“Lips Touch: Three Times” by Laini Taylor

 

Title: Lips Touch: Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor
Read Date: 14 February 2012 (how appropriate!)
Goodreads Reading Progress Status Updates: Click here.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: I was enchanted. Three times.
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Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers’ souls:

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?

Once upon a time, the Creator showered the Gift of Words upon the Earth and somehow, an inordinate amount gravitated toward Laini Taylor.

Lips Touch: Three Times is an impressive collection of stories which showcases Taylor’s mastery of evoking images and emotions using her words, and her husband Jim DiBartolo’s distinctive and breathtaking art.

What I loved, in general, about the three stories in this book, is how well Taylor seems to understand human nature and our deepest hopes and fears, and how well she manages to articulate all of it as if she can read our souls.

Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare feet, freeze an enemy’s blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn’t possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, to have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer’s small airplane champagne-christened Kizzy.

 
Goblin Fruit is the shortest story of the three, but it’s also the most whimsical. It reads like a fairy tale, so much so that if I were a screenwriter on Grimm, I’d probably ask permission to write an episode based on this. 😛 And Taylor’s style is so evocative, I could almost taste that kiss and that fruit.

Spicy Little Curses Such As These is my favorite of the three. If I were an animator like the awesome Ben Hibon (of The Tale of the Three Brothers fame), I’d turn this story into an animated short film. I love the exotic Indian setting, the Maleficent homage, the mythology, the classic Lost Diary plot point, and just the entire crafting of the story, really.

He had imagined himself, fancifully, to be half in love with the writer of the mysterious diary, but now, seeing her, that vague fancy was swept away by the exhilaration of actually falling in love with her, not by halves, but fully and profoundly.

 
Hatchling is the more fantastical of the three. If I were Tim Burton or maybe Henry Selick, I’d make a movie out of this one. I love how Laini also drew from world mythology like she did with Spicy Little Curses, but still managed to come up with something unusual. The world has a Labyrinth / The Dark Crystal / Mirrormask kind of vibe to it, but probably a little wilder, what with the supernatural creatures involved.

For all three stories, Taylor definitely delivered on her promise that the kisses will have profound consequences. Yup, it all started with a kiss!

I may gush and rave about this book all I want here, but I don’t believe I can adequately capture the magic and draw of Lips Touch. My advice? Buy it. Read it. Reread it. Fall under its spell three times. Every time.

“The Alloy of Law” by Brandon Sanderson

 

Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 1 December 2011
Goodreads Reading Progress Status Updates: Click here. May contain spoilers.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars (I really liked it!)

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Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

 
If Brandon Sanderson’s imagined worlds were real, I would find myself establishing residency on Scadrial, the world of the Mistborn series. It’s a rough world, but Allomancy and Feruchemy fascinate me so much, I couldn’t care less.

Scadrial as it is now, circa The Alloy of Law, is very different from the world that readers saw at the end of The Hero of Ages. The magic system, mythology, and society have evolved, and someone has discovered electricity. Horse-drawn carriages roll down the streets as railroad tracks extend out of the capital city of Elendel and far into the Roughs.

Remember Back to the Future III, when Marty and Doc were in the year 1885? This incarnation of Scadrial has that kind of Western vibe. It’s as if Alloy is Sanderson’s very own flux-capacitor-powered locomotive and he invited readers on board for a temporal joyride. The world also feels a lot like Firefly if you replace the advanced technology with magic so “sufficiently analyzed” and applied that it’s almost science.

I love how Scadrial has evolved. I’ve never seen a fantasy world change through time before, not even in a long-running series like Dragonlance. Granted, I haven’t read every fantasy series out there, but it’s only logical that things should change after 300 years! This makes for a fascinating study of how authors can still expand the genre and keep a book series fresh.

Alloy is an easy read. The core story is less taxing to the emotions (The Hero of Ages made me cry) and there are no spectacular plot surprises or big world-changing events, but it’s still an enjoyable and action-packed adventure.

What happens when thirty gun-toting bandits infiltrate a wedding feast packed with several hundred noblemen and there are only 2 Allomancers around to uphold the law? You get an action scene worthy of a Hollywood movie! I still maintain that should Sanderson want to quit writing, he can get a job as a stunt consultant for a movie. 😛

Alloy also features two other things that I love about Sanderson’s writing: witty dialogue and in-depth reflections on the themes of the book. Yes, I admit to liking the long philosophical discussions on the nature of crime and the law! They really make me think.

 
My biggest problem with Alloy is–and this isn’t personal but more a concern for other readers–while it’s a good stand-alone in terms of the plot and the characters, it seems to still require some prior knowledge of the first Mistborn trilogy. Sanderson did take the time to explain the magic system and some history in the beginning, but there are references that may go over the heads of the uninitiated or those who haven’t finished reading the trilogy. On hindsight, people who don’t know Mistborn at all might not pick this book up anyway, but in case someone does, they might not get the full benefit of the Alloy reading experience.

Reading Alloy after The Way of Kings is both bane and boon for me. I miss the deliberate plotting and the detailed treatment in Kings, but it’s obvious that this wasn’t meant to be as big as that or Sanderson’s other books in terms of scope. At the same time, it’s a relief to read something fun and light in an epic fantasy setting, and to know that he can pull something like this off. And I mean “light” literally as well–Alloy won’t seriously injure you if you accidentally drop it on your foot. 😛

If this book isn’t part of the second Mistborn trilogy, it’s certainly a big step forward from the first one. We’ve had our sneak peek, and when that next trilogy finally comes along, it looks like Mistborn fans will be in for an epic treat.

Speaking of treats…

The Alloy of Law is available as an audiobook narrated by Michael Kramer, who also narrated The Wheel of Time series and Sanderson’s other books. Here is an excerpt from the audiobook:

Thanks to MacMillan Audio for providing me with the audio excerpt to include here! 🙂

There are also text excerpts and other goodies over at Tor.com.

If you’re reading this post even if you haven’t read Sanderson and would like recommendations for a good First Read, try Elantris or Mistborn: The Final Empire.
 

Sam and Grace Versus The Seasons

 
My first thought after reading Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater was: I was glad the book isn’t trying to be something other than what it really is, which is a teenage romance.  Yes, there is a fantasy element, but that is more of a backdrop and a source of conflict.  There is no huge, detailed fantasy world the protagonists had to play in, and that is refreshing for something from the teen paranormal romance genre.

Shiver is the first book in Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.  It introduces Grace, a girl with a fascination for the wolves that appear in the woods near her house every winter, and Sam, a boy who is fascinated with Grace, but who has to live the challenging double life of a werewolf.  Don’t worry, that last part isn’t a spoiler, as it’s something that is revealed in the first few pages of the novel. Continue reading