The opening days of August bring an inevitable realization: summer is drawing to a close. How to budget the remaining summer reading time? Consider balancing the end of the season with something brand new—a debut novel.
- The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (Harper).
A princess, hidden since childhood, must ascend the throne, where evil awaits in one of the hot new books of the summer, a fantasy adventure set in a quasi-medieval future in which technological advances have been lost. Gripping and plot driven, Johansen’s debut is already on its way to becoming a movie franchise, starring Emma Watson.
- The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones (Mulholland: Little, Brown)
A suspenseful blend of genres (horror, thriller, and paranormal) awaits readers of Jones’s first novel. Weaving three time periods together—the present, Oxford in the 1970s, and 19th-century Hungary—Jones delivers a fast-paced tale of a family that has been stalked for generations by an evil that can take any form.
- Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal (Pamela Dorman: Viking)
Set in a richly evoked New Orleans of the 1960s, McNeal’s debut is a coming-of-age story strong in character and atmosphere. Abandoned at her grandmother Fannie’s house, a home cared for by Fannie’s cook Queenie and Queenie’s daughter, 12-year-old Ibby discovers solace, wisdom, and family secrets.
- The Quick by Lauren Owen (Random)
Another buzzy summer book is Owen’s gothic story of two siblings, James and Charlotte Norbury, who find themselves caught in the underworld of a supernatural Victorian London. Mesmerizing and filled with horrors, the narrative offers a spellbinding and elaborate tale, complete with well-drawn characters and vividly detailed settings.
- We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas (S. & S.)
A sweeping family saga spanning much of the 20th century, Thomas’s first novel is a leisurely paced meditation on family and desire. At its center is Eileen Tumulty, an Irish American woman born in the 1940s who has dreams of a wider world than the one her parents provide. Her story unfolds through marriage and childbirth, hope and loss.