Normally, I would never have picked up an anthology like this. My footwear consists of… uh… tennis shoes and maybe, for special occasions, the flats that are hidden somewhere in the back of my closet. I am the ultimate casual dresser, and the only real concession to cosmetics I make involves perfume. So the premise that three women can find exactly what they want from life thanks to the right footwear strikes me as really silly and shallow. On the other hand, I do love Julie Kenner, and Marianne Mancusi is an author I’ve always thought I would like. And, surprise surprise, I really liked this anthology, all feminist quibbles aside.
A Step in the Right Direction by Julie Kenner
Julie Kenner tells the story of Lydia Carmichael, a shy woman with a serious lack of confidence and a fixation on superheroes. Her best friend talks her into buying shoes from a website that promises that, with the shoes, Lydia will gain her heart’s desire. Soon, the new Lydia is kicking ass and taking names, and running into Nikko, a real honest-to-God superhero who looks like her beloved comic book character, Silver Streak.
I like Julie Kenner. The humor in her stories always works for me, and I always feel that her heroines are real people that I might run into somewhere. Her stories are light and fluffy, and this one is no exception. The characters aren’t very substantial when examined closely, but as archetypes they work well, and I loved watching Lydia’s self-confidence bloom. I think I could have done with a little less of the hokey comic book aspects of the story, but that’s a personal preference and the story was still good.
Kung Fu Shoes by Jade Lee
Jade Lee is an author I’ve heard of but whose books haven’t yet tempted me. In this story, inner-city schoolteacher Michaela “Micki” Becker is beginning to feel burned out by her teaching job. Then she discovers that the Mary Janes she bought from the same website where Lydia of the previous story got her magic shoes imbue her with kung fu powers. As she struggles to get through to Lucy, one of the kids she wants to reach, she attracts the attention of the school cop, Joe DeLuce.
I liked the romance in this story. Joe is a great hero–manly and very much a real guy. I loved watching his progress into love with Micki. Unfortunately, Micki herself is less well-drawn. She is basically a big liberal bleeding-heart stereotype (she even eats tofu for heaven’s sake), and I thought she slipped past the border of TSTL country just a little too often. Also, the paranormal aspect of the story was so underdeveloped that it added a level of cheese that really didn’t need to be there at all.
Karma Kitty Goes to Comic Con by Marianne Mancusi
Marianne Mancusi’s Karma Kitty Goes to Comic Con ends the anthology on a high note. Comic book writer Hailey Hills is given the opportunity to attend Comic Con, the largest comics convention in the country, where she will get to meet fans of Karma Kitty, the popular superheroine she’s created. As per the rest of the stories in this anthology, she’s bought a special pair of Karma Kitty boots for the occasion. Unfortunately, Colin Robinson, her former boyfriend, who broke up with her on account of the fact that too many weird things happen to Hailey, is also at the convention. Can these two rekindle an old flame amidst real live ninjas, burgeoning superpowers, and a publisher that’s determined to make the comics industry respectable?
I’m not normally a fan of screwball comedies. They have to be done really really well, or they come off as stupid. Ms. Mancusi does screwball very well, and I laughed aloud a number of times while I was reading. I particularly loved the way Ms. Mancusi worked in a not so subtle reference to a certain RWA-related kerfuffle from last year. Doubtless, people who disagreed with her on that particular issue will find the alusion to it in poor taste, but I appreciated it.
I liked the characters. Hailey was a lot of fun, even if she was a little stereotypical. I liked that she seemed more confident in herself than the other heroines, and it seemed that she was deliberately supposed to be something of a ditz. Colin was a bit of a jerk, and I didn’t really see what Hailey saw in him, but the story was so laugh out loud funny that I didn’t particularly mind.
SOMETIMES IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SHOES
Whether facing the forces of evil or simply battling a bad hair day, fantastic footwear is key.
Yes, there are the right shoes for the right situation, and not every moment calls for Manolos. Sometimes a woman’s gotta be fierce as well as feminine, fiery as well as fragile. And when the legwork required is a roundhouse, when a girl’s mantra has to become “I am woman, hear me roar,” those are the times it’s good to know there’s magic in the world–because in super-powered pumps, the shrinking-est Violet or the nervous-est Nellie can do anything. Every step in magic shoes is sure to be a big one.