Saturday, September 21, 2013

ARC Review: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Title: Where the Stars Still Shine

Author: Trish Doller

Rating: 5 Stars

Release Date: September 24th, 2013

Where the Stars Still Shine is something entirely special. When Doller’s Something Like Normal released last year, I knew I’d found a debut author to watch out for; little did I expect, however, that her sophomore novel would be this beautiful, poignant, and touching. And yet, perhaps the best thing is that no matter what it is that she’s writing, Doller’s passion for her work, her characters, and her settings is all so vivid and seeps through the pages, making her stories fly by in the span of a few short hours and our hearts heal, break, and mend all over again in the process.

In her sophomore novel, Doller veers away from war veterans and tackles on a subject just as raw and painful – abduction, abuse, and self-discovery. Ever since she could remember, Callie has been on the move. When her mother made the decision to run away from her husband, taking young Callie with her, her daughter was forced to follow her from place to place, never stopping long enough to make friends to attend school. And yet, in those years Callie learned to be wary of her beauty, of the unwanted attention it gave her. When Callie’s mother finally gets caught, Callie is sent to live with her father, Greg, now re-married with two young sons. Now, in a small Florida town, Callie is re-discovering her Greek roots, finding a family that loves her, and even making friends. If only her mother will let her stay…

I won’t lie - Where the Stars Still Shine seems deceptively similar to countless stories all featuring a rocky mother-daughter relationship or step-parent; but it isn’t. From the beginning itself, Callie is an endearing protagonist, one whose loss and life-like characteristics set her apart from any previous heroines we might associate her with. When Callie arrives back home, not only is she surprised by the attention she receives from her family, but she’s surprised that the boys she meets actually want to take her out on a date and treat her right. It was at this point that my heart went out to her. No matter how many times I rant and rage about the sexual stereotypes, stigmas, and injustices of the world, the fact remains that I have never met a guy who has seen me as an object to be used and then discarded. For Callie, this is an entirely new revelation and as she comes to see her self-worth, my heart gradually began to mend itself as well.

One of the most impressive aspects of this novel, for me at any rate, was how closely linked Callie’s growth was to her own sexual desires. From a young age, Callie has never been treated well by men, leered at for her beauty and molested by her mother’s boyfriends. As such, sex has never been an act of pleasure for her. Yet, as Callie grows closer to people in her town, particularly Alex Kostas, the utterly swoon-worthy sponge-diver, she learns that sex is not an act of diminishing power, but rather empowerment. It is a truly remarkable moment to see Callie gain confidence in herself through the satisfaction she can gain from sex and though this is only a stepping stone in her growth, it is prevalent. Furthermore, Callie’s entire romance with Alex is sweet, believable, and bittersweet. It not only helps Callie, but also helps Alex for he too is a three-dimensional character, filling the page with his emotions just as much as Callie does. Together, these two are quite the pair and yet, my favorite aspect of their love story is its realistic conclusion. It broke my heart, but I left satisfied and hopeful as well.

And still, this book just keeps shining. Greg is the type of kind and caring father I’ve dreamed about throughout my childhood; the guy who understands and listens but is also upfront and honest and doesn’t shy away from showing affection. While his relationship with Callie went through its ups-and-downs, it progressed in a touching manner, both slightly awkward and hopeful of their future together. And, really, Callie’s relationships are this realistic and tight with nearly all the characters in the book, from her best friend to her grandmother to her step-brothers and even her step-mother. Callie’s own mother, of course, is still present throughout the book and Callie’s gradual emancipation from her mother’s grasp, her independence at choosing her life and finding her hobbies…they all come together beautifully by the end. I promise you, you cannot go wrong with this gem. If Trish Doller doesn’t make you at least tear up once, then you’re reading the wrong book. And, perhaps best of all, this book gives you hope that this genre does really have so much more to offer. It’s still shining, maybe not as bright as this book, but still there.  


  1. I agree with you, this is definitely a wonderful novel. I have always wanted a caring father like Greg. He is such an amazing character in this book. As you mentioned realistic conclusion to Callie-Alex relationship was my favorite aspect too. I haven't read Something like normal but added it to my TBR. Wonderful review Keertana!!

  2. I cannot believe that I missed this one just like that. I have seen it around and yeah it has a pretty cover but I never even read a blurb. My, I'm an idiot. It sounds like a beautiful read and I love it when author creates wonderful characters which I'd enjoy. Amazing review dear, and this goes on my to-read list :)

  3. I really enjoyed this one too, as you know, Keertana, so I'm pleased to see you loved it! I wanted to strangle the mother, but the father was such gem. I was lamenting the open ended romance, and begging for a little novella on Twitter right after I read this and Trish Doller responded saying it could be a possibility!! Awesome, right? Wonderful review as always, my dear! :)

  4. I've been looking forward to this since SLN so I'm happy you loved this so much and I like that sex is shown in a positive light and that Callie gets to learn that sex can be (and should be) a wonderful thing

  5. FINE! Fine, fine, fine. I didn't mean to buy this just now, but you had to go and mess up my plans. You used ALL the magic words: special, poignant, beautiful, touching... And passion. I didn't stand a chance.
    I went ahead and ordered a copy from TBD, and now I'll go outside and sit in my front yard untill the postman brings me my book.
    Lovely review, Keertana. I'm so glad you loved this.

  6. I can't wait to read this book. I loved her first novel so much.

    Great review.

    Glass @ Way Too Hot Books

  7. Beautiful review, Keertana! I was approved for this and now I can't wait to read it. I haven't read Doller's debut novel, but it has been on my list for a while. Hopefully I love this and then I can also pick up her other novel.

  8. I have read so many different opinions on this one. I wanted to read it, I admit the cover is a real draw for me, but I've read some negative reviews that made me shy away from it. But your review, wow. I feel like I'm missing something. Maybe I will give it a shot after all. Beautiful review.


  9. I'm glad to finally have the chance to read your thoughts on this one, Keertana! I agreed with everything you've written in this review. And the linking of Callie's personal growth/understanding of self-worth to sexual desires was very well done. And I agree about the conclusion of Callie and Alex's romance - bittersweet and realistic but on such a hopeful note. I suppose I should overcome my reticence on the subject of Doller's debut and just read it. I will, someday.

  10. I just finished this book so I'm not looking at reviews again until I finish my own. Will be back to comment. BUT like I said under Unteachable about Fangirl - this is another that struck me because of how real and honest it felt. Especially all the different characters. Every one of them was complex and not just 'good' or 'bad'.

  11. When I first heard about this book, I wasn't going to read it right away. Honestly, I wasn't the biggest fan of Doller's debut novel (gasp-I know!) But after reading this review, I am so excited to get my hands on this novel. It sounds wonderful and sad and just beautiful. I'm also looking forward to seeing how Doller handles this issues, one which I haven't actually read a lot about!


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