Monthly Archives: October 2015

Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight- Review

Swords and Scoundrels – Amazon

I will do my best not to spoil things. The story opens on Kacha and Vocho, two duelists who have fallen on hard times and have taken to being highwaymen. They’re brother and sister who happen to be the two best in their field. That was until Vocho supposedly killed someone he was paid to protect and they had to flee the city. What follows is adventure, intrigue, and more than a few deep interesting characters. The set dressings were cool, the overall plot had me invested, and the action was fun. Knight did a good job at keeping the swordplay moving without getting into blow-by-blow details.

This book had me hooked from chapter one. On more than one occasion I wanted to slap a couple of characters, but that wasn’t a bad thing. The character had flaws. Each person presented in the story wasn’t just some cutout plopped onto the page as a plot device. By far my favorite character was Petri. He starts out as what looks to be just a hatchet man, but there is so much more to him.

If you like The Three Musketeers, or swashbuckling stories in general, I would heartily suggest this book. It found me completely at random on Amazon, which doesn’t happen often. Finding new books is usually saved for trips to the store rather than online, but the cover, blurb, and sample had me hooked.

I look forward to book two.


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The Last Witch Hunter – Movie Review

The Last Witch Hunter, in theaters now, is the latest Vin Diesel flick. If you haven’t seen the trailers, it’s an action fantasy set in modern New York City. Kaulder is an 800 year old Witch Hunter who has been cursed with immortality.

I will do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum.

The movie starts out in with OG Kaulder and some of his fellow Vikings hunting down The Witch Queen. The opening sequence rang true to 13th Warrior, which I enjoy, and had some really cool parts in it. Kaulder gets cursed with immortality and it cuts to modern day.

There are so many parts of this movie that could have gone wrong. They could have made Kaulder too serious and pout over everything. They could have made him tech-phobic, or just someone who slaughters witches without a thought. They didn’t and I was so incredibly happy.

Vin Diesel plays Kaulder cool. He’s lived for years, he’s seen the world change, and he’s changed with it. He mourns those he’s lost, but that doesn’t define his character. So many times a character that’s long lived is put in scenes where they just mope around.

This is a fun movie. I’d suggest seeing it in the theater. It’s kind of like Constantine, but I liked this movie better. The Witch Bar was really cool. I’d like to see a sequel, or two, to expand the world they touched on.

There could have been a few little things that pushed the movie from a fun movie to a truly great one. The witch world could have been explored more. Elijah Wood and Michael Caine could have done with a bit more screen time, their stories were kind of rushed. Rose Leslie really shines -speaking of, she’d make a great Rachel Morgan if they ever do a Dead Witch Walking movie. Honestly, this movie could have done with another twenty minutes on run-time.

Verdict: See it. I look forward to owning it.

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Short Story- Inspection

Thalc pulled his breather mask into place. He took a moment to make sure it fit correctly on his face. The mist was thick near the edge and even after all these years it still made him dizzy. Any more than two deep breaths and he’d have to pull back out of the clouds and he’d need an hour or so to recover enough for another attempt. Some said that fact alone was proof that someone had made these floating lands. The builders being gods, man, or something else depended on who was speaking. He had lost count over the years how many scholars and priests had been lost to the mists trying to find answers. What about the thick mists made the lands float? Why did the lands stay to their gentle migrations? Was there something below the mists? The answer to those questions were variation of people falling to their deaths. Whatever caused the mists held up islands of varying sizes, but didn’t extend to hapless idiots who fell over the edge.

He hooked the latch on his belt to the lead once his mask was secure. The rail extended below the edge of the island. It connected to another sturdy pipe he’d shimmy his feet along. Thalc hated this part of the job. His post was at the edge of the mist and he’d warn people that got too close. Most of the time his daily task was a simple redirection of travelers to one of the raised bridges nearby. Today was not one of those days. No, today he had to inspect the chains.

Years ago, no one knew how long exactly, someone had bound smaller islands together. The links were easily as thick as his chest. They said that a few hundred normal sized chains ran under the lengths of the bridges, but those were built when he was a boy. Somehow the islands stayed in a close enough migration that allowed them to be linked without ever touching. Scholarly types attributed that miracle to the mists too.

Thalc checked his harness as he neared the edge. This was the worst part. He didn’t know why it even had to be done. Someone alone the way had decided the chains needed to be regularly inspected. Toss it to the mists that no one knew how they were built, or how to fix them if something went wrong.

He put his back to the edge of the island as he slipped down flat onto the ground. Slowly he shimmied back into the mist. For an eternity his booted feet hung out into nothingness. This was how his nightmares started. His feet dangling into the mist, the harness pulled taught, and then he’d fall. Luckily, this wasn’t his nightmares. His feet found the jagged edge of the island as the tether pulled taught. He leaned back, gripped the rail, and began his descent into the mist.

After this excursion to the chain he’d have forty days before it had to be repeated. That was unless someone complained. Some cloudborn noble inland would send it down the line that they wanted the chain inspected. The rainy season was the worst of it. A little hard thunder and people who had never even seen the edge thought the chains were shaking.

The tether clinked against the first joint. Thalc latched his secondary line onto the rail, swapped his main down to the new section, and continued his descent. For some reason once he was over the edge he didn’t mind the mist as much. It wasn’t something he wanted to to dwell on. Maybe it was because on the edge he could still see the land while down here it was just the mist. If he fell it wouldn’t be much different than the climb. The mask helped him see through the mist. It gave the world an amber tint and cycled his breath through two chambers.

He feet found the bar at the end of the tether. His hands moved in practiced motions to change the lines over. The progress along the bar was something of a dance. Step, step, pull, latch, and repeat. Tap, tap, brrip, click. Tap, tap, brrip, click. He found the little rhythm had worked into the small moments of his day. Tap, tap, brreng, clank.

Thalc looked down at the line. The lead had pulled away from the island. So much so that it curled back toward him and ended in the mist. He clipped his tether back to the secured section and pulled himself tight against the island. His heart thundered in his chest as he looked for any sign as to what could have done this. There weren’t any claw marks, which meant harpies and cliff birds were out. That was a small blessing. A harpy strong enough to pull the line would have had him for breakfast before he’d be able to scream.

He inched his way closer to get a better look at the ground where the bar had once been. Something big had scrapped along. It had to be a ship. Hopefully one set to drift. A ghost ship in the mists. It happened. Those hit by pirates, bad weather, or fallen to the beasts of the mists were left to drift in the mists until they were smashed to bits or pulled for salvage.

Thalc didn’t want to think about the other option, which of course meant that was where his mind went. He began his slow climb back up to the ledge. Smugglers weren’t uncommon. They’d fly in the thicker parts of the mist to avoid detection. He wasn’t against smugglers. Pirates on the other hand. Some said the mists drove them crazy. They said that their ships would simply appear. Death, pain, and terror was the only thing they traded.

He pulled himself over the edge, unhooked his tethers, and rushed out of the mist. His legs wobbled after a few steps. Thalc made it to his his guard shack. He shut the thick door tight, locked it, and slid down to the floor. Once his heartbeat returned to normal he realized his job was not yet complete. He carefully removed the clutter from around the signal light and tapped out a message. The message was brief. He stuck to the facts.

Inspection incomplete. Rail damaged. Signs point to crash. Thalc.

He looked inland and waited for someone to answer. Hopefully someone on the other side knew what to do.

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The wind rocked the old airship as it coasted along toward the floating city in the distance. Unlike the ship, the cities age was hard to pin down. No one really knew who built the first flying lands. In fact, no one was actually sure it wasn’t a natural occurrence. They were everywhere and ranged in size from little parcels of land hardly big enough to put a shed on to sprawling tracks that seemed to run forever. Their undersides of the floating islands were dangerous, rocky, and always obscured by thick clouds that made anyone who got too close sick. By and far the strangest thing about the world was that if one ventured deep in the air between the lands there was more of the same mist to greet them.

Fernk snorted awake as the ship rocked again. The old Ovalain chassis took the turbulence well enough, but the port-side stabilizer had seen better days. He waited a moment to see if the ship would jolt again. The hiss of a breeze through the patched panel outside his bunk grew to a howl as the ship lurched.

“Shenar,” he cursed as slid his suspenders back into place.

He was out of his bunk and into the tight hallway in two strides which spoke more to the closeness of the space rather than the length of his legs. Fernk turned sideways and sidled along the path to the closest junction ladder. He descended into the underbelly of the ship, clipped his tether onto a lead, and set to work. The ship could hold ten people if absolutely necessary, but the six crew they had was more than enough. It meant they each had to pull double duty, but it allowed them treasured breathing room.

The mid-low coupling had started to wobble again. He gripped the tether as he moved the lead closer to the jittering piece of metal that had woken him. Fernk slid a nalus wrench from the loop on his pants leg and set to work. The nalus wrench, while it looked like something made for peeling pearls from a harouks nest was the go-to tool for an airship. Well, the old ones like this ship at least.

He gave the coupling one more good twist for good measure. Sweat dripped off the tip of his small bulb nose. He wasn’t exactly a handsome man. The thick, wiry beard didn’t do him any favors, but it was necessary when the patchwork along the hull didn’t keep the chill out.

“You’re supposed to be asleep,” Crey said from behind him.

Fernk turned around to see the fur-covered crew member was upside-down as she spoke. Her prehensile tail wrapped around a wrung on the ladder and one of her hand-like feet grasped the ladder for stability.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” he said as he turned back to the panel.


She easily traversed the rest of the ladder. Her tawny fur ruffled along brawny form as the air found her through various slits in the patchwork hull. She didn’t wear clothing, aside from the harness, but she didn’t seem to mind the breeze.

“Go inverted like that,” Fernk slid the wrench back into the loop on his pants. “It makes me think I’m wrong-side up.”

“Maybe you are,” she laughed as she did a quick check of the other panels. “Port stabilizer?”

Fernk nodded as he pulled his tether back to the ladder. Crey didn’t use a tether, she never did. She gave him a line about it being a thing of pride to her people. He didn’t know if she was snorting mist, but he’d dropped the issue. She was crew on this ship, just like him, and if the captain didn’t mind if the crazy Garrun didn’t use a tether, then it wasn’t his place to say anything.

“How far ’til land?” He asked as he unlatched the tether.

“You didn’t hear?”

“Hear what?”

“We’re circling ’til we find a friendly dock,” Crey said as she followed him up the ladder.

“What does that mean?”

“It means the ship is busted,” Haru answered from above. His pendulous voice filled the tight space as he watched them ascend.

“The ship’s been busted for a while,” Fernk said as he slid against the wall to let Crey up.

“No,” Haru said as he set his deep set eyes on the pair. “We’re a risk no one wants to take. People’ll take an omen if a ship dies at dock.”

“They just set us to drift then?” Fernk crossed his arms tight against his chest.

“We circle to find a friendly dock,” Crey repeated. “Someone has to owe us a favor or two.”

“Head high and drop,” Haru spoke barely above a whisper. “Let the ship drift.”

Fernk stared hard at the man. This ship hadn’t been what he’d signed on for. It was drafty, rarely warm, and didn’t have much in the way of fulfilling work, but it was home.

“No,” he said as he shook the thought from his head.

This ship was a junker. Everyone knew it. The jobs weren’t coming and even the smugglers had better options. The Ovalain was a dead breed and it was time for the mist to claim this straggler. Fernk looked from Crey to Haru. He gave the man a nod before he headed back to his bunk.

“Set it high and drop,” he muttered as he packed up what was left of his kit.

The pack locked in with his tether. He slid the glider on once everything was in place. What little money he had left was tucked in the interior pocket of the pack. Taking the drop wasn’t exactly the best way to get the pay he was owed, but it was better than waiting as the ship was too far into a drift. Neither of the other two were still in the hall as he made his way to the far junction. This ladder led up.

Captain Ghut stood at the wheel. His one good eye looked Fernk over with a resigned air.

“Ghut,” Fernk tapped his brow with two fingers in greeting. “I’m taking a drop.”

Ghut gave a sober nod. The smash-faced man turned back to the wheel without a word. Fernk wanted to say something. Anything really, but this ship had taken enough of his time. He climbed up the short steps, popped the seal to the outside, and pulled himself up onto the platform. There were two deckguns on rails that were almost as old as the ship. He’d only fired them twice. Once was to learn how to use them and the other was when a harouk matriarch got uppity.

The city below stretched almost to the edge of the island. There was maybe a span of twenty lanks between its wall and open air. The ship was up high enough. It had caught an updraft to help circle around. That or Ghut knew that someone would want to take the drop.

“Cloud breathing fool,” Fernk muttered as he walked against the wind.

He climbed over the platform rail. Taking the drop was simple, in theory. Jump, pull the glider, and drop in on the island below. Fernk took a deep breath. He looked back at the bubble hatch. It would be easy enough to just go back in. No one would blame him.

Fernk turned to face the city and jumped.

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Damsel to the Rescue by Kaia Sønderby Review

I was lucky enough to catch the authors husband on Google Plus at the right time and got a copy in exchange for a review. Thank you for that.

Damsel to the Rescue is a fantasy story that plays to the genre tropes in a tongue-in-cheek way. In this world, Princes are kidnapped and it’s the Damsels that save them. The Damsel gets fame and the reward of marrying the prince she rescues. Terri doesn’t care for all that. She loves her garden and would be perfectly happy letting all the other girls go romping across the land. That doesn’t happen, of course, that’d be a bit of a boring story. A prince gets abducted and Terri’s mother pretty much blackmails her into going to the rescue. Along the way she’s forced to join together with a few other damsels that make an interesting adventuring party.

That’s all I’m going to say about the story as it happens pretty quickly through the first few chapters. I don’t want to spoil anything. This is a fun read. There are some clever jabs at the non-armor of ladies, useless princes, and overbearing parents. I enjoyed the writing and characters. The play on a familiar setting was fun.

To be fair, the story isn’t perfect. Terri can be a little too good at what she does, especially for a girl who shunned training. Her nature magic seems to have few limits and having her take a short rest puts her right back into the fray. The supporting cast could have stepped up a little more to take some of the awesome off her shoulders. That’s really the only critique I have.

Damsel to the Rescue is clever, well-written, and fun. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre.

– I copy/pasted this review over from Goodreads because I am lazy.

Link to Amazon:

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Double Book Review

A month or so ago I signed up for a free trial on Audible. It comes with 2 credits to download audio-books. I picked out Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Here are the reviews.

Star Wars: Aftermath

The best part of this book was the narrator. Marc Thompson has done a few other Star Wars audio-books so having him doing the reading was a nice slide into things. Not only that but the Star Wars series really goes all out with sound FX and pieces of music to enhance the listening experience. That’s about all that’s good about it. Star Wars books aren’t exactly to top tier of science fiction. They mostly get by on the fanbase, but they’re entertaining enough to read.

This wasn’t. It was set in Third Person Present Tense. She lifts the blaster. He ducks out of the way. I hate that. I’m not a fan of Chuck Wendig. A while ago I saw a bunch of hype about him and someone I respect lent their voice to the praise. I decided to check out one of his books when I was at a bookstore and was underwhelmed. His blog is entertaining, but I don’t understand how’s he’s gotten to be so lauded.

The story takes place on a planet the remaining Empire has locked down. Their story is that nothing the rebels say is true and everything is business as usual.

There was a lot of noise about having a main character who was gay. That’s stupid. I didn’t enjoy the book, the writing was clunky, the tense never settled in my head, and the fan service felt forced. The fact that one of the characters was gay didn’t play in to any part of not liking the story. It felt like the author was grasping at straws for some way to make a flat character interesting.

Verdict: Skip

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson is the author. I like his work, most of the time. He wrote the Mistborn series, which had 2/3 good books and The Alloy of Law was cool. I hope to read that sequel to that soon. The narrator, Michael Kramer, sounds like a badly disguised Microsoft voice and was hard to listen too.

This book. Man. I wanted to like this book. It started off interesting, but it turns out that after the three stage prologue (it calls one of them part 1, but that’s a lie) that the reader has been suckered in to a long trudge. The first prologue is set thousands of years in the past and gives some insight of the larger picture, if vaguely, that is happening. The second prologue is awesome and has to do with an assassin trying to kill a king. That was a sweet read. The magic the assassin used was interesting and dynamic. Part 1, which is really prologue part three, starts a few months in the aftermath. It kept me invested and I wanted to see where it went. Then at the end of the the story takes another leap in time and that’s when the real-real story begins. Something didn’t smell right to me, so after listening for quite a few hours I decided to check out the wiki page. My hunch was right and, not to spoil it, irritated me quite a bit. This damn book is told in 3-6 hour chunks and it wasn’t worth it.

Verdict: Skip

I got these two audio-books for free. They each marketed for like $30 when I got them. I’m so glad I didn’t pay for these.

Sanderson is starting to lose my faith. After the third Mistborn book I was unsure, but Alloy of Law reminded me why I liked his stories. The second prologue, and even the third part, was interesting and I wanted to know more. It wasn’t until I was knee-deep in the slog that I realized I’d made a mistake.

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Dark Was The Night – Movie Review

Dark Was The Night – Released 2014
Starring: Kevin Durand and Lukas Haas

An evil is unleashed in a small town when a logging company sets up shop in the neighboring woods.


This is an atmospheric movie with a slow burn. The run time clocks in around an hour and a half. Kevin Durand plays a small town sheriff whose family has suffered the lose of a child. His wife has moved out to deal with the stress. If you’re looking for a quick monster flick with cheap jump scares and nudity then don’t pick this up. There are a lot of scenes with quiet reflection. Luckily, the actors carry those scenes quite well.

While the characters build around the small town there are signs stacking up that don’t look good. The opening scene shows something attacking loggers. Then a horse goes missing. Footprints show up all over town. A little later we find out that the pets in the area are gone. After that there’s a mass migration of birds headed in the wrong direction.

There are a few parts of clunky exposition. How the story of the lose plays out is delivered at an odd time and honestly cutting it out wouldn’t have hurt the story. Sure, it would have left questions, but the audience can fill in the holes on their own. Something happened, the child is gone, and it’s eating away at their marriage. The diner scene later on fits better than the forced conversation. Kevin Durand is a big guy. Seeing him hunched over in a booth was inadvertently funny. Not enough to kill the mood, it might have just been me.

The tension throughout the film is spot on. These are people you know, not just faceless fodder to fill up a body count. There are a couple of jump scares, but I wouldn’t call them cheap. A few scenes ring close to a few other movies. Some interior scenes have an almost Jurassic Park feel to them. The forest scenes almost have a Predator feel. Only instead of a highly trained team of Special Forces, it’s some hunters.

I really like this movie. The characters in it feel like real people. Instead of the usual horror movie where they split up and decide to get drunk instead of call for help, they think about things. They try to rationalize it. They try to figure out what’s going on and when the information starts pointing to something they don’t understand, they are understandably freaked out. For f***s sake, one of the hunters has a deer cam! It’s almost like the screenwriter took actual people into account. I looked up the writer: Tyler Hisel. He’s done three movies, one is a short film, and the other is a found footage set in Africa.

My only real critique about the movie is that all the daytime scenes are washed in blue. I get that it helps subtly translate the sheriffs outlook, but the scenes at night don’t have the same treatment which makes it a little inconsistent.

Final Verdict:
Watch It. There are plenty of worse movies that waste an hour and a half.

Link to the trailer:

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