Archive for Two Stars
MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama Book Review
Publication Date: September 4th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Rating: – Poor
Book Summary: 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.
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama Book Review Overview:
- Lack of suspense due to the alternating timelines
- Unrelatable protagonist
- Interesting premise but failed to grab me overall
MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama is a genre-bending mix of historical, paranormal, and fantastical centered around hauntings and mermaids. Hester is determined to figure out the cause of a century-old curse that causes the women in her family to die after childbirth. By digging through the past, Hester uncovers secrets and mysteries that have long been forgotten.
First of all, I felt a lack of connection between myself as a reader and Hester. Maybe she’s just a bit mature for her age, I don’t know. I do know that I am well past the targeted audience for MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama and I couldn’t quite relate to Hester’s intense worry about not ever becoming a mother. Hester prevents herself from ever getting too close to any guy because she knows that in the future, giving birth to a child means her premature death. Um, okay, but do you really worry about all this while still in high school? Falling in love with someone in high school doesn’t mean you’re going to get hitched and have a baby… And if Hester didn’t want to ever risk having a baby in the future, there are modern alternatives such as surrogate mothers and adoption. But let’s not get carried away…
Initially, I loved the alternating timelines between the present and the past, but as the plot moved along in MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama, the alternating timelines were detrimental to my enjoyment. For the most part, the alternating timelines ruined any surprises for the reader along the way. Because I knew what happened in the 19th century, I spent the majority of the book waiting for Hester to just figure it all out already. The clues are laid out for the reader, so instead of discovering something new along with Hester, the reader has to impatiently wait for Hester to catch up (which only happens at the end of the book, go figure). It made reading the chapter set in the 19th century fascinating, but the chapters in present day a bit on the dull side.
The love connection between Ezra and Hester just didn’t work for me. I didn’t feel any connection between them. It was a little disappointing that there was so much emphasis on the romance between the two of them when it really wasn’t a spark. Don’t read MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama if you expect some heavy romance.
Fama creates an interesting world regarding the mermaids, but I think it could have used a little more development. This is a serious mermaid book, and I was quite lost in all the folklore.
Unfortunately, MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama was just not the book for me. The fantastical and paranormal elements just did not work to my liking.
Why I’m Biased: My best friend,Caitlin, started reading Monstrous Beauty before I had a chance to pick it up. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get into it either. I went into Monstrous Beauty with a bit of negativity, I guess. Also, the author’s blog post on ARCs doesn’t really settle well with me either (post has been removed).
Other Book Reviews:
The Blair Book Project
About the Author
Elizabeth Fama is the author of Monstrous Beauty (FSG 2012), and Overboard (Cricket Books 2002), an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.
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WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER by Jenny Han Book Review
Series: Summer, #3
Publication Date: April 26th 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Rating: – Poor |
Book Summary: It’s been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college– only, their relationship hasn’t exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It’s time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever.
We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han Book Review Overview:
- The love triangle still continues to be a dilemma; it gets worse
- Lacking character development; I still don’t like Belly
- On the bright side, the ending was surprisingly to my liking
Surprisingly, WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER by Jenny Han ended to my liking. Unfortunately, the journey to the end was a painful experience for me. While WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER ties up with a satisfying conclusion, too many elements in the book prevented me from enjoying the reading experience.
At the beginning of the novel, I thought that Belly had finally grown up during the last two years. I felt myself starting to like this college-aged Belly. I felt like she finally matured a little and I could see myself relating to her college experiences.
But just when I was finally starting to like her, Belly makes a really dumb decision. Because the whole book revolves around this decision, it made WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER by Jenny Han so frustrating to read. It was frustrating to me that Belly couldn’t see why her decision was problematic. It was annoying that instead of siding with the protagonist, I was agreeing along with her parents.
It’s tough to read a book where the protagonist annoys you the entire time. I questioned myself several times as I read: why am I doing this to myself? But I’m always determined to finish a book once I’ve started, so I pushed forward until the end. By the end of the book, I really can’t say if Belly went through any character growth. My love for her as a character is still non-existent.
Furthermore, the love triangle continued to be problematic for me in WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER by Jenny Han. I think that Belly continues to be selfish in choosing to string along both Conrad and Jeremiah. It pains me to think that Belly has torn apart the relationship between the two brothers. Honestly, I just don’t think Belly is worth all the hassle (the boys would, of course, argue otherwise).
WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER by Jenny Han at least ends on a sweet note, but overall, the memory of the series as a whole leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is another protagonist that I dislike as much as Belly. On the bright side, I still adore Jenny Han’s writing. Despite her inability to get me to like Belly, I love her writing style and I will continue to pick up her books in the hopes that she will write a protagonist that is more to my tastes.
About the Author
Jenny Han is the author of Shug, The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, and We’ll Always Have Summer. She is also the author of the chapter book Clara Lee and The Apple Pie Dream. A former children’s bookseller, she earned her MFA in creative writing at the New School. She works as a YA librarian at a private school on the Upper West Side.
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HAZEL by Julie Hearn Book Review
Series: Ivy, #2
Publication Date: November 10th 2009 by Atheneum
Rating: – Poor
Book Summary: Sweet but dull – that’s how life has always been for Hazel Louise Mull-Dare. With money pouring in from the family’s Caribbean sugar plantation, a father who spoils her rotten, and no pressure to excel in anything whatsoever, her future is looking as prim and proper as one of her hats. But on the day of the Epsom Derby – June 4th, 1913 – everything changes. A woman in a dark coat steps out in front of the King’s horse, dying days later from her injuries. Who was she and why did she do it? Hazel is determined to find out. But finding out leads her into worse trouble than she could ever have imagined. It leads to banishment. To secrets that have festered, and a shame that lingers on. To madness and misunderstanding in the place where sugar cane grows. Sweet but dull – that’s how life used to be for Hazel Louise Mull-Dare. Not any more.
Hazel by Julie Hearn Book Review Overview:
- Disjointed plot that felt like reading two separate books
- Lack of suspense
- Unrelatable main character
Sweet and dull is not only how I would describe the protagonist’s life, but also how I would describe the entirety of HAZEL by Julie Hearn. The novel as a whole felt too disjointed – the first and the second halves of HAZEL by Julie Hearn are so different that it felt like two separate books.
HAZEL by Julie Hearn is technically a sequel to Ivy by Julie Hearn. In HAZEL, the protagonist is Ivy’s daughter. HAZEL by Julie Hearn is more like a companion novel than a direct sequel because it can stand alone on its own. The only advantage of reading Ivy beforehand is a better understanding of Hazel’s mother.
Nothing bothers me more than a naive protagonist. I love my characters to be intelligent and independent. They don’t have to be a know-it-all (ahem, Hermione), but I’d like them to have a decent head on her shoulders. Hazel is unfortunately not one of those heroines. Admittedly, she is barely thirteen at the beginning of the novel, and she has very much to learn. She lives a sheltered life and her education as a gentleman’s daughter is pretty limited. Hazel’s naivete causes her to be easily manipulated by others.
My problem with HAZEL by Julie Hearn is also the lack of suspense. Hearn has the habit oftelling readers what is about to happen instead of just letting the reader figure it out themselves. This becomes even more problematic for me, because the things that Hearn tells readers are quite blatantly obvious to begin with.
The build-up of the plot in HAZEL by Julie Hearn is a slow build. Hazel won’t be sailing for the Caribbean until more than halfway through the novel. If historical novels aren’t your thing (and even if they are…) this probably won’t be the book for you if you cannot take a slow plot.
Furthermore, HAZEL by Julie Hearn felt too disjointed. When I was reaching the conclusion of HAZEL by Julie Hearn, it was almost hard for me to believe that the first and second parts of the novel are all from the same book. It was as if there were too separate plots, and it just wasn’t threaded well together seamlessly. HAZEL by Julie Hearn does pick up in the second half of the book with the introduction of the family mystery
Upon further contemplation of the novel, it seems like the most important issue at hand, women’s rights, were simply brushed aside once more. Hazel doesn’t really ever get to learn the importance of women’s votes. Her “fight” for the suffragettes only caused her banishment from her home and humiliation. She still has a limited understanding of what it means for a woman to be able to vote due to the fact that her information came from someone who intended to betray her.
Overall, HAZEL by Julie Hearn was just not the book for me. I would probably only recommend this to those who like historical novels. If historical is definitely not your tea, then give this one a pass.
About the Author
Julie Hearn used to be a journalist. Julie lives in Oxfordshire where she writes full time (most mornings anyway) in a pink and green office in her garden.
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