What I’ve Been Reading Lately (March 2024) & Nordic Literature Reading Challenge News 

Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.” This past month I traveled all over the world — Maine, Uruguay, Vietnam, and Panama — and two of the books were even very new releases from 2024 which is unlike me.

I have finally finalized my Nordic literature reading plan for 2024. It’s going to be slow and steady (not meant to be completed by the end of 2024) with general reading categories for each of the Nordic countries to guide me along the way. Read more about it at 2024 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters (2023) 🎧(📖)
Narrated Aaliya Warbus and Jordan Waunch

This story opens during the summer of 1962 when a Mi’kmaq family from Nova Scotia is in Maine for berry picking season and 4-year-old Ruthie disappears. Her older brother Joe, 6 years old at the time, is the last to see her and is affected by this the rest of his life. What follows is a dual perspective narrative following Joe at the end of his life and the missing girl growing up with her new, overly protective mother and emotionally distant father. There is no mystery for the reader; it’s about how this early childhood trauma affected them both and how they are reunited. This was a highly anticipated novel that didn’t quite land with me like I expected it would. Maybe it was the narration of the audiobook that threw me. I ended up finishing the book by reading it. ⭐️⭐️


Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis (2019) 📖(🎧)

This story follows five queer women in Montevideo, Uruguay, who come together in secret during the Uruguayan Dictatorship and become friends, lovers, and family. They are a mixed group – a young high school student, a former activist, a married woman, a butcher, and one who is very reserved about her past and current life. A defining act of this group is discovering and buying a shack in an isolated, remote area along the coast which becomes their secret sanctuary. I read this for its setting in Uruguay and greatly appreciated the insight into life before, during, and after the dictatorship (1973-1985). I also admired the women for their resolve and determination to build their found family and to live as who they really are, despite dictators, trauma, and fear. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Women by Kristin Hannah (2024) 📖

Loved this book. Strong female characters, deep friendships, history I’m not as familiar with. It’s about three female nurses in Vietnam during the Vietnam War and then their re-entry into life when they returned to an America that wanted to forget Vietnam and didn’t acknowledge that women were there. In particular, it follows one woman, Frankie, who volunteered to serve thinking it would make her family proud, but instead it had the exact opposite effect. It’s a heartbreaking story in so many ways, but also a powerful story of patriotism, sacrifice, and courage. I was engrossed the moment I entered Frankie’s life.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Great Divide by Cristina Henríquez (2024) 🎧
Narrated by Robin Miles

This was not a unified story but instead a series of glimpses into the lives and backstories of individuals living in the Panama Canal zone during a period of its construction. Marian Oswald left America with her husband whose goal it was to eradicate malaria from the area. Sixteen-year-old Ava Bunting ran away from her home in Barbados so she could earn money for her younger sister’s surgery. Francisco was a local fisherman whose 17-year old son Omar decided to work in the cut despite his father’s protests. Joaquin was a fishmonger in Panama City whose wife became an activist when her small home village was threatened by the building of a dam. Over time, their lives intersected. It was an interesting behind-the-scenes look at a great historical feat and visit to a part of the world unfamiliar to me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


What have you been reading lately?

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately (February 2024)

Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.” I normally try to get this out mid-month, but I needed a couple of more days to wrap it up this time. I continue to move forward without a 2024 iteration of my yearly Scandinavian/Nordic reading challenge, but I aim to have something in place by the end of March.

In the meantime, I’m motivated by challenges I’ve already committed to, in particular the #DiversityAcrossGenres reading challenge, and reading off my own shelf which certainly includes Scandinavian books. This month, I also wrapped up the 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. I participated with the 4th grade booklist this year and am very proud to add the 2024 4th grade button to my collection.

What have you been reading lately?


The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (2018) 📖

This young adult novel has been sitting on my shelf for a while and I am relieved to finally check it off my unread BOTM selections list. It’s about high school student Leigh, half Asian and half white, whose mother dies by suicide after struggles with depression. Leigh’s mother turns into a bird and Leigh travels to Taiwan to try to find the bird and to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Unfortunately, the concept and execution did not land with me. I appreciated the trip to Taiwan which provided insight into sights, foods, and culture. However, the jumping back and forth in time and in and out of other people’s memories was a little disconcerting. And the writing was just too colorful for me.


