Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bosun Talks Just Down the Road from Jodi Thomas

I haven't been reading much in the last year or so and finally realized if I don't fill the well I'll never get anything truly inspiring on the page. So I ventured to the bookstore with the express purpose of finding a book I could analyze for good writing. I strolled B&N pulling one book after another off the shelf only to slide them back again. Nothing sounded good to me. But then I spotted a book I've seen online more than once and always thought, "That sounds really interesting."

This time I didn't slide it back.

Just Down the Road is the 4th in Jodi Thomas' Harmony Series. Set in Harmony, Texas, the town is just as charming as the name makes it sound. But still real, with all the gossip, hard times, good times, and history you'd recognize in your own, be it large or small. I'd never read Ms. Thomas and worried a bit about jumping into a series this far in, but I was soon so enthralled, coming in late didn't make a difference.

Since I bought this book looking for something to analyze, some of this review will be from a writer's point-of-view and some from a readers. Anyway you address it, this book is wonderful. This should come as no surprise as Ms. Thomas is a writer-in-residence at West Texas A&M University. If you want to see how it's done, pick up a book from Jodi Thomas. Wish I'd figured this out sooner.

Tinch Turner has lived in Harmony his entire life and still lives in the house in which he grew up. A virtual horse whisperer, he has a soft spot for injured and skittish creatures, but suffers scars of his own from losing his one true love three years before to cancer.

Addison Spencer is new to Harmony, having taken a temporary spot as an ER doctor in the local hospital. The child of an overbearing and emotionally manipulative father and the ex of a man who beat her, Addison is more than a little skittish around men.

When her first encounter with Tinch Turner is stitching him up after he'd taken on five men in a bar brawl, she jumps to some very wrong conclusions about the large cowboy, and as cowboys are contrary and prideful creatures themselves, he refuses to clear up her misconceptions.

Until a boy comes along. A four year old boy in need of his Uncle Tinch, whom he's never met, and who clings to his angel, the doctor who found him scared and asleep in her little rental house. Their shared concern for the boy turns to love of the child and eventually love for each other. Though the road to the HEA isn't easy, filled with desperate drug dealers, flying bullets, and long standing emotional walls, the end to this story is all the more satisfying for the struggle.

From what I can tell, the over-arching story of this series belongs to Reagan Truman. Her parts of this book are heartbreaking, heartfelt, and hilarious in turns. Harmony comes alive not because of the wide open pastures, the winding back roads, or the bustling hospital, but through the connections of the characters.

This is where the writer stuff kicks in.

Ms. Thomas includes a large cast of characters throughout this book, from the once raucous female sheriff to a stuttering teen with a gift for music, to a funeral director with a heart of gold waiting for his love to return.

The people of Harmony are what make this book come to life. They're real and troubled and funny and kind and ready to help in any way they can. This is not some fictional Utopia, but a living, breathing, vibrant setting that served as a master class on writing the small town contemporary novel. Or any novel. The writing is superb without being flowery. The stories complex without being unrealistic. The characters damaged, insecure, brave, and generous.

If you don't like jumping into a series at book 4, I suggest finding Welcome To Harmony first, but it isn't necessary to enjoy this book. If you like a good, solid story, with amazing characters, and strong sexual tension without the extended and detailed love scenes, this is a book not to be missed.

Have you tried a new-to-you author lately? How did that turn out? What authors do you study for the craft of the work? Anyone out there already a Jodi Thomas fan and if so, why didn't you clue me into to this woman sooner?? (Don't answer this, Janga. I'm sure you've tried.)

One lucky commenter will win a copy of this book in the format of your choice. (Contest limited to US residents only please.)


Maureen said...

A new to me author... I read a Wendy Wax book last week. Thought it would be fun, bought it last year at Moonlight and Magnolias... Quite a lark! Contemporary romance. One of these days I hope to write one of those...

Marnee Bailey said...

I read A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare a few weeks ago. I haven't been reading that much either but I loved this book. The heroine, Minerva, is a scientist and the hero, Colin, goes out of his way to needle her. Tessa writes fun and sexy stuff. I think I really needed that.

TerriOsburn said...

I remember when you bought that, Chance. So you liked it? I can't imagine you writing something as simple as a contemporary romance. ;)

Marn - Tessa seems to get better with every book. I bought the anthology she and her crit partners put together to benefit Relay For Life, but haven't gotten to it yet. Read the excerpt of her story and HAD to buy it. Sounds so good.

MsHellion said...

The two new-to-me authors I read (or in one case tried to read) lately were Epic Fails for me. And I appreciate you taking pity on me and covering for this Tuesday. *LOL* But it sounds like it wasn't a chore for you at all. I'm glad you've somewhat come around to the analyzing/reading for enjoyment way of reading. *LOL* They CAN co-exist. Esp if the book is good enough. Will have to give this one a try.

TerriOsburn said...

You're going to love Tinch, Hellie. LOVE him. And Noah. And Big. I'm guessing Noah might end up your favorite.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

I'm going to have to find the Jodi Thomas books I know are hidden somewhere on my TBR shelves. I've heard from so many people now how much they love her writing that I can't pass it up.

Thanks for the great review!

TerriOsburn said...

You must find them, Scape. And if they're the first 3 in the Harmony series, send them my way when you're done. LOL!

Janga said...

I'm a huge Jodi Thomas fan and have been for a while. She's a master storyteller. I've reviewed all the Harmony books and several others either on my blog or for The Romance Dish and most are five-star reviews. I love her Westerns, but the Harmony books are my favorites. One of the things I like best about the Harmony books is her atypical heroes. Tinch is a good example. Tyler is an even better example. I imagine this series as a TV show with Jason Alexander as Tyler. I have high hopes that we will get Ronelle and Marty's story before the series ends.

TerriOsburn said...

Tyler is a fun character. And I was so afraid Kate wasn't coming back! I didn't make the connection that Ronny and Marty could be a thing until Tyler "thought" it. Marty was hysterical when she went into labor. :)

It's not as if I hadn't heard of Ms. Thomas, but like countless other authors, she on the "get to eventually" list. Now she's a "should have gotten to a long time ago."

irisheyes said...

I remember reading Welcome to Harmony but then never went back and read the rest of the series. Looks like I may have to remedy that, huh?!

I read a new to me author just on the basis of a review at AAR and it turns out I really liked the book. The author was Elaine Levine and the book was Logan's Outlaw. It's a western and I find it hard to find good westerns out there. I'm in the process of reading the previous books in the series. They aren't as good at LO, but I like them well enough.

I'm also on the third book in the Fifty Shades series and liking that. Not sure that it merits all that controversy. It's not much different than a lot of other romances I've read just with more kink thrown in. To tell you the truth the thing that really worried me when I started it was the 1st person POV. I've gotten used to it, though. I like Christian a lot. Ana I liked a lot at the beginning but every once in a while now she gets on my nerves.

TerriOsburn said...

Yes, Irish, go back and read the rest. Hellie is writing a Western.

*elbows Hellie*

Irish needs more good Westerns. Write faster.

I can't even address that last part. You're distressing the hell out of me, Irish.

P. Kirby said...

Well, the jury is still out because I'm not even halfway through, but I'm pleasantly surprised by a self-pubbed book. The author contacted me via Goodreads and asked if he could send me a review copy. I finally got around to it this weekend, expecting it to be between "meh" and "crap." So far, I really like it. The voice is strong; description evocative. It's UF. I won't name the author at this point (though it's in my GR currently reading list), since it could still turn out to be an epic fail. I am surprised a self-pubbed book could be this well written.

My writing master class is my keeper's shelf.

TerriOsburn said...

And what's on that shelf, Pat? Does it weigh heavy in one genre more than another? (I'm guessing yes.)

Not that I'm reading a ton of it, but I believe the quality of self-pub books is way better than it used to be. Where I'd never bother reading any before, I'm less skeptical now. Good to hear this one is surprising you.

MsHellion said...

Irish isn't the first person I know who's liked the books. I think it's very polarizing--you either love it or hate it. *LOL*

irisheyes said...

I'm distressing you?! LOL That Catholic girl in me had to find out what all the talk was about, Ter! LOL

The very idea of these books being such a controversy is very interesting IMO. I think the fact that they've created such a stir is hilarious. There are so many other books out there that IMHO are so much worse (whichever way you want to take that - either writing wise or kink wise) and someone decided to pick these out to make a fuss over. *shrugs shoulders*

I'll concede that some of the stuff this guy is into is pretty intense, but I know there is much heavier BDSM stuff out there and that's not even taking into account the new trend of threesomes popping up all over. I guess I just wonder why these books and why this author?

I tried to read an erotica a year or so ago and I just couldn't get through it. And it had nothing to do with my prudish tendencies. The writing was horrible. I didn't care about the characters - they were pretty cardboard and the story was really lame.

If you take away all the BDSM stuff from this story it's not too bad. I want to find out why he's the way he is and you kind of understand why she's attracted to him and wants to try to make it work. As always, it's all about characterization and a good story!!!!

A friend gave them to me and said read them and then lets talk about it. She's a librarian and doesn't usually read romance, but had to find out what all the buzz was about.

irisheyes said...

You know I'm reading over my sentence - If you take away all the BDSM stuff from this story it's not too bad. and I shouldn't have worded it like that.

I think what I meant to say is that with or without the kinky stuff it's still a story that is holding my interest and that I like... obviously, cause I'm reading all three books.

I went into this with a preconceived idea that I wouldn't like it and that it would be crap writing and a crap storyline, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was also surprised by the fact that the kinky stuff didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. It was like how I felt about reading SEP's football books. I thought the football or sports theme aspect of the books would turn me off but in the end it was all about the story she was telling and not about whether I like football or not.

I'm rambling... I'll stop now. LOL

TerriOsburn said...

It's not that you're reading BDSM, Irish. It's the line about those books not being that much different than any other Romance you've read. I admit I'm passing judgment without reading the books, but I've heard enough from friends and seen enough direct quotes to shudder at that statement.

By all means, enjoy what you want. I'd never tell anyone what to read. Clearly others like them. But if a somewhat famous guy hadn't insulted them on National television, there wouldn't be any buzz to begin with. I've seen several readers say what you do. They wanted to see what the buzz was about. I'm starting to think I'm the only person who doesn't care what the buzz is about. LOL!

P. Kirby said...

Terri: And what's on that shelf, Pat? Does it weigh heavy in one genre more than another? (I'm guessing yes.)

Not surprisingly, some variant of fantasy/SF for the most part. The only exceptions I can immediately think of are Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series (first 4 books); Svetlana Chmakova's Dramacon (very twee YA); and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander (although it does have a time travel component, so still sort of spec fic). I don't do well with reality.

P. Kirby said...

Terri: I'm starting to think I'm the only person who doesn't care what the buzz is about. LOL!

You're not the only one. I've got no bias against erotica. But, based on the excerpts I've seen, the writing is, uh, less than good. Also, with a bit of Googling, I can find the original fan fic and read it for free. My muse needs food; 50 Shades is unlikely to provide much nutrition.

Uh, no offense to those who like it. Just my opinion.

irisheyes said...

I guess what I meant about it not being that much different than other romances wasn't in the context of the book but the story arc. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Each character starts out one way and through the story arc of the 3 books they both change. I think that's what I was referring to. The last book like this I read was no character development at all, no story arc, not much of a plot - just sex, sex, sex (and not very appealing sex either). I suppose I approached this book analyzing it a lot too so that I can discuss it with my friend. I was sooo ready to slam it and I suppose I was surprised that I had actually read way worse, ertocia and regular romance.

Now, if you're talking about the content in the story then I do have a lot of problems with that whole scenario. I'm making all sorts of notes on that. LOL

You're probably right about the person slamming it on TV making it the next big thing. I'm kind of out of the loop when it comes to what's current. I guess they've done a parody of it on SNL too. The first time I heard about it was in a blog Rachel Gibson did about a month or so ago. I didn't realize it started as a fanfic. Interesting.

TerriOsburn said...

Irish said:
Now, if you're talking about the content in the story then I do have a lot of problems with that whole scenario. I'm making all sorts of notes on that.

And my faith is renewed. LOL!

*^5s Pat*

Maureen said...

I know, I really wish someone would say something nasty about old people sex on National TV and get my book that kind of exposure... ;-)

Di R said...

I've never read a Jodi Thomas book. I've always heard good things about her books, but never picked one up. And yes, I've thought that every time Janga gave her a glowing review.

I read the Lyndsay Sands book I won here, and enjoyed it. (There were a couple of times I wanted to smack the heroine, but the hero made up for it.) Now I'm reading a older Julie Ann Long To Love a Thief. It's on sale for $.99. I had forgotten how much I like her writing.


TerriOsburn said...

I haven't read Julie Ann Long (though I've met her and she's very nice) but I recognize that title. Must get around to her someday. And I'm happy to hear I'm not the only one Janga needs to smack. ;) Thanks, Di!

irisheyes said...

I know, I really wish someone would say something nasty about old people sex on National TV and get my book that kind of exposure... ;-)

ROTFLMAO! That's all it takes, Maureen.

That $0.99 deal at Amazon and B&N is genius! I've downloaded a lot of new to me authors just because of the price. I'm such a sucker for their marketing ploys. LOL I try them and if I like them I want to go buy their new book and then find out it's like $24.99 or something.

I can't wait to dive into the Kathleen Eagle's The Last Good Man. Janga blogged about it last week and that one was free for 2 days on Amazon. I'm so glad I picked it up then. It's now $7.69

TerriOsburn said...

That is a hefty price difference. I'm actually getting kind of irritated about this "Get it free today!" or "Only 99 cents!" and it's always Amazon. NOT everyone has a freaking Kindle. It's as if writers have decided to say "Screw you" if you're not a Kindle owner.

irisheyes said...

I KNOW!!!! I keep going to B&N hoping to get it on my Nook and it is never the same price and sometimes B&N doesn't even carry the book. It looks like now they are releasing a bunch of old Carla Kellys and I can't find them anywhere at B&N, but Amazon has them all. Very, very frustrating. I have a Kindle app on my computer but don't want to read them on my computer.

I forgot to say, YAY! to Hellie writing a western. That should be fun!

TerriOsburn said...

Exactly! If one more person says, "But you can download the app and read it on your laptop" I'm going to scream.

Re: Hellie's Western. It's good! You're going to love Brody. ;)

Janga said...

I haven't read the Fifty Shades books either and don't plan to do so. I'm drowning in books I really want to read. And while I rarely read erotica, I've read enough to know the quality ranges widely from total crap to beautifully crafted work--just as it does in every type of book I read, romance, mystery, literary fiction, or non-fiction. I thought Manda's erotic short, "Legally Yours," was excellent, and both Janet Mullany and Pam Rosenthal write intelligent erotic romance in prose of the highest quality.

irisheyes said...

If Amazon was smart they'd make it easier to download their books on any device out there and then keep their prices the lowest. Eventually, everyone would be buying from Amazon and reading all Amazon content on their devices.

Janga said...

Many of the bargain books are available for the Nook too. I know JAL's To Catch a Thief is .99 at both. And while I agree the freebies should be available for more devices, I'll still check Amazon daily to take advantage of the Kindle offers. I downloaded the freebie from Lani Diane Rich yesterday.

P. Kirby said...

If Amazon was smart they'd make it easier to download their books on any device out there and then keep their prices the lowest. Eventually, everyone would be buying from Amazon and reading all Amazon content on their devices

To some extent, they do this with music. In as much as MP3s will play on many devices, including my iPod. iTunes/iPod format, OTOH, not so much. So I preview tunes on iTunes and buy at Amazon.

It's as if writers have decided to say "Screw you" if you're not a Kindle owner.

With books that aren't self-published, the sales venue is up to the publisher not the author. Just sayin'.

I have a Kindle, but it can be a pain because it only plays nice with Kindle format. So to put a PDF on it, I need to run it through a converter, which sometimes does weird things to the format.

Dear Author (blog) often lists deals and many are in Nook format.

Maureen said...

I know when The Kraken's Mirror was free, it was free every where... I think it's really up to the publisher... So, let the author and publisher know you'd like to see some giveaways on other platforms!

TerriOsburn said...

But I don't have a Nook either! That's it? I get two choices? And this is a good thing??? I have a Sony Reader and I'm talking about self-pub books. I can't even download the latest Jenny Crusie release (short stories of a sort that she put out herself) because they haven't put them at the Sony store nor Smashwords as far as I know. But I really want them and don't want to have to read them on my laptop.

I'm sorry but at least with paper I was never completely excluded from reading anything. I get that this is the wave of the future, but competition might as well be non-existent regarding e-readers at this point. And if you don't have the money to buy the device everyone else has, then too bad for you.

It just ticks me off.