Books Authors Read with Kathleen Kent

We continue our “Books Authors Read” series with Kathleen Kent. Kathleen is the author of three best-selling novels, The Heretic’s Daughter, The Traitor’s Wife, and The Outcasts, which was the recipient of the American Library Association’s 2014 top choice for Historical Fiction.  She was also awarded the David J. Langum Sr. award for American historical fiction. (Not too shabby!) Enjoy some of Kathleen’s favorite reads! – Emily

   Growing up in Texas, I was always fascinated with books of Western lore.  Whereas a lot of my childhood friends were reading Nancy Drew and National Velvet, I loved the more adventurous and dangerous novels by Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey, and the stories of J. Frank Dobie.  As I got older, two of my favorite authors became Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy.   Their Lonesome Dove and Border Trilogy became classics of the genre.  Recently, I’ve read some novels and one non-fiction book that carry the spirit of the Western myth in their teeth.  Some of these are:

1)    The Thicket, by Joe Lansdale. One of my favorite reads of last year.  Set in East Texas at the turn of the century, a young Jack Parker is orphaned through a string of tragic events.  His lot is further worsened by being set upon by a group of bank robbers who kill his grandfather and kidnap his younger sister, Lula.  Jack’s search to recover his sister is aided by a charismatic, bounty hunting dwarf named Shorty and his crew.  In Lansdale’s capable hands, East Texas is painted as a wild and untamed place, inhabited with rich, complex characters, by turns dark and funny.  I especially loved the tale-telling Shorty, recognizing in his mannerisms and speech the authentic expressions of the true sons and daughters of the Big Thicket.

You can visit him online or follow him on Twitter at @joelansdale.

2)    In the Rogue Blood, by James Carlos Blake.  Written in gorgeous prose, this book is set in the 1840’s during the Mexican War.  Two brothers, Edward and John Little, one fighting for Mexico, the other fighting as a scout for the United States, traverse a world in where the rules of survival are simple: kill or be killed.  In the vein of Blood Meridian, this book is dark, violent and at times bleak.  This is not a feel good Western, but a portrait of a country inhabited by brutal men and set upon women, with brief flashes of compassion and humanity, which is surely an accurate accounting of how the West was won.

3)    Little Century, by Anna Keesey.   Like the best of Westerns, this novel begins with an escalating conflict: the violent war over water and rangeland in Oregon.  Another orphan, eighteen-year-old Esther Chambers travels west in search of her only living relative. In the lawless town of Century, she’s met by a distant cousin, a cattle rancher named Ferris Pickett.  She begins a new life as a homesteader, in the hope that her land will one day join Pick’s impressive spread.   As incidents between the sheep and cattle ranchers turn to bloodshed, Esther’s sympathies are divided between her cousin and a sheepherder named Ben Cruff, sworn enemy of the cattlemen.

Here’s what I said on the book jacket cover:  “Little Century is rich and true and achingly beautiful. Its heroine, Esther Chambers, is the kind found in the best classic literature: an innocent caught against the backdrop of escalating violence whose essential goodness and loyalty shine through the savagery around her.”

You can visit her online or follow her on Twitter at @AnnaKessey.

4)    Spirit of Steamboat, by Craig Johnson.  Part of the Walt Longmire series, this book is a bit of a departure from the previous books, as it’s a shorter novella, and a bit of a “Ghost of Christmas Past” remembrance for the sheriff.   The story takes Walt back to Christmas Eve 1988, and a record-breaking Montana blizzard where three people die in a terrible crash.  In the accident a young girl is injured and may die unless she can be transported to a hospital via a broken down WWII transport plane, flown, of course, by a whiskey-sodden, broken down old WWII pilot.  A modern Western, this book has suspense, killing elements, and good guys waiting to be resurrected from their own character flaws to save the day.

You can visit him online or follow him at @ucrosspop25

5)    The Gates of the Alamo, by Stephen Harrigan.  Suspenseful, beautifully written, extensively researched, this is my favorite of the Alamo retellings.   The characters of that seminal drama, on both sides of the conflct—Bowie, Crockett, Travis, Austin, Santa Anna, Telesforo Villaseñor—are given depth and new energy in Harrigan’s book.  His landscape descriptions, as well as the recounting of the battles and the final siege, are breathtaking, exciting, poignant and memorable.

You can visit him online her or follow him on Twitter at @stephenharrigan.

Kathleen Kent is the author of The Heretic’s Daughter, The Traitor’s Wife, and The Outcasts.

Visit her online or follow her on Twitter @kathleenkent214.


Let’s get dirty! 27 Garden Inspired Books for Your Summer

Summer officially arrives this year at 6:51 AM EDT, on Saturday, June 21. If you are like me, this means an extra-long, delightfully sweaty day in the garden. Gardeners come from all walks of life and take joy in creating edible and/or ornamental gardens. And, when we are unable to be in the garden we daydream about it, here are a few suggested reads that will hopefully satisfy your desire and dreams of the garden.

Fiction 1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett • 2. The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman • Mysteries   3. Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris • 4. Garden of Secrets Past by Anthony Eglin • Poetry  5. Led By The Nose by Jenny Joseph • 6. Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver • Short Story Collection  7. The Garden of Reading edited by Michelle Slung • Nonfiction by Amy Stewart 8. From the Ground Up • 9. The Earth Moved • 10. Flower Confidential • 11. Wicked Plants • 12. Gilding the Lily • 13. Wicked Bugs • 14. The Drunken BotanistNonfiction by Christopher Lloyd 15. The Well-Tempered Garden • 16. Dear Friend and Gardener • 17. In My Garden • 18. The Adventurous GardenerMore Nonfiction  19. My Garden Book by Jamaica Kincaid • 20. The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean • 21. A Garden in Lucca by Paul Gervais • 22. The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf • 23. The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan • 24. The Tulip by Anna Pavord • 25. Bulb by Anna Pavord • 26. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver • 27. Potted History by Catherine Horwood

Susan is Creative Coordinator at Half Price Books Corporate.

If you liked And the Mountains Echoed, then you might also like…

When I was told that the HPB Book Club selection for June and July was And The Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseini, I wasn’t exactly excited about it. I read Hosseini’s The Kite Runner earlier this year, and though I thought the writing was beautiful, the plot was so heartbreaking that I found myself forcing my way through it. However, after having read And The Mountains Echoed, I have to admit I was enthralled by the poetic pictures Hosseini’s words painted in my imagination. I also found myself approaching every chapter like a puzzle, trying to see how the chapter fit in with the rest of the book, as each chapter is told from someone else’s perspective. Now, I’m searching for what to read next. If you are like me, and you enjoyed reading And The Mountains Echoed, here are some other books you may like to read next.

Books about the Middle East:

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy; The Bookseller of Kabul by Anne Seierstad; and In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda.

Books about siblings:

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley; Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler; As I lay Dying by William Faulkner; Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

Books about the persecution of a people:

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay; The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks; The Power and the Glory by Graham Green.


Short story collections that read like novels:

Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfield; The Wanderers by Richard Price; Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson; Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz.

I think I may read The Bookseller of Kabul or Triburbia next. What about you?  What is your next book going to be? And if you want to chat with fellow HPB Book Clubers, visit and jump in the conversation about And the Mountains Echoed between now and the end of July.


Julie is Traffic Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary

After 30 years, who are you still going to call…? GHOSTBUSTERS! It is hard to believe that this classic comedy is now celebrating it’s 30 anniversary. When Ghostbusters opened on June 8, 1984, there was already a huge buzz about the movie since the song by the same title by Ray Parker Jr. was climbing the charts. Everyone knew the song and had seen clips of the movie from the MTV video.

Ghostbusters opened and was an instant success, and was the highest grossing comedy of all time until the release of Home Alone in 1990. The film was directed by legend, Ivan Reitman, who was coming off the success of his two prior films, Meatballs and Stripes. So when it came to casting, Reitman didn’t have to look far. Returning from Stripes was Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. Adding Saturday Night Live star and one of the original Blues Brothers, Dan Akroyd, made up the comedy team that would put Ghostbusters in the history books.

If you have never seen this fun romp of a movie, what are you waiting for? Grab a copy and watch it tonight! There are several other fun things surrounding the 30th anniversary including fan art, Ray Parker Jr. anniversary single, and even a special edition LEGO set. So if you come across a full torso apparition, Focused Non-Terminal Repeating Phantasm, or a Class V Full Roaming Vapor (a real nasty one too)…you know who to call…GHOSTBUSTERS!

30th Anniversary Lego Set

Ray Parker Jr. Anniversary Vinyl

Images from Ghostbusters Art Show (Fan Art)

Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.