Meet me at the Cupcake Café.

Meet me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan.
Published: 14th April 2011 by Sphere.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-4449-7.
Available on Amazon in multiple formats including paperback and kindle.

‘Issy Randall can bake. No, more than that – Issy can create stunning, mouth-wateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe’s bakery, she has undoubtedly inherited his talent.

When she’s made redundant from her safe but dull City job, Issy decides to seize the moment. Armed with recipes from Grampa, and with her best friends and local bank manager fighting her corner, The Cupcake Café opens its doors. But Issy has absolutely no idea what she’s let herself in for. It will take all the courage – and confectionary – to avert disaster….’

Picking just one of Jenny Colgan’s novels to review first was incredibly difficult, especially as I have several to choose from. It reminded me of when I open my Cookie Monster biscuit tin and try to choose a biscuit; I have a collection of those too so I’m sure you can see the similarities….

I chose the book because it’s about cake, and I like cake…chocolate cake mmmm. Plus, I had the pleasure of reading a couple of Jenny’s books before I got to read this one, she is an incredible writer.

Time to meet Issy. Issy is passionate about all things baking, and thanks to watching her Grampa at work when she was a child; creating delicious treats is all that she has ever known. So instead of fulfilling her dream and following in her Grampa’s footsteps, she became an office worker. However, the city job comes to an end and Issy gets made redundant. Will this be the perfect opportunity for Issy to finally fulfil her dream, or does she come up against yet more obstacles?
After her redundancy, Issy spends time thinking and baking….constantly baking. To see if her dream is actually realistic, she does some research. Along the way she meets a lot of different personalities. Some of those people are more than willing to help her succeed, and the others are quite happy to put up a tent and block her path. Will her Grampa’s advice give her fire to go for it? Or will there be more tents blocking the path? (I’m sure there is a law against that though?)

Do not, under any circumstances, read this book when you’re hungry. Unless of course you have cake, obviously. The amount of delicious treats that Jenny has Issy making is unbelievable. I was salivating. Not on the book, that would be a sacrilege! As always, Jenny Colgan brings you a warm, laugh out loud book that by the end, will make you want to work in The Cupcake Café. Well, I did! Poor Issy goes through a rough time, some of it being quite emotional. You might even end up with something in your eye. Sniff. Despite the humour in the story, it is very heart warming and moving. A story of people joining together for someone they love. Moments of unity. For me personally, having that unity in a story as well as emotion, humour, and cake, it ticked the boxes. With Jenny’s style of writing, she captures the true essence of every individual character and their lives. Because of that, Jenny Colgan makes their lives somewhat relatable to your own life. I found myself getting lost in the book because I felt cosy reading it, and hopefully you will too. It is a brilliant read. Jenny Colgan, you have written yet another smashing novel. It is a pleasure to have you on my shelf! (I’ll give you a cushion, honestly!)

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Dream a little dream….

Dream a little dream of meeeee do do be do do de do…
You singing yet? Thought so. Did you have a childhood dream? By dream I mean something plausible and not the obvious one about wanting to be batman, or superman, or wonder woman! I mean seriously, we have all wanted to be one of those….or Iron man! No, I mean a dream that you would have done anything to achieve. You thinking about it? Good. I had an amazing ‘what I want to be when I grow up’. Well, two. I actually achieved one of my dreams when I was in my teens. I wanted to be a checkout girl! Stop laughing, I’m being serious! I wanted to work on the checkout so that I could sit down all day, I made my dream come true at 17. True story. As a child I wanted to be a singer, got plenty of practise singing into the light hanging from the ceiling…..’you know we belong togetherrrrrr, you and I forever and everrrrrrr’. Home and Away eat your heart out! Choreography was also on point, I mean, if Sclub 7 or Steps needed new members me and my brother could have filled in at a moments notice! We were that good. Well, we thought we were. In this day and age we would probably be seen as the joke act on the X Factor! Now there’s a thought!
I did have one other dream though, I wanted to be a published writer. I wanted to publish a children’s book for my own children. Is that still an aspiration of mine? Yes, it is. I never thought I could do it, I still don’t, but I don’t know unless I try. This is why I’m here, writing for you. Now while it is funny that I wanted to sit down all day back then, it’s not as funny now if you think about me and my situation. My situation is me being chronically ill, with not one, not two, but six conditions. Six that won’t go away. I could sit down all day, but unless I want to look like I’ve just been sitting in a freezer all stiff, moments after getting up, I can’t. Take my fibromyalgia for example (all over body pain – issues with the nerves, but can affect every part of your body), for an outsider looking in, it’s obviously far too easy to go ‘just get an early night and you’ll feel better’ or ‘take time to rest, you’ll feel better for it’ or ‘think positively’. Why didn’t I think of that!  Imagine this a second, imagine not being able to make any plans because you don’t know how you’re going to be when you wake up every morning, being exhausted just from taking a shower, parts of your body hurting and you haven’t done anything to make them hurt, feeling like you’re letting your loved ones down for not being ‘you’. How does that make you feel? Scared? Like you have lost a part of you?
You grieve for the life that you have lost, a life that had no limitations, a life you had more control over. Will I accept that I’m never going to get better, and that I’m reliant on tablets to keep me alive? To an extent, yes. Because that is the case. Will I accept that my life now has limitations…my body has limitations? Yes! I have to! It is either push myself and flare up for goodness knows how long after, or prioritise and be able to do things with my daughter and flaring up because of fun and not because I cleaned the kitchen floor. Not saying my kitchen is dirty by the way, totally an example!!
When you get told that you’re chronically ill on multiple occasions, you don’t really get told much, you have to go to your good friend Google. Me and google are BFFS!!! The illnesses are all completely unpredictable in their own very special (ahem) ways. The cognitive problems are sometimes more hurtful than the pain because I feel I can come across stupid if I get my words muddled up. I don’t want sympathy, I just want to be remembered. Not that hard really is it?
So the dream of me wanting to be a writer, a published writer, and feeling that now is the right time..you want to know why? Because me taking the control and working hard to try to make it a reality, is probably one of the few things I can be certain about. It is down to me to make this work. Words won’t write themselves. I have the control. I love to read, I love to write. If you truly want something and you know full well that if you don’t do it right now you may not even be able to do it in a few years time, it’s a kick up the youknowwhat. Grab the bull by the horns! Actually, don’t, I don’t think that is allowed. Is it?! Plus I can hide behind what I write to an extent. That isn’t me being false, it’s a way of escaping what I have to face. I may write something emotional but you won’t be seeing me cry so the embarrassment factor is no longer there.

Despite all of that, since 2013 I have had one main aspiration. One that will always be with me. I want to make my daughter (and my mum) proud of me. Every day is a battle for me, in various ways. Some days have more battles than others and I know I’ll not win every single battle I come up against. Does that bother me? No, not anymore. Whilst inside I think I’m Iron Man and can do everything, I can’t. I shouldn’t be expected to either. You all have your limits, be aware of them. Be true to yourself and the ones that love you, otherwise you will feel guilty. Believe me.

If you have somebody close to you right now that is needing a pick me up, don’t be all ‘awwww i’m sorry’ be all ‘here, have a cookie’ or just remember them. Goes for anyone really, even a stranger. I’m learning every single day that I fight my battles, but one thing I know is clear, the little things are what make it. The little things are important because they make up the bigger picture. You have to start somewhere…..