What I’ve Been Reading Lately (August 2022) & #WITmonth Wrap-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.

For me, August was all about reading women in translation for Women in Translation Month. As I’ve written before, I usually focus on female authors outside of Scandinavia for this reading event, but this year I actually focused on Norwegian female authors since I had read so few of them so far this year. Of the two novels I read, one was a recently released debut novel and the other by a favorite author. Both were 5-star reads. Both were also longer books, so I wasn’t able to read as many as I would have liked to.

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update:

Neither of the novels I read for #WITmonth worked for August’s decade for the reading challenge, the 1980s. I was unable to find one by a Norwegian female author so I started reading Gunnar Staalesen’s Fallen Angels translated by Don Bartlett, a crime novel that takes place in Bergen in the 1980s. For September’s 1990s prompt, I plan to remain in Bergen with Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Present Tense Machine: A Novel translated by Kari Dickson. 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?


Agnes’s Place by Marit Larsen, Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson)

I’m always curious about Norwegian children’s books that are translated into English. What aspects of Norwegian culture are present, if any? There’s nothing particularly Norwegian about this one besides a mention and illustration of heart waffles as a snack. However, noticeable is that the little girl is not your stereotypical white, blonde Norwegian, but instead she has darker skin and black hair. Diverse characters are also featured in the apartment building’s residents. It’s a very sweet book about a 5-year old girl who yearns to connect with a new girl who moves into her apartment building. The illustrations are lovely with lots of detail. This would make a great read-aloud with a young child — so much to observe in the illustrations and to discuss regarding Agnes’ feelings. (Currently available for free via kindle unlimited.)


Reptile Memoirs: A Novel by Silje Ulstein 🎧
(Translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough)
(Narrated by Julie Maisey)

I really enjoyed this one — the characters, the storylines, the structure, the settings, the writing/translation, the twists. It all came together for a great ride. But it’s certainly not for everyone. Not only do you have to keep track of different settings and multiple perspectives (including the snake’s!), but also trigger warnings abound. It’s a thriller that takes place in western Norway – Ålesund in the early 2000s and Kristiansund over 6 days in 2017. In Ålesund, Liv and her housemates spontaneously decide to buy a python and Liv becomes obsessed with it. In Kristiansund, Mariam’s 11-year-old daughter disappears and detectives immediately suspect Mariam. Over time, the two plot lines intersect. As the book jacket says and I can’t say it any better, it is “a brilliantly twisty and unusual literary thriller.” I highly recommend the audiobook. It was an excellent narration.

  • Summer Book Bingo: A mystery; Takes place in a country other than the US

The Last Wild Horses: A Novel by Maja Lunde 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley)

This is the third book in Maja Lunde’s The Climate Quartet. The fourth one is coming out this fall in Norway (English translation TBD). I loved the first installment, The History of Bees: A Novel, and enjoyed the second one, The End of the Ocean: A Novel. When I heard the fourth one was expected soon, I was very eager to read the third one that I already had on my shelf in Norwegian. I actually alternated between my Norwegian physical copy Przewalskis hest and the English ebook depending on my reading situation/mood. I really enjoyed this one. It jumped between Norway in 2064, Mongolia in 1992, and St. Petersburg/Mongolia in 1882. The thread among the three storylines is the extinction of wild horses, and each of the storylines explores complicated relationships with those closest to us. There were also ties to the first two novels in the quartet which I really appreciated (and caused me to like the second one even more). I highly recommend the quartet and am eagerly anticipating the fourth and final installment.

  • Summer Book Bingo: Takes place in a country other than the US

What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in purchasing some Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, visit 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 (July 2022) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

July was a fun reading month! I had time to read and each book was so different from the others. I caught up on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge which I had fallen behind on, and a reading challenge happening at work gave me the incentive I needed to read some middle grade and YA that had been on my TBR list for a while.

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update: In July, I finally completed June’s 1960s prompt with the Norwegian book Bare en mor, the fourth book in The Barrøy Chronicles by Roy Jacobsen, which takes place along the coast in northern Norway. This reading experience was even more meaningful since I was on vacation in the same area at the time of reading it. For July’s 1970s prompt, I read Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø which took place in Oslo. Details on both books can be found below.

I am unsure what to read for August’s 1980s prompt. Ideally, I would love to find a book by a Norwegian female author that takes place in the 1980s, but I’m having trouble finding titles. 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.

