Posts Tagged ‘All Smoke Rises’

I am a bit late with my 2016 list as the first month of 2017 is just about over, but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. 2016 was a slow year for The Horror Bookshelf and I didn’t hit any of my goals that I made this time last year, but it was for a happy reason! The last few months of 2016 were some of the happiest in my life as my wife and I had our first child. The blog has slowed down considerably, but I do not plan on closing The Horror Bookshelf. I fell a bit behind, but I plan on starting 2017 off catching up on some reviews I owe and then hopefully getting back into a normal routine. I have met so many great people through this blog and it would take forever to name everyone, but I want to thank all of my friends, authors, and readers for sticking with me and offering me encouragement and support. My main goal for this site has always been to have fun, interact with other horror fans, and give back to the authors whose art has inspired me and helped me through some rough patches. That goal remains the same and I hope I can continue the blog for many more years.

Being that I fell a bit behind, some of the books featured here haven’t had their full reviews run yet, but they are on the way. I still want to recognize the authors and their works for helping make 2016 an incredible year for this horror fan. Here is a list of my favorite reads from 2016. I decided to go with a Top 15 for novels, a Top 10 for novellas and a Top 5 for Anthologies and Collections. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I hope you find some great new reads on this list!

Novels

1. Ronald Malfi The Night Parade 

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2. John C. Foster Mister White 

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3. Kristopher Rufty Desolation 

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4. Jonathan Janz Children of the Dark

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5. Justin Cronin The City of Mirrors

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6. Damien Angelica Walters Paper Tigers

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7. Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason Mayan Blue

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8. D. Alexander Ward Beneath Ash & Bone

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9. Hunter Shea The Jersey Devil

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10. Joe Hill The Fireman

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11. Kristin Dearborn Stolen Away

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12. Robert E. Dunn A Living Grave

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13. Stephen Kozeniewski Hunter of the Dead

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14. Joe Schwartz Stabco

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15. John Quick Consequences

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Novellas

1. Adam Howe Tijuana Donkey Showdown

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2. Glenn Rolfe Chasing Ghosts

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3. Josh Malerman A House At The Bottom of a Lake

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4. Mark Matthews All Smoke Rises

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5. Robert E. Dunn Motorman

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6. John F.D. Taff The Desolated Orchard

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7. Kristin Dearborn Woman in White

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9. David Bernstein Blue Demon

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10. Lucas Mangum Mania

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Anthologies and Collections

1. I Can Taste The Blood

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2. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories

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3. Richard Thomas Tribulations

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4. Brian Moreland Blood Sacrifices

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5. Glenn Rolfe Out of Range

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Length: 113 Pages

Publisher: Wicked Run Press

Release Date: February 8, 2016

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review

All Smoke Rises opens with a stunning prologue that puts readers in the shoes of a doctor at the Sharepoint Psychiatric Hospital. You still feel the crushing weight of the mental illnesses of your patients – surrounded daily by the sounds of orderlies chasing patients through the halls – even after 17 years on the job. You walk out into the hallway after hearing yet another struggle and the latest rowdy patient, who is covered in blood, looks directly into your eyes and says, “You. You let him go. You did it. Now you must read and learn what happened”. It is a proclamation that would make most people freeze in terror, but it is a situation you have witnessed thousands of times before. The man checked himself in and no one has a clue who he is because there is no ID or cellphone on him, all he had on him was a bag crammed full of papers.

You drive home reflecting on your day-to-day life, consumed by the stress of the job and doing whatever you can to keep both the darkness and loneliness at bay. It seems like the same routine you have followed your whole career until the night the man from Sharepoint breaks into your home. Fearing for your life, you are stunned when the man makes a simple request following a string of strange ramblings – he slaps down a large pile of papers and demands you read what he wrote and see the truth. This is when you learn about Lilly’s tragic story and how she transformed into what she is now. Right before a tragic scene, he demands you read the pages until the end because you must. This opening is meant to grab your attention instantly and it works to chilling effect.

