I will be moving to Wordpress.com on October 1! My new URL will be exploringbystarlight.wordpress.com.

Stacking the Shelves (9)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which I showcase books that I have received this week.

Hey everyone, how have your weeks been? I've been back at college this week and thankfully back to posting regularly (sort of)! I was on Easter break last week and the week before but I still had tons of work to do so I couldn't really post at all, but I'm back now ^_^ I had a little bit of a switch-around with my blog layout because the font of my post titles were constantly changing whenever they were clicked on due to something in the coding. They're working properly now but I can no longer directly reply to comments. Onto the books! (Note: I've included books that I got last week in this post too)
Dragon Ball : Volume 3 by Akira Toriyama
Bunny Drop : Volume 1 by Yumi Unita
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Borrowed from the library:

What did you get this week? Leave me a link and I'll pop by!

Follow Friday (26)

Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.

Q: We are about to see a lot of posts & tweets about reader conventions, RT, BEA, ALA and many more are starting soon. Which one would you love to attend? Where and why?

I haven't been to any conventions ever so I would love to go to any of them! Also, and I'm not sure if this counts, but I would love to go to Comic-Con some day since there are very few conventions where I live.

Happy Friday!

Review: Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster and Cybill Shepherd.
Genre: Drama
Released: February 8 1976
by Columbia Pictures
Running time: 113 mins (1 hr, 53 mins)
Cert: 18 (BBFC) R (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
Travis Bickle is an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in New York City. As he suffers from insomnia, he spends his time working as a taxi driver at night, watching porn movies at seedy cinemas during the day, or thinking about how the world, New York in particular, has deteriorated into a cesspool. He's a loner who has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind. For him, the one bright spot in New York humanity is Betsy, a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palantine. He becomes obsessed with her. After an incident with her, he believes he has to do whatever he needs to make the world a better place in his opinion. One of his priorities is to be the saviour for Iris, a twelve-year-old runaway and prostitute who he believes wants out of the profession and under the thumb of her pimp and lover Matthew.
I'm quickly becoming a fan of Martin Scorsese, and I had been kicking myself for ages because I hadn't seen Taxi Driver. And then, one glorious day, I saw that one of the movie channels on TV (I forget which one) was airing it and I recorded it straight away. Since I don't have any money to go to the cinema with, I'm going to be reviewing some pretty old films until I do have some cash (and when there's actually something that I want to see). Anyway, I have always expected greatness from Taxi Driver, given its iconic status and also the fact that its main actor is the awesome Robert De Niro and before I go into this review I have to say that I do not regret watching this film. Not one little bit at all because it is just that good.

Taxi Driver tells the story of Travis Bickle, a Vietnam War veteran who is the definition of a loner. He can't sleep so he takes a job working incredibly long hours as a taxi diver throughout the entire of New York City and spends the day going to porno theatres and thinking about the horrific deteriorated state of the city and the world. He thinks that there is only one thing that is pure in the whole city, which is a lady called Betsy who works in a campaign office and Travis becomes obsessed with her. After a date with her goes wrong, he devotes himself to making the world a better place by working out and buying a lot of guns. Taxi Driver has one of those stories where it's smooth sailing up until a point where everything just explodes. Usually one of my biggest pet peeves in anything is a story that is incredibly slow with nothing happening until the very end. With this film, that's not the case. The first part of the film runs more smoothly than slowly because that's how Travis's life is going. The pace of the film's story moves perfectly with Travis, starting out smooth and almost dream-like and the getting faster. There were parts of the film that I found a little difficult to understand, specifically the end which has been up for debate for over 30 years now. What has exactly happened to Travis? I'm not sure and I don't think I really want to be sure.

I think that Taxi Driver really shows that a film doesn't need to have a huge ensemble cast to be great, as there were only two actors in the whole film that I recognised (three if you count Martin Scorsese who has a cameo appearance as one of Travis's fares), Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster. Robert De Niro is one of my favourite actors ever and I think that this is definitely one of his best performances that he's given. He made Travis into one of those characters that you're not really sure of what you're supposed to think about him. Should you empathise with him or be sort of scared by him? That kind of mystery is what I think makes the character of Travis so great. You can really tell how his mental state deteriorates as the film progresses through his body language and the flickers of his eyes, which I think is so much more effective than actual words. De Niro's performance is definitely one that is going to stick with me for a long time.

I've seen a lot of films and TV shows that take place in New York City, but very few of them have shown the side of the city that Taxi Driver does. In the film, we are shown the seedy underbelly of the city, where all the junkies, gangs, hookers and porno theatres reside. The city is completely un-glamorous, which I don't think had been done before in films, and I always love being able to see a more realistic view of a city like New York, rather than the ultra-glitzy view that is seen in so many romcoms. Martin Scorsese is from New York and the vast majority of his films are set there with different views, but I think the side that is presented here is probably my favourite that I have seen. Most films that feature big cities like New York make me want to go there to experience it myself, but Taxi Driver has sort of shown me that if I ever do go to New York, I should be careful where I tread.

There isn't much in the way of music, but that's not to say that it's bad. The film's score is quite simple and relaxed at some parts, and pretty tense at more parts. The parts that are relaxed really give a feel of how it would feel to not be able to sleep and be in Travis's situation of being lonely and just aimlessly going around life. I can't say that it helps the audience to understand what it would be like to be Travis because, well, it's music, but it does help to show how Travis's mental state deteriorates further and further as the film's story progresses, to the point that it just crashes and the score perfectly matches that.

Although it didn't feel like it at first, Taxi Driver is now among some of the greatest films that I have ever seen. Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are just the perfect actor-director duo since pretty much everything that they make together (that I have seen) is just so good. I love it when a film actually makes me react to the events onscreen as they happen, rather my reactions being delayed or not occurring until the end of the film. Although pretty much every part of the film was perfect, it misses out on being rewarded a Golden UFO because at some parts of the film, I wasn't sure of what was going on or where the story was going. I'm not sure why I waited so long to see this film, but I'm more than glad that I've seen it now!

Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares
Kendare Blake
Series: Anna #2
Genre: YA Horror
Publication date: August 7 2012
by Tor Teen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

Add to Goodreads | Purchase online
Cas Lowood used to kill ghosts -
until he fell in love with one.

Anna Dressed in Blood sacrificed herself to save Cas's life - but life without her isn't worth living. So when Anna begins haunting Cas's nightmares, he decides to track her down. Trouble is, Anna is trapped in the depths of Hell. And she is not alone.

Just your average boy-meets-girl,
girl-gets-sucked-into-Hell story.
I loved Anna Dressed in Blood. It was like nothing that I had read before and really changed my mind about ghost stories, which I wasn’t really a fan of thanks to my being such a scaredy-cat. I’d been incredibly eager to read the book’s sequel, Girl of Nightmares and even though it sat on my shelf for a while after I bought it, I went into the book expecting greatness and as much blood and gore as the previous book. Although there wasn’t as much, I still did really enjoy Girl of Nightmares.

Girl of Nightmares takes place a few months after Anna Dressed in Blood finished, with Anna in the depths of Hell and also appearing to Cas and looking like she is repeatedly committing suicide. Being the determined guy that he is, Cas refuses to accept the fact that she is gone and tries to find out a way to bring her back. That’s where all hell breaks loose. I honestly found that Girl of Nightmares moved a lot slowly than Anna did and there were moments when I thought the story was dragging a bit and started to skim-read, especially towards the end which I thought took just a little bit too long to get to. I get that this may have been to build tension, but it just dragged a bit and I just wanted some chapters to be over and done with. Thankfully, there weren’t very many that I wanted to just end!

I still love the characters of the series, especially Cas, whose narration is just as awesome as ever. We still get his witty voice coming through which again provides us with both atmosphere for the tense moments and humour whenever it is appropriate. One thing that was different about Cas’ narration that I really liked is that we can really tell whenever he is frustrated or even angry through the words that he uses and the way that the narration flows. Very nice touch. Even though there is a huge absence of Anna herself, it doesn’t really matter since Thomas and Carmel are given a lot of character development. I loved seeing how far they had come since they were first introduced in Anna Dressed in Blood. They really do grow a lot in this book and I don’t think I can give enough praise for that.

In Girl of Nightmares, I thought that there was a lot less ghostly activity going on than there was in Anna Dressed in Blood. Obviously because there is no more Anna to kill trespassers who come into her house, which is also no longer there, but because Cas is so determined to bring Anna back that it almost seemed as if he has given up ghost hunting just for this one dead girl. As sweet as I would like to think that is, I was hoping to see more ghosts. There’s also a lot more inclusion of witchcraft and voodoo in Girl of Nightmares, which as cool as it is, I felt like I was being overloaded by it at some times. I would have liked a little bit more balance between ghosts and alternative magic.

I really enjoyed Girl of Nightmares. Not as much as I enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood, but I still enjoyed it. The book did hold my attention quite a lot but unfortunately it didn’t hold it all the time and there were a few parts that I skim-read, simply to advance further into the story. There was a lot added to the story, such as the witchcraft, voodoo and also the character development but I wish that there were more ghostly going-ons. But other than those few things, I did enjoy this book and the whole of this very unique series.