Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review | Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box is the debut novel of Joe Hill.

Book Description

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest purchase, an item he discovered on the Internet:

I will sell my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder . . .

For a thousand dollars, Jude has become the owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. Suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored Mustang . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand . . .

Heart-Shaped Box has not only been sitting on my bookshelf for years, it has been sitting on my small "read this one next" shelf pretty much the entire time. It's funny how that happens. Thanks to some gentle prodding from my friends on Goodreads, I have finally taken Heart-Shaped Box off the shelf and given it a read. I'm very glad that I did.

I love how Joe Hill jumps right into the story. We learn right away about Jude's collection of grotesque and bizarre things, and he wastes no time getting straight to the ghost of Craddock McDermott. Jude buys Craddock McDermott's ghost in an online auction and gets much more than another unusual object for his collection.

Heart-Shaped Box is not your typical ghost story. Jude and those closest to him are most definitely haunted, but it goes much deeper than that. The characters are raw and the relationships complex. I did worry about the lack of mystery surrounding the ghost and its origins, but there turned out to be lots of surprises along the way.

Heart-Shaped Box also made me realize how much I miss having a good, strong dog in my stories. I haven't experienced that since I quit reading Dean Koontz.

If you're like me and you've had Heart-Shaped Box on your list for a while, let me prod you into finally giving it a read. You will be glad you did.

7/10: Recommended Read


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  1. Wow. This sounds completely original, I don't think I've ever come across anything like it. I'm really glad you enjoyed Heart Shaped Box. And now...I have that song stuck in my head. Good thing it's a favorite!

  2. You know, I read this forever ago and I remember stopping half way through it because I just couldn't get into it like I wanted to. But I loaned it to a friend and she loved it. Maybe I should give it another try in the future!

  3. I've been meaning to read Heart-Shaped Box for a while now. I've also heard that the audio is also fantastic! Ooh, I can't decide!

  4. I'm glad you were able to appreciate it. I will continue to recommend Horns, did you try that one also, I need to look.

  5. JEM - It's a pretty cool read.

    Andrea - I had so many references to Nirvana pop up recently I spent a whole day at work last week listening to Nirvana.

    Samantha Leighanne - You should give it another try sometime. The story continued to develop throughout the entire book.

    Natalie - Ooh, this could be really good on audio! Can you find a sample of the narrator? If you like it, I'd say go for audio.

    Marce - I have not read Horns! This was my first Joe Hill. I will definitely be reading Horns in the future, though.

  6. I really didn't like this one, but I know I'm in the minority.

  7. I've been wanting to read this one forever!!!!! I still haven't read anything by Joe Hill!

  8. What? This sounds awesome dude I love ghost stories!!!! Awesome review I'll def. look into this one! <3

  9. I've never heard of this one. Sounds like an interesting read.

  10. Yeah, how about this is totally new to me!!! I have no idea how, It sounds awesome! Great review:)

  11. This was definitely a really good read, and if you're into short fiction 20th Century Ghosts is worth looking up. I have not read Horns yet, but I have been enjoying the Locke & Key graphic novel series.

    The guy rocks.


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