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 (February 2022) & Reading Challenges Update

Once again I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. I always get reading ideas from there and hope to return the favor here.

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update: I finished Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen for the 1900s/1910s prompt (but it actually goes into 1920s as well) and I completed The Assistant, the historical fiction thriller by Kjell Ola Dahl, for the 1920s (which takes place in 1938 as well). I’m now moving on to the 1930s with Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder for a slightly different Norwegian history reading experience. This one takes me away from Norway, but it keeps me in an arena where Norway still plays a role, whaling in the Antarctic.

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 Yield: A Novel by Tara June Winch

This was not the easiest book to get into, but I’m glad I stuck with it because suddenly (at about 25%) it all began to fall into place and ended up being a very rewarding reading experience. I started by listening to it, but I had a hard time following the story with its three narratives. I switched to the ebook and that made a huge difference. I did not have any background knowledge for this book, not about Australia in general and definitely not Australian indigenous history in particular, which probably hindered my comprehension at the beginning also. I thought the structure of the book with the dictionary by the grandfather, the letter written by the missionary, and the narrative of the granddaughter returning to her homeland for her grandfather’s funeral worked very well together. I really enjoyed seeing how it all came together by the end and it opened my eyes to a whole new chapter in world history, in this case effects of the British colonization of Australia.

In Every Mirror She’s Black: A Novel by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström
(Narrated by Rosemarie Akwafo and Sara Powell)

I was intrigued by the premise of this novel, three very different Black women whose lives unexpectedly intersect via a very rich, white man in Stockholm, Sweden. One is a Nigerian-American top marketing executive in the United States, another is an American model-turned-flight-attendant flying trans-Atlantic flights, and the third is a Somali refugee in Sweden. I was drawn into their stories and struggles and eagerly followed their journeys. I did get frustrated with their actions at times, but I appreciated that they were honest with themselves. The ending was not what I had hoped nor expected for them, but I understand why the author did it (per “A Conversation with the Author” at the end, the setting of Sweden had a lot to do with it). These characters will stay with me for a long time, and I certainly walked away with much to think about. So many social issues were raised. I think this would make a great book club pick. I highly recommend the audiobook!

The Unseen (Ingrid Barrøy #1) by Roy Jacobsen
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw)

This is the first in a tetralogy about Ingrid who lives on the fictional island of Barrøy along the coast in Northern Norway. She is three when the book opens and it’s the beginning of the 20th century. She and her parents, aunt, and grandfather are the only inhabitants of this very remote island. The novel chronicles their life on the island, a life very tied to geography and weather. They survive off their crops, livestock, and fishing with occasional visits to the mainland. Mother, father, and Ingrid all have their dreams and it’s interesting to see how their lives play out as the outside world encroaches upon their own world. The old dialect in the dialogue is a little cumbersome, but there’s not too much of it. Looking forward to seeing how the future affects the inhabitants in the rest of the series.

The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl
(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)

This is a standalone historical fiction thriller by the noted Norwegian crime fiction author of the Oslo Detective series. This book introduced me to a time period of Norwegian history I’m very unfamiliar with, the interwar period. The storyline jumps between the 1920s, during the Prohibition era, and 1938, just before World War II breaks out, and follows two characters who at first are on opposite sides of the law as an alcohol smuggler and police officer and then later work together as private investigator and assistant. Their case that sets off the series of events is simple, but the circumstances become complex mixing both past personal history and the then-current situation of secret Nazi officials on Norwegian soil. It was an enjoyable way to learn about a new-to-me historical time period, and especially fun for me was that it took place all over Oslo and very specific place names were mentioned, many of which were very familiar to me. As a thriller, though, it didn’t quite hit the spot for me.

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.