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Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
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Monstrous Beauty (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Elizabeth Fama

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2022958,111 (4.03)5
Member:flashlight_reader
Title:Monstrous Beauty
Authors:Elizabeth Fama
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
This story is still giving me goosebumps! I'm a fan of a good historical fiction - and when an author adds in some intrigue and mystery, as well, it only heightens my appreciation - if it's done right. And this was done very right.

The story begins with a simple statement of fact: "Syrenka wanted Pukanokick." Odd names, I know. This book is full of them; at a certain point, I stopped trying to pronounce the name in my head and just accepted the word as a combination of letters that signified a given or surname. Syrenka is a mermaid; a shockingly, enticingly beautiful sea creature who has been watching a young man. When they finally meet and speak, the end result is disastrous - though unintentional. The disaster scars Syrenka, and she shies away from view for over 300 years.

Until the day she sees Ezra. Or, rather, the day Ezra sees Syrenka and calls out to her. Their attraction is as undeniable and fast as it is tragic. A series of grisly events leads Syrenka to life on land and into Ezra's arms. Though only for a short time.

Syrenka and Ezra's love takes root in 1872 and is told throughout half of the novel. For the other half, the story is set in modern day and focuses on Hester Goodwin, a teenager who has made a promise to herself that she will never let herself fall in love, marry, or have children. For the last five generations of her family, women have married and given birth only to die within days. The deaths are all seemingly inexplicable and Hester, who has lost her own mother this way, knows that she can never find love.

Until the day she sees Ezra. Or, rather, until the day Ezra sees her. Sound familiar? I know, but it's not quite the same thing. See, Hester is the only one who can see Ezra in the modern day portions of the story. And he's not the only one Hester is talking to that no one else can hear or see. Just what is going on leads a practical young skeptic into a world of magic, love, mystery, folk lore, and danger. A lot of danger.

I really enjoyed this book. There were a few quirks that threw me off, such as the narrative referring to Hester's father by his first name before really linking him as her father. I had to go back a few pages and kind of piece the relationship together, so that took me out of the story for a bit. But I was quickly pulled back in. The mystery at the heart of the story was captivating. It was fun to find out a piece of the puzzle from the narrative of the events in 1872 and then come back to modern day in order to see how Hester discovers the information, and how the discoveries are going to impact her future and her decisions.

At times, the darkness of the story gets to the point of being almost overwhelmingly grisly, but those spots are quick glimpses and not so deeply dark as to put me off entirely. I think the author created a highly original, very vivid world for her novel and did a good job of creating true, well-rounded characters to inhabit her world. This is definitely a story that will stay with me for some time to come. ( )
  Jenna.Czaplewski | Jul 3, 2014 |
Originally posted at Novel Reveries

Intriguing and treacherous. This is like "The Little Mermaid" with macabre elements of the mystical and paranormal variety. I love this book. I love it's uniqueness and it's horrifying descriptions. I love it's ability to cover both the beauty and the hideous aspects of "mermaids." I love the split timelines and plot lines and how they converge to fathom Hester's familial curse.

This book took me by surprise with it's brusqueness (considering that it is a young adult book) and I was pleased by how it breaks the genre mold. Love is still a driving factor in this book, but it's hemingway in how the author directs the story. To believe in love, Hester must find love. To find love, she must lose love. With an unknown mysterious macabre past, and a delicate fatal future, Hester must find a way to break the disease of a curse that is her soul.

Putting together the pieces of historical romance, mystery, fantasy, and the paranormal, Monstrous Beauty is writhing in dark transcendental passion.

First Line: "Syrenka wanted Pukanokick." (3)

Last Line: "Minutes later, the last evidence of her human existence danced up through the ocean as air bubles, softly breaking on the moonlit surface of the water." (295)
-----------

Quotes:

"She had dared to love, and she had lost everything." (8)

"How strange the world was, that a necklace should exist virtually forever, and a human life, worth so much more, should be short." (159) ( )
  Dnaej | Mar 14, 2014 |
Originally posted at Novel Reveries

Intriguing and treacherous. This is like "The Little Mermaid" with macabre elements of the mystical and paranormal variety. I love this book. I love it's uniqueness and it's horrifying descriptions. I love it's ability to cover both the beauty and the hideous aspects of "mermaids." I love the split timelines and plot lines and how they converge to fathom Hester's familial curse.

This book took me by surprise with it's brusqueness (considering that it is a young adult book) and I was pleased by how it breaks the genre mold. Love is still a driving factor in this book, but it's hemingway in how the author directs the story. To believe in love, Hester must find love. To find love, she must lose love. With an unknown mysterious macabre past, and a delicate fatal future, Hester must find a way to break the disease of a curse that is her soul.

Putting together the pieces of historical romance, mystery, fantasy, and the paranormal, Monstrous Beauty is writhing in dark transcendental passion.

First Line: "Syrenka wanted Pukanokick." (3)

Last Line: "Minutes later, the last evidence of her human existence danced up through the ocean as air bubles, softly breaking on the moonlit surface of the water." (295)
-----------

Quotes:

"She had dared to love, and she had lost everything." (8)

"How strange the world was, that a necklace should exist virtually forever, and a human life, worth so much more, should be short." (159) ( )
  Dnaej | Mar 14, 2014 |
My Opinion: I was quite impressed with this book as it was different from most other mermaid books out now. I tend to love mermaid books anyway, and this one was unique enough to really grab my attention. To begin with, it's written from the POV of two different female mermaids, one in our time (Hester) and one who lived one hundred and forty years ago (Syrenka)! Then we have poor Hester, whose family history shows that to fall in love means death. Since Hester thinks it's a family curse, she is determined never to fall in love, but as we all know, teenage hormones are not going to go along with that at all! First she starts having feelings for her neighbor and friend, Peter, and when she runs away from him, she runs smack dab into gorgeous Ezra on the beach! What's a girl to do? Then there's the weird happenings at the church and in the graveyard that I'm not even going to tell you about because I want them to be a surprise :)

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. Syrenka and Hester had very different voices and ways of talking so it was easy to switch back and forth between their POVs, which is always a plus. The characters were compelling, the pace of the book was spot on, and I definitely recommend it to all lovers of YA mermaid tales :D

I received a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. ( )
  jwitt33 | Mar 13, 2014 |
This is a well written book and may even deserve a higher rating but I struggled through it. I think the reason why I struggled through it was the subject matter vs whether it was a good book. ( )
  TeamDewey | Feb 15, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374373663, Hardcover)

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences. Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:03 -0400)

In alternating chapters, tells of the mermaid Syrenka's love for Ezra in 1872 that leads to a series of horrific murders, and present-day Hester's encounter with a ghost that reveals her connection to the murders and to Syrenka.

(summary from another edition)

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