*** 1.5 stars, abandoned after reading 36% that felt like 1.000 pages *** One of the most boring attempts at paranormal mystery I have come across so...more *** 1.5 stars, abandoned after reading 36% that felt like 1.000 pages *** One of the most boring attempts at paranormal mystery I have come across so far - without taking unsexy jerks, unbelievable prerequisits and lackluster characters into account.(less)
*** 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...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 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. (less)
*** 2.5 stars, beware of slight spoilers *** In contrast to other equally unenthused readers I did not mind the heroine's character or her obsession w...more*** 2.5 stars, beware of slight spoilers *** In contrast to other equally unenthused readers I did not mind the heroine's character or her obsession with locating her absent mother and her unfazed belief in the creditability of the yearly sent promises of returns/visits and souvenirs of various places that populated the gushy birthday cards, which stopped coming in after she turned fourteen. The human mind is a very flexible and powerful thing. Everybody copes with loss and desaster in his or her own way (see 'Fangirl').
For me the extraordinary predictability, the absolutely unnecessary your-body-is-your-temple-crap mantraed by Nanny-the-granny, and the unmistakingly selfish and career-addicted Dad, whose disinterested and choleric behavior is later revealed to be just a misinterpretation or unconsciously tweaked remembrance of his attention-craving daughter, account for my unwillingness to pronounce the reading experience to be better than altogether o.k.(less)
***4.5 stars, because of that Curran thing. I have been as well entertained as I expected spending time with Kate Daniels, but his behavior annoyed me...more***4.5 stars, because of that Curran thing. I have been as well entertained as I expected spending time with Kate Daniels, but his behavior annoyed me to bits. ***(less)
"How could you not know that?" Liz asked, petulant. In that moment, I decided I’d grown sick of her company and would treat her presence like an aller...more"How could you not know that?" Liz asked, petulant. In that moment, I decided I’d grown sick of her company and would treat her presence like an allergy [...]. I shrugged. "I guess I need to brush up on my skills at minding other people’s business. Listen, are you busy later? Maybe you could show me the ropes."
It does not particularly surprise that after writing this chicklitty sci-fi-thriller "Degrees of Wrong" the author decided to try her hand at publishing Young Adult fiction ("Of Poseidon” etc.), since heroine Dr. Elyse Morgan, a 24-year-old medicine prodigy, turned out to be so childish and silly it was not even funny. That someone in her mid-twenties suffers her first boy-crush ever seems to be far-fetched to me anyhow, but - everybody-drools-differently aside - being a late bloomer in the romantic department does - in my opinion - not have to include that the person in question is socially disabled.
Soon after having calmly stitched up a bleeding soldier in the opening scene Elyse discards the brilliant medical scientist persona she is supposed to broadcast anyhow: She assists Dr. Folsom, the on-board physician of the Bellator, in checking up the submarine's military crew because she has been told to hide the top secret research purpose she had been kidnapped to pursue, but does not notice that most of the healthy soldiers faked their symptoms to get a close-up glimpse of the new, hot, female doctor who had dared to stand up against their superior during boarding and orientation. Dr. Folsom, who coincidentally is Elyse's deceased mother's best friend, (view spoiler)[whom she always addresses with her title in spite of their supposed mutual affection and closeness - isn't that weird? (hide spoiler)] astonishes the gaping young colleague with the obvious state of things, which quickly scratched a deep dent in my opinion of Elyse's supposedly outstanding expertise.
Additionally, Elyse keeps all her unique and precious research results about the big, bad pestilence virus responsible for mankind's misery on her father's old and outdated laptop for sentimental reasons, although her parents left her a small fortune and her kidnappers offered her limitless resources for her little laboratory. She even has to borrow Dr. Folsom's computer to look up shopping destinations (yes, for clothes, who would have guessed) at the next port the submarine will bob up. I suppose, Elyse Morgan's mind is meant to be so genial that she can find fantastic solutions to problems of apocalyptic proportions without all the usual mumbo-jumbo like specialized software installed on high-tech computers to process and compare her data with. She just needs a fresh batch of lab rats, some chemicals and her own critical eyes to evaluate her own progress - or the lack of it.
Speaking of lab rats: They were the only items in Elyse new playground worth bursting the novel's bubble of foggy, scientific vagueness. Elyse and her animal-friendly contemporaries only experiment on a special breed of non-suffering rats. Rats that are not able to feel pain or emotion, rats that actually lack a brain! For a moment I wondered whether those brainless rodents lack their heads altogether, but then maybe even uncanny Dr. E. would have difficulties to decipher their dull and fevered (yet painless!) expressions.
Apart from the annoying existence of the new virus, an international university of medicine situated in Italy, and the fact that doctors are automatically registered as world citizens who do not require visa on any spot of the planet, nothing else is mentionably different in the author's take on our world in the year 2056.
The story begins with a one-day-lasting, bloody war between black-clad hunks who turn out to represent the United Nations, and khaki-uniformed killers, who represent some other organisation, which is equally keen on finding a cure for the virus, and who are equally inclined to kill off an island's entire population in order to get a straight shot at kidnapping a young lady doctor rumored to be capable to find the unfindable. Mind, that said doctor has not even produced remotely remarkable results yet. Authorities have simply professed her to be the one most likely to succeed as soon as she started dabbling with the subject in her remote home laboratory. That strange assessment of her abilities felt to me like one of those famous American yearbook entries: Elyse Morgan, voted to be the one most likely to save the world before turning 30.
Anyway, being nice and accommodating to her kidnappers, who drugged and unclothed her, and letting the sadistic lieutenant bully, slap and dirtmouth her on a daily basis because outing herself to be more than a lowest-rank cadet on board would endanger the cover her new keepers have selected for her, is a matter of course for our brilliant girl, since it is plainly evident - to her - that the alternative - aka khaki - kidnapping party would have certainly treated her much, much worse - whoever they are. Being held captive on a submarine with some brainless rats, a torture-loving superior and a smoldering, youngish captain, who personally replaces her toothbrush and has a chest that causes bruises if you bump into it, has to be mainly for her own good and probably the reason for her survival so far. So, if even socially inept but mentally gifted Elyse can see that logic, how can I not, huh? Am I so wrong?
Well, I guess there are many "Degrees of Wrong". Some originate in me, like my strange expectations, my unnatural fixation on believable settings, realistic characters and human interaction that feels familiar. Others are born out of the mental images a too beautiful cover evoke, or appear when a lack of structure and logical constructs forces a reader to call it quits after reading 25% of the whole mess and noticing that another 2.89 EUR have been horribly misspent. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)