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REVIEW: Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep

Dear Ms Estep,

karma.gifI was never a comic book fan and it’s been a long time since I read one but I recognized a few givens of the standard American superhero comic book. We’ve got your big city, alter egos, intrepid newspaper reporter, heroes, villains and brightly colored spandex for everybody.

Carmen Cole steps into the dual role of reporter and possible love interest. I wasn’t so sure of her reasoning for spending so much time unmasking superheroes wherever she could. Sure her fiance turns out to be one and she discovers this 1) on their wedding day when 2) she catches him shagging a] his nemesis who is b] her best friend but since superheroes are almost duty bound to spend their time saving the average citizen who needs help and/or thwarting the villains, why is the general public so happy that she exposes them and makes their lives more difficult? The excuse that cities want the superheroes to help pay for the damage they cause while battling villains doesn’t make much sense when compared to the fact that they’re saving the city from villains and crime. Do the people of Bigtown want a nice, neat city that’s under the thumb of the evil Terrible Triad? Or one that’s kept safe by the combined efforts of the Fearless Five even if it’s a little messy? I think I’d opt for messy.cube1.jpg

The fact that the people in the story can never easily recognize the superheroes even if the disguise if fairly flimsy and the clues are obvious is standard for comic books. Yet most alter egos are not as flashy and prone to flaunt themselves as those in Karma Girl. You did seem to stick to the Comic Code in that most violence is subdued, authority figures are respected, the details of crimes are vague (though presented as sordid), villains pay for their actions and Right triumphs in the end. With respect to nudity and love scenes, it’s more detailed than your average comic (but not comix novel) book but hey, this is a romance book! The Fantastic Five adhere to the basics of the superhero genre: extraordinary powers and abilities, a strong moral code and sense of justice, nifty identity concealing costumes, special weapons, independence, stories explaining the origin of their powers and as a fantastic headquarters and base of operations, I’d move into Sublime anyday (though I still don’t see how it can operate without any daily servants).

kapow.jpgAs for Carmen’s love interest, I thought their falling in love was nicely handled. Both were a bit startled by it but took their time and I thought understood each other, until Carmen almost blew things. Carmen is given a good reason to feel guilt for what she did yet she takes the “I’m so not worthy of hero’s love” and guilt complex to extremes. By the end, I wanted to slap her. Though I did like her habit of ruminating with a Rubik’s Cube over drumming her fingers or pacing around. Another area that was problematic was Carmen’s search for the identity of the Five and the Triad. She endlessly searches through articles from the library then when she can’t figure it out, starts searching through that same material all over. That got boring. For me as a reader, the alter egoes of the superheroes were easy to figure out but the villain’s twisted intentions was a nice touch.

I do like the names of both heroes and villains. I think my kitty wants a superhero name. Maybe Clawz or Panthera. And I loved explodia and Mr Frost’s Freezoray. Loved them! The so fit with comic world conventions. The names say it all without requiring lots of explanation and since comics require a suspension of belief and willingness to accept what an author says this is a good thing. Did I miss the identity of two of the Triad or is this To Be Continued in another book? I’m just checking but I would assume there is one given the ending of this one.

I read that a comic book writer has to have good dialogue, a cohesive plot and strong visuals. Your dialogue was good, the plot needed a little work but I could “see” what you were describing. However, comic book heroes usually don’t have much character depth. As per standards the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad but that’s about it. Readers looking for multilayered people in this book are going to have to look high and low. For a quick read and fun time, this book works but for lasting thought, it won’t cut it. B-



Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Charlene
    May 04, 2007 @ 10:45:27

    The stick figures have gone new places! Best video review ever. “I can only have sex with you with my mask on.” “I don’t care. That’s hot.”


    I must buy this book. Like, now. Thanks for making me laugh!

  2. Jennifer Estep
    May 04, 2007 @ 11:18:51

    That video is the Coolest. Thing. Ever. Love it! Thanks to Ned for the stick figures. Whoever did the bubble dialogue gets a big pat on the back too. And thanks again for taking the time to review the book. I really appreciate it. :-)

    How can I post the video on my Web site? Do you guys allow that? I’d give y’all proper credit and everything.

    As to the identities of two of the villains, they are not unmasked in Karma Girl. They are referenced in the sequel, Hot Mama, and may appear again in future books. But for right now, they’ve crawled off to a dark hole to lick their wounds. But villains have a funny way of making a comeback in comic books, even if they’ve been shot, stabbed, electrocuted, and sucked into a black hole — all at the same time.

    Fun was definitely what I was going for, with some campy thrown in for flavor. ;-)

  3. Devon
    May 04, 2007 @ 13:01:12

    Oooh Jane, looks like you’ve got some new effects going. Very cool.

    This book looks really cute. Jayne brought up the question I was wondering about, i.e. why would people want the superheroes outed? But it also looks like a fun change of pace, so I’ll be trying soon.

  4. Jennifer Estep
    May 04, 2007 @ 13:21:44

    I would compare it to the same reaction people have when they drive by a car accident (or maybe watching celebrities melt down on TV would be a better example these days). You know it’s wrong, you feel bad for people, but you just can’t help but watch.

    And Carmen is an equal opportunist — she exposes the heroes and villains, usually at the same time. The one time she doesn’t, well, let’s just say it gets her into trouble.

    Also, about the heroes’ and villains’ identities being easy to figure out … I did that on purpose. (I mean it’s painfully obvious that Clark Kent is really Superman, but somehow, Lois Lane, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, just can’t figure it out).

    The whole book is really a loving, wink-wink-nudge-nudge spoof, sort of like the old Batman show with Adam West.

  5. Jane
    May 04, 2007 @ 13:51:52

    I’ll pass along the words of thanks to Ned. He did this during his NBA playoff games so it was a REAL sacrifice, according to him.

    Also, the video is hosted at Youtube so you can just stick the embed code on your blog/website for it to run.

    I think my biggest problem with the book were that the female characters were more interesting than the male characters. There was never any background information as to what made them tick, really. I’m interested in reading Fiera’s story in Hot Mama, though.

  6. Jennifer Estep
    May 04, 2007 @ 14:25:52

    Great! I don’t know what embedded code means, but I will strongarm my significant other into helping me. I’m still chuckling about the video review. I even made people at work watch it! :-)

    That’s the only real limitation with first person. You don’t get into other characters’ heads quite as much. But I can be so snappy and do so many asides in first person, it’s the style that works for me. And plus, I wanted to focus on the women (unlike many comics, where they’re the second-string characters.)

    If you thought Carmen was a little too whiny, you should like Hot Mama a lot more. Fiera does not whine — ever. She’s just so confident and sassy. Then again, she’s a tall, blond Barbie doll who can benchpress cars and set things on fire with her bare hands … she has plenty of reasons to be confident. She was a lot of fun to write.

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  8. Marg
    May 05, 2007 @ 01:30:53

    If you thought Carmen was a little too whiny, you should like Hot Mama a lot more. Fiera does not whine -‘ ever. She's just so confident and sassy. Then again, she's a tall, blond Barbie doll who can benchpress cars and set things on fire with her bare hands … she has plenty of reasons to be confident.

    This sounds like a lot of fun too! I think I am now hooked into buying this book and the next one! LOL! or maybe that should be KAPOW!

  9. Jennifer Estep
    May 05, 2007 @ 07:27:32

    Hi, Marg. Hot Mama is a lot of fun. Fiera is a really cool character to write about. She does what she wants, whenever she wants. (Then again, I may be a tad biased.)

    I try to make all my books fun, because that’s what I like to read. Some books and TV shows and movies take themselves waaay too seriously. I like serious shows just fine, but sometimes, you just want something light and fun and zany.

    Hope you enjoy Karma Girl! :-)

  10. janice
    May 05, 2007 @ 09:34:59

    What’s the name of the song in the video? I really like it!

  11. KL
    May 05, 2007 @ 10:06:34

    Okay. Must have this book. MUST. HAVE.

    *is in China and cannot have*


    Ms. Estep, this premise looks fantastic and I’m requesting it in my next care package.

    The video is priceless!

  12. Edie Ramer
    May 05, 2007 @ 18:17:32

    Loved the video! Almost as fun as the book. I didn’t have any trouble with the plot. I thought of Karma Girl as a comic book come to life, and I just had a lot of fun reading it.

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  14. Jane
    May 05, 2007 @ 20:15:29

    It was supergirl by Monkini (I believe). I wanted to do the Krystal Harris one but it was not for sale on Itunes.

  15. Jennifer Estep
    May 05, 2007 @ 20:49:49

    Hi, KL. If only I had the power to instantly teleport books to readers, you would have your copy right now. I think that’s a power all writers wish they had, along with the ability to type really, really fast.

    Whenever you do get the book, I hope you enjoy it! :-)

    The video and song are just too cool. You guys really did a great job. Kudos again!

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  17. Meljean
    May 06, 2007 @ 07:25:17

    LOL! Fantastic video, and I’m dying to read the book.

    And I didn’t think the sound cutting out at the end was a mistake — I thought it was an artistic decision or something *g* (Learn from us authors, Jane … when something goes wrong, just say, “Artistic Decision!”)

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