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Da Vinci's Tiger

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For fans of rich and complex historical novels like Girl with a Pearl Earring or Code Name Verity, Laura Malone Elliott delivers the stunning tale of real-life Renaissance woman Ginevra de' Benci, the inspiration for one of Leonardo da Vinci's earliest masterpieces.

The young and beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, Ginevra longs to share her poetry and participate in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence but is trapped in an arranged marriage in a society dictated by men. The arrival of the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers. Bembo chooses Ginevra as his Platonic muse and commissions a portrait of her by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them, one Ginevra only begins to understand. In a rich and vivid world of exquisite art with a dangerous underbelly of deadly political feuds, Ginevra faces many challenges to discover her voice and artistic companionship—and to find love.

287 pages, Hardcover

First published November 10, 2015

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About the author

L.M. Elliott

15 books302 followers
L. M. Elliott was an award-winning Washington-based magazine journalist, covering women’s issues, mental health, and the performing arts, before becoming a New York Times best-selling author of historical and biographical fiction. Her twelve novels explore a variety of eras (the Italian Renaissance, the American Revolutionary War, WWII, and the Cold War), and are written for a variety of ages. Many of her works have garnered starred reviews and won national awards, including NCSS/CBC Notables (National Council of Social Studies and Children’s Book Council), Bank Street College Best Books, Jefferson Cup Honor Books, Grateful American Book Prize winners, and Kirkus 100 Best YA Novels. Elliott holds a BA from Wake Forest University and a Masters in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a lifelong Virginia resident and history-lover.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 402 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,691 reviews1,267 followers
October 31, 2015
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

"I beg your pardon, I am a mountain tiger."

This story was a little different to what I’d normally read, but it was interesting that it was based on a real painting.

Ginevra was quite a spirited girl, and obviously passionate about art and her own purity, even though she was in an arranged marriage.

The storyline in this was about Ginevra meeting Leonardo Da Vinci, and the portrait he made of her, as well as some tensions in Florence at the time. There was a bit of romance going on with someone trying to play for Ginevra affections even though she was married, and some feelings that Ginevra had for Leonardo himself. I did find the political themes in the book hard to follow (I don’t really understand politics), but the rest of the book was enjoyable enough.

The ending to this was okay, and I was pleased that Ginevra managed to hold on to her beliefs no matter what pressures were heaped on her.

6 out of 10
Profile Image for Stephanie (Bookfever).
976 reviews113 followers
November 8, 2015
First of all I should say I'm pretty much obsessed with anything involving Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. So I'm really glad I can say that Da Vinci's Tiger was a really good read. I immensely enjoyed it and is now one of my favorite reads of the year.

I actually haven't read any books that feature da Vinci or Renaissance Florence so this book was really one I needed. And can I just mention how much I love the fact that someone decided to write about Ginevra de' Benci. Though at times a bit too naive, I really liked her character. She definitely grew on me through the book and I loved her connection with Leonardo.

Speaking of him, he wasn't a whole lot in the book but he definitely was an important character. I liked how the author corporated things that have actually happened to the historical Leonardo into this story. The same goes for other characters like Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici. My inner history fangirl had a blast with this book.

I really liked the writing style. L.M. Elliott is a totally new author for me but I absolutely want to read her other historical books. Another thing I liked about this book was that it wasn't your typical happily ever after, but in my opinion I think an ending like this was even better. I just wished the book had been longer. I wanted to keep on reading!

All in all, Da Vinci's Tiger was superb. Not quite five stars but definitely a solid four star books that I enjoyed so much. I'd recommend it highly to other people who are interested in reading about Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Florence or who just like a really good book.
Profile Image for Kayla Rayne.
101 reviews188 followers
January 10, 2016
"I, who had the chance to make men listen-and see-what women has in their hearts and minds. As a bird in a gilded cage, singing? No, too limiting. A house cat watching a bird? No, too domesticated. I wanted a different, larger metaphor for myself."

I decided to pick this book up as my first read of the 2016 year. Initially, I thought this book was going to be a quick read, as it comes in under three hundred pages. However, this has quite the deceptive packaging. While there isn't much to the page count in between the binding of this book, there is a plethora of beautiful imagery, historical fact, and beautifully woven in fiction that makes this a wonderful slow burn of a read.

This book follows seventeen year old Genevra during the Renaissance period in Florance, Italy. Genevra is unhappy in her stagnant life. There is no love in her marriage to a man twice her age, her status in society is that of a pawn meant to further the intentions of men, and her love of art is stifled by her need to be a proper lady. Genevra feels that she needs to feel like she is in control of her life and she wants to feel truly alive in all of it. This is when the young, Leonardo Da Vinci comes in and shakes things up for Genevra. As the muse of Leonardo, she questions who she is and where she wants to be in the world.

This book was so beautifully written. I found that the juxtaposition of fact and fiction was stunning. The accuracy of the historical context was woven so beautifully into the fictional pieces that I wanted to believe this was really how history played out. The addition of religious influence and political intrigue really brought interest to this book and allowed me to let myself sink into the intricacies that L. M. Elliot built into this world.

The subtle feminist undertones were not lost on me and I deeply appreciated how they played into the historical world that was presented. It all felt very true to the time period. This book took me so much longer to read because I found myself wanting to be in the world. The writing was so prolific and it has truly spoiled me for historical fiction.

Overall, if you enjoy historical fiction that is well researched, I think this is a book you should pick up.

