Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Title:  Heart-Shaped Box

Author:  Joe Hill

Paperback:  375 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers

Publish Date:  2007

ISBN:  9780061147937

Miscellaneous:  Joe Hill is the son Stephen King.

He searched the ground floor and found only shadow and stillness, which should’ve reassured him but didn’t.  It was the wrong kind of stillness, the shocked stillness that follows the bang of a cherry bomb.  His eardrums throbbed from the pressure of all that quiet, a dreadful silence.

“What… are you doing?” he said.  By then he was so ill at ease the sound of his own voice unnerved him, sent a cool, prickling rush up his forearms.  He had never been one to talk to himself.

He climbed the stairs and started back down the hall to the bedroom.  His gaze drifted to an old man, sitting in an antique Shaker chair against the wall.  As soon as Jude saw him, pulse lunged in alarm, and he looked away, fixed his gaze on his bedroom door, so he could only see the old man from the edge of his vision.  In the moments that followed, Jude felt it was a matter of life and death not to make eye contact with the old man, to give no sign that he saw him.  He did not see him, Jude told himself.  There was no one there.

The old man’s head was bowed.  His hat was off, resting on his knee.  His hair was a close bristle, with the brilliance of new frost.  The buttons down the front of his coat flashed in the gloom, chromed by moonlight.  Jude recognized the suit in a glance.  He had last seen it folded in the black, heart-shaped box that had gone into the rear of his closet.  The old man’s eyes were closed.

Jude’s heart pounded, and it was a struggle to breath, and he continued on toward the bedroom door, which was at the very end of the hallway.  As he went past the Shaker chair, against the wall to his left, his leg brushed the old man’s knee, and the ghost lifted his head.  But by then Jude was beyond him, almost to the door.  He was careful not to run.  It didnt’ matter to him if the old man stared at his back, as long as they didnt’ make eye contact with each other, and besides, there was no old man.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, pages 29-30

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a fast-paced, heart-dropping, nerve-chilling story of the ghost of Craddock, a spiritualist, hypnotist and dowser (for water anddead bodies) who was a former psy-op during the Vietnam War and with an penchant for young girls, and Judas Coyne, an aging heavy-metal star who has spent most of his life escaping his childhood.  The ghost pursues Coyne with a vengeance, trying to manipulate him into killing himself and his girlfriend.

While I didn’t go into this book with the question “How will Joe Hill compare to his father, Stephen King?” you can’t help have that in the back of your mind.  And I must say, honestly, Hill does not compare to King.  Hill has his own style, voice, and process.  Yes, like any other writer who reads, there is King’s influence in the prose.  And Hill has definitely inherited the family talents, both from his father and mother.

I could not put the book down!  It was suspenseful and driving, and many elements in the story are the kind that will haunt me for months to come.  It mixes mysticism and the paranormal with religion and voodoo, and then adds twists of perversion, attachment and a little insanity to make a very potent cocktail.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill ranks at the top of the list for best horror stories and is a guaranteed hair-frosting experience!  I give it 5 out of 5 stars 😀

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The Appeal by John Grisham

campaignhTitle: The Appeal

Author: John Grisham

Hardback: 355 pages

Publisher: Doubleday

Publish Date: 2008

ISBN: 9780385515047

Mr. Trudeau slapped the table and barked, “What went wrong?!”

Well, Ratzlaff thought to himself and wanted to say aloud except that he very much treasured his job, let’s start with the fact that our company built a pesticide plant in Podunk, Mississippi, because the land and labor were dirt cheap, then we spent the next thirty years dumping chemicals and waste into the ground and into the rivers, quite illegally of course, and we contaminated the drinking water until it tasted like spoiled milk, which, as bad as it was, wasn’t the worst part, because then people started dying of cancer and leukemia.

Than, Mr. Boss and Mr. CEO and Mr. Corporate Raider, is exactly what went wrong.

“The lawyers feel good about the appeal,” Ratzlaff said instead, without much conviction… “We still have the money, Carl,” Ratzlaff said. “It’ll be years before a dime changes hands, if, in fact, that ever happens.”

