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Think of a special kiss – maybe your first, maybe your next. You’re awash in emotions: yearning, excitement, nervousness. Or maybe you are defying deadly goblins, fatal curses, or heartlessness that has haunted you for centuries.

Lips Touch: Three Times, by Laini Taylor is a collection of three stories, each revolving around one life-changing, even fatal, kiss.

The first story, “Goblin Fruit,” is the tale of Kizzy, who longs to be one of those cute girls snuggled on the laps of cute boys at lunchtime. Her family is odd, to say the least: visiting ghosts, her grandmother buried with a swan’s wing and knife. She’s not ugly, but unconventional beauty doesn’t get you far in high school. When the gorgeous new boy at school takes an immediate liking to her, you can imagine how easy it is to ignore her grandmother’s stories about girls being lured to their doom with sweet goblin fruit, ignore the memory of that girl she knew wasting away. Just as she is about to have everything she always wanted, she realizes just how dangerous everything can be.

In the second story, “Spicy Little Curses Such as These,” the aging Ambassador to Hell has brokered many an ugly deal with the devil to save the lives of children. But cursing baby Anamique with a deadly weapon would “give her nightmares for the rest of her life”. The girl, though not sure if the curse was real, kept her powers locked away for years. But falling in love would change everything. The tender moment she had long-awaited comes, but fear and frustration push romance aside for a frightening turn of events. Love and curses are complicated things, and this story twists both into an unexpected ending.

The third and longest story, “Hatchling,” had the most surprises for me. We meet Esmé on her 14th birthday, when her left eye suddenly turns blue, and the wolves howl in London. Her mother, terrified, whisks her away from danger. But the cruelty that plagued her mother’s youth can’t be escaped so easily – especially when the Druj are hunting Esmé for reasons more dark, complex, and hopeful than her mother could have imagined. As we untangle the mysteries of this horrid clan, we also see the beginnings of a monumental change in the hearts of the heartless. Perhaps the emerging memory of a kiss can turn the tide of evil.

Taylor writes beautifully. Her metaphors are sensual, but not strained; her descriptions evocative, not excessive. All three plots were inventive, compelling, and original. Usually a skeptic of goblins and all things other-worldly, I dove into the adventures of Kizzy, Anamique and Esmé without a backward glance. The worlds Taylor explores aren’t just those of goblins, demons, and immortals, but of the very human places of yearning, desire, and temptation.

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