What I’ve Been Reading Lately (August 2020) & #WITMonth

August Was Women in Translation Month!

I spent much of July planning my stack for August’s Women in Translation Month, a yearly monthlong initiative to promote women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. Since I tend to read many Scandinavian female authors throughout the year, I usually focus on female writers from other parts of the world for this event. Originally, my TBR pile for August included Chilean, Mauritian-French, Franco-Moroccan, Thai, and Japanese authors. However, my reading took unexpected turns when special author experiences presented themselves, so it wasn’t just female authors from far away lands this month as planned.

Here are my latest reads and listens. What have you been reading lately?


The Mothers by Brit Bennett

I had been meaning to read this for a long time. It was my Book of the Month selection in October 2016! After reading author Nic Stone’s article, “Don’t Just Read About Racism—Read Stories About Black People Living,” in Cosmopolitan (June 2020), I decided there was no time like the present to read it and I convinced my book club to join me. Also, I wanted to join LA Times’ Book Club with Brit Bennett on August 25 which added an extra incentive to read it sooner rather than later. It didn’t disappoint. The story takes place in a contemporary, tight-knit Black community in Oceanside, California, and is about a decision that 17-year-old Nadia makes in her senior year of high school before she heads off to college. It’s about how that decision affects her and those around her in the years to come. We follow not only Nadia as she becomes an adult, but also her high school boyfriend and best friend. The title is spot on. The book features mothers of all kinds – missing mothers, present mothers, stand-in mothers, wannabe mothers, and a Greek chorus of mothers, the last of which I thought added an interesting layer to the story.

Reading Challenges:


Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
(Narrated by  Cassandra Campbell, Jenna Lamia)

This was another unread BOTM pick that jumped to the top of TBR pile in August when I learned that I would have the opportunity to hear the author participate in a virtual event (Creating Conversations with Literary Women). I read and listened to this one – both were excellent experiences. The story takes place in West Texas oil field country in the mid-1970s. It explores the aftermath of a brutal attack on a 14-year-old Mexican-American girl by a white boy through the perspectives of seven women in the community. The women range in age from 10 to 70s and have such unique and engaging personalities. It explores inner conflict as well as outer conflict in regards to the crime committed and how it’s handled by the community. It features women’s courage and strength. I highly recommend this book. This was a 5-star book for me.

Reading Challenges:


The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán
(Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes)

This was my first read for Women in Translation Month. It appeared on my radar last year at this time when it was released in English (originally published in Chile in 2014). I’ve been wanting to read more literature from South America so I thought this would be a good choice. Unfortunately, this book was not for me. I did appreciate getting a glimpse of Chile’s history, in this case Pinochet’s dictatorship and its legacy, but that was about it. The story of the three childhood friends who go on a road trip to retrieve the body of one friend’s mother who was being repatriated to Chile but ended up in the neighboring country instead due to volcanic ash disrupting air traffic in Santiago was uninteresting. It didn’t help that half the story was told through one character’s stream of consciousness that made little sense. I am in the minority regarding my opinion of this book, though, because it was shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.

Reading Challenges:


The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani
(Translated from the French by Sam Taylor)

This was another book for Women in Translation Month that’s been on my radar for a while, and unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations either. It’s a murder mystery that starts with the ending. We know the “who” and “how” right from the beginning (and it’s horrible) but not the “why” so the author takes us back in time to get to know the family and the nanny. Why did this supposed perfect nanny kill the two young children? It’s billed as a psychological thriller. I was engaged and enjoyed the development of the story, but the ending was unsatisfying and disappointing.

Reading Challenges:


Alt er mitt by Ruth Lillegraven
(Written in Norwegian but to be released in English in March 2021 as Everything Is Mine translated by Diane Oatley)

I had not done my research on this book, and I’m glad I hadn’t. If I had, I may not have read it and missed out on a fun reading experience. It turned out that half the book was written in New Norwegian, and historically I have avoided such books and read them in translation later. This book is about a couple, Clara and Haavard, who seem to have a perfect marriage. The story is told in alternating perspectives mostly from them. Clara is from Western Norway and speaks New Norwegian, and Haavard is from Oslo and speaks standard Norwegian. Luckily, their two different “languages” wasn’t a problem for me and I thought it a clever way to add a distinction between the characters. When I read it, I also did not know it was the first in a planned trilogy. Initially, I was very disappointed in the ending, but then I listened in on an Instagram event with the author and learned of the planned trilogy. I immediately changed my opinion of the book, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment. English readers, look out for the release of the English translation next year!

Reading Challenges:


Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah
(Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachen)

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

Reading Challenges:


Before I leave you, I want to make sure readers interested in Nordic literature (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland) are aware of the many virtual bookish events, such as author talks, panel discussions, and book club meetings, now available to a wider audience. See my post Virtual Scandinavian Events for Fall 2020 for details!

What have you been reading lately? Did you read any women in translation in August?

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Virtual Scandinavian Events for Fall 2020

One silver lining of the pandemic is that organizations are pivoting to online events allowing interested folk from all over to attend. I have certainly taken advantage of that in the past few months and look forward to continuing.

Here are some Scandinavian virtual events and entertainment (plus some Icelandic and Finnish) that have popped up on my radar for the fall. I will continue to add events as I learn of them.

If you are interested in Nordic literature or Scandinavian TV and film, scroll to the end for information on a Nordic Book Club now available online and Scandinavian shows recently added to Netflix.


Virtual Cinema: Out Stealing Horses (Norway) – Ongoing

Scandinavia House in New York, NY, is hosting a virtual cinema presentation of Out Stealing Horses, a film based on the award-winning novel by Norwegian author Per Petterson. Immediately following the film there will be a pre-recorded discussion between Stellan Skarsgård and filmmaker Hans Petter Moland. Half of proceeds will go to support American-Scandinavian Foundation and Scandinavia House. For more information and to purchase access, visit Scandinavia House’s Facebook event page. An end date has not yet been set for film screenings.

