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Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss

Passion Blue (edition 2012)

by Victoria Strauss

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6712178,380 (3.72)3
Title:Passion Blue
Authors:Victoria Strauss
Info:Amazon Children's Publishing (2012), Hardcover, 346 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2013, Young Adult Literature

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Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss



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All her life, Giulia has dreamed of being an artist -- but she knows that's impossible for a girl in fifteenth-century Italy. The next best thing, she thinks, would be to marry a supportive husband who would let her pursue her passion as a hobby, at least. But when her father dies and his jealous wife packs Giulia off to a convent, she believes her dreams are doomed to be crushed, unless she can find a way to escape. Everything changes, however, when she meets Sister Humilita and the other nuns in her workshop -- a true painter's workshop, known across Italy for their artwork, particularly because of Passion Blue, a paint color invented and carefully guarded by Humilita. As an apprentice in Humilita's workshop, Giulia glimpses the life that could be hers if she stays: a life dedicated to art and painting, one she could never have outside of the convent. But just when she is beginning to feel settled at the convent, she meets Ormanno, a charming young artist who could offer Giulia a means of escape, if she is willing to betray Sister Humilita and her other new friends at the convent. Giulia thought she would have to choose between love and art -- with Ormanno, is it possible for her to have both?

I found this a delightful and well-researched look into Renaissance Italy. The main plot line is definitely YA, and some readers may be frustrated at 17-year-old Giulia's bad choices, but I thought they were realistically depicted and believable in the larger framework of the story. I thought the depiction of life at the convent was particularly well-done, showing as it did the many different types of women who chose (or were forced into) that lifestyle. All in all, a satisfying and enjoyable read. ( )
  foggidawn | Nov 7, 2014 |
I won this book in a goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to read this book mostly because of the description of the sequel - it involves one of my favorite plotlines. I wasn't as sure I'd like this one but knew I had to give it a shot - and I absolutely loved it! I started it one night and finished it the next. It grabbed me from the first pages and I had trouble putting it down to do my work.

Victoria Strauss's writing style is wonderful! It is highly readable and very easy to get lost in. I really liked the main character. Sure, she made some bad decisions, but she's 17 years old and these decisions have to be thought about within the context of her society. It made sense to me that she would behave as she did. There were also interesting details thrown in throughout about art and mixing paint. I appreciated the research that went into this book.

I highly recommend this book. It's going on my alltime favorites list and I know I'll be re-reading it in the future. ( )
  RoseCrossed | Oct 3, 2014 |
I think the biggest problem with this book is that the author sets up a no-win scenario. Our main character can either give up all semblance of a "normal" life to stay in the convent where she can at least paint or she can give up painting to have a "normal" life with a guy we soon realize is a jerk. So when it gets to the end, neither option could really have been satisfying.

Which didn't bother me extremely much because she doesn't really deserve a happy ending. This is someone so dumb she spends her life savings to buy a "magic" talisman she thinks is guaranteed to find her a man to take care of her. And then even when it should be obvious the guy is a jerk, she still convinces herself he's not right up until the end.

As for the convent it seems more like summer camp or boarding school than an actual convent. The end also takes too long after we get to the foregone unsatisfying conclusion.

Overall it was competent but unsatisfying. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
If Megan Whalen Turner calls this a lovely read, then I'm for certain going to check it out.

ETA: So, I gave this one a go. I really wanted to like it, but the main character kept making such supremely bad choices and I kept getting embarrassed for her (trust me, this is an uncomfortable position in which to find yourself when you are empathetic person like me). The story is well-written, though, so don't let my issues keep you from giving this book a go.
  Cailiosa | Jul 25, 2013 |
Passion Blue is an interesting YA mix of historical fiction and fantasy. Granted, the "fantasy" element is less prominent than the book synopsis may lead you to believe. In fact, to those who go into this expecting fantastic magical elements you will likely be disappointed.

The story is set in Rennaissance Italy and focuses on the life of a teenage girl named Gulia. She's the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. Gulia and her mother are both servants in the nobleman's household but eventually both the nobleman and Gulia's mother die and her fate is left in the hands of her father's wife. While alive, her father had arranged a small dowry for Gulia. His wife is obviously not happy at the arrangement and twists the law to get rid of Gulia by "marrying" her of to a convent. Naturally Gulia is dismayed, but as a young girl in Italy with no family and no money, her life is not her own. She sells what little she can to purchase a magical charm to try and help change her fate but reluctantly heads off to the convent.

From the beginning, I was impressed with the vibrant writing and the portrayal of historic Italy. The descriptions of the city, the households and the social environment just felt very real and really drew me in. As the book progresses we wander from the home of a nobleman through the streets of various Italian cities into the hidden rooms and cloisters of a convent and back through the streets to the bustle of the market and the intensity of an artist studio. The many settings were each rich in description and tone.

The core storyline felt a little cheesy and definitely YA-romance in aspects. I can't fault the tone of the plot since it's not really my "cup of tea" but I did get a little annoyed at Gulia's constant pining for romance and her ongoing search for the prospective husband who would rescue her from the convent.

The book synopsis points out that Gulia's magical charm is created to help her gain her heart's "true desire." The synopsis also suggests that she might not know what that desire truly is. With that small "teaser", I was able to readily predict her "true desire" within the first few pages of the book. As a result, some of the intended tension fell a little flat for me and I had to look at Gulia's motivations and desires as laughable and unbalanced. As she continued to pursue romance I was able to predict undesirable outcomes. Even though I couldn't guess at the exact nature of the problems, I wasn't surprised at the results that came about nor at Gulia's change of heart as the problems unraveled.

Taking the romantic and magical elements out of the story, I found this to be a fun and interesting bit of historical fiction. I can't speak to the full truth of the historical elements but I felt like the story and the writing worked to support the fiction in such a way that the plot points felt believable. I really enjoyed the suggestion that the convent worked to produce the various works of art with general anonymity and lack of fame but while still being allowed to explore creative and artistic freedoms not generally provided to women of the time. I liked the competition and jealousy between the various nuns as well as between the convent and other artists in the community.

I didn't mind the "magical"/"fantasy" element but I would have either liked to have seen it expanded or minimized. While it was interesting as a superstitional element it felt like there was a nagging desire to turn the magic into a more influential piece of the plot. The novel worked fine without expanding the magic into anything more than it was but there were moments in various scenes where the magic tried to become more powerful and central to the plot but then was pulled back. This back and forth was a little confusing in trying to decide what place the magic played.

Overall, I had fun with the story. It's definitely a lighter bit of historical fiction but for the Teen/YA crowd it should be a good fit. Personally I could have done without the romance story arc but acknowledge that it did help provide additional motivation to help Gulia in her quest to find her true desire. I think this book will find a good audience in teenage girls particularly those with some interest in history or art.

3 out of 5 stars ( )
  theokester | Jul 6, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0761462309, Hardcover)

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.

Passion Blue is a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2012

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:32 -0400)

In fifteenth-century Italy, seventeen-year-old Giulia, a Count's illegitimate daughter, buys a talisman hoping it will bring her true love to save her from life in a convent, but once there she begins to learn the painter's craft, including how to make the coveted paint, Passion blue, and to question her true heart's desire. Includes historical notes and glossary.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Victoria Strauss chatted with LibraryThing members from Feb 28, 2011 to Mar 6, 2011. Read the chat.

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