***2.5 stars***. Well written. Chillingly creepy characters. Creepy setting that remains a mystery. Claustrophobia. Helplessness. Fate. Symbols. Power***2.5 stars***. Well written. Chillingly creepy characters. Creepy setting that remains a mystery. Claustrophobia. Helplessness. Fate. Symbols. Powerful flowers. Nordic mythology. Past, present, future. Horror. Sacrifice. Vampires. Based on a painting by Carl Larsson. Seven lives, seven loves. Human bonds through the ages that did not touch me. Rather devoid of the blurbed-about romance. Weird, but not the kind of weird I love (view spoiler)[ like One Whole and Perfect Day or Chime(hide spoiler)]. Disappointing. ...more
*** Beware! This comment-turned-into-review contains a spoiler *** I can imagine how 'The Vanishing Moment' would appeal to readers who are less wimpy*** Beware! This comment-turned-into-review contains a spoiler *** I can imagine how 'The Vanishing Moment' would appeal to readers who are less wimpy than I am, considering the beautiful writing, the multiple POVs and the crafty way those three stories run into one.
But, as I am concerned, the story is too realistic and thus much too bleak and dark. My heart doesn't survive an overdose of shitty parents.
And in this particular case the shittiness in the parental department came in 3D (no, 4D, actually) and in colour - even though there were differences: Bob and Fergus had it worst. They practically lived in hell without anybody noticing.
In addition, no magically realistic candy solution can lure me into feeling cushioned when one of the main characters I've come to respect or care for is wiped out and makes my poor heart drop. (view spoiler)[ To me a dead person remains a dead person even if another self of him or her lives a better life in a parallel universe/existence. I don't feel the consolation - at all. (hide spoiler)]
'The Vanishing Moment' belongs to the good-but-too-hopeless-and-too-depressing category. I was certainly invested, but I did not enjoy being the recipient of this multifoldedly sad tale. Even to upset to shed a tear, I guess.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
*** Some things I am going to say might be counted as spoilers if one believes that a romance like this offers a selection of potential outcomes inste*** Some things I am going to say might be counted as spoilers if one believes that a romance like this offers a selection of potential outcomes instead of just one. *** At nineteen Anna was more self-confidant* than most of the girls she knew at her age. It wasn't because she was pretty, although she was. [...] Anna's self-confidence however had nothing to do with the good looks she seemed unaware of and stemmed entirely from her friendship with Lindsay. [...] She realized that if Lindsay could see the positives in her, they had to actually be there. Palim-palim. WRONG! This is a case of a foolish, practically life-long crush on a utterly worthless recipient that made the poor guy see everything around her in a heavily photoshopped blur of softness and peachy colors. But later more about this. (*spelling according to the Kindle edition)
Apart from the obvious risk that presents itself by buying self-published fiction by an unknown author "This Christmas" offered so much potential to become just the novel I needed at the end of last December: It is YA contemporary fiction (don't focus on the main characters' NA-compatible ages. I guess, they are already 19 and 20 because the story wouldn't work if they still lived at home during the school year. They act very, very young, and hints at their respective past affairs do not firmly exclude sex, but they also do not really manage to diffuse the permanating air of immaturity surrounding the awkward couple), it has a romantic plot that happens around Christmas time (I love those - theoretically, when I manage to find one that isn't too silly), it deals with childhood friends on the brink of falling for each other (one side is as obvious as it gets, the other side doesn't do love, but has a fortnight-rule for her own romantic involvements copied from her mother's misunderstood set of attachment rules) and it is supposed to be written in a point of view that swings back and forth between her and him (I would have enjoyed that, but the reality of the undecided, unfocused points of view in this book made me feel nauseous, because I never knew in whose head of the cast I might land next and how much insight the narrator would randomly choose to grant me this time).
Alas, the hoped for pleasure was not to be, partly because of the bad writing, the too obvious ending, really stupid parts in the setting and - high above everything else - Anna. Anna is a regular pain in the ass.
