I just finished reading a great quartet of books, nominally geared toward Young Adults, that aim to set up the events of "The Force Awakens". All were well worth reading, in my opinion. All have been seeded with hints for the upcoming movie, but all take place in the era of the Galactic Civil War.
First up for discussion, the longest of the four: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray. This is a rather long book, but a very quick and engaging read. It follows two main characters, friends from a young age, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree. They hail from a back water planet and manage to make it into the Coruscant Imperial Academy before the events of Yavin. They both initially train as TIE pilots, but then start separate paths: Thane sticks with starfighters, Ciena moves to the capital ship command track. They develop a love interest, and eventually wind up on opposite sides of the Rebellion.
I won't give any more of the plot away, but I will mention that one of the "seeds" in this book, as pertains to "The Force Awakens", is the story behind the cover art (and the wonderful special effects shot of a crashed Star Destroyer, as seen in the TFA trailer).
Can't really complain about this solid entry into Star Wars lore. The only thing that comes to mind is the references throughout to something called "Imperial Starfleet". Sounds like a J.J.-ism, perhaps.
Next up for mini-review is a trio of much shorter books, all done in the same format: namely a short beginning portion, set in the time of "The Force Awakens", wherein the main character is asked to recall a story from the past (i.e. the Galactic Civil War era). The bulk of the book is this story, then the very end few pages are a wrap-up set, once again, in the "future". We get small hints of new characters and other "seeded" hints thrown in, here and there. All three are fun short stories that fit well in the spirit of the Star Wars universe. They remind me a bit of the wonderful "Tales From..." series, as the three plots can all be considered side treks within the main Galactic Civil War story line.
I read all four books in less than two weeks. Really nice stories that add some good flavor to the Star Wars canon. I have to admit, after reading these, my unease with the whole concept of "The Force Awakens" has grown. I love the Galactic Civil War era too much, and appreciate the now-Legends stuff that filled in after ROTJ too much to see it all swept away by a (possibly) simplistic, eternal war type scenario. Why can't the end of the Emperor spell the (eventual) end of the Empire? A subject for another time, perhaps.
Side Note: I am not going to review "Aftermath", as I could not stand to read even the sample chapter found online. I will have to ask Nate what happened (unless my fear proves true, and I don't care that much about "The Force Awakens"). I have had fun reading some of the 40% one-star reviews on Amazon.com. Not a good sign, in my opinion.
I still have a plethora of GCW era stuff to read, and I am in no hurry to despoil the Expanded Universe, personally.