Read Recently — September 2005

Hooray For Yiddish!: a book about English A cheerful lexicon of Yiddish words which have become part of the English language, plus English words and phrases which have been transformed into Yinglish; the whole garnished with stores, jokes, parables, reverent quotations from the Talmud and a glittering gallery of writers, rabbbis, sages, wits, with impulsive side trips into the faith, folkore, genius and history of the Jews–from their servitude in Babylon to their magnitued in Beverly Hills. by Leo Rosten

It’s official: I really will read anything.

Actually, I can’t think of much to say about this one; like Robinson Crusoe, everything is spelled out in the extended title. One thing I can say is that it’s both nearly as educational and as funny as it thinks it is.

Somewhat recommended.

Raven’s Strike by Patricia Briggs

Sequel to Raven’s Shadow, this one has our heroes heading home after saving the life of the Emperor. But it seems Tier has taken some damage during his imprisonment, and his Gift is unravelling. His (and Seraph’s) son Jes is falling in love with Hennea, the other Traveler mage who came to the family as an escaped slave, and is now living with them. But Seraph suspects that Hennea has secrets she isn’t sharing, and maybe she’s older than she looks. And then there’s the problem of the Shadowed villain who started the whole mess . . .

The only part I really quarreled with about this was the bit where the identity of the villain is figured out when Seraph remembers what happened to a daughter who died in childbirth and has never been mentioned before in either this or the previous book, and that’s not too grievous a sin. Indeed, overall I enjoyed this book as much as I did the first one.


The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

It is 1985. Everything is normal. Transit by airship is the easiest way to get around the country. Genetic recreation of extinct animals is getting better; the new dodoes have more features from their ancestors than the first few generations. Goliath Corporation is running most of England from behind the scenes, and England and Russia have been at war over the Crimea for about a century. Victory is predicted for any day now. Oh, and Wales is a separate, socialist, republic.

All right, it’s not our world, but it’s a fascinating one. Thursday Next (she is a woman from a family whose last name is Next; she was born on a Thursday, so she was named “Thursday”) is an agent of Special Operations division 27 (SO-27), who deal in crimes relating to literature. Fake manuscripts. Stolen original manuscripts. That sort of thing. Someone has stolen the original manuscript to Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit; that someone turns out to be the archvillain Acheron Hades, the most evil man in the world. Thursday gets roped into an SO-5 attempt to capture Hades that goes disastrously wrong.

And what, you ask, has this to do with Jane Eyre, the presumed Eyre of the title? Ah, that would be telling. It takes 150-something pages to get to it, and getting there is, truly, half the fun. The rest follows.

I must shamefully admit that I didn’t get the pun in Goliath Agent Jack Schitt’s name until I read it for the third time.

Lotsa fun, and highly recommended.

A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer

Alternate World stories can be really interesting. If done right, you can look at how the world would change if, say, black africans were keeping white europeans as slaves instead of the other way around, or if, say, women were the dominant sex rather than men. Of course, that sort of thing can be hard to do right.

A Brother’s Price is set in a world in which women outnumber men by about 10 to one. As a result, men are the sheltered sex, staying home to raise the babies, cook and clean, and not exposed to strange women who might take advantage of them, while the women are the innovators and warriors. I’m not sure that I found this convincing; there are actual reasons why men and women do some of the things we do, and reading Jared Diamond at around the same time as this book didn’t help with that. Still, I got past that point rather quickly, cause Spencer does her usual excellent job on the characters and plot, and the world, likely or not (and how would we know if it is likely?), is fascinating.

Jerin Whistler is the oldest boy in his family–one of four, which gives the Whistler family some leeway in the husband market. In this world, which may be a parallel earth or another planet, we don’t really find out, girls marry in groups–one male will marry several females from one family. All of the sisters who are old enough, I believe. And they either trade brothers, or sell the brother for a good price which can be used to buy a good husband. It’s not quite as inhumane as it sounds.

As the Whistlers are descended from soldiers and spies, the girls are really tough, which helps when a soldier is ambushed and abandoned in the creek by the Whistler house. It turns out that the soldier in question is Princess Odelia, third oldest daughter of the Queens (apparantly they rule in groups, too). The raiders who attacked Odelia were stealing cannons intended for the Queens’ arsenal; the search for Odelia is slowing down her sister Ren’s search for them.

But while Ren and Odelia never do find the cannons, they do find Jerin, and fall hard for him (Jerin is very handsome). The princesses conspire to get Jerin and his older sisters to the capital, where they can make an offer for him, and his older sisters go along with it because they hope to get a good price from the nobility. Can Jerin, Ren and company work things out? And what about those missing cannons–do they have anything to do with a plot to overthrow the Queens? Is Jerin moving into greater danger?

It helps that Jerin is not helpless even in the face of overwhelming threat. This is really a fun book, and somewhat thought-provoking, as well.



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