Virtual Cinema: A White, White Day (Iceland) – Ongoing

Scandinavia House in New York, NY, is also hosting a virtual cinema presentation of the hit Icelandic film A White, White Day with Film Movement. A White, White Day is an emotionally complex exploration of the ravages of loss set across the hypnotic landscape of Iceland. Half of proceeds will go to support American-Scandinavian Foundation and Scandinavia House. For more information and to purchase access, visit Scandinavia House’s Facebook event page. An end date has not yet been set for film screenings.

October Family Norwegian Language Adventure – Friluftsliv
(With Vesterheim Folk Art School, Decorah, Iowa)

Join this adventure anytime between September 12 and September 21. The adventure starts October 1 and will focus on friluftsliv, the Norwegian concept of embracing outdoor living. “Join us for this family-fun outdoor adventure and learn some Norwegian language along the way! Your “family” could be any combination of adult or adults and child or children, all who are ready to have fun and learn some norsk are welcome! Through hands-on activities, fun crafts, light hearted games and short videos, you and your family will learn and practice your new Norwegian skills both indoors and outside. A kit will be delivered right to your home containing supplies for these language activities, a helpful reference sheet for all the new words and expressions you will be learning, a fun craft, and a yummy snack.” These activities are designed for families with children ages 5-15. Click here for more information and to sign up.

Baldishol: A Medieval Norwegian Tapestry Inspires Contemporary Textiles
(Virtual Exhibit at Norway House, Minneapolis, MN)

The medieval Baldishol tapestry from 1180 is the oldest known Norwegian tapestry and one of the oldest in Europe and is a national treasure familiar to most Norwegians. This exhibit features 26 works by local, national, and international fiber artists who draw inspiration from the Baldishol. Enjoy the Baldishol exhibit, along with accompanying artist statements and bios, in this virtual exhibit.

Virtual Book Talk: The Family Clause by Jonas Hassen Khemiri (September 9)

This online event is hosted by ASF (American-Scandinavian Foundation) and Scandinavia House in New York, NY. “Jonas Hassen Khemiri, the acclaimed author of Montecore, joins us for a Virtual Talk to discuss The Family Clause, a novel about a family on the verge of collapse, which will be released in English translation beginning on August 25.” For more information and to register, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

Virtual Nordic Cooking with Morten Sohlberg: Zucchini & Squash (September 10)

This online event is hosted by ASF (American-Scandinavian Foundation) and Scandinavia House in New York, NY. “Join us for a special Nordic virtual cooking event! Morten Sohlberg, the chef and owner of Smörgås Chef restaurant at Scandinavia House, will present an online demo of making one of his favorite late summer dishes — roasted zucchini and squash coated with ricotta, parmesan, and various herbs and spices.” This event will take place as a YouTube Premiere on Thursday, September 10, at 6 p.m. ET at the link: https://bit.ly/2GeVGvv.

ABBA Salute Concert Online! (September 13, 2:00 p.m. PT)

“ABBA Salute is quite literally the most accurate tribute band on the planet. With painstaking attention to detail, they’ve recreated an ABBA experience that comes to life in a Las Vegas style show. Join the Swedish American Museum in Chicago and Vasa Park for a special online concert that is free but we do appreciate donations to help us through this time.” For more information and to get the link for the event, click here.

Dual Citizenship Webinar (September 15, 12:00 p.m. CT)

Join Norwegian Honorary Consulate General, Minneapolis for a free webinar to learn about Norway’s new dual citizenship law and how it may affect you. Topics include reinstatement of former Norwegian citizenship, how to apply for US citizenship, and more. The presentation will conclude with a Q & A session. Questions must be submitted in advance. For more information and to register, click here.

Equity, Inclusion, and Immigration in the Nordic Countries (September 15)

This online event is hosted by ASF (American-Scandinavian Foundation) and Scandinavia House in New York, NY. “Nordic countries are often seen as models of equity, equality, and social justice. But what are the ways that the Nordic countries are approaching the inequalities that they still face? In this virtual panel, four distinguished guests — Swedish hip-hop artist Jason “Timbuktu” Diakité, Swedish author Jonas Hassen Khemiri, Danish author Simon Pasternak, and Swedish-Ethiopian chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson — will join us for a discussion on recent cultural contributions and voices who continue to discuss inequality both in the Nordic countries and the U.S.” Now available to view here.

Vista Viking Festival Online (September 19 & 20)

This year, experience Vista Viking Festival Online. “We are living in a new age, and we are not able to gather this year. So we are expanding our virtual territories beyond the festival gates. Bringing our family closer to yours. Set sail with us online, September 19 & 20, 2020.”

Sweden’s Response to the Coronavirus with Lars Trägårdh (September 23)

American-Scandinavian Foundation invites you to a follow-up online discussion with Swedish historian, author and social commentator Lars Trägårdh as he discusses the current situation in Sweden in controlling the coronavirus. Sweden adopted a controversial approach to the pandemic, avoiding mandatory lock-down and instead stressing voluntary distancing and keeping the country open, most importantly pre- and primary schools. Initially Sweden experienced higher numbers of infection and death rate than many of their Nordic counterparts; since June, however, both infection and mortality rates are radically down. Hear how this strategy has evolved in Sweden as Europe at large is experiencing, or bracing for, a second wave. Now available to view here.

Launch Event for Agnes Ravatn’s The Seven Doors (September 23, 7:00 p.m. UK)

“To celebrate the launch of Agnes Ravatn’s exquisitely written psychological thriller The Seven Doors, Orenda Books is delighted to present Tartan Noir author Michael J. Malone interviewing critically acclaimed Norwegian author Agnes Ravatn and her translator, Rosie Hedger.” The event is free and will take place on Zoom, For more information and how to get the link, visit Orenda Books’ event page.

Vesterheim Bokprat (Book Group) to Discuss The Nordic Theory of Everything (September 24, 7:00 p.m. CT)

Dr. Maren Johnson, Luther College’s Associate Professor of Nordic Studies and Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies Director, facilitates a monthly bokprat discussing Scandinavian authors and Scandinavian life. Join on Thursday, September 24, at 7:00 p.m. CDT to discuss Finnish journalist Anu Partanen’s The Nordic Theory of Everything. Read more about the event and register here.

Virtual Panel — Danish Authors You Should Know (September 29, 2:00 p.m. ET)

Scandinavia House’s new series Nordic Authors You Should Know begins with a focus on Danish literature with Shadi Angelina Bazeghi, Jonas Eika, Maja Lee Langvad, Dorthe Nors, and Ursula Andkjær Olsen, moderated by author and translator Katrine Øgaard Jensen. For more information, visit Scandinavia House’s page.

Policing & Police Reform in the Nordic Countries: Virtual Panel (September 30, 1:00 p.m. ET)

This virtual panel is hosted by ASF + Scandinavia House. “In contrast to the United States, the Nordic countries have their own unique approaches to law enforcement that have evolved out of histories with different racial and economic politics. As calls for police reform continue to be debated at every level of government in the U.S., three panelists from the Nordic countries join us to discuss policing and police reform in those countries: Lars Holmberg (Professor of Law, JUR Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law, University of Copenhagen), Kimmo Himberg (Senior Researcher, the Police University College, Tampere, Finland), and Margrét Valdimarsdóttir (Assistant Professor of Police Science at the University of Akureyri).” Registration is required; sign up here: https://bit.ly/2ZKB71b.

Politics & Prose Live! Vigdis Hjorth | Long Live the Post Horn! with Sheila Heti (September 30, 4:00 p.m. ET)

Hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., this event is presented in partnership with the Royal Norwegian Embassy. Norwegian author Vigdis Hjorth sits down with fellow author Sheila Heti to discuss her new novel, Long Live the Post Horn! For more information and to register for this free event, click here.

Virtual Book Talk: The Bell in the Lake with Lars Mytting (October 1, 6:00 p.m. ET)

This online event is hosted by ASF (American-Scandinavian Foundation) and Scandinavia House in New York, NY. “Norwegian author Lars Mytting joins us for a virtual book launch event on The Bell in the Lake, an engrossing epic novel and #1 bestseller in Norway about a young woman with a mystical fate, available in English translation from The Overlook Press beginning September 29.” For more information and to register, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

Scandinavian Fest: Virtual Fall Folk Festival (October 2-4)

Scandinavian Fest brings Nordic shops and businesses from around the globe together in one online location during the absence of in-person festivals. Friday, October 2, – Sunday, October 4, join Virtual Fall Folk Festival to discover unique Nordic products, take advantage of discounts, and win give-aways! For more information, visit Virtual Fall Folk Festival on Facebook.

Virtual Panel — Icelandic Authors You Should Know (October 6, 2:00 p.m. ET)

Nordic Authors You Should Know at Scandinavia House in New York, NY, continues with a focus on Icelandic literature with The Imposter Poets, a poetry collective made up of members Thórdís Helgadóttir, Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir, Fríða Ísberg, Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir, Sunna Dís Másdóttir, and Melkorka Ólafsdóttir, moderated by author and translator Larissa Kyzer. The event will begin with short readings of each of the authors’ work in both English and in Icelandic, followed by interviews with the authors and a conversation on Icelandic literature today. For more information and to register, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

The Painter and the Thief at BFI London Film Festival (Starting October 8)

Winner of the Creative Storytelling Prize at Sundance, Norwegian documentary filmmaker Benjamin Ree’s “expertly plotted, genre-blending documentary explores the personal repercussions of an extraordinary art heist… The sheer audacity of the theft of artist Barbora Kysilkova’s enormous paintings from the windows of an Oslo gallery immediately piqued documentarian Benjamin Ree’s interest. Neither he, Kysilkova nor the perpetrators could have predicted what happened next.” Available starting October 8 on BFI Player. Visit BFI London Film Festival’s film page for details.

Virtual Cinema: The Blinding Sea (Starting October 9)

This October, Scandinavia House is excited to present virtual screenings of The Blinding Sea, a new film by George Tombs that explores the life and loves of Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). “The Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen hungered for ice-choked seas and desert places — but more than that, he had a passionate interest in acquiring new knowledge… Shot on locations including an icebreaker wintering in the Beaufort Sea, a tall ship on the Southern Ocean, on dog-team in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic, as well as the glaciers of Antarctica and Norway, the film combines factual accuracy with bold story-telling, a cross-cultural approach, oral histories, a focus on physical and psychological health, and the refreshing eye-witness perspective of an acclaimed biographer.” Director George Tombs will join a virtual film talk to accompany the release on October 13. For more information, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

Virtual Film Talk: The Blinding Sea with Director George Tombs (October 13, 7:00 p.m. ET)

In coordination with the virtual cinema presentation of The Blinding Sea, a new film exploring the life and loves of Roald Amundsen (1872-1928), director George Tombs joins for a discussion on the film on Tuesday, October 13. Tombs will discuss the explorer as well as the making of this film, which was shot on locations ranging from icebreakers in the Beaufort Sea to glaciers of Antarctica and Norway, as well as his focus on incorporating a cross-cultural approach, oral histories, a focus on physical and psychological health, and eye-witness perspectives to the film. Registration is required; visit Scandinavia House’s event page for more details.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (Starting October 18)

Obviously, this is not a Scandinavian event, but it’s a favorite Los Angeles event happening virtually this year for everyone to enjoy. Beginning on Sunday, October 18, and continuing over the course of four weeks, The Times will celebrate storytelling with author panels, readings, and other events. The programming schedule will be announced in mid-September. For details, go to https://latimes.com/FestivalofBooks.

Virtual Panel — Norwegian Authors You Should Know (October 27, 2:00 p.m. ET)

Nordic Authors You Should Know at Scandinavia House in New York, NY, continues with a focus on Norwegian literature with Jan Grue, Roy Jacobsen, Kaja Kvernbakken, and Ruth Lillegraven, moderated by author and translator Karen Havelin. The event will begin with short readings of each of the authors’ work in both English and in Norwegian, followed by interviews with the authors and a conversation on Norwegian literature today. For more information and to register, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.


