A Bestseller Flashback- 2018 in Books

Editor’s Note: Throughout the year, our buyers curate a selection of new, bestselling books to offer in our stores at 20% off the cover price. Here’s a closer look at some of 2018’s standouts!

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Melmoth (Sarah Perry)
Melmoth is a full-on gothic horror novel from the author of The Essex Serpent. The story crosses many different time periods and focuses on people who are in the midst of difficult situations. It is primarily centered on Helen Franklin, an English translator working in Prague, who disregards an obscure local monster legend before a friend’s disappearance reveals that Helen is being watched. This particular book asks the question, “What’s the difference between someone who orders a horrific act be done and the person who turns a blind eye towards it?” It’s a very chilling, and at times horrific, book that stays with you. Continue reading

Fall Storytime Favorite: Toto’s Apple

We do a lot of reading in our house, which means I’m always on the hunt for our new favorite book. I recently discovered Toto’s Apple by Mathieu Lavoie at our local Half Price Books and instantly fell in love with Toto, a delightful little worm who devises a series of inventive problem solving measures to reach an apple high in a tree. Every time we read it I admire his tenaciousness, especially because he uses arts and crafts to overcome each of his obstacles — you’re a worm after our own hearts, Toto.

Every now and then we do a special storytime party, and I knew Toto would be the perfect book to kick off the first day of fall. It has it all – apples, trees, leaves, squirrels, birds – it’s basically fall bingo in picture book form. So I invited my daughters Jane (four) and Rose (two) to help me bake mini apple pies (with leaf crusts, their favorite part) which we devoured while we read the book, and afterward we made simple popsicle butterflies, just like Toto makes for himself in the book. It was fun and simple and made storytime just a little more magical. 

What’s your family’s favorite storytime book? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Kristen Dickson from @tojaneandrose, a girl mom in Texas looking for that everyday magic.

If You Liked Good Luck With That, You May Also Like…

If you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading (or perhaps just finished) Good Luck With That, by Kristan Higgins, a wonderful, heartwarming story about learning how to love and respect yourself no matter what you look like. The main characters, Georgia, Marley and Emerson, are highly relatable to anyone who has ever had issues with their body image. After meeting at a weight-loss camp for teens, these three girls become life-long friends, but when Emerson passes away as a result of her weight, she challenges Georgia and Marley to do all the things they promised each other they would do when they lost their weight. Now, as adults, Georgia and Marley try to honor their friend’s last wish, by getting a piggy-back ride from a guy, getting a stranger to buy them a drink and telling off people who were mean to them when they were fat. Though Higgins weaves romance into her book, the main focus is how these two women learn to love themselves.

If you (like me) liked Good Luck With That, here are a few other books you may like:

Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy- movie coming to Netflix!dumplin Continue reading

The Best and Worst of Agatha Christie

With more than 60 novels and 14 short story collections, is it any wonder that Agatha Christie is the bestselling novelist of all time? Her works are ranked third in the world’s most published books, behind Shakespeare and the Bible, and they have been translated into at least 103 languages. However, with 66 novels and numerous short stories, not all of Mrs. Christie’s works are going to be favorites. Then again, one person’s favorite is another person’s least favorite, and sometimes for the same reasons. For example, the first time I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I literally threw the book across the room, vowing to never read another Agatha Christie book again, all because of the twist ending that makes other people count this story as their favorite. So here are some of the best and the worst (in my opinion) of Agatha Christie.

THE BEST
The Mysterious Affair at Styles: This is Christie’s first published novel and introduces the world to retired Belgian police detective Hercule Poirot, Inspector Japp and Arthur Hastings, who becomes the Watson to Hercule’s Holmes. This book is a great one to start with if you have yet to dip your toe into the Christie canon.
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And Then There Were None: One of my absolute favorite mystery books, which will keep you guessing until the end. Interesting Fact: First published in the U.K. in 1939, this book has had several different names, but since those were considered racially offensive (look them up if you dare!), the title was changed to And Then There Were None in January 1940.
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The A.B.C. Murders (or the Alphabet Murders): The victims in this book seem to be completely unrelated as Hercule Poirot and his good friend Arthur Hastings begin to investigate. This book doesn’t really follow Christie’s usual style, and so it is a good read if you are looking for something a little different.
ABC MURDERS

The Mousetrap: Yes, this is a play. In fact, it’s the longest-running play in history. The play is actually based on a short story by Christie, who asked that the story not be published as long as it ran as a play in the West End of London. The play was first performed in 1952, and the story has still not been published in the U.K. However, it was first published in the United States in a short story collection in 1950 under its original title Three Blind Mice.themousetrap

THE WORST
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: In regards to this book, I have been asked to say that “this bloggers opinion does not reflect the opinion of Half Price Books”… or in fact anyone else on the planet apparently. I’ll just say, be prepared to feel cheated.the-murder-of-roger-ackroyd

The Big Four: This is Christie’s first stab at writing espionage. In my opinion, she should have stuck with police detectives and little old ladies and left the spy work to Le Carré.thebigfour

Destination Unknown: Originally called So Many Steps to Death, this is another one of Christie’s spy novels, and it just seems bland, which may be why it is one of only four Christie novels never to be adapted into another kind of medium.destination unknown

Postern of Fate: This is the last novel that Christie wrote, and it is reported that she suffered from dementia during that time, so it’s not surprising that this book would be on the bottom of the Christie spectrum.postern of fate

Now, this is just a sampling of some of the best and the worst of Agatha Christie, or at least this blogger’s opinion about the best and worst of Agatha Christie. Of course, Agatha Christie’s legacy continues through Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot novels, The Monogram Murders (2015), Closed Casket (2017) and The Mystery of Three Quarters (2018), not to mention the movie version of Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express that came out in 2017, starring  Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench. Plus, And Then There Was None was voted best mystery by HPB customers in our Mystery Madness tournament this past March! So, I think it’s safe to say Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery and her books (even the worst ones) are worth the read. Check them out at your local HPB and HPB.com.

What’s your favorite (or least favorite) Agatha Christie novel?

Ready Player One & What’s Next for Ernest Cline Fans

Editor’s Note: By now any serious movie buff has already seen the movie adaptation of Ready Player One, which hit theaters in March. At Half Price Books, we love movies too. But since we’re booklovin’ nerds at the core, we would like you encourage you to “READ THE MOVIE” – If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of the book and discover all the action-packed stuff they couldn’t fit into the 2 hour and 20 minute film. While you’re at it, join the HPB Book Club as we re-read this genre-busting, Easter-egg-filled novel by Ernest Cline.

If you’ve already read the book and watched the flick, then keep reading here! This staff review is just for you! Let’s turn it over to Becky embracing her geekiness as she talks about Ernest Cline, Ready Player One and his more recently-released novel, Armada.

Personal disclaimer: I was an elementary and middle school aged kid during that golden decade we call the ’80s. This was a time when girls and boys played arcade games, watched a lot of cartoons and played with the same toys. We ate sugary cereal, wore Mork from Ork suspenders, feathered our hair and (seriously) were all considered really cool.readyplayer1

Which brings me to Ernest Cline.

I read his first bestseller, Ready Player One, when I heard all the buzz about Armada. It was everything I loved about mid-’80s cinema, games, music and culture, and I decided that if Ernie Cline is writing it, I am on board.

“The grown-up’s Harry Potter… the mystery and fantasy in this novel weaves itself in the most delightful way, and the details that make up Mr. Cline’s world are simply astounding. Ready Player One has it all.” — Huffington Post

Cline’s second novel, Armada, hopes to answer the age-old question, what if your video game obsession is training you to LITERALLY save the world? In the near-future, teenager Zack Lightman, a gaming aficionado who just wants to graduate high school, soon realizes that he and other elite gamers might hold the keys to saving the planet against alien forces.

“Nerd-gasmic… Armada is another science fiction tale with a Comic-Con’s worth of pop-culture shout-outs.” — Rolling Stone

Armada reads like every ’80s video game geek adventure movie, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. It lacks a bit of the “wow” factor after the ingenious. Ready Player One, but it is no less adventuresome. Cline truly is an encyclopedia of video-gaming culture, not to mention his reaches into the depths of ’80s kid’s cinema. Just like with RPO, you can practically see the movie playing while you read. He also strategically places a complete ready-for-mixtape playlist headlined by Queen’s “One Vision.”

The thirty and forty-year old set who hung out at arcades and rushed to theaters to watch any movie with “Star”, “War”,“Games” or “Fighter” in the title will feel whisked back into their local mall movie theater at the over-the-top action, righteous references to all-things-’80s once in again in Cline’s Armada. It’s a great read for teens (with some language warnings for parents) who are really into gaming and retro-culture and they will be screaming for the movie releases in the next couple of years. Expect a lot of fan art and fan fiction to evolve, because that’s what the kids do these days, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some video game spin-offs as well.

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Photo of Ernest Cline, courtesy of Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ. CC BY-SA 2.0

I imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more from Ernie Cline in the future. According to sources, there’s a yet-untitled Ready Player One sequel in the works and the acclaimed Steven Spielberg will direct it too.

Look for copies of Ready Player One and Armada at your favorite Half Price Books with our specially-priced brand new releases and hot bestsellers!

Becky is Marketing Communications Manager at Half Price Books Corporate. You can follow her on Twitter at @bexican75.

Stories at the Speed of Life

James Patterson has just released a series of books called BookShots, which are a variety of books approximately 100-150 pages long that the average booklover should be able to finish in just a few hours. Excited? I was. Being a busy booklover, I know the frustration of having to set down a good book because real life intrudes, but with these BookShots I was able to read a good story from cover to cover during one sitting. (Actually, there were three of them, so three sittings.)  The only problem was that when I was finished, I was ready for more.

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Cross Kill, by James Patterson was the first BookShot I read.  In only 113 pages, the reader is launched into an impossible mystery, as Alex Cross investigates the shooting of his own partner, John Sampson. However, all evidence leads to a man that Cross watched die more than ten years ago, Gary Soneji. Has Soneji risen from the grave?  Will Sampson survive?  Will Cross?  I’m not going to tell you—just know that nothing will prepare you for the end of this book. Continue reading

5 Book and Beer Pairings to Try this Weekend

Books & Beer

It’s pretty straightforward. One book. One beer. One photo. People seem to like it because often good books go well with good beer. Sometimes, you’ll land on a real stinker book- or beer-wise. The following selections are not those times, though. These pairings are the real deal, the 1 percent, the extra fry in the bottom of a bag. Happy reading and happy drinking.

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Book: The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories by Simon Rich
Beer: Mai Bock by Atwater Brewery
I want to be Simon Rich when I grow up. Nevermind the fact that he’s 10 years younger than me and looks like he’s 14 years old. The Last Girlfriend on Earth is full of funny stories about the absurdity of relationships and love. Your standard romantic characters, such as Cupid and condoms appear, but you’ll be more intrigued (taken aback?) by other subjects, such as Hitler falling in love and moving to Prospect Heights in contemporary New York. The stories are the basis for the TV show Man Seeking Woman, and Rich is just one genius grant away from taking over the world with his humorous outlook on life. Pair this book with Mai Bock by Detroit’s Atwater Brewery, because, like most relationships, it starts off sweet and smooth but ends with a bitter aftertaste.

tumblr_n3oucibGJd1r7j3coo1_1280Book: The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff
Beer: Ginger Barrel Aged Ale Brrrbon ‘13 by Widmer Brothers Brewing
The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff made me want to move to San Francisco (again). His descriptions and stories about Mark Twain and the burgeoning literary scene in that scandalous City by the Bay in the 19th century inflamed a want in me to be a part of something exploding with creativity. Tarnoff explains how Twain’s San Francisco time influenced his writing. Tarnoff also includes other San Francisco literary heroes, such as Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard and Ina Coolbrith. The rivalry between Twain and Harte is particularly engaging and supports the theory that often great art is created via feuds. Pair this book with Widmer Brothers Brewing’s Ginger Barrel Aged Ale Brrrbon ‘13, because, like San Francisco, it balances frou-frou (ginger) with working class (bourbon).

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Book: The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry by Mark Ribowsky
Beer: Prickly Pear by Shiner
I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan since birth, and I continue to be no matter how many criminals they sign. Growing up, I fondly remember Tom Landry’s famous hat framing his stoicism. His demeanor caused more questions than answers much of the time, so when I came across The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry, I immediately read it. Plus, I love biographies and living in the past. Readers will learn more than they ever thought they wanted to know about Landry and the Cowboys in this hefty (720 pages!) book. For example, I learned that Cowboys fans from day one have never been that vocal during games. So now when I hear people complaining about the low energy of fans at games, I know it’s just part of the organization’s DNA. Pair this book with Shiner’s Prickly Pear, because 1) it’s a beer brewed in Texas and you’re reading about a Texas football team, and 2) Landry could be prickly person on more than one occasion.

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Book: Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland
Beer: Twilight Summer Ale by Deschutes Brewery
Practically every child since 1977 has wanted to use the Force in their everyday lives. While most think it’s a movie fantasy, its origin is found in the Eastern philosophy of wu-wei, which translates to “no trying” or “no doing.” Edward Slingerland is an expert in Asian studies and he effortlessly guides readers through hundreds of years of Chinese philosophy and contemporary brain science to help us understand what it’s like to be “in the flow” and how that makes us happy. Sadly, though, I’m still unable to lift an X-wing Fighter out of a swamp after reading the book. Pair this one with Twilight Summer Ale because twilight is the perfect time between light and dark, doing and not doing.

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Book: Spinning Into Butter by Rebecca Gilman
Beer: Saint Dymphna by Lakewood Brewing Co.
I don’t think enough people read plays for pleasure. Just because a play isn’t being performed doesn’t mean you can’t read it. Go on, I dare you. In fact, start with Spinning Into Butter. The story is set at a small college that is investigating racist messages left for one of its students. The topic is timely, but the end result isn’t tidy. As any great play does, the questions raised aren’t easily answered. So, pair this play with Saint Dymphna as you discuss the story with your friends. The beer’s flavor is complex, much like the play.

— Jason Hensel is the creator of the Tumblr site titled, Book and Beer.

Embrace Your Geekness: HPB Reviews Armada by Ernest Cline

Personal disclaimer: I was an elementary and middle school aged kid during that golden decade we call the ’80s. This was a time when girls and boys played arcade games, watched a lot of cartoons and played with the same toys. We ate sugary cereal, wore Mork from Ork suspenders, feathered our hair and (seriously) were all considered really cool.

Which brings me to Ernest Cline.

I read his first bestseller, Ready Player One, earlier this spring when I heard all the buzz about the upcoming release, Armada. It was everything I loved about mid-’80s cinema, games, music and culture, and I decided that if Ernie Cline is writing it, I am on board.

Cline’s second novel, Armada, comes out tomorrow, and it hopes to answer the age-old question, what if your video game obsession is training you to LITERALLY save the world? In the near-future, teenager Zack Lightman, a gaming aficionado who just wants to graduate high school, soon realizes that he and other elite gamers might hold the keys to saving the planet against alien forces.

Armada reads like every ’80s video game geek adventure movie, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. It lacks a bit of the “wow” factor after the ingenious. Ready Player One, but it is no less adventuresome. Cline truly is an encyclopedia of video-gaming culture, not to mention his reaches into the depths of ’80s kid’s cinema. Just like with RPO, you can practically see the movie playing while you read. He also strategically places a complete ready-for-mixtape playlist headlined by Queen’s “One Vision”. BTW, Warner Bros. purchased the rights to Ready Player One and some unknown named Steven Spielberg, will direct. Universal Pictures grabbed the rights to Armada all the way back in December.

The thirty and forty-year old set who hung out at arcades and rushed to theaters to watch any movie with “Star”, “War”,“Games” or “Fighter” in the title will feel whisked back into their local mall movie theater at the over-the-top action, righteous references to all-things-’80s once in again in Cline’s newest book. It’s a great read for teens (with some language warnings) who are really into gaming and retro-culture and they will be screaming for the movie releases in the next couple of years. Expect a lot of fan art and fan fiction to evolve, because that’s what the kids do these days, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some video game spin-offs as well. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Ernie Cline in the future, and if you are lucky enough to be in the area, you can catch him in Richardson, Texas as Half Price Books and Alamo Drafthouse partner to present An Evening with Ernie Cline Monday, July 27, at 7 p.m.

Look for copies of Armada at your favorite Half Price Books with our specially-priced brand new releases and hot bestsellers!

Books Authors Read with Christina Lauren

We continue our “Books Authors Read” series with Christina Lauren, the combined pen name of long-time writing partners Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. Christina Lauren will stop by our Dallas Flagship store on Sunday, May 11 at noon as part of the Belles on Wheels bus tour. To tide you over until then, here are some of their favorite reads! – Emily

We’re lucky enough that we get to play in multiple sandboxes: erotic romance, contemporary romance, young adult fiction and even free-form stories on Wattpad. As readers, too, we’ve always gravitated toward romance of any form, whether it’s for teens or adults, and our bookshelves definitely reflect that. Our list of favorites seems to grow longer every year. Here are but a few!

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

When this story opened, we worried that it would be heartbreaking (it can be) or difficult (it is, a little), but the voice is so strong and so gorgeous, that it immediately eclipses the early heartbreak. What grows over the pages, really, is a story so wonderfully sweet and uplifting, with prose that is both real and completely absorbing, that it’s one of the few books we both reread at least once a year. By far, our favorite book of all time.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

In contrast to The Sky Is Everywhere, Forbidden is hands-down the hardest book we’ve ever read. It grabs your heart and squeeze, squeeze, squeezes until the very last page when you want to lie down and cry for a week. But it is so good, and the writing is so wonderful, and the story is so different than anything else out there that it’s the best kind of pain, the most delicious kind of book to read where it makes you feel things no other book makes you feel, and you never want to go back and un-read it.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K Massie

Oh, if you love biographies, this book is for you. Massie makes Catherine real, and accessible and damn—girl gets hers. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case, nonfiction trumps so much fiction out there. Most of us know about her awful marriage to Peter, but what we loved here is the story of how she learned to live by her rules, how intelligent she was (far more intelligent and savvy than anyone around her, frankly) in a time when most women weren’t allowed to read, to write, to take power in the form of knowledge. We’re toying with the idea of writing a historical romance with a modern edge based on her life.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

Lamb is Lauren’s favorite author by about a mile, and this is a book she’s reread at least a dozen times since college. Dolores Price narrates her story—with humor, heart, and a sometimes shocking level of obliviousness—starting from when she’s a little girl until she’s a grown woman. Her childhood is rife with accumulated small and big traumas. She’s overweight, lonely, abused and eventually broken. But this story is about her rebirth, really, and it’s one of the few books that gives the reader every heart wrenching piece of it: of her setbacks and victories, of her bad decisions and the increasing number of moments that Delores takes charge of her life and sees her own worth. It’s a female voice, in first person, masterfully delivered by a man. Simply adore this book.

