Brandy Painter's Reviews > Circus Mirandus

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
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did not like it
bookshelves: fantasy, middle-grade

I sat on this review for almost an entire week half scared to write it because almost every person I know who's read this book has raved about it. Talk about being on the outside of a popular opinion. True, due to all those five star rave reviews and Newbery buzz, I went into this with some pretty high expectations.

As I began reading Circus Mirandus, I mostly just felt underwhelmed. It is an intriguing concept, but nothing about the way it was presented gripped me. The writing is adequate but nothing to get super excited about. I was perplexed because I read so much MG fantasy and so much of it is executed far better than this. I was perplexed because there are so many really great 2015 books that this doesn't come close to touching in terms of excellence. Why the Newbery buzz?

For about 1/3 of the book I thought this was going to be a relatively enjoyable but mostly forgettable 3 star read.

Then I started to get annoyed.

I'm a character reader. When I read a book, I want to believe the characters are real. Real people. Making real decisions. That make sense in terms of who they are. If a character does something that makes sense for plot purposes, but doesn't fit who they've been presented as a person, then I start to get annoyed. If it happens over and over again with every character in the book, the book's lost me. Beasley had a very particular story she wanted to tell, and her characters are props. I think this can sometimes be an intentional commentary in a book, but it's not here. It's just poor character development. Micah is an empty vessel into which the reader can insert himself/herself. All the supporting characters are shallow stereotypes who only briefly break from their assigned niches when the plot requires moving forward. I also had a major issue with how the book divided characters into "good" and "bad". (Those weren't the terms used, but it's what it boiled down to.) And if you're already in the "bad" camp there is no hope for your redemption. I actually really enjoy when MG authors present darker themes and characters in their books. Are there people who are mean and cruel who do terrible things to people they should care about? Yes. Are there people who hold on to grudges and never change? Again, yes. But the way all of that was presented in this, the way it was tied to the plot and the magic, really rubbed me the wrong way. It all felt so forced. (Particularly given that I think we were meant to like Micah's grandfather and see him as a secondary hero, but nope nope nope. That guy was not awesome. Are people sometimes thought of as heroes or sympathetic who don't deserve it? Yes. But again, this book isn't commenting on that. We're really supposed to root for this guy. NO.)

By the end of the book I was infuriated. The flat characters and their forced actions which ended in the conclusion all of that comes to left me wanting to hurl the book into the pool I was sitting next to. (I refrained. It was a library book.) It made me really confused about the why of it all too. What is Beasley trying to say with her symbolism combined with this forced characterization? What it the thematic purpose here? It was all too frustrating for me.
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Reading Progress

August 12, 2015 – Started Reading
August 12, 2015 – Shelved
August 14, 2015 – Finished Reading
August 19, 2015 – Shelved as: fantasy
August 19, 2015 – Shelved as: middle-grade

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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message 1: by Luffy (new)

Luffy Great review! I'm glad you didn't like a bad book, despite all the hype.


message 2: by Edward (new)

Edward Sullivan I haven't read this one yet and I feel like I should since, like you note, it has so much buzz. Thanks for the honest and complete review.


message 3: by Beth (new)

Beth I hadn't even heard of it! ...And now I'm glad.


message 4: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo You're not alone. While I wasn't infuriated...I was in fact annoyed at times. I *did* enjoy the story, but my attention was not captured. Took me quite some time to make it to the midway point, where I finally got into the plot. Your review has given me the courage to be straightforward in my own, as I too read this for Newbery buzz and swayed a bit on my rating...so thanks! :)


Jenni I did not care for this book either and struggled to finish it. My Newbery intuition is pretty good and I don't think it will get anything.


message 6: by Susie (new)

Susie So, so underwhelming.


message 7: by Liz (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liz Thanks for sharing... I'm 1/3 in and am debating whether to finish. It's certainly not as good as I expected.


Stella I didn't care for it much either.


Sadol So these words are what I was looking for. Didn't catch the Newbery buzz, though. I guess it's better that way.


Jennifer Bower I had the same reaction to the book. I'm thrilled to read a reviewer who felt the same. Now I don't have to write one. You said it all perfectly. This book was such a disappointment didn't bother to finish it.


Stella I thought this book was boring and struggled to finish it.


message 12: by Liz (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liz I totally agree about your "flat" and good vs. evil character description. I am a MG teacher and was looking for a follow up to Winn-Dixie that was more current and focused on character traits. I didn't find it here. I found myself skimming through the last third without losing any of the plot development. What a bummer. It has such great reviews that I thought it was going to be a winner.


message 13: by BJ (new)

BJ To be in comments


message 14: by BJ (new)

BJ hi friend how is your day


William D. Matthews I think that if you did not like it at first than you should have put it down but no you only finished it to kill the fact that other people like it so if you have No thing to say but negative stuff then save it because other people like this book so I disagree with every thing that I wasted my time on and your pity party book review.


Shane Harcombe @William, while I disagree with the vehemence of Brandy's review, I also strongly object to your comment. A negative review, of that is what you genuinely feel, is a good thing. If people only post positive, glowing reviews then Goodreads is a waste of time. I want to see people's honest opinions and use that to help me to determine new books to read.


message 17: by Tori (new) - rated it 1 star

Tori I completely agree with your review. I wish there was a way to link my review to yours- much easier. I am also a book hurler when I get done with a disappointing one... and a pool is especially gratifying!


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