Literary Besties for Best Friends Day

Whether you call them bosom buddies, kindred spirits, BFFs or just besties, one thing is sure: neither life nor literature would be the same without best friends. That’s why we are celebrating June 8, Best Friends Day, with some of the greatest BFFs to ever be written on the page.

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Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, from Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery—Who else but your bosom friend would not pursue a guy because she knew you secretly liked him (although you pretended like you hated him)? Continue reading

If You Liked The Tournament of Mysteries, You Might Also Like…

I am a total book nerd, and I love lists. So, when I was told Half Price Books was having a Tournament of Mysteries as part of Mystery Madness, I set out to read all the books on the bracket, in order to vote for the right book with each pairing. Now that I have read all the mystery books in the tournament, I solve the mystery of what I’m going to read next. Here’s a list of similar books for myself and other book nerds like me who never want Mystery Madness to end.

SherlockIf you liked Sherlock Holmes: The Novels, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

AndThenThereWereNoneIf you liked And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie:

NameOfTheRoseIf you liked The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco:

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If You Liked Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, You Might Also Like…

midnight at the bright ideas bookstoreWhen I found out the HPB Book Club would be reading Matthew Sullivan’s dark and twisty debut mystery novel, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, as part of our Mystery Madness promotion, I was thrilled. I mean, mystery is my favorite genre. Add the fact that the mystery takes place in a bookstore and all the clues come from books, and you have a book that every bibliophile will love.

When bookseller, Lydia Smith discovers the body of one of her favorite patrons dangling at the end of a rope in the Western History section and finds a picture of herself as a 10 year-old girl in his pocket, the memories of being the sole surviving victim of a killer known as the Hammerman come flooding back, and she realizes that she can’t hide from her past forever. Sullivan expertly pieces the past and present together like a puzzle, and the finished product may surprise you.

If you liked Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, here are a few other books you might like.

A Bed of Scorpions, by Judith Flanders
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
Booked to Die, by John Dunning
The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie
The Club Dumas, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
The Bookman’s Tale, by Charlie Lovett
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Quiet Neighbors, by Catriona McPherson
Unsolicited, by Julie Kaewert
Death’s Autograph, by Marianne Macdonald

I’ve already pulled Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and The Eyre Affair from the shelves of my local HPB, but I think I may have to go back for a copy of The Club Dumas. What will your next read be?

Want to get in on the conversation? Join the HPB Book Club at hpb.com/bookclub.

Solve the Mystery: 6 Character Riddles

How well do you know your mysteries? Below are clues to six of my favorite mystery novel characters. I challenge you to solve them all without looking at the answers below!

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1. A self-proclaimed hobo, I have no address, no credit cards and no cell phone. I don’t even have a middle name. What I do have is 13 years of military training, dozens of medals and nothing better to do with my time. Who am I?

2. My foppish, upper-class persona and classic good looks may have convinced some that I slept my way into the Yard, but my ability to hide a wealth of feeling behind my aristocratic mask has proven useful whether I’m interviewing a confessed murderer, dealing with my partner’s tortured past or watching the girl I love marry one of my closest friends. Who am I?

3. My motto is: it’s better to be lucky than good. And I need all the luck I can get with my ongoing financial disaster, two men who drive me crazy, a gun-toting grandma and a co-worker who would trade sexual favors for a bucket of chicken, not to mention the fact that my cars keep exploding. I need a Tastykake. Who am I?

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Let’s do the Time Loop Again

February 2 is Groundhog Day, so you’ll find me doing the same thing I do every Groundhog Day, watching the movie Groundhog Day, because Groundhog Day just isn’t Groundhog Day without watching Groundhog Day. (That sentence was brought to you by the people who bet me I couldn’t use “Groundhog Day” six times in a sentence.) Truth is, I have always loved stories that have time loops in them. As someone who constantly gets things wrong, the idea that someone could live the same day over and over again until they get things right appeals to me. Here’s a list of my top five books and movies about people who get stuck in some sort of time loop.

Groundhog Day—Of course we have to start this list with Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. The movie never explains how weatherman Phil Connors gets stuck in a time loop, having to relive February 2 over and over again, but I think the groundhog had something to do with it.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver—In this debut YA novel, Sam Kingston wakes up the morning after dying in a car accident, fated to relive the day she dies over and over again. Like in Groundhog Day, the story is about redemption and the reason for the time loop is not given, but it sure makes a great story. This book was turned into a movie in 2017, starring Zoey Deutch.

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Adventures Worth Telling: A Book Nerd’s Look at Appreciate a Dragon Day

“Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

January 16 is Appreciate a Dragon Day, and what better way to celebrate than to look at some of our favorite dragons in literature?

beowulfThe Dragon that Slays Beowulf
The epic poem Beowulf is one of the oldest surviving and most important works of Old English literature. It is certainly one of the most important works in regards to dragons, as Beowulf was the first piece of English literature to represent a fire-breathing dragon as we think of them today. This unnamed dragon is the third monster that Beowulf faces and is the monster that deals him the wound that costs him his life. The dragon is slain by Beowulf’s distant cousin Wiglaf, who Beowulf names as his heir as he lays dying.

Smaug

Smaug

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The greedy, wicked worm from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit is probably the most well-known dragon in the world. Described as “the greatest of the dragons of his day,” Smaug attacked against King Thrór without warning and engulfed the dwarf king’s mountain in flames, causing the dwarves to flee. Smaug then moved in, taking the dwarves’ riches for himself and resided in the mountain for 150 years, until a meddlesome wizard and a band of dwarves elicited the help of a simple hobbit to take back the mountain. For more about this dragon and what brought about the quest to recapture the mountain, read Appendix A from The Return of the King and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales.

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Holiday Reads for the Not-So-Holiday Minded

Every Christmas, there are certain books that my family pulls off the bookshelf. They are absolute must-reads for Christmastime, like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, occasionally between stealing the last can of Who Hash and God blessing everyone, I need to read something that will take me out of the holiday while still capturing the holiday spirit, if only for a moment. Here is a list of classic novels that includes the holidays, but are about so much more.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
This classic novel begins with a heartwarming Christmas scene, but it takes you through several seasons in the March girls’ lives as they face each blessing and trial together. The love and support the March girls give each other through the years illustrates the importance of family.
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How Novel: A Writer’s Approach to November

November is one of my favorite months of the year for two very important reasons (and neither of them has anything to do with eating turkey). I love November because there is no better month than one that kicks off with a day celebrating authors and then challenges authors to write a novel all month long. That’s right November, 1 is National Author’s Day, a day set aside to “show appreciation to the men and women who have made American literature possible,” and then the entire month of November is National Novel Writing Month, the world’s largest writing challenge, where participants pledge to write 50,000 words in one month.

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The goal of National Novel Writing Month is to write a novel from start to finish in one month, which is  assumed to be about 50,000 words. Unfortunately, the last novel I finished writing was more than 100,000 words, but I still won the challenge of National Novel Writing Month by reaching the 50,000-word goal. In my opinion, what National Novel Writing Month does for writers is give us a goal to shoot for, and once we’ve reached that goal, we’ve invested so much time and energy in the project that we’re driven to finish.

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I had never heard of NaNoWriMo until about six years ago, and this year will only be my third time to participate. Of course, one of those years, I was struggling to complete a novel I had already started so I decided to use NaNoWriMo as my incentive to finish, which means I didn’t count my words or use the NaNoWriMo website to track my progress, but I did use the time and set my goal. The important thing was writing.

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If you are an aspiring novelist… if you believe you have a story in you… if you just don’t know where to start… I challenge you to write 50,000 words in November. The story you have to tell just may be the one someone else is dying to read.

And don’t forget about the most important part of writing:

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Find all your writing materials for NaNoWriMo, not to mention inspiring novels by great American writers, at your local Half Price Books. And good luck this November.

Julie is Traffic Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.

Mystery Solved: A Book Nerd’s Look at Mystery Series Week

Some people would kill to fall in love. Some people are thrilled to be scared out of their socks. Some people are dying to escape to a totally different world. Me? I like to solve mysteries. Of course, I don’t mind if those mysteries include a little love, scare me out of my socks or take me to a different world. Fortunately, no matter what your poison, there is a mystery series out there for you. So, if you’re dying to find a new mystery series to read this Mystery Series Week (October 1-7), here are some that just might crack the case.

The Mystery Lover’s Must-Reads– Classic Mystery Series:
With overly observant detectives, a meddling old lady and a bunch of curious teens, this list may seem elementary to some, but you’ll have to look elsewhere if you think the butler did it.

  1. Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. Miss Marple Mysteries, by Agatha Christie
  3. The Hardy Boys Mysteries, by Franklin Dixon
  4. Nancy Drew Mysteries, by Carolyn Keene
  5. Hercule Poirot Mysteries, by Agatha Christie

Just Doing Their Job– Crime Detective Mystery Series:
Looking for those hard-boiled detectives and rebel cops? These guys will have you on the edge of your seat.

    1. Inspector Rebus, by Ian Rankin
    2. Alex Cross, by James Patterson
    3. Harry Bosch, by Michael Connelly
    4. Harry Hole, by Jo Nesbo
    5. Virgil Flowers, by John Sandford

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So Glad We Had This Time Together: 50 Years of The Carol Burnett Show

Though I was a little too young to have seen the episodes when they first aired (September 11, 1967-March 29, 1978), The Carol Burnett Show was an integral part of my childhood. I remember running home from school, throwing my bag down and turning on the television because The Carol Burnett Show came on at 4p.m., and I didn’t want to miss it. Carol Burnett broke new ground when the show first aired, as the first woman television variety show host without the aid of a man counterpart. The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 seasons, earned a handful of Emmys and even spawned a successful spin-off in the first-run syndication comedy sitcom Mama’s Family.  Now, as The Carol Burnett Show turns 50-years-old, what better way to celebrate than to share some interesting facts and hilarious clips from what I consider to be one of the best television shows of all time.

The Cast: When the show first aired, the cast consisted of Carol, Vicki Lawrence (an 18-year-old unknown), Harvey Korman (who had been a regular on the Danny Kaye Show) and Lyle Waggoner (who was the first centerfold in Playgirl magazine). When Lyle left, a frequent and popular guest star, Tim Conway joined the show. Tim’s constant ad-libbing may have annoyed some cast members, but it made him a favorite among audiences. Finally Harvey left the show in its 10th season and Dick Van Dyke was brought in for a few months. Unfortunately, Dick couldn’t replicate the chemistry that Harvey had with the audience, so his stint as a cast member was short lived. However, he is in my favorite blooper from The Carol Burnett Show, a family sketch that shows Tim at his ad-libbing best. You can see Dick Van Dyke on the arm of the couch by Mama.

The Look: All of the costumes on The Carol Burnett Show were created by designer Bob Mackie, who had to design 60 or more costumes a week for the sketch comedy show. His designs helped the actors create their characters. For example, Mrs. Wiggins was supposed to be an elderly woman but Mackie had something else in mind when he created her curvy outfit. When Carol tried it on, it was tight around the knees and baggy in the behind. She asked him to take it up, but he said no. She needed to stick her behind into it. So Carol did, creating Mrs. Wiggins characteristic walk. However Mackie’s most iconic design for Carol was the Scarlett O’Hara curtain dress for their parody sketch of Gone with the Wind. This dress can be found in the Smithsonian, and you can even buy a Barbie doll with the dress on.

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