The Start Of Something Wonderful by Jane Lambert #Minireview

thestart

Length: 364 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal buy link for the book

What they say: It’s never too late to follow your dreams…

Forty-year-old air stewardess, Emily Forsyth, thought she had everything a woman could wish for: a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, a designer wardrobe and a dishy pilot boyfriend. Until he breaks up with her…

Catapulted into a mid-life crisis she wishes she’d had earlier, she decides to turn her life upside-down, quitting her job and instead beginning to chase her long-held dreams of becoming an actress!

Leaving the skies behind her, Emily heads for the bright lights of London’s West End – but is it too late to reach for the stars?

The Review: This is the story of Emily, an air hostess who had the lifestyle she wanted, until it all fell apart. I settled into it easily and felt for her as she tried to figure out what to do next.

I was rooting for Emily as she went job hunting and tried not to giggle as door after door was slammed in her face. This book was choc full of inspiration and life lessons, as Emily decided to change everything up and study and work to become an actress. Her classes made me smile as did the characters that were vivid and bring and fun.

The book delved between being a good descriptive read, with plenty of locations that were picture perfect and comedy that made you smile. The pacing was very good, with roadblocks and stumbling blocks arising at every turn. There’s also a lovely italian/ foody element for those that enjoy it (I did!) Definitely one for people who want the feel good element and I totally enjoyed. Thanks so much to Netgalley and HQ Digital for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

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It Had To Be You by Keris Stainton

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Length: 240 pages

Please note as always the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Twenty-five-year-old Bea is a hopeless romantic with a hopeless love life – until now. New beau Dan ticks all the boxes: he’s good-looking, kind and thoughtful. The complete opposite of Bea’s ex, who once threw her out in the middle of the night when she was ill so she didn’t disrupt his sleep.

So when her friends point out that she and Dan don’t have fireworks, Bea ignores them. Dan is the whole package. And yet Bea can’t stop comparing him to her best friend Henry… Because Dan doesn’t get Bea’s jokes. Or like books. Or make her laugh until she can’t breathe. Or become speechless when Bea puts on her favourite black dress for a night out…

As time goes on, Bea can’t shift the feeling that something just isn’t right. On paper Dan is the perfect man. But in reality… Will Bea be brave enough to ask for more from life – and get the fireworks she deserves?

A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for fans of Giovanna Fletcher, Cate Woods, and Mhairi McFarlane.

The Review: You might remember I raved about Keris Stainton in my review for ‘If you Could See Me Now’ (review here ) and said I had to had to had to get back to her other books. After reading this I totally stand by that comment!

It is the story of Bea, who has decided that a guy she meets, Dan, is actually the man of her dreams. There’s a bit more to this than meets the eye but it may make my review a spoiler if I say what the full premise of the book is, given that it’s not in the blurb, so I’ll skip on by! Bea is that chick lit character that you have to love, she’s odd and properly quirky, with a running commentary in her head as she goes around (loved it!).

We meet  her lovely (lovely!) workmate, Henry (they work in a bookshop, which was excellent and gives rise to loads of actually hilarious incidents). I smiled from very early on in the book and settled in quickly, totally savouring every-single-word. I adored the conversations Bea and Henry had on couples entering the bookshop, trying to decode every movement, every word to see if they thought they were long term or not and loved then how these thoughts seeped into her own dating life. My only beef would be that there’s a lot of characters in it, which I’m normally a huge fan of, but to be honest at times I found there to be too many people in her friend circle and I got confused.

I really can’t tell you too much about it all, there’s plenty of brilliant humour, some gorgeous romance and settings that are so vivid you’re there with Bea as she muddles along in a manner so realistic that you’re cringing, empathizing and getting mad as if it were you or someone you knew! All in all a great book, and at the moment only £0.99, so I’d go get to be honest!

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton

ifyoucouldseemenow

Length: 223 pages

Please note as always the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Izzy Harris should have it all – but her boyfriend has been ignoring her for months, she’s been overlooked for a promotion, and the owner of her local coffee shop pervs on her every time she has a craving for a salted caramel muffin.

Then an unexpected turn of events gives her the boost she needed.

