My Top Book Club Picks From #BEA15

Top Book Club Picks from BEA 2015 via From Left to Write

Top Book Club Picks from BEA 2015 via From Left to Write

Now that I’ve made room in my office for all the exciting books I discovered at Book Expo America, I can share my top book club picks with you. I’ve already made a list of new sci-fi fantasy books by diverse authors I discovered at BookCon, but today we’re focusing on book club reads.

Whether you’re in a book club or not, add them to your list. I’m excited to read them this summer!

Top Book Club Picks From Book Expo America 2015

Listed in order of publication date.

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Selmair (April 2015)

About the book: When Jennifer Teege, a German-Nigerian woman, happened to pluck a library book from the shelf, she had no idea that her life would be irrevocably altered. Recognizing photos of her mother and grandmother in the book, she discovers a horrifying fact: Her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the vicious Nazi commandant chillingly depicted by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List—a man known and reviled the world over. The book shares her childhood and what she learned about her family.

Good for book clubs because: I don’t remember where I first heard about this book, but I was meeting with a rep from publisher and saw a stack of the books on their display. She saw my enthusiasm and gave me a copy. I can only imagine how horrifying it was for Teege to learn her grandfather’s role in World War II. While there’s obviously racial and ethnic elements in the book, we can all identify with our quest to discover who we truly are and how our family’s past influences our identity.

Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin…Every Inch of It by Brittany Gibbons (May 2015)

About the book: Brittany Gibbons has been a plus size her whole life. But instead of hiding herself in the shadows of thinner women, Brittany became a wildly popular blogger and national spokesmodel—known for stripping on stage at TedX and standing in Times Square in a bikini on national television, and making skinny people everywhere uncomfortable.

Good for book clubs because: Several friends of different shapes and sizes recommend this book to me. I also love that part of the book blurb reads “Fat Girl Walking isn’t a diet book….she reminds us that being chubby doesn’t mean you’ll end up alone, unhappy, or the subject of a cable medical show.” No matter what size we are, women can relate to feeling self-conscious about body image. Brittany’s openness will definitely encourage your book club to open up.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown
(August 2015)

About the book: The physics of vulnerability is simple: If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. Brené Brown tells us what it takes to get back up, and how owning our stories of disappointment, failure, and heartbreak gives us the power to write a daring new ending. Struggle, Brené Brown writes, can be our greatest call to courage, and rising strong our clearest path to a wholehearted life.

Good for book clubs because: I’ve been following Brené Brown before she Oprah “discovered” her. Brown’s honesty and authenticity on her blog resonated with me. She encouraged us to embrace being vulnerable, something I think many women (especially moms or caretakers) have trouble doing. Her writing is never preachy and encourages us to stop and truly think about how we see our stories.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (September 2015)

About the book: Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion…

 Good for book clubs because: I know some people are not fans of Elizabeth Gilbert, but her writing and creativity blows me away. I loved her novel The Signature of All Things. As a creative person, I often hear “I wish I was creative like you!” My belief is that we’re all creative, but we have to discover how that creativity manifests. Just like the title says, fear holds us back from being creative. Maybe we call discover how to unlock it.

Goddess by Kelly Gardiner (Kindle version available now, paperback drops October 2015)

About the book: A sparkling, witty and compelling novel based on the tragic rise and fall of the beautiful seventeenth century swordswoman and opera singer, Julie d’Aubigny (also known as La Maupin), a woman whose story is too remarkable to be true – and yet it is. Versailles, 1686: Julie d’Aubigny, a striking young girl taught to fence and fight in the court of the Sun King, is taken as mistress by the King’s Master of Horse. tempestuous, swashbuckling and volatile, within two years she has run away with her fencing master, fallen in love with a nun and is hiding from the authorities, sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Within another year, she has become a beloved star at the famed Paris Opera. Her lovers include some of Europe’s most powerful men and France’s most beautiful women. Yet Julie is destined to die alone in a convent at the age of 33. Based on an extraordinary true story, this is an original, dazzling and witty novel – a compelling portrait of an unforgettable woman.

 Good for book clubs because: When the publisher pitches the book as Lady Gaga crossed with Kate Middleton, how could you not be curious? I’m also a sucker for historical novels with kickass women. The fact that Julie D’Aubigny is a real person makes this even more fascinating.

The Secret Chord: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks (October 2015)

About the book:  Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage. The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected.  We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age.

Good for book clubs because: Every book I’ve read by Brooks has knocked me over. She is a brilliant storyteller. My friends and I stood in line for close to an hour to get a signed copy of this book.  If The Secret Chord is as good as her other novels, your book club won’t be able to put down.

Which of these books would you read?

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17 Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors

17 Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors via From Left to Write

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17 Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors via From Left to Write

Last week at BookCon (the book conference for readers immediately following Book Expo America), I discovered a new to me list of sci-fi fantasy books! We Need Diverse Books presented the panel In Our World and Beyond, whose panelists discussed everything from the politics of science fiction to the importance of different points of views in these genres.

A point that resonated with me (and I wholly believe this) is that writing diverse characters in stories NOT about diversity needs to be the next movement.

