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The urge to splurge

Absolutely terrific for dipping, Allum has a lovely, chatty tone, and brings all his Antique Roadshow expertise to the table. There's all sorts of insider titbits for the antiques-mad - but it's sadly lacking in illustrations much less colour plates!

MAPS: THEIR UNTOLD STORIES

By Rose Mitchell & Andrew James

Thomas Reed (2014) €30 HHHHH

Do you know a map geek? I'm one, and I couldn't get enough of this gloriously produced and meticulously researched big book and it's not just the illustrations, but also the stories about the people who actually made the maps. Stunning!

THE BIG BOOK OF THE MINIATURE HOUSE

By Christine Léa Frisoni

GMC Books (2014) €22.50 hhhhh

THE miniature house being a doll house! There are directions to help you make your own; however, just looking at the lovely photographs of the tiny, tiny things is more than enough pleasure.

MASTERPIECES IN DETAIL

By Till-Holger Borchert

Prestel (2014) €108 HHHHH

Try to get close to a painting and you'll find yourself on the receiving end of a scold from a docent. Here, Borchert takes us very close to the works of Netherlandish masters from van Eyck to Bosch. You can do that from your sofa, now, and as far as art books go, this is one of the best I've come across.

For the younger readers:

HALF A KING

By Joe Abercrombie

(Harper Voyager) (2014) €18.75

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Vikings! Yarvi is the weak son of a powerful ruler and while this coming-of-age tale hits many of the usual notes, it's the author's voice that lifts from amongst the rabble. The new writers have got such a terrific, colloquial, humorous tone, and much of it is thanks to Joe Abercrombie.

SHIVER THE WHOLE NIGHT THROUGH

By Darragh McManus

(Hot Key Books) (2014) €7.99

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McManus sets the troubling reality of teen suicide in Ireland in a metaphorical frame that includes romance, the supernatural, and detection. When Aidan Flood decides not to kill himself, but finds that the lovely Sláine has, his life takes on new meaning.

SLEEP DONATION

By Karen Russell

(Atavist Books) (2014) €3.62

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Holy moly, talk about nightmare fuel: America is in crisis as the majority of its population have lost the ability to sleep. Naturally, a corporation provides sleep from donors and - naturally - all is not altruistic.

RATBURGER

By David Walliams

HarperCollins Children's Books (2014) €8.99 HHHHH

Zoe is being bullied in school, which is bad enough, but her home life is rotten as well. When her beloved hamster dies, she finds a baby rat - and off goes this funny tale. Walliams' books have been getting the Xbox generation into reading, which is no mean feat.

DRAMAS AND DAYDREAMS

By Jacqueline Wilson

Corgi (2012) €16.99 hhhhh

Wilson's work never gets old. Whilst they look cute and shiny and bright, Wilson is not afraid to deal with the darker side of a young girl's life. Case in point: the Suitcase Kid follows Andrea as she literally and figuratively journeys through her parents divorce. The story doesn't make judgements, and allows for some light-hearted humour as well.

BLOOD OF OLYMPUS

By Rick Riordan

Puffin (2014) €16.99 HHHII

This is the fifth, and last Heroes of Olympus book starring Percy Jackson. Ideal for the avid fan of the series, not so much as a standalone for a reader unfamiliar with the character and the setting. The plots have fallen into a pattern, which is a pity.

I NEED A NEW BUTT!

By Dawn McMillan

Dover (2014) €7.23

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When a young boy discovers that his bum has a big crack in it, he embarks on a journey to replace it, because if it's cracked, it's clearly broken. I creased myself laughing.


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