Saturday, June 30, 2018

Chocolate and Love: Sea Salt & Caramel 55%

There were two more chocolates that I came away with from the gift shop at the Phoenix Zoo; both are from Chocolate and Love. This is a Swiss company and the chocolate is both organic and fair trade. I'm not used to seeing so much fair trade chocolate in a gift shop, so that was why I got so excited to get a few of them. Their gift shop, though, does have a generally pretty good selection of items--I even remember that from when I visited before years ago. This colorful wrapper with a pattern of vines and leaves fit right in.

The wrapper is the kind that folds out to have more info about the company and its practices on the inside; this is always a nice way to keep the mess off of the visible packaging but still give the consumer information. (The chocolate, by the way, is sourced from Peru and The Dominican Republic.) I don't, however, favor the white wrappers, just because they don't make resealing as easy (if, of course, you're going to eat all of the chocolate at once, then this is irrelevant). The squares are in a simple style, decorated just with a series of lines going across.

Given that the cocoa content is 55%, it follows that the aroma is of sweet dark chocolate, like semisweet chocolate chips. And on beginning in, I discovered that once more we have the crunchy caramel. I just don't get why everyone is calling this caramel instead of just going for toffee; does the word caramel sound more appealing to consumers than toffee? Possibly: it sounds more like modern candy than old-fashioned sweets, I guess.

Now, one of the bits of info that's on the inside of the wrapper instructs you to let the chocolate melt rather than chewing it. Sure, of course you generally want to do that for dark chocolate--but especially for plain chocolate. If you do that here, you'll only taste the chocolate and then be left with all the crunchy caramel at the end to taste all on its own. So you do have to crunch. After all, this caramel seems almost harder than toffee.

While the salt is added in a generous amount (I've had stronger, but this definitely isn't on the light side), the effect is more like salted chocolate than salted caramel. The chocolate is close to what I describe as that Nesquik flavor. It's sweet, which makes it more of a confection than just dark chocolate. But, you know, I guess it makes sense for this chocolate to be on the sweet side given that the Swiss are known for milk chocolate. And for such a hard caramel as this one, you need a heavier carrier than milk chocolate--so this type of sweet chocolate allows you to keep the sweetness while still having the strength to carry the caramel.

It isn't bad. It's mainly a nice crunchy caramel chocolate. It's just that the caramel is so hard that sometimes it reminds me of eating rocks. Granted, it doesn't get stuck in your teeth the way that toffee does, so that's a benefit. It still hasn't won me over to the whole crunchy caramel concept; however, this bar does make for a nice crunching confection type of chocolate and I suppose that's enough.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Writing Progress

It's an exciting thing to print out a draft for the first time.

I didn't think I was at that stage yet; I thought I was going to write up more first. Then I just felt like I needed to print it all out to be able to do more. After all, I do have a beginning, some early stages, a tiny bit of the middle, and an ending (maybe not the end end but some of the end). Time to take a step back and see what I have in order to be able to see what I need.

Having printed out said manuscript, I read through it all yesterday. Some of this I wrote months and months ago and have barely looked at since. So it's a strange sensation to suddenly see it physical--and to see that it does work toward a whole. Sometimes I've felt like I've really been letting this latest book drag. But there are pieces of it that I could only have written at certain specific times. When I was writing the beginning, for instance, I only knew the beginning; I knew nothing of the rest. Later, I started to get the pieces that I was missing.

In fact, I was missing so much that I expected, when I read through it all, to find a definite tone shift halfway through. I was expecting to find incongruence that I'd need to fix. Surprisingly, though, I didn't find much of that. Instead I just find gaps that I need to fill in more (which I already knew I'd need given that this is a complete-but-not-complete draft). I did write one scene twice--and it's quite different each time. I mean, I wrote the same scene for Black Tree two or maybe even three times because I thought I hadn't written it yet (and then I ended up not even using it; it might actually work better in this new book, though, strange enough). That scene was mostly the same each time that I wrote it. Not the case for this current one. One version is definitely better as far as theme and character go, but I do love the setting of the other version--so I might have to just keep the setting and figure out what scene is supposed to go with that setting.

And I realize that I'm missing a scene that I remember writing. I write in a couple of different notebooks (one is more for when I'm free writing, but that often turns into content that I can use) and occasionally on loose paper (I type it all up later), but I can't find that scene anywhere. So a little bit of organization is necessary, I suppose.

Anyway. It's been a while since I did a sale for Black Tree. So let's call it an Independence Day sale for 40% off paperback and hardcover copies at this link.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Giving Back in Return

When Lacey Sturm wrote her first book, The Reason, I realized that one of the reasons I had connected with and enjoyed Flyleaf's music so much was Lacey's writing. And she also has an incredible testimony, so getting to hear that story in detail was a gift. Her second book, The Mystery, I found even more applicable to me on a personal level--at least, in the sense of pondering some things in the present and some things before they happen so as to be prepared for when you do come into certain situations. And, you know, God has a way of bringing us exactly the things we need at exactly the right time. Lacey's third book, The Return: Reflections on Loving God Back, was kind of like that.

It was also interesting (as I thought it might be, which is why I chose to read these books in this order rather than vice versa) to come into this book straight after reading Ashley Eckstein's book, It's Your Universe. To me, that book was kind of like the bare bones, straightforward, think on good and do good, live well and be well type of message; then this one came in with more detail and explained the why behind it all.

I've mentioned in some other posts that I have been discovering, like I never knew before, what worship means and what prayer means--and craving them both. I think that if I hadn't been in this stage of realizing all this in a different way than before, then maybe I wouldn't have been able to take in Lacey's words in the same way (or maybe then they just would have introduced me to what I was missing, who knows). As it was, so many time I would read what she said and think, yes, I know exactly what you mean. Or, oh, you're right, I need more of that or to remind myself of that.

Rather than being in typical narrative form, this book is a little different. There are chapters and part of the chapters are regular text. Part of them, though, are journal pieces from the past twenty years. The journals have Bible verses listed (the verses themselves aren't there, so at least sometimes you'll find yourself reaching out to look them up and read them as you go through), prayers, lists of kind things to do, song lyrics, and recipes. So you're truly going through and seeing Lacey's journey from being a young Christian to the Flyleaf days to having her family to the solo music days and up to the present.

She brings up some topics, like music and fame and family and temptation and depression and health and work and rest and worship. But the most significant thing about it all is never a specific topic: it's obedience to God--and obedience stemming from genuine love and true desire to serve God. Freedom, not bondage. So it's never about do this or do that. It's all about listening to God and reaching out to him constantly and in all things.

When I walk from my car to work, I look at the mountains and I look up at the sky and I feel myself here on earth reaching up toward heaven and I ask to be God's light to whoever it is that I come into contact with. This book feeds that perspective. That perspective of where am I today and right now and what should I be doing today and right now for God? There is a person; let me smile at them. There is something dirty; let me clean it. There is a task; let me attend to it. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing.

There are plenty of great lines in this book, great ways of putting concepts. But I'll let you read all that for yourself. The main message is to listen and to reach. Never forget the beauty of creation, of which we are all part, and the glory of its Creator, from whom all good things come.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Nirvana: 72% Dark Chocolate with Toffee and Sesame Seeds

Time to start giving spotlight to some chocolates that I found at the gift shop at the Phoenix Zoo when I was there for their Dinosaurs exhibit. Who knew they had such interesting options there?

Nirvana Belgian Chocolates has this organic, fair trade bar that caught my interest with its unique use of ingredients. It's a 72% Dark Chocolate with Toffee and Sesame Seeds. Toffee I like, but sesame seeds? A little weird, right? I've had M&M-style chocolate sunflower seeds before and those were alright, I guess. But I've never come across sesame seeds in chocolate before. Especially, perhaps, for bringing a unique ingredient in, the packaging on this bar veers on the basic side. Plain is fine, but this almost looks like it's trying too hard to look hipster or something. Still, all qualities considered, I had to at least try it.

The inside wasn't too promising, apart of course from the inevitable bloom (which is all the fault of our lovely Arizona warmth and not of Nirvana). It's a plain design--which is fine but not exciting and more than that, I was picking up a basic, low-level dark chocolate aroma that made me imagine that I would not care for this chocolate.

Give things a chance, though. Give the chocolate a little crunch.

Now, I couldn't at first tell the distinction between the crunch of the toffee and the crunch of the sesame seeds. I wasn't even sure that I could taste either one, except that the sesame seeds did, texture-wise, become more noticeable as seeds once the chocolate was mostly done melting. And sesame seeds aren't hugely flavor, anyway, especially in comparison to the flavor strength of something like chocolate.

The chocolate tastes different from what I'd expected going off of the aroma. It has a slight bitter twinge to it, not big but still noticeable at first. So that means that it isn't as, well, tasteless as I'd been expecting. The bitter twinge gives it some flavor--and it also isn't as sweet as I'd been expecting. Sweet chocolate is fine, but sweet dark chocolate is weird. This chocolate does have some of what I call that thick flavor that chocolate labeled as Belgian tends to have (that flavor that I tend to dislike), but not too much. Only a bit.

The toffee and sesame I'm still not sure if I get entirely. Were they trying to use less "unhealthy" toffee by sneaking in sesame seeds as half of the candy element? Thing is, though, not only was I not at first tasting the sesame seeds, I also wasn't really tasting much toffee, nor getting much of its specific toffee crunch (probably that part because the toffee pieces seem to be just as small as the sesame seeds). I mean, the whole effect of the crunch is a little different from what you generally come across, so little changes like that can be worth it on their own.

The thing is, though, the more I kept eating, the more that the slight bitter twinge in the chocolate disappeared (as usually happens with chocolate) and the more I become in touch with the toffee and sesame. The chocolate becomes like a fudge wrapper to enjoy them in, and I begin to taste the butteriness of the toffee and feel the contrast between the toffee and the sesame seeds. So, in fact, the set does work--not as an eat-one-piece type but as a snacking type where you eat at least a few pieces at a time. The more the better with this one. That's why it crunches, after all. Crunch, crunch, crunch, keep going, have more, crunch, crunch. And, you know, it's nice to also get that more kind of casual effect with dark chocolate.

So it all took a little bit of easing in, but this was an interesting exploration.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thoughts on Jane

"My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world; almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol." - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This is one of those quotes that lingers on to me. It makes evident that the problem with Jane and Rochester's relationship at first was not just Bertha: Bertha is the physical manifestation of the problem rather than simply another character, another person. Their relationship only became equal and based on the right foundation after their separation.

Reading Lacey Sturm's latest book started putting this quote back in my head--as did typing up some scenes for the book I'm working on right now.

I don't know how I can claim to know anything more about love than anyone else does, but love is one of those things that people talk about so often in seemingly the wrong context. That is, they use the word when they're not really referring to love at all.

This was something that I appreciated about Ashley Eckstein's book, too: in talking a bit about how she met her husband, she talked about love as being something that you work at. Love is giving, not sensation.

Sure, when you love someone, they start to fill your thoughts. But the thing is, you can't put so much pressure on a person that they become the most important thing in your life. Jane put all her thoughts on Rochester, tried to let him be her redemption. She put the world and the material above the eternal. If she tried to look at Rochester in this way, he was bound to fail her. And she was bound to fail him.

People don't save you and you can't save people. That comes from elsewhere--and realizing that also helps us realize that we are all part of that creation of which Jane speaks--and then that helps you to see the intense value in every person.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dreaming Your Universe

Ashley Eckstein, voice of Ahsoka Tano and founder of Her Universe, the company that started all of the great Star Wars, Doctor Who, Marvel, etc. clothing for women. Now she has a book out about her journey towards achievement. As you can tell from the title, though, It's Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen isn't exactly an autobiography. Ashley is writing directly to her audience and letting them know how they, too, can make their dreams reality.

It's a YA book, so it's short and succinct and styled in that casual way that reminds me of a magazine. There are sections of blank lines scattered throughout where Ashley encourages her reader to make lists or otherwise write things down that will help with planning out a dream. Lots of pictures, too. A few of Ashley, maybe at different stages in her life that she's talking about--like her early trips to Disney World or the first time she put on a Her Universe fashion show at SDCC. Plenty of the images are illustrations with Disney imagery.

The style of the book ties in Disney stories with life lessons. And sure, much of this content is, well, nothing that you'd call new exactly. It's all great advice that I've mainly heard before. However, it remains wonderful advice to have collected here and put out in such a straightforward and honest way. Sometimes just because you know that, oh, you have to work hard and not give up and come up with multiple plans to achieve something, etc. doesn't mean that you don't need a reminder of all that. Sometimes you need to hear again that even though you feel like you just lost a big opportunity, the reason you lost that opportunity might be because there is an even better one coming up.

