Friday, April 30, 2010

Welcome to Blogmania!


My Blog is 71 of 123

We’ve done all the work for you. No hunting or surfing. Each blog will have a number and each new blog link will have a number. These numbers will allow you to keep track of which blogs you’ve visited and how many are left to visit. Why not take a moment to make a list of blog numbers 1-123 and check off the blogs as you go.

Welcome to Alison's Book Marks, a literary blog where I have an eclectic mix of book reviews, author interviews, book giveaways and more bookish goodness!

Here is what we're giving away for Blogmania - ONE DAY ONLY!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein - book and prize pack

A Raven Stole the Moon Umbrella

Thanks to Terra Communications!

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve.

Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella

Thanks to Hachette Book Group!

All you have to do is leave a comment below with your e-mail address.  I will contact the winner via e-mail and the prizes will be mailed to you directly from the publisher.  I'm sorry, but this contest is open only to residents of the US and Canada, no P.O. Boxes please.  You must be 18 or older to enter.

Please book mark my site, or Follow through Google Friend Connect (button on left) and come back and visit me some other time



After you've entered my giveaway contest, please visit these participating blogs:

(Blog- 1 – HOST OF BLOGMANIA) Between The Pages

(Blog -2 – CO-HOST OF BLOGMANIA) The Black Sheep Dances

(Blog-43 - CO-HOST OF BLOGMANIA) Books, Books Everywhere

(Blog-14) Living Green in a Colorful World

(Blog-31) A Dash of Nutmeg

(Blog-50) Books and Needlepoint

(Blog-69) Book Faery

(Blog-97) Paranormal Haven

(Blog-85) Past The Print

(Blog-62) Celia Yeary’s Blog

(Blog-74) Midwestern Gone Idahoan

Thursday, April 29, 2010

BTT: One Genre??

This is my first time participating in Booking Through Thursday, a weekly meme where bloggers answer a thought provoking question.  I discovered BTT through Molly at My Cozy Book Nook.  Thanks, Molly!  I loved the question this week, I had to answer:

God* comes to you and tells you that, from this day forward, you may only read ONE type of book–one genre–period, but you get to choose what it is. Classics, Science-Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Cookbooks, History, Business … you can choose, but you only get ONE.

What genre do you pick, and why?

*Whether you believe in God or not, pretend for the purposes of this discussion that He is real.

My answer is complicated.  When I was first starting my book blog, I had several people tell me that in order to gain readership, I really should choose a specific genre of books to review.  I'm sure from a marketing standpoint, that sounded logical; however, I don't only read one genre of books, so how could I possibly review only one genre on my book blog? 
I look at books the same way I look at food.  Here is my Book Pyramid, if you will:
Classics:  This is my filet mignon.  It's rich, satisfying, and complex.  I didn't like it as a kid, but really appreciate it as an adult.  While I love a tender piece of filet cooked to perfection, it's a once in a while type of dinner, best eaten with company on a winter's night. 
Non-Fiction:  Vegetables.  You need them to feed your brain, but I don't love cauliflower. Except for the occasional salad (Memoirs) I could not live on vegetables alone.  They are good for me, yes, but not the first thing I go for.
Classics gone Paranormal:  This is my sushi.  Yes, I am giving books like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies its own category.  These mash-ups are new, but have created a genre all to themselves, and they aren't going away any time soon (Diary of a Wimpy Vampire is coming out next month!).    I love sushi, and the ritual that goes along with sushi makes it fun to eat...but I personally can not make a whole meal out of it.  I enjoy it, and still have yet to discover all of the sushi that's out there, as I'm fairly new to sushi too. 
Modern Thrillers:  Coffee anyone?  I am addicted to my coffee - hence the theme of my blog - but too much makes me a jittery mess. 
Janet Evanovich:  This is my CANDY. YES, I am giving the creator of Stephanie Plum her own category!   Quick, fun, tasty, and leaves me wanting for more.   Could I live on candy alone?  I probably could, but I'd have an awful lot of cavities.
Young Adult:  Boardwalk food.  If you live in or have ever traveled to New Jersey, you will notice that along the Boardwalks of Point Pleasant, Seaside, and Wildwood, are countless little places to eat.  You'll see food like Sausage and Peppers, pizza, zeppoli, hot dogs, and Kohrs Brothers ice cream.  Meant to be eaten on the run, quick little bites that don't dare distract you from the lights, sounds and movements from the arcades and amusement rides fifty feet away.   Oh, and Boardwalk food is meant for the iron stomachs of the young...the rest of us might need some Tums if we eat too much.
Bestsellers List - Fiction:  Claire's Kitchen.  This is the food you get when you go to your best friend's house to eat as a kid.  You have no say, you can't complain, and you have no choice but to eat it.  It's only polite to eat it, it's what everyone else is eating, and you'll feel really left out if you're the only one sitting there with an empty plate.  That doesn't mean that what Claire is serving up isn't the best thing you've ever had in your life, but you didn't choose it.  If you happen to steal a taste as your passing through the kitchen before dinner is served, and you love what you taste, the meal is all that more exciting and yummy, and you can't wait until everyone has tried it too.  Most of the time, dinner at Claire's is comfortable, warm and you're always in good company.
After looking at my food descriptions, I've made my decision.  If God made me choose one type of book, I would have to go for the New York Times Bestsellers List - Fiction.  Yes, there are different genres on the list itself, which might actually be cheating the question, but it's my blog, and I make the rules.

Blogmania Sponsor

This Friday, April 30th is Blogmania, a giveaway extravaganza spanning over one hundred blog sites of all kinds. Alison's Book Marks is only one of the many stops where you can win some great prizes, but I wanted to give my readers a heads-up to let you know some of the prizes I will be offering for this ONE DAY ONLY.

Hachette Book Group has very generously given us TWO amazing books that will be offered here at Alison's Book Marks on Friday! 

Spent:  Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella
(Little, Brown and Company; May 14, 2010)

Synopsis from Hachette Book Group:
As a child, Avis Cardella devoured the glamorous images in her mother's fashion magazines. She grew up to be one of the people in them, living a life that seemed to be filled with labels and luxury. But shopping had become a dangerous addiction. She forwent food for Prada. Credit card debt blossomed like the ever-increasing pile of unworn shoes and clothing in the back of her closet. She defined herself by the things she owned and also lost herself in the mad hunt for the perfect pair of pants or purse that might make her feel whole.

Spent is Avis Cardella's timely, deeply personal, and shockingly dramatic exploration of our cultural need to spend, and of what happens when someone is consumed by the desire to consume.

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
(Back Bay Books; May 4, 2010, paperback)

Synopsis from Hachette Book Group:
Margaret and Patrick have been married just a few months when they set off on what they hope will be a great adventure-a year living in Kenya. Margaret quickly realizes there is a great deal she doesn't know about the complex mores of her new home, and about her own husband.

A British couple invites the newlyweds to join on a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya, and they eagerly agree. But during their harrowing ascent, a horrific accident occurs. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Margaret struggles to understand what happened on the mountain and how these events have transformed her and her marriage, perhaps forever.
A Change in Altitude illuminates the inner landscape of a couple, the irrevocable impact of tragedy, and the elusive nature of forgiveness. With stunning language and striking emotional intensity, Anita Shreve transports us to the exotic panoramas of Africa and into the core of our most intimate relationships.

Reading Group Guide for A Change In Altitude.

Article: A Change in Altitude

Become a fan on Facebook
Author website
Subscribe to Author Newsletter
These are two AMAZING books.  Many thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group!!!

Review: Black Hills by Dan Simmons

Heavy, in every sense of the word, but worthy of its heft.

Summer 1876 - Battle of Little Big Horn. Paha Sapa, young Black Hills, is ten years old. He is at the Battle, not as a warrior, as he wants to be a holy man when he grows up, but he gets caught up in the moment and decides to run at an enemy as part of his coming of age or count coup. He touches an enemy soldier at the moment of his death. The enemy he touches his people call Long Hair, and is known to the rest of history as General George Armstrong Custer. The soul of General Custer is released and Paha Sapa believes the soul enters into his body, where he continues to exist for decades to come.

That same year, Paha Sapa goes into the sacred Black Hills on his vision quest, during which he has a dream that four great stone heads rise up out of the stone, and the death of his people's culture. He is told by the Six Grandfathers that it is his destiny to destroy the four heads in the stone, representative of four Wasicun (white men) representative of the destruction of the Natural Free Beings way of life.  This stone mountain is also known as Mount Rushmore. Paha Sapa sees into the future for the first time, but not the last.

Between his tenth year and his final year, the book follows Paha Sapa through several major events in American History and his place in them. He rides Ferris's Great Wheel, he plays a part in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, goes to the Chicago World's Fair, lives through the 1930's Dust Bowl, runs from Crazy Horse, and finally ends up working as a powder man, the chief dynamite blaster, at Mount Rushmore. He can, in one act, on the day of FDR's visit to the South Dakota site, destroy Mount Rushmore, and reclaim his people's honor.

I have to be honest.  I almost gave up on Black Hills when General Custer began spewing his pornographic memoirs about his time with his wife, Libby.  I got through them as mere interruptions to Paha Sapa's greater story, which was suspenseful, interesting, and, dare I say, educational. 

I expected something very different from Black Hills, since I first saw it in the bookstore in the Horror section.  I wouldn't consider this novel as a tale of horror.  Instead, I would classify it as historical fiction, with a touch of the supernatural.  What I found most interesting is how all of these people in history truly do intersect at such a pivotal time in the American West.  I love when authors take the mysteries of a historical figure's life and turn them into a page-turning story, but what Dan Simmons managed to do is take an osbcure historical figure and use him as the axis around which all these other famous people orbit.

Black Hills is not a light read, nor is it for the light-hearted.  It's a heavy book, and time consuming, but one worth reading.  It's scale intimidated me, so I put off reading it, but I am so glad that I did.

For More:
Dan Simmon's Official Website

I read Black Hills as part of the Reagan Arthur Challenge, hosted by Kathy/Bermuda Onion & Julie/Booking Mama.   Thanks to Reagan Arthur for sending me a copy of Black Hills for review.

Next Up:  Next by James Hynes

About the Book:
Black Hills: A Novel by Dan Simmons
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (February 24, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031600698X
ISBN-13: 978-0316006989

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Blogmania Sponsor

This Friday, April 30th is Blogmania, a giveaway extravaganza spanning over one hundred blog sites of all kinds.  Alison's Book Marks is only one of the many stops where you can win some great prizes, but I wanted to give my readers a heads-up to let you know one of the prizes I will be offering for this ONE DAY ONLY.

Terra Communications has been very generous in offering a copy of the bestselling novel by Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain along with a tote bag full of fun swag!

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

My Quick Review (full review to come):
I loved this book tremendously!  I read it last year with my book club, and I don't think there was a single one of us that didn't love it.  After reading Garth Stein's Raven Stole the Moon (click for review), I picked up his The Art of Racing in the Rain again, and I enjoyed it even more the second time around.  Even though I never really wanted a dog, or considered myself a dog person, I am an animal lover.  This book changed me!  After reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, I wanted a dog.  I wanted Enzo!  If every dog has a heart and soul like Enzo, every one of us should get a dog and love him like one of the family, and if we're lucky, we might learn something from them as well.

Come back on Friday and enter to win! 

FYI:  Entries are going to be easy - no hoops, no extra entries, no clicking on buttons - in hopes that you will be able to visit several of the 123 blogs participating in this huge giveaway day.  If you find a blog you like, bookmark it and come back another day!

