Happy Rex Manning Day!

Damn the Man! Save the Empire! groupdance

April 8th is Rex Manning Day! That’s the day all of the cult classic, Empire Records, takes place. Celebrate with M&Ms, visiting your local record shop, fake funerals, telling everyone your name is Warren Beatty, dancing with a couch pillow, and, most importantly, great music.

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And, at 1:37 exactly, tell someone how you feel about them.

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Audiobook Review: Bury Me, by Tara Sivec, narrated by Stephanie Willis

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Bury Me
Author: Tara Sivec
Narrator: Stephanie Willis
Publisher: ListenUp Audiobooks (Disclaimer)
Length: 11 hours 47 min
Where I Got It: ListenUp Audiobooks
Audible
GoodReads

Synopsis: 

I hear screams in my head. I see blood on my hands. When I look in the mirror, I see a stranger.

How is it that I can remember bits and pieces of my life, but nothing of any importance and nothing that makes any sense? Everything is twisted and nothing is right. I’m choking with every breath I take, suffocating on the unknown.

Two days ago, everything changed. Two days ago, the people I should trust the most became strangers in my convoluted head. The dreams I have can’t be real. The fleeting memories that whisper through my mind are scary and wrong…they have to be. If they aren’t, I have something much worse to fear than my fractured mind. I need to find out the truth, even if it destroys me.

I’ve been told my name is Ravenna Duskin. I’m 18 years old, and I live in a prison….

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Review: Jesus Christ.

This book is crazy.

So, we open on an 18-year-old girl who has suffered an injury and is experiencing memory loss. She’s told that her name is Raveena Duskin, that she lives in a prison (inactive, but a historical site and her parents provide tours), with her parents who love her, and she is a good girl. As she begins to remember more and more, she starts doubting everything they’ve told her.

This story is dark and full of unexpected twists. I kept thinking I had finally figured it out only to discover that, no, no I had not. Bury Me is an excellent psychological thriller, full of complicated characters – many of whom are absolutely unlikeable, but fascinating.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Stephanie Willis. And her performance was so creepy! Once I got into the story, I didn’t want to stop listening. Some of her voices are kind of screechy or whiny – but it makes sense within the story and I think those voice choices were good. The audiobook is only about 6 and a half hours long and it’s addictive enough that you might want to just listen to it non-stop.

Hello, 2016

This year the following things will happen:
– Benjamin and I will get married!
– I’ll turn 30!

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Hopefully these things will also happen:

– We will make steps toward other changes, like moving to a place we want to be and making more money.
– I will increase my flexibility. I’m weirdly flexible in some ways, like I can lick my elbow, but in other ways not at all, like I can barely touch my toes. So, hopefully I can touch my toes. And do a split.
– I’ll keep up with my exercise routine and improve my diet. Specifically, I want to work out at least 4 days a week, drink more water, and log my food everyday.
– Keep my perspective and privileges in check. Keep challenging myself and learning about other perspectives.
– Cultivate my relationships. Appreciate Benjamin every day. Make time for just us at least 3 times a week. Make time for friends weekly.
– Work toward my goal of a book a week.

Goodbye, 2015.

In 2014, I changed jobs, graduated graduate school, and moved to a new home. In comparison, 2015 was much more stable, though not without its own changes and happenings. The biggest, of course, was the surprising status update from “in a relationship” to “engaged”.

I was a bit better about keeping this blog updated, especially in regards to my book life. I wanted to read a book for each week in 2015. I didn’t quite get to 52 books for the year – 34 total – but there are some novellas and short stories that I didn’t track on GoodReads, so the total is probably closer to 40 or 45 if we count those. I aspired to write reviews for all the books I’ve read, and maybe, eventually, I’ll get to those.

Of what I read this year, these are my favourites. –

I didn’t get to add a new stamp to my passport this year, but I traveled quite a bit in the spring – NYC in March for a friend’s birthday surprise, Miami in May (where Benjamin proposed), back to NYC at the end of May for Book Expo America. I spent more time on planes in those few months than I have in years – I don’t do a lot of plane travel, historically. Since the Spring, we’ve mostly been at home. I spent a weekend in Blue Ridge for a friend’s bachelor party where I got to hang out with two goats. We stayed another weekend in Dahlonega for my brother’s wedding. Earlier this month, we drove to Cincinnati for Christmastime with family.

 

After the stress of my thesis, going full-time, and all the rest of 2014’s turmoil, I started 2015 at the highest weight I’d ever been. I did not take good progress pictures, but trust me, I’ve progressed. Over the holidays, I’ve gained back some of my lost weight, but I’m still 7 pounds lighter now than at the beginning of the year. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’ve added muscle and I’m short. Bust is 2″ smaller, waist is 3″ smaller, abdomen/love handle area is at least 1.5″ smaller (but I didn’t start measuring that until later in the year), and my butt is 1.5″ bigger.

