Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Book:  Monstrous Beauty
Author:  Elizabeth Fama
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Date: September 4, 2012
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
My grade:  A-

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.(Picture and description from www.goodreads.com)


Initial reaction
That’s the ending???  All this awesomeness needs a little more than that!

Title and Cover
I really like both of them.  I’m really glad that they changed the cover from the one on my ARC.  It was monstrous, without much of the beauty, whereas the new cover captures the beauty but also the coldness and mystery of the story.  I like it!

What’s the story?
So, here’s the deal.  This girl, Hester, lives in Massachusetts.  She loves history and she works at Plimoth Plantation.  She has a best friend, Peter, who is sweet on her, but she won’t acknowledge it because she will never fall in love, get married or have children.  It seems that the women in her family always give birth and then immediately die.  She has been raised by a step mom and even though her step mom is great, she doesn’t want to do that to anyone, so her solution is to never have children and never fall in love.

That seems to make sense, right?  So that’s the set up, but of course, there’s a lot more to the story.  What is really neat about the actual construction of this book is the way each chapter moves from the past to the present until the two stories have to collide.  I really enjoyed seeing that happen.  It was an interesting way to tell the story without having to find a way to explain the past to the reader.  I was intrigued by Syrenka’s story and then immediately seeing parts of it played out in the future in Hester’s life.

This book was a real page turner for me.  There was so much mystery and trying to figure out all the parts of the story and just how the past and the present were going to come together was intense and intriguing.  I thought that Hester was a very sympathetic character and I really felt her emotions right along with her.  Also, it was different to see 2 main characters who are so intertwined, yet they never meet once in the book because one is in the present and one is in the past.  That was a very unique aspect of this book. 

Honestly, there is only one thing that bothered me about this book and that is the epilogue.  While I enjoyed seeing that final little scene with Syrenka, what I really wanted to see is the conversation between Hester and Peter that had to follow his discovery of her or maybe even a glimpse of Hester in the really near future as a normal, happy girl.  I sort of felt like I was left hanging a little too much as far as the present goes.  Now, I’m all for letting the book take its course in the reader’s imagination, but I was left wanting something else and that is not a good feeling after a book this intense, especially the climax and denouement on this book!  Wow!  It was intense and I felt like I needed a little more debriefing before the book ended. ::shrugs::
Don’t let that fact deter you from reading this book, however!  Oh no!  This book was a well-written and well-crafted story that still has me thinking about it.  It is a very unique plot and it interweaves a lot of history and folklore into a magnificent plot.  It was a very refreshing read for me.

The Soundtrack

This soundtrack stuff is starting to get out of hand, but what are you gonna do?  So here are some songs that I like with this book.

Bombay Sapphires by Stevie Nicks

Sealwoman/Yundah by Mary Mclaughlin

Even though this story is not Celtic, per se, this song just seems to capture the spirit of the book.

Song to the Siren by Sinead O’Connor

In the Deep by Bird York

Ocean Night Song by Laura Veirs

Bright Glittering Gifts by Laura Veirs

Storm by Lifehouse

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is A-.  Honestly, it was a solid A until I hit that epilogue wishing for a little bit more.  Regardless, this book was a great read that kept me intrigued and turning the pages.  The bonus factor is that I don’t have “Under the Sea” stuck in my head for 4 days after reading it.  Score!

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read and review this book.  I received nothing in exchange for my honest review, not even a hot ghost guy.

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