Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Shorts

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
published 9/4/12
304 pages

Synopsis from publisher:
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.

My thoughts:

Lesson of the day - apparently there is a whole sub-genre of YA mermaid fiction. I'm not sure why I'm so surprised by this. Also, according to reviews online, Elizabeth Fama is one of the best authors in the category, so take from that what you will.

I thought this novel was a fun read - quick and entertaining for the most part. It did seem incredibly formulaic - I haven't read any other novels in this genre, but I could tell you almost exactly what was going to happen next at every step along the way. I appreciated that Hester seemed to have a better head on her shoulders than many heroines of YA novels these days, and the ending did bring a fair amount of satisfaction.

Finished: 9/6/12
Source: review copy from publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating: PG-13 for scary situations, violence, and adult themes
My rating: 6/10

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
by Benjamin Franklin
published 1793


(kinda self-explanatory, right?)

My thoughts:

I'm pretty sure I've already read part of this - in junior high or high school, I know we read the section where Franklin talks about his project of Moral Perfection. I'm fairly certain I got more out of the reading this time around.

Franklin is awfully proud of himself, and yet manages not to come across as a pompous jerk. I was quite surprised to learn of everything we have to thank him for - he started the first public library in the US! He made me feel like a horrible underachiever, but I have a feeling he makes most people feel that way. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Franklin's voice. I did lose interest a bit toward the end, mostly as Franklin became more and more involved in politics. I found it to be overall quite a fascinating read, and I'm glad I picked it up.

Finished: 9/26/12
Source: Des Moines public library
MPAA rating: G
My rating: 7/10

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory
published 8/14/12
432 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.

My thoughts:

Philippa Gregory novels are a bit like the General Hospital of historical fiction - over the top, sensational, exaggerated, and yet so much fun to read. They are a guilty pleasure to be sure, and this latest was everything I'd hoped it would be.

Gregory indicates in her afterword that Elizabeth Woodville is her favorite character in this story of the War of the Roses, and I think you can tell - even though Anne is her heroine, I had the feeling that she just didn't like her that well. Anne and Isabel have a quintessential Gregory sister relationship - first loving, then feuding, and nearly everywhere in between. This is not the type of historical fiction that makes you look at events in a new and different way, but it's great at what it's supposed to be - a quick, fun read to keep up busy as the weather gets colder.

FInished: 10/2/12
Source: review copy from publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating: PG-13 - adult situations and violence, but nothing too explicit
My rating: 7/10


Aarti said...

YA mermaid fiction an actual genre?! I find that bizarre, too. But, like you, am not super surprised.

Becca Lostinbooks said...

Great reviews! Philippa Gregory is one of my favorites. I have yet to read a mermaid book but I have seen a lot lately.