What I’ve Been Reading Lately (July 2021)

I’m back with my monthly round-up of what I’ve been reading lately inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly Quick Lit where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately. All the books didn’t quite hit the mark for me last month, but the variety in both setting and genre kept it interesting.

As I write and post this, I’m enjoying books in translation by women outside of Scandinavia for August’s Women in Translation Month. I’ve got my stack of options (see my Instagram post, if you’re curious) and will read what appeals to me when I’ve finished a book. In the background of my reads, I’m listening to the 40-hour long The Eighth Life (For Brilka) by Georgian author Nino Haratischvili, translated from the German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin and narrated by Tavia Gilbert. I am engrossed in this multigenerational family saga that begins at the start of the 20th century and takes place mostly in Georgia and Russia. So far a great story and fabulous narration of tumultuous history through the eyes of women.

What have you been reading lately?


Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid 🇺🇸📖

This was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid story. I was intrigued by the local setting of Malibu in the 1980s, and it seemed like the perfect summer read. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet my expectations. I definitely enjoyed the first half. This is when the Riva family is introduced by alternating between the past when June and Mick meet and begin their family (starting in the 1950s) and the present (1983) when the Riva siblings are about to host the annual not-to-be-missed celebrity end-of-summer party. The mother and siblings did not have an easy life with the famous musician father absent for years. I enjoyed seeing how they persevered and supported each other. The second half which featured the party appealed to me much less. There was too much alcohol, drugs, sex, and out of control behavior. It got to be too much for me.


Sølvveien (The Silver Road) by Stina Jackson 🇸🇪📖
(Translated from the Swedish to the Norwegian by Inge Ulrik Gundersen)

(This book is available in English translation by Susan Beard.) It’s billed as crime fiction (won Best Swedish Crime Novel, 2018), but I felt it was more a story of loss and grief due to crime. It’s a dual narrative set in a remote and isolated part of northern Sweden which plays a significant role in the story. Lelle’s 17-year-old daughter disappeared 3 years ago. His marriage dissolved, and he is being torn apart from the inside. He has obsessively spent summer nights driving The Silver Road, where his daughter disappeared, looking for her in abandoned and hidden areas. Meanwhile, teenager Meja and her dysfunctional mother have moved to the area to live with a man the mother had met online. Over time Lelle’s and Meja’s paths cross. It was a very engaging read with main characters I cared about. The ending, however, was somewhat predictable in my opinion, but the visit to this community in northern Sweden was worth it. Stina Jackson’s next book, The Last Snow, is already on my TBR.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A prize-winning Scandinavian book (Best Swedish Crime Novel, 2018; and Glass Key Award, 2019) OR A book by a new-to-you Scandinavian author


Her Dark Lies by J. T. Ellison 🇺🇸🇮🇹🎧
(Narrated by Brittany Pressley)

This is the story of a high-profile destination wedding that goes totally awry. Bad weather, dead bodies, and a ruined wedding dress are just a few obstacles before up-and-coming artist Claire and wealthy, handsome, and charming Jack can marry on rocky Isle Isola off the coast of Italy. It was a fun listen. I liked the unique setting, a secluded island with history and mystery. The rotating perspectives, including one that I was unsure about until later in the story, made the story even more intriguing and suspenseful.

 


A Woman Is No Man: A Novel by Etaf Rum 🇺🇸🇵🇸🎧📖
(Narrated by Ariana Delawari, Dahlia Salem, Susan Nezami)

Just last month I read Salt Houses by Palestinian-American author Hala Alyan, and  A Woman Is No Man by another Palestinian-American writer was an interesting companion read/listen. While Salt Houses revolved around a Palestinian family that remained in the Middle East, this book focused on a Palestinian family that immigrated to Brooklyn, New York. It was a disturbing and heartbreaking story of three generations of Palestinian women in America whose lives were dictated by the patriarchal beliefs of the homeland. The story alternated between Fareeda, the matriarch, who emigrated from Palestine as a young mother; Isra who was brought over at the age of 17 as the wife of Fareeda’s eldest son; and Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter born in Brooklyn. While an important story to hear, this particular story seemed very one-dimensional. All was very negative and repetitive in regards to men and women’s status in this community.


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

 

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

My 10 Favorite Books for Women in Translation Month #WITmonth

There’s no time like the present to consider reading a book or two by a woman in translation. August is Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth), an annual initiative to raise awareness of and promote women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. With international travel limited due to the pandemic and the Olympics going on in Tokyo, why not do some armchair traveling to countries of interest through books by women in translation?

Every year I set aside August to read women in translation from outside Scandinavia (since I read plenty of them regularly). I create a stack of books I’m interested in reading and see what piques my interest most when the time comes for a new book. On my TBR pile for August are books that will transport me to Spain (Basque Country), France, Italy, Iran, Rwanda, and Thailand through the voices of female authors from the region. I usually get a head start in July and continue into the fall.

