When I Cast Your Shadow, by Sarah Porter

❧ Title: When I Cast Your Shadow
❧ Author: Sarah Porter
❧ Publisher: Tor
❧ Publication date: 12th September 2017
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
Dashiell Bohnacker was hell on his family while he was alive. But it’s even worse now that he’s dead….

After her troubled older brother, Dashiell, dies of an overdose, sixteen-year-old Ruby is overcome by grief and longing. What she doesn’t know is that Dashiell’s ghost is using her nightly dreams of him as a way to possess her body and to persuade her twin brother, Everett, to submit to possession as well.

Dashiell tells Everett that he’s returned from the Land of the Dead to tie up loose ends, but he’s actually on the run from forces crueler and more powerful than anything the Bohnacker twins have ever imagined…
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❝In A Nutshell❞
when I cast your shadow✎ Dead brother appears to his sister in a dream and asks her for permission to possess her, although his method of both asking and opening the doorway leaves much to be desired and Ruby doesn’t realise quite what she’s let herself in for.

✎ Drug-addict brother who’d been clean for six months before his overdose, difficult to love and troubled deeply, and depending on how you read Dashiell he might have been bipolar or something similar. (I chose to read him this way, but it may or may not be canon or intentional!)

✎ Creepy ghosts wanting passage and a foothold in the world of the living, will do pretty much anything they need to make it happen.

✎ Ruby is grieving her brother, hard, and she’s trying her best to reconcile what happened to her brother with the hell Dashiell put his family through before he died. She doesn’t know how to grieve for a brother who was so emotionally unavailable, and Everett isn’t much better, struggling to both understand and quantify his own grief and desperate to convince himself he doesn’t care–about Dashiell or anything, perhaps even himself.

✎ Diverse 🚫 (no clear diversity on the page – I chose to read Dashiell as perhaps having been bipolar, but this isn’t explicit (or even really implicit, for that matter), and it feels ungenuine to say When I Cast Your Shadow represents the marginalisation of MH or NDV, if it actually doesn’t, clearly do so. For all it’s possible that Dashiell was struggling with mental health issues, the fact that he was an addict doesn’t necessarily equate with MH or NDV.)

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❝What I loved❞
✎ The prose is unique and engaging and makes for an engrossing, completely unputdownable read. Between Dashiell being (strangely) utterly enchanting to read and the weirdness of the Land of the Dead and its ghosts, When I Cast Your Shadow is one of the most compelling, different books of 2017. Parts of it are so terribly sad, while others are incredibly poignant and heartfelt, and as the reader, you are given a crash-course in Knowing Dashiell. It’s a pretty different experience to love a character who is already dead, one who has very evidently been hurtful towards his family and yet so charming and capable of so much unconditional love at the same time. We see Dashiell’s actions through several peoples’ points of view, often just anecdotal, and we are given a heartbreakingly wonderful and terrible picture of someone deeply troubled.

✎ I adored most things about this book, but the way it’s written is just so wonderful and so very lyrical and magical in places, whilst being utterly raw and hard in others, and both these styles really shouldn’t go together so well – and yet they do. Part of that makes this book so very, very delightful is the strangeness of it. This book is strange and unusual and I, myself, am strange and unusual – so we got along just fine.

✎ Honestly, I don’t even know what to tell you guys about this book. It’s so … *gestures vaguely yet expansively*. When I Cast Your Shadow is just so utterly yes, filled with heart and darkness and so much unyielding truth, that I couldn’t help but completely fall in love with it. It is like no book I have ever read before and the prose, guys, the prose just delighted and thrilled me and I adored Dashiellthe hurting, broken, wonderful thing that he is. I loved absolutely everything about this book and absolutely wish I could re-read books (I can’t), because this is one I want to read again and again and again.

