By the middle of this book, I felt sick. I couldn't properly finish it for both impatience and irritation**spoiler alert** Well, I didn't expect this.
By the middle of this book, I felt sick. I couldn't properly finish it for both impatience and irritation, so I skimmed the remainder. Karen Kingsbury draws a 'realistic' picture with the outcome of these four novels, and ultimately, the story of Cody and Bailey. That's a problem in fiction. Here's what she does: Spends countless (dozens?) of novels building up the relationship between Cody and Bailey, intriguing readers, giving them something to root for and hope for.
Then yanks the rug out from under them. In, what, a righteous fictional telling of reality? Partially. The realistic portion was the fact that fairytale romance like the spark that Cody and Bailey had hardly exists. People change, grow apart, there's a season for everything, like Kingsbury reiterates in her novels. It's 'realistic' that Bailey would meet someone else and she and Cody would fall to pieces.
But as a fiction lover and writer myself, I have impossible difficulty figuring how an author can build so deeply on a relationship, work so intimately with it, pour so much time into it, so many years... only to trash it in the end. I really felt like that's what she did with Cody and Bailey. The shift of both their feelings felt artificial, inane. Suddenly, the depth of Cody's love for Bailey amounts to a chilly brotherhood? Randomly, a favourite character of mine from the Above the Line series, Andi, is reintroduced in a way I could hardly imagine more tasteless - to ignite some absolutely random flare of love and purpose in Cody's heart.
Yippee. Forgive me if I'm sardonic, but this book was an incredible disappointment. I had high expectations, and honestly... Cody's devotion to Bailey was the main reason I bothered with these books (I'm not good with sappy stuff, generally speaking). That devotion, upon finishing, was cheap and fairly worthless, as far as I was concerned. Cody basically convinced himself his love for Bailey was childish, and he's grown up.
Wow. If this is Kingsbury's idea of fiction - something you curl up with after a long day, something you intend to enjoy... well, she's pretty far off the mark. Unless you enjoy heaps of senseless mush that barely caters to intellect in any form. And is riddled with mistakes. The reader in me wishes she could overlook these, but the editor can't very easily. I remember reading repeat paragraphs in one of the books. Finding easy mistakes, for example - Cody's mother's name changed from one series to another. That's a mistake an accomplished author should not afford, let alone her editors... if there are any. And these copies were published for retail.
...I'm not much of a ranter, but look at this review. I don't mean to offend with it, but I'm very honest - this series had a lot of potential, but cheapened characterization, poor plot pacing and an over-abundance of sappy, cavity-inducing romance led to its downfall in my opinion.
And again, both the romantic and the writer in me needed to see Kingsbury's lengthy work through to a proper conclusion. Proper I didn't receive. How can someone put so much into two characters only to let them drop in the end? Give up on them? Paint them a plastic 'happy ending'? It's a mystery to me. ...more
Whoa. This book is so textured and rich and beautiful I hardly know how to put forth an opinion. This second book was the very same level as the firstWhoa. This book is so textured and rich and beautiful I hardly know how to put forth an opinion. This second book was the very same level as the first in my esteem, which is pretty rare for a series. So much happens here! I felt myself panicking to savour every little bit, and every time I returned to it, even to read one chapter, I found something new to love about this story and these characters. They inspire me in my own writing!
I keep being surprised with these charming scenes--Isaac running the household on Christmas? Making Roy into a footman? paah. I am smiling too much. The humour and light-sided elements of the novel are as wonderful as Dotta's weave of severity and darker circumstances into the story. Both enthrall, and I love every conflict here.
Jessica Dotta's writing is masterful. I've never read a historical more persuasive or richly-toned, nor as gorgeous in structure and execution. This series exists at the peril of any attempt to write historical that goes after it; that is how high my estimation has reached. It has already ruined a good many historical novels I've tried reading since! It's hard to put up with the same stories I've read over and over again with differing characters, and especially in Christian historical, it's tough to break from the mould and formula that sells (though I can't imagine why it does, with how cheesy and well-worn its structure is). When I pick up a book, I instinctively challenge other authors to meet the quality of this blessed series with its complex, multilayered characters that each fit into the plot with such perfection of pacing and tone... even the villains are rendered so delightfully! I love living in Julia's world, although she herself is perhaps the weakest character, I can't bring myself to hate her. She is flighty, to be sure, and changes her mind at the drop of a hat, and is frustratingly swayed by little to no evidence in her regard for others, and she is a difficult character to define. One moment she is meek and silent, the next rushing out to aid orphans, offering her kindness to strangers. I liked the scene where she met Evelyn, for example.
Anyway, I'm so sad to be done with this book! Waiting until next spring will be torture, but I'm so looking forward to learning what happens, and especially more about Mr. Macy's past! (I want to read a novel of his backstory, really, there's certainly enough potential there!) I'm glad we at least finally learned the reason for his obsession with Julia. I also loved how this book handled spiritual aspects:
"The idea of love won me. I could never follow the God of my vicar's making, but this—this made me yearn. The thought of a God who waited patiently, hand outstretched, eagerly anticipating me... that thought undid me."
Not cheesy or overwhelming, but moving. And gorgeous, with Dotta's prose. This book is a confection of beautiful writing worth studying. Bless Jessica Dotta, for not being afraid to break the historical mould and tell a story from the heart whose emotion bleeds off the pages; whose art is carefully tended and meticulous, each word and sentence placed and executed with care. I appreciate that so much and will now go off in a manner of incoherent happiness~ ...more
I'm not overly familiar with ebook titles, so I assume the frequent errors I picked out in this novel were some fault of digital transfer, because itI'm not overly familiar with ebook titles, so I assume the frequent errors I picked out in this novel were some fault of digital transfer, because it seems to need a more thorough editing. I found spelling mistakes and grammar errors, but the set-up also seemed rather choppy. It wasn't properly divided by chapters and really was an overall mess to look at. In comparison to my experience with other ebooks, anyway, that were so clean and trimmed.
For all this, though, I had no trouble being swallowed by this book. It was so charming! It was easy for me to gain respect for Maggie, and her temperament - honestly, with a mother like hers, I'd go crazy. Maggie's patience is saint-like. I loved Seth as well, sweetheart that he was. It's a fairytale that someone with such a dreadful life like Maggie would meet a constant hero, but alas, it's a welcome fairytale. The romance was flawlessly executed. A rare treat, yay!
I certainly hope this book gets published in 'tangible' form, because I want to get myself a copy! ...more
Nothing new here, despite my hopes. I dislike being able to predict nearly everything, especially the characters' misunderstandings and overreactions.Nothing new here, despite my hopes. I dislike being able to predict nearly everything, especially the characters' misunderstandings and overreactions. I liked Denise Hunter in the past, but she's not bringing anything new to the table, just repetitive characters and story threads. ...more
I regard this gem breathlessly, and with a manner of panic, as I'm uncertain what to do with a book that has far beyond exceeded my expectations. I'mI regard this gem breathlessly, and with a manner of panic, as I'm uncertain what to do with a book that has far beyond exceeded my expectations. I'm so rarely impressed or deeply moved by a book, but amongst the array of historical fiction I've read, I think this one is the best. How can such a book exist? Very nearly five stars from page one. It's books like these that make me panicked and impatient to read anything I may find remotely interesting, because it may turn out the way this book has.
As such, I'm forced to slog through a myriad of badly written novels hindered by cliche plotlines and horribly written characters. (Well. Not forced to read them, but you get my meaning.) I am always in search of this book. And in the extraordinarily rare event that I find it, I feel like rejoicing in companionable silence with the author, who seems to understand my own heart so well and if not, how could she have penned such a masterful story? My opinions seem very concise and are often placed on narrow paths, and as such people don't always agree with them. If I call this story masterful, there will always be other readers who don't understand why. But from my view, this story truly is. I cannot say enough good things about it.
Honestly, this tale was penned with such care for detail, such richness and enthrall that I found myself rereading passages again and again, which I rarely do nowadays. I adored the description, which wasn't overbearing or of distracting length as much writing is. The characters were fantastic--Mrs. Windham reminiscent of Mrs. Bennett from Pride & Prejudice (which is the perfect thing, because I love Mrs. Bennett--she cracks me up.) without taking direct or overly similar quotes from Jane Austen's dialogue, which I've seen done an irritating amount in historical fiction. (I guess I can't fault authors reflecting Austen's dialogue, though, fantastically elegant as it is.) And oh, the dialogue in this story. I almost want to take up a study of the execution of words, particularly those Mr. Macy says, although I don't think anyone uttered two sentences together that weren't thoughtfully expressed. If only we could speak that way in ordinary conversation in real life.
Anyway, certainly my favourite read of the year and the first to receive five stars! Hooray for Ms. Dotta--I look forward to the next book in this series and will be on the lookout for her future releases.
AND NOW that I got a proper, coherent review out of myself, it's time to entertain some moderate spazzing plus spoilers.
I need to just kdfnjgjbjf over the characters and a particular dose of delicious irony which was perfect, utterly perfect, that being how Edward had to marry Mr. Macy and Julia. Mr. Macy is an uncannily perfect villain, I just cannot with him--CANNOT, including "handle" nor "resist" his character and I do not want to. Every time I think "okay he's going to flip and show his true colours now. ok now. ok--now!" and he NEVER does and I'm just like WHAT IS HAPPENING I DO NOT UNDERSTAND kdfnngg what a blissful lack of understanding I keep. I am relishing for once being unable to predict what's going to happen in this series, this is epochal, this is so important you do not understand.
Also, Julia's personality? How she flips moods and seems so shallow and silent and meek? Dotta just makes it... work. She's not annoying at all. I feel like I can understand her perfectly, considering her circumstances, WHICH SUCK QUITE A BIT, let's be honest, here. But what I didn't understand was why she was suddenly so intensely afraid of Macy when he didn't really do anything to warrant it? Actually, he did nothing to warrant it, but that flashback to that tragic wedding Julia and the others witnessed seems to have been the trigger point. But why is Julia convinced that Macy is drawing her into a marriage like that? Why is Edward so vehement, I mean, beyond his jealousy towards Macy? That too isn't clear. Is he blinded by his jealousy and blowing Macy's "evil" out of proportion?
I mean Edward's a vicar. And yet his actions do make sense when you consider his past with Julia and other elements and kfnkgndf Dotta does such a fantastic job of weaving character relationships, and subtle but sweet moments in their pasts, like about Edward's stubbornness, or him hiding in a tree right above a lecturing Sarah, watching her. hehehe. I am invested.
... but particularly in Macy, because I can't resist such characterisations, and I need him to indefinitely stick around. He's brilliant, and his obsessive devotion to Julia jabbed me right in my Achilles' heel. SERIOUSLY. I feel inclined to do as he bid Julia and to go to him first when hearing slander regarding him... because he is not your average villain. If he were, why would he even disclose that he had dark secrets to Julia? He made no attempt to conceal the fact they were gritty and shocking, even if Julia at the time had no desire to learn them, and dismissed their existence quickly. Unlike Julia, I'm still in the position to swallow his lies, I think. SOUNDS GOOD TO ME.
hahaha. This book was dangerously close to perfection. Ten stars, really.
I don't know why. This story, these characters burrowed inside me. They reintroduced themselves long after I'd finished the series. They will stay witI don't know why. This story, these characters burrowed inside me. They reintroduced themselves long after I'd finished the series. They will stay with me, I think, which is such a rarity I must draw attention to it. And somehow applaud it. ...more
"With such dreadful truths ruling the universe, it is no wonder that grace and mercy are all that is left us."
This series has riven me through and the"With such dreadful truths ruling the universe, it is no wonder that grace and mercy are all that is left us."
This series has riven me through and there are no words to express the daze I am left in upon reading the final page. Dotta's writing is powerful. I was left stunned and heartbroken, and I could not order my thoughts well enough to produce the review I attempt to write now. How can I review such a book?
I love these characters. Love them all. They are masterfully constructed, that they can shine in such banal and ordinary everyday circumstances! To turn a dinner into such a tense and exciting thing through well thought-out and gripping dialogue is a wonderful thing. That Dotta uses this unconventional formula in this series is what makes me respect her so much; it's such a risk, yet such a good one.
To fall outside the necessity for structure that readers expect--and by structure I'm referring to the rule of action, the ability to order events on an ascending line that until the falling action lays out with perfect clarity the formula of storytelling we're so used to--is a great risk. You risk boring readers who expect a certain method of telling, not only in historical fiction, but in all stories.
I'm certainly not advocating the lack of structure, as few are the writers who can pull it off correctly. You end up with an orderless mess like "Crossed" by Ally Condie. (I must demand a climax in all stories, regardless. This seemed to have no visible result, which antagonised me to no end.)
