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What you should be buying next month.

1. The Brick Testament: The Story of Christmas, retold and illustrated by Brendan Powell Smith (Quirk, $12.95). Balthazar, Melchior, Mary, Joseph, and Baby You-Know-Who: LEGO makes versions of them all, as revealed in this fun picture book.

2. Shade, by Neil Jordan (Bloomsbury, $24.95). The Crying Game director had a best-seller in Ireland with this astounding novel that captures the exquisite pleasure and pain of childhood friendships. It all starts with a killing, of course.

3. Astonishing Splashes of Colour, by Clare Morrall (Harper Collins, $23.95). Kitty wants a baby so badly that she'll do anything to get one in this emotional thrill ride (guffaw! sob!) of a novel whose heroine lives next-door to her husband.

4. There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale, by Sean Astin with Joe Layden (St. Martin's, $24.95). A warm behind-the-scenes scoop on the making of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films by the guy who played Frodo's buddy, Sam.

5. >Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown, $23.95). A missing child, an old lady with a houseful of cats, a lonely widower whom everyone tells to lose weight, a mad young mother with an axe: Their stories merge in this charmer.


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