Robin by Dave Itzkoff ★★★★½

Read 1/13/20 – 1/14/20

This was an absolute pleasure to read. I was heartbroken when I heard of Robin Williams passing, now over 5 years ago. He was one of the earliest influences on my life from Aladdin to Mrs. Doubtfire. What’s more, he was one of the first people that I recognized in my childhood. That is to say, I didn’t recognize every celebrity I saw, but he was one of the first I came to recognize as significant in a lot of the things that I loved. I felt like I knew him and as if he was a piece of my childhood. It was a sad lost. I watched HBO’s documentary of him, Robin Williams: Come Inside my mind, a heartfelt portrayal of his life. I recommend it to any of his finally I’ll probably rewatch myself eventually.

The Documentary of Robin Williams: Come Inside my Mind

I decided to read this novel largely because I found it on Bookoutlet. I did not hear a lot press about the book, and Robin Williams is the kind of person who likely has multiple “biographies” written about him. I don’t know if this is the best one, but it is the one I read. It was satisfying. I want to make that clear. It felt like a complete picture of his life with context to help us understand his state of mind at each point. That said, it was his life largely as it related to his professional life. It was almost as if I was hearing a run through of Williams’ Wikipedia page of all the different jobs through his life.

The question becomes, what makes it special. How is it more than just a Wikipedia article? I think Itzkoff does a good job of trying these periods together with unique context in a way that is likely to appeal to a Robbin Williams fan. It seems hard to think anyone reading this wasn’t a Williams fan, but if they did, I do wonder if they’d question the substance. The context we get never digs deep into Williams personal life. Don’t get me wrong, we get information about his family life and the things he did and how it effected his personal life, but rarely, if ever, do we learn about a detail of his life that doesn’t connect to his professional life.

It may be said that it is just that his professional life was his life. A fan or friend of Williams may also suggest a truly respectful biography wouldn’t be a scandalous tabloid of his personal life. I think that is why I still really enjoyed this because we get personal details, but it is largely things that he was already public about. Towards the end of his life, there are details we learn about that he wasn’t as open about (e.g. Parkinson’s diagnosis). However, the result of such a work is little to no new details about his life.

A lot of what we learn is public knowledge. The context gives a unique insight into his life. However, most of these details are probably already out there. As a fan, I love that it is presented here in a clear and precise way. It creates a complete story of his life that I found fascinating to learn. Nevertheless, a lot of it felt like stuff I already knew or could have found out easily with a bit of online research. That is why I say I am not sure if this is for someone who isn’t a Williams fan. I valued Williams and I love the opportunity to see his life presented in this fashion. However, it isn’t exactly an expose of never before seen gossip which may be what some readers are hoping for.

That concludes my general assessment of the novel, but I also want to discuss how this effected my view of Williams. I do feel like I have a better appreciation for what drove him and the struggles he was succumbing to. Particularly towards the end of his life. His comedy and wit was his life, and to have that taken from him (as it is now known to have been happening, beyond just Parkinson) must have been unbearable. Everything that he was was decaying, and it makes it easier to understand how he could have succumbed to suicide.

Lastly, this brought attention to Williams often sexist, and maybe even racist at times, comedy. No one is perfect. That said, we can recognize the good someone has done while still acknowledging the harm they’ve caused. It is tough, as a fan, to think about the fact that he was a little shitty in some areas, but does that diminish the good he did. He wasn’t a saint, but nor do I think the sexism was representative of him or his comedy. I also don’t think it is bad enough to absolutely undermine the joy most of his work brings (i.e. opposed to someone like Bill Cosby, where watching the Cosby show, for me, just isn’t possible). Anyways, I am digressing. This last point is a little out of left field, but it was something that I thought worth discussing.

I loved this book. I had hoped for more coming in, but in the end, I appreciate everything it provides 4.5/5 stars.

Rating Break Down
Writing Style (7%): 10/10
Content (15%): 8/10
Structure (15%): 10/10
Summary (1%): 10/10
Engagement (5%): 10/10
Enjoyment (25%): 10/10
Comprehension (20%): 10/10
Pacing (2%): 10/10
Desire to Reread (5%): 5/10
Special (5%): 7/10
Final Rating: 4.65/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

A tribute to Robin Williams by Melodysheep

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ★★★★★

Started Reading 11/21/19

This is one of the books I chose to read for Buzzwordathon 5.0, and you can read more about why I choose Seven Husbands there! I am pleasantly surprised. I am reading this fresh off Reid’s newest novel, Daisy Jones and the Six. That was a story that was easy and fun, but it wasn’t nearly as great as so many professed. I struggled to connect to the characters in a real way. That was my fear here. Although, I don’t think that is an issue this go around. I am about 75% through the story, and I can say with confidence that I am connecting more than Daisy Jones.

Evelyn Hugo isn’t a very good person, at least in my estimation. However, she is successful, and it seems as though she is the way she has to be to succeed. The world isn’t/wasn’t very amenable to women 70 years ago, let alone to a woman of color (Hugo is a cuban woman). The question then becomes where does the blame belong? There is no great answer. All that matters is that Hugo is a woman with real desires who isn’t afraid to pursue them using all the powers she has at hand, the consequences be damned.

A lot of the time, it is hard not to root for her, but there are others where it is hard to believe she’d do this. Honestly, as interesting a situation as it becomes, it does at times feel a bit contrived. In large part, her hands are tied. In others, there is a serious destructive mindset. Nevertheless, her cavalier attitude makes her come across as a bit of caricature which was the problem I had with the characters in Daisy Jones. All in all, I think this novel is working better, but that is one problem I have with it.

Finished 11/22/19

I loved this book. Part of me was proud of my dissent from the popular opinion, but that can’t stand. This book resonated too much with me. Sure, parts of it felt convenient. Nevertheless, the Evelyn’s story of finding herself and what she wanted really resonated with me. I felt for her in a way that only a great book can do. In this book, there is love and loss and scandal, and I am here for it. 4.5/5 stars founding up.

The Last Final Girl, by Stephen Graham Jones – ★★★☆☆


Introductory thoughts 8/14/2019

I’m back to stories off my list (but not forever). I am feeling the need to delve into more horror. It is almost Halloween after all. You can see my nearly finished review of the anthology the Devil and the Deep, and I’ve already started another anthology that I haven’t posted yet. Then there are so many more after that! I am falling in love with short horror fiction. I have at least one other horror story on my to do List (A Head Full of Ghosts), but Graham I came across him as I reviewed all these new anthologies. I can’t help but be intrigued (check out my review of his unique novella).

Of course, that is not this (well not exactly). We are looking at a novel that is practically a novella (~200pgs, less than 6hrs), but I am going to cheat in my tally and count this as a book of its own.

I am roughly ~10% into it (so hardly at all), and I am growing to like it. I went in to this pretty blind. I knew it was about horror tropes and cheesy horror films but exactly how it was satirical was beyond me. It seems to be told like someone is narrating a movie they’re watching. That’s tough to adjust to at first, as a mode of story telling, but I am adjusting. It is a fun way to look at the story. From my understanding, it is about a girl, the Final Girl, you know, the one that always survives (see the Cabin in the Woods or the Final Girl).

The trailer for the film, the Final Girl (2015), NOT an adaption of the book (which came after). Instead, it is another satirical look at horror tropes and the Final Girl (great film).

The story begins where the movie usually ends. We jump into the story right as the villain is about to kill the final girl, but she survives and defeats the monster! From my understanding, the story will follow the final girl as she gains new friends, friends that will end up competing (in some form) for the lucky spot as the final girl when horror returns to this small town.

I really hope this is a good book. The concept has me thrilled, even if the opening was a little shaky.

Update 8/21/19

I am almost finished the novel (76%, 1.5hr left). I like the novel, and I definitely love it at times. Unfortunately, I just can’t get past the style which feels more distracting than it is effective. I understand the idea, but the reality just makes it hard to follow along. Moment to moment transitions are confusing, and the intense moments are hard to follow. Imagine an action pact sequence being narrated with a number of characters on screen. It is one thing to see it play out, but trying to listen just doesn’t work. There is at least one scene I listened to twice to try and follow along. Plus, I’ve been listening at the standard speed (instead of ~10-20% faster like I do for most books).

Finished 8/22/2019

The ending was good. It was an exciting and surprising end. I enjoyed the twist to the story and the final girl trope, but the excitement of it all was lost in an convoluted narrative. I think this book would have benefited from being shorter. Granted, it can barely be called a novel as it is, given how short it is. Nevertheless, the style likely would have played better in a shorter form. A lot of the action was at the end. I feel like we could have jumped on where the “movie” left off into the sequel that Graham is trying to use as a form of commentary. this 6 hr book, should have been a 3 hour Novella, that more quickly took us through the story. I hate to do this, but I don’t think I can give this 4 stars. It is better than Firestarter–it’s more original which is worth something. Still, it feels too experimental. 3.5/5 stars rounding down.

Feelings on the Author

This is the third story I have read from Graham. Each story has felt very abstract and experimental but in a good way. He deserves credit for that, because a lot of authors feel unoriginal. For that, his work deserves some attention. I would even say I like him as an author. It just isn’t the type of novel I normally go for. Luckily, his works are short. This could have been shorter, but they are short enough that I am able to stay focused enough to be interested and stimulated. They are short enough that I am not ready to give up just yet. I want to check out his book of short stories, All the People Lights Have Gone Off. He also recommends his novel Mongrels as the first book for new readers to check out (via goodreads); it does sound intriguing (family of werewolves, or is it vampires, but not exactly what you think).

Then there is his novel, Demon Theory which is written in the form of an annotated screenplay. I can’t help but expect to feel the same way about it as I do about The Last Final Girl. Despite that, I still feel a strong urge to read it because it sounds so damn intriguing. What does that say about The Last Final Girl? I’ve rated it against the other novels I’ve read, but really, that may not be fair. The concept doesn’t work great as a novel, but it offers a unique take that makes it an interesting work of literature that I think is worthy of your attention, especially for a horror film fan.