One of my assignments this semester was in a group to put together a 40 minute presentation on a topic. Our topic was ‘Issues with the Administration of Blood Products’. Which it turns out is a pretty massive topic and I’m certain that we only scraped the surface of things.  I’m not going to comment in depth on anything from the following reference list, but this is just what I read and used for my contribution to our presentation. We presented a couple of weeks ago and I think overall it went well.

What I will provide some commentary on though, is that overall the public fear around transfusions is largely around fear of an infection from contaminated blood. People fear getting Hepatitis or HIV or something else from transfused blood. I’m pleased to report that the potential for infection is incredibly low: about 1 in 1 million blood transfusions.

ABO and Rh Blood TypesThe biggest risk for transfusions is error in patient identification and blood group matching. Sometimes this is a computer error, but it should be picked up by the people administering the blood products, and most often it is an error at the human checking points that gets missed. This causes an acute reaction that can range from mild to severe and is in almost all cases, utterly preventable. So if you’re getting a transfusion, the moral is, make sure the ID check – your name, DOB and hospital number matches the paperwork and the labels on the blood product – is correct before the transfusion starts.

So reference list, and for this work I took a lot of information from the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service because they’re the authorised provider of blood and blood products in Australia. They do all the collection and testing, the storage and transportation of blood products. Consider for a moment  that there’s a lot of steps involved in the process and errors can happen at every point – there’s a lot of protocol that goes into quality checking and making sure everything is okay with the products that are collected, tested, stored and transported before they’re used on patients. Australia has an incredibly high quality standard for blood products, thanks to the work of the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, the National Blood Authority and the other governing bodies that contribute to the governance.

One more point, I will say that although donor deferral criteria is an important part of screening for safety of collected blood products, it’s outdated and needs improvement. This is a personal opinion and wasn’t part of the research I conducted. However, I know that in Australia men who have sex with other men – protected or not – are not able to donate blood. Neither is anyone who has sex with men who have sex with other men. That screening is specifically around HIV risk factors for sex between men. However, that’s screening the type of sex people have and not their sexual health practices, which I think leaves a large gap for potential contamination and infection in blood.

I think that it is more important to know how regularly people do sexual health screening, what safer sex practices they use and what their testing history shows as being more relevant for whether they can donate blood. I think using criteria that takes those things into account, would yield similar quality in safety standards for blood collected, but not exclude people on the basis of who they have sex with. I for one, am not willing to give up sex with my queer male partners so I can donate blood. And I sincerely resent that my good sexual health practice counts for nothing in this process.

Blood Components used in blood therapyDonated blood is precious, it is lifesaving and there is not enough of it. One donation of whole blood yields several blood products that can be used to help save someone’s life. Perhaps revising who we prevent from donating could address some of that lack? I would love to be a regular donor for blood – I’m healthy, I don’t get sick often and I would love to make a difference, but I can’t because of who my partners are.

 

Anyway, enough of that soap box, references:

Anders, S., Miller, A., Joseph, P., Fortenberry, T., Woods, M., Booker, R., & … France, D. (2011). Blood product positive patient identification: comparative simulation-based usability test of two commercial products. Transfusion, 51(11), 2311-2318. doi:10.1111/j.1537-2995.2011.03185.x.

Australian and New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusions. (2011). Guidelines for the administration of blood products. Retrieved from http://www.anzsbt.org.au/publications/index.cfm.

Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. (2014). Standard 7: Blood and Blood Products. Retrieved from http://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications/nsqhs-standards-fact-sheet-standard-7-blood-and-blood-products.

Australian Government, ComLaw. (2014). Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. Retrieved from http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Series/C2004A03952.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Acute haemolytic transfusion reaction. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/acute_haemolytic_reaction.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2015). Classification & incidence of adverse events.  Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/classification_and_incidence.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Cryodepleted plasma. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/cryodepleted_plasma.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Cryoprecipitate. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/cryoprecipitate.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Delayed haemolytic transfusion reaction. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/delayed_haemolytic_reaction.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Fresh frozen plasma. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/plasma.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Mild allergic reactions. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/mild_allergic_reaction.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Platelets. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/platelets.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Red cells. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/red_cells.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Severe allergic reactions. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/servere_allergic_reaction.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Transfusion related acute lunch injury (TRALI). Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/TRALI.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Transfusion associated sepsis. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/adverse_transfusion_reactions/sepsis.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (2014). Whole blood. Retrieved from http://www.transfusion.com.au/blood_products/components/whole_blood.

Epstein, J. S. (2010). Alternative strategies in assuring blood safety: An Overview. Biologicals, 38(1), 31-35. doi:10.1016/j.biologicals.2009.10.009.

Epstein, J. S. (2012). Best practices in regulation of blood and blood products. Biologicals, 40(Proceedings of the 7th International Association of Biological Standardization (IABS) Symposium on Advances in Transfusion Safety), 200-204. doi:10.1016/j.biologicals.2011.11.002.

Klein, H. G. (2010). How safe is blood, really? Biologicals, 38(1), 100–4. doi:10.1016/j.biologicals.2009.10.008.

National Blood Authority Australia. (2013). National standard for blood and blood products safety and quality. Retrieved from http://www.blood.gov.au/national-standard.

Sellu, D. H., Davis, R. E., & Vincent, C. A. (2012). Assessment of blood administration competencies using objective structured clinical examination. Transfusion Medicine, 22(6), 409-417. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3148.2012.01192.x.

Time for my annual theme reveal post! If you’re unfamiliar with my process of taking on a theme, take a look at this previous post I wrote. I know it’s February and usually I get onto writing this post earlier, but this one took some time. Not the idea, but the space to think about it and write about it. I’ve been on prac for my Midwifery training all throughout January which meant my focus was there and not on the bigness of the year ahead. Now that’s done, I am ready to really let this year take flight, so to speak.

So as you may have guessed from the title, this year is about Becoming. That notion of being in flux, of transformation and being in-between. Not finished, but in progress, and beyond the bare beginning too. I think this is a perfect theme to extend from last year’s Expedition, because this sense of being in-between, not finished and in the middle of something is very true for me right now. I start my second year of training as a midwife, and doing that training will continue to be my focus for many of my goals and actions. I also think that there’s some personal growth in the wings as well – old sore spots I’m hitting up against that I’d like to resolve further – or try to. Things like that.

In my mind, when I think on this year’s theme, this idea of Becoming, I do think of the caterpillar into the butterfly, working hard doing what’s necessary and emerging later, triumphant and with wings.

So what things am I looking to include as part of Becoming?

Reading

I want this year to be about reading and I want to track that more deliberately. I wrote separately about my reading goals for this year, but in in summary this is what I want to achieve. I already keep a record through Goodreads of what I’m reading, and I have been doing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for a few years and still love it. I also want to increase the diversity of the books I’m reading to read more books by Indigenous authors and people from other non-white backgrounds. I want to do more reviews especially of these books. I also want to write more from the perspective of a midwife in training, track what I’m reading for study and post a list of that. I guess that’s partly about wanting to be transparent about being evidenced based in my practice, but also to make visible how hard I’m working to train for this career I want so much.

Midwifery

I want to do well in my second year of study, of training. I want to take every learning opportunity possible and do the best I can. I want to learn in depth and well. I want to be able to rely on the evidence we’re given – I want to get through as much extra reading as I  can to support my learning and training during clinical placements. I want to do the best I can for the women I’m supporting as part of the continuity of care program (we generally refer to this as followthrough). I want to keep enjoying learning about science – anatomy and physiology. I want to continue to do well with the mathematics required. I want to spend a lot of time and energy working toward my transformation into a midwife – at some point I won’t be a student any more and I will have to decide things and sign my name to things and take responsibility in important ways. I want to be ready for that and I want to understand the gravity of that role I’m taking on.

Cooking

I loved all the cooking I did last year, I explored a bunch of new recipes – a whole bunch that are for special occasions and pack a huge punch. I also discovered some delicious really simple recipes. I want to especially concentrate on that latter category, stuff that is easy to do for dinner when we’re all busy so that I can also ensure myself down time. I also want to encourage Fox to continue to learn how to cook and gain confidence in this area. Ral will hopefully be so busy with med school that he won’t have any time to cook (this will be a good thing, I know it sounds unbalanced but if things are going well that will be a good sign of it). My main contribution to our household is the cooking and food planning, so I’m going to view it as a joy and try and minimise my experience of it (or the kitchen) as a chore.

Last year I started regularly making my own stock, and what a huge revelation! All kinds of things suddenly became easy and accessible any day of the week because of the weekends I’ve spent letting a big pot of deliciousness simmer away. I’m going to keep that up, also get back into making our own creme fraiche. I’d love to get back into bread but it might be a bit ambitious all things considered. More veggies, and continuing to prioritise ethical meat and eggs.

Additionally, I have some wonderful cookbooks that I’d love to take advantage of, so that’s another cooking priority. Not only would I like to use them more but I’d like to blog about it – I’d like to say with pictures but I’m not always great at remembering to photograph my food. However, it would be wonderful if I did manage to blog and photograph things and come away feeling like I’d really gotten something out of these books that I so carefully chose. I almost never buy recipe books, so I make a point of using them – especially when I know they’re good even though the internet is right there and so easy. A friend once upon a time would do a month cooking from a particular cuisine and I’d like to do something similar but from a particular cookbook, and probably not so intensive as every meal for a month but aim for 5 recipes a month or something if I’m concentrating on a particular book. Not every month either, I want space for this too – joy, not a chore. Exploration and fun, not work.

Blogging

This is kind of summing up a bunch of things I’ve said – I want to do more blogging. I’ve really enjoyed in recent months being more active both here and on my Dreamwidth journal so I’d like to keep that going. I’ve been doing a daily ‘5 things’ post – just notes about the day, not necessarily good things or positive things (though they almost always are) but just things about the day so that people know what’s going on in my life. Now I have that particular habit sorted, I’d like to get more written here, books, movies, television, cooking, midwifery, feminism. The works. I’ve got some midwifery blogging goals but I don’t want to make numbered goals for cooking blog posts on top of the reading stuff because it can become too rigid too fast. I love flexibility and I find that if I provide myself the overarching aim, I’ll do better with it with space to breathe. Numbers are all well and good but I don’t want it to be an obligation, a chore that I resent, I just want there to be the intention for more writing and let myself act on it.

Self Development

Getting my license. This is imminent – it lingered through last year and I’ve come so close. I’m stomping all over the remaining Feelings I’ve been having about failing the test the first time and have some plans to do a couple of driving lessons about passing the test. I can drive and I’m reasonably confident in my overall competence, now I just need to pass the test (and probably do my first official drive by myself somewhere).  I’d still like to take a road trip by myself, explore Victoria somehow just by myself, just overnight or something.

Gently explore job options that won’t get in the way of my study. Right now I’m figuring hospital admin jobs that I can do casually – reception type stuff mostly. Maybe data work? I’m not sure. I’m just going to see what comes up and try and take advantage of it and get some money of my own coming in. Family wise we’ve restructured things to deal as best we can with the fact that both Ral and I have been declared unworthy of receiving basic support, which sucks but.. it just is what it is. We’re past the anger and resentment stage and have moved on.

Me. Letting myself be myself, and that looks a little bit like self expression – what I wear, hair and other presentation things. Maybe it also looks like dancing and pilates and massage if I can afford it – there’s some old and painful conditioning in amongst this stuff that is still hard to talk about, hard to describe but I want to create some space for it to be out in the open more. I’d like to continue to enjoy my sexuality and explore that more, revel in my wonderful partnerships and make sure my partners know how much they mean to me. Indeed, how much the people in my life overall mean to me.

Socialising

I’d like to be better at it this year, and I think it will look a lot like inviting people over for dinner so I can cook for them – it’s good practice for doing something different, and it’s usually cheap and often appreciated. I also have a few TV buddy things planned which I’m looking forward to, and I’d like to make good on the feminist hangout plans I tentatively made with friends late last year where we could enjoy that aspect of ourselves in company and explore it gently – and joyfully. Community, I’m still building it here and I want to be better at that too and ideally avoid volunteering for too much or getting stuck avoiding toxic people/practices – this is not likely to be necessary but I am aware of it as potential in general – good intentions and all that doesn’t always work out. I’d like to go to more Poly Vic events again, I’d like to get to some of the Greens events for my local group and I’m still tempted by the CWA. The latter might be on the too ambitious side given everything else, but we’ll see. I’d also still like to volunteer somehow for Continuum, but I’m not sure how to go about that yet. Again, intention and space so that something can happen without being forced.

Here’s to Becoming, the transition and transformation with all the pain and joy that comes with those things. Here’s to the in between, the ephemeral and the liminal. Here’s to just being, in the moment, being myself, being genuinely with others  with kindness and appreciation.

 

 

This will be my final post on my 2014 theme Expedition. I always do a wrap up post, although I know it wasn’t that long ago that I made an update. Still, an update is just that and this is finalising and closing off my enquiry for 2014 so that I can make room for and welcome in my theme for 2015.  If you’re interested to see how I felt about this over the course of the year, you can read about my initial post about Expedition, my middle of the year update, and the update I made just in December.

