Review: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

Title: Wonder Show

Author: Hannah Barnaby

Publishing Information: March 20, 2012  by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 288 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a quick story that shows the beauty in the family that you choose, not the family that you’re born into.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends and neighbors, allow me to change your lives! Step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show! You’ve read about them in magazines, these so-called human curiosities, this tribe of misfits—now come and see for yourselves. We’ve got a gent as tall as a tree, a lady with a beard, and don’t miss your chance to see the Wild Albinos of Bora Bora! Ask Madame Doula to peer into your future (only two dollars more if you want to know how you’re going to die).

And between these covers behold the greatest act of our display—Portia Remini, the strangest of the menagerie because she’s a ‘normal’ among the freaks, searching for a new beginning on the bally, far away from McGreavey’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, said she could never leave . . .

Oh, it’s not for the faint of heart folks. If you’re prone to nightmares or you’ve got a weak ticker, you’d best move on. Within these pages lies a tale of abandonment, loss, misfortune for the rich and glory for the poor (and a little murder doesn’t hurt). It’s a story for the ages, but be warned: once you enter the Wonder Show you will never be the same.

I am very grateful to have received an ARC via Netgalley, the book will be published on March 20, 2012.

Story telling is a crucial part of Portia’s life, each night she listens to the stories of her family members and she has a natural talent for weaving stories of her own. Soon Portia’s life is turned upside down when everyone she knows leaves her promising that once they make enough money they will come back for her. Portia is left with her aunt who is not a very pleasant woman and after some time her aunt decides that Portia is too much of a burden so she drops her off at McGreavey’s Home for Wayward Girls. A man who goes by the name “Mister” owns McGreavey’s and he is a very unpleasant human being. Portia is determined to find her father so she does what she needs to do to gain information. After some traumatic events Portia decides to run away and gets caught up in the life of a misfit.

This book was very enjoyable, Hannah Barnaby does a great job storytelling and the characters were very unique and fun to read about. I was immediately sucked in to Portia’s world and the entire story had a vibrant feel to it. This story wasn’t all happiness though; it was actually quite the opposite. There were very real topics in this story such as abandonment, death and guilt and overall it was rather dark. There were parts that reminded me of the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket that I read a few years back, Count Olaf and Mister definitely share some characteristics. The highlight of Wonder Show was definitely the characters; they were all unique and “curious” in their own way.

My biggest disappointment in this story was that it wasn’t detailed enough, there could have been more to the story and the characters. The “misfits” were all so odd and I would have really enjoyed more of their back-stories and their relationships with Portia. The end of the story was endearing but it felt rushed and I couldn’t understand why it was happening as the relationships between the characters weren’t explored enough and their love for Portia was a little confusing to me. There was also an offhand comment about a ghost who follows Portia around yet it wasn’t explored further at all and I found that very disappointing. I suppose this means my biggest problem was that I wanted more from the novel, which isn’t exactly a negative thing.

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2012, I think it was a successful debut from Hannah Barnaby and I recommend it to those looking for a quick story that shows the beauty in the family that you choose, not the family that you’re born into.

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Publishing Information: September 13, 2011 by Doubleday

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 387 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a beautiful love story surrounded by a beautiful landscape.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The Night Circus is the story of Celia and Marco, two magicians (for lack of a better word) bound together by an oath made during their childhood. This oath bounds them as opponents, but upon meeting they immediately fall in love. Their love for one another is not appreciated by their guardians who bound them to be opponents as their magic dual is inevitable to end in the death of one of them. Their life-long contest is set in the venue of a traveling circus that arrives without warning and is gone as quickly as it comes.

This circus is not like a traditional circus that involves colorful clowns and prancing ponies. Instead, the circus consists only of black and white accents and is really a maze of tents consisting of enchantments from both Celia and Marco. There is a beautiful tree covered in candles meant to represent wishes from all who visit, an enchanting ice garden that smells of roses, ice and sugar, and a fire eater who is able to sculpt fire from her bare hands. Erin Morgenstern writes with such detail that it really feels as if you are transported to the center of the ice garden where Celia sits, longing for Marco.

I loved this book. I first bought the audio book because helloooo it is read by Jim Dale!!! I took my time listening to it and honestly, I was hesitant to finish it because it was that good. So good, that not only did I not want it to end but after I did finish, I went out and bought the hardcover! The imagery in this book was beautiful and the love story was absolutely heart wrenching. Celia and Marco’s first kiss was magical and it set the standard for their love affair in a beautiful way. Though I wanted more after the novel completed I enjoyed the way in which Erin Morgenstern tied up all of her loose ends and fleshed out all of the necessary characters. The conclusion didn’t frustrate me, but made me think of the circus as a very pleasant dream.

Check out the author’s website for some awesomeness!!