*TRIGGER WARNING: There is a scene with sexual assault, but it was handled in a respectful and empowering way.
Profile Image for Vikki.
269 reviews49 followers
February 26, 2017
Based on the muse for one of Leonardo DaVinci's early paintings, DaVinci's Tiger is a historical fiction book with with a feminist twist. In a time when woman were seen as property of their fathers and husbands, Ginevra de Benci Niccolini yearns to be more than a pretty face. Encouraged by her father and the nuns at her boarding school to learn Latin, literature, and philosophy, she is able to discuss artwork with her social circle, which includes the Medicis who control the banks and the artists they fund, which include Verrocchio and his apprentice, DaVinci. When the ambassador from Venice, Bernardo Bembo, declares her his a Platonic muse and commissions a painting of her to be done by Leonardo DaVinci, she and DaVinci decide to make this painting different from the standard. Based on the one line of poetry she wrote that survived the centuries, "I beg your pardon, I am a mountain tiger," Ginevra comes to life in this book as a politically savvy yet strong, morally-sound woman ahead of her time.

I loved this book for its historical background and strong feminist undertones throughout the story. Many of Ginevra's words made me think and have stuck with me long after reading this book. I am definitely going to reread this a few more times to enjoy and think about some more.

I gave this 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
Profile Image for Tala .
192 reviews90 followers
January 13, 2017
I beg your pardon, I am TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTED.

Argh, this is my first read of the year, is a tough one to rate, and left me feeling completely dissatisfied.

Yes. As you can imagine, I'm a bit angry.

Because..let's look at the big picture, shall we? I picked up dVT because it's has two things: art and history. I am an artist. I am, more specifically, a painter. Da Vinci isn't my favorite artist (that honor goes to Monet), but I like him nonetheless. I also love the Renaissance, and, consequently, am very picky with the historical details. But the details were gotten right. That isn't what concerned me.

No. What infuriated me is that I actually was liking the book fine. In the first half, all was good. I wasn't loving it, but everything was decent. It was shooting for 3.5 or even 4 stars.

But then, around 70% mark, dVT suddenly trips on its own shoelaces and falls flat in the mud, just inches away from the finish line. And despite the cheering it's getting from the sidelines to get up and finish this race already, dVT says "To hell with this" and crawls on all fours to the end when, with a little extra pressure, it could've scored first place still standing.

My point is, the last 30% knocked a full 2 stars off my rating. What a shame.

*heavy sigh*. What else is there to talk about?
Ah, yes. Characters. Here we go.

Aside from being slightly confused from the huge Italian cast with first names that are very very similar (I mean, come on. Ginevra, Guillano, Giovanni.. I CAN'T KEEP UP WITH THIS. GAH.) and last names that are just as similar (de' Benci, da Vinci, de Medici, Vestpucci, Verroccio..) I felt overwhelmed. Very, very overwhelmed.

But this isn't the author's fault, really. That is what these people were called, after all.

No. What I can reasonably fault the author for, though, is character development.

Let's start with Ginevra de' Benci. She was very.. mhm.. how shall I put it? Naïve. And downright silly sometimes. I did not enjoy having to see the book from her POV.

And young Leo da Vinci? My feelings for him were a rollercoaster. When he was first introduced, I disliked him. Then I kind of liked him around 30%, then hated him again.

So the verdict? I did not like Elliot's take on da Vinci.

The only character I did like was Simonetta, but Ginevra's jealousy toward her kind of.. killed it for me.

That's all I have to say about the characters.

What else? Ah: the plot and flow of the storyline itself are constructed in a very odd way. The prologue and epilogue are essentially Ginevra's thoughts after her eventual death, but I found myself wondering how that works? And the last 10% is suddenly '2 years later', which is such an abrupt shift that I found myself suddenly disconnected from the story.

Alright, I'm done. Even as a fan of Renaissance art and historical fiction, I found Elliot's novel severely lacking.
Profile Image for Nanna.
247 reviews131 followers
February 12, 2016
I'm marking this as DNF. I don't think I'm gonna go back & pick it up bc tbh, I really don't want to.

I didn't find it interesting, plot wise. The history was nice but the storyline was not. What was it?

I was constantly tired of being reminded in every chapter what the era & what role woman had. I get it. No need to keep telling me. Stop telling me things, and SHOW me things. The writing is what almost killed me :/

Profile Image for Deyse .
290 reviews26 followers
May 4, 2016
The strength of this book is its history accuracy, its beautiful descriptions and love for art. It's clear reading it that Elliott is a lover of history (or at least of Italian Renaissance) by her through research of the facts and possible facts, I know this is fiction but there is something magical when reading a historical book and seeing that this stories could actually have happened. The descriptions of Florence were breath taking, everything felt really vivid and oh, how I wish I could go there right now and see all the places that are sited on the book. If you love art this book will be a treat, we have Leonardo da Vinci and Verrocchio as main characters and get to see they creating, as well of a lot of other artists and works being mentioned - I specially loved the fact that Elliott took some of Leonardo lines from his actual diaries so yeah, that was cool.

But where this book felt short for me was on its characters. I never really got attached to Ginevra, I understand her inside fight but she never grew on me as a strong carrier of this book. The other main characters hardly were worth mentioning based on their character growth, it just lacked a more emotional connection to me. The one character that amused me to no end was Leonardo, every scene that he was in was a good one, but unfortunately it had very few of those (for me).

In true this book is a dedication to the Italian Renaissance of the XV century, it's a imaginative version of historical facts and of works of art.

Review originally posted here.
Profile Image for Katherine.
769 reviews346 followers
June 16, 2017
Two DNF's in a row?!!! How can this be??!!


Novels about artists and their muses/subjects of famous paintings is pretty fascinating, to say the least. From The Girl with the Pearl Earring to The Passion of Artemisia, the ideals, social etiquettes, and political/financial motivations that often were the driving force behind the paintings and how they were portrayed can make for gripping reads. This book deals with Ginevra de'Benci, muse of Leonardo da Vinci and subject of one of his earliest paintings, which hangs in the National Gallery.

There really isn't much to say about it plot-wise, as it deals with a very cut and dry plot of her reimagined life through the author's eyes. Unfortunately it was really... bland. It had about the same interest as a cold bowl of porridge, unfortunately.

Renaissance Italy was such a fascinating period of time that it takes a lot for someone to make it boring. But when I was reading this book, I found myself piddling with my phone, reading the same lines over and over again, wondering about other books. You get the idea. Basically I was procrastinating reading this book whilst in the middle of reading it (horror or horrors!)

I don't think the author could decide what type of audience she was gearing this book towards. At times it read like a middle grade novel (with it's annoyingly intense use of onomatopoeia phrases and juvenile dialogue), and at times it read like a YA novel (some subject matters and mature themes). While I like middle grade and young adult books in abundance, I don't like them mashed up together. It creates a convoluted mess with no clear voice or direction.

And this is probably just a nitpick of mine (cause I don't usually read books of this nature), but the book was a bit too political for me. There were too many political dealings and not enough moving forward with the plot for my liking. It was one negotiation after another with no real action involved. This might appeal to some readers, but it doesn't appeal to me.

In the end, I think this book just wasn't for my taste, but those who love political intrigue should devour this book whole.
Profile Image for Tigress.
157 reviews
Want to read
August 7, 2017
What's this? A book about Da Vinci's muse? And she's a poet? And he calls her his tiger? I'm intrigued. Please be good. Please please please please please be good.

UPDATE: Gah! They changed the cover! Why did they do that? The other one was so much better--the one with the silhouette of a tiger with a girl's face inside. See?

This new cover just looks so generic and boring. I mean, it's pretty, but... it looks like it could be the cover for any other YA historical fiction novel.

(sighs) Well... At least it's still called Da Vinci's Tiger.

UPDATE: So, it turns out that it really does look like any other historical fiction novel...

Profile Image for Emma.
220 reviews81 followers
August 7, 2018

I loved the writing style of this book! Though something about it made me not completely love this!
Profile Image for Allison.
489 reviews186 followers
September 10, 2016
THE DETAIL. I don't think I've ever seen such attention paid to historical detail in a YA novel, especially not one set in Italy. I've been burned a few too many times on historical Italy-set YA.

Lush, accurate, and focused on an oft-overlooked portion of Italian history in that oh so uninteresting (wink wink) pre-Borgia era. (In case you didn't get the wink wink, I'm 100% kidding since the mid-15th century is my favorite and the Borgias are overdone now.)

My issues came with the characterization and the story itself, both interesting, but not entirely compelling. Thankfully, these didn't end up detracting too much from the novel. As its only around 220 pages in length, there was no narrative drag and I could still enjoy the atmosphere.
Profile Image for Caroline.
589 reviews804 followers
May 21, 2018
DNF at 88 pages.

EUUUGHHH I tried. I was just bored by this book which is such a shame. It's obvious that the author has done a hell of a lot of research when building the world- there's a lot of depth to the characters and all the historical elements like the political circles were cool but eugh. I felt intrigued but I wasn't a huge fan of the main character and although things were interesting with the politics, the plot hadn't really moved forward at all by the 80 page mark so I decided to give up on this one.
Profile Image for Lisa.
828 reviews480 followers
September 29, 2015
Hmm this is a tough one. While the history and details are finely tuned, this book had few pay-offs. I appreciated the writing but I'm not sure how much I actually enjoyed the story.
Profile Image for Debby.
583 reviews540 followers
April 18, 2021
4 stars

I love art, historical fiction, and Renaissance Italy - so how could I possibly resist Da Vinci's Tiger? With a premise that evoked loving memories of Sharon Biggs Waller's A Mad, Wicked Folly - arguably my favorite historical fiction title to date - this book shot up to the top of my to read list. And I am very, very pleased with it.

Right away, what struck me upon reading Da Vinci's Tiger is how well-written and well-researched it is. This makes all the difference in historical fiction to me. You could tell from the first page that Elliott really knew what she was writing about. By reading the author's note at the end, you'll get a sense of how accurate her version of history is. That's a wonderful thing to behold. I was sucked into the setting and the lives of the characters instantly. Just after reading the prologue, I messaged friends saying this was bound to be GOOD.

Elliott weaves her own version of history around the lives of Ginevra de' Benci, Leonardo Da Vinci, Bernardo Bembo, and Lorenzo de' Medici. They live the lives of the Florentine elite, where the clothes must be fancy, the parties must reek of excess, and there's a societal philosophical movement that's food for the soul. Ginevra has been stuck married to an older merchant, but she catches the eye of the Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, who wants her to become his Platonic muse.

The Florentine people hold to strict ideals and are definitely more pious than most - a Platonic muse (or "friend") is not a sexual arrangement. The most wealthy and powerful men find muses that inspire honor, morals, and virtue and believe that by spending time in their presence (with their beauty and grace) they themselves will be blessed in their lives and upon their deaths. I didn't really know about this concept beforehand, but I loved how complex and intriguing the cultural tradition was. There's obviously a lot to say about the double standards between the sexes and the repression females face in their behavior - and Ginevra comments on all of them in her narrations, so don't fear. But being a Platonic muse also gives her more access to the high society folk - to see how policies and decisions are made. It's more interesting than running a household, for sure.

Given that the story takes place in high society, expect enough events to fully draw you into the mystique of the time period. There are balls, jousting tournaments, horse races, philosophical poetry discussions, and finally... art commissions. Yes, the title doesn't mention Da Vinci for nothing - the master himself plays a prominent role in the story as a young artist, just starting out, who manages to be commissioned by Bernardo to paint Ginevra's portrait. Through their sessions together, he encourages her intelligence and independence, and she inspires him to take risks in his art, leading to some of the revolutionary techniques he is so well known for. Those scenes were magical and inspiring, and their friendship was beautiful.

I guess what kept me from really being fully in love with this book is that there's not really a romance to root for. Ginevra is obviously in a loveless marriage, and although Bernardo is very much interested in her to become his Platonic muse, she never really seems to feel anything for him either. She's flattered by his interest, and she sees that their arrangement provides her with benefits that she otherwise wouldn't have as a married woman. But there's no real love there, and Bernado creeped me out more than once. (In my head I kind of pictured a skeezy old dude throwing himself at a 17 year old, so, yeah, no.) The most interesting person that vaguely attracted my shipping sensibilities would be Leonardo himself, but that ship never actually sets sail.

So yeah, no romantic flutterings to set my heart on fire, but at the same time I don't feel like I can really fault the book for that. It did remain historically accurate, and as a feminist tale within the restrictions of Renaissance Florence, I feel like the story was definitely strong. I just think I was so focused on getting some romance here or there that I got distracted from the feminist storyline - or that that part of the book wasn't emphasized enough. Certainly, the ending could have done a bit more to show Ginevra's breaking free of the societal restrictions and expectations. That, I feel, was a missed opportunity.

Summing Up:

I want more historical fiction like Da Vinci's Tiger: well-written, excellently researched, dripping in historical accuracy, and with a beautiful evocative setting. The hopeless romantic in me would have liked the prospect of a ship and some wonderful kissing, but this book serves well as a feminist tale in a really restrictive portion of history. And all of the art - and getting a glimpse of the beginnings of Leonardo da Vinci - was a wonderful, inspiring bonus. Definitely a great read.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

Fans of feminist, well-written historical fiction - A Mad, Wicked Folly is a good parallel.

*An electronic advance review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the contents of the review.
Profile Image for Paula.
415 reviews52 followers
January 9, 2016
I'm normally not a big reader of historical fiction. It has to be something that truly interests me or grabs my attention. So when "Da Vinci's Tiger" by L.M. Elliott arrived with December's Owlcrate box, I was skeptical.
And it took me a few pages to get into the writing style and story as it was so widely different from what I normally did. But once I got hooked, I got lost in Florence at the time of the Renaissance, mingling with the Medici family as well as Leonardo DaVinci and I absolutely loved it.

The book is told from Ginerva de Benci's perspective, a young woman - to our standards still a young girl - who is so far ahead of her time. Unwilling to be merely someone's wife, part of a business deal or a pawn in political games that men play, she yearns for freedom. Freedom to express her thoughts, her feelings - without society dictating who she should be and how she should behave. She wants someone to see more than her beauty or her chastity - and instead recognize the person behind the pretty dresses and the polite behavior. The woman who has a sharp and inquisitive mind. Who thinks for herself and has an abundance of knowledge and ideas. And who creates beautiful poetry.
She catches the attention of Bernardo Bembo, a powerful man., who chooses her as his Platonic love. He awakens desires in her, thoughts and feelings that she's only read and heard about, but never experienced. But it's nothing compared to the intrigue of the young artist Leonardo DaVinci, who not only paints her but sees her true soul - with no ulterior motives.

The setting is truly captivating. The facts in this book are well researched and highly educating, without being boring or dragging. Instead, they are beautifully woven into a compelling story of a woman finding herself and her voice. Of art and beauty, politics and religion. There are so many fascinating details, so much to discover and learn - I was just glued to the pages.
Ginevra's character, based on the real life Ginerva de Benci, fascinated me fiercely. She had an insight and a strength of character as well as courage that earned my admiration. In a time where women were nothing more than a man's possession, she stood up for herself and what she believed in. She let her voice be heard and wasn't quieted by anyone's expectations. She was a modern woman in old-fashioned time. A feminist, a revolutionary.
And so was DaVinci. The things I learned about him from this book made me realize he wasn't just a brilliant mind and a good guy, but a beautiful soul.

This book got me to think and feel and that's something you want of your read.
Again, a great Owlcrate surprise.

5 a-woman-to-look-up-to stars.
Profile Image for Michelle .
1,998 reviews226 followers
March 30, 2016
**You can see this full review and more at Book Briefs: http://bookbriefs.net**

Da Vinci’s Tiger is a beautiful story, full of rich historical details that left me breathless for more. Da Vinci’s Tiger takes place in Renaissance Florence, and it tells the story of Ginevra de’ Benci, how she met Da Vinci and how he came to paint a picture of her (which happened to be his first portrait ever painted). I am a history major, and Renaissance Italy is some of my favorite, so all of the art, history, politics and Medici appealed to the huge history nerd in me. I will be re-reading this book for exactly those reasons. I really enjoyed LM Elliott’s depiction of Leonardo Da Vinci.

