Lilly’s Tale (The Milk-Blood Trilogy) by Mark Matthews #Review

Lilly's Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy cover

I’ve struggled with how to review this book, and even now, I’m sure not quite sure what to say. This is likely to go down as the strangest book I’ve read this year. And yet… I was unable to set it aside, and felt a strong desire to finish it.

I felt very conflicted as I read it, as there were many times I found it difficult to suspend disbelief as I progressed with the story. There was one thing in particular that (in my opinion) should have garnered an extreme reaction of fear to other characters when they saw (can’t say because SPOILERS), but that didn’t happen. Rather than treating it as something scary, it was treated as a minor curiosity. Each time it happened, it threw me out of my focus on the story and all I could think about was how surreal it was.

Then again, perhaps that was the point?

This isn’t your usual horror story where the evil thing is some sort of supernatural monster. In Lilly’s Tale: The Milk Blood Trilogy, the evil is heroin addiction. The “monsters” (so to speak) are the addicts themselves, and the horror is what their addiction compels them to do. Yes, there are ghosts and creepy supernatural things happen, but it takes a back seat to the evils of drug addiction.

Maybe I’m overthinking it, but that’s the conclusion I kept coming back to over the many, many, many times I’ve tried to work out my feelings about this book.

The fact that I have given it so much thought speaks to the author’s ability to weave together an unconventional story that stays with you long after you’ve read the final page. I’m not going to forget this book anytime soon… that’s for sure.

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Author: Mark Matthews

Title: Lilly’s Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy

Genre: Horror

Published: January 1st, 2017 by Wicked Run Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

Shocking. Powerful. Stunning. The MILK-BLOOD TRILOGY is page-turning suspense pulled from newspaper headlines and unlike anything you’ve ever read. The author has pulled from his experience as a social worker to capture the horror of urban decay, poverty, and heroin addiction. LILLY’S TALE has been called “an urban legend in the making” and has been optioned for film. Now, for the first time, read all three powerful titles in one collection.

MILK-BLOOD

Lilly is ten years old, living in poverty, 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.

ALL SMOKE RISES

The “absolutely stunning” follow up to MILK-BLOOD

A patient breaks into his psychiatrist’s house in the dark of night and plops a charbroiled carcass onto her kitchen island. The body is ten year old Lilly, she’s been the victim of a house fire, and her mouth is stuck in a permanent scream. Now there are decisions to make, for she may be not be dead yet, only heroin may relieve her suffering, and her family is coming for her.

THE DAMAGE DONE (A short story featuring the origin of Lilly’s father)

After years of suffering with mental illness, heroin has opened up the gates of heaven for Jervis Samsa. It is all that makes life bearable. But when he gets trapped in his basement without a scrap of dope to shoot, he needs to go to any lengths to get high. The results are something monstrous, and his basement bedroom becomes a hell for those who enter.

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About the Author

mark-matthews
Author Mark Matthews

Mark Matthews has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Michigan and a Master’s Degree in Counseling. He is the author of five novels, including On the Lips of Children, MILK-BLOOD, and All Smoke Rises. All of his novels are based on true settings, many of them inspired by his work as a counselor in the field of mental health and treatment of addiction. He’s the editor of the anthology GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR. He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters.

Author photo & bio via Goodreads.

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Review: The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias

The Devil's Prayer by Luke Gracias

A nun commits suicide in front of thousands in Spain. In Australia, Siobhan Russo recognises that nun as her mother, Denise Russo, who disappeared six years ago.

In search of answers, Siobhan travels to the isolated convent where her mother once lived. Here she discovers Denise’s final confession, a book that details a heinous betrayal that left her crippled and mute, and Denise’s subsequent deal with the Devil to take revenge. In the desperate bargain Denise made with the Prince of Darkness, she wagered Siobhan’s soul.

As Siobhan discovers the fate of her soul, she learns that hidden within the pages of her mother’s confession is part of The Devil’s Prayer, an ancient text with the power to unleash apocalyptic horrors.

And now her mother’s enemies know Siobhan has it.

Can Siobhan escape an order of extremist monks determined to get the Prayer back? Can she save the world from its own destruction?

Explicit Content Warning: “The Devil’s Prayer” is a historical horror thriller that contains brutality, rape, sex, drug abuse and murder. Readers may find its content offensive and confronting.

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Author: Luke Gracias

Title: The Devil’s Prayer

Genre: Historical Horror Thriller

Published: August 8, 2016 by Australian eBook Publisher

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase on Amazon.com

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I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of the author and Netgalley.

After the death of her mother, Denise Russo, Siobhan needs to understand what caused her to vanish six years earlier, and finds herself caught up in a nightmare centuries in the making.  Traveling to the convent in Zamora where her mother lived, Siobhan is in danger from the moment she arrives, and it is with great difficulty that she is able to access her mother’s final written confession. Reading it, she learns of a terrible betrayal that led her mother to make a deal with the Devil, risking Siobhan’s soul if Denise didn’t hold up her end of the bargain. As disturbing as all that is to Siobhan, other discoveries made in later parts of her mother’s confession are absolutely horrifying… as is the unfinished task her mother begs her to complete.

The Devil’s Prayer is unlike any book I’ve ever read;  this historical horror thriller has it all. The historical aspects of the book are based on actual events that occurred in the 13th century, and the locations mentioned actually exist—a bonus to any readers who are also history buffs. (Go here to see photographs and read information about the locations mentioned in the book.) Gracias’ historical research is excellent, and the masterful blending of fact and fiction makes this story even more chilling.

The novel ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, but the point it ends on felt like the perfect stopping point, in my opinion. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading this fascinating novel. It’s my understanding that a sequel is in the works, and that’s a good thing because there is plenty more story waiting to be told.

The Devil’s Prayer is an excellent read, and superbly written. I recommend this one highly… add it to your reading list!

Review: What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

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Gretchen is a 16-year-old photography enthusiast, living in New York City with her oft-absent father. Her mother, renowned owner of the Mona Axton Gallery, disappeared without a trace nearly five years earlier. Gretchen is surprised to receive a call from her Great-Aunt Esther—a woman she doesn’t know—informing her that she is leaving the Axton Mansion, which Gretchen will inherit as the last remaining member of the Axton family. Gretchen agrees to go and help Esther with the house, and the next day she is on her way.

Contrary to her expectations, Gretchen arrives at her family’s ancestral home to find a dilapidated, 150 year old house that appeared ready to collapse. The interior of the house wasn’t any better. Papers and books lay in piles everywhere, and the house was cluttered with countless objects all over the place, looking as if nothing had ever been thrown out once it was brought into the house. Believing she came here to help clean up the house and help Esther move, Gretchen is overwhelmed—then she discovers that’s not the sort of help her Great-Aunt requires of her after all.

The Axton Mansion holds the key to a terrible secret from the past. Somewhere, hidden within old documents, the faded letters and journals of Gretchen’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Fidelia Axton, and horrific photographs from the past lies the answer to an unsolved tragedy that occurred at the nearby church. A tragedy that the dead—and the living—cannot escape, even after 150 years. In order to free them all, Gretchen must discover and expose the truth of the evil deed.

What the Dead Want is a fascinating paranormal young adult mystery. Olson dives into the action almost immediately, and there’s never a dull moment. Gretchen’s story in the present is  interspersed with glimpses into the past,  through the letters and journal entries of Fidelia Axton and other relevant documents. Rather than being an unwelcome interruption, each piece is a crucial part of the story, taking the reader one step closer to solving the mystery.

The one thing that prevents me from giving this beautifully written story a full five-star rating is the inaccurate usage of the word racism. Fidelia uses this word several times in her letters and journals, which were written before and after the American Civil War. It seemed out-of-place as I was reading, and after I finished the novel I looked it up. The original date of its first usage was either in 1902 or 1927. I was unable to find a definitive answer on which date was correct, but either way, it was long after the time period in which it was used in the novel.

I feel very strongly that historical writing must stay true to the time frame it portrays in every way, but especially when it comes to word usage. Using a word that didn’t exist during the time frame you are writing about is a guaranteed way to throw your reader out of the story every time they see it. It’s always an unfortunate thing to run into, but it’s even more disheartening to see it in an otherwise wonderfully written story.

The out-of-place usage of that single word is my only criticism, however, and I still highly recommend this book.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books and Goodreads Giveaways.

Author: Norah Olson

Title: What the Dead Want

Publication: July 26, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books

Rating: ★★★★

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