Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Marlen Bodden - The Wedding Gift



Marlen Bodden - The Wedding Gift

When wealthy plantation owner Cornelius Allen marries off his daughter Clarissa, he presents her with a wedding gift: a young slave woman called Sarah. It just so happens that Sarah is Allen’s daughter as well, the product of a long-term sexual relationship with his slave Emmeline.

When Clarissa’s husband rejects her newborn son as illegitimate and sends Clarissa and Sarah back to the Allens, their return sets in motion a series of events that will destroy the once-powerful family.

 Told through the alternating view points of Sarah and Theodora Allen, Cornelius’s wife, The Wedding Gift shines a glaring light on the brutality of slavery in the antebellum South. Based on a court case in 19th century Alabama, The Wedding Gift draws readers into the complex world of American slavery and provides an unflinching account of the tactics used to control women, slave and free.

 This compelling historical novel twists and turns through the wealthy planter and merchant societies of Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, and New York, culminating in the British West Indies, where its controversial and shocking conclusion is sure to leave readers aghast.

Scott Pratt - Injustice for All


Scott Pratt's  Injustice for All

Product Description: Scott Pratt's latest in the Joe Dillard series is the best yet. Joe, a former defense attorney turned prosecutor, finds that a shocking crime in the community hits a little too close to home. How deeply is his family involved? Can he really trust his boss? Is a young man he's known for years guilty of murder? And what has Joe's sister Sarah gotten herself into now? The answers will rock Joe's world.

Monday, 30 January 2012

John Robison - Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's



John Robison  - Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings pickling himself in sherry. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.

After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later, he drifted into a “real” job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose in the company, the more he had to pretend to be “normal” and do what he simply couldn’t: communicate. It wasn’t worth the paycheck.
It was not until he was forty that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself—and the world.

Look Me in the Eye is the moving, darkly funny story of growing up with Asperger’s at a time when the diagnosis simply didn’t exist. A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy whom teachers and other adults regarded as “defective,” who could not avail himself of KISS’s endless supply of groupies, and who still has a peculiar aversion to using people’s given names (he calls his wife “Unit Two”). He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents—the boy who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs and write the bestselling memoir Running with Scissors.

Ultimately, this is the story of Robison’s journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner—repairing his beloved high-end automobiles. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien, yet always deeply human.

Starred Review. Robison's thoughtful and thoroughly memorable account of living with Asperger's syndrome is assured of media attention (and sales) due in part to his brother Augusten Burroughs's brief but fascinating description of Robison in Running with Scissors. But Robison's story is much more fully detailed in this moving memoir, beginning with his painful childhood, his abusive alcoholic father and his mentally disturbed mother. Robison describes how from nursery school on he could not communicate effectively with others, something his brain is not wired to do, since kids with Asperger's don't recognize common social cues and body language or facial expressions. Failing in junior high, Robison was encouraged by some audiovisual teachers to fix their broken equipment, and he discovered a more comfortable world of machines and circuits, of muted colors, soft light, and mechanical perfection. This led to jobs (and many hilarious events) in worlds where strange behavior is seen as normal: developing intricate rocket-shooting guitars for the rock band Kiss and computerized toys for the Milton Bradley company. Finally, at age 40, while Robison was running a successful business repairing high-end cars, a therapist correctly diagnosed him as having Asperger's. In the end, Robison succeeds in his goal of helping those who are struggling to grow up or live with Asperger's to see how it is not a disease but a way of being that needs no cure except understanding and encouragement from others. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Sunday, 29 January 2012

Ralph Reed - Ballots and Blood



Ralph Reed - Ballots and Blood

Product Description:



"Ralph Reed is on his way to becoming the master of political thrillers."

-Sean Hannity



A powerful senator with major influence over U.S. foreign policy turns up dead in an apartment leased by a dominatrix service. Thus opens acclaimed conservative Ralph Reed’s sizzling Ballots and Blood, which delves into Washington's underbelly guided by the gimlet eye of a political insider.



When the police obtain the service's client list, it is sure to spark a bigger scandal. An FBI investigator suspects the murder is not what it appears, but when he threatens to uncover a clandestine plan to overthrow the Iranian government, the White House intervenes. Congress debates military action against Iran while terrorists plot more attacks.



All this takes place during a bitter and hard-fought midterm election as both parties jockey for advantage, and the evangelical right-led by a prominent religious broadcaster-and Tea Party activists flex their newfound muscle. With war about to reignite in the Persian Gulf, razor thin margins at the polls, and a Washington madam threatening to reveal her high-profile clientele, the only sure thing is the nation's great uncertainty.

Robin Black - If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This


Robin Black - If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
Product Description: FINALIST FOR THE FRANK O’CONNOR SHORT STORY AWARD

NOW WITH AN ADDITIONAL STORY

Heralding the arrival of a stunning new voice in American fiction, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This takes readers into the minds and hearts of people navigating the unsettling transitions that life presents to us all: A father struggles to forge an independent identity as his blind daughter prepares for college. A mother comes to terms with her adult daughter’s infidelity. An artist mourns the end of a romance while painting the portrait of a dying man. Brilliant, hopeful, and fearlessly honest, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This illuminates the truths of human relationships, truths we come to recognize in these characters and in ourselves. 

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Harlan Coben – Fade Away



Harlan Coben – Fade Away
Product Description: In novels that crackle with wit and suspense, Harlan Coben has created one of the most fascinating heroes in suspense fiction: the wisecracking, tenderhearted sports agent Myron Bolitar. In this gripping third novel in the acclaimed series, Myron must confront a past that is dead and buried—and more dangerous than ever before.
 
The home is top-notch New Jersey suburban. The living room is Martha Stewart. The basement is Legos—and blood. The signs of a violent struggle. For Myron Bolitar, the disappearance of a man he once competed against is bringing back memories—of the sport he and Greg Downing had both played and the woman they both loved. Now, among the stars, the wannabes, the gamblers, and the groupies, Myron is embarking upon the strange ride of a sports hero gone wrong that just may lead to certain death. Namely, his own.



Li Cunxin - Mao's Last Dancer



Li Cunxin  - Mao’s Last Dancer

Product Description:

At the age of eleven, Li Cunxin was one of the privileged few selected to serve in Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution by studying at the Beijing Dance Academy. Having known bitter poverty in his rural China home, ballet would be his family’s best chance for a better future.  From one hardship to another, Cunxin demonstrated perseverance and an appetite for success that led him to be chosen as one of the first two people to leave Mao’s China and go to American to dance on a special cultural exchange. But life in the U.S. was nothing like his communist indoctrination had led him to believe. Ultimately, he defected to the west in a dramatic media storm, and went on to dance with the Houston Ballet for sixteen years.

This inspiring story of passion, resilience, and a family’s love captures the harsh reality of life in Mao’s communist China and the exciting world of professional dance. This compelling memoir includes photos documenting Li’s extraordinary life.

The movie was pretty good too.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Jim Harrison - The Great Leader


Jim Harrison - The Great Leader 
Product Description:

Author Jim Harrison has won international acclaim for his masterful body of work, including Returning to Earth, Legends of the Fall and over thirty books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. In his most original work to date, Harrison delivers an enthralling, witty and expertly-crafted novel following one man’s hunt for an elusive cult leader, dubbed ?The Great Leader.”

On the verge of retirement, Detective Sunderson begins to investigate a hedonistic cult, which has set up camp near his home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. At first, the self-declared Great Leader seems merely a harmless oddball, but as Sunderson and his sixteen-year-old sidekick dig deeper, they find him more intelligent and sinister than they realized. Recently divorced and frequently pickled in alcohol, Sunderson tracks his quarry from the woods of Michigan to a town in Arizona, filled with criminal border-crossers, and on to Nebraska, where the Great Leader’s most recent recruits have gathered to glorify his questionable religion. But Sunderson’s demons are also in pursuit of him.

