What I’ve Been Reading Lately: August 2017

Once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately. It’s been two months since I last shared what I’ve been reading, and it’s been vacation time with plane rides and down time, so I’ve had a chance to read quite a few titles. Luckily, all of them were worth finishing this time.

Did you know that August is Women in Translation Month? I just learned that this month. I seized the opportunity to add some female authors in translation to my reading list.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (translated from Swedish by Henning Koch)

This was on my TBR list for a long time, but I was waiting for the audiobook (narrated by George Newbern) which was highly recommended by so many people. It didn’t disappoint. Ove was an interesting character and I had no idea what he was actually trying to do when I started reading the book. But really, my favorite character was his new nextdoor neighbor Parvaneh from Iran, pregnant mother of two young children who was married to the Swede Patrick. It’s a heartwarming story of a disconnected little community who come together over time. I actually shed a few happy tears at the end.

Bienes historie by Maja Lunde

I was quickly hooked on this Norwegian book (which will be available to English readers August 22, 2017, entitled The History of Bees translated by Diane Oatley). It’s a look at the role of bees in the past, present, and future from the perspective of a family in each of those time periods, and over time their stories intersect. The first storyline takes place in England in the mid-1850s when beehives are being improved, the second one in USA in 2007 when there is an increase in the number of colony collapse disorders happening, and the last one in China in 2098 when humans have had to resort to hand-pollination due to the total collapse of bees. I highly recommend it, and it will be out just in time to read for Women in Translation Month!

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

This was our book club’s latest read. It was very good! I highly recommend it. It’s a historical novel about the Tulsa race riot of 1921. It jumps back and forth between today and then, and the stories slowly but surely intersect. There were some difficult parts to read that required me to take a deep breath first or put the book down for a moment before continuing, but it was a great book and very discussion-worthy. I also enjoy books that introduce me to periods of time or events that are new to me, which the Tulsa race riot certainly was.

Eva’s Eye by Karin Fossum (translated from Norwegian by James Anderson)

In honor of Women in Translation Month, I chose to read a book in translation by Norway’s “Queen of Crime.” I read the first in the Inspector Sejer Mysteries series. I liked Inspector Sejer, a middle-aged and mild-mannered detective. The crime being investigated was interesting. But I wasn’t a fan of the style of writing. I wonder if something got lost in translation or maybe it was because it was a British translation. Also, I didn’t really like Eva, the woman of interest in the story. But, I am not giving up on Fossum. I will certainly read another in the series, probably book #5, The Indian Bride translated by Charlotte Barslund, which received Los Angeles Times’ Mystery Prize in 2007.

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

This was my “book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able” for Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge “Reading for Fun.” It certainly kept me turning the pages. I was eager to find out the truth behind the story of the girl who was kidnapped from her bedroom and the story of the girl who returns eights years later appearing to be that kidnapped girl. It’s a book with multiple storylines, in this case the different identities of the girl who shows up at different points in time, and I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of it all, maybe because it was suspenseful and I was reading too fast. Overall, though, an interesting read. I can’t say fun or entertaining, though, due to the trauma the kidnapped girl suffered.

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

I picked this book up on the fly while vacationing in Hawaii. I was between books and thought it would be fun to read one that took place where I was. I became quickly engrossed in the story and was thrilled with my pick. It’s the story of a Korean picture bride who came to Hawaii in 1914 hoping for a better life. It turned out not to be what she was expecting at all, but she was strong, determined, and resilient and made a life for herself. It was a fascinating immigrant story about a time and place I was not familiar. I loved learning about the history of the area I was visiting, and when people and places were mentioned in the book, I had some familiarity since I had been there.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

I wasn’t a great fan on Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, but I had heard this book was liked by people who hadn’t liked the first one, so I gave it a try. Yes, it was better, but it didn’t blow me away. I felt there were too many characters and storylines to keep track of. Now that the book is over and a couple of months have passed, I can’t even remember clearly what the main plot line and resolution were.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This was my “book about books and reading” for Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge “Reading for Fun.” It’s another tale of what happens when unexpected people come into your life and make an impact, like in A Man Called Ove, and it also happens to be about a grumpy man with a sad backstory, just like Ove. But this one is about books and a bookstore as well which make it very different. It was a sweet story.

 

Currently reading and next on my list…

Since Women in Translation Month is still going on until the end of August, I’m reading Ayse Kulin’s Last Train to Istanbul, translated from Turkish by John W. Baker, which has been patiently waiting on my kindle for a few months now. I am also slowly but surely making my way through Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist: Essays for Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge “Reading for Growth.” The next read for my local book club is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee which I’m really looking forward to after reading Honolulu about Korea’s picture brides of the 1910s. My Scandinavian Book Group resumes in October, and our first read is Echoes from the Dead, a crime novel by Johan Theorin translated from Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. I’ve got a great variety of books ahead of me, don’t you think?

Have you joined the Women in Translation reading event this month? Consider adding a Norwegian woman in translation to your reading list. Check out my post Norwegian Women in Translation for WITmonth for ideas.

What have you been reading lately?

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Norwegian Women in Translation for WITmonth

I’m always so surprised when I hear about something which I feel I should have known about before but didn’t. That happened recently with Women in Translation Month (WITmonth), an annual month-long reading event dedicated to promoting women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. It takes place every August. This is right in my wheelhouse – reading, books in translation, women – how could I miss it?

WITmonth has given me incentive to dig a little deeper to find Norwegian female authors whom I may not have been aware of it. A great source of information was lists of winners of various Norwegian and Scandinavian literary awards (see end of post for list of awards). My list of Norwegian female authors is by no means an exhaustive list. In my digging, I found that many Norwegian female authors’ works in translation are not available in English (but readily available in many other languages!) or no longer in print in English.

Usually, I read my Norwegian books in Norwegian, but occasionally I make an exception. For example, sometimes the cost of getting a book in Norwegian instead of English is not warranted. Other times, if the book is written in nynorsk (New Norwegian) instead of Bokmål (Book Language), I will read it in English instead since I’m not as comfortable with nynorsk. Now, I have another reason, to support Norwegian female authors in translation and their translators.

Many of these authors I’ve already heard about, some I’ve already read, others were already on my TBR list, many were new to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these authors.

    

Andersen, Merete Morken

Andersen is a contemporary Norwegian writer. Her novel Hav av tid, a psychological drama about a long-divorced couple who reunite after a family tragedy, received the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature 2002. In 2004, it was published in English as Oceans of Time translated by Barbara J. Haveland.

Drangsholt, J.S.

