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Posts Tagged ‘Princess Leia’

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October has been quite a month – stuffed full of good books, in between all the other things. (Also, my Nov. newsletter comes out this week – sign up here!) To cap off the month, here’s what I have been reading:

The Monsters We Defy, Leslye Penelope
Clara Johnson has an uneasy relationship with the spirit world, and a semi-notorious past she’d rather forget. When poor Black folks in her hometown of D.C. start disappearing, Clara and several friends start scheming to steal a magical ring from the woman responsible. An absolutely fantastic heist/mystery/band-of-misfits-save-the-world story, with great historical detail about 1920s D.C. and wonderful characters. I loved Clara (inspired by a real person) and her comrades.

Woman, Captain, Rebel: The Extraordinary True Story of a Daring Icelandic Sea Captain, Margaret Willson
We’re told that female sea captains are rare – but Willson brings to life the story of Iceland’s Captain Thuridur, who defied gender conventions in her homeland of Iceland. A brilliantly researched, compelling biography with lots of sea stories, Icelandic history and local gossip – dragged a bit in the middle, but overall fascinating. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 3, 2023).

Blackmail and Bibingka, Mia P. Manansala
Lila Macapagal and her partners at the Brew-ha Cafe are gearing up for the holidays – but then her no-good cousin Ronnie comes back to town, saying he’s going to revive the local winery. When one of Ronnie’s investors ends up dead, Lila starts sleuthing to figure out who did it. A fun, tricky third entry in this foodie mystery series; I loved all the holiday snacks, Lila’s meddling godmothers and her dachshund, Longganisa.

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery
This fourth Anne book is delightful and underrated – and I often return to it in the fall. I love watching Anne win over the Pringle clan, make friends with half of Summerside and spend quiet nights in her tower room. Fun and comforting.

Independence, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
India, 1946: the Ganguly family has long lived at peace in their village of Ranipur with both Hindu and Muslim neighbors. But when they visit Calcutta in mid-August, they get caught up in the riots of Direct Action Day, and all their lives are upended. This gorgeous, heartbreaking novel follows the three grown daughters – Deepa, Jamini and Priya – and their choices in the wake of their father’s death. Stunning. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 17, 2023).

The Princess and the Scoundrel, Beth Revis
I love the end of Return of the Jedi on Endor, when Han, Leia, Luke and the crew get to celebrate. But what happens after that? This novel takes us through Han and Leia’s wedding, their honeymoon on a luxury cruise ship (interrupted, of course, by political strife), and the beginning of their relationship as husband and wife. So much fun to revisit these characters I adore, and meet some new ones.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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bloodline book christmas tree star wars

I am, as regular readers may know, a Star Wars fan. I say that cautiously, since I can’t even aspire to the highest levels of fandom in the Lucasfilm universe. (I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Jedi, by the way. I thought a few lines did not quite land, but I loved being back in that galaxy with a band of rebels old and new.)

I watch the original three films at least once a year. I quote them all the time: “Never tell me the odds!” And I’ve dressed up twice as Princess Leia: once in my teens for a midnight movie, once much more recently. (When my friend Nate turned 30 a few years ago, we all turned out in character to mark the occasion.)

Until this fall, though, I’d never read a Star Wars novel.

Why not? Call it confusion, or intimidation: there are dozens of novels, set in every conceivable niche of the Star Wars timeline and galaxy. Where to start? Add to that the thorny question of what’s considered “canon”: I’m not qualified to even touch that one.

But there’s a darker reason: my own literary snobbery.

Although I’m a lifelong bookworm with two literature degrees, I usually insist I’m not a book snob: I believe people should read what they love, be it a Pulitzer winner or the latest bestseller. But I secretly thought Star Wars novels had to be just cardboard imitations of the movies I loved.

Enter Claudia Gray’s novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan, which follows the young Leia as she takes a survival course and flies around the galaxy on missions of both humanitarian aid and espionage. It’s smart, fast-paced and full of the series’ signature wry humor. (Bonus: it introduces Amilyn Holdo, who appears as Vice Admiral Holdo in most of my favorite scenes in The Last Jedi.)

After devouring Princess of Alderaan, I picked up Bloodline (above), Gray’s 2016 novel recounting Leia’s political career in the New Republic (post-Return of the Jedi). I might have loved that one even more: Leia the senator is even more brave and badass (and a little wiser) than Leia the teenage rebel.

I doubt I’ll be diving into the whole Star Wars backlist any time soon. But it’s been a deep pleasure to read more of Leia’s story–and a reminder that, as Yoda says, sometimes we must unlearn what we have learned.

Have you read any Star Wars novels? Any recommendations for me?

Most of this column originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, where I’m part of the book review team.

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