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.

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