Local Store Events Round-Up: January 2016


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Sarah Ballantyne & Alaena Haber Book Signing
Meet New York Times bestselling author Dr. Sarah Ballantyne and Alaena Haber on Saturday, January 16, from 1 to 3 p.m. at your Mesa HPB.  Sarah and Alaena will discuss and sign their new book The Healing Kitchen: 175+ Quick & Easy Paleo Recipes to Help You Thrive. Books available for purchase as specially-priced new items while supplies last.

Phoenix – Camelback 

First Sunday Storytime
Pack up your half-pint readers and come to your Camelback HPB for Storytime Sundays. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us at 1 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. All young readers and listeners are welcome!



Dog Adoptions
Cute canine companions will be visiting your Dublin HPB this Saturday, January 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tri-Valley Animal Rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue and adoption organization, will have a select group of adoptable dogs looking for good, fur-ever homes



Celebrating 10 Years in Chicagoland!
We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary in the Chicagoland area with a coupon for our email subscribers redeemable in store January 22 through 24. Want to get one for yourself? Sign up for our email list in store today. Valid at any Chicago-area HPB.


Jonathan Masters Book Signing
Meet author Jonathan Masters on Saturday, January 16, from 1 to 4 p.m. at your Algonquin HPB. Jonathan will sell and sign his Education book, The Throwaway Kids. Books will be sold independently by the author while supplies last.

Frank McRae Book Signing
Meet local author Frank McRae at your Algonquin HPB on Saturday, January 30, from 1 to 3 p.m. Frank will sell and sign his Thrillers, Premonitions and Vengeance: When All That’s Left is Revenge. Books will be sold independently by the author while supplies last.


Sonja Smith Book Signing
Meet local author Sonja Smith on Saturday, January 16, from 1 to 3 p.m. at your Bloomingdale HPB. Sonja will sell and sign her inspirational autobiography, Try These For Size. Books will be sold independently by the author while supplies last. Continue reading

Seeing Music and Hearing Pictures: Walt Disney’s Fantasia Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary

It all began in 1937, at a chance meeting between Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski while having dinner. Mr. Disney was already planning a short film to be called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The short was going to combine animation with a live orchestra. Stokowski quickly agreed to conduct the orchestra, and three years later, with hundreds of artists at the helm, Walt Disney Pictures released what is now one of the best animated films of all time, Fantasia.

Leopold Stokowski was a huge part of the collaboration with Disney and offered many ideas that made the film what it is, including the title, Fantasia. The title was suggested because it is a musical term for a composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. Stokowski also had the idea of recording all the music in the film  stereo-phonically, which would become a cinematic first. While recording, they also separated out the soloists and mixed them back in later. This idea lead to Fanta Sound, which is the first incarnate of surround sound. Unfortunately, most cinemas could not reproduce Fanta Sound, and theaters that were able to show the film in Fanta Sound had to be equipped with 30 to 80 speakers behind the screen, around the perimeter and on the ceiling of the theatre. Fanta Sound did not last, but the very groundbreaking idea lead the cinema experience to where it is today.


Music was just one part of Fantasia. Fantasia needed visuals, and Walt Disney gave his animators complete freedom, something unheard of at Disney Studios. Les Clark worked on the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies and was in charge of the Dew Drop Fairies, for which he had the idea of having them hover like hummingbirds. Disney was so pleased with the results that Clark was given the task of animating Tinkerbell in the opening of the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in the 1950s.

The Rite of Spring was another example of groundbreaking animation. Josh Miller, the supervising animator for special effects, was tasked with developing the lava in the volcano scenes. Miller mixed oatmeal, mud and coffee in a large bucket. He then placed air hoses in the bucket and photographed the bubbling with a high speed camera. Each photograph was processed into a film cell and and dyed with red and yellow backgrounds, thus producing the lava effect.

Of course, the most memorable of the Fantasia sequences is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Walt Disney originally considered Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for the piece, but he instead opted for Mickey Mouse, who he wanted to get back in the public eye after losing popularity to Donald Duck. Around the studio, the Sorcerer was given the name Yen Sid, which is Disney spelled backwards. The animators even saw the Sorcerer as Mr. Disney, giving him Disney’s nose and cocked eyebrow at the end of the scene, something Walt was known to do when he was displeased. There was also a concern that Mickey Mouse chopping up the broomstick was too violent. Animators helped save Mickey Mouse’s character by reanimating that scene where Mickey chops the broomsticks indirectly, with the scene done in shadows.

What started off as a box office bomb is now heralded as one of the greatest animated films of all time. Even Steven Spielberg has proclaimed it as his favorite animated feature. See the music, hear the pictures, immerse yourself and re-watch Fantasia today.

10 Holiday Gifts for the Geek in Your Life

As an unofficial spokesperson for the geek community, let me be the first to apologize to anyone who doesn’t share in our particular hobbies or passions. Why? Because I know we can be hard to shop for around the holidays.

We usually know exactly what we want and when everything comes out. We pre-order things months in advance or wait in midnight lines on release day. Sometimes – but not always! – we can be a bit picky. It’s often hard to surprise us.

And who doesn’t want to surprise their nearest and dearest during the holidays with the perfect gift? If you’re still looking for one last present to go under the tree, and if you don’t know what a 20-sided dice is or why it’s important that Han shot first (and trust me, it’s important), then here are ten gift ideas for the special geek(s) in your life that you might find at your neighborhood Half Price Books.

Since The Force Awakens is finally here this week, we’ll start with some Star Wars picks.

1.  X-Wing Miniatures Game – Core Set (The Force Awakens Edition)
X-Wing is not only a great gift for Star Wars fans, it’s a perfect entry point for anyone interested in trying tabletop strategy games. The rules are easy to learn, and this set includes everything players need to recreate the exciting dogfights from the Star Wars movies.

It’s also a great gift for someone who already plays X-Wing, because this set includes new figures and rules inspired by The Force Awakens.

pew pew

2. Star Wars Crochet
To my knowledge, Jabba the Hutt has never been cuter.
Like the previous entry, this is an excellent starter set for your crafty geek. The kit provides patterns for 12 Star Wars characters and the materials to make Yoda and a Stormtrooper. If you crochet yourself, these figures would make wonderful stocking stuffers or ornaments for next year’s Christmas tree.


3. Star Wars Fabrikations
These plush action figures would make an adorable addition to your Star Wars fan’s collection. Figures that may be available at your local store include Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Chewbacca. If you’re having trouble deciding which one to get for your Star Wars fan, here’s my advice: let the Wookiee win.

4. Star Trek Paper Model Kit
Don’t worry, we also have Star Trek fans covered. We have a variety of Star Trek items in our stores this year, but this model kit is my personal recommendation. It includes everything you need to recreate the voyages of the original U.S.S. Enterprise (*). It even includes LED lights and plays the Star Trek theme!

(*) Bad William Shatner impression not included.



5. Munchkin: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
The original Munchkin is a wildly popular, fantasy-themed competitive card game. Munchkin is perfect for the whole family and has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.


Over the years, the makers of Munchkin have released individually-themed sets based on popular movies and characters. This stand-alone boxset, based on the wildly-beloved holiday film, is an ideal choice for both card game and Disney fans alike. It only takes minutes to learn the game’s rules and would make for an excellent family activity during the holidays.

6. Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition Starter Set
It’s hard to imagine that Dungeons and Dragons is over forty years-old now. This classic role-playing game – for many, a geek rite of passage – is as popular as ever. Last year, the entire game was completely overhauled with the aim to appeal to modern audiences.

Despite recent changes, the spirit of the classic game remains intact in this latest edition. This inexpensive beginner’s set is a great gift for anyone who wants to try role-playing games for the first time… or for parents who want to pass down this popular pastime to the next generation.


7. 1001 Video Games to Play Before You Die
This reference book features a wealth of history and trivia about both classic and modern games. It’s a great gift for video game enthusiasts – especially if your particular enthusiast can’t always wait till the holidays for the latest game releases.

They will have a great time seeing how many of these games they played… and how many they have left to go. My total came to 300. I honestly thought that number was going to be higher. You win again, real life.


8. Legend of Zelda Puzzles
No matter how much technology advances, there’s nothing quite like a good puzzle.
Most of our stores currently feature two 550-piece puzzles based on the perennial video game franchise, The Legend of Zelda. Like the previous recommendation, it’s a great outside-the-box choice to surprise your video game fan. It’s also a great family activity to share with them, especially if you don’t enjoy video games yourself.


9. Minecraft Creeper
If your child plays video games at all, they probably play Minecraft. It’s an open-world, fantasy-themed construction game where players can build almost anything they can imagine. Young or old, few games have ever captured people’s imaginations quite like it.

Creepers are one of the most popular icons from this game. Minecraft fans will no doubt enjoy having this figure on their shelves or next to their computers as they work tirelessly on their latest epic creation.


10. Goonies Coffee Mug
Goonies never say die! Many of them also enjoy warm beverages. Enough said.


Jeremy is Customer Service Specialist at HPB Corporate

Everything You Need to Know About the Holiday Songs You’ve Heard a Thousand Times

Holiday music is everywhere these days—so many familiar songs that are played repeatedly right up until December 25th, but disappear on the 26th until the next November. Here are some tidbits about some of my favorite songs of the holidays, to be contemplated over eggnog and peppermint bark. Add a comment about your own favorite song and story to fill the number 12 spot.

1. White Christmas

Most holiday-music fans know that Bing Crosby’s recording of this song is the top-selling Christmas record of all time—and one of the top-selling singles of any genre or era. Many know that it was featured in the 1942 movie Holiday Inn and again in the movie White Christmas twelve years later. Some are aware that this Christmas standard was written by a Russian-Jewish immigrant, Irving Berlin. Not many know that Berlin had a vendetta against Elvis Presley’s 1957 recording of the song, which he felt represented all the evils and indignities of rock ‘n’ roll, and tried unsuccessfully to get it banned from the radio. Presley’s version was based on The Drifters’ rollicking doo-wop #2 R&B hit version of 1954, which was in turn based on The Ravens’ forties version.

2. Blue Christmas

And speaking of Elvis, how about his contribution to the holiday pop pantheon? One reliable bit of shtick at holiday parties is for someone to start up, in best over-the-top Elvis voice, “Ah’ll ha-have a-huh bla-ue Christmas without you.” Then, right on cue, everyone else jumps in with the soprano “ooh-ooh-wee-oo-ooh” obbligato. Presley had heard Millie Kirkham singing a high “ooh” part on a Ferlin Husky record and wanted her to do the same thing on “Blue Christmas.” Kirkham is quoted in Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis: “It was horrible. It was comical. It wasn’t supposed to be, but the longer it goes the funnier it gets.” Still true today—try it at your next holiday sing-along for some yuletide yuks! Continue reading

Best of 2015: HPB Staff Picks in Books, Movies & Music

As with any year, putting together a list of the best new releases is challenging because there is so much great work to recognize. This collection of HPB Staff Picks are the books, music and movies which inspired and entertained us in 2015. If you haven’t discovered these yet, we hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did. Here they are, in no particular order:


BOOKS // 1. Best Coloring Book (for Adults): Secret Garden Artist’s Edition by Johanna Basford / 2. Best LOL Biography: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling / 3.  Best Literary Fiction to Cry Your Eyes Out Over: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara / 4. Best Edge-of-Your-Seat Mystery: Memory Man by David Baldacci / 5. Best Unexpected, Recently-Published 1950s Novel: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee / 6. Best Finale to a Series: Winter by Marissa Meyer / 7. Best Finger-Licking Good Recipes: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond / 8. Best Controversy-Stirring Nonfiction: Missoula by Jon Krakauer / 9. Best Euphorically-Geeky, Shout-Out-to-the-80s Science Fiction: Armada by Ernest Cline / 10. Best Historical Novel: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah / 11. Best Children’s Picture Book Grown-Ups Will Enjoy Reading Again & Again: The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin / 12. Best Impactful Middle Grade Novel: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan / 13. Best Brush-Up-On-Your-Manners Children’s Book: Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony (which technically was released on December 30, 2014 but we’re going to count it as a 2015 release) / 14. Best Pass-on-Your-Passion for Star Wars Graphic Novel: Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown / 15. Best Ghost Story: Slade House by David Mitchell / 16. Best Inspirational, Red-White-and-Blue American History Biography: Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice by Adam Makos / 17. Best Continuation of a Series by a New Author: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz / 18. Best Revelatory and Culture-Questioning Memoir: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates / 19. Best Start of a New Series: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard / 20. Best Infectiously Happy Bio: Wildflower by Drew Barrymore / 22. Best Impassioned and Thought-Provoking Memoir: Spinster by Kate Bolick / 22. Best Movie Tie-in Edition: The Martian by Andy Weir / 23. Best Dystopian Fantasy: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi / 24. Best Steamy Romance Fiction: Country by Danielle Steel / 25. Best Adventure-of-a-Lifetime Story: The Explorer’s Guild by Kevin Costner and Jon Baird  //  MOVIES // 26. Best Based-on-Real-Events Film: Selma, starring David Oyelowo / 27. Best Music-Rich, Unorthodox Biographical Film: Love & Mercy, starring John Cusack / 28. Best Feel-All-the-Feels Animated Movie for All Ages: Inside Out by Disney Pixar / 29. Best Weirdly-Wonderful Dark Comedy: Birdman, starring Michael Keaton / 30. Best Action-Packed-Dialogue Movie: Steve Jobs, written by Aaron Sorkin // MUSIC // 31. Best Playful-Surprise Alternative Rock Album: Star Wars by Wilco / 32. Best Throwback-to-Soul Album: Coming Home by Leon Bridges / 33. Best New Album of Old Standards: Shadows in the Night by Bob Dylan / 34. Best Powerhouse Vocalist Album: 25 by Adele / 35. Best Hauntingly-Beautiful Indie Folk Album: Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens.

What are your favorites from 2015? Did we overlook the best new book you read in 2015? We’d love to hear about your Best List in the comments below. Here’s to another fantastic year of literature, music and films in 2016! Happy New Year, booklovers!

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

How Much Do You Know About Disney?

I am a total Disney fanatic, and a trivia nut, so when I was asked to write a blog post for Walt Disney’s birthday (December 5, 1901), I figured I’d combine two of my passions and create a Disney movie trivia quiz. So, how much do you know about Disney?

Everyone knows Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was Disney’s first full-length animated film. What was his second?
A. Pinocchio. (1940)

What is the name of the Sorcerer in the Fantasia (1940) segment The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?
A. Yen Sid, which is Disney spelled backwards.

Besides Dumbo (1941), what other two Disney movies does Dumbo appear in?
A. Dumbo works for peanuts in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) and appears as a toy in the toymaker’s workshop in The Great Mouse Detective (1986).

In Bambi (1942), Friend Owl tells Bambi and his friends that they could become “twitterpated.” What does “twitterpated” mean?
A. Twitterpated means to fall in love.

Can you name the two Disney animated movies which have the character Joe Carioca in them?
A. Saludos Amigos (1949) and The Three Caballeros (1944).

How many Disney animated movies can you name that are created from combining various segments or stories?
A. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1943), Fantasia (1940), Fun and Fancy Free (1947), Make Mine Music (1946), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), Melody Time (1948).

What future TV personality provided the singing voice for Prince Charming in Cinderella (1950)?
A. 1960’s talk show host Mike Douglas provided the Prince’s singing voice in 1950. Mike started his career singing with big bands in the 1940s and early 1950s.

What was the last animated film in which Walt Disney played an active role?
A. The Jungle Book, which was released October 16, 1967, approximately 10 months after his death on December 15, 1966.

Can you name the actor that played a voice in three Disney animated movies: The Jungle Book, Aristocats and Robin Hood?
A. Phil Harris played Baloo the Bear in The Jungle Book (1967), Thomas O’Malley in Aristocats (1970) and Little John in Robin Hood (1973).

How many animated Disney movies can you name that were based on books and are not fairy tales, folk tales or historical figures?
A. Peter Pan (1953), based on a book/play by J.M. Barrie, Alice in Wonderland (1951), based on a book by Lewis Carroll, The Fox and the Hound (1981), based on a book by Daniel P. Mannix, Bambi (1942), based on the book by Felix Salten, 101 Dalmatians (1961), based on the book by Dodie Smith, The Rescuers (1977), based on the book by Margery Sharp, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), based on the book by Victor Hugo, Pinocchio (1940), based on the book by Carlo Collodi, The Jungle Book (1967), based on the book by Rudyard Kipling, Tarzan (1999), based on a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Treasure Planet (2002), based on a book by Robert Louis Stevenson, Oliver and Company (1988) and A Christmas Carol (2009), based on books by Charles Dickens, The Great Mouse Detective (1986), based on books by Eve Titus, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), based on books by A.A. Milne, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), based on the book by Kenneth Grahame,and a short story by Washington Irving, and The Sword and the Stone (1963), based off a book by T.H. White.

In the gray area: The Black Cauldron (1985) is based on a book by Lloyd Alexander, but a lot of it is taken from Welsh mythology, so I’m not sure if it would fall under fairy tales or not, likewise Aladdin (1992) and Robin Hood (1973) are based on books that started as a oral legends. The Lion King (1994), was influenced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but Disney never said the movie was based on Hamlet as it also was influenced by the Biblical stories of Moses and Joseph, Big Hero 6 (2014) is based on a Marvel comic, and I was thinking more of children’s books and literature, but an argument can be made to include it.

So, did you know all the answers? If you have any other fun Disney trivia, let me know, and stop by your local HPB to pick up your favorite Disney movies or the books from which they came.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Disney!

Happy Birthday Richard Pryor


Comedy icon Richard Pryor would have been 75 years old today. The stand-up comedian, actor and avid social critic is deemed one of, if not the best, comedians to ever grace the stage. But what made Pryor so great? It was his raunchy situational and character-driven humor that propelled him into the spotlight. I asked my parents, both of them curious preteens during the 70s, what drew them to Richard Pryor. My father confirmed, “His style was so different from any other main-stream comedians I’d heard.” “Sure, most people have an uncle who lets a few too many colorful words slip, but to hear them all, together, in a movie, on a stage… it was mind blowing,” my mother continued. The stories Pryor told painted vivid pictures, and he kept your attention with his exaggerated facial expressions.

Role model to modern comedians like Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Mike Epps, Richard Pryor goes down in history as one of the greatest entertainers of all time.


Primetime Emmy, 1974: Best Writing in Comedy-Variety, Variety or Music, Lily (1973)

Writers Guild of America Award, 1975: Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, Blazing Saddles (1974)

Grammy Awards, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1982 and 1983: Best Comedy Album

Image Award, 1981: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Bustin’ Loose (1981)

American Comedy Award, 1993: Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy   

Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1993: Inducted to the Walk of Fame on May 20, 1993. Pryor’s star is located at 6438 Hollywood Blvd.

Image Award, 1996: Lifetime Achievement Award

New York Comedy Festival Award, 1997: Lifetime Achievement Award

Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, 1998: Award Recipient

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These are just a few of my favorite Richard Pryor moments, what are yours?

Carmen is Production Artist at Half Price Books Corporate.

Local Store Events Round-Up: December 2015


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$5 Bonus with $25 Gift Card
Now is the time to grab a gift card for the booklover in your life – plus one for yourself! Load up an HPB Gift Card today with $25 or more and get a $5 bonus! Use your bonus card in January 2016 and save $5 at your favorite HPB store. This bonus offer is valid on gift cards purchased in stores and online now through Thursday, December 24, 2015. Buy a gift card online and get free standard shipping. Sorry, but HPB Gift Cards, coupons and other discounts cannot be used online at HPB Marketplace nor at Half Price Books Outlet locations. Got questions about gift cards? Check out our FAQs or contact our Gift Card Customer Service.

12 Days of Giveaways
We’re giving away joy with more than 100 prizes, one prize pack per day, from December 1-12, 2015. Prize packages include Signed Bestsellers, Star Wars, Collectibles and so much more. Now through December 12, enter online and select one or all of the prize packs you’d like to enter for a chance to win. It’s your choice! Limit one entry per email address. Limit one prize per winner. Must be 18 years of age or older. No purchase necessary. See complete rules for details


Phoenix – Camelback 

First Sunday Storytime
Pack up your half-pint readers and come to your Camelback HPB for Storytime Sundays. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us at 1 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. All young readers and listeners are welcome! Continue reading