Thursday, December 27, 2012

Melanie Benjamin's New Novel The Aviator's Wife

Available January 15th
Melanie Benjamin is back!

One of our favorite local authors, Melanie Benjamin is back with her third novel, another fascinating work of historical fiction. This time she brings her heart and talent to the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the celebrity aviator Charles Lindbergh. 

The Aviator's Wife will be released on January 15, 2013. Melanie will be appearing at The Bookstore for a reception, author talk and book signing on Thursday, January 24th, 2013 at 7pm. We hope you and your book can club join us!

We think it's her best work yet. She has already written about the real Alice in Wonderland (Alice I Have Been, 2010, one of The Bookstore's all-time bestsellers) and one of the first famous little persons, Lavinia Warren Bump (The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, 2011). This time Melanie brings her fiction into the 20th century, with issues that are perfect for today's book clubs. There's nothing like a complicated celebrity marriage to get a book club talking late into the night. I won't be the first early reader to compare it to Loving Frank or The Paris Wife, both huge bestsellers and discussion-makers with our local book clubs.

Beginning in the 1920s, The Aviator's Wife is a beautifully imagined story about one woman's inner growth from a sheltered ambassador's daughter to a young, submissive celebrity wife to a devoted mother and feminist author. The book explores the highs and lows of Anne's life: the excitement that she experienced as Charles taught her how to fly, the frustration of being in a celebrity marriage, and the horror of their young son's kidnapping. 

When I first heard about the subject of Melanie's new book, I was reminded how much I loved Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea. When I first discovered it in the 1980s, I totally underestimated it. I thought it was just another pretty little coffee table book at my mother-in-law's house in Florida. I remember thinking it was a book for older women, women who still remembered the infamous Lindbergh kidnapping. When I finally picked it up, I was stunned. Here was a woman writing with feminist wisdom in 1952, long before the women's movement that I had come of age with in the 1970s. Anne Morrow Lindbergh was clearly ahead of her time. I have often wondered, who was this woman? 

Thanks to Melanie Benjamin's new book The Aviator's Wife, we can finally know her whole story. I think you'll love it as much as I do.

As an extra little bonus for friends of The Bookstore, you won't want to miss the Acknowledgements page of The Aviator's Wife. You just might see some Glen Ellyn names you know well. (Thanks, Melanie, what a thrill!) 

You can pre-order your copy of The Aviator's Wife here. We will call you to remind you on January 15th. In the meantime, you might want to pick up your own copy of Gift from the Sea. They make a great book pairing for the New Year!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review: A Bitter Veil by Libby Fischer Hellmann

A Bitter Veil by Chicagoan Libby Fischer Hellmann is a crowd-pleasing novel. There is something for every reader, no matter what your favorite genre might be. It is a page-turning thriller, a tender and tragic romance, as well as a gripping tale of historical fiction.

Set in Chicago and Tehran from 1977 to 1980, this novel begins with a knock at the door in the middle of the night. A young American woman covers herself with a chador and opens the door to find three bearded soldiers with machine guns. Revolutionary Guards have come with shocking news about her Iranian husband.

Hellmann then steps back to Chicago in 1977, where Anna and Nouri first meet in the aisle of a dusty bookstore near the University of Chicago. Anna is picking out books from the syllabus of her Persian Literature class and Nouri (do I need to say he's tall, dark and handsome?) approaches her, quoting from the Rumi poetry collection in her hand. It's what Hollywood would call a "cute meet." But if you've ever read any of Rumi's poetry, or if you happen to love bookstores, it's even better than that. It's an "only-in-your-dreams" meet. A "you had me at hello" meet. Their romance takes off despite their different backgrounds, and soon the two are inseparable, as young lovers are. 

Anna and Nouri decide to marry and move to Tehran. Through Nouri's family connections with the Shah, Nouri gets a good engineering job and Anna finds a position teaching English and American Culture at the Iran-American Society. There is growing unrest and dissatisfaction with the Shah, but Anna and Nouri are planning a big fat Persian wedding, and are blind to the danger.

For any reader, the building tension in pre-revolutionary Iran is palpable. But for readers ("of a certain age") who can remember the horror and the shame of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the danger is clear and imminent. You want to grab Anna by the shoulders, warn her, and help her escape from Iran before it is too late. Because we know what's going to happen to Americans in Iran in 1978. 

Despite the terrifying tale, Libby Fischer Hellman brings the beauty of Iran to life. Her description  of Anna and Nouri's honeymoon trip to the Caspian Sea is breathtaking. Her research and knowledge of Iranian history, geography and culture is extensive and respectful. 

Hellman has crafted a well-written tale that combines suspense, action and plot with romance, atmosphere and history. It will not only satisfy her existing crime fiction fans - Hellmann has written two different mystery series - but it should bring her droves of new readers. I highly recommend this book.

Libby Fischer Hellmann will be appearing at the third Annual Glen Ellyn BookFest on Saturday, June 23, 2012. She is appearing at a Ladies Luncheon at 11:30am at the Glen Ellyn Public Library with Charlene Baumbich, Sarah M. McCoy and Hannah Pittard. For more information and tickets, please go to

To purchase the book, click on the image above. The book is available at The Bookstore and will be on sale at the library on the day of the event.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Introducing: "Rowena Halfcrest"

Kids Book Reviews by Rowena Halfcrest

The Bookstore is thrilled to introduce something new to our blog. We have a young loyal customer and avid reader who has agreed to supply us with her very own book reviews. Her pen name is Rowena Halfcrest, and she'll be recommending books for you and your children to consider. Just click on the highlighted title if you'd like to order a copy of the book to pick up at the store, or find out whether it is available as a Google e-book.

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793 is AWESOME! It’s so interesting to learn about it, it feels like it’s all fiction! The coffee shop setting is cool, and Matilda’s spunky character is very inspiring. I love her reaction when she has to take charge. She's super! Just like the book! --Rowena Halfcrest


A Mango-Shaped Space
 by Wendy Mass

It’s amazing. You will learn so much about a condition few know even exist. Mia is an interesting character who has made her way through life with a big secret. The way she tells the world is cool, and learning about synesthesia is really cool. You’ll love it! --Rowena Halfcrest

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

I've got a good read for you and your book club. 

Sarah McCoy has written a wonderful new book called The Baker's Daughter, set in two different time periods: the first in Nazi Germany in 1944 and the other in El Paso, Texas in 2007. The title refers to the book's heroine, Elsie Schmidt, a young baker's daughter from a small town in Germany. 

The Baker's Daughter has received blurbs from Tatiana de Rosnay (author of Sarah's Key) and Jenna Blum (Those Who Save Us) -- both of which have been hugely popular with area book clubs.

The title character from The Baker's Daughter is only 17 years old, and she's caught in the middle of the tensions in wartime Germany. Although Elsie has accepted an engagement ring from a Nazi lieutenant, she's not sure how she feels about him. She witnesses a tragic event with a small Jewish boy on Christmas Eve, and makes a brave choice that threatens the safety of her entire family.

Sixty years later, a young female journalist named Reba Adams is assigned to interview Elise, who by then is the elderly owner of Elsie's German Bakery in El Paso, Texas. Reba is faced with a complicated past of her own, along with difficult choices for her future, and finds she just can't stay away from Elsie's inviting bakery. The baking is just so good.

The Baker's Daughter includes a fascinating side story about the Lebensborn Program of Nazi Germany, in which "racially pure" German women were encouraged to sleep with SS officers in order to create what the Nazis thought would be a perfect Aryan race. The children born to the Lebensborn mothers were then raised in a special nursery sponsored by the Nazi regime. Elsie's sister has been invited to participate in this program, and at first the family views it as something of an honor. Only later do they come to understand the true horror of the plan.

Sarah McCoy writes with a gentle hand as she imagines the tragedy of life in a small German town during the Nazi's reign of terror. Sarah McCoy finds a way to honor the lives and choices of the everyday Germans who did their best with what they had, sometimes risking everything to do the right thing. At the same time, the storyline set in modern-day Texas makes us realize that the issues of racism and exclusion are still a factor in current immigration debates. I think this book has all the makings for a very thoughtful book club discussion.

And not to be missed? The mouth-watering recipes at the back of the book from "Elsie's German Bakery" -- a sure-fire hit with the book club.

Highly recommended! Available now in hardcover or as an e-book from The Bookstore's website. Our e-books are compatible with every e-reading device except the Kindle, a proprietary device made by Amazon.