Layla by Nina de la Mer (Myriad Editions, £8.99)

Layla by Nina de la Mer (Myriad Editions, £8.99)

The energy and realism that characterised de la Mer's debut, 4am, is taken up a seemingly impossible few notches in this perceptive and forceful tale of 19-year-old lap dancer and mother, Hayleigh. The second-person narrative is also more than experimental, suiting well the sense of menace that pervades Hayleigh's night-time world.

Sex And The Citadel: Intimate Life In A Changing Arab World by Shereen El Feki (Vintage, £8.99)

Any investigation into a particular group's sexual behaviour will find itself concerned with the gap between public and private, and Shereen El Feki's wide-ranging book makes excellent use of that disparity as she charts the changes in sexual freedoms being demanded by a more daring, younger generation. A broad study yet necessarily intimate too.

The Boat by Clara Salaman (Head of Zeus, £9.99)

The concept behind Salaman's thriller, of a young couple seemingly "rescued" in the Mediterranean Sea by an initially friendly family which soon turns out to be anything but, isn't original, but Salaman ties it up rather neatly with the idea that anyone running away might not be exactly trustworthy, including her heroes.

The Mirror by Richard Skinner (Faber, £14.99)

The Mirror is not one novel but two novellas: the rather prosaic first tale about a young nun chosen to sit for a painter in 16th century Venice, and the second, The Velvet Gentleman, a more voluptuous and contemporary story about a composer. Both concern the effect of art on us.

Lesley McDowell