. BUT, I will say the narrator did a fantastic job of keeping my attention. This has all the drama of a dark academia book and all the weird and creepy of a southern Gothic you could want IMO. I would have given 3⭐ if not for the narrator. So that bumps it to 4⭐
Was this review helpful?
Bouncing back and forth between the audio and the paperback, SUMMER SONS had me captivated from nearly the first page. Mark my words, Lee Mandelo is an author to watch!

Andrew is buckling under the loss of his friend's suicide, but Eddie was more than just a friend. Surviving a traumatic event together has bonded these two and not just emotionally. Their experience has attached something to them...something not of this world. As Andrew comes to Nashville to attend graduate school, where Eddie went and to move into a house where Eddie lived, Andrew is determined to solve the mystery of Eddie's death. Eddie would never commit suicide, and Andrew knows it. As he slips into Eddie's old life, attends Eddie's classes, drives Eddie's car, something is hanging over Andrew, something hungry. Will Andrew solve the mystery? Who killed Eddie? How and why? Will Andrew survive his demons and discover the truth? You'll have to read this to find out!

SUMMER SONS had some characters I really hated. I hated almost all of them at first, to be honest. Andrew's grief spoke to me though and he slowly won me over. His girlfriend-soon to be ex got on my nerves too, but then later on, my feelings for her changed as well. Andrew himself, perhaps confused about his feelings, perhaps confused about his sexuality, is so human, with all of the confusion, doubt and wonder that being human encompasses. All of the characters in this book are on the move, morphing from this to that, it was a wonder to behold. 

The intensity of this story cannot be overestimated. I felt like, when I was reading AND listening, that there was a dark pall hanging over...well, nearly everyone. The atmosphere I felt was almost suffocating, it was so dense. As the staff at the university became more and more petty, my thoughts about them were constantly in flux, leaving me floating out there by the finest of threads- trying to figure out what was happening. 

Introduce into all of the above, a nasty little family curse/secret-one of those that goes on for generation after generation. (This portion put me in mind of The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. She knew all about those generational family secrets, just ask Lasher.) I can honestly say that I enjoyed this book much more than that one, and I liked that book a LOT. 

Finally, there was some racing here...automobile racing. It's not a large portion of the book, but it's there. I would have preferred if all the cars were American, but otherwise, I was okay with it. We are talking about the American south, and racing is a part of life there. Not sure there are many Subarus but it was a way for the characters to bond, so... necessary to the story. 

A quick note about the narrator, Will Damron. What an excellent narrator he is! Voicing what turned into a super dark story, he was up to the challenge, helping to create that suffocating atmosphere with his mastery of the narrative. Color me impressed! 

Lee Mandelo has really knocked my socks off here. For a debut novel, I could not be more pleased. SUMMER SONS gets all the stars! 

*Thanks to Macmillan for the audio and Tordotcom for the paper ARC in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*
Was this review helpful?
Summer Sons is intense. Lots of action, lots of drama, lots of partying and consequences. If you enjoy southern gothic, or a university setting, or both, this book is for you.
Was this review helpful?
OK this looked really good and it’s anyways it is. 

It’s written very well it’s very crazy it’s got all of the vibes. Feels like an episode of supernatural 

Which is honestly probably why I don’t like it. 

I know I just never told me and I never felt like I just really wanted to keep reading I kept putting it down and picking it back up. 

The audio is fantastic and the router is amazing. 

So technically an audio side this is absolutely 4 or 4 1/2 stars 

For me it’s probably more like 3 1/2 4 

There’s nothing wrong with it I just talk to much like an episode of supernatural trying to get into it. 

But if you really like that show you’ll probably 

As always thank you from net galley for sending me a review copy
Was this review helpful?
It is rather scary when you hype up a book before it is released, so many times when you finally get your hands on it and read it, you are let down, disappointed, it is rarely as good as your mind built it up to be.

I spent all summer building up and waiting for Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo. It had become my most anticipated read for the fall season.  It was going to go on my October Spooky Season reading pile, a pile I had been working on since about July, full of thrillers and horror books. But when my husband came home from work and threw a cardboard envelope at me one day in late August with an advanced copy of the book in it, I couldn’t wait. I tried. But I caved, there was no way I could wait to read this book until October.

I knew just by the description  I would love Summer Sons, it has two of my favorite elements to it…it is gothic and it has bits of dark academia thrown in. Win-Win situation.  I have had a love for gothic literature since I first pick up Dracula years ago, and Souther Gothic is in a league of its own, it's somehow creepier, it brings in sprawling crumbling old plantation homes that drip with Spanish moss, and me being Southern, I have stepped on many front porches to be greeted by the familiar haint blue painted ceiling.

The characters in this book are complex and beautifully written. Each one of them brings substance to the story with their unique and nuanced personalities. The sadness that Andrew felt leaked across every page of the book. Riley was easy to like, he was a true friend to Andrew because Eddie had loved Andrew, and Sam, well he was a bit harder to like, he is gruff, but in the end, he showed his worth and won me over.

Lee Mandelo’s words felt and read like poetry, his descriptions of both the places and the people were exquisite. When I wasn’t able to actually read, for instance, while cooking, etc. I listened to the book on audio. The slow Southern drawl of Will Damron was a smooth as a good bourbon feels as it slides down your throat.

This book melds so many genres together, horror, action, and mystery that there is something for everyone, but to warn you… it is a slow burner and a slow read, you will want to take your time reading it. Unknown things will creep in slowly, unexpectedly, and unsettle you. The author leaks out his information slowly and builds suspense and anticipation.

Summer Sons is creepy, it is sad, it is queer, and for a debut book it is fucking brilliant, and I can’t wait to see what tale Mandelo spins for us in his next book.

Watch out Faulker, there is a new writer of Southern Gothic and their name is Lee Mandelo
Was this review helpful?
This is absolutely on my list of favorites of the year!

Andrew’s best friend, his other half in a codependent friendship, kills himself just before Andrew is supposed to move to Tennessee to attend grad school with him. Eddie leaves him everything, including his hefty bank account, his house, and the intense research he was mixed up with at the time of his death.

Andrew is lost, like seriously and unequivocally shaken without Eddie. But he knows that Eddie would never kill himself. He wouldn’t leave Andrew behind. So upon going to Tennessee and moving into Eddie’s house, he plans to get to know the people Eddie kept company with… and he doesn’t like what he sees.

He meets Eddie’s roommate and the group of friends Eddie hung out with. And the vibe from these people is weird. Andrew doesn’t know what to make of them. They are all about fast cars, hard drugs and bad decisions. And as much as Andrew wants to find the truth, he is also drawn to the lifestyle. And, he takes up the research into gothic hauntings and things of that nature that Eddie had become obsessed with.

The pain and anger in Andrew all the time bled from the pages of this book and my heart broke for him. And all the while, he is being bombarded by the ghost of Eddie. But it’s not the Eddie he knew… This specter is scary, haunting him constantly. Andrew remains one of my favorite protagonists ever. He just felt so real. He was flawed and broken, just constantly like this exposed nerve being rubbed raw. 

Through this book, we get to see how people we didn’t know what to make of at first became true beloved characters and how people Andrew thought he could trust became his absolute downfall. And along the way, we get these tidbits into Andrew and Eddie’s past and the horrors they carried with them.

This was just a fabulous piece of writing that I will not be able to forget. And what reader doesn’t chase that book high? The high where you just don’t want a book to end because everything about it feels the best kind of overwhelming, attacking all of your senses… Yes, please!!!
Was this review helpful?
Did not finish.

I just could not get into the story. It jumped from supernatural and grief to getting drunk and car racing?

I don't know if I just couldn't understand the perspective or if it really did skip around too much.
Was this review helpful?
If you are a seasonal reader like I am you have to read Summer Sons now! It is so creepy and atmospheric with an air of tension throughout. It's also Dale academia, which is popular for a reason. I appreciated the complicated and flawed characters and the discussions about sexuality. The ending didn't surprise me but I thought it was really well done!
Was this review helpful?