That Time I Joined The Circus by J.J. Howard: review

That Time I Joined the CircusThat Time I Joined The Circus by J.J. Howard
Stand Alone
My Rating: 
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic
Publisher: Point
Release Date: April 1st 2013
Synopsis: Lexi Ryan just ran away to join the circus, but not on purpose.

A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York City girl, Lexi is on her own. After making a huge mistake–and facing a terrible tragedy–Lexi has no choice but to track down her long-absent mother. Rumor has it that Lexi’s mom is somewhere in Florida with a traveling circus.

When Lexi arrives at her new, three-ring reality, her mom isn’t there . . . but her destiny might be. Surrounded by tigers, elephants, and trapeze artists, Lexi finds some surprising friends and an even more surprising chance at true love. She even lucks into a spot as the circus’s fortune teller, reading tarot cards and making predictions.

But then Lexi’s ex-best friend from home shows up, and suddenly it’s Lexi’s own future that’s thrown into question.

With humor, wisdom, and a dazzlingly fresh voice, this debut reminds us of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, and the importance of an excellent playlist.

My Thoughts:

I can’t help but sort of love this novel. Sure, it’s flawed and can be a bit ridiculous at times but there is just something so charming about That Time I Joined the Circus that literally makes me utterly unable to dislike it.

Things I Liked: Okay, awhile I do wish there was more of this:

…. I did like the circus element of the story. The circus was more of the background than the main part of the story, but still. I love me some circus-y fun.

The protagonist, Lexi, is childish but she does have a very self-deprecating, slightly snarky voice that will make a person laugh more than a few times. I could also relate to her and her feelings of being left out by her friends Eli and Bailey in a big way. And I kind of loved that she sort of blunders about through a lot of things. Her growth and revelations throughout the story is a reason to read this book alone. And I really appreciated the fact that it is not just mentioned that she is bookish and likes music. She actually reads books and listens to music.

Most of the side characters are equally as loveable and colorful as Lexi. Lina and Liska may seem a bit cold at first, but further development shows that they are actually very sweet characters that provide Lexi the friendship that she needs. Jamie is very silly (more so towards the end than the beginning) and I found myself loving him almost immediately. And awhile I did get annoyed by him sometimes, Nick is a kind person who really shows that he cares about Lexi. Plus, he had a hilarious habit of picking Lexi up and carrying her away like a man would do in a cheap romance novel 😛

The rest of the circus crew, awhile not remarkable enough to describe in depth, have a very pleasant presence and they really do enhance the novel in their own little way.

And the humor! Oh the humor is definitely for the people who like snark and love reading book with snarky words and sentences. I couldn’t get enough of it! You did well on this one, J.J. Howard, very well.

Things I Disliked: Of course, there are a whole ton of flaws that are hidden in That Time I Joined the Circus‘s pages. And they are all only painfully obvious toward and in the ending. (Beware readers: This part of the review has some spoilery!) Here’s a list of all those bad, terrible flaws:

  1. Lexi’s reunion with her mother was mediocre at best. There was barely any poignancy  or happiness or sweetness radiating through the pages at all during the event. So I was very disappointed, especially since it was one of the most important events in the book.
  2. I don’t think it is ever acceptable to just throw away a nice, kind boy that is part of a love triangle in order to have the female protagonist end up with the other part. Even more so when the boy the female protagonist does end up with is selfish, stupid, and caused the girl a heck of a lot of hurt.
  3. There were so many convenient things happening to tie the story up in a neat little bow that it got really, really annoying.
  4. This is kind of nit-picky, but I’m just going to say it: One of the teenage girls that are a part of the circus is getting married to another teenage boy. First of all, teenagers should not be getting married. They should just have fun dating and doing all the stupid things us teenagers do.

Overall, this was a nice, short, and fun read that I will probably return to whenever I need a laugh. That Time I Joined the Circus could have been a favorite, but the flaws that are oh so apparent at the end were just to bothersome to ignore.

An advanced copy was provided in exchange for a honest review via Netgalley.

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Pantomime by Laura Lam: review

PantomimePantomime by Laura Lam

Series: Micah Grey #1

My rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Strange Chemistry

Release Date: February 5th 2013

Synopsis: R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.

But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

My thoughts: Pantomime has two main characters: Iphigenia Laurus and Micah Grey. The Summer chapters(the present) told through the eyes of Micah and the Spring chapters(the past) told through the eyes of Gene. Gene is a girl who is not happy with her current life and Micah is a boy who had just joined the circus which is place he feels like he truly belongs. They have a lot of things in common. One of those things being a big secret.

I thought Gene and Micah are very interesting characters. Their journey to find their self-identity was filled with obstacles and I really felt for them. Their secret is revealed fairly early in the book. The secret will surprise a lot of people but if one if able to pay close attention to the writing and find the clues they will be able to guess it before the big reveal. I was very impressed with the secret though. It was strange and sad. I have only encountered a couple of books where something like that was used. Lam was very brave to include it in her book and I believe it worked amazingly well with the story. I can’t talk much about the characters or the romance without spoiling anything so I am going to stop here.

The atmosphere of the story is amazing. I loved how the circus was written as a very joyful but also sad place. The circus act scenes were very vivid. I could picture myself sitting with the audience. The fantasy element in Pantomime was very subtle as it is mostly shown in the myths that are told in the world of Pantomime. I really want to learn more about the world that Micah and Gene’s stories take place in.

The ending was really exciting. There was so much happening that I could not stop reading. So many things are discovered in the last chapters and it made me really excited. I can hardly wait for the next installments.

My only complaint is that there were some parts that I felt were a bit boring. This is only a minor flaw and it does not take much away from the story.

Pantomime was a great book. Filled with beautiful atmosphere, great writing, amazing characters, and a circus(because everything is always better with a circus). This was an amazing debut.

*An advanced copy was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley