A selection of new fiction (good for reading while drinking hot cocoa, if you’ve got some left after learning about language and colour) which covers a bit of everything: there’s road trips (huzzah!), romance, spooky thrillers, conclusions to trilogies, and some serious subject matter for readers who want food for thought.
Blood Red Road, Moira Young (492 pages) – a dystopian road trip! Saba lives in Silverlake, a bleak wasteland. After the black-robed riders take Saba’s brother Lugh, Saba must set off on a dangerous journey in pursuit, with the help of a clever crow, the dashing, mysterious Jack, and a group of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks.
First sentences: Lugh got born first. On Midwinter Day when the sun hangs low in the sky.
The Shattering, Karen Healey (302 pages) – Summerton is the perfect place to live, but is it? When Keri, grieving after the suicide of her brother, starts spending more time with a couple of friends she discovers that their brothers have also died, in suspicious circumstances. Is there something dark and terrible going on in Summerton?
First sentence: The first time I broke my arm I was ready for it.
Other Words for Love, Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (354 pages) – Ari lives in the shadow of her vibrant friend Summer, but when an inheritance means she is able to attend an elite prep school she starts to come out of her shell, making new friends, and falling for Blake. Swept up in in her romance, Ari doesn’t agree with her friends that this is infatuation - knowing that instead it is true love - but when Blake starts distancing himself after family troubles, Ari comes to learn what love really means.
First sentence: In 1985 just about everyone I knew was afraid of two things: a nuclear attack by the Russians and a gruesome death from the AIDS virus, which allegedly thrived on the mouthpieces of New York City public telephones.
Bitter End, Jennifer Brown (359 pages) – Alex is blissfully in love with gorgeous, sporty Cole, but things gradually turn nightmarish, first with Cole becoming jealous of her best friend Alex, then putting her down, then threatening her, until she is “forced to choose – between her ‘true love’ and herself.”
First sentence: If I had to describe my best friend, Bethany, in one word, it would be persistent.
In the Sea There Are Crocodiles, Fabio Geda (211 pages) – Based on the true story of 10 year old Afghan boy Enaiatollah’s five year journey from Afghanistan to Italy, and the harrowing events that took place along the way.
First sentence: The thing is, I really wasn’t expecting her to go.
Forever, Maggie Stiefvater (390 pages) – the conclusion to the story of the wolves of Mercy Falls that started with Shiver and continued with Linger. Isabel’s father is intent on getting rid of the wolves once and for all, and he’s making alarming headway with his plans: can Sam save them before it’s too late? Can he save Grace, who is now shifting between wolf and human form? Can Cole St Clair get to the bottom of the disease that causes the changes? So many questions!
First sentence: I can be so, so quiet.
Winter’s Shadow, M J Hearle (424 pages) – Winter is consumed by Blake Duchamp, the dark, brooding stranger she met at Pilgrim’s Lament. But Blake has a dark, dangerous secret – one that Winter seems to be be unwittingly doing her best to distract him from.
First sentence: Madeleine Bonnaire fled beneath the flickering street lamps of Rue Descartes.
I Am J, Chris Beam (326 pages) – J goes on a journey of self discovery working through the issues surrounding the fact that he’s always known he is a boy in a girl’s body.
First sentence: J could smell the hostility, the pretense, the utter fakeness of it all before they even climbed the last set of stairs.
The Demon’s Surrender, Sarah Rees Brennan (387 pages) – the conclusion to the trilogy that began with The Demon’s Lexicon. Sin and Mae are in competition for leadership of the Goblin Market and the Aventurine Circle is a threat to the survival of the market – and people generally – but can they be stopped? Also, can Sin get over her dislike of Alan so they can work together to defeat the magicians, and does Jamie really have control over Nick? This can’t be good, since he’s decided turn against the market and join the magicians.
First sentence: Magic was like a special guest in Sin’s life.
Life: An Exploded Diagram, Mal Peet (413 pages) – Set in Norfolk (UK) in 1962, when the Cold War means the world thinks it’s going to be annihilated by a nuclear bomb. Against this backdrop, Clem and Frankie are in a secret, furtive relationship (from opposite sides of the track, as it were). You can read Meg Rosoff’s review on the Guardian here.
First sentence: Ruth Ackroyd was in the garden checking the rhubarb when the RAF Spitfire accidentally shot her chimney-pot to bits.
The Dead of Winter, Chris Priestley (218 pages) – The dust jacket makes this sound spooky: “When Michael Vyner goes to spend the Christmas holidays with his distant and aloof guardian, he finds himself in a dark and desolate East Anglian [UK] house – a house that harbours a terrible secret which it will fight to retain. Michael’s lonely task soon becomes clear as he is haunted not just by a solitary woman in the mists but by the terrible reason behind her death.”
First sentence: My name is Michael: Michael Vyner.
Votive, Karen Brooks (617 pages) – the sequel to Tallow. Set in the republic of Venice – La Serenissima. Tallow has lost everything, so in order to survive she takes on a new persona, and poses as a courtesan to move among the Serenissian nobility. But evil looms in the form of her enemies, who have something up their sleeves that could ruin her.
First sentence: ‘By the gods! Stop!’