Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 RR - The Vision by Dean Koontz

I'm no Dean Koontz fan, but I somehow ended up with four or five of his novels in my home library. The third book I tackled for my 2015 Reading Resolution is The Vision. For the life of me, I couldn't find an online image of the edition I have (a 1987 reprint), so I took a picture myself.

What can I say about this book? Hmmm... Uh... It reads quickly? I actually abandoned it several years ago due to the painful dialogues, and only read it now to complete my resolution. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy it.


Mary, best-selling author who lives with her new husband Max in Bel Air, is a clairvoyant who visualizes murders before (and sometimes while) they occur. She helps police intercept the killers before they can continue their rampage. However, one day Mary's visions change: she can feel the pain of the victims and she fears for her life. It seems the murderer knows she's observing him, and is after her.


A quick, effortless read.


There are so, so many things I didn't enjoy about this book. For the sake of brevity, I'll give you a list of my top peeves.

1) The story itself it crammed with clichés up until the final showdown with the villain, who (of course) takes the time to give a fully detailed recount of all his antics and motives before swooping in for the final kill.

2) The characters feel like paper cutouts and constantly share "as you know, Bob" conversations. It's ridiculous to read page after page of characters explaining things to each other--things they both already know! There has to be a more elegant way to transmit back story. I'd prefer a simple narrative paragraph every now and then instead of having the characters talk to each other like they're all going through acute bouts of amnesia.

3) The writing style itself is sometimes irritating. In this novel, Koontz seems to have developed some sort of allergy to conjunctions. What happened to the humble "and"? Gone. Here are some examples:

     - He sat up, switched on the lamp, looked around the room.
     - He let go of her wrist, pushed his hair back from his forehead.
     - At last the intense, dark-skinned young man stood up, helped the blonde to her feet.

I wouldn't mind if these parallel structures appeared every now and then, but here we're talking about page after page.

4) Another problem I have is the amount of scene breaks. The novel feels like it was written for a TV drama. We get two paragraphs, scene break, two more paragraphs with the same character five minutes later, scene break. Is it really necessary to cut scenes every time a minute goes by? Where's the flow? Just have a look at page 189 of my edition:

  7:00 P.M.
     Mary squeezed Max's hand and waited tersely. Any minute the walkie-talkie would crackle with a report from one of the deputies. [One more longish sentence.]
     Mary repeatedly glanced at her watch in the back glow of the police cruiser's headlights. She shifted restlessly from one foot to the other.
     For the first time in more than an hour, Chief Patmore looked at her, met her eyes. He wasn't happy.
     She was beginning to feel that she had been outmanoeuvred, outwitted. [Two more sentences.]
     She was numb with fear. "Something's wrong," she said.
     "What is it?" Max asked.
     [Scene continues for a very brief conversation and then we cut again to 7:30.]

In this case, the cuts are meant to increase tension, but come on. I just--I just can't. No. Really. I can't.

5) The author attempts to slip the reader a big fat red herring, but in my opinion fails miserably. So much attention is drawn to a single character in an attempt to make the reader think he's the culprit, that it quickly becomes uncomfortable and embarrassing.

The Vision is one of Koontz's earlier works--but not his first. Have another look at that cover. Yeah, it boasts he's the author of Strangers and Darkness Comes. Inside the book, we have a list with a total of seven Koontz titles. So, The Vision might be an early Koontz novel, but with seven others under his belt, I would hardly call it the work of an amateur.


I'm not a big fan of giving bad reviews, but I can't lie, either. At least it's a quick, mindless read.

Bonus rant round!

Take a load of this conversation from page 20:

     "What a mayor you are," [Harry Oberlander] said with heavy sarcasm. "Hiring a witch to do police work."
     Henderson responded like a weary giant spotting yet one more tiny challenger with delusions of grandeur. "She's not a witch."
     "Don't you know there's no such thing as a witch?"
What did I just read? Oberlander accuses Henderson of hiring a witch. Henderson responds that she isn't a witch. Oberlander reminds Henderson that witches don't exist. Then why does he even accuse Henderson of hiring a witch in the first place?

Final round: The Longest Sentence in the History of Sentences

I'm not saying this sentence is bad. It does its task perfectly and really sets the scene. Do you want to read it? Do you? It contains spoilers, so only proceed if you dare.

Pages 244-245:

     Even before he completed the thought, the knife ripped into him, rammed out of darkness and into him, felt like the blade of a shovel, enormous, devastating, so devastating that he dropped the gun, feeling pain like nothing he'd ever known, and he realised that the killer had pitched the flashlight aside as a diversion, hadn't really been hit at all, and the knife was withdrawn from him, and then shoved hard into him again, deep into his stomach, and he thought of Mary and his love for Mary and about how he was letting her down, and he grappled with the killer's head in the dark, got handfuls of short hair, but the bandage came off his finger and the cut was wrenched open again and he felt that pain separate from all the others and he cursed the sharp edge on the car's jack, and the flashlight his the floor ten feet away, spun around, cast lunatic shadows, and the knife ripped loose from him again, and he reached for the hand that held it, but he missed, and the blade got him a third time, explosive pain, and he staggered back, the man all over him, the blade plunging again, high this time, into his chest, and he realised that the only way he could hope to survive now was to play dead, so he fell, fell hard, and the man stumbled over him, and he heard the man's rapid breathing, and he lay very still, and the man went for the flashlight and came back and looked down at him, stood over him, kicked him in the ribs, and he wanted to cry out but didn't, didn't move and didn't breathe, even though he was screaming inside for breath, so the man turned away and went towards the arch, and then there were footsteps on the tower stairs, and, hearing them, he felt like such a useless ass, outsmarted, and he knew he wasn't going to be able to recover his gun and climb those stairs and rescue Mary because stuff like that was for the movies, pain was pulverizing him, he was leaking all over the floor, dripping like a squeezed fruit, but he told himself he had to try to help her and that he wasn't going to die, wasn't going to die, wasn't going to die, even though that was exactly what he seemed to be doing.

And that's it for The Vision! I haven't had much time to post on the blog recently, but I have had time to read. I just finished the fourth book in my 2015 Reading Resolution list: The Princess Bride. Well...I finished the main story but still had to read the epilogue of sorts, and then my cat puked on the book so now I'm not sure if I actually got the nerve to finish those last pages...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

DIY Headboard - Iberian Style

After painting our bedroom, Salva and I thought it would be nice to buy a decorative headboard. We asked in several stores and went "whaaaaaaa?" at the prices. Four hundred euros for a simple headboard? Are you kidding me? At that point, we decided it was time to take matters into our own hands...with a DIY project!

The following is a DIY project Salva and I successfully completed Iberian style. That is, without using the materials we should have used. We simply couldn't find most of them in stores. Did that discourage us? Noooooooo!

For a simple headboard, we needed:

1) Thin plywood cut to desired size (they cut it for us at the store).
2) Foam filling. We couldn't find the typical couch cushion filling we wanted so we went with the ugly grey one you can see below. It's not very floofy.
3) Padding to go over the filling. Again, we couldn't find it so we *ehem* bought a fluffy blanket from Ikea *ehem* and used it as padding. A month after completing this project, we found a store that sold the padding... Typical.
4) Some nice fabric, which will be the final touch. We bought the fabric at Ikea.
5) Staple gun and staples. Finally! Something we do have!
6) Extra strong glue. Make sure it's a type of glue that doesn't eat away at the foam. We went with the marvelous "No Más Clavos", which is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME.

Materials (excuse the cats; they're everywhere and I've given up):


1) Cut the foam to size. Salva, being a thoroughbred Iberian male, cast aside scissors and saws and razors and opted for the largest kitchen knife we have. (Absolutely no kitty was harmed during the process.)

2) Glue the foam onto the board. Let it sit for a little bit before moving on to the next step. We put a stack of dictionaries on top to weigh down the foam.

3) Pull the fluffy fabric over the foam. Begin the stapling process. First, we cut the blanket to size, leaving about four extra fingers on each side, and spread it over the table. Then we laid the headboard on top, wood facing up.

To correctly staple fabric to wood, first you must staple the center of each side while pulling the fabric tight. Pull tight on the front side, staple the center, release. Repeat on the center left, center right, and center bottom. Once the four main staples are in place, you can continue stapling working your way out towards the corners. Always keep your fabric taut to avoid wrinkles.

4) Staple the corners. This is the final stapling step and the most complicated one (though not so complicated you can't pull it off). I don't even have a picture of myself doing this step because Salva and I, plus my mother who was helping out, were all trying to do the same thing at the same time in the same place.

