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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Guest Blog: What I see with my ears I hear with my eyes.

Long time friend and partner in crime, Aurora*, has provided me with an opinion piece regarding an art gallery we went to this past Friday.


We spent the evening at Towson University's senior student art exhibition at the Load of Fun gallery in downtown Baltimore.  Like most contemporary art exhibits, the gallery is a playground of speculative reality.  Unlike those Rorschach images where you interpret what you see, these images are what their creator tells you they are, often defying all laws of congruency. Tonight's were definitely exercises in the extemporaneous: welded metal bracelets linked to replicate handcuffs welded to an eyeglass case filled with origami birds made out of pages pulled from a porno mag is wittily dubbed "Sexual Frustration". Photographs of plant life bursting through plots of urban decay is "Wasted Space" - funny, my daughter is curating a gallery showing of similar works in a couple months which go by the theme of "The Third Conflict". Like I said, we must believe the artist's perspective, no matter how quantum the leap from their vision to ours.

Art is language, language similar to the speaking in tongues heard in old revival tents (or some Pentecostal churches). Not unlike Pentecost, each man hears it in his own language, regardless of what is being said. I must say some of what I looked at tonight was babble - things more geared toward the intellect than the heart.

I can't help but compare this language with the older mumblings of Mr. Van Gough or Gogh as you will or if you follow BBC's Dr. Who, Van Goth...(and a postmortem identity crisis ensues),  Like Mozart's four to eight measure classical constructions geared to the primate mind, Van Gough's language is simple and direct.  His vowels are color, his consonants clean dark lines, his elisions clouded skies and starry nights.  He will get in your face and speak of hope past despair with impeccable  diction. No need fear anything being lost in translation. He speaks to the heart, and his words leave you breathless.

I have a hard time reconciling the honesty of image found in photos by Pollock, or paintings by any great master from time immemorial with a gallery of works by students who have been taught to be fundamentally dishonest in the name of creating a commercial product, created without the discipline whose transcendence is the language of true art.

Or maybe this is the frustration of an old lady whose first love was the crayon box.  I did ok, the problem was the music was always voted more impressive than the drawings, which may have led down the inevitable path towards engineering, as it did for so many others on one side of my family.  I remember a high school guidance counselor looking over the results of one of the many tests we were subjected to and muttering something along the lines of "it seems you have an aptitude for engineering.  Too bad you're a girl. Have you considered a vocation with the Dominicans?" and so I turned to a life of crime instead.


*I have poked and prodded Aurora to start a blog of her own, but she prefers to remain the silent but deadly member of my crime syndicate. Show her some love so that she'll blog for me again. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

See this cover? This is a nice cover. I like this cover.

From Goodreads:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
In this particular case, it's more than appropriate that I start the review with a Goodreads description, as it was on Goodreads that almost all my friends recommended this book to me. Given the sterling recs I'd been given, when the birthday B&N gift-cards came around, it was a no-brainer to pick this one up. I'm thrilled to say I wasn't disappointed.

The Good:

The writing, as promised, was beautiful. Taylor has a way with words that makes you want to wallow in them, without succumbing to overly ornate purple prose. Writing like this makes me think of foods - maybe my mom's fruit parfaits - which are delicious and I can enjoy them everyday, guilt-free. Okay, yes, Laini Taylor writes like my mom's fruit parfaits. Let's go with that.

The world is enthralling. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. Even had I hated the story, I would probably read the rest of the series just so I could know more about how everything worked. Luckily, the story is pretty cool. The mechanics for the price of magic are maybe not the most original, but they're presented in a way that is fresh and emotionally wrenching. And Taylor's theology - the chimera versus the seraphs -is a delightful twist on familiar religious lore. It makes my theology and cosmology loving heart happy.

Sweet Ceiling Cat, the characters. I love the secondary characters. I want more of all of them. These characters are vibrant and real - at least, as real as secondary fictional characters can be. But you don't have to guess about Brimstone's disapproval or Zuzana's delightfully charming threats of violence and mischief as they are integral to the characters personalities, ascending the realm of 'quirks' to being a part of who that characters is. As for our protagonists....

Karou is perhaps my favorite YA protagonist since Katniss. She's strong and smart, but heavily flawed and we know it. She's self-centered and cruel at times, ungrateful and indecisive. These aren't "I'm so clumsy" traits to make her relatable. These are real, difficult obstacles for her to overcome in herself. But for as awful as they could be, these traits make me like her more. When she's kicking ass, she's not some untouchable Wonder Girl. When she's torn between wanting to hang out with Zuzana while Brimstone is sending her on another extraordinary errand, you can appreciate that she really is just a teenager caught between worlds with absolutely no middle ground. Her complaining and self-centeredness is made sort of forgivable by merit that, while it isn't necessarily harder than any other teenagers life, it is so other that there is no one she can talk to about it. There is no one else like her, no one to understand. At the end of the day she is always alone. Until Akiva.

 I don't know how to feel about Akiva. He feels a little like every romantic interest. I'll leave him up to the interpretation of others and withhold my own judgment until another book.

The Bad:

The writing in the second part fell apart at points. Maybe it's just me, since I haven't seen this complaint elsewhere, but after all the gorgeous, luxurious writing of the first half, certain chapters and scenes in the story of Madrigal seemed almost clinical and detached. It was, in a word, disappointing.

The Rest:

I won't put the romance under The Bad, because honestly, it's one of the best and most believable 'love at first sight' stories I've ever read. But I really wish it hadn't consumed so much of this first book. It felt like the plot had suddenly been jerked hard toward the second star on the right and straight on til morning. It was super dark and then abruptly sunshine and puppies and twu luv! It felt like the romance became its own, almost separate story, tangential to the original plot.

Okay, it wasn't that bad, but it certainly felt that way at times. Probably because I'm the enemy of all romance.

Final Thoughts:

If there isn't more of Brimstone in the next book, I'm going to riot.

The sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, is due out November, 2012.

Rating 4.5/5 Mushrooms