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❝What I didn’t love❞
✎ No diversity on the page. Always a minus. (Usually I absolutely do not give out five-stars to books without even a lick of diversity in them, clearly stated, or by a marginalised author, buuuut I really did adore this book very, very much and a lot of important themes were handled devastatingly well, and eh, I have these Letting Stuff Slip cards that I get to hand out, and When I Cast Your Shadow was so enjoyable and wonderful, that I didn’t find myself alienated from the story by lack of being visible (in one shape or another), so it gets the card.

 

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 ❝If you liked this…❞
…you might like: As I’ve said, this is a fairly unique book and the prose is what sets it apart, but there’s a somethingness to it that kept me turning the page in a very similar way to Laure Eve’s The Graces, which I absolutely adored but have yet to review, because I am a terrible adhd spoonie thing and my review backlog is longer than Dante’s Inferno.
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Daughter of the Burning City, by Amanda Foody

❧ Title: Daughter of the Burning City
❧ Author: Amanda Foody
❧ Publisher: Harlequin Teen
❧ Publication date: 27th July 2017
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.
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daughter of the burning city❝In A Nutshell❞
✎ A circusy freak show with a twist, instead of the crappy and pretty offensive kind that is generally overused and crap.
✎ A girl with no eyes who can see and also has anxiety who also is really amazing and relatable.
✎ A demisexual or grey ace (definitely one of the two) love interest who doesn’t change himself to fit with the notion of a “normal” (heavily sarcastic use of the word intended) YA bookish romance but who is allowed to be himself throughout and who is also soft and not macho and yes thank gods!
✎ Magic and secrets and betrayal – basically all the usual good stuff backed up and fleshed out with characters that are diverse and a world that, for all we get only a small glimpse into it, is rich and vivid and exciting to be in.
✎ Diverse ☒ (bisexual MC, queer side characters, a demisexual or grey ace character; not a cast of just whiter than white folks)

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❝What I loved❞
✎ Honestly, the answer is: everything. From a positive and absolutely not judgmental approach to “promiscuity” to a boy who is actually less strong than our female protagonist, this whole book just sang for me. I adored every part of it, from Foody’s writing to the setting to the characters – Daughter of the Burning City is just magical and wonderful and utterly absorbing. It was difficult to stop reading. As a bonus, it was beautifully narrated, which only added to the experience!
✎ I’m a sucker for circuses (not the animal kind) and performing acts and the theatre and all of that jazz, do Daughter of the Burning City was just like catnip for me. I’d been hyped about this book for ages and was so excited to finally read it. It did not disappoint. The pacing was delicious and the story was exactly everything I’d hoped it would be. There is nothing that I love more than magic and circuses and all the people that call the circus home. It was wonderful to see queer characters so starkly and brightly on the page and especially pleasing to read about Luca, who is highly relatable. It’s not often that I find guys in books to relate to, so when I do and they’re written so well… well, it’s nice, okay.
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❝What I didn’t love❞
✎ Minor, minor spoiler (so don’t finish the sentence if you haven’t read or mind spoilers!), but I wish that it hadn’t been the character who is very open with sex and sleeping casually around that got killed. It made it better that, in no way, was she killed because of her openness or was she made to seem promiscuous at any point, buuuuut she still dies and it still sucks.

[Geeking With Spoons] Spoonie Convention Guide: Part 3

Travelling can be stressful at the best of times, let alone when you’re also disabled and in chronic pain. Whilst it’s possible to get things like assisted travel, these things only go so far towards actually helping. 
 
So what are the essential things to remember when travelling?

1) Assisted travel. It sucks and the service leaves much to be desired but we need it.

Someone essentially helps you onto the train. That’s pretty much where assisted travel begins and ends. It’s not very accommodating and they do the bare minimum and often not very well at that.

For anxious travellers it can be difficult. Some people might struggle (I’m one of them) with the direct communication and, in my experience, the quality of service can very much depend on who you get and where you are. They tend to be quite accommodating in London stations (I tend to always land in Paddington), but in smaller stations (such as Cheltenham) the service can be lacking. Which is frustrating since it’s so essential: without assistance it’s pretty impossible to get a wheelchair on a train (the ramps are staff-access only) and even if it was possible, there’s the other passengers and the limited time available to consider. And all of this squeezed into the tiny infinitesimal minutes between the platform being announced, getting there, and then the train pulling out. It’s a mess, even with assistance.

