What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update: June 2018

My goal of completing three reading challenges this year is progressing slowly but surely: my own Scandinavian Reading Challenge, Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2018 Reading Challenge, and The Reading Women’s Reading Women Challenge. And just for the fun of it, I’m seeing how many of the Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge tasks I can complete, too. I love the challenge of finding books that fulfill tasks in more than one challenge.

And once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.

The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter #1) by Sigrid Undset

(Translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally)

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! It was nothing like what I expected. Kristin is quite the rebel and the book seems quite risqué for its time (first published in 1920). Broken betrothals, premarital rendezvous, poison, suicide, and coverups – so unexpected. It was interesting to learn about life in medieval Norway, and the descriptions of the setting are especially beautiful. I am eager to continue the trilogy to see how Kristin fares in her marriage to Erlend, the handsome man who wooed her away from her betrothed. This is a classic I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I tried to read it years ago, but it was the original translation (Charles Archer and J. S. Scott) and I couldn’t finish. The Nunnally translation was much better.

Reading Challenges:

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

This was a tough read, not because the writing or the story was bad, but because the circumstances of the setting were so horrendous. Also, my background knowledge of the geography and history of the area was very limited. The story takes place in Burma, now known as Myanmar, in Southeast Asia starting in 1939. It’s about a mixed race couple, Benny (Jewish British officer) and Khin (member of Burma’s Karen ethnic minority group), and how they and their children endure years of war, occupation, persecution, and brutality. Interestingly, the story is based on the lives of a local author’s mother and grandparents. I’m glad I powered through it because it opened my eyes to a chapter of world history I had no knowledge of, but I recommend it with reservations.

Reading Challenges:

Still Lives by Maria Hummel

This was my latest pick from Book of the Month. Not only did it sound interesting (mystery in the art world of Los Angeles, my hometown), but also the author was coming to a local bookstore to discuss the book (which is always an interesting experience). It’s about a young editor at a small, prestigious art museum in Downtown LA who takes it upon herself to investigate when an artist never shows up for the opening gala of her exhibition. The story was a bit slow to get going and I had some issues with the main character’s decisions and actions. It did get more suspenseful later on. Overall, it didn’t quite pack the punch that I was hoping for, but I still enjoyed the book. I especially liked that it took place in Los Angeles and referred to many places I know. (Sadly, the author event was canceled, but I am hoping they reschedule because I would love to hear her thoughts on the book.)

Knots: Stories by Gunnhild Øyehaug

(Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson)

This collection of short stories is the author’s English language debut — 13 years after its initial Norwegian publication! I chose to read it in English because the Norwegian publication was in nynorsk, a written standard for Norwegian which I don’t read as easily. The book is an eclectic collection of stories all of which explore the mind and thoughts of people in a variety of situations. Many are surreal; others are realistic. There is little action. They mostly deal with the characters’ consciousness. I was oddly transfixed by the stories. The book is small and short, and the stories are short so I just kept turning the pages to see what creative and unique story would come next.

Reading Challenges:

The Reading Women’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

This month I’ve also been dipping my toes into many miscellaneous Scandinavian books as I participate in The Reading Women’s photo-a-day challenge on Instagram (#ReadingWomenMonth). I’ve been matching their daily prompts with books by Scandinavian female authors (mostly Norwegian, it turns out). Check out my Instagram account @AVikingInLA to see my selections and follow along.

What have you been reading lately?

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4 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update: June 2018

  1. I have heard good things about Kristin Lavransdatter and want to read it soon… thanks for mentioning that Nunnaly is a good translator. I will look for her version when I do read it! I teach ESL to two Burmese women and still have limited knowledge of their country’s history so I am adding Miss Burma to my audiobook TBR.

    • Miss Burma will certainly teach you about your students’ country. A friend listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it. It’s read by the author. I hope you enjoy Miss Burma and Kristin Lavransdatter!

  2. I’m not sure I understand The Reading Women’s Photo-a-Day Challenge…the list in this newsletter looks interesting!
    I wish Jan Guillou’s series “The Great Century” were translated into English. I did contact his publisher last summer and at that time, there wasn’t a plan to do so. Anyway, I read (in Swedish) book #4, which takes place during WWII. The family this series follows, is Norwegian…in book #4, the 3 brothers are living in Stockholm. A good historical fiction series! I’m now reading “The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia”
    by C.W. Gortner. In between those 2, I read “The Perfect Horse: the Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis.” A non-fiction interesting story, however I wasn’t crazy about the author’s writing style. Thoroughly enjoyed “Beneath the Lion’s Wings” by Marie Ohanesian Nardin…about a young woman from Beverly Hills, while on vacation in Venice, falls in love with a gondolier. This hit a spot with me, since I went through all the emotions she goes through in trying to decide whether or not she should move to Italy. The author is from Long Beach and DID fall in love with a gondolier and moved to Italy…easy to read, fun to read and hit home!

    • Hi Lana. Nice to hear from you! For the photo-a-day challenge I’m just taking photos of book covers, in my case Scandinavian ones, that correspond with the daily prompts. For example, for “favorite book” I shared a picture of The Wreath and for “published in 2018” I shared Two Sisters. Thanks for sharing your recent reads. What a varied collection of books you’ve read! Hope you’re having a wonderful summer!

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