Action Replay: July 2016

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Well, the seventh month is soon bidding goodbye and paving way for my birthday month. Yay! July was a very good month for me. In terms of professional and personal life, and everything else in between. Lessons were learnt too and realizations dawned upon. You know, I really like it when I have a take away from life. I'm not complaining that it is happening every month. I'm not changing as a person, but I'm becoming well learnt. I'm more aware of people and the situations around me. I've also become more wary of people. Or the human race in general. The day I wrote 'Misanthrope', I'd seen a car run over an innocent dog and a cab driving abusing a woman with golden words. No sir, the dog was not in the middle of the road. The car driver had to move a little left to let the dog sleep peacefully, but he decided against it and ran over the dog's hind legs. The poor thing yelped and yelped and it just broke my heart. The cab driver who was abusing the lady on the bike was no less. She didn't understand the local language, but I did. He called her a whore for blocking the jam with her bike and not allow him to move 0.5 inches ahead. This is called being human, you guys. Yes, all this buck buck.

The highlight of this month though is the fact that I got freedom from glasses and contact lenses. I cannot thanks the doctors and team of Prabha Eye Clinic enough, who helped me get my clear vision back. For all those who are still struggling with glasses or lenses, trust me LASIK is a boon! The procedure was done in under 30 minutes and I was back at home in a couple of hours. Some sleep later, I was all up and fine. My vision got clear the very day and touch wood I had no pain or any other issues. A couple of routine follow ups and I was seeing life all clear. I was asked to allow my eyes to rest and stay away from dust, sunlight and anything that could hurt my eyes. So basically I was on house arrest for a week and it was so painful. The surgery wasn't, but the taking rest part was. I was consumed by 'Clear Boredom' and I couldn't wait to get back and do my regular stuff.

The next day after my surgery I decided to read to pass time. Much against the angst of my husband I picked up a book. Although it was clear, after a few minutes I felt the stress on the eye. Not wanting to give up, I picked up my kindle and increased the font so that I could read it more easily. It could have been read from the other room too, that's a whole other story. So yes, I began reading 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' albeit not at my usual pace. I took my time with it and finished it a couple of days back. Absolutely loved it! Detailed review coming up soon. Prior to the surgery I had read three books. I was blown over by 'Lolita' and finally found time to indulge my inner child and read Agatha Christie and Roald Dahl. I cannot believe I hadn't read Roald Dahl until now. I will be picking up more of his books now. I'll save them all for my Godchildren. Or my own, if I decide to have any later.

People who visit my blog always see the honesty in it. But most of them don't get the underlying meaning of it. I'm not a preacher and definitely not a spawn of Satyaharishchandra, the guy who only spoke the truth. While I'm not a staunch believer of religion or spirituality, I do believe in Karma. I do not want to do something that would come back to bite me in the ass later. These days when something bad happens to someone, instead of sympathizing with the person, people say that he or she or the family deserved it. It is a sad state no doubt, but it is karma alright. 'As you sow, so shall you reap', they say. This is what I believe in. My desperate need for being honest and doing right comes from this. And yes also because I'm a nice person. Not like those human beings mentioned above.

In the list of the priorities of my life, two things feature pretty high. Good friends and good food. A few days back I had the chance of indulging in some delicious continental fare and some great conversation with my bestie/BIG little brother Sid. As we spoke non-stop in between chewing non-stop, we realized that a year ago we hardly knew each other. Of course that didn't stop me from making fun of him. I guess that's another thing that brought us closer. We're as different as chalk and cheese, but with our heart in the right place. I'm loud, dominant, brash and diplomacy doesn't exist for me. He's the exact opposite. The yin to my yang and the sweet vanilla to my bitter-sweet chocolate. A great person to explore food with too. Cal, him and I had a wonderful time at a recently held food fest. We make fun of each other's "first world problems", but stand by each other all the time. Friends like these make you much less of a misanthrope. You know you have the right best friend when he matches your "ooohs" with "aaahs" while devouring a plate of absolutely delicious tenderloin strips! And a creme brulee. And some mash. And some cheesecake. Okay, you get the drift.