Rich with character and humor, The Great Leader  is at once a gripping excursion through America’s landscapes and the poignant story of a man grappling with age, lost love and his own darker nature.
Jim Harrison is the author of over thirty-one books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including Legends of the Fall, The Road Home, The English Major, and The Farmer’s Daughter. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, and The New York Times. He has earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Spirit of the West Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association

“The Great Leader carbonates page after page after page. You might go so far as to compare it to Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Or…Ted Williams, much the better hitter…[Or] Willie Mays. Mays was a magic act, but the kind that left you with the feeling that the miraculous stuff surprised him too. And that’s where Harrison fits in, 30-odd books down the road—his own shelf in the library—and you can still feel the excitement every time he pulls something new out of his ear. Which pretty much happens on every page he writes.” —Pete Dexter, The New York Times Book Review

“The Harrison Legend…has only grown …. Harrison has outlasted those critics who initially wrote him off as a Hemingway-derived regionalist, and at times he has been as successful as a modern American writer can possibly be…. The Great Leader is hugely enjoyable—Harrison is probably incapable of writing a novel that is not enjoyable.…The language…remains stunning.’” —Tom Bissell, Outside Magazine

“Jim Harrison brings his established fascination with the rugged places of the natural world, the pleasures of good food and the persistence of sexual desire to this sometimes playful, often poignant story of one man's twilight quest for redemption…. Jim Harrison's latest leaves no doubt he still has much that's fresh, entertaining and thoughtful to say.” —Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness

The lyrical narrative cascades between dark comedy and revelation and, though it plows familiar soil, could be among Harrison’s more rewarding in years.” —Ted Roelofs, The Grand Rapids Press

“Jim Harrison conjures The Great Leader of a bizarre hedonistic cult.” —Vanity Fair

“A mountain, a mess and an agonized moralist, Detective Sunderson makes this mock-epic one of the most memorable tales of contemporary master Harrison…Wounds-and-all portrait of a lion in winter, beleaguered but still battling.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[The] cat-and-mouse game between the two main characters is used effectively to explore the intrinsic tensions between the universal truths of justice, religion and morality … A classic Harrison novel, complete with humorous and introspective characters.” —Joshua Finnell, Library Journal

“Comic backwoods noir … [T]he story’s motifs of lust and power, sex and death resonate.” —Publishers Weekly

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

David Adams Richards - The Lost Highway



The Lost Highway
Product Description: A highly suspenseful story of greed, betrayal and murder, 'The Lost Highway' signals a thrilling new direction for one of Canada s greatest authors.

For twenty years, Alex Chapman has been at war with his great-uncle James, popularly known as The Tyrant. Disillusioned and ill-tempered, Alex believes James has destroyed his chances in life when things do not turn out for him. He especially resents his great-uncle for ruining his chance at happiness with his one true love, Minnie, who married another.

Alex seems destined never to amount to anything more than an embittered dreamer, until the night he runs into the simple mechanic Burton Tucker.

When Burton says he has just sold James Chapman a winning lottery ticket worth thirteen million dollars, Alex immediately knows that his uncle must never see the money. That moment is the beginning of an enthralling mystery and an emotionally shattering tale of a family s passions and betrayals.

 'The Lost Highway' is a chilling study of what happens to men and women when moral questions become matters of life and death. A page-turner with great spiritual force, 'The Lost Highway' is the work of a brilliant novelist at the peak of his powers.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Preston and Child = Gideon's Corpse


Gideon’s Corpse New Link
Product Description: A top nuclear scientist goes mad and takes an innocent family hostage at gunpoint, killing one and causing a massive standoff.
A plume of radiation above New York City leads to a warehouse where, it seems, a powerful nuclear bomb was assembled just hours before.
Sifting through the evidence, authorities determine that the unthinkable is about to happen: in ten days, a major American city will be vaporized by a terrorist attack.
Ten days. And Gideon Crew, tracking the mysterious terrorist cell from the suburbs of New York to the mountains of New Mexico, learns the end may be something worse far worse than mere Armageddon.

Robert Crais - Taken


Robert Crais - Taken
Product Description: When the police tell a wealthy industrialist that her missing son has faked his own kidnapping, she hires Elvis Cole and Joe Pike-and Cole soon determines that it was no fake.
The boy and his secret girlfriend have been taken, and are now lost in the gray and changing world of the professional border kidnappers who prey not only on innocent victims but also on one another-buying, selling, and stealing victims like commodities.
Fortunately, the kidnappers don't yet know who the boy is, but when Cole goes undercover to try to buy the two hostages back, he himself is taken and disappears. Now it is up to Pike to retrace Cole's steps, burning through the hard and murderous world of human traffickers . . . before it is too late.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Antonya Nelson - Bound

Antonya Nelson - Bound
Antonya Nelson is known for her razor-sharp depictions of contemporary family life in all of its sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious complexity. Her latest novel has roots in her own youth in Wichita, in the neighborhood stalked by the serial killer known as BTK (Bind, Torture, and Kill).

A story of wayward love and lost memory, of public and private lives twisting out of control, Bound is Nelson’s most accomplished and emotionally riveting work.

Catherine and Oliver, young wife and older entrepreneurial husband, are negotiating their difference in age and a plethora of well-concealed secrets. Oliver, now in his sixties, is a serial adulterer and has just fallen giddily in love yet again. Catherine, seemingly placid and content, has ghosts of a past she scarcely remembers.

When Catherine’s long-forgotten high school friend dies and leaves Catherine the guardian of her teenage daughter, that past comes rushing back. As Oliver manages his new love, and Catherine her new charge and darker past, local news reports turn up the volume on a serial killer who has reappeared after years of quiet.
In a time of hauntings and new revelations, Nelson’s characters grapple with their public and private obligations, continually choosing between the suppression or indulgence of wild desires. Which way they turn, and what balance they find, may only be determined by those who love them most.


James Patterson - Private Games


On your mark
Private, the world's most renowned investigation firm, has been commissioned to provide security for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Its agents are the smartest, fastest, and most technologically advanced in the world, and 400 of them have been transferred to London to protect more than 10,000 competitors who represent more than 200 countries.
Get set
The opening ceremony is hours away when Private investigator and single father of twins, Peter Knight, is called to the scene of a ruthless murder. A high-ranking member of the games' organizing committee has been killed. It's clear to Peter that this wasn't a crime of passion, but one of precise calculation and xecution.
Die
Newspaper reporter Karen Pope receives a letter from a person who calls himself Cronus claiming responsibility for the murders. He promises to restore the Olympics to their ancient glory and to destroy all those who have corrupted the games with lies, corruption, and greed. Immediately, Karen hires Private to examine the letter, and she and Peter uncover a criminal genius who won't stop until he's completely destroyed the modern games. "America's #1 storyteller" (Forbes) delivers an exhilarating, action-packed thriller that brings the splendor and emotion of the Olympics to a wildly powerful climax.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Vincent Zandri – The Remains









Product Description: Thirty years ago, teenager Rebecca Underhill and her twin sister Molly were abducted by a man who lived in a house in the woods behind their upstate New York farm. They were held inside that house for three horrifying hours, until making their daring escape.



Vowing to keep their terrifying experience a secret in order to protect their mother and father, the girls tried to put the past behind them. And when their attacker was hunted down by police and sent to prison, they believed he was as good as dead.



Now, it s 30 years later, and with Molly having passed away from cancer, Rebecca, a painter and art teacher, is left alone to bear the burden of a secret that has only gotten heavier and more painful with each passing year. But when Rebecca begins receiving some strange anonymous text messages, she begins to realize that the monster who attacked her all those years ago is not dead after all. He s back, and this time, he wants to do more than just haunt her. He wants her dead.

Rick Mofina – In Desperation


Rick Mofina – In Desperation

Eleven-year-old Tilly Martin is dragged from her suburban bedroom. Her mother, Cora, pleads for mercy but the kidnappers are clear: if they don't get their $5 million back in five days, Tilly dies. If anyone contacts police, Tilly dies.
Journalist Jack Gannon's estranged sister, Cora, disappeared without a trace decades ago. Now she is frantically reaching out to him for help. Cora tells him about the shameful mistakes she's made—but she guards the one secret that may be keeping her daughter alive.
A twenty-year-old assassin, haunted by the faces of the people he's executed, seeks absolution as he sets out to commit his last murders as a hired killer.
In the U.S. and Mexico, police and the press go flat out on Tilly's case. But as Gannon digs deeper into his anguished sister's past, the hours tick down on his niece's life and he faces losing a fragment of his rediscovered family forever.
Rick Mofina is a former crime reporter and the award-winning author of several acclaimed thrillers. He's interviewed murderers face-to-face on death row; patrolled with the LAPD and the RCMP. His true crime articles have appeared in The New York Times, Marie Claire, Reader’s Digest and Penthouse. He's reported from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Qatar and Kuwait's border with Iraq. For more information please visit www.rickmofina.com Show More
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Sunday, 22 January 2012

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Brad Taylor - All Necessary Force



Product Description:

The above motto of the Taskforce team led by Pike Logan and his (almost) equally dangerous sidekick Jennifer Cahill, is alive and well in this rousing story by Brad Taylor.

Muslim terrorists are out to eventually create havoc in the USA, and the President calls on citizen Pike to sort things out...and let the roller coaster thrill ride begin! The action is non stop, exciting, and suspenseful, with several twisting (but easy to follow) sub plots. Anxious page turning is the rule in 'All Necessary Force' (aptly named indeed), and it is a one sitting book, if you are so inclined.

A fun read that is totally realistic (no leaps of faith required here), and a wonderful treat versus the norm for this genre. A solid 5 star outing, however be patient through the first few chapters which jump around, as the author builds his story. There is a solid ending and the author did not fill the 380 pages, with the usual fluff and overextended fights or chase scenes.
 BTW, you do not have to read the books in order to enjoy ANF.


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Terry Pratchett - Snuff


Terry Pratchett  - Snuff
For nearly three decades, Terry Pratchett has enthralled millions of fans worldwide with his irreverent, wonderfully funny satires set in the fabulously imaginative Discworld, a universe remarkably similar to our own. From sports to religion, politics to education, science to capitalism, and everything in between, Pratchett has skewered sacred cows with both laughter and wisdom, and exposed our warts, foibles, and eccentricities in a unique, entertaining, and ultimately serious way.
At long last, Lady Sybil has lured her husband, Sam Vimes, on a well-deserved holiday away from the crime and grime of Ankh-Morpork. But for the commander of the City Watch, a vacation in the country is anything but relaxing. The balls, the teas, the muck—not to mention all that fresh air and birdsong—are more than a bit taxing on a cynical city-born and -bred copper.
Yet a policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough, and it’s not long before a body is discovered, and Sam—out of his jurisdiction, out of his element, and out of bacon sandwiches (thanks to his well-meaning wife)—must rely on his instincts, guile, and street smarts to see justice done. As he sets off on the chase, though, he must remember to watch where he steps. . . . This is the countryside, after all, and the streets most definitely are not paved with gold.
Hailed as the “purely funniest English writer since Wodehouse” (Washington Post Book World), with a “satirist’s instinct for the absurd and a cartoonist’s eye for the telling detail” (Daily Telegraph, London), Terry Pratchett offers a novel of crime, class, prejudice, and punishment that shows this master at his dazzling best.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Stephanie Cowell - Marying Mozart


Stephanie Cowell's  Marying Mozart
Book Description
 Mannheim, 1777. The four Weber sisters, daughters of a musical family, share a crowded, artistic life in a ramshackle house. Their father scrapes by as a music copyist; their mother keeps a book of prospective suitors hidden in the kitchen. The sisters struggle with these marriage prospects as well as their musical futures-until one evening at their home, when 21-year- old Wolfgang Mozart walks into their lives.
No longer a prodigy and struggling to find his own place in the music world, Mozart is enthralled with the Weber sisters: Aloysia’s beauty and talent captivates him; Josefa’s rich voice inspires him; Sophie becomes his confidante; and Constanze comes to play a surprising role in his life.
Eighteenth-century Europe comes alive with unforgiving winters and yawning princes; scheming parents and the enduring passions of young talent. Set in Mannheim, Munich, Salzburg and Vienna, Marrying Mozart is the richly textured love story of a remarkable historical figure-and four young women who engaged his passion, his music, and his heart

