Review: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

I really do try not to fangirl about books, since I’m supposed to be too old for that now, but it’s a struggle when favorite authors give us something new and it’s just exactly what I need, right when I need it. When I heard that Mr. Stephen Graham Jones was publishing a new book this fall, and then when I read the blurb… fangirling occurred.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

I’m not going in to any more detail than that about this excellent book—you really need to experience it for yourself.

My thoughts

My Heart is a Chainsaw is a lot of things. It’s definitely a horror novel, so if you’re coming for the bloody, violent gore of a classic masked-killer movie, you will not be disappointed. It’s also a coming-of-age story, wherein our neglected and forgotten loner heroine, Jade, has used her passion for and encyclopedic knowledge of slasher movies to help herself deal with an unresolved trauma. Somehow, despite all the gore and violent death, and the loneliness and abuse of Jade’s background, this book is a hopeful story of survival and triumph. That’s not to say everything is hearts and flowers wrapped up nicely with a bow at the end… this is not that kind of novel.

Jones is obviously a fan of the slasher genre, and that’s on full display here. In a series of papers she wrote for school, Jade takes us through all the basics for so many slasher films. I loved the references to the movies I grew up watching (from between my fingers, because I was a total weenie). Like a great slasher movie, just when you think you’ve got My Heart is a Chainsaw figured out, something happens to show you how very wrong you were.

Jade is a fantastic character: she’s complex and challenging, frustrating and funny, and you can’t help but root for her to get the allies/help/revenge she deserves. Stephen Graham Jones is just so good… the story is perfectly paced, beautifully written, bloody, scary, surprising and heartbreaking. I was thrilled last week when Jones announced that there will be a sequel next year.

Don’t be scared… Read this book!


A late-to-the-party audiobook review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

This book was first released back in 2014, but I will admit I had never even heard of it before I saw the audiobook on NetGalley this summer. I was fortunate enough to receive an audio ARC, which I listened to rather quickly way back in August. Still catching up reviews!

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

My thoughts

In my experience, when there are goblins in a fantasy novel, they are usually minor characters, comic relief, or villains, so it was refreshing to have a goblin, our hero Maia, be both the main protagonist and new emperor of a land of goblins and elves. Maia is very much thrust unexpectedly into this position, which I thought was fun, since we the reader are learning all about his empire and court intrigue right along with him. Maia is inherently good and painfully innocent, and he’s surrounded by nobles and ‘family’ that are anything but good and innocent. His journey and growth made for an excellent storyline. His struggle to build new relationships and find himself make for fascinating reading.

Katherine Addison has created a vibrant and expansive world full of colorful characters. Her writing is fantastic. The complicated relationships, names, and language that are part of this world can be challenging, but I enjoyed keeping everyone straight. There was just enough drama and suspense, interspersed with humor and heartwarming scenes, to keep me interested and flying through the book.

The audiobook production is top notch. Excellent quality sound, and the narration by Kyle McCarley is fantastic. McCarley is a talented voice actor and really brings the characters to life, elevating this already solid fantasy to a great listening experience.

I recommend The Goblin Emperor to readers who enjoy high fantasy, unexpected heroes, and court intrigue, and I highly recommend this audiobook version to anyone who, like me, prefers to tackle longer epic fantasy with ears instead of eyes.

The second book in the series, The Witness for the Dead was released this summer and I’m absolutely going to read it as well. Different narrator, but the audio preview I listened to sounds good!

Thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan Audio, and the author for my copy in exchange for this honest review.