The ULTIMATE Book Recommendations List

Saturday, March 14, 2020


Hello everyone! What a wild, crazy week it has been. I know a lot of us out there are scared, anxious, and wanting a distraction. Social Distancing is the current buzzword and we're all doing our part to help stop/slow the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. As a result a lot of my friends who are not usually big readers are reaching out for book recommendations. This makes me so happy! Let's just take a moment to appreciate this bright spot in an otherwise scary, uncertain world. 

I love reading as its a way to escape to other worlds, get lost in character's thoughts, and get my mind off of whatever is going on in my real life. If anything positive can come from the current state of global affairs, let it be that our March reading recaps are LIT and maybe some of our non-reader friends will be converted! 

You can check out my Goodreads here to see everything I've read so far this year and the past few years. Also, check out my Bookstagram for more bookish content and recommendations. 

So without further ado, here are my 100% approved recommendations:

For the Romance Lover:

Romance Books Suggested by my friends that I have not read:

For the THRILLER Lover:

Thriller Books Suggested by my friends that I have not read:

For the FICTION Lover:

Fiction books I have not yet read but hear are excellent:

For the Non-Fiction & Memoir Lover:

Non-Fiction and Memoirs I have not yet read but hear are excellent:

Also, just for fun, here is a peek at my current to-be-read (TBR) pile:


This will be me all weekend and for the foreseeable future after work! Happy Reading! Stay healthy and safe out there!


Five Spotify Playlists for Every Mood

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


Does anyone else remember what we used to be before Spotify? Oh yeah, illegally download music using Limewire/Kazaa/Napster or paying $0.99 cents per song (on our parents' credit card) to buy a song on Apple...or that one time I recorded "My Band" by D12 feat. Eminem off the radio using a handheld tape recorder. Good times.

Luckily, nowadays we can pay a reasonable fee to stream unlimited music every month with no commercials. I love Spotify Premium. Having a hour - hour and a half commute to my client for the past four years I've spent a lot of time listening to music in my car. In the evenings I usually will listen to a podcast or an audiobook (or call and annoy a friend or my parents by chatting on the phone). However, in the morning I love listening to some good music and drinking my coffee on my drive to work. Depending on my mood I have a couple of playlists I've created that are in my current Spotify rotation. I'm pretty proud of some these as I have been working on them/adding to them for years. And therefore, I present to you a selection of my curated Spotify playlists:


Name: Emo Forever

Who is it for: Anyone who went to Warped Tour or wanted to go to Warped Tour. Anyone who had a Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, or Hellogoodbye T-shirt. Anyone who was a member of the Hot Topic rewards program and learned their eyeliner skills from My Chemical Romance.

Featured Artists: Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, Hellogoodbye, Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, Blink-182, Say Anything, Girls Like Boys, Cobra Starship, The Academy Is..., My Chemical Romance, and more.


Name: no words / music to focus

Who is it for: Anyone who needs a playlist consisting of only instrumental music. I like this when I want some background noise at work, but I am either reading or writing and therefore will be too distracted by lyrics.

Featured Artists: Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yaan Tiersen, Hans Zimmer. To be honestly most of this playlist is movie soundtracks!


Name: cotton candy songs

Who is it for: Anyone looking for soft, sudsy music. I love this playlist in the morning while I get ready. Its light, airy, and makes me smile. 

Featured Artists: Taylor Swift, Snow Patrol, Coldplay, Sara Bareilles, Beyonce, Imogen Heap, Of Monsters and Men


Name: Baby's First Nashville

Who is it for: Someone who is in the mood for country music, who is usually not in the mood for country music. Or if you're getting ready for a bachelorette party in Nashville and need to study up. Or you're drinking a beer on the beach and life is good. 

Featured Artists: Luke Bryan, John Pardi, Cole Swindell, Blake Shelton, Old Dominion, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt, Dan + Shay


Name: 2000s woods party

Who is it for: The type of songs you would listen to while drinking crappy beer or malt liquor with your high school friends while home from college on break. Or maybe at a party the summer before college. If you graduated high school in the late 2000's - this one is for you.

Featured Artists: Kid Cudi, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, T-Pain, Akon, Flo Rida, Rick Ross, 3OH!3, LMFAO, Timbaland

Do you make playlists on Spotify? I have some seasonal playlists and holiday playlists as well - check out my Spotify profile here! What are you listening to currently?

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The Complicated Feelings Surrounding Death and Dealing with Loss

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

What a whirlwind the past 9 days have been. I know that there's never a "good" time for a tragedy to strike, but that doesn't make it any easier when it happens. Sunday (Feb 23rd) morning, I got awoke to a text from my mom asking if I was awake. The text was sent at midnight, which was very unusual for my mother. I immediately knew something was wrong. I sent my mom a text that I had been asleep but was awake now. After a call with her I found out that my grandfather, my Poppy, had been admitted to the hospital and the outlook was not good. 

