Book Review: A Corner of White, by Jaclyn Moriarty

cover of "A Corner of White"A Corner of White is a lovely story but it took me a long time to realize how powerful it is.  I spent much of the book thinking it was sort of cute and whimsical and wouldn’t you know it, it turned out to be about powerful stuff.  This is the kind of “coming of age story” that gives “coming of age story” a good name.

This book has two protagonists who live in parallel worlds.  Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello.  The people of Cello are under attack periodically by Colours.  Elliot’s father disappeared a year ago, and Elliot believes that his father was taken by Purples, despite increasing evidence that his father ran away with a teacher.  Elliot wants to go search for his father, but a series of events conspires to keep him in town, and meanwhile it seems more and more likely that Elliot is going to have to face up to hard truths about his Dad.

Meanwhile in our own, modern world, fourteen-year-old Madeline is adjusting to a new life.  Madeline used to run away from home a lot.  On her final try, her mom comes with her.  Now they live in Cambridge, and Madeline’s mom seems increasingly disconnected and strange.  Madeline may seem to be the person with the common sense, but Madeline’s story of how she misses her life as a rich girl with friends and a father doesn’t make sense either.  If Madeline’s Dad is so great, why was she always running away, and why did her mom come, and why did her old friends have names like “Tinsel”?

Madeline and Elliot exchange letters through a “crack”.  They are not each other’s primary relationship, but they comment on each other’s lives in illuminating ways.  As Madeline puts it towards the end of the book:

It’s like we’re complementary colors…You know what those are, right?  Colours that make each other disappear? So, if you cross red with green – or blue with orange, or yellow with purple – you get a pale, pale color, almost white. (Issac called it a “faint, anonymous color.”)  (I’m not talking about paint here – red and green paint don’t cancel each other out, they just make mud-brown).

Interestingly, though, if you put complementary colors next to each other, they make each other shoe much more brightly, (They glow with more than their natural brilliance, is how Leonardo Da Vinci put it).

I wonder what would happen if you and I met?  Would we kill each other off, or make each other glow?  Maybe both.

The people of Cello know about The World, but the people of The World don’t know about Cello.  This creates interesting tension between Madeline and Elliot, since Elliot believes in Madeline but Madeline assumes that Elliot is creating a fantasy.  The truth, of course, is that everyone in the story is creating a fantasy of some kind.  This is a book about perception and assumption and imagination and reality.  Part of the trick of growing up for the characters (and there are many vibrant characters other than Elliot and Madeline) is that they have to release illusion and accept reality, without losing a sense of wonder and imagination.  It’s this tension that gives the book its power, and the moments in which reality shows itself are almost brutal in their emotional impact even thought they are all moments that play out quietly.

This book is the beginning of a series, and frankly I have mixed feelings about that.  I love the book, the characters, and the settings, so a sequel fills me with joy, but it doesn’t need a sequel.  It’s true that there are still mysteries in Cello (some of which seem tacked on at the last minute), but for the most part everyone learned what they needed to learn.  There was resolution.  and the resolution was hard but also healing.  This is a deeply optimistic book.

I read a lot of romance, and I love it, but I think what draws me to romance isn’t so much the focus on romantic love as the focus on relationships leading to growth.  This is not a romance but it had that quality of expressing that relationships are important, whether they are friendly, romantic, familial, or neighborly.  Elliot and Madeline have no romantic feelings for each other but they change each other’s lives in profound ways, and their lives are also affected profoundly by the other people in their lives.

New Joss Whedon film, “In Your Eyes” released online!

Joss whedonStop the presses!  Joss Whedon’s new independent film, In your Eyes, was released today on Vimeo.  This was a surprise release and Whedon fans across the land are no doubt canceling appointments right and left so as to watch this right away – heaven knows I am!

This movie is described as a paranormal romance film.  Two people live on opposite sides of the country, but they are able to sense what the other is feeling.  The film is written by Joss Whedon and directed by Brin Hill.

OK, I gotta go to the movies!  In my PJs!  This is the best job ever.

Gateway Drugs: Fantasy

door opening onto poppiesIt’s been a while since we had an edition of Gateway Drugs over here on Geek Girl In Love.  This is the feature where we talk about what books you would recommend to someone who wants to try out a genre for the first time.  Today’s feature is on Fantasy.  Hop on the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter, and tell us what got you into fantasy, or what you’d recommend to someone who was trying out Fantasy for the very first time.

Here’s my pics for some things to try.  Let’s start with some obvious categories:

The Ultimate Fantasy Classic:  The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Please.  Like I’m not going to suggest Lord of the Rings.  Everyone reads Lord of the Rings.  start with the Hobbit, but be aware that it was written for a younger audience.  Frankly, I prefer the Hobbit.  I enjoy the simplicity of the storytelling.  But for the real stuff, you have to read the trilogy that follows.  By the way, to my complete astonishment, I loved the Peter Jackson film adaptation for LotR, although I was less thrilled by the first Hobbit movie.

It’s For Kids, but not Really:  C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, and J.K. Rowling

This category also applies to The Hobbit.  Some of the most popular fantasy has kids as characters, and is marketed as being for kids, but has themes that attract adults.  The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is of course incredibly important to the genre.  This series has strong Christian undertones which, as a child, bothered me not a whit.  Even as an adult, I’d argue that the only book in the series in which the Christian Allegory becomes obvious and invasive is in the last book in the series, The Last Battle.  I loathe The Last Battle and my ten-year old consultant agrees with me.  But the other books in the series are wonderful.

More recently, Phillip Pullman came out with the series His Dark Materials.  This series, which starts with The Golden Compass, tends to end up on children’s shelves, but I’d argue that it’s much more for teens and adults as the material is both intense in terms of violence and intense in terms of complicated themes.  Phillip Pullman is an atheist and just as Christian allegory shows up  in the Narnia books, there’s a lot of atheist allegory in the His Dark Materials Book – but not enough to be oppressive or mess up the story in a heavy-handed way.

And of course, let us not forget Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling.  J.K. Rowling released about one book a year for seven years, with the expectation that her audience would grow up with the books.  As a result, the first book feels very much like a book for kids age 8-10 but the last book deals with much darker stuff.  Anyone who says “The Harry Potter Books are for kids” clearly hasn’t read Book 7.

Not for Kids, Nope, Not At All:  Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Disclaimer:  I tried to read Game of Thrones.  I really did.  But I had been spoiled so I read the first chapter about Ned Stark’s happy family and became so horribly depressed that I gave it up.  The Game of Thrones phenomenon is huge thanks to the HBO series.  Game of Thrones took epic fantasy and made it gritty, realistic, and political.  Expect lots of violence, lots of sex, and lots of scheming.

OK, that’s the basics.  But what are some less obvious fantasy choices for a newcomer?  Here’s a handful of titles that are marketed for adults and which have attracted a lot of attention both within and without the genre community:

Modern Gems

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

This is a modern fantasy, in which a man, Shadow, becomes involved in the lives of the Gods that people brought to America with them when they emigrated.  The book is famous for its clever and poetical premise, its attachment to the American landscape, and its language, which is beautiful but modern, unlike the ornate language of most high fantasy.

War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull

This is one of my favorite books, ever.  One of the first urban fantasy books, it tells the story of rock musician Edie who becomes involved in the Faerie Wars.  The sense of day-to-day life and the sense of magic and magical creatures are equally vivid.  This book also features one of my favorite romances.  It’s exciting and funny and scary and exhilarating.  You can find my full-length review of this novel at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

Fantasy has a reputation of being by and about white people by Saladin Ahmed removes fantasy from the realm of European mythology and sets his story in a fantastical version of the Middle East.   Great characters, great world-building, great plot.  you can find my full-length review here on Geek girl In Love.

 What got you into fantasy, and what would you suggest to a friend?

LOTR_book_covers

 

 

 

This Week’s Arrow: “The Man Under the Hood”

Arrow Tv show logoHa, you thought you wouldn’t be getting highlights from Geek Girl In Love today!  Here in my time zone, it’s not yet midnight, thus it is still Thursday, so I can truthfully say that I have your highlights on time – sort of.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!!!

The obvious highlight here is that:

SPOILER

Holy Crap, Summer Glau can totally kill you with her brain!  I LOVE batshit ax-crazy Summer Glau!  Granted, it’s sad that all this ax-craziness is because she was jilted by a guy.  It’s also disorienting, because I keep thinking Isabel must have had her “we were soul mates” love affair with Ollie’s Dad when she was…what, eleven?  Honestly.  Still, that moment when Isabel gazed at Slade with those bloody eyes of grinning insanity is one of the finer moments of my life.  I intend to cherish it deep in my heart.

In other news – Laurel is both dark (blackmail, which she delivers in a badass manner but which doesn’t seem like it would actually work) and sweet and mature (love the hug she gives Ollie instead of telling him She Knows).  In a great mark of maturity, partially prompted by a stern chat from her dad, she doesn’t pout that Ollie kept secrets from her.  Classy, Laurel.  Thea, meanwhile, stays defiantly a brat and I love her for it.  Please, please, show, please I’m begging you – make Thea a super villain.  I’m begging, here.

I’m not loving the tech twins.  I’ve no doubt I’ll love them on The Flash, but their presence here feels really forced.  Nor do I kill about this whole, “Let’s kill Ivo” thing.  Yes, kill him, move on, this is dull.

Best Lines:

Felicity:  I don’t think my eyeholes line up properly.  Is anyone else having that problem?

Quentin:  Are you going to your meetings?  Laurel:  Yes, Dad, it’s where I talk about how my father’s facing prison.

Thea:  No, you’re my half-brother.  And you know who else is my half-brother?  Tommy!  My half-brother who I tried to kiss!

Not the greatest Arrow episode we’ve ever had, but this one had some great moments.  Can’t wait for next week!

 

 

Wednesday Video Want A Black Widow Movie!

popcornSo there’s been a lot of chatter online lately about how badly we need a Black Widow movie.  Hollywood seems to be having a hard time grasping this concept, but luckily the folks on youtube are here to help them.  Here’s not one, not two, but THREE Black Widow videos for you (two fan made trailers and one music video).

First up, here’s an origin story.  Look, it’s arty!  This is flawed but fascinating.

OK, maybe you want a love story between Widow and Hawkeye.  We got you covered.

And here’s a short music video, just because I like it.  It’s a little short, but lots of fun.

OK Hollywood, your fans did all the heavy lifting for you.  Now MAKE MY MOVIE!

 

 

History’s Hidden Heroes: Luis E. Miramontes

photo of Luis MiramontesLuis Miramontes (full name: Luis Ernesto Miramontes Cardenas) is the reason, or rather one of the reasons, that women can safely plan their families.  A Mexican chemical engineer, He was the co-creator of one of the most important components of the birth control pill.

Miramontes was born in Mexico in 1925.  When he was still an undergraduate, he was recruited to work with the European scientists  George Rosenkranz and Carl Dejerassi.  He was instrumental in synthesizing norethindrone, an oral protestin.  A progestin is a compound that mimics the behavior of progesterone, which suppresses ovulation.  Norethindrone was the first highly active progestins that was synthesized that could be taken orally.  It was used in the first three version of birth control pills although its use is less common today.

Miramontes’ contributions highlight the collaborative nature of the scientific process.  The common image of an inventor is of a loner like Edison or Tesla, who has a brilliant idea and invents a thing single-handedly.  But many inventions are the work of many.  The invention of the birth control pill included the molecule synthesized by Miramontes, without which an effective oral birth control pill would not have been possible.  Other scientists before and after Miramontes’ invention were also vital in the project.  The birth control pill has been frequently ranked among the most important inventions of all time, and Miramontes as one of the most influential chemists of all time.

You can find more about Luis Miramontes Cardenas at his website.