Peanut: Book geek

Alien: Echo - Mira Grant

Title: Alien: Echo
Mira Grant
Genre: Sci-fi, Horror
Rating: 4/5
# pages: Audiobook ~8hrs
Date read: October, 2020

Olivia and her twin sister Viola have been dragged around the universe for as long as they can remember. Their parents, both xenobiologists, are always in high demand for their research into obscure alien biology.Just settled on a new colony world, they discover an alien threat unlike anything they’ve ever seen. And suddenly the sisters’ world is ripped apart.

On the run from terrifying aliens, Olivia’s knowledge of xenobiology and determination to protect her sister are her only weapons as the colony collapses into chaos. But then a shocking family secret bursts open—one that’s as horrifying to Olivia as the aliens surrounding them.

The creatures infiltrate the rich wildlife on this virgin colony world—and quickly start adapting. Olivia’s going to have to adapt, too, if she’s going to survive...

Just as well-written as all of Mira Grant's books. I never really got into the Alien franchise (only saw the first two movies a couple of years ago), but will read pretty much anything Mira Grant writes, regardless of the subject matter ;-) And you don't really need any more introduction to the Alien universe than just one movie (to give you a frame of reference of how they look) to understand the book, as it's nicely self-contained.

It threw some interesting twists at me, but as a whole, ended up exactly as you would have expected it to.
Peanut: Book geek

Over the Top - Jonathan Van Ness

Title: Over the Top
Author: Jonathan Van Ness
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 269
Date read: September, 2020

Who gave Jonathan Van Ness permission to be the radiant human he is today? No one, honey.

The truth is, it hasn’t always been gorgeous for this beacon of positivity and joy.

Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, Jonathan was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so…over the top. From choreographed carpet figure skating routines to the unavoidable fact that he was Just. So. Gay., Jonathan was an easy target and endured years of judgement, ridicule and trauma—yet none of it crushed his uniquely effervescent spirit.

Over the Top uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today. In this revelatory, raw, and rambunctious memoir, Jonathan shares never-before-told secrets and reveals sides of himself that the public has never seen. JVN fans may think they know the man behind the stiletto heels, the crop tops, and the iconic sayings, but there’s much more to him than meets the Queer Eye.

Anybody's who's watched the new reboot of "Queer Eye" (and probably several who hasn't) knows who Jonathan Van Ness is, and the basic story of how he became the awesome person he is now. But the truth is (as always) that there's so much more to him than comes out in the show. He has been to hell and back, and the fact that he's still here to tell his story is nothing short of a miracle.

Jonathan's voice is so clear throughout the book that I didn't even need the audiobook version to clearly hear him read it aloud to me, and his joy and passion for life jumps out of every page - even when accounting the most horrible parts of his life.

I would have liked to read more about Queer Eye itself, and was sad not to see any photos included (would have loved to see pictures of baby Jonathan!), but this is definitely more a book of overcoming hardship and finding joy in life, rather than "how I became JVN of Queer Eye", so it makes sense that the focus was placed elsewhere. I have nothing but respect for him, and definitely understand some of his moods better now.
Peanut: Book geek

Midnight Sun - Stephenie Meyer

Title: Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 675
Date read: September, 2020

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

Stephenie Meyer writes ridiculously readable books. Even in a case such as this, where I know pretty much exactly what's going to happen next, her writing still draws me in. Not that I'd call her writing good as such - but it's certainly engaging.

As for the book itself, it is exactly how you'd expect it to be. All the events of "Twilight", just seen from Edward's point of view. I wouldn't recommend reading it without having read "Twilight" first, as it does take some prior knowledge for granted, but it's quite obvious that Stephenie Meyer's writing has improved since she first wrote "Twilight", which means I actually think I prefer this one... either that, or Edward's emo-ness is just slightly less annoying to read about than Bella's constant insecurities.

Either way, I found it hard to put down, and am now trying to figure out if I want to reread the rest of the series as well.
Peanut: Book geek

The House in the Cerulean Sea - TJ Klune

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: T.J. Klune
Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQ+
Rating: 4/5
# pages: Audiobook ~13hrs
Date read: September, 2020

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he's given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

So very, very different from TJ Klune's other books. It never fails to surprise me how easily he navigates between different styles and genres. This is unlike any of the other books I've read by him (although he still loves the word 'dashing' ;) ), but just as charming as any of them.

I grew very fond of all the children at Marsyas Orphanage and found it surprisingly difficult to leave them all behind when the story ended. It's not really a book that lends itself to sequels, but I do hope that TJ Klune will explore this universe further, and perhaps let us see how the children fare in the future, as visitors in other books.
Peanut: Book geek

Mio, My Son - Astrid Lindgren

Title: Mio, My Son
Astrid Lindgren
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 178
Date read: August, 2020

Nine-year-old Karl Anders Nilsson is the unwelcome foster child of an uncaring couple. Lonely and neglected, he yearns for simple things, things that many children already have: a warm and loving home of his own, someone to share his sorrows and joys with, and, most important, his real father.

Then, on October 15, Karl simply disappears. Where has he gone? (Police are searching for him!) But Karl is far away from chilly Stockholm, in Farawayland, where he has found his father, who is none other than the king of that land. And now Karl faces a truly dangerous mission. Prophecies have foretold his coming for thousands of years. He, his new best friend Pompoo, and Miramis, his wonderful flying horse with a golden mane, must travel together into the darkness of Outer Land to do battle with Sir Kato, the cruel abductor of the children of Farawayland. Only a child of the royal blood can stop him...

I think it's been close to 20 years since I read this last, so I only remembered the story in very broad strokes. It's written as a traditional fairytale, with all of the expected hallmarks. While aimed at children, it's a lot scarier than most of her other books, and I think that's probably why it's not as well known.

I liked it well enough, but I seem to recall it being one of my favourites as a child, and that's certainly not the case any longer. Probably precisely because it's written as a fairytale, and I find that often means the main character is kept at a bit of a distance.
Peanut: Book geek

The Devil's Apprentice - Kenneth Bøgh Andersen

Title: The Devil's Apprentice (The Great Devil War #1)
Author: Kenneth Bøgh Andersen
Genre: Fantasy, Childrens
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 311
Date read: August 2020

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

I was a bit hesitant at first - I generally don't read books about angels and demons, as they so easily end up feeling disrespectful to my beliefs, but this one came highly recommended by somebody I trust, so I decided to give it a go.

And fortunately I wasn't disappointed. It turned out to be a really fun children's book about a decidedly GOOD boy who's sent to hell by mistake, and ends up changing hell as much (or perhaps more) as hell changes him. I enjoyed it, and am definitely considering reading more books in the series.
Peanut: Book geek

Roomies - Christina Lauren

Title: Roomies
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 4/5
# pages: Audiobook ~10hrs
Date read: August, 2020

Marriages of convenience are so...inconvenient.

For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, fate steps in one night in the form of a drunken attacker. Calvin Mcloughlin rescues her, but quickly disappears when the police start asking questions.

Using the only resource she has to pay the brilliant musician back, Holland gets Calvin an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until his reason for disappearing earlier becomes clear: he’s in the country illegally, his student visa having expired years ago.

Seeing that her uncle needs Calvin as much as Calvin needs him, a wild idea takes hold of her. Impulsively, she marries the Irishman, her infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves and Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway—in the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting—will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

A really delightful novel about fake-romance. I loved it, and had a very hard time putting it down, even if it was completely predictable and highly unlikely.

I loved the reason behind the fake romance and the inclusion of both the theater world and the love of music in the novel. I loved Holland's family... but unfortunately not her friends (but that's okay - we weren't meant to). I loved that Holland and Calvin actually genuinely seemed to like each other - fake-romance or not. And I would have LOVED to be a fly on the wall during the "get to know Holland" story-telling game :-D

The main conflict bothered me though. It could so easy have been resolved by simple communication ahead of time, but was allowed to grow into a big "thing" instead. It's not a big deal in the larger scheme of things - and they did work it out in a more mature manner than could have been feared - but it still made me subtract a star.
Peanut: Book geek

Red, White and Royal Blue - Casey McQuiston

Title: Red, White and Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Genre: YA, LGBTQ
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~12hrs
Date read: August 2020

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Really cute :-D It's a great mix of friendship, romance, coming-of-age and finding your own place in the world. I really enjoyed seeing Alex' and Henry's friendship grow organically and how they each brought their friends and siblings along, to create a larger, harmonious group. I really appreciated that the relationship here was not interrupted by a misunderstanding that could have been prevented by simple communication. That is a trope far too prevalent in YA, and I was glad not to see it happen here.

I also enjoyed seeing this "behind the stages" view of politics and royalty, even though I have absolutely no doubts that that part is 100% made up and not based on any personal experience :-P
Peanut: Book geek

Tempus Investigations: Season Three - Claus Holm

Title: Tempus Investigations: Season Three
Author: Claus Holm
Genre: Paranormal, Suspense, arc
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 451
Date read: August, 2020

THERE’S A NEW MAN IN TOWN… The vampires of San Francisco have long had a no-kill policy, but when mad-artist vampire Maurice arrives and shatters the peace, Jim Corrigan and the rest of the Tempus Investigations team must act quickly to protect their city.
While people are being drained of blood and turned into works of art, Jim must face a choice that might very well decide the fate of the city ... and provide the answer to a question he’s been asking since 1933:

Why was he made immortal?

The third book in the series, and quite possibly also my favourite. The scene is set, and with the departure from the "episode" structure from the two previous novels, Claus Holm has plenty of time to dive into the plot and the characters. I loved the episode structure in book 1, where it really worked in combination with the world building, but as the plot grew more complex, it was time to leave it behind.

And the plot did indeed grow more complex here - especially in regard to story lines and how they interacted. The vampires made for some very interesting villains, and I enjoyed how Jim didn't automatically solve all issues himself, but allowed his friends to fight according to their strengths, and assist each other with - and without - his involvement.

I really liked the introduction of Matt and (though I hardly dare to admit it) actually didn't miss Feline at all. I LOVED the story line with Bob and the Pirate :-
Peanut: Book geek

The Calculating Stars - Mary Robinette Kowal

Title: The Calculating Stars
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Genre: Historical fiction, sci-fi
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 431
Date read: August, 2020

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

Very slow-moving, yet utterly unputdownable. It's an interesting mix of historical fiction and sci-fi. I found it absolutely captivating, but also very self-contained, so I don't quite know how Mary Kowal is going to continue the series.

I would not be at all surprised if this is turned into a movie at some point though!