Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Full Throttle [review]

Full Throttle by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on October 1, 2019
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.13 (as of 2019-11-08)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website

In this masterful collection of short fiction, Joe Hill dissects timeless human struggles in thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including “In The Tall Grass,” one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.

A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in “Faun.” A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in “Late Returns.” In “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” two young friends stumble on the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality . . . and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths. And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in “Throttle,” co-written with Stephen King.

Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears, and demonstrates this exceptional talent at his very best.


Joe Hill does it again, folks. From the first story, I was absolutely glued to this book. I actually started it just before game 1 of the World Series and, uh, I really just had to finish that short story, y’all. To the detriment of me missing some incredible plays. I don’t know how the man does it — the weakness of short stories is that sometimes it is difficult to develop a connection to the characters or to feel that the story itself isn’t quite fully-formed; this collection doesn’t suffer from either. I found myself gripping the book tightly, bent over it in anticipation as I waited to see what would happen next. Each story managed to elicit strong emotions: anxiety, grief, horror, or some combination of the three. And each story was completely different; I never felt like I would mix up plot or characters, and always felt like I was being given something fresh and original.

Joel looked at her in surprise. “You’re the smartest little girl on this side of the lake. You talk just like you’re reading from a book.”
“I’m the smartest little girl on either side of the lake.”

One of the things that really impresses me about Joe Hill is that he’s able to write such good bad characters. There were characters in this I truly despised, extremely bad people. But the way he writes them makes you truly interested in reading more about them. He humanizes them without justifying the horrible things they’ve done or asking you to forgive them. Sometimes you even root for them, but not always.

Who is worse, Christian, the sadist who serves his true nature honestly or the ordinary man who does nothing to stop him?

The foreword is not something I’ve really seen before in a short story collection and was a bit meandering, but since I’m biased and adore Joe’s writing, I didn’t mind it at all. I think once you’ve become so loyal to an author, learning about their history and writing process becomes much more interesting than it may have been otherwise. The story notes following were also insightful, although much briefer.

The price of being alive is that someday you aren’t.

My ratings for each story are as follows:

  • Throttle (with Stephen King) 4.5/5
  • Dark Carousel 4.5/5
  • Wolverton Station 4/5
  • By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain 5/5
  • Faun 4/5
  • Late Returns 4/5
  • All I Care About Is You 4/5
  • Thumbprint 3/5
  • The Devil on the Staircase 3/5
  • Twittering from the Circus of the Dead 3.5/5
  • Mums 4/5
  • In The Tall Grass (with Stephen King) 3.5/5
  • You Are Released 4/5

While that only comes to an average of 3.92, I was just so consistently impressed and haunted by this collection that I have to give it five stars. Even the stories that I didn’t feel rated highly stuck with me, which I think says a lot about Joe Hill’s writing and how he’s able to truly understand how good writing impacts the human psyche. This honestly may be my favorite book of the year — although we’ll see come December. I was constantly dropping this into my lap just to stare into the distance and contemplate how haunting some of the content was.

Her song — a low-pitched, unearthly dirge, like the forlorn cries of the whales that have long been extinct — has no words. Perhaps there never are for grief.

Overall, Joe Hill is incredibly talented. Please read this.


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Horns [review]

6587879

Horns by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on March 1, 2010 (originally 2009)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.92 (as of 2018-06-05)
cw: homophobia, racism, rape, pedophilia, torture, pretty much anything you could think of

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. 

 

Y’all I had NO idea what to expect going into this one. I got this as a gift in a recent exchange and had been meaning to read it for a while (I’m hoping to get through all of Joe Hill’s work within the next year or two). I hadn’t reread the blurb and hadn’t even seen the trailers for the movie, so didn’t really know what the plot would be, just that it involved, well, horns. Let me say right away that this book is not for the light-hearted. There are some… pretty messed up things going on. People do and say the most heinous things you can think of. So, keep that in mind if you’re thinking about picking this one up.

He threw the bible into the trumpet case as well. There had to be something in there, some useful tips for his situation, a homeopathic remedy you could apply when you came down with a bad case of the devil.

That said, this is incredibly well-written and compelling story about a man trying to solve the murder of the woman that he loves. He runs into a few snags — namely the fact that he’s the main suspect. Oh, and the horns growing out of his head. Which do come with a few side-effects that I don’t want to spoil for you. I liked how the story was layered, switching back and forth between past and present. In some books this ends up being jarring, but Joe Hill does it well here. He knew how to time it and used it to slowly bring the full story to light.

If you were in a boat and did not save a drowning man, you would burn in Hell for certain; yet God, in His wisdom, feels no need to use his power to save anyone from a single moment of suffering, and in spite of his inaction He is celebrated and revered. Show me the moral logic in it. You can’t. There is none. Only the devil operates with any reason, promising to punish those who wanted to make earth itself Hell for those who dare to love and feel.

If you’re a Joe Hill fan, you’ll probably like Horns. This was one I just couldn’t put down and I finished the last portion in a two-hour binge. I’d also recommend it for fans of horrors, thrillers, and mysteries, as it contains a little of each. The horror isn’t as much outright scary as it is unsettling, but I’d say that’s the most appropriate category to place it in.

