Sunday Lowdown #74

update on me

I’m struggling through a library cataloging course, which is why I’m not updating you all on anything about it. It’s basically computer coding, but for libraries?! The 4th of July happened, a holiday on which, for most of my adult life, I’ve worked, so I’m used to not doing anything. I have an ungodly fear of fireworks, so if you’re the type of person who cuddles their dog in the bathroom after strapping them into a thunder vest, just know that I wish I were your dog.

I haven’t been reading in a focused fashion lately, and it’s aggravating. There are some plans listed at the bottom, though, to counteract, I hope, this feeling like a Picasso painting has captured my brain. Here is a bird playing with a wind chime, just for the fun of it, because many of you were delighted with my review of The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman. I watched Parasite for my Friday night horror pick, which is so good and thought-provoking, and you should watch it.

A cockatoo playing with a wind chime.


Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin attempts to begin filling a gap on library shelves when she asks, “Where are all the parenting books for black women who adopt?” There are books for birth parents and white parents adopting children, but the unique experiences parenting adopted black children in the United States aren’t discussed widely enough, and Austin’s memoir is an excellent start to that conversation.

While The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor wasn’t my jam, the book itself is a celebration of all bodies, especially those ignored or harassed because they’re fat, disabled, or brown or black. Some of the contemporary self-care language threw me off.


Next week I’ll have reviews for two self-published memoirs set in correctional facilities. Hummingbird in Underworld by Deborah Tobola is the story of a creative writing instructor who builds an arts program in a California prison that reads like you’re sitting on the author’s shoulder. Breakfast at Bronzefield by Sophie Campbell is written by a formerly incarcerated British woman who takes readers inside a prison and demonstrates how it changes a person by incorporating her experiences and research. Reviews will be published Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.

Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey is part of #ReadingValdemar, which Jackie and I have been doing for 19 months now. Two of our favorite and most reliable characters, Tarma and Kethry, are back as mercenaries under a captain who must leave home to attend to political business, but vanishes. Review on Thursday.


We’re starting to understand what East Pittsburgh Downlow by Dave Newman is about: a man who teaches full-time at a community college in the English department makes money on the side publishing westerns under a pseudonym. But what he truly wants is to have a literary novel published with his name on the cover, a novel about working class people who have shitty jobs. Agents don’t want that; it’s a hard sell to people who want cowboys, rich ladies shopping, and violence. Readers follow the man’s life and the weirdness that crops up when you have a long history with people who aren’t graduates of ivy league colleges and come from families of wealth and privilege. To some degree, East Pittsburgh Downlow feels like interconnected short stories and flash fiction pieces for the way there are separate scenes, but it goes together as a novel.


I’m going to be buddy reading Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler with Gil and The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden with my mom.


  1. I have Jonathan van Ness’ book to read although I have a LOT of other books to read this month so he might not make it into the pile for July. I have just read the Queer Eye book though and am now reading the original one to compare and contrast …

    The two prison books look fascinating and I will look forward to your reviews.

    And I am an ex-cataloguer. A certain kind of person loves doing it, however that is by no means all kinds of people!!


  2. I’m excited to see your thoughts on Jonathan Van Ness’s book-all those queer eye books sound like fun.

    Canada Day is July 1, and because the Calgary Stampede (the greatest outdoor show on earth!) isn’t really running this year, the city put on a HUGE fireworks show that we could see from our balcony, which we woke Ava up for (it was at 11pm). I love fireworks actually, they make me deliriously happy, I’ve been known to cry for happiness when I watch them LOL


  3. Sorry you’re struggling with cataloging. That said, you wouldn’t expect to love EVERY aspect of librarianing. Which is a word I made up just for you. 😉 What is the right word to use here? I never really enjoyed composition or theory when I studied music.

    I can relate to not reading in a focused fashion. Sigh. I feel all over the place. I’ve been binge-reading book club books because I keep forgetting to read them and I read other things instead. Oops! I haven’t skipped a book in the last 8 weeks though, so something must be working. Even if it’s stressful. I guess what I’m saying is that you’re not alone. 🙂

    SO MANY BOOKS on your TBR pile! I’m sure it’s in a post I’ll be getting to soon, but what did you think of The Bear and the Nightingale?


    • I’m not sure which I hated more, music theory or sight singing and ear training (I was a music major for ONE! WHOLE! YEAR!). What I’m doing is continuing education in library science, so library science is probably the correct word.

      I was really pleased that I finished Oathbreakers. I was reading it slowly even though that wasn’t because I didn’t like the book. I was really happy with the ending and wanted to write something about the relationship, but didn’t. We’ll talk about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with the cataloguing class (although based on your description of it as “computer coding for libraries” I can understand why it would be a struggle). You have some really intriguing books in your TBR pile! I hope they successfully counteract the Picasso-brain you’ve been feeling lately. I’ve been pretty unfocused for the past couple of weeks, too, and I love the Picasso description you used – I can definitely relate right now.


