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My favourite book of 2011 was easily Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan. The storyline left you all warm and fuzzy inside and the characters seemed to play on your mind for weeks after finishing the book so imagine my delight when sorting out our Christmas book when I am told Jenny Colgan is releasing a Christmas book and not just any Christmas book but back with our characters who we know and love!
Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn't be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don't seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe - with its increased demand for her delectable creations - begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear. This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another . . .
This is the first sequel Jenny Colgan has released and what a hit this is going to be. Meeting back with all of our favourite characters it doesn't take long to fall into step with their lives a year on. Even if you didn't get to read the authors previous book you will still be able to read this as a standalone book as at the beginning of the book the author gives us a brief summary of the first book so don't hesitate and pick this one up ( and the first one whilst you are at it ;-)
This book is oozing with festivity with decorations, present buying and wrapping and that lovely Christmas dinner for all to enjoy this will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit. The storyline focuses more on the characters lives and relationships now rather than the cafe but don't threat we are still treated to many mouth watering recipes throughout the book! I loved that the book was a mystery right the way through never quite knowing how things will pan out.
I was hoping for a different ending for Pearl but that is just me being a hopeless romantic. I do wonder if this is the last we will see of these characters I personally feel as though there are still a few things not tied up so I am hoping that we may have a book 3 looming!
The cover of this book is beautiful and festive with its wintery blue colour theme which seems to be very popular this year and has an added touch of Christmas objects around the border but yet the book still has the signature Jenny Colgan look to it.
Looking for something warm and cosy to wrap up and read this Christmas then Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe is the book for you.
I hadnt read any of Jenny Colgan's offerings until Meet me at the Cupcake Café was published in 2011. I was first attracted to this book because I am a keen baker myself and therefore I thought that the story would be one that would appeal to me. I bought the book and loved it, as I did the following novel from Jenny Colgan - Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop of Dreams and when my sister told me Christmas at the Cupcake Café was to be released this year in time for Christmas its fair to say I was rather excited! I was pre-ordering it on Amazon but as money is tight my Mum offered to get it for me for my birthday that way I did have to wait a couple more weeks than I would have but I saved myself around £9 which is what this book can be found for currently on places such as Amazon. The cover price is £12.99 and it was only released about 6 weeks ago so this is a good saving. Currently it is only available in hardback or e-book.
The cover of the book is very similar to that of the original Meet me at the Cupcake Café but instead of having a pink and cream theme, this book has an icy blue and ivory colour theme with metallic red. This does give it quite a festive feel and there are small basic pictures of cupcakes, Christmas trees, gingerbread men, snowflakes, stars and baubles. There is also a quote from Sophie Kinsella recommending the book and I would definitely say that this would stand out in a book shop.
==So what did I miss prior to this?==
For those of you who haven't read Meet me at the Cupcake Café, it really isn't necessary to read this before trying this Christmas offering. This novel works well as a standalone novel but I do think that it is nice to know a bit of background information. Issy Randall was brought up in a bakery. Her Gramps was a baker and as he mum was constantly swanning off around the globe she spent a lot of time helping her Gramps and therefore developed a love for baking at a young age. It is Issy's dream to one day open a bakery of her own. In Meet me at the Cupcake Café we follow Issy's journey when she is trying to open up her very first café. I don't want to say anymore here because if you did choose to read Meet me at the Cupcake Café then you wouldn't want to know much more but I really do think that the new book can be picked up and read with no confusion as to who is who or what happened when or why.
==Christmas at the Cupcake Café==
The book begins with Issy doing what she does best - baking in her café. She is gradually introducing more festive recipes as she knows these will go down well with her customers. However, she does have to be quite discreet about this because her right hand woman Pearl is quite sure that Christmas should not be celebrated before its time. She is religious and feels that nowadays, Christmas is far too commercial.
Issy is now living with her partner Austin and his younger brother Darny. Darny is only 12 but Austin is his guardian after they lost their parents in a car accident some years previously. It is fair to say that Austin struggles with being the father figure and often Darny overpowers him but thankfully since Issy moved it at least the house gets cleaned and the boys don't live off of takeaways. Issy and Austin are very much in love and although Darny is quite a difficult child he makes their little family complete and Issy couldn't be more content. However, Austin's job as a bank manager at their small local branch is in jeopardy. Cuts are being made and it looks as though Austin's job and possibly even the brand may well be let go of. Austin is offered the opportunity of a lifetime from the bank and is asked to move to New York. Can he upset Darny and Issy's life and take them to a country they don't know? Or will they stay in London? Or, even worse will this spell the end of their strange family unit?
