Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Summer Challenge: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (Paranormal)

This book has easily made a place on my (lengthy) favorites list! I had seen it around, mostly on Goodreads, for a couple of weeks before finding it on Listen Up! Vermont. Interested, I clicked on the description, only to find that the narrator was Katherine Kellgren, my favorite audiobook narrator who reads the Bloody Jack series.

12971662

Series: None!

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery

Rating: 5 stars!

Description:

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.

Book Review:

This book has easily made a place on my (lengthy) favorites list! I had seen it around, mostly on Goodreads, for a couple of weeks before finding it on Listen Up! Vermont. Interested, I clicked on the description, only to find that the narrator was Katherine Kellgren, my favorite audiobook narrator who reads the Bloody Jack series. I screamed quite loudly and immediately borrowed and downloaded the book. It did not disappoint!

I adored the combination of genres in Monstrous Beauty: mermaids, historical fiction, family curses, ghosts, reincarnation, souls, murder mystery, creepy graveyards thievery, and more! It is the perfect amount of paranormal, mystery, and romance to suit any young adult taste! It has a captivating, detailed plot, traveling back and forth in time to the people killed in the mass murder-suicide in 1872, and Hester, the girl living in the present who slowly unravels the truth behind this mystery and the seemingly unconnected curse on her family. There is never a slow moment in this book, and the characters are vivid and full of depth. I loved how Hester worked at Plimoth Plantation, and we got to read a bit about how an interpreter experiences the “step back in time” to 1627, as well as reading about 1872 and modern day, all in the same book (without actual time travel)!

What did surprise me was the graphic violent scenes depicted, something I wasn’t expecting from this book. Definitely not suitable for under age 14, I’d say. One thing that I have been wondering about is the reason for the title Monstrous Beauty, because it doesn’t completely fit with the plot, and gave me a different expectation than the reality of the story (the actual story was much better).

If you have already read the book, or don’t mind some vague spoilers, I recommend this post from The Midnight Garden blog, which is a pictographic tour of the world of Monstrous Beauty, and is fascinating to see the real-life inspiration behind the book.

Although I appreciated the unusual young adult stand-alone novel, I am hungry for more, and have been considering reading Elizabeth Fama’s Plus One, which has a very different theme than Monstrous Beauty, leaning toward dystopia rather than paranormal.

Genre Review: Paranormal

I am normally not a fan of the paranormal genre, finding vampires and werewolves not at all to my liking, especially since the growth in popularity of this genre since Twilight was published (similar to how I don’t like the dystopia genre as much anymore since it became popular after The Hunger Games series was released). I realize that this book is cheating a little in my Genre Challenge because it is a mix of so many I already know I love, with strong hints of fantasy and historical. However, I think I will be giving this genre a little more credit in the future since my wonderful experience with Monstrous Beauty, and be enjoying more of its charms as well — as long as it doesn’t include vampires and werewolves (but mermaids and ghosts are fine)!

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4 comments on “Gwen’s Summer Challenge: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama (Paranormal)

  1. Elizabeth Fama
    July 9, 2014

    I think authors aren’t supposed to comment on blog posts, but this review was so fun to read, and I love it that you’re sisters with your own library, so I can’t resist! Also, ten points for spelling Plimoth Plantation right, even though you listened to this in audiobook form, and for correctly identifying the 1627 and 1872 dates. You’re such a careful reader! :)

    • gwenkate
      July 10, 2014

      Thank you so much for your comment! You have no idea how honored I am! And I admit that I did look up how to spell Plimoth Plantation and the dates – I like to do my research before writing reviews :-)
      ~Gwen

  2. Pingback: Gwen & Kate’s 1 Year Anniversary! | Gwen & Kate's Library

  3. gwenkate
    October 3, 2014

    New Update: Elizabeth Fama recently provided the link to her free short story companion to Monstrous Beauty on Goodreads, called Men Who Wish to Drown. Check it out! http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/08/men-who-wish-to-drown

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