The Unwritten Rule

First Lines: I liked him first, but it doesn’t matter.  I still like him.  That doesn’t matter either.  Or at least, it’s not supposed to.

Elizabeth Scott has the voice and worries of a teenager down to a tee.  Books like this one are so versatile that nearly everyone can relate to it in some way.  And Sarah’s voice was so natural, it was like we were the same person.

Sarah has liked Ryan since 8th grade.  But over the summer, Ryan suddenly got really hot.  Now Sarah’s best friend Brianna sees what makes Ryan special and starts dating him.  Sarah can’t stand watching them be together because it breaks her heart.  She can’t help that she still likes Ryan.  It doesn’t help when Ryan starts looking at her like she’s the only girl in the world and not Brianna.

I admit, I can relate to this.  Almost every teenager can.  Sarah is that kind of lovable character where nothing really seems to go her way and you can’t help but feel bad for her.  Brianna, on the other hand, is a mean girl behind a nice girl’s face.  She made it really hard to read the book because she’s actually quite vile.  Ryan is such a sweetie that you can see why both girls would like him.

I had a hard time putting it down once I really got rolling on it (which is unfortunate, given how much work I have to do).  It’s quite good, but when there are characters that are as slimy as I believe Brianna to be, I have a hard time staying with it.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It

My friend recommended this movie to me because I think Mel Brooks is a hoot (seriously, check out Robin Hood: Men in Tights).  He makes spoofing a tale we all know seem effortless.  Not to mention he sticks as close to the original legend as possible.  Which is awesome.

The first time I watched it, I didn’t really like it.  I hadn’t read Dracula yet and nothing really made sense.  I mean, there was humor I could understand, but it wasn’t all that funny.

Now that I’ve read Dracula, this makes a little more sense.  I can see what happened in the book that Brooks sort of skipped over because he didn’t have time to include the whole scene in a 90 minute movie.  And it’s a lot funnier now that I get more of the jokes.

Leslie Nielson does a great job with his part as Dracula.  He is a natural at dropping witty one-liners that make the scene (“I just had a daymare”).  I’m a fan of him anyway.  Dracula is not his best role ever, but he manages to make it funny and slightly scary at the same time.  Not exactly the easiest thing to do.

I think the best acting awards go to Mel Brooks (because he is just amazing as Professor Van Helsing) and Steven Weber as Jonathan Harker.  Those two just have the best lines in the whole movie and they are adorable characters.

I’ve put the trailer below so you can see what you think for yourself.  I will say, those are most of the best scenes in there.  There are others (like the “schh-edule” bit and the “last word” stuff between Dracula and Van Helsing), but the majority are right there in the trailer.

Lady Macbeth’s Daughter

First Lines: The nameless baby lay on the cold ground, wrapped in a woolen cloth.  An owl hovered overhead and seemed to clutch a shred of cloud in its talons, drawing it across the moon like a blanket.

I read Macbeth in high school in my senior English class.  It was a little weird (I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare’s tragedies), but I thought it was cool that it was based off actual people.  I mean, Shakespeare was writing about people 500 years in the past, his time.  Imagine trying to research that.

Lady Macbeth’s Daughter is a fictionalization of Macbeth in which Macbeth has a daughter soon after his marriage to Lady Macbeth.  Macbeth desperately wants a son, only to have a daughter with a gimpy leg.  Macbeth orders her left to die in the woods.  However, she’s rescued by three witches (foreshadowing…) and is raised by them.  They name her Albia.  As Albia grows, she becomes bound to the fate of Macbeth, who is ruining Scotland with his kingship.  Albia goes to live with Banquo and his son, Fleance.  Albia has to save Scotland and with Banquo’s family behind her, she feels maybe she can do it.

I realized as I was reading that I had more of an outline of what happened in Macbeth to follow than I had a detailed map of what exactly happened.  This is probably best because I wasn’t reading too deeply into it.  It was more for enjoyment while I knew what was supposed to happen next.

I liked Albia’s spunk.  She didn’t want to take no for an answer from anyone and she was willing to stand up to the King (her father who didn’t know she lived).  That’s some serious spunk since the King was killing anyone who so much as looked at him wrong.

The supporting characters were pretty neat too.  Some were made up for the sake of the story, such as Colum, a shepherd who took care of Albia’s family’s sheep.  Others, like Fleance and Banquo, were just amazing to see more of.  I commented on an earlier post about liking to see what goes on in the heads of characters I know.  This is my way of getting that.

This isn’t the first book Lisa Klein has written that tackles Shakespeare.  She’s also written Ophelia, which I highly recommend if you wondered what Ophelia’s story was while reading Hamlet.  I had to reread Hamlet this year and I couldn’t help but seamlessly include what I’d read about Ophelia into it.

Message In A Bottle

I will say straight-up that I have never been a Nicholas Sparks fan.  I think his books are terrible and the only thing that redeems him are some of his movies (The Notebook, anyone?).  When someone else gets to put their spin on his books, they get better.

As I alluded earlier, I’m a sucker for The Notebook and A Walk To Remember.  Those are my two favorite movies based off his books.

I decided to watch Message In A Bottle because of the leads.  Robin Wright Penn is amazing in The Princess Bride and, although I don’t watch many of his movies, I think Kevin Costner is a respectable actor.  He can make me believe whatever he wants me to.  So, with two actors I was willing to believe, I went for it.

It was good.  I won’t say it was amazing, but it’s one of those I will probably watch again sometime.  I guess what makes the story is what I didn’t like so much.  Kevin Costner plays Garret Blake, a man who lost his wife two years previously.  He hasn’t moved any of her things because it’s his way of keeping her alive.  Theresa (Penn) sets out to find him once she finds one of the messages he’s written to his wife in a bottle on the shore.  Do I need to say that they are captivated by each other and fall in love?  That’s pretty much a given, right?

It was cute.  I felt their pain.  That’s about all I can say about it.

North & South

First Lines: “Edith!” said Margaret, gently, “Edith!”  But, as Margaret half suspected, Edith had fallen asleep.

Hehe.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had to put a yummy picture of Mr. Thornton (aka Richard Armitage) in a post again.  And what better post than one about the book that inspired the miniseries?

It took me about two weeks to finish this book (partly because I stopped to read other books in between) and I’ve finally done it.  It was really great to see inside Mr. Thornton and Margaret’s heads and see why they acted the way they did.  That was one of my biggest problems with the BBC series.  I HAVE to know why people act the way they do.  Call it my personal tick.

I think I liked the BBC miniseries better simply because I was able to see everything that happened instead of reading it.  Plus, I enjoyed the ending of the series more than I did in the book.  And it doesn’t hurt that BBC allows us to stare at Richard Armitage for 3 hours.  Delicious.

For those interested in how closely the miniseries follows the book, I would say the first 2 episodes are 98% faithful to the book.  The last 2 episodes are 85-95% faithful to the book.  That has more to do with cutting out things that complicate the story and would inevitably make it more than 4 episodes.  So I enjoyed the BBC better than the book.

I will say that Margaret is more likable in the book than she is in the series, probably because I knew what was going on in her pretty head.  I knew the instant she changed her mind about Thornton.  That’s what I was missing from the series.  She’s just so cold and regal to the world it’s hard to know what’s in her heart.

Merlin (BBC/NBC) Season 1

“In a land of myth, and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy.  His name…Merlin.”

So once I found Robin Hood, I couldn’t stop looking for legends and stories from Britain.  Lo and behold, Netflix has given me Merlin.  (I swear, I’m giving Netflix all this free PR like Joey Richter for Red Vines.)

Merlin was originally a BBC production, but when it moved to the States, it didn’t do well on BBC or NBC and switched over to Syfy (or something to this extent).  I’ve only seen one season so far, but I thought it was really good.  And since you folks seem really taken with Robin Hood, I thought you might like this as well.

Merlin, you could say, is the prequel to what we know of the Arthurian legend.  Obviously, the Merlin I’ve posted above is not some old dude with a pointy hat and long white beard.  Merlin’s roughly 18 (I’m not sure if they ever give him an age) when he leaves home and moves to Camelot for his protection.  See, Merlin is different from others.  He possesses a natural magic that allows him to do basically anything.  If King Uther (Arthur’s father) ever found out, he would have Merlin killed before he could snap his fingers.  Merlin quickly finds out it’s his destiny to protect Arthur from harm.  If he can’t do it, Camelot will fall.  The fate of the nation rests on his shoulders…

I really like Merlin as a character.  And as dude.  I mean, check out those brilliant blue eyes… Ahem.  Merlin is a flawed character.  He tries to do the best he can in every situation, but it usually get him into trouble.  Arthur sometimes takes full advantage of Merlin’s devotion to him and uses it against Merlin.  Most of the time, Merlin really does have a heart of gold.

This dashing lad is Prince Arthur, Merlin’s master.  Arthur is a much better man than his father is any day of the week.  Arthur is a bit of a prick, especially right at the beginning, but it soon becomes clear that he truly wants the best for the people of Camelot.  He ends up at odds with his father sometimes when he knows more can be done for the people.  While he rarely shows any kind of affection for anyone, he does have his own way of showing he cares for the people around him.

For our supporting cast, we have Guinevere (usually just shortened to Gwen) and Lady Morgana.  Gwen is Morgana’s maid and the daughter of a blacksmith in town.  Morgana lives at the castle under Uther’s care.  Her father was Uther’s best knight and died in battle when she was ten.  For some unexplained reason, Uther seems to think Morgana and Arthur would be the perfect couple, even though they are constantly at odds with each other.  Morgana, like Arthur, has a hard time expressing her feelings, but she does make it clear she cares about Arthur.

There are more characters that play a constant role, such as King Uther and Gaius (Merlin’s mentor and the court physician).  It’s an interesting show with all sorts of character dynamics and lots of magic.  It’s sort of like Robin Hood with magic.  That’s a pretty apt description.

One thing I will say about the series is that the effects are pretty cheesy.  We have mythical creatures, like Griffins, appear, but it’s insanely obvious they were computer animated.  It’s not hidden at all.  But if you can look past cheeseball effects and stick to the storyline, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Best Episodes: 1.04 “The Poisoned Chalice” and 1.11 “The Labyrinth of Gedref”