Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 05 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

My Rating : 3.5

I was slightly confused with the book when I started, but as the storyline progressed, I really liked how it went. 
Thank you Netgalley for the review copy. Detailed review will be up soon !
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Every element of this book is noteworthy from the title to the cover to the story itself.
Horror is not my usual kind of book but I loved that this book is both unique while following the tradition of the great horror masters by using the supernatural or simply weird as a metaphor to what scares us in our normal lives. If you like Stephen King, then this is a great book for you.
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This voracious bibliophile is all about scene staging. It is an absolute necessity in a good/great/satisfying read. This gruesome story had that in spades! 

The premise was unique, which scores major points with me. Taking one look at the book's title, I obviously expected some dark material but I was not prepared for some of the head tripy-ness this book dishes out. Just thinking about being harrassed by a needy ghost that can cause you to black out... whose actions you are not privy to, essentially causing you to be an unwilling passenger in your own body, now THAT'S creepy.

The writing was stark, succinct and unapologetically laid bare for the reader to take it or leave it. BUT let's forget for the moment the whole "ghosts being able to hop inside a person's body and take it for a spin" aspect... asking us to suspend reality enough to allow for ghosts that swarm inanimate objects like cars, music boxes and drains, causing them to fail and clog stretches my frivolity tolerance a bit too thin. The world building, on the other hand, was evocative and sinister as all hell. There were loads of ghosts that don't understand personal boundaries that can overload things as well as people... there were people not haunted with ghosts who were psycho, agro killers anyway... and then there were people just trying to survive this crazy town. My favorite characters were side characters though. I really liked Bethany, Henry and his father. They each brought a fragile yet resilient dimension to the plot. I loved how broken they were not only because it was interesting to see how they dealt with it but to also see how they "fixed" themselves and their situations in the end. I liked Henry, his tinkering brain, and his brilliant, mad scientist ghost interloper who tried and tried but couldn't seem to get anything right. I loved how strong Bethany was and how determined she remained. Henry's father helped out in the weirdest times but for someone so out of touch with reality, he was somehow there for his kids in a pinch. 

One thing I hate to say is that I could only get through this in spurts. The plot was sufficiently ghoulish but it just didn't grab ahold of my attention and keep it there. There was an unfortunate case of insta-love, which annoys me to no end but at least it wasn't drawn out with deep, protracted declarations. Also, the ending was a tad confusing. I totally love anything and everything about alternate dimensions BUT it wasn't described with enough detail and therefore, it wasn't wrapped up as neatly as I think it was going for. I am definitely not one who needs a story to be wrapped up with a sparkly bow but it did feel like that was where it was going and if so, it failed.


Overall: This nightmarish read was solid. The writing was good and the world building even better. The character development was not as stellar but was still decent. If I could have read it straight through, no stopping and starting and stopping again, I would have rated it higher but as it is, it's a good, macabre story. 

*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***
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Once again I find myself disappointed because a very original plot that had great potential just never developed into anything three-dimensional for me... I love the idea of Swine Hill, and the other did do a nice job painting a very vivid picture of the town. That was without a doubt the most vivid part of the book for me, since I found the characters fairly flat and uninteresting - despite the fascinating nature of their hauntings - almost from the get-go. I don't know why this one didn't work for me - it had a lot of really fascinating elements, but they just never seemed to come together in a way that resonated with me...
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I don't usually read horror books but the synopsis of this book was interesting. Cover was amazing too. It was slow paced and very detailed book. Author described the haunted town really good. I could picture every detail while i was reading. Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones has an unique story line, interesting and complex characters. Every character want something, feared something and couldn't give up their ghost. It was sad and scary. I liked the pig people. Dennis was an amazing character. More human than others. I really enjoyed it  but i wanted to know more of their story.
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‘He was different, so people thought anything they did to him was okay.’

This was one of the strangest books I’ve ever loved. 

