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Reading wrap-up - January 2022

Do you follow a tradition when picking your first book of the year? I always make sure to start right by picking an author whose other books I've loved, or simply an old favourite.

The Inheritance, Robin Hobb · 2011

Robin Hobb's novels may be among the longest on my shelves (looking at you Liveship Traders trilogy), but this author also knows how to write a short story. Years ago, when I bought this collection written under both her pen names, I first only read the stories by Robin Hobb. I wasn't ready to try her work as Megan Lindholm. Maybe I feared it wouldn't feel the same. Of course it doesn't, but I find it's mostly a matter of setting and rhythm. Megan Lindholm writes fantastical or urban fantasy stories, in a more to-the-point style. And yet there are many similarities. She often features female characters at the cusp of self-discovery or self-affirmation, and will never use world-building to the detriment of her characters. She writes about people first and foremost, and whether the setting is a cottage by the sea in Buck duchy or a slightly different Seatle from the one we know, does not matter that much. I really love this collection, with strong pieces from both Hobb and Lindholm, and would highly recommend it to anyone wishing to sample her prose.

CW (not all of them apply to all stories of course, so if you'd like to know which one in particular appears in which story, do ask in a comment or DM!): child neglect, drugs, death of a child, death of animals, stillbirth, slight body horror (in the story "Cut"), domestic violence, sexual harrassment.

the book is set on an old, wooden chair in front of grey-blue curtains.

Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse · 2020

It's epic! It's queer! It's not set in a Western Middle-Ages village!

Black Sun is a fast-paced, high-stakes, multiple-points-of-view fantasy inspired by Pre-Columbian civilizations of South America. We follow a priestess preparing the highly important ceremonies of the Convergence, a captain whose luck soars and plummets with equal force, and a young blind man whose destiny has the dark, sleek feathers of a crow.

Each one is a pleasure to follow across the streets, waters and airs of this novel that I found hard to put down. The short chapters introduced by glimpses of world-building helped, for sure. I was worried I would be completely lost in the ins and outs of a complex world, but the author manages to blend seamlessly her character focus with the twists and turns of the story (of which there are many). A very, very enjoyable read! I don't know if I'll continue with book 2 (it's quite rare when I do), but I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed Black Sun's refreshing diversity. Some parts (especially the gruesome first scene) reminded me of N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, so you may want to look that way for similar vibes.

Rep: bi, non-binary (using neo-pronouns), trans characters. Blind character. No white character that I noticed.

CW: mutilation, vomit, death of parent, violence, murder.

a white hand holds a copy of the book in front of a grey-blue and golden beige wallpaper.

Ne m'oublie pas, Alix Garin · 2021

Clémence is visiting her grand-mother at the nursing home. The old woman has just run away for the third time. Faced with her grand-mother's distress, Clémence takes her on a road-trip to see the sea and her childhood home again.

Yes, this comic book is as melancholy and sour/sweet as it sounds. Alix Garin's minimalistic drawings burst with things unsaid, and her colour palette brings together all the colours of the sky to tell about this dusk-and-dawn story. Dusk for Clémence's grand-mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and dawn for her grand-daughter, ready to tip forward. Each character embodies this fleeting moment between dark and light.

Rep: lesbian MC.

CW: Alzheimer disease, homophobia, car accident, roadkill, death of parent, bullying.

the book is seen from above, set under a pilea plant.

Fugl ("Bird"), Sigbjørn Skåden · 2021

The year is 2048 and a woman is talking to her daughter about hope and resilience on Home, a planet far from Earth. It is 2147 and the colony receives the unexpected visit of an Earth ship. Between the two timelines, we read the logbook of the last personne harbouring memories from Earth on Home.

Sámi Norwegian author and artist Sigbjørn Skåden has written a very delicate science-fiction tale which, as far as I know, isn't available in English yet. It's a minimalist narrative, facetted into three voices a few dozen years apart from one another. Just like the characters' footsteps are blown away by the winds of Home, this isn't a novel that will leave much trace in my memory. But on the moment, I appreciated its false simplicity.

Rep: mute characters communicating via messages on screens.

CW: pregnancy, miscarriage, death in labour, colonisation, sexual content.

the book is set on a dark wooden table. All around are scattered rose petals.

A Kind of Spark, Elle McNicoll · 2020

Addie is autistic and she would very much like people to stop treating her autism like a disease, thank you very much. The trouble is, her teacher and classmates refuse to see past their prejudices and see the real Addie. When the young girl discovers the history of her village, and especially the witch trials that sentenced to death women just for being different, she launches a campaign with all her might to acknowledge the errors of the past and do what is right.

Honestly, this book should be handed out everywhere for everyone to read. It's so touching, infuriating, heart-warming and important. Elle McNicoll writes an entertaining story with a lot to consider as a neurotypical reader about biases and perspective.

Rep: autistic MC (own voice).

CW: school bullying

the book, open at the title page, is set on a dark wooden table, in a ray of light throwing the stark shadow of a bunch of dried flowers onto the paper.

La Cuisine de Mamette, Nob · 2013

This is the epitome of the comfort book. A grand-mother spends her time cooking traditional recipes to her family and friends. The drawings are really cute, and even if my almost-vegan heart was sometimes a little hurt, the overall cosiness and warmth this book wrapped me into more than made up for it.

CW : food and a latent streak of fatphobia.

the book rests on a light wooden table, next to some dried flowers and a wooden set of spoon and fork.


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What did you read in December?

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