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review 2016-04-23 00:00
All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux
All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux - Mark Matthews,Kealan Patrick Burke The perfect sequel to Mark Matthews urban horror tale of drug addiction and extreme dysfunction, “Milk-Blood”.

I didn’t think it could get much bleaker than MB. I was wrong. Lilly is back. So is the heartbreak, tragedy and shear brutality. There are no rainbows and unicorns in this one and there shouldn’t be. It’s not that kind of tale. There is redemption here, but don’t expect to go tiptoeing thru the tulips after reading this one. Under the desk, curled up in a ball, sucking your thumb, is more like it.

It’s easy to get terrified by the urban inner city horror fiction that Mark brings to life with All Smoke Rises while I sit on my couch in a middle class neighborhood with my 2.5 kids and company car in the driveway. It’s easy to ignore the mental illnesses and addictions, the dilapidated living conditions and brutal realities kids born of addiction face every day. It’s easy to be desensitized and look away from the horrific living conditions and circumstance 40 minutes down the road from my little American dream. Mark shatters all that shit. Shatters it. That’s what Milk-Blood and All Smoke Rises do. That’s their job and they do it very well.

A Solid 4.5 Stars and Highly Recommended!

*I was given a review copy of this audiobook from the author in exchange for an honest review and this was it.

P.S. I failed to mention the excellent quality of the audiobook of this one. Lori Faiella killed it. I sometimes struggle with women narrators and I don’t know why, but Lori was absolutely fantastic.
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review 2016-02-22 09:51
All Smoke Rises review
ALL SMOKE RISES: MILK-BLOOD REDUX - Elderlemon Design,Julie Hutchings,Mark Matthews

The sequel to Milk-Blood: A Tale of Urban Horror picks up pretty much exactly where the original left off. Lilly is not dead, but rather occupies some kind of nether space between worlds. She is brought back by the "loving" administrations of the undead(?) Jervis who injects her with heroin (often of the milk-blood variety) to get her to briefly come back to life - a state in which she is no longer tormented by the words of her long dead mother. Other characters become involved - all of whom are equally lost and doomed - as the book races toward it's elliptical conclusion, where the POV author dumps Lilly's body on you, the reader. Yes, that's right, the wraparound sections are bravely written in the second-person perspective ...

There is a great deal going on Matthew's sequel, and most of it is human spirit-quenchingly dark. Honestly, if you thought Milk-Blood: A Tale of Urban Horror was bleak and nasty, Matthews takes such themes to a whole new level with All Smoke Rises. That said there is a ray of hope toward the end of the narrative, which Matthews himself notes in his Acknowledgements section as being a reaction to how fatalistic his writing was being construed as his fan-base.

Regardless of whether you appreciate this ray of hope or find it tonally inconsistent with the rest of the story, Matthews has a way with words that puts you in the thick of the action. His knowledge of addiction permeates through every page, and for this alone, I would have enjoyed the work. The fact it is also a compelling piece which mixes supernatural themes with the "everyday" horror of heroin addiction is its virtual icing on the cake.

That said, it's not an easy read for these very reasons, and as such, I hesitate to call it an enjoyable one. But dark themes in my entertainment is what I tend to crave, and for that reason, the film version of Matthews' world cannot come quickly enough.

3.5 Clearly Visible Track Marks for All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1478811103?book_show_action=false
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review 2016-02-14 10:56
Review of All Smoke Rises: Blood-Milk Redux by Mark Matthews
ALL SMOKE RISES: MILK-BLOOD REDUX - Elderlemon Design,Julie Hutchings,Mark Matthews
All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux is the awesome sequel to Mark Matthews' Milk-Blood, which was one of my favorite reads of 2015. I was lucky enough to be able to beta read this in its infancy and see it turn into the beautiful, haunting, gem of urban horror that fittingly compliments its predecessor. 

"Real truth might burn your eyes right out."

When we last saw Lilly her story seemed to be over. A sad life followed by an even sadder ending. But can that much pain ever really die? Where does the smoke go when it rises? Lilly's story is one that cannot be contained and won't be ignored. A story that drove one man insane now lies in the hands of a psychiatrist whose patient just killed himself on her kitchen floor, demanding that she read it.

"And you read. Because you must."

Lilly's story is one of addiction, of desperation, and of heartbreak. It's Crystal's story, Oscar's mom who lives with the guilt of accidentally killing her only son and the sad reality of what her life has become, living with an angry drug dealer for a boyfriend and the constant threat of parole violation. It's the story of Oscar, dead but still inhabiting the house that ended his life -- the house that Lily now also resides. It's the story of Jervis, Lilly's schizophrenic, heroin-addicted Papa who feeds her milk-blood to bring her back and whose devotion to his less-than-normal daughter both stokes and feeds his madness. It's a story of Lilly's mother who calls out to her from her burial plot in the back yard, calling her to come home.

All smoke rises...

The story is told, as it had to be. The truth contained within these pages, that ruined so many lives, is now up to you to face or forget. Will the blood on your floor be for naught? When the smoke rises, will Lilly's story rise with it? Ashes as fleeting as her short broken life... Or will you write another chapter? It's your story now.

The bonus to this already incredible read is the introduction by Kealan Patrick Burke, who has, in a few pages, summed up the genre that I love in words that make me love him even more. 

 

© 2016 by Andi Rawson of Andreya's Asylum
 
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review 2016-02-09 14:01
Harrowing but essential reading
ALL SMOKE RISES: MILK-BLOOD REDUX - Elderlemon Design,Julie Hutchings,Mark Matthews

I completed this short book in one sitting and I feel exhausted by the process. This is a hard look at the life of a drug user/users and the effects such behaviour has on society and friends and family. It is a harrowing tale made more poignant by the fact that the author is a trained counsellor and someone who has worked in the field of mental health and addiction for many years and is therefore knowledgeable and skilled to produce a work of such deep thought and feeling.

 

The term milk-blood comes from a process by which one addict extracts the drug rich blood from another and in turn uses this to feed the craving of a fellow junkie by injection. An even more horrific process is the ability to boil a deceased’s ashes and use this again as a form of high. You do not have to look very far to see just where the horror of this story resides and the ultimate effect for the reader is to make for an uncomfortable yet essential read.

 

Crystal is a drug user who has just been released from prison following the negligence and death of her son Oscar who burnt in a house fire whilst she was elsewhere feeding her drug habit. “What was he thinking just before he died?. The image of the crawling body remained. She kept watching. It was no illusion. It did not disappear but moved like a half-smashed insect crawling for safety. This is what Oscar would have looked like had he busted out of the locked door of his bedroom and escaped the flames.”

 

Lilly is the 10 year old child of drug offender Poppa Jervis, regularly injected with milk-blood and heroin, she to is a slave to addiction. “He wouldn’t let her stop living. Even when her eyes closed for so long, her black eyelids looking so at rest, he knew what to do to open them again. The smack. The milk-blood. He filled her up with what he could find, and then went for more.”

 

We follow the story of Crystal and Lilly as we are granted a glimpse into the drug fuelled world of residents of Brentwood, and the substance abuse that is a part of their everyday lives. This is in no way an easy read and yet the author Mark Mathews has managed to create an unforgettable story with deep social significance and one that I urge you to read.

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text 2016-02-08 13:00
All Smoke Rises by Mark Matthews-Intro by Kealan Patrick Burke!

IT'S RELEASE DAY!

 

I'm excited to share with you the cover, (which you can click to purchase) and below that the AMAZING intro from Kealan Patrick Burke!

 

 

BURNING QUESTIONS: AN INTRODUCTION TO ALL SMOKE RISES

by Kealan Patrick Burke

 

 

        A reader once asked me if I thought it was possible to be a horror writer without experiencing any kind of emotional trauma. It was an interesting question and also, like most interesting questions, rather tough to answer. I do think it’s possible to write horror without having had a hard life or any skeletons in the closet, but who among us is lucky enough to claim that we’ve never endured death, heartbreak, fear, or loss of some kind? I know plenty of horror writers who are jovial, happy people, many of whom had “perfect childhoods” (a description I am predisposed to find suspicious) and seemingly great lives. But life, by its very nature, trains us to be horror writers. The fears, anxieties, concerns that are waiting for you every time you open your eyes and prepare to face the day, are really all the tools you need to open a Word document and start to explore the dark corners of both your psyche and the world around you. 

 

 

         And if somehow, by some miracle you weren’t raised by demons or suffocated by death and depression and your past contains no trace of dark blemishes that have stained your soul, well, you can still turn on the news and see how nightmarish life can be for people who are not quite so blessed.