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I've had a really exciting July and I know that August will only be better. I turn 30 in ten days and I could not be more excited. Am I worried about growing old? I'd be lying if I said no. But when you can't avoid something, it is the best to accept it and move on. I was mostly sick last birthday, so I have two birthdays to make up for this time. I can already feel the celebration and happiness in the air! Do come back to wish me.

Okay that's enough about me. How was your July?

Book Review: Lolita

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Title: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Publisher: Penguin UK (25 August 2011)
Genre: Literature/Fiction
Price: Rs. 319 on Amazon.
Pages: 368

**Might contain spoilers**

My eyes always widen when I hear the word "controversial". This book was supposed to be one of the most controversial books that is still banned in many countries. This was enough for me to buy it immediately. I knew the blurb really well, as well as the forbidden subject it speaks of, and yet I wanted to read it. One fine day I started and within two pages I was getting nowhere. I found the writing too tedious and chunky. I was bored and dropped the book. But it continued to haunt me. I picked and dropped it thrice, over a period of a year before finally making my way through it. It definitely is not an easy read or a conventional love story. Lolita is included on TIME magazine's list of the 100 best English language novels to have been published from 1923 to 2005. Well, it sure is.

The protagonist is a middle aged literature professor, who goes by the name Humbert Humbert (HH). He has a sexual fascination for girls aged from 9 to 14 whom he calls nymphets. After the death of his childhood sweetheart Annabel, he goes on looking for her in every nymphet. He is aroused by nymphets and spends most of his time pretending to read in a park while being surrounded by them. He then meets Valeria, an adult who behaves like a nymphet and marries her. But when she runs away with a taxi driver, HH moves to the the small New England town of Ramsdale. It is said that he is here to write but his main agenda is to find another nymphet whom he can seduce. He finds this nymphet in the 12 year old daughter of the family from whom he is to rent an apartment. When he gets to Ramsdale, he discovers that this family house has been burned down and he has no place to go. A lady called Charlotte Haze offers him a place to stay. He goes to check out the place with every intention of refusing the offer. Then, he meets Dolores Haze. The landlady's 12 year old daughter and he immediately sees Annabel in her. He's deeply infatuated and secretly calls her 'Lolita'.

Then begins his quest for Lolita and how he can have her. Turns out Dolores has a crush on a playwright, Clare Quilty whom HH instantly dislikes. As days pass and when Dolores is away, Charlotte Haze writes a letter to HH declaring her love for him and asking him to stay if he loves her too. Else, he's asked to leave immediately. Consumed with the fear of never being able to see Lolita again, HH ends up marrying Charlotte and becoming step father to Dolores, while still nursing feelings for her. When Charlotte finds HH's diary and learns of his true feelings she is disgusted and runs out of the house. She is killed by a passing car and HH drives to Lolita's camp to pick her up and tells her that her mother is ill. He takes her to hotel and sedates her hoping to rape her. But he is in for a surprise.

When HH tells Dolores that her mother is actually dead, they decide not to go back and drive around the country instead. They move from state to state and motel to motel indulging in their individual fantasies. After a year of touring they settle down and Dolores is sent to a new school. She ends up having an argument with HH and decides that she wants to go on another road trip and this time she gets to choose the place. While on the road again, Dolores suddenly disappears. And then begins HH's search for his Lolita. Who abducted her and why? Will he ever see her again?

There is no way you can get past the first few chapters without cringing. There are no breaks in a page and at times paragraphs go on for pages altogether. This is what makes the reading process so difficult. My eyes were exhausted every time I read this. The language used is far from simple and has ample French in it. The story is clearly taboo, but the execution of it is nothing short of brilliant. While it may seem that the book is all about carnal pleasures, it is not explicitly mentioned anywhere. This is a love story at the end of the day. The love that HH had for his Lolita. While you hate HH from the start for being a pervert, towards the mid of the book you realize that he's not the offender here. And towards the end of the book, you clearly end up feeling bad for him. Dolores on the other hand is like most young girl children. Rebellious, stubborn and girly. HH presumes her to be innocent, but she is anything but that. She has her own secrets and achievements.

