Meet me at Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Issy Randal works in admin at a cut-throat real estate agency. She loves baking, having been taught by her grandfather, a passionate baker, whom she adores. Taking cupcakes to work, sharing with her friends during her commute and living a steady, peaceful life, Issy is satisfied with the way her life is going. Her grandfather is now older and needs help. She brings him to London from Manchester, where he lived all his life, so that he is near her in a nice nursing home. The only sad thing in her life is that her beloved granddad seems to be losing his memory and knowing that she can do nothing more to help him or to change the situation.

She has been seeing Graeme, one of the top guys at her work, although they had not gone open about it as office romances were not exactly encouraged. Issy had been comfortable in her easy and safe job. Issy is jolted out of her complacency when she is fired from her job, as a result of cut-backs. She is further hurt because clearly Graeme knew and did not feel the need to let her know. Not just that, she realized that everybody in the office knew that Graeme and her were going out, and Graeme knew they knew, and yet insisted on continuing the charade. Humiliated, and disillusioned, she walks out of her job and her relationship and finds solace in the cakes she bakes.

Shutting herself away in her house, stuffing herself with cake, and trying to forget the world, Issy is depressed and totally down.

Pushed by her friend Helena, she steps out tentatively and ends up leasing a place to open her ‘Cupcake Cafe’. But of course nothing is as straightforward as one would wish for. She finds opposition where she least expects, and help as well, from unexpected quarters.

So will she be able to translate her passion into business? Or will she go down in business, the same way she went in her previous career. You’ll have to read it to find out, but I guarantee you’ll have a blast along with Issy on her journey.

Issy’s story is interwoven with her friends and colleagues’s life and as you read it, you can’t but want everything to work out for everybody. The book also has recipes, written in a wonderfully quirky style. And the food descriptions are guranteed to have you drooling. So much so that I was itching to bake and ice cupcakes as I read the book.

A nice, fun read, something light for a summer evening read. Not so light on the tummy though, because it made me crave for all the cakes described there!

A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller by Frances Mayes

Not having read Mayes, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, I had no expectations from this book, apart from the fact that TGND loved it, which itself was good enough for me. I wanted to read ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ first, but am still on the waiting list, so decided to go with this one first.

Frances Mayes goes around the world, well, not exactly the whole world, Western Europe, to be more accurate. She and her husband Ed, travel to Spain, Portugal, France, South of Italy, took a cruise on the Aegean Sea, touched North Africa, visited England and Scotland, chronicling their journeys with vivid descriptions of the places, the people, and most importantly the cuisines.

Reading it was a wonderful experience. It took me a longer than usual time to finish this book, because I kept going back and re-reading passages. It made me yearn to go to all those places and live like they did. Rent a house, buy at the local supermarket – which incidently, I always wish for when I am on holiday. Somehow, I always feel like that – that grocery shopping in a place, makes you feel at home. Even in India, when on holiday, I wish I had a kitchen all to myself and could shop and cook- and this coming from someone who normally does not like to cook, is a big thing.

They got invited into kitchens of restaurants, got themselves cooking lessons, rented houses on the internet, only to be thoroughly disappointed when they got to see them- at times. And at other times, loved the accommodation to bits. I loved the way she picked up interesting things like vintage baby clothes for her grandson. I was especially chuffed to read about her visiting some of the places that I had been to and loved. Her descriptions of food, were just fabulous! I found myself wishing that I had it in me to try things out of my comfort zone.

While it was a wonderful book in many ways, I did feel that she was a trifle too judgemental about tourists, especially those on the free cruise that she went on, for instance. It was a little off-putting at times. Despite that, I would still re-read it. It is a very interesting and captivating read.

I would certainly recommend it to people who like to travel(and try local food), but it is a rather verbose book, so it might put off some.

84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

I own TGND a big thanks for pushing me to read these 🙂 I had heard about them , but never got around to picking them up. TGND gave me that push to go and reserve them, and was I glad!

84 Charing Cross Road is the collection of correspondence between Helene Hanff, an struggling writer with a taste for antiquarian books, and Frank Doel, a buyer for Marks and Cross, booksellers in London. Her initial query for a rare book turned into a series of correspondence that spanned 20 years.

The correspondence evolved into a wonderful friendship between Helene and Doel and other staff members as well. During the shortages in England during the Second World War, Helene’s thoughtful food parcels and Christmas presents lifted everybody’s spirits. The relationship between them grew with the correspondence covering all sorts of topics ranging from concern for staff members to recipes. Even other staff and Doel’s wife started to write to her. The letters are absolutely lovely to read.

The twenty year correspondence came to an end when Frank Doel passed away in 1968. Helene did not make it in time to meet her old friend, having put away coming to England to meet other urgent expenses in her life.

A wonderfully charming book. Helene’s wit, her feisty spirit and her generosity shines through. The struggling author who manages to forge a wonderful enduring friendship with the booksellers across the Atlantic is sweet, charming and leaves you feeling very good about the world. A classic, which I am sure to read again and again.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

My copy had the sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road as well – double bonanza!

After years of yearning to visit England, Helene finally makes the trip to London in 1971 after the success of 84, Charing Cross Road. Ironically, it is after the massive success of 84, Charing Cross Road, that she manages to travel to London, which she had been dying to visit. Too late to meet Frank Doel, she does meet his wife and daughter as well as a host of people whose life had been touched by her.

