Monstrous Beauty

Monstrous Beauty

3.64 (4,993 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Hardback | 295 pages
  • 149 x 216 x 26mm | 399g
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • 0374373663
  • 9780374373665
  • 395,989

Review quote

"History buffs, fantasy lovers, and mystery fans will all find something to please them in this engrossing story..."--"School Library Journal" "horror and humanity are adroitly handled..."--"Publishers Weekly" ."..this stylish fantasy mesmerizes."--"Kirkus"
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About Elizabeth Fama

Elizabeth Fama is the author of "Overboard," an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, which appeared on five state lists. She lives with her family in Chicago, Illinois.
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Rating details

4,993 ratings
3.64 out of 5 stars
5 24% (1,219)
4 33% (1,669)
3 28% (1,385)
2 10% (515)
1 4% (205)

Our customer reviews

I have been hearing phenomenal things about this book from my friend Angel at Mermaid Visions for over year now. I've been fairly hesitant with mermaid books because I'm very picky with them for some reason, but I had heard this one was gorgeous and would sweep me off my feet. Big, fat checkmark for that recommendation. Monstrous Beauty was everything I was promised it would be and more- that's how special it was. I've read books about friendly mermaids and killer mermaids, forbidden love, and curses but somehow this one still manages to stand out on its own. Also, totally heartbreaking (in a good, moving way). REASONS TO READ: 1. Gorgeous, descriptive writing: Elizabeth Fama is extremely talented when it comes to writing; there's something spellbinding about it, where you lose yourself in the ebb and flow of her words. Everything felt so lifelike and real, the writing positively stole my breath away. Her descriptions brought the story to life and drew you in easily to the story. 2. Intoxicating mythology: This was easily my favourite part of the book. I couldn't get enough of learning more about Syrenka and the world she came from. There is some much tragedy to it, but it felt so rich and just FULL. I also enjoyed the way Ezra found himself so enthralled by studying mermaids, and yet throughout the book they still retained their mystery. 3. A curse that can't be undone? I love good mystery plots. Just love it. So watching Hester attempt to unravel her past, her family's curse, and discover what happened to Syrenka and Ezra.. well, what could be better? These pages are just bursting with excitement on every page, and the way past events start to culminate just before they blow up...? I don't think my heart can beat much faster. Interestingly enough though, I didn't find myself nearly as interested in Hester as I did Syrenka. I'm not sure if her personality just didn't quite relate to me as well, or if I just found her less exciting and mysterious... but I found myself craving more and more for the past story than the current timeline. And I wasn't sold on Hester's romance, completely. It was just kind of iffy for me, again because I think I preferred Syrenka's story. Thoughts on the audio: Lovely, lovely, lovely. The narrator had an older voice, but that worked well for Hester's character. And the slight accent made the narration melodic. Katherine Kellgren did a wonderful job with enthusiasm and excitement and the audio never felt boring- she really captured the atmosphere of the scenes very well. Audio CDs received from Macmillan Audio for my honest review; no other compensation was more
by Brenna Staats
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)show more
by Denee
Early last month I finally got around to reading the ARC of Monstrous Beauty and the whole time I was reading it I was cursing myself for not reading it sooner. Then again in the beginning I was a bit skeptical about the whole mermaid premise because it seems to be the new thing for YA novels just like Twilight and other vampire/werewolf novels were the thing to be a few years back. The great thing that happened was that I was completely wrong about this book because it was actually very well written and even more surprising to me was that the book was a little more complex than I expected. At first I had a bit of a hard time getting into the novel because of Hester. I wasn't overly fond of her character in the beginning mostly because she acted a bit like a school marm at first and I have a strong dislike for the name Hester. Petty, I know but every reader has their quirks. However, the more I read on the more I became fascinated with Syrenka, Ezra and Hester and how their stories intertwined. The way that the author wrote the book in alternating points of view worked extremely well because when the points of view shifted more and more of the story became clear. I have to say though that Syrenka (and boy do I love that name) was my favourite character. There was just something about her that made me really like her. I really enjoyed the fact that Hester had to solve the mystery surrounding Syrenka, Ezra and herself and why she was able to see things that others couldn't. There was a darker under current to the book than I expected but it worked out well. I also liked seeing Hester grow as a character because in the beginning I wasn't sure of what to make of her. If you're looking for a book with some good plot twists, great characters and mermaids this one should probably be on your list of books to read. Every chapter revealed something new and unexpected. The book was so well written I can't help but wish this were a series. I do have to warn you though if you're looking for a light and fluffy mermaid book than this one will surprise you with how dark it is. I loved that the book had a lot of substance to it and that it wasn't a fluffy read. I think there should be more books like this so if you love YA reads check this one out! I can't wait to read more by this author. This is definetly one of the best books I've read this year. * I received a free copy of this book from the published via NetGalley in exchange for my free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own and I was not compensated in any more
by Kimberly Roy
Read complete review (with memes) here: The mermaid Syrenka has loved before and only managed to find pain. But in the year 1872 she can't help but fall in love again, very hard, this time for Ezra, a very hadsome young marine biology student, who's fascinated by every sea creature. Needless to say, he's completely enchanted by her. They are quite happy for a while... but they could never imagine that their 'forbidden' romance would bring a lot of pain and suffering -to themselves and others- for years and years to come. It's 2002 and seventeen-year-old Hester has just met a very strange, yet very charming man inside a cave by the beach. She is stragenly drawn to him, and can't help but come back and just be close to him. She's falling in love... and it's the worst thing she could ever do. Hester has promised herself to never fall in love. Ever since she was just a kid she's been hearing stories about the women in her family, who always seemed to die just after giving birth to their daughters. Including her mother. So, just to be safe, she decides to not love at all. But no doctor could ever find out what really happened to those women. Not even the modern medicine can tell. Is it some kind of genetic condition? Or could it be something more dangerous, like a curse? When she mentions the mysterious deaths to the guy from the cave, he suggests she looks deeper into it. And when Hester starts to investigate, she discovers much more than she could ever expect to find. Is teh crypt where her ancestors are buried really haunted? Who is the little girl who used to play with her at the cemetery that no else can see but her? And why is it that everything always leads her back to the ocean? Are the myths of sea creatures really myths? Gods. So much love, so much tragedy, so much sadness, violence and wasted lives. This book will break your heart and make you cry a freaking river. But you'll love it anyway. Elizabeth Fama is a complete genious. Her writing is perfectly fluid, clearly well planned and well thought of, her characters are very alive and almost spill out of the pages. It is, I daresay, an almost perfect tale. It has it all. Drama, tragedy, romance, true love, action, violence, magic, mystery and paranormal beings. And it all fits superbly. I can't say I was terribly excited about starting this book. I didn't care much about the other mermaid books I've read recently (found them to be very childish, weak or even downright mediocre...), but, oh, boy. Was I surprised by Monstrous Beauty!!! It blew my mind. I just couldn't stop reading it. I could barely blink! (even bloodshot eyes are totally worth it, I promise!). It's not everyday I give a book 5 stars, so that alone should tell you how much I loved it. Hester was so strong, so smart and likeable! I usually find main heroines annoying, but this one was just absolutely incredible. Ezra was definitely charming, if quite pitiable. He deserved so much more of life... Syrenka was one of the most fascinating characters I've ever read about. I really wanted her to find the happiness she had been looking for her very long life. Even if she did some very gruesome things while trying to achieve it. And the secondary characters were all captivating in their own ways. Peter, Sam, the priest, Nellie... they were all very complex, even if they had short appearances. Oh, and the double POVs were awesome. There was nothing I didn't like in this book, except that it was too short. LOL. I wanted to keep on reading it forever. ;) Even if it did make me cry quite a bit. If you like tales of true love with tons of mystery, drama and quite a bit of action and adventure thrown in the mix, you'll love Mostrous Beauty just like I did, especially if you're not a fan of mermaid books, like I was. And you'll follow my example and pre-order it right away, because it's so freaking good you have to have it. (My beautiful precioussssssss must be on its way. *-*). * I'm so happy I received an eARC for this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*show more
by Karla Vollkopf
Monstrous Beauty was two stories twisted together, blending into the ultimate paranormal mystery. The story was told in two parts: (1) the past - the 1870s when Syrenka and Ezra crossed paths and (2) the present when Hester, the last of a line of cursed women, lived and dealt with her genetic defect. Syrenka was a gorgeous, deadly and passionate mermaid. When she found Ezra, she was careful and a bit distant with him at first, not wanting to endanger him and lose him. But as they spent more and more time together, the attraction the two felt got stronger. It was so strong that you could feel it coming off in waves. She left her world behind to join Ezra on land. But her stay on land was far from easy. I enjoyed reading about Syrenka and Ezra. They were so inlove and passionate. I love Fama's twist on the usual mermaid mythology. Instead of tails with scales, her mermaids had scutes. They had sharp wrist fins and wide eyes with horizontal pupils in the middle. Their magic was one of the most practical and most terrifying types, similar to the principles of alchemy. The underwater world of Monstrous Beauty was filled with wonder, loss and danger - one that I enjoyed exploring. Hester was convinced that love and marriage would only bring her suffering and loss. Her mother, her grandmother and every woman in her family died after giving birth. She had decided to remain single for the rest of her life, evading certain death. But everything changed when she met Ezra, a mysterious, old-fashioned and intellectual guy who can banter with her, annoys her and attracts her at the same time. She didn't expect to get close to Ezra, as well as to try to solve her family's curse with his help. I really like how she fell for Ezra, no matter how much she tried to harden her heart. But she didn't fall for him right away. At first, she was cautious and suspicious of him. But she felt a strong, unexplainable pull toward him. Monstrous Beauty went beyond my expectations. The mysterious, almost sinister vibe of the novel was so strong that it wrapped around me and held me captive. As Hester tried to fill the blanks with clues and answers, she discovered that her town was not as simple as it was. In fact, it was filled with hidden mystery, intrigue, scandals and magic. Everything about the past and the present was connected. I couldn't stop reading as Hester unearthed the covered-up and almost forgotten truth of her family. Monstrous Beauty had the mysterious, magical, intriguing and surprising elements of Beautiful Creatures. Unputdownable, dark, tragic, fierce, sensual and spellbinding, Monstrous Beauty will appeal to older readers of paranormal, romance, fantasy and historical. I highly recommend this!show more
by Precious
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