I had sky high expectations of this book. As I stated above I loved the other two novels that I own from Jenny Colgan's range and I think that the fact that this was a sequel made my desire for it to be superb even higher.
As soon as I opened the book I felt like I was meeting with an old friend again. I haven't read Meet me at the Cupcake Café for well over a year but it was like no time had passed at all and Issy is a character that you are bound to love instantly. The book is written in third person so at no point do I feel that I am Issy myself but it is very easy to understand Issy and I found it second nature to know how she was feeling at any given time. I believe that because Issy is a very down to earth character it is likely that to some extent she will be similar to the reader therefore making strong connections.
The book is a laid back piece of literature and we certainly aren't thrown in head first into an action packed plot. However, although there aren't any big events in the first few pages of the book I still found myself immediately hooked and desperate to see what would happen to Issy next.
The writing style is brilliant and I always enjoy Jenny Colgan's books because of the laid back style as it really makes you feel as though you are there, watching everything happening before your very own eyes. The book is divided into chapters most of which being around 15 to 20 pages long. I liked the length of the chapters as it seemed that they were perfect chunks to read at one particular time.
Each chapter begins with a recipe. This can be from a wide range of recipes but as this is a festive themed book they do tend to be focused around some of the foods of this time of year eg. gingerbread, Christmas cake etc. I haven't tried out any of the recipes myself but they are very easy to follow and understand and I cant see anyone having any real problems with them.
The plot flowed well and there was always plenty going on. There was of course the added stress of Austin's employment uncertainty aswell as the regular concerns we all experience in the weeks before Christmas. I felt there were clear goals in sight from the very beginning of the book - firstly to discover what will happen to Austin and secondly Christmas Day. However, it is fair to say that I didn't find the book predictable. I did have ideas about what might happen but this really did chop and change as the story progressed and therefore at the ending of the book I was greeted with a surprise that I wasn't expecting.
Aswell as seeing a lot of Issy's life away from the café we also saw a bit more of Pearl's and Caroline's lives who are Issy's employees at the café. This time we saw a bit less of Pearl and a bit more of Caroline which I really enjoyed because we didn't know much about Caroline at all and this allowed us to really get to know the real Caroline and I do believe that this helped to change my opinion of Caroline.
I enjoyed reading this book and it is such a laid back writing style I felt as though I really was there watching what everyone was doing. This made the book seem as though it was fast paced and it was over quite quickly but I am not saying I felt it was too short - I just thought that the time flew by when I was reading this. I actually think it is the perfect length as everything is wrapped up well but there are also plenty of opportunities left for sequels in the series which I am hopeful Jenny Colgan would do. It would also be nice to have spin off books with Pearl and Caroline because all of the characters are very well thought out and each have their own personalities and are certainly not overshadowed by anyone else. One person I should quickly mention here is Louis - Pearls six year old son. He was adorable in Meet me at the Cupcake Café and he is still adorable in this Christmas offering, he really brings some humour to the book and although I wouldn't say this is needed as such, it does provide an extra something.
I loved reading this book and I found myself finding time to read it most days. I finished it in around ten days which for me is quite good as I am a nightmare for picking up one book then starting another, going back to the first then choosing a third! But over the few days I was reading this this was all I wanted to read.
Although the book is set at Christmas and there are a fair few Christmas references I wouldn't say it was overly Christmassy - you could read this throughout the year and not feel too disorientated I would imagine but, of course, it is nicest to read this to help you get into the festive spirit!
I was also rather excited when I reached the end of the book about an hour ago and realised another sweet offering is being published next spring. This is to be called The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris and there is a taster of the book at the back of this book. I haven't read this because I know I will end up getting impatient for the new release but I am quite certain it will be of an equally high standard.
The book is written by Jenny Colgan.
It was published in 2012.
It has 351 pages.
The publishers are Sphere.
It is currently available in hardback and e-book format.
Cover price is £12.99 but it can be found online for around the £9 mark.
Just incase you haven't gauged my opinion from the review I absolutely loved this book! I adored the characters and thought that the plot was interesting and flowed well. The writing style was informative and laid back and I really felt as though I was right there with Issy watching the story unfold. Jenny Colgan is a wonderful writer and I will undoubtedly be pre-ordering her new offering due to be published in the Spring of 2013.
This book is the sequel to Jenny Colgan's "Meet Me at the Cupcake Café" which I read and enjoyed a few months ago. Although it is a follow-on from the original book, it has been written in a style which allows it to be a stand-alone novel, however I think you'd probably enjoy it more if you already felt like you knew the characters a little.
At the end of the first book, Issy Randall set up her own cupcake café after being made redundant from her unfulfilling office job. The business was slow to get started but is now beginning to thrive, and she also ended up getting together with the small business loans adviser from her bank, Austin, who backed her when she first started the business. In this novel, Christmas is fast approaching, and Issy's boyfriend has been sent to New York by his bosses, with a view to a new life and career over there. Issy has a feeling her life is about to change yet again, and she is panicked into deciding whether she loves Austin enough to give up the business she has spent so many hours working towards.
With them both wanting different things, can this book possibly have a happy ending?
I felt an immediate empathy with the characters from this book, having already "got to know" them in the preceding book. Issy is good natured, vulnerable, and finally happy, and I felt really sorry for her as everything good started to crumble around her. Her boyfriend, Austin, is one of the good guys, but he seems a bit blinkered by the promise of a fresh start in New York, and finally doing something he wants to do after losing many years of freedom looking after his little brother following the death of their parents.
As the story unfolds, it is told from both Issy and Austin's point of view, so this stopped me siding with either character and I could genuinely feel for each of them with their different dilemmas. As is often the way in relationships, there was much pondering, worrying and planning going on, but not much in the way of communication. This made things quite frustrating for the reader because at times I just wanted to scream "SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER!!!" as it was clear the situation wasn't going to get resolved by both parties being self-pitying and refusing to talk it through.
As with the first novel, the other characters in this book give it more depth than many chick-lit novels. Although the main characters are strong, it's the variety of additional characters which made this book so enjoyable in my opinion. The staff at the cupcake café, Peal and Caroline, are entertaining and it's interesting to watch how their characters develop as their circumstances change. Pearl's little boy Louis is as cute as ever, and Issy's best friend Helena and her partner Ashok have had a baby since the first book, which brings a whole new dynamic to their friendship. Issy used to confide in Helena about anything and everything, but now she seems to care about nothing except baby-related things and I think a lot of thirty-somethings will relate to the feeling of drifting away from friends as everyone reaches different life stages at different times.
I was really looking forward to the release of this book, having enjoyed its predecessor so much. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint, and I'm glad I waited until just before Christmas before reading this as it completely put me in the Christmas spirit. I read it on the Eurostar to Brussels where I've just been for a city break to enjoy the Christmas markets, and this book just fitted in perfectly, with its winter scenes and descriptions. It alternates between London and New York, and paints a beautiful festive picture of both.
Jenny Colgan has a way of making the reader care about the characters of her books, and this was true of this book, to the extent that I would be interesting to read another instalment in the Cupcake Café series, should she be interested in writing one. There were a few loose ends at the end, which could have been intentional, although it didn't say anything at the end about another book in the series.
The book could be read as a stand-alone novel, and Jenny actually says at the beginning that she has tried to write it in a way that doesn't patronise the readers who have read the first book, but also doesn't exclude new readers to what's gone on in the past. I think you'd get much more from it if you read the first book before this one, as you'd have a lot more empathy with the characters, and there are little things you wouldn't "get" quite so much if you hadn't read the first book.
I find Jenny Colgan's novels very relevant and modern, with some great references to modern society from big things such as the effects of the recession on various characters, to smaller things such as current celebrity chefs and food trends. She has a great way of observing people's behaviour too, so most of her characters will remind you of someone you know or have once known.
This is such a lovely heart-warming book, which has some lovely winter and Christmas based scenes, and some excellent character development. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a book to get them in the festive spirit, although I personally would recommend reading the books in order because I think you would get more from them.
(Review may also appear on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)