What a year 2014 has been, many new experiences mostly good and some more difficult. I do think that the idea of an expedition did help me to take on the new things for the year – going to university full time and as an internal student. Starting a science degree and confronting my lingering fears about being terrible at both of them. I completed two placements (one is finishing this week) for my midwifery training and they’ve both instilled within me the elation and joy at the job I’m training for, and if that wasn’t enough: I really think this is something I will be good at.

It’s been kind of interesting thinking of how this enquiry was going to come to an end – after all I still have two years of my degree left to study and what is that if not a continuation of my expedition. And yet, I did feel that there needed to be some fresh perspective for 2015 and that I’ve taken on as much as I possibly could have to learn from Expedition as a theme. So my journey continues, but with a new theme and it’s time to reflect more closely on what I’ve ultimately taken from Expedition as a year long enquiry.

To the dot points! What are my final conclusions? Again, I’m going to continue to speak to what is relevant and not repeat previous conclusions unless there’s something new to say about them.

  •  Successfully complete my first year in my Midwifery degree.

Wow! Now that I’m staring down the barrel of second year, it’s really hit me that I’m doing this! I’ve done really well in both science and maths, and though I expect that to get harder I also think I’m up for the challenge. And more than that, I’m starting to really enjoy that side of learning – not just dreading it. What a change! Such a welcome one though. I’m most of the way through my second placement – this is for second semester in 2014 so it’s technically last year for me. It’s going so well!

I’m loving it, I still really enjoy working on the postnatal ward and I got some of my tools signed off. More recently I’ve been working on the labour ward and that’s a first for me. What an incredible privilege to share such a special moment with people. What an incredible privilege to be able to provide support and care at such a time of intimacy and vulnerability. I’m amazed. While there’s so much more to midwifery than labour and birth, that part of it is something really special and unique – there’s nothing else like it. I’ve learned so much from the midwives I’m working with, and the obstetricians too.

This placement is in a private hospital, so in some ways midwives provide a more supporting role, but one that’s no less important. I’ve learned a lot about the differences in private to public care and there’s something to be said for it, and yet there are still concerns I have, there are still moments when I wonder. That’s good I think – things shouldn’t be any one way, people having babies should get the very best care that is optimal for them and their situation – and that’s going to be different across families. Also, while most often pregnancy is a normal process and there are often few complications or risk factors, that’s not always true and even if it starts that way it can change throughout.

So the ideals surrounding labour and birthing don’t always apply and can sometimes just be detrimental – it’s important to evaluate and support each person’s choices and make sure they’re informed about their choices and that they get the best possible care, with the best possible outcomes for both mother and  baby.  More on that in another post I think.

  • Explore employment options while studyingfull time and internally bothshort term andlong termin addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling.
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office.
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students.

I’m really surprised that I’ve got yet more to update about this. Centrelink rejected my Newstart claim and I’ve had no income from them since mid November, which has sucked. I appealed that initial decision and I’ve just received word this week that the original decision to reject my claim has been upheld. I’m still not entitled to basic support – largely because  I’m studying at degree level and it’s not what they call a ‘short course’ that aims to see people employed.

Honestly I can get behind that in part because I still think that I should be receiving Austudy – I may have a degree but I was able to work and support myself through that and I never claimed Austudy for it. I’m really angry that I can’t claim it now when I actually need the support. But despite having never claimed Austudy, I’ve reached the end of my ‘allowable time’ to study at a bachelor level – never mind I’ve never claimed it, or the circumstances I’m in right now, there’s no flexibility there.

Neither of those options are open to me now though, so I’m in large part dependent on my partners. They’re lovely and I’ve got no actual fears or worry around this, but I dislike being dependent. I contribute to the household in many ways of course, so money isn’t the be all and end all. However, having money coming into my bank account regularly that is mine goes a long way to keeping my stress low in this area and feeling like I am contributing equally in some way (even if the money isn’t exactly equal). The boys are going to work with me on that and will make sure money goes from their joint account into mine so I’m always covered for money and I don’t always have to ask (also awful to do). I have also applied for a job at the small hospital I’m doing placement at right now for a receptionist position – they have one for quite long hours and every day of the week so I am sure that it would work around university studies and so forth. Fingers crossed something comes of that because I could do and would even enjoy the job, and, money!

  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself

So, this I just haven’t managed – I haven’t been doing much driving at all in recent months and I’ve also had an injured shoulder which is getting aggravated enough by everyday stuff without adding in another thing. Still an excuse I know. I struggle with confidence when I’m not driving regularly so I need to just organise a plan for doing that and book the test again. And pass it. And then do my fucking road trip so that I can feel like I actually *have* that P-plate. I know it’s just a test, just an arbitrary line on the day whether my skills are adequate or not, but failing the first time still really threw me – especially as I know I didn’t do the wrong thing and should have passed. This goal is on the list ‘just need to fucking do it already’.

  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt

This is another set of dot points that I’m surprised to have updates for. I’m still doing this, and in particular right now I’ve needed care and I’ve had to just let that happen – and emotional care I can receive just fine, but financial care I struggle with so very much and it’s hard. Getting lots of practice lately and I hope that in future I can return the favour in such a way as to make someone else’s hard time easier.

Adam was here for Christmas and it was all kinds of lovely. I love having him around and close, it was low key and snuggly and lovely all around. I still miss Kaneda so much and wish that he could visit me here and see my life here and have some fun – I wish I had the money to bring him over and do that, but that too will have to wait. We’re both pragmatists though and that never seems to take away from the deep abiding love we have for one another. My life is always forever richer for him.

I’ve also been more social – not so much during placement, but in the lead up to it and I’ve got plans for afterwards as well. That’s been really lovely and I hope to continue and increase that in the lead up to classes starting again. That’s the one thing I didn’t predict and still underestimate about this degree is how much energy it requires from me, and it’s the kind of energy where I need much more quiet recharge time than I’m used to.

  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras

I met my reading goals for 2014! I’m so pleased about this. I read exactly 75 books, and of those 10 were from Australian women writers and I reviewed about 6 of those I think. I also did do some reviews on Goodreads as I read things although I’d like to have reviewed more overall. That said, if I don’t have time to review something I can often put off marking it read on Goodreads and giving myself permission to just give a star rating for stuff was really useful for marking things off and not feeling like I should be doing more. Also, some books I really wanted to review and those are the ones I generally did review, others I was reading for fluff or escapism and I didn’t really have much more to say about them than that.

  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it.

