Book Review: 16 Lighthouse Road

Title: 16 Lighthouse Road
Series: Cedar Cove #1
Author: Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Mira (Harlequin)
Original publication on: September 1st, 2001

I read the Kindle ebook edition (thus no cover).

Date read: July 29th – July 30th 2013

Cedar Cove is a small town off at Washington coast (I think?), a relatively peaceful place in which everyone knows pretty much everyone – except for newcomers. Such a newcomer is Jack Griffin, the new editor of the Cedar Cove newspaper. He’s intrigued by the local judge Olivia Lockhart’s decision when she does not grant a couple a divorce due to legal entanglements, at least on the surface.
the couple in question are Cecelia and Ian Randall, who have become estranged since their baby daughter died soon after the birth.
Then there are Charlotte, Olivia’s mother, and Grace, Olivia’s best friend, who have their share of excitement and worries.
And of course we can’t leave out Olivia’s fractured relationship with her own daughter, Justine, and the divorce that happened 15 years ago.
In short, this is the story of Cedar Cove, and pretty much the whole town is somehow involved.

Sometimes I think that Nora Roberts has ruined the whole genre romance for me.
By all means, Debbie Macomber’s 16 Lighthouse Road is much more realistic than Nora’s attractive-hero-and-heroine-fall-madly-in-love-and-live-happily-ever-after but there is certain magic around Nora’s world. You know it’s rarely real, yet you can’t stop dreaming about it.

In contrast, I was surprised to find out that so many people in Cedar Cove either had gone through a divorce, was going through one or was going to go get one. That made me think that perhaps 16 Lighthouse Road wasn’t a romance novel after all?
Rest assured, this first book in the Cedar Cove series is definitely a romance novel. But not Nora’s passionate-and-soulmate kind.

What set 16 Lighthouse Road apart from other romance novels I read was that there was no one main couple, and that many protagonists were in their 50s, who have, yep, gone through a divorce or are contemplating one.
This struck me as unusual – no offense to anyone but I had to think about my own parents the whole time I read the book, and how they would never behave and talk the way Olivia and Jack did even if they weren’t married anymore and seeing other people. Actually, they – my parents – probably won’t see anyone, period. But then again, maybe it’s the Asian way. Arghhh I don’t know.
Olivia and Jack each have a divorce under their belt, and their children are grown, in the late-20s, but except for a few mentions of their age and thinning hair etc., there is no significant difference that marks their maturity, something that says “yes, I’m in my 50s and proud of it”.
I’m not saying people at 30 are not mature. And I’m all for “you are as old as you feel” rah-rah. And yet they felt so… young. I guess I’m categorizing people according to their age, and I offer a sincere apology for that. Yeah, yeah, I’m only 19, what do I know of being middle age? Maybe that’s why I’m so bewildered. It’s the combination of living “young”, small town concept, and a woman in her 50s who has managed to keep her figure (no one in her/his 50s that I know has managed that).

My favorite part was definitely the story of Cecelia and Ian, who at first never ceased to frustrate me but it felt so right to see them sort out their problems – gradually, and tentatively.
Other subplots – Justine’s, for example, although I hear she has her own book in the series,  or Charlotte’s – were neatly tied off at the end. One was too neat, in my opinion, and way too rash. But I guess that’s the way it is in real world, too. In some cases, anyway.
Two “issues” weren’t solved, though, and that’s because the next book opens with one of them.

To be fair, 16 Lighthouse Road does have its own charm, some irresistible force that makes me think well of the book. It was not remarkable, at times even sluggish. But something about the book left a positive impression on me.
I probably won’t be continuing the series, though.

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Friday Reading Update… on a Wednesday

I’m switching my weekly reading updates to monthly ones, along with monthly book haul and TBR. So the last “Friday” Reading Update fell on today, the last day of July!

Since the last update, I read…

  • Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson #3) by Patricia Briggs
  • Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4) by Patricia Briggs
  • Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
  • My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers #1) by Rachel Vincent
  • My Soul to Save (Soul Screamers #2) by Rachel Vincent
  • Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega #1) by Patricia Briggs
  • 16 Lighthouse Road (Cedar Cove #1) by Debbie Macomber: Review to come…
  • Wild Swan by Jung Chang: Actually listened to this one while my sister read it aloud. Since I’m not counting this towards my Summer Project, I won’t review this one.

And I am currently reading…

  • A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin: About one-third through, and absolutely hooked!
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: It feels so different from the Korean translation edition that I read four years ago….
  • Quiet by Susan Cain: Different from what I expected – so many studies! – but absolutely fascinating.

Sequel Review: Cry Wolf

Cry WolfTitle: Cry Wolf
Series: Alpha & Omega #1, sequel to Alpha & Omega
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace (Penguin Group USA)
Original publication in: 2008

Date read: fourth week of July, finished on July 28th 2013

Anna Latham’s life is in tumult: She has just found out that she is a rare Omega, that her wolf has claimed Charles Cornick’s as her mate, and she is moving to Montana – to the Marrok’s base.
As she tries to adjust to these completely new and unfamiliar circumstances, she and still-healing Charles are sent to investigate strange incidents happening in the mountains.

Cry Wolf is a multifaceted book, not least because it is told from four persons’ POV (Anna’s, Charles’, Asil’s and Bran’s, although the first two dominate the narration).
Anna is still struggling to overcome the demons from her past, and all this mating stuff is confusing to her. I appreciate this part because, while a bit frustrating because Anna and Charles misunderstand the other’s words quite a few times, it makes Anna so much more relatable. She hasn’t been cured of her fears instantly because of the mating; she works out her issues with the help of mating.

Cry Wolf also provides insight to the pack of the Marrok and the Marrok himself. I finally got to know the place Mercy grew up in! Samuel also makes a cameo or two, at Doc Wallace’s funeral, for example.

The mystery / suspense element that takes up more than half of the book was well done, with enough personal background so it doesn’t feel like a random attack. By the way, I have seldom loathed a villain as much as I did this one. This time it boiled my blood and fueled my rage. The whole attitude of this villain just makes me want to puke all over the person. Ugh. So damn egoistic.

Anna continues to surprise me – with her compassionate character, and the magic of being an Omega, she attracts friends and foes. Yet she remains rooted in who she is, even if she has gnawing self-doubt and is easily embarrassed. Anna’s strong, and she is a survivor. Her situation is all in all quite different from Mercy’s, but they are both mentally – and physically, too, I guess, especially in Anna’s case – strong. Two very different but both admirable characters.

A Note of Absence

A murderous heat wave is sweeping through Europe, and my country of residence was no exception. For the last three, four days, it has been so hot, even at night. (The peak was yesterday, at 37 degrees Celsius, which is approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.) Even if you do nothing, sweat rolls of your nose every now and then.

I also didn’t feel like doing anything since my brain seems to have become a puddle of brain-goo.

Of course, I had no desire to go anywhere near my computer, either, because h.o.t! (No, not the Korean singer group from the 90s.)

Thus the absence. I might disappear again because I hear it’s gonna be 33 degrees Celsius this weekend.

Sequel Review: My Soul to Save

Soul Scramers Vol.1Title: Soul Screamers: Volume One
Review Title: My Soul to Save
Series: Soul Screamers #2
Author: Rachel Vincent
Publisher: Harlequin Teen (Harlequin Books S.A.)
Original publication in: 2010

This U.S. bind-up edition was published in 2011.

Date read: July 24th 2013

Kaylee and Nash are at a concert – tickets courtesy of Tod -, having a blast, when Eden the pop star suddenly falls dead in the middle of her performance. And here is what’s weird… Kaylee does not feel the need to wail a soul song. It gets weirder, because the reason for the absence of the song is Eden has sold her soul to a hellion. The weirdest part? Addison Page, another famous teenage pop star and Tod’s ex-girlfriend he has never gotten over, has sold hers, too, and it is up to Kaylee, Nash and Tod to get it back.

My Soul to Save was… depressing. I should have known better than to expect from Rachel Vincent to end a book with a neatly tied bow with a kiss on the forehead; instead, it was a punch in the heart, painful and relieved at the same time.

Now, I hate, hate, hate it when main characters become involved in a stupid, suicidal, save-the-humanity-because-I-can’t-not-do-anything mission when it is entirely someone else’s fault. I’m a firm believer of responsibility. If you have gotten yourself into a deep shit, it’s your job to get out of it. Help is fine as long as you do the majority of the job. Help’s not fine when you twiddle your thumbs, look scared and desperately wish some superheroes will save you.

This time, though, I can’t really blame Addy because she’s not a bean sidhe and the hellion is in the Netherworld. But she could have definitely helped with Regan. Me? I would have knocked her out, scared the crap out of her and have her gagged and stored in the cellar or something.
I do admire Kaylee for wanting to help Addy, be it out of conscience and/or Tod’s desperate look. And I admire Nash for jumping in because of Kaylee.

Speaking of Kaylee and Nash, they have quite a few of sexy times in My Soul to Save. Nope, they don’t have sex but they both want it. Or rather, Nash does seem to be want it more than Kay. It doesn’t mean that Kaylee is intimidated or feels pressured by Nash. She wants it too. But there is fear lurking in her mind that Nash will dump her once they have sex… that she is just another one of his conquests. Other than those moments of insecurities, Kaylee seems to trust Nash 100 %, though. She trusts him to watch her back, to be with her when no one else is and to protect her.

I have a feeling the series is taking a dark turn, and from what I can gather by reading the blurb of the next two books – My Soul to Keep and My Soul to Steal – I have the feeling this was just a beginning.

WRW #8: 50 … You Really Need to Know edition

Wednesday Reading Wishlist is inspired by Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking the Spine but I don’t feature future releases exclusively.

I downloaded John Sutherland’s 50 Literature Ideas You Really Need To Know on my Kindle and it is really good but I regret not buying it as a physical copy because it’s kinda hard to go back and forth between chapters and the content isn’t exactly an easy one.
In general I like the idea of this 50-key-ideas-of-a-subject series because it offers you an overview on a certain subject. The only catch is that different authors write different books for the series, so there is no guarantee as to the professionalism of one book solely based on the review of another.
On a sidenote, I actually own Adrian Furnham’s 50 Psychology Ideas You Really Need to Know in Korean (한국어 번역 제목: 심리학, 즐거운 발견). I’d quite forgotten about it.

50 World History Events You Really Need to KnowWorld History: 50 Events You Really Need to Know by Ian Crofton (ISBN: 9780857380753)

Unfortunately, there are only two editions available: ebook and hardcover.
The ebook version of this series costs around 4 EUR while the hardcover costs three times more…
But gloomy thoughts aside, this will give me a place to start for my “study” of world history.

50 Religious Ideas You Really Need to Know by 50 Religous Ideas You Really Need to KnowPeter Stanford (ISBN: 9781848660595)

I am an atheist, but so many people have placed (and still continue to do so) on religion.
My mother says repeatedly that you can’t read European literature without reading the Bible. I’m not gonna read the bible, ever, so this is the closest I can get to it for now.

 

50 Literature Ideas50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know by John Sutherland (ISBN: 9781848660601)

Even though I already own the ebook, I’d love to read this book as a physical book!

Book Review: My Soul to Take

Soul Scramers Vol.1Title: Soul Screamers: Volume One
Review Title: My Soul to Take
Series: Soul Screamers #1
Author: Rachel Vincent
Publisher: Harlequin Teen (Harlequin Books S.A.)
Original publication in: 2009

This U.S. bind-up edition was published in 2011.

Date read: January 2012

Kaylee Cavanaugh is in a club with her best friend, Emma, when she feels another scream making its way up through her body. Amazingly enough, the hot senior Nash Hudson manages to calm her down outside the club.
But Kaylee’s premonition is never wrong – the next morning she sees in the news that the strawberry blonde from the club has died. When more girls start dropping dead out of blue with no reason for death, Kaylee starts to investigate, with the help of Nash.

Reading over, I realize I made the blurb sound boring. But My Soul to Take is actually a great book. But it had a bad beginning. Oh, it was so bad.

The book starts with the clichéd and over-used “beautiful best friend and the protagonist, who is content to be in her friend’s shadow” concept and went on with “the hot, popular guy who goes through girlfriends like tissues seems to be genuinely interested in the protagonist, not BBF (that’s beautiful best friend)”.
Now, to give the characters – actually the author – credit, Nash never said the dreaded “Oh, Kaylee, the love of my life, you are the one” and Kaylee didn’t make lovey-dovey eyes at Nash and say “Oh Nash, I’m soooo in love”.

Ugh. That would have been very, very bad.

Now, the teenagers seem to understand that there’s this wild attraction between them but they don’t label it as “love”, which is just too easy to do when you are a teenager. Maybe even as an adult if you haven’t really grown up.
Nash and Kaylee are awfully comfortable with each other in awfully short amount of time, but since they are under duress, I will let that one past.

Once you get past the first four or five chapters, things start to get really interesting. The source of Kaylee’s scream is revealed, plus more information regarding the bean sidhes and reapers and other unworldly creatures.
The side characters are equally intriguing. Kaylee has lost her mother when she was a toddler and her father has left her in his brother’s care, meaning Kaylee grew up with her good-natured Uncle Brendon, health freak and caring Aunt Val and vicious cousin Sophie. Then there is Emma, who gets Best Friend Award from me, and the reaper at the hospital and Nash’s mom, Harmony… I can’t wait to read more about them.

So, don’t let my prejudices and spoiled beginning cloud your mind about some amazing parts that are hidden in the book. Enjoy!

Book Review: Song of the Sparrow

Song of the SparrowTitle: Song of the Sparrow
Author: Lisa Ann Sandell
Publisher: Scholastic
Original publication in: 2007

Date read: July 22nd 2013

This is the story of Elaine of Ascolat, a sixteen-year-old lady who has been living in various military camps with her father and her brothers since her mother died 9 years ago.
This is also the story of the Britons under the new leader Arthur (after the assassination of Ambrosius Aurelius) as they try to fight the invasion of Saxons, Picts and Scots.
But ultimately, this is a story of love and friendship, of family and comradeship and of bravery and battles.

Full disclosure – I had no knowledge on King Arthur or Round Table or Camelot until I read this book. Somehow I suppose I am supposed to be bothered by this – you can’t fully understand a historical fiction unless you know about the surrounding circumstances – but actually, I’m not.

I personally found that the book has less to do with actual historical events than the situation Elaine is in.
As the only female person living in a military camp, it falls to Elaine to mend the soldiers’ clothes and tend to their wounds and illnesses. The men have watched Elaine grow up and are very fond of her – they are like her brothers.
Elaine has been in love with Lancelot, a close follower of Arthur’s, for years  – he has been her playmate (even though he is older), a sympathetic ear and a close friend. Lately she found her heart beating faster whenever he is near her, and hopes he returns her feelings, too.
All this changes when they meet Arthur’s fiancée… Gwynivere, a beautiful girl of Elaine’s age, who apparently hates Elaine and has captured Lancelot’s heart from the moment he had laid his eyes on her.

Song of the Sparrow is a novel written in verse. As such, it is important that they flow naturally from one verse to another without being bland. It is difficult to strike that narrow space in-between (although Ellen Hopkins’ earlier works manage the job with near perfection), and at first I had some problems getting into Elaine’s voice. Once I did, though, her hopes and dreams and fiery temper began to take a solid shape.
Elaine is on the verge of adulthood, naturally good at heart but confused about her feelings and exasperated at tedious tasks laid before her. She thinks independently and has a courage and determination to match any soldier. And as she grew up like a wild boy (living on a military camp for nine years as only permanent female resident will do that to you, I suppose), Elaine is insecure about her looks, which worsens when she meets Gywnivere, who is a proper lady through and through.

At first Gywnivere is the typical antagonist who has made it her task to make the protagonist miserable. But – and I don’t know whether I’m writing spoilers now – she and Elaine do form a friendship born out of emergency but that is true at heart. It was wonderful to watch their friendship manifest.

There is also an element of Tristan and Isolde although I’m not sure why – is it related to King Arthur’s legends? – but it certainly kept things interesting.

The only exasperation I had was when – I can’t say it because it is a spoiler for sure. After the battle, necklace-person, always? Really? That’s the only thing that didn’t make sense to me.

The “sparrow” in the title is a metaphor for Elaine’s heart – both her literal and figurative heart. It was a nice touch.

Sequel Review: Bone Crossed

Bone CrossedTitle:  Bone Crossed
Series: Mercy Thompson #4
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace (Penguin Group USA)
Original publication in: 2009

This is the U.S. mass market paperback edition.
***If you haven’t read Iron Kissed, please do yourself a favor and ignore this review***

Date read: July 21st 2013

Things really aren’t looking up for Mercy Thompson, the mechanic who can turn into a coyote. Just when she was trying to sort out the becoming-a-werewolf-Alpha’s-mate thing with Adam, Mercy’s mom shows up, having read about the incident in the newspaper. Shortly thereafter, a more-than-half-dead Stefan shows up, warning Mercy that “she knows” – meaning that Marsilia has somehow gotten hold of the information that Mercy had killed Andre. Soon after that, Amber, a college “friend” she hasn’t seen in years turns up, asking Mercy to get rid of a ghost that is haunting her house.
And then there is the image of two crossed bones on the garage door of her shop, an official symbol that Mercy is now an enemy of the vampires. Add in a super powerful and territorial vampire, a coup and panic attacks, and you’ve got Mercy’s full plate figured out.

Do you know feeling of not wanting to continue with a series because you are afraid, not how it will end but that it will end? I’m kinda going through that phase with Mercy Thompson series. The mass market paperback edition of Frost Burned is coming out on January 28th, 2014, and the eighth book in the series, Night Broken, is also coming out next year. There is one more Mercy book after that, probably in 2015.

But still, Mercy Thompson is an awesome series (so far) and I only have Silver Borne and River Marked left to tide me over till January, and that makes me anxious, I guess.

Coming back to Bone Crossed, I have to admit it was a notch better than Iron Kissed. Now that we have been introduced to the werewolves, vampires and fae, I love it how they all come together to play a role in Bone Crossed. (The role of fae being the smallest, I might add, so you don’t get a wrong picture.)
I loved learning about pack magic, seeing Mercy and Adam’s relationship develop and I just plain love Zee and Stefan. No need to explain why, I just do, like I love Mercy and Adam and Samuel and Warren.

Bone Crossed is a fast-paced and equal parts action and personal development. And nope, it does not end in a cliffhanger. Not this time.

Summer Project Check In: July-3

Without further ado –

Tuesday, July 16th: Blonde Ambition by Zoey Dean; Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer
Wednesday, July 17th: Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs
Thursday, July 18th: My Soul to Lose by Rachel Vincent; Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong
Sunday, July 21st: Iron Kissed and Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

On a sidenote, I find myself (as usual, and as expected) veering off my planned to-read-list-for-the-summer-project. Well, as long as I read something.