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Stacking the Shelves: March 2014

Stacking the Shelves is a book haul hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Hi gang! Unfortunately, I haven't been too active this month due to university assignments and a short reading slump of some sorts. But I've been doing a ton of planning and scheduling for next month, which is LGBT month! I'll be reviewing books and films that feature LGBT characters, so you should stick around if you're interested.

After reviewing a couple of older films for next month, I've been thinking about whether I should return to reviewing old films or just sticking with reviewing only new releases. The problem with reviewing only films that are in the cinema is that there isn't always something that I want to watch and I can't really afford to be going to the cinema every single week (plus, I'd gain a ton of weight from eating so much popcorn). So, as you can see, I've placed a poll in the sidebar since I'd like to know which you guys would like to see.

Top 10 Favourite Cartoons

It's no secret that I love cartoons and still watch the vast majority of the toons that I watched as a kid. In fact, I watch cartoons every. Single. Day. No, really. I mean, just take a look at my Tumblr tag, which has over a hundred pages. That is how much I love cartoons. However, I didn't really give much thought to what my favourites were as a kid, so I gave it some thought as a teenager and came up with this non-bookish top ten. So, bring out your inner child, put your nostalgia vision on and make sure that your internet is working properly because I made gifs to help me out.

Review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Boyfriend
Author: Daria Snadowsky
Series: Anatomy #1
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Released: September 2008 by Ember
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads | Purchase on AmazonPurchase on TBD
Before all this happened, the closest I'd ever come to getting physical with a guy was playing the board game Operation. Then I met Wes, a track-star senior from across town. Maybe it was his soulful blue eyes, or maybe my hormones just started raging. Either way, I was hooked. And after a while, he was too. I couldn't believe how intense my feelings became, or the fact that I was seeing - and touching - parts of the body I'd only read about in my Gray's Anatomy textbook. You could say Wes and I experienced a lot of firsts together that spring. It was scary. It was fun. It was love.

And then came the fall.
Before I had to stop blogging, I had seen the Anatomy series popping up quite frequently around the blogosphere, but it never really sparked my interest due to me not really being into contemporary as much as I am now. And then one day, I read a couple of reviews and ordered a copy where it sat on my shelf until a few weeks ago when I acquired a taste for contemporary novels. I've always found books that deal with more mature subjects to be more interesting and sometimes more realistic. Anatomy of a Boyfriend definitely fit into the category of realistic contemporary due to its subject matter and execution, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend tells us about Dominique, and her first serious relationship with track star Wes, which soon starts to turn sexual. I thought that the story progressed at quite a steady pace, which was more than okay with me because these kinds of books don't need to be action-packed to be exciting. I think the most interesting part of the story as a whole were the sex scenes, mainly because they weren't anything like any other sex scenes that I've read. Instead of being erotic and steamy, they were awkward and anatomically accurate, which I found to be quite realistic for a first-time relationship. Not everybody knows exactly what to do and it's both scary and exciting at the same time, and Anatomy captured that feeling perfectly. However, there were a couple of moments towards the end of the book that left me thinking "what just happened" and I needed to backtrack a couple of pages to see whether I'd missed anything. Apart from that, I thought the story was great but I do wish that I'd read this book a long time ago because knowing that the sequel exists, kind of spoiled the ending for me. Whoops. But it can't be helped though.

I think the element that made Anatomy of a Boyfriend as great as it was was the characters and how three-dimensional they were. I couldn't really relate to any of the characters, but that's not necessarily important because I know people who have been in these kinds of situations. Dominique was a pretty complex person, to the point that sometimes I liked her and other times I didn't. At the beginning of her relationship with Wes (the whole flirting as friends stage), she got on my nerves a bit and was almost like a female version of the much disliked 'nice guy'. She felt like she should be rewarded with sex just for being friendly to Wes. While most relationships start off as friendships, most people don't give out sex as a thank-you-for-being-my-friend present. A lot of the time she was unreasonable and selfish, which she totally wasn't before she ended up with Wes. However, there were times when I felt quite sympathetic for Dom, despite not being able to relate to any of her problems at all. She both frustrated me and made me feel for me, and that's what I think makes her such a great character because real people are like this. In fact, this realistic feeling really contributed to how believable Dom and Wes's relationship was. There are quite a few books that deal with first loves being the greatest, most romantic thing ever, when they're actually more like Dom and Wes's: pretty awkward.

While sex isn't a subject that I've had hands on experience with (get it? hands on? look at me making dirty jokes in a review!), I do feel like I have enough knowledge (and cynicism) to know that first-time sex isn't like in films, TV, other books, or even, I do dare say, porn. It's pretty awkward, especially if both parties are inexperienced like Dom and Wes are, and I'm really glad that this book showed first-time sexual relationships in this way because, like I've said quite a few times now, it's how it actually is. And I'm mainly glad that the book has such a blunt and accurate portrayal of teenage sex because there are so many teens who still don't technically know what sex will be like or even technicalities (like the fact that your first time isn't supposed to hurt unless there's something going on with your parts or you're just not ready), so books with themes such as these can be kind of important.

Overall, I really enjoyed Anatomy of a Boyfriend. I enjoyed both the story and the characters, and I really enjoyed the way in which the usually mature theme of sex was executed. I'll definitely be reading the sequel!

Review: The Originals by Cat Patrick

The Originals
Author: Cat Patrick
Genre: YA Science Fiction / Romance
Released: May 2013 by Egmont
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★

Goodreads | Purchase Online
I glance at the three baby portraits in thick wooden frames. I feel a familiar prickling on the back of my neck. Because I know there's another picture somewhere - and the baby in that photo looks identical to the babies on the wall. Somewhere, there's a photo of the Original.

Ella, Betsey, and I look like sisters: triplets, you might think.
But that's not what we are at all.
We are clones in hiding. We split our lives and exist as one person in the outside world. And we've always been happy.
But now I've fallen head-over-heels in love... and that changes everything.
Because, to let love in, I need to be allowed to me Me.
I've been a fan of Cat Patrick since I read her first novel, Forgotten a couple of years ago. Because she had yet to disappoint me, I was really looking forward to reading The Originals, due to a mixture of my bias towards her and also the fact that I thought the premise of human clones in the regular world sounded pretty interested. Unfortunately, this fell kind of flat for me with a few things just not doing it for me.

The Originals tells of Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey, who are human clones living as a single person. While the idea of this did interest me at first, that kind of fizzled out at the story progressed. It took a while for the story to get going, and even longer for the shit to hit the fan, but I didn't want to DNF this. I wanted to keep going because there were so many unexplained things tat, unfortunately, remained unexplained. I realise that sometimes asking questions at the end of a book is a good thing, but when you're kind of left with too many simple questions that could be explained, it's sort of a problem. On top of that, a lot of the book was forgettable and for a story that has romance as a major plot point, there was very little but I'll get on to that in a bit. The way that the story flowed felt quite strange. It flowed quite slowly for most of the book, and then suddenly sped up before slowing down again, so it felt as if very little had happened at all and became pretty underwhelming.

My main issue with The Originals came with the characters. Despite having different personalities, the girls felt very similar to each other quite a lot, which kind of defeated the purpose of them wanting to lead their own lives. Lizzie didn't really keep me engaged with her point of view and I honestly didn't feel like she had any chemistry with Sean at all. Even once they'd made their feelings for each other known, it still felt like they were just pals. There was no spark between them to the point that I would have rather they just stayed best buds.

The other characters weren't too interesting either and I wished that I had got to see them a lot more, Ella and Betsey in particular. Because the story centres around Lizzie, Ella and Betsey are sometimes rarely even seen and although they didn't really engage my interest too much, I did like them more than Lizzie. And also, I didn't think much of Sean, who'd I'd almost completely forgotten about by the end of the book because he seemed to get shoved out of the way to make way for Lizzie's sisters.

I had a bit of trouble writing this review due to the lack of feelings that I had in general. The Originals wasn't great, and it wasn't awful. And the fact that I just finished the book without many thoughts actually makes me kind of sad because I really like Cat Patrick's work. Hopefully her next book will impress me more. Or at least make me feel something.

Life of a Blogger: Camping

Life of a Blogger is a weekly feature hosted by Jessi from Novel Heartbeat where we talk about non-bookish topics. Click HERE for more info!

This week's topic:

I've never really been full-on camping before, although my parents did own a touring caravan up until I was about 13 (my brother and I were getting too big for it, and I don't really like those sorts of holidays anyway). I did sort of camp out for one night once and it was the most bizarre experience of my entire life. Ready for story time? Here we go...

Image from Tumblr

Stacking the Shelves: February 2014

Stacking the Shelves is a book haul hosted by Tynga's Reviews

Hello, Krusty Krew! I'm finally back in business after such a long time! University work got in the way of me being able to read just for fun since I'm studying for a degree in English and obviously have a lot of reading to do, as my 'read for uni' shelf on Goodreads shows. All the work has calmed down a bit so I finally have time to read for myself and it feels just awesome. So I figured, why not get back into blogging, which I really really missed? And here I am!
Bought this month:

I've been in the mood to read more contemporary books recently, and I feel like I don't read enough contemporary so I've been looking around for some good books of the genre every time that I go into a bookshop. Feel free to recommend some good contemporaries to me, I'm always open to suggestions!

Most exciting non-bookish purchase (I'll be including one of these every month from now on!):
If you follow me over on my Tumblr (by the way, you totally should be), you'll probably know that I. Love. Beck. Seriously, dude is amazing. I've been waiting for his latest album incredibly feverishly and it only came out on Monday, which was when I actually ran to HMV to buy it (it's a good thing that my uni is located in the city centre). I literally did this when I saw it:

I'm still doing it now because it's so good.
What did you get this week? Leave me a link and I'll pop by!

Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

Only Lovers Left Alive
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, et al.
Genre: Drama / Romance / Horror
Released: February 21 2014 (UK) April 11 2014 (USA)
by Sony Pictures Classics
Running time: 123 mins (2 hr, 3 mins)
Cert: 15 (BBFC) R (MPAA)
Rating: ★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangiers, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries at least, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?
I have a habit of kind of stalking films for quite some time before they’re released. Sometimes I realise that they won’t be released in my town and settle for a DVD release, but I just couldn’t do that with Only Lovers Left Alive. I’d been stalking the release dates and blacklisting gifsets and screencaps on Tumblr because I was so determined to see it. So much that my friends and I went to the next town over just the see the film. When you’ve got five amazing actors in a single film by an acclaimed director, that calls for some pretty high expectations, doesn’t it? And those expectations really weren’t dashed.

Only Lovers Left Alive tells of married vampire couple Adam (played by Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (played by Tilda Swinton), who have come to live in two different parts of the world despite still having a strong relationship. Eve lives in Tangiers, Morocco, where she regularly has their friend Christopher Marlowe (played by John Hurt) for comfort and to bring her blood. And yes, that Christopher Marlowe. Adam, on the other hand, lives in an abandoned house in Detroit, Michigan, where he produces music anonymously and stays as far away from humans, or zombies as he refers to them, as possible. I really liked the film’s story because it showed vampires in a way that I hadn’t really seen before. In most vampire lore that I’ve seen, they try to blend in with society as much as they can without arousing suspicion. Here, Adam and Eve don’t really know anybody and barely even exist, as shown when Eve books tickets under the names of Stephen Dedalus and Daisy Buchanan (that made me and my friend laugh). Eve is more likely to go out at night so that she can meet Kit (Christopher Marlowe) in public, while Adam almost never goes out as his friend Ian (played by Anton Yelchin) brings him things like guitars, and he often goes to the nearest hospital to get his regular supply of blood from a doctor there who manages to keep his suspicions at bay. There are other parts of the traditional vampire lore that have been twisted around a bit too. For example, instead of sleeping in coffins or boxes of homeland soil, they all just go to bed like normal people. Going back to Adam and Eves pseudonyms, this film has quite a few literary references scattered about, with the biggest one being Kit. For a long, long time there has been a theory that Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were the same person. In the film, Marlowe didn’t die in a bar fight but is a vampire and did actually write Shakespeare’s plays for him (Adam wrote music for classical composers too), which made me laugh a couple of times when it was mentioned. I honestly didn’t expect this film to be very funny, but it’s all in knowing things and also in delivery. My one issue that I had with the film is that it just ends. Like that. I wasn’t expecting the final shot to be the end of the film and I had wanted to see what would have happened next.

I don’t think I can say enough about how amazing the cast of Only Lovers Left Alive is. Jarmusch definitely picked the cream of the crop here. We all already know how awesome of an actor Tom Hiddleston is (and if you don’t get it, don’t worry. I never used to get it either, but you will be converted soon. Trust me) and I loved how well he and Tilda Swinton (who is also really awesome) worked together and the chemistry that their characters had. I didn’t know that Adam and Eve were married until it was actually said in the film, but they have one of those relationships where even though they’ve been together for such a long time, it’s as if they got together just last week and those are the best kind of relationships, in my opinion. Picking a character that I liked the most out of the main cast is hard task because I liked pretty much all of them. Adam does initially come off as your typical brooding vampire, but he’s more than that because he’s so disillusioned by the human race to the point of just not coming into contact with them. And then there’s the sass. He has so much sass that I just couldn’t handle it at times. Eve, on the other hand, seems like his polar opposite and kind of acts like a light of some sorts. No matter how bad things get for Adam, Eve will still be there. I mean, she’s got enough money to just hop on a plane to Detroit whenever she likes. Eve is more of a hopeful person than Adam is, as if she still has yet to be disillusioned, so when she becomes truly emotional, it’s pretty heart-breaking to see. Including this film, I’ve now only seen three of Tilda Swinton’s films (the other two being Narnia films) and I’ll definitely be checking out more of her stuff.

As this isn’t a film with a particularly huge budget, there isn’t much in the way of special effects. However, the film has been beautifully crafted in the way that it’s been shot. The cinematography of Only Lovers Left Alive is possibly the best that I’ve seen in quite some time now and there were very few times that I felt like I needed to take my eyes off the screen due to camera movement (sometimes the way the camera moves makes me feel nauseous). The film isn’t very brightly lit and for some reason reminded me of how a house looks when it’s night and only a couple of lamps are on, but there are some scenes in the film that are actually dark and you can’t see much at all. One thing that stuck out to me and I still can’t put my finger on what it means is the colours that Adam and Eve mainly dress in, with Adam wearing black and Eve wearing white. I’m still trying to think of what it could represent, because vampires aren’t really the purest of creatures; they’re more like the eternally damned. It’ll come to me sooner or later.

Music definitely plays an important part in Only Lovers Left Alive, which is kind of two big duhs because one of the main characters is a musician and also, from what I’ve heard, Jim Jarmusch uses a lot of music in his work. In almost every scene that doesn’t have dialogue, there’s music, which I didn’t really mind because it wasn’t used in an unnecessary way and definitely did contribute to the scenes where music can be heard, whether it’s a particularly emotional one or even a montage of sorts. Another thing that I liked about the film’s music is that even though it is a predominantly rock-like score, there is a bit of a mix of genres, especially when it comes to records and music that we can see being played on screen.

The approximately forty minute journey that it took me to get to the cinema to see Only Lovers Left Alive was definitely worth it. The film is beautifully shot, with a great soundtrack, and probably the best cast that I have seen in quite some time now. If you’re able to find a cinema that will be screening this film (I had to go to the next town over to see it at the independent cinema there), I would definitely recommend that you get yourself a ticket. And even if vampires aren’t your thing, hey it’s Tom Hiddleston being an awesome sassy shirtless vampire. I’m kidding; there are more reasons to see a film than just one actor.