What I’ve Been Reading Lately (April & May 2022) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

It’s been a slow and unproductive reading period these last couple of months. My reading started strong with spring break in the beginning of April, but then work and family obligations took over and limited my time and energy to read. I’m grateful for my book club which provided incentive to finish two books at least, and bonus that they were both unread Book of the Month selections! With summer now upon us, I hope to get back on track and catch up.

I continue to join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately.

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update: April’s focus was the 1940s and I read White Shadow, the second book in Roy Jacobsen’s Barrøy series. The first book in the series took place in the 1910s/1920s and this one jumped ahead a couple of decades to 1944-1945, the last year of the German occupation.

For the purposes of this challenge, I’ve decided that the 1950s prompt can include anything postwar (1945-1959) since World War II was such a significant time for Norway and it took years for the country to recover. I will continue the Barrøy series with Eyes of the Rigel which follows the main character as she leaves the island after the war on a journey during which “she will encounter partisans and collaborators, refugees and deserters, sinners and servants in a country still bearing the scars of occupation.”

For details on the reading challenge and insight into the past, current, and next decades, along with a few reading ideas, visit 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


White Shadow (The Barrøy Chronicles Book 2) by Roy Jacobsen
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw)

The first book in the series covered Ingrid’s childhood on Barrøy, a remote island in Northern Norway, at the beginning of the 20th century. This book jumped ahead a couple of decades to the last year of the German occupation, 1944-1945. As Nazis withdrew from Northern Norway, they forcibly evacuated more than 70,000 people, including children, young people, the elderly and sick, and destroyed everything to delay the advance of the Russian forces. The book wasn’t directly about this (it happened further north than the setting of the book), but refugees made their way to the area and played a role in the story. It was a part of Norwegian World War II history that was unfamiliar to me so I appreciated the insight into it. I continued to enjoy following Ingrid’s journey in life and look forward to the next installment.


A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

This book was not at all what I expected, and sadly, I did not enjoy it. It started off fine introducing the two very different families who became neighbors, a newly rich white family who built a new house, and a single black mother, a professor of  forestry and ecology, and her biracial teenage son who lived next door. I thought the narrator of the story, a first person plural representing the neighborhood (a la Greek chorus), was interesting and unique, though the obvious foreshadowing annoyed me after a while. I assumed the focus of the story would stay on the relationship between the white daughter and the biracial son and the fate of historic oak tree affected by the new construction, which in and of itself would have been plenty (race, class, privilege, environment) for this little, tight-knit community, but it did not. A whole new element entered the picture which I did not enjoy (and won’t spoil). And the ending left me empty.

  • #unreadBOTMchallenge

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochilt Gonzalez

I don’t really know where to start with this one, but the bottom line is that I really enjoyed it. There were so many elements that resonated with me – a strong, complex female character; family drama and secrets; engaging storylines and writing; and most uniquely, a look at Puerto Rico, both its history and current status, of which I knew next to nothing. A very contemporary story (even a reference to the pandemic at the end!) that takes place in Brooklyn, it’s about Olga, a high profile wedding planner, and her brother Prieto, a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood. Their mother abandoned them at an early age to fight for a militant radical cause and their drug-addicted father died of AIDS leaving them to be raised by their grandmother and close family. It was refreshing to read a story of successful characters from a marginalized group. A lot of issues were packed into this book, but it worked for me.

  • #unreadBOTMchallenge

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.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (March 2022)

I continue to join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. This month I really traveled the world through books and landed on three continents. I visited South Africa, Romania, Norway, and Antarctica.

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update: I’m on track with my reading for this year’s Scandinavian Reading Challenge. March’s focus was the 1930s and I read Chasing the Light by Australian writer Jesse Blackadder which featured Norway’s whaling industry at the time. It certainly was a great book for the challenge, but as I explain below, it wasn’t a favorite reading experience otherwise. For April’s 1940s, I chose to return to Roy Jacobsen’s Barrøy series with White Shadow which takes places in the same area of Northern Norway but in a much narrower time frame than the first one, just the last year of the German occupation of Norway.

