What I’ve Been Reading Lately (August 2022) & #WITmonth Wrap-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.

For me, August was all about reading women in translation for Women in Translation Month. As I’ve written before, I usually focus on female authors outside of Scandinavia for this reading event, but this year I actually focused on Norwegian female authors since I had read so few of them so far this year. Of the two novels I read, one was a recently released debut novel and the other by a favorite author. Both were 5-star reads. Both were also longer books, so I wasn’t able to read as many as I would have liked to.

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update:

Neither of the novels I read for #WITmonth worked for August’s decade for the reading challenge, the 1980s. I was unable to find one by a Norwegian female author so I started reading Gunnar Staalesen’s Fallen Angels translated by Don Bartlett, a crime novel that takes place in Bergen in the 1980s. For September’s 1990s prompt, I plan to remain in Bergen with Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Present Tense Machine: A Novel translated by Kari Dickson. 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?


Agnes’s Place by Marit Larsen, Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson)

I’m always curious about Norwegian children’s books that are translated into English. What aspects of Norwegian culture are present, if any? There’s nothing particularly Norwegian about this one besides a mention and illustration of heart waffles as a snack. However, noticeable is that the little girl is not your stereotypical white, blonde Norwegian, but instead she has darker skin and black hair. Diverse characters are also featured in the apartment building’s residents. It’s a very sweet book about a 5-year old girl who yearns to connect with a new girl who moves into her apartment building. The illustrations are lovely with lots of detail. This would make a great read-aloud with a young child — so much to observe in the illustrations and to discuss regarding Agnes’ feelings. (Currently available for free via kindle unlimited.)


Reptile Memoirs: A Novel by Silje Ulstein 🎧
(Translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough)
(Narrated by Julie Maisey)

I really enjoyed this one — the characters, the storylines, the structure, the settings, the writing/translation, the twists. It all came together for a great ride. But it’s certainly not for everyone. Not only do you have to keep track of different settings and multiple perspectives (including the snake’s!), but also trigger warnings abound. It’s a thriller that takes place in western Norway – Ålesund in the early 2000s and Kristiansund over 6 days in 2017. In Ålesund, Liv and her housemates spontaneously decide to buy a python and Liv becomes obsessed with it. In Kristiansund, Mariam’s 11-year-old daughter disappears and detectives immediately suspect Mariam. Over time, the two plot lines intersect. As the book jacket says and I can’t say it any better, it is “a brilliantly twisty and unusual literary thriller.” I highly recommend the audiobook. It was an excellent narration.

  • Summer Book Bingo: A mystery; Takes place in a country other than the US

The Last Wild Horses: A Novel by Maja Lunde 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley)

This is the third book in Maja Lunde’s The Climate Quartet. The fourth one is coming out this fall in Norway (English translation TBD). I loved the first installment, The History of Bees: A Novel, and enjoyed the second one, The End of the Ocean: A Novel. When I heard the fourth one was expected soon, I was very eager to read the third one that I already had on my shelf in Norwegian. I actually alternated between my Norwegian physical copy Przewalskis hest and the English ebook depending on my reading situation/mood. I really enjoyed this one. It jumped between Norway in 2064, Mongolia in 1992, and St. Petersburg/Mongolia in 1882. The thread among the three storylines is the extinction of wild horses, and each of the storylines explores complicated relationships with those closest to us. There were also ties to the first two novels in the quartet which I really appreciated (and caused me to like the second one even more). I highly recommend the quartet and am eagerly anticipating the fourth and final installment.

  • Summer Book Bingo: Takes place in a country other than the US

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.

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately & My Latest Virtual Book Events (May 2020)

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

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

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


As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

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

Reading Challenges:


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

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

Reading Challenges:


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

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

Reading Challenges:


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

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

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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