What I Read – March 2018


The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday Canada, 2011)

More style than substance though I enjoyed it while I was reading it. A month (or less) later, I can’t remember much but it entertained me at the time.

And No Birds Sang – Farley Mowat (McClelland & Stewart, 1979)

Mowat is a Canadian classic and I’ve read a few of his books now, all ranging broadly in subject. This is his memoir of his time serving during World War Two. It was recommended to me by a friend who has served in the Canadian armed forces. It’s an honest and brutal book.

(I reviewed a young adult novel by Mowat, The Curse of the Viking Grave, here.)

Nine Stories – J.D. Salinger (Bantam Books, 1986)

A re-read. Sometimes you just need some quick, interesting short stories, you know?

A Mariner’s Guide to Self-Sabotage – Bill Gaston (Douglas & McIntyre, 2017)

I wrote a review for this one! Read it here.

The Icarus Girl – Helen Oyeyemi (Nan A. Tales/Doubleday, 2005)

And another review! Read it here. Maybe I’ll actually start writing real reviews again.

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller (Anansi, 2015)

Still hoping to write a real review for this book. Stay tuned…

Didn’t Finish:

The Gift of Rain – Tan Twang Eng

(After hearing multiple recommendations of this book I was really disappointed. I just could not get into it and found the beginning dragged on and on until I gave up. What clinched its abandonment for me was also the repeated negative portrayals of all things Chinese. As far as I could see, it wasn’t necessary and added nothing to the story other than making me dislike the narrator.)

Currently Reading:

The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien

When I was a Child I Read Books – Marilynne Robinson

Funny Once: Stories – Antonya Nelson

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains – Yasuko Thanh


What I Read – February 2018

2018 has obviously not been a great year for book reviews thus far but I am sneaking in lots of reading time. Here’s what I read in February and the quickest reviews I can manage at this moment:

The Hut Builder – Laurence Fearnley (Penguin Books, 2010

New Zealand novel. I likely would have abandoned this one partway through if it hadn’t been a gift. Quite frankly, I found this one boring and the characters uninteresting.

Night Film – Marisha Pesl (Random House, 2014)

Definitely creative. Fairly creepy. Character development and voice, etc are fairly limited but the mystery at the heart of the novel will keep you reading.

Rest, Play, Grow – Deborah MacNamara (Aona Books, 2016)

I hope to find the time to write a more detailed review of this parenting book because it’s been hugely helpful to me. I highly recommend this to parents of toddlers.

What every young child would tell us if they could is to please hold on to them, to not take their actions personally, and to love them despite their immaturity.

  • Deborah MacNamara, Rest Play Grow

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Day Sijie (Anchor Books, 2002) (translated from the French by Ina Rilke)

Easy read. Nothing terrible but nothing amazing here.

The Professor and the Madman – Simon Winchester (Harper Perennial, 1999)

Fascinating read if you’re interested in history and/or language and/or dictionaries.

The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis (Harper Collins, 2001)

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

  • C.S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?”

Collection of sermons by Lewis. I always enjoy Lewis’ work, whether fiction or non. His perspective and wisdom are endlessly valuable.

It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God.

  • C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

Moonglow – Michael Chabon (Harper Collins, 2016)

Pseudo-memoir of the author’s grandparents. Or is it? What’s fact and what’s fiction here? And does it matter when it’s well written and fun to read? 20th century history, World War II, space race, and a giant snake.

Indian Horse – Richard Wagamese (Douglas & McIntyre, 2012)

Why did it take me so long to read this book? Beautiful and heartbreaking. Every Canadian should read this book. And if you’re not Canadian you should read it too.


The Silmarillion – j.R.R. Tolkien

…there were green things even among the pits and broken rocks before the doors of hell.

  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

When I Was a Child I Read Books – Marilynne Robinson


My current reading habits mean I generally have three books on the go. The first is a classic that needs a decent amount of focus to be read. (Example: The Silmarillion) I read this in the evening after the girls are in bed. The second is something of a thoughtful nature, usually non-fiction, maybe something religious in nature. (Example: essays by Marilynne Robinson) The third is a more compulsive read. Almost always fiction, hopefully paperback. Something that I can read in the middle of the night while struggling to stay awake and feed a baby. (Just finished Indian Horse and will probably start The Night Circus tonight since I got it from the library today.)

What are your reading habits like? How many books do you typically have on the go? How do you decide what to read and when?

What I Read – January 2018

For although a man is judged by his actions, by what he has said and done, a man judges himself by what he is willing to do, by what he might have said, or might have done – a judgment that is necessarily hampered, not only by scope and limits of his imagination, but by the ever-changing measure of his doubt and self-esteem.

– The Luminaries

One of my goals for 2017 was to read more classics. As such, I re-read The Power and the Glory, an amazing classic that I read several years ago but so many things in it felt like I was reading it for the first time. I’ve also (finally) begun to tackle The Silmarillion. I think my dad will be proud of me.

