Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

christmas-cupcake-cafeChristmas at the Cupcake Cafe (At the Cupcake Cafe #2) by Jenny Colgan, first published in 2012 (but this edition’s pub date is set as October 14, 2014).

Author. Twitter. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: e-ARC through Edelweiss (thank you, William Morrow Paperbacks, for providing me with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!).

Genre: chick-lit.

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 …Indulge yourself and your sweet-toothed friends with Jenny Colgan’s new novel, simply bursting with Christmas cupcake recipes and seasonal sugar-fuelled fun. (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3/5.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might have noticed that I’m a Jenny Colgan fan. I’ve read, loved, and reviewed Little Beach Street Bakery and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, but I actually fell in love with her writing way before I started blogging. The first book of hers that I read was Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, and today, I’m reviewing the sequel.

I love series (and spinoffs, to a lesser degree). I love how the characters feel like old friends, how their surroundings seem like a favourite place to be, and how I can predict their actions – and be surprised by them, time and again. In Colgan’s novel, we meet Issy and Austin, as well as the Cupcake Cafe staff, and follow their story beyond that “happily ever after” that we saw at the end of Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe.

The first part of this book, however, gave me the impression that the characters became caricature versions of themselves. Issy and Austin were largely untouched by this, but the supporting cast seemed to go out of their way to do and say silly things that underlined the character flaws that Colgan hinted at in the first novel.

Incidentally, the first part of the novel also featured more talk about the social conditions of these people, the mass-consumerism problems of the Christmas season, etc. While this is definitely a welcome critical addition to such a conformist genre as chick-lit, I felt it could have been done in a more subtle manner, as the narrative dragged somewhat because of it.

The second part of the story was way better. Issy and Austin’s story (his potential move to the US, the conflict and the love) picks up speed and it is in this part that Colgan’s wonderful writing truly shines through. If it took me a while to chew through the first part of the book, I flew through the second, fighting tears at moments and rooting for the lovely couple.

All in all, I’d recommend this book to Colgan fans who have read Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe and wish to indulge in something sweet and – surprisingly – only half-fluffy. If you haven’t read her books yet, they’re perfect for any season, not just the holidays! Oh, the book has an appendix of recipes, as do all of Colgan’s novels!

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Do you read/buy seasonal (Christmas) books or do you absolutely loathe them? 

Do you like to start celebrating Christmas early or are you more of a last minute person?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Tough Travels: Missing Heirs

tough travelsI’m back with this fun feature! Tough Travels is a weekly meme hosted by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and entails making lists about topics chosen from The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Make sure to go and check other people’s posts: as I’ve learned last week, they are a pretty great bunch of bloggers! :)

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This week’s feature is MISSING HEIRS, which occur with great frequency. At any given time, half the countries in Fantasyland will have mislaid their crown princess/prince.

  1. aragornAragorn from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor, is a noble warrior – but he’s also somewhere around 80 years old by the time Frodo gets to meet him, though he looks much younger. I never quite understood his feelings of guilt but they seem to be the reason for his absence. Very handsome.
  2. Celaena Sardothien from Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series: I haven’t read Heir of Fire yet (I’ve managed to avoid spoilers so far, I hope I manage to do so until I get my hands on the book), but I’m pretty sure she’s a Fae princess, thought lost and dead by her people. She’s also a kick-ass assassin – have you noticed that there’s “ass” in “assassin”? (my review)
  3. daenerys-targaryenPrince Yarvi from Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King: he’s a great character! Nearly killed by his uncle and then enslaved and sold to row on a galley, Yarvi is a survivor. I love how he evolved and grew! See my review here.
  4. Daenerys Targaryen from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: I feel like she’s not so much lost as misplaced – it’s hard to be really lost when you’ve got a great army and three dragons tagging along, no?
  5. Lan Madragoran from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series: he’s the only surviving heir to the kingdom of Malkier. He also has a number of really cool names: Lord of the Seven Towers, Defender of the Wall of First Fires, Bearer of the Sword of the Thousand Lakes, and so on. And I really liked the beginnings of his story with Nynaeve (And there it goes – I just read a spoiler concerning THAT particular story. Goddammit.). I really have to finish this series before I do more irreparable damage.

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Who are your favourite lost rulers?

What handsome prince or lovely princess have I forgotten to include in my list? :)

Top Ten Sequels I Can’t Wait to Get My Hands On

top-10

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely people of The Broke and the Bookish. Go and check other people’s links and TTT posts, they’re great!

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This week’s topic is: Top ten sequels I can’t wait to get (my hands on). It’s a perfect one for me because I love reading series – I always feel like I’m meeting old friends when I dive back into their story. A note: I’m writing this post in advance so I *might* already own one or two of these by the time it’s published, but I’m excited about them all the same!

  1. Doors of Stone (Kingkiller Chronicle #3) by Patrick Rothfuss – this one doesn’t even have a cover yet, so I’m guessing I’ll be waiting for a while…
  2. The Thorn of Emberlain (The Gentleman Bastards Sequence #4) by Scott Lynch – ditto. I suppose this one will appear a bit earlier but still… A lot of waiting to do!sequels1
  3. Say Yes to the Marquess (Castles Ever After #2) by Tessa Dare – I just love her books. I really do.
  4. Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (Rules of Scoundrels #4) by Sarah MacLean – this is one of my favourite historical romance series! Can’t wait for the conclusion!
  5. Strange and Ever After (Something Strange and Deadly #3) by Susan Dennard – I really like this series; you can also read my reviews of book one and book two.
  6. Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J Maas – this one I just have to get. My sentiments are due to the fact that the previous two parts were such fast reads and that half the blogosphere is in raptures over this one.sequels2
  7. The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab – I really liked The Archived (my review) and I know this one is already published, but I’m waiting for the paperback. Sorry. :(
  8. The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon – I read and reviewed the first part and I found it really interesting. I want to see what she’ll do in part 2; the fact that there are to be seven parts in this series is… intriguing!
  9. Half Wild (Half Life Trilogy #2) by Sally Green – part one (my review) was one of those interesting, unexpected reads of 2014 so I’m very curious to see where the story goes next!
  10. Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman - this long awaited sequel is definitely one of my most anticipated 2015 reads! I’ll have to re-read Seraphina, probably, because it’s been a long time since I’ve read it.

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These are the sequels I can’t wait to read. What are yours? 

Do you have any good series recommendations? I’m always looking for new ones to start! 

Dark Child (Covens Rising) by Adina West

dark-child-covens-risingDark Child (Covens Rising(Dark Child Series #2, Omnibus Edition) by Adina Westpublished on October 6, 2014 by Momentum Books.

AuthorGoodreads. Amazon. Barnes & Noble.

Genre: paranormal fantasy.

Source: publisher via Netgalley (thank you, Momentum Books, for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!)

Kat Chanter isn’t your ordinary girl. And she isn’t your ordinary vampire, either. The ruthless Directorate would go to any lengths to have her power – including murder. And when that leads to a war between races, Kat’s fate becomes the ultimate prize … 

Kat is done with being on the run, or so she hopes. A new pathology job in Paris is her big chance to start afresh, far from the Tabérin Directorate who want her dead. Sure, adjusting to life as a half-vampire, half-human hybrid poses its own challenges, but it’s nothing Kat can’t handle … until the past starts to catch up with her. 

Teenage loner Ben is also hiding his hybrid bloodlines and a troubled history with the Directorate. His growing involvement with Yara, the most popular girl in the senior class at his school, exposes secrets that place them both in mortal danger. 

Because the Vodas, the all-powerful leader of the Directorate, has made eradicating hybrids like Kat and Ben his obsession. And as his methods grow more extreme, it’s not just his own people, the vampiric Tabérin, who plot to overthrow him. Another ancient and arcane power stirs. One that could threaten them all … (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3/5.

This might be slightly spoilery if you haven’t read the first part of the series. You can read my review of that novel here.

This second part of the Dark Child series starts with Kat’s story in Paris, but we also get another POV, that of a half-blood vampire-human teenager, Ben, who is crushing on a girl that’s off limits for him. This ensures a faster pace for the story as we jump from the US to Europe from chapter to chapter, but it left me a bit confused as to the target audience of this novel. I’d classify Kat’s story as adult paranormal fantasy but Ben’s parts clearly deal with issues otherwise found in YA (and are also less graphic, not that there are many graphic scenes in Kat’s part, but still).

I liked that the story took a more nefarious turnwhat with the Directorate moving in on the hybrids and their families and the ominously powerful witches making their stand. Kat is put smack in the middle of the conflict due to her heritage – and she wants nothing to do with it. I liked Kat’s parts better – probably because I already knew her story from the previous book, which made it easier to connect with her.

But there’s a part of Kat’s story that bothered me a lot: she’s one of those “chosen” characters, a reincarnation of a goddess, heir to an all-powerful witchy family, has THIRTEEN strong, sexy men pledging their undying allegiance to her, can influence others with her will, and more. The only thing that saves this problem from overwhelming the story is the fact that Kat is remarkably unimpressed by all these people trying to stash her into their pre-determined roles and fights her “destiny” on every turn. She’s uncomfortable with the responsibility and power that is thrust her way.

And a word on her grandmother: I know not everyone’s grandma bakes cookies and offers warm hugs, but Kat’s grandmother is one scary, manipulative lady. Again, I really like that Kat doesn’t just roll over and let her have her way.

All in all, this was a slightly-too-long second instalment of a series that is actually published in smaller parts. I’m not too sure how this works. But I’ll be looking forward to the next collection of those parts because I like Kat and I really want to know how the things will turn out now.

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Would you read a series-within-a-series like this? It reminds me of those novels from the 19th century which were published in the newspapers first and only later as a whole.

 

Tough Travels – Named Weapons

tough travelsI’ve been looking for another feature for the blog since Thursday Thoughts have gone on hiatus for a while. I try to come up with discussion posts and personal tidbits, but I really like memes with a small number of participants, because this means that everybody checks out everyone’s posts (in theory) and I get to “meet” new blogger people. I’ve also been looking to incorporate more fantasy into this blog as I’ve been reading loads of romance (I need some dragons to balance out all the hearts, in other words). Without further ado, this is my first Tough Travels post – I might not participate every week, but we’ll see.

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This is a weekly feature on Fantasy Review Barn. Nathan chooses a topic from The Tough Guide to Fantasyland and participants are supposed to make a list of occurences from the wonderful world of fantasy. YAY LISTS!! I’ll try not to be too obvious in my choices but I haven’t read any really obscure fantasy…

This week’s topic is: NAMED WEAPONS – the weapon should be a) named, b) famous, or c) sentient. Here goes.

  1. stingSting from The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. HA! What happened to not being obvious?! There’s a number of named weapons in Tolkien’s work, of course – even the Ring could be counted as one – but Sting is really cute. Plus it was used to kill icky giant spiders. (Image credits)
  2. Oathkeeper from The Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin – again, I could have chosen Ice or Needle, but I really like Brienne.
  3. The Wicked Sisters from The Lies of Locke Lamora – these are Jean Tannen’s deadly hatchets. I love how lethal Jean is despite being a big softie. I also have to reread this series. Twice.
  4. Riptide/Anaklusmos – the pen/sword from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I think this would be my weapon of choice (if I knew how to wield a sword… which I don’t), as it transforms into a pen. Handy, right? It fits into your pocket – but it would be kind of dangerous if it was summoned accidentally while still in said pocket.
  5. The Sword of Gryffindor from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I like that it doesn’t belong to any one person and that it can be called upon for help by true, brave Gryffindors!

I’ve tried really hard to think of weapons that don’t fall into this sword category, but apart from the One Ring, I really can’t come up with any. I’ll probably read all your wonderful lists and smack my forehead and go curl under my desk in shame, but there you have it.

I remember all sorts of poisons, though, but I don’t think any of them count as famous. Fitz from Robin Hobb’s novels was quite a master poisoner… Can a person count as a weapon? Probably not the point here, otherwise I’d have to make another list of cool assassins. Maybe some other time?

kissBut I should perhaps mention the one weapon that always works against evil, or so Grimms’ (and Disney’s) fairytales would have us believe: a true love’s kiss. Ah, yes. *sigh*

(Image credit)

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Can you think of any non-sharp famous weapons?

What are your favourites (sharp or not)?