Are you interested in joining this year? Here are my 10 current favorite books by women in translation. As you might expect, the list is heavy on Scandinavian female authors, but there are some other gems tucked in there as well. Please share in the comments any books in translation by women that you’ve enjoyed. I’m especially looking for female authors from South America.


Kristin Lavransdatter 1: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset 🇳🇴
(Tr. from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally, published by Penguin Classics)

This is the first in an historical fiction trilogy set in medieval Norway.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! It was nothing like what I expected. Kristin is quite the rebel and the book seems quite risqué for its time (first published in 1920). Broken betrothals, premarital rendezvous, poison, suicide, and coverups – so unexpected. It was interesting to learn about life in medieval Norway, and the descriptions of the setting are especially beautiful. This first book is the story of how Kristin met and was wooed by the handsome Erlend, breaking up her betrothal to another man. The series continues with her marriage to Erlend and follows her as she raises seven sons. I enjoyed this book so much that I completed the trilogy in the next couple of years, but this was my favorite of the three. Make sure to read the translation by Tiina Nunnally.


Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata 🇯🇵
(Tr. from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori, published by Grove Press)

This is contemporary fiction set in Tokyo, Japan.

This book was a little gem — small, short, and heartwarming. I took a great liking to Keiko, a somewhat peculiar 36-year-old woman who’s been working part time at a convenience store in Tokyo for 18 years. Her whole being, both at the store and at home, is so attuned to the rhythms and needs of the store. Keiko thrives following the directives of the store manual and absorbing others’ dress, mannerisms, and speech. Despite her quirkiness, she has friends and is accepted and valued at her job. Also, I loved getting a glimpse into the Japanese culture through this convenience store and its workers.


Waiting for Tomorrow by Nathacha Appanah 🇫🇷
(Tr. from the French by Geoffrey Strachan, published by Graywolf Press)

This is contemporary fiction set in France by a Mauritian-French author.

Anita and Adam meet as students in Paris. She’s an immigrant from Mauritius and he’s from the French provinces. They both feel out of place but find comfort and love with each other. They move to the provinces, get married, and have a daughter. Life happens. She freelances for a local paper instead of writing the next great novel. He works at an architecture firm instead of devoting his life to painting. And then Adèle enters their life, resetting it in an unexpected way. It’s a short novel that packs a lot into its pages. It explores immigration, including undocumented immigrants; cultural differences in society and within a marriage; family and motherhood (stay-at-home vs working mothers), and ambitions. It’s a tragic story but beautifully written.


Love by Hanne Ørstavik 🇳🇴
(Tr. from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken, published by Archipelago)

This is contemporary fiction set in northern Norway.

This is the story of an 8-year-old boy and his mother who have recently moved to a remote village in northern Norway. They live together but lead totally separate lives. The story takes place one very cold winter night in the space of only a few hours. The boy is eagerly anticipating his birthday the next day, but his mother is wrapped up in her own world and desires. It alternates between the boy’s and the mother’s separate outings during the evening. What I thought might happen didn’t, and what I didn’t anticipate happened. It was a sad but beautiful story. At times it actually felt somewhat surreal.


The History of Bees: A Novel by Maja Lunde 🇳🇴
(Tr. from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley, published by Atria Books)

This is historical fiction set in England, contemporary fiction set in the USA, and dystopian fiction set in China all rolled into in one novel.

This is such an interestingly structured and thought-provoking book about humans’ relationship to bees as well as relationships and expectations between family members. 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 the 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 must hand-pollinate due to the total collapse of bees. As the book progresses, the reader begins to see how the three families’ stories intersect.

This is the first in Maja Lunde’s Climate Quartet. Next is The End of the Ocean which I also enjoyed, followed by The Last Wild Horses: A Novel (to be released in English February 15, 2022). The fourth book is still a work in progress.


Human Acts by Han Kang 🇰🇷
(Tr. from the Korean by Deborah Smith, published by Hogarth)

This is historical fiction set in South Korea.

This novel was about a horrific historical event I had never heard of before, the violent 1980 student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea. The story is told through chapters that are interconnected short stories. In the first chapter, which takes place in 1980, readers are introduced to several characters who then reappear in the next chapters over a period of 30 years. Interestingly, the chapters are either in first or second person with one chapter in third person. Be aware, Han Kang does not shy away from the gruesome details of this violent time, but at the same time, she shares examples of kindness and compassion too. (I have also read and enjoyed The Vegetarian, but I liked Human Acts better.)


The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami 🇯🇵
(Tr. from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell, published by Europa Editions)

This is contemporary fiction set in Tokyo, Japan.