And also this book was a reminder that just because I know certain things doesn't mean that everyone else does, too. Especially here is where it helps that, even though any age can read this book, the target audience is mainly pre-teen and teen girls. Reading this was a reminder that there are still people figuring things out, making realizations about the world and about themselves and their place in the world, people still trying to plan out what their contribution will be. It's a reminder that for every good thing you figure out for yourself, you need to share that with other people, too. If you've achieved something, help other people achieve something, too (which doesn't just mean achieving a dream like starting a company or something; it can simply be achieving contentment in life or the ability to smile daily). And that's exactly what Ashley does with this book.

I knew only a little bit about Ashley's story and though she doesn't go into great detail here (probably partly because it's all recent history and partly because she doesn't want the focus to just be about her), there were still plenty of interesting stories to hear, from her early acting work to her job at Disney World as a teenager to the casting call that led to Ahsoka. In hearing her talk about starting up Her Universe, I realized that I had kind of forgotten just how much Her Universe changed things. It was years ago now that I found that Darth Vader dress from them that I just thought was the most awesome thing--and now dresses like that are so common that I've almost forgotten what it was like before they existed. The shirts and the accessories, too. So much variety. It's funny: if you watch Fresh Baked shopping at Disneyland, David sometimes talks about how there is such better Star Wars clothing for women than for men. Ashley started that. And in this book, she mentions one of the statistics she found when she was researching starting Her Universe; it has to do with the greater percentage of sales being from women than from men. So . . . even though of course there should be great merch for men, too, well, it does make sense that nowadays there is so much more for women--because we definitely buy it.

And this all made me think about not just clothing. Ashley talks about these stories of girls who had been bullied, etc. for liking things like Star Wars. So much has changed in the last few years, hasn't it? Part of it has been because of Disney acquiring Star Wars--but the thing is, Ashley was stirring things up at right about that time. You had the character of Ahsoka introduced just before that and you had Ashley realizing that she could use her influence as Ahsoka to make some changes. And then we started getting all these things like those Forces of Destiny toys that are just like Barbies (a "girl toy") except that they're characters like Leia and Rey (they're so wonderful and exciting that I just had to get the Endor Leia one). It's cool and what I mean to say also is that it's amazing how one piece of influence can keep on having an effect.

Dream it and do it kind of also means that every action you take has power. You have power for passivity or power for influence. We all have a role to play and all of these roles work together in one great web that connects everyone, person to person.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Black Butterfly: Banana Toffee Crunch & Bonbons

Last time I was in Prescott, I made my stop at Black Butterfly to see what I could see. I thought that I was in Prescott often, but the infrequency with which I now seem to go to Black Butterfly would make things appear otherwise. And did you know that the shop has just had its one year anniversary this week? How time flies.

I picked out two flowers from the case, the Champagne & Roses and the Violet Creme. Sometimes I don't pay as much attention to the medallions because I look to the truffles first, but in truth these are wonderful, as well, so I thought I should give them a bit of attention this time. This little disc of chocolate came with rose petals on top, sugared and dried. So you get rose flavor from the dried petals and also some crunch of sugar. The champagne adds perhaps a bit of richness. A light and feminine medallion.

The Violet Creme is feminine, as well, although perhaps not light in the same way as the Champagne & Roses. Violet is, after all, a stronger and more in-your-face flavor than rose (which is not to say that I dislike violet at all, quite the contrary). Violet also brings even more of that classic and vintage feel. Once again, sorry that the purple and blue heart didn't photograph as nice as it looked when I bought it: it's hard to get these home in exactly the original condition, especially now that we're in warm weather season. The flavor of this truffle is truly delightful. This is the type of piece that's perfect and flawless as a simple product because the flavor that it does contain are wonderful. The violet brings in that strong, distinctive flavor and the chocolate adds the right balance of warmth and richness. I don't know if it's just because it's the one that I have with me right now, but I think this one might be one of my favorites from Black Butterfly so far.

And now to the toffee. I heard this name and knew I had to get it. Banana Toffee Crunch. Yes, that is for me, for me specifically. I already like toffee (because it crunches and it has that classic sweet taste to it). And I always get excited over banana with chocolate because it's a pairing you don't see too often, banana being easy to work into an ice cream sundae but more difficult to bring into a chocolate bar or a truffle.

In this case, the banana is in the form of banana chips. While banana chips wouldn't work for every product, here they're just right since the chocolate already has crunch from the toffee. So a little more crunch blends right in. The seven ounce bag comes with one-to-two-bite pieces, easy for sharing while you're hanging out with a group under the trees at the Square or great for keeping at your desk to munch on like chips. Depending on which you get, banana or toffee or feulletine (which is also in here to make up a third element), each bite is a little different. The toffee adds that familiar toffee flavor and sticky-crunch texture; it's in nice and small pieces. The banana comes in with almost more of an unexpected but fitting flavor since, once again, you don't come across banana in chocolate much and yet the flavors do go so well together. I don't normally notice the feulletine distinctly on its own, except sometimes when I find a piece after the chocolate has melted away. This is one of those instances, though, where I say that I would probably notice if it weren't there.

Rather than trying out something new (which is great, too, of course), this time I just zeroed in on the things that I know make me happy. Flowers and toffee. Nice and simple and yet also well-done (because of course simple does not necessarily mean that something will be well-done). Also pretty and light, which feels perfect for this transitioning-into-summer season.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Fates Divide

I'm already doing a terrible job at keeping up with the new books (and not new books) that I want to read, but I enjoyed Veronica Roth's Carve the Mark so much that I took the time to reread it before its sequel, The Fates Divide, came out this spring.

Disappointing thing was, I couldn't get into the new book. There was so much more focus on characters I didn't care for, namely Isae. There was more of a political side to the content this time (and mainly it was Isae and politics together, so that made whole chapters of very little interest to me). And even characters I did like or relationships I did like (like Cyra and Akos) were just dwelling in content I didn't care for (honestly, it felt "general YA" to me rather than what I had come to think of as specifically Veronica Roth). So the book sat for, well, months, with my bookmark about a third or so of the way in. I had other things to do than read and then I had other things to read.

Finally when I picked it up again, it got better. Turns out, I'd left off right at that turning point in a book when the tone and pace change. It returned to more of what I wanted. And I can't complain about the ending. There were, let's see, two main things that happened in the plot that I kind of predicted the second before they happened. Which means that they were things that the entire plot beforehand pointed toward but things that were difficult to guess before all of the pieces moved into place. So it all went in a good direction.

I can't really complain, then. And I'm not. I do think, though, that the best part of this story remained in the first book, along with certain pieces of this second book that tie it all in. (I'm being intentionally vague here rather than talk too much about plot.) The first book was the one with all of those great questions about character and guilt and justice and pain and duty and personal choice, etc. All of that came into play in here, as well, just not in quite the same way. In the first book, everything was fresh and sharp. Here, maybe it felt like most of the important character things were done; we just had to finish up some plot things. (I didn't think of this while I was reading, but I wonder if that means that this story was originally just one book instead of two and that it was the publishers who wanted it stretched out into two for obvious reasons.) Not that there was no plot: there was plot. And like I said, I like the direction it all went to in the end.

The idea of fate sounds worse than it is. Personal choice still exists. Positive and negative still exist; sometimes knowing how to be part of one or the other, well, that can be more complicated. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Disneyland Adventures: Part 2

I had been hearing such tell of so many Disneyland foods that I had never tried. So for this trip, I had a mental list of many, many foods I wanted to get to--if I could fit them all in during just a short day and a half visit.

To maximize time, as well, I decided to go for the bringing-things-to-snack-while-you-walk-in method for breakfast, which would probably also allow for two lunches instead of just one. This method also meant that, only by the time we were making out way from Hyperspace Mountain and Star Tours over to the west side of the park, I was getting hungry again. And there was no line for Dole Whips, so I thought, hey, why not just get one now.

I'd never had a Dole Whip before. I was too excited to even get a picture of the pretty yellow swirl; I just started eating it instantly. And it is kind of fascinating, almost more like a popsicle than an ice cream. Nice and light, a little tangy. I did kind of eat it quickly quickly (which is unlike me) because I was expecting there to be a little bit of a line for Splash Mountain by this point in the morning but there was barely an inch of a line (maybe it had opened late that morning).

Since I don't have a picture of the Dole Whip, here is a picture of the Jungle Julep.

The Jungle Julep is not as exciting as the Mint Julep that you can get in New Orleans Square. That mint and lime drink is lovely; this one was okay. It was more of a slushy drink, with a fruit candy type of flavor. Pretty, though. I had the Jungle Julep because first lunch of the day (around 11:30 maybe?) was at Bengal Barbecue, another place I had never tried. The chicken skewer was good; I would get that again. But the vegetable one was disappointing, especially after I had heard that oh, they're so wonderful, the only way to get people to eat vegetables who don't usually like vegetables. The squash were fine, the onions I would have preferred cooked a little more (I stopped eating them before the end), I don't like peppers (so I didn't eat much of those, either), and the potatoes mainly tasted like cheap potatoes to me (which probably just means that they weren't organic--because yes, I can often tell--with bananas, too--I'm not trying to be snobby, there's just a taste difference).

And a Disneyland corndog? I had never had one of those. So second lunch was one from DCA. Which is funny because, well, yes, it was good, but there is also a limit to how good a corndog can be. Anyways, if the hot dog itself were better quality, then the whole thing would have been better, too. But yes, sure, it was good as corndogs go.

Dinner, by the way, was a Mint Julep and a Monte Cristo and a beignet at New Orleans Cafe. Classic.

Day two started with a ride on Autopia and then the opening of Toontown for the day (more on that later). And then breakfast from Jolly Holiday Bakery enjoyed at one of the tables there in Toontown, which was really perfect. It was that moment where I was so hungry that a croissant with egg and bacon (I always end up taking bacon out and yet I didn't this time; that's telling) and some fruit on the side was just the best thing ever. And watching Toontown in the morning before it's full of people? Somewhere on the line between peaceful and whimsical, a special tone.

Lunch that day was at Rancho del Zocalo, where, you know, I got the tostada salad for the shorter line and because tostada salads basically have all the ingredients that other dishes have, anyway. Nothing remarkable but it was good; I'd go there again if I didn't have anything else I particularly wanted to try.

And then the last thing. The last thing I ate at the parks was from Red Rose Tavern, where I went just to get the Grey Stuff and Gaston's Brew.

The dessert is white chocolate mousse served up on a thin sugar cookie. Hiding inside of that big swirl is cake, red velvet, I suppose. Not the absolute most amazing dessert I've ever had; mainly I had to get it because I had to have it while I had the opportunity. But it was nice and I enjoyed it. If I hadn't just had lunch, I would have been able to finish it myself; otherwise, I recommend sharing. And the brew? It's a fruity drink that's maybe not as good as the Mint Julep but is a better option for a drink than, well, standard soda and lemonade and iced tea options. The main thing about it is the way it looks: just like a foamy beer. (The foam had fallen a bit by the time I took the picture; it looked even better freshly made.)

Want to put a cap on the experience? Don't drink it at Red Rose. Walk with it to your next destination and see what kind of reactions you get from the people around you. That'll be its own entertainment.

There are times when you visit Disneyland and you just seek out the least expensive, quickest, most fueling food. It was really nice to get to try out all of these different things that I wanted, without limits. Another dash of sugar on the experience that made this trip so much fun.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Han & Lando

I did at least start reading Daniel Jose Older's Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel before watching Solo. I wasn't able to finish before the movie, though, but honestly, I don't think that mattered. Some books do set things up for the movie; Catalyst before Rogue One was a great example of that. This one kind of introduced you to the tone and to L3, but that's about it.

Remember how, with the movie, I said that it played out like a side scene that could have been part of a bigger story but that I just didn't overly care about as its own separate movie? There's a similar feeling in the tone of the book as with the movie--except that this was just another book among many. So in the case of the book, I was fine with just reading a random adventure. This book was fun in a casual way. I kept on forgetting who characters were each time I picked up the book again, but that didn't really matter too much: I just kept rolling with it all.

Not that it was an entirely meaningless plot. This plot was big enough that I can see other stories referring to it in the future. Though the book was a prequel to the movie, it's split between taking place pre-A New Hope and post-Return of the Jedi. And you know what that means?

Toddler Ben Solo. Toddler Ben Solo. I totally would have read this book just to get those scenes with toddler Ben Solo because they created a great character there and I always love getting these little hints at his background. Specifically, his background with his parents. Leia, the nurturing one. Han, the one who cares but just feels like he can't. Leia, the one Ben couldn't shoot down. Han, the Ben lightsabered with tears in his eyes. He thought he was killing the past but all he was killing was his father. So all of those little bits and pieces about Ben and about Han and Leia were great.

This book moved at a good pace. The pacing and the lightheartedness (which is maybe an odd word to use given that the plot did involve mutilation and potential genocide or whatever) made it an easy read.