Review: Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliott

Da Vinci's Tiger
Young, beautiful, and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors mentored by the famed Lorenzo de Medici, and to find love.

When the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives in Florence, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—a world of thought and conversation she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted to the handsome newcomer, who admires her mind as well as her beauty. Yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them—one Ginevra can only begin to understand. In a rich and enthralling world of exquisite art, elaborate feasts, and exhilarating jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. In the end, she and Leonardo are caught up in a dangerous and deadly battle between powerful families.

I've seen it said that the strength of this book is the political intrigue and the historical accuracy. Unfortunately, historical accuracy is lost on me and my brain is too small for political intrigue, so I just could not connect with Da Vinci's Tiger - after about 50% of getting the character's mixed up and trying to keep up with what was going on in Renaissance Florence, I gave up.

This book is one that people who love history would love and I have a love/hate relationship with historical books - I gave Da Vinci's Tiger a shot, despite knowing tat it was wholly possible that I just wouldn't get into it and unfortunately I was right.

That being said, I'm pretty sure I would enjoy any other book by this author. I really like Elliott's gorgeous writing style and the reason I had to DNF this book was because I couldn't keep up - not because of any other flaw in the writing or plot.

Overall Rating: DNF

Book released 10th November 2015 by Katherine Teagen books
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Mirrored by Alex Flinn

Mirrored
Mirror, mirror in my hand…

Beauty is the key to everything. At least, that’s how it seems to Violet—ugly, bullied, and lonely. To be beautiful, in her eyes, is to have power and love. And when Kendra, the witch, teaches Violet how to use magic, she may finally get what she wants.

For Celine, beautiful since birth, her looks have been a hindrance. She discovers that beauty is also a threat—especially to her stepmother, Violet, who doesn’t want anyone sharing the attention she worked so hard to get and who will do anything to be the fairest of them all.

But beauty isn’t only skin deep and love isn’t based on looks alone. And though Violet and Celine may seem to be completely opposite, their lives are almost… mirrored.

I've been really struggling with Alex Flinn recently - I just didn't enjoy Towering and now that I have finished Mirrored I feel let down again. Was Beastly just a fluke? I really enjoyed that book, but no other books by Flinn have really lived up to my expectation.

I just struggled to get into Mirrored - Violet's story at the start seemed completely necessary but it also dragged, I like that we got to know the characters of Violet and Greg and Jennifer, because it gave the bad guy a face and personality and a reason behind her evilness, however I just didn't feel like I connected with any of the characters at this part.

The pace did pick up a bit with Celine, the beautiful daughter of Violet's first love. At first Violet is a loving stepmother to Celine, but then things change. Celine gets beautiful and Violet is threatened, leading her to become abusive towards Celine. I really liked Celine's character, she is nice but also spunky, however her bit was too short and then the next chapter began too soon.

Goose, the narrator of the third part and I guess the love interest of Celine, was a great character. He makes up for his diminutive size with his caring personality and his heroics, but as much as I liked his character I didn't really enjoy reading from his POV - maybe it's because the pace dropped again but this last part sort of died for me.

The saving grace is the appearance of Kendra - this story gives you an idea into why she is the way she is, and also shows you a more caring, motherly side of Kendra.

Overall, Mirrored is a typical book by Flinn, with simplistic writing and a basic plot but not much else to offer. I felt disappointed by Mirrored, because whilst I finished the book, I didn't feel much after I closed it.

Overall Rating: D

Book released 15th September 2015 by Harper Teen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis

The One Thing
Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won't invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie's rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn't interested in rehabilitation, not when she's still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

Then Maggie's whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she's ever met.Ben's life isn't easy, but he doesn't see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn't have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she's currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie's new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben's brother.

But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future... before she loses everything she has grown to love

I'm not re,ally sure how to categorise The One Thing - is this a book about magic (no)? Is it contemporary realism (no)... what do I tag this review with?! Let's just go with fantasy and contemporary and hope that nobody questions my decision...

I struggled with this book at the start, because I didn't know how to take it. I like things to sit in boxes and as far as genres went this book was in a non-definitive grey area. That being said, as soon as I cast this out of my mind I really started to enjoy the book. Maggie was such a great main character and whilst I had my issues with her, I did enjoy following her story. My key character, though, was Ben - he may not have spoken like a 10 year old, but he was witty and clever with the ability to become a child at times. I read this book for Ben and it was because of him that I ended this book with tears in my eyes.

