Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Posted March 19, 2024 by Nicky in General / 14 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is all about reading plans for the spring, which is always fun. I don’t really theme my reading with the seasons, or with anything beyond my own whim, and my approach to having a reading plan is a bit like Douglas Adams’ approach to deadlines (“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”) — but I find it fun to set them up, all the same.

So what would a good spring reading list look like for me? I’d like to clear some of the partly-read books out of my list, so I’ll start with those.

Cover of The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett Cover of Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon Cover of Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Törzs Cover of The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Rusti Cover of The Cleaving by Juliet E. McKenna

  1. The Tainted Cup, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I’ve made a start on this one! But then I got distracted and haven’t picked it up in a week. I’m really enthusiastic about the premise, though, so it’s time to dig in.
  2. Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon. I had this one as an ARC before it came out, so I really must get back to this one. I was finding it fascinating, just dense with information — and a bit overly blessed with footnotes, to be honest. It keeps fragmenting my attention and sending me bouncing around the page, and I didn’t have the focus for a bit. Soon I’ll hand my essays in, though, and then I hope to dig into it more.
  3. Ink, Blood, Sister, Scribe, by Emma Törzs. I’m at the point of being intrigued by this without being fully sucked in. Which is maybe worrying since I’m already 100 pages in. Still, I’m enthusiastic enough to finish it, and I’d like to prioritise that soon!
  4. The Book of Perilous Dishes, by Doina Ruști. I started on this soon after getting it, but it didn’t suit my mood at the time. I might need to start over to find my way back in, since I wasn’t very far into it, but we’ll see! I’m very curious to read more translated works in general, and I don’t think I’ve read anything by a Romanian author before, so I want to give it a proper shot and not just dislike it because I’m in a weird mood.
  5. The Cleaving, by Juliet E. McKenna. I’ve meant to read McKenna’s work for sooo long, and I did enjoy the first 50 pages of this… in fact, I’ve no idea why I got distracted from this one. Maybe just my bad habit of reading a gazillion books at once.

That’s not quite all the books I’m reading at once — for example, I’ve also been neglecting A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross for… too long. But let’s take a look at the new-to-me books I want to read and haven’t even dipped a toe into yet!

Cover of The Undetectables by Courtney Smyth Cover of The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson Cover of The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown Cover of Swordcrossed by Freya Marske Cover of The Husky and His White Cat Shizun by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou

  1. The Undetectables, by Courtney Smyth. With a tagline like this, who could resist? “Be gay. Solve crimes. Take naps.” It looks like fun, and it’s a recent acquisition, so I want to strike while the iron is hot.
  2. The Three Dahlias, by Katy Watson. This book was chosen for my mum by Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, and is quite possibly up my street as well. It’s definitely worth a try.
  3. The Book of Doors, by Gareth Brown. This was a bit of an impulse purchase, and I know very little about it. It involves books, though, so that gives it a bit of a headstart in my book!
  4. Swordcrossed, by Freya Marske. I couldn’t resist requesting the eARC of this based on the description (and my previous enjoyment of Marske’s work, even if I haven’t read the whole trilogy yet). It sounds like such fun, and maybe I’ll even read it before it comes out this time if I start soon…
  5. The Husky and his White Cat Shizun, by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou. Having read and loved The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System (Mo Xiang Tong Xiu), I want to try out some other danmei! MXTX’s Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is also on my list, but I’m curious to try other authors as well.

It was hard to narrow it down… and knowing me, I won’t read any of them. But it’s always fun to dream! Does anybody else have such trouble sticking to their intended reading lists?!

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Review – Lost in the Moment and Found

Posted March 18, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Review – Lost in the Moment and Found

Lost in the Moment and Found

by Seanan McGuire

Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 208
Series: Wayward Children #8
Rating: four-stars

Welcome to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go.

If you ever lost a sock, you’ll find it here.

If you ever wondered about favorite toy from childhood... it’s probably sitting on a shelf in the back.

And the headphones that you swore that this time you’d keep safe? You guessed it….

Antoinette has lost her father. Metaphorically. He’s not in the shop, and she’ll never see him again. But when Antsy finds herself lost (literally, this time), she finds that however many doors open for her, leaving the Shop for good might not be as simple as it sounds.

And stepping through those doors exacts a price.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Picking up Seanan McGuire’s Lost in the Moment and Found, I wasn’t sure whether I’d love it. On paper, this series has so much that I love, but it goes some dark places at times, and the warning about the situation that Antsy ends up in made me wonder if this was going to be another one which cut too close to home.

For me, it wasn’t, but it’s worth knowing that Antsy ends up in a difficult situation where her step-father convinces her that her mother won’t believe her if she says anything against him, while making her feel deeply uncomfortable (and also involving an obvious threat of child sexual abuse). In addition, Antsy loses her father very young. So it’s important to know that going in, for some people; as McGuire’s initial note says, Antsy runs before the bad things really start happening, though.

There is a fair bit about that and the build-up to why Antsy runs away, and as such I suppose I’d be happy if the book spent a bit more time in the shop. It sounds like a fascinating world and I wanted Antsy to explore it a little more, and to explore some of the other worlds with her. Instead we turn to the price she’s paying for the joy — and as ever, it’s a harsh one.

Obviously, the end of the book tells us where the main plot thread that runs through the odd-numbered novellas is going next, or at least, that Antsy’s going to have something to do with it. Given that she brings a bit of fresh blood into the questing group, that could be interesting!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Stone Star: In the Spotlight

Posted March 17, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Stone Star: In the Spotlight

Stone Star: In the Spotlight

by Jim Zub, Max Dunbar, Espen Grundetjern, Marshall Dillon

Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novels
Pages: 123
Series: Stone Star #2
Rating: three-stars

The nomadic space station called Stone Star brings gladiatorial entertainment to ports across the galaxy. Inside this gargantuan vessel of tournaments and temptations, foragers and fighters struggle to survive. A young warrior named Dail has been drawn into the ring and is trying to prove himself in the Grand Arena, but there are forces on the station determined to see him destroyed as revenge for his father's fighting legacy. Stone Star is a prison and a palace. It's a strange and dangerous home to orphans, criminals, and stowaways all trying to survive, fighting for a bit of fame and fortune before their time runs out.

Stone Star is an action-adventure spectacle bursting with colorful characters and pulse-pounding action! Grab your weapons, gritters, and join the fray!

The second volume of Jim Zub et al’s Stone Star went in a direction that was a bit surprising to me, and that actually piqued my interest a bit more — the plotline was fairly typical up to that point, and then it took what could’ve obviously been a plot device to drive characters apart and ruin everything and… okay, it still caused problems, but not in the most typical way. It gives us a bit more of a glimpse at the character of Volness and what he’s done, which is pretty cool.

Otherwise, the characters etc all continue to be exactly what you’d expect from this kind of story, the story beats are all pretty typical, etc. The art’s okay, and some of the character designs are pretty neat. I’m not totally in love, but I have to give it props for focusing on communication to build trust. Too often lack of communication (“if I tell him, it’ll only ruin things”) is a heavy-handed way to drive conflict in the story.

Plus, there are some interesting hints as to what Dail’s powers might mean. I’d read another volume if it came my way.

Rating: 3/5

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Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post

Posted March 16, 2024 by Nicky in General / 20 Comments

I keep thinking I’m done being all stressy, and then something comes along to kick me in the shins again, ha. A close relative is in hospital, under upsetting circumstances, and it’s getting under my skin. That and I’m just feeling super overwhelmed with my assignments…

Anyway, I’m almost certainly behind on comments again, maybe even from last week, and I’m sorry. Catching up is on my list for the weekend, I promise.

As per usual, I’m linking up with Reading Reality’s Stacking the Shelves, Caffeinated Reviewer’s The Sunday Post, and the Sunday Salon over at Readerbuzz… though I might not get out and about as much this weekend. I’ll visit back anyone who visits me, though!

Books acquired this week:

After last week’s spree, I didn’t expect to get anything this week, but actually my British Library Crime Classic subscription book arrived. It’s by John Bude, which means it’s probably solid and enjoyable without blowing your mind — and that’s probably exactly what I want right now.

Cover of A Telegram from Le Touquet by John Bude

So that’s something to look forward to!

Posts from this week:

As usual, here’s the roundup of reviews posted!

And other posts:

What I’m reading:

Things went a bit quiet as this week went on, but I’ve tried to spend a little time each day reading! Here’s a glimpse of the books I finished in the last week which I intend to review on here soon.

Cover of A Bookshop of One's Own by Jane Cholmeley Cover of Doughnuts Under A Crescent Moon vol 2 by Shio Usui Cover of Seanan McGuire's Mislaid in Parts Half-Known Cover of Doughnuts Under A Crescent Moon vol 3 by Shio Usui

Cover of Doughnuts Under A Crescent Moon vol 4 by Shio Usui Cover of A Side Character's Love Story vol 17 by Akane Tamura Cover of Mushroom by Sara Rich

I’ve made ambitious reading plans for the weekend, but we’ll see how they go. Mostly I just want to find some time to read, and read stuff I enjoy. My first plan is to finish the British Library Crime Classic I’m reading, Big Ben Strikes Eleven, by David Magarshack. After that, we’ll see!

