I’m Reading: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Andrew’s bond with his best friend Eddie was deeper than blood or friendship, rooted in deep magic and deeper secrets. When Andrew gets word of Eddie’s apparent suicide, it tears Andrew’s whole world apart. He’s drawn back to Nashville to piece together Eddie’s last days, certain that there’s more to the death than he’s been told.

I’m picky about gothics. Not because I’m somehow an expert in the genre, but specifically because I’m not. So my favorite gothics tend to be contemporary genre crossovers with accessible writing style, vivid characters, and a strong sense of place.

Summer Sons just clicked for me. It is a slow, dark, languid dive into the Appalachians. We walk the line of social tension between the elite and the back woods, old South generational wealth and generational curses, ivory towers and street racers, queer masculinity and violence.

What I love best about Summer Sons, besides the sheer craftsmanship, is the handling of ghosts. Andrew’s powers and affinity for the dead are woven tightly into the story, heavy with dread and metaphor. There is no friendly Casper guiding the MC gently to a life lesson. The ghosts are visceral, angry, and dangerous, seducing Andrew into a spiral of his own self-destruction.

But the craftsmanship! I simultaneously disliked every single character, yet wanted to really dive into in their head and rooted for their redemption. The author pulled me into scenes and hobbies I had no interest in and made me care. The characters made terrible, toxic, self-loathing, and self-pitying decisions, but made me understand and sympathize. It is the kind of story that lingers for hours once you close the book, like the taste of coffee after you drink. It’s not the kind of book you take to the beach for a light summer read.

It’s the kind of book that haunts you.

To find a copy of Summer Sons visit the author’s website at https://leemandelo.com/

Content warnings for suicide, alcoholism, drug use, graphic violence, supernatural horror, and homophobia.

I’m Reading: Gravity and Lies by C.G. Volars

I’m breaking my contemporary romance reading streak for a very good reason. Gravity and Lies, the first book in the Static Over Space series by C. G. Volars, is worth jumping genres. It’s quirky, queer sci-fi adventure with a tough, trash-talking, bisexual Latino MC and a big cast of lovable and hateable aliens.

Izo Lopez has not had an easy life, cycling through the foster system and surviving homeless. But he has a big goal and a bigger secret. He is scrambling to save enough money to save his best friend from the foster system and create a stable family life for them both.

Oh yeah, and he can fly.

But when he’s snatched up and transported across several galaxies by alien traffickers, he finds himself on a new world where his powers of flight make him a hot commodity, and his kidnappers are the only ones who know how to get him back to the obscure little uncharted planet he calls home.

Volars pulls the rug out from under the classic damsel in distress tropes of adventure novels with a delightful, gender-bending twist in the form of the tough, stubborn, sarcastic Izo. Then the author goes on to flip and twist every other stereotype, resulting in an aerial circus of sharply unexpected, delightfully wicked, and dynamically complex characters.

Above all, the story is fun! There are dark moments, and heartbreaking moments, and stand-up-and-cheer moments. But Izo’s indomitable spirit and sharp wit always lift us right back up again. We’re right there rooting for him as he fights a whole galaxy in a relatable search for home, family, and identity (and a sandwich!)

Visit the Static Over Space website at https://www.staticoverspace.com/ to get a copy, or request it at your local library.