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.

Not Hill's best work in my opinion.

Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill

Joe Hill’s “Heart-Shaped Box” had a great second half, so I am glad I persevered. I found part one rather awkward as if the writing devices were foregrounded rather than the story. I could see exactly what Hill was trying to do, but emotionally it left me flat. The heart shaped box motif was shoehorned into place in ways that felt unnatural and silly. Part two was much better and smoother. The race against time and the fight for the lives of the protagonist and his girlfriend (she never seems to be much more than that) all fall naturally into place.

 

Judas Coyne is an aging rock star who dates women thirty years younger than him and treats them with callous disregard, yet compared to the villain he appears almost angelic. We have a character arc and personal growth, and by the end Judas is calling his girlfriend and his ex-girlfriend by their names rather than the States in which they were born. Yes, really. Judas has “visited” a lot of US States.

 

I preferred The Fireman, Nosferatu and Horns, but this isn’t a terrible book. I’d give it a solid 3/5 stars.

I read the Futura 1990 edition.

The Face That Must Die - Ramsey Campbell, Poppy Z. Brite, J.K. Potter
The story is told mostly through the perspective of an odious and most likely paranoid schizophrenic called Horridge. This entirely unpleasant man is hate-filled, self-aggrandising, homophobic and racist. He even has a limp and at times feels almost a Dickensian caricature. But the book doesn't let the reader off that easily. We are trapped in the mire of Horridge's psyche and even when we escape for brief respites we see echoes of similar paranoia in the fear or drug-heightened senses of others.
 
After reading Campbell's moving introduction it is unsurprising that the author has such a drive to explore various expressions of paranoia, looking in turn at how it can cripple or aid us. A powerful read, but not a pleasant one.

The perfect end.

Mostly Harmless - Douglas Adams

This was my favourite book in the series - clever and hilarious, of course, but also fascinating on philosophical and scientific levels. Parallel universes and infinite Earths - well there were at the start of the novel anyway. One thing I did notice after five books, however, is the lack of character arcs.

Gorgeous descriptions of the West Highlands

The House Between Tides - Sarah Maine

With a prologue set in 1945, the rest of the action is split between 1911 and 2011. We are treated to two stories, connected by place and family, about two women, dominated by men they are afraid to leave, featuring two love affairs and the tale of a troubled artist and his paintings.

 

 

We see how land clearances remain politically volatile in modern Scotland. I enjoyed the descriptive pieces, especially descriptions of place, which were particularly effective. However, the love stories were full of cliches and the mystery wasn't exactly compelling. It was still an enjoyable read. It has an atmosphere that wraps around you like the westerlies Maine describes.

A bit out of date

On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writer's of America - Mort Castle

There were a couple of issues with this book: the font is too small to read comfortably, and a lot of the information is out of date now. However, I did find some of the articles useful. Michael Marano's discussion about negative space fascinated me and his advice to dwell on the "small glimpse of larger atrocity" was inspirational enough for me to feel the book was worthwhile. The chapter on plotting short fiction was both reassuring and helpful. Style as a window was a maxim I have read before, but it was worth being reminded. Tracy Knight's categories of mental illness made me happy; I said thank you, at last, and hope people take heed that schizophrenia is not the same as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I have read better writing guides, but I am glad I read this one as well. Although it needs updating, it is still useful.

Sometimes harrowing, always interesting

Invisible - Andrew Fraser

Centred on Andrew Fraser’s personal account of being homeless on the streets of London, this book guides us across the mountainous landscape of friendship, anger, frustration and absolute freedom from fear. Fraser’s diary was previously published on an online blog. Between these biographical writings are articles about homelessness across the UK, activism and changes in the law that affect the lives of rough sleepers and those in temporary accommodation. We are treated to success stories and displays of the power of community action, so the book is far from entirely grim reading. But Fraser’s life is gritty and while the friendships he forms on the street are powerful, his losses are equally profound. An enlightening read for those of us lucky enough not to have fallen quite so far.

My Growing Library
My Growing Library

Joy of joys! I spent the morning organising my bookshelves yesterday and I found 30 books I haven't read yet, but want to. Almost as exciting as that I have space to buy more books when I've finished those, or find a new book that I must own.

