Sunday, November 11, 2012


Stops here 11/12/12

I am happy to be taking part in the blog tour for Passion Blue, by Victoria Strauss. My stop includes my review, a Guest Post from Victoria, and a Giveaway.

  Passion BlueSeries: N/A
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Publication Date: 11/6/12
Format: ARC
Pages: 352
Source: Received from author for review.

When seventeen-year-old Giulia, the orphaned, illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, learns she’s to be packed off to a life behind convent walls, she begs an astrologer-sorcerer for a talisman that will secure what she’s certain is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs. But does she really know the compass of her heart? The convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises, including a workshop of nuns who are creating paintings of astonishing beauty using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion Blue. As Giulia’s own artistic self is awakened she’s torn: should she follow the young man who promises to help her escape? Or stay and satisfy her growing desire to paint?
This richly imagined novel of a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into the fascinating world of Renaissance Italy where love and faith and art inspire passion – of many different hues.

Is the future decided by free will or was it written in the stars at the moment of birth? And what does it truly mean to be free? In fifteenth century Milan, young Giulia Borromeo is determined to fight her fate, but will she break free from her predetermined life, or will she end up where she was always meant to be?

Passion Blue was a very enjoyable, thought-provoking story. The story is set in Milan, during the fifteenth century when being the daughter of a seamstress and a nobleman affords you little more privilege than a commoner. When being a woman, even a smart, immensely talented one at that, means you are relegated to stay quiet, behind the scenes, and are never recognized for your gift.

"...she is a woman, and women are...well, they are women, they are fickle and full of emotion and caprice. Women don't have the temperament for the demands of painting, any more than they do for science or the law."   (ARC, pg 228)

Giulia's life has been shadowed by the horoscope that was written from the stars, at the moment of her birth. A horoscope that says she will end her days childless and unmarried. It is a fate she is determined to overcome. When Giulia is sent, by her step-mother, to a Santa Marta's, she believes her chance is gone. That she will never be free. Giulia is determined to bide her time, and with the help of a talisman procured from a sorcerer, she will find the true love that will take her away to freedom. But she discovers a new way of living at the convent, full of art and passion for the craft, a way she never imagined. In the end, Giulia must decide between the life she's always dreamed of, and the fate that is waiting for her to embrace it.

Victoria Strauss paints a beautiful picture of Renaissance Italy. The descriptive passages made the story and its characters feel alive and will be a treat for fans of historical fiction. The detailed attention to the medium of painting and the passion for art in Passion Blue will appeal for those who have a special love for that particular art. And though much of the story is set in a nunnery, and deals with obedience and faith, the story never becomes preachy.

A story of fate, choice, and love beyond romance, Passion Blue is a story that will make you think and make you feel.

Favorite Quote:

"Passion blue. It seemed instantly right, as if there could be no other name for a color so profound, so luminously alive. In her mind's eye, Giulia saw the small blue flame that had danced through her dream last night."   (ARC, pg.92)

You can purchase Passion Blue at:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Praise for Passion Blue
A rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion.- Kirkus (starred review, editor’s pick for Fall 2012) 
Vividly set during the 15th-century Italian Renaissance…a strong and thoroughly likable heroine. -School Library Journal 
I don’t just like Passion Blue, I love it…I simply galloped through it. -Jane Yolen, author of The Devil’s Arithmetic
An elegant retelling of that old, crucial story of finding one’s place in the world, set against a vivid evocation of the Italian Renaissance.     - Robin McKinley, author of The Hero and the Crown

Guest Post
Every novel has an origin story. Book ideas come from all kinds of strange (or mundane) places. I’ve gotten ideas from dreams, magazine articles, news items, other books, a snatch of conversation with a friend….Anything at all can trigger a “what if” question that plants a seed that grows into a book.
Passion Blue has the most complicated origin story of any of my novels. It actually started life as a completely different book.
A few years ago, an editor who’d read one of my historical novels suggested that I write a YA novel about the beginnings of astrology—how it came to exist, how it developed throughout history. The idea grabbed me, and I began to research. I discovered that ancient astrology was completely different from the astrology we’re familiar with today. Through the 17th century, astrology was practiced as a genuine science by expert astronomers who believed the stars could predict the future and influence events on earth, while modern astrology has become mainly a form of entertainment, and is seen by most people as superstition.
To explore these two very different versions of astrology, I came up with a double storyline: one set in Italy during the Renaissance, the other set in the present day, about two girls struggling to follow their passion as painters and linked by a magical astrological talisman. I came up with all kinds of cool ways for the two stories to echo each other, with a great magical moment toward the end where the girls would encounter each other through time.
Excited and enthusiastic, I started writing. I felt that things were going well. My agent agreed, and when I was about a third of the way through, she began shopping the book, hoping to sell it on a proposal and sample chapters. I crossed my fingers, kept writing, and waited.
Then the editors’ responses started coming in. And almost all of them said the same thing: they liked the Renaissance storyline, but did not fall in love with the contemporary one. A couple of editors suggested that I get rid of the contemporary story entirely, and focus the whole book on Giulia, my Renaissance heroine.
One of the things you learn to expect when submitting a manuscript is that you’re going to get a range of reactions. Editors will have different reasons for liking your work, and different reasons for rejecting it. If the reactions are all over the map—as they often are--this can be seriously confusing. But while editors’ decisions reflect their knowledge and experience, they are also subjective. The fact that one editor didn’t like your manuscript doesn’t mean that another won’t love it. The fact that one editor criticized an aspect of your plot, or didn’t warm to one of your characters, doesn’t mean you should rush to make changes.
When most of the editors come back with the same comments, though…that’s when you need to worry that something really is wrong—and listen to the suggestions for fixing it. The near-unanimous reaction to my proposal triggered some serious soul-searching. Finally, after consulting with my agent, I made the very difficult decision to heed the editors’ advice. I would abandon the contemporary storyline, I would make Passion Blue a historical novel.
This was tough on an emotional level—I loved Lizzie, my contemporary girl, and was sad to say goodbye to her—and also on a technical level. I not only had to untangle the two storylines, with their multiple references to one another and the big magical climax that no longer worked, I had to flesh out the Renaissance storyline to make it stand on its own. I also wanted to keep the fantasy element that had linked the two plots--but without the anchor of the contemporary story, that had to change as well.
There were many moments of doubt along the way, as I pulled my book apart and put it back together again. Even after my agent began a new round of marketing, I found myself wondering if I’d done the right thing. But as hard as it was to change course mid-stream, I’m very glad I listened to that first round of editorial input—because the re-imagined Passion Blue did find a home, with an editor and publisher who love it.
And now I hope it will find a home with readers!

Victoria Strauss is the author of eight novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone fantasy duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) and Passion Blue, a YA historical. In addition, she has written a handful of short stories, hundreds of book reviews, and a number of articles on writing and publishing that have appeared in Writer’s Digest, among others. She’s co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that provides information and warnings about the many scams and schemes that threaten writers. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Connect with Victoria at:
her website  |  Twitter  |  GoodReads  |  Facebook

I have a great giveaway to offer you, courtesy of Victoria.
The Prizes:
  • One signed copy of Passion Blue (hardcover), bookmark
  • Four winners will receive one bookmark.
The Rules:
  • Must be 13+ years of age to enter.
  • Must have a US/Can mailing address.
Giveaway will end 11/18/12 at 11:59 pm.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. LOVE the Renaissance, and it will be so interesting to find out more about astrology back then, and about women and art:)

    Thank you very much:)

  2. I have to be in the right frame of mind to read historical fiction, but this does sound interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love reading YA historical fiction :) Combine it with astrology, and it sounds like a enjoyable read!

  4. I love reading about the Renaissance era. Haven't seen this book before, but I'm definitely intrigued now. Great post!

  5. This sounds like an interesting book. I don't read a lot of historical fiction so I didn't really have much interest in this one. I'm glad that you enjoyed it though. I do like the concept of it. Awesome review and guest post!

  6. Thanks for sharing your review (at least it seemed like a review)

    Renaissance Era, interesting :)
    Thanks for sharing the new to me author and book

  7. It really does sound thought provoking, I think that everyone has thought about destiny before.
    Thanks for review and guest post.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  8. Sounds fantastic! Thanks for the great post and congrats on the new release!

  9. I'm not a big fan of historical fiction, but the concept of this one sounds fascinating. Awesome review, I'm happy you enjoyed it!

  10. I love HF and this one sounds good. The time period especially. I have to say I'm curious about the original story that was changed to just HF. I think that teens would maybe be more likely to pick it up with modern teens in it as well as the HF but there are lots of teens that like HF too. And maybe with the two storylines it got a bit confusing.
    Anyway, I look forward to reading this one!

  11. Wonderful review and guest post. I typically don't read a lot of historical fiction, but have found myself more drawn to it recently. This sounds like something I would like to check out.

  12. LOVE historical fiction and will definitely check this out!

  13. Awesome review and guest post! I usually stay away from historical fiction, but you have me intrigued! Thanks so much for sharing and for the giveaway! :D

  14. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction but there have been a few that I've loved. Passion Blue sounds really intriguing. I'm also a huge Renaissance fan, so the setting nonetheless, appeals to me. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. It sounds like nice, coming-of-age story. Great review! Thanks for spotlighting this one, otherwise I probably wouldn't have heard of it.

  15. Not sure if this is a book for me I'm more of a steampunk kind of girl rather than historical fiction. Gla you enjoyed it though! Great review!

  16. sounds like a fun adventure! - regnod(at)yahoo(d0t)com

  17. Don't know this one. Not sure how I feel about that fate thing. Does sound interesting.


  18. Can't wait to read this. It been on my to-read list for quiet a while. Thanks for being a part of the blog tour and contest. Just signed up as a follower.

  19. I love historical fiction and Passion Blue seems like my favorite kind of historical fiction and fantasy mix. I'm intriged by the origin story. It sounds like it took a lot of work! Nice review and thanks for the giveaway! :)

  20. Renaissance Italy is a great setting! I always enjoy pondering books dealing with fate versus free will. Would be hard to accept your fate if it wasn't at all what you wanted. Curious where she ends up. I'm usually not one for books taking place in a nunnery but glad it at least doesn't get preachy.

  21. How have I not seen this book before? I was a history major in undergrad and the renaissance is one of my favorite times. I am super excited to see that this book is set there! And you say it is thought provoking. I have a feeling I would really enjoy this book.

    Great review! I can't wait to see what you think of The Unloved :)

  22. What a wonderful setting! I've always found astrology fascinating.

  23. This looks like a good book. I don't often read historical YA :)

  24. I enjoy historical fiction. The storyline sounds fantastic. Thank you for the giveaway.

  25. I agree with the guest post. There's been quite a few times were there are dual storylines and one is amazing and the other boring and I'm wishing that the author would of only published half the story.

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