Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor and Illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo
Audio book borrowed from library
Print book borrowed from library
Regina’s Review: 5 Stars/Grade A++
Lips Touch Three Times is a compilation of three novellas written by Laini Taylor and illustrated by her husband, Jim DiBartolo. The novellas defy a neat and easy categorization. The main female character in each book is a young adult, a young teenage girl. Each novella takes place in an urban locale but shortly in to the text there is a breakaway to an other world. The novellas are fantastical, fantasy and fairy tale based, but also rooted in the modern urban world. I think I should disclose up front that I love Laini Taylor’s work. I LOVE Laini Taylor’s work, but I am not the only one, here are some recognitions that Lips Touch Three Times has received:
- National Book Award finalist
- YALSA Top Ten Books for Young Adults
- Publisher’s Weekly, Best Children’s Books of 2009
- NPR Best Young Adult Fiction, 2009
- Junior Library Guild Selection
- finalist, Oregon Spirit Book Award
- starred reviews, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly
If you have not yet tried Laini Taylor’s stories yet, I gotta ask – what are you waiting for? The buzz about her is everywhere and this may seem off topic, but have you see how cute her house? Laini’s Taylor’s house is, very similar to her stories. She takes something that we are used to seeing and makes it fantastical, whimsical, new and just darned beautiful. Her stories do this very thing, themes we see in fantasy books, oh like the conceited beautiful boy to which the heroine is somehow attached; or a heroine on the outside of society, somehow she does not quite fit in; odd familial backgrounds; lost memories; goblins; creatures lacking souls; lost loves; curses and demons. While Laini uses these vehicles in her stories, she absorbs them into her own style and by what must be magic (the only explanation that I can think of), she transforms the common everyday fantasy themes into what reads as a completely unique and original story and a character that we have never met on the pages of any other book. Laini Taylor is a magician. There is no other way to describe her talent.
Her texts are packed full with exquisite descriptions of clothes, food, pain, love, scenery so deeply described that when I read the text I feel as if I could close my eyes and reach out and touch what Laini is trying to show me. Too much? You need to see the words for yourself. Here are some examples from each novella:
The goblins want girls who dream so hard about being pretty their earning leaves a scent like 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. Wishful girls.
Fierce with wanting something … but it near carved her hallow.
It was her first experience of how bodies could meld together, how breath could slip naturally into a rhythm. It was hypnotic, heady and she wanted more.
All her memories of warning coalesced into a simple understanding … The knowing was as insubstantial as words written on water.
Kissing can ruin lives. Lips touch, sometimes teeth clash, new hunger is born with a throb and caution is thrown away.
Mab could almost feel her tiny daughter in her arms. Her arms and breasts would never lose their mute memories of holding that small body. They ached now with miserable yearning ….
So here is a listing and a brief summary of the three novellas (no spoilers):
Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today’s savvy girls?
Spicy Little Curses Such As These: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.
Hatchling: Six days before Esme’s fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?
The print version contains illustrations created by her husband. Before I knew that Laini’s husband had created the artwork, just by examining the pictures and listening to the beginning of the story (I listened to the narration of these stories) I assumed that the illustrator must have been in sync with Laini, close to her in a way that the illustrator knew the story as intimately as Laini lived the story. It makes sense now that I know it was her husband that created these beautiful images. See for yourself:
Spicy Little Curses Such As These:
The first story is Goblin’s Fruit. We are introduced to a group of teenage girls and we hear the story from the point of view of Kizzy. Kizzy and her friends talk about boys and struggle with fitting in to their high school social group. Compounding the problem for Kizzy, is that she is from a truly odd family where she regularly slaughters animals (not just to eat), she communes with ghosts, and fears goblins. Oh, wait – doesn’t this sound like every other young adult urban fantasy book? Odd girl out, weird family … we know the story, right? No, we don’t. Laini introduces the eerie, the spooky and it is a seductive slide into the arms of what we know we should not want.
The second story is Spicy Little Curses Such As These. This story takes place in India a century ago and we are introduced to a widow that bargains with the devil. The bargaining takes place in hell; each morning the widow walks through the gates of hell to meet with the devil. Why? To save the lives of children. As the story unfolds, the widow learns (and so does the reader) that there is a cost to every bargain. Curses is a haunting love story. I wondered as I read this story, can people fall in love without ever fully communicating? Laini made me believe it was possible.
The third story is Hatchling. This story takes place partially in “our” world and partially in a fantastical realm and that involves creatures that are a twist on the shape shifters, fae and on demons. Laini takes what we think we know about this lore and changes it. The creatures she creates are truly scary, cold and fantastical. Also used in this story is a similar (minor) device that Laini employs in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but it is done in a completely unique way so that it does not even feel like the same device.
The three novellas are unique from each other yet well matched. While these novellas defy a neat categorization (fantasy, YA, urban fantasy, fairy tales), I believe fans of each of these genres will enjoy Lips Touch Three Times.
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