Tag Archives: Victoria Strauss

What’s On My Plate – September 2014

On My Plate

The year is slipping away from us! I can’t believe it’s already September. Although in my neck of the woods, September is typically one of the hottest months of the year, I’m looking forward to the weather changing soon, I hope:-) On my plate this month I have a few leftover books from August that I wasn’t able to get to, and some new ones as well. A pretty full plate, as usual! Here’s what I plan on reading this month:

For review from Edelweiss/NetGalley:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I’ve heard some buzz about this book, although I’ve yet to read any blog reviews. Anyone out there read this yet?

Jackaby by William Ritter. I’ve read a few rave reviews, and I’m really looking forward to this “Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who.”

Color Song by Victoria Strauss. I read Victoria’s first book in her series, and this is described as a “companion” novel. Victoria brings the historical world of art alive in her books, and I can’t wait to read this!

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin. This one has some mixed reviews on Goodreads, but the story sure sounds exciting. I’m going to give it a try.

Winterspell by Claire Legrand. I’ve been looking forward to this Nutcracker retelling, and even though I’ve seen a few not-so-positive reviews, I’m still interested…

For review from publishers:

The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher. I really enjoyed Belcher’s first book in the series, The Six-Gun Tarot, and I can’t wait to read this one!

Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna. This very slim book from Pyr sounds really good. It’s steampunk, but you can’t really tell from the cover. Interesting…

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. This is middle grade, which I don’t normally review here, but I’m so curious about the Harry Potter similarities that I just need to see for myself what’s up with this one!

If I have time, ARCs from Comic Con:

The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato. Super excited to read this steampunk start to a series. Plus, I want that woman’s jacket sooo bad! (I know I can’t have it, but seriously, isn’t it cool?)

Brood by Chase Novak. I stalked the Hachette booth at Comic Con until this book popped up for grabs. I loved the first book in the series!

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter. I’ve heard some good things about this one, although there are quite a range of reviews on Goodreads.

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest. Oh yeah, I will be reading this one, even if I have to bump a review book. One of my most anticipated books from Comic Con!

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes. I have yet to read a book by Beukes, let’s hope this is my first!

Right, I know. Way too many books to read in a month, at least for me. But a girl can dream, right? As far as blog tours go, I do have one coming up this month:

Blog Tours:

The Mirror Empire

I’m pretty excited to be on the blog tour for The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. I’m actually still reading this, but I’ll have my review up before my tour stop. Stop back here on September 11th for a guest post with Kameron. And I’m sure there will be a giveaway, Angry Robot is usually very generous:-)


Book review giveaway button 2014 copy

And per usual, I will be giving away one of the books I reviewed in August, and let me tell you, I read some pretty damn amazing books last month! The giveaway starts on the 15th. Don’t forget to come back and enter!

So that’s my crazy reading month. Let me know what you’re up to in September!


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Over-Booked (6) – A Book Haul Post

Over booked banner

Welcome to Over-Booked, my version of the book haul! I’m linking up with Stacking the Shelves and The Sunday Post. Go visit their blogs for lots more book haul posts.

I have a small haul for the past two weeks, luckily. One is a book that I requested from NetGalley a month ago, and I was finally approved, and the other was an author request. Both are books I’m really looking forward to:

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters. Releases in October from Amulet Books. I just loved Cat’s first book, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and this one looks equally rooted in history, which is this author’s strength. And, cool cover, right?

Color Song by Victoria Strauss. Releases in September from Skyscape. I reviewed Strauss’ first book Passion Blue a couple of years ago, and loved the way she incorporated art history into her story. This book looks like a sequel to the first, although Goodreads doesn’t categorize it that way. But the characters are the same, so I believe the story continues!

Next week is Comic Con International!! Where I anticipate acquiring a fairly good book haul. So expect a recap post two weeks from now:-) What goodies did you get this week? Link me up!


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Giveaway Winners!

I am thrilled to announce the winners for my last two giveaways! Thank you everyone for entering, leaving thoughtful comments, tweeting and following, it means the world to me. First up, the winners of Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher:

The following people won a paperback copy of Ghost Planet:

Jolene A.

Leslie M.

Nichole M.

Jolene was extra lucky, because she just happens to live VERY close to Sharon, and Sharon actually contacted her and gave her Ghost Planet in person! How cool is that?

These readers won a signed copy of Passion Blue:

Andrea M.

Leigh Ann H.

And these readers won some *swag* from Passion Blue (bookmarks & postcards)

Ron P.

Karen A.

M.C.V. E.

Special thanks to Tor for the Ghost Planet giveaway, and to Victoria Strauss for the Passion Blue giveaway. Congratulations to everyone, and if you didn’t win this time, stay tuned for more giveaways. Sometime before the end of the month I’ll be giving away a copy of Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini:)


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PASSION BLUE Blog Tour + Interview + Giveaway

I’m so excited to be part of the Passion Blue Blog Tour! I loved this book and I want everyone to read it. (You can read my review here.) Victoria Strauss has been kind enough to answer some questions, and I’m so thrilled to welcome her to my blog today. Keep reading, because after the interview you can enter to win a signed copy of Passion Blue as well as some cool Passion Blue swag!

About the book (from Goodreads):

“Be sure you know your true heart’s desire, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive.”

This is the warning the Astrologer-Sorcerer gives Giulia when she pays him to create a magical talisman for her. The scorned illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy the dire fate predicted by her horoscope, and use the talisman to claim what she believes is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs–not likely prospects for a girl about to be packed off to the cloistered world of a convent.

But the convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises. There are strict rules, long hours of work, and spiteful rivalries…but there’s also friendship, and the biggest surprise of all: a workshop of female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty, using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion blue. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn the mysteries of the painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. She is haunted by the sorcerer’s warning, and by a question: does she really know the true compass of her heart?

Set in Renaissance Italy, this richly imagined novel about a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into a fascinating, exotic world where love, faith, and art inspire passion–of many different hues.

And now, please welcome Victoria Strauss!

Passion Blue tells the story of women painters in Renaissance Italy. I thought this was a wonderful idea for a story. How did you decide to tackle this subject, and what sort of research was involved?

I always planned to have an Italian Quattrocento setting, but the original idea for the book (which was suggested to me by an editor who’d read one of my other YA novels) was much more fantasy-ish, and involved astrology and the stars.

But you really can’t research Renaissance Italy without encountering the magnificent artwork, and as my research progressed I found myself pulled in a different direction. The astrology theme became mixed up with painting (I’ve always loved 15th and 16th century Italian paintings more than any others) which in turn became mixed up with my interest in the very few female painters of that period, who managed to carve out a place for themselves in a time when women had few options other than becoming wives or nuns. Giulia’s teacher, Maestra Humilità Moretti, is based on a real painter nun, who had a busy studio in Florence in the early 16th century. Over time, her work (like that of many of those early female artists) was all but forgotten. Fortunately, modern scholarship is starting to bring it back to light. Hopefully Passion Blue sheds a little light as well.

Research: I read a lot of books (a LOT of books). I’m lucky to live near a large university, which has a huge library where I was able to find nearly everything I needed. I also went to as many museums as I could, to immerse myself in Renaissance art. A local painter who paints in the Renaissance style let me spend some time in his studio. And of course, I used the Internet. It truly is amazing what you can find online. For instance, I know exactly how Giulia would have used an astrologer’s astrolabe because there’s a video demonstration on YouTube.

Your detailed descriptions of how paint is created and how artists worked during that time period conveyed a love of art. Do you have an artistic background?

Nope. I have zero artistic talent. I once had a therapist who wanted me to draw pictures of my dreams–after a while, she stopped asking. 😉

But I do love art—paintings most of all—and I’ve always been fascinated by the technical aspects of painting. Renaissance painters did not usually buy things ready-made; a painter’s workshop would create not just the paintings, but the surfaces they were painted on, the tools the painters used, the paints they painted with (such as Maestra Humilità’s famous Passion blue), even the frames. It was wonderful to immerse myself in that world—to vicariously live a painter’s life.

I think that the creative impulse is similar, no matter how it expresses itself. Even though I could never paint the way Giulia can, I can understand her passion, because I have the same passion for my writing.

You use astrology as a device to help Giulia find her way in the world, and she is able to chart the stars with the aforementioned “astrolabe.” Why did you decide to add this element to the story?

As I mentioned above, astrology was originally supposed to be the main focus of the story. As my research mutated it into a story about painting and painters, I actually debated abandoning the astrology theme—I didn’t want the book to be overstuffed.