Happiness Falls by Angie Kim (2023) 🎧

I went into this one knowing there were mixed feelings about it among my reading friends at work. For me, it turned out to be one that I loved. It takes place during the summer of 2020. Mia, a biracial Korean-American college student forced back home due to the pandemic, narrates what happened when her dad went missing after having gone to a local park with her 14-year-old non-speaking autistic brother. She is intellectual and honest. She analyzes and scrutinizes all leads in the case and it goes in many directions. There’s a lot going on in the book, including a discussion of happiness, understanding neurodivergent people (brother had dual diagnosis of autism and Angelman Syndrome), insight into speech therapy, and more! It is thought-provoking and would make a great book club read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Jakthundene by Jørn Lier Horst (2012) 📖
(The Hunting Dogs translated by Anne Bruce)

This is my fifth William Wisting installment, not read in any particular order and all except one in Norwegian. I always enjoy returning to the duo of police detective William Wisting and his crime journalist daughter Line along the coast south of Oslo. They don’t work together but their work overlaps. He’s a trustworthy and respected detective; she’s an eager and independent reporter. I like them both. In this installment, Wisting’s reputation is questioned and he’s suspended due to new evidence in a 17-year old case about a murdered missing woman. Line is investigating a recent murder. Seeing how the two cases converged made for a fun and interesting read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


4th Grade Reads for School Reading Challenge 🎧📖

My absolute favorite of the three 4th grade selections was The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan (audiobook was excellent). It was such a sweet and heartwarming story of a Turkish American girl whose mother had to return to Turkey for immigration reasons. During the mother’s long and difficult absence, the daughter formed a touching friendship with a grandfather figure, an unusual classmate, and an elephant. The other two books I read were Odder by Katherine Applegate, a very sweet novel-in-verse about a playful otter and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga (also a great listen), an entertaining story of a Mars rover with humanlike feelings which included letters to the rover from the daughter of the female scientist assembling it. I appreciated the Arabic heritage of the main human characters.


What have you been reading lately?

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Challenges Update (December 2023)

The 2023 reading year was a good one, so many different reading experiences. I didn’t quite check off all my goals as planned but new and exciting reading opportunities came up along the way.

Once again, I traveled around the world with The Book GirlsBook Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge. I visited 19 countries (not including the USA), three of which were new to me in reading (Albania, Argentina, and Italy), and I traveled to more of South America than in previous years. Books in translation made up 50% of the Book Voyage books.

I didn’t complete my 2023 Nordic Lit Reading Challenge as planned – a unique Nordic country for each of the six categories – but I still felt good about how it played out.

What I thought would be a simpler approach with fewer categories (in the past it’s been 12) turned out to require too much research and planning for all the pieces to fall into place. Also, I was distracted by new reading challenges.

I did read two new-to-me Nordic authors, Denmark’s Kim Leine (Reading Lately, May) and Finland’s Emmi Itäranta (Reading Lately, March). I also read two Norwegian authors long on my radar, Brit Bildøen (Reading Lately, August) and Abid Raja (Reading Lately, September) as well as a highly anticipated Swedish Sámi novel (Reading Lately, April). Looking back now, all I needed to do for the pieces to fall into place as planned was to read a Swedish book by or about a marginalized group or another book by or about the Sámi people and their history and culture, fiction or nonfiction. Goals for 2024!

Somewhere in the middle of 2023, I picked up the #DiversityAcrossGenres reading challenge, which I greatly enjoyed participating in. I read many diverse authors and different genres that I wouldn’t necessarily have read if I weren’t on the lookout for them. Click here to see my 2023 reads. I ran out of time to complete some categories, but I have those titles on my TBR for 2024’s challenge.

What have you been reading lately?


The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong (2016) 📖🎧
Translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim (2018), narrated by Johnathan McClain & Elizabeth Liang

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one. It had been on and off my radar for a while as a book in translation by an Asian woman, and I finally read it now since I needed a thriller/horror by an Asian author for #DiversityAcrossGenres. It’s about a 26-year-old man who wakes up to find his mother dead in their home. He does not remember much from the night before, but as he tries to figure it out, more and more is revealed, both about what happened and about his past. The author really takes the reader inside his mind as he pieces everything together from bits and pieces of memories. It’s a dark and disturbing story (decent amount of  violence) but intriguing to see it all come together. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


People Like Them by Samira Sedira (2020) 🎧
Translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud (2021), narrated by Susan Nezami

This story by a French-Algerian author is loosely inspired by a quintuple murder that happened in 2003 in France. In that case, racist motives were completely overlooked. In this novella, the author takes into consideration race, which she believes to be an essential key to understanding that tragedy. The story begins mid-2015, a significant year for France with terrorist attacks both in January and November.

A wealthy Black man and his family move to a newly built chalet in a remote French mountain village. A little over a year later, they are murdered by a local whom everyone described as “normal”. The story opens with a retelling of the brutal murder. There is no doubt of the defendant’s guilt, just questions about his motivation. The story is from the point of view of the murderer’s wife. Reflecting on the tragedy and her husband’s role in it, she alternates between the trial and how she and her husband met and life in the village before the murder. It’s a thought-provoking look on human nature and race and class relations. The translation and the narration were both excellent. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


Our Last Days in Barcelona (The Perez Family #5) by Chanel Cleeton (2022) 🎧
Narrated by Almarie Guerra, Elena Rey, and Victoria Villarreal

I read and enjoyed Next Year in Havana, the first book in the Perez Family series. I started but had to set aside the second one, When We Left Cuba. Now I skipped ahead to the last in the series, which was not a problem, but the family tree I found in the back of the book was helpful.

This is the story of Isabel, the oldest of four sisters. She travels from Palm Beach, Florida, to Barcelona in 1964 to track down her younger sister, Beatriz. The story jumps between Isabel in Barcelona in 1964 (unhappily married in Palm Beach) and the sisters’ mother Alicia in Barcelona in 1936 (at her parents’ home after leaving her cheating husband in Cuba) with some chapters from the perspective of Alicia’s cousin in Havana in 1936 (husband went to fight in Spain). There were many similarities, too many, between the storylines which made it hard to distinguish them at times. What I appreciated the most was the historical aspect of the novel. It takes place during the Civil War in Spain and also explores the historical relationship between Cuba and Spain, both of which have been rare topics in my reading. However, at the same time, I wish there had been a stronger sense of place in Barcelona. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


What have you been reading lately? Do you have any reading challenges planned for 2024?

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately (September 2023)

In September, my main focus was nonfiction, but I threw in some fun fiction genres outside my comfort zone as well. Last September I was introduced to a new reading challenge, #sakprosaseptember, a nonfiction reading challenge hosted by Norwegian bookstagrammer readygoread during the month of September  (“sakprosa” means nonfiction in Norwegian). I didn’t used to read a lot of nonfiction, but in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed I’ve been drawn to it more and more and welcome the opportunity to read more of it. So once again I participated in #sakprosaseptember (running through October 15) with its various nonfiction reading prompts.

#sakprosaseptember pairs well with another reading challenge I’m already participating in, #DiversityAcrossGenres, which challenges me to read various genres by diverse authors. One of those genres is nonfiction. Therefore, September’s focus was nonfiction and anything of interest that remains unread this month will be options for #NonfictionNovember.

What have you been reading lately?


Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, narrated by the author (2013) 🎧

This book had been on my radar for a while. Thanks to reading challenges with nonfiction prompts, I finally read it. Sweetgrass has come up in various recent North American Indigenous-authored books I’ve read, and I haven’t really known what it is nor its significance. Not only did this book educate me about sweetgrass and its significance to Native Americans, but the book also delved into the vast differences and disconnect between Indigenous and modern day beliefs and practices in regards to the natural world. I greatly appreciated and enjoyed that aspect, even though it was sad and discouraging. Kimmerer’s language was very poetic and beautiful, but over time, it did become too much for me and additionally, the book began to feel too repetitive and long. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (The audiobook, which she narrated herself, I had to speed up to 1.5x because it was a very slow listen otherwise so I recommend reading it over listening to it.)


Min skyld: En historie om frigjøring (My Fault: A Story of Liberation) by Abid Raja (2021) 📖

This is a very honest and open memoir – he shares difficult things! – by a Norwegian lawyer, liberal party politician, and current Member of Parliament with a minority background. It’s about his “liberation from shame, guilt, and outsiderness” as the book jacket states. Born in Norway in 1975 to Pakistani immigrants and with a rare birth defect, he faced great challenges growing up. This is the story of how he overcame those challenges, which included a few years in the child welfare system, and went on to study law at the University of Oslo and found the love of his life, a fellow Norwegian Pakistani. I admired his honesty when revisiting his past and confronting his opposing cultures – the patriarchal Pakistani culture and Islamic religion in which he was born and the liberal Norwegian society in which he lived. It was an eye-opening look at a segment of Norwegian society which I am not familiar with and that I greatly appreciated. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The book won the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2021. It went on to be the most sold nonfiction book in Norway in 2021 og 2022. It even sold more than all other books in Norway in 2021. Unfortunately, it is not available in English translation.


The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córcova (2021) 🎧
(Narrated by Frankie Corzo)

This was a fun ride. Fantasy is not a genre I’m normally drawn to, but I’ve read some magical realism that I’ve enjoyed and this one sounded intriguing for the #DiversityAcrossGenres challenge. Orquídea Divina, the matriarch of the Montoya family, is dying and sends out a summons for family members — grown children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren from five marriages — to return home to collect their inheritance. But this is not a regular family, instead one with a mysterious history and unexplainable happenings. The story has a dual timeline jumping between contemporary times and Orquídea’s past. At one point the number of characters became a little overwhelming and the family tree was helpful, but that passed and the character focus became narrower and more manageable. I really enjoyed the characters and settings, especially the trip to Ecuador both in the past and present. Did the magical realism get a little too much for me at the end? Maybe, but overall a great story, and the audiobook was very well narrated. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1) by Helen Hoang (2018) 📖

This was another book that I wouldn’t necessarily have read if it hadn’t been for the #DiversityAcrossGenres challenge since I don’t generally pick up romance books. So glad I did because it was a very fun and heartwarming read. The story is about Stella, a 30-year-old woman with Asperger’s who’s most comfortable in front of her computer using math and statistics to predict economic outcomes. However, she decides she needs help in the dating and romance areas of her life and hires Michael, a Swedish and Vietnamese escort, to teach her. I was so surprised by his understanding and respect of her and really enjoyed watching their relationship take its turns. I also really enjoyed the focus on Michael’s Vietnamese family life.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


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 & #WITmonth (August 2023)

Another big reading month for me in which the summer book bingo happening at work continued to be the prime motivating factor. Needless to say, I’ve got some catching up to do this fall for other reading challenges!

August was Women in Translation Month. I was able to read two books by women in translation, but they were not ones on my initial TBR list. I had pulled out a stack of three Scandinavian books – a Norwegian one, a Swedish one, and a Danish one – but none of them were the ones I ended up reading. I did begin the Norwegian one but had to set it aside because it wasn’t working for me at the time. Instead I picked up a collection of short stories by an Argentinian author which hit the spot. And then I moved on to a different Norwegian author with a book that unexpectedly met a prompt for my 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge. Both of those were great reads, and I look forward to revisiting the original stack this fall.

Bonus for the month, I did recommend the prompt “A book by a woman in translation” for the summer book bingo at work. I was happy to know that I encouraged others to read women in translation this summer.

How did your summer reading go?


El Deafo by Cece Bell (2014) 📖

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but they’re a great change of pace when I want to mix up my reading a bit. This is an autobiographical “only slightly fictionalized” (author’s own words) account of a girl who becomes deaf due to illness and comes to terms with her disability by thinking of herself as the superhero, El Deafo. I had high hopes for this one, but I was a bit disappointed. I definitely appreciated the window into an unknown world by seeing and hearing the world from the main character’s eyes and ears (well done through catchy illustrations and dialogue muffled through the hearing aide), but certain aspects rubbed me the wrong way. ⭐️⭐️⭐️


Sula by Toni Morrison (1973) 📖

This book has been on my shelf for years, along with Beloved, and I’m so glad to finally have read it. Taking place in a small Ohio town in 1920s-1960s, it follows two Black women, Nel and Sula, from childhood into adulthood. Raised very differently and having very different personalities, they are best friends growing up but take very different paths as they grow older. Nel stays in their hometown, and Sula ventures out in the world only to return later. It’s a complicated friendship made even more fraught with Sula’s actions upon her return. It’s a short book; the story of the town and their friendship is told in snippets from year to year. Morrison’s writing is beautifully direct. The setting and characters really come to life. I greatly enjoyed Sula and look forward to reading Beloved soon. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (1998) 📖

This was a fun coming of age story about best friends who grow up spending summer vacations together. It all begins at the end of 6th grade when popular Caitlin unexpectedly invites reserved Victoria to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer. It is a world of privilege and freedom that Victoria is unaccustomed to. One summer becomes every summer, and Victoria becomes more and more a member of Caitlin’s family. Their friendship is strong and complicated. They end up following separate paths after high school, but still staying in touch and eventually reuniting. I really enjoyed the summer setting, nostalgic feeling, and complicated relationships all around. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

As I wrote this review of Summer Sisters, I noticed striking similarities between this and Sula — best friends, different personalities, complicated friendship, different paths, reunification, betrayal — but of course in very different worlds. Always fun to discover overlap between reads!

  • Summer Book Bingo: Re-read a favorite book & a book about best friends & a screen adaptation (soon to be)
  • Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North America (Massachusetts, USA)

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (2022) 🎧
(Narrated by Charlie Thurston)

I loved everything about this book. It takes place in Southern Appalachia in the late 1990s, early 2000s. Demon is telling his own story from some time in the future – but it’s also the story of whole region of the US. He was born to an addicted, single mother who couldn’t take care of him. He ends up in the foster care system where nothing is easy or good for him, but he is resilient and perseveres. Thankfully, he also has some stable people in the background. Demon has a talent for drawing and with his perspective on the world and Kingsolver’s writing talent, the setting of Appalachia and the people’s struggles really come to life. His story is heartbreaking but also at times humorous and overall inspiring. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was fantastic. The reading experience gets bonus points for teaching me about melungeons and providing insight into the toll of the opioid crisis on rural America. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Summer Book Bingo: A book recommended by a colleague & a book read read at the same time as someone else
  • Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North America (Southern Appalachia, USA)

Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin (2015) 📖
(Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, 2022)

This was a unique and engaging collection of short stories, a welcomed pivot from what I had been reading. Each story was about an ordinary household  in which something unsettling occurred. There was no horror or terror, but instead a creeping feeling of dread and unease – grandparents playing naked outside, woman going out alone at night, young girl walking off with a stranger. I always wondered, How will this end? One thing I was hoping for but didn’t get was a sense of place. Though the author is from Argentina, only a couple of stories mentioned anything specific to place (pesos and street names). But it’s understandable since the themes of the short stories are universal and not specific to a place. (Winner of the 2022 National Book Award for Translated Literature)  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Summer Book Bingo: A book by a woman in translation
  • #WomenInTranslationMonth

Seven Days in August by Brit Bildøen (2014) 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook, 2016)

This novel takes place in Oslo eight years after the horrendous July 22, 2011, terrorist attack on a youth camp on the island of Utøya. A mother is still struggling with the loss of her daughter. The extent of the grief and sorrow becomes apparent as she and her husband deal with a series of unlucky events that happen over the course of a week — a tick bite, a storm, a fall, among other things. Throughout the days, details trigger memories of the day her daughter was killed. It’s about how grief takes hold and never completely goes away and affects the relationships around you. The main characters, their relationship, and the situations they find themselves in are so realistically portrayed. It’s an engaging, page-turning reading experience despite its heavy and difficult subject matter.

I especially appreciated the very strong sense of place. Besides the terrorist attack being a main element, the story touches upon many issues particular to Oslo, like neighborhood changes, the effects of climate change, and the local the Roma population. Also the main character works at MUNCH, the new Munch museum. (Interestingly, though, the new Munch museum wasn’t even completed yet when the book was published in 2014. It opened in October 2021.) The book had unique timing. Originally published in 2014, only 3 years after the terrorist attack, the story actually takes place in 2019 which is 8 years after the attack.


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 (May 2023)

Last month was a very mixed month of reading on a variety of fronts — genres, settings, and enjoyment. Luckily, I enjoyed the second in a series as much as the first; but unfortunately, I had to quit a multiple award winning book.

I’m excited about my upcoming summer reading plans. Besides longer and warmer days to enjoy reading outside, I have a new reading challenge to add to the mix (a summer book bingo for work) and as well as vacation travel coming up.

What do your summer reading plans look like?


The Secret Keeper of Jaipur (The Henna Artist #2) by Alka Joshi 🎧
(Narrated by Sneha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam, and Deepa Samuel)

I loved the first book in this series, and I enjoyed this one just as much. It was the perfect mix of admirable main characters, intriguing setting and culture, and unknown history. In this second installment, the story returns to India about 12 years later (1969), but this time the focus is more on Malik than Lakshmi. The first book was about the strength and perseverance of Lakshmi making her own way despite obstacles. This one was a suspenseful story in which Malik gets drawn into the scandal of the collapse of a newly built cinema. I loved how the story took place both in Jaipur and the mountain town of Shimla and incorporated so much of the culture of these places. Interwoven in the story was also insight into the importance of gold in Indian culture and the related gold smuggling trade. I definitely look forward to the last and final book in the trilogy, though I plan to wait a while to read it so I’ll return to this world with fresh eyes.


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro 📖🎧
(Narrated by Sura Siu)

I got Never Let Me Go vibes from this one. Everything seemed kind of normal, but then mysterious references were made and I began to feel that something more sinister was going on. This is a dystopian science fiction story told from the perspective of Klara, a solar-powered Artificial Friend. She is selected by Josie, a high school girl, who often gets sick. Klara is very observant and surprisingly introspective and empathetic. I enjoyed her journey in trying to be the best AF possible for Josie. I read both the ebook and audiobook versions to finish in time for book club. I preferred the ebook because Klara’s voice in the audiobook was a bit too robotic. The story provided good fodder for our book club discussion!


The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine 🎧📖
(Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken)
(Narrated by Elijah Alexander)

I was so intrigued and hopeful about this book. The time and places were new to me; I had no familiarity with this chapter of Denmark’s past, the late 18th century in Copenhagen and Greenland when missionaries went to convert the Greenlandic Inuits to Christianity (a brief history of Greenland). Also, it’s a prize-winning book. It won the Danish literature prize, De Gyldne Laurbær, in 2012 as well as the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 2013. In addition, it made the shortlist for the Dublin Literature Award in 2017. Considering it was recognized for these prizes as well as others, I’m surprised and disappointed that I ended up not finishing it. I got just about 50% through this 576 page novel (tried both audio and ebook versions) so I feel I have a legitimate impression of both the book and the time and place it was about. Unfortunately, both the structure of the plot (jumps in time) and style of the writing (no quotation marks) were problematic for me. On top of this, the characters and events of the book were at times unnecessarily brutal and repulsive.


The Man Burned by Winter (Rooker Lindström #1) by Pete Zacharias

This was an Amazon First Reads selection from last year that I picked because of the Nordic Noir connection. Set in Minnesota during winter, a police detective eager to prove she can handle her new promotion and an investigative journalist drinking himself to death join forces to catch a serial killer. The setting is cold and bleak, the crimes are gruesome, and the protagonists are troubled – so many Nordic Noir elements (including Swedish character names and food). The action was fast paced and engaging, though there were some loose threads and I did have a few unanswered questions at the end. Maybe book #2, The Man Trapped by Shadows, will answer them (pub date July 11, 2023).


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.

Nordic Lit Reading Challenge 2023: My Top Picks for Nordic Council Literature Prize Winners

The 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge is underway, and one of the prompts for the challenge is to read a winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Awarded since 1962 to a work of fiction written in one of the Nordic languages, the mission of the Nordic Council Literature Prize is to “generate interest in the literature and language of neighbouring countries, and in the Nordic cultural community”.

This is a somewhat tricky prompt because not all of the winners have English translations, and of those that do, they aren’t always readily available. Of course you can read a winner in the original language, but here’s a list of winners with English translations in case that’s not possible. In planning my own reading for this year’s challenge, I picked out the following books from each of the Nordic countries to consider for this prompt.


DENMARK – The Prophets of Eternal Fjord: A Novel by Kim Leine, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken (novel, 500+ pages)

About the winning piece from the Nordic Council (2013):

“Kim Leine’s great epic, ‘Profeterne i Evighedsfjorden’, is the story of the Danish priest Morten Falck who travels to Greenland at the end of the 1700s. Through this unfolds the tale of Danish colonisation as a completely crazy and meaningless project. The Danish officials try to keep hold of power and customs but are plagued by homesickness and resignation. Grief and anger smoulders amongst the Greenlanders, and some of them seize Christianity and the European ideas of freedom as an inspiration for rebellion against colonial power. But as well as being a critical, historical novel that reminds us of Denmark’s problematic past as a colonial power, the book is also a depiction of dirt as mankind’s basic element.”

Why I’m considering it: I’m intrigued by this selection due to the time and place of the setting, both of which are new to me, and I have no familiarity with this story of Denmark’s past. On top of that, it’s a multiple prize-winning book. Besides winning the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 2013, it won the Danish literature prize De Gyldne Laurbær in 2012. It also made the shortlist for the Dublin Literature Award in 2017. This book would be an option for two of the prompts for the Nordic Lit Reading Challenge!


FINLAND – Purge: A Novel by Sofi Oksanen, translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers (novel, 417 pages)

About the winning piece from the Nordic Council (2010):

“Her [Sofi Oksanen’s] third novel, Purge, is about the Soviet occupation of Estonia and its consequences. Unfortunately, it is also very much of current interest with its stories about human trafficking around the Baltic. The book’s two time levels are 1992 – one year after Estonia won its independence – and the 1940s – when tens of thousands of Estonians were deported to Siberia and agriculture was collectivised. On a summer morning in 1992, old Aliide Truu finds an exhausted and confused young woman in her vegetable garden. This Zara has been tricked away from her home in Vladivostok to work as a sex worker in Berlin. On the way to Tallinn where she was supposed to start selling her body to Finnish sex tourists, she manages to escape.”

Why I’m considering it: Sofi Oksanen is a Finnish author (Finnish father and Estonian mother) who first appeared on my radar for her latest novel Dog Park (2021 in translation by Owen Frederick Witesman). The Soviet occupation of Estonia is a little known topic to me, and I always enjoy a good dual-timeline novel.


ICELAND – The Blue Fox: A Novel by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (novel, 130 pages)

About the winning piece from the Nordic Council (2005):

“The Blue Fox is a novel about an Icelandic pastor and a fox hunt. Sjón makes use of the Icelandic folktale to tell his story. One of the principal characters is the pastor Baldur Skuggason. He has an evil, dark side to his character. Another key figure is the strange offspring of a cat and a fox following the story – Sjón’s style has elements of a very unique Icelandic sense of humour. The Blue Fox is a short novel with a few sections. Some pages only consist of a single written line, surrounded by large white surfaces calling to mind the Icelandic expanse. This concreteness can be said to balance on the line between prose and poetry. ‘Skugga-Baldur’ is also a contemporary novel which brings up some of today’s ethical questions. Are the weak, deformed babies with developmental disorders welcome in a world where they could have been discarded already prior to birth?”

Why I’m considering it: I’ve been curious about Sjón for a while. Besides writing novels, he’s a poet, screenwriter, and involved in the music scene. In 2016, he was the third writer chosen to contribute to the Future Library project.


NORWAY – The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas, translated from the Norwegian by Elizabeth Rokkan (novel, 144 pages)

About the winning piece from the Nordic Council (1964):

“The Ice Palace is a novel with two 11-year-old girls as the protagonists: extrovert Siss and quiet, introvert Unn. The day after a meeting of the girls at which Unn revealed that she is carrying a dark secret, Unn travels to the ice palace. This is a huge ice formation which builds up at a waterfall in winter-time. As it turns out to be made up of several ice rooms, she walks into the palace. Unn is enthralled by the beauty of the rooms, but in the seventh room she loses her way and cannot find her way out. She freezes to death with Siss’s name on her lips. The novel concludes with the story of Siss’s life and her reaction to Unn’s death. Siss now becomes the quiet and lonely one. She goes into an inner ice palace until she is finally redeemed and can move on into adulthood with a profound insight.”

Why I’m considering this: I have not read any of Tarjei Vesaas’ works yet, but he is arguably one of Norway’s greatest writers. His authorship spans from 1923 to 1970. He won many awards during his lifetime and was even nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 57 times. The Ice Palace and The Birds are his most famous works.


SWEDEN – Blackwater: A Novel by Kerstin Ekman, translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate (novel, 448 pages)

About the winning piece from the Nordic Council (1994):

“Blackwater is a detective novel set in the town of Svartvattnet in Norrland. It depicts a woman from Stockholm, who moves in with her boyfriend in the town to work as a teacher in a commune. However, events revolve around a double homicide that remains unsolved and the consequences of this trauma for the people in the town. Kerstin Ekman’s story invites many reading styles; it can be read as a Bildungsroman, as a critical analysis of gender roles, as a mythical story with symbolic elements, but, of course, also simply as a thrilling detective novel.”

Why I’m considering it: I read Kerstin Ekman’s God’s Mercy a few years ago. I enjoyed the descriptive setting of rural northern Sweden in the early 1900s. Blackwater also takes place in a remote, northern setting, but in the later part of the 1900s. I’m intrigued by the many ways that Blackwater can be read, but most of all by its crime novel aspect. Besides winning the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 1994, it received the prestigious Swedish August Prize and the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 1993.


Which of these would you read first? Are there other Nordic Council Literature Prize winners that you’ve read and would recommend?

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately (March 2023)

Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately”. The past month has been a ride around the world with visits to Albania, Colombia, and a dystopian, apocalyptic Scandinavia. Coincidentally, I went straight from reading about one country (Albania) during a turbulent decade to a totally different country on the other side of the world (Colombia) in the same decade, also a turbulent one, which is actually not an uninteresting thing to do. The first was a memoir; the second was a novel based on the author’s own experiences. Both were coming of age stories from the perspective of a young girl and provided interesting insight into a country I was not very familiar with at all.

This year’s 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge is underway. I recently completed a Finnish longlist nominee for the Dublin Literature Award from 2016. I continue to research and decide on selections for the other categories and welcome suggestions.

And finally, I’ve joined the reading challenge Diversity Across Genres hosted by @booksonadventures and @reading.and.roaming on Instagram. They’re challenging me to read more diversely both in terms of authors and genres. I’m beginning with the Bingo option and will expand as time allows.

What have you been reading lately?


Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History by Lea Ypi 📖🎧
(Narrated by Rachel Babbage and Lea Ypi)

Albania is a country I feel I should have known more about than just its location, so this was an eye-opening read. And it’s always interesting and inspiring to read about women’s experiences and contributions, whether small or large, here or abroad. In this memoir, Lea Ypi recounts her childhood in Albania in the 1980s and 1990s as the country went from being an isolated, communist regime to embracing a free market economy, and then in 1997 collapsing into civil war. Experiencing Albania’s tumultuous history through the eyes of Lea as a child and later a teenager was unique. The book was at times very philosophical. I enjoyed it more as a window into an unfamiliar country during recent history and as a coming of age story during said time and place.


Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras 📖

Colombia in the 1990s was a time of unrest and violence when the country was under the influence of drug lord Pablo Escobar. In this novel, the main character, 7-year-old Chula, and her older sister are safe in their gated community in Bogotá, but their world begins to unravel when a live-in maid, 13-year-old Petrona from the city’s guerilla-occupied slum, begins to work for them. The story is told in alternating perspectives by Chula and the maid, a structure that I really enjoyed. It was a bit slow to begin with but the pace did pick up as the story went on and I finished quickly. Once again, another eye-opening glimpse into a country whose history I had little familiarity with.


Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta 🎧
(Narrated by Amy Landon)

Fascinatingly, the English and Finnish editions of this book were written simultaneously by the author. “I had to write in English initially, because I was submitting the early chapters as coursework for my university degree in the UK. However, I soon discovered that it was quite useful to get feedback from my Finnish writing group, so I ended up writing each chapter in parallel in English and Finnish.” (Source)

This story is set in the Scandinavian Union years in the future in a Europe ruled by China where climate change and rising seas have destroyed cities and fresh water is extremely scarce and controlled by the military. Noria is a seventeen-year-old girl who has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a tea master. When her father dies, the responsibilities and secrets that came with that role become harder to maintain, and Noria has to make difficult decisions. Noria is a likable and engaging character, and the world building is interesting and creative (though there are some holes and unanswered questions about how their world really came to be in such a way). In particular, I enjoyed the scene of the Moonfeast, when a viewing of the Northern Lights was infused with Chinese culture and ocean-themed references. I could see it being a beautiful scene in a movie (which was released in the fall of 2022).


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.crime

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.