2017, blog, book, book review, debbie, debbie gillum, myblog

Sugar Book Review

Not as Sweet as Sugar 

I have mixed thoughts about the new novel Sugar by Kimberly Stuart. I liked the beginning but had issues with the middle and end. I liked the overall story but not the execution and would’ve liked for it to be more risk-taking. 

I appreciated the opening scenes when Charlie (the female protagonist) is a hard-working pastry chef, baking away her life in NYC. Those scenes caught my attention and drew me into the book. They were told with such authority and commanding details. Someone getting stabbed in the kitchen for misplacing a head chef’s knife is definitely attention grabbing. But alas, Charlie doesn’t stay at that restaurant or in NYC. 

Later on in the book, once she has moved to Seattle, I found myself skimming through the scenes with the dates Charlie had with Kai because they felt so cheesy and rehearsed. It was like watching a CW or ABC Family TV show. 
Also, Charlie is not the most likeable of characters. She’s so neurotic and controlling.
The chapters were short and choppy, not in a good way. A couple times I thought scenes needed to play out longer and that the author just didn’t want to write that scene. 

Several parts of the book felt cliche to me, especially Manda’s kids and Avery as a character. It wasn’t a shocker when Avery turned out not to have Charlie’s best interests in mind. I liked the reality TV show aspect of the book but even that felt cliche. Like it seemed as if the author just guessed at what a reality TV show is probably like or did research by watching reality TV. Ugh. 
The ending of the novel was a beautiful fairy tale one where all Charlie’s dreams come true. Life doesn’t work that way. What if Kai didn’t take her back? What if Charlie couldn’t get out of her contract? 

 It was an entertaining read but I don’t want to read it again. I’d recommend it to someone who likes baking or reading about high-stress upscale baking and wants an easy beachy read. 
2017, blog, book, book review, february, myblog

"How to Murder Your Life" Book Review

This weekend, I inhaled the memoir “How to Murder Your Life” by Cat Marnell
It’s all I talked about to my roommate and boyfriend. 
I first heard about this book when it was mentioned in a magazine page suggesting books to read (I think it was Glamour but the fact-checkers have not confirmed this yet).  Now, I think it’s a bit ironic that Cat’s career began and ended in magazines and then her tell-all, drug-infused memoir is promoted inside the pages of a magazine. 
I loved the book. I laughed out loud a few times and was both inspired and disgusted by her life. I burst out laughing when she described getting into a car with a guy who immediately shot up some drugs into his arm and she sarcastically said how turned on this made her. She admitted it was gross but that was her life at the time. I couldn’t help but be impressed by how she landed multiple positions at Conde Nast, by how much she partied and how little she slept. She’s an impressive woman but I wouldn’t recommend this book to any middle schoolers, that’s for sure. 
I enjoyed reading about the highs and lows of her life, that she so openly shared. She explained how she couldn’t focus in class in high school and so her psychiatrist dad then prescribed Adderall and how that changed her life. She was hooked. From then on, she needed the pills in order to function and was too energized to sleep so she needed to start taking sleeping pills, and you get the idea. The frenzied sentences, the repetition of phrases and self-loathing scenes seemed to capture what addiction feels like.  
The writing felt so fresh to me and like I was reading a friend’s blog. So casual and revealing. 
While reading the book, I had never heard of Cat Marnell and didn’t know that she looked like a real-life Barbie doll (No seriously, Google her.) 

Ultimately, I loved her writing. It was raw, relevant and real. I usually only read memoirs by comedians and so this was a refreshing memoir from someone who is glamorous, funny yet also very addicted to Adderall (even in the Afterword she acknowledged that she hasn’t stopped doing drugs.) She’s had a fascinating life and I can’t wait to see what she will do next. This is the best book I’ve read in a while. 
2016, april, blog, book, book review, myblog

"What We Saw" Book Review

About two weeks ago, I read the YA novel “What We Saw” by Aaron Hartzler.  I heard about the book from NPR when they were talking about how YA novels and the importance of showing teens what a healthy first sexual encounter looks like. I picked it up because I like YA novels and I trust NPR’s book recommendations.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It’s so well-written! I stayed up late just to finish this book.

It takes place in a small midwest town where high school basketball rules. The book opens with a girl waking up from a crazy high school house party. Gradually, the reader learns that this was no ordinary party. Other students are rapidly sharing pictures and videos from the party and using #r&p and #gobucs since the high school basketball team is the Bucaneers. The book is so clearly set in 2016 that it’s refreshing to show how teens integrate social media into their daily lives.

News breaks out in the small town that a girl who had drank too much was raped at the house party the other week and some of the basketball players have been accused. The victim is perceived as a social outcast so some girls say terrible things about her behind her back. The stuff they said was heart-wrenching to read.

Our main character develops a crush on her childhood friend, who plays for the Buccaneer basketball team. The two of them move pretty quickly in their relationship but he is understanding when she tells him she wants to wait to have sex. They eventually do go all the way, but not before he asks her, “Kate, is this okay?”

Things get complicated in the main character’s relationship when she realizes he was at the party, possibly when the assault took place. He tells her he didn’t see anything but he doesn’t seem too sure about that. He also has a mom who has a shopping and couponing addiction.

I liked the suspense of the book and how things weren’t immediately revealed. Like, the reader doesn’t learn til the end that the sexual assault was caught on a cell phone camera and that #r&p stands for rape and pillage.

The book addressed so many important issues that I wish every high school student could read it. For example, the main character catches her brother ranking girls from 1-10 based on their Facebook photos and confronts him, asking why he thinks it’s okay to treat women that way.

The author intertwined relevant information whenever possible. For example, in their high school science class, they learned about a scientist who stood up for what he believed in and dedicated his life to finding the truth. Not surprising, this scientist had a lot in common with Kate, who eventually decides to make a tough, but right, decision.

2016, blog, book, book review, debbie, debbiegillum, fun, myblog

Modern Romance Book Review

Let me tell you about this terrific book I read last year.

I first heard about  this guy Aziz Ansari when he played Tom Haverford on Parks and Rec. Later, I found out he wrote a book about dating, and boy I was intrigued. As I navigate the weird waters of dating the entire male Facebook generation, I knew I wanted to read some insight about this subject from a comedian. Especially, after I really enjoyed his Netflix show “Master of None.”

Before I read the book, I listened to a segment he did on NPR about his book and TV show.  He read a few passages from the book and explained how he teamed up with a sociologist to write the book. That’s one of the aspects I liked most about the book.

It’s not an advice book or a memoir but rather it’s an entertaining sociological commentary on today’s dating culture.

I read “Modern Romance” over Christmas break on my iPad. We were driving through Cades Cove in Tennessee and my grandmother told me the same thing she told my mom when she was little: “If you read the whole car ride, you’ll miss all the neat stuff passing you by.”

I continued reading (and occasionally looking out the window) during the car ride. I highlighted a lot of phrases and facts because I found them so interesting or hilarious.

For example, I learned that OkCupid profile pictures featuring a girl taking a selfie angled down, had a higher percentage of guys liking them. Note to self: take a selfie that’s angled down. And, that some types of “games” can make guys want you more. Like when you wait to text someone back, it creates anticipation. Personally, I try not to play the game of “wait twice as long as they waited to text you back.” I respond when I get a chance.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how the book was so much more than just another book written by a comedian. I’d read Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s book and enjoyed them but those were mostly about themselves.
This book explored how dating has evolved from how our grandparents met their spouses to how people now days sometimes sext or have open relationships. Who would’ve thought 50 years ago we’d be doing that?

I enjoyed how much research went into the book and how in between the scientific study results were classic Aziz funny one liners. His humor bleeds onto the pages.

I learned to remember that while dating you need to keep in mind there’s a real person behind the screen. You need to go meet them in person. It’s internet introduction not internet dating.

I also found out that Buenos Aires sounds like a fun place to visit.

blog, blogpost, book, book review, january, rainbow, rowell

Landline Book Review

After reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I picked up another book by her. And I expected it to be another young adult novel. But, Landline felt really different than Fangirl because it’s an adult novel aimed at young adult women or married women. It’s a more mature novel because one of the major topics is marriage.

Georgie McCool (yup, that’s her name) is a TV writer living in California. She married Neal, a quiet guy who drew comics at her college humor paper. They had two little girls together. Slowly, Georgie put her work above her family and things reach a breaking point when she has to choose whether to go to Omaha to visit Neal’s family for Christmas or stay in LA to write episodes for her original TV show that is close to being picked up. Neal and the kids end up going to Omaha without her. Distraught, Georgie stays at her mom’s house and uses her mom’s landline to call Neal. The phone magically connects her to a younger Neal from the past. So now, Georgie has the opportunity to change her future and possibly fix her marriage.

I appreciated the deep character development in Landline. The backstories of Georgie, her husband Neal, and her best friend Seth are slowly revealed throughout the novel.  We see how Georgie and Neal first meet, their fights, wedding, etc. Rowell is such a beast at writing dialogue.

I loved how Georgie repeatedly ignored problems until they blew up in her face. Rowell shows us this trait first by describing how Georgie’s phone battery is dead but she hasn’t gotten around to fixing it because it works when plugged in. Also, Georgie has an ancient bra that she loves but the underwire is poking her. It’s not until it gets shredded in her mom’s laundry machine that she has to throw it away. These consistent tidbits about her helped me understand why she didn’t confront the problems in her marriage sooner.

I also liked how difficult tasks were for Georgie. She doesn’t just fly to Omaha. She deals with the front desk woman. She has to fly to Denver first. The flight doesn’t immediately take off. She sits next to rude people (Georgie asks if a mom wants to sit next to her son and she replies, ” Mhm no. They use seat assignments to identify the bodies”), she gets stranded in Denver, her phone finally dies, there aren’t taxis in Omaha, it’s snowing, she’s not dressed properly, etc.

This book really reminded me of Swim by Jennifer Weiner because both main characters are TV show writers, struggle with relationships and confidence, and it’s more about the characters than the plot.

Personally, I didn’t like Neal because his personality always seemed prickly like a porcupine. Part of me was rooting for Georgie to end things with him. I’d choose Seth in a heartbeat if I were Georgie. When Seth finally told her how he felt, I squealed. But, I realize it’d be a cliche and boring novel if Georgie just ditched her husband (and father of two kids) for her hot best friend.

The ending disappointed me because it was too much of a “happy ending.” Then again, I’d probably be complaining if it wasn’t a happy ending. I didn’t like how they magically got back together again and how the meeting for the television show was no longer a priority. It felt like the conflict was ignored and not resolved.

I think the novel could’ve been just as good without the supernatural time-traveling phone. The character development was strong enough to carry the novel and I think a more realistic plot could’ve followed. What do you think?

blog, blogpost, book, book review, january

Fangirl book review

I just finished listening to/ reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I loved the book. So much that I bought the hardcover after listening to half of the book in my car. I went for long drives just so I could listen to the book.

I’m always sad when good books are over, and I feel the same with this one. But for some reason, I’m bummed that it had such a happy ending. Everything seems to magically work out for Cath. What little drama there was toward the end, seemed like filler conflict. Like, when Levi and Cath fought about her focusing too much on writing her fanfiction. I got excited that they were finally having a real argument. But then, it lasted one minute and they made up and forgave each other. That part of Cath’s and Levi’s relationship felt unrealistic to me. They rarely had serious conflicts.

I liked the character of Nick but was disappointed with how he became this “how-not-to-be-a-boyfriend” character. He changed from being a really nice friend who Cath enjoyed spending time with to some unlikeable monster way too quickly. I liked that he took the credit for the story they wrote together. That was good conflict. But then, he’s never heard from again, except at the end in a scene where at first I thought the only purpose was to remind the reader that Nick is stupid and will never be as good as Levi. But now I think that scene served to help Cath write her final fiction writing story.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the Simon Snow passages but I could still appreciate them and they were refreshing.

I read some of the reviews on Goodreads about this book and I disagree with some of the girls who say that Cath was passive. She chose to go help her sister and dad when they were in need. She almost chose not to write her final English project. She could stand up to Levi sometimes. While I think she could be passive at times, I can’t say she was absolutely passive.

I absolutely loved the writing and story-telling in this book. I also admit that I’m biased because I could relate to some stuff in the novel. It put me back in college and back into my fiction writing class.

I appreciated how slow Levi and Cath’s relationship went. It wasn’t love at first sight. They didn’t immediately have sex. Heck, them saying I love you was a big deal that the reader had to wait and wait for. But, that made it feel genuine and real to me.

The characters all felt real to me. I sympathized with them and cared about their problems.

Several parts in the book made me laugh out loud. There are several really good one-liners sprinkled in the book. I appreciated that occasional humor.

I’d recommend this book to high schoolers, college students, those interested in writing, Harry Potter fans, fanfiction readers and those who want a light hearted young adult romance.

Funfact: I caught a typo on page 407. It reads “It has nothing to with you.” Pretty sure the word “do” is missing there.

2014, blog, book, book review, october

Book Review

This is from my Goodreads review of I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson 

I have mixed thoughts on this book.

At first, I rolled my eyes while reading and was like “Are you serious?” because some of the hyperboles, metaphors, similes, whatever you want to call them, were just too much. I remembered how much I liked her last book, The Sky is Everywhere, so I kept reading.

I ended up staying up late to finish the book. You know it’s good when you keep reading instead of going to bed. I suppose I did grow close to the characters and became invested in the plot. I didn’t realize I was starting to care so much about Noah and Jude.

The book is written in alternating points of views. Part of it is told from Noah when he is about 13 and the other part is from Jude when she is about 16. They are twins and are both very artistic. Before the action starts happening, we realize that Jude and Noah used to be really close but now they don’t speak to each other. Whenever Jude tries to make a piece of art, it breaks. Seeking help, she reaches out to a well-known sculptor who changes her life forever. Through their alternating points of views, we slowly piece things together about what happened to Jude and Noah’s family.

I liked the ending and how things all came together. I won’t spoil it. If you hang in there til the end, it’s worth it.

I think Nelson did a good job with putting her characters in tough situations, making them do awful (arguably unforgivable) things but she still loved her characters. Some authors I think would be afraid to make their characters do such things but she lets them happen and lets the characters face the consequences.

I’d recommend this book for young adults, teenagers and especially those studying literature, writing or screenwriting. It’s good story-telling.

It doesn’t get five stars for a reason that I think is why so many other people have given it five-star reviews. The writing style. You either hate it or love it.  I found it to be distracting this time. In her previous book, I really enjoyed the style and it worked for that novel. In this one it felt forced and comical (in a bad way.) I get that it’s a unique way of writing but it’s not for everyone all the time.

2014, blog, book, book review, review

Paper Towns Book Review

Book Review

Paper Towns by John Green

    Paper Towns is your typical John Green book with quirky characters such as a wild yet misunderstood girl and a lovable male protagonist. The book is so similar to Green’s other book Looking for Alaska in the sense that both focus on a boy trying to find the crazy girl that he loves. They both become mystery/ detective type novels in the second half. I thought that Quentin aka Q (the protagonist) and Margo (the next door neighbor girl)were pretty much the same as Pudge and Alaska. Only the names changed.
     I read Paper Towns because my best friend read it over winter break. She only read it because John Green is the “it” author in the world of young adult (YA) fiction right now. That’s the same reason why I read his book, Looking for Alaska over the summer. I wanted to know what people were talking about. I liked that book so then I read The Fault in Our Stars. I admit it definitely made me cry and I’m thankful no one spoiled the ending for me, despite the fact that I begged my friends to tell me what happens.
   The book is about Q and his relationship with Margo. She invites him on a wild adventure in the middle of the night where they embark on such teenage shenanigans as breaking into SeaWorld. Then, the next day Margo goes missing! She’s run away before and left clues before. So now it is up to Q and his friends to piece together the clues to find out where Margo is and if she’s even alive.
    What John Green does best is characters. That’s what any good storyteller should rock at. He makes memorable three dimensional characters that leap off the page.
    I read the book mostly in the Columbus airport and on the plane to Orlando. It was ironic that I was flying there since the book takes place in Orlando. The city is central to the story and a lot of Orlando landmarks are recognized.
    I found myself skimming a lot of parts because I was eager to find out what happened and because there was a lot of the protagonist’s internal thoughts that I didn’t find worthwhile. He’s sad, I get it. Moving on, now. That was my biggest complaint about the novel. Some parts went on too long and were drawn out too much. I think the novel could’ve been cut down by 50 or so pages and still have been just as good.
       I’d recommend Paper Towns for anyone looking to find out what John Green is all about as a writer and to read a solid YA novel. If you like road trips, black Santas, or maps then you’ll get a kick out of Paper Towns.

book, book review, Christmas, debbie, gillum

3 Biased Book Reviews and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Over the Christmas holiday, we went down to Tennessee to visit family. One of the many benefits of travel is that it allows you to read a lot. I wolfed down three books in six days. Since I’m a writer, I can’t help but read books as a writer and look for things to incorporate in my own writing. Here are my short biased book reviews and what I learned from each book. 

On Christmas Eve, I read The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. My friend Emily recommended I read it because she thought I’d like the narrator’s tone of voice. I did. The book was about a teenage girl who moves to a London boarding school (which I found to be similar to Hogwarts.) Next to their school, a series of murders have taken place, a la Jack the Ripper style. Halfway through the book, the girl finds out she is part of this underground team of ghosts who all had a near death experience (our protagonist choked on some food) so now they can see dead people (Sixth sense anyone?). This ghost police force goes around zapping other ghosts who are a nuisance. The Jack the Ripper guy reaches out to the ghost police team and they realize he too is a ghost. Jack and the ghost police meet in an abandoned underground tube stop where they learn that Jack used to be one of the ghost police, like them but he murdered the rest of his team. Jack likes the fear he causes people as Jack the Ripper and wants the ghost police’s zapping tool so that he will no longer have to fear death. We also learn that the title of the book comes from the name that The Star newspaper gave to the murder who committed the Jack the Ripper murders back then. After an exciting climax, ghost Jack the Ripper gets zapped by a fellow ghost and our protagonist falls in love with one of her male friends from school. And they all lived happily ever after.
I liked the first half of this book. The second half, I was thinking, “Really? Ghosts? Wtf?” If I had written this, I would’ve kept everyone as normal humans. As a writer, I appreciated how the author clearly described what was going on. I could picture what was happening. I also liked how exciting the book was. It was a page turner and I read it in one day. I found myself pretty scared at some parts. However, I do not plan on reading the sequel or any other books in the series. I’m done with ghosts for a while.

On Christmas Day, I was worried that I’d be SOL and without a book to read. But lo and behold, my grandmother had my uncle’s latest book lying around. I meant to read it over Thanksgiving break but watched TV instead. Space in the Heart by Rodney Walther is written from three different third-person limited perspectives: Danica Cortez, Garrison (protagonist) and his 14 year old daughter Zoey. I can only hope that I wasn’t as bratty when I was 14 as Zoey was. I didn’t sympathize or relate to her at all because I was never in a wheelchair, I wasn’t bullied in school and I wasn’t that mean to my parents. I related more to Danica Cortez and her journalistic quest to tell the truth about who was really on this plane crash that she coincidentally happened to witness. She saw this dead girl before she rescued the Senator and it turned out to be his mistress. Busted. Garrison is still sad about the loss of his wife from 11 years ago. She was shot by a guy at a Burger King. (Another reason why America should make guns illegal.) Spoiler alert: the shooter was a guy that Danica helped release from prison by reporting about some corrupt judge. That was a good plot twist. I loved the scene when Garrison realized Danica knew the guy who murdered his wife and Danica was about to interview Garrison on TV. What an uncomfortable but great scene. The novel takes a lot of twists and turns. Stuff is always going wrong for these poor characters, but that makes it exciting to read. As a writer, that’s the main thing I took away from this book: don’t make life easy for your characters. Throw shit their way. I also liked the cliffhangers that ended each chapter. While there is no space in my heart currently for this book, maybe I’m not the target audience and maybe if I reread it I will like it more. If you do read Space in the Heart, Rodney would like you to leave a review on Amazon. I left a very positive review and you should too.

Waiting to see Saving Mr. Banks (a movie about why Disney does not serve alcohol at their theme parks. Just kidding. But it does scarily depict an alcoholic father) I cracked open Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg. I forget why I added this to my Goodreads To-Read list, but I’m glad I did. I loved it! (except for the one Antartica story which I didn’t feel like finishing.) As a writer, I learned to not be afraid to make your characters weird, put them in weird places, have them do weird things, and write weird. I never would think to have a character eat sand or be fake private investigators. The first story is about a woman unhappy with her marriage. She’s on a trip with her husband in an attempt to fix things. The second one is about two women who call themselves private investigators. I didn’t expect to sympathize with such ruthless law breaking characters. But the author makes me care about people I usually would look down upon. The third story is about these kids who rob banks. The ending is pretty heartbreaking. The next one is about a woman who follows these acrobats in Paris after her husband leaves her. That was probably my favorite. I didn’t get into the Antarctica story like the others so I only read the first half. Oh well. The second to last story is about a mother daughter magician team. The daughter steals money from people while the mother dreams of something more. The last story is about a sister who trades places with her twin. But things don’t go according to plan. Overall, I loved these characters and the uber interesting settings, conflicts and situations. Nothing was mundane or boring. I’d read these again.  

A partridge in a pear tree

Thanks for reading about me reading.