OITNB

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Well, I just finished binge-watching the final season of Orange Is The New Black. I wasn’t planning on writing about it, but now that I am finished, I just had to talk about it.

I loved this season.

The producers, writers and actors did justice to all the story that had come before in the show. This final season was very well done, IMHO, and is a great example. So, so many shows end terribly – I think it is the one thing that most series have in common – and there have been some fantastic failures in recent high-profile series. GoT, I’m thinking of you …

Season seven of OITNB was well balanced between new storylines and tying up loose ends. It didn’t feel too easy, or too neat. Some characters ended up in great places, others still trying to make a life for themselves behind bars, and a couple met the Big Guy upstairs, but each ending felt right to me.

My favourite new storyline was the incorporation of current political and cultural affairs in the US, with illegal immigration, Dreamers and immigration detention centres incorporated into the plot in a creative and surprising way. This aspect definitely made an impact on me, even though I am not American.

Throughout the season, old characters from earlier seasons made cameos and it all flowed perfectly naturally. There wasn’t anything that felt disjointed or forced.

I was surprised that the show did not make any reference to Piper writing her memoir post-prison, but I also did not feel I missed out on any particular storyline.

I am sad to see a good show ending, but mostly just happy that it ended on a high note, rather than concluding unsatisfactorily or taking a long, slow march towards small screen death.

If you haven’t checked out Orange Is The New Black before, I highly recommend you do so now that the series is concluded and you won’t have any waiting periods for new episodes. I warn you though, you might need to clear your calendar for some solid binge time.

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I have always meant to read the book that this show is based off of, and never got around to it. Not that I don’t have a new season to look forward to, maybe this is the perfect time to pick it up from my library.

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xx

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Oil and Honey (Bill McKibben)

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Bestselling author and environmental activist Bill McKibben recounts the personal and global story of the fight to build and preserve a sustainable planet

Bill McKibben is not a person you’d expect to find handcuffed and behind bars, but that’s where he found himself in the summer of 2011 after leading the largest civil disobedience in thirty years, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House.

With the Arctic melting, the Midwest in drought, and Irene scouring the Atlantic, McKibben recognized that action was needed if solutions were to be found. Some of those would come at the local level, where McKibben joins forces with a Vermont beekeeper raising his hives as part of the growing trend toward local food. Other solutions would come from a much larger fight against the fossil-fuel industry as a whole.

Oil and Honey is McKibben’s account of these two necessary and mutually reinforcing sides of the global climate fight—from the center of the maelstrom and from the growing hive of small-scale local answers. With empathy and passion he makes the case for a renewed commitment on both levels, telling the story of raising one year’s honey crop and building a social movement that’s still cresting.

—                     —                     —

America has half as many farmers as prisoners. Half.

This is one of the startling facts I learned while listening to Bill McKibben’s Oil and Honey.

I didn’t know too much about this book before I picked it out. I knew it was about the environment and that I had been meaning to read it for a few years. It takes place over several years, but begins just about the time that I was starting university. I majored in environmental studies/science, so it was particularly interesting to me to review major environmental movements that were taking place as I was learning the foundations at school.

A sad fact that McKibben repeats often is that environmental victories are always temporary. Nothing is ever defeated permanently, just put off for awhile. The fight never ends. And environmentalists seem to be on the losing side more often than not. This is why it is so exhausting to be an environmental rights activist, or even just someone who cares. The fight goes on and on, and unfortunately, big money is not on “our” side.

For example, in 2010, the Keystone XL pipeline was on the main stage in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election. Considerable pressure was on Obama to approve it and McKibben was one of the key activists trying to activate a grassroots response that would threaten Obama’s re-election if he did approve the pipeline.

Today, in 2019, this pipeline is still an ongoing battle in Canada.

The fights goes on.

Listening to this book took longer than I expected. It has been a while since I listened to something environmentally focused, and I forgot how angry these issues make me. How exhausting the failures can be when they add up. And the victories feel few and far between. I couldn’t listen before bed – it made me too frustrated to sleep – so I had to pick and choose the moments that I would listen.

I will say, something helpful I learned is the process of arrest at a political demonstration. That was reassuring in case I am ever in a similar situation. And humorous in a dark sort of way.

Climate change is global. Environmental disaster has zero respect for political borders. These issues are universal. However, most of the direct issues that are taken up in this book are based in America or Canada, so I believe that residents of these two countries will get the most out of it. Alberta’s tar sands are one of the biggest environmental disasters in the world. They are barely tapped, and already more earth has been moved than was moved in the construction of all the mega-dams in the world.

That is insane.

One of my favourite quotes from Oil and Honey, comes from McKibben’s account of the Keystone protests outside the White House. While in jail, he reported

“we don’t need sympathy, we need company”.

Narrator Kevin Collins has a smooth, relaxing voice that made the book pleasant to listen to, even if the topics were difficult to get through at times.

I am planning on watching McKibben’s interviews on The Colbert Report and his Ted Talk now. You can learn more on the website, 350.org.

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xx

 

 

Them: why we hate each other – and how to heal

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing American Adult, an intimate and urgent assessment of the existential crisis facing our nation.

Something is wrong. We all know it.

American life expectancy is declining for a third straight year. Birth rates are dropping. Nearly half of us think the other political party isn’t just wrong; they’re evil. We’re the richest country in history, but we’ve never been more pessimistic. What’s causing the despair?

In Them, bestselling author and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, our crisis isn’t really about politics. It’s that we’re so lonely we can’t see straight—and it bubbles out as anger.

Local communities are collapsing. Across the nation, little leagues are disappearing, Rotary clubs are dwindling, and in all likelihood, we don’t know the neighbour two doors down. Work isn’t what we’d hoped: less certainty, few lifelong coworkers, shallow purpose. Stable families and enduring friendships—life’s fundamental pillars—are in statistical free-fall.

As traditional tribes of place evaporate, we rally against common enemies so we can feel part of on a team. No institutions command widespread public trust, enabling foreign intelligence agencies to use technology to pick the scabs on our toxic divisions. We’re in danger of half of us believing different facts than the other half, and the digital revolution throws gas on the fire.

There’s a path forward—but reversing our decline requires something radical: a rediscovery of real places and real human-to-human relationships. Even as technology nudges us to become rootless, Sasse shows how only a recovery of rootedness can heal our lonely souls.

America wants you to be happy, but more urgently, America needs you to love your neighbour. Fixing what’s wrong with the country depends on you rebuilding right where you’re planted.

—                          —                          —

I listened to this audiobook on the recommendation of a social media influencer I follow, Angie Braniff from This Gathered Nest. Although Sasse is an American Senator writing from an American point of view, I found it very interesting and his arguments are easily applicable to most other countries, including here in Canada.

Sasse self-describes as the second or third most conservative Republican in the Senate. There are limited points that I agree with Republicans on so it was particularly interesting for me to read a book by someone from whom my political ideology differs so greatly.

I was surprised though, by how much we did agree on points in Them. Sasse has authored books in the past and his experience is on display. His points were eloquent, factual and well-written. His use of quotes helped to structure and support his arguments, but were not so plentiful as to take over the narrative.

I appreciated his takes on community, technology and economic environment, and the relationships these factors have with social policy and politics.

I find it disheartening to witness so much vitriol and divisiveness on every online platform, as well as in interpersonal dialogue. His argument that the collapse of positive community structures has led to the development of anti-tribes is easily understood and something I wholeheartedly believe is true.

I highly recommend Them to anyone interested in politics, building stronger communities, or just wondering what the hell happened.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

—                         —                         —

Well I finally finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I had read part of it years ago as a pre-teen, when I was lured in by this evocative cover, but it was too heavy and intellectual for me at the time.

I was motivated to read it again now because of the tv show airing on Bravo. Once again, it was the visuals – in this case the trailer – that drew me in, but book nerd that I am, I had to read the book first. I read it in two sessions, but those sessions were a couple of months apart.

I loved the premise behind this story, the post-apocalyptic world that Atwood imagines, and its beginnings eerily reflect some of the current news circling the world.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love her writing style. And I really detested the end of the book. This story was largely character-based, but it is the plot that drew me in. In effect, essentially nothing happens throughout most of the story, and the ending felt like a huge cliffhanger. I felt as if I should only be halfway through the book when in actuality I was finished.

If you are a reader who likes to delve into the nuances of a character and reader the minute internal emotional journey they undergo, this is probably a great book for you. If you are more of a plot-based fan who wants things to move along at a faster clip, try the show instead. I am loving it much more.

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Craving Absolution by Nicole Jacquelyn – a review

Nicole Jacquelyn writes an outlaw MC series that is full of strong-willed, dominant bikers with out-spoken alpha females at their sides.

The third book in the series is Craving Absolution. It features Casper, who was introduced in book 1 as a prospect to the Aces MC, and is now a full-patch member. His heroine is Farrah Miller, the main supporting character in book two and the daughter of the Club President.

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Book Blurb:

Farrah Miller and Cody “Casper” Butler have a longstanding relationship that both refuse to discuss.

It isn’t romantic.

It may not even be classified as a friendship.

Casper’s been saving Farrah from herself for longer than he’d care to admit, watching silently as she drowned herself in alcohol. Then, when she finally got her act together, he left. He told himself he was giving her time to sort herself out. He tried to give her space.

But getting shot in the chest can change a man’s perspective, and Casper’s done waiting.

When he shows up on her doorstep one night, everything changes.

He’s the man who’s seen her at her very worst.

She’s his weakness.

He runs when things get hard.

She never lets anyone see below the surface and is terrified of being abandoned.

He knows it’s a long shot, that there’s a good chance she’ll never drop her guard for him—but he has to try. Because a life with Farrah is exactly what he wants—even if he has to fight her for it.

—                   —                    —

I really liked Farrah’s character, she was my favourite part of this book. She is a strong chick and is an example of how someone who suffers from panic attacks and anxiety and is completely unsure of herself in relationships, can still be strong and opinionated. Having panic attacks doesn’t make her weak, and it isn’t a character flaw.

IMHO, Jacquelyn is excellent at adding depth and development to her characters, allowing them to change and mature through the events of the story. Often, this is a recurring failure in romance novels so character growth is one of my favourite aspects of the Aces MC books.

Farrah moves on from barely acknowledging her father’s existence after meeting him in book 2, to reaching out to him and Vera (her stepmother), trying to establish some sort of emotional connection to them and including them in her family. She also embraces a maternal, nurturing role as she takes on being a parent to two children, despite never having a childhood herself and certainly lacking responsible parents growing up.

Although romance novels typically feature a couple as dual main characters, I definitely felt that this one was ‘the Farrah story’. The reader spends most of the pages in her perspective and Casper has little character development in comparison to the vast amount that Farrah experiences. Casper is more the companion piece to her character and a way to move the plot forward. I would have liked to see him grow up a little more and be more in control of himself and his destiny.

I really liked this installment in the series and cannot wait to read the next.

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