2016 Reading Review

Another great year of books is behind us.  As usual, I read a lot of YA fantasy, but I also read a good mix of other stuff, too (partly thanks to the bimonthly GeekyNerdy Book Club).

This year I read 35 books and graphic novels (not counting re-reads).  Here are some of my favorites:

YA fantasy/sci-fi:

Indie fantasy:

Non-fiction:

There are also a few other genre books that really stood out, but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing them yet, so I’m making some space for them here.

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology

Related imageThis was hands-down my favorite series of 2016.  I wrote previously about the first book, Six of Crows, and I’m now here to tell you that the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is an immensely satisfying conclusion.  The characters are still amazing, and continue to be challenged in new, different ways.  The fantasy aspects also continue to be developed.

It’s not an entirely happy ending, but there was never going to be a perfectly happy ending to this story, and honestly it was happier than I was expecting.  I’m even considering buying the hardcover set, which I never do, because the books themselves have the pages edged in color: black for the first and red for the second.

If you like YA fantasy, grey characters, and complex plots, this one is for you.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

There has been so much buzz around this book since22544764 it was published last year (it was nominated for a Hugo and won the Nebula), and I was not disappointed at all.  The story is a kind of original fairy tale, eastern-European inspired, and walks the line between YA and regular adult fantasy.  The main character Agnieszka is “taken” by the local lord, called the Dragon, and is eventually trained by him as a magical apprentice to help defeat the evil Wood.

There’s plenty of magic, and although the magic system is not well-defined, the book does give us an interesting sense of the different methods of working it (the Dragon is more precise and scientific, while Agnieszka works more based on feel and intuition).  There’s also a great female friendship at the core of the story, and some romance—it wasn’t my favorite ever, but I thought it was done well for the story.

The Wood is a surprisingly good villain, and the story’s resolution seemed very fitting.  Even after everything that’s happened, Agnieska can still empathize with the Wood and tries to work out a solution for everyone’s benefit (it’s very Wonder Woman ^_^).

Also, I pictured the Dragon as looking like Rumpelstiltskin from OUAT, so there’s that.

Rumple

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

25372801I’ve been reading CJA for years, as one of the founders of the website io9.com; her movie reviews are the most entertaining I’ve ever read (some of my favorites are Transformers: ROTF, Gods of EgyptThe Force Awakens, The Martian, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War).

I also loved her short story (and Naomi Novik’s) in our recent GeekyNerdy Book Club selection, The Starlit Wood.  So it’s safe to assume that I love her writing style, and it definitely carried me through this story, which was wonderful and memorable, though perhaps not perfect.

A witch girl and a tech-genius boy grow up together as school outcasts, grow apart, then meet again as adults, which is convenient because one or possibly both of them need to save the world from near-imminent destruction. I loved that there is both fantasy and science fiction mashed up here.  It was fascinating to me that the witches would have destroyed humanity to save the planet, while the scientists were willing to risk destroying the planet to save humans.  It was nice to see scientists wrestling with ethical questions, too.

Overall, this book is a little weird, which is why I loved it.  The narrative is a bit uneven, but you just kinda have to go along for the ride.

Here’s to more great books in the new year.  What books did you enjoy most in 2016?

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Bio Grad Student Humor

Some inspirational advice for the new year:

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Nobody can go back and start a new beginning,* but anyone can start today and make a new ENDING 🙂                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       *except with iPS cells

The motivational part was written by a grad student, and the addendum added a week or so later by another student.

To explain the joke: iPS stands for induced pluripotent stem cells.

Meaning stem cells that have been created through engineering, by taking “regular” adult cells and moving them back to a more elastic state (aka a stem cell) where they can become any other kind of cell.

So iPS cells would indeed be the exception to the maxim that you can’t go back to the beginning 🙂

Goodbye 2015; Hello 2016!

Happy New Year! It’s time for a year-end wrap up here on Jedi by Knight.  Here’s my annual report from WordPress: https://jedibyknight.com/2015/annual-report/

Some of the stats there are a little misleading though, so here’s a bit of a summary of my own.

2015blog

My blog once again grew a lot last year, which I’m very happy about.  I’ll be happy if it grows even more this next year!

2015yearstats
More views last year than my first 3 years combined!

The vast majority of my hits came from the US, but the UK, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Singapore, France, Italy, and India round out my top 10.  I think someone in Singapore linked my post Who’s That Pokemon…girl? because I got a spike on that post, and Singapore, and Facebook referrals about two months ago.

I had hits from 32 new countries/territories this year, but I also missed 17 that I had last year.

The top 5 posts I wrote this year were:

  1. Oh what a spray! What a lovely spray!
  2. Birthday Jungle
  3. Is the moon a star or a planet?
  4. Revisiting KOTOR II: (#2) Get me off Telos!
  5. Reports of the EU’s demise have been greatly exaggerated (mostly because I pissed off some die-hard EU fans)

Here are some of my favorite search terms that lead people to my blog this year:

  • “who is the pilot in reached” continues to be the leader
  • “lying cat” (yay! Lying cat is awesome!)
  • “watch facing the inside”
  • “twi’lek pumpkin cheesecake”
  • “is telos the end of kotor 2” (hahaha no)
  • “when does phileas fogg have the idea of a hot air ballon” (short answer: he doesn’t.)
  • “samwise gamgee as the embodiment of tolkien”
  • “how to say springerle”
  • “did phylis fog use a balloon in 80 day” (I’m just tickled about “Phylis Fog”)
  • “poe gay star wars board”
  • “lightsaber stick shift”
  • “is she singing japanese on the surface pro 3 commercial 2014” (Nope, that’s Korean.)
  • “introvert hate haircuts”
  • “buying shadow of revan gets me what” (I don’t know, since I never bought it)

As far as the blog in 2016, things will mostly be the same, a mix of nerdy, geeky, and crafty stuff.  I probably won’t be doing as many “series” of posts, because those didn’t seem be to be all that well-received.

I’m also going to be switching my Weekly Photo Challenge posts from my Galápagos photos to the photos I took in Ireland this summer.  Look for those starting next week.

What would you all like to see from the blog this year?