50 Scariest Books of All Time: Heart-Shaped Box

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Welcome, welcome, welcome! Step right up, one and all, all and one. I bring to you today review #1 from the list of the 50 Scariest Books of All Time!

Heart-Shaped Box –  by Joe Hill

HSB

Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, but don’t think he became a favorite among horror fans because of his father. He went for years publishing without letting anyone know who he was. In fact, if anyone commented on his website that he had a striking similarity to Mr. King, he politely asked that the comment be removed. So for years he made a name for himself as a horror writer, without his father’s rather remarkable shadow looming over him.  The cat was let out of the bag though, but he’s OK with that, he’d already established himself without being accused of having his father’s help.

Don't look a bit alike, do they?

Don’t look a bit alike, do they?

Heart-Shaped Box is the story of aging rocker Jude, who has a fascination with the macabre. One day he finds someone selling a soul online. All he has to do is buy the dead-man’s suit, and his soul is Jude’s to keep! Jude couldn’t pass that up!

Once the box arrives, he, his girlfriend Georgia and his assistant Danny realize buying a dead-man’s soul wasn’t as funny as they previously thought it would be. Turns out the soul is out for revenge, and when he says he’s going to kill anyone who associates with Jude, as well as Jude himself, he means it.

Most horror doesn’t really scare me – but this novel did. I’ve been riddled with insomnia for about a month now, and it began right as I was reading this book. Coincidence? Who know…but this book certainly did keep me up at night. The premise is a bit goofy, sure – buy a dead man’s suit on an eBay like site, and become haunted by his spirit. But the story is so compelling and so down right creepy that you can look past the premise to really enjoy the story.

The characters are rich and deep as well. Jude is this aging rocker who may still be popular, but his prime was in the past. He’s divorced as well, and doesn’t keep the company of any woman remotely near his own age. His women are all in their 20’s, and he never refers to them by name but rather by the state they are from.  At first you think – what’s up with this gross old man and his cute 20-somethings? But he’s so real and so rich as a character, you begin to learn not only about him but Georgia as well and you truly find yourself caring for them.

I really loved this book. It’s the first of Hill’s novels that I’ve read, but will not be the last. Don’t go pick this up because the guy is Stephen King’s son – pick it up because it’s an amazing horror story.

50 Scariest Books of All Time (1 down, 49 to go)

  1. It – Stephen King
  2. Piercing – Ryu Murakami
  3. The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty
  4. Ghost Story – Peter Straub
  5. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
  6. Hell House – Richard Matheson
  7. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  9. The Best of H.P. Lovecraft – H.P. Lovecraft
  10. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
  11. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
  12. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  13. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
  14. Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
  15. The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson
  16. The Trial – Frankz Kafka
  17. Books of Blood – Clive Barker
  18. Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
  19. Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
  20. Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons
  21. The Complete Tales and Poems – Edgar Allan Poe
  22. Dawn – Octavia Butler
  23. We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
  24. The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum
  25. The Painted Bird – Jerzy Kosinski
  26. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  27. The Cipher – Kathe Koja
  28. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  29. The Ruins – Scott Smith
  30. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary – M. R. James
  31. Naomi’s Room – Jonathan Aycliffe
  32. The Ritual – Adam Nevill
  33. Johnny Got His Gun – Dalton Trumbo
  34. Incarnate – Ramsey Campbell
  35. The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
  36. The Great God Pan – Arthur Machen
  37. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Schwartz
  38. The October Country – Ray Bradbury
  39. White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
  40. Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  41. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – Harlan Ellison
  42. The Collector – John Fowles
  43. The Store – Bently Little
  44. Penpal – Dathan Auerbach
  45. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  46. Swan Song – Robert R. McCammon
  47. The Wolfen – Whitley Strieber
  48. The Hot Zone – Richard Preston
  49. The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson
  50. 1984 – George Orwell

50 Scariest Books of All Time – A Challenge

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I’ve always been a sucker for horror. At 29 years old I can without a doubt say that for over 2 decades I’ve been in love with the genre. I’ve also found that it seems people who love horror were drawn to it at a young age. For me it was Stephen King’s It, and A Nightmare on Elm Street that I remember watching first in the early 90’s. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare came out when I was 7 years old in 1991, and I saw it in the theater. So by the time I was 7 I was already a die-hard Freddy Krueger fan, because I begged to be allowed to go see the movie once the previews began running on TV.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I am really into horror!

Recently my local library posted a link to a list of the 50 Scariest Books of All Time. Admittedly these are listed as the scariest books, not the 50 greatest horror novels – so some of these are non-fiction horrific events.  Some of these I’ve read, but a lot I haven’t. So that got me thinking – I love making up book challenges for myself, (like my challenge to read 10 books in January 2012), so why not read and review all 50 books! It should be a fun challenge for not only my inner book geek but also my inner horror geek!

