Cheap Bookish Ways to Beat Depression

Today is my birthday, and I guess I’ll go ahead and just say it: I’ll be turning 44. Wow. For some reason, this birthday is a tough one for me. I have never been a big birthday celebrator and I’m not even that enthusiastic for holidays. (I celebrate them for my wonderful daughter, who must continue to discover all the little joys in life!)

Partly, I realize it’s due to my crusty nature, and with all my obligations as a single working mom (also back in school no less), I just don’t have the motivation. Whatever the deeper underlying issues may be (I won’t go into them here – you’re welcome), my depression and anxiety has reared its ugly head.

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I’m grouchy, irritable, gloomy, melancholy… a real doozy. To top it off, I’m dead broke, so forget about buying any gifts for myself or getting my “hair did” or a mani/pedi, etc. Sooooooo, what’s a girl – okay, I guess I really can’t myself a “girl” anymore at 44 – what’s a lady to do?

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Along with using this blog post as a way to wallow and vent my birthday distress, I thought I’d try and come up with some inexpensive ways book lovers can beat depression, and also maybe post a few comfort books I can always count on to brighten my day.

  • Find your local thrift stores (or used book stores) and go shopping! It’s cheap, distracting, and you feel accomplished after you’re done! I did this recently and look what I found. (There’s my favorite photo bomber, Kitty, in pic #2. She must smell another animal on these used books!)

 

  • Go to Amazon and search for free or cheap books to add to your Kindle! This one      can be hit or miss, but you can get lucky sometimes! Again, it’s distracting (this is a key component to fighting depression and anxiety) and fun. I recently found a book I really liked called Karma by Donna Augustine and it’s still only $0.99 on US Amazon!
  • Go to a local coffee/tea shop and drink your beverage of choice and read a book or magazine. It’s less expensive than going to a restaurant and buying a whole meal, and let’s face it, there is just a good vibe in coffee houses. Or there should be. They smell fantastic too!
  • Go to your local library! Free books you can check out and a free place to sit and hang with people while being introverted! Most libraries are interconnected, so you can search for books you want, and if your local one doesn’t have it, they can get it for you from a neighboring library. Also, since audio books are more expensive, try finding them here! I found some AWESOME series on audio that made me feel all the right feels!

Examples: The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, anything narrated by Steve West.

  • Talk to co-workers. You may be pleasantly surprised to find people you never expected have similar reading tastes and will let you borrow stuff for free (just remember to return it in the same condition). My love for graphic novels was rekindled this way and I got to read the entire Preacher series and The Invisibles this way!

I’ll end this long post by leaving you (and thank you so much if you’re still here with me) with a few of my comfort reads. They never fail to lift my heart and allow me a respite from the drudgery and survival mode I often find myself in.

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Because Barrons and The Nine.

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Because I love all the characters and want to be Kate. I totally ship Hugh also. Hey, it’s my fantasy world, right? 🙂

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Because sometimes you just need the fantasy of a hot alien falling for you no matter what flaws you may have!

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The Vampire Blood series by Juliette Cross – because I love vampires and vampire romances are my go-to for a good escape.

(Honorable mentions: Eric Northman, all the guys from Black Dagger Brotherhood, Bones and Ian from Night Huntress, Spike from Buffy, enough said.)

Okay, I will leave you with one last technique I find amazingly effective in distracting the moody bookish person who may need an intervention….

BONUS:

Look at hot men (or women, whatever your preferred flavor may be) on the internet! The Dust Off Your MacHalo group at Goodreads has a “harem” topic where we post pics of hot guys and I promise, it can make a person very happy!

See. I already feel so much better! 🙂 If you struggle with depression or anxiety, know that you are not alone. Never give up. As with early parenting, distraction and redirection are two great methods to manage it.

If you feel like sharing your emotional status and/or have easy and cheap ways to find and enjoy books, leave a comment below. Or just comment on guys you find hot. Beards are good. Very good. Am I right?

7ya8izz

Freaky Friday: To Eat or Not to Eat?

Some of you may have noticed that we took a small hiatus last week, but never fear! The MacHalos are back with a brand new addition (I’m channeling my inner Vanilla Ice here people so you must sing it to the tune) to our Freaky Friday collection.

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It’s funny how some of the topics we use come up in every day conversation. My daughter is in debate this semester and their impromptu debate topic was “Cats vs Dogs: Which is Better?” (or something along those lines.) She was outlining some of the arguments used, including this one used by a Korean classmate: in some cultures, like mine, dogs could be considered a food source. Now, I’m not sure if this was actually a pro-dog, like “Hey, dogs can be both food AND pets” or a pro-cat argument like “Hey, we eat dogs, but cats are superior so off-limits” or if it was not meant to be taken seriously at all, but it led to a discussion about foods that are weird-to-us. The natural conclusion was to do a freaky food topic as our Friday post. Of course, it also helped that we recently watched Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom.

So here we are! I have scoured the inter-webs looking for examples of freaky foods, and let me tell you: there’s a TON out there. Bugs, organs, you name it and someone, somewhere has eaten it. I tried to narrow it down to those that REALLY grabbed my attention, but honestly there were many, many worthy candidates.

Casu Marzo

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What is freaky about casu marzo you ask? Well, casu marzo is better known internationally as maggot cheese. Yes, you heard me: MAGGOT cheese. This is a traditional Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese that contains live insect larvae. The larvae are intentionally introduced to bring the cheese past fermentation into a decomposition stage, making it very soft. Clearing the larvae for consumption is optional, but this cheese is considered hazardous to eat if the larvae have died. Though this cheese is still made in Sardinia, it has been declared illegal in the EU.

Escamoles

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This doesn’t look that freaky, right? WRONG! Here’s another example of larval delicacy: escamoles. Served in Mexico, escamoles are ant larvae, often served pan-fried, and used mainly to fill tacos or omelets, but can be eaten alone and served with guac and chips. They are said to have a nutty flavor, but I’ll just have to take their word for it.

Balut

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Our next contender hails from the Philippines. Balut is actually a duck egg that is fertilized and allowed to develop into an embryo before being boiled (I think it may be used with other fowl as well). Once it is cooked, the egg is cracked, the liquid sipped, and then the duck embryo is eaten straight from the shell, bones, feathers, and all. It is often served from street vendors and apparently goes well with beer. Maybe something to think about for that next Super Bowl (or equivalent) party, eh?

Stink bug

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I thought about using the scientific name, but let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we? In parts of Africa, this edible species of stink bug is considered a delicacy and an important source of protein, vitamins, and micro-elements. In fact, there was a time that the U. N. encouraged the world to eat more insects, such as this particular guy. These odorous buggers can be eaten live or prepped to cook later. Um, well done please?

Guinea Pig

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I also came across many, many unusual meat choices: dog (Korea), cat (East Asia), horse (Japan), kangaroo (Australia), rattlesnake (United States), but I think the one that threw me the most was the guinea pig. I had no idea that people ate guinea pigs! Like dogs and horses, here in the US guinea pigs are cute little rodents sold in pet stores for a child to take home to love and cuddle, but in South America you can find the guinea pig as the star of the dinner table.

Holodetz

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So, we’re sorta kinda stealing this from Ilona Andrew’s Face Book page, but it was posted recently and seemed super appropriate. What we have for you is holodetz, or jellied pork. I’m sorry, jellying any type of meat seems wrong. However, not if you live in the Ukraine. There it’s apparently a specialty and a must on the New Years table. I think I’ll stick with our cabbage and black-eyed peas!

Blood Tofu

I’ve heard of blood sausage, which is also pretty gross if you stop to think about it, but blood tofu? Now, that’s a new one to me. The is literally pig’s blood heated with salt until it coagulates. You basically get a big, ole mouthful of congealed pig’s blood. Yummmm…..

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And last, but not least..

Fried Creepy Crawlies

I guess what they say is true: everything is better fried! You can get an array of creepy crawly bugs and arachnids, deep fried and crispy. I’m really only including these for aesthetics because they look so interesting. I have tried fried grasshoppers myself. They aren’t bad, actually, once you get past the legs that is…

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Okay folks, if at least one of these bizarre examples of cuisine didn’t skeeve you out then you are a stronger person than I. Is there anything that you have eaten that was just weird or freaky? If so, we’d love to hear about it!

Sam Says (1)

Until next time, ya freak loving weirdos whom we adore!

 

 

My Shiny Pretties

In my last book review I mentioned my pretty, shiny books that I keep under lock and key. So for this post I thought it’d be fun to share just a few of my favorite book covers. I know, I know, this gets done a lot (and with good reason because there are so many gorgeous covers out there!), but I thought it was a nice and natural segue that needed to be taken advantage of.

Ann Aguire’s Razorland Series

I haven’t finished this series, but the reason I initially began reading it was because I was drawn to the cover of Enclave. It’s still my favorite of the group, but there is something that appeals to me about the series as a whole.

Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle

I think this cover perfectly represents the creepy weirdness that is this story.

Charlie N. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician Trilogy

This is a series that I may never finish because I was so disappointed in Book #2. However, I still love the cover art and love the logical transition from one to the next. I just wished the books lived up to their potential.

Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire

I have no idea why I love these so. Maybe it’s all of the dead bodies with swords like grave markers?

Benedict Patrick’s They Mostly Come out at Night

For disclosure, I have not read this book yet, but there is something so alluring about the cover art (and the book title!) that I had to add it.

Cat Winter’s The Cure for Dreaming

I have no idea if I’ll actually ever read this book, but the reason it is currently residing on my TBR shelf is because I found the cover so compelling.

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V. E. Schwab’s Shade’s of Magic

This is really a no-brainer. Her cover art for this series is fabulous. It’s what drew me to the first book, but it was her writing that kept me hooked.

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby Dixon’s Ice Planet Barbarian

The book that started all the love for these big blue, horned alien brutes. Gotta love it.

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Francesca Zappia’s Made You Up

This is another case of maybe-I’ll-never-read-but-that-cover-art-is-just-gorgeous.

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Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele

This was one of my few 5 star reads last year and, incidentally, also one of my favorite cover designs.

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These are just a handful of my favorites from the never ending pool of possibilities. I’d love to see some of yours!

Sam Says (1)

Nightfall (Jack Nightingale #1) by Stephen Leather ★★☆☆☆

(I’m apologizing in advance for the giphy review. I had to find entertainment somewhere.)

Okay, I’ll admit it. Not only am I a sucker for a pretty cover, but I also like pretty book titles.  I keep all my pretty shinies tucked away in a safe spot, where no harm may befall them and where I can privately gaze at them, whispering sweet nothings and stroking their smooth, blemish free exteriors. My pretty, pretty shinies….

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Ahem.

Back to the subject at hand. Book titles, yes. In this case, it was the title character’s name that did it for me.  Jack Nightingale just has a sound to it, ya know? Jack Nightingale, Private Investigator. Now there’s the man I’d want working my case. If I opened the yellow pages or google or whatever app people use to choose service professionals and had to pick someone, anyone, who could help me and there was a listing for Jack Nightingale, he’d be my choice, no question.  There’s just something about the name that whispers “greatness.” And, in the beginning, I was not disappointed. The opening was fantastic. I just knew I was going to love it.

But then something happened.

The magic of those beginning chapters was lost.

It became repetitive and uninspired.

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Thanks to my handy dandy kindle app I was able to do a word count. “Cigarette” was mentioned 122 times in the book. “Smoke” was mentioned another 88 times. Now he only mentioned his favorite brand, “Marlboro”, a mere 21 times the slacker. Let’s see, he also said “Pentangles” 54 times and “Satan/Satanist” another 42 times. Gah! Anyway, the shit just bugged me.

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Any of the interesting bits there were were lost in the cloud of smoke that perpetually surrounded Jack. What made him so fucking special? Why in the world would a demon go through so much trouble, kill all of those people, just to get to Jack specifically? And the more I read about Jack, the more I began to dislike him. He’s extremely self-centered, he’s crass, and he’s sexist, and normally, those things aren’t always deal breakers for me. Sometimes it’s okay to have a main character that possesses an/some undesirable traits. It adds flavor and diversity. I’m totally cool with that. But take this as an example. He has an assistant, Jenny, (that apparently has a thing for him though I can’t imagine why) and instead of actually taking the time to read her CV/resume and appreciate her for her accomplishments, he hired her because she has great legs and a nice phone voice. By the end of the book he still hasn’t taken any time to get to know her better, and she still has a thing for him. WHY???

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This is from the very last pages of the book:

“You’ve got to be joking.” (Jenny)

“Jenny, just do as you’re told…”

and then the next page,

“I’ll try,” said Jenny.

“Good girl,” he said.

Like she’s a fucking dog. And this is after he’s had an entire book for some character growth.

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It’s not only how he treats other people, he also makes a ton of conjectures based on very little information, one such conjecture being what constitutes a “Satanist.” Has he never watched Supernatural? A Crossroad Demon can be summoned by digging a hole in the dead center of a set of crossroads, burying a box containing a picture of the mortal wishing to make the deal, some graveyard dirt, and a bone from a black cat (yeah, I googled that shit.) You don’t have to be a Satanist. Seriously, like literally anyone can do it. Trust me on this. But apparently, according to Jack, owning or having anything to do with the occult means you worship The Devil. Bollocks!

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Oh, Crowley. Of course we’ll snuggle.

So at the end, the author tries to give a half-assed explanation for all of it, but I’m not buying it. Nope. Not buying a  word. I think all the shit that went down was solely for dramatic effect and the end was a feeble attempt to tie it all together.

I’m giving it two stars, and that’s only because I liked the beginning so much. There was so much promise in that opening. *sighs*

Sam Says (1)

The Mirror’s Truth (Manifest Delusions #2) by Michael R. Fletcher

Welcome back to the sick and twisted world full of insane people, debauchery, violence, and delusions. We have our favorite trio back from the Afterdeath: a nice place to take a vacation if you like the color gray, tasteless food, and monotony. No? Doesn’t sound like much fun? Well, you’re lucky then, because Morgen, the boy-god has Ascended, and can bring you back to the “real world.” It’s not much more fun, but at least there is real booze and the food tastes…marginally better?

Morgen finds our trio separately and makes separate deals with them. Our “hero,” Bedeckt (huge guy with battle axe who refuses to acknowledge his insanity and may be a bit of a berserker) just wants to make things right.

Stehlen, the psychotic Kleptic, just wants revenge on Bedeckt, because she loves him and he rejected her. She also might be in love with Wichtig, although she has no idea why. She also gets to keep her lover, the great swordswoman Lebendig. Nobody is allowed to take ANYTHING from her!

Wichtig, the Greatest Swordsman in the World, is just thrilled because he’ll get to have sex again, drink good ale, and resume his quest to best all swordsmen everywhere! For all time! Because he is the best. And cutest. And the best. Of all time. And really attractive and charming and the wenches be all up in his shizz. (I love Wichtig, lol.)

So, there is tons of brutal violence:

We see a LOT of the insides of people. There is also lots of betrayal:

Because that’s the way this world rolls.

Our trio spends most of the book trying to find each other, to pay each other back for all the wrongs and imagined wrongs. The boy-god Morgen is trying to expand his kingdom, but finds out it’s a messy, dirty business (and he can’t stand messes). He might be a bit OCD about cleanliness.

There is also a crazy dragon, a chick who is so deluded she has convinced herself she speaks to the earth and can move dirt and rocks, and some other crazy guy who is convinced everyone has a demon inside of them he has to exorcise.

I LOVE this series so much! I can’t put my finger on what it is. In a way, it’s meandering and we spend a LOT of time in the various characters’ minds (and that can be a crazy place to be), but the writing is so darn good, and the humor is so dark and twisted, it just warms my shriveled up heart.

I think my favorite character is Wichtig. Somehow he is just likeable, even though he’s such a POS! One of my favorite scenes is where he tries to train his new apprentice.

“The facts don’t matter. Facts are a hindrance. Unless they support whatever it is you’re saying, in which case they are the most important thing in the world and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot.”

“Your opponent doesn’t matter. The crowd matters. Convince the crowd. Never fight without a crowd if you can avoid it. If there’s no crowd, then you have to convince your opponent. If that fails, you might have to actually rely on skill with a sword. That should always be a last resort. Now, talk to the crowd. Look at the pretty girls or boys or whatever your preference is. Ignore your opponent. Nothing pisses Swordsmen off more than being ignored.”

“You don’t care what they think about you, you care what they think about the fight. What they think about your opponent.” Wichtig closed his eyes. “I’m tired. Keep practicing in your mind. Imagine the crowd. Imagine what you’ll say and what your opponent will say. Wake me if the dragon comes to eat us.”

Man, he gets put through the wringer in this one! It’s horrible, but yet I couldn’t stop reading! Poor Wichtig! LOL

Don’t expect these characters to have nice and tidy HEAs. lol

This is an anti-happy-ever-after world and “dark” fantasy at its best! Hands down. I will read anything by this author! I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

My review at Goodreads. My review for the first book, Beyond Redemption, is also at Goodreads.

7ya8izz

 

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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First things first, more Fetch please.

Here we have a book that dares to cross genres. It’s a fantasy/dystopian blend that is mostly-vague about the origin details. We know there was a world very similar to ours, same country names, technology, books, and culture. Then, “something happened” in an event known as The Crossing and we lost technology, electricity, advanced medicine, and were reduced to living in a world with torches, swords, archery, farming, hunting, villagers and nobles, etc. etc.

This is the story of a 19-year-old girl who is the heir to the Tearling throne, had been hidden and raised by foster parents until she came of age, and then has to suddenly become a queen. Her kingdom has been brutalized by her uncle, who was Regent, and by a neighboring evil queen who demands a repulsive monthly tithe of Tear slaves.

Kelsea is the new, young queen and she immediately begins making changes and struggles to earn the respect of her guards and citizens. This was a book that ended without a cliffhanger, but there were plenty of pieces that are still to be resolved.

What I really liked:

  • Kelsea was great. She is one of my new favorite female characters. She is no Mary Sue and has to fight and earn her place. She is assertive and confident and yet still has the realistic self-doubt of any young woman concerning her looks and desirability. I thought there was a lot of girl power in this!
  • As I mentioned, no cliffhanger. The first part of the story ends satisfactorily, but makes you want more because there are still at least two people that Kelsea will potentially have an epic showdown with.
  • No romantic angst or manufactured drama! (There is no romance in this at all, actually.)

The only minor issue I had was that the book felt a bit over-long, but the pacing was still pretty even.

I would not classify this as Young Adult. There was no smut, but there were graphic descriptions of sex, rape, and abuse to women and children. People got their throats cut and were gutted. The main character is 19 when the story starts and everyone else is older than her, so if anything, it’s “New Adult.”

I enjoyed this enough that I am putting it on my favorites shelf and would buy a physical copy and re-read it at some point.

Buddy read with the MacHalo group. My review at Goodreads – five stars! 🙂

7ya8izz

Alien vs. Debbie: An Erotic Adventure

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This Freaky Friday edition is about a short story I read last year and is hands down one of the best alien smuts I have EVER read. First of all, look at this glorious cover:

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It’s written by someone named Emma Steele, and she doesn’t have a whole lot of titles under this name. Unfortunately. This had humor, was well-written, and just flipping ROCKED. Here is my review from Goodreads.

My name is Debbie Archer. I’m 50 feet tall and I can’t get enough of the monster peen. But being so tall, regular peen just isn’t realistic for me anymore. So I had to go and screw Godzilla, and it was AMAZING. It even activated my kundalini and my chakras got all tuned up! Then, I got sucked through a wormhole and somehow ended up regular sized again, on a ship in 1987 with… Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, and Veronica Cartwright?!?!

Debbie: To top that off, they tell me they have a mission to capture all these TV aliens in space that somehow really exist because of complicated science reasons I don’t really understand – and then they show me where they’ve got them all locked up, so of course, after I screw the humans, I end up doing the aliens! ALF was there, some reptilian from Star Trek, Mork from Mork & Mindy, the Great Magoo, and some others … but these guys made the biggest impression…

Yep, I did them both. And loved it!

He’s got a three inch peen!

See that glowing finger? Well, it’s HOT, literally, and he likes to stick it places. The perv.

Anyway, I’m insatiable, and unstoppable, just like the Sia song! You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out what happens after the Xenomorph from Aliens shoots his creature sauce all over the spaceship (hint: that shizz eats through everything but diamonds). I have to go now because I see someone – something? – else I need to have sex with! Byeeee!

Me: Thanks Debbie, I’m sure everyone will want to read your story now!

So, I’m not sure if this is some bizarre version of fan fiction?

Whatever it is, I thought it was great. This really appealed to my inner sci-fi geek, as well as being hilarious. This was actually written very well and incorporates a lot of fun sci-fi theories and fantastic satire. This may be the best monster porn/smut I’ve ever read. It was gross, but so over the top, I just laughed.

I don’t usually give monster porn five stars (or even rate it usually because, while it satisfies my bizarre and twisted cravings, they are not usually all that). But this one? This one, my friends, is how it’s done. Take notes, authors of niche erotica, because this, for what it is, is freaking BRILLIANT! Yep, I’m going there. This was hilarious and awesome!

7ya8izz

Until next time: stay freaky.