Book Report: Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer

As promised, friends, we’re trying to continue reading books together so we can chat about them for more Book Reports! As you’ll read below, we were highly, highly encouraged to read Nowhere But Home by some of our very favorite people. See if we agree with them about this adult fiction book!

book cover of Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer (website | twitter)
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 384
Target Audience: Adult Fiction
Keywords: small town Texas, head chef, long lost love, parental legacies
Format Read: We both purchased paperback copies.

Summary: After leaving behind her small-town roots in pursuit of bigger and better things, Queenie is forced to return home to Texas after being let go of her latest head chef job in New York City. She’s forced to face the legacy her mother left behind as well as her long-lost love, Everett.

Just in case you need a reminder of who we are, here ya go:

 Magan

 Estelle

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It’s impossible to start this joint chat about Nowhere But Home without mentioning the biggest book pusher I know. Cassie from Books with Cass successfully threatened… err… convinced us to buy Liza’s book and I am so so very glad that she did.

Yes! Same here. After seeing her enthusiasm (as well as Hannah from So Obsessed With and Asheley’s from Into the Hall of Books), how could we NOT read it?

We certainly didn’t want her (or any of those fabulous girls) to disown us.

 

Hahaha!

 

Okay, let’s start from the top. Queenie just lost her job in New York City, and after being everywhere and never finding her place, she sort of decides to make a trip home. She hasn’t seen her sister or her nephew forever, so she makes herself believe she is going on a temporary trip to visit.

Yes. Queenie, in the beginning, is a little bit abrasive and rough around the edges. I think all of her traveling must have been so isolating. She’s never really connected with anyone or made any friends. Do you feel the same?

So true. I think she was so focused on getting out of her small town with her two suitcases… she didn’t have time to make any roots.

Yes, for sure. I could relate to her need to flee her small town so, so much. In fact, Dustyn and I were back in the town I grew up in on Monday and I felt so overwhelmed by the people who approached me saying “it had been so long.” I mean, for one person, I hadn’t seen her since my high school graduation 10 years ago! I CANNOT imagine moving back there and I applaud Queenie for sucking it up and returning even though it was the last thing she wanted to do.

How much did you love her sister, Merry, though? Going back to her town in Texas was like turning on Steel Magnolias for me, and hanging out with the gossip queens at the hair salon. I could see why some of it could be draining (small town, so much gossip) but others were so so welcoming.

Merry was so fantastic. I really just wanted to sit down with her for a cup of coffee and listen to her talk about how she fell in love with the football coach.

My gosh, yes. Merry’s relationship with her son Cal (Queenie’s nephew) was seriously precious too. Cal was such a winner in my book. I love the high school football star but he was so polite and just such a family team player. I think he was a great bridge between Merry and Queenie.

And has such a great understanding of all that was going on, despite the entire town’s refusal to be honest and admit a lot of truths. I loved how everyone really knew what was happening with everyone, but how naive Queenie was about most situations.

Speaking of naive…let’s talk a little bit about Everett?

 

Oh, yes. Hopping right into the good stuff! You know for as much as Queenie’s internal struggle was with him, I was quite surprised by how little he really appeared in the book overall.

That’s an amazing point. I think Palmer did a great job of like establishing this romantic conflict (even so far as rich vs. wrong side of the tracks relationship) but didn’t allow it to take over the book. This was so much more about Queenie coming to terms with her past, being able to live with nosey people thinking they knew her family’s business, and just finding a way to be happy. (Even if it wasn’t the way she thought she would find it.) Still the chemistry between Everett and Queenie (who were like secret childhood sweethearts) was very very real.

Definitely. I loved that Queenie explored her options and sort of found herself through (very) uncommon activities, such as working as the chef who made last meals for prisoners on death row. I love that she gave herself time to be separated from Everett despite them being in the same town again. I admired that she didn’t immediately gravitate toward what she knew.

Yes, she gave herself some room to breathe. What did you think about the prison work? It was so so so intense for me.

Yeah, I really have to admit that this was one of the least expected surprises for me. I just never really would have guessed that element would have been added to the story. I think it provided a really huge dose of reality, but also was really hard for me to read through at times. Especially when the Starburst were involved and Queenie was trying really hard not to figure out who she was cooking for.

It was a great way for us to really see her too.
Her tough facade started to crack… and how could it not?

Oh, definitely. And I loved how she was really realistic about how ironic it was that she was finding herself (or her groove) in a kitchen that was making meals for people who were about to die.

Unexpected things happen in unexpected places? haha. Especially in the hometown you never think you are going to return to?

Oh, for sure. Do you think if you had to return to your home town, you would have to face as many hurdles as Queenie did? Would it feel like such an obstacle for you?

I think even without this family “legacy” that has sort of ostracized them from the town … it would be difficult to go back. I think my hurdles would be more internal? Not so much caused by the people in the town? Does that make sense? It would be my own head. I can appreciate people finding their own happiness in the place they grew up but I do fear that sometimes those people don’t always take some chances.

Yes, that makes sense. I don’t intend for this to seem like I’m badmouthing my small town, but I would almost feel like I’d taken a step backward. Like I wasn’t following my dreams and “proving” myself like I said I would.

I think leaving is also about leaving for the right reasons? I’m not sure Queenie was in the right frame of mind when she left the first time.

In a sense, a lot of what Queenie felt was internalized. She did have drama with the cliquey group of women in her town, but I think what we began to see is that almost everyone had baggage. She was just so wrapped up in trying to distance herself from her mom’s “legacy” that she was blind to everyone else’s misgivings. And yes, for the wrong reasons skipped town.

Yes. So so true. I know you just finished How to Love and you loved it as much as I did… but after reading Nowhere But Home… I really felt like the books had similar themes.

Oh, yes. I can definitely see that. And what an interesting comparison. Queenie flees her small town because she needs to separate herself and Reena is stalemate and cannot move because of decisions she made — two women in very different circumstances, but yes, very similar themes.

And also just the opportunity to embrace second chances?

 

Yes! With both books, I really appreciated the opportunities both girls had to really get some answers and dig into their pasts.

Yay! I’m glad you felt the same way. Kind of related to that, how did you feel reading a grown up book? Do you think Nowhere But Home is a book YA readers could love?

I found Nowhere But Home to be really refreshing. I am such a YA reader 99% of the time, but it felt like a nice break from everything I’d been reading. And yes, I definitely think there could (and should be) some major cross-over between fans of both books.

I’m so glad you felt that way! I think the book had a great balance of some heavy moments but also really vibrant ones? The supporting characters are some of the best I’ve read in a really long time. You got a sense of everyone… it was like your own neighbor or something.

I definitely felt like there was such a complete story here. I suppose sometimes I get frustrated with YA because the focus can be so narrow and a lot seems to be missing, but that can be true of any book. It all depends on how far the author wants to develop the backstory and secondary characters. And setting.

So so true. Did anything not work for you in the book?

 

Gosh. Nothing really stands out as being out of place for me. What about for you?

 

Same. I really have no complaints. I was happy with all of it. I think that’s a ringing endorsement. Do you feel inspired to pick up more adult lit books? Or maybe something with a Southern setting? Or is that just us Northeast people? haha

Hahaha — well, maybe more adult books for sure. I think that while the small town setting was pretty accurate, it doesn’t entirely encompass where I live now. So maybe something in the future that sort of straddles the extremely southern without pushing the boundaries and making it seem like we ride horses to work. (Not that Nowhere But Home did.)

Oh gosh. I’m imagining me riding a horse to work + I am sensing danger. Much danger for a lot of innocent people.

Oh! I do want to mention that I read in the author’s notes that she did research on Smithville, TX for Nowhere But Home. That’s where my dad grew up!

That’s so awesome! Speaking of setting, I loved the author’s NYC beginning. She did such an accurate job with that subway description. I could picture the Dunkin Donuts she was talking about. I have to say so many times I read about NYC in books and it is just… obvious no research was done. Not even a little but so that made me really happy. A silly subway. haha

Yes! It really did seem like she put a lot of hard work into making the settings as authentic as possible. I applaud that. And also really think that adds so much to the story.

It shows that she really cares about her work, down the smallest details. Really nice to read a book like that. Are we ready for some final thoughts? Who would you recommend this book to?

I can see myself lending this book to my mom who is an avid reader (usually of books with sexy cowboys on the cover). Or just my really good girlfriends who randomly need a good read. Anyone really! What about you?

I actually just lent it to my mom this past weekend. I was like… stop everything you are reading and READ THIS ONE.

Hahah! YAY! You’ll have to tell me what she thinks when she reads it!

 

Let’s see if she actually listens to me… Big thanks to our fellow bloggers who put this book on our radar!

 

Yes. Big huge thanks! And yay to us for listening to our book pushers!

 

It’s a lesson to all of us: listen to the book pushers in your lives. (Or else?)

 

Words of wisdom and the perfect ending!

 

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So, friends — what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of Nowhere But Home ASAP!

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Nailed It: Halloween Edition

Happy October, friends! It’s time for us to discuss book covers and manicures in our monthly Nailed It. This go ’round, instead of choosing an October book release we’re looking forward to, we decided to spice things up by choosing a thriller, horror, or mystery book to fit the mood of Halloween. EEEP. If you’ve been following along with us for a while, you may have noticed that’s not something either of us reads often. Maybe it’s time for that to change?

Magan >>

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Add to Goodreads | Order from Amazon | Release Date: January 1, 2011

I don’t do scary, friends. I don’t do horror either. I am such a scaredy cat. Sometimes I even ask Dustyn to turn the volume down on the TV when he’s watching an episode of The Walking Dead. I just get freaked out easily, okay? I asked for your scariest thriller or mystery book recommendations on twitter this week and let’s just say some of them freaked me out so much the summary scared me for days. I decided that while your suggestions were so awesome, I should probably take baby steps into this land of mystery/horror books. I’ve seen Miss Peregrine so much; lots of people are talking about it, but this cover kind of gives me the chills. I decided my pick had to be something I could actually challenge myself to read. And what a great monotoned color palette it has, right? I’m the world’s biggest gray fan, but this month, I have to say I’m diggin’ the Brandt color. What are your thoughts (on the book and the colors)?

nail polishes paired with book covers

Annette | Sophie | Brandt

Estelle >>

Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Release Date: July 11, 2013

This was such a difficult pick! I’ve read a few thrillers this year: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, Find Me by Romily Bernard, and Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf — and they are definitely a nice change up from friendships and romance in all my other contemporary reading. Another Little Piece is labeled as paranormal and a thriller which would be a very very very different kind of read for me. As Cassie from Books with Cass told me, do not read this book in a dark place. It’s THAT scary. Like Magan, I’m not a huge fan of being scared but I think I can handle it more in my reading then I can if I’m watching a movie or TV show. But then I have this over-active imagination… so. That could be interesting. And horrible for my sleeping habits.

Anyway let’s talk colors. Not the most typical scary colors but I love this combination especially the Winona. It’s a color I’ve been eyeing for myself since it was released this month. (Gotta say — isn’t that tutu skirt on the cover the best? This cover has caught my attention so much over the past few months. Love it.)

Another Little Piece Nailed It October 2013

Molly | Minnie | Winona

♥

What are some scary reads you are most looking forward to reading in the next few weeks? We would love some suggestions!

book cover for fangirl by rainbow rowell

Book Report: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Last week, we revived our Book Reports with Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. We got some great feedback from you guys, and really, really enjoy diving into these discussions. Estelle was trying to decide what she should read next and we discussed how great it would be to do a Fangirl Book Report. Magan had already read it and despite doing a joint review recently, really wanted to discuss the details a little more with Estelle. So here you have it, friends! Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell…

book cover for fangirl by rainbow rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (website | twitter)
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 433
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: college, fanfiction, twin sisters, empty nesting, separation anxiety
Other Books Reviewed by This Author: Eleanor and Park
Format read: ARCs from the publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Twin sisters Cath and Wren have moved away to college to begin their freshman years. While Wren is diving into the college life, Cath is despising the change and scared of moving forward. She clings onto her fanfiction writing and is begrudgingly taken under her roommate, Reagan’s, wing.

Just in case you need a reminder of who is who below, here ya go:

Magan

Estelle

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I don’t even know how to start! There were a bazillion and a half things I loved about Fangirl.

 

Clearly, we don’t have time to mention them all. How about top 3? (I’m hilarious.)

 

Hahahah — I loved the New Adult feel – the fear of experiencing college and moving forward because life as you know it is awesome. The relationship aspect – friendships and otherwise – were so well developed, and I think there was a lovely depiction of what it’s like to be in a relationship, but to be afraid of getting too attached to someone and all the physical pressure that comes along with relationships. What about you? What were standout aspects for you?

Great points! I totally agree with those, and have to add the escapism factor. I could totally relate to Cath and her affection for something people may not understand. (I guess when you have a Disney blog you understand these things on a “deeper” level.) But she was so consumed by the world she had created for her characters and for herself that she was forgetting there was a whole outside world to experience. Or maybe just didn’t know how to take that next step and let go of what anchored her. Oh and maybe also finding this balance between your passions and also LIVING. I know a lot of us have those moments where we are so into what’s happening on twitter or in the book world, or just in the world of books, and it can be very isolating.

You hit on two major, major points here. Cath, the main character, had so much going on in her life. Her dad seemed to be suffering from separation anxiety (and more) after Cath and Wren left for college. Wren was trying to create her own identity, separate of Cath, and that left Cath feeling very lost and confused. Her fantiction was the only stable element of her life. She was a brilliant writer, people depended on her, and it was a positive amongst a lot of heavier “real life” issues. I connected so much to the “fear to move on” side of Cath. Each time in my life I’ve had to make big decisions – going to college, moving, etc. – I have become so emotional and had trouble accepting the new.

Same here. I felt forced to relive some of the more difficult moments of my freshman year of college when I was reading Fangirl. I really wanted to transfer, feared I would never feel comfortable there, and definitely spent too much time wrapped up in other things than attempting to make a place for myself in this new life. I have to say this though. For all the heavy moments and the scary changes, there is so much humor in Fangirl. It takes a ton for me to LOL but I was definitely doing that on more than one occasion during my reading. It surprised me! I don’t remember having that kind of reaction in Attachments or Eleanor and Park. Cath’s thoughts are so amusing and so things that I would think.

I agree. And her interactions with her roommate Reagan? My gosh, I loved Reagan. She was so honest and authentic. There’s the scene where Reagan finally takes Cath under her wing and forces her to go to the cafeteria? I was dying.

Same here. I wish everyone had a Reagan!

 

Me too. And via Reagan, we meet Levi!

 

Oh Levi. What a great character. I could picture him SO well.

 

I think from what I’ve seen around the blogosphere and twitter, everyone is swooning pretty hardcore over Levi. You’ve now read all of Rainbow’s books. Would you say he’s your favorite of her male characters?

That’s so tough. I really really enjoyed Lincoln in Attachments. His plight was so unique to any fiction I’ve written (a sort of momma’s boy trying to move forward from a love he can’t forget) so I’d have to say it’s a very close tie when it comes to Lincoln and Levi. What about you? I know how much you loved Park.

I did really love Park. But I also loved Levi. Levi in many, many ways reminded me of my husband, Dustyn. The way he wouldn’t enter Cath and Reagan’s dorm room even though he had a key… or the way he would randomly bring a coffee by… how he smiled at everyone. He was kind and so thoughtful. Probably the most respectful male character I’ve read about in a long, long time. Needless to say, it’s a toss up. I think because I met Dustyn when he was about Levi’s age, something kind of pulled me to him.

I could see that. Honestly, Levi was probably a guy that I would not have liked in college because I didn’t really like NICE boys. (Bad Estelle!) And I don’t really think he is like James at all. (HA) But, I do think he is the kind of guy that girls tend to pass over because he is too nice. Like, he always ends up being the friend? So it was interesting to see how this played out. I also liked how the “romance” was never the main part of this book. Rainbow did a great job of juggling a lot of different story lines and making it feel like all the events were happening pretty organically.

It’s really true. There’s one aspect that pulled me out of the story a little bit though: the inclusion of Cath’s fanfiction and excerpts of the original story she was manipulating. How did you feel about this? (Can I just say it pains me to critique anything about Rainbow’s writing?)

It wasn’t too jarring to me but I felt myself really wondering how the fanfic situation was mirroring real life or if it was supposed to be? I also (I hate to say this) kept getting a little confused by the characters in the fanfic and almost wish there was more included if it was going to be there at all. So maybe it was more jarring than I thought but I think (and I know you agree) we are so invested in Cath and her life and just want to find out what happens. Oh, now that I’m thinking about this. Maybe it was purposeful. Cath is going through life and keeps interrupting her own growth with the fan fic? Or is that reaching?

I really think you could be right, but I think the confusion for me was that it took me a bit to catch on to who was writing which part. I also didn’t get a sense of the timeline the fanfic followed or if it was supposed to be eluding to what happened in Cath’s life as well. Essentially, I thought about it too much when all I really wanted to be thinking with was how Cath was dealing and what was going to happen next.

I understand. I felt the same way. I tried to savor it all though and trudge through the fan fic as best I could. (I stayed up until 2am reading this on Friday night. I did not want to take a break at all!)

Hahah – I’m sure James loved being ignored for Cath and Levi.

 

It’s okay. He had video games to keep him company :) But let’s chat about Wren.

 

Oh, man. The twin sister.

 

I was so intrigued by their relationship, and I love a good sister story. I felt like I spent most of the book being really angry at Wren.

Oh, girl! ME TOO. She seemed so selfish and angsty. However, Wren’s storyline showed me a completely different side of Cath. I saw Cath as someone who wasn’t so skittish and scared. She became a stronger woman to me through all of these interactions with Wren and their father. I began to see a tender, compassionate, STRONG side of her.

It’s true. I understood that both girls really need to steer their own paths. That took a lot of courage when they were so used to being together and sharing each other’s lives. But it was almost too extreme and I wanted to shake Wren just to talk to her sister! How could she just… let her sit in her room. Even though Cath didn’t like to party it up, Wren could have been encouraging and available to her sister. It felt like they were strangers.

It really did. Wren’s actions almost made it unbelievable that at some point she was into the fanfiction too. She became such a different girl than who I think Cath grew up with.

Another totally realistic portrayal of the choices people can make when they go to college.

 

Gosh, yeah. College is like this huge opportunity to essentially reinvent yourself. Cath wasn’t sure she wanted to do that. She liked her life as it was. Meanwhile, Wren was fleeing. She wanted the exact opposite. I can’t pinpoint any specific examples of this happening to me in college, but I can imagine how difficult it would be to make it through that kind of behavioral change.

Especially when you are going to school with a built-in friend. Or so you think.

 

I know you and I have both had adult friendships go awry under circumstances we just didn’t understand. I think that was one of my favorite aspects of Fangirl. Even though they were still younger than we are, I really, really connected to their circumstances even more so than I normally do with Young Adult books. It felt so refreshing.

I totally agree with that. Even Cath’s investment in her dad’s health and how she was so dedicated to keeping up with him. Parents are usually the ones begging for their kids to call them, and here she was kind of taking on this burden to make sure he stays afloat.

I finished the book and texted you “This is what NA should feel like.” NA isn’t a specific category yet and I don’t know that Fangirl is being loosely classified as such, but it felt like this was such a gaping hole in what I’ve read after I finished it. I need more books to make me feel the way Fangirl did. I need more NA books to not focus so much on people with huge sexual agendas. I’ve mostly stayed away from books marketed as such because they’ve all felt the same.

That is an amazing point. I want to read a book that I relate to and characters with intense baggage and this insatiable sexual hunger and tension… that was just not my life and it’s not going to be my life. Cath and Wren had real problems, real joys, and real growth. Their story could easily be someone I knew in college, or a friend of a friend.

Rainbow does a phenomenal job of making her stories so believable by including family, background stories, friendships, relationships. Their dad’s story, as you mentioned, was such an interesting one to me. I don’t believe I’ve read about someone before who was quite like him. I was so intrigued by him, but also cautious. I never knew quite what to expect.

Same here. I could tell he really cared for them but something was off? It was a strong point of the story for me, and I almost missed him a bit at the end. Again, I think his absence was on purpose because of well… I’m not saying what… but he seemed like a great guy.

Is there something we haven’t touched on that  you’d like to mention? I just read through all of my notes again and I just feel so happy re-living this story with you.

I think all I can say is: BUY THIS NOW. The re-readability level is so high… I am anxious to get this book on my shelf.

 

I couldn’t agree more. I have a really hard time with re-reading because I feel like there are so many new books to experience, but I just NEED to own this one. And honestly? How gorgeous are all of her covers?

The cover is wonderful and so creative. I feel like it fits the book perfectly.

 

It really does. I just looked at how Cath and Levi were positioned on the cover and it made me smile, thinking about them in her dorm room. It’s so accurate. Aside from BUY NOW, any final words about Fangirl?

Ah. You just made me think of something. My final words are going to be about how accurately Rainbow described the writing classes in this book. I was a writing major and these were some of my most challenging classes but also the most personal to me. I could relate to how hard Cath had to work, her attraction to other good writers/thinkers in her class, and I was so so so angry at a certain character in this book for certain actions that I may never be over it. (You will know what I’m talking about once you read it, everyone.) But Rainbow really inspired me to think about writing and why we do it and why it’s so important. So I just wanted to say thanks for that. I haven’t felt that way since The Princesses of Iowa. I felt really empowered by Cath’s passions, for sure, and hope this nudges me to move forward a little bit with my own.

I love that. I loved those writing classes in a completely different way. I kind of gave up on writing because I had a professor tell me that I didn’t need to major in it because “writing was something I could do via any profession” and “there were too many English majors out there looking for jobs.” I am happy I pushed myself to study something different, but I also felt a little bit sad. I felt like I wanted the professor Cath had who saw something in her and helped her fine-tune her talent and even pushed her to embrace it. I felt like that was a missed opportunity for me.

That teacher was amazing. I loved how she went to-bat for her. A teacher like that could make all the difference.

 

Me too. How absolutely everything there played out was so fantastic. And even in some of the most subtle ways. That wasn’t a huge, huge storyline, but I always kept wondering what Cath was up to and how she was handling her English class.

Same here.

 

You somewhat mentioned this earlier, but I want to bring it back to focus again. So many times I thought about how Cath living in her fanfiction world was so understandable for me because I feel like being a blogger takes as much investment and effort as she was putting forth. Her fanfiction wasn’t something she could sell and this blog isn’t something we make money off of, but it’s something that defines a very large part of who you and I are. I just kept coming back, over and over, to the point that there needs to be a balance between living in the real world and not allowing this to take over our lives. I think it’s really easy to want huge blog hits, lots of twitter followers, etc., but ultimately, those are just things. My friendship with you is so much more than all of those things.

I totally agree with that. Ah the internet would can be so complicated and so wonderful but you do really have to learn your limits. Something I think Rainbow nailed is how everyone on the internet has this other part of them we just don’t know about. No one knew why Cath was busy and not writing, and no one know what was going on when she was going on writing benders either. This is also a theme (sort of) in This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales too — another fantastic contemporary. Sort of these secret worlds our characters go to, where they feel so powerful. Even when in their real lives they are bumbling.

I would say that’s true for me too, even though I wish I could say it’s not. I think there are certain areas of our lives we protect and keep hidden because we’re just not sure how to share them. Or we assume people won’t understand. Cath expected to be ridiculed for her fanfiction by the people she told. (Sometimes I was a little amazed by her forthrightness at sharing considering the reaction she anticipated.) I think it almost goes beyond developing a persona and becomes more about becoming wholeheartedly comfortable with who we are and not caring how people will react in return.

Exactly. I think that is the perfect note to end on tonight.

 

Well, there you have it, folks. We broke down just about every aspect we could think of for Fangirl (in the least spoilery ways possible). Our sincere hope is that you’ll take a chance on Cath and let us know what takeaways you experience.

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joint book review of Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Book Report: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Hello, friends! It’s been a long, long while (over a year!) since we’ve done a joint review (aka: book report around here) together. How this works is we each read the same book and have a nice, long chat about it. We really try not to be spoilery, and if we think something might be, we’ll let ya know. This time we’re discussing Trish Doller’s new release Where the Stars Still Shine.

joint book review of Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish DollerWhere the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Pages: 352
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: kidnapping, Greek family, reunification with family
Format read: ARCs from the publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Callie and her mother have been on the run for over ten years. After her mother’s arrest, Callie is reunited with her large Greek family and biological father, from whom her mom kidnapped Callie. She’s torn between making a new life with him and being loyal to her mother.

We’re changing up the formatting a little bit for this review. You can keep track of who said what by our little photographs. Just in case you’re not familiar with what we look like, here ya go:

Magan Blasig Magan

Estelle Hallick Estelle

Magan Blasig Where the Stars Still Shine is Trish Doller’s second book. We both loved Something Like Normal. After finishing WtSSS, how do you feel about Doller’s writing?

Estelle Hallick Something Like Normal was fantastic and I think my only disappointment was the length. I wanted more! So as far as that goes, I think Trish really nailed it in her new book. It felt developed in a different way and gave us a longer amount of time to spend with these characters.

Magan Blasig I completely agree. I really felt time passing in this book and connected so deeply to the situation. From the very first chapters, I felt invested. We have Callie, a girl who was kidnapped from her father by her mother as a result of their divorce. She and her mother have lived in countless cities and assumed as many identities. The situation made me feel such a tightness in my chest. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe sometimes, especially as we learned more and more about Callie’s life growing up.

Estelle HallickSame here. I really felt for her. She had such love for her mom, even though she was pretty much absent and all of these terrible things were happening. When you read about a situation like that, you can’t help but think JUST HOW LONG CAN THIS GO ON? It made me think a lot about labels, and having affection for people because they are in this authoritative position. Like of course I love her because she’s my mom but she is not a stand up person. Does that make sense?

Magan BlasigYES! It really hurt because Callie knew right from wrong, but every time her mother re-entered her life, all logic went out the window. It made me realize how blind we can be. It’s no secret (per the book’s summary) that Callie is reunited with her biological father after her mother is arrested. I really, really felt for her dad. I admired his character so very much.

Estelle HallickME TOO. Wasn’t he the best guy? He could have so easily made Callie’s mom out to be this enemy but he didn’t.

 

Magan BlasigYou’re so right! He never bashed her or said negative things. Even though their marriage ended, it was clear that he would have tried to make it work. I think dads are so often absent in YA books, and I applaud Doller for how involved she made Greg. And really, her entire extended family. How much did you love her BFF/cousin, Kat?

Estelle HallickLike you, I loved loved all the supporting characters. Loved seeing a Greek family. I don’t remember seeing that in any other YA book. But Kat was awesome. So many times girls are feuding in books or being bitches and Kat was so open and warm and wonderful. It was interesting to watch Callie’s reactions to that.

Magan BlasigYES! I could visualize Kat and Callie’s family so well. One of my college friends got married last year and they had a big Greek wedding. I felt like Doller really nailed everything about this aspect. And I couldn’t agree more about Kat. She just inserted herself into Callie’s life — Callie had never had a friend, much less a best friend. I admired how they worked through the tense situations that came up, especially pertaining to Alex.

Estelle HallickYes. Alex. Did you not fear for the worst?

 

Magan BlasigIt really took some time for me to trust him. Their relationship was SO HOT from the very beginning and I just knew bad things were looming.

Estelle HallickWasn’t it?? Hearing about Callie’s relationship with sex was like… not what I was expecting.

 

Magan BlasigTotally. Doller was, to me, very bold with how she handled sex in WtSSS. She was very careful about how she described passionate scenes, not taking things too far, but at the same time, I felt like she pushed the limits, too. Does that even make sense? HAHA!

Estelle HallickTotally. I loved it.

 

Magan BlasigSo Callie has some… ghosts in her closet. She has some pretty serious issues to deal with. I personally struggled a lot with these revelations. I wanted to punch things, skip the scenes, and protect her all at the same time. Do you have reactions like this to these kinds of things in books?

Estelle HallickOf course, I felt terrible for her and I wanted her to be able to move forward from this. But sometimes I feel like these books are the most effective. (Like Live Through This.) Trish didn’t let this become “an issue” book because, just like in real life, when something nightmarish like this is occurring real life keeps rolling on.

Magan BlasigI’m really glad you brought up Live Through This. This book and WtSSS are the two books that stand out, in my mind, as being really effective at discussing the mental and emotional turmoil people suffer through. I found both of these to be a little difficult for me to read, but equally addicting. And I agree with you about WtSSS not becoming an issue book. I was pleased to see Callie learning to trust people and letting herself open up about certain things when the timing was right. Ideally, I hope this is what someone would do in real life.

Estelle HallickMe too! I really do. So what was your favorite scene and what do you think could have been improved?

 

Magan BlasigOh my goodness. TOUGH QUESTIONS. As much as I would love to say that my favorite was the scene where Alex and Callie go snorkeling, I think I have to say when Greg takes Callie to see a house that’s under construction. I felt that was a major breakthrough for them. (Actually, both scenes really were.) And I don’t really have anything that I feel super needs to be improved, but I think in the future, I would like to see Doller explore a family that has their shit together. In Something Like Normal, there were some pretty messed up dynamics, and there definitely were here as well. I would love to see her create a family that’s well-balanced and see where she goes from there. What would the major drama be there? I’m sure she could come up with something excellent. Now, right back atcha. What do you think?

Estelle HallickOh, I love everything you just said. The snorkeling scene was amazing and made me want to snorkel again. The exhilaration Callie feels? Amazing and so true to life. I also did love any scene with Callie and her Dad, like the one you mentioned. BUT I also loved how much books meant to Callie. I do think so many readers are going to love how connected she felt to them, and how much they meant to her.

Magan BlasigOh, gosh, yes! THE BOOKSTORE!

 

Estelle HallickWasn’t that the best? I wanted to go there!

 

Magan BlasigYES! Me too! Soooo, what about improvement?

 

Estelle HallickI think there could have been a little more at the end? Another scene with the family? The pacing was great and the story felt whole but I could have used a few more scenes to get it going. Also I would love to see a companion novel about Kat.

Magan BlasigOH! That’s an awesome idea! I really did love Kat. She was such a standout character. I cannot say that enough. And yes, I can see how the ending felt a little unsatisfactory. I have to admit that I was a little bit shocked by how things ended, but I wasn’t unhappy.

Estelle HallickMe neither. So maybe it’s just a selfish desire to want more, as we do with really good books.

 

Magan BlasigAbsolutely. Well put! Any final thoughts about Where the Stars Still Shine?

 

Estelle HallickI think this is one of the most solid reads of the year for me. Trish does a great job of balancing a lot of different plotlines and personalities and her writing is just top notch. It’s definitely on the serious side but I think that makes the joyous, sweeter moments pop more.

Magan BlasigI completely, completely agree with you. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and planning out the next time I could! I really, really want everyone to read this book. And I’m such a fan of Doller’s. You described it best: solid.

Estelle HallickAny final notes? Should we say something more about Alex?

 

Magan BlasigI’m not sure. I kind of liked the mystery surrounding him.

 

Estelle Hallick Me too. Haha!

 

Magan BlasigI will say that I think readers should set aside plenty of time to read this all at once. I hated that I had to read it over a few days.

Estelle HallickI agree. I rarely read books all in one sitting but it was nice to have airplane time to dive into this story. (Esp. when I was so sad to leave you!)

Magan BlasigAww, sad day!

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nail polish colors to match rainbow rowell's fangirl book

Nailed It: Upcoming September Releases

Welcome back for another Nailed It! We love choosing some of our most anticipated books for the upcoming month and pairing nail polish colors with the covers. It’s like we’re getting to do a little shopping without actually shopping. (Most of the time. One too many times we may have splurged on some of the colors we chose! Oh, and the books, too!) September kicks off another great fall season of releases with a million and a half books we want to read. What a tough choice we had narrowing it down to one book each!

Estelle>>

Jessica Darling’s IT List (#1) by Megan McCafferty

Add to Goodreads | Pre-Order on Amazon | Release Date: September 3, 2013

The long-awaited prequel to the amazing / life changing Jessica Darling series is going to hit shelves tomorrow. Spoiler alert: it’s freaking great.  We travel back in time with Jessica to her first day of seventh grade and all her jitters, adventures, and super huge personality. I love grown up Jessica but I love love this one too. She is honest and hilarious and makes the absolute best observations about the world. Okay so the cover went through a few versions but I love how the final is faceless (so important) and so colorful. Most of these colors (give or take the yellow) are staples in my own nail collections so I hope you enjoy them as well!

Jessica Darling's IT LIST Nailed It Color Palette

Amy | Bethany | Alma | Avery

Magan>>

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Add to Goodreads | Pre-Order from Amazon | Release date: September 10, 2013

So I may have cheated a teeny tiny bit by choosing four colors this month instead of three, but COME ON! There are such lovely colors in Fangirl’s cover. Am I right? (Actually, I’m pretty obsessed with ALL of Rainbow’s book covers. Her illustrator(s) are amazing!) And how could I not choose this book as one of my most anticipated when I gushed and fell incredibly in love with Rainbow’s writing after reading Eleanor and Park? We’ve got the amazing green color of the background that I think I would wear all year and the pop of reddish color with the title. The brown and yellow are subtle, but equally lovely colors. I’m not sure I ever would have pulled this color palette together on my own, but I’m really digging the combination.

nail polish colors to match rainbow rowell's fangirl book

Denver | January | Heather | Blake

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Now who is in the mood to paint their nails after this Nailed It? (And then read because we don’t want to ruin them, do we?!)

What’s your favorite color for fall?

Sweet Summertime Reads Wrap-Up: Ginger Reflects

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature with Fiction Folio and GReads!

Can you believe this is our last post for Sweet Summertime Reads? Thanks so much for following along with us since May! It’s been the best thing ever to bring you original and fun posts, and get you excited about summer, vacation, warm weather, and most importantly, summer reading!

Today we are so happy to have the pioneer of this series, Ginger, on our blog! I’m sure you know Ginger from GReads! Pretty girl, sometimes wears glasses? She’s passionate about her budding teaching career and a die-hard music fan? She devours, reviews, and loves young adult and romance novels?

See? We knew you loved her too!

Today she is stopping in to chat all about her summer highlights! Take it away, G….

Sweet Summertime Reads Ginger Reflects

favorite summer buys

♥ Nautical-inspired dress from Old Navy. This dress has been a staple in my summer wardrobe. I added a thin red belt & usually pair it with my gold sandals. It’s fun, flirty, and oh-so comfy!

♥ Guess aviator sunglasses. I am always wearing shades during the summer. I love these because they’re durable + stylish.

♥ Zebra-printed Toms. My first pair! They’re super comfy and I adore the fun print.

movie I can’t stop thinking about

I’ve always enjoyed watching documentaries, usually of the music variety, but this summer I got into some documentaries I found on Netflix.  One in particular I really enjoyed and found myself still thinking about long after I watched it was Craigslist Joe.

It’s about a young man who uses craigslist.com to survive day-to-day. He ventures out into Los Angeles with just the clothes on his back, along with his laptop and cell phone. He logs onto craigslist and peruses the ads, in search of a place to stay for the night, to catch a ride to another city or state, or just an outlet to meet people that could lead to other possibilities of adventure.

The purpose of his mission is to find out if the world we live in still has a sense of community.  In this day we’re all consumed by technology, never really knowing our neighbor.  So he’s using technology as a means to meet those neighbors and find out if community still exists among strangers.

The places he traveled to and the people he met were all inspiring and I was a little scared for him at times.  I was amazed by how many strangers were willing to open their homes to him, but humbled by the generous hearts who did.  He successfully survived off of craigslist for a month, traveled from California to New York, and back home again.  His adventure was very interesting to watch and I highly recommend this documentary to others.

favorite summer memory

For my last hurrah of the summer, I took a day trip to the beach with my sisters & nephews. The weather was perfect & the beach was, well as good as it gets for the Texas Gulf Coast. I have a close relationship with my sisters, so it’s nice when the four of us can get together. There are always tons of laughs & plenty to talk about.  As I’m growing older, I’m realizing how valuable my time with them is. These are the kinds of memories I want to hold on to forever.

places i vacationed this summer

♥  Lake LBJ with my family. We spent an extended weekend on the lake, cruising in my dad’s boat, grilling on the patio, and enjoying the sunshine. Definitely want to go back!

♥  Chicago to see my friends Tara & Anna. I love this city and I love these girls so much!  We had a great time hanging around their neighborhoods, book shopping, seeing the sites in the city, spending a day at the beach, and of course tons of yummy food & drinks.

favorite pic you took this summer

I have a knack for taking pics of sunrises and sunsets.  There’s something about the way the sky looks that always catches my eye.  This photo is one I took in Chicago, just as my plane had landed.

summertime link picks

♥ Rather Be Reading’s Morgan Matson’s Summer Essentials: I feel like it’s not summer until you have the essentials & I completely agreed with all of Morgan’s picks.  I loved this post because it captured the essence of what summertime brings — the beach, mountains, books + a great summer playlist!  Morgan Matson is a favorite author of mine and this woman definitely knows how to create both swoony & dramatic moments in her summery YA books.

♥ Fiction Folio’s My Dream Road Trip I love the possibility of new adventures during the summertime & what better way to escape reality for a bit than take a road trip!  Tara’s places she chose were perfect because for one, it starts in the Pacific Northwest — a favorite of mine — and of course ends in the beautiful city of Chicago. I would love to hit the road with all of these ladies for new adventures some day!

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Thanks for everything, Ginger!

And a surprise end of summer giveaway!

This summer we’ve been so lucky to read so many amazing books. We’ve each put together some of our favorites from our own bookshelves to gift to TWO lucky winners. All you have to do is enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Please note: you must be 13 years of age to enter and live in the U.S. or Canada. Tell us which prize pack you’re interested in winning in the comments section below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Be sure to head over to Tara’s blog for a little bit of us & Ginger‘s for a little bit of Tara!

(Are you confused yet?!) Thanks again for following us this summer!!