Online Nordic Book Club at Scandinavia House in New York, NY

The Nordic Book Club at Scandinavia House in New York, NY, selects novels from some of the best Nordic literary voices. It now meets bi-weekly online. Here are their upcoming meetings. Click the dates for more information and to register.

  • September 8: The Summer House by Philip Teir (translated from the Swedish by Tiina Nunnally)
  • September 22: Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (translated from the Icelandic by Brian FitzGibbon)
  • October 6: The Family Clause by Jonas Hassen Khemiri (translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies)
  • October 20: The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting (translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin)
  • November 3: Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen (translated from the Finnish by David Hackston)
  • November 17: Companions by Christina Hesselholdt (translated from the Danish by Paul Russell Garrett)

Borderless Book Club 

In response to the Covid-19 crisis and the lockdown order, Peirene Press, in collaboration with several other small presses, created the Borderless Book Club. Meetings are held on Thursday evenings at 8:00 p.m. UK time via Zoom. Participation is free. They exclusively discuss translated literature. For more information and to view the current fall program and to access previous meetings (which includes books by Scandinavian authors), visit Borderless Book Club.


New to Netflix: Scandinavian Movies & TV Shows

Borgen (Seasons 1-3) – A Danish political thriller, available in your preferred audio language. Netflix description: As Denmark prepares for parliamentary elections, Moderate Party leader Birgitte Nyborg makes a shocking move with surprising results.

Rita (2020, Season 5 Available) – A Danish comedy in Danish with English subtitles. Netflix description: Independent, outspoken and adored by her students, schoolteacher Rita fares less well with adults in this comedy-drama from Denmark.

Young Wallander (New, Season 1) – A Netflix original series in English based on the Swedish and British series Wallander. Netflix description: An incendiary hate crime stirs civil unrest, fast-tracking rookie cop Kurt Wallander to detective in this origin story for the popular character.

For more Scandinavian films and TV shows:


I hope you found something of interest for the months ahead. Feel free to reach out to me if you have events to share.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (July 2020) & #WITMonth Plans

I’m back with my monthly round-up of what I’ve been reading lately inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly Quick Lit where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately. My reading rhythm hasn’t changed much since last month. I continue to enjoy listening on my early morning walks and reading while lounging outside in the late afternoon/early evening. I’ll continue this as long as I can.

A highlight of my reading life this past month was an in-person book club meeting! Our book club last met in person in February. Since then we’ve been meeting via Zoom. In July, we got together for a physically distant picnic so we could say goodbye in person to a member moving east this month. It was a lovely day in the park, not only being social in real life but also seeing so many people enjoying the park as well. Reminded me a little of park culture I’ve seen in Europe.

August Is Women in Translation Month!

I spent much of July planning my stack for August’s Women in Translation Month, a monthlong initiative to promote women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. Since I tend to read many Scandinavian female authors throughout the year, I usually focus on female writers from other parts of the world for this event. On my TBR pile for August are Chilean, Mauritian-French, Franco-Moroccan, Thai, and Japanese authors. We’ll see how many I manage to read in August. My effort and interest will likely extend beyond August.

Here are my latest reads and listens. How has your reading life been lately? Will you be reading any women in translation in August?


Hjemlandet og andre fortellinger (The Homeland and Other Stories)(In Norwegian, Edited by HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Geir Gulliksen)

This anthology attempts to answer the question “What does it mean to be Norwegian today?”. The editors (I love that one of them is the crown princess of Norway; I’ve always admired her love of books and reading and her dedication to promoting Norwegian authors) asked 12 authors to contribute texts answering that question. What resulted is a collection of essays, short stories, and a poem by contemporary Norwegian authors, some of whom I’m already familiar with and others who are new to me. While I definitely enjoyed this as a collection of works, I did not feel it really answered the core question. I would have liked it to include more underrepresented voices, like immigrant and Sámi perspectives, to really provide a more complete picture of what it means to be Norwegian today. But I did enjoy the opportunity to “return” to my homeland while stuck in the US during the pandemic and it gave me the opportunity to discover new authors, which I appreciate, and read New Norwegian, which wasn’t as daunting as I thought it might be.

Reading Challenges:


The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
(Narrated by Tom Hanks)

This was a 5-star read for me – and especially enjoyable since I read it with my sister on the East Coast. I loved the characters, the story, the structure, and the writing. The Dutch House is the house in which siblings Danny and Maeve grow up until both, one after the other, are forced out by their new step-mother. The story spans decades and it’s interesting to see how their lives evolve and how the Dutch House keeps pulling them back. I alternated between reading and listening. The audiobook is a real treat with Tom Hanks narrating it. He even says the titles, just numbered, with the perfect emotion.

Reading Challenges:


So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo
(Narrated by Bahni Turpin)

This was the perfect book to start my antiracist reading journey. The author introduces and explains terms and concepts that are mentioned and discussed frequently these days and that you may feel you should know and understand but don’t really or have questions about. I started with the audiobook (currently always available at Los Angeles Public Library and available for free at hoopla) but then decided to get the physical book also so I could reread and underline and highlight as needed. There was too much good stuff that was just going in one ear and out the other. I needed to digest it more which I do when I read with me eyes. I will be returning to chapters about concepts that still aren’t crystal clear to me, but it was such a good starting point. I highly recommend it.

Reading Challenges:


The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Another book in my antiracist reading journey, this one about “Black people living” (per Nic Stone’s article in Cosmopolitan stating that “[T]he more we see Black people living—loving and doing and being and feeling and going on adventures and solving mysteries and being the heroes—the more we come to recognize our shared humanity.”) I wonder if I might have enjoyed this book more if I were 20 years younger? I liked the setting. It takes place in Los Angeles, specifically East LA. Areas and places are mentioned that I’m familiar with. I liked the girlfriend group. I appreciated the diverse cast of characters in the book. The love story, however, was not my cup of tea. The boyfriend was way too perfect. He’s a pediatrician, and he’s caring, kind, and thoughtful all the time. He even shops at an independent bookstore when in need of a gift for a bedridden pregnant cousin. That, and the interior dialogue, wasn’t right for me.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately? Will you be reading any women in translation in August?

