Staff Bookshelf May 2024

In this blog post, we are taking a look at what CUA Press is reading this May! Featured in this staff bookshelf we have a lovely variety of genres, some of which include fantasy, ConLang (constructed language) linguistics, spirituality, historical fiction, and even murder mystery!


I recently re-read (on audio) I Am the Messenger, a slightly vulgar and weirdly uplifting Australian novel by Markus Zuzak, better known for The Book Thief. Although I had remembered a couple of key points of the book from previously, I had forgotten enough that it was still gripping. Also, naming a dog “The Doorman” was sheer genius. A side note: one of the messages that “stupid human” Ed Kennedy delivers is to a character purported to be a Catholic priest, but the main scene held in a church suggests to me that the author has no clue what happens in a Catholic church. Still, it’s an inoffensive scene and character. 


I just wrapped up reading TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean SeaThis novel is truly chicken noodle soup for the soul. The protagonist, Linus, a 40-something who lives in the bleak drone of bureaucratic existence in a magical world, is sent on assignment by “Extremely Upper Management” to investigate the on goings of a magical orphanage with a fine tooth comb. Despite being a little on the nose, the metaphor for racial injustice by the way of magical heritage, is the undercurrent of Klune’s story. Found family ensues, featuring an entire cast of hilarious characters, some of which include: a fiercely protective garden gnome, an enigmatic island sprite, Chauncey the “not-monster” who simply wants to be a bellhop, Arthur (the mysterious Orphanage Master), a slew of other magical children, and of course, Linus— the poor nonmagical guy who got way more than he bargained for! 


I am currently half-way through A Most Agreeable Murder by Julia Seales. It’s a regency-era locked room murder mystery loosely inspired on Pride and Prejudice. Instead of Elizabeth and Darcy, we have Beatrice and Inspector Drake, who have to put aside their disdain for each other as they solve the death of Edmund Croaksworth. It’s a little silly, but quite an easy read and so far enjoyable. 

On audio, I’m listening to A Court of Silver Flamesthe most recent in the ACTOAR series by Sarah J. Maas. This book switches from our usual protagonist, Feyre, to her older sister, Nesta. I still have about 19 of listening to go, so I’ll hold my final opinions until I finish!

Trevor L

Recent events at the Press revealed that one of my colleagues is fluent in Ubbi Dubbi; another can chat freely in Pig Latin. Worried that my own abilities in Esperanto look mainstream in comparison, I decided to upgrade my ConLang (constructed language) game by reading Sonja Lang’s “Toki Pona: The Language of Good.”  Lang, a Canadian linguist, invented Toki Pona — a language that consists of less than 150 words. These can be mastered in a weekend, but language is more than mere words. The sheer simplicity of using so few words is offset by needing to combine them to make sense of the complex world around us.  Nevertheless, it’s fun. It also comes with its own Toki Pona sign language and Toki Pona hieroglyphs.  


I’m mostly just stalling out with dissertation reading, but I did recently pick up Sr. Mary David Totah’s The Joy of God for some spiritual reading. Sr. Mary David is a Benedictine nun from St. Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight. Before entering the monastery she received a doctorate in English studying literary modernism and gained a tenure-track position at the College of William and Mary. Her writing reflects both the heights of her spiritual life and her intuition for the suppleness of language. Her treatment of “joy” also goes far beyond mere emotion or trite positivity. So far, I would recommend it highly!

Trevor C

I read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. It is one of those classics that I had just never gotten around to reading and like most classics is properly rated as such. Even after so many imitators his staccato style of dialogue still feels crisp. It’s a tale of disaffected ex-pats trying to fill the hole in themselves left by the Great War with flirtations, a fun trip to Spain, wine, and a lot (a lot!) of money spent. 


I just finished ‘DAY’ by Michael Cunningham, who is I believe most famous for ‘The Hours.’ This is his new/most recent one. It’s set on 3 days in April in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. Involves a family struggling with various issues before, during and kinda sorta after the worst of the COVID pandemic. The writing is tremendously eloquent as everything that i’ve read of Cunnigham’s has been. I didn’t love it though. First problem was that I guess I’m not quite ready for ‘COVID literature’ which is of course not Cunnigham’s fault, if one isn’t ready to read about COVID a book taking place in April 2020 might be a good one to steer clear of. So that one’s on me I think! But I also found the characters mostly unlikable and unsympathetic, so it’s hard to get too invested in a story in which you don’t really care what happens to the characters.  


I’m reading Pearl of Great Price, a biography of Mother Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945), a refugee from the Russian revolution of 1917, who became an Orthodox nun in Paris after the loss of her children. Because she sheltered Jews during the Holocaust, the Nazi regime sent her to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she died. The author of this biography was a Russian Orthodox priest in the UK, Father Sergei Hackel. The foreword was written by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom.

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