 

List of books to read - 

Douglas Adams - Mostly Harmless

Paulo Coelho - Eleven Minutes

Helen Donohoe - Birdy Flynn

S.E. England - Father of Lies

Grassic Gibbon - A Scots Quair

Joe Hill - Heart Shaped Box

Peter May - The Lewis Man/The Chessman/I'll Keep You Safe/Entry Island

Patrick McCabe - Mondo Desperado

McCall Smith - Love Over Scotland

Henry Miller - Tropic of Cancer

Walter Moers - Alchemist's Apprentice

M W Molden - Fire House

Haruki Murakami - Sputnik Sweetheart

Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar

Alice Sebold - The Almost Moon

Non-Fiction -

Psycho, an ironic journey

Class Struggle & Mental Health

Know Your Place

Feral

Orientalism

The Black Swan

Library Looking Glass

The Jewish War

Parallel Worlds

Real Witches Kitchen

Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics

Wise Women and Witches

The Familiars - Stacey Halls

The book is set in the early 1600s at a time of witch trials and religious intolerance. Fleetwood, a child bride, sold so her family can be supported in their twilight years, is pregnant again and is certain she will not survive this time. The story is one of female friendship and loyalty that transcend class boundaries and familial pressure. Two young women determined to save each other’s lives. Enjoyable though it was, I felt the story was stronger than the characters, and the final chapters were a let down. That said it is a worthy read that displays the complexity and strength of women.

The Starblood Series by Carmilla Voiez
The Starblood Series by Carmilla Voiez

The third book in the Starblood Series is available for pre-order, release date June 11. 
Book #1 http://smarturl.it/Starblood
Book #2 http://smarturl.it/PsychonautVoiez
Book #3 http://smarturl.it/BlackSun
Book #4 out September 13, 2019 
Satori, an adept Chaos Magician, casts a spell to try and win back his lost love, Star. Lilith, mother of demons, has other ideas. Summoned by Satori's magic, she makes it her mission to manipulate and separate the doomed lovers.
Satori knows he and Star are meant to be together. He battles demons, travels worlds and even transcends death for her but, however much she begs, he can't grant her the freedom she craves.
Also available as graphic novels with art by Anna Prashkovich.

Save the Humans

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish - Douglas Adams

Less happens in this, the fourth book of the Hitchhiker's trilogy, than in the preceding three, but it is funny and clever in true Adams' style. The story includes a new Earth and a love interest for Arthur Dent (one that sends them soaring into the clouds). Three bowls gifted by the missing dolphins, an inside-out house in California, the co-ordinates to God's final message, a grumpy rain god and angels in Scholl sandals provide the requisite whimsy and allow the reader it indulge in a much needed escape from reality. It's silly and fun (as you'd expect) but perhaps not quite at the level of other Adams novels. Suspense and conflict are absent, replaced by convenient coincidences that allow Arthur to sail gently through the story.

What do you do when your sister, the serial killer, attracts the eye of the man you love?

My Sister, the Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite

A funny, charming and sometimes suspenseful book. Korede's narrative voice is strong and unique. Braithwaite brings all her characters to life (even the dead ones) and guides us expertly through fierce loyalty to petty arguments.

 

I read it in two sittings. Had I started earlier yesterday it would have been one sitting - it is that compelling. I would have loved a deeper, richer sense of place. While the story is set in Lagos it could be anywhere. Other than that it's a close to perfect short novel.

Economic History You Can Understand

And The Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe, Austerity and the Threat to Global Stability  - Yanis Varoufakis

I didn’t expect this to be a horror story, but it is. At a time of Brexit and the rise of racism and xenophobia encouraged by its proponents, being pro-European is almost an obligatory stance. This book reveals how toxic the European Economic Union has been from day one, and how economic policy has been weaponised to crush “unworthy” members with punitive debt and economic disaster, likely to spread if left unmitigated.

 

The book is straightforward and easy to understand, especially for a text on Economics and International Post-War Economic History. Perfect for the layperson who wants to learn about a system that is facing a period of dismantling. It is, however, very repetitive, to the extent that I could have skipped about one third of the pages and still read all the book has to say.

 

I’m left thinking that a united Europe is a fine idea in theory, but something we have yet to achieve.

 

 

Not a cheery read, but a thought-provoking book

My Work Is Not Yet Done - Thomas Ligotti

“My Work is Not Yet Done” is a collection of one novella and two short stories set in hellish corporate worlds. Ligotti is a bleak writer with a pessimist’s point of view. He sees darkness, despair as omnipresent in this world. However depressed a reader may feel before starting Ligotti’s books, before the end they will realise a sense of kinship and know that they are not alone. His style is unusual in that he will repeat the same sentiments again and again barely changing the sentences before reproducing them. Using this method and the inescapable bleakness of his settings he can immerse the reader into a looping nightmare. When the final word is read and you escape the nightmare you may either know that life is not worth living or breathe a sense of relief that however tough your life might be it is punctuated with sparks of joy that should be treasured. I tend to experience the latter and I find Ligotti’s stories therapeutic, but never uplifting.

 

His description is a knife that slices through thin facades to reveal the darkness beneath. His philosophy is writ large throughout and one wonders whether the author could have survived without the outlet of writing.

 

A couple of phrases spoke to me.

 

“The company that employed me strived only to serve up the cheapest fare that its customers would tolerate, churn it out as fast as possible, and charge as much as they can get away with. If it were possible to do so, the company would sell what all businesses of its kind dream about selling, creating that which all our efforts were tacitly supposed to achieve: the ultimate product – Nothing. And for this product they would command the ultimate price – Everything.”

 

“We’re just pictures painted on the darkness.”

 

Do not read Ligotti to escape. Instead read him to immerse yourself in darkness and survive, proving your strength and revealing your nature to yourself. For those who enjoy facing the dark nature of humanity, and the meaningless destruction of self and the world under Capitalism, this will provide an excellent and thought-provoking read. If you want to avoid facing the inherent evil in our lives give this one a wide berth.

Cover reveals. Both covers are for Black Sun. The prose novel is book three in the Starblood series and will be published on June 11th. The companion graphic novel is in production and we aim for a 2020 release. 

 

Blurb -

 

Murder, magic and obsession tear the heroes from the bliss they deserve. Star and Satori are being hunted; something is playing with their lives. Star found her power in another world, but will that be enough to save them? In a game of revenge, lovers and friends are moved around a cosmic chess board; death and madness are the final penalties for defeat. Who can judge whether the self-destructive human psyche or obsessed demon-child is the more dangerous force?

Tricked into reading a romance

Caraval - Stephanie Garber

I feel as though I was tricked into reading a romance, and not a particularly well written romance at that. From the blurb I anticipated a strange and twisted fantasy with plenty of mystery and while there are elements of this, the focus of the story is an uninteresting and trope filled romance. There is one aspect of the book I love and it saved it for me. Scarlett experiences emotions as colours and the description Garber uses to explain this is extremely effective. A friend of mine has synthesthesia, which is exactly this condition, and so this part of the book resonated strongly with me and almost allowed me to forgive the romance. If you enjoy romance I’m sure you’ll get much more from this read than I did.

More effective than laughing gas

Life, the Universe and Everything - Douglas Adams

I visited Douglas Adams' grave at Highgate and partook in the tradition of leaving a pen. I'm not sure why that's done by so many. Were Adams' pens always running out of ink? I would have left a towel, but I didn't have one with me.

 

Call me an idiot (I've been called worse) but until recently I didn't know there were four books in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I remember chortling on bus journeys while reading this first two, so I recently picked up books three and four to find out whether I would be equally enamoured.
 
I've just finished book three - "Life, the universe and everything" and plenty of chortling occurred.
 
Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect are tasked with saving the Galaxy from a bunch of "really sweet" xenophobes who are obsessed with killing everything that isn't Krikkit. But it's the puns and wordplay that really make Adams' books great. The plot is secondary or tertiary and frequently forgotten or side-lined.
 
 
Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the perfect series of books to read when life starts to feel too serious and you start channelling Marvin the Robot. Book four next.

Currently reading

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath