Someone who loves (these 5 Han/Leia books) – Legends Edition

The relationship between Princess Leia and Han Solo from Star Wars is one of the most iconic in pop culture. Research shows these two are directly responsible for the bisexual awakening of many, many people, including the writer. As a huge fan myself, and in preparation for the upcoming release of Beth Revis’ book, The Princess and the Scoundrel, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite books with good Han/Leia content.

Before Disney bought the franchise and let J.J. Abrams randomly decide that Han would leave Leia to go back to smuggling (admit you fell asleep halfway through A New Hope, J.J.), Han and Leia had three children and were a power couple who stuck together through thick and thin, briefly separating only after Chewbacca is killed off in Legends canon (aka the EU – Expanded Universe). The EU is far from perfect – Han and Leia suffer many losses, and the characterization varies from great to horribly OOC. Personally, I haven’t read much set after the Thrawn trilogy. Still, there’s a lot to love. Here are my 5 favourite Han/Leia books from Legends canon:

Honor Among Thieves (2014) by James S. A. Corey
Why I love it: This is a fun adventure that mostly follows Han and Chewie as they embark on a mission for the Alliance not long after A New Hope. It’s a really thoughtful, on-point exploration of Han Solo’s character as established in the Original Trilogy. From a shipper’s perspective, it has some really nice moments of Han thinking about Leia, being teased about Leia, and being sassed by Leia. His mission is to rescue a beautiful, badass spy and he barely has eyes for her! (Also good: Leia actually bonds with the spy, so there’s no toxic jealousy trope. Yay!) This is a spot-on take of their early relationship, when they’re learning to work together and understand each other while attraction slowly blossoms.
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Razor’s Edge (2013) by Martha Wells
Why I love it: This book belongs to the same duology as Honor Among Thieves, but while that one focuses on Han, this one is about Leia, exploring her double role as leader of the rebellion and legacy of Alderaan. It’s set some time after Honor Among Thieves, closer to The Empire Strikes Back, so the relationship between Han and Leia has changed. They’re both acknowledging their attraction for each other (it seems Leia really enjoys the view of Han’s ass), and it’s established over and over how well they understand each other and work together, and how much they really care about each other. Simply chef’s kiss.
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Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (2008) by Matthew Stover
Why I love it: This one is set some time after Return of the Jedi, so we get to see Han/Leia as a couple before they get married. Despite the title, several chapters are about Han and Leia’s parts in the story, and it has some nice shippy moments – including a glorious scene where Leia pats Han’s ass (she went from observing to acting, the glow up). I remember not loving some parts of the characterization, an issue that is unfortunately very common, but overall it was still cute, and the good moments were really good.
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Tatooine Ghost (2003) by Troy Denning
Why I love it: I think this is a staple read for any Han/Leia fan. What’s better than an official book that is nearly 90% about your ship?? Nothing, I’m telling you. It’s not perfect: the plot is about Leia finding out more about Anakin and her lineage as she struggles with whether to have biological children or not, and I didn’t like that Han came off as if he was pressuring Leia to have children. Even so, this is a fun Adventures With So Married Organa-Solos story that has them caring for each other and being badass and making dirty jokes and having sex, so in every other aspect, it is perfect. And I can’t wait for The Princess and the Scoundrel to join it.
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The Thrawn Trilogy (1991-1993) by Timothy Zahn
Why I love it: What Star Wars fan hasn’t heard of the Thrawn trilogy? The three books of the series (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) are certainly not where the EU started but are pretty much the backbone of it, and what many people hoped to see in a sequel. Han and Leia are married here and expecting Force-sensitive twins… and someone is determined to get to them. While it’s frustrating that Han/Leia don’t have a lot of “page time” together (they keep being pulled apart), they’re still shown to be a strong couple who love each other, waiting for their kids to be born, and it’s cute as heck.
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BONUS NOVELLAS

Corphelion Interlude by Troy Denning: This short story was later included in the ebook and paperback editions of Tatooine Ghost as a prologue, and it’s… about Han and Leia on their honeymoon! That’s right, we’re going to have TWO published stories about Han and Leia’s honeymoon. Suck it, literally every other ship! It’s as good as it sounds. Married fluff? Check. Inuendo? Check. Kissing? Check. Leia sticking her tongue in Han’s ear? Check.

The Trouble with Squibs by Troy Denning: Another novella related to Tatooine Ghost; this one isn’t actually very shippy, but it’s Han and Leia (with Chewie and C-3PO again) on another mission together, so it’s worth checking out.

Recovery by Troy Denning: Is it clear by now that Troy Denning ships them? This one is actually tough to read. It’s set in the New Jedi Order series, where a lot of questionable decisions and bad characterization happened. In previous books, Han had run away from his family in his grief over Chewie’s death, and now he comes back to take care of Leia as she recovers from torture. The story shows them repairing their relationship and growing closer together, so it’s once more Denning to the rescue.

Have you read any of these? Do you have any other favourite Han/Leia books from Legends canon?

BOOK REC: The final girl support group (2021) – Grady Hendrix

Title: The final girl support group
Author: Grady Hendrix
Published: July 13th, 2021 by Berkley Books
Pages: 352 pages (eBook)
Genres: Horror, thriller, mystery, adult, fiction
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My rating: 4/5

SUMMARY

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

MY THOUGHTS

Once upon a time, a girl and her friends stopped at the wrong town, decided to camp at the wrong woods, or trusted the wrong stranger. The girl watched a man in a mask massacre all of her friends in various horrifying ways before she managed to get out alive. The end?

What happens to those traumatized final girls after the credits roll is the question Grady Hendrix wanted to answer in The final girl support group. As the title says, it sets up the idea of a support group for women who have been the last ones left standing in a massacre.

It was a pretty great homage and deconstruction of the genre, making us ask: what do slashers say about society? About the portrayal of women in media? About the senseless violence we’re dispensed at the hands of men? About the way victims are treated? The murder of women in real life is often less fantastic and much more focused. It’s not a group of people stumbling into a place they shouldn’t be at and being stalked by a psychopath with an equally fantastic past, but a partner or a stranger that society deemed as “normal”, and a body discarded with the garbage. The “final girl” trope is almost a revering of women by comparison – they’re hurt, they’re stalked, they see their friends and family murdered, they vanquish their would-be killers, and they have to keep on living. They come out the other side, but it comes at a cost. When you think about it, it’s the horror genre expression of girl power in a world that keeps beating you down.

The story didn’t shy away from playing with the sub-tropes of the genre to deconstruct them. Minor spoilers, as it happens about two or three chapters in: sadly, having the only black character be the first one to go was a trope that should have been subverted.

The pacing was fast and intense. The main character, who is the only narrator, is established soon into the story as an unreliable narrator, which makes the reader question her POV at every turn. Many Big Bads are suspected, enhancing the idea that the narrator might as well be the Big Bad herself. The final villains were easy enough suspects, but the revelations still made it surprising enough. I did find that the final showdown was a bit lacking in comparison to the build-up.

Getting bits and scraps about each of the women’s backstories made the story even more interesting, as well as adding a touch of mystery. The Dream King story was especially intriguing, and the twist towards the end made it even so. Slashers are usually about things that seem supernatural but are not, with one notable exception, and it was fun to see that the author decided to include it in the story even if it gave it a supernatural element.

While I really enjoyed it and made me interested in other books from the author, when you think about it, the story is no different from the slashers it’s trying to criticize. We all know what happened to those women because we got sequels telling us the murderer came back for them, or a new one came along, and that’s what this book does, too. Still, it was “fun” and provided interesting social commentary, so I’d really recommend it to any fans of the genre!

STAR WARS SATURDAYS: Razor’s Edge – Martha Wells

Title: Razor’s Edge
Author: Martha Wells
Published: September 24th, 2013 by Del Rey
Pages: 386 (eBook)
Genres: Sci-fi, space opera, adult, fiction
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My rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

Times are desperate for the Rebel Alliance. Harassment by the Empire and a shortage of vital supplies are hindering completion of a new secret base on the ice planet Hoth. So when Mid Rim merchants offer much-needed materials for sale, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo lead an Alliance delegation to negotiate a deal.

But when treachery forces the rebel ship to flee into territory controlled by pirates, Leia makes a shocking discovery: the fierce marauders come from Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan, recently destroyed by the Death Star. These refugees have turned to pillaging and plundering to survive—and they are in debt to a pirate armada, which will gladly ransom the princess to the vengeful Empire . . . if they find out her true identity.

Struggling with intense feelings of guilt, loyalty, and betrayal, Leia is determined to help her wayward kinspeople, even as Imperial forces are closing in on her own crippled ship. Trapped between lethal cutthroats and brutal oppressors, Leia and Han, along with Luke, Chewbacca, and a battle-ready crew, must defy death—or embrace it—to keep the rebellion alive.

MY THOUGHTS

Here I go, talking about Princess Leia again. I’m not even sorry. I mean, first of all, can we talk about the cover? That’s Supreme Bi-Icon Leia Organa at her best. Martha Wells’ Razor’s Edge is one of my favourite Star Wars books, and it’s 1000% because of the delightful, spot-on Han/Leia content – not just in a shipper sense, but on an individual level.

This book belongs in the Legends canon, released only a year before the Disney period began. It’s part of a duology called Empire and Rebellion, the other volume of which is Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, another favourite that I’m currently re-reading for my Star Wars book club. While both books include POVs from other characters, thematically, Razor’s Edge is about Leia and Honor Among Thieves is about Han. The books are pretty comparable in terms of quality of writing and characterization, which is a delight. Razor’s Edge is still the best one for me, though, and here’s why!

Set about two years after A New Hope, the story starts with Leia and Han on a mission to meet a contact of Han’s and negotiate a deal for materials, much needed to finish Echo Base on Hoth. Ambushed by Imperials, they flee into pirate territory. They run into a gunship attacking a freighter, and Leia recognizes the pirates as Alderaan survivors. After meeting with them and learning they’re in debt to a pirate leader, Leia decides she can’t leave without helping them. Which Han both hates and is incredibly turned on by.

The story is engaging, action-packed in a way that was bearable to me (I’m not a huge fan of action sequences, much less on paper), and basically centered around leading ladies – Leia, the protagonist; Viest, the antagonist; and Metara, the one in the middle – which is awesome.

The exploration of Leia’s character and her relationship with her identity, her duty, and her memories of Alderaan has so much depth, and I love to see her carrying the story. It’s also great that the story doesn’t rely on her point of view only, but is divided with Han’s for most of it, providing additional insight.

Wells, a former Han/Leia fanfic writer, gets the characters and their relationship in a way many published Star Wars authors don’t. She does a terrific job of showing them as comrades, as people who don’t always see eye to eye but still respect each other’s opinion immensely, who care deeply about each other – and who are also very attracted to each other, giving us some delicious UST. There’s this one scene that is simply *chef’s kiss*: they go into a ‘fresher to exchange information privately, and they’re both incredibly flustered and forcing themselves not to get distracted by how much they want to… do things to one another. AND this has been illustrated officially by Chris Trevas!!

Han and Leia standing in a 'fresher closely together.

It’s the perfect lead-up to the state their relationship must have been at right before The Empire Strikes Back, before the bounty hunter on Ord Mantell, which clearly caused an unexpected fallout between them. I honestly hate it when official writers make it out to be as if Han and Leia were constantly fighting and hating each other right up to ESB. Going from that to love would be super toxic indeed; can we stop buying into the “enemies to lovers with nothing in-between” trope? It’s clear that Han and Leia grew closer between the two movies, and it’s refreshing when authors acknowledge that.

Anyway, where was I? Right, this is a fantastic book. If you love Princess Leia, you need to read it!

BOOK REC: Come as You Are (2015) – Emily Nagoski

Title: Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life
Author: Emily Nagoski
Published: March 3rd, 2015 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 417 pages (eBook)
Genres: Non-fiction, mental health, self-help, sex ed
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My rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy.

Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never exist—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all.

The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm.

Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible.

And Emily Nagoski can prove it.

MY THOUGHTS

This is probably THE best science + self-help book on female sexuality. Come as You Are is what Emily Nagoski is most known for, and with good reason.

This book is an accessible deep dive into female sexuality (understood as applying to people with vulva and/or socialized as women) that is based on scientific research but also includes the psychological and sociological aspects of sex and intimate relationships.

There’s a lot of what qualifies as self-help here… because sex isn’t just about biology, chemistry or anatomy. It’s also about psychology, culture and society. So it can’t be just about the science, but also what we do with it. I found that incredibly valuable and even moving at some points. What if what we think of as “normal” is arbitrary, and everything is, in fact, normal?

Worth noting is that the book comes with several worksheets and exercises you can try out on your own or with your partner(s)!

I genuinely loved this book, but look. This is a science communication book (my jam!); it’s not a research paper. It’s a book about science; it’s not the science. I’m saying this because some reviews point out being disappointed at the overuse of metaphors, the cherry-picking of research to support some points, the simplification of science, the chummy tone. Yeah, that’s how most pop-science books work! It’s about trying to make the science accessible to as wider an audience as you can – that means some parts won’t work for me and some parts will be old news to you, and they will work and be new for someone else, but most people will be able to understand it and find at least one thing of value. This book succeeds at that.

If you’re a sex ed expert who already knows about the science and isn’t interested in the self-help aspect of it, there might be nothing of value to you here – in which case, research reviews might be what you’re looking for. That’s true of most popular sex ed books you’ll find on the market, though. Personally, I learned a lot of science related to sex that I had no idea about, and most people I know probably don’t, either. It was helpful, and many sources were provided in case I wanted to find out more about them.

The tone didn’t always work for me and comes off as slightly infantilizing of the audience at some points. Ultimately, I understand it’s part of the genre and it doesn’t hurt the information presented as far as I’m concerned.

This book was written with cisgender women as the target audience. That said, I think it can be of use to anyone with a vulva, and to people who want to understand what being socialized as a woman and/or having a vulva is like. It’s inclusive of queer relationships. It’s important to note also that the majority of the book is focused on people who are, have been or want to be in relationships. The book has been revised and updated in 2021, though, so that might have changed!

Have you read Come as You Are? What did you think of it?

STAR WARS SATURDAYS: 5 Great Books about Her Worshipfulness (Princess Leia Organa)

I don’t know about you, folks, but I adore little Princess Leia in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. I was always a bit afraid about whether I’d really be able to embrace it, but Vivien Lyra Blair (and all the actors, really) does a terrific job. And I honestly don’t care for anyone who disagrees on this, you’re objectively wrong! Anyway, I’m using this as an excuse to share 5 great books about Her Worshipfulness, Princess Leia Organa.

Have you read any of these? What’s your favourite Princess Leia book?

HER PRE-REBELLION YEARS

Leia: Princess of Alderaan (2017) by Claudia Gray
The plot: Follows 16-year-old Leia’s journey on Alderaan as she prepares to take on a series of challenges that will prove her right to the throne, and discovers her parents’ involvement in the rebellion against the Empire.
Why I love it: Beautiful, entertaining, heart-breaking, in-character, full of Organa family feels, an amazing look into Leia’s first steps as a rebel leader.
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KICKING ASS AND LOOKING HOT

Razor’s Edge (2013) by Martha Wells
The plot: Set before The Empire Strikes Back, Leia and Han lead an Alliance delegation to meet a supplier that can aid with construction of Echo Base. Everything goes to hell when they’re betrayed, and they run into a band of Alderaan survivors who’ve turned to piracy. Leia decides she can’t leave them behind.
Why I love it: I love pre-ESB stories that show Han and Leia building a relationship. So many authors get it horribly wrong, but Martha Wells (former H/L fanfic writer) does not. This had both a dynamic plot with lots of action, and brilliant characterization. A million bonus points for Han and Leia squirming in a ‘fresher 😉
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MISSING HAN SOLO HOURS

Moving Target (2015) by Cecil Castellucci & Jason Fry
The plot: Labelled as a Princess Leia Adventure, the book follows Leia as she struggles to recover from the blow of losing Han at the end of The Empire Strikes Back and rejoins the fight.
Why I love it: This is a fun adventure, mostly for younger readers, but still full of emotion, showing a Leia who is still devoted to the Alliance but struggling to open herself up to more. I especially loved her talk with Mon Mothma!
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STRUGGLING WITH HER IDENTITY

Tatooine Ghost (2003) by Troy Denning
The plot: In an effort to recover a piece of Alderaanian art that hides secrets to the rebellion, newly-married Leia and Han, along with Chewie and Threepio, go on an undercover mission to Tatooine. There, Leia finds information about Anakin and her own identity that will decide her future.
Why I love it: Most Han/Leia fans will tell you, this was the book they’d been waiting for a very long time. While I don’t love the theme of pushing a woman to have babies, this is still one of my favourite Han/Leia books, and it’s an especially rich book for Leia, as she struggles to understand Anakin and how his legacy affects her. Also… fade-to-black smut!
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SLIGHTLY FIXES THE SEQUELS

Bloodline (2016) by Claudia Gray
The plot: Set about 6 years before The Force Awakens, Leia grapples with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy from both within and without, and shows us the beginning of the Resistance.
Why I love it: I hate what the sequels did to Leia (and Han, and Luke) violently. This book isn’t completely safe from them, it makes me a bit sad, but the characterization is spot-on and Gray really tried to make it make sense.
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ARC REVIEW: Witch 13 – Patrick Delaney

Title: Witch 13
Author: Patrick Delaney
Expected publication: June 7th, 2022 by Oblivion Publishing
Pages: 344 pages (eBook)
Genres: Horror, paranormal, thriller
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My rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

On the eve of her resignation, Sheriff Sterling Marsh prepares for a bleak winter in Drybell, Connecticut, after a string of bad decisions leaves her life in shambles. Two weeks before Christmas and expecting a long night of paperwork and quiet celebration with the friends she’s grown to know and love, she’s surprised when an unnerving stranger appears in the form of a witch.

A silent, menacing figure, the witch appears to be ripped straight out of a fairy tale, complete with a tall, pointed hat, and black clothing. But when strange things begin happening all over town, Sterling begins to suspect that there may be more to the witch than meets the eye.

As she works to maintain order as the world crumbles around her, the witch’s mysterious presence throws her world into a frenzy, threatening to send the sleepy town spiraling face-first into the darkest night it’s ever seen.

MY THOUGHTS

Sometimes, men write great women characters. Sometimes they even write thoughtful sapphic content. That’s what I told myself when I saw this book on NetGalley and decided to request it. I’m not glad to be wrong in this case.

In Patrick Delaney’s Witch 13, a witch appears in a small town and begins to make children disappear. On her last night as a Sheriff, Sterling Mash heads to the City Hall to respond to a distress call, and stumbles upon a horrific scene. The only person left standing? The witch. Sterling takes the woman, who appears catatonic, back to the station. They try to interrogate her, but she says nothing. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t blink. Freaked out and cut off the rest of the world by an impressive storm, they put her in a cell. People slowly begin to lose their minds (and their lives) over the course of the night, and the witch is the prime suspect.

Two things about this book caught my eye: the cover and the LGBTQIA shelving. The summary convinced me to give this a shot. As it turned out, both the shelving and the summary were a bit of a stretch compared to what I expected.

What I liked: It had a strong, really creepy beginning that hooked me in right away. I loved the Hansel and Gretel witch vibes. I liked the role Max played. The final confrontation was visually interesting. The final plot twist surprised me.

What I didn’t like: The book had a lot of editing and pacing issues. There were several instances where a detail was stated and then repeated in exactly the same way right below (e.g., Madelyn describing the witch’s hat). Despite the strong beginning, the story slows down and drags its heels once the witch is at the station. She literally does nothing, and it’s not explored enough that she’s the one getting inside people’s heads, which makes it seem as if everyone is insane for no reason. This got mixed up with police brutality issues that weren’t explored at all by the author.

All of the characters are also constantly getting flashbacks. In some cases, it makes sense either to explain the backstory or to explain how the witch was getting into their heads, but not always, and it ended up being a lot of exposition in the middle of a scene. Practically all of the characters had a scene where they had been talking to someone and they froze mid-sentence to reminisce, and the other character had to be like “hey, you still there?”.

The main character, Sterling, just wasn’t good. Her background story had three prongs and we were trickle-fed the details until it all came together, but it felt tedious to get there. Her relationship with her partner Chase made no sense at all. Minor spoiler that doesn’t really affect much: he’s married with a kid, he and Sterling were friends, they had a one-night stand, and Sterling told him she loved him, he immediately regretted it and told his wife… and that’s pretty much it. Except Sterling had already imagined him leaving his wife for her? Somehow she bought him cologne? It’s presented as a way bigger story than it ended up being, and it was either an unconsciously sexist choice or a naive one, but made Sterling come off as emotionally immature. I’m leaning towards “unconsciously sexist”, since everybody kept referring to grown women as “girls”…

As I said, the book was shelved as LGBTQIA. That is because Sterling, turns out, is bisexual – it’s mentioned in passing that she dated a woman when she was younger. That’s not the only reason, though, as there’s one scene that involves the witch getting into her mind in a sexual way: after a failed interrogation, Sterling goes home to masturbate, in the middle of a storm, because that’s a totally natural thing to do… and pictures the witch’s face while she’s doing it.

While later on there’s a connection of a different kind between Sterling and the witch, that’s all the LGBTQIA content.

Now, look. Is it representation? Sure, she’s bisexual, I appreciate it. But it’s a scrap. It’s a whisper. It has no bearing on the narrative whatsoever. I feel misled, because I thought this was going to be a queer story between Sterling and the witch, not a story of Sterling pining like a schoolgirl over her married male co-worker who doesn’t return her feelings. Sterling is half-Indian; that doesn’t make this Indian literature.

There were so many leaps to conclusions as well that left me scratching my head. The ending was interesting, in a way, but felt incredibly undercooked. There was a whole fantasy world hinted at that wasn’t really explored, because we spent all the damn time locked up in that police station waiting for something to happen.

I’m sorry to say that, overall, this book just didn’t do it for me. Thank you to NetGalley, Oblivion, and the author for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Will you read it? Let me know what you thought!

STAR WARS SATURDAYS: Queen’s Hope – E.K. Johnston

Title: Queen’s Hope
Author: E.K. Johnston
Published: April 5th, 2020 by Disney Lucasfilm Press
Pages: 220 (eBook)
Genres: Sci-fi, YA, space opera
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My rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

Padmé Amidala is a former queen, a current senator—and a new wife. But her marriage to Anakin Skywalker must remain a secret, since Jedi are not allowed to marry. And unfortunately for the newlyweds, they are rarely together, with Anakin on the front lines of the Clone War and Padmé fighting her own battle for peace in the Galactic Senate.

Former handmaiden Sabé has returned to Tatooine to once again try to free the people enslaved there, but Padmé summons her to Coruscant with an urgent request. Padmé has to leave on a mission of utmost importance, and no one can know she’s gone. Sabé is the only one who can convincingly take her place in the Senate for a long period of time.

Sabé agrees, and her decision sets both women on a course that will force her to examine who they are, who they are not, and who they cannot be—and will forever change their futures.

MY THOUGHTS

If you’re just catching up, I’ve been reading the so-called Padmé trilogy by E.K. Johnston with my Han/Leia Discord book club. I like Padmé as a character, but I think she deserved much better from canon, so it was promising to have a whole trilogy devoted to her that, hopefully, would smooth the dumbest decisions George Lucas made about her. And as soon as I joined the Star Wars bookstagram community, I saw these books being praised everywhere. They had to be good, right? Ha.

Star Wars opinions are generally split between:

a) the fans who think All Star Wars is Good Star Wars and if you dare criticize it, you’re a toxic, racist fan.

b) the fans who are actually toxic bigots and hiss at the mention of clothes, queer people, or feelings.

I am neither. I’m passionate about Star Wars, but I’m still able to exercise some critical thinking. I loved Queen’s Shadow, but Queen’s Peril left me feeling like I had been gaslighted into believing E.K. Johnston was a good writer… so it was all up to Queen’s Hope.

It’s with great sorrow that I say, Queen’s Shadow must have been a fluke, because I’m emotionally burnt out from how mediocre the last two books were.

What I expected Queen’s Hope to be about: a bridge between the end of AotC and the beginning of RotS, a way to flesh out Padmé and Anakin’s trainwreck of a relationship and make their hasty marriage make some sense, a journey to further Padmé’s transition into a powerful Senator, a glimpse into her first doubts about Palpatine (and maybe Anakin), maybe a reunion of the old Handmaiden gang, together for one last mission.

What this book was actually about: none of that, and not much else. Silly of me to expect Johnston to cover over a year of events when it took her seven chapters to cover two days for just a wedding.

Queen’s Hope feels slightly more consistent than Queen’s Peril, but it’s only because the author had to cover both the time before and during The Phantom Menace there, while here she was able to go at her own, slow pace. But it still failed at being a book fully about Padmé, as Johnston didn’t know how to give Padmé any depth at all. Instead of advancing the character, she regressed it.

Most of Padmé’s scenes were spent repetitively going back and forth on how much she loved Anakin, but how much she hated keeping secrets, but how nice it was to keep a secret of her own, but how much she missed sharing everything with her Handmaidens. I’m not exaggerating when I say that nearly the same sentences were repeated chapter after chapter.

Padmé generally behaved as a lovesick teenager, which in addition made her bad at her job. There was no exploration into why she accepted marrying Anakin instead of, I don’t know, just dating him, no deeper insight into how a mega intelligent, capable, compassionate person such as she would justify Anakin’s actions on Tatooine. There was so much to be done, and Johnston did nothing with it, except have Sabé be all of us at the very end and try to ask Padmé about it (even bringing up the Tusken massacre as something objectively horrible that people knew about!), only for Padmé to dismiss Sabé’s questions and tell her it was about the thrill. Girl, you’re going to get yourself killed! I wanted Johnston to mold George Lucas’ bad decisions for Padmé around the character as we knew it but, instead, she molded the character around the bad decisions. The results made this book wildly unnecessary, especially considering the plot.

Basically, after being MIA for several days while she frolicked with Anakin on Naboo, Padmé returns to the Senate and is recruited by Bail Organa and Mon Mothma into a mission she’s uniquely fitted for – because she can use a double. So she convinces Sabé, who just got back to Tatooine to continue her work liberating slaves (that Padmé had sent her to do back in Queen’s Shadow), to come sub for her at the Senate while Padmé goes on this super secret mission. There, Padmé goes on another mission that turns out to add nothing to anything. After that, we get to the point. She returns to Coruscant, communicates her important and plot-changing findings to her allies, a revelation so massive that not even Palpatine saw it coming… and the book is already over.

Why would Johnston waste so much of my time, I wondered? Well, only so she could have Padmé not tell Sabé she’d married Anakin despite this being essential mission information, have Sabé find out when Anakin breaks into Padmé’s room and finds her instead, and then have her break up with Padmé. I can’t even.

At least we didn’t get multiple chapters from the POV of random characters thinking about anything but Padmé in this one – nope, here Johnston put all of those into a single chapter, like a fun salad. Did nobody who worked on this book care about theme?

Now let’s talk about representation from a non-bigoted perspective. I love representation, I think there should be more of it, I don’t think having it is “political”, I don’t think you need to have a “good reason” to include diverse characters. But what Johnston did is just… not good! It’s not good at all! It’s posturing, trying to be woke so she can mention in an interview that she has a trans AND a non-binary character AND lesbians, thank you very much. The lesbians were treated all right, but E.K. Johnston has apparently never had a conversation with trans or non-binary people, because boy, did she try too hard and miss the mark. She introduced a trans Clone Trooper, Sister, in the most contrived way possible, had Anakin say the lamest sentence about gender in the entire galaxy, and then… never mentioned her again. She also introduced a non-binary aide to Saché, and get this – they wore PANTS one day, and SKIRTS the next day! Yep, this is the kind of observations we get from Saché’s POV.

Why would gender be such a big deal in the GFFA, where there are innumerable life forms of all sizes and shapes and cultures? Why would these human characters be so f*cking WEIRD about it? Why would Clones even have a binary view of gender? These are clearly the kind of questions E.K. Johnston never asked herself before giving representation a bad name.

To top this all off, Johnston continued her tradition of adding a linked prologue and epilogue. In Queen’s Shadow, it sort of worked because both were about Padmé. In Queen’s Peril, the epilogue of a book about The Phantom Menace was *spoiler alert* about Leia at the Yavin IV ceremony. Um, what? This one opened with the Annunciation of Mary Shmi, and a horrible way to think about pregnancy and parenthood. That’s when I knew this wasn’t going to be a great book. You know, some things about Star Wars are better left ignored, I thought that was accepted knowledge by now. And it ended with Breha Organa, whom I adore… but who had no place in this story.

According to some interviews, Johnston conceived this book as a love letter to the women of Star Wars. But as with the issue of representation, shoving things just so they’re there doesn’t make something good. Shmi was loosely connected to the story; Breha was not. It was just random. Again, this is known as the Padmé trilogy. But it’s not. There was a wonderful theme of sisterhood in the other two books. Here, Padmé only reaches out to her former Handmaidens when she needs something from them. It would have been nice to explore this as the red flag in her relationship with Anakin, how isolated she’s becoming, but of course it wasn’t.

I will end on a positive note and say that I enjoyed the subplot about Sabé and Tonra continuing their anti-slavery work on Tatooine and connecting with the White Suns (Beru’s family), and I enjoyed Saché’s work in the Chommell sector, and the link between her findings and Padmé’s. But both of those things ended just when it was getting interesting.

