What I’ve Read: January

book reviews january
I’ve managed to make a bit of time for reading this month, and it helps that I’ve had quite a few good books too. All of these have actually come from NetGalley which can be quite hit and miss – I’ve had some really great ones, and a few not so good ones in the past.

Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand – 6.5/10

This book sounded like it would be right up my street – set in a Dystopian near future with the description mentioning clones. It follows Ven, who is a complete carbon copy of her wealthy counterpart Raven Rogen – she has lived her whole life in a unit packed with other clones, learning how to serve should they needed in the real world, knowing somehow that even if they aren’t called to that, they may be used in other, slightly more gruesome, ways. Of course as you can imagine, Ven is finally called to serve her life’s purpose as Raven in the real world – she has anticipated this every day of her life, watching videos of her, imitating her, knowing seemingly everything about her, and yet she feels nervous at the prospect. There has been an attack on Raven, and her wealthy and very important father decides the plan of action is to draw in the culprits with the fake version of her, so this is what Ven must do, and not let anyone know who she really is.
The story flows as you might imagine – it’s YA so there is of course a love interest, the usual struggle with identity (heightened in this case) and also Ven’s struggles to try to keep secret who she is in the face of a growing underground revolution. It was a good story, definitely what I was looking for when I picked it, but did have some slightly more childish aspects (the very rushed love story). I have read some negative reviews saying that the book delves too far into “slut shaming” and dehumanises those who choose to be more sexually active – I disagree slightly with these, as it’s coming more from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know this world and is not conveying the views of the author as it’s fiction. Overall, a good book but not a great book. The Goodreads page for it calls it “Clone Chronicles #1”, so imagine there are more to come – I’d definitely be interested in reading these and seeing where the story goes.

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly – 7.5/10 (Kindle version)

This isn’t the usual kind of book I would pick, but something about the blurb really drew me in, holding promises of a huge secret kept by the Chinese government for decades of a brand new species soon to be revealed in the greatest zoo the world has seen. And for the most part I was right to be intrigued, as it was a brilliant read mostly. It starts with an article as a description of how China has always been slightly behind the world “giants”, never able to pull ahead, setting the scene for what’s to come. We mostly follow CJ, an expert on reptiles, and her brother, a photographer, as they join an exclusive group invited to join a tour before the zoo opens and reveals its secret to the rest of the world. If you haven’t figured out what the species is yet that they’ve discovered, I won’t give the game away, but believe me, it’s pretty good.
There were a lot of parts in this book I liked: the descriptions of the zoo and landscape were fantastic (really, my favourite bits!); the background into China as a country and the species that they’d found with full background information were very in depth, which I really like; and there was a particularly good relationship between CJ and one of the animals (can’t go more into detail without spoiling it!). What I didn’t like though was the huge amount of action – fleeing, fighting and running. For the storyline, it was necessary to have this, but there was just a bit too much at times for me. As many reviews have said, it reminds me of Jurassic Park, but it isn’t a carbon copy of it, which is nice. And true to form, I enjoy the background info etc. of that, but not the action. I would definitely recommend this though and am interested to see more by the author.

Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of the Species by Peter Nowak – 6.5/10 (Kindle version)

This is quite difficult for me to review as it’s not the fiction that I usually read, but rather a sort of extended essay written by tech journalist Peter Nowak as a discussion of humanity at the current time. It discusses the breakthroughs we’ve recently had in terms of technology, talking about how what we take for granted now would have been simply inconceivable for humans only a matter of decades ago, and their advances in turn would have been so to generations before theirs too. It covers a large subject matter of human advances, not only in technology, but financially, in terms of happiness and many others. And yet it’s not dull at all – it was fairly easy for me to read, even though I’m no expert on the subject matter at all, and even had touches of humour. It was definitely interesting, making me look at how far humanity has come and how far we can still go, into worlds that are inconceivable to us yet but may happen in our lifetimes. While it’s not my usual read, it was very interesting and was a nice break from fiction. It wasn’t too heavy, had very good research to back up a lot of the info and is an intriguing look at humanity as we know it – good for an overview but doesn’t go too far into topics that I imagine would begin to bore me.

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne – 9/10 (Kindle version)

The Ice Twins was, to put it simply, one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s been recommended by a good few authors I enjoy and is described as a gripping psychological thriller – one of my favourite genres. There are, again, parallels to Gone Girl, however I didn’t see these till afterwards, so that didn’t influence my decision to read it for once!
The story picks up with a family of three, previously of four. One of the seven year old twin girls died only a matter of months before in an accident, and the family has decided to move from their home in London to a remote Scottish island, Torran (or Thunder Island), once owned by the father’s grandmother, where he used to spend his holidays, and he has fond memories of the place. The house is practically derelict, alone on the island, accessible only across mudflats at low tide or by boat – it really sets the scene! It’s quite clear that they are trying to escape the memories of the recent death of the other twin. There is a definite feeling of grief hanging over every aspect of the book right from the start. The remaining twin, Kirstie, turns to her mother one day just before they move, asking: “Why do you keep calling me Kirstie, mummy? Kirstie is dead. It was Kirstie that died, I’m Lydia.”
And so the story begins. There is a lot more to the book than just the confusion between which twin is which. The parents’ marriage is hovering on the edge of break up, with tension between the two growing throughout the book. And of course, there’s more than meets the eye between the characters. You’re constantly wondering throughout the story whether they really did mix up the twins, if it’s a just an expression of the surviving one’s grief, whether the other is returning as a ghost and so on, no matter how ridiculous some of the options seem. It was a fantastic book that kept me guessing throughout. I really liked the characters, especially Kirstie/Lydia (who is it really?!) – she really embodies the sense of grief of the novel and is also strangely creepy, but you feel so terribly sorry for her, the little girl left behind as a constant reminder to everyone of her dead sister. As the book keeps reminding you, imagine her looking in the mirror every day and seeing her best friend and sister staring back at her – awful. I definitely recommend this – really, one of my favourites recently.

1 Comment

  1. February 2, 2015 / 9:10 am

    like you blog!

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