Book Review: the Johannes Cabal series

I don’t know if I have ever mentioned my love for Jonathan L Howard’s character, Johannes Cabal, but if not, let me remedy this oversight immediately. (If I have done so already, well, no harm gushing about it once more.)

Johannes Cabal is first and foremost a scientist, rather than a necromancer. He despises whimsy and is the analytical sort who’d rely on his facts and experiments than mere luck and magic, though he does have a thorough knowledge when it comes to dead languages and summoning demons, albeit in a practical manner, stripped off its rituals. His desire to be a necromancer isn’t fuelled by unattainable ambition, like raising a zombie army or being rich and famous or achieving immortality, but rather it seems more likely that he is being driven by a painful event in his past, to conquer death and bring someone dear back to life.

The first book, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, is probably the weakest book in the series, while it is entirely humourous and well-written, I found it a tad… chunky in times of its pacing. Too little happened in the beginning and too much was crammed in the last few chapters. Basically, the gist of it is that Cabal, having signed a Faustian deal with the devil in the past, regrets this decision as the lack of a soul messes up his experiments and he goes to hell to get his soul back. The devil makes a wager: Cabal must get him 100 souls in exchange and he aids Cabal by giving him a demonic travelling carnival as the instrument to get these souls. And of course, Cabal manages to survive and outwits the devil with pedantry and goes on his merry way. Personally, I thought the ending was a little cliched and predictable, but nonetheless, it was extremely enjoyable as I found Cabal’s dry wit and deadpan manner very familiar.

I actually read the second book in the series first, Johannes Cabal the Detective, is a spin on the typical locked room mystery, only instead of being in a locked room, the events take place in an airship flying from one country to another. Cabal steals the identity of a government official after leaving the country in chaos and finds himself with a whole shipful of annoying characters, who are killed in suspicious manners, and of course, Cabal is dragged into investigating the mess despite not wishing to engage in something so troublesome.

The third book, Johannes Cabal and the Fear Institute, leans towards the Lovecraftian spectrum much more than the previous two, where we find many references to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. He embarks on a journey with three other individuals who are in search of the avatar of Fear, hoping to remove it entirely from the world, so no one would suffer from irrational fear. Of course, everyone bites off more than they can chew, and it’s up to Cabal to survive and get rid of these fools weighing him down. I liked this one too, though I was a little confused by the ending, but no worries, i shall be re-reading this very soon when my copy finally arrives from Book Depository. I read a library copy originally and haven’t had the chance to refresh my memory.

Anyway, the bottom line, for all his flaws and his inability to parse human emotions and motivations, I find Johannes Cabal an extremely endearing character, even though he’s pretty much an anti-hero type of character, being none too moral or heroic and more towards extreme cynicism and self-interest. Basically, the type of person I’d want to be when I grow up :D

Advertisements

it’s unnatural selection

(Disclaimer: this is my kind of ideal society, and I don’t expect people to agree with it, but hey, opinions are things we’re allowed to have without having to apologize too much for them. A lot of rambling ahead too.)

So yeah, I’ve read a couple of dystopian works, and I know that in most cases, the writers aren’t advocating the creation of a dystopian society, and in fact they’re warning people against it. However, you know how my brain works, and you know my ambition to take over the world, so it’s not exactly surprising when I list out how I’d like my perfect dystopia to be like, except it’s not exactly a dystopia in my brain, though I suspect not everyone would see eye to eye with my idea.

Countries and the notion of separate statehood is eliminated, everyone is united under one main government, and things like nationality and race are no longer issues. Religions aren’t exactly banned, but there is a very strict separation of state and religion. Politics are based entirely on meritocracy and if elected council members aren’t doing a good job, they are fired from their position and are expected to run again if they wish to take up a position in the government.

Society is expected to run efficiently, but it’s not going to be a police state nor is Big Brother going to watch you closely. In fact privacy levels will remain the same, or even higher, depending on how… docile the population is going to be. Things like family units will be entirely eradicated, and people would be expected to donate the necessary things for reproduction, like sperm and eggs, but rather than having normal pregnancies, we’d be reproducing people through test tubes, like in Brave New World, except we won’t be forcing people into categories even before they’re born.

All children will be born as wards of the State, there will be a separate department in charge of raising these children and because of this, all of them will be given a fair start in life. Nothing like geographical locations or familial background will be limits to one’s success because they will start at the same place, as wards of the State, meaning that the State will recognize each individual on their own merits and develop each child accordingly. They will give the necessary resources to the correct individual, people talented in certain areas will be allowed to move faster in that aspect and given extra attention whereas less talented individuals will be allowed to find other areas of interest. No one would be penalised by something as silly as the lack of resources or their geographical locations.

