Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mini-Reviews: London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning, Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, and The Next Together by Lauren James


Title: London Belongs to Us

Author: Sarra Manning

Rating: 4 Stars

I didn't expect to love this book as much as I did, but I should have known better because Sarra Manning. This entire book is a crazy roller coaster of an adventure as our heroine, Sunny, finds out that her boyfriend has another girlfriend from his previous school and has been two-timing her for the entire duration of their "relationship." Sunny starts off wanting to forgive him, but as she searches London for him, she begins to realize that she deserves a lot better. The plot doesn't seem all that revolutionary, but the people Sunny meets on her night--girls who encourage her to stand up for herself, friends who tell her that self care is not selfish, buddies who support her for who she really is, and even other girlfriends who prove that women support each other instead of putting each other down--make this a wonderful story. I love these types of strong friendships and this book passes the Bechdel test ten times over. It also has so many meaningful conversations about class, privilege, and race. Just... I love Sarra Manning. Can every YA book be this nuanced and yet still so much fun?

Title: Monstrous Beauty

Author: Elizabeth Fama

Rating: 2 Stars

Oh, this book had so much potential. I want to start by saying that, whatever my reservations with this story, I did really love the mermaid lore. Fama's mermaids are deadly and savage and I loved them. However, the story, which alternates between present-day where Hester, a young teenager, begins to investigate her family history where every woman has passed away after giving birth, and between a time years ago when Syrenka, a mermaid, fell in love with a human, Ezra, and left the ocean to be with him, leaves a lot to be desired. 

Syrenka's story is vastly more interesting than that of Hester's. For one, Hester has sworn off of dating because she doesn't want to end up like her mother and grandmother before her, which is rather faulty logic because dating someone very rarely equates automatically having a child with them. What's more, Hester's storyline undergoes some vast changes, with some rather late insta-love happening and weird details seemingly explained away such as her absentee parents and her far-too-understanding-best-friend Peter. It just never came together for me and I wasn't able to love Hester as a heroine, either.

Syrenka, though, I adored. Her story is expertly told but the mystery plaguing the novel and subsequent solution is all a little too flimsy for my liking. I'm not one for strange supernatural tales, so perhaps this is just a case of "me-not-you", but Monstrous Beauty is a novel I'd skip, fascinating folk lore and all. Take my advice and read Fama's sophomore novel instead: it's brilliant.

Title: The Next Together

Author: Lauren James

Rating: 3 Stars

I had heard a lot of praise for this novel before launching into it, but it wound up falling seriously short for me. I really love the premise of this one--a couple, separated by circumstances in every generation but they keep managing to find each other again in their next life. It's done quite well, too, with James slipping between eras seamlessly as she makes us swoon for this couple. But, where the issue crept up for me was in the final third of the novel. Our main era, essentially present-day-ish, features Katherine and Matthew as high school students. As we learn how they fell in love in previous lives, present-day Katherine and Matthew are investigating their aunt and uncle, respectively, who were married and then labeled as terrorists. Of course, they realize that they are their reincarnations but their love story, based completely upon their recollections of past lives, is flimsy at best. I couldn't root for present-day Katherine and Matthew, despite loving all of their past incarnations.

What's more, the explanations for how Katherine and Matthew remember their past is essentially non-existent. The book is written in such a way that it seems as if there is some higher time-traveling power that is watching over Katherine and Matthew and reincarnating them to save the world, for some purpose or the other. But, none of this is ever explained. I suppose I have to pick up the sequel, but I'm so confused and rather irritated by the lack of answers that I won't be launching into the companion novel. The Next Together is well-written and I'm impressed by the multiple historical fiction love stories bound together in this one, but the ending doesn't pull off this intriguing premise as much as it promises to and, by the end, I was only left disappointed.

10 comments:

  1. I'll have to look into London Belongs to Us. I listened to Monstrous Beauty a couple of years back and I think the audio performance enhanced the story for me. I don't remember any of the characters being particularly likeable, though, and I don't think I was happy with how things all turned out. I'm not one for time-traveling stories, so I would skip The Next Together. Great reviews, Keertana! :)

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  2. The first one looks good. The last one the library has

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  3. Woooaaahhh, so many books! The only one I've heard of is Monstrous Beauty, which I remember eyeballing years ago, but I never read it. I guess I'm glad I didn't? I'd probably feel a little disinterested in one character or the other. I'm glad you liked the first book of this post! Even if you weren't expecting too - that's the best. :D Wonderful reviews, Keertana!

    Have a fantastic week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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  4. I didn't have much luck with Monstrous Beauty as well when I read it years ago so I didn't continue with the series. I'm not a mermaid/mer creatures fan, though so that could be a contributing factor why I had a tough time.

    Ahh Sarra Manning. I wish I can say I had a great experience with her books but sadly, I barely finished the first from her very old series (the title is not coming to me right now). I'm curious about The Next Together, though. I saw this book over at Maja's blog and remembered how much she enjoyed it. :D

    Thanks for the brilliant reviews, hun.

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  5. I hardly ever read novels featuring mermaids because I'm just not a fan of them as creatures but I loved Monstrous Beauty. I have to agree with you though on Syrenka's story being much more interesting.

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  6. Nice, mixed batch! Sorry you didn't care for Monstrous Beauty. London Belongs to Us sounds really fun though. I like books set in other countries. :)

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  7. Great minis for these! Sorry only the first one was truly wonderful but glad you were able to like the last one. I think I remember reading Monstrous Beauty and thinking it was just plain weird LOL!

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  8. I'm sorry the Next Together was a disappointment. It sounds like it has so much potential. I also agree with you about Fama's mermaids. I think that is why I liked it more than you did, I loved her lore and that made the book more for me. I do think I need to check out London. Hm... library? Will have to see if they have it.

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  9. I thought the premise of the next together was brilliant but it didnt work for me, either. For me it was a failure to connect to the characters in a meaningful way and I also do not share the same sense of humour, haha, so a lot of the attempts at humour in the book just fell flat for me.

    I am thinking I should try out the Sarra Manning, though. I actually got it out from the library and returned it unread (obviously did not prioritise even opening it up!).

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  10. I haven’t read any of these books, though I have London Belongs to Us on my tbr-list. It’s been ages since I’ve read a Sarra Manning’s book; I definitely need to fix it. Thanks for reminding about Fama’s Plus One. After your review I’ve checked out the audiobook and discovered that it narrated by Julia Whelan (I love her performance), so it looks like I’ll be listening to it soon. I’ll pass The Next Together, it doesn’t sound like my kind of book. Lovely mini-reviews!

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