HOUSE SWAP by Olivia Beirne

You can learn a lot about someone when you swap houses. . .
Twins Katy and Rachel don’t know much about each other’s lives anymore.

Rachel thinks that Katy is a high-flying event planner in London, while Katy thinks that Rachel lives in idyllic marital bliss in the countryside.

Each sister believes the other has created a perfect life – but the truth is that neither twin has the life she pretends she does.

And when these sisters unexpectedly swap houses for a week, they’re in for a big shock.

But it might just be the wake-up call they’ve both been waiting for. . .

Packed hilarity and heartbreak, this new novel from bestselling author Olivia Beirne follows two estranged sisters who learn more about each other from a house swap than they ever expected… Perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary and Marian Keyes.


Title : House Swap
Author : Olivia Beirne
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 347
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Headline Eternal
Release Date : November 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

Headlines:
Broken bonds
Tangled webs
New paths

House Swap was a witty contemporary fiction about twin sisters, estranged and worlds apart…or so it seemed. Katy and Rachel were a hot mess individually and even more of a hot mess of sisterly disconnection. At first, I didn’t really like either of them; it’s hard to watch the veiled sparring but equally I was laughing along with the house of cards being built.

This house swap when it played out was a catastrophe in the making but all the time, as a reader, I was willing this to be the thing that repaired their connection. Secrets were part of the daily menu and as these two found out more about the reality of each others’ lives, it was funny and poignant watching the pennies drop.

I enjoyed the reluctant communications that began to reveal affection and love. I also enjoyed the side stories going on in each location, what was happening in the respective neighbour situations. The miscommunications were sometimes tough to read but author never pushed to the point of frustration.

House Swap was a story that most will find some identifiable features in. Whether thats wanting to be or appear successful, wanting relationships to work or being in frustrating relationships, this book serves a slice of reality while keeping a light and witty narrative. This was an enjoyable escape for the weekend.

Thank you to Headline Eternal for the review copy.

THE KINSMEN UNIVERSE by Ilona Andrews

** PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED – This is an anthology edition of the Kinsmen Universe, which includes SILENT BLADE, SILVER SHARK, plus a new short story, and three original illustrations.**

Family is everything. Talent is power. And revenge is sweet.

In a distant, future world Kinsmen-small powerful groups of genetically and technologically advanced families-control vast financial empires. They are their own country, their own rulers, and their only limits are other Kinsmen. The struggle for power is a bloody, full-contact sport: in business, on the battlefield…and sometimes in the bedroom.

Silent Blade
Old hatreds die hard. Old love dies harder.

On the planet Rada, Meli Galdes’ family is of minor rank, and were relying on her marriage to Celino, the razor-smart, ruthless leader of the powerful Carvanna empire. When he abruptly breaks their engagement, he ruins her family and guarantees that Meli will never marry, as no suitor will oppose the rich and influential Carvannas.

But Meli has a rare, secret, lethal-and valuable-talent. As a melder of energy, she’s capable of severing anything in her path. So she ‘leaves’ her family and trains to become one of the best and most lethal of assassins, all the while covertly guarding her family’s interests. Now she’s ready to quit; but she has one more assignment.

To kill the man who ruined her life.

Silver Shark
Claire Shannon is a killer…and her weapon is her mind.

Born on a planet torn by war for over 300 years, Claire is a soldier: a psycher, with the ability to read, control, and destroy the minds of enemy psychers and to infiltrate the biological network where they battle to death.

When Claire’s faction loses the war, she barely escapes extermination from both sides, as her talent brands her as too dangerous to society. By so-deeply burying her ability that she avoids detection, Claire is instead deported to Rada as a refugee, where she must find work to remain. She finds a job as personal assistant to Venturo Escana, a premiere kinsman; one of Rada’s most wealthy entrepreneurs—and most powerful psychers.

She thought she had left war behind, but now she must hide her skills and her growing feelings from Venturo…and this battle might just cost her everything…

A Mere Formality
The leader of the fierce Reigh people expires during an intergalactic summit, putting 30 million colonists’ lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. When the new heir to the Reigh throne, Lord Nagrad, demands restitution, the phrase “‘a life for a life” turns the intergalactic calamity into an arranged marriage contract between Lord Nagrad and sharply intelligent diplomatic analyst Deirdre Lebed… and the negotiation of terms becomes anything but formal!


Title : The Kinsmen Universe
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Kinsmen #1 -#2.5
Format : ebook
Page Count : 235
Genre : Sci-Fi Romance
Publisher : NYLA
Release Date : December 31, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Micky’s 4 star review

I was feeling all slumpy and Ilona Andrews helped me through the weekend (again). Each installment featured couples in the same universe, sometimes with a little crossover. It was delicious sci-fi with a good dollop of romance. What’s pretty special with this ebook boxing of the three stories is that you get some beauiful illustrations that I can imagine are amazing in the physical book too.

This book is three elements wrapped up in one book:

Silent Blade:
This novella would have got a 4 star rating on it’s own for me. A quick transportation to a new world, easy to fathom with a couple crafted from Andrews gold. I was sad to leave these two behind and wanted to see them in the next story.

Silver Shark:
I didn’t get my wish, this was a different couple and a different perspective to these planets, but after 5 minutes of reading and hoping for the previous couple, I was wrapped up in the new guys. This story focused on psychic powers and a scary place called the bionet, less scary than real life on two warring planets though. I would happily read more into the world of both the two first couples.

A Mere Formality: I was more meh aboout this one, a very short story in the universe but it didn’t capture the magic of the previous two. That said, I’m all set for Fated Blades which is out soon.

YEAR OF THE REAPER by Makiia Lucier

From the writer whose stories have been called “brilliant” (Booklist), “masterful” (Horn Book), and “breathtaking” (School Library Journal), comes a romantic new standalone fantasy.

The past never forgets . . .

Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer’s apprenticeon a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over theland, leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas’title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a mercilesssickness.

Three years later, Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what heremembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And theyhave brought their enemies with them.

When an assassin targetsthose closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for akiller…one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliantyoung historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terriblesecret–one that could threaten the kingdom’s newfound peace and plungeit back into war.


Title : Year of the Reaper
Author : Makiia Lucier
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hodderscape
Release Date : November 9, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Standalone goodness
A gripper
Twists

I got on board with Year of the Reaper in a handful of pages. This story in the context of a waning plague didn’t jar me at all from a COVID perspective. So, I want to say that if you have that worry, this isn’t pandemic-y. This was a historical fantasy with great depth, all encapsulated in a standalone. I romped through the pages, not wanting to put it down.

Cas was a young man battling with the psychological scars of captivity and returning home after a long absence. He returned to a home and city recovering from the plague, there were new incomers to his home, old allegiances and plenty of secrets to unravel. Those secrets, the shocking events that occured and the twists in the plot were fantastic.

Buddy reading this was a great idea (thanks for your company, Steph) because we could chat through the things that happened. The pacing was fast but also very well metered out. There was a smattering of romantic connection but it was in the background and I was satisfied with how that was pitched. I would have liked just a little more about Cas’ special ability.

This book has everthing you want, a standalone, twists, great characters that have depth and a story you don’t want to put down. I’m excited to read more by Makiia Lucier.

Thank you to Hodderscape for the review copy.

CRACKED by Eliza Crewe

Meet Meda. She eats people.

Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She’s special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can’t help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it’s not like there are any other “soul-eaters” around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up.

They can do what she can do. They’re like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda’s kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her ‘kind’ is.

Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her.

The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.


Title : Cracked
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 327
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : November 5, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

This unexpected gem has been sitting on my TBR since.. (checks notes) 2015. We hate to see it. But love that I finally had a reason to pick it up.

While in some ways this follows a lot of typical storytelling beats — girl is on her own, gets caught between two warring sides or factions, has unique or dangerous origins that are discovered, discovers she’s a bit of a snowflake, etc — this story instead comes at it from a different angle.

Her voice is calm but now I see her eyes blaze in a holy hazel fire. She doesn’t want to die, but she will, for what she believes in. I need new friends.

Meda, instead of a young innocent, is actually the soul-eating demon. She obfuscates and manipulates her rescue for the purpose of gaining intel on not just her own heritage but also those who would hunt her down. Discovers the truth of how she came to be and some of her history. Becomes said snowflake. And chooses a side you might not expect.

I guess [they] figured their kids were the good guys, so how much supervision did they really need? Idiots. A good teenager is like a good demon — a contradiction in terms.

Despite those unique choices, not to mention the snarky and often silly tongue-in-cheek and very different inner voice from her outer voice, this didn’t remake the wheel but.. it was a lot of fun? And I’m honestly baffled that this seems to be such a dark horse in the YA world. It is old, yes, but released during a time when I would’ve expected this to be a smash hit. But maybe it was just dark enough and snarky enough — not to mention the fact that Meda is one slip away from being an all out villain and even without said slip she’s definitely not on Team Good — to be too ahead of it’s time?

It’s all horrifyingly healthy fare, omelettes heavy on the veggies, mixed fruit, and Canadian “bacon”. Ha, it is as much bacon as I am human. We are both liars, but I feel it committed the greater offence.

I could muse over my befuddlement for the lack of success it seems this series had but perhaps the next books don’t do as well? I don’t know. Time to find out.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – NOVEMBER 16, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


Graceling : Graphic Novel by Kristin Cashore isn’t a release we’re excited about for the story but instead the illustrated content. Can’t wait to see this beloved story come to life.

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth is a retelling of the Six Swans story which we have a soft spot for here at the blog. So while we haven’t had great luck with the author (one of us swore to stop reading her..) between the gorgeous cover and the inspiration? Yeah.. we are reading this.

Believe Me by Tahereh Mafi is.. well, we’re not even sure what number this one is (kidding, it’s a novella set after book six) but the series is still going! Apparently.



Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

OUT OF THE BLUE by P. Dangelico

A small-town romance about letting go of the past and learning to live in the moment.

Blue Baldwin takes no horse crap from anybody. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. She does take horse crap. Piles of it. The real kind that is––not the metaphorical one. It kind of goes with the job description when you run a large animal rescue. What she does not take, however, is crap from an entitled movie star who needs to reform his rotten image.

Unfortunately, the farm she manages is in trouble and if she doesn’t raise the cash to save it she’ll be homeless along with the precious animals who depend on her. So she’ll grin and bear the King of Hollywood Screw Ups, and the assistant, and the overprotective brother he brings along. I mean, she takes care of large animals for a living. Isn’t that basically the same thing?


Title : Out of the Blue
Author : P. Dangelico
Format : eARC
Page Count : 291
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : October 26, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Animals were the stars
Misunderstandings
Fun vibes

If you’re the kind of reader like me that is enchanted by animals in the background of a book, then Out of the Blue delivers with an endearing set of rescued animals. The main character, Blue is a bit of a rescue case herself but she’s dedicated her life to this sanctuary, off the beaten track. Side entrance, a community service Hollywood star and his entourage. Now this plot wasn’t as obvious as it seemed at first glance.

I really liked Blue but I feel like I didn’t really get to know her as well as I’d hoped. Shane and Blue were a good potential pairing but they didn’t connect outside of the chemistry for me; I wanted a bit more.

Out of the Blue was a perfectly pleasant read and a bit of escapism but it didn’t grip me or give me the feels. It’s a story that starts with some meat and depth to the story but I felt that the depth I saw initally, petered away. I knew these characters on the surface but I didn’t really know them, nor did I connect with them.

All this said, this is the kind of book that I crave for low concentration and it was easy to read and turn the pages.

Thank you to netgalley for the early review copy.

GILDED by Marissa Meyer

All magic comes at a price, but love was never part of the bargain . . .

The look he was giving her. Serilda had never been looked at like that before . . . The intensity.
The heat. The raw astonishment. He was going to kiss her.

Cursed by the god of lies, a miller’s daughter has developed a talent for storytelling – but are all of her tales as false as they appear?

When one of Serilda’s stories draws the attention of the devastating Erlking, she finds herself swept away into a world of enchantment, where ghouls prowl the earth, and ravens track her every move. The king locks Serilda in a castle dungeon and orders her to spin straw into gold, or be killed for lying. In despair, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious young man to her aid. And he agrees to help her, for a price. But love wasn’t meant to be part of the bargain.

A compulsive read, and as bewitchingly good as you’d expect from a YA bestselling author. You will stay up all night reading this.


Title : Gilded
Author : Marissa Meyer
Format : eARC
Page Count : 435
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Faber & Faber
Release Date : November 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
This is a series…
Plot is golden
Story is long

I have mixed feelings coming out of Gilded and some of it is applause-worthy but other bits pulled this rating down. Firstly, the over-arching story and plot in this book are excellent. This was a Rumplestiltskin/Goblin King hybrid retelling with lots of woodland fable and magic thrown in. It was also incredibly raw narrative with gore and moments that seem to edge onto horror but retreat back quickly. I’d say this was older YA read because of some brief themes/triggers that emerge.

The characterisation in Gilded was also brilliant. Serilda was a morally grey heroine, prone to fabrication, occasional theft and somewhat unreliable as a friend and family member but in reality, she was just living out her legacy and god-given talents. She was incredibly likeable and moreso as the plot evolved. Erlking was not a nice character but he was so captivating to read about. He was evil to the core, lacking in any empathy and cruel. His court was also fascinating.

The other main character, I’m not going give a thing away about. Suffice it to say, I really liked this character, I like the connections made and I wanted more of this character. It ends in such a way that I’m dying to know what happens.

Now to my rating…why 3.5 stars? This book was incredibly long, it felt long, I had to push at times through long, descriptive narrative to get to the next plot theme. The pacing felt off and while I loved the story, the dragging of the narrative kept pulling me out of it. I wanted to be spun away like the gold bobbins on the tails of escapism but I wasn’t.

I will definitely be reading on, in fact, I am quite a bundle of anticipation for what comes next in this complex, twisty plot. I do hope it’s paced a little better.

If you want info on triggers, I’m happy to supply on DM.

Thank you to Faber & Faber for the review copy.

THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.


Title : The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 417
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : February 25, 2010

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

So this was a reread for me but only in the loosest of terms because I didn’t remember a thing about it. But not only did tackling this series satisfy my completionism, even though I hadn’t added this to my Series to Finish list, it was also recently pushed high on my TBR after having read her Broken Earth trilogy last year. I had previously slapped this instalment with a three on GR but not reviewed it; past-me’s thoughts? Who knows.

And hoo boy. I think I actually loved this more than the opening of her other series? And to discover it was actually her debut? Mind blown.

It is blasphemy to separate oneself from the earth and look down on it like a god. It is more than blasphemy; it is dangerous. We can never be gods, after all — but we can become something less than human with frightening ease.

This is definitely a series that, so far, is much more accessible than the Broken Earth trilogy; for all that I love and respected that series, I do think the more it went on, the more I lost the thread. It was just too big, maybe (probably) too smart for me. This one is great but it is, in some ways, more typically what we expect from fantasy. And this is not an insult.

This library must hold all the knowledge of the world.”
A few millennia worth, from a few pockets of humanity, nothing more. And that picked and sorted, trimmed and twisted to suit the tastes of those in power.
There’s truth even in tainted knowledge, if one reads carefully.”
Only if one knows the knowledge is tainted in the first place.”

The story itself isn’t unlike the narration of Jemisin’s other series wherein there is something telling us a story, or reliving it themselves, and so there is some jumping around, little hints, warnings, to come. And then also conversations outside the story itself. I love this kind of storytelling because it compels and cajoles and, at least in my case, causes me to devour the book. Case in point, this was a two sitting read for me.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms deals with loss, betrayals, and traumas; in this world there was once Three, only for one to commit murder and then — for simplicity’s sake — punish the other by confining him, and their offspring, into mortal bodies, leaving only One. We meet Yeine, who is mourning her mother’s death, enroute to the main city, the seat of the ruling class of people; of which she is directly descended and now one of three heirs to the throne. Of course, nothing is easy, and as she’s from what is referred to as a barbarian country, she is unprepared to be thrown into a political minefield she might not survive.

On the surface, it sounds more or less the standard fantasy format, right? Yes. Sure. But still.. what Jemisin does, what we experience, what her characters are put through, and the secrets they are hiding, are just.. so well done. This is definitely less emotionally devastating than her other series but this was so well paced, so well told, and I fell in love with these gods, monstrous and otherwise, and also Yeine.

With the story having ended the way it did, it makes me very more curious to see how the next books tie into the series on the whole, but having seen what Jemisin’s done in the past (though, technically, her writing future) I have no doubt it’ll all make sense in the end.

Highly recommend, and yes, diving right into book two.

SEER OF SEVENWATERS by Juliet Marillier – double review!

The young seer Sibeal is visiting an island of elite warriors, prior to making her final pledge as a druid. It’s there she finds Felix, a survivor of a Viking shipwreck, who’s lost his memory. The scholarly Felix and Sibeal form a natural bond. He could even be her soul mate, but Sibeal’s vocation is her true calling, and her heart must answer. 

As Felix fully regains his memory, Sibeal has a runic divination showing her that Felix must go on a perilous mission-and that she will join him. The rough waters and the sea creatures they will face are no match for Sibeal’s own inner turmoil. She must choose between the two things that tug at her soul-her spirituality and a chance at love… 


Title : Seer of Sevenwaters
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book five)
Format : physical
Page Count : 432
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : Roc
Release Date : December 7, 2010

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5 / ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Couple connection
Sea monsters
Slow pacing

Overall Seer of Sevenwaters was a solid installment in the series but there are a bunch of reasons why I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of the others. Sibeal was a likeable and intriguing main character but I didn’t love her. She did have great character growth later on, though. The strongest thing about this book was the connection between this ‘couple’, Sibeal and Felix but oh, I needed more expression/communication of the strong feelings they had. It was all inner feeling.

“…we’re like wind and rain, like leaf and flower..”

I enjoyed the context of sea monsters even if I found that plotline somewhat predictable from the off. However, the execution of the culmination of that plot was so slow moving and detailed in execution, I wanted to press the 1.5 speed button.

Getting to see life on Inis Eala after hearing much about it on previous books was a welcome insight. I liked spending time with Gull and Johnny again. Fans of the previous book will be glad to hear we got plenty of Clodagh and Cathal too.

While this wasn’t my favourite of the series, it was likeable and at least I didn’t hate any characters as per book three. I’m hoping for a strong finish when we tackle the final book next month.


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Let’s face it. Nothing can surpass the excellence of the main Sevenwaters trilogy. I knew that I had liked, but not loved, these follow-up companions but I was also so far removed from them, having only read through them one time, plus being so in love with the world, the family, and Marillier’s magic and writing, I was biased to like them regardless. But while there’s still a lot of greatness to be found in these additions, they don’t quite measure up.

That said, there were two parts to Seer of the Sevenwaters; one, the romance. And two, the mystery of the week, as it were. This one takes something of a break from the over-arcing concern introduced in book four, though it’s mentioned in dialogue and worried over, and instead there’s a wrong to be set right, a memory to recover, and lies to be revealed. And despite there being a really unlikeable character twisted up in the plot, it might’ve been my favourite part of this book.

Is this reserve something they teach you, your Ciarán and his fellows? Always to hold back, always to keep control, never to show the world your true self, a living, breathing woman? Is this what your gods require of you?

Having said that, though, Marillier did a great job of offering us a romance that was believable from an emotional and intellectual aspect. This is one of the first she’s provided that didn’t rely on an opposites-attract or hate-to-love or even just reluctant-allies-to-more dynamic. And it’s perfectly fitting for Sibeal; nothing else would’ve worked. So I definitely appreciated it, and the journey that she goes on, as her happily ever after is true to every part of her, without too much compromise. Additionally, the ending of this one gives us a bit of a break in the formula and offers an interesting circumstance to the romance; no spoilers. But did I love them as a pair? Not really. I did, however, love the dual POV; which, due to the nature of Felix’s situation, was necessary for the story.

If my life had taken a different path, and I’d wanted a sweetheart, I wouldn’t be choosing a warrior, no matter how impressive his fighting skills.

What adds extra delight to this instalment was that it takes place away from Sevenwaters and we get to see, live, and breathe amongst all sorts of colourful characters who have been sprinkled into the last two books. And I love this whole cast and crew with my whole heart.

I’ll admit, though, there were two brief moments that Marillier did get me, she caught me in my feels. They weren’t the usual devastations and I was spared any sobbing sessions but even in a story that I didn’t love, this author still has the power to get to the heart of me.

I’m really looking forward to the final book which, though I’m a broken record at this point, I also don’t remember much of — having only read it, like both previous spinoffs, once before. As we’ve seen with the finale of her original trilogy, I’m sure there are some twists and turns to endure on the way to the resolution. And I’m really looking forward to some potential heartbreak. Also the Marillier magic. Can’t wait.

Thanks go to, as always, the Sevenwaters Squad for another great buddy read.

SUMMER SONS by Lee Mandelo

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. 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, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.


Title : Summer Sons
Author : Lee Mandelo
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ horror/thriller
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Imagine the dynamic from Sakavic’s All For The Game mashed up with a certain dreamer and car-loving scoundrel from Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys but set in the American south and transplanted into an academia-focused horror.

That’s basically Summer Sons.

This was a hard one to sink into because when the story opens up you aren’t quite sure how things were between the main character, Andrew, and the man he’s grieving. Brother? Best friend? Lover? The intensity of his focus, his drive, to prove that Eddie was murdered, that he didn’t commit suicide, is.. well it’s intense. And in some ways it’s uncomfortable because the grief is so big, these feelings so intangible (and many unprocessed), and then of course he’s also being haunted, possessed, stalked, by a presence that he thinks — knows — is Eddie.

Thrown into Eddie’s world, his home, with his roommate, and a new group of friends, as well as new school and a graduate program all hand-picked for him, Andrew is suspicious of everything, and everyone, and trying to recreate Eddie’s last days, weeks, months, in the time they were separated. And it all harkens back to what happened to them as children; a mystery that is slow to be revealed.

The ultimate big baddie reveal isn’t quite a surprise but I guess.. I understood the reasons but not the rationale? Maybe there wasn’t one.

This group of characters are an odd mix of destructive, queer, diverse, and with a splash (or four) of recklessness. But somehow you do sorta fall in love with them. I didn’t like them at first, which I think is purposeful given how off balance Andrew is to be there among them and why, and how they tested him back, but I was compelled by them and then, eventually, well. Yeah, I got it. But on the whole it’s a strange mix of themes, vibes, plots, and aesthetics.

The real delight is the road Andrew travels to look back at his relationship with Eddie and how that shaped so much of him, and how it also held him back. There are two distinct ways he gets to relive some key moments and they are both pretty powerful.

While some of the plot dragged, and we endured some repetition, and to be honest the academia stuff didn’t really interest me as a driving force, it was the characters that kept me glued to the page. And while I did enjoy the atmosphere, and the horror elements, it was their character work that is the main draw for me and why I’ll definitely pick up another read by this author.

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