What I’ve Been Reading Lately (January 2021)

My 2021 Scandinavian Reading Challenge is live, but I’m still reading my last book for the 2020 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. Too many other books have wormed their way onto my currently-reading list so it’s taking longer to complete the ones in progress. I’m not in a rush, though, and I’m enjoying each book in its own time and place, whether it’s on a walk, in the car, inside or outside, or in bed.

What have you been reading lately?

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
(Narrated by an ensemble of seven)

This was a book club pick for which I had not been a part of the selection discussion, so I went into it not knowing anything about it. I loved that it introduced me to a part of history with which I was not familiar, the CIA during the Cold War, in particular the role of women at the agency. Additionally, I was introduced to Boris Pasternak, a famous Russian poet at the time and the author of Dr. Zhivago, and his mistress Olga. All of this intrigued me. I liked how the story jumped between East and West until the plot lines merged. I definitely enjoyed the first half more than the second half which I felt dragged a little. Unfortunately, the ending was unsatisfactory for me. Overall, however, it was a very enjoyable listen with an ensemble of seven narrators, and I appreciated the insight into the role of the agency, women, and literature during the Cold War.

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

This book has been on my TBR for a while and reading it now was spurred by an upcoming virtual visit by the author to my son’s English class. It’s a Southern California immigrant story, but not your typical one. The story takes place in a small town in the Mojave Desert. A Moroccan immigrant who’s lived in the area with his family for 20+ years is killed in a hit-and-run accident. The book explores the family’s grief and the aftermath of the incident from the perspectives of a diverse group of people in the community. I liked the slow reveal of who was responsible for the hit-and-run and the secrets kept by the family members. I enjoy complex structures, and in this case, the various perspectives jumped back in time as well. I really enjoyed this book.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
(Narrated by Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgang)

This was an impromptu pick after seeing it mentioned on Instagram several times and the audiobook being available at hoopla. It being a Jane Eyre retelling meant nothing to me since I haven’t read Jane Eyre, but I was drawn to the domestic thriller/mystery aspect. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it instead of listened to it? The narrators’ performances of the main characters were good, but the voice and tone for the housewives annoyed me. Also, the language in the book was off-putting, so many f-bombs. This was maybe even more obvious because I was listening to it and couldn’t skim over them. I didn’t like any of the characters but kept reading because I wanted to know what would happen next and that’s what got me to the end.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson (Author, Illustrator), Omar Mohamed (Author), Iman Geddy (Illustrator)

This book will stay with me for a long time. It’s a middle grade graphic novel memoir about the refugee camp experience of Omar and his disabled brother. Omar and Hassan had to flee civil war in Somalia as very young children without their parents and arrived at a refugee camp in Kenya as orphans and lived there for about 15 years before being resettled to the USA. It was an eye-opening look, both heart-breaking and heart-warming, at life in a refugee camp from the perspective of a child — the living situation, food insecurities, educational system, and resettlement process. The drawings added tremendous value to the story. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I highly recommend this book.

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.

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4 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Reading Lately (January 2021)

    • Yes, it was cool that she was visiting, but I think I was more impressed than my son. Hope you enjoy When Stars Are Scattered!

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