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 (March 2022)

I continue to join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. This month I really traveled the world through books and landed on three continents. I visited South Africa, Romania, Norway, and Antarctica.

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update: I’m on track with my reading for this year’s Scandinavian Reading Challenge. March’s focus was the 1930s and I read Chasing the Light by Australian writer Jesse Blackadder which featured Norway’s whaling industry at the time. It certainly was a great book for the challenge, but as I explain below, it wasn’t a favorite reading experience otherwise. For April’s 1940s, I chose to return to Roy Jacobsen’s Barrøy series with White Shadow which takes places in the same area of Northern Norway but in a much narrower time frame than the first one, just the last year of the German occupation of Norway.

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 Promise by Damon Galgut
(Narrated by Peter Noble)

This was a book club pick that I knew nothing about going in. Interestingly, what ended up intriguing me the most by the end was what bothered me the most at the beginning, the narrative voice and the narrator of the audiobook. At the beginning, I found the tone very annoying — strong, pronounced, and all-encompassing. However, once I realized that was the intended effect (and that the prose was written in free form without quotation marks with the dialogue and narrative merging, something I don’t like), I continued the audiobook with a new perspective and an open mind and found it very enjoyable. The story is about a white South African family and a promise that takes decades to fulfill. The dying mother wanted their long-time servant to receive the house on the property in which she lived. It begins during Apartheid and jumps by decades to the present. The narrator of the story has an attitude and opinions which they don’t hold back, making this a very unique reading/listening experience.


Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel (Narrated by Anne Bogel)

I’ve had this book by a favorite blogger/podcast host on my bookshelf for a couple of years but just never got around to reading it. When I discovered the audiobook was available at hoopla, I downloaded it immediately and decided to make it my next read instead of listening to a podcast. In a way, it would be like a podcast since the author, also host of a favorite podcast, reads it herself. It was a short and sweet listen which provided much useful food for thought regarding decision making. Some of the material was a good reminder of familiar concepts; other sections were new ways of thinking about issues.

 


I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
(Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini)

What an eye-opening and heart-breaking look into life in communist Romania under the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in the 1980s. The story takes place over a span of only a few months in 1989 leading up to the revolution in December. All 17-year-old Cristian really wants to do is write and spend time with the girl he has a crush on, but the regime has other plans for him. He is blackmailed by the secret police into becoming an informer. It was shocking to see how deep and wide the “citizen spy network” worked and its effect on families. I’ve been a great fan of Ruta Sepetys’ previous historical fiction novels, and this new release didn’t disappoint.


Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder

I so wanted to love this book. It was a book about three women competing to become the first women to set foot on Antarctica. Equally intriguing was that it was during a period of Norwegian history unfamiliar to me, Norway’s whaling industry in the 1930s. The historical aspect met my expectations, though did not exceed because it was very fictionalized. The characters were based on real people, but the voyage depicted in the book was actually an amalgamation of various voyages to Antarctica by the women involved. The afterword by the author was important in sorting out what was true and what was not. What turned me off the most, however, was the female camaraderie, or actually lack thereof. On this very long, tough journey in a very male-dominated environment, I was hoping/expecting them to be more well-intentioned towards one another and supportive of each other, but that was not the case, and that was frustrating to 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 (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, all with a touch of Norwegian culture thrown in.

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.

My Reading Intentions for 2022

There’s no time like a new year to set some intentions, in this case related to reading. 2021 saw many wonderful reading experiences (see my Goodreads list of completed books). Highlights included completing the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, listening to the 40-hour-plus The Eighth Life, discovering new Scandinavian authors to return to (in particular Norwegian Ingvild H. Rishøi and Swedes M.T. Edvardsson and Stina Jackson), and reading around the world. In the hopes of having an equally satisfying and fulfilling year in 2022, I’ve set some intentions to help guide my reading. Otherwise, I might find myself in a state of limbo due to indecision.

