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.



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 Fireman

Now, we all know I’m a blazing fan of Stephen King. I’ve said this fact a number of times in this blog. When I heard this new author, Joe Hill, was igniting the horror book world, I thought I would check him out. It wasn’t until much later that I learned the searing knowledge that Hill is King’s son. I have previously read NOS4A2 and liked it a lot, but it was truly a scorching, horrifying book. I needed a previous Goodreads Reader Choice winner for the book challenge, found The Fireman on my Kindle and chose it for the category.

I’m always curious how a title is chosen for a book. Is it a spark from the author’s mind or something just occurs naturally? Because the fireman isn’t even the main character in this story. The first character we meet is Harper, a nurse married to Jakob, living in a world where people are literally catching on fire thanks to a new fungus called Dragonscale. Preliminary investigation shows the ‘scale is ignited by your emotions. If you get scared, angry, upset poof. Combustion. Harper gets infected and gets pregnant, Jakob leaves her, tries to kill her, and in walks the fireman (also known as John) to help keep her from burning to death.

John takes her to an abandoned summer camp where the members have found a way to survive and not burn to death. They sing. The Dragonscale feeds on positive emotions as well, so singing unites the people, they begin to glow, and the ‘scale doesn’t harm them anymore. What’s more is some people can manipulate the fungus to their benefit, causing searing damage to those not infected. The main problem in the book is keeping Harper alive long enough to give birth, but there are many obstacles in her way, namely her husband, who isn’t infected but is still poisoned in his own way.

I couldn’t put this book down. Hill does a smoking great job of keeping you on the hook with Harper’s fate. And the ending doesn’t disappoint. I didn’t see it coming, either. So far, Hill is two for two in my book and I can’t wait to read more.