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Here’s 2014’s super fat Christmas tree and a little more fat Holly

And here’s this year’s less fat Christmas tree and less fat Holly

Our tree isn't quite as fat this year 😕 but neither am I 😌 🎄🎄🎄 (🍌 for scale)

A photo posted by Holly Bryant-Simpson (@hollishter) on

Benjamin put us on a budget and, if we ignore December, I’ve done a good job of sticking to it. I’m still not organized, but I’m improving. I’ve been drinking more water, but not enough. I’m better at meal planning and prepping, but I have much to learn (if you have vegetarian/pescatarian friendly freezer meal recipes, holla).

Overall, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2015. It’s been a good year. 2016 is going to be even better.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes

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Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks for our favourite quotes from books we’ve read this year.

  • “I read stuff. Books are not my only friends, but we’re friendly. So there.” – Magonia, Maria Dahvana Headley
  • “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying – trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.” – Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay
  • “What colour are your eyes?
    Olly (O): blue
    Madeline (M): Be more specific please
    O: jesus. girls. ocean blue
    M: Atlantic or Pacific
    O: atlantic. What colour are yours?
    M: Chocolate brown.
    O: More specific please
    M: 75% cacao butter, dark chocolate brown
    O: hehe. nice” – Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon
  • “He talked about an ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to.” – Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli
  • “A bit early to put all the chips in the fryer just yet. Why don’t you just wait and see? Remember: There’s a reason the Fairy godmother gave Cinderella two glass slippers.” – Searching for Grace Kelly, Michael Callahan
  • “When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was going to the moon. We weren’t thinking about looking back at Earth. But now that we’ve done it, that may well have been the most important reason we went.” – Binary Star, Sarah Gerard
  • “In the first months without him, Edith had marveled at how any different types of quiet there could be. What had been so different about the levels of noise with him sitting in the chair, reading for hours in his drugstore glasses? Why did every shower, now, feel like such an exercise in fallacy, preparation for an event never coming, though, this had always been a lone ritual?” – Infinite Home: A Novel, Kathleen Alcott
  • “Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.” – Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
  • “Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. ‘Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10′” – The Martian, Andy Weir
  • “Hesitation is the death of advantage.” – A Darker Shade of Magic, Victoria Schwab

Adventures in Wedding Planning Pt. 1

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Apparently I never mentioned on the blog that I got engaged. Oops. So, anyway, this guy & I are calling it forever. And I’m really excited.
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We’ve been engaged since this past May and are planning a wedding for next May. We found our venue and set our date, then set aside all planning until we made it through October. I was in a few weddings this fall, so I’d been postponing/procrastinating planning our wedding until I was done with those.
Next on the list of things that need to be secured at this point are food and photographer. This post is about the latter.

Continue reading

ARC August Book Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between

IMAG0066A Curious Tale of The In-Between (Pram #1)
Lauren DeStafano
Paperback (ARC – BEA 2015)
Middle Grade
Amazon
GoodReads
Synopsis: Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

Lauren DeStefano is beloved by critics and readers alike, and her middle grade debut is lyrical, evocative and not to be missed.

Review: Excellent Middle Grade read. When it comes to children’s book & middle grade books, I prefer a bit of magic and whimsy and this was perfect. When I think of great middle grade, I think of books that deal with real life pain and real life hardship, but still have the innocence and wonder of childhood.

Pram’s mother hangs herself while pregnant. Pram dies, too, but the doctors save her (conveniently, her mom chose a tree right outside of a hospital, so they got to her pretty quickly). Because of this, Pram has a connection to the spirit world and lives In-Between life and death. She lives with her aunts, who run an old folks’ home and is home schools until she’s 11. Because of this, her only friend is a ghost named Felix —

Obviously this is how I pictured Felix the whole time

— who spends his time around the pond at the home’s property.

Until, she starts school, where she meets sweet, blue-eyed Clarence Blue, who grieves for his mother. His grief has lost him most of his friends, but Pram knows grief well. The story follows their friendship and their quest to find their lost parents. The channels for finding them is a bit suspect and they end up facing very real danger.

Do you want to figure out your family secrets with your two best friends – one alive, one dead? DUH. If you like middle grade fiction have a middle schooler in your life, I recommend this one.

This was one of the many books I picked up at Book Expo America in May.

There it is. Yes, the spatula was BEA swag, too.

There it is. In with my BEA Day 2 Haul. Yes, the spatula was BEA swag, too.

We are looking to add new Middle Grade & YA audiobooks to ListenUp’s catalog, so those are the books I went to first. This was actually the first book I pulled from the stack to read. Bloomsbury has the audio covered, so ListenUp won’t get to do the audiobook, but it was  great book to be my first BEA ARC read.