For instance, you could have the potential to be someone amazingly intelligent and talented but because you weren’t given the opportunity of education given that your nation isn’t developed enough or that it is currently at war and your main priority is staying alive, then that potential is completely wasted. Or you could be extremely talented in art yet be forced to study sciences even though you have no real aptitude for it, thus depriving the world of your artistic genius.

For this to occur, familial units would have to be removed, and instead children would grow up with the State appointed Guardians and live with their peers. These people would form their closest relations and teach them how to interact with society in general. State appointed Guardians will be specifically handpicked, and carefully checked and trained before they’re allowed to handle these children, and they will be in charge of everything, from educating to socialising these children. In our current society, anyone can be parents, we make people go for exams before they’re allowed to drive cars but there isn’t any sort of barriers to becoming parents, and obviously not everyone is suitable to rear children, of which there are plenty of real world examples. It would simply be much easier to just remove the family structure, with all its complications and lack of resource management, and just make it a State driven thing to ensure that no one’s potential is wasted.

Darling Clandestine; Small Saga

Well, it’s been a while since I did one of these, isn’t it? I was pretty much in a perfume rut, in the sense that I mostly rotated between a few scents, which were Elie Saab’s Le Parfum, Chloe’s Love, Chloe and Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens. So hey, I thought why not play with some indie scents and hopefully get back into the swing of things, eh? (Says the person who still has a few more mainstream samples to work through, but seriously, I don’t get Guerlain or Chanel, I don’t know why.)


There is a story here. I haven’t written it.

After much anticipation, Small Saga has made its official debut. With notes of green figs and tea and cream and apricot wine, this scent opens deceptively sweet and creamy but then unfolds its complex layers and settles in a mellow, woody finish.

Darling Clandestine is one of the most amazing indie etsy perfumers out there, not only because she has some really interesting perfume blends and she writes brilliant descriptions, her customer service is also impeccable. This is definitely a shop I’d recommend and I’m glad to say that I’m definitely a repeat customer.

At first sniff, I thought Small Saga felt very similar to Serpentina, except Serpentina leaned towards the green and fresh spectrum whereas Small Saga bloomed sweetly. However, I felt that both had this tart underlying tone that made the scents a little sharp and more complex as compared to those perfumes that remain sugary sweet. The opening is creamy and sweet, even slightly fruity, which was rather unexpected since I found that figs smelt mostly green and slightly masculine to me. But perhaps that is the apricot wine kicking in. The sillage is strongest here, as I can detect it from at least 4 inches above skin surface.

The dry down reduces the sillage greatly and I can only smell it when I sniff my wrist. The scent loses most of its sweetness, and the brightness is dialed down to a warm and comforting woody scent that smells very similar to clean skin.

Small Saga lasts for at most 2 hours on me, which is one of the issues I have with indie scents, that they don’t tend to last very long, mainly because of the ingredients that they are made of.

Wallpaper~

This is my current wallpaper, stolen from one of the frontpage images on imgur, because I think Deadpool and Spidey could be totally BFFs in an awesome way, like real bros and stuff, and I’d totally read fanfics of them going through high school together and maybe Wade (Deadpool) will be the annoying big brother figure who’d totally steal Peter’s homework and set it on fire as a prank and then cause the fire alarm to go off in class and Peter will stomp in and Wade will be wearing his best puppy eyes look or the ‘oops, I did that accidentally’ face and yeah. My mind. The places it will venture to, when given the opportunity.

Things I Love Thursday

As usual, I’m playing catch up with my posts. This ought to surprise no one, since I’m a master of procrastination and last-minute work.


Got myself a new pair of earphones because my last pair just died in the same fashion as all previous earphones have died. (This sentence is so bulky and grammatically incorrect, but I don’t know how to express myself succinctly. *facepalm* I lack sleep.) Mainly this meant that one side decided to stop functioning and you can’t possibly expect me to listen to stuff through only one earbud, do you?

I’m pretty… easygoing when it comes to earphones, like I just want something mid-ranged and preferably rather durable, and suitable for playing a wide variety of genres, considering my interests span from classical to power metal or ambient. This pair seemed decent and wasn’t too pricey as compared to the other stuff in the shop, nor was it as cheap and crappy-looking as some of the other pairs. Well, I’ll only know if they last long enough.

Just a quick line here, but I really must gush about Cry’s Dishonored playthrough, because it was soooooo bad at first when he was still getting used to the gameplay and I was like, ‘shit, Cry y u no make that move?!’ But nowadays, I’m really quite pleased with how the game is going, because you know what, I think I suck at this game because three minutes in, I’m trying to strangle a guard, and I get spotted already. And fml, I’m on easy mode because I’m a filthy casual gamer who has high ambitions like going through the game entirely ghost-like. Yeah… I’m better off watching Cry for now.


