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review 2014-01-14 00:00
That Time I Joined the Circus
That Time I Joined the Circus - J.J. Howard First half I liked good enough then it kinda turned meh towards the end.
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review 2013-10-30 04:00
That Time I Joined The Circus by J.J. Howard
That Time I Joined the Circus - J.J. Howard

For some unknown reason, I was pretty excited about this new debut. Maybe it was the title and premise – joining the circus?! – or perhaps it was the pretty cover, or maybe it was just because it was a new debut and I always come into them with relatively high hopes. Really, it was probably a combination of all three. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.


The two-page prologue started off by informing us that the MC was a bit of a music snob, but because she admitted it rather than showing it to us without acknowledging it, it didn’t seem like it would be a big problem. Then there was this line on page 5:


“You’re so funny!” I said in my best fake voice. “For a retarded person, I mean.”


Maybe I’ve just been lucky and haven’t come across many books that just throw the word “retarded” around, but it was pretty shocking to just randomly come across it without it being addressed. They just move on to more banter or something, making it clear that this is supposed to be the way Real Teens talk, and while yes, unfortunately, there are teenagers who easily throw around the word “retarded,” do you really need to use a term like that to make your dialogue seem “authentic”? You couldn’t capture real teens without using an offensive term?


Anyway, moving on. That was my first sign that I might not be a big fan of this book, but I kept going because five pages isn’t nearly enough to figure out if I like a book or not. But main character Lexi kept doing some things that seemed to want to tick me off. Calling her “best friend” or at least best girl friend “Adventure Barbie”? Getting a job as the substitute teacher when she still has a semester and a half left of high school (OK, this probably will only tick off someone like me who is currently is school to become a teacher), especially when it’s clear she seems to treat it more as day care than an actual school. The fact that she insists on calling her father Gavin instead of Dad and seems overall kind of pretentious… Really, all of these things do not make for a good book for me.


Lexi is also a Jane Austen fan. Now, this is not a bad thing, of course. Most book bloggers are Jane Austen fans and I have plenty of friends that fangirl over Jane Austen and the like. So, I kind of rolled my eyes when Lexi mentioned loving Jane Austen, because it seems like that’s the only way to prove that your character is a real reader, but I didn’t care that much. Then, when introducing someone to Jane Austen, she said not everyone gets Jane Austen. This bothered me – it was like she was saying that not everyone has to like Jane Austen, but the people who do like her are the smart people who understand what she’s saying completely. Now, I’m not saying that’s what the author intended, but that’s the way it came across to me personally. I consider myself a fairly smart person and I’m obviously a big reader, but I’m not a Jane Austen fan. I’ve only read part of Emma (I Sparknoted the rest – I know, I’m a bad students sometimes) and all of Northanger Abbey (while also Sparknoting it – what, it’s helpful!), but I wasn’t a big fan of either book. I’m just not the type of person who enjoys the kind of books that Jane Austen writes – I prefer more modern books. I don’t look down on people who do enjoy her books and I hope that they do the same for me, so it just ticked me off that the MC seemed to be suggesting that I’m just not smart enough to understand her writing and that’s the only reason I don’t like her books. I know this probably isn’t the author’s intention and it barely has anything to do with the book itself, but it was just one more reason for me not to look this book.


Not to mention that Lexi seemed very judgmental of those paperback romances you can buy at the grocery store. She reads them, a lot, but she seems to be putting them down at the same time. Yet, when her friend suggests that the romance books might be silly, she instantly gets defensive. I’m not a romance novel fan, but I was already offended by her reaction and I know I would be even more offended if I liked romance novels. Again, it was quite small and probably wasn’t something the author or most other people would think about, but it was yet another thing that bothered me.


So, around page 60 or so, I decided I was done. I wasn’t totally interested in the story and I was quite annoyed with Lexi/Xandra/X (yeah, that was something else confusing – the summary says Lexi, but for the first thirty or so pages she introduces herself as Xandra because her name is Alexandra and most people with that name go by Xandra, right? – again, probably just me and it was probably because at that point I was just looking for things to nitpick). So, I decided to mostly just skim the chapter titles because I was interested to see if any of them had songs I recognized (oh, yeah, each chapter opens with two lines of lyrics, and unlike many books that do this, I actually recognized some of them!).


I actually ended up enjoying the story more when I was skimming it, though. I would read the last few and first few paragraphs of each chapter and would randomly skim pages as I flipped through the pages. Sure, I missed plenty that way, and I’m not going to claim that I know completely what happened, but I did get a good enough idea of the story to know that I probably would have liked it more if the protagonist didn’t frustrate me so much. Maybe I would have ended up giving this book a higher rating if I read the whole thing through, but I don’t think it should be my responsibility to keep going when I’m bored just because a book might interest me more later on.


So, the main reason I couldn’t really enjoy this book and read the whole thing without skimming is my dislike of the main character. Skimming the majority of the book made it clear that I might have enjoyed this story otherwise, though, so I think there’s a good chance I’ll check out future efforts from this author and hope that I like the protagonist better!

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review 2013-09-12 00:00
That Time I Joined the Circus - J.J. Howard I really loved this one.
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review 2013-09-09 00:00
That Time I Joined the Circus - J.J. Howard 2.5 stars
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review 2013-08-26 00:00
She didn't mean to join a circus but when she did, she got a whole lot more.
That Time I Joined the Circus - J.J. Howard

The book cover never did anything for me nor did the title. The cover looked extreme and weak with a young teen gazing at the smoky nightlife of the luminous circus in the background- it just seems too childish for what seemed to be awaiting inside this book.  The title seemed too drawn out to me- it was almost a whole sentence long.  It was just the synopsis and the reviews that pulled inside the pages and had me absorbed into the life of Lexi, Xandra or X to see why someone would want to live this   I have never had any desire to join a circus, heck sometimes I thought my life was a circus so why anyone would want to quit their normal life to join the circus had me intrigued, especially someone like Lexi.  Lexi lived with her dad, was in high school, had a great life and had a couple great friends.  One day, that all changed.  (Life does that if you’re not careful.)  Lexi blames herself partly for what happens that day but the phone message she receives changes her life forever.  Her father is dead and Lexi’s life is flipped over. Her mission now is to find her mother whom she has not seen in years.  The trail leads her to the circus, yes folks her mother works for the circus.  What she does there Lexi does not know but when Lexi arrives at the big top Lexi realizes that there is another world beyond what goes on before the audience.   Lexi thought that her friends that she left behind were her past but she realizes that her past became a part of her that came with her and these people will continue to be a part of her.  As she stays to make some money, she learns more about what the definition of home and family are as she tries to find out more about who she really is. That not all she finds though, she’s also finds some romance, friendship, betrayal, and kinship along the way too.


Once I got past the cover, I felt better about the book.  Geared more towards middle school teens this book is about helping Lexi put the pieces of her fallen life back in place with the section of her father missing.  As she tries to find her mother, she discovers things about herself that show her weaknesses and her strengths. Just when she thinks she is able to move ahead, she must confront some issues that are painful but must be resolved for her to fully heal.  Her talent at the circus is superb and I have always wanted to do this- perhaps reading this is the nudge I needed to look into this.  As far as her relationship with Eli went, it’s comfortable for the two of them but I think she deserves more.

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