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Epic Update: December 5, 2022

Hello and happy Monday, Epic folks! And Happy December (unless you’re one of the folks who dislikes it, in which case, condolences).

Announcements

As you’ve probably already seen, we have a big announcement regarding Insiders going into 2023. You won’t notice anything different with your account until January rolls around, and in the meantime you’ve got options!

What Are You Reading?

I’m currently wrestling with which books I should bring with me on a Boston trip with a friend. While the train ride will be around seven hours or so, I’m packing light, meaning I can’t cater to my mood-reading inclinations. There are books that I’ve been meaning to finish — like The Secret Society of Irregular Witches (which I saw Vanessa mention a month ago), Scout’s Honor by Lily Anderson, and Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki — but there are also ones I haven’t started that I’m excited to.

cover of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin; rainbow font over an illustration of a wave

Fortunately, I have the books I’ve already started in a mix of audio and ebook formats, so they won’t take up actual space. But then there are the physical books I want to take! There’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, which has been talked about in quite a few best-of book lists, and has also been sitting on my bookshelf for the longest, judging me. It’s about friends who have known each other for a while when they become partners in making video games. Let’s just say they experience all the ups and downs. I love how this is mostly about a friendship, as opposed to a romantic relationship.

I’m also considering packing Rio Cortez’s Golden Ax, a poetry collection that explores the history of Black pioneers in the Western U.S while still considering the present and the future. And then I’ve been feeling like getting into a hard-boiled ’20s or ’30s detective story, so I’m wondering whether I should bring the queer sff novella Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk, or The Conjure-Man Dies by Rudolph Fisher. Conjure Man was actually written in the ’30s and is the first detective novel written by a Black American. We’ll see which I land on.

If you were going on a trip next week, which books would you take? Tell us in the comments!

Erica

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Epic Update: November 28, 2022

Hello Insiders! It’s Monday, and that means it’s time to talk about books.

No announcements today, just me blathering about rebooting my reading for 2023!

What Are You Reading?

Hello Insiders! It’s Jenn, filling in for Vanessa who is enjoying some time off. And I was not sad to fill in, because I am doing a total overhaul of the way I read and I am excited to tell someone, anyone, about it.

There are a few things that happened in the last few months: Get Booked ended (RIP!); the Read Harder podcast episodes for the 2022 Challenge are all recorded; and the plug-in that removes expirations from my digital galleys well and truly broke, and after searching pretty thoroughly it seems clear that there’s no good replacement for it. Which means that I can’t just download galleys willy-nilly and rely on having them when I want/need them for work reading; I have to do something else, and honestly that realization completely broke my brain. I also barely managed to do the reading I needed to do for work this year; for reasons I don’t fully understand, I had a harder time reading in 2022 than I did in any other year, and that is saying something. (I’m part mood-reader, part work-reader, and between my moods being all over the place and real difficulties we all lived through, it was … rough.)

So, rather than getting frustrated and berating myself as is my wont, I decided to use this as an opportunity to rethink how and what I read. Work-wise, I’ll just be reading for SFF Yeah!, and that’s my wheelhouse anyway. I also like to have an assortment of things going — nonfiction, lighter fare like romances, genres I don’t usually reach for like mystery, etc. But where will I get those books?

I’ve built a queue system, that goes something like this:

  • See a book or hear about one, tag it in Edelweiss or on Storygraph with the tag “queue”
  • Once a week, review the tagged books to see if any are available from the library — if so, put in a hold request (almost nothing is ever available right away these days) and note it on the new “TBR” tab of my reading spreadsheet
  • Review the ones not available from the library to see if I can get an e-galley AND if I’m in the mood to read it (since I don’t have unlimited time anymore)
  • Read what comes in from the library and/or Edelweiss!

It seems both really complicated and very simple, and who knows how long it will last or if it will work. But it seemed worth a try.

cover of The White Mosque by Sofia Samatar

Currently, my queue has brought me The White Mosque by Sofia Samatar which is an amazingly sharp, thoughtful, incisive memoir plus some history about her life as a biracial woman in the Mennonite and Muslim communities. I’m savoring every page. And the library sent me Kate Clayborn’s Love Lettering, which everyone has been recommending to me for ages and which definitely lived up to the hype.