She also goes to Oxford, Eton, Stratford Upon Avon, places she always wanted to visit. Her delight and excitement comes through in her memoir. At one point some one asked if she were planning to buy something to take back, and she retorted that, buying something would mean a few days less in England, which was absolutely not an option for her.

Recounting her time in England, her wonderful sense of humour and her genuine happiness at being there, her passion for British history as well as the love and affection with which everybody welcomed her, was so wonderful to read.

A lovely, heart-warming read! I would have loved for it to go on and on!

Trafficked – My Story by Sophie Hayes

Another heart-wrenching book. Makes me wonder why I read such stuff, and then reminds me that hopefully books like this will make me,at the very least, more vigilant and aware of things that could go wrong.

The true story of a British girl forced into the sex trade.

Sophie grew up in a troubled house. Her father had no love for his children, but her mother more than made up for her husband’s lack of interest. Her father’s disinterest and her parent’s eventual separation took a toll on her and it took her a while to come to trust men.

She started working, and was leading a regular life in Leeds, when Kas came into her life. He came as a friend, and stayed her friend for a while, even when he was away in another country. He would call and talk to her and she came to rely on him for a shoulder to cry on, for helpful advise, everything we would turn to our friends for.

At a stage when things weren’t working out for her, Kas suggested that she come over to Italy for a short holiday. Arriving in Italy, everything seemed perfect. Kas was gentle, caring, as he always was.

At the end of her break, when she was about to return to England, everything changed. Kas changed from the caring, gentle man, to a controlling person. He told her that he was in debt and she would have to help him – because he loved her, and that was the least she could do. She was supposed to sell her body to earn the money for Kas. She was told that if she tried to run away, her siblings back in England would pay the price, and he knew where they lived. He asked her to call home and tell her mum that she had decided to stay on in Italy. On hearing this, her mother told her that if she ever needed help, all she needed to say was ‘How’s Aunt Linda?’. That was to be her code words.

Terrified of Kas, Sophie worked the streets, braving dangers, believing that she could do nothing to escape. She got punched, hit , abused by Kas when she tried to protest. All the while, trying to remain cheerful whenever she called her family, so that they did not get suspicious. She lived in her own personal hell, not knowing who to reach out for help until she lands up in hospital and gets to contact her mother and asked after Aunt Linda.

Her mother and step-dad came to Italy and rescued her, but it took her a long while to feel safe. She was still terrified that Kas would follow her. She was right – he did come after her. Eventually he did get captured by the police. Even after his capture, Sophie’s horror was far from over. It took her a while to overcome what she went through.

It was a shocking, stomach churning read. Drives home the fact that it is indeed very easy for a person to get trapped into a situation like this. And in an abusive situation, the victim loses the will to fight back, and starts believing everything that the abuser says. Sophie was a regular middle class, educated girl, working in a good job, and yet, her emotional baggage made her vulnerable to Kas, who took full advantage of her situation. The assumption that trafficking mainly happens to poorer people in poorer countries is broken by Sophie’s story.

I have to say, I have immense respect for Sophie to have the courage and determination to overcome all that she faced and publicly talk about it. It took her five years before she felt safe enough to talk about her story. Reading her story was sickening enough, so I can’t even imagine how painful it must have been for her to relive it all for the book, but hopefully her story will make people aware of how vulnerable our own loved ones could be, and maybe watch out.

A heart-breaking story, one that makes you cry, but one, that I feel needs to be read. Sophie has set up a foundation – The Sophie Hayes Foundation raise awareness of human trafficking and modern day slavery. As they have mentioned, on the website,

Sophie’s story is a stark reminder that trafficking is not something that happens far away to someone else.  It happens everywhere.  Sophie is someone’s sister, she was one of the girls from your school, she is someone from your work.  Sophie could be you.

That is why, I feel, it is a book that needs to be read.

The Love Verb by Jane Green

Steffi is a chef in a vegan restaurant in New York. Being a rock chick, and living a life on her terms, Steffi is the worry of her dad, who wishes she settled down.

Mason is a publisher who frequents Steffi’s restaurant, and is about to move to London. He wants somebody to look after his dog while he is away.

Steffi’s sister Callie, an exuberant mom of two, is busy with her life in the suburbs, happy balancing her family, and her photography business.

Lila, Callie’s best friend, has finally found the man of her dreams, is in her forties.

Walter, Callie and Steffi’s divorced parents, don’t see eye to eye. Walter to the point, where he refuses to be in the same room, as Honor, their mother.

Living their own lives,engrossed with everyday things until Callie is diagnosed with cancer – again. She had battled cancer, four years ago, and they were about to celebrate 4 years of cancer free life, when it hits again. This time even Callie seems scared. Everything changes overnight. Everybody rallies around Callie and her family, and the way the power of love works, is so heart warming.

A touching book, which has you in tears. It makes you realize how life can change in a minute, and when it does, I suppose that is when the power of love truly affects one. The premise of the book is that love is a verb. It’s a doing thing. What love does to Callie and the people around her. How the love that they have for her, changes lives in unimaginable ways.

A very touching read. It broke my heart and then mended it up as well. A sad, sweet, hopeful, beautifully written story.

The book also has recipes, very interesting vegan recipes, which I had planned to try out, but that unfortunately never happened.