What I’ve Been Reading Lately & Reading Goals (January 2024)

It’s a new year with new beginnings, and it’s been a fun, strong start! I’ve set some reading goals and recommitted myself to reading challenges. I continue to join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where I join other readers in sharing what we’ve been reading lately.

A highlight of 2023 was the diversity of books I read both in regards to author perspective and genre, so in 2024, I am once again participating in the #DiversityAcrossGenres reading challenge. This year I am tweaking the genres a little. I’ll be reading General Fiction (a catch-all for all fiction that may otherwise not be included in the challenge), Romance, Mystery/Thriller (instead of Thriller/Horror), Historical Fiction (instead of Sci-fi/Fantasy), and Nonfiction.

I am also traveling around the world again using the The Book GirlsBook Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge as a framework. Their intent with the reading challenge is to travel from region to region together, but I will be jumping around as desired. My goal is to read more books set in countries I have not visited yet.

As for my Scandinavian/Nordic reading challenge, I am still thinking about the best way to proceed in 2024. When possible, I will certainly be reading Nordic books for the other challenges I am participating in, but I do want to plan a specific reading challenge as well to keep me focused throughout the year.

And finally, always a reading goal but really this year, is reading my own book shelf, especially unread Book of the Month selections. I’ve paused my membership until I’ve made greater process on that goal. I love exploring the new books every month, but I don’t normally get around to reading my selections in a timely manner. Once I clear some space on my unread shelf, I’ll start up again.

What have you been reading lately? Are any reading challenges on your horizon this year?


Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (2022) 📖

There was something about this book that kept me from reading it for a long time — the supposed disconnect between cover and story, the mixed reviews, etc. I finally read it now when my sister and nieces gave it to me for Christmas for a read-along. I loved it and zipped through it in no time. I admired the main character – her quirkiness and all – and loved all the supporting characters, especially the dog. The setting of the early 1960s in STEM and TV was both interesting and frustrating. The ending was very satisfying. It was a fun read with depth which I wish I had read sooner. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Read My Own Shelf: Gifted

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (2015) 🎧
Narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

This was a book club selection which I was not thrilled about reading since fantasy is not my favorite genre and I have so many other books I want to read. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! I was not expecting the romance aspect of it; I thought it would be pure fantasy. I learned a new term, “romantasy.” I just let myself enjoy the ride. I did not question any world building. I appreciated the strong, independent, willful female protagonist. Listening to this book was a great escape and took me to a world I wouldn’t be surprised if I returned to when I needed another escape. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


American War by Omar El Akkad (2017) 📖

This was an interesting book. I can’t really decide how I liked it, but it intrigued and engaged me until the end. The book takes place in the near future, 50 years from now, when the second American Civil War breaks out. Political and geographical US borders have shifted. Besides the North and South being divided, Texas is part of Mexico and much of the coastal land, including all of Florida, is underwater. Oil is outlawed. It’s about Sarat, only 6 when the war begins, her father is killed, and she and her family are displaced to a refugee camp in the South. Over time, she is influenced by a mentor and plays a significant role in the war. And there’s a plague that affects the whole country (interesting after our own pandemic). This would make a great book club read to discuss with others. ⭐️⭐️⭐️(⭐️) Can’t quite decide 3 or 4!


The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb (2022) 🎧
Narrated by J.D. Jackson

I loved this book. I listened to it. The narrator was excellent and there was even music included between parts of the book. Ray, a Black boy in love with playing the violin, did not get any support from his mother or his school to pursue his dream. Luckily for him, his grandmother saw his talent and believed in him, even giving him her grandfather’s old fiddle, which turned out to be a Stradivarius. What ensued was all sorts of drama and stress for Ray as he became an up-and-coming musician in a predominantly white field, most notably his violin getting stolen and held for ransom right before he was scheduled to compete at the most important competition of his life and in the world. I was immediately sucked into the mystery of who stole the violin and then the additional drama of who really owned the violin (Ray, his mother and her siblings, or the descendents of the slave owner who originally owned it). It was a great mix of coming-of-age, family drama, mystery, and history. I highly recommend it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • #DiversityAcrossGenres: Black / General Fiction or Mystery/Thriller
  • Read My Own Shelf: Little Free Library find

What have you been reading lately?

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Introducing Reading Challenge 2023: Nordic Literature

My passion project, the yearly Scandinavian Reading Challenge, “celebrated” its fifth year in 2022. I started it for myself (and anyone else who wanted to join) as an incentive to get to know Scandinavian authors better and to read Scandinavian books on a more regular basis. Every year I read 12+ Scandinavian (plus some other Nordic) books checking off various prompts.

This past year was the most intensive and focused year of them all. Inspired by the Book Girls’ Decades Reading Challenge, I read through the decades of the last century in Norway. A major component of this challenge was researching Norway’s history and finding books for each of the decades. It was enjoyable and satisfying but extremely time-consuming, and it took a toll on researching and reading books from other parts of the world, also a great passion of mine.

This past month has been an opportunity to evaluate how my reading was in 2022, in particular how it compared to my actual reading intentions for 2022. There were certainly some worthwhile highlights!

Highlights of 2022:

  • Learning about Norway’s 20th century history through books taking places all over Norway
  • Discovering Roy Jacobsen’s The Barrøy Chronicles series and loving it
  • Finally reading Norwegian authors Zeshan Shakar and Simon Stranger and looking forward to reading more of their work

Goals for 2023:

  • Read more new-to-me Nordic authors
  • Read more books in translation, especially women in translation, from around the world
  • As always, read off my shelves, both physical and digital
  • And also as always, try to share reading on Instagram more regularly

Reading Challenge for 2023 – Join Me!

In 2023, with my goals in mind, I’m taking a wider but less labor-intensive approach with the reading challenge. First of all, I’ve expanded the scope of the reading challenge to cover the whole Nordic region: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden which includes the autonomous territories of Greenland, Faroe Islands, and Åland, as well as Sápmi, the land of the indigenous Sámi people (which overlaps northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Kola Peninsula of Russia). Secondly, I’m limiting myself to a “mini challenge” with only six prompts, one for each of the Nordic countries plus Sápmi.

I invite you to join me in the 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge by reading six unique Nordic books. For each of the five Nordic countries, match it with a different prompt, as listed below. For the Sámi selection, the prompt is free choice. Any book by or about the Sámi people and their history and culture, fiction or nonfiction, is fine.

Prompts

The Nordic Council’s Literature Prize has been awarded since 1962 and is awarded to a work of fiction written in one of the Nordic languages. It can be a novel, a drama, a collection of poems, a collection of short stories or a collection of essays that meet high literary and artistic requirements. View a list of winners with English translations.

The Dublin Literary Award has been presented annually since 1996 to a novel written in English or translated into English. The Award promotes excellence in world literature and is solely sponsored by Dublin City Council and administered by Dublin City Libraries. Nominations are submitted by libraries in major cities throughout the world. See a catalog of all nominees.

  • By or about a marginalized group in the Nordic region — indigenous, immigrant, minority, etc

  • Nonfiction — by a Nordic author or about a Nordic region

  • Nordic Noir — crime fiction by a Nordic author set in the Nordic region

  • Sámi Literature free choice

This year I still want to expand my Scandinavian reading, but I also want more opportunity and time to venture beyond those borders. I want to enjoy books in a more relaxed way and read more of what I already have on my shelf, both physical and digital shelves, both for this challenge and the wider world.

Will you join me in adding some Nordic books or authors to your reading list this year?

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.

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