Calling all budding entrepreneurs

You’re never too young to set up your first business, whether it’s the lemonade stand on the street or some fancy gaming app. My son has several business ventures up and running including break-time haircutting services for his friends at a bargain £3 (compared to £10 at the local barber shop). Sadly, the business plan collapsed as school were rather less than impressed by the resultant mullets and mohicans, but I was secretly quite chuffed with the initiative.

I’ve got a Creative Writing Workbook coming out in October, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the non-fiction world recently and was excited to be offered a chance to review the Creative Genius Journal.

Creative Genius Journal cover


The blurb says

With 9 challenges that build the skills to help inform and develop a child’s resilience, imagination, improve their creativity, encourage drafting, sketching, reviewing and self-correcting of information and ideas. These are important, as alongside problem solving and working with others, they are the skills they will need for their futures.

But to my mind, it offers even more; it encourages those first steps towards launching a business. The activities include things like design a piece of apparatus for an adventure playground (the next Dyson?), or create a character to advertise a new drink (very Sir Alan Sugar/ The Apprentice). Each challenge draws in lots of aspects but they’re broken down into fun, manageable chunks.


I want to have a go myself, but I’ve resisted and have a pristine copy to give away to one lucky reader (UK only, sorry).

You can enter here …

About the author

Susan O'Coonnor

Susan has taught for over thirty years in schools and colleges and has produced maths games and written several books for children and teenagers – ‘Mighty Memory Tricks’, ‘High Five Jive’, ‘Be Positive’ and ‘Creative Genius Journal’. These practical books are fun but have genuine educational benefit. Currently, she is writing for Bloomsbury Publishing.


Rocking the art

We’re well into the summer holidays now, so I thought it was time for some arts and crafts. Given the amazing weather, it had to be outdoorsy too, which means ROCK ART! My extended clan ranges from 5 to 15, so finding activities for all can be a challenge but this was a huge hit with everyone (including granny and grandpa).

We gathered the rocks on a hike (we’re currently up in Scotland and hiking daily, to some teenage mutterings). The 5 year old had ambitious plans that left his dad looking like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill in Greek mythology. The others had more modest sized selections. Back home, we decorated them using these

  • acrylic pens – I got a multipack plus silver and gold extra. The black ran out first, so next time I might get a spare as it was used to outline everything (I hadn’t realised that).
  • “>modge podge – we used the gloss finish but you can get matt if you prefer.

Several hours of painting and varnishing later, we had a large collection.

We then wrote the details of the local rock art FaceBook group on the back of each rock, to encourage people to share pics of when they found them, and hid them across the area (hike number two with absolutely no complaints from the teenagers). Just search for “rock art” to find the local group.

Here are some examples where we have hidden/ found rocks but there are loads of groups

Aboyne Pebbles & Rocks

Hidden Rocks Chichester


The next morning, I woke to demands of a repeat of the activity – result! More hiking, more art. Happy families 🙂

There was huge excitement as several rocks were spotted over the next few weeks and the finders very kindly shared pictures of their finds on FB, but sadly most of the rocks vanished without a trace. We consoled the kids with the fact that their art work was so good people wanted to take it home as treasure. If you do find any rock art, I would urge you to share a snap with the FB group as it really makes the kids’ day.





Exciting new YA cover reveal

This is upper YA so older than the books I usually spotlight, but I’m a fan of Madeline Dyer so maybe you are looking to top up the teenagers kindles (or your own) before you go on holiday. All I’m going to say to introduce the series is
So hot off the press, here’s a sneak peak at the cover …
You’re going to have to scroll down …
It is a reveal after all …
It’s worth it …
Bonus! I’ve put it next book 1 in the series coz I think they’re a great pair …
Dangerous Ones 1
Dangerous Ones 2
Title: This Vicious Way
Series: The Dangerous Ones, book 2
Author: Madeline Dyer
Genre: Dystopian / Action & Adventure
Audience: Upper Young Adult / New Adult
Publisher: Ineja Press
Cover designer: Molly Phipps at We Got You Covered Book Design

Viola Pumpernickel cover reveal

I recently read Viola Pumpernickel and the Emerald Lady, a middle grade Victorian mystery and thoroughly enjoyed it. But the cover was very different and although I rather liked the cameo, it definitely didn’t scream middle grade mystery. Now it’s sporting a brand new cover, plus a little bird told me that it was designed by a 14 year old! You can see more of her work here

Anyway, here are the before and after shots …. quite a makeover I reckon!

The Blurb

Viola is a people-watcher. She loves to sit on the step of her father’s bakery in Brookwater Lane, creating stories about the weird and wonderful folk who pass by. Her father is secretly impressed by her big imagination but her mother thinks it’s all a bit silly, really.

So, when Viola witnesses a terrifying robbery late one evening, her theory as to who is behind this dreadful crime is met with rolled eyes and disbelief.

Determined to prove that she is not as silly as everyone believes, Viola sets out to bring this villain to justice and show that she is more than just a girl with a wild imagination.

Together with her older brother, Teddy, her best friend, Flo, and the mysterious Emerald Lady, Viola uncovers a plot far more dangerous than anyone could ever have imagined in this exciting Victorian mystery.


“A gripping tale with twists and turns galore. You will root for Viola till the very end!” – Jennifer Killick, author of ALEX SPARROW AND THE BIG STINK and ALEX SPARROW AND THE FURRY FURY

“Mystery, intrigue and a fearless heroine. I love this book!” Anna Kennedy OBE

Purchase Links

UK –

US –

Author Bio

Jo Baxter Author Photo


Jo lives in West Sussex with her husband, daughter, two cats and 187 mugs. She does love a good cup of tea!

Having trained as an actress, Jo had written three stage plays (under the name Jo Smith) before realising her passion for writing children’s books.

Jo is the author of  ‘The Pumpernickel Mysteries’ series of books.

Social Media Links –      

Twitter – @thejobaxter

IG – @thejobaxter

Facebook – Jo Baxter Author


My favourite books of 2019 so far

Honoured to be included in this list, and have to credit the amazingly talented Chris Dickins for his narration of Eternal Seas. He’s already signed up to do the sequel 🙂


It’s hard to believe that we are half way through the year already but here we are. I wrote a post highlighting my most popular posts of 2019 so far but I wanted to do a post to show my favourite books that I have read in 2019 so far too.  It is by no means a fully comprehensive list but I honestly struggles to cut it down further.  I apologise if I haven’t used the correct genre for any books.  Reviews for all of these books can be found by clicking the links underneath.

So here they are in no particular order …..

Psychological/Crime Thrillers

Changeling, Lost Lives, Murder at Macbeth, The Flower Girls, Call Me Star Girl, The Puppet Show,The Passengers.


The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, The Little Vintage Carousel by the Sea, The Summer of Chasing…

View original post 103 more words

A summer bonanza of free kids e-books

Only got a paperback copy of Eternal Seas? This month it’s part of a bundle of books you can download for free through BookFunnel. If you’d like to check them out, here’s the link

If you haven’t used BookFunnel it’s super easy and I’ve used it loads so am happy to recommend it. You get a code which you type into your Kindle and the book pops up by magic.

Now I confess I haven’t read any of the others in the bundle yet, and they’re a bit of a hotch-potch in terms of age and genre, but hey, have a look. There’s nothing to lose! I’ve added Gladius and Shark in the Park to my own kindle.

Anyway, please do share the link, and don’t forget, if you’d like to grab a free ebook of Eternal Seas or any other book, this collection is only on offer until the end of the month.

Perfect for pony mad readers

A few years ago I had a mid-life crisis, and decided to learn how to ride. I came home from a lesson and admitted to my other half that I had accidentally bought a horse. It’s vey easy to do, I promise! Anyway, I was looking through a collection of my favourite books from when I was young and, even though I didn’t ride then, it turns out they all have a horse on the cover. I guess I was a pony-less pony-mad youngster.

Anyway, I’m now enjoying catching up on all those missed years of Pony Club. So when I saw Tabby’s Big Year, I was first in the queue for a copy and begging for an interview!

This is a properly horsey book. Lovely, kind, hard-working characters (with the exception of the baddie, of course), an idyllic setting and a classic horsey plot. There is a lot of information about horse care and exercising so it may bore a non-horsey youngster, but it was so carefully and accurately written that I devoured it and I bet any pony-mad youngster would too.

It is a sequel, but I read it as a stand-alone with no issues.

Here is my chat with the author, Hollie Anne Marsh. No surprises, but it’s about horses … and books … and more horses!

I see you’re now based in Barcelona. Have you tried riding in traditional Spanish tack?

No, I haven’t! I have been down to Seville in Andalucía a few times for dressage training and even here in Barcelona, I have ridden quite a few Spanish horses though – they are quite willing, comfortable to ride and have wonderful temperaments generally.

What’s your first horsey memory?

One of my first memories is riding my friend’s pony bareback and galloping him from the paddock gate to the feed shed. We would take turns and do this most days cheering each other on!

What are your top tips for parents of horse-mad children?

I think you shouldn’t force your children to ride. I was desperate to ride since the age of eight and I worked at the riding school to have weekly lessons. When I was fourteen, I got a part-time job so I could loan a pony. Since then horses were a motivation for me to be responsible and make a decent living. My friend that got me into horses, it was her mother that really wanted her to ride versus her… and my friend doesn’t ride now. I also think once kids are old enough, make sure they take some responsibility for their horses they ride eg grooming, cleaning the stable or paddock.

Have you sat your baby boy on a pony yet? We’d love a pic!

Yes. The first time he went alone he was scared and cried on my friends’ pony. The second time though he was smiling and looked quite proud of himself – probably after watching his mummy ride all the time. He also has had a sit on my horse Frieda once with me and another time tried to ride my instructor’s dog trying to imitate me!

Do you think there’s more we could we do to encourage boys into riding? (My son is the only boy in our Pony Club).

It’s funny in Spain there are loads of boys and men that ride. Riding is quite macho and different to the UK, or Australia where I am originally from. In the UK or Australia, the boys seem more interested in adrenalin or team/ball sports. I think the fun and exciting factor is a drawcard… also, team sports like horse ball could encourage them more. In Spain, they have a big horse ball scene actually.

Other than your own books, what are your top 3 books for horse-mad children?

I read Amanda Will’s Riverdale Story for the first time recently and I think it might just be my favourite modern pony book. She is a talented writer; her characters seem authentic and the story is a page-turner. I used to love Flambards when I was younger as it seemed so exotic and fascinating to me – the old English world of hunting (although also a bit cold and cruel). I was also was a bit obsessed with the Saddle Club series as it featured not only horses but ‘coming of age’ themes.

Which of your real horses inspired the horses in your books?

In Tabby’s Big Year, Tabby’s young horse Bliss is based on my horse now, Frieda. She is a 7-year-old, 16.2hand Oldenburg mare that I am training for dressage. I’ve used many names from horses I have known in Sweetbriars. Violet’s horse Spot is based on my last horse in Australia – although I made him Andalusian in the book, however, he has the same kind temperament and dark grey colour, with a peculiar white spot on his hindquarters.

I see a proportion of sales from the first book in the series goes to the RDA. That’s wonderful. Are you doing the same for the second book?

Well, the agreement was that I would contribute once I made a profit with the books, and despite it selling well on Amazon for its genre, I am still yet to make a profit. But I have made a personal donation to them. I hope that one day the series grows bigger (as it’s still in its infancy) then I can donate to the RDA in a bigger way.

Last q, and it’s really important! Who would you want to ride with – the Dothraki warriors in Game of Thrones or the Rohirrim in Lord of the Rings?

I think the Dothraki warriors – I just read that they have such a strong bond with horses, that they are born, fight, and die in the saddle. That sounds cool!

The blurb

After Tabby’s father vanishes, a deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister, is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.

Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family.
Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?


Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda.

Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail-riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage.

The Sweetbriars series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments!

Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had.
Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.






Purchase Links:

UK –

US –