Thursday, August 6, 2015

Amanda & the Star Wars Summer -Episode II

Amanda & the Star Wars Summer

This year I was determined to not only re-watch the Star Wars movies, but to read as many of the books as I could and devour any announcements and previews about the upcoming Episode VII and generally just live, breathe, and fangirl Star Wars.

So far it's working.

The Empire Strikes Back

I'm embarrassed to say that it's been much longer since I've watched these then I thought. Because Han and Leia's flirting. They flirt so much. And it totally went over my head the last time I saw it. *hangs head in shame*

But the flirting. It's so fun.

Return of the Jedi

Originally, this was my favorite Star Wars film. I don't think it quite lives up to my expectations now. Things that I've heard about how it should have ended and how Lucas went off into toy merchandising wonderland has made me re-evaluate many things about it. I can see where it could have been better. And, while the eight-year-old inside will always love those furry little Ewoks, I can see how they changed the tone of the film.

It's hard to say, really, if I would have preferred one of the other RotJ stories make it to film instead, because I did grow up with this. I don't hate it; I don't think it's terrible. There are many things that I love about it and, even though I recognize that it was a cop-out ending, I don't know that I would have liked another ending any better.

Like anything involving the death of Han Solo.

Just saying, I would have had serious issues if that had happened. (Part of me is terrified Han Solo will die in VII.) And I'm not just saying that as a now-serious Han Solo fan. When I first watched these movies, I was young enough a movie death like that could have ruined the entire trilogy for me -not to mention scar my innocent, childish nature.

If Han Solo had died in this movie, I wouldn't have wanted to watch it again, never mind any time I got bored. I likely would not have imagined myself as a Jedi, or longed to work the powers of the Force, or wanted a laser blaster strapped to my leg.

In short, I would not have grown up in love with Star Wars. I may have come back around to it, years later, but it would not have been such a big part of my childhood.

If Han does happen to meet his end in Episode VII, I'd like to say I'm adult enough to accept it.


Still going to have a problem with it.

Star Wars Comic-Con Panel

If you haven't seen it yet (and if you've stuck through my rambling this long, you probably have) the Star Wars panel is a must-see. I don't care if you don't want spoilers, or you think Abrams will ruin the franchise, or you just don't like panels.

Watch. It.

It has sent me into Star Wars crazed enthusiasm overdrive for so many reasons. It's totally worth an hour of your time.

I finally started in on my lofty goal to read ALL [read: as many as I can] the Star Wars books before VII is released. I've wanted to read these for years. I reviewed all the books I've read so far in this super special Star Wars video, but if you'd rather read the reviews, they're down below.

Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, #1)Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent! Fantastic! Superb!

Now that I finally begin reading the Star Wars fiction, they are no longer cannon. Go figure, huh? It's a shame, though, because this book was absolutely magnificent. It read just like a Star Wars movie and -best of all!- everyone felt in-character and true to form. There's been hype around this book ever since it was released, and I can tell you it was earned. It's a great continuation of the series, even if it's now 'unofficial'. Really, though, with the new movies coming out, this just means Star Wars fans get TWO universes to enjoy, so it's kind of a win-win.

Zahn does a spectacular job with the Star Wars universe. I read his Star Wars: Scoundrels last year, so it seems he consistently masters the voice of the setting and characters, which makes me indescribably happy, considering he's written so many books in the Star Wars universe. I can't wait to read more!
View all my reviews

The Courtship of Princess Leia (Star Wars)The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. From reviews, I got the feeling it was just a cheesy romance but -while it did have some cheesy romance aspects- it was a great Star Wars adventure.

It did seem broken into parts, starting with the romance story line, but switching gears to an adventure story as soon as they touch down on the planet Dathomir. There was not always a great meshing of the adventure with the romance conundrum, so it felt sometimes like two different stories, but they did come together at the end, and they were both parts were fun.

I actually found the first half -the romance bit- the most compelling. Even though you know how the story is going to end, it's so much fun to watch Han trying to win Leia over again because he's just so, so Han. I could be biased, because this part of the story does focus more on Han; once they hit Dathomir, we jump over to Luke a lot more often as he learns some new secrets of the Force.

On the whole, a good read, and it's successfully fueled my growing Star Wars enthusiasm.

View all my reviews

Star Wars: Tatooine GhostStar Wars: Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was not quite what I expected. With a title like Tatooine Ghost, I anticipated something more...ghostly. Spooky. All the same, this was a fun book. And even though there isn't an actual ghost here, the title wound up making total sense.

Newlyweds Han and Leia travel to Tatooine to buy a surviving Alderaanian masterpiece up for auction. Not only is it a piece of Leia's home world, the painting also happens to contain Alliance secrets they can't let the Imperials get their hands on. Between dodging Imperials, some very impressive speeder chases, and dealing with squabbling Squibs, Leia also uncovers some history of a local podracing legend -Anakin Skywalker.

This is the first time I've started reading the Star Wars novels, but I've always been a big fan of the universe. Aside from the movies, though, I've had limited exposure. Instead, I sort of ruminate in the world and idea of Star Wars, so I tend to forget or glaze over certain things. Like the fact that Leia never knew Anakin. Luke has a great arc with this in RotJ, of separating Anakin and Darth Vader, eventually bringing their father back from the dark side, but it wasn't until I listened to this audio that it really hit me: To Leia, Darth Vader was always the villain. He was the tyrant who kidnapped and tortured her, and helped murder her entire home planet. (!!!) Just think back at their confrontation in the original film. That is the only way Leia ever knew her father.

Troy Denning took that as a challenge. Leia is given a look into the life of Anakin before Darth Vader and it fascinated me. The rest of the story is fun, a great adventure, but Leia learning about her father's past is what really made this book for me.

My brain is in Star Wars overdrive.
View all my reviews

Shadows of the Empire (Star Wars)Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure about this one because some reviews said it was 'a must for all Star Wars fans!' and others said 'only for the die-hard fan.' I would say it's somewhere in between. If you're into Star Wars fiction, it's worth a read, but I do think the quality is on the mediocre scale.

The story itself is fun, and they get enough content in there to make it its own story, not just a 'filler'. The villain, Prince Xizor, head of the Black Sun crime syndicate, is interesting, and I liked his rivalry with Vader (because it makes Vader more interesting), but Xizor's bits did tend to be long-winded. His POV sections and monologues could have been paired down a lot.

There is a Han substitute, since he's currently frozen in carbonite, in the form of Dash Rendar -a cocky smuggler/pirate/mercenary/ace pilot who 'only cares about getting paid'. It was made a little less irksome because Luke and Leia are constantly comparing him to Han, so their similarities are noted, and he was kind of fun, but I honestly would have liked it better if the twist was he genuinely only cared about getting paid. As it stood, it felt rather like a carbon copy.

Speaking of Han, one thing I really liked is Leia struggling with this question of what might happen after they -if they ever- free Han. She loves him. She's head over heels in love with him. She told him so. And he said 'I know.' Does that mean he loves her too? Or...or... I just loved this, because it's completely genuine.

And speaking of feelings, Perry had fun messing with readers. This is before Luke and Leia are twins, right? And Luke still totally has a crush on Leia, right? And Leia cares about Luke, but not the same way she cares about Han, and why are feelings so COMPLICATED?! I laughed and I winced. (But don't worry; there was no more kissing.)

The story is full of hints and events leading into Return of the Jedi, right down to the Bothans gaining 'critical information' that Luke is sure he'll be briefed on soon enough.

The best part about this book by far was getting inside Darth Vader's head, even for a little bit. There are tidbits and tiny, tiny hints about how RotJ is going to end, without making him sympathetic. I loved that they were so subtle it did not ruin his eventual turn.

On that note, I do wish Perry had given us one final hint at the end. It seemed like the perfect opportunity, and it was completely passed up. This novel supposedly shows the events between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, where Luke goes from 'NOOOOOOOOOOO!' of finding out Darth Vader is his dad to 'I can still sense the good in him.' It didn't occur to me until I was reading this book, which has Luke still dealing with this revelation, that this transition of his was kind of...sudden. I felt this would have been the perfect time for Luke to sense something still good in Vader, because in this story Vader admits to himself that a part of Anakin has survived in him -and he's determined to destroy it. He realizes a part of the Jedi is still alive inside and that it's keeping him from fully embracing the dark side. For the last 50 pages I was waiting and waiting for Luke to sense this in Vader, to have this realization, but no. A perfect moment squandered. *sigh*

Like I said, it's worth a read if you like the Star Wars fiction, because if nothing else, it helps you to embrace the universe and, as you can see, really deepens your appreciation for it by getting you to analyze and question all the little details.

View all my reviews


There's more where this came from!
Amanda & the Star Wars Summer


  1. Oh my gosh I'm such a huge Star Wars nerd, too! I've got a similar goal to read as many Star Wars books as I can before the new movie. Just thinking about episode 7 gets me so so so excited! May the force be with you! And happy reading!

    1. And may the Force be with YOU, Sam! I'm just about to start Dark Force Rising and I'm *so excited.* Have you picked a favorite book yet?

  2. Honestly I don't have a favorite book yet, mostly because there are so many and I want to go into each with a fresh mind set thinking it could become a new favorite :). Once I read more (for sadly I haven't read as many as I wish) I'll probably settle on a couple. Are there any you seriously recommend I check out immediately?

    1. I've only really read the three so far, but Timothy Zahn's original trilogy (Heir to the Empire) is freaking fantastic, plus his Scoundrels was good. He's the best of the Star Wars authors so far, I think.

    2. Well I will definitely check him out! Next up Star Wars wise I think I'll be reading either Dawn of the Jedi or Crucible, both of which sound fantastic.