She was innocent. All snakes were, of course.

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram
(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Strange Weather [review]

Strange Weather by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on October 24, 2017
432 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 
4.01
cw: see below

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

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.

As y’all may or may not remember, I went to Joe Hill’s release of Strange Weather a little while back and I finally finished this masterpiece recently. As the above blurb indicates, this is a compilation of four short novels written by Joe Hill. Each novel has an eerie twist to it — most are supernatural in some way and one isn’t.

This collection was an easy five stars for me. Each story blew me away in one way or another. Joe’s writing never fails to be any less than spectacular, he really is an incredible storyteller. Below I’ll go through and detail my thoughts on each story (and also share some of the relevant content warnings). They were all five-star reads for me, so ratings aren’t necessary this time around!

“Snapshot” is the first piece in the book and it reeled me right in. I had a visceral reaction to this one, it had me on the edge of my seat and I could actually feel the fear coursing through me. It was the combination of the tone of the writing and the content itself. The only cw I can think of currently is for memory loss, as it’s pretty heartbreaking in the context of this story. I may or may not have cried at the end of this one.

There was no obvious reason for caution — but a lot of our best thinking takes place well below the level of conscious cognition and has nothing to do with rationality.

“Loaded” was the second piece and it was an intense one, a take on modern gun violence and police brutality. This was also a very painful read, there are a few scenes that I wasn’t expecting and I damn near lost my mind reading them. I actually had to put down the book and message Destiny at one point because I knew she would wail over one scene in particular with me. cw racism, domestic abuse, suicide, alcoholism

“Aloft” was the third piece. I had heard an excerpt from this at Joe’s reading, so I knew a bit about the piece and where it was going. Where it went after that excerpt was kind of wild, though. It went in a direction I wasn’t really expecting, but I enjoyed that aspect of it a lot! This was probably the weakest story in the collection imo, but still very good.

It is odd how much we want to be in love when you think about how much anxiety comes with it, like a tax on money you win in the lottery.

“Rain” was yet another heart-wrenching story. But!!! The main character is a queer woman, so that’s rad. The concept here was really cool too, especially because there was a somewhat scientific aspect behind it (although I can’t speak to how accurate that actually was). cws for homophobia and animal death, there’s actually a somewhat graphic illustration on the title page (right after “Aloft”) that might startle or upset some people, so please keep that in mind!!

Overall, this was such a stunning collection and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of Joe Hill’s work, as there’s still some stuff I haven’t read yet!

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram (Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Bookworm Blogging, Personal

Joe Hill Book Launch [recap]

Good morning, everyone! I’m practically falling over my keyboard after last night’s adventure, I was in such a buzz that it took me forever to fall asleep. Anyway! Onto the exciting stuff.

Last week, I was scrolling through Facebook, when I happened to see an event for Joe Hill’s book launch of Strange Weather. It was taking place at Brookline Booksmith, a local bookstore (probably my new favorite place). I had an appointment beforehand, so I wasn’t sure I would make it over in time–in part because I didn’t know what kind of turnout to expect, and whether I’d make it inside or not. Luckily, I managed to get in and had plenty of time to buy a copy of Strange Weather and to settle into my seat in the back row.


Joe’s introduction was hysterical–the employee told the story of the first time they had met him and then he stepped up to the mic. I could barely see him from where I was seated, but he was such a dynamic, animated speaker. He read an excerpt from the story “Aloft” (a graphic piece that drew some laughter from the crowd) and then spent most of the hour doing a Q&A. He was kind to all of the question askers, and told plenty of funny stories, along with giving serious answers. Some highlights:

  • On reading as an author: “If you’re not consumed with jealousy, you’re not reading the right things.”
  • When asked for writing advice (paraphrased): Don’t sit down to write a novel, sit down to write one good scene. Or one good sentence. Build up from there.
  • When asked about the shared universe theories: “Some people think this means that all these stories take place in the same universe. What it really means is my dad and me both like to fuck around.”
  • A question-asker mentioned that King name-dropped him in Sleeping Beauties: “Did he?! I haven’t read it yet!”


All-in-all it was a great experience! After the reading, everyone lined up for autographs and photos. I told him that I was blown away the first time I opened up Locke & Key because half my family lives in Nahant, MA and he responded, “oh yeah, it’s literally Nahant.” For those of you who don’t know, Locke & Key takes place on the fictional island of Lovecraft, MA and Lovecraft very closely resembles the town my mom grew up in. I’ll put some side-by-side photos below for comparison. You’ll see what I mean, I saw the resemblance as soon as I opened the comic. 

In addition the the aerial shot, inspiration was also drawn from Swallow Cave, and from the old bunkers scattered around the island. I’ll have to get some more comparison shots at some point.


Anyway, this was an incredible experience and I’m so glad I made it. I’m definitely going to keep my eye open for more events at Brookline Booksmith (Mark Z. Danielewski is doing one in a couple weeks and I’m stoked!!!). Have any of you attended a bookish event like this? What was it like? Let me know in the comments!


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram