Estelle: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Meet Me at Cupcake Cafe by Jenny ColganMeet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 432
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: bakery, London, romance, friendship
Format read: eBook from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: When Issy is laid off from her job, she decides to take the plunge and open up a bakery — a dream she has had since she was a little girl learning how to cook with her grandfather. The opportunity brings many challenges, friendships, and realizations into her life.

Cupcakes, London, and a gal following her dreams? If it sounds like a cute novel, then it is a cute novel. Really.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe introduces us to Issy, who after being forced to leave her easy-peasy job as an office assistant decides to challenge herself by opening her own business. She’s part of a family of bakers and decides to let her passion become her job: opening a cozy cupcake cafe in a space that hasn’t had the most luck with clientele in the past.

I really appreciated Issy’s see-sawing when it came to making this commitment. It’s never an easy thing to take a chance, step out of your comfort zone with the realistic knowledge that it might not all work out. But I’m so glad that she did because the people who come into her life end up making the experience that much more special and important. Pearl, her sassy assistant with cute kid Louis, and even the banker who gives her a loan, the totally cute Austin.

Colgan gives us a really detailed look at Issy’s life — not only her budding business but also her sick grandfather, disasterous romance with her ex-boss, and sweet best friendship with Helena (determined to find her own John Cusack). Sometimes a bit too detailed though. The pacing definitely dragged at points, especially when the reader became privy to everyone’s thoughts in the book. (There were so points where I thought this book could have been cut into multiple volumes — so much going on in everyone’s head!)

Also. The dialogue? Hilarious and witty. I wish there had been a little bit more of it to break up the long paragraphs but Colgan is seriously on to something.

As if Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe doesn’t make your mouth water enough, the author was sweet enough (ha!) to include some yummy sounding recipes throughout the novel. I never felt more like baking in my life. Seriously, though, it was nice (and inspiring!) to read a feel-good story about a character in her 30s working her tail off to get what she wanted. Go Issy!

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Estelle: The Look by Sophia Bennett

The Look by Sophia BennettThe Look by Sophia Bennett ( tweet | web )
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Chicken House (Scholastic)
Pages: 336
Target audience: young adult
Keywords: modeling, cancer, London, siblings, family, self-discovery
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: The world becomes a confusing place for Ted when she finds out her fab-looking older sister, Ava, has cancer and must undergo treatment, and she (the odd looking one) is discovered by a modeling agency. Like always, Ava can convince her sister to do anything and Ted decides to take a chance on the modeling thing to raise Ava’s spirits. But the deeper Ted gets into this world, the more she learns about herself, her relationship with her family, and what she really wants.

As the younger sister, Ted has a tendency to follow Ava’s lead — no matter how crazy her ideas are. Even in the midst of the changes their family has overcome (their dad losing their job and them moving into a new, smaller home), Ava can still convince Ted to jingle a tambourine on the street in hopes of scoring some cash.

Instead, they get a melted piece of Starburst and a business card from a modeling scout… interested in Ted.

Now, when I first started The Look, I thought I would jump right into Ted’s successful modeling career, the younger sister finally stepping out of the shadows of her beautiful older sister who loves to surf and fawns over her boyfriend, Jesse. But instead Sophia Bennett intricately sets the foundation of a close-knit family going through many catastrophic changes, including the moment that Ava is diagnosed with cancer. There’s actually quite a lull between the opening scene and Ted actually figuring out the modeling agency was legit and heading in for her first meeting. She decides to go through with the adventure as a way to entertain Ava while she is going through the worst of her treatments.

Ted doesn’t think of herself as worth looking at at all; she doesn’t like her hair, she thinks she is too tall, and there’s that guy in her class who is always making fun of her. She thinks it’s practically a joke that an agency would pick her among the beautiful people; therefore, she has this sort of self-deprecating sense of humor that I really enjoyed. I know it was part defense mechanism but she so owned it. As she goes from audition to audition, and learns more about the actual craft of photography, you can see the character truly growing and coming into her own.

In life, I think we can all remember an instance when one part of your life was going terribly and the other was so exciting. It’s hard to choose. It’s hard to feel like you can truly be happy when something so bleak is happening on the other side, especially when this horrible thing is happening to someone you love. Bennett manages to draw this parallel without being overly dramatic or cheesy at all. All the actions and feelings from the characters were so utterly authentic that I was just drawn in more and more to the story as it went on.

All I can tell you right now is that there are some beautiful scenes in this book, scenes of endearing amounts of pain and sisterhood and what it means to be close to someone and be there for them, even if the path doesn’t seem to make sense. Ted’s determination to work hard in order to support her family is so admirable, while her parents’ faith in her, though new, is refreshing and uplifting. There’s also a boy, and deceit, and the evil truths that Ted must face about an industry that she begins to fall in love with. Bennett has concocted such a dimensional story with a backbone that begins and ends with the importance of family and knowing yourself… even if it takes awhile to get there.

As an added bonus, I loved that The Look was set in London!

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