If you haven't seen it yet, below is the first in a series of great interviews with author, Garth Stein.  Check it out!

Garth Stein Interview

The first part of a series of interviews with Garth Stein, the author of The Art of Racing in the Rain and Raven Stole the Moon

Part One:

Poem In Your Pocket Day Tomorrow! that a poem in your pocket? 

Poem in Your Pocket Day is tomorrow, Thursday, April 29, 2010.  I am posting this today so you can all prepare and search for your very own poem to keep in your pocket.  There are even some great links for kids' poems for them to bring to school tomorrow.

Join in the fun! 

A Pocket Poem
With a poem in your pocket

a pocket in your pants

you can rock with new rhythms.

You can skip.

You can dance.

And wherever you go,

and whatever you do,

that poem in your pocket is going there, too.

You could misplace your homework.

You could lose your left shoe.

But that poem in your pocket will be part of you.

And nothing can take it.

And nothing can break it.

That poem in your pocket


part of...


Copyright c2004 by Bobbi Katz

Pocket sized Poems from
Pocket Poems by Bobbi Katz
Poetry for Kids
Poetry 180 - Poem a day for High School Students
Poetry Out Loud - poetry for adults

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Book Release: Burned by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Burned House of Night P.C. & Kristin Cast
Today we celebrate the release of the seventh installment in The House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast. Each time I think I'm able to walk away from this series, they pull me back in for more. I have all of their books up on my shelf - with a nice space open for Burned, House of Night #7.

I am happy to hook you all up with some goodies, but talk to me! Who bought the book today? Who read it? What did you think? I'm looking forward to hearing from all of you!

Book Trailer:

More Book Extras:
Download Song from Book Trailer

Read Chapter One of Burned

House Of Night Website

My Past Reviews of The Series:
*I read them all, but did not review them all.
Marked (House of Night #1)
Untamed (House of Night #4)
Tempted (House of Night #6)

Review: The City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, Book One) by Cassandra Clare

Very cool book.

Before I even begin my review, I'm going to tell you all something very very important.  If you have not read this book, DO NOT read synopses or reviews for the second book in the series.  Trust me.  There is a huge twist in the story that will make you gasp out loud...IF you allow yourself to be surprised.

City of Bones is the first of three (so far) books in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.  Clary Fray is your typical 15 year old girl living in New York City with her single mom, Jocelyn.  Of course, Clary's world is anything but typical.

It all begins when Clary accidentally meets Jace, Isabelle, and Alec in an under-age nightclub, where she sees things that couldn't possibly be real.  When her mother is attacked by a Demon, her three new friends introduce her to a new reality - one in which Downworlders like vampires, werewolves and faeries live among humans, and Shadowhunters are put on the Earth to protect unsuspecting humans from Demons.  It's like she has to learn a whole new language as Jace teachers her about The Institute, The Clave, The Covenant, and The Circle of Raziel, a group of Shadowhunters whose leader, Valentine, was previously rumored to be dead is on the rise and sending Demons out to do his bidding.  What does this have to do with Clary?  Why was her mother attacked?  Who is Valentine and why is he sending Downworlders out to attack her?

The action never stops, surprises come at the turn of every chapter, and I haven't seen a nice guy hero like Jace in a long time!  Jace is handsome, brave, mysterious, and inexplicably drawn to protecting Clary. What's not to love? 

When I finished the book, the first thing I did was do a search to find a trailer for the movie.  There is no way a book like this, with such great characters, exciting fight scenes, and complex story line couldn't be made into a movie.  I found this on Cassandra Clare's website:

"...the film rights to The Mortal Instruments have been optioned by Unique Features. This is a film production company set up by former founders and co-presidents of New Line Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who oversaw the production of the Lord of the Rings movies — probably my favorite fantasy movies of all time. They’re very dedicated to fantasy and they understand it, and I definitely trust them with the story of the Mortal Instruments.

Now, a book series being optioned doesn’t mean a film is being made right now or is definitely going to be made at all — it means that the studio or production company in question is developing the books as a film project — right now they’ve nailed down financing and a screenwriter (Jessica Postigo) and are working towards the next stages in the development project. It is, however, an important step in the movie-making process, so I feel like it’s okay to be excited about it. :)"

So, I'm not the only one who sees this book being played out on the big screen.  Let's keep our fingers crossed that it becomes a reality - it seems like the movie rights are in good hands!

I am late in picking up The Mortal Instruments series. I can remember around the time I started my blog, Simon & Schuster had the entire first novel up for free download. I knew it looked cool, but didn't get around to reading it until now. It's hefty at just over 500 pages (paperback), but the pages fly by. I didn't want to put it down, and it surprised me at every turn.
There are several reasons why being late in picking up a fun series is not necessarily a bad thing: I don't have to wait for the sequel, most are already out in paperback, no wait at the library (HA! - This is a big lie. I'm still waiting for Book Two. I may be late, but the series is still hot!) and I can find plenty of people to chat with about The Mortal Instruments.

If you love YA paranormal series, go pick this one up, if you haven't already, and come back and chat with me - you won't be disappointed!

For More: 
Mortal Instruments Web Page
Author's Web Page
Simon & Schuster Mortal Instruments Page (Excerpts, videos, interviews, more)

Book Trailer:

From the Author:
My first book, an urban fantasy novel for young adults centering on the adventures of the demon-fighting Nephilim (also called Shadowhunters), City of Bones, was published in 2007 by Simon and Schuster. The next book in the series, City of Ashes, came out in 2008 and the third, City of Glass, in 2009. The next Shadowhunter book is the first of a trilogy of prequels to the Mortal Instruments series, called The Infernal Devices. It is set in London and deals with characters related to those in the Mortal Instruments books; the first volume, The Clockwork Angel, will be released August 31, 2010. The fourth Mortal Instruments book, City of Fallen Angels, will be released March 11, 2011. (It is recommended that you read The Clockwork Angel before starting CoFA, as some of the characters from Clockwork show up in it, but it’s not required.)

