Ex Machina

Ex Machina


What no Transformers or light sabres? 


It has been a long time since I have seen a Sci-Fi film that was as cerebral as Ex Machina2001 A Space Odyssey being the last one, without monsters, space chases, and exploding planets. Okay, so maybe Interstellar qualifies.

The irony of the quality of this film, is that the trailer makes you think it is going to be about a robot run amok. My guess is the marketing department used the scenes hinting to that theme just to get some people in the door.

The acting is superb, the story line holds up, and the direction is well done. The ending is exactly what it needed to be and any other finish would have ruined the film.

Alicia Vikander, who plays Ava, is incredible. While we mainly see her face, she communicates so much with just facial expressions that it is mesmerizing.  Domhnell Gleeson plays Caleb with the perfect amount of naivete as the one who is asked to determine if Ava is actually artificial intelligence. Oscar Isaac plays the eccentric Nathan who hires Caleb to test Ava. While his acting is good, he doesn’t fit the image of what I think of when I hear “eccentric”.

This film grabs you from the start and doesn’t let go even in the end. As the credits rolled, my first thought was, “Wow, this needs a sequel”.

This one gets five cigars and a lighter   five cigars

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee



‘Keep your friends close, your enemies closer’……   *****

Racism is alive and well in this country. It may be subtle, or not, but it lies just beneath the surface, ready to rear its ugly head. The term racist has been applied to Atticus Finch in this book and the reversal of how he is portrayed in To Kill A Mockingbird has some people upset. In my opinion, they have misunderstood both books.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus is asked by his maid, Calpurnia, to talk to Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a white woman. After talking to him, Atticus believes he is innocent and agrees to defend him. This decision is based not on being black or white, but seeing a man unjustly accused and who needs a good lawyer. While the town is upset about him defending a black man, for Atticus it is about justice and the law.

In Go Set A Watchman, Atticus is defending a way of life and the intrusion of the federal government. I may not agree with his view of how life should be, but again he sees it as defending justice and his view of the constitution.

To understand both books, we have to realize they are from the point of view of Jean Louise (Scout) and that she has a narrow and naive view of the world. Remember she thought letting a boy slip in his tongue when they kissed caused her to get pregnant. While growing up she was not aware of racial issues, things were just how they were. When she returns to her home as an adult and sees the change in everyone except herself, she cannot grasp what has happened. She does not understand the threat to a way of life the others feel.

This book is a revelation of how a lot of the South reacted to the enforcement of de-segregation when civil rights became the law of the land. The diatribe of Uncle Jack is worth the price of the book alone.  In an age where many would like to rewrite the past, this book is a reminder of how a people can justify the oppression of another.

Harper Lee has written a novel that speaks probably louder today than had it been published when she wrote it. This is a thought provoking, hopefully discussion starting, look into how we perceive each other, how embedded our beliefs can be, and how we need to listen to those with whom we may not agree. A happy ending, feel good novel it is not.

This one gets five full stars


It Ain’t Easy by Kesia Alexandra



Stories that give you pause….   ****


These are well crafted short stories about life in the city. While the backdrop is Washington D.C., they ring true for just about any large metropolis.

The first story, Taxes, was a little unnerving, and in my mind, reinforced a mistaken stereotype.  The rest were touching and drew me in to a part of life most of us never see.

Kesia ‘s writing style is fluid and kept me reading, as she describes these vignettes of life. She is a good author and it will be interesting to see more of her work.

fourgolfpencils2This one gets four golf pencils, one less as it could use another pass by a copy editor.

myku: an array of deviant haiku for a new century by Tara Keogh


The art of 5-7-5s…   *****

Being a poet

I know how hard it is to

Write a good haiku.

Tara Keogh not only writes them well, but uses them to make amazing statements about the workplace. her love experiences, and life in general. This is a compilation of two hundred and twelve haikus.  Some of wlhich were previously published in the World Haiku Review.

Like any good poetry, each one should be read, then thought about, then reread.  The meaning of each will vary with the reader, as Keogh states in her introduction. Some I can see putting on a stickie on my computer, some are better left to memory.

Well worth pondering over.  This one gets a solid  five stars.

Suppose: Drabbles, Flash Fiction, and Short Stories by Kathy Steinemann



Something for everybody….

This is exactly as advertised. A collection of short stories, flash fiction and drabbles that are easy, fun reads, with some that actually make you think.

If short stories are hard to write, then flash fiction is even harder. To capture a moment in time in just a few hundred words is not easy. A drabble is usually one hundred words or less and is basically a thought. Most of the short stories, flash fiction, and drabbles found here are good. Some better than others.

While weighted more toward science fiction, this collection covers several genres, so there is something for every taste. The book is designed, as the author states, to be read in spurts, to be read when you have a free moment. I read this pretty much straight through which made reading a little tedious and made some of the stories sound too much alike.

The book could have used one more pass by a copy editor but overall is well worth your time.

fourgolfpencils2This one gets four golf pencils.



Acting… It’s Not For Sissies by Nicole Comer



What your mother never told you….  ****


To be an artist, be it writer, painter, or actor, one has to have passion. If you do not love what you are doing, intensely, success will be a wisp of smoke never to be grasped. This is advice just about anyone could give. What they do not tell you is no matter what area of artistry you pursue, you need to know the business end of that profession. Writers need to know that writing is a business, painters the same, and actors need to know about show business.

It is the business of acting that Nicole Comer addresses in this well written, humorous, and straight forward book.  Her advice on dress, head shots, auditions, and agents is worth the price of the book. But what I found most interesting was the section on knowing yourself.

To truly understand who you are, what you want, and how you are perceived is something all of us could benefit from, but few take the time to really discover.  Anyone, in any profession, could benefit from the advice Comer gives, more so for anyone pursuing an acting career. As Polonius said in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true”. To do that one needs to know oneself. Comer provides the tools for anyone to do just that.

This is a four star book with worthwhile advice.  I held back one star as it is weighted heavily to acting in Los Angeles, although there is plenty for anyone thinking about acting anywhere.


1979: Short Story Collection by Steve Anderson



Stories to take you back…


The best thing I can say about a short story is when it makes me want to read more about the characters or the storyline.  Steve Anderson has written a group of stories that do exactly that.

Set in various parts of the country, mostly the Midwest, Anderson recreates the mood and sense of the late 70’s. While each story stands alone, there is a common thread of innocence and naivete about each of the main characters. I found myself relating to every story as they invoked a memory from my life.

Anderson writes with an incredible insight into what it is like to be a teenager, both from the male and female perspective. These stories will make you laugh, cry, and as in my case, take you back in time.

fivegolfpencilsThis one gets a solid five golf pencils.


Wake Up: Spiritual Enlightenment Uncloaked by Helen Jane Rose



Before you spend your money, “Wake Up.” …..  *

This is a treatise on spirituality versus the way the author thinks most people view the world and their place in it. Helen Rose, using a process she calls “automatic writing”, channels an entity that provides her with several truths. The problem is I think she tuned into a channel that was a spiritual version of Nick at Night, as there is nothing revealed that has not already been written about.

While the truisms in addressing change, one’s own spirituality, and how we relate to each other are valid, they have been dealt with in many other books. This point is amplified by the numerous quotes between chapters from other sources that Rose uses to validate her writing. Actually, some of the quotes are more profound than what the “entity” is telling her to write.

If you are looking for a book to uncloak your spirituality, try one like The Secret or The Power of Now. Unfortunately, this short essay will not cause you to “wake up”.

This one gets one star.



Lost Legacy (The Skull Chronicles Book 1) by D. K. Henderson



A different approach to telling a fantasy story…..  ***


Normally, I do not read fantasy. After all once you have read all of J. R. Tolkien, what could ever measure up to his standard? However, when I received a request to review this book, I was intrigued.

The fantasy part of the story is straight forward. Thirteen skulls brought to Earth by aliens to be used by us to gain the knowledge they have acquired.  The skulls were brought years ago and as mankind becomes aware of the power they hold, there are some who try to steal them for their own purposes. Eventually the skulls are scattered and hidden in various parts of the Earth as the story reaches modern day.

Here is where the approach is different, at least in my experience.  As Henderson tells the  history of the skulls, she mixes in the modern day story of Gemma Mason who begins having dreams about the skulls. Gemma eventually decides to write a book about her dreams. This switching from the fantasy story to what is happening with Gemma kept me reading.

The writing is above average, and the philosophy that Henderson imparts is not only worth reading, but worth a pause for reflection. The novel suffers from more telling than showing but moves at a good pace.

This was a hard book to rate for me.  I give it three stars as a fantasy novel, but the writing style deserves four.  But since this is for fantasy fans, three it is.