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1. William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back (2014)

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back. (William Shakespeare's Star Wars #2) Ian Doescher. 2014. 176 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed reading William Shakespeare's Star Wars, Verily A New Hope. It was fun seeing the original movie as a Shakespeare play. I liked seeing the dialogue transformed. I liked finding my favorite lines. It was just a fun treat.

Though I definitely enjoy The Empire Strikes Back as a movie, I can't say that this adaptation did it justice. The balance does not feel quite right, in my opinion. Perhaps it errs too much on the side of Shakespeare? Perhaps the characters have become too in touch with their emotions and feelings, perhaps they are too fond of asides and soliloquies. Perhaps there is too much talking in general? I don't know. It could be as simple as me not being in the just-right mood.

Wampa: You viewers all, whose gentle hearts do fear
The smallest womp rat creeping on the floor,
May now perchance both quake and tremble here,
When wampa through in wildest rage doth roar.
Pray know that I am a wampa simple am,
And take no pleasure in my angry mood.
Though with great force this young one's face I slam,
I prithee know I strike but for my food. (12)

AT-AT 1: My friends, we have had quite enough of talk:
The battle is upon us, let us go.
And ye who doubt, I pray remember this:
Although we are but AT-ATs gray and plain,
We have a noble task to undertake--
Our mighty Emperor's reign to protect,
The great Darth Vader to obey and aid,
And Admiral Piett to serve with pride.
So shall an AT-AT swoon before the fight,
Or should our legs be shaken ere th'assault?
Have we been made to cower? I say nay!
An AT-AT should be made of sterner stuff.

AT-AT 3 [to AT-AT2:] I pray, good walker, is he ever thus?

AT-AT 2: Aye, truly, Sir, I never yet have met
An All Terrain Armored Transport who
Is loftier of mind than this one here.
Indeed, although like us he's made of steel,
He never enters battle zones unless
He hath made some great speech to steel his nerves.
It does no harm.

AT-AT3: No harm, but to mine ears.
I'd rather fight than hear another speech. (45-46)

Exogor: Alas, another meal hath fled and gone,
And in the process I am sorely hurt.
These travelers who have escap'd my reach
Us'd me past the endurance of a block!
My stomach they did injure mightily
With jabs and pricks, as though a needle were
A'bouncing in my belly. O cruel Fate!
To be a space slug is a lonely lot,
With no one on this rock to share my life,
No true companion here to mark my days.
And now my meals do from my body fly--
Was e'er a beast by supper so abus'd?
Was e'er a creature's case so pitiful?
Was e'er an exogorth as sad as I?
Was e'er a tragedy as deep as mine?
I shall with weeping crawl back to my cave,
Which shall, sans food, belike become my grave. (86)

Yoda: Nay, nay! Try thou not.
But do thou or do thou not,
For there is no "try." (98)

Yoda: Warned thee I have--
He a reckless spirit hath.
Now matters are worse.
Obi-Wan: That boy is our first, last, and greatest hope.
Yoda: But nay, 'tis not so.
For another yet there is:
One more hope for us.

O how this plagues me!
The boy for training hath come,
But too soon is fled.

A young bird he is,
Too eager the nest to leave,
Yet trying to fly.

But young birds fly not--
Their wings still too fragile are.
Instead, they do fall.

And fall this one shall.
But how far, how fast, how long?
Time only shall tell.

Little bird, be safe.
If thou the nest seest again
I shall meet thee then. (112)
I'm not saying that there weren't enjoyable scenes in William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back. There were. There always will be when the author sticks close to the inspiration. Luke. Hans. Leia. Yoda. There are characters that you can't help enjoying. (Yoda speaks in haiku in this play). But while I enjoyed the first book cover to cover, while I read it with glee, I can't say the same with this second book. I liked a scene here and there.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd

Sometimes a book will just call out to you.  It tells you that it was meant for you and that you need to read it.  The first time I heard the title A Snicker of Magic, I was intrigued.  The first time I saw the delightful cover, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

Felicity Juniper Pickle is a collector of words.  Not in the same way that some of us are, she is lucky enough to see words.  Words surround certain people and things, and when Felicity sees them, she writes them down in her always present blue notebook.  When her little sister Frannie Jo asks for a poem, Felicity can pluck them out of the air and combine them into a soothing rhyme for her.

There are two things that Felicity Pickle cannot do, however.  She cannot comfortably speak those words in front of anyone, and she can't stay in one place too long.  The first thing she can work on, but the second thing is all because of her Mama.

Her Mama is cursed with a wandering heart.  She loads her girls up into her beat-up van and travels around with them.  This last jaunt has brought the Pickles home to where Mama grew up: Midnight Gulch.  Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, but a few generations ago the magic seemingly up and left town right along with the famous Threadbare brothers.

But for Felicity, Midnight Gulch does turn out to be a magical place.  First of all, she acquires her very first friend - Jonah Pickett.  And Jonah, it turns out, has a secret and a bit of a magical identity as well.  As he takes Felicity under his wing, she sees the things that could be -- the things that she didn't even know she was longing for as Mama shuttled them around "Per-clunkity-clunk, per-clunkity-clunk" across the country.

Natalie Lloyd has created the kind of world that readers want to jump into.  This small Tennessee town should exist and feels like it does.  Perfectly quirky, the characters are interwoven, layered and kind. Turns of phrase verily melt in your mouth, and beg to be read aloud.  This is a heart-song book, if ever there was one.

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3. Odds and Bookends: July 17

100 Best Beach Books Ever: Final Voting
Help NPR narrow down it’s list of listerner-nomiated Best Beach Books Ever. The list of the top 100 titles will be announced on July 29.

How much do you know about literary spies?
Test your knowledge of literary espionage in Guardian’s challenging quiz (I scored 6 out of 10, a score that Guardian described as this: Mediocre. You have some intelligence, but this stuff is so widely known that you are an essentially worthless asset). Here’s hoping you fare better on the quiz!

Quirk Announces Follow-Up to ‘P&P&Z’ – Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Quirk announced its next entry in its Quirk Classics series, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, another a Jane Austen mashup which will be published on September 15. Also, check out the Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (S&S&SM?) book trailer.

Planning a staycation this year?
Staycation is one of 100 new words that have been added to the 2009 update Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Also making the list were waterboarding, vlog, carbon footprint, flash mob, frenemy, locavore and webisode.

61 essential postmodern reads: an annotated list
Check out Jacket Copy’s list, complete with an annotated key as to what elements make each title fit in the postmodern category.

1 Comments on Odds and Bookends: July 17, last added: 7/20/2009
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4. Night of the Living Trekkies

Night of the Living Trekkies. Kevin David Anderson & Sam Stall. 2010. July 2010. Quirk Publishing. 256 pages.

It was late winter of 2009, and Jim Pike was in Afghanistan.

Jim Pike, our narrator and a war veteran, is working security for a Houston hotel hosting GulfCon, a Star Trek Convention. But this convention will soon be unlike any other--for the convention--and eventually Houston itself--will be overrun with zombies. Pike teams up with an assorted crew of survivors--many Trekkies--their mission is to survive long enough to escape Houston, for they fear that when help comes, it will not be a distinguishing help. It's dramatic; it's violent; it's funny.

I am not a fan of zombie novels. I'm not. I am not a big fan of violence--blood, guts, etc. But I am a Star Trek fan. And I can appreciate a good, quirky read. So while this one may not be for everyone, I enjoyed spending an afternoon with this one.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

4 Comments on Night of the Living Trekkies, last added: 2/25/2011
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5. "Historical fiction is struggling,"

I was told in an ever-so-brief e-mail yesterday.  Strangely, the note didn't do a thing to discourage me from the work I am doing to tell William's story in a Dangerous Neighbors prequel.  Most importantly, perhaps, because I just love this book—the guy-oriented nature of it, the pretty fascinating history behind it, and the way it visits me, late at night (my characters inside my dreams, my dreams beginning alongside a mess of noisy railroad tracks, in the clamor of a newsroom, in the rescue of a red heifer).  But also because when I look around I see books I've loved—historical novels for young adults—that are absolutely thriving.

Let's consider Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs), a Quirk publication, now in its seventh week on the New York Times bestseller list (I'm 70 pages in and loving the mix of image and story; expect a full report tomorrow).  Let's talk about Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray, a book that led me to the marvelous Tamra Tuller of Philomel, and which, in its very first week, debuted on the New York Times list.  Let's talk about The Book Thief, one of my favorite books of all time, still number one on the list, or, for that matter, the award-winning, bestselling The Good Thief, still generating much enthusiasm.  Libba Bray didn't do too badly with The Sweet Far Thing or A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rita Williams-Garcia was deservedly rewarded for her basically perfect One Crazy Summer, and I recall—do you as well?—a certain series of historical novels featuring glamorously clad society heroines that rocked the lists for a very long time.

Then there are those adult books, historical novels all, with which we are so familiar—Devil in the White City, The Help, Water for Elephants, The Paris Wife, Loving Frank, so many others—that locked in their places in book clubs and on lists. Struggle isn't a word that I would apply to them. 

I believe, in other words, that there is room for those of us out here who have fallen in love with a time and place and have a story to tell.  I've been barely able to breathe under a load of corporate work lately.  But the first chance I get, I'm returning to William.  I left him in a saloon down on Broad Street named Norris House.  He's been hankering for some dinner. I've got ideas about a multi-media launch.  And this kind of fun is worth having.

10 Comments on "Historical fiction is struggling,", last added: 8/9/2011
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6. Lost States

Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It by Michael J. Trinklein Quirk Books 2010 What if the United States had accepted every proposal to form a new state? One really messed up flag, that's for sure!   Growing up in Southern California it is hard not to notice that there is a simmering animosity with neighbors to the north. It isn't so much

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