A strong heroine and intriguing concept—but closer to one-third of an adventure than a whole one.


A middle school girl uses Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks to build a time machine in this debut middle-grade novel.

Thirteen-year-old Charlotte Morton, called Charley, loves science, math, and language. She wants to do it all, like her hero Leonardo, “the ultimate Renaissance man.” She goes to Da Vinci Middle School (coincidentally enough) in Takoma Park, Maryland, with her friend Billy Vincenzo, a gearhead who is the school’s “geekiest eighth-grader,” and Beth, a former best friend gone boy-crazy. Visiting an exhibition at the Smithsonian on Leonardo’s Codex, Charley gets a great idea: re-create one of the artist’s sketched inventions for a science fair project. She’s convinced the device is a time machine, and she wants not just to construct it, but to travel back in time, meet Leonardo, interview him, and learn his secrets as well. A series of events and discoveries, including vivid dreams, a golden angle compass, a government computer, Charley’s father’s garage workshop, a captivating young man named Kairos, and a mathematical formula called the Qualia Rosetta—together with “an unforeseen kiss and an awkward misstep”—attempts to transport Charley back in time. Unfortunately, the tale ends rather abruptly. (Bonus chapters from Book 2 are appended.) Payes has an engaging heroine in Charley. She’s confident, hardworking, and curious; though she worries about homework, friends, and boys, she also is consumed with finding answers to serious questions like who we are and why we’re here. Charley’s friends are well-drawn and believable too. Though it goes unexplored, it’s interesting that their world is fairly privileged. Charley’s father, for example, does something secret and science-y in government, and her mother is a concert violinist. Leonardo is, of course, worthy of Charley’s enthusiasm, and there’s enough real science to make the story’s time travel seem more than just a magical transition. But, after all the buildup, it’s a huge disappointment that Charley’s exploits are over so soon, and a lot to ask of readers that they stay tuned indefinitely for the conclusion.

A strong heroine and intriguing concept—but closer to one-third of an adventure than a whole one.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-937650-83-4

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Small Batch Books

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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