Posts Tagged ‘Mark Matthews’

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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FinalKDPintroAll Smoke Rises4 - Digital

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

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I am excited to help spread the word that Mark Matthews’ stellar novel Milk-Blood has been optioned for film by Monkey Knuckle Films! I am extremely happy for Mark on his huge accomplishment, he is one hell of a writer and I highly recommend picking up his books. The option also includes the rights to The Damage Done, a prequel story that introduces readers to the mentally ill heroin addict Jarvis. I remember when I read Milk-Blood last year and I was impressed with the originality and rawness of the story. Matthews’ strong characterization and descriptions of Brentwood – a dangerous part of Detroit that is filled with abandoned, burned-out homes and drug dealers – seem like they will translate extremely well to the big screen. Here is the announcement:

MILK-BLOOD, a novel by Mark Matthews, has been optioned for a full length feature film by Monkey Knuckle Films. The option includes rights to the short story, The Damage Done, a companion piece to the novel.

MILK-BLOOD is true reality horror with supernatural elements that only serve to make it more believable,” explains executive producer Michael Bradford. “The story will certainly hold an audience.”

MILK-BLOOD is the story of a ten-year-old girl named Lilly, born with a heart defect, who lives on a Detroit street where poverty, urban despair, addiction, and both the living and the dead threaten her outside her doorstep. The author has tapped into this experience as a social worker to create what one review site calls, “an urban legend in the making.”

Monkey Knuckle Films is a newly created LLC, but the founders have a long history of horror, and have worked with actors such as Sid Haig from The Devil’s Rejects, and much of the cast of The Evil Dead. They are currently in post-production for the horror film, “Elder Island“, set for release in 2016. MILK-BLOOD was a semi-finalist for the 2015 Best Kindle Book Awards and is available in paperback, Kindle, or audiobook on Amazon.

I praised the novel in my review and the balance of real-life horror and supernatural made this one of the most original horror novels I have read in years. I didn’t formally publish a “Best of” list last year, but if I did, Milk-Blood would have easily been near the top. I promise that I am not just saying that because Mark was kind enough to put my blurb on the cover, which has to rank as one of the coolest achievements in The Horror Bookshelf’s history. If you want to get a head start on the story, pick up a copy of The Damage Done, which is currently being offered as a free download on Amazon. You won’t be disappointed!

Mark’s announcement also comes with a few other surprises for fans of his work. He revealed that a sequel to MILK-BLOOD is scheduled for release in early 2016. Here is what he had to say: “The sequel is some twisted material,” says Matthews, “but with a purpose. Horror without heart doesn’t appeal to me, and I don’t think to many readers.” In addition to the big news, Mark is offering up a free download of Milk-Blood to the first ten people to email him at  WickedRunPress@gmail.com . No word yet on distribution for the film, but I will definitely be watching when the film is released! Be sure to stop by Mark’s blog for more information about his writing and check out some of his other great books on his Amazon page.

 

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Publisher: Wicked Run Press

Release Date: July 9, 2014

Length: 157 Pages

Submitted by the author for review

Synopsis: Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can’t stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly’s true father, and both want their daughter back.

Milk-Blood is the newest horror novel from author Mark Matthews and focuses on Lily, a young girl who lost her mother and was born with a heart defect that made her stand out from the other kids. Lily lives on a street called Brentwood, a dangerous part of Detroit that is filled with abandoned, burned-out homes and drug dealers. Anyone that has ever lived in or near a big city knows what these sections of towns are like. The news often reports the real-life horror stories of murders, theft and every other crime imaginable and for a lot of us, that is the extent of our exposure. However, with Milk-Blood, Matthews places the reader right in the middle of one of these neighborhoods and offers a vivid look at the daily struggles of Lily and her family.

Lily’s father, Zach, is dependent on the grandmother’s food stamps in order to keep the family functioning. Often times throughout the novel, characters are constantly stating that they just need to make it until the first of the month and everything will be fine, for a few weeks at least. These characters are fighting for their survival on a daily basis and it requires a delicate balancing act.

After reading Matthews’ previous novel, On The Lips of Children, I remember praising the way he brought the characters to life and his strong characterization definitely carries over into Milk-Blood. Zach is an interesting character due in part to his ambiguous sense of morality. He has done a lot of horrible things, but it’s hard to paint him as an entirely bad person. His dark past has cost people their lives and yet he raises Lily – a child that is not his own – the best he can and cares for his elderly mother, fighting to do whatever it takes to keep them safe. His attempts at doing the right thing does not offset the horrors he has inflicted, but it does make him a unique and interesting character.

I also loved the way Matthews’ portrays Lily’s home-life by utilizing a brief interaction with a school counselor to really hammer home the struggles Lily faces on a daily basis. The counselor begins to ask Lily questions about her home-life, but then becomes distracted and in this brief moment we get an idea of who Lily is and how she was raised. Lily uses this interruption to formulate a response and reminds herself not to mention how they use the stove to heat the home when the heat is shut off or how her dad hits walls when he is angry.

The real-life horrors depicted in Milk-Blood are enough to scare you, but when Matthews introduces the mentally ill heroin addict Jervis and adds in a dash of the supernatural, the story becomes downright terrifying. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say the last three chapters of Milk-Blood are guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat!

A few weeks ago I called Milk-Blood one of my “most anticipated summer reads” and now that I’ve read it, it far surpassed the hype I had built up in my mind. Milk-Blood is an incredibly powerful story and is one of the most original horror novels I have read in years. I highly recommend picking up a copy when it is released early next month, you won’t be disappointed!

Rating: 5/5

Links

Mark Matthews’ Official Website

Mark Matthews’ Amazon Page

Purchase Milk-Blood on Amazon

Summer is now just a month away which means it is time for me to begin winding down my “Most Anticipated Summer Reads” series! Last month’s installment included books from John F.D. Taff, Tim Curran and Stephen Lloyd Jones. This time around I will be featuring Tana French, Mark Matthews and Hunter Shea!

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Tana French The Secret Place (September 2) from Viking Adult

The Secret Place is the fifth novel in Tana French’s outstanding series of crime novels that focus on the Dublin Murder Squad and this time the focus is on Detective Stephen Moran as he attempts to solve the year-old murder of Chris Harper, armed with little more than a mysterious photo of the victim with the caption “I know who killed him.”

I debated on whether or not to include this book because it comes out right on the borderline of summer and fall, but I had to make an exception for one of my favorite mystery writers! French’s novels are highly addictive reads that are nearly impossible to put down once you start them due to the depth of her characters and absolutely brilliant plot twists. While French’s novels are not classified as horror novels, they usually offer terrifying glimpses  into the real-life horrors that other people are capable of. French also has a tendency to add subtle, creepy additions that would be right at home in a horror novel – Rob Ryan’s mysterious childhood memories in In The Woods and the unidentified noises originating in the Spain’s attic come to mind.

I highly recommend all of French’s novels in the Dublin Murder Squad series and I can’t wait to see what she has in store with The Secret Place!

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Mark Matthews Milk-Blood (Summer 2014) from Wicked Run Press

Milk-Blood is the upcoming horror novel from Mark Matthews and after reading his heart-pounding novel On The Lips of Children, this quickly became one of my most anticipated reads! Here is a synopsis from the author:

Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can’t stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly’s true father, and both want their daughter back.“

I read Matthews’ prequel, The Damage Done (available for free on Amazon), and it blends the horrors of addiction with a supernatural element to create a unique and horrifying short story that sets the stage for Milk-Blood, which is sure to be a truly terrifying and gripping read from this extremely talented author.

Hell Hole

Hunter Shea Hell Hole (July 1) from Samhain Publishing

This is the second time Hunter Shea has made my “Most Anticipated Summer Reads” list (The Montauk Monster was listed in Part 1) which isn’t surprising considering the slew of excellent novels he has published.

Hell Hole is the story of New York City Cop Nat Blackburn and his journey to Hecla, Wyoming on a mission from President Theodore Roosevelt. Hecla is an abandoned mining town that draws in explorers and fortune-hunters seeking to recover the supposed gold hidden deep within the depths of the mine, but those who venture into the mine are never heard from again. Nat and his partner Teta arrive in Hecla only to encounter “black-eyed children, strange lights and ferocious wild men” lurking within the cave.

I am a bit of a history buff, so Hell Hole’s historical western setting drew me in right away and I can’t wait to sit down and read Hell Hole this summer!

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BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 150 Pages

Submitted by the author for review

On The Lips of Children is the latest horror novel from author Mark Matthews and focuses on Macon, his girlfriend Erin and their daughter Lyric as they venture to San Diego for a marathon. Macon plans to use the trip to show Erin that he can provide for them and plans on using the family getaway to propose. However, during a late night warm-up run to the beach, everything quickly falls apart as the family falls victim to a sinister family that lives in an abandoned drug tunnel. What follows is a struggle for survival that tests the resolve of both Macon and Erin as they try to escape the unspeakable horror that awaits them in the tunnel.

Matthews does an amazing job of building a sense of dread throughout the novel. Right from the beginning he gives you a glimpse of Lupita, the mother of twins Q and T, and her life trapped in the collapsed drug tunnel. She is left alone with her two infant children and a slew of hostages her husband Dante kidnapped to fuel his meth addiction. Afraid that Dante will not return from his attempt to find an exit to the tunnel and with no way to feed her children, she makes a drastic choice that has ramifications throughout the novel. This bleak scene of isolation and violence gives the reader an inkling of the horror that awaits and plants a seed of doubt in your mind every time you meet a new character. The hotel manager in the beginning gives off a creepy vibe and immediately you begin to wonder – is he somehow involved? Matthews uses this strategy to his advantage and the result is a gripping plot with plenty of twists that make for an exciting and heart-pounding read.

Matthews also does an amazing job bringing the characters to life through flashbacks and inner monologues. After seeing the hardships that Macon and Erin have gone through in their lives, I couldn’t help but feel a connection with them and root for them to exact some sort of revenge on their captors for the horrors they were forced to endure.

Normally I tend to gravitate to horror novels that feature a supernatural element, but On The Lips of Children proves that our own capabilities for violence and darkness are every bit as frightening as any supernatural force. This novel was my first introduction to Matthews’ work and I absolutely loved it! I am definitely looking forward to his future books and this is an absolute must-read for any horror fan.

Rating: 4.5/5

Links

Mark Matthews’ official website

Purchase On The Lips of Children on Amazon