Sunday Lowdown #73


My Friday night movie was a new one for me: a horror flick called Ma, starring Octavia Spencer. I hate to say this, but I’m never immersed in any role she plays! I watched the entire limited Netflix series Self Made and felt the same way. However, I do enjoy her work in secondary character roles, such as Dorothy Vaughan in Hidden Figures and her voice work in Onward and Zootopia. I almost wish the eponymous character in Ma had been played by Regina King, who can be both a fun party girl and deadly serious, which the role calls for.

Again, it’s too hot for picnics, so I stayed in this weekend and did a lot of video chats. First thing Saturday morning, I met Gil from Gil Reads Books! She is a total treat! We had to do some fancy timing because the Philippines are twelve hours into the future, so while I was just getting to my morning coffee, Gil was headed for bed. It was fantastic start to my weekend. After that, I video chatted with my mom for a while and decided we may read Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy together after we finish The Bear and The Nightingale for book club. By the time you read this, I’ll likely already have video chatted with Lou from Lou Lou Reads. She also lives in the future, but only by five hours. I’ll be drinking my coffee and maybe she’ll have afternoon tea. I’m making some assumptions here, as Lou is British. We’ve talked before, and Lou is also wonderful.


This was the first week in my memory during which many people wanted to read both books I reviewed. On Tuesday I raved about So We Can Glow, a collection of slice-of-life flash fiction by Leesa Cross-Smith. Many of you are interested in her work, and I can say that every book she’s published has been a winner for me.

Who knew so many of you were bird lovers? I received positive feedback on my review of The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman, which discusses how birds talk, work, play, parent, and think. I’ve since added all of Ackerman’s books to by TBR, which is when I learned she doesn’t write solely about birds; she has a book about the common cold and another about “a day in the life of your body.”


Two non-fiction works are coming your way next week, which makes me wonder: why am I reading so little fiction lately?? On Tuesday I’m sharing my review of a memoir that I stumbled upon when Goodreads gave me it’s “based on your shelves, you may be interested in . . .” song and dance. Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin is about the author’s childhood, which shaped the way she approached motherhood as a single black woman who wanted to adopt a black boy.

Thursday brings the famous self-help-ish book The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, a fat, black, queer woman. Anyone who’s looked into fat-acceptance, body positivity, or anti-diet culture has come across this book. I finally listened to the audiobook, read by Taylor.


East Pittsburgh Downlow by Dave Newman is such a hit in our house. The spouse said, “I feel like this book was written for you to read to me.” The characters are vivid and surprising, while being totally familiar. I love the setting of a community college campus with a protagonist who welded for eleven years only to start writing western novels, get noticed by the community college president, and end up a full-time professor with a bunch of non-traditional students, some scary, some amazing. His co-worker is a Yale graduate who holds an MFA in poetry, producing books the protagonist finds obscure and pretentious. These two, both former wrestlers, will wrestle on the college’s lawn. So odd, so funny.

Their interactions are fantastic, but even better is the entrance of Rig, a former champion college wrestler who went on to play for the Steelers (the Pittsburgh National Football League team for my non-U.S. readers) and now needs someone to pick him up from jail. I mean, it’s a dang hoot and adventure, and thank goodness we’re married, because my husband has laugh-spit on me about a dozen times now. A big, huge thank you to Dave Newman for sending me this book for free during the pandemic. His work is fantastic.



    • Honestly, I need facial cues to get along in a conversation. Only hearing a voice is really upsetting to me, and I don’t like it. I don’t think I’ve called anyone this whole time on the phone, but I have video chatted with my parents, sister-in-law, and friends.

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  1. Motherhood so White is one that is on my radar so I’ll watch out for your thoughts with interest. I’ve got back into my non-fiction again after spending some time with light novels, maybe we’re getting used to All This Stuff.


    • I’m not sure why I’ve been reading so much nonfiction, but it dawned on me one day when we were asked by a librarian what fiction we’ve read lately that they could put in the newsletter, and I hadn’t read any!

