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Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by [Shecter, Vicky Alvear]
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Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Kindle Edition, 27 May 2014

Length: 341 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description




"Absorbing ... Cleopatra Selene becomes a woman with a tenacity and heart that would have made her famous mother proud." - THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

"The novel's atmospheric setting and romantic intrigue are highly memorable." -- PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY

"A fascinating take on a neglected historical figure." -- BOOKLIST

About the Author

Vicky Alvear Shecter is the author of CLEOPATRA'S MOON, the winner of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and three nonfiction books for young readers, most recently ANUBIS SPEAKS! A GUIDE TO THE AFTERLIFE BY THE EGYPTIAN GOD OF THE DEAD. A docent in the Ancient History department of the Carlos Museum of Art, she lives near Atlanta, Georgia. Please visit her website at www.vickyalvearshecter.com or follow her on Twitter at @valvearshecter.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 11055 KB
  • Print Length: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (27 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G5N4Q2Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #441,810 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ordered two copies for school - they were listed as used, but when they arrived they were brand new! This book appears to be going out of print, so I was very glad to have got the copies as my usual supplier didn't have any.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An interesting historical that takes the reader into the last days of Pompeii. Let down a little by the ending, but the characters and romance are sweet.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9600e8dc) out of 5 stars 33 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x961a020c) out of 5 stars One of the best endings to a book in a long while 30 May 2014
By Ricardo B - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
The premise of the book drives the plot details and the historical richness: A "medical slave" in a gladiator school falls in love with the daughter of the school's owner, setting off all manner of class prejudice, sexist mores and male priviledge. This is a book with a lot of meat on its bones. Historical details? Check. A compelling love story? Check. Drama? Check, check, check. My only criticism is that the author seemed a bit peripatetic about who she's writing for --guys or girls. As a guy I was most spellbound by the details of the gladiator school but then it seemed to veer into a classical women's historical romance.But that's a nitpick. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and the ending will make you put the book down and say, "Didn't see that coming!"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x961a026c) out of 5 stars Pompeii, Vesuvius and a love triangle...what more could you want? 29 May 2014
By D. M. Lawrence - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Pompeii. The name says it all. We think of volcanic eruptions, Pliny, and the heartbreaking scenes we've seen from history shows on television and movies.

This book has much more to offer. We are introduced to Lucia. She is the daughter of Lucius, owner of a gladiator school in Pompeii. When we meet Lucia, she is becoming betrothed to a man 45 years older than herself. She will be the young trophy wife of an old man who can infuse money into her father's gladiator school. Sad but true, women were used in this manner. Lucia is a very sheltered young woman, educated but naive. She is in love with Tages (Tag) a medicus (healer) who happens to be a slave owned by her father. What, a slave? Yes. As you can probably guess, a slave and the daughter of the house is a no-no.

As their love blossoms, we are witness to tremors, earthquakes and finally, the eruption of Vesuvius. Mixed in with this is a romantic triangle involving a rich boy from Herculaneum. No spoilers, but this is quite a punch added to the story.

I enjoyed this book. I found it historically accurate and highly entertaining. Vicky Alvear Shecter is a fantastic author. The scenes of Vesuvius' eruption are spellbinding. I could not put this book down. The ending is heartbreaking, the descriptions of Pompeii during and after the eruption are just amazing. The author includes some historical information. For example, she places the eruption in October 79 CE, a date many scholars feel may be more accurate than August.