For details on the reading challenge and insight into the past, current, and next decades, along with a few reading ideas, visit 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


The Promise by Damon Galgut
(Narrated by Peter Noble)

This was a book club pick that I knew nothing about going in. Interestingly, what ended up intriguing me the most by the end was what bothered me the most at the beginning, the narrative voice and the narrator of the audiobook. At the beginning, I found the tone very annoying — strong, pronounced, and all-encompassing. However, once I realized that was the intended effect (and that the prose was written in free form without quotation marks with the dialogue and narrative merging, something I don’t like), I continued the audiobook with a new perspective and an open mind and found it very enjoyable. The story is about a white South African family and a promise that takes decades to fulfill. The dying mother wanted their long-time servant to receive the house on the property in which she lived. It begins during Apartheid and jumps by decades to the present. The narrator of the story has an attitude and opinions which they don’t hold back, making this a very unique reading/listening experience.


Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel (Narrated by Anne Bogel)

I’ve had this book by a favorite blogger/podcast host on my bookshelf for a couple of years but just never got around to reading it. When I discovered the audiobook was available at hoopla, I downloaded it immediately and decided to make it my next read instead of listening to a podcast. In a way, it would be like a podcast since the author, also host of a favorite podcast, reads it herself. It was a short and sweet listen which provided much useful food for thought regarding decision making. Some of the material was a good reminder of familiar concepts; other sections were new ways of thinking about issues.

 


I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
(Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini)

What an eye-opening and heart-breaking look into life in communist Romania under the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in the 1980s. The story takes place over a span of only a few months in 1989 leading up to the revolution in December. All 17-year-old Cristian really wants to do is write and spend time with the girl he has a crush on, but the regime has other plans for him. He is blackmailed by the secret police into becoming an informer. It was shocking to see how deep and wide the “citizen spy network” worked and its effect on families. I’ve been a great fan of Ruta Sepetys’ previous historical fiction novels, and this new release didn’t disappoint.


Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder

I so wanted to love this book. It was a book about three women competing to become the first women to set foot on Antarctica. Equally intriguing was that it was during a period of Norwegian history unfamiliar to me, Norway’s whaling industry in the 1930s. The historical aspect met my expectations, though did not exceed because it was very fictionalized. The characters were based on real people, but the voyage depicted in the book was actually an amalgamation of various voyages to Antarctica by the women involved. The afterword by the author was important in sorting out what was true and what was not. What turned me off the most, however, was the female camaraderie, or actually lack thereof. On this very long, tough journey in a very male-dominated environment, I was hoping/expecting them to be more well-intentioned towards one another and supportive of each other, but that was not the case, and that was frustrating to me.


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.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (February 2022) & Reading Challenges Update

Once again I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. I always get reading ideas from there and hope to return the favor here.

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update: I finished Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen for the 1900s/1910s prompt (but it actually goes into 1920s as well) and I completed The Assistant, the historical fiction thriller by Kjell Ola Dahl, for the 1920s (which takes place in 1938 as well). I’m now moving on to the 1930s with Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder for a slightly different Norwegian history reading experience. This one takes me away from Norway, but it keeps me in an arena where Norway still plays a role, whaling in the Antarctic.

For details on the reading challenge and insight into the past, current, and next decades, along with a few reading ideas, visit 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


The Yield: A Novel by Tara June Winch

This was not the easiest book to get into, but I’m glad I stuck with it because suddenly (at about 25%) it all began to fall into place and ended up being a very rewarding reading experience. I started by listening to it, but I had a hard time following the story with its three narratives. I switched to the ebook and that made a huge difference. I did not have any background knowledge for this book, not about Australia in general and definitely not Australian indigenous history in particular, which probably hindered my comprehension at the beginning also. I thought the structure of the book with the dictionary by the grandfather, the letter written by the missionary, and the narrative of the granddaughter returning to her homeland for her grandfather’s funeral worked very well together. I really enjoyed seeing how it all came together by the end and it opened my eyes to a whole new chapter in world history, in this case effects of the British colonization of Australia.


In Every Mirror She’s Black: A Novel by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström
(Narrated by Rosemarie Akwafo and Sara Powell)

I was intrigued by the premise of this novel, three very different Black women whose lives unexpectedly intersect via a very rich, white man in Stockholm, Sweden. One is a Nigerian-American top marketing executive in the United States, another is an American model-turned-flight-attendant flying trans-Atlantic flights, and the third is a Somali refugee in Sweden. I was drawn into their stories and struggles and eagerly followed their journeys. I did get frustrated with their actions at times, but I appreciated that they were honest with themselves. The ending was not what I had hoped nor expected for them, but I understand why the author did it (per “A Conversation with the Author” at the end, the setting of Sweden had a lot to do with it). These characters will stay with me for a long time, and I certainly walked away with much to think about. So many social issues were raised. I think this would make a great book club pick. I highly recommend the audiobook!


The Unseen (Ingrid Barrøy #1) by Roy Jacobsen
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw)

This is the first in a tetralogy about Ingrid who lives on the fictional island of Barrøy along the coast in Northern Norway. She is three when the book opens and it’s the beginning of the 20th century. She and her parents, aunt, and grandfather are the only inhabitants of this very remote island. The novel chronicles their life on the island, a life very tied to geography and weather. They survive off their crops, livestock, and fishing with occasional visits to the mainland. Mother, father, and Ingrid all have their dreams and it’s interesting to see how their lives play out as the outside world encroaches upon their own world. The old dialect in the dialogue is a little cumbersome, but there’s not too much of it. Looking forward to seeing how the future affects the inhabitants in the rest of the series.


The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)

This is a standalone historical fiction thriller by the noted Norwegian crime fiction author of the Oslo Detective series. This book introduced me to a time period of Norwegian history I’m very unfamiliar with, the interwar period. The storyline jumps between the 1920s, during the Prohibition era, and 1938, just before World War II breaks out, and follows two characters who at first are on opposite sides of the law as an alcohol smuggler and police officer and then later work together as private investigator and assistant. Their case that sets off the series of events is simple, but the circumstances become complex mixing both past personal history and the then-current situation of secret Nazi officials on Norwegian soil. It was an enjoyable way to learn about a new-to-me historical time period, and especially fun for me was that it took place all over Oslo and very specific place names were mentioned, many of which were very familiar to me. As a thriller, though, it didn’t quite hit the spot for me.


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.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (January 2022) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

It was a surprisingly strong reading start to 2022 and even more surprising was the fact that most of my reads were Nordic books (Icelandic and Norwegian). The high number of books is due to binge reading/listening to the last 2 books in an engrossing crime fiction trilogy as well as reading a short novel and a middle grade book. Future months are not likely to be this full of books.

The 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge is underway. I’m currently reading the first book for the challenge, Norwegian author Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen, a book I’ve had both in original language and in English on my shelf for a while (2022 Reading Intentions, read off my shelf!). This book takes place in the time period 1910s and 1920s and chronicles the life of a family living on a remote island in Northern Norway, a life very tied to geography and weather. For details on the reading challenge and insight into this time period along with a few reading ideas, visit 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
(Narrated by Emily Rankin and Catherine Taber)

I love historical fiction that opens my eyes to a period of time or an event that I have little to no knowledge of, and this book did just that in a big way. The book is based on a real-life scandal in the Memphis, Tennessee, area in which poor children were kidnapped and sold to wealthy families (1920s-1950). Just the thought of that is unbelievable and then seeing it from the perspective of a child experiencing it was heartbreaking. The structure of the book was unique. The story jumped between 1939 when 12-year-old Rill and her younger siblings were kidnapped to the present when a successful daughter returns home to help with her father’s illness and begins to dig into her family’s history. I followed both storylines with equal interest and engagement eager to find out the connection. A 5-star listen and read for me. (I generally listened to it but had to have the ebook available too so I could read in the evening.)


The Island (Hidden Iceland/Hulda Series, #2) by Ragnar Jónasson
(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)
(Narrated by Angela Redman)

After finishing the first book in the Hidden Iceland trilogy last month, I decided to jump on the second book. The ending of the first book was a cliff hanger and the cover of the second book was too enticing to postpone. The structure of the series is unique in that it is in reverse chronological order. In this book, we learn more about investigator Hulda’s past and follow her as she investigates a murder that takes place on the island pictured on the cover. If you’re fascinated by Iceland’s geography, this book is for you. You are immersed in the setting.


The Mist (Hidden Iceland/Hulda Series, #3) by Ragnar Jónasson
(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)
(Narrated by Angela Redman)

I just decided to binge read/listen to this trilogy while I was at it, and I have no regrets. Iceland’s geography continues to play a significant role in the story, and I am fascinated by it. I will keep Ragnar Jónasson on my list of authors to return to, but I will take a break from his crime fiction for the time being. There are other Icelandic crime authors I’d also like to read. I’d like to return to Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Children’s House series and try Eva Bjorg Ægisdóttir’s The Creak on the Stairs (Forbidden Iceland Book 1).


Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born by Mona Høvring (Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin)

I was drawn to the cover (stunning fjord) and title (so odd and unique) of this one. However, when I started reading, there was a disconnect because I had thought the setting would be spring or summer time in a mountain village. Instead it was winter, and every time there was a reference to snow and cold, I was thrown a little. Minor detail in the grand scheme of things, but still an issue for me. It’s a short novel about two sisters in their early twenties who go to a mountain hotel to reconnect. Growing up they had been very close but then the older one abruptly left home to marry and ended up at a sanatorium after a nervous breakdown. This is their opportunity to find the relationship they had when they were young, but circumstances arise making it hard. It had a dreamlike quality and the writing/translation was lovely. A very enjoyable book! (But the title is still a mystery to me.)

#SlothyWorldReads2022: Book from the country you’re from (Norway)


Our Own Little Paradise by Marianne Kaurin (Middle Grade)
(Translated from the Norwegian by Olivia Lasky)

I came across this Norwegian middle grade book in translation at Netgalley and couldn’t resist since I was familiar with the author, was drawn to the cover, and liked the premise. On the last day of 6th grade when Nora’s classmates share all sorts of foreign vacation plans for the summer, Nora ends up lying about an upcoming trip to the tropics. However, she is outed by a new boy in class who lives in her apartment complex. The summer spirals into much more than she ever expected in so many ways. It was a very enjoyable and heartwarming book about a 12-year-old’s desire to fit in and make friends with the added difficulty and pressure of social media and socio-economic differences, all with a touch of Norwegian culture thrown in.

Thanks to Netgalley and Arctis Books for an advance copy of this! It will be released on April 12, 2022.


Dálvi: Six Years in the Arctic Tundra by Laura Galloway
(Narrated by Laura Lefkow)

I’m not usually drawn to memoirs, but the cover and premise of this one intrigued me. A woman from Indiana finds she shares some DNA with the Sámi people, the indigenous people of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and plans a trip to visit the area. This first visit eventually leads to a 6-years-long stay there. The memoir is an absorbing account of her time in Sápmi interspersed with reflections on her childhood and early adult life in the US. It provides a fascinating, unique look at the modern culture of the Sámi and their relationship with outsiders. I was captivated by this book. Going to the Scandinavian Arctic is now even higher on my bucket list.

Book Voyage: Read Around the World Reading Challenge: Arctic & Antarctic


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 Reading Intentions for 2022

There’s no time like a new year to set some intentions, in this case related to reading. 2021 saw many wonderful reading experiences (see my Goodreads list of completed books). Highlights included completing the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, listening to the 40-hour-plus The Eighth Life, discovering new Scandinavian authors to return to (in particular Norwegian Ingvild H. Rishøi and Swedes M.T. Edvardsson and Stina Jackson), and reading around the world. In the hopes of having an equally satisfying and fulfilling year in 2022, I’ve set some intentions to help guide my reading. Otherwise, I might find myself in a state of limbo due to indecision.

Continue with my Scandinavian reading 🇳🇴🇸🇪🇩🇰

This is a no brainer intention, one that I’ve had for several years now. For the past 4 years, I’ve done it by creating a Scandinavian Reading Challenge with prompts to complete in no particular order, and I’ve really enjoyed expanding and diversifying my Scandinavian reading that way. This year, however, instead of creating my own prompts, I will be participating in The Book Girls’ Decades Reading Challenge and reading a Scandinavian book, most likely a Norwegian one, that takes place in each of the decades from the 1910s through the 2010s finishing with a book spanning multiple decades – 12 books in total. I’m very excited about the new iteration of my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. You can read more about it on its page, 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

Read off my shelf 📚

This year I would really like to make progress on reading books I already have on my shelf. I look forward to doing the research and finding appropriate books for my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, but I will prioritize books I already have on my shelf, which includes many in Norwegian. I also have many unread Book of the Month selections waiting patiently and I want to work on reading those as well.

Read from more places in the world 🌍 🌎

I’ve always enjoyed reading from around the world, but I haven’t necessarily kept track of places I’ve visited through books. Last year I discovered and worked on The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge. I didn’t follow their timeline, just their map. I read books for every area of the world, many times multiple books for an area, but moving forward I would like to read more from certain areas: Central and South America, Middle East, and Africa. In August, Women in Translation Month returns, a favorite reading event, and I will continue to focus on authors from outside Western Europe for that.

Improve with sharing on Instagram

I enjoy the bookstagram community very much. I have my favorite accounts that I follow. My intention when I set up my account a few years ago was to share my interest and love of Scandinavian books and other books in translation and interact with fellow readers and participate in the community. It hasn’t quite worked out that way so I’ll see how I can improve with that this year.


I am excited about the new reading year ahead, in particular my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. Have you set any reading intentions for the new year?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (October & November 2021)

Better late than never in sharing recent reads! October and November were busy months with less time and energy to read and write. Hence the two months are shared together now at the end of December. At least they were very productive months in the sense that I finished three unread Book of the Month selections, checked off two new areas of the world for The Book Girls’ Guide Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge, and made progress on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. I also felt a great sense of accomplishment when I finished The Eighth Life, a 41-hour audiobook which took me 3 months to finish but was so worth it.

How’s your reading life been lately?


The Eighth Life (for Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili
(Translated from the German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin)
(Narrated by Tavia Gilbert)

This audiobook was phenomenal. I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had. Not only was the story engrossing and eye-opening, but also the narrator had such great expression and feeling for each of the many characters. It’s the story of a Georgian family, in particular its women, beginning in the early 1900s until the present day. We get an insider’s view of the tumultuous and at times gruesome history of the Russian Empire/Union of Soviet Socialist Republics/Russia. There’s a secret and dangerous chocolate recipe, love and loss, happiness and heartbreak. I highly recommend it, but it is a big undertaking and commitment.

🌍 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Eastern Europe & Russia


The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I didn’t hesitate to pick this book up since I really enjoyed both The Nightingale and The Great Alone. However, I wasn’t as much a fan of this one, though I still enjoyed it. This one takes readers to the Dust Bowl, Texas in particular, during the Great Depression and follows Elsa as she struggles to make a life for herself and her kids with her husband, whom she was forced to marry, and his family. I did not realize just how hard and tenuous life in the Great Plains was at this time. I admired Elsa and agonized with her about her children’s lives. The insight into life in California for migrants was an unexpected but welcomed reading experience. Nothing was ever easy for Elsa, but she powered through with great perseverance and strength.

🌎 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North America
📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson
(Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles)

This is a legal/psychological thriller that takes place in Lund, Sweden, in the southern end of Sweden. An 18-year-old girl is accused of murdering a man 15 years older than her. Both her father, a pastor, and her mother, a criminal defense attorney, struggle with trying to understand and defend her. I always appreciate a story about complicated family dynamics, and this book has a unique structure as well. The first part is from the father’s perspective which is followed by the daughter’s perspective. Finally, the mother’s perspective is shared. I really enjoyed it, in particular how the whole story was revealed through the different perspectives one after the after.

🇸🇪 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A Scandinavian book I’ve been meaning to read📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

This was an unread Book of the Month selection inspired by Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) and The Book Girls’ Book Voyage’s focus on South America in October. It was a short novel that packed a powerful punch. It’s about a mixed status family separated by unfortunate circumstances. The mother and two children are in the United States while the father and one daughter are back in Colombia. The story alternates between the past (shedding light on how the family, who was at one point all together in the US, got to this point) and the present (when the daughter in Colombia is urgently trying to return to her father from a correctional facility so she can be reunited with her mother in the US). I really appreciated the insight into life in Bogotá as well as into the experiences of undocumented in the US.

🌎 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: South America (Colombia)
📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo
(Narrated by Sara Powell)

I picked this somewhat on a whim. I wanted something different from what I’d recently been reading, and the setting of London and a West African country intrigued me. It was a surprisingly compelling listen. The narrator’s interpretation of the main character was wonderful. Anna Bain, a mixed race woman in her late 40s, is newly separated from her husband of many years. Her adult daughter is busy with work, and her mother recently died. While going through her mother’s belongings, she discovers a diary belonging to her African father whom she never knew. This discovery takes her to her father’s country, fictional Bamana, where she encounters a variety of new experiences. I really enjoyed this story of new beginnings.


What have you been reading lately?

As always, 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.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (August & September 2021): #WITmonth

I devoted August along with September to reading women in translation (#WITmonth) from outside Scandinavia, thus unfortunately making little progress on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge these last couple of months. This year’s #WITmonth selections brought me all over the world — Basque Country in Spain, Gulf of Finland, Moroccan countryside, working class neighborhood in Thailand, and the former Soviet republic of Georgia — through the eyes of female authors intimately familiar with their regions. Their perspectives provided a deeper look at the history and culture of these countries, many of which I have little knowledge of.

What have you been reading lately?


The Silence of the White City (Trilogy of the White City #1) by Eva García Sáenz 🇪🇸📖 (Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor)

I loved how this crime fiction novel transported me to Basque Country in northern Spain. A police inspector and his partner are assigned to investigate a series of brutal, ritualistic murders that resemble ones from 20 years ago. However, the perpetrator of those murders is still behind bars. Is he involved from within or has he been wrongly imprisoned? The storyline was complex and layered, jumping back and forth in time, and incorporated elements of the region’s traditions and mythology, resulting in a very engaging read. I’m eager to read book 2 in the series!

 

Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Western Europe (Spain)


The Summer Book by Tove Jansson 🇫🇮📖
(Translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal)

This was a very enjoyable book, a perfect quiet, summer read. It’s a series of vignettes about a very young girl and her elderly grandmother during summer time on a remote island in the Gulf of Finland. Their relationship is very sweet. The girl is at times temperamental and demanding, but the grandmother is always understanding and straightforward, at times playful and creative. They discuss and handle topics ranging from the inconsequential to the very significant. The island and nature play equally important roles in the story as the girl and her grandmother. Sometimes this is exactly the type of book you need.

I felt a special connection to the book because I grew up spending summers on an island along the eastern coast of Norway, not as remote as this one, but somewhat rustic. Reading this book brought back many warm memories from my island summers as a child.

Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Book Set on an Island (Finland)


In the Country of Others: A Novel by Leïla Slimani 🇲🇦📖
(Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)

This is the story of French woman Mathilde who falls in love with Amine, a Moroccan soldier fighting for France in World War II. They marry, move to an inherited farm in Morocco, and raise a family during the time when colonial Morocco is fighting for independence from France. Mathilda struggles with their isolated life on the rocky farm in a tough climate. Also, raising two interracial children is not easy in a community where she is not accepted fully by anyone. The story weaves seamlessly between the different characters’ perspectives making this a compelling look at colonial Morocco in the 1950s. This appears to be the first in a planned trilogy, and I look forward to seeing how Mathilda’s life and those of her children evolve in the future.

Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Africa (Morocco)


The Last Exiles: A Novel by Ann Shin 🇰🇵📖

This novel was a departure from my books by women in translation these last two months, but I was inspired by an upcoming author chat on Instagram hosted by @owlslittlelibrary. The story of a young university couple from very different backgrounds and their defection from North Korea to China was an intriguing one. I appreciated the insight into brokers, the black market, human trafficking, and the general plight of illegal immigrants in China. However, I felt the love story between the couple didn’t warrant the woman’s actions, and I felt their journeys were too easy and quick. Their experiences in China, however, were more descriptive and plausible, and that aspect of the book made a great impression on me.

Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North Asia (North Korea)


Bright by Duanwad Pimwana 🇹🇭📖
(Translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul)

This book has been on my TBR for #WITmonth for a couple of years now, and I’m so glad I finally checked it off. It reminded me a bit of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book that I recently read in that it also is a series of vignettes about a young child and their experiences with people around them. In this case, five-year-old Kampol, or Boy as he’s known to those around him, is abandoned by his parents outside their run-down apartment building in their working class neighborhood in Thailand. The community steps up and takes turns housing and feeding him. The reader meet all sorts of characters, young and old, who help Boy overcome his abandonment and sadness. It’s a heartwarming book that gives intriguing glimpses into the lives of a Thai working class neighborhood.

Book Voyage: Read Around the World: South Asia (Thailand)


The Eighth Life (for Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili
(Translated from the German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin)
(Narrated by Tavia Gilbert)

I’m a little over half way through the book but that is the equivalent of about 2 books! This is a long one, 944 pages or 41 hours of listening, but it’s extremely engrossing and I’m always eager to return to it. I’m grateful that hoopla offers the audiobook because then I can just keep reborrowing it until I’m done. It’s the story of a Georgian family, in particular its women, beginning in the early 1900s. We get an insider’s view of the tumultuous history of Russian Empire/Union of Soviet Socialist Republics/Russia. Niza, born in 1974, is telling the family’s story to her niece Brilka starting with their great grandmother Stasia. If long books or audiobooks are your thing, I highly recommend this one even though I’m not done yet.

Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Eastern Europe & Russia


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.

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 🇵🇸 🎧📖
(Narrated by Leila Buck)

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.