Miscelánea Reseñas de libros

#Bees and honey. A #bookreview (Nirvana by J.R. Stewart) and a bit more of my experience in Paradaseca

Hi all:
As you know I’ve been away and I promised I’d share a bit of my experience whilst in Galicia. As you were kind enough to show a lot of interest in my first post… well, you’ve asked for it.
If you remember, I included a picture of my uncle Eloy extracting honey from the panels of the beehive.
My mother and I spent an afternoon helping him with the task and he was kind enough to talk about the process, reflect on the changes it had seen (he still uses a manual contraption to spin the panels and get the honey removed, but people with more beehives and a more professional organisation use electric ones and the process is more automated). He explained that compared to the time of his parents (my grandparents) the level of production had increased dramatically. Not all are positives, though, and he noted that some people, to increase the production, fed the bees rather than rely solely on them to go searching for flowers and pollen and the quality was not as good.

He also explained that keeping bees is not a huge time investment (you have to look after the beehives and extract the honey towards the end of the summer and provide them with medication due to pests afterwards, but not much to do in the winter). He also observed that some people can make a fair living out of it, but of course they have to keep many bees. In his case, he only does it for friends and family and if he has some spare might sell it, but has not considered a big increase in production (as he manages single-handedly).

As there weren’t several suits we couldn’t help him with the actual extraction of the panels, but once those were transported home, we were there. The panels come sealed by the wax of the bees and that top layer must be cut off before the honey can be extracted. The honey keeps dripping from those cuttings. And the panels are placed in a centrifuge. And we make them spin!

Here is a video I created with some of the pictures I took (some are a bit abstract but I think they create an interesting effect. And there is a small video included too).

Here I leave you a few links to articles on bees I found interesting:


British Beekeepers Association

BBC Nature videos collection on bees

What is the value of bees? Discussion in The Guardian about the vote on banning certain pesticides (noenicotinoids) in 2013.

Campaign, Save the Bee:

The above article and the campaign put me in mind of a book I’ve just finished reading, and I thought I’d share the review. The book hasn’t been published yet (it’s due early in October) and I’ve read is undergoing some changes, so you might want to investigate further before deciding, but I could not resist… (I’ve been recently contacted by somebody from the publishing house who confirmed they were making some changes to the book and offered to send me a copy of the finished book, so I might come back with a reply in a while…)

Nirvana by JR Stewart
Nirvana by JR Stewart

Nirvana by J.R. Stewart. Virtual reality, bees, grief and politics

Thanks to the publishers (Blue Moon Publishers) and to Net Galley for the gift of an advance copy of this book. I have read that it is undergoing major revisions, so it might be that some of the issues mentioned are no longer there if you get the final edition.

Nirvana, despite the name, is a dystopian Young Adult novel. It is set in a future where bees have disappeared and nature as we know it has gone; there are a few places left where people live (the novel takes place in Canada, around Toronto, although there are hints throughout the book that the situation might be slightly different in other places), and the Hexagon (yes, I know) controls “security” (read intrudes in everybody’s privacy, destroys all books and keeps a tight hold on everybody’s activities, words and imagination). Larissa, a young woman whose husband (a very talented scientist) disappeared during a mysterious mission six months ago is not ready to accept his death and refuses to let go.

The novel mostly focuses on Larissa, although the third person point of view sometimes shares the thoughts of other characters, like the Corporal, Serge (a childhood friend of Larissa’s), the psychologist…but not consistently and sometimes it seems to hide things, and we also get letters, documents, etc. The time-line can be somewhat challenging at times as Larissa can flicker between memories (how she met Andrew, her husband, their time at university, some of her musical gigs, her childhood memories including some very dark ones) and things that are happening at the time of the action of the novel, when she is being pressurised by the authorities to sign a document acknowledging that Andrew is dead. Although this is how our mind works, sometimes it’s not easy to tell the difference until you reach the next change in perspective. Perhaps a different type of letter or a break would make it easier. I also found the fact that many characters have similar names (all beginning with K, I’m not sure why) made me go back and forth to make sure.

The description of Larissa’s psychological state and emotions is accurate for somebody suffering from a grief reaction (even if in her case she has no real proof that her husband is dead). She feels guilty, angry, sad, confused and doubts constantly about what to do. Her family circumstances were already complicated and she does not know if her sister is alive or not and it’s not difficult to understand that she’d be reluctant to let go of the one bit of family she had left. We might lack outside perspective on her and know little about her previous personality so it’s difficult to get a full picture of the character but this will probably build over time.

I am not an expert in science-fiction but I know world-building can be one of the main strengths of these novels. After reading the author’s biography I understand why the parts that deal with virtual reality (the Bubble, that is where the crème of society live, in a fake world of their choosing, and Nirvana, that is the low-key version that workers might access, but in small doses) are very strong and mind-boggling, even scarily so. By contrast, the descriptions of the rest of the world are very succinct and only much later, when the point of view returns to the characters in positions of authority, we get to know a bit more about the world order, but this is more tell than show (although that is one of the difficulties with the genre, maintaining the balance between trying to make the story come alive whilst at the same time leaving something to the readers’ imagination).

The idea behind the politics of that world reminded me of 1984 (the level of intrusion into people’s lives is greater than even insiders realise), and the conspiracy theorists will “enjoy” the implications of some of the things uncovered and suggested towards the end of the novel. They throw an even darker light on the authorities and put into question loyalties and certainties. The comments about the interests behind big funding for scientific research and how those dictate the direction human progress takes made me pause and gave me cause for concern. (Having studied Medicine this is a thing we’re always aware of).

