The OA

the-oa-cover_   The OA

Recently I binged the full first season of  The OA offered by Netflix. It stars Brit Marling as a young blind woman, missing for seven years. When she returns, she can see and refuses to explain any of what happened. I enjoyed the series, but I am struggling to understand what I saw. So this brings up a question. How does one review a show, when one is unsure of what happened?  On the most basic level, production quality, acting, sound, and lighting was all up to expectations. (I hate movies where the characters grope around in the dark, and the viewers are left to guess what’s happening by only the audio track.) I came back time and again to view the next episode, interested in the storyline, captured by the cliff hangers and in love with of the characters. From the beginning, I was under the spell of the storyline and wanted to know more. Each little detail that filled out the story fit the puzzle perfectly. The keyword is puzzle.

the-oa-brit

OA has depth in a mystery that it slowly reveals through the season. The characters become real as the drama unfolds.  A viewer easily suspends disbelief and accepts the fantasy of the story. Moreover, if you choose not to believe, the story does not make a fool of you. At one level, believing in the story opens endless possibilities. On the other level, the story makes just as much sense from a more realistic point of view. It is just a different story, not as fantastical. Both storylines are complete, but your heart wants to believe in the fantasy.

The next season, if it continues, should offer an insight of what the writers want you to believe. I long for continuing the mystical storyline. I have never been big on fantasy, but I am willing to change if another season of well-written episodes come along. If you are looking for something that will fire up your respect for a well-written story, you will love The OA.

 

createspace-5x8-cover-low-rez-75  Sunset of Dreams

If you are looking for another story within a story, consider reading Sunset of Dreams.  This book is about a Tampa detective who stumbles onto a paperback that causes readers to lose control and commit murder. It is not easy to explain the cause of the crime wave to the police. Who would believe a book could do that?  Everyone is at risk, even his family. The book is available to pre-order on Kindle now, and the paperback will release on May 1st.  Read Sunset of Dreams, but don’t lose control!

Click now and order on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WV9LY72

 

 

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Chomp 2012, by Carl Hiaasen

 

The first time I met Carl Hiaasen was at a small independent bookstore in So-Ho Tampa.  He was doing a reading from Skinny Dip before a crowd of about 35 people.  Now, every time I read one of his books it’s like a conversation with him.  His writing is easy to read, smooth and flowing like he’s talking to you from across the table. His writing is easy to understand, probably due to his reporting experience working at Cocoa Today and the Miami Herald.  Hiaasen is a Florida writer and Florida is rooted deep in each of his stories.  Location, creatures, characters and situations revolve around the relaxed lifestyle of that natural paradise, and Chomp is no different.

In Chomp, Hiaasen pokes fun at reality TV when a survival show shoots an episode in the Florida Everglades.  The arrogant survivalist, who cares more about how he looks on screen than anything else, bumbles his way through the scenes.  It’s a funny, light hearted, jaunt  that moves quickly from mishap to mishap.  Chomp is the perfect name for the book, with wild animals doing what they do!  The heroes in the book are the animal wranglers, a father and son team, who bring some sensibilities to the wild everglade adventure.

Like all of Hiaasen’s books they end too soon.  There is always a bit of regret that they are over.  His dry humor and great satire allows you to see a different view of things.  Perhaps it’s a Floridian point of view where tourists take the brunt of the jokes, but that’s ok with me.   Read Chomp and you will be hooked on this freestyle storyteller that always gives you more than you are expecting.

 

And don’t forget to pre-order Seedy Hills, An Odd Little Town, By Douglas W. Daech, at Apple, Kobo or Barns & Noble.  This is a satirical look at life in a small Kentucky town.  Ghosts, vampires, monsters, UFO’s and Bigfoot are all occurrences that the city of Seedy Hills experiences in this collection of short stories. Through them all, newspaper reporter Eric Green tries to answer the questions and solve the mysteries that plague the town. But how can an earth bound reporter make peace with UFO aliens? What can he do against the monsters that lurk in the sewers of this small town? And what can one mortal do against the haunting of ghosts and undead vampires?

In Seedy Hills, an odd little town, citizens believe that a true blood sucking vampire is preying on the residents. One poor soul, bled dry, crashes his pick-up into the Twisty Cone. Ice cream hungry witnesses see the telltale fang marks and hear the ambulance workers comment on a vampire bite. That is all it takes to put the city into turmoil. Vampires in Seedy Hills tells the story of the worst type of vampire.

And when Bigfoot turns up in the woods around Seedy Hills the local hunters look forward to their chance to hunt some really big game. The problem is that the big game ends up being smarter than the hunters!

But wait! There are even more weird things that happen around Seedy Hills!!  Through the adventure Eric Green, learns about life, love and the fact that he and other people around him have feelings. While reporting the strange events he learns that being from an odd, little, run down town may not be all that bad.

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Edge of Tomorrow

 

Edge of Tomorrow

SPOILER ALERT!

In Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise plays an cowardly promotions agent for the military who is cut down to size when he is assigned to the front lines against an alien force.  In his first battle he luckily kills an alien that is capable of resetting the day, allowing it to learn from the day’s events and start over.  Knowing in advance what is going to happen is the aliens advantage in the war.  When the alien bleeds on the dying  rookie soldier the capability to redo the day after he dies is passed on to him.

This Ground Hog Day situation allows the rookie to relive his first day at battle and eventually  survive to put up a fight.  Who knows how many times he was killed in battle to repeat the day and eventually become a seasoned fighter. On the verge of success, when he needs the magic redo one more time, the advantage is gone, and to die would mean his final death.  Will he risk his last life to win the war?

This high budget Cruise film, Edge of Tomorrow, is perfectly done with great special effects.  The believable short step into the future brings us to a time when we recognize the world we live in and see the world fighting together against a common enemy.  It holds a good mix of real characters that play off the storyline well.  The whole visual package seems complete and makes the fictional  situation seem plausible.  There is no effort in suspending disbelief,  the technical battle suits used in the movie could actually be on the field in the near future.

In the original Ground Hog Day film, the redo allowed a man to retry  attempts to romance a co worker.  In Edge of Tomorrow the redo allows a man to gain the respect of his fellow soldiers and learn the skills to win in battle.  The setting is different but the formula is the same.  It’s a great movie that is fun and exciting.  What it lacks in originality it makes up with in excitement.

 

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Philomina Movie Review

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to see Philomina, I had not seen any of the trailers. I didn’t know what the story was or where the story line would go, and I didn’t know it was based on true events. I went to the theater with my lovely wife who wanted to see it. But, from the beginning It totally captured me.

I’ve always like Judi Dench, who unknowingly to me was a major player in the film. She, as always was spectacular, I never doubted her character. In fact, the next day when I researched the movie on the internet I saw photos of the real Philomina Lee, I could’t see her as the character, Judi Dench was just right.

Spoiler alert! The story was a real tear jerker, as true stories are. It tore my heart out. Philomina never got to meet her adult son. Adoption often creates a life long search for family. Many end just this sad. This one came full circle as we searched across two countries to bring the family together. The story was told well, but there were a couple jumps and knocks in the story line. I would have liked a little more development of the adult adopted sister character. It would have helped the viewer understand the mental state she was in. I did think it was strange that she never asked about her own mother, perhaps that was enough of a hint that she wasn’t quite right in the head. Also, the lost boy’s partner didn’t reveal much of a character at all.

Even with the little problems I saw that matter to me, the story made a good film and was worth the price to see it. If you have a little time, and need an emotional bump to move your heart I recommend Philomina.

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11-22-63 by Stephen King , Scribner 2011

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book the size of this Stephen King novel, at well over 700 pages. But, I still finished 11-22-63 several days before it needed to be taken back to the library. It will be no surprise to say it was a good read coming from the master of suspense. Anyone could guess that. There will be no real spoilers in this review, I’m not giving away what happens. What was a surprise to me was how the story was written.

I’ve been through a few time travel stories in my reading experience. One of the things I enjoy as a science minded theorist is how one does travel through time. The mechanical techno babel that builds the time machine, the actual gadget with all it’s spinning dials and gears, blinking lights and swooshing noises has always been an important part of the story… to me.

Mr King skips all that. What he knows, and I will try to remember, is that a story is about people. He pushes us into situations of drama, danger, love and hate. He gets you to like and know a character, then pulls you into an adventure along with that person. He lets you feel what he feels from anger to love and more. The story is not about all the special effects that make a movie work. It is about people. That is what makes a book work. That’s  what makes his work worth reading.

Find more by Stephen King at:  http://www.stephenking.com/library/novel/

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An American Haunting

An American Haunting, by Brent Monahan, Published by St. Martin’s Griffin; 1st edition (June 19, 2000)

They wrote a book or three, then made a movie, An American Haunting.  The Red River where it all happened is less than 40 miles from where I live. Why did it take ten years to read it? For years I’ve been hearing about the Bell family Witch.  Rumors and stories about what really happened in the early 1800’s have been passed down from generation to generation. A friend who lived not far from there has visited the farm many times. Everyone seems to give the story their own twist and adds their own theory on what the ghost actually wanted.  Two hundred years is long enough time for a story to evolve into something unlike what actually happened. How can anything about it be called accurate? I believe this story is more accurate than accounts I’ve heard of the haunting from the locals.

Richard Powell was a teacher in the Red River area of northern Tennessee around 1815.  He taught many of the Bell children. Later he became a Sheriff, and in 1833 a member of the State House of Representatives.  He was a respected person and a friend of Andrew Jackson. When the haunting was taking place, Powell recorded the events of the haunting by first person observations and collected reports from friends and witnesses.  This report of the haunting is the guide that Bret Monahan used when writing his account of the American Haunting.  I won’t go into detail on the story line or give away the spooky bits of the story. I think the most important thing to express is that the story is reported by someone you can believe.

I cheated a little. We had a ten-hour road trip so we listened to the audio book.  Between rest areas and gas stations, restaurants drive-thrus and tourist traps we relived the terrors of the Bell family as they were haunted by bad Kate, the Bell Witch.  The book held our interest for ten hours. It entertained us, informed us and made us think.   It offered us conversation and topic for discussion over the road.  It was the perfect choice for a road trip. I enjoyed it throughly.

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May Day Murders

May Day Murders by Scott Wittenburg, available at Smashwords.com

This book is one of those that you just can’t put down. I read through it in record time, and wanted more. So, I read another Wittenburg novel, and now I’m in the third!    Scott Wittenburg writes a smooth reading adventure that draws the reader into the story and onto the next page.  In May Day Murders our hero is a reporter for a small newspaper investigating the murder of a close friend of the family. One murder turns into two as the plot thickens, and conflicts and drama weave into the pages.   Scott has a way of getting the reader involved in the story.  His formula is simple and complicated at the same time, and he is a master at it.  First he creates a  main character with a flaw the reader can relate to, such as having an affair or a drinking problem.  (Maybe both!)  Then he shows the character to have compassion and lets the reader get to like the person.  Take him into the adventure and toss some conflict, foreshadowing and good dialog into the mix.  The magic  is that someplace down the line the reader figures out who the killer really is before the characters do.  This is the magic that pulls you into seeing the end.  In one form or another this formula has been in each of his novels that I’ve read.  It is there but it’s not in the way.  The masterful way the dialog and characters interact along with the desire to see them solve the riddle keeps you involved. If you haven’t read a Wittenburg novel The May Day Murders is a good starting point, but be prepared to want more!

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