Friday, August 31, 2018

A Month In The Life: August 2018

The end of August always makes me think about back-to-school time. Growing up in Michigan, I never went back before Labor Day...but here in Reno, they've already been back for nearly a month! And anyways, it still feels like summer since August temperatures were mostly stuck in the 90s. A record-setting 56 days in a row this summer above 90, actually, which honestly was pretty gross. But it's finally trending downward a bit and I am READY for sweater-and-boots season.

In Books...

  • Shantaram: There are two kinds of books that climb to 900+ pages: actual epics or overstuffed vanity projects. While this giant novel is not without merit, it's definitely the latter rather than the former. Based on the author's own experiences, this book is about an Australian man who escapes from prison and flees to India, where he gets involved with a wide variety of people, from a kind-hearted tourist guide to a prominent crime lord. It could have lost 300 pages through just editing out the purple prose and pseudo-philosophical rambling and would have been better for it. 
  • Less: Book club picks have been inconsistent for me, but this one I really enjoyed. I would not have thought that the concerns of an aging gay writer would particularly speak to me, but this tale about an only somewhat successful novelist staring down both his 50th birthday and his longtime sort-of-boyfriend's impending wedding to another man who decides the only way to deal is to accept a bunch of ignored invitations to make a trip around the globe was funny and touching and sweet. 
  • The Informant: The so-strange-it-has-to-be-true story of a corporate executive who exposes an international, multimillion dollar price fixing scandal...all while embezzling millions of dollars from the company and pathologically lying every time nearly every time he opens his mouth. They made a movie out of this, a comedy even (which I haven't seen), but on the page it's very dry and flat and I never really got into it.
  • The Butcher's Daughter: I'd grabbed a review copy of this on a whim and was so glad I did! This historical fiction tells the story of Agnes, a young woman in Tudor England who falls pregnant out of wedlock and is sent to an abbey, where she finds some real satisfaction in her place as a nun. But the religious turmoil of Henry VIII's England is not a good time to be of a religious house, and so as the abbey is closed down, she needs to find a new place for herself. Agnes is a great character and I found her story very compelling indeed. 
  • Life After Life: I wish I'd read this without the hype that set sky-high expectations for me. It's an imaginative, entertaining book that takes the unusual tack of presenting a female character for whom familial rather than romantic bonds are paramount, which was refreshing. As Ursula Todd's life begins over and over again after she dies in a variety of ways, she's always deeply connected to her older sister Pamela and younger brother Teddy, and Atkinson skillfully explores the bombing campaigns of World War 2 from many perspectives and with a poignant humanity. It's a very good book, but I was expecting a great one and for me, it wasn't quite there. 
  • Oryx and Crake: I love Margaret Atwood, and am generally interested in post-apocalyptic stories, so this was a natural fit for me. Though there are some things that make it really obvious this book was written over 15 years ago now (the emphasis on email and disc-based storage feel anachronistic), for the most part it feels frighteningly prescient. I wish the main female character had been better-developed, and I'm always annoyed at a book that ends in a clear cliffhanger for the next in the series, so it didn't blow me away but I very much liked it and intend to continue the series! 

In Life...

  • Tried not to melt and/or die of smoke inhalation: It was hot, and it was smoky. The wildfires that raged in California sent their smoke right on over into northern Nevada, where it settled in the valleys and choked us all for weeks. Add in those long 90+ degree days and it was miserable. It's been a smidge cooler lately thank goodness.
  • Veterinary drama: The gratuitous pug I like to show you every month has been a frequent flier at the vet lately! We started out with a significant number of tooth extractions, and no sooner was he on the mend from those than he gave himself a hot spot on his face from scratching and had to get dragged back to get antibiotic ointment and a week in the cone of shame. He's totally fine now, but here's hoping we can skip the vet's office for the rest of the year.

One Thing:

One of my guilty pleasures (honestly I don't feel that guilty about it) is reading about royal families, particularly the British one. What can I say? I'm basic. I'd heard about a failed attempt to kidnap Princess Anne in the 70s, but didn't know that much about it until I read this truly delightful short piece from Oh No They Didn't. Some of the dialogue is profoundly hilariously English and Anne is a BOSS.

Gratuitous Pug Picture:


  1. What a fun article about Anne. I too am a royal fan and have been since I was eight. I vaguely remember this incident. I agree with your take on Life After Life, but I loved the Madd Adam series and you should continue. Oddly, my favorite was the middle one, Year of the Flood. See what you think.

    1. I've already got a copy of Year of the Flood waiting for me! Middle chapters are often my least favorites in trilogies, but I hope I like it as much as you did!

  2. I’m ready for fall, too. I’m very done with 90+ degree days. I really liked Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. The final book in that series is kind of “meh.” I hope the gratuitous pug feels better soon. Have a great September!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. We'd managed to get into the mid-to-high 80s but we're back in the 90s and supposed to be there for the next week plus and all I want are crispy days! And thank you for your well-wishes for my snorty friend, he's out of the cone and back into mischief-making! Hope you have a good September too!