Shelf Control #151: 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: 20th Century Ghosts
Author: Joe Hill
Published: 2007
Length: 316 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A collection of short stories.

Imogene is young and beautiful. She kisses like a movie star and knows everything about every film ever made. She’s also dead and waiting in the Rosebud Theater for Alec Sheldon one afternoon in 1945….

Arthur Roth is a lonely kid with big ideas and a gift for attracting abuse. It isn’t easy to make friends when you’re the only inflatable boy in town….

Francis is unhappy. Francis was human once, but that was then. Now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing….

John Finney is locked in a basement that’s stained with the blood of half a dozen other murdered children. In the cellar with him is an antique telephone, long since disconnected, but which rings at night with calls from the dead….

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past…

How and when I got it:

I bought it after reading Heart-Shaped Box, which scared the hell out of me.

Why I want to read it:

I’m a fan of Joe Hill’s novels, but haven’t read his short stories yet. Well, to be honest, when I bought this book soon after it came out, I read one story — and it was terrifying and horrible (as in, bloody and gory, not badly written), and I basically had to put the book down and run away. A friend later told me that I would have been fine if I’d skipped that one story, but oh well — the damage was already done! In any case, I still own a copy of this book, and because I do love Joe Hill’s writing, I’m determined to screw up my nerve and give it another try… one of these days. (All this is putting aside the fact that I don’t usually have the patience for short stories… this book will definitely be a stretch for me.)

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Shelf Control #128: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Strange Weather
Author: Joe Hill
Published: 2017
Length: 432 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill

“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.

How and when I got it:

I got a copy the day it came out! I love Joe Hill’s books, and had this one on preorder months ahead of time.

Why I want to read it:

I love, love, love Joe Hill’s writing… but the problem is, I’m very much not a short story reader. I get that this is more a collection of “short novels” than “short stories”, but I always have to force myself into reading a book that isn’t just one overarching tale. I know this collection is supposed to be excellent — I just need to convince myself to start!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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The Monday agenda 5/20/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill: Finished! And just in time for the author’s book signing! My review (including random gushiness about the book event) is here.

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt: I read a review copy of this delightful book for middle-grade readers. My review is here.

The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig: Finished last night, review to follow. Quick response: I loved this imaginative re-telling of Hamlet!

Fresh Catch:

Just a few items this week. I bought myself copies of two books that I’d borrowed from the library and loved: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. In addition, I picked up an e-book version of The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd, which looks like the start of a promising trilogy.

The Dog StarsAttachmentsThe Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)

Looks like a few more books on my library hold list will come in the next few days as well — but sadly, no Sookie yet. For whatever reason, my library system still lists the new book as “on order”, despite the fact that it came out two weeks ago! Argh.

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

After finishing The Dead Fathers Club last night, I started Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley. After that, I’ll try to get through one or two library books, most likely starting with The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.

Meanwhile, I need to squeeze in a quick re-read of Tempest’s Fury, book 5 in the amazing Jane True series by Nicole Peeler. The sixth and final book comes out next week, and I want to be ready!

My son and I are about 2/3 of the way through The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and I expect we’ll be ready for book #3 in the Narnia series by the end of the week.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Mini-review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. Plus, a photo opp!

In which I write about NOS4A2 by Joe Hill… and about going to Joe Hill’s book signing in San Francisco this week!

NOS4A2

So yeah, I’m not necessarily going to write a thoughtful, carefully worded book review here. I’m still feeling too giddy — the effect that all good book events have on me. I adore going to author appearances. I love hearing authors read from their books. I love when they answer questions (even the kinda dumb ones). And I especially love when they write stuff in my book! Like, with my name, and maybe some other words, and maybe a gold or silver marker or something.

So yeah, first things first:

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My book! It’s signed! In gold pen!

Joe Hill signed my book! It was a terrific event. I’d guess about 50 – 60 people attended, at a great indie book store in the Haight. Joe was funny and friendly, answered lots of questions, did a great reading of the prologue, and was just nice and humble and an all-around decent person. Plus, he did this before he was officially introduced:

photo 2… which was all kinds of adorable.

So, onward to the review section of this love-fest.

NOS4A2 is the story of Victoria (Vic) McQueen, one tough survivor of a woman, who has been through all sorts of hell in her life and still managed to hang on, sometimes just by the skin of her teeth. Vic has a talent, first discovered during childhood, for finding lost objects — by traveling, impossibly, across a dilapidated covered bridge that exists only in her mind to the places where the lost objects await her. Charlie Manx is Vic’s worst nightmare. Charlie is an indescribably old man, a killer and a kidnapper, a vampirish soul-sucker, who has spent countless decades stealing children away from their parents and transporting them in his classic Rolls Royce to Christmasland. Vic and Charlie cross paths, fatefully, during Vic’s teen years, and then again years later, when Vic is a tenuously stable mother to 12-year-old Wayne. When Charlie reenters Vic’s life, she has to risk everything to get her son back by whatever means possible.

And that’s all I’ll say about the plot, a) because it’s incredibly difficult to describe and b) because you really have to experience this book for yourself, with the fewest preconceived notions as possible.

NOS4A2 is, hands-down, the creepiest, most twisted thing I’ve read in years. At almost 700 pages, this big book is full of gasp- and twinge-inducing moments. There’s a lot of yuckiness. There’s a lot of ickiness. There are all sorts of shades of evil and menace. Bad things happen to good people.

Through it all, Joe Hill’s writing soars. His phrasing is funny, idiomatic, descriptive, and even poetic… if you can be poetic while describing maniacal vehicles and gasmask-wearing sadistic serial killers. Never underestimate the scary power of a simple Christmas carol — if it’s playing at the wrong time and in the wrong circumstances:

The radio popped on, playing “Jingle Bell Rock” at top volume — so loud it hurt his ears — a song that had no business playing in the spring. At the sound of it, Demeter’s whole body went rough and cold with chickenflesh. He poked the OFF switch, but his capacity for surprise was running thin, and he felt no special amazement when it wouldn’t turn off. He punched buttons to change the station, but no matter where the tuner leaped, it was “Jingle Bell Rock” on every channel.

The Rolls Royce itself (a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith, to be precise) is a character on its own, part and parcel of Charlie Manx and practically his familiar. It’s an ominous black hearse of a car, which should attract an outrageous amount of attention on the road — but doesn’t. In one of the book’s rather humorous turns of phrase, Charlie explains:

It is like what they are always saying about Las Vegas: What happens in the Wraith stays in the Wraith.

Vic is a wonderful main character, spiky and difficult and full of fierce love. Her sometimes partner and father of her child is Lou Carmody, who I love insanely. Lou is terribly overweight and not very healthy, but has a heart of gold, the soul of a hero, and is a geeky fanboy through and through, as well as one hell of a mechanic. Lou’s devotion to Vic and to Wayne is all sorts of beautiful.

Joe Hill is — as is well known by now — the very talented son of Stephen King, and in NOS4A2, he pays tribute to his dad’s monumental achievements in ways both subtle and overt. A car that’s a vessel of evil, an enormous St. Bernard dog (although not rabid, thank the gods), nods to Derry and Pennywise the Clown — all add to the depth of the horror without detracting in the slightest from Joe Hill’s own incredible gift for storytelling.

I realize I’m gushing, so I’ll stop. NOS4A2 is a big, scary, un-put-down-able book. Read it!

photo 3

Read this. Wear your seatbelt.

Oh, and make sure you read every single page in the book. Including after the story ends. You’ll thank me later.

Thursday Quotables: NOS4A2

tq7Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

If you’d like to participate, it’s really simple:

  • Follow Bookshelf Fantasies, if you please!
  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now.
  • Link up via the linky below (look for the cute froggy face).
  • Make sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com).
  • Have fun!

tq5From a truly creepy, disturbing, and un-put-down-able book, I picked two non-creepy quotes — both appealing to me as a book lover.

This  week’s Thursday Quotables:

The room on the other side of the iron door was ten degrees cooler than the parkland outside. Vic smelled the vast vault filled with books before she saw it, because her eyes required time to adjust to the cavernous dark. She breathed deeply of the scent of decaying fiction, disintegrating history, and forgotten verse, and she observed for the first time that a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue, and cleverness. The iron door settled shut behind them, the weight of it clanging heavily against the frame.

And another:

His company did not cheer her but only made her more conscious of her own aloneness. Hutter had believed she would have more friends by now. The last man she’d dated said something to her, shortly before they broke up: “I don’t know, maybe I’m boring, but I never really feel like you’re there when we’re out to dinner. You live in your head. I can’t. No room for me in there. I don’t know, maybe you’d be more interested in me if I were a book.”

Source:  NOS4A2
Author: Joe Hill
William Morrow, 2013

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

Link up, or share your quote of the week in the comments.

The Monday agenda 5/13/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

Considering I was sick in bed with a nasty cold most of the week, I did pretty well with my reading plans. Accomplished in the past week:

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley: Done! My review is here.

The Theory of Everything by J. J. Johnson: Done! My review is here.

The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis: Finished this read-aloud with my son. Our thoughts are here.

Read but not reviewed:

I went on a graphic novel bender, reading three books in the Mercy Thompson series and two books in the Alpha & Omega series, all based on novels by Patricia Briggs. I enjoyed the Mercy graphic novels very much; the Alpha & Omega books fell a bit flat for me, particularly because of the cartoonish illustrations.

Also finished: My read-through of Much Ado About Nothing (c’mon, you know who the author is!). I ended up doing a quick read on my Kindle during my sick days. I’m not sure how much I truly absorbed — but it was enough to feel like I had a better familiarity with the plot and the characters. And now I can’t wait to see the movie version AGAIN when it comes out in June. (For more on the Much Ado movie, click here.)

Fresh Catch:

So first of all, this arrived this week — all 700 pages of it:

I also returned a bunch of library books, and as per usual, came home with more. But only two this time, and one is a tour book, so I consider that a win!

And in other news highlighting my amazing powers of self-restraint, I went into an adorable used book store over the weekend and didn’t buy a thing! (Of course, I didn’t see anything that I actually wanted, but that’s beside the point.)

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

Gotta finish NOS4A2. I’m about 400 pages into it — and it is by far the creepiest, most twisted thing I’ve read in ages. I came close to putting it down and picking up something lighter — you know, with kitties or rainbows — but I managed to keep going. Joe Hill is an amazing writer, but geez, this is a disturbing book.

I’m not sure what I’ll end up picking up next — I’m thinking either The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig or A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

Meanwhile, my son and I are pressing ahead with our Narnia read, and have started The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Flashback Friday: Heart-Shaped Box

Flashback Friday is my own little weekly tradition, in which I pick a book from my reading past to highlight. If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My picks for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

(published 2007)

From Goodreads:

Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre — his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, etc. — so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it.

The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker’s sanity.

I’ve just started reading Joe Hill’s new release, NOS4A2, so when it was time to pick a Flashback Friday book for this week, I couldn’t resist revisiting the author’s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box. What you need to know: A) Joe Hill can write, and B) Joe Hill can write seriously scary stuff. Heart-Shaped Box is a practically perfect horror novel, with a seriously terrifying bad guy and an unbelievably tense build-up to a crackling end.

I generally consider myself unflappable when it comes to what I read: Whatever it is, I’ll still sleep perfectly well at night, thank you very much. Heart-Shaped Box was definitely an exception to that rule for me. Leave the lights on for this one.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers!

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join the Flashback Friday fun, write a blog post about a book you love (please mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the Flashback Friday host!) and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

Wishlist Wednesday

What fun! I’m so happy to have discovered Wishlist Wednesday, hosted by the lovely Pen to Paper blog. The concept is to post about one book from our wish lists that we can’t wait to read. Want to play? Here’s how:

  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it’s on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of this post.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My Wishlist Wednesday book is:

Horns by Joe Hill

From Amazon:

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples. Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic. Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty. Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power – with just a touch he can see peoples’ darkest desires – to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

Why do I want to read this?

Horns has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time now, and so far I haven’t been in the mood. However… I just heard from a friend today that the movie version of Horns will star Daniel Radcliffe, and that’s enough of a reason to give Horns a boost higher on the to-read pile. Plus, I do think Joe Hill is a fantastic writer. His Heart-Shaped Box scared the heck out of me!