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#Non-fiction Urk

It took me four days to read this 296 page book.


I did not want it to end.

Absolutely fascinating book about a small fishing town in

The Netherlands that you probably never heard of.

It is shrouded in an ultra Calvinistic believe and has 25 churches

for a population of 20.000.

Belgian journalist M. Declercq decides to move to Urk for 6 months.

Can he discover the “hidden” undercurrent that flows through the village?

I hope this book is translated into English very soon.

It is nominated for Brusse Prize 2021.

The Brusse Prize for best Dutch-language journalistic book of the year.

The book is a GEM…and I love the cover.


Last Thoughts:

Did Mr. Declercq discover the ‘undercurrent’ in the village?

Oh, yes ….but it took him 6 months to win the trust of many people he interviewed.
Many people did not want to speak “on the record” but there were a few very brave people who told Declercq what really happens in the village. The Lord doesn’t care how many bible verses you have memorized….He cares about how you treat people.
This was the best book I’ve read all year….and surprise…a book in Dutch, right in my own backyard!


#PoetryMonth Surge


  1. For those readers of Jay Bernard’s debut Surge who are
  2. not familiar with the historical event to which it responds,
  3. there is a carefully detailed author’s foreword.
  4. On 18 January 1981, 13 black teenagers were killed in a
  5. house fire that engulfed a birthday party at in south-east London.
  6. Although the New Cross Fire is still in living memory,
  7. Jay Bernard is seeking to introduce it to a new generation
  8. …to make history live and remind readers these are both statistics and people.


  1. I haven’t even opened the book but I feel this will be an emotional journey.
  2. This time I’m reading the book while  listening to the audio book.
  3. I will just let Bernard’s words wash over me.
  4. Each poem has a different voice…a gathering of people.
  5. Parallels are drawn between the New Cross Fire 1981 and Grenfell
  6. the tower block fire in 2017 where the official death toll was 72.
  7. Surge” tells a story of the  past and present
  8. …showing how lessons have not been learnt.
  9. #Impressive

Last thoughts:  5 poems that focus on the aftermath….haunting.

  1. Harbour: a ghost child going over the events in the fire…telling friends
  2. to save themselves:   “I said, I called – jump”
  1. Clearing: The speaker is a victim of the fire and describes
  2. how the body is placed in body bag.
  1. “+”   The mother of a victim is informed they have a yellow shirt
  2. …the mother says:  “…this must be our son.”
  1. “-”    The voice is of the victim lying dead on a morgue table
  2. about to be identified  “You came, dad –“
  1. Kitchen:   The voice of a victim returns to her home
  2. ….loving she describes  the kitchen
  3. “I have held this house in my arms
  4. …and let it sob on the bathroom floor.”

#Non-fiction Revolusi


Sadly, this turned out to be a slog.
Van Reybrouck spent 5,5 years researching this book,
and I think he was loath to leave anything out.
500 pages are filled with facts and interviews with
Indonesians who could contribute their memories of life
during colonialism.

But…the engaging interviews are not enough save this book.
Does any editor at publishing house De Bezige Bij own a red pencil?
There were parts that could have been trimmed.
Having said that…this is still a document historians will love
…but the average reader (me) struggled to find real gems of information.
Personally I prefer David van Reybrouck’s book CONGO (available in English!) is WELL worth your reading time.
So, if you are a history buff

this book is just what you’ve been looking for
…when it comes to Indonesia!


#PoetryMonth The Gilded Auction Block


  1. A mixed-race poet raised by white supremacists
  2. addresses his country – and his president.
  3. Now if that doesn’t make you curious
  4. as to what McCrae has to say…
  5. …what will?

Impressive biography:

  1. Shane McCrae has written elsewhere about
  2. the trauma of being taken at a young age
  3. to live with his maternal grandparents.
  4. Cut off from his black father, he was brought up
  5. as a white supremacist by his grandmother.
  6. She who insisted that he wasn’t black.
  7. He earned his G.E.D. at eighteen after dropping out of
  8. high school, enrolled in community college in Oregon.
  9. He eventually got an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) at the University of Iowa.
  10. McCrae e earned  a J.D. (Juris Doctor) at Harvard Law School.
  11. He now teaches at Columbia University.