My Poppy moved to Eastern Tennessee before I was born after meeting his partner, Charlotte, once he and my grandmother were divorced. My whole life growing up we had gone to Tennessee once, if not twice, a year to visit my Poppy and my aunt, cousins, and step-cousins who all moved down to Tennessee. My mom, brother, and I immediately booked the first flights we could get to go to Knoxville to rush to my Poppy's side. Fortunately, we made it in time to spend some time with him and were able to tell him how much we all loved him. Unfortunately, he did not make it through the week and passed in the early morning hours on Thursday, February 28th. After several draining days spent at his bedside at the hospital I was relieved that he was no longer in pain, but was grieving the loss of my last remaining grandparent. 

All four of my grandparents have passed away during my lifetime, the last when I was a sophomore in high school, age 16. My Poppy however, had been pretty healthy and even though he lived far away we got to visit him and he even made the trip last summer for my wedding to Alex. I am so grateful he was able to share in that joyous day with us. We not only have amazing photographs with him from that day that I will treasure forever, I am so happy that he was there for all of us. It meant a lot not only to me, but also to my mom. 

As this trip was unexpected and last minute, we all rushed into town without clear travel plans, no real sense of when we could come home, and a lot of uncertainty. My mom is one of three, and since the three children of my Poppy are all living far away from Tennessee (my family all living in Philadelphia, my aunt lives outside Pittsburgh, and my uncle lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), we decided to plan the funeral services to be the weekend after Poppy passed. The whole thing passed in a blur for me. I am so grateful Alex was able to fly down and be by my side in those difficult days. He really was my rock. 

I made a photo collage on Thursday night to display at the viewing on Friday and printing out the photos all of us had with Poppy brought back so many good memories. I also heard some fun stories from my cousins I had never heard before. For example, I didn't know my Poppy's favorite musical artist was George Jones or his favorite color was green. My Poppy was an avid gardener and had taught my cousin everything he knew about gardening and canning. He made the best homemade marinara sauce and salsa. He was a Korean War veteran and work as a train engineer upon returning home. He always spoiled me as I was his only granddaughter. He loved animals and we buried him with a paw print mold of his late beloved cat, Onyx. 

I returned home Sunday with a heavy heart. I miss my Poppy so much, and I was feeling guilty for not spending more time with him the last few years. However, I cannot beat myself up over it. If anything, this loss has served as a needed reminder of what is most important. We are all only here for a short time, we need to make the most of it. Family is the most important thing, at the end of the day spending time with the people you love is what you will look back on. I think my Poppy was rich in time spent with those he loved. He lived a full life, with a big family. I am so happy to have had him in my life these past 30 years, a gift not everyone receives and I will never take for granted. 

I guess what I am trying to say is, I love you Poppy. I miss you. Rest easy, I will see you again one day. 

Everything I Read in February

Sunday, March 1, 2020


While February might be the shortest month of the year I was still able to squeeze in some good reading! It also helped we had one extra day this year as it is a leap year! 

Here are my reviews of everything I finished in February 2020. If you want to see more of my ratings, reviews, and what I've read check out my Goodreads profile here and my Instagram here where I try and update throughout the month and also have discussions with followers on the books I'm reading!

1// Reputation by Sara Shepard 

This novel, by the same author who wrote the Pretty Little Liars series, takes place in the days following an email hack at the prestigious (fictional) Aldrich University in Pittsburgh, PA. The hack reveals rumors, affairs, and lots of dirt on the Aldrich community, but especially Kit Manning-Strasser and her husband, Dr. Greg Strasser. 

Things really heat up when Greg is found murdered in their home the night following a fancy black-tie gala to raise funds for the university, the same week as the email hack. Was the murder due to personal details divulged in the leak? Or did Greg have more secrets than his email revealed.

The novel follows several of the characters at the center of the drama, including: Kit, Raina, a student at Aldrich who is not everything she seems, Willa, Kit's sister and an investigative journalist who comes to town right after the murder, Lynn, a co-worker of Kit's who will do whatever it takes to be the best, and Laura, a nurse who worked with Dr. Greg Strasser. The novel is a mix of mystery, drama, and scandal. 

I found many of the characters in this novel to be unlikeable which made it difficult for me to enjoy the novel. I did find the story easy to get into, but overall I wasn't too invested in the story as I didn't really like the characters! Overall, if you're looking for a dramatic brain candy read you can grab this, but it was not my favorite. 

My rating: B-

2// Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuistion

Fans of romance novels, especially with royal themes, will enjoy this book. When the FSOTUS, Alex Claremont-Diaz attends the royal wedding of Prince Henry's older brother sparks fly - but not in a good way. Now Alex must do a PR trip to prove to the world he doesn't really hate the Prince (even though he does). After the trip Alex's feelings towards Henry begin to change and he thinks of the Prince as a friend. Then, when Henry comes to the USA for a NYE party at the White House his feelings towards Henry really begin to change, and things will never be the same for him.
I enjoyed most of the characters in this book, enjoyed watching the story unfold, and I love most things with a British Royal twist.