TBR List for WITMonth 2022

August is Women in Translation Month so this month I’m enjoying just that, women in translation, and I have many titles on my TBR list for the month. Normally, I focus on female authors outside of Scandinavia for WITmonth since I usually read many Scandinavian female authors throughout the year, but that has not been the case this year. I’m off to a great start with Reptile Memoirs: A Novel by Silje Ulstein translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough (listening to audiobook narrated by Julie Maisey) and The Last Wild Horses: A Novel by Maja Lunde translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley, which I’m alternating with the Norwegian version, Przewalskis hest.

What have you been reading lately?


“Bare en mor” (The Barrøy Chronicles, 4) by Roy Jacobsen

I loved the fourth and final book in Roy Jacobsen’s The Barrøy Chronicles series. I was sad to leave Ingrid’s world behind when it ended. Ingrid is a smart, independent, admirable woman born, raised, and living on a fictional remote island in northern Norway (south of Lofoten which is where we were visiting at the time of this reading). This final installment takes place when Ingrid is in her 50s and covers a time period of about 15 years. It’s been five years since she returned from her trip at the end of WWII seeking the father of her child in vain (book #3). The island is now alive with people, all ages, both immediate family and found family. The book chronicles their lives which includes the men leaving for winter fishing in Lofoten, a dangerous and risky endeavor, while the women stay home tending to the household. This may have been my favorite book of the series. (The English translation, Just a Mother translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, will be released on March 7, 2023.)


Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

I really enjoyed this reading experience. This is a middle grade book written in verse about Jude, a 12-year-old Muslim girl, who leaves Syria with her mother as unrest and violence escalate around the country and encroach upon their town by the sea. Leaving her father and older brother behind, they travel to Cincinnati to stay with family until it’s safe to return home again. Jude has to learn how to get along with her American cousin, navigate her new American school, make new friends, improve her English, and make sense of her place in this new world. It’s a moving and hopeful story of a brave, strong girl.

  • Summer Book Bingo: A book from my school’s reading list; A book that won a Newbery award (Medal or Honor book)

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

This graphic novel has been on my shelf for a while and this summer’s book bingo was the just the right nudge to finally read it. It’s an eye-opening look at Japanese internment in the US during World War II. George Takei recounts his childhood when he and his family were forced to leave their home in Los Angeles and spent the next few years in “relocation centers” around the country only due to their Japanese ancestry. I learned quite a bit from this book: the process of how it was carried out, what living conditions were like, and how Japanese-Americans had to make difficult choices along the way that made the experience even worse.

  • Summer Book Bingo: A graphic novel; A book from my school’s reading list

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

This is a young adult novel that’s been on my TBR list for a while. It’s the story of Julia, daughter of Mexican immigrants, who has other plans than being the perfect Mexican daughter. She wants to leave town after graduation and go to college. At the same time, she’s dealing with the sudden death of her older sister who had been the perfect Mexican daughter, staying close to home once she was done with high school. It’s written in the first person perspective of Julia. Julia has a strong, at times brusque and confrontational personality, which I wasn’t a fan of. However, at the same time, she’s a voracious reader and a writer, so her language was at times very impressive. It was an interesting combination.

  • Summer Book Bingo: A book with a Hispanic or Latina main character

Stronghold: One Man’s Quest to Save the World’s Wild Salmon by Tucker Malarkey (Narrated by Cassandra Campbell)

I wasn’t thrilled when this nonfiction book was picked as our book club read, but I knew it would be good for me to read beyond my comfort zone. It turned out to be a five-star read for me. It was a surprisingly fascinating and engaging read about Guido Rahr and his passionate, lifelong mission to save the world’s wild salmon by protecting their rivers. In particular, I really enjoyed learning about his childhood and young adulthood, his travels all over the world to explore the natural world, and his passion and persistence for his work. A bonus was learning so much about salmon, a fascinating fish. I have a totally new understanding of and respect for wild salmon.

