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Trying to live a more minimal and conscious life in search of pure happiness and joy

Book Club No. 11



Another Friday, another book review post! My last Book Club post was back in July so I haven't actually posted any reviews for a wee while, but I'm back today with some pretty perfect books - all of which I thoroughly enjoyed (for once). So if you're into fantasy fiction with a good dose of macabre or twisted magic, then you've come to the right place for some recommendations.

Anno Dracula by Mr Kim Newman
Okay so we need to start off with the most brilliantly British-feeling book but it's also easily one of the most bonkers plots I've ever had the pleasure to dive into. Anno Dracula first came onto my radar when Matt told me all about it - think Penny Dreadful but even better. The plot centres around Victorian London and follows a variety of characters from an ancient vampire from an prestigious bloodline, to Dorian Gray, to Jack the Ripper. Queen Victoria has wed Vlad Tepes - the very much fictional over-the-top version of Vlad we see tourist traps talk of today which paints him out to be Count Dracula. Dracula has killed the famous Van Helsing and is slowly dominating England as more and more vampires are swooping into the country's capital and are seen as a pest by many. He has the Prime Minister under his thumb, has his own ancient vampire soldiers roaming the streets, and impales folk in his delightful true-historical fashion if they so much as do something he's not quite happy with. The story mainly centres around a senior vampire called Geneviéve Dieudonné who helps out at what is a make shift hospital/hostel for vampire orphans and sick vampires with the aid of a peculiar doctor and a man called Charles Beauregard who is a member of the Diogenes Club and is essentially a spy trying to discover the true identity of Jack the Ripper.

As more of the story unfolds, Geneviéve and Charles meet more and more frequently as what they're both trying to investigate seems to be leading them down the same path and to the same culprit. It's a fantastic murder mystery style book but with a great nod to actual historical events, historical people, and of course many characters from popular fiction. At first, I was reading the book and really struggling with it - I don't know if it was the language or the pace of the story, but I just couldn't keep up. I found myself flipping backwards time and time again because a character's name would come up and I'd think "eh? Who?" and need to re-read parts to try and make sense of it all. However there's a distinctive part of the plot - when Geneviéve gets into essentially a street brawl with an ancient Asian being - that hooked me in for the rest of the story and everything seemed to fall into place. The focus around this ancient oriental aspect of the book really sparked my interest as there was just something about Newman's description of certain elements that ignited my imagination and my imagination took a very Studio Ghibli route visually. I found this book incredibly good for not giving you *too* much description, but just the right amount to help you form a clear picture in your mind of what *you* think is going on. It does dive straight into things so if you sometimes struggle with following storylines that don't over explain and describe, you might find you flick back and forth like I did at first but hang in there - this book is without a doubt worth the read. It is part of a series so I will 1Oo% be picking up the next book in the line up sometime soon, but if you think it sounds up your street, you can pick up a copy in various formats here.



A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan
Now onto the show stopper. This book has been hyped up so much during the last month or so and it's clear to see why. A Place Called Perfect is the debut novel from Helena Duggan and it is just the perfect (see what I did there) fantasy book for children and adults alike. First up we need to address the gorgeous cover - if that doesn't draw you in and make you want to at least read the blurb then I don't know what will. The book centres around a young girl called Violet who has recently moved to a place called Perfect with her Dad and Mam - you guys have no idea how happy I was to see that Mam was called Mam and that her family often affectionately call each other "pet" throughout the book as it made me think of home and my own family. Okay waffling aside - back to the story. So they move to Perfect at the request of two brothers who run the town as they're interested in Violet's Dad's expertise when it comes to eyes and everything optical. Everyone in Perfect need to wear glasses otherwise they have incredibly impaired blurry vision and it seems that no one knows why. So in steps Violet's Dad to try and solve the conundrum. As you might have guessed, Violet soon discovers that Perfect is actually far from Perfect and that there's actually a lot of strange and suspicious things going on in the town once you remove those rose tinted glasses.

Telling you guys anything more than that would definitely ruin the story so I won't say much more about the actual plot, but I just loved this from start to finish. Although Violet as a character annoyed me sometimes, it is so fantastic to see a children's book that has a female main character who is a gutsy heroine with lots of sass and spunk. She doesn't take no for an answer and I think for young girls to read this would be really positively influential and uplifting for them. Despite being targeted at a much younger audience, A Place Called Perfect reads so well that I'd be very surprised if any adult reads it and doesn't enjoy it. It's incredibly quick and easy to read but it's got the right amount of description and a great pace to it to make it feel like you've really went on a journey with the characters. If you're a Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton fan and enjoy those slightly creepy/macabre twists they manage to put into children's fiction so cleverly, you'll absolutely love this book too as Duggan manages to add those slightly spooky elements expertly. I'm not going to lie, as an adult reading it, there were a couple of times I thought "hang on, that can't work because of xyz" so there are some loopholes in the story, but overall I am more than happy to overlook them as they don't ruin the story at all. If you couldn't tell already, I bloody loved this and I can't wait to see what else Duggan releases as this has easily crept it's way up to one of my favourite books this year without a doubt. Pick up a beautiful copy of A Place Called Perfect here.



The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The third and final book to mention in this post was also a big hit with me. The Night Circus did it's rounds in popularity a couple of years ago now, but I just never got around to reading it because I knew there was a romantic element to it and y'all - I'm straight up not interested in that nonsense when it comes to my reading material choices. But after some convincing from Matt, I decided to give it a try and I really truly rate it to anyone who wants to read what would make a spectacular film. The plot is exactly what the title suggests - it centres around a travelling circus which opens at dusk and closes at dawn. It is magical, mystifies those who visit it, and just generally becomes an eagerly awaited and anticipated event in every town it pops up in. The whole story behind the circus and it's creation is down to two gentleman who are magic. They like friendly competition and for years have had apprentices that they have feverishly taught their skills and talents to who then will "battle" the other apprentice in "a game". The Night Circus follows the latest apprentices and their upbringing, training, and encounter. Characters along the way create the Night Circus as a fun project and both apprentices have some involvement in it. I know I say this at least once in every book review post, but I genuinely don't want to say much more than that about the general plot as it will honestly spoil it for any of you who want to read this in the future.

This book is very descriptive so it plants a clear image in your mind and oddly enough, I quite liked it. I usually like books that aren't overly descriptive or packed with information as it sucks the fun out of reading for me, but this one had the perfect amount to accompany the very busy and character-packed story. The whole time reading this I got instant "I could see this on the big screen one day" vibes as everything about it screams Hollywood blockbuster done in the style of The Great Gatsby crossed with Water For Elephants. The imagery is great, the range of characters and all their intertwining lives is so easy to get lost in, and there's still an air of mystery about what will happen threaded throughout the book right to very end. If you like magical, fantasy, complete fairytale style stories but also like a little bit of romance dashed in there too, this is the one for you.


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