It is with that insistent urge to read the pages of this mysterious man’s story that kick off the story of All Smoke Rises. Readers of Milk-Blood will remember the tragic story of Oscar and All Smoke Rises opens with his mom, Crystal. She is at the parole office to visit with Agent Hastings, an officer that has quite the reputation among all of those who are assigned to her. Crystal knows that Hastings would love nothing more than to see her behind bars again, but she is determined to never go back again. Crystal was sentenced to five years in prison for child endangerment following the death of her young son Oscar and though she is out, she is haunted by the guilt of that fateful night. She still lives with Avanti and helps him with his business despite the fact that getting caught would ruin her life forever. She still finds herself staring at her former home, the site of Oscar’s death and haunted by the memories of his loss.

Matthews offers an unflinching look at the darkness that lurks on streets like Brentwood and we finally learn the fates of both Jarvis and Lilly following the events of Milk-Blood. Jarvis is still hanging around, though he is even more terrifying than when readers last saw him. There are vicious attacks on drug users that frequent the area, never to be heard from again. Those attacks are the work of Jarvis, who kills drug users to get Lilly the blood she needs to survive. Lilly is a shell of her former self, but she holds a power that was not present in her former life. When Lilly is in the throes of her withdraw, she endures horrific pain, but that is only the beginning of her frightening new reality. Lilly hears the voices of those who have long since passed on from the hardened street of Brentwood, voices that never stop and implore her to do all kinds of things. She is able to hear them, but unable to communicate back.

However, Jarvis knows how to pull Lilly back from the brink, an act that fills her with remorse, but one that is necessary. The one thing that helps keep her going is the thought of her Uncle Nelson, who still lives on that same street, feeling no remorse for his decision that led Lilly down a path of pain and death. Lilly is consistently straddling the line between life and death and when she slips closer to death, she is plagued by disturbing visions. Jarvis still commits acts of extreme violence and is prone to outbursts, but providing for Lilly keeps him from going completely off the rails. It doesn’t take long for Crystal to cross paths with Lilly and they form a fateful bond that will transform both of their lives forever.

Once I started All Smoke Rises, I knew I was in for a treat and I actually read it in one sitting. The reason for my feverish reading was that I loved Milk-Blood. I couldn’t wait to see what happened to these characters and how they attempted to move on after the violent and crushing aftermath of the first novel. The more I read, I felt compelled to finish the story. The prologue was effective because it makes you believe that you are a part of the story and you feel like you need to finish what has been started. Matthews is a talented writer and his ability to capture your emotions with his dark prose is commendable.

Mark Matthews offered up one of the most original concepts in recent memory with the books in the Milk-Blood world and All Smoke Rises is even better than the first. There are a lot of things to love about this novella – the originality and the ability to take real-world horror and blend it with the supernatural to chilling effect. While Milk-Blood focused more on real life horrors with only dashes of the supernatural, All Smoke Rises ramps up the supernatural element and it is completely terrifying. While the concept of Lilly and Jarvis’ affliction is his own creation, I thought it was cool that Matthews takes familiar horror ideas and warps them into something new. While Lilly’s need for blood to survive instantly makes me think of vampires, she is a truly unique character that you will definitely want to read about. Mark Matthews captures the darkness that lurks in the very neighborhoods we inhabit and sheds a light on a very serious problem and the events that cause them.

I loved the way Matthews handled the structure of Milk-Blood and he does some interesting things with All Smoke Rises as well. Matthews puts the reader right into the action by utilizing a 2nd person point of view in the opening portion of the novella. The reader is not merely a spectator but a key character in the sadness and darkness that permeates every page. I also liked that Matthews chose to switch viewpoints throughout the story, it is a great move that allows the reader to see certain scenes from many different perspectives.

While All Smoke Rises is a sequel to the events of Milk-Blood, it works well as a standalone story. Matthews recaps the events of Milk-Blood in an interesting way and although you don’t need to read it to know whats going on, I recommend it. Although a lot of the moments in All Smoke Rises are full of sadness and desperation, there is also a glimmer of hope. I highly recommend all horror fans picking up a copy of All Smoke Rises, it is a frightening and emotional story that will stick with you long after you finish it.

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Mark Matthews’ Official Website

Purchase All Smoke Rises from Amazon or Barnes & Noble