  • Summer Book Bingo: A nonfiction book on the subject of your choice

Blood on Snow (Blood on Snow, #1) by Jo Nesbø
(Translated from the Norwegian by Neil Smith)

Norwegian author Jo Nesbø is best known for his Harry Hole crime fiction series, of which I’ve read two. One, The Snowman, I really enjoyed, but the other, The Bat, not so much, so I was curious about some of his other non-Harry Hole work. Blood on Snow is a standalone book and not a typical crime fiction novel but more of a “crime fiction adjacent” one. It is Nordic Noir in the sense that it takes place in a bleak setting (dark, cold days during wintertime in Oslo), the plot includes brutal crimes, and the protagonist is troubled. However, the protagonist is not a police detective but instead the fixer of a crime boss and the story is from his perspective. Even though he kills for a living, he has a conscience, in particular with regards to the treatment of women. Despite having dyslexia, he enjoys reading and writing. It’s an interesting take on crime fiction which I enjoyed and I would consider reading the companion book in the series, Midnight Sun (mostly because it takes place in northern Norway which intrigues me).


What have you been reading lately?

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 2022) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

With summer now upon us, I am back on track with my reading. My goals for the summer are to catch up on reading challenges, play along with a summer reading bingo that is happening at work, and prepare and participate in Women in Translation Month #WITMonth in August.

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: I’m not quite up-to-date on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge at the moment. In June, I finished Eyes of the Rigel, book 3 of The Barrøy Chronicles, for the postwar/1950s period (May) and then decided to begin book 4, Bare en mor (Just a Mother out in English November 10, 2022) right away hoping it would cover the 1960s as well (June). I’m only half way through and have yet to find out.

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 Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan
(Narrated by Leila Buck, 14 hrs 15 min)

Last year I read the author’s debut novel Salt Houses, which I really enjoyed, so when her second novel was recommended on a recent podcast with an aside that the listening experience was amazing, it quickly became my next listen. It didn’t disappoint. It’s the story of Mazna and Idris, a Syrian woman and a Lebanese man who married and emigrated from Beirut to a small town in the California desert, and their three adult children who have dispersed to Beirut, Brooklyn, and Austin. They are all brought together in Beirut when the father decides to sell the family ancestral home. It’s full of family drama – deep secrets and fraught relationships – with the added layer of the Lebanese Civil War and its legacy. Told through different perspectives and storylines that go back and forth in time, it was a very engaging and absorbing listen, which once again brought a part of the world unfamiliar to me closer to home.


One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
(Narrated by Lauren Graham, 6 hrs)

I needed a light and easy audiobook that I could wrap up before our summer trip, and what better choice than one that would take me to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Sadly, this book wasn’t for me. Yes, I escaped to Positano and vicariously enjoyed delicious food and fabulous views, but I was not a fan of the storyline. Thirty-something Katy’s mother, who was her best friend, just died of cancer and Katy decides to take the trip that they had planned to do together anyways. She’s distraught and lost, and on top of that, questioning her marriage. While in Positano she meets two Americans, Carol, who is just like her mother, and Adam, who is totally unlike her husband. There’s a lot of self-reflection and I’m not sure whether time travel or mental breakdown, but she finds herself actually with her mother as a 30-year-old. At that point, I almost stopped listening, but curiosity and the fact that it was a short listen got me to finish it.

  • Summer Reading Bingo: Takes place outside the US

Unhinged (Alexander Blix #3) by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger
(Translated from the Norwegian by Megan Turney)

I needed a book that would jump start my summer reading so I finally read the third and latest English language installment in this Norwegian duo’s crime series. Like the others, it took place in Oslo and there were many places I recognized and knew, but the structure was very different, at least for the first half. It alternated between the interrogation of police office Alexander Blix about why he had shot someone, the interrogation of journalist Emma Ramm who saw what had happened, and the storyline of how the person was killed, so a lot of telling with jumps to actual action. The second half returned to a more traditional structure, but with a change in the focus of the investigation and a change in role for Blix. Unfortunately, the book was a bit of a disappointment for me. I wasn’t a fan of the structure of the first half and I didn’t like the new role for Blix.

  • Summer Reading Bingo: One-word title

Eyes of the Rigel (The Barrøy Chronicles Book 3) by Roy Jacobsen
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw)

This is the third in a series of four about Ingrid, an independent woman born, raised, and living on a remote island in Northern Norway in the 1900s. This installment takes place just after World War II. Ingrid leaves the island with her baby girl and travels throughout Norway on foot/train/bus to track down the father, a Russian prisoner of war who spent a short while on the island towards the end of the war as Ingrid nursed him back to health after he had  survived the sinking of the prisoner ship Rigel. All sorts of people help her find the way, provide shelter and food, and share information on the father providing an interesting picture of postwar Norway. The writing style and dialogue are spare and minimal, but Ingrid’s journey and determination to find him kept me engaged. Book 4 is already purchased and ready to be read (in Norwegian since it is not available in English translation yet, but expected November 10, 2022, by MacLehose Press, UK).