While the story mainly revolves around HH and his Lolita, it flows really well. Right from his obsession that turns to love and then loss and betrayal. Their travels are described really well and takes you along the journey. Something that I least expected with this book. The prose, though complex is magnificent. The book might have her name, but the real hero is Humbert Humbert. His dangerous passion for Lolita leaps off every page and makes the romantic in him a murderer. He's creepy at times and so innocently love lorn at other times. His patience with his nymphet is quite astonishing considering what a tyrant she is. I actually thought that this book is about a sex maniac who sleeps with a young girl and discards her when she grows up. I couldn't have been more wrong.


Verdict: This probably is the my longest book review, but I had to set the tone right about the story and then talk about it. Verdict? Read it. Just for the sheer brilliance of the story and the writing.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

P.S: The minus 0.5 is for the difficulty in reading. I would not flaw this book otherwise.

Black Magic

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You and I have been together for years
And now we're expected to stay apart
How do I make myself do this
When you hold a piece of my heart

You've stood by me through thick and thin
As I played with you the way I want
You made me an artist in a way
Without you, those memories now haunt

I know the separation is temporary
Yet I find it hard to step out
I feel a part of me missing
Somewhere within me I nurse a doubt

I still am confident and strong
I feel really happy and good
But I cannot forget all those times
When you and I together stood

You were such a close part of me
I hope these few months pass by soon
We'll make up for all the time we lost
Drawn across me, I'll make you swoon

This time apart is important they say
It is for my own good, that I know
But once you have an addiction
In front of it, you have to bow

For now, let my eyes just heal
Then I'll paint you in different hues
I'm sure you'll make me see and feel better
Oh black magic, my dear muse

Clear Boredom

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This is the fifth consecutive day that I've stayed at home without stepping out much. Yeah, no office or anything. No, I haven't gone crazy but I soon will if I don't do something productive. So, here I am. What happened you ask? Okay let me start from the beginning. It was the year 2000 and I was in the 8th standard. I was the class topper and once I was asked to read out something from the blackboard. I stood up in pride and then realized that there was nothing written on the board. I squinted my eyes as the teacher looked at me with a puzzled look. She asked me to step forward and come right in front of the class and read. As I walked ahead, I could see the poem 'Silver' written on the board in faint handwriting. I loved that poem, but that was when it struck me that something was wrong with my eye sight. I read the poem and walked away really sadly.

When you study in a convent, you have a lot of privileges. We had regular health camps that spoke about puberty, acne and other "growing up" stuff. One such health camp was a sight awareness camp where all of us from the school had to get our eye tested. First embarrassing moment of my life, my dear friends. I couldn't read anything on the board apart from the first line. Of course that was only because that line was written in such big letters that it could have been read from Jupiter. Within the next five minutes, the doctor there gave me a note that I was supposed to give my parents. It read "Vision problem, please consult a doctor". It also had some random numbers written on it. For me it just meant one thing. If I gave this note to my parents, I'd have to wear glasses. When you are a rebellious teen, you know how insulting that could be. So I hid the note. If I squinted my eyes at a particular angle I could see the black board albeit not very clearly. But still, something was better than nothing.

I passed 8th standard as the topper and was awarded the 'Excellence In Studies' award. I walked up the stage to collect it and could only see a few hazy bubbles in the audience. I couldn't come back to find my mother in the audience as I couldn't make out faces properly. That was when I realized that I had a serious problem. My mom managed to find me and when we got home, I gave my parents the note from the doctor. They were sad at first that their youngest child had eye problems, but I was taken to an eye doctor immediately. Now comes the second embarrassing moment of my life. Sitting on the stool, wearing glasses that could easily be used to sight UFOs and reading out letters and numbers in front of me. Finally it was established that I have myopia in both eyes and I was asked to select a frame and collect my glasses the next day.

