Review: Professor Gargoyle

Professor Gargoyle (Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1) by Charles Gilman
Release Date ~ September 25, 2012
Quirk Books
ISBN13: 9781594745911
Review copy received from Quirk Books/Random House of Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:
In Professor Gargoyle, we’re introduced to 11-year-old Robert Arthur and the strange world of Lovecraft Middle School. It’s a brand-new state-of-the-art facility—so why do so many creepy things keep happening? Why is the science teacher acting so strangely? And where are all the rats coming from?

As Robert explores with his new friends Glenn and Karina, he discovers that the school may be a portal to another world.

Professor Gargoyle is an incomparable middle grade read - and fortunately  the beginning of what is sure to be an invaluable and exemplary series. Personally, I think it's a great idea to introduce younger readers to all sorts of books - and a middle grade take on Lovecraftian horror serves up plenty of fun with some shocking and creepy twist.

  1. Fun horror - but not conventional horror:

    I appreciate Lovecraft-inspired stories because it's exactly the kind of horror I really enjoy. This isn't what most of us are used to, and for anyone concerned about nightmares or gore, you don't need to be when it comes to Professor Gargoyle. It's shocking at times and a bit twisted and it's just enough to give you some creepy tingling in your spine but nothing that's over the top or gratuitous. Honestly, some of the creepier parts of the story are positively BRILLIANT.
  2. Appropriate illustrations for the story:

    A good illustration is not only pleasing to the eye but it actually enhances the reading experience as well. Eugene Smith is remarkable with illustrations that combine the needs of both a middle grade book and one that has some scarier aspects to the plot. The lenticular cover is also a great way to really get a feel for the book and I think it adds to the overall experience.
  3. One of the most creative and thrilling middle grade books I've read:

    The story is fast-paced, and totally bursting with creativity. I enjoyed the few nods to typical Lovecraftian adventures and creatures. But placing these in a younger setting is going to hold a lot of appeal with younger readers looking for something more uncommon, and for older readers both those who are familiar with horror a la Lovecraft and those who are completely new to it and would just like a taste. I adored the haunted school as a setting, and Karina is one character that I found particularly intriguing. 

I wish there had been a bit more depth to the story overall though. I think a bit more could have been added to the plot to give it more meaning and significance, although this may be addressed later on in later books from the series as overarching themes and ideas are addressed.

It really is something that is great for readers looking for something besides the standard paranormal or contemporary books out there.


Waiting on Wednesday {33}

Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme where we can share a book that we are so excited for and are anxiously awaiting their upcoming release!

This week my WoW pick is...

Poison by Bridget Zinn!
Release Date ~ March 12, 2013 from Disney Hyperion

I think by this point it's no secret that I LOVE fantasy, so I was pretty much hooked at the first mention of "kingdom" in the synopsis. Plus it sounds like there are a whole bunch of rather complicated relationships going on, and I adore this cover to pieces!

Update: While looking up more info on Poison, I discovered that Bridget Zinn passed away in 2011. I'm looking forward even more to reading this book that clearly meant so much to her, and for the opportunity to get to see a little piece of her.

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

What about you? What amazing upcoming release are you waiting on today? :) 


Review: Revived

Revived by Cat Patrick
Release Date ~ May 8, 2012
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ~ Hachette Book Group
ISBN13: 9780316094627
ARC received from HBG Canada

Goodreads Synopsis:

It started with a bus crash.
Daisy Appleby was a little girl when it happened, and she barely remembers the accident or being brought back to life. At that moment, though, she became one of the first subjects in a covert government program that tests a drug called Revive.
Now fifteen, Daisy has died and been Revived five times. Each death means a new name, a new city, a new identity. The only constant in Daisy's life is constant change.
Then Daisy meets Matt and Audrey McKean, charismatic siblings who quickly become her first real friends. But if she's ever to have a normal life, Daisy must escape from an experiment that's much larger--and more sinister--than she ever imagined.
From its striking first chapter to its emotionally charged ending, Cat Patrick's Revived is a riveting story about what happens when life and death collide.

Revived is a hard-hitting read that will challenge readers intellectually, by taking a difficult question and putting names and identities to people in a certain situation to help bring it to life. I'm one of those people that is often guilty of thinking that I have all the answers - I wrestle around with hard questions enough that I'm usually able to come a conclusion for myself and stick with it.

But Revived is one story that challenged some of my answers and made me wonder if it was as simple of a solution as I had made it out to be for myself. Daisy struggles with the concepts of life & death and scientific ethics, but in such a way that the reader begins to re-evaluate their own convictions on these tough topics.

And then it rips your heart right out of your chest in a way that's totally unexpected and reminiscent of how real these scenarios are.

  1. A story to challenge readers:

    If science could bring people back from the dead - if we had this power and were capable of accomplishing such a miracle, how would we use it? For some people, the answer to this will be fairly simple. Others will struggle with it, trying to balance out the concerns on the different sides of the issue. And while Revived definitely suggests its own opinion on this question, it does so in a way that still considers how complicated and MESSY this situation would be. And it leaves you incredibly aware of just how little we really know.
  2. Lovely story of friendship:

    This is probably the aspect that left the biggest mark on me, after reading Revived. I'm really drawn to books that feature strong, loving examples of friendship between characters and Revived is one of the books I've read that has done this best. Daisy's friendship with Audrey was far more memorable to me than most swoonworthy romance I've read in YA.
Revived truly is a fascinating story, as Daisy navigates a number of problems we only consider "ethical issues" but they're her REAL LIFE. What do you do when you have a secret THIS BIG? It isn't as cut and dry as you  might think.

And in a lot of ways, I really felt like the story was stuffed into a book that was a little bit too small. There were so many struggles and questions that felt so big, but I didn't feel that they got the time or development they deserved to really give them life. As a result, I felt like some areas struggled such as the romance and some of the final events didn't have as much of an impact as they should have. 


Blog Tour: Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains)

Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Release Date ~ February 1, 2013
Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN13: 9781402273438
ARC received from Raincoast Books; blog tour organized by Sourcebooks

Goodreads Synopsis:
Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She's desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark's feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now...

I'm kind of into superheroes (a bit - mostly Batman) although I never really became involved with comics, oddly enough. I've been saying for a little while that I'd really love to read some more superhero-inspired YA (I think there's a lot of untapped potential there - just saying!) and it was this aspect that initially drew my attention with Blaze.

Blaze isn't exactly a superhero book, but it plays a big part in the plot. This ends up making Blaze a truly fun and unique contemporary that I think is going to have plenty of widespread appeal with all kinds of readers!

  1. Laugh out loud, tongue-in-cheek humour:

    I find funny books to be a rarity; but that may just be that I have an extremely particular sense of humour. I love really dry wit, and Blaze's sense of humour just fit so well with mine that I couldn't help but laugh along. Plus, I thought it was fantastic how she relied on humour in difficult times - I have friends like that, and I sometimes do the same thing and I think it was really neat to see a character who could crack a joke at any time.
  2. Real perspective on gossip/reputation:

    Laurie handles these prevalent teen issues with ease in Blaze but without becoming too "heavy" and without preaching. It becomes so obvious how dangerous and hurtful cruel, thoughtless comments about other people can be. I love that it isn't focused on figuring out who's the victim and who's the villain, but recognizes that all people need to be treated with dignity and respect. And all of this is accomplished in a way that readers will relate to.
  3. A unique format for a YA book:

    One of my favourite aspects of Blaze is that it really utilizes Blaze's love of comics (and her talent as an artist) as one of the ways to immerse the reader in the story. The included illustrations in the book are done by an incredible artist - and while my ARC didn't contain the illustrations, I was able to get an inside look at some of the art for the novel through the Sourcebooks blog tour. I LOVED the way that the illustrations are included with the story, to help bring it to life. It's a really fun way of presenting the story. 
You can find a sneak peek of the artwork here.  (Includes Mark the Shark and the Blazing Goddess) 

I only wish that the consequences for some of the poor choices made had been highlighted a bit better; there are a number of events which take place that many teens will experience (such as sexting, relationships, and gossip) but I don't think the outcome was as convincing as it could have been. Everyone largely comes out unscathed, and I don't mind that overall but I wish that some of these problems weren't as easily to solve as they came across in the book.

But this is a fun book, that's going to appeal to a broad range of readers - those who enjoy contemporary, humour, illustrations and artwork, and even superheroes/comics will find something to appreciate in Blaze.


Review: The Cadet of Tildor

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
Release Date ~ January 10, 2013
Dial ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780803736818
ARC received from author for review

Goodreads Synopsis:

Tamora Pierce meets George R. R. Martin in this smart, political, medieval fantasy-thriller.

There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown's inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.

Growing up, one of my favourite authors was Tamora Pierce (she is still one of my preferred authors). I loved reading about the characters and worlds she had created, and I believe she's one of the best YA authors out there right now. It isn't surprising then that when I first heard of The Cadet of Tildor that I knew right away that I would want to read it after hearing it likened to Tamora Pierce's work.

As excited as I was, I also knew I wanted Cadet to be different from the Tortall books. Thankfully Cadet is an extremely strong debut from Alex Lidell, who is able to showcase her talent as a writer in a beloved genre among many other talented authors and still shine all on her own.

  1. Complex struggles:

    In a few of my reviews I've mentioned how much I love the story of Antigone (a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles) and her struggle between what she sees as her public duty to the king/state and her private duty to her family. I found this to be one of the key themes running through The Cadet of Tildor as well, as Renee begins to realize that her choices and life direction aren't as simple as she would like them to be. This is something everyone comes to recognize in their life at one point or another, and it's a struggle that I think will resonate with many readers. Because sometimes right and wrong just isn't so black and white. There are so many characters in this book that honestly believe they're doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing, and it's interesting how well Alex is able to highlight that even if these characters are antagonizing each other, they're staying true to their personal beliefs - which ends up being a very effective portrayal of subjectivity.
  2. A heroine who constantly pushes herself:

    There is so much to admire in Renee de Winter, even in the very small mundane activities she does. I found myself in awe of her again and again as she continually strived to be the very best that she could be. She has plenty of flaws, it's true, but it's remarkable how much effort she puts into the work she does and I appreciate seeing a heroine who is known for this, rather than any innate talent or attribute.
  3. A world on the brisk of upheaval: 

    There is so much political intrigue in Cadet, but not in the usual way. I thought it was fascinating how Alex included political struggles but they were internal disputes rather than external ones. You can sense that Tildor is at the cusp of great change, and the hostility between the different criminal groups, class factions, and nobility was extremely well portrayed. It added a level of complexity rarely seen in the worlds created for YA books. 
I only wished that there had been a bit more flow to the story, overall because some parts of it felt disjointed to me. There were times when the scenes didn't mesh as well together as I would have liked, partly because there wasn't enough ambience for me to truly immerse myself in the setting. For example, some of the fight scenes failed to grab my attention and create a sense of excitement and danger I long for in an action sequence. There were also one or two characters who seemed to change rather drastically without much lead up, although they were the exception to the rule. 

But overall, The Cadet of Tildor is an extraordinarily strong story; one that is reminiscent of old favourites with its strong characters and world building, yet creates its own strong foundation by including a thoughtful response to struggles familiar to any reader and leaving readers with plenty to ponder over long after the book is finished. 

Purchase Links
United States


Announcement: The Exodus Road

Happy 2013! I hope you've all had a wonderful holiday, and enjoyed your break - if you had one :)

I love the beginning of a new year, because it feels so much like a clean slate. This past year has been a big one for me; I've seen a lot of changes in my life (all good ones!) and there's going to be another change coming which will affect Esther's Ever After.

In the past year and half that I've been blogging, I've really come to love and appreciate the book blogging community. It has been so exciting and fun to discuss books with other readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers! But recently I have felt moved to do something more.

You may have heard me discuss some issues and causes I'm interested in, but for the most part I've stayed out of expressing my opinion. There is one cause I'm particularly passionate about and I've discovered and follow a number of organizations that deal with this problem. One of those organizations is The Exodus Road made up of a group of people working together to combat human trafficking (especially in SE Asia where it is notably prevalent).

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
― William Wilberforce

I think a lot of us have issues which are closer to our hearts; human trafficking is mine. While studying political science, I took a number of courses dealing with the concept of human rights. I even wrote a couple papers on human trafficking (mostly for the purposes of sex, but there are other types of trafficking as well). When I saw that The Exodus Road was looking for applications from bloggers to spread the word about their cause, I made the decision to apply even though Esther's Ever After has been dedicated to book blogging for the past year and a half.

I know that at first glance, this may seem kind of odd. There isn't much correlation between books and human trafficking. But human trafficking is a huge epidemic in the world right now, and it's something we all need to be educated on and there are so many little ways we can help. And friends, I want to do my part. What do you know about human trafficking?

  • Did you know that there are 27 million modern day slaves? (This is what trafficking is, friends - modern day slavery)
  • With the number of children being trafficked in the sex trade, it works out to every 60 seconds (1 MINUTE) a child is sold for sex worldwide

And for my lovely American friends...

These images are from CNN's The Freedom Project, where they share the facts about human trafficking which you can read about here.

Basically, this is a very long (I need to work on being more concise) way of saying there is going to be a slight change coming to the blog. Once or twice a month I'll be posting about The Exodus Road and their efforts. Exodus Road is involved by spreading awareness about the facts of human trafficking, but I greatly appreciate that they go further than that. The Exodus Road is a group of investigators who are actively rescuing victims of trafficking, actually bringing them out of brothels and also working to prosecute offenders legally. They have 15 investigators, 11 supported organizations, their own Field Director in SE Asia. Currently they have saved 622 victims and assisted with 348 prosecutions to date. They raise money to help provide covert equipment, fund travel and investigative costs, and provide support for the communities targeted by traffickers.

The Exodus Road: Fighting to End Child Slavery from Justin Lukasavige on Vimeo.

So what does this mean? This means once or twice a month I'll post about The Exodus Road's efforts and update you on what's going on. I'll let you know how you can help when fundraising efforts are going on. I'll be tweeting about this once in a while too. I'll share with you stories of rescued victims. But that's it. It isn't a big change, but I just wanted to explain why I'm doing this and what it means to me. I've seen what the blogging community can do when we rally together - I would love to see us talking about causes like this once in a while, and doing what we can to fight it.

If you'd like a taste of what to expect, you should check out Sarah's story - a girl who was rescued out of a brothel in Cambodia.

I'm not yet involved in any fundraising campaigns but if you would like to donate directly to The Exodus Road now, you can do so here. I'll never push anyone to do this, because our situations are all so different. Some of us choose to donate to other organizations or causes, or some of us just can't donate money. Sharing and spreading awareness is so important too! Or even just reading and giving up some of your time.

And this gets cooler - you can also back The Exodus Road by following them on Pure Charity. Pure Charity is a site where you can sign up to have your online purchases through certain stores contribute a small percentage of what you spend to projects, like The Exodus Road. It is so cool and so easy (and Sephora is on there so I am sold)!

You can find out more about the numbers The Exodus Road uses here where they explain what they're talking about.
I'd also encourage you to follow them on Twitter, so you can easily be updated with their news. Or if you prefer Facebook, you can like their page right here.

I know I have a voice, even if it doesn't seem that loud at times.


Readathon: Bout of Books 6.0

I've had such a fun time participating in previous Bout of Books readathons, but I was concerned I just wouldn't have enough time with school to fully commit to the readathon this time around so I didn't sign up.

BUT I saw all the fun tweets and posts about it for today, and I just felt like I was missing out. (Plus, I'm wayyy on top of schoolwork. You would all be so proud!)

And the point isn't to read non-stop for a week. The point is to just MAKE AN EFFORT. And that's what I want to do; just give it my best and get some reading done!

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon


The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Prodigy by Marie Lu
FINISH: audiobook of Burn for Burn by Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han (I'm about halfway through - on Disc 4)

Update #1:

I read chapter 1 of Cadet of Tildor last night - it's like 4 pages long. But still! Something! I didn't even know I was participating in this then ;)

Guest Post: Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains)

Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) is a debut book from Laurie Boyle Crompton coming out this February - and to help celebrate this upcoming release, Sourcebooks Fire has put together a very special blog tour highlighting one of the unique aspect of this book - the special comic book illustrations!

Today I've got some a sneak peek of the illustrations by graphic artist Anne Caine and a special post from author Laurie discussing her main character, Blaze, to share with you! Enjoy~

Why My Character is “Comic Book Cool” by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Blaze’s character showed up in my mind like Blam! Pow! “Tell my story!” She’s really into
comics and is sort of stuck in her life as an outsider, but she isn't ashamed of being a geek.
She displays her superhero buttons proudly and is constantly drawing and reading comics.
I couldn't wait to write about her. Of course, working on a project where studying comic books
counted as research was a bonus!

My step-father has this Ah-mazing! collection much like the one Blaze’s dad has in the book and
I remember staying up late at night reading through stacks of them as a kid. I would try to tell
my friends about these awesome characters like the Silver Surfer and Iron Man, and I’d even
try to imitate Thor’s Norse God way of speaking. This was before the movies made these guys
more mainstream and I was definitely on the fringe with my obsession, but when I’d find another
comic book nerd we had an instant bond.

As I was writing, Blaze surprised me when she fought back against Mark the way she did and
I knew at that point I could just allow her character to take over. Of course things don’t go as
she plans, but no matter what tight spots she finds herself in, she uses comic books to guide and
empower her. Readers who aren't into comic books will definitely still enjoy Blaze, but my hope
is that she will inspire them to check out comics for themselves, too!

I've been watching our for this book ever since I first discovered it (when it was first titled FANGIRL) because I've been such a fan of superheroes and comics since I was younger. I love that Blaze has such a different feel to it than other YA books, and I'll be sharing my review with you in just a couple weeks so keep an eye out for that :)

If I hadn't been sold on the story's description, these illustrations by Anne Caine completely would have sold me on the book. Aren't these just amazing?! We have a few sketches of the Blazing Goddess and a Mark the Shark trading card design.

Artwork © 2012 Anne Cain
You can find more of her artwork and learn more about Anne on her website.

So what do we think, guys? Are you intrigued yet? 

Blaze comes out on February 1, 2013 so keep your eyes out for it!

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines.

Blaze has always wanted her to life to be a little more X-Men/Jean Grey-cool rather than the reality: nerdy chick that drives a mild-mannered brown minivan (aka the Subatomic Superturd of Steel) for her brother and his friends, the Soccer Cretins, and spends all her time drawing comics.  Then, super-hot soccer god Mark takes her on a couple of dates, and Blaze is certain her life is finally beginning. But when he uses her and dumps her, Blaze creates a comic book starring Mark the Shark that has everyone talking. 

Mark retaliates online, and suddenly Blaze is gigabytes deep in an epic online battle to the (social) death. Mark may have humiliated Blaze supervillain-style, but he quickly learns geek girls always get revenge.


Best of 2012

I know, I know... It seems that I'm a few days late for this one. We're already IN the New  Year, but I decided this year that I wouldn't post this list too early to give myself more of a chance to read as many 2012 releases as I could.

So without further ado... I give you my list of the top reads for the 2012 year!

10. The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
This book was a surprise I received in the mail from Scholastic, and I wasn't familiar with it at all until I opened up the package in the mail. However, I was so surprised by it - there's some really fascinating steampunk aspects to the story, and turned out to be one of the most touching books and remarkable characters I have ever read about. Plus the writing works so well to give off a distinctly gothic creepy vibe.

9. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Epic high fantasies are some of the best fun there is when it comes to books. I loved the political intrigue and multiple perspectives which made Falling Kingdoms stand out in my mind from many other stories I've read. It's dark and full of magic and mysteries and has just enough of a mature/grown up feel to it.

8. 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
Reviews have been mixed for this book (I recommended it to one friend who turned out to be a bit disappointed) but I was totally freaked. right. out. I loved the suspense and the space setting! And the ending is one that really left me guessing. I'm just dying for a re-read of this one.

7. Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Another great fantasy pick. There was a whole lot of hype surrounding Shadow & Bone, and it was definitely well-deserved. Fascinating character dynamics, and magical world building is a great start to a new series.

6. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Contemporaries have rarely moved me the way Pushing the Limits did; the romance is intoxicating, and Echo's past is mysterious and leaves you guessing and turning the pages as fast as you can to figure out the puzzle. Shocking and so very, very touching.

5. Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell
The Widdershins books have quickly become some of my new favourites - I love clever, brave heroines and the world created here felt so lively and real with its developed religions and society. Furthermore, the villains in these books are some of the most terrifying I have ever read.

4. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
I loved the take on magic, dragons, and mystery in Seraphina! The romance is so unlike other YA books (or other books in general, actually) and I loved the depth Rachel gave to her fantasy world. And it has a traditional mystery feel to it, very "whodunnit". Oh, and the musical take to Seraphina's character! So creative and thoughtful.

3. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Re-tellings can be fairly hit-or-miss but Scarlet is one that I would absolutely recommend. It was so much fun, and thoroughly brought Robin and his band of merry men (and one woman) to life. The characterization was phenomenal, and the romance delightful.

2. Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
Historical fiction tends to be a favourite of mine and the assassin nuns found in Grave Mercy make for a thoroughly enjoyable alternate historical story. PLUS: witty banter, I love thee.

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
I'm really surprised that Code Name Verity made my top spot for the year - why? Because this is the only 4-star book on my list. And I struggled through the first half of the book. But very, very rarely has a story ever left such a mark on my heart and become unforgettable. I cried and my heart breaks every time I think "kiss me, Hardy! Kiss me quick!"

So now I'm curious - have you read any of these? And did you LOVE them as much as I did? What were your top picks for the year  (which was a FANTASTIC year for books. It was so hard to narrow these down, but you can totally tell what types of books I really love).

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