5 stars · history · romance · young adult

Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter


Curses and Smoke

author : vicky alvear shecter

pages : [hardcover] 336

favorite character : castor

summary :

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?

review :

This book was amazing!

First of all, I’ve always been fascinated by Pompeii, and I think that it all started when I read a Magic Tree House book about the subject (actually, I think that series taught me a whole lot more than I realized. I’ve really wanted to read more historical fiction and usually the books I tend to reach for are centered around WWII. This is such a huge and lovely difference because I don’t think I’ve ever seen another YA book quite like this. To be honest, I came into Curses and Smoke with a specific set of expectations, thinking that I’d be let down. The last few books I’d read weren’t so wonderful and some YA books seem to follow a set pattern that leaves me disappointed.

But Curses and Smoke truly took every thought that I’d had about the characters and plot and turned it upside-down. Not immediately in the beginning of the novel but gradually, leaving me clamoring for more.

Lucia is one of the two narrators of the novel and I definitely felt sorry for her. Some part of me is always pained whenever I read about past societies in which females had no choice in their lives and weren’t treated as equals. Lucia was also because she was a bookworm and scholar, creating her own theories about nature even though men would think her silly. Even better? She was so much smarter than the men mocking her! For a pampered rich woman, she was also extremely strong.

Tag was so easy to love. I empathized with him from the start. I also love how his opening scenes paint a picture of what his character might do for the rest of the novel. Yet there are several twists that affect his life, that I didn’t see coming, that change what you’ve been led to believe will happen with him. But his relationship with Castor (or maybe just the little boy himself) was my favorite. That was where a lot of the heart I felt in this book originated.

Something I loved about the novel but that also made me very emotional was the fact that I’ve read about Pompeii and know a little about some of the victims that were found as well what has been hypothesized about some of the deceased. Throughout the novel I would find a character who reminded me of stories I’ve heard about Pompeii and then I went through the whole book, anxious to see if the fate matched what I thought would happen.

I never expected to get so much out of this novel because everyone already knows how it will end. There’s a countdown throughout the entirety of the book. But there’s a twist to that in itself because you’re hurrying through the book to read about the volcano and then you’re forced to slow down and take in the total destruction and chaos. I think it was wonderfully down and well-written; I’m going to read more by this author as soon as possible.

5/5 stars

5 stars · history · young adult

A Golden Web by Barbara Quick

A Golden Web

Author: Barbara Quick

Pages: [hardcover] 266

Favorite Characters: Nicco & Pierina

Memorable Quote: “But history has lately been revealed to me as the place where I live, where we all live, side by invisible side with others who – if we get quiet enough and listen carefully enough – will touch us and tell us their stories.”


Alessandra is desperate to escape.

Desperate to escape her stepmother, who’s locked her away for a year; to escape the cloister that awaits her and the marriage plans that have been made for her; to escape the expectations that limit her and every other girl in fourteenth-century Italy. There’s no tolerance in her quiet village for Alessandra and her keen intelligence and unconventional ideas.

In defiant pursuit of her dreams, Alessandra undertakes an audacious quest, her bravery equaled only by the dangers she faces. Disguised and alone in a city of spies and scholars, Alessandra will find a love she could not foresee — and an enduring fame.

In this exquisite imagining of the centuries-old story of Alessandra Giliani, the world’s first female anatomist, acclaimed novelist Barbara Quick gives readers the drama, romance, and rich historical detail for which she is known as she shines a light on an unforgotten — and unforgettable — heroine.


 This book had me from the start. The writing style of A Golden Web had me feeling like a was reading an old fairy tale, mixed with a piece of history. It was quickly paced, easily read, and enjoyable from beginning to end. It certainly makes me appreciate how many opportunities I have in life in this time period, as opposed to a girl my age in Alessandra’s time. I’d hate to be married off, or forced to forget my own wishes for the future. These are exactly the sort of things that she faces, and has to fight against.

I love Alessandra’s rebellious stance, and how she tries to keep herself happy and get what she wants. She doesn’t try to bend to any other’s will, and I like this independence about her. She was very likeable-an important trait in any character-and had definition to her. She wasn’t flat or boring in the slightest.

I loved the historical aspect of the book. Beginning it, I half believed it was pure fiction, but when I reached the end and realized that Alessandra had indeed once been alive, the novel took on an entirely different context for me. I’m always up for learning a bit of history, and knowing someone could push the limits in this way just makes me think of where the world would be today, if it weren’t for those who pushed against society’s boundaries.

I found A Golden Web to be a quick, delightful read that will definitely stick around with me for a while. I give it 5/5 stars, and recommend it to those who like history, strong female characters, or a great read.

fiction · history · mystery · romance

Juliet by Anne Fortier


Author: Anne Fortier

Pages [hardcover]: 464

Available now!

Opening Lines: They say I died. My heart stopped, and I was not breathing-in the eyes of the world I was really dead.

Memorable Quote: There is lust and then there is love. They are related, but still very different things.

Favorite Characters: Giulietta & Alessandro


When julie Jacobs inherits a keey to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy, she is told it will lead her to an old family tresure. Soon she is launched on a winding and perilous journey into the history of her ancestor Giulietta, whose legendary love for a young man named Romeo rocked the foundation of medieval Siena. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in Shakespeare’s unforgettable blood feud, she begins to realize that the notoious curse-“A plague on both your houses!”-is still at work, and that she is the next target. It seems that the only one who can save Julie from her fate is Romeo-but where is he?


I was lucky enough to review this book for Pump Up Your Book as part of the Juliet blog tour. I’ve been excited to read this and was delighted to participate.

Julie Jacobs is your average girl, who wants nothing more than a less-annoying twin sister and to pay off her debt. When her Aunt Rose dies unexpectedly, she’s sad but hoping to inherit a fortune. Instead, she recieves a letter that will send her to Siena, her birthplace, and on a wild treasure hunt that will change her life forever.

I loved this book! I’m a bit of a history geek, especially when it comes to love stories. This book has touches of history, romance, a treasure hunt, and of course a few bad guys pop up along the way. Julie is a great main character-the story is told through her eyes, while alternating chapters tell about the Romeo and Giulietta that lived in Siena is the 1340s. While Julie may not make the best decisions sometimes, it makes for a great read.

While this book is certainly perfect for any fan of Romeo and Juliet or history, I’d recommend it to just about anyone. I loved it, and I hope others do also. I give Juliet 5/5 stars.


Follow the Juliet virtual blog tour as it makes its way around the web!

Tuesday, September 7

Spotlight at The Book Connection

Wednesday, September 8

Guest blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

Thursday, September 9

Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book

Friday, September 10

Book reviewed at Caught Between the Pages

Monday, September 13

Guest blogging at Thoughts in Progress

Tuesday, September 14

Interviewed at The Hot Author Report

Book reviewed at Ohio Girl Talks

Wednesday, September 15

Book reviewed at Teresa’s Reading Corner

Book reviewed at Carpe Libris

Thursday, September 16

Book reviewed at Life in Review

Book reviewed at The Bookish Type

Friday, September 17

Book reviewed at A Room without Books is Empty

Monday, September 20

Book reviewed at Review from Here

Book reviewed at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 21

Interviewed at Review from Here

Wednesday, September 22

Book reviewed at Broken Teepee

Book reviewed at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, September 23

Book reviewed at Debbie’s Book Bag

Friday, September 24

Book reviewed at Book Reviews by Buuklvr81

Monday, September 27

Book reviewed at A Moment with Mystee

Book reviewed at Yzhabella’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, September 28

Book reviewed at My Favorite Things

Book reviewed at A Mom After God’s Own Heart

Wednesday, September 29

Book reviewed at Acting Balanced

Thursday, September 30

Book reviewed at Just One More Paragraph