Cats, politics, and a mystery

I’m a sucker for a cat, so when I spotted this fabulous cover I had to have a sneak peek at the debut novel. Luckily the author was happy to share an extract (scroll down).


Theo Duncan is just an ordinary student. Except he also happens to be the son of the Prime Minister, Will Duncan. When the parliamentary mace is stolen from inside the Houses of Parliament, Theo is determined to help his dad get it back. But he can’t do it alone. And when help is offered, there’s a problem. It comes from the new girl at school, Sammy Jhor, who’s a supporter of the opposition party. 

Theo and Sammy form an unlikely team to spy on government officials, sneak through the corridors of Downing Street and pursue the thief through the Palace of Westminster. But when the evidence points to suspects at the highest levels of government, finding the thief could threaten Will Duncan’s leadership. 

Can Theo and Sammy put aside their differences to find the mace – and the thief – before the government is brought to its knees? 

So here is the extract

When Theo decides to go to the Palace of Westminster to investigate the theft of the mace, he’s surprised to meet Samira Jhor on his way in. Sammy, the new girl at school, was also present during the theft of the mace. Theo knows her as a rule breaker and he isn’t pleased to find her muscling in on the plans he has made for a tour with Rupert Spencer, the government’s Chief Whip.

As Theo approached the entrance to Portcullis House, he heard running behind him.

‘Hey!’ someone shouted behind him.

He turned around to find Samira catching up to him, out of breath.

‘I waved at you from the bus, but you didn’t see me,’ she said between puffs.

‘What are you doing here?’ he said.

‘I could ask you the same.’

Theo fought the heat rising in his cheeks. ‘Working on my Citizenship project.’

‘Me too.’

Theo suspected she was just saying that because he had, but he didn’t dare challenge her. Was she there to investigate the missing mace too? Her mum had thought she would try to get involved and here she was. She didn’t look like she was there for something as serious as investigating a crime or even for school work. She had changed out of her school uniform. The hems of her long black trousers were ripped, the torn ends trailing on the ground. Her long-sleeved black top was pulled down over her hands with holes for her thumbs to poke through, just like her school jumper. A silver chain necklace swung down almost to her stomach. She had scooped her hair into a loose ponytail. A piercing through the top of her ear was now visible, but her red streaks were mostly hidden. She looked like she should be at a gig.

‘Well?’ she said.


‘Come on,’ she replied with an impatient sigh.

The whole wall of the building was glass, with a revolving glass door. Theo caught sight of his reflection in the window and stood up taller. He glanced at Samira as she pushed into the revolving door, wondering how he was going to get rid of her. Without thinking, he followed behind her into the revolving door and they got caught in the same tiny cubicle. Samira scowled at him over her shoulder then pushed on the door. It didn’t move. Theo leant over the top of her and pushed. He was so close that the hair in her ponytail tickled his chin. They scuttled around quickly as the door gave and propelled them forwards.

They stumbled out with a clatter. Samira turned deliberately to glower at him. He shrugged in what he hoped was an apologetic manner.

A security guard waited for them at the end of an airport-style security scanner. They loaded their bags into trays and pushed them on to the conveyor belt towards the scanner.

‘So what are you really up to it?’ Samira asked quietly.


‘If you say so.’

Theo bristled. He was on the point of asking her what she was up to, but she went on ahead, out of whispering range.

As Samira went through a metal detector, Theo searched behind the wall of glass separating them from the main hall. It was a glass-covered piazza. Light from the glass ceiling bathed the people congregated below, their heads bent together, talking intently. It streamed through the trees that lined the middle of the space, creating dappled shadows on the creamy stone floor. It looked like a Mediterranean town square.

Rupert waved at him from the other side – he was on time. Like the last time, he wasn’t wearing a jacket. Theo suspected this was part of his look. It was a ‘man of the people’ look, unlike his dad’s, who was always formal, to suggest leadership and competence.

‘Hi, thanks,’ Theo said as he reached Rupert. ‘This is Samira,’ he said, as she came up behind him.

‘It’s Sammy actually,’ she said.

‘Pleasure,’ Rupert replied. ‘Are you coming on the tour as well?’

‘No,’ Theo said as Samira said, ‘Yes.’

‘I’ve got somewhere to be first. I’m meeting someone.’ She started to hurry away. ‘I’ll catch up with you later.’

Theo watched her with a deep scowl. Who could she possibly be meeting?

The first mystery for me is where does the cat on the cover come into the story? I’m pretty sure it must feature so I reckon any cat loving youngster will lap this up (get it? a cat themed joke – I feel like Basil Brush here – boom boom!) Anyway, I never discuss politics, so I’m going to stay on neutral ground on that point.

About the author

Sarah Lustig grew up in London and went to school in Westminster, with politicians’ children. Her experiences at school and interest in politics inspired the idea for the Westminster Mysteries series. Mystery in the Palace of Westminster is her debut novel. She has been a book editor for nearly 15 years and now lives in Buckinghamshire, where she spends her time reading, writing and pottering on her balcony garden.

Why writing is like coffee.

As you know, I do lots of school visits. And one of the questions I’m often asked (along with the random qs like “What’s your least favourite food?” – it’s custard if you’re curious), is about my writing process from idea generation to finished book. And, like the kids I meet, I’m really nosy about the writing process for other writers. Get a group of authors together and conversation is sure to turn at some point to the big debate: are you a plotter or an pantser. Which is why I read so many writing books. Anyway, today, I have Bonni Goldberg with me, author of The Write Balance: How to Embrace Percolation, Revision & Going Public. So here she is …

I’m especially delighted to be here on Mum’s Book Blast because it speaks to my own identities: I’m a mum, a writer and my debut picture book is coming out in Fall, 2023. I’m even part of a FB group especially for mums who write. I see a lot of overlap between my Mum Self, my Writing Self. Much like being a mum, being a writer is a joy and an endless series of negotiations to achieve balance. And when I say balance here, I don’t mean all at one time, like two sides of a scale. In The Write Balance, it’s about not neglecting time and attention to, or creating a hierarchy from, each aspect of being a writer, especially percolation, revision, and going public.  Percolation is everything that takes place before you put ideas into written words. I know so many writers that judge themselves harshly as “not writing” when they’re percolating. They say, it doesn’t count as writing if I don’t put out words. But with a slight shift in perspective, it becomes clear that there are no written words without percolating first:

(from The Write Balance pp. 14-15)

However you do it, the point of percolation is to let the little cells of the idea gather, divide, and multiply in order to sustain life and energy outside of your thoughts, to coalesce into something that isn’t crushed by written words or blown away by your busy mind. Once the idea has introduced itself, but before you decide to explore it in writing, it needs to take hold and brew in your body and psyche. Something new has stimulated your system. It’s full of the potential to grow into a life separate from you. Like any seed, if the idea is forced into the light of day too soon by impatience or expectations, it shrivels. I’ve lost pieces because I’ve confused inspiration with ripeness, because I was afraid I’d forget the idea if I didn’t get it all down right away, because I made keeping to my writing schedule more important than the writing. It took me a long time to learn that keeping an idea inside for a while helps me to slow down, adjust my expectations, and respect my ideas. 

Edna O’Brien once said, “Writing is like carrying a fetus.” Just as a fetus first grows amphibian-like gills and a tail before it takes its final human form, so a piece of writing first needs to develop into a pre-written state in the world of the psyche. Percolation is the incubation time, but there’s no standard gestation period like nine months for a human baby or twenty-one days for a chick. You can’t predict that it will take six weeks for a short story to grow or twelve minutes for a poem. You might percolate for ten minutes or ten years. One of your Writing Self’s roles is to live with your ideas, get to know them, and intuit when they are ready to see the light of words. 

One way you can tell an idea is growing is that you notice other events or images in the world or in your memory that connect to your maturing idea. When I was living purely with the idea of writing an essay about making borscht, I saw a relationship between me scavenging my fridge for the ingredients and a mouse in my kitchen foraging for crumbs. That connection ultimately affected the tone of my piece.