I did write up a post about the TV I’ve been watching, but it’s not that in depth as far as critical analysis goes. I do talk about why I watch and why I like it and so on, but it’s not like any kind of review or comparison. Still calling that a success though – I am watching an epic list of TV and it was good to get it all listed, well… most of it. I also wrote up the movies I’d watched in recent months which was enjoy able too. I still have to blog about the list of movies I still want to watch – that list is rather epic as well so I expect very little commentary otherwise it becomes unwieldy.

  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones.

I don’t have much to add to this except to reaffirm that the zoo membership was so worthwhile and I love having it! I’ve done bits and pieces of exploring and basically I’d like to do more. I do think that given how full the year is that I’ve enjoyed the adventures I’ve managed and hopefully 2015 is a year involving yet more adventures!

  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures

Well I think I’ve certainly gotten on top of this in the end months of the year. My daily journal posts over on Dreamwidth are going strong – today when I post it will be #117 in a row! I’ve also done a bunch of book reviews here and also some movie stuff. Plus, I have some posts in the wings about midwifery and also feminism – that same post is still in draft but I will hopefully post it soon. I haven’t done any more for the Down Under Feminist Carnival, but hopefully I’ll be more on top of that in 2015. I’d also like to do more about how much I love Melbourne and taking pictures – I really didn’t manage that well this year. Although honestly I spent so much of it with my head in a textbook it’s any wonder.

  • Volunteering, community and socialising.

Nothing more on this – I really did let go of this because there were other priorities for 2014 and these were probably a bit ambitious anyway. I still have interest in getting involved with the Inner North CWA, and I still really want to volunteer for Continuum. I also want to attend more Poly Vic events and do more board gaming things too. But this really didn’t come together for 2014 and that was actually a good thing because other stuff had the priority and I’m glad I focused on that.

  • Cook for people to spend time and show care
  • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
  • Explore cooking in new cuisines
  • Blog about cooking, with pictures

I had really hoped to have had a chance to cook for a particular couple of friends by this point in time, but it hasn’t come together yet. I still want to do it though so I will follow that up in the coming months. I did have people over for dinner and Ral and I have definitely cooked up a storm. We did amazing things for Christmas feasting and I’m delighted to have hosted my very first Christmas feast with loved ones. We finished the day by watching Die Hard which was actually perfect viewing.  I tried a whole lot of new recipes and some new techniques – onward and upward there for 2015.

There were two other dot points to do with growing things and the zoo. Growing things still remains a puzzle I’ve yet to solve but would like to – if only to save money on buying kitchen herbs – which we use a LOT of. I’ve already commented on how much I’ve enjoyed the zoo and it was one of the best things I bought this year. Of the dot points I added at the last update, here’s where I’m at:

  • Start transitioning from 2014 and Expedition into 2015 and a new theme.

Well here we are at the end of Expedition and looking forward to 2015. I do know what next year’s theme is going to be thanks to a video call with @dilletantiquity but you’ll have to wait to find out what it is.

  • Play my video games and enjoy them! Maybe blog about what I’ve played and enjoyed and why?

I’ve been playing video games and really enjoying them. I look forward to spending more time this year exploring the games I’ve bought and want to play. My favourite from this year is Cook, Serve, Delicious. It’s a keyboard coordination game where you make food for a restaurant using keystrokes and timing is a major factor too. The food you make gets more complicated as you go along. And just recently there was an update that initiated a ‘Battle Kitchen’ mode with weekly challenges, specific food style challenges and also an endurance challenge – I’m so in love with this part of the game I can’t express. I doubled my hours I’d ever spent on the game in two weeks. Placement has meant I haven’t been as involved as I usually would, but I have managed to do each of the weekly challenges at least.

  • Publish my list of movies to watch – and do a mini review or something for the ones I’ve watched to date (hint, most of them I have not watched).

I have yet to publish my list of movies to watch, that’s still on my to-do list. I did blog about the movies I’d seen so far though which I’m pretty pleased about (scroll up for the link).

  • Finalise all my paperwork to hand in for my Midwifery year 1 including my followthrough report.

That’s a thing for after this week is done. I really need to make an effort to do my followthrough report though – am a bit stumped, not sure what to write.

  • Try and beat my goal of reading 75 books!

I did read 75 books but didn’t beat this goal unfortunately! Close, but not quite.

  • Plan and execute an awesome family Christmas with the boys, Adam, Prky and Tori. The feast will be spectacular! Also, blog about the feast and the planning and feelings about this particular Christmas.

I did this – it was wonderful, we had a great day with awesome food and I’m so pleased with how it all turned out! I did also blog quite a lot about the feast in the lead up to it, and after – not here though, on my Dreamwidth journal (poke me if you really want the link).

So there we are, Expedition is done. I had a lot of specific goals for this – more specific than ever before actually and I enjoyed that for a change. It was nice to be acting outside of myself and doing rather than delving inwards and feeling/exploring. I think that I learned a lot about myself this year but I’m still figuring out what that is – maybe that will surface in the months to come. Maybe it’s something that will only really come together once I complete my training as a midwife – who knows? I’m open to anything really. I think that’s one of the nicest parts of this theme is that I think I finally made friends with uncertainty and being able to trust in my bigger vision to get me through.

Here’s to the culmination of a year that saw so much change, many achievements and a lot to be proud of. Here’s also to the new year and a new enquiry for 2015!

Pawn - coverEscape Club Bookclub: January

Title: Pawn

Author: Aimee Carter

Publisher: Harlequin Teen, 2013.

Genre: Urban fantasy, near future, dystopia, young adult.

Blurb from Goodreads:

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

My Review:

I finished this book this morning while on my way to do yet more wrestling with a government organisation about my worthiness to study, to make something of my future that doesn’t include welfare and whatever job I can get at any given time. So this one kind of hit me right between the eyes. I really identified with Kitty, and the antics of the family in power also rang true to me – from that outside perspective wondering how they can be so blind and also knowing that for some of them at least, the privilege is no picnic.

And yet, privilege is privilege, regardless of how that status gets defined and that doesn’t get diminished just because there is struggle. I thought that the book demonstrated the difference between personal struggle and systematic oppression really well actually – and did so in a way that didn’t single out any particular group in terms of skin colour or lifestyle etc. It’s still worth noting that the family in power are white and conventionally attractive, and there are no notable characters of colour in the book. Similarly, no mention of any queerness. The aged and those with disabilities are essentially disposed of wholesale and I think the way that happens as an arbitrary line demonstrates very obviously that there’s an issue with discrimination at hand – hopefully that makes other readers question the way people who are older and people who have disabilities are treated in the here and now.