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 & My Latest Virtual Book Events (May 2020)

Now that month #3 of staying at home has passed and summertime with its more relaxed schedules is here, I think I’ve finally fallen into a more regular reading rhythm. Two of my favorite times of the day now are when I can sit outside and read during lunchtime and in the early evening.

I continued to attend virtual book events this past month. I thoroughly enjoyed the LA Times’ Book Club conversation with Emily St. John Mandel on May 19. More significantly, I got to “travel” to Norway last month for the Norwegian Festival of Literature in Lillehammer which took place May 29-31. In particular, I enjoyed the panel discussion on Maja Lunde’s success around the world and her lecture as winner of this year’s Bjørnson Prize.

Through my reading this month, I’ve traveled the world in time and place. I’ve experienced 1918 Philadelphia during the Spanish flu pandemic, an Indian immigrant community in London, a small Danish coastal town, and Norway in 2017/France in 2041. Here are my latest reads and listens. What have you been reading lately?


As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

I loved this book. It provided a look at life in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. It’s about a mother and father and their three young daughters who moved to Philadelphia to take advantage of the opportunity for the father to work with his uncle and eventually take over the uncle’s mortuary. Not too long after their arrival, the pandemic hits. In alternating perspectives of the mother and three daughters, readers follow this family through the pandemic – and World War I which is happening in the background – and beyond. It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences to our own current experience. It’s not an easy time for them, but it’s not all misery either. I highly recommend it.

Reading Challenges:


Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
(Audiobook narrated by Meera Syal)

In many ways, this book was what I expected, but in a couple of significant ways, it was not. And it was the combination of the expected and the unexpected that made me enjoy the book even more. I knew it was going to be an East-meets-West kind of book. Nikki, the Westernized daughter of Punjabi immigrants in London (and a law school drop-out who doesn’t really know what to do with her life), decides to take on teaching a writing class to traditional Punjabi widows at a Sikh community center. It turns out to be not your typical writing class in any sense. The women, many of whom are illiterate, begin sharing erotic stories which are transcribed by a fellow student. This “writing class” takes on a life of its own, and over time, Nikki becomes aware of secrets and mysteries within the Punjabi community. It’s a glimpse into an immigrant experience and culture and religion that I know little about. The characters are fun, the writing engaging, and the story fulfilling. In addition, there was such unexpected depth and substance to this novel which made it a wonderful reading experience.

Reading Challenges:


The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul
(Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken)

I knew this wasn’t going to be a typical Nordic noir or murder mystery book, but I’m not sure what it ended up being for me. It begins with a murder and there is mystery surrounding the murder, but that’s not the main point of the book. It’s about the murder victim’s common law wife and how she deals with his death. She does not seem to mourn her husband as you’d expect nor does she seem interested in helping the police solve the crime. It’s more about her place in her community and her relationship with family members. She mourns her daughter’s decade-long absence from her life more than her partner’s death. She discovers secrets in her husband’s life. There’s no clear resolution to the murder mystery, but lots to wonder about. It’s certainly an interesting character study.

Reading Challenges:


The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde (The Climate Quartet #2)
(Translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley)

Book #2 in Maja Lunde’s Climate Quartet tackles the climate concern of water and the threat of worldwide drought. The story jumps back and forth between two storylines which eventually intersect: 70-year old Signe in 2017 in Norway and David and his young daughter Lou in 2041 in France. Signe is a climate activist who lives on her sailboat (named Blue, hence the Norwegian title Blå). A visit back to her childhood village deep in a Norwegian fjord sets in motion an ocean journey to find the man who used to be the love of her life. David and Lou had to flee from their home in southern France due to drought and fire and are struggling to survive in a refugee camp. Besides it being a book about humans’ connection and reliance on water, it is also about human relationships, in particular father-daughter relationships. I’m always intrigued by unique structures like the one in this book, and the human element added to my enjoyment of it. I really enjoyed the book, but I did prefer the first one, The History of Bees, with its focus on our relationship with bees in the past, present, and future (read more here). I’m looking forward to book #3, Przewalski’s Horse. The Norwegian edition, published September 2019, is already on my shelf.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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How to Celebrate Norway’s Constitution Day, May 17, during Coronavirus Times

Norway’s May 17 Constitution Day normally brings with it very festive celebrations – large gatherings of people enjoying speeches and songs, a parade, food, and games. However, this is not a usual year.

For Angelenos, though, the Norwegian Church in San Pedro is offering an alternate kind of celebration. It is hosting drive-in celebrations in their parking lot area. Due to the limited size of their parking lot, guests must register in advance for one of three times offered. Each of the celebrations will include speeches, music and song, raffles with prizes, as well as Norwegian food and drink (see program). Guests will also have the opportunity to shop in the store. Click here for more details and registration information. They will be live-streaming the 11:00 a,m. celebration on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sjomannskirkenlosangeles

But how can you celebrate Norway’s national day if you’re not able to attend an alternate celebration? Read on to get some ideas on how you can celebrate at home.


Join a virtual celebration!

“Gratulerer med dagen” with NRK – Join as Norway celebrates 17th of May
(link to NRK site in Norwegian)

From early morning until late in the evening, there will be celebrations on TV, radio, and internet with reports from all over the country. The TV program starts at 7:50 a.m. CET (10:50 p.m. PDT on May 16!) with the hosts broadcasting from the roof of the NRK building in Oslo. Community leaders, popular TV personalities, and renowned artists will join them throughout the day. The celebration wraps up with a performance by singer Sissel Kyrkjebø and the orchestra KORK (Norwegian Radio Orchestra) at 9:10 p.m. CET (12:10 p.m. PDT on May 17) which will of course include Norway’s national anthem, “Ja, vi elsker”.