Former opera singer Cowell, whose previous novel (1997's The Players) explored the apprenticeship years of a callow Shakespeare, turns her eye to the women in the life of a young Mozart in her fourth graceful and entertaining historical. Music copyist Fridolin Weber and his socially ambitious wife, Marie Caecilia, have four daughters—bookish and devout Sophie; quiet Constanze; beautiful, silver-voiced Aloysia; and headstrong Josefa—whom they struggle to keep in hats and hose. Though the freethinking girls may wonder about the benefits of marrying well vs. marrying for love, Caecilia, whose family once had money, is terrified of growing old a pauper. Pinning her hopes on her prettiest daughter, 16-year-old Aloysia, Caecilia aims for a Swedish baron as suitor (though she keeps a list of backups in a notebook). Aloysia falls in love with the young Mozart, however, who happily returns her affections, though he, too, wonders about marrying better to support his father and beloved mother. But when the Webers move to Munich from Mannheim, Caecilia's hopes for good matches begin to dim, as Josefa takes a married lover and a pregnant Aloysia runs away with a painter who, along with Mozart, had been boarding with the family. As Mozart progresses in his career, he has relationships with the other Weber sisters, too, and falls alternately in and out of favor with their bitter old mother. Told through the recollections of an aging Sophie, the tale is as rich and unhurried as 18th-century court life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier

Biography
My fifth novel CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF CLAUDE MONET was published April 6th 2010. It was a work of tremendous passion for me to create Claude in his days of struggle to make a name for himself and to bring to life his great love for the elusive Camille whom he went on loving for as long as he lived though he lost her young. He wasn't always the old bearded man among his water lilies; he was handsome and desperately poor and she was beautiful; he wanted to succeed for himself and for her.

Art has been in my life since my first memories; both my parents were artists and I grew up with the smell of oil paints and was taken to art galleries; the stories of the impressionists' lives and works are among my earliest memories.

I was born in New York City and fell in love with history, music, Shakespeare and art almost at once. I loved all things English and European.

I started to write stories very young, and by the age of twenty had won prizes twice in a national story contest. In my early twenties, I left writing and began to train my voice for opera, and as a lyric coloratura soprano sang many roles, including a great deal of Mozart. I also became a balladeer with a specialty in English folk songs, a lecturer on English social history, formed a classical singing ensemble and an opera group called Strawberry, for which I translated Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito." This led to my return to writing.

"Nicholas Cooke: Actor, Soldier, Physician, Priest" was published by W.W. Norton in the fall of 1993; it was followed by "The Physician of London" in 1995 and "The Players: A novel of the young Shakespeare" in 1997. "The Physician of London" won an American Book Award. "Marrying Mozart" was published in 2004, and has been translated into several languages: French, German, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese.

I am married to the poet and spiritual director Russell Clay. We make our home on the Upper West Side of New York City where we live in an apartment with thousands of books.

To me, being an historical novelist is one of the best things in the world


Stephanie Cowell's superbly evocative, wonderful novel takes the reader from Salzburg in 1842, where an English biographer is interviewing the last surviving Weber sister, back to the Weber home in Mannheim in the 18th century and the era of Mozart, when their relationships with him all began. It tells the riveting, moving stories of all three sisters and the era itself is evoked in a fascinating wealth of detail, so that we are truly back in it. Ms. Cowell's writing is so exquisite, so romantic and so realistic at the same time that we can even feel the weather and the cold winter snow, so perfectly does Ms. Cowell bring it to life with telling detail.
Her characters are living, breathing human beings, and we have a highly credible, complicated, real, completely believable Mozart. Here at last is the little man who wrote the great music, and we can feel his genius and his sensitivity in all its complexity.
The Weber family, all of them, including the extended family of in-laws, is a powerful, sensitive evocation of the life of the century with all its differences in customs, and the life of Vienna and the court and the world of music are all engrossingly, lovingly, and magnificently depicted.
There are startlingly beautiful scenes and a story that is compelling from beginning to end. You must buy and read and reread this magnificent recreation of a long-gone time and of the brilliant people who inhabit it!

Adam Johnson – The Orphan Master’s Son


Adam Johnson – The Orphan Master’s Son
A great novel can take implausible fact and turn it into entirely believable fiction. That’s the genius of The Orphan Master’s Son. Adam Johnson has taken the papier-mâché creation that is North Korea and turned it into a real and riveting place that readers will find unforgettable. This is a novel worth getting excited about, one which more than delivers on its pre-publication buzz… I haven’t liked a new novel this much in years, and I want to share the simple pleasure of reading the book. But I also think it’s an instructive lesson in how to paint a fictional world against a background of fact: The secret is research…It’s this process of re-imagination that makes the fictional locale so real and gives the novel an impact you could never achieve with a thousand newspaper stories. Johnson has painted in indelible colors the nightmare of Kim’s North Korea. When English readers want to understand what it was about — how people lived and died inside a cult of personality that committed unspeakable crimes against its citizens — I hope they will turn to this carefully documented story. The happy surprise is that they will find it such a page turner.” —The Washington Post

“Adam Johnson's remarkable novel "The Orphan Master’s Son" is set in North Korea, an entire nation that has conformed to the fictions spun by a dictator and his inner circle…Mr. Johnson is a wonderfully flexible writer who can pivot in a matter of lines from absurdity to atrocity…We don't know what's really going on in that strange place, but a disquieting glimpse suggesting what it must be like can be found in this brilliant and timely novel.” – Wall Street Journal

Amazon review
If you were taking one of those free association tests and the tester asked your response to "North Korea," what words and pictures would come to your mind? For most, I suspect it's nameless, faceless workers wearing identical clothing, haircuts and Party badges, living in primitive conditions under the most paranoid, repressive regime imaginable, where the only citizen allowed to be an individual is that short man with the odd jumpsuits and pompadour  i.e., the "Dear Leader," Kim Jong Il.

Adam Johnson shows that there's a lot of life and humanity, and even humor, behind those conceptions of rigid uniformity, especially in his protagonist, Pak Jun Do. When Jun Do meets some Americans (through an amazing series of events), they mis-hear his name as John Doe. That's a revealing mistake. In North America, we use "John Doe" to represent a male character whose identity we don't know. Sometimes we use the name to mean an Everyman. Both are appropriate for Jun Do, who was raised in an orphanage as the son of its master. He doesn't know what happened to his mother and his father is unknowable. His name isn't even his  like all residents of the orphanage, he's been assigned the name of one of Korea's political martyrs.

Jun Do's life, threading through this book, is one of astonishing hardship, pain and endurance. He is a soldier, an intelligence officer on board a fishing boat, a prisoner in a work camp and a torture facility, member of a diplomatic mission, and a man who manages to find love and freedom in a most unlikely way. Through the story of his life, the story of contemporary life in North Korea is revealed in all its black-is-white totalitarian craziness. Adam Johnson paints such a detailed picture of how the regime operates that we are able to understand how people succumb to its relentless propaganda and repression. Several times, characters profess horror about the fact that Americans must pay for everything and that they lack the protection and safety of having the government tell them what to do in every aspect of their lives. Jun Do says he doesn't think he could ever feel free in the US  that everything in North Korea makes simple, clear sense and it's the most straightforward place on earth. You'll have to read the book to see how his worldview is transformed by watching a forbidden DVD of Casablanca.

The book can be confusing, as it jumps from one narrator to another, one time period to another, one style to another, with no explanation. But it's so vividly written, I didn't worry about the shifts and came to enjoy the crazy-quilt style. In an interview of Adam Johnson by author Richard Price, Price describes the book as a collision of many genres: bildungsroman, prison narrative, sea story, romantic drama, escape thriller, comic picaresque, Korean heroic opera. I'd have to add in agitprop to make a complete listing of genres represented. I didn't feel like I needed an explanation of why it's written this way, but it was still interesting to hear Johnson's answer that he sees his book as a "trauma narrative," in which a survivor of traumatic experiences tells stories that are similarly disjointed and that "bend and mix genres as characters attempt to patch their stories back together using the stories they find around them."

This is one of the most unusual, riveting, touching and unforgettable books I've read. Recommended.