Suddenly Izzy has the confidence to do all the things she’s never dared: dump her oblivious boyfriend, turn the tables on catcallers, and put herself forward for a big pitch at work. Having to work closely with gorgeous colleague Alex is just an added perk…

But then her best friend has her heart broken, the pitch is way more complicated than expected, and Alex is keeping secrets. Does Izzy have what it takes to help her friend, save her career and get the guy?

A funny, feel-good read about finding yourself – and love – when you least expect it, for fans of The List, Just Haven’t Met You Yet, and Hot Mess.

They review: Don’t you hate when, after you’ve read and ADORED a book, you think ‘I wonder if (said author) has any other books out, and they’ve tons that you could have read and devoured before this? This is what happened after I read this book, thanked my lucky stars that I had, and signed up to Keris Stainton’s newsletter for more news of upcoming releases. I think you’ve guessed by now how much I ADORED this book (people who don’t like gushy reviews, hide … NOW!)!

The book starts with Izzy Harris finding out that the biggest and oldest client of their firm is shopping around and so the people of her company need to up their game and pitch to keep them sweet. Izzy has been told she’s always just on the periphery, never quite seen, and so she needs to prove to everyone that she’s capable and not just a background player.

Izzy is possibly one of my favourite characters in some time. It’s very difficult to still adore a character who has or feels they have, been let fade but Ms. Stainton has given us a lead character who is so lovely, with none of the ‘poor me’ or other people constantly talking about how perfect she is, when she isn’t (a regular thing in so many books!) Actually the characterisation in this book is spot on, in particular her best friend Tash was the perfect mix of bright, viviacious, loud and human, and made me laugh (out loud -me, the prude!) and Alex was excellent too. This leads me to another huge pull of the book, that Izzy had people to lean on. In a lot of books authors feel they need to alienate every last person to give the lead a properly rough ride, but there was enough drama (oh the drama!) to keep it all moving very well.

Actually (sorry, I knew this review would be all over the place!), the comedy was excellent too, there’s very few books that do really keep their promise of being ‘laugh out loud,’ but in particular, the bit of the book that I can’t speak of because it isn’t in the blurb, but which makes it so different  and is, really its USP (hence the reason it should have been in the blurb in my humble opinion!) In this part, Izzy does something that EVERYONE would love to do to get back at her boyfriend, and it was so funny, that I snorted!

Even though its predominantly a comedy, there are some amazing touches, and the author is great at looking at Izzy’s journey and how she feels about her life before, and now in this situation, and plants her feet firmly at a crossroads, and there were some beautiful moments.The thing that happens, is also done amazingly (I’m so sorry about this, I just don’t want to do spoilers!)

This is a book about someone who wonders how and why everyone else seems to be better than she, a book that looks at how people can get into a rut, and inspires said people to do something about it. For people who aren’t fan of rom coms, they may reconsider their stance, for people who are, well, they’ll be excited and happy to have found this, a book that will make them smile, laugh and make them nod along. A sparkling triumph! Thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for this perfect treat, I mean book, in return for an honest review.

Rating: most defintely 5/5, and definitely in my end of year ‘best of’s.’

Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett @orionbooks

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Length: 304 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

AS FEATURED ON THE GUARDIAN – THE HEARTWARMING EBOOK BESTSELLER

Forty-something Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems. But beneath his grumpy exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world… for good.

The Review: A blurb such as this, a cover such as THAT, and reviews that were spread across Twitter stating what a lovely, heartwarming read this was- well, there wasn’t any chance I was going to pass up a chance to review Calling Major Tom, was there? Given that Space Oddity would be one of my favourite ‘sit and ponder the world’ type songs (I don’t get a chance to do it often, mind you;)), I ran for this one.

The blurb doesn’t give much away, but this is the story of Thomas Major. Thomas is one of those grumpy, witty characters that make you nod along. You know, as far as journeys go, that he has to go on one, and yet, you have the feeling he doesn’t have to travel too far. Physically, however, Thomas Major goes on one heck of a journey- as, as a result of an unfortunate mix up (done brilliantly, I just had to laugh!), Thomas Major is chosen (on the day David Bowie dies), to go into space.

At the same time we meet a family, fronted by Emily, who’s too young to front a family, but who has to, due to issues with her nan, Gladys, who was just so gorgeous. We hear the voices of each of the different characters and wander along with them, wondering how this can all possibly get sorted in the end. Their story made my breath catch a few times, as I waited for the crossover between Thomas’ (dubbed Major Tom by the media) story and theirs (well, you knew it had to come, didn’t you?). One thing I would say is that the point of view and day could change without it being addressed and that put me off a little at times but this wasn’t too big a deal.

I won’t give away too much but I will say that the comedy made me snort out loud, and I was quite emotional at times too. To describe it I’d have to say if you like films such as Little Miss Sunshine you’d be quite on the mark for loving this book and I’ll probably pull it out again in the future for a re-read. Thanks so much to Orion books and Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5

Perfect Mayhem: The Perfect Disaster Series by Aimee Horton

perfectmayhem

Length: 216 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Bridget Jones’s Diary meets The Nanny Diaries in this Amazon UK Best Seller!

The only thing Dottie Harris loves more than her gin & tonic is her family. Most of the time. From her hapless-but-well-meaning husband to her two energetic bundles of joy, Dottie certainly has her hands full. And she’s tired. So tired.

With quips like “How do sleeping babies know the minute you sit down?” this modern-day diary will have you laughing—when you’re not crying with empathy, that is!

Dottie tells it like it is: the good, the bad, and the eternal piles of dirty laundry.

Previously published as Survival of the Ginnest

The Review: So you’ll know already what a huge fan I am of Aimee Horton’s (Review of Survival of The Christmas Spirit is here ). I adore her straight cut tell it like it is humour about family life and generally finish her books wishing I had another of hers close to hand so I could keep going.

As you can see above it is Dottie Harris’ story and  is pretty much told through social media-so the way you’d see someone’s Facebook posts. I loved this idea but had to admit to being a little disappointed at the fact it was just her posts and not the resulting comments that came underneath. That being said it made it read like a series of one liners, and such a fast, enjoyable, easy read that it was more like finding a magazine that had something enjoyable on every page.

In terms of content it seemed like this book was tailor made, with references to The Apprentice,Dragons Den, Project Runway and One Born Every Minute and then Katy from I Can Cook and ‘hello puppy calling,’ making me almost jump around in excitement (what that makes me I don’t know!) The humour was spot on and the scenarios were such that I nodded along, in some cases experiencing similar occurances as I read! This is one for the parents whose kids sometimes drive them nuts, then minutes after making them wonder when bedtime is, want to hug them and tell them they love them. It’s for people who appreciate houses which are manic and crazy and messy and loud but always fun. Really really enjoyable and I can’t wait to get to Ms. Horton’s next book:)
Rating:5/5

 

Cover Reveal! Excess Baggage by Laura Barnard

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Please note the cover image leads to a pre-order link for the book

💙LAURA BARNARD COVER REVEAL & GIVEAWAY!💜

How beautiful is this cover of Laura’s latest romantic comedy, Excess Baggage?  It’s out on the 23rd and you can pre-order now here

Details of giveaway below.

What they say:

Stuck in a dead-end relationship, Erica Bennett finds herself daydreaming of her first holiday romance. She was fifteen, it was exciting, new and full of possibilities…and Jack Lawson was hot as hell. That kind of thing leaves a mark.

So when her friends suggest a girls holiday to Luna Island, it’s exactly what she needs to take her mind off things. What she doesn’t expect is to spot Jack – a much older, hotter version of him – across the hotel lobby.

Their attraction is still there and it isn’t long before sparks fly, but fifteen years is a long time. They aren’t the same people they were back then and besides, it’s only a week, right?

Is it a second chance at something real or will their excess baggage ruin their shot at love after they leave Luna Island?

Buy here

Add it to your Goodreads here

 

GIVEAWAY!

thumbnail_Cover Reveal Giveaway!!

Head on over to Laura’s facebook page to enter her cover reveal giveaway to be in with a chance of winning an ARC of EXCESS BAGGAGE and a £5/$5 Amazon gift card.

Connect with Laura

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3490836.Laura_Barnard

The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard by Robert Bryndza

thenotsosecret

Length: 310 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Coco Pinchard always dreamed of being a successful writer, but then life got in the way. She married young, had a son, and put her dreams on hold… But now she’s forty, and her first novel is about to be published! Her husband Daniel has greyed nicely into a silver fox, and her son Rosencrantz is all grown up. Shouldn’t it be time to enjoy life?

That is, until the annual family Christmas when her hideous in-laws come to stay, and Coco opens her gift from Daniel. It’s not the jewellery she chose, but an iPhone. This marks the start of Daniel’s mid-life crisis and Coco catches him in bed with a younger woman.

The iPhone becomes a confessional, and as Coco’s life unravels, she documents her seemingly endless (and often entertaining) run of bad luck through emails to loyal friends Christopher, an ageing trustafarian, and Marika, a slightly alcoholic schoolteacher.

Then Coco meets the hunky Adam and she’s back in the world of dating as a single forty-something. Read the emails that tell the heart warming and often hilarious tale of Coco picking up the pieces, in this fun, feel-good Romantic Comedy.

The Review: I had heard so much about this series of books from Robert Bryndza, in the first instance from  Facebook posts Bookaholic Holly from Bookaholic Confessions (excellent blog-check it out) and, always being in search for chick lit I was very tempted but then I Read The Girl in the Ice and The Night Stalker and Mr Bryndza was somehow cemented in my brain as a thriller writer and so that was it. Then one day I began to see different parts of the series on special offer and started to buy them up. One of the first books that jumped out at me when I signed up to Kindle Unlimited was this book and  I saw it as a sign that I had to cop on and get moving (yes I do put this much thought into books!).

So, I’ve always loved reading books where you find out what’s happening through emails or a diary and this was no exception. We begin with a description of Coco’s  christmas that had me ready for a great book from the get go-“Rosencrantz” ( that’s Coco’s son) “picked up his nan, Ethel, from her nursing home, and she began with the usual, ‘This might be my last Christmas’ before inviting herself for Christmas next year, and Easter, and Mother’s Day … ”

The book sees Coco, author (yay!) of Chasing Diana Spencer, an, um, alternative look at the royals, who is doing some book promo and hoping her book will hit it big. After a perceived too frank interview, Coco is shunned from the book world and has to try to figure things out. Throw into the mix some issues with her husband Daniel and her son, a struggling actor and you get pacing and a story that keeps your eyes glued to the screen. The characters were exellent, I’m not going to mention  too many but Ethel was epic (and I don’t use that word lightly), in particular there was a gorgeous  letter that she wrote to Rosencrantz (who I also really enjoyed) that I re-read after,  and Chris was so lovely, and of course Coco was such a legend, strong and inspiring. The most excellent thing about this book was how brave it was, it didn’t just make you smile, it made you giggle, titter, and snigger too! It was very much in the ‘Carry On’ style in places, and yet the perfect balance of seriously over the top inappropriateness was equaled with good old fashioned ‘it’s the way you tell em’ humour. I loved it all and can’t wait to get to number 2.
Rating:5/5

The Cinderella Reflex by Joan Brady

thecinderellareflex

Length: 338 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon Book link 

What they say:It’s time to stop waiting for prince charming and rescue yourself

No matter how strong and independent Tess Morgan appeared on the outside, she was always let down by her inner five-year-old – who persistently believed that one day her Prince would come.

Real life is tough. For Tess, her job with struggling local radio station Atlantic 1FM is very tough. Between dealing with the demands of her megalomaniac presenter Ollie Andrews, her neurotic boss Helene Harper and the crazy workload associated with her role as producer on the This Morning programme, sometimes she just wants someone who will make all the problems go away.

Helene, meanwhile, is having difficulties of her own. Coming up to her fortieth milestone birthday, her career has taken a wrong turning down an unpleasant cul-de-sac and she’s becoming impatient for the day when her married lover will make an honest woman of her.

Things go from bad to worse when Atlantic 1FM is suddenly bought over by mogul Jack McCabe, who immediately launches a competition for a new star at the station. Soon nerves are frayed and friendships strained as everyone battles to keep their jobs.

Tess gets back in touch with the ex she still thinks of as The One Who Got Away. Helene tries to pull strings with her influential lover.

But what will it take for both women to stop playing Cinderella and find a way to launch their own rescue?

The Review: I had seen both this book and the author, Joan Brady at the Wexford Literary festival and it had gone on my tbr straight away and so I was beyond thrilled to be offered it for review. But instead of starting with the beginning of the book, I’ll move to a little bit before that and turn to the dedication:

‘For Vera, who inspired me to write in the first place with these words of wisdom: “All you have to do to get good marks in English is to make things up.”‘

which, straight off the bat, I found to be so charming, and so, smiling, I settled down to read, happy to get going.

Tess Morgan is struggling at her job at a radio station. This setting was excellent, as we got a real feel for day to day events and issues and the problems that will kill a good, or indeeed sometimes average shows. These shows are more the problem for Tess, along with a highly strung presenter, Ollie Andrews, who she is charged with managing. This was coupled with the daily chore of dealing with her boss, Helene, who is constantly on her back, a falling listenership and talk of a takeover. The book is very much character driven and there were some characters I loved and others I didn’t warm to as much, but I loved that we got to know Helene too, that it wasn’t just Tess’ opinion of her.

The whole book had a lovely homely feel to it, very Irish, and I read it in two nights, very much engrossed and unable to put it down, in fact I was loathe to put it down and would easily have read in one night had I been able to. I predicted some of the occurrences and was thrilled when they happened exactly as I hoped they would. This was especially true for some of the comedy moments, which I really enjoyed.

At times there were a few niggles, some repetition in terms of wording, but that could have been me being a little pernickety. My other  issue turned out to be quite a big one for me, that perhaps it felt a little like I’d read it in the wrong time, I felt that I’d have connected with all of that better a few years ago during the recession as opposed to ‘post recession’ (I know we’re not fully post recession but for some reason I just couldn’t reconcile this with the present day).

Even though the subject matter is one that could potentially and rightly cause debate, how talented, intelligent women don’t fulfill their destiny because they’re waiting for their prince to rescue them, I found this to be a very enjoyable, light, easy-going read, one for people who like some homely, charming comedy.

Thanks so much to the author Joan Brady, Poolbeg and to Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary Agency  for the book in return for an honest review.

About the author

joanbrady

 

Joan Brady is is an award-winning Irish journalist and broadcast producer. She started her career as a features writer and newspaper columnist for Independent Newspapers and later worked as a researcher, producer and scriptwriter for RTE, Ireland’s national television and radio station.

The Cinderella Reflex is her first novel and is published by Poolbeg press

Her second novel, Reinventing Susannah, also published by Poolbeg, is coming soon!

Joan is represented by US-based Tracy Brennan from Trace Literary Agency

Find her on:

Facebook

Website

 

The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

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Please note that the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say:

**Take a trip to the Yorkshire village of Burley Bridge, where a very special little cookbook shop is about to open its doors…**

In the beginning…

Kitty Cartwright has always solved her problems in the kitchen. Her cookbooks are her life, and there isn’t an issue that ‘Cooking with Aspic’ can’t fix. Her only wish is that she had a book entitled ‘Rustling Up Dinner When Your Husband Has Left You’.

Forty years later…

On Rosemary Lane, Della Cartwright plans to open a very special little bookshop. Not knowing what to do with the hundreds of cookbooks her mother left her, she now wants to share their recipes with the world – and no amount of aspic will stand in her way.

But with her family convinced it’s a hare-brained scheme, Della starts to wonder if she’s made a terrible decision. One thing’s for sure: she’s about to find out…

Lose yourself in Della’s world of food, family and friends. The perfect read for fans of Trisha Ashley and Carole Matthews.

 

The Review: I picked this book by chance purely on the cover and the title (I know, I know), I mean talk about hitting the spot! Little did I  know that this came from one of my top authors, Fiona Gibson (read my review of one of my favourite rom coms ever: As Good As It Gets here )

This is the story of Della Cartwright. Della lives for her family and tries her best to help anyone she can. We meet her at Rosemary cottage, her mother’s house and family home, where all is quiet following the death of her mother, Kitty. She is in shock, as she has become accustomed to driving over to visit her mother in the hospice every single day and is standing in a kitchen that hasn’t seen the amazing cooking it used to, even though it still sports the hundreds of cook books that previously brought it to life.

Now, as I said, I didn’t know that this book was written by Fiona Gibson, and it was a departure from her other books in that it was written with language that was a bit more flowery, and more descriptiveness in the surroundings, where her other books seem to be solely concentrated on humour and dialogue (although of course we are aware and sucked into the setting too!) I’ll tell you at times I wasn’t sure of the language. There’s this horribly thin line in descriptive chick lit (as I call it), where the language crosses the line to become slightly too flowery, and while it was stunning, this happened a few times here, especially as the story was so good, that of Della, struggling with her mothers death, surrounded by some pretty awful siblings, and a husband who seems to be drifting away from her. Her daughter is leaving home, and Della is lost. Cue (sound trumpet!), pretty much my favourite idea to come from a book, that of a book shop that sells only second hand cookery books. I mean, could you imagine it?

I found myself dreaming of such a shop, where so many cookery books are so freely available, at prices that aren’t as horrific as in mainstream book shops. Brilliant! I loved the interactions between Della and her husband, adored Della’s personality and strength and vivaciousness when things hit the fan, lived for the set up of her shop, including her ideas for set up (a ‘Cooking in Difficult Circumstances’ shelf was mentioned, which is pretty much my life in the kitchen!) and enjoyed the other secrets that inevitably unfolded.

All in all I really, really enjoyed, but as I said missed a little bit (there was a lot there, but not the full barage I’m used to)  of Fiona Gibson’s trade spark and ‘take it as you see it’ness. Saying that I’m in for the long haul and can’t wait to get back to Fiona Gibson’s many other books (see them here). Thanks so much to Netgalley for the book in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

Extract-Better In The Morning by Fern Ronay

Following my review of Better In The Morning yesterday (see review here), I’m thrilled to give you an extract of the book. Thanks again to the author for the book in return for an honest review and of course for the extract! Remember it’s only $0.99 at the moment!

betterinthemorning

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Length: 293 pages

Note: The cover image leads to an universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Veronica Buccino has a plan: marry John DelMonico and quit her soul-sucking job as a lawyer. And when he tells her he has big news, she’s certain he’ll pop the question. But instead of proposing, John informs her that he’s moving to London.

Heartbroken, Veronica feels lost. Salvatore and Antoinette, her dead grandparents, begin to visit her dreams in an attempt to steer her in the right direction. At their suggestion, Veronica takes a news reporting class, which leads to a challenging freelance assignment covering a conspiracy trial. She also begins dating an unlikely suitor: creative Syd Blackman.

Just when her love life and career are looking up, Veronica is tossed back to square one by an event that makes her question all her new choices.

The Extract:

“‘Overnight parking. Ten dollars an hour.’ That’ll cost ya a pretty penny,” Grandpa Sal said.

“‘Intermix. Sale.’ Look at that. They’re havin’ a big sale,” Grandma Ant pointed out.

I sat between my grandparents in the back of a cab. It was impossible to go two blocks without one of them reading a sign aloud.

“‘P.J. Clarkes.’ I knew a P.J. years ago. Peter Joseph. The Scarpettas. Nice family. Owned a butcher shop.”

I was squished, my knees high up as my feet rested on the hump in the middle.

“‘Haru.’ That’s that sushi stuff you like, right, Veronica?” My grandmother patted my leg. “She enjoys her sushi, our Veronica. Gah bless her.”

I studied the back of her head as she looked out the window. Her tight, white curls were sprayed in place.

“Why don’t you try sushi, Antoinette?” my grandfather teased.

“Why don’t you try it, Salvatore? Big shot. I’d like to see ya try that raw fish.”

My grandfather laughed without making a noise, his chubby hands on his big belly as he cracked himself up. “With a little gravy, a little mozzarella, I might like it.”

I smiled at the pronunciation. “Mootzadel,” I whispered to myself. My non-Italian friends always laughed at how I said it.

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” My grandmother leaned past me to look over at my grandfather.

“‘High-End Home Furnishings.’” My grandfather pointed. “That’s where they try to sell ya a ten-dollar vase for a hundred dollars. They call it high end.”

I laughed. I had bought a hundred-dollar vase there when I moved to the city.

“They got some beautiful stuff,” Grandma Ant countered.

The cab stopped at a red light, and I sat up to stretch my back. My grandmother took that opportunity to push my long, brown hair to the side and rub my back. The woman can’t keep her hands off me.

We were on our way to get cupcakes. I reminded myself that, technically, I was sleeping. And technically, I wouldn’t really eat a cupcake. And technically, my grandparents were dead.

But it all felt real—the cupcake, the cab, my grandparents—and technically, that was all that mattered.

I looked up as the light turned green. On our next visit, we’ll be discussing the big news.

“Right here,” I told the taxi driver as we pulled in front of The Cupcake Shop on West Seventy-Second Street. We hopped out without paying the cabbie. That was how it worked there—the waiters and waitresses and taxi drivers on the other side never expected to get paid. Grandpa Sal would say that was why they called it Heaven.

As my grandmother and I surveyed the selection in the glass case, my grandfather tapped my shoulder. “They don’t sell cannoli here? What kinda bakery is this?”

“Oh, um…” I looked up at the blackboard menu above the counter. “Nope. Sorry, Gramp. They have really good cupcakes though.”

“Cupcakes? Who wants a cupcake?”

“Don’t listen to him, Veronica,” my grandmother said. “He’s a pain in the coolie. What are you getting? I’m gonna have the red velvet. My friend Ruth was here with her grandson last week and said the red velvet is out of this world.”

“I’ll have the red velvet too,” I said.

My grandmother ordered, and as we left with our cupcakes, she stopped at the condiment bar to grab a handful of sugar packets. Before I could say “Gram, seriously?” she shrugged. “What? For my coffee later on.”

At restaurants, she used to take the leftover bread from the basket, wrap it in a napkin, and stuff it in her pocketbook. It mortified my mother and me, but she would say something about living through the Great Depression and ‘going without’ and ‘It’s a sin to let it go to waste.’

In front of the bakery, the three of us squeezed on a bench that I couldn’t recall ever having seen there before. My grandfather bit into a cannoli that came from I don’t know where. Another reason they call it Heaven.

The weather was perfect—a clear, crisp day, cool in the shade, warm in the sun.

I hope the weather is just like this tomorrow night.

“It’ll be like this tomorrow night,” Grandma Ant said. She was concentrating as she slowly pulled off the wrapper of her cupcake.

“I’m excited, but I don’t want to say too much,” I said. “I’m always afraid of jinxing things.”

I thought I heard Grandpa Sal make a noise. A “Ha” or a “Huh.” I turned to him as he furiously wiped cannoli powder off his sweater.

“Did you say something?”
“Me? No.” He wiped faster.
I peeled the wrapper off my cupcake and took a big bite. I closed

my eyes, enjoying the sun on my face as I worked my mouth around the perfect combination of cream cheese frosting and moist red cake.

“Look out!” my grandfather shouted.

I bolted up, eyes wide open. “What the fu—” I caught myself. “What?” I swiveled my head up and down the street and turned to look behind me toward the bakery, but I saw nothing amiss.

“That biker almost slammed into that car over there.” My grandfather motioned to the street with a jut of his chin.

“Or ya could say the car almost slammed into that bike rider,” my grandmother said.

“What? Stuff like that doesn’t happen here.” I looked around, still trying to find the biker and car in question.

“Nah, but ya know”—my grandfather held the cannoli wrapper in a tight ball in his fist—“close calls are always good reminders.”

“Gotta brace yourself,” Grandma Ant whispered. “For what?” I asked.

“Ya know—this, that, the other thing. Life, Veronica. Life.” Finished with her cupcake, she ran her pinky along each side of her mouth, making sure her orangey-red lipstick was still intact.

I looked back toward the street. Couples were holding hands as they walked. Young mothers pushed strollers.

“I don’t want to hear that,” I said. “Don’t I brace myself enough? Aren’t I nervous enough? Can’t I enjoy this?” I let out a satisfying exhale. “Can’t I enjoy this cupcake?” I sat back and took another bite. I chewed slowly when I felt my grandmother reach over and start smoothing my hair. I tried not to flinch or swat, but I did a sort of ducking motion instead. “Can you—can you—just please, Gram. Can I savor this in peace? Please.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, sweetheart, of course. You enjoy.”

“You wanna have your cupcake and eat it too?” Grandpa Sal laughed. Grandma Ant laughed too.

I stifled an eye roll. “Yes.”
“Good luck, my little brasciole,” Grandpa said.
They know something. I can feel it, and I know I should ask them directly.

But I didn’t ask. Instead, I did the only thing I knew how to do up to that point: I ignored that uncomfortable feeling and focused on my cupcake. Cream cheese frosting is Heaven.

 About the author:

fernronay

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