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 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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What I’ve Been Reading Lately (November 2023)

This past month, the quantity of books was lower than I had hoped (I try to aim for at least 4 books a month) but the quality of the reading experiences certainly exceeded expectations. They were all extremely enjoyable books. I continue to slowly check off unread Book of the Month selections, which is an ongoing reading goal. Unfortunately, my Nordic Literature Reading Challenge has fallen off my radar as I’ve pursued the Diversity Across Genres and Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenges. I will have to rethink that one for next year.

What have you been reading lately?


The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson (2023) 📖🎧

This book takes place in the 1950s in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, and follows two young Black women in separate storylines that converge over time. High school student Ruby hopes to be the first in her family to attend college through a program for young, promising Black students. Eleanor is at Howard University thanks to sacrifices by her working class family. Both women fall in love with men which threatens their planned futures and leads to some hard choices. I loved the insight into the time and place of the stories, much of it unfamiliar to me. In particular, it was fascinating and eye-opening to read about DC’s elite wealthy Black community. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Survivors by Jane Harper (2021) 📖

This book was my first introduction to Jane Harper as well as to Tasmania, an island state of Australia. The story takes place in a small fictional seaside town very popular with tourists during the summer season, but otherwise very quiet. At the heart of the book are some dangerous ocean caves and a tragedy that happened 12 years ago and still haunts the locals, especially when a visitor to the area is found dead. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Nothing to See Here (2019) by Kevin Wilson 🎧
Narrated by Marin Ireland

I’ve always been turned off by the cover and the premise of kids spontaneously combusting. When it was selected as a book club pick at work, I decided to listen to it. Lillian, a scholarship student, and Madison, from a wealthy family, were best friends at boarding school until a scandal separated them. Years later Madison needs Lillian’s help taking care of her 10 year old step-kids who erupt into flames when agitated. The story is from Lillian’s perspective. I loved her personality and relationship with the kids. The narration was fabulous, the delivery and tone of the narrator were spot on. Those of us who listened to it, seemed to enjoy it much more than those who read it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


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 (July 2023)

July was vacation month for me with lots of air travel to, from, and within Europe and down time to read. As I always do when traveling, I try to read a book that takes place where I’m going. It provides insight that I would otherwise not get and sometimes I feel like I get to know some locals while I’m at it.

This summer that destination was Italy. One book I planned in advance, The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani, and the other, In Sardinia: An Expected Journey in Italy by Jeff Biggers, was a last minute addition to my summer reading. Just by chance, I came across this newly published book (May 23, 2023) at the airport bookstore. It was an instant purchase, despite carry-on being at capacity, since we were going exactly there and I knew next to nothing about the island.

August is Women in Translation Month (#WITmonth). Every year I normally set aside August to read women in translation from outside Scandinavia since I normally read a few during the year. However, this year I haven’t read as many Scandinavian books as I normally do, so I’m prioritizing that. I have Norwegian Vigdis Hjorth’s Long Live the Post Horn! (a prolific author I’ve been wanting to read for a long time), Dane Siri Ranva Hjelm Jacobsen’s Island (takes place on Danish Faroe Islands), and Swede Kerstin Ekman’s Blackwater (for the 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge) on my TBR pile for August and going into the fall.

How is your summer reading going?


The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
(Narrated by Adjoa Andoh)

A fascinating but also disturbing look into contemporary Nigerian society! Adunni is a 14-year old village girl whose biggest wish in life is to get an education. Her mother believed in this and worked hard to pay her school fees, but when the mother died, the father sold her as a third wife to an older man because he needed the money. She was soon forced to flee her husband’s household and became a domestic servant in a wealthy Nigerian household in Lagos. Life was tough for Adunni, but she persevered and had unexpected people along the way who helped her. I highly recommend the audiobook. Adunni’s voice and personality really shined. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Cipher (Nina Guerrera Book 1) by Isabella Maldonado

This is about FBI Special Agent Nina Guerrera who escaped a serial killer at age sixteen, and now eleven years later, she is brought back to his universe through a series of murders of vulnerable girls. While she and her team travel cross-country investigating, the perpetrator uses the internet and social media posting complex codes and riddles to invite the public to play along. I enjoyed the fresh and updated aspects of the book, including the strong Latina protagonist and inclusion of social media. Jennifer Lopez is going to star in a Netflix adaptation of the book (dates TBD). I would see it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐


A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk and Robot #1) by Becky Chambers

This novella takes place far in the future when robots have long since gained self awareness and wandered off into the wilderness. A nonbinary monk who has dedicated their life to serving tea and listening to humans in times of need suddenly meets a robot who has come back to fulfill a longstanding promise of checking in on the humans. The robot is there to find the answer to the question “What do people need?”. I loved the world building and really enjoyed the relationship between the monk and the robot, but overall it was too philosophical for me. ⭐⭐⭐

  • Work Book Bingo: A book with a protagonist that isn’t human & a book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist

Beach Read by Emily Henry

This was my first Emily Henry book, and I really enjoyed it. It was a fun summer romance. I had no expectations of anything going in, and for me it was actually deeper than I thought it would be. It’s about a disillusioned romance writer and a literary fiction writer with writer’s block who find themselves living next door to each other on a lake in Michigan one summer. They make a deal to swap genres for the summer and go on field trips to learn about the other genre. I was confused by the title until the very end when it made total sense. I’ll read another Emily Henry. Book Lovers is up next but not until next summer. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • Work Book Bingo:  A book set in summer & a book borrowed from a friend

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani

This book features the women of the Cabrelli family, a jewelry making family that lives in Viareggio, a seaside town in Tuscany, not far from Florence where we visited this summer. It’s a dual timeline story that jumps between “now” when Matelda, the matriarch, is nearing the end of her life and revealing a life-long family secret, and “then” when her mother Domenica is growing up and World War II arrives. I haven’t read a WWII novel from the perspective of Italians before and certainly was not familiar with “Britalians” and their history in the UK, especially during WWII. I greatly enjoyed that insight. I got to know five generations of the Cabrelli family, at times a little hard to keep track of without a family tree (made one myself), and they’re a vibrant lot with a very interesting past. ⭐⭐⭐⭐


In Sardinia: An Expected Journey in Italy by Jeff Biggers

I knew nothing about Sardinia other than it being an Italian island with beautiful beaches and having harbors full of luxury yachts. In this book, an American author and his family (Italian wife) are based in Sardinia for a year (2017) and travel the whole island exploring its history, culture, and people. I gained a much greater appreciation for the island, especially in regards to its prehistoric beginnings and the Nuragic civilization from 4,000 years ago. We made it a priority to visit one of the 7,000 nuraghe ruins that are on the island. My one big issue with the book, however, was its very frequent reference to the many authors of the past who had written about the island. I much preferred the contemporary stories of past and present.


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 (June 2023)

My summer reading is off to an exciting start! Besides longer days and vacation plans, there is a summer book bingo reading challenge happening at work. We are an avid group of readers, not surprising considering I work at an elementary school, so lots of discussions and sharing around that.

The book bingo challenge has 25 prompts. My hope is to complete the whole board, but most likely I won’t read unique books for each prompt. I’m trying to find books that will check off prompts for other reading challenges as well. So far my reads have all been so different from each other and what I’ve recently read which is refreshing.

Planning and reading for this challenge, however, has overshadowed my 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge. Sadly, no progress has been made on that this month.

How is your summer reading going?


The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune 🎧
(Narrated by Daniel Henning)

This book was unlike any that I have ever heard before. I felt like I was being read a magical fairytale. There were heroes, villains, obstacles, magical beings, a happy ending, and of course a moral lesson or two. The narrator of the audiobook was fantastic; I was absorbed in his storytelling from start to finish. There were so many unique characters, all with very different personalities, and he read them all in a very nuanced and engaged way. I did feel the story went a little overboard with its sweetness and kindness and morality lessons at times, but that just played into my overall feeling of it being a fairytale for adults. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • #DiversityAcrossGenres: Queer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • Work Book Bingo: A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist and/or a book with magic

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby  🎧📖
(Narrated by Adam Lazarre-White)

I completed this right after The House in the Cerulean Sea, and this was no fairytale filled with sweetness and kindness. What an abrupt turn in reading experiences! This was a crime thriller with brutal deaths, revenge, and graphic violence. It was also a heartfelt story of personal growth and an unlikely friendship. Two fathers, one black and the other white, both ex-convicts, are brought together in their quest for revenge after the deaths of their married sons. While hunting down the killers, they confront their own prejudices about their gay sons as well as each other. This was an action packed revenge story with heart; I really enjoyed it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee 📖

This is a fascinating account of a 17-year-old’s defection from North Korea and her eventual resettlement in South Korea years later. The author lived a privileged life in northern North Korea along the border with China. Living so close to China, she had exposure to the outside world and started questioning her own world. What was supposed to be just a visit to China ended up being a trip with no return to North Korea or to her family. This story of her childhood in North Korea and then building a new life first in China, then in South Korea along with her efforts to reunite with her family was eye-opening and inspiring. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It was particularly interesting to read this not long after having read Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History by Lea Ypi, a memoir in which the author recounts her childhood in Albania in the 1980s and 1990s, the same time period as this book and also a communist dictatorship. So many similarities, yet such different countries.


Lizards Hold the Sun by Dani Trujillo

This a contemporary romance novel about Xiomara, an Indigenous archaeologist from Mexico, who goes to a remote location in Canada to lead a project to excavate artifacts, relocate human remains, and create a museum of the area’s tribal history. In the process, she and Calehan, the museum’s architect, fall head over heals in love. What I really appreciated and enjoyed about the story was the focus on archaeology and that all the characters were Indigenous and many cultural aspects were included. The characters were diverse, smart, thoughtful, and very likable. I enjoyed the setting, but I had trouble pinpointing exactly where in Canada the story took place. It was remote, north, and there were islands (in contrast to the cover showing the desert). A map would have been helpful. Also, I struggled with following the elapsed time. Sometimes there seemed to be unexpected jumps. But overall, an enjoyable read. ⭐⭐⭐


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 & Reading Challenges Update (December 2022)

I didn’t quite finish the year as I would have liked to reading-wise. Ideally, I would be more or less done with my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge (I have one book left, a book spanning multiple decades or places) and I would have planned the next year’s challenge. However, unexpected family circumstances and an unplanned trip to Norway in December left me with little energy or opportunity to read, listen, or plan ahead. While in Norway, though, I did acquire some Norwegian books for later reading which was a bonus!

I did, however, complete my trip around the world for The Book Girls’ reading challenge, Book Voyage: Read Around the World. And my last selection was an unread Book of the Month pick; it’s always satisfying when I can check off another read for my forever ongoing #unreadBOTMchallenge. I’ll certainly do another round of Book Voyage in 2023, but this year also, I’ll be skipping around and not following their order.

Once again, I join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. What have you been reading lately?


Tante Ulrikkes vei by Zeshan Shakar 🎧
(Narrated by Martin Lange, Tohid Akhtar and Ivar Nergaard)

I had the physical copy of this book on my shelf, but I decided I would listen to the audiobook as well, which I believe turned out to be the optimal way to read this book for me since it is in standard Norwegian as well as “kebabnorsk” (Kebab Norwegian), a spoken dialect mixing Norwegian with foreign words, mainly Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages. It is a modern epistolary novel, emails and transcripts of audio recordings from Mo and Jamal, two teenage, second generation immigrant boys who live in the same low-income neighborhood of Oslo. They are part of a study about the daily lives of teenagers with minority backgrounds during the time period 2001-2006. Their parents’ country is never specified but they are both Muslim. The author himself grew up in this neighborhood which lends great authenticity to the novel. It was a unique perspective on contemporary life in Oslo, very engaging and eye-opening. So glad I finally got around to reading it.

This was Zeshan Shakar’s debut novel. He won the Norwegian Tarjei Vesaas’ Award for it in 2017. There was news about four years ago that the book would be released in English translation by the independent British publisher Wrecking Ball Press, but I have not been able to find any update on that. Since this debut, he has written two more novels, Gul bok (Yellow Book, 2020) and De kaller meg ulven (They Call Me the Wolf, 2022), the last of which won the Booksellers’ Prize in 2022, both of which are on my TBR list.