About the Book:
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: McElderry (February 19, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416955070
ISBN-13: 978-1416955078
FTC Statement:  My copy of this book was borrowed from the library. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Author Interview and Giveway: Beautiful People by Wendy Holden

Please welcome writer extraordinaire, Wendy Holden, author of the upcoming Beautiful People (click for my review)

Wendy, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for Alison's Book Marks!

My pleasure, thank you for asking me.

1. What is your writing process?

I always have a plan, but it always changes. Someone you thought was a villain turns out to have a nice side – and vice versa. This happened especially with Belle, the actress from hell in Beautiful People. And the paparazzo being a teddy-bear at heart was another case in point.

2. How has your process changed since you wrote your first book?

I probably save my work more on the computer as I’ve had a couple of crashes and lost stuff. But otherwise no, it’s the same. I get up, go down to my office, switch on the machine and get on with it. And every day I’m thankful I have such a great job to do.

3. I have to know: Were the characters in Beautiful People based on any celebrities we know? (Not that you would be able to admit who they are!)

Well they were composites. I am an avid celeb watcher and bits of everyone went into these characters,

4. You seem to have a harsh opinion of movie actresses in Beautiful People, do you enjoy movies?

Adore them. I love movie actresses too, but mostly for their real lives, which are so bizarre and fascinating. The acting’s almost a side issue.

5. If Beautiful People were optioned for movie rights, would that be a dream come true or a painful irony?

Are you kidding? I would love it. Like every British person I am completely fascinated by America and particularly desperate to immerse myself in the whole shallow, glorious Hollywood thing. However, I have had books optioned by Hollywood studios before and know that it usually grinds to a halt way before the Oscars. Although last time it happened the option paid to re-roof my house, which I suppose was something.

6. What are you currently working on?

Two new novels. One’s about pushy parents – a subject with endless comic potential - and the other’s got a royal theme. I am fascinated by royalty, especially our own here in the UK, who are one long incredible soap opera, bless them.

7. What are you currently reading?

A Victorian bodice-ripper called Lady Audley’s Secret. It’s such a hell of a title; I just had to find out what the secret was.

8. Other than your own, what are your three favorite books?

I love big, fat nineteenth century novels; Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is probably my favourite of those. And I love contemporary comic fiction – many of the Adrian Mole series by the English writer Sue Townsend are works of genius, especially the later ones like The Cappuccino Years. Ditto the English illustrator/author Posy Simmonds, whose graphic novels Gemma Bovary and Tamara Drewe are fantastic.

9. What do you do when you're not writing?

I love travelling because I spend my whole writing life sitting in the same place in front of a computer. I go for old European glamour destinations like Venice, Antibes, Paris and Rome.

10. Did you always know you were a writer?

My earliest ambition was to be a princess or someone who lived in a stately home. Failing that, a prima ballerina. Basically, I was a hopeless fantasist and so writing was a natural career move.

11. You have published so many successful books, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

The most useful thing I ever did was not tell anyone when I was writing my first novel. It took a lot of the pressure off. Also, don’t be a diva. The book world is full of banana skins and you can’t take yourself too seriously.


A witty, utterly addictive novel from bestselling author Wendy Holden, Beautiful People is a tale wicked in its observations yet buoyant at its heart: an irresistible confection you’ll want to devour immediately.

Darcy—a struggling English rose actress when The Call comes from L.A. An Oscar-tastic director. A movie to make her famous. The hunkiest costar in Hollywood. So why doesn’t she want to go?

Belle—a size-zero film star but she’s in big, fat trouble. Hotter than the earth’s core a year ago, she’s now Tinseltown toast after her last film bombed. Can she get back to the big time?

Emma—a down-to-earth, down-on-her-luck nanny trying to weather London’s cutthroat childcare scene and celebrity mom whirlwinds. What will it take for her to get back in control of her own life?

Jet to London, Hollywood, and Italy; toss in a passionate star chef, a kindhearted paparazzo, and a reluctant male supermodel; and find Wendy Holden at her best—a smash international hit.


Wendy Holden (U.K.) was a journalist on The Sunday Times, Tatler and The Mail on Sunday before becoming a full time author. She has now published nine novels, all top 10 bestsellers in the UK, and is married with two young children. Her novels include Farm Fatale (in US Stores from Sourcebooks Landmark in July 2010), Bad Heir Day (also coming to US stores from Sourcebooks Landmark in September 2010), Simply Divine, Gossip Hound, the Wives of Bath, The School for Husbands, Azur Like it, and Filthy Rich.

For more information, please visit

Thanks to Sourcebooks, I have TWO copies of Wendy Holden's Beautiful People to giveway!

Contest will run through Friday, April 30, 2010

Here's How To Enter:

1. Click on the Google Friend Connect button over to your left

2. Comment on this post with your e-mail address.

3. Extra entries for sharing this contest on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.

4. Open only to residents of the US and Canada, and, sorry, no P.O. Boxes.

Winners Announced

It's a great day today, I have books to give away!!

Many thanks to Hachette Book Group, who has provided me with two amazing books to read, review, and give away!  You guys are the best!

FYI, I used to choose my winners.  Without further ado, here they are.

Winners of Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow are:

bettycd (More Coffee)

Winners of The Host by Stephenie Meyer are:

Melissa (YA BookShelf)
Simply Staycie (Simply Staycie)

Congratulations to all my winners.  Please be sure to check back with me after you've read your new books and let me know your thoughts! 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Eclipse Trailer

Vampires and werewolves and engagement rings, oh my!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Beautiful People by Wendy Holden

If you looking for Hollywood drama and characters you love to hate, you'll have a great time reading Beautiful People by Wendy Holden.

First things first.  I know I shouldn't judge a book by the cover, but that doesn't mean I can't judge the cover, right?  I am grateful that Sourcebooks sent me this book, but I don't think the cover would have attracted my attention in a book store.  I actually like the original cover, the UK edition, better (below right).  The pink and blue poke fun at the content, which I'm sure is on purpose, but unless you've read the book, you're not going to understand the irony.  The US cover doesn't do Beautiful People justice.   Now for the good stuff!

Beautiful People is the story of two actresses, each vastly opposite from the other, two equally opposite men, and two drastically different nannies -- all colliding in this light, fun story of movies sets, relationships, fad diets, and day care.  

Darcy Prince is a London-born serious actress whose integrity and art form are properly secure.  She comes from a family of serious actors, lives in a flat and gets by on her minimal theater wages.  Niall, also known as Grahm MacDonald, is her insecure British actor-boyfriend, who criticizes her trip to Los Angeles to meet with a famous Hollywood director.  Serious actors don't go to Hollywood, they suffer on the stages of London and New York!

Belle Murphy, on the other hand, is a plastic Hollywood actress, whose fortune was made by good DPs and plastic surgery.  Her career is spiraling down the tubes, and her tabloid presence has her falling toward the gutter reminiscent of Lindsay Lohan or Brittany Spears.  In other words, she is the kind of celebrity you love to hate, and you hate to look away from.

Surrounding these two characters is a cast of many, but few we actually like.  Don't worry, it's clear upon first meeting which are the "good guys" and which are the "bad guys".  Holden gives us Hollywood, London, and finally, Tuscany, where all the actors, and company, come together to film a big budget film called Galaxia (it's ok to giggle).

There's sex, drugs, scandals, and even an exercise thinstructor to the stars.  We certainly do love to hate the cliché beautiful people, who are ugly on the inside, and love to love the so-called ugly people, who are beautiful on the inside.  I guess the only exception to that rule is Orlando, who is a beautiful boy whom everyone wants a piece of - for a magazine, a photo shoot, a film, a romp - but all he wants is a humble life with a nice girl (cue the "Awww").  It is satisfying to finally read a book where the good people are rewarded and the ugly people are given their just deserts. 

I only had one problem with the book.  First chapter, first page, we meet Sam Sherman, head of the Wild Modeling Agency. Strangely, she is forgotten until Chapter 27, Page 191.  I found it strange to spend so much time introducing a character in the beginning of a book who doesn't mean much to the development of the story as a whole and is a loose end at the end of the novel.  I'll get over it, but Sam left me scratching my head. 

This is the kind of book that one should be reading on a beach somewhere (not during the middle of a snow storm in New Jersey, as I had read it).  It's a light read, full of ridiculous characters and impossible plots, and chuckle-worthy at times.  Beautiful People is not your serious winter novel, I can assure you, but one you should throw in your beach bag.

Monday, April 26th, Wendy Holden will be stopping by Alison's Book Marks for an interview.  So tune in Monday!

*FTC Statement:  A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

About the Book:
Beautiful People by Wendy Holden
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402237154
ISBN-13: 978-1402237157

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

I loved this book!  Another great book for boys and girls alike!

I'm always on the lookout for books my boys will like now and in the future, and since I'm not your typical girly-girl, books like this grab me as well.  The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk is a great story about Will Halpin, screen name HambugerHalpin, a goofy kid who finds himself in the middle of a murder mystery when the star quarterback dies while on a class trip to the Happy Memory Coal Mine. 

Will Halpin has the cards stacked against him - he's the new kid, he's a bit chubby, he's deaf, and his new best friend is the second-most unpopular kid in school.  This first person narrative takes us through the world of Will, in which perception is king.  He can read lips second only to his ex-girlfriend, Ebony, and what kid could resist watching the popular kids' conversations across the bus?  Kids are cruel, and the students at Carbon High are pretty bad.  Could they be so bad to commit murder?

Will Halpin has left his school for the deaf in favor of a shot at the public high school.  The murder mystery, the new kid factor, and Will's deafness sound like a recipe for a heavy novel, but they're really not.  There is plenty to think about, as some highly-charged topics come up, but nothing is heavy as Berk manages to sprinkle some serious topics in between his sarcastic-heavy dialogue.

"The first thing I notice is this:  public school girls are freaking hot.  Nice.  I try to focus on that and not on the sinking feeling that it might be way harder not to fail here than I thought." 

The murder mystery is a great ride and one that Will and his new pal, Devon Smiley, take seriously, as long as the reader doesn't take them too seriously.  I loved this book, and so glad to have found it.  I will be sure to save this one for when my boys are 12 or 13.  I HIGHLY recommend The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk!
Josh Berk first came onto my radar through the Tenners (woo hoo!) a group of YA authors whose debut books are due for release in 2010.  Then, my favorite bookstore, Clinton Book Shop, had an author signing.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend - I caught Strep from my little guy and didn't want Josh Berk to get sick.  I have my signed copy of Hamburger Halpin up on my shelf and will cherish it, but I hope to meet the author someday. 

Parents' Note: There are references to pot, teen pregnancy, and an affair between a teacher and student. Nothing is explicit, and it all goes by so quickly. I have no worries for kids over the age of 13.
Josh Berk
Interview by author Christy Raedeke

About the Book:
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
Reading level: Young Adult (Grades 8 and up)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 9, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375856994
ISBN-13: 978-0375856990

FTC Statement:  This book was purchased by me, with no ties whatsoever to the author or publisher.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


This year I have decided to take part in the first Blogmania, hosted by Between the Pages.  And Blogmania's two Co-Host Blogs The Black Sheep Dances and Books, Books Everywhere.  Every blog participating is hosting some great giveaways - for one day only! 

I will be announcing my big giveaway later in the's pretty awesome.  Here at Alison's Book Marks there will be no hoops to jump through, just leave a comment on my Blogmania page on April 30th to be entered...that's it!  (I might test out a simple form to fill out, which might be even easier)

To keep up to date with Blogmania info, check out the Facebook Fan Page
Blogmania also has a Twitter account

Who - What - Where - When

1. Would you like to have access to hundreds of prizes?
2. Would you like to discover new and exciting blogs?
3. Would you like to experience the Thrill of the hunt and the Ecstasy of winning?
4. Would you like to do all of this in just ONE DAY?

If you can click on the links we'll provide, you can get all this and MORE!

YOU CAN BEGIN AT ANY OF OUR PARTICIPATING BLOGS (Look for the Blogmania Badge) on April 30th and again on September 15th.  Bookmark Alison's Book Marks for an easy and fun place to start!


Blogmania Early Bird Check List:

We want all of our visiting guests in our first Blogmania Event scheduled for April 30th to Get On Their Marks-Get Set…

It’s not time to go yet, but if you want to have the most fun and scoop up as much loot as possible, here are a few Early Bird Reminders to help you do just that.

1. Be at any of the blogs participating in the Blogmania Event as early as possible on April 30th. The easiest way to find a Blogmania Blog is to look for the Blogmania Badge.

2. This is an international event, so understand that there will be some differences in time zones. My advice is to start early and stay late to catch all the blogs.

3. Each blog will have their own giveaway requirements. Read them carefully, follow through, and then move on as quickly as possible. If you run across a blog that you really like and want to spend some time exploring, copy their URL and then visit them after Blogmania is over.

4. We will have a 100+ blogs for you to visit. Each one will post their number like this. ( This is blog 47 of 100) This is to help you keep track of which blogs you’ve visited, and which ones you still need to reach. I’d suggest that you prepare a blog sheet which is numbered from 1 – 120, then mark off each numbered blog as you visit them.

5. All blog links provided will also have a number like (Blog 89 of 100). Look for the blogs that you haven’t yet visited and follow those links until you’ve checked off all the blogs on your sheet.

6. We have all types of blogs participating in Blogmania, which means that the range of items in their giveaways are diverse. I have previewed many and they are awesome.

7. Why not contact a friend and partner up. Compare notes, share loot, or organize your own friendly neighborhood Blogmania Competition.

~Bloggers interested in joining Blogmania as a participating site can request more information at Deadline for April 30th Blogmania is 4/25/2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Are You Reading?

Today is Monday, April 19, 2010...and I lost a week!  Where did it go?  Hell if I know.  So, I will be listing the books I've read since my last It's Monday, What Are You Reading post.  Okay?  Okay.  Breaking all the rules here at Alison's Book Marks.

I have a new Challenge with the Spring Reading Thing, so I will be focused from now on!

Before I begin, I have to say hello to Sheila, our lovely hostess with the mostess, at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, a blog worthy of it's extra-long title. 

On we go.  Two weeks worth.  Prepare to be underwhlemed.

Books I Completed This Week:

Books I am Currently Reading:

Books I Plan To Read.

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

In a word: thrilling!

The first book in James Dasher's trilogy, The Maze Runner, opens with a boy who finds himself in a dark elevator, not remembering anything of his life except his name - Thomas.  When the doors open, he is met by a community of boys who live in the Glade, a large expanse of land surrounded on all sides by a wall that opens each morning and closes each night, as they have for the past two years.  Outside those doors is a maze that holds grave dangers as well as the answers to how the group of boys will find their way out of the Glade.  Who searches the maze to find its secrets?  The Maze Runners.  Somehow Thomas knows he is supposed to be a runner.  There are other echoes in his memory that he wants to unlock, he needs to unlock in order to get out of this place.  They need to escape, but to where? 

Thomas's arrival in the Glade sets off a series of unusual events, which caused a domino effect of action and suspense.  The Maze Runner is a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games.  This group of boys carve out their own society, and figure out a chain of command, establish skills in order to sustain their lives in the Glade.  All the while, they have no idea why they are there, who sent them, why and, probably most importantly, what is beyond the maze? 

I can not say that this is a "boy book" because I do believe girls will enjoy it just as much, although I do feel this is one of the few books I have read in recent memory that boys would love.  I will say that I could not put this book down, regardless of my age or gender.  It kept me on the edge of my seat, made my heart beat outside my chest, and had me wanting more when I turned the last page. 

If you loved The Hunger Games, you won't be able to put down The Maze Runner!

The second book in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials is due for release on October 12, 2010.

FTC Statement:  I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library.

About the Book:
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385737947
ISBN-13: 978-0385737944

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Test Post

I apologize for the test post.  I'm changing around some settings. Bear with me!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Hard Eight (Stephanie Plum #8) by Janet Evanovich

I know I've said this before, but this one is my favorite so far! 

Stephanie Plum is in rare form in Hard Eight.  I was cracking up so hard I was crying (the spider in her car!).  I had a hot flash at the mere mention of Ranger or Morelli ("I wouldn't mind seeing him naked," Grandma said.)  And I was truly terrified for poor Steph (f-ing rabbit).

Stephanie is having her usual problems with her FTAs, but it's when her parents' next door neighbor comes asking for help locating her daughter and 7 year old granddaughter that things get dangerous and cars start blowing up...again.

Eddie Abruzzi, who is a war gamer and a hater of women in general, has made Stephanie his new enemy.  Luckily for Stephanie, she has two tall, strong, brave, manly men looking out for her well being.

