Author: Menna Van Pragg

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Book Review: The Dress Shop of Dreams

January 13, 2015 Book Review, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: The Dress Shop of DreamsThe Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Pragg
Published by Ballantine Books, Random House on December 30th
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
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Having read and loved Menna van Praag’s novel The House at the End of Hope Street {review here} I had high expectations of The Dress Shop of Dreams.  Both books are steeped in magical realism and satisfy my yearning for fairy tales.  I collected fairy tales as a child and read them over and over {The recent movie “Into the Woods” was a phenomenal experience for me!}  I’ve been accused, quite often, of living with my head in the clouds and being too much of a dreamer.  All perfect reasons to immerse myself in Menna van Praag’s novels!

When Cora Sparks parent’s died mysteriously, Cora moved in with Etta, her Grandmother, above Etta’s fabulous dress shop.  Cora grows up as logical, a realist and becomes a scientist with a heart closed to love.  On the same street as the dress shop is a book store where Walt, a young boy infatuated with Cora, grows up immersed in the stacks.  Walt ends up buying the bookstore as an adult {what a dream come true that would be for me!} and Cora burrows deeper and deeper into her lab.

Etta’s sewing needles and expertise at finding the perfect dress for a client is nothing short of magical.  A woman can walk into the dress shop without any self-confidence, put on a dress from Etta and then sees herself as beautiful, self-assured and ready to make her own dreams come true.  When Etta decides to push things along between Walt and Cora by sewing a tiny heart into Walt’s shirt, chaos ensues.

Normally I enjoy books with several points of view; however, The Dress Shop of Dreams seemed to have a few too many that did nothing to further the plot.  The cast of characters are imaginative and real, making this character-driven story a treat.

[Tweet “a nora ephron-esque feel-good book for dreamers”]

As a feel-good novel with underlying magic The Dress Shop of Dreams shines.  Reading it was like sitting through a Nora Ephron film with copious amounts of popcorn and snowcaps.  A super sweet, imaginative love story with hearts all awry and characters who think they know what’s best until life, and a bit of magic, show them otherwise.  Recommended to those who enjoy a Nora Ephron film and readers of Sarah Addison Allen.

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I’m honored to be a member of the She Reads Blog Network.  Five lucky winners will receive the set of She Reads Books of Winter of which includes The Dress Shop of Dreams. ENTER HERE by January 30th, 2015.   The complete set includes The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag, The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister, Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker, and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.

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Book Review: The House at the End of Hope Street

March 27, 2014 Book Review, Giveaway, reviews 14

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review:  The House at the End of Hope StreetThe House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Pragg
Published by Penguin on March, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

 

What a fantastic dream ~ a house in which a woman can escape from the world for 99 days while she figures out what to do next.  A place where when one is at the end of her rope and it seems as though all hope is gone, the house at the end of Hope Street is there to bring you back round again.

Trust yourself and you shall know how to live.

We get a peek into the lives of three women who have lost their hope and the den mother who oversees all the goings on.  Alba has had the Worst Thing Ever happen;  Carmen has escaped a brutish and brutal husband;  while Greer’s career has lost its fizzle.  Peggy Abbot is the overseer and third generation of Abbot women to devote her life to the House.  When the story begins Alba is just finding the house and discovering the hundreds of famous women who have also stayed ~ the likes of which include Florence Nightingale, Sylvia Plath and George Eliot.

“Oh dear,” Stella smiles, “Doris Lessing wouldn’t be too impressed to hear that.  She actually stayed here while she wrote it, a few years before I arrived.  She now resides on the living room wall.  You should visit her, she’s an inspiration to any writer.”

As Alba settles in we learn of the house’s special quirks ~ like waking up to a roomful of books and personal messages to each of the residents floating down from the ceiling.  All of the wondrous things you could imagine in a haven for women {especially women who love to read} are included in this house.  The magical realism is like entering a dreamland in which women are nurtured, loved and inspired for 99 nights ~ if only there truly was a place such as the house at the end of Hope Street!  It would never be empty!

The writing is sweet, understated and pulls you in.  The differences among the women residing in the house were such that many women could relate to at least one of the characters either in age, season of life or circumstances.

There were a couple of aspects I did not particularly find believable/enjoyable ~

  • Peggy’s storyline ~ she gave up so much in order to be den mother to the women she found on her doorstep and yet there were pieces to her mothering that just didn’t sit well with me.  I wanted her to be more involved {not a helicopter mom, mind you} but she seemed to stay not quite as involved as I guess I would have expected.  And her love interest? Man oh man was he a patient man!
  • The house itself seems to evolve with these particular residents ~ why didn’t it evolve say 20, 30, 50 years ago?  Why did it find the need to change now?
  • And Blake?  Ugh! Blake! ~ that storyline aggravated me to no end.  Why? Why? Why Blake did you have to get involved?!?

Overall The House at the End of Hope Street was a book lover’s dream come true.  A house that would care and provide for my every need and desire while nurturing my creativity and soul ~ who could ask for anything more?  If you love novels by Sarah Addison Allen or Alice Hoffman, then you’ll definitely want to read this one!

A very cool addition to the book is a listing of the women whose photographs adorn the walls of the house along with her contribution to history.  The publisher has also included a wonderful resource for book clubs here.

With many thanks to the publisher I have one copy to giveaway to a reader from the United States.  Simply leave a comment with which female literary author OR character you would love to spend time with.  The giveaway will end on March 31st at midnight.  Winner will be notified by email.

I received a copy of The House at the End of Hope Street for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In no way does this affect my opinion or review of the novel.

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