Archive | February, 2009

Stephen King Goes to the Movies by Stephen King

15 Feb

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I am a huge fan of Stephen King.

I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to his books and I have been one of his Constant Readers for quite some time. I still remember the first Stephen King book I read: Skeleton Crew. I remember the monkey on the front cover of the book filled me with delicious fright. I opened the cover and have never been the same since.

After reading his other non-fiction offerings (Danse Macabre and On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft) I was super excited to hear about Stephen King Goes to the Movies. It promised to be a treat. The book description described it thusly:

Now available, the #1 bestselling author reflects on the filming of five of his most popular short stories.  Those movies are The Shawshank Redemption, 1408, Children of the Corn, The Mangler, and Hearts in Atlantis.

Includes an introduction, his personal commentary, and behind-the-scenes insights by Stephen.

On reading those words, my first thought was: HOLY CRAP! My second thought was: AWESOME!

I thought it would be really amazing to get a behind the scenes look, as it were, at the stories behind the movies. We would get the stories themselves plus personal commentary and behind the scenes insights? Oh, it was every Constant Readers dream!

Except, it was a dream that was never realized.

I should have flipped through the book when I was in the bookstore, but I was in to big of a hurry to get home and delve into the mind of Stephen King. Imagine my surprise when I got home and opened the book to find the five stories and not much else.

Stephen King Goes to the Movies consists of the five stories behind the films 1408, The Mangler, Hearts in Atlantis, The Shawshank Redemption and Children of the Corn. As for new content, Stephen King has written a brief (and I mean brief: one to two pages) introduction for each story. He’s also provided us with his top ten list of the favourite adaptations of his work.

At first, I was rather pissed off. I mean, the advertising made it sound as if the book was non-fiction, a real behind the scenes look at the stories behind the movies and behind the scenes insights behind the making of the movies.

And all we get is a book of five short stories and some short (very short) introductions?

I was not pleased to say the least. But I decided, after spending my hard earned money on the book, to read the stories anyway. I figured it would fill the gap between Just After Sunset (which came out in November of 2008 ) and Stephen Kings new novel Under the Dome (which won’t come out until the fall of 2009). So I decided to give the book a chance.

And, you know what? I’m glad I did.

It had been some time since I had read the stories contained within Stephen King Goes to the Movies. I remembered reading 1408 and Hearts in Atlantis, but The Mangler, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and Children of the Corn might as well have been new to me. I’ve read them, but it’s been years and I didn’t remember them clearly at all.

And you know what? They were good.

I mean really good. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by stories that held so many memories for me. Stephen King’s stories kept me company during many a dark hour during my turbulent upbringing; thus it’s little wonder that he inspires me so much. 

The stories were so good, so scary, so moving. The most interesting thing about the stories contained in Stephen King Goes to the Movies, however, was that after a few pages into the story, I stopped picturing the movie. All I could see were the images that the story itself called to mind.

Though the new content in Stephen King Goes to the Movies is almost nil (really about ten pages worth of new material) that doesn’t matter. Before you put the book back on the bookshelf, give Stephen King Goes to the Movies a chance.

Read the stories and let Stephen King scare you once again.

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The Luxe By Anna Godbersen

6 Feb

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The year is 1899 and we find ourselves in New York amongst the incredibly, wonderfully rich. We are surrounded by the fabulous people of high society. In this glitzy world, we meet Elizabeth Holland.

Elizabeth Holland is a woman torn between two worlds. She is one of the rich and part of high society, one of the few families in New York that are in high standing. She has no care in the world except to be a good girl and live her privileged life. But not everything is as it seems.

 

After her father dies, Elizabeth thinks that they are well off. But that is far from the truth. It transpires that, unless Elizabeth marries a man who has money, their family will be destitute. She is hastily engaged to Henry Schoonmaker, much to her hearts despair.

 

Elizabeth knows that she can never love Henry because her heart loves another. Her heart belongs to Will, the family’s coach man. Though he is below her in class standing, her heart loves him anyways.

 

There are many, though, that would love to see Elizabeth fall from grace.

 

Her friend Penelope Hayes loves Henry and wants him for herself. From a family of neauveau riche, she can never hope to achieve the social standing that Elizabeth holds; unless she marries Henry. But Henry does not love Penelope or Elizabeth. Henry’s heart belongs to Elizabeth’s sister Diana.

 

Diana knows that it’s wrong to lust after Henry. She knows that Penelope wants him for her own and that he is Elizabeth’s fiancée. But she doesn’t care. She is sick of being a good girl, sick of always doing what she is told. She’d much rather behave like one of the heroines from the romances she reads and follow her heart instead of her head.

 

When all of these people collide, and dangerous secrets are brought out into the open, the world will never be the same.

 

Behind each closed door there are secrets. Inside each heart beats desire. Good girls being bad, bad girls being bad. Beautiful women, handsome men, dangerous secrets. Welcome to Manhattan in 1899.

 

From the first page, I was drawn into a world filled with money, fabulous dresses, amazing scandals, dangerous secrets, forbidden desires and fantastic luxuries. Though I didn’t expect to be able to read more than ten pages, I ended up loving, and devouring, the entire novel in one weekend.

 

Aside from the vivid descriptions of the world in the 1800’s and the clothes and the lavish houses and possessions, what struck me most about The Luxe was that it is a very human novel.

 

Stories of lust, love and betrayal are as old as time but never have they been told like this. The rich details of clothes and jewels fall away when we are shown how people had to behave over a hundred years ago. The rules of etiquette and society are fascinating and absolutely incredible.

The Luxe is like a fabulous gulp of champagne. Part romance, part intrigue, part historical fiction, The Luxe is for anyone who loves a great book. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

 

Read it yourself and experience all the luxury The Luxe has to offer.

 

 

 

 

Being Normal by Stephen Shieber

2 Feb

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What is normal?

I remember pondering this question when, in my younger days, I spent a great deal of time trying to fit in with the norm. I grew up in safe, predictable, white bread suburbia and it turned out that I was anything but normal.

Still, I tried to ignore my nonconformity to the social norms around me and continued to try and fit it, to try and assimilate myself into the society around me which constantly reminded me that I would never fit in, I would never be normal.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized what being normal meant. It meant being myself, regardless of what others thought of me. It meant being myself, despite an unyielding urge to confine myself to social expectations. It meant that, despite those who told me otherwise, I was normal. Something I still struggle with today.

Which is probably why Being Normal, the debut collection of short stories by Stephen Shieber, struck such a powerful, personal chord with me.

Being Normal consists of fourteen different stories that touch on issues all of us have faced at certain points in our life: Love, lust, sex, acceptance, families, friendship, companionship, the need to fit in, the need to belong.

It also touches on the darker issues of life and doesn’t shy away from subjects such as cutting, self harm, homosexuality, abuse, religion. That it doesn’t shy away from any of these issues, but yet confronts them head on is testament to Shieber’s power as a writer.

Though the stories seem simple, that is their power. They are like short pieces of a persons life, as if we are being granted access to private memories and events. At first, this is all they seem like, simple, quirky stories.

But they are more than that.

They are individual works of such beauty, such power, that they will haunt you for days after you have finished reading them. I found myself being reminded of events from my own childhood, from my own past. Events that made me who I am today.

Though the stories are all separate, I felt as if I was looking into a small neighbourhood of people who were trying to find themselves. Though unconnected, I felt as if I were amongst people who knew each other and they were all trying to find themselves in the world.

And I was one of them.

It is hard to believe that this is Shieber’s first collection of stories. He writes with strength and style that is missing from many writers today. He is also responsible for the rejuvenation of the short story. After reading the stories in Being Normal, I want to read more, experience more. He has made the mundane, the normal, amazing.

That is essentially the power of the stories in Being Normal. You don’t read them so much as you experience them. One beautiful word at a time.

Being Normal is one of the best books that I have read in years and one that I know I will revisit again and again.