Book review and giveaway: Candy Fairies by Helen Perelman

The Candy Fairies series by Helen Perelman is a delightful set of books for children ages 6-9.  In the first book Chocolate Dreams, Cocoa the Chocolate Fairy is looking after the special eggs for the parade.  Right before the parade the eggs disappear!  Can Cocoa and the other fairies work together to find the eggs in time?

In book two, Rainbow Swirl, the fairies, each with their own special talent, are competing at the Candy Fair.  The Candy Fair is a chance for each fairy to display a new candy of thier special creation.  Raina the Gummy Fairy thinks she’s come up with the most special treat of all.  How will Raina handle things when a terrible storm wipes out her dreams?

The books are full of whimsical illustrations perfect for the young children.  The descriptions of the fairies made it easy to picture Sugar Valley. The books are lighthearted and teach important lessons about working together and realizing everyone has a different talent.  I enjoyed the clear message that if you’re willing to reach for your dreams anything is possible.  

The series is perfect for summer reading.  One lucky reader will be able to win a copy of the first two books in the series.  Here’s how you can enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me you’d like to win!
  • Follow me on Twitter @BlogMamaAndrea.  Leave me your Twitter id with your comment!
  • Tweet about the contest.  Be sure to let me know when you do.
  • Follow my blog

Leave a comment for each item so I can be sure to give you the correct number of entries (four entries maximum).  The giveaway ends Thursday June 10th at 11:59 Eastern.  The giveaway is normally only open to the US (via the publisher) but since I’m mailing the books personally, I’m going to include Canada as well. 

Good luck!

I was provided with the first two books in exchange for my review.  My review is based on my honest opinion without regard to compensation.

Book Review: Deadline Man by Jon Talton

Why does a prominent hedge fund king commit suicide by jumping off his office balcony? That’s what The Columnist wants to know. Especially since moments earlier the man was a reliable source and now he’s splayed on the sidewalk. The phrase ‘eleven/eleven’ and Olympic International seem to be at the middle of a growing web of mystery and murder. The implications might just reach beyond rainy Seattle and touch on national security. With his back up against a never ending deadline, The Columnist starts digging for the truth. It might get him killed in the end but he’s determined to get the story first.

In Deadline Man written by Jon Talton we meet the main character, only known as The Columnist, a hard boiled financial writer who has been in the business long enough to spot the sinking ship that his newspaper has become. While The Columnist’s personal morals, he often has three lovers at a time, leave a little to be desired, I immensely enjoyed the character. He is no nonsense and not afraid to find the story no matter what it might cost him personally.

The last third of the book packs plenty of action keeping the reader on edge, turning pages and wanting to know more. It felt almost like too much happened all at the same time though and I had a harder time connecting all the dots. Despite this minimal issue, the book has a very plausible story with a terrorist and black ops twist that will leave the reader wondering just how much could actually be true in today’s world. The book is woven with plenty of suspense and whodunit and kept me turning pages into the night. Talton places plenty of behind the scenes newspaper knowledge into the story giving the reader a look at the life of a reporter and the dying print industry itself.

Deadline Man is a wonderful first thriller for Jon Talton whose fast pace style and likeable but flawed characters keep the reader wondering what else is peeking around the corner.

Deadline Man is available online now at major retailers and through the publisher’s website, Poisoned Pen Press.

I was provided with an online galley of this book for free by the publisher at NetGalley in order to complete my review. All opinions are solely my own without regard to compensation.

Book Review & Giveaway: Dork Diaries

Today I’m going to review a refreshingly cute book that is published by Aladdin, Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Division. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell is aimed at the 9-13 age range.

I was very pleasantly surprised that even I could relate to Nikki Maxwell’s troubles. Recently transplanted into a preppy private school, Nikki faces the challenges of being the new girl. Without the latest greatest cell phone, mall quality clothes or friends, what Nikki does have is a brand new diary to record her thoughts. As Nikki navigates the horror of having her locker next to popular ‘mean girl’ MacKenzie, she discovers two allies in the form of friends Zoey and Chloe. Throw in an art show, tattoos and the usual dance of a first crush, Nikki has more than she can handle at her new school. How will she deal with middle school woes and still keep true to herself? Only Nikki’s diary will reveal all.

The language in the book easily reads as if it is coming straight from the mind of a teenager as she faces the difficulties of adolescence. With great imagination the author draws on the real experiences we all face. I liked this book and the style in which it was written. The entire book is handwritten on lined pages just as if you were truly holding Nikki’s diary. It’s an unique choice that lends to the authentic feel of the story.

The author has also created a website ‘written’ by Nikki. Nikki Maxwells’s Blog is a cute way to continue the story and readers can interact with Nikki and ask questions. You can find out more about the next book in the Dork Diaries series Tales From A Not-So-Popular Party Girl as well.
Now the really fun part. I’m going to be giving away five copies of Dork Diaries courtesy of Simon & Schuster. All you have to do is leave a comment letting me know you’d like to win a copy. This would make a great holiday gift for that preteen on your list! The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM Friday December 11, 2009.

Good luck!

*I was provided with a copy of the book by Simon & Schuster to complete my review.

Introducing Family Matters, A New iPhone App and Giveaway!

First things first! The winner of the Punkin Chunkin t-shirt giveaway is…

I’ll get that in the mail asap so you can start showing your Punkin Chunkin pride. Captain also answered both questions correctly! Congrats!

On to today’s giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted about having a look at a new app for an iPhone (also works on the iPod Touch) and even though I don’t own either Apple product I’m reviewing the product anyway. The concept is so solid that I was sold just by watching the video. Here are the details about the product:

– Look forward to waiting for your food in a restaurant with your kids.
– Calm and distract a nervous child in the doctor’s office.
– Bond and feel closer to your children.
Anywhere, anytime but always having fun…

Some of the questions and activities are simple – these help children build confidence. Some are deeper and probing. There are hundreds of activities designed to engage all family members of all ages.

Unlike other applications that quiz or provide facts, this tool is venue-driven. This means the activities are geared toward your location. We currently cover common places you may engage in conversation or need to pass the time such as restaurants, waiting rooms or on long road trips. Of course there is a general category for use around the dinner table or practically anywhere you have a few minutes to spend together.

Scott Weiner, the creator of the app made the following video of the product in order to show the valuable ways this tool can be used.

I really like the concept of this app. I know Thor rarely wants to talk with me about his day and this app asks kids fun and intriguing questions that could start some great conversations. Because it is a technology driven product I think kids today would be more likely to want to answer the questions. It’s fun and a good way to connect with kids and keep them busy while sitting through mundane waits at places like doctors offices or restaurants.

The app is getting great reviews from others as well. You can see for yourself by clicking here: Family Matters Reviews. As you can see it’s a valuable tool for keeping up with the kids and keeping them happy. Scott was kind enough to offer me the app for free but since I don’t have an iPhone or iPod Touch (darn it!) I’m going to offer this app for free to one of you! To enter please first make sure you have either the iPhone or Ipod Touch that runs the 3.1 system. If you do then simply leave me a comment telling me why you would like to win this app! See, it’s easy peasy.

You can visit the Family Matters website or leave your questions or comments here, they appreciate hearing your feedback!

The giveaway ends Friday November 20 at 11:59 PM eastern, the winner will be posted on Monday! Good luck! iPhone apps at AppStoreHQ

Let’s go to Berlin!

I wrote this for a travel website some time ago but they seem to have absconded into cyberspace with it. Since I have zero creative energy today I’ll post it here.

Berlin is an amazing city. The historical and the modern day meet on the streets. Whenever I’ve visited Berlin I’ve always gotten a feeling of many cultures coming together to form their own unique culture. I’ve never felt like a visitor but more like a resident because there are so many people from so many places everywhere you go.

Central to Germany history Berlin has a lot to offer. The famous Berlin Wall still stands in one section of the city just as it did when it was built. It is here that you can learn the reason the wall was built, how it was built and the sacrifices that occurred because of its existence. The site itself is under construction, a new museum and information center is being built, but along the outside perimeter are large reader boards giving the timeline and history.

You can also see sections of the wall that were relocated to Potsdamer Platz. The original placement of the wall is outlined with stones in the ground and you’ll find them running all over Berlin marking the former division of the city.

Checkpoint Charlie is a small white hut in the middle of the road which at first glance is underwhelming. But as you look up you’ll see the original sign telling people they were leaving the American Sector. Spend a few minutes here thinking about the magnitude of the signs’ meaning. Near Checkpoint Charlie there is a museum with more information. Due to the nature of the subject matter displayed it is not designed for children so keep that in mind if you plan to visit.

At Potsdamer Platz there is a very modern feel of the New Berlin and you’ll find lots of shops and restaurants at the Sony Center under a glass dome. It’s a great place to sit and enjoy a coffee and some strudel. In winter the decorations are impressive. The entrance to the LegoLand Center can be found here. Around the corner take a break at Vapiano’s for lunch. Choose an outdoor table to enjoy some people watching. This is the best way to feel like a local and truly experience Germany. Eating outside, no matter the weather is one of my favorite pastimes.

From Potsdamer Platz walk down Elberstr and you will pass the Holocaust Memorial and the grey slabs of concrete rising out of the ground like a cemetery. At different heights and varying sizes just walking among them shrouded from light and other people it is an experience that is humbling. Underneath is the information center. At the end of this street you’ll find Brandenburger Tor or the Brandenburg Gate. It was one of the main gates of the city and the square behind the gate is filled with embassies. The buildings are beautiful to look at.

The Reichstag, home to the German parliament is along the Spree River. The building itself is beautiful and there is a glass dome inside. The lines are almost always very long to get inside so I suggest walking around to the other side of the building. Across the river sits a very modern white building, the Bundeskanzleramt which houses the chancellor’s office and residence. The dichotomy of the old and new can truly be seen by viewing these two buildings at the same time.

There are plenty of museums in Berlin not only museums of history but also plenty containing works of art and other objects. From the Old National Library where you can see an original piece of Beethoven’s sheet music to the National Gallery housing works of art from the 19th century. The Pergamon Museum hosts art from Greek, Middle Eastern and Roman eras among others and is worth a visit.

Berlin is a city where I could easily spend a week and still not see all of it. The rich culture and history of Germany lives in the city and in the people who call this place home. Every time I’ve gone to Berlin I’ve discovered a new reason to fall in love with the city. Visit Berlin today and find your reason to fall in love.

A Book Review and a Giveaway!

Recently I was asked by a representative of Simon & Schuster children’s books to do a review. Always up for a good book I agreed. Alienated is a fun entertaining book aimed at children 8-12 years old and is written by David O’Russell and Andrew Auseon.

When I first saw the cover it grabbed my attention immediately with the brightly colored tentacles clutching a red cell phone. Alienated is the story of two teenage boys, Vince and Gene who write a newsletter called The Globe. Not your ordinary newsletter they interview aliens or ails as they call them and publish exclusive articles on the otherworld that has taken up residence on earth. Laughed at by the other kids at school and commonly referred to as dorks, they nevertheless continue to publish the stories they feel the public need to hear.

Vince and Gene soon discover that guidance counselor Walter Sparrow at the rival junior high is actually the dreaded nephew of the evil alien Vargon. Between fighting over publishing a tell all about Walter, Gene kissing their best friend Lucy and sprouting tentacles out of his back things go about as horribly wrong as they can. From alien fights to space ships to broken friendships the book is nothing short of entertaining.

While intended for pre-teens I still enjoyed reading the far reaching imaginative story. The storyline is creative and the characters mishaps relatable and amusing. It’s a fun read and one that appeals to kids of all ages.

If you’d like to read an excerpt you can do so here: Alienated At Simon & Schuster you can also see the author’s video interview to give you an idea where the story came from and some insight into the aliens in this Author Revealed Video.

The best part is that I now get to give away ten of the advanced reader copies of Alienated. All you have to do is leave me a comment between now and midnight Wednesday October 21 telling me who you think would like this book. It could be for your own children, a niece or nephew or even for yourself. I will randomly select ten winners and announce them next Thursday.

Be sure to spread the word to win this great book!