Sunday Lowdown #138


What a strange week. My ASL class was cancelled twice, once due to the freshmen community engagement day (and there are so many freshmen in the class that it wouldn’t make sense to teach 50% of us) and the second was unexpected: my professor didn’t feel well. I’m not surprised she felt poorly; the Midwest did that thing where it goes from 80 degrees one day to 60 the next. Everyone’s sinuses freak out whilst we try to feel joy over relief from the heat, fall goodies, and the promise of the upcoming holiday seasons.

On Saturday, Nick and I headed for an orchard to buy some decorations, including four smaller squash, Flint corn (“Indian corn”), and a pumpkiny-looking pumpkin-squash (I’m not going to carve into it to discover which way it leans). We then did a hay ride because any small adventure that appeals to a five-year-old child strikes my fancy, too. On the way home, we stopped at an Amish (or was it Mennonite?) produce stand for some eggs and jam.


Sister Séance is a mind-bending horror novel — literary horror, if we’re going to be that way — set on Halloween night just after the end of the Civil War. No person is untouched, from former soldiers with newly removed limbs, to freed slaves attempting to reunite with family, to the children of plantation owners who fiercely rejected slavery. Aimee Parkinson’s novel will published this October 31st.

Typically, when I review a romance novel, I get about the same responses from readers: they don’t don’t read romance or the book sounds like a fluffy, fun read. However, Rida Allen’s novel You Have Been Disconnected sparked a lot of discussion about appropriate behavior in relationships, if stalking is always stalking or if we’re quick to label persistence, etc. I’ve had a great time pondering your questions and comments!


My favorite urban fantasy author, S.M. Reine, just published a new novel that is not fantasy. She takes on addiction, sexual assault, infidelity, gun rights, and school shootings in a totally immersive plot with convincing characters. I’ll review She Killed Him First on Tuesday.

Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I started a new trilogy in the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey. We’re seriously down to just three more books until we . . . run out of them! Though, Lackey is still writing them. After 2021 we are done with #ReadingValdemar because there’s no point in hosting a read-along when we have no clue if/when another book comes out. I kind of hope more do come, if this latest novel I read is any indication; Lackey has made a huge improvement in her writing and ideas. I was glued to the page and teary at one point. My review of The Hills Have Spies comes out Thursday.


Owned Books on TBR at Beginning of Year: 242
Owned Books on TBR Today: 206

Thanks to Lou @ Lou Lou Reads and Tessa @ Tessa Talks Books for their recommendations!


  1. Are you taking on the Vorkosigan saga?? I love that series! Shards of Honor is a little wonky. It was Bujold’s first published novel, but the quality improves after that. The second book in Chronological order, Barrayar, won the Hugo. Bujold’s World of the Five Gods books are wonderful, too.


    • I asked Lou if you have to read the whole series or can stop after one book, and she said that there are little crumbs that could get you to keep reading, but you don’t have to. So, unless I fall hard for it, I’ll just read the first one. I literally just finished writing my review of The Hills Have Spies and thought about how there are only three books left in the Valdemar universe that I have not read (I don’t count the anthologies written by other authors) and how Jackie and I have spent three years doing this! It makes me hesitant to get that involved again with another series.


      • Lol. I’m with you there. Daily: I take an antihistamine pill, Singulair, use Dymista (a prescription nasal steroid and antihistamine combined) and take Sudafed as needed. It’s ridiculous when I think about it but you gotta do what you gotta do.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting about your usual comments on romance books. I just reviewed one but I did preface it with a big thing about them being just as hard to construct as other kinds of books and needing a light read once in a while so maybe people are too scared to say that!


    • I think formulas exist to make an engaging romance novel for folks who want to press an emotional button in their head. However, making challenging romance that reflects reality is where it gets hard and unexpected. I think people who are snooty about (which is not the same as do not prefer) romance don’t read enough of it to get to the challenging stuff, and the people who want the similar emotional payoff aren’t looking for anything different.


    • I didn’t even realize that these were still being published. Thanks for your note about the quality of audio. Not many reviewers talk about how an audiobook sounds, so I appreciate that. I’m going to add the first one to my TBR if it’s on Libby or Hoopla!


  3. My last hay ride was at 15 rather than 5, but still a while ago! Our youth fellowship got towed around a farm one evening on a trailer load of hay and I got to hold hands with a girl. Fun, but at that age I preferred progressive suppers with multiple courses of sweets.


    • I like that you know what’s important! My Deaf Culture professor told a story about when she had just been introduced to the Deaf community and couldn’t sign at all, she was invited to a party by a hearing friend. They were the only hearing people there. At the end of the night they all went on a hay ride, and my professor asked why the heck it was so quiet. Turns out, when Deaf people ride in a hay wagon in the dark, they can’t see each other to sign, so they do the next best thing: make out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That sounds like an absolutely splendid day. We were planning shenanigans with Dani and Chris while they were over this weekend and we’re going to hit a couple cider mills/orchards on Devil’s Night and then on Halloween we’re going to go to Hell. 🙂
    I’m going to have to hit a cider mill before than though. I require snacks of the finest caliber!!


  5. “We then did a hay ride because any small adventure that appeals to a five-year-old child strikes my fancy, too.” This made me chuckle – it’s true of me as well! I think I would enjoy a hay ride although I don’t think they’re really a thing here. We have much less celebration of the arrival of autumn here – which is a shame, because it’s my favourite time of year, I think.


    • I can’t believe folks wouldn’t celebrate autumn simply around the harvests. You can go to places and pick your own apples or pumpkins, like we did, for instance.

      I suddenly remembered how for a chunk of the pandemic early in 2020 I dragged a stick around. Apparently, not much changes with my approach to things!


  6. Literary horror, if we’re going to be that way! Haha Melanie. You made me laugh. Of course we’re going to be that way … aren’t we?! (See you just need to use exclamation marks, etc, in the absence of body language.)

    Your description of the MidWest’s weather sounds very much like Canberra’s spring. Warm one day, cold and windy the next. A temperate climate. I love the blossoms of spring, but I do hate this changeability, particular when it changes to cold and windy. Mr Gums bought his annual anti-hayfever medications today.


    • Weeeeell, we have this thing where instead of saying “smart horror” or “well-written horror” we say “literary horror” to give it credibility. And while that drives me bonkers, I also know the rules of the game!

      Poor Mr. Gums. I know the feeling. I have two year-round prescription allergy pills and then have to add more during the summer and fall. It’s ridiculous.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very excited to see your review of You’ll be Fine with the sloth on the cover – it looks like a book we all need in our lives right now! Also, I am totally digging your fall goodies. Before I had kids I loved kid activities so I can totally relate


  8. Sounds like a great fall afternoon with the hayride! I had seasonal whiplash when I came back from the beach – bathing suits and shorts – and then we almost immediately put out our Halloween decorations. I was like, wait, what season is it again??


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