Jun 4, 2009

Bloodhound, by Tamora Pierce

I absolutely love Tamora Pierce. Except for her Circle of Magic series, there isn't a book she has written that I don't devour in three days flat. Building even more upon her Legends of Tortall history and geography, Pierce has delivered yet again.

Beka Cooper is the ancestress of George Cooper, the wiley Thief turned Rogue who plays an important role in the Song of the Lioness series. The first book of this newest trilogy is a first person narrative of Beka's year as a Puppy, a Dog-in-Training. The Dogs are Tortall's police force, and they are extremely tough characters down in the Cesspool, where Beka works and grew up. Readers will remember that Alanna was unique because she was a woman fighter, but Beka's books take place in a time before the idealization of women as gentle and unsuited for any kind of labor.

As usual, Pierce presents us with a strong female character, without compromising her feminine characteristics. In this second installment, we witness Beka coming into her own as a woman, learning how to balance her violent work with her emotional and sexual needs. Beka is a good role model for any young girl.

Beyond the message, the book is just downright fun to read. As I said earlier, I fly through Pierce's books like a dog through his dinner. Pierce is simply a great young adult author. She knows how to write for her age group target, she doesn't patronize or expect them to know more than they do. The action moves along quickly but doesn't overwhelm the finer aspects of the plot. As always, I cannot wait until the next book, though I am always sad to finish them.

The Nimrod Flipout, by Etgar Keret

This diminutive book of (some very) short stories packs a big wallop. The stories are fantastical, vulgar, and highly symbolic. Some of the more staid readers may not be able to get past the language and sometimes torrid situations that Keret describes, but if they can, they are duly rewarded. A strong voice of the new Israeli generation, Keret writes of the relationships between people, of loss and regret, of love and acceptance. This is the voice of an Israel that seeks to find its place in the world, and in a region that does not want it. It is the voice of the soldiers of the Israeli army - i.e. everyone, since army service is compulsory - who win military battles but cannot win the war within themselves. It is the voice of anyone, anywhere, who feels so alone they can hardly breathe. The stories explore many kinds of relationships: marital, friendships, that between a dog and his master, extramarital, pre-marital. These are people who want to feel appreciated and loved for who they are but are forced to give up little bits of themselves in compromise to the people in their lives who seek the same. This voice of the new Israel is haunting and lonely, but hopeful, all the same.