My Most Recent Walt Disney World Trip (December 2018)

I wanted to start doing more Disney-related content on this blog, so I figured why not start with a recap of my most recent trip to Walt Disney World! My husband and I spent 2.5 days at the resort at the end of December as an early birthday trip for me, and we had an absolute blast!

I actually used to work at Walt Disney World (which is a story for another post!), so I am all too familiar with the parks. My husband on the other hand hadn't been since he was a kid, so this was the first time he was able to experience everything as an adult. We split our stay between two on-property hotels: the Coronado Springs Resort and the All Star Movies Resort. Being that we were there at pretty much the busiest time of year, the week between Christmas and New Year's, we weren't able to get a reservation for the same hotel (at least not one in our budget, anyway!) for all three nights.

Having only two park days, we knew we would have to do some serious park hopping to get everything in. The first day, we hit Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot. DHS was one of my work locations, so walking back through the gates I absolutely felt like I was home. I was so excited, because this was the first time I got to experience Toy Story Land! We had been able to get some great Fast Passes at DHS, so we were done with that park around noon and took one of the Friendship Boats over to Epcot. 

I love Epcot, because it's such a relaxing park. You can stroll through the countries, peruse the various shops, and eat (and drink!) a ton of delicious things. We were able to ride Mission: Space and Journey Into Imagination (I know, I know, yes this ride is crap but I love Figment ok?!). I spent way too much money in the Japan pavilion (as usual), and savored my Grand Marnier slush. I also got to meet Baymax and just about died! Talk about the most awkwardly hilarious but adorable meet and greet ever! Somehow I managed to trick my husband into trying the Beverly at Club Cool, even though I think he knew deep down what I was trying to do.

The second day was split between Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom. It was extra magic hours (early park opening for resort guests) at AK, so we knew we had to try to get there as early as possible to experience the rides in Pandora. This was my first time seeing this land as well! Flight of Passage was AMAZING! You could actually feel the banshee breathing as you rode it. Na'vi River Journey was beautiful, but a little anticlimactic in my opinion. Of course I tried the Night Blossom drink (very sour!) and a Pongu Lumpia (INCREDIBLE) in the Pandora area.

Magic Kingdom was our last stop. Just being there had me feeling giddy, as this was my other work location when I was a cast member! The park was still all decked out for Christmas, and if you've never seen it, the Magic Kingdom is absolutely STUNNING around Christmas time. This was by far the most crowded of all the parks. We were only able to get on our Fastpass rides: Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Haunted Mansion, plus the PeopleMover and Carousel of Progress, but that was fine with me! I will always be a PeopleMover snob, so as long as I get on that ride I'm happy!

We had so much fun and can't wait to go back. Disney is an absolutely an amazing time, even if you're adults without kids like us! I've always known I'd never outgrow the Disney magic, and now my husband knows he's the same way.

Still riding our Disney high, we just booked a trip to Disneyland for this coming spring! I've never been there, or even to California at all for that matter, so we can't wait to head to see the mouse out west. I'll be sure to do a recap of that trip for you guys as well after it happens!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I picked this for my January Book of the Month, expecting a really intriguing mystery/thriller. Unfortunately it just wasn't quite what I had hoped. 

In The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, famous painter Alicia Berenson is in a psych hospital after apparently killing her husband. I say apparently because Alicia refuses to speak. She has not uttered a word since her husband was killed, in her defense or otherwise. Now, psychotherapist Theo Faber has made Alicia his personal pet project, hoping to finally get her to speak and learn the truth about what really happened that day.

There was a pretty good twist in this book, but unfortunately it wasn't enough for me to completely save the rating. This book was very dry, and I was more interested in Alicia's interspersed journal entries than the actual plot parts. I thought it ended way too abruptly. I didn't like any of the characters, and didn't really care what the outcome was. 