I honestly don’t get who this book was written for. I can see how people who have been Padmé fans since TPM might feel excited and appreciative that there’s new Padmé content, but this was just so, so subpar. And for the record, there are a few of those fans in my book club, and they all felt as let down as me. If you love Anidala, I guess you’ll like this and power to you. Clearly I don’t, but I at least expected this book to give me a fresh perspective on it, but it didn’t.

So my overall opinion would be this: if you’re a big Padmé fan, go ahead and read all the books, see for yourself! Maybe you’ll find tons of value. But if you love Padmé too much and have high expectations of these books, or if you’re lukewarm on Padmé and want these books to make you a fan… just read Queen’s Shadow and call it a day.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you and sorry!! I promise I’ll post something positive next time, but do let me know your thoughts on the books in the comments?

BOOKS I’M EXCITED ABOUT: The Romance Recipe – Ruby Barrett

Title: The Romance Recipe
Author: Ruby Barrett
Expected publication: June 28th, 2022 by Carina Adores
Pages: 368 pages (eBook)
Genres: Romance, LGBT+, Contemporary
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SUMMARY

A fiery restaurant owner falls for her enigmatic head chef in this charming, emotional romance

Amy Chambers: restaurant owner, micromanager, control freak.

Amy will do anything to revive her ailing restaurant, including hiring a former reality-show finalist with good connections and a lot to prove. But her hopes that Sophie’s skills and celebrity status would bring her restaurant back from the brink of failure are beginning to wane…

Sophie Brunet: grump in the kitchen/sunshine in the streets, took thirty years to figure out she was queer.

Sophie just wants to cook. She doesn’t want to constantly post on social media for her dead-in-the-water reality TV career, she doesn’t want to deal with Amy’s take-charge personality and she doesn’t want to think about what her attraction to her boss might mean…

Then, an opportunity: a new foodie TV show might provide the exposure they need. An uneasy truce is fine for starters, but making their dreams come true means making some personal and painful sacrifices and soon, there’s more than just the restaurant at stake.

WHY I’M EXCITED ABOUT THIS BOOK

Sometimes Goodreads’ “Readers also enjoyed” widget makes me roll my eyes, but sometimes they actually hit the mark. I was visiting the page for Meryl Wilsner’s Something to talk about and the cover of The romance recipe jumped at me from the side. Thirsty bitches might relate when I say I immediately clicked on it and added it to my “Want to read” shelf.

After I joined NetGalley, I looked it up and applied for the ARC. I don’t think I’ll be approved for it, but I did get to read a 5-chapter preview – and yep, I officially can’t wait. Here’s why:

The story follows Amy Chambers as she tries to keep her restaurant afloat with the help of Sophie Brunet, former reality TV star and her current head chef. When the opportunity to be featured in a new foodie TV show appears, Amy knows it’s just what she needs to fill her tables. Except, Sophie is burnt out from her brush with fame, heartbroken, and frustrated with her boss.

I saw Ruby referring to them as sunshine/grump, but I actually think they’re both sunshine thinking the other is a grump 😂 This book reminded me of “Recipe for Persuasion”, which I really liked, except queer and with slightly less family drama (so far).

I really enjoyed it so far! The UST is great from the start, I liked seeing each character fighting their own battles yet trying to come together (pun not intended), and I can’t wait to see what trouble they cook up in the show! (pun intended)

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin for the preview. Please give me the full ARC now?

STAR WARS SATURDAYS: Queen’s Peril – E.K. Johnston

Title: Queen’s Peril
Author: E.K. Johnston
Published: June 2nd, 2020 by Disney Lucasfilm Press
Pages: 288 (eBook)
Genres: Sci-fi, YA, space opera
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My rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she adopts the name Amidala and leaves her family to the rule from the royal palace. To keep her safe and secure, she’ll need a group of skilled handmaidens who can be her assistants, confidantes, defenders, and decoys. Each girl is selected for her particular talents, but it will be up to Padmé to unite them as a group. When Naboo is invaded by forces of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her handmaidens will face the greatest test—of themselves, and of each other.

MY THOUGHTS

If you read my previous post on Queen’s Shadow, you might have seen that I loved it, I thought it lived up to the hype, and it got my hopes really high for the rest of the trilogy… which is why I’m disappointed and frustrated with Queen’s Peril.

Queen’s Shadow is the first book of this series that focuses on Padmé and her Handmaidens, and it’s set some years after The Phantom Menace, but before Attack of the Clones. In Queen’s Peril, we go back in time to the months leading up to TPM, as Padmé is elected as Queen and settles into her role, and through the movie. Then the last book of the trilogy, Queen’s Hope, is a journey to Revenge of the Sith. This random timeline order bothers me, but it bothers me even more because Queen’s Peril actually feels like a first novel, and a very amateur one at that. E.K. Johnston has mentioned that she didn’t know this was supposed to be a trilogy until after she’d written Queen’s Peril (my working theory is that Disney was trying to gauge interest before committing). This, however, doesn’t explain everything that is wrong with this book.

While Queen’s Shadow does a great job of making it about Padmé and the Handmaidens (allegedly the topic of this trilogy), only occasionally giving us a peek into other character POVs, Queen’s Peril is all over the place. It felt less like a Padmé novel and more like a TPM missing moments collection. We have Yoda’s POV, Shmi’s POV, Palpatine’s POV but also Darth Sidious’s POV, and even… Jar Jar Binks‘ POV. Yep. I’m no Jar Jar Binks hater, but really? And they’re not even related to Padmé’s journey. Why did nobody remind the author this was supposed to be a novel about Padmé? I mean, the book has separate one-line sections about Anakin, such as “Anakin Skywalker liked flying”, for fuck’s sake. I’m honestly baffled that nobody was like “Hey… maybe this doesn’t belong here.” Look, I’m a fanfiction writer myself, so I don’t mean this in a bad way, but the standards are different. I know Johnston was a fanfic writer herself… did she just fish this story out from the depths of her FanFictionNet account and submitted it as it was?

The book also felt like a wasted opportunity to show us so many other things. Queen’s Shadow hints at the intensive training the potential Handmaidens and Padmé went through, which I was looking forward to seeing here, literally the book where that is supposed to happen – and then we didn’t. Instead, we just got Captain Panaka stalking teenagers. Queen’s Shadow tells us about the rift that the decisions taken right after the Battle of Naboo caused in the close relationship Padmé and Panaka had – and then it didn’t actually take the time to build that relationship. Queen’s Shadow shows Padmé grieving Qui-Gon Jinn – and then we don’t have even one scene of them together in the book. We fly through TPM, stopping at the most irrelevant moments instead of looking at it through Padmé’s eyes. There’s a lot of telling and very little showing.

I was also constantly shaken at the contradiction of these teenage girls being so gifted they can be in government positions as high as ruling an entire planet… but they’re still human teenagers who are seen by adults as children. I know the root of the problem lies with George Lucas making Padmé 14 in TPM, but I think it would have made more sense to either: a) have Naboo humans mature faster than Earth humans, so that they’re young adults instead of teenagers at 14, or b) have the Handmaidens be older women, so that the Queen isn’t surrounded exclusively by other children and older men trying to dictate what she does while she’s socially isolated from the rest of the world at a critical developmental age. I mean, it’s space! You can do what you want! Having Padmé deceive Panaka and then put him in his place didn’t make me go “oh look at her, so badass” but rather “she’s literally a spoiled child with no life experience”, a thought that came up several times while reading.

E.K. Johnston seems to like her bookends, so in Queen’s Hope we had one that was understandable for a stand-alone novel, less so for a part of a series, but it more or less worked. The bookends here were random and disconnected from the story, calling back to Leia at the Yavin IV medal ceremony – but that’s true for most of the book.

All in all, I was surprised in a bad way by how badly written this book was. I expected a lot more from E.K. Johnston, and I kept trying to figure out what could have gone wrong. While I’d still recommend Queen’s Shadow, Queen’s Peril isn’t an unmissable read.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on Queen’s Hope next week!

THIRSTY THURSDAYS: The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (2020) – Olivia Waite

Welcome to Thirsty Thursdays! In which I share my favourite erotica reads on the last Thursday of the month and you don’t judge me.

Title: The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows
Author: Olivia Waite
Published: July 28th, 2020 by Avon Impulse
Pages: 416 pages (eBook)
Genres: Historical fiction, romance, queer, erotica
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My rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk. Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.

As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?

MY THOUGHTS

Oh, sweet slow-burn…

The Care and feeding of Waspish Widows is the second book in Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series, but it was the first one I read. Having read all three to date, my humble verdict is: THIS IS THE BEST ONE.

First off let me say, do NOT judge this book by the cover. Seriously. The covers of this series are so silly and don’t really reflect the characters – who are middle-aged and whose curves and wrinkles are beautifully talked about.

Yep, that’s right. Not only is this a sapphic historical romance book, but it’s also about women in their 40s! Falling in love and having sex and kicking ass!

We encounter Agatha Griffin, artist, owner of a printing business, mother and widower, who reaches out to Penelope Flood to deal with the colony of bees that has taken over her warehouse outside of London. As the two women begin to spend more time together, they find it harder and harder to be apart…

Like the other two books in this series, this one is also set in England in the 1800s, and it’s the one that deals more heavily with the political context. I do have to say that adding this on top of the plots that were more specifically linked to the protagonists made this book longer and the romance more drawn-out, BUT-

To me, it didn’t feel slow. Maybe because I really like Waite’s writing and she made it bearable. It also added to the slow-burn UST, and the resolution was oh so satisfying.

But it’s not just hot sex. We see these women become friends and support each other, we see them grow and overcome. As with The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, homophobia is very much acknowledged and it’s part of the plot… but it’s not the main conflict. At the end of the day, love wins.

If you enjoy historical romance, wholesome sapphic stories, and erotica, you can’t miss this one!

SEXY-METER

🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️

THROUGH. THE FUCKING. ROOF. Like the previous book, there are more than one explicit, tasteful, super hot sex scenes. They. Use. A. Wooden. Dildo. I need more stories to get to this level ASAP.