Book News: Reading STAR WARS, Unnecessary Celebrity Books, Shakespeare Remixed & More!

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Modern Retellings of Shakespeare
Some contemporary books that are basic retellings of Shakespeare plays.

100 Must-Read Memoirs
If you getting on a biography kick, here are 100 must-read memoirs.

7 Small Presses to Check Out
Sometimes small presses release some incredible titles and here are seven you don’t want to miss.

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Book News: HARRY POTTER Play Getting Published, SAGA Cat Comes Home, EXORCIST Comes To TV & More!

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A Discovery of Witches 
The bestselling trilogy by Deborah Harkness is now set to become a TV series.

Women’s Star Wars Shirts 
Because merchandising still insists only men enjoy nerdy, geeky stuff, it can be hard to find the right Star Wars gear. Look no further!

If You Love The X-Files

While the new season is almost done, here are 8 comics you’ll love if you’re a fan of the show.

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“Nerd Do Well” by Simon Pegg (Gotham Books, 2011)

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Nerd do Well isn’t your ordinary book.  It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in another mystery that’s very good friends with an enigma.  Simon Pegg’s biography is a maze (also amazing) of moving tales of youth and growing up in Britain; entertaining hijinks and comedy jokes; and philosophizing on the merits of Stars Wars and the failure of the prequels.  And then there is the other story, the fictional heroic epic of the rich, magnificent genius and renowned action hero who is Simon Pegg; who has saved the world many times over, loved by all women and known throughout the world for his sexual prowess; Pegg takes readers on a journey of action and adventure along with his robot butler/sidekick.

When Pegg is not telling of his abilities as a superhero, he is reliving his childhood, growing up in Gloucester, and discussing his pivotal moments when he discovered acting, comedy, movies that changed his life – Stars Wars features prevalently throughout the book, of course – as well as his meeting and involvement with so many famous people who he grew up idolizing and learning from, like George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg, George A. Romero, Quentin Tarrantino, and many more.  Pegg doesn’t spend much time in his recent movies and projects, as fans already know this aspect about him already.  He includes plenty of references to British TV and celebrities, so any previous knowledge of these subjects certainly helps, but is by no means required.

In Nerd do Well, Simon Pegg has created a new sort of genre that is a combination of heartfelt life story and entertaining work of fiction, but unlike other authors who have attempted this before, Pegg keeps the two separate; nevertheless readers get a great two for one deal here.  Nerd do Well is a book that you’ll want to read and reread; to speak allowed to your family and friends; to yell from the rooftops to the masses; in short, Nerd do Well is a book you won’t soon forget.

Click here for Simon Pegg interview with BookBanter.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on July 1, 2011.

“Star Wars Vault” by Stephen J. Sansweet and Peter Vilmur (It Books, 2007)

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Celebrating it’s thirtieth anniversary this year, the Star Wars franchise is in a similar predicament to the time after the release of Return of the Jedi: no plans for future movies, apart from a continuing animated series of the Clone Wars.  By the same token, fans are in the same state with little-to-nothing to look forward to.  Thankfully, to commemorate the third decade of the blockbuster, internationally bestselling movie series, there’s the Star Wars Vault: “thirty years of treasures from the Lucasfilm archives with removable memorabilia and two audio CDs.

This is not just a nicely decorated picture book in a sturdy slipcase; it’s an experience, a journey that one is immediately taking when they open the cover.  Star Wars Vault is part of the new style of picture book being published, like that of 1776: The Illustrated Edition, where the book goes beyond glossy, colorful pictures and photos, but incorporates all types of media, and with the rich heritage of the Star Wars franchise which literally revolutionized the world with merchandising, Star Wars Vault is a gift that would make any fan of the series, no matter how old or how much of a fan, respect you greatly in your choice of gift.

Sansweet keeps his story short, taking up little room on the page, and leaving the evidence reproduced here in various forms to speak for itself.  He begins with the fascinating tale of how the first movie, Star Wars Episode IV, barely made it to release, and with little support, until the enormous numbers of audience members proved that the studio executives were very wrong.  While Sansweet spends less time on the development and release of the rest of the movies, the experience as one turns the pages and relives the history of the Star Wars empire is unlike that of any other.  With unique photos, movie posters, and a plethora of pictures from around the world, there are innumerable insets and handouts of unique items like patches, stickers, collectible postcards, film cells, and even two audio CDs with a variety of different pieces ranging from the mid-eighties radio ads, to special interviews, to a recording of the song sung by Carrie Fisher for the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.

While the price for Star Wars Vault is considerable, no one will regret it when they turn the page and discover the world within.  It is a book that will immediately be quickly read, the stickers and patches possibly used, and added to the shelf to be rediscovered over and over.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 29th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy” by Matthew Reinhart (Orchard Books, 2007)

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In celebration of the 30th anniversary since the release of Star Wars, along with The Star Wars Vault, there is this true gem for all fans alike: Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy.  You may be turned away by the term “pop-up,” thinking it something that applies only to children’s books and to be ignored, and I would tend to agree with you, except in this case.  The Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy is the only pop-up book you will need to and ever want to own.

The thick but light book is divided into six double-spread pages.  It does not tell the chronological story of Star Wars from episodes I-VI, but is instead more like a report from someone who traveled to this galaxy, far, far away, and came back to tell of what he or she saw and learned there.  The copy on each page is detailed and complex.  This is not for anyone (if there is anyone) who has yet to see Star Wars, for prior understanding is required, since on each page facts, stats, and details are thrown at you along with incredible colorful pictures that pop-out before your very eyes and almost become real.

To say there is just something for everyone would be like saying the Millennium Falcon could “probably” make the Kessel Run in maybe 12 parsecs.  The most impressive tableau is the pop-up of a large Mos Eisley spaceport where our heroes Luke and Obi-Wan first met Han and Chewie.  Organized in wonderfully complex 3D fashion, we see the familiar scene with different groups of people and lots of familiar faces, who are all explained.  But whether you’re hoping some of the lesser known bounty hunters, like IG-88 and Bossk get mentioned; or whether Jabba the Hutt’s Desert Skiff can hover up to 50 meters and travel up to 250 kilometers per hour; or whether they remembered to mention the formidable but often forgotten Wedge Antilles; rest assured they are all recorded here.

And if that isn’t enough for you, why then you can turn to the last page where you will be greeted by Lord Darth Vader coming out at you with the scarred old man’s face beneath.  After recovering from that, you turn to the fold-out panels either side of the black helmet which discuss Anakin Skywalker who became Darth Vader on the left and Luke Skywalker on the right.  The key here is to open both at the same time, as each character pops out in miniature, each holding their familiar lightsabers which actually light up red and green.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on January 14th, 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Star Wars: Death Troopers” by Joe Schreiber (LucasBooks, 2009)

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All good horror novels have a foundation using a familiar horror trope, whether it be zombies, vampires, deepest darkest space, or creepy children.  The really great horror novels employ multiple tropes to become terrifying, page-turning nightmares that the reader simply can’t put down.  Star Wars: Death Troopers is one of those horror novels.

The Imperial Prison Barge Purge is on its way through deep space to a distant and forgotten moon to deposit its cargo of five hundred of the galaxy’s most ruthless prisoners, as well as two teenage brothers who are there on a nonexistent charge.  Everything is going as expected, or at least as expected as can be for Trig and Kale Longo trying their best to stay alive and wondering how their lives have come to this, until the Purge experiences engine trouble.  Fortunately there is a Star Destroyer nearby that is a derelict, abandoned.  Two teams are sent onto the destroyer with a couple of engineers to raid it for engine parts.  They return coughing and getting sicker by the second.  Zahara Cody, chief medical officer, scrambles to do what she can, but the sickness gets worse and people begin dying.  The virus spreads throughout the barge and soon bodies are dropping everywhere.  All that remain are the few people who are somehow immune: Trig and Kale, and Zahara to name a few.  Zahara also discovers two familiar characters locked up deep within the bowels of the ship in solitary confinement.

Then all the bodies come to life.  And these zombies are smarter than any we’ve seen before; they adapt to each situation, always looking to kill and conquer, always in search of fresh meat.

Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars: Death Troopers employs a number of great horror tropes that all combine to form one great novel which will have readers hooked from start to finish.  He manages the plot well, with riveting cliffhanger chapters, and makes it impossible to put down, while slowly dishing out the details so that full understanding and realization is not reached until the last few pages.  But these are all important facets of a great horror novel.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on October 13th, 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Joe Schreiber check out BookBanter Episode 18.

Part 2 of Interviewing: The Questions

When it comes to laying out the interview and choosing the interview questions that I will be asking, they tend to fall into three categories:

1) Questions about the new book, with reference to how the author came up with the story, what research was required, where certain characters came from, how certain events in the book came about, and whether there will be a sequel or continuation of the book.

2) Questions about the author with relation to writing, how they started writing, what sort of schedule they keep, what they use to write on, what advice they have for writers looking to get published.

3) Questions about the author’s life, what they do in their spare time, what they like to read and do for fun.

As you may have noticed my interviews tend to be laid out in the order of the categories above and for my first bunch of interviews I stayed very much to a set script of questions and rarely deviated from it with each interview.  I even had a last question — “What is your favorite TV show?” — with each interview.

Then in about the spring of 2009 I decided to really start varying the interview questions, changing them around, reshaping the format and asking different questions, to make each interview a little more unique.  The result is I think I enjoy the interviews more and it forces me to work a little harder at coming up with interesting questions, as well as that all important last question.

In Episode 18 which will be available October 15th, in my interview with Joe Schreiber — since it was related to his Star Wars horror novel Death Troopers — my last two questions were: What is your favorite Star Wars movie?  And if you were to be a character in Star Wars, which character would you be?

I now make the extra effort with that last question to either tie it in personally with the author or something more unusual that they wouldn’t usually get asked.  I think the result is definitely worth it.

Perhaps after another five or ten interviews, I’ll redo my interviewing format all over again.  Who knows?