I thought this was going to contain some magical realism (since the cover I had originally seen has a woman flying into a subway train), but no, it was a down-to-earth look at the happenings and people in a neighborhood thrift shop in the suburbs of Tokyo. The main character, Hitomi, works the cash register. Her boss and the owner of the thrift shop is Mr. Nakano, a somewhat odd and mysterious person. His sister Masayo, an unmarried artist, is a regular presence in the store. And then there’s Takeo, the shy part-time co-worker who helps with pick-ups and on whom Hitomi has a crush. It’s an eclectic group of people, and I love a story with unlikely friendships. I also enjoyed getting a glimpse of everyday life in Japan.


Knots: Stories by Gunnhild Øyehaug 🇳🇴
(Tr. from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This a collection of short stories set in Norway.

This collection of short stories is the author’s English language debut — 13 years after its initial Norwegian publication. The book is an eclectic collection of stories all of which explore the mind and thoughts of people in a variety of situations. Many are surreal; others are realistic. There is little action. They mostly deal with the characters’ consciousness. I was oddly transfixed by the stories. The book is small and slim, and the stories are short so I just kept turning the pages to see what creative and unique story would come next.

 


Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito 🇸🇪
(Tr. from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles, published by Other Press)

This is contemporary fiction/crime fiction set in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden.

The author takes us into the mind of 18-year-old Maja who’s on trial for her involvement in a school shooting in a wealthy suburb of Stockholm, Sweden, that left her boyfriend and best friend dead, along with others. We alternate between her time in the jail cell and in the courtroom along with flashbacks to her life leading up to the shooting. The book started a little slow, but as I got further into it, it was a page-turner that had me very eager to find out how it all could have come to this. Many timely issues to consider: school shootings, mental health, immigration, gun violence, wealth, class, parenting.

 


The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia 🇲🇽
(Tr. from the Spanish by Simon Bruni, published by Amazon Crossing)

This is historical fiction with a touch of magical realism set in Mexico.

This is about an established landowning family in a small northern Mexican town in the early 1900s during the Mexican Revolution. An abandoned child covered in bees is discovered and then adopted by the family. This child, who is deformed and cannot speak and always accompanied by a swarm of bees, turns out to be a blessing for the family as they endure life in their little town with its human and natural challenges. It was a little slow to get going, but suddenly I was very absorbed in the story.

 

 


Special Mentions

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
(Tr. from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth, published by Catapult)

This is a uniquely structured novel that follows three sisters who live in a village outside the capital city of Muscat in Oman. One sister marries after realizing she’ll never have the one she truly desires. Another sister marries out of obligation. And the third sister refuses to marry and instead waits for her beloved to return from Canada. The chapters jump between the first person perspective of the first sister’s husband and the third person perspective of various family and community members. It was hard to keep track of characters (grateful for the family tree at the beginning!) and time, but I was fascinated by the lives of these women in contemporary Oman, so different from what I’m used to or been exposed to in reading before. And I learned a bit about the history of the region which was interesting as well. This author has the special distinction of being the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English. The book won the International Booker Prize in 2019.


Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah
(Tr. from the French by Geoffrey Strachen, published by Graywolf Press)

This book took me to a place in the world I’ve never been in my reading life, Department of Mayotte, a French island in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar. When Marie suddenly dies, her 14-year-old adopted son Moïse is left to fend for himself. He ends up involved with a gang in the largest slum on the island. The book explores hard issues – illegal immigration, poverty, race, class, youth gangs, and violence – through the perspectives of not only Marie and Moïse, but also the gang leader, a police officer, and an aid worker. This was a tough read, not a feel good book at all, but definitely an eye-opening and thought-provoking reading experience about a new-to-me part of the world, exactly why I like participating in #WITMonth.


Dødevaskeren (The Dead Washer) by Sara Omar
(Tr. from the Danish to the Norwegian by Hilde Rød-Larsen, published by Aschehoug)

This book is unfortunately not translated into English yet, but I include it on this list for anyone who can read Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, French, or any other language it might already be translated into. It’s an amazing and heartbreaking novel dealing with the oppression of Muslim women, in particular in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The book is about a girl named Frmesk born in Kurdistan in 1986. She is unwanted by her father because she’s a girl. She is sent to live with her mother’s parents because the mother is afraid for the baby’s life if she stays at home. Her grandparents are very kind, loving, open-minded “parents” to Frmesk in a world where the Koran rules and women’s rights and freedoms are non-existent. The story moves between Frmesk’s life as a young child in her grandparents’ household and Frmesk’s life in Denmark 30 years later when she’s alone in a hospital bed for unidentified procedures. Real events, such as the 1988 Halabja chemical attack, are included in the story. It was an extremely engrossing and engaging story despite the difficult subject material. Sara Omar’s second book, Skyggedanseren (The Shadow Dancer), a follow-up to the first, also made a very strong impression on me.


