About the Book

Title: The Mumbo Jumbo Circus (Mumbo Jumbo Circus #1)
Published: 2011
Series: Mumbo Jumbo Circus
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Flea Market Find
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Somehow Straight Up
Bonus Factors: The Circus, Magic, Illustrations
Relationship Status: Coffeeshop Friend

Cover Story: Flea Market Find

Don’t get me wrong — I like the illustration. It’s pretty and has a vintage circus poster look that’s perfect for the book. It’s just that it’s not exactly what I usually carry around, what with the horses. Wait, what am I talking about? The books I usually carry around look WAY worse — half-faces, headless/floating/windblown girls, weird close-up kisses … Yeah. This cover’s looking pretty good!

The Deal

Evan’s spent the last 14 years bouncing from foster home to foster home, but one night her nasty-ass, methed-out foster mom Number Eight (aka Barbara) smacks her around and Evan decides it’s the last time she’s ever letting anyone treat her like garbage again. So she does what any normal teen would do — takes off and joins the circus. The Mumbo Jumbo Circus isn’t your flashy Las Vegas spectacle; it’s the real old-timey deal, complete with charismatic Ringmaster and true magic that brings out the performers’ true gifts. It’s also a haven for a couple other discarded teens, which puts it at the top of Child Services’ fishy list. And when Evan’s true gift, the ability to read horses’ minds, manifests on her very first night with the circus, she suddenly becomes the failing circus’s savior and the target for a very dangerous rival.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

Evanja Leane, I don’t care about your trashy name or your foster families. I mean, I DO care, because I think it sucks you’ve had to live the life you’ve lived, but they don’t make me think less of you. It’s the opposite — I really admire how you learn to stand up for yourself, and how much you trust your instincts. And girl, I totally hear you on the horse thing — the only reason I’d want my true gift to be able to communicate with horses using my mind is to find out if they plan to kill me.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Two of the circus’s runaways are guys, Johnny the Elephant Boy and Wally the cook. And before you get your Fred Savage on, this is NOT a love triangle book. Evan (despite my sisterly advice) falls straight for Wally, emo-goth guyliner, Norwegian death metal and all, totally Friend Zoning the cocky-cute Johnny Castle-esque Elephant Boy, and it’s saying a lot for Jane George’s writing that I still managed to swoon. Usually, if the love interest is so not my type, I can’t suppress my gag reflex enough to get tingles, but I tingled right along with Evan as she got her first kiss. Wally’s sweet without being saccharine, and scores about 100,000 fireflies on the romantic gesture scale.

Talky Talk: Somehow Straight Up

Even though it’s a book about a circus with a mysterious Ju-Ju and clowns and talking animals and evil and magic, it reads like realism. It’s not poetic or flowery or complicated, which helps make the magic more believable. Most of the supporting characters cross the line from caricature back into real character (especially my favorite, the fabulous Daffy Dill, the circus’s seamstress and clown whose true gift makes her permanently shorter every time she uses it). Some of the phrasing was a little awkward and caused me to make a couple of weird faces, but nothing major, and a lot of times I really felt like I was Evan.

Bonus Factors: The Circus

An elephant balancing on a ball on top of a big top tent.

Yeah, I know! Real circuses are freaky — clowns, mimes, elephants, contortionists, sideshows — and the Mumbo Jumbo Circus is no exception. It’s weird and sometimes creepy, but it’s also magical and awesome! And don’t forget circuses have kettle corn and cotton candy and corndogs and probably funnel cake, so what’s the problem?

Bonus Factors: Magic

Magician's Hat

None of that wizards and fairies shizz for me — gimme magic that hides in the real world. Magic for skeptics, if you will (or won’t, whatever. I don’t get paid to be here).

Bonus Factors: Illustrations

All I can say here is all books should have pictures! Who cares if they’re for grownups or little kids? Pictures are awesome.

Relationship Status: Coffeeshop Friend

When this book walked into my favorite cafe, I did a double-take. It was dressed in an old frock coat and ripped up jeans, and my first thought was, “What’s he think he is?” But then it sat down and started doodling, and I couldn’t help peeking at his drawings. And they were pretty cool! Not pretentious or weird at all! So we started chatting, and it turned out it was in law school, and before I knew it we were “bumping into each other” almost every day. We still haven’t exchanged numbers, but I haven’t skipped my 2:30 afternoon coffee in three weeks, and I made a mix-tape for it last night (just messing around, you know. Nothing crazy, not that I was thinking about it or anything.) that I think I’ll give it tomorrow.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from the author. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). The Mumbo Jumbo Circus is available now.

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.