Anyone else out there changing up their reading habits for 2023? Share in the comments!

-Jenn

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New Books Subscription Price Increase

Hello fellow booknerds,

Thanks for being New Books enthusiasts! We wanted to let you know about an upcoming change to your subscription.

On December 1, 2022, the cost of the “New Books, Who Dis” level will be raised from $2.99 to $4.99. Your subscription will automatically renew at the updated price on your next renewal date following December 1st, unless you cancel at least a day in advance. If you’d like to make any changes to your account, you can click right here.

Happy book-browsing!,

The Insiders Team

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Epic Update: November 21, 2022

Hello Epic Insiders, and happy holiday week to those celebrating, particularly to those celebrating Native American Heritage Day! We’ve got some great posts about Indigenous and Native authors to browse if you’re looking for gifting ideas and/or ways to support their community.

We also have some amazing Cookbook Showdown posts if you’re looking for recipe ideas and inspiration (I’ve never been so tempted to stray from my grandmother’s recipe as I was when I saw the pumpkin pie post).

Alright, that’s it from me — onto book talk!

-Jenn

What Are You Reading?

People of the Riot: we are gathered here today to lament my reading plans. They showed such promise, such hope, such potential! But ultimately they succumbed to an enemy that could not be vanquished: a stomach flu. I don’t actually know if what happened to me was the virulent stomach bug that seems to be going around or if it was food poisoning, actually. All I know is that I spent this last week becoming uncomfortably close friends with a porcelain bowl and developed a brief fear of ingesting solid food for a minute there. I’m better now, but when I tell you I didn’t read a single page or listen to a single second of the books I thought I’d read, I mean it!

So here we are, a brand new week, a brand new reading plan, except that plan is basically the same as last week’s for the reasons mentioned above. But I already told you about those reads, so instead I thought I’d tell you about a few of the shows and movies that brought me comfort in between trips to toss my cookies, and then share a few holiday recs just for funsies.

What I Watched

The Dragon Prince: Mystery of Aaravos (Netflix) – Jenn came through with this recommendation and it was just perfect! It’s an animated show about half-brother princes Callum and Ezran and a moonshadow elf named Rayla, who are on a mission to end a thousand-year-old conflict between humans and the mystical creatures of the magical realm of Xadia. To do this they must transport (and keep safe!) a dragon egg that was long rumored to be destroyed. The episodes are less than a half hour each, there are four seasons to marathon, and the brothers have this hella grumpy pet Glowtoad named Bait (because he’s tasty to underwater creatures lol) and I want one of him SO MUCH.

See How They Run (HBO Max) I cannot tell you how up my alley this light and silly movie was, but lemme try: it’s a murder mystery set in 1950s London that revolves around the cast of the long-running West End Show, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (it’s still running today and I’ve seen it, it too is silly and over-the-top fun). When one of the show’s crew members is found dead, a weary inspector and the very peppy, eager rookie assigned to work with him must figure out whodunit. That peppy pepperson is played by Saoirse Ronan whom I love and absolutely kills it in this role! The movie also features fun performances by Sam Rockwell, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson and David Oyelowo.

Vatican Girl (Netflix) – I’ve come to a deeply jaded place when it comes to true crime shows, podcasts, and books, which so often feel exploitative and gross in how they rehash traumatic events with varying degrees of accuracy and little to no respect for the victims of these horrifying acts. But this one caught my eye because the family of the missing girl at the heart of the story participated in the documentary, it never gets super intensely graphic, and because Vatican conspiracies are an easy way to reel me in, in general. The case begins in 1983 Rome when 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi vanishes after leaving a music lesson. The decades-long mystery appears to have some gross ties with the Vatican and unfortunately remains unsolved. It was still very interesting to learn about, I hope it somehow helps the family find answers.

