Next in the yearly round-up is… books!

My last round-up was actually in July 2017, as July 2016 is when I started my Months in Review posts, so this post will actually cover books from August 2017.

I can’t believe I did it, but I also completed my 2018 GoodReads reading challenge of 24 books! It wasn’t looking great (I had about 15 books read by October), but with the quick read of the Harry Potter series helped me get my feet back and put seven books quickly under my belt.

Also, a few months ago, I cleaned out and organized my GoodReads account, so check out that post if you haven’t already!

First, a little bit about how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): One of my new favorite books of all-time
  • (★★★★): Really enjoyed it
  • (★★★): Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it
  • (★★): Barely finished it

Without further ado, here is my Year (and a bit) in Books are in reverse chronological order…

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (★★): About what would happen in nature if humans suddenly disappeared. Some interesting bits, especially as Arizona got a lot of shouts, but nothing memorable.

Replay by Ken Grimwood (★★★★): Such an interesting premise: man dies and wakes up in his 18-year-old body and another chance at life. The cycle continues as he wakes up later and later in his life and meets a fellow replay-er along the way. Kind of like Groundhog Day, but good.

How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee (★★★★): This book is really interested and easy to read about the exhaustive environmental impact of everything from (you guessed it) bananas to a nuclear explosion.

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay (★★★): Non-fiction.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (★★★★★): Crime thriller.

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer (★★★★): Not only does this talk about factory farming but also animal testing, which I didn’t know much about.

Why Is Sex Fun? by Jared Diamond (★★★): Popular science.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah (★★★★): A good WWII historical fiction, but The Storyteller is better.

Memory Man by David Baldacci (★★★★★): Such an interesting premise of a man who remembers everything and uses it to solve his family’s murder.

The Pact by Jodi Picoult (★★): Fiction.

Dead Zone by Phillip Lymbery (★★★★): Popular science.

Farmageddon by Phillip Lymbery (★★★★): Popular science.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (★★★): Fiction.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (★★★★★): Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I have read two other books by Krakauer and enjoyed them, but this one left me speechless. This book is a recollection of what happened in the 1996 Everest disaster and left me on the edge of my seat throughout and gasping for air at the climax. I cannot recommend this book enough, probably my favorite book I’ve read this year.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (★★★): I remember thinking this book escalated (and deescalated) really quickly, I wish it was a bit longer as it’s a really interesting concept.

The Shining by Stephen King (★★★): Actually, my least favorite book by him. It wasn’t as scary as people lead on. I might have liked it more if it wasn’t so hyped.

Wide Open by Gracie X (★★★): Biography.

Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro (★★★): A dystopia novel about kids growing up in a secretive boarding school as they try to find out the meaning of their existence. While the story of the kids growing up in this school was interesting, what happened to them once they got out was anti-climactic. It was a bit emotional, but if you were looking for a book that ended with a bang, this wasn’t it.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (★★★★★): This book is about a junior doctor’s journey through the ranks at the hospital through humorous encounters with colleagues and patients. This book had me laughing out loud, after a few chapters I realized I couldn’t read it on the bus. To my recollection, this is the first memoir I’ve read and I was not let down.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (★★★★): Yes, I read these for the very first time. My client’s son and daughter-in-law were watching the series over a period of a couple of weeks and made me what to immerse myself into the magical world for the first time since the last saga movie came out. I enjoyed the books and all the detail in them compared to the movies, it was really well thought out. I reserve my five-star reviews for my all-time favorite books, so Harry Potter fans, don’t jump down my throat for the four-star review. At the end of the day, the target audience is children and I’m not a child. Not to mention, the author is problematic.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (★★★): I was reading this book holding out for a twist or at least something somewhat profound and it never came. Too bad.

Room by Emma Donogue (★★★★): Anyone who has seen the movie knows it’s a masterpiece. The book is genius and really evokes thought.

Sweet Home by Carys Bray (★★★): As a collection of short stories, this isn’t usually the type of book I’d go for. But it’s a quick read for anyone looking to expand their horizons.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (★★★★): I was hoping this would be more evolutionary biology but there’s a lot of philosophy involved which is interesting, but dense. Which is why this book will probably be the last one I read this year.

To my surprise, I met my 2018 reading goal of 24 books! I know that’s not much, but I hope to get back into reading properly again in 2019. I hope to read 30 books (baby steps).

What were your favorite reads this year?

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T

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With one “Year In” post down (travel), I will now review all the films and T.V. shows I’ve loved this year relative to each other. I now realize I didn’t watch (or really love) many films or shows this year, but that’s probably because I spent more time watching YouTube (review for that also to come). With that, I decided to combine my posts into one rather than posting two separate ones like I did last year.

