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!)

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):

Malice
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.

The most memorable books I read during October 2014

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Starting this month, I am starting a new series of posts where I will list the most memorable books I have read in the past month and why they made such an impact on me. These aren’t necessarily “the best” books, but instead are the ones that really stuck with me for one reason or another. This list may include books for any age group or genre. I read a broad range of books, both fiction and non-fiction, so you never know what you may find in my monthly list! To get us started, here is my list of the five most memorable books I have read in October 2014!

1. The Flat Rabbit by Barour Oskarsson. This had to be one of the weirdest, least politically correct picture books I have ever read! It had me, my mom and my husband laughing out loud though. It is morbidly hilarious to see a rabbit flattened, then to see his neighbors scrape him off the road, attach him to a kite and fly him in the air. Not sure this is really a great book for kids, but it is hilarious for adults.

2. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. This middle grade historical novel stuck with me because it is the story of a child who grew up thinking Stalin and communism are the best things in the world, only to see how flawed the system truly is and how he has been led to believe things that aren’t true at all. To me, this idea that it is possible to fight for something you believe is right and then find out later that it is actually wrong is a profound lesson to learn.

3. History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky. This adult memoir struck a little too close to home, but then again, that is why I picked it up in the first place. Since I have also had a sister commit suicide, I could easily and sometimes painfully relate to much of what this writer had to say. The circumstances and details might be different from case to case, but anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide would likely see much of their own suffering and search for healing reflected in this memoir.

4. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings & Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-44 by various authors. As the title states, this nonfiction book is a collection of poems and drawings that were created by children imprisoned in a WWII concentration camp. Some of the book is funny and cute, some of it is sad and depressing, but it all shows the innocence and strength of the children who were mistreated during this horrible time. It also shows the loss of life and joy this world suffered due to ignorance and hatred.

5. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. This middle grade fantasy novel was a fun and enjoyable read. By the time I finished it, I was wishing to be a night fairy myself. I’ve always been a night owl anyways, so why not? Although the story starts out rather sad (with the fairy losing her wings in a terrible accident), things quickly start to look up and by the end of the novel, the little fairy is better off for the experiences she has had – both good and bad.

New children’s ebook published! “Petar: An inspiring story about an unexpected friendship”

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I just wanted to write a short blog post to let all my readers know that I just released a new children’s short story ebook! This ebook, Petar: An inspiring story about an unexpected friendship, is a heartwarming story about seeing past outward differences into the true heart of a person. The main character, Petar, is actually based on a real-life child that I met when I used to work as a teacher’s aide in our public school system. The courage and sweet personality of this child I knew made me want to tell his story. I also wanted to show how kind and compassionate many of the other children in his classroom were when it came to dealing with their classmate’s special needs.

Petar: An inspiring story about an unexpected friendship is geared for ages 7-11 (can be read independently or aloud). You can purchase the short story from Amazon for only $.99 per Kindle download. I hope you will check out my new ebook! If you do read it and enjoy it, please consider letting me know by leaving a review on Amazon!

Book Review – ‘The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe’ middle grade series

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It has been quite a while since I posted a book review, but I just love this new series so much I had to share my thoughts about it! So far, “The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe” book series (written by Gordon McAlpine and illustrated by Sam Zuppardi) consists of two published books. The first volume is entitled “The Tell-Tale Start” and the second is called “Once Upon a Midnight Eerie”. As you can probably tell already, the author loves a good play on words (as do I!).

I was initially drawn to this middle grade (ages 8+) children’s series while browsing the children’s department at Barnes & Noble. The cover and title of the first book immediately captured my attention because I have always loved Edgar Allan Poe. When I studied the book further, I found the premise quite original. To sum it up, the books revolve around Edgar and Allan Poe, twelve-year old identical twins who also happen to be the great-great-great-great-grandnephews of the famous horror/mystery author. One thing that makes these twins unusual (and help creates some of the drama) is that the boys have a telepathic communication ability and pretty much function as one person. In both books, there are significant threats to the lives of both main characters, so it is full of action, suspense and a touch of morbid humor for kids who like that kind of thing. Of course, since it is a middle grade series, Edgar & Allan always manage to foil their enemies and survive.

I think the best thing about this book series though are the parts where you get to see Edgar Allan Poe himself in the “great beyond”. It is hilarious to see our poor Poe having to work for the seemingly grumpy and narcissistic William Shakespeare in heaven. Poe constantly finds himself in trouble in heaven because he is always breaking the rules to interfere in the lives of his nephews on earth. Of course, being in trouble is nothing new to Poe, seeing as he was quite used to it during his earthly life. I also love how in the second book, Edgar and Allan are joined by a pair of twin girls named “Em” and “Milly” Dickinson, who happen to be the great-great-great-great-grandnieces of the famous spinster poet Emily Dickinson (more name puns there). I look forward to seeing which other literary greats (and their descendants) may be written into the story in the future.

I realize that not all adults like to read children’s books like I do, but I hope that if you have kids in the middle grade age range you will have them check out this series and see if they like it. I am hoping it will become popular enough to go on for quite a while because I want to keep reading it!

Review of middle grade novel “Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe”

When I heard that a 12-year-old girl named Halima Sahar Muhammad was releasing her first middle grade novel, “Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe”, I was eager to get the chance to read and review it. Partly, because I love to encourage young writers and partly because I was also 12-years-old when I wrote my first full-length chapter book (although I never did get it published).

Anyhow, “Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe” was a fun read. It’s not a particularly long read, at only 94 pages, so it won’t intimidate reluctant or struggling readers. Kids are sure to enjoy the humor in the story (especially the constant sibling banter between the main character, Riley, and her big brother, Atticus). Although it took awhile for the book to actually introduce the “kitchen katastrophe” part of the story, the plot is steady and comes to an expected, but satisfactory conclusion.

One of the things I liked best about this book is the author’s keen eye for detail. She obviously has a gift for description. In fact, many of her food scenes made me quite hungry! If Halima doesn’t grow up to be an author, I have the feeling she may grow up to be a chef, because she obviously knows ALOT about food and cooking for a girl her age!

Overall, my impression of this book is that it was a good first release, one that would be enjoyed by both girls and boys age 7-12 or so. I’m sure this young author has a very successful future ahead of her, regardless of what she chooses to do.

For more information on Halima Sahar Muhammad or “Riley and the Kitchen Katastrophe” (including ordering information), please visit the author’s website, http://www.halimasworld.blogspot.com/.

Review of the Alice Parker’s Adventures fantasy series

Instead of just reviewing one book in this post, I have decided to go ahead and do short reviews of the first two books in the Alice Parker’s Adventures fantasy series. This new series, written by Nicola Palmer, is a fun foray into magic, adventure and mystery for middle grade readers and young adults. It is an original and interesting take on the whole “fairy” genre that is so popular with kids and teens right now. So without further ado…here are my reviews of the first two books.

Book #1 – Alice Parker’s Metamorphosis 

I have always loved the fantasy genre, but will admit to being picky about what series I will actually take the time to read. I look for books that are well-written, plausible (even fantasy needs to be believable) and most importantly, I want stories with characters that aren’t flat or boring. I am happy to say that Metamorphosis met and even surpassed my expectations.

From the moment I started reading this book, I actually found it rather hard to put down. The plot was engaging and carried enough suspense to keep me reading clear to the end, while the characters became almost like friends to me. I felt like I actually got to know Alice and her crew personally, which in my opinion is the ultimate aim of any fiction. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Alice and her brother, Thomas.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but I will say that I was also very impressed with the author’s ability to create a new world that readers will want to call their own. This is a book that I can wholeheartedly recommend to kids and teens (or even adults if you like a good fantasy story).

Book #2 – Alice Parker & the Mind Magician

The second book in the Alice Parker series picks up a few months after the events of the first book, but the transition is done well enough that readers pick up on the storyline without skipping a beat. It quickly becomes apparent that the trials Alice is going to face in this sequel are even darker and more dangerous than the hurdles she overcame in the first book.

As the title suggests, much of this book’s battles are waged in the human mind, a very dangerous and disturbing scenario. Without getting preachy or slowing down the plot, this book manages to address some fairly sinister concepts, such as mind control and the corruption that often accompanies having too much power. I was wondering throughout the course of the book how the author was going to manage to bring the plot to a satisfying conclusion, but was pleasantly surprised to see that she managed to do just that.

After finishing the second book I was actually a little bit sad that it was over. I am definitely looking forward to the third book and hope that there will be many more volumes to come!

For more information on the Alice Parker’s Adventures series, please visit the author’s website, www.nicolapalmerwriter.blogspot.com.

Interview with Middle Grade Author Greg R. Fishbone

I was fortunate enough to get the chance to interview Greg R. Fishbone as part of his Galaxy Games Blog Tour. For those of you unfamiliar with Greg’s work, he is a fantasy/science fiction author who normally writes for the 8-12 age group. His most recent work, “Galaxy Games: The Challengers”, published by Lee & Low Books/Tu Books, is already creating quite a buzz, so make sure you check it out!

Now, on to the interview…

1. When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author? What made you want to choose this career path?

When I was in the third grade, I had a dream about a book. It was very vivid, and when I woke up I could remember every word and every detail, including the way that reading it made me feel. I was sure it was a real book I’d seen before, but the librarian couldn’t find the title and said the plot didn’t sound familiar to her at all. That had to be my “calling” because who else but a future author dreams about books that don’t exist?

2. Who are some of the authors that greatly influenced your writing style? What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

* THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams

* A SPELL FOR CHAMELEON by Piers Anthony

* THE FOUNDATION SERIES by Isaac Asimov

* THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin

* A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle

* A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA by Ursula LeGuin

* THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES by Ray Bradbury

3. Did you have a hard time getting your first book published?

I sent eight drafts of my first book, back and forth, to a single editor before I collected my first rejection letter. About a dozen more rejections followed before I put that book away and worked on something else, which also didn’t get accepted anywhere. The first book I actually published, THE PENGUINS OF DOOM, was seven years in the making. But it’s actually good that it took such a long time because the revision process made me a stronger writer, and that first book would really embarrass me now if it had come out when I originally wrote it!

4. Assuming that you write for children or young adults, what made you decide to write for those age groups? Do you still feel connected to your “inner child”?

I tried to write books that I would enjoy myself, and people would tell me that “kids would really love this.” I think I am writing for my inner child, to some extent.

5. What are some of your hobbies, other than writing?

I like designing websites and taking nature hikes, but usually not at the same time.

6. Do you have any sage advice for new authors who are just entering the field?

If somebody presents you with a shortcut to instant success, avoid it at all costs!

7. Do you hold any other jobs outside of your writing? If so, do you find that this helps your writing or gets in the way?

Being able to pay the mortgage and purchase food helps my writing process immensely.

8. If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I met Neil Gaiman once, briefly, but I’d love a chance to sit down with him and chat. The ideas that come out of his mind and the style he uses to express them are just amazing.

9. Do you have any other information you would like to share, such as a website, author page, awards won, etc.?

My author page is http://gfishbone.com

My book site is http://galaxygam.es

You can also like my fan page or the Galaxy Games fan page on Facebook.

                                                                                                                                                                                          

Puzzle Piece #20 of 31 for the Galaxy Games Blog Tour Puzzle Contest: