Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Harvey by Phil Rossi

If there's one thing I like, it is free books. I think that's what makes the books on Podiobooks so much more awesome. Not only do authors get the chance to put out their books via an audio format, but us the readers (or in this case, listeners) get to pick them up for free. I won't lie- sometimes there are some pretty rough books out there that can use a bit more work, but sometimes you get some pretty awesome authors such as Scott Sigler. (If you haven't read or listened to any of his works, you are in for a huge treat.) Donations are optional, but encouraged on Podiobooks, as the author gets a good chunk of what you donate.

The book I'm reviewing in this post has yet to be published in paper format by the author, Phil Rossi, although one of his other books (Crescent) has. This book is called Harvey, and follows the supernatural events that are happening in the small town of Harvey.

Calvin Hubbard used to be famous for his voice, singing in an ultra famous singing competition reminiscent of American Idol. Used to be is the key word, as now everyone refers to him as "that guy who screwed one of the judges". Desperate for a nice quiet hideaway to produce his new album, Calvin stumbles upon the tiny town of Harvey, Virginia. At first the town seems perfect and he even stumbles into a relationship with one of the town beauties. Unfortunately for him, he had no way of knowing that dark things lurk in the forests- things with teeth, things that want to devour each inhabitant of Harvey, body and soul!

I feel a little unfair, critiquing some parts of this podiobook. The book is read by the author on his own equipment, if I'm not mistaken. I always feel guilty when ever I think something critical about the audio quality or vocal talents under these conditions- they're just starting out and don't have professionals who can read for them. Rossi does an excellent job of reading his book and the audio quality is very, very good for a podcast novel- I've listened to many where you can pick out a lot of background or white noise. It's just that I have to warn the average listener- Rossi has a bit of a nasally voice that tended to be a little annoying when I first started listening to the book. Again, this is a bit of a petty complaint- he can't help the way he sounds any more than I can help the way you or I do. Rest assured- he does a great job at reading and eventually I ignored all of the little details as I was quickly sucked into the book.

One thing I can definitely wonder about this book is this: WHY ISN'T THIS GUY MORE PUBLISHED? I won't lie, there's a little bit of work to be done. But that's an emphasis on "little". This guy is fantastic, his writing style reminding me a little of Stephen King's early work. This is like listening to one of those classic cult horror movies- a little on the cheesy side, but incredibly entertaining. He's not going to topple Scott Sigler as my absolute favorite podcast author, but let's be honest- Sigler's a hard man to beat.

Hmm... criticisms... I do have to say that while I can appreciate the mystery of the supernatural elements of the book, I do wish that there'd been a little more explanation about them. There was enough explanation to where I wasn't lost, but I couldn't help but want to know more. I also felt like some of the secondary and more minor characters could have had a little more description- especially the fabulous Meeks, easily my favorite character of the book. There's some that are barely mentioned in the beginning, so when they're mentioned later I had to pause the book in order to remember who they were. I also wish that I'd gotten a little more romantic development between Calvin and Megan- it just felt a little rushed.

Overall though, this is an extremely well polished novel and it is a very entertaining listen. I thought that the tension was nicely developed and I found myself really getting immersed in the book. The descriptions of the book really helped the book come alive for me, especially in the final scenes of the book. I also have to give props to Rossi's choice of opening and closing soundtrack, as well as choosing to close his book with that same artist. (There's also a brief bit of piano music that was used, which I could swear I've heard before and loved.)

If you love horror, you'll probably like this book. It makes for a good book to listen to while you are driving or unable to read a physical book. I'm looking forward to getting into Rossi's other novel (Crescent) , which is viewed by many of his fans as a superior read.

Grade: B

"They Never Die Quietly"

I'd heard about this book through different sources and through the reviews on Amazon. I'd really like to say that I liked this book. I really would. After all, it has this wonderful Cinderella story behind it, where the book had been published, dropped out of notice and then got picked up by the Amazon Encore program to publish more books. It's just unfortunate that I've yet to read a book from the Encore program that wasn't mediocre for the most part.

"They Never Die Quietly" is the literary baby of author D.M. Annechino, and looks to be his first foray into publishing. The book is set in San Diego, where a cruel serial killer has been targeting a certain type of victim. He only chooses mothers and their children, stalking them to learn their daily habits, then kidnapping them and subjecting them to days of mental torture as they await their fate. Only the children survive, having been spared by the murderer in order to inform the police about their mothers' gruesome fate: death by crucifixion.

Detective Sami Rizzo is in charge of the investigation, but she also has her own problems to deal with. Her ex-husband is attempting to manipulate her out of more money. She doesn't spend nearly enough time with her daughter or her mother. And she's running out of time to catch this killer before she is forcibly taken off of the case.

I've yet to really decide whether I liked this book or not. I finished it yesterday and I'm still waffling over my decision. For a first attempt, this is a decent one. It's just that the book just seems to be sort of well, mediocre in several ways.

Annechino makes the bold choice of revealing his serial killer from the very start of the book as Simon, the physical therapist hiding in plain sight. I can applaud this to a certain degree, as this isn't entirely the norm for thriller books, as they so often choose to hide the killer's identity so they can draw out the "is he or isn't he" suspense. This works to a degree, since we know who the killer is and we can watch his interactions with Sami with a bit of sadistic glee.

Where the book falls short is that there's too many lagging scenes in this book. I didn't really enjoy the scenes between Sami and her husband, as I didn't feel like they really brought anything to the novel. It did serve a purpose of adding extra stress to Sami's life as well as explaining the motive behind some of her actions, but the scenes just felt drawn out and a little dull. I also felt like the cat and mouse between Sami and Simon could have used a little more work. She seems to suspect Simon without any real reason to believe that he's the killer. The deduction just felt a little forced and unrealistic, as did some of their interactions.

Another thing I couldn't really believe was how idiotic Sami was at times. She suspects Simon as the killer, yet she's willing to go off alone with him... without telling anyone where she is going or leaving any clues as to what she suspects. I'm willing to believe that part of it is stress and the semi-dated idea that as a woman she has to prove herself to her male co-workers, but part of me can't help but think that she should have known better. There just wasn't enough buildup to make me believe that she was stressed out enough & prideful enough to make such a foolhardy choice.

Most of the issues that I personally had with the book just seemed to be more caused by pacing than anything else. I can't help but feel that if there'd been a bit more time spent on developing the characters more and if the part with the ex-husband had been saved for the sequel (too much in too short of a time), then perhaps the book could have been a little better for me.

Now I don't want people to think that I hated this book. Not so. I did enjoy this enough to where I'll be looking for the sequel's release as well as any other books Annechino might write. He has a lot of promise as an author- right now he's just green. I have faith that as he continues to write and get published, he'll work out the kinks in his writing style. Even some of the more established writers made goofs with their first novels.

Annechino has a lot of promise as an author, but I hope he won't get offended when I say that I hope he doesn't try to make this into a long series. I know that there is a sequel planned and I do look forward to reading it, but I don't know that I'm really all that interested in reading more about Sami. She just doesn't have the charm needed for one of the longer series.

Grade: C

About Me


I'm a long time reader that's been reviewing for about 4-5 years now under the amazon name "ChibiNeko". Reviewing books has always been sort of a hobby of mine, even before I officially got started on the internet- I've always been the "go to" person for my family.

My ultimate goal is to become a librarian, either for a public library or for a medical college. (Two very different types of libriarianship, I know.)

I hope to post lots of different interesting things, some about books & some that won't be. Hopefully you'll stick around for the fun! I plan to do giveaways each month, so keep checking back to see what is up for grabs!