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Stacking the Shelves: April 2014

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

Good news, everyone! There isn't actually any news really, I just wanted to say that at least once. At the beginning of this month I was on holiday in Italy and I had a great time (plus, managed to get some reading done)! Although I did have a hard time sleeping on the boat on the way there so I was drifting in and out of sleep in the car while I was listening to Oceania by Smashing Pumpkins. It felt like some sort of religious experience. Anyways, LGBT is almost over but I'm in a little bit of a slump right now so normal reviews will continue on Thursday. On to the books!
Bought this month:

I didn't get as many books this month as I did last month what with me being on holiday where they don't print in English (plus, there wasn't a great selection of books to buy on the boat) and very slowly going broke. I picked up These Broken Stars (a beautiful hardback copy, btw) and Boneshaker before I went away, and I'm glad that I did because I've been meaning to get those for quite some time now. I also got a box set of the Uglies series (which I read a long time ago and loved), because I feel like I should really own it with it being one of my favourite series by my favourite author.

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

Life of a Blogger: Favourite Music Albums

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:
Favourite Music Albums

I'm just a little bit addicted to music albums. Well, studio albums to be precise. I tend to not buy greatest hits compilations for artists that I really like. Sometimes the album tracks are better than the singles! I currently have 126 studio albums in my iTunes library and I'm always getting more because I just can't stop buying them. It's very possible that I may have just a little bit of a problem. And to make that problem even worse, I buy a lot of CDs because I like to have physical things, rather than digital copies (although I have bought albums and songs from iTunes before).

Obviously I have my favourites that make me feel all of the things, but when I was thinking of albums that I really really like, the list was too long! So I've narrowed it down to albums that really make me feel things. And this is still a long post due to gushing and a ridiculous amount of favourite songs with click-through links to YouTube. Whoops.

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller
Based on: the book of the same name by Stephen Chbosky
Genre: Drama / Romance
Released: September 2012 by Summit Entertainment
Running time: 102 mins (1 hr, 42 mins)
Rated: 12 (UK) PG-13 (USA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
Based on the novel written by Stephen Chbosky, this film is about 15-year-old Charlie, an endearing and naive outsider, who is coping with first love, the suicide of his best friend, and his own mental illness while struggling to find a group of people with whom he belongs. The introverted freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who welcome him to the real world.

As soon as I'd finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower I knew straight away that I wanted to watch the film, that I'd stayed away from when it was released in cinemas, simply for the reason that I hadn't read the book and was apprehensive of reading it at the time. But now that I'd read the book and liked it, I was able to go into the film easily without very many worries, since the film has received mainly positive reviews. And I have to say, I definitely agree with those critics because this is one of the best films I have watched this year.

Since this is the film adaptation of the book, the story is nearly exactly the same. And by 'nearly exactly the same' I mean that there are a few big differences that don't necessarily change the story drastically. The biggest one that stood out to me was Charlie's siblings being given names and also that they now have a family name, which just isn't mentioned in the book at all. Obviously, since there is probably not a single film adaptation that is exactly the same as the book, there are small changes here and there, but it didn't bother me that much. I enjoyed the way that the story flowed in the film, although at first I thought it was moving a bit too fast compared to the book, which goes at a steady pace throughout. There are two parts of the film that impressed me the most: the first tunnel scene and most of the scenes towards the end. With the end scenes, Charlie's mental health issues were made a lot more clear than in the book, but the scene was still just as shocking. In terms of things that were added in, we get to see a lot more of what goes on in school and also in the hospital, which I really liked to see, because even though the story is about Charlie, we get to see how the story's events effect the other characters.

I definitely think that the cast members played their characters perfectly. They were all spot-on with their performances and I can't give them enough praise. While Charlie's character felt just a little bit different than in the book, I loved Logan Lerman's performance as him. He really got how introverted Charlie is and how he truly cares for everyone around him, and I think he really nailed it towards the end of the film, especially in the scene where Charlie blacks out after seeing Sam off. As for Emma Watson, I'd never really been a fan of her because I'm not a fan of the Harry Potter franchise, but I loved her performance in this film. Although when she spoke her first line, the accent was a little jarring but I got used to it very quickly and it sounded totally natural. She really fleshed Sam out a bit, and I felt like I knew the character more from the film than I did from the book. I think the best performance in the film is Ezra Miller's performance as Patrick, which made him my favourite character. We already know from the film that Patrick is loud and open, but in the film he just burst out of the screen and I loved that about him. Ezra Miller has great comedic timing and made Patrick even more lovable.

Just like in the book, there is a lot of music mentioned in the film and it plays a pretty important part at times. And while the music that is mentioned in the book isn't exactly the same as the songs used in the film I didn't really mind because I still loved the songs that are used, especially in the tunnel scenes. The song that Charlie, Sam, and Patrick listen to in the book is 'Landslide' by Fleetwood Mac (which is one of my favourite songs, by the way), whereas in the film it's 'Heroes' by David Bowie. I honestly think that 'Heroes' worked better for the film because 'Landslide' is a much softer song and it probably wouldn't have suited the scene in the way that it's been filmed. As for the other songs used in the film, while I wasn't all too familiar with some of them I did enjoy them and felt that they suited the film very well.

Pretty much everybody says that the book is always better than the movie, but I don't think that's true, especially not in this case. I enjoyed this movie more than the book, and it's mainly due to the cast and how they brought the characters to life. And with Stephen Chbosky directing the movie of his own book, he got things right for the vast majority of the time. I loved this film and it's very likely that I'll be classing it as one of my favourites from now on.

Review: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Openly Straight
Author: Bill Konigsberg
Genre: YA Contemporary
Released: May 2013
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★

Add to Goodreads | Purchase on Amazon | Purchase on TBD
Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible.
I'd came across Openly Straight a while back, and kind of forgot about it (like I usually do). But once I'd seen its cover again while looking for books to review for LGBT month, I decided to go for it after reminding myself of what the book is about, which I found to be pretty interesting and different, compared to other books I've read this month. While I did enjoy reading Openly Straight, I felt that it could have been just that bit better.

Openly Straight is about Rafe, an openly gay guy who transfers to an all-boys boarding school and decides to keep his sexuality a secret after being tired of being known only as "the gay kid". The book's plot is definitely what attracted me to it in the first place because it seemed like such an interesting idea that is pretty plausible at the same time. I could totally understand why Rafe did what he did, but at the same time he really shouldn't have done it because he was not only being dishonest with his peers, but he was being dishonest with himself too. Openly Straight is told from Rafe's point of view, which I really enjoyed reading. He was funny, witty, and even kind of sassy at times, which made the narrative feel like natural speech. My main problem with the story is that I thought it took just a little bit too long for the shit to hit the fan. I knew something was going to happen, but it was just a matter of waiting for it and I thought that I waited just a little bit too long.

I loved the characters of Openly Straight and thought that they were definitely the best part of the book. Rafe was a great main character, and I could find very few faults with him. His character was very natural and didn't seem forced at any point; he was just a regular guy and there wasn't really anything out of the ordinary about him, which really showed that gay people are just normal people who are getting on with their lives. Even though he had kooky hippie parents who made an unnecessarily big deal about his sexuality, he just saw it as something he couldn't control because that's just nature. As for Ben, though, I had mixed feelings about him. For the vast majority of the book he was a likeable guy and seemed like a genuinely good friend, but towards the end he did a complete 180 and went cold all of a sudden, and this just rubbed me the wrong way. In fact, this turn-around made me like Rafe even more, which is a little odd.

I managed to get two messages from Openly Straight, both of them addressing LGBT issues. The first I got is that people who are out should be proud to be out, despite all of the stereotypes that there are about gay people and the fact that some people are unfortunately only known for their sexuality. This was the second message: we shouldn't define people by who they like. It's a natural thing that people shouldn't make such a big deal about. I understand that it's a very brave thing to come out but there are people who fuss over it way too much and treat them as only the gay kid, or the lesbian, or the transperson, which just isn't fair. There are many more things about a person that could possibly define them than something completely natural.

Overall, I liked Openly Straight, but it could have been more, if that makes sense. It took a little bit too long for things to go sour, and then once it did I got just a little bit lost to the point that I couldn't really remember what had happened. But, apart from that, I liked Rafe and his narration, which made reading this book pretty fun.

Life of a Blogger: Favourite Actors / Actresses

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:
Favourite Actors / Actresses

Now, this is my kind of topic. We already know that I love films, so obviously I have my handful of favourite actors. I don't really like to admit it, but I am one of those people who will watch a film because of it's lead actor or even the whole cast because I know that I would expect awesome performances. And because I also love countdown lists, I'm going to tell you all, in no particular order:

My Top 5 Favourite Actors / Actresses

Who doesn't love Johnny Depp? He never does the same thing twice and only ever goes for characters that are incredibly interesting and out there and that decision has done wonders for his career. But here's my question: Why hasn't Johnny Depp won an Oscar? He's been nominated three times and hasn't won. Everyone always goes on about how Leonardo DiCaprio (who I can't stand, by the way) hasn't won an Oscar, but I definitely think that Johnny deserves one so much more. He's played the better characters, in my opinion, and got out of the whole teenage heartthrob image as soon as it was started.
  • Favourite film - Ed Wood (best Tim Burton film ever.)

Sandra Bullock is easily my favourite modern actress. I just love how versatile she is! She can go from being hilarious in films like Miss Congeniality and The Heat, to giving powerful dramatic performances in Gravity and The Blind Side. When it comes to modern female actresses, she is my ultimate bias: if Sandra Bullock is starring in a film of any genre, I will definitely be going to see it. Why? Because Sandra Bullock, that's why!
  • Favourite film - The Heat

Want to know just exactly how much I love Christian Bale? Here's a picture of my bedroom wall:

I don't really need to say anything more.
  • Favourite film - The Machinist

Audrey Hepburn is the first classic movie actress that I really got into. I can't really remember which film of her's that I watched first, but I like her for the same reason that I like Sandra Bullock: she does both comedy and drama really well, and won her first Oscar for her debut film, which was a comedy. Not only do I love her as an actress, but Audrey was an extraordinary person who did humanitarian work, and at times has inspired me to be a better person, both through her films and her personal life. I also cite her as a style inspiration at times. Well, mainly for make-up because she was just so beautiful.
  • Favourite film - Sabrina

You don't ever want to hear me talk about Marlon Brando. Seriously, I could talk for an eternity about how amazing of an actor he way. Seriously, I think that he was the greatest actor ever and pretty much still is. It riles me whenever an upcoming actor is labelled as "the new Marlon Brando" because there will never be another Brando. Ever. He not only starred (and won an Oscar, which he declined to accept, for) in my favourite film ever, The Godfather, but a lot of my favourite classic films too, such as On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, and even Guys & Dolls. Yes, Marlon Brando starred in a musical. He wasn't too great of a singer, but he did a great job of it. And even though his work did decline in quality as he got older and started to hate acting more and more, there will never be another actor like him. Plus, he was damn gorgeous in his prime. I mean, damn son.
  • Favourite film - The Godfather (duh!)
When it comes to people that I don't like, there are very few actors that I don't like. I really can't stand Adam Sandler, and I'm not too keen on Leonardo DiCaprio or Jennifer Lawrence (don't shoot me!). She's a really talented actress, but as a person she just annoys me. I tend to absolutely hate stand-up comedians more than actors/actresses, especially since the vast majority of British stand-ups have pretty much the same routine.

Who are your favourite actors/actresses? Is there anybody that you don't like?

Review: Boys Don't Cry (1999)

Boys Don't Cry
Directed by: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, and Peter Sarsgaard
Genre: Biopic / Drama
Released: October 1999 by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Running time: 118 mins (1 hr, 58 mins)
Rated: 18 (UK) R (USA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
Based on actual events. Brandon Teena is the popular new guy in a tiny Nebraska town. He hangs out with the guys, drinking, cussing, and bumper surfing, and he charms the young women, who've never met a more sensitive and considerate young man. Life is good for Brandon, now that he's one of the guys and dating hometown beauty Lana. However, he's forgotten to mention one important detail. It's not that he's wanted in another town for GTA and other assorted crimes, but that Brandon Teena was actually born a woman named Teena Brandon. When his best friends make this discovery, Brandon's life is ripped apart.
Re-watched for Review

I've actually seen Boys Don't Cry before (around about last year) and it's still had a lasting impression on me all this time. I can't remember where exactly I came across it, but I'm glad that I did because this film is definitely one that I would recommend to people looking for films that address transgender issues. And although it got hard to watch at one point, I really enjoyed watching this film for a second time.

Boys Don't Cry is the true story of Brandon Teena (born Teena Brandon), a transman from Nebraska, who moves to a new town and enters a new circle of friends. Things are going incredibly well, until it is revealed that he is biologically female. The way that this film made me feel is quite strange. In the beginning, I was glad that Brandon had found these people who like him for who he is (even though he does construct a completely new identity), but then we get to one particular scene and I felt incredibly uncomfortable. More uncomfortable than I felt the first time I watched it. After that moment, I then had feelings of resent for the majority of the characters, because their actions just sickened me. How much of the true story was changed or removed I don't actually know, but from what I've researched, the film manages to stay very close to the true story, which isn't any less horrific.

For her performance as Brandon, Hilary Swank won her first Oscar and I definitely think that she deserved it. She committed to the role and managed to completely disappear into Brandon's character, which helped her to give an incredibly powerful performance. What makes the end of the film so sad and powerful is the fact that we're always with Brandon and he's a lovable person from the second that he's introduced. He doesn't have a single bad bone in his body and tries to stay out of trouble as much as he can. He would be the perfect best friend, so when it came to the end, I pretty much felt like I had actually lost a friend. As with every single biopic that I've ever seen, I don't know about the real people, but I can say that the film's terrific cast all gave awesome performances that showed that the people in the film were real, and not as if they were playing characters.

In terms of visuals, Boys Don't Cry is shot in a pretty stylish way for a biopic. There are often mentions of dreams and aspirations, which are accompanied by shots of lights and night roads, and the film tends to have an overall dream-like appearance at times, which looks really pretty and reassuring. Even though I've now seen this film twice, the way the film looks made me think that maybe it would turn out differently this time. It didn't. Apart from having a dream-like look, the film can also look like a nightmare, as shown in that one scene that made me uncomfortable. The scene cuts back and forth and the audio plays atop of another shot, which is quite horrific to sit through.

Boys Don't Cry is a lot of things: it's sad, it's disturbing, but most of all, this is an important film. I know that I've said that a lot this month, but I think that things that deal with gender identity issues are the most important because gender can sometimes be a hard concept to grasp (a lot of social justice bloggers on Tumblr think that it's easy to understand, but it is actually pretty complicated when you go into specifics). I still remember the way this film made me feel the first time I watched it, and that feeling definitely hasn't gone away.

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Genre: YA Contemporary
Released: February 1999 by Pocket Books
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★

Add to Goodreads | Purchase on Amazon | Purchase on TBD
"I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day...or wondering who did the heart breaking and wondering why."

Charlie is a freshman. And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
For quite a long time, I'd been putting off reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I just remember that when the film was released, a lot of people went totally nuts in both directions. There were people who raved about it and constantly quoted that one same quote (you know which one I mean), which kind of threw me off a bit. I had no idea of what the book was about and at the time had no intention to, and it wasn't until recently that I was kind of prompted to give it a shot. I definitely wasn't expecting this book to be as powerful as it was.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told in the epistolary form by Charlie, our protagonist, who is a freshman in high school and incredibly shy. He's gone from having only one friend in middle school, to having none in high school because his only friend committed suicide in middle school. Then he meets Sam and Patrick, who introduce him to the experiences of teenage life.

Throughout the novel, I had a huge hunch that there was something not right with Charlie's mental health but I didn't know exactly what was up until I read the Wikipedia article to refresh my memory a bit (my memory sucks btw). It felt pretty ambiguous to me, and whether that was the point or me just being totally oblivious, I don't really know. It's probably the latter since the Wikipedia told me what was up and my reaction was pretty much "No. Way. Oh my God." Charlie himself is a pretty complex character. Like most people who suffer from mental health issues (please note that I'm not speaking from personal experience, but from what I've managed to observe from people I know personally), the smallest things can cause him to cry, and sometimes nothing at all will make him cry. At the beginning of the book, I kind of felt like being stern towards him, but then I remembered that I don't like it when people do it to me and I felt bad for him during these moments where he was down. I can't fully identify with Charlie's experiences. Hell, I probably can't at all because I've never really been in any of the situations he's been in.

The LGBT themes in this novel come in the character of Patrick, who is gay and has a secret relationship with Brad, a closeted football player. While the novel mainly focuses on Charlie, I felt like the plotline about Patrick and Bad was particularly important because it shows that people shouldn't be afraid or ashamed of how they really are and that they shouldn't hide how they identify as a person. I understand that this wasn't the main part of the book's story, but it is still very important and I think it could have been developed a bit more.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is told in the epistolary form, which means that the story is told through a series of letters to an unknown person, who is simply referred to as "friend". Reading in this form was a little jarring and Charlie's narration felt a bit monotonous at first, but I did get used to the writing as I continued to read. I'm personally a fan of epistolary forms because they have a very intimate feeling, and this book was probably the most intimate I've ever read. It felt as if Charlie really was talking to me, and that made me feel for him even more.

This book made me feel nearly every single feeling that there is to feel. Both good and bad. I loved the complexity of Charlie, but sometimes his realness made it difficult to like him and I think that the LGBT themes in the book could have been explored more, as the idea of being open with who you are is an important aspect, even in today's society. I would definitely recommend The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I would advise people to acknowledge that this book can be quite difficult to read, depending on an individual's circumstances.

DNF Review: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Boy Meets Boy
Author: David Levithan
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Released: September 2003
Source: Purchased
Rating: DNF

Add to Goodreads | Purchase on Amazon | Purchase on TBD
This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.

When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.
DNF at 31%

Since it's LGBT month, I just had to read at least one of David Levithan's books, because he was technically the only author of YA LGBT that I knew of before doing some searching of my own. I'd heard mostly nothing but praise for Leviathan's books, so I decided to give Boy Meets Boy a go. Unfortunately, the book did next to nothing for me and I didn't finish it.

Boy Meets Boy is about Paul, an openly gay boy who lives in a town where everyone is accepting of the LGBT community and meets Noah, the guy he is sure is the one for him. And that's pretty much as far as I got to. Not even halfway. I was just so freaking bored by the clichéd storyline that takes place in an unbelievable utopia inhabited by bland and sometimes annoying characters. I did try to give this book a chance a couple of times, but I just wasn't getting anyway with it to the point that I just gave up completely.

One of the biggest problems I had with this book was its setting. While the idea of an all-accepting town/school is a wonderful idea, I didn't like the way that it was pulled off. It just seemed far-fetched to me. I was incredibly confused as to why Infinite Darlene was still the quarterback on the football team, since she now identifies as female. Surely she wouldn't be able to play for the team anymore, which would be exclusively male. And here's another thing: Paul's kindergarten teacher wrote on his report card "definitely gay". A student's sexuality is none of the teacher's business. And a kindergarten teacher should definitely not be figuring out the sexuality of five-year-olds. I'm pretty sure that goes against child protection guidelines or something like that. Basically, the book's world felt like that gif where a stick person is puking a rainbow onto another person's face. It would be nice to have a world like this, but seriously, be realistic about it and calm the crap down.

Although I didn't really get to any real romance, I couldn't feel any chemistry between Paul and Noah at all. There was neither any spice or fluff. I didn't even feel any of the feelings associated with falling in love, mainly because I was so blinded by boredom and the figurative chunks of rainbow puke in my eyes. I do kind of understand the point that you can replace either Paul or Noah with a female character and it would feel exactly the same, but the whole utopian concept made it just boring and stale, it was just like something I'd seen plenty of times before.

I just couldn't make it through Boy Meets Boy. I couldn't take any more of being bored and slightly annoyed by the baffling utopia that the book is set in. It's possible that if I managed to push through, the story might have gotten better,  but I can't really see that happening. I might return to this some day, but for now I'm marking it as DNF.

Review: Milk (2008)

Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, and James Franco
Genre: Biopic
Released: January 2008
Running time: 128 mins (2 hr, 8 mins)
Rated: 15 (UK) R (USA)
Rating: ★★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
Upon moving to San Francisco from New York City in 1972, forty year old Harvey Milk gains focus in his life as a gay activist in the city's Castro district. Gay rights activism turns to political activism as Milk decides he can be a more effective voice for the gay community as a politician, elected or not. Through several elections and losses both for a city seat and a state assembly seat, Milk becomes the first openly gay man in the United States to be elected to political office when he wins a San Francisco supervisor seat in 1977. His many political battlefronts include one with the national anti-gay Save the Children crusade, led and fronted by singer Anita Bryant. Closer to home, Milk has a continuing struggle with his fellow supervisor, Dan White, a staunch social conservative.
Before I'd seen this film, I'd only heard of it about once or twice (this was back when I used to watch E! for some reason or another) so I didn't come across it again until recently when I was browsing Netflix for films to watch for this month. I hadn't really seen many LGBT films that went down the political route, so I figured that we should get a bit political here. However, like most films based on true stories, I don't really know all that much about what really happened, so I can't comment on whether or not the film accurately portrays the true events. Again.

Milk is the true story of Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to political office in the United States. The story is told in a framed narrative as it starts with and often cuts back to Harvey sitting in his kitchen recording the story of how he came to be an activist. What I found interesting about this is the fact that Harvey had a good gut feeling that he was going to be assassinated and then, lo and behold, eight days after he made the recording, he was killed by Dan White. Sometimes I'm a little wary of framed narratives because they can have a tendency to jump around quite a bit (like it does in Batman Begins) and sometimes they go Inception-style and end up being a story within a story within a story (Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein does this at one point). Milk, however, does the whole framed narrative thing really well because the story moves in a single linear path, with the occasional cut back to Harvey and it doesn't jumble anything up at all. I can't think of a single moment where I was bored or wishing that things would speed up or slow down because everything moved at just the right pace. That's probably the best way I can describe it: not perfect, but just right.

As a person, I really liked Harvey. As a political activist, I liked him even more. What I liked the most about Harvey's activism is that it was for everyone. He not only stood up for gay rights, but for the rights of ethnic minorities and senior citizens (I can't remember about women though) too. And he managed to do this somewhat peacefully (there were a couple of riots but all he asked for were for people to march) and without resorting to attacking people. In my honest opinion, this is how I think activism should be done because it's definitely not how people do it today (just browse through the social justice tag on Tumblr, and you'll see what I mean). Moving away from the political side of things, I think that Harvey was a good person. He was friendly, affectionate and generally a really sweet guy. I loved Sean Penn's performance as Harvey, mainly because it totally wasn't what I expected of him since I'd only seen Penn play particularly tough guys. And it's not just Sean Penn, the whole cast was great and really managed to play their parts as people, and not stereotypes.

For a biopic, Milk has some of the best cinematography that I've seen in a while. Some of the ways that scenes are shot are incredibly clever and I just loved the way that it was pulled off. An example of this is a scene where Harvey is talking to two cops after a man has died from being attacked. All of the gay men in the neighbourhood had been given whistles to blow whenever they are about to be attacked and the shot in this scene is a reflection in a whistle. There were a few other scenes that were shot in a similar manner and they make the film look really good and kind of stylish.

I loved Milk so much. It's a beautifully made film that holds an important message that is still relevant today. And here's something strange: most biopics that are about people who have died make me feel kind of sad. This film didn't. It doesn't mourn Harvey Milk, it celebrates his legacy and what he has done for politics and for gay rights activism, which is incredibly important and is something that should be remembered.

Review: M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts

M or F?
Authors: Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbets
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Released: 2005 by Penguin
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★★

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Frannie is desperate to get the attention of her crush, Jeffrey, but too shy to make a move.

Frannie's gay best friend, Marcus, advises her to get the ball rolling by chatting with Jeffrey online, but Frannie won't type a word. Marcus takes over at the keyboard, and soon his plan is a success! But the more he chats, the more it seems Jeffrey is falling for Marcus, not Frannie.

Whose romance is this, anyway?

When I was looking for books read for this month, I originally thought that M or F? was about gender identity. So when I read the book's summary I was pleasantly surprised to find that that wasn't the case at all (not that I have anything against books that deal with transgender issues; I still have yet to read any) and decided to give it a go, since it sounded pretty interesting. Boy, am I glad that I gave this a go because I really, really, really enjoyed this book. Like, a lot.

M or F? is the story of best friends Marcus and Frannie. Frannie has developed a crush on Jeffrey and wants to get his attention, but is too shy to talk to him, so Marcus (who is gay) helps her out by talking to Jeffrey online for her. However, this plan works a little too well, and it looks like Jeffrey is falling for Marcus, who has been pretending to be Frannie all this time. I really loved M or F?'s story; it's light-hearted, funny, and pretty quirky at times. I don't think I've ever read a book with a story like this. My only issue, that isn't really an issue, is that I wish this story was a little bit longer. At only sixteen chapters, this felt kind of short. However, I felt that it ended at the right place, and if anything was added onto the end, it would feel kind of drawn out. I enjoyed reading M or F? so much that I didn't want it to end!

M or F? is told from the point of views of both Marcus and Frannie, which I'm usually fussy about, but I loved the way that it was done here. I loved both Marcus and Frannie equally, because they both had great voices that were so much fun to read in. There were plenty of asides, some sarcastic comments were thrown into there and I could definitely tell who was speaking (even though there were little male and female symbols at the top of the page at each chapter) thanks to this awesome concoction. Along with Marcus and Frannie, I liked all of the characters in M or F?; they were all unique in their own ways and I could really get that through the book's dialogue, which felt so natural and believable that I could hear their voices crystal clearly.

While I haven't read many LGBT YA romances, what makes M or F? different to other books that I had looked at, is that this is more about friendship than romance and I think that's why I liked this so much. Sure, Frannie's crush on Jeffrey is a major part of the story, but this is really all about her friendship with Marcus and how their plan to set Frannie up with Jeffrey changes their friendship. I think that this is what made the book so light-hearted and even humorous because Frannie is comfortable with being so open with her best friend, while she's shy when it comes to Jeffrey. If she was trying to talk to him all by herself, it would probably feel awkward and I would cringe for her so badly.

Overall, I really liked M or F?. I liked the story, the characters were great, and I just loved how light-hearted and fun this book was. It's totally not what I expected from a contemporary romance, and I definitely think that's a good thing.

Holiday! Celebrate!

Hey gang!

This is just a quick little message to let you all know that from today (the 6th) until the 17th, I will be on holiday in Italy! Naturally, I won't have much access to the internet apart from rest stops and possibly a computer that I have to pay for (I don't know yet) but I will have reviews scheduled for their regular slots while I'm away. However, I won't have my Life of a Blogger post up for next week, but I'll be back on form the week after.

See you all when I get back!

Review: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Dallas Buyers Club
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Jared Leto
Genre: Biopic / Drama
Released: November 2013 by Focus Features
Running time: 117 mins (1 hr, 57 mins)
Rated: 15 (UK) R (USA)
Rating: ★★★★

IMDb | View Trailer
Matthew McConaughey headlines director Jean-Marc Vallée's biographical drama centring on the story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician who was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1985, and who subsequently devoted his life to providing fellow HIV patients with non-FDA-approved drugs and supplements during an era when doctors were still struggling to understand the devastating disease. Defying his surprise death sentence, Woodroof set out to procure any and all non-toxic alternative HIV treatments available, and established a "buyers club" to provide the treatments to others afflicted with the disease. But that mission quickly made him a target for both the U.S. medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry, both of which resented his defiance of government sanctions, and joined forces to shut down his operation by any means necessary.
To be completely honest (I don't know why I wouldn't be honest), I had very little interest in Dallas Buyers Club before the Oscars. I had no idea of what it was about, and I hadn't seen a single Matthew McConaughey film (the only film I'd seen Jared Leto in was American Psycho) so it wasn't until after it got both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor and I did some reading into the subject of the film that I was interested and started searching around for the closest cinema to me that was showing it because my local cinema sucks. Well, only when it comes to independent films. I went into this film with a completely blank mind due to the amount of criticism that the film had received for Jared Leto's portrayal as a transgender woman, and I'm glad that I did because if I hadn't I don't think I would have enjoyed the film as much as I did.

Dallas Buyers Club is the true story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician who finds out that he is HIV positive and has contracted AIDS, which was horrifically branded as the 'gay plague' in the 1980s (it was labelled that by British tabloids but I'm not sure if it was in the USA). After word gets out about his illness, Ron is deserted by all his friends, fired from his job, and evicted from his home, as pretty much everyone he knows assumes that he is gay, although he contracted the illness by having unprotected sex with a hooker who had been abusing drugs. After having an awful experience with the drug AZT, which was still in the testing stages, Ron devotes his life to helping other AIDS patience feel better without using AZT or any illegal substances. While this film isn't exactly an LGBT+ film, it does deal with the importance of gay importance, which has drastically improved since the 80s but still has a way to go and is definitely an important issue. I think the most important part of Dallas Buyers Club was seeing how Ron had gone from being a homophobic, sexist, racist piece of human garbage, to actually treating the people he was helping like human beings and being accepting of who they are and the fact that nobody can help the way that they are born. This aspect of the film is definitely what made it both heart-warming and heartbreaking, and it's also what made me want to act out violently to the annoying middle-aged couple in my row who laughed at the most inappropriate of times.

Dallas Buyers Club is a very character driven film and although I can't comment on how accurately the cast portrayed the people in the film because I don't know much about the real story, I still do think that the cast is fantastic, especially the three main members. As I'd said earlier, I'm not too acquainted with their work and since watching this film, I'll probably be checking out their other works in the future. I definitely think that both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto deserved their Oscars because their performances were amazing.

Even though I hadn't seen any of his other work, I can't really imagine anybody else playing the part of Ron Woodroff other than Matthew McConaughey. He managed to show all sides of Ron and how he had managed to go from a generally unpleasant person so someone to cared about the people he helped. Another thing that I liked about Ron was just how fragile he really was. As much as he didn't want to show it to anybody, he was just as frightened as everyone else suffering with AIDS and felt really alone. Obviously there is pretty much no way for me to empathise with him, but I truly did feel sorry for Ron quite a lot. Everyone he knew and cared about before he was diagnosed deserted him and just wouldn't listen to his explanation as to how he managed to catch the virus, and it taught him about accepting people who weren't like him and I found that to be an incredibly important element of the film.

My one issue with this film comes in the character Rayon, who is played by Jared Leto. My problem isn't that she is played by a man (which is what the film received a lot of criticism for), it's the fact that all the way through the film she is misgendered by pretty much everyone. She's even misgendered in her presence but doesn't correct anyone. It's just not right that a character who identifies as female isn't addressed as such by the other characters. Putting that to one side, I think that Rayon was my favourite character in the film, even though she didn't exist and was created for the film. Similarly to Ron, she really showed just how fragile people are as she went from being confident and not particularly phased by her illness, to being terrified of what was yet to come and the fact that she had no control over her own death.

Overall, I really enjoyed Dallas Buyers Club. The performances were amazing and deserving of their awards, despite some of them being made up for the film, and the storytelling was fantastic. I'll definitely be picking up a copy for myself when the film is released on DVD, but in the meantime I may venture out to the cinema to see it again. Hopefully there won't be any annoying laughers there if I do go.