Sunday Lowdown #76


Every July, my mom has what she calls “Grandma Road Trip,” during which she brings my brother’s kids to visit the spouse and me. They’ve been to where we live before, but in recent years meet half way between central Michigan and northern Indiana. Due to the pandemic, and especially because the spouse and I live in an area getting to be a COVID hot spot, there was no road trip. Instead, we used Google Hangouts video function to “visit.”

The kids (ages 11, 10, 4, and 2) baked a cake and watched Uncle Nick bake cookies. I read The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and they observed as we made taco cupcakes for dinner, which were trickier to bake than I had anticipated. We took a break while the taco cupcakes baked and then were able to get back together while we ate dinner. I know it sounds odd, but even seeing other people eat dinner is still breaking bread. When we’re in person, we don’t talk incessantly around a meal, nor should we have to because we beamed ourselves in on video. We painted nails together and have plans to color together tomorrow (I printed out Liz Climo’s free coloring book). Overall, I’d say it was a huge success! Plus, the ten-year-old didn’t even have to take her dramamine.


I’m grateful that Sophie Campbell took the time to answer my questions for a Meet the Writer feature. Although Breakfast at Bronzefield is her first book, I try not to assume that authors want to do extra “work” for my blog. The conversation around her interview were fantastic, and thanks for making Campbell feel so welcome!

Currently, my literary crush on S.M. Reine’s writing knows no bounds. I was so wrapped up in the emotions and complexity of The Descent Series that I had to pace myself to avoid being too greedy. Yes, I plan to read other series that exist in this same “DescentVerse” and will continue to review those series. I had a couple of readers ask if The Descent Series was anything like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I’m assuming folks mean the TV show, which I did not watch, and not the movie, which I have seen and love (Luke Perry #RIP). The movie is nothing like The Descent Series, if that helps. Also, Reine’s protagonist is not a teen girl, she’s almost thirty, so you don’t get any of those high school dynamics that I remember in movie-Buffy’s world.


Even though I was really nervous, I asked S.M. Reine if she would participate in my Meet the Writer series, and she said yes! Be still, my heart. Nah, just kidding! You beat like crazy, girlfriend. On Tuesday, read the excellent, thoughtful answers Reine provided to my questions. I even asked a bonus question about what made her choose to create a fat protagonist, Dana McIntyre, the star of the first-ever Reine book I read.

On Thursday check out my review of Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim by Leah Vernon. Her memoir was published last year and discusses her growing up in the Nation of Islam in Detroit, how she feels about living in a fat, black body, and how she approaches her faith when people tell her she isn’t Muslim enough.


While I feel like I really know the characters in East Pittsburgh Downlow by Dave Newman, they never fail to surprise me. Honestly, I think this novel would have changed my approach as a professor at a small college had I read it while teaching. The main character, who welded bridges for eleven years and wrote western novels on the side, was hired as an English professor after he did a reading at a community college. His blue collar background makes him relate better to his students, and he seems more human than any professor I’ve met (even myself).


The Blue Chip Store is a book I found on Reddit when I was looking for more prison memoirs after I was so disappointed with Hummingbird in Underworld. The cat book is a cozy mystery by S.M. Reine that is not part of the DescentVerse.


  1. I miss having dinner with Milly.

    And 2 more weeks of work then 2 weeks of quarantine to go before there’s any chance that we might. I wonder if we could Zoom our meals (I wonder if we could stop her sister from talking over us).
    Looking forward to the Reine interview.
    Did you dumpster dive after your egg sandwich?


    • Ah, I didn’t realize you and Milly weren’t eating together. I get it now, I think: she stocks you up with food, but she’s not there when you return. Zoom meals are perfectly lovely, but I do remember you saying you don’t do video chats. Then again, it might keep that pesky sister quiet if you mute her mic from your end….very sneaky!

