Heart-Shaped Box

I don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve had one spooky incident, though, but it’s not enough to convince me. The aunt of a friend of mine had recently passed away, and he was given her cd collection. I was flipping through them when the stereo turned on by itself. He was convinced his aunt was saying hello, but I just chalked it up to electronics doing weird stuff.  There are people who believe, which is totally fine, but I’m just not one of them, so ghost stories don’t really scare me much. I’m much more terrified by religious demon possession terror, even though I don’t believe in that either, than ghosts. But I do enjoy a good, creepy story.

Heart-Shaped Box is Joe Hill’s first novel, published over 10 years ago. And although, he publishes under the name Joe Hill, his name is really Joseph Hillstrom King. Yes, son of the famous Stephen King. He chose to publish this way in an efforrt to make his way into publishing without being associated with his father. His identity has since been revealed, and I don’t think anyone cares much who his father is, simply because Joe Hill’s work is truly outstanding. I’ve read Horns and The Fireman and NOS4A2 (before I started reviewing books) and really liked them all. However, Heart-Shaped Box might be my favorite. NOS4A2 was the most disturbing, by far, but Heart-Shaped Box has a sufficiently creepy story and interesting characters.

Judas Coyne is a washed-up mid-50s rocker. He has tons of money, no career, and likes his girls young. Not that young, but a good 30 years younger than him. He treats them well until he gets bored, then sends them on their way. One of them ends up killing herself after being kicked to the curb, and her family isn’t happy. This girl’s stepfather recently passed away and is now haunting Jude and his current girlfriend. Haunting is putting it mildly. He is able to inflict harm upon them and guarantees they will both die. Jude and his girl spend the rest of the book trying to escape and destroy this ghost.

If you are a fan of horror novels, or even of Stephen King, you absolutely must read Joe Hill’s work. His works are definitely reminiscent of his father’s, but there’s no coat-tail riding here. Hill has carved his own path in the genre, and I look forward to reading more of his books.

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The Haunting of Hill House

I like a good horror story, and the less graphic it is, the better. I appreciate a writer who can create a suspenseful mood, a creepy atmosphere without having to use blood and gore to get the desired impact. There are a few stories like this that come to mind, namely Bird Box. I think it’s also much harder to write a good suspense novel than one full of gore.

The Haunting of Hill House is the type of story that you just don’t see anymore. It’s not graphic in the least. There’s nothing squeamish about it. Nothing that you will need to skim past because it’s so gross. But it’s definitely one of the creepiest books I’ve read. Shirley Jackson was a pioneer of the modern horror genre. Her short story, The Lottery is a must-read. I used to teach it and my students absolutely loved it. Again, nothing graphic (I taught it to 12-year-olds) but just a terrifying concept. I’ve been meaning to read Hill House for a while and was really excited when it came up on my Kindle.

The story follows a doctor who wants to “study” Hill House because no one can spend more than a few nights there. He brings along a member of the family that owns the house and two women who are in tune with the paranormal side of the world. The caretakers only work there during the daytime, refusing to be there after dark. We soon learn that the house is built in a very odd manner, circling in on itself leaving the residents confused and lost much of the time. They learn the backstory of Hill House, and the creepiness begins. The story is a slow-burner, meaning not a lot happens in the first half, but once it gets going, the psychological effects on the residents and the readers begin.

I really enjoyed this book. I understand why it’s considered one of the best horror books ever written. Even if this isn’t your genre of choice, don’t be too afraid to give it a try. There’s no blood and guts aspect to it. Just a good old-fashioned creepy tale.

Horns

We all know how much I love Stephen King. My goal is to read everything he has written. Since he’s so prolific, I’m reading his new ones when they come out, and then trying to catch one or two old ones each year. This year I read The Stand, am currently reading The Outsider, have Insomnia to read next month, and then another new one in the fall, Elevation. When I heard his kid was publishing under a pseudonym (kinda… his name is Joseph Hillstrom King) I was skeptical. However, I appreciated that he kept his real last name out of the picture so he could be judged on his own merit. He has four novels and two short story collections out. Horns is the third book of his I have read. I started with NOS4A2 and that book scared the crap out of me. I recently read The Fireman and enjoyed that a lot. So, when I needed to read a book with a cover I hate, I opened up my kindle, changed it to picture view instead of list view and found Horns. For some reason, my Kindle version has the movie cover. Now, I love Daniel Radcliffe and I’m sure he’s great in this movie, but I really dislike movie covers on books.

Ignatius Perrish wakes up one morning with Horns growing out of his head. He quickly realizes people can see the horns, but quickly forget they are there. He also realizes people tell him their deepest darkest secrets. A year ago, Ig lost his girlfriend. She was raped and murdered, Ig was accused of it but evidence was destroyed, so the police had no choice but to let him go. Ig professed his innocence, but people still think he is guilty. Now that everyone confesses their secrets, Ig realizes some truths from his own family, including who killed his girlfriend. Ig makes it his mission to bring the killer to justice.

Joe Hill does some great writing. He has one novel that I haven’t read, and I will definitely make a point to get to that one. I wouldn’t say Horns is graphically scary, but it is psychologically scary. You really get sucked into Ig’s revenge plot.

The Troop

I apologize for the delay in posting. I’ve been doing a bit of beta reading. Side note- if anyone needs a beta reader, please contact me!

It is no secret that I love Stephen King. He’s just one of the greatest writers and I think doesn’t get the respect he deserves because he’s mostly known for being a horror writer. But he is so much more than that. He’s truly a master storyteller. So, when he recommends books, I make a note to read them at some point. For the 2017 book challenge, I had to read a book recommended by an author you love, so this was an easy category. I already had The Troop on my Kindle and just hadn’t gotten to it, yet. I have previously read another of Nick Cutter’s books, The Deep, and really enjoyed that one, so I was looking forward to another one.

Hoooo boy, this one was pretty intense. And gross. Like really gross, by my standards. I still liked it, but the grossness was a bit of a turn off. This is a personal preference, though. It says nothing about his writing or storytelling. The basic plot is that a troop of 14 year old Boy Scouts (or whatever the Canadian equivalent is…I forget exactly the specifics) and their Scoutmaster have gone camping on a deserted island just off Prince Edward Island when a sick guy in a boat comes along. The guy smashes their radio and the boat he came on no longer works. It’s clear the man is dying, and conveniently, the Scoutmaster is a doctor, but he can’t figure out what is wrong. As the story progresses, you get answers as to what the illness is, and unfortunately, how it spreads from person to person. Yep. It’s rough.

The boys (5 of them) have their own demons to face (one’s an asshole, one’s overweight, etc) which play into the dynamics of the situation. This book was reminiscent of The Long Walk (by SK under the Bachman name) where you wonder which one(s) will make it alive. It’s pretty clear from the onset that not everyone makes it home from the island. The story is also told after the event is over from the perspective of media reports, interviews, etc. These small bits are interspersed in the chapters.

But, like I said, you’ve been warned that this book is pretty gross in parts. I don’t want to go into detail to avoid spoilers, but if you are the least bit squeamish about the human body and illness, it might behoove you to avoid this one. I’ve read worse, yes, but I do want to just let you know.

Overall, I enjoyed Cutter’s other book, The Deep, more. That shouldn’t detract from this book though. It’s a great read. I truly couldn’t put it down, wondering who survives and just how horrific the story was going to get.

A Head Full of Ghosts completed

Confession that I didn’t know a single thing about this book when I bought it, other than it scared Stephen King. I assumed it was a horror book, but that was it. So I bought it because SK rules all.

Turns out this book is about demon possession and an exorcism. Sort of. Let me preface all this by saying that I hate the demon possession story line. It has been done over and over again with no new results. Either the possession is real or it isn’t. Either the demon is exorcised or it isn’t. There just isn’t a new or creative way of telling this story. And that holds true for this book.

That said, this book is very well written, but it didn’t scare me at all. I wanted to know what happened to the possessed girl and her family, but I won’t be having any nightmares over this one. Partly, because this type of story just isn’t scary to me. I don’t believe in demon possession, so it’s not something that I actually fear. If a person were afraid of this type of thing, I imagine this book would be quite terrifying. I did enjoy it, though. Mostly because the character, Merry, telling the story was such a fantastic unreliable narrator. She’s 8 and watching her family deal with her 14 year old sister’s possession and subsequent arrival of a slew of cameras and people who are filming this all for reality tv.

The delivery of the story was unique. Present day Merry telling a journalist the story of 8 year old Merry, combined with a blog poster who has watched the series dozens of times and is reviewing it and providing insights for her readers.

I recommend the book for the reasons above, namely the creative way the story is presented, although not for the simple demon possession plot. If that’s your thing, it’s worth reading because the possessed girl is sufficiently creepy.

A Head Full of Ghosts 40% done

What a creepy little story! The majority of it is told by 8 year old Merry, as she watches her older sister, Marjorie, fall into the grips of possession. Marjorie has always been Merry’s hero, so seeing the transformation is confusing and difficult for Merry. And let me tell ya, Marjorie says some really awful things to poor Merry. I won’t even begin to describe some of the things she witnesses, either.

Alternating chapters are from a blogger who comments on the tv series that the family had that documented Marjorie’s change. They needed the money, so they allowed cameras in to film their lives.

And then we have adult Merry speaking to a writer about her life as a child.

Between these three perspectives, we really get a good idea of what happened in the house and how the entire “demon possession” concept is perceived by people and media.

I’m hooked on this story!

A Head Full of Ghosts

Last night, I started A Head Full of Ghosts. One of the many things I love about Stephen King is that he recommends books constantly via media outlets. This particular book “scared the living hell” out of him. And when it went up on Amazon for $2 Kindle, I figured, why not? I don’t buy many Kindle books at full price (or any books for that matter), utilizing my local library, and Half Price Books usually. The rarities are ones that I already own hardback versions of from before I got my Kindle (like the Passage series) and now that I’ve started in hardback, I will continue to buy the rest of the series in that format. And I’m trying to build the entire SK collection in hardback, albeit used copies mostly.

I digress…. I’m very excited about this book. I read maybe 10% last night and am already hooked. It’s not ridiculously long, so I’ll get through it quickly, I think. And it seems to be in a couple formats: 1st person narrative spliced with a different character’s blog.

I like books that are terrifying in an understated way. I’m not a big fan of gross out horror, just because it’s so ridiculous. But I do love a good spooky or suspenseful story. Fingers crossed that this book is one of the latter.