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

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 –








Top secret stuff from the amazing Celine Kiernan

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to have the fabulous Celine Kiernan on my blog today. I read Begone The Raggedy Witches last year, and absolutely loved it. And the sequel, The Little Grey Girl, was published recently.

She gets described by the press as “Ireland’s answer to JK Rowling”, but I really don’t think this does her justice. She has a magical quality to her writing – I’m more in the world of CS Lewis and E Nesbit.

Anyway, we had a little chat, although she did have to vanish up into the attic for a while in the middle, and here it is. How she didn’t end up a crime writer is beyond me – you’ll see what I mean!

What kind of stories did you write as a child?

Weird, dark, spooky stories, such as the one about the murderously xenophobic astronaut trapped on a crippled ship with the ghosts of the crew they poisoned and the hapless alien hitchhiker who was their intended victim.
Could you share a childhood pic of yourself, or your early writing, if by some lucky chance they’re still shoved in your parent’s attic?

Oh boy…
Me as a kid:

You just sent me off on a very dusty hunt to look for some school day’s writing (If I have an asthma attack, it’ll be your fault)
I had an idea that I might have had some old copybooks in a trunk in my husband’s office, but in fact I turned out to have a wee folder of typed stories! My mam and dad bought me a huge old second-hand dinosaur of a typewriter when I was about 12, and I used to tippy-tap away at the kitchen table almost every night. Here are sections from a few of my stories (including the murderous astronaut one!) It’s hard for me to believe I wrote these as a child. They seem far more mature than I recall myself being.
And a tough one: the Magic Faraway tree or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?

Alice in Wonderland every damned time (though I prefer Alice Through the Looking Glass!)
What are your top tips for children wanting to develop their writing skills?

Don’t worry about what you think other people want to read, find a story that you want to tell. Write that story without fear or worry or shyness. Be true to yourself and what you want to say. Everything else – spelling, grammar, punctuation, all that stuff – can be learned or fixed later: even if you’re dyslexic ( I know, because I am dyslexic)


Top-up your kindle, and a $100 Amazon gift card giveaway!

OK, here’s something a little different. Eternal Seas is part of an amazing collection of free fantasy books. As far as I can see, there are only a few kids books in the bundle, although there are lots of YA. Anyway, thought I’d share as there are a few I’m adding to my kindle – I think I’ll start with Fire & Sword …

If you haven’t used BookFunnel before, I highly recommend it – you get a code for the book which you type into your Kindle and the book just pops up by magic.

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.

Theres also a $100 Amazon gift card up for grabs – details on the link ….

A splash of Sri Lankan magic

I’ve been exploring different recipe books recently, both here on my blog and at home. I think after years of Jamie and Nigella I’m craving something a bit more exotic, and a little more challenging to prepare, than the “bish bosh bash whack it in the oven” approach. Last night we had friends round for a casual supper and in between downpours we managed to do a bit of a bbq with a few salads and a cake from Ottolenghi. Of course these involved his usual list of 400 ingredients and a trip to a specialist shop to find Orange Blossom Water, but it was devoured so I’m taking that as a good sign. Anyway, today we’re off to Sri Lanka, a country which is right at the top of my bucket list to visit despite the recent terrible bombings.

So I greedily grabbed an advance copy of A Feast of Serendib when I spotted it. And I love it. Most of the ingredients are easy to find (unlike Orange Blossom Water, thanks Ottolenghi), and it’s straightforward home cooking. This has definitely earned a place on my cookbook shelf.

A Feast of Serendib Cover

My only slight gripe is that it’s aimed at the American market so you’re converting measures  again – can someone tell me how many grams are in a stick of butter please?! I confess I have finally relented and bought a set of measuring cups but I do wish recipe books gave alternatives for international readers.

It’s not the book (or cuisine) for you if you don’t like onions though. Apart from the puddings, virtually every recipe has a big pile of onion in it, and I’m sure given a chance they’d sneak onions into the Mango Fluff too. Personally, I’m toning down the onion a bit, but I hope the author forgives me!

In case you’re exploring veganism, like so many of my friends are currently, I noticed on her website that she has also published a small vegan cookbook.

The blurb

Dark roasted curry powder, a fine attention to the balance of salty-sour-sweet, wholesome red rice and toasted curry leaves, plenty of coconut milk and chili heat. These are the flavors of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was a cross roads in the sea routes of the East. Three waves of colonization—Portuguese, Dutch and British—and the Chinese laborers who came with them, left their culinary imprint on Sri Lankan food. Sri Lankan cooking with its many vegetarian dishes gives testimony to the presence of a multi-ethnic and multi -religious population.

Everyday classics like beef smoore and Jaffna crab curry are joined by luxurious feast dishes, such as nargisi kofta and green mango curry, once served to King Kasyapa in his 5th century sky palace of Sigiriya.

