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2022 – The year I (hopefully) reach 100 books read!!!

It’s a new year which means a new chance to work towards actually achieving the goals you create! I have a big year ahead of me with the hope of becoming a full-time freelance writer and reaching the BIG milestone of reading 100 books in the year. Crazy right? But if I am going to leave corporate America, I am going to need something to fill my time. So why not read, right?

What are your goals for this year? Let me know in the comments. And as always, drop a suggestion on any books you think I should read!

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley (Drama): Honeslty not a fan of this book. It took me a month to read because I could not get into it. I loved Foley’s other books, including the thriller The Guest List, but this one was a different genre and I just don’t think she was able to write as compelling of a story. It was a nice story, but I feel that it left too much unsaid (what happened with Oliver, etc).

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (Thriller): Unlike my first book of the year, this one was much better. I read this in two days and it was restored my faith in reading again. Your typical thriller, this one follows the story of a husband and wife, her rich parents, and a missing baby. You learn answers pretty quickly in the story, but Lapena has a few more twists as you read on.

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy (Suspense): Best book read in 2022 so far! Yes, I know this is only my third, but I think it will be hard to top this one. The way Molloy blends physchological – both the genre and actual psychology – together really pushes all the twists in this book. It’s on the shorter side which means you should be able to read it quickly!

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (Fantasy): Slow start that leads to a crazy ending! I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a suspense or thriller even though that was the impression I was under when I was recommended the book. All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely not one I would normally pick. It’s fantasy, but not fairy-alien type – there is the “father” and “god” references mixed with a bit of good crazy! Probably not a super helpful review but it’s hard to describe this book!

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney (Mystery): I flew through this novel. I was in the middle of reading a crime non-fiction novel when I knew I wanted a book I could zoom through – boy did I pick a good one. This novel in written in the perspective of three characters – two of which won a free stay at a secluded remodeled (maybe haunted) chapel turned home and the other a mysterious figure who we never quiet get enough information about to figure them out. The twist is good – maybe obvious depending on how close you pay attention. All in all, a great, easy to read novel.

In Search of the Rainbow’s End by Colin Caffell (Non-Fiction/True Crime) – currently reading

The Bride Wore Black by Cornell Woolrich (Suspense): I had purchased this book last year when I visited my friend in Oregon. I had read that this hook might have helped to influence Tarentino’s Kill Bill, but I’m not sure if that is accurate or not. Regardless, this classic was very well written. Originally published in the 1940s, this novel takes us through the murder of four men by a beautiful woman.

Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover (Drama/Romance): I cried through the last half of this book. It is now my new favorite Hoover novel behind It Ends With Us and Verity. This was such a heartwrenching novel – predictable, but in a way that worked well. If you are looking for a good cry, I highly recommend this novel. Last I checked its free with Amazon Unlimited!

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover (Drama/Romance): After having my heart ripped out by Reminders of Him, I figured I might as well read the other Hoover novel I had on my Kindle. This one wasn’t as good, but still a cute story. It touches a lot on the mother daughter struggle after a death. I love that by the end of the book, both mother and daughter had a believable character arc.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Drama): After reading Daisy Jones and the Six last year, I was excited to read another of her books. While I think I prefered Daisy, this book was still well written and had a compelling story. I think there was some characters who could have been a little more developed and maybe a few that could have been omitted to make for a better story. Overall, I still recommend this as a nice, easy option.

Such A Quiet Place by Megan Miranda (Suspense): I enjoyed this book a lot. It kept my attention throughout its entirety. It is fast paced and engaging while also being easy to fly through. Miranda has a few books out and this is the second of hers that I have read and enjoyed.

We Are All the Same In the Dark by Julia Heaberlin (Suspense/Crime): Yes. Best book I have read so far this year. It was so well written – style, the way the parts and POV are broken out, everything. Very easy to read and fall in love with the characters. I very strongly recommend this modern crime novel.

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena (Thriller): Honestly, not very thrilled by this one. It’s ok, but I feel like a lot was left out. I can’t really say anything more without spoiling the ending, but unfortunately, I do not recommend this one.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (Thriller): I loved this one. I always enjoy a good book where the “bad” person isn’t who you think. I highly recommend this book. It’s a fast read and not too obvious. I could add this to a “beach read” list for sure.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (Thriller): Yes, yes, yes. I take back what I have said about favorite books, this one takes the cake for sure. It’s different, so when you read the first few chapters and are confused, just wait. It gets better. The writer talks about final girls, which are women who have surived brutal attacks and lived to tell the tale. If you can put yourself in that world, the book will make more sense.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (Fiction): There was a weekend that was really nice – like sit outside by the baby pool nice. I needed an easy book to read (for the second time) while I enjoyed the sun. This is a go-to for that for sure. Even though I read it last year, I still cried just as much the second time through.

Five Total Strangers by Natalie D Richards (Thriller): I very much enjoyed this one. I did read through it in one day. I wouldn’t rate it too high though. It’s was very obvious and similar to Riley Sager’s Survive the Night. I think I prefered that one to this even though I enjoyed this one.

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (Thriller): I am really loving St. James as a writer. This is my second novel by the author and I have the rest of hers qued up to read next. This was decent – a solid 4/5 because it kept me interested. I wouldn’t say its the best “whodunit” it though

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (Fiction): Another TikTok book that I knew I wouldn’t like but had to read to say I read it. It’s good and a fun beach read, but doesn’t do much for you. It’s cute.

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James (Thriller): Yep, it’s safe to say that I love St. James. I highly recommend this one as it includes bit of thriller, ghost story, and drama.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (YA fiction): When my brother was visiting, he asked me to get a tattoo with him. I was happy to oblige. I knew I wanted to get a literary themed tattoo to go with my Into The Wild bus, and I immediately thought of Stargirl which is a girl stick figure and a star. Stargirl is a great lesson on being different and how fitting in is hard. This beautiful book is one I will always recommend.

The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles by Julie Andrews (YA fiction): Similar to Stargirl, this book is one of my favorites from when I was a young girl. A friend of mine had a baby shower where they asked us to bring books instead of cards, and I thought of this one, which prompted me to reread it. And yes, this is by the same Julie Andrews you are thinking of.

An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James (Thriller): I wasn’t as interested in this one as I was with most of St. James’ other novels. I did like this one, but it was harder to get into the novel.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James (Thriller): This one I flew through. It’s as much love story as it is ghost story. I was slightly disappointed with the ending – for Maddy, but I do think overall it was a good read.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (Mystery): I’m not sure what made me read this one, but I am so glad I did. I had not heard anything about the book – series actually, before reading. I immediately grabbed books two and three in the series to add to my libby list.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (Romance/Fiction): I have to admit that I saw this Lucy Hale film before I read this book. I liked both, but am proud to say I enjoyed the book more. Sure it was obvious and an easy read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next Up: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn, The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley, The Club by Ellery Lloyd

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TV shows/mini-series of 2022!

Similar to books, I have a love of tv shows. I prefer mini-series mostly due to their length, but I can also appreciate a longer show. Also similar to what I have done with the books I’ve read, I thought I would throw together a very brief blog on some of the shows I watch throughout the year.

At this time, I have Netflix, HBO, Amazon, and Disney+ as my streaming services. I might also add Hulu back in there at some point, but for now, I am working with these four. As far as genres, I watch almost anything so if you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!

As of the end of Janurary, I am officially a movie/TV show writer for Movieweb.com so make sure you check out their page for up-to-date entertainment news! All of my posts will be housed under my name or can be found by clicking this link! Any recommendations, share them in the comments!

