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.

Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Review

With a name like Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem, you are sending a very clear mission statement to the world.
You best sack up and deliver on all 3, or you’re gonna have big problems, man.
I wanna see some variety in crazy critters, talk of the movin’ pictures, and some chaos and/or pandemonium!
Does this collection of creepy creatures and calamitous carnage come through?
Let’s find out, gang!

As is always the case in these reviews, this here is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

The first thing I have to point out, or confirm rather, is something KJA specifically told me in our interview in Part 1 of Ep 100 (find it Here or where ever you get your podcasts), and that is that this collection has a healthy mix of all types of monsters, there’s really no chasing of trends or attempts to cash in on any current horror fads that I can detect.
There’s Dragons, and Zombies, and Ghosts, OH MY!
But also Vampires, Werewolves, Demons, Aliens, weird beings that exist outside of our known laws of physics and logic, and more.
So on one of the three points I mentioned in the intro, the editorial team of assemblers on this compilation were indeed successful.

But what about the stories themselves, you may wonder?
All that hard work to offer a good selection doesn’t mean jack if the stories are boring as hell.
Well, thankfully, they aren’t.
Now, I will fully admit, there are a few stories in here that, as soon as I finished them, made me plop the book down a bit unsure if I liked them or not.
But, far more often than not, a few minutes of kicking them around in my ol head part brought me around to likin’ on them.

To get specific, Hyde Park by Shannon Fox, a modern day Jack The Ripper tale with a dark twist.
This one felt like it was all wrapped up a little too quickly, but upon reflection I did find it impressive how economic Fox was.
While snappy, there’s absolutely no wasted space.
Whoever Writes Monsters by Sam Knight, the story of a writer who lost his spouse and muse.
The jarringly quick tonal shift in this one had my head spinning a bit as it goes batshit crazy bloodlust 0 to 60 in no time flat, but after chewing it over I found it to be pretty ballsy and I quickly started to admire how bombastically crazy it ended up going.
And finally there was Motivating A Monster by Irene Radford, a story of a thespian dragon that has let himself go.
The issue I had with this one again ended up being a major part of the reason I dug it, the absurdity of a dragon that has made a career, and fortune, doing Kaiju flicks while living in a cave near the studio with an internet connection is so goofy, but fun to think about.

There are plenty of stories in here that I loved immediately (more on them in a bit), but one really stood out with its wonderfully Twilight Zonian flair for karma and I have to point it out.
Vinegar Symdrome by Ben Monroe features one of those stereotypical overappreciators of the art, history, and craft of *turns nose up haughtily* Cinema.
One night after closing up his arthouse theatre, he gets a call from a contact he’s made in town while pursuing his quest to snap up rare or vintage film memorabilia.
While reading a collection of stories like this, you should know what comes next, and the road there is satisfying as fuck, man.
After screwing the contact over for a long lost, and thought destroyed, piece of movie history, our main character gets what he has coming in a beautifully twisted and throughly just way.

Other highlights include Steve Rasnic Tem‘s Z Is for Zombie, which is the story of an old time Zombie performer from way back that feels oddly like a Night Of The Living Dead tribute to me, in the best possible way.
Linda Maye Adams‘s Alien Pizza about a gluten-free LA pizza joint that nobody expects to last long, given the *ahem* strange clientele that has brought down every other restaurant to call that building home.
David Gerrold‘s flash fiction ghost story Michael Thinks The House Is Haunted that packs a quick and funny punch to break some of the tension the book was building.
Julie Frost‘s When The Shift Hits The Fan, an incredibly fun story of an actress werewolf that has a cost cutting director ask too much of her on set.
The button at the end of this one is particularly good!
And the last one I want to make sure I mention, though I really dug so many more, is David Boop‘s supernatural western Progress Grows Out Of Motion.
When a grizzled and recently retired bounty hunter makes his way to the most haunted town in the Arizona territory, shit goes as sideways as you’d expect.
Just the concept of a supernatural western does it for me (why in the hell aren’t there more!?), but this is a thrilling ride on top of it.

Each of the stories I mentioned do an impressive job of filling one of the titular criteria, often times ticking off more than one.
There is straight horror, humor, heartbreak, Sci-Fi of many sorts, mystery, and more.
The curation of this collection is top notch for damn sure.
And now knowing and understanding the backstory of how this book came together makes it all even better.

I’ve only mentioned nine of the tales here, meaning you have fourteen more to discover yourself.
If you dig the short story format, this is one you shouldn’t miss, gang.

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.

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.

Nobody has ever said “What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been”, Right?

Seriously, I just coined that phrase right?

7 years ago today I was bored on a car ride and made this dipshit little video.
https://youtu.be/OBrVxZaKcT4
If you had told me all the shit that would follow I probably would have said “AHHHH, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!?!?” mostly cause I can’t remember if I knew you way back then.

Over the course of the last 7 years everything has changed, for me personally and for the world at large.
In that time, I’ve gone from decidedly friendless, but I’ve made and lost quite a few folks that I thought were friends, I’ve said goodbye to family members, and I’ve watched things on this planet take dangerous turns.
Sometimes, it truly does seems like we live in the darkest of all possible worlds.

But for these last 7 years, to paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, “I have tried, Ringo, I’ve tried real hard to be a shepard.”
I’ve spent hours writing, talking, recording, editing, worrying, and doubting myself, alone and with good Ol Fitz (& others), because the world (and life in general) can be a harsh, unrelenting, shitty place and it has knocked me and many others that I know and care for on our asses and dared us to stay there.
But most people, when they get knocked down like that, go looking for something to make them feel better.

5 and a half years ago, I wrote a piece for my TS-D/JA Productions blog titled Then Why Do It?, in which I explain why I kept going.
But just incase you don’t want to reread it, I will reiterate here just exactly why.
When you hear from somebody that they have had a shitty day and were the lowest they have been in a while, but that all changed because they read a dumb little book review I wrote and could feel my passion oozing through their screen, or they listened to a podcast and we made a joke that made them laugh for the first time in days, or they watched or heard a skit we put out somewhere and it gave them a little boost…that shit is powerful, man!

Selfishly, hearing shit like that pulls me up, even if only a little bit, from whatever I’m going through.
But taking that out of it, and to go back to what I used to say when I wrapped up almost every post on the old site, the world can be a terrible place so do whatever you can to change that, no matter how many people that hits.
I’ll keep trying to improve the day of the 50-60 people that regularly listen to the pod or read this site.

Alright, gang, WHORE TIME!

And if you want more of us and our goofy ass stylings, don’t forget to read & answer a brand new edition of The Nerd Blitz Question Of The Week every Tuesday, a New Fitz’s Toy Chest at least 1 Thursday a month, New installments of The Nerd Blitz Book Review usually once or twice a month, continuing New episodes of the 3 shows (The Nerd Blitz, The Nerd Blitz Book Club, & The Nerd Blitz Commentaries) we’ve always done!

The best ways to support us would be spreading the word on Twitter or following us there @NerdBlitzPod, subscribing, rating, and reviewing where ever you listen to podcasts, getting yourself a shirt over at our RedBubble (we hope to have new designs coming soon), buying any of our albums on our Bandcamp page, or by going over and kicking in to our brand new Patreon page Patreon.com/NerdBlitzPod (where we will be posting podcasts, new & old, and creating brand new skits).

Thanks for reading, gang.

Five Decades Of The X-Men Review

A collection of short stories following the most marvelous merry mutants mankind mustered are meticulously mashed together into one mega mob of miscellanea!
Thank you thesaurus.com for the help in keeping that amazing alliteration going in true sensational Stan style.

Anywho, the question I pose to you and yours is this: does this collection of short stories give a good taste of the X-Men, their universe, and their various storylines through the five decades of their existence up to the point this book was published?
Let’s cut the chitter chatter and find out, gang!

This is your obligatory ***SPOILER ALERT***

I’m not sure why, but diving into this I was weirdly uncertain if I would like it.
But there was one lone name that gave me the courage to do so: Sholly Fisch!
Long time listeners of the main show should recognize that name as the genius behind the damn superb Scooby-Doo Team-Up comic, so seeing he was involved gave me a tremendous amount of hope.
But I was not prepared for what else lie ahead of me.

The initial story, covering the ’60s, “Baptism Of Fire, Baptism Of Ice” by John J. Ordover and Susan Wright, is a tale of Charles Xavier’s first class of X-Men, through the eyes of Bobby Drake, A.K.A. Ice Man.
As they are training for their first mission we see Bobby’s frustrations with being the new kid on the block and not getting many challenges or much time to shine in the Danger Room when they get a new team/class mate in the form of one Jean Grey, the first girl on the team.
It’s a simple yet effective story of the earliest days of this groundbreaking institute and its founding members as they struggle with their burgeoning powers and raging hormones.

Story two, set during the ’70s, “Firm Commitments” by the good sir Sholly Fisch, sees a guy named Jay make a gigantic scientific break through at think tank Genetech that leads him into a twisted underworld of mutant hate that he can’t get down with.
He takes the bull by the horns and actively works against this nutso group in the only way a relative nobody can.
Sholly has a voice that’s so incredibly easy to read, on the level of some of my other favorite writers and this story alone makes me want to hunt down any and all other prose work he has.
He seems the most comfortable with the X-Men and their world, and the outsider perspective of them feels real, well thought out, and solid.

The third tale, taking place in the ’80s, “Up The Kill Backwards” by Tom Deja, might just be my second favorite story here.
And it’s definitely one of the least complicated stories in this volume.
A new class of X-Men are thrown together and tasked to take over while the big guns are off on their own disparate personal sojourns.
Their new trainer, Sean Cassidy A.K.A. Banshee, is trying to whip them into shape and make the brother of a legend get out of his familial shadow and step into the role of leader.
To try and force some like mindedness on them, Cassidy sets up a training exercise with a secret government organization and things go badder than batshit as things go sideways!

The fourth story, getting us planted firmly in the ’90s, “The Cause” by Glenn Greenberg, delves into the darkest areas of the X-Men world.
We see news reports of hate crimes against mutants spiking as Reverend William Striker, the poster boy and leader of one of the most well known anti-mutant hate groups is set to be released from prison.
Greenberg takes us inside this group and shows us, through one of fictions greatest allegorical set-ups, the inner workings of the group and the stupid bullshit that the morons that inhabit it believe in.
This one is not at all my favorite, but it’s definitely the most weighty and sadly still relevant to the times we live in, further illustrating the versatility of these characters and their little corner of the Marvel universe.

The fifth and final story, set in the early ’00s, “Gifts” by Madeleine Robins, covers relatively similar ground as the first story in that it’s dealing with teenage romance and flourishing powers, but still manages to eek out a fun story of its own.
The highlight of this story is definitely the badass climax in a cemetary with Psylock trying to talk down a teen who’s telekinetic abilities have caused catastrophic damage to a New York airport and highway due to factors beyond her control.

From the near goosebump inducing intro by the legendary Stan Lee (that feels like a loving and warm hug from the universe) to the two hundred and sixty-first page of the final story this book was the one thing I crave in these superhero novels, it was sheer fun.
All five stories have the big splashy set piece superheroics you expect from comic books, but with the added benefit of your mind’s eye being the artist.
The world of the X-Men, and all of the ups and downs of real life that that entails, is captured in the most loving detail by these six authors.
And whomever came up with the concept to do five stories set in five different decades is goddamn brilliant!
The big touchstone moments in the illustrious history of the X-Men are hinted at, if not flat out mentioned.

The only real problem I can point to would be an issue I’ve found in a lot of these late ’90s/early 2000’s novels of this ilk, they are riddled with typos.
Missing words and letters that are particularly troublesome and occasionally pull you out of the story as you try to figure out just what the hell the author meant.
It needed another thorough pass by a good copy editor to clean up some unfortunate sloppiness.

The bottomline, gang, this is a perfect collection for old fans wanting fresh stories from these different eras or new fans trying to find a way into the notoriously daunting X continuity.
No character feels out of step with my experience with them, even the characters I have limited exposure to.
Prices online can be disrespectfully overpriced, but if you just so happen to stumble across a decent priced copy, I’d highly encourage you to pick it up and give it a chance.

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.

And finally: If my count is dead on, this is my 40th book review in just over two and a half years.
So to all of you that dig these and keep checking them out, thanks.
Reading has always been one of my main joys and it has been incredibly fun sharing it with you, gang.