Fast forward to 2004 when I had to join my engineering. That was the major growing up phase and it was also the time to have crushes and boyfriends. I decided that it was also the time I switched to contact lenses and ditch my glasses. My parents obliged and soon I was glass free and loving it. The first day I wore contact lenses to college I felt like the world was my oyster and I could breathe rainbows. Years passed and I was happy with the fake eyes I was using. But while travelling it did become a pain. Wearing them and taking care of them now and again, replacing them every month was becoming a tedious affair. Just before I got married I wanted to correct my vision surgically, but my then boyfriend and soon to be husband was not very happy with the idea. He was scared for me and I continued to wear lenses. Last month when I getting ready for work and wore my lenses, my eyes started burning terribly and I had to sit down for twenty minutes to let it cool. He couldn't see the pain I was going through and decided that it was time for me to get rid of this for ever.

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So last weekend, I got a LASIK operation done and my vision is now clear and sorted. The procedure was not painful but scary as hell. I held my cool and it was over in 15 minutes. They asked me not to see light or use the phone/laptop/read and stay away from dust/water for 8-10 days. Then began the real ordeal. Everyone knows that I suck at taking breaks. But this time I had to be on a break and NOT do anything! I couldn't cook, watch TV, read or use the phone. I would have loved to be dead instead. Cal is working from home this week to take care of me and administer the eye drops timely and my agitation is not making it any easy for him. My vision was sorted and I could see everything clearly a couple of hours after the operation itself. I wanted to keep myself busy and I found myself in a helpless situation. Not going to work was enough to make me feel worthless, but not being able to do anything at home was driving me crazy.

But I'm not the one to take things lying down. I picked up my kindle and set it to a larger font and started reading 'The Girl Who Played With Fire'. I was reading a book prior to my surgery but the font posed an issue. I could read it but I was not supposed to stress my eyes, so the better option was the kindle. I was wearing the safety black glasses while reading though. It made me look a lot like Karunanidhi's kin, but it was either that or not doing anything. Gosh, I seriously am horrible at resting or doing nothing. I visited my doctor yesterday for a followup and he told me that I could do anything I wanted to as long as I don't stress my eyes much or not let water or anything else touch them. But I still am not fit enough to stare at the laptop for a whole day. That would take another week or so he told me, but I'm going to start work from next week. Else I'd definitely go insane.

I'm happy I got the surgery done and it will definitely take me sometime to get used to the fact that I can see things clearly without lenses or glasses. I still try to adjust the glasses on my nose or rush to remove my lenses before a shower. But there is nothing there. I couldn't be more relieved. But I will probably be more happier once I start going to work and doing my regular chores. Seriously, a time out is definitely not for me.

I want to feel normal again and this post is the perfect start.

Book Review: The Devotion Of Suspect X

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Title: The Devotion Of Suspect X
Author: Keigo Higashino
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (2 February 2012)
Genre: Crime/Thriller/Mystery
Price: Rs. 264 on Amazon.
Pages: 488

Like most of us, I heard about this book after news spread that the movie 'Drishyam' was loosely based on this book. I absolutely loved the movie and the screenplay blew me over. I'm the one who always prefers books over movies, so I had to buy this one. After years, I walked into a book store and picked a book. Thanks to online shopping I had forgotten the thrill and satisfaction I get when I walk into a book store. Okay now about the book.

Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced single mother who stays with her daughter Misato and works in a restaurant to make a living. Her neighbor is Tetsuya Ishigami, a maths teacher who harbors feelings for her but doesn't tell her a word about it. He visits her restaurant everyday to buy a lunch box though. And by everyday, I mean days that she works there only. They live mundane lives and go about everyday with their routines. One day Yasuko is visited by her ex-husband Togashi who threatens to kill her if she doesn't give him money. A bitter fight takes place and Yasuko and Misato end up killing Togashi. Hearing the commotion Ishigami comes in to inquire and makes sense of the entire situation and offers help to Yasuko. He disposes the body and trains mother and daughter for the police interrogation that would soon come.