Show TitleStreaming ServiceGenreRating (out of 5)Comments
The WitcherNetflixFantasy/Action4.5/5I have to say I preferred season one. This was good, but it was almost boring. I think they are using season two to setup a FANTASTIC season three.
Emily in ParisNetflixDrama/Romance4/5Hate on this show all you want, but I love it. Lilly Collins is adorable and a good actress. The plot is obvious, but it’s supposed to be. This show isn’t meant to be awe-inspiring. For those saying this show ruined Collins, you’re wrong.
And Just Like ThatHBODrama3.5/5I am a hige Sex and the City fan girl. I often day dream about being Carrie Bradshaw – living and writing in New York – and he fashion. I prefer the original show to the movies which unfortunately is how I feel about this show. That being said, I will watch anything that comes out with this francise.
Spinning OutNetflixDrama4/5I wish this show had another season! Kaya Scodelario is one of my favorit actresses and this show really showcased her talent.
Stay CloseNetflixCrime/Drama/Thrller4.5/5Based on a novel by Harlan Coben, this is a limited series that keeps you on your toes. I was able to guess whodunit pretty quickly, but the acting, storyline, and connections made this a great series to watch.
The StrangerNetflixCrime/Drama/Thriller4.5/5Another one of Harlan Coben’s adaptations. It’s hard to decide which one I like more between this and Stay Close. This one was harder to figure out and a bit more involved. Between the two, I think I will have to watch all of his adaptations.
Money HeistNetflixAction/Drama/Crime4/5All I will say is if you can get past the bad dubbing and season 3 and the first half of season 4 then you will love this show!
Too Hot To HandleNetflixRealty TV3/5Just finished season 3…i know it’s a dumb show, but it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. All here for team Harry and Beaux!
SafeNetflixCrime/Drama/Thriller4/5Third Harlan Coben series I have watched now. I liked the other two more than this one, but I will admit that this series stumped me on whodunit.
Archive 81NetflixDrama/Horror/Mystery/Sci-Fi/Thriller5/5 YES YES YES. I cannot wait for season 2 (if there will be one – which there better be). Slower start but you are hooked quickly. Spooky images but nothing on Sinister’s level (which I think is the scariest movies ever – still love them though).
Tell Me Your SecretsAmazon PrimeCrime/Mystery/Drama/Thriller4/5 If you can get through the first 5-6 episodes, then this show is worth it. VERY slow start, but eposiodes 6-10 make it worth it. I will preface that this is some gore and lots of talk of rape so if you are triggered by those, I do not recommend. There better be a season 2. Just saying.
EuphoriaHBO MaxDrama4.5/5All aboard the Euphoria train. I am 3 years late, but I am on board with the series. The first season was better in my opinion, but I still really liked the second season.
Love Is Blind (season 2)NetflixRealty TV2.5/5 This is one of those shows that I hate to admit I love watching. The first season’s cast was better. This season’s was cringy.
ParanoidNetflixCrime/Mystery3.5/5Decent British crime show. Storyline was better than the acting though.
The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the WindowNetflixComedy3/5I didn’t want to watch this one, but I knew I had to. There are only 8 episodes all around 25 minutes long so I was able to binge it in one sitting. It’s funny as it should be.
All Of Us Are DeadNetflixAction/Drama4/5I loved this series! I rated 4 though because of all the deaths (no spoilers here, but the death in episode 11 was not necessary).
Young WallanderNetflixAction/Crime4/5Stumbled on this very short 6 episode season series accidentally and I loved it. The end of the first season ended abruptly but overall still good. The second season started out slow but ended up fantastic.
Inventing AnnaNetflixDrama3/5 so farCould not finish this. Just couldn’t get into it 😦
Pieces of HerNetflixCrime/Drama/Mystery4/5 I don’t understand the bad reviews people are giving this show. Sure Bella Heathcote’s performance isn’t my favorite, but the show is thrilling and the storyline is compelling. Toni Collette once again steals the show.
The TouristHBO MaxDrama/Mystery/Thriller4/5This was an overall good show. I enjoyed it and the quirky humor that was interlaced. It’s a little obvious, but worth watching.
BloodlineNetflixDrama/Thriller3/5Watched season 1 and am on Season 2 though I doubt I will finish it
Grey’s AnatomyABCDrama2/5 this season
4/5 whole show
I hate to say it, but season 18 was just not it for me.
BridgertonNetflixDrama4/5Absolutely loved this show. I think its the perfect mix of cliche and romance. Season two did not disappoint.
GreekHuluDrama/Comedy4.5/5This show is my comfort show. I could watch it on repeat forever.
Pam & TommyHuluBiography/Drama4/5I was very invested in this until the last episode, then I think I got distracted by TikTok. Loved the actors in it though – they all did so well.
The Ultimatium NetflixRealty-TV3/5train wreck and i love it
The Girl from PlainvilleHuluBiography/Drama/Crime4/5 so farCurrently watching
Gossip Girl HBO MaxDrama4/5The original of course. After Greek, I needed something else to watch.
Under the Banner of HeavenHuluBiography/Drama/Crime4.5/5Andrew Garfield is definitely one of my favorite actors after this. I really enjoyed this show and that it was based on a Jon Krakauer book.
The StaircaseHBO MaxBiography/Drama/Crime4/5I really wanted to love this show, but where it started well, it ended kinda slowly.
CandyHuluBiography/Drama/Crime4.5/5LOVED THIS SHOW. I am worried I will like this more than Elizabeth Olsen’s HBO Max version later this year.
Peaky BlindersNetflixDrama/Crime4/5Currently watching the whole series

The New and Improved KTWrites

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Allstar Beerfest held at PNC Park June 2020

Back in May of 2021, I applied to be an editor for my husband’s hometown magazine, Somerset Magazine. I didn’t get that job, but I was offered a position as a contributing writer instead YAY! Every month since June, my stories about a day trip to Pittsburgh have been featured (and mentioned on the cover – how COOL is that?).

Thanks to this job, I have decided that I want to rebrand KTWrites. Don’t worry, I am still going to keep up with short pieces on the books I have read, but I think that writing about my city would be more interesting to a larger audience.

With that being said, welcome to KTWrites 2.0 where we find new and exciting things to do around the city of Pittsburgh, PA. Together we can fall back in love with the city and all it has to offer whether it is through the events you can attend or the food you can eat, I promise it’s going to be a fun ride.

Drop any recommendations or places you want me to visit in the comments!

Let’s Take a Day Trip to: Pittsburgh’s Bookstores

The evolution of books is a long and beautiful history. Did you know the first book—as we know them today—was published in the 1830s when book jackets were added and “cheap” novels were born? To the working class, these “penny dreadfuls” were just mass-marketed British paperback novels that cost a penny. As these books migrated to America, the term “dime novel” was coined, which roughly means a sensationalized yet superficial piece of written work. Over the next hundred years, books evolved from print to e-book versions.

Did you also know that in 1995, Amazon launched the first-ever platform for online books? Or that Stephen King’s “Riding the Bullet” is credited as the first mass-marketed online book? Or even that the launch of Amazon’s Kindle sold out in 5.5 hours and remained out of stock for almost five months?

Books are my favorite things in the world! Since I can remember, I have always had a book with me. Whether it was a trip to the mall, an overnight stay at the grandparents or a family vacation, I never left home without a book. While I will admit to having an extensive Kindle library, I do still prefer to read a physical book.

Following are a few of the well-known bookstores in the Pittsburgh area. I have not visited any of them, but after researching for this article, I plan to rectify that. Maybe I will see you there. 

City Books – image taken from Google

City Books

908 Galveston Ave. (in the North Side) 

Hours: Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday by appointment only

Website: http://www.citybookspgh.com

City Books, Pittsburgh’s oldest bookstore, was established in 1984 under the ownership of Arlan Hess. City Books is a used bookstore, with most book prices under $10. Collectible and first editions are available around the $30 price point. Limited book sales happen online via the store’s Instagram account. Since City Books is predominately a used bookstore, it does not often carry newer titles. However, City Books offers a Bookshop.org storefront where readers can purchase new books from the distributor for direct home delivery. City Books also has a trade-in program, offering store credit for previously read books. The bookstore is very selective about its inventory, so if you wish to participate in the trade-in program, please email photos of your books to citybookspgh@gmail.com.

