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review 2017-10-21 00:00
Heart-Shaped Box
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill Warning: the spoiler tags will definitely have profanity.

When I started this book, I was pretty sure it would be between a 4 & 5 star read for me. I read Horns a year or two ago and loved Joe Hill's writing, and I was really enjoying the first half or so of this one. And honestly, my docking a star (I think I would have given this 4 stars) is possibly petty. But it is what it is, and I don't really feel guilty for it.

I really liked the premise for this story, and it started off strong. Aging rock star buys a ghost off the internet and creepy things start happening? Yes, please! It sounded like something I would love, and I did love most of the basic story. I was also pleasantly surprised to find myself actually a bit scared a few times while reading this, which doesn't happen often for me.

The slowly building sense of dread was great and hooked me early on, but at some point started to lose me. I think it was after the first dog was killed, which I'll rant about more in the next spoiler tag. Killing off an animal, on the page and in great detail, is a sure way to piss me off, end the immersion, and start making me resent the story. It started to grab me again a little while later, only to lose me for most of the rest of the book. I might have the times of these two confused, but it lost me again when the abuse of Anna and Reese came out. At that point, I just wanted the book to end, but it felt like it was going to drag on forever. Then we learned that the second dog died in way that pissed me the hell off and I would have thrown the book if it hadn't been on my Kindle. I've never been in a horror novel, but in my real life, I don't think anything except be literally being physically incapable because of death or restraints, would keep me from immediately seeking medical attention for my fucking dog after it's hind legs have been crushed by another car and the fucking bone is sticking out and the dog is bleeding to death slowly and suffering. (I don't actually have dogs, I have cats, but if I had a dog...) I kind of regained a little interest in the story, minus the sense of dread, in the last few chapters. The bit about the door, then Jude waking up in the hospital and finding out Marybeth was still alive. But by then, I was just ready for the book to be over. I liked the ending, though. I really liked Marybeth and was happy she lived. I was also glad to learn that Reese's mother was locked up and Reese seemed to be free of her, and didn't know the whoel story of all the things her mother had done.

And here the rant, which gets somewhat off topic of the book, begins. I am sick, so freaking sick, of horror movies and stories and novels abusing and killing animals. For me, at least, that isn't horror. It's just there for the fucking shock value and playing with people's emotions, and I'm so tired of it. I'm tired of child abuse and sexual assault, too. I can't actually think of any horror novels I've read that didn't have one of those things. If your horror needs a woman and/or child being abused/raped/assaulted, or animals being abused or killed, you're not doing your fucking job as a horror creator. I probably wouldn't be so mad about this if it wasn't so prevalent, but it's such a disgusting trope now, and I'm tired of it.

In my opinion, those tropes are the book equivalent of horror movies relying on jump scares or gore.

I don't think I would have a problem with a character finding a dead animal, like left as a threat or something. Hell, even an animal dying in the book wouldn't be so bad (and by "bad," I don't mean "scary") if the writers weren't constantly going for in depth descriptions of how much the animal is/was suffering, and all the details of how horrific their mutilation was, etc.

The same is true for survivors of whatever form of abuse. I'm just tired of it. I'm tired of these characters with awful, abuse-filled pasts, like "Look! This character survived all these terrible things, but they get to go through even more terrible things as a reward!" As an abuse survivor, I'm not impressed, I'm not amused, I'm just pissed off. I'm lucky in the way that I can read most of this without crossing into being triggered by it. It does happen sometimes, but I'm usually ok. But I'm so tired of trying to find horror and thriller books to recommend to friends, and having to warn them to not read 99% of the ones I find because I don't want them to be triggered by the detailed descriptions of the types of abuse and assault they survived.

Do I think authors should censor themselves and not write about these things? No. I do think it's become too pervasive in the horror and thriller genres, though. It's like the slasher movies that just wouldn't stop coming. Eventually, people started to get tired of them because that's almost all that was out there. Or the YA books about vampires, or dystopians. There were big jumps in the number of those books, or in the popularity of them, for a while. Interest hasn't totally dropped off, of course, but it did seem to decline after a while because people were getting tired of reading the same things over and over.

Maybe I've just been unlucky and actually most of the horror and thriller books out there don't have these elements at all. I doubt that, though, because most of the people I've talked about this with have felt the same way, and have read more of these books than I have.

I think this was Joe Hill's first novel. I'm pretty sure that before this, he'd had short stories published, but nothing this long. As a first novel, it's very well-written. His characters are great, the scary bits are scary, he did a good job with creating a creepy atmosphere, etc. I just had issues with it which might not bother most other people. I doubt my reviews on here influence people's decisions to read/skip a book, but if they do, don't let my less-than-thrilled feelings stop you from reading it if you think you'll like it. It is, mostly, a good book, and it is scary at times.

Will I continue to read Joe Hill? Heck yeah. He is a talented writer, and I want to know what else he comes up with. Although if I keep coming across the use of abuse/assault/etc., I'll probably stop reading his books eventually, because, as I said, I'm sick of it being in basically every horror/thriller I read.</spoiler
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review 2017-09-21 01:55
Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill

A bloody fantastic ghost story.


Jude Coyne, an aging front man to a once popular heavy-metal band, is riding out his life and solo career in peaceful fashion. At 54, he works on his music in his home studio on a farm in upstate New York. He collects dark and twisted trinkets and young, goth girlfriends. He is ignoring the several metaphorical demons that eat at him.


When his personal assistant brings an odd 'ghost for sale' listing to his attention on a little known auction site, Jude doesn't even hesitate, doesn't think, doesn't ponder, he just buys. When the ghost arrives, an old suit packed in a heart shaped box, Jude is forced to face things once past.


This book is gritty, like heavy metal gritty. It's graphic. It's chilling.  It's absolutely heartbreaking. It has soul. It has music.


"Horror was rooted in sympathy . . . in understanding what it would be like to suffer the worst."


I love that thought. Loved it when I read it on the page and still days later, it's what really sticks with me about this book. True terror comes from reality. This book is a symphony of real life horror coupled with wild imaginings in the darkest of night.


Jude's girlfriend, Georgia, is my favorite - she's irreverent and crass with a vulnerability that made me love her. She and Jude look for desperate answers, running away from a ghost hell-bent on their deaths and I just sat on the edge of my seat hoping that I'd get some sort of happily ever after. And isn't that sort of an unreasonable desire in a horror book? Still, I wanted it, badly.


It's hardest for me to write about books that I love. The problem is three-fold, one part taming of the overactive squee drive, one part unwillingness to spoil the discovery for anyone else, and one part wrench and pull to find the things that resonate with me most and put them in words. Heart-Shaped Box hit all the right notes for me. I think I'm just going to have to leave it at this - I loved it, I couldn't read it fast enough, and I finished it with a satisfying sigh.






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review 2017-09-10 03:41
Heart-Shaped Box
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill


Jude had a private collection.

- first sentence


A collection of the grotesque and bizarre. As a heavy metal star, that is part of his image, and he enjoys it. And that is why he jumps at the chance to buy a ghost on the Internet. Turns out it isn't the best choice he's ever made...


Jude is kind of a jerk. He's a singer and plays guitar, divorced with a slew of girlfriends he calls not by their names, but by the name of their home state. Thus, his current girlfriend is Georgia (20-something to his 50-something). His assistant, Danny (who happens to be gay) is often more of a friend to the girls than Jude is. So, when the ghost came, I wasn't that invested in Jude's safety (or survival). Luckily events throughout the book made me root for him and even like him enough to be invested in his survival.


I had no idea where the story was going and that was good, it kept me guessing. I love the twist about the ghost and about why it was meant specifically for Jude to buy.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I also enjoyed the other two other Joe Hill books I read (NOS4A2 and The Fireman). I love his writing and of course horror, so... I know Hill has been around for a while but I don't know why I never read his books until this past year. I'm so glad I did. I will look for more by him. Let me know if any of you have recommendations. :)


My favorite lines:


the radio was just background sound, the auditory equivalent of wallpaper.


He understood that the ghost existed first and foremost within his own head. That maybe ghosts always haunted minds, not places.


The ghosts always caught up eventually, and there was no way to lock the door on them. They would walk right through.


I read this book for the ghost square, because... well, the ghost. :)

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review 2017-03-24 15:53
I haven't felt this way about a book in a while!
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill

I actually wanted to read this book for so long! I was super excited when I saw my local library had stocked it in there EPUBs so I ordered it. So glad I did! Joe Hill has this amazing style of writing, he brings his characters to life. He honestly doesn't mess you around either he puts you straight into the story. It took me 2 days to read this book as I was so into it! And will probably be talking about it for a while.



So lets get to the story, then shall we?


It's a ghost story. It has an atmosphere to it, then literally sent chill's down my spine while reading. If you are shocked by abuse, then this book might not be for you. I have my limit's and I was pretty disturbed by some of the scenes and plots in this tale, Just a heads up.



I loved Jude Coyne the main Protagonist His morbid collecting I mean you could totally imagine rockstars collecting that kind of stuff!

If you like a really scary.. Then I really, really recommend this book. I'm sure you guy's no my style of review's i hate giving away the plot of book's but i know 100% you guy's will love this.



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review 2016-03-09 00:00
Heart-Shaped Box
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill This is the first book I've read by Joe Hill and I wasn't sure what to expect but I definitely was not disappointed. Reminiscent of early King, Saul, and Koontz horror.
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