Review: SuperGuy 2: Electric Boogaloo

SuperGuy2 Electric BoogalooSuperGuy 2: Electric Boogaloo (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2019) by Kurt Clopton

I have been looking forward to this sequel from the moment I finished book 1, my anticipation heightened when I learned the title, borrowed from a beloved ‘80s save-the-rec-center dance movie. Like SuperGuy before it, SuperGuy 2: Electric Boogaloo is a superpowered workplace comedy, complete with annoying coworkers, petty rivalries, and impenetrable bureaucracy. (Q: How hard could it be to add a cape to a uniform? A: Very.) Everything that was goofy in book 1 – SuperGuy’s immodest uniform, his nemesis Gray Matter’s overly complicated plots (and his crush on a diner waitress named Alice), the police chief’s maybe-real-maybe-not animosity – are all cranked up a few hilarious notches. Meanwhile, a former minion of Gray Matter is accidentally transformed into an energy monster and takes his villain name from an old VHS tape. He hates SuperGuy and Gray Matter in equal measure, allowing for spectacular battles and destruction. And there’s a well-dressed new villain in town whose identity is a mystery only to our heroes.

Recommended for fans of Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, and any readers who like their action and comedy in equal measure.

Oliver Olson, generically-themed official city superhero of Milwaukee, has finally become more comfortable with his job, if not so much with his suit. After defeating the supervillain, Gray Matter, and thwarting his plan of world domination in his first few weeks on the job, Oliver is settling into the routine of protecting his city by catching small time crooks, protecting a larger part of the country by joining a regional supergroup, and protecting his job by keeping his trainee sidekick from destroying anything. But now there’s a giant blue monster who wants a word. All Oliver wants is a cape.

“A dash of superhero action, a pinch of lovelorn supervillain angst, and a splash of cape envy. Shake it all up and you get SuperGuy 2: Electric Boogaloo. Oliver and company are back in this irreverent sequel that wonders, Is the enemy of my enemy really my friend?”

LeeAnn McLennan, author of The Supernormal Legacy trilogy

“This high-energy, laugh-out-loud action comedy will brighten the dark days ahead.”

Karen Eisenbrey, author of Daughter of Magic, The Gospel According to St. Rage, Wizard Girl, and Barbara and the Rage Brigade

Review: Itty Bitty Writing Space

Itty Bitty cover image

Itty Bitty Writing Space

Edited by Jason Brick & Dani J. Caile

Cover by Arthur Wright

Full disclosure: I am one of 104 authors in this wide-ranging flash fiction collection. It’s good company to be in.

This collection is like an assortment of quality chocolates: everyone will have different favorites but no one who likes stories will go away disappointed. With minimal commitment, readers can sample outside their preferred genres and might even discover a new favorite author.  I at first thought the book would be handy to fill brief wait times; at no more than three pages each, each story can be read in a few minutes. But it’s hard to stop at just one!

I also love the cover, which manages to be completely adorable yet not at all childish: an itty bitty writer, hard at work on a tiny masterpiece.

Review: Sparks

Sparks+Front+Cover+eBook+finalSparks by Maren Anderson (July 2019 Not A Pipe Publishing)

Romance, monsters, and magic … for grownups? Yes, please!

It’s a treat to find a good fantasy novel aimed at adult readers. Sparks is just such a book. Nothing against YA, which I love, but I like the idea of someone with life experience and responsibilities encountering magic in the midst of an otherwise ordinary life. I also enjoyed the setting: contemporary West Coast farm country, not the usual venue for tales of monsters and magic.

Rosie, a widow in her late 30s, owns a ranch where she boards horses and offers riding lessons. She loves her life but she’s deep in debt. She has plans to train five mustangs, which will help pay the bills. But first she needs to build a round pen, and the only good place for it is occupied by a century-old cowshed. A cowshed that does not want to be torn down. Things are complicated further by the arrival of Patrick, a handsome stranger with a beautiful horse and a mysterious past. Skeptical, unsuperstitious Rosie has a big adjustment to make as genuine magic enters her life, and not only from the cowshed.

The book has a nice balance of humor, romance, and suspense as Rosie and Patrick team up to figure out what is in the cowshed and how to get rid of it. Things get worse before they get better—much worse for some characters—until the surprising, satisfying conclusion. Recommended for fans of fantasy romance, mythical creatures, and horses.

Now on pre-order! Releases July 30, 2019

Hardcover HERE

Trade Paperback HERE

Kindle Edition HERE

Review: No Place Like Home (Resident Witch #4)

no-place-like-home-kindleNo Place Like Home (Resident Witch #4) by Angelika Rust

In less than a year, main character Alice Adams has grown from a shallow, mindless member of the popular, mean-girl clique into a hardworking Resident Witch-in-Training who takes her responsibilities seriously. Still grieving the loss of her parents, she’s trying to move forward with the next steps toward adulthood. And also find a name for her band. Of course her relaxing spring break will be interrupted with monsters and mayhem, because for some reason, her small pleasant town is a magnet for that sort of thing.

I love the mix of comedy and heartbreak in this series. Most of the characters have suffered terrible losses and have heavy responsibilities, but they still joke around in a way that is unforced and natural. The theme of terrible band names woven through serves to lighten the mood. (My favorites are Shit Magnet Theory and Resident Nuisance.) Most of the established is cast is back, though several characters are out of town or otherwise engaged and participate mainly by text, hinting at the near future when they will graduate and go their separate ways. I was pleased to see side character Finn take a larger role this time out. He plays the part of Sassy Gay Friend to a T, but proves a loyal friend to Alice while revealing his own deep longings. The introduction of a new character, Bastian Wolfe, helps explain why this small town attracts so many baddies while also adding another tool to Alice’s magical toolbox, not to mention a fairy tale ending for a beloved character.

Another aspect I like is that our heroes, for all they mean well, make plans, and work hard, are capable of monumental, boneheaded mistakes for the same reasons any of us are: overconfidence, too little sleep, forgetting to eat. And they don’t just brush it off. They have to learn to forgive each other, and themselves. The ending promises “to be continued” but like the young characters, the series has matured. I expect it will grow and change as it proceeds. To get the full effect, I recommend that readers start with book 1 and read the whole thing to get the full flavor. The characters and their relationships are so lovable, it would be a shame to miss out.

Get the book an Amazon

The Supernormal Legacy, Book 3: Emerge

EmergeThe Supernormal Legacy, Book 3: Emerge by LeeAnn McClennan (Not A Pipe Publishing, 2019)

Emerge, the third book of this trilogy, turns up the heat on main character Olivia Woodson Brighthall. In book 1 Dormant, she belatedly manifested the supernormal abilities she had rejected as a child after the death of her mother and began training with her cousins to hunt monsters and fight bad guys. In book 2 Root she grew in skill and confidence and embarked on a road trip with her cousins (and normal friend Anna) to rescue her friend Ben from the terrorist organization Mountain of Ash that killed her mother and brainwashed her cousin Emma into joining them. Book 3 finds Olivia in the Ashers’ clutches, far from home, her powers suppressed, and only alive because the head terrorist wants her blood to make an enhancement serum.

The suspense never lets up in this volume. Olivia endures torture in the form of altered memories as the villain seeks to power up her blood. Escape attempts are foiled as Olivia and her friends gradually learn what Mountain of Ash has in mind for the inferior normals of the world, and for the supernormals who seek to protect them. It’s a nice touch that Olivia agrees with Mountain of Ash on one point: supernormals should be able to use their powers openly. She does not agree with their cruel, destructive methods and is hurt when friends seem to go over to the dark side. Although the final battle is a pulse-pounding shocker with terrible losses, the book pulls off a poignant but hopeful ending.

If you don’t find it on the shelves of your favorite independent bookstore, ask them to order it for you, or purchase online here:

Get it at Barnes & Noble HERE. They support indie authors and have hosted Not a Pipe Publishing’s signings at multiple locations.

Get it on Amazon HERE.

Get it at Powell’s HERE.

 

Review: Don’t Read This Book

Don't Read This BookDon’t Read This Book (2019 Not A Pipe Publishing) by Benjamin Gorman

At once hilarious and heartbreaking, this novel uses fantasy monsters and rollicking comedy to make sophisticated philosophical and political points about identity and meaning. A tall order that Don’t Read This Book fulfills, and then some.

The story is set in our familiar world, but with one difference: all the monsters and magical creatures of myth and legend are real, hiding among humans … and preying on them. They have long ago formed a governing body with rules that prevent the various creature factions from attacking each other. They meet annually in Las Vegas for a convention. Bel (vampire) and Nando (werewolf) are buddy cops, tasked with capturing and punishing monsters who break the rules. But now they have a new unofficial assignment: rescue a kidnapped human writer and keep her—and her manuscript—away from the necromancer who would use this book to destroy modern civilization.

It would be a spoiler to reveal why he believes a novel could do this, but it has a lot to do with what gives life meaning and how that differs depending on who you are. Lena, the writer in question, exists at an intersection of identities: Black, Latina, lesbian, Millennial…Oregonian. She begins the story full of doubt and fear but under the influence and protection of her unlikely rescuers, she rediscovers her voice and power. Her heartbreaks and triumphs felt real and I couldn’t help rooting for her.

In addition to Las Vegas, Gorman makes good use of real-life settings in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and France for scenes of narrow escapes and monster battles. Also like the real world, his monster population includes literal internet trolls, flinging flaming poo and thriving on chaos. Most real of all, it takes all the good guys working together to achieve their goal. Still, my favorite character and the true hero of the piece is Josef, a faceless clay golem who punches Nazis. Go, Josef!

Until April 19, 2019, you can pre-order your copy (and consider getting one for your local library) using the Kickstarter here! Or ask for it at your favorite independent bookstore, or order from Amazon here.

Shelter

20171224_114500Many years ago (2003 or ’04) I wrote a Christmas story to share at the Seattle Writers Association holiday potluck. I didn’t think about it again until December 2018 when the organizers of an online author event put out a call for short stories to use as prizes. I remembered this story but couldn’t find it on my computer. Believe it or not, I turned up the hard copy! It was short enough to retype and update, and I enjoyed reading it again. I hope you will, too.

SHELTER

Christmas, Anna thought, was like a big cup of Diet Coke. It promised sweetness and abundance and refreshment, but when you finally took a sip, it was flat and artificial. That was the problem: all the stress and none of the sparkle. Christmas had lost its fizz.

Anna remembered Christmas magic from long ago, when she was a little girl. And as a mother, she had made the magic herself. Even after Will died and she had to go back to work at the hospital in order to support three children, all by herself with no help from anyone, thank you very much. Those children were now grown and too mature for magic. They still expected lavish gifts from their mother, though they had yet to present her with grandchildren. There was no one to make magic for.

To battle holiday blues, Dear Abby advised helping those less fortunate, and then the church bulletin had asked for shelter volunteers for Christmas Eve. Full of enthusiastic good intentions, Anna signed up. She pictured the hospitality and Christmas cheer she would offer, a hostess to the needy young guests in this, her second home. Their gratitude would warm her heart, and just like in a TV movie, she would rediscover the true meaning of Christmas.

Late on Christmas Eve, Anna sat on a metal folding chair, watching people sleep. Rather than joy at sharing, she felt battered by the invasion. They had tromped in, armored with piercings, grimy backpacks, and attitude. Anna soon gave up trying to converse. She didn’t know their families (did they have families?), disqualifying that small-talk staple. They didn’t care that this building was erected in 1927 and nearly lost in the Depression, or that the congregation had been organized over 100 years ago, or that Anna had had her wedding reception in this very room, long before anyone thought of running a thrift shop or hosting a homeless shelter in a church fellowship hall. It was like trying to communicate with members of another species.

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