White Whale Bookstore front – image taken from Google

White Whale Bookstore 

4754 Liberty Ave.

Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Website: whitewhalebookstore.com

White Whale Bookstore is a family-owned, general-interest bookstore that opened in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville area in 2016. Its selection of books includes contemporary and literary fiction and nonfiction, poetry, history, philosophy, local authors, independent presses, children’s books and much more. When the pandemic hit, White Whale expanded to include an online book inventory. Today, you can either visit in person or shop online from the comfort of your own home. 

Amazing Books and Records – image taken from Google

Amazing Books and Records 

929 Liberty Ave. (downtown Pittsburgh)

Hours: Monday through Thursday 12-6 p.m., Friday and Sunday  12–4 p.m.

5858 Forbes Ave. (Squirrel Hill) 

Hours: Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m  

Website: amazingbooksandrecords.com

Amazing Books and Records is known for its free book or record deal: a free book or record with the purchase of three items (free item not to exceed $10). The company’s Liberty Avenue location first opened in 2013, and its Squirrel Hill location opened the following year. Both locations buy used books and records, so the company’s inventory is constantly growing. The company will purchase any books or records, but it’s best to check the website to see what genres are needed. While on the website, you can also browse the online inventory or use a link to preorder any new book at a discount. Amazing Books and Records also offer Book & (free) Beer Nights! — every Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Squirrel Hill store and every Saturday about an hour after sunset until midnight so that you can drink while you browse. ID is required, and nonalcoholic beverages are available, so all ages are permitted. 

Caliban Book Shop – image taken from their website

Caliban Book Shop 

410 S Craig St.

Hours: Daily from 12-5:30 p.m.

Website: CalibanBooks.com

Caliban Book Shop is a used bookstore in the heart of Oakland near the Carnegie Museum of Art. The shop buys and sells used and rare books. They have a wide variety of books but tend to avoid purchasing bestsellers, romance novels, and the like. Their prices are about 25% less than online retailers. While they offer in-store shopping only, you can visit the website and preview some of the store’s inventory, including Caliban Book’s selection of rare books. The store also carries a mix of indie rock, ’60s pop, punk, Americana, folk, blues, and jazz albums. 

Shadyside Books – image taken from Google

Shadyside Books 

5900 Ellsworth Ave. 

Hours: Daily from 12-7 p.m.

Website: ShadysideBooks.com

Shadyside Books carries over 5,000 books in all fields, with specialties in history, arts, and the sciences. It is located on the second floor of the Caboodle Trading Post store in Shadyside. Books are available for purchase books both in-store and online. The store’s inventory is available online via their website, and new items are added frequently under the New Arrivals website tab. 

Whether you decide to visit these bookstores in person or online, I do hope you at least check them out or refer a friend. Print books are a dying art, so let’s do our part by shopping local and keeping books around for future generations. There’s no better feeling than the satisfaction one gets after finishing the last page of a hardcover novel.

Let’s Take a Day Trip to a Winter Wonderland: Pittsburgh Edition

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I appreciate all different kinds of Christmas celebrations. From Light Up Night to skating at PPG Place, Pittsburgh really knows how to ring in the holiday cheer.

Last year, Pittsburgh’s holiday spirit was lacking, with most big events canceled due to COVID-19. Thankfully, this year, we are seeing the return of most of the main events. So, if you are looking to get out of the house, here are some of my favorite events for you to check out this holiday season:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, at PPG Paints Arena.

Tickets: Prices vary depending on seat selection. Tickets can be purchased via third-party services, such as Ticketmaster.

Hours: Showtimes at 3 p.m. or 8 p.m.

Perhaps one of the most well-known orchestras, Trans-Siberian brings its Christmas concert to Pittsburgh for one of the season’s best shows. This year marks the 25th year of their Christmas Eve & Other Stories show, which combines the orchestra’s rock sound with powerful Christmas ballads. PPG Paints Arena is a cashless venue that prohibits bags larger than 8 inches by  5 inches x 1 inch. Masks are not required for fully vaccinated guests.

Highmark First Night (aka Pittsburgh’s 2022 New Year’s Eve Party): Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, at 120 Fifth Avenue Place and throughout the Cultural District.

Tickets: General admission is free. Tickets to select performances will be required. More information will be available via the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust website (trustarts.org) in early December.

Hours: 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.

There will be hundreds of things to see and do, including art shows, live music and delicious food-truck food. More information on the vendors will be available closer to the event date. Parking is always challenging for these kinds of events. If you don’t mind a bit of a walk, I recommend parking at the garages near the stadiums where it will be less crowded and cheaper to park.

The Peoples Gas Holiday Market (Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh): Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, through Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2021 (closed Thanksgiving).

Sky view of the market – Photo from the website

Tickets: No purchase is necessary.

Hours: Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Pittsburgh’s Market Square transforms into a winter wonderland for this month-long holiday market. Come check out locally made crafts, eat great foods and listen to live music all month long. Parking is available in the surrounding garages.

Ice Skating at PPG Place: Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, through Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at 1 PPG Place.

Tickets: $12 for adults and $11 for children (through age 12) and seniors. Skate rental is $6, with a discount available to military and first responders who show a valid ID.

Hours: Holiday Hours (Nov. 19, 2021, to Jan. 9, 2022) are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m./Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Winter Hours run from Jan. 10, 2022, to Feb. 27, 2022. See the website (www.ppgplace.com) for details.

The plaza between Third and Fourth avenues transforms into a 116-foot square ice rink (larger than the Rockefeller Center rink in New York City). Make sure to check out their website for information on skating sessions as well as some discount dates. The rink is open until the end of February. Tickets can be purchased online as well as in person. Masks are required for all visitors. Parking is available in nearby parking garages.

Phipps Conservatory Winter Flower Show: Nov. 19, 2021, through Jan. 9, 2022, at 1 Schenley Drive.

Phipps Conservatory Light and Flower Display – photo from their website

Tickets: $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors and students, and $11.95 for children (2-18). Members and children under 2 are free. Please purchase tickets in advance via Phipps’ website (phipps.conservatory.org).

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

With a theme of Sparkle and Shine, this year’s Winter Flower Show includes holiday trees, topiaries, Christmas-themed props, and, of course, flowers. It features amaryllis, orchids, and more than 1,600 poinsettias. The event is both indoors and outdoors and features a Victorian holiday display, a 9-foot-tall Christmas tree and ice palaces. Make sure you check out Phipps’ website for an aerial view of the light display. Parking is available in nearby lots.

Zoo Lights Drive-Thru at Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium: Select days from Nov. 26 through Dec. 30 at 7370 Baker Street.

Penguin Lights – From Pittsburgh Zoo’s Website

Tickets: Zoo members: $40 per vehicle. Nonmembers: $50 per vehicle. Please purchase tickets online via the zoo’s website (pittsburghzoo.org), as you must choose a timeslot for entry.

Hours: Select nights from Friday, Nov. 26 through Thursday, Dec. 30 from 5:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. Estimated drive-thru time: 45-60 minutes.

Grab your ticket to see the lights at the Pittsburgh Zoo. You can listen to a special podcast while you drive through the zoo at night. While the animals may be hard to see, the 80 animal lights and 30 new displays will make up for it. Feel free to plan a day visit to see the animals and then reserve your slot for a night view with lights. Vehicle size is limited to 20 feet long and 6 1/2 feet wide. The zoo recommends that guests drive their smallest vehicle due to the limited pathway size.

Let’s Take a Trip to Pittsburgh: Gastropub Stops

Once the weather turns cold, I find myself turning to comfort foods and a nice drink to pair it with. As someone who loves food, I am constantly on the hunt for new places to try out. Over the past few years, I heard about something called a gastropub. 

Gastropub or gastrobar is a hybrid type of bar known for both its libations and food menu. True, most places fit this definition, but to me, gastropubs also offer the perfect atmosphere: a place that is cozy and relaxed, crowded but not packed, and quiet enough that I can have a conversation without having to scream across the table. Doesn’t this sound like the perfect way to spend a chilly Saturday? 

