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

I didn’t quite finish the year as I would have liked to reading-wise. Ideally, I would be more or less done with my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge (I have one book left, a book spanning multiple decades or places) and I would have planned the next year’s challenge. However, unexpected family circumstances and an unplanned trip to Norway in December left me with little energy or opportunity to read, listen, or plan ahead. While in Norway, though, I did acquire some Norwegian books for later reading which was a bonus!

I did, however, complete my trip around the world for The Book Girls’ reading challenge, Book Voyage: Read Around the World. And my last selection was an unread Book of the Month pick; it’s always satisfying when I can check off another read for my forever ongoing #unreadBOTMchallenge. I’ll certainly do another round of Book Voyage in 2023, but this year also, I’ll be skipping around and not following their order.

Once again, I join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. What have you been reading lately?


Tante Ulrikkes vei by Zeshan Shakar 🎧
(Narrated by Martin Lange, Tohid Akhtar and Ivar Nergaard)

I had the physical copy of this book on my shelf, but I decided I would listen to the audiobook as well, which I believe turned out to be the optimal way to read this book for me since it is in standard Norwegian as well as “kebabnorsk” (Kebab Norwegian), a spoken dialect mixing Norwegian with foreign words, mainly Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages. It is a modern epistolary novel, emails and transcripts of audio recordings from Mo and Jamal, two teenage, second generation immigrant boys who live in the same low-income neighborhood of Oslo. They are part of a study about the daily lives of teenagers with minority backgrounds during the time period 2001-2006. Their parents’ country is never specified but they are both Muslim. The author himself grew up in this neighborhood which lends great authenticity to the novel. It was a unique perspective on contemporary life in Oslo, very engaging and eye-opening. So glad I finally got around to reading it.

This was Zeshan Shakar’s debut novel. He won the Norwegian Tarjei Vesaas’ Award for it in 2017. There was news about four years ago that the book would be released in English translation by the independent British publisher Wrecking Ball Press, but I have not been able to find any update on that. Since this debut, he has written two more novels, Gul bok (Yellow Book, 2020) and De kaller meg ulven (They Call Me the Wolf, 2022), the last of which won the Booksellers’ Prize in 2022, both of which are on my TBR list.


The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles  📖

An unread Book of the Month selection corresponded nicely with the Book Voyage prompt of South America! Most of the story takes place in Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s, a place and history I know very little about and enjoyed exploring. It’s the story of Dora and Graça, told from Dora’s perspective late in life. Dora was a poor, orphaned servant girl on a sugar plantation in northern Brazil and Graça the spoiled daughter of the owner. Together they developed a love for music, in particular samba, which they pursued with passion in Rio de Janeiro. They had a lifelong, very complicated friendship being partners and rivals at the same time. Dora, Graça, and their band made it to Hollywood in the 1940s, and unbeknownst to me, there were direct connections to family history at Twentieth Century-Fox which was very fun to come across. The book is written in a very lyrical style, even including lyrics between chapters. For me, the style was a bit over the top, but I became too engaged with the diverse and eclectic cast of characters to give it up.


What have you been reading lately?

If you’re interested in purchasing Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, visit my Scandinavian Ebook Deals page. 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 (November 2022)

Welcome to my latest reading update. As the year nears its end, I’m focused on completing my two main reading challenges. In addition to my Scandinavian Reading Challenge, I am doing The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World challenge. Instead of reading the areas in order, I am skipping around. In November, I read the next to last prompt for me, Asia – South, and in December I’m wrapping up the challenge with a selection for South America, The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles. When I can, I squeeze in an unread Book of the Month selection. They have a tendency to accumulate!

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update:

I’m still reading (actually mostly listening to) my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge selection for the 2000s, the Norwegian Tante Ulrikkes vei (Tante Ulrikkes Way or Our Street), the debut novel by Zeshan Shakar. It’s about second generation immigrants in Oslo. It is in standard Norwegian as well as “kebabnorsk”, a spoken dialect mixing Norwegian with foreign words, mainly Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages. I did sneak in a couple of books set in the 2010s in Oslo both last month and this month so I can jump straight into the final prompt for the challenge, a book spanning decades or places, right away.