  1. It – Stephen King
  2. Piercing – Ryu Murakami
  3. The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty
  4. Ghost Story – Peter Straub
  5. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
  6. Hell House – Richard Matheson
  7. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  9. The Best of H.P. Lovecraft – H.P. Lovecraft
  10. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
  11. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
  12. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  13. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
  14. Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
  15. The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson
  16. The Trial – Frankz Kafka
  17. Books of Blood – Clive Barker
  18. Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
  19. Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
  20. Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons
  21. The Complete Tales and Poems – Edgar Allan Poe
  22. Dawn – Octavia Butler
  23. We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
  24. The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum
  25. The Painted Bird – Jerzy Kosinski
  26. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  27. The Cipher – Kathe Koja
  28. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  29. The Ruins – Scott Smith
  30. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary – M. R. James
  31. Naomi’s Room – Jonathan Aycliffe
  32. The Ritual – Adam Nevill
  33. Johnny Got His Gun – Dalton Trumbo
  34. Incarnate – Ramsey Campbell
  35. The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
  36. The Great God Pan – Arthur Machen
  37. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Schwartz
  38. The October Country – Ray Bradbury
  39. White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
  40. Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  41. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – Harlan Ellison
  42. The Collector – John Fowles
  43. The Store – Bently Little
  44. Penpal – Dathan Auerbach
  45. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  46. Swan Song – Robert R. McCammon
  47. The Wolfen – Whitley Strieber
  48. The Hot Zone – Richard Preston
  49. The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson
  50. 1984 – George Orwell

Happy Halloween, everyone!

For the Love of Horror

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It’s the theme this time of year – Horror!
I’ve always been a horror fan, literally as long as I can remember. 6 years old watching Night of the Living Dead. 7 years old watching A Nightmare on Elm Street. 8 years old loving Pet Semetary and It…. these movies in a way defined my childhood.

That had me thinking – people who love horror really seem to love horror. I mean almost in a way that it’s ingrained in them as a person. Maybe it’s that way with every genre, and I just dont’ realize it. A lot of my friends are fans of horror as well and we all seemed to be introduced to it as children. Is that why we love it so much as adults?

As an homage to my childhood, here are my favorite horror flicks that defined my love of the genre. I tried to make this list in order but I kept moving some around and can’t decide if I love certain movies more than others so I said screw it – this  list is in no particular order except for number 1, that one is definitely number 1 and always will be.

10. Poltergeist

One of the reasons I didn’t like sleeping with the lights off when I was a kid!  The kid creeped me out, the old lady creeped me out – the whole freaking thing was creepy!

9. The Amityville Horror

This is another I remember watching at a really young age, glued to my granny’s television probably around the age of 9 or 10. I later found the book for 25 cents at a library sale and bought it “for my mom” in hopes of getting my own hands on it.

8. The Lady in White

This is more of a children’s horror (rare for me at that age, I know). When I was 5 or 6, my Papaw would record movies off of HBO for me to watch when I was in town to visit. There was one VHS (yes I’m talking late 80’s early 90’s here) with two movies on it – Mio in the Land of Faraway (has anyone else seen this movie?? It has Christopher Lee and a young Christian Bale in it but no one I have ever met remembers it) and The Lady in White.  I wore that VHS out watching both films, I loved them so much. One fateful day, as was the norm with VHS, my tape was accidentally recorded over and I lost those two movies for years. I finally found the DVD of Lady in White a few years back and snatched it up.

7. IT

I don’t really remember how or when I was introduced to Stephen King. My Memaw and Daddaddy (mom’s parents) love the King and have every book he’s written. I don’t know if it was IT or Pet Semetary that I watched first, either way storm drains were never the same to me after.

6. Pet Semetary

This is one of the movies when I was a kid that actually scared me – it was the sister Zelda. Here, take a look yourself:

Yeah, thanks, I’ll never get out of bed again because I’ll be too busy hiding under the covers from Zelda!

5. The People Under the Stairs

This Wes Craven flick is one that I watched over and over as a kid. I think it terrified me because my Granny and Papaw had stairs to a dark dank basement that I was sure hands were going to start grabbing me from.  I never willingly went into that basement and I think this movie had a part in that.

4. Stephen King’s The Stand

By the time I was 10 I was a pretty hardcore Stephen King fan. When The Stand miniseries came out I was allowed to watch the 1st hour each night, because the 2nd hour was my bedtime. I was so annoyed at that! Thanks mom for making me sleep sheesh. I had to wait until later when the DVD’s came out – then I got to see the whole thing in all its glory. Today the special effects lack a little something but the story itself is so good that I don’t care.

3. Night of the Living Dead

I remember watching this, New Years Eve when I was in the 1st grade. Mom gave me special permission to stay up late because it was a holiday. We even came up with a song for the naked zombie – “I am the zombie butt!”…It was love at first sight, and the first time I remember watching a horror film.

2. Creepshow

I don’t remember how many times I rented this Stephen King classic when I was a kid. There was a movie rental place down the street from my Granny and Pap’s house that I could walk to (though why they were letting someone under the age of 10 rent this crap I can’t tell you!)  I’d go down there and rent some favorites over and over, and this was one of them.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street

This is number 1 for a few reasons. I do remember the first time I watched it – it came on TV and I asked my granny if I could watch it, and she said I could unless I got scared then I’d have to turn it off. Well I didn’t get scared, I fell in love instead. I was around 6 or 7 at the time. It was probably around the same time that Freddy’s Dead came out (1991). I was so excited to see it and I think my friend’s parents must not have known what we were watching because they took us to the movies and dropped us off –I guess 1991 was a simpler time because I can’t imagine dropping a 7-year-old off at the theater — Anyway, man I can’t explain to you how much I loved Freddy Krueger. It seems that a lot of people out there are either a Freddy or  a Jason or a Michael Myers…. I love Friday the 13th and Halloween but Nightmare on Elm street is definitely my main squeeze. Yes I am one of those adults with Freddy Krueger action figures and I’m not ashamed to admit it! While I did love A Nightmare on Elm Street at that young age of 7, I didn’t own any of the movies myself so I didn’t really get into all of them at that time.

Then, when I was in the 6th grade at around 11 or 12 years old, I got really sick. It was dead of winter and I was stuck in bed for a full week. At the time I lived with my Memaw and Daddaddy, and being the awesome grandpa that Daddaddy is he went to the video store and got me the full run – A Nightmare on Elm street all the way through Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Being sick sucked but I couldn’t tell you how many times I watched through the full run of those movies.

So there you have it, my list of my favorite childhood horror films. All of these movies were watched when I was no more than 10 years old. (well…11 or 12 if you count that big run of Elm Street when I was sick in the 6th grade)

I know there are some quintessential 80’s and 90’s horror classics missing from this list – movies i didn’t get to until I was a teenager or an adult. Well, what can I say, I was just a kid and had to watch these movies by my own means….which just means I’ll have to make another horror top 10 before Halloween 😉

The Curse

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Do you think there can be such a thing as a cursed novel?

I’m a big fan of Stephen King. When I was a Sophomore in high school I carried the brick that is The Stand around with me everywhere to snickers of my classmates, “You’re reading that…for fun?!?!?!?” like that was such a foreign concept. Yes, it is possible to read books that Mrs. Bishop hasn’t assigned, imagine that.

My love of Mr. King’s works stem back from when I was but a wee-tyke, seeing my mom and grandparents read his books. I had a sick fascination with horror that began around the age of 6, so by the time The Stand mini-series came out on TV when I was in the 4th grade, I had already been loving Carrie, IT, Pet Semetary, etc for many years.

All of this has led my husband to ask me just why haven’t I read any of The Dark Tower books if I love Stephen King so much? Well, I just didn’t have a good answer for that. Nothing other than I just haven’t gotten around to it. When I was a kid my grandparents didn’t own any of those books, and they were generally my source for all things Stephen King. That’s all fine and dandy, but there comes a certain point in a person’s life when they are master of their own book collection. It wasn’t as if I was avoiding the journey of the tower, it has been on my “to-do” list for years.

So it happened a couple of months ago, my husband thrust into my hands The Gunslinger, the first novel of The Dark Tower series. Read it, he tells me. And read it I did. As I neared the end I told him he had better find his copy of the second novel (The Drawing of the Three) so I could go straight into it. And through the second novel I told him to hunt down the third – The Waste Lands.

Then, I finished The Waste Lands, and my husband warned me about going into the fourth – Wizard and Glass. See, Wizard and Glass is a cursed novel in my husband’s eyes. One that took him several attempts to finish. The first time he was making his way through the book his parents lost their home (this was when he was younger and lived with them). They lost most of their possessions in one fell swoop.

The second time he attempted the novel, his father passed away.

He has since finished the book, and I think he did so without any further incident. But he did warn me when I began reading it, and I didn’t listen. Sure enough, the curse of Wizard and Glass passed down to me.

Two weeks ago today (which now feels more like two months ago) we got a call from our landlord, and without getting into gory details (there are several shows on TV about the subject) we were basically told that in a week we may lose our apartment. We spent a week frantic, terrified, nervous, sad, angry, frightened, distraught, worried, unsure…etc etc etc. The week went by and last Tuesday came and went without incident. With the help of several friends and my mother, we managed to do what our landlord asked, which secured our spot in our apartment.

This past couple of weeks has been a complete whirlwind. After all the drama with our apartment, we were scheduled to leave town the next day for a vacation with a bunch of friends. Which after all the stress was definitely well needed.

At any rate, Wizard and Glass now sits by my bed, around 100 pages from the end. And I’m terrified to pick it back up and finish. Will I just be tempting the universe to do something else to destroy our lives?

My husband has offered to just tell me what happens. I’ve also thought about reading the Wikipedia entry on it. I know this sounds weird, I mean really how superstitious can you get? But honestly, that is three times the book has been read by the two of us that something downright life altering has happened!

I’m still undecided on what to do. What would you do? Just laugh at the universe and pick it back up to finish? Get the synopsis from someone who’s already read it, like my husband? Would listening to the audio version be just as terrifying as reading it myself? I just don’t know…and until I figure out what I’m brave enough to do, I think Wizard and Glass is just going to have to sit there and wait.

Now that I think about it, this whole thing sounds like one crazy Stephen King novel…