To staple a corner, simply fold in the sides, as if wrapping a present. Pull tight and staple. You can also cut off excess fabric so there isn't a big bump at each corner. Staple as many times as necessary until the fabric is taut and presents the minimum amount of wrinkles possible. There will always be some wrinkles at the corners.

5) Repeat the stapling process with the final cloth. Be extra careful because this will be your headboard's final look! If you choose a striped pattern, make sure your lines are all straight as you staple. You don't want wonky stripes!

Finished! Now to hang this baby up on the wall. This is the bed without the headboard:

It looks like it's missing something, right?

There we go! Much better!

The beauty of this is that whenever we get tired of the design, we can just buy new fabric and stable it over the old one!

And that's how we make a decorative headboard--Iberian style.

Note: "Iberian style" = do what you can with what you have. ;-)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Meet the Feline Family

After blogging (on and off...) for over two years, it's about time you met the feline family. You might have caught glimpses of them in some photos. Here they are, in order of appearance.

Mixa ("mee-shah")

It was hard to find a nice picture of her.
She's extremely UNphotogenic.
Mixa is the oldest cat in the house. She turned 10 in September 2014. Don't let her age fool you, though. She can be just as chirpy and silly as the rest. She's a beautiful traditional Siamese (or Thai) with a very cuddly and at the same time cranky personality (she can purr and growl at you at the same time). Like most Siamese cats, she's extremely talkative and after so many years with her you reach a point in which you actually understand what she's saying.
Mixa disciplining kitten Pebre.

A few years ago when I got her neutered, the vet discovered she had several tumors in her ovaries. That alone wouldn't have been a big problem, since he took them out. The vet, however, also noticed a strange lump on her spleen. He sent a biopsy to the lab and, yup: it was also cancerous. Barely two weeks after her neutering operation, Mixa went back to the OR to have her spleen removed. It was such a traumatic experience that she completely stopped eating and drinking. She had decided to let herself die, but Salva and I wouldn't have any of that. After a couple weeks of intensive care at home, Mixa recovered and was soon back to her chatty bossy self.

Pebre (Catalan for "Pepper")

Pebre was a bit silly-looking as a kitten.
Pebre is a gorgeous three-year-old European black tabby. He might look solid black, but I assure you he's covered in stripes! He's the largest and most photogenic of my four cats, but he's almost always in a bad mood--especially in the summer. Pebre CAN'T STAND the heat. Even though he growls a lot and hisses, he doesn't attack. Come winter, he's in a much better mood and he likes to cuddle up with us on the couch or in bed. He's the most cowardly feline in the house (if you just go "cht!" at him he'll run for his life), which is a real shame because he's huge and could be very strong and powerful if he for once decided to be assertive. When he was a kitten, he fell off our balcony (just a one-storey drop into our neighbor's patio--he didn't get hurt or anything), and I think that fall smacked all the courage out of him.

VERY silly-looking.


Pirate is the first cat we rescued from an extreme situation. As you can see, he lost an eye. He used to belong to some ex-friends of ours (I wonder why we're not friends anymore...), who constantly neglected him and allowed his eye to
Pirate as a kitten.
His eye was already a lost cause.
burst. When this happened, they decided not to tell anyone and let nature run its course. In other words: they didn't have money to pay for the vet so they decided to abandon the animal in the garden and let it die an excruciating death. Luckily for Pirate, Salva saw him and we took over from there. Once Pirate was better things turned ugly and the old owners began stalking us. Of course: the bills had all been paid and now they wanted their neglected cat back... It's a long and complicated story. In the end, the police had to come and give our ex-friends a briefing on the Catalan animal protection law. The cops told us to microchip Pirate fast, so that these people couldn't claim him again.

Pirate is now a little gangster. He's cocky and loves to wrestle with Taques, and he follows me everywhere and watches me as I go to the toilet, as I get dressed, as I cook, as I watch TV... Sometimes I feel bad because we might be on the couch and I can tell he's very comfy and doesn't want to move, but the moment I get up he feels the imperious need to follow me.

He also got fat.

Taques (Catalan for "Spots" or "Stains")

A month later, Taques was practically cured.
Taques is the newest addition to the feline family, and our second extreme rescue kitty. I found Taques on May 28 2014 in the middle of the sidewalk--dying. A thick layer of pus covered both eyes and he could only gasp for breath. He hadn't eaten in a very long time; he had absolutely no muscle, only dry skin covering brittle bones. I picked him up then and there and ran to the vet (who, luckily, was just one street away). The vet wasn't too optimistic, but he knows I cry over anything animal-related so he didn't dare tell me to put the kitten to sleep. Instead, we spent weeks feeding Taques with a syringe every two hours, giving him his medication, cleaning his eyes, trying to clean the buildup in his tiny nose...

Taques has a wonky tail.
One (late) night, he scratched his eye and ripped off part of his third eyelid. It scared us so much that we ran him straight to the twenty-four-hour vet hospital. That day marked the beginning of his new life. The vet on duty spent over an hour with him carefully cleaning his eyes, ears and nose--and it made a huge difference. From that night on, Taques began to react much quicker and actually started to gain weight. It still took him a long time to recover, but he made it in the end and now he's an absolute banshee. He loves Salva and me to death. He's talkative, funny, quirky and hyperactive. He always needs to be the center of attention and he purrs so loudly it sounds like he'll take off at any moment.

And that's the feline family! Too many cats! Toooooo many cats! But that's how life went, and I'm happy we have them. :-)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 RR - The Hounds of Hell

Oh, happy day! Today I finished the second book from my 2015 Reading Resolution list!

The Hounds of Hell: Stories of Canine Horror and Fantasy, edited by Michel Parry, receives a solid four-star review from me.

Let's begin with the basics. The short stories in this collection all revolve around canines, be they good, evil, spectral, or even real pets. The book I own is the hardcover 1974 edition (I have a soft spot for older books versus newer editions). Most of the stories therein range from the early to mid twentieth century--probably my favorite decades for fantasy and horror.

Some of the stories are entertaining, some pull you right in...and others fall flatter than a pancake. Did I say pancake? No. Something even flatter. A crepe. Stick with me and you'll see.

Let's have a quick roll call, shall we? I'll include the story's title, author, and first sentence, along with my personal verdict.

The Hound, by H.P. Lovecraft
In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint, distant baying as if of some gigantic hound.

KVerdict: Not bad, although Lovecraft 's flowery style does get to me sometimes (I know, the time period...). I have several of his books, but sadly am not a great fan of his work. This story isn't an exception. It's just all right.

Staley Fleming's Hallucination, by Ambrose Bierce
Of two men who were talking one was a physician.

KVerdict: The first of many stories in this collection to have someone stalked by a phantom dog and ultimately get their throat ripped out. *Yawn.*

The Dog, by Ivan Turgenev
"But if you once admit the existence of the supernatural, and that it can enter into the ordinary affairs of everyday life, allow me to ask what scope is left for the exercise of reason?"

JVerdict: An excellent story with a rather slow opening. The Dog has the honor of being the only story to make a chill run through me. Once again, the character is stalked by a dog during the night. This dog, however, is warning him of what's to come...

The Hound of Death, by Agatha Christie
It was from William P. Ryan, American newspaper correspondent, that I first head of the affair.

KVerdict: A nun dreams of things which she believes never existed, but seem more real to her than life. Could she be remembering backwards?--Seeing what's to come? The symbolism, the premonitions, the signs... There is a distinct cult feel around this story, which nonetheless lacks something, as if it weren't completely fleshed out.

Dead Dog, by Manly Wade Wellman
They brought the rebel chief Kaflatala out of the jungle to Father Laboissier's mud-brick house, brought him in a tepoia because he still limped from a Portuguese bullet in his thigh.

JVerdict: Although Dead Dog repeats the premise of a person being stalked at night by a vengeful hound, the African setting, so different from the other stories in the collection, made for an interesting read.

The Dutch Officer's Story, by Catherine Crowe
"Well, I think nothing can be so cowardly as to be afraid to own the truth," said the pretty Madame de B., an Englishwoman, who had married a Dutch officer of distinction.

KVerdict: A ghostly hound wakes up sentries who are asleep on their watch, so of course someone higher up decides to see what happens if he shoots the creature. I don't understand why so many of the characters in these stories feel the need to shoot at dogs.

Vendetta, by Guy de Maupassant
Palo Saverini's widow dwelt alone with her son in a small, mean house on the ramparts of Bonifacio.

KVerdict: This is one of the few stories where the dog is a regular, living breathing pet--trained to kill.

Dog or Demon? by Theo Gift
"The following pages came into my hands shortly after the writer's death."