If you are a history nerd, or just love the art and culture of the renaissance period, Da Vinci’s Tiger is a great book for you to pick up. It is a historical, but it is young adult and still accessible to the reader. Because this book is so heavily focused on the historical details, it felt very accurate, but as is the case with many historical books, it did have a tendency to be a bit slower and a bit more dense. Still, overall a really great read. If you can’t get enough Da Vinci and you are a fan of young adult historical, this is one that you should not miss.

This review was originally posted on Book Briefs
Profile Image for Anna.
207 reviews35 followers
December 29, 2015
I'm kind of torn about this book. It had amazing descriptions of Florence and the art. I'm not an art person, and I know nothing about art but I still immensely enjoyed all of these descriptions. Plus I always have serious respect for an author when it's clear that they put a lot of thought and research into a book. But if we're talking about the story and the characters, these two things definitely lacked. Nothing exciting happened. The characters were flat and didn't really have any depth to them which made it hard to connect with them. If you love history and art, I'd give this book a try, but if you don't, I wouldn't waste your time on this one. :)

"We cannot tell our hearts who to love or what to feel."
Profile Image for Nicole.
630 reviews263 followers
June 16, 2015
veey historically accurate but also quite boring. review to come
Profile Image for Amber.
2,283 reviews325 followers
December 21, 2019
I love the historical accuracies and detailed descriptions in this. downside was getting confused about who side characters were. as I feel some didn't get explained well when introduced
Profile Image for Kayla.
333 reviews46 followers
September 29, 2017
I enjoyed this a lot! But it was at times difficult to follow especially at the beginning and I do think it sometimes reads a little cheesy. Sometimes the dialogue sounded silly. But I did like Ginevra as a character and appreciated how historically accurate this book seemed. It was nice reading about a real person, although fictional does give a possible insight into the real Ginevra de’ Benci. I did take an art history class in which I learned a great deal about the Medici so it was easier to follow along but if you haven’t learned about the Medici at all than this might be a little difficult to follow along. Overall this was a very sweet and easy read. 3.75/5
Profile Image for Kelesea.
950 reviews16 followers
November 8, 2015
Title: Da Vinci's Tiger

Author: L.M. Elliott

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: N/A

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This book was given to me by the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!

I don't know if you guys know this about me, but one of the things I love dearly is history, and one of my favorite periods in history is the Renaissance. It was just such a fruitful time for cultural growth--art, culture, literature and music exploded, becoming revered professions from the fame garnered from that period. And one of my other favorite things about this period was the art. (Although, guys, don't take Art History in college. One of the hardest classes I ever took! Lol.)

Da Vinci's Tiger tells the story of Ginevra de Benci, a young woman who longs desperately to be a part of the cultural world, ruled by men's iron fists. Try as she might, she is just not content with the life of a mere domestic housewife--she wants more from the world, and to contribute to it. Her wish is granted when she catches the eye of the promising young artist Leonardo da Vinci, and she realizes that even though the world is more open to her now than ever before, real love just might be right out of reach..

I don't want to mince words, so I'll just say this right now: This book, for me, is a new classic. It really spoke to me, as a woman and as a writer, just like Ginevra, to balance the domestic sides of herself, and the longing for true meaning, and for an artistic career, which, for a woman, was out of bounds in those days. I really related to her, and her desire for love and fulfillment, in the days where a business marriage wasn't uncommon.

I loved Ginevra, and Elliott does an amazing job of bringing this bright and exceptional young woman to life--it felt, almost, as if I were sitting with a dear friend, and having her tell me about her life. She was indeed a muse, a poet, and revolutionary in her own right! I also loved how deep she was; there were so many different facets to her, (as there are with any person), and I liked the way the author expressed that.

I also really enjoyed the political intrigue aspect of the novel--it didn't really come into play into the second half of the novel, but it was really well balanced with the other events going on in the story, it wasn't at all heavy-handed. The author also did a great job in conveying that time period, especially where women were concerned. The characters, though there were many, were easy to follow, and I loved how each made an impact on Ginevra's life, great and small.

And then, of course, there's Leonardo, the mysterious, beautiful artist, alluring in his intellect and his blunt, honest manner, who becomes one of the muse's dearest friends. Their relationship was what really sold this book for me. Their bond seemed so deep and genuine, and I really enjoyed it. Everything about this novel was just wonderful; so much so, in fact, that I finished it in one day! The bottom line: A fantastic imagining of what could've been a life for a great woman, Da Vinci's Tiger is a spellbinding work of historical fiction, bulked by fact and made richer by great detail and research--a new favorite! Next on deck: The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer!

Profile Image for Trish at Between My Lines.
1,044 reviews292 followers
November 3, 2015
This review was originally posted on [Between My Lines]I was ridiculously excited to be approved for this book!  The setting of Renaissance Florence and the thoughts of all the artisty and creativity of the time just hyped me up.  Maybe too much so because sadly I didn’t fall in love with this book.

 First Line of Da Vinci’s Tiger by Laura Malone Elliott
“ I beg your pardon, I am a mountain tiger.“
My Thoughts on of Da Vinci’s Tiger by Laura Malone Elliott
So before I get in to the nitty gritty of what didn’t work for me, I have to say there were some things that I couldn’t fail but be impressed by:

The research was meticulous.  That came across loud and clear.
The setting was vividly portrayed.  How can you go wrong with Florence?  You can’t!
The insight into a young Leonardo da Vinci was interesting.  We all know so much about him as a famous artist, sculpture and inventor and it was cool to see what he might have been like as a young man with inspiration just flowing out of him.
If you like art (which I do even though I know nothing about it!), there is a lot of technical description here which I found to be pretty educational.

