Monday, February 22, 2016

The Lizy Reviews: Atlantia by Allie Condie

“Sometimes you can’t speak, not because others won’t let you, but because you are afraid of what you’ll say.  You can’t trust your voice.  You can’t trust yourself.  You stay silent and contained for your own protection.”


Ever since reading the Matched trilogy a year and a half ago I have been anxious to read Atlantia, a stand-alone novel by the same author, Allie Condie. I am not a huge fan of dystopian books. However, I liked Matched because it was partly an ekphrasis on certain pieces of art and poetry and a powerful essay about free will. Atlantia is not an ekphrasis but uses the story elements to make its own profound statements about identity and sacrifice.

Twin Sisters Bay and Rio live in a dystopian world split between the Above and the underwater city of Atlantia. When Bay chooses to go above, Rio becomes desperate to find her own way to follow her and end their separation. Atlantia itself is a city of interesting divisions, between the common people and the priestly caste, between the magnificent temple and the shady deepmarket with its illegal races and gambling.  It is to the latter that Rio is drawn to see if she can earn enough money to buy her own air tank. Her allies include True, a deepmarket craftsman, and Maire, her mysterious aunt. In order to get what she wants, Rio must confront her abilities as a siren, an individual with a voice that can exert control over other people. 

While still dystopian with sci-fi elements, the sirens and their abilities are part of a unique magic system that Condie touches on in the novel and that make the work more intriguing. This dystopia also has a polytheistic religion with gods that take different shapes Above and Below.  Of course, the characters come to question this part of their society but they don’t blatantly set out to change this aspect or anything else.  There are similar aspects in this dystopia to the one in the Matched trilogy, but for the most part it is very different and Condie doesn't dwell on these aspects. Atlantia is also a little bit more action-packed than the Matched books.

A sketch I made of one of the book's most interesting motifs
Most of the characters are either flat or have subtle complexity, with the notable exception being Maire. Like the heroine, we are always second-guessing Maire’s motives, and in spite of our better judgment we are curious about her. The romantic relationship with True takes a backseat to the central storyline rather than being the focus, as was the case in the Matched books.  A bit of a spoiler here, Rio does reunite with Bay eventually, but by the time this happens Rio seems to have come into her own individual identity.  Bay also proves to be an interesting heroine in her own right. (Maybe if there was a sequel in the works it could be from Bay's perspective? Just a thought. I'm not sure how this story could go further.) 

Allie Condie doesn’t focus on the dismantling of governments in her work period.  In Atlantia, the story is not about the revolution but the individual trying to escape the system and find resolution within it, which makes it a refreshing read. Atlantia is a stunning work of art.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cosplay Adventures: Bossy Female Characters

One of my New Year's resolutions was to step up my cosplay game.  So far I am keeping it.

Last week was my first charity event as part of an organization here in northern Utah. It was a suicide prevention event at a junior high in Bountiful.  I went as Princess Leia, and let me tell you my buns were ON POINT.  Nothing is more satisfying in a Princess Leia cosplay than getting the hair down.  

The Ensemble. Ashlee Williams

I was on my way back to Provo from spending a weekend at Grandma's and my aunt dropped me off early at the school.  I was the first person there from Kid's Heroes.  I was later joined by Ant-Man, Elastigirl, Superman and Supergirl, Elsa and Anna, Black Widow, Tony Stark, Captain America and Spider-Man.   The Star Wars fandom was also very well represented.  We had Kylo Ren, Rey, and a TIE fighter pilot.  

I learn something about the character every time I cosplay.  I like to smile for photos.  Princess Leia isn't actually that much of a smiler: she just looks intimidating. So I stopped smiling and started making a serious, sassy face. And it worked.

Davis School District
Being Princess Leia, I couldn't help having a little bit of fun with Kylo Ren (because, spoilers, I'm his momma). My first words to him were, "Well, if it isn't my wayward son." I enjoy cosplay the most when I can be in character and interact with other characters. At one point I was walking behind him in the hallway and I helped him pulled his hood up over his helmet.  And then I said, "I don't support your life choices, but I'm still your mother."  Elastigirl even offered to let me babysit Jack-Jack, considering that I can handle whatever Kylo Ren can throw at me.

I had a lot of fun with Rey, however.  We'd pose for photos back-to-back.  When we got up on stage for the group photo, I told her, "Yes, we Skywalker ladies are short.  It's the family curse."  I also teased her about her coarse manners from growing up on Jakku.

Afterwards, a handful of us went out for tacos. It was a great opportunity to meet more of the Kid's Heroes team.  If I do more events north of Salt Lake (which, considering my grandparents live there, it will happen) I look forward to working with them in the future. 

Last Friday, I went to a cosplay karaoke night, held in a bar in the suburbs of Salt Lake.  Let me tell you, I have never been to a bar and I have never been to real karaoke with alcohol before.  If I had not gone with a very dear friend of mine I doubt I would have gone at all, much less have been comfortable going.  The raunchy stuff stayed at a minimum until a while after the cosplay contest. My only regret is that we didn't leave sooner.  

That being said, it was still a good experience and fun while it lasted.  I went as Agent Carter from Captain America.  I did get up and sing "Ellsworth" by Rascal Flatts but it wasn't my best performance.  We were also treated to the Hulk singing "It's Not That Easy Being Green" and the Guardians of the Galaxy singing "Hooked on a Feeling".  Also, Thanos sang "Bad to the Bone" and we got Gamora and Nebula to go up with him.  It was great.

Photographer Mark Loertscher was there to photograph the cosplay contest.  He captured one of the best photos of me as Agent Carter ever taken. Seriously, I wanted to cry when I saw it on Facebook the next day.

Mark Loertscher

The main drawback is the baggy eyes.  Spider-Man Noir very smoothly passed me the fake gun right when I got to the front. My lipstick was gone but my hair was still somewhat intact. I nailed the pose.  It was epic.

It was really hard for me to stay in character and keep up the British accent because I was in the middle of a sinus infection breaking up. One of my favorite moments, though, was with a Winter Soldier cosplayer right after the costume contest.  He'd gotten a hold of Gamora's Orb and I told him to give it to me.  He hid it behind his back, naturally. I wish I could recall the dialogue perfectly but it went something like this:

"I don't have anything," Bucky said.

"Yes you do, now give it here," said Peggy.  

"Why should I give it to you?"

"Because Steve would never forgive me if anything bad happened to you."

He gave it back. That was way too much fun.  I guess I like being the bossy female character. If you want to have a good cosplay experience, just wait for the right moment.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Milo and Kida: An Obscure Disney Couple that Stole my Heart

Valentine’s Day is coming up so I feel inspired to talk about fictional love stories and couples, or rather express my love for them.  I’d like to focus this post specifically on my Disney OTP, Milo Thatch and Princess Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Why that pairing specifically?  Because they’re the most adorable Disney couple ever and they don’t get half the credit the deserve.

Now just to be fair, this is a spoiler-heavy post, so if you haven’t seen Atlantis, go watch it.  It’s a great movie.  And this is also a proper fangirl post where I wax eloquent about what I love, so bear with me.

True, Atlantis is not a musical and it’s not the most visually pleasing film.  But liking a not-official Disney Prince/Princess/King/Queen pairing/whatever has its perks. You don’t have to see them in your fruit snacks and other merchandise. As a fan, you’re a little more free to tell your own story if you don’t have someone else’s version constantly shoved in your face. You’re just more appreciative of their qualities. And of course, Atlantis came out right after I finished third grade.  There’s a lot of nostalgia tied to it for me. For the most part, I got what I was looking for in the previews.  I got action, I got some weird magic, I got humor...I wasn’t expecting a love story.

Shipping for me isn’t so much about the pairing but what the couple does together--in other words, it’s their story.

my edit
I am usually more of a fan of female characters, yet Milo is like one of those male characters I have always related to so much. I was fond of Milo in third/fourth grade because, like him, I was also a social outcast. Many Disney characters are social outcasts to some degree, true, and many of them, like Milo, are dreamers.  But Milo is different because he’s a nerd: he cares about a topic that nobody else does.

Down in Atlantis, Kida is in a similar situation.  I don’t know how well she gets along with the other Atlanteans but her dad kind of looks down on her for being a free thinker.  Her dream is to improve the quality of life for her people and restore Atlantis to its former glory.

via atlantean-gibberish-tumblr
So along comes Milo.  He’s an outsider who happens to have studied the history and culture of Atlantis. And he can read the language. She volunteers him into her cause--after he’s been volunteered to talk to her on behalf of the other explorers. And he quickly realizes that she’s in the best place for helping him learn more about his favorite subject, and by working together they can fill in the blanks.  Atlantis is a fairytale for nerds. Nerd boy meets nerd girl.  They both save the day and live happily ever after ruling the kingdom.

Milo and Kida are a one-in-a-million couple.  Kida has been trapped below in Atlantis for several thousand years. And Milo has had no luck with the ladies in his own world.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire:
Via Pinterest.  Clearly age is not an issue for Kida
Granted, they’re only together and getting to know each other for like a third of the movie.  But other Disney couples have fallen in love in less time, and in fact, their relationship, based on their mutual interest in Atlantis, is a lot more believable.  The first time they meet in the caves outside the city is magical in more ways than one.  

atlantis the lost empire - atlantis-the-lost-empire Photo
Via Giphy
Look at how she smiles at him! Tell me how that isn’t Disney-style love at first sight?

Then when they’re at the entrance to the city and Milo gets to practice his Atlantean language skills for the first time. He quickly figures out that she can speak other languages, too.  So he switches to Latin and then French--and French, as we know, is the language of love.  

Via jigokhuna tumblr. Parlez-vous frances?
Kida immediately latches onto Milo because she knows he can help her out.  When they’re alone together later on, however, they have great chemistry.  She is so curious about him and his world and she likes showing him around hers. He thinks she’s funny but he respects her desire to learn.