JJVerdict: Excellent storytelling by Victorian novelist Dora Havers (under a male pen name, of course). Probably what I loved most about this story is the fact that, even though it takes place in 1878 Ireland, the topic of eviction (with all its paperwork and personal drama) is so similar to what could happen nowadays--if you don't include the curses and the phantom killer dog (again).

Louis, by Saki
"It would be jolly to spend Easter in Vienna this year," said Strudwarden, "and look up some of my old friends there."

JVerdict: At first I was a bit disgusted. Murder your wife's beloved pet just to be able to go on vacation? However, once the murder plan is carried out and the truth is discovered, the story deserves a chuckle.

The Howling Tower, by Fritz Leiber
The sound was not loud, yet it seemed to fill the whole vast, darkening plain, and the palely luminous, hollow sky: a wailing and howling, so faint and monotonous that it might have been inaudible save for the pulsing rise and fall; an ancient, ominous sound that was somehow in harmony with the wild, sparsely vegetated landscape and the barbaric garb of the three men who sheltered in a little dip in the ground, lying close to a dying fire.

JJVerdict: The protagonists of this story, Grey Mouser and Fafhrd, are the protagonists of a series of short stories. The Howling Tower starts off a bit slow, and the point of view is so distant it's at times difficult to grasp, but once the action begins it's a tale full of imagination that I won't mind reading again.

The White Dog, by Feodor Sologub
Everything grew irksome for Alexandra Ivanova in the workshop of this out-of-way town--the pattens, the clatter of machines, the complaints of the managers; it was the shop in which she had served as an apprentice and now for several years as seamstress.

LVerdict: This is probably the flattest story in the entire collection. The beginning is all right and promises something like revenge or at least a good fight between Alexandra and a Tanechka, the youngest seamstress. What follows, however, is just awful. I'll just explain it, so if you don't want any spoilers please stop reading here. After being called a dog by Tanechka, Alexandra goes into a rage and returns home, where she ponders her existence and the round, full moon. There is ambiguity about whether or not she is a shape shifter. Driven by a force stronger than her will, Alexandra tears off her clothes and runs outside, where she lies on the ground and howls at the moon. Two neighbors see what they believe is a massive white dog, so logically (¿?) they run out and shoot it...

"The discharge of a rifle sounded in the night air. The dog gave a groan, jumped on its hind legs, became a naked woman who, her body covered with blood, started to run, all the while groaning, weeping and raising cries of distress. The black-bearded one and the curly-headed one threw themselves in the grass and began to moan in wild terror." THE END

Seriously? Put some Nutella on that crepe and serve it to me hot.

The Hound, by William Faulkner
To Cotton the shot was the loudest thing he had ever heard in his life.

KVerdict: I could have enjoyed this American South story more if the writing weren't so disjointed. There are several passages--especially descriptions of places and series of actions--where it seems the author just skipped over entire sentences. I don't know if this style is intentional to fit the protagonist, but it made for a confusing read.

The Emissary, by Ray Bradbury
Martin knew it was autumn again, for Dog ran into the house bringing wind and frost and a smell of apples turned to cider under trees.

JJVerdict: An excellent story told in an excellent voice--probably, my favorite from the collection, in fact. Little boy Martin is perpetually sick and bed-ridden, but his faithful Dog tells him everything of the outside world through the smells and brambles (and other stuff...) he brings back in his fur. The ending had a very strong Pet Sematary feel to it, which was juuuuust fine.

The Hound of Pedro, by Robert Bloch
They said he was a wizard, that he could never die.

JVerdict: Another excellent story revolving around wizardry and black magic, this time in 1717 Mexico. The depictions of violence and cruelty are exceptionally vivid in this one, so it's not for the faint of heart.

The Whining, by Ramsey Campbell
When Bentinck first saw the dog he thought it was a patch of mud.

LLVerdict: Horrible! Awful! I never want to read this again! When I began reading this collection, I had some reservations as I was worried that some of the stories might depict cruelty to a "real" (not phantom, not satanic) dog. This story fed my fears. And of course, the protagonist loses his marbles in the last line or two. How convenient. Nope.

The Death Hound, by Dion Fortune
"Well?" said my patient when I had finished stethoscoping him, "have I got to go softly all the days of my life?"

JJVerdict: Once again, an excellent story told by an excellent storyteller, Violet Wirth, "the most influential female occultist since Madame Blavatsky." The Death Hound features occult detective Doctor Taverner, who uses his wit and a dose of white magic to thwart an attempt at mental assassination. How come I never heard about this author or this character before? *Runs off to find more Taverner stories!*

And that concludes my analysis of The Hounds of Hell. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, though the topic of killer dogs did become a bit repetitive (I can't blame anyone--it's a collection of stories about killer dogs!). The best result of reading this collection is that now I know more authors and more characters I can look up. Doctor Taverner, here I come!

Would you like to read The Hounds of Hell?

What book should I strike off my list next? I was thinking about reading The Vision by Dean Koontz, merely because it's completely different to what I just read. However... I remember the first pages being so sappy... I guess I'll have to soldier on through it, right?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Revamping an Earring Holder

A little paint goes a long way.

Recently, I went down to my local Claire's and bought a ton of stud earrings (3x2!). I've got a total of five holes in my ears (had more but took them out due to constant infections), which means I regularly use studs...and sometimes lose them. So I bought about 30 pairs of earrings the other day, and then got home to this:

This is the earring holder I bought in my wild teenage years (yup, still have it!)--minus the earrings, of course. I'm a bit sick of the bright orange, not to mention the hideous rainbow flower. I have the urge to shout out "power!"

Instead of chucking this and buying another one, how about we revamp what we already got? All you need is a can of spray paint, some glitter, superglue and rhinestones!

Here we go. I chose a nice matte teal spray for the base:

It was an ugly, rainy day out on my balcony...

Be patient as the paint dries and make sure to
cover up all the nooks and crannies with several coats!

Here's the finished paint job, but how about we give that flower a little extra bling?

I spread a thin layer of superglue over the petals and dumped some glitter on there. Yeah! In hindsight, I should've put a piece of paper under this in order to save the excess glitter but I was too excited and it slipped my mind. Always think things through, people!

Add a pretty yellow rhinestone as a final touch!

Here we go: a revamped oldie, ready for a brand new life of joy and bling! We really don't need to throw out old things, now do we?

How's it look? I absolutely love it! Have you revamped any of your old favorites?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 RR - Johannes Cabal the Detective

Driven by guilt and a little bit of shame, I recently resolved to finish reading all the unfinished books in my home library.

The first book I can happily and with a great sense of completion strike off the list is Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard.

Back in the day, I happened across the prequel, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, in my local bookstore (which is great since I live in Spain and the English novel section of my nearest bookstore is usually packed with gaudy best-sellers I'm not inclined to read). I thoroughly enjoyed the read and fell in love with the antihero protagonist, his vampiric brother, and the magic involved in their adventures. There was a slight hiccup nearing the end of the novel, though: the author suddenly shifted full point of view to the so-called antagonist (a police officer), and my God was it dull!

Nevertheless, I finished the novel and was thrilled to hear a second part would soon come out. Johannes Cabal the Detective is the first and only novel I've ever--EVAAARRR!--pre-ordered on Amazon.

When the lucky book finally arrived, I jumped right into it, but unfortunately I abandoned all hope at around chapter eight. Well, it's 2015 now and it's time to give the novel a decent ending.

I finished reading Johannes Cabal the Detective last night. Final verdict: all right, but lacking much of the charm from the first novel (probably because the antihero's brother doesn't appear). What's more, as the title blatantly points out, this novel is a whodunit crime investigation--and that just ain't my cuppa tea.

Let me go through some highlights, and some hurdles. Hurdles first!

In my opinion, the entire novel suffers from a lack of focus. The author is just so utterly long-winded! The point of view jumps all over the place at all times, which doesn't help, either. I've had to reread several sentences more than once because I continually got lost in circuitous sentence structures. I believe a one-paragraph example is sufficient to give you a sense of the prose:

  "Well, Herr Harlman," said Cabal as he fitfully considered escape plans without any general enthusiasm. The whole concourse was surely dense with assorted secret policemen just itching for an excuse to kick his spleen into sausage meat. The fact that he was being treated to coffee rather than being bundled into the back of an unmarked van by several burly servants of the state armed with overactive thyroids and lengths of rubber hose implied that the covert machinations of Senza were handled with rather more civility than those of its neighbours, as well as subtlety. He could barely believe that he had so utterly failed to spot the trap. Therefore, he decided, he would wait for the scale of the operation he had wandered into to become apparent before giving and bright ideas for escape serious consideration. "What happens now?"

