While I spoke of how it took some effort to get into the first book, The Empire Strikes Back had better writing quality and less often assumed that its readers knew nothing about this universe (which, of course, would have been the case in 1976 when the first book came out--but is certainly no longer the case today even for people who have somehow not watched the movies). So that was less distracting, and I was able to really get into the plot and characterization. I was reliving seeing these movies for the first few times (since I really don't remember the very first time I saw them); it was like everything was new.
Everything was exciting, the battles and the escapes in space, Luke's encounter with Yoda and the Falcon group's arrival at Cloud City. And everything was beautiful again. The descriptions gave just enough to make me see the scenes in the movies, to once again find myself in the ice of Hoth or outside Yoda's cute little hut (I hope Yoda wouldn't be offended by my calling it cute--but, no, he isn't the offended sort), to revel in the pink beauty of the clouds around Bespin.
While after watching the movies several times and several times again you get to know what the characters' motives and thoughts are at different points, still it was nice to see some of it spelled out on the page. The book is technically third person omniscient; most of the time, it's just a narrator telling the events, but often there is a sentence or so saying what a certain character is thinking. I think the droids actually get the longest sections to their own (describing their thoughts, I mean); I suppose that makes sense given their (semi-hidden) important to both the story and the movies.
I was planning on reading something else (right now I have a long stack of things that I really want to read right away) first before starting on Return of the Jedi, but, ah, I think I may have to just move right into that one. Just as I was held back for a moment there, now I'm ready to finish it--like Luke finally taking those final steps.