28th August, 2019

Review: The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins (Gallery Books)

Sarah Dove is a small town librarian with a special gift. She is also the seventh daughter of one of Dove Pond's oldest families. And she believes in all things magical. Books have whispered to her ever since she was a little girl. Now she makes sure that every book finds the reader who needs it the most. But recently the books have been saying something different: that change is about to come to Dove Pond. Sarah is soon convinced that the legendary Dove Pond good luck has arrived in the form of new resident Grace Wheeler.

What immediately had be interested in this book was the title and its premise: someone who can speak to books, a magical town with a clear Stars Hollow vibe and a strong community of idiosyncratic but charming characters. And yes, I really liked the book which, however, still had a few deficiencies. Let me maybe start with a bit of criticism: 

For me the story took quite a while to pick up. While I loved reading about Grace's beginnings at Mama G's house and Sarah's first encounter with a talking book, the narrative slipped away a little bit after these introductory chapters. I felt that not much was going on and that some characters remained stereotypical husks of what they could have been. All in all, the plot was a bit thin and there is not really much happening when looking at the story as a whole and that which is happening is very predictable. In that way the book read a bit like one of those slightly cheesy Saturday night TV movies where conflicts are shallow and there is a solution to every problem. This may sound harsh but it really is something that irked me as the story had so so much promise.

Also, the title is a bit misleading as I found that the whole book charming element was oftentimes only mentioned in passing and somehow only served as a bit of background 'decoration'. That is a shame as I believe that it's especially this part of the story that could have been developed a lot better and with even more impact on the plot.

What the story definitely has in abundance is charm! And this is what made up for a few critical points in the end. The main characters are wonderful and I love how the book Sarah initially chooses for Grace eventually turns out to help Daisy even more. I also tremendously enjoyed the setting: Dove Pond is - as I indicated in my Stars Hollow comment above - the place where you'd want to raise your children. I immediately wanted to move there when I read the story and was actually mad at Grace for not seeing its true beauty and value in the beginning. All of this is a great basis that could have carried an even greater story if only it had been executed a little better.

Overall, this is a cute and heartwarming story of what it means to stick together, no matter what. It's the perfect summer read if you don't expect complicated storylines or too much depth. It's just a book that will make you feel good and wonder if maybe there is more in life than meets the eye.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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