walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Book Blogging: JAK and Thea Harrison

I've been sick for over 10 days now -- I have been getting better for a while, but it was bad. It was respiratory, and I suspect it was the flu, because it started with horrible bone and joint pain. Maybe I _will_ get the flu shot next year. I don't often get this sick.

Anyway, I have pretty well defined phases of Being Sick, one of which is Too Sick to Read, and then there's Only Beloved Rereads and next is Trashy Fiction from a Reliable Source. After that is Trashy Fiction But Willing to Take a Small Risk and after that is healthy and back to walking and too tired to do much more than play Farmville 2: Country Escape. (It's a sad, sad life, but I enjoy it so.)


I tried to read JAK's _Smoke in Mirrors_, but I was pretty ill and I had reread it too recently so I did not finish it as I started to recover.

Here's what I read during the Trashy Fiction from a Reliable Source phase.

_Eye of the Beholder_ This and the next one were JAK novels that I liked from the 1990s (and at this point, I have bought them new in hardcover, in paperback, used in paperback and in kindle. Nuts!), but had such a high price in kindle form that I just couldn't bring myself to buy them. I was waiting in hopes they would drop in price but they never did. Oh well. Good news: I hadn't read it for probably 10 years. There's some high quality banter.

_Flash_ Neither this one or the previous is quite old enough to be a "historical contemporary" (a contemporary with enough age on it to qualify as historical fiction). But I can see that it is only going to take another few years for that to happen.

_Stormy Challenge_ I didn't buy this one for a long time because I had read it in paper (probably close to 20 years ago now) and the reviews were pretty negative (it is perceived as rape-y and there is definitely a lot of ambiguous consent in the book, altho I think it falls firmly on the right side of the line once you factor in all the non-verbals being described. Not everyone is going to be okay with that). Definitely a historical contemporary. It got me rethinking a lot of other books which start with a deception and then proceed through a couple hundred pages of arguments interrupted by sexual activity that isn't every fully consummated (if you're thinking this feels like a reworking of Taming of the Shrew you are Not Wrong). Reading these three in a row and thinking about the depiction of women running their own small businesses in contemporary romances during the 1980s and 1990s is really, really thought provoking.

_Legacy_ Again, deception and arguments, altho the arguing is not quite as sustained. This is another one of JAK's (possibly the original one of JAK's) books in which the offspring of business partners who may or may not have betrayed and/or killed one another get together, figure out what happened, figure out who each other is, etc. With horses. The small business run by the woman in this novel is so in the background you might miss it entirely.

_Serpent in Paradise_ Vacation fling, HQN structure (So, a couple weeks together temporarily, separate, are reunited, work through difficulties, family formed -- this is a really well defined structure and widely discussed in the industry so if you are reading one of these books and are surprised by anything, you are clearly new to this game). Because the woman is on vacation, her business is very backgrounded for the tropical part of the story. Then she's back, but has a lot on her mind, so honestly the party gets more paragraphs than the business (I'm not complaining). When they ultimately move back to paradise (HEY I WARNED YOU GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE), there is no contemplation of the fact that kiddo might need to go to school in a few years. I don't mind that dad's job won over mom's job (I think it was a good call, given what was gonna happen to the rent in SF for mom's lingerie stores), and I like that mom had plans for opening boutiques to cater to the cruise liner trade. I don't know if I ever thought about things like, where is the kid gonna go to school, when I read this sort of stuff 20 years ago. I was probably too busy being mad at mom giving up her gig in favor of paradise. Oh, and if you are thinking homeschooling, or the whole school thing is overrated until the kid is 10 or so, I don't disagree, I just don't see how homeschooling is compatible with running a bar AND a shop, unless you take a child labor approach or a real hands' off approach, both of which could actually work out really well if you've got the right kind of kid. This book also has the Grotto Ambush sequence that appears in various forms in many JAK novels AND the Must Hike Across Country to Save Ourselves sequence. These are great sequences, and it is fun seeing them in their original, historical contemporary setting, after having seen them more recently in various Rainshadow books.

At about this point, I was looking at some JAK historical contemporaries that had even worse reviews, and I was feeling better. So I switched to reading Thea Harrison's Elder Races series, which has been, IMO, very uneven. I found it an incredible slog to get through book 3 (Carling's story, _Serpent's Kiss_). But I figured I'd give it a shot.

_Oracle's Moon_ File under Calgon Take Me Away. The Oracle, currently living in a run down house in Louisville, KY, with her young niece and infant nephew, is still grieving over the death of her sister and brother-in-law, and her own near miss with death which left her with significant movement problems. The story begins right after Carling and Rune show up and talk to the serpent lady through the Oracle, so the Djinn is hanging around feeling contemptuous. Another book with a lot of arguments in it. I felt like the whole trucker with lapsed insurance, mean witches not being very helpful and so forth felt a little off and it turned out that was intentional. Harrison did an interesting thing, in which she took a plausible situation In Real Life, which is NOT plausible in a powered context, and used the disconnect to create a mystery in need of solving to catch the bad guy. It's bizarrely satisfying. Along the way, the Calgon Take Me Away thing is the Djinn falling first for the kiddos and then for mum (so this is Ready Made Family, also), and calling on his significant resources to make her life more fun. Also, a truly excellent bar fight. A lot of the elements of Harrison's books are hackneyed in form, but she does a really nice job breathing life and color into some old structure.

_Lord's Fall_ is Pia and Dragos separated for part of the book. Pia is becoming a leader of her own team within the Wyr demesne; that is depicted in just about the right amount of detail and with a lot of humor. I guess you could ask, how did Pia get smart enough to do this given how much of a loner she is/was growing up, but that's the worst thing I would say about that. I LOVE the basic joke of having actual objects in the storyline called God Machines, and one of the God Machines in the hands of an elf with a lot of power is the central problem that must be solved. Hilarious! Which is good, because this is a very dark story of a charismatic leader dragging an entire race? culture group? off to destruction. Ends with (HEY WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE) the wedding, honeymoon, and Liam's birth.

_Kinked_ is the harpy and Quentin (old sentinel and new sentinel) getting sent off to check up on Numenlaur (emptied out land from previous book), because their fighting has gotten completely out of control. A little light DS, lots of psychoanalytical speak associated with it. They rescue Linwe and a couple others (and are helped in turn by them) and then go after a magic user after a resurrection spell. They take a lot of damage (a LOT of damage) along the way but survive, so part of this is about the difficulty of surviving the aftermath of physical trauma. But because this is an HEA and because this is fantasy, the harpy does get to fly again, which of course IRL maybe not so much. I got a huge kick out of this, because it felt like a weird mashup of postapocalyptic hellscape/bombed out After the Fall fantasy landscape -- but a two day's hike back to your iphone working again. Dark and still fun.

There's more in the series. I'm not sure if I'll be reading more now, since I'm back to walking again.
Tags: book review, paranormal fiction, romantic suspense
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