Monthly Archives: October 2011

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

I’ve been reading rave reviews from the blogosphere about Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch, so I immediately grabbed a copy without any hesitation. This was actually the first time I have heard of Laini Taylor and I was glad that I gave her work a chance.

Here’s the summary from the publisher:

Everyone dreams of getting the kiss of a lifetime – but what if that kiss carried some unexpected consequences?

A girl who’s always been in the shadows finds herself pursued by the unbelievably attractive new boy at school, who may or may not be the death of her. Another girl grows up mute because of a curse placed on her by a vindictive spirit, and later must decide whether to utter her first words to the boy she loves and risk killing everyone who hears her if the curse is real. And a third girl discovers that the real reason for her transient life with her mother has to do with belonging — literally belonging — to another world entirely, full of dreaded creatures who can transform into animals, and whose queen keeps little girls as personal pets until they grow to childbearing age.

From a writer of unparalleled imagination and emotional insight, three stories about the deliciousness of wanting and waiting for that moment when lips touch.

The book consists of three short stories (Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such As These, and Hatchling), all centred upon three individual girls with a common theme of kissing. The stories were written in different settings, but were set in fantasy worlds. I could say that the book is unique in its own way as it is combined with intricate drawings illustrated by none other than Laini Taylor’s husband, Jim Di Bartolo. I’m proud to say that Jim Di Bartolo proves to be a great artist, as he drew the illustrations perfectly, scrutinizing the details to further enhance the message of the drawings he tries to invoke from Laini Taylor’s stories. The illustrations don’t exactly reveal what the whole story is all about. They merely serve as introductions or a prologue of each of the stories, giving readers a glimpse of what had happened before the present event. To give you an idea how talented Jim Di Bartolo is, here are some sample illustrations I took from the book:

Aren’t the illustrations so beautiful? I myself kept returning to the illustrations from time to time and admired them in awe as I let the drawings come alive in my mind like a movie playing in a theatre.

Each of the three stories varies in terms of length, and I noticed that it was somehow arranged in ascending order with Goblin Fruit being the shortest and Hatchling being the longest among the three. Hatchling was my favourite, but on the other hand, I liked Goblin Fruit and Spicy Little Curses Such As These almost just as much. The protagonist of each story had strong personalities that readers will come to love more. Moreover, I liked Laini Taylor’s writing style. She strategically used lyrical prose and flowery descriptions which depicted a world full of magic and mysteries unknown to the human world. Readers could vividly imagine the setting as Laini Taylor perfectly used appropriate descriptions to easily portray the fantasy world.

This fantasy world Laini Taylor created was not the usual happily-ever-after endings we’re familiar with. She added a darker side to it, making goblins, monsters, and other nightmare creatures we can think of exist in the world, but Laini Taylor was able to keep a balancing effect as concepts of contentment, hope, and love was tackled and given importance throughout the story.

Indeed, reading a book written by an author new to me made me appreciate books more and discover more literary works not just by famous authors, but by emerging authors as well.


Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon

As I have mentioned in my previous Want Books post, after learning that Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon was alleged to be made into a movie, I was immediately intrigued by this fairytale retelling of The Little Mermaid and ordered this book via Fully Booked’s special order. Finally, after months of waiting, the book arrived.

Here’s the book description from the publisher:

Two sheltered princesses, one wounded warrior; who will live happily ever after?

Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared into the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father’s greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom.

Meanwhile, the mermaid princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and the chance to win his heart…

A surprising take on the classic tale, Mermaid is the story of two women with everything to lose. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, it will make you think twice about the fairytale you heard as a child, keeping you in suspense until the very last page.

Ah, mermaids… I have never outgrown the story of this beautiful mythical creature I keep hearing about since I was a child. I remembered being first introduced to mermaids through Walt Disney’s movie version of The Little Mermaid, which, I believe, most of us are already familiar with. And just as what the legends said about this creature having the ability to lure the sailors by her magical voice, I was also entranced by the singing voice of Ariel. Clearly, Walt Disney was able to depict what mermaids were capable of.

Both Walt Disney’s movie and Carolyn Turgeon’s book were adapted from the original story of Hans Christian Andersen. While Turgeon’s book remained truthful to most contents of Andersen’s work, Walt Disney, on the other hand, altered the story to make it a happy ending appropriate for its younger target market. Furthermore, unlike in the movie, mermaids and humans from Carolyn Turgeon’s version can independently interact with one another until humans began killing mermaids; thus, a decree was implemented which allowed mermaids to explore the human world for only a day when they turned eighteen years old.

Anyway, going back to the book, I generally enjoyed the mermaid retelling of Carolyn Turgeon. Each chapter was told from the alternating point of views of Princess Margrethe and Lenia. Not only will readers get to know Lenia, but they will also get a glimpse of Princess Margrethe’s life and feelings. I think this was what made the book unique in its own way – something that led the princess from the Northern Kingdom to play a significant role in Prince Christopher and Lenia’s life. Moreover, the sea witch was given a different characterization from the usual villain we usually represent from such a creature, letting readers sympathize with her and understand her deep emotions.

I liked Carolyn Turgeon’s writing style of this book. Readers will satisfyingly devour every bit of beautifully-written descriptions and be immersed in Lenia’s sea world which depicted a place full of richness and mysteries. The way Lenia was portrayed will make readers aspire to become mermaids as well. Her perfect and slender body, moon-colored hair, stunning voice, and shiny, sparkling tail which illustrated a woman wearing an exquisite dress truly justified the beauty of a mermaid.

Aside from the writing style, the concept of eternal life was also acknowledged in the book. Lenia’s desire to become a human being was not limited to her longing to explore the human world, but her wanting to have a human soul and live an eternal life after death. Quoting from the book, this was what Lenia learned from her grandmother:

“…that humans had souls, and that their souls lived forever. It was not the same as when merpeople died, dissolving into foam and becoming part of the great ocean. Souls were webs of light that contained the essence of a human’s life. Memories and loves, children and families. Every moment of a life, pressing in.” (p.11)

This yearning and desire pushed Lenia to be part of the human world which brought the prince to her by fate. And as we all know from the story, the mermaid immediately fell in love with the prince. It was an interesting relationship between the prince and Lenia because it proved to show that sometimes, words aren’t needed to express one’s feelings and emotions; that actions will always speak louder than words. In the end, learning what the mermaid sacrificed just to be with the prince, readers will ask themselves: How far or to what extent is one willing to sacrifice for the sake of love?

Lenia and Margrethe’s complex yet endearing relationship compelled them to make difficult decisions in life and in love. Their worlds were intertwined in the most unexpected ways, filling the story with surprising twists and outcomes. This novel is surely for those who are fans of fairytale retelling and who want to relive the mermaid-ness inside them. A worthwhile read, indeed.

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce

A few days ago, I bought a recent work of William Joyce entitled The Man in the Moon. It’s a children’s book – the first of the proposed book series, to consist of both children’s book and chapter books, of The Guardians of Childhood.

Reminiscing the days when our parents introduced us to the famous fairy tale characters such as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy, I can’t help wishing to revisit those moments again even just for a while. Although their existence was not meant literally, it still feels so nostalgic having us indulged into the world of pure imagination. This was what the book did to me as I finished reading it.

In summary, the book mainly described how the man in the moon, AKA MiM, was named as such. It was also explained how our planet Earth had its own moon and how the moon lit up and gave light to our planet during nighttime. MiM was the first among the Guardians of Childhood to fight against darkness as he never gave up making the hopes and dreams of Earth children come true. The other Guardians of Childhood include Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Sandman, and even Mother Goose.

The reason why I picked up this book was because I recently read from an article in the internet that there will be an animated film based from this book series. I was immediately intrigued by the story since the characters from different fairy tale traditions are joined together.

Overall, the story was a fun and short read coupled with amazing illustrations drawn by the talented William Joyce himself. The details of the illustrations were finished with great scrutiny that I admired the drawings in awe for several minutes. Somehow, these actually complemented the written word as they added magic to his story and provided a significant tool to better understand MiM’s world and the situation he was in. William Joyce certainly proved that children’s books are never to be neglected or taken for granted by adults. Lessons can be learned and symbolisms added depth to the story. I definitely couldn’t wait for the rest of the series. I’m looking forward to more of William Joyce’s works.

Here are some of the illustrations from the book that I took a shot from my camera: