Shiirleyy's Bookshelf has migrated to Dear Shirley ! I will continue to post book reviews but there will also be a lot of personal and travel-related posts :)

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

10 May 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why 
by Jay Asher 
Publisher: Penguin    
Release Date: 2009 

 You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play. 
Clay Jensen returns home from school one day to find a mysterious box with his name on it, outside his front door. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did - and Clay is one of them. 

If he listens, Clay will find out how he made the list - what he hears will change his life forever.

Having just finished 13 Reasons Why, I’m in two minds; on one hand, from a personal perspective, I didn’t like the portrayal of Hannah, her actions and did not agree with the overall message of the book. I am aware that the message I took from 13 Reasons Why is completely different to what the author's intended purpose was, but everyone interprets books differently and unfortunately, the intended message didn't resonate with me. Having said that, I do feel that with the right audience, this book can have a powerful effect on its readers. As someone who has never had suicidal thoughts/tendencies I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on the suicide aspects of the book. I mean, something that I think is completely trivial and insignificant in the grand scheme of things could potentially be the catalyst for someone else’s demise. This review is purely my opinion and I’ll try to be as non-judgmental as possible.

 I, like many other reviewers think that to enjoy this book, one must first and foremost be able to empathise with Hannah. Now, kudos to all the people who did empathise with her but good Lord, she was whiny, oversensitive and self-absorbed. (Sorry no more judgmental comments from me) I mean, I felt sorry for her, sure, but did that feeling transform into empathy? Unfortunately no. I won’t go into all the reasons why I didn’t like her because like I said above, I don’t think I have the right to judge her so I’ll leave it at that.

 I was often exasperated at the shifting of perspectives between Clay’s life/thoughts in the present day and Hannah’s narration on the tapes. I would be absorbed in Hannah’s story and trying to guess how the current guy/girl fucked up, when all of a sudden I’d be reading a line that made absolutely no sense given the context. I would re-read it and realize that it was actually Clay’s thought about something completely irrelevant to Hannah’s story. Not going to lie, I skimmed most of Clay’s thoughts and instead jumped to Hannah’s story. At the start of every chapter, I hoped that the next person would fuck up so badly that I would finally warm up to Hannah and understand her, but disappointingly that never happened.

 I’m definitely looking forward to watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I’ve heard the show doesn’t shy away from graphic scenes and I’m glad about that. Despite being disappointed with the book, I have high hopes for the show. Perhaps the acting will change my mind about Hannah.

 UPDATE: Watched the show and loved the acting!!! Unfortunately the message I took from the TV show was even worse than the message I got from the book. I did however start to understand Hannah's decision towards the end (after what Bryce did, which was by the way different from what happened in the book). Having said that, I did have A LOT of issues with it (primarily the fact that everyone was blaming each other but no one gave a shit about the rapist in town?). I'm considering doing a 13 Reasons Why TV Show review too but we'll see :)

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

26 Apr 2017

The Upside of Unrequited 
by Becky Albertalli 
Publisher: Penguin   
Release Date: 11th April, 2017  

 Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she's lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can't stomach the idea of rejection. So she's careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 

 Then a cute new girl enters Cassie's orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly's cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

 There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

The Upside of Unrequited
I’ve discovered that with time and age, my reading preferences have changed. I’m certain 16 year old me would have swooned, gushed and raved endlessly about how cute The Upside of Unrequited is and talked excessively about how adorably slow and perfect the romance between the Molly and Reid is. Unfortunately, 22 year old me thought the whole push and pull between the two was too cute for my liking - I think I can only tolerate small doses of cuteness before I go “Yeah, nah”, onto the next book.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed about The Upside of Unrequited, and then I’ll address the main issue I had with it. I think most people would disagree with

A relatable main character
The Upside of Unrequited had the ingredients for the perfect YA book. In particular, I found Molly’s actions and the situations she found herself in very relatable. Molly has had 20-something crushes in the past and none of them moved past the ‘crush’ stage because she never communicated her feelings in fear of rejection. Yeah, guess what – same here. The whole time I was thinking “wow….this is so me”. Some other examples of some things I do that I didn’t think anyone else did until I read this book.

“I google the number, but Google doesn’t know, and I feel dumb asking who it is. So I ignore it. “

So yes, when I receive a random call and he/she doesn’t leave a voicemail, or when I receive a random text from someone I always google the number first and then decide whether or not to call back. Usually when they don’t leave a voicemail, I ignore the number.

“It’s the second time, because you’ve already used up all the obvious topics of conversation.”

This one is so applicable to me when I meet people I don’t ‘connect’ with. I mean, I can keep a conversation going during our first meeting – no worries – but if we randomly bump into each other again, say the next day then sorry, but what the heck am I suppose to talk to you about?! All obvious topics of conversation have been exhausted! Hhahahahah obviously this doesn’t happen all the time, but when I read the quote above, I just thought of situations in the past where I had nothing to say to someone I’d just bumped into.

I've been on and off on twitter over the last few years so sometimes I miss out on important bookish news and trends. Sometime last year/ this year 'Diversity' became a top trending topic between readers, bloggers, authors and publishers. From reading a couple of tweets it seems the gist of it was readers wanted more diversity in books. Well, turns out, you asked and Becky Albertalli delivered.

Now, I’m going to say something that may not be well received since after reading a few reviews and general comments on Twitter, I’ve concluded that my feelings belong in the minority. While I appreciate Albertalli’s attempt at creating a world with all types of diverse characters, the impression I got was more of a 'diversity dump' or a shopping list of diverse characters. I personally felt it was a desperate attempt to incorporate all these diverse characters into one book to appeal to readers to the point that the characters didn't feel realistic anymore. They felt like chess pieces brought in for the sole purpose of writing a book about diversity; there was no substance or depth to any of the characters beyond their labels. I remember at least one character was Jewish, and others had different skin colours, religion, sexuality but that was it. The terms were thrown around and then the story went back to the cute interactions between Molly and Reid.

I was slightly annoyed at Albertalli’s representation of Mina. The first time I realized she was Asian I thought “Oh yay! An Asian character, I like this book already!” Then after a few chapters I got the feeling that Albertalli was desperate to reiterate to the readers that Mina‘s A PERSON OF COLOUR, that it felt like she was shoving this fact in my face. Cassie was constantly saying how Mina is "Korean-American" and the whole time I just imagined Mina with a banner above her head with the words LOOK AT ME. IM KOREAN-AMERICAN. A DIVERSE CHARACTER.

So my point is I like books where the author doesn’t tell me once, twice, or five thousand times that someone is pansexual, or Asian or Jewish. Please do your research and show me this information. Having said all that, The Upside Of Unrequited wasn’t bad – it was a quick read and I definitely enjoyed it but I probably won’t be coming back for more.

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

7 Sept 2016

by J.K Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Released: July 31st 2016 

One of the biggest disappointments in my life this year is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I cannot express just how much it hurt when I read the first few pages and immediately, my excitement, enthusiasm and eagerness to devour the book shattered.

 Cursed child was horrible.

 Absolutely, heart-shatteringly horrible.

There was no substance to the characters - I don't give a rat's ass about Albus. When I think of Albus I think of a perpetually depressed and pessimistic kid with zero personality. All he did was hate his dad, hate Hogwarts and hate the world. What else was there? The Harry Potter books were my salvation and my key to an alternate life when reality became too stressful for me to handle, or when I momentarily lost faith in myself. Harry Potter pulled me out of that state of self-doubt and taught me that no matter how much shit I go through, there would always be light at the end of the tunnel. I mean, if Harry can find happiness in a world previously ruled by dark wizards, the most powerful of which murdered his parents, or continue to walk with his head held high even when he became the most despised/talked about/unpopular/ person in the wizarding world, then I can survive.

But this book? A waste of my time and money.

Harry, Hermione and Ron were also cardboard characters. None of them were consistent with how they were portrayed in the last book. Scorpius was probably the only character with personality but even he couldn’t save the story.

I’ve been trying to wipe all traces of the Cursed Child from my memory; as far as I’m concerned, there is no 8th book and the series ended with the Deathly Hallows.

4 Reasons why you should read The Grown Up

30 May 2016

Gillian Flynn’s books are by far, the most unpredictable, dark, fucked up and psychologically and emotionally draining thrillers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Yes, I love them to bits. They always make me question my morals, empathise with the villains to the point that when I pointed out Amy’s reasons for orchestrating her own kidnapping in Gone Girl was….understandable on some level, my mate gave me a “you’re fucked in the head” look. So yes, Gillian Flynn’s books are an automatic must buy for me and that’s exactly what I did when I discovered ‘The Grown-Up’ was released.

The Grown Up

by Gillian Flynn
Released November 5th 2015
 Find Gillian Flynn on:
Website FacebookGoodreads
As this was a very short novella, instead of writing a review, I’ll simply give you 4 reasons why you should pick up this book.
  1. It’s written by Gillian Flynn. 
If you liked any of Flynn’s previous full-length novels, then you must pick this one up. It fucks with your head that same way Flynn’s other books did.
  1. It’s a short – around 80 pages – and speedy read!
Worried that you won’t finish your Goodreads Challenge before the end of the year? Getting tired of reading a 350 page novel that was sent for review? Well, definitely give this a go! Not only will this count as 1 book on your Goodreads Challenge, but you also won’t get sick of reading it because you’ll be done in literally 20 minutes.
  1. Nothing is as it seems.
As with the other books, nothing is as it seems until the last 25%. Remember; don’t believe everything you’re told!
  1. You’ll think about the storyline and ending long after you finish reading the last sentence. 
There are books I rate 5 stars but I’ll never think about again. There are also books e.g. Gone Girl, Harry Potter, The Pact, ACOTAR that I will re-read once every few months because they’re just so damn good. The Grown-Up is one of those books where I’m still wondering what the hell happened at the end and if Flynn will release an official statement to clarify the ending.
I don’t know about you, but I’m eagerly anticipating Flynn’s next full-length novel. I’m 100% positive it won’t disappoint :D

Discussion Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

29 May 2016

Almost 2 years ago, in the midst of exams, as per usual I decided to procrastinate by catching up on my overdue reviews. I had previously asked my mate Lana if she wanted to participate in a “discussion review” with me since we both share the same appreciation and love for books but often our tastes differ. One particular example of this is our opinion on The Fault in Our Stars. I read the book and didn’t like it. Lana read the book and loved it. We watched the movie together; once again she loved it and I hated it. So what is it about The Fault In our Stars that just didn’t resonate with me? And what is it about the book that Lana felt a strong connection to? Well, read on to find out!
Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 11.46.38 pm
When I first watched the trailer, I felt goosebumps all along my arms- usually an indicator that something is worth watching/listening/reading. I thought maybe the movie adaption would be vastly better than the books, so with my expectations set incredibly high, I watched the advance screening of The Fault in Our Stars on the 23rd May 2014 with a few close friends.
Pretty much the entire cinema bawled their eyes out from the halfway mark, and I, being the black sheep, simply just sat there emotionlessly. I remember thinking “Is there something wrong with me? Their acting’s terrific, the music, dialogue, sequence of events are all perfect, BUT WHY DO I FEEL NOTHING?” I have since officially come to the conclusion that there is probably something wrong with me. Ah well, at least I’ve cried previously in other movies/books. That counts for something right?
Without further ado, here is our discussion review of The Fault In Our Stars.
Shirley: Okay Lana. I know I’ve asked you this a BILLION times, but why do you love The Fault in Our Stars so much? I’m pretty sure you’ve read countless cancer-related books in the past, but why is this particular one the most memorable/the one you talk about the most?
Lana: Well, I know whenever I ask friends about why they loved TFIOS so much, they’d usually just respond with a well-known quote from the book or just tell me how much it made them cry. But it was never about memorable quotes or how the book made me tear up. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons why I loved the book so much had to do with the quote which the title was based off; a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where Cassius tells Brutus, “the fault… is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings”.  *Shirley: WTF. YOU STILL REMEMBER JULIUS CAESAR FROM YEAR 12? Woman…what are you doing with your life….What some of us fail to realise (or are too stubborn to admit) is that we have faults. We have weaknesses. For me, this book was more about the human condition and the realisation that even the seemingly best of them fall. To me, this was portrayed perfectly in the characterisations of Augustus Waters and also Peter van Houten (<< was that how you spelt that dude’s name? lol). I guess basically why I loved this book so much was because it made me realise we are all flawed in some way. We are all perfectly flawed. And that’s perfectly fine, and we should learn to accept those flaws.
Shirley: Wow...that was very....deep...and...philosophical.

 Do I get to ask you a question now like… what faults did you find in TFIOS?? (Get it? Ahaha…)
Shirley: Yeah…no.. Lana. NOT funny.For me, reading is a leisure; it’s what I do because I LIKE it. Nowadays I read mainly to procrastinate, de-stress and to escape reality i.e exams. This means that I want a book that I can read easily, without having to constantly go “Oh hey, I did not understand a single sentence —
Lana: Whut
Shirley: -- that was written because the vocabulary was too sophisticated” –
Lana: TOO SOPHISTICATED?! But you came top 10 for English in high school D: Too sophisticated….
Shirley: Woman….that’s called bullsh*ting my essays!
ANYWAY, teenagers don’t talk that way and I know because I was one when I read the book. If I’m going to camp next to a freaking dictionary every time I read something for pure entertainment, then I might as well go read a philosophy textbook. Even law textbooks are easier to understand than this particular one.
Now here’s the domino effect. If I can’t understand what the heck is going on, if I’m constantly either looking up words in the dictionary or re-reading each paragraph to confirm the meaning, then I’m not going to be invested in neither the storyline nor the characters. If I don’t feel a connection with the characters, I can’t understand the book the way Lana does. Whatever impact it’s meant to have on readers, it stopped short with me.
So basically when it was time for me to cry, my brain was still processing what led to whenever was happening in the present time. I just couldn’t feel it, ya know?
Lana: But I have to agree with you about the way these kids spoke (aha, look at me calling them kids… I’m getting so old Shirley… L don’t put this in lol), and this was the main (and only) disappointment I found. Hazel and Augustus are meant to be like what, 16/17/18? I know literally no one who talks like that in real life, and I hang around some pretty smart people.
So since you didn’t like the book, how’d you find the movie? Did you have the same thoughts regarding the movie as you did when you were reading the book? J
Shirley: Honestly, I found the movie MUCH better. I could actually understand what was going on! Shailene was brilliant yet again, and I was so glad I didn’t find the on-screen Hazel annoying. (Did I mention how I every time book-Hazel said something, I would roll my eyes because everything that came out of her mouth was either overly dramatic or just plain annoying to me?) Oh and Augustus was rather charming. I never liked book-Augustus, but hey, I may have fallen for onscreen-Augustus :P
Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 11.45.18 pm
What about you? I’m guessing you LOVED it based on your fangirling moments during the movie, and how you were crying throughout the last quarter.
Lana: Haha, hey it was a very tear-jerking last quarter!
Shirley: Yeah….I noticed when the chick sitting one seat away from me was crying ridiculously loud… (Sorry to whoever was sitting there! Ahhaa)
Lana:I loved the acting in the movie, especially the portrayal of Peter Van Houten (spelling??) by Willem Dafoe. I thought Shailene and Ansel’s performances were excellent considering the nature of their characters, and I felt that the point in the movie from when they (SPOILERS) visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam until the end was just amazing. So much emotion was encapsulated into each scene and you weren’t just watching the movie and comprehending their emotions (that yes, the characters are sad, or yes, the characters are in love), you were actually feeling their emotions within yourself as well. Performances like that are such rare things; for an actor to be able to elicit such a strong response from the audience.
Shirley: Interesting…I did enjoy Willem Dafoe’s performance – I thought he portrayed Peter Van Houten’s dismissive, cynical character extremely well. I thought Shailene and Ansel’s acting were brilliant, but I guess it still wasn’t enough to elicit tears and feelings of heartache from me? I dunno…I’m a walking oxymoron, I loved their acting but I didn't cry. I’ll leave it at that.
Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 11.46.27 pm
And did you dislike anything from the movie?
Lana: What I probably hated the most about the movie was the soundtrack.
Shirley: O________O
Lana: If anyone knows me, they’d know that as important the acting is to the movie, the soundtrack and music score should be equally as important as the acting, probably even more. Music is supposed to complement what’s on screen. I have to admit, the soundtrack choices weren’t that great. For example, (SPOILERS) when Hazel and Augustus landed in Amsterdam, they played Boom Clap by Charli XCX. Not that there’s anything wrong with the song, but it just seemed weird having a synthpop song playing while they’re in a timeless, beautiful, elegant place such as Amsterdam. I was expecting more of something classical, or even just an instrumental score to go with that scene.
Shirley: Yeah okay, you music prodigy. I wasn’t even paying attention to the music! LOL
Lana: *sigh*Typical Shirley…. Anyways, I know you didn’t particularly love the movie, but did you like it enough to recommend it to everyone?
Shirley: I guess I would? I’ll probably say something along the lines of “If you like a beautifully crafted tearjerker movie, you should give it a go. Hopefully you’ll love it much more than I did.”
But then again, everyone knows about The Fault In Our Stars now! They don’t need me to recommend it – they’ll watch it of their own free will :)
Lana: Haha, true that. Uh Shirley…we’re on 1600 words now. Maybe we should wrap it up?
Shirley: LOL Yeah, we should!
Soooo guys, our question to you is: What did you like/dislike about TFiOS (both book and movie.) Did you cry? Were you left heartbroken? Have you recovered yet? Let us know in the comments!

Review: Come Back to Me by Mila Gray

25 Jun 2014

Come Back to Me
by Mila Gray
Publisher: Pan Macmillan   
Release Date: June 19th, 2014  
Format: e-ARC 

 "Home on leave in sunny California, Marine and local lothario Kit Ryan finds himself dangerously drawn to his best friend's sister, Jessa - the one girl he can't have. 

 But Kit's not about to let a few obstacles stand in his way and soon Jessa's falling for his irresistible charms.

 What starts out as a summer romance of secret hook-ups and magical first times quickly develops into a passionate love affair that turns both their worlds upside down.

 When summer's over and it's time for Kit to redeploy, neither Kit nor Jessa are ready to say goodbye. Jessa's finally following her dreams and Kit's discovered there's someone he'd sacrifice everything for. 

 Jessa's prepared to wait for Kit no matter what. But when something more than distance and time rips them apart they're forced to decide whether what they have is really worth fighting for.

 A breathtaking, scorchingly hot story about love, friendship, family and finding your way back from the edge of heartbreak.

I’ve been a bit iffy about NA books lately, mainly because the majority of new ones are attempted carbon copies of the original titles released during the New Adult fever back in 2012. Once upon a time, I loved books about college students finding love, partying, and ultimately throughout their college life, discover who they truly want to be and what they want to do with their life but nowadays I feel that NA books have lost their purpose. The more recent ones I read went something along the lines of “Girl-meets-guy. Lust. Sex. Talk. Sex again. Drama. Sex again. Break up. Get back together andddd Sex again.” Basically I feel that just because the original ones had a few sex scenes, newer NA books are attempting to replicate this….by adding unnecessary sex scenes to spice up the story.  Obviously there are readers out there who enjoy this kind of plot, but for me? No…just no. 

It’s become increasingly difficult for me to find a decent NA book, and honestly, I’ve stopped searching. Come Back to Me is written by one of my most respected and adored authors of all time, so even though I was still dubious about the new NA titles, I jumped at the chance to read her newly released NA book because I had no doubt she would blow me away. Unfortunately….I was wrong.

Mila Gray (Sarah Alderson) remains one of my favourite authors, and I do love her writing style, but Come Back to Me did not stand out like I expected it to. Only the last quarter had substance and was worth reading, but the other ¾? A waste of my time. It followed the formula that I mentioned above, but in this case the guy and girl have known each other for years. As soon as they kissed for the first time, I suspected the story would spiral downhill from there.

And I was correct. For the first ¾, it was mainly Jessa and Kit making out anywhere and everywhere while hiding from Jessa’s overly protective brother and dad. Yeah…I don’t appreciate having to read 300 + pages of two people making out and/or having sex. There are better things to do in life.

Come Back to Me had the potential to be a fantastic book as Jessa learned to chase after her dreams, but if only the author didn’t make the book centre entirely on the romance! Jessa grew up around a man who was violent, with an uncontrollable temper. Everyday she would walk on eggshells around her father and scurry for shelter at the slightest indication of rage or annoyance on her father’s face.  Her whole life, she’s been submissive and acted the role of a “good daughter”, letting her father dictate her life and never once did she contradict him. However, the only time she can forget about her life, her fears, just everything, is when she’s on stage and acting. Chasing her dream to be an actress could have played a pivotal role in the story, and with Jessa and Kit’s developing romance intertwined, I think I would’ve liked it a lot more. Instead, Jessa’s dream to be an actress wasn’t even important enough to be labeled a “subplot”; it was simply thrown in there a few times, whenever the two weren’t making out.

Having said all that, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall for Kit. He was charming, passionate, extremely swoon-worthy – basically my kind of guy. I did like him as a character, but it’s just a shame the book wasn’t my kind of book.

I personally won’t recommend this to anyone who wants to read a decent, well-structured, well-written and well-thought-out NA book but I suppose if you’re simply looking for a book with lots and lots of kissing and sex, then this is for you. I don’t think I’ll be back for more of Mila Gray’s NA books, but I will continue reading Sarah Alderson’s YA titles J
A massive thank you to Mila Gray for providing a copy of Come Back to Me for review! 

Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

16 Jun 2014

by Anne Blankman 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray  
Release Date: April 22nd, 2014  
Format: e-ARC 

 "In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

 Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

 Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews. 

 As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed? 

 From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

Prisoner of Night and Fog enraptured me from the very first page; we’re introduced to Gretchen a.k.a Gretl, her brother Reinhard and his friend Kurt - both members of the renowned SA troops- as well as Gretl’s friend Eva. (Who we should all know later becomes Hitler’s mistress and wife for less than 24 hours.) We’re exposed to the hatred the Germans feel towards the Jews, evident in the abrupt brawl Kurt and Reinhard initiate after simply seeing an innocent Jew walking on the footpath. We’re also presented with a different side of Hitler; as opposed to the tyrannical dictator responsible for the deaths of over 6 million Jews in WWII, we see a kind, loving and supportive father-like figure that dotes on his niece. But of course Hitler begins to show his true colours as the story progresses.

 The story revolves around Gretl and her quest to uncover the truth behind her father’s death. (Her father was a martyr, who died protecting Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch – an attempted coup in 1923.) Gretl and a Jew reporter, Daniel have reason to believe that there's a conspiracy behind her father’s death and the story starts from there. Gretl is a character I admired – it’s not easy working together with a Jew and later falling in love with him when every other person of her race is intent on killing his race. She’s a risk-taker, and I loved her for it. Throughout the entire book, I was so worried about the inevitable moment when Hitler and/or her brother discovered her intentions and she was faced with the ramifications of her decisions.

There are books that are thought provoking in the moment and others that continue to haunt you days, months, even years after you’ve put the book down. Prisoner of Night and Fog falls into the latter category. Interestingly, what made it so thought provoking and eternally moving was firstly the hope that perhaps, even during the most desolate, vengeful and hate-filled times, people from two worlds who were taught to hate each other realise that instead of hate, it’s love they feel for one another. I love stories of forbidden love, so even after I finished reading this, the thought that perhaps there were more people who shared Gretl and Daniel’s love for one another existed during WW2 consumed me.

The second thought-provoking aspect of the book, which also forever changed my perspective on the Germany’s most notorious leader, was the portrayal of Hitler. As I’ve learnt in history, there is no “truth” in history – it’s all perspective and stories. (E.g. There are historians who deny the Holocaust ever happened). But for those of us who studied history in school, or did extra-curricular research on him, would most likely consider him inhuman due to what he did/engineered in World War II. I would always be filled with despair every time I read about the number of deaths that occurred, and how they died, but part of me always believed that no matter how wretched and extreme Hitler’s actions were, he truly believed his actions were justified, as he only wanted what was best for his country. However, after reading Prisoner of Night and Fog, I realised that Hitler’s character was much darker and morbid. Psychoanalysts (both in the book and from my personal research that was prompted by the psychoanalysis present in the book) characterised Hitler as “psychotic”, and was neither able to feel love nor be able to relate to others. I always thought that even the most evil of all men(or women) still felt love for his/her family…but as for Hitler? In the book he seemed to pretend to care for those around him, but once they began to question him, his intentions and started breaking through his manipulations, he didn’t give a damn about them.

Basically, ever since reading Prisoner of Night and Fog I became rather fascinated with Hitler’s character and have been reading all these reports/texts on Psychological Analysis of Hitler (basically what Psychology students probably read for their assignments) and honestly, they’re incredibly interesting. This is why I love historical fiction – a good historical fiction will always prompt me to conduct research on the characters after reading about them.

As you can probably tell, I LOVED this book. I would always, without fail, recommend historical fiction to ALL readers of any age and this particular book is no exception. This book isn’t perfect, but for a debut and historical novel, it’s one of the better researched, more evocative and engaging ones. I’m looking forward to more books by this extraordinarily talented author.

A massive thank you to Balzer + Bray for providing a copy of Prisoner of Night and Fog for review! 

I also interviewed Anne Blankman last year. You can read the interview HERE