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Eeeeee, who doesn’t love a givewaway??

We are quite pleased to announce that the winner of The Orphanmaster ARC is . . .


Congratulations Karen — by the time this posts, we’ll have already gotten in touch to facilitate the giving away of the stuff. Looking forward to hearing what you think. Happy reading, all!!

The Orphanmaster by Jane Zimmerman

It’s 1663 in the tiny, hardscrabble Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now present-day southern Manhattan. Orphan children are going missing, and among those looking into the mysterious state of affairs are a quick-witted twenty-two-year-old trader, Blandine von Couvering, herself an orphan, and a dashing British spy named Edward Drummond.

Suspects abound, including the governor’s wealthy nephew, a green-eyed aristocrat with decadent tastes; an Algonquin trapper who may be possessed by a demon that turns people into cannibals; and the colony’s own corrupt and conflicted orphanmaster. Both the search for the killer and Edward and Blandine’s newfound romance are endangered, however, when Blandine is accused of being a witch and Edward is sentenced to hang for espionage. Meanwhile, war looms as the English king plans to wrest control of the colony.

As you know, I’m a big fan of historical fiction. So when I heard about this bad boy, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Picture it: a chaotic new world, a charismatic heroine, a betrothal gone wrong, an English spy for heaven’s sake, and a mystery involving missing children. *drool* If you can get past the fairly brutal start (and I’m not even particularly squeamish), you’ve got a lot in store for you.

The most wonderful part of the book was Blandine. She’s a headstrong trader unafraid to put herself equal with men, a fierce gunsmith, an ale-drinker, a lover, and of course, the most attractive woman in the settlement. (Could you imagine being labeled the most beautiful woman in present-day Manhattan? Ha!) She is at once bullishly independent and the stereotypical soft woman, always tending to those in need. An orphan herself, Blandine feels obligated to investigate when orphans begin to go missing in the settlement. And that’s when things start to get busy. There’s the missing orphan mystery, there’s Blandine’s relationship with her fiance and her relationship with Drummond (the English spy), there’s the trading aspect of Blandine’s life and the day-to-day life in the settlement, then there’s the life and times of the orphan children . . . oh, and then there’s the fleeing of town because Blandine is accused of being a witch and Drummond gets discovered and charged with espionage. Wait! Let’s not forget about the impending war between the Dutch colonies and the English (who are coming to take that shit). Hold on!  There’s also the haunting legend of the witika – also known as the wendigo, a mythical spirit of the Algonquin nation that has the power to possess humans and cause intense cravings for human flesh (which took me back to those Scary Stories books that I read as a kid — remember those??? On Fridays, our kindergarten teacher used to turn out the lights and read us a scary story with a candle lit. Yes, we were five. She was awesome.).  There is so freaking much going on in this novel, I had to force myself to stay focused. I often failed.

Still, this book was good. Well, good on paper, anyway. Ever heard that saying “good on paper, bad in bed”?

It’s like when you’re on and your date checks aaaaalll the boxes and then you meet and there’s absolutely no chemistry. That was me and this book. No chemistry. I could recognize where things were good, I could recognize the intricacies involved in the various plot lines (although I’m 100% sure that I didn’t get all of the nuances), I knew who I should be rooting for and rooting against. We just didn’t spark.

But! I want to give you a chance to love it, so . . . Giveaway time! Didn’t see that coming, did you? Yes, this ARC can be all yours, mythical cannibalistic creatures and all. There aren’t even any coffee stains! Hot damn. All you have to do is leave a comment below before midnight on Wednesday, May 9th.Winners will be picked at random (by title) and announced here on Friday, May 11. U.S. and Canada only, unless you pay for shipping (and then I’d send it to wherever you want). Good luck — and you have to report back and let us know what you thought!

