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

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

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

I am unsure what to read for August’s 1980s prompt. Ideally, I would love to find a book by a Norwegian female author that takes place in the 1980s, but I’m having trouble finding titles. For details on the reading challenge and insight into the past, current, and next decades, along with a few reading ideas, visit 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

TBR List for WITMonth 2022

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

What have you been reading lately?


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

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


Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

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

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

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What have you been reading lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you been reading lately?


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

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


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

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

  • Summer Reading Bingo: Takes place outside the US

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

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

  • Summer Reading Bingo: One-word title

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

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


What have you been reading lately?

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

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

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (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 Read: Vidunderbarn (Child Wonder) by Roy Jacobsen

Recently, I read Roy Jacobsen’s Vidunderbarn (Child Wonder) for my Scandinavian Book Group. I always make a point of reading a Norwegian book in anticipation of (or during) our annual summer trip to Norway to brush up on my Norwegian, but I don’t often read another beyond that. I’m grateful for discovering this book group because it’s given me an added incentive to search out new (to me) Norwegian authors and carve out more time to read Norwegian.

I first became aware of Roy Jacobsen when I was home in Oslo during the summer of 2016. A Roy Jacobsen book, Hvitt hav (published 2015), was on the display of top 10 paperbacks at a local bookstore, and another of his books, De usynlige (published 2013), was on a table of popular books on sale. I was happy to find a contemporary Norwegian non-crime author who wrote novels set in Norway, and I made a mental note to consider him for a future read.

When it came time to pick the next read for the Scandinavian Book Group, the other members of the group were happy to make the next pick a Norwegian one in my honor (it was my first meeting with them). The only requirement was that it had to be available in English, and they preferred a non-crime book. They had already read Jacobsen’s The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles (Hoggerne, published 2005), so I suggested Child Wonder (Vidunderbarn, published 2009). The description and reviews sounded interesting, and it had received the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2009 which made it even more promising.

Child Wonder takes place in Norway in the early 1960’s and is about 10-year Finn who lives with his working mother in an apartment complex in a working-class suburb of Oslo. He is a boy who does well in school and enjoys playing outside with his friends. He and his mother get along well. Then their world begins to change. First, they convert Finn’s bedroom into a room that they can rent out, and soon a lodger is staying with them in their apartment. And he brings along a television that ends up in the shared family room. Next, they welcome Linda, Finn’s unknown 6-year old half-sister, into their family.

The book looks at their life together for a little over a year through the eyes of Finn. We see Finn’s relationship with the lodger take shape. We see Finn being a surprisingly mature support and help to his new half-sister. We see his relationship with his mother progress. We see Finn wonder about his worth and place in the family. We also begin to understand that the mother is struggling with something unknown to Finn.

My favorite part of the book is the summer they spend on the island of Håøya, the largest island in the inner Oslo Fjord. The lodger lets them borrow his 6-person tent that is set up on the island. Finn and his half-sister spend a few weeks there enjoying the “green paradise”.

One of the things that makes this book interesting is that Finn is an unreliable narrator. He is young and obviously doesn’t know or understand everything yet. He also doesn’t share everything he experiences. We are left to question and wonder about what we read, in particular about the half-sister (there’s something not right about her), the lodger and the mother’s relationship with him, and the nature of the mother’s struggle. It makes for a good discussion with others who have read the book.

I actually read part of the book in English (the e-book is available through Los Angeles Public Library). Jacobsen’s writing style consisted of very long sentences with very few periods and it slowed down my reading pace, so I had to switch over to English for a few chapters to get through it a little faster in order to finish in time for the book group meeting.

It was interesting to read part of it in translation. It was a British English translation so I had to think twice about some translated words and phrases. In particular, the British word “estate,” used very often, did not suggest the right meaning to me, but I understood what was meant. I found the translation to be consistent with Jacobsen’s writing style. One thing that shocked me, however, was that the translator didn’t just translate, he actually added to the English text. I noticed it in one case, but since I only read a small part in both languages, it made me wonder what other additions or changes the translator may have made in the rest of the book.

I enjoyed the book very much. This was a character-driven story that was both heart-warming and heart-breaking at times and that kept me questioning and wondering, even after finishing the book. I’m open to giving one of his newer books a chance. Norwegian readers, please let me know if you have a recommendation – whether it’s one of Roy Jacobsen’s books or another Norwegian read.

Book Details:

  • Norwegian Title: Vidunderbarn
  • Author: Roy Jacobsen (born 1954)
  • Norwegian Publication Date: 2009
  • English Title: Child Wonder
  • Translator: Don Bartlett with Don Shaw
  • US Publication Date: 2011
  • Awards: Norwegian Booksellers Award (2009)

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