Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Opening Ceremonies

Just ask anyone in my family, and they will tell you that the Olympics are definitely one of my favorite things. I have been particularly obsessed with the Summer Olympics since 1996. Generally, when they come around, I plan to shut down my life and become a couch potato for approximately two weeks. That's not exactly an option these days, but I still try to watch as much of them as I can.

So last night, we enjoyed the celebration of sport and British culture that was the Opening Ceremonies. Say what you will about the pacing, the announcers, the bored-looking Queen (come on, people, she's like 100 years old), the theme interpretation, or whatever. I thought it was really cool. So here, bullet-style, are some of my favorite moments:
  • Kenneth Branagh quoting Shakespeare. Now that's a stage voice!
  • James Bond "escorting" the Queen into the stadium. The best of British security!
  • Huge creepy puppets depicting major villains in British children's literature. A 100-foot Voldemort!
  • Mary Poppins saves the day!
  • The music. Awesome. Chariots of Fire? Featuring Mr. Bean? Oh yes! And a tottering old Paul McCartney (or was that Angela Lansbury?) rocking out to Hey Jude? Does it get any better?
  • A record-speed Parade of Nations that culminated in all the flags flying on "Glastonbury Tor"
I will probably post several entries in this blog in the coming days. I am looking forward to so many things about these Olympics. As Greg says, "There's nothing like sitting on your butt for two weeks, watching other people exercise." Oh, it is so true. Bring it on.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

So...this is my first post since the end of May. I apologize. I've been busy.

I read this book because a couple of people raved about it, and quite honestly, I have wasted enough brain cells on the self-published paranormal teen romances I have read recently, and I was ready to read something published by a real publisher. This post is not a rant about the generally unfortunate quality of free and/or cheap teen paranormal romances out there, but let me just say I won't be reading anymore of them for quite awhile. And that is enough on that.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is somewhat difficult to define. I would have to classify it as part urban fantasy and part (I know!) teen paranormal romance but it is not quite either of those things. It is really so much more. Whatever it is, I thought it was brilliant. The cover flap tells very little of the real story. It is about a girl named Karou, who was raised by "monsters" and yet tries to live a moderately normal life. We meet her in Prague, where she is a student at an art academy and recent victim of a broken heart. Between her arrogant, seedy street actor ex-boyfriend, her delightfully waspish best friend, and her errands to various parts of the world, collecting teeth for her foster father, her life is anything but normal. And it quickly becomes even more remarkably strange, including a desperate fight for her life, the tantalizing hope of love, shocking revelations, and overwhelming tragedy.

This story is very dark but very beautiful. The characters are complex and fascinating, the world is remarkably well-constructed, and the story is intriguing and well-written. If you like fantasy or teen romance,   or fascinating stories that you can lose yourself in for a few days, you will probably like this one. I am now eagerly awaiting the sequel.