Sunday Lowdown #116


A couple of weeks ago Nick and I finished the epic novel The Albino Album by Chavisa Woods. Just this year I’ve read/listened to three of Woods’s books, and a fun fact: she was one of the first authors I reviewed at Grab the Lapels back when I started in 2013 after her publisher sent me a copy of her newest collection at the time. I reached out to Woods to ask if she would participate in Meet the Writer, and she said yes. I’m pretty pumped.

I finished reading the last story in the Mr. Poe series by S.M. Reine. Mr. Poe is a cat, and when his curiosity gets the best of him, he eats an artifact he finds in his owners’ relic room: the Ring of Bau. The ring gives him the ability to shape shift into a human. Reine’s writing is spot on; the cat as a person is self-centered, won’t admit he’s wrong, and he still tends to lick himself when he’s dirty. It’s a great series to blow through and have fun. Each book is about 60 pages. I believe Reine started writing them during the pandemic as a way to power through miserable times. I’d been reading them on my work break and giggling at passages like this:

“You can conquer the demons of inopportune fatigue if only you apply yourself!”

Lastly, this week Nick and I started a sign language class available via our library through Gale learning. So far, we’ve covered 0-15 and fingerspelling. While watching Murder She Wrote we fingerspell everyone’s names. The plan is to take the second course two months after this one (if we pass!). Although I am not completely deaf, I don’t know what will happen to my hearing as I get older, and we want to be ready no matter what. Plus, Sign Language and Deaf culture are simply amazing.


As it turns out, not many of us know much about Cuba other than it being the boogeyman from 1961 when the United States shut down everything between the two countries. To get your toes wet on part of the history of revolutions between native peoples in Cuba and Spain, check out the historical fiction novel The Distant Marvels by Chantel Acevedo.

My second review last week also starred characters who are not white. A.M. Blair penned a retelling of Sense and Sensibility with Sri Lankan-American protagonists called Nothing but Patience. The main characters are sisters whose half-brother and his wife are trying to remove the sisters from their only home and cut them out of an inheritance.


After reading The Potato Masher Murder, a true crime book set a couple of blocks from the library where I work, I wouldn’t call myself a true crime fan. However, a book with much more media attention, In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce, called my name because the character was a famous female serial killer in Indiana. After all, La Porte is the next county over from mine and a place I’ve driven through many times. Review Tuesday.

It’s that time of month again! #ReadingValdemar is on book #4 of the Collegium Chronicles series. I confess I’m still reading the novel (so close to the end!) and am intrigued about where it will land: some place in the middle of the harrowing section I’m in right now and then carry into the next book? Or, will everything get wrapped up in time for a new adventure in book #5? Review Thursday.


Owned Books on TBR at Beginning of Year: 242
Owned Books on TBR Today: 224


  1. I was a fan of Edgar Allan Poe during high school but I’m not sure I’ve read him since. I don’t know why that is, I still own a collection. Putting a cat in the lead role is an interesting variation.


    • Poe is exactly the kind of storytelling and poetry I enjoy. With his poems, he creates a tale within the limitations of a certain style of poem, heightening the tension and emotion. Gag me on the free verse abstract nonsense a lot of poets write today. If you’re poem only means something after you give a lengthy explanation, your poem needs revision.


      • Also: sign language. I have a couple of work mates who are deaf and I should really have taken the trouble to learn. But fun fact. Did you know Australian and US sign are different languages.


        • I did know that Australian and US sign are different languages. There’s also British sign, too. There’s Mexican, Spanish, Japanese — all sorts! The hard thing is you’re not supposed to think of ASL as a physical equivalent to English. It’s a different language, with different grammar, etc. So far, I’m thrilled to pieces.

          Your work mates might appreciate if you learn some basic signs, like, “Where’s the bathroom?” and “Want a beer?” and “Is that vegetarian?”


    • Both are free. They are the first books in various series, so I’m hoping to find some new authors I may enjoy. I found out about them because I am on S.M. Reine’s mailing list. I love her work, and she’s included in both box sets, so I’m banking on her friends having good writing chops like her.


  2. Aww, the Mr. Poe series sounds so fun! Also, I now want a black cat one day named Poe. lol
    I’ve heard really good things about In The Garden of Spite. 🙂
    That’s really great that your library is offering a sign language class. It’s something I’d love to learn a lot more of some day. I only know a few things that I’ve learned from some of the participants at my work, but I’d love to learn more!


    • I’m finding that ASL makes a lot of sense, so once you start, it’s easy to keep going. For instance, the sign for “motorcycle” is put up your hands up like you’re on a motorcycle and pretend like you’re revving the engine, lol. I’ve done French classes, and that’s way harder because you’re working so much to make your mouth say things that are weird to you.

      The Mr. Poe books are great! You should check them out. Each one is short and funny as all heck.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I looked to see if my library offers a similar sign language course – it doesn’t, BUT it does offer this cool language learning course through Tennessee Electronic Library and it offers Farsi! So now I can supplement the apps I am using with this. So thanks for inspiring me to do some digging. I had no idea we offered this. Serendipity!


  4. I learnt a little bit of BSL when I was a teenager, but I’ve let it slip, so now all I can really remember is finger spelling, introducing myself, and asking what the time is. I wish I’d carried on with it now – it’s such a useful skill!


    • I’m finding it so engaging, too. Perhaps more engaging as I potentially face older adulthood as a deaf person, but in general I love how intuitive ASL is, and how welcoming the community.


  5. There’s something very charming about the idea of a cat who turns into a person but keeps their cat-like personality! I’ll be looking forward to your interview with Woods too!


  6. Sign language class sounds fun! I remember learning the signs for the alphabet in elementary school and loving it- it stuck with me for so many years, but suddenly I’m realizing it’s been a while since I last went through the motions and I’d probably have to Google a refresher to recall them all. Sad. I’ve always meant to learn more, but the first step is probably preventing myself from forgetting the little I already know, so thanks for the reminder. I hope you and Nick will have fun with the classes together, that you’ll both pass, and that you’ll only ever need it as a backup.


    • I originally signed up so I could have ASL as a back up, but as we go through the class, we’re learning ASL isn’t a tool like glasses or hearing aids, it’s a culture. That’s the distinction between deaf (can’t hear) and Deaf (a unique culture that meets all the requirements for what a culture is).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. OMG I love that you are watching MSW and signing at the same time! The library has such wonderful resources, I’m so glad you are learning this. It also seems like a very smart thing to do – planning for the future!


    • You changed my day, Anne, you and your Murder She Wrote recommendation. Now, every night is dinner + MSW, and I’m likely to take a granny nap right afterward, too.

      One thing I’m noticing is how progressive MSW is. There are black and Hispanic characters as leads (not maids, janitors, criminals, etc.) and people who don’t listen to Jessica are that way because they don’t know her, not because she’s a woman. At least, this is how it is in season 1.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great idea to that sign language course. Because the two of you are doing it together you can practice much more easily and that always seems to me one of the keys to any language.


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