Sci-fi fantasy books cemented my love of reading back in middle school. While I don’t read this genre as often as I used to, I don’t love it any less. After sitting through this panel discussion, I have lots of new sci-fi fantasy books added to my TBR list.

WNDB Sci-Fi Fantasy Panel at BookCon 2015

L-R: Miranda Paul, Daniel José Older, Kameron Hurley, Marieke Nijkamp, Ken Liu, Joe Monti, Nnedi Okorafor

While this list is just the books written by the panelists, there’s lots more diverse authors of sci-fi fantasy. Definitely not an inclusive list, but it’s a start!

Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors

Nnedi Okorafor at BookCon 2015

Nnedi Okorafor

I’m going to start with Nnedi Okorafor because I bought her book The Book of the Phoenix immediately after the panel and finished it in two days. I would have finished it sooner but I had to work, sleep, and feed the kids. The novel’s storytelling is reminiscent of Nigerian oral tradition–which makes sense as that is Nnedi’s background. (I met her in person and she signed my copy, so I can call her by her first name, right?)

Described as magical futurism, The Book of the Phoenix tells us the origin of Phoenix, a genetically engineered organism bred to be a weapon. Like her mythological namesake, Phoenix has the ability to die and become reborn. She looks 40 years old but has only existed for 2 years, all of which she has been a prisoner of Tower 7. Soon she discovers the extent of her abilities and must struggle between being the savior for other SpeciMen like her and becoming the villain her creators feared she would become.

Phoenix is the “prequel” (it takes place hundreds of years before) to Nnedi Okorafor’s multiple award winning Who Fears Death. Guess what my next read will be?

Other books by Nnedi OkoraforAkata WitchThe Shadow SpeakerLagoon,

Daniel José Older

photo via website

Daniel José Older

I snagged an ARC (advance reader copy) of Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, which drops June 30. While I don’t normally read YA, Daniel’s bluntness during the panel appealed to me. Plus he curses like a sailor–which is how I’d be if I didn’t have little kids running around me all day. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover?

In Shadowshaper, Sierra Santiago is young artist who discovers shadowshaping, ” a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories.” But someone is hunting down all the shadowshapers and the killer is after Sierra for a family secret.

Other sci-fi fantasy books by Daniel José OlderHalf-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba NovelGingaSalsa Nocturna

Kameron Hurley

Photo via author website

Kameron Hurley

Hugo Award winner Hurley is a prolific writer (yay!). She’s written lots of short fiction, but I’m interested in her epic fantasies: Worldbreaker Saga and Dame Apocrypha (God’s War Trilogy).

More on Worldbreaker Saga: “On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself. ”

Books in Worldbreaker Saga: The Mirror EmpireThe Empire Ascendant (Oct 2015), The Broken Heavens (2017)

About Dame Apocrypha (God’s War Trilogy): “On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on–There’s not a chance in hell of ending it.”

Books in Dame Apocrypha trilogy: God’s WarInfidelRapture

Ken Liu

Ken Liu

photo via author Facebook page

I first learned about Ken Liu when he won the Hugo Award for his novella “The Paper Menagerie,” which will published in a short story collection The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories (available November 2015).

During BookCon, Ken signed copies of The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty), the first book of his new epic fantasy. (Yes, I snagged a copy!)

More about The Grace of Kings: “Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.”

Which of these books do you want to read?

BEA 2015 Day 1 (In Pictures)

Anthony Marra at BEA

Javits BEA 2015

While yesterday, Thursday May 28 was technically the second day of Book Expo America, it was my first day. My son graduated preschool on Wednesday and I could miss that for even BEA. My feet are still aching from spending all day on the show floor, but I had so much fun! If you can’t tell by the picture above, the Javits Center is HUGE.

I’m sharing photos throughout the day on Instagram, if you want to follow along today and tomorrow at BookCon. Here’s a few photos from yesterday!

Thien-Kim and Erin at BEA

The first From Left to Write book club member I found was Erin at Read-at-Home Mama. We actually met last year at BEA in the autograph line for Neil Patrick Harris. I convinced her to join our book club and the rest is history! Thee’s a few other members at BEA but Erin is the only person I remembered to take a photo with. I’ll try to get more today.


Anthony Marra at BEA

This is totally my favorite photo from yesterday. Anthony Marra was so adorable! I’m excited to read his new book The Tsar of Love and Techno.  His first book The Constellation of Vital Phenomena was a From Left to Write book club feature. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out! It was also my first selfie of the day–which becomes a trend later. My new Galaxy S6 has an awesome front-facing camera.Prison Ramen Marketing Package at BEA

I had to share this photo for the book Prison Ramen. It’s package of ramen! Isn’t that creative and memorable? Prison Ramen is about recipes and stories about living behind bars–with a forward by Samuel L. Jackson (who’s friends with the author).  This book is definitely on my list for fall!

