Anyone who enjoys a well-crafted paranormal tale that is more psychological than violent and gory knows how difficult it is to actually find such a thAnyone who enjoys a well-crafted paranormal tale that is more psychological than violent and gory knows how difficult it is to actually find such a thing. Though there is a section in which copious amounts of blood are introduced (but not in an unnecessary and distracting manner, in my view), this book falls into that category. It contains the most familiar of paranormal tropes - a seance, possession, and exorcisms, to name a few - but they are presented in such clever ways that they serve to make the reader think while also upping the creepiness factor exponentially. It's a story rife with suspense and compelling events, and that it initially approaches everything from the standpoint from a staunch skepticism makes the ensuing twists that much more effective and disturbing.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that not only is this an exceedingly compelling tale, but it's actually creepy enough that it makes readers become quite leery of darkened rooms and unexplained noises in their houses. That's not an easy feat, so it's a testament to the author's skill that the story is truly that unsettling.
At the center of it all, of course, is the character about whom much has been said in myriad other reviews. It's an unusual, creative, risky, and ultimately brilliant move to make one's main character - and most unreliable of narrators - deeply egocentric and more than a little unlikable. In this case, though, it works. Jack Sparks is supremely selfish and self-centered, antagonistic, prone to belligerence and manipulation, and tends to think he's far smarter and more astute than pretty much anyone else he encounters. He's also extraordinarily snarky, which makes him fairly entertaining, and he does not entirely lack self-awareness; in fact, he's aware of his flaws to a surprising degree. That being the case, the reader frequently goes back and forth between not liking (and even loathing) him, finding him to be humorous, and at certain points, perhaps even feeling sorry for him (though I won't delve into why that may be the case for fear of spoiling any of the story's twists and turns).
It winds up being an inspired choice to include some of Sparks' notes (pardon the unintentional pun) in the story, as reading his thoughts, ideas, and brief commentaries about individuals and situations, serves to remind readers of Sparks' humanity, and brings home the notion that this was a "real" person (though, of course, entirely fictional) and that his thoughts were added to the manuscript not long before his demise. It adds another dimension to the story and allows the readers to have another glimpse into the inner workings of Sparks' mind.
As the reader becomes privy to all that Sparks experiences in his last days and becomes sufficiently spooked, the author also skillfully weaves in salient commentary about such things as the downsides of social media and some people's constant quest for ever more likes and followers, and the perils of both extreme egotism and a closed mind, so that the book is as smart and timely as it is suspenseful.
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of the story is that it initially presents events and information that seem as though they simply serve to move the tale along, yet there isn't a single loose end or wasted moment - everything winds up having great significance and implications, and they do so in such a way that even more seasoned readers cannot predict.
Ultimately, this is a massively entertaining, absorbing book. It's smart, creative, evocative, and genuinely disturbing. Upon reading it, I became an instant fan of Jason Arnopp's writing, and I don't have the slightest doubt that that will be the case for everyone who picks up this book that I very highly recommend....more
I say this without exaggeration: Olivia Gates is one of the few writers who can truly take readers on an emotional journey. From beginning to end in eI say this without exaggeration: Olivia Gates is one of the few writers who can truly take readers on an emotional journey. From beginning to end in each story she tells, every emotion is engaged as readers follow the characters on their journeys. In this book, in particular, you find yourself laughing at the banter, and then a short time later, you tear up as you feel every heart-wrenching bit of the characters' devastation.
That banter is one of the best aspects of the story: Antonio and Lili are true combatants on the battlefield of words for a majority of the piece, and their constant verbal one-upsmanship is incredibly entertaining. Moreover, it's highly effective in its role as the mechanism by which the reader comes to understand exactly how and why the characters - the gorgeous, highly successful Antonio and the brilliant but insecure Lili - become so fascinated with each other.
Though the events in the story take place over a relatively brief amount of time, that does not detract from either the power of their mutual attraction or the depth of the feelings they come to have for one another. One is able to follow along as they bond with, amuse and challenge each other, and when that begins to lend itself to the building of chemistry, the tension is palpable, as is the heat that is evoked by them.
I do have to acknowledge a couple of issues of a nitpicky nature, and to do so, I need to delve just slightly into spoiler territory........
Once things begin to cool down as the characters and readers recover from the aftermath of a revelation that packs a real emotional punch, Lili is the one the who winds up apologizing for the hurt she's caused Antonio by not believing him. That didn't sit entirely well with me as, by virtue of his actions and decisions, the onus for giving her time and space, then taking full responsibility for what transpired and working to repair the damage he has caused, falls squarely on Antonio's shoulders, in my view.
Additionally, some readers are not fans of so-called "insta-love" so, though the characters' connection builds organically, it does so at a very rapid pace, and then in the blink of an eye, their dialogue verges on becoming almost too saccharine at times. In short, their banter transforms into behavior characterized by holding one another's faces in their hands and calling each other, "My love." Some readers could find that transition to be a bit too fast.
End of spoiler space........
Again, those issues are mostly minor and didn't detract all that much from my overall enjoyment of what is a very good, entertaining, and ultimately extraordinarily emotional read. Olivia Gates has long been one of my all-time favorite authors, both in terms of Harlequin's writers and just in general, and her work with this story is not an exception to that rule. Her ability to evoke strong emotions in readers as she builds characters and relationships about whom it is easy to care is remarkable. Those qualities are in fine form in this book; as such, I highly recommend it. ...more