All in all, a fantastically written book, well researched and interesting to read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95f8c5dc) out of 5 stars Live the history! 28 May 2014
By Elizabeth O. Dulemba - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
CURSES AND SMOKE gives you a peek into what have been like to live an ordinary life in Pompeii - not so ordinary by our modern standards - but they were regular people just like us. But their religion was completely different, as were their rituals and superstitions. The simple act of doing one's hair used all sorts of different implements and potions. And imagine having the love of your life as a slave/gladiator to your family! Talk about complications! The love story sizzles with emotion against the backdrop of this exotic history. Vicky has such a way of putting us RIGHT THERE as if it could have been you or me experiencing these things. I think it's an excellent way to learn history - to really absorb what it must have been like, to nearly experience it first-hand, like CURSES AND SMOKE lets you do. Vicky remains one of the best story-tellers I know on this era's history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x963a8954) out of 5 stars Loved This Book 16 Dec. 2014
By gpat65 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved this book. You know its not going to end well for some since it is in Pompeii. The main characters Lucia and Tag have known each other since they were children but separated by the fact that Tag is a slave. Tag and his father are medicus (doctors) for the gladiator school that Lucia's father owns. The school is not doing well and Lucia's father is trying to marry off Lucia to wealthy patricians. Lucia is a strong willed, intelligent young woman who prefers to decide her own fate. Meanwhile the rumblings of Vesuvius are troubling Lucia as much as her possible future marriage. This book moves at a rapid pace and really puts you in Pompeii. I enjoyed this book so much and it was so difficult to put down.
HASH(0x961e3744) out of 5 stars Above-average, meticulously researched YA historical novel, with a star-crossed romance for flavor 6 Oct. 2015
By Kenya Starflight - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Under normal circumstances I probably wouldn't have picked up this book. I'm not a huge fan of romance as the central focus of a story -- I don't mind a romance accompanying the main plot, but a book fully focused on a love story -- especially something Romeo-and-Juliet-ish in nature, with the love forbidden by a higher power -- usually doesn't appeal to me. But the fact that this particular love story happened to take place in Pompeii, right before the volcanic eruption that would obliterate the city, caught my interest. I wondered how the impending cataclysm would affect the characters and love story, and so I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a read.

While the female protagonist of this book feels clichéd, and the impending disaster feels like more of an afterthought than anything else, I admire Vicky Shecter's meticulous research, and her attention to detail helps elevate this book above the tired "teen romance" genre.

Lucia, daughter of the cruel owner of a gladiator school, is engaged to be married against her will to an old man for the sake of her father's wealth. She tries to ignore the impending nuptials by focusing on the odd phenomena affecting Pompeii and its nearby mountain -- springs drying up, tremors shaking the ground, a smell of sulphur -- and rekindling a friendship with Tag, a medical slave bound to her father's household. Tag, meanwhile, has his own set of problems -- worrying about his father's dementia, avoiding the wrath of Lucia's father, and dealing with Quintus, an arrogant young patrician who has joined the gladiator school and seems bent on annoying Tag to no end. As Lucia and Tag's friendship blossoms into love, the two plot their escape... but both Quintus and Lucia's father have their own plans, and in the end both the star-crossed lovers and those set to oppose them might find their plots -- and their very lives -- shattered by a cataclysmic act of nature...

By far the strongest aspect of this book is Shecter's careful research and her portrayal of ancient Pompeii. She makes the Roman city come alive, her description of the culture feeling authentic without being boring and the details of the city coming alive in the prose. One common failing of YA historical literature is that often, writers will assume that people in ancient times behaved exactly like us, when in reality they had customs, traditions, language, and morals that were quite different from our own. In this respect, the author succeeded.

Of the characters, by far Tag was the most interesting. His plight is both sympathetic and believable, and he shows himself to be a compassionate and reasonable character. Even when dealing with people he doesn't like, he behaves professionally, though he is not a perfect character and does give in to his rage a couple of times. Of the two lovebirds, I found him to be the most developed and sympathetic. Lucia comes across as more whiny and unwilling to do much to change her circumstances, and at times I found myself wanting to smack her upside the head. She also comes across as more of a cliché than Tag, being the usual "educated despite beliefs about women" character one finds in a lot of fantasy. Her father is the usual brute one comes to expect from stories of this sort, but Quintus, curiously, is surprisingly reasonable despite his arrogance, and it came as a genuine shock to find that while he has designs for both Tag and Lucia, he wants them to be happy as well. More I won't say...

If I have a complaint (besides the above complaint about Lucia), it's that the disaster of the volcanic eruption feels more like an afterthought than anything. The preceding earthquake does its share of damage, yes, but the actual eruption gets only a few paragraphs worth of attention, and I felt almost cheated when that's all the attention it got. While treating the eruption as a "distant event" means that key characters do get to survive, at the same time I wish the eruption had gotten the attention it deserves. Also, there's a weird and tragic twist in the end that has nothing to do with the volcano, and I'm really not sure how I feel about it. It seems included only to ensure that we got the classic tragic "Romeo and Juliet" ending. If you're going to go the "star-cross lovers" route, at least have the volcano involved...

All that said, this is still an above-average historical novel for young adults, and it should appeal to lovers of YA romance and historical fiction. I loved the attention to detail, and the author's notes on her historical research at the end were a treat, as well as her justifications for a few of the minor changes she made to fact (nothing that will upset historians, don't worry...). Though I may still take another reviewer's suggestion and read Richard Harris' "Pompeii" as well, for another look at the infamous disaster...
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