Back to me.

This is EXACTLY what I say to the kids when they ask me about my process. I let ideas percolate. Actually I use the word “fester”. But given my caffeine addiction, they are probably percolating. I tell them that some ideas fester for ages, for example, I still want to write a story about a lighthouse, but it’s been on my list for about 3 years now. Almost as long as my friend has had “Grout bathroom” on her list.

Anyway, if you’re interested, here is more info on the book.


Bonni Goldberg’s The Write Balance introduces you to alternative perspectives and motivation for lasting creative fulfillment. This companion book to the beloved bestseller, Room to Write is filled with encouragement, tools, examples and exercises.

Through years of teaching writing in workshops and in classrooms, Bonni has seen that the writers who are most passionate and grounded in their Writing Self embrace three aspects of the writing process: nurturing ideas, revising to best communicate those ideas, and completing the writing cycle by going public.

In this powerful guide, Bonni invites you to explore these creative stages which are essential to satisfying your Writing Self.

Use The Write Balance to:

  • Find Fulfillment as a Writer
  • Explore Creative Writing
  • Add to Your Writer’s Toolbox for Perspective
  • Overcome Writer’s Block
  • Teach Creative Writing
  • Inspire Your Writing Group
  • Give as Gifts to the Writers in Your Life

About the author

Bonni Goldberg is the author of The Write Balance: How to Embrace Percolation, Revision & Going Public, the companion book to the best-seller Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life. Bonni is an award-winning poet and writer. She is the creator of the 2 Minute Journals™ series. Both traditionally and indie published, her books include non-fiction for adults and fiction and non-fiction for young readers. Her essays and blog posts can be found in numerous print and online publications.

Bonni teaches creative writing at colleges and leads writing workshops internationally for all ages. She knows everyone is creative, and she supports people to discover and share their authentic, meaningful and imaginative experiences through words. Whether through her writings or through teaching, her methods and perspectives continue to empower thousands of adults, families, and children.

Bonni is also a Jewish educator. She speaks, writes, and leads workshops on Jewish topics such as Jewish identity, rituals and antisemitism at Jewish women’s events, JCCs, and conferences. 

Bonni Goldberg lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner in life, and some creative projects, artist Geo Kendall.

Got a messy sibling problem?

It’s my stop on this fabulous book tour today and I’m really excited! Why? My favourite poem to read when I do school visits is “Messy Room” by Shel Silverstein. I act it out and it’s always a huge hit. So this new picture book, How Messy, by Clare Helen Welsh and Olivier Tallec really appealed.

When I read it, what caught my attention was how the situation with the two characters, Dot and Duck, could be used to help siblings sharing a room with each other when one is very messy, and the other is not. This reminded me of sharing with my sister – I’m not going to tell you which one is me, but I bet you can guess!

It is a super simple story with very few words, so ideal for the youngest of pictures book readers – perhaps the older sibling could even read it to the younger sibling? I would have definitely read it to my sister (yes, I’m the older one, but I’m still not telling if I was the messier one!)

I have to comment on the lovely colours used in the illustrations – very traditional English beach holiday. And having rediscovered the staycation – I approve!


Dot and Duck are best friends, but Dot hates mess and Duck hates tidy. Duck leaves the bed unmade, the cupboards open and breakfast everywhere. How messy!

In the morning, Duck makes Dot pancakes for breakfast, how kind! But Duck leaves a BIG mess! At the beach, Dot carefully lays out her towel and picnic… and Duck digs a big hole covering everything with sand! SO messy!

Characterful watercolour illustrations bring this story to life, and big font makes the story easy for young readers. How Messy! is a simple yet hilarious story with a touching ending and an important message about accepting differences and learning to compromise.

About the author and illustrator

Clare Helen Welsh is a children’s book author who lives in Devon with her husband and two children. In 2013 Clare won the The Margaret Carey Scholarship for Picture book Writers and in 2014 she received the silver medal at The Greenhouse Funny Prize for her debut picture book Aerodynamics of Biscuits. She teaches primary school and has over ten year’s experience in Early Years and Key Stage One education.

Olivier Tallec’s work has been called “sensitive”, “stunning”, “breathtaking”, and “beautiful”. Tallec was born in Brittany, France, in 1970. After graduating from the École Supérieure D’arts Graphiques in Paris, he worked in advertising as a graphic designer, after which he devoted himself to illustration. Since then he has illustrated more than sixty books

Looking for a new family cookbook

I’ve been looking forward to sharing this with you. And the middle of the school holidays seems the perfect time for a family cookbook. I’m really old school with my family cookbooks – i.e. Delia – and most of my books are more Ottolenghi-esque with 18 million ingredients and big flavours, so my nosy instinct kicked in to see what another family eat on a daily basis.

So any book that starts with pictures of Scotland and a section on casseroles is off to a good start in my opinion. Then the recipes dot around all over the place – we go straight from stews to noodles. I guess your taste buds will either love the variety or get very confused. It’s like one of those “pot luck” dinner parties that were all the rage in the 1970s – “do you want a bit of beef stroganoff to go with that greek salad?” Anyway, considering it is a hotch-potch of recipes, there isn’t a single one that I wouldn’t happily serve, and my family happily devour.


Cook it Eat it Live it is written by Jo Kenny, food writer and owner of
In this first publication, Jo offers readers a vibrant and varied collection of recipes inspired by both travel and family ties to the UK, Japan, Guyana, the Caribbean.

This delicious collection of every day recipes satisfies appetites for light bites, indulgent dinners, fresh sides and delicious desserts.You’ll find a spectrum of dishes from rich, earthy flavours to fresh aromatics giving you meals to enjoy year round. All recipes are firm favourites in Jo’s own household and cooked regularly. This is family style, every day inspiration to ensure no more boring dinners.

Recipes are punctuated with stories of travel, food inspirations and a personal philosophy of enjoying food unapologetically. Cook it Eat it Live it is about finding happiness in the little things and injecting some joy into every day life through wholesome, exciting meals.

About the author

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Jo is a food writer from Bedford, living with her husband Alex, newborn son and Kimchi the cat. Her website was founded in 2012. Starting out as a personal space to capture cooking and food adventures, it has evolved into a public hub for recipes, cooking guides and food inspiration. Jo is passionate about fresh ingredients eaten joyfully, intuitively and adventurously. 

Inspiration for a business?

I’m always looking at ways to use books for cross-curricular activities, and I reckon Molly Mack, Private Detective would be perfect to start a conversation about entrepreneurship, something I’m passionate about. Our school has a very popular after school club to encourage entrepreneurship and I could see myself using Mollie’s files to demonstrate the importance of systems, her backpack to demonstrate the tools needed, her fee structure for pricing etc.

But I digress, I’m supposed to be reviewing the book. This was pitched as MG/ YA, but to me the plot, simple language, and large print was much more suited to a younger age group – I’d say 7-9. It’s 215 pages long, but a quick read – I’d guess about 35k words. And for that age range, it’s a great fun read – reminded me of the Secret Seven books (and my first ever book club with my friends).

If this sounds good, you can win an ebook here

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


Mollie is excited! 

She has been a private detective for six months, and FINALLY a BIG case has landed on her desk. If she solves it, it will make the papers and make her agency famous. She needs to give it her full attention; but she already has three cases she is working on. And when she gets an unexpected lead in her oldest case, she HAS to run with it.

About the author

Linda Dobinson was born in Croydon but grew up in Barbados – endless sunshine and never to far from the beach. She has worked in fashion, the motor industry, and been a PA.

In the 90s she picked up her pen and started writing poetry. Her work has appeared in poetry magazines, and for two successive years she had poems selected for the anthologies Southern England and South-West England. Her second collection Encounter reached the top of Amazon’s poetry charts. Since then she has started writing middle grade novels and has discovered that immersing herself in a plot is a great distraction from a pandemic.