Review: Worship Me by Craig Stewart

I’m thrilled to share my review of Worship Me by Canadian author Craig Stewart. Worship Me is a fast-paced horror novel that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Something is listening to the prayers of St. Paul’s United Church, but it’s not the god they asked for; it’s something much, much older.

A quiet Sunday service turns into a living hell when this ancient entity descends upon the house of worship and claims the congregation for its own. The terrified churchgoers must now prove their loyalty to their new god by giving it one of their children or in two days time it will return and destroy them all.

As fear rips the congregation apart, it becomes clear that if they’re to survive this untold horror, the faithful must become the faithless and enter into a battle against God itself. But as time runs out, they discover that true monsters come not from heaven or hell…

…they come from within.

*****

Worship Me is a story of terror and demonic conversion. A foreboding atmosphere greets the reader from the opening paragraph and by the second chapter, when Clara and her minivan collide with a cat, the reader is hooked. Stewart displays the twin talents of superb story telling and excellent pacing, along with satisfyingly rich and evocative descriptions.

Every story is born of an idea, or a premise, and Stewart’s is a strong one; he has the ability to conjure in the mind of the reader that his is a story worthy of being told, a story albeit as old as religion itself. Worship Me satisfies on a literary level, Stewart peppering his narrative with witty turns of phrase, especially in his character descriptions:

“Gary’s wife, Tina, lived on the bright side of things; you could tell she was a permanent resident there by the inexplicable glow that she carried wherever she went.”

All the characters in Worship Me are crafted with a sharp eye; the result is a cast of believable and largely unlikeable church goers of varying degrees of devotion; the congregation of a typically small-minded tight knit and remote community.  Enough complexity in the early part of the story holds the attention, the pace quickening about a third of the way in, when a preternatural wind gathers pace “like a bulldozer careening through a supermarket.”

From then, the story becomes a gripping, heart-palpitating read, the reader turning this way and that, maybe even away from the page, certainly feeling as frantic as the characters, who each display their unique traits, for better or worse, as they battle to make sense of and handle the situation they are in.

For anyone familiar with Nick Cave, think a book length O’Malley’s Bar. The terror is unrelenting.

Worship Me by Craig Stewart is available on all platforms.

Or grab your copy here

Catch up with the author here.

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Review: Blood in the Woods by Joe Willie

Continuing my horror novel reviews, I’m delighted to share my thoughts on J.P. Willie’s Blood in the Woods. Horror fiction comes in many forms and this is a novel with broad appeal far beyond horror fans.

“For Jody, growing up in the late eighties and early nineties in the small Louisiana town of Hammond with his best friend Jack was filled with wonderful childhood memories.  Time spent playing in the woods, shooting pellet guns, blowing up mailboxes, fighting at school and upon the dawning of interest in the fairer sex, their carefree lives typical of children with few responsibilities and no worries beyond the next pop-quiz or getting to second base. As they grow older together and experience the joys and pains of life, love, family and friendship, they uncover a grim secret that their home town has kept, and through little more than an innocent, idle curiosity, Jody and Jack stumble upon something horrific in the woods and their lives quickly take a most sinister and dangerous turn as they find themselves hunted by an unspeakable evil…”

Blood in the Woods takes the reader into the back blocks of southern of America, God-abiding territory, and devil worship and dark rituals lie at the heart of the narrative, pulsing a backbeat. The prologue not only sets up the story to come, it demonstrates the longevity of the evil taking place in the woods around Hammond, secret practices that have been going on for decades.

The story opens with the narrator, a veteran recently returned from a stint in Afghanistan, coming to terms with his past. Through the lens of a man examining his childhood, Blood in the Woods  is as much a meditation on boyhood and coming of age as it is a tale of terror. The narration is warm, conversational, the narrator self-effacing. Jody and his friend Jack love to run amok, inventing games and having adventures and always in trouble. Yet their escapades are innocent, and deep down they are both good kids, and the reader cannot help but be charmed by them. Willie’s storytelling reminds me of Tobias Wolff’s in This Boy’s Life, especially in the early parts of the novel, and to begin with the narration has the flavour of memoir. Little wonder, as Blood in the Woods is based on truth.

To Willie’s credit, his account of the sorts of evil practices going on in Hammond and its surrounds is measured and balanced. Through the eyes of both Jody’s grandfather, Jerry, and a fast-food cook come Satanist, the author is at pains to explain that not all cults and not all who worship Satan are evil and do bad things. Making this point early in the story, and reinforcing it later, serves to offset prejudice and ignorance, enlightening the reader without labouring the point.

Entertaining and chilling in equal measure, Blood in the Woods is an earthy and believable story, one laced with social realism. The story has soul, it lives and breathes. The horror simmers in the background, popping up now and then over the backyard fence with ever increasing intensity, until it breaks out in a gripping, breathtaking finale.

Without doubt, Blood in the Woods is a novel that deserves a wider audience. Sometimes genre labels shackle a book, especially when many readers are spooked by the very word ‘horror’. If that is you, don’t be put off! You’ll be missing out on a highly entertaining read!