Have I persuaded you to pick up a book by a woman in translation?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, many by Scandinavian female authors, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (June 2021) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

Reading continues to bring me to other parts of the world while our international travels are on hold. This month I visited the Middle East (1960s-2010s), USA (various places during World War II), and Norway (early 1900s). And to make up for my current inability to visit Norway, I’m reading more books in Norwegian to feel like I’m closer (and to maintain my language skills).

We are now half way through the year, and I’m happy to say I’m on track to complete this year’s Scandinavian Reading Challenge by the end of the year. I have already completed seven prompts and have ideas for the rest. Not surprisingly, I am extremely heavy on the Norwegian books and may reconsider some of my remaining possible reads.

What have you been reading lately?


Salt Houses by Hala Alyan 🇵🇸 🎧📖

This was an eye-opening and engaging look at a part of the world and history I am not very familiar with. It’s a multigenerational story of an Arab family in the Middle East. Opening in 1963 in Nablus, a city in the northern West Bank, 15 years after the family had to flee Jaffa along the coast, matriarch Salma is reading the coffee grinds of her daughter Alia on the eve of her wedding and foresees an unsettled life. After that, the story moves forward in chucks and readers get a glimpse of life from alternating perspectives of various family members as they move around the Middle East and beyond. Readers witness the Six-Day War (1967), Invasion of Kuwait (1990), and Lebanon War (2006) through their eyes. Despite being displaced around the world, this family of bold personalities and oftentimes strained relationships stays connected and strong. This family will stay with me for a long time.

Book Voyage: Read Around the World Reading Challenge: Middle East


The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar 🇺🇸🎧
(Narrated by Xe Sands)

This is the fictional story of Audrey Coltrane, a female pilot from Texas during World War II. She tells her story (in the first person) beginning with being a military flight instructor in Hawaii (at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor) and then joining the WASP program, or Women Airforce Service Pilots, to test and ferry planes during the war. It’s an inspiring story of female friendship and strength that once again gave me a glimpse of a piece of history I had little familiarity with. I was a bit surprised by the love interest that ran through the story and couldn’t quite decide if I liked it or not, but in the end I enjoyed the story.


Hekneveven (Hekne, #2) by Lars Mytting 🇳🇴 📖

This is the second book in a planned Norwegian trilogy, the first of which, The Bell in the Lake, has already been translated into English. Despite my mixed feelings about the first book, I was very eager to read the next in the series. I was not let down and thoroughly enjoyed this one. It continues the story of a small, isolated village in Gudbrandsdalen (20 years later in the early 1900s), in particular the story of a young man (whose mother died in childbirth) and a priest who joined the community in the first book. I really connected with the characters, enjoyed the author’s descriptions of local life and the modern changes happening, and appreciated the inclusion of bigger events happening in the background (immigration to America, dissolution of the union with Sweden, World War I, and Spanish Flu Pandemic). There was even some mystery relating to an old tapestry introduced in the first book and circumstances surrounding the birth of the young man. I’m looking forward to book #3!

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: Bonus 2: A book by a Nordic author you’ve enjoyed before


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (May 2021)

I’m continuing my travels around the world through books and am really enjoying this new focus in my reading. This month I visited Vietnam, Australia, and Norway.

Even though we’re half way through the year already, I’ve decided to join The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge to help me continue the course and to find reading suggestions. The challenge is organized into 12 regions, and each month they share reading suggestions for a region. While their intention may be to read each region in order and share reading experiences, I’ll be skipping around since I’ve already completed reads for some regions and missed others.

What have you been reading lately?


The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai 🇻🇳 📖🎧
(Narrated by Quyen Ngo)

This is exactly my type of book, historical fiction that opens my eyes to a part of history I have little knowledge about at the center of which is a strong, admirable female character. It’s a multigenerational story set against the Vietnam War. Grandmother Dieu Lan is taking care of her granddaughter Huong while her parents are fighting in the Vietnam War. Going back and forth in time, the reader learns about the grandmother’s life from birth in 1920 through the Great Hunger when her mother was killed and the Land Reform when she had to flee with her children to the current situation during the Vietnam War. It’s both a heartbreaking story of loss and struggle and beautiful story of resilience and hope. Highly recommend!

Book Voyage: Read Around the World Reading Challenge: Southern Asia


The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth 🇦🇺 🎧
(Narrated by Barrie Kreinik)

I loved Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-in-Law (a 5-star listen for me) so I had high expectations for this one. Sadly, I was disappointed. This was about a group of neighborhood housewives with young children and too much time on their hands. Everything is going fine, or so it seems, until a new neighbor moves in. This upsets the status quo and secrets begin to surface. I had a bit of a hard time keeping the characters apart and I almost didn’t finish, but I continued to see how all the secrets would be resolved. Despite this disappointment, I still have her latest The Good Sister on my TBR.

 

Book Voyage: Read Around the World Reading Challenge: Australia & New Zealand


The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbø 🇳🇴 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)

I had read the first Harry Hole book a few years ago and wasn’t a fan of him (a too damaged alcoholic with poor judgement), but I wanted to give the series another try since it’s such a popular one both at home and abroad. I’m glad I did; it was a fun ride! I really enjoyed that it took place in Oslo, so many familiar places. Also, Harry Hole’s character was much more likeable; he doesn’t drink in this installment and his skill as a detective really shines. In this story, Harry is on the hunt for a serial killer who’s been targeting married women with children and leaves a snowman behind as a calling card. It was very engaging and suspenseful with a satisfying resolution. I’m definitely open to reading more Harry Hole books.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A Scandinavian book from a favorite genre (crime fiction)


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (April 2021)

Lately, it turns out I’ve been varying my reads by setting. In March, I visited South Korea, Norway, and the USA through my books. In April, I returned to the USA and also visited the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. I usually read and listen to more than one book at a time so different settings help keep the books’ characters and plots from blending. And with the pandemic still interrupting international travel, it’s a great way to escape to another world.

Where have you traveled lately in your reading?


🇺🇸 🎧 Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Narrated by Jennifer Garner)

This is the book I wish I could have read back in 2017 when I made a pledge to understand our country’s political outcome. But Tightrope wasn’t published until January 2020. At first I wasn’t interested in this book because I thought it just focused on a small group of people in one small, rural area of the U.S., but it actually explores issues and personal stories all over the U.S. It’s an eye-opening book sharing at times shocking and disturbing scenarios about “the other America”. But intertwined are stories of hope about organizations and people making a difference and providing hope. A shoutout to my mother who read it and told me it was a must-read book, and many thanks to my book club for joining me in reading it.


🇬🇧 📖 I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

This was my very first Book of the Month pick back in 2016, and I finally read it now. Why did I wait? I really enjoyed it. I stayed up too late reading and was eager to return home from work so I could continue reading. The alternating perspectives and storylines were extremely engaging. The twists were very well done. It’s about Jenna whose life in Bristol, England, turns upside down after a tragic hit-and-run accident. She escapes to a small cottage along the coast in Wales, but she is haunted by the past which makes it difficult to move forward. At the same time, detectives back in England try to get to the bottom of the accident. I highly recommend this psychological thriller. I look forward to reading more by Clare Mackintosh, but don’t know where to continue so feel free to recommend!


🇳🇱 📖 Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

This book intrigued me because it was an immigrant story with a twist. It was about a Chinese immigrant family in America, but the oldest daughter, Sylvie, had been raised in the Netherlands until she was nine years old and then reunited with her parents and younger sister in New York City. When the grandmother in the Netherlands is dying, Sylvie returns to the Netherlands only to disappear without a word. Her sister travels to try to find her. It alternated between the perspectives of the sister and the mother in the present and Sylvie a month before she disappeared. I really enjoyed the setting in the Netherlands and the slow unraveling of the family secrets as the story progressed. Unfortunately, I guessed the biggest secret before it was revealed but I still enjoyed the ride.


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Currently, there are several ebooks available for $0.99. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (March 2021) & Latest #ScandiReadingChallenge Reads

March was quite the mixed bag in regards to the setting and genre of my books which made for a great month of very interesting and engaging reading. I also made good progress on my 2021 Scandinavian Reading Challenge checking off two more prompts. What have you been reading lately?


The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
(Narrated by Jennifer Lim)

I love novels that teach me about a real time and place that I know little or nothing about. This book did exactly that, and it had strong female characters to boot. The story takes place on the South Korean island of Jeju starting in the late 1930s. Women were the main providers for their families by diving and harvesting from the sea, while men watched the children and cooked. It follows the close friendship of two women from very different backgrounds as they begin their diving careers. Readers follow their struggles and their resolve during the Japanese colonization of the island, World War II, Korean War, and into modern times. It provides fascinating insight into a unique culture where women are in charge. The language was also beautiful. It was almost like reading a foreign book but yet it was in English. I listened to the book which was a wonderful experience because it helped with Korean names and words which were used often. I highly recommend this, but don’t expect a light and easy read. It’s a moving story, at times heartbreaking, about women during very challenging times.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This young adult book has been on my TBR list since it was published in 2017. I didn’t want to see the movie because the book is always better. It was worth the wait and didn’t disappoint. Sadly, the book’s topic is still very relevant today. What I thought most interesting about the story was how the main character, Starr, navigated her two identities, her Black self from the poor, gangridden neighborhood where she lived with her family and her private school self in a nice neighborhood away from home. She was careful to watch her language and behavior both places so she wouldn’t stand out. That became hard when she was witness to a police shooting of a childhood friend from her home neighborhood which became headline news. This is a powerful story that inspires empathy and compassion without being preachy.


