29 January 2016

Review: Da Vinci's Tiger

Da Vinci's Tiger 
by L.M. Elliott

Publication Date: November 10th, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

“Pardon me, but I am a mountain tiger” is the only surviving line of poetry written by the woman in Leonardo da Vinci’s very first solo portrait. Though not as well-known as, say, Mona Lisa, the picture he painted of Ginevra de’ Benci contains the rich and untold story of an intelligent and beautiful woman of the Florentine Renaissance. DA VINCI'S TIGER tells a tale of the art, politics, and romance that defined the life of an upper class noble in a wealthy city of shifting alliances and ideas. Ginevra is born to an ennobled close friend of the ruling Medici family. Even though she is intellectually brilliant, she is merely seen by her calculating uncle as a pawn to be paired off in order to further the family’s political position. While she is married to a merchant who is ultimately disinterested neither love -with a woman, at least- nor philosophical and intellectual discussions, Ginevra has a chance at both when the charming and eloquent

 Venetian ambassador Bernardo Bembo arrives in town. His declaration of “Platonic love” (admiration from afar due to her beauty and virtue) for her leads to a slew of social opportunities, including the chance to sit for a portrait commissioned to none other than Leonardo Da Vinci. She finds that the more she works with Leonardo, the more she discovers about her own identity and the art of expressing this identity through painting and she beings to discover who she really is. However, not everything is so great. Political strife is amiss and conspiracies, rivalries, and subterfuge run amok, and her new admirer is not all that he seems, so Ginevra must learn to navigate the dangerous waters of the nobility if she wishes to stay afloat.

One of the things I appreciated most was how realistically the main character was written. Her wants and needs add dimensions to her character without overpowering the entire plot line. While Ginevra is frustrated about her lack of intellectual opportunities, she doesn’t wallow in angst and anger and she still enjoys many aspects of Florentine society. Instead, she figures out a way to quietly defy the social norms and gender restrictions placed upon her by having a portrait painted that showed her as more than just another beautiful face by utilizing certain painting techniques that were unheard of in her time. It was a refreshingly realistic change that I felt gave the book more authenticity.
Overall, I thought this was an educational and interesting read. I have never come across another historical fiction YA novel from this particular time period, let alone one that managed to still be almost accurate while telling a good story, especially considering that Ginevra only left behind a single line of poetry. Though the book starts out a little slow and overly formal in language, I encourage readers to push though because it turns into a wonderful read in which one learns not just about the characters, but an enormous deal about the ideologies of the time period and they art they inspired.

Review: Soundless

Soundless By Richelle Mead

Publication Date: November 10, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill

SOUNDLESS was a really interesting novel, because it remarks on the idea of sound in conjunction with ones’ own fears. The society that Fei lives in is soundless, and this is a concept which scares me. Having this be the basis of the world in which she lives, however, is unimaginable. Mead somehow paints a picture of this in a richly imaginative way. Fei’s home in this mythological Chinese Mountain village is thrust into crisis and darkness and starvation. It is up to her to fight against the elements. This beautiful new book pictures an incredible reality with romance, and strength as Fei stands up for what she loves and discovers more about herself in the process.

27 January 2016

Review: Need

Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Publication Date:
 November 3rd, 2015
Publisher: Harcourt Brace and Company

NEED is a story about how achieving’s one desires is not always worth the consequences, even if it seems like the right decision at the time. Written through the perspectives of teenagers attending the same high school, it follows the rise of an anonymous social media that allows people to complete tasks, often felonious, to be rewarded with an item of their choice, anywhere from a new laptop to an A in a class. The story mainly revolves around Kaylee, a teenage girl in desperate need of a new kidney for her terminally ill brother. However, she soon discovers becomes suspicious of this website and embarks on a dangerous, death-filled, hunt for the truth. This book is extremely unique in its concept, but could have been carried out a bit better. The end of the book was not foreshadowed at at all throughout the story and seemed a bit random and disappointing. Overall, this was an exciting story that kept me on the edge of my seat and I would probably read it again.

Review: For The Record

For The Record  
by Charlotte Huang

Publication date: November 10, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press

FOR THE RECORD captures Chelsea’s journey as she suddenly stumbles into stardom. We see her deal with friendship, new and old, and the effects of fame. Chelsea isn’t a perfect character and makes mistakes that were easily relatable, which made the book all the more real. The dynamic of her band and the relationships she had to build was what really drove the book home. I would recommend this to readers that are looking for a sweet but realistic contemporary novel. 

22 January 2016

Review: The Girl With The Wrong Name

The Girl With The Wrong Name
By Barnabas Miller 

Publication Date: November 3rd, 2015 
Publisher: Soho Teen 

Theo Lane, an aspiring filmmaker, spends her days wandering around New York City with a hidden camera. One day, Andy Reese walks into her frame and immediately becomes her new project. Soon Theo finds herself trying to help this “Lost Boy” find Sarah, a girl he fell in love 3 days earlier. But as Andy pulls Theo into his perilous and confusing world, Theo starts to loose sight on what’s real and what’s just fantasy.

This eerie physiological thriller will have you staying up into the wee hours of the morning trying to finish it. Although this book starts off as an innocent and quirky YA story, it slowly becomes a thrilling, mind-bending novel. Just as soon as you think you know what’s going on, Miller throws plot twist after plot twist in this mystery. Perfect for all fans of mystery/thriller. 