So what went wrong for me with Da Vinci’s Tiger?

The one dimensional characters, I wanted to love Ginevra.  On paper she sounds great, she is smart, loves to think things out for herself, isn’t willing to boxed in just because she is a woman.  But she stayed flat, she didn’t rise out of the book with a roar.  She was just bland.
I was bored.  There I’ve said it.  It’s true, I never felt emotionally involved in the book and if I didn’t love the setting so much I would have dnf’d (did not finish) in a heartbeat.

Overall I think this read more like a non-fiction book than a fiction one.  It didn’t entertain and absorb me the way I’ve come to expect when I’m reading a fictional book.  I also thought it might be like The Girl With The Pearl Earring (which I adored) but it’s not.  And I think the difference is the characters;  one books makes them come alive and one book doesn’t.


Who should read Da Vinci’s Tiger by Laura Malone Elliott?
I think that if you love Art then you might want to give this one a shot.  Do be aware that I’m recommending it more for the setting that the characters and the plot.


Thanks to Edelweiss and Katherine Tegen Books for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


Profile Image for Marie.
247 reviews3 followers
April 23, 2020
3.5 Stars

"Virtutem Forma Decorat. (She adorns her virtue with beauty.)"

Historical fiction books set in Renaissance Italy are right up my alley. Everything about the flourishing of this era just fascinates me – the culture, the arts, the politics, and even the beauty and mystery of Florence, the legendary art capital itself.

This was a quick and easy read, for from the moment I started reading, I was hooked. In this story, I loved just how vividly and accurately described the setting is, how all the prominent events, figures and masterpieces I've learned from school come to sound familiar as the heroine casually speaks of her time period. The author was impeccable at doing her research, and she managed to piece so many facts together to create this broader and culturally realistic picture from which emerged such an enthralling story. Thanks to this book, I learned so much about Florentine history while enjoying myself as well.

I also loved how the characters were revived. How Ginevra de' Benci's voice resonated and how her thoughts demanded to be heard as this well-read, dignified, and virtuous woman in an age were women were simply trophies, were their marriages were negotiations, and where their beauty existed merely to serve as inspiration to nobles, poets and maestros. Leonardo's brooding and intellectual personality was also interesting, but unfortunately, it wasn't exposed and developed that much in my opinion.

In addition to that, the only major problem I really did have was that with all these factual information present to serve as this story's foundation, it felt as though the actual plot lacked imagination. For me, the intimate connection was barely even there and was only emphasized towards the end. This maybe done on purpose, but I don't know, it just didn't seem enough. It was as though the author tried so hard to stick to the facts concerning Da Vinci's life that the plot felt strained, contained, and somewhat uneventful.

I may have been a little disappointed with how this book turned out, but it did have its notable strengths that made it worth reading despite its unsatisfactory average rating here on Goodreads. However, if you're looking for a read that focuses more on plot and development rather than history and world-building, then this definitely isn't for you.
Profile Image for Miriam.
148 reviews11 followers
January 27, 2016
Crosspost: TheReadingBelle.com

Da Vinci’s Tiger was Owlcrate’s December book of last year. I was beyond excited to read it and the synopsis sounded very promising! When I finally got around to reading the book, it was not what I expected at all.

What I appreciate about this book is that the author took her time to research her history! It was obvious that the author wanted to make her novel as accurate as possible. I really liked what I learned about that time! It was a bit tough reading some parts in this book especially how men treated women. I didn’t like the protagonist’s uncle, her husband, nor her love interests. I like Ginevra since she is intelligent and feisty at times, but I didn’t completely love her. The book was too short for me to grow attached to her. Ginevra and the other secondary female characters were far more likable than the men, for the exception of Ginevra’s brother.

Initially, I thought this was going to be a passionate, romance novel. Oh I was wrong. This was not what I expected. There is hardly any romance. The two love interests are not swoon worthy at all. One is an ambitious ambassador, while the other one is eccentric. I was not a big fan of this love triangle, and it wasn’t done well. I thought Leonardo was going to have a bigger role in Ginevra’s life, but he is just a painter. I was expecting more conversations between Ginevra and him, but that did not happen either. Even though it’s too early to rank the worst book of 2016, this one is already a contender. The book just seemed to drag on and on. Also, there was not much romance in this book. I did love the world building, but it felt as if the author forgot about the characters. By the time I finished the book, I thought about the plot itself and let me tell you this: there is no plot.

I couldn’t relate to the characters and it overall felt bland. It did take me a while to finish this book because it was so boring. There was not much action going on at all. Even though this book is less than 300 pages, I kept falling asleep every single time I tried reading this book. I wouldn’t recommend this book at all. It was bland all together and not memorable whatsoever.

Final Rating: ⭐️⭐️
Profile Image for Brightness.
272 reviews65 followers
February 12, 2016
Oh the history. This book shines with all of the glory of the Italian Renaissance. I've never read another book my L.M. Elliott, but she is a deft master of scene setting and description. And I learned things about history that I hadn't known before, which is part of the reason why I love historical fiction so much.

The book itself is an imagining of the real relationship between a young Leonardo Da Vinci and the teenage poet Ginevra de' Benci, whom I had never heard of before.

I thought it was very well written, very enjoyable, and steeped in 15th century Italian history. I'd love to find some of the author's other books now.

This is somewhere between 3 and 4 stars for me.
Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,218 reviews376 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
January 4, 2021
Aww, my first DNF of 2020 -pets it-

There just... wasn't much of a plot.
Profile Image for Anna.
139 reviews19 followers
December 30, 2018
If I were to describe how I felt after reading this book in one word it would be: relieved. A book is pretty bad at least for me when it makes me tried while reading it as reading is the past time that I do for enjoyment so it should not feel like work. I pushed through it because: 

I needed another book to complete my GoodReads and Beat the Backlist challenge. This one was short, only 281 pages, so I figured that I could knock it out quickly. 
I owned it. 
Relating to #2, I started reading and was actually enjoying so I kept reading. 
That was my biggest source of disappointment; I had high hopes and this book let me down. I was expecting this lush romance between Leonardo Da Vinci and Ginvera as well as more of her spunky attitude and poetry. At least I got her spunky attitude. As for the romance, that was barely a blip and it seemed that she had feelings for him but he did not reciprocate because he was gay but hey it was again like a sentence so who knows. Also, the tagline was "Poet. Muse. Revolutionary." and I got the poet and muse part but I think I missed the revolutionary part.

However, the worst part of the book was all of the names. I understand that this was 15th Century Florence and who you know relates to the power that you have but there were WAY TOO MANY NAMES. Plus they all sounded the same. For example, I was over half way done before I realized that Ginvera's brother was Giovanni, not Giuliano. I wish that Elliot had limited the number of characters because it felt more like a history book then a work of fiction. On that note, I do salute Elliot in the amount of research that she did for this book. In that aspect, this book did allow me to learn about the Medici family, the Renaissance, and Leonardo Da Vinci's life. I would recommend it to a teacher who wants to give their students a book for history class. 

Now for the prose and plot, they can be summed up to tiresome. I felt like I was walking though sludge. There were points when it did pick up, especially when the Abbess was talking Ginvera, that was my favorite character interaction. However, the overall feeling was boring. 
Profile Image for Kat.
130 reviews1 follower
January 23, 2016
I probably wouldn't have picked this book to read myself--I'm probably unusual for a history teacher in that I'm not super into the Renaissance. It came with my OwlCrate subscription last month, which is actually great, because part of why I signed up for OwlCrate was so I would read books I might not chose to read on my own.

When I read middle grade and YA, part of me is reading for what my 6th graders would like--and for what would be appropriate for them. I'm finding 6th grade to be a tough grade to find books for, since they have such a wide range of interests, reading abilities, and maturity levels (this is probably true for middle school in general). A lot of YA is just not appropriate, but I don't want to only have middle grade books, given that some of my students have much higher reading levels (we use AR in my school), and a lot of YA titles generate a lot more interest. Additionally, I'm building my classroom library to be as diverse as possible in every sense; I never want students to feel limited in their reading. OwlCrate is awesome in directing my reading a little more, and helping me not just blindly rely on Scholastic's middle school categories in buying new books for my students. It ensures that at least once a month, I'm reading a book that my students might love. Da Vinci's Tiger is exactly the kind of book OwlCrate is perfect for--I wouldn't think to read it, but a lot of my students would love it.

The book was a little slow going for me--it starts at a jousting tournament, which isn't something I find particularly interesting--but it picks up quickly. The narrator is 16 year old Ginevra de'Benci, whose prosperous Florentine family is connected to the Medicis. Fresh from her convent education, the poetry-writing, Latin-quoting Ginevra was bargined into marrying a wool merchant, and is frustrated by her place in a society where women are pawns for social advantage. When an ambassador from Venice selects her as his Platonic muse--a woman to love and be inspired by for her virtue--Ginevra finds herself with access to the intellectually stimulating Medici circle. The real heart of the story, however, is her growing friendship with a young Leonardo da Vinci, the ambassador commissions to paint Ginevra's portrait.

Ginevra is a fun character, and seeing her react to Leonardo's unconventional worldview--especially his feminist ideas about women--is a delight. I really appreciated how the times when Ginevra is most free and has the most autonomy are the times that, on the surface, seem the most passive: modeling for a man to paint her portrait that another man ordered and paid for, and her visits (and later, her stay) at the convent where she was educated. Both Ginevra and Leonardo transform the painting, and the experience of being painted, from one that provides the ambassador with a show of his wealth and influence, to one that displays Ginevra's boldness, independence, and intelligence. For Ginevra, the convent has always been a place of freedom: set away from the men, gossip, and politics of Florence, Ginevra is free to study and write her poems. In the convent, living only with other women, Ginevra's life is her own.

Even though Ginevra does develop romantic feelings for Leonardo--something I knew was coming as soon as I saw the title of the book--those unrequited feelings don't leave her a tragic figure, and the story is not a romance. Part of why I was a little apprehensive about reading it was because I was worried it would be some overwrought romance between Ginevra and Leonardo, and I was so relieved that the story wasn't that at all.

This is definitely a book I'm going to keep in my classroom and recommend to students. The story is very grounded in historical research and real people and events. L. M. Elliott's inspiration for the book is the actual portrait of Ginevra that Leonardo painted, which is located in D.C.'s National Gallery of Art. The afterword is an explanation of the book's historical grounding, and it's followed by a bibliography--both things that, as an educator, made me really happy to see. This would be a great class novel to read in a 7th grade ELA class, alongside the Renaissance unit. This book could also center a unit on historical fiction--you could spend a lot of time with students discussing and examining where the author filled in the gaps with her imagination, and what she did with the research she had. I also really like how the book gave the thinkers and works of Ancient Greece and Rome such a strong presence--in addition to being historically accurate, that can also help students see the connections between Ancient Greece and Rome, which they studied in 6th grade, and the Renaissance.

