The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Murder Takes Time

The author sent me a copy of this novel to review:

This is one of the better mob/mafia novels that I have read in a long time. How long? I have to go back to 1969’s The Godfather by Mario Puzo, and 1971’s Honor Thy Father by Gay Talese. I’m not suggesting that Mr. Giammatteo’s novel is in the rarefied air of the two previously mention novels, but it does deserve an honorable mention. This is a accomplished first novel by a self proclaimed full-time job headhunter, and part-time writer. Giacomo is amongst many new writers that I have read this year that deserve prominence with a major publisher. What does it take for a writer to get the proper recognition? I’m not saying that there aren’t any flaws in Giacomo’s novel, but there are a lot more positives versus imperfections. We will talk about that later.

The novel is about four friends living in Wilmington, Delaware, who starting at the age of six swear an oath of friendship and honor to each other. The story switches back and forth between their childhood and the present. The narrator sometimes is a third person, sometimes Nicky ‘the Rat’ Fusco (out of a story Det. Frankie ‘Bugs’ Donovan is writing?). They usually alternate chapters; although near the end, they narrate in the same chapter. I know it sounds confusing, but Giacomo’s writing style facilitates the reader through any confusion. His great job of artistic creation is a breath of fresh air. Anyway, as the boys grow up, they wind up in N.Y.C after some trials and tribulations (mostly, Nicky’s). Paulie ‘the Suit’, Tony ‘the Brain’, and Nicky ‘the Rat’ end up in the mob family of Tito Martelli. ‘Bugs’ Donovan ends up on the Brooklyn Police Department as a detective. Mobsters start dying horrible deaths. Bugs Donovan is on the case, or is he? What’s Nicky mad about? Why does Tony fear what Nicky might find out? Is Paulie involved? Believe it or not, the author provides the reader with many reasons to root for each character. As the gruesome murders continue, the plot thickens. The story burst outwards with more murders and suspicions. Who is doing all the killing and why? This is where the reader needs to buy his own copy of this exciting novel. Believe me, it’s worth it.

I found interest with other characters, as well, which means the writer did his job. Sister Thomas, Mamma Rosa, Gina, Johnny Muck, and Angela were excellent sidebar characters to this tale. Now, for the flaws. I know Giacomo grew up in the Wilmington area, but do six year olds really smoke? Could all these murders against hardened criminals really have been accomplished by one man? Finally, I found the ending a little predictable and hackneyed. However, I enjoyed the story... it’s not Mickey Spillane, but who is?

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: The Godfather spawned many famous quotes such as: “I believe in America. America’s made my fortune.”, or... “Look, we are all reasonable men here. We don’t have to give assurances, as if we were lawyers.”, or... “I like to drink wine more than I used to. Anyway, I’m drinking more.”, or... “It doesn’t make any difference to me what a man does for a living, you understand. But your business is a little dangerous.”, or... “I don’t like violence, Tom. I’m a businessman. Blood is a big expense.”, and the most famous of all...”I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Wow, do you remember when in the book these quotes were made and by who?

The 1997 film Donnie Brasco also had many famous quotes. How about this one...”If I come out alive, this guy, Lefty, ends up dead. That’s the same thing as me putting a bullet in his head myself.”( Donnie Brasco ), or...”When they send for you, you go in alive, you come out dead, and it’s your best friend that does it.” ( Lefty ), or...”How much did you give that guy? A wiseguy never pays for his drinks.” ( Lefty ). My favorite lines are when Donnie says...”You think I’m a rat?”, and Lefty says...”How many times have I had you in my house? If you’re a rat, then I’m the biggest mutt in the history of the Mafia.” Well, if you saw this classic film: Bark! Bark!

After reading Giacomo’s, Murder Takes Time, it seems to me that he followed the advice Mickey Spillane once gave. According to, he said...”Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013


The following is the second guest review from my nine year old grandson, Kai Ohlarik:

The Hobbit is a great book. I enjoyed the author’s style because it is very creative; for example, in the beginning of the book, the characters meet trolls, but he made the trolls turn to stone in the sun, instead of the trolls just being unaffected by the sun like normal trolls.

The story is about Bilbo, the hobbit, and his unexpected adventure to retrieve the dwarves lost treasure from Smaug, who is a dragon. Bilbo, on his adventure, is accompanied by a company of 23 dwarves. On their journey, they have to deal with goblins and wargs, who eventually team up. By the end, they are being hunted by the lakemen, elves, goblins, and wargs. Will they ever get the lost treasure back? Read the book to find out.  

Bilbo, a very lively hobbit, lives in a town where all the houses are carved into hills. I admire Bilbo’s bravery the most, because he puts himself in risky situations to show he is brave. Gandalf, a good hearted wizard, was responsible for Bilbo’s whole adventure. I admire that Gandalf never gives up; for example, when they were all hiding from wolves in trees, Gandalf started throwing flaming pine cones at them, and he kept throwing them till the wolves ran.

I thought this book was the best I ever read. I like it more than anything. I would recommend this book because I think it is very well written, and I think it is very exciting. I would recommend this book to fourth graders and up, especially fantasy lovers.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Kai is now tackling the more difficult three-book epic, The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien is considered the father of high fantasy, even though many fantasy authors have preceded him with vintage novels. The first one that comes to mind is Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures In Wonderland , which was published 90 years before Tolkien’s trilogy. The second novel that I recall is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels, published 229 years before Tolkien’s classics. Recently, the author of The Pecan Man , Cassie Selleck, saw my grandson’s picture on this blog and said, “Best to you and your grandson! Keep ‘Im reading!” Cassie says that using her southern gothic ambiance.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Is this a non fiction book that reads like fiction? Yes and no. There was plenty of history, but it could have been presented with a little more panache. If you have read my reviews, you know that this style of writing is my favorite genre...but don’t do it half way. I liked this book, however it could have been written in a way that would have resulted in many nail-biting chapter endings. Monte Reel, you were so close to perfection! You have a 5’ 3’’ unknown explorer who had the guts to stand up to a furious gorilla charge as your main character. According to your own research, the first white man to encounter this highly debatable relative of man is Paul Du Chaillu. You wrote an interesting tale, but you had the wherewithal at your fingertips to tell it in a more intoxicating style. This explorer, Paul Du Chaillu, in 2013 is practically incognito. Nobody in the mid to late 1800s understood who he was, just imagine what today’s students know about Du Chaillu. Nothing! I see a book that could have been written with more flare and page turning capabilities. Okay, enough said, it was still a reasonable success.

This is the story of Paul Du Chaillu of dubious parentage being brought up by the missionaries' John and Jane Wilson in Gabon, West Africa. Eventually, Wilson gets Du Chaillu a job as a French teacher in Carmel, NY. Once in America, Du Chaillu’s African stories get to John Cassin, head of Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences. Paul earns a paid expedition back to Africa to find and send back specimens of unknown animals and birds. He sends back many stuffed specimens over the next three years, but becomes famous for being the first white man to encounter a gorilla. Once back in America, Paul finds that there is little interest in his findings, and The Academy of Natural Sciences refuses to reimburse his expedition expenses. When Paul tries to display his gorilla skins in NYC, he is out maneuvered by P.T. Barnum’s Broadway museum. Monte Reel’s prose had this reviewer rooting hard for this would be explorer with no credentials.

During this time period, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is published in England, sparking debates pro and con. Suddenly Paul’s encounter with gorillas becomes meaningful. Richard Owen, superintendent of all the natural history collections at the British Museum, invites Paul to England to " show and tell " his African expedition experiences. Guess what? England loves him! Since Paul isn’t a “educated” explorer, he has his backers and attackers. Stories are written about him by the great Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray in their respective magazines. All is good! Not. Here comes the attack on his story and qualifications by England’s zoological society’s head, John Gray, and a jealous retired explorer, Charles Waterton. Ladies and gentleman, let the gorilla wars begin! This is where the novel gets intriguing and the ensuing chapters magnetic.

I haven’t read Reel’s first book, The Last of the Tribe , but I have to say that Monte Reel has the knack for writing novels about uncommon subjects that are irreproachably researched. My only criticism is his occasional lack of verve. If you don’t know what I mean, read Robert Klara’s FDR's Funeral Train , Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic , or Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City . Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and profoundly endorse Monte Reel’s latest book.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: It has been said that the 1933 film King Kong , created by Merian C. Cooper was inspired by Paul Chaillu’s adventures in Africa. According to Wikipedia: “ Cooper's fascination with gorillas began with his boyhood reading of Paul Du Chaillu's Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa (1861) and was furthered in 1929 by studying a tribe of baboons in Africa while filming The Four Feathers. Paul’s influence in books and movies is quite incredible. Darwin’s theories seem to be alive in this movie also: “Merian C. Cooper wanted King Kong to be more of an ape, but Willis O'Brien wanted King Kong to be more of a human being. A compromise was met with King Kong being made into an apeman.”

In 1949, the movie Mighty Joe Young also had the flavor of Paul Du Chaillu’s adventures: “In Africa, the girl Jill Young trades a baby gorilla with two natives and raises the animal. Twelve years later, the talkative and persuasive promoter Max O'Hara organizes a safari to Africa with the Oklahoma cowboy Gregg to bring attractions to his new night-club in Hollywood.” The oddity here is that the actor, Robert Armstrong, plays a similar showman in both movies: Carl Denham in King Kong and Max O’hara in Mighty Joe Young. Armstrong played a similar part for a third time in Son of Kong ( 1933 )

White Pongo ( a 1945 film ) relates to some of Monte Reel’s storyline: “Hunters and scientists venture into the jungle to track down a savage albino gorilla, which they believe could be the missing link between man and ape." Sounds like the title of Reel’s book, doesn’t it? This 1856 expedition to Africa has had a lasting impression on Hollywood, even though the average human has never heard of Paul Du Chaillu.

Finally, as a sidebar to Monte’s book, here is what some tribes in Africa thought about America’s slave trade: “One of them confessed to Paul that his tribe had heard stories about the fiercely cannibalistic ways of white men. Paul's first instinct was to laugh him off as a simple minded fool. But the legend hadn't been conjured from thin air. When Paul tried to assure him that white men didn't eat black men, the man confronted him with a direct challenge: explain why they bought and sold Africans as if they were cattle, not human beings."Why do you come from nobody knows where, and carry off our men, and women, and children?" the man asked Paul. "Do you not fatten them in your far country and eat them?”  

Saturday, June 1, 2013


The author sent me an autographed copy of this novel to review:

Seeley James has created a dazzling crime-stopper, and she is Pia Sabel of Sabel Security! She’s Daddy’s super rich daughter, who just happens to be a world class soccer player and a hand to hand fighter of extraordinary skill. Daddy has just turned the operations  of Sabel Security over to his daughter, Pia. Untested, Pia has to win the trust of all the agents before she can lead this billion dollar company. She is surrounded by battle hardened agents, who need to be assured that the pretty rich girl can become a leader. She is assisted by some of her staunch agents, such as; Major Jonelle Jackson; Tania, a cantankerous and loveable agent; agent Marty, a ex-marine; and agent Miguel. Mr. James does a good job in the empathy department, since I felt myself caring for quite a few of these gnarly gumshoes. This novel is the first in a series of Pia Sabel mysteries that Mr. James states he will write. If this is true, I’ll have a few suggestions on how he can improve the series later in this review.

Pia’s first client, Clement Marot, a Swiss banker, is assassinated in front of her eyes. This incident triggers a stirring thriller that includes money laundering, piracy, murder, and betrayal. Why was the banker murdered in broad daylight in a park in Geneva, Switzerland? Pia captures the assassin, and turns the criminal over to Capitaine Villeneuve and Lt. Alphonse Lamartine, who are on loan to Geneva from the French police. The killer escapes while in custody. Four more bankers turn up dead! Pia’s first case is not drawing any confidence out of her employees. Pia, with the help of Major Jackson,  plunges into this brainteaser of many suspects and motives, including the assassin Al Jabal, the arcane Elgin Thomas, Marot’s son Philippe, Calixthe Ebokea ( is that really her name? ), Conor Wigan, and the unknown kingpin, Le Directeur. The clues take Pia and her agents to Cameroon where they are momentarily sidetracked into rescuing captured slaves, or is this a ambush? It seems that everywhere they go, assassins are waiting for them. Who is the mole tipping off the agents whereabouts? The amazing concept of this novel is how Pia and her agents fight the bad guy’s Sig Sauer pistols and AK47 rifles with Glocks armed with darts! What? No, I’m not kidding. Anyway, the story does get confusing from time to time, but the reader manages to follow the storyline. Near the end, Pia remembers someone saying “chain of custody”. Can this be the clue to put the final piece of the puzzle together? I’m going to recommend this first time novel by Seeley James, because I think this series has great  promise and longevity. By the way, the prose is also pretty good.

Now, how to improve this series? First of all, the “thank you for saving my life” and “jabs to the throat” lines are repeated too often. Repetitive lines are irritating to the reader. Next, scrap the darts! It’s not believable that you can fight hardened criminals armed to the T using sleeper darts to thwart them. What would Indiana Jones be without his bullwhip? What would Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer be without “Betsy”, his Colt .45? Would Ian Fleming’s James Bond  be James Bond without his Walther PPK 7.65mm? No! No! Mr. James, Pia needs to come up with a respectable weapon. A harpoon would be better than a sleeper dart. Lastly, Pia needs a esoteric lover who could appear in a novel once in awhile. I thought Alphonse was that man, but no, you know what you did to him. I liked this novel, otherwise I wouldn’t make any propositions.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Lets talk about some of the authors that have made a success with one character. I loved Mickey Spillane, who wrote 13 Mike Hammer Novels, and six more completed by Max Allan Collins after Spillane’s death. Mickey Spillane said that it only took him 19 days to write his first novel, I, the Jury . Some of Spillane’s famous quotes according to Brainy Quotes  include: “Hemingway hated me. I sold 200 million books, and he didn’t. Of course most of mine sold for 25 cents, but look at all this stuff with a grain of salt.” He also said: “I’m a commercial writer, not an author. Margaret Mitchell was an author. She wrote one book.” And finally, Mickey talking about Mike Hammer said: “Imagine this guy hits Mike Hammer over the head with a wooden coat hanger and knocks him out. You hit Mike Hammer with a wooden coat hanger, he beats the crap out of you.

Clive Cussler is a prolific writer of adventure stories. My favorite hero from Clive’s lineup of characters is Dirk Pitt. The first Dirk Pitt novel was Pacific Vortex , but it wasn’t published until 1983. So far, there are 22 Dirk Pitt novels, some have been made into movies. Some of Clive’s quotes according to Brainy Quotes are: “When I first started writing, I was in advertising at the time, I was doing most of my writing on weekends. I had studied most of the other series heroes and I figured it would be fun for mine to be different and put him in and around water. So I dreamed up Dirk Pitt.” Clive is not too fond of some actors: “As far as talent goes, Marilyn Monroe was so minimally gifted as to be almost unemployable, and anyone who holds to the opinion that she was a great natural comic identifies himself immediately as a dunce”. Way to go Clive! And what does Clive think of himself? “I don’t think I’m really a rude person, but now I see myself on television, I think ‘Oh, God, that is a bit strong.’ And I wonder if I’ve always been like that and I haven’t been aware of it.

Ian Fleming wrote 14 novels and short stories about the famous 007 British Secret Service agent, James Bond. After Fleming’s death in 1964, a number of authors have continued the novels. In Casino Royale Fleming writes how Bond orders a martini: “A dry martini, he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet’...Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?” Why am I thirsty? Nobody can accuse Ian Fleming of being a coward. When he first met Sean Connery, he said to Sean: “I’m looking for Commander James Bond, Not an overgrown stunt man.” Wow! His two famous quotes about life and death are: “You only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.” And: “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.”