Carmilla Reads

My name is Carmilla Voiez and I am a book addict. I write, mostly horror and urban fantasy, and I read across a wide spectrum of genres.

Slow at first, but very tense by the end.

The Exorcist - William Peter Blatty

The first thing that struck me is that the film follows the novel pretty accurately. The second thing was that point of view jumps around a bit too quickly for my liking, although the shifts are signposted pretty well and I didn’t get lost for long.

 

I enjoyed the ongoing discussion about whether Regan was possessed or mentally ill. This wasn’t resolved until the final chapters and I thought it worked well. The desperation of the people who loved this little girl, who changed so dramatically as she hit her teens, was rather soothing to a mother of “normal” teen daughters. Of course this book was part of the Satanic Panic that hit the States in the 70s and reflected the fear of the time for children meddling in the occult. Regan played with a Ouija board and invoked a demon as the result. The privileged white family, the atheist mother who was forced to put her trust in Jesuit priests, and the sacrilegious vandalism at the church, was all part of reinforcing the fear. It was a dangerous time to be different in America, but I guess it still is.

 

In the central story, the priest, Karras, full of doubt and guilt, became the hero, and Regan’s purity was saved. The subplot of the murder and the detective who decided to “let it go” at the end required a suspension of disbelief. His desperate need for male friendship might have been developed further. Karl and Willie’s daughter was an undeveloped addition that could have led somewhere interesting, but didn’t, and Regan’s father’s continued absence might have been handled differently to provide additional conflict and interest, but at 320 pages, perhaps the novel was complicated enough.

 

It isn’t a perfect novel, but it’s a thrilling story once it gets going. I’m glad I read it at last.

Down for a few days and I missed you, Booklikes

I've caught up now. Wow, I was scared we had lost this place forever. 

Horror is my comfort blanket

I have lived with depression since my teens. I don’t fit comfortably in this world of ours. Isolation and loneliness are my companions. I am also a horror addict. Horror is supposed to make people uncomfortable. Claiming the genre is my comfort blanket is counter-intuitive, is it not?

 

We are pummelled daily by the sounds of suffering. Together, we await a wrath of hurricanes on the other side of the world. Our stomachs cramp as we witness starvation. Photographs of bruised and beaten victims of violence haunt us. A car slams into a crowd and we shudder at the hatred that drives it. We cower under a barrage of death threats on social media when we dare to speak our minds.

 

Unless we are wilfully blind we must watch these horrors with a certain level of culpability. The lifestyle of the West that we enjoy is sustained through exploitation, and we feel both guilty and powerless. Depression only magnifies this empathy and sense of powerlessness.

 

Horror reveals to us the depth and the root of this evil.

 

The sinister, the terrible never deceive: the state in which they leave us is always one of enlightenment. And only this condition of vicious insight allows us a full grasp of the world, all things considered, just as a frigid melancholy grants us full possession of ourselves. We may hide from horror only in the heart of horror.” Thomas Ligotti.

 

In horror, we can hide.

 

Horror fiction doesn’t point at us, accusingly. It soothes us. It tells us we are not the only ones who feel that being alive is to suffer. In the words of Clive Barker, “[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.”

 

Horror fiction shows us that we survive against the odds and there is honour in that, not guilt.

Horror teaches us survival techniques. Don’t run up the stairs; don’t answer the door; don’t read from that book. It assuages the guilt of our inaction, and reminds us we are only responsible for our own conduct. What we choose to do is then left up to us. Do we leap towards danger and fight dragons or demons, or do we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and insulated – wrapped in a blanket?

 

Horror as a genre is built around one truth: that the world is full of fearful things. But the best horror tells us more. It tells us how to live with being afraid. It tells us how to distinguish real evil from harmless shadows. It tells us how to fight back.” Ruthanna Emrys.

 

Carmilla Voiez

Website and blog at www.carmillavoiez.com

Everybody knows life isn't worth living

The Outsider - Albert Camus

My first thought, while reading the short, simple, almost choppy, sentences of the earlier chapters, was that it must be a translation issue (it was originally written in French), and that surely a novelist as highly regarded as Albert Camus would write sophisticated, eloquent prose. However, by the time the narrator is imprisoned, awaiting execution, the language becomes philosophical and the sentences longer and more diverse in structure. My conclusion is that it was written this way to achieve a particular effect, to show a man who neither thinks nor feels deeply – he is unaffected by his mother’s death, and agrees to marry Marie if she wants, but admits he doesn’t think he loves her, but also doesn’t believe that matters.

 

He murders a man as if in a dream, blames the sun (as much as anything else) for his actions. He is either not capable of lying, or not willing to lie, and he is unable to show remorse at his trial or during the investigation, convincing the court that he is soulless. Camus explains in the afterword that it is, at least in part, “the story of a man who, without any heroic pretensions, agrees to die for the truth.”

 

But when he has no future to distract him from the present, he is transformed, and the eloquence of the prose reflects this.

 

“[E]verybody knows that life isn’t worth living. And when it came down to it, I wasn’t unaware of the fact that it doesn’t matter very much whether you die at thirty or at seventy since, in either case, other men and women will naturally go on living, for thousands of years even. Nothing was plainer, in fact. It was still only me who was dying, whether it was now or in twenty years’ time.”

 

I love that this is such an unusual tale with an anti-hero at its center, but one who I can relate to very easily and suffer and discover truths alongside. A simple yet complex being who doesn’t express deep emotions but feels more comfortable with logic as his guide.

The Venus Virus

My dystopian novel comes out next month. I made a page on my website to showcase it. 

 

The Venus Virus, by Carmilla Voiez - out Feb 20, 2020. 

 

 

I love Lavalle

The Ecstatic - Victor LaValle

Anthony is the epitome of unreliable narrators. This book is full of surreal scenes, twisted logic, impossible events and a touch of magic, but how much of Anthony’s account can we believe? Sitting here, days after finishing this astounding book, I struggle to untangle what actually happens in the story. I think Anthony returns to his childhood home where his sister, mother and grandmother live. I think they are afraid for him, certainly in the opening paragraphs it seems he is not capable of looking after himself, and yet, very soon after living with his family he sees himself as taking care of all of them, working numerous jobs, writing a book, searching for love, driving them across states for a beauty pageant, and ensuring both grandmother and Ledric (a friend he may have met at a very weird fat camp) get the medical attention they need. There are other strange characters, including “Uncle Arms”, The President, and a loan shark called Ishkabibble who claims Anthony is his only friend. It’s darkly funny, probably best categorised as magical realism, and it’s a wonderful book.

 

Victor Lavalle has become one of my favourite authors. The Changeling, Big Machine and The Ballad of Black Tom are also incredible novels, beautifully written with strange and carefully chaotic plots. His characters are richly drawn, each deeply flawed in a myriad of ways. I need to pick up his short story collection next.

 

Other reviews of Victor Lavalle’s books on my blog -

 

http://carmillavoiez.wixsite.com/carmillavoiez/post/2018-08-08-the-changeling-victor-lavalle-a-review

 

http://carmillavoiez.wixsite.com/carmillavoiez/post/big-machine-victor-lavalle-a-review

 

http://carmillavoiez.wixsite.com/carmillavoiez/post/2019-01-20-the-ballad-of-black-tom-victor-lavalle-e2-80-93-a-review

Dark humour and horror

Nightmares & Dreamscapes - Stephen King

Apart from the baseball essay, which I skipped through, there wasn’t a story that I didn’t enjoy reading. My favourites were “My Pretty Pony”, a gentle story of a grandfather discussing the fluidity of time with his grandson; “The End of the Whole Mess”, a catastrophic attempt by a young genius to cure humanity of our violent tendencies; “Sorry, Right Number”, the script of a screenplay that starts with a strange phone call; “Dedication”, a story about natural versus biological fathers, that’s disturbing and intriguing and completely unique as far as I am aware.

 

There were cliches galore, including vampires and zombies, but they all had something to offer the reader, a testament to King’s voice and understanding of horror. Definitely a collection I would recommend. Personally, I enjoyed King’s short stories more than many of his full length novels. Bite-sized with dashings of humour.

