Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Circuses and Sideshows

We did this Reading on a Theme a couple of years ago, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed the circus setting (post here). If you too are up for more, I've got five excellent suggestions.

The Electric:
In 2065, Adri is preparing to go to Mars as a colonist. Adri's never had a family, and bonding with her ancient and new-found cousin Lily does not come naturally. But Adri becomes fascinated with a collection of letters she finds at Lily's house. Catherine, who lived during the Dust Bowl, is desperate to save her sister from dust pneumonia and believes a traveling show called The Electric may be the answer. Lenore mourns her brother after the his death in WWI and plans to sail to America. In her lovely, lyrical way, Jodi Lynn Anderson weaves these stories together in Midnight at the Electric. This slim volume about the bonds of family is so powerful and gorgeous. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Cirque American:
Wire-walker Julietta (Jules) Maroni joins the Cirque American with the hope that her family will finally receive the recognition they deserve. However, the Cirque American is also the home of a family of trapeze artists who are the Maroni's rivals, the Garcias. Together and in secret Jules and Romeo (Remy) Garcia seek to unravel the mysteries of the past, discover why their families are enemies, and who wants the past to repeat itself. Gwenda Bond's Girl on a Wire is full of mystery and the romance of the circus.  The second in the series, Girl in the Shadows, follows a new set of characters as they navigate the ins and outs of show business (and family business). 

The Gomorrah Festival:
Sorina has spent most of her life with the Gomorrah Festival, a traveling circus-city of magic and debauchery. Sorina, an illusion-worker, has a large family of misfits, who are all the more unique because they are all Sorina's own creations. Things turn dark when one of the illusions is murdered. Sorina didn't even know her illusions could die. I love the mix of fantasy and mystery (always a good combination for me) in Amanda Foody's debut. Sorina, her illusions, and the other residents of Gomorrah have this intriguing strangeness that is otherworldly and beautiful. Also, impressively, this book had several tricks up its sleeve that I did not see coming. Daughter of the Burning City is out July 2017.

For years sisters Scarlett and Tella Dragna have dreamed of escaping life with their oppressive father and attending Caraval, a traveling circus-like show where the visitors are part of the show. When they finally get their chance, the sisters find themselves at the heart of Caraval's high-stake competition when Tella is spirited away and the winner will be the visitor who finds her. The game suddenly doesn't feel so magical to Scarlett anymore who is worried about her sister's safety. I loved the magic in Caraval. The dreamlike setting has Scarlett questioning what is real and what is not, and the reader is right beside her asking those same questions. What a fun and mysterious debut from Stephanie Garber.

Metzger's Menagerie:
In this urban fantasy, the beasts of myth and legend are a reality and, after a devastating event in the 1980s, cryptids have no rights. Metzger's Menagerie is just one of many traveling circuses that exhibit caged cryptids to paying customers, nevermind that many are sentient, intelligent beings. Delilah Marlow was raised human, but when it's discovered that she is not, she becomes Metzger's newest display. Menagerie is dark but gorgeous. The situation these characters live in is truly horrifying. But I found the sense of dignity and family they created to be quite lovely. It's been a long time since I've read an adult urban fantasy novel, and I just devoured this one by Rachel Vincent.


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