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Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii Should Be on Every YA Reader’s Summer List

Awesome cover!

Awesome cover!

Vicky Alvear Shecter’s newest young adult (YA) novel, Curses and Smoke, is a story about young love set in the boiling point period of Pompeii. For teens who like to become immersed in the action and plot of dystopian best-sellers such as Hunger Games and Divergent, historical romantic thrillers like Vicky’s Curses and Smoke can also be absorbing just set in the ancient past! No future worlds are created…that’s right, we can learn from the past in just as enthralling fashion.  The added bonus is actually learning some history in the process, as though she uses her imagination for detailed characters, plot, and romance she bases the historical setting and story on historical information that is authentic and well-researched.

In Curses and Smoke, a healer, Tag, comes from Etruscan high society, yet was made a slave when the Romans took Pompeii.  He takes care of the gladiator’s wounds in the ring and wants to learn to fight himself in order to earn his freedom. Lucia, his childhood friend, comes from a good life (her father is the owner of the gladiator school) yet her father needs money for business and so she is betrothed to a much older, and ghastly, older man. As they begin to meet in secret, and Lucia studies the Earth’s tremors and instances (even though as a married woman she’ll be denied the opportunity to read and be educated), their love grows and simmers just as Mount Vesuvius starts to heat up.

Vicky starts her novel in slow cooking fashion to let us get to know and feel a connection with her main characters; they are well-developed and multi-dimensional.  Sometimes YA novels leave their characters fall flat or are one-layered as they are so young or there isn’t more detail provided. With Vicky’s novels, you are brought full characters, exciting details, and emotion surrounding the action, drama, and romance.

As the plot of the novel heats up, so does Mt. Vesuvius and that is when Vicky’s writing brings history to life! As a reader, I enjoyed being taken back in time and read the book right through fairly quickly. I know that either one of my oldest, a pre-teen and a teen would enjoy the content of this book, as well as recommending to their reader friends. The book isn’t simple in content, but yet for higher level young readers it’s pretty spot on in terms of ease of reading yet challenges them.

It’s also an interesting read for adult readers who enjoy historical fiction of the ancient world. I would put it with my collection of that time period myself after passing along to my young readers. If you are a historical reader who likes PG-13, then this also would be a good read for you on a free weekend evening.

I highly recommend this for young people who love to read, enjoy history, or who love to be whisked away into tales of the past. It makes it a perfect read for summer reading. I highly recommend this book to parents, teens, history or English teachers, and librarians! The ancient world is heating up, don’t miss the explosive ending of this book, as it is tear-evoking, emotional, thrilling, and really something to think about in terms of life–social prejudice, boundaries, independence, and desire…oh, and living like the world is ending!

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii, Synopsis~

Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Arthur A. Levine Books
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Genre: YA Historical

When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto?

TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master’s injured gladiators. But his warrior’s heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom.

LUCIA is the daughter of Tag’s owner, doomed by her father’s greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she’s been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air…

When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them — to Lucia’s father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?

Buy the Book~

Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Vicky Alvear Shecter, Biography~

Vicky Alvear ShecterVicky Alvear Shecter is the author of the young adult novel, CLEOPATRA’S MOON (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter.

She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta.

Author Links~


Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cursesandsmoketour
Tour Hashtag: #CursesandSmokeBlogTour

Curses and Smoke_Tour Banner_FINAL

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Nine Year Old Makes Review Debut: I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter by A.G. Kent

Emma and Monster HunterReview of I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter~
by Emma A., age 9

The book I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter, by A.G. Kent, was a page turner for me!  It was very interesting and mysterious. I loved it!  What I thought that A.G. Kent did a good job on was not going off of track.  He talked about different things, but he worded it good so you knew he was on to something else or done with the topic he was on before. I couldn’t imagine my grandfather going missing and having to go on a mission to find him!  I don’t think I could do it!

There was lots of action, which I like to keep me reading, and I felt that I might like to be the main character Hannah’s friend. She would be an awesome friend. I enjoyed all the creatures and monsters and am really beginning to like this type of scary book.  It felt real to me and fun. I really enjoy Monster High stories and dolls and so it reminded of me of them. I would recommend to any of my friends who like them to read this book!

A.G. Kent, you left me hanging!  I think it sounded like he is going to do a sequel to the book, because at the end it said…(we won’t give the spoiler). I really hope A.G. Kent writes a sequel because I would be the first to read it (hint, hint A.G. Kent)!  A lot of the parts made me jump and get anxious and a little scared too!

I really enjoyed I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter. Thank you A.G. Kent! Write a sequel!


Mom’s Note:  Emma really did enjoy this book and read through it very quickly and wanted more. She was very excited about the storyline and she loved how it reminded her of Monster High, which are the cool, new, trendy brand of dolls and accessories (plus TV and books) that sells Barbie-type dolls who are daughters of Yetis, Werewolfs, Vampires, Mummies, and more. It fits right into what she and her friends are enjoying…horror gone mainstream!  For me, it reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was cool when I was younger. If your child likes supernatural and monster fun, with a good storyline and lighthearted entertainment, I’d recommend this book for them.

Note: Emma received a complimentary copy of this book, but all opinions are her own.


I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter – The Stoker Legacy, Book 1, Synopsis~

A novel of adventure, fantasy, horror, humor — and monsters! — for Middle Grade Readers. 126 pages / Published in digital form and as Createspace trade paperback.

Monster Hunter

Hannah was born into a family of famous monster hunters. Maybe that’s why she’s always felt like an outsider. But with her grandfather’s instruction, she’s starting to understand just who she is… and what her destiny will be.

The Great Lakes are in terrible danger. A madman with a horrifying plan is on the loose.

And Hannah’s grandfather is the only one who can stop him. But he’s missing…


Check Out the Excerpt~

Hannah watched in horror as the lightning from the raging storm lit up the scene like a photographer’s flash.

The madman who stood at the ship’s bow angrily pointed at the werewolf – and a tree-trunk sized tentacle whipped out from the vortex and wrapped itself around the beast, binding him tightly in place. Then the madman chanted a stream of some forgotten language and long, slimy appendages likewise whipped out and captured the mummy and the vampire.

The Consumer had all of them in its grip!

The madman cackled maniacally and shouted into the wind.

Hannah took a deep breath. She had only one chance to make things right.

Praise for I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter!

“This book combines the thrills of a supernatural parable-cum-adventure tale with the charm of a coming-of-age story. The protagonist, Hannah, is clever and strong, but touchingly vulnerable. I Was a Seventh Grade Monster Hunter will keep you enthralled until the very end, when you might wonder who the real monsters are.” — Debbi Mack, New York Times bestselling author of IDENTITY CRISIS and LEAST WANTED

“A.G. Kent explodes onto the YA scene with I WAS A SEVENTH GRADE MONSTER HUNTER, a
rollicking horror adventure that will fill the air with delighted shrieks from readers of ALL ages. Spooky, fast-paced and a promising launch to a delightful new series!” — Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of ROT & RUIN and DUST & DECAY

“Kent makes sure there is enough suspense and humor that readers of any age will enjoy the spirited exploits of Hannah and her Creature Crew… [the book is] a unique mixture of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lovecraftian horror, and the 1970s Saturday morning kids show Monster Squad; there are equal parts middle-school melodrama, frightening but not too-scary monsters, cliff-hanging suspense, and sophisticated goofiness. Definitely recommend[ed] for all fans of the ageless, classic monsters.”  — Chris Welch, ElderSignsPress.com Reviews

Amazon Purchase:  http://www.amazon.com/Seventh-Monster-Hunter-Stoker-ebook/dp/B00580V4WA

A.G. KENT (pen name of a awesome writing duo), Biography~

Before becoming a writer, A.G. Kent led an adventurous life: performing with rock bands, panning for gold in the mountains of Idaho, scuba-diving in the Florida Keys, investigating hauntings in the North Woods,
and exploring ghost towns in Arizona. Kent’s expedition to Mt. Everest had to be canceled when raging yeti made off with the base camp gear. Sales of this book will help mount a new expedition to photograph the shy but very aggressive creatures. So buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend, if you’d like to see what the abominable snowmen really look like!

Emma A., Biography~

EmmaEmma is a straight A student with a gift for reading and writing.  She has read at a higher level than her peers ever since the summer between Kindergarten and First Grade when she spent almost the entire summer at the beach. That was also the summer Mom was reading the Twilight series, and took her to see Eclipse at the theater, and Emma found herself loving vampires, werewolfs, and other abnormals when once she was deathly afraid of them.  This newfound knowledge of stories, allowed her to overcome her fears and she now sleeps with Monster High dolls by her bed that are the daughters of a Mummy, the Abomindable Snowman, and a Werewolf. Besides reading and writing, she also enjoys softball, soccer, fashion, history, art, asking questions, chocolate, and coffee.

Watch for more of Emma, and her siblings, reviews!  And if you have a recommendation for her, send it her way via Mom.

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Guest Review of Corridor, by Robin Parrish: a Mysterious YA Thriller

Guest Review Day!

by Tim Busbey – www.timbusbey.wordpress.com ~Tim’s been on a mission to write a review a day on his blog this week. Check out this review and then head to his blog to see what else he’s reviewed.

Corridor by Robin Parrish

Robin Parrish is one of my favorite authors. From book to book, you never know what to expect from him. Well, let me correct that. You know that you can expect a well-crafted story that will have you turning the pages faster than a speeding bullet. But he has written in a variety of genres – sci-fi, horror, superhero. With “Corridor,” Parrish ventures into YA territory for the first time, and the results speak for themselves. He makes the transition seamlessly, crafting a fast-paced story with characters that readers of all ages can relate to.

Troy, on the eve of his 17th birthday, awakens to find himself in a white room so bright that  he can’t even open his eyes. He has no memory of how he arrived in this blinding environment. His only companion is the girl’s voice he hears in his head telling him to run. With her help, he escapes from the white room, only to find himself in another room with another deadly challenge to overcome. This continues from room to room as Troy and his guardian angel continue to bond as she assists him in his journey through the titular Corridor.

Troy is tested both mentally and physically as he works his way through the mysterious Corridor. He faces three questions: What is the structure? What is its purpose? How does he survive it? Slowly the layers of the structure are unpeeled as Troy discovers the true purpose of the Corridor and why he was brought there. The ending is a surprise, one you will NEVER see coming. Or maybe you will, but I certainly didn’t.

Parrish does a great job of building up the mystery of the corridor and building the tension as the danger grows from room to room and the dilemmas Troy faces grow, as well. You are pulled into Troy’s decisions as he struggles over making the right decision, as we all do every day. I loved the different details Parrish chose to build into the structure of the Corridor. He uses just enough prose to help you picture how each room is unique without getting bogged down in unnecessary details.

Parrish is a Christian author, but in “Corridor,” as with all his books, he doesn’t beat you over the head with a religious message. Instead, he uses powerful imagery and allegories to relate truths in a way that pulls you in, rather than pushing away.

The book is available for the Kindle for only $2.99 and it is well worth the money. Engaging characters, a unique premise and excellent storytelling make “Corridor” a must-read for all ages.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give “Corridor” a 4.

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There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones is Superb Fiction for Christian Teens

Reading the new There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones was so moving and inspirational.  It’s funny, romantic, heart-wrenching, emotional and so real that you’ll want to read it in one sitting.  I’ve got to recommend it to any young woman who is struggling through her teenage years or has experienced loss in their life.  Beyond that even, it honestly has a story for any young woman trying to find her place in the world and struggling to hear or understand God and His path in their lives.

Finley Sinclair is eighteen and dealing with the loss of her beloved brother, Will.  Being as driven and motivated as she is, she decides to take Will’s travel journal and voyage to where he stayed in Ireland as an exchange student.  She has an audition she feels needs to be perfect at a music conservatory and she feels that in Ireland, within the travels of her brother, lies the ending to her song. On the plane to Ireland she meets Beckett Rush, teen actor who elicits screaming girl crowds wherever he goes due to his famous Vampire movies. She doesn’t fall for his charm or his celebrity status, but eventually she agrees to be his assistant in exchange for the Ireland native being her tour guide.

As she deals with the loss of her brother, her growing romantic feelings, a class assignment that leaves her frustrated, and her inability to cope through her own stubborn mask she uses to convince everyone she is coping leads her to a slow-growing, yet dangerous, issue.  The pages flow with her emotions and her extreme wit and strength. Will she find the ending to her song? Will she find her path and hear God after all?

Though it’s a young adult fiction, any woman can relate to this book.  I did. People of all ages can have a hard time finding their path and sometimes dealing with vices used to cope with pain. It teaches how victorious we can be through God and find our center in Him.

I loved getting a chance to read this novel and explore my own emotions as I read it. It was such an inspirational novel and Jones has the perfect recipe for creating a sweet, tender-hearted and refreshing novel that was able to deal with several major and sometimes unhappy topics that teens face in a positive and healing environment.

About Jenny B. Jones

Jenny B. Jones is a high-school teacher in Arkansas and has many other novels under her belt as a Christian fiction author.  Her novels include the Katie Parker Production series, A Charmed Life series, and my first contemporary romance, Just Between You and Me.

To learn more about Jones and her books, go to www.jennybjones.com. You’ll find witty humor, strong writing, and information on all her outstanding young adult (YA) literature.


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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