TLC Book Tours: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

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nos4a2

YOU…..

Better watch out,
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Charlie Manx is coming to town!
(In his Rolls Royce Wraith no less)

Ok ok, I guess it’s not quite fair to compare Manx to Santa. But in his own twisted deluded way, Manx believes to the tips of his toes that he is doing good for the little children. For he takes them away from their horrible parents and brings them to….

Christmasland.

“Christmasland is the true happiest place in the world.”

“In Christmasland every day is Christmas, and the children there never feel anything like unhappiness. No, the children there don’t even understand the concept of unhappiness! There is only fun. It is like heaven – only of course they are not dead! They live forever, remains children for eternity, and are never forced to struggle and sweat and demean themselves like poor adults.”

He ropes in the simple-minded Bing Patridge to help him in his task of getting children away from their evil parents and whisking them off to that happy place called Christmasland. Bing ‘takes care’ of the fathers and mothers. You really don’t want to know what he does. 

Now Christmasland is a real place. Sort of. A real place that exists in Manx’s imagination, if that makes any sense. His Wraith, license plate NOS4A2 (“Nosferatu” – yeah it took me a while to figure that out), is his way into his ‘inscape’. And like the name on his vanity plate, Manx feeds on the children, leaving them cold-blooded and savage.

Victoria “Vic” McQueen has her ‘inscape’ too. She has a covered bridge, the Shorter Way, that takes her to find lost things or people. It is a bridge in real life, but one that got torn down years ago. As a kid she got there on her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike. But there is a physical toll – her body is racked with fevers and headaches

Then one day, our young Vic meets Manx and things just go bad.

For both of them.

And they are destined to meet again years later, when Vic is an adult and Manx is, well, let’s just say he’s been declared dead, autopsied and all.

Have I got you intrigued yet?

Well, here’s more!

– “what happens in the Wraith stays in the Wraith”.

– the badass Vic (she is a bit irritating as a young kid, but grows up to be a decent adult) and the sweet loving Lou. Such an unlikely couple, but just so cute and sweet together. Like this conversation:

“Imaginary bridge, superpowered bike. Got it.”

“Over the years I used my bicycle and the bridge to find all kinds of things. Missing stuffed animals or lost photos. Things like that. I didn’t go ‘finding’ often. Just once or twice a year. And as I got older, even less. It started to scare me, because I knew it was impossible, that the world isn’t supposed to work that way. When I was little, it was just pretend. But as I got older, it began to seem crazy. It began to frighten me.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t use your special power to find someone who could tell you there was nothing wrong with you,” Lou said.

Her eyes widened and lit with surprise, and Lou understood that in fact she had done just that.

“How did you–” she began.

“I read a lot of comics. It’s the logical next step,” Lou said. “Discover magic ring, seek out the Guardians of the Universe. Standard operating procedure. Who was it?”

“The bridge took me to a librarian in Iowa.”

“It would be a librarian.”

– So yes! A librarian! And one who uses Scrabble tiles to reveal secrets. She also wears Scrabble earrings that spell ‘F-U’ (“No one looks closely at a librarian. People are afraid of going blind from the glare of ssss-ssso much compressed wisdom.”). And drinks from mugs that say ‘LIBRARIES: WHERE SHHHH HAPPENS’ and ‘DO NOT MAKE ME USE MY LIBRARIAN VOICE’.

– Hill wrote a pretty decent kid character in Wayne. Sometimes kids in books can be irritating (see Vic as the Brat above), but I like Wayne. He’s got quite a bit of Lou in him. (You always know it’s a good book when you’re talking about a character as if he’s a real person.)

– Bing. A story with a Christmasland isn’t a story without a character named Bing. And the smell of gingerbread everywhere.

– Lou is a Browncoat. Could I adore Joe Hill him more?

 

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I received this book for review from TLC Book Tours and its publisher. Thank you so much!

Check out the rest of the tour stops:

Tuesday, October 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, October 24th: The Best Books Ever

Monday, November 4th: Bibliophilia, Please

Tuesday, November 5th: The House of Crime and Mystery

Wednesday, November 6th: Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, November 7th: Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity

Friday, November 8th: Drey’s Library

Monday, November 11th: Entomology of a Bookworm

Tuesday, November 12th: The Book Bag

Wednesday, November 13th: The Reader’s Hollow

Thursday, November 14th: red headed book child

Monday, November 18th:  The Road to Here

Tuesday, November 19th: Olduvai Reads

Wednesday, November 20th: The Scarlet Letter

Thursday, November 21st: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

Joe HillThe author of the critically acclaimed Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill is a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and Year’s Best collections. He calls New England home.
Find out more about Joe at his website and follow him on Twitter: @joe_hill.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Ugh.

I hate watching horror movies. It has been a long time since I’ve seen one. The last one might have been Ringu, that terrifying Japanese movie that scared the hell out of me and made me stay away from the TV for quite a long time. Yup, it was that long ago (I think I was in university – let’s just say many years ago).

Yet I don’t mind reading horror novels (horror books?).

And I’ve been wondering why. Because the imagination runs wild and conjures up thoughts in my head. Yet it’s still not as horrifying as watching a horror movie.

Perhaps because it lacks an eerie soundtrack?

Is a scary movie still scary if you watch it on mute?

Back to the scary book though.

heartshapedbox

At the heart (ok couldn’t resist that one) of Joe Hill’s debut is Judas Coyne, an ageing heavy-metal great now somewhat retired and living in Hudson Valley with Georgia, one of the many girls who have rotated through his life, and whom he names by their home state.

“It had been years since he dated anyone with a tan. When you were a Goth, it was important to at least imply the possibility you might burst into flames in direct sunlight.”

Coyne is a collector of things macabre. Like sketches of the Seven Dwarfs drawn by John Wayne Gacy; a skull of a peasant who had been trepanned in the sixteenth century; the 300-year-old confession of a witch.
S
So when his assistant Danny points him to an online auction of a ghost, he jumps on it without much of a thought.

“‘I will “sell” my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder. Of course a soul cannot really be sold, but I believe he will come to your home and abide with you if you put out the welcome mat. As I said, when he died, he was with us temporarily and had no place to call his own, so I am sure he would go to where he was wanted. Do not think this is a stunt or a practical joke and that I will take your money and send you nothing. The winning bidder will have something solid to show for their investment. I will send you his Sunday suit . I believe if his spirit is attached to anything, it has to be that.“‘

Who in their right mind would read that and say, yes, let’s put a bid on it? Well, that’s Judas Coyne for you.

“Maybe he expected an explanation, but Jude wasn’t sure he could’ve explained, even to himself, why it seemed reasonable to pay a thousand dollars for an old suit that probably wasn’t worth a fifth of that. Later he thought it might be good publicity: Judas Coyne buys a poltergeist. The fans ate up stories like that. But that was later. Right then, in the moment, he just knew he wanted to be the one who bought the ghost.”

But it turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life. Because there is indeed a ghost. An old man who at first lurks around the house, scaring the dogs, causing sleepless nights with his presence and his scribbled-out eyes. Ugh. I can’t even write that without feeling a little chill down my neck!

But then people start dying, and Judas and Georgia go off in search of the woman who sold him the suit – the sister of one of Judas’ ex-girlfriends.

heartshaped

 

And here I have to admit that Hill is very adept at drumming up the chills. He sets a very creepy beginning to the story. The kind that requires reading in bright light. And I mean bright sunlight. Not the bright light of a reading lamp where shadows still lurk beyond.

But later as the book turns into more of a revenge plot, the scare factor disappears and turns into more of a violent, physical terror. That is, it becomes less about the uneasiness of the unknown (and that creepy spine-chilling feeling it brings) and more about the mundanities of staying alive. Sure, we get to know Judas – and Georgia – better, and we learn their childhoods were of abuse and sadness, drawing them perhaps to this sort of music? But unfortunately, they are not really very likable characters. And so it occasionally makes me put down this book and reconsider reading further.

Hill does manage to salvage things by making the revenge plot a bit less straightforward than it initially seems. I’m not going to spoil it further so let’s just leave it at that.

So all in, a pretty decent RIP read.

I like when Hill talks about music:

“A lot of his songs, when they started out, sounded like old music. They arrived on his doorstep, wandering orphans, the lost children of large and venerable musical families. They came to him in the form of Tin Pan Alley sing-alongs, honky-tonk blues, Dust Bowl plaints, lost Chuck Berry riffs. Jude dressed them in black and taught them to scream.”

“All the world is made of music. We are all strings on a lyre. We resonate. We sing together.”

Joseph Hillstrom King, better known by the pen name Joe Hill, is an American author and comic book writer. He has published three novels—Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4A2—and a collection of short stories titled 20th Century Ghosts. He is also the author of the comic book series Locke & Key. Hill’s parents are authors Stephen and Tabitha King.

ripviii

This is my second read for RIP VIII

Locke and Key

I like to think I am a person who doesn’t scare easily. At least when it comes to books.

Movies though are a whole other story, and I refuse to watch horror movies, especially those of the Japanese variety!

But novels about vampires, zombies, witches etc? Sure, why not.

So I never thought that a graphic novel would creep me out. And one with a whole bunch of keys at the centre of it.

Locke & Key, written by Joe Hill* and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, is spine-chilling. It opens with a murder and the family’s attempts to come to terms with that as they move to Lovecraft, Massachusetts.

It is such an incredibly painful and tragic beginning. The teenaged Tyler and Kinsey cannot help but replay those horrific moments in their head, in their sleep, and as they slowly try to readjust to going back to school and all the mundanities of life, while Bode, who is much younger, discovers the secrets of the keys in the gothic house, and that echo from the well…

The gem of the story isn’t that dastardly evil (but oh, what an evil it is) but that family, and how concrete their story and their pain is (despite that Lovecraft of an island and spooky keyhouse). You just want, just wish that someone would reach out to them and help them and make all their bad dreams go away.

An exceptional series! I’m currently reading Volume Three: Crown of Shadows and there are two more volumes to go (at least that’s what my library’s catalogue is telling me). Apparently a pilot was made, but it seems that the series hasn’t been picked up as yet.

*Apparently his name is actually Joseph Hillstrom King. King as in Stephen King’s son.

On another note, I am completely clueless about H.P. Lovecraft and his works. Any recommendations on where to begin?