Title: Hobb’s Cottage

Author: Ruth Saberton

Pages: 36 Pages

The Blurb

When Phoebe Summers moves to an idyllic Cornish cottage, dark deeds from the past quickly begin to cast sinister shadows across the present…

“Spooky, evocative and so poignant. The perfect autumnal bedtime read.” Chrissie Manby.

“Gave me real shivers!” My Book Shelf.

The Review

Hobb’s Cottage is a story that is based on historical events; events that could have happened in any town or village. The story is about a woman named Tilly who was accused of witchcraft because she was pregnant and lived alone. A few hundred years later a heartbroken Phoebe rents the cottage where Tilly lived. In a strange coincidence their lives are paralleled and Phoebe is haunted by Tilly’s memory and knows she has to right the wrongs of the past.

For such a short story Ruth Saberton packed a whole lot of themes into Hobb’s Cottage; themes of magic and witchcraft, loss and also a theme of prejudice to name just a few. The most enduring theme for me had to be one of loss; loss of love, loss of a child and also the loss of innocence. You cannot help but feel heartbroken for both Phoebe and Tilly that were both left by the man they loved and both lost a child.

It is strange because they were both the villain of the piece. They were both mistresses, breaking up marriages because of their lust but they are also the characters that we feel the most empathy for. It was rather clever of Saberton to choose to write a book like this. It was also very brave. Chances are we could have adopted the attitude that both Phoebe and Tilly got what they deserved. Yet we never think that. Kudos for the writing skills there Ruth Saberton.

Hobb’s Cottage by Ruth Saberton is available now.

Follow Ruth Saberton (@ruthsaberton) on Twitter.

Hobbs Cottage

The Blurb

Adam Higgs is a loser, and he’s not okay with it.

But starting as a junior in a new high school seems like exactly the right time to change things. He brainstorms with his best friend, Brian: What will it take for him to take over Nixon Collegiate? Adam searches for the A-listers’ weak spot and strikes gold when he gets queen bee Sara Bryant to pay him for doing her physics homework. One part nerd, two parts badass, Adam ditches his legit job and turns to full-time cheating. His clients? All the Nixon Collegiate gods and goddesses.

But soon his homework business becomes a booze business, which becomes a fake ID business. Adam’s popularity soars as he unlocks high school achievements left and right, from his first kiss to his first rebound hookup. But something else is haunting him—a dark memory from his past, driving him to keep climbing. What is it? And will he go too far?

How to Win at High School‘s honest picture of high school hierarchy combines with an over-the-top, adrenaline-charged story line, and Adam’s rocket ride to the top of the social order (and his subsequent flameout) is by turns bawdy and sweetly emotional.

The Review

How to Win at High School is a story of a young man called Adam Higgs; a self-confessed loser. After moving to a new high school he makes it his mission to change this fact. He plans to get the pretty and popular kids to like him…and he succeeds. With entrepreneurial skills that could rival Sir Alan Sugar (or if you are reading this stateside – Donald Trump) he wangles his way into becoming a god, a legend at his high school. Known by the moniker “Pizza Man” his capitalist connections make him a fortune, land him a hot girlfriend and put him as an integral member of the school’s highest social group. But can Adam “Pizza Man” Higgs maintain this status?

So from reading the premise, the story sounds promising. It is a classic underdog story. And How to Win at High School is an easy read. Despite being 490 pages long, I read it in a day. Granted some of the chapters were only one line long but still it is a testament to how well written the book is.

My problem with How to Win at High School is that Owen Matthews has not made a very likeable protagonist. At first you sympathise with him. High School isn’t easy and you are made by those who walk into popularity like it is their God given right to do so. Ah the social hierarchy of high school – the scourge of many. However, as Adam descends into the dark dirty world of his underhand business he becomes arrogant, cocky and I am gonna say it – a bit of an ass! He destroys he relationships with his greed, he can’t seem to put a stop to his business and he begins to act like he is invincible. It is hard to feel empathy with him because – like I said earlier – he is an ass.

How to Win at High School reminded me a little of Youth in Revolt. Adam Higgs is similar to Nick Twisp with his scheming and his wheeling and dealing. Or even a modern day more creative Ferris Beuller but he just wasn’t likeable and I personally like to like my protagonists.

How to Win at High School is an easy book to read and it is interesting so I would recommend it. I would actually suggest giving it to a reluctant reader but make sure you watch them after they have finished just in case.

How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews is available now.

How to win at high school

Hello Erin. Thank you for joining me today on LisaTalksAbout to talk about your fabulous new book Somewhere Only We Know.

As you know, I recently read this book and fell completely in love with it. You probably get asked this a lot but where did the inspiration come from to write Somewhere Only We Know?

I didn’t have to look very far for inspiration as my best friend was also a Russian-born, London-based lady and spent several years in and out of hearings about her visa status and her rights to stay in the UK. Like Nadia in the book, my friend had lived here all her known life, and spending years knowing that at basically any time she could be deported – dragged away from her friends and her partner – was horrible. And eventually, she was. I knew I wanted to write a book where the main character was inspired by how amazing and strong my best friend was through it all, I just wasn’t sure what the story was until the character of Alex wandered into my head one day. His downtrodden, mopey Britishness was a perfect foil to the get-up-and-go of the Nadia character who had been brewing for months. And a love story was born, haha!

Immigration is a particularly contentious issue at the moment. Was it a conscious decision to have it as the central theme in Somewhere Only We Know?

