Top Five Horror Movies

Happy Halloween everyone! Of course, when I promised my list of the scariest movies of all time, I didn’t know it would be so difficult. This is by far the hardest movie list I have ever made. In the horror genre, there is a lot of complete garbage out there– even so, when I started scribbling down the ones I like, my list was at 25 in a hurry. Now to see if I can pick a top 5.

The Exorcist (1973): To me this is the grandaddy of them all. This film scares me as much (or more) today than it did when I first saw it many years ago. You don’t see many scary movies that attract the Oscar voters, but this one did– it was nominated for 10 Academy awards and took home two, including Best Adapted Screenplay. This is a truly haunting movie about a possessed girl and her mother’s fight to save her daughter. Brilliantly directed and acted with superb performances from Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, and Max von Sydow, be sure to leave your lights on after watching this one.

Halloween (1978): Hats off to director John Carpenter, who took a budget of next to nothing and managed to scare the pants off movie fans! To me this horror film is as much of a classic as Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) and in my eyes, maybe even more so. This film started all of the slasher films, but at least Halloween did it with class. Other than a bit of blood in the opening scene, there is no more to be found. Of course one of the most famous facts about Halloween was that it was Jamie Lee Curtis’ first feature film.  After you watch the film, some of the most memorable images in horror history will be engrained with you forever, from the pale white mask coming out of the shadows to a figure standing at the foot of the bed wearing a sheet….and glasses! Doesn’t sound scary at all….but it works!

The Ring (2002): Ok, there are some more modern films that are done very well. The Ring is one of those. Based on the Japanese film Ringu (1998), this remake is a great story. Unlike so many modern horror movies, this film doesn’t base its story around teenage girls who end up running from hatchet-wielding inbreds in the backwoods. This is such an intriguing story, I won’t spoil a second of it for you by revealing much– just take my word, this movie offers its share of scary movie moments.

Salem’s Lot (1979): Ok, what is the movie guy doing picking a TV miniseries as a scary film? Well, it wouldn’t be a Halloween list without involving the great Stephen King, who wrote Salem’s Lot. Watching as a kid, this one kept me up a few nights, between the image of Geoffrey Lewis sitting in the rocking chair and revealing his yellow glowing eyes as he opens them, and of course Mr. Barlow, the monster himself. This is a good old fashioned evil vampire movie, not the local, good looking high school hunks who fall in love and then fight with the local werewolf clan. These vampires will terrify you with their crooked teeth and pale blue faces. If you haven’t seen this one in a while, give your DVD another spin.

The Descent (2005): After preaching about good horror films not being bloody, this one almost makes me change my mind. This movie is about a small group of friends that go cave exploring, and things go terribly wrong. With no way back to the surface, they try to find a way out by going deeper in the cave, where they encounter a stranger form of humanoid predator. This film is very claustrophobic and will do for cave exploring what Jaws did for swimming in the ocean.

What a tough list to narrow down! What movies scared you as a kid and what scares you now? Some of the others I should just mention are Nosferatu (1922 and 1979), Alien, Psycho, The Shining and even the Swedish vampire movie, Let The Right One In. These are my favorites, so what are yours? And remember, no talking or texting during the feature presentation.
— Jim

Staff Picks: Top Five Zombie Books (as requested)

Dude, it’s zombie season! I ask—“Is it ever not Zombie season?” Anyway, right now we’ve got zombies on the brain (in the brain?) 

I digress.

Just ask the HPB Bibliomaniacs at Store #08 in Richardson, TX and they’ll tell you, if they aren’t looking for books ABOUT zombies, they’re shelf-searching FOR zombie shoppers. One of our Facebook fans, Ruggy B., suggested we compile a list of top zombie reads. Ruggy, you got your wish! Here’s what the folks at HPB #08 put together.

Top Five Requested Zombie Books:

1- World War Z by Max Brooks

2- The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore

3- Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

4- Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

 5- Zombies vs. Unicorns ed. by Holly Black & Justine Larbelestier

  . . . Not to be confused with the Top 5 books requested BY ZOMBIES:

1- Rich Dad, Dead Dad

2- Slow Walking for Dummies (pictured below)

3- Flesh Dependent No More

 4- How to Start Worrying People and Stop Living

5- Oh, the People You Will Eat!


Thanks to our undead-loving Richardson employees, especially Matt Rox, for this sweet illustration! Have you hugged a Zombie today? Just kidding—DO NOT HUG ZOMBIES.

If you visit HPB this spook-filled weekend, and you happen upon a zombie, don’t forget to snap a pic and tweet us! Or for a less scary game, check out the titles on the spines (pun intended) behind the zombie — brilliant, right? And HIL-arious. Just be sure to keep your neck protected while you crane your head to the side.

— Becky G.

Are you dating a zombie?

We sincerely hope the answer is no. If you’re at least a little bit in doubt, however, here’s a helpful flowchart via my favorite, I Love Charts, which will work you through it and save some limbs, God willing (click on image or here to make it bigger).   


So what’s the verdict?

— Kristen D.  

Monster Mash

 The ever-brilliant Pop Chart Lab released this Monster flowchart:                                                       


Click on the image (or here) to zoom in. According to the website, the print is “a taxonomic breakdown of all manner of frightful creatures from the silver screen, from the very large (like Godzilla) to the rather small (like Chucky) to the very weird (like the Crawling Eye). Hundreds in all, this is the definitive guide to a universe of scarifying baddies.”

Love it. Who’s your favorite Halloween monster?

— Kristen D.

Favorite Autumn Recipes

Autumn has arrived. And along with weather patterns shifting and leaves changing colors, this season signals so many more of my favorite things. Including edible treats, of course! You’ll find all sorts of flavors of the fall season like pumpkin, squash, apples, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Here are some of my favorite recipes to jumpstart the season. 

Pecan pie is a big hit with my family. And this is my go-to recipe to make an irresistible version of a classic. It’s from Sweet Serendipity: Delicious Desserts and Devilish Dish – a cookbook with recipes from the world-famous eatery in New York, Serendipity (a hot touristy spot which, despite the potential for crowds, is worth a visit; just don’t be counting any calories). 

Serendipity’s Pecan Pie

Make your own pie crust from stratch or get one ready-made from the grocery store. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk 4 large eggs to loosen them. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup light corn syrup, and whisk until blended. Stir in 2 cups of pecan halves (about half a pound); stir in most of them, reserving the best-looking pieces. Pour the pecan mixture into the pie crust. Arrange the remaining pecans on the top for the best presentation. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove from oven. Be very careful because the pie filling will be extremely hot. Brush yolk from 1 large egg over the entire surface of the pie and return to the oven for 30 more minutes. Then, remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate or store at room temperature until completely set (at least 4 hours). Slice and serve. If there are any leftovers (which is unlikely at my house), store at room temperature. 

Straight from one of my favorite cookbooks – Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking – this recipe for Sweet Corn Spoonbread is as a spoonfully-delicious as it sounds. It’s the consistency of bread pudding but with the hearty taste of cornbread. 

Sweet Corn Spoonbread

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart baking dish and set aside. Put 1 cup cornmeal in a large bowl. Pour 2 cups boiling water over cornmeal while whisking constantly. Takes about 30 seconds to get a smooth, thick mixture. Immediately whisk in 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (at room temperature). Whisk it together with 1 cup milk, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking power until blended. Then, add 3 large eggs, beaten. Stir in about 1 cup of fresh corn kernels cut from 1 large ear of corn. Pour the corn batter into the baking dish. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the edges are brown and the pudding is set. Using a large spoon, scoop out servings and serve with soft butter. 

Dress up your typical apple cider with this great find from Taste of Home. By adding lemon, orange slices, honey or various spices, you can create your own custom beverage. This easy-to-make Mulled Apple Cranberry Cider is a treat for an autumn dinner party or just a quiet evening at home with the family. 

Mulled Apple Cranberry Cider

In a large saucepan, combine 4 cups of apple cider or apple juice, 2 cups of cranberry juice (preferably 100% juice) and 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar. Place 4 whole cloves and 2 cinnamon sticks on cheesecloth and tie the corners together with string to create a bag (but if you don’t have cheesecloth, you can put in the spices loose and then remove them with a slotted spoon or strainer before serving). Add spice bag to pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Then, reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. Discard your spice bag. Ladle into your favorite mug and let cool. Then sip and enjoy. 

Cooler weather also puts soups and stews back on the menu. I just found 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley. She had me at slow cooker. But then I discovered it contains recipes for Indian Spice Tomato Soup, Creamy Tomato Soup, Minestrone and Spiced Apple Pie Soup. Needless to say, I’ll be trying a few. Break out your crock pot and report back about your favorites. Don’t hold back. Share your favorite autumn recipe in the comments below. 

Go eat, drink and be merry! _ Meredith

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

New Fiction Review: The Night Strangers

Get ready for a spooky ride with The Night Strangers, by Chris Bohjalian.

After Chip, a seasoned pilot, crashes a plane into Lake Champlain and loses the vast majority of his passengers to the water, he and his family move to an old Victorian mansion in New Hampshire’s mountains. Chip and his wife, Emily, have two twin daughters, Hallie and Garnet, who are ten years old. They all have a very bumpy start to their new lives. The mansion is very old and has several secret passages and locked doors. Chip is haunted by the plane crash and some of the passengers. Their neighbors appear to be nice in the beginning, but soon after Chip and Emily start to discover that the women are in a coven and are deeply involved in witchcraft. The ending has one giant twist that I never saw coming, which left goosebumps on my arms–  even after I laid the book down and covered it with a blanket so I didn’t have to look at it anymore. At first glance, the cover of the advanced reader copy is intriguing – two girls (obviously Hallie and Garnet) in a meadow. But after you’ve finished the book, you’ll never look at the cover the same way again. I have seen that the actual cover of the book is different, which is slightly disappointing to me.

This story is written from the point of view of several of the characters, including Chip, Emily, Garnet, Hallie, and a neighbor. Most of the story is written in third person, except for a sprinkling of Chip’s second-person point of view. Through this second person perspective, we are able to see inside Chip’s mind. The reader is walked through the plane crash and through Chip’s nightmares about what else could have gone wrong.

This novel had the potential to be cheesy, but Bohjalian did a great job of staying in the realm of creepy and eerie. I must confess that several times I was reading late into the night and decided to put the book down so I wouldn’t have nightmares. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart, or anyone who will be getting on a plane in the next few weeks. Bohjalian does such a fantastic job of describing the plane crash and the passengers’ drowning that it’s easy to imagine the experience for yourself. 

I think that Justin Cronin said it best in his review for Amazon: “It’s a psychological thriller. It’s a domestic drama, the story of a family coping with the aftermath of dislocation and disaster. It’s a book about a specifically American locale, in this case a small town in a remote corner of New Hampshire. It’s a classic New England ghost story, and a hell of a good one.”

So, if you’re looking for a fantastically spooky novel to leave you unsettled on Halloween night, pick up The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.

What are some other awesome ghost stories you’d recommend?

— Kristen B.

A Riddle, HPB Halloween Potluck Style

Riddle: What’s tangy, delicious and resembles a dead Egyptian carcass?

I assume since it’s noon and a lovely Dallas day in late October, you must be standing in the buffet line of the Annual Half Price Books Corporate Office Creepy Potluck (happening today, right this second) and the answer is Mummy Meatloaf, of course.

This HPB corporate tradition is looked upon with  much anticipation/dread each year. Pot-luck dish entries range from the hilarious: “Eyeball cakes” (quite tasty, by the way) to the terrifying: a plate of dried cranberries labeled simply, “SCABS!” And some just go for delicious. Our head of accounting’s famous Corn Casserole dish is drool-worthy and there are never any leftovers. Our Executive VP’s Mac-n-Cheese entry won the tastiest honor so many times we ended up naming the award after it: the “Golden Macaroni Spoon,” thusly and arguably the most coveted prize of all. 

Prizes you say? Of course! “The Creepy Spoon” and the “Golden Macaroni” trophies are given to the foods gaining the most votes in the terrifying or tasty categories, respectively. Four years ago we added another plaque of honor – “The CARVY”- awarded for excellence in inter-departmental Pumpkin-decorating. Our I.T. department holds 2 of 3 Carvy wins:  

(Pictured Above: HPB I.T. CARVY Champions)

Some of us (myself included) have been planning our dishes for an entire year now…the CREEPY SPOON is miiiiiine! Only one decision left to make: rat-shaped cheese balls or severed-finger chili? Oh also, would you eat food your co-worker prepared for you? Even if it was named “SCABS?” (…ok, just checking, I would (and did) too.)

What do you and your co-workers do to get in the spooky spirit this time of year?

— Becky G.

Top 5 HPB Halloween Events

Hey everybody!  Halloween is just around the corner.  Have you planned your costume?  Prepared your trick-or-treating route for maximum candy accrual?

If you’re looking for something fun to do with your kiddos, look no further than your local Half Price Books!  Many of our stores are having some spooky activities that are fun for all ages, including these five:

1. Our store at The Pointe at North Fayette in Pittsburgh will have a variety of fun events including a BW costume coloring contest, a spooky storytime, a costume and a guess the weight of the pumpkin contest.  

2. Our Holiday Center store in Monroeville will have a Build-A-Mask afternoon where kids can design their very own, wearable mask.

3. Wear your craziest hat tomorrow at our Clear Lake location in Houston for a 10% discount and enter our Top Hat Contest for a chance to win a $15 HPB gift card.

4. Local young adult novelist Lory Alison will visit our Firewheel location in Garland to sign copies from her series, Sydney’s Vampire Diary. 

5. Join us on Halloween at our Dallas Flagship location for the 3rd annual trick-or-treat scavenger hunt.  They’ll have lots of goodies to giveaway!

There are plenty of other creepy, scary and fun activities at our other locations.  Check out our stores page to find the store nearest you and check out their store events.  Or stop by and ask a bibliomaniac

What is everyone dressing up as this Halloween?  Leave a comment to give us some ideas!

— Emily

New Fiction Review: The Lady of the Rivers

Today, The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory is available to the public. The Lady of the Rivers is the third book in The Cousins’ War series. The series includes The White Queen, The Red Queen, and now The Lady of the Rivers.

These books are all historical fiction. To give a bit of a background, the novels are set during The War of the Roses, a civil war in England fought between two branches of the House of Plantagenet – the House of Lancaster, the red rose, and the House of York, the white rose.

The White Queen

King Edward IV meets a woman of extraordinary beauty, Elizabeth Woodville, and marries her in secret since she is not royalty. Soon after, King Edward IV announces their marriage and it becomes official – they become the heart of the House of York and Elizabeth becomes the White Queen. Elizabeth is a strong woman who stands up for what she believes in and is a descendant of Melusina, the river goddess.  Elizabeth’s two sons soon become central to a mystery of the missing princes in the Tower of London, which has had real-life historians perplexed for many centuries.

The Red Queen

The reader sees this story through the eyes of Margaret Beaufort, the royal heir of the House of Lancaster, while she is in the midst of The War of the Roses. Margaret marries Edmond Tudor, has a child named Henry, and becomes a widow all in a very short period of time. Margaret struggles both through the wars in England and to take her rightful place as the mother of the King of England, the Red Queen.

The Lady of the Rivers

In this novel we go back in time before The White Queen, to the story of Jacquetta, a woman who has the gift of second sight. At the beginning of the novel, Jacquetta meets Joan of Arc, her uncle’s prisoner, and foretells her future. Soon, Jacquetta is married off to the Duke of Bedford, where she learns many things, including alchemy. After the Duke dies, Jacquetta marries the duke’s squire, Richard Woodville, and they are tossed into the very heart of the clash between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Jacquetta was the mother of the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville.

Gregory is a very talented writer. Once I pick up one of her books, I can never seem to put them down. I become completely fascinated by the story and can never wait to find out what happens next. And while she takes some liberties with the stories to make them more readable, Gregory does extensive research in writing her books. The base of the stories are often true. The fictional parts that Gregory weaves into the storyline about Melusina and witchcraft are unique and gives the stories a bit of an interesting twist that readers don’t often see in these types of stories.

If you’re up for a bit of historical fiction featuring very strong-willed, smart, ambitious women, I would recommend any of the books in The Cousins’ War series.

Which of Gregory’s books is your favorite?

 — Kristen B.