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.

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!!!

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?


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.


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.