WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: Hunting Annabelle

img_0568

Hi everyone! Thanks for bearing with me – it’s been a busy last few weeks, but I’m back on the blog. This week, I’ve got the January edition of WHAT I READ THIS MONTH! My January book was adult psych thriller HUNTING ANNABELLE by debut author Wendy Heard. I’m so excited to dive into this with you, because I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Also, if you haven’t seen – I’m now on YouTube! Catch me here in a video review of the book and subscribe for future book/writing/life content.

All right, here’s an overview of HUNTING ANNABELLE from Heard’s website:

Sean Suh is done with killing. After serving three years in a psychiatric prison, he’s determined to stay away from temptation. But he can’t resist Annabelle—beautiful, confident, incandescent Annabelle—who alone can see past the monster to the man inside. The man he’s desperately trying to be.

Then Annabelle disappears.

Sean is sure she’s been kidnapped—he witnessed her being taken firsthand—but the police are convinced that Sean himself is at the center of this crime. And he must admit, his illness has caused him to “lose time” before. What if there’s more to what happened than he’s able to remember?

Though haunted by the fear that it might be better for Annabelle if he never finds her, Sean can’t bring himself to let go of her without a fight. To save her, he’ll have to do more than confront his own demons… He’ll have to let them loose.

First off – wow. Personally, thrillers are my favorite genre of literature, particularly psych thrillers. This premise struck me as so original, while at the same time masterfully tying in inspiration from real-life serial killers. Not only that, but the twist at the end had me yelping. Sean, our narrator, is unreliable to say in the least and certainly serves as a red herring in himself. I thought, like the police and basically every other character in the book, that Sean would end up being responsible for Annabelle’s disappearance. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say this – don’t be so sure of whatever you’re thinking. Heard has a big trick up her sleeve with this one.

If you’re like me, you enjoy a more plot-driven story that has you gripped from the first page. Not only does Heard accomplish this, but she also develops rich characters with whom a reader can make a connection. At times, I felt sympathetic toward Sean, even though he’s a troubled man with a murderous past. Heard wonderfully shows his complicated relationship with an overbearing mother, and that dynamic in and of itself made the book fascinating to consume. At times you feel bad for Sean – he’s in love and desperately trying to find this woman with whom he found a real connection. But his honest confessions of feeling violent toward women pull you back into reality. And that truth is that Sean can’t be trusted.

And even he knows that. Several times, he questions if in fact he is responsible. And isn’t that the scariest part of all? Feeling like your reality may not be real at all? Whoa.

On top of this, Heard’s beautiful use of language makes her debut novel a triple threat. Not only is her plot strong and her characters developed and complex, but her voice is compelling. She writes in tight, succinct sentences that pack a punch. She doesn’t bore you with useless detail – everything she writes and describes has a reason. As someone with a journalism background, I always appreciate encountering that in literature.

All in all, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of HUNTING ANNABELLE. It’ll take you on a roller coaster you’ll never want to get off.

Buy HUNTING ANNABELLE:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Apple Books

Looking back & ahead: New Year’s resolutions

 

I love the idea of a fresh start. The notion of reinvention and rebirth is fascinating and inspiring, and it’s something I think about often. That’s one of the reasons I love this time of year. Like most people, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting as the year draws to a close. Things I accomplished, things I learned, things I’m proud of, and things I could do better in the new year.

Here, I want to explore some of those and share what I’m aspiring to do in 2019.

2018 in review

What I’m proud of…

  • Finished writing my first book
  • Had my manuscript requested by agents
  • Launched my blog (woohoo!)
  • Transitioned my Instagram to a business account, focusing on Disney content
  • Completely revamped my mindset
  • Found joy in simple things
  • Started writing my second book

Lessons…

  • Happiness starts with the internal – not external. It’s on you.
  • Don’t let negative opinions dim your shine.
  • It’s scary to put yourself out there, but it’s so worth it.
  • Toxicity and negativity have no place here anymore.

Looking to 2019 

Goals…

  • Maintain a healthier lifestyle
  • Finish and revise my second book
  • Read two books a month
  • Buy more pink clothes
  • Keep a positive mindset

In short, my rule for 2019 can be summed up in three words: Good. Vibes. Only. As great as those external resolutions are (being healthy, financial responsibility, etc.), for me, the most important goals have to do with cultivating a good attitude. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it. For me, it’s been life-changing.