Sadly, there isn't an AR quiz for the book, but since a lot of the author's other books have quizzes, I'm hoping that there will be a quiz for it eventually--the book just came out in 2015, so maybe it's too soon for a quiz.
March 10, 2016
"Most importantly, you make the choice of songs you sing within the case. With your mind and gifts, it can be an exquisite litany. Sing of us. Sing of yourself. Sing of what treasure lies inside women's hearts and minds if men but look beyond their preconceived notions. We think, we feel, we bleed when hurt. We have courage when tested. Someday men may laud rather than fear that. That is my hope.
So sing, Ginevra. Make them listen."

Italy. 1400s. Renaissance. This is a time where artists are trying to find their muse, and bring the beauty of their subject to life, whether it's through a painting or through a sculpture. This is the time of Donatello, Leonardo Da Vinci, and all the other greats that history has come to know about. It is in this setting, so far into the past, that history comes to life, in the eyes of one particular girl in Italian history. Her name is Ginevra de' Benci, and this is her story.

One of the things that stands out a lot about Ginevra is her lack of fear when it comes to speaking her mind. This is clearly shown during the first chapter, while she and her friend Simonetta are watching the jousting competition. She hears some men in the audience speaking ill of her brother, calling him names and basically saying that he is a fool for spending so much money on a particular horse. She has no problem standing up to them, using her wit to give those men a run for their money. They didn't even realize that they were insulting her brother until she spoke up. More examples of her assertive demeanor is prominent throughout the book, and it's what makes her so easy to root for.

As a woman living in Italy during the 1400s, we see how women are treated back then if they are considered beautiful enough to win the Platonic heart of a man in high power. Simonetta was the Platonic love of one of the Medici sons, and Ginevra became the Platonic love of Ambassador Bembo. We also see that the fact that Ginevra is a poet is rare in and of itself, since there are very few - if any at all - female poets during this time period. In fact, it is one of her poems that catches the eye of Ambassador Bembo to her in the first place, although it is revealed later on in the novel that that may not have been the case. Her poems are deep, reaching into the very depths of human soul, and because she is a woman, she is sometimes afraid to show her talent to those in power. It's with the help of her Mother Superior, Mother Scolastica, that helps her to "sing" of her talents, so that other women can be seen as more than just their beauty.

I may not be an expert in Italian Renaissance history, but I was really impressed with the attention to detail that went into this book. The author even sited all of her sources in the end of the book, as if this were a college historical essay rather than a Young Adult fictional story. It made the story seem that much more real, as if it were an autobiography I was reading rather than a work of art. That was part of the appeal to me, and I'm very glad that the author decided to write the book this way. Ginevra was a force to be reckoned with, and with the help of Leonardo Da Vinci, she became a legend that we can still see to this very day. She was a mountain tiger, and that's what she will be remembered as.
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews545 followers
December 1, 2015
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A romantic tale about Leonardo Da Vinci, his life, and his muse.

Opening Sentence: I beg your pardon, I am a mountain tiger.

The Review:

L.M. Elliot’s Da Vinci’s Tiger is about Leonardo Da Vinci, his life, and his muse. I love historical fiction, so when I was asked to review Da Vinci’s Tiger, it was almost a win-win situation. The synopsis had me intrigued, promising me a romance revolving around a great artist and some of the reasons behind his beautiful work.

In a society ruled by men, Ginerva yearns to embrace herself in art movement of Renaissance Florence. But her life is laid out before her, arranged in a marriage from one wealthy family to another. Ginerva is limited, restricted, frowned upon to give in to the call of her poetry.

Da Vinci’s Tiger feels like a historical retelling of Da Vinci’s actual life. The amount of detail, imagery, and historical references are wonderful. To me, it felt like reading a biography. The setting grabbed me, and definitely enjoyed the tale through the characters.

Elliot tells the tale of Da Vinci’s Tiger revolving around Ginevra de’ Benci, Leonardo Da Vinci, Bernardo Bembo, and Lorenzo de’ Medici. And this is where I began to start feeling a little disconnect. I didn’t completely connect to Ginerva. I didn’t feel that she was a character filled with the strength needed to compete with Da Vinci and his art. While she was his muse, I didn’t fully see how.

As for the others, it seemed that there was a higher emphasis on the historical accuracy that it lacked the emotional pull to bring a scene or moment together. I didn’t think anyone in particular stood out, which became a bit of a disappointment for me since this was about Da Vinci.

Often, I feel that character disconnects are based on my taste versus what the author is trying to relay. The writing was well done, and I felt it was that more than anything that kept me reading the story. The pacing was on par with what I thought this book needed. And overall, Da Vinci’s Tiger was just okay.

Notable Scene:

I was giddy. A night of music, high art, and philosophic debate among Florence’s most renowned and beautiful. A night I’d hear about all sorts of exotic things – like Venice, a city that lived on stilts in the sea. And the chance to share one of my own poems! Lord, which one should I bring?

I ran upstairs and lifted the heavy lid of my wedding chest, the traditional Florentine cassone, painted with a scene to encourage a bride in her marital duties. Some were romantic scenes, but most were historical or biblical, representing women’s submission to the rule of husbands. For my chest, Uncle Bartolomeo had commissioned one of the most popular choices – the abduction of the Sabine women by Roman soldiers. I hated it.

As I always did when I opened the chest, I simply closed my eyes to the scene. That day I near fell into it, rummaging for the poems hidden at its very bottom.

FTC Advisory: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Da Vinci’s Tiger. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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