Sunday Lowdown #80


  • This week, a large storm that swept from Iowa to Indiana, traveling 70 mph, was expected to knock over healthy trees and cut power for several days. When the power stayed on (after blinking out several times), I was grateful for both the internet and the air conditioning. It made me think of people in the pandemic who have neither.
  • My library had a staff summer reading contest, and I won $25 to Amazon!
  • I’ve honestly watched this 15-second video (turn on volume) about 20 times this week and laughed.
  • I’m keeping an eye out for sweetness in this world, to remind me that kindness is contagious, so I’m sharing this grandmother’s reaction (turn on volume) to getting a cat for Christmas.
  • Sometimes I’m thankful for things that help us express our anger, and I’m thinking this short clip (turn on volume) maybe changed my mom’s whole weekend.
  • I’m grateful for the picnic the spouse and I enjoyed Saturday, at which I had empanadas, carrot cake, and Xanax.
  • More thankfulness for the internet: Gil @ Gil Reads Books and I met on Saturday (morning for me, night for her) to talk pandemic, politics, school, and Octavia Butler’s Earthseed duology. She’s a delight and a wonderful friend.
  • Both of my book clubs this week made me happy, including the elderly lady who railed against Hello Fresh while we discussed Notes From a Young, Black Chef. Some of you have asked where I review books written by men. You can friend me on Goodreads to see my thoughts there!


On Tuesday things got spacey when I shared my thoughts on The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Many of you have read and loved Chambers’s first novel and convinced me to check out the three following books in the series, which are related but not one big plot arc, which is nice!

Thursday I reviewed the last book in the Vows & Honors trilogy from Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar universe. Entitled Oathblood, it was the first short story collection by the author that I read, and the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that she excels in the short form, and that perhaps many of her novels were short stories she wove together.

It’s always nice to meet new writers, so I had Tara Isabel Zambrano over to visit on Thursday. She talked about STEM ambitions and her new book, which has a gorgeous cover I included in a large size after her interview so you can see the details.


Since Gil and I read and discussed the Earthseed duology, this week I’m sharing both reviews. On Tuesday you’ll get my thoughts on the first book, Parable of the Sower. A futuristic look at an America that’s doing poorly as a result of corruption and the dismantlement of public education. On Thursday I’ll share reactions to the second book, Parable of the Talents. Can America get more corrupt, even in an already draconian future? Yes, yes it can. But there’s a modicum of hope: the parable of the talents, a Biblical passage about a servant who horded the money his master gave him to invest, suggests it’s up to us to share what we possess that can save others.


Thanks to Sarah @ Hamlets & Hyperspace for her recommendation! All four of these authors are ones I’ve read and loved before.


  1. Love your pandemic gratitude posts! In reading this I’m also realizing I totally forgot about our weekend Zoom chat- I’m sorry! Make it up to you next weekend?


    • Absolutely! I do have to work on Saturday, so Sunday would be better. I figured you had a lot going on. I know you just got back on the blog and you’re doing both full-time work and helping M. with school stuff!


  2. I’m glad you weren’t adversely affected by the storm!! And that video is hilarious bahaha – bookmarking that to cheer myself up on a gloomy day. Those are some great-looking books on your TBR! I love the Strange Planet comics and didn’t realize there was a book (and sequel) of them 😀


  3. I’m looking forward to the Parable reviews. I don’t have the second yet, but if the bookshop doesn’t have it I’ll get them to order it in. After weeks of iso Milly relented and we went to a movie – La Belle Epoque, which is brilliant – and then got some Mexican takeaway (and wine) for our own picnic on the way home. And yes, we’re old, we go to matinees.


    • Matinees are the best. No teens texting in front of you. It’s not crowded. My cinema actually sells good coffee in the morning. It’s wonderful. Movie theaters aren’t open here yet, so all movie dates are at home. Lately, we’ve been watching Indiana Jones movies on Sunday mornings (home style matinees). Tell Milly I said hello, please. 🙂


  4. I could have done with some of that air conditioning last week. But it doesn’t make sense here in the uk since we have only a handful of days every year when it gets that hot….. Still when it does happen, you long for cool air.


    • Lou in England was telling me that homes in the UK tend to have more doors, such as a door to the kitchen to keep the heat in that room when one is cooking. I never see doors like that in the US! We need to work smarter on controlling our environment in the US, but we tend to do whatever is easiest.


