Publisher: Ballantine Books


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
AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound


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.


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.


Right or Happy? That IS the question.

December 3, 2014 Book Review, reviews 9


Recently my baby brother did something to make me so angry I could have beat him up with my bare hands if he were not a foot+ taller and outweigh me by 100 lbs.  What’s ironic is that he was thinking his actions were helping me when, in reality, it did just the exact opposite.  But isn’t that the way it goes?  In The Mill River Redemption sisters Rose and Emily are completely estranged.  Reading the terrible manner in which they treat each other had me thinking about the situation with my brother and thankful we resolved the drama before Thanksgiving dinner!

I’m reminded of a popular saying do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  As stubborn as my family can be {yes, me included} I’ve figured out that being happy is more important to me.  Especially when the argument is about something stupid, and this one was!

Now that sentiment would go out the window entirely if someone’s life were in danger.  For most instances though, dealing with family stuff by the ‘happy or right’ quotient keeps me sane {as long as I truly DO let. it. go. and choose happiness over rightness}  And man is that hard to do. But also absolutely necessary.

How do you deal with family drama during the holidays?

This post was inspired by the novel The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan, about two estranged sisters who are forced to work together in order to uncover the hidden inheritance by their mother.   Join From Left to Write on December 2nd as we discuss The Mill River Redemption and enter to win a copy of the novel.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

This novel along with The Mill River Recluse  paired together makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys fiction with inspirational, healing stories!

For more about author Darcie Chan visit the website or connect on Facebook | Twitter


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Elephants, Psychics and Overcoming Grief in Leaving Time

October 20, 2014 Book Review 4

Elephants, Psychics and Overcoming Grief in Leaving TimeLeaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Published by Ballantine Books on October 14th, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 416
Source: purchased


Children are the anchors of a mother’s life.  

~Sophocles, Phaedra, fragment 612

Having read almost all of Jodi Picoult’s previous novels I knew I was settling in for a treat of a read.  Thirteen year old Jenna Metcalf enlists the help of two very unlikely sources ~ Serenity, a psychic with a load of baggage and Victor/Virgil the alcoholic detective turned P.I. who investigated a death at the elephant sanctuary Jenna’s parents owned 10 years prior.

Jodi Picoult has been labeled a master storyteller by Stephen King ~ in my opinion, Leaving Time is truly Picoult’s best novel to date.  Told in alternating voices we are given clues throughout of what happened the night Alice Metcalf disappeared and long-time elephant caregiver, Nevvie, was discovered trampled by one of the elephants.

When the plot lines intersect, cross over and under and around as they did in Leaving Time, it is not uncommon to discover a slip up somewhere.  Not so in this gem.  Every tendril of the story was wrapped up – not in a nice neat package, but rather in a manner that felt real.  The characters from thirteen year old Jenna, her mother Alice, Serenity and Virgil – each one is an individual fully fleshed out in their own right.  But the true beauty of the novel is reading about the elephants.  The research that went into this novel is so thorough – the plight of both wild elephants and those in captivity, the different challenges faced by each group and the grief and the “allomothering” – wow! I wanted to jump inside the novel and be Alice for a time.

Then the research into psychics and elephants – the way Picoult integrates her new-found knowledge into the novel without making it seem dusty and dry is so seamless.

Leaving Time is for anyone who loves animals, especially elephants.  It is for mothers of daughters and daughters of mothers; for those dealing with a mental illness – either personally or with a loved one.  It is for the man who sees no redemption for his actions and for the ones who have talked to the other side.  It will leave you feeling many emotions including sated and satisfied.  Highly, highly recommended.

[Tweet “Elephants, grief and psychics in #leavingtime”]

Jodi Picoult has also given us the novella Larger Than Life for those wanting to wade a bit deeper into the background of Alice Metcalf and her research with elephant grief.  It is just as fabulous as Leaving Time and will take you on roller coaster ride of emotions.

We also have Where There’s Smoke that introduces us to Serenity Jones, the psychic in Leaving Time.  I read this one several months ago and could not wait to get me hands on Leaving Time which had not been released at that time – do yourself a favor and get all three!  Set aside a weekend of Jodi Picoult reading and start with Where There’s Smoke and Larger Than Life prior to Leaving Time.  So so good!

*currently Where There’s Smoke is free for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook and Larger Than Life is $1.99.

I’d love to know  what was the last book you read that had you hungering for more, more, more from the author or the storyline?  Share in the comments 🙂