The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

It was the setting of this historical fiction novel that piqued my interest: early 1600s on an island in the extreme northeastern part of Norway. You can practically not get any further north or east in the country. And the story is based on true events that were unfamiliar to me, a storm in 1617 that killed the men of a village and the 1621 witch trials in the same area. It’s a story about women’s resilience and ability to fend for themselves and strong female bonds in the aftermath of the storm and at the arrival of a man sent to set these women straight and rid the community of witchcraft. The setting was intriguing and I love a story with strong female characters.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A book originally written in a language other than Norwegian, Swedish, or Danish that takes place in Scandinavia


Jeg vet hvor du bor by Unni Lindell (In Norwegian)

I read this book as part of a virtual Norwegian language and literature class with Mindekirken in Minneapolis, MN. They had already read the first third in the fall, and I joined them for the second third this winter. The return to work and the gradual restarting of sports and school for my boys made it hard for me to continue with the class this spring, so I finished reading it on my own. It is hard to read a crime novel over many months! You forget what turns out to be important details. I really enjoyed being able to read the last third on my own in a matter of days. I didn’t always like the decisions the main investigator made, but overall, the story and plotting were very engaging. It took place in Oslo which is always a bonus for me. Book #2 in the series, Dronen (in Norwegian), is on my TBR list.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A buddy read or group read (in real life or virtually) of a Nordic book


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (February 2021)

This was a niche reading month for me! All the books were in translation from Scandinavia. They did at least represent a variety of sub-genres — refugee and immigration fiction, folktales and legends, and crime fiction. And very fulfilling for me was that I finally checked off the last prompt for my 2020 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. Now I can focus fully on the 2021 Scandinavian Reading Challenge and other reads.

What have you been reading lately?


Skyggedanseren (The Shadow Dancer) by Sara Omar
(Translated to the Norwegian from the Danish by Inge Ulrik Gundersen)

This is the follow-up to a book I read a year ago, Dødevaskeren (The Dead Washer). This duology is about Frmesk, a Kurdish woman who immigrates to Denmark at a young age, and the abuse and struggles she had to endure as a female in a Muslim community, both in Kurdistan and Denmark. The structure of the two books combined was very unique and interesting. Book #1 alternated between Frmesk’s life as a young child in her grandparents’ household in Kurdistan and her life in Denmark 30 years later when she was alone in a hospital bed for unidentified reasons. Book #2 filled in many blanks in Frmesk’s life. It alternated between the next years with her grandparents in Kurdistan and her young adult years in Denmark when she was a university student and then married a Kurdish man. Frmesk lived a difficult, hard, and painful life. The only shining light for her was her grandparents. Everyone else failed her. It was an extremely tough read with much abuse happening at all ages in her life, but it was eye-opening to see what girls and women in certain parts of the world have to endure even when they emigrate to supposedly more open-minded societies. The story of Frmesk has made a deep impact on me.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2020: A book by or about refugees to Scandinavia


By the Fire: Sámi Folktales and Legends, Collected and Illustrated by Emilie Demant Hatt (Translated from the Danish by Barbara Sjoholm)

This is another book that’s been on my radar for a while and that I finally read when an opportunity arose to join a virtual book club meeting to discuss it in honor of Sámi National Day which was February 6. I’m not normally interested in folk tales and legends, but I am intrigued by Sámi history and culture. I did enjoy reading these stories collected by a Danish artist and ethnographer during her travels among the Sámi in the 1920s. This collection of stories with accompanying linoleum prints and “Field Notes and Commentary” by the author as well as an “Afterword” by the translator which featured photos of the storytellers and more background information provided a very unique and enlightening look at Sámi culture.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021:

  • A buddy read or group read (in real life or virtually) of a Nordic book
  • Bonus 1: A prompt from a previous year’s challenge (2020: A book by, about, or involving the Sámi indigenous people)

Smoke Screen (Alexander Blix & Emma Ramm #2) by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger (Translated from the Norwegian by Megan Turney)

I don’t usually read the next installment in a series this quickly (I read #1, Death Deserved, in November 2020), but I wanted to read #2 in advance of a virtual event with the authors and a favorite bookstagrammer which took place this month. I really enjoyed the first in the series, so it wasn’t hard to pick this one up. Just like in the first book, online news journalist Emma Ramm and police investigator Alexander Blix inadvertently join forces to solve a mystery. In this case, there’s an explosion in Oslo on New Year’s Eve and one of the victims is the mother of a girl who was kidnapped 10 years earlier and never found. What ensues is a dual investigation as the cold case of the kidnapping is reopened and the explosion is investigated. I like smart police procedurals with likeable investigators, and the setting being Oslo is certainly a plus. This was a very engaging read which I may have liked even better than the first one. For those wondering, book #2 can be read without having read #1.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021:

  • An unplanned or impromptu Scandinavian read
  • Bonus 2: A book by a Nordic author you’ve enjoyed before

