What I’ve Been Reading Lately (April 2023)

This was the kind of reading month I love. The genres, settings, characters, and overall take-aways were all so different. Although I didn’t love them all, I really appreciated and enjoyed the cumulative reading experience. The Diversity Across Genres reading challenge has been a fun addition to my reading life this year.

What have you been reading lately?

Stolen by Ann-Helén Laestadius, English translation by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Stjålet by Ann-Helén Laestadius, translated from the Swedish to the Norwegian by Gøril Eldøen and Magne Tørring 📖

I really enjoyed and appreciated this book, a window into a culture that I’m very intrigued by. I admired and cared for the characters, the story was very engaging, the setting of Arctic Sweden was unique, and the insight into contemporary Sámi culture and issues was fascinating as well as infuriating.

At 9 years old, Elsa, a Sámi girl from a reindeer herding family, witnesses her reindeer calf being killed and is threatened to silence by the perpetrator. The event has a deep and lingering effect on her. As time passes, the Sámi community continues to experience crimes against their reindeer. The police do nothing; the crimes are just marked as theft with no investigations. The story jumps ahead 10 years when Elsa returns to her Sámi community after high school in town. Nothing has changed in regards to discrimination and prejudice towards the Sámi, and Elsa becomes active in the fight for justice. So many issues facing the Sámi are touched upon in this book. In addition to the discrimination and prejudice they face, there’s the effect of climate change on reindeer herding, mental health of Sámi people, and expected gender roles within the Sámi communities. It was an engaging and powerful read that left impressions that will stay with me for a long time.

FYI, the novel is getting a Netflix adaptation directed by Ella Márjá Eira set to premiere in 2024.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt 🎧
(Narrated by Marin Ireland and Michael Urie)

I loved this book, such a heartwarming story! The story is told from the perspectives of three characters all with such unique personalities – Tova, a woman in her 70’s whose son died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 18 and whose husband recently died of cancer; Cameron, a young adult who never had a father and was raised by his aunt when his mother left him at an early age; and Marcellus, an octopus nearing the end of his life, who has a keen eye and is not a fan of humans. I cared and rooted for all the characters, including the octopus. I loved how the storylines intertwined over time. I chuckled throughout and even teared up at the end. And a little bonus for me, Tova’s family emigrated from Sweden when she was a young girl, so the occasional mentions of her Swedish heritage were fun for me. Also, I attended a panel at the recent LA Times Festival of Books where the author and three others spoke about their recent books, which was a real treat. Highly recommend it! The audiobook narration by Marin Ireland and Michael Urie was fabulous.

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali 📖

This book had been on my TBR list for a long time. I was intrigued by the historical setting – 1953 in Tehran, Iran, when the government was overthrown and the Shah reinstated. It’s about Roya, a teenager who falls in love and is engaged to be married, but the political upheaval disrupts those plans abruptly. She ends up moving to California and continues her life in the US. Sixty years later she is reunited with her lost love and learns what actually happened. I greatly appreciated and enjoyed the insight into Iranian history and culture (especially the food!). My favorite part of the book was when the story was set in Iran. However, I found the story of Roya in the US to be lack-luster. I had great hopes for her, but she just didn’t come off as a very strong character.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng 📖

I started this book by listening to the audiobook but the narration wasn’t working for me. I didn’t want to give up on it; I was too intrigued by all the hype about it, so I switched to the ebook. There I found the writing to be without quotation marks which is normally not to my liking, but luckily, I quickly got used to it and it didn’t bother me. The story takes place in the near future. So much mirrors contemporary times — children taken from parents, book banning, Asian hate, lockdown due to a crisis. Ng’s writing is wonderful, poetic at times, but I found the whole book bleak with no joy. I did admire the non-violent protests using art and the role of libraries. I was hoping for a more hopeful or satisfying ending.

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.

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.


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 (February 2021)

This was a niche reading month for me! All the books were in translation from Scandinavia. They did at least represent a variety of sub-genres — refugee and immigration fiction, folktales and legends, and crime fiction. And very fulfilling for me was that I finally checked off the last prompt for my 2020 Scandinavian Reading Challenge. Now I can focus fully on the 2021 Scandinavian Reading Challenge and other reads.

What have you been reading lately?

Skyggedanseren (The Shadow Dancer) by Sara Omar
(Translated to the Norwegian from the Danish by Inge Ulrik Gundersen)

This is the follow-up to a book I read a year ago, Dødevaskeren (The Dead Washer). This duology is about Frmesk, a Kurdish woman who immigrates to Denmark at a young age, and the abuse and struggles she had to endure as a female in a Muslim community, both in Kurdistan and Denmark. The structure of the two books combined was very unique and interesting. Book #1 alternated between Frmesk’s life as a young child in her grandparents’ household in Kurdistan and her life in Denmark 30 years later when she was alone in a hospital bed for unidentified reasons. Book #2 filled in many blanks in Frmesk’s life. It alternated between the next years with her grandparents in Kurdistan and her young adult years in Denmark when she was a university student and then married a Kurdish man. Frmesk lived a difficult, hard, and painful life. The only shining light for her was her grandparents. Everyone else failed her. It was an extremely tough read with much abuse happening at all ages in her life, but it was eye-opening to see what girls and women in certain parts of the world have to endure even when they immigrate to supposedly more open-minded societies. The story of Frmesk has made a deep impact on me.

By the Fire: Sámi Folktales and Legends, Collected and Illustrated by Emilie Demant Hatt (Translated from the Danish by Barbara Sjoholm)

This is another book that’s been on my radar for a while and that I finally read when an opportunity arose to join a virtual book club meeting to discuss it in honor of Sámi National Day which was February 6. I’m not normally interested in folk tales and legends, but I am intrigued by Sámi history and culture. I did enjoy reading these stories collected by a Danish artist and ethnographer during her travels among the Sámi in the 1920s. This collection of stories with accompanying linoleum prints and “Field Notes and Commentary” by the author as well as an “Afterword” by the translator which featured photos of the storytellers and more background information provided a very unique and enlightening look at Sámi culture.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021:

  • A buddy read or group read (in real life or virtually) of a Nordic book
  • A Nordic book in a genre you don’t normally read
  • Bonus 1: A prompt from a previous year’s challenge (2020: A book by, about, or involving the Sámi indigenous people)

Smoke Screen (Alexander Blix & Emma Ramm #2) by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger (Translated from the Norwegian by Megan Turney)

I don’t usually read the next installment in a series this quickly (I read #1, Death Deserved, in November 2020), but I wanted to read #2 in advance of a virtual event with the authors and a favorite bookstagrammer which took place this month. I really enjoyed the first in the series, so it wasn’t hard to pick this one up. Just like in the first book, online news journalist Emma Ramm and police investigator Alexander Blix inadvertently join forces to solve a mystery. In this case, there’s an explosion in Oslo on New Year’s Eve and one of the victims is the mother of a girl who was kidnapped 10 years earlier and never found. What ensues is a dual investigation as the cold case of the kidnapping is reopened and the explosion is investigated. I like smart police procedurals with likeable investigators, and the setting being Oslo is certainly a plus. This was a very engaging read which I may have liked even better than the first one. For those wondering, book #2 can be read without having read #1.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021:

  • An unplanned or impromptu Scandinavian read
  • Bonus 2: A book by a Nordic author you’ve enjoyed before

Pakkis by Khalid Hussain
(Translated from the Norwegian by Claudia Berguson and Ingeborg Kongslien)

This book has been on my radar for many years, and I finally seized the opportunity to read it when I learned that it was the pick for Vesterheim’s monthly reading group in February. Written by the author when he was 16 years old, it’s a short account exploring a slice of life of a teenage Pakistani immigrant and his family in Oslo. It’s based on his own experiences as an immigrant in the 1970s. The book’s character, Sajjad, arrived in Norway at the age of 4 and learned the language easily. His parents, however, had more trouble assimilating. The book tackles the difficulty Sajjad has of navigating his two conflicting identities, that of his family and religion and the other of his assimilated Norwegian identity. It also explores conflicts that arise relating to the father’s expectations and the son’s wishes. Originally published in 1986, it seemed like it could have been written recently. The only things missing were cell phones and social media. It was an interesting look at an immigrant family’s experiences which most likely shares many similarities with immigrant experiences elsewhere and in contemporary times.

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021:

  • A Scandinavian book you’ve been meaning to read
  • A buddy read or group read (in real life or virtually) of a Nordic book
  • Bonus 1: A prompt from a previous year’s challenge (2018: An immigrant story)

What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in snagging some Scandinavian ebooks at great discount, check out my Scandinavian Ebook Deals. Currently, the first book in the Alexander Blix & Emma Ramm series, Death Deserved, is free!

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.