Via Giphy
"How's my accent?"
"Boorish, provincial, and you speak it through your nose."

Then Kida bonds with the Crystal.  It looks like Milo’s chances are shot, but then there’s something else going on.  Right when the Crystal is about to take up Kida she tells Milo to not be afraid.  As vague and creepy as that was, even when partly bonded with the Crystal Kida is responding to him.
via Fanpop

Then after the city is saved, the Crystal releases Kida and drops her into Milo’s waiting arms. Of course it made sense for the Crystal to not keep her bonded forever because she’s the last living member of the royal family. But the king also said that the Crystal “thrives on the collective consciousness” of the people.  So not only does it respond to the needs of Atlantis as a society but the feelings of the individual hosts.  The Crystal knew that Kida had feelings for Milo, so it let her go so they could be together. Trippy, but in the context of a Disney romance it makes perfect sense.

via Fanpop

When Kida sees Milo after she wakes up, she jumps up and HUGS him because she’s so happy to see him.  I think if she didn’t know she had feelings for him before she knew it when she came back. And when they got back, they go to look over the city with the rest of the cast...and they’re holding hands.  *SQUEEEEEE!*
Milo x Kida Deviantart

They saved Atlantis...together. <3 #OTP

“At least he’s in a better place now,” Mr. Whitmore says as he reviews the story for the press while looking at a very romantic picture of Milo and Kida.  Aside note, there was one time when a roommate of mine was talking about her brother’s wedding but she kept referring to it accidentally as his funeral.  Well, if being married to someone you love is being in a better place, then Milo is definitely in heaven.

self-generated meme
I love that closing scene in the movie because it shows how both Milo and Kida’s dreams have come true.  Milo is not only the gibberish expert but the gibberish king, and Kida has gotten Atlantis back to where it's supposed to be, Crystal and all.  But just the way Milo looks tenderly at Kida when she goes to send up her father’s stone go up to join the other past kings.  He knows how much that means to her.  Then Milo is mesmerized watching it go up and he kind of has a giddy look on his face as she drags him away to their special spot for a better look. 

A half second later she grabs him :):
Via Pinterset.  Most adorable king and queen award goes to...

I’m pretty sure as soon as the camera pans away far enough they’re kissing.  

For the record, I did see the spinoff film Atlantis: Milo’s Return.  It was okay.  I liked the humor and also getting to see Milo and Kida being cute together. But the original film was a good enough ending for me.  I’m more about Atlantis still being down there somewhere, Milo and Kida living forever and having cute kids, maybe Milo freaking out about how much society on the surface has changed but at least for now not touched by the craziness and still very happily in love.  And no other Disney couple to this day has given me the same satisfaction.

my edit

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Lizy Reviews: Thursdays With the Crown by Jessica Day George

You're probably wondering why I'm reviewing Thursdays with the Crown if Fridays with the Wizards just came out. The honest explanation is (a) I was waiting for the paperback of Thursdays with the Crown to come out and I waited too long (b) so I finally went to the library and checked out a copy (c) I'm not on top of the book news, so I need to get on it, but (d) rest assured Fridays is going on the hold list when it hits the library. But I just read Thursdays, so that's what we're reviewing. 

Via Goodreads
Something you should know about me: I love griffins much, much better than dragons. So I tweeted Jessica Day George after reading Wednesdays in the Tower that the book was “a griffin lover’s griffin fest.”  She told me when I ran into her at Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 that the sequel would be just the same.  She wasn’t kidding.

Also, my hand slipped:
Lord Griffin, by me.

Happy Griffin Family!

Personally, I wish I had re-read Wednesdays before I finally got my hands on a copy of Thursdays with the Crown, since a lot of the discussion between characters about what happened in the previous book.  Thursdays opens up with Celie, her griffin Rufus, her siblings Rolf and Lilah, and their friends Pogue and Prince Lulath, transported to the world where, supposedly, the Castle and the griffins originated, as well as the mess that led to the situation they currently find themselves in.  In short, the griffins are the best part.  I love how the author describes the griffins’ behavior with each other and around the humans.  

Also, this cover art looks sick.  Via Pinterest
Thursdays is the darkest and most action-packed book in the Castle Glower series thus far.  In fact, while written to a younger audience the entire series deals with some fairly serious material. With the number of characters in play it can be a little hard to keep track of where everyone is and what they’re doing. We do uncover a few things about the magic behind the castle. Not everything is spoiled or explained away, but even Celie, who loves the Castle and everything about it, starts to question what it’s really been up to all these years. These questions aren’t resolved, but the ending resolves pretty much everything else and sets up some possible adventures in the next book. Considering the bombshells dropped in Wednesdays and Thursdays, it could be something big.  And I get a feeling we’re not done with the Glorious Arkower or whatever it actually is yet. Book four, Fridays with the Wizards, just came out so stay tuned.