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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Estelle: Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble

Just Between Us by JH TrumbleJust Between Us by J.H. Trumble ( website | twitter )
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 320
Target audience: Mature YA/adult
Keywords: marching band, HIV, romance, LGBT
Format read: Paperback ARC from author. (Thanks!!)
Other books I’ve reviewed by Trumble: Don’t Let Me Go | Where You Are

Summary: Luke is an uncoordinated clarinetist in his high school’s marching band, and Curtis is a band alum, a college man, who helps out as a band tech. After a dramatic breakup, Luke is determined not to pursue any other guy until he really thinks it can work. Of course, he falls for off-limits Curtis. While Curtis thinks Luke is cute, he also think he’s a kid (even though he’s only 2 years younger than he is), but can’t help falling into a friendship with him anyway. As the two get closer, Curtis discovers he has HIV and realizes he has no idea where this relationship or his future stands.

There’s something about J.H. Trumble’s work that makes me feel automatically at ease. For practically all of my other reading, it takes a good chunk of pages (a few chapters) before I’m “in it” but give me five pages of a Trumble story and I am completely comfortable.

In Just Between Us (a book that falls between her first and second, time-wise), I was once again surrounded by characters that felt like friends and situations that could easily be unfolding around me in real time. I’m pretty much at home on a marching band field so there’s that, and then there’s Luke, a clarinetist (I was one too!), who gets yelled at / made fun of because he’s not always on the beat. (That was me too.) I’ve met Luke before (in Don’t Let Me Go); he reminds me of an enthusiastic puppy who really wants to love everyone and be loved. Underneath this veneer, Luke is dealing with the prejudices of a father who has been so outwardly unsupportive of his son’s sexuality that his mother has dissolved their relationship.

At the same, Curtis has transferred colleges after a year of too much sex, too much drinking, and too little studying. He’s returned to his high school as a band tech, where everyone reveres him as a marching band god. Luke catches his eye early on, and when they discover they are neighbors they start a friendship. (Curtis’ twin sister — a sort of mini-Mom — is really pushing for him to pursue Luke.) You can tell the two really like each other but both are a little on the fence. Luke doesn’t want Curtis to be a rebound after his first heartbreak, and Curtis is nervous about the age difference and his tendency to lose control of himself when he’s with a guy.

And that’s all before the bomb is dropped: Curtis discovers he contracted HIV last year.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Curtis does not act like a responsible adult after hearing his diagnosis. He thinks it is a death sentence. (It is not.) He behaves irrationally; he is mean and distant and he refuses, absolutely refuses, to take care of himself. He is so busy thinking WHAT IS THE POINT that precious time is being lost: for his body, for his relationship with Luke, and for his openess with his fantastic family.

Trumble does not make Just Between Us a walking pamphlet about HIV. It was not weighed down with facts and statistics. She brought awareness to the surface with the varied emotions that Curtis comes to feel, the ugly words that are said in dark cars, the stark honesty from friends, and the imperfect process of owning up to your responsibilities and accepting all that comes next. Like fighting like hell to live a healthy, normal life.

It helps that Curtis’ story is counterbalanced by Luke’s fractured relationship with his dad, a lively and sweetly accepting younger brother, and a mother who must make a difficult decision between a man who she has loved since she was young and this father who has become careless with his sons’ identities. Just Between Us overflows with powerful dynamics and differing levels of support from all of those in Luke and Curtis’ lives. In the end, though, both stories are fused by the journey to get to one place: acceptance.

Just Between Us is just further proof that J.H. Trumble is a mastermind when it comes to writing about real people who feel real things and don’t always make the right decisions. I am always so wrapped up and so invested in the lives of her characters, and immediately wanted to go back and re-read her other two books. (Especially since my fav, Robert from WYA, makes a series of appearances in JBU.) It’s the best (and possibly the worst) to never want to leave the world an author has created, even if you are left to utterly miss the people within it.

I cannot wait to see what comes next from J.H.Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

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