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Our top 10 holiday must-reads

If you’re looking for the perfect winter read, here are our picks.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell

The Mississippi-born writer was raised during the emerging civil rights movement of the ’50s and this novel is a tribute to the black women who worked as servants in white women’s houses. Hazel is a white girl who marries a man she loves and has big dreams for their future; Billy Dean agrees to a loveless marriage in exchange for the sheriff’s badge; and Vida is the African American daughter ofa preacher, who has been horribly wronged by Billy Dean and who has vowed to take her revenge on him. Their lives intersect as they each attempt to carve out their own destinies. Random House, RRP $36.99.

James Bond: Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz

The author had access to previously unpublished material written by Bond creator Ian Fleming, and this no doubt helped him to get the pace right in this latest novel featuring the dashing English spy. James has been asked to drive in an infamous car race, to protect a famous British driver from Russian sabotage. While at the track, he encounters an evil Korean millionaire in league with the Russians to sabotage a crucial rocket launch in the US. But the US authorities refuse to take James’ warning seriously so it’s up to our hero to foil the baddies, together with a very capable woman by the name of Jeopardy Lane. A well written, action-packed thriller. Hachette, RRP $37.99.

Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter by MichÈle A’Court

When Michèle’s daughter went flatting, the talented Kiwi comedienne and writer chose not to throw herself about the place in an indulgent midlife crisis (as I did). Instead, she put her fingers to the keyboard and started making a list of the things she’d forgotten to tell her girl. It includes the big stuff, including how not to be a victim, as well as the little stuff, such as how to store ginger and how to calculate GST. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and should be required reading for stroppy teen girls. HarperCollins, RRP $34.99.

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

Considered a master of contemporary thriller novels, this is one of Harlan’s best. Adam is approached by a stranger who tells him his wife faked her pregnancy two years ago, but Adam refuses to listen. The pregnancy might have ended in a miscarriage, but he saw Corinne’s swelling stomach and the sonogram of the baby – or did he? When he investigates and confronts his wife with the computer evidence that she lied, his perfect world collapses. Are the two boys even his? Things go from bad to worse when Corinne disappears and there are allegations that she has been embezzling money. Adam wants to believe in his beautiful wife, but he has his doubts. An exploration of the secrets and lies that are hidden within our computers and our smart phones – and how they could be used against us. Hachette, RRP $37.99.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

This is the follow-up to Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life, her award-winning 2013 novel about Ursula Todd, which played with the concept of choice, fate and time. In God in Ruins, we follow Teddy, Ursula’s little brother, as he tries to make a life for himself following his adventures in WWII as a RAF fighter pilot. War gave Teddy quite enough excitement for one lifetime – he has a loving marriage, a disappointing daughter and eventually, grandchildren, but this is so much more than the linear mapping of one man’s life. Kate proves once again why she is one of the best contemporary novelists writing today with her brilliant use of language, her empathetic characters and her utterly original storylines. Random House, RRP $37.99.

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

If you’re looking for a blockbuster to see you through the holidays, this is the book for you. Packed with fascinating characters, the novel in set in New York in 1977 and culminates in the great blackout of ’77, an event that tipped a city on the cusp of anarchy over the edge. A bidding war for the publishing rights saw this author clinch a $2 million deal. The novel would have benefited from a firm editor, but it was one of the books of 2015 – and when will you ever get a chance to read a 950-page book unless it’s over the Christmas break? Random House, RRP $37.

Hester & Harriet by Hilary Spiers

If you think your Christmas holiday is nutty, you should read about Hester and Harriet’s. Two widowed sisters who live together take in a young mum and her baby, mostly because they can’t bear the thought of Christmas with their cousin George. They discover she is an illegal immigrant and worse, someone means her harm. It’s an unlikely premise, I grant you – two old ladies who find themselves harbouring asylum seekers – but when you look at the refugees flooding into Europe, it’s not impossible. This is a great read with two feisty women taking central roles. Allen & Unwin, RRP $32.99.

After You by Jojo Moyes

According to the writer, readers kept asking what would become of Lou, the fabulous heroine of her bestselling Me Before You. She had a think and realised that Lou had more to say and this was how the sequel came about. Despite a near-death experience, Lou hasn’t yet grasped how to make the most of her life. But when Will’s troubled daughter, a daughter no one knew about, turns up at Lou’s flat, she is forced to take stock. It takes a spikey teenage reincarnation of Will and the love of a good man to make Lou realise that to live a full life, you have to learn to take risks and let go. Penguin, RRP $37.

Dan Carter: My story with Duncan Greive

The perfect gift for just about everyone, from nanas to young All Blacks of the future, Dan’s biography comes with a fairytale closing chapter that was written just three hours after the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup and Dan was named Player of the Tournament. This is a full and open account of the life of one of our most talented rugby players, and interspersed among the chapters are pages of a diary Dan kept throughout 2014-2015 as he set his sights on making the All Blacks World Cup team. Plenty of photos, well written and with enough openness from the man himself to make you feel like you’re getting an insight into what drives him, this is a winner! Upstart Press, RRP $49.99.

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