It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had any TBR additions, but this week I do have one review copy I received.

The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay

This debut urban fantasy is coming out on Tuesday (November 24). For a while, I was urban fantasied out (especially if it had vampires with the exception of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs) but I read the first four pages and think I’ll be reading this one after I finish the book I’m reading right now. It seemed fast-paced and easy to get drawn into. This is also urban fantasy of the non-vampire variety, so that’s a plus as well.

Tia from Debuts & Reviews will be reviewing it soon and mentioned on Twitter that she is enjoying it so far, and Donna from Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings also had good things to say about it.

As I was browsing the giveaways on Goodreads tonight, I noticed they are giving away 10 copies of Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor (it is only available to US residents, though, unfortunately). This was the last book I reviewed and I absolutely loved it – it is even one of my top reads of the year so far.

It has been a little slow here lately, but I’m planning to get back on track this weekend. For a while I was busy and didn’t have as much time for reading and writing, but I have been working on a review of By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear this week (which I liked even more than All the Wind-wracked Stars). So I am hoping to get a review of that up in the next couple of days. I also just finished reading a short book to review, An Illustrated Guide to Mythical Creatures. And with a four day weekend coming up, there will be more time for reading and writing reviews soon.

The November reading plan has failed since I was being a very moody reader and ended up deciding none of the books I tried next were working with that mood. Black Ships by Jo Graham did, however, so I’ve been reading that and really like it so far.

Lips Touch: Three Times
by Laini Taylor
272pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.23/5

Lips Touch: Three Times is the newest book by Laini Taylor, author of Blackbringer and Silksinger from her Dreamdark series. Like her other two novels, Lips Touch: Three Times is a YA book, although it is darker and seems to be aimed at an older audience than the Dreamdark books (not that the Dreamdark series is not perfectly enjoyable to read as an adult but more parents would feel comfortable giving younger children the Dreamdark books than they would Lips Touch: Three Times). Lips Touch: Three Times was recently nominated for the National Book Awards in the Young People’s Literature category.

This book is actually a collection of three novellas, each involving a story of dangerous love. It contains beautiful illustrations by Taylor’s husband, Jim di Bartolo, who also does all of her gorgeous book covers. I felt the artwork added a lot to each tale. There were several pictures at the beginning of each novella, and after reading it, I’d always flip back to the art at the beginning and see how each set of art seemed to tell a piece of the story.

Each novella was better than the one preceding it, which is especially good because I was rather disappointed in the first one. However, the next two were both exactly to my taste (they were also darker than the first).

Goblin Fruit

The first novella was the one I thought was the weakest, but it was also by far the shortest since it took up about 1/5 of the entire book. “Goblin Fruit” stems from the author’s love for Christina Rosetti’s poem “Goblin Market.” All of her life, sixteen-year-old Kizzy has been warned about the goblins by her grandmother since her aunt was taken to their land in which she ate of their fruit. Kizzy has always wished to be someone else, which makes her the perfect target for goblins. For the goblins do not seek to ensnare the popular, beautiful girls but prefer the ones who yearn to be so much more than what they are.

The main reason this story did not appeal to me as much as the others is that there was quite a bit of teenage drama – a group of girls hanging out discussing the boys and the other girls. Personally, I’m not at all a fan of reading about what seems like rather shallow, high school conversations about who’s hot or popular. It also contains one of those relationships where the new boy at school likes the plain, unpopular girl (Kizzy) and that storyline doesn’t tend to do much for me, either.

While I did not like most of the story, there were two parts of it that I appreciated. The first of these was the details about Kizzy’s weird family who believed in ghosts and, obviously, goblins. The second and better of the two was the writing, which was beautiful as always and also really managed to capture that feeling of wanting so badly to be more than what you are – dreaming of being able to do anything and everything. This was one of my favorite descriptions of Kizzy’s longing:

Kizzy wanted to be a woman who could 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 foot, 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, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer’s small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sand, just like the nomads.

Kizzy wanted. (pp. 41)

On merit of the actual story, I’d give “Goblin Fruit” a 4/10 but due to the fabulous writing and descriptions, it gets an extra point.