Memebox is one of them beauty boxes things, except rather than focussing on US brands, this one is entirely based in Korea, though I think it’s operated by American people. Idk, I read the fine print but I forgot them in favour of buying all of the things, and I’m really excited to get my stuff even though I’ll have to wait quite a fair while since different beauty boxes have different shipping timings. But still, shipping was only 7 USD! Which is really quite affordable for international shipping, plus there are three separate boxes! That probably weighs more than a few hundred grams individually. I really can’t wait to open them, haha.


Snagged a free Starbucks upgrade voucher when they were doing some sort of promotion near our workplace :D Plus I got to try out one of the new drinks, something with caramel and nuts and too much whipped cream. Idk, I basically stopped for the upgrade voucher, haha. I wanted to get the hazelnut macchiato, buuuuut it was no longer part of their menu T_T


Got my Kickstarter rewards for the Akiba Anime Art Magazine, and let me just say that the art is just gorgeous and you should just check out the page and stare at all the pretty images. I haven’t gotten around to flipping through the pages yet because I’m scared of… crumpling the glossy pages and stuff… D:


And another Kickstarter related thing: I received my postcard from the two lovely ladies behind the Littlest Lovecraft books! :D The second book is still a work in progress, but I have no doubt it’ll just be as brilliant as the first one!

Lastly, since I don’t watch Game of Thrones, I finally got around to listening to this, and I love it, from the melody to the words to the atmosphere. The original version was cool, but with Sigur Ros doing their thing? Utter magic.

GYAAAABO! MUKYAAAA!

(all gifs sourced from tumblr, through the nodame cantabile tag)

Had my first proper piano teaching session last Saturday, since the previous two classes weren’t entirely filled yet. (Not my first piano teaching gig, but I’m considerably rusty since my original contract was like 3 years back.)

I’m not a fantastic pianist or a very good teacher, and I was certainly a crappy student back then, but the bunch of kids I got…? Well, I’ll just let the gifs do most of the talking, since Chiaki-senpai does the expressions really well. I can only learn from him and become even better at looking incredulous.


What, you’ve been learning this for two years and you don’t remember how to play it?


Waaaaait a second, you mean your previous teacher just sits at the back of the class and does her own stuff?! What?! Are we allowed to even do that?!


You think that’s how it’s supposed to be played?! Whaaat, you mean you’re going for exams in three months and you’ve not even finished learning the pieces?


OMFG, pay attention in class!


Violence isn’t the answer, but I’m definitely complaining to your mom when she comes to fetch you! D:<


The most common view that most of my students have regarding piano lessons and practising.


How I generally feel at the end of every lesson…


Aaaand GPOY when I think about having to do this for one entire year, which is basically 52 weeks of lessons.

they say I’m a control freak

Cause it’s my problem
If I want to pack up and run away
It’s my business if I feel the need to
Smoke and drink and sway
It’s my problem, it’s my problem
If I feel the need to hide
And it’s my problem if I have no friends
And feel I want to die

well meaning questions from people have left me drained, and all I want to do is to hide away in a small corner and just hibernate until everything gets better. sure, things will get better, except to make the situation better, something has to be done actually, otherwise things would just stagnate and nothing would have changed, though I suppose I’d be a few steps closer to meeting death and perhaps making friends with the denizens of hell.

Egoiste


I will be the death of myself. My obsession with being right will eventually alienate everyone, to the point that I will repulse myself. I’m not exactly the argumentative sort, though I confess to having the tendency to play devil’s advocate just because I like to throw out different opinions so I can hear people defending their own stand. But secretly (or not that secretly), I like being right, I like having knowledge over people, and I like knowing that I know more than the other person. And there’s a part of me that will go to various lengths to ensure that I am right, even at the peril of myself. I can’t particularly help it, since being right is tied so intricately to my own sense of self, that at the end of the day I can trust myself when I say something.

But sometimes the price of being right is to be hurt or to hurt. When you price being ‘right’ and ‘technical’, you end up seeing everything in a cold precise light and you end up doing the wrong things and you’d either hurt yourself in the process, to ensure that the outcome you predicted was correct, or by neglecting the value of feelings.

Either way, you don’t win. Or perhaps in this case, I will never win. It’s okay, it’s better to be right and validated by my own sense of ego than to be besieged by positive feelings from other people.

sekhmet






source

be a fighter: fight all those who oppose you, and when your people fall, fight death too. be a queen: deck yourself in gold and jewels and wear regality in every glittering gemstone. be the desert: scorching and bright, magnificent and deadly. wear your lion’s heart on your sleeve and hold your head high and if anyone tries to tear you down, destroy them.

I Blame Youtube Covers

… ever since I started working, I find myself listening to all the crappy pop songs and nodding along… *facepalm* It’s like, where are my standards going? Obviously they saw that the ship was sinking and they had to save themselves and leave me head-bopping like someone with extremely bad taste. Mostly, I blame awesome Youtube covers for making bad pop songs so palatable.