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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.

Indie Authors Guide to the Universe

Indie Authors Guide to the Universe - Jeff Bennington The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe (Kindle Edition)
This book is not groundbreaking, and like any book that deals with the publishing business these days, it is almost obsolete before it comes out; however, there is more than enough great stuff in here to make it not only worthwhile, but a mandatory read for authors just starting out, or any author who needs help with promotion. If you find chapters that don't interest you, or you feel like you don't need that area of help, skip over them. For me, one chapter alone made this book worth ten times what I paid for it. The chapter dealing with product description and how to "sell" your book to the reader on your Amazon page.

I quit reading this book at midnight and went right to the computer and started working on fixing my horrible book description. I believe it's far better now, and it's all due to reading this book. There is plenty of other good advice in here, and I won't attempt to cover all of it, but I would guarantee you that you'll find at least one thing, probably more, that will make this worth far more than what you paid for it.

Giacomo Giammatteo, author of Murder Takes Time

Huntress Moon (Huntress/FBI Thrillers, #1)

Huntress Moon (Huntress/FBI Thrillers, #1) - Alexandra Sokoloff I picked Huntress Moon up because it was rated so highly, and I saw nothing in the reviews to dissuade me from giving it a try. I'm not one to suffer through a book; if it doesn't keep my interest after 30 or 40 pages, I put it down, or in the case of a digital, remove it from my shelf. Huntress Moon wasn't an "absolutely must" read that had me scrambling to get to it every night, but I found that I looked forward to reading it, and that if it came to reading or doing something else, I opted to read. I have to tell you, that doesn't happen often enough for me anymore. It was also interesting enough so that I finished it in four sessions. Again, that's something that doesn't happen very often.

I don't summarize books when I review them, but I try to address the main issues.

1. plot was a good one. It wasn't so memorable that it's one I'll talk about forever, like "The Usual Suspects," but it was a well-done plot with no obvious holes.
2. character development was both excellent and mediocre. Keep in mind, this is all how the characters appealed to me, this one reader. I loved the Huntress. I was less enthused about either of the FBI agents. I felt the main protag tended to dwell on things too much. But again, I have to say, I loved the Huntress.
3. Storytelling. I think this is where Sokoloff showed her best stuff. She is an excellent storyteller. And for my money, that is probably the most important thing in a book. She knows when to turn up the heat, when to tone it down, and when to break a chapter and leave you hanging. It was very well done.
4. The book was formatted well, with no mistakes or typos that I saw. Another pleasant surprise, as I have been finding more and more mistakes in both independent and traditionally published works.

In summary, this was a book I would recommend as a good read, and I will definitely be getting more of Sokoloff's books. If you like a good plot, an excellent antag, and a well-told story, do yourself a favor and check out Huntress Moon.

The Roman Army (Cambridge Introduction to World History)

The Roman Army - John Wilkes The Roman Army is a wonderful little book. I say little because it is only about 48 pages, but those pages are packed full of information, and colorful illustrations.

Wilkes provides accurate details and gives enough information on training, legion formations, legionnaire duties, construction of the camps, and the legionnaire's weapons to equip someone new to this area of study. If you are well-versed in the Roman armies of the times, this might serve as a good refresher, but it is perhaps best used by a younger reader who is new to the area of study. That is where I found it most valuable, as my younger son, who was thirteen at the time, showed interest in Roman history. It was both easy reading and informative.

The period covered spreads a few centuries but deals mostly with the empire during the reigns of Hadrian and Trajan, a bright time for the empire, and a good time to be in the legion.

I will state it again—this book is not for a person well-versed in the history of the Roman Army. This book is better suited to someone new to the field, or a younger student of Roman military history. This book shines in its simplicity and brevity.

The Informant (Butcher's Boy Series #3)

The Informant - Thomas Perry The Informant, Thomas Perry.

I have been a big fan of Perry since the early days. Butcher's Boy was one of my favorites, and Sleeping Dogs held up well. I thought I would be disappointed with Vanishing Act, but wasn't.

The Informant has been great in that it allowed me to revisit BB after so many years, but it brought a little baggage with it. Thomas Perry is one of the best at developing a character who knows their business. Not many hit men I remember were drawn as well as the original BB. And when he switched to Jane Whitefield in Vanishing Act, he did a fantastic job of showing her skills at helping people disappear. I remember thinking "damn, I wish I could write like that."

The Informant had a lot going for it, and Perry once again did a great job of painting the exceptional skills of his hit man, but I felt that was where the character development ended. I didn't buy into Waring's character or the decisions she made. And with a few exceptions, none of the other characters stood out. I also found the plot to be a little lacking, and the wrap up slightly rushed and with a few too many holes.

Having said that, I still enjoyed book, and I finished it. Lately I have found myself putting down a lot of books, so just to finish it was good. I hope this was just a case of Perry moving this book along a little too fast, and that he takes more time on the next one, because for almost thirty years, he has been one of my favorite authors, along with Sandford, Crais, Connelly, etc…

If you can suspend disbelief for a while, and you can tolerate a little less depth in some of the characters, I'd recommend The Informant for anyone who likes this type of book. If you have any interest in hit-men stories, it's worth it to see the superb mechanics Perry brings to the table. He's great with the details.

The Sicilian

The Sicilian - Mario Puzo
The Sicilian is NOT, like some people think, a sequel to the Godfather. It does feature cameo appearances by Michael Corleone and Clemenza, but they are more to tie the story together than anything else. Personally, I found it distracting and unnecessary for them to have been in the book and I felt it would have been a far better book without them.

The unfortunate thing is that it detracted from the real story, and that is the tale of Salvatore Giuliano, the famous bandit of Sicily. (Btw, the other annoying thing was that they spelled Giuliano’s name Guiliano, with the ‘u’ coming before the ‘i’. That drove me nuts.) Salvatore or “Turi” Giuliano’s story is one that deserves a full book dedicated to nothing but that story. It’s a tale that not many people are familiar with and if you have any interest in Sicilian history, it’s worth learning.

Puzo seems to have done a decent job of recounting the history of Sicily during that time period, and he is magnificent in how he tells it. He works his magic on each character, bringing them to life as only Puzo can. Salvatore “Turi” Giuliano, Gaspare “Aspanu” Pisciotta were true, bigger than life characters, and Puzo manages to not only show us their magnificence, but their faults in glorious perfection.

I loved this book, but I wish he had stuck to the true tale and not bothered with his cast from the Godfather.

The Sword of Carthage

The Sword of Carthage - Vaughn Heppner I love history told this way. Heppner seems to have done his homework on facts, not that I'm an expert, but I have read a lot on the Second Punic War, and two books on the First Punic War. If Heppner strayed it wasn't far.

He also did a good job of constructing the tale. It's difficult to relate history this way, keep the facts, but make it interesting. I give him credit for that, too.

Now comes the difficult part. For as much work as Heppner put into his research, I wish he would have put half as much into a good copy editor and proofreader. I found it inexcusable that this book had so many mistakes, both typos and words misused. A few are understandable, but not this many. More than a couple of dozen. The shame of it is that mistakes ruin a good read, at least for me they do, and it wouldn't have taken him too much time or money to hire someone to correct that.

With that said, I would still recommend this as a decent read for anyone interested in the First Punic War, and in Hamilcar Barca. I would have rated this at least 4.5 stars if the mistakes had been within reason.

Devil's Lair

Devil's Lair - David Wisehart I went into Devil’s Lair with a lot of excitement, eager for a read on one of my favorite historical eras. That it promised to include generous helpings of Dante’s Inferno made me even more eager.

I have to say that I was not disappointed. Wisehart does a magnificent job with character development, painting a vivid portrait of deep characterization on very different people—the wounded knight, the fallen priest, Giovanni the poet, and the epileptic woman with visions.

I felt the development of the characters was exceptionally well done in the first half of the book, while action and a faster pace dominated the second half. I have read Dante’s Inferno a few times, and I enjoyed it, but I wonder if someone not familiar with Dante would find as much pleasure in Devil’s Lair.

The only complaint I have is Wisehart’s use of his obviously extensive vocabulary. I love being sent to the dictionary now and then to learn a new word, or to get clarification on what I thought was the proper definition of a word, but I found myself going a little too often in Devil’s Lair. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind so much, with electronic reading and the dictionary literally at your fingertips, but—and this might be an annoyance for some—many of the words weren’t even listed in the Kindle dictionary, so I was forced to look them up on Google. While this was enlightening in one sense, it was frustrating in another. I felt that 90% of the time the author could have made his point just as well with a simpler word.

Devil’s Lair is not a typical page-turner in the sense of action, or mystery; it is more a book that must be devoured one delicious page at a time, and I did just that. It took me longer to read than most books, but then again, this one made me stop and think—something I relish, as I don’t do enough of it. The descriptions in Wisehart’s book are detailed, the story is true to the era and the masterpiece it draws so well from, and the dialogue can be thought provoking and enlightening.

If you are a fan of Dante’s Inferno, or enjoy that era of Italian history, by all means I would recommend you pick up Devil’s Lair. You won’t be disappointed.

Get Connected: 101 Places to Promote Your Books Online

Get Connected: 101 Places to Promote Your Books Online - G.E. Johnson Great Resource for Authors

The biggest hurdle facing ANY author, regardless of how they are published, is visibility--how to get noticed among the sea of new books. That means, unless someone is bankrolling you and doing a major publicity push, you have to promote yourself. And promotion isn't easy. Worst of all, it's an author's nightmare because it digs into the little bit of time each author has to write.

On to the review: I like readers to know what they are getting. This book isn't groundbreaking. It doesn't offer up an easy way to promote yourself. It has no magical secrets. What this book does is save you TIME. And to me, time is precious. Johnson has done good research, and, according to her, used many of her resources to promote her books. Was I aware of some of these sites? Yes. Did I feel as if, 'damn, I just paid ten bucks to get information I already had.' Sometimes. But by the time I finished the book, and I looked at all the notes I had taken, and all the sites I highlighted as 'must todos,' I realized, Johnson had just saved me hours upon hours of work. Is that worth ten bucks? You bet your sweet... it is. Paying ten bucks for this book was like getting someone to cut my grass all year--for a dollar.

I'm not saying Johnson captured every single promotional possibility on the internet. Obviously not. What she did was put together, in one place, with clickable links, a great list of places to promote your book. Sites where you can list your book for free promos. Sites that offer reviews and author interviews. Sites for author/reader collaboration. I went through this in one night, but I have notes and 'todo' items that will keep me busy for months. The internet is a wonderful resource, but it can be time consuming when faced with putting together a prioritized list of what's good and what isn't. Johnson has done the work for many authors and put it down in a simple, easy to use format. Well worth it as far as I'm concerned.

The Drop (A Harry Bosch Novel)

The Drop - Michael Connelly I have been reading Harry Bosch novels since Connelly started, and, for the most part, I've really enjoyed them. Connelly writes great police procedurals, and manages to keep the pace up while providing the details necessary to satisfy the readers who demand details, details, details.

For more years than I care to count, he has kept the Bosch character true to his ethics, and usually in conflict with someone in the department, adding flavor for the books.

In "The Drop" Connelly starts out fine, and the dual plot line appealed to me. I tend to like books with multiple plot or story lines. Usually with dual lines, one of them holds more interest than the other, even if only by a touch. The problem I had with THE DROP was that neither one of his plot lines delivered enough to really keep me turning pages. The conflict felt a little forced, and at times I felt as if Bosch tooted his own horn a bit too much.

Don't get me wrong, the book wasn't bad. I gave it three stars, which for me is a good book. It means I finished it, and found no major flaws with it. As usual, the writing was good. No mistakes, no plot holes, and no going off on tangents like too many authors do. Connelly is still at the top of the game, and I plan on continuing to pick up his novels as soon as they come out. I've been reading him and John Sandford for @ twenty years, and I wouldn't miss a single launch.