Now back to Maggie - Maggie is a teenage girl, and despite the fact that she is blind she behaves exactly like a teenage girl, mood swings at all. I sweetened to her later in the book but at the start she was very difficult to connect with. I still felt iffy about her scenes with Mason towards the end (despite him being the love interest and me being a biiiiig romantic) but I'll let that pass because the story of this book is so good.

The story focuses on Maggie finding her thing - it used to be football, before she was struck down ill and became blind, now she has nothing, until she meets Ben. It's a brilliant storyline and the friendship between Maggie and Ben really made me like Maggie - that kid was a shining light that brought out the best in everyone.

It's hard for me to review the plot because it isn't a big part of this book - this is more a development arc for Maggie as a person than a story with ups and downs, instead I can say that despite this, The One Thing was an immersing read that had me sobbing by the end.

Just... give it a go - You won't have any regrets.

Overall Rating: B+

Book released 8th September 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin'
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Yessss! Finally a book that is body positive, sex positive and doesn't dump on anyone's views at all.  This is what I have been looking for all these years! Dumplin' is literally a book that I have spent years dreaming of and every time I thought I had found it, it goes and ruins it for me. A book which is about accepting yourself for who you are and not changing for anyone but yourself, but also portrays the MC as a real person, who has real emotions and comes to accept herself. A book which has a larger protagonist accepting that big is beautiful, but also that skinny is beautiful too, and that the most beautiful thing a girl can be is confident. A book which is sex positive, that says that if you feel ready for it, go for it, but also that it isn't something that should just be taken lightly.

Dumplin' is a brilliant book. It's sassy, it's sweet, it's sexy and it gave me all the feels. Julie Murphy writes a fantastic character in Willowdean - she is utterly relateable and also isn't the most perfect human in the world. It has backing characters that are great and romantic moments that had me ee'ing as I read them.

However there were some parts of this book that I felt let down by - mainly the Mitch part, because he is a perfectly decent human being but WIlllow just leads him on ad uses him as her fall back bae - I try to tell myself that this just represents Willow as a real human as capable at making stupid decisions as the rest of us, but I can't buy into that. It just annoyed me that a book so concerned by putting forward good messages sends forth this message that girls can just use boys however they like.- imagine the reaction as the dynamic been the same with genders reversed!

That being said, I did massively enjoy Dumplin' - I think every female young or old, big or small should read this book. I know it made me feel this surge of confidence simply by reading and I think it would do the same for all women. A brilliant book by an amazing author. 

Overall Rating: A

Book released 15th September 2015 by Balzer + Bray
Book received for review for the author/publisher

Review: Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger

Lying Out Loud (The DUFF, #2)
Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend's house every night because she has nowhere else to go.

Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with - secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross. Ryder's the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can't stand - a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.

But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually 'like' him. Only there's one small catch: he thinks he's been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she's the girl he's really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?

Lemme put this out there: I loved The Duff. The book was amazing and even the film, whilst not completely faithful to the book, is a fave for me. I loved it.

I also enjoyed Lying Out Loud. Did I enjoy it as much as The Duff? Not at all. Where The Duff was sassy and funny and cute, Lying Out Loud felt strained and pushed, like Keplinger was trying to channel the same style as The Duff but couldn't find it in her. I struggled to connect with Sonny or Ryder and I totally felt sorry for Amy.

I think because Sonny is a compulsive liar, I really didn't connect with her. I felt like I couldn't trust her, and despite the fact that she is nice and funny, I couldn't blame Amy or Ryder for reacting to her the was they did - Sonny wasn't an honest, good person.

But then I also blame Amy, for being the doormat that she was and letting Sonny get away with the things she did... and Ryder didn't really have a personality for me - he just served a purpose and that was all, so there was no connection there.

I felt that the story was predictable and despite the fact that Keplinger is clearly a brilliant writer, it didn't completely shine in Lying Out Loud.

That being said, this was the type of book that I could read in an afternoon and not have to be massively invested into. It's a cold autumn night book, and that was what I needed when I read this. Had I picked this book up expecting something deep and super meaningful I would have been disappointed, but I didn't so I guess I can say that despite it's flaws, I did enjoy this book.

Overall Rating: C

Book released 28th April 2015 by Scholastic
Book received for review for the author/publisher