Archive for December, 2014

butterflyskin

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Titan Books

Length: 400 Pages

Review copy provided by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review

The novel focuses on the life of 23-year-old Ksenia, the Senior Editor of the News Department of Evening.ru, an online newspaper who is trying to hold its own against established media heavyweights such as Tickertape and News.ru. Despite being younger and not having the same formal training as her colleagues, Ksenia has established control over the newsroom based on her ability to bring out the best of her employees and her ability to transform even the most mundane stories into something that readers immediately identify with and can apply to their own lives.

Ksenia loves her job, but wants more money from her boss and an opportunity to make a name for herself. He tells her that although she is an outstanding employee, the only way she will get another raise is to bring him a special project, something that will set their news site apart from the competition. This challenge sets about a chain of events that will forever alter the lives of Ksenia and those who are close to her when she realizes the perfect project will come from creating an extensive website dedicated to the Moscow Psycho, a brutal killer who has been committing horrific murders throughout the city. As Ksenia delves further into the project, she begins to develop a fascination with the savage sexual components of the murders as she begins exploring the darker side of her sexuality. The tension is amplified further after she falls in love with a mysterious person on ICQ chat, known only as “alien”, who seems to be the only person who truly understands Ksneia’s desires. Could this be the perfect partner Ksenia has been searching for since the demise of her last relationship or has she established a connection with the killer himself?

While reading Kuznetsov’s novel, I was torn on how I felt about it. The premise is extremely interesting – not only do we follow the characters tasked with tracking down the infamous Moscow Psycho, but we get an in-depth look into the troubled psyche of the killer himself. However, there are a few structural elements that really took me out of the story. Often time Kuznetsov switches between first, second and third person narration, often times within the same chapter. While some people may like it, it gets to be a bit confusing. I don’t mind when an author switches point of view in the narration, but doing so too frequently often rips me right out of the story. There are also a few name changes that are often jarring in the context of the story. One of the chapters focuses on a minor character named Alexi Rokotov and delves into his back story. However, inexplicably, he is referred to as Lyosha in that very same chapter. Is this a nickname? A translating error? There are a few instances of this throughout the novel and they hinder the reading experience at times when you frantically flip back to see if you missed something.

There is no denying that Kuznetsov is a talented writer, but at times the story is slowed to an almost glacial pace by focusing too much on the inner monologues of the various characters. While it makes the characters very complex and life-like, it hinders any momentum the story manages to build throughout the course of the coverage of the killer.

Despite these concerns, Kuznetsov has crafted an intense and brutal novel that explores the depths of darkness that lurks within everyday people. That is what truly makes the Moscow Psycho such a terrifying antagonist – for all of his brutality and warped rationale behind his need to kill, he is still an average person. As Ksenia’s boss states in the novel, he lives in the same city as the characters and probably visits the same places they do. His outward appearance of normalcy allows him to blend in with the rest of society and mask his capacity for violence until it is too late. This portrayal of a serial killer is certainly not a new phenomenon, but is utilized expertly in Butterfly Skin. While the novel does have some flaws, if you enjoyed The Silence of the Lambs or Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, Butterfly Skin is definitely worth a read.

Rating: 3/5

LINKS

Titan Books Official Website

Purchase Butterfly Skin on Amazon

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DeadWorks

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Damnation Books

Length: 144 Pages

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Anthony Hains’ new novella, Dead Works, is a pretty entertaining story that blends psychological thriller with the supernatural for a book that is hard to put down. Eric Hansen is a doctoral student in his college’s psychology program and is currently seeing patients as part of his practicum class. Eric is used to dealing with fairly normal concerns for his clients on campus – dating, roommate problems and anxiety – but his world is turned upside down when he meets his latest client, 13-year-old Greg DeHaven.

Greg’s mother set up an appointment for her son saying that he was afraid of certain things and Eric was fully prepared to deal with a case of anxiety or another disorder, but when Greg finally speaks, he tells Eric he has been experiencing terrifying visions of dead kids visiting his bedroom late at night. Greg’s mother explains that her and Greg’s father recently divorced and Greg spends most of his time with his father during summer. Eric thinks these visions are a result of Greg grappling with the radical changes in his life and are only intensified by the fact that Greg’s father and new girlfriend are both into New Age beliefs and feed into Greg’s visions by believing he has psychic gifts.

Listening to Greg’s story, Eric can’t help but remember one of his first clients, a freshman named Will Ferguson. Eric’s first session with Will challenged everything Eric had learned in his classes and had a direct impact on his subsequent experiences. Will reported visions that were strikingly similar to Greg’s; seeing the ghost of a kid everywhere he went. The visions were terrifying on their own, but Will starts to go off the rails when the boy finally speaks to him. He claims that Will understands their pain and explains that he lived in an orphanage where the director, a priest, commits horrible acts against the kids in his care. Despite Will’s belief in his visions, Eric still believes that there is a rational explanation for what is occurring. However, Will hands Eric a copy of a newspaper before unexpectedly running off that seems to confirm his story.

Eric’s sessions with Greg not only bring up memories of his session with Will, but also memories of his own traumatizing past. As these memories start to resurface, Eric’s world slowly starts to turn upside down as he begins experiencing unexplained occurrences of his own and the lines between reality and the paranormal slowly start to bleed together. While struggling with his own personal demons, Eric attempts to help Greg cope with his mysterious visions, but eventually realizes Greg is in grave danger. The story starts out leaning more towards the thriller genre – are these characters really experiencing something paranormal or is there a rational explanation for everything? – but things quickly ramp up into full on horror by the novella’s exhilarating conclusion.

Hains is currently a professor of counseling psychology and his real-world experience really helps the story of Dead Works shine. The psychological elements are well-explained, but at the same time are accessible to those who do not have any experience with psychology. This helps bring out the potential psychological ramifications of the clients’ claims and also gives the story credibility.

Some of the timeline transitions are a little jarring and take away from the story a little bit, but overall Hains has crafted a story that draws you in with an intriguing mystery and some pretty clever plot twists. The premise of Dead Works has been explored plenty of times before, but Hains manages to put his own spin on it and it is a very effective plot device. Dead Works may not be breaking new ground, but it is still a gripping story that will be sure to appeal to horror fans looking for a quick and haunting read.

Rating: 3.5/5

LINKS

Anthony Hains Official Website

Damnation Books Official Website

Purchase Dead Works on Amazon

thepariahs

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Creativia

Length: 80 Pages

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

This summer I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Erik Hofstatter’s debut short story collection, Moribund Tales. Hofstatter’s old-school writing style was a blast of fresh air and while some of the stories lacked the same emotional punch as others in the collection, it was clear that he was a talented author that had some interesting story ideas floating around in his imagination.

The Pariahs tells the story of two disfigured siblings who were torn from their homes in the middle of the night and transported to a stronghold deep in the hostile environment of Siberia. Part 1 starts off with Demyan, the older brother who plays his role well while trying to keep his sister Akilina safe in their dire predicament. He remembers being ripped from his home by two men dressed in radiation suits and armed with rifles before being knocked unconscious and awakening in a bleak concrete cell. The cell is devoid of any comforts; cracked walls surround him and the only source of light is a barred window that is well out of his reach.  His only sense of hope is the fact that he shares the cell with his sister and they were not separated after their abduction. Akilina is in rough shape however, suffering from an extreme fever and being unable to move due to sheer exhaustion.

While Demyan paces his cell thinking of an escape plan, he ruminates on the events that landed him and Akilina in this hellish prison. They were both born with deformities after a nuclear disaster that happened over 17 years ago. Demyan suffers from a hip injury while Akilina has facial deformities. Their father seemingly died while they were younger, leaving them to be raised by a mother who hated them and frequently mentioned how she wished they were both never born and tormented them with tales of an asylum where the government would store naughty children. It seems that place truly does exist.

His reflection is shattered when the guards come in and take his sister despite his attempts to stop them. The loss of his sister strips away what little hope Demyan has left and he simply bides his time until the men come for him as well. All of that changes however, when he hears a faint whisper coming from the drain telling him that his sister is still alive.

Demyan begins to converse with the mysterious voice and discovers her name is Taisiya, a girl who claims to have been born at the facility. Demyan derives hopes from his conversations with Taisiya, who seems to have a vast knowledge about the workings of the facility and his only source of information on what is happening to his sister. He develops an intimate connection with her and begins to view her as his only hope for escape. Despite Taisiya’s willingness to help Demyan, it seems that she is hiding something and Demyan takes a huge risk in trusting her. Can Taisiya be trusted? What exactly is her history with the mysterious facility? These are all important questions that linger throughout the story as Demyan sets out to save both himself and his sister from the sinister experiments taking place in the facility.

Hofstatter takes a bit of a different approach structurally in his new novella. He abandons the straightforward approach his stories followed in Moribund Tales in favor of a narrative built from the viewpoints of the three main characters. We follow each character through the evolution of their storyline before switching to the narratives of the other characters, but Hofstatter manages to weave these narratives together flawlessly. It would have been easy to lose focus throughout the novella, but Hofstatter never drops a plot thread and manages to connect the different viewpoints together to form an engaging story.

What I loved most about The Pariahs were the plot twists that Hofstatter sprinkles throughout the novella. When I first began reading, I thought I had a pretty good idea of where the story was going and this is one time where I was happy to be proven wrong. Hofstatter does a great job at creating characters that the reader can’t help but root for in their quest to escape the hellish confines of the facility. Despite being facing numerous hardships throughout their lives, Demyan and Akilina both display a remarkable resiliency and determination. Hofstatter’s characterization shines brightest in the section dedicated to telling Taisiya’s story. I don’t want to divulge too many details for those who have yet to read The Pariahs, but Taisiya is a very intriguing and complex character.

The only issue I had with The Pariahs is a relatively minor one. Despite an interesting premise and effective plot twists, the novella’s conclusion is pretty abrupt and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. I really hope that Hofstatter has plans to continue the story established in The Pariahs, because there are definitely interesting paths the story could take. I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Pariahs, a well-written and heartbreaking horror tale from one of my favorite up and coming writers who continues to grow with every new story.

Rating: 4/5

Links

Erik Hofstatter’s Official Website

Creativia Publishing’s Website

Purchase The Pariahs on Amazon

 

DarkServant_The_v4

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Length: 290 Pages

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Let’s face it, Halloween and autumn have a stranglehold on the horror genre. It seems every time autumn rolls around and the air begins to get chilly, we are overwhelmed with lists of books and movies that are meant to get us in the spirit. While Halloween may be the undisputed king of all things horror, Christmas has its own legend that rivals the terror of any of Halloweens traditional icons. That legend is Krampus, a cloven-footed beast that serves as the dark foil for Santa Claus. While Santa Claus gets all the publicity since he is responsible for spreading joy and bringing presents to children (how can you not like Santa Claus), Krampus is just as important a figure whose own past stretches back to pre-Christian traditions. He is the one responsible for those who find themselves on the “naughty” list and is tasked with punishing them until they repent. While many children may scoff at the idea of receiving coal in their stocking, I have a feeling none of them would laugh at the idea of an enormous beast armed with sharp talons, a heavy chain and various other weapons dragging them from their homes.

Matt Manochio uses this folklore as the basis for his debut novel, The Dark Servant, and goes right for the jugular with his opening chapter. It is Decemeber 5th, which is also known as “Krampusnacht”, and 18-year-old Travis Reardon is on his way to school. He seemingly has it all – football scholarships from numerous Division I schools, a beautiful girlfriend and a brand new car. His idyllic life is smashed when he discovers that the source of the foul odor he smelled all morning and the growls coming from the forest belong to a hulking beast that seems ripped right from his nightmares. It smashes his car with a giant chain before using its talons to rip Travis from his vehicle and effortlessly toss him into the large wooden crate strapped to its back. Travis Reardon becomes Krampus’ first unlikely victim and certainly won’t be his last.

The novel then focuses on 17-year-old Billy Schweitzer, a seemingly average teenager who lives in Hancock Township, New Jersey. After discovering his fellow classmates and older brother Tim  have gone missing under mysterious circumstances, Billy makes a startling discovery about the truth behind their disappearances while working on a project for his German class. Armed with little more than the folklore behind the Krampus and their wits, Billy, his longtime crush Maria and his best friend Mike decide to investigate the disappearances and soon find themselves face to face with an unstoppable evil.

The Dark Servant is a highly entertaining debut effort and has many strengths beyond the originality of basing the story around Krampus. Manochio does an excellent job of utilizing pacing in this novel. Krampus literally bursts onto the scene in the opening chapter and is a constant presence throughout the novel, eliminating any potential lulls in the action. The characters are also well-developed in the novel. Billy is a character that anyone can relate to, whether they are currently a teenager or just someone who remembers those years well. He struggles with the divorce of his parents, living up to the reputation of his older brother Tim and dealing with the embarrassment of being turned down by his longtime crush. Manochio also does an excellent job of bringing Krampus to life and putting his own spin on the mythology behind the creature. Manochio sticks fairly close to the traditional hallmarks of the Krampus legend – his appearance, the rutens left on the porches of his victims and the chain among other things – but elevates him beyond being simply a frightening adversary by giving him a distinctive personality complete with a warped sense of morality and a dark sense of humor.

Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant is an absolute blast to read and horror fans looking to get into the holiday spirit will absolutely want to pick this one up! I can’t wait to see what other stories Manochio has planned for the future as he is definitely a talented new author to keep an eye on.

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Matt Manochio Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase The Dark Servant on Amazon

Today I am happy to be hosting a guest post by Samhain Horror author Matt Manochio as part of the blog tour for his debut novel, The Dark Servant. Matt talks about one of the only novels that managed to scare him as he was reading it. Check out Matt’s post below to see what book that was and the inspiration it provided for The Dark Servant! Be sure to check out the end of this feature for details on a pretty cool giveaway from Matt Manochio and Hook of a Book Media & Publicity! My review for The Dark Servant will be posted on December 3, so be sure to stop back and check out what I thought of the book.

 

DarkServant_The_v4

Thank you to The Horror Bookshelf for hosting me and for reviewing my book. As I write this, I don’t know what The Horror Bookshelf thinks of The Dark Servant. We’ll find out soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to highlight the one novel that, as I sat reading it, scared me to the point where my pulse raced.

Books typically don’t spook me. Movies scare me because they provide the visuals and audios—books don’t. Authors provide the words and you use them to paint the picture and turn the phonograph.

Frank Peretti’s Monster, came out in 2005, and I didn’t pick it up until a few years later. I’d never heard of either the author or book, but the cover caught my attention and I read the jacket copy. It intrigued me enough to buy. Mission accomplished on the publisher’s side. Here’s a bare-bones description:

A husband and wife venture into Idaho woodlands. They camp out the first night and hear unholy screams in the darkness. The husband witnesses a gigantic beast snatch his wife and bound into the darkened forest. Now he’s hell bent on rescuing her.

There’s certainly more to it than that, and truth be told I don’t rank it anywhere near the top of my favorite books list. But Frank did something only one other author—Stephen King, in Pet Sematarymanaged to do. And Frank did it better.

The Pet Sematary scene was simple enough: Louis and Jud went walking in the woods (at night, of course) to the graveyard. Stephen’s description of their journey through the dark woods gave me the chills. (Truth be told, I was in either middle or high school when I read it, and didn’t bother finishing the book. And it wasn’t because those few lines frightened me into not wanting to keep going. It didn’t hold my attention. Hey, it happens.)

Monster scared me when the campers first hear pained cries made by some unseen horror in the woods. Frank wrote it in such a way that I could hear the screams—or at least imagine the terror those campers felt not knowing what made them. Frank’s description of those tormented cries, and the frightened campers’ reactions to them, let loose the butterflies in my stomach and chest. My house was quiet, nobody was home when I read it. My attention was on that book and that scene. And it creeped me out. I remember thinking at the time: this doesn’t happen to me. It amazed me that Frank was able to pull it off. I don’t want reprint the passages here word for word. I want you to discover them for yourself, if you’re so inclined. (And yes, I finished Monster.)

I attempt to pay homage to Frank early in my book. Monster was running through my mind as I wrote the scene in December 2012. And I honestly hope it jangles readers’ nerves as they read.

– Matt Manochio

Matt tour graphic 1

About Krampus

December 5 is Krampus Nacht — Night of the Krampus, a horned, cloven-hoofed monster who in pre-Christian European cultures serves as the dark companion to Saint Nicholas, America’s Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas rewards good children and leaves bad ones to Krampus, who kidnaps and tortures kids unless they repent.

 The Dark Servant Synopsis and Praise

Santa’s not the only one coming to town …

It’s older than Christ and has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in snow. Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy’s devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, imperiling his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why his supposedly innocent high school peers have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint’s ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.