Some things I didn’t like: some of the political storylines seemed contrived and not very realistic. Overall, I was left smiling in the end and enjoyed the book. It’s a warm hearted, fun read for anyone who enjoys the romance genre. It’s also my first LBGTQ+ romance book in a long time (the last one that comes to mind is reading Oranges Are Not the only Fruit years ago) and I’m glad it’s so widely accepted in the mainstream (that I’ve seen).

My rating: B

3// Long Bright River by Liz Moore

I talk more about this novel in my blog post on the best books set in Philadelphia. This is the story of two sisters growing up in a Philadelphia neighborhood which has been ravaged by the opioid crisis. Told from the perspective of older, responsible sister, Mickey, and alternating between present day and the past. In the present, Mickey is a single mother who works as a patrol officer in the 24th district of Philadelphia, the impoverished Kensington neighborhood. She likes her job as it allows her to keep an eye on her little sister, Kacey, who has been battling with addiction since her teen years. Mickey and Kacey used to be close while growing up, but recent events have caused distance between them. However, when women are found murdered in Kensington and Kacey goes missing Mickey works to try and find her sister while also uncovering clues about the case.

This book gives a gritty, dark look at the parts of Philadelphia which aren't the prettiest. The opioid crisis is a real issue in Philadelphia, and the United States, and this book showcases that.

I really enjoyed this book, and recognized almost all of the local references which made reading it more enjoyable. This book is heavy but I enjoyed it thoroughly. It also has twists and turns I did not see coming leaving me just wanting to discuss everything with someone when I finished.

My Rating: A-

For fans of Christina Lauren, and especially their newer novel “Unhoneymooners”, this rom-com style novel will be a hit.

Hazel has thought of Josh Im as the “blueprint for Perfect” since they met in college. Years later their paths cross again. Hazel is eccentric as ever, working as an elementary school teacher and co-workers/best friends with Josh’s little sister, Emily. Josh has grown into a responsible adult working as a physical therapist, although he has a not-so-great relationship. Hazel takes this opportunity to embed herself in Josh’s life and become his best PLATONIC friend.

When Josh’s relationship crumbles and they both find themselves single they begin a string of bad double dates, all the while developing feelings for each other. But, will Hazel’s manic energy and eccentricities be too much for Josh? Could they ever work as a couple?

With a few twists along the way, this book is light-hearted and enjoyable. While the ending may be a little predictable I still enjoyed reading it. As a character, Hazel was a little much for me in the beginning, but she grew on me and I really liked her by the end of the novel. Overall, a solid rom-com read and I give it a B rating. I look forward to reading more from this author duo, including the "Honey Don't List" which comes out this month!

My Rating: B

5// Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Have you ever felt in a creative rut? Or maybe you feel an urge to create or make yourself vulnerable with your art and expression, but you are letting fear stand in the way of expressing yourself. Well, this is the book for you.

Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her novel "Eat, Pray, Love" talks about unlocking your creativity and moving past your fear to realize your dreams. She gives anecdotes, advice, and speaks from her personal experiences of being afraid to fail but wanting something so bad you must try anyway. While I am generally not a huge fan of the "self help" genre, I really enjoyed this book and the anecdotes within its pages resonated with me.

I was feeling stuck creatively and wanted some inspiration, I had heard others say great things about this book so I decided to check it out. What I really love here is that Gilbert addresses so many of my personal fears and qualms that have gotten in my own way. She talks about being creative beyond pretentiousness, allowing yourself to create because you love it, and embracing your passion. It really lit a fire in me and taught me to give myself permission to try and permission to fail. Would recommend to anyone looking to unlock their own potential and needs a little nudge to get out of their own way.

NOTE: I listened to this book on audio and I think hearing Gilbert narrate added something to the experience for me.

My Rating: B+

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, especially reading it during an election year where times are politically charged. Charlotte Walsh is a successful business tycoon living in Silicon Valley with her husband, Max, and three daughters. She is the quintessential Silicon Valley success story: she came from nothing in a small Pennsylvania town, worked hard and went to an Ivy League college, and made it in California.

After implementing some great changes at her company people begin to ask Charlotte if she will run for office. She decides to attempt to be the first woman elected to the US Senate from Pennsylvania and moves her family back to her childhood room in a poor town in Northeastern PA to make that happen. However, life on the campaign trail is tough, and Charlotte and Max’s marriage is not as perfect as they’d like people to think. Will their family survive intact the grueling campaign life? Will their deepest secrets become exposed? Will Charlotte stay in the race, and if she does will she win?

I really enjoyed the book and in some ways could relate to Charlotte. I am from PA (although I am from the Philly suburbs) and have met people from the towns in this book. I am interested in politics and found it interesting to read from a candidates perspective 

what it’s like to promise people things you can’t promise. I think this was a great read and would recommend, especially to women interested in politics. 

My Rating: A-

What did you read this month? What is next on your to-be-read pile? Did you read any of these books, and if so what did you think?

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