Brene Brown at BEA

Last but not least is the amazing Brene Brown. I’ve been following her for years, since my daughter was a baby. I read her blog when it first started and have watched her become a household name. Her new book Rising Strong comes out in August. She was so kind and generous at her signing. She chatted with everyone and told me to check our photo before I left the table–so we could retake if it didn’t look good. Isn’t she sweet?

I have lots more photos on Instagram, so head over there to check them out.

Now to start day 2 at BEA!


Hot Book Club Picks from BEA 2014 (Video)

Hot Book Club Picks from BEA 2014-From Left to Write

Hot Book Club Picks from BEA 2014-From Left to Write

I hope you’re not tired of my Book Expo America posts yet. I have one more for you, but this time it’s a video. There’s so many books being promoted during BEA that it’s tough to figure out what to read. In my video, I have 6 hot books are entertaining and will give your book club plenty to discuss:

Here’s the list of books in the order they were mentioned in the video. Most are available for pre-order:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Ecco)
Pub date: August 2014 (Historical/Literary Fiction)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Publication date: September 2014 (Literary Fiction)

Neverhome by Laird Hunt (Little, Brown, and Company)
Publication date: September 2014 (Historical/Literary Fiction)

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (Amy Einhorn Books)
Publication date: January 2015 (Literary Fiction)

The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Publication date: January 2015 (Suspense Thriller)

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley (Gallery books)
Publication date: January 2015 (Literary fiction)

Don’t forget to enter our Neil Patrick Harris book giveaway and our Facebook giveaway for e-books!

Neil Patrick Harris at BEA + Excerpt Giveaway!

Neil Patrick Harris at BEA 2014

Neil Patrick Harris at BEA 2014

I’m going to say this as calmly as possible. Ready?

I met Neil Patrick Harris. (Are you squeeing?) I met him last week at Book Expo America when he was signing excerpts to his book/memoir Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (Crown Publishing).

Meeting Neil Patrick Harris at Book Expo America

I never get to BEA early in order to stand in line for an hour to meet an author, but NPH is different. It’s NPH: aka Dr. Horrible aka Doogie Howser aka Barney aka Balladeer (from Sondheim’s Assassins)! Obviously I’m a fan.

NPH Autograph from Book Expo America-From Left to Write

Was he worth waiting in line for? Of course! I only had about 10 seconds of face time with him, and I’m proud to say that I didn’t get all fangirl. I asked him about his kids, he signed me book, and I moved on. The line to meet him was very, very long.

His book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography isn’t released until Oct 14, 2014 (but it’s available for pre-order). It sounds like  a fun read. You can hear how he describes it in his breakfast speech at BEA (I didn’t attend). It’s modeled after those Choose Your Adventure books we used to read as kids. Did you ever read those?

Lucky readers, I got my hands on 3 extra copies of an excerpt to  Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography to give away to 3 of you! Of course they’re not autographed like mine is, but hopefully they’ll tide you over until the fall. Remember these are excerpts and not the full book.

Neil Patrick Harris Book Excerpt Giveaway-From Left to Write

To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below (U.S. & Canadian addresses only, please). If you’re reading this your email, please click on the title of the post so you can enter via the website.
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Meeting Book Club Authors at Book Expo America 2014

Book Expo America 2014-From Left to Write

Book Expo America 2014-From Left to Write

I’m not sure I’ve recovered from Book Expo America yet! Like always, my days there were packed yet there never seemed to be enough hours to see all the authors on my list or talk to all the folks I wanted to. I would do it all over again. My first evening in town, I met up with my friend Heather at a Crown Publishing event. Heather and I have similar tastes in books and I knew she’d enjoy meeting the authors of From Left to Write’s recent book club features.

Thien-Kim and Sandie Shelton-From Left to Write

Sandie Shelton, aka Maddie Dawson, author of The Opposite of Maybe

On the top of my list to meet was Sandi Shelton, who wrote our April book club selection The Opposite of Maybe (under the pseudonym Maddie Dawson). Sandie and I have exchanged many emails and she was just as wonderful in person as she was over email. I made Heather read Sandie’s book before coming to the party and she was not disappointed. (Read our book club discussion of The Opposite of Maybe.)

Thien-Kim and Susan Rieger-From Left to Write

Susan Rieger author of The Divorce Papers

I also met Susan Rieger, author of our March book club feature  The Divorce PapersI love my virtual book club and discussing From Left to Write members’ discussion of their books. Susan has plenty of her ideas for her next books, and I’m looking forward to reading them when she’s finished.

Thien-Kim and Bevery Miranda-Whittemore-From Left to Write

Beverly Miranda-Whittemore, author of Bittersweet

Our book club members had very strong feelings about Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. The novel touched them in unexpected ways. Miranda enjoyed reading how her novel inspired everyone and even mentioned a particular post she read. Gotta love authors who make a point to connect with their readers.

The event was jammed packed, thanks to the sudden cool New York weather. It was just too chilly and windy to hang out on the terrace. Still, I had a chance to chat with the cool folks at Crown Publishing. It’s nice to chat in person when we just exchange emails most of the year.

This is just part one of my BEA recap. Stay tuned for Neil Patrick Harris photos! Plus I have some coveted copies of his book excerpts to give away!