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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blimey
I was told about Joe Hill on a train. I had been reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman (a literary god, read it now) and had got on the wrong train, due to the sheer greediness that book had over my attention I had gone to the end of the line of the train. I had reboard it to go back to london *shakes fist at fates*

Another American God addict happened to be on...
Published 12 months ago by RabidReader

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars American gothic
I'm a big fan of supernatural horror (ie, ghosties!) and when I spotted this as a staff recommendation at my local bookshop I immediately snapped it up and went home to read it.

I loved the premise - a modern tale of an aging rock star who buys a haunted suit on the internet. So simple and so full of narrative promise.

The first few chapters were...
Published on 20 Jan. 2009 by Z. OConnor


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blimey, 20 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
I was told about Joe Hill on a train. I had been reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman (a literary god, read it now) and had got on the wrong train, due to the sheer greediness that book had over my attention I had gone to the end of the line of the train. I had reboard it to go back to london *shakes fist at fates*

Another American God addict happened to be on that train with me and he recommended Joe Hill as a lighter drug to get me through the hard days that would follow the withdrawal of ending AG. So taking the words of a strange hulking man that I was trapped alone with- late at night in an empty carriage in the middle of nowhere I might add- straight to heart I ordered three books of Mr Hill's a collection of short Stories 20th Century Ghost's, Horns and this book.

Horns good, 20th Century ok and then this. Oh god was this good. The book creeps and crawls its story over your skin and into your heart. Hill has the ability to make a fairly normal seem sinister in the extreme.

The plot is basically that an aging rockstar has bought a ghost from a dodgy ebay like site to add to his of heavy metal godliness. It arrives in the form of an old mans suit. Let the creepiness begin. Theres no slow build up really, theres a dawdle so you settle down and then bam your in the centre of a ghost story. The twist and turns of who is the good guy in the story is as compelling as the haunting itself. Believe me half of you will start off thinking "well serves you right". By the end you will be screaming for them to grab the dogs and run!

Its a brilliant book.

As to Joe Hill being Steven Kings son, in terms of this book only, Steven King should be known as Joe Hill's father.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars American gothic, 20 Jan. 2009
By 
Z. OConnor "tantezoe" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
I'm a big fan of supernatural horror (ie, ghosties!) and when I spotted this as a staff recommendation at my local bookshop I immediately snapped it up and went home to read it.

I loved the premise - a modern tale of an aging rock star who buys a haunted suit on the internet. So simple and so full of narrative promise.

The first few chapters were truly chilling. Jude's first encounter with the ghost - the spirit sitting quietly, head down, in an old chair outside his bedroom, Jude creeping past trying not to be noticed - resulted in a sleepless night for me. The sheer simplicity of the descriptions, the silence and the menace, were very effective. I woke the next morning and wondered if I should read the rest of the novel before sleep, or somewhere a little more public and comforting during the day. However, the remainder - and bulk - of the story, while quite compulsive, lacked the same chill factor. There were wonderful touches - particularly the ways in which the ghost tormented Jude through the radio, TV and even an electrolarynx in a crowded diner and how he climbed out of an old heart-shaped sweet box on the floor of Jude's childhood home - but it was like watching an enjoyable horror movie, enjoying the imaginative thrills but never really feeling terrified, or particularly tense.

For me, one of the narrative's weaknesses was the lack of real fear on the part of the main protagonists. If I had to imagine being relentlessly stalked by a vengeful spirit, determined to kill me and anyone who attempted to help me, I think the fright would kill me long before the ghost did. And this is what I expected to feel when reading the novel. But Jude, whilst seriously ticked off, is more than a match for his adversary. I couldn't relate to him at all or feel scared on his behalf.

Also, early on in the novel a fairly righteous reason is given for the ghost's murderous quest. Through a later twist of sorts, the real reason is revealed, and for me this lessened the novel's impact by further demonising the spirit and absolving Jude of any true wrongdoing.

