Mousetrapped by Catherine Ryan Howard

Three big dreams, two Mouse Ears and one J-1 visa. What could possibly go wrong in the happiest place on earth? When Catherine Ryan Howard decides to swap the grey clouds of Ireland for the clear skies of the Sunshine State, she thinks all of her dreams – working in Walt Disney World, living in the United States, seeing a Space Shuttle launch – are about to come true. Ahead of her she sees weekends at the beach, mornings by the pool and an inexplicably skinnier version of herself skipping around Magic Kingdom. But not long into her first day on Disney soil – and not long after a breakfast of Mickey-shaped pancakes – Catherine’s Disney bubble bursts and soon it seems that among Orlando’s baked highways, monotonous mall clusters and world famous theme-parks, pixie dust is hard to find and hair is downright impossible to straighten. The only memoir about working in Walt Disney World, Space Shuttle launches, the town that Disney built, religious theme parks, Bruce Willis, humidity-challenged hair and the Ebola virus, MOUSETRAPPED: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida is the hilarious story of what happened when one Irish girl went searching for happiness in the happiest place on earth.

I must admit, I’ve not read many travelogue/memoirs. In fact, I steer clear of non-fiction unless it’s a celebrity’s auto-biography. Call me shallow all you will, I do not care! However I won myself a copy of Mousetrapped on Catherine’s blog and it’s a book I’d been eyeing up for a while (though the price for the paperback was off-putting and I won my copy just as I’d gotten myself a Kindle – ‘cos otherwise I was going to buy myself the Kindle version). I thought it sounded fascinating and I must admit, it was. There were some parts that I wasn’t a fan of – some of the backstories we’re told relating to NASA space missions were a bit yawnsome, as if I really wanted to learn that I could have just Googled them. But I loved the book for the most part. It was a quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I absolutely love Florida. I went on holiday to Florida – to Orlando in fact – twice, in 2001 and 2002 with my parents and I loved it. If I won the lottery, I’d move to Florida. It’s a wonderful state. Sunshine all year round, although that also means plenty of rain and thunderstorms thanks to the humidity (which I hate. I am terrified of thunder and spent most of my time when it was thundering during our holidays locked in a closet). Thunderstorms aside, Florida is one of my favourite places ever. I loved holidaying there. I loved going to IHOP and Walmart and Golden Corral (I REALLY hope that’s still there), I loved going down to Tampa to see the (Devil) Rays play. I wasn’t a big fan of the beaches, the one we went to had horrible gritty sand. Reading Mousetrapped brought it all back to me, the time I enjoyed there. New Town, with its rides. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. It brought it all screaming back and made me realise just how much I’d love to go there again.

My absolute favourite part of the novel was Catherine’s reminiscing about going to the Kennedy Space Centre. Sadly, we never visited there when we went – I wasn’t even aware of it at 11 and 12 respectively when we visited. Space shuttles fascinate me, I love seeing them head off into space. There’s nothing quite like seeing something take off that’s bound to leave Earth. It’s surreal. I found the chapters in which Catherine tells us about her own visits there hugely fascinating and her passion bleeds off the page. It makes me sad that I’ll never get to see a shuttle take off live from KSC as, as far as I’m aware, this year sees the last ever shuttle mission.

Mousetrapped is a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to its sequel Backpacked later in the year. It was by no means perfect, but anyone wanting to see what it’s like for an Irish girl to up sticks to live in Florida would enjoy this hugely. When we went to Florida, we never visited Disney World (it didn’t appeal), and Catherine talks about it very well so that I’d probably be well able to navigate through Disney if I went today! I’m really pleased I read it and it brought back lots of wonderful Florida memories for me!

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