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  2. I’m afraid I’ve been interstate visiting mum in person. I dislike phone calls and don’t do video calls. However my daughter is worried that the rate of Covid-19 infection in Melbourne is rising again and that I might bring it back to Perth where she has a brand new baby (whom, so far, she still lets me hold).

    Very vivid image ‘spit-laughing’, I’ll remember not to tell Nick any jokes.


    • Why don’t you do video calls? They’re so easy, and I always feel like I’m right there with the person. I hate phone calls because my hearing isn’t great, especially on phones, and I take a lot of visual cues when talking to people.

      It might be a good idea to wave at new baby through the window. Nick and I still haven’t visited anyone since we locked down March 16th. I video chat with my mom a lot now, though.

      I’m not sure what the heck happens to Nick. It’s like the laugh bursts out so unexpectedly that it tries to hang on with some spit. He’s a goofy goober.


  3. It was so nice to speak with you! 💕 When face to face interactions existed, I didn’t do video calls, but now video call is the next best thing. I’ve only been following your blog for a little while, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you pick up YA! (Katherine Arden’s trilogy is technically YA, isn’t it?) Will you be reviewing it after you read the trilogy? It’s been on my TBR for quite awhile. And Motherhood So White is such an intriguing title—looking forward to your thoughts on that too!


    • You know, I thought Arden’s novel was going to be YA, but it really wasn’t. It’s fantasy/folk tales from Russia, and maybe that is why some people consider it YA. I typically do not read YA because I get tired of how bloated they can be, and how simplistic the sentence structure is to match the reading level. I’m going to review The Bear and The Nightingale, which I enjoyed, and then I’m thinking I’m going to read the whole trilogy and review each one.

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  4. Motherhood So White looks interesting! And I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on Katherine Arden’s work. I read the first book when it came out. I’m not jealous of your extreme heat but it rained here all week so I’m a little jealous that you’ve had sun!


    • I can see you really enjoying Motherhood So White, Karissa, because you’re one of a couple of bloggers I know who like reading about parenting and the experiences of mothers and comparing them to your own.

      I’m excited to review Arden’s book; I really enjoyed reading it with my book club, and the author is coming to our (virtual) meeting tonight!

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      • Ok, I think you’ve convinced me to find a copy of Motherhood So White! I’m realizing recently just how much being white affects my experience as a mom and I’d love to read more about the experiences of other women.


        • The author was going to libraries and asking for resources about black moms, and there was nothing! This book definitely makes a place in a hole in that part of the library, but there need to be more books. I got my copy on Amazon.

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          • I’ve just never thought of my parenting in terms of race which I realize is entirely my own privilege. I recommended this book to my local library but I’ve never done that before so I’m not sure how effective it will be. It looks like I can get it from my local bookstore I just might be running over my book budget!


            • My library has been pretty cool about getting almost any book I ask for, assuming it’s somewhat popular or fills a gap in their collection. If they can’t get it, try an inter-library loan. Those are always great!

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              • Hopefully that will be the case! They’re not currently doing interlibrary loans unfortunately but I definitely see this filling a gap in the current library shelves and they’re generally really good about bringing in a wide variety of authors/books.


                • That’s a bummer. We’re still doing ILL, but some libraries that normally work with us aren’t, and others are just slower to get books out. We still request, though! Indiana has a program that allows you to return a library book to any library, even if it’s not the one where you got it, just to get books back. There were so many students across the state who went home from college and had books with them.

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  5. Aw I’m glad you and Gil got to chat!! I’m looking forward to your review of The Body is Not an Apology – I’ve heard mostly positive things about it, but have yet to read it myself.


  6. Both of your nonfiction posts coming up next week look so good! I had such good intentions of increasing my nonfiction reading this year but I just keep picking up fiction… oops.
    I’ll be interested in your thoughts on the Katherine Arden trilogy as well, that’s been on my must-read list for a while but I haven’t gotten around to it yet! You must have enjoyed the first book if you’re planning to continue. 🙂

    And I love that you and your spouse have found the perfect book to read aloud! Perhaps the reason my family (even the cats!) get annoyed when I try to read aloud is that we have such different taste in books (though I have no idea what the cats’ taste would be). I just like reading aloud when I’m enjoying the flow of the prose of whatever book I’m in the middle of, but apparently some people actually prefer a complete story read in a reasonable time frame and including plot elements that appeal to them *sigh*


    • A librarian at work emailed everyone to ask which fiction we’ve read lately that we’d recommend, and at the time I had no suggestions! I’d only been reading nonfiction plus a couple of fiction books I didn’t like.

      I just got the rest of the Arden trilogy from the library via curbside pickup today. The author came to our last book club meeting. She was pretty reserved, but overall nice. Apparently, the last book club meeting she went to they all just went around in a circle and said what they liked and didn’t like about her novel. I can’t imagine being so thick.

      I’ve been reading to Nick for so many years that now when he travels for work (which he hasn’t done in 2020), I still have to read something aloud at night or the cat gets upset and kinda hostile. She sits with us when we read, lol.

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      • How nice that you were able to involve Arden in your meeting! And how disgusting that anyone would make her sit and listen to their opinions on the pros and cons of her novel that way. What a missed opportunity for them!

        Ah, that sounds so nice! I know my cats like the sound of my voice, they get excited when I talk to them and will always come to me. But apparently when I talk just to talk they’re less amused- when I try to read aloud they leave the room, lol. I love the thought of you reading to your cat even when it’s just the two of you!


  7. Very interested in The Body is Not an Apology.

    I fondly remember talking on the phone! I hardly do it anymore, but man, back in middle and high school, I could talk on the phone for HOURS. And that was when we had one phone line, too. Ha ha! I’d take the phone into my room (with the extra long cord) and shut the door. Memories!


  8. I, too, find I’ve been reading a lot more non-fiction. It’s strange for me, as last year I only read 2 non-fiction books and one was a DNF. O_o But there’s something about it that speaks to me right now. Kim @ Traveling in Books has been giving me a ton of recommendations to continue my non-fiction reading. That’s been nice. 🙂 There’s nothing wrong with this. Perhaps you just need a different form of fiction than you usually read? How is that other series you’re trying to read? Have you read any of those lately?

    I won’t lie, I’m a smidge jealous you chat with other bloggers too. 😉 But that’s a great thing! Honestly, I should do more of that myself. It’s a wonderful way to deepen relationships. Thankfully we’re chatting tomorrow so I’m totally not *that* jealous. 😉


    • I’m giggling about you being jealous because we talk, like, every day and I love you 🙂 ❤ Chatting with other bloggers can be challenging. Gil is 12 hours ahead of me, and Lou is 5 hours ahead. Gil's internet is fairly spotty, so I may see her for a while, but mostly its voice. I wonder if she has a similar situation to you: when too many things are happening at once, the internet gets janky.

      I think the reason I gravitated toward nonfiction is that I keep encountering personal stories that are incredibly interesting, and then I find they are well-written. I finished the first set of books (7) in the DescentVerse by S.M. Reine and totally loved them. I'm trying to do one per month so I don't go too fast, and to keep up with blogging (since I'm not reviewing each individual Reine book). The series review is coming soon.

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      • I know, I know, I’m silly. And I LOVE that you have other blogger friends, too! I just… yeah. ❤

        Most of my non-fiction has been… whatever the opposite of personal stories is. Science, essays, business. I'd love to get more personal stories in my non-fiction list, though. I won't lie — most of my non-fiction selections lately have been based on Libby availability of audiobooks and Kim's recommendations. XD The library list is weird in that way.

        I'm looking forward to the first DescentVerse series review! I am interested in doing series reviews conceptually… I want to see how you're formatting these and if I can learn something awesome from you. 😉


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