Although Joe Hill presents Jude as a flawed anti-hero on the road to enlightenment and redemption, I think the novel would have been far more interesting had Jude really deserved what was chasing him.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, action-packed and enjoyable., 9 July 2014
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Kindle Edition)
I’ve been aware of Heart-Shaped Box for years, and it’s always been on my ‘to read’ list. I’m not sure why I put off reading it, because the idea of a ghost story involving a fifty-something rocker really appealed to me. I think perhaps it was because I discovered that Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, and I was worried that I would compare his writing to King’s and perhaps not find it up to the same standard.
I needn’t have worried. I did, inevitably, compare it to a Stephen King novel. Once you have the association in your head it’s difficult not to. I found it to be enjoyable, fresh and exciting.

The plot is simple, and the Amazon synopsis above will tell you everything you need to know without me repeating it. The characters are likeable, and I quickly became very fond of Judas Coyne as he tried to escape and outwit the vengeful ghost on his tail. It was equally enjoyable to despise the characters we’re supposed to dislike, and even the minor, incidental characters were well crafted.

The book keeps a fast pace and the action comes thick and fast. Even the few dream sequences (which I usually dislike and find myself skimming over in novels) were gripping and interesting. The plot worked well, and although as it went on it lost some of the creepiness from the start of the story, that was made up for with action and emotion. The ending, always tricky and sometimes a downfall for Hill’s father, was handled well and did not disappoint. I can’t wait to read more Joe Hill novels!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill....More reviews coming up, go to [...] to see more in the near future :), 21 April 2014
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
"Many of the objects in his private collection of the grotesque and the bizarre were gifts sent to him by his fans. It was rare for him to actually buy something for the collection himself. But when Danny Wooten, his personal assistant, told him there was a ghost for sale on the internet, and asked did he want to buy it, Jude didn't even need to think. It was like going out to eat, hearing the special and deciding you wanted it without even looking at the menu. Some impulses required no consideration." Small extract from Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Wow! Heart-Shaped Box written by Joe Hill was completely riveting. I started reading it thinking that it was going to be like a lot of books in the horror genre, you know, it gets to the part where you think something scary and amazing is going to happen and then after all that excitement...nothing happens. Heart-Shaped Box wasn't like that.

The whole story drew me in, made me feel connected to Judas Coyne. When Jude felt tense, i felt tense. Whatever emotion he was going through i was right there with him. Sometimes it was almost as if i was peering round the corner for him to see if any danger laid ahead.

There were a couple of points in the book where everything suddenly fits together, it genuinely gives you a sense of achievement because you know that something isn't right. You know there's got to be more to what is happening than meets the eye

Like everything in this world though there was a part that i thought could of had something much better happen. I feel he could of stepped it up a notch. I don't want this review to have any major spoilers so, yes! I would definitely recommend Heart-Shaped Box. Sounds cheesy but it really was a page turner!

Thank you for taking the time to read my review. I hope it helped :)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but creepy horror novel, 19 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
Rock star Judas Coyne has a collection of ghoulish memorabilia acquired over the years - some items were sent by adoring fans (including a snuff film), others curiosities he's acquired for himself. When Judas's assistant, Danny, finds a ghost for sale on the internet, Judas decides that he has to have it. Several weeks later he receives an old black suit that belonged to the ghost (an elderly man) in a heart-shaped box. And that's when Judas's problems really start. The ghost is a malevolent entity, sent as revenge for Judas's treatment of an old girlfriend, and it means to drag him and everyone who helps him down, down, down and ride the night-road to hell ...

Joe Hill's breakthrough horror novel has some genuinely creepy moments and slick writing with strong themes of selfishness, guilt and regret. I really enjoyed the shift from domestic haunting to haunted road trip as Judas and his girlfriend, Georgia, go looking for answers from the ghost's vendor but the resolution in the final quarter didn't quite manage to pull it all together and I didn't believe in the reasoning behind the haunting as it seemed to be based on quite a stretch. That said I did enjoy the book and I will definitely be checking out Hill's other work.

Judas Coyne is an interesting character - an aging rock star who seems tired of his fans and his fame and disparages the damaged goth girls that he beds and disposes of. I didn't buy his guilt at the deaths of his bandmates - purely because there wasn't any interaction there and the explanation doesn't come until very late on. However I was interested in his relationship with his abusive father - the scenes from his childhood are difficult to read but believable and I wished that there had been more contemporary scenes with his father and his aunt. Although I enjoyed the development of his relationship with Georgia - particularly the scenes with her bammy, Georgia isn't as rounded (existing mainly as a foil, conduit and sounding board).

The initial scenes with the ghost are great - creepy, threatening and atmospheric - especially as Judas learns more about who the ghost really is and his history. However he loses his sophistication in the final quarter and becomes more monster of the week.

Although flawed, this was an enjoyable read and I'll check out Hill's other books.
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4.0 out of 5 stars All sales are final - some more than others, 20 Oct. 2011
By 
J. Morris "Josh" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
Retired rock star Judas Coyne has a passion for the unusual, after years of being sent odd occult-related articles, he thinks he has found the crown & glory for his collection; a real ghost - offered for sale. When the dead man's suit & the following ghost turns up in a Heart-Shaped Box, Judas is initially excited. But when it becomes clear the ghost wants something more than a place to haunt, Judas and his girlfriend Georgia fear for their lives. No returns, no refunds all sales are final, will Judas find a way to rid himself of this plague?

Joe Hill writes well, the initial 40 or so pages fly past and I was genuinely intrigued, but the suspense is ripped out from under your feet as we meet our ghost far too quickly with nowhere near enough build-up and as it turns out, it's a little old man with scratched out eyes. Most horror writers acknowledge the power of imagination and allow the reader to fill in sketchy details of the horror, but in HSB we are told everything and nothing is left to imagination.

What follows is a highly enjoyable romp across the south-east United States whilst being pursued by a hypnotic poltergeist. It keeps the pages turning, but at no point did I actually have any fear for the protagonists whatsoever. The characters are believable though, Judas's rock & roll past is illuminated and he is genuinely interesting, it's just not that scary and a little too over the top sometimes.

Nonetheless, recommended for a highly-enjoyable pulp-horror read!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect..., 12 July 2011
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
The cat's out of the bag when it comes to Joe Hill; it's common knowledge that his father is Stephen King and that HILL is his middle name. While this may be a great accolade, it is also a reason that this particular author is often over-criticised. People compare his work to his father's instead of taking it for what it is: early work from a writer taking only the first steps in what is likely to be a very long and successful career. That doesn't, however, mean that the criticism is without merit.

HEART SHAPED BOX is Hill's debut novel and is essentially a `ghost story'. It follows the exploits of Judas Coyne, a wealthy, philandering, middle-aged rocker who is quite firmly in love with himself. Yet beneath this veneer of self-confidence is a battered and bruised personality that slowly reveals itself to the reader as the pages go by. It is this revelation, that Coyne isn't quite the Jackass he makes himself out to be, that eventually endears us to him. Which is why we root for him when a wicked ghost latches on to him.
The ghost, Craddock (the father of one of Coyne's many sexual conquests), comes to Coyne when the aging rocker buys a dead man's suit on the Internet to add to his morbid collection of oddities. Little does he know that by taking ownership of the suit, he is also taking ownership of the ghost, and the ghost wants him dead. From there Coyne undertakes an exhausting journey into his past that brings up many painful memories, but doing so is the only hope of dispelling the ghost of Craddock from his person. Fortunately he doesn't have to do it alone, and is joined in his quest by his current groupie, Georgia, and his two dogs, Angus and Bon.

As I mentioned earlier, some criticisms of Hill are somewhat warranted. One of these would, ironically, be a flaw that his father is often accused of: that he does not write a good ending. The book seemed to lose steam in the third act and a lot of the earlier suspense was extinguished as too much information was revealed too fast. The book's ending is also a little too `flowery' for me and doesn't seem organic to the tone that ran throughout the rest of the book. It was a let down to what was nearly one of my best reads of the year.

As a first effort however, Hill shows himself to be a talented and competent writer that understands the genre and conventions that his father helped to define. He writes convincing characters and infuses them with memorable personalities that jump off the page. Joe Hill will almost undoubtedly go on to do great things, but for me HEART SHAPED BOX fell a little flat.

Worth checking out, but you may have to push yourself to get to the end.

Iain Rob Wright
Author of The Final Winter
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2.0 out of 5 stars slow beginning., 15 Dec. 2010
The basic premises is that this semi-ex rock stars likes to collect morbid and weird things. So when he's alerted to a ghost for sale on an ebay ripoff site, Jude snatches up the deal for $1000 no questions asked. What he doesn't expect is, the ghost is real. The ghost doesn't want to disappoint and starts haunting Jude and his gal Georgia, with the intent to not only have them dead but have them kill each other.
The first 125 pages were a bit rough. The narrative was acceptable, except once we got past the build up I felt like there was a lot of nothing going on. There was some creepy stuff, but beyond that I was just starting to get really annoyed with Jude. What wasn't he doing ANYTHING??? He explained away most things, but come on! A little more reaction, please.
Roughly around page 130 the book gets suddenly really good. I attribute this to Jude's sudden willingness to fight back. There are a ton of twists and turns and the story behind the ghost and Jude is an emotional one. It's creepy and scary, and boy does this ghost have Nerve, but mostly I was driven on by the story and the way the characters change.
Jude and Georgia are anything but flat characters. It approaches the whole idea of remembering who you are or were in the past and coming to accept that in order to move on and become someone new.
There's a few great moments in the book that have little to do with the main plot or the scare tactic that I will just simply remember. For instance why a loafer is hanging from the review mirror of the old mustang.
Joe Hill (author) gets an A+ for sensory detail, both the pleasant and harshly disturbing.
If you're into disturbing/horror material it's worth the read. There's still a loose sense of I don't really get it all that accompanies ANY thing of this genre, but the book does a really good job tying up loose end and wrapping it up. In fact I particularly liked how the end of the book was handled, in a series of really short chapters.
If you're looking for a creepy novel or something to get you thinking about life and the thereafter then this is a good book. Just heed my warning of the slow beginning.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good start but fades a bit..., 6 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
Every so often, I pick up a horror novel. I keep looking for that frisson of fear that I felt when I read Dracula or M.R. James ghost stories when I was a teenager but usually find myself trawling through some mediocre psychological thriller with particularly graphic descriptions of gory scenes and putting the book down, disappointed.

Kudos, then, to Joe Hill for writing a novel that is genuinely scary and doesn't depend on revulsion to get there. It had just the right mix of fear and chills to make it an entertaining yet frightening read. The premise -- buying a ghost over the internet -- is fresh and original and the initial set-up is brilliantly conceived. The narrative is lyrical and Hill is able to find that narrow line between evocative description and overblown pretension.

It's not flawless though and, sadly, after a promising start the narrative falls apart a bit. The story loses its way once the main protagonists start running and the characters start to flatten from grizzled, grumpy aging rocker and gormless groupie into a fairly archetypal pulp hero and heroine, presumably in order to get us to sympathize with characters initially depicted as rather unpleasant. I found the ending a bit too easy too; it's difficult to explain without giving a bit too much away but it's hard to conceive (without some explanation) that someone could be rudely dumped, sent back to an abusive environment and yet self-sacrificially save the person who engineered it.

So although it started well, ultimately The Heart-Shaped Box didn't deliver. But despite that, I'd like to say a heartfelt thank-you to Joe Hill for providing the chilling ghost story that I needed to restore my faith in the genre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Loved It!!!!, 6 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Kindle Edition)
Having been a fan of Stephen King for most of my life, I knew what I looked for in a good creepy book and this book delivered!! I did not know at the time who the author was, I had never heard of Joe Hill before and it wasn't until I went online after finishing the book to see if he had written anymore that I found out he was Stephen King's son, talent obviously runs in the family! I have now read all Joe Hill's books and would highly recommend them all; he is a superb writer, with stories that keep you hooked until the end, fantastic!!!
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Heart-Shaped Box
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (Paperback - 1 May 2008)
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