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 (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.