Swine Hill is a haunted town, where the dead outnumber the living. Downtown is overrun by ghosts and the main employer is the Pig City meat packing plant. 

Most of the people Jane went to school with escaped as soon as they could to start over, but she’s stuck in a dead end job in this dying town. She can’t imagine leaving her parents, younger brother or the ghost girl who’s been attached to her since she was a child. 

Nothing will ever be the same for the living or the dead of Swine Hill when newcomers start working at Pig City.

This was a dark book, with so much loss, grief and violence experienced by the living and the dead, yet there’s also a thread of light that runs through it (quite literally at times), of hope and love. The best and worst of what it means to be human are represented here.

While I found each haunting interesting and consistently wanted to know more, I connected intellectually, not emotionally, with the majority of the characters. The person I really connected with was a pig boy called Dennis, who was more human than most of the characters who were born that way. His innocence, enthusiasm and ability to see beauty wherever he looked made me adore him. The world would be a much better place if we could all see it through Dennis’ eyes.

Besides the awesomeness that is Dennis, there’s also a girl who cannot lose, a mad scientist who makes the impossible out of junk, a woman who burns and a boy who freezes, a robot in love, an alien, alternate realities, and let’s not forget the rest of the pig people. There’s so much going on in this layered story that it shouldn’t work but somehow it did. I have no doubt that people a lot smarter than I am will write very eloquently about things I didn’t dig deep enough to even realise were there but this book made me think. A lot.

I thought about what it means to be human and how you don’t need to have a ghost to be haunted. I considered the impacts unfulfilled dreams have, not only on our own lives but also on our relationships with others and the wider community who are missing out on what we could be bringing into the world. 

I was frustrated by my inability to come up with a genius plan to eradicate the fear of the other. I thought about how ghosts linger in our present and wondered whether it’s possible to ever truly escape the past. I reevaluated my ideas of responsibility and how it intersects with blame. 

I thought about love, forgiveness and what I have to be thankful for. I wanted to dance. I wondered if I’ll ever be able to look at bacon the same way again.

I’m struggling to work out who I’d recommend this book to. I expect a lot of people are going to read this book and think, ‘What the hell am I reading?!’ but that’s not necessarily going to be a bad thing. I thought it (several times) but couldn’t put it down, even when I wanted to after a couple of scenes of fairly graphic violence.

Content warnings include racism, xenophobia, accidental death of a child, death of animals, violence, poverty, slavery, police brutality and murder.

I was left with a few unanswered questions but I don’t feel the frustration I usually would; instead I’m enjoying pondering the possibilities for myself. I spent most of the book wondering how this story could wind up in a way that I’d be okay with and, while I would never have guessed the ending, I’m satisfied.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and John Joseph Adams Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for the opportunity to read this book. I’m intrigued to see what this author comes up with next.
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Swine Hill is a place; a town that is overrun with ghost not only is the town haunted but the people in the town are haunted as well. Some ghost just come to sort of hang out with their host giving them certain abilities while others are possessed by their ghost. Once you enter the town of Swine Hill you may never leave again. 

Each and every person in the town of Swine Hill has quite a few deep dark secrets in their souls that they hide away from even their own selves. Like most everyone else in the world they have something they feel guilt over or maybe even have done somethings that they wished they had never done or may just wished they had done differently. Or maybe just things that they blame themselves for and have never let go of. 

They are also afraid of having something new come into their lives and changing things as they know it. They are afraid of anyone new coming into town who are different than they are. They are afraid that these new people will take over and rule and they will no longer be the ones in charge. 

Our main character Jane has had her ghost for a long time ever since she was a little girl. Jane’s ghost just likes to hang around to be kind of like her friend. Jane’s ghost tells her what everyone around her is thinking. With this knowledge Jane tries to help people or keep them safe. 

Henry, Jane’s brother’s ghost is the possessing type and has like moved itself into Henry’s body. It will at times take over and help Henry fix things. Jane’s mother can’t touch anyone as her ghost will burn them to a point of leaving scars. Everyone in Swine Hill has their own similar stories to tell about their ghost. 

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is a very intriguing and intense read that will having you opening up your mind and giving it a lot of thought and applying it to your own life. It is a deep heart felt read that will hold your attention from beginning to end and have you thinking about it long after you have read the last page and wishing for more. I love a good book that will just haunt your bones so to speak. 

In my opinion I think that Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is for everyone especially anyone who is looking for a good story that will have you thinking and opening up your mind and for anyone who likes a good ghost story as well.
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On the surface, this is a surreal story in which the living can be haunted and possessed by the dead, create walking, talking, cogent pigs that will slaughter and package up their own kind in a meat factory, there are people who can remove their own hearts to stay safe from the ghosts, but lose their memories as well, and aliens, and all sorts of other supernatural things. Below that surface, though, this is a book about innate talent and what it can give to and take away from those who have it. It's also about race, and how white society, no matter what class, is always on the lookout for the Other, in order to oppose and oppress it. It's also about class and social status and whether you eat this week or fix the car you need for your job. It's about creating underclasses to do the worst work, and what happens when the underclass becomes too successful. It's about domestic abuse and taking or abandoning responsibilities. It's a bit rough around the edges, but it's a book that can be read in a great many ways, and would be excellent as a class read for high school.
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Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is a beautifully complex fantasy novel filled with the souls of generations lost to the American landscape of broken dreams. Ghosts haunt every corner of this wasteland town, clinging to the surfaces and the people. This is the decline of small town life on display, showing us what happens when people dream big and never get a chance to leave the shackles of home. The writing is visceral, filled with the grotesque decay of a forgotten town and the shouting voices of the dead who demand to be heard. Every character is haunted by the past, filled with regrets or longing or a sadness for a life just out of reach. 

The town smothers all who live amidst its decrepit streets, yet the townsfolk cling to their ghosts as though they could never survive outside of their sphere of influence. It’s a testament to the power of the past to hold us down, to fill us with doubts about the future. Stir in the hatred of neighbors who should be kind and the fear of past generations who wished for more, and you have a dark landscape to grow up in.

Possession is a reality of life and we see so much raw emotion funneled into these kids who should be experiencing the joys of life but are instead filled with the doubts of those long gone. Their dreams are replaced by the whims of the dead, giving them abilities they never asked for. There’s a fear built into everyone who clings to this town. It’s falling apart at the seams, the failure evident in every corner, yet they hold on to a factory that’s turning them away and an economy that is quickly becoming nonexistent. The school hallways are moldy and overgrown, the downtown area decrepit and long abandoned. And still they stay. This is small town America, long forgotten by large cities and a world that no longer supports their way of life. We’re seeing that way of life decay page by page and it’s a tragedy for all involved. It’s tragic to see people lose their homes and tragic to see people terrified of leaving this prison for something better.

This is a fantasy world gone bad. The streets are so full of ghosts that engines get clogged and mirrors are crowded. Everyone has someone they’re staying behind for, whether it be a lost brother, mother, or friend who never made it out alive. The dead even flock to the factory, intent on maintaining their way of life. Meanwhile, the primary employer in town has found a terrifying way to cut labor costs, taking us firmly into dystopia territory. 

In the end, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is a brilliant exposé on the failure of the American Dream and its destruction of those caught in the crosshairs. The writing transfixes at every turn, leaving you in a daze, wondering how many ghosts each of us carries around day in and day out.
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Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Here be me honest musings. . .

Title: break the bodies, haunt the bones

Author: Micah Dean Hicks

Publisher: John Joseph Adams / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication Date: Available Now !!! (hardback/e-book)

ISBN: 978-1328566454

Source: NetGalley

The totally awesome cover is what led me to find out more about this book and the weird premise is what drew me in.  This book takes place in a dying American town called Swine Hill.  The only thing stopping the town from total annihilation is a pork processing plant whose workers have little hope and no resources to start anew.  Economic troubles would be bad enough but then there be the ghosts.  Generations of angry and depressed dead are tied to the town and its residents.  If ye aren't careful yer body can become a host for one or more restless spirits.