And lastly, I want to say Happy New Year to those who follow and read my blog. I really appreciate it, and I look forward to awesome things coming in 2019!

Have your own goals and resolutions for the new year? Drop them in the comments below!

Happy New Year!

Elizabeth

 

 

WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS

6A03B323-E63B-49F0-9E3A-3BEA2B6B15B1Hi guys! Welcome to the first installment of my new book review series, WHAT I READ THIS MONTH. I plan to publish these monthly, and I’m so thrilled that the first book I’m reviewing is THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS by Laura E. Weymouth. This young adult fantasy just recently hit shelves in October and is sure to sweep you away and make you feel all the feelings this winter. I suggest cozying up with some tea by the fire (I live in Florida, so I pretended) and diving into this story. Let’s get into it.

From Weymouth’s website, here’s an overview:

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.

When Ev and Phil finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.

Now, Evelyn spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

This story has all the elements I absolutely love and appreciate. It centers on family and the very real, agonizing feeling of being caught between two places. Something I particularly loved about this book was that it didn’t dwell too much on world-building or keeping the reader preoccupied with the details of the otherworldly creatures of the Woodlands or magic or anything you typically think of when you think portal fantasy.  The exterior, fantastical setting is great and grand – but this book focused on the people.

And that’s what sets it apart.

Weymouth expertly seesaws between the present in the known world and the past in the Woodlands. This very premise struck me as something so original –  we often read stories of people who are magically transported to another world and must complete some sort of high-stakes quest (guilty – that’s what my first book is, basically). We rarely hear about how these adventurers are when they come home, and if they’re okay. And if you’re going by the Hapwells, they’ve very much not okay.

What struck to the core was Evelyn Hapwell, the true light between worlds. She knew beyond doubt where she truly belonged, and that was her curse. So many people, be it in careers or relationships, can feel in their bones what they should do, but may not be willing to take the risk. There’s the safe way that might, maybe make you happy, and there’s the hard way that will require tough choices but just might pay off. Evelyn knew what her decision had to be.

Evelyn is not always likable. She’s stubborn, she wanders, and she refuses to hear sensible sentiments. But, she has hope. For someone who feels so caged, so entrapped by the dark, menacing real world, she makes her own light and clings to the belief that she’ll someday return to the Woodlands.

Besides having a hauntingly beautiful story and complex characters, Weymouth’s writing is breathtaking and gorgeous. She doesn’t overwhelm you with flowery language or exhausting, long chapters. Instead, she brilliantly balances vivid description with sharp, concise prose. Be warned: you’ll leave a piece of your heart within the pages.

All in all, I highly recommend you give this book a read. Content warnings can be found here.

And stay tuned for January’s book review! Hint: Psych. Thriller.

Buy THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS here:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
IndieBound

 

Celebrating Christmas in Orlando!

211A2A98-0936-4E36-A64F-296F4D8FE766Since Thanksgiving is officially behind us and December is less than 24 hours away, you know what that means. Trees adorned with lights, stockings hung with care, colors of the red/green/silver/gold variety ubiquitously displayed, and of course, Christmas music in the air. This is truly one of my favorite times of year because it conjures up joyful childhood memories and brings family together. And although Christmas is only one day, I try to milk it for a while – weeks, really – in advance to soak up this short, sweet season.

This year will be my second Christmas in Orlando, and so I want to share a few fun, or jolly, things to do in the area to get hyped for Christmas!

#1: Take a ride on The Polar Express

One of my absolute favorite holiday movies is The Polar Express. I used to glance out our window when I was little hoping that the train would pull up in front of the house. Now, there’s no need to keep it to the imagination. The Polar Express Train Ride – Orlando takes riders on a trip to the North Pole from our very own Mount Dora! The ride replicates scenes from the movie, and you even get your golden ticket punched and hot chocolate served by dancing chefs. They do it all – you just gotta believe!

The last train departs on Dec. 30.

