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review 2019-04-26 18:35
Monstrous Beauty / Elizabeth Fama
Monstrous Beauty - Elizabeth Fama

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.


Once again, a good grounding in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is an excellent idea for getting the most out of this tale. But I’m sure you can enjoy it even if you’ve never encountered the fairy tale.

In this one, the mermaid gets both her legs and her man, but her life becomes entwined with the Plymouth Colony population in ways that she would never have dreamed. It falls to Hester Goodwin, a young woman working as a Plymouth reenactor at a historic site, to figure out the various aspects of the story and set things straight. Hopefully, she will straighten out her own life during the process.

I love a story that involves genealogical research, so that predisposed me to like this one. I also enjoyed the switching between time periods, with Ezra and Sarah/Syrenka alternating with Hester. Sometimes that kind of alternation is confusing, but I felt this was well done. May I also say that I hope it is not nearly as easy to steal a Special Collections book as it is depicted in this tale.

Once again, I will say that if you are looking for a traditional HEA ending, this may not be the book for you. Quite in keeping with Andersen, really. The ending is definitely hopeful, so you can add your own imaginary HEA should you choose to--it is strongly hinted at. 

Part of my 2019 MerMay project.

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review 2019-04-26 18:21
Fear the Drowning Deep / Sarah Glenn Marsh
Fear the Drowning Deep - Sarah Glenn Marsh

Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.


Lots of details in this YA novel are just my thing--a young woman apprenticed to a “witch,” mysterious goings-on, an unusual young man washed up from the sea, plus a wonderful setting, the Isle of Man.

Of course, the witch is an odd elderly woman, despised by the town, but in reality a good friend for young Bridey. And Bridey is different from her neighbours too, so its a lesson about being different successfully.

It’s also about choosing for the future--at the book’s beginning, Bridey wants nothing more than to get as far away from the sea as she possibly can. It is a major act of bravery that takes her to the shore to rescue the young man whom she christens Finn. Will she choose her village or the world? Will she choose Finn over the young man who has been her friend since childhood? Can she figure out what is luring away & killing the people of the village?

This is not a traditional HEA ending, so if you require that, put this book back on the shelf. As it happens, I love an ambiguous ending, so this novel suited me down to the ground. Since I can’t swim and dread deep water, I also had that link with Bridey--I could really identify with her fears.

No merpeople in this one, but since Finn is a mysterious man from the sea, I am still including it as part of my 2019 MerMay project.

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text 2019-04-25 19:44
Reading progress update: I've read 144 out of 301 pages.
Fear the Drowning Deep - Sarah Glenn Marsh


Oh, I'm enjoying this one. Bridey is a wonderful young woman and I like her mysterious man washed up from the sea. Now what is he exactly? Just a young man or something more interesting?

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review 2019-04-23 23:39
Sea Witch / Sarah Henning
Sea Witch - Sarah Henning

Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch. 

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.


Make sure you have familiarized yourself with Hans Christian Andersen’s version of The Little Mermaid before you read Sea Witch. This is a prequel, telling the story of how the Sea Witch came to exist.

She’s Evie, not Ursula, in this version and she’s far more complex than a Disney villain. We meet her as a young woman, learning her place in the world and trying to cover up her magical leanings in a society where it isn’t welcome. Evie’s neighbours have noticed her close friendship with their Crown Prince Nicholas--there is both jealousy and a desire to put her in her (much lower) place. Like any good fairy story, there are complex issues at play.

It is also a story about personal relationships--how much do we actually know about the people around us, those whom we consider to be friends? If they aren’t true friends, how much damage can they do to us? How much do we manipulate and allow others to manipulate us?

A very well written embroidery on the original Andersen tale. Read as part of my 2019 MerMay project.

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review 2019-04-23 23:26
Into the Drowning Deep / Mira Grant
Into the Drowning Deep - Mira Grant

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.


I’ve rated this book highly for a horror novel--they’re not usually my jam. But I know that Mira Grant is a pseudonym for one of my favourite authors, Seanan McGuire, and I also knew going in that it featured mermaids. I hadn’t realized quite how loomingly horrific it would be, nor how much blood & gore would be splashed about. However, the messiness of the action was justified by the nature of the mermaids and, although I had to read during daylight hours only, I enjoyed the mysterious creatures and their almost-victims.

I enjoyed the scientific nature of this sea excursion--plenty of scientists who didn’t believe in the existence of mermaids, but were willing to go along to pursue their own research. Everyone with their own scientific or political axe to grind, trying to use the expedition to their advantage. Somehow, everyone manages to overlook the fact that the first ship sent was discovered, empty of humans, but with horrific video footage. Of course, the video is deemed to be fiction or a hoax, and even those who believe what they saw are somehow talked into coming along on this venture.

I thought that the name of the deep sea rover, The Minnow, was fabulous--evoking Gilligan’s Island, with the lost ship, being stranded, and having to improvise. The notion that a 3 hour tour would turn into a life-changing event. 

These mermaids are very different from those in McGuire’s October Daye series, where they are a branch of the Fae. Here they are terrifying predators, spreading fear and death throughout the ship.

Read as part of my 2019 MerMay project. 

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