What I’ve Been Reading Lately: August 2017

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

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

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

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

Bienes historie by Maja Lunde

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

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

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

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

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

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

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

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

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

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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

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

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

 

Currently reading and next on my list…

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

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

What have you been reading lately?

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A Glimpse of Oslo: Vulkan Bee Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: June 2017

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

Booked by Kwame Alexander

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

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

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

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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

Did Not Complete

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

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

Currently reading and next on my list…

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

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

What have you been reading lately?

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