March 27, 2012

North and South - this time it's the book

I finished North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell some time ago, but I wasn't sure what to write about it, or even whether to write about it, because I liked the miniseries better.  It's a fairly rare occurrence when I like the television or movie adaptation better than the source material.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, North and South is about a young woman who is forced to move from the agrarian south of England to an industrial town in the north.  The book concerns her trouble acclimating to her new home, her friendship with the mill workers, and her turbulent relationship with one of the mill owners.

I think the main character, Margaret Hale, is much more likable in the miniseries.  She was more of a downright snob in the book.  The miniseries gives us a new scene at her first meeting with the love interest, John Thornton, which explains her instant disdain for him.  In the book, it's pretty much entirely because she is a snob looking down on someone who works in trade and who isn't a "gentleman" in her sense of the word. In this regard, it makes the reader have less respect for John Thornton.  It takes away from the character for him to continue to be madly in love with someone who repeatedly treats him with contempt and indifference.  I kept wondering why he cared about her at all. 

Margaret's time in Milton changes her, and she becomes less arrogant.  The book improves as this happens.  She didn't have quite the same snob hurdle to overcome in the miniseries.  This is not to say I didn't like the novel.  I thought it was okay.  I suppose the book fell short of what I had expected.

March 18, 2012

Hunger Games mania!

As most people are probably aware, the Hunger Games movie is coming out soon.  There has been a huge marketing blitz, even though there is already a big built-in fan base because of the books.  The Hunger Games is everywhere.  It's the kind of thing that might usually get on my nerves, except...I loved The Hunger Games

I'm going to admit, I hadn't heard of this trilogy of books until a few months ago when my aunt suggested I might like them.  I was skeptical at first because they are technically "young adult" novels, aimed at teenagers.  Then I thought, A: my aunt doesn't normally steer me wrong when it comes to books, and B: I liked the Harry Potter books, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, and Neil Gaiman's Coraline and The Graveyard Book, and they were all aimed at younger readers, too.  I'm glad I gave them a shot, because The Hunger Games and its two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, were fantastic.  The books take place in a dystopian North America, where the Capitol rules over outlying districts who each provide two "tributes" every year, a boy and a girl, picked by lottery, for a fight to the death in a televised spectacle called the Hunger Games.  Twenty-four tributes go into the arena, and the last one left alive is the winner.  This is a punishment to the districts for a previous rebellion and serves as a yearly reminder to them who is in control.

The main character in The Hunger Games is Katniss Everdeen.  She lives in District 12 with her mother and younger sister.  When her sister is chosen at the lottery to go to the games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place.  Katniss is a talented archer from years of hunting to provide extra food for her family in their impoverished district.  Reading about her skill with a bow and arrow made me want to take up archery myself!

Katniss, in the movie
Here's the thing about Katniss- she is the kind of strong female character that I'd like to see more often.  The media is hyping the movie as another Twilight and playing up the love triangle angle with her friend Gale and her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta.  No.  Stop that, media.  This book is not about some mopey girl mooning over a choice between two guys and defining her life based on them.  Katniss takes care of her family and herself, and she is too busy being tough and trying to survive to spend a lot of time dwelling on Peeta vs. Gale.

I could not put this book down, and although The Hunger Games was my favorite of the trilogy, Catching Fire and Mockingjay were page-turners as well. I cannot recommend them enough. 

March 5, 2012

Philadelphia Flower Show 2012: Hawaii

The Philadelphia Flower Show is held yearly by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.  It is the oldest flower show in the United States, having first taken place in 1829, and it is currently the world's largest indoor flower show, with over 250,000 people attending over the course of a week.  What that translates to is this- it is always very crowded.  It doesn't seem to matter when you go, it will be packed.  The show is spread over 33 acres in the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia, with the main exhibits taking up ten acres of space.  There are both professional exhibits and amateur entries in gardening competitions.  There is also a large area with vendors, and in recent years they have added an area for wine tasting and a garden tea.

Each year has a different theme.  Last year's was Paris, and it was by far the best flower show I've attended.  This year's theme was Hawaii: Islands of Aloha.  Two things you can count on for any Philadelphia Flower Show: it will be beautiful, and it will smell great.  This year was no exception.

As you entered the show, there were giant screens under which you walked, replicating what it would be like if you were underwater.  Plenty of orchids and exotic, tropical flowers could be found among the exhibits.  

I always enjoy the section of the show which showcases the winners of the amateur competitions.   A good portion of the Philadelphia Flower Show space is devoted to this area. 

It's amazing to see what people can grow themselves.  In the area of the large, professional exhibits, it's often quite dark- darker than it should be.  I know they have received complaints about this and were supposed to fix it this year.  They didn't.  But, the amateur section is usually brightly light, and it shows off the flowers beautifully. 

a beautiful amaryllis
There are many unusual varieties of common flowers.  The colors and smells are amazing.  I didn't want to leave the hyacinths!  The scent was extraordinary.   

ahhh, hyacinths
I don't usually bring my camera to the Philadelphia Flower Show, because it's hard to take good photos.  Most of it is in poor lighting, and it is so crowded that people are usually bumping into you or walking in front of the camera.  So, while I don't think most of my photos turned out too well, you get the gist of what the flower show is like. 

Despite the crowds, I always have a nice time at the flower show. The flowers are both beautiful and beautifully arranged.  This year's Hawaiian theme was interesting.  I think it was one of the better themes of the past few years.  And one of the perks of attending any event at the PA Convention Center is that the delicious food of the Reading Terminal Market is waiting for you next door when you are finished. 

March 1, 2012

Lady Oracle

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors.  Lady Oracle was written early on in her career, but it still displays the mastery of prose which Atwood possesses and which shines through in her later works.  It's hard for me to pick a favorite book from all of those I've read by her.  A Handmaid's Tale is probably the most well-known, and it is stunning.  I'd put Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and The Blind Assassin alongside that one.  Alias Grace is also very good.  I didn't like Lady Oracle as much as those, but I did enjoy reading it.

The story begins with a woman escaping to a villa in Italy in order to start a new life for herself.  She has faked her own death, and we find out about the life she has left behind in flashbacks throughout the book.  She has left a husband and the crushing success that has come with a poetry bestseller.  She has left a blackmailer. What she has kept is something no one knew- a second identity under which she writes "costume" romance novels.  She intends to support herself by continuing to write these books.  

The flashbacks don't only reveal the adult life she is leaving behind.  They also disclose her adolescence, her difficult relationship with her mother, and how she became the woman she is now.  Lady Oracle has a much less serious tone than other books I've read by Margaret Atwood.  I don't mean that as a slight.  It's just different.  I liked it, but I'd recommend starting with another of her books if you haven't read one before.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...