Book Review: Single For The Summer.

cover111373-mediumThank goodness I was in the comfort of my own home while reading Mandy Baggot’s new book, Single For The Summer.

Had I been on a bus or a train, I would definitely have been that annoying woman people moan about on social media by constantly guffawing.

There was no keeping it in though; it’s a laugh out loud kind of funny, full of little quips (there’s even a reference to Donald Trump), weaved into a feel-good romance, perfect for the beach.

Here’s the blurb:

Tess Parks has made up her mind: love isn’t for her.

When it comes to dating she has one rule: after six weeks with a guy, she ends it. So when her heartbroken best friend invites her for a girly getaway in Corfu, Tess is sure she can stick to their pact to stay single for the summer.

But then she meets the gorgeous restauranteur Andras…

To keep his overbearing mother off his back, Tess agrees to pretend to date him. But as the two spend time together, Tess begins to realise that this fake relationship is starting to feel like the best one she’s ever had…

While I have been reading and enjoying some new authors lately, it’s so lovely to go back to a familiar favourite.

Even though Mandy’s books always feature different characters and stories, I already know I love her writing style and that I’m in for a treat – and Single For The Summer is certainly that.

Tess’s six-week rule, which results in some truly cringe-worthy situations, comes from having her own heart broken.

Witnessing her slowly heal makes for some really touching moments, especially when they are set against such a beautiful backdrop.

As it says on her website “Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu” and that shines through in this book where we are taken on a lovely tour (thank you Andras).

Having holidayed there myself, I was able to picture the warm, sandy beaches, glistening azure sea and green, rugged mountains perfectly but even if I had never visited, Mandy’s descriptions would have been enough.

If you’re looking for a book to take away with you, I’d recommend this one – as long as you make sure you sit far from other people while you’re reading (just in case your guffaws are as loud as mine).

Format: Kindle.

Price: £4.99.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

With thanks to Ebury Digital (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.

Book Review: How To Stop Time.

cover110718-mediumThere is a poignancy to Matt Haig’s riveting new novel, How To Stop Time, that almost seems to gently seep from the pages and gather, like a fine mist, around you.

I’ll be honest and tell you that, at the moment, I’m quite a lazy reader (see sleep deprivation). I don’t want to work too hard for my entertainment – and reading a book where the story is one thing but you know that it’s clearly about something else, something much bigger, probably wouldn’t be my first choice.

In Matt’s case, though? I’d be willing to do hard labour.

Not that this book feels like a difficult read; the story flows easily and the only thing hard about it is putting it down. His prose is beautiful and honest and while it feels wrong to say I enjoyed it when the story made my heart ache, I was charmed by it.

I can completely understand why the film rights were snapped up so quickly.

Here’s the blurb:

‘I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.’

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.

Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

This is Matt’s first book for adults in four years. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about his writing is that he not only seems to have an innate understanding of humanity but he can translate that to the page, for whatever audience he is writing for, in a way that is so vivid.

The story switches between past and present and, if I didn’t know better, I would think he had experienced those different historical periods in person because he made it so visual (has he just given himself away?)

I’m not going to say too much more because I think its one of those books where people will take different things from it – and I don’t want my experience to influence yours.

I will say that if you’re not already a fan of Matt Haig, you will be after reading How To Stop Time.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £5.84.

My rating: Four stars.

With thanks to Canongate Books (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest review.

Book Review: One Summer In Tuscany.

cover114921-mediumA visit to Tuscany would be amazing in itself but heading to that region of Italy to attend a creative writing course? Well, that would be the dream.

No wonder I was immediately taken with Domenica de Rosa’s book, One Summer in Tuscany, which not only features both of those things but also takes place in a rustic-sounding castle (sign me up!).

There is much to love about this book even though it’s quite slow to start and, for the sleep addled among us, it’s quite hard getting all the different voices, who take turns narrating, straight at first.

It reminded me of being on a rollercoaster where it builds and builds towards a dramatic and actually rather thrilling finish.

Here’s the blurb:

Patricia Wilson’s carefully composed ads for the writers’ retreat she runs at her thirteenth-century Italian castle promise so much. But while the splendour of their surroundings and chef Aldo’s melanzane never fail to wow the guests, huge maintenance bills and bad news from the bank threaten to close Patricia down. It’s make or break time for the Castello.

Each of her seven aspiring authors arrives with the inevitable baggage alongside their unpublished manuscripts. But this August something is different, and soon lifelong spinster Mary is riding on the back of Aldo’s vespa, and smouldering odd-job man Fabio has set more than one heart racing.

As temperatures rise, the writers gossip, flirt and gently polish their prose by the pool. But with ghosts, scorpions, and some unexpected visitors to contend with, one thing’s for sure: neither the Castello, nor Patricia, has ever seen a summer like this.

The story is skilfully told and not only offers great insight into Italian life but also the creative writing process. I was especially entertained reading the course participants’ efforts at the various writing exercises.

Of course, the setting plays a hugely important role in the book and the vivid descriptions of not just the castello but the places they visit on different excursions really helped to bring the story to life.

All the characters are well developed. There were some I liked more than others but the one I loved the most was Mary. Without spoiling anything it was fantastic to see a more mature character come into her own.

While the ending left me with a huge smile on my face, I did feel, however satisfying it might be, that it was just a tiny bit too perfect with everything sewn up so happily. I would have liked to have seen Patricia, in particular, taken on a different route.

Having said all that, it was an enjoyable read that only strengthened my love of Italy (and creative writing).

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p.

My rating: Four stars.

With thanks to Quercus Books (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.