Continue with my Scandinavian reading 🇳🇴🇸🇪🇩🇰

This is a no brainer intention, one that I’ve had for several years now. For the past 4 years, I’ve done it by creating a Scandinavian Reading Challenge with prompts to complete in no particular order, and I’ve really enjoyed expanding and diversifying my Scandinavian reading that way. This year, however, instead of creating my own prompts, I will be participating in The Book Girls’ Decades Reading Challenge and reading a Scandinavian book, most likely a Norwegian one, that takes place in each of the decades from the 1910s through the 2010s finishing with a book spanning multiple decades – 12 books in total. I’m very excited about the new iteration of my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. You can read more about it on its page, 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

Read off my shelf 📚

This year I would really like to make progress on reading books I already have on my shelf. I look forward to doing the research and finding appropriate books for my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, but I will prioritize books I already have on my shelf, which includes many in Norwegian. I also have many unread Book of the Month selections waiting patiently and I want to work on reading those as well.

Read from more places in the world 🌍 🌎

I’ve always enjoyed reading from around the world, but I haven’t necessarily kept track of places I’ve visited through books. Last year I discovered and worked on The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge. I didn’t follow their timeline, just their map. I read books for every area of the world, many times multiple books for an area, but moving forward I would like to read more from certain areas: Central and South America, Middle East, and Africa. In August, Women in Translation Month returns, a favorite reading event, and I will continue to focus on authors from outside Western Europe for that.

Improve with sharing on Instagram

I enjoy the bookstagram community very much. I have my favorite accounts that I follow. My intention when I set up my account a few years ago was to share my interest and love of Scandinavian books and other books in translation and interact with fellow readers and participate in the community. It hasn’t quite worked out that way so I’ll see how I can improve with that this year.


I am excited about the new reading year ahead, in particular my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. Have you set any reading intentions for the new year?

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 (October & November 2021)

Better late than never in sharing recent reads! October and November were busy months with less time and energy to read and write. Hence the two months are shared together now at the end of December. At least they were very productive months in the sense that I finished three unread Book of the Month selections, checked off two new areas of the world for The Book Girls’ Guide Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge, and made progress on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. I also felt a great sense of accomplishment when I finished The Eighth Life, a 41-hour audiobook which took me 3 months to finish but was so worth it.

How’s your reading life been lately?


The Eighth Life (for Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili
(Translated from the German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin)
(Narrated by Tavia Gilbert)

This audiobook was phenomenal. I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had. Not only was the story engrossing and eye-opening, but also the narrator had such great expression and feeling for each of the many characters. It’s the story of a Georgian family, in particular its women, beginning in the early 1900s until the present day. We get an insider’s view of the tumultuous and at times gruesome history of the Russian Empire/Union of Soviet Socialist Republics/Russia. There’s a secret and dangerous chocolate recipe, love and loss, happiness and heartbreak. I highly recommend it, but it is a big undertaking and commitment.

🌍 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Eastern Europe & Russia


The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I didn’t hesitate to pick this book up since I really enjoyed both The Nightingale and The Great Alone. However, I wasn’t as much a fan of this one, though I still enjoyed it. This one takes readers to the Dust Bowl, Texas in particular, during the Great Depression and follows Elsa as she struggles to make a life for herself and her kids with her husband, whom she was forced to marry, and his family. I did not realize just how hard and tenuous life in the Great Plains was at this time. I admired Elsa and agonized with her about her children’s lives. The insight into life in California for migrants was an unexpected but welcomed reading experience. Nothing was ever easy for Elsa, but she powered through with great perseverance and strength.

🌎 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North America
📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson
(Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles)

This is a legal/psychological thriller that takes place in Lund, Sweden, in the southern end of Sweden. An 18-year-old girl is accused of murdering a man 15 years older than her. Both her father, a pastor, and her mother, a criminal defense attorney, struggle with trying to understand and defend her. I always appreciate a story about complicated family dynamics, and this book has a unique structure as well. The first part is from the father’s perspective which is followed by the daughter’s perspective. Finally, the mother’s perspective is shared. I really enjoyed it, in particular how the whole story was revealed through the different perspectives one after the after.

