Friday, July 25, 2014

Dazzle the Dinosaur

Always nice to get to read a children’s book as a favorite book.  This one is Dazzle the Dinosaur by Mark Pfister.  A special thank you to a twitter friend from Bridgewater State University who sent me the book so I could read it.  You should hold on to your copy as it is now OUT of print.  You can no longer purchase it!    As a precursor, all of the various dinosaurs featured in the book are placed on the first two pages of the book, so get ready for young children not to want to turn the page. This could also be a great beginning for older people working with their memory.  So what happens in this story? Well, two eggs are found next of an expectant mother dinosaur, hers and another one.  The other egg is covered with glitter and shining diamond color lines!  The eggs hatch and her baby dinosaur is born, as is a brilliantly glittered spine baby!  The mother dinosaur suggests that they call the golden-spined dinosaur “Dazzle” and so it goes.  As they begin to grow, so does their curiosity and they escape the home nest and venture into the area where other dinosaurs live.  Be careful Dazzle what lurks out there… the good and the bad occur because of the shiny spine, drawing the attention of the treacherous eating variety of dinosaurs! The good occurs when Dazzle is able to shine the spine into the sun and scare the dinosaur who tries and attack Maia, the baby dinosaur who ventured out with Dazzle. The finally return home with the help of a flying Quietzalcotlus dinosaur so all ends well that started off poorly.  Those curious little daring dinosaurs!  A fun little read for those under five.  Not sure what the allure might be if over that age as the message didn’t contain anything that made me think too deeply or be moved to excitement.  The pictures are fine and the education of the dinosaur family is probably the best aspect of the book.  I guess it is one I will need to think about should I get to be a grandfather someday.  A ton of good children’s books out there and always glad to be brought into the inner-thinkings of RAs’ days of youth.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Goldfinch (Extra book)

I just finished a book my sons bought me for Father’s Day, as I am all caught up with RA Favorite Books.  This is a recent Pulitzer Prize winning book by Donna Tartt (author of an RA Fav Book) called The Goldfinch.  This is a not a short read, by any means, but it is a riveting story, which I enjoyed immensely. The characters were real and the plot had lots of twists and turns, it had a bit of a Dan Brown (aka The DaVinci Code) type story.  Theo Decker, a thirteen year old boy, has his life fall apart when he and his Mom find themselves visiting the MoMA, avoiding a meeting with the principal to discuss why he was suspended from his school.  That fateful move proved tragic when the art museum had a terrorist attack which was fatal for Theo’s mother, but Theo manages to escape, not before two turn of events that would forever mark his life: being called over by a dying man to take his ring (a man whom he spotted earlier with a very cute young girl who captures his attention) and then taking a piece of art from the museum, his mother’s favorite,  Carel Fabritius's The Goldfinch!  What happens after Theo escapes the attacked building is the remainder of this epic tale.  Theo’s father left the family a year ago, an alcoholic who had a way of taking the family’s money.  Theo is lucky to join his classmate’s family, the Barbours, a wealthy Upper East Side clan with four children.  This is short lived when his father surprisingly returns to take his son to Las Vegas to live with his girlfriend.  Before Theo’s fathers surprise to take him away, Theo finds the home of the man with the ring, an antique shop.  He returns the ring to Mr. Blackwell’s partner, “Hobie,” and while there meets the recovering young red-head girl he saw at the museum, Pippa.   Theo is uprooted soon after to Las Vegas where he is subjected to the crazy lifestyle of drugs, money, and no support from his father and his girlfriend.  He does manage to bring the painting on the plane and keeps it with him hidden throughout the rest of his various journeys, or so he thinks!  During his time in Las Vegas he meets a best friend, Boris, another young boy whose father abandons him for drink and fast-times in Las Vegas.  Boris and Theo spend most of their waking hours together, drinking and drugging, much like their adult role models.  Theo’s father gets involved in a betting scheme and eventually is killed in a car accident, which leads Theo to escape Las Vegas before the authorities take him to a foster care situation.  Boris decides not to join him.  Theo buses back to NYC and eventually is brought in to stay with Hobie, the co-owner of the antique shop.  Theo reconnects with his past, the Barbours, and Pippa (who is taken away by her aunt after Blackwell died).  Theo is always conflicted and scared by his keeping of the painting, storing it in a locked storage company locker.  Life continues to come full circle when his old friend Boris visits him in NYC to make an apology to him… for stealing the painting!  Theo never unwrapped it so he never knew!!!  The rest of the book deals with the underground search for the painting, Theo dealing with his feelings for Pippa (and simultaneously with his engagement to one of the Barbour daughters – who is cheating on him), and he coming to terms with the fact he followed his father’s footsteps in cheating customers on antique sales after becoming Hobie’s partner in the business.  A great interconnected story told by the voice of the main character. In what was a rather strange ending, Theo philosophizes about life and what his new “theology” of sorts is for living.   I was riveted through the 750+ pages, and the last five were, weird… I still am processing it, but it seemed so out of character to have a great story end with a character preaching to me about his new outlook on life.  Reminded me a bit of an Ayn Rand move…  still not sure how I feel about it, but the story is GREAT.  Worth a read, for sure, but be prepared, not a few hour on a park bench read, but doesn’t feel overly long.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique

I often note when reading the RA favorite books about the complexity and diversity of books that the students claim as their favorite, well today’s book is no different. It was not an easy read, but I feel like I have vastly improved my content knowledge in the area of law after finishing The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique, edited by David Kairys.  Yes, it is a series of 24 short essays on all aspects of the law. The second edition was compiled in 1990, at the heart of the republican influence on the courts based on the many Reagan appointments to both the Supreme Court and the appellate courts.  The book is broken into three sections: the traditional courts and legal education; selected fields of law and finally progressive approaches to the law.  Ah, the Reagan era.  Certainly for any liberal-minded folks, you would appreciate the historical context and hopes and dreams of the authors for how the courts and our society should be thinking about things such as a different view on the work place, discrimination (affirmative action), and freedom of speech.  It was interesting to read a book that was placed in the time in which I was finishing my education and could hear my professors saying similar things, even at a Jesuit (Catholic) institution.  The most robust of the sections was the law being applied to real issues, using case law, to discuss how the conservative courts were interpreting issues that would certainly receive major societal focus in the next century, as yes it has!  Gay rights, affirmative action, antidiscrimination, welfare reform, free speech, and even immigrant rights.  Special focus was also given to the role of big business.  Ah, the timing was pretty right on with Enron and other big businesses bringing the downfall of the financial markets shortly after the book was published.  Crime, the constitution, and personal injury also were reviewed in the short essays.  For any and all pre-law students, this is a must read as it puts things in historical context in relation to how the courts have moved.  I really also enjoyed the chapter on “law school” much like One L (a former RA favorite book) the chapter is pretty honest about how, like a “fraternal” organization, one is built up and then “SLAM” brings you down to realize how “low on the totem pole” of learning one is.  Some of the chapters are pretty heavy reading, especially on the constitutional chapters, class, race, and sex chapters are a real pre-cursor to what we are experiencing with gay marriage movement and sex laws.  I have to admit, I enjoyed the context and departure from the non-fiction books I often read, but it has to be a “niche” you are interested in reading.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sense and Sensibility

It’s time for a ride way back in history, to one of the golden oldies, whom many were surprised I had not read yet.  Nothing like reading the classic work of Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility.  It reads like the “comedy of errors” once you get past the point of a step-brother being influenced by his wife to nix his agreement with his dying father to take care of the “step kids” and mom.  The “wicked” step sister-in-law (Fanny) continues her influence by dissuading her brother, Edward, whom is attracted to one of the three sisters (Elinor) through comments made to her step mother-in-law, which leads the four woman to leave the area! Upon arriving in Devonshire the woman begin to be warmly received in town.  Lots of misguided and misconstrued perceptions of “love” through the eyes of others, with potential pairings, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities throughout. Who is the sensible sister, who is the extravagant and less-feeling of heart sister?  How the world turns on this one which illustrates how “feelings” are exaggerated and one never really knows what lies under the surface of the characters true motivations as social norms don’t allow for true feelings to always be shared.  Motivation for landing a better lot in life through the acquisition of the “better” marriage and social standing never stray far from the main characters in this one.  While it appears that the jilted sisters are to remain in misery forever, never discount the underdog in Jane Austen stories.  While I prefer Pride and Prejudice, this one is her first and certainly lends itself to sharing a tale for “their time.”  Good story with powerful female characters, something one didn’t see much of in the day.  Good historical reflection.  Worth a browse…

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates

Some unforgettable characters and a nonsensical  (Maybe that’s the point)…  that’s where I traveled as I read Tom Robbins’ Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates.  I did enjoy the names of these characters, who lead interesting paths, but unsure where that path was taking me.  In the end funny characters, funny situations, and contradictions at every turn, need to be sending more than a message (yup missed some of that), though did get a chuckle as the main character was bringing his grandmother’s parrot back to the Amazon to be let free.  Switters, the main character, is a CIA agent (though he is a self-proclaimed Pacifist) who carries a gun!  He is ruled by his grandmother, Maestra, and loves both a 45 year-old nun and also his seventeen year old step sister (in the most sexual of ways)!  The thing that really impresses me with Robbins, is the language he uses and the way he tells a story, though there wasn’t a lot there, at least on the surface!  Underneath it, I am sure I missed it.  Maybe the lesson learned is you shouldn’t look for a message in a book, especially when sitting on a boat sunning yourself in 85 degree weather…. Or maybe that’s exactly what Robbins wants the reader to leave with… a respite from the novel as one knows it and a fun fast-paced escape from the rigors of CIA agent life into the abyss which many of us live, confused values, confused decision-making, and a confusion of living life for the moment and letting the rest just happen.  That poor parrot.  If grandma only knew who ended up eating it in the end!  My second Robbins book and I would say it is an acquired taste, not for the linear-minded readers.  When looking at symbolism, depth of reading, and great use of language, this could be right up your alley.  For me, I’d say I should pull it out in the depth of winter to see if that foil would make for a better read of it.
storyline, humorous at times, but where is it going?