What to Read

And now for some holiday reading recs in case you’re starting to look for those, or if you’re in the mood for them now. Tis the season!

cover of Amor Actually

Amor Actually: A Holiday Romance Anthology by Zoey Castile, Alexis Daria, Adriana Herrera, Diana Muñoz Stewart, Priscilla Oliveras, Sabrina Sol, and Mia Sosa – This anthology came out last year and was the romance read of my dreams: love and spicy stories set during the holidays featuring a Latine cast? Mi corazon!! The lineup of authors is bananas good and the nine stories, all of which take place during Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve, are all so satisfying. Treat yourself to this one.

A Christmas Spark by Diana Biller – I have been chasing the high of The Widow of Rose House for years, and last year Trisha Brown (of our When in Romance podcast) reminded me that A Christmas Spark exists. This is a delightful little morsel of a read on its own, but if you did read and love Widow of Rose House, here’s a treat: this novella is about Sam’s parents when they first met! And it’s adorable.

The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict – This one comes to you from my TBR because it just sounds like a thing I will love: Christmas + a murder mystery! Here’s the pitch: Twelve clues. Twelve keys. Twelve days of Christmas. But who will survive until Twelfth Night? I am so in.

Stay bad, bookish, and healthy, friends!
Vanessa

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Epic Update: November 14, 2022

Hello and happy Monday, Epic folx! No announcements today, so we’ll get right to the good stuff.

What Are You Reading?

Hello hello, Insiders! It’s me, Vanessa, back again with a little reading check in to start the week off. By the time you read this I’ll be back in Portland where the rain is in full force. Rain and cold temps can be a bummer, I know, but this girl can’t wait to watch the rain from my window with a fireplace ASMR vid going on my TV. I do what I can with what I have, okay!?

Now back to the books!

I finished Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson and can’t recommend it enough. It was so fun! The witchy magic, the characters and their complex relationships, the humor, the giant middle finger to JKR… it’s just swell. I was not prepared for that ending though and dramatically yelled, “Porque??!!” in my best Telenovela Spanish at the closing paragraph. I won’t spoil it but good grief!! I will be very impatiently waiting till May 2023 for the sequel, The Shadow Cabinet. Shoutout to the audiobook narrator, Aoife McMahon. I loved McMahon’s delivery of each distinct character’s voice and vibe.

cover of The Cloisters by Katy Hays

I also finished and really enjoyed The Cloisters, but! I do want to give a disclaimer. I think it’s billed as being much creepier and occult than it really is, and it is not even close to a comp for The Secret History if you ask me. Neither of those is a bad thing, and I still recommend the book! I just went in expecting something a little different (folks are real fast and loose with those Secret History comparisons, methinks) and readers might be disappointed if they do the same.

As for this week’s reading, I am in the middle of The Secret Society of Irregular Witches like I teased last week. Just give me all the brujas, it’s my brand at this point. I’ve also just started Even Though I Knew The End by C.L. Polk which I was only a little bit mad at Liberty for stealing on last week’s episode of All the Books. I love, love, loved C.L. Polk’s Kingston Cycle (Witchmark) series and The Midnight Bargain too, so they’re pretty much an auto-read for me at this point. Even Though I Knew The End is a slim volume at less than 150 pages and speaks to me on so many levels: it’s supernatural, it’s noir, it has a magical detective, a serial killer vampire on the loose, an impossible choice, and some romance. That just sounds like a good time.

Speaking of auto-read authors, lemme talk to you about Alexis Hall. Hall is a self-described genrequeer author of kissing books and I’ve loved everything I’ve read. I came a little late to his work with Boyfriend Material, the audiobook of which convinced me that I’m looking for someone who will talk to me like Oliver does to Luc. Then Husband Material dropped and I stand even more firmly by that statement. Slide into my DMs, Oliver sound-alike. Just saying.

So this week I’m going to do Hall’s most recent release on audio, Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble, the follow up to the hilarious and delightful Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake and second book in Hall’s Winner Bakes All Series. This one follows a young man whose roommate enters him in a baking competition show (Bake Expectations!). To his surprise he’s sort of killing it week to week and develops a lil’ romance with a fellow contestant, but his fear and anxiety threaten to get in the way of his happiness. I just love the way Alexis Hall writes romance, especially the banter between the love interests and overall humor in all of his writing. Some other favorites from Hall include his Kate Kane series (a paranormal investigator in London chasing down—and occasionally bedding—demons and vampires, yes please) and the Kobo exclusive Murder Most Actual, a whodunnit set in a fancy hotel in the Scottish highlands that pays homage to the golden age of mystery. On my near futurish TBR from Hall are The Affair of the Mysterious Letter and A Lady for a Duke, but his backlist goes even deeper than that. Is that a challenge? Yeah, I think it is.

What are you reading this week? Sound off in the comments!

Stay bad & bookish,
Vanessa

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Epic Update: November 7, 2022

Hello Insiders! Happy first Monday post-Fall Back; may you have gotten that extra sleep. It’s going to be a Very Intense Election Week here in the US, so here is your reminder to take breaks and take care of yourself in amongst all the :waves hands:.

Our one announcement is that y’all selected “Favorite Non-Bookish Things” for the year for the last Book Riot Podcast bonus episode of 2022; excellent choice. Onto book chat!

-Jenn

What Are You Reading?

Bienvenidos a Monday, Insiders! Vanessa here on this fine November morning, getting ready to head back to Portland later this week after three and a half weeks on the road for both work and personal things. I’m playing a bit of catch-up now that my schedule is slowing down, so today I’ll be telling you about the magical reads I meant to get to in October — whoops! Reminder that whether you’re reading a ton or not at all: it’s all fine. The books will always be there.

Now let’s dive in!

Book cover of Her Majesty's Royal Coven by Juno Dawson

First we have the utter delight that is Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson. Months ago Book Riot Contributing Editor Patricia Elzie-Tuttle posted it to her Instagram story with something to the effect of, “Read this if you want a witchy magic school read but don’t want to support a raging transphobe.” It me! The books is billed as A Discovery of Witches meets The Craft which is basically my blood type? It’s the first in an epic fantasy trilogy about five childhood friends who grew apart after a schism split up their coven, and now there’s a rull bad prophecy and a kid with frightening powers and magical battles are about. to go. down. It reads very much like a response to the afore-alluded-to transphobe, one that explores gender and the corrupting nature of power with a fun, fierce, and feminist plot. And if you audiobook, Aoife McMahon’s narration is sheer perfection.

I’m also reading The Cloisters by Katy Hays which I judged by its cover and thought, “Sinister nuns, maybe?” Yeah no! The cloisters here are the famed Met Cloisters, the gothic museum and garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our main character is a young woman who comes to New York to escape the grief and tragedy of her past. Expecting to spend her summer as a curatorial associate, she’s surprised but on board when she’s instead assigned to The Cloisters to work under researchers studying the origins of divination. At first she’s just happy to have a job and goes along with even some of the more out-there theories these researchers propose, but her casual curiosity turns dark and obsessive when she finds a 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might not only legitimize the practice of divination, but hold the key to predicting the future. I’m 3/4 in and have so many questions! There’s a tension to the story that hints at uncovered secrets, I can’t wait to find out how this wraps.

Once I wrap up these two titles, I think I’ll finally go back to The Secret Society of Irregular Witches, another witchy read I meant to get to in October but got too busy to finish. This one’s a romance fantasy about a lonely British witch who gets roped into becoming a magical tutor to a bunch of unruly witch kids, which is A Choice considering she’s supposed to be keeping her identity as a witch on the low. She takes the job anyway and is almost immediately embroiled in the lives of not one the witch children, but two caretakers, an archeologist, a retired actor, and the handsome but grumpy librarian who is very protective of the withchlings. That’s all I know so far, but I know from the description that peril will soon come a-knockin’ and our MC will have to decide how much she’s willing to risk for this found family of hers. Also, the cranky-pants librarian is a love interest. Mwahaha.

