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Book Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

“Don’t contact anyone from your past.  Don’t tell anyone about your past.  Forget the rules . . . and die.”

Eve remembers nothing of her past.  She is in witness protection.  They need her to remember and testify; she has escaped a serial killer that uses magic to kill his prey.  They say she knows something, but she isn’t sure what.  What if she doesn’t want to remember?  What if she knows more than she would like?

Sometimes she dreams.  There is a carnival tent.  Buttons being sewn onto her skin.  And she can do things, but she tries to keep this hidden.  What would people think if they found out what she could do?

While she is remembering, or at least trying to, Eve shelves books in the local library.  There she meets some others that see hints of who she is and what she can do.  And just like those that guard her in the witness protection program, their motives are sometimes questionable.  Do they want to help her – or exploit her: “This shouldn’t be a tough call. They plan to kill you, Eve. We don’t. Align yourself with us.” (p 157).

Conjured is a super freaky, updated take on Pinocchio.  It is a fascinating cross between haunting paranormal and serial killer thriller. If you, like me, like those kind of books, you will be gloriously satisfied with Conjured.  If you don’t, well, we’ll agree to disagree.  The magic is fascinating, and the storytelling has the slowly picking off a scab to reveal the bloody underneath quality to it.  The truth of who Eve is, where she came from, what she has seen and what she knows, is horrifically enthralling and a clever twist.  The ending has a breathless climax full of magic and confrontation.  And at the heart of it all is one of the most basic questions of the teenage years : who am I really?

“Lie. Lie to everyone until you know the truth.” 

4 out of 5 stars. Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst was published by Walker Books, an imprint of Bloomsbury, in September of 2013.  ISBN: 9780802734587.  Pair this with The Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby and books written by Neil Gaiman.

Book Review: The Curiositites: a collection of stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff

A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck.

Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing.

A world where fires never go out (with references to ice cream.)

Are you curious?

The Curiosities began as a writing experiment between three friends, popular YA Lit writers Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Breena Yovanoff.  And it ended with an awesome epic amazing curiously awesome collection of short stories.

The Curiosities is a fun look not only into the paranormal world, but into the world of writing and at a glimpse into the life of 3 friends who happen to be writers.  These stories are unedited and contain a variety of hand written notes throughout; in fact at one point, one of the authors circles a bunch of “it is” in one story and says that if she was editing the story, she would use more contractions.  Some of the other notes include:

“Full disclosure: I still don’t really know what this title means. But I liked how it sounded.” (p. 212)

“I almost convinced myself I could give this story a less unhappy ending, but that wouldn’t really be in keeping with the prompt.” (p. 78)

“Contrary to popular belief, this IS an ending.” (p. 10)

There are notes about the stories, notes about each other as a writer and fun things like a hand drawn diagram of Brenna’s brain, Tessa’s liver and Maggie’s heart.

Karen’s Pick for a Holiday Season Gift Book

There are other fun asides in this book, such as this list:

How to End a Story When You’re Stuck:
Kill Someone
Kill Everyone
Burn Things Down (apparently Maggie Stiefvater has someone inside her always saying “fire, fire”)
Make Them Kiss
Get the Paino Wire
Start Over
It Was All a Dream
End Mid-Sente . . .

Most of the short stories in this collection are good, unlike a lot of other short story collections.  But in many ways, that hardly seems like the point of this book.  No, this is a heartfelt look into the life of a writer and into a friendship – and it is truly quite glorious.  I really loved this book.  It is creative, interesting, and such an intimate look in the writing process, friendship, and the hearts (and brain and liver) of three very talented ya writers.

Here is my caveat: I don’t know about you, but my teens don’t really check out short story collections.  I don’t know why, but they don’t.  They never have.  And this book seems like a real fan’s book.  I imagine that the audience for this book is limited, maybe to three types of people: 1) those that are interested in learning more about the art of writing, 2) fangirls (and guys) – those who are fans to any one of or all of these ya authors and 3) me people like me who love a good story.  I can also seeing this be a huge success in the classroom as it kind of lifts the veil to the writing and editing process and behind the curtain you see the editing wizard.

To be honest, this is a 5 star book and I highly recommend it, with the above mentioned caveat.  And I think this is a great holiday gift book to anyone who would put themselves in the above categories.

P.S. – there is a really interesting twist on the zombie story in here.
 
So tell me, do your teens read short story collections, or are they dust collectors at your library too?/