Now that it’s May, many schools in the US are winding to a close. For some, summer means more reading time. For others, it means less. But for those of us at The CUA Press, reading is an occupational hazard with no escape. Come rain or shine, these are the books we’ll be starting our summers off with.
I just finished Simon Jimenez’s first novel, The Vanished Birds. It’s a piece of speculative fiction that discusses the climate apocalypse and the subsequent flight from Earth. The book takes the space freighter found-family lens familiar from Firefly and uses it to tell a story about how advances in technology into the stars only exacerbates inequality. The story depicts the various ways that corporations find to twist the science fiction/fantastical innovations to instrumentalize people in pursuit of profits. The book ultimately ends on a positive note, as while the space freighter cannot save the world, the family you find makes it worth living.
I’m finishing up the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. I listened to the audiobook of the first book a couple of years ago and wasn’t overly impressed, but I’ve been seeing the series as a whole mentioned a lot lately so thought I’d give it another try. I’ve been really enjoying it, but don’t waste your time if you don’t like romantic fantasy with characters referred to as “the bat boys” by the hardcore superfans. The books are more than a wee bit scandalous and located in the teen section of my library. Maybe it’s the mom in me, but for the first time ever, I reached out to library management to ask that they be categorized as adult fiction. But to no avail! So proceed with caution.
Just recently, I picked up a copy of Brandon Sanderson’s Tress of the Emerald Sea from my local library, the first of his four quarantine-written Secret Projects (funded by the largest Kickstarter in history to date, fun fact!) It takes place within his Cosmere universe (shared by his famous Mistborn and Stormlight Archive series), but is a largely self-contained story and thus a decent entry point for readers like me who’ve never read Sanderson’s work before. (More specifically, a friend/Sanderson fan told me that it’s fine for context-less newbies who don’t know what they’re being spoiled about.) The back cover compares it with The Princess Bride—the titular heroine embarks on an adventure to save her love, told through the commentary of a cheeky narrator.
I’m reading They Came from SW19, part of Nigel Williams’s hilarious Wimbledon Trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed the other two volumes, The Wimbledon Poisoner and East of Wimbledon, both written with a fine eye for comic detail and which, if you squint hard enough, might classify as comedies of manners. This book centers on Simon, a 14-year-old Ufologist whose mother—a keen member of the fictitious First Church of Christ the Spiritualist, South Wimbledon—is eager to “rip through the gauze that separates us from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” just as aliens make contact with her son. Williams was proclaimed by the Daily Telegraph to be “one of the funniest writers around.” I agree.
I am reading The Red Sphinx by Alexandre Dumas. The novel is a sequel to The Three Musketeers although written toward the end of the author’s life and with less fanfare than his other works. I’ve made it through the first few chapters, and it is quintessentially Dumas with swashbuckling characters who have the remarkable ability of being run through with swords multiple times (and surviving) while simultaneously firing off a barrage of witty one liners at their opponents. So far so good!
In addition to chuckling over the daily cartoons in my 2023 “Far Side” calendar, I have been participating in group discussions on the book He Leadeth Me by Walter J. Ciszek, SJ, with Daniel L. Flaherty, SJ. Fr. Ciszek was tormented in brutal Soviet prisons and labor camps from 1940 until 1955. His first book, With God in Russia, is an account of his experiences. His second book, He Leadeth Me, discusses in depth the spiritual crises that confronted him during his many years of suffering and the ways in which God’s presence was shining through those experiences, guiding and strengthening him. In turn, Fr. Ciszek’s humility shines throughout the entire book. It’s powerful stuff!
I’ve been going through the middle book of Madeline L’Engle’s Genesis Trilogy, entitled A Stone for a Pillow, which refers to a scene with the Old Testament patriarch Jacob. It’s about wrestling with God, justice, jury duty, and the prospect of nuclear war. I’ve also recently listened to a good chunk of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People on audio, read by the author. And I’m trying to finally read the T.S. Eliot Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950, that I picked up some time ago. My copy is copyrighted 1952, with zero explanatory notes, so I don’t really understand any of it so far—but it sounds very meaningful.
I’m currently reading The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan. Here’s the short description:
In this New York Times bestseller and Today show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance, in this “surreal” (People), “remarkable” (Vogue), and “infuriatingly timely” (The New York Times Book Review) debut novel.
It’s really amazing. I see some similarities to Kafka’s The Trial as well as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s not QUITE as dark and dystopian as either of those. Not quite done with it yet but can’t imagine the last 75 or so pages will change my “two thumbs up” rating!