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Angelfall is a mile a minute roller coaster. Make sure you’re settled in with snacks and hydration, because once you pick this one up, you won’t be able to put it down. It’s been six weeks since the apocalypse and the angels have descended from the sky. The catch? They aren’t the good guys. It opens on a dark, deserted street and a single feather floating down to the ground, and never stops. Literally. Penryn is a smart, capable heroine and Raffe will tear your heart out. We were lucky enough to discover this gem when author Susan Ee was still self-publishing, so it’s awesome to see it and it’s sequel, Worlds After in bookstores today.

The Curse Worker Series by Holly Black

What we love most about this series—and there is plenty to love—is how seamlessly Black has built a completely different reality in the very world we live in. She’s slipped in Curse Workers into our history, and our political system, and makes the reader believe this might actually be true. Her characters are tough and edgy, but you can’t help but want to take them home and make them dinner anyway, if only to give them a little break from the constant tight corners in which they find themselves.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Talk about badass. Andi is about as badass as you can get. She’s independent, salty, broken—but stronger than she thinks. She’s failing out of school and the only thing that matters to her is her music, her mother, and her dead brother. And that’s just the first chapter! Initially this sounded like something we weren’t sure could be done. Time shifts in books are often clunky, disorienting or so overdone you feel like you’ve been clobbered when you finish the book. Also, history as a rule scares one of us (Lauren): as a scientist, she works by rules and structure, and history is so easily remade with each iteration. But, in the end, that’s the point of this one. The story is so complex, but it never lets go of the reader’s hand. It is triumphant and heartbreaking—a truly fascinating read.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This is a newer read for us—one we both devoured over the holidays—and a totally delightful one. It has unique voice coming out of its ears:  a different sort of narrator that we found irresistible. Of course there are a few savant-like stereotypes in there, but it’s nearly impossible to not completely fall in love with Don.

Romance author duo, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, are New York Times bestselling authors of Beautiful Bastard and Beautiful Stranger.

You can visit them online or follow them on twitter at @seeCwrite and @lolashoes

If You Like “The Fault in Our Stars,” You Might Also Like…

If you (like me) loved reading The Fault in our Stars by John Green, here are a couple of other similar books you might also enjoy.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

This winner of the 2012 Cybil Award for Young-Adult Fiction and the 2013 Westchester Fiction Award is about Greg Gaines, a socially invisible senior who only has one friend, Earl.  Greg and Earl spend their time playing video games and making their own movies.  Then Greg’s mother forces him to befriend Rachel, who has leukemia. However, when Rachel decides to stop her treatment, Greg and Earl must give up their invisible status and make a stand.

The Probability of Miracles by Windy Wunder

Sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out of hospitals, but her mother and half-sister won’t accept that Cam’s cancer is terminal. So they decide to move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine, a town known for the miraculous events that occur there. Cam wants none of it, but she can’t deny the strange things that happen in Promise.  I’d tell you more, but I don’t want to give anything away.

As you may know The Fault in our Stars was dedicated to Esther Earl, a sixteen-year-old girl who passed away from cancer in 2010. Today, the book This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl has been released.  This book is a collection of journals, fiction, letters and sketches of the late Ester Grace Earl.  If you are looking for other non-fiction titles like This Star Won’t Go Out, here are a couple you might want to check out.

Poster Child: A Memior by Emily Rapp

Emily Rapp was born with a congenital defect that required her to have her left foot amputated at the age of four.  She also became the smiling, indefatigable poster child for the March of Dimes, spending her childhood traveling around the country making appearances and giving pep talks.  Emily writes about her trouble finding artificial legs that can keep up with her activity level and how her disability has impacted her entire life.

 

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer.  After a surgery in which doctors removed a third of her jaw, she returned to school to face the cruel taunts of her classmates.  She writes movingly about what it’s like to want to be loved for who you are and at the same time desperately wanting to be perfect, a contradiction everyone will be able to relate to.

You might also check out This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, out at the end of January; John Green dedicated TFIOS to Esther Grace, who died at the age of 16 from cancer. As always, Don’t forget to join the HPB Book Club in reading The Fault in our Stars this month, and be on the look out for the movie, scheduled to be released this June. 

— 

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