Title: Lips Touch: Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor
Illustrator: Jim Di Bartolo
Genre: mythic fiction, supernatural fiction, young-adult, fairytales
Pages: 266 (hardcover edition)
Published: October 2009
Everyone dreams of getting the kiss of a lifetime... but what if that kiss carried some unexpected consequences? A girl who’s always been in the shadows finds herself pursued by the unbelievably attractive new boy at school, who may or may not be the death of her. Another girl grows up mute because of a curse placed on her by a vindictive spirit, and later must decide whether to utter her first words to the boy she loves and risk killing everyone who hears her if the curse is real. And a third girl discovers that the real reason for her transient life with her mother has to do with belonging -- literally belonging -- to anther world entirely, full of dreaded creatures who can transform into animals, and whose queen keeps little girls as personal pets until they grow to child-bearing age.
From a writer of unparalleled imagination and emotional insight, three stories about the deliciousness of wanting and waiting for that moment when lips touch..
Do yourself a favor: if you like imaginative, creepy, and dark fantasy/supernatural tales written in jawdroppingly gorgeous prose, buy this book. If that bundle of win sounds up your alley, Lips Touch: Three Times is the perfect novel for you. Do yourself an even bigger favor and do NOT buy an ebook of this - the illustrations are insane, as the only the print editions can truly show. This quirky husband and wife team hit it out of the park with the pitch-perfect, foreboding art used, as well as the fact that each successive story kept impressing me more and more. Each story is fully unique, described in the lush way that only Laini Taylor can, and fully captivating - from curses than can kill with a word to soul searching, Lips Touch is a rare pleasure.
This is a sadly rather short novel at 266 pages, but one my advice is to read it slowly, to just luxuriate in the glow of a damn good book and stretch out the exotic and experience as long as possible. This is an all-time favorite of mine after one just one read, but Lips Touch: Three Times is an obvious, seductive winner, done in both Taylor's and Di Bartolo's inimitable styles. This is a book stuffed so full with gorgeous words and gorgeous illustrations, it demands to be reread, and I will certainly indulge that in the future.
#1. Goblin Fruit - 5/5
The shortest and least intense of the three offered, Goblin Fruit is the indicator for the tone and style of this book of short stories. I've read other full-length novel interpretations of Christina Rossetti's classic poem, but Laini Taylor has taken the well-known story and added flair all her own in the form of knife-wielding grandmothers, girls with impossible dreams and imagery ahoy ("Sometimes Kizzy imagined her grandmother knife-fighting her way down the long tunnel of death...") The use, temptation and desire of souls advance much of the plot of all three novellas
and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, though in quite distinctly disparate ways, and Kizzy's tale of drastic choices is no different.
In less than 55 pages, Laini Taylor can craft a character more defined and individual than many YA authors can offer up after several books and hundreds of pages. While she (and her characterization) are sadly somewhat hampered by the extremely short length, they operate admirably under the pressure. It's easy to see Kizzy as a real person because what she wants so much, so urgently it and her immediately resonate with the audience. Kizzy's flawed and "deeply susceptible to mortification" and like every other protagonist from Lips Touch, I'd greedily grab for a chance at a full-length novel with her featured.
"The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail, a scent goblins can follow like sharks on a soft bloom of blood. The girls with hungry eyes who pray each night to wake up as someone else. Urgent, unkissed, wistful girls.
“She could smell the boy spice beneath the thrift-store aroma of his jacket, and the rubbing and the smell began to work to soften her -- like butter before you add sugar, in the first steps of making something sweet. It was her first experience of how bodies could meld together, how breath could slip naturally into rhythm. It was hypnotic. Heady. And she wanted more.”
2. Spicy Little Curses Such As These - 5/5
While I (at the moment) think the third and final story is my favorite, Spicy Little Curses Such As These is a close second place. It's imaginative, rich, dramatic, and romantic. It's ominious and Gothic from the start:
“This is the story of the curse and the kiss, the demon and the girl. It's a love story with dancing and death in it, and singing and souls and shadows reeled out on kite strings.”
“Some would assert that Providence was at work shaking out its pockets in Humanity's lap. Other would argue for that mindless choreographer, Chance. Either way it was a simple thing: a lost diary fell into the hands of a soul-sick war hero on a train from Bombay to Jaipur just when he'd grown tired of the scenery and needed something to keep his thoughts from the minefield of his wretched memories.
In such mild ways is the groundwork laid for first kisses and ruined lives.”
Like both other stories and probably everything this author produces, Spicy Little Curses is eminently quotable in a truly unique vein. But how beautiful and tactile is that first quote - "souls and shadows reeled out on kite strings"? The image described is compelling, unique and quite dire indeed for those attached to the souls in question.
I like that Taylor switches it up with her mythology and settings - Hatchling is set somewhere in the Kazakhstan/central Asia area, and this particular story here is set in the Indian region, with all the added benefits of a rich and storied culture to pick and choose from. Infusing her fantasy plots and stories with flavors from so many varied cultures keeps each fresh and easy to distinguish between, without sacrificing any essential ingredient from the mix.
"At the British parties in Jaipur, gossip swirled wild on eddies of whiskeyed breath. The old bitch was a popular topic of it. It was generally agreed she had been in India too long. It had "gotten to her." She spoke the native tongue, and not just Hindustani but also Rajasthani and a touch of Gujarati, and she had even been known to haggle once in Persian! It suggested to the British a grubby intimacy with the place, as if she took India into her very mouth and tasted it, like a lover's fingers."
3. Hatchling - 5/5
The longest and by far the creepiest and most compelling out of Lips Touch, final short story Hatchling is a dark tale with several unpredictable twists and turns. It might be old by now (and obvious that Laini is my favorite YA author), but just when I think the creativity well is tapped out, this is an author that can constantly create new ideas, incorporate old ones and make the subsequent novel read freshly and vividly. Hatchling is beautiful in its poetic prose, in its alien terribleness of the Druj and in the message of hope and love at its core.
Even moreso than the first two, Hatchling left an impression - wistful, surprsingly, and utterly original.
“Staring at her face, she began to fancy her outer layer had begun to melt away while she wasn't paying attention, and something -- some new skeleton -- was emerging from beneath the softness of her accustomed self. With a deep, visceral ache, she wished her true form might prove to be a sleek and shining one, like a stiletto blade slicing free of an ungainly sheath. Like a bird of prey losing its hatchling fluff to hunt in cold, magnificent skies. That she might become something glittering, something startling, something dangerous.”