The book is a YA gem, and sophisticated enough for adult readers to enjoy easily – and indeed I think they’d benefit from reading this book. It’s a book about the state of society and that’s always a subject worthy of consideration and comparison – fiction to the real, the near-future of the book, to how things are now.

This book was easy to read, it flowed nicely and neither gave too much away nor hid things away and obfuscated too much – reveals happened at points that made sense and enhanced the overall story narrative. I’m really looking forward to the next book.

In an effort to shut up and write about stuff rather than wait for it to be ‘worth talking about’, I thought I’d do some posts about movies, ones I’ve seen and want to see. The list of movies I still want to see is quite long, but I have made a start on it recently and so I thought I’d review those movies I have actually watched, it’s a mix of movies that I saw at the cinema and movies I watched at home.

If you want an overview of a bunch of excellent films that were first released in Australia in 2014, I can highly recommend Grant Watson’s review at The Angriest. You may also appreciate his beautifully detailed film review and criticism over at Fiction Machine. My list, is just a bunch of films that I watched in recent months (and mostly enjoyed).

My reviews are compiled in no particular order, chronological, quality or otherwise. It’s also a rather epic post, so here’s a table of contents for you:

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (1954)

First and foremost what you need to know about this movie is that it’s a musical featuring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen, who are all marvellously talented. I watched this on Christmas Day night, really late after watching Die Hard. I wanted to watch something delightful and lovely and all about the fluffiness that comes with Christmas. This is definitely that movie! One review I read of it described it as ‘pornographically sappy’ which I think is fairly apt – but never in a way that is less than fully satisfying.

I loved this film from start to finish, loved all the songs – loved especially Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s characters dressing up as Rosemary and Vera’s characters and sing ‘Sisters’ in order to help them manage a deft escape. While the film is all about the emotional reward and it’s set at Christmas time – the timing is incidental, it’s not a movie about Christmas, which I think adds to the film and its storyline. One of my favourite things about the movie is that one of the main plot arcs is about the two men doing the right thing by their former sergeant. Men and emotional engagement and Doing The Right Thing especially Just Because gets me every time. Also, several female characters including two who are also main protagonists, with motivations and backgrounds  and everything. In hopes of encouraging you to rent this charming movie, take a look at the trailer:

Pride (2014)

I just recently saw this at my local independent cinema and it easily became my favourite film of 2014. This film tells the story of real life events that happened in the United Kingdom during the 80s when the Miner’s Strike was a bitterly fought issue and a bunch of queer activists decided to try and help them by raising money. The connection between the activists and the village they work to help unfolds beautifully, it’s not an easy friendship to grow but things get managed, people come together and connect, they are grateful and they are inspired.

I was utterly caught up in the telling of this story by what is possible when that right combination of people happens, goodwill, determination and that sense of doing the right thing, again Just Because. I’m never going to get tired seeing people stirred by doing something greater than themselves, greater than their own community, and learning and succeeding, struggling and even at times failing. For the first time I actually understood the Union Movement in watching this film.

Pride is beautifully written and acted – it features Bill Nighy as the big name actor and he’s brilliant, but he’s not alone amongst a cast of brilliance. The movie is also laugh out loud funny – I’m not a person who laughs easily from movies but I laughed all the way through this. The movie is as poignant as it is funny, there’s a wonderful balance between these two elements and neither ever overshadows the other. Honestly, I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

Die Hard (1988)

How did I get to the age of 34 and not have seen this movie? I haven’t the faintest – it makes no sense to me given my love of 80s action movies. However, after we feasted on Christmas Day those of us gathered around the flat screen to watch Die Hard, and thus this gap in my movie watching history has been rectified. And I agree with the rest of my friends it would seem, that Die Hard makes a great Christmas movie (the opposite of White Christmas really).

What an action movie – when I think about present day action films I just feel like they don’t even try any more. It’s like there’s an assumption that more explosions and effects means a better movie – but without something of a plot and some great actors to make it (seem) plausible, effects and explosions fall flat in my opinion. I think Willis, Veljohnson and Rickman really make the film – it’s not a plausible story but because of their calibre of acting, you’re completely happy to just go with it. I will admit though, a purely financial motive obscured by seeming radical political affiliations seems remarkably believable all in all. So does the ruthlessness.

I love that although a very minor character in the entire movie charade, Bedella’s character Holly does get to be seen, she has clear motivations and background, ambitions – the works. She’s written and acted in a way that reflects her strength and her competence is reinforced every step of the way – with the unfortunate exception when at the very end when she becomes your classic damsel in distress. Despite that disappointment, the rest is still true and I noticed it several times during the movie.

One of my favourite moments in the film is when the villain goes after McClane and pretends to be a hostage who escaped. I love their exchange with each other and the way Gruber later uses our hero’s bare feet against him. It’s a tiny detail but it’s one that worked really well for me. Another favourite part of the movie is the way in which a relationship between McClane and Powell develops over the radio, they build such a regard for one another despite having never laid eyes on each other and the whole way through the movie, it feels real. These moments and several others really come together with the effects and ridiculous plot to provide solid and lasting entertainment that holds up to many re-watches. And now I can’t wait to see Die Hard 2 (I think I also have not seen this before, I am certain only that I’ve seen the 4th one).

No Country For Old Men

I think my conclusion after watching this movie is that Coen Brothers films are just not for me, I am the antithesis of their audience. I recognise that it’s a movie that is brilliantly written, directed and acted. However, the characters are utterly unlikeable, unsympathetic, irredeemable and I got nothing out of the resolution of the story. Things happened but none of the consequences made sense to me, none of the outcomes were really satisfying. I just hated watching it. I don’t quite want the hours of my life back – I’m glad I watched it. I’m glad because I can clearly recognise its brilliance while also being very clear that I hated it, because of what I look for in movies.

You’d like this if you like Coen Brothers films in general (Burn After Reading, O Brother Where Art Thou, Fargo, The Big Lebowski). I may still give those latter two a chance, I’ve heard they’re amazing films (hopefully with characters I don’t hate utterly). I did enjoy The Hudsucker Proxy,  but it’s a notable exception because the central characters are actually likeable and sympathetic. This is the one film I watched this year that I really didn’t enjoy but I’ve included it because of the complexities of not liking a film that is clearly so well made and acted.

Frozen

I finally got to watch this after I finished exams, it was one of those movies that my partners weren’t interested in watching so it languished on my ‘to watch list’ for ages. I am not certain it lived up to the hype for me, but there were a bunch of things as a feminist cultural theorist that I appreciated. I appreciated that the prince wasn’t the hero. I loved that it was about sisters overcoming adversity together. I love that there was an actual consent exchange for a kiss. I wasn’t a fan of the repression of self storyline reinforced by the well meaning parents. I wasn’t a fan of the classist way Anna is portrayed as being lonely and isolated in the castle but doesn’t seem to interact or make friends with any of the people working there.