But the astrology of the time was so interesting, and I’d done so much research, and I just couldn’t give it up. Renaissance astrology was completely different from astrology today—it wasn’t entertainment or superstition, but a genuine science practiced by experts who truly believed the stars influenced things on earth in a way that could be understood and predicted. Astrologers were trained astronomers; many of the major astronomical discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries were made in service of astrology. The astrologer’s astrolabe that Giulia uses was a precise scientific instrument (similar astrolabes were used by ships’ navigators to steer by the stars).

So astrology stayed. It plays a double role: it’s the basis of Passion Blue’s fantasy element (Giulia’s enchanted talisman is based on Renaissance astrological magic), and it’s also a guide for Giulia as she makes real-world decisions—and mistakes, since she doesn’t always interpret the results of her star charts correctly.

I loved that Passion Blue has a strong and positive message for young girls about pursuing their dreams, but it is also a tale about accepting consequences for your mistakes. How do you think teens today will relate to Giulia’s circumstances?

Giulia is separated from readers by over 500 years of history. Her literal circumstances—a nobleman’s bastard forced into a convent against her will, who buys a magical talisman to change her fate–are completely alien to what teens experience today.

And yet human nature doesn’t change. The core of Giulia’s story is totally relatable. Like Giulia, many teens have limited choices, little control over what happens to them, and must struggle against huge odds to find and follow their talents. Almost everyone has had the experience of making a desperate or impulsive decision that sets off a chain of unintended consequences. Pursuing your dreams, facing up to your mistakes, are things that transcend time and culture. I think—I hope—that readers will see in Giulia a little of themselves.

You’ve published quite a few books, both for adults and young adults. Is there a particular genre or age group that you prefer to write for?

Genre-wise, I do prefer fantasy and history, and all my books are one or the other or combinations of the two.

Age-wise, I really have no preference. I love writing for all age groups. My YA books are shorter, and feature younger protagonists—but I don’t write them any differently than I do my adult books. It always irks me when people assume that writing for teens must be “easier” or “simpler” because of the younger audience. That’s not true at all, and I think most YA writers would say the same.

We’d like to get to know Victoria Strauss a little better! Can you tell readers three things about you that aren’t on your website?

I’m not sure I should reveal these!

1. I have two tattoos: a lotus and a tiger lily. I won’t say where they are, but when I was younger, I wore the kinds of clothes that didn’t cover them. Now that I’m older, only my husband and the ladies at the gym ever see them.

2. I’m related—very distantly, at the very tips of my family tree—to William Faulkner.

3. I’m a rock and fossil geek. I love gemstones, minerals, the way the story of the earth can be read in rocks. I collect rocks everywhere I go. If I weren’t a writer, I might have become a geologist.

OK, all three of those are really interesting! One final question: are you already working on your next project, and can you tell us what’s coming next?

I’m working on a sequel to Passion Blue (no title yet) which will take Giulia out of the convent and off to the beautiful, exotic and sometimes dangerous city of Venice. And yes, in the sequel, readers will learn the secret of the mysteriously luminous Passion blue paint.

Thanks so much, Victoria! It’s always fun to get a glimpse behind the curtain, into the life and mind of a writer.

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. You can find Victoria here: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads * Writer Beware * Amazon * Read an Excerpt of Passion Blue

And now for a GIVEAWAY! Victoria is kind enough to award TWO lucky winners with a SIGNED hard cover copy of Passion Blue and *swag* (a bookmark and a postcard). An additional THREE winners will receive a bookmark and a postcard. You can get extra entries, please see the form below. You can easily follow Victoria on Twitter and go to the Goodreads page by clicking the links above.  Don’t forget to click the “submit” button when you’re finished. Good luck!

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What’s On My Plate – November

Happy November everyone! Time flies when you’re reading books…I have another month of great things to read, and of course, not enough time to read them all. I also have a couple of exciting blog tours that I am participating in, as well as a few giveaways.  But first, there’s this little thing I’ve signed up for:

This is the second time I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo, and I have to say so far it’s easier the second time around. So far. However, with all the reading and writing I have to do this month, you really don’t want to come over to my house! Mopping and vacuuming are definitely going to take a back seat…

Here’s what else is on my plate:

For Review:

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. I’ve been trying to get to this for two months now. Sometimes a book just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the pile, and for some reason, this is one of those books. Never fear! Three Parts Dead is the next book I’m reading, after I finish our October book club book (Yep, book club is also behind. We’re meeting in November to discuss the October book!)

Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch. This is also out already, but it’s a NetGalley approval so I’ll read it early in the month.

How Beauty Met The Beast by Jax Garren. Release date: November 19th. Received through NetGalley. As I’ve mentioned over and over, I’m going through a serious Beauty and the Beast phase. Can’t wait to read this!

Guardians of Stone by Anita Clenney. Release date: December 4th. I’m trying to get a jump on this since it releases at the beginning of December. I’m so excited to read another book from Amazon’s Montlake Romance!

Indie Books for Review:

Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo. I can barely spell Giacomo’s last name, but I’m really looking forward to reading this murder mystery.

Royal Flush by Scott Bartlett. Scott will be giving away a copy of his book, so keep an eye out for my review and giveaway!

The Collected by Brett Battles. This is the sixth Jonathan Quinn book, and I’m pretty excited to read it.

Blog Tours:

Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher. Next Tuesday I will have an interview with Sharon, an excerpt from the book, and a giveaway!

Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss. My blog tour stop is November 11th, and I will have an interview with Victoria and a giveaway! (I love giveaways, can you tell?)

I loved both books, and I’m super excited to be part of their blog tours.

I’m not even going to list the books I hope I’ll have time for. But next week Days of Blood & Starlight comes out, a book I’m over-the-moon excited to read, so if I add anything extra, it will be this. I hope you read some great books this month!


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PASSION BLUE by Victoria Strauss – Review

Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing

Release date: November 6 2012

Pages: 346

I was entranced by this imaginative story set in Renaissance Italy that follows a young girl as she seeks her heart’s desire. Not only does this book focus on the fascinating subject of Renaissance painting, but it gives an intimate glimpse into the lives of women during the 1480’s and their place in the world. I studied art in college, so I devoured all the details of Giulia’s admittance into the secretive world of women painters during the Renaissance. I love it when books teach me new things, and Passion Blue does that in spades. The beautiful writing and engaging characters and story make this a book that’s hard to put down until you’ve reached the end.

Giulia is sixteen when her stepmother decides to pack her off to the convent of Santa Marta, to spend the rest of her life in service to God. Despite the marriage dowry her father has left for her, Giulia’s dreams of marrying one day and having a home of her own are dashed when her stepmother ignores her father’s wishes and gives the dowry to the convent. She reluctantly begins her new life with strict rules, harsh discipline, and a bevy of mean girls with whom she must live and work. But Giulia wears a secret talisman that promises to lead her to her heart’s desire. Given to her by a sorcerer, she believes the spirit trapped inside will be able to help her escape the convent some day.

But Giulia’s heart’s desire may not be what she thinks it is. After one of the nuns discovers a charcoal drawing among her possessions, Giulia is reassigned to the workshop where female artists are creating beautiful paintings. She is apprenticed to Suor Humilità, the convent’s master painter, and she begins to learn the craft of preparing canvases, mixing paints, and keeping the workshop neat and tidy, with the tempting possibility of becoming a painter herself someday.

Her new friends and the joy of spending her days with artists make convent life much easier, but fate intervenes and puts temptation in her path when she meets a visiting craftsman and unwisely falls for him. This sets off a chain of events that will cause Giulia to reevaluate what she really wants in life. The last third of the book is filled with nail-biting action that will leave the reader guessing which path Giulia will ultimately choose.

At the heart of it all is the mysterious paint known as Passion Blue, a deep, rich hue unlike any other, created by Humilità herself, the recipe of which is kept under lock and key and written in code so it can’t be stolen. I was fascinated by Giulia’s journey toward becoming a painter and the careful steps that are taken before one can actually pick up a paint brush. Strauss lovingly details the exhaustive process of how paint is made,  the ingredients that went into paint at that time in history, and the preparations of the work surface before any paint could be applied. Even more fascinating is the role of women painters during the Renaissance. The artists in the convent workshop worked mostly in secrecy, as painting was a trade that only men were allowed to pursue. But the exquisite artistic talents of Humilità show Giulia that women have just as much aptitude as men, even if society doesn’t give them the chance to explore their talents.

The themes in Passion Blue are perfect for the young adult crowd, and I encourage girls as young as twelve to read this book. Giulia’s development as a character is one of the best I’ve read. She begins as an innocent but self-absorbed girl who longs for a husband, but gradually learns about humility, sacrifice and atonement. She makes mistakes of the worst kind, but she is able to learn from those mistakes and accept the consequences. For young girls today who are raised to believe they can do anything, the plight of women during Renaissance times may be hard to relate to. But Giulia is a plucky and smart heroine, and by the end of the story, manages to rise above her station. Passion Blue sends a strong message to girls to strive for their dreams, despite the expectations of society. Filled with adventure, mystery, romance, hope and joy, this book should be on every teen’s reading list.

Many thanks to the author for supplying a review copy.

Passion Blue comes out on November 6th, and you can pre-order it here.

I’m thrilled to be part of the Passion Blue Blog Tour coming up later this month! Please check back for an interview with Victoria Strauss as well as a giveaway of her wonderful book!


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What’s On My Plate – October

I can’t believe it’s October already! I feel like I was just here, talking about my plate full o’ books for September. I managed to complete just about everything I set out to do last month, and here’s what’s happening on Books, Bones & Buffy this month:

For Review:

Edge of Oblivion by J. T. Geissinger. This book is out tomorrow, and I’m hoping to finish reading it today so I can get my review up by then. I am LOVING it. That’s all I’m going to say right now…

Violet Midnight by Lynn Rush. I am participating in a release day event on October 16, and I will be giving away a print copy of Violet Midnight! Stay tuned…

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. This book is also out tomorrow, and my review will be a little late since I had so many things to read last month.

Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher. This book comes out on October 30, and I’m going to be participating in a blog tour in November. And there might be a giveaway involved…

The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins. This comes out November 1st, so I plan to review it before then.

Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss. This book will also be released on November 1st. I’ve had this for a few months, and it’s finally time to read it!

For Book Club:

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I’ve read amazing reviews about this one, but it’s never been on my radar because it’s about SPORTS. But Book Club is all about reading things that you wouldn’t normally read, so now I’m looking forward to it.

If I Have Time:

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling. Yes, it’s been getting quite the range of reviews, both good and bad and in between. It seems everyone is thrown off by the fact that J. K. Rowling can actually write something other than children’s fantasy. But I wouldn’t consider myself a true reader unless I read it for myself.

That’s it for October! Happy reading, everyone!

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Stacking the Shelves #4

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and is a great way to share the books you’ve acquired over the past week. Luckily I only have two new books to share, since I am behind in my reading already! Click on the book covers to go to Goodreads.

Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss. Received for review from the author. Release date: November 6 2012 (Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books). I came across Victoria’s book during the recent YA Scavenger Hunt. She was offering bloggers a chance to review her book, and I happily took her up on that offer. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?  This sounds amazing (from Goodreads):

“Be sure you know your true heart’s desire, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive.”

This is the warning the Astrologer-Sorcerer gives Giulia when she pays him to create a magical talisman for her. The scorned illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy the dire fate predicted by her horoscope, and use the talisman to claim what she believes is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs–not likely prospects for a girl about to be packed off to the cloistered world of a convent.

But the convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises. There are strict rules, long hours of work, and spiteful rivalries…but there’s also friendship, and the biggest surprise of all: a workshop of female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty, using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion blue. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn the mysteries of the painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. She is haunted by the sorcerer’s warning, and by a question: does she really know the true compass of her heart?

Set in Renaissance Italy, this richly imagined novel about a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into a fascinating, exotic world where love, faith, and art inspire passion–of many different hues.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. Now available. This is a middle grade novel, very short, that has received some awesome reviews. I believe I won this from a Publisher’s Weekly contest, but I can’t say for sure. It turned up unexpectedly in my mailbox! But I’m not complaining. Even though I don’t usually read middle grade books, (and neither do my two middle-school-aged children, for that matter!) I want to see what this well-reviewed book has to offer. Here’s what Goodreads says:

When seventh grader Georges (the S is silent) moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?

Look for my review of Passion Blue a little closer to the release date. What’s on your shelves this week?


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