Reading Lately: Reading Challenges & #WITmonth Progress (August 2018)

In the last month I’ve been enjoying vacation reads, a book club pick, and the first of my books-in-translation for Women in Translation Month. Since I often read Norwegian and other Scandinavian female authors, I’m going to venture outside my comfort zone for #WITmonth starting with a book from South Korea.

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.


Girl at War by Sara Nović

This was a favorite of the summer. It’s a very moving novel about a young girl and the effects of the Yugoslavian Civil War (1991-1999) on her life. Ana is ten years old and living in Zagreb, Croatia, at the start of the war. She makes her way to America after some horrible war experiences. Ten years later she returns to Croatia for closure. Reading it while traveling through Croatia, particularly along the coast near where Ana spent summers and where the book ended, really brought it to life also. (A fun example, Sara Nović writes about a drink called Cedevita and its importance for Ana’s generation, and we saw it all around and were able to taste it.) It’s hard to believe war took place in this beautiful country not so long ago.


I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

I absolutely loved everything about this book! There were so many wonderful characters. Friendships were deep and true. Family was a huge extended network. There was an intriguing mystery. The writing was beautiful. It all made for a fun and easy read, but at the same time there was serious substance beneath it all. I had hesitated reading it because I hadn’t read the previous two books involving the same characters, but then I just decided to jump in anyway. I’m so glad that I did. I’m recommending this to anyone who needs a book recommendation these days.

Reading Challenges:


Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

This book was not for me. I finished it but only to see if I could understand why both Reese Witherspoon and Anne Bogel (MMD 2017 Summer Reading Guide) recommended it. The writing was simple and dull, the characters unsympathetic, and the plot not that engaging. The only interesting thing was that I really enjoyed her middle grade level The Apothecary when I read it while ago and have a hard time believing this is the same author. Luckily, it did fulfill an empty prompt for a reading challenge (a book where the characters are traveling somewhere) so it wasn’t a total waste of time.

Reading Challenges:


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This was my book club’s latest read. The book is about an African American recently married couple living in Atlanta. On a visit to his parents in a small town in Louisiana, the husband is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. My heart went out to the couple in this book, put in this awful and unjust situation. Seeing the story from the three main characters’ perspectives — the husband, the wife, and the friend — added greater depth to the story. I enjoyed the book very much. It was a sad and complicated story with much to think about and discuss.

Reading Challenges:


The Vegetarian by Han Kang

(Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith)

This prize-winning book in translation (Man Booker International Prize, 2016) has been on my radar for a while but not necessarily on my TBR list (due to controversy about the translation not being accurate). However, with August being Women in Translation Month, I decided to go ahead and read it. I knew it was about a woman-turned-vegetarian and her family’s opposition, but it turns out it was so much more. It was a short read, but not a light read. The story was disturbing, at times shocking and brutal, but I’m glad I read it. What was particularly interesting was the structure of the novel. In three parts, each from a different family member’s perspective (first the husband, then the brother-in-law, and finally the sister), the reader followed “the vegetarian” from the time she decided to become vegetarian until the time she was institutionalized. It was a somewhat different take on using different perspectives to tell a story. It was very much a character-driven novel with much attention given to characters’ motivations and mental turmoil. I’m intrigued by Han Kang and have added her book Human Acts to my TBR list.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

 

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August 2018 Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Don’t Miss an #OwnVoices Immigrant Film from Norway

Have you had a chance to try something new or explore a new-to-you area of Los Angeles this summer? Summertime offers some special multicultural events for Angelenos. There’s still time to take advantage!

Some exciting Norwegian film news! What Will People Say by Norwegian-Pakistani filmmaker Iram Haq opens today in Los Angeles. I saw this movie at AFI Fest this past fall and loved it. It’s a very powerful film about a first generation Norwegian teenager born of Pakistani immigrants in Oslo. The movie is about family, culture clash, honor, and shame. There were many gasp-out-loud moments in this film. It’s a thought-provoking and heart-breaking movie. I highly recommend it. It opened my eyes to a world very foreign to me, a world that could theoretically be right next to me without me knowing it. Read my full review here. It is playing at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills and Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. Visit Laemmle’s website to see showtimes. Don’t miss it!

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

Oslo Harbor Promenade: Venice Beach the Oslo Way!

During our one and only full day in Oslo this summer, we explored one of the city’s newer attractions, the Harbor Promenade, known as Havnepromenaden in Norwegian. It’s a walking/biking path that stretches nine kilometers (about 5.5 miles) along Oslo’s waterfront and combines sightseeing, history, art, architecture, shopping, dining, and a little bit of adventure. Large orange information towers guide the way. (And there are plenty of geocaching opportunities along the way for those who are interested as well.)

Our adventure began at Frognerkilen (Point #1 on the map). We were greeted by the peaceful sight of docked boats and wandering ducks and geese. The first stretch of the promenade was a pleasant and leisurely walk right along the shoreline.

We enjoyed watching boats coming and going and swans searching for food. In the distance, we saw the ferry bound for Denmark leave port. On the other side of the inlet on the Bygdøy peninsula, we spotted Oscarshall, the royal summer palace completed in 1852 and open to the public since 1881.

At Kongen Marina (Point #2), a tropical themed café awaited. It was a very welcoming and enticing place, but we had plans to eat lunch later on in our outing. It was too popular for me to search for the geocache that was there. Reluctantly, we continued on.

The next stretch of the promenade, through Filipstad, was not as appealing. The path was right next to the motorway with only industrial buildings in sight. The comic book artwork on the orange towers did provide some fun diversion along the way, though. Also, at Point #3, I was able to easily retrieve a geocache since there were no people lingering.

     

There are plans underway to develop this area into an attractive residential community which will make a huge difference!

Luckily, this uninteresting stretch didn’t last too long and soon we were at Tjuvholmen which was a stark contrast to what we’d just encountered. We were suddenly surrounded by a chic, happening waterfront with bright and bold artwork, modern architecture, and an active folk life. I could have just stayed there and people watched for hours. Any thoughts of more geocaching were quickly forgotten.

We chuckled at how the area reminded us of Los Angeles’ Venice Beach! We already had the palms in mind from Kongen Marina. Now we saw huge wall murals (art by Norwegian pop artist Pushwagner, 1940-2018), an outdoor workout area (complete with bare chested men and bikini clad women!), a skatepark (though indoors and practically empty because, as you’ll see, everyone is outside swimming!), stand-up paddle boarding, sunning, and swimming.

I was mesmerized by all the people swimming and hanging out by the edge of the fjord. Oslo has been unseasonably warm and dry this summer and people were taking advantage. And this wasn’t even a weekend day. It was a Monday.

In addition to alluring outdoor spaces and fascinating architecture, Tjuvholmen is home to the modern art museum Astrup Fearnley Museet and an outdoor sculpture park. We lost sight of that with all the swimming going on, but they were there right next to the sandy beach.

I realized too late that there is a lookout tower at Tjuvholmen as well, The Sneak Peak. It has a glass elevator that takes you up 117 feet for 360º views of the city, bay, and fjord. We’ll have to remember that for next time.

We wrapped up our promenade exploration just down the way at Aker Brygge (between Points #5 and #6 on the map), the original hotspot of the harbor area. Besides dining, shopping, people and boat watching to your heart’s content, you can visit the Nobel Peace Center in this area. It was actually on my wishlist for this summer because they are hosting the exhibition Generation Wealth (until August 21, 2018) which I missed when it was here in Los Angeles, but sadly we ran out of time.

We completed about half of the promenade this time around. The remaining stretch we’ll have to do next time we visit. Maybe we’ll do that with bikes since it brings us farther from home. Exploring Oslo’s Harbor Promenade has been on my Oslo bucket list for a while so I’m glad I finally had a chance to begin.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update: July 2018

This past month I didn’t make too much progress on my reading challenges because I mostly read books for categories I’ve already checked off, but I did catch up on my Goodreads challenge number which I had fallen behind on! 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.


The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

My Book of the Month selection from February that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to read! Alaska in the 1970s was a riveting place: an eclectic community so attuned to changing weather and seasons. My heart went out to the Allbright family, the father who came back from Vietnam so very damaged and whose wife and daughter had to endure the consequences. I did have some issues with the decisions that the mother and daughter did (or did not) make, but it’s easy for me to judge sitting on the sidelines. I wasn’t in their shoes. The book was tense and heartbreaking. I had to put it down a couple of times to take some deep breaths and sometimes even take a break before continuing. It didn’t disappoint. It was a great read that I highly recommend.

Reading Challenges:


Sunburn by Laura Lippman

This was a totally unplanned read, but I recognized the book at the library as a Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Summer Reading Guide pick and couldn’t resist picking it up since it was available. It took place in the 1990s in a small town in Delaware. It was about a woman whose mysterious past was revealed piecemeal through various third person perspectives. I had a little trouble keeping straight who knew what since there were so many secrets being kept, but otherwise it was a quick and enjoyable read (though I’m still processing the ending and deciding what I think about that).

Reading Challenges:


Love by Hanne Ørstavik (Translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken)

I first became aware of this author last summer when I was researching Norwegian female authors for Women in Translation Month (#WITmonth): Norwegian Women in Translation for WITmonth. Then the author came back on my radar when I was doing The Reading Women’s Instagram challenge this summer and needed a book with a one-word title. It wasn’t really on my immediate TBR list until I got a physical copy in my hands. It’s a lovely little book — slim, no bigger than my palm, with an elegant cover. I couldn’t resist reading it right away. It’s about an 8-year-old boy and his mother who had 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.

Reading Challenges:


The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

I love traveling to a different time and place through books. This book took me to Bombay, India, in the 1920s, which was extremely interesting to me. It was a very multicultural place with many groups of people I have little knowledge about, in particular Muslim women living in full purdah (seclusion) and Zoroastrian families. I enjoyed the mystery and getting a look at the lives of women during that time. I was not wholeheartedly a fan of the main character Perveen Mistry. I loved that she was an independent and modern woman (she was the only woman at law school and later the first female lawyer in Bombay). However, I felt she made some rash decisions occasionally which contradicted how smart I thought she was. Overall, I enjoyed the book and will most likely read the next one in the series when it comes out.

Reading Challenges:


Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

I thought I’d give Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick a chance since it seemed like the perfect summer read. Unfortunately, I was not a fan. Too many dumb decisions and paranoia leading the plot and too many unnecessary story points added to it. The whole novel is the wife Erin telling the reader what happened, similar to a stream of consciousness. The writing didn’t impress me. Even the setting of Bora Bora didn’t impress me. It wasn’t much of a thriller for me either. I predicted the main part of the outcome, though not exactly how Erin ended up where she began in the first chapter. I finished it quickly, mostly because I wanted to see if there was a redeeming factor at the end, but also because I wanted to move on to my next book. I’m curious to hear what others thought of this book.


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World Cup 2018: Time for Some Literary Connections!

World Cup season is the perfect time to make some literary connections with the countries playing! Lists have been published recommending books by authors from each of the World Cup countries. There have also been daily literary World Cup matches where participating countries’ books or authors have been matched against each other to see which book/author readers like best. Check out #literaryworldcup on Twitter for the latest match-ups and results.

Sadly, neither Norway nor the USA made it to the World Cup this year, but Scandinavian enthusiasts could still root for Sweden and Denmark and their Nordic cousin Iceland. Sweden and Denmark moved on to the knockout Round of 16. Good luck to them!

I thought I’d consolidate titles recommended around the Internet from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland. It’s interesting to see which books and authors are repeated. Make sure to click the links to the sources to see suggestions for all World Cup countries. Continue reading

Los Angeles Culture Challenge: July 2018

It’s summertime. Seize the opportunity to do something new! Is there a new event or excursion that you could add to your calendar to make this month a little different from the others? Explore another part of town, take in a cultural festival, watch a performance, or do an arts activity. How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

18th Annual Los Angeles River Ride (2018): Finally My Chance

This year I was finally able to do the Los Angeles River Ride myself. Six years ago our family went to our first LA River Ride, but I wasn’t able to ride it since Doobie was too young for the Family Ride. I stayed with him in the parking lot for the younger riders’ mini-course and bike wash. Only Daddy and Sonny were able to ride along the river. Ever since that year I’ve wanted to ride along the river myself, ideally with the family, but other commitments always interfered. This year was finally my chance.

This year’s Los Angeles River Ride took place Sunday, June 3. Both kids had obligations, but I was able to get away to Griffith Park for the event. There were several rides to choose from: 2-mile Kids’ Ride, 15-mile Family Ride, 36-mile Ride, 68-mile Metric Century Plus, and Century Ride from Griffith Park to Long Beach and back, each ride starting at a different time in the morning. I chose the 15-mile ride since the next longer ride of 36 miles seemed a little daunting as my first experience (even though we’ve done that and more as a family on cycle tours in Europe previously).

There weren’t as many riders at the start line as I had expected, but then again this was the last of the rides to get started. Organizers started us in stages so we wouldn’t overwhelm the road or each other when we started. Due to construction, we had to ride about 3 miles on road through the park to get to the bike path. I had no issue with that, especially since my husband’s one complaint from our last experience was the interference with cars while riding over the freeway to get to the bike path. This year’s route was a little awkward just as we were getting to the bike path. We had to dismount, cross an intersection two ways, walk down a grassy slope, and then wind our way around tennis courts before joining the bike path. But it was not a big issue in the grand scheme of things.

Riding along the river was a wonderful experience. It’s really becoming a much more green space with lots of birdlife and opportunities for recreational use. Even though concrete still played a dominant role and at one point, but for a very short distance, the freeway buzzed by on the other side of the path, you could easily forget you were riding in the middle of big city metropolis.

The ride went from The Autry Museum in Griffith Park to Elysian Park and back. The turn-around point was not clear. Luckily, a volunteer had noticed that riders were continuing on and stationed himself so that he could tell us to turn around.

One of my favorite moments of the ride was coming upon Spoke Bicycle Café. It was a pit stop along the route. I thought the pit stop was going to be just a table with refreshments along the route so I hadn’t paid much attention to the details of it. It was indeed “just a table with refreshments” but the table was inside this very cool, laid-back, bicycle themed café. Spoke Café was its own little special world. I wished I wasn’t there alone so I could have hung out for a while and enjoyed the atmosphere, live music and all.

Another local discovery I made was La Colombe Frogtown, another café right along the bike path. This had a totally different vibe than Spoke Bicycle Café, much more modern and chic. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee, but the cold pressed juice by Liquiteria was perfect.

Eventually, it was time to pedal my way back to the start of the ride. I’ve decided that next time I do this event I’ll sign up for the longer ride. This 15-mile ride only took 1 ½ hours (excluding café stops). I would have loved to spend more time along the river. Who’d like to join me next time?

The yearly Los Angeles River Ride is organized by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) which is a membership-based nonprofit organization that works to make all communities in LA County healthy, safe, and fun places to ride a bike through advocacy, education, and outreach. You can help by becoming a member, donating, or joining a bike ride (see below for one coming up soon in Santa Monica!), plus more.

Coming up soon… Sunday Funday: Tour of Santa Monica on Sunday, July 1, 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Join LACBC and local chapter Santa Monica Spoke for the first Sunday Funday of the summer season! They’ll be taking in the cool coastal air as they explore the Michigan Ave greenway and get a preview of the 17th St corridor. They’ll be starting out at the 26th Street / Bergamot Station on the Expo Line meeting at 9:30 a.m., rolling at 10:00 a.m. There will be stops and water breaks along the way and is a perfect way to meet people and discover new neighborhoods. RSVP here. This ride is a no-drop ride (no rider left behind) with LACBC Ride Marshals. Riders should be able to keep a 10-12 MPH pace, and cover 12-15 miles.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update: June 2018

My goal of completing three reading challenges this year is progressing slowly but surely: my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge, Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2018 Reading Challenge, and The Reading Women’s Reading Women Challenge. And just for the fun of it, I’m seeing how many of the Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge tasks I can complete, too. I love the challenge of finding books that fulfill tasks in more than one challenge.

And 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.


The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter #1) by Sigrid Undset (Translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally)

I was surprised at 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. I am eager to continue the trilogy to see how Kristin fares in her marriage to Erlend, the handsome man who wooed her away from her betrothed. This is a classic I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I tried to read it years ago, but it was the original translation (Charles Archer and J. S. Scott) and I couldn’t finish. The Nunnally translation was much better.