I've seen a ton of people giving this really high ratings, but this was far from a 5 star thriller in my opinion. It just wasn't very special, and didn't live up to the caliber of some of my other favorite mystery thrillers. I would have given it 2 stars, except I did really enjoy the twist and didn't see it coming.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Ok guys, this book hit me, and hit me hard. It took me a while to get around to reading it (to the point that I actually had three copies in my possession at once), but now that I have I am so upset at myself for not making it a priority earlier. 

Huge trigger warning on this book for domestic violence, so keep that in mind.

In Yellow Springs, a few neighborhood women get together one night for some drinks around the fire. The next morning, one of them and her children are missing. What happened to Kristen? Did her soon to be ex-husband have anything to do with it? Are her and her twins even alive?

This was absolutely a slow burn book, which usually bothers me, but with this one I was hooked. I loved the two different points of view of Clara and Izzy, interspersed with a third that we can rightly assume is Kristen's. Izzy's radio show segment "Second Date Update" is so similar to one I listen to on the radio every morning! I could really see myself in Izzy's shoes as well, and she reminded me of myself back when I was in my early twenties-sort of just drifting through life, lonely but not really willing to admit it, and struggling in a job she didn't like.

It was pretty clear from the beginning what was happening, and I think it was supposed to be, but there was still a reveal at the end that actually made me drop the book. 

The importance of this book is not to be overlooked, as it really shines a light on domestic violence and the struggles a woman must go through to escape an abusive husband. The story, the characters, and the message were all powerful, and were the perfect level of entertaining while still tackling an important issue facing many women today.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much for St. Martin's Press for a finished copy of this read! Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser is out in paperback now, so be sure to pick up a copy!

The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Just looking at the covers of these books immediately drew me in. But the stories themselves were so worth staying for. The Wayward Children series of novellas by Seanan McGuire has four books so far: Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Beneath the Sugar Sky, and In An Absent Dream. I tried to avoid spoilers, but as always, in describing multiple books in a series it is sometimes inevitable.

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
In Every Heart a Doorway, we are introduced to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. This is a school for children who have mysteriously disappeared to another world, only to return later and be deemed insane for their stories and desires to return to those worlds. Think falling down a rabbit hole or climbing through a dresser. Each world is the type of world the child is meant to be in, whether that is Nonsense or Logic based, Virtuous or Wicked, and when they return to our world after emerging from their rabbit hole, dresser drawer, etc. all they want to do is go back to where they perfectly fit in. 

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This first story follows Nancy as she gets to know her schoolmates and longs to return to her world, The Halls of the Dead. But when people start turning up dead at the school, the children have to fight to solve the mystery.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones follows twins Jack and Jill, who were prominent characters in the first book. This is almost a prequel of sorts, as the story follows the twins when they first find their world, The Moors. This one was definitely creepy and very dark, as The Moors is a very horror movie-esque world. I think this is my favorite out of the books so far.

Beneath the Sugar Sky takes place in a Nonsense world, Confection, that's basically a huge Candy Land board. This story centers around Rini, Sumi's (a character from the first book) daughter. Rini is on a mission to turn back time and save her land from the Queen of Cakes and enlists the help of the children at Eleanor's. This was my least favorite of the four, but that's really not saying much because I still really enjoyed it! We are introduced to some new characters and worlds in this book as well.

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
In An Absent Dream also seemingly functions as a prequel, telling Miss Lundy's story from when she was a child, back in the Goblin Market, and what led her to her strange condition today. I was getting serious Labyrinth vibes from this one!

I am so in love with this series. It has the perfect mix of fantasy and realism. The plots are full of adventure or mystery. The asexual, pansexual, and trans representation in these stories is out of this world. The writing is lyrically beautiful and immersive. I've seen this compared to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, but this series is so much more than that. 

These book covers are probably the most beautiful I have ever seen, and each is actually incredibly short, making it a series that is easy to binge-read over and over again! It looks like another book in the Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down, is set for release in 2020, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Every Heart a Doorway Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Down Among the Sticks and Bones Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Beneath the Sugar Sky Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

In An Absent Dream Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Overall Series Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I haven't had the opportunity to see this musical, but have heard great things about it. Because of that, I had to pick up the novelization, but unfortunately this Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich, with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul, fell flat for me. There need to be definite trigger warnings on this book for mental illness, depression and anxiety, and suicide.

Evan Hansen has terrible anxiety. He doesn't like social situations and prefers spending time in nature. When the school year starts, he is encouraged to put himself out there. He is also supposed to write himself notes per his therapist to maintain a positive attitude. But Evan's life turns upside down when one of these notes is found after a classmate's death. Suddenly Evan is thrust into the spotlight more than he ever wanted, but maybe it's nice to be noticed for once.

While I understand the importance of this story, I just thought it could have been done so much better. As a sufferer of anxiety myself, I had really high hopes, but it didn't resonate with me at all. I was bored the majority of the story and just couldn't get invested. There were times I found myself skimming just to get through the book faster. I thought the characters were flat, and parts seemed unrealistic. I was actually disgusted by Evan and his actions at times, anxiety or not. I also didn't like that they portrayed Evan as nothing more than his anxiety. People are more than their mental illnesses.

Maybe the musical just didn't convert well to a novelization? I have seen people say that this reads like bad fan fiction of the musical, so maybe I will still give it a shot if I ever have the opportunity to see it.

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy and Ava Dash

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This is definitely a book where the insides match the beauty of the cover. 96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy and Ava Dash is full of beautiful references to Indian legend while simultaneously tackling the important issues of sex trafficking and racism. 

This story follows Raya, who is full of anxiety after receiving her acceptance to UCLA and having to decide a path for her future. Then Raya's grandmother dies, and her parting words to Raya include mentioning that she hid some things for Raya and her cousin at her beloved ashram in India. Now, Raya and her cousin journey to the ashram hoping to find what their grandmother left them and reconnect with her, but they may find more than that along the way.

I really enjoyed my time spent with this story, and it was an incredibly quick read. The imagery and vivid descriptions made it easy for me to place myself in the ashram with Raya. I loved getting to learn more about Indian legend and culture, and I identified with Raya's struggle to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. 

I am glad that this addressed sex trafficking, as this is a major issue that you don't see a lot in YA fiction. I also appreciated how it addressed racism. A character in this book isn't intentionally racist, but many of the things she says are hurtful, and she has the opportunity to learn why they are wrong and offensive. I do think everything wrapped up too quickly and perfectly. I would have appreciated a more gritty ending, and think that would have been more realistic to some of the subjects at hand. 

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Jimmy Patterson for a copy of this read! 96 Words for Love by Rachel Roy and Ava Dash is out on January 15th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Make Tidying Your Bookshelf as Painless as Possible

Tidying your bookshelf? As in, getting rid of books? What could be a more terrifying thought to the passionate reader? We all love a good collection, and we especially love holding onto those books that played an important role in shaping who we are today. However, if your bookshelf is too full of books, it becomes more of a millstone than a medicine. It’s time to make room for new reads and really examine what is worth keeping.

Get the ebook instead
To those who love having and reading physical copies, this may be sacrilege. However, it doesn’t cost anything to replace certain books with e-books. We are talking, of course, about public domain literature. Unless it’s a particularly gorgeous book, there’s little point in holding onto classics like Dickens, Defoe, or Dumas if you already have an e-reader. Naturally, if you do have a particularly beautiful copy of an old classic, then you don’t have to get rid of it, but there’s no point in buying generic paperback copies of what could just as easily be downloaded legally for free.
Sell what doesn’t belong
Your bookshelf might not only be full of fiction and nonfiction that have shaped your leisurely reading habits. Many readers tend to also keep books that once had a practical function that is simply no longer necessary. College textbooks are a textbook example of that, pun very much intended. Sell back textbooks you no longer need to free up some easy room in the bookshelf, as well as getting a little cash back. Textbooks are always expensive for college students, so not only do you stand to make a little more back than the average book re-selling experience, but you could be helping some poor, studious soul out there.
Swap them
If you want to make sure the books go to a good home, then who better to trust them to than another reader? Book swapping groups and areas are popping up more and more frequently, including outdoor library boxes that allow you to take one book if you leave one. Joining a reading group online and mailing books you love to one another to keep can be a great way to discover some fantastic reads and renew your love for reading, too.
Share the love of reading
If you don’t want anything in return, then there are always plenty of worthwhile places looking for book donations. From kids with imaginations just waiting to be sparked but without the access to books of their own to libraries that are always looking for new stock, when you donate a book, you practically guarantee that it will matter to someone, somewhere, someday. If you’ve ever used a library, you practically owe it to them, too.

You don’t have to get rid of your collection, but you can get a lot more value out of your bookshelf by curating it. It’s not important how many books you have owned or read, what’s important is keeping and displaying the books you love.

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Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This book had been on my TBR ever since I met Jennifer at the NoVa Teen Book Festival last year, but for some reason I never got around to reading it. That changed when I picked this up as my first read of 2019. I knew it had a great message about feminism, so I figured that would be a good theme to start off the year. I do want to put trigger warnings on this book for sexual harassment and attempted rape.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu follows Vivian, a high school student fed up with the sexist, misogynist happenings at her school. Inspired by her mom's Riot Grrrl past, Viv anonymously creates a zine called Moxie, hoping to call the girls at her to action school and inspire a change.

I absolutely adored this novel and I'm so happy I started the year off with this read! I absolutely loved Vivian and was inspired by her determination to make a difference. I loved how she tried to remain anonymous to ensure that Moxie was about ALL girls, not just her. There were so many opportunities in this book where characters were able to learn and readjust their behaviors. Even though some never changed, you saw the eyes of a few open to things they believed didn't affect them previously and saw them work to change their behaviors and beliefs. I also really enjoyed the drawings of Viv's zines throughout the book!

Even though this is a YA fiction, I believe this book is important for women of all ages, and men as well! It accurately highlights what girls and women face on a regular basis and emphasizes understanding and change, rather than sympathy, from the opposite sex. We don't want you to feel bad for us. Sympathy isn't action. Instead we want you to understand and do better, and encourage others to do the same. We want you to take our allegations seriously. We want fair punishment for those that commit these crimes against us. We want these issues brought to light.

I am so happy I read this book, and am now empowered more than ever. Moxie girls fight back!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
When I saw that this duo was putting out another book, I was insanely excited. When it showed up on my doorstep I could barely contain myself. After reading their book The Wife Between Us last year, I knew that I would eagerly gobble up anything these two put out, and An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen was no exception.

Jessica is a makeup artist, who traipses around the city from appointment to appointment trying to make ends meet. During one of these appointments, she catches wind of a psychology study focused on morality, where she could earn some much needed cash. After lying her way into the study, she soon realizes that it is more intrusive than she envisioned, but answering the probing questions asked of her is cathartic. When the study leader Dr. Shields starts to take an interest in her, Jessica feels special, like someone finally understands her. But soon that understanding gets deeper, the study steps get scarier, and Jessica doesn't know where the study ends and real life begins.

I really liked the main character, and definitely could see myself in Jessica's shoes. The manipulation used in this story was just brilliant. I could perfectly envision Dr. Shields in all her terrifying beauty, and can easily imagine getting swept up into the excitement and glamour that came with her, nail polish and all.

It was slightly predictable, however, which disappointed me since the twist in their last book threw me for a loop! I was hoping for a more dramatic twist.

While I didn't enjoy this quite as much as The Wife Between Us, it was still a great read, and I'm eager to see what these ladies come up with next!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for an ARC of An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen! This read is out January 8th, so be sure to pick up a copy!