Vegetable dishes include cashew curry, jackfruit curry, asparagus poriyal, tempered lentils, broccoli varai and lime-masala mushrooms. There are appetizers of chili-mango cashews, prawn lentil patties, fried mutton rolls, and ribbon tea sandwiches. Deviled chili eggs bring the heat, yet ginger-garlic chicken is mild enough for a small child. Desserts include Sir Lankan favorites:  love cake, mango fluff, milk toffee and vattalappam, a richly-spiced coconut custard.

In A Feast of Serendib, Mary Anne Mohanraj introduces her mother’s cooking and her own Americanizations, providing a wonderful introduction to Sri Lankan American cooking, straightforward enough for a beginner, and nuanced enough to capture the flavor of Sri Lankan cooking.

About the Author

A Feast of Serendib - Author Photo

Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion(HarperCollins), The Stars Change(Circlet Press) and thirteen other titles. Bodies in Motionwas a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages.  The Stars Changewas a finalist for the Lambda, Rainbow, and Bisexual Book Awards.

Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine, Strange Horizons, and alsofounded Jaggery, a S. Asian & S. Asian diaspora literary journal ( She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit ( and The Speculative Literature Foundation (  She serves on the futurist boards of the XPrize and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, withher husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog. Recent publications include stories for George R.R. Martin’s WildCardsseries, stories at Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Lightspeed, and an essay in Roxane Gay’s Unruly Bodies. 2017-2018 titles include Survivor(a SF/F anthology), Perennial, Invisible 3(co-edited with Jim C. Hines), and Vegan Serendib.

Social Media Links –


Serendib Kitchen website:

Purchase Links:

Astronaut alert and a book giveaway

What is it about characters called Stan that they must boldly go where no man has been before, tailed by an annoying younger sibling?

In case you hadn’t worked it out, I’m looking at Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson and Space Dragons by Robin Bennett. Nothing to do with a TV series that may have possibly trademarked that phrase. Out of curiosity, I googled “Astronaut Stan” and he’s real … Stan Love


If you follow my blog regularly, you’ll know I absolutely loved Robin Bennett’s last book, The Hairy Hand – you can check out my review here but in a nutshell it was Rincewind (Terry Pratchett) meets The Twits (Roald Dahl) and had me laughing out loud.

Space Dragons is very different. To start with, it’s pitched at the younger end of middle grade, so it’s not a follow on read for fans of The Hairy Hand which I’d say was slightly older. It is, however, ideal for fans of Planet Stan. The writing style is easy, the characters (human) are relatable, and the dragons definitely have touches of Hitchikers Guide to The Galaxy dripping with sarcasm and dry humour.

Anyway, Robin has very kindly popped over to have a bit of a chat about books and kids (his own!) …

I wrote Space Dragons to have two protagonists: a boy and a girl. This was partly just for the helluvit and partly a personal bid to try and get our boys to be nicer to their little sister. And it almost worked.

However they are not completely reformed – I found one of her dolls lashed half way up our conker tree in the garden the other day (quite impressed they managed to get it that high) and, to be fair – aged 10 – she gives as good as she gets these days.

My secondary goal was to have a central character who wasn’t wise cracking or terribly damaged or so mundane as to go out the other side and be perversely interesting. I wanted normal because most of the time most kids like normal –  it is their comfort zone. Aside from winding up spending their summer in the outer reaches of our Solar System, Stan and Poppy are pretty typical: Stan is a bit quiet and will get picked on because of it; and Poppy is talkative, but that’s about it, really. However, no-one ever fits the mould completely and growing up is partly a) coming to terms with whatever it is that makes you (usually) just a bit different (tall, short, clever, not-so-clever, weird hair etc) and b) how you turn that into an advantage.

Oh, and I wanted dragons … in Space!


For the record, my primary goal was the same as usual: to write a book that children will read and enjoy … and moral tone, which is frequently just adult posturing and of no interest to children, points vague and points pertinent can go whistle.

Giveaway to Win 10 x Hardcover Copies of Space Dragons – UK Only

*Terms and Conditions –UK 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.

The blurb

If Stan Pollux had known he would be spending his summer holidays in the outer reaches of our solar system, he would have put on different underpants.

But when he gets kidnapped by the Planet Dragon Mercury, most things suddenly seem small and insignificant. Stan finds himself in a universe of dragons who had once ruled the skies as gods: Mars, Venus, Saturn and even Uranus way out back. This is shaping up to be the best summer holiday in the history of the cosmos until Stan discovers his stupid sister is missing and that Pluto (AKA Hades) is trying to use her to destroy the Solar System. And it will be all Stan’s fault if he doesn’t get Poppy back.

So, all Stan has to do is learn how to fight like a hero in space armour, defeat the dragon god of the Underworld, Hades, rescue his sister and save the world. All before his parents realise she is missing.

Purchase Links:

UK –

US –

About Robin Bennett


Robin Bennett is an author and entrepreneur who has written several books for children, adults, and everything in between. Listed in the Who’s Who of British Business Excellence at 29, his 2016 documentary “Fantastic Britain”, about the British obsession with fantasy and folklore, won best foreign feature at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and his first book for young adults, Picus the Thief, won the Writer’s News Indie Published Book of the Year Award in 2012. Robin is also a director at Firefly Press

Twitter –