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: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

25 Feb 2014

by Gayle Forman
Publisher: Random House 
Release Date: January 10th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 369 pages

 When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

*** This is a long overdue review. I wrote this around mid-2013 and I remember this book had a huge impact on me as I could relate to the main character perfectly. I think if I'd read this any sooner or any later, it *might* not have impacted me on such a personal level. Basically, all I have to say is; life is unpredictable :) ***

Gayle Forman never fails to impress. Her books are automatically placed on my “will-buy-for-sure” list as soon as the announcement for the publication is made, and honestly, her books will always be worth my money. I thought Just One Day was entirely different from If I Stay and Where She Went, at least in respect to how they affected me. While Forman’s first duology was heart shattering, poignant and left me bawling my eyes out every time I read them, Just One Day was less of a tearjerker, but I related to it on a personal level.

 Allyson ‘Lulu’ Healey is reminiscent of the typical, lost YA/New Adult main character we’re so familiar with. What makes her stand out, however, is how the readers are privy to all aspects of her life- her transition from the girl she’s always been, and the girl she wants to be and the journey she embarks on in order to truly find herself. She’s always been a 'good' girl, the sort of girl my Asian parents (and her Jewish parents) want as a daughter; she’s taking subjects her parents want her to study in college, no objections raised because well…it’s what she thinks she should be doing. Her mother controls her life; she chooses the subjects, tells her what she should be doing. Hell, her mother even picks out her outfits. While my parents are by no means like that, I do understand what it feels like to have someone else control my life, while I sit quietly and dutifully on the sidelines listening to lectures of how what has been planned out for me is for my own good and how ‘it doesn’t matter if I don’t like what I study, as long as it gets me somewhere in life’.

 It’s obvious in the first few chapters Allyson has no idea what she truly wants in life, and it’s something I understand. At home, her mother takes charge, and outside of home, her best friend Melanie takes charge. Allyson is the ‘sidekick’, the ‘shadow’ when she’s with Melanie. They’ve been best friends for almost/over a decade and while it's realistic how the two began to grow apart as they left for different Unis, it's also regrettable and heartbreaking. This, I can also relate to. While most of my friends/close friends are either in the same Uni as me, or is studying at a nearby Uni (we’re all in the same city), I can feel the distance developing between all of us.  It seems surreal for a 10 year friendship to just fade away into an awkward ‘hello’ during unexpected encounters, but it’s reality. It happens. The memories will stay with you, but like in Just One Day, both Melanie and Allyson changed throughout the year, and sometimes, it just becomes too tiring to make an effort for two completely different people to ‘make things work’. I liked seeing Allyson become closer with her new friends from college (thought honestly, I have yet to meet a potential gay best friend from my own Uni!!). NOTE: I HAVE MET A GAY GUY FRIEND! YAYYYYY<33333

It is debatable whether love plays a major role in the book or not; I personally wouldn’t say it does. Sure, Allyson spends the majority of the year pining over what may have happened between them, but I think that while her relationship with Willem contributed to her change, she wasn’t so much mourning him so much as mourning herself. Being with Willem brought out the side of her she always wished she had the courage to show everyone; it’s not necessarily the real her, but it’s who she wants to be. And she was this person for one day. This story is ultimately Allyson’s journey to find that person who was lost the morning she woke up to find herself abandoned by Willem. I don't know about other people, but this feels like me minus the boyfriend part. I have this side that I show to most people, that people recognise as 'Shirley', but there's also this other side of me that is only brought out when I'm around certain people. Like Allyson, it's the side I want to show the world and it's the side I mourn when I'm not with these certain people. We all interpret books differently, but this is how I pictured Allyson's life. 

Some people will read this merely for the enjoyment of it, but for me, this was more than just an entertaining read. Half the time I felt like the author had thoroughly analysed my life, wrote it as a novel  with a few alterations here and there. Obviously I loved it, and the only reason I didn't rate it 5 stars is because my emotions didn't run wild here. If I'd had a tumultuous relationship with the book, eliciting all these different emotions in me at different stages then it would have been perfect<3 Nevertheless, this is something EVERYONE should read!

Review: Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

17 Feb 2014

by Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release Date: 26th February 2014
Format: Paperback, 416 pages

 With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn't know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won't keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world ... but that's not all he wants with her.

*sobs* The Juliette Chronicles has officially come to an end. No more sometimes-seemingly-psychotic-sometimes-affectionate-and-vulnerable-Warner who captured my heart and made me change teams from a firm Team Adam to a devoted Team Warner. No more self-pitying Juliette who initially annoyed the hell out of me, but later grew on me as she finally decided to take control of her life. No more bipolar Adam whose character did a full 180 and I was left wondering if this ‘Adam’ was the same swoon-worthy, kind and gentle Adam readers fell in love with in Shatter Me. No more sarcastic and eternally entertaining jokester Kenji, who never failed to put an enormous grin on my face. I know that I’ll definitely miss these endearing characters, but at least I can take comfort in the fact that I own all three books in the trilogy and can plan a re-read anytime I want J

I was extremely pleased with the Juliette’s growth in Ignite Me. The Juliette who wallowed in self-pity; who was perpetually relying on everyone around her to orbit her like planets around a sun, and who only wanted to be protected, has finally matured. She’s ready to learn to harness her powers. She’s ready to fight for her future. She’s ready to become a leader and lead an army into battle. She’s ready to take on the supreme commander, the most powerful person alive. The whole time I was like “YESYESYES JULIETTE ABOUT TIME YOU LEFT THE LAND OF FAIRYTALES AND ENTERED THE LAND OF REALITY.” I wrote this ‘letter’ to Juliette in my ‘Unravel Me’ review, and after reading said letter, I’m delighted to announce that none of the points I addressed apply to her anymore. YAYYYYY!

Unfortunately, I was incredibly disappointed with Adam. The Adam who I described as “caring, loving” and “the only person who stood by her (Juliette), protected her and treated her like a human being”, just…suddenly vaporised into thin air. The Adam in Ignite Me was malicious, overbearing and consistently bitter about Every. Goddamn. Thing. WHAT HAPPENED? What happened to the once compassionate and caring guy? Who’s this fraud who would throw around phrases like “I’d rather you were dead”? And since when were guys so emotional all the time? Even though I'm Team Warner and honestly at the start of the book I semi-wanted Adam to just disappear so Juliette could embrace her true feelings and ride off into the sunset with Warner, I still wanted the 'competition' to be fair. Adam's character was so inconsistent compared to what he was like in Shatter Me; I was like "Is this really the guy Juliette (and us fans) fell in love with, because he's a completely and absurdly different person here."

Warner and Kenji were once again my favourite characters in the book, and if it weren’t for them I don’t think I would’ve continued past Unravel Me. Warner’s once ice cold and stoic demeanour was stripped away, layer by layer as the story progressed. We once again witnessed the vulnerable side of him and I JUST WANTED TO JUMP INSIDE AND PROTECT HIM FROM HIS PSYCHOPATH OF A FATHER AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO HATED HIM. Kenji was also back with his snark and never-ending jokes. Since Kenji and I are both single…I think it’s only fair we spend Valentines together :DDD hehehehee  (NOTE: YES I DID SPEND VALENTINES DAY WITH KENJI)

The last few chapters of Ignite Me were packed with fast-paced action. My only problem was that too much time was spent preparing for the inevitable battle – almost 85% of the book lead up to the climax- while the actual fight was over too soon . The climax wasn’t bad or anything, but I felt the ending was too rushed. Yes, I’m a girl and yes, I do love drama, but some of those very melodramatic lovers’ quarrel scenes could’ve been cut out and replaced at the end with a more fleshed out ending.

Apart from the rushed ending, Ignite Me was fantabulous<3 I already miss all of the wonderful characters Mafi first introduced to us all those years ago. If you haven’t read Ignite Me yet, GO GRAB YOURSELF A COPY!! THIS IS NOT TO BE MISSED.
A massive thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing a copy of Ignite Me for review!

Secret Blog Tour - Review & Giveaway (AU ONLY)

12 Feb 2014

Hey guys! *waves* Today, I'm participating in the Australian Blog Tour for Brigid Kemmerer's newest  book in her immensely popular Elementals series, which is out in stores NOW. I'll be posting up my review and there will be a giveaway for 3 copies of Secret to be won by 3 lucky Aussie residents. Without further ado, here's my review :)

by Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 392 pages
Purchase: (AUD $14.99) Fishpond | Bookworld


 Nick Merrick is stretched to breaking point. He's trying to keep his grades sky-high or he won't get in to college. He's trying to keep his brother's business afloat or the Merricks will be out on the street. He's trying to keep the secret of where he's going in the evenings from his twin brother Gabriel - or he fears he'll lose his family. And he's trying to keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who is his 'girlfriend's' partner.

 And then Quinn takes to hanging around his sworn enemy, and an Elemental Guide is counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers. Storms are brewing. On all sides. 


Brigid Kemmerer never fails to disappoint with each instalment in her ‘Elemental’ series. This is probably my second favourite book in the series (after Spark – because Spark will always conquer all other books!) I’ll admit Secret could’ve benefitted from more action, more heart-pounding moments instead of focusing almost entirely on the romance between the characters. Nevertheless, Secret was gripping enough for me to finish in one sitting J

Unlike Spirit, which seemed to have a distinct plotline as well as romance, the ‘plotline’ in Secret was basically Nick/Adam’s romance, and Quinn and Tyler’s developing feelings for one another. I applaud Brigid for writing about a gay couple, but unfortunately I didn’t *love* Nick and Adam as much as I would've liked. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t feel their chemistry. ( No one beats Nolan/Patrick’s chemistry in Revenge!)

On the other hand, I very much enjoyed getting to know Quinn and Tyler better. Throughout the first three books, I developed this intense hatred towards Quinn; I found her to be a very selfish, and self-centred drama queen. As for Tyler, I never really cared about him. HOWEVER, as I made my way through the pages of Secret, I found myself becoming more and more sympathetic towards Quinn (she really does have a terrible domestic life) and once or twice I even sided with Tyler, despite his tendency to constantly find ways to ‘bully’ the Merricks. (‘Bully’ is an understatement for his actions.) I agree with this these sentences used to describe Tyler:
"…People have different capacities for failure. And even if you fail in one area doesn't mean you fail in all of them" -Adam 
"We see the dark side of Tyler because that's all he lets us see" - Michael
So Tyler might seem like an ass towards the Merricks; he might be perceived as arrogant, violent, vicious and relentlessly malicious but he could be extremely loving and considerate towards his girlfriend or anyone he loves. And honestly, Tyler was exactly like that.

I like how Secret deals with teenagers coming to terms with their sexuality. I just want to add in my 2 cents. I’m aware that many high school students are ridiculously intolerant of gay people, but from my experience there <i>are</i> high schools that are extremely accepting. I.e. My high school. To anyone out there who may be afraid to come out in fear of being bullied, I want you all to know that high school isn’t the end of the world. I can guarantee when you enter University it will be different. I have friends who hid their sexuality in high school, but are now 100% comfortable with admitting they are gay because honestly, most people in Uni are very supportive. They’ve joined clubs dedicated to gay/lesbian/bisexual students and have met many  new friends. J So basically, HIGH SCHOOL ISN’T THE END OF THE WORLD GUYS!! WAIT TILL YOU ENTER UNI. WE ARE UNDERSTANDING AND ACCEPTING OF EVERYONE.

What occurred in the last 50 pages was certainly my favourite part of Secret. It was infinitely more exhilarating and action-packed than the mundane lives (sorry!) and the slow relationship development of the characters. I’ve also noticed that the events in all four books combined seem to only have occurred over the span of a few weeks. I was quite astonished when I realised Chris and Becca had only been going out for one month, Layne and Gab for an even shorter amount of time. All I can say is, the characters lead fulfillingly jam-packed lives!

If you're a fan of Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental series, I can guarantee you'll love Secret! I'm eagerly anticipating Sacrifice, which will be released later this year :)

A massive thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing a copy of Secret for review and for inviting me to participate in such a fantastic tour!

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Review: One Tiny Lie by K.A Tucker

10 Feb 2014

by K.A Tucker
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Release Date: January 14th 2014
Format: Paperback

Livie has always been the stable one of the two Cleary sisters, handling her parents' tragic death and Kacey's self-destructive phase with strength and maturity. But underneath that exterior is a little girl hanging onto the last words her father ever spoke to her. “Make me proud,” he had said. She promised she would...and she’s done her best over the past seven years with every choice, with every word, with every action. 

 Livie walks into Princeton with a solid plan, and she’s dead set on delivering on it: Rock her classes, set herself up for medical school, and meet a good, respectable guy that she’s going to someday marry. What isn’t part of her plan are Jell-O shots, a lovable, party animal roommate she can’t say ‘no’ to, and Ashton, the gorgeous captain of the men’s rowing team. Definitely him. He’s an arrogant ass who makes Livie’s usually non-existent temper flare and everything she doesn’t want in a guy. Worse, he’s best friends and roommates with Connor, who happens to fits Livie’s criteria perfectly. So why does she keep thinking about Ashton? 

 As Livie finds herself facing mediocre grades, career aspirations she no longer thinks she can handle, and feelings for Ashton that she shouldn’t have, she’s forced to let go of her last promise to her father and, with it, the only identity that she knows.

One Tiny Lie was a surprisingly spectacular read. Its predecessor, Ten Tiny Breaths was at times addictive, but overall I felt it used lust and sex as its main driving force behind the plot. This was what I expected from One Tiny Lie- lust at first sight, sex scenes, some emotionally charged scenes then sex again…and eventually the two characters fall in love – but what I got was shockingly the opposite. The love between Livie and Ashton developed and strengthened as they became more acquainted with one another. I can proudly say One Tiny Lie was a vast improvement from Ten Tiny Breaths!

One Tiny Lie could have potentially received 5 stars from me, if not for the cheating that continued throughout the book. I’ll admit that the cheating here didn’t have an effect quite as profound as the ones that exist in some other books, but I still didn’t like how it was happening. All I can say is, Livie is exceptionally talented at making terrible decisions.
She should have just broken up with Connor after she cheated on him with Ashton. I mean, I understand her mentality to find an ambitious, “perfect” guy to live a steady and ordinary life with, but it is NOT right to continue dating him when she’s clearly crossed the friends-boundary with another guy. Having Connor find out her relationship with Ashton was beyond cruel for him. BAD DECISION LIVIE!!!! END SPOILER

Livie undergoes extensive growth and self-discovery throughout the book. Uni/College isn’t just a robotic cycle of simply studying, partying and working. Most of us will go through periods of self-evaluation and career-evaluation- this is exactly what Livie experienced and I found that to be realistic. Sometimes we have to find a balance between making our parents proud (in Livie's case following her dad's footsteps) and doing something we're passionate about.  Having an unknown career path after one year of Uni is also quite common so I liked how there were certain characters who did not have a set goal in mind. 

One Tiny Lie is, in my opinion, one of the better NA novels out there. While a better part of the book is dedicated to romance, I liked how the romance wasn’t overwhelming nor excessive. One Tiny Lie can be read as a stand-alone so for anyone who enjoys reading NA (and doesn’t mind cheating) , I highly recommend this jewel J

A massive thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing a copy of One Tiny Lie for review!