In order of least favorite to favorite books I read in July.
3 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: Jak's life has only one meaning; break the curse or die trying. Marius's life has no meaning; not since he was cursed into the twisted, blood thirsty creature of night. For years the witches have waited for their salvation, a way to return the magic that was sacrificed when the curse was first cast. Jak, a boy born with power that the witches have not seen in a century, is their prophesied savior. The one who is to kill the creature, break the curse and restore magic to his coven. Sent to the creature's castle as the final Claim, Jak must get close enough to land the final blow. It is what he has trained all his life to accomplish. Not all is as it seems when Jak uncovers secrets and half-truths. The creature is not the haunting beast he had been brought up to hate. Emotions war as new feelings are uncovered. For what is more dangerous than hate? Lust.
3.5 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: "When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, "The Metamorphosis." It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequecy, guilt, and isolation, "The Metamorphosis" has taken its place as one of the mosst widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man."
3.5 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: One of Neil Gaiman's most beautiful and enchanting tales, Stardust is the story of Tristran Thorn, a young man who promises the woman he loves that he will bring her back a fallen star. But there are others who seek the star, for their own reasons. And then there's the star herself . . .
A beloved fairy tale infused with humor, magic, adventure, and romance, Stardust is a timeless work that demonstrates the writer's bold, elegant and infinitely wondrous imagination.
4 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: Visceral and astonishing, Paul Tran's debut poetry collection All the Flowers Kneeling investigates intergenerational trauma, sexual violence, and U.S. imperialism in order to radically alter our understanding of freedom, power, and control. In poems of desire, gender, bodies, legacies, and imagined futures, Tran's poems elucidate the complex and harrowing processes of reckoning and recovery, enhanced by innovative poetic forms that mirror the nonlinear emotional and psychological experiences of trauma survivors. At once grand and intimate, commanding and deeply vulnerable, All the Flowers Kneeling revels in rediscovering and reconfiguring the self, and ultimately becomes an essential testament to the human capacity for resilience, endurance, and love.
4 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: From celebrated author Agustina Bazterrica, this collection of nineteen brutal, darkly funny short stories takes into our deepest fears and through our most disturbing fantasies. Through stories about violence, alienation, and dystopia, Bazterrica's vision of the human experience emerges in complex, unexpected ways--often unsettling, sometimes thrilling, and always profound. In "Roberto," a girl claims to have a rabbit between her legs. A woman's neighbor jumps to his death in "A Light, Swift, and Monstrous Sound," and in "Candy Pink," a woman fails to contend with a difficult breakup in five easy steps. Written in Bazterrica's signature clever, vivid style, these stories question love, friendship, family relationships, and unspeakable desires.
4.1 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers--and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
4.2 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years--due largely to initial audiences' rejection of its strong black female protagonist--Hurston's classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.
4.3 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: Everyone knows that Nick and Charlie love their nearly inseparable life together. But soon Nick will be leaving for university, and Charlie, a year younger, will be left behind. Everyone's asking if they're staying together, which is a stupid question... or at least that's what Nick and Charlie assume at first.
As the time to say goodbye gets inevitably closer, both Nick and Charlie start to question whether their love is strong enough to survive being apart. Charlie is sure he's holding Nick back... and Nick can't tell what Charlie's thinking.
Things spiral from there.
Everyone knows that first loves rarely last forever. What will it take for Nick and Charlie to defy the odds?
4.4 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: When Paul enters university in early 1970s Pittsburgh, it's with the hope of moving past the recent death of his father. Sensitive, insecure, and incomprehensible to his grieving family, Paul feels isolated and alone. When he meets the worldly Julian in his freshman ethics class, Paul is immediately drawn to his classmate's effortless charm.
Paul sees Julian as his sole intellectual equal--an ally against the conventional world he finds so suffocating. Paul will stop at nothing to prove himself worthy of their friendship, because with Julian life is more invigorating than Paul could ever have imagined. But as charismatic as he can choose to be, Julian is also volatile and capriciously cruel, and Paul becomes increasingly afraid that he can never live up to what Julian expects of him.
As their friendship spirals into all-consuming intimacy, they each learn the lengths to which the other will go in order to stay together, their obsession ultimately hurtling them toward an act of irrevocable violence.
4.5 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: On this season of The Catch, contestants must compete for love. And their lives.
When the final four women in competition for an aloof, somewhat sleazy bachelor's heart arrive on a mysterious island in the Pacific Northwest, they prepare themselves for another week of extreme sleep deprivation, invasive interviews, and, of course, the salacious drama eager viewers nationwide tune in to devour. Each woman came on The Catch for her own reasons--brand sponsorships, followers, and, yes, even love--and they've all got their eyes steadfastly trained on their respective prizes.
Enter Patricia, a temperamental and woefully misunderstood local living alone in the dark, verdant woods, and desperate for connection. Through twists as unexpected as they are wildly entertaining, the self-absorbed cast and jaded crew each make her acquaintance atop the island's tallest and most desolate peak, finding themselves at the center of an action-packed thriller that is far from scripted--and only a few will make the final cut.
A whirlwind romp careening toward a last-girl-standing conclusion, and a scathing indictment of contemporary American media culture, Patricia Wants to Cuddle is also a love story: between star-crossed lesbians who rise above their intolerant town, a deeply ambivalent woman and her budding self-actualization, and a group of misfit islanders forging community against all odds.
4.5 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.
At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan's friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin's summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.
With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman's fiction is unguarded against both life's affronts and its beauty--and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail.
5 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: When Rin aced the Keju--the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies--it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn't believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin's guardians, who believed they'd finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard--the most elite military school in Nikan--was even more surprising.
But surprises aren't always good.
Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power--an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive--and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.
For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .
Rin's shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.
5 / 5 Stars
Synopsis: Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general--also known as her tough-as-talons mother--has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.
But when you're smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away...because dragons don't bond to "fragile" humans. They incinerate them.
With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother's daughter--like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.
She'll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.
Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom's protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.
Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda--because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.