    • I thought of Picasso’s abstract work because it’s like I can see something is there, but the picture is unclear. I also liked using Picasso because that image of “The Old Guitarist” seems to capture the weird, sad feelings that can suddenly come upon me during the pandemic, too.

      I’m really looking forward to reading more of the Betty MacDonald books on my TBR. Although she has problematic opinions of Native Americans, her interactions with them are not always good, so I can see where she’s coming from but know that she shouldn’t attribute her experiences to a race or group. Other than that, her writing is wonderful and immersive.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In our town, fireworks are always a very divisive and controversial issue. The next town over used to have an event every summer called Sea Cavalcade that ended with a firework show but people protested against it so much that last year they replaced it with a lantern walk. The same thing has happened at the last few Canada Day celebrations and the district hasn’t done fireworks but the Sechelt Nation tribe puts them on instead (about 500 metres away) because they’re self-governing. There weren’t any this year but it was the first time that wasn’t a controversial decision!


    • I love the idea of a lantern walk! I’m not against community and things glowing in the sky, but do they have to be exploding things in the sky?? There is a minor league baseball team in my city, and they usually do fireworks EVERY. FRIDAY. So we hear them all summer. The season is cancelled this year, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t have strong feelings about fireworks either way but every week would drive me crazy! Vancouver has an annual fireworks show (not this year, obviously) and it was always one of my favourite things in the summer as a teenager. They do it from a barge in a bay at a beach downtown, set to music over 4 nights and it’s a huge event. A lantern walk is nice though because it actually feels more communty-oriented and it’s easy for people to get involved or to just watch.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The mere mention of ‘computer coding’ in your post had my mind scrambling. I had flashbacks to a class where I learned to code, and it was just so tedious. It might not be similar to what’s being done in libraries but it looks like it doesn’t spark joy either, lol.

    Kitty is so adorable! She looks a little grumpy in the picture – is she waiting to be read to? Haha!


    • Gil, I’m cracking up because Kitty’s face in that photo is like one click away from total Kitty contentment! She loves laying on books. I have so many photos of Kitty being a book lounger.

      I think my problem with the cataloging course is that the instructor is giving us very basic instructions and then pointing us to websites on which I find lots of terms that I don’t know, which, to me, would be the “basic” part of my “basic cataloging” course.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry I’m just getting to these comments now – I’ve been absolutely miserable from the lack of coffee and stomach pains, but I’m FINALLY starting to get used to the crests and dips of the pain. I laughed when I saw this comment! I should have known better because Cat looks almost exactly like Kitty when he’s pleased. He may look grouchy but he’s actually purring rather contentedly if you listen to him.


        • Ugh, I wish Kitty would purr. When she does, you have to have your hand on her and you kinda feel it. You really can’t quite hear it. My mother-in-law has this fat tom cat that just makes the most delightful V-8 engine noises when he purrs.

          Have you gone to a doctor? I’m starting to get worried about you.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Cat purrs very silently too – I have to touch him to feel it. That cat sounds delightful! I know only one other cat in real life who does it, my friend’s cat (incidentally, the cat also in my photo). He’s my favourite non-Cat cat. I don’t recall his breed but he has a smushed face.

            I haven’t, but only because I feel my symptoms gradually getting better with the dietary changes – I’m having much less episodes now than last week. 😀

            Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoy fireworks when I can go to the local display, lay in the grass and enjoy the show for 10-15 minutes, and then go home after. It’s all the random ones throughout the month going off from every which way that you’re never expecting that bother me! Just as an annoyance though. I’m sure July is a tough month for you if you’re completely anti-firework. I hope you’re hanging in there. They should stop *eventually.*

    I’ll be curious to see your thoughts on One to Watch when you get to it! Your remarks on whether content is fat positive is always very insightful and helpful. I’ve added One to Watch to my list as well after seeing a couple of great reviews from people who liked the book a lot even though they’re not fans of The Bachelor/Bachelorette. I’m not fond of reality TV but it sounds like the characterization and dynamics are worth reading for!


    • I’m not fond of reality TV, either. I feel like it highlights the worst of human beings, but from what I’ve heard, people find a lot of genuine personalities in those Bachelor shows. One couple who met on the Bachelor (or was it the Bachlorette?) got married and have been together for a long time, have children, etc. Even if reality TV isn’t for me, I try to engage with pop culture so that I’m not out of touch. I think I’m going to enjoy One to Watch, especially since the author seems like a rather thoughtful person.

      Liked by 1 person

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