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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~

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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

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

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My Top Ten Young Adult Books of My Life~Teen Literature Day 2012

It’s Teen Literature Day today (April 12, 2012)!

I love young adult fiction and I’ve been reading it far into my adulthood. The themes that wrap around some of the best teen literature are so heart wrenching and emotional and deal with so many intense issues of life. The societal concerns that the best of them address can be hard for many people to digest, but just as life isn’t a vase of roses all the time, neither should books be only about cheerful topics.

The best books make us think, make us change our thinking, and mold our thinking to allow us to be better people. With each generation, there are books that young people love and that great English teachers make us read.  Ultimately, these same books are those that some parents and groups start waving their arms (and flapping their tongues) about.

In my opinion, if you’ve raised your children right, they will understand the context of the book, especially if you take the time to discuss with them the content. Most books are written, in fact, by the author to encourage the opposite of what naysayers accuse. To stop bullying. To stop the downward cycle of human nature. To halt the ending of the Earth on which we live. To simply help young people learn right from wrong, or feel as if someone else cares about them and about humanity.

Look at the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, for instance. This book series has won multiple awards for the last five years. This year, it became huge, but it wasn’t a new release. The subject matter suddenly became a source of many conversations. Most people couldn’t get past the “tagline” that started rotating around to describe it as a “fight to the death,” which to me is a very vague synopsis of the jist of the book.  I am anxiously finishing up reading Mockingjay, the third in the Hunger Games series. Once complete, I’ll finally be publishing my blog about the Hunger Games series of books and the Hunger Games movie. I’m loving the series and I’m going to tell you why when I blog. I encountered all kinds of negative feedback in letting my eight-year-old read it and I’ll get into that also.

In the meantime, here are a few of MY Top Ten favorite young adult books/stories of all time. Let me know in the comments if you agree, or want to add to the list. Just list them in the comments.








1. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, 1974

2.) I am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier, 1977

3.) When She Hollers, by Cynthia Voigt, 1994

4.)  The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson, 1948

5.)  Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, by Judy Blume, 1970

6.)  Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry, 1989









7.)  Island of the Blue Dolphin, by Scott O’Dell, 1960

8.)  The Chronicles of Narnia (1-7), by C.S. Lewis, 1948

9.)  A Wrinkle in Time (and series), by Madeline L’Engle, 1962

10.) The Host, by Stephenie Meyer, 2008

Of course there are many more, like the Harry Potter series and even Hunger Games, so let me hear from you. What books do you remember as a kid? What books influenced you? Leave a note in the comments.

Happy National Library Week!!




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