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, and there were many examples of Norwegian culture present, my favorite being the summertime shrimp.

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.

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

I finished the 2021 reading year on a high note, and thinking back, it’s been a very good reading year – many good books in a variety of genres from diverse authors in many different settings.

Mid-year I discovered The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge and completed it with books I had already read during the year and continued on my own schedule for the rest of the year. It’s an impressive selection of books I’ve read, if I may say so myself; click here to see the map with completed reads. One area remains, Arctic & Antarctic, which I plan to complete in January with a book that takes place in the Scandinavian Arctic area.

I also completed my Scandinavian Reading Challenge by the end of year unlike other years when I’ve had to wrap up some reads in the first month of the new year. Of the 12 books I read for the challenge, half were by non-Norwegian authors, which I was pleased to see, but only three were in Norwegian, a number I would like to increase in the next year.

Speaking of my next Scandinavian Reading Challenge, it will be a little different in 2022. Instead of creating my own prompts for the challenge, I will be participating in The Book Girls’ Decades Reading Challenge and reading Scandinavian plus potentially Icelandic and Finnish books to complete those prompts. Stay tuned for more information on that.

How’s your reading year been, and what have you been reading lately?


The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

This was a spontaneous read that was nowhere near my TBR list, but I was immediately drawn to the cover and the premise: a mother and teenage stepdaughter’s journey to discover what’s going on when their husband/father suddenly disappears leaving only a mysterious note. The question of whether we can ever truly know the people we love the most is an intriguing one. I enjoyed the evolving relationship between the stepdaughter and mother. It was a fun read that took me from the houseboats of Sausalito, CA, to the university town of Austin, Texas.

 


The Tenant (Kørner and Werner #1) by Katrine Engberg
(Translated from the Danish by Tara Chace)

Katrine Engberg is a Danish crime writer, a new-to-me Scandinavian author whom I learned about from Abby at Crime by the Book, a great fan of Nordic Noir. I definitely enjoyed the setting of Copenhagen during summer time, and the crime and ensuing investigation were intriguing. However, I was not a fan of the pair of male and female investigators. They just did not seem like good partners. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the writing and/or the translation was not as smooth as I had expected. There were unnecessary sexual descriptions and subplots. At times some translated words seemed more vulgar than they needed to be and this turned me off. Upon checking a Norwegian version of the book, it seems this may be a translation issue?

🇩🇰 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A book by a new-to-me Scandinavian author


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

This was an unread Book of the Month selection that my book club chose to read, and it made for a very good discussion. It’s an unusual reading experience, a suspenseful, slow burn with nothing really happening, just the characters going about their business as something unknown and mysterious is happening in the background. A family with teenage kids rents a house for a week’s vacation on Long Island, NY, but their stay is interrupted when an older couple arrives after a blackout has hit New York City. With no TV, Internet, or cell service, they try to figure out what’s happening. It’s a book that leaves the reader with many questions, many of which stay unanswered. It’s a great one for book clubs because everyone will have different opinions on the writing style, characters, and plot.

📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


The Darkness (Hidden Iceland/Hulda Series, #1) by Ragnar Jónasson
(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)

This best-selling Icelandic crime author has been on my radar for a long time thanks, once again, to Abby at Crime by the Book. I didn’t know whether to start with his debut crime series, Dark Iceland, or this newer one, Hidden Iceland. I ended up just selecting what was available immediately. A traditional police procedural, it was a very captivating read. I liked the main character Hulda Hermannsdóttir, a 64-year-old detective forced into early retirement, who takes on one last case, a cold case about a dead female Russian asylum seeker. I liked the setting, Iceland during spring time with glimpses of winter time. I learned after finishing the book that this trilogy is in reverse chronological order. Knowing this and with the ending as it was, I’m eager to continue the series sooner rather than later.

🇮🇸 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A book set in a Nordic country you would like to visit or revisit


Winter Stories by Ingvild H. Rishøi
(Translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley)

I don’t normally read short stories, but at a virtual event with Norwegian authors, this particular author was mentioned as a must-read and I was drawn to the serene winter cover, so I decided I’d save it as a winter read. It’s a collection of three long short stories, all of which take place during winter time in Norway and are about vulnerable people (a young single mother, an ex-convict, and a teenager) trying to do their best for the young children in their lives, but with difficulty. The author does a compelling job of exploring their struggles, and in every story there’s an unexpected stranger whose compassion makes a significant difference. A five-star read for me.

🇳🇴 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A Nordic book you chose for the cover AND A Nordic book in genre you don’t normally read


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 (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 (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. (See images here.) 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
  • A Nordic book in a genre you don’t normally read
  • 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 (October & November 2020) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

October was a slow reading month so I saved my two reads from that month to share this month. It’s been a very varied period of reading and listening: two children’s books about the Sámi Indigenous peoples of Northern Europe, an LA-based contemporary novel, two historical fiction both coincidentally about a village woman and a man of faith not from the community (luckily different settings, one England in the mid-1600s and the other Norway in 1880), and finally a contemporary crime fiction set in Oslo.

I still have a couple of categories on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge to cross off. Currently, I’m reading a Scandinavian classic, Sigrid Undset’s third book in the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. Still to read are a book by or about refugees to Scandinavia (planning Sara Omar’s Skyggedanseren translated from the Danish to the Norwegian) and a Scandinavian book with a film or TV adaptation (haven’t decided yet). Would love to hear about any Scandinavian/Nordic books you’ve read!

What have you been reading lately?


Samer by Sigbjørn Skåden, Illustrated by Ketil Selnes

This is a Norwegian children’s book for ages 9-12 that I discovered when researching Sámi culture and history for a special event I was helping plan at the elementary school where I work. (Special thanks to my mother who helped make it possible for me to read it here in the US!) It’s written by a Sámi author and is even available in the Sámi language. My knowledge of Sámi history was very limited. Reading this book was enlightening and provided a good basis on Sámi history and issues. However, I still have much to learn. Too bad it’s not available in English as it would be a good introduction to Sámi culture and history for English language readers.

Reading Challenges:


Children of the Northlights by Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

This was another book I added to my reading list for my school project. It has been on my bookshelf for a long time and was a delight to finally read. First published in 1935, it was written after extensive visits by the authors to the land of the Sámi in the early 1930s. Interestingly, this newer edition published in 2012 includes a note in the beginning noting the authors’ use of the term “Lapp” which is now considered derogatory. The story follows Sámi siblings Lise and Lasse as they go about their daily lives during winter time. I especially enjoyed reading about their relationship with their reindeer and seeing all the pictures featuring Sámi daily life during winter. I question whether Sámi children’s school experience was as pleasant as depicted in the story since the book covers a time period when Sámi were forced to become and learn Norwegian (per an official Norwegianization policy).

Reading Challenges:


The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
(Narrated by Greta Jung)

I was drawn to this book because it was a contemporary immigrant story that takes place in Los Angeles with a family mystery to boot. It’s about Margot who returns to her childhood home in Koreatown only to discover that her mother, Mina Lee, is dead in the apartment. In the process of trying to find out the true cause of death, Margot learns about her mother’s difficult past. There’s a dual timeline: Margot in 2014 when she discovers her dead mother and 1987 when her mother arrived in Los Angeles as an undocumented immigrant from Korea. I started this book as an audiobook but switched to ebook. I felt the narrator did not do justice to the characters. I enjoyed Margot’s and Mina Lee’s stories, and I got a kick out of the setting being here in Los Angeles where the characters visited familiar places, in particular Santa Monica Pier in both timelines, but the narrator’s rendition of the characters grated on me. Finishing the book by reading it made a big difference. I recommend this book but suggest you read it instead of listening to it.

Reading Challenges:


Tidelands (Fairmile #1) by Philippa Gregory
(Narrated by Louise Brealey)

This was a book club pick that I wasn’t overly thrilled to read. I love historical fiction, but England in the 1600s didn’t really interest me as much as other times and places, or at least so I thought. It turned out I loved this book. It was not about royalty as I had assumed it would be. Rather, it was about an ordinary person, Alinor, a poor woman whose husband had left her and their two kids to fend for themselves in a remote village. The story takes places during England’s Civil War in 1648, and religious and political history (Royalists vs. Parliamentarians and Catholicism vs. Protestanism) play a role but not in a way that requires any background knowledge. I got so wrapped up in Alinor’s life and the hardship and judging she had to endure. I admired her strength, perseverance, and independence. The whole book club group enjoyed this book so much that we selected book number two in the series, Dark Tides, for our next read. The audiobook was an excellent listen.

Reading Challenges:


Death Deserved (Alexander Blix & Emma Ramm #1) by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger
(Translated from the Norwegian by Anne Bruce)

Jørn Lier Horst is a favorite Norwegian crime fiction author with his William Wisting series, but Thomas Enger is new to me. Their joint project intrigued me. I always enjoy returning to my native Oslo through books, and this story really took advantage of Oslo and the surrounding areas as the setting. The main characters, veteran police office Alexander Blix and celebrity blogger Emma Ramm, were smart and likeable, and the plot was very engaging with a satisfying end. I look forward to the next installment in the series, Smoke Screen, coming out later this month.

Reading Challenges:


The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting
(Translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin)

I loved Lars Mytting’s The Sixteen Trees of the Somme so The Bell in the Lake, the first book in his new trilogy, was high on my TBR list. When it was released in English during the pandemic, I had the chance to listen in on a  virtual chat between the author and translator and became even more enthusiastic about it.

The story takes place in the 1880s in the valley of Gudbrandsdalen in central Norway (also the setting of Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter). It’s about a young village woman who is torn between two outsiders in the community, the new priest who’s selling the village’s stave church to Germany and the German artist/architect who’s come to draw the church so it can be resurrected properly once it arrives in Germany.

I had mixed feelings about the book, much of it having to do with wanting and expecting to love it. I did love the setting and the historical aspect of the story. Getting a glimpse of life in Norway in the 1880s was intriguing, and stave churches have always interested me. Mytting’s descriptive writing really enhanced those aspects. However, I had trouble getting into the story itself. It was a little slow to get going, and at times the dialogue was a bit cumbersome. The dialogue was written in an old Norwegian dialect and it was also translated into an old English dialect. Another issue I had was not totally understanding the chemistry between the characters. Despite this, however, I am very eager to read the second book in the series, Hekneveven. It jumps ahead to the early 1900s and continues the legacy of the stave church, its bells, and descendants of the first book. It came out in Norway in October 2020 to great acclaim. The English translation’s release date is TBD.

Reading Challenges:


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 day or so. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone. My most recent read, Death Deserved, and many other recent books I’ve enjoyed are currently on sale for $0.99 (as of the publication of this post).

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.

Reading Lately (June 2019): Reading Challenges Update

I haven’t been good about sharing what books I’ve been reading lately – first due to busy end-of-school-year business and then vacation travel – so this post covers the last three months. It was a slow reading period to begin with, but then with summer upon me, my pace picked up!

Now that we’re midway through the year, I’m also taking stock of where I am with my reading challenges. This year I’m participating in three reading challenges: my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge, the Reading Women Challenge, and Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge. Reading challenges force me to research new-to-me genres and authors and read books I wouldn’t otherwise, a process I greatly enjoy.

I have completed half the prompts for each of the challenges so I’m on track. However, I need to stay focused, otherwise I’ll be scrambling at the end. I’ll continue to try to find as much overlap as possible between the challenges and read books I already own. My top priority will be to complete my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge. For a look at what I’ve read for each of the challenges so far, visit the following links:

August is Women in Translation Month so I’m thinking about that as well. I have books by female authors from South Korea, Japan, Oman, and Thailand on my radar and look forward to reading some of those.

How’s your reading life been lately?


The English Wife by Lauren Willig

This was a book club pick that didn’t quite satisfy me. The setting during the Gilded Age in New York City was new to me (in fiction) and I always enjoy getting a glimpse into history through fiction, but I wasn’t particularly interested in this time period. Luckily, the structure of the storytelling intrigued me. There was the storyline with the discovery of the murdered husband and the missing wife and the ensuing quest to solve that mystery. And in alternating chapters, readers followed the husband and wife a few years earlier when they first met in London. Seeing the two timelines approach each other and trying to figure out the mystery of the missing wife and murdered husband kept me reading.

Reading Challenges: 


The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

(Translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger)

I was drawn to this book the minute I saw the cover picturing the desolate fjord with the lone rowboat and only a pop of red for color, and the title’s reference to birds intrigued me as well. Both aspects – setting and birds – turned out to play major roles in this psychological suspense story. Allis abruptly leaves her life in the city and takes on a job as a housekeeper and gardener at the isolated home of Bagge, a man awaiting the return of his wife. Bagge is a quiet, mysterious man. They develop an uneasy, tense relationship that eventually comes to a boiling point. I was drawn in from start to finish; it didn’t disappoint.