Speaking of manly men...
Morelli grabbed me by the front of my shirt, pulled me to him, and kissed me.  His tongue touched mine, and I felt liquid fire slide through my stomach and head south.  He released me and turned to go.
"Hey!" I said.  "What was that?"
"Temporary insanity.  You drive me nuts."
And he stalked off down the hall and disappeared into the elevator.

Trust me when I tell you, that is no where near the hottest part of Hard Eight.  Oh.  Boy. 

And now, for my favorite New Jersey quote:

I hit Route 1 and put my foot to the floor.  This brought me into the flow of traffic.  In Jersey we think the speed limit is merely a suggestion.  No one in Jersey would actually do the speed limit.
Love it.  So true.  Why is Stephanie on Route 1?  I'm not sure how I missed this in the earlier novels (too busy catching my breath from laughing so hard, probably) but Stephanie Plum is a Rutgers girl!   Say it with me...Rrrrrrr....Uuuuuuuu. 

I love writing Stephanie Plum reviews - it's where I can break all the rules and it's ok.  You know I love the books, they're like candy!  I've turned on so many of my fellow New Jersey friends to this series, so we can all laugh a little.  Life can get rough in NJ, we need to laugh at our own crazy state once in a while.  (And not like that Jerseylicious or Jersey Shore garbage - for the record that's NOT New Jersey!)

Looking forward to - To The Nines!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Reading Thing 2010

It's Spring!! 

I know, I know, I'm late with the newsflash.  This past fall, I participated in Callipidder Days Fall Into Reading.  I promised myself back then that I would join in the fun for her Spring Reading Thing, so here I am...a little late, but a woman of my word!

The event is simple.  I list the books I want to read this spring - March 20th through June 20th - and get reading!  To join in the fun, head on over to Callapidder Days !

Here is my list:
I reserve the right to update and add to this list as the season continues.  I will link to reviews, and the books listed in BOLD are read, but not yet reviewed.

  1. 1.  Three Cups by Mark St..Germain
  2. 2.  The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
  3. 3.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  4. 4.  Fever Crumb by Phillip Reeve
  5. 5.  Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
  6. 6.  The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  7. 7.  My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day
  8. 8.  I Thought You Were Dead by Peter Nelson
  9. 9.  Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
  10. 10.  Green Witch by Alice Hoffman
  11. 11.  The Dark Days of Hamberger Halpin by Josh Berk
  12. 12.  Black Hills by Dan Simmons
  13. 13.  Serafina67 *Urgently requires life by Susie Day
  14. 14.  Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
  15. 15.  She-Rain by Michael Cogdill
  16. 16.  Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky
  17. 17.  The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano
  18. 18.  Next by James Hynes
  19. 19.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
  20. 20.  A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer
  21. 21.  Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
  22. 22.  Dead Man of the Year by Stephen Hawley Martin
  23. 23.  The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon
  24. 24.  How To Lose a Client by Becky A. Bartness
  25. 25.  The Horse and His Boy (The Chronicles of Narnia #3) by C.S. Lewis
  26. 26.  Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia #4) by C.S. Lewis
  27. 27.  The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
  28. 28.  Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott
  29. 29.  The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
  30. 30.  Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  31. 31.  Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  32. 32.  Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
  33. 33.  City of Bones (Mortal Instruments Book 1) by Cassandra Clare
  34. 34.  To the Nines (Stephanie Plum #9) by Janet Evanovich
  35. 35.  Louisa May Alcott:  The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen
  36. 36.  Silent Scream by Karen Rose
  37. 37.  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  38. 38.  Twilight:  The Graphic Novel by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim
  39. 39.  Virginia by Susan Hughes
  40. 40.  Frindle by Andrew Clements
  41. 41.  Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  42. 42.  The 13th Reality by James Dashner
  43. 43.  Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo
  44. 44.  I LEGO N.Y.  by Christoph Neimann
  45. 45.  Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
  46. 46.  I LEGO N.Y. by Christoph Neimann
  47. 47.  Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  48. 48.  The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
  49. 49.  Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
  50. 50.  Burned by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast
  51. 51.  Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
  52. 52.  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Oh boy.  That's a long list.  The beautiful thing about this challenge is that it will keep me focused.  All of the books I have listed are sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.  So, as long as I avoid the library and the book store between now and June, this list won't change (hahahahaaaa).

What's on your list?

*For some reason, the numbers on my list are not showing up.  grr.  There are 37 books on my list thus far.

Article by author Michael Cogdill

I am currently reading Michael Cogdill's She-Rain, so keep your eyes open for that review.  In the meantime, I had to share with you an article the author wrote, which I am re-posting with permission.   Sit back, take a deep breath, and take in this article about hope and heroism.

The High Calling of Hard Times: Leadership, Hope, and Radical Love -- Even on the TV News
By Michael Cogdill,
Author of She-Rain: A Story of Hope

The complaints sail almost daily into my professional life. People tell me they find the news so depressing they can't watch anymore. I understand their longing for hope, even as I say the news contains a mother lode of the hope they crave. We journalists and viewers have a way of missing it, even as we look straight at it.

My answer grows from having covered terrible news on television for more than twenty-five years. Holding what I deem the sacredness of human grief on my very breath -- as a television reporter and anchor -- has revealed to me the power of the news to inform some of the best of humanity. It forms a lesson in leadership, especially in the worst of times.

Aristotle believed "happiness depends upon ourselves." In the coverage of stories such as 9-11, the earthquake in Haiti, or a suffering child in America, we discover the joy of our dependency upon one another. Those stories contain a radical love -- the kind we feel for a stranger in whose eyes we recognize something magnetically familiar. News of human suffering clarifies what Mother Theresa meant when she said charity isn't about pity. It's about love. Too often we who cover and consume the news -- or write about any human events -- fail to see through the hardship to find the leadership. We miss the seismic love.

A few years ago, a tiny piece of television brought me to a man whose life forms a clear window on the power of both. When we met, he was chronically underestimating the potency of a heroism he had lived. This is the soldiering story of George Campbell.

I met Mr. Campbell on a steaming day in June. We shot a TV public service announcement together for a terrific charity, Meals on Wheels, whose volunteers bring hot meals and priceless company to the elderly and infirm. Mr. Campbell lived a small life in a tiny house in Greenville, South Carolina. Apart from the tick of a clock in his living room, it seemed a life of nearly constant silence. Having finished our quick work, we chatted a moment. I had noticed a shadow box on his wall, holding some of the noblest honors the U.S. Military can award. When I asked about those medals, he stood silent for a time, then replied, "You know, son, it was almost 60 years ago to this day I set foot on that piece of France they called Omaha Beach."

That small retired pharmacist had served as an unarmed U.S. Army medic on D-Day. He had climbed out of a boat directly into the savagery General Eisenhower knew awaited the men of that terrible time.

Mr. Campbell, in his courtly, humble, and gentleman's way, told me of running through the Nazi hell that rained onto the men of that beach. He spoke of expecting, any moment, to join the swelling tide of death before him.

It took little time for his well-kept memory to reach the first fallen man he had found.

"I rolled him and saw it," he said. "A spurting wound of the chest. And there was a girl, right there with him. He had a girl's picture in his hand."

In the din of battle, that anonymous U.S. serviceman lay with blood flowing across the hands of Medic Campbell, and he begged him. "Help me get home, Doc. Help me outta here to see her again."

With me at his kitchen table, those sixty years later, Mr. Campbell withdrew into another moment's quiet. Then he spoke of a hopelessness he still felt. There was no saving that boy. He could only kneel there with him until death came. One terrified man had simply knelt with his hand on the blood-sodden chest of another, whom he did not know. That became George Campbell's full experience of D-Day. From one broken body to the next, he had made his way across that jagged beach, and he carried a despair of it across those sixty years to our time and place together -- there in his little house and near anonymous life in America.

"They died on me," he said, thrusting down tears. "All of them."

Every boy Medic Campbell had reached during his D-Day service had died. And palpable in his voice was the feeling of failure. He, in his private sadness of war, felt he had failed as a soldier and, on some levels, as a man.

What followed stands among the most valued and sacred moments of my career. For I had the opportunity, such as I am, to remind that gentle veteran of what he had done -- how he had led, and deeply loved, strangers through the worst time of their lives. It had clearly never dawned on him that, because of him, not one man he reached on that beach died alone. Because of his mettle, those men died witness to the terrified love and hope of a fellow man. As he knelt with them, he feared with them. I'm quite sure he wept with them. Yet he became their living courage, their leader to the mercies of death, a mortal usher who helped shoulder them to death's veil. Without being able to save a single life, he proved to them how courageous leadership truly feels -- not the absence of fear but the presence of care.

Up in his eyes, in that storm of doomed Nazi horror, dying men saw the very best of humanity. He led them to a ground of peace, forged their final relationships on earth. With him they experienced an intimacy with hope.

We men tend to rattle a bit when we venture a try at love talk. As I write this I can but hope I managed to convey to Mr. Campbell the stunning force of the love I felt from him. I can only trust I convinced him, in some small way, of the priceless difference his life had made in the withering moments of the lives of soldiers barely out of boyhood. He had become a quiet hero of Omaha Beach -- one of its many great leaders. If I could, I would call and remind him of this even now. I long for the opportunity -- even to thank him again for his service. Not long after our time together, shared there in his home and in his memories, Mr. Campbell died.

Yet he lives in this reporter's memory, and in the ways he makes me a better man. Because of my time with him, I am led to become a more caring writer -- of journalism and, yes, even fiction as it draws from our deepest reality.

Before his death, I was blessed to report a TV story on Mr. Campbell for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. As with so many, that story cast forth a human tragedy. To this day it is a story of war's unstoppable grief. Yet within it, viewed through the lens of the soul as well as the mind, that story gives off the hope of what great leaders do. They move toward the people they lead. They carry on lives of extravagant caring. With a broadness of the heart, they bear another's hurt with beautiful humility.
In the next story of what seems boundless grief on the news, may we each hear that whispered call to lead with such a radical, generous form of love. May we look within ourselves for the leader who quietly scatters hope where it seems only hurt will live. To paraphrase and nuance Gandhi just a bit, may we become the hope we long to see in the world.

And to that end: Veterans out there -- this reporter says, THANK YOU! This writer of journalism and fiction owes you a debt beyond words. And to you, Mr. Campbell, peace to your spirit, sir, with gratitude for trusting, and loving, me enough to share that great triumph of your days.

© 2010 Michael Cogdill, author of She-Rain: A Story of Hope

Author Bio
Michael Cogdill is blessed as one of the most honored television storytellers in America. His cache of awards includes 24 Emmys and the National Edward R. Murrow for a broad range of achievement, from live reporting to long-form storytelling. His television credits as a journalist include CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and The Today Show, and Michael's interview history crosses a wide horizon: The Reverend Billy Graham, Dr. Mehmet Oz of Oprah fame, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Abby Hoffman, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain, Howard K. Smith, James Brown, Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops and many other newsmakers. His coverage credits include Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States.

Michael spent ten years writing She-Rain, letting it evolve into a world of fiction drawn from his upbringing in Western North Carolina but reaching far beyond. His other writing credits are Cracker the Crab and the Sideways Afternoon -- a children's motivational book, and a self-help volume, Raise the Haze. Michael makes his home in South Carolina with his wife, Jill (a publishing entrepreneur), and their second-generation golden retriever, Maggie. He's currently working on his second novel.

For more information, please visit
Pin It
© copyright 2009-2013 Alison's Book Marks, a Book Marks Media, LLC production

Alison's Book Marks has an affiliate relationship with IndieBound and Amazon.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin