Other

Review: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

53290204

SYNOPSIS:

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.


This book seduced me with its promise of spooky times and long stretches of repressed miserable queer longings and subsequently hooked me—line and sinker—with the clarity of its prose, the gorgeous character work, and the musings on vampiric love and inheritance and masculinity and all the bleak many-faceted enormities of grief. I felt, moreover, compelled by the delicious and increasingly fraught tensions crisscrossing the cast of characters. The slow-burn is real, and I lived for it.

Above all, this book hugely impressed me with its deliberate indictment of the racism baked into academic structures, an aspect that is too-often conveniently omitted by writers dabbling in the “dark academia” sub-genre. Mandelo doesn’t flinch away from pointing out how their (white) characters thoughtlessly perpetuate the problem, through horrifically powerful gullibility or just callous apathy. There’s a particular thematic note in this book that still has my stomach roiling with angry acids: as a queer person of color, you really cannot rely on your white queer peers to understand the shape of your chafing and grappling against institutionalized racism, no matter how well-intentioned they are/claim to be. Being queer does not make our experiences navigating the wide world similar or even equal. I’ve had interactions with white queers to whom this concept remains utterly ungraspable, and this book validates that helpless frustration. I mean, you KNOW a book has struck deep chords in you when the words burst out of you in a faintly coherent voice note sent to a dear friend because you are angry and you want to be angry with someone who will understand, in a marrow-deep way, the shape of your anger.

That said, this is a debut, so it’s inevitable that it winds up with a few flaws: I found the mystery predictable and the plot, which involves a lot of dangling threads and dead ends, plods along for the first half of the book and the pace soon lapses into a repetitive, episodic rhythm. In hindsight, this aimlessness is somewhat justified—Andrew, our protagonist, is devastatingly, explosively lost. Grief, formless and rampant, is pounding at him at every turn until he can hardly feel his own edges, and that protracted process of grieving is central to the novel. It takes some work to get used to, but it’s worth it. If you’re more keen on character-driven stories, like I am, rest assured that this will not put a permanent dent in your enjoyment of this book.

Overall, SUMMER SONS is a lovely book and an impressive debut from an author I’m definitely keeping an eye on.


If you enjoyed this post or found it useful please consider leaving me a tip on ko-fi!

Book Recommendations

🌈 Be Gay, Do Crime: Queer Heist Books Recommendations for Pride Month 🌈

There is such a thrill in reading heist books against which no drug compares. Is it the life-and-death stakes? The desperate we-have-nothing-to-lose-and-everything-to-gain bravado? The sheer vindictive joy of eating the rich? The queer found family dynamics between morally fraudulent characters who live in a world that disdains them and grow as close as entangled trees through committing crime and wreaking fierce and terrible havoc wherever they go?

Whatever it is, it’s working. And working damn well, too. At this point, heist books should be their own genre. The categorization is not only cool as hell, but it would also make it easier for readers like me (who have an untoward degree of affection for books about being gay and doing crime) to find them. I’ve been scouring the internet for heist books with queer representation for some time now, and managed to pin down 17 in total. I was actually delightfully surprised to find that almost every heist book I came across had some kind of lgbtq+ representation, and the very few that didn’t—well… frankly, I figured cishets can make their own lists, y’know?

Anyways! Without further ado, here are some queer heist books:

Continue reading “🌈 Be Gay, Do Crime: Queer Heist Books Recommendations for Pride Month 🌈”
Reviews

Review: The Big Bad Wolf Series by Charlie Adhara

Synopsis for the 1st book:

Hunting for big bad wolves was never part of Agent Cooper Dayton’s plan, but a werewolf attack lands him in the carefully guarded Bureau of Special Investigations. A new case comes with a new partner: ruggedly sexy werewolf Oliver Park.

Park is an agent of The Trust, a werewolf oversight organization working to ease escalating tensions with the BSI. But as far as Cooper’s concerned, it’s failing. As they investigate a series of mysterious deaths unlike anything they’ve seen, every bone in Cooper’s body is suspicious of his new partner—even when Park proves himself as competent as he is utterly captivating.

When more people vanish, pressure to solve the case skyrockets. And though he’d resolved to keep things professional, Cooper’s friction with Park soon erupts…into a physical need that can’t be contained or controlled. But with a body count that’s rising by the day, werewolves and humans are in equal danger. If Cooper and Park don’t catch the killer soon, one—or both—of them could be the next to go.


I discovered this series a little while ago and fell headlong into it, gulping down all five books in a three-day marathon stupor of wanting to feel something—and I have absolutely no regrets!

Continue reading “Review: The Big Bad Wolf Series by Charlie Adhara”
Other

“You gotta make your own place to belong”: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

54860443

SYNOPSIS:

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.


McQuiston’s stories have a way of destroying my heart in all the best deepest ways. I still well up with unreasoning joy when I think about Red, White & Royal Blue, a book I still return to, from time to time, to scrape out some solace from the harsh, ugly world. And I’m happy to report that none of the author’s enchantment has ebbed away in this sophomore novel. If anything, One Last Stop only cemented for me that I will be reading every Casey McQuiston book for as long as they keep writing them.

Continue reading ““You gotta make your own place to belong”: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston”
Reviews

“Give me hunger on my own terms”: The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

54467051

SYNOPSIS:

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale. 


There are few books I can’t read without pain, without all my old wounds flaring open. These are the stories that feel almost unbearably personal, the stories I can’t talk about without the words filling my throat to choking, without unlocking something I cannot begin to reconcile. Coming face to face with The Unbroken, a story that is built out of the bones of the colonial history of North Africa—the history of my people, my history—a story which drags out those perennial hurts and exorcises those familiar demons on the page, I was completely and utterly defenseless.

Continue reading ““Give me hunger on my own terms”: The Unbroken by C.L. Clark”
Cover reveal

Cover Reveal: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

Hi friends!

I’m absolutely delighted to share with you the UK cover reveal for A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark, the author’s fiercely-anticipated fantasy debut novel in which he returns to his popular alternate early-20th-century Cairo universe. I read Clark’s short stories (set in the same world) a few months ago, and was completely enthralled by them. In less than 100 pages, Clark was able to conjure a fully-formed and believable history, a formidable world of djinns, angels, ghouls, and magic. To say I was excited for what wonderous yarn Clark might spin with a whole novel would be a criminal understatement, particularly when I heard (from reliable sources) that it stars one lesbian detective who looks devastatingly dashing in suits while hunting monsters in Cairo with her hot assassin girlfriend.

In brief: take. all. my. money. (Scroll down for more info about the book and its author, and, of course, the full cover!)

Continue reading “Cover Reveal: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark”
Reviews

Review: The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor #1) by Katherine Addison

44028560. sy475

SYNOPSIS:

Maia, the youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favour with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the spectre of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor.


I am so wretchedly late to the party, but I’m so glad I finally picked up this book.

Continue reading “Review: The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor #1) by Katherine Addison”
Reviews

Review: Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

49399658

SYNOPSIS:

A reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.
How do you make one month last a lifetime?


Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to? 


Counting Down with You was such a warm joy to read, and it left me with something luminous bubbling bright within my chest. It’s a charming and aching story with a quietly furious heart, a story that would have given me a mirror as a teenager, and now at twenty-two, pried something open in me that had been shut for a very long time.

Continue reading “Review: Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan”
Reviews

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

53152636. sy475

SYNOPSIS:

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.


Mexican Gothic is a sublime work of post-colonial gothic, not at all comfortable or comforting, but beautifully rendered all the same. It’s a story that unsettled me so effectively I found myself, on more than one occasion, helplessly desperate to claw my way out of my reading experience, to put a merciful distance between me and the words and the bleak and stifling horror that lies within. And at the same time, I couldn’t. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. Because, like any terrible enchantment, Mexican Gothic is a book that compels.

Continue reading “Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia”
Reviews

Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

46189814

SYNOPSIS:

He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.

Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.

With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.

Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Love makes monsters of us all.


                 The premise of Down Comes the Night struck me with a deep allure: two enemies, standing on opposite sides of an endless war, find themselves miserably trapped, like a pair of pinned moths, with unknowable terrors inside an estate lurking deep in the dark fog-wreathed mountains, and like any trapped thing, they must scrape up answers and fight to the bitter end, together. 

Continue reading “Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft”