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abhorsen

abhorsen

Terrier

Terrier - Tamora Pierce This was probably the best book in the Beka Cooper series. That said, it still wasn't very good.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't bad, either. However, there were a few things about it that just didn't work for me.

1) The diary format. It's not something Pierce has ever done before, and I hope that now that this series is over, it's not something she ever does again. Diaries can work as really interesting, compelling books, but I felt like Pierce didn't really commit to it - rather than have it be a plausible reflection of Beka's life, she has Beka chronicle entire days with a great deal of detail, including long conversations. I don't care how good her memory is - that's just not plausible, and it really jolted me out of the book.

2) The slang. Usually, I think that Pierce is pretty good with creating slang for her books that comes off as natural and adds a nice flavor to the setting. Here, however, that was not the case. "Dog" and "puppy" were the biggest offenders, but there were other words that came off as awkward and stilted, too.

3) Beka. I actually liked Beka reasonably well as a heroine - she didn't appeal to me as much as Kel in Pierce's 'Protector of the Small' series did, or even as much as Alanna or Daine from her two earlier Tortall series, but I still found her interesting and her dedication and sense of purpose definitely appealed to me. However, there were points where she just felt like too much of a special snowflake - (minor spoilers) she can talk to dead spirits in pigeons, she can talk to wind tunnel things that remember conversations, and she even has Faithful from the Alanna books (now called Pounce) following her around. It just comes off as feeling like a bit much, and in some ways it cheapened her role to me - she had access to resources no one else did, and I'd have liked to see her have to work harder for it rather than being so magically gifted and special all on her own.

As I said, it wasn't a bad book. Overall, I'd say that I enjoyed it. The plot was interesting, and while all the magical things Beka had access to did irk me at some points on principle, they were definitely fun additions and gave a nice spark to the world of Tortall, which is something Pierce certainly manages to do with each successive series. The secondary characters were also certainly fun, and though it did feel a bit cheap, I loved seeing Faithful again.

However, I definitely don't think it was her strongest work.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide - Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn Half the Sky is about the difficulties women face in the developing world, including prostitution, child slavery, education, reproductive health, and religion. These are all worthwhile topics, but the execution left me with mixed feelings.

On one hand, the authors clearly care about the plight many women face, and especially in early chapters, they could be rather insightful.

On the other hand, the book as a whole simply wasn't as strong as it could have been. Some of the conclusions the authors drew felt forced or were contradicted later in the book. For example, at one point, they talk about a woman in a village in Pakistan who has been very active in working against rape, and they make the case that she's made real headway--but then later, they talk about how much of an issue rape continues to be in Pakistan. It felt haphazard.

Additionally, while there is considerable lip service given throughout the book to the fact that solving all of these problems isn't easy and many women end up in horrible situations, you don't get that sense from the stories. One woman dies in childbirth. Another can't break free from the brothel she was sold into. On the whole, however, the only women they talk to are the ones with success stories, which feels disingenuous. It doesn't all always turn out okay. I wanted them to acknowledge that rather than quoting statistics but then whitewashing the whole thing.

There was also an air of condescension I didn't like. Again, while lip service was given to the importance of grassroots movements, it felt like there was an awful lot of Western interference going on, and some implications that the Western way is the right way. Capitalism got a hard sell, and virtually everyone gets demonized. They mention wife-beating, but don't really attempt to understand the cultural paradigm that endorses it. They also didn't really examine why in some cultures, women can only be seen by women doctors, instead seeming to humor them while implying that the sentiments behind the discomfort are wrong. The tone therefore was sometimes self-righteous and patronizing, which isn't something I really enjoy reading.

Dirty Sexy Politics

Dirty Sexy Politics - Meghan McCain I started reading Meghan McCain's column in the Daily Beast after I saw her on either Colbert or the Daily Show about a year or two ago, and when I saw that she'd written a book about her experiences on the campaign trail, I was eager to read it. I wasn't disappointed.

I like Meghan McCain; I don't always agree with her, but I do always appreciate her point of view and really wish that everyone was as reasonable as she is. That's in general; for the book specifically, I liked that, but I also liked the fact that she didn't try to skew her accounting of the events to make herself look better. She was candid about some of her more embarrassing moments on the trail, and about being unreasonable in certain situations. She also didn't pull any punches when she gave her impressions on others (though she did change a few names)--I liked seeing her honest opinion, and it never felt like an attack. I also liked the insight into her family, and ended up with a lot more respect for her father.

I really liked this book. But then, I really like Meghan McCain. If you don't, you might not enjoy this as much.

The Garden of Ruth

The Garden of Ruth - Eva Etzioni-Halevy I was looking forward to this book, and was hoping it would turn out to be really good, since the author has written several biblical fictions, and I enjoy a good biblical fiction. However, I was disappointed.

I finished it, because I did want to know what happened. However, by the end I was mostly skimming.

Why?

Well, as a woman, it made me really uncomfortable. I understand that the story is set in a different time period, but it still made me uncomfortable.

The main character is obsessed with the story of Ruth, who lived several generations before. Osnath (the MC) is about the same age as David (of David and Goliath) and his brother. She's into both of them.

The brother rapes her (and supposedly promptly regrets it, but still says that she has giving mixed signals and she didn't actually say no, just hits him). Not only does she ultimately forgive him (after David ditches her), she ends up deciding that he is the love of her life and basically does everything but kill herself to get him to take her back as his concubine, since he's already married by the time she figures out she's in love with him. She hopes he'll marry her and take her as his second wife, but she doesn't seem to be too fussed about it. The relationship is just really screwed up and makes me feel uncomfortable.

Ruth makes me much less uncomfortable, but she also basically gives up everything for a guy who turns out to be a jerk and needs to be rescued by another man who very graciously forgives her for the indiscretion.

There's also an ongoing theme of "men can't be expected to abstain from sex, so women can't get annoyed at them for it." It was just discomforting.