🇸🇪 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A Scandinavian book I’ve been meaning to read📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

This was an unread Book of the Month selection inspired by Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) and The Book Girls’ Book Voyage’s focus on South America in October. It was a short novel that packed a powerful punch. It’s about a mixed status family separated by unfortunate circumstances. The mother and two children are in the United States while the father and one daughter are back in Colombia. The story alternates between the past (shedding light on how the family, who was at one point all together in the US, got to this point) and the present (when the daughter in Colombia is urgently trying to return to her father from a correctional facility so she can be reunited with her mother in the US). I really appreciated the insight into life in Bogotá as well as into the experiences of undocumented in the US.

🌎 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: South America (Colombia)
📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo
(Narrated by Sara Powell)

I picked this somewhat on a whim. I wanted something different from what I’d recently been reading, and the setting of London and a West African country intrigued me. It was a surprisingly compelling listen. The narrator’s interpretation of the main character was wonderful. Anna Bain, a mixed race woman in her late 40s, is newly separated from her husband of many years. Her adult daughter is busy with work, and her mother recently died. While going through her mother’s belongings, she discovers a diary belonging to her African father whom she never knew. This discovery takes her to her father’s country, fictional Bamana, where she encounters a variety of new experiences. I really enjoyed this story of new beginnings.


What have you been reading lately?

As always, 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 (July 2021)

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. All the books didn’t quite hit the mark for me last month, but the variety in both setting and genre kept it interesting.

As I write and post this, I’m enjoying books in translation by women outside of Scandinavia for August’s Women in Translation Month. I’ve got my stack of options (see my Instagram post, if you’re curious) and will read what appeals to me when I’ve finished a book. In the background of my reads, I’m listening to the 40-hour long The Eighth Life (For Brilka) by Georgian author Nino Haratischvili, translated from the German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin and narrated by Tavia Gilbert. I am engrossed in this multigenerational family saga that begins at the start of the 20th century and takes place mostly in Georgia and Russia. So far a great story and fabulous narration of tumultuous history through the eyes of women.

What have you been reading lately?


Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid 🇺🇸📖

This was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid story. I was intrigued by the local setting of Malibu in the 1980s, and it seemed like the perfect summer read. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet my expectations. I definitely enjoyed the first half. This is when the Riva family is introduced by alternating between the past when June and Mick meet and begin their family (starting in the 1950s) and the present (1983) when the Riva siblings are about to host the annual not-to-be-missed celebrity end-of-summer party. The mother and siblings did not have an easy life with the famous musician father absent for years. I enjoyed seeing how they persevered and supported each other. The second half which featured the party appealed to me much less. There was too much alcohol, drugs, sex, and out of control behavior. It got to be too much for me.


Sølvveien (The Silver Road) by Stina Jackson 🇸🇪📖
(Translated from the Swedish to the Norwegian by Inge Ulrik Gundersen)

(This book is available in English translation by Susan Beard.) It’s billed as crime fiction (won Best Swedish Crime Novel, 2018), but I felt it was more a story of loss and grief due to crime. It’s a dual narrative set in a remote and isolated part of northern Sweden which plays a significant role in the story. Lelle’s 17-year-old daughter disappeared 3 years ago. His marriage dissolved, and he is being torn apart from the inside. He has obsessively spent summer nights driving The Silver Road, where his daughter disappeared, looking for her in abandoned and hidden areas. Meanwhile, teenager Meja and her dysfunctional mother have moved to the area to live with a man the mother had met online. Over time Lelle’s and Meja’s paths cross. It was a very engaging read with main characters I cared about. The ending, however, was somewhat predictable in my opinion, but the visit to this community in northern Sweden was worth it. Stina Jackson’s next book, The Last Snow, is already on my TBR.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A prize-winning Scandinavian book (Best Swedish Crime Novel, 2018; and Glass Key Award, 2019) OR A book by a new-to-you Scandinavian author


Her Dark Lies by J. T. Ellison 🇺🇸🇮🇹🎧
(Narrated by Brittany Pressley)

This is the story of a high-profile destination wedding that goes totally awry. Bad weather, dead bodies, and a ruined wedding dress are just a few obstacles before up-and-coming artist Claire and wealthy, handsome, and charming Jack can marry on rocky Isle Isola off the coast of Italy. It was a fun listen. I liked the unique setting, a secluded island with history and mystery. The rotating perspectives, including one that I was unsure about until later in the story, made the story even more intriguing and suspenseful.

 


A Woman Is No Man: A Novel by Etaf Rum 🇺🇸🇵🇸🎧📖
(Narrated by Ariana Delawari, Dahlia Salem, Susan Nezami)

Just last month I read Salt Houses by Palestinian-American author Hala Alyan, and  A Woman Is No Man by another Palestinian-American writer was an interesting companion read/listen. While Salt Houses revolved around a Palestinian family that remained in the Middle East, this book focused on a Palestinian family that immigrated to Brooklyn, New York. It was a disturbing and heartbreaking story of three generations of Palestinian women in America whose lives were dictated by the patriarchal beliefs of the homeland. The story alternated between Fareeda, the matriarch, who emigrated from Palestine as a young mother; Isra who was brought over at the age of 17 as the wife of Fareeda’s eldest son; and Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter born in Brooklyn. While an important story to hear, this particular story seemed very one-dimensional. All was very negative and repetitive in regards to men and women’s status in this community.


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.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (May 2021)

I’m continuing my travels around the world through books and am really enjoying this new focus in my reading. This month I visited Vietnam, Australia, and Norway.

Even though we’re half way through the year already, I’ve decided to join The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge to help me continue the course and to find reading suggestions. The challenge is organized into 12 regions, and each month they share reading suggestions for a region. While their intention may be to read each region in order and share reading experiences, I’ll be skipping around since I’ve already completed reads for some regions and missed others.

What have you been reading lately?


The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai 🇻🇳 📖🎧
(Narrated by Quyen Ngo)

This is exactly my type of book, historical fiction that opens my eyes to a part of history I have little knowledge about at the center of which is a strong, admirable female character. It’s a multigenerational story set against the Vietnam War. Grandmother Dieu Lan is taking care of her granddaughter Huong while her parents are fighting in the Vietnam War. Going back and forth in time, the reader learns about the grandmother’s life from birth in 1920 through the Great Hunger when her mother was killed and the Land Reform when she had to flee with her children to the current situation during the Vietnam War. It’s both a heartbreaking story of loss and struggle and beautiful story of resilience and hope. Highly recommend!

Book Voyage: Read Around the World Reading Challenge: Southern Asia


The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth 🇦🇺 🎧
(Narrated by Barrie Kreinik)

I loved Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-in-Law (a 5-star listen for me) so I had high expectations for this one. Sadly, I was disappointed. This was about a group of neighborhood housewives with young children and too much time on their hands. Everything is going fine, or so it seems, until a new neighbor moves in. This upsets the status quo and secrets begin to surface. I had a bit of a hard time keeping the characters apart and I almost didn’t finish, but I continued to see how all the secrets would be resolved. Despite this disappointment, I still have her latest The Good Sister on my TBR.

 

Book Voyage: Read Around the World Reading Challenge: Australia & New Zealand


The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbø 🇳🇴 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)

I had read the first Harry Hole book a few years ago and wasn’t a fan of him (a too damaged alcoholic with poor judgement), but I wanted to give the series another try since it’s such a popular one both at home and abroad. I’m glad I did; it was a fun ride! I really enjoyed that it took place in Oslo, so many familiar places. Also, Harry Hole’s character was much more likeable; he doesn’t drink in this installment and his skill as a detective really shines. In this story, Harry is on the hunt for a serial killer who’s been targeting married women with children and leaves a snowman behind as a calling card. It was very engaging and suspenseful with a satisfying resolution. I’m definitely open to reading more Harry Hole books.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A Scandinavian book from a favorite genre (crime fiction)


What have you been reading lately?

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

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