Bookit Review: Noble Intentions

Title: Noble Intentions (Book 1 of 4)
Author: Katie MacAlister
Publication Date: Feburary 2002/ May 2014 (KIndle Version)
Grade:  B-

I have read Katie MacAlister before, when I was younger and my sister and I first got into her Dragon series.  My sister to this day reads every book of hers she can get her hands on, and she told me to read it.  So I did (eventually, as I have a pile of TO READ books and still do).

It’s a regency Era romance novel, set amongst the noble elite of London (as many regency novels are).  In this case, it tells the story of Gillian Leigh, a half-American lady who is escorting her cousin through her season.  She gains the attentions of Noble Britton, an Earl, a man in search of a wife.  They quickly marry, but most of the story takes place after the marriage.  Hijinks ensue as they try to solve the mystery of who’s after Noble now, and how it relates to the murder of Noble’s first wife Elizabeth.

This novel was enjoyable, although sometimes the dialogue seemed more modern than Regency.  Sometimes the minor characters get confusing, especially as there are three identical triplet brothers who work for Noble named Tremayne.  My favorite character was actually a secondary character named Harry Rosse, who is Noble’s best friend and confidante.

The story seems to go slowly at first, and changes directions a lot, but it all seems to tie in well when you get to the second half which has a great deal of actions.  My only issue is that some of the revel at the end sounds sudden, and a lot of information is given that could have been hinted at earlier.  There are also some elements that are not explained.  But this is a romance novel, not a mystery novel, so the focus wasn’t totally on the mystery.

My next bookit-review is going to be the second book in the series, Noble Destiny,  which features Alasdair MacGregor (Noble’s rival in this book) and Lady Charlotte (Gillian’s cousin).

Bookit Review: The Wedding Shroud

Title: The Wedding Shroud (1 of 3)
Author: Elizabeth Storrs
Publication Date:  September 2010  (Kindle Unlimited Edition)
My Grade: C

This story takes place in ancient Rome, which was a bit of a change for me as most of my novels lately seem to either in the future or in Tudor(ish) England.  It follows the story of Caecilia, a young roman women who is married to a Etruscan Lord to keep a treaty in place.  She goes to this world completely different from her own despite only being across the river.  So close, that the modern-day spot is actually within Rome’s Metropolitan area.

It was hard getting into it at first.  A good deal of the first part of the book is Caecilia watching what went on around her and hating it, finding it to be undignified or lacking honor in comparison to her more sedate Roman ways.  I have to admit that its hard to catch the character of her husband, Vel Mastarna, as it seems half the time he’s gone away for some reason or another. SOme of the other characters seem half flushed out but restricted due to the single person point of view.  However, the story does eventually grab you.  There is a lot happening in the last half.  It also includes a real life person in the form of Camillus, a Roman general.

I did find the fact the character’s point of view is mostly set on how troublesome she finds this new world.  We don’t see her take charge as matriarch, or do the duties that she actually finds she likes.  Instead its barely mentioned before go back to the weird subplot with her brother-in-law who keeps her drugged and calls it piety.
This is the first book in a trilogy, although I’ve decided to forgo the second two books.  For one, a quick google search has told me where it must end, (Veii and Rome are historical places after all), but also because I promised my sister I would read a few books she chose for me.  But I feel I can recommend this book in general as a pleasant read, if not a great one.  I have to admit though that it did have its moments when it made me uncomfortable as Caecilia is, particularly when it got into detail about ancient cultures religious rites.

Book-it Review: Isabella: Braveheart of France

Title: Isabella: Braveheart of France
Author: Colin Falconer
Publication Date: April 21, 2015 (Kindle Unlimited Edition) (Famous Women series)
My Grade: C

It’s hard to write this review because it almost seems like I can’t put into words what I found wrong about this book.  The general story is good, but then its a story brought from real life.  The things wrong are found in other elements.

This story feels self Published in that it seems unedited.  The tenses shift, and the phrasing doesn’t flow well.  At first I thought perhaps it was written for a younger audience, but some of the language disagrees with that theory.

It also turns Roger Mortimer into a pedophile, openly desiring Isabella since she was 12 years old.  Edward the II sounds like a madman, and whether he was or not we really don’t get to know him at all except as Isabella points out the awkward moments in their relationship. Piers Gaveston has a large role but still we know nothing really about him except he was pretty, and Edward liked him a lot.  In fact there isn’t a lot of character development at all.  Isabella is the most developed, as one would hope from the sole POV character, but considering how big a role some of these characters play, I would have expected to know more about them.

It also has some time jumps, as the novel is less than 300 pages and it covers 17 years of her life.  It doesn’t even really cover her years as Queen Regent, ending with Edward’s death.

Still, I have read much worse, and it seems for the most part not to take too many literary licence with the history, though I am not knowledgeable enough to really take on that element of it.  I give it a C, because It didn’t make me want to throw it out the window, but it didn’t enthrall me either.  Perhaps, if given a proper editor, it could improved upon.

Bookit-Review: Vision of the Future

Title: Vision of the Future
Author: Timothy Zahn
Publication Date:  September 1, 1999  (Paperback) Book 2 of the Hand of Thrawn Duology
My Grade:  B

So this is the final book in the five Thrawn books made by Timothy Zahn.  The first three being his Thrawn Trilogy, and the second two being the Hand of Thrawn Duology which began with Specter of the Past.

Zahn is really good at building us a universe to play in.  It’s interesting to see in the Duology how his main characters have changed in the decade between then and now.  Mara has become more comfortable with herself, and with the idea of the Jedi.  Luke also has changed, become more mature and is in the process of evaluating how he uses the force in his day-to-day life.  Leia and Han just want a peaceful vacation with their three kids where no one tries to kidnap, kill or anything else to them.  However, when push comes to shove they are going to help out.

Han in this book is a little less the rascal we all love in the movies.  It is after all almost 20 years post the Battle of Yavin, so I suppose that all that time spent with the Rebellion, The New Republic and of course being a father to three Jedi children might chill you out a bit.  There is plenty of Lando as well, as he teams up with Han to find the Caamas Document.

Leia meanwhile is teaming up with various subcharacters in the political world trying to find peace for the New Republic, both internally and externally.

I think one of my favorite things is the delving into the background of Talon Karrde, as well as seeing what Pelleaon is up to now as the Supreme Commander of the Empire’s naval forces.  He’s trying to save the Empire but is not having an easy time of it because of the reappearance of “Thrawn.”

If you like books that deal with political intrigue, character backgrounds and action you will enjoy this book.  It has a good mix of the three.  It deals with the theme of how things can appear one way but turn out not to be that way at all, it depends on your point of view (as Obi-wan once told us) and who got to write the history down.

It also sets up the next stage of the Star Wars Legends books, which is interesting but I won’t be delving into myself.  At least not right now.

I really liked the fact that Luke and Mara had basically a road-trip like plot arc (well, it was more like a hike, but the same concept).  They ended up forced to face some issues between them that had developed over the last ten years, and eventually realise they love each other.  It’s a bit sappy in its almost instantious realization, and I feel it might have been better if he had started to develop them going down that road in the first book, but there is plenty going on that needed developed.

My only problem is wondering why after the kids are sent away to hang out with Chewie and his family, no one really mentions them.  That being said, it is a good book and I would definitely put it on my recommended books list.

I do however suggest, should you try this book out to start with the Thrawn Trilogy.  While it’s not completely necessary (as there is a ten-year gap with many events happening), it does give some background on the relationships between the main characters and an interesting place to compare how they have changed in 10 years.

Bookit Review: Specter of the Past

Title: Specter of the Past (Part 1 in a duology)  (Kindle version)

AUthor: Timothy Zahn

Published:  June 28th 2011

My Grade: B-

This duology is a sequel to the Thrawn trilogy, and takes place a decade later.  My favorites from the Thrawn series return, Palleaon is now a Admiral and head of the Imperial Navy.  He doesn’t see a happy ending for the Empire if they don’t make peace with the New Republic.  However not everyone agrees with him and he must search out some treachery on the side of the Empire.

On the New Republic side, Leia is dealing with mulitple issues as an old tragedy is brought forward when documents implicating the Bothans in the genocide of a species. Everyone ends up in the mix as tempers rise and accusations are thrown.  Han is implicated as shooting into a protest, Karrde is accused of being behind the reapperance of Thrawn, and Lando is accused of going along with it.

Meanwhile Luke is trying to figure out a few things, including his new equilibrium with the force and his connection to Mara Jade, whose investigating the Thrawn situation herself.

This book was good, but a bit of a disappointment as well.  It sets up the second book for the most part.  It is essieintally a 400 word lead-in.  It explains the political situation, updates us on the characters lives at the moment, and prepares us for whatever is going to happen in Vision of the Future which I”m currently reading right now.

It does reference things that have happened in books published between the trilogy and the duology.  Including Luke’s brush with being on the dark side. However I think, its brief enough that you can still read and enjoy without having read those books.

I bought this on Kindle, and that edition has a timeline of the Legends Universe.  My paperback copy of Visions of the Future that I bought many years ago but never fully read has a timeline too (although its called the expanded universe, because they hadn’t shifted the canon yet).

Bookit Review: The Last Command

Title: The Last Command (book 3 of 3 of the Thrawn Trilogy
Author: Timothy Zahn
Publication Date: May 1993 (Paperback edition)

My Grade:  A

I really enjoyed the third book in the trilogy, and the Trilogy in general.  It was interesting to read at this point due to the fact that this came out before the prequels and therefore has some Ret-conned elements.  However many of the things stand up even despite that.  In this book, Leia has her twins, which (as far as we know) doesn’t occur in movie cannon), but you could replace Jaina and Jacen relatively easily with Ben.  They talk about the Clone Wars, and it brings up some interesting ideas about the clone wars that makes me wonder how much this book influenced the animated series.  (Enough to make me think about watching it).

I have also grown to love some of the minor characters that I hope to catch often as I read more of the Expanded (now called Legends) universe.  Talon Karrde, General Bel Ibis, and Captain Pellaeon in particular.  Each of them seemed to be interesting characters with stories of their own to explore.  Mara Jade is still one of my favorite non-film canon characters and I hope they have some version of her in the film series.  I consider her one of the main characters of the EU.  To sum it up, this book as a variety of minor characters (and major ones) with good characterization.

It also has a good plot, tying together some of the various plot lines that have been going through the trilogy.  It also deals with Mara’s past, Leia’s use of the force, The Noghri’s situation, and gives alot of information about the Clone Wars that is vague enough that it actually might pass the flims/tv series canon.

I was actually expecting Luke and Mara to have a bigger force connection, because of the way things end up for them in other books, but instead I found the book deals alot with Mara and Leia’s connection.  And also the way Leia views the New Republic and Mara.  Honestly, this trilogy is a lot about Leia dealing with becoming a mother, being a Jedi, and dealing with being part of the New Republic.  She also deals with the legacy that is being Darth Vader’s daughter.

If you enjoy Star Wars, I definitely recommend this book, and the trilogy its a part of.  It brings back alot of the favorite minor characters from the films, and deepens the universe in which we get to play.  I’m actually moving to read the second Thrawn series (this one a duology) called Spectre of the Past  and Vision of the Future.   I actually own the second book, but never read the first one so I got lost on a few things.

(As of posting, I’ve actually read Spectre of the Past. It should be posted shortly)

Bookit Review: Dark Force Rising

Title:  Dark Force Rising (Book 2 of 3 in the Thrawn Trilogy)

Author: Timothy Zahn

Publication Date: June 1992 (and this paperback is old enough that it doesn’t have Legends slapped on it).

My Rating:  A-

Although it took me awhile to get through this book thanks to life getting in the way, I enjoyed it.  It really fleshed out the universe of Star Wars.  Mara’s background is included, as well as information about the Clone Wars, the Jedi and many other things.  Granted, alot has been retconned by the prequel movies, but it is still interesting.

In this book, the three main characters take different paths and all three are interesting.  Luke takes after a lead on an Old Jedi Master, and Mara finds herself in need of his help which doesn’t actually appeal to her but she does it anyway.  So Luke, Mara and Karrde’s storyline goes together in this novel.  Han and Lando meanwhile have a different path to take, which leads them to an Senator from Corellia and a bit of backstory for Han.

I think Leia’s storyline is the most interesting.  In this triology, the empire makes use of a species known as the Noghri, who are loyal to Vader and through him Thrawn due to being saved.  Leia tries to figure out if she can find a way to win them to the New Republic’s side, and learns alot about herself, Vader and Clone wars.    One of the reasons I find this storyline interesting is because it develops a world and species in a very interesting way.  They are serving the empire because they see the Empire as their hero.  And it ties in with some of the universe’s history.

I really enjoyed this one, and I’m looking forward to the final book in the series.  I wish there was more I could say without causing spoilers.  If you are a Star Wars fan, I definately recommend reading this series.

Bookit Review: Heir to the Empire

Title:  Heir to the Empire  (Book 1 of the Thrawn Trilogy)
Author: Timothy Zahn
Publication Date:  June 1992  (Paperback edition.  Yep, went old school on this one)
Grade: B-

After watching Star Wars (all 8 movies) in late December and early January to celebrate Carrie Fisher, I decided that it was time to finally read that pile of Star Wars Novels that I had bought or have been given over the years but never got to.  This starts with one of the apparently fan favorites of the EU (now Legends) Star Wars universe.

Heir of the Empire is the first in a trilogy of books taking place about 5 or so years after Endor.  It starts with Leia and Luke having some emotional upheavals as Ben Kenobi says goodbye, and Leia deals with the fact that she is pregnant with twins and someone is out to kidnap her.  Meanwhile Han is busy trying to build a level of trust between the Republic and smugglers it wants to make legitimate traders. There is also Political issues in the new republic as different fractions try to get power.   So this book has aspects of a war novel, a political thriller and some Jedi lore.

The reason I started with this book was not only was it relatively close to the end of the movies, but it introduces Mara Jade, who is perhaps my favorite EU/Legends character.  I still hope some reiteration of her appears in the new film Trilogy.  It also introduces Talon Karrde who I’m finding more interesting than I expected.

The book itself took a bit to get into because it takes a moment to orient yourself in the universe.  I’m used to reading tie-in novels that have some reference to the films either by being the novelization or movies that take place directly before/after or deal with events in the movie.  However, once you figure out where everything is at, it’s a good book.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.