That this is a series enables such rich character development, and the characters don't grow tired and boring, don't need to have worn devices invented for them in order for their story to continue in a drooping and boring means to an end. That Julia's main problem continues throughout the series perhaps aids the development of "filler," which causes the story to proceed in a slower manner, however the filler is by no means unentertaining. (view spoiler)[The only impatience I felt as a read was in this book's beginning, and only because Julia's contemplations repeatedly brought Macy to the surface, and as they darkened I anticipated things happening more quickly, and yet even at this point Macy has yet to appear; Macy is my favourite character, so obviously I am impatient for him to reveal himself. Yet his appearance was so near the ending (within the last 50 pages) that waiting for him to exist apart from Julia's thoughts (which were poisonous and rimmed with panic; not the clearest representation) and show himself physically was torment.
But regardless, I enjoyed the layers of events Dotta presents. I love Lord Pierson's fierce and disapproving character, even. I love them all. Isaac too, especially; I deeply feel for him, and Dotta's descriptions only make me ache, as Julia can read him so well. I loved the scene where Isaac and Julia are left alone, and neither speak, yet their nonverbal communication is so expressive until he leaves. Most of the scenes written between them are read so keenly in Julia's observations it's as though we can read Isaac's mind, and the novelty of this execution was well done.
Isaac destroyed me over the course of the novel, and these quotes rend me even more so, considering the ending: "'I know your husband does not approve of me, but I will win him over. Give me time. But in the meantime do not shut me out. I'm beg--' He squeezed his eyes shut as if to keep from uttering more."
"Tormented eyes searched mine. It seemed as if, on the other side of an unreachable shore, Isaac was silently screaming and pleading for help beyond his polished mask. Then his eyes went vacant as if something vital had died inside him."
"As we passed, Isaac looked away, seemingly deflated. His very countenance bespoke frustration that he kept failing to win my trust."
It seems a horrible and cruel jest that Dotta should so meticulously construct beautiful characters and withhold from them the desires of their hearts--and that they never receive it, although it is teased to no end! Dear, dear Isaac. While reading I decided there is one thing I need him to receive from Julia, and I insist upon it: an apology. She keeps tormenting him, and how much worse it must be from his position; we as readers at least have the advantage of knowing and sympathising with the great complexity of Julia's thoughts and feelings. That Isaac continues to extend his hand, his grace, to a girl who doesn't desire it is baffling, and speaks not of weakness but a great and human strength of character built into his personality. How delightfully alive he is for a fictional character.
That Julia understands Isaac so well and still makes no attempt to reach out to him, to apologise even though she does cherish him (as a brother; that fine line there), is maddening! And even at the end, perhaps she never apologised to him for leaving, essentially putting him through hell; I will content myself to think something like an apology occurred in those last five hours of conversation together.
Now I will slip in a comment about Edward. I have to say he had some fantastic moments--at last--in this book. For the main love interest he desperately needed both development and presence, and perhaps even more than he received here, but alas he's also won me over. I absolutely adored his snarky behaviour towards the elite, and his dramatic overreactions, even his violence and antagonism towards Isaac was brilliant. He is a most entertaining vicar.
But Isaac... Isaac's thread, the shortest on Julia's timeline. Yet his life... oh lord I can't even. I seem by fate irrevocably attached to doomed characters. Even Macy, by the end, had not fully convinced me of his villainy. All that he was was skewed through Julia's sole perception, and that his story ended on a profound bit of knowledge that Macy penned in a letter to Adelia Foxmore, that he had at least believed himself in love with Julia proves to me his success as not only a character but a 'villain' as well. We are never illuminated to his truest motives, or his so-called web of crime; we know almost nothing of these things. All we have is to read his interactions with Julia, and his last where, whether acted or not, he bent and kissed Julia and expressed his relief at her calming. What.... am I supposed to do with that? Perhaps also skewed by Julia's perspective, I was not convinced of his evil.
Such a complex character, such an intricate relationship with far reaching roots and a past that still remains shadowed yet carries its essence and appeal throughout our lack of knowing? How am I to unravel such a thing and judge it? I cannot, of right conscience, apply to him the sour regard Julia maintained, nor the quiet and peaceful relief she gained upon his passing.
She recalled him as tempering her, and her suffering as old; what tempers and gives wisdom also ages and exhausts. Isaac's sacrifice was inconceivable, it was stunning and heartwrenching in its execution, as is the memory of his role throughout the entire series. I think of him greeting Julia for the first time, at the landing, in the foyer of Maplecroft, was it? I think of how his introduction was so hurried and there was no reason to think him significant at the end of book one. His was the shortest thread, yet he liberated Julia and secured her peace, the happiness she longed for.
Isaac and Mr. Macy both carried connections to Julia that surpassed her knowledge and are concealed in their histories concerning her, and they loved her in their separate ways. It's astonishing to me that Edward should be the only survivor and gain Julia when two characters so rich and bleeding so heavily from the page meet their ends in unison. I still am not thinking clearly. But I am not terrified nor outraged by this ending; it was oddly and disturbingly impacting, and I doubt things could have resolved themselves in any other way. As if to be punished by their close ties to Julia, and no snapping of the cord could occur without this intensity... this is a baffling and shocking ripple effect.
I have mixed feelings about the ends of characters so lovingly and carefully crafted; so much care and time poured into them, yet the final pages cease their voices, quiet them to memory, and it doesn't injure me. It has yet to. If an author has created a character I loved enough to be injured by it, the only way I would be is if it were badly handled, haphazard, and yet these cases have been exempt. I have been right to trust Jessica Dotta.
Of course, I would've liked both Mr. Macy and Isaac to live. I disagree with the choices made that ensured such ends, yet I couldn't have written it better myself.
As a writer myself, I find myself focusing upon the craft and nature of Mr. Macy as a villain. I have no villain of my own alike Macy. It seems a daunting task to even attempt to craft such a character, but I am in awe of Ms. Dotta for doing so. What an exhausting process it must have been, yet so utterly worthwhile. He is such an odd creature, attempting to exist within the mould of 'villain'. His actions undeniably usher forth the protagonist's ruin, yet he is so quiet and gentle in his undoing of her, so shrouded, so well acted and well concealed that we are blind as we seek out his surely nefarious motives only to return empty handed. He baffles. He is the villain, yet exists outside the trope so subtly that the mystery of how he was constructed entrances me. Perhaps this is worth further study as I reread the series.
To end, I will state simply that this series was not only my favourite in the historical genre, but the best series I have read. I need no convincing of the power words wield, and Ms. Dotta has certainly utilized that power in Julia's heartwrenching and incredible story. I'm so thankful to have found it! (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
An illuminating read. I firmly believe in the truths Leaf relates here. My main issue with her 21 day detox regime, though, is how obscure it felt. IAn illuminating read. I firmly believe in the truths Leaf relates here. My main issue with her 21 day detox regime, though, is how obscure it felt. I feel like instruction on actually carrying the process out was lacking, and I'm still not entirely sure how to do it, despite her outlining of the steps. I think I need clearer examples of such a regime, because the mind is an obscure black hole of a thing. I love the science of psychology too, but I feel like in this book she was too wrapped up in convincing people about physiological change in the brain and will power (I am already fully convinced of these things, so it was tiring to hear it repeated over and over, though I'm aware that some people really do need that much convincing), and though the science behind all this was sound, it was somewhat distracting.
This book has helped me to become more conscious of my thoughtlife, and I hope I can get into the habit of catching them before they do more damage than they're worth. ...more
On the cover it declares "magic, romance and pirates", and while I'll certainly give it the first and last, Steel is, for the most part, a refreshingOn the cover it declares "magic, romance and pirates", and while I'll certainly give it the first and last, Steel is, for the most part, a refreshing departure from romance for the YA genre. Where was the romance? If you blinked, you could've missed it! Between Jill and Henry there was zero tension, zero romantic build-up, zero sparks, really. I felt no romantic connection between the two. Instead, their relationship was more of a bland camaraderie that might've flourished in a longer novel. But having said that, I don't think it took anything from the story itself. You come to expect certain cliched romantic 'requirements' in YA novels (and in some cases prepare yourself to ignore them if it's even possible), but Steel brushed over these, which is why I thought it was a refreshing read. Not everything needs romance; indeed, some stories can't handle it, and it's wedged in there sharp and awkward just to say there's a love story so the book will sell.
In Steel, the romance (or I should say the 'random kiss with no lead up, that led nowhere') wasn't awkward, but I don't think it was by any means necessary. It's nicer to think of Jill and Henry as friends, from my personal perspective.
Anyway, all that aside, I enjoyed this book. More than I was expecting to! I haven't read many pirate books, so it was really interesting to read about Cooper's crew and all the... cleaning they had to do! Even that was entertaining. The ship itself, the descriptions, Cooper's strength and her good heart (revealed when she freed the slaves) and Jill's background with fencing was all really interesting to read about. It was quite well written, and well researched, too. ...more