Perfect Reads for Your Relationship Status

Ah, love. Whether you’re hopelessly in it with your partner, showing it and sharing it with your friends or, you know, just waiting around for something to happen, we’ve got books for you! To be clear, we always have books for you, but Valentine’s Day is this month and we love (pun totally intended) a theme. Read on for our favorite couple (we’ll be here all night, folks) of books to suit your relationship status. Continue reading

2018 Mad Dash Reading List

You were prepped and ready pre-New Year’s Eve 2017. Your HPB Gift Cards were locked and loaded and you had a slightly uninterested, yet supportive group of friends waiting in the wings to hold you accountable. The resolution? Read more in 2018. The result? HA!

We get it. Work got in the way, sports happened, your cousin’s wedding, tricks and treats, Thanksgiving eats and before you could crack the cover on your first New York Times Bestseller, it was December. No worries, you’ve still got plenty of time…not War And Peace time, mind you. But you can do this, and we can help.

Books are kind of our thing, so we’ve curated a list for slackers, not unlike yourself, who’ve found themselves worse for wear with that whole bibliophile resolution thing. Read on (see what we did there?) to check out our top 5 picks to help you make it to the end of the year without becoming a repeat resolution maker.

what it means
1.What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky: Stories – Lesley Nneka Arimah
Author Lesley Nneka Arimah tasks readers with tapping into the root of their familial dysfunction in her debut collection of short stories. The majority of the pieces are set in post-apocalyptic times, often causing the characters to grapple with the very foundation of their being as their behavior plays out in desperate circumstances. As each story unfolds, Arimah touches on the taboo topics woven into the fabric of both Nigerian and American households. Against a weary, yet at times fanciful backdrop, she brings much-needed attention to the ways we deal with class, gender and death. Continue reading

Behind the Book: Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Editor’s Note: Having started her first novel for a bet in 1996, Lisa Jewell has grown into one of the UK’s most beloved and popular fiction authors. Jewell’s writing is addictive, her characters fleshed out and her storylines original. We were thrilled she agreed to write this piece about the inspiration behind her latest novel, Watching You. Read on to discover how this book came to be!
Lisa Jewell- Watching You cover

The first glimmer of the genesis of Watching You was a feeling that there seemed to be an awful lot of news stories about very suburban people in very suburban love triangles committing murder. Either the mistress would kill the wife, or the husband would kill the wife, or the wife would kill the mistress or some other combination of the three.

So, if I was to write about suburban love triangles then I needed a suburb, and that was when the book really started to take form in my head; there is a suburb of Bristol in the UK called Clifton which is famous for its high set rows of brightly painted houses. It used to be a rough area, but has become increasingly gentrified over recent years and is now so “chi chi” that it has its own branch of the Ivy (an upscale restaurant chain in the UK). Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

The Girl They Left Behind is a breathtaking novel set in war-torn Bucharest that follows the life of Natalia, a child abandoned by her parents who had hopes that her abandonment would mean she would have a better life. It is a tale of unrelenting love and sacrifice, of what defines a family and how to come to terms with one’s past. We recently talked to Veletzos about her incredible debut.

Congratulations on your debut novel! Have you always wanted to be a writer or is this a new development in your life?
Thank you so much! Writing has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think I fell in love with it when I was about seven or eight, and my first story was entered in a children’s writing competition in my native Bucharest. Ever since I’ve written and read constantly, and in the early years of my family’s move to California, it brought me such solace. Eventually this led to a degree in journalism and work as a copywriter and editor—but it wasn’t until 2010, after bracing some health challenges with my youngest son and my father’s unexpected passing, that my dream of crafting a novel began to take shape. One night during that challenging period, I came across on my hard drive something I’d written three, maybe four years earlier, and it was as if someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. It turns out that those pages became the opening chapter of The Girl They Left Behind, which I then went on to complete in less than two years.

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What initially drew you to write a story set in Bucharest during World War II?
I have to say, several factors. Most importantly, my family’s story of survival during the war and the years of Soviet occupation was nothing short of fascinating and harrowing, giving me rich material to work with. Secondly, Romania’s history in that time has so seldomly been covered in modern literature, and I wanted to bring some of it to light through the eyes and experiences of my characters. Thirdly, I suppose it was simply nostalgia for my native city—and a desire to reconnect to it on some level. In fact, many of the piazzas and streets that I describe in my novel come directly from my recollections as a child. Continue reading

Cozy Up with These New Books

Cooler weather, big comfy sweaters and blankets, mugs of hot tea or chocolate and the scent of apples drifting in the air—yes, it’s time for fall! There are many ways to celebrate the arrival of fall, but our favorite is to curl up with a good book. Thankfully, there are plenty of new releases for you to cozy up with this season. Read on to discover our top picks for fall reading, and why they make the perfect read!

This list got pretty long, so if you want to skip ahead you can click for Fiction, or for Nonfiction or for Teen!

Fiction

Let’s start with some fantastic fiction reads—books that will make you light a candle and drink some cider.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Kate Morton
Kate Morton is the master of historical fiction, and this book proves her exceptional skills. Grab your blanket and descend into the summer of 1862. Discover a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe as they descend upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared, a priceless heirloom is missing and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins. There’s nothing better than a thrilling historical mystery to put you in the fall mood! This book will be on shelves October 9.

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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

Behind the Book: The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

Editor’s Note: Best known for Gothic horror and dark young adult mystery novels, April Genevieve Tucholke is taking a dive into the previously unexplored with The Boneless Mercies. This novel is a gorgeously written standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of glory. Throughout the novel, Tucholke portrays fierce women warriors in unapologetic friendship who refuse to quit their quest for glory. We had a chance to catch up with April recently and she was kind enough to answer some burning questions for us.

Boneless Mercies Cover

Your previous books, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue SeaBetween the Spark and the Burn, and Wink Poppy Midnight are very different books from The Boneless Mercies. What made you want to write a more historical piece?
Fantasy is my first love. The words “sword and sorcery” still make my heart skip a beat. Fantasy is what I read when I want to truly escape into a fictional world. Spring and summer are for Jerome K. Jerome and PG Wodehouse or mysteries like Miss Marple or Brother Cadfael—but fall and winter are for fantasy, a retreat into something darker and grander and nobler than the world I know. It was my favorite genre as a kid and is still my favorite today. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

EDITORS NOTE: From debut author Imogen Hermes Gowar comes The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, an atmospheric historical fiction novel set in 18th century London. The elegant prose and magical realism transports you to a world of opulence and turmoil. Gowar’s rich visuals and detailed descriptions kept us reading and reading and reading! We had the opportunity to catch up with Imogen recently. Read on to discover her answers to our questions!

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The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is such a unique story. Where did your inspiration come from? Was there something in particular that drew you to mermaids?
I’ve been interested in the supernatural since childhood, and that definitely includes mermaids. I was particularly compelled by the traditional mermaid myths: the idea that they had a dangerous, inexorable power as much rooted in melancholy and longing as in anything erotic.

I was also really interested in the way people thought of mermaids, as opposed to how they were displayed. The goblin-like counterfeit mermaid effigies that were popular in the eighteenth century and beyond didn’t bear a huge resemblance to the sexy damsels of popular imagination, but people were willing to be taken in by them nevertheless. While I was working at the British Museum I came across one of these fake mermaids—it’s made from a monkey’s torso stitched to a salmon’s tail—and it is oddly chilling. I could immediately imagine the sort of man who might want to acquire it: how he would bridge the gulf between how it looked and what he wished to believe. 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.
And-Then-There-Were-None

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?

Behind the Book: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

What do you get when you mix Scooby-Doo and Stranger Things together? Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. It’s a rare gem of a book, having a perfect blend of mystery, humor, intrigue and wit.  In Meddling Kids, a teenage detective group reunites over ten years later when suspecting that a long-solved case may not have been solved after all. So begins the descent into the nightmares that have haunted them all since they were teenagers. The monsters from their nightmares come alive and this time they have to solve the case for real. We caught up with Edgar to find out more about the book, his writing process and what will be coming up next from him.

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Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?
 I remember jotting down ideas since I was a child- stuff I hoped to develop properly when I learned to draw comics or had my own cartoon show. I don’t know when I settled with just writing them in prose. Maybe at 17 or so, when I realized it was the easiest way to share them.

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
Easy one. I used to enjoy Enid Blyton’s child detective novels as a kid; I enjoyed the cosmic horror of Lovecraft & friends’ as a young adult; I wondered what would happen if those two genres clashed.

Do you have any rituals or anything special that you do while writing to get into the right mindset?
Not really. But both walking and showering help me figure out the first sentences. Since I moved to New York, I need to find a third ritual that doesn’t get me wet.

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