The Return of Tarzan

It was fairly surprising to me, when I read Tarzan of the Apes for the first time, that Tarzan doesn’t pair up with Jane by the end of the book. Tarzan and Jane are just…always together, in all the adaptations and re-tellings. Edgar Rice Burroughs, however, keeps his readers guessing, and takes two books to get there instead of one Disney movie. 🙂

This book deals with the lost city of Opar, and countless adventures and exploits of Tarzan. He’s still a free man, unfettered and unmoored, traveling here and there with friends, getting set upon by thugs and shady characters jealous of his masculinity, prowess, and status as a proper gentleman.

It’s true that too many of the women in these stories are attracted to Tarzan. I suppose if I was a high priestess of a lost city that didn’t really have a thriving community and lots of men to choose from, I would fall for Tarzan when I saw him, too.

Okay, let’s be real. I would fall for Tarzan even if there were a hundred other guys in easy reach. It does come across a bit sexist, though, for women to fall for Tarzan at first sight.

In any case, this was an excellent continuation of the Tarzan stories, and tied up some loose ends that I wanted tied.

Fans of adventure stories will love this, of course, and anyone who enjoyed Tarzan of the Apes basically has to also read The Return of Tarzan. Really. You don’t want to end things at the first book.

The Martian

This book is as good as everyone is saying it is. I really want to watch the movie but refused to do so until I had finished the book. Only took me two nights, once I had a physical copy in hand. It was engaging, funny, suspenseful, and smart.

I cared about the protagonist, wanted him to survive. I mean come on—someone’s left behind on Mars because everyone thinks they’re dead, and this guy just keeps figuring out how to stretch his survival even further? Mark Watney does things I would never have thought of. He’s awesome. He makes mistakes, sure. But he keeps going. He doesn’t give up, and that’s inspiring and really cool.

I really enjoyed the way that Weir peppers in other narrative styles. We get to see the people of NASA back home, figuring out that Mark’s still alive, and banding together to save him. We get to know his fellow Martian mission crew mates, so that we actually feel something for them when they have to make tough decisions. And every once in a while you get a far-distant third-person omniscient narration. After the first time that pops up, I guarantee you will tense up every other time it shows up. It just can’t be good, right? I know something bad is coming. Something bad must be coming. Oh please don’t let him die, don’t let this new thing kill him…

Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Or bed. Or whatever.

I would recommend this book to anyone, really. It’s a great read, not too genre-y, so it shouldn’t throw anyone off that it’s sci-fi (though, if you don’t read sci-fi just on principle…well, you and I don’t see eye to eye). Now go read The Martian.

Four

If the ending of Allegiant didn’t make up my mind for me, that Roth likes Four more than she likes Tris, then this book surely did.

Frankly, Four isn’t interesting enough for us to benefit much from getting his side of things.

Was it interesting? Yes. Was it a quick read? Yes. What it kind of cute, seeing a few more of the layers to his relationship with Tris? Yes.

Would I recommend it to anyone to read? Maybe only the diehard Divergent fans. It was probably a good writing exercise, and there were some good details about Four that make you understand him better and believe that he’s got much more of a part in everything that’s happennig. So, if you were reading the trilogy thinking “I just want more Four!” then this collection of stories is absolutely for you.

Again, the writing is solid, it’s just the idea that seems a little lacking. Four just isn’t as great as Tris.

The Killing Moon

There’s a lot of beauty in this book. I haven’t read Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy yet (I’m borrowing it from my cousin later this summer), but her writing flows. There’s grace in it, in the way she describes the settings and the mannerisms of the characters.

I really admire when an author can jump right into a story without doing too much infodumping. So often you can tell you’re in the beginning of a story because there’s so much explanation of this and that. But good writers just jump right in, because it’s an entire world that exists for them, not just something that springs into being on page one and disappears after the last sentence. The worlds contained in these stories are not finite—they have history and the character was alive and awake and doing things the day before the story started, too. Jemisin gets that.

Nijiri is a wonderful character. Ehiru and Sunandi are great, too, but the majority of my love for this book comes from Nijiri. He’s willful and prideful and young but never quite naive. He feels things purely. His emotions bring out the best responses and reactions in the other characters. He drives everything, even though things happening in the plot seem to be happening to other people or by other people’s design. He’s a joy to read.

In depth and richness of cultural and religious background, Jemisin’s world in this book reminds me of Jacqueline Carey’s world in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. Even the way she throws out the limiting frivolity of labeling people’s sexual preferences reminds me of Carey. You don’t have to call someone gay or bisexual or heterosexual when love and sex are not culturally restricted. I wish I didn’t feel like that was such a cool thing—because it means we’re so far from throwing out those labels in our own society. But it’s nice to escape to places where no one questions or cares or limits things. Attraction is attraction, love is love, sex is sex.

All that said, there aren’t actually any sex scenes in this book. I don’t want to mislead by talking about it so much. 🙂

There’s political intrigue, a fascinating system of magic that’s entwined with healing and dreaming, all set in a rich cultural system modeled on that of the ancient Egyptians. Jemisin’s writing is deep and thoughtful and exciting. This one is an excellent choice for lovers of fantasy fiction.

Reckless

I tend to love Cornelia Funke‘s stories, and this one is no different. Having to read all her work in translation is a little disappointing, depending on the skill of the translator and how well her prose survives the transition. The translator of Reckless did a fabulous job, though.

I was expecting Young Adult, like so many of her other books that I enjoy, but instead we get Jacob, probably in his late 20s or early 30s. He is a cynical, tortured soul, and the events and battles are darker and more violent than I was expecting. All in the best possible way. I was continually surprised by the smooth way that Funke folds fairy tale motifs into this new, interesting world.

Fox is my favorite character, and I think we learn more about her in what is NOT said than in what is, which I think denotes excellent writing. The ending, too, is understated compared to what we are used to lately. But it is satisfying in a better way, since you can’t tie up every little complication with a pretty bow in real life.

This is a beautiful book, just strange enough to stand out, and inventive enough to be engaging and exciting. Lovers of fantasy and of fairy tale inspiration would enjoy this one.