Russell and I have good about reining in our tendency toward excessive book acquisition since we moved (very good with the exception of the Borders-liquidation splurging). In recent months I have purchased two books for myself, intentional purchases from from bricks-and-mortar book stores. Both of these books were on my to-buy list because I love their authors' other work and knew that I'd want these new releases for my library. After reading both of them, I know that I made the right decision to skip the library and go straight to the bookstore.
I bought The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde (released in October) for myself in December and wrapped it up as a Christmas present. I bought Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (released on February 5th) on Presidents' Day weekend. These two novels have quite a lot in common. Both are written by authors who are famous for zany, alternate history-type fantasy novels. Both are their respective authors' first foray into YA fiction (though I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Carriger and Fforde's other novels to teens). Both are first in a planned series. And, both have really fantastic (in my opinion, at least) cover art.
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
series: Finishing School (1)
Etiquette and Espionage is set in the same world as Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series (see post), though at a slightly earlier time (alternate 1851). In it we meet some of the Parasol Protectorate series' secondary characters as children.
The novel opens with 14-year-old Sophronia Temminnick ensconced within a dumbwaiter, from which she hopes to eavesdrop. When Sophronia's plans go disastrously awry, resulting in a ruined dress (hers) and a ruined hat (Mrs. Barnaclegoose's), Sophronia's mother unceremoniously packs her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. That Mademoiselle Geraldine's is no ordinary finishing school becomes apparent before Sophronia arrives as the academy. If the natterings of her fellow debut weren't enough to make Sophronia suspicious, their coach being beset by flywaymen (airborn highwaymen), demanding they hand over a prototype, sealed the deal.
I enjoyed Etiquette and Espionage immensely (a school that teaches espionage alongside etiquette and has both werewolf and vampire instructors is so very Gail Carriger) and look forward to buying Curtsies and Conspiracies, Finishing School installment the second, for my library in November or December.
The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde
series: Chronicles of Kazam (1)
The Last Dragon Slayer is less obviously a series opener. I know that it is the first book in the Chronicles of Kazam series only because the publishers tell me so, but it makes sense since Fforde does love to write in series.
The Last Dragon Slayer takes place is a completely different world than any of Fforde's other series, but that world is appropriately eccentric and fully realized. If you like Jasper Fforde, you'll like this new series, but it is a bit like Fforde lite. Acutally The Last Dragon Slayer would be a good introduction to Fforde as it is a more approachable than The Eyre Affair, The Big Over Easy, or Shades of Grey (which is probably Fforde's least accessible opener).
15 year-old Jennifer Strange is an orphan indentured to Kazam Mystical Arts Management. She's been running the company, which hires out magicians for miscellaneous odd jobs, since the mysterious disappearance of its director, Mr. Zambini. Mystical arts management isn't the most promising of career fields given that magic is losing its potency, but Jennifer only has a few years left in her servitude. However, when her name is connected with the prophesy of the imminent death of the last dragon, it becomes clear that Jennifer's immediate future will involve more than paperwork and contract negotiation.
The second book in the Chronicles of Kazam, The Song of the Quarkbeast, will be released in the US in September (it's been available in the UK since 2011).