What I’ve Been Reading Lately (January 2023)

Welcome to another round of Quick Lit where I join other readers in sharing what we’ve been reading lately. If it hadn’t been for a couple of middle grade books, it would not have been a very interesting start to the new year. I was so enthralled by an audiobook and on a mission to complete the 20 hours of listening before my loan expired that I focused solely on that. Instead of listening to one book and reading another, which is my usual reading tendency, I alternated between the audio version and the ebook so I could finish in time. The audiobook was such a fabulous listening experience that I wanted to listen to as much as possible before it expired, and I managed just in the knick of time. Then I squeezed in the two middle grade books before the end of the month.

Looking Ahead to 2023

I’m eager to kick off my goals for 2023 with my 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge, and snuck in a read for it, but I also still have to finish the last book for my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge, a book spanning decades. Almost there! In the meantime, I’ve been planning my Nordic TBR for 2023 and am excited for the year ahead.

My middle grade reads were inspired by a reading challenge that my elementary school hosts every winter in which students are encouraged to read certain books and vote for their favorite. Parents, faculty, and staff are invited to join, and I’m participating with the 6th grade booklist. All are genres I don’t normally read. Besides being middle grade books, they are a novel-in-verse (partly), a fantasy, and a graphic novel. This past month, I read the graphic novel and novel-in-verse. I’m currently reading the fantasy one.

What have you been reading lately?

Girls Who Lie (Forbidden Iceland, #2) by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir 📖
(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)

Iceland’s location and geography make for such a fascinating setting and are often a significant aspect of stories set there. That is certainly the case in this series which takes place outside of Reykjavik along the western coast. The author deftly incorporates changing weather and unique geographical features into the stories. I really enjoyed the first in the Forbidden Iceland series, The Creak on the Stairs. However, this second one didn’t quite do it for me. It began slowly and there were what I considered mundane and unnecessary details. Unfortunately, I was not attentive enough while reading, and the twist did not unfold for me in a satisfying way — more confusion than a-ha moment — and this frustrated me. Though I can certainly see how attentive reading could yield a satisfying, or even thrilling, reading experience so I haven’t written off the next in the series.

Dawnlands (The Fairmile Series, #3) by Philippa Gregory 🎧
(Narrated by Louise Brealey)

Once again, Philippa Gregory knocks it out of the ballpark. This installment takes place 15 years later in 1685 when England is on the brink of another civil war. We return to the lives of Alinor, her adult children and their families, her brother Ned who has returned from New England with a Native American, and Livia who continues to be as manipulative as ever. It’s a captivating read/listen with real history, including actual historical figures, and extremely engaging fictional characters. The colonial sugar plantations in Barbados play a significant role in this story, which I knew next to nothing about. There is more emphasis on royalty in this book which I was less interested in, but overall it was a fascinating continuation of Alinor’s family’s lives and a new generation is introduced as well. I look forward to the next installment when that arrives!

Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez & Gabriela Espstein 📖

This middle grade graphic novel is a modern day Breakfast Club story. A group of students seen by most as all the same, just five Spanish speaking kids, find themselves stuck together with nothing in common other than having to complete community service hours. I had mixed feelings about this one. I enjoyed getting to know the individual students and their personal stories and I liked how they came together to help someone. However, I was not a fan of how it was framed with the beginning and end as they were. I also didn’t like how the adults at the school were portrayed. I did, however, really appreciate the dual language aspect and liked reading the Spanish passages when they were offered. And the illustrations were fabulous.

  • Elementary School Winter Reading Challenge ✔️

The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling  📖

I’m so impressed with how the structure of the novel contributed to the plot. The story begins in regular prose as a daughter and father head out on a road trip to hike a canyon. They are getting over the death of the mother and find peace and safety in nature. Suddenly, a flash flood comes barreling through the canyon. At this point, the story switches to verse from the perspective of the daughter as her father is swept away with the gushing water after lifting her to safety. The story continues in verse as she perseveres fighting to survive and looking for her father. The verse isn’t all uniform but changes according to what’s going on in the story. A very impressive and engaging middle grade read.

  • Elementary School Winter Reading Challenge ✔️

What have you been reading lately?

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What I’ve Read: Thoughts on Books I Read in 2015

My Books of 2015I always enjoy finding out what others have read, are reading, or plan to read. If it’s something I’ve already read, it usually brings back warm memories, like good times with an old friend. If it’s something new to me, I often add it to my want-to-read list. I’m especially grateful for my book club which often forces me to read books I would never have chosen on my own, and in most cases I thoroughly enjoy. Here are the books I read this past year, in order of completion.

Tell the WolvesTell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – This was a book that someone in my book club brought to our holiday 2014 book swap. At the end of the evening, it ended up in my hands, and we chose to read it for the next meeting. It’s the story of 14-year-old June and her relationship with her uncle Finn, who dies young and was really the only person who truly understood June. It was a very moving book which I highly recommend.


Me Before YouMe Before You by Jojo Moyes – My mother had recommended the author, and somehow I selected this book. It’s the story of a young woman who forms an unlikely relationship with a quadriplegic man. It had interesting characters and a moving story that kept me totally engaged. Nothing thrilling, just a very well-told story. It was one of my favorites this year; I highly recommend it. I recently learned that a movie based on the book is being released this summer so make sure you read the book before you see the movie.

Mr PenumbraMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – This was a book I suggested for my book club based on a high school friend’s strong recommendation on Goodreads. She’s a voracious reader, teacher, and writer; I highly value her recommendations. It was a great story of a mysterious bookstore and secret society, and I liked how modern-day technology was intertwined with the story of old-fashioned books. I read it on my kindle, but I recently learned that the cover actually glows in the dark.

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir This was suggested by a book club member, and I was not totally on board. A science fiction book about a man stuck on Mars? That was certainly not a book for me, but I went along with the choice. I thought the first 50 pages were a little slow, but then I was hooked. I loved the main character’s resourcefulness and humor. My 11-year old son read the book as well and devoured it in 3 days (late nights!). I have not seen the movie yet.


NeddiadThe Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization by Daniel Pinkwater – Daniel Pinkwater is a quirky, amusing author. When I learned he’d written a kid’s chapter book that took place in Los Angeles, I was curious. He didn’t disappoint. It’s a weird, surreal tale of a young boy’s road trip to Los Angeles and his adventures with a shaman, a ghost, and three friends. It’s the first in a series that continues with two books with similar odd titles.

All the LightAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr This was another book club selection, one that I was totally on board reading. I was thoroughly engrossed as I jumped between the lives of a blind French girl who had to flee from Paris to the coast of France when the Nazis occupied Paris and a German orphan who ended up in a Hitler Youth academy and went on the monitor and track Resistance movement. Slowly but surely, their lives converged, but not like I thought they would. If you haven’t already read it, you should.

West of the MoonWest of the Moon by Margi Preus – I read this book because of my interest in children’s books relating to Norwegian history and culture. It is not only a historical look at Norway in the 1800s and Norwegian immigration to America at that time, but it also provides a peek into the little known world of Norwegian folk tales by interweaving these tales into the story.


Svoem-med-dem-som-druknerSvøm med dem som drukner by Lars Mytting – This was my Norwegian read this year. Best book all year for me, as I wrote in a previous post. Too bad it’s not translated into English so I can recommend it to more people. Update: English translation is now out, The Sixteen Trees of the Somme.



AmericanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – This was not only highly recommended by my friend who had loved Mr. Penumbra, but I also saw it on “My Top Books of 2014” at Noriko’s Random Bits, the blog of another writer/teacher/friend who’s an avid reader. I love books as a way to experience other people’s lives, especially those of foreign and diverse cultures. This was a story about a Nigerian immigrant to the US and her later return to Nigeria. I liked how it brought me into a race and culture about which I had little knowledge and opened my eyes to so many new ideas.

Sunlit NightThe Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein – In an edition of the Norwegian American Weekly, I saw that Dinerstein was soon coming to LA to promote her debut novel. I was intrigued. She was an American who had gone to Northern Norway for a year to write and had even learned the language. I convinced a friend to join me to hear her speak. Her story was interesting, and I put her book on my want-to-read list. The book is about two strangers from New York City who meet in Northern Norway’s Lofoten area during the season of the midnight sun. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the area and the midnight sun.

Boys in the BoatThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown –This was another book club selection that I would not have picked out for myself, but I loved it. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse of what life was like back in the 1920’s and 30’s and thought it was interesting how the story included glimpses of Germany during that time as well. After reading it, I have so much more understanding and tremendous admiration for the sport of rowing. If the Summer Olympics come to LA in 2024, I definitely want to see eight-oared rowing. I gave the young readers adaptation of this book to my 11-year-old son for Christmas and he finished it overnight. I highly recommend the story for young and old alike.

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green – I don’t remember how I came about reading this one. Most likely it was because I enjoyed John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and I needed something to read and it was available as an ebook from the library. The book was fine but not one that I would necessarily recommend.



One Plus OneOne Plus One by Jojo Moyes – Our book club was having a hard time reuniting again after summer break so I had some extra time to read books of my own choosing. After such an enjoyable time with Moyes’ Me Before You (and the sequel wasn’t out yet), I chose this one. It was also a very good read, but there were too many similarities between this and the other one that it wasn’t as enjoyable. But don’t get me wrong, it was still very good.


Girl in the Spiders WebThe Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz – My book club wrapped up the year with this one. You might be familiar with Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series about pierced and tattooed superhacker Lisbeth Salander and investigative reporter Mikael Blomqvist. Larsson died and Lagercrantz continued the series with this one. I didn’t feel the book contained the same suspense as the others and Salander was more on the outside of the story than I would have liked, but overall a very engaging read.

Reminiscing about the books I read in 2015 was a fun experience. I’m proud of my reading accomplishment this past year. It was quite a few books (14!) of different genres and on a variety of topics. I look forward to another productive year of reading, and welcome your recommendations!

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