Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dream Team -- Jack McCallum ------------------- 3 Stars

I don't really have a lot to write about today.  Partly it's because school starts very soon and time is not nearly as plentiful as it is earlier in the summer, and the book Dream Team by Jack McCallum really does not inspire me to write a great deal.

The book, as you can probably guess from title and cover picture, is about the 1992 Dream Team that won gold in basketball in Barcelona.  I love basketball and I loved this team (back at the ripe old age of 12) at the time so I thought this book would bring back great memories, have great insights, and be a real page turner... it was all of those things but only in some very small quantaties.

The good --
It's an easy read and I breezed through in about a week
It did have some great insights about how the team was originally created (sorry, Isiah Thomas), how they interacted with each other, and what life was like for some of the greatest players to ever play the game
The best part were the stories about the guys and their personal lives that I was never aware (a few: Stockton was so unrecognizable he would walk around Spain asking people about himself, Barkely would go out all night, Jordan was obsessed with beating everyone at everything, Laetner's best ability might be his ping pong skills (he beat Jordan)).  There were a few others about a great scrimmage within the squad a well.

The bad --
You just got most of the highlights above... I mean obviously there is more but I really felt like I was reading a book that could have been condensed to about 100 pages from 300.
It became really annoying how often the author had to talk about himself.  I assume Jack McCallum has been around for a while and is some big shot for SI, but does every chapter have to include some reference to his own part in this?  Jeez.
Much of the book I was already aware of or knew about so it was a bit repetitive for me
I didn't love his style of writing.  Although easy to read it was told in a very boiler plate kind of way and had little excitement.  

So, overall, I would pick this up if you are a die hard b-ball fan or love the Dream Team otherwise I would avoid.  While a few of the nuggets from this made the press (i.e. Isiah was left off cause MJ didn't want him), you can just check the old news and learn that stuff. 


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gone Girl -- Gillian Flynn --------------- 4.5 Stars

Not long ago I wrote about the phenomenon where something is such a big hit, that I almost feel stupid to not check it out.  Almost always, when I do then check it out, it invariably is quite awesome and there is a reason that everyone loves it (I'm to lazy to find the old post but I had a few examples to prove).  That's kind of the reason I eventually decided to read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.  While I knew the book was incredibly popular and saw the cover everywhere, I thought it was your average (excuse the awful upcoming stereotype) "chick" novel.  You know, the Nicholas Sparks, they love each other so much that I have to throw up in my mouth now; but, oh no, this book was quite different.  This was, oh my god these people hate each other and maybe have murdered one another... so yeah, it was awesome.

So the basic premise that had me finally pick up the book was the realization that this book was really about a quite dysfunctional marriage that eventually leads to the wife going missing (hence the title).  What's so great about the book though, is the story that goes with it.

There were a number of things I loved about the book.  First, the actual story is awesome.  I mean, it is a great mystery, it constantly keeps you guessing, you can't wait to read the next chapter or entry.  It's great.  Second, I love the way it is told.  Basically, you have a sort of 'present' day version of the events told by the husband and then every other chapter is a 'past' version of events told by the wife.  At some point the two entries catch up with each other and you basically then get the same version of events from a very different point of view.  The book also has three distinct parts that make the actual story and how it's told even more interesting.  Great format.  Third, she is a very good writer.  Not in the, 'wow, I can't believe how beautiful that sentence was', but more of the 'wow, this lady is pretty cool and really understands people and the modern society we live in' writing.  She kind of reminds me of how Jonathan Franzen writes some things.  Major note though, the book is quite vulgar in both language and lewdness.

Small drawbacks: as I just said, pretty raunchy.  More of an issue though, the ending.  In some ways the ending was set up to be a disappointment.  The book is so exciting and mid to late chapters so interesting, that in many ways the climax of the book happens far before the end and the ending then is almost the tying of up loose ends.  I guess the book is really so good and interesting that it could not keep up its inertia all the way through.  Most books have a plot that moves forward, climax right before the end and then the sort of outcome or finalization of the climax (I think this is called denouement, if it is my high school english teacher did a nice job).  Anyway, this book did that but the rising action finished with like a quarter of the novel left... odd.

Big picture -- this book earned 4.5 stars.  It's very, very entertaining.  An easy and enjoyable read.  One of the few books I read recently where I actually slowed down because I wanted to revel in it and enjoy it longer.  No 5 stars just because it's not epic and the writing is quite crude (along with many of themes around sex and violence).  I still urge you to pick it up.  It's quite popular and there is a definite reason for that.