Let’s Take a Trip to Pittsburgh: Gastropub Stops

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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

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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!

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!

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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.

Hello Sunshine – Book Club Intro

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 few weeks ago, thanks to my love of Reese Witherspoon, books, and a lack of ideas for my Christmas list, 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 (there is 42 btw – not including the newly added YA selections) complete with columns, highlights, and a section for notes. I sent this spreadsheet to my husband and my mom and would honestly be completely content to only receive books from this list for Christmas.

To add to my super nerd status, I couldn’t wait to start reading and complete this list. So, naturally, I am currently reading my 9th one from the list. Oops. Don’t worry though, there are still so many left for my family to get me for Christmas.

Let’s get back to that bath again. While I was thinking about my life, I remembered one of the items my husband put on his Christmas list – and that was for more Ktwrites. Since I made this blog (almost a year ago!!!!!) as a place where I could review books I have read, I thought it would be silly for me to not write a post (or a few) about my current undertaking.

I’m not sure if I will do a post for each book after this or if I will do a few book reviews in one, but for the purpose of this blog, I am just going to include my spreadsheet that has comments on the books I have read! 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


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
The Paper PalaceMiranda Cowley Heller
We Were Never HereAndrea Bartz
L.A. WeatherMaria Amparo Escandion
SankofaChibundu Onuzo

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.

KTWrites – Still Alice

I lost my grandma earlier this year to cancer. On good days, I find myself starting to call her cellphone to tell her something exciting. I start dialing her number and then I remember. She’s gone. On bad days I cry, a lot.

I miss a lot of things about her, but mostly I miss getting to say her name aloud, well my name for her, Grammy. I never realized how often I would say that word until I lost her. Now her name gets caught in my throat as if I am afraid to say it. I think I hesitate to say her name now because I know she can’t answer me, at least not in the way she used to. But I don’t want to be sad. I have been sad long enough. I want to talk about my Grammy because of what she means to me.

Before she was diagnosed with cancer, my Grammy was the picture of health. She was superwoman. She took an exercise class that made me feel weak and lazy! Besides a broken ankle, I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t healthy. The only exception to that was the possibility that my Grammy had Alzheimer’s. Though a diagnosis was never given, and my family was split on their beliefs about the possibility, I believed it was possible. Alzheimer’s in genetic and her aunt had it. So it was possible.

During a trip to Italy in 2015, a friend of mine showed me Lisa Genova’s Still Alice. I started and finished the novel in the same day. I couldn’t put it down. I finally had something to help me understand what my Grammy was possibly dealing with. I remember sitting in the living room on my Grammy’s blue chair reading this book and wondering how similar her life could have been to Alice’s if the cancer had not taken her first.   

Still Alice is a fictional story about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. I will warn you that it is not an easy story to read not because the book was poorly written, but because of the emotions it stirs. Even though Still Alice is a work of fiction, the disease is real and there is no cure. Alzheimer’s attacks the brain, it steals memories, loses words, and eventually forgets how to communicate to the rest of the body. Lisa Genova gives us a story that shows the deterioration of Alice Howard’s life over a two-year period. Genova’s writing emphasizes the stages of Alzheimer’s and forces the reader to understand the inner battle that the victim fights every day.

 Still Alice opens with Alice pre-diagnosis. We learn that Alice is a highly respected woman. She is a Cognitive Psychology professor at Harvard University and is considered an expert in linguistics. Alice is giving a speech at Stanford when the first sign of Alzheimer’s appears. She couldn’t find the word. It wasn’t until the plane ride later that day that Alice remembered the word she was looking for, syntax.

I realize that losing a word does not mean that the person has Alzheimer’s. There could be many different explanations, but for Alice, this stuck with her and impacted her decision to go see her doctor. There were many other instances that factored into her decision to see her doctor, but this one opened the possibility to something being off.

That scares me. Something as common as forgetting a word or losing the name of something could be a symptom of a neurological disease. In one of the lines in the script before the start of the novel, Genova foreshadows the battle of Alzheimer’s and portrays neurons as being strangled by the disease. She writes, “whether it was molecular murder or cellular suicide, they were unable to warn her of what was happening before they died.” This imagery is unsettling to me. It’s powerful and Ican’t help but wonder if this is what my Grammy went through before the cancer took her? If that’s the case, I don’t know which one hurt more: losing life’s memories and all that made my Grammy important or the cancer that took away her independence? I guess eventually, both diseases would take her independence. But neither one ever took her spirit.

Throughout the novel, Alice answers a few questions that she has written on her BlackBerry to test her cognitive abilities each day. The questions involve her home address, daughter’s birthday, current month, office address, and how many children does she have. Each chapter ends with Alice answering these questions. As the novel and the disease progress, Alice’s answers get less specific. Where her home address used to include the full postal address, it now has been simplified to just Cambridge. This subtle technique that Genova uses is one of my favorite parts of the novel. I love how a simple four question test can show how detailed responses become one-word answers. The names of Alice’s children become just the number three showing that even the names of loved ones cannot win against Alzheimer’s.  

One of the more powerful and emotional quotes from the novel deals with love. Towards the end of the novel, Alice asks her daughter Lydia what would happen when she no longer recognized Lydia and didn’t know that she loved her. Lydia responds that she will tell Alice she loves her, and that Alice will believe her. This causes Alice to wonder; “But will I always love her? Does my love for her reside in my head or my heart?” (Genova 267). Science says head while family says heart.

My Grammy never forgot any of her family members. She might mix up our names, but even I do that sometimes. If the cancer didn’t take her and the Alzheimer’s was diagnosed, I think that if she ever came to forget my face, she could never forget her love for me. I don’t think you feel love based on a face or even a memory. Instead, I think you feel love, literally. Almost like a warmth that makes you feel safe and not alone. You don’t have an explanation to why you feel it, you just know that you do. I choose to believe that not even Alzheimer’s can take that feeling away.

Still Alice is a heartbreaking story that resonates with you long after you have turned the last page. It doesn’t matter if you know someone with Alzheimer’s personally or not, Alice’s story will make you see how much the diseases takes from everyone. For Alice, the pain was felt by her husband, her three children, her colleagues, students, and even by the coffeeshop worker that she visited before teaching. Mostly though, Alice herself felt the pain alone. She had a support group and loved ones, but only she truly understood what was happening; “So even when I feel completely normal, I know I’m not. It’s not over, it’s just a rest” (Genova 186).

Alzheimer’s disease is not curable and there is not a true, 100% accurate test to diagnose it. With the help of books like this, we, as a community, can talk about the importance of changing this. The disease is not just for the elderly. Alice was in her 50s when she was diagnosed. Some people start becoming symptomatic even earlier. Still Alice has taught me to have patience with those that are suffering with Alzheimer’s because we will never truly be able to see the battle they are fighting every second of every day alone in their minds. Listen to them, have empathy, and don’t treat them like they are incapable of living. During one of the last good days, Alice gives her final speech for a Dementia Care Conference. In her speech she reminds us, “just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second if it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today didn’t matter” (Genova 293). Today always matters and it should never be wasted. You don’t get a redo.

  • KTWrites

Genova, Lisa. Still Alice. New York: Pocket Books, 2007. Book.

KTWrites – The Beginning

For as long as I can remember I have always loved what books could do for me. The text on the page gave me an out, an escape from the confusion of the “real world”. It was as if words were my lifeline, my safety net, but later, my demise. They took me in their arms to a world where the bad guys were caught and love was something to believe in. Yet, just as soon as I felt myself blurring the lines between fantasy and life, I remembered every book concludes with “and they lived happily ever after”.

I am 25 years old now and while children’s books have turned into 1920’s classics or modern-day thrillers, I still see myself within the pages. In each word, each profession of love, or each timid look over the victim’s shoulder as her fear takes hold, I lose myself right there with them. I think because I can find a piece of myself in the books I read, I can feel a sort of relief. The kind of relief that allows my cynical-self to believe in fantasies the way I did when I had not yet been told by the “real world” who I was supposed to be.

I like a happy ending strictly because it makes me smile. It makes me happy. Yes, most of the time I roll my eyes at the clichés, but I smile, and it feels good. The characters in whatever book I am reading will always have that happy ending. I know this because all books end. As for me, there is no always. It just does not work that way. There is right nows, laters, possiblys, and nevers. But that is okay, I have books to give me my always.

No one understands true love anymore. At least not with people. It is much easier to fall in love with objects, ideas, beliefs, or even how someone makes you feel. I am guilty of this. I fall in love with books. That is what I want you to get out of these blog posts. I want to show you how beautiful it is to fall in love with a book and that sense of security that it can bring.

Welcome to KTwrites.