Curiosities

The Curiosities by Stiefvater Gratton and YovanoffThe Curiosities
by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff

A friend sent me this book as a birthday gift, and when I opened it, I wasn’t sure what exactly had made them pick it out: the fact that I had recently been raving about one of the authors, the fact that the whole book was littered in hand-written notes between snarky writer friends, or the fact that there are vampires in the description.

All of the above makes this my kind of book, though I still picked it up with some trepidation. I often find short story collections stressful to read, because I have a difficult time managing expectations for twenty distinct pieces of fiction in such a short amount of space. There’s a repeated emotional-buy in for me, and, at best, it’s tiring. At worst, it’s a little like deciding to play poker with my rent money and realizing I’ve picked the wrong table to sit down at. (Oh boy, do I take my fiction seriously…)

It took me about a week to get through the first third of this book. At that point, it completely stopped being stressful. By then, I had read several pieces by all three of the authors, and I knew what I was getting into. I read the last two thirds in three days, enjoying the book thoroughly.

Some of the stand-out stories for me included:

  • A vampire caged in the basement for luck
  • Boys who light things on fire
  • Girls who punch people unexpectedly
  • Secret murder
  • Lancelots who spit
  • Boys who steal pain and store it away for later use
  • Robots made from butterflies who maybe should not have been made from butterflies
  • Robots who did not know they were robots, who maybe should have been told before you freaked them out by plugging them in
  • Several hearts in boxes, some of them kinder than others
  • Fires that can’t be put out, but spread like… (I’ll just not finish that and save us both from rolling our eyes)
  • Not-so-secret murder

If you are a writer, or a reader who enjoys seeing how writers think, or think that you can use any of the things mentioned above in your life, I suggest you pick up this book.

Also, it has diagrams. Like the one that proves that some writer’s hearts are half cookie dough, and one quarter swearing.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Gut Punch (985 words)

Lon’s attendants had a habit of stooping to talk to him. They leaned down beside his throne, and it only measured how low he sat as they bent and straightened. Walking beside him, they rounded their shoulders, dropped their heads, and pointed out that his head only came to their elbow.

Terius stood a foot and a half taller than the boy Lord, and refused to bend. Someone should speak to him as if they trusted his voice to carry all the way to their ears.

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Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Like the Stories When We Were Young (295 words)

“I think we may be lost.”

Drea glanced at Colton as he stepped up beside her on the path. He didn’t look at her until after he’d spoken, and then he turned slowly, eyebrows raised, lips twisted in a contained smile. Drea twisted to look at the others, scattered behind her on the trail as they walked. He had his shoulders set away from them. They couldn’t see any of his expression, and his tone was low enough they couldn’t hear.

“I know where we are,” she said. She lengthened her next step, hoping that he would take the hint and fall back.

He shifted to her other side behind her, and kept up.

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Flash Fiction: Greetings (186 words)

“Mornin’.” The man nodded to Lizza as she passed him in the hall on the way to the docks.

“Morning,” she returned.

And they both continued in their opposite directions, as if they’d actually passed polite greetings.

Sleep starved as Lizza was, her mind caught on the echo, and how ridiculous it was. The single word was not a greeting, or a good wish. It was simply an exchange of information that they both already had. It’s morning, he had told her, and she had graciously confirmed, yes, it is morning. Ridiculous. The sun was up. Of course it was morning.

It would be better, she decided, to at least give some information that the other person might not have.

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Flash Fiction: Spells and Wishes (308 words)

“Nice tattoo,” Kloe said, falling into file behind Eli. His next haul on the lines went easier, with her weight added to the pull. Eli glanced over his shoulder at her, then faced forward waiting for the next command.

“Thanks,” he said.

The sun was almost directly overhead now, and coming down so hard, Eli could feel the weight of it on his skin. After working for hours, his shirt started to cling to his skin, and he had stripped it off, just to get rid of the few ounces of cloth. His tattoo, scrawled down the side of his ribs, was now perfectly visible, though he couldn’t remember the last time someone had commented on it.

“You can read it?” he asked.

Kloe laughed to herself. “Yeah,” she said. “I know a little Darin.”

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Flash Fiction: Panic in the Courts (467 words)

“The job is simple,” Commander Joseth said. He strode across the paved yard, fast, moving in chain mail, leathers and heavy boots as if it was no more difficult than coming down for breakfast in his morning jacket. Thom tried to set his feet to the same rhythm, but always seemed to be half a step behind.

“You know how to stand?” Commander Joseth asked.

Thom looked at him to make sure it was a joke, but was already halfway into a laugh. “Yes, sir.”

“You know how to keep your eyes open?”

Thom smiled a little wider. “Yes, sir.”

“Good.” Joseth smiled, nodded, and kept on walking. “Because most of what you’ll do, is stand at a gate, and keep your eyes open. You can shout?”

“Loudly, sir.”

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Flash Fiction: Advantages (530 words)

Jace paused before he knocked on the heavy redwood door, deciding for the last and thousandth time that he wanted to knock, wanted to parade into this office, wanted to turn clipped thoughts into clipped syllables and see Master Durrell’s expression in response. Oh yes. He wanted to.

He knocked, firmly. Then he dropped his hand to his side, adjusted the fat papers in his other hand, and waited for the invitation to enter.

“Come in,” Durrell said, almost immediately.

Jace pushed the door open, shut it behind him, and stayed by it.

Master Durrell looked up without moving his head, bent over a large book on his desk.

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Flash Fiction: Better than Birthdays (682 words)

Iddi rolled over, pulling the blankets closer to her chin. Her toes poked out the other side. For a long moment, she argued with the cold morning air. It wasn’t really that cold. It wasn’t really morning. If she dragged her knees to her chest, and cuddled harder into the mattress, she could sleep another hour. She didn’t want to wake up enough to move, even that much. She denied she was awake enough to be having the argument.

There was someone downstairs, moving slow and almost silent, maybe not really awake themselves. She could smell them cooking on the stove, hear the house creak with the heat, though she couldn’t feel it yet.

Iddi opened her eyes in a flash. The stove. Someone had put wood in the stove. She jumped off the bed, keeping her blanket around her shoulders, and dashed down the stairs. At the bottom, she swung around the end of the railing, rushing into the warmth rolling out the iron pot-belly.

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Flash Fiction: Ten Questions and a Miracle (422 words)

“What is that?” Arda asked.

Hearing a voice from what should have been an empty room, was enough to make Jer jump and shove the bag behind him. Realizing what the three syllables added up to only glued him to the floor, with his hands still behind him.

“Nothing,” he said.

“Right,” Arda said. She crossed the room toward the hall, but stopped in the doorway, arms crossed. “You just hold your arms behind you like that, because it’s comfortable.”

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Flash Fiction: Nighttime Fairy Tales (634 words)

Imali sat on the windowsill for an hour before Derrec noticed her.

It was a very high window, tucked just under the ceiling in the great warehouse room, and it was small. She rested her foot against one side, her spine against the other, and pinned her shoulder to the top. Outside, the air was very still and no breeze passed her to disturb the room. It was dark, and the city had gone to sleep hours ago, silent as a church. No sound drifted past her either.

Still, an hour was a long time to wait, balanced on a ledge, with one shoulder exposed to a cold, night sky.

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