Pakkis by Khalid Hussain
(Translated from the Norwegian by Claudia Berguson and Ingeborg Kongslien)

This book has been on my radar for many years, and I finally seized the opportunity to read it when I learned that it was the pick for Vesterheim’s monthly reading group in February. Written by the author when he was 16 years old, it’s a short account exploring a slice of life of a teenage Pakistani immigrant and his family in Oslo. It’s based on his own experiences as an immigrant in the 1970s. The book’s character, Sajjad, arrived in Norway at the age of 4 and learned the language easily. His parents, however, had more trouble assimilating. The book tackles the difficulty Sajjad has of navigating his two conflicting identities, that of his family and religion and the other of his assimilated Norwegian identity. It also explores conflicts that arise relating to the father’s expectations and the son’s wishes. Originally published in 1986, it seemed like it could have been written recently. The only things missing were cell phones and social media. It was an interesting look at an immigrant family’s experiences which most likely shares many similarities with immigrant experiences elsewhere and in contemporary times.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021:

  • A Scandinavian book you’ve been meaning to read
  • A buddy read or group read (in real life or virtually) of a Nordic book
  • Bonus 1: A prompt from a previous year’s challenge (2018: An immigrant story)

What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Currently, the first book in the Alexander Blix & Emma Ramm series, Death Deserved, is free!

Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (January 2021)

My 2021 Scandinavian Reading Challenge is live, but I’m still reading my last book for the 2020 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. Too many other books have wormed their way onto my currently-reading list so it’s taking longer to complete the ones in progress. I’m not in a rush, though, and I’m enjoying each book in its own time and place, whether it’s on a walk, in the car, inside or outside, or in bed.

What have you been reading lately?


The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
(Narrated by an ensemble of seven)

This was a book club pick for which I had not been a part of the selection discussion, so I went into it not knowing anything about it. I loved that it introduced me to a part of history with which I was not familiar, the CIA during the Cold War, in particular the role of women at the agency. Additionally, I was introduced to Boris Pasternak, a famous Russian poet at the time and the author of Dr. Zhivago, and his mistress Olga. All of this intrigued me. I liked how the story jumped between East and West until the plot lines merged. I definitely enjoyed the first half more than the second half which I felt dragged a little. Unfortunately, the ending was unsatisfactory for me. Overall, however, it was a very enjoyable listen with an ensemble of seven narrators, and I appreciated the insight into the role of the agency, women, and literature during the Cold War.


The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

This book has been on my TBR for a while and reading it now was spurred by an upcoming virtual visit by the author to my son’s English class. It’s a Southern California immigrant story, but not your typical one. The story takes place in a small town in the Mojave Desert. A Moroccan immigrant who’s lived in the area with his family for 20+ years is killed in a hit-and-run accident. The book explores the family’s grief and the aftermath of the incident from the perspectives of a diverse group of people in the community. I liked the slow reveal of who was responsible for the hit-and-run and the secrets kept by the family members. I enjoy complex structures, and in this case, the various perspectives jumped back in time as well. I really enjoyed this book.


The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
(Narrated by Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgang)

This was an impromptu pick after seeing it mentioned on Instagram several times and the audiobook being available at hoopla. It being a Jane Eyre retelling meant nothing to me since I haven’t read Jane Eyre, but I was drawn to the domestic thriller/mystery aspect. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it instead of listened to it? The narrators’ performances of the main characters were good, but the voice and tone for the housewives annoyed me. Also, the language in the book was off-putting, so many f-bombs. This was maybe even more obvious because I was listening to it and couldn’t skim over them. I didn’t like any of the characters but kept reading because I wanted to know what would happen next and that’s what got me to the end.


When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson (Author, Illustrator), Omar Mohamed (Author), Iman Geddy (Illustrator)

This book will stay with me for a long time. It’s a middle grade graphic novel memoir about the refugee camp experience of Omar and his disabled brother. Omar and Hassan had to flee civil war in Somalia as very young children without their parents and arrived at a refugee camp in Kenya as orphans and lived there for about 15 years before being resettled to the USA. It was an eye-opening look, both heart-breaking and heart-warming, at life in a refugee camp from the perspective of a child — the living situation, food insecurities, educational system, and resettlement process. The drawings added tremendous value to the story. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I highly recommend this book.


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Introducing the 2021 #ScandiReadingChallenge

I invite you to participate in my 2021 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. Last year my reading focus was distracted. This year I want to leave room for distraction and unexpected reads. I’m also offering more opportunity to read books beyond the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. You can explore Iceland and Finland as well.

With that, I’d like to introduce the 2021 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. I hope you’ll consider participating. You do not need to commit to completing all the prompts. You may use the two bonus prompts as substitutes for any of the given prompts if they don’t speak to you or as additions if you finish them all. My hope is just that you’ll consider Scandinavian/Nordic books for your reading and that we can share reading ideas and thoughts on what we’re reading throughout the year.

