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.
The-Mysterious-Affair-at-Styles

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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Behind the Book: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

How to Walk Away is one of the most inspiring, hopeful and honest books I’ve ever read. And I read a LOT. I’m going to be completely honest here – when I first heard about this book, I didn’t want to read it. The premise seemed very depressing. There’s enough sad things going on in the real world. But I kept hearing that this book was the opposite of tragic, so I finally decided to try it out. This story is so refreshing – which, given the content, is quite an achievement! After finishing this book, I just had to know about Katherine’s writing process and how she came to write the scene of the plane crash. And she was kind enough to share!

Want to learn even more about How to Walk Away from the author herself? Katherine will be joining us at our Flagship location in Dallas on Tuesday, May 22nd at 7 p.m.  to celebrate the release of her book with a signing. Be sure to join us for this exciting event!

Almost as soon as I knew that I was going to write a story about a plane crash, I knew that I would have to go up in a plane. Not a big, normal, commercial plane. A little plane. The kind where the only place to sit is in the cockpit. That was the kind of plane that was going to crash in my story, and I’d never been in one. If I was going write about it in an authentic way, I was going to have to fix that. Even though I have always been a little afraid of flying.

How to Walk Away_Cover

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that there’s a plane crash in How to Walk Away. It happens in chapter one. The story is not really about the crash itself—though it’s important. The story is much more about what happens after the crash—how that moment rips the characters’ lives into unexpected pieces, and how they put those pieces back together. That’s the kind of story I love the best—ones with characters who just refuse to give up.

Myself, I give up very easily. In most situations, I start with hopeless and work my way backwards. I have to talk myself into optimism. I have to look for reasons to be encouraged. Flying, for example, always seems pretty doomed to me. My sense of the odds is doggedly incorrect. I always think I have about a 75% chance of crashing on any flight. And for one of those tiny little all-cockpit planes? More like 95%. But if I wanted to write the story—and I really, really did—I had to brave it.

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Behind the Book: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

As a lover of psychological thrillers, when I first heard the plot of The Perfect Mother I was intrigued. It’s the story of a mother’s group and one of the babies goes missing. Seems simple enough. But place this mother’s group in the middle of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and add the fact that the baby goes missing while the moms are out partying together and things start to get more interesting. As the police hunt for the baby, the reader sees the lives of each of the mothers in the group put on full display. Marriages and friendships are put to the test as secrets are revealed about each character. This thriller definitely delivers the thrills – and Kerry Washington agrees. She’s already signed up to both produce and star in the movie! We procured this Q&A with author Aimee Molloy to tell us a little more about the book.

The Perfect Mother

WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF THE PERFECT MOTHER?
After my first daughter was born in 2013, I signed up for September Babies, a new moms group in Brooklyn. I was a little skeptical about this initially, but the skepticism dissolved almost immediately. I had no family around to help and very little experience with infants. September Babies became my lifeline. Though some members met in person, most of our interaction was via a list serve—a place where people asked questions (Is this normal . . . ? Should I be worried . . . ? Will they ever sleep through the night?). I was blown away by the generosity and encouragement the members showed one another. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation, but I envisioned us—a relative group of strangers—as a tribe of women who had banded together, and the question occurred to me: what if, God forbid, one of our babies went missing? I could see the members of the group, black war paint under our eyes, torches in hand, combing the streets until the baby was found. I remember I was riding the subway, my daughter strapped to my chest, and I pulled out a notebook, jotting down notes on this idea. A few years later, those notes became The Perfect Mother.

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What Reader Type Are You? New Spring Reading Recs Matchmaker!

At Half Price Books, we know that all readers are different. Some scale the top of the bestseller list; others gravitate to rare tomes no one else has heard of (the dustier, the better). But what all readers share is a passion for books that isn’t easily satisfied. To discover which archetype, you are — and get some expert recs on the books you should read this Spring — take a look at our bookish guide to the best in bibliophiles!

THE HUNGRY, HUNGRY BOOKWORM

You’ve got at least five volumes on your bedside table and a mile-long literary wish list. Able to balance three (or more) reads at once, you never discriminate between fiction, non-fiction or biography—it’s all good. Their only quandary is, what to devour next? Our suggestions for the next page-turner await!

Circe by Madeline Miller – A modern twist on Greek mythology, the story of the goddess of magic is one of the most anticipated books of 2018.

Calypso by David Sedaris – The notable humorist delivers again with a beach read about a beach house, plus essays on middle age and mortality. On sale May 29, 2018.

circe calypso

THE SLOW-SIMMER & SAVORER

You’re not afraid to pick up a book that’s 500 pages (or more). You gravitate to doorstop-sized nonfiction you’ll ponder and pour over for months and months. Never in a real hurry to finish – your motto is “quality, not quantity,” and a long, slow read satisfies you like no other. If this sounds familiar, check out these substantial histories and lofty fiction and nonfiction:

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker – Bill Gates’ “new favorite book,” this assessment of the modern human condition helps illustrate how humans can flourish with the help of reason and science.

The Overstory by Richard Powers – This magnificent literary fiction from a National Book Award-winning author tops out at 512 pages. It’s a passionate novel about activism and nature.

enlightenment-now overstory

THE BOOK COVER CRITIC

You’re distracted by bright and shiny graphics and curious titles. Elegant books are stylishly stacked on your coffee table, and great novels with eye-catching covers sit on your color-coded bookshelves. You know that style often leads to substance, and you’ll take a chance on an unknown author because “the cover is just so cool.” Discover some vibrant volumes ready to pop off the shelves and into your cart this spring!

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer – A striking, colorful cover might catch your eye. But inside you’ll find a charming novel about ambition, power and mentorship.

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman – Another piece of fiction that’s riding the trend of vibrant type-driven cover designs – This heartbreaking novel about family and loyalty just hit shelves.

female-persuasion italian-teacher

THE WATERCOOLER READER

If it’s the next [insert bestseller name], then you’re already three chapters in. You may not go for an obscure novella, but if the film rights were sold it’s on your shelf and your TBR list. Most likely to join a book club, you hate to miss on the next big thing, which is why these blockbuster bestsellers are what you’ve got your eye on this season:

Tangerine by Christine Mangan – Described by author Joyce Carol Oates, “As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock.” This tightly-wound debut is already slated to be a movie with Scarlett Johannson.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy – A book about a group of Brooklyn moms going to desperate lengths to find a missing child, this novel will soon be a major motion picture starring “Scandal” lead Kerry Washington.

tangerine perfect-mother

THE BOOK BINGER

Books are a little bit like potato chips — you can’t stop at just one! You love to explore alternate universes, and there’s no better way to do that than with a series. If it isn’t a trilogy, it isn’t worth starting, and you’ll often go right back to the beginning of a series for a full re-read before signing on to something new. If you haven’t yet discovered these classics, get ready to dive in!

The 17th Suspect (Women’s Murder Club) by James Patterson – Let the suspense continue with this 17th in the Women’s Murder Club series. With bestselling author James Patterson, these are always riveting and binge-worthy.

Dark in Death (Book 46) by J.D. Robb – If you’re not already hooked, you’ve got 45 books to read first to get caught up on this series. This suspenseful, crime fiction novel and the entire In Death series is sure to please your ravenous appetite.

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THE ARMCHAIR PHILOSOPHER

First to get into a debate, you like to know about the issues and headline news of the day. Political and social nonfiction are your favorite food for thought, and you’re likely to loan your copies out afterwards to friends and family so they stay informed, too. Here’s what’s worth talking about for spring:

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership by James Comey – Seventh director of the FBI, James Comey, shares his never-before-told stories about his career in American government, covering topics of leadership and ethics.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil de Grasse Tyson – Arm yourself for cocktail parties with these witty, digestible bits about cosmology, the big bang and black holes. This book has remained on the bestseller list since its release – and for good reason.

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Kendall Morgan is a freelance copywriter at HPB Corporate. You can follow her on Twitter at @kinklek.