Neverwinter by R.A. Salvatore

I miss the Companions of the Hall but this is a necessary turn for the Drizzt series.

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 346 pages.
Read from June 14, 2018 to June 20, 2018.

This series is my reliable go-to when I am in a book slump and this saga has, in general, been a good surprise and turn from Salvatore’s standard fare.

Drizzt has begun a new life. One remiss of his old companions. He is burdened by grief and anger but also a guilty sense of freedom that he was not expecting. This newfound feeling scares him as he feels himself becoming more primal, more dark-elf-like. He agrees to help his new companion and lover Dahlia on her quest for revenge, a prospect that he would never have agreed to before. Dahila intrigues Drizzt as she is a warrior and a woman that he has never known before. Their ventures bring them face to face with old frenemies that make Drizzy nostalgic and confused about his path and his moral choices.

After a solid start to this saga with Gauntlgrym, this novel was a little lacklustre. However, there is a great spoiler in the novel that confirmed my suspicions about Barrabus’ real identity that was exciting. I do have to admit though, I miss Drizzt’s regular companions and his old life but Salvatore had to make this move. When you are this far into a series you need to keep your characters dynamic and adaptable and this saga of novels delves deep into the core of Drizzt’s moral compass.

What works with this saga is that it is dark and that Drizzt needs to get in touch with his inner self again which mirrors what made the first books in this series so memorable.  This book, however, does seem weighted down with a lot of side plots and not-so-memorable characters making for a plot that isn’t as concise or fluid as others.

While I miss the old companions and mourn them I can see the necessity of this change. However, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that they will all magically make a come back at some point.

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.

 

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 106 pages.
Read on June 5, 2018.

When I realized I was two books behind my reading goal I was frantically looking for a short book on my to-read list to help me catch up. This book has been on my list for a while as it is considered a classic piece of children’s literature, but if I am honest I knew absolutely nothing about this book before reading it other than that. This book is one of the world’s most translated books, over 250 languages in fact. Even in Hong Kong, you can find the book just about anywhere and there is tons of cute apparel and swag that you can buy your kid to accompany it. This is a kid’s book that is kind of meant for adults, hence why it is so appealing to both the young and old.  Many people adore this book and revere it, perhaps I got a bad translation (I did find a free copy online) or maybe this book is best read in French, but this book did not meet the hype for me.

The plot is about a little boy who lives on a planet by himself. The planet is not very big and he has to tend to it otherwise this certain type of tree will grow and destroy his ability to live on the tiny planet. He also has a sheep and a rose. The boy tends to the rose dutifully and does whatever it asks of him in order to make it comfortable. However, the boy decides to leave his planet one day after growing tired of the monotony of it all. On his journey, he encounters other people on their own planets, each of them with a different drive an purpose, like the businessman who is all about money and greed.  The boy eventually finds himself on Earth in which he meets the narrator who is trapt in a desert after a plane crash. The boy also befriends a fox who reminds him of his responsibility and care to his planet, sheep and especially the rose.

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Antoine-de-Saint-Exupéry – photo from Britannia

The plot of this story is like an intense acid-trip that creates a somewhat-fun and philosophical children’s story.  I mean, that isn’t what happened to the author but his own personal story and history is actually quite interesting and based on his inspiration for the book you can kind of understand how the Little Prince came to be. Not only was Antoine an accomplished writer but he ended up becoming an infamous pilot as well. Antoine failed in architecture school before joining the military where he became a pilot. Prior to WWI, Antoine flew everything from mail routes to testing piloting, he even attempted to beat a world record for the fastest trip between Paris and Saigon, in which his plane crashed in the Sahara desert. You can see this experience directly in The Little Prince, with the narrator having also become stranded in a desert from a plane crash. So perhaps The Little Prince is a heat/water-deprived hallucination inspired story? Antoine disappeared during one flight and was presumed dead after he was not found in summer of 1944.

The story is intriguing but my translation definitely seemed clunky, I imagine much of the lessons that the Little Prince learned are much more poignant in French.  I found the story did little to capture my imagination and I am curious as to what a kid today would think of the story.  As an adult, I caught on to the messages of the story but found myself wanting to know more about Antoine, the author, than the story of the Little Prince and his silly rose. I would, however, re-read this book. I think there is more to be taken from it and I think perhaps a better translation might lend itself better to the story.

Parents, what do your kids think of this story? Do you read to them out of nostalgia and do they appreciate it? Perhaps this book is better left for adults even though it was written for kids.  Overall, I am still glad that I read it and can now at least understand and appreciate the references made to this novel in other works.