Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neil

We were just acting out the strangest, tragic little roles, pretending to be criminals in order to get by. We gave very convincing performances.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 368 pages.
Read from June 4, 2018 to June 14, 2018.

This book has been heralded with awards and accolades for its unique and outspoken story about Baby, a twelve-year-old girl just trying to make sense of the world and how she fits into it.

Baby is her name. Her real name, not some cute nickname. Baby’s parents were very young when they had her with her mother exiting from her life at an early age. Jules, Baby’s father, loves her but unfortunately, he seems to love heroin more. Jules does the best he can but often finds himself in less than ideal situations for raising a child. While Baby is on the cusp of leaving her childhood behind her, she tells her story with the frankness that can only come from that of a child yet she is slowly becoming more aware of how abnormal her life is with her father as she ages. While there are many pervasive aspects to this novel involving sexuality, drugs and prostitution, the quirky and honest way that Baby delivers her story makes for an enthralling combination of awe, shock and amusement.

“Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the side walk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your partner was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you.”

The success of this book comes with how the author has delivered it in combination with some beautiful, and at times, poignant writing. Baby’s understanding and sense of the world is appropriate for her age yet reflective and insightful enough to engage any reader. Even if you had the idea of a normal childhood, the delivery of Baby’s story will still appeal to you because of how she approaches childhood and the insights she has on it. Childhood, in many ways, is horrible and magnificent time, which is reflective of the tone of this book. It is a portion of our lives that we can truly never ever relive or experience again for better and for worse.

“As a kid, you have nothing to do with the way the world is run; you just have to hurry to catch up with it.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Baby’s story and found the book to be highly readable and engaging. I think most fiction lovers will appreciate this quirky, awkward and honest rendition of a peculiar and traumatizing childhood.

Gauntlgrym by R.A. Salvatore

“Even the short-lived humans divide their lives into segments, though they rarely recognize the transient truth as they move through one or another stage of their existence.”

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 345 pages.
Read from June 4, 2018 to June 8, 2018.

Yup, 20 books into this gigantic series now.  It is actually really nice to have a reliable series of books to fall on that you know will be an easy and comforting read but will also offer a margin of excitement. This book seems to have revived some new life into the series and I haven’t enjoyed a Drizzt book like this in a long time.

Drizzt and Bruenor have been through a lot together as friends. So many doors have closed in their old lives but Bruneor wants one last adventure. The adventure will help Bruenor with the grief he is unable to shake and Drizzt to begin to finally process his and what the future will mean for him. The two set off to find the legendary dwarven hall of Gauntlgrym, which is reminiscent of the time they set off to find Mithral Hall, however, the lack of their regular companions weighs heavy on both of them. In their search for the mysterious hall, they encounter a looming catastrophe that if not dealt with will envelop and destroy the area of Neverwinter completely. During their adventures, they run into Jarlaxle and Athrogate who have found themselves deeply caught up in the disaster looming below Neverwinter. While Drizzt has never considered Jarlaxle a friend he isn’t an enemy either. Drizzt feels a renewed energy in having a connection to his old life around and he begins to have a better understanding of the moral compass that drives Jarlaxle as he begins to question his own.

This storyline of this book is dark and has some unexpected twists and finalizing deaths which, as a fan is hard to come to terms with. Drizzt’s character dynamics take a stark turn in this book and I imagine it will only continue to unfold. I also have my suspicions about a villain character called Barrbarus the Grey as he sounds too reminiscent of a character that had a prominent role in previous Drizzt books. I have not figured out how it would be possible considering how much time has passed but I am eager to read the next book to find out.

A lot of fans did not seem to be happy with this book but I think it is because Salvatore intentionally took Drizzt’s story in a new direction to keep his story fresh. I personally think that this book was a success and I am interested to see how this new storyline progresses. Overall, it has made me excited about devouring the next few books in this series and already have them checked out from the library.

My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih

Finding hope in the darkness, both literally and figuratively…

3/5 stars.
ARC, ebook, 208 pages.
Read from July 6, 2018 to July 12, 2018.

Expected publication: September 11, 2018

WWII and holocaust survivor stories are some of my favourite reading genres so when I saw this book on Netgalley with the absolutely raving reviews I knew I just had to read it.

Set in Kwasova, Ukraine during WWII, My Real Name is Hanna is a unique coming of age story.  With the rise of Nazi Germany, Hanna and her family don’t initially suspect that that anything will happen to them in their small town.  Hanna spends her time helping her neighbour dye decorative pysanky eggs and hanging out with her friend Leon.  However, the tides quickly change with the Nazis on their doorsteps and the carefree life and childhood that Hanna has known comes to an abrupt end.  Her family is desperate to stay together and do whatever it takes to keep it that way. A few kind friends and neighbours help Hanna and her family plot their escape into the forest when the Nazis come for them.  After their first safe place comes under threat, Hanna and her family are forced underground where they have to learn to live in a cramped cave in order to avoid the horrible Nazi forces.  Finding hope in the darkness, both literally and figuratively, is all that Hanna and her family have left.

Everyone seemed to love this book and while I didn’t dislike the novel I also don’t feel the need to rave about it either. I am struggling to find the words for my indifference to this story as the plot was exciting and definitely nerve-wracking at times.  The plot and layout of this story is its best feature but I felt a disconnect between some parts of the story and with the characters. For example, the book Hanna was given as a gift, which is the focal point of the first chapter, felt absolutely unnecessary in the rest of the book and really could have been edited out.  Based on the reviews I have read, it seems that the majority readers had a strong emotional connection to the characters but I, however, found it a bit lacking. The characters struggles, as awful as they were, did not seem like they were communicated as well as they could have been.  While one of the most touching scenes of the story entails Hanna and her friend Leon but at the same time, Leon also felt like an unnecessary character. If the story had focused on just Hanna and her immediate family members, the characters might have felt a bit more robust to me.

I can see why readers have compared this story to The Book Thief as this book has successfully discussed a difficult and tragic story but has also kept it attainable for youth readers.  However, in terms of potency and character development, The Book Thief is still the clear winner for me.

While I wasn’t as enthralled with this book as other readers the content of the story is good and many others swear by its moving story so I would still recommend this book for those interested in the WWII narrative and YA readers.