Publisher: Viking | Release Date: June 19, 2012
Find this book at: Indiebound | B&N | Amazon | Goodreads

You know what time it is, right? Time to share what’s being read this week. Word. Hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly excuse for us all to share what we’re currently reading. Of course, there are some rules:

  • Open the book that you’re reading to a random page
  •  Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Don’t be a jerk: NO SPOILERS!
  • Be sure to include the title & author.


Between them the barrier was just as high, just as broad, and just as firm as if in Clare did not run that strain of black blood. In truth, it was higher, broader, and firmer; because for her there were perils, not known, or imagined, by those others who had no such secrets to alarm or endanger them.

Passing, Nella Larsen (Kimberly)


Alright, out with it. What are you reading?? Or even better . . . what do you wish you were reading?

Teaser Tuesdays, hot damn. Hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, Teaser Tuesdays is a good excuse for us all to share a bit of what we’re reading this week. You know the drill:

  • Open the book that you’re reading to a random page
  •  Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Don’t be a jerk: NO SPOILERS!
  • Be sure to include the title & author.


But it was too late. Shrieking, weeping, rushing out alone or dragging their loved ones with them, the residents of New Amsterdam performed a wholesale retreat from the Stadt Huys fright show.

The Orphanmaster, Jean Zimmerman (Kimberly)


Sharing tiiiiime: what are you reading this week?

Caribou Island by David Vann

On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unraveling. Gary, driven by thirty years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary’s old dream, they’re hauling logs to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in health, to build the kind of cabin that drew them to Alaska in the first place.

But this island is not right for Irene. They are building without plans or advice, and when winter comes early, the overwhelming isolation of the prehistoric wilderness threatens their bond to the core. Caught in the emotional maelstrom is their adult daughter, Rhoda, who is wrestling with the hopes and disappointments of her own life. Devoted to her parents, she watches helplessly as they drift further apart.

A portrait of desolation, violence, and the darkness of the soul, it is an explosive and unforgettable novel from a writer of limitless possibility.

I know I already mentioned Caribou Island my Vacation Roundup, but I just wanted to take a quick minute and reiterate how fantastic I think it is. I thought it deserved its own moment in the sun, so to speak. Plus, I wanted to mark it as a Top Pick. You’re welcome.

From my Vacation Roundup (and please pardon me for quoting myself):

This baby was the dark horse of the group. And when I say dark, I mean dark. Set in Alaska, it’s the story of Irene and Gary, and their attempt to save their marriage by building a cabin on Caribou Island. (Don’t ask, just read.) Also of note: their daughter, Rhoda, and her relationship with her shitface boyfriend, Jim. You want to shake Rhoda and tell her to WAKE UP JIM IS AN IDIOT but then you feel bad because Rhoda is the only one who knows that when it comes to her parents, well, things just ain’t right. This book is pretty powerful. It’s bleak and it’s complicated, and did I mention dark? Vann doesn’t mince words, either . . . it’s solidly packed, without any fat to trim around the edges. Read it. I will repeat: READ IT.

I found myself in that wonderful post-fantastic-read bubble of wowness, and while I was poking around for more information on Vann and Caribou Island, I came across many bad reviews of the book. I try very hard to avoid reviews of a book that I want to read before I actually read it, so I was pretty surprised. When I started reading the reviews, however, I saw that their dislikes tended to be my likes. Por ejemplo, some readers didn’t like the various narrators. I, on the other hand, think that tool is crucial to Gary and Irene’s story, and also to seeing the similarities between that relationship and the relationship between Jim and Rhoda. There’s a multi-generational thing going on here, you see. It’s tragic and intense. Maybe I just fell so hard for it because I’m just tragic and intense. HA.

Many more of the poor reviews were based on the “somber,” “depressing,” miserable,” “insert similar-yet-appropriate adjective here” tone of Vann’s plot and storytelling. To me, though, that’s what makes the damn book. Yes, it’s all of those things to a degree, but not gratuitously so; the novel is sincere and plainly wonderfully written. The mood is in the characters, it’s in the situations, it’s in the landscape itself. If you’re not a fan of that aspect of it, then I suppose you wouldn’t like the novel as a whole. But I clearly did.*


*See above re: tragic and intense.

