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giacomog

Giacomo's blog

Contrary to the characters in my books, I don’t really kill people, or catch those who do, so the blog posts might be about reading, or writing, or animals. These are the things I have great passion for.

Shadow Over Avalon

Shadow Over Avalon - C.N. Lesley Shadow Over Avalon takes you to a different world, but at the same time manages to keep some part of you anchored to a beloved piece of literary history. And the way that Lesley does it is as magical as the legend itself. Lesley not only creates an environment that mesmerizes the reader, she also threatens, amazes, and makes the reader feel at home, but always with suspense thick in the air.

The characters make or break a book for me, and these characters were as real as my neighbors (unfortunately). Some I loved like a dear friend; some I loathed. But all of them made me “feel” and that’s what’s important to me. These were not cookie-cutter fill-ins that Lesley pulled from another novel. I’m convinced that somewhere, in some life or time, Lesley “knew” these people. They’re as real as that.

Plot is the other thing that keeps me flipping pages in a book, and I have to say I’m often tempted to toss a book if the plot isn’t strong. No worries with Shadow Over Avalon. This plot keeps you guessing, keeps you filled with suspense and dread, keeps you wondering what the hell is going to happen next. Exactly the way I want it.

That brings me to prose and quality of writing. There’s not much to say, except—damn good job. Every author has a unique voice; Lesley’s is unique in a very good way. Like all good authors, it takes a few pages for her style to latch onto you, but once you settle in there’s no going back. I read this in two nights, but only because I had to sleep; otherwise, I would have pushed through that first night. Don’t plan on starting this book late; you’ll curse yourself in the morning if you do.

There aren’t a lot of books I rave about, but Shadow Over Avalon takes most of what I love in books and wraps it all up in a nice present. Great characters, great plot, great prose, add in a great setting and you’re set to go. I recommend this to anyone who likes a good book. And I might say, this could easily be a cross-genre interest. You don’t have to be a fan of Arthurian legends, or SciFi/fantasy to love this book. Go get it. You won’t be disappointed.

Giacomo Giammatteo, author.

Darkspire Reaches

Darkspire Reaches - C.N. Lesley I'll start this review by saying, I love reading fantasy. There was a time, not too long ago, when I felt as if the fantasy genre had died. Not much new was coming out, and what did show up on the shelves didn't suit me. Lately I've seen a resurgence of excellent fantasy stories, and Darkspire Reaches is one of them.

Lesley knows how to build a world, and create--not just characters--but whole races of them, complete with speech patterns and a recognizable cadence that sucks you into her world. From the first chapter you know you are entering a new world, and by the third chapter, you are already familiar with it.

Some authors plop you down in the middle of a fiery battle in a desperate attempt to get your interest. Lesley goes about it differently. There is a confidence in her writing that allows for a slow build of tension, but each chapter has the right level of suspense, and, if you're a careful reader, you'll spot the foreshadowing woven into the pages by a master wordsmith.

This wasn't a book that demanded to be devoured in one sitting, but each bit I read left a good taste in my mouth, like a fine glass of wine, and I realized I was eager to get back to reading each night. As I neared the end, I had to stay up later than I wanted to find out what happened. I wasn't disappointed.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Talion

Talion - Mary Maddox This was a wonderfully dark and ‘sick’ book. And I say sick in a good sense. The killer was a twisted soul who made me want to hunt him down and kill him. (okay, you might be wondering who’s sick, but it’s not me.) Maddox had me wondering though—wondering where she came up with this psycho.

I think it was perfect that she had the killer stalking the younger girls. They were the perfect age to make him even more of a predator, if that was needed. Young girls, in particular, are especially vulnerable so this was excellent plotting on Maddox’ part.

Early on I wished I had more background information on Lu’s ‘friends,’ but the more I read, the more things clicked in place. For those who might be squeamish, beware Maddox does a magnificently brutal job of describing some of the scenes. And she has a firm command of the darker side of the language as well. I personally felt that fit the tone of the book, and was not bothered at all, but there’s the warning for those who might be offended.

The writing was good, moved along at a nice pace, and the last 1/3 or 1/4th of the book flew by. Maddox cranked up the suspense a few notches which made putting it down difficult. This was not my typical read, but I found it to be entertaining and a solid read. I will definitely pick up another one of this author’s books.

The Master of Whitestorm

The Master of White Storm - Janny Wurts Janny Wurts is one of my favorite authors. Her stories are always interesting and her voice refreshing. Master of Whitestorm was no different. I had been spoiled by the Empire Series, as I consider it to be one of the best SciFi/Fantasy series I’ve ever read, but that aside, Master of Whitestorm delivered a solid read.

The protagonist, Korendir, was a solid, if perhaps too typical character. In a sense he was predictable to where you knew what he would do, and yet, he was a strong enough character that you willingly followed him through each trial.

What I found lacking in the book was a definitive plot. It was more like a series of tests, sort of like the twelve labors of Hercules, where the protagonist went from one to another with not much in between. It left little room for other characters to develop. And I guess now that I’ve said that, the lack of strong secondary characters might be the biggest ‘lack’ for me. I was so impressed with the secondary characters in Empire that I think I expected them here.

Even so, Master of Whitestorm was a good read. It was entertaining, and there’s not much more you can ask for in a good read.

The Geneva Decision

The Geneva Decision - Seeley James I read a lot of crime novels. One of my favorite authors is John Sandford, and it’s because his character, Lucas Davenport, is different from most of the other detectives out there. I picked up The Geneva Decision based on a recommendation and I’m glad I did. I ended up liking Pia Sabel, the female lead, for the same reasons I like Lucas; she’s different. It took me a while to buy into Pia Sabel, but once I did, I found myself liking her.

The pacing was good and the story moved along nicely, although at times I would have liked a few of the secondary characters to have had a little more page time.

Seeley James does a good job of creating the setting and taking the reader to new places. The story starts off in Geneva, but the chase leads the reader to Africa and Vienna also. There are a lot of nice specifics, especially in Geneva, that help transport you there and make you feel more of a part of the story. His writing style makes for an easy read, and the book isn’t riddled with errors like so many books are. I think James is a writer to keep your eye on, and I’m looking forward to the next Pia Sabel book. 

Lockdown: The First Ryan Lock Novel

Lockdown - Sean Black Started off fantastic!
I love to get lost in a book, whether it is a mystery, a thriller, SciFi, Fantasy, History, Biography…it doesn’t matter, as long as the writing is good, the mistakes kept to a minimum, and the characters engaging with a good and believable plot. Lockdown started off with all of these. I had no trouble getting into Ryan Lock, the main character, and the plot seemed to be moving along at a nice pace, with no big holes; in fact, I was so involved I read half the book the first night.

I wish I had stopped there. In the second half of the book the plot, for me, lost believability and I soon found myself skimming to see when it would get better. Many of the characters’ actions in the second half seemed to be “plot convenient” as opposed to how they would really act based on who they were.

I don’t like to describe plots or give spoilers, so I won’t go into details, but in the end, the plot didn’t work for me. I felt Sean Black has the makings of an excellent main character in Ryan Lock, and he is a very good writer with a lot of talent. I just don’t think he put it all together in this novel. I was impressed enough with his writing though, to pick up his second book and see what that one is like.

I was also surprised to find not only several errors in grammar and typos, but also a few miscues that a good copy editor should have caught. Considering Sean Black’s publisher is the same as Lee Child’s I expected better.

I have a rating system for my books based on dialogue, character development, plot, storytelling, and quality. I would have rated this more than a 3.5, so I rounded it up to 4 stars. Emotionally, I wanted to give this a 3-star rating, because I had such high expectations after the first half, but when I looked at my numbers it deserved a 4. Also I realize that not everyone is as critical of plot as I might be.