I found the brief discussions on physics and even music theory fascinating, but might not be to everybody’s taste, especially younger readers interested mainly in the characters.

I found the overall story engaging, although the surprise at the end was hinted at and most readers are likely to have guessed it by then, but it is a good twist and it leaves room for much more to come.

This is perhaps a novel that does not fit in comfortably within the YA category, but I think it’s a series worth keeping an eye on, as there are interesting plot lines, characters with plenty of hidden agendas and room for development, and a whole world (or worlds) that we’ve only glimpsed. And virtual reality as you haven’t seen it yet. Ah, and don’t forget to read the writer’s biography. It will make you very uneasy…

And before I leave, another picture of the millennial chestnut tree:

A fascinating tree
A fascinating tree

Thanks to my uncle Eloy for the explanations, thanks to you all for reading and viewing and if you’ve enjoyed, like, comment, share, and if you want to CLICK, go ahead!



By olganm

I am a language teacher, writer, bookworm, and collaborator at Sants 3 Ràdio (a local radio station in Barcelona, where I returned in 2018), who lived in the UK for 25 years and worked for many years as a forensic psychiatrist there. I also have a Ph.D. in American Literature and an MSc in Criminology. I started publishing my stories, in English and Spanish, in 2012 and now have over twenty books available in a variety of genres, a blog (in English and Spanish), and translate books for other authors (English-Spanish and vice versa). In 2020 obtained the CELTA certificate as a language teacher, and offer Spanish and English classes. Writers and readers both in English and Spanish are my friends, colleagues, and allies, and after living in the UK for over twenty-five years, have returned home, to Barcelona, Spain, searching for inspiration for my stories. I also love owls and try to keep fit following fitness YouTube videos.
Do feel free to connect with me. Here are:
My website/blog:

38 replies on “#Bees and honey. A #bookreview (Nirvana by J.R. Stewart) and a bit more of my experience in Paradaseca”

I look forward to the day when I can taste your Uncle’s bees honey…..fascinating video….loved it….and I think the book is one that I will really enjoy. I like books of this ilk….and scarily believe that so much that is written on this kind of subject is indeed already happening! I often say that in many ways we are actually living in the science fiction that we once read about. Thank you, Olga for a great post and yes it is wonderful to have you back…janet. x


Nice to see traditional methods still being used, hardly changed from Roman times, I suspect.
The book sounds like something from Bradbury, or John Christopher, and might be very good, as long as it isn’t too derivative.
Best wishes, Pete.


Thanks, Pete. I was impressed by the descriptions of virtual reality and that’s the field the author worked in. It seems she had originally wanted to write about what when on behind the scenes rather than fiction but it wasn’t that easy…


Love fresh honey, especially when it’s taken from certain trees. Over here we are lucky that the bees aren’t dying off. Honey from the Bloodwood tree is my favourite, very strong and dark. Great insights into your Uncle’s beekeeping and of course anothr author to read about.


You’re welcome Olga. Yes it’s one good thing about living so far from everybody else. Also with some trees flowering ahead of others they can be assured of getting the bees onto the right area.


Thanks, Hilary. I always enjoy looking for music for the videos, but it’s true sometimes I end up stuck with a melody for hours on end (or longer!). 🙂


Olga you linked your post so marvelously to the book review. A double treat. The book sounds really interesting.
I really enjoyed your video! The information about the bees and honey making was fascinating. I admit i watched with fascination tinged with fear. I have anaphylactic reactions to bee stings… so i cringe but the fascination is stronger! Lovely post. Mega hugs!


Thanks, Teagan. Sorry to hear about the reaction to bee stings. The actual process my mother and I were involved in had little to do with the actual bees (there were a few that came with the panels from the beehives, and unfortunately my uncle said they would not be able to find the way back to the beehive, but otherwise we just helped spin and carried and fetched!). The book is indeed fascinating and I’m looking forward to checking the final version.


Great review, Olga. Lots of detail without giving the story away. As for the bees, we used to have a glass sided hive in our lab into which the bees flew in and out. We got to see their waggle dances (information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, to water sources, etc) and round dances (to communicate the location of food sources close to the colony). We all wish we knew what they were telling the colony! Fascinating insects! And I LOVE fresh honey…


Fantastic post, Olga! I am very fond of bees since my childhood, and my Son-in-law too has a beehive in their back yard. I agree with you that it is not difficult and very realistic to provide your family with honey, but to make a living from it takes a lot of work, and it can result in cheating… Great post, thank you for the lovely video. It reminded me of the days when I was the one in charge of that spinning drum 🙂 Happy days!


I love honey in everything, on everything, and by the spoonful. When used in place of sugar in recipes, the result is always much better. The process is interesting. Has your uncle ever been stung working with the hives? I’m not afraid to be around bees, but I have to be careful and make sure I have my epi-pen in the event I get stung. I’m very allergic to bee venom.


Thanks Michelle. I know what you mean about using honey instead of sugar. And of course, different honeys have very different flavours. Yes, my uncle has been stung many times (luckily in his case he’s not allergic). He’s been working with them for years so I guess it becomes part and parcel of the job but he finds them (as they are) immensely fascinating still. As indeed they are. 🙂

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Thanks Patrick! You’re not the first one to comment on the music. You Tube has a very interesting selection of free music available. That has its own problems, of course, as one might spend a long time just checking and listening. Thanks so much! ♥


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