Drangsholt has the unique distinction of the being the first Norwegian author for whom the world rights to a book were bought by Amazon. The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter translated by Tara F. Chace was released in January 2017. The second book in the series, Winter in Wonderland also translated by Tara F. Chace, is set to be released February 1, 2018. Drangsholt writes about the neurotic and quirky academic and mother-of-three Ingrid Winter. Interesting note: The movie rights to the first book were obtained by a Norwegian comedian and actress before the book was even published.

Fossum, Karin

Fossum is considered the “Norwegian Queen of Crime.” She is best known for her Inspector Sejer Mysteries, a 12-book series about Detective Konrad Sejer, a middle-aged, mild-mannered, and likeable detective. The first book was published in 1995 in Norway, but English readers weren’t introduced to the detective until 2002. Fossum has received many respected Scandinavian awards for her books over the years, and book #5, The Indian Bride translated by Charlotte Barslund, received Los Angeles Times’ Mystery Prize in 2007. The latest in the series, Hell Fire translated by Kari Dickson, will be released in paperback August 15, 2017.

    

Hjorth, Vigdis

Hjorth has received numerous prestigious Norwegian literary awards and been translated to many other languages, but her novel A House in Norway (Et norsk hus, 2015) translated by Charlotte Barslund is so far the only one released in English (2017). It’s about “a woman’s struggle to reconcile the desire to be tolerant and altruistic with the imperative need for creative and personal space.” When a divorced textile artist rents out an apartment in her house to a Polish family, “her unconscious assumptions and her self-image as a good feminist and an open-minded liberal are challenged.”

Holt, Anne

Holt is one of the most successful crime novelists in Norway. She is best known for her Hanne Wilhelmsen series featuring a lesbian police officer. The first book in the series, Blind Goddess, was published in 1993 in Norway, but English readers weren’t introduced to Holt until 2011 with the English release of book #8 called 1222, translated by Marlaine Delargy. It was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Kaurin, Marianne

Kaurin is an up-and-coming young adult writer. Recently released Almost Autumn translated by Rosie Hedger (2017) is Kaurin’s award-winning debut novel. It’s an historical fiction novel about World War II in Norway, in particular the German occupation of Oslo, and how Jewish families were affected and the secret and risky work of the Resistance.

    

Lindstrøm, Merethe

Lindstrøm is an award-winning contemporary author who has published novels, collections of short stories, and a children’s book. Her novel Dager i stillhetens historie (2011) received the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature in 2011 as well as the Nordic Council Literature Prize the following year. In 2013, it was published in English as Days in the History of Silence translated by Anne Bruce.

Lunde, Maja

Lunde is a screenwriter and author of books for children, young adults, and adults. Her novel for adults, The History of Bees translated by Diane Oatley, will be released in English on August 22, 2017. It’s a look at the importance of bees in the past, present, and future from the perspective of a family in each of those time periods, and over time their stories intersect. It received the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2015. I highly recommend it. It is the first book in a planned series called The Climate Quartet, in which each book will be a stand-alone novel emphasizing a specific climate related theme: insects, water, animals, and finally seeds.

Ragde, Anne B.

Ragde is an award-winning author with more than 30 books published in Norway, many of them also published abroad in translation. Berlin Poplars translated by James Anderson (2009) is the only one available to English readers. Berlin Poplars, published in Norway in 2004, takes place in Northern Norway during Christmas time and is about the reunion of three grown sons and their sick mother back on the family farm after many years apart. It is the first in a popular trilogy that went on to be adapted for the screen as a television series.

    

Ravatn, Agnes

Ravatn is a contemporary Norwegian novelist and journalist. The Bird Tribunal, a psychological thriller translated by Rosie Hedger, is her first work published in English (2017). The book was chosen by a panel of listeners of Norway’s national radio channel NRK P2 as the best new novel of 2013 when it was published in Norway.

Seierstad, Åsne

Seierstad is an award-winning freelance journalist and writer of many popular non-fiction books translated worldwide. The Bookseller of Kabul translated by Ingrid Christophersen won the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2002. One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway – and Its Aftermath translated by Sarah Death explores the July 22, 2011, attacks by Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utøya, when he killed a total of 77 people, most of them teenagers. One of Us was one of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of 2015 and a NYT Bestseller. Seierstad’s most recent work, Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad, translated by Seán Kinsella (release date Feb 13, 2018), tells the story of two daughters of Somali immigrants in Norway who suddenly disappear and are discovered to be en route to Syria to aid the Islamic State. It received Norway’s prestigious Brage Prize for Non-Fiction in 2016.

Skomsvold, Kjersti Annesdatter

Skomsvold is a contemporary Norwegian writer of novels, poetry, essays, and short stories. Her first novel, The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am translated by Kerri A. Pierce (2011), received the Tarjei Vesaas’ Debut Prize in 2009. Her second novel, Monsterhuman translated by Becky L. Crook, is an auto-fictional work, “a funny, sad, astoundingly energetic novel about suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, the power of writing, and twenty-first-century literary life” set to release September 29, 2017.

      

Ullmann, Linn

Ullmann is an award-winning Norwegian author, journalist, and prominent literary critic. All of her novels have been translated into English. Her fourth novel, A Blessed Child, published in Norway in 2005, was shortlisted for the prestigious Norwegian literary Brage Prize that year. In 2008, A Blessed Child translated by Sarah Death, was named Best Translated Novel in the British newspaper The Independent, and in 2009, the novel was longlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in the UK.

Undset, Sigrid

Undset (1882-1949) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928 for her trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter about a woman living in Norway during the 14th century. The first volume The Wreath was originally published in 1920, followed by The Wife in 1921, and The Cross in 1922. The series was first translated in the 1920s by Charles Archer. Award-winning translator Tiina Nunnally provided a new translation of the series starting in 1997. According to the publisher, Nunnally “retains the natural dialog and lyrical flow of the original Norwegian, with its echoes of Old Norse legends, while deftly avoiding the stilted language and false archaisms of Archer’s translation. In addition, she restores key passages left out of that edition.”

Wassmo, Herbjørg

Wassmo is an award-winning author with many published works in Norway. Dina’s Book, translated by Nadia Christensen, is the only one currently available to English readers. From the publisher: “Set in Norway in the mid-nineteenth century, Dina’s Book presents a beautiful, eccentric, and tempestuous heroine who carries a terrible burden: at the age of five she accidentally caused her mother’s death. Blamed by her father and banished to a farm, she grows up untamed and untaught.”

