Review | Leia, Princess of Alderaan | Claudia Gray

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Leia, Princess of Alderaan

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The never-before-told story of how young Leia Organa comes to join the rebellion against the evil Empire, from best-selling author Claudia Gray.

Find it on Goodreads.


As I wrote on Goodreads, it is my opinion that Claudia Gray doesn’t understand Leia’s character as we see it in the Star Wars movie franchise. Leia, as I have come to understand her since I watched A New Hope when I was two, is a head-strong, rebellious, ambitious, independent, and good-hearted person with a resilience of steel. She is not the type of person to easily fall in love, not because she’s been heartbroken before but because, in her eyes, the rebellion comes first and love is just a distraction. She is the type of person who accepts loss as part of the fight against the empire and doesn’t let her emotions get in the way (when Alderaan is blown up with her entire family and all of her people on it, she doesn’t shed a tear). She is also the type of person to call it like she sees it, telling Han Solo when she thinks he’s being an idiot or shaming cowardice in crisis situations.

In Leia, Princess of Alderaan, we are given an entirely different character. With only two years (or less) between this novel and A New Hope, we see instead a petulant child who can’t understand why her parents aren’t doting on her; a girl who falls head over heels for the most obvious guy who is also the complete opposite of Han Solo, the man who will become the love of her life; a princess who values her crown and her role as leader of Alderaan too much for it to make sense that she would resist getting emotional over the destruction of her planet; and a person too soft to yell at someone for putting the lives of the rest of the rebels at risk (as we see her do in the movies). And, at the conclusion of the novel, there is no indication that this petty, frivolous, and immature girl will change to become the Leia we know in the movies.

Those complaints aside, Gray’s writing of the secondary and tertiary characters also falls short. The characterization and writing was actually laughable! Until about halfway through, every character is Jar-Jar Binks-esque; all are caricatures of who I think Gray intended them to be but failed to make them become. You have the male love interest who is your classic good-guy to the extent of being annoying and knowing he’s going to get killed because he’s way too soft, not to mention the fact that he is a monotone, blank page; there is nothing interesting about him at all and I wanted to slap Leia for falling for him. Then you have the hippie-chick who is a female humanoid version of Jar-Jar Binks in her entirety. You have the snarky bad guy who is “bad” because he’s snarky…and that’s it. You have a snake-like alien creature who is just kind of hovering in the periphery and contributing nothing to the story. And, of course, you have Bale and Breha, but an extremely opaque version of them. They are weak and pitiable–a stark contrast to the way Bale is characterized in the movies and other Star Wars Universe books.

Giving this book three stars was generous of me, and mostly contributed to the fact that the audiobook reader was pretty good and made the experience of listening to my first audiobook pretty enjoyable. Still, I would have preferred a reader with a deeper voice to closer resemble Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Leia.

At the end of the day, I can’t believe anyone would give this book 5 stars, and I am certainly not reading other Claudia Gray books in future. 

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Star Talk 2

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We’re, like, halfway to the release of the next movie (AAAHHHH!!!), and so I find myself again wondering about Rey’s backstory.

I recently watched an interview conducted with Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Mark Hamill (if you don’t know this, SHAME SHAME, but: Luke Skywalker). In the interview, Daisy said that by the time The Force Awakens wrapped and we get to the end of the movie, she had originally thought that the question of who her parents were had been answered.

Um, what?

I definitely didn’t get that, and I think basically everyone else not involved in the making of the films agrees. I do, however, have theories. I have two theories that I think are the most plausible outcomes, though I am happy to hear of others (comment below!)

First of all, what do we know? Rey was abandoned on Jakku as a little girl, has the Force, has this really special connection with Han Solo from the second that they meet, and finishes off the movie by finding Luke Skywalker, presumably for training and also possibly to bring him back into contact with Leia and the Rebellion. I think we can also assume that she’s anywhere between the ages of 18-25, and that we can put her in roughly the same age-range as Kylo Ren.

What about the backstory leading up to The Force Awakens but following Return of the Jedi? Han and Leia had a son, Ben (is it possible he’s named after Obi-Wan? Anyway.). Luke tried to re-instate the Jedi by taking a bunch of young children to train, but something went wrong. We know that Kylo Ren was persuaded by the Dark Side to turn on Luke and follow General Snoak. Somewhere in all that, Rey was abandoned on Jakku.

This leads to my first theory, and the one I believe is most plausible and likely. Rey is Luke’s daughter. If we take Daisy’s words literally, with the end of the movie showing Luke and Rey’s (re)union it is also showing us who Rey’s father is. The way he looks at Rey, as if he has been expecting her, potentially goes well beyond his Jedi skills and sensory abilities and speaks to a more innate familial connection. During A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, the only characters with the Force are Luke, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Obi-Wan (who dies early on, before Rey could have been conceived—given the age difference between her and Luke), and Yoda (who is not a human and therefore could not be related to Rey). It is suggested that Leia does have the Force, but it is weaker in her and we’re not given any indication that she tries to strengthen her powers between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, though we do know that she created a Force-infused offspring. There could obviously be more people with the Force, but Daisy says that by the end of the movie we’re supposed to have caught on to who her parents are: that means it’s someone in The Force Awakens.

Again, I think it’s Luke. I’m not sure who her mother would be, but to break it down: Luke has a daughter, Rey. I believe she’s likely a year or two younger than Kylo Ren, because I believe that when Kylo Ren turned to the Dark Side and ruined Luke’s attempts at reinstating the Jedi Order, Luke placed Rey on Jakku to protect her. (It’s also totally possible that Luke turned to the Dark Side for a period and someone else put Rey on Jakku to protect her, but we don’t have anything to back that fan theory up yet.)

LET’S ALSO NOT FORGET THE FACT THAT LUKE’S LIGHTSABER CALLED TO HER I MEAN OMG.

luke and rey

Okay, so for theory number 2: Rey is Han and Leia’s daughter. This one’s a bit more of a stretch for me, but hear me out. She has inherited the Force, which we know Leia also passed on to Kylo Ren. She has this crazy connection to Han Solo—I mean, this is emphasized in such a way throughout the movie that I think we’re supposed to sit back and go, Okay, this is significant and means something MORE for the plot arc as a whole. Never once do Han or Leia say that they only had one child. Daisy Ridley also looks a lot like a young Carrie Fisher—casting decisions are never a coincidence, you guys.

What if this is what happened: Han and Leia have Ben (Kylo Ren). He shows that he has the Force and Luke takes him under his wing to train him. A few years later, Han and Leia have a daughter, Rey. But by now, Ben has started to become swayed by the Dark Side and things are becoming dangerous. To protect his sister from the same fate—and perhaps to keep her hidden in case she shows that she has the Force and Snoak takes an interest in her?—they send her away. She’s possibly still a baby at this point, or very young—young enough that she doesn’t remember her parents when she meets them again as an adult. At some point, events in the galaxy take a turn for the worse and Rey is abandoned on Jakku—possibly out of concerns for her own safety, possibly as a result of irresponsibility. Therefore, when she meets up with Han and Leia as an adult, they have no idea what their daughter would look like or where she would have gone as a child, and she has no idea who they are, but they have this inexplicable connection. Let’s not forget that she and Kylo Ren have this really interesting connection too; Kylo Ren can feel it, and so can she, but she’s resistant to his attempts to sway her to the Dark Side.

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Overall, I think it’s all super fascinating and I can’t wait for the big reveal. One fan theory that is gaining traction, but that is totally impossible is the theory that Rey is Obi-Wan’s daughter. Let’s remember how old Obi-Wan was by the time A New Hope started. Yeah, sure, he could have produced a kid. But with who? For all of Luke’s life he was known as the hermit on Tattooine. This theory just doesn’t have a lot of ground and doesn’t hold its own, in my opinion. Anyways, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

And now I’m off to see the new Spider-Man! Catch you later.

Image Sources:

https://www.reddit.com/over18?dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.reddit.com%2Fr%2FStarWars%2Fcomments%2F47gjm6%2Fwhy_rey_is_must_be_spoiler_all_evidence_listed%2F

http://comicbook.com/2015/12/18/star-wars-do-han-solo-and-leia-know-who-rey-is-/

 

Review | Star Wars: Rogue One | Alexander Freed

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Rogue One: a Star Wars Story

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The Empire has finally succeeded in building a weapon that no one can fathom: they call it the Death Star, a planet-killer in the truest sense. Cassian Andor brings the rumors of its existence back to the rebel base on Yavin 4. The engineer? Galen Erso. The only person with any hope of extracting critical information for the rebel alliance? His daughter Jyn.

“Rescued” from prison, Jyn is tasked with helping the rebel alliance learn of the Empire’s plans. But Jyn is battling her own inner demons whose presence is continually heightened with the re-emergence of individuals from her past; Saw Gerrera, the man in white, and finally her father. At the same time, she is a resistor to both the Empire and the rebel alliance. How can someone who prefers to simply survive by whatever means necessary—including betrayal—cast her instincts aside and serve in a bloody war?

Meanwhile, Cassian Andor is used to obeying orders from the rebel leaders. But what about when those orders cross a line between right and wrong? What about when he has an actual chance to make a difference, but it means turning his back on his superiors?

Bodhi Rook believed in the Empire until Galen Erso told him of the crimes he was unknowingly helping to commit. All he wants is redemption, and he is promised that under the symbol of the rebellion. When the rebellion refuses to act, Bodhi wonders if his betrayal was worth it after all. Does he have the courage to do what’s right and necessary at all cost?

Chirrut and Baze have no home to go to, no temple left to defend. Will the Force guide them to the right path? Is the Force even real, or is it a part of the mythological past?

And, more important than anything, will a small band of rebels be able to take down the Death Star when the entire Empire is against them?


I am on a real Star Wars kick right now, and it is all fuelled by my love for the movie based on this novel. Rogue One is my favourite SW movie, and right now it’s my favourite novel of this year.

Right away, if you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll love this book. They adapted the movie essentially word-for-word. All of the best lines are here in print, and you get to relive the action from each viewpoint just like you did with the film—but this time in more detail.

I have to say that I liked the movie version of Jyn more; in the book she is portrayed as much more mentally unstable than you ever see in the movie. In fact, I don’t think that her mental instability came across in the movie at all, only her anger and grief. But in the book, she is very much mentally scarred by her abandonment as a child and this carries on throughout the novel. It became a bit too repetitive in my opinion, and took away from the strength of her character. At the same time, she does overcome all of her anxiety and mental blockades to ultimately succeed, which shows her strength of character… She’s definitely a highly complex MC, which has me feeling confused over how I feel about the book’s portrayal of her, but both book-version and movie-version Jyn are awesome at the end of the day.

Krennic is just as awful as ever, but I’m glad I read the book because while the movie portrays him as kind of a grovelling idiot, you see more of why he is like that in the book. I certainly don’t view him as simple as I did when I had only experienced the movie. That said, I maintain my opinion that he is a big old d**k.

The book does flip to Darth Vader’s perspective at the end, but it lacks in any real depth. It would have been really cool to have more exposure to his thoughts and motivations.

And finally, and coolest of all, is that we see, very briefly, a Jedi-like character appear in the rebel base. Unnamed and described as middle-aged, we know that it can’t be Obi-Wan. Some fellow fans have suggested it could be Lor San Tekka. Definitely possible, but I wonder if we’re being introduced to a Jedi that we didn’t know about, who might make an appearance in upcoming films…?

Star Talk

In my Star Wars fandom, I recently posted about my experience transitioning from The Force Awakens to Rogue One, and how my initial excitement for Rey as a strong female lead was quickly replaced by disappointment when I compared her to Jyn. I wanted to get a sense of the overall opinion of the fandom. I should have known that while some would take my question with interest and engage in intelligent discussion with me, there would be at least one mansplainer who thought they had me and “[my] problem with the TFA script” all figured out. Ironically, this person went on to argue that Jyn, next to Rey, had less agency and spent the entire Rogue One movie being lead by men.

Not only is this a problematic reading of the movie from a man’s perspective, but it fails to take into account the movie’s source material—namely the novel Rogue One by Alexander Freed. In actuality, when I brought the novel into my discussion with this individual, he dismissed it as inconsequential, claiming that no one should have to diverge to the book in order to develop a better understanding of a character. The purpose of this mini-essay is therefore to argue why Jyn is such an excellent female lead and why I find this other individual’s stance problematic.

Firstly, while Jyn is one of the only women present in Rogue One—movie and novel—the testosterone levels do not overwhelm her. Let us take a look at the cover as one example:

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We see Jyn in the background, the largest presence on the cover, dwarfing her male allies beneath her. Everything about this cover design places Jyn in a position of power except for the fact that her image is positioned in behind the men. However, the rest imply that she is in a superior position. This alludes to the fact that she becomes the sergeant leading to Rebel force on Scarif at the end of the novel and movie—the novel does mention one other woman under Jyn’s charge, but nevertheless she is a woman who rose above adversity (the opposition at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4) to eventually lead a rogue rebellion populated almost entirely by men.

Another example of why Jyn is a strong and independent female lead is her constant platonic friction with Cassian. (I believe it is important to stress how platonic it is, as I find that friction between leading men and women in movies or novels can too often, in my experience, become a plot point solely to serve romance—a trope I find annoying.) Jyn is released from prison and brought to Yavin 4 by Cassian as a result of him wanting to use her to gain intelligence, yes, but she has her own reasons for agreeing to speak to Saw Gerrera for him—her freedom. From that point, the movie does less to show Jyn’s inner struggle, especially whilst they are on Jedha; however, reading the book reveals that the entire time on Jedha, Jyn is contemplating betraying Cassian’s trust and going her own way. In fact, once she has spoken with Saw Gerrera, she does turn to leave and only stops because Saw begins to play a hologram of her father. I would argue that this is not male control, but instead a distraught daughter’s curiosity surrounding seeing her father again for the first time in years.

Finally, while on Scarif obtaining the Death Star plans, Cassian is wounded and knocked unconscious; Jyn therefore proceeds through the mission herself.

Now, after all this, why do I find it problematic that a man read her as being subordinate to the other men in the story? For one thing, I believe that it completely ignores the many blatant instances of Jyn making independent decisions and showing resistance to those around her. It also completely ignores her leadership role at the end, and instead intentionally and incorrectly places her in an equal—or maybe even subservient—position to the men she is rebelling with. Therefore, I argue that this is an example of a man literally taking away a female character’s agency by choosing to ignore it entirely. This is just as bad as a man actively oppressing a woman so that she can’t have any agency. The fact that this man’s opinion was delivered by him telling me what I didn’t like about TFA is highlighting this problem; he took away my agency and simultaneously Jyn’s.

REBEL RISING by Beth Revis

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Star Wars: Rebel Rising

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Jyn Erso is eight years old when the Empire murders her mama. To her disbelief, her papa goes with them, and Jyn is left to wait in a dark cave until Saw Gerrara comes to her rescue. Life with Saw is hard at first, but Jyn grows to love the exciting unpredictability of living with a Rebel fighter. More than that, Jyn grows to love Saw as the father figure she lost. As years pass, Saw’s paranoia pays off in the form of Jyn’s training and her ability to forge a milieu of Imperial docs.

When a mission on Tamsye Prime goes bad, Jyn is left abandoned once again. Jon must forge a life for herself trapped between two enemy alliances. But when both bring about utter destruction everywhere she turns, where in all the galaxy can Jyn find any hope?


Oh my gosh, I love this book! I grew up on Star Wars, but Rogue One is definitely my favourite film in the saga. I love Jyn’s devil-may-care attitude and the way that, for once, the Rebel alliance is cast in a shadow of doubt. Unlike the viewpoint we get from Luke Skywalker’s eyes, with Jyn we see the destruction that the Rebel alliance can cause, especially when the cause is taken too far. When terrorists simply define people who cause terror, then we see that both sides have their fair share.

I loved this book in part because we get a bit of Saw Gerrara’s backstory. He always was a weird character to me in the movie Rogue One, but now I know why he wears that Darth Vader-esque suit and acts so crazed. At the same time, I can now see why Jyn would ever love someone like him in the first place.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Now, one thing I wasn’t a huge fan of in the book was the love story arc. To me, it just seems like Jyn isn’t the vulnerable type, even as a teenager, and Beth Revis didn’t do a very good job of setting up the relationship that Jyn has with Hadder. There was no spark, nothing that pointed to them being a likely match. I think that, even had Hadder lived, he and Jyn wouldn’t have worked out. Jyn needs someone strong–someone who can equal her in every way, but Hadder is too naive and un-relatable to Jyn. I just didn’t get it.

Oh, how I wish Revis would have said Cassian’s name at the end! He’s by far my favourite character, and while I know he’s there because I watched the movie, there was no need for Revis to just gloss over putting his name in the book! And I’m not saying this because I think Jyn and Cassian were a thing, ergo she would have paid special notice of him–I don’t think they’re a romantic match at all, despite those heated glances they give each other in the movie. I just wish his name had been in it for my own sake. I’m sappy, I know.

Highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend for anyone, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan, but you’ll love it even if you just appreciate good sci-fi. I’m headed to the library now to check out more of the Star Wars books. I’m about to geek out so hard!

Book Love: Best Drink & Book Pairings

Some things just go so well together. Junk food and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Knitting while listening to podcasts. Tea and Downton Abbey. And there’s nothing better than curling up in a comfy spot with a good book and the perfect drink to go along with it.

Most people probably associate reading with warm drinks, but this list will include all sorts (though all the beverages will be virgin for our non-legal friends).

detectiveBook: The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson
Drink: Warm milk with honey
This is one of the main character’s, Jack’s, favourite drink and it constantly comes up throughout the book. It had me craving one even though I’m lactose intolerant. This book also takes place in the wintertime across a span of time where there is endless snow, and the thought of a warm drink was soothing in this otherwise edge-of-your-seat detective story.

 

saint anythingBook: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Drink: Orange Pop
Most people reference the food when talking about this book, but what goes better with pizza and French fries than a bottle of pop? Even though this book has darker themes, I do think orange pop is the best choice because it goes along with Layla’s bright personality so well. However, you could mix it up with Coke or Pepsi too. Anything fizzy works, in my opinion.

 

wishful drinkingBook: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Drink: Shirley Temple
Considering this book is about alcoholism and drug addiction, an innocent Shirley Temple is the perfect virgin drink that will still pack a punch. The fruity and sweet flavours will complement Fisher’s spunky and witty style and will help to lighten the mood during some of the darker aspects of the book.

 

 

 

all the rageBook: All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Drink: Coffee (black)
This drink was selected in consideration of the dark themes in this novel. I also think that Romy shows incredible maturity for her age, and I imagine that this would be her drink of choice a few years down the road.

 

 

 

 

 

bureauBook: The Bureau of Holiday Affairs by Andi Marquette
Drink: Cinnamon Spice Latte
This book was so fun and saucy that I thought a cinnamon spice latte would be the absolute match. Feminine yet strong in flavour, this drink is the ideal representation of the characters sprinkled throughout the novel.

 

 

 

 

call the midwife 1Book: Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
Drink: Tea with milk and sugar
This is a memoir written about the experiences of a midwife in the East End of London, England during the 1950s. OF COURSE tea is the perfect drink for it! The milk and sugar are important for making the drink sweet; the memoir has heavy moments but is overall incredibly warm and endearing.

 

the miniaturistBook: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Drink: Hot Chocolate
Nella, the main character of this novel, has a sweet tooth, and I just know that she would be caught sipping hot chocolate by the fire if given the chance. This book needed a warm drink because it, too, takes place in the wintertime, and the descriptions of the cold had me positively shivering. Hot chocolate would do all of its readers good!

Waiting on Wednesday: SAINT ANYTHING

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Hey everyone!

I saw all of these “Waiting on Wednesday” posts popping up on my timeline and I decided to give it a try. I can’t guarantee that these posts will be regular occurrences (I have other ideas for posts that I think could be really fun and interesting…) but for today, at least, you shall know what I’m excited about.

My WoW pick is Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. A little story: me and Sarah Dessen go way back, and I mean about ten years back. When I was twelve I picked up this here little beauty… the_truth_about_forever

I have to be honest here for a second. I am the type of person who will buy a book solely based on the cover, at that age especially (I was about twelve at the time). Now I like to read the back or the inside sleeve, sometimes a paragraph or two. I’ve become jaded in my old age, apparently. I’m much pickier.

Anyways, I saw this particular cover and instantly fell in love. I hadn’t read any YA before—though I had accidentally read a quite steamy Adult novel which was my introduction to oral sex but HAVE NO FEAR! I simply believed oral sex meant two people sitting across from each other and talking about the sexual things they’d like to do. I was a fairly innocent child.

Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever was my introduction to the YA genre, and I was instantly hooked. I read every single one of her books that were out at that time, and have been a dedicated fan since (though I have not yet read The Moon and More. I’m a little bit scared that the MC cheats on her boyfriend and it would make me so sad…).

I’ve heard a lot of really great things about Saint Anything. The cover is beautiful, the MC is named Sydney which is a name I LOVE, and it seems to have a bit of a darker feel which I’m excited to experience. Sarah Dessen never disappoints me. We’re thick as thieves, her books and me. I’ll be picking this one up as soon as it’s out.

A few other things I’m eagerly awaiting:

  1. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  2. Pitch Perfect 2
  3. Star Wars Episode IX
  4. Batman vs. Superman
  5. Astoria by Marianas Trench (CD)

Have a great Wednesday!

-Ember Book Reviews xxoo

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