The Audience

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Rating:★★★★★

When I heard the news that Helen Mirren would be replaying the role of Queen Elizabeth II for this magnificent play called The Audience, I about lost my sh@%t when I realized that I would never get to see this magnificent performance on the big stage because I do not live in London or NYC. Luckily I was able to procure this fascinating play into my life and for months it remained untouched on my bookshelf until now. Every summer I get excited for the infamous BookTubeAThon which is a week-long marathon where you try to accomplish several reading challenges while basking in the fun of reading. I figured for this challenge I needed a book that was short and sweet and this fit the challenge. It helps that I’ve been marathoning the BBC version of House of Cards which surprisingly taught me how Parliament works and the role of Prime Minister.

Queen Elizabeth has been the longest reigning monarch in UK history and holds the record for having the most Prime Ministers during her reign (13 PMs as of 2017) which is shocking considering she has experienced all the ups and downs of the last half of the 20th century. So much has changed since she ascended the throne in 1952 and yet one tradition that remains the same is her weekly meetings with the Prime Minister. There is no written law in the constitution that enforces these two separate heads of government to meet and yet this tradition is hold sacred in British culture. These meetings all started during World War II under the reign of her father, King George VI with Winston Churchill and after the war was over it became a weekly routine that neither party wanted to stop.

Once her father passed away, Churchill became Elizabeth’s first Prime Minister who essentially taught her the rules of what these meetings dictate and as time passes we see how it has adapted and taken form under each new Prime Minister. These meetings are held privately without any written record of what has taken place which is understandable but imagine if we the public had the opportunity to know what exactly went behind closed doors between these two individuals and that is where the magic of Peter Morgan comes in.

If you do not know who is Peter Morgan, he is the creator of Netflix’s The Crown and wrote the screenplay for The Queen so it comes as no surprise that Peter Morgan has the gifted insight of tapping into the minds of the Royal Family. I believe he is perfect for writing this play because he pays major respect to both the Queen and the Prime Minister yet shedding light to the reality of what was taking place during each Prime Minister time in office. What I enjoyed the most about this play was Peter Morgan didn’t follow the dialogue in a linear format so there is a bit of suspense as to what particular Prime Minister is going to show up on stage.

At the end of the day the Queen will always guarantee her support for the Prime Minister and that is a difficult task to uphold because naturally we tend to have preferences when it comes to our leaders and over the course of decades there has been leaks about who were her favorites and which one she despised so Peter Morgan used that information to his advantage and while the conversations held in this play is fictional, Morgan has the natural gift of making it sound believable and it feels as though you the audience are these private meetings with the Queen.

I love anything that has deals with Royalty so naturally I am biased and I need to warn anyone who wants to read this play, if you have no clue about British history, Parliament, and the Prime Minister then I suggest you either pick something else to read or crack open a book and learn the gist of British culture because otherwise it will leave you completely confused. Remember this is a play not a novel so the author does not have time to supply enough information about the importance of each and every meeting that takes place in this story and the controversy that naturally surrounds the Prime Minister. If you have no qualms about it then I believe you will encounter a refreshing and beautiful take on Queen Elizabeth II and her relationship to the Prime Minister.

BookTubeAThon 2017 Challenge #3 : Finish a book in one day.

IT

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Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I would read a novel thats over 1,000 pages long I would have laugh at your face and say when pigs can fly. Apparently pigs can do that because I came, I saw, and I conquered this monstrosity of a novel. I tried reading IT a year ago and failed epically because I couldn’t give 100% of my attention to the novel and its definitely a book that you have to be reading constantly or you will give up after 200 pages. I didn’t have a physically copy of the book which does not help at all and luckily this time around I got a used paperback edition along with my hardcover edition to keep me company.

What propelled me to finish this novel was the film adaptation. I remember when I was about 8 or 9 years old, my friend had a VHS copy (did I just dated myself?) of the IT miniseries with Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown and I was fortunate enough to watch it and it was not scary. That means a lot considering as a kid I hated clowns, I didn’t have an issue of seeing them far away like in a circus setting but if one got near me I would go into panic mood. When it comes to film and television, if you want to scare the living daylights out of me you have to visually present the acts of horror and violence on screen and I felt that the miniseries didn’t live up to the book especially the amount of crazy sh@#t that happens in Derry. I know the film will be nothing compare to the book and I curious what the writers and director will do to scare a whole new generation (plus its rated R so thats a bit more hopeful).

I entered this novel thinking it was pure horror and in all earnestness its a beautiful coming-of-age story. The novel deals with a group of kids (7 to be exact) who are trying to find a way to destroy a terrorizing clown who is wreaking havoc and murdering children across the map. At first you believe they have succeeded in that mission and made a sacred vow that if the clown every shows up, they will reunite and fight it once and for all. Guess what? 27 years later the clown surfaces again and starts killing everyone left and right so we get to meet our beloved characters again as adults. Stephen King with his masterful skills as a writer was able to simultaneously blend the narrative between the past and present without interrupting the flow of the story. It feels at times that we are experiencing these characters memories as if it were our own.

What I love about this novel is King makes major investments on these characters, providing background information and letting these friendships blossom naturally which is difficult if you think about it. Derry itself is a character and theres hundreds of pages that provide enough information about what is Derry and how these tragedies keep happening in every century. Overall I am relieved to finish this novel but theres a tinge of sadness that is lurking underneath the surface as I say goodbye to these lovable characters.

I wanted this novel to be 5 stars and for the most part it was going through that route until I reached the half-way mark. My biggest complaint about this novel is that it is TOO long. I understand King wants to create this whole universe and I have no quarrels about it but he could have eliminated easily 200 pages that weren’t needed. The other issue is there is too many children. I can see how each one was useful in the end but there could have been 5 instead of 7 children and the audience wouldn’t tell the difference.

Another reason why I am avoiding telling you much about the plot is because I highly recommend going into this novel without a clue because the littlest details you find out about the Loser’s club or Pennywise could cost you a few hundred pages of boredom. As I was reading the novel I started remembering certain revelations from the miniseries which made me want to slit my wrists (is it too soon?) later on waiting for about 150 pages before I learn new information. My favorite characters were Bill, Ben, and Mike whereas I could not stand Beverly for the life of me. Every time I came across her story I could careless what happens to her and even when she was an adult I was ready for her to get killed by Pennywise. That infamous scene that happens towards the end, I understand why people are grossed out by it and trust me its a bit uncomfortable but I can see Stephen King’s perspective that he needed to find a connection that closes the bridge between child and adult.

Even though the kids are 11 years old, I pictured them to be about 13-14 years old and I believe I am not alone it this struggle. If IT was written in 2017, I honestly believe King would have made them older and he would have the necessary template to write these characters in middle school setting. Plus the passage between children to adults would be more accepting and realistic than how it is written. Besides Henry Bowers, I got a major vibe that Eddie is gay. I believe without his mother haunting him and the AIDS epidemic, he would have realized that he’s into men especially how he always makes these references about Bill and how he “admires” him. So I wasn’t shocked the way his storyline played out and I would have loved to see a leading gay character in a Stephen King novel.

This was a solid 4 star novel by the time I reached the end but after the 1,000 page mark I was shocked how the plot line kept getting better and Stephen King was able to wrap up this story perfectly. Every time I wanted to put down the novel Stephen King found something new and interesting to bring to the table and it left me wondering how is this epic fantasy story was going to end. I was thoroughly amused and it is a bit heartbreaking to say goodbye to these characters. After reading this book I was expecting a sequel in the works and see King revisit these characters after all these years and its sad to say that you only get to meet a few of them again in 11/22/63 . I love Stephen King and in the short amount of time I’ve been a fan of his work I can properly say that this could be my top 5 favorite King novel. For now I say goodbye to Bill, Ben, Mike, Beverly, Eddie, and even Stan and the day that I forget about you and your story I will revisit Derry again so until then I will hold you all deeply in my heart and memory. Don’t forget…

“We all float down here, you’ll float, too.

Troll Bridge

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Rating: ★★★★

When it comes to Neil Gaiman, I believe the author is fantastic at tapping into the supernatural realm of literature and creating his own universe. One of my all-time favorite novels is The Graveyard Book written by this genius and yet I felt meh about this story. The illustrations were okay, the tone of the story was melancholy with a mix of fatigue and in the end I felt indifferent about the graphic novel when it was all over. I do believe if I am not mistaken that Gaiman adapted a classic typical troll story and gave the Gaiman makeover.

The story deals with a boy named Jack as he wonders through the countryside of England until one day he stumbles into a bridge and meets a troll. The troll tells him that he wants to kill him and Jack makes a compromise that because he is a child, he has not experience the world and all the other stuff that one must experience in their life. The troll agrees to wait and be patient and we see how time progresses and how Jack’s life turns out. Overall the whole scenario was a bit too predictable for me except for the ending which I was not expecting.

I believe part of the issue with this story is Jack is not a likable character and even the troll knows that Jack is not completely innocent. As we watch Jack grow up from a child to a middle-age man we see that Jack carries the burden of the world on his shoulders yet at the same time could careless about his wife and kids. The sense of indifference permeates the pages and by the end of it I was praying that the Troll take him away. Its quite possible that Jack’s life would have been better off if he had given in to the troll from the beginning.

One theme that Neil Gaiman touched upon in this story that was extremely relatable is how our environment is constantly changing and yet we are stuck between who we were, who we are, and who we want to be. I live in a city where there is no history in our architecture compare to Europe and its because we do not like to see old relics. We tear them down expecting that the replacement will be better and that is not always the case. Living in the countryside for Jack was beautiful and over a period of several decades we see how this beautiful world full of nature gets teared down by humans and soon enough all the land is ripped apart to create this dull suburban life.

The atmosphere of this story is extremely dark and gloomy and in many ways Gaiman wants you to feel sympathetic to Jack and Colleen Doran is creative at using colors to match those undertones through the narrative. Overall this graphic novel leans towards 3.5 but I love Gaiman so I’ll give him that extra half point to sum up everything.

Star Wars, Omnibus: Vol. 2

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Rating: ★★★★

This could have been a perfect 5 Stars graphic novel if it weren’t for one major f@*ked up moment that ruin it for me in terms of introducing characters and transition to the next major story arc. I will definitely get into details later in my review but I was furious after finishing this volume that I had to dock it a full star! This omnibus starts right after where Vader Down with our gang kidnapping Doctor Aphra. They make the connection that she is close to Vader and they believe that with enough pressure they can make her crack and spill the beans but Doctor Aphra is smarter and weighs her options when it comes to helping them or feel the wrath of Vader and possible death. Princess Leia puts her into a secret prison thinking that everything will be fine and dandy except a squad of what look like rogue storm troopers break in and seek control of the prison. The leader of the group somehow personally knows Princess Leia and wants to teach her a lesson on the tactics of war and what she must do in order for her to destroy the Empire. Since Doctor Aphra is technically a prisoner that means she is a target and together with Leia, they must work together in order to succeed and put an end to this terror.

What is interesting about that segment is even though the leader of this squads ideologies and methods are a bit horrific when it comes to the human rights department but in the end he is able to become tough, strong, and eliminate any room of error and even though I believe if Leia had followed this storm troopers beliefs, the Empire would still succeed at the end of the day leading up to Force Awakens but I believe Leia would still have a stronger foothold in the galaxy instead of being a fragment of who she used to be when we see her in Episode VII

The last half of the volume is chaos and nonsense spread around. It deals with stealing a Star Destroyer, helping some rebel allies who are suffering a planet blockade by the Imperials, and some familiar faces that are forgettable. It has only been a few days since I have finished this omnibus and yet it took me a moment to remember what was the ending of this volume. What ruin the flow of the whole story was the transition between what is considered Vol. 3 & Vol. 4 in the TPB edition. The 4th volume begins with a bunch of unrecognizable characters who would later become the villains of the story but for the longest time I had no clue who these people were and they are instantly thrown into a major gun fight and boom we meet Leia and the rest of the gang on a Star Destroyer.

I was a bit disappointed in Jason Aaron because for the first 20 issues of Star Wars have been perfect without any flaws and then this story felt like the creators had no clue what to do with the storyline and created this nonsense. I believe what comes next is a major Yoda story that takes place before Episode I which is exciting to hear because I worship Yoda and always want more information about this iconic character. I remember George Lucas mentioning that Yoda is essentially God and there is no backstory about him which I partially agree but in the end it would be cool to see him young, extremely powerful, and dealing with the Sith when he thought they were completely wiped out. Hopefully Jason Aaron seeks redemption and when the next Omnibus comes out he will get back to what makes this series spectacular.

Darth Vader, Omnibus: Vol. 2

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Rating: ★★★★★

Originally I was sad to say goodbye to this series but now that I have been able to distance myself I can understand why and I believe in the future there is major potential to create a show, film, or a book dealing with a whole other adventure with Vader as he progresses to the events of Episode V: Empire Strikes Back. This graphic novel begins with the first major Star Warscrossover called Vader Down One reason why I suggest that everyone should check out the Star Wars comic by Jason Aaron is if you do not read it then you will have no clue what the hell is going on and why Vader is destroying everything in his sight. From the aftermath of the first volume, Vader has made the connection that Luke Skywalker is his biological son and everything that the Emperor has told him is one big fat lie meaning the Emperor cannot be trusted (Gee what a shocker on that one! 😛 ). Vader in his anger state makes the connection if he is able to find Skywalker, he can train him to become his apprentice and together they can overthrow the Empire and destroy the rebels once and for all.

Doctor Aphra who has become his mini assistant finds the details of Skywalker’s location in Vrogas Vas. Unfortunately Vader finds out that yes the information is accurate but the planet is completely bombarded by rebels and quickly it becomes World War III up in here. Every rebel ship is off to races to destroy Vader but they haven’t made the connection that Vader and his use of the force makes him quite unbeatable until Luke comes into battle and crashes his ship with Vader. Both of them land on Vrogas Vas and now the pursuit is on for Vader and Luke. Luke came to Vrogas Vas because he found information about a Jedi Temple and he found it when he crashed landed into the planet but Kenobi through his ghost witchcraft told him its too soon to be here which makes no sense because if Luke cannot get the information he needs he is basically screwed since I have a hunch that Vader will destroy any last remnants of the Jedi Order.

Besides that ordeal the other plot sequence of the narrative deals with Vader and the Emperor’s apprentices. In the Sith Order, only two people (master and his apprentice) can gear control of the Sith. After his failure of the Death Star, Vader is the sole survivor of the incident and the Emperor wants him to sweat for wasting 20 years of building the Death Star only for it to crash and burn 3 seconds after completion. The Emperor has hired this scientist named Cylo who has created abominations of force users. By using robotics and other technological advances, he has created human cyborgs programmed to be the best lightsaber users but lacking the skills of the force. Vader is outraged by it all because they are no match for him and seeks every opportunity to kill each one separately.

Cylo believes he’s major hot sh@t and can manipulate both Vader and Palpatine but he makes the grand mistake of how powerful Vader truly is under that suit and it leads to a major war between the two which concludes the whole series. I do not want to give anymore information because it spoils the whole comic book experience and trust me I am only touching the tip of the surface. This omnibus is massive and by the time you reach the end it feels like I’ve just sat through 3 separate Star Wars films. The continuous motion of drama and war that engulfs this omnibus makes it incredible how all of this happened in a span of two years before Empire Strikes Back.

The illustrations are phenomenal and consistent throughout this epic saga and I have to congrats Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, and Edgar Delgado for their contribution to this series and making it feel like I was watching a movie instead of reading a graphic novel. I believe throughout this series there was definitely room for improvement and parts that could have ended quickly or eliminated all together like Doctor Aphra. I have no issues of introducing a major new character who clearly is getting her own spin-off but for her to take away a good 40% of the drama made the flow of the story feel awkward at times. I kid you not there was certain moments where I thought to myself, is this a Vader comic or Doctor Aphra? Overall this is not the end for our characters because I have no double Vader will make another appearance in Star Wars and Doctor Aphra after the events that took place between these two lovable characters.

Darth Vader, Omnibus: Vol. 1

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Rating: ★★★★★

This is my first omnibus I have ever read and own in my life and it is hard to conceptualized two volumes worth of plot and dialogue to be contain in a single review so I will try my best to provide enough details to satisfy those who are curious about the Star Wars comics and the expanded universe. I am grateful that the day that I wanted to start on the Expanded Universe, Disney announced that everything that has been published up to now will no longer be canon. I have no doubts there are plenty of comics and novels that are phenomenal and I will definitely check it out but when it comes to the comics I believe it is necessary for a restart button.

Darth Vader has always been one of my favorite villains as a child because of the iconic voice, suit, and the sheer fact that there is a level of mystery to his character. If you are one of the few who live on a rock and have never seen the prequels, theres not much information about Vader except he used to be good, became evil, is Luke and Leia’s biological father, and seeks redemption in Return of the Jedi. And if you have seen the Prequels, Clone Wars, and Rebels, you learn about the man who became Darth Vader but I guarantee you there are plenty of questions that have left audience wondering who is Darth Vader and what are the conflicting thoughts that surface on a daily basis as he deals with the pain of the past and succumbing to the dark side. What I love about this series is it takes place between Episode IV & V and we learn the struggles that Vader faces with the destruction of the Death Star and how that effects his relationship with Palpatine.

Kieron Gillen was able to get into the mindset of the character because there are countless moments where the dialogue sucked me into the story and made it feel like I was watching a Darth Vader animated show and having James Earl Jones voice pumping in my ear in full blast instead of reading a graphic novel.

The general plot for this series is Darth Vader is trying to track down Luke Skywalker because he cannot conceive that a boy was able to destroy the Death Star and crippling the Empire. He knows the force is strong in Luke but he cannot place his finger as to why or how it is possible. Meanwhile he learns that Palpatine is doing some shady business and refuses to tell Vader about it so now he has to jump through hoops and ladders to make the secret connection without causing suspicion from the Emperor. I have always been curious about Vader’s relationship with Palpatine because if you really think about it Vader at his greatest could have killed Palpatine without batting an eye and yet he obeys and worships Palpatine as Master. If you really think about it, Vader is an excellent chess player calculating his opponents move and how to strike them at the proper time. By the end of this graphic novel series I have a certain feeling that Vader will be on the course of trying to overthrow his master with the help of his son which changes the tones of the films if you think about it.

In order for Vader to maintain his cover and his clandestine missions, he finds a girl called Doctor Aphra who is an archaeologist and techno wizard who is able to create droids and other mechanical objects into lethal weapons. At first she pledges allegiance to no one except those who are willing to commission her services but she is a fond admirer of Vader and feels a great honor to work under his wing. Somehow Aphra is able to connect with Vader and probably is the only woman who has spent countless hours in his presence in decades without getting killed after every mission she accomplishes for Vader.

The only downside about Aphra is the creators of this comic focused on her for 70% of time during the last half of the book. At a certain point I felt is this a Vader series or Doctor Aphra? Which I am not shocked at all now that she is getting her own comic book series! There is a revelation in the Star Wars comics about Aphra that could suggest that Vader may have picked up those undertones and learn that she would never stray from him.

This is my 3rd reading of this graphic novel series and it still holds up. I do not have patience for waiting on the next issue of a comic book so I would download all the comics that would be packaged in a TPB and then read it on my tablet but then I’ve learned that I forget all about the plot by the time the next issue comes out so I have learned that it is easier to wait for the Omnibus so that way all the intricate details can be gathered together in a concise manner and I can retain a better knowledge about what is happening in the Expanding Universe.

I cannot rave enough about this graphic novel series! I suggest if you fall in love with Vader you should check out Jason Aaron’s Star Wars series because they are connected in the same timeline and have a major crossover that is unforgettable called Vader Down. It is sad to see that Kieron Gillen ended Darth Vader after issue #25 but I believe it is better to end a series on a high note than drag out a certain storyline that leaves no room for growth later on in life.

One issue I believe these creators tackle on creatively is how do you write a comic series dealing with characters where the vast majority of the audience know the ultimate fate for the characters especially for Vader. Regardless of the situation that Vader is placed in, he will either escape or succeed because he does not die until Episode VI: Return of the Jedi so with that knowledge certain events can feel boring or dull and yet I am completely captivated by everything from the illustrations, coloring, to the plot and how Kieron Gillen is able to get into the mind of Vader.

Star Wars, Omnibus: Vol. 1

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Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve read this series multiple times and somehow I never can get enough of it. Between the illustrations, storyline, and how Jason Aaron is able to get the accurate depictions of our classic rebels is remarkable and enjoyable. Whenever I am reading the scenes between Han Solo and Princess Leia it feels like I am watching Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher on screen and the annoying voice of Luke in the background. By far this is my favorite Star Wars comic series out of the entire franchise in terms of storyline and the behind-the-scenes revelations about our beloved characters. Star Wars takes place between Episode IV: A New Hope & Episode V: Empire Strikes Back.

The rebel alliance is celebrating their victory over destroying the Death Star but that cause of celebration is put on hold as the rebels are trying to secure a new secret rebel base to avoid detection from the Empire and to strengthen their cause. Luke, Leia, Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are tackling on a new mission into a weapons factory on Cymoon 1. The task is to destroy the factory and everything goes according to plan until Vader shows up and wreaks havoc. Luckily for our main characters, they succeed in destroying the factory and staying alive.

Sadly for Luke dealing with Vader again triggered his anger of seeing Obi-Wan Kenobi getting “killed” and wants to seek revenge. Luke is lost in terms of dealing with his destiny because technically he is not a Jedi because he lacks the proper training and yet he is the hero that everyone looks up to and has to carry the torch of the rebellion on his shoulders so the pressure of having people sacrifice their life for him makes it a bit unbearable for him now that he does not have his master to train him. Luke temporary discharges himself from his solo missions and decides to tap into the force and see where it guides him.

What I love about this series is we get a bit of insight into Kenobi and Luke during his years in Tatooine. Luke finds Kenobi’s diary and gets to read tales of how Kenobi had to learn how to protect Luke from evil forces and yet act clever about not revealing to the world that he is a Jedi. No lightsaber, no communication of the outside world, and practically eat sand all day. It must have been difficult dealing with the guilt and pain of losing Anakin and having to place all his faith in Luke for the hope that one day he can eliminate the Empire once and for all.

Another major moment that Disney showcased a major divide from George Lucas theories is the lightsaber. When the original Star Wars came out, Lucas hadn’t fully conceived the idea of who can possess the lightsaber and later on decided that only force wielders could hold one. If a human or non-force wielder got hold of one it either wouldn’t work or potentially kill them. So it was weird for a moment to see characters like Han Solo and Chewbacca holding a lightsaber like a piece of cake and kind of giving the middle finger to George Lucas. Plus the whole last half of the volume felt like we were back in Episode II: Attack of the Clones which is my least favorite Star Wars film. I’m glad they didn’t follow the same formula but its still too soon for me to see that awful film again.