Black Mirror – Season One

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For those who don’t know, we watch things together. Not only do we read books together, blog together, and bookstagram together, but we also watch stuff together. To date, we’ve watched The Tudors, Sense8, Hannibal, Rogue One, Inglourious Basterds, and others. Chantel made the request that we watch Black Mirror together because we thought that it would be fun. So, we’re going to review it per season and episode. Should be fun, right?

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.

The National Anthem

What a fucking opener, no pun intended. Okay, it was kind of intended. I would say it was pretty intended.

I think everyone who has ever heard of Black Mirror has heard of this episode. It’s the one where the Prime Minister of England fucks a pig.

Yeah, my granddaddy had me watch this one so we could talk about it during our monthly video chats. I watched it. He never asked questions about it.

What an awkward conversation that would’ve been. The episode has a lot more to say than just providing shock value. It says a lot about society and how we are willing to watch other people’s embarrassment with no shame. While the PM is having sex with the pig on live television, people are glued to the screens watching, FOR AN HOUR. It’s kind of a rude awakening of how far someone has to go to keep our interest.

See, and I didn’t find it a rude awakening. I was a psych major. I studied social psychology. It wasn’t surprising at all. I know we disagreed on this, Chantel, but how many of you readers would watch your country’s leader fuck a pig? I know if Trump had to go on live television, I would watch the hell out of it. I would. Because I find it a direct insult to a government that I don’t agree with. A pig fucking a pig.

But, for those who don’t know a lot on this topic, it really is a harsh awakening when you realize that you could be just like them. You’d watch someone have sex with a pig for an hour. But, why? Would you do it because you want to see it? Would you watch it so you can talk about it, blog about it, etc? It’s a tough call since there are so many reasons why we would be glued to this shocking broadcast.

All I can ever think of is that poor pig. Like damn. But while I think this was a good opener and set the tone for the series and the point it tries to make, I’m not a huge fan of this episode. It was certainly something I had never seen before, thankfully, but I think Caidyn is right. We would want to watch because we’d want to talk about it, and if you didn’t watch it then you’d likely be the only one and we desperately want to fit in. My suggestion, though, don’t watch this with your parents.

Bahaha. Yeah. Don’t watch it with your family. My mom almost throws up every time she hears about this episode.

For me, I also think of this episode as being interesting about the lengths one will go to for someone they feel a duty protect. As PM, his duty is to protect the country. Well, a princess was captured. She’s, in a way, the country. So. He went to the length he had to.

We all know Trump wouldn’t fuck a pig for anyone but himself. #sorrynotsorry

Are we forgetting Ivanka? He might for her.

Eh. Maybe Barron.

Not sure about that. BUT WE ARE GETTING OFF TOPIC. It’s an interesting story about human nature from many different angles. Where are your limits? What would or wouldn’t you do for someone you had a duty to protect? And, would you watch something horrific or would you refuse to participate?

I am so ready to move on. Okay then.

Fifteen Million Merits

This was by far my favorite episode of the first season and it wasn’t even close. This episode is really complicated and it’s hard to describe the world if you’ve never seen it. Basically, people ride stationary bikes to power the world, rack up “money”, and they use it as they please. The main character is Bing who has fifteen million merits from his brother’s death. He uses it as if it’s nothing and there are no limits to what he can do until Abi comes along and he buys her a ticket to audition for a talent show. Basically an X-Factor type of show. I don’t want to give too much away about the episode because I want you all to go watch it, but I think we can talk about the commentary on consumer culture.

Honestly, you can skip the first episode if the idea of watching a guy make the decision about whether or not he’s going to fuck a pig to save someone’s life doesn’t interest you. This is an anthology series. None of the episodes link together, although Chantel pointed out when we watched these that there are theories that they actually do.

I definitely loved this episode and I agree about consumer culture. It’s so apathetic. All me, me, me. Never about anyone else. And, it’s also about losing humanity. Humans are supposed to be empathic towards each other. I could go on about the arguments for this and link things in, but I’ll resist that urge. This world was where your life was lived completely online. Everything you bought, except food, was virtual. You had an avatar that lived for you online while you did your stationary bike. What you bought for that avatar wasn’t technically yours. And, in a way, that’s where we’re headed. Things are becoming more and more virtual (for buying or living our lives) and as that happens, we sort of forget that the people on the screen are humans. Which leads to people being absolutely horrid to one another, as you could see in this episode. And I’m sure everyone reading this can think of examples they’ve witnessed or been a part of.

Yes, you can totally skip the first episode. It doesn’t really fit with the other two episodes or the rest of the series because it’s very much in the present day where all of the other episodes, that I’ve seen, take place in the future. I have also heard the theory that the show takes place in the same universe along different timelines and some of the technology does cross over, but I don’t believe it’s been confirmed by the creator. It’s very similar to the Pixar Theory in that way.

When Bing hears Abi singing in the bathrooms, he starts to believe in her. That she can be better and do better than riding a stationary bike day in and day out. It’s something different. He is clearly awkward as people are very isolated in this world, and they hardly know how to interact with each other. Bing isn’t even excused from being apathetic either. There is this one girl who wants to get his attention because she likes him and he brushes her off and then a prettier girl comes along and he completely changes.

The fact that he can believe in Abi in a world where people are only looking for the next best thing is super sweet and even charming. I adored Bing’s character, but let’s just say things don’t stay sweet and charming. As things rarely do on Black Mirror.

(Also, shared sex bathrooms. I need this future now. Makes life so much easier.) Bing is a very apathetic person, but he finds Abi interesting and attractive, so he branches out from his apathy to help Abi out. Bing is an interesting character for sure. Is he apathetic for a reason or is it so culturally ingrained that he keeps with it despite really wanting people? I mean, when the only world that they have is a stationary bike and porn (because porn features heavily in this), how can you ever think of being close to someone?

I think it’s absolutely the culture they live in that’s made him apathetic. The way he so casually talked about his brother being dead was something that stood out. They likely didn’t see each other often as the world is divided into separate blocks. Not unlike a prison. It’s a world where you are very much focused on yourself and things you want and Bing stands out from that because he wants to help Abi and by extension everyone else in society. He’s the only one who tries to deviate that we see, at least.

Yes, it definitely has the prison vibe, and how VR has made them a prisoner to their life. He deviates and, in a way, gets punished for it.

But, I do want to talk about how cinematographic this episode is. Like, hot damn. The use of music was amazingly done. There isn’t a whole lot of talking in this episode, even if it’s an hour long. That means there has to be something to fill the void. That being music or advertisements for the things they do online. I just loved how it was done, then how it really made the words they use matter.

That didn’t occur to me as we were watching the episode but now it clearly stands out.

This episode is just gorgeous and so well written and well done. Yes, the talent show and the judges are the extreme parody where Rupert Everett is clearly playing a Simon Cowell character, but that’s not a knock against it. Talent shows and reality tv is so ridiculous and over the top and yet we keep watching it. The music is perfect, I would listen to that score, honestly. It was just a well-done episode of television in general and gave me all the fucking feels.

I love the score, too. It added so much to the viewing when there was so much said without any words used, which takes a great script, great actors, and a great accompaniment to back it all up. Also, the use of advertisements to fill the void. Loved that since the world had no one talking. Just people making feeble attempts in person, really going for it online, and then no one but themselves at home.

Entire History of You

In the final episode of season one, we’re in a future where we have an implant in our brain that allows us to see our memories, replay them and show them to others. It’s something that could very well be in our future and I’m not sure I want it to be, no matter how much I want to remember things. It’s always going to be from one person’s perspective. Just because the memory is recorded doesn’t mean it’s the truth. It’s whatever you perceive it to be.

The main focus of this episode is a couple and the man, Liam, starts becoming obsessive and jealous about the way his wife behaves with another man. It’s one of those things where she can say it’s in his head, but he can play his memories as “proof”. She lies to him, despite him being able to find out the truth, and it causes everything to fall apart. As this technology is the worst idea ever.

Not only does this technology lead to men being able to be more abusive than ever towards women by finding “proof” in memories they can just pull up, but, even while it’s lauded as being better than usual memories, you can edit and delete them! Just like our usual memories! I mean, seriously, who thought that was a good idea? I won’t bore you guys with my ramblings about memory like I did Chantel when we watched this, but I really thought the story was good.

It took what I would say was a usual Twilight Zone plot with a jealous husband and flipped it to something new with technology. All while making us sympathize, in some ways, with the husband and with the wife. I thought it was a clever episode and, again, the use of music (or the lack of) was fantastic.

This is true, he had all the power when it came to the memories and how they were used against her. There is one character who scoffs at the idea of not having the implant when the woman says she’s better off. I think she probably was better off. Not forced to remember everything, though the memories can be deleted, but she doesn’t have to deal with the expectation that others are entitled to her memories. Early in the episode, Liam doesn’t do well in an interview and the others at the party insist on seeing the interaction despite his protests. They feel they are entitled to see the moment because they can see the moment. I wouldn’t want that put on me at all.

Black Mirror is very much a modern Twilight Zone in tone and in the commentary it makes. The Twilight Zone was great at taking your expectations on things, like beauty for example, and turning it on its head. Just like Caidyn says, they made the idea of a jealous husband different by adding a technology which only made him feel more justified in his thinking. Does he end up feeling satisfied at the end? No, he doesn’t.

Exactly. This was like a social media thing. You can show them to anyone and there’s a timeline that you can see of their memories, from when they got it to that point in time. The couple in this show have a child and that child has one, so they can look and see what happened while they were gone from the baby’s perspective. I mean, how creepy is that? You can just peer into your child’s memories as if you own them? While maybe that’s good as a nanny cam, but the implications of it (and brought up by what happens with Liam’s obsession) is insane.

I think this episode was the epitome of The Twilight Zone. It had a simple, usual plot. Then you add in some odd technology. And then the bad side of technology that people don’t like thinking about happens. And, yes, he feels justified because he can prove he’s right, but that doesn’t make it better. It makes it ten times worse rather than believing and trusting his wife.

Can we talk about the contrast from the second episode with music? Can we? I think we should.

Sure. I didn’t even notice the lack of music in this episode until you brought it up. Usually, when there is a lack of music it’s so you can focus on what’s really happening in the dialogue and background noises. There is an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that doesn’t feature a score at all and you hear everything, very visceral sounds that can be startling at times. While it’s not as extreme in this episode, you are really focused on the dialogue and what the characters are saying.

In “Fifteen Million Merits”, there is a lot of music. They establish the world through montages and Bing is a very quiet person compared to another character who is a loud prick. It almost reminded me of Wall-E in a way because there is a lack of words and the score matters so much in comparison.

My first experience with the use of music was when I was a kid and got freaked out watching The Lord of the Rings in theaters and I learned that bad things happened when there was no music. Since then, I always really focus on the score. So when there was not a ton of music — I mean, there was some, but compared to “Fifteen Million Merits”, as you pointed out, it lacked — I really paid attention. There was nothing but the intense dialogue and the relationship that was in jeopardy because a man couldn’t let his obsession go.

Wall-E is an apt comparison. And, yes, I have seen it. I think that the difference is with the story. An interconnected world in “Entire History of You” versus a separate world in “Fifteen Million Merits”. And those damn episode titles. So fucking good.

I actually didn’t like Wall-E, but that’s not what this is about. I really enjoy scores as well, but I don’t usually notice them. Not unless they are obvious or stand out. It really stood out in “Fifteen Million Merits” and it didn’t in “Entire History of You”. This show is incredible and I’d highly recommend it. It’s been torture watching this show with nobody to talk to about it, except for texts about me freaking out, so we are happy to share our thoughts with you and join in any conversation you want to have.

Rankings

Chantel’s Rankings

  1. Fifteen Million Merits
  2. Entire History of You
  3. The National Anthem

My rankings are the same as yours, yo. Does this mean that our ranking is absolutely definitive and generalizable to every person who watches this show?

Our rankings are law.

Knew it. But, I mean, we have to allow for some diversity. So if you guys disagree, I suppose you can comment. But you might get roasted if we like you and know you won’t get mad at us.

But everyone knows “Fifteen Million Merits” is the best. Obviously.

What if someone says “National Anthem” is the best? (And the title still gives me life when you combine it with the plot. Chantel doesn’t get it, guys.)

They are entitled to their opinion, even if it’s wrong.

We would be such kind dictators… I mean leaders.

I can live with that…but I’m not fucking a pig.

Mkay. Whatever you say.

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Blogging + College = ???: I lied

(Caidyn)

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Me @ all of you

 

Yep.

I did lie.

I lied to all of you when I said in Blogging + College = ???: El Fin that I was done. So, what happened?

Well, for starters, I found out that I did not get the job that I applied for. Which is fine. I didn’t expect to get it. Hell, I didn’t even expect to get not one, but two interviews for the position.

So, I signed up for a Spanish class. I don’t do well without a focus. So five months of me doing nothing? While hyper-focusing on whether I get into grad school??

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OKAY

My Spanish class.

It was good. I can already tell it’s going to be a lot of work in a short period of time, but that’s fine since I’m only taking one class at a community college, which is a bit different than a university like I’ve been going to for three and a half years. By Thursday, I have to be able to say the alphabet in under a minute an also be able to spell out my last name using the correct Spanish letters.

As much as I complain about school, I rather like it.

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American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent by Tamer Elnoury

American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover Muslim FBI Agent

(Caidyn)

4/5

Admittedly, I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. But, Tamer’s voice shone through in what could have been a very dull book to make it interesting. In short, this is the story of an undercover agent (and Tamer Elnoury is not his real name) who went from busting drug rings as a police officer to being an FBI agent dealing with terrorism. Not only was this book interesting to listen to, I really found it enlightening.

Tamer, as a Muslim, spoke about how hard it was to work with and against radical Islamists since he grew up as a mainstream Muslim who grew up succeeding in the American dream. His beliefs align with the five pillars, that Islam is not a violent religion and that jihad is an internal struggle with God in order to submit. It’s not about harming and killing innocents.

He also showed how hard undercover work is and what it’s like. I think that because of police shows, we have an idea of what that means and entails, yet you don’t really know. It’s hard work. And when you’re confronted with becoming friends and confidants to people who take something so personal to you and weaponize it, that’s not easy.

Finally, I really found it enlightening about how many plots get foiled and how. It’s not just that the country finds out and destroys it (what I’d call an external cause), but also internal. Tamer stated that not all terrorist groups are the same. There are many opinions and they all vie for the same resources.

This book, while about a very serious topic, was fun and interesting. It also had a great message of unity to it. The only way to take away this threat is to understand it, even if we don’t want to. To do that, you have to hear the voices of the mainstream and not block them out. If that’s not a good message, I don’t know what is.

 

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

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Goodreads

(Chantel)

5/5 – This book won’t be easy for me to talk about. It’s about a girl with a mother who isn’t a mother. It’s about a girl who had to grow up too fast. It’s about a girl making the decision to put herself first. This book hit me personally. It was well written and we need more books like this. More books with queer characters because one day a queer girl like me will read this and it will inspire her and she’ll be able to relate to it. The good and the bad. There is so much that this book did right and I’m going to lay it out there for you so that you will go read this book and hopefully love it.

Lemme just get this out there because this is important: THERE IS BISEXUAL REPRESENTATION ON THE PAGE. 

Dis good

How To Make a Wish surrounds the relationship between Grace and her mother Maggie. It’s always been the two of them since Grace’s father died when she was two. Her mother, not prepared to take on the responsibility of being a mother stops being a mother. Instead, she relies on Grace at a young age to take care of her. She’s an alcoholic and is incredibly selfish. Grace feels obligated to stand by her mother even when she hurts her and ultimately hurts others. As a result, Grace reconsiders her plans to go to college in New York, to be a pianist, because she cannot leave her mother behind. Because who knows what she would do without her. No matter how many times her mom disappoints her, she won’t let her go. 

This in itself is heartbreaking. What makes this story better, is Eva. A girl who has just lost her mother unexpectedly and finds comfort in Grace’s mom because she too has lost someone. From the moment they meet, Grace is drawn to Eva and eventually, a romance develops between them. Throughout the book, their relationship begins and stalls, they have ups and downs, but it always comes back to how they help each other cope.

For the record, I absolutely love them as characters and as a couple. Be still my fucking heart, these two are such a great couple. They are one of my favorite couples of all time because they are just so great and so sweet. Grace might not be the most likable character, she’s “prickly” and her unwillingness to cut ties with her mom is frustrating, but I understand her. It’s not easy to walk away from someone you love, especially your mother, so I understood the dilemma she was going through. Not everyone will. Eva is just fucking adorable. She’s funny, a bit weird, and has such a big heart. She sees that someone is hurting and she can’t help but be there for them. I thought the characters were well written and even the dialogue at times was well done. We talk a lot differently than we write and that’s often hard to get right.

I can see some people complain about insta-love or that the romance happens too quickly. I’m not sure about the exact time frame but it happens within the span of a month, I’d say. Here’s my argument against calling it insta-love. No “I love yous” are ever exchanged between them. We are in Grace’s head and while she does admit to possibly loving Eva, at least being able to love her, it’s never said out loud. The other thing is, they are both going through similar things. Eva’s lost her mom unexpectedly while Grace feels obligated and tethered to her mom, in that way she’s lost her mother as well. With each other, they are in their own world where those issues don’t matter. They are each other’s escape from those things. They allow each other to exist without being overwhelmed with grief or anger. To brush that off as insta-love takes away from their deep connection whether or not we understand it or experience it.

One more thing, one more reason I loved this book. You know how in almost all YA novels when there is a boy and a girl who are friends how they almost always become a thing? This does not happen in this book and I LIVE FOR IT. Luca is (as far as we know) straight. Grace is bisexual. They are best friends and have been for a long time. There is no romantic inclination between them, they even refer to each other as siblings. This is how things are in real life. Not every guy and girl are meant to be in a romance and it’s one of the more frustrating things about YA. However, this book throws that shit in the garbage and they both end up with someone other than each other. It’s all a girl can dream about.

I really loved this book. It had everything I loved in a book and none of the garbage that usually comes with YA. Go check it out if you haven’t because this book deserves all of the praise. It has a 4.2 rating on Goodreads and honestly, that’s too low. Can we please have more books like this?

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Become the Force: 9 Lessons on Living as a Master Jedi by Daniel M. Jones

Become the Force: 9 Lessons on Living as a Master Jedi

(Caidyn)

4/5

In college, I studied religions. And not just the typical religions, like Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism or Islam. No, I also took a course that was focused on new religious movements. So, we talked about Scientology and Christian Science and Unitarianism. We also talked about Jim Jones and alien religions and paganism. I have experience that covers the more typical religions and the odder, perhaps more “out there” religions.

This was nothing new to me. It was basically what I learned about in school and what I grew up in, since I grew up nontraditionally with religions. It didn’t blow my mind, in other words. It didn’t broaden my horizon. However, I thought that it was interesting and fun to see the founder of Jediism talk about his religion and how he practices it and struggles to practice it.

I do think that Jones had a great purpose since people hear “Jediism” and immediately think that it’s a bunch of nerds trying to bring Star Wars to life. It’s mainly about taking concepts that have been defined in various ways in various religious traditions and explaining how they’re explained in Star Wars, along with how being a Jedi offers a complete moral pathway.

And that’s it. That’s the book. I think the only “problem” I had was that it was rather repetitive. Certain phrases were said in each and every chapter, but that’s a minor complaint. I liked how Jones succinctly explained the precepts of Jediism, explained how it works in his life, and also offers ways to incorporate Jediism into your life that (for me) sounded exactly like Buddhism.

First Lines Friday

HA. Caidyn gets to start it this week because he actually remembered and has had two cups of coffee. Hello everyone! I hope you guys had a great week. For those of you going back to school, slay. For those who have to work and didn’t get a real break, I’m sorry. Maybe this will perk you up. Who knows. But, to the formalities.

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.


Anthony Woodville, the Lord of Scales, is one of those who sustain the King of England’s cause against that contumacious rebel, York. It is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, and the dawn before battle.


I guess that wasn’t thrilling at all, was it? Sorry. But, the book is pretty interesting, even if the opening lines don’t exactly draw you in.

The book is:

Wonders Will Never Cease by Robert Irwin

Wonders Will Never Cease

I picked this book up because my mom recommended it to me based on my interest in this time in history. It picks up in the middle of the Wars of the Roses, before Edward IV actually got the throne from Henry VI. It’s told from the perspective of Anthony Woodville, who is brother to the future wife of Edward IV. In battle, he dies… yet he comes back after seeing a vision.

This book is basically being talked about as the original Game of Thrones. Which is a no shit moment to me since that book is based on the Wars of the Roses. This book also got a good review from Neil Gaiman, a personal fave of mine, so it’s definitely sold me on it. An alternate version of history, in a sense.

The only thing that worries me, after reading the first few lines of the book, it reminds me too much of The Buried Giant, which was magical realism and very symbolic but told in a mind-numbingly boring fashion.


The house on the cliff looks like a ship disappearing into fog. The spire a mast, the trees whipping against its base, the waves of a ravening sea. 

Or maybe Jane just has ships on the brain, seeing as she’s inside one that’s doing all it can to consume her attention. A wave rolls the yacht, catches her off balance, and she sits down, triumphantly landing in the general vicinity of where she aimed. Another wave propels her, in slow motion, against the yacht’s lounge window.


I can’t say I was completely enthralled by these first lines, which is disappointing because I’ve wanted to read this book from the moment I heard about it. I even bought it because I was confident it would be good. I do hope I didn’t let my excitement get ahead of me in that case. 

I chose: 

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

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I have not read the Graceling series by Kristin Cashore yet. Graceling is on my top ten to read this year, so I’ll get to it. However, I was immediately fascinated by the plot of this book. Jane, the main character goes to this house after her aunt passes away and there are different possibilities that happen, different genres that occur. These are all things I’ve heard and am completely intrigued by because it sounds so original to me.

I’ve also heard there is a romance between Jane and another girl in this book and I’m all for that. An interesting plot and an f/f romance, yes, please. Again, I just hope it’s everything I want it to be. 

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay cover

(Chantel)

5/5 – Reading is a deeply personal activity. It’s an author making a connection with the reader, or at least attempting to. As a result, books can be deeply personal to each reader. A book that someone adored can be a book someone hated. We all come to a story with our own individual stories. Sometimes they click and sometimes they don’t. The Book Thief, The Song of Achilles, A Monster Calls, these are all books that brought out a physical and emotional reaction in me. That in itself is rare for me. However, I didn’t click with those books like I did with We Are Okay and Marin, the main character. This book made me cry, this book made my body ache, but I saw myself in Marin’s thoughts, in her feelings, in her doubts, in her hesitations.

In On Writing, Stephen King is talking about writing whatever you want. You can write whatever you want, the possibilities are endless, as long as you get to the truth of what you are writing about. Nina LaCour got to the truth of what she was writing which was grief, loneliness, self-doubt, and betrayal. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, she talks about the aftermath of her grandfather’s death and how it devastated her. Then her wife suggested she write about it and it turned into We Are Okay. Her pain is conveyed through Marin. 

This is a book about relationships. Marin’s relationship with her grandfather is distant but she fails to see that. Marin’s relationship with Mabel who is not only her best friend but the first girl she fell in love with. Marin’s relationship with herself and how she keeps everything to herself because she’s afraid of the thoughts that will rush out if she tells the truth. She runs away from anyone who has ever loved her. It’s so much easier to block out the world than to let people in. Being alone is easy. Then there is the idea of family. Even though she doesn’t have any more family, she refuses to accept offers of familial connection. Sometimes those people are more family than your real family, but she doesn’t realize it until they are there for her when she needs it.

The writing in this book is stunning. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write such beautiful lines or connect a character’s story to a work of literature or a painting. Everything means something in We Are Okay. Every choice Nina LaCour makes is intentional. I think this book is strengthened by the fact that it’s told in the first person.

First person perspective doesn’t always work. It can leave a bad taste in my mouth with all of the shitty dystopian YA that used it constantly. But when it’s done well, it allows you to lose yourself in the character’s mind. In my opinion, this book wouldn’t have been as strong in the third person.

The book goes back and forth between the months leading up to Marin’s grandfather’s death and her subsequently running to New York where she is to start college. In the present day, her best friend Mabel is coming to visit. She longs to see her friend again and is anticipating the moment she leaves because then she will be alone again. As the story moves forward, we are getting closer and closer to the reason Marin ran away from California until it’s finally revealed late in the book. My attention was glued to the book because I wanted to know what went wrong in order to have Marin shut out her best friend.

I know that people aren’t going to feel as connected to this book as I did, so take my review with a grain of salt. I do think objectively, it’s a great book. It has a good rating. For me, it was something more than just a great book. It was a perfect book. I don’t know if another book will make me feel this way again anytime soon. It clicked perfectly with my personal story.

I Love Hannibal and why you should too

(Caidyn)

Developed by Bryan Fuller

For reference, I’m talking about Hannibal the TV show, not the books. The books are good but not great.

I love this show. Chantel knows it. Most people know it who have talked to me in depth. It was canceled in 2016 after, somehow, lasting for three seasons. It’s gory. It’s gay. It’s graphic. It is not for the faint of heart. It’s a smart show that you have to pay attention to so you can understand it.

And it’s fantastic.

If someone asks for a show recommendation, I always give this show. It’s three seasons long, 13 episodes per season, and (for the moment) complete. There are discussions about doing a fourth season.

Obviously, based on the title, it involves Hannibal Lecter. The three seasons weave together Red Dragon, Hannibal (the book), and Hannibal Rising. The characters from the show are pulled from those three books, but mainly Red Dragon. Yet it’s not until the final few episodes of the third season where they actually deal with the plot from Red Dragon.

The show focuses on how Hannibal was caught, yet it even takes the heart of the story and blows it up to something new. Like, I can’t even describe it. The first season sets the story up. The second is about trying to nab Hannibal. The third season deals with that and the plot from Red Dragon.

What is at the heart of the story are two men, Hannibal and Will Graham. How they are separate people who, somehow, weave into one. I remember telling Chantel that the story that matters is Will Graham’s character arc. When we watched the final episode together, she understood it.

So, why do I love it?

First reason: Female rep

The books are very male. The only female characters in the whole book series were Clarice Starling, Margot Verger, and Beverly Katz. Yet, this series doesn’t have Clarice Starling. So, what did they do? They made traditionally male characters women, played up the role of the one female character they kept, and added new characters.

Dr. Alan Bloom becomes Dr. Alana Bloom.

Image result for alana bloom gif

Alana is just a fantastic character. She’s strong and emotional and loving and hateful. She is like any other woman that you might meet. I think that she’s a fantastic character because her femininity was never shied away from and yet she’s not stereotypical. They made her a true woman, full of conflictions and problems.

Freddie Lounds keeps the name, but changes gender.

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In the books, Freddie was a male tabloid author who only talks about true crime. Fuller made a very wise choice to change the character to another female role that is always in the background. And, you know what? She’s ten times better than in the books. I absolutely loved to hate her and yet found ways to be afraid for her and root for her.

Margot Verger gets a far larger role than in the books, beginning in the second season.

Image result for margot verger gif

I’m going to spend more time talking about her later, but she is not a stereotypical victim of an abusive older brother. She is strong and survives. And, her sexuality does not define her and, I mean, if you didn’t pay attention you’d miss the drop that she’s lesbian. If you read the books, you know that, but it’s barely mentioned in the show. Why? Because it’s not a huge deal. Her sexuality does not define her.

Beverly Katz has a large role for the first and second seasons.

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BAMF. That’s all I can say about Beverly. But, really, she’s fucking amazing. She shows a more masculine, law enforcement (all while being a technician with the FBI) side of womanhood. I absolutely adored her.

Bella Crawford is the wife of Jack Crawford and she’s fantastic.

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In the books, by the time Bella was mentioned, it was in past tense because the character has cancer and it’s a big thing that Jack’s dealing well with the death of his wife. The show? Doesn’t shy away from cancer and develops her so you can actually know her, see her relationship with her husband, and, by God, feel when it inevitably happens.

Bedelia du Maurier is an additional role, played by Gillian Anderson.

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Du Maurier is Hannibal’s psychiatrist… who needs one of her own. I mean, she’s a character that is amazing and has been a part of Hannibal’s world. She is the prelude to what everyone else will become, yet she is still amazingly fun and interesting to watch on screen. And it’s not just because she’s Gillian Anderson.

Abigail Hobbs is another addition.

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Abigail is very hard to describe since talking about her just gives away spoilers. However, she’s introduced from the first episode and is a recurring character throughout the series. She’s, again, a very real character. A victim who stubbornly refuses to be a victim.

Miriam Lass is yet another addition.

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While Miriam is a very minor character, she takes the book role of Will and of Clarice (in a way). She didn’t have too much screen time in the show, yet I was always very impressed by how they handled her character.

Chiyoh (very minor role in Hannibal Rising), Molly Graham (minor role who gets slightly expanded on in the show), Reba McClane (who they changed from a white woman to a black woman), and as I sit here I keep generating more and more women that held some sort of role in the show that was integral at some point.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN. LOOK AT ALL THE GLORIOUS WOMEN WHO ARE IMPORTANT TO THIS. LOOK AT THEM.

It’s probably one of the best shows I’ve seen with rep of diverse women.

Second reason: Gay relationships all the way

Yes. You heard me say it. I’d say spoilers since the relationships don’t develop until the end, but from the first episode there’s gayness. Lots.

The first I’ll go over is Will and Hannibal. From the first episode, it was so fucking gay and it just got gayer. I mean, I’m going to link the finale to the show here BECAUSE IT IS SO GAY, but do not watch it unless you want to be spoiled for the finishing things.

What really made this show even better with LGBT+ characters was the fandom. This fandom, besides for Orphan Black, was one of the best I have been in. I mean, they made such gems for gifs about Hannigram (which is the ship name).

 

Okay but that’s actually a quote from the show.

 

Okay but this is actually another quote.

 

 

Wait this is another actual scene.

Shit another scene

Next, Margot Verger.

Image result for margot verger gif

That gif is literally the most the show states about her sexuality. That one little statement is about it, then they move on from there. The book basically made her this insane body builder who is supposed to be male and, well, terrible rep. Just plain awful.

And, also, Margot has a relationship with one of the women in the show towards the end. I loved it.

Third reason: So. Fucking. Literary.

This show is a literary show. There’s so much symbolism scattered throughout it. It’s also quiet and somewhat slow so you have to pay attention. Some of my favorite symbols are:

Hannibal and the Wendio

Will and the Stag

More stag

Even more stag

Fourth reason: All available to stream RIGHT. NOW.

If you have Amazon Prime, you should have access to all three seasons. Need I say more?

Fifth reason: Amazingly developed characters

I talked a lot how there are gay characters done well and tons of female characters that were purposefully inserted. However, the characters are so well developed outside of that and you can’t help but like all of them.

Will Graham, for me, is where the show lies. His character arc is, for me, the point of the series and it comes to a brilliant close at the series finale. Hugh Dancy is Will Graham. He captures him perfectly, showing you all the sides of that character from his love of dogs to his dark side that you want him to go with yet desperately don’t.

The same goes for Mads Mikkelsen’s performance as Hannibal. Instead of going with the Anthony Hopkins version of an American Hannibal that you can’t connect with, he goes with the Eastern European Hannibal who you like yet are afraid of. He makes a cannibalistic, psychopathic (and I genuinely mean that when I say psychopathic, not just bandying the term for fun) man likable and you want him to win even in the back of your mind.

Laurence Fishburne adds a level to a very aloof and nonexistent authority figure from the books. Despite Freddie Lounds being horrible, you still like her and, at least for me, come to see that she really saw things for what they were. Dr. Alana Bloom turns from sweet and emotional to aloof. Abigail Hobbs can easily go from victim to survivor and back to victim.

Sixth reason: Took a popular series and turned it into so much more.

There are constant homages to the original series and, if you’re familiar with the books or movies, you’ll realize them. You’ll catch most, if not all, of them. There’s a constant line of remembrance to the books.

Not only that, but they never forgot the fans of the show. They remembered original fans by having a constant remembrance to the books. Then, this show has a fantastic fandom. We fought hard to get it picked up, yet that never happened. And, there are always lines that are directed towards current fans, yet they never took it as far as BBC Sherlock by writing for the fans and trying to keep them happy while, sadly, failing to do so. There are running jokes, such as with Dr. Frederick Chilton or everyone seeing how gay Hannibal is for Will.

This show is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Even if I’ve watched it, like, five times, it feels brand new every time because I catch more and more of it.

I sincerely hope you watch this.

The TBR Tag

Hello everyone! Now, we were not tagged in this at all. In fact, we have tags we have been tagged in that we still need to do. Oops! The reason we wanted to do this tag is to start off the year by looking at our TBRs. We will get back to doing the tags that we’ve been tagged in soon sorry Emma. Blame Chantel. She was insistent on doing this.

This tag was created by Rachel at A Perfection Called Books and Dana from Dana Square.

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.


1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Uhm…. Like… Goodreads? Okay, but really, I list books on there that I want to read, forget about them, get random books from the library, and buy too many. Then I stick the books in random spots in my room that I’ll remember they’re unread and get to one day. It’s not really secretly efficient.

Goodreads definitely. I do have two shelves dedicated to books I own that are the top priority of my TBR, but Goodreads is the full comprehensive list. However, the list does need to be purged. 

2. Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

A lot of both. I have quite a few books on my Kindle that I haven’t read and will one day, then I have a ton of physical books I haven’t read and need to. Sigh. This tag is already making me depressed about my life choices.

I’m pretty sure I have more physical copies than I do e-books, and normally I will choose print over e-book even if having an e-reader is a lot more convenient. 

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

HA. When do I ever read my TBR?? But, really, I go with whatever I feel in the mood for next. I don’t read by themes too often.

There is no method to my madness. I have a list of books I want to read and I pick one. That’s pretty much it. 

4. A Book That’s Been On Your TBR List The Longest 

Since October 13, 2012, His Dark Materials has been on my TBR. Which is funny since I listened to these books with my parents on a road trip a long time ago.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger was the first book I added to my TBR on November 23, 2015. Maybe I should read that, considering I have a copy of the e-book. 

5. A Book You Recently Added To Your TBR

Seafire is the book I added last, which was mainly because I saw Chantel added it, looked at it, and decided it sounded pretty good.

OMG YAS SEAFIRE! I want it now! The last book I added to my TBR was A Book Called Cin by Cecil Wilde which I added because I want to read more romances with a trans main character. 

And I’ve added more since we did this. The last book I added, not under the influence of Chantel (oh whatever), was Swearing is Good for You. It looks interesting, some of the research cited is familiar to me. So, right up my fucking alley.

6. A Book In Your TBR Strictly Because Of Its Beautiful Cover

I don’t really add books based on covers…? Like, yeah, covers are great and all that, but if I don’t like the premise or description, a pretty cover isn’t going to make me read it.

The Queen of the Tearling. 100%. I’m in love with that cover. The book also sounds interesting too. 

7. A Book On Your TBR That You Never Plan on Reading

I have a whole shelf of this! They’re books I want to read and probably won’t. Usually, they’re added because of topics. I’m not a fan of reading about rape, so books that look good but I doubt I’ll read go there. Books about trans lives also go there if I’m iffy on if it’ll be complete angst and abuse. I also have a shelf for books I’m considering but still might read. There are more books on there than the former.

Okay, if I have a book on my TBR I don’t plan on reading then it shouldn’t be on my TBR. I do need to go through my TBR and weed through the rando books that got added because of a giveaway or a moment of temporary insanity. 

I’ve tried doing that and failed. It takes too much time and I’m lazy.

I didn’t say I would do it anytime soon.

8. An Unpublished Book On Your TBR That You’re Excited For

My Plain Jane and Dread Nation are the two that I’m really excited for. While I don’t plan on preordering them — one of my 2018 goals is to not buy as many books unless they’re from subscription boxes — I do want to read them.

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara because queer lady pirates. I’m announcing now, this is my new thing. I can’t wait. 

Yes, another one that you made me add. What a terrible influence. Broadening my interests and all that.

By terrible you mean amazing. 

Mhm. Yeah. Suuureeee.

9. A Book On Your TBR That Basically Everyone’s Read But You

Jesus, so many. So, so many. It’s kind of hilarious since I don’t read many new releases unless they’re Netgalley and usually nonfiction. But, I think everyone has read Six of Crows. Chantel and I are going to read it later this year, but everyone has read it but us. We’re way behind.

I’m going to go with Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Don’t worry, I’ll get to it. 

eventually

I DNFed that one.

That doesn’t matter. You have shitty book taste. 

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don’t you even start this one ho

breasts of rage

10. A Book On Your TBR That Everyone Recommends To You

Any YA book, tbh. Six of Crows, The Grisha trilogy, Raven Boys, Mistborn. Well, Mistborn isn’t YA, but it’s still a book that everyone seems to tell me to read.

I don’t often get recommendations, but when I do it’s usually Six of Crows. Everyone has read this book and most people love this book. Which scares me. 

We’ll have another Schwab incident.

I really hope not. 

11. A Book On Your TBR That You’re Dying To Read

I’m absolutely dying to read Insomnia by Stephen King, which is one of my Top 10 Books to read in 2018! I watched the movie a while ago, remember nothing, and own it. The story seems fascinating, and I know it ties into IT.

I was going to say Peter Darling by Austin Chant, but oh yeah I read it already. The next book I’m eager to read is Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. However, I am expecting Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire at my door sometime next week so I will drop everything to read that. Sorry not sorry. 

12. How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf? 

At the time of writing this, 2071. Yep. I’m not kidding. I’ve had so many years to build that up to where it is now and I’m so bad at reading them.

Right now, 460 which somehow doesn’t seem like enough. 

You’re better than me. For once. It’s also increased to 2082. Because of you.

Uhh, okay but queer lady pirates. You should thank me. 

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This’ll be Chantel until I thank her.

Ahem, I’m still waiting. 

January Recommendations

Chantel found a group on Goodreads, Monthly Recommendations, that really called to her, so she texted me (Caidyn) about the possibility of adding this as a monthly post. After all, we’re looking for more things to include in our monthly repertoire. January’s recommendation is the best first books in a series!

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.


Off the top of my head, I can think of quite a few. I’ll try to narrow it down to my top three books. So here we go.

1. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)

Everyone talks about this book and I finally jumped onto the bandwagon last year. It’s fantastic! I mean, I’ve only read the first two books, but this series started it all off with a bang and introduced you to fascinating characters.

2. The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1)

Most likely, everyone’s at least heard of this book and author. He’s pretty popular and this was his first book ever. It’s also a fantastic start to a series that I adored. While our MC, Jorg, is a little shit to the extreme, I always found myself somewhat rooting for him. That takes talent given what Jorg does throughout the book.

3. A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

A Plague of Giants (Seven Kennings, #1)

Technically, this book isn’t a series yet. I read it late last year, and you can find my review here, and I was so impressed by it. It’s a sweeping epic fantasy novel that’s on the same level as Game of Thrones. There are many characters, different nations, powers that reminded me of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and it’s told in a very unique way. I’m excited to see what happens next.


I read all of my books in 2017 so I will link my original reviews as well as a Goodreads summary. All of these books feature main characters and side characters who are queer. 

1. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Goodreads

Every Heart a Doorway cover

I don’t think there will be any surprise at this choice. It’s a popular series which follows different characters in different worlds. This first book takes place at a school where children who have gone to portal worlds end up back in the real world and we are introduced to a cast of characters (some who are queer) and the possibilities of the series are endless. I do have a soft spot for this book because it’s the first time I read about a character that is explicitly asexual on the page. 

2. The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Goodreads

The Abyss Surrounds Us cover

I’ll admit this is a duology I almost didn’t pick up. It’s sci-fi and takes place in the future where there are giant sea creatures called Reckoners who are then trained to fight and protect. However, this book is fantastic. Cas, the main character has to make decisions which are morally gray and I think it’s done very well. In addition, there is an f/f romance, but it’s a slow burn and angsty as all hell. Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the second book The Edge of the Abyss, I have no issue recommending these books because I rarely hear them talked about.

3. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Goodreads

Not Your Sidekick cover

This is the only series on this list where I’ve only read the first book, but let me tell you I will be reading how many ever books come after as long as they follow the same four characters. I’m not big on superheroes. Never have been, probably never will be, but this is far more than that. This book focuses on Jess, who is waiting for her superpowers to present themselves, but they don’t. This leads to her getting an internship close to a supervillain and her crush from school. I am such a sucker for a story where crushes turn into something more and I was not disappointed here. Go check it out!