Book Review- Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Hello all! Today I'm going to do a book review on Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter.
I got it for $1.99 at my school's book fair.

I don't know about you, but I like to judge a book by it's cover (don't we all? Maybe?) and this one really caught by eye. I mean, flower crowns, volcanoes, fire and smoke? It looks like quite a dramatic book.

But in reality, I wasn't very excited when reading this. It took me more than a month to read and it felt like it kept getting longer and longer. I mean, two of the main characters die, but it's not even because of the volcano that's erupting a few miles away! The overall idea is pretty good though I must say. Let's take a look at the book...

Description (from Booklist): In ancient Pompeii shortly before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, inquisitive and carefree Lucia, the teenage daughter of the owner of a gladiator school, wants to be independent. Her debt-ridden father, however, intends to marry her off to one of his wealthy patrons. More complications arise once Tag, her childhood playmate, returns after a stint as a medical slave at another gladiator school. Will Tag escape his enslavement? Will Lucia escape her impending marriage to the highest bidder? Will either of them survive the curse of Pompeii? This plot-driven historical novel is a quick read, with enough Latin vocabulary and accurate descriptions of ancient Roman culture to keep readers interested, enlightened, and entertained. A fairly lengthy, detailed author’s note lays out the history of the eruption, including differing theories about when it actually occurred; facts about Roman culture and practices; and information about gladiators. Fans of Shecter’s Cleopatra’s Moon (2011) or any one of the many movies and TV shows about ancient Roman or Greek culture, such as Gladiator, should find plenty to like.

Plot: Basically, Lucia (one of the main characters) wants to get out of marrying an old man, falls in love with someone else (Tag, another main character), and then the volcano erupts. Most of the time it was just a lot of moaning and groaning about their horrible lives, so that got kind of boring. A lot of it just felt unneeded and wasn't very interesting, although the author did a good job researching all of the little details. I also like how it went back and forth between Lucia and Tag's point of view.

Characters: The characters are all right. I feel like even though it was a long book, I didn't connect with the characters very well. I hate when the author doesn't describe what they look like, because then I can't picture them. The author didn't really talk about their personalities either. Lucia is one of the main characters, and she's kind of an oblivious la-dee-da type of girl, while Tag, another main character always sulks and doesn't really do much. Because it went back and forth between them, you got to kind of see what each of the thought of each other.

Pros: Although this wasn't my favorite book, I really like the history in this and all the research that went into getting everything right. It is a very creative idea, I just would have done it differently.

Cons: Like I've mentioned, I found it boring and kind of randomly. I didn't like how we couldn't learn more about the characters and I didn't connect with them.

But, if you like historical romance-y type books, then I think you would enjoy this book! It isn't one of my favorites, but I liked it.

Overall rating: 3/5 stars


Did I do okay for my first book review? I hope so. 
Until next time, peasants!

~Lady Claire

P.S.- don't trust Peter Pan, don't blink, and don't worry (you're just as sane as I am)!


  1. I always judge a book by it's cover.

    I really dislike books with stupid main characters and random plots. Almost as much as I dislike books that are depressing.

    Good thing Pan's in the pandora box.

  2. *raises hand* I too am horribly guilty of judging books by their covers. xD Then again, I never would have discovered the Wildwood series if it wasn't for the eye-catching art on the book jacket, so really, it can't all be that bad. xD

    Great review! :D I love historical fiction with a twist, so this is a genre I'm definitely interested in. I wholeheartedly agree that cookie-cutter main characters can completely ruin a plot, no matter how cool it is (brooding characters can drive me up the wall).

    What book is next on your reading list? :D


    PS: Was I the only one thinking of 'The Fire of Pompeii' Doctor Who episode as I was reading this post? xD

  3. Of course I am guilty of judging a book by its cover ;) No description of the characters? Crazy :)You did a great job on your first review, honestly I would have no idea how to write a review on a book :)

  4. You did a lovely job with this review.

    The cover is one of the main criteria in my choosing a book. It has to call to me and invite me in. Titles and blurbs are also key. But I also do a random page read as well. Sometimes that random read is the thing that clinches the deal or sets the book back down.

    It seems here the author did a great job researching and forgot about filling out the decorations he/she was adding to the history. That's no fun.

    Thank you for an open, authentic review.

  5. This is such an awesome book review...it makes me think about checking out the book :)
    p.s. love your blog design <3

  6. Your photos are so high-q! Also, your follow button isn't working (just fyi), but I entered it through Blogger Dashboard, so it's all good ;-)

  7. I am so guilty of judging a book by it's cover - oops! Great review, I may just buy this. Oh wait, I have no money - back to plan B ;)

  8. You did GREAT for your first book review! So great.
    ~ Sanjana