Lips Touch: Three Times - Jim Di Bartolo, Laini Taylor Everything, from the illustrations that preceded the stories to the physical texture of the paper, worked so well in this magical bundle of a book. The stories and the writing are lyrical and haunting. Ms. Laini Taylor practices the coveted art of "showing, not telling" with unassuming grace.

The book is comprised of three stories, all very different in style and content but still work together.

Goblin Fruit
This story was the most "YA" of the bunch, and the weakest. As one reviewer mentioned, the story has characteristic Twilight YA undertones: a girl uncomfortable in her own skin is suddenly enraptured by the too-perfect-and-handsome new boy in school, who is actually a goblin come to steal her soul. (**Twilight lovers/haters, please refrain from squeeing over/walking away from your computer screen until the end of the review.) Stuff like this gets me quickly skeptical, but the author wove these traditional YA tropes--hunger versus restraint, reality versus illusion, and consciousness of self versus doubt--in an interesting, more meaningful way. All in all, 3.5/5 stars for this story.

Spicy Little Curses
This was the most "fairy tale" of the three, and my favorite. The story borrows from Western fairy tales, Hinduism, and Indian folklore alike: curses, shadow stealing, consorting with demons, hell, true love, song, death, and resurrection. A complicated mix, but the end result was a concise and lovely little tale that resolved itself in the best way possible. The length of the story (around 60 pages) was perfect. 5/5 stars.

Hatchling
This was the longest story, and the most developed in regards to plot and characterization. This story was also where Laini Taylor really showcased her writing and storytelling abilities. The story is quite complicated, but in 120 pages, she wove a multi-layered tapestry that introduced a whole different race of otherworldly, fey-like beings; their origins; their evils committed against their human "pets"; curses cast down by God... And she did it well. What did seem a little off to me was that Laini Taylor tried to fit a too much into those 120 or so pages. I only got a glimpse of the world, only just barely made the acquaintance of very interesting characters, and tasted too little of the rich mythology of the Druj. In conclusion, 4.5/5 stars.

Overall, lovely book. The illustrations are gorgeous and really helped set the dark tone of the stories. The stories are like delectable pieces of luxurious chocolate. You are never satiated eating just three pieces of chocolate from a chocolate box. Even after a day or two, you keep eying the gold-foil box, wanting just one more taste. That's how it is with this book. Considering my ratings above, I know my math is off, but I have to give 4.5/5 stars for this entire collection.

Side Note: One thing I am confused about, though, is the cover art. It's so unlike the elegant drawings in the book; those illustrations are sepia-hued with dashes of cold red and deep shades of lavender. The style of the cover image clashes with that of the inner illustrations, and the colors of the cover image are distractingly discordant. There is something definitely off when you set pale blue against the pinkish orange flames, as if you're trying to capture a frozen block of ice in the middle of an inferno. Just doesn't work.

Lesson here: don't judge this book by its cover. The cover image seems to hide yet another example of failed, angsty fanfiction extrapolation of vampire lore. But it's not. In fact, there are no vampires at all. Just demons and fairies and hell. And of course, three kisses.