Here are some of my all-time favorites. 

Image from Sienna Mercado’s Instagram page

Sienna Mercado (942 Penn Ave) is a three-in-one all evening fun with meatballs, charcuterie, and rooftop cocktails. Emporio: The meatball joint features gourmet meatballs, salads, snacks, fry bowls, and desserts made from scratch, daily.  As perhaps the most well-known part of Sienna Mercado chain, Emporio certainly offers a unique cuisine.  Mezzo: houses the fine wine, charcuterie boards, and wood fire pizza. Reservations are available through Open Table for Mezzo only. This is the perfect atmosphere for a girl’s night out or a casual group function. IlTetto: A Rooftop Beer Garden offers 32 drafts, cocktails, wine, and light fare while showcasing one of the best views of downtown Pittsburgh. The retractable glass roof allows for year-round fun with and open-air in warmer months.

Wigle Whiskey

Wigle Whiskey (2401 Smallman Street) you might guess, is known for their whiskey, but did you also know that it is milled, fermented, distilled, aged, bottled, and labeled all in Pittsburgh? Their whiskey is smooth and the perfect based for an old fashioned. Whiskey flights are available for those who want to try more than one kind of their whiskey. If you are looking for something other than whiskey, their Tom Sawyer, which is a mix of Dutch style gin, threadbare strawberry rhubarb cider, seltzer, cherry syrup, and orange bitters, is very refreshing. Did you also know that it is more than just a whiskey bar? While they have a larger variety of foods, my favorites are their burgers, which come on pretzels buns and their pulled pork mac and cheese made with threadbare cider and Wigle bourbon BBQ sauce. Their handheld sandwiches are baked on the Mediterra Café bread which is from a local forage market and bakery in Mt Lebanon and worth checking out if you are ever over there! Street parking is available within a short walking distance. It is better to park in the Strip District and walk the two blocks to Wigle. 

The Yard (736 Bellefonte Street or 100 Fifth Ave) is its own unique place where you come for the huge draft list but stay for the gourmet grilled cheese. The grilled cheese sandwiches are served with a cup of tomato soup and fries. If you want to carbo-load, I recommend upgrading for the mac n cheese. There are many great ones to choose from, but I recommend either the Smack yo Mama made with beer cheese, cheddar, onion straws, sweet and tangy BBQ pulled chicken or the Perogies n’at made with cheddar, smoked gouda, beer cheese, fried perogies, caramelized onions, sauerkraut, kielbasa. There are over 30 rotating drafts available to enjoy with your sandwiches as well! The Yard is pretty good at keeping the lists up to date on their website for both locations. In Shady side, there is a parking garage directly next to The Yard and in Market Square there are a few garages withing a few blocks walking distance. 

CInderland’s Tartshake

Cinderlands Warehouse (2601 Smallman Street) is probably my favorite from this list. When I lived in Lawrenceville, I visited here once a month. There are a few locations now, but their Warehouse location is the best for dine in eating. Without fail, each time I go, I get the Crunch Wrap, a delicious wrap filled with shredded beef, Fritos, beer cheese, hot sauce, and Aleppo sour cream, and their tartshakes. To be frank, I come here for the tartshake, which is basically a fruited sour with a flavored puree. Right now, they have a blueberry one that is made from blueberry puree, PA maple syrup, Ceylon cinnamon, milk sugar, and Madagascar vanilla bean. These are on the sweeter side but so good. Cinderlands draft list rotates frequently so be sure to check the website to view their draft list before you head down to visit. If you love the beer as much as I do, 6 packs are available for in-store pickup and delivery. Street parking is available nearby on the adjacent streets. 

Urban Tap (1209 East Carson St or 216 South Highland Ave) is a gastropub that specializes in alcohol and appetizers. With over 140 taps between the two locations plus an extensive wine and mixed drink menu, Urban Tap is the perfect place to try out a new favorite drink. They have Happy Hour specials as well as game day specials as well. For the food, their appetizers are the way to go here. You can’t go wrong with a giant pretzels pair great with an ice-cold beer, the smoked gouda mac and cheese washed down with a stiff drink, or the fried Brussel sprouts paired with a nice glass of wine. Reservations are available on their website for either location. Street parking is available for both the South Side and Shady Side locations. 

Are you hungry yet? I know I am now. Which one do you want to go to first? Drop a comment below.

Let’s Take a Trip to Lawrenceville

About a mile away from the Strip District, starts my second favorite area of Pittsburgh, which is Lawrenceville! Lawrenceville is an up-and-coming area with entertainment for all ages. Located predominately on Penn Ave and Butler Street, Lawrenceville has quickly grown into the perfect little village.  

Lawrenceville is broken up into three sections: Lower, Central, and Upper Lawrenceville. Lower Lawrenceville starts right outside of The Strip District which turns into Central Lawrenceville (where most of the popular businesses are), and finally reaches Upper Lawrenceville as you get closer to Highland Park. 

Allegheny Cemetery and Arsenal Park are two of the most well-known attractions in Lawrenceville, but it is also home to Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Consortium and Children’s Hospital UPMC Campus. 

One of my favorite draws of Lawrenceville are all of the locally owned small businesses. Whether you are looking for coffee shops, bakeries, a place for a happy hour, or a family dining experience, almost all of your choices will be from the mind of a small business owner. 

There are almost 200 business located in the Lawrenceville area and while all of them are worth checking out, I went ahead and planned out a day for you that highlights a few of the unique stops on the Lawrenceville tour. 

Important note! Parking in Lawrenceville is 99% street parking. I recommend parking in the residential areas near the 40th Street Bridge off of Butler Street or in the public parking lot by Condado Tacos. It is better to park in one place and walk rather than try to find street parking. Parking on Butler Street will be at a cost, but if you can find a spot of the side streets off of Butler, those are free to park! 

9am: Start with a nice cold brew or iced chai at Espresso a Mano (3623 Butler St). If you didn’t already know, I do not function without coffee. When I lived in Lawrenceville, one of my morning routines on a Saturday included starting my day at this coffee and espresso bar. They feature a garage door that is always open during the nice, sunny days. With the welcoming environment and exceptional customer service, Espresso a Mano is the perfect place for coffee. 

Espresso A Mano

9:30am: Grab a traditional French bakery breakfast from La Gourmandine (4605 Butler St). La Gourmandine opened in 2010 and has been a staple to Lawrenceville life since they opened their doors. While you have to enjoy your pastries to go, the menu to choose from is worth standing while eating! With selections ranging from bread to danishes, pastries, and tartes, there is a little bit of everything for each person’s taste! It is important to note, that from the time they open at 9am there will be a line! Stay and wait it out though, you will not find a better traditional French bakery around! 

11am: Browse the local shops of Central Lawrenceville. Start with Wildcard (4209 Butler Street) a one-of-a-kind store where you can find anything from a homemade craft to a Pittsburgh shirt, or a gag gift for a friend! Fun fact, most items are locally made from a Pittsburgh artist! From there, you can check out some of my favorite boutiques like No 14 (4601 Butler) or Pavement (3629 Butler St) who specialize in trendy teen to middle-aged women’s clothing. 

Not feeling like shopping? Then check out the Roberto Clemente Museum (3339 Penn Ave) located in historic Engine House 25. Make sure to take your photo in front of Clemente’s mural. If you are visiting the museum, be sure to book your tour in advance! Tours are not available to those who have not booked their tour in advance. An added bonus, parking is available onsite! 

Roberto Clemente Museum

1:30pm: If you are not full yet from breakfast, grab a sandwich to fuel your afternoon from The Deli on Butler (4110 Butler St). Deli on Butler is your traditional local, family-run sandwich shop. When my husband worked in Lawrenceville, Deli on Butler was a in his weekly lunch rotation. If you were to ask him, he would tell you to get their Pasquale sandwich:  a roast beef, ham, turkey, cheese, with a house “special sauce” delicious sandwich! 

3pm: Take some time to relax and take a float at Victory Float Lounge (3345 Penn Ave). Yes, go take a float! Floating is a new hype designed to help relax, destress, and soothe your mind and body. You, and a partner if you wish, can book a time slot to float in a chamber filled with 12” of water and a ton of Epson salt. For those that are claustrophobic like me, I can promise you that while you are technically enclosed, it does not feel like it! This sensory deprivation chamber feels as spacious as floating in a pool. I highly recommend checking out Victory Float’s website to learn more about floating and to book your appointment! 

Victory Float Lounge

4:30pm: After your hour relaxing in an Epsom salt bath, have some fun at Mix Candle Co. formally known as The Candle Lab (4409 Butler St)! Mix Candle Co is a great place for those who love all things candles! Create your own unique scent with a Scent Stylist or dip your own candle! Reservations are encouraged, but walk-ins are allowed when available. The whole process takes roughly 30 minutes but takes an additional 90 for the candle to dry. During that time, you can visit some of the local stores nearby or visit Kickback Pinball just across the street for some old school arcade fun! Arsenal Bowling is also nearby for those who want to try the luck on the lanes!

6pm: Have a nice, sit down dinner at Merchant Oyster Co (4129 Butler St). For those looking for the perfect seafood restaurant, look no further! Merchant Oyster Co is a Northeast Style Oyster Bar and Chowder House who also specializes in lobster rolls and crab cakes. No reservations are needed; however, you can book a seat using the OpenTable app through Merchant Oyster’s website. I will forever recommend their clam chowder or the Clam Stuffies, as seen pictured here, as I have yet to find another place that even comes close to the taste! 

8pm: Wind down your night sitting outside in the beer garden at Arsenal Cider House – Original Urban Cider House location (300 39th Street – closer to Penn Ave side). Stop inside and ask the bartender for a nice cider before retiring to the spacious beer garden complete with outdoor tables, a firepit, and live entertainment. 

There are so many other great places to visit in Lawrenceville! I hope you can fall in love with it as much as I have and maybe then you can plan your Lawrenceville day trip!

Books I’ve Read in 2021

If you haven’t gathered yet, I read a lot. And, If you also haven’t noticed, I like to share about the books I have read, which brings us to this reoccurring blog post! Every time I finish a book, I will post a short snippet here.

SO, if you are looking for a good book, follow along with me as I read throughout 2021!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: (Fiction) Absolutely perfect. If you want a book mixed with drama, suspense, and a touching ending, look no further! There are so many wonderful things I can say about this novel. It lives up to the hype, I promise.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: (Fiction) Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think this novel lived up to expectations. Yes, it was a good story, but, in my opinion, there was too many story lines going on. It was very hard to follow sometimes and it almost seemed rushed in some places. I loved the ideas going on in this novel, I just wish Ng could have shortened the character list down. If you can handle lots of intermixing storylines, give this one a chance! Maybe you can find some greatness out of what I missed.

The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware: (Thriller) Be prepared to find a lot of Ruth Ware on my list. I read 3 of her 5 novels last year and will definitely read any new ones. Ware’s writing has you thinking you figured it out, but then tricks you at the last minute. Out of all of her novels, this is my least favorite, but still a great read.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: (Fiction) You have to hand it to Reese Witherspoon, she can sure pick a great book! This book should be on every woman’s list of books they have to read before they die. It is a story of survival, friendship, and revenge! Quinn swoops you up and carries you through decades of fearless women. You will not be able to put this book down.

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim: (Fiction) A beautiful and touching story of cultural divide between traditional and contemporary culture. Kim uses past (mother’s POV) and present tense (daughter’s POV) to divide the story and help you figure out how Mina Lee died. I call this a fiction novel even though it handles death because, to me, it was more about family relationships rather than a “whodunit”.

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister: (Fiction) Wow, what a unique idea for a story – a story of scents. I loved every minute of this novel. You must read this one. It has been a while since I have read such a heartwarming story.

Circe by Madeline Miller: (Fiction) I am in a book club with some friends and this is one of our picks. I have always loved Greek Mythology, but other than the Odyssey, I have not heard much of Circe. After reading this novel, I would say she is one of my favorites. Miller is a phenomenal author and writes the style of book I someday hope to write. For those who love Greek Mythology or those that are just looking for a strong female novel this should be on your list.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel: (Fiction) A touching story about the transition of a young boy into a girl. Frankel writes in such a way that you feel and being to understand this delicate topic. You can tell how much research and heart went into this novel. I highly recommend.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse: (Thriller) I was VERY excited for this one. And, unfortunately, I was mostly letdown. I was expecting a psychological thriller, but got a family squabble. Overall, still worth reading.

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda: (Thriller) After being semi-letdown by The Sanatorium, I tried this one. And I was letdown again. The “whodunit” was obvious and there was a lot of whining by the main character. I am probably being a bit harsh, but I really wanted to love this book more than I did.

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke: (Crime/Investigation) It was hard to categorize this one. It is supposed to be a thriller, but to me, it was just more of a detective novel. With that being said, it was a great read. Locke talks about race, Texas, gangs, murder, and love. She brilliantly weaves all of these into a great novel.

Tribe: On Homecoming & Belonging by Sebastian Junger: (Non-Fiction) Another book club choice. To be honest, I skimmed through this one. After discussing with the other book club members, I realize how much more I could have gotten out of this book. It’s a powerful true piece with lots of research on PTSD, groups, and life.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: (Suspense) Favorite suspense novel I have read to date, 100%!! Turton is a genius. I am very good as figuring out who the killer is, but Turton stumped me. Anyone who wants a great page turner, you MUST read this one. It reminds me a lot of an Agatha Christie novel.

One by One by Ruth Ware: (Thriller) Hands down my favorite Ware novel. I flew through this one in two days! There is so much I can say, but I don’t want to give anything away. You must read this!!

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Women by Balli Kaur Jaswal: (Fiction) A great book filled with culture, healing, humor, and, of course, erotic stories. This was such a fun novel to read. There were so many facets to it that you had to keep reading.

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth: (Suspense?) It’s hard to classify this one. It’s a novel about a death, but there is so much to this one. I LOVED IT!! I bought this book on a whim at Barnes and Noble and I am so glad I did. It’s an easy to read novel that keeps you on your toes.

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut: (Classic) Yes, I am calling this a classic, because that is what it is to me. It’s so one-of-a-kind, so Vonnegut. It’s confusing and I spent more time trying to decipher what I was reading, but this is just one of those novels that everyone needs to read at some point in their lives.

The Dilemma by B.A. Paris: (Suspense) I loved this book because of what Paris chose to be the question. You know who died, but you don’t know when they die. You have to keep reading because you have to know when! When does she die? When will he tell the wife? When will the wife break? It’s great!

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell: (Thriller) I have to be honest and admit I read this book because of TikTok. I swear it was everywhere! And I am so glad it was. Jewell uses a few different POVs to tell this story and it works. You get just enough from each POV that you have it figured out at the end. I will definitely read more of her.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: (Fiction) Moyes has been a favorite of mine thanks to her Me Before You series. I love her writing style of humor interlaced with serious topics. This novel is perfect and such an easy read. It’s a story about finding yourself and also embracing what makes you different.

50 Shades of Grey (All 3 Novels) by EL James: (Fiction/Erotica) I have read these before, but I had to reread them in anticipation of the last Grey series novel coming out in June. We all know about these books, I don’t think I have to say much. I enjoy reading them. Obviously there are many parts I am squeamish about, but I still enjoy the series.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo: (Fiction) I absolutely loved this story. I will push it on anyone. It’s such a unique story that ties in culture, love, and a little bit of suspense. I will admit it gets confusing in places, but it’s such a hard book to put down. Who is the Night Tiger? Or more so, what is it?

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver: (Fiction) Silver is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. She is witty and brings life to her characters in a way that makes you read a 300 page novel in one day. ((YES that means I read this in one day!!!)) It’s a love story cliche about losing your loved one for, but who doesn’t love a great love story.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: (Fiction) WOW. What would you do if you had the chance to live out all of the lives you regret? Would you choose you current life with all its flaws or would you pick another one…even if that meant it was a worse life for those you loved? Such a powerful and through provoking novel. Haig is a genius. This book should be one everyone’s bookshelf.

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton: (Historical Fiction) Last year, I read the sister novel by Cleeton “Next Year in Havana”, and when I found out she had another novel about the headstrong sister, I knew I had to read this. Cleeton’s writing style allows you to learn about a fictional family who may have gone through similar issues as real families during the reign of Fidel Castro in Cuba. I highly recommend reading both of Cleeton’s novels if you are interested in historical fiction.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: (Fiction)I can honestly say that I have never read a book so fast in my life. I think I read this in about 5 hours. This is about domestic abuse, but rather than it focusing on the abuse, it focused on the girl’s strength and self-worth. It can be hard to read for those that are triggered, but I can say that this novel is not graphic and does not go into much detail about the actual abuse. It is so much more than a novel about domestic abuse. I truly believe anyone who has a heart should read this one.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: (Fiction) As an Oprah’s book choice, I was very excited to read this one! Jones breaks this novel up using different POVs per chapter so you can get a look into each main character’s mind. This method helps the reader really feel a part of the story. It is a little slow-paced, but still worth reading.

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry: (Fiction/Suspense) As you know, I love a good suspense novel, so every time Reese adds a suspense novel to her bookclub list, I jump at the chance to read it. This novel starts out slow, but by part 2, I was HOOKED!!! I had a slow day at work, so I started this one and was done by the time I went to bed. It is a easy read (there are a lot of characters that take a second to remember their significance) but Berry does a great job with the subtle reminders. I highly recommend this novel. I would call this a mix of crime, suspense, and fiction.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: (Fiction) WOW. If I could reread a book for the first time, it would be this one. A friend recommended that I read this and now I am recommending it to everyone!!! This touches on a bit of fantasy, but if you love magic and the circus it is great. There is a love story, but not very much – there is much more to it. I highly recommend finding a comfy seat, grabbing a cup of tea, and enjoying this novel. You will not regret it!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Fiction) Earlier in the year, we read Circe, also by Miller. I absolutely loved it, so I knew I had to read her first novel. This story focuses on Patroclus and Achilles and their possible love for each other! As a lover of Greek mythology, I was very excited to read this one. It is definitely a very possible take on their friendship – I will have to look more into this and see there is more to the story.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (Thriller) Let me start by saying this book deserves the hype. BUT, let me also say, you have to get through the first hundred and fifty pages before you get the feeling that you “cannot put the book down”. There a few great twists once you get past the character introduction of the first pages. I promise, just get through the first 150 pages and you will love this! Side note, I do not recommend the movie version (it is not as good as the book).

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (Fiction/Crime) Finally a perfect Reese book!! I flew through this book. Every page of it had me captured!!! The main character’s husband leaves a 2 word note and you spend the rest of the book working with her to find out who exactly is the man she married. I could definitely see this book being turned into a movie! This is an easy and exciting read – it’s a perfect book to read at the beach or pool.

Watching You by Lisa Jewell (Thriller) Jewell is quickly becoming one of my favorite thriller authors! There are a lot of intertwining characters that make up this story. It takes awhile to figure out how they all finally mesh together. I read this book outside in my baby pool and I could not put it down!

Paper Towns by John Green (Fiction) I have read this book (and all of John Green’s books) many times. When I am looking for a light-hearted and fun book, I will almost always go to one of his. I fly through it every time and I love it! Looking for Alaska is my favorite one by him, but I recommend this one too. The movie is pretty great too!

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan (Suspense) This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a few years now. I have started to read it a few times, but the slow beginning always had me putting it down and not picking me back up. This time I stuck it out and I am glad that I did! Macmillan shows the POV through the eyes of the detective and the mother of the son who gets abducted. The two characters don’t actually interact much with each other so this separate POVs help the reader get the full emotion.

Sugar High by Alexandra Park (Autobiography) I am absolutely in love with Alexandra Park. I watched her in the E! Network show, The Royals and fell in love with her! This book is her story about finding out about her Diabetes diagnosis and then landing the role on The Royals. It is an eye-opening book that is easy to read. Very informational, but there is a lot of story involved. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to read about other celebrities when they are not in full glam!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Historical Fiction based on Real Life) This is another bookclub book. I have always enjoyed (as much as anyone can) reading about WW II. Not in a sick way of course, but in the way that you get to learn something new each time. Yes, this is a love story that takes place inside the walls of Auschwitz, but it is still thrilling and a fight for survival. It is a new take on how those Hitler deemed unworthy survived. I highly recommend reading this one.

The Arc of the Scythe Trilogy by Neal Shusterman (Science Fiction) Yes, I know it’s taken how many books before a you found a science fiction book on my list. Well, you can thank my brother for these! He bought me the first book for my birthday and I immediately ordered the last two! These books were written so well I actually had to google the style the book was supposed to be, because to me they were dystopian, but it was also an easy-to-enjoy fiction series. I will note these books are rather lengthy, but I still recommend giving them a shot! Who knows, maybe I will have to read a few more from Shusterman or even let another science fiction author sway me to the dark side.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (Suspense) Tiktok made me buy it. AND THANK GOODNESS I DID. I could not put this down! I am adding all of Michaelides’ books to my future “you need to read these” list. Grab a glass of wine, hunker down on the couch, and dive into the world of a psychological thriller. Best suspense/thriller novel I have read this year hands down

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (Suspense) Yes, I admit I read this one after I watched the Netflix short series. I won’t deny I loved the series so much I knew I had to read the book to see if it was at all like it played out to be. HOLY MIND TWIST though! SO GOOD. I obviously knew it was coming after watching the show, but it was still so good. Definitely a little sci-fi/magic but in a good way.

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell (Suspense) After reading Watching You by Jewell, I knew I had to read more by her. This one was so good. Lots of POVs and storylines to keep up with but the tie-in at the end is good.

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover (Drama) I have been getting a lot of my book recommendations from Tiktok lately and I am not even mad about it! I swear every one I saw had this one at the top of the list and I can see why. My husband and I drove to the beach for our anniversary and I flew through this book in 4 hours of the car ride! I cried, it was beautiful. Corny and expected ending but who doesn’t love a book like that?

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (Drama) I liked this book. I know that is vague, but this book was rough. The relationship between the young girl and twenty-something man was hard to get through. It crosses a line a bit, but once you get through that it’s a good story. Definitely interesting.

Verity by Colleen Hoover (Fiction – suspense) A MUST READ!! I love the Colleen Hoover, obviously, but this is her first slight suspense novel I have read. I say slight because it really isn’t suspense in the sense of the stories you are used to for the genre, but there is some suspense around the character of Verity. You will fly through this one, I promise.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Drama) Ok, so there is a lot of hype around this book. It’s valid, but to me, Reid’s best novel is Daisy Jones and the Six. It will be very hard to change my mind on that. However, I LOVE the concept behind this book. It’s a compelling read and vulnerable. So easy to fall in love with and even has a little twist

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood (Drama) This was a cute book. The main character was rough, but that was the point. It was rushed in places and very obvious ending, but still an easy read. I’d say a 7/10

Conviction by Denise Mina (Suspense) This was a nice one. After finding out her husband is leaving her for her best friend, Anna listens to a podcast to find out it is about an old friend of hers. Compelled to learn more, she teams up with an unlikely person to clear his good name.

Layla by Colleen Hoover (Suspense) I have to admit I am a HUGE Hoover fan now, thank you TikTok. Verity is still my favorite one by her, but I LOVED the concept behind this book. Leeds, the main character, knows something is up with his gf/fiance Layla, but, what he doesn’t suspect, is what the real problem is! This is a must read. It’s suspense but also fiction and romance. It’s so hard to categorize books anymore!!

