Half Price Books presents the Half Price Blog featuring book reviews, music and movie reviews, trivia and randomness about things we love. That means a whole lot of fiction, nonfiction, music, movies, games, and collectibles… including rare and out-of-print literary treasures.
 
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Becky
Potluck-genius, insomniac-procrastinator and crafting-whiz. Inventor of the “Hey that’s my Boots!” CEO Paper Doll, the HPB Snuggie, braille t-shirt and Tacky BW Holiday Sweater.
Emily
PR maven, news junkie, baseball fanatic, late-night talk show watcher, frequent restaurant diner and former VH-1 reality show addict.
Jim
Film buff and wanna-be chef. Who's up for dinner and a movie?! Crouching Tiger stir-fry or Godfather spaghetti and a bottle of vino. Please, no talking or texting during the movie.
 
Meredith
Donned in an apron, baking pies and other tempting treats – there's nothing desperate about this housewife. Loves travel, the great outdoors, classic films, indie music and non-fiction.
Steve
The Buy Guy is a quarter-century-plus employee expert on all things books & music; his favorite buy involved hundreds of old theology books from the Mount St. Michael Convent hilltop library in Spokane, Washington.
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Thursday
Apr302015

And All That Jazz: Swinging Sounds for International Jazz Day

Happy International Jazz Day, everyone! We’re all celebrating, right?

As every school child knows, April 30 has been designated as International Jazz Day by UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations.

April 30 is also National Honesty Day. So, let’s be honest. Most people don’t listen to jazz or know much about it. I say that based on personal experience, and it’s backed up by recording industry data, radio station ratings and surveys on concert attendance. The reasons for this are complicated, and the jazz blogosphere is filled with thoughtful analysis.

For the sake of this post, however, let’s say you’re at least somewhat interested in jazz, but perhaps you don’t know where to start.

Admittedly, jazz can be confusing. It’s a broad genre, encompassing (rightly or wrongly) everything from noisy experimental “free jazz” to WWII-era big band music to the “smooth jazz” heard when you’re waiting for your conference call to begin. Also, most jazz greats had prolific recording careers spanning several decades, resulting in massive, imposing discographies.

For those interested in sampling this great, American-born music but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few totally-biased suggestions. First, we’ll look at some classic jazz, then at a handful of more recent recordings.

Duke Ellington: Ellington at Newport (1956)
This live album from Ellington’s triumphant turn at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival works as a great introduction to the pianist-composer-bandleader’s music. Included are some of Duke’s earliest works, dating back to the 20s, as well as new music written for the occasion. This has it all — power, humor, beauty and above all, madly infectious swing. Note: The original LP contained some music recreated in the studio, so for the best sound quality and complete performance, look for the “complete” version issued as a two-CD set in 1999.

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Thursday
Apr232015

Much Ado About William Shakespeare: Best Movie Adaptations

What better birthday to celebrate than one of the best storytellers in history William Shakespeare? Of course, everyone thinks of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet when thinking of Shakespeare, but his play still inspire and are the basis of many movies. Being a movie buff, here are my top 5 picks of movies based on Shakespeare. 

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Based on a play of the same name, this is really a fantastic comedy film about mistaken identity and suppressed affections with an all-star cast. On the British side, we have Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Kate Beckinsale. On the American side, Michael Keaton is perfect as the bumbling Dogberry and Denzel Washington plays a noble Prince. 

West Side Story (1961)

Romeo and Juliet turns to the streets of New York for the retelling of this classic Shakespeare story. Maria and Tony fall in love, despite being a part of rival gangs. The ending does change a bit with this adaptation, but not enough to keep it from winning the Oscar for Best Picture in 1961.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)


It is easy to see where this one comes from, The Taming of the Shrew. Bianca and Cameron are forbidden to date until shrewish older sister, Kat, is dating as well. Kat, played by Julia Stiles, gets set up to date “bad boy” Patrick, portrayed by Heath Ledger. Cameron even disguises himself as a language tutor, just as Lucentio did in Shakespeare’s original play.

Ran (1985)

Based on Shakespeare’s work King Lear, Ran, is the story of two sons that are battling over the division over their father’s estate. This is a film everyone should see and is masterfully directed by Akira Kurosawa. One of the greatest epics of all time.

Forbidden Planet (1956)


That’s right, one of the truly classic sci-fi films is based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Instead of being stranded on an island, the story here takes place on a planet with a utopian society. As with the play, the planet's ruler, Morbius, sees his daughter fall in love with one of the outsiders, despite his objections. This film also gave us one of the most-recognizable robots in film history, Robby the Robot. A must see for everyone.

There were so many great stories to choose from. Big Business and Throne of Blood were close to making the list. What are some of your favorite Shakespearean works being retold today?

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Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.

Wednesday
Apr222015

Celebrate Earth Day with Half Price Books

Happy Earth Day! The bibliomaniacs here at Half Price Books have been green since before it was cool. Helping the environment by preserving and recycling resources has always been a part of our daily business, and we feel that everyone can help preserve the environment.

We strive to be green when we are constructing our stores. Each new location is constructed with 100% recyclable flooring, handmade wood shelves (made in our very own HPB Woodshoppe!) and eco-friendly paints. We also offer post-consumer waste shopping bags and recyclable paper gift cards.

In 2014, we donated more than 1.6 million books to non-profits and schools, helping to enrich minds and keep books out of landfills. We continue to donate as part of our Million Book Donation Project – check out our 2015 progress!

Half Price Books continues to look for ways to b(eco)me green. Tell us the green things you do in the comments!

Friday
Apr172015

Prepare for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I may be showing my age here, but anyone who grew in the 70's remembers camping out in lines that went around the block just to see Star Wars for a fifth time. As a movie buff, few things make me feel like a kid again, but with this new Star Wars trailer out, I can't wait to see this movie. It should be exciting, with director JJ Abrams behind the camera, who is known for rebooting the Star Trek franchise. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be in theaters December 18. That gives you plenty of time to drop by Half Price Books and pick up the original other Star Wars movies on Blu-Ray or DVD. Also, take home a few comics and books to get yourself prepared for this fall release. If you come by on Saturday, May 2nd, you can take home a comic book free with any purchase as part of Comic Book Day!

   

Check out the trailer!

What is your favorite movie in the Star Wars saga?

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Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.

Wednesday
Apr152015

Before They Can Read: 10 Children's Book Illustrators Both Kids & Parents Will Love

For youngsters who can’t yet read on their own, like my precious daughter, illustrations in books are the heart of engaging imagination and captivating attention. Children’s literature is rich with beautiful art that can help a child develop a love of books (just as soon as they pass the stage where eating the book is the primary intrigue).

As adults who are reading aloud to your kids, I believe it’s important that you enjoy the book, too, if for no other reason than it means you’re more likely to read it over and over again, making story time a cherished ritual with your kiddos. While there are some amazing classic children's books which every child should read, here are 10 illustrators whose artwork will get you (and your babes and tots) hooked on books.


Oliver Jeffers is an artist, illustrator and writer from Belfast in Northern Ireland who now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Jeffers uses mixed media and figurative painting, along with his own style of composition, to create enchanting illustrations which are adored by readers of all ages. Several of his books – including Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me (shown above) – rose to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt, comes to life thanks to the illustrations by Jeffers. Follow him @OliverJeffers on Twitter.

Canadian-born author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds is known for his children’s picture books which encourage creativity and self expression, including The North Star, The Dot (shown above), Ish and So Few Me. The Dot is among my favorites. Clearly others agree, since it’s been published in more than 20 languages around the world. Follow him @peterhreynolds on Twitter.

Benji Davies is both an illustrator and animator. His work on the printed page features colorful scenes and charming characters, like award-winning On Sudden Hill, written by Linda Sarah, Goodnight Already! by Jory John, The Storm Whale (shown above) and dozens more. Follow him @Benji_Davies on Twitter.

Jane Chapman (also known by her pseudonym Jack Tickle) really hit her stride with the bestselling picture book Bear Snores On, written by Karma Wilson and published in 2002. Chapman’s feathery brush strokes are easy to spot. Due to her tendency to illustrate anthropomorphized creatures great and small, I’ve been compelled to acquire several of her books for my daughter’s library.

Chapman's husband, Tim Warnes, is also an illustrator, comic artist and children’s book author. One of my favorite board books which features Warnes’ work is I Love You to the Moon and Back. It’s sweet, gentle rhyme was written by Amelia Hepworth. Warnes and Chapman live in Dorset, England, with their son Noah. Teamed up, they published Hands Off My Honey! Follow this duo @chapmanwarnes on Twitter.


Mo Willems is an American writer, animator and creator of lovable children’s books. Caldecott honors and critically-acclaimed for starters, Willems' picture books offer whimsy with a twist on the ordinary. Known for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and dozens more. Follow him @The_Pigeon on Twitter.


Carin Berger is an author, designer and illustrator who created OK Go! and Not So True Stories & Unreasonable Rhymes. My favorite among her work is her latest picture book, called The Little Yellow Leaf,where she uses collage-based illustrations. Its subtlety and simplicity are delightful. Follow her @CarinBerger on Twitter.

Los Angeles-based illustrator Brigette Barrager has a retro style that harkens back to the 50s and 60s. She illustrated Where Does Kitty Go in the Rain?, written by Harriet Ziefert. Barrager also illustrates princesses, unicorns and paper dolls. Follow her @missbrigette on Twitter and Instagram.  

Charles Santoso is a picture book illustrator based out of Sydney, Australia. Perhaps the inspiration for his latest work came from Down Under as well. I Don’t Like Koala, written by Sean Ferrell, just hit shelves this week. Follow him @minitreehouse on Twitter.

Erin E. Stead is a Caldecott award-winning illustrator of children’s books. Her first publication was A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by her husband Philip C. Stead, who is also an artist. Her other award-winning works include Bear Has a Story to Tell, also written by her husband, plus And Then It’s Spring (shown above), written by Julie Fogliano.

Who is your favorite contemporary illustrator of children's books?

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Meredith is Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate. 
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.