I concur: Whether you deserve to be loved should not depend on your IQ or your attention span. But showing a deficit in both does not necessarily result in being hazardous to other people's possessions and well-being. Bubbly and blond college student Anna is already out in the hall with her luggage when she spontaneously invites her rich and Hawaii-bound roommate Danielle to accompany her home for the Christmas holidays in her family's snow-coated manor house. She doesn't think of informing Danielle about the many pets that will rush at her without restraint, she doesn't tell her that she, her mom and her brother share a house and a household with another family - a platonic friend of her mother's and his daughter and sons, and she doesn't spend a second on the fact that she will have to entertain her guest and spend some time with her, which she would otherwise have used differently. No. She laughs and dances and smiles mischievously until she is irritated and pretty jealous and wishes Danielle to vanish into thin air. Anna is so brazenly oblivious to other people's needs and feelings, and so utterly uninterested in the well-being of everybody but herself that it hurts. She is constantly pouting, throwing herself at someone's neck, borrowing stuff without asking, shrieking indignantly or ratting someone out on a sudden whim. She is clueless, brainless, naive and immature and so beautiful and charismatic, that spending much thought on clothing or much time on basic personal hygiene (i.e. Anna is a toothbrush borrower) is completely unnecessary. Usually her friends - especially Lindsay - love her unconditionally anyway and quickly forgive and forget everything that the destructive tornado called Anna has left in her wake. Lindsay's disappointment is only short-lived even when Anna leaves a party using the beloved truck he had been saving an eternity for, bumps into every tree and mailbox on the way home and parks it on the summit of a huge pile of horse dung: "Are you quiet because you are too mad to talk or because everything is fine and you feel silly for over reacting*?" she asked. [...] Lindsay threw himself back into the couch cushions. [...] "Anna, what were you thinking? I mean, it's not just the truck ... although, uh! It's my truck! And you put like three dents in the bumper! But, you just left without saying anything! I looked all over for you, I was worried." Taken aback [...] Anna began to stammer, "I'm sorry ... I just needed to get out of there [...]." It has to be pointed out that after this "talk" Anna tries to borrow the truck a second time, but luckily Lindsay has put his keys out of her reach just in case. (*spelling according to the Kindle edition)
Never have I encountered a heroine as vapid and unconcerned as Anna. She has the attention span of a baby squirrel and gets distracted by everything. I my opinion Anna suffers from some kind of manic disorder, which, if addressed properly, would be fine, because it would put everything into a workable frame. But Anna's mental problem is never, ever mentioned and therefore not qualified to earn her bonus sympathy points.
As jumpy as Anna's focus is the point of view. The reader has to hop from Anna's to Lindsay's mind and sometimes to Danielle's or other side-characters' without warning and even mid-chapter or mid-scene. That Lindsay's feelings are an open book does not compliment the suspense arc of the story. At the end it drags and drags and drags until Anna is really, really aware of her own attachment and able to understand Lindsay's signals. There is a too long string of exchangeable scenes like of hogging the mistletoe for a kiss, strategically placed negilées at midnight fridge raids (Anna leaves all the perishable ingredients out on the counter to decay in peace and the kitchen as a whole in disarray - how cute! - afterwards) and frozen-pond-incidents that require undressing in the car and showering together. In a better constructed novel the latter would have had the potential to create a sexy atmosphere. In "This Christmas" brainless barbie didn't even allow the potential to raise its head.
Since I had vaguely mentioned stupid parts in the setting right at the beginning I want to elaborate quickly: There are fake obstacles placed into the couple's path. I.e. Anna's and Lindsay's living arrangements aren't very unusual or outrageous. In Germany at least it is deemed to be a very sensible thing to share a house with people you are not necessarily related to. There are a lot of recent housing projects with shared recreation or dining rooms, roof top gardens and so on - preferably for parties of different generations. But even if inhabitants match as their age is concerned, it does not make them siblings and sexually off-limits to each other. A second über-silly thing was that big, big mansion itself and its convenient implications for its owners: After Anna's dad died his great aunt gave his widow her much too spacious house so she didn't have to care about paying rent anymore. In order to show her gratitude to the universe Anna's mom started to take in stray animals (dogs, deer, goats, horses and so on) and care for them. At the same time the house gives her "the opportunity to stay at home with [her] kids and just do her photography on the side." Huuuuuh? How does owning a house free the inhabitant from having to work for her bread and clothing? As I understand feeding a couple of horses, dogs and deer is quite costly as well and keeping a huge mansion warm and dry and in good repair might be at least as expensive as paying for a moderately sized family apartment.
All that remains to say is that I am proud of myself for sticking to the book until its last page. It did not deserve the honor, but I was in a rather gracious mood. It had been Christmas time after all. ...more
***Read first on February 1st 2014***:One whole and perfect book filled with wacky, but realistic and endearing characters, family problems, love, fo***Read first on February 1st 2014***:One whole and perfect book filled with wacky, but realistic and endearing characters, family problems, love, forgiveness and a whole bunch of delightful coincidences - felt like it was written just for me.
I am so glad that I had finally caved in and ordered a copy. The Printz Honor title entered and left my wishlist several times starting in 2008, when the home of my virtual shelves was still at Anobii.com. But somehow my positive gut feelings overpowered the doubts brought on by the bad average rating and the lack of gushing reviews.
And here I am: Grinning and perfectly happy after rushing through the multiple-voiced story of the Samson family, which made me cry twice in one evening.
*** A note on rereading this book half a year later: Judith Clarke's multi-POV (eight, to be correct), very Aussie family story (it's not strictly YA. It's all age at it best) gets even more magical when you are gleefully anticipationg all the wonderful interactions of the realistically flawed, but oh-so-unavoidably-lovely characters and those incredibly gut-warming coincidences. I could eat that book, honestly. ...more