Reading Challenges: 


The Legacy: A Thriller by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)

Iceland has always intrigued me, so I’ve been eager to add an Icelandic author to my repertoire. There wasn’t much specifically Icelandic about this novel other than the names of the characters which are very unique (a pronunciation guide is included), but it certainly was a good example of Nordic Noir. The main characters, child psychologist Freyja and police detective Huldar, have to work together to solve the grisly murder of a mother whose 7-year-old daughter is the only witness to the crime. More murders follow, equally grisly, though never bloody. I really liked the child psychologist Freyja and I was impressed with the author’s creativity with the murders, the characters’ stories, and how it all came together at the end. This is the first in the Children’s House series, and #2 is on my TBR list.

Reading Challenges:


Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

I really enjoyed this book. Cuba is a country whose history and culture I knew only minimally and superficially, but this book helped fix that. The story jumps between Marisol’s 2017 trip to Cuba to scatter her grandmother’s ashes and her grandmother’s early life in Havana as a high society “sugar princess” before the family fled the country in early 1959 when Fidel Castro took power. It was a fascinating tale of political unrest, teenage love and rebellion, and family secrets. I did find some overly contrived parallels between Marisol’s and her grandmother’s lives, but the dive into Cuban history and culture through these two strong female characters was worth it.

Reading Challenges:


The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young

This is a middle grade novel written by a good friend, and I’m thrilled to say it was truly a delight to read. On the surface, it’s about 12-year-old Billie (part Irish, part Native American Ojibwe) who used to be best friends with Sam but now spends her summer days ignoring him and focused on growing the biggest pumpkin possible. She wants nothing more than to beat him in the upcoming giant pumpkin race after he sabotaged her win last fall. Dig a little deeper and it’s about so much more – friendship and family, forgiveness and reconciliation. I love that Billie has a mixed background that is celebrated and interests that include beekeeping, fishing, and tending llamas. The setting of Madeline Island in Wisconsin on Lake Superior is charming. On top of all this, the writing is beautiful. I highly recommend this book to any middle grade readers in your life.

Reading Challenges:


Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This was a very good young adult fantasy novel, and it was especially fun to read it along with my 15-year-old son. Fantasy novels are not my thing, but this one takes place in Orïsha, a mythical and magical world based on African geography, mythology, and culture, and I think that’s why I liked it. It gave me some insights into a culture that I’m not too familiar with. It’s about Zélie, a young, poor girl who’s a member of the Magi, a group with magical powers until The Raid when the king eradicated magic from Orïsha and in the process killed all the adult Magi, including Zélie’s mother. Zélie has now discovered a way to bring magic back. The story is from her perspective as well as that of Amari, the princess who ran away from the palace in opposition to her father, and Inan, the prince in charge of finding Amari again and stopping the return of magic. Also playing a big role is Tzain, Zélie’s protective older brother. I was amazed by the worldbuilding. It was so unique and thorough yet relatable. I was also intrigued by the struggles of the society members – discrimination, racism, violence – and the parallels with our own society.

Reading Challenges:


When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri

Romance is a genre I’ve tended to avoid, but I was persuaded by Camille Perri to give it a try after I heard her on a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this spring. This was a quick and enjoyable story of a straight woman and a gay woman falling in love, a sub-genre of romance that is even more outside my genre comfort zone. Katie is a successful young lawyer who seems to have everything in order until she’s dumped by her fiancé. She meets Cassidy at a work meeting and is instantly intrigued by her appearance and personality. They coincidentally meet again later that evening, and Katie reluctantly agrees to a drink. They develop a friendship which leads to a love relationship. It’s a sweet story of two women each trying to figure out her place and role in their relationship.

Reading Challenges:


To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari

This was another book I read because of a panel I attended at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this spring. I loved how it gave me insight into another time and place I’m not very familiar with, Iran on the eve of the Iranian Revolution. Matriarch Bibi and her husband, a retired judge, own a large orchard in a small town and are the bond that keeps their extended family together during this time of uncertainty. They are a family with conflicting personalities, beliefs, and hopes. An older uncle is a cleric with radical religious views while a young nephew has dreams of a new Iran and marrying his childhood girlfriend. Meanwhile another family member is attracted to a Western lifestyle. I appreciated getting to know the many people in this community – family, friends, servants, and townspeople – and getting a glimpse of their daily lives before it all heartbreakingly came apart.

Reading Challenges:


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.