Saturday, December 14, 2013

There and Back Again

The Hobbit or There and Back Again
J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the fourth time I’ve read The Hobbit. Or the fifth; I can’t remember. I’m not exaggerating or embellishing—that’s just the truth. For me, The Hobbit was one of those books I grew up with and have no problem reading repeatedly. That book, the one that has been so well loved that the cover is falling off, is probably different for you. This is the book that you fell asleep to, that you could imagine in vivid detail. It might be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or The Golden Compass.  It might be about Peter Rabbit, Harry Potter, or Wild Things. 

Even though I can’t remember how many times I’ve gone back, I will never forget the first time I read The Hobbit. Or, rather, when my father first read it to me. Being a theatre and English teacher at the time, he didn’t just read the book, he put on a show. He sang all the songs and did all the voices. I can still hear the tune to the dwarves’ song, which is uncannily similar to the one recently featured in the new film. Curious. So with these vivid childhood memories, I was ready to crack the cover again and see if The Hobbit held as much magic as I remember.

It holds so much more. Just like I couldn’t comprehend the blatant religious undertones in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe upon reading it for the first time, at ten, I had never fully grasped the grandness of the world Tolkien created. Being about ten times shorter than The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit is not nearly as detailed (and by that I mean containing minute descriptions of the specific variety of pipe-weed that is preferred among Hobbits – Old Toby in case you were wondering) even though the journey is quite as spectacular.

The fantastic thing about The Hobbit is that it was specifically constructed with children in mind—indeed Tolkien’s own children—where each chapter is a short adventure story, self-contained and satisfying. You might read about an encounter with three trolls in the moonlight, or a whole army of goblins hidden inside a mountain. Tolkien’s writing is so masterful that it can content both the child listening, the parent narrating, and the twenty-something cracking the cover for the umpteenth time. For the more mature reader, there are larger plot arcs and subtle connections to the sequel, The Fellowship of the Ring, where readers are rewarded for their attention to detail. So upon my latest reading of The Hobbit, I was contented to experience a healthy dose of nostalgia, a rejuvenation of childhood wonder, and a smug sense of “oh, that’s what that means.” 

Enjoyable, there and back again.

-Michelle Hunniford

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We Learn Nothing

Tim Kreider

We Learn Nothing reads like the internal dialogue we all have with ourselves at some point, usually during moments we feel will define not only our lives, but who we are. Kreider finds inspiration in life’s toughest stuff—finding your birth family in midlife, grappling with changing conceptions of our closest friends, feeling helpless as our parents age, and facing our own flaws and self-deceptions—appealing to himself and his readers through humour, candour, and an offbeat, self-effacing assuredness that everything will work itself out in the end.

Like the front cover depicting Kreider jumping off the edge of a cliff, relying only on a pair of makeshift wings, terra firma nowhere in sight, much of Kreider’s charm lies not in his ability as a fellow human to provide us with answers to life’s most persistent dilemmas, but in his comforting us with the knowledge that we are not alone with our fears of life’s many unknowns. Like his title, which dispels the myth that knowledge and certainty accumulate with age, Kreider seems to suggest that it is, in fact, this uncertainty that characterizes much of the human experience. Kreider’s writings provide a remedy not for this uncertainty, but for the discomfort that accompanies it, suggesting that sometimes the very best we can do in our very limited positions as human beings is to close our eyes, take a deep breath, and jump.

- Sarah Walker

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa

It had been a long time since I read a really good mystery book, so I was quite excited when given the opportunity to review this novel. The book starts with Tomomi and Ben in Paris, going about their every day average business. Ben’s life is utterly turned around when he receives a letter from Tomomi: she has killed herself and has an adventure for him. After a long healing period filled with disbelief, Ben decides to take Tomomi up on her offer of adventure. Uncovering the mysteries of Tomomi’s short life, Ben travels throughout France and to the United States of America. 
Benjamin Constable

What stood out to me most about Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa was how well Constable completely grasped the friendship between Tomomi and Ben. When Ben is reflecting on his experiences with his late best friend, it was easy for me to compare his stories of Tomomi to stories with me and my good friends. The strength of writing made the book very difficult to put down, as I wanted to continue to watch the friendship grow as Ben continued to learn more about his friend.

In his travels to solve Tomomi’s mystery, Ben meets several other fun characters and the reader is even introduced to his cat, Cat, whom no one else can see. The book is filled with friendship, trials, attempts to conquer fears, mystery, and there is a little violence thrown in there, as Tomomi’s secrets begin to unravel. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a story that fits like a puzzle; the pieces gradually come together as the story unfolds. Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa is for adults, who enjoy mysteries and stories of friendship and loss. Benjamin Constable has truly written an entertaining book that teaches you about friendship all over the globe.

Wesley Wilson is a zoology student at the University of Guelph and works on campus at a microbiology lab. When Wesley isn’t studying away, she spends most of her time reading. Anna Karenina is her favourite book, but she enjoys reading a variety of different genres.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor

The eighth installment to Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series is what I would call, if I were one of his characters from Dublin, Jus what the Doctor feckin ordered. With perfect portrayal of the Irish country folk and the Ulcer and Dublin dialects, along with the purely fulfilled lives of Doctor O’Reilly and the characters adjoined to his journey, it is tough for yet another story from this series to not intrigue readers, raise laughter, and warm the heart.

Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor follows Dr. O’Reilly in the newly remarried chapter of his life (to his long lost sweetheart, “Kitty” O’Reilly née O’Hallorhan in Ballybucklebo) while sharing stints from the Doctor’s earlier days testing the waters as a General Practitioner in the Liberties of Dublin. Throughout Taylor’s novel, we see how the experiences of his youth remain with Fingal, how they shape him as a person, prepare him for further practice as a GP, and teach him that “sometimes difficulties to which he could see no solution happily solved themselves.” Many of the favoured characters of the series like “Kinky” Kincaid, Dr. Barry Laverty, Dr. Jennifer Bradley, and Donald Donnelly, reappear along the way with new happenings in their lives which, of course have the good ol’ Doctor himself involved.

A story you will invest yourself in, a story to which you will share with your children and friends in hopes that, just as you had, they will learn and strive to be better people from the exemplary lives portrayed within the pages; Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Doctor is a classic.

A man of many interests, Joseph Cassidy is; A Star Wars fanatic; Maple Leafs fan to the core; musician; and a lover of literature, just to name a few. Brought up in the country side of Bruce County, Joseph has had the fortune of witnessing and existing in the humbly rich small town communities, the privacy of 100acres and the wonderful nature, landscape and wildlife that surround it. This in addition to his Irish ancestry, could perhaps explain his love and appreciation for Patrick Taylor's Irish Country book series.

Check out Joseph's review of An Irish Country Christmas: