Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag (audio)

Title: The Dress Shop of Dreams   
Author: Menna van Praag      
Narrator: Jennifer Carr   
Published: Recorded Books  
Length: 9 hours, 10 minutes  
Source: Personal copy via Audible  

For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Menna van Praag and I was excited when I heard it was going to be one of the She Reads 'Books of Winter' selections. As soon as I read the description of the book, I knew it was something I would enjoy and I knew I would enjoy it on audio - and I was right on both counts!

I fell in love with Cora and her dress shop. It just seemed like such a magical place to be and then the bookshop - how could I not love this story with two fun places all in one book! The stories of the characters that we follow in this book at first seem a bit disjointed and I wondered how it fit together, but eventually it all makes sense - why we are getting everyone's backstory.

There's also a bit of a mystery in this book and I think that it pairs nicely with all the romance. Etta has always been convinced that Cora's parents' death was not an accident. This has Cora traveling to the place of her childhood home and digging into her past. This is where we meet the detective and find out about his life and more specifically, the state of his marriage, thus tying in one of the romances. As I mentioned earlier, the four romances seem disjointed, but in the end, are in some way all connected.

I enjoyed all the character's stories, but the one I had the hardest time identifying with was that of Milly's story. I can't even pinpoint why - maybe because the man she was with I knew was destined to be with someone else? Or maybe because she just didn't ring true? I'm not really sure, but there was just something about her that didn't feel right. Everyone else I was totally invested in and rooting for but sadly, not her.

There's just something magical about this book - it's a charming, fun, romantic story, with that hint of mystery thrown in and just a little bit of magic that really create a nice tale. I am definitely going to be picking up Menna's other books very soon as I definitely enjoyed her writing style.

Audio Thoughts: This is the first time I've listened to Jennifer Carr narrate a book and I thought she did a great job with this story. She was able to give each character their own unique voice and I had no problems following along, knowing who was speaking at any given time. I look forward to seeing what else she has narrated.

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag is one of the She Reads "Books of Winter" reading selection picks. 
Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other "Books of Winter" selections. And don't forget, there's a giveaway going on over at there until the end of January!!!


  1. Oh this sounds delightful and right up Book of Dreams alley. I wonder if she has read it :)

  2. This sounds great! I'll have to look for this in audio so I have a chance of getting to it soon. I'm glad to hear it worked well in audio format. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I enjoyed your review. I'm glad you enjoyed this book. I am looking forward to reading it.

  4. A bookstore and a dress shop in the same book? Ahhhhhh.......Another one for the tbr list :) Great review.

  5. I liked this one too but I thought it had too many love stories to follow and I thought it might have been better without the mystery. I think I was expecting it to be more like Sarah Addison Allen's books than it was.

    Nice review!

  6. I've seen mixed reviews for this one so it is refreshing to read yours. I might check it out in audio form perhaps as you found it worked in that format.

  7. Aww, I like that this book has some magical elements to it. You make it sound like a good read!

  8. Sounds like a pleasant story, and I sure could use some of those in between my "darker": reads. Thanks for an insightful review.

  9. I have this in my kindle and I've been meaning to get to it! I'm glad it's so good. It keeps calling to me and I keep putting it off. I need to just give in and read it.

  10. I really liked The House at the End of Hope Street (author's previous novel) and will add this title to my Audible list. Great review!

  11. Great review! I received the ARC from Netgalley so I will be reading this soon.


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