A Court of Thorns and Roses (The 4 book series including this, A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Wings and Ruin, and a Court of Frost and Starlight) Please please PLEASE you have to read this series. I cannot emphasize this enough. My best friend introduced me and I will forever be indebted to her for them. Books 1-3 are the most important. Book 4 is completely unnecessary to the story line but it’s such a fast read that you might as well read it. There are some x-rated scenes FYI. Word of advice, get the kindle versions. These books are huge and heavy enough that they make my Norton Anthologies from college seem small

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Fiction) I was very excited to read this one as I saw it every time I went to Target! I’m glad I did. I got distracted halfway through and started reading the Court of Thorns and Roses books, but I was able to pick this one back up no problem. The storyline is good and the characters are relatable. It felt a little rushed, but still worth a read.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Suspense) This novel is known as one of the best thrillers of its time. It is an old book so the language is more difficult to get through, but this story will have you hooked very quickly! The first few chapters are slow, but once you are about a quarter of the way through the book you will not be able to put it down.

Survive the Night by Rile Sager (Suspense) YES. You know right away this one is going to be good because you think it’s obvious. A girl accepts a ride from a complete stranger knowing her roommate died at the hands of a stranger…yet she goes anyways. But it’s not so obvious that you can see the ending coming! You will fly through this one – I promise.

Everything We Didn’t Say by Nicole Baart (Suspense) YES again. I am obsessed. This is definitely my new most recommended suspense/thriller novel. I read it in one day while I was supposed to be working (oops!). June is my new favorite female badass. Please read this one. I know I have said it for most of the books I’ve read this year, but trust me really on this one.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (Fiction) I got this one with my book of the month and honestly it did not live up the hype. I saw this all over TikTok and was excited to read it only to be letdown. This is a definition of a predictable book. It was fun to read, of course, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover (Fiction) Further proof I am in the Colleen Hoover fan club. Yes, her books are predictable. Yes, they don’t involve much thought. But, I still love them. This one was very cute – a little bit of a surprise at how the relationship ends up, but a good read.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (Suspense) I looked up the “best thrillers” via a Google search and found this one. After reading a few chapters, I could tell why it was on there. This is a must read for a slow-burn thriller lover. I would absolutely LOVE to see this turned in a TV mini-series. The characters and how St. James weaves together two decades creates a perfect read.

Too Late by Colleen Hoover (Fiction) I read this over Thanksgiving at my in-laws. It was once again a typical Hoover novel. This one has a bit of a suspense mode to it and a few endings. If you are triggered by emotional abuse and rape, I don’t recommend this one.

Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Short-story Fiction) This short story has me ready to write something similar! Reid tells this sad story via letter of two people who’s spouses are in an affair. For a short story, there is so much emotion. Take an hour and read this, trust me.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (Suspense) Eh, honestly not impressed. I loved the other two novels by Jewell, but this one did not compare. There wasn’t really an ending – nothing was solved for me. There was so much buildup for it to just abruptly end.

The Searcher by Tana French (Suspense-ish) This was a very slow book. I found this book on a list of someone’s top suspense books. It fell very short for me. The setting is in Ireland (as is the author) so the dialogue was spoken with Irish slang that got hard to follow – there is a LOT of dialogue/prose in this book. Also, I don’t see where the suspense came into play. It was more a detective story with an obvious ending. The biggest twist was around the character of Trey and even that wasn’t earth-shattering for me. It’s a good read, but I don’t think I would recommend.

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz (Suspense) I’ve taken a little time off of my Reese Witherspoon book club picks, but I saw this on sale at Target the other week and had to purchase. I started and finished this in 24 hours. I could.not.put.it.down. Wow – I’m not sure if I loved this one more because of the let down The Searcher was for me or if it was really that good, but I LOVED this one.

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey (Romance/Smut) Based on the genre, I knew this book would not have much of a story line. Vivid scenes, but obvious story line. I have seen this one all over TikTok and it was on sale for my Kindle one day which was the only reason I read it. I definitely prefer something with more taste, but this was an easy, decent one-day read.

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly (Suspense) I also got this one from TikTok – in fact I put it on my Christmas list strictly because I only saw this pop up with one account – so I knew it was not popularized and that I would most likely LOVE IT. Boy did I ever. Definitely gore-y scenes, but wow you it has you mind f***ed. I was able to figure out the whodunit halfway through, but it was still good. I highly recommend.

70 books read in 2021!!!

Reese Witherspoon’s Bookclub – My Review

I took a bubble bath today. Well, I didn’t have anything to make the bubbles, so it was really just a bath with some calming lavender salts. Regardless of the kind of bath I took, I spent 40 minutes in the bath thinking about my life.

Naturally, I took a (very) full glass of wine – I am currently obsessed with Narcissi’s Black Raspberry wine – my phone (for music purposes only, I am very anti-social media when it comes to relaxing) and a book for entertainment. I honestly try my hardest at self-care. I keep a steady skin care regiment, I use a eye mask a few times a week, use hair masks on the weekends, and moisturize every inch of my annoyingly dry skin. I try my best, I really do, but there isn’t a self-care task I love more than a bubble bath, wine, music, and my current best seller.

A while ago, thanks to my love of Reese Witherspoon, books, and a lack of ideas for my Christmas list (circa 2020), I decided I would read every book from Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Thanks to boredom, I created an entire spreadsheet of all of the books included complete with columns, highlights, and a section for notes.

To add to my super nerd status, I couldn’t wait to start reading and complete this list. Once I finish a book, I will update this chart, so make sure you check back!

Book TitleAuthorOwn BookGenreRating and Comments
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineGail HoneymanFiction-Drama9.5/10 – beautiful. I fell in love with Eleanor and all her quirks. I wish there was a little more with Raymond but the twist at the end was perfect!
The Alice NetworkKate QuinnFiction-Drama8/10 – great storyline. I enjoyed Eve’s character the most. Could easily find myself reading this again and again. 
The Lying GameRuth WareThriller8.5/10 – slow moving and then an abrupt end. The cheating was unnecessary between Isa and Luc
Little Fires EverywhereCeleste NgFiction-Drama6.5/10 – there was a lot of hype for this book and I honestly was not that interested. It was nice, but too many storylines for my liking. The messages were good, but it was not necessary for Bebe’s story. Also, not a fan of a mom treating her daughter like that…
The Rules of MagicAlice HoffmanFiction-Drama10/10 – have read twice so far. Prequel to Practical Magic. Beautiful story and great imagery
This is the Story of a Happy MarriageAnn Patchett

The Last Mrs. ParrishLiv ConstantineFiction-Drama9/10 – loved this! The twist was great! I could see myself reading this book repeatedly. I LOVED the three parts with different POVs. 
Braving the WildernessBrene Brown


The Light We LostJill Santopolo√ kFiction-Drama9/10 – beautifully written, but predicable ending. I loved that it was written like a letter to Gabe but then the end was an actual letter to their son. 
Erotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsBalli Kaur JaswalFiction – Drama7/10 – this was a fun story to read. I enjoyed learning more about the culture. The author mixed in different story types, which made this a compelling story.
HappinessHeather Harpham√ k

You Think It, I’ll Say ItCurtis Sittenfeld


Something in the WaterCatherine SteadmanThriller4/10 – Too much detail on unnecessary things. They were in so many places in the book it was hard to pick up on what was important and what was not. I really wanted to like this book, but I probably won’t read it again. Good concept, though.
Next Year in HavanaChanel CleetonFiction-Drama8.5/10 – beautiful story. Will read the sister’s other stories. The storyline was predictable, but I still really enjoyed this book.
Still LivesMaria Hummel√ k