So assisted travel isn’t something we can change and we need it but hey, the rest of the journey doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

2) Food and water!

Do yourself a favour and don’t rely on train station food. Not only is it expensive but it might not fit in with any dietary requirements you may have. I know lots of spoonies have dietary needs (me!) and you will not find them met in most restaurants or food places, let alone a train station café or shop. It might be annoying to prep the food, but you will thank Past You. Make sure to plan meals (or at least snacks) for each meal slot you’ll be traveling for. Having enough water is important, too, since there’s nothing worse than being dehydrated whilst traveling.

3) Medicate!

Traveling can trigger and exaggerate a lot of pain and discomfort and whilst pain meds might not entirely fix that (you’re not likely to start really feeling better until you’re done with the infernal traveling), it’s a start and it’s essential. If you have regular times when you take your medication, it might be a good plan to adjust those times around when you’re travelling, so you can medicate accordingly.

4) Travel aids/therapy aids

Anything from neck support pillows to lumbar pillows – if you think it might help, take it with you. You might feel a little self-conscious on the train (because oh but people do love to stare) but weigh up how useful they’ll be for you and decide if it’s worth carrying the extra bulk. I personally can’t travel without some kind of pillow to lean on, otherwise my shoulders and arms hurt even more.

5) Entertainment!

Don’t underestimate now much you need to keep yourself distracted as you’re travelling. Not only is there the pain to contend with, but there’s the stress and anxiety of traveling. I always have music when I travel and I always read. You might like to watch something on a tablet or laptop (especially if you have WiFi) or maybe arrange to chat with friends online whilst you’re traveling. Or you could always hope that there’s something interesting to live tweet if that will keep you more entertained!

6) Organisation!

Make sure you know what you’re doing, where you’re going and when. Each train or plane or taxi, è every connection or change. You need to know what you’re doing. It’s hard enough to travel, without then needing the presence of mind to look at train tickets and check times and figure all kinds of other stuff out. Ideally you need to know what every step of your journey entails, from the train seat you’ve got to the times of arrival and the prospective prices of taxis. All these things can be found easily online and, instead of forcing yourself to remember them, you should write them somewhere on your phone or tablet, or even in a planner that you keep with you. This will mean that you’re always in control, even if you don’t feel it whilst travelling!

[Geeking With Spoons] Spoonie Convention Guide: Part 2

Once the lists are done, most of what remains in that area is to work through them. Easier said than done when there are ~8 different lists to work through and tick off each item. Sure, some things that can be ticked off are as simple as putting each thing in a bag and crossing it happily off. Others (such as the chores list and food prep list) are more complicated and likely won’t all be completed until the last minute (in that there will be some things to do on Wednesday night (e.g. food for the train), which is basically last minute – but which can be prepared for in advance all the same!). The same can be said for packing the actual suitcase and bags (especially the travel bag).

So that leaves a week(ish). The con is on Thursday, travelling at around midday, so even the last bits and pieces can be slipped into the travel bag on the morning. Most of what remains to do between now and say, Wednesday, is rest as much as possible. Okay, so that’s what I should do and that’s what I would advise any spoonie to do. But then not every spoonie is a bundle of ADHD and OCD energy who absolutely has no idea to stay still and will get very, very stressed by the notion of doing just that. Instead, I’ll do my best in the coming days to control my time and to balance my energy between doing the things that need doing, and making sure I don’t do too much. It’s … a very shaky balance, I’ll admit.

So. Here’s how the now-until-Wednesday-night will actually go.

I’ll work through the lists slowly (trying to get any chores out of the way first, so as to better be able to organise at least some of my energy) as well as planning the convention itself. It’s helpful that there’s a schedule online so I can at least try to figure out where I’ll be, doing what and when, but also so I can make sure to at least try and pace myself. This is another thing I’m pretty terrible at. I honestly don’t know how to pace myself, even though I see other spoonies doing it (or at least talking about it) all the time. Maybe a lot of that comes from the neurodiversity I have going on, but hey, maybe I’ll still figure it out one day.

So in the days running up to a con, what things do I absolutely need to make sure I do?

1) Keep the routine as normal as possible 
Not all spoonies need this, but I certainly do. Being neurodiverse the way I am, routine is oh-so very important to me. I tend to thrive with a routine and fall apart without one. My routine is quite strict, from the time I get up to when I go to bed. Meals and work time and even downtime is scheduled, however loosely. It’s hard doing things this way, being a spoonie and always essentially trying to do so much–but them’s the rules and I don’t make ’em. Starting today, however, Chez Cristea has officially flipped over to “Holiday Mode”, which essentially means doing different things to working during the same, and a looser schedule around what gets done, when. Since Nine Worlds begins on the Thursday and there’s only the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to deal with, which means there was no real point in not declaring “Holiday Mode” a few days early: it gives me the time to at least try and pace, or, in the very least, not go so hard at it when trying to prep.

2) Not think too much about being at the convention
Maybe this is just me, but for the most part, my anxiety absolutely can’t handle me thinking about being there. Last year I surpassed by own expectations by going to a few panels and actually leaving the room. This might sound like a pretty low bar for a convention, but hey, I’ve learned to go easy on myself and not to expect more from myself than I’m able to give. I am absurdly socially anxious, don’t know how to “people”, and have a lot of issues about being with and even around people. So, I don’t think about the being there, until I’m actually there. Planning the schedule notwithstanding, of course.

But this also stands in regards to not worrying about being at the con in a sense of activities and pain levels and additional fatigue brought on by travel and all the related things of actually being disabled/sick whilst trying to do something. There’s not a lot of point thinking about the stress and the additional fatigue and pain that is usually triggered by actually doing something, when that something isn’t yet being done. So, until the bags touch down in the hotel room on Thursday, I have no intention of thinking about being at the con, or what I will or won’t be able to do. It saves a lot of spoons, that way!

3) Prepare for amped up pain levels
Whether I do or don’t take it easy before travelling on Thursday, I absolutely run the risk of a mini-flare up of symptoms, brought on by the background anxiety of the upcoming stress and fuss and everything. Not thinking about being at the con doesn’t mean that my subconscious doesn’t worry about it. So I need to be aware that the pain might be worse between now and Thursday, and I need to try and plan for that, so that it doesn’t get in the way and make the planning and preparation even harder. I need to be ready for anxiety and insomnia on Wednesday night. It’s pretty difficult to be ready for anxiety, since all the prep in the world won’t really make a difference, but at least if I’m aware that it may be a thing, it won’t take me by surprise. The potential insomnia is easier to prepare for, though, so that’s at least a plus.

4) Don’t skip out on any single thing on the list and spread them all out in advance
The list is there for a reason: it’s a little gift from Past Leo to Future Leo. It will make everything easier, even if it seems arbitrary and dull and too detailed. It isn’t. It is all essential and it’s boring and I’ll be grateful for not having to think later, when I’m stressed and anxious and hurting (more than usual). If I leave everything until the last minute, I’ll be flaring before I even know it and already I’m at a disadvantage. Bad idea. The lists are your friend, Leo.

[Friday Flash Review] Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

❧ Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
❧ Author: Laini Taylor
❧ Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
❧ Publication date: 27th September 2011
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦.5
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Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
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daughter of smoke and bone❝In A Nutshell❞
✎ Angels and demons (chimera)–and ne’er the twain shall meet! (Except they do and they hate one another and they fight.) A big, very old war between angels and demons that is about to get far worse and drag old wounds and memories to the surface.
✎ A blue-haired girl who has hamsas on her hands and trades in wishes and works for a monster in a shop. She draws monsters in her sketchbooks and speaks more languages than she should. She has a sense that there’s a secret within her, only she’s not sure she ever wants to know.
✎ The supply of wishes that the monster peddles is running dangerously low–a valued and valuable currency–and its up to the blue-haired Karou to do something about the dwindling supply. But as she sets out on what appears to be a normal errand, she has no idea that she’d about to find out more than she ever expected about who she truly is. Or, perhaps, who she was.
✎ An angel who once loved a chimera and who still loves her even after she was executed by her own people for their love.
✎ Diverse 🚫 (unfortunately, nope)
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❝What I loved❞
✎ The chimera and their differences; so many different races/species of chimera, some more monstrous than others.
✎ Wishes as currency and with different “value” and potency: not all wishes are equal or cost the same amount. Some are tiny wishes that cost practically nothing, whilst others are as valuable as gold or silver and are far harder to spend.
✎ The setting, the world, the everything. Taylor’s writing is perfect and poetic and wonderful. The audiobooks were beautifully narrated, too, which was a bonus.
✎ Zuzana!!
✎ Prague, Poison Kitchen, and Zuzana!
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❝What I didn’t love❞
✎ No diversity. Boo.

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❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: Strange The Dreamer, also by Laini Taylor, or The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Taylor’s latest duology, of which Strange The Dreamer is the first, is as magical as the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, telling the story of a librarian and the leftover children of the gods. The Raven Cycle combines the same sometimes-whimsical strangeness with a story that has been taking place for centuries, with the search for the tomb of a dead Welsh king.

[Geeking With Spoons] Spoonie Convention Guide: Part 1

geeking with spoons
For most people (those whose lives aren’t governed, one way or another, by spoons), the planning involved in convention prep is relatively minor (especially if you’re not traveling super far or cosplaying, etc – and even then, it’s not totally exhausting). Perhaps you’ll browse the con schedule and decide which events and/or panels you want to attend, make lists so as not to forget any essentials (toothpaste! pants! tickets!) and maybe even buy mini pots to reduce the bulk of shampoo and shower gel, etc. I need to do all those things, too, but they’re not what comes first. Not even close.
planning noteThe very first thing I, as a spoonie, need to do when preparing for a convention, is make a list of everything I need to plan. That’s right: before I can even start with the prep, I need to prep my prep. If I don’t, chances are that I’ll forget something. Whilst that amorphous something might be relatively minor–such as a phone charger, which can be easily purchased near to the con, or a forgotten toiletry that can also be casually sourced–it might also wind up being prescription painkillers which absolutely cannot be purchased from the nearest Boots, or even something as essential as a wrist support or crutches. (Trust me: rushing out the house to get into the taxi, in my wheelchair and laden with bags, does not lend itself to remembering to shrink down crutches and stuff them into a bag–and you never know when the additional walking aid might be needed to cross from bed to bathroom in a hotel.)
So there are three reasons that I need to plan my prep. One is that there is a lot of it. The second is that I have so much going on mentally/physically everyday, that I’m liable to forget something. My type of ADD makes me hyperfocused and my OCD can make me need to do some things right there and then or in a certain order, otherwise… Well, the only otherwise is that it feels very, very wrong and bad and not good. Not all spoonies have these issues to deal with,  but they more than likely have the brain fog and forgetfulness, or just lack of spoons with which to get everything done. This brings us to the third. Energy. When you’re a spoonie, everything takes energy and that means planning and preparing and thinking. Without pre planning, there’s the risk that I’ll start flaring or I’ll be low on spoons out of nowhere, and suddenly those tiny tasks become mountains.
I’m not generally very good at planning. I like to think I am, but I find sitting still and planning pretty difficult, compared with just doing the thing. planning note 2I’ll be the one saying “oh, we can pack in the morning! We’ll have time!”. This was true, once. Before I became disabled and before everything that used to make sense, no longer did. Before brain fog and constant fatigue and pain. Now, we absolutely do not have the time to pack last minute.
So it comes down to lists! Lists of things that need doing, lists of things that need packing, and lists of miscellaneous tasks that need attending to one way or another. Micro lists are the way to go. Anything else and my energy gets drained just thinking about everything that needs doing, and I will end up half-assing everything because I’m already so done. 
 
So the first list is going to look something like this:
  • Write chores list
  • Write packing list
  • Write convention food plan, and subsequent food prep list required
  • Write travel bag list
  • Write list of medication and therapy aids required (supports or ear plugs, etc)
  • Plan food for Wednesday night, Thursday morning and Monday afternoon/evening
  • Write spending budget for convention
  • Pencil in convention schedule, leaving space for meals and rest 
It’s basically a list of all the lists that need writing, or things that need planning. This way, I can work through doing one thing at a time, or, if I get tired of one line of thought, can easily skip to start on another. By not leaving anything left unplanned, I’m not going to be anxious about packing and forgetting something or being too tired to cook.
nine worlds with spoonsThis system is a result of always having forgotten something before, or having forgotten to take into account something that I’m then kicking myself for after. I don’t want to spend money on usually gross takeout food when I get home and need rest, just because I neglected to anticipate how tired and broken I would be after a convention and the stress and travel involved. It’s always something I know, on an unconscious level, but I tend to get swept up by things and forget that I’m incapable of doing all this stuff with no payback. Chronic illness sucks and it doesn’t go away, but you’d be surprised how easily the things you’ve known for years can still get the jump on you. The OCD and ADD don’t help with that, since I am always doing more than I probably should/safely can, but hey, that’s another topic altogether.
So stage one is done (or it will be, once I write these lists down on paper in a way that feels tangible and I can interact with), and close behind that, is actually working through the lists and writing down everything that’s required. It already feels like so much to do, and that sucks, but this is literally what any expedition feels like when you’re disabled and chronically ill.
Here’s hoping that the con will be worth the stress and spoons, exacerbated pain and, finally, the inevitable payback!

The Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp

❧ Title: The Last Days of Jack Sparks
❧ Author: Jason Arnopp
❧ Publisher: Orbit
❧ Publication date: 3rd March 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦

Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days. In 2014, Jack Sparks – the controversial pop culture journalist – died in mysterious circumstances. To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone. It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy. Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed – until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack’s final hours

jack sparks❝In A Nutshell❞

✎ Jack Sparks is an asshole who is also a former journalist, who started writing books. Jack Sparks On The Supernatural is the book we’re reading, with (more or less insightful/biased/self-serving asshattery) frequent annotations by his brother, Alistar Sparks, and the occasional piece of additional material from additional sources. Since Jack always wrote his books as he was researching them, that’s why we have a more-or-less finished version of Jack Sparks On The Supernatural.

✎ Jack Sparks does not believe in the supernatural–and he’s about to prove that it’s all one big lie. That’s what this book is: Jack Sparks globetrotting to wave a big flag for Science and tell the world what’s what. Or, at least that’s what he thinks he’s going to do. Instead, Jack finds himself in the middle of the twisted game of a dark entity that wants to teach him a lesson, after Jack inflicts the greatest insult of all during an exorcism: he laughs.

✎ We read through a detailed account of the truth of what happened to Jack Sparks, and the book is literally written as the book Jack himself would have/did written/write. It works really well. Additionally, the audiobook is very effective because of this, especially with the first-person recounting of events.