5/10

Spicy Little Curses Such As These

“Spicy Little Curses Such as These” begins in Hell with the meeting between a demon and an ambassador to Hell, a woman known as “the old bitch.” The demon despises children, and it is Ambassador Estella’s job to save as many of the children that the demon kills as she can. In return for their lives, the ambassador must sacrifice people, murderers or other criminals. On this particular day, the demon offers her all ten of the children he just had killed in an earthquake for free. As usual, “free” is too good to be true and comes with a price: the young ones will be saved if the ambassador will curse a baby girl with the most beautiful voice ever heard. The catch? Anyone who hears her utter a sound will drop dead. Estella is horrified but feels she has no choice but to allow the baby to be cursed since it will save ten innocent lives. So she places the curse on the newborn as required but adds an addendum of her own – that the child will not make a sound until she is old enough to understand what she does.

This tale of the curse and the young woman in India who must live with it is exactly my type of story and I loved every moment of it. Like the previous story, it is beautifully written but it is also excellent storytelling in addition to the prose. It was dark with some supernatural intervention and tough decisions, plus it had some wonderful arguments about superstition as the cursed girl wrestled with whether or not her belief was based on fabrication. If I had one complaint, it would be that the ending was wrapped up too neatly, although it is also not quite as happy as it could have been.

9/10

Hatchling

“Hatchling” was the longest, darkest, most fleshed out story and my favorite of the three. Only a few days before Esme’s fourteenth birthday, she awakens to discover her eyes are no longer both brown but one is blue. In addition to this strange occurrence, Esme finds she also remembers events that did not happen to her and comes to the very creepy realization that:
These weren’t her memories. This wasn’t her eye. (pp. 146)

The first thought Esme has is to show her mother, who becomes completely freaked out and flees her home with her daughter. It’s obvious that this is somehow connected to her mysterious past, although she does not know what is happening.

As you read more, Esme’s mother’s tale is revealed and eventually the rest of what is going on is made clear. This is one of those instances that in spite of how much I want to talk about it, I don’t want to give away what happens. So I will just say that what happened to Esme’s mother as a child is rather disturbing and the reason I loved “Hatchling” so much was this darkness, the way information slowly became available the more I read, and the fact that it had the most developed world mythology.

9.5/10

Lips Touch: Three Times is difficult to rate overall since it contained one story that I was not crazy about as well as two that were some of the very best of everything I have read this year. Since the two novellas I loved so much were about 80% of the book and I did enjoy them so thoroughly, I’m going to weigh them far more than the shorter, weaker novella.

9/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it (because I very much enjoyed the two books by Laini Taylor that I received as review copies).

The Bone Key
by Sarah Monette
253pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.15/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.9/5

The Bone Key by Sarah Monette is a collection of ten necromantic mysteries featuring one central main character, a museum archivist who becomes involved with the supernatural. In the introduction, Monette states that these stories are a tribute to two authors she very much admires, H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James. In spite of her love for their work, she did find them lacking in character development and feminism so she wrote some stories in the same vein but remedying these shortcomings. Since I have read neither Lovecraft nor James, I cannot say if she achieved that goal. However, the stories are well-written and atmospheric with a rather unusual main protagonist.

All the short stories in this book follow the adventures of one man – the shy, awkward, bookish Kyle Murchison Booth. In the opening story “Bringing Helena Back,” Booth (who usually goes by his last name instead of his first name) becomes involved in an old friend’s quest to resurrect his wife and becomes a magnet for strange events involving everything from ghosts to incubi afterward. Instead of going through each story individually, I will just discuss a couple of my favorites.

One of the most haunting stories was “Wait for Me” which made me fear mirrors more than the creepy museum (if this book convinced me of anything, it’s that I never, ever want to be alone in a museum at night). In this tale, Booth comes into possession of a poet’s diaries that were donated to the museum upon her death. Booth and a coworker went to collect them from the remaining members of the Stapleton family, and then Booth forgot all about them until he cannot sleep one night (as happens to him often). During this particular bout of insomnia, Booth goes to his office to sort through some papers and comes across a pamphlet entitled “Of Spirits and mirrours”:

Instantly, and with a force like being hit by a bolt of lightning, I remembered Miss Stapleton, lying on the floor of that bedroom saying, The girl in the mirror. The girl with no eyes.

