Reading wrap-up - December 2021
December flew by, and it had an emotional whirlwind in store for me so that I had little mental space to read. Instead of drowning in complicated books, I turned to either light or easy-to-read stories.
Malgré tout, by Jordi Lafebre · 2020
Ana and Zeno, each on one side of the alphabet, meet and walk away from each other throughout the pages of this stunning comic book by Jordi Lafebre. Ana is the mayor of a small, lopsided town at the heart of which she plans to build a bridge - a bridge we walk with her down her memories and the letters she exchanged for years with Zeno, the dreamy and uncatchable PhD researcher striding about the world.
Jordi Lafebre's drawings are both soft and sharp, served by an elegant pastel palette. This ode to second chances instantly became a new favourite, with its enchanting drawings and romantic story.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab · 2020
I've been waiting to read this book since hearing about it some two years ago. I knew its themes of time and memory would speak to me, but I hadn't expected to relate so very much. I read it in early December, during a time of intense (positive) emotions, and it mirrored so much of my inner stream of thoughts that it was a little eery.
Addie is a young woman born at the end of the 17th century in a small French village. A little bit like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, she longs for her own freedom. Unlike Belle, she is ready to pay for it with her very soul. Her story reimagines that of Faust in a very touching, sometimes a little sirupy, but modern way. As someone who has always tried not to make too much of an impression on people, Addie's woes stirred something very deep within me, and I'm so glad this book came to me at the right moment. I all but snatched it from the librarians' hands when they put it on the "new in" shelves.
Rep : bi MCs.
CW : alcoolisme, pensées suicidaires.
Ship of Destiny, by Robin Hobb · 2000
Is there a book by a favourite author that let you down?
Despite the question, I wouldn't say that Ship of Destiny let me down. It made me feel a lot, and that in itself is a victory. The characters are so real and flawed that I wish I could bang them on the head with a frying pan, yes, but if Robin Hobb's character writing wasn't stellar, that wouldn't happen.
However, I do find that the first half of this chunky volume drags. I just can't pretend I'm interested in what happens, because I'm not as invested in the characters as I am in the Farseer, Tawny Man and Fitz & Fool trilogies. My heart soars when we find passing mentions of these series & characters in Ship of Destiny, and one scene in particular is one of my favourites all books considered.
Do tread with caution, this book in particular deals with rape in an realistic and raw way, as much the act as its consequences.
CW: animal pain & death, sexual harassment, rape, trauma & gaslighting, injuries, child abuse.
Christmas Comes to Moominvalley, by Tove Jansson, Alex Haridi, Cecilia Davidsson, Filippa Widlund · 2018
Little Moomin is busy hibernating with his family when he is awakened by a creature warning him that Christmas is coming and that they must get ready. But what is Christmas? And how putting up a tree and decorating it is supposed to help?
This is a super cute picture book about Christmas that can be read on several levels. The first one is the enchantment of Christmas and its traditions, but the second one comments on how the period creates stress for many people - the Moomin family only encounters anxious neighbours running around trying to get everything ready in time, so that they don't understand if Christmas is a threat or a celebration. I thought that was rather well done, and these characters are adorably cute.
Bergères Guerrières, vol. 1-4, by Jonathan Garnier & Amélie Fléchais · 2017-2021
Molly is an apprentice warrior shepherdess. Other girls her age in the village also train to become part of this elite group, including Molly's friend Liam who dreams to join this women-only corporation.
This comic book series first drew me in with its stunning covers and its epic title - "Warrior Shepherdesses". The drawings remind me slightly of The Secret of Kells, one of the prettiest animated movies I've ever seen. Bergères Guerrières, set at first in a village where most of the men have gone away to war, is fiercely feminist and ecological. It deals with darker and darker themes as the story progresses, but always with an emphasis on friendship, family and trust - in addition to fluffy goats and a huge, cuddle-friendly dog.
CW: animal pain & death, terminal illness, grief, war.
The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo · 2018
Xiomara has a loud voice that people won't hear, and a body that takes too much room for others' comfort. She is a bubbling mess of emotions, torn between a religious mother, her Dominican heritage, and the words that keep blossoming under her pen and defying what she's been taught all her life. This book is her journal, in verse, brimming with restricted power. Elizabeth Acevedo offers a raw insight into a high school girl's life that reads like a defiant shout. It's an immensely powerful read, with its cut lines tumbling down the pages. I'm impressed by the author, and also by the translator, who also writes novels in verse and has wonderfully done justice to Acevedo's bright poetry.
CW : racism, fatphobia, religious bigotry.
The Murderbot Diaries 6: Fugitive Telemetry, by Martha Wells · 2021
Murderbot is back in the sixth volume of their fun and sarcastic adventures! Faced with an unexplained murder on Preservation Station, they have no choice but to form temporary (at least that's what they hope) alliances with the local authorities. The ones that would have put them in jail only months ago for their mere existence.
Being back in Martha Well's Murderbot universe feels just like coming home, or putting on a beloved cardigan. I know I'm safe in the shoes of this aro/ace, agender, opinionated cyborg - who would have thought? I only wish I'd read this volume closer to the others because they do follow each other and there are elements of the previous plots I'd already forgotten. But it didn't prevent me from enjoying myself! This series is definitely a highlight of the year for me.
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What did you read in December?