Monthly Archives: March 2013

Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King


“It is difficult to overestimate the importance of The Last Supper for Leonardo’s own life and legacy. It was responsible, far more than any of his other works, for his reputation as a painter. During his lifetime and for many decades, even centuries, after his death, the majority of his other paintings (and only fifteen survive, four of them unfinished) were seen by neither the public nor other artists. In the three centuries between his death and the early nineteenth century, many of the works we know today were widely dispersed, unrecognized, inaccessible to the public, or completely unknown.”

 History and Italy are two of my greatest loves, so when I got my eager little fingers on Leonardo and the Last Supper I was already excited for what was to come. And Mr. King did not disappoint. This is the first work from Ross King I have read and I have already added a few of his other similar works to my wish list.

King (perhaps from experience or sheer talent) has a wonderful ability of covering numerous aspects regarding the life of Leonardo himself, the purpose and creation of the famous painting, while incorporating the details of the historical happenings that influenced both the man and the art piece. It was a perfect balance of all three elements, compared to many art history books that have tilted too far on one side and leaving the overall picture a little blurry.

I had always known that Leonardo was remembered as a genius with interesting quirks but Leonardo and the Last Supper provides an in-depth and detailed exploration of a man beyond his time. Some of the highlights of the book include the discussions of Leonardo’s personal fashion taste (he was well known for wearing bright pink tights), his wide variety of obsessions (including aerial flight and the begrudging manner in which he supported his mischievous apprentice Salai) and the somewhat high maintenance and short attention span Leonardo possessed that often caused his projects to take years to complete and angered those waiting for their pricy paintings. While admired for his artistic abilities, he was a social misfit in his own way.

I think it’s safe to say that the theme of a misfit Leonardo is a prevalent one through numerous aspects of the book and his artistic career. Leonardo was certainly an artist with eccentricities. He was notorious for not completing works on time (or even starting them sometimes) and for using his own artistic preferences. When the fellow artists commissioned to create murals in the Santa Maria delle Grazie refectory were using the fresco art style, Leonardo refused to do so and instead painted in his preferred method, oil. Yet, it was the very quirks that artistically differentiated Leonardo from other artists of the time that added to his creative genius. King offers a fascinating glimpse into how much time and thought Leonardo put into his paintings, such as the hours he spent making sketches of the facial expressions and hand gestures of people in markets and plazas. A full chapter of the novel is dedicated to deciphering who were the artistic muses for the members dining with Christ in the painting. King, who has experience with artistic criticism, offers an intriguing examination of how Leonardo painted and how his mind created what are no considered masterpieces.

History lovers will not be disappointed either. During Leonardo’s lifetime Italy was a bed of intrigue and fascinating characters, one of whom was Leonardo’s main benefactor. Lodovico Sforza, the self-proclaimed Duke of Florence, was a ruthless man and sought to legitimize his political claim in numerous ways. One was through the arts, but he was also meddling constantly in the affairs of other Italian dukes and leaders, along with those beyond Italian borders such as the French King and the Holy Roman Emperor. The actions of Sforza and other powerful Italian men influenced everything around them, including the lives and commissioned works of artists, including Leonardo who spent most of his life at Sforza’s court creating sets for theatrical plays and working on a giant equestrian statue that would never see completion.

Nothing about Leonardo and the Last Supper is dull. King makes topics that might seem monotonous (such as painting techniques and historic details) captivating with his suspenseful and witty writing style. He entwines the topics of artistic techniques, history and interesting characters together to create an enjoyable novel that any art or history fan will enjoy immensely.

Devon – athousandbooklife

Other books by Ross King: The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism (2006), Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling (2006) and Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven (2011), with a foreword in Tuscany: Vistas, Churches, Museums, Art, Villas and Gardens (2010)


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Some great Teen/YA books coming out in 2013!

2013 will be full of great releases, some of which are concluding or continuing some amazing series, while others will no doubt be the beginning of new ones that will become favorites. I’ve found myself reading quite a few Teen books lately and enjoying them immensely, so I went ahead and did some research for future reads. Unsurprisingly, the Post-Apocalyptic theme of the Teen genre seems to be continuing full steam ahead, so here are some of the releases in 2013 that I’m looking forward to. I have no doubt there are many more and I’ll do my best to update this list as I can!


 Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky series) by Veronica Rossi – January 8, 2013

Though admittedly I have not read Under the Never Sky, I have heard nothing but great things about it and hopefully in the near future I can get my hands on both the first and second in the series. In the first book Aria finds herself exiled from her home city and sent to what she perceives will be her death in the hostile lands of the wasteland called the Death Shop. During her struggles Aria stumbles on an outsider named Perry and the story starts from there. Through the Ever Night picks up their story and the obstacles in their way. In some ways it reminds me of the Dustland series; I’ll report back when I finally am able to read it!


Fragments (Partials series) by Dan Wells – February 15, 2013

This is the follow up novel to Dan Well’s 2012 release Partials which follows the story of Kira, a young medic who lives in a world threatened by two enemies; a deadly virus that has decimated the human population and the human-esque robot hybrids called Partials who are attacking what is left of the human race. It was nice to see a book that took a scientific swing on things and went beyond just focusing on the physical aspects of surviving. No doubt Fragments will continue this story and focus on the twist that takes place at the end of Partials, so I’ll be reading this when I’ve worked through the stack of books sitting on my shelf.

UPDATE: I’ve now read and reviewed Fragments, so click the book’s cover image above to check it out!

 requiem lauren oliver

Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel & Raven (Delirium series) by Lauren Oliver – February 22, 2013 and Requiem (Delirium series) by Lauren Oliver – March 5, 2013

The Delirium series follows the story of Lena, a teenager living in a world that believes love is a disease and who is facing her own inoculation against love at the beginning of the book. While set in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world, Oliver uses the conventional themes of survival and self-preservation in this genre in a unique way; instead of just fighting for physical freedom, Lena fights for emotional and mental freedom. While Lena has always hidden a slight uncertainty about the absence of love in her family, her world only becomes truly unhinged when she meets Alex, an Invalid, who has never received the Inoculation. The second book follows Lena’s struggle as she leaves the loveless but familiar world of her childhood behind and steps into a world that is fighting for love, quite literally. Thankfully with the release Requiem and the side stories in Delirium Stories I’ll get a few more good doses of this series, one which I have found intriguing and a fresh face of the Teen genre.

UPDATE: I’ve now read and reviewed Requiem, so click the book’s cover image above to check it out!


Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers – March 20, 2013

Dark Triumph is the follow up to Grave Mercy which tells the tale of Ismae, a young woman marked by death, who is taken in by the St. Mortain convent and trained to be an assassin, and who ultimately becomes embroiled in a political plot against royalty. In Dark Triumph we learn about Sybella, who we meet briefly in the first book, who comes to the convent half mad from unknown horrors. She soon becomes one of their greatest assassins, but her sanity will be tested when she is assigned to a plot in the very location that traumatized her before. In all honesty, I wasn’t as impressed with Grave Mercy as I hoped I would be. I was hoping for more history and detail about the training and life at the convent, but I’m going to give the series another try by reading Dark Triumph. There is some great possibility for strong, badass female characters and I just hope LeFevers takes advantage of that a bit more this time around!

UPDATE: I’ve now read and reviewed Dark Triumph, so click the book’s cover image above to check it out!


Taken by Erin Bowman – April 8, 2013

Taken is a late addition to this list, but it’s been getting great word of mouth and after some recommendations from fellow readers, I decided to look into it. After reading the concept, I can understand why it’s becoming so popular. Gray Weatherby is turning eighteen soon. It should be a joyous occasion, but Gray lives within an enclosed city where all men vanish mysteriously on the night they turn eighteen. Gray has accepted this spin of the fortune wheel, but when his mother leaves a cryptic note for him a few days prior to his birthday, Gray begins to wonder whether he should merely wait for his abduction or defy his fate by climbing over the Wall that cages the city and facing whatever waits for him beyond it. I’m a fan of authors making their main characters male, mostly because when I worked in a book store it was often difficult finding novels for male teens and young boys that truly interested them. From the sounds of it, this book already has so I’m curious to have a read of it myself.

UPDATE: I’ve now read and reviewed Taken, so click the book’s cover image above to check it out!


The Elite (The Selection series) by Kiera Cass – April 23, 2013

For those looking for something along the lines of the Delirium series (a little more girly and a little less violent) the follow up book to The Selection will be published this year, The Elite. Once again set is a dystopian society, America is one of the lucky young women chosen to travel to the capital city to compete with 34 others for the hand of the Prince. It’s an opportunity that she’s not overly thrilled about for several reasons, one being a past love she’s running from, but her feelings take a turn when she finds an odd friendship she never expected. This book is an interesting read as it contains many themes that teenagers today often face, such as jealousy, true friendship and staying true to yourself.


