Thursday, June 12, 2014

G342 Book Review of Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Name of Book: Curses and Smoke

Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter

ISBN: 9780545509930

Publisher: Scholastic

Type of book: Pompeii, slavery, gladiators, class distinctions, history, Herculaneum, Rome, Vesuvius, 79 ME, autumn, forbidden love, family relationships, master/slave relationship, medicine, daily life, portents

Year it was published: 2014


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?


The main characters include Lucia and Tages, although there are supporting and villainous characters too. To be honest, I really wish villainous characters would be a little more drawn out instead of being similar to cardboard. Lucia is an only child and daughter of a man who owns a gladiatorial school and she is best described as naive, intelligent, curious and extremely observant. There is also Tages, or Tag as he is known. He is a native Etruscan, his family enslaved by Romans and in the past his ancestors were healers? He is a medical slave and is very sensitive and isn't selfish as well as loyal to his family and to Lucia. He often listens to Lucia and encourages her to keep going. He is also creative, works best under pressure, knowledgeable in medicine and so forth. Supporting characters include Lucia's best friend who is pregnant with her first child, Quintus, a nobleman who seems to be good at angering wrong people and also who willingly agreed to become a gladiator and so forth.


There are many definitions of freedom


The book is written in third person narrative from Lucia's and Tag's points of view, and yes, the chapters headings are after what character is talking. The book itself takes place chronologically, from a month prior to eruption, up until after eruption, and yes, there is a countdown. Right away the author created a delightful mix of history as well as plot twists that are very shocking and surprising. I also liked the fact that the girl is wealthy while the boy was poor, my favorite combination for some odd reason. I honestly couldn't find anything wrong with the book because the book has all the strong points. It makes history accessible but it doesn't dumb it down, and its written for young adults, but at the same time I imagine that adults themselves will enjoy the book as well.

Author Information:

Vicky 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


Ever since I was a teenager, one of the things that have fascinated me is the Vesuvius. (Heck, I even want to visit the ruins and feel what it would be like to be in a place where time stands still.) The book became a godsend to me because its very painstakingly researched as well as vivid, engaging and I imagine that this is something I might recommend for young adults or for anyone because of the storyline, the vivid details and the unpredictability of the story. It takes a very gifted writer to create an engaging book that seems to sparkle with history and storyline. The book itself takes place few weeks prior to Mount Vesuvius and the author explores lives of Lucia and Tag, that of a wealthy noblewoman and a slave, although Vesuvius itself acts as something foreboding that's ready to destroy everything.

Buy the Book

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Tuesday, June 3
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Interview & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, June 4
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Review at Book Lovers Paradise
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Review at Bibliophilia, Please
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Tuesday, June 10
Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, June 11
Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, June 12
Review at Let Them Read Books
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, June 13
Review at Broken Teepee
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

This is for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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