Book Review: Milk-Blood – Mark Matthews

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I will start with a big thank you to Mark Matthews who kindly sent me an electronic copy of Milk-Blood in exchange for an honest review! This is not the sort of book I would normally pick up otherwise and I’m so so glad I got the opportunity to read it.

Milk-blood: The act of extracting heroin-laden blood, for reinjection at a later time. It usually is one’s own blood, but could also be the blood of someone who has just overdosed.. It is done as “insurance” in case one’s heroin supply runs out.”

Just the definition above makes me cringe before I’ve even started the book. Milk-Blood centres on the unsettling life of ten year old Lilly who was born with an addiction to heroin and has a heart defect. It delves into the real life horrors of a disturbing childhood, drug addiction and a violent home-life, and then throws paranormal aspects into the mix, just to make it that little bit more terrifying.

Just a brief warning if you’re planning on reading this: there are some disconcerting scenes (a certain bathroom scene still makes me feel uneasy thinking back on it now), and some bits of gruesomeness… I mean, I absolutely love gruesomeness in books, but it may not be for the faint hearted!

That being said, although disturbing, it’s engrossing. It might be upsetting, but it’s immersive. It may make you feel uncomfortable, but you’ll still feel the need to turn the page. This is a magnificent piece of writing and a powerful novella by Mark Matthews, and his experience as a social worker clearly proved incredibly useful in his construction of the very real yet disturbing setting of a run-down, drug-filled area of Detroit, and he didn’t hold back on the true ugliness that comes with a drug addiction.

Mark Matthews has done an outstanding job creating the characters in this book. I felt repulsed by them, I felt emotional for them, I loathed them, I loved them. They were just so diverse (Zach in particular) and terrifyingly realistic and believable. They’ll stick with me for a long long time to come.

At first I found the author notes within the story quite interrupting, but once I reached the end and everything came together it all made sense. I won’t go any further into this as I don’t wish to spoil the reading experience for anyone, but the ending was a perfect finish to a faultless piece of writing.

So, if you’re feeling daring and looking for something different (and by different I mean disturbing, gruesome, horrific, unsettling, shocking, grisly… you get the picture), then I recommend you grab yourself a copy of this book. It’s a definite page turner and not only does it have a disturbing impact on your mind, you’ll experience your body cringing, your heart beating, your toes tensing in fear. Seriously, it’s that good.

Oh, and don’t do drugs kids. Fo’ real.

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