The pamphlet discusses how eyeless spirits appear in mirrors to do the work of the devil, which makes Booth question some of the strange occurrences in the Stapleton house, including the incident in which they found Miss Stapleton pinned under a vanity mirror. Booth promptly scours the diaries of Mildred Truelove Stapleton and discovers the dark story of a dead girl whose cries of “Wait for me!” can still be heard.

My other favorite story is the titular “The Bone Key” in which Booth receives a letter from a lawyer claiming he knew his mother, who died along with Booth’s father when he was a young boy. When Booth meets the lawyer, it turns out he actually almost married Booth’s mother and knows many details of his family’s past that Booth was never told – including the curse that killed his father.


The main reason I read this book was that I love Sarah Monette’s The Doctrine of Labyrinth series. Although I enjoyed The Bone Key, I did not think it was nearly as wonderful as her other books, but that is most likely due to my personal preference for novels over short stories and fantasy over horror (even if it’s more psychological horror like this book than gory and icky horror). It was very well-written and it did have some similarities to The Doctrine of Labyrinth in that it was somewhat slow-paced and atmospheric. There was emphasis on character development and I really liked Booth, but he was not as vivid as either Felix or Mildmay in The Doctrine of Labyrinth though he was very sympathetic. Of course, this was a much shorter work than even a single book in the aforementioned four book series so there was much less room for getting to know the main protagonist, but the fact is that Booth does not have a particularly vivid personality.

Each story is told from the perspective of Booth, a very withdrawn man who avoids contact with others as much as possible. When he does converse with other people, he tends to be very quiet and unsure of what to say to them. There are a few recurring characters he interacts with, particularly the people he works with at the museum, but there are none that he is particularly close to so it doesn’t have the same tension and drama as the Felix/Mildmay relationship. (This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I do think he is a rather well-written character – I personally just preferred reading about Felix and Mildmay and the city of Melusine.)

The Bone Key was enjoyable for its writing style and subtle creepiness. It was a good Halloween read and a book that I’m glad I read, but it was not as attuned to my personal taste as the other books I have read by Sarah Monette.

7/10

Where I got my reading copy: After it languished on my wish list for a while, a friend (and fellow fan of Monette’s The Doctrine of Labyrinth series) sent it to me for my birthday.

In an attempt to try to clear a few books off the pile that have been sitting there for too long, I’ve come up with a November reading plan. Right now I am reading By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear, which I absolutely love for its mythology, subtlety and troubled characters. For reviews, I am working on The Bone Key, a collection of ghost stories by Sarah Monette.

I just read a book I need to read for work last night so I’m going to reward myself next with a book I absolutely cannot wait to read – Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor.

After that the plan is to read the following:

The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington (This one sounds dark and I really like the sound of it)

Busted Flush edited by George R. R. Martin (one of the Wild Cards books in preparation for Suicide Kings, the next book in the new trilogy, coming out next month)

Then depending on how much time is left after I finish those, I’d like to read as many of these in November as possible:

Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott
The Dragons of Hazlett by Michelle Scott
The Wolverine Files by Mike W. Barr

If I get through two of the above, I may swap one out for Graceling, though, since I’m also really looking forward to that one and would like to read it sometime in the near future.

What’s everyone reading this November?

…and they’re already getting slammed:

They should not be followed up and continued. Isaac Asimoc(sic) died forty years after they were first written. If he had wanted to follow them up, he would have. The author’s intentions need to be respected here.

Ok, I’ll agree there’s logic to that. I’m sure if Asimov had wanted to toss another robot book in there, he would have. It’s not like he had any shortage of opportunity to publish new books, there’s only a few hundred titles out there with his name on them.

However, can’t we at least wait for the books to come out before we declare them a desecration? We’ve been down this path before, with both well-known (Bear, Benford, and Brin with the Second Foundation Trilogy) and lesser-known authors (Robot City). The Second Foundation Trilogy, while not Asimov books, were excellent in their own right, and Robot City was at least an acceptable read. (We won’t discuss the movie; in fact, it’s best to just pretend it never happened since it was never really intended to be related anyway.) Even though they’re never “the same” as what came before, when a series is extended by a different author it can still result in excellent work–let’s hold off on the pitchfork-and-torch brigade until we at least have something to look at.