Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

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Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Monstrous Beauty
Elizabeth Fama
Genre: Paranormal, YA
Publication date: September 4th 2012
by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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 Ezraโ€™s help, Hester investigates her familyโ€™s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the oceanโ€”but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.
-A copy was provided by Macmillan Childrenโ€™s Publishing Group for review-
I have tried to read mermaid books – a new hype in today’s YA market – and book after book I keep finding myself disappointed, realizing that these water beings are simply not my forte… until now. Is it the dark, twisted plot? Is it the violent, yet beautiful story? Is it the combination of local sea lore mixed with curses, murders, love, and horror? Let’s just say, this is definitely more up my alley than the froufrou mermaid books that I have been using for kindling lately.Monstrous Beauty welcomes the old sea-folk lore, where mermaids are beautiful, perilous beasts who seduce and kill those who unfortunately come upon their waters. There is even mention of specific lore details such as the goddess Atargatis; I can’t say I was extremely familiar with the mythology myself, but this book piqued my interest enough to have me browsing Wikipedia to learn more about it. It’s a very fascinating subject with a lot of history and legends surrounding it. Though knowing absolutely nothing about the history of these sea creatures will not diminish your enjoyment of this book in the least, it’s merely to say that it will increase your appetite for it. Rich imagery created by brilliant descriptions turns these mythical beings, as well as their underwater world, the villagers, the alternating time periods, all of it, into a strikingly picturesque tale. It may revolve around it, but the mermaids are not the only thing to look forward to in this novel; we have a cursed family, a love story, an enthralling history, and even a few ghosts.

Naturally, with such vicious creatures in our midst, we get a plot that is much darker than your usual paranormal mermaid novel. It’s violent, gory at times, with scenes of horror and seduction that I would not normally expect from a YA novel, making me recommend this for more mature readers. I found these aspects really impacted the seriousness of the mermaid myth. They are not, in fact, sweet loveable creatures. They’re manipulative, treacherous monsters who will make you look at The Little Mermaid in a whole new light.

Hester is dealing with a genetic defect that has killed all mothers in her family after they have given birth, but when she meets the mysterious Ezra, he helps her figure out some answers to this apparent curse. The mesmerizing manner this story is told keeps a perfect pace, constantly bringing us deeper into this fiercely gripping tale, never letting our attention falter. While Hester is delving farther into her unusual family history, we get thrown into the past where a passionate love story with mermaid Syrenka and her human lover unfolds. With the past and the present intertwining in more ways than one, this whirlwind romance quickly becomes a richly developed mystery. And even though I solved large parts of it long before Hester — in some cases I even marveled at how easily she could have deciphered it if only she thought it through for a minute — I still enjoyed the thrilling climax which is soon followed by a flawless ending.

Exciting, dark, and positively gorgeous, Monstrous Beauty has finally given me a mermaid book to rave about, throwing my expectations right out of the water (Ha! I made a pun!). A must read for those who would prefer their mermaid books in a more sinister tone.

4 Stars
4 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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40 Responses to “Review: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama”

  1. Jennifer | Book Den

    Yes, this: “for those who would prefer their mermaid books in a more sinister tone” ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’ve been on the fence about trying any of the recent mermaid books. This one has finally caught my attention. Thanks, dear!

  2. Amy

    I was going to start this one last night as soon as I finished Fang Girl, but I fell asleep. (And still didn’t finish Fang Girl…) I am really looking forward to it. It sounds really great!! Awesome review chick! If you enjoyed it this much than I know I will.

  3. Alexa

    Interesting. I’ve been seeing mixed reviews about this one, and that just has me feeling like I should definitely check it out. I do like the fact that it’s much darker than most mermaid stories quite a lot!

  4. Maja (The Nocturnal Library)

    Ohh, great review, Giselle! If I’m to read about mermaids (which I tend to avoid), I want them to be creepy and vicious, just like these.
    Also, I find it interesting that her name is Syrenka – a slavic-sounding version of sirene, or sirena, in most slavic languages. I’m weird like that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Christina

    Dude, even you liked this one. Someday I will get through my netgalley queue and I will read this and it will be wondrous.

    Also, I am glad these mermaids are legit sinister. The ones in Anne Greenwood Brown’s series didn’t cut it.

  6. Smash Attack!

    I am SO stoked to read this now! I’ve been iffy about mermaid lore too, and I am ALL about the darker side of these mythical creatures. Thanks for the great review. Woohoo!

  7. Katie @ BlookGirl

    I confess, I would buy this book just for the gorgeous cover. I love it! I had high hopes for mermaid books in the past and was often fairly disappointed. I’m SO glad to hear that you enjoyed Monstrous Beauty ๐Ÿ™‚ Great review, love muffin!

    PS: I love puns ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. Aa'Ishah

    Wow, a good mermaid book? I definitely need to read this one, then. Like you, I’ve always been disappointed, so I’m glad this one is different. The myths and lore in here sound really intriguing. Brilliant review, Giselle! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Eileen

    Wikipedia? O_O I have to read this now I’ve never done that for a book you must’ve really liked it! ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’m glad this one was a little on the creepy side since I know you love that so much ๐Ÿ˜€ Awesome review Giselle!

    PSโ€”Water-related metaphors are the ONLY thing I use >.< It's a serious problem but it's awesome for mermaid books O_O

  10. Carole Rae

    yayy! I actually am excited about this one. I may have to check it out. Since I’ve seen the TV show about the possibility of real life mermaids, I’ve been curious about them. Watching the show gave me a feeling that they may exist. Historically and scientifically wise it makes sense. Societies that had NOTHING to do with each (they didn’t even knew of each other) they had paintings and tales about human-fish. Ancient, ancient Egyptians even had paintings that showed a battle they had with the mermaids and that was the reason why mermaids stay away from humans and try to lure them to the ocean and kill them.

    Sorry for my little rant up there. ^.^

    Great review!!

  11. Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR

    It’s funny you say that Carol Rae, because the argument about separate, isolated civilizations having similar stories is made in the book. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Is the show scary? I’ve been sort of interested in watching it, but the commercials creep me out lol

  12. Candace

    I really havent had much of an urge to read this but your review has me rethinking that. This sounds way different from the others I have read so maybe it will be more my thing.

  13. Mel - Thedailyprophecy.

    I always like a good Mermaid book, but I haven’t read so many this year. This one is definitely something I want to read soon. Sinister and dark is something I quite like :p Mermaids portrayed as beast was one of the things I liked in ‘Lies beneath.’

  14. Carole Rae

    Amber, there was only one kind of scary part because they showed a clip that made me jump. lol. But overall it was rather interesting. I would recommend it.

  15. Jenn@OwlReadIt

    I’m glad you finally found a mermaid book that you like. This one sounds like it can get pretty scary. I think I really need to give this one a read! Should be fun!

    Thanks for the review!

  16. Annabelle Marie Veronica

    Oh, wow. I remember adding this one to my TBR stack a while back, but the mostly forgetting about it. I’m glad you brought it back to my attention, because it sounds amazing! I haven’t read too many mermaid books, but it sounds like this one is worth it. And “richly developed mystery?” Um, hello. Awesome review, doll! xx

  17. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    NEED this one! I haven’t read a mermaid book yet (Well I read about a 1/4 of Wake and that didn’t go well) but I think this would be the perfect place for me to start. I love darker novels, and this sounds like it has everything I look for in a dark story. Great review!