And, as always, I want to read more from my own library (Meaning read some of the stacks of books that I already own but have not yet read.) 84, Charing Cross Road, Rules of Civility, The Luminaries, Purple Hibiscus, and The Painted Girls all fit into that category.

I managed a couple of book reviews (titles are linked) but hope to do better in February. Feel free to share your favourite reads of the month in the comments!


  1. 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff (Penguin Books, 1970)
  2. The War that Saved my Life – Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Penguin Books, 2015)
  3. Rules of Civility – Amor Towles (Penguin Books, 2011)
  4. Your Heart is the Size of Your Fist – Martina Scholtens (Brindle & Glass, 2017)
  5. The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton (McClelland & Stewart, 2013)
  6. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene (Penguin Books, 1979)
  7. Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012)
  8. The Painted Girls – Cathy Marie Buchanan (Harper Collins, 2012

There was silence all round him. This place was very like the world: overcrowded with lust and crime and unhappy love, it stank to heaven; but he realized that after all it was possible to find peace there, when you knew for certain that the time was short.

– The Power and the Glory

Currently Reading:

  1. Rest, Play, Grow – Deborah MacNamara
  2. The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. The Hut Builder – Laurence Fearnley

But Ilúvatar knew that Men, being set amid the turmoils of the powers of the world, would stray often, and would not use their gifts in harmony; and he said: “These too in their time shall find that all that they do redounds at the end only to the glory of my work.”

– The Silmarillion

*Friendly reminder that you can follow me on Instagram @karissareadsbooks if you’re into that sort of thing. Mostly pictures of what I’m reading as I’m reading and my kids.

Book Review: Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien (Reading with Pearl)


Roverandom, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002

Although not as widely known as some of other Tolkien’s books (have you heard of The Lord of the Rings?), Roverandom is one of my favourite reads on a sick day. So when Pearl recently had her first cold and wanted lots of cuddles, we snuggled up together and I read this to her.

It’s a fun, fantastical, nonsensical read. After Rover – who is a dog, if you couldn’t guess – reacts poorly to aggravation and unwittingly bites a wizard in the bottom, he is turned into a small toy. He’s bought as a gift for a little boy (a stand-in for Tolkien’s middle son, Michael) and taken to a house by the seaside. Eager to return home and to no longer be a toy, Rover escapes from the boy and swept into adventures that include meeting more wizards, travelling to the moon, and spending time at the mer-king’s palace under the sea. Along the way he meets some other Rovers and his name becomes Roverandom.

The book has some of Tolkien’s classic references to mythology and folktales but is completely separate from his tales of Middle Earth. It started as a bedtime story for his sons and though he seems to have fleshed it out, that’s still where it works best. There are some holes and large sections of Rover’s story that are simply alluded to and then passed right by (maybe bedtime was running long and J.R.R. was feeling tired). It’s not fine literature but it’s fun and magical and appealing to anyone who enjoys fairy tales and dogs.

What I Read – September 2015

Here’s what I read this month. Reviews are up or coming.

1. Beijing Confidential – Jan Wong (Doubleday Canada, 2007)

My review is here.

2. The Curse of the Viking Grave – Farley Mowat (McClelland & Stewart, 1966)

Read my review here.

3. What’s So Amazing About Grace? – Philip Yancey (Zondervan Publishing House, 1997)

4. The Navigator of New York – Wayne Johnston (Vintage Canada, 2002)

5. Death Benefits – Sarah N. Harvey (Orca Book Publishers, 2010)

6. My Secret Sister – Helen Edwards & Jenny Lee Smith (Pan Books, 2013)

7. Roverandom – J.R.R. Tolkien (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2002)

8. The Lotus Eaters – Tatjana Soli (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011)

9. The Sorrow of War – Bao Ninh (Riverhead Books, 1993)

10. Going After CacciatoTim O’Brien (Broadway Books, 1999)

11. Crazy Love – Francis Chan (Gale Cengage Learning, 2007)

Currently Reading:

The Tenderness of WolvesStef Penney

Love Wins – Rob Bell

Didn’t Finish:

The Everlasting Man – G.K. Chesterton

I told myself I would keep reading it until the end of September and then let it go. I’m pretty close to the end but I’m leaving it be. As close as I am, I’m still not entirely sure what the books about and I don’t agree with much of it. I’d recommend reading Orthodoxy instead.

Reading With Pearl – July 2015

The Gammage Cup – Carol Kendall (A Voyager Book, 1969)


I first read The Gammage Cup at school in grade seven and loved it. While it doesn’t quite stand up to an adult reading, it’s still a fun read. It’s got fantasy, adventure, swords, and mysterious fires. As well, it deals with the importance of being unique and not blending in with everyone around you. Yes, it’s dealt with in a simplistic way, but it’s suitable for the target audience. I had fun reading this one and I think when Pearl’s about ten to twelve years old, she’ll enjoy it too.

For now, she enjoyed the book’s bright red cover.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2007)

This was the first book I’ve read to Pearl that I hadn’t read previously. I’d been interested in it since it come out a few years ago though. It’s a big fat book with a combination of words and pictures (but not in a comic style). While its size may make it intimidating to a reluctant reader, it’s actually a very easy read. The writing is minimal (sometimes not even filling the page) and parts of the story are told through the pictures.

I enjoyed the setting of the train station in Paris (fun to picture, since I’ve been to a few train stations in Paris) and the idea of living in the walls and secret tunnels of the station. The clocks and magic and books and film all add to the old-timey and magical feel of the book.

Unfortunately, it’s not that well-written. It’s overly simplistic, a little bit repetitive, and suffers from too much telling rather than showing. Yes, I know, it’s a kids book but that’s no excuse. There are many very well-written kids books out there. Too bad this isn’t one of them.

Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien (George Allen & Unwin, 1973)

This was a Tolkien book that I had never read but had picked up a cool, second-hand copy somewhere along the way. It was fun to read it for the first time with Pearl. It’s an odd, somewhat medieval little story and it’s hard to tell who the hero is. Farmer Giles wins out in the end but he isn’t exactly a heroic figure. The story features a cunning dragon though and a chatty dog and there’s some fun, sly humour to it. I don’t know that it’s exactly a kid’s book but it’s a quick read for any Tolkien lover.

Secrets at Sea Richard Peck (Dial Books, 2011)

I feel like I’ve read Richard Peck books before but I don’t recognise any of his titles. This story follows Helena, her two sisters, and her brother as they leave America and travel to England at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Helena and her family are mice, following the humans that they live with.

It’s a charming story, with a little bit of history and some parts that reminded me of The Borrowers. Helena is then narrator and has all the hallmarks of the bossy older sibling (something that didn’t exactly endear her to me). Deep, thoughtful fiction it is not. But it’s funny and well-written and Peck uses repetition well to establish voice and imagines a world of mice running exactly parallel to our own in a charming way.

My Life in Books

I got this idea from Barda Book Talk so go check out her post if you feel so inclined.

Any book lover will tell you that there are multiple books that have shaped their lives and point of view. I can tell you where and when I was when I read certain titles for the first time. Like One Hundred Years of Solitude on a beach in the Philippines or Gulliver’s Travels in a dorm room in China. Or Jane Eyre in a backyard in Roberts Creek. Here are some of the major reads of my life:

Njals Saga (Author Unknown)

The story in my family is that my dad read this to my brother and I as a bedtime story when I was about three. His rational was much like mine when it comes to reading to Pearl – this was what he wanted to read.

Njals Saga is a story of blood feuds in Iceland, starting around 960 AD. It tells of the arrival of Christianity in Iceland and the development of the judicial system. There’s lots of family insults and killing. Of course, I have no recollection of hearing this story as a toddler but I think it encompasses nicely the way books and reading were approached in my family. Reading was important, books were valued, and I was never told that any book was out of my reading ability. If I wanted to read it, I was allowed to try.

I came back to Njals Saga in university when I studied Medieval History and wrote my final paper on the book. It felt quite fitting.

Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight


This was the first full chapter book I ever read by myself. I remember getting it out of the library in grade one and how thrilling I thought Lassie’s adventures were and how proud I was of myself for reading such a big book. A few years ago I spotted this copy – identical to the one from my elementary school library – in a used bookstore and had to bring it home to commemorate that first novel.

Plus, as a kid, I loved stories about dogs having adventures. Just loved them.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien


Tolkien was practically required reading in our household. The Hobbit remains as one of my favourite books. In grade three, I dressed up as Bilbo Baggins for Character Day at school and won a prize (stickers). In retrospect, I think I got that prize more for having read The Hobbit at the age of eight than because my costume was so spectacular.

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje


If you asked me today what my favourite book is, In the Skin of a Lion would be my answer. I love Michael Ondaatje’s writing and this was the first novel I read by him and is still my favourite. I love his poetic style and the way he winds characters and their stories together.

I read this one for the first time in a first year English course on Canadian literature. (I wrote a paper about Ondaatje’s use of light and I can’t remember a thing I said.) This is the same copy that I bought in the university book store way back then and it’s been well-loved and well-read since.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis


I tossed around a few ideas for my fifth choice but as soon as I thought of Mere Christianity, I knew it was the right pick.

If I’m reading non-fiction, it’s most likely to be a theological work. As a Christian, I believe it’s most important to read and study the Bible but I also think it’s important to read the works and writings of those more learned in the faith. Although Lewis never called himself a theologian, his writings have probably been more influential to how I think and talk about Christianity than any other author. (This includes his Narnia series and his science fiction trilogy.) Mere Christianity remains one of the best outlines of Christian faith to be had.