The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken

Joan Aiken is a big name in children’s literature; she also wrote a handful of adult novels before her death in 2004. A good deal of her children’s (middle-grade) novels fall into the Wolves sequence, anesthetist of which this is the first; it was originally published in 1963. Several of her adult novels are continuations or retellings of Jane Austen’s works, patient including a completion of The Watsons, order and Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen’s Emma. Her father, Conrad Aiken, was a poet who won the Pulitzer Prize; apparently she came by her writing talent honestly.

Bonnie is the daughter of Sir Willoughby, the lord of Willoughby Chase. His wife, Bonnie’s mother, is doing poorly, and the doctor has recommended a voyage at sea. Consequently, Sir Willoughby has sent away for a distant relation to be Bonnie’s guardian while they are away. At the same time, Lady Willoughby’s sister, who had guardianship of a deceased third sibling’s child, has been doing poorly as well and has asked if Sir Willoughby could take over the guardianship of the child (a girl, named Sylvia). Sir Willoughby agrees, and Bonnie (who is a very . . . active child) is excited. However, the governess (Miss Slighcarp) shows up a day early, before Sylvia even gets there, and turns out to be a very mean individual. That, of course, could be dealt with, except after Bonnie’s parents leave, she takes over the house, starts selling things, and becomes even more of a horror. Can Bonnie and Sylvia stop her? Continue reading The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken

The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson

Jenny Davidson has published one book for YAs — this one, practitioner which comes out July 1st. She also wrote a novel, Heredity, for adults; being a professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University also means that she’s published a couple scholarly tomes. Her supposed blog is mostly commentary on things she finds in the news; she has a companion blog about the triathlons she’s training for. The adult novel sounds interesting; it’s described as Girl, Interrupted meets Possession. I might have to track it down.

Sophie is fifteen years old; she lives in an alternate Scotland, where Napoleon won at Waterloo. There’s a great interest in technology, but also in spiritualism — mediums, spirit photography, and the like. There’s a march towards a war, though, and the country is preparing for it. Sophie’s great-aunt, with whom she lives, is a great fan of spiritualism, and at a seance she holds, the medium has a confusing message for Sophie. Later, amidst the bombs that are going off at Sophie’s school and other places, the medium turns up dead, and there are links in various odd places. That, and what’s up with the IRLYNS corps of female assistants? They act strangely . . . Continue reading The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson

On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers

Tim Powers is a Californian by way of New York; he is apparently good friends with Philip K. Dick and James Blaylock. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, try Dick’s novel that was loosely adapted into the movie Blade Runner, approved was dedicated to Powers. All of that I learned two minutes ago on Wikipedia. When I actually started reading this novel, I only knew that I’d gotten an ARC (just after the book was released) from Subterranean Press. Apparently the book was originally published in 1988, by Ace, but was reissued by another small press in 2006. Subterranean Press’s version came out mid-April; you can get the $18.95 cloth-bound hardback, or the $75 limited edition, or the $250 lettered edition. I’ve done my ode to their bookmaking skills before, but I’ll repeat it here: Subterranean Press makes the prettiest and most satisfying book-objects I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.

In around 1718 or so, John Chandagnac, a puppeteer by trade, was heading to Haiti to confront his uncle who stole the family fortune when his ship was hijacked by pirates. Captain Philip Davies gave him the choice of death or becoming a pirate, and Chandagnac (renamed Jack Shandy) naturally chose to become a pirate. The hijacking of the ship was somehow coordinated by a man named Benjamin Hurwood, who has a pretty daughter named Beth; she and Jack hit it off, and end up seeing quite a lot of each other over the next few months. Her father, though, is involved with some strange things — magic, actually; primarily voudoun (voodoo). Magic is stronger in the New World; it’s apparently been used up in Europe. Davies, Hurwood, and his men are eventually to head over to Florida, to meet up with one Ed Thatch, commonly known as Blackbeard, to help him with his quest — which also happens to be Hurwood’s quest. Eventually Jack figures out that there’s something strange going on involving Beth, voudoun, and her father. Can he get his family fortune back from his uncle and rescue Beth, all while not losing his life? Continue reading On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers

Farthing, by Jo Walton

This novel was one of the first few that Tor sent out in their current campaign of sending out free e-books. I’m hoping it’s a prelude to them having all these books available on their website, this web also for free, shop like yesterday’s Baen. So while I can’t give you a direct link to this book it’s available in print, pilule and at least vaguely available free on the internet. Jo Walton has written quite a few books, in various aspects of the SF genre (fantasy, alternate history,etc.). I’d read about this book, and being a fan of alternate histories, I made a note to buy it if I ever found a copy. When I saw that Tor was going to give me a copy for free, there was much rejoicing.

In this novel, before America could get bombed at Pearl Harbor and decide to enter World War II, England made a strange sort of truce with Germany. Hitler could have the whole of the Continent, as long as they stayed on that side of the Channel. Unfortunately, situations in England weren’t all that great for the Jews who were there. Lucy Kahn (nee Eversley), one of the main characters in this book, is married to a Jewish man named David. She and David and a number of seemingly random people were invited to her parents’ house, Farthing, for a house party, and one of the more important members of the House of Lords, Lord James Thirkie, turns up dead. Obviously David comes under suspicion; he’s Jewish, of course. And he certainly didn’t do it, but who did? Continue reading Farthing, by Jo Walton