Author Spotlight: Shaka Senghor

August 18, 2017

I recently attended a workshop on prisoner reentry in Palm Beach County, and it was heartbreaking and inspirational. 

Fixing our prison system: Author and speaker Shaka Senghor spent 19 years in prison, and has become a leading voice in criminal justice reform. Looking at the issues with America’s prison system, Senghor identifies the key areas where restorative practices can be implemented.

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Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor

New York Times bestseller from member of Oprah’s Super Soul 100 | one of World Economic Forum’s “Most Recommended Books of 2016”

Now in paperback, the harrowing,* inspiring**, and unforgettable† memoir of redemption and second chances amidst America’s mass incarceration epidemic.

Shaka Senghor was raised in a middle class neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic. An honor roll student and a natural leader, he dreamed of becoming a doctor—but at age 11, his parents’ marriage began to unravel, and the beatings from his mother worsened, sending him on a downward spiral that saw him run away from home, turn to drug dealing to survive, and end up in prison for murder at the age of 19, fuming with anger and despair.

Writing My Wrongs is the story of what came next. During his nineteen-year incarceration, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement, Senghor discovered literature, meditation, self-examination, and the kindness of others—tools he used to confront the demons of his past, forgive the people who hurt him, and begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed. Upon his release at age thirty-eight, Senghor became an activist and mentor to young men and women facing circumstances like his. His work in the community and the courage to share his story led him to fellowships at the MIT Media Lab and the Kellogg Foundation and invitations to speak at events like TED and the Aspen Ideas Festival.

In equal turns, Writing My Wrongs is a page-turning portrait of life in the shadow of poverty, violence, and fear; an unforgettable story of redemption, reminding us that our worst deeds don’t define us; and a compelling witness to our country’s need for rethinking its approach to crime, prison, and the men and women sent there.

the New York Times
Bryan Stevenson
† Michelle Alexander 

Writing My Wrongs by Shaka Senghor. Convergent Books; Reprint edition (January 31, 2017). ISBN: 978-1101907313. 288p.

Mayim Bialik on where she loves to write

August 12, 2017

Author Mayim Bialik (GIRLING UP) tells an anecdote about her experience working on a final edit for her latest book.

GIRLING UP: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular 

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Mayim Bialik, star of The Big Bang Theory, puts her Ph.D. to work as she talks to teens about the science of growing up and getting ahead. A must-have book for all teenage girls.

Growing up as a girl in today’s world is no easy task. Juggling family, friends, romantic relationships, social interests and school…sometimes it feels like you might need to be a superhero to get through it all! But really, all you need is little information.

Want to know why your stomach does a flip-flop when you run into your crush in the hallway? Or how the food you put in your body now will affect you in the future? What about the best ways to stop freaking out about your next math test?

Using scientific facts, personal anecdotes, and wisdom gained from the world around us, Mayim Bialik, the star of The Big Bang Theory, shares what she has learned from her life and her many years studying neuroscience to tell you how you grow from a girl to a woman biologically, psychologically and sociologically.

And as an added bonus, Girling Up is chock-full of charts, graphs and illustrations — all designed in a soft gray to set them apart from the main text and make them easy to find and read.

Want to be strong? Want to be smart? Want to be spectacular? You can! Start by reading this book.

Praise for Girling Up:

“Bialik is encouraging without being preachy . . . many teens will be drawn to this engaging and useful book.” —Booklist

“Ultimately, the author stresses that ‘Girling Up’ does not end with adulthood—it is a lifelong journey. Thanks to Bialik, readers have a road map to make this trip memorable.” —School Library Journal

“Written in conversational style . . . the tone remains understanding, supportive, and respectful of the reader’s individuality throughout the text.” —VOYA

GIRLING UP by Mayim Bialik.  Philomel Books (May 9, 2017). ISBN: 978-0399548604. 192p.

An Evening with Jenny Zhang and Lena Dunham to launch LENNY Books

August 7, 2017

Lena Dunham and author Jenny Zhang launch the Lenny book imprint with a discussion of SOUR HEART, Zhang’s debut story collection. Recorded live at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City on August 1, 2017.

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SOUR HEART by Jenny Zhang

A sly debut story collection that conjures the experience of adolescence through the eyes of Chinese American girls growing up in New York City—for readers of Zadie Smith, Helen Oyeyemi, and Junot Díaz

A fresh new voice emerges with the arrival of Sour Heart, establishing Jenny Zhang as a frank and subversive interpreter of the immigrant experience in America. Her stories cut across generations and continents, moving from the fraught halls of a public school in Flushing, Queens, to the tumultuous streets of Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. In the absence of grown-ups, latchkey kids experiment on each other until one day the experiments turn violent; an overbearing mother abandons her artistic aspirations to come to America but relives her glory days through karaoke; and a shy loner struggles to master English so she can speak to God.

Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat—dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck—these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion, moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.

Praise for Sour Heart

“Jenny Zhang arrives as a Chinese-American voice we haven’t heard yet.”—W Magazine

“Compelling writing about what it means to be a teenager . . . It’s brilliant, it’s dark, but it’s also humorous and filled with love. . . . You’ll feel compelled as a human.”Isaac Fitzgerald, Today

Sour Heart is a revelation.”—Goop

“Bursting at the seams with honesty, reality, and a tremendous amount of heart.”—PopSugar

“Zhang portrays the courage, humor, and complex emotions of these young women struggling to come to terms with who they are, their families, their bodies, and growing up in poverty, in seven stories that feel true to life.”—BuzzFeed

“Zhang’s version of honesty goes way past the familiar, with passages that burst into bold, startling, brilliance.”—Miranda July

“No terrain is more fraught than the inner world of a girl fighting to define herself, and no writer is better suited to serve as our guide than Jenny Zhang.”—Janet Mock, author of Redefining Realness

“I emerged from Sour Heart bleary-eyed and in love.”—Tavi Gevinson

SOUR HEART by Jenny Zhang. Lenny (August 1, 2017). ISBN: 978-0399589386. 320p.

Author Spotlight: Matthew Desmond

August 2, 2017

How housing is ignored in the poverty discussion | Author Matthew Desmond – Matthew Desmond (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning EVICTED) looks at the troubling statistics around housing and evictions in America, and the demographics that are disproportionately impacted.

EVICTED by Matthew Desmond


In Evicted, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as “wrenching and revelatory” (The Nation), “vivid and unsettling” (New York Review of Books), Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America’s most devastating problems. It’s unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.


Author Spotlight: Emelie Schepp

July 13, 2017

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The paperback release of the international bestselling Marked For Life by Crime Writer of the Year 2016, Emelie Schepp, just came out in June in the UK! I’m excited to be part of her blog tour.

“Schepp couples an insightful look at the personal and professional lives of her characters with an unflinching
multi-layered plot loaded with surprises.” –Publishers Weekly

“A fast-paced thriller with a good blend of police procedure, the draw of a ninja-strong female lead, and enough adrenaline to make a good night’s sleep a near impossibility.” -Booklist

When the head of the migration board is shot dead in his living room, the last thing the police expect to find at the crime scene is a mysterious child-sized handprint in the childless home. The young and brilliant but emotionally cold, public prosecutor Jana Berzelius steps in to lead the investigation, unintimidated by the hysterical widow or the threatening letters she tried to hide. Jana is steely, aloof, impenetrable… until more bodies begin to surface.

On a deserted shoreline a few days later, the bruised and heroin-riddled body of a young boy is found along with the original murder weapon, and the sinister underworld of the migration board’s dealings begin to unravel.

Berzelius is drawn more deeply into the case when she recognizes something strangely familiar about the scarred and beaten boy – a name carved deep into the flesh of his neck that triggers flashes from the night terrors she’s suffered since childhood. As memories begin to emerge of her own violent, fear-ridden past, Berzelius must trace her connection to this boy in hopes of finding out what happened to her.

Now, to protect her own secrets, she must find the suspect behind these murders, before the police do. Read an excerpt below!


EMELIE SCHEPP is an international bestselling Nordic crime author with Marked for Life published in 29 countries. From a background in marketing, publicity and project management Emelie was last year awarded Crime Writer of the Year 2016 as voted by Swedish readers, and won The Specsavers Readers’ Choice Award. She lives with her husband and two children in Sweden.


It was inevitable that the media would seize upon the story. As soon as the TT national wire service reported that a young boy had been found murdered, the Norrköping police press officer found himself fielding calls from dozens of journalists eager for more details. Since it involved a minor shot to death, the entire nation was gripped, and on the morning TV shows various experts were invited to give their views. The presence of a weapon near the body led many to assume the boy was involved in criminal activity, which sparked discussions about the level of violence among today’s youth, and the tragic consequences.