How’s everyone else been doing?

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Review – Doctor

Posted March 15, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Doctor


by Andrew Bomback

Genres: Non-fiction
Pages: 176
Series: Object Lessons
Rating: two-stars

Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

A 3-year-old asks her physician father about his job, and his inability to provide a succinct and accurate answer inspires a critical look at the profession of modern medicine.

In sorting through how patients, insurance companies, advertising agencies, filmmakers, and comedians misconstrue a doctor's role, Andrew Bomback, M.D., realizes that even doctors struggle to define their profession. As the author attempts to unravel how much of doctoring is role-playing, artifice, and bluffing, he examines the career of his father, a legendary pediatrician on the verge of retirement, and the health of his infant son, who is suffering from a vague assortment of gastrointestinal symptoms.

At turns serious, comedic, analytical, and confessional, Doctor offers an unflinching look at what it means to be a physician today.

Some of the Object Lessons books are histories of the object under discussion, peeking into history through a very specific lens. Andrew Bomback’s Doctor instead looks at being a doctor right now, with only a little historical context in the form of his musings about his idolised father. There’s some contrast between being a doctor now and how it used to be, and some discussion of how doctors navigate the world — all alongside his experiences as a father, how his profession impacts his children, etc. It’s more of a memoir than anything: how enjoyable you find it will depend on how you find Bomback as a person, to some extent.

Bomback Jr isn’t one of those doctors perpetually driven by “making things better”, and his frustration with some patients — his contempt, even — drips off some of the pages. Without thought, he lists the patients he dislikes, ending with: “healthy, never sick, never really needed to see me, but convinced there is something wrong that I am yet to find”. He hates those patients more than the patients who refuse to comply with his treatment plans.

It’s fashionable and easy to hate on those with health anxiety (“hypochondriacs”, “attention seekers”), but consider: there is something wrong with us. That fear that we can never quiet is ultimately the problem we need help with — and it’s a doctor’s job to get to the root of the problems we present to them, and to help us, because they have the expertise to see what we do not. There are options: addressing underlying trauma, providing lifestyle advice, and yes, medication too.

If you don’t know that, if you can’t see that, if you just casually dismiss those people as not needing help, well… you’re a shit doctor, and you should feel a deep shame. And sure, he’s mostly concerned with patients’ kidneys rather than general practice, and maybe he himself can’t help with health anxiety (though I notice he was happy to prescribe Xanax if his patient’s wife said he needed it), but he can at least have some damn humanity and recognise that fear, rather than complain about them because their fear makes them question his vaunted expertise.

So needless to say, I did not end this book thinking “ah, Dr Bomback sure is a nice guy”, which I’m sure is what he’d like people to think. I know what he’d think of me, and I am profoundly relieved he’s unlikely to ever have to treat me. I’d hate to get on his nerves by so rudely having medical trauma.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Magic Stars

Posted March 14, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Magic Stars

Magic Stars

by Ilona Andrews

Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 80
Series: Kate Daniels
Rating: three-stars

Scarred, solitary Derek Gaunt has separated from his Pack, and is truly a lone wolf. With no family he answers to no one; but is fiercely loyal to a chosen few. So, when several of those close to him are murdered, he’ll stop at nothing to hunt their killer through the magic-drenched streets of Atlanta.

Never one to be left on the sidelines, equally determined—some might say stubborn—Julie Lennart-Olsen soon joins in his pursuit; and what began as revenge turns into a race to save the city. Their search pits them against powers they never imagined and magic so old, it predates history. It may cost Derek his life, but there are things for which even he would risk everything.

Ilona Andrews’ Magic Stars is a fun short story from Derek’s point of view, featuring Derek and Julie. They fight crime! Well. They avenge supernatural murders, track down a couple of mysteries, and get themselves into big trouble — just as Kate and Curran would want. Wait a sec, no…

It’s a fun little taster of how Julie’s going to handle life, and also a glimpse at what she’s intending, where she sees herself in the world. She’s in touch with Roland, she knows about the caveats and side effects of what Kate did to save her, and she’s ready to grow up and be a bit of a wrecking ball herself, Kate-style.

There’s not a lot here to dig one’s teeth into, but it’s a different look at the familiar characters, and adds a little bit more colour to their world.

Rating: 3/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted March 13, 2024 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

Wednesday again already? Time is flying by, but as usual, we’re asking:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you recently finished reading?
  • What are you reading next?

And linking up with Taking on a World of Words.

Cover of Big Ben Strikes Eleven by David MagarshackWhat are you currently reading?

I have a few books on the go at once, as is usual for me: I guess the primary one right now is Big Ben Strikes Eleven, by David Magarshack. I’m not very far into it and I’m finding it kind of slow. I mean, classic mysteries often are, but it feels like it’s being described in a needlessly complicated way. The facts so far are simple enough, but there’s a whole scene with the detective (not the same one as from the opening chapters, of course, sigh) trying to familiarise himself with the case and just tying himself in knots.

So I’m not sure how warm I’m going to feel about this one, but I’m giving it time.

Cover of Mushroom by Sara RichWhat have you recently finished reading?

I’ve been digging into the Object Lessons books I got last week, so the last thing I finished was Sara Rich’s Mushroom. I liked it a bit more than Spacecraft and Sticker, neither of which really focused on the topic in the way I’m interested in. Mushroom didn’t really either, though, being much more about mushrooms as a metaphor and mushrooms as being involved in various kinds of mysticism and religion. There’s also what seems like some honking great hypocrisy (going on about even the land being alive and how much she respects Native American beliefs about it, and then referring to “my family’s land” in Kansas, which of course was home to Native Americans not long before). Maybe there’s an explanation for that, but, hmmm.

Cover of The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson BennettWhat are you reading next?

I probably shouldn’t start anything else new! According to the Bookly app, I’m partway through seventeen different books. So I’m hoping to focus on finishing some of those! I started The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett, over the weekend, so probably I’ll turn my focus to that next. The Sherlock Holmes parallels are so far very obvious in terms of characterisation (though eccentricities are taken to extreme).

How about you? Anything fascinating open on your ereader or lurking on your desk?

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Top Ten Tuesday: To Reread or Not to Reread?

Posted March 12, 2024 by Nicky in General / 24 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is about books that you’re scared might not stand up to a second reading — books you originally loved, but are scared to reread. I heard about the concept of the Suck Fairy from Jo Walton, and that’s exactly the problem here: maybe the book just isn’t as good as you remember. Times have changed, or you’ve changed, or the book isn’t really what you remember… that’s the Suck Fairy!

Anyway, let’s give this a shot. Note that I’m not saying these books necessarily do or will suck now (in fact for some I’m sure they’re really good but maybe not for me). I’m just afraid that if I reread them, I won’t love them the way I did before.

Cover of Among Others by Jo Walton Cover of Camelot's Shadow by Sarah Zettel Cover of A Sorcerer's Treason by Sarah Zettel

  1. Among Others, by Jo Walton. I don’t really think the Suck Fairy can have visited this book, surely. It meant so much to me. On the other hand, I read it in my early twenties, fresh out of being a teenager, and it meant an enormous amount to me then. Can it stand up to that weight? I think it probably can, but it’ll be a very different experience now.
  2. The Magic Faraway Tree, by Enid Blyton. I have very fond memories of so many Enid Blyton books: so much so that I get tempted to revisit for the nostalgia hit. That said, everything’s coloured by what I know about Blyton now, and by having seen some of the sexism and racism lurking in her stories the last time I read them (which was in university, for a children’s literature course). I’m not sure that can be unseen.
  3. Idylls of the Queen, by Phylis Ann Karr. I did this to myself: I wrote my MA dissertation about this book, in part. Mostly I was looking at character, and the use the author made of the sources. That said, I did semi-recently reread Exiled from Camelot (Cherith Baldry), which I also wrote about in that dissertation — and Idylls of the Queen was the better book. I think this’ll probably be OK to revisit.
  4. Camelot’s Shadow, by Sarah Zettel. This is quite possibly where my interest in romance fiction in general really began, a little foot in the door. And again, I wrote about it in my dissertation. I keep thinking about revisiting, but are Gawain and his brothers as enchanting as I remember?
  5. A Sorcerer’s Treason, by Sarah Zettel. I remember really liking the Isavalta books, and I keep wondering about a reread. I don’t remember much about them, though? Only the fact that I liked it at the time. Seems a bit worrying.
  6. Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay. There was a time when I’d have dived on a new Guy Gavriel Kay book instantly, but I’ve been really lax in keeping up of late. Around about when Under Heaven came out, I think I started… going off his work? Which is a shame, because there’s much I loved about The Summer Tree, Tigana, etc. I did read Under Heaven, and I liked it, but it didn’t stick in my head in quite the same way. Maybe I’ll have to just give it another shot, though, and see.
  7. Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. Mum and I were pretty obsessed with these books, and a lot of it is probably packed into my reading self on a DNA level. But… could I stand rereading Fitz’s teenage whinging? Presumably one doesn’t need to be an adolescent to put up with it, since Mum could, but maybe also she was just in practice due to me and my sister!
  8. Sabriel, by Garth Nix. I loved Sabriel and Lirael, and found so much of the world-building fascinating, and then… didn’t really like Abhorsen for a few reasons, and have barely kept up since. Something went pear-shaped for me at some point in all this. I kinda want to give it a second chance — but what if it was pear-shaped all along, and I just didn’t see it yet back then?
  9. Waking Gods, by Sylvain Neuvel. The first book of the trilogy blew me away several times, and I remember liking this as well — and yet somehow I never went on to the third book. Maybe the answer to why is found in Waking Gods, and will spoil everything?
  10. Spillover, by David Quammen. I give this book a lot of credit for my current path (my MSc in infectious diseases), but it’s probably getting a bit long in the tooth now. Science doesn’t stand still. Still, I have an enormous affection for it, because it’s also the book that made me a bit less scared of infectious diseases by helping me be curious about them.

Cover of Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay Cover of Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb Cover of Sabriel by Garth Nix Cover of Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel Cover of Spillover by David Quamnem

Funnily enough, there are a few books that grew for me on rereads, and stuck in my head in astounding ways. Maybe someday there’ll be a topic about that, but for now, shoutout to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey, Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, Robin McKinley’s Chalice, Mira Grant’s Feed, and probably many others…

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Review – The October Faction, vol 2

Posted March 11, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The October Faction, vol 2

The October Faction

by Steve Niles, Damien Worm

Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novels
Pages: 140
Series: The October Faction #2
Rating: two-stars

The Allan family has inducted Dante, a.k.a. Robot Face, into the fold and Geoff and Vivian have begun their training in the family business; monster hunting. All looks well for the Allans, but Sheriff Chambers is slowly catching on to their occult activities. Collects issues #7-12.

I’m kinda hanging in there with The October Faction by Steve Niles et al. This second volume didn’t really assuage my fears about how rushed the first volume felt, or add a lot to the character development, so in a way it’s not really what I’m looking for.

That said, now that I’m used to the artwork it does seem to fit with the story so well it feels wrong to complain. Though sometimes it is so dark and stylised that it’s not 100% clear what’s happening, in places.

All the same, clearly something’s got me curious enough to keep going with reading these. There’s something just compelling enough about the art and the characters, and wondering what bananas thing is going to happen next.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Tell Me The Truth About Life

Posted March 10, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Tell Me The Truth About Life

Tell Me The Truth About Life: A National Poetry Day Anthology

by Cerys Matthews (editor)

Genres: Poetry
Pages: 192
Rating: three-stars

Tell Me the Truth About Life is an indispensable anthology which celebrates poetry’s power to tap into the truths that matter. Curated and introduced by Cerys Matthews, this collection draws on the wisdom of crowds: featuring poems nominated for their insight into truth by a range of ordinary and extraordinary people: from Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, to sporting heroes and world-famous musicians, teachers, artists and politicians.

Their choices include contemporary work by Yrsa Daley-Ward, John Cooper Clarke and Kei Miller alongside classics by W H Auden, Emily Dickinson and Dylan Thomas. Here you will find poems to revive the spirit, ballads to mobilize and life-lines to hold you safe in the dark.

Compiled for National Poetry Day’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Tell Me the Truth About Life is a book that reminds us we are never completely alone in our search to glimpse the truth.

Containing nominations from a number of high-profile poetry lovers and poets, including Michael Morpurgo, Mark Gatiss, Dolly Alderton, and Helen Sharman, among others.

The poems featured in Tell Me The Truth About Life, edited by Cerys Matthews, are a bit of a mixed bag. Some are the type you come across in every single similar anthology, the famous ones that people like my grandmother have memorised. There were also a few surprises, poets I’d like to read more of.

I didn’t find that the little introductions written by various other readers were that helpful or added much, sadly: sometimes, reading someone else’s interpretation of a poem or what it means to them opens a poem right up, but the descriptions were too brief to offer much, and not very insightful.

What it did remind me was that I’d like to read more poetry again; it’s been a long time since I did, but I do have some favourites. Here’s one of them, while we’re here — Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love”:

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread, Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Rating: 3/5

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