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Strauss' writing flows so well, and she weaves together action with reflection and theme-building seamlessly.

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The protagonist puts her faith in astrology and a magical talisman to bring her her heart's desire, and it's never quite clear if there is magic present or it's just the protagonist's naivete. Her heart's desire would have come to her regardless of the talisman. When the protagonist interacts with it, the author is careful to put in phrases like, 'I thought something would happen i.

I quite like that. If I had to offer criticism, is maybe that the plot and ending was a tiny bit predictable, but there were a few twists that I didn't see coming, so it's largely forgivable. Also, the trope of the bully character. I hate when an antagonist comes on the scene and five seconds later it's insta-hate. Also, I hate when the bully doesn't really add anything to the story aside from conflict-for-the-sake-of-conflict. I'm not entirely sure what this one added to the story or the plot, and she came across as trope-tastic.

But, again, it didn't detract enough to make me want to stop reading. Overall, lovely read. Glad I picked it up. Jul 30, Maria Mitchell rated it it was amazing Shelves: first-reads. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review. This book was very different than I expected but I still absolutely loved it! It's set at the end of the 15th century during the Italian Renaissance. Descriptions of the time, lack of women's rights, the prejudice against illegitimate children - are all important parts of history that still some-what ring true today.

Main character, Giulia, is the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and his m I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review. Main character, Giulia, is the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman and his mistress. Unwelcome with the nobles, and even more unwelcome with the servants, Guilia spends most of her time alone. She has two passions: drawing and learning about astrology.

She has one desire: to marry and have children. Suddenly fate deals her a cruel blow and she is sent to a convent denied her desire and astrology but maybe can still pursue her art. Giulia was a very real character in the sense that she was like many women all throughout history wanting more than society had for her. Because of her birth, because of gender she is able to do little. Once she's in the convent she is able to do even less.

She fights tooth and nail to escape her fate. I loved the absolute strength of the women around her. Her mentor succeeds as a painter when painting is a man's work. Her art friends show they are determined by enduring the many years it takes before they can even begin to paint.

Her novice mistress is judgmental, cruel, but also shows surprising fairness. Her handicapped friend endures cruel tortures and taunts because the convent is the best place for her to survive. Giulia can't give up on her hearts desire despite being able to pursue her art. Love interest, Ormanno, is very gritty and street wise. Foundling, thief, liar, artist. He is everything to Giulia despite it all. Nothing was held back about this character. He was what he was and made no excuses about it.

The descriptions of the art, the detail in the buildings, paintings, and ingredients to make the paint itself were all very enlightening and fascinating to read about. The huge amount of work it takes artists to complete a project and the many years before they can be deemed worthy as an artist and hone their craft was staggering. Surprising betrayals, known villains, and even more surprising acts of forgiveness paved the road of Giulia's journey.

It was a wonderful read and I loved finding out what Giulia's heart desire was, all along. I am looking forward to reading future novels by author Victoria Strauss! Nov 29, Beth Fred rated it liked it. I think it did a good job of exploring the hardships of Renassiance Italy. In the beginning of the story, Giulia annoyed me. She was so set on finding a husband, she wasn't open to anything else.

And she wasn't really looking for love. She was looking for marriage. Then when she gets put in an artist's workshop at the convent, she continues looking for a husband even though she's fairly happy. She meets a guy and sparks a romance. And I got excited thinking I was getting a romance. The maestra teacher makes it clear if it weren't for this convent and her workshop Giulia wouldn't be able to paint.

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She doesn't see why Giulia should want anything other than painting. The boy can't understand why Giulia needs to paint.

But the boy is a scoundrel. This is not a romance. I don't want to give the ending away, but obviously Giulia doesn't get a boy. I'm okay with that, except that she spent her whole life wanting a family of her own. I don't feel like she got that, and while she accepts it, I don't.

1. It takes more than just passion.

I wanted Giulia to have everything she wanted. I realize in life no one gets everything they want but a this is fiction b she didn't want much. A family of her own and to follow her dream. That's it. While the scoundrel did not work out, I do think it could be spun that she did get a family.

I originally said that this book could have used an epilogue, but I've recently learned there will be a sequel. Still it was well written with a strong story. View all 3 comments. Jul 08, Crystal rated it liked it Shelves: fahrenheit-blog , fantasy , historical-fiction , around-the-world-challenge , young-adult. I read this book because it was one of Gail Carriger's selections for her online book club. When I first started reading it, I was enchanted.

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The setting was so different from anything I'd read, and I was fascinated by the descriptions of the time period and the various settings in which the heroine finds herself--aristocratic household, convent, painter's studios, sorcerer's home, etc. Watching her transition into the convent and finding her vocation was interesting and enjoyable. However, at s I read this book because it was one of Gail Carriger's selections for her online book club. However, at some point, I got distracted from the story, and after that I had a really difficult time picking it back up.

I didn't care so much about her budding romance with the painter. I was never really sold on their chemistry, and I thought she was throwing away a sure thing on a risky venture. I also didn't enjoy the magical element of the story as much. Astrology and sorcery as concepts are very interesting, but to have them play out in the story threw me off. It took the threat of not being able to renew the book anymore from the library for me to finish it. Once I finally picked it back up again, I managed to forge through to the end in a few days.

It's not difficult reading, and I wanted to see how it ended. I liked the final resolution, although the romantic drama still annoyed me. Overall, I'd say this book was just OK for me. I'd love to read something that was less manufactured drama and more life in this time and place. I liked that the heroine's attitudes didn't feel jarringly out of place in her time period, however.

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I really don't think that this was a bad book. It just couldn't sustain my interest the whole way through, and because of that, I can't say it was a great one, either.

Dec 27, Sharon rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-fiction.