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Summer Debut Fiction

While reading a new book from a favorite author is always something to look forward to, there's also something wonderful about the discovery of something brand new. This summer has been full of debuts, with many still coming. Take a look at these titles from first-time novelists that were published in July and August, featuring selections from both Dundee and Randall Oaks libraries.

Dundee:

                    

  • Bronte's Mistress by Finola Austin- Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson--mistress of Thorp Green Hall--has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more. All of that changes with the arrival of her son's tutor, Branwell Brontë, brother of her daughters' governess, Miss Anne Brontë and those other writerly sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Branwell has his own demons to contend with--including living up to the ideals of his intelligent family--but his presence is a breath of fresh air for Lydia. Handsome, passionate, and uninhibited by social conventions, he's also twenty-five to her forty-three. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell's colorful tales of his sisters' elaborate play-acting and made-up worlds form the backdrop for seduction. But Lydia's new taste of passion comes with consequences. As Branwell's inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic and dangerous, and whispers of their passionate relationship spout from her servants' lips, reaching all three protective Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Lydia to save not just her reputation, but her way of life, before those clever girls reveal all her secrets in their novels. Unfortunately, she might be too late.
  • Age of Consent by Amanda Brainerd- It's 1983. David Bowie reigns supreme, and downtown Manhattan has never been cooler. But Justine and Eve are stuck at Griswold Academy, a Connecticut boarding school. Griswold is a far cry from Justine's bohemian life in New Haven, where her parents run a theater and struggle to pay the bills. Eve, the sophisticated daughter of status-obsessed Park Avenue parents, also feels like an outsider amidst Griswold's preppy jocks and debutantes. Justine longs for Eve's privilege, and Eve for Justine's sexual confidence. Despite their differences, they form a deep friendship, together grappling with drugs, alcohol, ill-fated crushes, and predatory male teachers. After a tumultuous school year, Eve and Justine spend the summer in New York City where they join Eve's childhood friend India. Justine moves into India's Hell's Kitchen apartment and is pulled further into her friends' glamorous lives. Eve, under her parents' ever-watchful eye, interns at a SoHo art gallery and navigates the unpredictable whims of her boss. India struggles to resist the advances of a famous artist represented by the gallery. All three are affected by their sexual relationships with older men and the power adults hold over them, even as the young women begin to assert their independence.
  • Well-Behaved Indian Women by Saumya Dave- Simran has always felt harshly judged by her mother, Nandini, and when a highly respected journalist careens into her life, she begins to question everything. Nandini has strived to create an easy life for her children, so much so that she's let herself slip away. Mimi failed her daughter, Nandini, in ways she'll never be able to forget. But with her granddaughter Simran, she has the chance to offer help when it's needed. As life begins to pull Nandini and Simran apart, Mimi is determined to be the bridge that keeps them connected, even as she carries her own secret burden.
  • When I Was You by Amber Garza- It all begins on an ordinary fall morning, when Kelly Medina gets a call from her son's pediatrician to confirm her upcoming "well-baby" appointment. It's a cruel mistake; her son left for college a year ago, and Kelly's never felt so alone. The receptionist quickly apologizes: there's another mother in town named Kelly Medina, and she must have gotten their numbers switched.For days, Kelly can't stop thinking about the woman who shares her name. Lives in her same town. Has a son she can still hold, and her whole life ahead of her. She can't help looking for her: at the grocery store, at the gym, on social media. When Kelly just happens to bump into the single mother outside that pediatrician's office, it's simple curiosity getting the better of her. Their unlikely friendship brings Kelly a renewed sense of purpose--taking care of this young woman and her adorable baby boy. But that friendship quickly turns to obsession, and when one Kelly disappears, well, the other one may know why.
  • The All-Night Sun by Diane Zinna- Lauren Cress teaches writing at a small college outside of Washington, DC. In the classroom, she is poised, smart, and kind, well liked by her students and colleagues. But in her personal life, Lauren is troubled and isolated, still grappling with the sudden death of her parents ten years earlier. She seems to exist at a remove from everyone around her until a new student joins her class: charming, magnetic Siri, who appears to be everything Lauren wishes she could be. They fall headlong into an all-consuming friendship that makes Lauren feel as though she is reclaiming her lost adolescence. When Siri invites her on a trip home to Sweden for the summer, Lauren impulsively accepts, intrigued by how Siri describes it: green, fresh, and new, everything just thawing out. But once there, Lauren finds herself drawn to Siri's enigmatic, brooding brother, Magnus. Siri is resentful, and Lauren starts to see a new side of her friend: selfish, reckless, self-destructive, even cruel. On their last night together, Lauren accompanies Siri and her friends on a seaside camping trip to celebrate Midsommar's Eve, a night when no one sleeps, boundaries blur, and under the light of the unsetting sun, things take a dark turn. Ultimately, Lauren must acknowledge the truth of what happened with Siri and come to terms with her own tragic past in this gorgeously written, deeply felt debut about the transformative relationships that often come to us when things feel darkest.

                    

  • The Comeback by Ella Berman- At the height of her career and on the eve of her first Golden Globe nomination, teen star Grace Turner disappeared. Now, tentatively sober and surprisingly numb, Grace is back in Los Angeles after her year of self-imposed exile. She knows the new private life she wants isn't going to be easy as she tries to be a better person and reconnect with the people she left behind. But when Grace is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to director Able Yorke - the man who controlled her every move for eight years - she realizes that she can't run from the secret behind her spectacular crash and burn for much longer. And she's the only one with nothing left to lose.
  • A Star is Bored by Byron Lane- She needs an assistant. He needs a hero. Charlie Besson is tense and sweating as he prepares for a wild job interview. His car is idling, like his life, outside the Hollywood mansion of Kathi Kannon, star of stage and screen and People magazine's Worst Dressed list. She's an actress in need of assistance, and he's adrift and in need of a lifeline. Kathi is an icon, bestselling author, and award-winning movie star, most known for her role as Priestess Talara in a blockbuster sci-fi film. She's also known in another role: Outrageous Hollywood royalty. Admittedly so. Famously so. Chaotically so, as Charlie quickly discovers. Charlie gets the job, and his three-year odyssey is filled with late-night shopping sprees, last-minute trips to see the aurora borealis, and an initiation to that most sacred of Hollywood tribes: the personal assistant. But Kathi becomes much more than a boss, and as their friendship grows Charlie must make a choice. Will he always be on the sidelines of life, assisting the great forces that be, or can he step into his own life's leading role?
  • A Spell for Trouble by Esme Addison- Aleksandra Daniels hasn't set foot in the quiet seaside town of Bellamy Bay, North Carolina in over twenty years. Ever since her mother's tragic death, her father has mysteriously forbidden her from visiting her aunt and cousins. But on a whim, Alex accepts an invitation to visit her estranged relatives and to help them in their family business: an herbal apothecary known for its remarkably potent teas, salves, and folk remedies. Bellamy Bay doesn't look like trouble, but this is a town that harbors dark secrets. Alex discovers that her own family is at the center of salacious town gossip, and that they are rumored to be magical healers descended from mermaids. She brushes this off as nonsense until a local is poisoned and her aunt Lidia is arrested for the crime. Alex is certain Lidia is being framed, and she resolves to find out why. Alex's investigation unearths stories that some have gone to desperate lengths to conceal: forbidden affairs, family rivalries, and the truth about Alex's own ancestry. And when the case turns deadly, Alex learns that not only are these secrets worth hiding, but they may even be worth killing for.
  • Fire in the Blood by Perry O'Brien- While overseas fighting in the Afghan war, U.S. Army soldier Coop--a man haunted by the things he has seen and done in the war--is told that his wife has been killed back home in the States. The ticking of the clock begins as Coop is given a brief leave to attend to his wife's affairs. But while back in New York City, Coop discovers his wife's death was far more suspicious than anyone told him. He decides to go AWOL, using his military training to discover the truth of what happened to his wife. It doesn't take long, however, before Coop finds himself embroiled in a criminal conspiracy that reaches all the way into the Albanian mafia, Upper East Side royalty, and a scam at a recovery center for heroin addicts. All the while he's experiencing intense flashbacks from the trauma he received fighting overseas. But with time running short, Coop must unravel the mystery of his wife's death before the U.S. Army finds him--or his troubled past finally catches up to him.
  • The Patient by Jasper DeWitt- In a series of online posts, Parker H., a young psychiatrist, chronicles the harrowing account of his time working at a dreary mental hospital in New England. Through this internet message board, Parker hopes to communicate with the world his effort to cure one bewildering patient. We learn, as Parker did on his first day at the hospital, of the facility's most difficult, profoundly dangerous case--a forty-year-old man who was originally admitted to the hospital at age six. This patient has no known diagnosis. His symptoms seem to evolve over time. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide. Desperate and fearful, the hospital's directors keep him strictly confined and allow minimal contact with staff for their own safety, convinced that releasing him would unleash catastrophe on the outside world. Parker, brilliant and overconfident, takes it upon himself to discover what ails this mystery patient and finally cure him. But from his first encounter with the mystery patient, things spiral out of control, and, facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, Parker isforced to question everything he thought he knew.

 

Randall Oaks:

                    

  • Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden- Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that's hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil's nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop. They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.
  • The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull- In the summer of 1926, when Thelma Morgan marries Viscount Duke Furness after a whirlwind romance, she's immersed in a gilded world of extraordinary wealth and privilege. For Thelma, the daughter of an American diplomat, her new life as a member of the British aristocracy is like a fairy tale--even more so when her husband introduces her to Edward, Prince of Wales. In a twist of fate, her marriage to Duke leads her to fall headlong into a love affair with Edward. But happiness is fleeting, and their love is threatened when Thelma's sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, becomes embroiled in a scandal with far-reaching implications. As Thelma sails to New York to support Gloria, she leaves Edward in the hands of her trusted friend Wallis, never imagining the consequences that will follow.

  • The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis- First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars--the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister's hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain--Saito Ren--whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you're falling in love. Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito's own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.

  • Luster by Raven Leilani- Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties -- sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She is also haltingly, fitfully giving heat and air to the art that simmers inside her. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage -- with rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren't hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and invited into Eric's home--though not by Eric. She becomes a hesitant ally to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie may be the only Black woman young Akila knows.

  • Zo by Xander Miller- We first meet Zwazo Delalun, or Zo, during his childhood, in the 1990s, in a fishing village on the western tip of Haiti. An orphan, he learns to swim and fish, then to harvest almonds and cut cane. He travels the island in his youth, finding work wherever he can. One morning, while hauling cement in the broiling sun, he meets Anaya, a nursing student who is sipping cherry juice under a tree. Their attraction is instantaneous, fierce; what grows between them feels like the destiny-changing love Zo has yearned for. But Anaya's father, protective and ambitious on behalf of his only daughter, cannot accept that a poor, uneducated man such as Zo is good enough for her, and he sends Anaya away to Port-au-Prince. Then something even more shattering happens: on January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake churns the ground beneath the capital city, destroying nearly everything in its wake, leaving the dead unnumbered, and forever altering the course of life for those who survive.

                    

  • The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson- In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet's word is law, Immanuelle Moore's very existence is blasphemy. Her mother's union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement. But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood. Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
  • The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi-There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked all the rules out - and wrote seven perfect detective stories to demonstrate. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days. Until Julia Hart, a brilliant, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past and an editor keen to understand it. But there are things in the stories that don't add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.
  • Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski- When university student Ludwik meets Janusz at a summer agricultural camp, he is fascinated yet wary of this hand­some, carefree stranger. But a chance meeting by the river soon becomes an intense, exhilarating, and all-consuming affair. After their camp duties are ful­filled, the pair spend a dreamlike few weeks in the countryside, bonding over an illicit copy of James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room. Inhabiting a beautiful, natural world removed from society and its con­straints, Ludwik and Janusz fall deeply in love. But in their repressive Communist and Catholic society, the passion they share is utterly unthinkable. Once they return to Warsaw, the charismatic Janusz quickly rises in the political ranks of the party and is rewarded with a highly coveted government position. Ludwik is drawn toward impulsive acts of protest, unable to ignore rising food prices and the stark economic disparity around them. Their secret love and personal and political differences slowly begin to tear them apart as both men struggle to survive in a regime on the brink of collapse.
  • The Boys' Club by Erica Katz- Alex Vogel has always been a high achiever who lived her life by the book--star student and athlete in high school, prelaw whiz in college, Harvard Law School degree. Accepting a dream offer at the prestigious Manhattan law firm of Klasko & Fitch, she promises her sweet and supportive longtime boyfriend that the job won't change her. Yet Alex is seduced by the firm's money and energy… and by her cocksure male colleagues, who quickly take notice of the new girl. She's never felt so confident and powerful--even the innuendo-laced banter with clients feels fun. In the firm's most profitable and competitive division, Mergers and Acquisitions, Alex works around the clock, racking up billable hours and entertaining clients late into the evening. While the job is punishing, it has its perks, like a weekend trip to Miami, a ride in a client's private jet, and more expense-account meals than she can count. But as her clients' expectations and demands on her increase, and Alex finds herself magnetically drawn to a handsome coworker despite her loving relationship at home, she begins to question everything--including herself. She knows the corporate world isn't black and white, and that to reach the top means playing by different rules. But who made those rules? And what if the system rigged so that women can't win, anyway? When something happens that reveals the dark reality of the firm, Alex comes to understand the ways women like her are told--explicitly and implicitly--how they need to behave to succeed in the workplace. Now, she can no longer stand by silently--even if doing what's right means putting everything on the line to expose the shocking truth.
  • It is Wood, it is Stone by Gabriella Burnham- Linda, an anxious and restless American, has moved to São Paulo, with her husband, Dennis, who has accepted a yearlong professorship. As Dennis submerges himself in his work, Linda finds herself unmoored and adrift, feeling increasingly disassociated from her own body. Linda's unwavering and skilled maid, Marta, has more claim to Linda's home than Linda can fathom. Marta, who is struggling to make sense of complicated history and its racial tensions, is exasperated by Linda's instability. One day, Linda leaves home with a charismatic and beguiling artist, whom she joins on a fervent adventure that causes reverberations felt by everyone, and ultimately binds Marta and Linda in a profoundly human, and tender, way.