  1. During an interview McCrae explained the title of the book.
  2. Gilded Auction Block is, an illusion of prominence,
  3. this brilliantly glowing prominence
  4. …that you’ve been raised above so you can be sold.”
  5. Irony…put on a pedestal….only to be sold and devalued.

The President Visits the Storm

  1. Epigraph for the poem   “What a crowd! What a turnout!”
  2. This poem is the voice of someone who is supposed to be introducing Trump.
  3. Style is jaunty and feels like a string  of
  4. …soundbites that are meant to energize the crowd.
  5. But McCrae twists the situation…
  6. ….are these the words victims of  Hurricane Harvey want to hear?
  7. The purpose of Trump’s visit to Texas was to survey
  8. damage and coordinate federal support for the storm-ravaged area.
  9. But  Trump appeared focused on crowd size, treating his remarks like a rally.

Everything I Know About Blackness I Learned From Donald Trump

  1. McCrae is thinking how he couldn’t remember what about
  2. Trump he thought was the death of America.
  3. My moment was when I heard Trump was elected.
  4. I know exactly where I was and what I said:
  5. “Did I hear that correctly…perhaps age is creeping up on me.”
  6. No, BBC said: “Trump won.”
  7. The first sentence of the poem was probably McCrae’s moment:
  8. “America I was driving when I heard you had died
  9. …I swerved into a ditch and wept.”

The Hell Poem

  1. The Hell Poem which makes up the entire third section.
  2. It is epic…an Inferno-ish poem.
  3. Before each section  are  visual pieces by the artist Christine Sajecki.
  4. McCrae added in an interview some back round information about this poem.
  5. He started “The Hell Poem,” got stuck, and then abandoned the poem in 2014.
  6. Then Trump was elected.
  7. Immediately he realized there was a place for Trump in it.
  8. McCrae: “I think the reason I had gotten stuck was
  9. that the poem was waiting for Trump.”
  10. You’ll have to read the poem to discover
  11. ….what Trump in doing in an Inferno!


  1. Great book to start….#PoetryMonth 2021!
  2. There is a place where for a few moments
  3. …we can at least feel protected
  4. ….it is while reading a poem.

#Non-fiction Bring the War Home


The white power movement in America wants a revolution.

Returning to a country ripped apart by a war they felt they were not allowed to win.

A small group of Vietnam veterans and disgruntled civilians

concluded that waging war on their own country was justified.


This was not a “joy” to read….not at all.

The writing was hard-boiled and gave just the facts.

If I was reading the book I probably would have stopped halfway.

But I had an #audiobook and just put on the earphones every day

…and continued on my bike rides.

Good news: the book did make me aware the white power, Aryan Nation

and militia threats that are in the USA.

Imagine reading how pervasive the movement was in 1970s-1990s

…and stop and think how much more these groups are organized now.

They are not always in the headlines but since 06 January 2021

…I was curious what is going on underground or in the woods in different states.

Bad news: the book was depressing….

I did notice Ms. Belew pins a surge in contemporary violence

on the sorely abused Vietnam veterans.

I think this is not a fair argument.

It’s not the military or the military experience or the hellish fog of war

… it is the environment in which they were raised

…before ever getting to the military that leads to this kind of hatred.

They (the vets) were not born with it and they were not brainwashed

…into it when they became military.

They were raised into it by the society from which they come.

Last thoughts:

This is a book that is not a great read….but a necessary one.

Sometimes you just have to tackle books that don’t appeal

…to educate yourself about this domestic terror threat.

Here are some of my notes after my daily bike ride:

March 18, 2021 – page 80 22.73% “While riding my bike in the morning I’ve been confronted with:
Seadrift, Texas, Vietnamese fishers vs KKK Nov. 25, 1979,
Greensboro NC massacre Communist Workers Party vs KKK/NeoNazis Nov. 03 1979 and now frustrated Vietnam vets are off to cause havoc in Central America as mercenaries. Book is depressing…but US is still in the terrible grip of white-power movement. Just 6 hr 55 min…I will finish the book, ugh.”

March 19, 2021 – page 112 31.82% “You don’t want to mess with The Aryan Brotherhood….ever!”

March 20, 2021 – page 156 44.32% “1984 Aryan Nation (Louis Beam) discovers the internet….members flock to invest in $2000,– Apple computers.
We read names, robberies of armored money transports to fund the movement, attacks on Jews, paramilitary training camps and federal raids on prominent figures. Not much analysis..but just the fact that this is all going on in 1980s is scary. Just imagine White Power, paramilitary militia are doing now!!”

March 22, 2021 – page 187 53.13% “The book’s seventh and best chapter is about White Power’s devotion paid to women as wives, mothers, and martyrs of the movement. White power submitted itself to a blinding cult of faith and family centered on the female body. The race must remain pure: “…the birth of a white baby was an act of war.” Louis Beam (Arayan Nation) marries 4th wife Sheila Toohey…she is devoted to him.”

March 23, 2021 – page 209 59.38% “The act of writing requires a constant plunging back
into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghost-like.
We return to Ruby Ridge, Waco Texas and the Oklahoma City bombing…
Now we have 2 mass shootings in USA in ONE week!
Thoughts and useless prayers now being rushed to the scene
…to this soon-to-be-forgotten and then-repeated story.


#Non-fiction The Jakarta Method



  1. This book is accessible, clear, easy to digest and impactful.
  2. It is a necessary and terrifying read.
  3. Vincent Bivens is an experienced journalist (Washington Post, LA Times)
  4. The act of writing requires a constant plunging back
  5. into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghostlike.


  1. Mr Bivens does just that…lifting the scab off of the USA’s
  2. …aggressive policy during the Cold War.
  3. Remember….Guatemala 1953? — Iran 1953?
  4. When the leader of a land was considered a problem
  5. rather than the solution to the crisis…the USA
  6. based strictly on Cold War calculations…organized a coup!
  7. This book highlights Indonesia that we tend to forget to add to the
  8. list of countries forced to be “quiet, compliant partner” on the United States.


  1. But Mr Bevins goes further to demonstrate “The Jakarta Method” used
  2. in Chili, Brazil and Argentina!
  3. #Fascinating book with using recently declassified documents,
  4. archival research and eye-witness testimony collected
  5. across twelve countries to reveal a shocking legacy that spans the globe
  6. #MustRead

Spring?…it doesn’t feel like it!

Nothing was going to stop me from biking this morning…not even a spot of rain! I covered the camera in plastic, pulled my cap on and connected the IPOD to my audio book. Yes I got wet but the feeling of my leg muscles burning off the pandemic pounds was worth it! Update: 5 week no sugar, coffee, alcohol, buttered toast and jam…
I had a difficult day yesterday…urge for sweets….so grabbed a grapefruit…sweetest thing in the house! Wind mild 8kts (11kph, 7 mph) temp 6 C (42 F). Sun was doing its best…but lost the fight with the clouds!
If you look closely at the previous photo you can see a single bird.…drifting in the water. It is a common merganser (North American) or goosander (Europe)… a large seaduck. It is the first one I’ve seen. I loved the contrast of his beak and ‘crazy hairdo’ with the diagonal lines in the water. You can even see the pearls of water rolling of his back! This has to be my “lucky shot” of the day!
May be art of tree
Covid: 2020…2021 so many things have been cancelled. But one thing is sure: “Spring Cannot Be Cancelled” by David Hockney. Happy First Day of Spring! I could look at this painting for hours!
On turning eighty, David Hockney sought out rustic tranquility for the first time: a place to watch the sunset and the change of the seasons; a place to keep the madness of the world at bay. So when Covid-19 and lockdown struck, it made little difference to life at La Grande Cour, the centuries-old Normandy farmhouse where Hockney set up a studio a year earlier, in time to paint the arrival of spring. In fact, he relished the enforced isolation as an opportunity for even greater devotion to his art.
David Hockney’s new book “Spring Cannot Be Cancelled”  will be published on 27 April 2020 with 142 color illustrations
Decided to take my chances and climb this lookout post. Steps were slippery… but  I got some great photos from this vantage point!
I think this a my “lucky shot” of the day...beautiful duck surrounded by a golden pond. The illusion is … seems the duck is swimming in the reeds not water! Stunning!
This is my “lucky shot” today…the lines of the trees, the perspective... the emerald green grass…and the sun slipped behind some clouds to give the photo a diffused light. The church tower in the distance draws the viewer’s eye, just beautiful! I’ll take this photo again when the trees are in their summer glory. Time now for tea…. I have survived 4 weeks without coffee, sugar and chocolate. That means…just 20 more days….then Lent is over and I can celebrate with a cup of JAVA on Easter!
Celebrated #ReadingIrelandMonth21 hosted by @cathy746books:

March 2021

  1. Poem:  “Still”  – Felicia Olusanya (aka FeliSpeaks)  #ReadingIrelandMonth21
  2. Anseo – Úna-Mingh Kavanaugh  REVIEW  #ReadingIrelandMonth21
  3. Why the Moon Travels– Oein DeBhairduin  REVIEW#ReadingIrelandMonth21
  4. Ulster American – David Ireland  REVIEW  #ReadingIrelandMonth21
  5. Irish Short Stories – J. McGahern, W. Trevor, C. Keegan   REVIEW #ReadingIrelandMonth21
  6. Don’t Touch My Hair – Emma Dabiri    #ReadingIrelandMonth21


And of course….I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in lockdown!

May be an image of one or more people, drink and text that says 'Put some whisky in my coffee because it's Ireland somewhere. som ee cards user card'



#ReadingIrelandMonth21 Irish Short Stories

  1. There is nothing more soothing than reading Irish short stories
  2. at 0400 am when you are jolted out of sleep.
  3. Claire Keegen, John McGahern and William Trevor guided me
  4. back into a ‘literary dream world.”
  5. PLAN:
  6. I’m reading 3 short story collections.
  7. By rotating one story from each book I want to feel
  8. …the different writing styles.
  9. List of Challenges 2021
  10. Monthly plan
  11. List of Plays
  12. #ReadingIrelandMonth21 @cathy746books




  1. I will have to choose William Trevor the best of these three writers.
  2. His stories are moving, concise tightly structured and still in just a
  3. few short pages he manages to present “living and breathing’ characters.
  4. #Bravo
  5. John McGahern was so disappointing.
  6. His novels and memoir are much better.
  7. McGahern’s strenght is his novels and he tries to
  8. explore multiple events with a complex plot in a short story.
  9. It just does not work. McGhahen should stick to his day job…novels.
  10. Claire Keegan is a rising star!!
  11. Keegan’s writing is delicate: not prudish, but exact.
  12. I look forward to reading ALL her books!
  13. #BestIsYetToCome


My Notes:

Keegan: The Parting Gift

  1. Strong pointindelible images
  2. her father’s shadow crossed the floor — puppies — and a bathroom stall at an airport
  3. Strong point:  the small details
  4. “The saucepan boils
  5. …three eggs knock against each other. One cracked, a ribbon of streaming white.”
  6. “…cord of the electric heater swinging out like a tail from under the bed.”
  7. Ms Keegan uses a first person “observer”. But restricting the viewpoint to the “observer”it
  8. actually makes the protagonist (we don’t even learn her name) more mysterious.
  9. She remains a mystery because we have no access to her  innermost thoughts and feelings.
  10. The girl’s  reasons for going to America will become evident in the story (no spoilers).
  11. We feel her secret loathing towards an uncommunicative  and cruel father.


Walking the Blue Fields

  1. Beautiful story….
  2. A priest catalogs the evidence of a
  3. bride’s uncertainty on her wedding day:
  4. “…the light, shaky signature in
  5. The bride’s hand was shaking”…why?
  6. This short story was a page-turner.
  7. I wanted to know the meaning of the quote early in the story:
  8. “There’s pleasure to be had from history.
  9. What’s recent is another matter and painful to recall.”


McGahern: Parachutes

  1. A short story should be a slice of life…to fit on the pinhead of a needle.
  2. McGahern makes some classic mistakes in “Parachutes”:
  3. Weak point: Too many scene breaks: I counted 11 including  3 flashbacks
  4. Weak point: Too many characters: 8
  5. I would have preferred McGahern had concentrated only on
  6. the lovers who are ending a relationship.
  7. Weak point: the title did not connect to the story as strongly as it should.
  8. The thistledown felt like an aside…a digression.
  9. Weak point: Vague ending:  I invested my time to follow the story to is end and
  10. felt cheated…he end doesn’t offer a conclusion to the plot.
  11. This is not a stellar short story…by any means.
  12. #TerribleDisappointment


McGahern:  The Ballad

  1. Weak points: The story was pointless!
  2. Four males  live in Mrs. McKinney’s boarding house.
  3. One of them, O’Reilly, has put one local girl “in the family way”
  4. He tries to avoid marrying her….but ends op doing so.
  5. They live happy ever after.
  6. Where is the plot, tension?
  7. Where is the conflict between characters?
  8. Yet again McGahern uses 7 different scenes!
  9. To complete my disappointment the title “The Ballad” makes no
  10. connection with the story. I did not read about a song or a ditty.
  11. I rest my case.
  12. #TerribleDisappointment



Trevor:    Three People    (Vera, Sidney and Mr. Schele)

  1. Strong point:  …you can feel the tension on the pages!
  2. ‘They do not talk about a time that
  3. …was a distressing time for Vera, and Mr. Schele too.” (?)
  4. Strong point – structure of the story
  5. …put together like pieces of a puzzle for the reader to discover.
  6. Strong point: Trevor peppers his story with clues that increase the tension.
  7. The reader is getting a ‘glimpse’ of a break-in,
  8. but the evidence doesn’t seem to be believable!
  9. Why is Vera’s photo in the newspaper!
  10. Strong point: has ALL THE ELEMENTS of a memorable short story!!
  11. It felt like reading a novel…so engrossing.
  12. #ExcellentShortStory!


Trevor:  Good News

  1. Strong Point: Characterization: Mr Trevor does not rely on physical appearance but rather
  2. thoughts, feelings, and interaction to describe the characters.
  3. Dialogue: Light conversational dialogue between Bea (9 years old)
  4. and her mother Iris and father Dickie.
  5. Her mother is “a pushy stage mother”
  6. reliving her bygone days as an actress while her daughter films a movie.
  7. Theme:  Harassment: The story zooms in on
  8. …Bea’s inner thoughts and her fears
  9. while taking part in filming a movie.
  10. She feels it is an unsafe environment (no spoiler)
  11. Strong point: Title reflects core message:  
  12. Good News – always brightened things up between
  13. her parents before they were divorced.
  14. Bea’s acting job was good news.
  15. But Bea is torn between admitting her fears (unsafe on the acting set)
  16. …and or say nothing.
  17. She sees her parents interact in a loving way again
  18. ….and she does not want to ruin that.
  19. She chooses to suffer in silence.
  20. #ExcellentShortStory!

#ReadingIrelandMonth21 Ulster American



  1. This is a one Act  single setting  “pressure-cooker ” play.
  2. Ulster American is set in an apartment where an
  3. Oscar-winning actor, an ambitious English director (both male)
  4. …and a female Northern Irish playwright meet to discuss a play.
  5. A bloodbath ensues from a Hollywood actor’s
  6. attempt to turn a Protestant playwright’s script
  7. …into a celebration of the IRA.
  8. Ulster American is a challenging satire that
  9. …exposes the hypocrisies and ritual abuses of those in power.


  1. How would I describe Ulster American in just four words?
  2. Political. Provocative. Bloody. Brutal.
  3. It is a queasy-making power-play drama.
  4. No plot, text filled with sound-bite clichés.
  5. Characters have zero depth.
  6. No twist, no story only crass shock and conflict.
  7. Not a single thing to cherish in this play.
  8. #WasteOfReadingTime



3 characters: 

  1. Jay Conway – male, 40s American actor
  2. Leigh Carver – male, 40s English director
  3. Ruth Davenport – female, 30s Northern Irish playwright



  1. London, Leigh’s living room  (Sunday Evening)
  2. on the eve of rehearsals for a West End play.
  3. Jay and Leigh discuss several subjects.


  1. Staccato” dialogue  (between Jay and Leigh Act 1…until Ruth enters)
  2. is where you speak in fragments of short sentences and
  3. is how people truly talk and communicate.
  4. Jay and Leigh jump from one subject to another
  5. racism?  women? nationality? religion?  UK monarchy? feminism? rape?
  6. By reading the stage directions you can feel the tension between the two men.
  7. They prowl the stage….in macho madness.


Enter Ruth (38%)

  1. Introductions all around.


Exit Leigh (41%)

  1. Now Ruth and Jay talk  Hollywood trivia ( Jack Lemmon, Quentin Tarantino,
  2. …Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan,  favorite movie?
  3. …again  “staccato dialogue”…a bit boring, to be honest.
  4. This type of conversation is a quick read but reveals little about the characters.


Enter Leigh..with glass of wine (43%)

  1. Conversation continues.


Exit Jay (46%)

  1. They discuss  Jay the crass, petulant American Oscar-winning
  2. actor of Irish Catholic descent.
  3. As David Ireland writes: “…sounding like a “Belfast Dick Van Dyke”.
  4. Ruth is determined to “…protect my f***ing play!”


Enter Jay (50%)

  1. He just talked to his AA sponsor on the telephone. (character info)


Exit Leigh (52%)

  1. Jay and Ruth start analyzing the play.


Enter Leigh…with more drinks (53%)

  1. Leigh and Ruth start the production process of a ‘run-through with Jay.
  2. They try to explain what Northern Ireland Irish sounds like
  3. why Brexit  is or is not relevant…and what is Ulster unionism?
  4. First monologue: (59%)
  5. Ruth focuses her attention on “The Troubles”.
  6. Again…Ruth defends her play: “I’m not rewriting anything!”
  7. …no eye-patch, Irish dancing or pigs!
  8. Second monologue: (71%)
  9. Jay displays his Oscar Academy Award to boost his
  10. …influence about making changes in the play.
  11. Third (very long) monologue (74%)
  12. Leigh tries to find some common ground between Ruth and Jay….
  13.’s not easy!


Exit Ruth (80%)

  1. Leigh try to be the peacemaker
  2. between volatile Jay and stubborn Ruth.


Enter Ruth …with her phone (81%)

  1. Sign of the times….Ruth threatens Jay with a “blackmail tweet”!
  2. Ruth plays hard-ball!
  3. Agree to her terms….then she won’t send the tweet!


Turning point in the play (85%)

  1. Ruth answers her phone
  2. ….she is lost in her thoughts.


Exit Ruth  into the bathroom

Enter Ruth…after a few minutes

  1. Now the tables have turned.
  2. Leigh and Ruth have a serious discussion.


Climax (94%)

Fight. Blood. Attack. Tweet sent

…the curtain falls.


#Non-fiction A Promised Land

  • Author: Barak Obama
  • Title: A Promised Land
  • Published: 2020
  • Genre: memoir  (7 parts, pg 768)
  • Trivia: Goodreads Choice Award for Memoir & Autobiography (2020)
  • List of Challenges 2021
  • Monthly plan



  1. I was looking for a soothing voice to guide me out of my pandemic rut.
  2. An audio book that would captivate my attention and push me out the
  3. ….door every day just to continue the story!
  4. A Promised Land: A Memoir  by Barack Obama was the book I needed.
  5. I had been cooped up at home from November – February.
  6. My body was withering away (muscle strength)
  7. …and I needed to take action.
  8. I embarked on a 6 week plan:  during Lent I
  9. would bike every day for 1 hour outside.
  10. …only with exceptions for a storm
  11. …with wind and rain that would have me pedaling
  12. 5 feet forward only to be blown back 3 feet!
  13. No need to become a masochist…or catch pneumonia!


  • Very enjoyable audio book for daily bike rides.
    Obama always speaks from the heart!


  • Sometimes people like books because
  • they think they’re supposed to
  • but how could you NOT like this book!


  • This book is a great historical “look behind the scenes”
  • during Obama’s first years in office.


  • Just helped Obama pass the Affordable Care Act
  • while on my bike in glacial winter fog. Life is good! #AudioBook


  • I heard how Obama surprised everyone and attended in
  • Copenhagen on December 18 the final day of the meeting
  • about the so-called Copenhagen Accord.


  • He knocked some heads together and
  • did some “gangsta-sh*t” and got the job done.
  • Not often do you read about Obama’s
  • “street creds” in the newspaper….but you do in this book!


Last Thoughts:

  1. Reading this book was like drinking fortified wine.
  2. It was heavy and sweet and bitter and swirled in my head long
  3. after I came home from biking and took off the earphones.
  4. I consumed the book daily…. in slow sips.
  5. It was  an honest and eye opening perspective of what life
  6. was like as President of the United States…first black American.
  7. Thank you, Barack, the world needs this gorgeously written
  8. ….raw honest truth.
  9. #MustRead