Immigration is definitely a hot topic – one that’s grown even hotter since I first started drafting Somewhere Only We Know. You hear about “30,000 Romanians” about to migrate to London, and when you already can’t fit on the buses that take you to work in the morning, or you can’t get your child a place in a school within ten miles of your house, it’s definitely acceptable to be concerned. What I tried to get across with Nadia and with Somewhere Only We Know though was that we should never lose sight of the individual. 

London is as much a character as Alex and Nadia in Somewhere Only We Know. You describe the city beautifully. Where are your top recommended spots/favourite places to visit in the Big Smoke?

I do love London. It’s a very special city. Like Nadia, Alex and co I spent my early twenties living there and there definitely is no better way to experience it! “Nadia” has very helpfully written a series on hidden secrets of the city, but those of the “usual suspects” that definitely shouldn’t be missed are a walk along the Southbank (maybe down to Shakespeare’s Globe! You can sometimes get on-the-day tickets for £5!); grab something tasty at Borough Market; grab a gin at the Ten Bells pub in Whitechapel and muse over who Jack the Ripper really was……

Do you have a particular writing process?

I have a full-time job so my writing gets slotted in wherever and whenever it possibly can! I do spend a long time turning a story over in my head before I move to a notebook, jotting down a giant mess that would make no sense to anybody but me. So I’m usually quite confident in the story and its characters and progression before I actually begin writing and as a result my first drafts are super clean – neither of my novels have materially changed from first draft to publication – they just get tarted up a little! 

What piece of advice would you offer to the budding novelist?

Try and write something – anything! – and read every single day – any athlete would exercise, and so should you. 

So, what is next for Erin Lawless? Can you give us any clues on your next project?

I’ve just moved onto the “notebook” stage of my new book, so we’re a long way from land with it yet! What I can tell you is that I am completely in love with my main character, Lacey (probably because she is the character closest to me that I have ever written, heehee!). It’s a romcom all about the fall-out after a couple decide to make a list of all the celebrities they’re allowed to sleep with. Let’s just say one half of the couple takes it more seriously than the other…

Thank you for speaking with me today.

Thank you so much for having me!!

Somewhere Only We Know by Erin Lawless is available from 11th June 2015.

Follow Erin Lawless (@rinylou) on Twitter.

Somewhere Only We Know

The Blurb

A laugh-out-loud romance from the bestselling author of the Shopaholic series.

Meet Audrey: an ordinary teenage girl with not so ordinary problems.

Aside from her completely crazy and chaotic family, she suffers from an anxiety disorder which makes talking to her brother’s hot new best friend a bit of a challenge.

But Audrey has a plan to help her face her fears and take on the world again. First stop: Starbucks.

The Review

Shhh. Come closer. I’ve got a shameful secret to tell you. Are you ready? Ok, here it goes. I have never read a Sophie Kinsella book. Ever. Until I read Finding Audrey, I was a Sophie Kinsella virgin.

What a book to pop my Sophie Kinsella cherry.

Finding Audrey is about a young girl called Audrey (funnily enough) who has suffered a major setback in life. An incident so bad that it made her leave school and spend time in an institution for her mental health and anxiety problems. Now Sophie doesn’t really go out, she doesn’t communicate with anyone but her family and her therapist and she refuses to take off her sunglasses both in and outdoors, come rain or shine.

It is safe to say that Audrey has issues.

The story, although having mental health at its core is a really uplifting story about the slow and everlasting process of healing that mental health sufferers go through. The added element of it being a young girl who is suffering kind of hits a nerve; mental health isn’t singularly centred on a particular gender or age or social group. It can happen to anyone.

I really enjoyed reading Finding Audrey. Kinsella’s easy style of writing is engaging. The one thing that I wanted more from the story was to know the details of the incident that caused the mental health decline in Audrey. However, as much as I want to know I also completely understand why the reader wasn’t given details. In real life issues that lead to mental health problems can’t be quantified and what one person sees as a massive issue others may feel that it is trivial. Kinsella made a smart move by not revealing everything…as much as I am nosy and want to know.

This is a great story for anyone who thinks that they may be suffering from anxiety but also for anyone who may not have an understanding of mental health problems.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella is available now.

Follow Sophie Kinsella (@KinsellaSophie) on Twitter.

Finding Audrey

Title: Heroes

Author: Robert Cormier

Pages: 144 Pages

The Blurb

A provocative story about the return home of teenage war hero and war victim, Francis Joseph Cassavant. He is forced to confront his past – the youth leader he idolised and who betrayed him, and the girl he still loves. The book gets to the heart of human nature and the moral issues and choices we have to make. This is published in 1999 and re-issued in 2014

The Review

I needed to read Heroes by Robert Cormier because it is on the WJEC high school English curriculum. I work in a high school and the GCSE literature students studied it this year and are likely to next year. However, I hadn’t read it and was pretty much useless in their final revision lessons. Instead of stressing out about it I figured I should just give it a read. At only 144 pages I could have it finished in an afternoon. I’m awfully glad that I read it.

Looking at the book from a purely pleasurable read level Heroes is really good. Our protagonist, Francis Cassavant has returned home after serving in the Second World War. At only 18 years old he has been witness to more death and destruction than he cares to admit. After forging details on his birth certificate Frances is sent to a war that he was far too young to be in. He left for war a boy and returned a man. Disfigured and harbouring guilt, Frances has come home with one mission. That mission is murder.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

On an academic level, Heroes is a great book to dissect. Themes of heroism, brotherhood, forgiveness and what is right and what is wrong all feature heavily. It is easy to understand why it is a GCSE book to read.

If you like historical fiction – especially if it is set during wartime – then you must give Heroes a read. It is a book you can finish in a day but one that will leave you thinking about morality long after you have finished it.

Heroes by Robert Cormier is available now.