More Norwegian Female Authors with Works in Translation:

Bildøen, Brit: Seven Days in August translated by Becky L. Crook (2016)

Dahle, Gro: A Hundred Thousand Hours/Hundre Tusen Timer translated by Rebecca Wadlinger (2013) – an English and Norwegian bilingual edition of a book-length poem

Gabrielsen, Gøhril: The Looking-Glass Sisters translated by John Irons (2015)

Lauveng, Arnhild: A Road Back from Schizophrenia: A Memoir translated by Stine Skarpnes Østtveit (2012)

Parr, Maria: Middle grade novels Adventures with Waffles translated by Guy Puzey (2013) and Astrid the Unstoppable to be released November 2, 2017 (won prestigious Norwegian Brage Prize for Children’s Literature when published in Norway in 2009 as Tonje Glimmerdal)

Røssland, Ingelin: Young adult novel Minus Me translated by Deborah Dawkin (2015)

Sandel, Cora (1880-1974): Alberta and Jacob translated by Elizabeth Rokkan (2003) – first in Alberta trilogy

Skram, Amalie (1846-1905): Constance Ring and Lucie

Stien, Laila: Antiphony translated by John Weinstock (2007) – a novel looking at Sami culture

Uri, Helene: Honey Tongues translated by Kari Dickson (2008)

Ørstavik, Hanne: The Blue Room translated by Deborah Dawkin (2014), Love translated by Martin Aitken (2018)

Øyehaug, Gunnhild: Knots: Stories translated by Kari Dickson (2017)

Sources:

A Glimpse of Oslo: Vulkan Bee Garden

Seeing Vulkan Bee Garden at Mathallen was high on my wishlist for this summer’s visit to Oslo. These urban beehives are not your ordinary beehives. They are an art installation as much as a beehive. The Vulkan beehives were designed by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, the same firm that designed Oslo’s National Opera House, New York City’s National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion, and so many other interesting projects around the world.

I remember reading about Oslo creating the world’s first highway for bees a couple of years ago and feeling great pride that my country was doing that. The bee highway’s aim was to “give the insects a safe passage through the city” by providing food and shelter as they traversed the city from one end to the other. This was not a government initiative, but rather one by ByBi, an urban guild of beekeepers. Participants in the project are varied – businesses, schools, associations, and private individuals. Everyone is encouraged to build bee-friendly feeding stations and accommodations in the city.

The Vulkan beehives were installed in 2014. As explained by Vulkan on their page about the bee garden, “The natural honeycomb geometry was the inspiration for the form and pattern, along with the bees own production pattern; the hexagon-shaped cells bees store their honey in. Using a light colored wood with a finish that is honey in tone makes the hives look like big hexagon jars of honey.” Inside the structures are standard foam beehives.

So I made plans to meet my aunt for lunch at Mathallen, a food court with specialty shops and cafes, and a lovely lunch we had. It wasn’t until we were on our way out that I discovered where the beehives were. Next time I’ll see about enjoying my lunch outside Mathallen instead so I can appreciate the beehives a little longer than just passing by. It would also be fun to buy some Vulkanhonning, honey from the Vulkan beehives, while I am there.

On a related bookish note, I am currently reading a Norwegian novel called Bienes historie by Maja Lunde that I highly recommend. It will be released in the USA as The History of Bees on August 22. The novel includes three storylines which all revolve around the importance of bees, or lack thereof. The first storyline takes place in England in the mid-1850s when beehives are being improved, the second one in USA in 2007 when there is an increase in the number of colony collapse disorders being reported, and the last one in China in 2098 when humans have had to resort to hand-pollination due to the total collapse of bees. I’m really intrigued by the book and am happy that English readers can also enjoy it soon. I encourage you to check it out.

For some insight into the beekeeping at Vulkan beehives, here’s a short video. It is in Norwegian, but the images are worth your time.

Checked Off My Norway Bucket List: Drive the Atlantic Road!

I’ve been fascinated by the Atlantic Road on Norway’s west coast since I learned about it a few years ago. It looked like a real life rollercoaster ride hopping from island to island along the outermost edge of the coast. Bad weather seemed to make it even more extraordinary.

Photo credit: www.visitnorway.com

The road is one of Norway’s 18 official national tourist routes. It opened in 1989, and in 2005, it was voted Norway’s “Engineering Feat of the Century”. It is built on several small islands, skerries, and landfills and is spanned by seven bridges. Many consider it one of the world’s most beautiful drives as well.

We came at it from the north via Kristiansund after a visit to Trondheim. We drove through Atlantic Ocean Tunnel (an undersea tunnel about 3.5 miles long) from Kristiansund to the island of Averøy and made our way along Route 64 with a final destination of Molde.

A quick Internet search of the Atlantic Road will tell you it is a 5-mile stretch between Kårvåg and Vevang along Route 64 (WikipediaGoogle Maps, various articles). However, as you can see on the official site of National Tourist Routes in Norway, the full route is actually about 22 miles and goes all the way to Bud from Kårvåg on a series of smaller roads (Roads 64/242/663/238/235). The most dramatic stretch, however, is probably the 5-mile section between Kårvåg and Vevang.

Due to time constraints, we were unfortunately only able to drive the 5-mile stretch. Bad weather during our stay in Trondheim meant we had to use the morning of our departure for some must-see sightseeing and so we got on the road much later than planned. Also, we were delayed by an unexpected ferry ride which added some down time to our drive.

We didn’t get to the start of the Atlantic Road until 6:30PM! Yes, it stays light late during summertime, but we still had to get to our hotel in Molde that day and the kids could only handle so much in a day. And our stomachs were getting hungry for dinner as well.

For us, the weather was neither good nor bad. It was cloudy and drizzled on and off. In one way, that was good because it allowed us to get out of the car without getting soaked. But, on the other hand, a beautiful evening sun and clear skies would have added greatly to our enjoyment of the area.

Despite the constrained time and lackluster weather, it was an interesting experience to drive along the Atlantic Road and I’m glad we went out of our way to do it, but I was a little underwhelmed and feel it merits a revisit. Part of the reason I felt a little underwhelmed was that 5 miles is a very short stretch after 4 ½ hours of driving from Trondheim. Had we had time to drive and explore the full route I’m sure we would have felt it much more worthwhile.

The family along hiking path on Eldhusøya with Storseisundbrua in background

For us, the highlights were a short walk around the island of Eldhusøya and the drive over the main bridge Storseisundbrua. The island of Eldhusøya has an elevated path that goes around the island and provides views of the open ocean beyond. Along the path, there is a memorial to those lost at sea (and even a geocache!). Storseisundbrua is the longest bridge on the route and the route’s symbol. As you hit to crest of the bridge, you get a wonderful view of the road and the many little islands ahead. Too bad there wasn’t a stopping point there. Another interesting bridge we crossed was Myrbærholmbrua. It has specially built fishing walkways on either side. Had we had more time I would have liked to park and walk along them to see what kind of fish they were pulling in.