Where the Crawdads SingDelia OwensFiction-Drama10/10 – WOW. I loved every minute of this book. Beautiful. It reminded me of Fried Green Tomatoes. 
This is How It Always IsLaurie Frankel√ kFiction-Drama5/10 – eye opening book with a good story. I just could not get into it. 
The Other WomanSandie JonesThriller9.5/10 – Read this is about 24 hours. The twist at the end got me. 
One Day in DecemberJosie Silver√ kFiction-Drama7.5/10 – A easy to read love triangle story. It’s cliché but I enjoyed the story and would read again. 
The Library BookSusan Orlean

The ProposalJasmine Guillory√ kFiction-Drama6/10 – Cute and fun to read. It’s a very basic book but was lighthearted. Very predictable but would probably read again. 
Daisy Jones & The SixTaylor Jenkins Reid√ kFiction-Drama9/10 – SO GOOD. I actually thought that this was a true band and a true story. It is supposed to be based on Fleetwood Mac which makes this so much cooler. I read this so fast over Thanksgiving. Would love to possibly write my own story in this format – interview
The Night TigerYangsze ChooFiction – Drama8/10 – Very interesting story concept. This was a delightful book to read. I could see this being turned into multiple stories!
From ScratchTembi Locke


The CactusSarah Haywood√ kFiction – Drama
7/10 – I liked this one for the cliche story type. The main character is drab (but that’s the point), she falls for someone not her type, and it ends happily ever after.
Whisper NetworkChandler BakerFiction-Drama But w/ Murder4/10 – The beginning of each chapter was written in a different tone/POV from the rest of the chapter – almost like they were summarizing a feminist point before actually going into the story. I am all for feminism, but I wish there was just one tone/POV. It was slow and confusing. Just too many characters and POVs. 
The Last House GuestMegan MirandaFiction – Suspense
6/10 – I was very excited to read this one, but it fell short for me. Compelling, but I expected more of a thriller. 
The Secrets We KeptLaura Prescott

Fair PlayEve Rodsky


The Giver of StarsJojo MoyesFiction – Drama8/10 – Moyes is a fantastic author. I loved her Me Before You series and now I love this one! Her writing style puts you right there in the saddle delivering books. Great story! 
ConvictionDenise Mina
Fiction – Slight suspense
7/10 – I enjoyed this one. To be honest, it is not super memorable, but it was an easy read and a good concept. It tied in with a podcast.
Such a Fun AgeKiley Reid
Fiction
7/10 – I was very excited to read this one as I saw it featured everywhere. It was a good read with relatable characters. It was predictable, but still a good read.
The Scent KeeperErica Bauermeister Fiction – Drama8.5/10 – such a cool concept for a story. Everything is told from scents! I flew through this book because I have never read anything like it. 
The JetsettersAmanda Eyre Ward


UntamedGlennon Doyle

The Henna ArtistAlka Joshi


The Guest ListLucy FoleyThriller8/10 – little bit of a slow start and not enough closure for Hannah. Good twist on who the killer was and who was killed 
I’m Still HereAustin Channing Brown


Everything InsideEdwidge Danticat√ k

The Last Story of Mina LeeNancy Jooyoun KimFiction – Drama w/ some suspense6/10 – I liked how this story wove together stories of the mom and daughter separately. It’s an interesting story where you learn a lot about the culture. Definitely eye opening. 
His Only WifePeace Medie Adzo√ k

GroupChristie Tate


The Chicken SistersKJ Dell’Antonia√ k


OutlawedAnna North√ k


The SanatoriumSarah PearseThriller8/10 – this satisfied my thriller needs. Semi-predicable and a little bit of a letdown for an ending. Is there going to be a sequel? 
Infinite CountryPatricia Engel


Northern SpyFlynn Berry
Suspense
7.5/10 – Once you get past the first part of the book, you will not be able to put this down! The plot of the book was good and easy to follow.
The Last Thing He Told MeLaura DaveSuspense9/10 – I absolutely loved this one! The past few book selections were good, but this one blew them out of the water! I highly recommend.
Seven Days in June Tia Williams√ k
The Paper PalaceMiranda Cowley Heller
We Were Never HereAndrea BartzSuspense9/10 – Yes! This was an easy, yet great read. I finished in one sitting because I could not put the book down. Great twist, characters, and ending! Highly recommend.
L.A. WeatherMaria Amparo Escandion
SankofaChibundu Onuzo
The Island of Missing TreesElif Shafak√ k
Lucky Marissa Stapley
HonorThrity Umrigar
The Christie AffairNina de Gramont
The ClubEllery Lloyd
True BizSara Novic

If you have read any of these books, drop a comment and tell me what you loved about them! Or if you have any book suggestions, I am always on the lookout for a good book.

As always – Love, KT

We are getting there, right?

Does anyone else ever feel like you take steps forward only to find yourself spiraling backwards? These past few months have been amazing for me (yes, despite the global pandemic). I got married to the love of my life and we bought a house together. I also started juicing and taking care of my body. I should be the happiest person in the world, right?

I am a very emotional person, I can admit that. I feel everything and react emotionally before I would ever react logically. It feels like I have more ups and downs in a day than a person has in a lifetime (a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point). I am not depressed though, by any means. In fact, I have never been happier. It just feels like I need to feel all of the other emotions instead of just the happy ones. Does that make sense?

For as far back as I can remember, I was dramatic about EVERYTHING. <– even that sentence should prove my point. So, does this need to be dramatic stem from my overly emotional side, or is it something else entirely. Did I just crave the attention that the dramatics brought? And if that is so, is that why, all these years, later, I won’t allow myself to fully be happy?

I am thinking yes..

I am also thinking how ridiculous it is that people like myself are waiting for the “other shoe to drop” instead of living in the moment and allowing yourself to experience pure happiness. It’s funny, right? That us overly dramatic people can’t stop and “smell the roses” without worrying about getting stung by a bee.

If you have read this far, and you can identify yourself with what I am saying, then please keep reading, because I want to share some secrets with you about happiness.

First of all, we are getting there. Maybe it’s baby steps or maybe it’s giants steps, but regardless of how long it takes you to get there, we are getting there.

Not every moment will be easy or will feel like progress, but every chance you give yourself to quiet your mind is getting you there. You can over-worry all you want, but it won’t matter because even though you feel like you can find a solution to every scenario you think up, life still finds a way to surprise you. And that is ok! Take it from me, a self-declared queen of overthinking, you cannot solve EVERYTHING and you do not have control over EVERYTHING.

I hate to say that because I love being in control and yet it is the times where I give up control that I have the most fun. Try it sometime.

Second, you deserve to be happy. ALWAYS. I realize that a person cannot physically be happy every second of every day, but you get my point. When you feel all of the other emotions, that’s okay, just make sure at the end of the day, you can look back at everything and still be able to tell yourself it was a good day.

I know how easy it is to “spiral”, but let’s not use that word anymore. It’s too negative. Let’s just say you are just having an off day. That’s not completely positive, but it’s easier on yourself than “spiraling out of control” sounds. Somedays, you just need to rest and that’s okay. You are still getting there, right?

Absolutely.

Thirdly, and most importantly, find yourself a hobby and fall in love with it. For me, that is reading and writing. When I am reading, I shut my mind off and only feel what the author has laid out for me on the pages. And then, when I am done reading for the day, I close my book, turn back on my brain, and feel lighter. All the things I thought were unsolvable problems are less scary.

I started my blog with the hopes that I would write about books to try and show other people how easy it is to fall in love with them. Then life happened and I broke my promise to myself about writing. I lost my hobby and with that I felt lost or incomplete. Sure, I have a damn-near perfect life, but I needed to get back to doing something for me, and friends, that is the most important thing I can stress to you.

DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF. I dare you.

Other people can make you happy, but if you can’t make yourself happy, then you are denying yourself the chance to be truly happy. I know you know this, but sometimes you just need to be reminded.

So whatever it is you love, strive to excel at it. Fall in love with it everyday and, in turn, learn to fall in love with yourself again, too.

We are getting there, right? Yes, I promise.

Comment below steps you have taken to find happiness and how you got there.