When the phone rang with the news, it woke Jana Berzelius from her sleep. She got out of bed and took a shower, hoping it would wake her up. Thanks to Per, she had a dreadful hangover.

They’d ended up having three glasses of Scotch – more than she could handle. And before that they had shared a bottle of wine with their meal and ignored the advice about drinking one glass of water for every glass of something stronger.

Feeling a little better after her shower, she swallowed a painkiller for her headache and stretched out on the bed for a few moments, her hair still wet. She counted slowly to twenty, then got dressed, brushed her teeth and looked for a packet of peppermint-flavoured gum. Only then was she ready for the meeting at the police station.

‘We are here to summarize what we’ve been able to discover about the boy who was found dead out at Viddviken this morning.’

Gunnar used a magnet to put up the photo on the whiteboard before continuing.

‘Anneli, who is still at the scene, says the boy had been shot. She estimates that he died between 19.00 and 23.00 on Sunday night, though we’ll need to wait for the medical examiner to confirm that. According to Anneli, broken vegetation around the body indicates that the boy was in motion, and his injuries are consistent with having been shot from behind.’

Gunnar took a sip of water and cleared his throat.

‘At present we don’t know whether the victim has other injuries or if he’d been sexually assaulted. Again, we’ll have to wait for the autopsy – the medical examiner has given his word the report will be with us as soon as possible, hopefully tomorrow. The boy’s clothing has been sent to forensics.’

He got up and went to stand by the map on the whiteboard.

‘We’re still combing the area, but as yet we haven’t found any footprints or trace evidence left at the murder scene by the perpetrator. The only thing we can be relatively certain about is that the dead boy at Viddviken is the same boy who was seen on CCTV footage from Östanvägen.’

‘And the murder weapon?’ said Henrik.

‘We don’t yet know whether the weapon found near the body was used to shoot him. All we can say for certain is that the weapon found near the boy was a Glock, and Hans Juhlén was killed . . .’

‘. . . with a Glock.’ Henrik completed the sentence.

‘Exactly. The serial number is as yet unknown. The weapon’s been sent to the national lab. They’ll examine the bullets still in the gun and let us know whether they’re a match for the ones that killed Hans Juhlén. If they are, it supports the theory that this boy was somehow involved in Juhlén’s murder. We’ve taken his fingerprints too.’

‘And?’ said Mia.

‘They matched. The handprints and fingerprints in Hans

Juhlén’s house match the boy’s,’ said Gunnar.

Emelie Schepp’s Marked for Life is out 6th July (HQ, £7.99)

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Author Spotlight: Emma Straub

July 8, 2017

Books Are Magic: Author Emma Straub’s new bookstore | Signature Views Mini-Doc – Author Emma Straub gives a tour of her new bookstore Books Are Magic, which recently opened in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, and discusses its origin.

Emma Straub is the New York Times-bestselling author of Modern Lovers, The Vacationers, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, and Other People We Married. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Elle. Her work has been published in fifteen countries.

Visit Emma Straub’s Amazon page

Author Spotlight: Ken Segall

July 2, 2017

Author Ken Segall on the worldwide phenomenon of simplification

Ken Segall (former ad agency creative director for Apple, and author of THINK SIMPLE) discusses why society is trending toward simplicity, from both a business and personal standpoint.

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THINK SIMPLE: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity by Ken Segall

Simplicity is arguably the most potent weapon in business—attracting customers, motivating employees, helping outthink competitors, and creating new efficiencies. Yet rarely is it as simple as it looks.
Ken Segall’s first book, Insanely Simple, was based on observations gained from twelve years working as Steve Jobs’s advertising agency creative director, first with NeXT and then with Apple. He saw firsthand that Jobs looked at everything through the lens of simplicity. His obsession with simplicity was not just visible in Apple’s products. You could see it in the way the company organized, innovated, advertised, sold at retail, and provided customer service.

In practice, simplicity was Jobs’s most powerful business weapon. It helped Apple distinguish its products and create entirely new product categories, and it put distance between Apple and its competitors. But, while Apple is a terrific example of a company that has been propelled by the power of simplicity, it is hardly alone.
Inspired by the ways Apple has benefited from the power of simplicity, Segall set out to find other companies that were traveling this path. He wanted to learn more about the thinking of their leaders. He felt that if he could chronicle the experiences of those who have successfully simplified, it would be an invaluable guide for everyone who would like to do the same.

This book is the result of his journey into simplicity in companies around the world.
Many of the “heroes of simplicity” profiled in this book are probably not on your list of usual suspects. Segall had conversations with over forty men and women from a wide range of industries, in companies big and small, established and up-and-coming, famous and below under the radar.

Each leader has a fascinating point of view about how simplicity has helped improve his or her company and set it apart from competitors. Each is unique, yet, as you’ll find, many display interesting similarities.

From Jerry Greenfield, you’ll hear how Ben & Jerry’s grew from local to global without losing its focus and simple values. From the CEO of one of Australia’s biggest banks, you’ll hear how simplicity is attracting new customers. From former Apple Senior Vice President Ron Johnson, you’ll hear how a simple idea aligned the team creating the worldwide network of Apple Stores.

You’ll discover how simplicity influences the CEOs of The Container Store and Whole Foods. You’ll get insights on simplification from the worlds of fashion, automobiles, entertainment, and technology. You’ll even get inside the blue heads of the Blue Man Group, who developed a business strategy to defeat complexity before it could take root.

No principle is more important for businesses today than simplicity. In this insightful and often surprising book, you will learn how to harness the power of simplicity to build lasting, profitable organizations.

THINK SIMPLE by Ken Segall.  Portfolio (June 7, 2016). ISBN: 978-1591847502. 256p.


Alan Alda at Random House Open House

June 19, 2017

This is great – enjoy!

Alan Alda tells stories and speaks about the importance of communication and empathy. Filmed at the Random House Open House, 5/12/17.


Author Spotlight: Terry Brooks

June 17, 2017

Author Terry Brooks on bookstore shopping and his ideal writing spaces | Author Shorts – Author Terry Brooks (THE BLACK ELFSTONE) discusses his approach to bookstore shopping and his particular requirements for a writing space.

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The Fall of Shannara (Book 1)

The first book of the triumphant and epic four-part conclusion to the Shannara series, from one of the all-time masters of fantasy.

Across the Four Lands, peace has reigned for generations. But now, in the far north, an unknown enemy is massing. More troubling than the carnage is the strange and wondrous power wielded by the attackers—a breed of magic unfamiliar even to the Druid order. Fearing the worst, the High Druid dispatches a diplomatic party under the protection of the order’s sworn guardian, Dar Leah, to confront the mysterious, encroaching force and discover its purpose.

But another crucial journey is being undertaken. Exiled onetime High Druid Drisker Arc has been living in quiet seclusion, far from the politics and power struggles of his former life, until two brutal attacks by would-be assassins force him to seek out an infamous murder-for-hire guild—and find the hidden enemy who has marked him for death. At his side is Tarsha Kaynin, a young woman gifted with the wishsong and eager to be schooled in its formidable power by a master. She, too, is pursuing a mission: to locate her wayward brother, whose own magic has driven him to deadly madness and kindled his rage for vengeance . . . against his sister.

In their darkest hours, facing dangerous adversaries, the lives and quests of Dar Leah, Drisker Arc, and Tarsha Kaynin will be inextricably drawn together. And the challenges each confronts will have resounding consequences for the future of the Four Lands.

Praise for Terry Brooks

The Sword of Shannara is an unforgettable and wildly entertaining epic, animated by Terry Brooks’s cosmically generative imagination and storytelling joy.”—Karen Russell, New York Times bestselling author of Swamplandia!

“If Tolkien is the grandfather of modern fantasy, Terry Brooks is its favorite uncle.”—Peter V. Brett, New York Times bestselling author of The Skull Throne

“I can’t even begin to count how many of Terry Brooks’s books I’ve read (and reread) over the years. From Shannara to Landover, his work was a huge part of my childhood.”—Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind

“Terry Brooks is a master of the craft and a trailblazer who established fantasy as a viable genre. He is required reading.”—Brent Weeks, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Angel Trilogy

“The Shannara books were among the first to really capture my imagination. My daydreams and therefore my stories will always owe a debt to Terry Brooks.”—Brandon Mull, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Beyonders series and the Fablehaven series

THE FALL OF SHANNARA: THE BLACK ELFSTONE by Terry Brooks. Del Rey (June 13, 2017). ISBN 978-0553391480. 336p.

Full panel videos from BookCon!

June 14, 2017

I couldn’t go and in case you missed it too, here are some of the panel discussions including the fabulous Margaret Atwood, “proud to be a geek” Mayim Bialik, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Krysten Ritter,  and lots more. Enjoy!