Mr. Trudeau was pacing dramatically. “Forty-one million dollars. And there are how many other cases out there, Bobby? Did someone say two hundred, three hundred? Well, if there were three hundred this morning, there will be three thousand tomorrow morning. Every redneck in south Mississippi with a fever blister will now claim to have sipped the magic brew from Bowmore. Every two-bit ambulance chaser with a law degree is driving there now to sign up clients. This wasn’t supposed to happen, Bobby. You assured me.”

Ratzaff had a memo under lock and key. It was eight years old and had been prepared under his own supervision. It ran for a hundred pages and described in gruesome detail the company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste at the Bowmore plant. It summarized the company’s elaborate efforts to hide the dumping, to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency, and to buy off the politicians at the local, state, and federal level. It recommended a clandestine but effective cleanup of the waste site, at a cost of some $50 million. It begged anyone who read it to stop the dumping.

And, most important at this critical moment, it predicted a bad verdict someday in a courtroom.

Only luck and a flagrant disregard for the rules of civil procedure had allowed Ratzlaff to keep the memo a secret.

Mr. Trudeau had been given a copy of it eight years earlier, though he now denied he’d ever seen it. Ratzlaff was tempted to dust it off now and read a few select passages, but, again, he treasured his job.

Mr. Trudeau walked to the table, placed both palms flat on the Italian leather, glared at Bobby Ratzlaff, and said, “I swear to you, it will never happen. Not one dime of our hard-earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants…. If I have to bankrupt it or break it into fifteen pieces, I swear to you on my mother’s grave that not one dime of Krane’s money will ever be touched by those ignorant people.”

and with that promise, he walked across the Persian rug, lifted his jacket from a rack, and left the office.

The Appeal by John Grisham, pages 16-19

The Appeal by John Grisham is a compelling, at times frightening, look at the appeals process, big business, the new and growing trend of buying elections, and a grim outlook at where it is all taking us. The book begins where most legal fictions end, with the verdict and then follows the appeal through corporate maneuvering and the campaign to plant their man on the Mississippi Supreme Court who will rule in their favor.

While the company in this story is clearly liable for the injuries cause by their gross negligence, flagrant disregard for mandated disposal of their product and illegal dumping of class I carcinogens that eventually leeched into the towns water supply, claiming the lives of nearly 70 residents and another 140 on their way to the graves, it is important to remember that there area great number of frivolous personal injury lawsuits and stacked class action suits filed everyday in this country. Grisham does show this to some extent with Bintz, the Philadelphia (that’s Pennsylvania, not Mississippi), but the fact does seem to be glossed over with the book’s focus on the more sensational and legitimate cases being rendered by the stacked court.

One thing I have learned in my 30+ years of life is that nothing is simple, nothing is all of one and none of the other. Business, the legal system, and politics, like life, are a complex mix of facts and interested parties, and as many outcomes to factor into account as the causes that brought things to that point. Grisham well displays, though again somewhat slanted, how people with beliefs and causes can be whipped up into a frenzy with campaign rhetoric, half-truths, and sound-bytes. I generally try to defer discussing politics and religion in my blog and reviews, but I imagine regular readers have picked up on the fact that I am a Christian with a moderate-to-conservative Republican view on politics. To a degree, Grisham seems to hold up the liberal side of things as being the thinking side and the Christian conservative side as being the easily manipulated simpletons who are ushering in the ruination of the country.

To be fair to the author, Grisham doeshave Denny Ott, a non-denom pastor who thinks for himself and chastises a fellow church leader for his use of the pulpit as a campaign tool. Also, the protagonists of the book, married partners of the law firm Payton & Payton, are also practicing Christians who pray before going into court, donate legal advice through Ott’s church, and sacrifice everything for what they believe is right; Krane should be held accountable for their heinous conduct that has destroyed the lives and even the town of Bowmore.

The Appeal by John Grisham is the first Grisham novel I have read, though I have seen several of the author’s books-to-movies. I definitely enjoyed the easy to read writing style, and was captivated by the storyline. Grisham is an excellent storyteller, and The Appeal will not be my last of his books. I give it 4 stars out of 5, it’s a good, solid book that makes you think and consider the world around you.

Here is a clip of Border’s interview with John Grisham about The Appeal. Very interesting and eye-opening: