Book Blitz: Love, Murder & Mayhem

~ Book Blitz ~
Love, Murder & Mayhem

About the Book
Love science fiction stories that all include
elements of Love, Murder & Mayhem?

Then welcome to the latest anthology from Crazy 8 Press! This amazing collection from 15 all-star authors will delight you with superheros and supervillains. AIs, off-worlders, and space cruisers. We’ve also got private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travelers, aliens and monsters—and one DuckBob!
With tales ranging from wild and wacky to dark
and gritty to heartbreaking and fun, take the deadly leap with authors Meriah
Crawford, Paige Daniels, Peter David, Mary Fan, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert
Greenberger, Glenn Hauman Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, Kelly Meding, Aaron
Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Lois Spangler, Patrick Thomas, and editor Russ

You’ll never look at Love,
Murder & Mayhem
same way again—and that’s just the way we like it.
About the Editor
Russ Colchamiro is the author of
the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking
comedy series, Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor
of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.
Russ lives in New Jersey with his
wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself.
Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the
Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is
now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.
As a matter of full disclosure,
readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of
white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being
sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus,
for sure, but much quicker.


Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine ComplexHeroine Complex

by Sarah Kuhn
Series: Heroine Complex, #1

Paperback, 375 pg.
DAW, 2016

Read: April 6 – 8, 2017

A few years back, the city of San Francisco was visited by trans-dimensional demons — they were unable to stay long before being driven back, but in their wake certain individuals were left with superpowers. Some powers were impressive, others were . . . well, let’s just say less-so. Most didn’t use their powers much, but some heeded the call of Ben Parker and used their abilities to serve the common good. Chief among them was Aveda Jupiter — who spends her days defending SF from further demon incursions as well as more mundane menaces.

Aveda is helped in her quest for justice (and good PR) by a fighting coach, a scientist studying demons and a PA. Her PA, Evie Tanaka, is her childhood best-friend and the only one who can weather her mood swings, demands for affirmation and schedule with good humor and grace (at least externally).

Events transpire, and Evie has to pose as Aveda at an event — and things go awry in a pretty significant way. Demons attack (while displaying some new characteristics that require a new long-term strategy for battling them) and Evie demonstrates a super-power of her own. In the next few weeks, Evie has to continue the ruse while learning how to use (and hopefully lose) her own power and learning how to adjust to a newfound confidence, level of esteem, a change in her friendship with Aveda, and even a love life — while trying to beat back the invasion force once and for all.

I’ll be honest — the plot was okay, but almost entirely predictable by page 50 or so. But name the super-hero story that’s not, right? Especially origin stories. What matters is how Kuhn told the story — with heart, charm, and wit. So that you aren’t getting to various story beats saying, “Yup, right on time,” (or whatever unintentionally pompous thing you say to yourself when you get to a point in a book like this), rather you’re saying, “Oh, I like how she did that,” or “that’s a great take on X.”

The characters and the relationships between them are the key to this — none of them act their best, none of them are really hero-material, all of them ring true. These could be your friends (not my friends, mind you — there’s not enough book talk, and a whole lot of things that happen outside of a house), or at least the friends of someone you know. If, you know, your friends are known for dressing in leather, beating up inanimate objects inhabited by pan-dimensional beings, and fending off the prying and gossiping eyes of a fashion/lifestyle blogger.

I don’t think I’ve done the best sales job on this, but I’m not sure what else to say. Heroine Complex is light, breezy and fun — a quick and enjoyable read with characters you want to spend time with. A great way to kill a couple of hours — I’m looking forward to Book 2.


3 Stars

2017 Library Love Challenge

The Batgirl of Burnside by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart & Babs Tarr

The Batgirl of BurnsideBatgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside

by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart (Writers), Babs Tarr (Artist)

Hardcover, 176 pg.
DC Comics, 2015

Read: February 10, 2016

My dabbling into The New 52 continues . . .

Like everyone who has at least one social network account, I was deluged by images of the new Batgirl uniform back in 2015 — and I dug it. I liked the Cassandra Cain incarnation of the character — but had missed just about all of them post-Barbara Gordon, who didn’t do much for me (I was a big Oracle fan, in my defense). So I decided to give this a shot when I saw the collection. Oh, so glad that I did — the best of the New 52 comics I’ve read so far.

Barbara Gordon’s in some sort of tiff with Dinah Lance (I’m assuming it’s Lance, didn’t care enough to check), she’s moving out of her old digs into a very trendy, hipster part of Gotham (the part that Nolan or Burton never showed) with a roommate she met doing physical therapy while working on a Master’s/Doctorate with a predictive algorithm that will probably go on to turn Gotham into Minority Report or will be Oracle. Doesn’t take her long to need to do the Batgirl thing, so she slaps together a new costume (her old equipment was no longer available) — the purple leather coat and sneaker thing — and gets to action.

(you can really tell I’m into detailed research here in that paragraph, can’t you? Well, maybe not today)

There’s a new gaggle of friends, mostly university based, who help her tremendously. There’s a romantic interest or two, conflict with the cops, some good stuff with Dinah, a brush with celebrity culture, and a few laughs. It’s light-hearted when it can be, kick-butt when it has to be. Which pretty much sums up Barbara, too.

The art? Wow. I don’t know how to describe it, but it makes you think of an animated show, it’s fun, it’s dynamic — it absolutely wouldn’t work for a lot of titles, but this one has enough spirit, enough joie de vivre, that it works perfectly. It supports and doesn’t distract from the story, just what you want from comic art.

I really dug this, and hope that this version of her sticks around for a bit (as I write this, I’m fully aware that she’s likely morphed at least once into something more Christopher Nolan-esque) — I’ll be looking for more of this one for sure.


3.5 Stars

Traps and Trapezes by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows

Traps and Trapezes Nightwing Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes

by Kyle Higgins (Writer), Eddy Barrows (Artist, with Geraldo Borges, Eber Ferreira, Eduardo Pansica, Paulo Siqueira, JP Mayer, Trevor McCarthy)

Trade Paperback, 160 pg.
DC Comics, 2012

Read: January 20, 2015

So all the New 52 Teen Titans were checked out of my local library, so I grabbed this to continue dipping my toe into DC’s experiment.

Nightwing and I go way back to my days reading The New Teen Titans, I read the issue where Dick unveiled his new identity something like 1.6 million times, and spent a lot of time following his solo title.

This was a different take on Dick’s return to the circus home of his youth, revisiting his parents’ death as well as other tragedies. Naturally, a costumed assassin comes after him and drops some bodies. Leading to Dick learning a lot more about the circus’ present and past (changing the way he had to look at many things).

There were a couple of brief detours from the hunt for the assassin. One was a brief supernatural story in the midst of all of this — it felt pretty strange in the context, but it worked. The other was a quick team-up with Batgirl to take down a shapeshifting thief. I really liked that story and the relationship between Dick and Barbara there.

Barrows art was fine — sometimes really good. Some of the other stuff? Eh, not so much (some of it was really nice, though). I thought it was an interesting choice to make the Flying Graysons’ costumes look like older versions of Nightwing’s costume, I remembered them being more classic Robin-y, but this worked for me. I’m not crazy about the red instead of the blue on Nightwing’s costume, but I can deal with it, I guess.

On the whole, there was nothing really “New” about this “New 52” Nightwing — Barbara as Bat-girl was nice, maybe some of the revelations in the last couple of pages — but basically this was a Nightwing story. Nothing wrong with that.


3 Stars

It’s Our Right to Fight by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth

It's Our Right to FightTeen Titans, Vol. 1: It’s Our Right to Fight

by Scott Lobdell (Writer), Brett Booth (Artist)

Trade Paperback, 168 pg.
DC Comics, 2012

Read: December 17, 2015

I haven’t picked up a DC collection in ages — and longer for a single issue. The whole New 52 idea both intrigued and annoyed me, and I just didn’t want to invest the time. But I saw this on the shelf at the library the other day, and figured, why not? It was the Wolfman/Pérez run of The New Teen Titans that got me into comics as a kid, and I enjoyed the first twenty or so of the Geoff Johns version in 2002-on before I stopped reading comics for a while. So it makes sense, that if anything was going to bring me back to DC, it’d be The Titans.

So, we get a variation on the Superboy clone being deployed to take out young metahumans. Really? They reboot the entire continuity just to redo stories like this? ooookay. It was fine as far as that goes, nothing special, nothing terrible (although, I thought Superboy’s crisis of conscience could’ve taken a bit longer to resolve) — it was primarily used as a device to get Red Robin (as always, hate the name, love the Bottomless Fries) to gather the troops. We’ve got Cassie/Dont-call-me-Wonder-Girl, who is…okay. We’ve got a new-to-his-powers (or is he?) Kid Flash — he’s pretty annoying and cocky, really, but I’m willing to see him grow.

There are three new characters — Bunker, a name almost as dumb as Red Robin, sort of Ice-Man without the chill, I like him, but think he schtick could get old; Solstice — who seems to be serving the role Raven did back in the 80’s, but I could be wrong; and Skitter, a weird arachnid looking person, I’m not even going to try to guess what I think about her without more exposure.

This is almost all set-up, with just enough resolution to call it a collection and move on to the next. It’s hard to say what I think of the storyline or characters until I se some more, but I don’t mind it. I’m not sure I like it, but I don’t hate it.

Biggest beef: Red Robin freaks out at Kid Flash early on in a way that makes no sense for someone over the age of 6 to do. I really don’t get that at all.

Booth’s artwork was nice — nothing that blew me away, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read a new (to me) comic that had art that nice. It feels like I’ve seen his work before, but looking through his credits, I’m not sure where. Very dynamic, loved the creepy vibe of Skitter’s look.


3 Stars

Shield and Crocus by Michael R. Underwood

Shield and CrocusShield and Crocus

by Michael R. Underwood

Paperback, 391 pg.
47 North, 2014
Read: June 26 – July 02, 2014

The level of detail in this world is astounding, it reads like it could be the 4th installment or so in a long-running series — the worldbuilding is just fantastic. I don’t know for a fact that Underwood has the history of Audec-Hal, of these races all mapped out for centuries before, and these characters lives detailed going back to birth — but it reads that way. He seems to know them all that well — but best of all, he doesn’t share all the homework he’s done with you, but you can tell he’s done it. The care, the detail, the intricacy, the strangeness of all of this — I mean strange in a good way, that somehow makes total sense in context — is so impressive. I don’t think I can adequately express my appreciation of the imagination and craft here.

We come into this city which is a shadow of itself — no longer in the heyday of its republic, it’s now a city controlled by competing tyrants. Where the citizens live in a sort of fearful servitude, a new generation being raised to know only this reality, and their elders in danger of forgetting what came before. Now where most writers would put a scrappy insurgency here, made up of soldiers, former government officials, and young ideologues, Underwood zigs instead of zags. Instead? We get the Justice League — or maybe the Justice Society (last time I checked, JSA was more welcoming of elderly heroes) — a band of costumed vigilantes doing what they can to destabilize the tyrants and protect the citizenry.

Right there, that’s enough. I’m in. I’m buying the T-shirts, pre-ordering any sequels, seeking out fanart (feel free to direct me to any shirts or art, btw).

The team’s leader, the Fist Sentinel is a Batman/Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)-esque figure. Getting by on his wits, fists and gadgets (tho’ some of his are magic, something that Batman and Beetle couldn’t say). He’s advanced in years, and doesn’t have much fight left in him, but he’s too stubborn/committed to quit. Then there’s the Shield — a sort-of guardian of the city, a mystic mantle that passes to new bearers after the death of the previous — a literal shield, which gives the bearer increased strength, etc. is the mark of the mantle. The current Shield is the Sentinel’s adopted son — think Captain America dosed by magic instead of revolutionary science. There’s a speedster, a woman with super-strength, someone who can control rocks with her mind, someone with mental powers — and a loosely organized group of mundane types who act as spies.

I’m getting into recapping too much here — this should be enough to whet your appetite. And there’s so much more to say in the setup, the details, the people.

Wonderfully told, well-plotted, well-paced. It’s everything I hoped and expected from Underwood.


I didn’t care about these people. I was curious how things would turn out, I was pulling for The First Sentinel and the Shield. But honestly? I didn’t care about them. I know Underwood is capable of making me care about characters — seemingly effortlessly. But something here was off. I’m able to rave about this as a display of care, skill, and imagination — but there’s a distance between the reader and the characters and I just don’t think he bridged it.

A couple of items other things worthy of note: Both before and immediately upon release, I heard a lot of talk about the map in this book — which seemed a bit odd, but then I saw the map. It is so cool. Possibly the greatest map in the history of fantasy fiction — it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. Underwood states, “It all started with a doodle on the back of a grocery list. Now, rendered by a professional, it is amazing. :)” He’s right. The cover art’s pretty great, too.

Basically, this is a book I admire more than I enjoyed. What Underwood constructed here was fantastic, I just couldn’t connect with it emotionally the way I wanted to (the way I can with most of the people in his Ree Reyes series). His care for the world, for his characters is more than evident. He just didn’t do enough to get me to share that. Your results may vary, you might think I’m out to lunch here. That could be — I still really recommend this novel, just not as strongly as I’d expected to.


4 Stars