The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles  📖

An unread Book of the Month selection corresponded nicely with the Book Voyage prompt of South America! Most of the story takes place in Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s, a place and history I know very little about and enjoyed exploring. It’s the story of Dora and Graça, told from Dora’s perspective late in life. Dora was a poor, orphaned servant girl on a sugar plantation in northern Brazil and Graça the spoiled daughter of the owner. Together they developed a love for music, in particular samba, which they pursued with passion in Rio de Janeiro. They had a lifelong, very complicated friendship being partners and rivals at the same time. Dora, Graça, and their band made it to Hollywood in the 1940s, and unbeknownst to me, there were direct connections to family history at Twentieth Century-Fox which was very fun to come across. The book is written in a very lyrical style, even including lyrics between chapters. For me, the style was a bit over the top, but I became too engaged with the diverse and eclectic cast of characters to give it up.


What have you been reading lately?

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.

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately (November 2022)

Welcome to my latest reading update. As the year nears its end, I’m focused on completing my two main reading challenges. In addition to my Scandinavian Reading Challenge, I am doing The Book Girls’ Book Voyage: Read Around the World challenge. Instead of reading the areas in order, I am skipping around. In November, I read the next to last prompt for me, Asia – South, and in December I’m wrapping up the challenge with a selection for South America, The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles. When I can, I squeeze in an unread Book of the Month selection. They have a tendency to accumulate!

2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge Update:

I’m still reading (actually mostly listening to) my 2022 Scandinavian Reading Challenge selection for the 2000s, the Norwegian Tante Ulrikkes vei (Tante Ulrikkes Way or Our Street), the debut novel by Zeshan Shakar. It’s about second generation immigrants in Oslo. It is in standard Norwegian as well as “kebabnorsk”, a spoken dialect mixing Norwegian with foreign words, mainly Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages. I did sneak in a couple of books set in the 2010s in Oslo both last month and this month so I can jump straight into the final prompt for the challenge, a book spanning decades or places, right away.

Once again, I join Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. What have you been reading lately?


The Henna Artist (Jaipur Trilogy #1) by Alka Joshi 🎧
(Narrated by Sneha Mathan)

A book right up my alley! This is a historical fiction novel about a time and place I am not familiar with featuring a strong female protagonist. The setting is Jaipur, India, in the 1950s, and Lakshmi, who left an abusive marriage at the age of 17, is a respected henna artist to the upper class women and on her way to becoming a self sufficient, independent woman. Then her husband appears bringing along a sister that Lakshmi didn’t know she had and her carefully balanced and planned life is disrupted. On top of it being an inspiring story, I also learned about henna artists and a bit about India pre- and post-independence. I considered reading the next in the series right away, but I decided to wait since I have other books I “must” read before the end of the year.


Nei og atter nei by Nina Lykke 🎧
(Narrated by Anne Ryg)

I knew little going into this book; I was just excited to have access to a Norwegian audiobook of a new-to-me author whom I had on my radar. (And it was short enough to fit in before I started my next book club pick.) It’s a contemporary novel about Ingrid and Jan, a married couple in their 50s (with 2 adult sons still living at home), and Hanne, a 34-year-old female work colleague of the husband. They all have issues and I didn’t like any of them (but at least they were honest with themselves). However, I really enjoyed the structure of the story in which each chapter was from a different character’s perspective and the time periods overlapped a bit. The audiobook narration was fabulous and kept me coming back to their messed up world. The ending was surprisingly satisfying.

Even though I didn’t love the story, I appreciated the writing style and structure and am keeping Nina Lykke on my to-read list. I already have another of her books on my shelf, the Brage Prize-winning novel Full spredning. It’s actually coming out in English translation by B. L. Crook in April 2023 titled Natural Causes published by Open Letter. It was first published in Norway 2019 and this will be her English language debut.


The Creak on the Stairs (Forbidden Iceland #1) by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir 📖
(Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)

I decided to read a Nordic Noir selection in honor of #NordicNoirNovember. This is the debut novel of a new Icelandic crime author. A typical Nordic Noir read, it features a police detective with a troubled past, a dark and cold setting, and disturbing crimes. Specifically, it’s about Elma who transfers from the police department in Reykjavik to the one back in her small hometown of Akranes after a difficult break with her boyfriend. She and her partner investigate the death of a woman found by a lighthouse and all sorts of secrets and connections between past and present come up. Iceland is a fascinating setting and I love a smart, female detective. It worked for me and I look forward to reading the next in the series.


Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley 📖

My book club selected this novel in honor of November’s National Native American Heritage Month. It couldn’t have been a better selection for the purpose. It was an engrossing pageturner that opened my eyes to so much about contemporary Native cultures and traditions. It also shed light on both historical and present day challenges faced by Native people. I loved the main character, Daunis, an 18-year old star hockey player who just graduated from high school but is postponing her university plans to be close to her fragile mother whose brother just died, a father figure in Daunis’ life. I enjoyed the romance between Daunis and the new recruit on the hockey team. More deaths and secrets come to light. It was an unexpected thriller with great substance. #unreadBOTMchallenge


What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in purchasing some Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, visit 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.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (October & November 2021)

Better late than never in sharing recent reads! October and November were busy months with less time and energy to read and write. Hence the two months are shared together now at the end of December. At least they were very productive months in the sense that I finished three unread Book of the Month selections, checked off two new areas of the world for The Book Girls’ Guide Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge, and made progress on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. I also felt a great sense of accomplishment when I finished The Eighth Life, a 41-hour audiobook which took me 3 months to finish but was so worth it.

How’s your reading life been lately?


The Eighth Life (for Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili
(Translated from the German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin)
(Narrated by Tavia Gilbert)

This audiobook was phenomenal. I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had. Not only was the story engrossing and eye-opening, but also the narrator had such great expression and feeling for each of the many characters. It’s the story of a Georgian family, in particular its women, beginning in the early 1900s until the present day. We get an insider’s view of the tumultuous and at times gruesome history of the Russian Empire/Union of Soviet Socialist Republics/Russia. There’s a secret and dangerous chocolate recipe, love and loss, happiness and heartbreak. I highly recommend it, but it is a big undertaking and commitment.

🌍 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Eastern Europe & Russia


The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I didn’t hesitate to pick this book up since I really enjoyed both The Nightingale and The Great Alone. However, I wasn’t as much a fan of this one, though I still enjoyed it. This one takes readers to the Dust Bowl, Texas in particular, during the Great Depression and follows Elsa as she struggles to make a life for herself and her kids with her husband, whom she was forced to marry, and his family. I did not realize just how hard and tenuous life in the Great Plains was at this time. I admired Elsa and agonized with her about her children’s lives. The insight into life in California for migrants was an unexpected but welcomed reading experience. Nothing was ever easy for Elsa, but she powered through with great perseverance and strength.

🌎 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North America
📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson
(Translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles)

This is a legal/psychological thriller that takes place in Lund, Sweden, in the southern end of Sweden. An 18-year-old girl is accused of murdering a man 15 years older than her. Both her father, a pastor, and her mother, a criminal defense attorney, struggle with trying to understand and defend her. I always appreciate a story about complicated family dynamics, and this book has a unique structure as well. The first part is from the father’s perspective which is followed by the daughter’s perspective. Finally, the mother’s perspective is shared. I really enjoyed it, in particular how the whole story was revealed through the different perspectives one after the after.

🇸🇪 Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2021: A Scandinavian book I’ve been meaning to read📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

This was an unread Book of the Month selection inspired by Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) and The Book Girls’ Book Voyage’s focus on South America in October. It was a short novel that packed a powerful punch. It’s about a mixed status family separated by unfortunate circumstances. The mother and two children are in the United States while the father and one daughter are back in Colombia. The story alternates between the past (shedding light on how the family, who was at one point all together in the US, got to this point) and the present (when the daughter in Colombia is urgently trying to return to her father from a correctional facility so she can be reunited with her mother in the US). I really appreciated the insight into life in Bogotá as well as into the experiences of undocumented in the US.

🌎 Book Voyage: Read Around the World: South America (Colombia)
📚 #unreadBOTMchallenge


Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo
(Narrated by Sara Powell)

I picked this somewhat on a whim. I wanted something different from what I’d recently been reading, and the setting of London and a West African country intrigued me. It was a surprisingly compelling listen. The narrator’s interpretation of the main character was wonderful. Anna Bain, a mixed race woman in her late 40s, is newly separated from her husband of many years. Her adult daughter is busy with work, and her mother recently died. While going through her mother’s belongings, she discovers a diary belonging to her African father whom she never knew. This discovery takes her to her father’s country, fictional Bamana, where she encounters a variety of new experiences. I really enjoyed this story of new beginnings.


What have you been reading lately?

As always, 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.