Stolen Prey

Stolen Prey - John Sandford I have read every Sandford book, even the non-Lucas ones. I've read half a dozen of his books more than once, and I consider him to be among my favorite authors. Sandford lost a little for a few books, but I felt he got it back again in Buried Prey. This book once again recaptured some of his old flair—some, but not all. I never go into details in a review, so I'll try to tell you why I say that, without revealing anything.

First the good: Lucas is almost back to his normal self, and the killer/s were, for the most part, done well. The writing was typical Sandford, which means good. The dialogue was classic Sandford, which means excellent. The book, like all of his, was without errors, or at least none caught my eye.

So what wasn't up to par: I said the killer/s were good. But some weren't. What was sorely lacking was a top-notch Sandford plot, with a great Sandford ending. I wasn't sorry I read the book, but I was slightly disappointed. Perhaps because I've come to expect too much from him. The other component that I felt was missing, was the normally magnificent supporting cast. That used to be one of Sandford's strongest points; in this book I felt it didn't quite reach his typical level.

Overall this was a good read. It went fast. It had good action. There weren't any huge gaping plot holes, and the ending probably will leave most people satisfied. For me it fell a little short.

Will I pick up the next Sandford book? You bet your sweet ass I will. He's still one of the best.

Death at La Fenice: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

Death at La Fenice - Donna Leon I have read @ ten of Donna Leon's books and this review reflects my opinion of most of them. Some have a slightly better story, a little more engaging than others, but for the most part, the books are about Brunetti, and about Venezia, and the Italian people.

Commissario Guido Brunetti is a deep and interesting character, but he is unlike most detectives you’ll find in American mystery books. Brunetti solves crimes with his wits, and all the while deals with crooked politicians; his independent and wonderful wife; and his 2 children, who come complete with the normal teenage problems. Throughout the books, though, Brunetti never loses sight of what is important—food. Leon’s books are as much a culinary delight as a mystery lover’s passion. As I read, I find myself yearning to pop the cork on a bottle of Prosecco and mix up a plate of farfalle with a creamy wild mushroom sauce.

Some have argued that the mystery in Leon’s books isn’t that captivating. I won’t disagree with that, but the characterization and the setting are so wonderful it makes up for it. Signorina Elettra is one of the best characters I’ve come across in books. She adds more flavor to Leon’s books than a sprig of freshly picked lemon basil to a bowl of pasta.

What seals it for me, though, are Leon’s descriptions of Venice, or Venezia. What she describes is so real you will feel as if you’re strolling in Piazza San Marco, or enjoying a brioche at a cafe near the Hotel Danieli. She brings a fresh perspective to plots that have been done before, and her insight into the Italian people is so perfect, all I can do is laugh…and enjoy. If you haven’t read Leon before, and if you’re fond of Italy or the Italian people, rush out and get one of her books. You’ll be glad you did.

Servant of the Empire

Servant of the Empire - Raymond E. Feist, Janny Wurts Another good book in the series

I thought Daughter of the Empire was one of the best fantasy books I’ve read. Mara of the Acoma stood out as a star among an excellent cast of characters. Servant of the Empire continues with outstanding writing, great plotting, and, for the most part, excellent characters. My only gripe about the series came in this book. I wasn’t fond of Kevin, and found some of the actions—and lack of repercussions—a little unbelievable.

There was also another event in the book that where I felt emotions were drawn out far too long. Aside from that, the story was tremendous; the plotting excellent; and the rest of the characters great.

I would have given this a 4.5 star rating, so I rounded it up to 5.

Mistress of the Empire (Empire Trilogy, Bk. 3)

Mistress of the Empire - Raymond E. Feist, Janny Wurts In the final book of the Empire Series, Janny Wurts and Raymond Feist stepped up to the plate and smacked another home run. I thought the first book in the series was one of the best fantasy books I’ve read. The second was an excellent book, but I felt it slipped in a few places. With Mistress, they have returned with another masterpiece.

The plotting was tremendous, taking the reader through political intrigue and subterfuge, and a host of sub-plots. IMO this was a well-thought-out process that kept you wondering how Mara would come out victorious, even though you knew she must. The characters continued a fantastic line of development that started with the first book, and the authors introduced some new characters that were just as rich and interesting as the others.

And the storytelling was great, but as good as the plot and storytelling were, I think my favorite parts of these stories were the secondary characters. Wurts and Feist have created some of the best supporting cast I’ve seen. The spymaster was outstanding, as were many of her loyal guards. The only one I didn’t like was Kevin.

I had no trouble deciding what to rate this book. It was one of the easiest five stars I've ever done.

Daughter of the Empire

Daughter of the Empire - 'Raymond E. Feist',  'Janny Wurts' I picked this up many years ago after reading Raymond Feist's RIftwar Saga. Within the first thirty pages or so, I was hooked. I had read Janny Wurtz before, and I had read Feist. I enjoyed both of their works, but the combination of the two of them was better. They created a magnificent world with a great culture, borrowing heavily from Japanese/Oriental cultures of old. It was refreshing after so many fantasies, especially in those days, were based on medieval European cultures.

Mara, of the Acoma, is the main protag, and she is one of the most well-developed characters I've run across in fantasy. She is as real as you can get and her joys, and pains, and problems ooze from the pages and into your soul. The plotting is detailed and very well done, and the sub plots and intrigue are something to be marvelled at. I only wish I had the ability to do it so well.

As great as Mara is, what makes this book shine is the supporting cast. Wurtz and Feist have dug deep into their character playbook and they came up with nothing but winners. There are people you will absolutely despise and others you love. Some will earn your pity, and some your envy. What a wonderful way to spend a couple of nights. I say couple because it is such a compelling read, I can't imagine taking more than two nights to finish.

I have read this series four times now, and it is still enjoyable. Highly recommended for any reader interested in great worldbuilding, cultures, deep characters, and some of the best plotting I have seen.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson I have been an admirer of Steve Jobs since the early 80s. I did some work for Apple when they were ramping up production for the original Macintosh, and, though I never interacted with Jobs, his "personality" was infused in everyone you dealt with. It was a great experience and one I will never forget. So, when the book came out, I was curious to learn more about the man behind the myth. And learn I did.

Some of what I learned I didn't like. Jobs was not always the "image" I had in my mind. This shouldn't have surprised me, being a writer, but it did to some extent. I thought Isaacson did a great job of portraying both the good and the bad about jobs without being judgmental. At times I cringed when reading some of the examples of how he treated people who worked for him, but within a few more pages, I laughed, or sat back in amazement at his creativity and inspiration.

Isaacson had a great subject to write about, but it took a lot of skill to portray it so that readers got the complete picture of the man behind the curtain. I came away from reading this both saddened and exhilarated, but in the end I was very glad I read it. If you have any curiosity about Steve Jobs, the man, or about Apple and how the company was built, including the turmoil it went through, this is a must read.

Night Angel Trilogy: The Way of Shadows / Shadow's Edge / Beyond the Shadows

The Night Angel Trilogy - Brent Weeks Brent Weeks created a great world and a cast of wonderful characters. Durzo Blint ranks high on my list as one of the best assassins in fantasy, and he has a lot of competition there. In Night Angel, the assassins are called "wetboys" and Durzo not only rules the ranks, his character comes with a few surprises-nice ones. All too often, an assassin or hit man border being one dimensional. Not the case with Durzo. He is complex, and at times, is both likeable and detestable. Just the way it should be. And if having Durzo Blint isn't enough, Weeks dreamed up another fantastic character in the form of the apprentice, Kylar.

The antagonists in the books are worthy of respect, and they, too, come with a full and mysterious past. The plot is thick, and well-thought out, and the worldbuilding is just as I like it. I can picture it, imagine myself skulking down the alleys, and roaming the peculiar places on the outskirts, yet Weeks accomplishes all this without wasting valuable pages.

A few times during books two and three I felt the tiniest bit of rushing on the plot, but, at least for me, I'd rather a book be moved along a tad too fast than dragged out. Another great thing that Weeks managed to do was to fill the books with secondary characters worthy of his two protags. Every one of them felt real, even if only on the scene for a few pages.

I had quit reading fantasy for almost a year until someone told me about this series and I am very glad I picked it up. I'll be getting his next series as well. Good work, Brent. Keep it up.