Prompts for Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021

  1. A Scandinavian book you’ve been meaning to read
  2. An unplanned or impromptu Scandinavian read
  3. A book by a new-to-you Scandinavian author
  4. A Scandinavian book from a favorite genre
  5. A prize-winning Scandinavian book
  6. A book originally written in a language other than Norwegian, Swedish, or Danish that takes place in Scandinavia
  7. A book set in a Nordic country you would like to visit or revisit
  8. A Nordic book you chose for the cover
  9. A Nordic book in a genre you don’t normally read
  10. A buddy read or group read (in real life or virtually) of a Nordic book
    Bonus 1: A prompt from a previous year’s challenge (201820192020)
    Bonus 2: A book by a Nordic author you’ve enjoyed before

Here are some printable PDF forms you might find helpful:

What prompts look most interesting to you?

I’m looking forward to the prompt encouraging me to read a Nordic book as a buddy read or a group read, either in real life or virtually. I’m already reading Jeg vet hvor du bor by Norwegian author Unni Lindell for my Norwegian language and literature class. My college Zoom group recently agreed to read Anxious People by Swedish author Fredrik Backman together. There’s always invitations on bookstagram to join a buddy or group read. Maybe this is the year for that.

I also look forward to exploring books written in a language other than Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish but that take place in Scandinavia. Many such books have come on my radar over the years, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. The most recent addition to the list is The Mercies by British author Kiran Millwood Hargrave which takes place in a fishing village in Northern Norway in the early 1600s.

I look forward to hearing about any Scandinavian/Nordic books you read this year. Feel free to share your reads in the comments on my monthly “What I’ve Been Reading Lately” posts or over at Instagram with the hashtag #ScandiReadingChallenge.

Happy reading!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (December 2020) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

December and 2020 are a wrap, but I’m still going to need a little time to complete my 2020 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. I still have one category left to check off, a book by or about refugees to Scandinavia (just started Sara Omar’s Skyggedanseren translated from the Danish to the Norwegian). I’m okay with taking January to wrap it up since my reading focus was bit distracted this past year. Then I need to finalize plans for my 2021 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory
(Narrated by Louise Brealey)

I’m not one to usually binge read books in a series, but the first book in the Fairmile series, Tidelands, was such a captivating and engaging read that our book club selected the second book to read right away. Dark Tides jumps ahead 20 years from where the first book left off. Family members have scattered around the globe: Alinor and her daughter have made their way to London, Alinor’s brother is in New England, and Alinor’s son has settled in Venice. I really enjoyed these different perspectives and the insight into life in 1670 in those places. I thought the story was a little slow to get going, but once it did, it moved fast and intensively. You are definitely going to have opinions about the characters in this book, good and bad. We’re eagerly awaiting news of the next book in the series. The audiobook was a fantastic listen.

Reading Challenges:


Dregs (William Wisting, #1) by Jørn Lier Horst
(Translated from the Norwegian by Anne Bruce)

Jørn Lier Horst is my favorite Norwegian crime writer. I usually read his books in Norwegian, but this time I thought I’d try one in English. I began by listening to the audiobook, but I was turned off by the narrator’s interpretation of the characters and switched to ebook. What a difference that made. Wisting is a likeable and respectable police investigator who works in a smalltown, coastal community south of Oslo. This crime, like others in the series, requires him to travel around the area to investigate. Horst’s books usually tackle a greater social issue; this one questions whether incarceration is effective. (This is the first Wisting book to be translated into English but actually the sixth book in the series. Wisting, the TV series, is available to view through Amazon Prime Video.)

Reading Challenges:


Kristin Lavransdatter III: The Cross by Sigrid Undset
(Translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally)

I finally finished the classic Kristin Lavransdatter by Nobel Prize winning author Sigrid Undset, a trilogy I read over three years, one book a year. It’s a surprisingly fascinating account of a woman’s life from childhood to death in medieval Norway. The first book, The Wreath, was definitely my favorite because it was unlike anything I expected from a book written in the early 1900s about Norway in the 1300s. The second, The Wife, was my least favorite due to all the political history I was unfamiliar with and the many characters I had trouble keeping track of. The third book, The Cross, was a very strong finish and I’m glad I committed to completing the series. In this final installment, Kristin returns to her childhood home of the first book with her husband to live out their years. We see how Kristin’s marriage unfolds and how her seven sons grow up and make decisions about their lives. And coincidentally, the Black Death makes an appearance at the end of the book, which was fascinating to read about considering we’re dealing with a pandemic of our own right now.

Reading Challenges:


By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone. Kristin Lavransdatter, the whole trilogy, just went on sale for $2.99. Dregs by Jørn Lier Horst is currently on sale for $3.99 and his Death Deserved, which I enjoyed last month, is available for $0.99 (as of the publication of this post).

What have you been reading lately?

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.