The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey – May 7, 2013

Though this book was not originally on my list I decided to add it after seeing that it was getting a lot of attention, along with some very eye-catching press. Cassie is a survivor who is now facing the fifth wave of alien contact (or creatures that look and act like humans). Full of darkness and death, the previous four waves have left very few alive and now these humanoid-ish beings are dead set are eliminating the human survivors who remain. Constantly fleeing and searching for her brother at the same, Cassie struggles along alone until she meets another survivor. This unlikely meeting will change everything and she is ultimately faced with a destructive decision; to keep fighting or to give up. The Fifth Wave has an interesting concept and I’m interested in seeing if Yancey has written a book that can stand on its own in a genre that is saturated with survivor tales.


Rush by Eve Silver – June 11, 2013

This is Silver’s debut novel and for those out there who are gamer nerds and looking for a fast-paced thriller to read, this just might be the book you’re looking for! The plotline follows Miki Jones and begins after she endures a life-threatening attack, waking up afterwards in a new world where she is now a part of a thrilling game that centers around the destruction of an alien race. From the short synopsis I read, the real question is how real this “game” might just be. I’ve always been a fan of gaming, so I’m really interested in seeing to what extent Silver incorporates the gaming experience into her novel and how people receive it. I’ll be picking this one up as soon as it hits the shelves in June!

UPDATE: I’ve now read and reviewed Rush, so click the book’s cover image above to check it out!


Dance of the Red Death (The Red Death series) by Bethany Griffin – June 11, 2013

Masque of the Red Death has to be credited as one of the darker teen novels that I have read in the past few years and due to that, I’m looking forward to what Dance of the Red Death might have in store for its readers. Araby Worth wanted nothing more than to forget the past and its ghosts, picking from an assortment of distractions offered by the glamorous but sinister culture of clubs for the privileged and rich in a society being torn apart by disease. When revolution arrives in the wake of Elliott and she finds herself betrayed by Will, the first person to make her feel anything again, Araby finds that she finally has something to live for again. In Dance of the Red Death the deterioration of her world that started in Masque of the Red Death is only beginning and now not only must she decide what she will fight for but also how much she is able to lose again. Heralded as dark, steamy and tragic these two books are great reads for anyone looking for something on the more ominous side. In that regard the first book did not disappoint and hopefully this one won’t either.


The Dream Thieves (The Raven Boys Series) by Maggie Stiefvater– September 17, 2013

Much like Under the Never Sky, I have yet to read The Raven Boys which is the book leading to this one, but I have heard great things about this series and one of my favorite teen reads from the past few years has been The Scorpio Races which is also written by Maggie Stiefvater. It drew my attention originally because it seems to have a strong thread of Welsh mysticism and history in it, something I’ve been waiting to see in a teen book for some time. There is also a touch of romance, for the main female character Blue Sargent has been forewarned that her first love will bring disaster but with the growing attention of the Raven Boys from the nearby academy, it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep her distance. A friend of mine vows that this a great read, so I’ve got a few months to read the first book before this comes out in September.

UPDATE: I’ve now read and reviewed The Dream Thieves, so click the book’s cover image above to check it out!


Allegiant (Divergent series) by Veronica Roth  – October 22, 2013

The third and final installation of the Divergent series is no doubt the most highly anticipated Teen release of 2013. I read the first book Divergent (if somewhat reluctantly) when it was recommended to me by a fellow Chapters employee and was hooked instantly. The story revolves around Beatrice, who later renames herself Tris and her decision that takes her away from what had been a quiet, selfless life and into the demanding, adventurous world of Dauntless, the bravest section of the dystopian society she lives in. Along with her love interest Four, who has an even more interesting background then she does, Tris learns the truth of her nature through the brutal trials of becoming a Dauntless member and in the second novel, faces the deterioration of not only the relationships she holds closest, but of the very structure of the five factions that form the world around her. The final book will hopefully tie up all the twists and turns of the previous two books that Roth has woven with so much suspense. For those who are fans of The Hunger Games this is the next best thing and as the final book is coming out in October, you still have plenty of time to read the first two in preparation!

UPDATE: I’ve now read and reviewed Allegiant, so click the book’s cover image above to check it out!

Have you read any of these yet? What were your thoughts? Loved it? Hated it? Feel free to comment but try to keep the spoilers to a minimum please!

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