March 2019 OwlCrate Jr Subscription Box “Birds of a Feather”

I got my first OwlCrate Jr subscription box! This book box is for middle grade books and each month a theme is chosen revolving around that month’s book. This month the theme was “Birds of a Feather” and the book is The Simple Art of Flying by Cory Leonardo. I chose OwlCrate Jr instead of the regular OwlCrate box because I thought I might enjoy the middle grade books better than the YA books. I do love YA books as well, but well-written middle grade fiction holds a special place in my heart.

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Here is what came in the box:
– The book (obviously lol)
– Author-signed bookplate
– Letter from the author
– OwlCrate Jr monthly magazine
– National Geographic’s Ultimate Explorer Bird Field Guide
– Pineapple scented tropical birds stickers
– Flamingo gel pen
– Mini owl plush toy
– Parrot keychain
– Spoiler card and card for next month’s theme (which will be “Crack the Code”)

I loved this first box and am excited to see what else they send in the future! I’m halfway through the book and love it so far. It is a sweet, sad, and funny story about a pair of brother and sister parrots living in a pet shop. Right now I just got to the part of the story where the siblings are split up when one is adopted and it is breaking my heart a little.

I love the bird field guide, the owl plushie, and the flamingo pen. Plus, I’ve already made a couple ACEO collage artworks with the stickers:

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(Art available for sale on my Ebay store!)

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Twittering Tales #127 – Dark Train

Here is my tweet-sized entry for this week’s photo prompt Twittering Tales challenge:

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The train draws near in a cloud of fog – the headlight shining through the mist just enough to illuminate the faces of those waiting to board.

I tip my hat downwards to hide my own expression. I do not want to see. I do not want to be seen. Human attachments will hinder my plans.

(280 characters)

Twittering Tales #125 – Empty Bed

Here is the photo prompt and my entry for this week’s Twittering Tales writing challenge hosted by Kat Myrman:

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Olivia sat on the edge of her daughter’s unmade bed. She ran her fingers over the ridges and bulges of the white blankets. She leaned down to sniff the fluffy pillow at the head of the bed, then laid her head down on it heavily.

She’s really gone. The pain hit hard and fast.

(275 characters)

(Note: The photo prompt this week really reminded me of the novel I am currently reading, “The Night Olivia Fell”, by Christina McDonald. So, I stole the character name for the writing exercise.)

January/February Book Subscription Boxes – Kids & Middle Grade

Lately I’ve been trying random book subscription boxes just to try to figure out which one I want to get on a regular basis. For January/February, I tried the following two boxes:

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This first box was the January Book Drop subscription. I picked the middle grade option, although I was torn between that and the young adult option. This subscription box sends you one book per month (along with a card about the book and little extras like bookmarks) and is pretty cheap (about $10 including S&H for this shipment). The Book Drop is run by an independent bookstore, which makes buying it even better since I like to support small businesses.

The book they sent this month was Winterhouse by Ben Guterson. I really enjoyed this mystery novel! The main character is a book nerd and loves to do puzzles, just like me! I did figure out the plot of the book pretty early on though, so the mystery wasn’t all that hard for me.

Here is the second box I received, this one in early February:

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This box was from Kids Bookcase Club. It cost $9.99 plus S&H. You get three kids books a month. This was the 7-8 year old box. Out of the three books they sent, my favorite by far was Terrific by Jon Agee. This picture book is sarcastic and hilarious! I love the grumpy old man who is the main character! The Very Fairy Princess was a cute picture book, but not exactly my taste. The Animal Planet Dolphin Rescue book was a young reader chapter book and it was cute and interesting, but obviously a simple read. For next month’s box, I decided to up the age to the preteen box to see what kind of middle grade books they send.

For the upcoming month I am also trying out the Scribbler subscription box for writers and the SpearCraft Book Box (which comes with all kinds of cool reader goodies)! So stay tuned!!!

Poetry – Malice

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This little poem was inspired by a middle grade book series called “Malice” by Chris Wooding. I liked the world that was created, and decided to capture just a bit of it in poetry (my favorite line is the “mushroom lamps” one):

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By: Maranda Russell

Take the evening train
into the cavernous abyss.
Light up the darkness
with your mushroom lamps
and a fist full
of round trip tickets.

YA Book Review: “Without Tess” by Marcella Pixley

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“Without Tess”, written by Marcella Pixley, is one of the best YA novels I have read in a while. I rarely give books five stars when rating them, but this one I did. The story revolves around the main character (Lizzie), and her dead sister (Tess). Lizzie is the younger sister by a couple years and was only 10 when her older sister tragically passed away.

The real star of the novel is Tess. As you read through the book and relive vibrant memories Lizzie shared with Tess, you come to both love and sometimes dislike Tess. Tess was a true believer in magic. She was creative and passionate. She was both loving and loyal, but at times cruel and violent. She was mentally ill, and at times downright psychotic. This novel is a lifelike retelling of what it is like to grow up with an extremely mentally ill sibling. It addresses the love, the hate, the sadness, the pain, the rage, the guilt, and all the other emotions that come along with such a disturbing family dynamic.

I had a deeply personal connection with this book, both as someone who grew up with a mentally ill sibling, and someone who eventually lost that sibling, mostly due to that mental illness. At one point the book even made me tear up, which is extremely rare for any book to do. Definitely recommended!

“Borderline” Book Review

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Right now I’m reading a pretty cool book called “Borderline”, written by Mishell Baker, which is the first book in the author’s “The Arcadia Project” series. The main reason I wanted to read this book was because the main character (Millie) happens to have borderline personality disorder and the book focuses on that a lot.

The story starts out pretty sad, with Millie in a psych facility, trying to rehabilitate from a failed suicide attempt that caused her to have to have both legs amputated. Sounds like a real heartwarming tale, huh? But things get better and more interesting when Millie is recruited to work for something called “The Arcadia Project”, which is an organization that trains mentally ill patients to work with fairies…yes, you read that right, FAIRIES. The plot really starts rolling when Millie is given the task of hunting down a missing member of the fairy community who also happens to be a movie star.

So, to encapsulate the novel, this book is a hodgepodge of mental illness, tragedy, mystery, Hollywood, magic, and fantasy. And somehow…it all works really well together. I don’t normally read a whole lot of fantasy fiction, but the spin on bpd made me give this one a chance and I’m glad I did!

“Mo Wren, Lost and Found” Middle Grade Book Review

“Mo Wren, Lost and Found” is the sequel to “What Happened on Fox Street”, a highly celebrated book by Tricia Springstubb.

“What Happened on Fox Street” laid the foundation for the story, introducing Mo Wren, her spunky little sister Dottie and the rest of the Wren family.  It also set up a chain of events that would eventually cause Mo to leave her beloved home on Fox Street.  “Lost and Found” picks up the story at this point, showing the heartaches, troubles, fears and realities that accompany big changes, such as moving to a new home.

After making the big move, Mo struggles to move on from the past.  She wants to cling to the people, comforts and memories of her old life, but realizes that her life has changed for good.  However, this knowledge does not stop her longing for the familiar world of Fox Street.  To make things even rougher, her sister and father seem to have moved on without looking back, which only makes Mo feel more alone.

As the story progresses, Mo does start to adapt and show a resilient spirit, but not without a fair share of growing pains.  The story is told with warmth and honesty, a refreshing element to find in any genre, but particularly in children’s literature.  Some of the issues dealt with in the book are pretty deep, such as grief, acceptance and loneliness.  Children will like this story because it is quirky, funny and imaginative.  The characters are far more than the one-dimensional caricatures found in many children’s books, creating realistic people with genuine problems.

I would definitely recommend this book to girls in the 8-12 age range.  To find out more about “Mo Wren, Lost and Found” and its prequel, “What Happened on Fox Street”, please visit the author’s website, www.triciaspringstubb.com.  You can also find information there about where the books are available for purchase.

“Dan Quixote, Boy of Nuevo Jersey” Middle Grade Book Review

“Dan Quixote, Boy of Nuevo Jersey”, written by Shevi Arnold, is a fun, entertaining story written for middle grade readers.  As you can probably tell from the title, “Dan Quixote” is loosely based on the classic romantic comedy “Don Quixote”, written by Cervantes.

Since my experience with the classic “Don Quixote” mainly consists of watching a few “Wishbone” episodes on PBS, I can’t really say how closely the plot of this story follows the classic novel.  However, from what I do remember, Don Quixote was a man with a big imagination, one that sometimes almost bordered on insanity.  In that respect, Dan Tyler (the main character of this middle grade novel) is very similar to his namesake.

Dan is definitely a dreamer.  Sometimes he takes his fantasizing too far, endangering his own wellbeing.  Luckily, at times like that Dan has a sensible best friend named Sandy who is quick to step in and save her Dan from himself.

The main plot of the story revolves around several problems that have cropped up.  For one, Dan is in love with a fair maiden named Gwen, a studious young girl who is often picked on by a mean teacher the kids have nicknamed ‘The Dragon’.  In hopes of defending his young love, Dan teams up with the school queen bee Jade, determined to take down the Dragon.  However, Dan soon finds that teaming up with a bully can backfire and make things even worse.

Throughout the story, Dan and Sandy encounter many problems, but it is those trials that show them what true friendship can do if given a chance.  They also learn the power of love, forgiveness, confidence and standing up for what you believe in.  This story is inspirational in many ways, but beyond that it is simply a good story, one that is sure to entertain kids and tweens.

To find out more about this book, or to read the first few chapters for yourself, please visit the author’s website, www.sheviarnold.com.