At the top of Storseisundbrua with a view of road and small islands ahead

The rest of the tourist route after we turned off for Molde seems to have some interesting attractions as well: Hågå with the broken-looking serpent-like marble sculpture called Columna Transatlantica, Askevågen at the end of the breakwater with glass walls for protection against the weather and spray, and Kjeksa with paths and steps leading down to the edge of the sea. They all seem worthy of visits. (Photo credits for images below: Nasjonale turistveger)

Once back in Los Angeles, my aunt shared with me a Norwegian article and video from Møre og Romsdal Reiseliv’s website describing seven “fresh experiences” you should make time for if you’re visiting the Atlantic Road.

As seen in the video, they recommend making time for the following activities:

  1. Float 550 meter around Eldhusøya (walk the elevated path)
  2. Go deep sea fishing with an expert (or fish off the walkways on the bridges)
  3. Visit the coastal town of Håholmen (and eat clipfish and experience Viking culture)
  4. See the artwork Columna Transatlantica
  5. Bike or hike the coastal trail at Farstad
  6. Windsurf or kitesurf on Farstadstranda
  7. Hike to the top of Stemshesten for an alternate view of Atlantic Road

One of those experiences, the Eldhusøya visit, we did have a chance to do, and others would not have been appropriate for our family, but I would have loved the opportunity to visit Håholmen, hike the coastal trail at Farstad, and see Columna Transatlantica with our own eyes (does it really look like toothpaste as my kids believe?). Those activities are on my list for next time.

My tips for travelers headed to the Atlantic Road – make sure you have lots of time to enjoy and explore and plan to drive the whole 22-mile route. If I have the opportunity to return to the area, driving the whole route with time to spare will be top priority. I would even consider bookending my visit with nights in Kristiansund and Molde (or maybe even on Håholmen) so that I could have a whole day along the route. The Atlantic Road deserves so much more time than we were able to give it, but I really enjoyed the introduction to it.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: June 2017

I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately. It’s been two months since I last shared what I’ve been reading lately so I’ve had a chance to accumulate a few titles.

Booked by Kwame Alexander

I didn’t think I liked novels in verse and would avoid them despite rave reviews. Luckily, I was able to I put that thought aside for this one. My 7th grade son read Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover for school and then eagerly read this book as well. I’d seen Booked on Common Sense Media’s best books lists for 4th and 5th graders, but I had also heard it was more of a young YA book. I had to read it for myself to find out. I really enjoyed the book and had a hard time putting it down. There is nothing inappropriate for younger readers. However, it is about an 8th grader and the middle school issues he deals with, including his first love, and so older readers may relate better to it. It also deals with bullies, divorce, and his passion for soccer. My 4th grader really enjoyed it, too. It was a fun family read.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

We read this for our most recent book club meeting. Everyone was eager to revisit this book whether it was as a reread from years ago or as a book they’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I thought I had read this when I was a teenager, I even had my copy from then, but as I got more into the book, it all seemed new to me. I certainly enjoyed it and was glad to have read it, but the writing style was a bit terse for me which hindered my appreciation. I was surprised at how easily a society can fall victim to such a situation. Along with haunting images, I was left with many unanswered questions which certainly made this one of our club’s most lively discussions.

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

For the Scandinavian Book Group’s last meeting before the summer, we read The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson (translated from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles). This was an interesting read. Nombeko begins her life in a tiny shack in Soweto, South Africa, and then after many years at a South African atomic bomb facility, she ends up with two Swedish brothers who want nothing more than to bring down the Swedish monarchy. I enjoyed the main character who was very resourceful and smart, but the plot was at times unrealistic and I felt it dragged a bit in the second half.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This was a quick and easy sweet YA read. It’s the story of an 18-year-old girl confined to her house because she’s allergic to the world and who falls in love with a boy who moves in next door. The format of the novel includes instant messaging, emails, drawings, handwritten notes, and post-its. I definitely recommend reading it in paper form. I had borrowed the ebook from the library, but on my kindle paperwhite, drawings and diagrams were sometimes hard to read, and on the kindle app on my ipad, some words written backwards did not show up. I ended up buying a paper copy which I don’t regret at all because it does have a great cover.

Did Not Complete

Sadly, there were 2 books I started but did not complete in the last couple of months. My son and I were eagerly awaiting the sequel to The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. We really enjoyed that one – especially loved the diverse characters and the setting of Hawaii – and highly recommend it. Unfortunately, the sequel The Ship Beyond Time did not work for us. It felt much slower, and with so many other books to read, we reluctantly abandoned it. (Interestingly, according to Goodreads reviews, the sequel is just as good, if not better, than the first, so maybe we gave up too early or read it too soon after the first one.)

I began listening to the audiobook of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman (narrated by the author herself). I was drawn to it because of the Norway connection. It’s about a young woman’s love for the North and her experiences in Norway as an exchange student and later as a return visitor. She goes on to learn how to drive sled dogs in Norway and work as a tour guide on a glacier in Alaska. The narration did not work for me. It was a somewhat flat read and the quality was less than perfect at times. Maybe reading the book would have been better. Also, I was hoping for more about living in the “great white north” of Norway and less about the sexual tensions with the men she encountered along the way.

Currently reading and next on my list…

I am currently listening to A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (loving it!) and reading Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. I have also started the Norwegian novel Bienes historie (The History of Bees) by Maja Lunde but haven’t had the opportunity to dedicate the time to really get into it due to the busyness of the end of the school year.

Next up on my list for the summer are Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham for a summer meeting of my book club and any of my Book of the Month picks that I haven’t had a chance to read yet, and there are many: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, The Mothers by Brit Bennet, Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, American War by Omar El Akkad, or A Million Junes by Emily Henry. Recommendations on which book to dig into first are welcomed!

What have you been reading lately?

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The New & Less Traveled Oslo

new and less traveled sightseeing in OsloAre you headed to Oslo this summer, and maybe you’re looking for something besides the normal tourist sights? Here are some newer sights and hidden gems to consider.

Harbor Promenade – Havnepromenade

Oslo has a very new harbor promenade to explore. It runs 9 kilometers (about 5.5 miles) along the waterfront and hits many of the main sights of Oslo including Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge, the inner harbor with City Hall and Akershus Fortress, and the Opera House.

I look forward to exploring this route by bike with the family. I may finally have a chance to get a close-up look at the Opera House with its dramatic architectural features. I also hope to include a swim at Sørenga Seawater Pool and a meal at Vippa (a huge warehouse recently named one of the “10 hottest new restaurants in Oslo” according to eater.com).

Hovedøya

A few years ago, a cousin of mine recommended a visit to Hovedøya, an island a short ferry ride from the city center known for its beaches, forests, and cultural heritage sights. There you can explore the ruins of a Cistercian monastery from 1147. In 1532, the monastery was pillaged and burned down, and the ruins weren’t excavated until 1840’s. You can also see two canon batteries from 1808 and two gunpowder depots from when the island belonged to the Norwegian army. It would be a nice excursion on a day with beautiful weather. Bring swim gear and a picnic (or eat at one of the cafes) and spend the day exploring. It also has plenty of geocaching opportunities (see map above with all the geocaches!) which is always a fun addition to an outing.

Viking Ship Museum’s Vikings Alive Film

I have been to the Viking Ship Museum on several occasions, but somehow we have not yet managed to take the kids. It used to be that the main attractions were three Viking ships, one of which is completely whole, along with a display of Viking Age artifacts. Now, there is a new attraction: the film Vikings Alive. It’s a film that takes the audience on a unique visual journey into the history of a Viking ship. A Viking ship is built and sails along the Norwegian fjords and on the ocean, ending its days as a grave ship for a king. The film is projected onto the vaulted ceiling of the museum. On our next visit to Oslo, this will be a must-see attraction.

Museum of Oslo

Museum of Oslo is another museum I’d like to take the kids to. It’s located right in Frognerparken which makes it a convenient bike ride from my parents’ home. It presents the city’s history through models, paintings, and photographs. The museum’s exhibitions are mainly in Norwegian, but a free audioguide of “1,000 years in 20 minutes” is available in English, French, German, Somali, Punjabi, Polish, and Arabic as well as Norwegian.

What piqued my interest in bringing the kids was that the museum offers a special family activity called City Detectives (recommended for kids age 5 to 12). It’s an augmented reality app that allows visitors to get a glimpse of Oslo’s past. The goal is to find 10 historical stations in the exhibition “OsLove – City History for Beginners”. With the app, participants visit the 2-bedroom apartment of a big family, experience the power of Aker River, and see how the main street of Karl Johan has changed over time. The app is only available on site. You can borrow ipods or download the app to your own Apple device. You do not need to know Norwegian to use the app.

Special Exhibit at Munch Museum

Every summer the Munch Museum puts on a special exhibit. This summer visitors will have a chance to experience Edvard Munch as seen through the eyes of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård. The exhibit, Towards the Forest – Knausgård on Munch, will feature many paintings, graphic prints, and sculptures that have never been exhibited previously. As described on the museum’s website, “the exhibition takes the form of a journey from light and harmony through darkness and chaos – returning finally to a controllable reality.” I’ve read and enjoyed Knausgård and like Munch so I’m curious to see this exhibition, something probably done more enjoyably without my children. Exhibit is on display from May 6, 2017, to October 8, 2017.

Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum

I learned about Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum from the book Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. We are certainly familiar with the work of his brother Gustav Vigeland whose bronze and granite sculptures are on display in Frognerparken, but I did not know about Emanuel.

The mausoleum is part of Emanuel Vigeland Museum. The museum’s main attraction is a dark, barrel-vaulted room, completely covered with fresco paintings. According to Atlas Obscura, “entering the mausoleum is a solemn, even haunting, experience. Even the quietest footstep echoes across the barrel-vaulted ceiling for up to 14 seconds. A flashlight is needed to reveal the room’s dark, painted walls.” I think this “hidden wonder” is best explored without kids due to the paintings that show “life from conception till death, in dramatic and often explicitly erotic scenes.” (Note: The museum is only open to the public on Sundays. Summer hours are May 15 through September 15, 12pm to 5pm.)

Damstredet & Telthusbakken Area

Damstredet and Telthusbakken are two roads known for their well-preserved and inhabited wooden houses built in the late 1700s and the 1800s. They are located near each other in the St. Hanshaugen/Gamle Aker area in central Oslo. There are other sights in the area as well, so a visit to the area can make a worthwhile self-guided walking tour. Very nearby is the medieval church Gamle Aker kirke (Old Aker Church), oldest building in Oslo, as well as Vår Frelsers Gravlund, the cemetery where writer Henrik Ibsen and painter Edvard Munch are buried. This excursion is easily combined with visit to nearby Mathallen, an interesting food court with specialty shops and cafés. And while at Mathallen, you can see if you can spot the Vulkan Bee Garden, which is two huge beehives on the rooftop between Mathallen and Dansens Hus next door.

Stay tuned for a report on how our exploration of these new-to-us places and hidden gems of Oslo goes!

Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Summer 2017 Events

Summer is the perfect time to explore and take advantage of all that Los Angeles has to offer. This edition of the Culture Challenge shares events happening throughout the summer. You’ll find special one-time events, ongoing year-round events that continue through the summer, and unique programs just happening during the summer.

Make a pact to visit a new area of Los Angeles or participate in a new activity—a cultural art project, a concert in a special outdoor setting, a festival celebrating a unique culture, or a bike ride exploring a new part of Los Angeles, just to mention a few options. The experience will open your eyes to the richness of where we live. You’ll be amazed at what’s available to us.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this summer?

* SPECIAL EVENTS THIS SUMMER *

Family Festival, Getty Center, Saturday, June 3. Enjoy a day of celebration and discovery for the whole family inspired by magnificent historical scenes on view in the exhibition Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe, featuring performances, storytelling, and art-making workshops.

17th Annual LA River Ride, Autry Center in Griffith Park, Sunday, June 4. What better way to explore the city we live in than by bike. Join over 2,000 other riders and enjoy a great day of bicycling fun, exploration, a post-ride expo, a raffle, live music, and more. 7 great rides: 100-mile, 70-mile, 50-mile, 36-mile, 25-mile, 15-mile Family Ride, plus a 2-mile Kids’ Ride + Festival. All participants receive a t-shirt, goodie bag, and finisher’s medal. Kids 12 and under ride for free for all rides. All proceeds benefit the work of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the only non-profit organization working to make all communities in L.A. County healthy, safe, and fun places to ride bikes.

Kids in the Courtyard: Decoding Stories!, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, June 4, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The Moche peoples of ancient Peru (100-800 C.E) portrayed complex scenes on painted vessels, depicting everything from daily life to rituals and legends. The scenes were created with such detail that archaeologists today can decode these images to learn about how Moche people lived. Come out and be an archaeologist for a day! Create your own coded picture language and see if others can decode your secret messages.

Irish Fair & Music Fest, El Dorado Park, Long Beach, Saturday, June 10, & Sunday, June 11. This is the largest such festival west of the Mississippi, and it has been around Southern California for more than 40 years. There will be many Irish bands, including the well-known Fenians. For the young folk, there will be a Leprechaun Village with rides, storytelling, and a Freckle Face competition. You are invited to join or just watch the daily St. Paddy parades. Also included in the entertainment line-up is a sheep herding exhibition. And of course, there will be plenty of Irish food and beverages.

CicLAvia – Glendale Meets Atwater Village, Sunday, June 11. Los Angeles welcomes a brand new CicLAvia route in June. Glendale and Atwater Village will host the country’s largest open streets event. Streets will be closed to cars and open for cyclists, pedestrians, runners and skaters to use as a recreational space. You will enjoy the sights, music, food, and culture that make LA such a vibrant city.

LA Film Festival, ArcLight Cinemas, Culver City, June 14-22. The LA Film Festival is a premier platform for new works from emerging and established independent storytellers with unique voices and innovative visions. Index of films by interest include the following: African Diaspora, Directors of Color, LA Stories, Latino/Latin America, LGBTQ+, Native American/Islander, Politics/Social Awareness, plus more. Most screenings and events take place at ArcLight Culver City, with additional screenings and events at venues around Los Angeles.

Kids in the Courtyard: Miniature Painting, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, June 18, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Miniature paintings illustrating books and manuscripts are an integral part of western Indian art traditions. Create your own painting on shrink plastic and watch it miniaturize before your eyes! Be sure to catch the miniature paintings and sparking silver jewelry in the Enduring Splendor: Jewelry of India’s Thar Desert exhibition.

31th Annual Long Beach Bayou Festival, Rainbow Lagoon Park, Long Beach, Saturday, June 24, & Sunday, June 25. Experience the Bayou with this two-day family festival featuring authentic Cajun and Creole food, cultural music, dance lessons, crawfish eating contests, a children’s corner with arts and crafts and other activities, and a Mardi Gras parade. There will also be live performances at the Zydeco Stage, Blues Stage, and Children’s Stage.

Natsumatsuri Family Festival, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, August 13. Join JANM for their annual summer celebration featuring Japanese and Japanese American performances, crafts, and activities.

* ONGOING THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER *

The Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Downtown LA, first Saturday of each month, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, last Saturday of each month, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Barnsdall Art Sundays, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, every Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This summer explore Ancient Greece (June 4), China (June 11), Ancient Maya (June 18), India (June 25), USA (July 2), Tibet (July 9), India (July 16), and Kenya (July 23) through a variety of projects. See website for more details.

Andell Family Sundays, LACMA, Los Angeles, every Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 pm. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Each month features a different theme: June—Follow the Rainbow, July—Travel to Egypt, and August—Flower Tour.

Roman Holidays, The Getty Villa, Malibu, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until September 3. You won’t need a passport to travel back in time at the Roman Holidays celebration this summer. Discover the sights (and smells!) of ancient Rome, offer your prayers to Venus, read your future in a sheep’s liver, and enjoy live musical and comedy performances by the historically hysterical Troubadour Theater Company.

* SPECIAL SUMMER PROGRAMS *

Chinatown Summer Nights, Downtown LA, 1st Saturdays during summer months (7/1, 8/5, and 9/2), 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. Part food event, part summer party, Chinatown Summer Nights presents an exciting hot spot for Angelenos this summer. Taste the many culinary offerings of Chinatown and LA’s gourmet food trucks; sample the neighborhood’s wares; watch Chinese chefs perform cooking demonstrations; experience large-scale, outdoor video projections; take part in hands-on, Chinese cultural activities presented by local organizations and museums; sip on craft brews and dance in Central Plaza with 89.9 KCRW’s DJs!

Family Amphitheater Performances: All Around the World, Skirball Cultural Center, Saturdays & Sundays, July 1 – August 13. This year’s eclectic lineup of bands celebrates an array of musical styles—from the beats of Africa and Latin America to the American traditions of rockabilly and folk. Sing and dance along to music that inspired Paul Simon or was influenced by the legend himself. See website for full schedule.

Grand Performances, California Plaza, Downtown LA, June – August. Grand Performances bring artists and audiences together by thoughtfully curating an array of music, dance, film, and spoken word featuring great artists from around the globe and our very own streets of L.A. The summer series of free outdoor concerts celebrates our city’s rich diversity through performing arts at a stunning outdoor venue in Downtown LA. Some performances are more appropriate for families than others. See website for schedule of performances.

Ford Family Series: Big World Fun, Ford Amphitheatre, Hollywood, Saturday mornings, July & August. Music and dance events that represent the diverse cultural landscape of Southern California are presented on Saturday mornings in July and August in the outdoor amphitheatre. Performances are appropriate for children ages 4 to 12 and their families. Children are admitted free and adults pay $5. Come early to explore wild animals, get busy with craft activities, and grab a bite before the show. See website for schedule of performances and ticket information.

Feel free to add events for the summer months in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!

May 2017: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Norwegian May 17th Celebrations

May is a big month for Norwegians worldwide. We celebrate our national day, Constitution Day, on May 17. On that day in 1814, Norway signed its constitution while it was still in a union with Sweden. The union with Sweden wasn’t dissolved until 1905. 17th of May celebrations worldwide are characterized by parades, traditional costumes, flags, and ice cream.

Here in Los Angeles, Norwegians can commemorate the day with a traditional celebration on the actual date of May 17 at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro (details here). Or, if making it to San Pedro midweek is tough, there’s the annual Sunday celebration at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates on May 21 (see details below).

But there’s more to May than Norway’s national day. Angelenos can take advantage of many special events and activities featuring a variety of countries and cultures. How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* WEEKEND OF MAY 6 & 7 *

Cinco de Mayo Celebration, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, Olvera Street, Downtown LA, Friday, 5/5, through Sunday, 5/7. Celebrate Mexico’s victory over French forces in Puebla, Mexico, in 1862, with popular and traditional music, exhibitor booths, dancing, and food. The party has been going on at this site every Cinco de Mayo for 140 years.

REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival, Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/6, & Sunday, 5/7. Don’t miss the last weekend of the annual REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival. It’s a weekend full of adventurous short-film programs that will appeal to moviegoers of all ages. Magical, exhilarating works made by acclaimed filmmakers and up-and-coming auteurs showcase work from around the globe — including Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Russia, Taiwan, Belarus, Korea, The Netherlands, and Ukraine — to inspire the whole family. Festival highlights include the latest in both live action and animated shorts. See website for the schedule.

Cinco de Mayo Maracas, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Saturday, 5/6, & Sunday, 5/7, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 pm. Maracas came from the indigenous tribes in Latin American. This fun instrument is now used in other parts of the world, including Mexico. They were originally made out of gourds, seeds, and pebbles. Modern maracas can be made out of wood, metal, and plastic. Come visit Bowers Museum’s Art Studio where children can designs their own maracas made out of recycled materials. Activity is included with Kidseum admission, $8 for everyone over the age of 2 years old.

The Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/6, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A’s Chinatown. You must RSVP as group size is limited. This tour is offered every first Saturday of the month.

Peru: Inca Feathered Textiles (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/7, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. A different culture and media are featured each Sunday.

Celebrate Israel Festival, Cheviot Hills Recreation Center, West Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/7, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. This year’s theme is Jerusalem: 50 Years of Reunification. The festival will give attendees the opportunity to visit various sites of Jerusalem, learn about the Old City, and travel back in time to learn about the history of Jerusalem. Attendees are encouraged to stop in the different pavilions throughout the park and meet the many organizations that will be offering hands–on projects and activities for the entire family. The day’s activities and events include musical performances, an artist marketplace, a kids zone and a teen area, an amusement park with rides, and food vendors serving traditional food and “street fare” (all 100% Kosher).

Eye on African Art (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/7, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, see outstanding masks, sculptures, and textiles, and learn about the symbolism and importance of vision and in African art in the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts. In workshops, make your own art inspired by the exhibition.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until May 21. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. The faire provides “a cornucopia of diversity where we are unified in inviting our guests to enjoy an environment we have created to escape from the stresses and demands of the modern day.” There will be artisans of all media, entertainment galore, food trucks and booths, games and rides (including pony and camel rides), a Kids Kingdom (with games, crafts, story-telling, song, shows, and characters), and a gnome quest!

Roman Holidays, The Getty Villa, Malibu, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until September 3. You won’t need a passport to travel back in time at the Roman Holidays celebration this spring and summer. Discover the sights (and smells!) of ancient Rome, offer your prayers to Venus, read your future in a sheep’s liver, and enjoy live musical and comedy performances by the historically hysterical Troubadour Theater Company.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 13 & 14 *

The Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/13, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. This is an additional tour held in conjunction with China Week. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A’s Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes. You must RSVP as group size is limited.

Origami with Ruthie Kitagawa: Floral Cards, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/13, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Learn to make a floral card just in time for Mother’s Day. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Supplies and admission to museum are included. Limited to 10 participants. RSVP here.

Austria: Gustav Klimt Tree of Life Printmaking for Mother’s Day (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/14, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. A different culture and media are featured each Sunday.

Eye on African Art (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/14, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, see outstanding masks, sculptures, and textiles, and learn about the symbolism and importance of vision and in African art in the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts. In workshops, make your own art inspired by the exhibition.

Family Jam: Storytelling with Dena Atlantic, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 5/14, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Storyteller Dena Atlantic will delight with interactive tales from around the world, including stories of the Trickster Spider Anansi from West Africa.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 20 & 21 *

Ancient Egypt: Cartouche and Painted Deities (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/21, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. A different culture and media are featured each Sunday.

Norwegian Constitution Day FestivitiesParade time at Nansen Field, Nansen Field, Rolling Hills Estates, Sunday, 5/21, 11:00 a.m. This is a true Norwegian celebration. It is a relaxing, laid-back event on a huge open field. The field opens at 9:30am and the program kicks off at 10:50am with the hoisting of the American and Norwegian flags. Program highlights include a Norwegian 17th of May church service and a 17th of May speech. Then there’s a parade led by a marching band followed by the sale of traditional Norwegian 17th of May foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, Solo, waffles, and ice cream. There are also vendor stalls with Norwegian goods and plenty of games and prizes for the kids. Read about our celebrations at Nansen Field last year here.

Eye on African Art (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/21, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, see outstanding masks, sculptures, and textiles, and learn about the symbolism and importance of vision and in African art in the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts. In workshops, make your own art inspired by the exhibition.

Kids in the Courtyard: African-Print Fashion Tomorrow!, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sunday, 5/21, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Come for a day of activities celebrating the colorful and rich designs in African-Print Fashion Now! Families can create accessories from patches of African-print and enjoy family-focused guided tours of the exhibition. Finally, enjoy a showcase of artwork by fashion students in the high school arts program artworxLA, inspired by the exhibition.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 27 & 28 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/27, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. RSVP here. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Scottish Fest, Orange County Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa, Saturday, 5/27, & Sunday, 5/28. Enjoy a festival of Celtic entertainment and food. There will be competitions in Piping & Drumming, Highland Dancing, and Scottish Athletics as well as a full schedule of entertainment.

 

Valley Greek Festival, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Northridge, Saturday, 5/27, Sunday, 5/28, & Monday, 5/29. Enjoy a cultural experience for all ages with live music, dancing, gourmet food, homemade pastries, cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, a Greek market, and a variety of shopping boutiques.

Eye on African Art (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/28, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, see outstanding masks, sculptures, and textiles, and learn about the symbolism and importance of vision and in African art in the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts. In workshops, make your own art inspired by the exhibition.

Feel free to add events for this month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!

Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books: Metro, Authors, and even some Geocaching

Last year, as luck would have it, I was able to go to the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books both days. On Saturday, I went alone and explored and lingered as I pleased. On Sunday, Sonny joined me for a more intentional day. It was the perfect combination of experiences.

Saturday was a gray, dreary, rainy day, but I didn’t let that stop me. I donned my rain boots and rain jacket, packed an umbrella, and headed to our nearest Metro stop.

Taking the Metro made the excursion so easy. The closest stop was only a short drive away (and now it’s even closer with the Expo extension completed), and the stop at USC was right at the entrance to the festival. There were no hassles driving and finding my way and no expensive parking fees.

Due to the weather, the festival on Saturday wasn’t as lively as in previous years. There weren’t as many people roaming the grounds, and the booths were more closed up with plastic tarps on the sides. It did make maneuvering around more manageable, though. I easily browsed booths and listened in on stages where poets and authors spoke to more intimate audiences.

A highlight of the day was that I was able to get a ticket to a panel, also known as Conversations. I had never been to a Conversation. I had always been somewhat overwhelmed by the selection of offerings. Also, I’ve always been at the festival with family members who haven’t been interested in that aspect of it. This year, I just went to the ticket booth and looked to see what was still available in the next couple of hours. It limited my choices immensely and I was able to easily find something.

I actually had a choice of many open Conversations from which to choose. I selected a young adult nonfiction panel about bringing history to life for young adult readers. Sonny had recently read the young reader adaptations of the nonfiction books Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, which he had really enjoyed. I’m always on the lookout for possible interesting reads for him, and this panel seemed like a potential opportunity for that.

The panel was very interesting even though I wasn’t familiar with any of participants. Four authors of new non-fiction spoke about the process of bringing history to life for readers and then answered questions from the audience. I even bought a book by one of the panelists, Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, and got it signed for Sonny for his birthday later in the month.

That evening I was on a high from my alone time at the festival. I was thrilled to have discovered how easy it was to go by Metro and how interesting panels could be. I looked to see if anything of interest was offered the next day. I found an available panel with middle grade authors, two of whom were favorites of Sonny’s, Stuart Gibbs (Spy School Series and FunJungle Series) and Pseudonymous Bosch (Secret Series and Bad Books Series). Sonny was interested but had his condition: he didn’t want to spend the whole day there. I reassured him it would only be a trip for the panel and food trucks and we’d be back home about 1 o’clock.

Sunday was a beautiful day, and I noticed a change already at the Metro stop. So many more people were headed to the festival. When we arrived at the festival, only about 30 minutes after opening, it was already very festive. Not only were more people there than the day before, but booths were more welcoming and music was playing.

The panel was a popular one with many young readers in attendance. The panelists were engaging and shared insights into their writing lives. It was interesting to match a face, a voice, and a personality with the names we’d seen on book covers for so long. I wished, however, that Q&A time at the end had been limited to children. Their questions were so much better than adults’ questions.

Afterwards we joined many other fans in line to have books signed. And just as promised, we checked out the food trucks and Sonny settled on some gelato.

Then came the unexpected addition to our festival visit. After Sonny and I had agreed on the plans for the morning, I had looked to see what geocaching possibilities were there. I had totally forgotten about that when I was there alone the day before. It turns out there were three geocaches within the festival grounds, and I secretly planned a route to include those spots.

When Sonny heard about my geocaching hopes, he felt a little deceived. However, when it came down to it, he was eager to be the one to make the finds. He makes a good geocaching partner. We found one right in front of a security guard because no one thinks twice about a kid sticking his head up into a statue but an adult would have attracted attention.

A day alone and a morning with Sonny was the perfect way to experience the festival. I felt like I had a chance to take it all in – browse the booths, listen to authors on stage, attend panels, enjoy music performances, watch artists at work, and indulge in some treats from food trucks.

This year’s festival will take place the weekend of April 22 and 23, and once again, it will be at University of Southern California’s campus. The schedule can be found online, and you can reserve free tickets to indoor Conversations ($1 service fee applies to each ticket). A limited number of tickets for each Conversation will also be available at the festival ticketing booth each day — free of service charges — while supplies last. There are also plenty of outdoor Conversations on stages that do not require tickets. And admission to the whole festival is free. I highly recommend you take advantage of this LA event.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: April 2017

I always enjoy hearing what people have been reading lately, so I thought I’d join Modern Mrs. Darcy’s latest Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.

In the past couple of months, I’ve read books with covers that lured me in, a non-fiction book to hopefully help me understand our most recent election, a book in anticipation of an author talk, and books that were not what I expected.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these that you may have read.

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

This was a book pick by my Scandinavian Book Group. The author is a British journalist who moved to rural Jutland, the large peninsula of Denmark, with her husband who got a job with Lego. She took advantage of the opportunity to explore what makes the Danes the happiest in the world. I really enjoyed this month-by-month look at Danish culture, much of which is similar to Norway’s culture. The author has a great sense of humor, fun attitude, and interesting writing style, and I laughed out loud at certain parts.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

I was drawn to this YA fantasy by the cover and a reference in a description to Scandinavian myth (turns out that’s minimal). It’s a #diversebooks/#ownvoices book whose author and main character are half-Chinese and half-white, or hapo. I really enjoyed this book. I thought the setting of Hawaii in the mid-1800s was interesting and beautiful. The author included politics, folklore, and nature. The cast of characters is very diverse. Sonny and I both enjoyed it and are looking forward to reading the sequel, The Ship Beyond Time.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

This was my Book of the Month selection for March, and it immediately jumped to the very top of my TBR list when I saw the author was coming to town to speak about it. I had three days to complete it and that was not a problem. I loved this book – the story, the writing, and an element I won’t mention because had I known about it beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have read it – kept my attention throughout. And having the opportunity to hear the author speak about it and answer readers’ questions was icing on the cake.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

I had high hopes and expectations for this one. I thought it would help me understand our most recent election. Unfortunately, I finished it feeling less than satisfied. I did get an insight into life in the Rust Belt and Appalachia, all unfamiliar to me, but that’s about it. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author himself which was great. There were certainly parts I enjoyed, but overall I was disappointed. But on a positive note, since it’s been such a popular book, there have been many discussions about it which I’ve been able to follow. It happened to be Pantsuit Politics Community Book Club‘s pick for March, and my son’s school has an opportunity to discuss it in May which I’m looking forward to.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I really had no desire to read this (and I don’t really know why), but my book club picked it and so I had no choice but to jump in – and I am very happy I did. I’ve always wanted to visit Moscow (bummed I missed my opportunity when a friend lived there) and this book gave me a historical look at life there. I am so impressed with how the author was able to create such a full and interesting story about a man exiled to a life in a hotel. And the writing was beautiful. This is not a book to rush through but to savor.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I loved the cover of this book and now that I’ve read it, the cover is even more beautiful – such wonderful details. However, the book was a disappointment to me. I really thought I would love it, especially since it was the latest Newbery Award Winner and has received such great reviews. If it weren’t for the fact that both my sons had recently finished it, I probably would have put it down before finishing it.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

I recommended this to my book club. I saw it on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s list of 40 great book club novels. It’s about Melanie, a special girl, a “little genius” as a doctor calls her. She has to be taken from her cell strapped in a wheelchair for class every morning. According to the book’s description, it’s a “groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.” That’s what I based my recommendation on. I’m glad I didn’t research it more – because it is so much more – because I would never have read it. Going in blind is the best way to read this. I really liked it and can’t wait for our book club’s discussion. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Finty Williams and it was fantastic.

Currently reading and next on my list…

      

For the Scandinavian Book Group’s last meeting before the summer, we are reading The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson (translated from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles). Then I look forward to reading a Norwegian book I received from my parents last year, the novel Bienes historie (The History of Bees) by Maja Lunde (coming out in English on August 22, 2017!). It received the Norwegian Booksellers Prize in 2015.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these that you may have read as well as what you’ve been reading lately.

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