Murder In Cormyr Review

If you’ve read many of these reviews or listened to the pod, you know that I dig detective/private investigator stories.
The less straight forward and more off beat the better.
Be it Monk, Psych, Dan Shamble, or Mystery Inc, there is just something about the nontraditional mystery solver that I love.

You’ve also heard my interest in Dungeons And Dragons grow since this show launched nearly 4 and a half years ago, as evidenced by Ep 100 of the main show (listen to that here).
So what happens when you combine D&D and a murder mystery?
Let’s find out!

As always, let it be known far amd wide that this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

In the tradition of most detective novels I’ve stumbled across, this story is told from a first person perspective of somebody who just so happened to witness it all as the helper of the incredibly savvy detective.
This story begins with our former slop boy and quarter halfling narrator, Jasper, recounting the story of how he came to be in the service of a retired war wizard, Benelaius.
Having broken into Benelaius’s cabin on a drunken dare, Jasper agreed to be his servant, at half his current pay, for a year to keep his soon to be employer from reporting his crime to the local law force, the Purple Dragons.
Yes, gang, this book isn’t afraid to go full nerd!

Nearly a year passes, with Benelaius teaching Jasper ways to broaden his future beyond petty burglary.
In the year that has gone by, a ghost has started appearing in the Vast Swamp near town and the citizens are starting to get worried.
They get even more alarmed when bodies start dropping just before the merchant’s guild is scheduled to hold their annual meeting in the normally quiet town of Ghars.

Before I got a copy of this, like with most books I get, I did a ton of research and only found a couple of reviews from around the time of release.
After I finished reading it the other day I searched them out again just to compare.
The only conclusion I can come to is one of the following: either Chet Williamson wronged this reviewer in the worst possible way and the reviewer got his revenge in review form, your ol pal Doom might be simple in the head and is easy to please, or this reviewer read a totally different book cause I had a shit ton of fun with this one.

Williamson infused this with an incredibly pulpy vibe, while still juggling the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy aspects of it all.
Which is fascinating considering my research (which could just be internet horseshit) says that when he wrote this he had less D&D experience than I currently do.
Had I not read that, I would have thought he was a seasoned veteran when it comes to slinging polyhedrals.
He paints as good a picture of the world and its monsters as the DMs on most actual play podcasts I’ve heard.

The mystery of the murderer is interwoven with the ghost and political upheaval storythreads damn well.
All have enough satisfying twists and shocks to keep you more than interested until the end.
The Monk-like “here’s what happened” scene even has a twist that is explained the following day to add an unexpected bit of business to make this story have a freshness all it’s own.

Bottom line: If you always wanted to read a tale of a slightly more sedentary Gandalf or Dumbledore playing gumshoe with Frodo or Harry doing their legwork, look no further.
The biggest thing I can piss and moan about is that the ending seems to suggest more adventures with Beneliaus & Jasper that sadly never happen.
This book was perfectly made for me, and I’m glad I found it.
Hopefully you’ll feel the same and pick it up yourself.

Let us know what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Daphne & Velma: The Dark Deception Review

The first novel was an interesting new take on one of the most well known groupings of characters ever produced.
But was it a legitimately fun and fresh new take on the world’s most famous mystery solvers or was it the start of a calamitous fluke?
I think you know where this is headed, so let’s dive in with both feet, gang!

You know the drill, consider this your obligatory and official ***SPOILER ALERT***
Also, I highly suggest you read my review of the first book in this series (Find it HERE) to understand where things are.

We rejoin Daph & Velma, now back to being the bestest friends ever, a few weeks after the events of The Vanishing Girl, they’re still pondering what Shaggy’s secret could be.
Soon, a near panic grips Crystal Cove as mysterious jewels wash up on the beach and the entire town gives in to the hysteria of a vampire, the haunted history of the original settlers, and any other shadows they can think to give their imaginations up to.

Again, Velma seems to be the most well rounded character.
Though you don’t see her parents, the story of their struggle to get back the home that was stolen from them and how they’re preparing it makes for the most relatable and interesting of the personal life aspects of the story.
I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but I love this universe’s version of Velma.
The only issue I have on this front is that, sadly, the other members of the gang aren’t handled with nearly as much care or written as interesting.
But I can’t blame Morgan Baden for that, she’s just playing with the cards she was dealt…or is she?
We still don’t know who Josephine Ruby is.

On that topic, I like Baden’s style.
If she isn’t Ruby, she does a damn good job of mimicking her voice and style.
In a situation like this, with shifting authors, that can be a killer for the flow between books.
Baden continues most of the story threads set up in book 1, as well as kicking off a few of her own to keep things fresh.
Daphne’s instant crush on a fellow intern at the local gossip rag provides her with a good conflict for this outing, and it’s handled believably.

The mystery is suspenseful and twists enough to keep you from solving it instantly, and the cliffhanger again leaves you wanting more now!
Which is, possibly, the best thing you can say about such an earnest tale of teenage mystery solvers.
My only complaint here would be the repeating of the “men are evil and stupid” type stuff that’s kind of annoying.
As for the the men of Mystery Inc, Fred & Shaggy play a slightly larger role this time, which is definitely a plus.
And they are set up to have bigger roles in future installments.

These novels are like being in your 50s and hanging out with your best friend since childhood who also just so happens to have been your neighbor for the entirety of both your lives and hearing him say some weird shit like “Did I ever tell you about the time the wife and I liberated a small village from a central American warlord and captained an aircraft carrier back home?”
All of the words, in theory, make perfect sense, but you’re confused as to how these people you have known LITERALLY all of your damn life are revealing this wildly different and unknown side to you for the first time ever in the most random and nonchalant way possible.
That is truly how these books feel to me.
In these last 21 years, I have spent more time in the company of Mystery Inc, be it through Movies, TV Shows, Comics, or Books, than I have almost every family member or the revolving door of people I thought were my friends.
And that’s not to say I don’t appreciate or enjoy this series, I absolutely do!
But they throw me so off kilter with the rearranging of personality traits and social hierarchical changes.
It’s weird to be so off balance when I’m with my friends, but I love hearing that they have interesting new stories and I am hungry for many more.

The bottomline is that this series, if kept on course, has the potential to be so incredibly satisfying.
I wish it was more in line with the Scooby I know and love, but I suppose some of the fun is found in learning the new dynamics.
I’ll always hold out hope for a serious series of Scooby novels, but until that happens I am more than happy to devour the books in this universe.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Also, get ready, Knights Of Nerd Blitz-Dom, the 100th episode (200th ep between the 3 shows) of the main show drops this weekend!
Your ears are not prepared for this monstrous onslaught of hard core nerdery.
We hope you enjoy it, gang.

Star Trek: The Rings Of Time Review

Space, The Final Frontier.
These words have long been used as almost a rallying cry for Trek-dom for years.
But what happened as humanity took those initial monumental steps in to the place where no man had gone before?
What happened when the first impulse engine took its maiden voyage into that wild black yonder?

This book from Greg Cox intends to tell that tale, which has been a story of interest since Star Trek debuted back in the 60s.
But does finally learning the story behind that off-handed mention live up to the wonder that imaginations have conjured in all the ensuing years?
Is learning what that moment in history entailed satisfying enough?
Let’s strap in and find out, gang!

As always, this is your requisite ***SPOILER ALERT***
Act accordingly.

On June 28th 2020, Colonel Shaun Geoffrey Christopher, son of USAF Captain John Christopher, made his historic trip to Saturn in the U.S.S. Lewis & Clark.
In 2270, the U.S.S. Enterprise answered a distress call from a mining moon orbiting the ringed planet Klondike VI.
Both ships witness the hexagonal storm on the respective planets they’ve arrived at in turmoil.
While trying to understand that, both ships encounter a strange alien probe.
Through a series of exploratory events in both places in time, the Captains of both ships come in contact with the probe and in a flash of bright white light swap bodies and kick off our plot.

Season 1, Episode 19, production number 6149-21: Tomorrow Is Yesterday.
One of the most iconic and memorable episodes of Star Trek The Original Series.
In that episode, Kirk and crew accidentally end up in the 1960s and beam Captain John Christopher aboard, he learns too much about 23rd century technology and they fear they can’t send him back to his time because his experiences aboard Enterprise may cause him to, intentionally or not, change the future.
The only problem is that his son is a crucial part of the space program.
This is that long speculated story!

I’ve known Greg Cox’s name since I was around 14 years old, I had just made the big jump into comic books, after a childhood of loving comic book based cartoons.
Having recently discovered the wonderful world of media tie-in novels, Marvel had a new line of books through Pocket Books and I found and read Fantastic Four: War Zone.
From that book forward, Greg Cox was a sign of quality and easy reading, particularly when dealing with sci-fi.
This book does nothing to disabuse me of that notion.
His prose is crisp, economic, and some how encourages an unencumbered need to devour page after page.

If I were to have a complaint about this book, it would be the same I’ve had in many of these reviews.
And thinking about it, it’s actually probably what any good storyteller should be doing, he leaves you wanting more…and that is one hell of a feat in a novel that weighs in at 370 pages!
His focus, understandably, is mainly on the 2020 crew that we don’t really know.
Is it bad?
Not at all!
But I wanted to spend more time with the crew we know and love.
I wanted to see more interactions between Christopher, in Kirk’s body, with the iconic crew members.

If you love the adventures of the 1701 crew, episodes or movies, then this just may be the book for you.
It is a call back/forward jizz fest we nerds adore, and it never comes off feeling hokey like he’s just trying to make references for the sake of making them.
Continuity wasn’t the biggest deal in the 60s, but logically if you were in a 5 year mission, such as Kirk is leading, if you didn’t always reference or ponder what experiences you’ve had it would feel cheap and unimportant.
And that is how most of these references are fit in, reflections on the encounters they’ve had over the course of their extended stay in space.

Unsurprisingly, this had everything and more that I want out of a Star Trek novel.
The characterization is spot on, it has a solid Sci-Fi hook, there’s an unexpected conflict that I didn’t even touch on, and it has that sense of wonder and hope that stories of space travel should have.
Gang, if you always wondered what happened on that historic trip to Saturn, wonder no more.
I doubt there could be a better telling of it than this!

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Star Wars: Most Wanted Review

If you’ve listened to the five or so most recent episodes of the main show, you have heard Fitz talk about reading this a few times.
You listened as my interest grew while he spoke about his downs and ups with it.
So the question is where do I stand?
Do I agree with ol Fitty or am I my own man?
Gather round and let’s find out, gang.

As always, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Just to start, this book is curious.
Obviously, if I’m reviewing it, I liked it well enough (more on this later, trust me!) to tell you about it.
But for the first two sevenths of it, shit was looking really damn gloomy on the “ooo, this is gonna rock!” front.
That first hundred pages or so is just bland and uninteresting, it’s just a hell of a slog that feels completely uninspired.
Right around page 100, that all changes and this quickly becomes one of the most enthralling, engaging, and entertaining Star Wars books I’ve read in my decade of reading them.

Set just before the opening segment of Solo, we meet Han and Qi’ra as two kids with hopes of getting to be the leader of the White Worms pack.
With a near contempt for each other, Lady Proxima sends them, unwittingly to each other, on separate sides of the same mission, a high dollar auction for a new piece of cutting edge tech.
When the deal goes sideways, Han & Qi’ra are forced to work together and trust each other with their deepest secrets to survive.

Coming hot on the heels of possibly the most controversial movie of the franchise (The Last Jedi) and battling against poor promotion and a very public firing and replacement of the original directors, Solo was an unfairly maligned movie that had the true heart and soul of George Lucas’s Original three movies infused in its DNA.
It’s definitely the most fun of the new movies, desperately in need of a sequel or follow up of some kind (#MakeSolo2Happen!).
To say I want more of this era, these characters, and their world is a MASSIVE understatement.

In this book, we get to travel to at least four different distinct areas/districts of Corellia: the sewers, the posh upper crusty area, an industrial nightmare, and a grave yard for star ships.
Once Rae Carson hits her stride, she doesn’t fuckin’ stop, man.
What’s truly astounding is that this novel dropped before the movie, because it feels like Carson studied this movie for months to get that feeling of fun, adventure, and wonder locked down.
She captured it all, particularly in the scene where Han breaks atmo for the first time and gets his very first taste of space and flying.
His sheer glee at finding the thing that he desperately wants most in life is awe inspiring and wonderful.
I’ve never read a damn thing Rae has written before, but I’ll be watching more closely for her name from now on.

One thing I liked and have to mention is an observation Qi’ra makes about Han.
While watching his interactions with other folks of all stripes, different species, robots, filthy rich, or dirt poor, she notices that Han treats them all with the same level of dignity.
While this sounds like it may come off heavy handed, obtrusive, and forced, I can assure you it most definitely is not.
It’s handled incredibly well and doesn’t at all feel like you’re being beaten over the head with “a message”, it’s almost off-handedly mentioned.
It’s a good message to subtly send in this day and age of constant division, especially given the target audience of this novel.

The bottomline is this, gang, it has a more than rocky start, but if you stick with it it is wonderfully satisfying.
Carson has an uncanny grasp on this world, and these characters in particular.
I know she’s gone on to bigger assignments in the Star Wars galaxy, but I’d definitely love to see her return to Han’s roots and show us what she can do with this set of toys now that we’ve all seen the movie.
If you can, hunt this book down and give it a shot.
Like Jason Fry and E.K. Johnston before her, Rae Carson proves that the Young Adult arm of that galaxy far far away is producing some of the best stories it has to offer.
And yes, it’s incredibly eerie how much Fitz and I have ended up agreeing about this one…SEND HELP!!!

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Day By Day Armageddon Beyond Exile Review

Ya know, sometimes it’s truly fucked up the way that life can imitate art, and this novel/series is a perfect example of that disturbing little notion, given our current global situation.
But let’s not get into all that, we’ll instead stick to…*swallows hard*…fiction?

As this is a sequel, the near inevitable comparisons to the original (which you can read my Review of right HERE!) book are bound to happen.
So how does it compare?
Let’s find out!

As per the usual round these parts, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Picking up after the battle that closed out book one, we learn more about the carnage and aftermath.
Things soon ramp up again as a militarized group appears, wanting to take Hotel 23.
This forces our main character to out himself as a Naval officer, and unexpectedly take command of this remnant of the US Military.
After a few missions to fortify the missle silo, and collecting quite a few new survivors, our main character heads out in a helicopter to scope out Shreveport, Louisiana.
The helicopter crashes and sets us up for the body of this journey in to the wastes of the now zombie infested US.

I forgot most of this book in the ten years since I first read it, and I’m really glad I did because it made the suspense of it hit as well as it should all over again.
That wondering if the narrator has the skills and grit to survive through the ever growing onslaught of zombies that have been mutated & irradiated thanks to a drastic attempt to save the world in book one.
And the introduction of a new advanced military-esque group and their tech adds a new player to the universe, bringing with it a strange glimmer of hope in an incredibly dread filled world.

One of my only complaints from the first book does get addressed…sort of…?
After receiving a drop of gear from the new Remote Six group, and in an effort to cut weigh in his trek back to Hotel 23, our main character finds a house and leaves one of his guns in the fridge with a note and the old military graffiti Kilroy Was Here.
Once a man tracking the narrator catches up, our main is known as Kil from that point on.
We even have a higher ranking military leader mention/threaten that he found the narrator’s name on a list of people who didn’t show up on base when the shit hit the fan.
I’d still prefer to have an actual name, but I guess that works well enough.

One of the great things about zombie fiction is knowing what the cause of the infection is.
Sadly, more often than not, we normally don’t really get one, but we do here!
I won’t flat out spoil it here, but I will say that I wonder how much the origins of The Walking Dead played into the reveal.
If you know what that means then, you are pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down.

Bottom line: These books are as easy to read as blinking.
The pages fly by quick and before you know it it’s all over, leaving you intensely curious to find out what happens next.
I have the same feeling I did when I first read both of these back to back a decade ago, I’m hungrily on the hunt for the next installment.
My hope is that I can find the next two books soon, because I don’t really want to leave this world hanging for another ten years.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.