Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Review: Perfect Timing by Laura Spinella

Berkley; November 2013
$15 list price / $11.98 on Amazon
I really enjoyed Laura Spinella's PERFECT TIMING (Berkley; November 2013). Spinella's second novel not only often made me giddy like a teenager-in-love, but it also kept me engaged with a plot chock-full of lovable characters and an excellent social statement to boot.

Isabel moves to Alabama from New Jersey following her parents' divorce. Her solace in the midst of this turmoil is a local boy named Aidan, who grows into an amazing singer-songwriter and, eventually, Isabel's crush. She doesn't realize the strength of her feelings, however, until Aidan is accused of a violent crime which forces them both to flee to Las Vegas. It is there that events are put into play that will change their lives forever--and tear them apart. 

Seven years later, Aiden has become an enormous rock star and Isabel has a serious boyfriend and a comfortable job at a New England radio station.. Aidan and Isabel have not spoken since they parted ways in Vegas; that is, until a change in the station's ownership has Isabel scrambling for a concert headliner. The only way to save the station is for Isabel to reach out to Aidan, but will the unfinished business in their past get in the way of the task at hand?

Welll, of course it does, but I won't give it away! What I will say is that Spinella has a talent for writing romantic scenes that evoke those "squee!" moments --and it's oh so much fun to read.

But this book isn't a romance novel--it's fiction--and the bulk of the novel is outside of the love scenes and is very engaging as well. The flashbacks to Aidan and Isabel's teenage years are coming-of-age great and Aidan's evil music agent is so fun to hate. I also can't tell you how much I enjoyed how Spinella wrote the relationship between Isabel's father and his husband, Patrick. It was a tender view into the lives of two soulmates--and I think the utter normality of it was truly a beautiful thing to read. 

My only tiny critiques? I got tired of all of the characters using the full name of the radio station when talking. It is a mouthful and people just don't talk like that. Also, one of the most anticipated love scenes is interrupted by a conversation about birth control! Is it a realistic conversation? Sure. But don't halt a big moment like that with a discussion about mechanics, please? 

Regardless of my nitpicking (sorry Laura!), I encourage you to go pick up a copy of PERFECT TIMING. It's a really great read from an author with a really promising future. Happy reading (and squee-ing!)

Penguin provided me with a review copy of this book, but the views are my own.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Toy Review! Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots

I like to think of myself as a cool mom for a boy to have. I have two brothers myself, so I grew up with an appreciation of boys' toys; especially those of the 80s and 90s. My Barbie didn't have a horse--she rode on He-Man's panther! And I still remember all the Ninja Turtles' names and the weapons they carried.

So, I was really happy when Andrew developed a love for Transformers Rescue Bots when it debuted on the Hub almost two years ago. Its a preschooler-friendly version of the beloved Transformers franchise, and it of course has cool toys to go along with it from Playskool.
First edition Boulder the Construction
Bot becomes a bulldozer in one step

Back when we started collecting these transformers, they didn't even match up exactly with the autobots on the show. They were produced from an earlier concept and the colors and human companions with each bot were not always correct. Of course, it was only my geeky self that cared about this. My 2.5 year-old loved them and I owe a lot to the early rescue bot toys for occupying him right after my second son was born.

So what's so cool about these Rescue Bots, aside from the fact that the cartoon they are based on is light on violence? Well... THEY TRANSFORM IN ONE EASY STEP. I emphasize this with such gusto because any parent with transformers-obsessed children can attest to the tears and frustration that come along with trying to transform the toys geared toward older children -- and I'm talking about the parents! No more tears, folks. These toys are perfect for the recommended 3-6 year-old age group, and I venture to say that younger kids will love them too (my 20-month-old plays right along with his big brother.)

In vehicle mode, all the Rescue Bots have working wheels and Blades the helicopter has a working rotor, but there's really not any articulation to the head, arms, and legs of the toys in bot mode. I really don't view this as a negative as extra articulation would have mean extra transformation steps--and my kids are more interested in wheeling the cars around and transforming them back and forth thank gesturing with their arms.

We still play with these toys and their accompanying fire station on a regular basis. And, after being everywhere from in the pool to in the sand, they are still in pretty good condition. Sure, we've got some rust and paint melting on the toys that got wet (lesson: don't get them wet), and Optimus Prime lost one of his wheels in an stomping accident, but I'm pleased these plastic toys have held up for two years in the hands of two terrors.

Boulder Energize
We bought the first edition Rescue Bot toys for about $12.99 each through Amazon.com. Each of the eight first edition toys (Chase, Heatwave, Blades, Boulder, Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Hoist and Medix) are still available online, but you may pay a pretty penny for one that's in short supply. Medix, for example, is $60 on Amazon!

Blades Energize
There is, however, a second generation of toys called Transformers Rescue Bots Energize that you can buy for anywhere from $11 to $18 in stores and online. These toys are equally as easy to transform and feature blue "energize" details and weapons. Your kids will love them and you should get them--but if you're a bit of a geeky mom like me, you might want to keep your eye out for price-decreases on the originals so you can have them in your collection too.

Rescue Bots, roll out!