I also still mourn that the movie wasn’t made true to The Snow Queen fairytale, which was about a girl who goes off to save her brother  Kai from an evil queen. I still feel that the reason they changed it was because Disney doesn’t feel a girl can go and save a boy as the main plot line (this is a gut feeling and not something I’ve researched  specifically, I’m fairly certain I could come up with some pretty compelling evidence to support my theory if necessary though). The music was lovely as were the songs – but they didn’t really win me over the way other songs in other Disney musicals have done previously. Overall this was satisfying, warm, and fluffy in the way I love my musicals, but I’m not sure whether it makes my list of ‘happy making, feel better, world as a better place’ movie list (I need a better name for it).

Maleficent

I loved this movie, I’m a long time fan of Angelina Jolie, and I also love that we got a film about a Disney villain – one of the most iconic villains at that – from *her* point of view. That said, I think that it was a movie with a lot of potential that never became fully realised. Kind of so close and yet so far in the end. I find myself in agreement with the critic consensus on Rotten Tomatoes about the film; Jolie does a lot with very little, and the film is very pretty, but it’s not enough.

The writing and depth of the storytelling by the film is lacking, the plot never really comes together for me, and yet I want it to so very badly when I watch it. However, if we dig deeper, the movie manages to make some great (and probably accidental) political commentary on the level of class where the human world is rife with injustice and inequality and the realm of The Moors portrays its citizens with equal say and standing. I liked best the way Maleficent spends time with Aurora as her own person, and not simply assuming she is an enemy. The connectedness Maleficent displays with Aurora and the completely ineffective fairies was really unexpected for me in the movie and I appreciated Maleficent’s connectedness and was saddened by how much the fairies were reduced to caricatures. I think this story arc had incredible potential and could have been utilised more thoroughly for an overall better movie (especially if the fairies had been fully realised as they were in the Disney movie).

I will draw your attention to this brilliant essay on Maleficent as an anarchist feminist fairytale by my friend Sky Croeser because through her analysis I appreciated the film much more. I couldn’t by myself put my finger on exactly why I loved the movie and yet was dissatisfied with it, but this analysis helped me to further contextualise what I wanted out of the movie and where it could be found. Hollywood may not have intended such, but it’s there anyway. Hopefully the essay also brings you greater enjoyment of a film that overall falls short, and yet is still special. In this present day, it’s something to have a movie with a named female  protagonist, an iconic villain – even if it’s not all we hoped such a movie would be.

Lucy

This film… I am not quite sure where to start. I wanted to like it much more than I did, I was very dissatisfied with it. Here we have a sci-fi action movie with a titular female protagonist, Lucy. And yet despite these elements which should produce a movie I’m head-over-heels for, the portrayal of Lucy’s character is lacking and I never really feel like she gets to be awesome in her own right – there’s a massive ‘but’ attached to the awesome. I’m thinking in terms of Joanna Russ here, ‘She was awesome, but it wasn’t her, it was the drugs inside her’, ‘She was awesome, but look what she did with it’ and so on.

I’m not a audience member who requires realistic science in my sci-fi – it’s nice but I’ve got a well developed suspension of disbelief. However I think Lucy goes well beyond any kind of line for believability which I think lets the film down significantly. While Scarlett Johansson is fantastic as Lucy and elevates the movie overall, it’s still frustrating to see the hints of what could have been an exceptional movie never realised. I will spend a moment to say that Morgan Freeman is wasted in this film, seemingly ‘The Intelligent Guy’ in an overall unintelligent movie, but also it’s clear he’s phoning it in. The story is way too ridiculous and the central character’s agency is entirely gutted. The action is fantastic, and so is Johansson, but otherwise this just fell flat for me.

Jabbed

There’s no IMDB listing for this documentary, but if you scroll down on this link you’ll see the synopsis and list of awards – they’re impressive.

This documentary comes from Sonya Pemberton, an Emmy award-winning Australian documentary filmmaker and looks at the fears surrounding vaccination, the reality of risks (though rare) as a result of vaccination, and the consequences on an individual and public health population basis for not vaccinating. What I loved about this documentary is that it works hard to convey the fears parents have over vaccination without demonising them. The focus is on understanding, and providing solid science behind vaccination, including instances where a serious reaction to vaccination has been recorded.

The film sees the fact that parents are afraid, and want to do the best for their child(ren) as being the start of a conversation rather than the end of it. I think that it’s brilliantly put together, and the information is well presented without ever being condescending. Take a look at the trailer and I think you’ll be impressed at the way this documentary is presented – it was a very interesting film to watch and one that’s useful for me to have seen as a midwife-in-training.

Valentino: The Last Emperor

Another documentary, this is very different from Jabbed in that there’s no public health message, instead it’s insight into a hidden world, and a hidden, though iconic man. The buying of my own clothing is such a far removed experience from the realm of fashion designers such as Valentino so it really was interesting to get a glimpse into that world and what it involves, and what it means to the creators. I feel like the audience did get a unique view behind the scenes of seemingly glamourous fashion design world, and into Valentino himself. And yet, it’s also clear that he’s still a very private man and that much remains hidden.

I think my favourite part was watching the friendship between Valentino and his long time business partner and friend Giancarlo Giametti, it’s clear they have such a depth to their relationship and it’s incredibly meaningful, and Giancarlo is much more open about that than Valentino is. I really enjoyed seeing this element being one given importance in the documentary – it’s not just about the dresses.  I enjoyed this film when I wanted something easy watching that I didn’t have to work at, without heavy content and it was perfectly suited to that. I will say that, although interesting, it paled compared to my experience seeing the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition in Melbourne recently. The exhibition was truly beyond anything I could have expected and utterly mindblowing, while Valentino in comparison, was merely enjoyable and satisfying.

The Emperor’s New Groove

This movie is one I keep coming back to, it’s a favourite of mine to rewatch when I need something fluffy, entertaining and funny to watch. I love the humour, I love the happy ending, I love the absurdity. I also tend to really enjoy films where one character learns about the meaning of friendship, and this definitely qualifies. I adore Izma as the villain and Kronk as her unlikely side kick who’s really not evil at all. The movie is simply a fun romp about two unlikely people becoming friends – one’s the selfish, vain and arrogant emperor, the other the head of a small village, humble and kind. I like that Kuzco isn’t set up to be evil – just misguided and subsequently redeemable. I love the way that unfolds between Kuzco and Pacha. This movie is especially precious to me as I often find comedy a difficult thing to appreciate, and this film never fails to make me laugh.

Coffee and Cigarettes

I just don’t know what to make of this film. I love the way it’s a series of small vignettes, but I also know it’s meant to be a comedy and I just don’t find it funny. I did like and enjoy the film despite not finding it funny, although at some points the cringe of awkwardness was intense! Actually I think that’s a useful way of summarising this movie as a whole, an exploration of awkwardness between the audience and the characters,  and the characters with each other. It’s a little unrelenting, but as an exploration it’s pretty thorough in covering all the ways awkwardness could possibly surface using these scenarios involving coffee and cigarettes.

My personal favourite segment is Cousins featuring Cate Blanchett – I think this exchange of awkwardness is the most realistic to me, and I love the way Blanchett plays both roles to perfection. There are a number of other famous faces who contribute to this film including Bill Murray, Tom Waits, and Iggy Pop amongst others – all of whom contribute something unique and special to the film. This is not a film that will ever go down in my favourites list, but I am glad I saw it.

Cinderella (1997)

I watched this film upon recommendation of a friend that it was charming and satisfying particularly on the level of being a musical and satisfyingly non-white. She was right – it was a gorgeous movie, charming and sweet, with costumes and sets that were utterly gorgeous! While the cast is broadly non-white, race itself has no emphasis  and I think this stands the movie in good stead. It doesn’t make race invisible – it just makes the expression of less overtly white casting unexceptional – as it should be. Performances from the likes of Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg and Brandy Norwood were a delight to watch, and sincere without simply replicating the original 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.

That it is a remake of the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella alone makes it particularly satisfying to see so much diversity. And really, I expect it’s a 50/50 mix of people who are white and non-white. That’s not really diversity, it’s a depiction of real life in a much more realistic fashion instead of 2-3 white people for every person of colour. For anyone who’s ever watched and enjoyed Ever After, this movie is equally lovely, fluffy and satisfying as a Cinderella story and I recommend watching it at any point you need a unicorn chaser.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015 badgeIn past years, I’ve concentrated mainly on my commitment to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. This year I have some extra reading goals in mind. The goals I’ve listed may be on the ambitious side given I am studying full time, but I am invested in making a solid attempt.

Sharing a little about my profile as a reader:

I am an avid reader and I really enjoy it – I have done since I learned to read. However, I’ve been studying so consistently in recent years that my fiction reading has been at very low levels for me. I wonder what it will look like when I’m not studying at university any more! Right now I’m pleased to get through 75 books in a year, and before I was studying I’d easily go through that in a couple of months.

As for my preferences in reading, I’m still mostly intent on reading in the arena of speculative fiction, and I continue to have fairly broad taste in that area. That said, as time goes on there are definitely specific hooks that really attract me. I am strongly motivated by female characters, also characters with a diverse gender background, diverse sexuality or relationship choices. I want to actively read more fiction by authors who are non-white, particularly Indigenous Australians works – especially speculative ones. I enjoy certain kinds of non-fiction, such as books to do with cultural studies or midwifery as well as some biographies/autobiographies, but that depends heavily on who the book is about.

For 2015, I’m proposing to take on the following reading (and reviewing) commitments:

  • Complete my Goodreads reading goal of 75 books. This is the same number from last year – it seemed to be exactly right as a number while I’m studying so intensely.
  • Complete the Australian Women Writers Challenge at the Miles level, to read at least 6 books and review at least 4.
  • Increase the number of books by Indigenous Australian authors that I read, and review these books.
  • Read at least 10 books by authors from other various non-white backgrounds and ethnicities and review at least 5 of those.
  • Participate in the Escape Club YA Bookclub on Goodreads by reading the books I’m interested in and participating in the discussion.
  • Track the reading I do for my academic studies in Midwifery both books and articles. Also, try and write at least 3 blog posts per semester about my studies and the readings.
  • Publish a list of all the academic articles I read for my study in 2015.
  • Unpack my books and read at least 5 of the books I inherited from my best friend and haven’t picked up to read yet.

This is not a small amount of goals, but I think they’re worthwhile aims. I have a huge list of books I want to read in Goodreads so I shall do my best to make good use of that list! Also the books in my closet that I haven’t been able to unpack yet for lack of a bookcase, I really want to get that sorted out so I can pick up those books that are completely new to me – especially since I’ve been meaning to read them for so long!

What a year it’s been in terms of reading for me! In January of 2014 I set myself the challenge to read 75 books during the year, and I completed that just on the 31st of December. I’m very pleased with this result because it doesn’t include any of the reading I did specifically for study, and much of my year was focused heavily on studying and academic reading. It also means that a significant chunk of my reading was very fluffy paranormal romance reading, it really helped me get through my semesters. If you’d like to see the books I read in the past year, Goodreads conveniently compiled a shelf of them.

This year there were quite a lot of books that I thought stood out – and unashamedly I’ve included all of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate books that I inhaled at the beginning of the year. And what an awesome experience they were – I was so sad when I got to the end and there was no more. I am very much looking forward to reading the Custard Protocol books featuring Prudence.

Other new to me authors from this year’s favourite reads included Anne Aguirre, Ambelin Kwaymullina and several authors in a short story anthology. There were also favourites from the year’s reading from consistent favourite authors of mine: Anne Bishop, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Michelle Sagara, Patricia Briggs, and Juliet Marillier.

Before I give you the full list of my 2014 favourite reads, I’ll also give a few honourable mentions. I really enjoyed Allison Pang’s Abby Sinclair books, as well as Linda Robertson’s Persephone Alcmedi series. Additionally after resisting the absurdity of a werewolf named Kitty, I really enjoyed Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series. Many people counted Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice amongst their favourites, and I really enjoyed it – especially for the way it explored gender and assumptions, but it wasn’t a favourite for me.

Favourite Reads for 2014:

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf - coverThe Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (The Tribe #1) by Ambelin Kwaymullina

This was one of my stand out favourite reads for the year, and one I read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Excerpt from my review: I adored the story building in this, so many layers, puzzles and I was delighted at every stage of the reveal. People talk about this not being fantasy and I see what they mean about labelling it Dystopian Sci-Fi, but for me it seems to be Urban Fantasy, one with a distinctly ecological bent that I found very satisfying.

 

 

Kaleidescope - coverKaleidescope – anthology by Twelfth Planet Press

Excerpt from my review: I should begin writing this review by pointing out that generally speaking, I’m not a short story reader. I want to enjoy this style of story more than I generally do. However, Kaleidoscope from Twelfth Planet Press edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios is an example of how awesome short stories can truly be! This anthology is truly exceptional. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to choose the stories because they’re all fantastic in their way – if these were the ones that made it in, I am sure that just as many stories came really close and I’m sure many of them were also exceptional.

 

 

Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger:

Souless - coverSouless (The Parasol Protectorate #1)

There is so much to love about this book, and this series. Firstly, a character that is both eccentric and also invested in her perceived place in society, a woman, who enjoys food, and where what she’s wearing is discussed in relation to the story and as part of the world-building. The tea. Alexia is a marvellous character and I haven’t been able to put down the series since I started it.

 

 

 

 

Changeless - coverChangeless (The Parasol Protectorate #2)

Loved this again, still frivolous and fun, more plot arc and adventures. Also personal history. Plus, getting to enjoy Alexia in her new role! Love Ivy so much.

 

 

 

 

 

Blameless - coverBlameless (The Parasol Protectorate #3)

One of the reasons I loved this book so much is that it speaks to the impact and consequences of social mores on someone – especially those that are utter idiocy. I also love that Alexia is completely herself and acts completely true to character and decides to go off and have adventures and clear her name. While pregnant. I also love her complex feelings and relationship with her pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

Heartless - coverHeartless (The Parasol Protectorate #4)

Because of course you go off saving Queen and Country when you are at the very end stages of your pregnancy! I love the way this book is put together, I love that not even late stage pregnancy slows Alexia down much – certainly not her brain or sense of what needs to be done in any case. I love the arrangement she comes to with Lord Akeldama – who remains one of my favourite characters in this series along with Ivy and Biffy. And Lyall and Genervieve. Oh hell, I actually adore all the characters. This is one of the more over the top stories involving Alexia – and that’s saying something, but it’s also still really satisfying. And there’s a baby at the end!

 

 

Timeless - cover

Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5)

** spoiler alert **

What an interesting end to this series! It’s still frivolous and manic in the adventure, there is still a hefty focus on the importance of tea, and I love the inclusion of families and children in adventures! I love Lord Akeldama as a doting father, and the description of bathtime horrors! I love the way Ivy becomes a queen as part of the resolution in the end – how marvellously unexpected and just thing to balance out Lord Akeldama’s influence given his successful shifting of Countess Nadasdy out to the middle of nowhere! I like how things ended for the book, the story arc and characters it was very satisfying.

 

The Others series by Anne Bishop

Written in Red - coverWritten in Red (The Others #1)

The universe for this story is so compelling! I really love the narrative where humans are not the dominant species, are not in charge. I love the characters and their interactions, particularly Meg and her willingness just to try stuff out. I picked this up and couldn’t put it down (and had to start the next right away). This definitely affirms to me why Bishop remains one of my favourite authors.

 

 

 

Murder of Crows - coverMurder of Crows (The Others #2)

I picked this up the very minute after finishing ‘Written in Red’ despite it being 3am. I loved it, loved the story and consequences for actions. Still love the narrative where humans aren’t the dominant species. Love the connections, interactions and growth of the characters. Can’t wait to get the next one in my hands!

 

 

Sirantha Jax series by Anne Aguirre

I loved this entire series, however 2 books were absolute stand outs for me – largely because of the unusual relationship engagements and narrative elements explored by Aguirre.

Doubleblind - coverDoubleblind (Sirantha Jax #3)

This is one of my favourite books of the series and in particular I loved the insight into Ithtorians as a culture and in particular to Vel as Jax’s friend. I loved the way in which relationships grew, changed, were damaged and not easily repaired. I loved the continued reinforcement of the importance of personal autonomy in relationships and not sacrificing the self blindly to the couple dynamic. I like that in this book I started to see glimpses of poly style relating between Jax, Vel and March.

 

 

 

Aftermath (Sirantha JaAftermath - coverx #5)

This book is a book of consequences, intended and unintended and also of relationships, dynamics, connection, love, self awareness and autonomy. There were several parts in this book where I just *exclaimed* because they were specifically non-creepy and non ‘2 halves make a whole’ relationship dynamics. Changing yourself to fit someone else’s needs rarely goes the way people would intend it and the harder choice to let go or to not compromise doesn’t provide joy in the short term.

I love that the problems in relationships are still being worked out, that there’s space for things to resolve even if the how is currently unavailable. I love the depth of the connection that has grown between Jax and Vel, I love that here the poly glimpses from book 3 become much more obvious and yet still nuanced – Aguirre recognises that relationships of significance can vary greatly in how that significance is expressed and experienced. I love the hell out of this book, in particular for the seeking to right past wrongs, and tying up loose ends of story. Easily my favourite of the series.

Cast in Flame - coverCast in Flame (Chronicles of Elantra #10) by Michelle Sagara

I love this series so wholeheartedly, I think it’s my favourite one currently. Kaylin never disappoints and this book is no exception. I really love the way the concept of home, of value – your place in the world is explored in this book. I like a more vulnerable Teela dealing with the aftermath of the previous books. I adore Helen. Everything about this book is just so satisfying, it’s like a warm hug and one of my favourite kinds of books to read.

 

 

 

Shiver of Light - coverShiver of Light (Merry Gentry #9) by Laurell K. Hamilton

I still just love these books, they speak directly to my id and make me happy in ways that no other books do. Ridiculous as it may seem, these are some of my favourite books to read and reread.

 

 

 

 

 

Ravenflight - coverRaven Flight (Shadowfell #2) by Juliet Marillier

Excerpt from my review: I love Neryn as a character and I’m deeply invested in her story. I loved the continuation of this story, I love the interaction between Neryn and Tali, it’s everything I often get from male warrior companionship and so rarely get to enjoy in relation to female characters. Neryn isn’t a warrior but she and Tali are joined in their determination to win freedom for her country. Their friendship starts with such awkwardness and the growth is gradual and sincere.

There’s nothing contrived between these characters, you as the reader are simply invited in to witness the unfolding of the story, including of the friendship shared between these two characters.  I also really love Neryn’s romance with Flint in this book, it’s ephemeral and unrealised – it’s a romance of the heart and mind, it’s a promise that is yet unfulfilled and yet deeply hoped for. I love this expression of romance as being something that drives both characters to succeed, but also the way it reveals a weakness that can be used to exploit them.

Witch With No Name - coverThe Witch With No Name (The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison

What an awesome book! This is one of my favourites this year, and a great place for this series to either pause or end. I love Rachel, I love that she’s grown up so much and is really wanting to build a relationship with Trent, but also the way that she, Ivy and Jenks are still so deeply connected and bound to one another through love and looking out for each other. I also really loved the way Rachel tries to make it possible for the demons to enter society proper – so heartwarming. Can’t say enough good things about this.