This book centers around one such haunted family.  Jane has carried her ghost since she was a young girl.  Her ghost reads other people's thoughts and also likes to offer commentary on Jane's own inner desires and feelings.  Jane considers her a friend but it's a double-edged relationship.  Her brother, Henry, harbors the ghost of a tinker and scientist.  The two minds together can come up with marvels.  However, this ghost sometimes subsumes the boy when a particular problem catches his fancy.  The problem gets solved but Henry is completely blank of all memories of the solution and the missing time.  Their mother has been consumed by a ghost with an overwhelming need to be loved.  This love is so selfish and strong that it literally burns the flesh of her lovers.  Her children cannot touch her for fear of being scalded.  Their father is a human automaton who left the family, became homeless, and roams the streets.  He shuns all company and the ghosts shun him.  Neither Jane nor her brother know why.  Talk about family dysfunction.

The highlight of this book for me was the complexities of the world building around Swine Hill.  Its depressive nature is pervasive and yet it be rich with unusual  ideas and imagery.  The ghost elements were absolutely fascinating and I loved the diverse effects of spirit inhabitation.  There was also an odd but sad robot and animal hybrids.  This book led to excellent questions about humanity, economics, brutality, fear, greed, loss, and tenacity.  The world felt real and gritty and very unpleasant.  And yet the residents continued to hang onto survival even if the war has been lost.  Though hope is missing, there is still the desire for comfort at any cost.  I honestly wanted better for Jane and Henry.  The story couldn't end well given the rules of the world but I had to know the resolution.  And I truly liked what I was given.

I don't know if I could legitimately recommend this to anyone because it is so unique and weird and gritty.  But I admit that I am so very glad that I read this book and I look forward to seeing what else this author has in store.  For a debut, it is wonderful.  Arrrr!

So lastly . . .

Thank you John Joseph Adams / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!

Goodread's website has this to say about the novel:

Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms... They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.

Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.

When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Micah Dean Hicks - Author

To buy the novel go to:

break the bodies, haunt the bones - Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List
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It’s refreshing to run into a genre novel that carves its own path, and that’s what you get with Micah Dean Hicks’ debut Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones. The novel's setting is Swine Hill, a town so saturated with ghosts that literally everyone has at least one haunting them. Jane has a good relationship with her ghost, who feeds her the secrets others hide from the world. Her boyfriend Trigger is haunted by the ghost of his own brother, whom he accidently killed. And her brother Henry’s mad scientist of a ghost helps him create, Doctor Moreau-style, a pig person called Walter Hogboss, who ends up running the local slaughterhouse. When the company that owns the slaughterhouse creates more pig people to staff the place, the townspeople turn on their monstrous new residents, leading Jane to believe they must flee before the town overflows with violence.
Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is a surreal horror story about “economic anxiety”, which has been a buzzy media term the last few years. It doesn't work as a political allegory but as an exercise in sustained dread, I found much to admire. the story unfolds with a captivating spontaneity, and while it sometimes felt unfocused this mostly works in the novel’s favor. Those looking for an offbeat read may find this rewarding.
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DNF this one. It was odd and slow moving and uninteresting. I can see the author wanted to try something different, which I applaud, but it just didn't do it for me.
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One of the things that I enjoyed about Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones was the amount of effort and detail that was put into building an original world, in this case, Swine Hill. Populated by ghosts and haunted people, Swine Hill is a town that is both symbolically and literally on the verge of death. Perhaps Hicks succeeds most when it comes to (re)defining what it means to be haunted. However, I had a hard time getting through this book because the two main characters, Jane and Henry, often felt flat. Overall, while I really enjoyed the concept of this novel, I had a hard time connecting to or understanding either of the main characters in a way that ran deeper than their particular hauntings.
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