Publisher: HarperCollins | Release Date: January 2011
Find this book at: Indiebound | B&N | Amazon | Goodreads
Bumped (Bumped #1) by Megan McCafferty

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

I thought Wither, the first book in the Chemical Garden series, was pretty decent, so I had high hopes for this one. The premise is similar, but instead of people dying of a virus in the early years of adulthood, they become sterile. I know in theory that two books about a similar subject means absolutely nothing in terms of how enjoyable or well-written they are, but what can I say? I was optimistic. (You know where this is going, don’t you?)

Because reproduction isn’t possible after people turn 18, girls from 12-18 are popping out babies left and right, sometimes as “amateurs” and sometimes as “professionals.” The professionals are basically surrogates, but more . . . businesslike. Contracts and test scores and all of that. They look down on the amateurs, who are generally less desirable than their well-paid counterparts.

Against this backdrop we meet Harmony and Melody (apparently their mom was hepped up on goofballs when they were born), twins separated at birth and adopted into two very different lifestyles — churchy and nonchurchy, to keep it simple. Melody is a professional who is more than ready to be “bumped” (and needs to be soon, according to the terms of her contract). When Harmony discovers that she has a twin sister, she flees churchytown (Goodside) and shows up at Melody’s house, hoping to a) convince her sister that she’s living a wicked life, 2) convert her sister and z) persuade her to live in churchytown. Melody is like nuh-UH, Harmony is hurt and confused, then there’s this big WOMP WOMP moment of mistaken identity, and things get messy.

Look. It’s not all bad. Harmony and Melody (I cringe every time) actually turn out to be semi-admirable in the fact that they stand up for what they come to believe in. Even so, their emotions are only surface-level and there isn’t as much tension as you’d expect; in spite of the fact that there’s a sequel, the relationship between the girls seems a bit too neat and tidy for me. Aside form that, most of the time I found their characters (and most of the others) pretty predictable and worthy of my eye-rolling. To her credit, McCafferty just MIGHT be an amazing writer. She seems to have captured the ridiculous colloquialisms of trendy 16 year olds — and even imagined some new ones that have a possibility of popping up in another 15 years or so. Gotta give her credit for that.

The plot has such potential, but just doesn’t pan out in a way that I find satisfying at all. The only reason I finished it was because it proved to be a pretty quick read, thank goodness.

Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Release Date: April 2011
Find this book at: Indiebound | B&N | Amazon | Goodreads

Hi Teaser Tuesdays, nice to see you again! Hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, Teaser Tuesdays is just a good excuse for us all to share a bit of what we’re reading this week. You know the rules by now, don’t you?

  • Open the book that you’re reading to a random page
  •  Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Don’t be a jerk: NO SPOILERS!
  • Be sure to include the title & author.


Ten minutes later, to the surprise of both of us, I was driving past the old guy and his ever-urinating dog again. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him gesturing excitedly, shouting at me that I had gone the wrong way, but as this was already abundantly evident to me, I ignored his hopping around and went left at the junction.

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America, Bill Bryson (Kimberly)


What are you reading this week?


I don’t know about any of you, but as an avid reader, I always have something I want to read. I used to keep a running list in my crackberry until I discovered Goodreads, and now my running list is out there, on the interwebs. It’s great. It’s also PRESSURE. I hesitate to take on new reads because I already have so much and heaven forbid anything jumps in front of anything else on my list.

So. There’s this thing called spring cleaning — maybe you’ve heard of it. In my place of residence, it happens very rarely. But I’ve decided to put it into practice when it comes to my TBR list. My criteria:

Do I really want to read this?

That’s it.

It didn’t take me long to weed through and remove everything that I wouldn’t be excited about reading. I only managed to remove about 10 books from the list, but I do feel a bit better.

Do you keep any kind of to-read list? Do you dust it off from time to time and reevaluate?