Here is last year’s Year in Films post.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (★★★★): I firmly believe that these films are modern classics. Although they didn’t receive the best critic reviews, you can’t help fall in love with the awesome action sequences and humor anecdotes.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (★★★★): Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes… what an icon. Fight the power.

Dallas Buyer’s Club (★★★★): What an amazing story. A good commentary on the AIDs crisis and shortcoming of the U.S. healthcare system that still occur today.

Avengers: Infinity War (★★★★★): Need I say more? The new trailer came out today as I’m writing this (7/12) and I can’t bloody wait!

A Quiet Place (★★★★★): I was hesitant to watch this film because I don’t like horror movies (particularly cheap jump-scares), but this is more of a thriller than a horror. Although I assert that John Krasinski is a really goofy-looking bloke and hard to take seriously, he did an amazing job both directing and acting in this movie. An interesting premise and flawless execution.

Million Dollar Baby (★★★★): I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I didn’t have the twist spoiled for me by the parody episode of It’s Always Sunny in Phildelphia, but I loved this film, especially the inconclusive ending.

A Star is Born (★★★★): I absolutely worship Lady Gaga and have since the beginning. She is an absolute legend, having hit albums in pop, jazz, country… and now a soundtrack. Is there anything she can’t do? The plot of the movie was just okay, but the music is absolutely incredible. I’m living for this age of more frequent musical movies.

Although I watched maybe three times the amount of films listed on here, these are the ones I enjoyed most. I’m pretty insatiable when it comes to my movie taste, but you can see a list of my favorite films here.

Here is last year’s Year in Television Shows post.

I really enjoyed the new seasons of Shameless and RuPaul’s Drag Race, both of which I’ve been watching for a few years now. In fact, I just saw Alyssa Edwards live a few days ago!

Anything and everything Louis Thereoux (★★★★★): I didn’t get around to watching many documentaries this year (although I did really enjoy one on a cancer-scandal-turned-murder of Gypsy Rose Blancharde), Louis Thereoux never lets me down. His new altered states was very thorough and vulnerable, dealing with issues of life, love and death. The assisted suicide episode had me in ugly tears.

Jack Whitehall: Live (★★★★): Now, I’m not usually one for stand-up comedy specials, but I really enjoyed this one! I watched the show Fresh Meat last year and discovered my love for Jack Whitehall and his humor.

Travels with my Father (★★★★★): Piggy-backing on that, Jack also has a show where he, you guessed it, travels with his 70-something year old traditional father. Hilarity ensues.

The Good Place (★★★★★): I cannot sing my praises for this show enough. I’ve really been enjoying keeping up with the new season and can’t wait to see what happens next.

Wentworth (★★★★): An Australian (fictional) women’s prison show. It’s so good but very intense… I’m not exaggerating when I say someone dies nearly every episode. I’ve taken a little break from it but hope to finish it soon!

What was your favorite film or show this year? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Photo by Charles Deluvio.

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Dive computer: my number one priority is a dive computer! As you’re probably tired of hearing already, my brother and I are going on holiday to southeast Asia in June, so a lot of my gifts will be used for this trip and future ones. After renting a dive computer on my LiveAboard trip for $80, I realize I could buy one for a little more than that to have for myself. I asked for whatever computer is available at the local dive shop for around $150. I don’t know much about dive computers so I don’t want to drop loads of money on something I might not like or use that often.

Knock-off GoPro: I would also love a way to capture memories underwater. However, actual GoPros are a bit expensive for me right now as I don’t think I would use it really often. With that, I would like a knock-off GoPro that may not be the best quality, but still gets the job done. I took my South Africa footage on a camera similar to this one supplied by the university and it turned out okay.

Spotify for a year: Spotify premium is worth every penny, I can’t live without it.

SE Asia reef guide: Although the LiveAboard might have one, you can’t be too careful. As a massive fan of marine biology, I’d like to know exactly what I’ve seen.

Travel towel: I lost both of mine (one in Venice in 2016 and one on the way back from Luxembourg this last summer) and need a new one.

Minus the Bear shirt: Because I haven’t got a new band shirt in ages.

Home waxing kit: I’ve been cutting and shaving my hair at home and it’s saved me a pretty penny… I would like to expand on that by doing my eyebrows at home too. Lord knows they grow in so quickly I can’t afford a salon wax every month.

Electric kettle: A real adult gift. I want my tea and I want it NOW.

What did you all ask Santa for?

Photo by Victoria Heath.

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Season’s greetings!

As I mentioned, I’m not doing Blogmas this year. Although I do plan on posting a lot this month, it certainly won’t be everyday. Mainly due to the fact that I posted a lot of Christmas-related posts last year and don’t want to be repeating myself.

Here are my Blogmas posts from last year:

Here are my favorite Christmas-related posts by others from last year as well:

Environmentally conscious

Gift guides

Miscellaneous

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM.

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Yesterday was my last day working as a healthcare assistant for the last ten months or so.

It was okay. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it.

I really hated the hours: most of my visits were only one hour at each client’s house and before I got my car, it would take up to an hour one way by bus to get to the client’s house.

I wasn’t a massive fan of the administrative side of things: there was a near constant flow of time-sensitive e-mails and I felt really pressured to pick up shifts, yet hardly ever ask to have shifts covered for me. I would say that of all the shifts that I was asked to cover, I took about 70% of them, but when I called out sick once or twice in my ten months working there, my boss was really reluctant at first to let me stay at home to rest and literally told me, “You need to be better this weekend.” Also, my bosses asked me if I could work next week even though they’ve had my last day for months now. Such a piss take.

The pay was kind of shit: everyone thinks they deserve more, but I definitely needed more than minimum wage for all the hard work I was doing. These are people’s lives I’m involved in.

What did I do, you ask? A lot of the clients stick to a routine that doesn’t vary much, but may if they’re not feeling great that day or need something extra. Here are a list of things I’d do between all my clients:

  • Administer medication
  • Light shopping
  • Pet care (feeding, short walks)
  • Light cooking (e.g. oven meals) and feeding
  • Make and serve drinks
  • Using the loo (whether it’s emptying catheter bags or physically assisting them onto the toilet)
  • Washing, showering, dressing and other things to get ready for the day
  • Manual handling in almost every case, from using my own body to equipment such as a hoist
  • Domestic tasks such as dishes, ironing, hoovering, laundry, etc.

When I tell people I’m a carer, I often get asked, “So, for like, old people?” and I simply answer with, “Disability knows no age.” My clients range from 20-somethings to 90-somethings, all with different needs and abilities.

Over the course of the year, I worked with eight clients.

There was a bit of turnover, so there are a few clients I no longer work with: one client was put into end-of-life care after mentally and physically deteriorating relatively rapidly over the course of a few weeks, I have not heard about them since. One client had a bit of a turn and was in the hospital and care home for a while and arranged other care when they got home. Finally and most tragically, a client died and I was the first on the scene for the “beginning of the end” as it were.” Some background: the client was pretty independent and of sound mind, only required our visits to help with a wash and some domestic tasks, we did not think they were a massive risk, so what happened was really unexpected. Anyway, I arrived one morning to the client sitting on the floor, fully clothed. After some investigating, I found blood all over the door frame in the kitchen and the WiFi box wire spread across the floor. From what I could deduce, they must have tripped over the wire, hit their head on the door, and crawled back to the bedroom, unable to get to bed. I called my boss and emergency services and a week later, the client passed. It was all very sudden and sad.

Here is a bit about the clients I was still with until recently:

  • One client who was quite independent, making for an easy and lovely visit. Not to mention they had the most amazing modern flat with views of the sea.
  • Two clients were paraplegic. I would only see gentleman every now and again to cover for the full-time carer’s break. I would see the lady, again, to give the full-time carer respite as well as in the morning for a shower or wash. I really enjoyed my visits and chats with her once I got to know her.
  • One client had M.S., which is what my mom has. They probably had the most hands-on visit with the most manual handling done alone as they didn’t have a full time carer, which could be tiring. I think we our relationship changed when they took me to a Foo Fighters concert in London. We went through hell to get there (public transit as a wheelchair user is a nightmare), but had the best time at the gig, I’m glad they were able to go. At the end of the day, I’ve probably put in the most hours with this client, so we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. Also, seeing their condition has helped me give insight to the future of my mom’s care, what’s next and how I can help. Plus, he had the cutest dog (a Dalmatian). Unfortunately, they have been in the hospital for the last few weeks, but I hope to see them again before I leave.
  • One client had memory and physical issues. She could not mobilize on her own and memory was variable, but she was always really lovely and made for an easy visit. However, things took a turn when her husband also started to struggle. In the space of a few days, he had a stroke (which I was there for and called emergency services) and a nasty fall which led to an increase in visits, namely overnight visits. Usually the visits are easy, but sometimes the gentleman will try to leave the house in the wee hours of the morning and gets cross when you try to prevent him from doing so.

As you can tell, this job was a lot of work. Once I got home, I’d be too emotionally or physically exhausted to take care of my house and my home… because I was too busy taking care of other people and their home. I don’t regret doing this job, but I certainly wouldn’t do it again.

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