Reading Challenges:


Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

This was a tough read, not because the writing or the story was bad, but because the circumstances of the setting were so horrendous. Also, my background knowledge of the geography and history of the area was very limited. The story takes place in Burma, now known as Myanmar, in Southeast Asia starting in 1939. It’s about a mixed race couple, Benny (Jewish British officer) and Khin (member of Burma’s Karen ethnic minority group), and how they and their children endure years of war, occupation, persecution, and brutality. Interestingly, the story is based on the lives of a local author’s mother and grandparents. I’m glad I powered through it because it opened my eyes to a chapter of world history I had no knowledge of, but I recommend it with reservations.

Reading Challenges:


Still Lives by Maria Hummel

This was my latest pick from Book of the Month. Not only did it sound interesting (mystery in the art world of Los Angeles, my hometown), but also the author was coming to a local bookstore to discuss the book (which is always an interesting experience). It’s about a young editor at a small, prestigious art museum in Downtown LA who takes it upon herself to investigate when an artist never shows up for the opening gala of her exhibition. The story was a bit slow to get going and I had some issues with the main character’s decisions and actions. It did get more suspenseful later on. Overall, it didn’t quite pack the punch that I was hoping for, but I still enjoyed the book. I especially liked that it took place in Los Angeles and referred to many places I know. (Sadly, the author event was canceled, but I am hoping they reschedule because I would love to hear her thoughts on the book.)


Knots: Stories by Gunnhild Øyehaug (Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson)

This collection of short stories is the author’s English language debut — 13 years after its initial Norwegian publication! I chose to read it in English because the Norwegian publication was in nynorsk, a written standard for Norwegian which I don’t read as easily. 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 short, and the stories are short so I just kept turning the pages to see what creative and unique story would come next.

Reading Challenges:


The Reading Women’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

This month I’ve also been dipping my toes into many miscellaneous Scandinavian books as I participate in The Reading Women’s photo-a-day challenge on Instagram (#ReadingWomenMonth). I’ve been matching their daily prompts with books by Scandinavian female authors (mostly Norwegian, it turns out). Check out my Instagram account @AVikingInLA to see my selections and follow along.

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.

Los Angeles Culture Challenge: June 2018

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States, and summer is the perfect time to explore and take advantage of all that Los Angeles has to offer. 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.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

Proud to Be Norwegian at LA Galaxy’s Norwegian Heritage Night

I have many interests and I love it when there’s an overlap. In the latest case, it was Norway and soccer, in particular LA’s Major League Soccer team LA Galaxy. Earlier this year LA Galaxy signed two Norwegian players, Jørgen Skjelvik and Ola Kamara, and in honor of Norway’s Constitution Day (which was May 17) and the signing of these two Norwegian players, LA Galaxy showed its Norwegian pride with a special Norwegian Heritage Night at the StubHub Center in Carson.

My oldest son and I were thrilled to attend. There were limited tickets available for the event, and fans who scored tickets received a commemorative LA Galaxy/Norwegian flag scarf as well as a chance to attend a post-game session with the Norwegian players.

After the match, Kamara and Skjelvik joined fans for an intimate meet and greet. Fans were able to ask some questions, which mostly centered on being Norwegian in LA — such as how they celebrated the 17th of May (they were at the Seamen’s Church in San Pedro) and their favorite Norwegian food in LA (none yet!) — before the line began to move for autographs.

When we approached, Kamara admired Sonny’s Norwegian national team jersey. We had bought the jersey specifically for this occasion. Both Kamara and Skjelvik have played on Norway’s national team in the past and worn this jersey (and we’ll be cheering on Kamara when he plays with the Norwegian national team again on June 2 in Iceland and June 6 in Norway vs. Panama). Unfortunately, Sonny hadn’t had a chance to show the jersey during the game since it was too cold and he had to keep his sweatshirt on, so we were glad the opportunity presented now and it was noticed!

Skjelvik and Kamara were very gracious and friendly with everyone. They were happy to accommodate various photo shoots and items for signing. We were grateful for the commemorative scarves because they were the perfect item for signing.

And thank you, Miguel Magana at LA Galaxy, for the tickets and opportunity to attend Norwegian Heritage Night. It was a very well planned and executed event. We will gladly attend another.