      Ugh, my egg sandwich. And you know I left that comment just for you. I set it on the side table right next to the couch. I bumped the damn plate with me elbow as I sat down and the whole thing went right into the little trash can kept under the table specifically for tissues. So, no, I didn’t dig out my booger sandwich. However, I know there’s a herd of raccoons that live nearby that likely had a great day. They love our chicken bones and my neighbors pizza crusts for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I did not find the sound of the Reine’s series to be me thing. However The Cat of Amontillado: A Cozy Mystery sounds so silly and was free on Amazon so I downloaded it. Thanks for letting me know about it. We shall see what I think. Arrr!
    x The Captain


    • Aww, I hope you love the cozy mystery. Given the way Reine can do all sorts of emotions, from lovely to deadly, in her The Descent books, I’m hopeful that the cozy mystery will be my jam. There are a few of them, too. She’s been writing them during the pandemic as a sort of medicine.


  3. The virtual get-together with your nieces and nephews sounds great! I find it really comforting how many families and friends are still finding ways to uphold traditions (like the “grandma road trip”) in a virtual way. I’d never heard of Unashamed before, but am looking forward to your review! Also, I am not much of a mystery/supernatural person, but the Cat of Amontillado sounds fantastic – I might have to impulsively read it (esp since it’s free on Amazon right now!).


  4. How lovely that S.M. Reine agreed to the interview (and I love her hair!) and I’ll look forward to reading about Unashamed later in the week (who knows, I might still be caught up when that comes out, though I doubt it!).


  5. I’m glad you were able to have such a good time with your nieces and nephews without the road trip! I bet the little girl who got to avoid dramamine AND car sickness was happy as well! And taco cupcakes sound SO good!!

    I’m excited that you got to have an interview with S.M. Reine after enjoying one of her series so much! I’m a little behind on blog hopping again so I’ll head over to your series review soon, and then look forward to the follow-up with the author on Tuesday!

    P. S. I’m a week late now, but as I started reading this weekly update I remembered that last week you’d posted some pictures, and in my excitement to respond to the rest of your content farther down the post I forgot to mention how nice it was to see your face! I even made a mental note to say how much I liked your curly hair in the last shot, but somehow between the top of the post and the bottom it slipped my mind. Belatedly, your pictures look lovely! 🙂


    • LOL, thanks for the compliment! Sometimes it dries just perfectly and is curly, but by the next day it’s just a sheep fuzz. Maybe I should include more pictures in my Sunday Lowdowns, I dunno!

      The recipe for the taco cupcakes is linked. I would recommend covering them with foil and doing the lower time suggested.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It sounds like you had a wonderful visit with your family! I think we definitely need to get creative about getting together right now–and it seems like you did just that! And taco cupcakes sound so wonderful….


  7. I’m so glad you got time with your nieces/nephews, even if it isn’t in person. Sounds like you made the best of it! We’re going to be seeing my brother and his wife and kids for the first time since February soon and I’m so excited! It’s been planned for a while but felt so unsure since things can change so quickly but it’s actually happening so I feel like I can look forward to it now!


    • I currently live in what is turning into a hot spot, so we’re not comfortable traveling to see family. They’re in Michigan, which isn’t far from us, but Michigan has it’s own laws, and if we were sick but didn’t know, I wouldn’t want to take a virus and leave it somewhere else. :/

      As you know, though, the U.S. is kinda just a hot spot in general.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t know that you were in a hotspot but you’re right that the whole of the US seems like a hotspot right now. It’s hard when it’s cross-state or province travel and it sounds like you’re being responsible. I wish more people were.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the sound of your family google hangout! What are taco cupcakes? Can you post another blog about you baking? Your last one was hilarious.

    Looking forward to reading the fat muslim book! Today was the finale of “Canada Reads” which is sort of like a a survivor style debate about books, and the shortlisted books always sell really well after so it’s a good contest. Anyway, the winner of it was “We Have Always Been Here” which is a memoir about being queer and muslim in Canada. Yes!!!!


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