A Perfect Husband

A Perfect Husband - Douglas Wickard I picked this up and within a few minutes figured I wouldn’t like it; in fact, I figured I wouldn’t finish the book. It was written in present tense, which I don’t like. Regardless, I decided to read a little. I soon found that despite being in the present tense, I kept turning pages.

The other thing I found was that Wickard provides too much detail, at least for me. Again though, despite the level of detail, I found myself turning pages. I stopped about four or five chapters into it and wondered why I was still reading. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be. I came to the conclusion that it was because Douglas Wickard has a wonderful way to express himself. When I read, I normally like to get from point “A” to point “B” quickly. With A Perfect Husband, I found myself looking at flowers, or the countryside, or the way the sunlight cast shadows on one thing or another. And oddly enough, I found myself enjoying it. It takes a good writer to make me slow down and enjoy that, sort of like a good meal.

He has created believable characters who act the way you expect them to based on their personalities. And he has created a wonderfully tainted antagonist. The plot is good and things tie up at the end, perhaps not as neatly as I would have liked but good. The story was missing a little of the “mystery” factor for my tastes, but Wickard did an excellent job of keeping the tension in every chapter, and that’s tough to do.

If the book had a little more mystery and perhaps if it wasn’t written in present tense I would have given it 5 stars. As it is, it is a very good 4-star book that I would recommend.

Games of Adversaries

Games of Adversaries - Susan  Elizabeth Curnow A refreshing read
I have been looking for a good sci-fi/fantasy novel for a while. Something to sink my teeth into and relax with. The problem is that they are difficult to find. I write mysteries, but I truly enjoy reading sci-fi/fantasy, and Curnow didn’t disappoint me with this one. Her writing is beautiful. Sparse when it needs to be, and perfectly descriptive when it calls for that.

I have always enjoyed books where an author combines fantasy with sci-fi, and cultures at different stages of development. Curnow does this nicely and gives us glimpses inside their minds so we can experience the differences as we read. There were a few times when I felt the author dwelled too long on emotions, but that could be me, as I tend to favor very quick visits into self-reflection. I also felt we could have had a bit more depth in a couple of the secondary characters.

With that said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Games of Adversaries, and finished it in two nights, something I haven’t done in far too long. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys sci-fi/fantasy. Also, to note, the formatting and layout were done well and the book was very high quality. Too many books are riddled with mistakes. You won’t find that in this book.

I have a system for my ratings and I rated this a 4.2, but it was such a refreshing read that I rounded that up to 5 stars.

Murder Corporation

Murder Corporation - Victor Methos I had very mixed feelings about this book. It started off with a bang, and the action never stopped. That's good, you say, but maybe not. It didn't even slow down long enough to give proper character development, at least for me. The book was short. I think it lists it at 202 pages, but it felt even shorter than that. I guess that's a testament to the fast pace, which is again, a good thing. But I almost got the feeling that the author was aiming for a longer book and decided to cut it short. The ending felt rushed.

I felt as if the author didn't allow enough time to fully develop the storyline or the characters. I got a “feel” for the characters, but none of them felt complete. I never got to really know them. The same with the storyline. It started off good, but then it just seemed to move from one action scene to another, and they were all the same. The author never developed a real plot, just a grouping of scenes.

With that said, there was a lot to like about this book. It had some of the best dialogue I’ve seen in a book in a long time. The dialogue was excellent! I don’t know if the author went down and lived with these guys or not, but it seemed that way. He was spot on. I’m not familiar with the parts of the city where this book took place, but he did a great job convincing me that it was real, down to the worn-out floors and the drug-dealer “mansions” within the slum apartment buildings. The action was also good. It was choreographed well and came across as real. I had no trouble picturing it.

I know this all sounds fantastic, right? It is. But here comes the part that made me rate it lower. This book, despite all the good things it had going for it, reminded me of the movie, "Training Day" in every scene. On every page. In all the dialogue. There were times when I even thought, I wonder if this was an adaptation? I guess to sum it up is, I was frustrated because I wanted soooooo bad to love this book and find a great story here, but what I got was Training Day rehashed. If what I said doesn't bother you, please pick this book up because the author can write!

I'm going to pick up another Victor Methos book. I like his style. I love his dialogue. And he sets the scenes well.

The Blackmail Club (Jack McCall Mystery, #1)

The Blackmail Club (Jack McCall Mystery, #1) - David      Bishop Despite the great number of books published each year, I find it more and more difficult to discover new authors that I enjoy. I stumbled upon The Blackmail Club, by David Bishop, read the reviews, tried the sample and liked what I saw. I thought I’d give it a try.

The Blackmail Club is the kind of book that allowed me relax and fall into a good read. A few times I felt the characters were a little too familiar, as if I’d seen them before, but then Bishop would do something with them that set them apart from others. It was enough to keep me moving along. I didn’t race through this book. I didn’t have to turn the page to see what was happening next. But that’s okay. Sometimes the best books are the ones you enjoy one page at a time.

I have to admit I’m a sucker for films and books with a noir feel to them. Bishop’s book had liberal dashes of a “Sam Spade” type dialogue which gave this book a Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler feel to it, though set in modern times. Some people, especially if they’re not familiar with those stories, might not like that. I did. Often it made me smile, and a few times I laughed.

The plot is good. The characters solid and there is a distinct line between the good and bad guys in this book, and that’s not a bad thing. If you like your hard boiled mysteries served up with a dash of humor and a touch of old style noir, I would recommend The Blackmail Club. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Headhunters

Headhunters - Charlie Cole Mistakes mar a potentially good book.
I really wanted to like this book. I'm a headhunter myself, and I love thrillers, so this appealed to me on several levels. The book started out good, and I was looking for an enjoyable read, but I hit a few bumps along the way. 

I'm overly picky when it comes to mistakes of any kind, so some of these things might not bother other readers, but the book had too many mistakes for me to truly enjoy it. There were grammatical mistakes, words misused, words and even sentences repeated, and dialogue tags misused. I also had a problem believing some of the action that took place. 

I read some of the other reviews and a lot of people gave this book high marks. Obviously the things I mentioned don't bother them like they bother me. If you can tolerate the things I mentioned, by all means pick this book up. You will probably like it. It's fast-paced, and reads as if it were written for the screen. Charlie has good storytelling skills and he knows how to build suspense. I just wish he had spent a little more time correcting the errors. 

Two Shots

Two Shots - Joe Albert Joe Albert has a style that reminds me a little of John Sandford, and that’s a good thing. I love John Sandford.

But I have to say that I had a little trouble getting into Two Shots. I found a few mistakes here and there—mostly missing words or typos—but nothing so distracting as to make me put the book down. My bigger problem was getting into the main character. The character was written well but he just didn’t click with me.

Several times I felt as if the author went off on a tangent, especially about hunting or fishing, when I saw no compelling reason to go there. I have no doubt that Joe knows a great deal about hunting and fishing, and the back woods of Minnesota, but that’s not something I need to learn about in a mystery.

To summarize, I found Two Shots a good read. Joe knows how to tell a story, and he writes well. His prose is good and his descriptions are good. He knows how to build suspense. If you’re a hunter or fisherman and enjoy the outdoors, you’ll probably like this a lot. Albert puts you right on the scene with his descriptions.

Overall I think Joe’s a good writer and I believe his next book is going to be even stronger than this one. I intend to pick it up and give it a shot myself.

I rated this book 3.8 stars, which I rounded up to 4.

Specific ratings:
Overall Quality (Typos/mistakes)—3.5
Storytelling—4.5
Plot—3.5
Character Development—3.5
Dialogue—4

Overall rating—4

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Gustave Doré There's not much to say about this classic that hasn't been said. It is still one of my favorite poems of all time. They say Coleridge was heavy into opium when writing this, and other works. If he was, it might explain the visions, but regardless, this is a classic piece of literature. I have read this dozens of times and it's great, but when combined with Gustav Dore's illustrations, it is nothing short of magnificent. I have many of the classics done by Dore, and they are all great, but this is some of his finest work, in my opinion.

If you haven't experienced either The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or the work of Dore, open up your wallet and get this. It's that good.

Scrivener For Dummies

Scrivener For Dummies - Gwen Hernandez The danger of using Scrivener is that you will become a spoiled brat. Yes, it's that good. The problem, though, is that unless you're a technical guru or the kind of person who digs, digs, digs for information, you might learn the basics and be so content that you go no further. Hernandez' book makes sure you don't. She explains it in wonderfully easy steps and walks you through it so that you do learn.

Most books go too far one way or the other. Either they are too detailed and you find yourself skimming, or they are too technical and you get lost. Hernandez writes in a manner that lets you meander through at a leisurely pace, or race through, picking up only what interests you. She has managed to put this together so that you can jump ahead to what interests you, and go back to things you skipped at a future date.

I read the review that stated Literature and Latte's tutorial is sufficient and this book wasn't necessary, yet the reviewer admitted to not purchasing the book. So how does that reviewer know? I agree that Literature & Latte's manual and their tutorials are great, better than most, but I still found Scrivener for Dummies a bargain and more than worth the money.

I had gone through Literature and Latte's Outline Section several times and still found I didn't understand it well. After going through the Outline Section in Scrivener For Dummies, I'm no longer confused.

If you're using Scrivener, and you should be, picking up Scrivener for Dummies is a no brainer. Do it. You'll be glad you did.
Hollywood Pharaohs - Andrew Mayne This is the first book of Andrew Mayne's that I've read, but it won't be the last. I didn't know what to expect coming in, but once I got used to Mayne's style I settled in and liked it.

Hollywood Pharaohs wasn't a "must read" for me. It wasn't one of those books where I had to read it every night. And it wasn't one that I finished in two days. Pharaohs fit more into a "fun read" for me, and I don't get enough of those anymore. It's obvious Mayne knows his Hollywood, and it was enjoyable to hear some of the stories he told; it made me feel as if I was in the hands of someone who knew what they were talking about.

Some authors get carried away with humor, but Mayne knows how far to take it, and he never went over the top. I felt his characters were well drawn and his plot enjoyable. He has a great voice, and he definitely knows how to tell a story. The real Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Andrew Mayne.

Overall, I really liked this, and I'm certain I'll pick up another book of Mayne's to give that a shot, too.

Vengeance Wears Black

Vengeance Wears Black - Seumas Gallacher Vengeance Wears Black—A book that reminds me of the action movies I loved.


Vengeance Wears Black, by Seumas Gallacher, reminds me of many of the action movies I recall with fond memories. It wasn’t a perfect book, but it was enjoyable. Here’s my take:

It took me a while to get involved with the characters, and they weren’t as deep as I might have liked, but they were solid and did their job.
I felt that Seumas relied on dialogue too much; he tried providing information through dialogue that should have been conveyed through exposition. Sometimes that can work, and work well; in this case I thought the exchanges ran a little too long.

Dialogue provided another slight distraction for me. I felt that several of the characters sounded too much the same, and the dialogue tags were not always appropriate. This might not bother some people. It probably won’t, but it tended to pull me out of the story, even if for a moment.
With that said, you might think I didn’t like this book, but I did. A lot! Seumas has a gift for storytelling and action. This book starts with action, is filled with action, and finishes with action. Action is the strength of this book.

It reminds me of some of the Stallone or Schwarzenegger movies from the 80s that were non-stop action from opening scene to the end. Some people might take that as a negative. I don’t. I loved those movies. They weren’t huge on character development, or dialogue, or many other things, but they told a good story and they kept my interest.

As a writer, I probably picked this apart more than I should have, but as a reader, I enjoyed it.

Also, the book was formatted and laid out nicely, and it wasn’t riddled with typos and mistakes. A plus for what I see in a lot of books.
To summarize:

I felt the book was of good quality.
The action and descriptions were good.
The characterization and dialogue could have been improved.

I would have given this a 3.5 rating, which I rounded up to 4.