Behind the Book: Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

Our Book Club selection for October and November is Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris. This heart-breaking true story centers on a young woman who endures horrific hardships and unimaginable conditions. Her story of survival is a powerful testament to the triumph of human will. Half Price Books was thrilled to be able to discuss this powerful novel with Heather Morris. Read on to discover her answers to our questions below.

Can you tell us more about Cilka Klein, the inspiration behind Cilka’s Journey? What made you decide to write a story inspired by her?

Cover.Cilkas JourneyCilka Klein was a Jewish girl from Bardejov, a small town in what is now Slovakia. She celebrated her 16th birthday in March 1942; a month later she was transported, along with her father and two sisters, to Auschwitz. A few weeks later she was transferred to Birkenau where she caught the eye of two senior SS officers and was singled out to be kept as their sex slave. Placed in a special block, No. 25, she survived until the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Red Army. Her nightmare continued when she was condemned for ‘sleeping with the enemy’ and sent to a Siberian gulag.

It was Lale Sokolov who told me about Cilka – “she was the bravest person I ever met”, he told me, “she was a tiny young girl. And she saved my life”. Among all the wonderful letters, emails and questions I get from readers, it is the question I am asked over and over again – “what happened to Cilka?”.

And after having written about Lale, I wanted to write about women’s experience of Auschwitz, and of war – including the often untold stories of sexual abuse and violence. As for Cilka herself, the more I found out about her, I realized just how extraordinary she must have been, to survive all that she did, and find life and love after her time in two of the most brutal places on Earth. Continue reading

Behind the Book: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Beautifully, exquisitely wrought, When We Left Cuba is everything you could ask for from a historical novel, and it’s our HPB Book Club pick for April and May 2019. Chanel Cleeton will break hearts with this tale of a privileged Cuban refugee and the powers and people that change her life. Full of love, revenge and deadly situations, When We Left Cuba will leave your heart racing and your mind transported. Chanel  provided us with an in-depth look into her protagonist, Beatriz, for our Behind the Book series. Continue reading

Behind the Book: Maid by Stephanie Land

Written in raw, masterful, heart-rending prose, Maid is the story of one woman’s tenacity to survive and break free of the grips of the welfare system to give her child a better life. Stephanie Land’s work gives voice to the working poor. Her compassionate, unflinching writing is fueled by her own struggle as a low-income single mother who aspired to use her stories to expose the reality of pursuing the American Dream while being held below the poverty line. We had a chance to catch up with Stephanie Land and ask her some questions for our Behind the Book series

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What inspired you to put pen to paper and actually write down your experiences? Was there a certain catalyst that made you want to write this book?
I’ve been writing about my experiences since I was 10 years old, but it was almost entirely in a private way by journaling and not allowing anyone to read it. By the time I decided to take writing (and consequentially publishing) seriously, I’d been a daily writer for over 25 years. Maid came from an essay I’d published in Vox that went incredibly viral. I guess from all the interest it was clear that a book was bound to happen! Continue reading

Behind the Book: When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

Editor’s Note: When the Men Were Gone is a debut historical novel centered on the truly inspiring story of a high school teacher who surprises everyone when she breaks with tradition to become the first female high school football coach in Texas. Set during WWII, Tylene Wilson faces extreme opposition but shows what courage really means. This inspiring story has won hearts everywhere and was chosen as our Book Club selection for October and November. We had the opportunity to discuss the book with Marjorie Herrera Lewis, which you can read about below.

This is your debut novel- what did you learn about the process of crafting a book?
The biggest lesson I learned about the process of crafting a book is that it’s hard; it’s really hard. It takes discipline, passion, skill and a willingness to learn something new almost every day.

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What first interested you in Tylene Wilson’s story?
The story resonated with me the instant I was told what Tylene had done. I am a career sports journalist, and to discover that a woman had coached football in the 1940s took my breath away. I also felt connected to her in a way because I was the first woman assigned to the Dallas Cowboys beat in the 1980s. I knew firsthand what it was like to work in a male-dominated field. I was drawn to what I imagined she had endured. Continue reading

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.

Experiencing Dead Wake: An Emergence into Nonfiction

If you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading, or perhaps just finished, Dead Wake by Erik Larson, which is the first nonfiction book we have chosen.  I am a fiction girl. In my experience, nonfiction books have always read like the boring textbooks I had to read in school, full of dry facts with nothing to activate the imagination.  Dead Wake has changed my opinion of nonfiction forever and left me longing to read more by Erik Larson. If you interested in hearing about the Lusitania, listen to Erik’s interview with THINK.

Perhaps, Larson’s book intrigued me because of the way Larson presents his information. He considers himself an “animator of history” as opposed to an historian.  He wants his writing to “create pictures in the minds of his readers,” just like they do in fiction.

If you enjoyed Dead Wake, here are a few other books by Erik Larson for you to check out:

So, what Erik Larson book will you read next?  I already have The Devil in the White City waiting on my bedside table, ready to be read.

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

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. 

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

Best Young Adult Book Club Fiction

Two months ago we posted our list of the Most Popular Book Club books, compiled from submissions from our 3,000 bibliomaniacs, and then last month published the Top Underrated Book Club books. You may have noticed a lack of Young Adult titles on those lists, and for good reason — we were saving them for this month’s list:

(1) The Fault in our Stars by John Green; (2) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli; (3) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; (4) Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli; (5) Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver; (6) The Perks of a Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; (7) Looking for Alaska by John Green; (8) Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley; (9) Winger by Andrew Smith; (10) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta;(11) Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma; (12) The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson; (13) Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride; (14) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; (15) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart; (16) The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti; (17) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews; (18) Every Day by David Levithan; (19) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein; (20) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell; (21) The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour; (22) Boy 21 by Matthew Quick; (23) Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell; (24) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi; (25) Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd; (26) Uglies by Scott Westerfeld; (27) Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld; (28) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; (29) Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King; (30) The Giver by Lois Lowry; (31) The DUFF by Kody Keplinger; (32) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

There were a ton of titles we wanted to include but didn’t quite make the cut — so which ones would you have included on this list? Let us know in the comments! – Kristen D.

Kristen is Public Relations Specialist at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @kristendickson.

Best Underrated Novels for Book Clubs

Last month we brought you the Most Popular Book Club books, compiled from submissions from our 3,000 bibliomaniacs — so this month, we want to show some love to books that are excellent and discussion worthy, but maybe don’t make every list. Without further ado:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro; Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy; We by Yevgeny Zamyatin; The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells; 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Bel Canto by Ann Pachett; Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple; Little Bee by Chris Cleeve; The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent; The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver; The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem; The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon; I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak; The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer; The Last Novel by David Markson; The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling; Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld; Cider House Rules by John Irving; John Dies at the End by David Wong; This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper; Grendel by John Gardner; I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb; Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood; The History of Love by Nicole Krauss; If Jack’s In Love by Stephen Wetta; The Likeness by Tana French;  Damned by Chuck Palahiuk; The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti; Kim by Rudyard Kipling; House of Leaves by Mark Z.Danielewski.

Which did we miss? What underrated book club book is your favorite? — Kristen

Kristen is Public Relations Specialist at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @kristendickson.