Author: Vivian Vande Velde
Age Group: Young Adult
Synopsis: A compilation of short stories that center around witches, magic, and curses, of course.
The Low Down:
I’ve read and reread parts, chapters, and the entirety of this book intermittently since I received it in middle school. Some stories are good for a laugh and some for a tiny spine tingle but none of them are down right scary. When I was young and the Goosebumps-mania was in full swing, I dedicatedly stuck to the choose-your-own-ending version. If it got too scary, I could stop right away. Anything too horror-like gives me nightmares for weeks, if not months. My husband even scans the movie trailers ahead of time, just to be sure that if there’s something frightening he can give me ample warning to plug my ears and close my eyes. None of these stories are scary but some can be chilling and they all seem soaked in measure of good sense that doesn’t need to bash you over the head with an accordion.
Vande Velde does a great job of creating ten completely separate and equally entertaining stories exceptions to this rule end up not being bad but just not as good. As with the example of “To Converse With Dumb Beasts,” which I always end up skipping over. The tales all differ with plot, characters, and the point of view from which it’s told. The title story: “Curses Inc.” takes magic into the modern day and places it among websites and pop-up ads while “The Witch’s Son” which takes place shortly after the American Revolution. Some have ambiguous dates but deal with something besides witchery like the soul-sucking water nymph in “Lost Soul” or the tragic, love seeking spirit “After Sunset.” And some like “With Hunt” turn things upside down and backwards and will have you thinking back to them again and again in the days following your reading.
For me the shining jewels of the collection are “Cypress Swamp Granny”and “Skin Deep.” The first takes place in the post-civil war American South, and follows the self-absorbed daughter of a plantation owner. Her desires for everything that her friends and neighbors have leads her to a witch in the swamp who cautions against fires of passion but relents in helping when the girl offers a year of her life to the old woman. Through a few clever twists and turns, the fires of passion are exactly what end up consuming her.
The other story “Skin Deep” follows an unattractive but kind and thoughtful young woman with the power of wishes. When an injured young prince happens across her secluded home, she doesn’t hesitate to help him and wishes that to him she looks decent enough that he can look at her without wincing. When he recovers he asks her to marry him but she knows that she can’t continue with this relationship if he doesn’t know what she truly looks like. Delving into the self-confidence issues many young women face, the girl ends up a champion full of wisdom beyond her years.
I could go on and on, as is easy to do when confronted with sharing a favorite but I’ll stop here and leave you with this note. The foreshadowing, irony, and twist of circumstance that lay hidden among these pages truly make for a marvelous read that will leave the reader gasping
- “You really ought to learn to losen up a bit.” – Curses, Inc.
- “All she could have said was that sometimes the truth has nothing to do with what you can see.” – Skin Deep
- “Perhaps if just one person stopped to help her, maybe that would set her spirit to rest.” – Past Sunset
- “That’s hardly a fitting reward for saving my life.” – To Converse with Dumb Beasts
- “When you can understand the consequences and weigh choices, then I will teach you.” – Boy Witch
- “It was wonderful to see her, he thought, to see someone so obviously in love with life.” – Lost Soul
- “They tell me I’m calmer then I’ve ever been before, and more patient and kinder. Which sound like compliments, until I think about it.
- “What was the appeal, she wondered with contempt, of a book whose only purpose was to deceive?” – Witch Hunt
- “Girl like you should be satisfied with what you got. You should enjoy the sweet life the Lord give you while you can.” – Cypress Swamp Granny
- “Second chances didn’t come to everyone. She hoped they would all do well with theirs.” – The Witch’s Son
Add to my library:
UK Amazon:Curses, Inc. and Other Stories
US Amazon:Curses, Inc. and Other Stories