New ACEO Artwork Series: Ancient Symbols

Recently I decided to combine my love for art and ancient symbology into a new series of ACEO art trading cards. I have several books about signs, symbols, and sigils and plan to make a variety of artworks celebrating my love for these mysterious and intriguing ancient forms of wisdom.

So far, I have made four of these cards, two of them inspired by Shinto symbols and two inspired by ancient Egyptian cartouches (a series of symbols that represents deities or royalty).

The first Shinto symbol is a version of the Good Luck Crane:

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I also did a version of the Shinto Tortoise of Longevity:

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As for the Egyptian cartouches, the first represents Thothmes III:

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And the 2nd represents Hatshepset:

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Please let me know what you guys think of this new series. I hope you like it. You can find these artworks and more for sale on my Ebay store, so check it out!

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PO Box Opening Fun! Cute Sloths, Favorite Anime Series, and New Books!

I recently received a wonderful assortment of goodies from a friend and blog reader named Brian via my PO Box! Most of the time when I receive mail via my PO Box it is either books or products that companies or authors would like me to consider reviewing, but once in a while I do get something just for fun and that is always awesome!

The first item in the box I received was this adorable Easter sloth dressed up in bunny ears! Isn’t he the most adorable thing? I love sloths in general, and Brian knew that since we had exchanged cute sloth videos on Facebook in the past.

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The second gift in the box was this awesome Death Note anime dvd set! It has the complete series, which is awesome since Death Note is my favorite anime series of all time (which is saying something since there are a number of other anime series I love as well)!

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Lastly, since he knows I love books, Brian sent me a cool Batman graphic novel and an art book. The graphic novel is called Hong Kong and starts out with a weird murder plot involving a snake which drew me into the story right away. The art book is called The World of Rubens 1577-1640 and is a compendium of works by the artist Peter Paul Rubens. I was familiar with some of Rubens’ work, but this visual guide definitely widened the scope of his work for me.

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I want to give a big “thank you” to Brian for sending all this neat stuff! I’ve really enjoyed it so far! If anyone else ever wants to send anything via PO Box for me to consider sharing on my blog (or to enjoy privately), here is the address:

Maranda Russell
PO Box 14
Englewood, OH 45322

I am always happy to feature children’s books, toys, candy, cute stuff, and anything related to subjects I blog about frequently, such as mental illness, autism, chronic pain conditions, etc.

New YouTube Vlog Series – Weird & Funny Toys!

So recently I decided to start a new video blog series on my YouTube channel featuring weird and funny toys. I figured it was a fun way to feature my love for unique toys and collectibles, as well as my weird, offbeat and sometimes dark sense of humor. Here is a look at a couple of these newest videos, so feel free to check them out and consider subscribing to my channel on YouTube if you haven’t already!

Volume 2 of My Ebook Series “Stories Behind My Art” Now Available!

“Stories Behind My Art, Vol. 2”

This is just a short blog post to let everyone know that the 2nd volume in my Kindle ebook mini-series “Stories Behind My Art” is now available! In each volume of this ebook series, I share at least 20 of my recent artworks and talk about the story or inspiration behind each painting or drawing. I started this ebook series because I wanted to share my love for creating art with all my fans. The books feature a wide variety of artistic styles, including outsider, folk, naive, expressionism, cultural, primitive and abstract art. At only $.99 per Kindle download, each ebook in the “Stories Behind My Art” series is a great deal and a fun, quick read.

If you haven’t read Volume 1 yet, make sure you take a look at that too! (Please note that these art ebooks are best read on color devices if possible.) If you read and enjoy my new book please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads so that I will know!

National Young Readers Day – bedtime stories, my favorite childhood storybooks

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In honor of National Readers Day on November 11th, I was inspired by Casper, a new mattress company that makes latex and memory foam mattresses, to put together a collection of my favorite bedtime stories. As a child, I was lucky enough to have several family members who would often read to me. My grandmother probably read to me the most. She instilled a love of the written word in me before I could even write my name. My mother and older sister also took the time to read to me, creating warm memories I will always cherish.

Here is a brief list of some of my favorite storybooks back then:

1. I grew up on Little Golden Books and had quite a collection of them growing up. However, two Little Golden books really stuck with me. “Home for a Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown and “Prayers for Children” by Eloise Wilkin still bring a smile to my face whenever I see them in a bookstore or library. Cracking those books open takes me back to a happy, innocent time I often miss.

2. “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” by Dr. Suess. I had quite a few Dr. Suess books growing up, but this was always my favorite as a kid. I still flip through this book when I see it in my doctor’s waiting room. A couple years ago I even bought some pajamas featuring this Dr. Suess classic.

3. “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories” by Arthur S. Maxwell. This was the book series my grandmother read to us over and over. It is a collection of children’s stories that focuses on Christian values. I always liked the stories with miracles in them the most. That was like magic to me.

4. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” by the Brothers Grimm. My sister and I both loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales when we were young. We had an antique book with the entire collection in it. It was not an edited or abridged version, so I grew up listening to the classic dark tales in their entirety. To this day, I much prefer the original stories over the cleaned up Disney versions.

So what were your favorite bedtime stories as a kid? Feel free to comment and let me know!

My Brand New Video Diary/Blog

Right now due to an injury with my right shoulder/arm/back/neck area I can’t type, write or even draw too much. So I figured this would be a good time to start the YouTube video diary/blog I’ve been thinking about making. I am attaching the link to the first video where I basically just introduced myself and the subjects I will likely feature on the video blog series:

Review of “The Adventures of Cecilia Spark” series

For this post I am going to share reviews of the first two books in the children’s chapter book series, “The Adventures of Cecilia Spark”, written by Ngaire Elder and illustrated by Peter Maddocks.

Book #1 – The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: The Brimstone Forest

I could tell right away that Cecilia Spark is a character after my own heart. Instead of being into “girly” stuff like princesses, dolls and tea parties, Cecilia is all about adventure! She would much rather be out bug hunting or chasing dragons than sitting around painting her fingernails, which makes her my kind of heroine! It seems rare to find a book series where the main character is a strong girl with interests that fall outside of the female stereotype. While I enjoyed some girly pursuits growing up, I was always a “tomboy” who would rather be outside getting dirty than inside doing something domestic. This series will definitely appeal to girls who like adventure and fantasy.

I also really liked the elements of fantasy woven into the story and the creative names that the author bestowed on some of her characters. For instance the bad witch named Trixa, the dragon named Jinxi, the talking mouse named Soldier and the “Thingamabob” which turned out to be a good witch named Senorita Favorita. This book is full of creativity and imagination, aspects which are sure to delight young readers. The illustrations are simple black & white drawings, but they are very well-done and definitely add visual delight to the storyline. I would definitely recommend this book for grades K-3 (although kindergartners and first graders might still need some help reading it).

  Book #2 – The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: The Mystical Mountains of Terra

With the second book of the Cecilia Spark series, Cecilia finds herself facing an even bigger adventure than last time! This book is about twice as long as the first book in the series, but since it comes in at a little under 100 pages, it is still appropriate for the chapter book age set. In this book we get more of a look at the history behind the magical world that Cecilia finds herself drawn into. It was cool to find out how Soldier became a talking mouse. Although I don’t want to give the plot away too much, I will say that the plot for this book was more complex and personally, I found it even more fun than Cecilia’s first adventure. Using the suspense technique of pitting her characters in a race against time to help defeat evil, the author made this story into a book that is hard to put down.

We also meet several new characters in this book that I really enjoyed. Ractus the Armadillo was probably my favorite, maybe because he could be a little grumpy and high-strung, but in a lovable way. The two other new characters who really stood out were Pacha (a friendly little raccoon, who isn’t quite who she seems to be at first) and Turan (a half-human, half-tiger creature that plays a pretty important role in the climax of the story).  Again, this is definitely a series that would be enjoyed by children age 4-9.

If you would like to find out more about The Adventures of Cecilia Spark, please visit the series’ website, www.ceciliaspark.com. On the website you can find out where to order the book and enjoy some extra features like character illustrations, print-off activities to go along with the books and news stories related to the book series.

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.