      • there was a time when people would have an open plan layout for part of the house – usually between the dining room and lounge. but its true we don’t tend to have the same layout that I’ve seen in many American houses where all the ground floor is just essentially one room.


  5. Glad you weren’t adversely affected by the storm—and that you were also able to have that picnic! I LOVE carrot cake—the one you linked looks sooo goood, especially with all that cream! Coincidentally, you’re the second friend I had this weekend who shared about eating empanadas. My favorite kind is something called Ilocos Empanada, a specialty of one of the provinces here.

    Congrats on winning $25 on Amazon! I’m curious, what did the reading contest entail??


    • The reading contest is just logging the books that you read during a certain time period (I think it’s actually the summer months as defined by the calendar in the U.S). Then, I believe, they do a drawing, and each book read is an entry.

      I looked up Ilocos Empanadas, and they look super tasty! There are some ingredients in there I haven’t heard of, mainly Ilocos longganisa, but I’m assuming it’s a sausage as some recipes mention removing the casing first.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad the storm didn’t cause problems for you! It missed me entirely, which was a relief.

    I love all three of those videos you shared. The first one I didn’t think would make me laugh (I’m not much into slapstick humor), but it’s short enough that I replayed it a few times and by the third time I was laughing the whole way through! And the cat video is so WHOLESOME!


    • Just the fact that we are so buried in our phones that this guy didn’t see a giant plastic door coming at him, then “thwack!” made me giggle. Just the amazing sound effect. Look up, people!

      I know on the news they keep talking about the Iowa farmers and their flattened corn. Maybe it’s a sign from the farm gods to diversify crops and somehow twist the arms of rich people subsidize those more healthy and yummy crops??

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! People really are far too oblivious these days.

        Maybe a change in crop production would be a good idea in the long run, but it would require a whole lot of change in a larger system, especially since most of the corn grown around here isn’t even the kind you buy at the grocery store, it’s a drier kind that’s made into ethanol and livestock feed. A whole different market of demand. It would be nice to be surrounded by food we could actually eat, but I’m not sure what the solution would be for replacing those products. It’s beyond me! And unfortunately the chance of crop failure is a risk that probably won’t go away, no matter what’s planted.


          • Ha, sorry! No need for that; tbh I felt kind of silly laying out my points, I’m never sure how much of farming that regular people are aware of and sometimes make an idiot of myself. And I would definitely say that it’s becoming a big-company game that doesn’t favor small farmers who have their hearts in the game, and there are negative effects to that. I’m not involved enough to know how to go about it, but as far as I see it you’re right that some changes in the system would be very beneficial!

            Liked by 1 person

  7. I love those clips you shared — The one with grandma and the cat makes me so happy. I need more moments like that in my life.

    Ohemgeeeee that storm was CRAZY. One of the offices for my work is in Waverly, Iowa. The entire Iowa office and almost all remote employees lost power for days. That Monday was basically a mulligan when it came to working. I’m so glad that you’re okay.

    Congrats on winning the $25! Do you already have books pegged for it? 😉

    I don’t know if I’ve never seen someone post back to back reviews from a series. I get that Parables is a duology, so that’s not weird. It’s just an observation. What inspired you to do this?


    • Hahaha, I need more grandmas like that in my life.

      My co-worker lost power for most of a day after a small storm the day BEFORE the big storm, and I was so worried we would lose power in the big storm. We had just gotten a lot of groceries and it was SO hot and muggy. I didn’t want the stuff in the fridge, or the produce on the counters, to go bad!

      I actually spent the $25 on a birthday present for my nephew, who is turning 3! I thought about buying books, but there weren’t any that I really had my eye on.

      Originally, I wanted to post both reviews together in a single post, but they got a bit too long for that, and I wasn’t happy with where I was thinking about cutting things, so I did them in one week to keep readers fresh. I have a trilogy review coming up, and the posts will be back to back. It’s the Winternight trilogy, which I know you’ve read!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awww. I love that you bought a gift for your nephew with the money. That’s amazing. ❤

        Oooh, back to back Winternight Trilogy reviews. This is intriguing. This is one of the series I considered doing a series review for, but I haven’t figured out how to write a meaningful series review yet… Perhaps someday. Looking forward to your posts!


        • The post office delivered his present right after his birthday party! I felt magical.

          I kinda feel like too much happened to write a series review if I really want to get into it. However, you could do a series review if you focus on all three books at once, such as how engaging you found the characters, the writing style, the Russian aspects. That sort of thing.

          Liked by 1 person

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