#2 Deck the halls – downtown

If you’re in the mood for a more downtown vibe, the city of Orlando is putting on tons of fun holiday events around Lake Eola. From movie screenings to concerts to parades, there’s so much to do to ring in the season downtown.

Events run through the month of December.

#3 Meet Santa at the Mall at Millenia

If you need a cheerful break from gift shopping, stop and take a moment to check out the extraordinary North Pole display at the Mall at Millenia. It’s free, and you’ll get some awesome photos of the jolly old elf! Get there early, though, as wait times to climb up to five hours close to the holiday. Hashtag your Santa photos with #MyMillenia, and you might get featured on their social!

Santa will be there until Christmas Eve.

#4 Take a Disney trip – they have all the Christmas things

OH BOY. You probably saw this one coming. 🙂 Disney World has so many festive activities and shows to get you in the Christmas spirit, and my family has made it a point year after year to visit the happiest place on Earth during the most wonderful time of the year. Whether it’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party hosted at the Magic Kingdom, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, the Sunset Seasons Greetings projection show at Hollywood Studios or the adorable Disney-themed Christmas trees on the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail, there’s no shortage of holiday cheer at Walt Disney World.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – select nights through Dec. 21
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays – runs until Dec. 30
Sunset Seasons Greetings – showing until Jan. 6
Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail – open until Jan. 6

And that’s all I got! I’ve already checked out some of the events on this list, but I have a lot to squeeze in before the big day. Have a Christmas idea or tradition? Leave a comment below, and be sure to follow me on Instagram for holiday fun around the City Beautiful.

XO,
Elizabeth

 

 

Making positivity a priority

DSC_0763I wasn’t always the most positive person.

It wasn’t so much that I was overly negative before, but I’d say I was easily discouraged and highly impatient. Sometimes, I still am (no one is ever going to be perfectly positive), but I have learned to look on the bright side a lot more.

Often, whether it was school or starting a new job, a creeping self doubt would emerge because of internal frustration. Why wasn’t I a master at something as soon as I started? Why did I make mistakes? Did literally everyone know more than I did? This is incredibly flawed and unrealistic thinking, and it’s one of the things that caused a lot of anxiety and negativity in my life.

The good news was that I could change it. And I did.

Choosing to look at life through a positive lens will not only make you happier, but you’ll also become much better at problem-solving, and your work/school/relationships will likely improve.

The truth of it is that being positive is more difficult than being negative. It just is. Having a pessimistic attitude is pretty easy – especially when things aren’t going your way. Giving into discouragement is a breeze when you aren’t employing positive thinking regularly. And, hey, I am still guilty of it.

One thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that it takes strength to be positive and to show that attitude to others. I feel that people who choose to be positive are sometimes viewed as naive or oblivious. But in fact, when faced with adversity, it takes a rock-solid person to say “this is happening, here’s how we’re going to make it better or deal with it.”

Unfortunately, negativity is powerful. There’s no doubt about that. For example, think about your favorite band. Imagine telling someone you love that band, and that person saying “they suck.” How do you feel? Dumb for liking that band? Feeling like you have bad taste? A hesitation to be open and passionate about what you love in the future?

Reject those feelings, and recognize you’re dealing with a negative person. And ultimately, I’m not saying to agree with everyone to appear positive. It’s fine to voice your opinion if you don’t like someone’s favorite band/book/movie, obviously, but frame your thinking and words in a positive way. It’s better for everyone all around.

And most importantly, never let anyone dictate how you feel. Never let anyone dim your light or detract from your passion.

But just as negativity holds power, so does positivity. One of the most powerful things about positivity is its ability to be contagious. I started at my current job almost two years ago, and I was blown away by how positive and encouraging my colleagues were – and are. Sure, there are stressful times where it’s hard to look at the bright side, but they’ve taught me that everything is an opportunity to shine.

All in all, it takes a conscious effort to be a positive person. Sometimes, it’s much easier said than done. But if you take the time to be mindful and intentional with positivity, your life will be a lot better for it.

XO,
Elizabeth

 

 

Prepping for a Disney World visit!

A5DA5C88-755B-42AE-904F-A66CCA26B498As you might know by now, I absolutely love Disney World. I maintain that getting an Annual Pass earlier this year was one of the best decisions I’ve made since moving to Orlando. No matter how many times I visit one of the four main parks, I always find something new and exciting. Whether you’re an Annual Passholder like me, or somebody visiting a park for the first time, I thought I’d offer some tips on prepping for the big day.

#1 Download the Disney World app. Like, right now.

This app is an absolute game-changer. Not only can you view wait times for rides and showtimes, but you can reserve dining, book FastPasses, view annual pass blockout dates, and order food from park restaurants. It’s a necessity.

#2 Get FastPasses!  

It’s not a secret that wait times for Disney rides can get pretty long, so if you have certain rides in mind that you really want to ride, book a FastPass. You can do it directly through the app! I’d recommend doing this as far in advance as possible, as your options will be limited the day of. Keep in mind that for most Passholders, you can only book passes in one park per day. For example, if you get a FastPass for Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom, you can’t get one for Avatar Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom on the same day. Good to know for park hoppers!

#3 Going to Magic Kingdom? Wait.

Magic Kingdom is my favorite Disney park for so many reasons, but let’s be real. It gets crazy with crowds and wait times. My tip for visiting this iconic park is to wait and go later in the day. Out of the four main parks, it’s the one open the latest (typically closing between 10 p.m. and midnight, depending on the day), so you still have plenty of time to enjoy the sights and rides if you head over in the early afternoon. At this point, you’ll have surpassed the hottest part of the day, lighting will be better for photos, and you’ll be inclined to stick around for the magical firework show since you just got there!

Not a fan of fireworks? Hit up some rides! The wait times plummet during the show, and it’s always cool to be on a roller coaster with fireworks painting the sky.

#4 Remember your parking spot!

As the Disney team members like to remind eager guests on the tram, Disney World has 15,000 parking spots. Usually, my husband will text our row number to me so we don’t forget (ex: Rapunzel 237). If you do it as soon as you park, you’ll have no stress trying to remember it when it comes time to head home.

#5 Pack your Mickey or Minnie ears!

Enough said. 🙂

 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you get to the Happiest Place on Earth soon!

XO,
Elizabeth

 

 

Tips for beating writer’s block

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
Charles Bukowski

It’s scarier than a Stephen King novel. It’s more intimidating than a CEO.

It’s an ocean of the unknown.

It’s a blank page.

Writer’s block can hit anyone. Whether you’re a content creator, professional writer, or just trying to draft an email, it doesn’t discriminate. In fact, it seems every writer hits a wall at some point (or, if you’re like me, many). It can be disheartening and discouraging. It can be. It doesn’t have to.

Feeling your creative juices dry up is rough stuff. In fact, I feel like I’m experiencing writer’s block right now, since my work in progress hasn’t been touched in days. But, there are ways you can get yourself back in the groove. Here, I’d like to show you some tips that have worked for me in the past so I could get back to writing.

Step away from the page

Sometimes, we’ve been staring at the page or screen for too long. It helps to break away. Whether it’s taking a walk to clear your mind, listening to music, or, my favorite, shopping, doing something that takes you out of the mindset can give you a fresh look.

Talk it out

For me, this especially helps if I’m trying to develop a plot, or if I just don’t know what comes next. I will literally sit at my desk and talk through it. Alone. Is that weird? IDK. It works. As a fiction writer, this helps bring characters to life. It takes them off the page, and I’m able to really craft what will happen next in my book. If I can follow them, I can finish my manuscript.

Brainstorm

Keeping to proper sentences and paragraphs can run you into a wall sometimes. When this happens to me, I like to take a physical pen and paper and just jot down words. Sometimes, I’ll even (badly) draw maps or things related to my writing, since it truly does help you think of your work in progress in a different way.

Read

It’s a common sentiment among great writers that to be a great writer, you need to do two things. Write and read. If you’re having trouble with the former, lose yourself in a good book. I’ve found that reading books while in the midst of a word drought helps rejuvenate my creativity.

Don’t stop writing

Lastly, don’t use writer’s block as an excuse to stop writing! We’ve all been there. But it will definitely claim victory over you if you decide to wait until inspiration hits. Keep it moving.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment below if you have any other tips for beating the dreaded writer’s block!

XO,
Elizabeth