[Pages 292-293 of my 2011 paperback edition]

Yes, that is all presented as one giant paragraph, with a tiny bit of dialogue tacked onto either end.

See what I have to deal with here? Extreme cases of wordiness such as this, plus a whodunit theme which has never really interested me, are the two main reasons why I abandoned Johannes Cabal the Detective. Am I glad I reprised my read? Sure! The author and the protagonist deserve that much. To be honest, now that I've completed this novel I'm actually toying with the idea of tackling the third book, Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute. At least the title sounds more up my alley.

Now for the novel's highlights!

Johannes Cabal continues to be a fascinating sick bastard of a man. He's the typical antisocial supercilious antihero, and that's what I simply adore about him. His eccentric and generally chill-inducing personality aside, he's fighting for a very personal cause--an excellent cause which I won't reveal here, but which just goes to show that even cold-hearted bastards can have a shred of humble humanity in them.

Jonathan L. Howard might be long-winded and at times frustrating (at least to me), but he is also an excellent author with a delicious range of vocabulary. Howard has a spellbinding way of explaining the inexplicable. Here's an excerpt that had me completely hooked:

  The room stank like a laboratory fire, and the thick chemical fug made Miss Barrow's eyes sting. Cabal ignored it all, his own eyes screwed shut as he chanted and chanted a seemingly endless litany of inhuman words from an inhuman religion. They were awful words, incomprehensible to her, but jagged, ugly things that he spat out like stones and razors. That he knew them by heart did not escape her, and she feared him for that, for it showed depths in him that opened into the abyss. Nor did he hesitate when Cacon's heels began to rattle on the floor, his legs spasming like the galvanised corpse of a frog on a school science bench. It was death, but it was in reverse, and the most obscene abrogation of the laws of nature she could ever imagine. Life did not return easily to the carcass, but was bullied and coerced, and what little dignity there is in death was torn and tattered by this sordid reversal. Cacon seemed to swell with something that was just close enough to life to serve, but equally, she sensed in her every fibre that it was a poor sort of stopgap and that it would leak away again soon enough. When Cacon started to shake and suck in ragged, dry breaths, she shuddered with revulsion, but she could not stop watching.

[Pages 250-251]

Yes, I'm aware this excerpt is another massive single paragraph, but this one held my attention through and through and wowwie, Batman! *Round of applause.*

Overall, I would give Johannes Cabal the Detective a 3.5. Not bad, but it could have been better if many things had been more to-the-point.

HarpyMax has some excellent Cabal fan art.
First book off my list! Yay! I think I'll go for something completely different next. How about... The Hounds of Hell, Stories of Canine Horror and Fantasy?

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Reading Resolution

Happy New Year! About three weeks late but oh, well... Better late than never, right?

Let's get straight to today's business: my 2015 Reading Resolution.

Here's a picture of my library:

As you can see, it's quite packed. I have well over two hundred books, and unfortunately some of them are still unread. So, for this year, I resolve to...

Here are the unlucky unread (for this selection I'm not counting my collection of antique books because I don't want them to fall apart):

Note: I will add links to reviews as I finish reading the books.

Never started:

- Lightning by Dean Koontz
- Velocity by Dean Koontz (I'm not a big fan of this author...)
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Modern Classics of Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois
- The Hounds of Hell, Stories of Canine Horror and Fantasy, edited by Michel Parry
- Foundation and Chaos (The Second Foundation Trilogy) by Greg Bear (Sent to me by mistake by an Amazon seller.)

Abandoned before finishing:

- Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard (I absolutely loved the first book but couldn't get into this one.)
- The Vision by Dean Koontz
- Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
- The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
- The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel
- The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Johansson (It was horrible.)
- The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (not in the photo)

Recent acquisitions:

- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I think I got my work cut out for me! Just this list contains sixteen titles, plus I recently began collecting the Fullmetal Alchemist Kanzenban Edition graphic novels (up to number five), so I think this year will be packed with reading. That's good because, to be honest, I barely read anything last year since I was so busy writing. This year isn't an exception (I have to publish Making Time!), but I promise to make an effort and step up to the challenge!

Which book should I strike off this list first? Have you read any of these? I think I'll begin with one I left halfway through... Hmmm... Maybe the Johannes Cabal one... What about you? Do you have any reading resolutions for 2015?
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