One Catholic Life Blog

The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart

“You Peking weaklings call these things flies?” he yelled. “Back in Soochow we have flies so big that we clip their wings, hitch them to plows, and use them for oxen!” It would be hard to find a more original fantasy series than The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart. Set in “an ancient China that never was,” the series is a delicious concoction of Chinese mythology, detective fiction, epic fantasy quests, and ghost stories, sprinkled with generous helpings of ribald humor and...

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Roads Go Ever On: A Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Readalong

This year as I enter the world of reading challenges, I’ve also jumped into my first readalong: Brona’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Readalong 2017. It didn’t take much deliberation to decide to join. Since first reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1979, I’ve probably reread them a good ten times or more. I think it’s pretty safe to say that The Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien have had a profound influence on my life. In fact, my very first blog post ever, way back in...

Illustrated Man and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I have admired Ray Bradbury’s writing for several decades now, so it was natural that I would love Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. Bradbury always writes from the heart, and this collection of writing advice is no exception. Here’s what I’m talking about: You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most...

Mark Link, SJ

One Heck of a Story – Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

There were many newsworthy events this past week and there are many more going on this weekend; but there’s one event that happened this past Wednesday that you probably didn’t hear about: one of the world’s best-selling authors passed away at the age of 92. They say that if a book sells more than 20,000 copies in a year, then it’s in the top one percent of all book sales. This author sold over 10 million copies of his books. And yet, despite being so successful, you probably...

Pope Francis Pursued: Pilgrimage by Mark Shriver

The subtitle of Mark Shriver’s book Pilgrimage is My Search for the Real Pope Francis. The implication is that there is some confusion, disagreement, or misunderstanding about who Pope Francis is. It’s almost as if Pope Francis is too good to be true. Or perhaps there’s a suspicion that the public persona of Pope Francis is a mask that conceals his real agenda. As Shriver himself writes in the prologue, I kept warning myself not to believe unconditionally in a guy who, I kept reminding myself, headed a...

Black Beauty First Edition Detail

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody’s business to interfere when they see it. Black Beauty, page 74 I knew next to nothing about Black Beauty before I started reading it, and it was very different than I expected. My previous experience with equine stories has been through movies like Secretariat, The Black Stallion, and Hidalgo,  so I was expecting a story about a colt who beats all odds to become a great racehorse. If my Kindle edition would have included the original title,...

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To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

There is a mythical element to our childhood, it seems, that stays with us always. When we are young, we consume the world in great gulps, and it consumes us, and everything is mysterious and alive and fills us with desire and wonder, fear, and guilt. With the passing of the years, however, those memories become distant and malleable, and we shape them into the stories of who we are. We are brave, or we are cowardly. We are loving, or we are cruel. To the Bright Edge...

Deal Me In Reading Challenge

Deal Me in Challenge Stories #1 and #2

I love the concept of the The Deal Me In Challenge, hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis. For this challenge you choose 52 short stories for the year, reading one each week. What makes this challenge more fun is that you assign each story a different card from a deck of standard playing cards. Then each week you draw a card at random and read the story assigned to it. This is my first year participating, and I decided that my theme for the year would be “The Macabre.”...

Classics Club Book #6: Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

Because I graduated from high school in 1984, I’ve always had a connection with both the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell and the rock album 1984 by Van Halen. Over the years, the former has grown in my estimation and the latter has declined. The album by Van Halen is something you outgrow. The novel by Orwell is something that grows with you. I put Nineteen Eighty-four on my Classics Club list because I knew my daughter would be reading it in her senior high school literature class,...

The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux

I have no ambition to be an author. An author is always something of a romancer, and God knows, the mystery of The Yellow Room is quite full enough of real tragic horror to require no aid from literary effects. Gaston Leroux, The Mystery of the Yellow Room 2017 is here, and I’ve kicked off a new year of reading with The Mystery of the Yellow Room. This early twentieth century novel is a classic locked-room mystery by Gaston Leroux. Leroux is probably best known as the author of The Phantom...

Ready Player One

My Favorite Reads of 2016

2016 was a very good year for reading. After a down year in 2015, this past year I surpassed my goal of 36 books, finishing number 38 on Christmas Eve. Here is what Goodreads tells me about my year in reading: I read 11,553 pages. The average length of the books I read was 304 pages. The most popular book I read was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The least popular book I read was No One Cries the Wrong Way by Joe Kempf. Not only did I discover...

Young Man Reading

Reading Challenges for 2017

With 2017 on the horizon, I’m entering new reading territory by committing to several reading challenges. I’ve never done a reading challenge before, but I’ve enjoyed seeing other bloggers write about their challenges, so I’m jumping into the fray. Here are the challenges I’m signing up for this year: Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge – The challenge here is to read 26 books, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. Back to the Classics – This challenge has readers choose classics in twelve different categories. British Books Challenge – Books...

Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard

Think of the ‘Star Wars’ sagas and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ mix in the triumph of ‘Rocky I,’ ‘Rocky II,’ and ‘Rocky III,’ and you have captured the exuberance, style and glory of ‘BATTLEFIELD EARTH.’ It was the above blurb from The Evening Sun in 1984 that convinced me to take a chance on a 1,000-page science fiction novel, and I have never regretted it. It’s been over twenty years since I last read Battlefield Earth, and it’s still as much fun as I remembered. It remains one...

Here There Be Dragons

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

Geared for young adult readers, Here, There Be Dragons is an excellent read for anyone who is a fan of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. Literary allusions abound, and part of my enjoyment came from the way Owen connected various classic works with his plot. Here, There Be Dragons is for a more literate teen reader, someone who prefers authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Austen, Alcott rather than series like the Twilight saga or The Hunger Games. Not that readers of those books won’t like it, but it moves at...

Gonzaga Prep's Sound of Music

An Overture for Christmas – Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent

Back in November, Brenda and I got to see our daughter Teresa perform in Gonzaga Prep’s production of The Sound of Music. I know some of you here are theater moms or dads, and your kids have been in shows too, shows like Ferris’ The Addams Family, Fiddler on the Roof, or Shrek. Or maybe some of you are theater kids and have seen your parents perform in Ham on Regal. So you know how it is that you end up seeing the same show multiple times. You...