National Medal of Arts awarded to Stephen King.

On Stephen_King,_ComiconThursday, September 10 the American president Barack Obama honored 21 organizations and individuals on the sector of humanities and arts.Among those who received a medal was writer Stephen King, who received the National Medal of Arts  for combining storytelling with analysis of human nature. According to President Obama, “one of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, Mr. King combines his remarkable storytelling with his sharp analysis of human nature .For decades, his works of horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy have terrified and delighted audiences around the world.”

 

Stephen King, aged 67, began writing while still in school. The first of his stories to be independently published was “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber”. In 1973, King’s first novel Carrie was accepted by publishing house Doubleday, and he has since published 54 novels and  written nearly 200 short stories, most of which have been collected in book collections. Along the multitude of awards won through his life are Bram Stoker AwardsWorld Fantasy Awards, the O. Henry Award and British Fantasy Society Awards. In 2003, the National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  He has also received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (2004), the Canadian Booksellers Association Lifetime Achievement Award (2007), and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America (2007). Movie adaptations of his novels include IT, The Shinning, Misery, The Green Mile, Salem’s Lot and more.

It_coverAlong with being a successful and prolific writer, King  is also involved with charity. He donates approximately $4 million per year “to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment, schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts.”The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, spends over $2.8 million in grants per year, according to The Grantsmanship Center. In November 2011, the  Foundation donated $70,000 in matched funding for families in need Bangor, Maine.

 

According to Stephen King when asked why he became an author, “ The answer to that is fairly simple-there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. That’s why I do it. I really can’t imagine doing anything else and I can’t imagine not doing what I do”. How about retiring?  “Not yet. I’m writing but I’m writing at a much slower pace than previously and I think that if I come up with something really, really good, I would be perfectly willing to publish it because that still feels like the final act of the creative process, publishing it so people can read it and you can get feedback and people can talk about it with each Salemslothardcoverother and with you, the writer, but the force of my invention has slowed down a lot over the years and that’s as it should be. I’m not a kid of 25 anymore and I’m not a young middle-aged man of 35 anymore-I have grandchildren and I have a lot of things to do besides writing and that in and of itself is a wonderful thing but writing is still a big, important part of my life and of everyday.”

Good Omens: When an angel and a demon screw BIG plans up..badly

GoodOmens_MassMarketPaperback_1185845373“25 And the Lord spake unto the Angel that guarded the eastern gate, saying ‘Where is the flaming sword that was given unto thee?’
26 And the Angel said, ‘I had it here only a moment ago, I must have put it down some where, forget my own head next.’
27 And the Lord did not ask him again.”  – Good Omens

The plans for the arrival of the Antichrist have been set in motion. Heaven and Hell are both aware and waiting for the big day, the last day of earth. But what happens when the demon who’s been charged with taking care of the little sweetheart  messes up big time? The Antichrist ends up on the wrong family, and Mr. Demon asks for help from an old angel-friend.

This is one of the most hilarious books you will ever read. Lots of characters mix up, plenty of running is involved, and a respectable dose of irony and black humor is present everywhere. It’s one of those books you can’t set down once you’ve started reading. The characters are intelligent and humorous, especially our demon friend Crowley, and the dialogues will set you in tears..in a good way.

Good Omens is co-written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, masters of the fantasy genre and both greatly respected in the world of literature. The two authors have fanatic readers, and getting to know other works of them will give you a good reason to become a fan yourself. The book has been a great success ever since it was published in 1990, winning   awards  such as the  Mir Fantastiki Special Award for “The most anticipated book” (2012) and nominations for Best Novel (Locus Award, Best Fantasy Award,).  In 2003 the novel was listed at number 68 on The Big Read. A mini series adaptation of it aired on BBC Radio in 2015. A lot of rumors exist about a film and a television adaptation of the novel, but so far they haven’t been implemented.

cover-good-omensFor more information there is a site called Good Omens Lexicon (http://goodomenslexicon.org/), whose contributors have done an amazing job creating a “character map/lexicon” in order to guide you through the characters. Although the book is straightforward enough and you will have no problem remembering them, I have found that after reading the story it is a very fun page to roam around.

Should you read this book? Definitely, provided that you have a sense of humor and you are not one of those people that do not tolerate humor around Heaven and Hell. Are you a Neil Gaiman or a Tery Pratchett fan (or both)? Then if you haven’t spotted the book yet, you should. Immediately!

The Time Keeper

TimeKeeper_cover_front-There is a reason why God limits our days

-Why?

-To make each one precious

 

A teenage girl wishes time would run faster so that she can she her crush sooner. A middle aged cancer patient wishes time would slow down so that he doesn’t have to meet his death so soon. And Father Time listens.

As the story unravels, you meet Dor, the first human being to understand the concept of time. But along with the realization came the obsession, the invention of the clock, the withdrawal from more important things in life and the anxiety about minutes, hours, days  passing by.

Never before have I come across a story that shows so accurately that the concept of time can be very dangerous if not handled well.  Through the thoughts and actions of the  protagonists  you can see your own thoughts about time, and whether you always want more or you wish it would run faster, there is always a part of your life you end up losing.

A story slowly and carefully paced, you do have to be a patient reader, but the realization will hit you in the end. The story of Father Time will make you wish clocks had never been invented.

The Casual Vacancy: Another side of J.K. Rowling

The-Casual-VacancyBeloved- by- all  Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother’s sudden death is a major shock for the small community of Pagford, UK. There is now an official Casual Vacancy; a vacant seat on the city council, and a lot of people are going to fight over it…by any means necessary. Two “armies” are created, two opposite camp grounds, fighting over a seat on the city council, and therefore over the determining vote over the troubled area of “The Fields”. However, the candidates soon find their deepest, darkest secrets published on the Parish Council online forum and their lives are turned upside down.

Drugs, politics, false prudence, domestic violence, communities’ failure to protect their citizens are some of the major themes of the novel.  Rowling proves that her talent is not limited in the Harry Potter series. This is not a happy book; it is not supposed to be one. If you are looking for a light-hearted story with a happy ending, it is not the book for you.

This is a painfully accurate story as far as small communities, social problems, and the human nature are concerned. A story that makes you think more deeply, and reminds you that sometimes we forget even the basic aspects of humanity.

 

casual_vac_bbcThe Casual Vacancy became the 15th best-selling book of 2012 during its first week of release, and  later won the Best Fiction category in the Goodreads Choice Awards of  2012.  In 2015 it became a mini series produced by BBC, and, in my opinion, it is one of the few novels that was so accurately transferred into the screen.

 

The Night Circus: Dark, Bittersweet, Magical

“We lead strange lives, chasing our dreams from place to place”

Night CircusImagine a circus that mysteriously appears at night; one that is so extraordinary, it looks nothing like any other you have ever seen. Imagine opening your eyes in front of its gate at midnight, listening to its great black and white clock chiming, the smell of caramel pop corn in the air, the place full of black and white tents ready to welcome you into magic. This is not a mere description. This is what it actually feels like when you open Erin Morgenstern’s book. And it is just the beginning.

Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams, is a circus that appears from place to place and only opens its gates during the night. It’s a wondrous place: each tent contains a different kind of illusion… or so the guests believe. There is more than meets the eye in the Circus of Dreams, and powers stand behind it that normal people cannot imagine.  Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, raised and educated by the best Victorian Era magicians, have stepped into an ancient game of Magic with the circus grounds as their stage.

One of the most exciting books of its genre, besides its fascinating tale, its romance, and, above all, its magic, what drives you into it more than anything else is that what you read draws you into the story as if you are already there. You can smell the caramel apples, you can hear the clock chiming. And the tents, the wonders inside… it is as if you are there! Morgenstern’s unique way of describing every detail of this fantasy world helps the reader dive into the book and become one of the circus’ guests.

It is a dark story, yet it makes you realize that hope can arise through any situation, help can come from people you would never expect, and betrayal from loved ones you never thought were capable of it.

Uncle Montague’s Tales Of Terror OR How I slept with the lights on

chris-priestleyEdgar loves visiting uncle Montague; his house is out in the woods, he always has tea, and the best part of spending time with him is the story time.  You see, the interesting thing is, uncle Montague always has the best stories to tell, and every one of them is as spooky as can be. But are they just stories? Or is Edgar about to find more on his latest visit?

Chris Priestley’s book is rated age 7+, which means a seven year old can read it, but I’ll admit I’m 29 and some of these stories scared me to the point of having to turn the lights on at night in order to move from one room to another. Most of them are very well written and based on the element of the unknown. Not the bloody-gooey type of writing, so if you’re a fan of that type of stories, this is not the book for you. This is atmospheric in a way an old black and white horror movie from the sixties would be, which is what makes it more than a children’s book, along with the beautiful illustration by David Roberts.

 

It’s well written, short enough as not for the reader to get tired, long enough to satisfy your hunger for night time scary story reading. Give it a try!