Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Club: Welcome to Harmony by Jodi Thomas

By: Kara Conrad

Welcome to Harmony
Population: LOTS of unforgettable characters
SYNOPSIS from Jodi Thomas’s website: Sixteen-year-old runaway Reagan has always wanted a place to belong. She's never had a real home of her own, but perhaps she could borrow someone else's. Under an assumed name and identity, she moves to Harmony, Texas, but keeps her distance from the welcoming townsfolk. Until prairie fires threaten Harmony-and Reagan learns the true meaning of family, friends, and home.

When you first enter the town, you’re sure to see people that remind you of someone you’d like to meet, maybe even someone you’ve known your entire life. You will meet young children who can teach us all something about life, teenagers from the local high school, including a rising rodeo star, slightly (maybe slightly more than slightly?) eccentric old folks, some quite cheerful, others down-right cranky. As Alex thinks about Jeremiah, “He’d been old her whole life.” Don’t we all know someone who fits that bill? And I guess that’s the thing about Welcome to Harmony; there is an entire cast of characters the reader will recognize. There are people who may appear one way on the surface, but not too far below that surface have several layers most never get to see. Thanks to the brilliant writing of Jodi Thomas, we do.

If you like romance (and of course we all do), then there is something for you in this book. In fact, there is more than ONE love story for you. I dare you to read the scene when we first meet Alex and Hank and NOT be intrigued by their relationship. We’ve talked before about those books set in small towns, and have featured some of them here at the club. This book has that too, which adds so much depth to the story. By the time you finish, you will feel not only like you KNOW these people, but that you can’t wait to learn more. Lucky for all of us, this book is the first in a series! There’s also suspense and a mystery to solve. This book has it all!

I really enjoy at least a bit of comedy in the stories I read, maybe even a laugh out loud moment or two. How about Jeremiah, the old man we hope will take Reagan in and give her a real home? One of his many, memorable lines is, “I welcome company about the same as I do black mold.” J But this book also offers much more serious, deeper emotional scenes. For instance, on the same page Jeremiah declares his ‘fondness’ for visitors, Reagan describes what she calls reverse wishing. At sixteen, she has learned “I don’t wish for good things to happen, I just wish the bad things would leave me alone for a while.” That line stuck with me, as I know that to be the truth for many children.

If you’ve read the book already, then you know what I’m saying is true, and I’m looking forward to finding out your favorite characters and storylines from Harmony. If you haven’t read this book, believe me when I say, this little write up barely scratches the surface of all you’ll find within its pages.  And yes, I’m a bit biased as I’m currently in my third reading of this book, but I’m not alone in my praise for it. Welcome to Harmony has received many fantastic reviews and is a 2011 RITA winner! The second book in the series is Somewhere Along the Way and is already out in bookstores. The next book, The Comforts of Home, is due to be released November 1!

And finally, this is how I know Jodi Thomas is a writer for me (and anyone who knows me will get this): not only is she an amazing story teller, but right there on page 72 of Welcome to Harmony, Tyler stops by SONIC!  Jodi doesn’t mention the drink he orders, but I’m quite certain it is a Coke, extra ice. J

Jodi is scheduled to visit with us today, so ask your questions! Also, for my own benefit, let’s talk favorite characters, lines, etc. I will be dropping by as often as I can, but don’t let my absence slow you down. Step right up, start the party, and WELCOME TO HARMONY!

While I fully recommend a trip to Sonic, a la Tyler (p. 72), it is the tradition of book club to include recipes with our book talks. Since they are served up here by yours truly, you know it can’t get any easier than this. You cooker ladies keep you laughter to a minimum.
Certain to be hits at the Blue Moon Diner:
Chili Cheese Fries
1 (32 ounce) package French fries
1 (8 ounce) bag shredded Colby jack cheese
1 (15 ounce) can chili with no beans
2 green onions (sliced)

Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat French fries according to package directions. Drain on paper towels.  In a medium sauce pan over medium heat the chili until it is heated through.
Step 2: Arrange fries on the bottom of an oven safe dish. Top with chili, then shredded Colby jack cheese, and finally green onions. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese has melted (can also be done in the microwave on plates).

Blueberry Crumb Pie

Yield: 8 servings
1 c Sugar
• 8 oz Commercial sour cream
• 3 tbsp All-purpose flour
• 1/8 tsp Salt
• 4 c Fresh blueberries
• 1 Unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
• 1 tbsp Sugar
• 1/4 c Dried breadcrumbs; fine
• 1 tbsp Sugar
• 1 tbsp Butter or margarine; melted

Combine first 4 ingredients; stir well. Place blueberries in unbaked pastry shell; sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over berries. Spread sour cream mixture over berries. Combine breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar, and butter; sprinkle over top. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until center is firm. Yield: one 9-inch pie.


Aly said...

Oh KK! You and your Sonic! I may have to stop on my way in to work to honor you this morning :)

It is definitely Kara's fault that I picked this book up --- and became addicted! Fabulous write up KK.

I think what I love the most about this book - and the series - is much of what Kara hit on. Jodi writes the characters and the community so well that you feel you are a part of them. They embrace you and makes you care about what happens. That more than anything else is what hooked me onto these books.

Must head off to work! Morning to everyone and welcome to Jodi!

Kara C said...

Thanks, Aly. There was so much I wanted to say about this amazing story. I simply cannot pick just one thing that made it work for me.
I loved reading about Hank's interactions with his little niece, and his comments about living with all those females cracked me up!
Hank and Alex's initial scene? You don't see that everyday in a book. LOL!

Welcome to everyone today! I am headed to work, but can't wait to hear what everyone has to say about this book.

krisgils33 said...

Awesome job, KK!! Your write up makes me feel like I'm deeply ingrained in that small town. Have a Sonic on me today!! :-) I haven't gotten to this book yet, the old "so many books, so little time", but I'm thinking it's time to bump it up in the queue!

ShellyE said...

Great write up! I haven't read any books by Jodi, but I will definitely check them out.

Marie Force said...

Morning everyone!
Great job KK! Thanks for hostessing. Looking forward to reading this one very soon! Everyone is raving about it.

Mary G said...

Great write up Kara! Will I be in trouble for saying that awhile ago, I brought home the second one without realizing it but couldn't resist reading it anyway because I didn't want to wait? It was so good for all the reasons you mentioned: great characters, humor & romance. Shows what a good writer Jodi is as it was terrific as a stand alone. Still plan to order the first one.

Ronlyn said...

I blame KK too for introducing me to Jodi Thomas. WELCOME TO HARMONY is wonderful! It's obviously a small town, but a small town that loves it's own uniqueness and doesn't apologize for any of it.
The various story lines were so intriguing. Tyler and Kate? My heart breaks at that last scene. Saralynn is such a special little angel. Of course Hank and Alex circling each other like wounded animals.
And Regean. Oh my. I just want to grab hold of her and give her a hug.
Thank you KK for hooking me on [yet another] series/author.

Alison said...

Good morning everyone!

Great write up! I haven't read any of Jodi's books yet. I'm definitely adding this book to my must-buy list!

Jodi Thomas said...

Good morning ladies. I’m excited to get the chance to visit with you about the first book in my new series, Welcome to Harmony.
The book was born---or maybe I should say popped into my head---while I was at a conference in California. I wanted to have a runaway looking for a home.
When I stepped into Harmony---in my mind, not for real---I wanted it to be a place where everyone always dreams of living. I don’t know if any of us have that perfect place, or would want to live there, but all of us dream of living where people care about one another and when trouble comes they band together.
When my husband was in the army and we were traveling around I used to say, “Somewhere our friends are laughing and having dinner or a picnic while they are waiting for us to show up.” We didn’t have any friends and no one picnics in Fort Huachuca, AZ.
In Harmony readers will come with me to that place where people you know and love will be waiting.
I’ll be sending three posts today. Please send your questions. Looking forward to the visit ladies.

Ronlyn said...

What a wonderful "birth" of Harmony!

Jodi, you cover a wide age range in you have a favorite to write? And what is the back story between Dimples and one of the aunts...which aunt? LOL I love how the tapestry of the history was woven throughout the story.

Jodi Thomas said...

Great questions! I enjoy writing first love where everything's possible. My favorite age is probably early 30's since they are old enough to be scarred and young enough to believe in possibilities. As to your other question about Dimples...Jeremiah and Aunt Pat were sweethearts. When he came back from the war, she had married.

oklanannie said...

Kara, you did a super job on your review of "Welcome to Harmony." I can't read this book or review without the song from "Cheers" going through my head:

"Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where
Everybody knows your name."

Woven within the pages of WTH is a place where so many personal touches have been brought to life by Jodi Thomas. The conversations are so real that you feel as if you're standing right next to the person talking. So many wonderful characters with such a diversity of personalities. Young and old, they are so splendid and you want to be one of them.

McAllens, Trumans, Mathesons and everybody else!
Hank and Alex (just give it up!), Saralynn (whether you're a frog who won't speak or a princess riding your favorite "horse," you stole my heart), the McNabb's (Stella, give Bob a rest, leave those enchiladas alone!), Tyler and his internet romance (fingers crossed, Sir Knight!), Hank's elderly aunts (Victoria Secrets???), Jeremiah (you old crabby sweetheart), Reagan (may all your wishes come true!), Noah (ridem' cowboy).

I wish I could say I'm off to the Blue Moon for a piece of Beverly's pie but I've got some work that needs to be done. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll roll through Sonic for an afternoon treat.

Have a great day everyone!

Jodi Thomas said...

