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REVIEW:  Impostor by Susanne Winnacker

REVIEW: Impostor by Susanne Winnacker

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Jia’s note: I’m reviewing the UK edition. The US edition was published in 2013. I don’t think there are any differences between the two editions other than publisher but if there are, please let us know in the comments!

Dear Ms. Winnacker,

The more YA novels I read, the more I realize my tastes have shifted from paranormals to science fiction. This isn’t a bad thing but it’s good to know. When I read the description of your novel on NetGalley, it reminded me of X-Men (in a good way). That was enough to catch my interest. I have a soft spot for X-Men.

Tessa is a Variant, a person with unusual abilities. Her talent is the ability to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and assume their appearance. She currently trains with the FEA (Forces with Extraordinary Abilities), a secret branch of the FBI. As you can imagine, Tessa’s ability would be coveted by any number of organizations, both legit and criminal.

Finally, after all her training, Tessa is given her first official mission. A string of unsolved murders has struck a small town and she’s sent to find the killer. The latest victim is currently in the hospital, barely kept alive on life support. When the girl, Madison, eventually dies, Tessa is to assume her identity.

She does so successfully but complications arise as Tessa slips easily into Madison’s life. First, she soon falls in love with Madison’s family. And secondly, Madison had some secrets of her own.

This was a fun, fast read. It’s in no way original but sometimes you need the light, entertaining reads. I found my initial impression of the X-Men feel spot-on. In fact, the beginning reminded me of the old X-Men: Evolution cartoon. Depending on your feelings about X-Men, this will give readers an idea of whether they’d be interested in this book.

I thought Tessa falling in love with Madison’s home life was completely believable. Her biological father walked out when she was a baby and her mother absolutely hated Tessa’s abilities. Seriously, from what it sounds like, Tessa’s mother was abusive. It’s no surprise that Tessa developed a bit of a complex about her status as a Variant. It’s an awesome ability but if your own mother calls you a freak and monster, well, that leaves a mark on a child. This is one case where I can understand the protagonist’s wish to be a normal girl.

I’m torn about the romantic subplot. Tessa’s love interest is Alec, another member of the FEA. (His ability is super strength.) He was her very first friend at the institute and that relationship has sustained her throughout training. But her feelings for him run deeper than the platonic. Normally, I’m all for the friends to lovers trope. It’s one of my favorites.

But Alec has a girlfriend. I generally don’t like cheating storylines, main or supporting, but I especially dislike it when it pits girls against each other. Alec’s girlfriend is beautiful, elite and, of course, a bitch. It’s like a Taylor Swift song, which is not something a story needs to aspire to, as far as I’m concerned. Even without that aspect, though, I just didn’t understand why Alec was dating Kate in the first place. Half the time he doesn’t even seem to like her and prefers to spend time with Tessa instead. I needed something to understand what Alec saw in Kate. Even if it were, “Kate is hot,” that would have been an acceptable reason.

One character I did like a lot was Devon, Madison’s twin. There were moments where I wasn’t entirely sure if the narrative was setting him up as another love interest for Tessa in future books. I don’t have an opinion about this development either way, but there were scenes that made me wonder. He is the only character who notices that “Madison” isn’t acting like herself and suspects something is off. At times I wish more had been done with this.

While not the most original story, I thought Imposter was an enjoyable book. There were a couple dropped, unresolved plotlines (like the bit about Madison and the teacher) but overall, the novel worked well. I can tell it’s part of a series but it works well as a standalone. I think fans of X-Men will like this one. B-

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  A Righteous Kill by Kerrigan Byrne

REVIEW: A Righteous Kill by Kerrigan Byrne

A Righteous Kill (The Shakespearean Suspense #1) by Kerrigan Byrne

Dear Ms. Byrne:

Mandi from SmexyBooks recommended this book to me an even though it was a fairly expensive self published book at nearly $6.00, I’m happy to spend money on a book I’ll enjoy. The book was as Mandi said. It featured a gruff, reluctant hero, a self possessed heroine, and a suspenseful plot.

Hero Viola Katrova-Conner is found with her hands and side pierced like Christ, the victim of a John the Baptist serial killer. Why Viola survives where the other victims live isn’t quite clear and you have to buy into the insta-lust between FBI agent Luca Ramirez who arrives on the scene as the agent in charge. There kneeling next to the victimized boy of Hero Viola, the two exchange meaningful glances. (Hero later says that he reminded her of her brothers).

The story essentially follows a standard suspense plot line. Hero is a damsel in distress and Luca is assigned to be her pretend boyfriend/bodyguard in hopes that the serial killer comes after her again. Luca begins to examine Hero’s male acquaintances in hopes to find out who it is. The FBI has few leads.

I confess that in retrospect, the lack of urgency in the pursuit of John the Baptist was puzzling. In order to make the romance more believable, the suspense plot takes serious hits. For instance, after the initial scene, we fast forward seven weeks later so that Hero is fully healed from her injuries.  She has very little emotional repercussions from her kidnapping, torture, and near death experience.

This is not to say I didn’t like Hero. I did. She’s a sexually confident woman while also being creative and pragmatic.  She pursued Luca because he was too reluctant to get involved with her even though sexual tension thrums between them. Luca doesn’t believe he’s good for Hero or any other woman because he has so much rage inside of him.

There’s a good blend of romance and suspense so long as you forget about the seven weeks during which the FBI does almost nothing in terms of investigating Hero’s background, her lifestyle, and every person in her life particularly since her profile was different than all the other “working girls” that had been targeted by the killer in the past.

The series is called “Shakesperean Suspense” and is likely based on all the Katrova-Conner family. The Katrova-Conner both exemplifies the best and worst of the book. When it was convenient to bring the whole family together, a big fun boisterous family, they were trotted out, particularly when they were needed to set up a future story.  But one of the family members was also an FBI agent. Didn’t it make sense for that person to be involved in her safety? Her four older brothers seemed almost nonchalant about her safety as did her parents.

Speaking of her parents, there is a prologue involving how the parents first meet that is self indulgent and unnecessary. There was no explanation later and no connection to the overall story.  The Katrova-Conner family sounds interesting and I’m definitely on board for more books, but I’d hope for less convenient appearances of the family to increase the series hook.

Finally, there were a couple of reviews that mention fat shaming. The story opens with Luca thinking fairly negative thoughts about a heavy set detective. I don’t see that continues throughout the book. In sum, there was a strong connection between the two main characters. I loved the family scenes and the whodunit wasn’t bad.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

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