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Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, by Robert Barron (2011)

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I stumbled on Bishop Robert Barron on Youtube nearly five years ago, back when he was still a Father. As a writer, I was impressed with his knowledge and insight about story and its function. I was also encouraged by his educated commentary and articulate style. I subsequently watched several more videos in which he talked about the Bible, Christianity, and Catholicism. Thanks to his clarifications, I soon discovered that much of what I’d been told about Catholicism as a practicing protestant was either misleading or untrue.
Several months later I attended my first Catholic service here in town. I enjoyed the service, despite my ignorance of its rituals, and came away sobered by its grandeur and somber tone. The entire experience humbled me. And this, oddly enough, is what appealed to me most.
As a protestant teen attending an Assembly of God church (which, incidentally, has its roots in the Pentecostal tradition of the early 20th century), emphasis was placed on baptism of the…

The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers, Third Edition, by Christopher Vogler

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As a bachelor, I consider myself particularly fortunate. Blessed, even. I love women. Don’t get me wrong. But I’ve grown accustomed to a maverick’s lifestyle. Approaching 52, I’m too old for the dating scene, and I wouldn’t want to participate anyway. Why? Because I’m a fanatical writer. This means spending gobs of time alone. In solitude. I relish this. Seriously. Time to myself affords me time to write. So while isolation might be a bad word for some, for me it’s a joy. In fact, ironically, my meager vocabulary fails me when describing the elation that accompanies this lifestyle. Bliss is the only word that comes close.
How devoted am I to writing? Apart from the job I do to keep the lights on, pay my bills, save for a motorcycle, writing is my everything. I’ve gotten into trouble for turning off my phone on weekends to prevent interruption. When not expecting company, I’ve refused to go to the door when someone knocks. This alone-time affords me the meditation I require. Sorting an…

The Beautiful People, A candid examination of a cultural phenomenon – the marriage of fashion and society in the 60’s, by Marylin Bender (1968)

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The excesses of any fashion, no matter how flattering in their initial concept, bring it to ridicule and eventual disgrace. - Marylin Bender. 
This gem lay buried in the nickel bargain bin of my local used bookstore. Unlike the subtitle above, the paperback edition I read sported a different, slightly misleading subtitle: Who they are and what they really do behind the golden doors of their scandal-ridden world. Based on this less accurate description, I expected an exposé of that era’s famous celebrities, a catalogue of classic movie stars, the Jet Set and their dirty laundry, in paparazzi-like fashion. Some of that appears, but only in passing. Yes, we visit, albeit briefly, Andy Warhol, Barbra Streisand, Pierre Cardin, Truman Capote, Twiggy, Jacqueline Kennedy, et al. We’re introduced to John Weitz, Baby Jane Holzer, Eleanor Lambert, and a Vanderbilt or two, but their mention relates mostly to movements, trends, and indulgences. More attention is devoted to the history of fashion in…

A Perfect Stranger, by Danielle Steel (1981)

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I've never been in love, but I'm not the least bit averse to the idea. Not for myself, of course. At 51, that flat-bottomed skiff has set sail. But I've seen couples clearly in love and it warms my heart. Romantic love is a rare and precious thing and I wish those who've found it all the joy and blessings I can muster. I'm also not averse to reading romance fiction. Some of it, such as McCullough's The Ladies of Missalonghi, is not only a good story but well written.

Having heard so much about the famous romance author Danielle Steel, I decided to seek out her work at my local used book store. When I saw this novel for a nickel in the bargain bin, my heart grabbed a jump rope and skipped all the way down the block, singing Lydia the Tattooed Lady, figuratively of course.

Granted, I've read only a handful of romance novels so far, but Penny Jordan's Marriage Without Love is decent, A Perfect Choice by Laura Parker, which I read years ago, is certainly se…

marriage without love, Penny Jordan (1981)

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This is probably only the second Harlequin Romance I've read, and I'm reminded of a behind the scenes special about the writers of the hit TV show 24 who took pride in the criticism leveled against a nighttime soap they wrote decades before called Knott's Landing. They quoted the critic as having written, “Dumb but never dull.” That sums up this novel.

Enter Briony, a bitter but beautiful young secretary dumped by a reporter named Kieron, who, we’re given to understand through a series of flashbacks, had briefly dated and slept with Briony in order to acquire a scoop from her about Briony’s roommate's brother (a wanted criminal in hiding). Kieron then left Briony, presumably without calling, leaving a note or a forwarding address. When his story hits the paper, Briony is indignant. Understandably, she’s convinced Kieron merely used her. Briony’s roommate’s brother is arrested; furious, Briony’s roommate kicks her out of the apartment.

Unbeknownst to Kieron, one of thei…

The Cat Who Saw Stars, Lilian Jackson Braun (1998)

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This marks the tenth The Cat Who … novel I've read, and because the quality of these tales generally varies from great to garbage, I've decided to call it quits with the series. The problem is I never know whether I'll be treated to a well written who dun it or an utter dud. One novel might deliver on a classic murder mystery with the added bonus of a quirky moonlighting detective and his enigmatic cats. The standard fare from Braun. These follow a well-established and welcome formula: someone dies; foul play is suspected; and whether prodded by an inexplicable bristling sensation along his mustache or by the prescient behavior of his Siamese cat Koko, our beloved sleuth Qwilleran sets to work on solving the case. This develops into well plotted scenes, intriguing suspects, and a satisfying finish.
The next novel, however, might read like a journal adaptation by an octogenarian chronicling her fervor for food, fashion, felines, and fellowship. The problem with the latter is…

Why Do We Say It? The Stories Behind the Words, Expressions and Clichés We Use, Castle Books (1985)

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Being a lover of words, I've often wondered about the origins of certain terms and expressions I've heard throughout my life, and for years I'd sought out books that expounded on them. Bon mots, adages, idioms, that sort of stuff has intrigued me for as long as I can recall. This book is the closest I've come to that kind of thing.

In this book, we find quite a few curious, sometimes amusing, tales about how some of these words and sayings allegedly came about. Some expressions, such as 'Learn By Heart' (or as I've often heard it said, 'I know it by heart'), as well as 'Learn by Rote' date back to antiquity. Others, such as 'quiz,' and 'Flash in the Pan,' are only a few hundred years old. Some terms and expressions are corruptions of their original, such as 'Nuts in May,' which was initially 'knots in May' as in 'sprigs of flowers,' which do come out in May. A few I knew: Carry Coals to Newcastle, Doub…