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Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Elizabeth Fama

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2783240,656 (3.99)7
Title:Monstrous Beauty
Authors:Elizabeth Fama
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (2012)



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Background: In the 1800’s in Plymouth, Syrenka is in love with Ezra; the only problem is that Ezra is human and she is not. Current day, Hester is just a teen with a horrible family problem, after having children, all of the mothers die. Hester has sworn off love and children, until one day she meets Ezra and begins to think that there is a chance for her to have everything she dreams of.

Review: Two intertwining stories are told in this wonderful, creepy, and dark take about sea creatures, magic, and ghosts. With alternating point of views we learn about Syrenka and Ezra and about Hester and her modern life. I received this via audio book from Macmillan and was at first a little put off by the audio reader; but as the story progressed, the strength in her voice added to the strength of the female characters and how they interacted throughout the book.
Syrenka and Ezra’s story is full of ups and downs, first I hated her and then I felt for her. Their story is set in the 1800’s in Plymouth and how they came to be together. Alternating is Hester’s tale, a normal history-buff teenager, working/ living in historic Plymouth, trying not to fall in love. Syrenka’s and Hester’s tales start to mold together and the darkness begins with a good portion of the story taking place in a cemetery and an old church. Later, there is drama, murder, trickery, and myth all rolled into one amazing story. Fama did a wonderful job recreating the time periods and the layout of Plymouth, as well as researching extensively to do so. Very well written, in vernacular at times, and overall a wonderful read/ listen. Highly recommended.
( )
  sszkutak | Sep 28, 2016 |
This book was not at all what I expected, which turned out to be absolutely wonderful. It was a dark and beautiful mystery that was part fairy-tale and part ghost story. Lovely. ( )
  luminescent_bookworm | Jan 27, 2015 |
Hester doesn’t know what is wrong with her family. For generations, every woman has died after giving birth – including her own mother. Even though she’s only 17 years old, Hester has decided the only way to avoid heartache (and death) is to never get married and never have children.

Read the rest of my review at: http://shouldireaditornot.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/monstrous-beauty-elizabeth-fa... ( )
  ShouldIReadIt | Sep 26, 2014 |
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)


"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 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:30 -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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