What I’ve Been Reading Lately (February 2023)

Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately”. Last month, I finally completed my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge with a book that spanned several decades, and it was a very satisfying way to wrap up the read-through-the-decades challenge. Now I’m fully immersed in researching and planning what I’ll read for this year’s 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge. (My final book for the 2022 SRC is actually a good one for the 2023 NLRC if you’re interested.)

Once again, I join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.

What have you been reading lately?

Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse 🎧
(Narrated by Kinsale Hueston)

I wrapped up my school’s winter reading challenge with this one (see Reading Lately, January 2023 for the other reads). Although there were certainly aspects of this middle grade fantasy book that I appreciated, overall, it wasn’t for me. It started fine. At first, it actually reminded me of Firekeeper’s Daughter (a YA book I loved). It featured an independent female Indigenous character from a special lineage on a mission to save her community. Coincidentally, they were both also missing a parent/parent figure under suspicious circumstances. But then there were too many quests and fantasy elements and fantastical creatures for my liking. The insight into the Navajo belief system and hearing the Navajo words in the narration were definitely a plus.

Leksikon om lys og mørke by Simon Stranger 📖
Keep Saying Their Names translated from the Norwegian by Matt Bagguley

This novel had been on my TBR list since it won the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2018. The book is what one might call a documentary novel (though the author just calls it a novel) and has a very unique structure. It blends real Norwegian World War II history with the author’s wife’s family history into a fictionalized story told through chapters following the alphabet (the Norwegian title translates to “Dictionary of light and darkness”). I read it in Norwegian and am so curious how the translation is completed due to this structure.

This multi-generational story generally takes place in Trondheim, Norway, and begins with the author and his young son at the memory stone (“snublestein”) of the son’s great-great grandfather. He was a Norwegian Jew arrested, imprisoned, and killed by the Nazis during World War II. The author then learns that after the war, his mother-in-law (the granddaughter of this great-great grandfather) grew up in a house which used to be the headquarters of a gang of Norwegian Nazi collaborators who questioned, tortured, and killed resistance members and others. From there, the author takes the reader on a journey jumping back and forth between the 1920s, the war years, and the post war years. He delves into the origins, actions, and fate of Henry Oliver Rinnan, the Norwegian leader of the Nazi collaborators, as well as his wife’s family history, in particular how they ended up living in Rinnan’s headquarters and the effect it had on them. The book was always eye-opening, often disturbing, at times brutal (not for sensitive readers), but it was also somewhat hopeful in that it was also a story of survival and how to live on – hence the reference to light and darkness in the Norwegian title. A very powerful book that will stay with me for a long time.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick 📖

I was surprised by how quickly I read this one. It grabbed my attention right away, and with the short chapters hopping between characters, I was fully engaged until the end. The story takes place in a world just like ours, but one day every person 22 years and older receives a mysterious box with a string that shows how long they have left to live. The book revolves around a cast of eight diverse characters and their decisions to open the box or not and what to do with the new information. Over time, the lives of these people intertwine in unexpected ways, a type of story I really enjoy. This is a thought-provoking book. The arrival of these strings has repercussions far and wide. I look forward to discussing this one with fellow readers at a book club meeting!

What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in purchasing Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, visit my Scandinavian Ebook Deals page. 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 (June 2022) & #ScandiReadingChallenge Update

With summer now upon us, I am back on track with my reading. My goals for the summer are to catch up on reading challenges, play along with a summer reading bingo that is happening at work, and prepare and participate in Women in Translation Month #WITMonth in August.

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: I’m not quite up-to-date on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge at the moment. In June, I finished Eyes of the Rigel, book 3 of The Barrøy Chronicles, for the postwar/1950s period (May) and then decided to begin book 4, Bare en mor (Just a Mother out in English November 10, 2022) right away hoping it would cover the 1960s as well (June). I’m only half way through and have yet to find out.

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 Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan
(Narrated by Leila Buck, 14 hrs 15 min)

Last year I read the author’s debut novel Salt Houses, which I really enjoyed, so when her second novel was recommended on a recent podcast with an aside that the listening experience was amazing, it quickly became my next listen. It didn’t disappoint. It’s the story of Mazna and Idris, a Syrian woman and a Lebanese man who married and emigrated from Beirut to a small town in the California desert, and their three adult children who have dispersed to Beirut, Brooklyn, and Austin. They are all brought together in Beirut when the father decides to sell the family ancestral home. It’s full of family drama – deep secrets and fraught relationships – with the added layer of the Lebanese Civil War and its legacy. Told through different perspectives and storylines that go back and forth in time, it was a very engaging and absorbing listen, which once again brought a part of the world unfamiliar to me closer to home.

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
(Narrated by Lauren Graham, 6 hrs)

I needed a light and easy audiobook that I could wrap up before our summer trip, and what better choice than one that would take me to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Sadly, this book wasn’t for me. Yes, I escaped to Positano and vicariously enjoyed delicious food and fabulous views, but I was not a fan of the storyline. Thirty-something Katy’s mother, who was her best friend, just died of cancer and Katy decides to take the trip that they had planned to do together anyways. She’s distraught and lost, and on top of that, questioning her marriage. While in Positano she meets two Americans, Carol, who is just like her mother, and Adam, who is totally unlike her husband. There’s a lot of self-reflection and I’m not sure whether time travel or mental breakdown, but she finds herself actually with her mother as a 30-year-old. At that point, I almost stopped listening, but curiosity and the fact that it was a short listen got me to finish it.

  • Summer Reading Bingo: Takes place outside the US

Unhinged (Alexander Blix #3) by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger
(Translated from the Norwegian by Megan Turney)

I needed a book that would jump start my summer reading so I finally read the third and latest English language installment in this Norwegian duo’s crime series. Like the others, it took place in Oslo and there were many places I recognized and knew, but the structure was very different, at least for the first half. It alternated between the interrogation of police office Alexander Blix about why he had shot someone, the interrogation of journalist Emma Ramm who saw what had happened, and the storyline of how the person was killed, so a lot of telling with jumps to actual action. The second half returned to a more traditional structure, but with a change in the focus of the investigation and a change in role for Blix. Unfortunately, the book was a bit of a disappointment for me. I wasn’t a fan of the structure of the first half and I didn’t like the new role for Blix.

  • Summer Reading Bingo: One-word title

Eyes of the Rigel (The Barrøy Chronicles Book 3) by Roy Jacobsen
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw)

This is the third in a series of four about Ingrid, an independent woman born, raised, and living on a remote island in Northern Norway in the 1900s. This installment takes place just after World War II. Ingrid leaves the island with her baby girl and travels throughout Norway on foot/train/bus to track down the father, a Russian prisoner of war who spent a short while on the island towards the end of the war as Ingrid nursed him back to health after he had  survived the sinking of the prisoner ship Rigel. All sorts of people help her find the way, provide shelter and food, and share information on the father providing an interesting picture of postwar Norway. The writing style and dialogue are spare and minimal, but Ingrid’s journey and determination to find him kept me engaged. Book 4 is already purchased and ready to be read (in Norwegian since it is not available in English translation yet, but expected November 10, 2022, by MacLehose Press, UK).

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.

My Reading Intentions for 2022

There’s no time like a new year to set some intentions, in this case related to reading. 2021 saw many wonderful reading experiences (see my Goodreads list of completed books). Highlights included completing the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, listening to the 40-hour-plus The Eighth Life, discovering new Scandinavian authors to return to (in particular Norwegian Ingvild H. Rishøi and Swedes M.T. Edvardsson and Stina Jackson), and reading around the world. In the hopes of having an equally satisfying and fulfilling year in 2022, I’ve set some intentions to help guide my reading. Otherwise, I might find myself in a state of limbo due to indecision.

Continue with my Scandinavian reading 🇳🇴🇸🇪🇩🇰

This is a no brainer intention, one that I’ve had for several years now. For the past 4 years, I’ve done it by creating a Scandinavian Reading Challenge with prompts to complete in no particular order, and I’ve really enjoyed expanding and diversifying my Scandinavian reading that way. This year, however, instead of creating my own prompts, I will be participating in The Book Girls’ Decades Reading Challenge and reading a Scandinavian book, most likely a Norwegian one, that takes place in each of the decades from the 1910s through the 2010s finishing with a book spanning multiple decades – 12 books in total. I’m very excited about the new iteration of my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. You can read more about it on its page, 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge.

Read off my shelf 📚

This year I would really like to make progress on reading books I already have on my shelf. I look forward to doing the research and finding appropriate books for my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, but I will prioritize books I already have on my shelf, which includes many in Norwegian. I also have many unread Book of the Month selections waiting patiently and I want to work on reading those as well.

Read from more places in the world 🌍 🌎

I’ve always enjoyed reading from around the world, but I haven’t necessarily kept track of places I’ve visited through books. Last year I discovered and worked on The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge. I didn’t follow their timeline, just their map. I read books for every area of the world, many times multiple books for an area, but moving forward I would like to read more from certain areas: Central and South America, Middle East, and Africa. In August, Women in Translation Month returns, a favorite reading event, and I will continue to focus on authors from outside Western Europe for that.

Improve with sharing on Instagram

I enjoy the bookstagram community very much. I have my favorite accounts that I follow. My intention when I set up my account a few years ago was to share my interest and love of Scandinavian books and other books in translation and interact with fellow readers and participate in the community. It hasn’t quite worked out that way so I’ll see how I can improve with that this year.

I am excited about the new reading year ahead, in particular my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. Have you set any reading intentions for the new year?