 

 

  As long as there are people, there will be horror, and those who feel compelled to analyze it. This leads to another question and one I get asked almost as often as the dreaded “Where do you get your ideas?” and that’s: “In a world this fucked up, how can you justify writing horror?” The answer to this one, at least, is simple: “To understand it.” With so much darkness and hate and violence and madness in the world, sometimes the only way to try to make sense of it is to personify it as a conquerable monster. We can’t keep people from being massacred in Africa or Serbia or inside our own schools and movie theaters, but we can drive a stake through the heart of a vampire, vanquish a werewolf with a silver bullet, or lop off the head of a shambling zombie. It’s horror we can control, even if that just means closing the book. It’s a door we are allowed to close.

 

        

        We have no such power over real life.

 

        Which brings me to the book you hold in your hands now.

 

        Mark Matthews’ All Smoke Rises perfectly encapsulates horror as a reflection of real life.

 

        When it was first released, some reviewers had difficulty with the subject matter—that of a child needing frequent injections of heroin to stay alive—and the fact that there are few, if any, sympathetic characters. 

         

         I find this somewhat baffling, and these are two of the novella’s characteristics that most endeared me to it.

         

         Horror fiction has always been most powerful when it subverts, subjugates and scrutinizes the predominant fears and anxieties of a given time period. In a way I found reminiscent of another suffocating and gloriously dark genre piece, Darren Aronofsky’s film Requiem for a Dream, All Smoke Rises trains a cold, unwavering eye on addiction, the circumstances and desperation that lead to it, and the far-reaching consequences of that addiction. Is there any horror more devastating and tragic than the death of a child, or of a young girl being born into addiction and made to be its slave?

 

        A few weeks ago, I saw a news story about a nine-year-old boy here in Columbus who suffers from the inescapable compulsion to scream, throw fits, and bite people whenever they get close to him. He can’t concentrate when there is any kind of stimuli nearby, he cannot relate to people, even his parents, and he has to be medicated to sleep. And why? Because his mother took heroin when he was in utero. The child has a counselor, endures ongoing therapy, but it seems as if there is little that can be done to improve his condition. The boy was doomed before he was even born. He lives in a shitty, rundown neighborhood where low income families are shunted, only for it to become a no-go area when desperate people turn to crime to make ends meet. “Problem zones” the city calls them and it’s exceedingly rare that anyone takes responsibility for the creation of those zones in the first place. 

       

       One of the things I loved most about All Smoke Rises  is that—and this is the case with everything from Frankenstein to Ringu—the monster at the heart of the story is also the victim and as such we are horrified even as we are forced to understand and even sympathize with them. In Matthews’ story, like that poor kid from Columbus, Lilly didn’t ask to be born an addict, and now, emerged from the chrysalis of death, she has no choice but to feed on the tainted blood of others to keep the pain from tearing her asunder. Her condition is not presented as a metaphorical one, but that hardly dissuades the perceptive reader from divining plenty of subtext herein. Lily is her neighborhood, she is the cost of society’s blind eye, the product of a failed system. Lily is the victim, a monster of our own creation. Children are so often at the mercy of their parents that it’s impossible not to feel sympathy for the child, charred skin, dead eyes and homicidal henchmen notwithstanding. She is a product of her environment, of the careless decisions of others, her life shaped for her long before she was born. By us, because we are the true monster.

 

      These are things everyone knows, but when it comes to the horrors of addiction, of poverty and the consequences of dubious choices, Mark Matthews may know more than most. Per his official bio, he is “a licensed professional counselor who has worked in mental health and substance abuse treatment for over 20 years”. If you consider all that he must have seen and heard in those two decades, I think you’ll agree that we are fortunate All Smoke Rises is short and only as horrifying as it is. And make no mistake, when it comes to citations of true horror, you’d be hard pressed to find a deeper and more challenging example than you will here. Matthews knows the heartbreak and tragedy of his subject. By the time you’re done reading this, you will too, and that’s something you should see, even if you don’t want to, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and creeps under your skin like milk-blood.

 

 

      Because that, too, is the definition of horror.                                                                                       

 

 

Kealan Patrick Burke

Columbus, Ohio

January 2016

 

If that doesn't convince you to go buy this book now, I don't know what will!!

 

 

 

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