Book Review

Book Review: The Witch and Other Tales Re-Told

The Witch and Other Tales Re-Told
By Jean Thompson

My Edition:
Paperback, 256 pages
2014, Plume
ISBN: 9780147516985

“Great fairy tales are not always stories designed for children,” says the back of the book. This is a shorts collection of retellings for adults, some familiar to me, some not, and one I quite enjoyed.

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Book Review

Book Review: My Mrs. Brown


My Mrs. Brown
By William Norwich

My Edition:
Hardcover, 288 pages
2015, Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781442386075

Emelia Brown leads a quiet, reserved life in rural Rhode Island. She’s the pinnacle of good manners, though often overlooked by others and pegged as meek, drab and generally not worth noticing. But when Mrs. Brown assists with an estate inventory, she finds the Oscar de la Renta dress she didn’t know she’d always been dreaming of and it changes her life. She decides to do something bold – she will save up to purchase one just like it and travel to New York City (for the first time!) to purchase the dress from the boutique. But first, she must find the money to purchase the rather expensive dress and fund her trip, as well as overcome the skepticism from friends and peers regarding her trip, as only she knows the reason for this journey.

Honestly, I didn’t know much about this book when I first spotted it on the Simon & Schuster Instagram page. They were hosting a giveaway and I decided to step out of my comfort zone and throw my hat in the ring – to my great surprise, I won!

This is a character-driven novel, focusing on Mrs. Brown’s desire for this dress and what owning it will eventually mean to her. Her friends don’t understand why she wants to possess such an expensive dress in the first place, let alone travel to New York to purchase in rather than shop online. Mrs. Brown explains that this is the “most correct” dress she’s ever seen and it’s clear from the start that she knows exactly why she feels she needs the dress , and rather than explain to her friends (or readers), she lets her journey speak for itself.

This book was utterly average for me. The writing was decent, the plot moved along and I was curious why Mrs. Brown wanted to take this journey, but I couldn’t bring myself to connect with her. I wanted to know why she wanted the dress, but I didn’t care if she succeeded in owning it or not. Everyone in the novel is instantly charmed by Mrs. Brown’s quiet and polite personality and were practically tripping over themselves to help her. To me, she was dull and meek, content to let others walk all over her because she was raised to keep her chin up.

Once she set her mind on this mission she had an amazing run of luck and no real setbacks – in fact, any setback she encountered was then fixed by an even bigger run of luck. Those more fortunate than her suddenly became obsessed with random acts of kindness towards this one woman. But why? I wondered if she was the only quiet older woman they’d ever met.

While Mrs. Brown appeared to have a big impact on the lives of the characters she interacted with in the book, she made very little impact on me as a reader. Maybe it’s because I don’t often read character driven or contemporary novels, maybe it’s due to the difference in generations, or maybe it’s just a book I wasn’t all that into.

I did enjoy the takeaway, though, which for me was that you can’t let fear determine your life. Mrs. Brown conquered a lot of doubts and worries she had by taking her journey, including the fact that no one truly understood why she was doing it until it was over.

“Fear is criminal. It steals from life.”

I don’t regret reading it, however, and if you enjoyed the novel, I would love to hear your thoughts! I’ll also note (because you know by now that I love book design almost as much as I love the contents) that the endpaper in this book is adorable and I love the hand-drawn cover art (especially the cat on the back!)

You can find William Norwich on Twitter or visit his Simon & Schuster page here.

Book Review

Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible
By Barbara Kingsolver

My Edition:
(beat up) Paperback, 543 pages
1998, HarperCollins
ISBN: 0060930535

The Reverend Nathan Price uproots his wife and four daughters and moves them to the Belgian Congo in 1959, thinking only of his success. They carry with them everything they think they’ll need from home, but soon find that most of it is rendered useless by the climate and lifestyle of Africa. Each member of the family is changed and shaped by the country and their tragic tale is told across decades, reflecting not only how one family was affected by the country, but how all those living there were affected by the country’s fight for independence. 

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Book Review

Book Review: Love Virtually

Love Virtually
By: Daniel Glattauer

My Edition:
Paperback, 265 pages
2010, SilverOak
ISBN: 9781402786747

From the back of the book: Leo receives emails in error from an unknown woman called Emmi. Being polite, he replies and Emmi writes back. A few brief exchanges are all it takes to spark a mutual interest, and soon Emmi and Leo are sharing their innermost secrets and desires. The erotic tension simmers, and it seems only a matter of time before they will meet in person. But they keep putting off the moment – the prospect both excites and unsettles them. And after all, Emmi is happily married. Will their feelings for each other survive the test of a real-life encounter?

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Book Review

Book Review: Mambo in Chinatown

Mambo in Chinatown
By Jean Kwok

Paperback, 370 pages
2014, Riverhead Books
ISBN: 9781594632006

5/5 stars

I received a free ARC of this book via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.

Charlie Wong is a twenty-two-year-old, living in a tiny apartment in Chinatown with her father and sister, her mother having died years earlier. She works as a dishwasher at the same restaurant where her father is a noodle-maker and she’s miserable. Then she lands a job as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio and discovers a side of herself she never knew, yet she must hide her new job and emerging talents as a dancer from her father. Then her sister starts to become ill and Charlie must try to help her as best she can, while Charlie’s father shuns Western medicine.

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