Once again, I join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. What have you been reading lately?


The Henna Artist (Jaipur Trilogy #1) by Alka Joshi 🎧
(Narrated by Sneha Mathan)

A book right up my alley! This is a historical fiction novel about a time and place I am not familiar with featuring a strong female protagonist. The setting is Jaipur, India, in the 1950s, and Lakshmi, who left an abusive marriage at the age of 17, is a respected henna artist to the upper class women and on her way to becoming a self sufficient, independent woman. Then her husband appears bringing along a sister that Lakshmi didn’t know she had and her carefully balanced and planned life is disrupted. On top of it being an inspiring story, I also learned about henna artists and a bit about India pre- and post-independence. I considered reading the next in the series right away, but I decided to wait since I have other books I “must” read before the end of the year.


Nei og atter nei by Nina Lykke 🎧
(Narrated by Anne Ryg)

I knew little going into this book; I was just excited to have access to a Norwegian audiobook of a new-to-me author whom I had on my radar. (And it was short enough to fit in before I started my next book club pick.) It’s a contemporary novel about Ingrid and Jan, a married couple in their 50s (with 2 adult sons still living at home), and Hanne, a 34-year-old female work colleague of the husband. They all have issues and I didn’t like any of them (but at least they were honest with themselves). However, I really enjoyed the structure of the story in which each chapter was from a different character’s perspective and the time periods overlapped a bit. The audiobook narration was fabulous and kept me coming back to their messed up world. The ending was surprisingly satisfying.

Even though I didn’t love the story, I appreciated the writing style and structure and am keeping Nina Lykke on my to-read list. I already have another of her books on my shelf, the Brage Prize-winning novel Full spredning. It’s actually coming out in English translation by B. L. Crook in April 2023 titled Natural Causes published by Open Letter. It was first published in Norway 2019 and this will be her English language debut.


The Creak on the Stairs (Forbidden Iceland #1) by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir 📖
(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)

I decided to read a Nordic Noir selection in honor of #NordicNoirNovember. This is the debut novel of a new Icelandic crime author. A typical Nordic Noir read, it features a police detective with a troubled past, a dark and cold setting, and disturbing crimes. Specifically, it’s about Elma who transfers from the police department in Reykjavik to the one back in her small hometown of Akranes after a difficult break with her boyfriend. She and her partner investigate the death of a woman found by a lighthouse and all sorts of secrets and connections between past and present come up. Iceland is a fascinating setting and I love a smart, female detective. It worked for me and I look forward to reading the next in the series.


Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley 📖

My book club selected this novel in honor of November’s National Native American Heritage Month. It couldn’t have been a better selection for the purpose. It was an engrossing pageturner that opened my eyes to so much about contemporary Native cultures and traditions. It also shed light on both historical and present day challenges faced by Native people. I loved the main character, Daunis, an 18-year old star hockey player who just graduated from high school but is postponing her university plans to be close to her fragile mother whose brother just died, a father figure in Daunis’ life. I enjoyed the romance between Daunis and the new recruit on the hockey team. More deaths and secrets come to light. It was an unexpected thriller with great substance. #unreadBOTMchallenge


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 (October 2022) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

I love it when my reading selections bring me all over the place, and that was certainly the case this past month. I’ve been in San Francisco in the 1950s and on a cross country road trip in the 1930s. I was in Norway in the 1990s and 2010s and in South Korea at about the same time. 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

After having to pivot for September’s 1990s prompt, I am a bit behind on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. When my initial pick didn’t work out, I read Anne Holt’s Blind Goddess instead. She’s a prolific Norwegian crime author who’s been on my TBR list for a long time. For October’s 2000s prompt, I just started reading Tante Ulrikkes vei by Zeshan Shakar. It’s a Norwegian novel about second generation immigrants in Oslo. It will take a little longer than usual to read this because it’s not just in standard Norwegian but it also contains “kebabnorsk”, a spoken dialect mixing Norwegian with foreign words, mainly Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages. (But I did sneak in a book set in the 2010s in Oslo this month so I should be up to speed for December!)

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

What have you been reading lately?


Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo 🎧
(Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller)

This book had all the things that I love about a reading experience. It was historical fiction about a time, place, and history I’m not too familiar with (1950s San Francisco, Chinese American culture, Red Scare, queer community) and it had characters I admired and became very invested in. It was a story of an unlikely friendship, in this case a Chinese American teenager and a white American teenager. It was a story about girls with big dreams, one wanting to pursue a career in space science and the other wanting to be a pilot. Specifically, it was the story of Lily and Kath whose friendship slowly grows into something neither of them completely understands, and all of it was extremely compellingly written and narrated. A 5-star read!

Malinda Lo’s latest release, A Scatter of Light, is already on my TBR list since “almost 60 years after the end of Last Night at the Telegraph Club, A Scatter of Light also offers a glimpse into Lily and Kath’s lives since 1955.” (book description)


West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge 🎧
(Narrated by Danny Campbell)

I wasn’t sure about this book when it was suggested for book club and I wasn’t enamored by it to begin with when I started listening. However, when their journey across the country finally began, I was all in and went for longer walks and didn’t mind long, slow drives. I loved the characters, both human and animal, and their road trip was full of adventure meeting all sorts of people along the way, both good and bad. Based on the real story of San Diego Zoo’s first giraffes who survived a hurricane and then traveled by truck from the East Coast in 1938, it’s a fabulous story of a road trip, unexpected friendships both with other humans and with animals, and first love. It’s at times humorous, moving, captivating, and even upsetting. Set against the background of the Dust Bowl and the advent of World War II, it also provides a glimpse at life in this time period. Highly recommend!


Blind Goddess (Hanne Wilhelmsen #1) by Anne Holt 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Tom Geddes)

Anne Holt is a prolific Norwegian crime author who’s been on my TBR list for a long time. I started with her debut novel, the first in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series (published in Norway in 1993), which was about drug trafficking and corruption. What’s unique about this series is that it features a lesbian protagonist. I liked the Oslo setting and the police investigator Hanne. However, I was not a fan of the writing style in which mystery and suspense were infused by referring to characters in the third person instead of by name. There were also too many characters to keep track of which made it confusing at times.

I have not given up on Anne Holt, though. I already have her latest publication, Det ellevte manus (The Eleventh Script, published in Norway in 2021) on my shelf and I have my eye on both her Vik and Stubo series and newest Selma Falck series.


Blood Ties (Clara #2) by Ruth Lillegraven 🎧📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley)
(Narrated by M. Crouch, A. Eiden, S. Nielsen, M. Naramore, S. Graybill, S. Nankani, C. Ciulla)

I read the first in this series, Alt er mitt, in Norwegian two years ago before it was available in English (it’s now available in translation, Everything Is Mine, by Diane Oatley). I was enthralled at the time of reading, but I ended up being extremely disappointed in the ending which affected my whole outlook on the book. Then, when listening to an Instagram interview with the author, I learned of the planned trilogy and immediately changed my opinion of the book (Reading Lately: August 2020) and was eager to read the next one when it came out. Thank you to Netgalley and Amazon Crossing for providing an advance copy of the second book in the series.

Blood Ties was another pageturner and didn’t disappoint. It continues the story of Clara, now a single mother to twins about 8 years old, who has just been appointed Minister of Justice but doesn’t have much time to accomplish anything before her boys disappear. I had to suspend disbelief for a couple of things (lack of surveillance/supervision on the boys and a character’s lapse in judgment), but it still worked for me. The story is written from different perspectives, including one of her boys, which provided interesting insight into the plot. I had both the audiobook going for drives and walks (great ensemble narration) and the ebook for bedtime reading. I’m looking forward to the final installment because there are definitely elements that need wrapping up. (See Ruth Lillegraven talk (in English) about the first two books.)


Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin 📖
(Translated from the French by Aneesa Higgins)

This debut novel by a French Korean author was left over from my TBR list for Women in Translation Month in August. The story takes place in a seaside summer resort town in South Korea near the North Korean border during winter time. The unnamed narrator, a 24-year old Sokcho-born French Korean woman, works as a receptionist (as well as cook and cleaner) in a worn down guesthouse. One evening, a French cartoonist checks in for an extended visit with the hope of completing the last volume of his series. They form a tenuous, uneasy friendship as the narrator shows him authentic Korea, including the DMZ. I enjoyed the book; it’s a subtle and spare novel. What I appreciated the most was getting a glimpse of a part of the world very unfamiliar to me. The Pachinko Parlor, her next novel, was recently published in English and is already on TBR list.


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 (September 2022)

September introduced a new reading challenge to me, #sakprosaseptember, a nonfiction reading challenge (“sakprosa” means nonfiction in Norwegian) hosted by Norwegian bookstagrammer readygoread. I finally read a book she has long recommended, Invisible Women, and checked off two which have been on my TBR list for a while, Fearless Females and We Should All Be Feminists. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but on the rare occasions that I do, I usually end up really enjoying it, and this was no exception. And then I wonder why I don’t read more of it. Good thing #NonfictionNovember is around the corner!

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update

For September’s 1990s prompt, I initially chose Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Present Tense Machine: A Novel translated by Kari Dickson. After reading Gunnar Staalesen’s Fallen Angels for the 1980s, which took place in Bergen, I thought it would be interesting to stay in Bergen for the 1990s. Unfortunately, I had to lay Present Tense Machine aside for the time being. The premise was intriguing and I was open to reading a non-traditional novel, but the writing style (long sentences, stream of consciousness) with the narrator occasionally speaking directly to the reader was not for me. I really enjoyed the author’s eclectic short story collection Knots: Stories a few years ago (Reading Lately, June 2018) so I have not given up on her, but I need to be in a different headspace for this one. Instead I am reading the crime fiction novel Blind Goddess (Hanne Wilhelmsen #1) by Anne Holt translated by Tom Geddes for the 1990s. My pick for October’s 2000s prompt is undetermined at the moment.

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?


Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez
(Narrated by Caroline Criado Pérez)

I listened to this book read by the author herself which was a wonderful listening experience. The book was an eye-opening, thought-provoking, sometimes shocking, and oftentimes infuriating exploration of how women, their bodies, and their experiences have not been considered in planning, design, and decision-making around the world due to the fact that data fails to take gender into account. This book should be recommended reading for all and required reading in data science and statistics classes. I am seeing the world in a whole new way.

 


Fearless Females: The Fight for Freedom, Equality, and Sisterhood by Marta Breen, Illustrated by Jenny Jordahl

This graphic novel, written and illustrated by a Norwegian duo, presents an international history of women who have fought for the rights of women. There were many familiar names and events, but also some less well known ones. The contemporary, ongoing battles of female bodily integrity, with topics of contraception and abortion, as well as same sex relationships and gay marriage are also included. The text is accompanied by bold, monochromatic illustrations. It was a quick, entertaining, and educational read. In particular, I appreciated the occasional use of direct quotes from women’s papers and speeches, and I loved the sudden use of rainbow colors in the “Love Is Love” panels. It’s a great little intro to the history of American and European feminism, though I do not recommend it for young readers due to some of the mature content related to women’s bodies and violence towards women.


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Way back in 2017 I vowed to read this book as part of my resolution to “make a conscious effort to read books outside my normal tendency and comfort zone – more books by diverse authors and about issues or experiences new or unfamiliar to me” (My First Presidential Election as a U.S. Citizen & How I’m Moving Forward). I have certainly done that in general, but I never got around to reading that book in particular. It’s actually a short and relatable essay. I like Adichie’s voice and tone. I used to feel feminism was a somewhat extreme belief, not for me, but instead only for extreme, activist women. But over time, I’ve come to realize that it’s actually something we should all believe in. As Adichie writes herself, “a feminist is a man or woman who says, yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.”


Fallen Angels (Varg Veum Series) by Gunnar Staalesen
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)

This was a great pick for the 1980s decade in the Scandinavian Reading Challenge. The protagonist, private investigator Varg Veum, is all over Bergen, Norway, while working the case, and the author’s descriptions of the city and its surroundings (fjords and mountains) are very vivid. It all starts with the funeral of an old classmate of Varg’s at which he is reunited with other friends and this takes him down memory lane, especially when he’s asked to track down a friend’s wife who happened to be an old crush of Varg’s. There is a murder mystery involved, actually a series of murders, but be warned that the resolution of this mystery is quite unsettling.


What have you been reading lately?

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 (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 (April & May 2022) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

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

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

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

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

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

What have you been reading lately?


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

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


A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

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

  • #unreadBOTMchallenge

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochilt Gonzalez

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

  • #unreadBOTMchallenge

What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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

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

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

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

What have you been reading lately?


The Yield: A Novel by Tara June Winch

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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

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

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

What have you been reading lately?


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

I came across this Norwegian middle grade book in translation at Netgalley and couldn’t resist since I was familiar with the author, was drawn to the cover, and liked the premise. On the last day of 6th grade when Nora’s classmates share all sorts of foreign vacation plans for the summer, Nora ends up lying about an upcoming trip to the tropics. However, she is outed by a new boy in class who lives in her apartment complex. The summer spirals into much more than she ever expected in so many ways. It was a very enjoyable and heartwarming book about a 12-year-old’s desire to fit in and make friends with the added difficulty and pressure of social media and socio-economic differences, 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 (June 2021) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

Reading continues to bring me to other parts of the world while our international travels are on hold. This month I visited the Middle East (1960s-2010s), USA (various places during World War II), and Norway (early 1900s). And to make up for my current inability to visit Norway, I’m reading more books in Norwegian to feel like I’m closer (and to maintain my language skills).

We are now half way through the year, and I’m happy to say I’m on track to complete this year’s Scandinavian Reading Challenge by the end of the year. I have already completed seven prompts and have ideas for the rest. Not surprisingly, I am extremely heavy on the Norwegian books and may reconsider some of my remaining possible reads.

What have you been reading lately?


Salt Houses by Hala Alyan 🇵🇸 🎧📖
(Narrated by Leila Buck)

This was an eye-opening and engaging look at a part of the world and history I am not very familiar with. It’s a multigenerational story of an Arab family in the Middle East. Opening in 1963 in Nablus, a city in the northern West Bank, 15 years after the family had to flee Jaffa along the coast, matriarch Salma is reading the coffee grinds of her daughter Alia on the eve of her wedding and foresees an unsettled life. After that, the story moves forward in chucks and readers get a glimpse of life from alternating perspectives of various family members as they move around the Middle East and beyond. Readers witness the Six-Day War (1967), Invasion of Kuwait (1990), and Lebanon War (2006) through their eyes. Despite being displaced around the world, this family of bold personalities and oftentimes strained relationships stays connected and strong. This family will stay with me for a long time.

Book Voyage: Read Around the World Reading Challenge: Middle East


The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar 🇺🇸🎧
(Narrated by Xe Sands)

This is the fictional story of Audrey Coltrane, a female pilot from Texas during World War II. She tells her story (in the first person) beginning with being a military flight instructor in Hawaii (at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor) and then joining the WASP program, or Women Airforce Service Pilots, to test and ferry planes during the war. It’s an inspiring story of female friendship and strength that once again gave me a glimpse of a piece of history I had little familiarity with. I was a bit surprised by the love interest that ran through the story and couldn’t quite decide if I liked it or not, but in the end I enjoyed the story.


Hekneveven (Hekne, #2) by Lars Mytting 🇳🇴 📖

This is the second book in a planned Norwegian trilogy, the first of which, The Bell in the Lake, has already been translated into English. Despite my mixed feelings about the first book, I was very eager to read the next in the series. I was not let down and thoroughly enjoyed this one. It continues the story of a small, isolated village in Gudbrandsdalen (20 years later in the early 1900s), in particular the story of a young man (whose mother died in childbirth) and a priest who joined the community in the first book. I really connected with the characters, enjoyed the author’s descriptions of local life and the modern changes happening, and appreciated the inclusion of bigger events happening in the background (immigration to America, dissolution of the union with Sweden, World War I, and Spanish Flu Pandemic). There was even some mystery relating to an old tapestry introduced in the first book and circumstances surrounding the birth of the young man. I’m looking forward to book #3!

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: Bonus 2: A book by a Nordic author you’ve enjoyed before


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.