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Sharon's Top 5

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Here are 5 books I recommend to friends, family and strangers as often as I can. They don't get old with re-reading; on the contrary, they feel like coming home. A mix of classics, fantasy, and historical fiction.

The Luminaries

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky. The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.

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The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver's acclaimed international bestseller tells the story of an American missionary family in the Congo during a poignant chapter in African history. It spins the tale of the fierce evangelical Baptist, Nathan Price, who takes his wife and four daughters on a missionary journey into the heart of darkness of the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them to Africa all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - from garden seeds to the King James Bible - is calamitously transformed on African soil. Told from the perspective of the five women, this is a compelling exploration of African history, religion, family, and the many paths to redemption. The Poisonwood Bible was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 and was chosen as the best reading group novel ever at the Penguin/Orange Awards. It continues to be read and adored by millions worldwide.

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The Redemption of Althalus

A fabulous brand new Eddings standalone fantasy, set in an entirely new magical world. Burglar, armed robber and sometime murderer, our hero Althalus is commissioned to steal a book from the House at the End of the World by a mysterious cloaked stranger named Ghend.At the House at the End of the World, he finds a talking cat... in the same room as the book Ghend described. What he can't find once he's in the house is the door by which he entered. Only 2467 years and an ice age later does Althalus re-emerge with the cat, Emmy. He's read the book written by the god Deiwos, whose evil brother Daeva is trying to unmake the world. Emmy is in fact their sister and she's setting out to save the world with Althalus to help her.No easy task. First there is a quest to unearth the magical knife that will enable Emmy to assemble her band of essential helpers: Eliar (young soldier), Andine (leader of a small country), Bheid (black-robed priest), Gher (ten-year old orphan), Leitha (telepath/witch).Battles follow against Gelta the Queen of Night and the armies of Daeva involving many devious manoeuvres in and out of the House where Doors can be opened to any place at any time. Daeva has his Doors, too. When Daeva can't win through battle, he tries revolution. When Dweia (Emmy) can't win any other way, Althalus will persuade her to lie, cheat and steal - reciprocating the lessons in truth, justice and morality Emmy has been giving him for some while.The existence of the world hangs in the balance and love cannot be guaranteed to triumph in this glorious epic fantasy.

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The Secret Garden

When Mary Lennox is orphaned she is sent from her home in India to live with her uncle at Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire Moors. She arrives as a sour-faced, sickly and ill-tempered little girl, bewildered by her surroundings and desperately lonely. One day she discovers a way in to a secret abandoned garden and, with the help of local lad Dickon and her poorly cousin Colin, they set about restoring the garden. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a magical tale of transformation that has enchanted both children and adults since its publication in 1911. This beautiful Macmillan Collector's Library edition of The Secret Garden features an afterword by publisher Anna South. Designed to appeal to the booklover, the Macmillan Collector's Library is a series of beautiful gift editions of much loved classic titles. Macmillan Collector's Library are books to love and treasure.

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The Distant Hours

The discovery of a long-lost letter reveals an old secret and the truth behind a woman's mysterious past in the best-selling new novel from international publishing sensation, Kate Morton, author of The Shifting Fog and The Forgotten Garden.

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