When the body turns up and is identified as Togashi, the primary suspect is the ex-wife Yasuko. Detective Kusanagi is investigating this case and is convinced that all of Yasuko's alibis, even though sound, are manufactured. Yasuko seems to have the movie tickets that she went to the day Togashi was killed. She also has an alibi in the karaoke place she visited with Misato later that night. Kusanagi still smells a rat and confides in Detective Galileo aka Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and his college friend who frequently consults with the police. When Ishigami's name is revealed as the neighbor of the prime suspect, Yukawa recognizes him as his college mate who has exceptional skills in problem solving. He visits Ishigami and after a brief talk is convinced that he has something to do with the murder.

A cat and mouse chase begins and Yukawa goes out of his way to prove that Ishigami is involved in the murder too. Will Ishigami break? Or will Yasuko? How long will Ishigami hold on to the love and devotion he has for Yasuko? Especially when Yasuko gets close to a male friend of hers. Will jealousy make Ishigami give her up to the cops? The ending will leave you spell bound.

The writing is fairly simple with minimal characters. I like books that move fast and in this one the murder and the murderer is revealed within the first three chapters. What follows next is the cover up. The story is absolutely brilliant and the pace is just right. The silent love and devotion Ishigami has for Yasuko couldn't be shown much better. Yasuko does come across as a strong woman even though she piggy banks on Ishigami for almost everything related to the case. Kusanagi is annoying but when Yukawa comes into picture, this becomes as thrilling as it can get. Yukawa's analysis of Ishigami's plan comes in as a surprise as does the twist in the end. The writing is brilliant and there is now way you can predict anything in this story.

Drishyam was a fantastic movie, but apart from the fact that this movie and the book involves a murder cover up, nothing else is similar. This book has been made into a movie too. I would be watching that really soon.


Verdict: Absolutely brilliant writing and hands down the best mystery I've ever read.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Misanthrope

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Most of them will hurt you
Some will only push you down
You might be the queen in your world
Yet tongues will tarnish your crown

Humans are a scary species
Their own emotions they don't know
No matter how much love you sprinkle
The seeds of hatred they will sow

Jealousy comes so easily to them
Comparison is in their every breath
Such people will never change
Their will be ugly inside till their death

Blood is thicker than water they say
But pointed fingers first come from them
Gossip becomes the main agenda
From where their insecurities stem

If you do good, they turn green
If you do bad, they complain
Some people can never be happy
All your efforts will go in vain

It is better to stay away from them
No matter how close they are
If someone is only causing you harm
It is better you just move away far

Their problems are not yours
Your problems will only belong to you
Do what you want and do only right
To yourself you need to stay true

Tongues will wag and eyes will stare
You walk ahead with head held high
Break the convention, challenge the norm
Do not bow down to every how and why

Have a plan and grow with it
Don't let anyone kill your hope
Sometimes I feel that it is good
That I'm turning into a misanthrope

Book Review: David Days Mona Nights

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Title: David Days Mona nights
Author: Andreas Steinhifel/Anja Tuckerman
Publisher: Tara Publishing
Genre: Romance/Young Adult
Price: Rs. 175 on Amazon.
Pages: 158

Recently, I've only read books that have left me disturbed. After The Girl On The Train, Sharp Objects, Dark Places and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I wanted to read something that would not curb my sleep. I wanted a breezy read and just browsed through my book collection one day. David Days Mona Nights was a book that belonged to my husband and was something that he had read a decade and a half ago. As I read the blurb, I realized that it was a young adult romance story. Initially I thought I was a bit too old for that and decided to look up reviews on Goodreads. Sadly, this book wasn't listed there. Looks like there are a lot of people out there, who, like me had not even heard of this book. The concept was about a girl and a boy writing a series of letters to each other and then falling in love. Cliched much? Yeah, I thought so too. But I decided to read it anyway.

David and Mona both live in Berlin. Mona lives in Kreuzberg, in the centre of the city, and David lives in the suburb of Spandau. Through letters they talk to each other and fall in love. Mona is seventeen while David is fifteen. Their age difference becomes a matter of concern for David, but only for a while. David is hesitant at first to communicate only through letters, but Mona insists that they talk only via letters. Every detail about the city and their lives is discussed only via their letters. Even when they decide to talk on the phone and meet, the details of this is known to the reader via the letters only. No other descriptions, no other narration.

This book is really well written. Had I read this book years ago, I would have fallen in love with it. This definitely is a better book when compared to 'The Fault In Our Stars', although there is nothing tragic about this one. Mona has a secret and comes from a dysfunctional family and David spends most of his time taking care of his little brother. The writing is simple and effortless and easy to read. The way these two discuss their surrounding is surreal and you get a glimpse of Berlin in your mind too. Their writings mature as time goes on. When they are convinced it is love, as expected by the reader, the story takes a different angle where David realizes that Mona is not opening up completely. The book has an open ending, although one can predict how it would end.


Verdict: A breezy read. If you are a Mills And Boon lover, you will love this too.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Action Replay: June 2016

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I know I'm a bit late in writing this, but I was caught up way too many things. To be honest, June was not a very good month for me. Personally, that is. Health issues coupled with insomnia did not do me good at all. I know that half the year has just whooshed by, but June just felt like a drag to me. Work was hectic as usual, but there was something else that bogged me down this time. I cannot put a finger on it exactly, but I'm glad that June is over and done with. Having said that, June was a month that left me with a lot of learnings. Now that I think of it, maybe it was not that bad a month altogether.

Apart from work, the prime focus for June was reading. I read six books this month and I couldn't be more happier. I read a diverse books this time. Reading back to back thrillers was leaving me disturbed and agitated. After P.G.W's 'Galahad At Blandings' which by the way is beyond excellent, I picked up the short story 'The Grownup' by Gillian Flynn. I have come to love her style of writing so much that I just cannot put down her books. I finished this one too in a single seating and loved every bit of it. 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' was what I picked up next and it is safe to say that it was the most disturbed book that I had read till date. The violence and torture against women got to me and it left me troubled for a long time.

That is the reason why I chose a breezy book for my next. 'David Days Mona Nights' is an unheard of book. This is one of Cal's old books and comes under the young adult fiction/romance category. Not being sure of wanting to pick it up, I looked at Goodreads for its review. Sadly, the book wasn't even listed there. I created a new entry for the book and decided to read it. It is a really small book of 120 pages. It is about David and Mona who only communicate via letters and fall in love in the process. A detailed review of it is coming up soon. I finally read 'Who Moved My Cheese' and loved it! Such a simple story and yet it made so much sense. 'The Devotion Of Suspect X' was what I picked next. Being sick at home one day, I finished the entire book in one sitting. What a beauty it was! I'll definitely be doing a review of this one.

I like doing book reviews, but only of those books that I have loved/liked or some book which I think people should know about. I'll try not to crowd this place with book reviews, maybe one a week will do. What do you say?

June also showed me all the sycophants that I have around me. People who praise me on social media and not think of me otherwise are people I've put in my 'ignore' bucket now. I normally don't let such things affect me, but when I've invested some time in building a friendship with someone and then not being acknowledged about it does trouble me. Such people do not deserve another second of my time. Now I also am able to differentiate the people who are happy for my success and those who are plain jealous. While the former is just a handful, I'm happy to have them in my life and I hold them very close to my heart.

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Another thing June taught me was how to handle failure. Of course like most of us, I'm not the one to take failure or rejection well. I normally handle it better, but this time I let it get the better of me. I let anxiety get ahead of focus and screwed it all up. I did not deal with it in a very good way. I was angry and pissed with myself and blamed everyone around me. It took me a while to realize that it was actually my fault and I should have been calm and gone ahead with it instead. Once I was able to accept this fact, it became easy to put it behind me and prepare more better for the next time. Failures are a part of life and without them how would you have experiences? I'm glad I finally was able to understand this.

In terms of writing, I didn't do too bad in June. Ten posts out of a planned twelve is pretty good I think. I wrote posts that mattered a lot to me this time. From 'Treating Food Right', 'His &His' to 'The Corporate Homemaker', all these are topics that I have been wanting to talk about for quite some time now. I'm glad I was able to write it down this time.

Okay I've managed to have done a lot of things in June and have got a few priceless lessons as well. Wait, June was a good month after all.

How did it treat you?