✎ Diverse 🚫 (unfortunately not: the suggestion of a bi/lesbian character as a throwaway line half used for (I’m assuming??) comedic purposes, however ambiguous, doesn’t count; additionally, seeking out a medium in Hong Kong, who is then white with an Asian sidekick, isn’t really fab)

❝What I loved, aka Jack Sparks is an asshole❞

✎ This is a fact straight off the bat. But the thing is, he’s an entertaining asshole and he writes a pretty good book. But more than that, he’s the kind of asshole that was made and not born. I won’t go in to too much detail, since some of it is vaguely spoilery for later on in the book, but the fact remains: Jack’s a little bit complicated. He covers it all up beneath layers of self-confidence and bravado (fake it until you make it, that was the Jack Sparks’ motto) until there’s not much left of whoever he was before. And since the drugs… Well, he’s probably more of an asshole than he’s ever been before. I picked this book up after attending a panel at NineWorlds Geekfest 2016 and liked the sound of the book, and also thought Jason Arnopp was pretty entertaining and did a good job of selling Jack Sparks to me–and the convention panel sales pitch (so to speak) did not disappoint.

✎ This book feels like it’s written by a guy who is saying, “Hey, guys (to the reader), we know there’s a bit more to the supernatural than just black or white, right? Get a load of this guy–get a load of Jack Sparks. What an idiot. Guy’s a fool right? Let me show you how much of a fool.” The Last Days of Jack Sparks is the “found footage” equivalent of a book, with Jack having written the whole story down, even through (or especially, through) the really, really unbelievable parts of what happens to him, in his, aforementioned, last days. If you buy into to supernatural (I do: bite me) or if you’re even just an intermediate in horror, you’ll recognise all the mistakes Jack makes, even before he makes them, and you’ll see the freaky bits coming a mile away. There’s a sense of foreboding when following Jack around on the writing of his latest (and last) book and it goes deeper than just us knowing that he’s going to shuffle off this mortal coil; it’s almost as though we, the reader, are experiencing something a little bit meta, already knowing how things are going to go, whilst simultaneously wondering how we’re going to get there.

✎ But there’s more to this book than just an asshole amateur ghost-hunter trying to prove that ghosts, in fact, don’t exist. Jack has a lot of issues, and so many of them lead him to this place, right here, pissing off the big evil guy himself and ending up dead. His brother, Alistair, is a first-rate jackass (don’t be fooled by his calm, rational and sometimes over-saccharine footnotes–the guy’s a jerk) and Jack’s childhood was an elongated episode of Dad Left Because Of You and You Don’t Matter. Up grows Jack, issues in tow like a subscription to Vogue and with a desperation to make everything further in his life about him, him, him–about Jack, Jack, Jack. In a sad way, he gets exactly what he wants.

✎ Don’t get me wrong–Jack is an asshole. He’s that me, me, me kind of guy who is casually sexist and assumes he deserves all the space in a room–in a building. Why not the world? He is entirely a product of being ignored as a child and damn, if he ever lets that happen again: Jack Sparks is what he is and he thinks he’s happy with that. And perhaps he is, until Jack Sparks On Drugs and everything started to unravel. And maybe he could have even kept himself together, if not for what came next–if he’d not run away from everything and hidden himself down some dark rabbit hole under the pretence of writing another book.

✎ By the time he gets to even thinking of Jack Sparks On The Supernatual, the deal is already done and Jack is bound for complete failure. It’s almost as if it was inevitable, really. Maybe it was.

❝What I didn’t love❞

✎ Not a lick of diversity. Boo.

✎ White medium in Hong Kong with a Chinese sidekick dealing with a haunting. The other way around would have been more authentic and inclusive. Chinese combat sorcerer and a white sidekick, or, better still, two Chinese ladies to kick some ghost ass.

✎ Awkward dialogue scene between two female characters, with one obviously having asked the other if she’d be interesting in sexy time (jet lag makes her horny) and the other girl being a little confused by the question before saying she hasn’t and sounding perplexed by the question. It honestly felt a bit weird and so either should have been cut altogether, or handled in not so ham-fisted fashion. Since it only lasts literally two or three lines it did not need to be there.

❝If you liked this…❞
… you might like: the upcoming Jack Sparks movie? (Cop-out rec because I don’t read much horror and have no idea what else to suggest!)