The Dark Servant is everything a thriller should be—eerie, original and utterly engrossing!”
Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times bestselling author

“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted, Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant has taken an esoteric fairy tale from before Christ and sets it in the modern world of media-saturated teenagers—creating a clockwork mechanism of terror that blends Freddy Krueger with the Brothers Grimm! Highly recommended!”
Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor

“Matt Manochio is a writer who’ll be thrilling us for many books to come.”
Jim DeFelice, New York Times bestselling co-author of American Sniper

“Matt Manochio has taken a very rare fairytale and turned it into a real page-turner. Matt has constructed a very real and believable force in Krampus and has given it a real journalistic twist, and he has gained a fan in me!”
David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author of the Event Group Series

“I scarcely know where to begin. Is this a twisted parental fantasy of reforming recalcitrant children? Is it Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets Nightmare on Elm Street? Is it a complex revision of the Medieval morality play? In The Dark Servant, Matt Manochio has taken the tantalizing roots of Middle Europe’s folklore and crafted a completely genuine modern American horror story. This is a winter’s tale, yes, but it is also a genuinely new one for our modern times. I fell for this story right away. Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.”
Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead and Dog Days

“Just in time for the season of Good Will Toward Men, Matt Manochio’s debut delivers a fresh dose of Holiday Horror, breathing literary life into an overlooked figure of legend ready to step out of Santa’s shadow. Prepared to be thrilled in a new, old-fashioned way.”

Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Damnable, Diabolical and The Angel of the Abyss

“In The Dark Servant, Manochio spins a riveting tale of a community under siege by a grotesque, chain-clanking monster with cloven-hooves, a dry sense of wit, and a sadistic predilection for torture. As Christmas nears and a snowstorm paralyzes the town, the terrifying Krampus doesn’t just leave switches for the local bullies, bitches, and badasses, he beats the living (editor’s note: rhymes with skit) out of them! Manochio balances a very dark theme with crackling dialogue, fast-paced action, and an engaging, small-town setting.”
Lucy Taylor, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Safety of Unknown Cities

“A fast-paced thrill-ride into an obscure but frightful Christmas legend. Could there be a dark side to Santa? And if so, what would he do to those kids who were naughty? Matt Manochio provides the nail-biting answer with The Dark Servant.”
John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Violet Eyes

“A high-octane blast of horror. A surefire hit for fans of monsters and gore.”
Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown

“Have yourself a scary, nightmare-y little Christmas with The Dark Servant. Matt Manochio’s holiday horror brings old world charm to rural New Jersey, Krampus-style.”
Jon McGoran, author of Drift

About Matt Manochio

MattHeadshot

Photo Credit: Eric Schnare

Matt Manochio is the author of The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing, November 4, 2014). He is a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association, and he hates writing about himself in the third person but he’ll do it anyway. He spent 12 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter at the Morris County, N.J., Daily Record, and worked for one year as an award-winning page designer at the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail. He currently works as a full-time editor and a freelance writer. The highlights of his journalism career involved chronicling AC/DC for USA Today: in 2008, when the band kicked off its Black Ice world tour, and in 2011 when lead singer Brian Johnson swung by New Jersey to promote his autobiography. For you hardcore AC/DC fans, check out the video on my YouTube channel.To get a better idea about my path toward publication, please read my Writer’s Digest guest post: How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller. Matt’s a dedicated fan of bullmastiffs, too. (He currently doesn’t own one because his house is too small. Bullmastiff owners understand this all too well.)

Matt doesn’t have a favorite author, per se, but owns almost every Dave Barry book ever published, and he loves blending humor into his thrillers when warranted. Some of his favorite books include Salem’s LotJurassic Park, The Hobbit, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

When it comes to writing, the only advice he can give is to keep doing it, learn from mistakes, and regardless of the genre, read Chris Roerden’s Don’t Sabotage Your Submission (2008, Bella Rosa Books).

Matt grew up in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and son. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in history/journalism.

See more about Matt and his book on his website: http://www.mattmanochio.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter (@MattManochio) and Pinterest.

Tour Giveaway!

For everyone! Create a Pinterest board by choosing one of the following themes: Krampus, Old World Legends, Vintage Holiday, Old World Christmas, Christmas Around the World, Traditions and Legends,  Myths, Monsters, and Horror, or something very similar.

Second rule: You must pin Matt’s book cover and Amazon purchase link or Samhain Horror Purchase link.

Third Rule: Follow Matt Manochio and Erin Al-Mehairi.

Extra points for pinning extra things about Matt, such as tour page, articles, etc.

Your board will be judged on the above PLUS your creativity and effort in the project! Send Erin at hookofabook@hotmail.com your Pinterest page to enter by Dec. 8. Of course you can continue to use it through the Holiday if you wish!

Prize: A “Santa Checked His List and I’m on the Naughty Side” package. This will include your choice of Krampus themed apparel (t-shirt or sweatshirt, men or women, visuals to come) and a signed paperback of the book.

There might be shipping limitations. Check back to tour page before entering if you live outside the U.S. for updated information.

Example:

http://www.pinterest.com/erinalmehairi/its-old-world-christmas/

And a board about Matt:

http://www.pinterest.com/erinalmehairi/the-dark-servant-matt-manochio/

Giveaway for Reviewers!

Anyone on the tour, or outside the tour, who reviews The Dark Servant on Amazon and GoodReads and sends their review link into Erin (Publicist for Matt Manochio) at hookofabook@hotmail.com, now through Dec. 31, 2014, will be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Perfect Edge Books

Length: 435 Pages

Review copy provided by author in exchange for an honest review

This year has been full of truly original and entertaining horror novels and Brandon Tietz’s latest, Good Sex, Great Prayers, definitely falls into that category. Focusing on the small town of Pratt, Tietz’s novel tells the story of Father Johnstone, a devout pastor who finds himself losing his congregation after he begins exhibiting strange behavior that is seemingly out of his control. He dispenses vulgar marriage advice, delivers blasphemous sermons and finds himself in compromising situations that find him questioning his health and sanity. Things begin to escalate when Johnstone begins having nightmares, battling insomnia and finally passing out at the Pratt bake sale with blood pouring from his nose. Father Johnstone is a pillar of the community and his out of character behavior hints at a sinister force at work.

Madeline Paige is the town’s newest resident and comes to Pratt after her reclusive aunt passes away and leaves her all of her possessions. Madeline is a young woman who is seen as an outsider and has already traveled around much of the world despite her young age. The men of Pratt are all infatuated with her and the women of the town are jealous of her adventures around the world, often stopping by for a glass of wine to listen to stories of her travels and share gossip. Despite Pratt’s reluctance to fully embrace outsiders, Madeline seems to have a hold over the townspeople and seamlessly slips into the fabric that makes up the community. She develops a close relationship with the pastor despite their numerous ideological differences and it is clear that she has secrets that may just hold the key to who or what is hellbent on ruining Johnstone’s life.

The book is broken up into various segments: The narrative that follows Father Johnstone and the events going on in Pratt, the inner monologues of a mysterious man who inflicts horrific violence on sex workers across the country, excerpts on fertilization rituals and sermons delivered by the truck stop preacher Billy Burke. The structure of the novel may seem a bit random at first, but every section is connected and that becomes clearer throughout the novel. The pacing of Good Sex, Great Prayers is what I would categorize as a “slow-burn”. Tietz builds the tension and mystery that courses through Good Sex, Great Prayers slowly, giving little hints here and there through the struggles that Johnstone faces and the history lessons Madeline gives to Johnstone later in the novel. However, once all of the sections converge and the reader makes the connection of how they all fit together, the novel hits full throttle and has an explosive conclusion that rewards close reading and is one of the most memorable I have read in awhile.

Tietz does an excellent job of building the setting of Pratt in this novel, and that is one of the most effective aspects of this novel. Tietz brings the town of Pratt to life and you feel like you actually know the town and its residents. Secondary characters are built up to an impressive degree and Good Sex, Great Prayers is one of the first novels that fully drew me in from a world-building standpoint since Stephen King’s Under The Dome.

It is hard to talk about some of the major plot points of Good Sex, Great Prayers without spoiling the journey for readers as one of the strong points of the novel is the sense of mystery Tietz manages to build throughout the course of the novel. As a longtime horror fan, I have been exposed to just about every form of monster, ghost, creature, and other source of evil under the sun, so it is hard to genuinely be in the dark about the antagonist of a novel. Often times I at least have an inkling of who or what is responsible for causing havoc in a story long before reaching the final page, but Tietz’s novel cleverly disguises the source of the evil destroying Pratt for most of the novel. What I can say is this – Tietz manages to take a pretty well known horror subject and offer a fresh spin on the mythology behind it.

While some people may not like the sexual or religious elements found in Good Sex, Great Prayers,  there is no denying that Tietz is an extraordinary writer who can tell one hell of a story. I am definitely looking forward to reading whatever Tietz comes up with next, and I hope he has more horror stories left to tell because he could offer many new and fresh perspectives.

Rating: 4.5/5

LINKS

Brandon Tietz’s Official Website

Perfect Edge Books

Purchase Good Sex, Great Prayers on Amazon