I find myself vacillating between rating this a four or a five. If I could, I'd go with 4.5.
After what has been a loong reading slump, this was terribly refreshing. Lips Touch Three Times
is a collection of three short stories, each beginning with a series of lovely illustrations. The illustrations, done in sepia tones with dashes of bright color, are technically the weakest part of the book. Yes, they are wonderful to look at, but I found them lacking in detail and the depiction of scenes wasn't as evocative as I would have liked.
The first story, "Goblin Fruit," follows Kizzy, a young woman who has drawn the attention of goblins. Goblins, you see, don't want the popular girls. Instead they want the outcasts, the pretty girls who haven't realized they are pretty yet, the girls who "...dream so hard about being pretty their yearning leaves a palpable trail." Kizzy lives in a ramshackled house on the edge of town. Her family could be described as a mixture of hillbilly and gypsy. The description of her peculiar household and family are some of my favorite parts of the book. Anyway, Kizzy should know better; she shouldn't be susceptible to the wiles of goblins. Kizzy's own grandmother once tangled with goblins and won, rescuing Kizzy's great aunt from damnation. But when a beautiful boy arrives at her high school, Kizzy can't help but be tempted.
The second story, "The Curse," is a romance, set in colonial India. Here a young widow, Estella, desperate to return her young husband to the living, journeys into hell and meets the Yama, the Lord of Hell. She doesn't get her husband back, but instead is given the task of negotiating for the lives of children with a demon named Vasudev. Vasudev likes to inflict all manner of mayhem on humanity--earthquakes, etc.--in the process killing many children. It is Estella's job to bargain for the lives of children. One day, Vasudev offers her a "freebie," so to speak. If Estella will place a curse on one baby, Vasudev will spare all the children in an earthquake. One life for many. Estella reluctantly agrees. The baby is Anamique, the daughter of a Political Agent in Jaipur. The curse: Anamique will have the most beautiful voice in the world, but any who hear her will die instantly. Estella curses the baby, but also admonishes her to never speak or make a sound. And Anamique somehow manages silence until she is seventeen. Then she falls in love with a soldier...
In the third and longest story, "Hatchling" (a novela, really), a young mother and her teenage daughter live a strange but magical life in London. Fourteen-year-old Esme has no friends; she has never gone to school; never even been to the doctor (as she never gets sick). Like her mother, Mab, she has bright red hair. She and Mab live in a little apartment and keep to themselves. Their only source of income is a delivery of diamonds that arrives periodically via the mail.
Until the night when she hears the wolves and one of her eyes turns pale blue, however, it never occurs to Esme how odd her life is. She is especially dismayed by her mother's reaction to her eye color--fear. Soon after, Esme and Mab flee London, the mysterious wolves hard at their heels.
For Mihai, a soulless Druj, Esme represents his one hope to reclaim what his people have lost. Their humanity. But first he must save her from his people and his beloved queen.
Of the three, "Goblin Fruit" is my favorite story, followed by "Hatchling." "The Curse," though well-written, lacked the charm of the other two stories.
Lips Touch Three Times is a lovely collection of mystical, sometimes dreamlike stories.