Back to the story. When Welcome to Harmony was stewing in the back of my mind one of the first characters who came to me was Tyler Wright. He’ll be in all the stories because he’s a part of the town.
I was having lunch with my editor when I first brought him out of my thoughts. “I want to write about a man who is 40 something, balding, a little over weight and a funeral director.”
My editor said she didn’t think that would work.
I said, “You’re going to love him, I promise.” When I wrote Tyler Wright everyone who saw the beginnings said the same thing, “We want to hear more from him.” He’s one of those people we all want to root for.
Now I had my first two characters and I had ideas for Uncle Jeremiah and Hank. Like all my stories I just began to write and the people came by to talk to me. Sometimes I almost believe that the story is there waiting to be written and all I have to do is set down and go to work.
I love writing stories that have more than one plot going at once. That way if the story of two characters isn’t working I can switch over to others. But, before you think this is an easy job, I might add that it takes me about an hour to write each page. Sometimes I’ll set down and write five or six pages in one hour then spend the next two days making those pages right. So, on a working schedule I guess you could say I spend about 400 hours working on writing. When I’m finished with that I rewrite---reading through one last time making sure everything fits. I usually allow about a week to do this so another 20-30 hours. Then my friend, DeWanna Pace (we met in a writing class years ago) reads it and I spend several hours rewriting. Send it to editor and she makes suggestions---hours more work.
Sooooo long story short, a book is like a baby, it takes about nine months and the labor is long, delivery is a scream, but I always love it when it’s born.

Kara C said...

Yay! Jodi's here! Thank you so much for stopping by. I had my fangirl moment with you in Orlando a couple of summers ago. You were the first author I recognized, I walked by you, possibly screeched just a bit, then told you how much I loved this book. :-)
Welcome to Harmony is one of those books that appeals to so many different kinds of readers. My mom and I don't usually agree on reading material, but she loved this story as much as I did.
What kind of research, if any,did you do for this book?
And thank you for letting Tyler go to Sonic. LOL! The rest of the book club crew can tell you, I really, REALLY like that place.

Aly said...

I would say that like is a very mild description for Kara's feelings towards Sonic :)

Jodi, what is your favorite genre to read?

Ronlyn said...

KK, is Jodi the author you followed into the bathroom? LOL

Anne just reminded me of when my hubby's grandmother was trying to "help" us get her more great grandbabies...all of our Christmas gifts from her were from Victoria's Secret. LMAO!

I'm thrilled to hear Tyler is in the next books as well. I can't wait to read more about him. Despite his Sonic-going tendencies ;-) He's such a wonderful character. My heart aches for him.

Jodi Thomas said...

In New York City this past July I was excited to attend Romance Writers of America. In front of over 2,000 people my little story about a small town in Texas picked up Best Main Stream Novel with Romantic Elements. A RITA, the highest award in women’s fiction. I was so excited I almost dropped the statue.
I’m just finished the 4th Harmony. Book two, Somewhere Along the Way, is out and number 3 will be out in November, 2011. I don’t remember ever enjoying writing a series so much.

I’ll be checking this blog later today if you have any questions. Thanks for reading.

Jodi Thomas

Jodi Thomas said...

My favorite genre has always been historical romance. Thanks for asking!

Virginia said...

Great job! I love Jodi's books she is an awesome author.

Ronlyn said...

Jodi, what do you have in the works now that you've finished up the 4th Harmony book?
Do you find writing a series differs from writing stand alones?
And when you started writing WELCOME TO HARMONY were you planning a series?

and, my, aren't I just full of questions today. LOL

Marie Force said...

Thanks so much for joining us today and for the insight into your writing process and the backstory for Welcome to Harmony!

Nice to have you here! Best of luck with your series.

Kara C said...

But they're such good questions, Ronlyn!

Ronlyn said...

Thanks KK. :-)

Kara C said...

Stay tuned! Jodi is offering a giveaway!

Tara said...

Geesh, sorry so late to book club today. I just hate when work gets in the way.

Great write up, Kara. I also love Sonic, but sadly have none near our house. They put fritos in their chili cheese burittos, oh my.

Thanks for joining today, Jodi. I haven't read this book yet, but am adding it to my tbr pile. Love stories and series where you get to meet lots of people in a nice small town.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Jolene and Family said...

Yay, first in a series and easy for me to catch up on :) This sounds great and I am so curious as to the chemistry with Alex. Must get hands on :)

Kara C said...

Tara and Jolene,

You will not be sorry. This series is SO good!

Ronlyn said...

*slapping my hands over my eyes*
KK...Tara did not just say Sonic puts Fritos in their burritos...did she??

~I must not drive to Sonic, I must not drive to Sonic, I would not be back in time for bedtime, I must not drive to Sonic~

Tara said...

Not KK, but yes, Ronlyn, it's true. Fritos in the burritos, amazing! So, did you go last night to check it out? Today for lunch?

We are going away for the weekend, and after posting here I might have found a Sonic to stop at along the way.

TGIF, everyone!

Ronlyn said...

Oh Tara! Sonic is 45 minutes away, so I haven't hit it yet. It's always an event when we go. LOL

Kara C said...

I'm so sorry for the delay, but WE HAVE A WINNER!

Congratulations to....TARA! You have won a copy of the second book in this fabulous series, SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY! Send your snail mail address to Jodi at, and let her know you won from the Romance and Oreo Book Club.
Thanks to everyone that stopped by and joined the discussion, and a special thank you to Jodi for joining us with an inside peek into Welcome to Harmony!

oklanannie said...

Congrats Tara! It's a great book!

Tara said...

Thanks so much! I am just starting this book now, so winning the next in the series is perfect!