Review: Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt 

Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books

ORBITING JUPITER is a thoughtfully written, compelling realistic fiction novel with emphasis on familial love. Protagonist Jack describes the changes to his life as his family adopts Joseph, a 14-year old previously imprisoned for almost killing a teacher. But Jack learns that people are not always what they seem. He slowly gets the quiet and reserved Joseph to open up about his secrets. Joseph is determined to find his daughter, Jupiter, whom he has never seen. Jack joins in the search, and together the two boys encounter many characters determined to keep Joseph from his goal. Although the plot at times is far fetched, the characters are completely believable because of the author’s authentic voice.  Throughout the plot, complex minor characters come in to play, making the story unpredictable and entertaining. While this is not exactly a fast paced read, it is very well written realistic fiction with enough dramatic moments to keep the reader engaged. 

15 January 2016

Review: The Rest Of Us Just Live Here

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness

Publication Date: October 6, 2015 
Publisher:  Harper Teen

THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE, is an extremely unique book that follows a group of kids who are not  "the chosen ones". They are just your normal, average teenagers, who happen to live in a town where exciting and freaky paranormal things happen. What I really loved about this book was the characters. They were beautifully developed and entirely realistic. They all had so many layers and distinctive qualities to them, ranging from LGBTQ aspects to mental illness. Although this book does have some fantasy/paranormal influences, this book mainly is character driven, and I would totally recommend it to someone who normally doesn't love fantasy.

Review: First & Then

First & Then by Emma Mills

Publication Date: October 13, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company 

Sweet and plain adorable, FIRST & THEN is a book that just makes you happy and smile. This book was more character driven than plot driven. What made this book different from other contemporary books was Foster, the protagonist Devon's cousin, and type of relationship they had. Foster really helped Devon grow and Devon (and Ezra) helped Foster adjust better. Each character has their flaws which makes them all the more relatable and realistic. FIRST & THEN was full of revelations and a short, light read. I would recommend this to all contemporary lovers. I'll definitely be looking out for other books by Emma Mills.

12 January 2016

Review: Are You Still There

Are You Still There  
by Sarah Lynn Scheerger

Publication date: September 1, 2015  
Publisher: AW Teen

ARE YOU STILL THERE, is a book that seems to be about a bomb threat at a school.  The novel presents a mystery, told from the perspective of Gabi, a teenage girl.  A bomb has been planted at Gabi’s school, and while the police are able to defuse the bomb, the person who set the bomb remains at large. Gabi and her friends, Garth, Janae, and Miguel, along with her sister Chloe, may be the only ones who can prevent another bomb.
Throughout the book, excitement, tension, and suspense are mixed with romance and a bit of tragedy, and, in my opinion, mixed together beautifully. With episodes of suspense and action one after another, this book offers many moments where I had absolutely no intention of putting it down.  As the story progresses, we discover the important roles played by all the secondary characters, something not found in many books.  There are many seemingly minor details and character actions that reward a reader’s close attention; a clever reader may be able to figure out some of the major plot details by reading closely. ARE YOU STILL THERE also has some misleading moments, pointing out things that might not be as they seem and adding to the overall mystery. There are many seemingly minor details and character actions that reward a reader’s close attention.

Review: Zeros

Zeros by Scott Westerfeld 

Publication Date: September 29, 2015

Publisher: Simon Pulse 

ZEROS is a book packed with action and suspense. Six California teens, each introduced throughout the story, have crazy powers, each one as impressive as the next. These six teens, as a group, are called the Zeroes. Together, they do great things. This thrilling drama is an overall great book, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action packed thrillers.

08 January 2016

Review: Infinite In Between

Infinite In Between  
by Carolyn Mackler
Publication date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen

INFINITE IN BETWEEN follows a diverse group of five teenagers throughout high school and how much their lives change within those four years. It’s an extremely realistic story that really captures the spirit of growing up, from the friends who come and go, the relationships you make, family drama, but overall, self discovery and coming into your own. Each character has a bit of a common YA trope in their story, but there is a uniqueness and freshness in them that makes it interesting to read. The five perspectives worked really well and the stories were cut off at just the right time as to where you get enough knowledge about what happened, but you still want to know more. Despite the rather lengthy page count, it was a fast and enjoyable read. 

Review: What We Saw

What We Saw By Aaron Hartzler
Publication date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen

In WHAT WE SAW Aaron Hartzler tells a captivating story inspired by true events about rape culture, and sends a powerful message to readers about being a bystander. The main character, Kate, is faced with decisions about speaking up about what is right, and trying to define the blurry line between guilt and innocence. She was at the party at John Doone’s house, and can *mostly* remember what happened that night: getting drunk with Stacey Stallard, and being driven home early by Ben Cody, somebody who might be becoming more than just an old friend. However, when pictures of Stacey passed out over John’s shoulder are all over social media the next day, Kate starts to wonder what happened after she made it home.

WHAT WE SAW, told from the perspective of Kate, takes on themes of sexism, the power of social media, and feminism. Kate is an incredibly realistic character, and makes readers want to reach into the book to hold her hand.  She is the bright light in this story, and I could feel her emotions and relate to them, even if the specific details of the story were not ones I could relate to. Although the book is focused on people who may not be doing the right thing, Kate offers some hope that there are many people who will let their voices, and the voices of victims be heard. Readers should know that although this story does follow some separate storylines, it’s mainly about rape and how victims of this crime are treated. However, the actual details about the rape are not too graphic. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. It was hard to put down, and helps unpack and clarify many of the issues regarding the way society views these types of cases.