That’s it for me, readers. Wishing you a lovely week in life and in reading. Reminder to tell us what you’re reading in the comments!

Stay bad & bookish,
Vanessa

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Epic Update: October 31, 2022

It is Actual Halloween, and I always feel thrown off when it’s on a Monday, but Caitlin is bringing you all the correct vibes below. May you have some of the treats you like and may the tricks be minimal, today and all days.

It is also time for a (really chill) vote! The Book Riot Podcast would like your input for their last bonus episode of 2022, and you can weigh in right here. Voting is open until Sunday if you need time to mull.

Onward to books!

-Jenn

What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday and Happy Halloween, Insiders! I hope your weekend was filled with spooky delights or cozy comforts or gorgeous leaf peeping or whatever this season means for you! I, for one, am declaring that it is still Halloween season for the next three weeks because October just didn’t October hard enough for me this year, so here is your permission to lean into the meaninglessness of time and create your own rules too *throws glitter and biodegradable confetti*

I’ve been a little down on myself because my reading volume has been low this month, but this past week, I feel like I’ve gotten my groove back!

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’ve been experimenting with where my reading enjoyment falls on the horror spectrum. Well, I’ve also been experimenting with trying to enjoy audiobooks. It feels like I should love audiobooks given my love for podcasts, but I haven’t quite been able to get onboard. I don’t like being read at, nor do I love different character voices (I can appreciate the art of it, it’s just not for me). I want a narration that feels natural, conversational, and only uses subtle vocal changes to indicate different character dialogue if necessary. So I’ve been thinking nonfiction is probably my best route for enjoying audiobooks — though I have another whole laundry list of my particularities when it comes to nonfiction (that’s for another time).

cover of Stolen Focus

A couple folks had been reading/talking about Stolen Focus by Johann Hari in our staff Book Riot Slack, so I thought that would be a great title to try on audiobook — and it was! Did you know that your brain rinses itself when you’re sleeping? That an average adult working at an office only stays on-task for 3 minutes before switching focus? That it takes you 23 minutes to get back to focus after you switch tasks? 🤯 There were some good nuggets in here, but more importantly, I enjoyed Johann Hari’s narration — it felt natural and conversational in a way that kept me engaged. Next up, I’m trying the audiobook of How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong.

Last week I also devoured my DRC of The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill (set to publish February 28). I didn’t realize it was a novella when I picked it up and read it completely in one sitting. This one is based on folk tales from several different places of partners who are actually animals but take the shape of a human. It was so weird and eerie and deliciously folkloric. I think I might pair it with Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings to begin a collection of short, dark, with a kiss of magic books. And of course up next (I’m just waiting for my library hold to come in), I also have Kelly Barnhill’s When Women Were Dragons to look forward to.

What are you reading this week? Share in the comments!

-Caitlin

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Epic Update: October 24, 2022

Happy Monday, Epic folks! And happy Halloween week to those celebrating — I’ve got tissue paper-and-pipe cleaner spiders up in my window and a stack of gourds on the stoop, and am ready to eat All The Candy since we can never tell how many trick-or-treaters we’ll get. (One of these years I’ll make good on my grand ambitions to dress up and go somewhere, but this year is not the year.)

No announcements, just book chat!

-Jenn

What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday, Insiders! I’m back from the Book Riot staff retreat in Los Angeles, and it was such a wonderful time meeting everyone in person!

We did plenty of company visioning, talking about goals and strategies, and just connecting with each other face-to-face, but it didn’t leave much room for reading.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo cover

Although it was not my first time to L.A., it had been quite awhile since the last time I was there. Just before the Book Riot retreat portion of the trip, I was visiting with some of my friends who live there. They took me on a hike to view the Hollywood sign, and it was fun to be in a place that was so important to one of the books I read earlier this year: Siren Queen by Nghi Vo.

I think it was in a past episode of the What Should I Read Next? podcast that a travel agent said she likes to encourage her clients to read books and learn about the new places that they’re visiting leading up to the trip, but to be sure to also read a fictional book that’s about or set in that place. I love this idea, and while I didn’t have this in mind when I read Siren Queen earlier this year, it kept jumping into my mind throughout the trip looking toward the Hollywood hills — I half expected to see the flicker of ritual bonfires of the stars who hold their nighttime courts.

Next month I have a trip to New Orleans, and although I’ve been there before, this makes me think I should find a fictional New Orleans book to read in anticipation — any ideas?

What are you reading this week? Share in the comments!

— Caitlin

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Epic Update: October 17, 2022

Hello hello, Insiders! I’m riding high off my weekend wins — I spent time with family for my niece’s birthday and was the undisputed champion of the duck races at our farm outing. It was a lovely moment of pure joy in a time when things are still very :waves hands:, so I’m sending some of that joy your way.

On to book chat!

-Jenn


Hello Insiders! I’m coming at you today from Los Angeles where I’ll be meeting up with the rest of the Book Riot staff tomorrow for our annual retreat.

It’s been a busy week, and although I feel like I’m falling behind on my reading this month, I did manage to sneak in some moments here and there, especially on the airplane. Nothing new, just continuing to work my way through Parable of the Talents.

cover of Thistlefoot

I wanted to give a shout out to a book I enjoyed reading last month. My sister actually just texted me about it this week asking if I knew anything about it because her book club just chose it for the month, and I was so excited to talk it up because I think it’s one of my favorite books of the year: Thistlefoot by GeannaRose Nethercott.

Folkloric stories are some of my favorite — I love retellings, reimaginings, or when an author just creates a folkloric atmosphere. Thistlefoot draws from Baba Yaga, one of my favorite folkloric characters to connect the present to the past with Jewish and Eastern European folklore. Baba Yaga is probably one of my favorite characters because she’s so multifaceted and seems to touch so many different stories. This story was brilliantly woven and offered a rare glimpse of Baba Yaga’s humanity moving backward and forward in time to also follow the stories of some of her descendants. Bonus: a few of the chapters are narrated by Baba Yaga’s famous house on chicken legs, and I absolutely adored this character!

What are you reading this week? Weigh in in the comments!

— Caitlin

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Epic Update: October 10, 2022

Happy Monday, Epic folx! As always, we’re wishing you a good start to your week and allllll the good books. Speaking of, let’s get right to it.

What Are You Reading?

Well friends, it hasn’t been much of a reading week for me. I tried going mushroom hunting this week (which was mostly a bust because we haven’t gotten enough rain in the PWN yet) and brought out the Halloween decor, but with temps still in the 80s, the October vibes are just not vibing and the cozy reading moments are nowhere to be found.

cover of Parable of the Talents

I did start Parable of the Talents (I’ll probably be working my way through it all month) and although I think I already knew this, I was surprisingly delighted to find that it takes place several years after Parable of the Sower, starting off a little spicy with some narration and criticism of her mother from Lauren’s daughter. I think I’m delighted because that means there is a future after Lauren Olamina’s time to narrate from. In all the ways that Parable of the Sower made me feel both unsettled and comforted by its proximity to our current reality, I’m both unsettled and comforted that there will be generations after us to criticize the decisions we’re currently making. Whew! Maybe I need to pick up a light, fun something to read on the side of this one.

I have been savoring my way through Jarod K. Anderson’s (of The CryptoNaturalist podcast) first poetry collection, Field Guide to the Haunted Forest. Jarod’s poetry is a love letter to nature, infused with magic, and affirming to those struggling with mental health. He just released his second collection, Love Notes from the Hollow Tree, and I’m looking forward to ordering that one as well.

And if you really want an insiders peek into Book Riot, we’re all reading the same book to prepare for our annual company retreat later this month Financial Intelligence, Revised Edition by Karen Berman and Joe Knight. I never choose to read business books on my own anymore, but I do enjoy having a shared framework and vocabulary for talking about biz things in work conversations!

What are you reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

— Caitlin