Sunday Lowdown #71


When I wrote my Sunday Lowdown last week, it was late on Saturday night. The next day, we did end up doing a movie theater parking lot picnic, which means we’ve been doing it several weeks. The grass gets taller and taller, but last week we saw something that me smile, literally, for days: whoever mowed the grass at the factory across the driveway came over and zipped a little loop under our tree where we picnic. If you’re saying, “Awwwww!” that is the correct response. Although, it also means someone has been watching us eating, reading, and dancing, and hoo-boy that feels weird. I’m hoping it was just a weekly glance, like, “Oh, those weird parking lot people are back. I’mma mow their picnic spot — no sweat.”

I realized something this week: everyone experiencing the same thing across the globe, e.g. a pandemic, is really boring. All the news is the same, when I talk to loved ones we say the same things. It’s not that I find my friends and family boring — not at all, lovelies! — it’s just I never realized that sameness is a sort of purgatory. We need to have some wild kite flying, or a socially distant pride parade, an outdoor sculpture exhibit, bumper boats. . . SOMETHING to talk about!

This week’s all-by-myself Friday date movie was Devil’s Pass, which I feel is a sleeper sci-fi/horror flick that more people need to see. It doesn’t have great ratings, but I find it fun and thrilling and clever, all without having to spend 90 minutes clenching my whatever because I’m afraid something is going to jump out of the woods/water/closet and with a chainsaw/sharp teeth/butcher’s knife to kill the protagonist’s friends whilst scaring the poo out of me.


We finished Flannery O’Connor’s collection! Some of us, myself included, were limping across the finish line, but no one said we had to sprint eagerly. I mean, I take “Why run if you’re not being chased?” very seriously. While I’m glad I finished the bulk of O’Connor’s total works, I’m also relieved it’s done because her stories were starting to feel homogeneous. THANK YOU everyone who tried this experiment with me. I’ve never led a short story read-along before and hope you found it a good experience.

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey was a great start to the Vows & Honor trilogy that Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I are reading. We officially eighteen months into #ReadingValdemar, and I’m not over it yet. To be honest, I’m relieved we’re away from the timeline with Falconsbane as the villain; those trilogies dragged, but this year is shaping up to be a more enjoyable Valdemar experience. FINALLY — something has to go a tiny bit right in 2020.

My favorite post this week was The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio because you all challenged me with some great questions. Cornejo Villavicencio’s book was frustrating because it didn’t follow any genre that helped me trust the work or know what it wanted to do, but it’s clear that the author is angry and passionate, and also processing a lot, about the immigrant experience. If you haven’t read my review yet, but sure when you do to read the comments other folks left.


As I’ve mention a couple of times, I’m taking your recommendations more to heart as a way to connect with you during the pandemic. Maybe because we can talk about the book without mentioning the c-word? On Tuesday I’m sharing my review of a humorous memoir, recommended by Bill @ The Australian Legend, called The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. A newlywed couple embark on chicken ranching in middle of nowhere Washington State in the 1920s with the very best of odd neighbors and farm problems.

On Thursday I’ll be sharing my thoughts on The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, a book a I rejected earlier in the year when I couldn’t keep up with the characters in audio format. My book club completed the novel and talked to the author the last day we met up in May.


We’re getting into the last quarter of Glory Road by Robert Heinlein, and I have to say, we’re both wondering what else can happen now that the quest is complete, loads of omitted information has been revealed, and we’ve learned that the best method of government in the galaxy is laissez faire, e.g. if your planet has infanticide, they’re your babies, and you do you (this is a paraphrase, not a hyperbolic joke).

Though I offered to read it to the spouse and he politely declined, I decided to go ahead with Influenza: The Hundred-Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History by Jeremy Brown. I find that more information, which comes from a source in the distance, to be comforting (i.e. not news reports about the c-word now, but history and science from 1918). A couple of facts that stand out so far is how many flu deaths in 1918-1919 were from aspirin overdoses. Near the Arctic Circle, Native American tribes were nearly decimated, burying their dead in the frozen permafrost. A side benefit is scientists were able to identify the genetic code if the 1918 virus from these bodies. Brown published his book in 2018, yet the warnings about a future novel c-word are everywhere.


Several of these are for the next few months of book club or are by Jennifer Ackerman because I enjoyed her most recent book very much (and the review is forthcoming). A few others were nabbed from my Goodreads feed. Also, if you giggled at my excessive use of “the c-word,” I’m glad because I did it on purpose.


  1. I’m doing my best to lead a non-standard, non-pandemic life (apart from 14 lovely, relaxing days in quarantine at the beginning). What more can I do? Go on a BLM march I suppose and I wish I had. Having read Willa Cather and Flannery O’Connor both for the first time, in quick succession, I must say I much preferred Cather. Enjoy The Egg and I, it might be 55 years since I last read it myself.


    • I’ve noticed in your journals that things seem to be fairly normal for you, and I envy that. I’m not sure if it’s because you’re on the road alone, or what, but you’re still seeing different things and going places, both which are part of the “American spirit” associated with our love of cars and anti-mass transit attitudes (bleh).


  2. My husband loved the Becky Chambers and I’ll look out for your review of The Pretty One. Happy reading. And yes, it’s boring and I am pretty cross at being confined to the distance I can walk or run and wishing past me had learned to drive!


  3. I have read ALL of Betty MacDonald’s books…actually preferred “Onions in the Stew” about her life with her second husband on an island off of Seattle…but LOVE her descriptions and humor! (And it took me a minute to figure out the “c-word”…it’s early yet!


    • I’m pretty excited to read the rest of her books. Her style of writing is unique compared to other memoirs I’ve read. She blends poetic sentences with hillbilly humor in a way that speaks to me. I’m glad to hear the next books continue to stand up proudly, and I thank you for letting me know!

      LoL, if you’re not from the U.S., “the c-word” may not have the same effect. 😀


  4. Pandemics *are* boring. I have a weekly call with my mum and brother while this is going on, and this week we all just kind of stared at each other without much to say. Normally we play a game but I was too lazy to organise one this week – I’ll have to try harder in future because we’ve got nothing to talk about otherwise!


    • Boredom and fear are wreaking havoc at my house. It started out as a murmur, but it’s starting to roar.

      I will say that I’ve been thinking about our Hangouts meet up and the importance of play. Not long after, the audiobook about birds that I’ve been listening to got to the chapter about birds and play, and how there doesn’t seem to be a scientific reason for birds to play, but some do A LOT, and they have more developed pre-frontal cortices.


  5. Oohh Mexican Gothic looks interesting! I love gothic literature. Also, very cute story about your grass patch being mowed 🙂 And I totally know what you mean about us all having the same stories right now. Bumper cars are a great idea!


  6. I want to take full credit for A Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet, but I don’t know if I get to? Each Sunday when I read this post I always think to myself,” Ugh. I should recommend more books. Why don’t I recommend more books?” So, hopeful?

    I love that someone mowed your picnic spot!!! This is totally adorable. I bet you’re a bright part of the mower’s week, honestly. To your point that we are all trapped in a big of purgatory here, I bet the people who decided to mow under your tree had a fun time chatting about it, making the decision, and sharing it with others. You’re making other people’s c-word time more interesting! Yay!

    I don’t blame Nick for not wanting to read a book about the 1918 flu with you– but I’m soooo down with you reading it! I’m a little disappointed it’s written by a man, because it means you won’t post a review here. But let me know how it is. I am completely curious.


    • A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was chosen by the librarian who leads my book club. Sorry! I’ll go back and revisit your review, though. I think I remember reading that review, but it’s been a while.

      It’s true that the mower likely told someone, maybe a spouse at dinner, about our picnic silliness, so maybe we did bright things for someone 🙂

      The flu book, turns out, isn’t just about 1918 but how often the flu will change and how the public deals with that. In some cases, a pandemic turns out to be a mild situation, and in others, they worried it would be huge and vaccinated everyone, only to have the public freak out and associate every death shortly thereafter with the vaccine, and this was long before Jenny McCarthy. I’ll share my ideas on Goodreads, and I also plan to give updates on interesting facts that I learned on my Sunday Lowdown.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bah. I knew it wasn’t me. I don’t have a review for A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet on my blog. It was one of my top reads of 2019. Typically the books that blow me away the most never get reviews written for them… I can never figure out how to do them justice!

        Brilliant. I’m glad I can still stalk your thoughts on this influenza book. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re so right about the sameness of everything. I keep trying to write emails or even a blog post and it’s all, We went for a hike, we played in the empty lot, we rode our bikes, Rose is dressed as Snow White. It’s all the same as last month. The big excitement this week was picking up books at the library. But that’s also everyone’s big excitement this week in town!


    • When I see families (mostly mothers) bringing their children to the library, I see them carrying around those cloth grocery sacks just FULL of books. Basically, they’re trying to do a one-and-done so they don’t have to come back for a while! LOL, I totally get it. I’ve also noticed I am just not shelving books like I used to. I mean…I don’t see ANY. It’s weird.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I came home with three bags full yesterday! Are people allowed to browse at your library? We’re still not so our books were a combo of ones I’d requested and ones a library employee picked after I talked to her over the phone and told her my kids’ ages and interests. Normally a library day could take up a whole morning for us – browsing and playing with toys and colouring, maybe a story hour. Now it’s just a quick pick-up so it makes sense to load up as much as we can!


  8. So nice that they mowed your picnic spot! I’d also feel awkward being noticed in that context, but it does seem like a nice, friendly gesture. And you’re right, a socially distanced Pride parade or other positive event is exactly what the world could use right now! The sameness is indeed starting to feel a bit like a purgatory.

    Also, your TBR additions look very exciting this week! Mexican Gothic sounds right up my alley, and I have high hopes for Writers & Lovers, which is already waiting on my shelf.


    • On CBS This Morning they showed a brief video of toddlers having a Black Lives Matter parade, and I totally loved it. Dr. Kendi, who wrote How to Be an Anti-Racist, just came out with a children’s book called Anti-Racist Baby. He read it to his daughter on the interview, and the interviewer, Jericka Duncan, read it to her daughter, too, and it was a GREAT way to start the morning. It wasn’t a pride parade, but it was nice to see these moments with children.

      If you’re interested, we could buddy read Mexican Gothic when it comes out. We already have one dark mystery novel behind us!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, that does sound great! I love that childrens’ books are covering topics like antiracism now, I don’t remember anything like that being available to me as a kid. There were stories like Dr. Suess’ The Sneetches that went some way toward promoting that people are equal no matter how they look, but nothing very practical and realistic. It’s a step forward that publishing is catching up on that front, I think.

        That’s a great idea! Let’s do it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Perfect! I put a hold on Mexican Gothic at my library, which is currently on order. Let’s touch base again when I get the book. You might want to add a hold if you can, too. I think she tends to be pretty popular.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Sounds good! I’m keeping an eye on my library catalog but I’ll probably end up pre-ordering my own copy next week, as it doesn’t look like my library has it on order.

            Liked by 1 person

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