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Curses and Smoke

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,206 ratings  ·  275 reviews
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 studyin
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Arthur A. Levine Books (first published February 6th 2014)
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Ellen I was reading this with a conservative middle school audience in mind and found the description of the passion between Tag and Lucia to be more intens…moreI was reading this with a conservative middle school audience in mind and found the description of the passion between Tag and Lucia to be more intense than my students' parents would be comfortable with. In the parts of the book I read (I did not finish the book), they are "just kissing" but the writer takes us into their thoughts during the kiss and describes far more than what is actually happening: he's thinking about her breasts, the heat between their bodies pressed up against one another, etc.(less)
Brittney Waterman Technically, the girl is rich, and he boy is poor.
It's a great history lesson and romance all rolled into one. …more
Technically, the girl is rich, and he boy is poor.
It's a great history lesson and romance all rolled into one. (less)

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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
He shook his head. “Poor little rich girl,” he mumbled.
“I am not a poor little rich girl,” she shot back, frustration turning into anger. “I am being sold [into marriage] and used, and I don’t like it.”
“But you are still free,” he insisted.
I don't think I'm alone in being fascinated by Pompeii. It's the site of a vast volcanic eruption that happened in 79 A.D. The city and its inhabitants were caught mostly unaware. Many of them died right there, holding their loved ones. Buried and burned a
jv poore
Curses and Smoke sizzles, like the soles of the feet racing away from the viciously spewing Vesuvius. Packed with heat, this book engulfs the reader. With warmth and comfort, while experiencing the friendship between Lucia and her best friend, the very pregnant and central Cornelia. Often smoldering, as the relationship between the daughter of the hate-filled, bitter Gladiator School Owner, Lucia, and his Healer Slave, Tags deepens. Slow-burning admiration bordering on obsession adds flair as th ...more
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ancient, italy
Are you f-ing kidding me with that ending!? But more on that later.

At another time, I might have given this a 3, but it is what it is, and here we are. I'm fascinated by Pompeii so maybe I had unusually high expectations for this. But I didn't really feel a strong sense of the place. Throwing around a few latin words doesn't really cut it.

As for Lucia and Tag, I never really connected with either of them. There were a few occasions where I felt for them, but for the most

Now for the
"What we do in this life echoes into eternity."- Gladiator

Setting:Pompeii, Italy; 79 AD


Plot:Lucia Titurius is a beautiful but funny girl. Not content with doing the traditional tasks a Roman lady should, she would much rather be outdoors exploring the natural phenomena's of the world. All of that is about to change for her when she finds out that her father has betrot
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My little reader's heart is in pieces.

This book is equal parts beautiful and heart-breaking. Even more so when you read the authors notes and find that parts are based on real evidence from Pompeii (view spoiler)

The characters are really interesting and real. Castor is so sweet (view spoile
Stephanie Thornton
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Gladiators, forbidden love, and Pompeii... What's not to love?!

Curses and Smoke is a book I would have loved to read in junior high or high school, but that didn't stop me from devouring it even as an adult. The story of Tag and Lucia's romance really heats up (sorry, couldn't resist!) even as the signs of Vesuvius' imminent eruption make themselves plain. The action never stops and by the end I was tearing through pages, desperate to find out what would happen to the characters. Vicky Alvear Sh
Josephine (Jo)
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. More of a romance with set in Pompeii than a more serious historical novel. The events and characters are all based upon what we know of the dreadful eruption of Vesuvius. All of the people in the story were imagined from the figures that have been unearthed by archaeologists in modern times. The author has brought them all to life with her reconstruction of what their daily life may have been like. Lucia is the daughter of Titurius, he is the owner of a gla ...more
Minni Mouse
For all its ridiculousness and similar plot elements, this book could have been the literary accompaniment to the 2014 Pompeii film starring Jack Bauer and Jon Snow. I was highly entertained by the film Pompeii, actually, and even though I was less so with this book it was still a light and fairly entertaining read.

There's a highborn girl, a slave-turned-gladiator boy, a forbidden lurve between said highborn girl and gladiator boy, a pesky arranged marriage that gets in the way of said
Grace Galinski
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just...why? Why did it have to end that way? Everything was going perfectly, they were going to be fine, and then that happens? Really!?

So this book was pretty good considering it's historical fiction. I really don't like historical fiction, like at all, but I think I'd read this book again, but only after I get over that ending. I mean that just wasn't fair.
Stephanie (Bookfever)
I've wanted to read a book about Pompeii for a very long time. I never really came across one (that wasn't non-fiction) until now. I've enjoyed other books by Vicky Alvear Shecter before so I've been really excited to read this book and I'm so glad it didn't disappoint at all. The ending broke my heart a bit but I thought Curses and Smoke was a fantastic read!

Tag and Lucia were perfection. I loved reading their points of view, I loved them as a couple and I loved them as singular individuals. Th
Kindra Erickson
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading so many depressing/tragically beautiful books in a row can really mess with your mental/emotional health. Oh well, no regrets. This book is worth reading<3
Dark Faerie Tales
Jun 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: It’s clear that Shecter has done her research and enjoys writing about ancient civilizations. Curses and Smoke features some impressive plot twists and is overflowing with vivid descriptions of what life might’ve been like in Pompeii. Details like the types of food available to a patrician household, the religious rituals and the Greek vocabulary effectively bring the story’s setting to life. Regrettably, the only issue I had was that the abrupt
 Lianne Mei
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
I liked the historical context but I was not a huge fan of the romance. I liked reading about Tag training as a gladiator and reading about how he was a medical helper.I found that to be interesting but I was not interested in Lucia's viewpoint. Lucia was just talking about the tremors that were happening around Pompeii and not wanting to marry. ...more
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Star-crossed YA romance between a medical slave, Tag, and his master's daughter, Lucia, set against the background of Pompeii: its earthquakes and eventual eruption of Vesuvius. The couple, along with a young boy slave, flee the city together. Lucia is escaping a hated marriage with an obnoxious patrician. Her fate is sad, and maybe unbelievable today, but her father was paterfamilias, having the power of life and death over his family. The notes after the story are priceless, giving much backgr ...more
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
*Review of ARC*

Buzzwords: Pompeii, Slavery, Romance (forbidden love), Gladiators, ROle of Women

In Pompeii, not long before the volcano, Lucia is being married off by her father to a man she hates so he can have money to run his business, when all she wants is freedom to learn and expound her theories on the earth tremors. Tag, a slave and childhood friend of Lucia's, wants to train as a gladiator to fight for his freedom, so that he no longer is subject to the whims and brutality of his master,
2.5 Stars

Fairly disappointed to be honest as I didn't enjoy this title nearly as much as Cleopatra's Moon (which I highly recommend). Perhaps that one was more interesting to me because it had more of a 'historical' story to tell whereas this one was more of a romance set against the backdrop of Roman culture and the destruction of Pompeii. VAS does write beautifully about young women trapped in impossible situations, but I unfortunately never felt any attachment to Tag and Lucia. I'm not a big
Jenny Q
Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Author Guest Post + Giveaway @ Let Them Read Books!(US/UK/CAN)

I am loving the increase in young adult historical fiction titles. I read a lot of YA, and I'm all for anything that gets kids interested in history. So when I saw Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter, whose debut novel, Cleopatra's Moon, has been on my wishlist forever, I had to read it. And I loved it--mostly.

This is the story of Lucia, a privileged young woman living in Pompeii. The only surviving child of the owner of a gladia
Maggie • Library of Colors
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book gave me some serious Salt to the Sea feels.

I definitely enjoyed this book! I read it quickly - except for the week I was traveling - and devoured the last 70 pages because I HAD TO KNOW what was going to happen in the end. Mostly I needed to know because of all the other reviews, and I have to say, I agree with all of them!

Overall, these are great characters, and you can tell Vicky Shecter did her research on Pompeii. I've always been fascinated by that story, so it was wonderful to re
Meg - A Bookish Affair
In "Curses and Smoke," author Vicky Alvear Shecter creates a wonderful young adult romance in the shadow of the famous destruction of the city of Pompeii by way of volcano. Lucia has lived a privileged life even if it is under the shadow of her very tough father, who seems both cool and distant when it comes to listening what Lucia wants for her future. He's just not that interested if it doesn't fall into the plans that he already has for her. Tag's life is limited by the fact that he's a slave ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-ancient

Warning about the ending: (view spoiler)

‘Curses and Earthquakes’ would have been a better title because there are a lot more earthquakes here than actual smoke. This version of Pompeii’s last days advocates the theory that there were many, many natural signs beforehand that Vesuvius was about to blow its top.

My understanding is that most times volcano eruptions don’t give you a whole lot of advance warning,
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 w
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, historical
I've unintentionally ended up on a bit of a YA historical kick lately. As far as YA historicals go, this one was pretty decent. For adolescent readers it introduces the Roman empire, the issue around exposure of female infants, arranged marriage, gladiators, slavery, and of course - the disaster of Pompeii.

The author had completed her research, and I enjoyed the several pages of author's notes at the end that explained a little more of the historical context, and why she made particular choi
Nov 14, 2013 marked it as to-read
Okay, first of all I loved Vicky Shecter's book, Cleopatra's Moon. Seriously, it was great. I'm into historical stories, and she does them so well for YA. (Fun fact: Cleopatra's Moon was one of the first books I reviewed on my blog.)

Secondly, this is POMPEII. Which is absolutely fascinating all on its own, but once you include that in a story? Historical fiction?

Sign me up right now, please!

Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like insta-love triangles
Too much romance, not enough plot. I quit when the insta-love turned into an insta-love triangle.
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC borrowed from a friend (thank you, Lena!)

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was just a little bit giddy when the publisher approved me for CURSES AND SMOKE through NetGalley even though it was a month beyond the publication date. I love ancient Rome, I’m well-versed in the history of Pompeii, I’ve even been there, so I was super excited about this one. And I was absolutely NOT disappointed.

Probably the only down side to this book was that I just saw the movie, Pompeii, a couple weeks ago and I couldn’t stop myself from comparing the two. The book ended up being wonder
Curses and Smoke is a love story set moments before the explosion of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the region. The tale begins 4 weeks prior to the explosion where Tag, a healer slave, just returned from Rome to find his childhood friend, Lucia, grown into a lovely young woman. Lucia, however, is also his owner's daughter and forbidden to him. Lucia, on the other hand, had never really seen Tag as a slave but a friend. She herself loves to read and has noticed changes in her surroundings yet bee ...more
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mollie •Rebel Book Scum•
Two stars means "it's okay." And that's what I felt upon completion. It's not bad, but it's not fantastic. It falls short of a three star rating because the characters felt very underdeveloped. The historical fiction side of it was FANTASTIC--Pompeii was an as-yet unexplored niche for me. Natural disasters have always fascinated me (EXCEPT TORNADOS, those things scare me silly), and this was very thoroughly researched.
But the characters. The pacing. I wasn't impressed. There's no spoilers in th
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I don't read much historical fiction. I'm aware that this is a large failing on my part - I like a lot of the historical fiction I read, and I really should read more. I guess I just find contemporary stories more attractive, for whatever reason. But considering that I don't read much historical fiction, this is surprisingly unmemorable. You'd think it would stand out by sheer virtue of being historical fiction, because I read so little. But it ends up using a lot of cliches,
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Why, Lucia, why!? 4 15 Nov 27, 2016 11:56AM  
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 2 Feb 20, 2015 06:26PM  

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Vicky Alvear Shecter wishes she had a time machine to go back to the glory days of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Until she can find one, she writes about the famous and fabulous lives of the ancients and their gods instead. She is also a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University.

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