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: 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

The Book Blogger Test

11 Jun 2014

This post is looonnnnggg overdue, but I've finally managed to finish answering the questions! I was tagged by the lovely Joy@ Thoughts by J and Jaz @ Fiction in Fiction in Fiction.

You can check out their tags HERE FOR JOYS'S and HERE FOR JAZ'S

1.What are your top three book pet hates?
- An infuriatingly indecisive main character who simultaneously leads on two guys and goes back and forth between them. A character that does that doesn’t deserve either guy. So basically, I can’t stand love triangles.
- Books that haven’t been taken care of e.g. dog-eared, creased and especially when I see someone just shoving a book (even textbooks) in their bags.
- Books with grammatical errors/spelling mistakes (yes a lot of published books have mistakes and it pisses me off. Even an abundance of too-short sentences in a paragraph tends to annoy me.…
2.Describe your perfect reading spot
I read anywhere and everywhere! Dining table, on the living room floor, couch, kitchen counter, bus, train, bed. But I guess my favourite would be in bed where it’s warm and comfortable J   
3. Tell us 3 book confessions
- I’m a huge hypocrite with my book pet hates. I say I hate love triangles (AND I DO!!!!!) but sometimes there are love triangles that I can tolerate/accept. I say I hate books centred entirely on romance (AND I DO!!!) but there are certain books that I like which tends to focus more on the romance than plot. I say I think main characters who can’t decide between two guys shouldn’t end up with either one of them, but more likely than not, I’ll still ship her with one of the guys. So yeahhh….
- Romance books are my guilty pleasure. I imagine myself as the female characters and live happily ever after with the ruggedly handsome, astonishingly caring and loving men who would move mountains to be with the girl they love. (i.e. me hahahaa)
- I read a billion books at once…because for some odd reason, ( especially the past few months) I tend to get bored with a lot of the books I start reading, so I'll begin reading another book…then one day I’ll feel like it’s time to resume/finish offthe first book. At the moment, I’ve started Eleanor & Park, The Statistical Probabiltiy of love at First sight, The Geography of You and Me, Take Me On…
4. When was the last time you cried at a book?
I can’t remember O____O For most books that I “cry” in, it’s more I shed a few tears/become slightly teary but I don’t full on cry or bawl my eyes out. The only book that pops into my head is Adeline Yen Mah’s “Falling Leaves” which I read more than 5 years ago….
5. How many books are on your bedside table?
Currently The Statistical Probability of Me and You, The Geography of You and Me, Take Me On, How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You, Down London Road. (And several magazines haha!)
6. What is your favourite snack whilst your reading?
ICE CREAMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!! And Chocolate. Or just food. hahah!
7. Name 3 books you would recommend to everyone
- Harry Potter (all 7 books), because if you haven’t read Harry Potter, we legit cannot be friends.
- The Pact by Jodie Picoult – My mind still wanders to the ending and everything that lead to the heartbreaking truth in The Pact. I suffered a severe book hangover after reading this.
- Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles– I believe deep down, every girl has a soft spot for the typical good-girl-meets-bad-boy book. It’s been overdone; the plot and characters have been recycled a billion times but I strongly believe every girl should read at least one book with this storyline and characters during their lifetime. 
8. Show us a picture of your favourite bookshelf on your bookcase
Yes, it's messy, but so is every other shelf and space in my room. 

9. Write how much books mean to you in just 3 words
More than ice-cream.
10. What is your biggest reading secret?
Despite having lived in Australia (almost) my entire life….I haven’t read many Aussie books.  I’ve never even touched Melina Marchetta’s books, never read Looking for Alibrandi nor Raw Blue, NOT EVEN THE BOOK THIEF or any of those highly regarded and exceptionally awe-inspiring Aussie books that everyone seems to love L

11. Tag 5 people
I tag:
1. You
2. Book Bloggers
3. Anyone who loves books and is willing to answer the above questions
4. Anyone who wants to do this
5. Anyone who has time to do this :) 

Review: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

10 Jun 2014

by Paula Stokes 
Publisher: HarperTeen  
Release Date: May 20th, 2014  
Format: e-ARC 

 "Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

 And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game. 

 What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be?

Despite enjoying The Art of Lainey, I must admit the storyline and characters have been recycled a millions times. The book commences with our main character getting dumped by her “too perfect, too-hot-to-handle” boyfriend. One minute they’re fine, and the next, he dumps her publicly with the typical “it’s-not-you-it’s-me” excuse. As you can probably guess, Lainey is wounded and confused, and decides to orchestrate this intricate plan to win him back. In comes Micah, Lainey’s classmate, workmate and someone who’s in the same boat as she is – just been dumped, and still hung up on his ex. So what happens when these two collide? They act as a couple, instigate jealousy in their respective exes, win them back…but falls for each other in the process.

The characters weren’t outstanding unfortunately. I mean, I did like them only because there was nothing to hate, but there was nothing spectacular about them. A few months down the track, they’d simply blend in with all other hundreds of characters I’ve read about.

What did make The Art of Lainey unique however, was Lainey’s use of the ancient Chinese military book titled “The Art of War”. As soon as I read this, I literally cracked up laughing. Which teenager reads or takes inspiration from a book written thousands of years ago? Okay, if it was above love, I’ll accept it but war? REALLY? I found it incredibly amusing how a book as antiquated and philosophical and The Art of War could apply to a purpose as insignificant as a teenager’s quest to win back an ex. (So maybe thousands of years ago, winning back – or kidnapping- an ex/lover/anyone triggered war between two territories, but NOW? No way….) I honestly didn’t understand how she managed to manipulate certain concepts to fit her situation and tactics, but nevertheless, it was quite interesting and rather intelligent of Lainey to utilise the book to her own advantage.

The Art of Lainey is a quick, fun and relaxing read, with characters and a storyline that has been recycled countless times but is nevertheless very enjoyable. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Kasie West will definitely devour this J Unfortunately, this isn’t a book I’d invest my money in but I do recommend borrowing it from the library. Perhaps you’ll learn some helpful tips if you ever decide to start a “war” with someone!
A massive thank you to HarperTeen for providing a copy of The Art of Lainey for review!