Friday, November 27, 2009

Local Author's Latest Book, Stray Affections, Is Featured in Bookstore Window

Loyal Bookstore customers know about our annual "Holiday Reader in the Window" program. Customers and friends of The Bookstore sign up for an hour to read in the rocking chair in our window during the holiday season. They get to sit and relax, while they watch all of Glen Ellyn hustling by. Plus, you earn a $5 gift certificate! Children are welcome and encouraged. To sign up, just call (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us at

This year, The Bookstore's Holiday Window features local author Charlene Baumbich and her new Snowglobe Series. The first book in the series, Stray Affections, is available now. It is a Midwest Bookseller's Association Pick, and would make a wonderful holiday gift (for you or someone on your list!) Charlene will be making a special appearance as our Celebrity Holiday Reader in the Window on Friday, November 27th during the Holiday Walk.

The Chamber of Commerce hosts a Village Holiday Window Decorating Contest every year, and this year's theme is "Glen Ellyn Glitters." Jane suggested we feature Charlene's book in the window display, and I voluteered to try to paint the snowglobe scene featured on its cover, complete with three different colors of glitter. (Gold at the base, silver around the edges of the globe, and snow-colored glitter at their feet.)

Working with all that glitter reminded me of all the messy art projects I used to make with my daughter when she was little. Now I also remember how hard it is to clean up glitter from hardwood floors and carpeting. (Sorry, Jane, for the trail of glitter from the back room into the Young Adult section of The Bookstore, but secretly? I kind of enjoy it. What the heck, it's the holidays.)

Jenny did a great job gathering all the snowglobes, glittery fabrics and sparkly ornaments to complete the window display. (More than one customer has inquired whether the snowglobes are for sale! -- sorry but no.) We're really proud of our little window, but we don't have high hopes for the contest. We were pretty proud of our little Polar Express train last year, with it's real headlight and glow-in-the-dark windows, but the judges didn't give us a single ribbon. So Jenny kept saying: "We're not trying to win the contest, right? We're just doing this because we're nutty bookstore people!" You've got that right, Jenny!

So please stop by The Bookstore and do your best to shop local for the holidays. Love your local bookstore, support Glen Ellyn merchants and celebrate our local authors.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thinking of Thanksgiving? Check Out One of the Best Family Dinner Scenes in Literature

In the spirit of the approaching holidays, Julia Keller of The Chicago Tribune Books section recently asked readers to send a letter recommending a good family novel. I couldn't resist, and sent the following:

I've got to nominate To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927) to the list of the best family novels of all time.

At this time of year, when families are gathering for Thanksgiving dinners, you can't find a better family dinner party scene than the one that lasted 20 pages in To The Lighthouse. Family and friends gather for a formal dinner of Beouf en Daube at a seaside retreat in pre-WWI England.

At first the guests are all pretty crabby and seem to be one word away from a family feud: the husband is frowning in a heap at the end of the table; one of the male guests refuses "to be condescended to by these silly women;" the hostess notices how shabby the room looks, and wonders how she'd ever felt any emotion or affection for her husband. This dinner party is about to become a train wreck.

The hostess knows that if she doesn't do something to coalesce the group and shepherd them into a kinder, gentler conversation, no one will. ("They all sat separate. And the whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her.") Through the magic, intuition and sheer maternal willpower of the hostess, the candles are lit, the beouf is served, and the guests all come together in mutual admiration and goodwill.

To which I say: thank you moms and hostesses everywhere.

By the way, I have a great recipe for cranberry sauce. The secret ingredient is the jalapeno pepper.

Margie's Cranberry/Pineapple/Jalapeno Sauce

One 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
(Heat for 10 minutes or until they burst)
2 packed cups coarsely chopped pineapple
1/4 cup sugar
1 scallion coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pulse in food processor until coarsely chopped. Place in serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes but no more than 2 hours. Serve chilled.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Locally Born Author Mary Doria Russell Rocks the House

I love books and the people who write them. But I don't know if I've ever had as big of an author crush as this. Let me just say: Mary Doria Russell rocks.

Looks are deceiving. She came in the room and looked like a quiet, introverted author: a petite, gray-haired woman holding a cup of tea. But then she opened her mouth, and you see she's a real pistol with a wicked sense of humor, a dazzling imagination and great stage presence. She admits she's been a ham since high school.

She's the author of four bestselling books, soon to be five. She grew up in neighboring Lombard, Illinois, and was invited back to inaugurate the Mary Doria Russell Chapter of the National English Honor Society at Glenbard East High School. She also spoke and signed books at the Helen Plum Library in Lombard.

She had us at "hello." She greeted the crowd by saying: "Hi, my name is Mary and I'm a book junkie." The crowd picked up her cue and answered her back, as if we were all at an AA meeting: "Hello, Mary!" Later, we joked that our crowd's familiarity with that greeting was revealing. Mary said with a wink, "well, we all know it from TV, right?"

She chronicled her addiction to books in the language of a true junkie. Dr. Suess was her gateway drug; Nancy Drew her tobacco ("made me look older and smarter"), Zane Grey her cocaine. Teachers and librarians were her dealers. Nothing got her more excited as a young reader than a nice, long "Also by" list at the front of a book. That's how she knew she wouldn't have to worry about where to get her next fix.

Speaking of fixes, fans of Mary's fiction are due for another one in 2010 with the release of her newest book, Eight to Five, Against, a western murder mystery set in Dodge City, Kansas featuring Doc Holliday. Mary says it's about "vice, bigotry, violence and living with a terminal disease," and claims that Doc will break your heart. Can't wait to read it -- we'll let you know when it comes out, and hopefully we'll get Mary back to celebrate.

Fun and interesting scoop on her other books: Brad Pitt wants to make a movie about The Sparrow, the story about the baby on the bomb in Thread of Grace was completely true, and she got the idea for Dreamers of the Day by seeing a documentary on the History Channel. By the way, when Brad Pitt called to meet with her about making The Sparrow, she turned him down in favor of a much needed and long-planned vacation. Although they plan to reschedule, she loves to claim that she blew off Brad Pitt. You go girl.

We have a few extra signed copies of her books left to sell at The Bookstore. Call (630) 469-2891 or e-mail us at if you'd like us to hold one for you. For more information on Mary Doria Russell and her books, go to her website.