The burden of guilt

Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith

In the tradition of Crime and Punishment, this book concentrates more on the psychological impact of guilt on an otherwise healthy mind than on the murders. Charles is a disturbing yet believable villain, while Guy makes an interesting anti-hero. Few of the other characters are developed beyond two dimensions but somehow that doesn't impact negatively on the story.

Extraordinary and truly original horror

A Head Full of Ghosts - Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts is a clever and layered novel. The Barrett family's tragic story is told by the youngest daughter, Merry, in interviews with a writer and as flashbacks. The same story is dissected and deconstructed by a blogger who reviews, considers and discusses the reality TV show filmed in the family's home. In this way Tremblay both constructs and deconstructs his narrative, looking at horror tropes, misogyny and mental distress as entertainment.

 

Describing the novel like this might make it sound too intellectual, too meta, but it delves deep into the darkness and is full of tense moments and unexpected scares. It works well as both a horror novel and a thesis on the horror genre. It may be my favourite book of this decade.

Haunted - James Herbert

I read this after "Ghosts of Sleath" so I already knew the plot to some extent. Knowing what was really happening in no way spoiled the experience, which I think shows great skill in a writer. It was spooky, strange and fast paced. A great ghost story.

Interesting if occasionally far-fetched.

The Sculptress - Minette Walters

The association between goodness and beauty and between evil and ugliness is discussed and challenged throughout this fascinating who-done-it. Some of the action, clues and conclusions seem to reach a bit too far but it was a fun read and the satisfying end leaves plenty of room for speculation.

Funny or sad, it works both ways

Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body - Sara Pascoe

I read this after my partner finished it. He found it hilarious where as most of the time I nodded sadly thinking, yes – I remember times like that. Whether you enjoy the humour or find some solace in the pain, the book is definitely worth reading. There is plenty of easy to absorb science to help the reader understand why they might keep making terrible choices in partners, and why the world can seem a terrible and oppressive place. It covers love, sex, marriage, genital mutilation, consent, rape and age of consent (which vary hugely and remain absent in some countries).

Very worthwhile series for Horror lovers!

Earth - Anthology Air - P.J. Blakey-Novis Fire - P.J. Blakey-Novis Water - P.J. Blakey-Novis
Reblogged from Lora's Rants and Reviews :

I'm currently reading the second book of this series and just got the third one. Fourth is out on Kindle so I went ahead and added it but I'll be getting the paperback.

 

The quality of the stories I've been reading is really outstanding! I've discovered a few new authors to follow through these.

More tragic love story than thriller

My Cousin Rachel - Daphne Du Maurier

Considered by some to be Daphne Du Maurier's most feminist novel, "My Cousin Rachel" follows the story of wealthy orphan Philip Ashley, and his two cousins - Ambrose and Rachel.
Due to health, Ambrose spends his winters in warmer climates, leaving his cousin (young adult, Philip) in charge of his vast estate. While in Italy Ambrose falls in love with and marries Rachel, but letters sent home suggest that Rachel may be trying to poison Ambrose. Philip heads to Florence only to discover Ambrose is dead and Rachel has gone.
Rachel arrives in the Cornish estate soon after Philip's return. She appears to be a lovely woman, cultured, intelligent and unlike the few women Philip has encountered. She overcomes his anger at Ambrose's death with her intriguing gentleness and Philip finds himself falling in love with her.
The tension comes from not knowing whether Rachel is manipulating Philip or Philip is misinterpreting her words and actions. In many ways it's a tragic love story, while in other ways it's a story about a woman trying to negotiate her way in a world determined to misunderstand and control her. I enjoyed it very much.

Dystopian

The Paper Eater - Liz Jensen

This gloriously angry book rages at modern day consumerism and asks what a society ruled by a corporation might look like. At the centre of the tale are two misfits. Harvey Kidd is the paper eater of the title, an orphan who created his own family from his fractured mind after a trauma, and Hannah Park with a complex and rare social disorder. Both are fascinating characters in the midst of a conspiracy that threatens both their lives. Excellent read.

60 Days of Horror

Reviews of all 16 books I read for Halloween Bingo.

Currently reading

Wordsmithery: The Writer's Craft and Practice by Jayne Steel
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb