Traitor: A Review

“We’ve all got our own little wars.”

Traitor by Amanda McCrinaIn 1944 Poland WWII may be nearing its end, but the troubles are just beginning for some of the country’s long suffering residents. In the wake of Lwów’s liberation from Germany, the city–like the rest of Poland–is torn between loyalists to either Poland or Ukraine as their years long power struggle continues and threatens to tear the country apart.

Seventeen-year-old Tolya Korolenko is half-Ukrainian, half-Polish and wanted by neither side. Hungry and alone, he has become a sniper in the Soviet Red Army to try to survive. It’s a good plan until he shoots his unit’s political officer in a dark alley. Tolya knows what happens to traitors. He knows what to expect.

What surprises him is his unlikely rescue by Ukrainian freedom fighters. In Poland everyone is fighting their own little wars and soon Tolya finds himself dragged into Solovey’s. Helping the man who rescued him probably won’t save Tolya’s life. But it might buy him some time.

In a city where self-preservation and loyalty can’t always mean the same thing, Tolya and Solovey are both rocked by betrayals that will change everything in Traitor (2020) by Amanda McCrina.

Find it on Bookshop.

The story follows two storylines: Tolya’s as it unfolds in 1944 and Aleksey’s years earlier in 1941. How you feel about the story may depend on how quickly you begin piecing together the connections between these two timelines.

Contrasting the beginning and end of World War II, Traitor explores the things that remain the same as characters are driven to desperate choices both for survival and revenge. Tense prose and cliffhanging chapter endings make this novel a fast read although alternating parts between Tolya and Aleksey often cuts much the tension and–given the fact that Aleksey’s story is essentially a flashback–lends a certain inevitability to what should be suspenseful plot points.

Traitor effectively uses restricted perspective in both narratives to limit what the characters and readers know leading to reveals that sometimes expected and sometimes not. Unfortunately, it also keeps both of the novel’s main characters at a remove from readers making it hard to feel entirely invested in either narrative.

Traitor is a well-researched and suspenseful look at a rarely examined piece of history. Readers who enjoy their history with a large dose of suspense and an unflinching look at the violence of war will find the most to appreciate here.

Possible Pairings: Tamar by Mal Peet, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

August 2020 Reading Tracker

Books I Read:

  1. The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
  2. Wayward Witch by Zoraida Cordova
  3. 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change
  4. Traitor by Amanda McCrina
  5. The Nemesis by S. J. Kincaid (kindle)
  6. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (audio)
  7. Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
  8. Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne marie brown
  9. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
  10. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  11. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  12. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  13. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  14. Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner (reread)
  15. Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
  16. Richard II by William Shakespeare (audio)

Books I Had Planned to Read:

Books Bought:

  1. Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (August Owlcrate)
  2. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (Owlcrate edition because why not)
  3. Owlcrate Addie LaRue
  4. Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner

ARCs Received:

  1. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey (requested)
  2. Into the Heartless Wood by Joanne Ruth Meyer (requested)

You can also see what I read in July.

Week In Review: August 29: Quarantine Week 24: In Which Things Are Planned


Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

I was going to start this recap by saying I feel like, since the pandemic started, it’s been a one good week/one bad week kind of thing. But this last part of August was just . . . not that great.

There’s lots of cool stuff happening on the blog this week–lots and lots of stuff as I try to build in more Friday posts with either booklists or some kind of lifestyle thing.

Work is still work. I’m planning a holiday promotion now that no one will see until November. If you want to read about a USPS inspired booklist, I was interviewed about that this week:

Read-a-Likes for Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Are you ready to go big or go home with self-proclaimed fat girl, reluctant beauty queen, and all-around icon Willowdean Dixon of Dumplin’ fame? Have you read Julie Murphy’s delightful novel about Willowdean and its companions Puddin’ and Dear Sweetpea already? Have you seen the Netflix movie? Are eagerly waiting for Pumpkin? If the answer to any of those questions is “Yes!” then look no further for some read-a-likes to keep you busy while you wait for that next installment.

You can also shop the list at Bookshop.

If You Want More Beauty Queens (Reluctant or Otherwise!):

  1. The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander: Austin is almost as tired of waiting for someone else to pull her into the annual Christmas parade as she is of being the butt of Dean Ottmer’s jokes and Austin has a surefire way to fix both her problems: become a hood ornament/Sweetheart in the No-Jesus Christmas Parade.
  2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: What happens when a plane filled with 50 beauty queens crashes in the middle of nowhere? Definitely not anything you’d expect as the remaining contestants turn their beauty-pageant honed skills to surviving on a hostile island and unearthing a massive conspiracy. Then the sexy pirates show up!
  3. Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg: Lexi has a Great personality with a capital “G” making her the witty girl everyone likes. The only problem is Lexi is tired of being that girl. Turns out a change in appearance can do a lot to improve a girl’s social status. But family problems and new friends (and crushes) force Lexi to ask some tough questions about herself and do some things that even a Great personality won’t make easy.
  4. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson: Prom season is always hectic in Campbell and competition is always fierce. Liz knows most people in Campbell don’t see her as prom queen material. The better question is if Liz is ready to step out of the ensemble and use her solo to convince them otherwise.

If You Want More Fat Positive Stories:

  1. To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin: Savannah is marking time until she graduates and starts college. It’s just another year before she’ll be in college like her sister, but that feels like an eternity as she tries to deal with her mom’s constant pressure to diet more and eat better not to mention figuring out the whole getting into college thing. Cute new guy George could be the perfect distraction. But only if both of them can learn how to focus on the now instead of worrying about what happens next.
  2. The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burgers in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding: Abby Ives is seventeen, gay, and totally obsessed with all things fashion–especially growing her plus-size style blog as a way to break into the fashion industry. Abby’s clear plans for her future get very complicated when she starts interning at a local boutique. Suddenly Abby is competing for a job with Jordi Perez–the girl she also starts dating–and traveling across LA helping lacrosse bro Jax find (and eat) the best burgers.
  3. Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson: When her best friend and two other students die under mysterious circumstances, Mila Flores does the obvious thing: resurrect the girls to get their help to find the killer.

If You Want A Fun Ensemble Cast:

  1. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli: Turns out it’s way easier to keep the beat in drumming than it is in real life. Leah thought she had the hang of both but with high school almost over, Leah is struggling to stay on track with her friends–especially when she still hasn’t figured out the right way to tell all of them that she’s bisexual and one friend in particular that she’d like to be a lot more than friends. (This one also counts is a great fat-positive book but how can I not include Leah and friends in a section about an ensemble cast?)
  2. The Truth Commission by Susan Juby: After years of being fodder (along with her parents) for her sister Kiera’s best-selling graphic novel series, The Diana Chronicles, Normandy Pale is ready to come into her own. She’d like to be known for her own strengths and accomplishments instead of constantly being compared to her hapless counterpart in the Chronicles. But it turns out it’s hard to stop being a muse. Especially when you never asked to be one.
  3. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert: Suzette and her brother Lionel have been “Little” and “Lion” for years. Technically they’re step-siblings and their family gets a lot of strange looks sometimes since they’re all Jewish but Suzette and her mom are black while Lionel and his father are white. They’ve never let that change how close they are. That was before Lionel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Suzette was sent across the country to an East coast boarding school while he got treatment. Now it’s summer and Suzette is home in Los Angeles where she expects everything to be familiar and easy. Instead, Suzette soon realizes that it’s going to be harder to go back to being Little and Lion than she thought.

If You Want A Sweet Romance:

  1. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo: Clara Shin is good at two things: getting into trouble and making people laugh. When her latest joke goes too far ending in a fight and a fire, even Clara’s usually laid-back father Adrian knows that things have gone too far. Clara’s plans for a laid-back summer and a vacation with her Instagram-famous influencer mom are cancelled. Instead Clara gets to look forward to working on her dad’s food truck, the KoBra, to pay back the school for fire damage. Worse, she’ll be working with her nemesis Rose.
  2. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills: Claudia is certain that working with Iris on the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for extra credit is going to be torture. But somewhere between bombing her audition and shopping for materials to help with costume production, something funny happens. Suddenly instead of sticking to what she knows and keeping her head down, Claudia’s world is starting to get bigger. Soon Claudia realizes that appearances can be deceiving as she discovers a boy band obsession, the ineffable Gideon Pruitt, and perhaps most surprisingly of all an unexpected friendship with the last person she expects
  3. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: Amanda Hardy is new to Lambertville, Tennessee and nervous about starting at a new school for her senior year. She isn’t sure what to expect when she moves in with her father who she hasn’t seen in a few years. She isn’t sure if this town will be any kinder to her than the hometown she had to leave. Grant Everett sorely tests Amanda’s resolve. He is funny, kind, and no one Amanda ever thought she could be with. Getting closer to Grant makes Amanda feel safe and known. So much so that she wonders if it might be time to let Grant see all of her–including the secrets from her past.

If You Want More Feminist Heroines:

  1. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: Xiomara Batista finds her voice and a way to finally be seen when she discovers her high school’s slam poetry
  2. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu: Viv doesn’t know what to expect when she distributes the first issue of her zine, Moxie, in secret to her classmates. In the pages of her zine she calls out sexist jokes, harassment, and unfair dress codes and asks girls at the school to join her in protests that quickly gain momentum and help the Moxie movement take on a life of its own. As the stakes rise for what the zine and the Moxie girls are fighting for, Vivian has to decide how far she’s willing to go for what she believes.
  3. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero: In the midst of a difficult year Gabi finds solace in an unlikely place. Gabi always knew she liked writing and poetry. She just didn’t realize discovering the poetry within herself (and around her) would have the power to change everything.

This piece originally appeared on the YALSA Hub blog in 2018.

Author Interview: Sarah Beth Durst on Race the Sands

Sarah Beth Durst author photoAny time Sarah Beth Durst has a new book coming  out, I know I should be excited. She is one of the most prolific and versatile authors writing fantasy right now and, get excited, I think her newest standalone for adults might be her best book yet.

I’m excited to have Sarah back today answering some questions about her monster racing adventure Race the Sands.

Miss Print: What was the inspiration for Race the Sands?

Sarah Beth Durst: When it was time to start thinking about my next book, I sat down at my desk, typed the words “Things I Think Are Awesome,” and started making a list of everything from pizza to armadillos to fire-breathing unicorns.  A page or two into that list, I jotted down two words:

Monster racing.

And a little voice inside me said, “YES.  I MUST WRITE THAT.”

So that’s where this book began, with two words.  Everything in sun-drenched Becar grew out of that one core idea: deadly races on the backs of irredeemable monsters called kehoks, who bear the reborn souls of their world’s most depraved humans.

Miss Print: Race the Sands is set in a world where what you do in this life determines what (or whom) you are reborn as in your next life. Augur Yorbel even reads a few characters’ auras during the story to see how they will be reborn. What creature would you want to return as?

Sarah Beth Durst: A dragon!

Or maybe that’s a bit impractical.

How about a cat?  A well-fed housecat whose humans know better than to move once I decide to nap on them.  Like my cat Gwen.  She’s sitting on me as I write this.  In fact, I write most of my books with her on top of me.  Sometimes it makes it tricky to see the keyboard.

Miss Print: On the other end of the reincarnation spectrum we have the kehoks–souls reborn as monstrous creatures because they have done something so heinous there is no hope of redemption (unless they win the Becaran races). The kehoks come in all shapes and sizes including, notably, the black lion Tamra and Raia work with. What kind of kehok would you want to be (assuming the whole doing something evil to be reborn as one wasn’t on the table)?

Sarah Beth Durst: I’d like to be reborn as something like my black metal lion.  Fast and fierce.  Preferably without any slime or tentacles.

Miss Print: One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the way you utilize the ensemble cast by following a few different characters as the story unfolds. Did you always know the story would have this narrative structure? How did you decide which characters to showcase?

Sarah Beth Durst: I did plan from the beginning to show the story through multiple viewpoints, but I didn’t fully sketch out exactly whose eyes I’d use for which piece of the story.  I tried to trust my instincts.

A lot of writing is trusting your instincts.  We’ve all absorbed so many stories that we’ve internalized the rhythm of how a tale unfolds — the trick is to trust that sense of rhythm.

Miss Print: Working off the last question: Did you have a favorite character to write or one who was more challenging? And since this book came out during quarantine in April: How would everyone be fairing in quarantine? Who would you want to have quarantined with you?

Sarah Beth Durst: I loved writing Tamra!  She’s a former champion rider who now works as a professional trainer in the sport of monster racing.  She’s also a single mother who would do anything for her daughter, even sacrifice her own soul.  She’s fierce, driven, and unstoppable, and I loved spending time with her.

She’s named after Tamora Pierce, a fantastic writer and fantastic person.  I first discovered Tammy’s books when I was ten years old, the same year that I decided I wanted to be a writer.  I remember reading ALANNA, her first Tortall book about a girl who wants to become a knight, and thinking to myself, “If Alanna can become a knight, I can become a writer.”

As far as how my characters would fair in quarantine…  I think Tamra would take Raia and Shalla and ride on the back of a kehok out into the desert, away from the cities.  And Dar would be doing his best to take care of his people.  He’d be worried, but he’d do what’s right to protect as many as possible.

And the character I’d want with me…  There’s one brief mention in the book of a woman who bakes the best pastries in all Becar… I’d want those pastries with me.

Miss Print: You always have a few books in the works, can you tell me anything about your next project?

Sarah Beth Durst: Yes!  My next book will be a standalone epic fantasy called THE BONE MAKER, coming in March 2021 from Harper Voyager.  It’s about second chances — and bone magic.  It’s set twenty-five years after the heroes saved the world.  Now they’re called to save the world again, but they’re not the same as they once were.

My next novel for kids is called EVEN AND ODD and will be out from HMH / Clarion Books in June 2021.  It’s about two sisters who have magic on alternating days — Even has magic on even days, and Odd has magic on odd days — and what happens when the portal that separates our world from the magic world closes.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more information about Sarah and her books you can also visit her website.

You can also read my review of Race the Sands here on the blog.

Race the Sands: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Life isn’t just about who you were—it’s about who you choose to be.”

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst“Call it what it is: monster racing. Forget that and you die.”

Tamra tells every one of her students that. She cautions them, every time, to stay focused on the race, the moment, and never forget that they are riding on the back of a monster. Not every rider remembers those lessons in the heat of the races.

The Becaran races are a chance for wealth and glory for the riders. The racers, the kehoks, get something else: a chance to be reborn as something less monstrous–a chance to try to redeem their damaged souls.

Tamra used to be a winner, a champion. Now she is a damaged trainer unsure how to overcome a bad reputation and mentor another champion. She only knows winning this season is her last chance to keep her daughter.

Raia is an untested rider. She has never raced, never even seen a kehok up close. Now she has to convince a trainer to take her on if she wants a chance to use the races to win her freedom and escape her domineering parents and fiance.

Together with a strange new kehok, Tamra and Raia have the potential to change the races and all of Becar forever. But only if they stay focused and remember: Only the race. Only the moment. Only the finish line in Race the Sands (2020) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

Durst’s latest standalone fantasy introduces readers to the beautiful and often brutal world of Becar–a desert country where every action can stain or elevate your soul with immediate consequences for your next incarnation. This raises, for all of the characters, thoughtful questions of how to live a moral life while also doing what needs to be done throughout the novel.

In a kingdom in flux waiting for the new emperor to be crowned, Tamra and Raia face their own mounting stakes as both women are forced to take chances on themselves and each other to try and win.

The story unfolds with a close third person narration following Tamra, Raia, and other key players in the story to create a strong ensemble cast notably including Tamra’s daughter, Yorbel–an augur with his own interest in kehoks, and Tamra’s patron Lady Evara who is the obvious successor to my favorite inscrutable fashion plate Effie Trinket.

Race the Sands is a fantasy that explores many things but at its core this is a story of mindfulness and focus as both Tamra and Raia answer what they truly want to accomplish and how far they are willing to go for those goals. The story also considers what makes a family–found or otherwise–as well as what happens when the people trusted to maintain order in society betray that trust.

Race the Sands is a fast-paced story filled with intrigue, action, and, of course, competition. A twisty, perfectly paced adventure ideal for readers who want their high fantasy with a healthy dose of mystery.

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Sarah!

Possible Pairings: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, Hunted By the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena, The Hunter Games by Suzanne Collins, Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston, Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee, The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Insomniacs: A Review

The Insomniacs by Marit WeisenbergMost of Ingrid Roth’s life is a mess. Her mother is barely home, always taking extra shifts at the hospital. Their house is rundown and falling apart. Ingrid hasn’t spoken to any of her friends in the neighborhood cul de sac in years. And, of course, Ingrid’s father is long gone. But Ingrid has always had diving under control.

Competitive diving is supposed to be a safe space–her ticket to a college scholarship, the way she’ll one day get her father’s attention. Diving is the one thing Ingrid always does right.

Until she doesn’t.

Ingrid doesn’t remember the accident. She knows she must have frozen up, lost control. She knows her head hit the board and she’s supposed to be resting to recover from the head trauma.

The only problem is Ingrid hasn’t been able to sleep in days.

Haunted by her lack of memory of the accident, as scared to return to the diving board as she is to fall behind in training, Ingrid spends her nights watching the neighborhood and Van–her neighbor, her former best friend, the boy she’s had a crush on forever.

Then Ingrid finds Van watching her.

Van and Ingrid start spending their sleepless nights together as they both try to find a way to rest. Will the promise of answers be the thing that brings Ingrid and Van back together? Or will it drive them apart once and for all? in The Insomniacs (2020) by Marit Weisenberg.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Insomniacs is a heady blend of the vague menace reminiscent of the Hitchcock classic Rear Window and the summery nostalgia and romance in The Summer I Turned Pretty. Ingrid’s narration is choppy and tense as she tries to put together the pieces to explain her accident.

While both Ingrid and Van are focused on fixing their insomnia, the lack of sleep soon becomes a stand in for other problems. After years of letting her athleticism and physicality shape her daily life, Ingrid is paralyzed in the face of so much introspection as she has to confront her feelings about diving and, worse, the memories she can’t quite summon of the moments leading up to the accident. Van, meanwhile, struggles to understand what secrets his girlfriend and best friends seem to have been keeping from him and what they have to do with the abandoned house on the cul de sac.

The Insomniacs is an atmospheric story filled with secrets and suspense. Ingrid and Van drive the story but their neighborhood is as much of a character in this tense story where both characters have to confront some hard truths–including acknowledging when they need to ask for help. Ideal for readers who like their protagonists to have a lot of chemistry and their suspense to have tension thick enough to cut with a knife. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert, Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett, The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee, Tonight The Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian, Rear Window (1954)

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Week In Review: August 21: Quarantine Week 23: In Which I Send Many Emails


Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

This week felt like it was five months long. Appropriate since it was just like every other week of quarantine–which is hitting the five month mark. I’m tired. I miss having more than a thimbleful of patience at any one time. And I’m sick to death of people acting like I’m the irrational one for still trying to self-isolate for as long as humanly possible. My mom hasn’t been feeling well this week (allergies and generic malaise, not plague) which is its own special kind of stress during a pandemic. I keep trying to leave space for optimism but it’s easier to be annoyed or sad and disappointed. One good thing this week is that I’ve been re-reading Megan Whalen Turner’s books this week and I think they are exactly what I needed right now–a soothing balm while I try (again and always) to regroup.

Everything I Bought (and Changed) To Make Working From Home Work For Me

Like a lot of people, I started working from home in mid-March when shelter-in-place orders went into effect to try and curb the spread of the global pandemic. As of this writing, I am still working from home and, several months in, I finally have a set up that works for me.

Here’s everything I bought* and changed in my home set up to create a work from home space:

Desk Accessories:

  • Desk: You probably already have a desk or table that you use for work. I use a white melamine table my mom has had forever. It’s a little higher than a desk but I like having a big surface where I can do computer stuff or other things when I’m not working. If you have the space, I’d definitely try to set up a specific table space for work. It helps separate it from all the other time you spend at home and will often be more comfortable than trying to work with everything on your couch or bed.
  • Desk Chair: If you are working for any length of time on a computer, you need a desk chair. It should have a back that you can lean against for support, arms, adjustable height, and if it’s on wheels all the better for easy movement. There are a lot of options but back support is key.
  • Paperwork holder: I use a wooden one I appropriated from my mom but I like having a place to keep papers I need to act on like correspondence, book review letters from publishers, and the few bills I still get on paper. It’s a small thing but having one I like has been such an improvement.
  • Pens: I like having different colored pens that almost look like markers. I try to use a different color for each set of notes so it’s easy to flip through. Le Pen brand are my favorite because they are thin, capped (I am a pen clicker), and don’t bleed through most paper. If you are looking for a slightly cheaper option, my second favorite are Paper Mate InkJoy gel pens.
  • Notebooks: I’m not a big notebook user for work although I have a lot for my creative writing. When I realized I’d be working from home for a while, I decided to resurrect my traveler’s notebook to set it up with all the work info I needed at home so that whenever I go back to work it could travel easily to and from my office. If you want to know more about traveler’s notebooks, this post from Hannah at So Obsessed is still the best guide I’ve ever found. I like Webster’s brand because they are vegan and feed into my floral aesthetic. You can see more of my own planner essentials in this Amazon idea list.
  • Pencil holder: One of my hobbies is sending postcards to friends (and for Postcards to Voters) so I have more pens than I need. To make my desk feel morel like my space, I keep them in containers that make me happy like this owl pencil holder I built. (Model making and 3D puzzles are a new hobby I picked up in quarantine.)
  • Book boxes: My mom and I have a ton of these. They come in standard sizes and the medium one here is the perfect size to hold my external CD drive, hard drive, charging cables, and more so that I have easy access.

Laptop and Peripherals:

  •  Laptop: I have a 13″ MacBook Air and I love it. Mine is from early 2015 and thanks to OS updates, it’s still going strong and has been a lifesaver as I spend so much more time using my home computer now. I was very relieved to have a computer at home when this started that I knew I could rely along with home internet.
  • Floral laptop shell: Depending on your investment, your laptop is probably one of the most expensive things you own. Because of that I decided to get a shell case to protect mine. This one having a cute floral design is a bonus and makes a statement on my desk even when it’s closed.
  • Apple Magic Mouse: This is Mac specific but my Magic Mouse is one of my best investments. It is a lot easier than navigating a track pad, especially if I need to do light photo editing, it connects automatically to my computer, and the rechargeable batteries are easy to use.
  • Floral mouse pad: You don’t technically need a mouse pad but it makes mouse movements quieter and a little smoother. Plus, if you can buy a cute one in a design you like, why not? There are a lot of cheap options out there depending on your preferences.
  • Laptop stand: After a few days of working from home, my back and wrists were starting to feel it. I tried propping the computer on a book or a box and all sort of things but nothing felt right. So I started reading up on ergonomics and realized I probably needed a laptop stand to get my screen at a better angle. My friend Estelle recommended this one. I like that it has a few settings, folds up for storage, and has rubber grips to stay in place. It also lets me adjust my screen for optimal angles in video calls without needing anything else.
  • External keyboard: Like the laptop stand, this external keyboard helps me hit a better ergonomic position when I’m typing for longer periods. I got mine in aluminum silver with white keys. It was ready to go out of the box, and is holding up great. The keys are louder than I was used to from my laptop but not dramatically so. There’s a power indicator light which is very bright so I covered it with a sticker. Otherwise, no complaints and since I don’t travel with it, I like being able to plug it in to use–no charging needed.

Miscellaneous Extras:

  • Phone Tripod: I haven’t used this a lot but knew if I was going to be home more, that it would be good to have a tripod for filming myself with my phone. I like that this one has a big height range without a lot of frills I won’t use.
  • Wireless headphones: I already had wireless headphones for my phone but reconnecting them between my phone and laptop was a pain so I got a second pair to use solely with my laptop. It’s been a great investment. This set has some noise cancellation, a built in mic, and don’t hurt my ears.
  • Selfie ring: My friend got me one of these for Christmas–it’s been really helpful on days when I need better lighting during meetings. It also clips onto my laptop as easily as my phone.
  • Fitbit Inspire: I discovered pretty early on that I need a routine even in quarantine. I also need an alarm to wake up most days. My mom doesn’t need either of those things so I started researching devices with silent alarms and this Fitbit seemed like the best bet. It tracks my steps and exercise but I mostly just use it to have an alarm that won’t drive my mom nuts. In fact, I care so little about the other features that I wear it on my ankle with one of these bands.
  • Plants: I have a lot of house plants but I got myself an aloe plant in a pretty ceramic planter and some marimo moss balls from Oh My Planta on Etsy so I had some green stuff to look at on my desk which always improves my mood.
  • Pichu Funko: In my photo up top you can see my little Pichu figurine. This was a gift from my friend Nicole and has been making me very happy to see on my desk every day.

As you can see, this setup is great for video meetings. It’s also made daily work stuff easier and even improved my blog writing options since I can stay at my desk longer.

Now you know everything I did to make my work from home set up work for me. Have you made any changes to your own work from home set up?

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Now That I’ve Found You: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Now That I've Found You by Kristina ForestEvie Jones is about to be Hollywood’s next big thing when her chance at stardom blows up in her face. After a self-imposed exile for most of the summer, Evie might have one chance to get her career back on track.

Unfortunately for Evie that plan relies on her grandmother Gigi (AKA bonafide movie star and now notorious recluse Evelyn Conaway) making her first public appearance in years. Evie is certain she can convince Gigi right until the moment Gigi disappears rather than hear Evie’s pleas.

With only days before the big appearance, Evie is running out of options to find Gigi and save her career. She reluctantly teams up with Milo–a cute musician Evie isn’t sure she can trust no matter how much Gigi seems to like him–for a madcap search across New York City.

As Evie and Milo try to follow Gigi’s trail they’ll also learn a lot about how best to blaze their own in Now That I’ve Found You (2020) by Kristina Forest.

Find it on Bookshop.

Now That I’ve Found You is Forest’s second novel and includes a fun nod to her debut.

Forest delivers one charming ensemble cast in this story of celebrity, family, and letting people in. Positioning Conaway as Hollywood royalty and an Oscar winner for best actress in the 1970s also shifts the world in the book to give Black creators and their contributions in Hollywood the space and respect they deserve but didn’t receive in the form of Oscar recognition until decades later in real life.

Set over the course of a week this fast-paced story lets Evie and Milo shine as foils and, eventually, reluctant allies in the hunt for Gigi. Milo is a sweet contrast to cynical Evie and the ideal sidekick on their search. The story’s romance and humor set the perfect stage for Evie’s powerful arc as she learns that she is the only one who can determine her own worth.

Now That I’ve Found You is a gentle, perfectly paced romantic comedy with a protagonist learning to appreciate both her loved ones and herself. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Permanent Record by Mary H. K. Choi, The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert, Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy, Lucky Caller by Emma Mills, Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*