Booklovers’ Choice: Favorite Books from HPB Bibliomaniacs Across the Country

I think every booklover will admit that one of the hardest questions to answer is “what is your favorite book?” Someone asked me that question not long ago, and I had read so many good books, trying to pick a favorite was almost heartbreaking. I finally said The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton because that was the first book that made me want to be a writer and touch people’s lives the way that book had touched mine. However, the question got me wondering what were some of my favorite booklovers favorite books? So much to their chagrin, I asked. And what better time to share their answers than on August 9, better known as Booklover’s Day?

Amanda B., Woodshoppe Manager, Dallas, TX
“I think I’ll have to go with Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. As I child I remember reading it and being fascinated by the depth and detail of the novel. It was the perfect mixture of horror, fantasy, suspense and Americana. As an adult, I think it is one of the most touching and nostalgic books I’ve ever read.”

Heidi H., Store Inventory Manager, Indianapolis, INLegacy of Ashes
“One of my favorite books of nonfiction is Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. It may be one of our country’s most important tomes. At over 1,000 pages it took me over six months to read, mainly because I’m a slow reader, but the content was gripping and brought new meaning to the phrase ‘page-turner.’”

Jammie M., District Inventory Manager, Dallas, TXThe Hobbit
“My favorite book is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s the only book I’ve read multiple times. I like the world and the story. Plus, it was my mother’s favorite book, and I feel connected to her when I read it.”

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerDavid J., District Inventory Manager, Indianapolis, IN
I think the first book that caused me to fall in love with reading was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg because it intrigued my imagination and really got me into the world that the characters lived in. From that time on, books were a gateway into another world and into the lives and experiences of other people.

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All Things Printed & Recorded: Video Games Come Into Play

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For August, it’s all fun and games—video games, to be exact.

Super Mario gamesTIMELINE
1940  A computer playing the traditional game Nim is displayed at the World’s Fair.
1958  A tennis game played using an analog computer and an oscilloscope is demonstrated at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
1962  Spacewar, the first computer-based video game, is invented by an MIT student.
1975  Atari partners with Sears to release its arcade game Pong for the home market.
1985  Nintendo’s NES revives an ailing American video game industry two years after its original release in Japan, where it was called Famicom.
1995  Sony releases PlayStation in the United States. When PlayStation 2 debuts in 2000, it becomes the dominant home console.
2001  Microsoft enters the market with Xbox and hit games like Halo. Xbox 360 would debut four years later.

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Hot Days and Steamy Books

August days are known to be hot and steamy. Maybe that’s why August is Read-a-Romance Month. As the resident hopeless romantic (yes, I love happy endings and cry over Hallmark commercials), I was asked to make a few reading recommendations to heat up the month of August.

Brushing Up on the Classics:
pride and prejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Ah, the classic story of boy meets girl. Boy insults girl. Girl snubs boy. Boy saves girl’s sister. Girl gets insulted by boy’s family. Love. If you haven’t read it, where have you been for the last 200 years? You need to read this book. If you have read it, then you know how good it is. Maybe it’s time to read it again.

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The beginnings may smack a little of Cinderella, as this orphan deals with life in a not-so-pleasant household, but no one could call her brooding love interest a prince charming. One thing you can say about the Brontë sisters: they love themselves a bad boy. If you want a new take on the Jane Eyre storyline, try My Plain Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Ashton Brodi and Jodi Meadows.

Going Old School (Books my grandmother read):
The India FanThe India Fan by Victoria Holt
Take the proud, rich boy from the local aristocracy and mix him up with the local vicar’s daughter who is hired to be governess to his sister’s children and throw them in the middle of India during the uprising against the East India Company. What do you expect to happen? A must read for any hopeless romantic.

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Behind the Book: Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

Editor’s Note: Kristan Higgins is the kind of author who likes to dance her way out of the box and into the creative space, simultaneously maintaining humor while addressing deep-rooted and uncomfortable issues. In Good Luck with That (on Sale August 7),  Kristan Higgins provides an emotional, compelling read that focuses on addressing the issues of body image, eating disorders and self-esteem. Her unique voice helps the story come to life, and we find ourselves rooting for these friends to truly develop their self-worth. That’s why it’s our Book Club pick for August and September!  We had a chance to catch up with Kristan recently, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts on these important issues. 

Why do you feel it is important to represent women of size in literature and other media? Where do you think we are still missing this perspective?Everyone deserves to be seen. Everyone has a story! So many times, women of size are presented as sidekick characters, or women who want to lose weight, or women who have absolutely no problems with being overweight—they’re content, healthy and confident (which of course, we want them to be). But I wanted to write a book that showed where most of us are—still struggling to like what we see, knowing on the one hand that our value comes from within, yet still fighting off those messages about looking a certain way.

This is the hardest perspective because it admits that guilty secret…a lot of us still care. It can be really hard to like our bodies in a society obsessed with beauty and size…and food! We’re given so many mixed messages, and the healthcare pros have a new theory about what or how to eat every half hour. We need to learn to take care of ourselves in all ways—mental, spiritual, physical. Once we get to that place—and it can be hard to get there—real self-acceptance and love begin, no matter what your size.

The fat acceptance and body positivity movements are great and incredibly needed, but it’s a process. When I look at fiction, most of the women of size are shown as “curvy,” not significantly overweight, and happy with their sizes. Which is lovely, if you’re one of them. But for those of us who struggle to like how we look, struggle with how much we weigh, struggle with food, there’s not much out there. Maybe that’s starting to change with characters like Kate from This Is Us and Renee in I Feel Pretty, but in general, women of size have been ignored or glossed over. I was tired of it. It made those struggles feel invisible.

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Are there any storylines that you wrote into your characters that you struggled with? Perhaps because they were too personal or maybe too revealing?Sure. This was a very personal book. I’ve done every crappy eating habit the characters do, from starving myself to binge-eating (one dark night, I ate two pizzas, all by my lonesome, just like Emerson in the book). Like Georgia, I had a family member who constantly criticized my size. And like Marley, my family shows love by cooking really unhealthy food. But it felt so good to admit that, even through fictional characters—to talk about self-esteem and its link to size in a way that’s not filtered, that’s hard and honest and difficult and funny, too. My heart broke for Emerson, and while her story is tragic, it still deserves to be told. I was so proud of Georgia and Marley for tackling their issues. Their friendship is the kind we all deserve. Girl power, yo!

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Meet the Bibliomaniac: Greg Lamer

For most HPB Bibliomaniacs, books are a way of life. And for Greg, that extends to printing, publishing and promoting the literacy scene in Lexington, KY. In this edition of Meet the Bibliomaniac, Greg shares more about his non-profit work, engaging with the community and some of his bookish favorites.

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When did you join the team?
October of 2002 at HPB Olathe, Kansas

What is your favorite part about working at HPB?
I like the “what’s next” philosophy of our bookstores. There is always something new to try or old to change. I like seeing how different people and personalities approach the same problem and manage to come out with often very different, but sufficient results. If you want something to change, or if you want to try something new, it has been my experience that the opportunity is there as long as you do your homework.

What are you reading right now?
On and off I am reading like 10 books… the one I have committed the most time to is City Poet by Brad Gooch. It’s about Frank O’Hara’s life.

What is your all-time favorite book, movie or album? 
For me, this question is really hard. I don’t think I have settled on my “all-time favorite” anything because there are always new things to read, watch or listen to. If we freeze time and I had to pick right this instant, I would say my favorite book is City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City by Greg Girard. My favorite movie is The Normal Heart and my favorite album is No Shape by Perfume Genius. But these will change by the time you publish this.

 

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Behind the Book: A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Editor’s Note: From first-time author Fatima Farheen Mirza comes a book that is beautifully written and emotional, a book that you will adore from the moment you begin the first page until you close the cover at last. A Place for Us handles one of the biggest desires in life—the desire to belong. This is the story of Rafiq and Layla, an immigrant couple in California, and their children, as they seek to reconcile their non-Western values with those of modern America. A Place for Us breaks open the family dynamic and examines what it truly means to belong. It was also the HPB Book Club pick for June and July. We had a chance to catch up with Fatima Farheen Mirza, who describes her writing process below.a-place-for-us

Days before I was to submit the final draft of the novel—after all the major editing had been done and I was only reading to find mistakes—there was one sentence I added toward the very end, and writing it into the margin moved me to tears, despite how insignificant the line seemed: “Layla pointing out the leaves when the wind makes them all wave at once.”

It arrived in a paragraph written in Rafiq’s perspective. Rafiq and Layla have been married for decades, and it is their family that the novel centers around. The passage is written from the furthest point of time in the novel, when Rafiq is in his late sixties and looking back on his life to understand what kind of a father he was. In the passage, he is reflecting on the sights in his life that he will never tire of: his wife tying her hair up into a bun, his daughter whistling when she was younger, and, in the case of the sentence, Layla pointing out the leaves on trees when the two took their evening walks together. Continue reading

Behind the Book: All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

Editor’s note: Colleen Hoover is a prolific author who delivers every emotion on the spectrum in one beautiful package. Her latest novel, All Your Perfects, is a heartaching and heartbreaking look at a marriage put to the test. This novel is a masterpiece of love that weaves in the pain of life with its beauty. The intense, emotional and beautifully poignant story is everything you never knew you needed from a romance. We asked Colleen to provide us with her insights on her writing. Read more about it below.

 ALL YOUR PERFECTS_9781501171598All Your Perfects is my thirteenth full-length romance novel, but this is the first time I’ve written about an actual married couple. I tend to gravitate toward new romances, first loves, and the exploration of characters in their formative years. I assumed I would always stick to that, but when I got the idea for All Your Perfects I knew I’d be making a departure from my previous work.

The idea initially came to me because of something my sister and brother-in-law did at their wedding. They each wrote a love letter to the other and then placed the unread love letters in a box. They locked the box during their wedding and vowed only to open it and read the letters on their tenth anniversary. I forgot about the box and the letters until they reached their tenth anniversary a couple of years ago. My sister said they celebrated by reading each other’s love letters they had locked in the box ten years before.

I thought the idea of the love letters was such a great idea and wanted to incorporate it into a novel somehow. In order to do that, though, I’d have to write about a married couple, which is what sets this book apart from a lot of my others.  Continue reading

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Blog: The Best Sharks (and Other Large Sea Creatures) in Books, Movies and TV

jawsAh, summer. The time of year when the sun is out, the temperatures rise and the beach is calling. But just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… SHARKS!

If you’re anything like me (or definitely my brother), Steven Spielberg’s classic Jaws, based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name, kept you out of the ocean for many years. Even the classic Universal Studios ride was enough to produce nightmares!

There’s something about a massive sea creature with sharp teeth and those eyes that strikes just the right amount of terror in unsuspecting swimmers worldwide. As Discovery Channel celebrates Shark Week, its annual programming block of all things shark-y, we’ve rounded up some of the greatest Great Whites (plus other sharks and large sea creatures) found in books, movies and more.

Old ManClassic Fiction
These epic quests pit man versus beast on the open water.

  1. Moby Dick
  2. The Old Man and the Sea
  3. Meg

indianapolisTrue Stories
Sometimes true events are more chilling than fiction.

  1. Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man
  2. Open Water
  3. Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board

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Behind the Book: Eat Cake. Be Brave. by Melissa Radke

 

Editor’s Note: Eat Cake. Be Brave. is the kind of book that captures your attention and refuses to let go. Written by a woman who is intimately relatable, incredibly hilarious and at times introspective to the point that you wonder if you ARE Melissa Radke, this book will stick to your insides like cake. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be hooked to the raw power that is Melissa’s uniquely funny voice. Her brilliant storytelling makes Eat Cake. Be Brave. into a gut-wrenchingly beautiful and hilarious debut you are sure to enjoy.  We had the opportunity to catch up with her recently and ask her some questions about her debut book. Check out her answers below. 

Everyone who has read your book so far has called it intimately relatable. You reach people on a genuine level. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. That’s a stupid question, move on to the next one. NO! I’m kidding! But see? I talk to people like I’m their sister or their best friend or their crazy aunt. I don’t filter a lot of what I say and I think that feels relatable to people, especially women. No one likes the unfiltered person who slices people with their words and abrasiveness, but we all want that friend who says what we’re thinking and puts words to our thoughts. And I think I do that for them. I also think I look like them – and dress like them – and holler at my kids like them, so they get me.

Melissa Radke_headshotconfetti_Kylie White

Photo Credit: Kylie White

Your Southern roots are a big part of who you are – from your sweet Texan twang to your Tennessee detour to your small town charm. Do you feel like the gentility and hospitality of the South has played a big role in shaping you and your book? Why or why not?
Oh, yes. And I’m proud of that. But it took me a while to say that and mean it and to appreciate where I’m from. When I first started writing, I felt like I needed to be so different, so much more enlightened and fancy. But I couldn’t! I tried, believe me, I tried. But how do I write in a way that is not true to who I am? I spent too many years living my life that way and it got me nowhere. So. I decided to tell the stories I grew up hearing, write the way I talk and not cry over spilt (sweet) tea.

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Die Hard on a…:Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Die Hard.

Die Hard is the best. 30 years later, no action movie has topped it – at least at doing great action and being an even better movie between the action scenes. If you haven’t seen it in a while, it won’t disappoint.

But say you’ve seen Die Hard a million times. Or you’re waiting to watch it at Christmas. (And to end the debate before it begins, Facebook readers, I’m not saying Die Hard is a Christmas movie – just that it can be if you want it.) With that in mind, I’ve put together some movies and TV shows that made no secret about ripping it off.

This list may not include the best imitators, though possibly the most interesting ones. And why these movies? Because pretty good movies are still, you know, pretty good.Die Hard

Die Hard 2 (1990)
One of the first imitators to not top Die Hard was Die Hard 2. It’s basically a remake with the setting moved to an airport during a blizzard. The similarities and callbacks are a bit much, and Bruce Willis goes from being a counterpoint to the ‘80s action hero to being yet another action hero.

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