Cupcake by Rachel Cohn
When we left Cyd Charisse in Shrimp, she'd just graduated from high school and turned down a marriage proposal from her coffee-slurping, vegetarian surfer boyfriend, Shrimp. Soulmates or no, she decides that she needs some time to follow her own dreams without being tied down to his. And those dreams are all pointing her squarely in the direction of culinary school in New York.
However, you know what they say about the best laid plans. Shortly after arriving in town, CC breaks her leg and winds up spending six weeks cooped up in her half-brother Danny's fifth floor walk-up playing Rear Window with the neighbors. Then, despite her family's encouragement (or pressure) to attend culinary school, she realizes that she hates it.
But despite her inability to handle school, CC is more ambitious than she seems. She gradually carves out a place for herself, helping to turn around a failing neighborhood diner, working as a clutter counselor for a crotchety neighbor, and helping Danny with his cupcake business.
Just when things are starting to work out, Shrimp shows up on her doorstep, his own dreams of surfing and painting in New Zealand having crashed and burned. And once again, CC has to make some difficult decisions about what she wants and where Shrimp fits into it all.
Cohn has done a good job throughout the series of maturing her characters realistically. What's more, she's taken on the fairly daunting task of crafting compelling storylines for a very large cast of quirky supporting characters. Fans of the series will enjoy seeing how Danny and Aaron's relationship works out, what happens to Helen and Autumn after graduation, and how Sugar Pie and Fernando are faring as newlyweds.
Like its predecessors, Cupcake is one big love letter to New York City and San Francisco, and Cohn's exhuberant details of the hard-to-find corners of these cities will make you want to hop on a plane and go on a quest for the perfect cup of espresso, bowl of noodles, or veggie burrito.