Norway Day with New York and Washington, DC
May 17, 7:00 a.m. PDT (10:00 a.m. EDT)

Norwegian organizations in New York and Washington, DC, will be celebrating together with a virtual program starting at 10:00 a.m. EDT which includes an opening ceremony followed by a church service in Norwegian. Then at 5:00 p.m. EDT there will be a concert featuring remarks from H.E. Ambassador Kåre R. Aas and a speech of the day as well as musical performances. All events will be streamed at: https://www.facebook.com/sjomannskirkeninewyork/

“17. Mai Allsang!” (Norwegian Constitution Day Sing-Along!) with Minneapolis MN
May 17, 10:30 a.m. PDT (12:30 p.m. CDT)

Join the communities of Mindekirken (The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church), Mindekirken Norwegian Language & Culture Program (MNLCP), and Norway House in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at a family song-along on YouTube. They will be singing five, fun 17. mai songs in Norwegian. For some warmup songs, visit Norway House on Facebook.

Hardanger Arts Festival
May 17, 1:00 p.m. PDT

Celebrate the 17th of May with The Norwegian American! On Sunday, May 17, 1:00 p.m. PDT, join Inger-Kristine Riber, Reidun Horvei, and some of the best artists from the Hardanger region in Norway for a special 17. mai online concert. Join on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/events/109478979423001

Virtual Scandinavian Fest: Norway Day, May 15 – 18

This is a new initiative among Scandinavian and Nordic vendors spearheaded by Krista Nygaard, owner of Scandinavian Design Studio in Bend, Oregon, to bring the traditional Scandinavian experience online. The virtual market officially lasts from May 15 – 18 and most vendors will be offering special discounts during this time, but they welcome your support year round at: https://www.scandinavianfest.com/shop


Order take-out or delivery from Scandinavian food establishments.

If you’re local to the Los Angeles area, consider supporting these Scandinavian shops, bakeries, and restaurants with take-out or delivery. The cuisines of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark share some characteristics.


Bake a traditional Norwegian treat!

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Browse a Norwegian food blog and pick out a recipe to try.

 

Here are two of my favorite Norwegian food bloggers, both of whom have lovely new cookbooks out as well, and don’t miss the recipe archive from The Norwegian American:


Watch a Norwegian film or try a Norwegian TV series.


Sit down with a Norwegian book, whether it’s one for yourself or one to read with your children.

 

Here are some book lists that might be helpful:


Check out “17. mai” festivities in Norway from 2019.


How will you be celebrating Norway’s Constitution Day this year?

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (April 2020) & Virtual Author Events

As we’ve now passed week #8 of staying at home, I haven’t really found myself reading more than I usually do. What I have been able to do is take advantage of virtual author events, though!

I’ve dropped in on a few virtual author events, but three stand out. The first one was the March LA Times Book Club event with authors Steph Cha (Your House House Will Pay, which I read last month and really enjoyed) and Joe Ide (“IQ” detective series) when they discussed LA noir. Another event was one with a Norwegian author, Jon Fosse, that I learned about after I won his book The Other Name from the publisher through a give-away on Instagram. The event was a discussion with the author and his translator Damion Searls hosted by Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY. Finally, I came across an online book talk on Facebook with Icelandic author Kristín Eiríksdóttir (A Fist or a Heart) and her translator Larissa Kyzer hosted by American Scandinavian Foundation in New York City (which will be followed up by an online Nordic Book Club meeting on Tuesday, May 12, for those who may be interested). It’s always interesting to hear from the writers about their writing experiences and processes, whether I’ve read the book or not.

Here are my latest reads and listens. What have you been reading lately?


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

I had previously read a book in this author’s Oslo Detective Series and wasn’t a fan, but the fact that this was a stand-alone historical crime mystery about a female resistance agent that took place in Norway and Sweden during World War II intrigued me. Also, it has won two prestigious Norwegian awards, the Brage Prize (Open Category) and the crime fiction Riverton Prize. I’m glad I took another chance on this author. The story and its characters were engaging and compelling. I liked how it jumped back and forth in time. The story opened and closed in 2015, but otherwise it moved between 1942 in Oslo and Stockholm and 1967 in Oslo with the mysteries of “who killed the mother of a young child in Oslo in 1942?” and “what is the father’s story?” at the core. The book gives a unique glimpse of what life was like for Norwegians, especially Jewish Norwegians, during wartime under German occupation. I enjoyed this book very much!

Reading Challenges:


The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
(Translated from the Spanish by Simon Bruni)

This book brought me to a new time and place in reading. It’s about an established landowning family in a small northern Mexican town in the early 1900s during the Mexican Revolution and interestingly, considering what’s going on now for us, during the influenza pandemic of 1918. It’s historical fiction with a touch of magical realism. An abandoned child covered in bees is discovered and then adopted by the family. This child, who is deformed and cannot speak and always accompanied by a swarm of bees, turns out to be a blessing for the family as they endure life in their little town with its human and natural challenges. It was a little slow to get going, but suddenly I was very absorbed in the story. I read it, but I heard the audiobook experience is fabulous.

Reading Challenges:


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

I had actually borrowed this book for my older teenage son to read but he wasn’t interested, so I ended up reading it instead. I had read it years ago back when I was in high school, but I had no recollection of the details in the story. What a delightful surprise – a very engaging, quick read! It’s about gang life in Oklahoma in the 1960s. In particular, it’s about a 14-year-old greaser named Ponyboy, who is raised by his older brothers because their parents died some time ago, and his friend Johnny, who lives in an abusive household. The greasers are their own family and look out for each other when trouble happens during a conflict with the rival gang. I have now put it on hold again at the library and will encourage both my boys to read it and I look forward to hearing their thoughts on it.

Reading Challenges:


The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
(Audiobook narrated by Dylan Moore)

I’m so glad I picked this book up when I did because I recently learned that Emily St. John Mandel is the next guest to join the (now virtual) LA Times Book Club on May 19. I really enjoyed Station Eleven and was intrigued by the author’s newest book about the collapse of a Ponzi scheme. It didn’t disappoint. Similar to Station Eleven, it jumped back and forth in time and told the story from different characters’ perspectives and the reader slowly became aware of what was going on. It took some time for the different storylines’ connections to become evident, but once that started happening, it was a compelling read, or in my case, listen.

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.

Reading Lately (March 2020) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

With a prolonged self-quarantine headed my way, I thought I would have lots of extra time to read. It hasn’t quite worked out that way yet. Maybe once we settle into this new normal, I’ll find more time to just read. In the meantime, here are my latest reads and listens. What have you been reading lately?


The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
(Audiobook narrated by Barrie Kreinik)

This was a wonderfully entertaining audiobook that I always returned to eagerly. It’s a murder mystery in which the mother-in-law is found dead under suspicious circumstances and no one in the family is safe from scrutiny. It’s told from the perspectives of the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law, and it jumps back and forth in time so you get insights into all the family members’ histories and you see different perspectives on the same situations. They are a very complicated family and there are many unrealized misunderstandings. It was an extremely compelling story and had me engaged until the very end. I’ll be listening to/reading more by Sally Hepworth!

Reading Challenges:


Clearing Out by Helene Uri
(Translated from the Norwegian by Barbara Sjoholm, 2019)

This was a unique book, a mix of fiction and autobiography, about families and their stories. The author discovers her grandfather was a Sámi fisherman (indigenous people in the north of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) and intertwines that experience with a fictional story of a character who goes to northern Norway to study Sámi language extinction. There are many parallels between the author and the fictional character. Not only are they both linguists, but they both also experience the loss of an older parent. At first it was a little difficult to distinguish between the author’s story and the character’s story, but soon the transitions became seamless and I considered it a clever technique. I was intrigued by the reflections on Sámi identities and their history in Norway. It’s not something I’ve come across often in Norwegian literature. (If interested, take a look at this article by the book’s translator which includes a discussion about the Sámi elements as well as an interview with the author.)

(Thank you to NetGalley and the University of Minnesota Press for providing me a copy of this book!)

Reading Challenges:


In the Midst of Winter: A Novel by Isabel Allende
(Translated from the Spanish by Nick Castor and Amanda Hopkinson)
(Audiobook narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Alma Cuervo)

All I knew about this book going into it was that it took place in Brooklyn during a big snowstorm. I did not know I’d be getting a whirlwind historical tour of Latin America. Most of the action takes place over just a few days when three people are brought together by a car accident. However, during their days together, we jump back in time to Guatemala in the 1990s, Chile in the 1950s, and Brazil in the 1990s to learn about their pasts. The illegal immigrant’s story of coming from Guatemala to the US through Mexico and across the Rio Grande was the one I enjoyed the most. Having recently read American Dirt, I appreciated the additional perspective on that experience. Overall, it was a fine story and the language was lovely, but it was not as engaging as I would have preferred.

Reading Challenges:


Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

The racial tensions and violence of the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 form the basis for this novel. A contemporary story set in 2019, it follows two families who have a shared history with that racially tense time. Shawn Matthews, an African American man whose sister was shot and killed in 1991, leads a quiet life far away from his troublesome youth days in South Central LA. At the same time, Grace Park, a Korean American woman who lives a sheltered life home with her parents, can’t understand why her sister won’t talk to their mother. It’s a very engaging and compelling read which provided much material to discuss at our virtual book club meeting. I highly recommend it.

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.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (January 2020) & Reading Challenges Wrap-Up

2019 didn’t quite end as I would have liked in regards to completing the reading challenges I had undertaken. I did complete the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge (see what I read here) as well as the Reading Women Challenge (except for one prompt, a play, which won’t be completed, see what I read here). Sadly, it was my Scandinavian Reading Challenge that lingered unfinished! I bit off too much last year, but I am in the process of completing it now as I also embark on my 2020 reading intentions. (I intend to finish my Scandinavian Reading Challenge this month and look forward to sharing my complete list of Scandinavian reads soon!)

In the meantime, here are my latest reads. What have you been reading lately?


One Day in December by Josie Silver

The main character Laurie experiences love at first sight through the bus window and spends the next year trying to track down the guy only to find him again as the new boyfriend of her best friend. I enjoyed the beginning and loved how it all eventually ended about ten years later, but I felt it was too long and winding in between. Maybe it was because it took me too long to read the book. When I found myself with longer chunks of time to read, I definitely enjoyed it more.

 

Reading Challenges:


A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

(Translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger)

This was a complex character study of how adult children deal with the late-in-life divorce of their parents. The story begins with the whole family – grandparents, parents, and kids – on a trip from Oslo to Rome to celebrate the grandfather’s 70th birthday. What happens instead on the night of the celebratory dinner is that news of the grandparents’ impending divorce comes out. The three adult siblings – one married with kids, another struggling with fertility issues with her boyfriend, and the third a free-thinker when it comes to love and marriage – struggle very differently in coming to terms with this new reality when they’re back in Oslo. The story alternates between the perspectives of the three siblings with some overlap of events. It’s a deep and thought-provoking look at family relationships, perceived responsibilities, family history, and parenting.

Reading Challenges:


The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

(Audiobook narrated by January LaVoy)

This came highly recommend by a colleague at work and it was on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s list of favorite audiobooks of 2019 as well as her book club pick for February. It didn’t disappoint; it was a wonderful journey. It’s an historical fantasy book combining many interesting elements: a coming-of-age story, a book within a book, adventure, love, and friendship. It’s creatively done and the language is beautiful. It was a nice change of pace from books I generally read.

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.

Reading Lately (October 2019)

Lately, I’ve been very focused on working towards completing my reading challenges for the year, and this past month I made great progress. My latest reads brought me to many different places: East Prussia during World War II, to Sri Lanka during their civil war, to a remote part of northern Norway, and to the Philippines. It was a nice and varied month of reading. What have you been reading lately?


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine, especially when lesser known events or people of history are explored. I really enjoyed Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray earlier this year (see Reading Lately, February 2019), and when I heard Sepetys was coming out with another historical fiction book this fall, I decided to make Sepetys the author whose books I would read three of this year for the MMD Reading Challenge. Salt to the Sea takes places during World War II and explores the events leading up to and including the sinking of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff in the Baltic Sea which was used to evacuate refugees escaping the advancing Russian soldiers. The story alternates between the perspectives of three individuals making their way to the ship (a Lithuanian young woman, a Polish girl, and a young German man) and a German enlisted man stationed there. It’s a story of hardship, heartbreak, courage, and most importantly, found family. I loved the book. Interesting sidenote, the Lithuanian girl is a crossover character from Shades of Gray.

Reading Challenges:


Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

This is a beautiful but heartbreaking story of the civil war in Sri Lanka (which officially began in 1983 and ended in 2009) from the perspectives of two women, one from the majority Sinhalese ethnic group and the other from the minority Tamil group. I chose to read this book for the Reading Women Challenge because of my college friend Ayub who is from Sri Lanka (and also I’d seen a fabulous exhibit of Sri Lankan art at the Los Angeles County Museum at Art this past summer). I’m ashamed that I didn’t know more about what was going on there since my college years were right in the middle of the civil war period. The author paints a vivid picture of life and its challenges on the island. Readers experience village life along the coast as well as city life in Colombo, the capital. The story even takes readers to Los Angeles as one of the families seeks refuge there. Even though it’s a fiction book, I feel I have a much greater understanding of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Reading Challenges:


The Looking-Glass Sisters by Gøhril Gabrielsen

(Translated from the Norwegian by John Irons)

Despite not liking any of the characters, not even finding anything remotely redeeming about any of them, I was drawn into this novella about two middle aged sisters and their toxic relationship. At the age of 24 upon the death of their parents, the older sister is thrust into the role of caregiver for her younger physically disabled sister, aged 19. They live alone in an isolated area far up north in Norway for many years until an outsider arrives and upsets their status quo. At the start of the novella, the younger sister has been banished to the attic and is thinking back a year explaining how she ended up there. The story is entirely from her perspective and over time the reader begins to question her reliability. It’s a story of loneliness and yearning for love and attention. It’s dark and unlike anything I’ve ever read and very discussion-worthy.

Reading Challenges:


Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

Last year I read Marisa de los Santos’ I’ll Be Your Blue Sky and loved it (Reading Lately, August 2018), so I thought I’d read Falling Together as a book in the backlist of a favorite author for the MMD Reading Challenge. It was exactly what I needed after the darker and heavier books I’d recently read. This was about friendships that last despite distance and time. Pen, Will, and Cat became inseparable during college but then parted ways four years after graduation. Their 10-year reunion provides an opportunity for them to reunite. De los Santos’ writing is beautiful. I got lost in her vivid descriptions of characters, place, and time, though I could see how some readers might think it too sentimental or sappy at times. I was not bothered by that. I really enjoyed the unexpected trip to the Philippines. This was a book I couldn’t wait to return to either via audiobook or ebook depending on the situation for me.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

 

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Reading Lately (August 2019): All About #WITMonth  

In August, my primary reading focus was reading women in translation for Women in Translation Month (WITMonth). Founded Meytal Radzinski on her blog Biblibio in 2014, WITMonth is a monthlong initiative to promote women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. Since I tend to read many Scandinavian female authors throughout the year, I generally focused on writers from other countries and continents this month. As I shared last month, I had a big stack of potential books to read. I read many, but my efforts will continue in September and beyond.

A fun project I contributed to was Meytal’s compilation of the 100 best women in translation (#100BestWIT). She asked for nominations from readers around the world. Nominations were due August 26 and the next day she published the results. I was pleased to see that 5 of the 10 books I nominated made it onto the final list. Among those were these three Norwegian ones: Love by Hanne Ørstavik (translated by Martin Aitken), Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (translated by Tiina Nunnally), and The History of Bees: A Novel by Maja Lunde (translated by Diane Oatley).

How’s your reading life been lately? Did you read any women in translation in August?


Kristin Lavransdatter II: The Wife by Sigrid Undset

(Translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally)

Last summer I read the first book in the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy and was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was curious to see how Kristin’s marriage to her lover Erlend would go. Just like the first book, this one provides a thorough depiction of daily life in medieval Norway. I was a little confused by the political history of the time and had some trouble remembering and distinguishing characters, but I chose not to let those issues affect my enjoyment of the book. Kristin’s life as a protective mother to seven sons, a faithful wife to a husband with questionable political intentions, and a very pious person eager to save her soul were very engaging. I definitely enjoyed the first book more, but I’m very eager to see how her life plays out in the last book.

Reading Challenges:


Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

(Translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth)

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

Reading Challenges:


Human Acts: A Novel by Han Kang

(Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith)

Last year for WITMonth I read Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and liked it so I thought I’d try another of her novels this year, especially since on May 25, 2019, Han Kang was the latest author to submit a manuscript to the Future Library in Norway for publication in 2114 (view handover ceremony in the woods of Oslo here). This novel was about a horrific historical event I had never heard of before, the violent 1980 student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea. The story is told through chapters that are interconnected short stories. In the first chapter, which takes place in 1980, readers are introduced to several characters who then reappear in the next chapters over a period of 30 years. Interestingly, the chapters are either in first or second person with one chapter in third person. Be aware, Han Kang does not shy away from the gruesome details of this violent time, but at the same time, she shares examples of kindness and compassion too. I liked this one even more than The Vegetarian.

Reading Challenges:


Strange Weather in Tokyo: A Novel by Hiromi Kawakami

(Translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell)

I read Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop last year for WITMonth and really liked it, so this summer I wanted to read this one, and I was able to convince my book club to join me as well. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it as much. It’s about Tsukiko, a woman in her thirties, and a former high school teacher (whom she calls Sensei because she can’t remember his name) who happen to meet again by chance. Over time they fall in love, but it’s an odd relationship based on unplanned meetings at a bar to drink beer and hot saké. Both characters are quirky and their conversations are limited and formal. I did really enjoy the insight into Japanese culture and foods. Even though I didn’t enjoy this book as much as The Nakano Thrift Shop, I am still glad I read it, and our book club had a good reason to meet at a Japanese restaurant and enjoy our own hot saké.

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.