Well, we’ve made it, friends. January is finally over. After such a long month, we could all use a little time to recuperate in February. Luckily, we’ve got all kinds of fictional delights in store. This way please…
Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin
(Honno Welsh Women’s Press, 9781912905096, p/b, £8.99)
A haunting story of two young women living in the shadow of their lost and brilliant mothers.
Ida loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets off to Wales to the house her father has left her. But Heather, the young woman still in her teens whose home it was, keeps the house as a shrine to her late mother and is determined to scare Ida away. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time, and that any ghosts Ty’r Cwmwl harbours are of their own making.
Dragon Bike: Fantastical Stories of Bicycling, Feminism and Dragons edited by Elly Blue (Microcosm Publishing, 9781621060475, p/b, £10.99)
A short story collection featuring dragons, bicyclists and empowerment.
From the great, winged, fire-breathing lizards of the west to the wise, flying serpents of the east, dragons play a powerful role in our myths and imaginations. In these fourteen stories and one comic, bicyclists encounter a diversity of dragons, whether foes or friends, hoarders or helpers, powerful symbols or terrifying and very real beasts. Instead of stereotypical tales of heroes saving helpless princesses from cruel beasts, these stories are populated by empowered people facing complicated dilemmas and fantastical quests.
The Coldest Warrior by Paul Vidich
(No Exit Press, 9780857303332, p/b, £8.99)
A CIA officer delves into a cold case from the 1950s – with fatal consequences.
1953: A government scientist, Hank Wilson, dies after falling from the ninth floor of a Washington hotel. 1975: The release of the Rockefeller Commission report on illegal CIA activities suddenly brings the Wilson case back into the headlines; did he fall or was he pushed? Wilson’s family are demanding answers, but the White House will do anything to make sure the truth doesn’t get out. Jake Newman, soon to retire from the CIA agency, is tasked with uncovering the truth behind Wilson’s death, an investigation which rapidly. The closer Newman gets to discovering what really happened that night, the more he risks the lives of those he loves. How many lives is the truth worth?
Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein
(Text Publishing, 9781922268549, p/b, £10.99)
A wonderfully warm and inventive collection from an award-winning and Puschart Prize-nominated author.
A boy and his father find music in a drowned city. A lonely twenty-something gets addicted to comfort porn. A man is given a choice to have his trauma surgically removed. A mourning daughter brings her dead mother back as a hologram – but the source material isn’t quite right. In these resonant, fantastic stories about the human thirst for connection amid rapid technological advancement, Alexander Weinstein conjures worlds like our own, but rife with the possibilities that our present timeline hasn’t led us to – yet.
Shepherd by Catherine Jinks
(Text Publishing, 9781925773835, p/b, £10.99)
Compulsive and terrifying adult fiction from renowned
Australian author Catherine Jinks.
Fourteen-year-old convict Tom Clay lives in a shepherd’s hut in the bush, protecting his master’s sheep from wild dogs. When a vicious fellow shepherd returns to ensure there are no witnesses to his crimes, the bush-crafty Tom and his hapless mate Rowdy face a life-and-death battle to survive.
Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné
(World Editions, 9781912987016, p/b, £11.99)
A fierce and poetic debut on surviving the wilderness of family life.
At home there are four bedrooms: one for her, one for her little brother Sam, one for her parents, and one for the carcasses. Her father is a big-game hunter, a powerful predator, and her mother is submissive to her violent husband’s demands. The young narrator spends the days with Sam, playing in the shells of cars dumped for scrap and listening out for the melody of the ice-cream truck, until a brutal accident shatters their world. This breathtaking debut is a sharp and funny coming-of-age tale in which reality and fantasy collide.
How Pale the Winter Has Made Us by Adam Scovell
(Influx Press, 9781910312452, p/b, £9.99)
A novel in the tradition of W.G. Sebald and Thomas Berhnard.
Isabelle is alone in Strasbourg. The day after her partner leaves to travel abroad, she receives news of her father’s suicide back home in Crystal Palace. Isabelle misses her flight back to London, opting to stay in her partner’s empty flat over the winter. Obsessed with the strange coincidences in Strasbourg’s turbulent history, she seeks to slowly dissolve into the past, succumbing to dreams as she researches the city. Stalked by the unnerving spirit of the Erl-King she fears something else has died along with her father; the spectres of Europe communicating a hidden truth.
Exercises in Control by Annabel Banks
(Influx Press, 9781910312476, p/b, £7.99)
The debut collection from an award-nominated writer and rising talent.
A lonely woman invites danger between tedious dates; a station guard plays a bloody game of heads-or-tails; an office cleaner sneaks into a forbidden room hiding grim secrets. Compelling and provocative, Annabel Banks’ debut short fiction collection draws deeply upon the human need be in control – no matter how devastating the cost.
Never Seen the Sea by Holly Watson
(Open Pen, 9781916413665, p/b, £5.99)
A novelette based on the popular blog The Coventry Conch.
Holly Watson tells the tale of a young girl’s experience growing up in Coventry in the 1990s. But Nanny Pam’s fallen out with Grandad, mum and dad are skint, and Tom, with his beautifully pointy-spike gelled hair, doesn’t seem to notice our girl at all.