Hello all! I’m back from my hiatus to wish you all a Happy New Year! You can check out my retrospectives on books and Kpop MVs from 2021, and now it’s time to talk about blogging.
In 2021, my blog got over 10,000 views from more than 7,500 visitors representing 110 countries around the world. I only posted 43 times, which is the least I’ve every posted on this blog in the course of a year. And that’s okay!
My most-viewed post last year was, as always, There is no hot air balloon in Around the World in Eighty Days, which got a lovely bump in December from the Masterpiece TV adaptation starring David Tennant. Spoiler alert: it has a balloon. There are a lot of changes to the source material, frankly, but having seen the first episode I think it will be an interesting story all the same.
My most popular post I wrote last year was Feeding Reading 2021, because who doesn’t love free books, followed by a bunch of Lens-Artists photography challenge posts.
Someone also found my blog by searching for Phat Gus, so I consider that a win.
With regards to blogging this upcoming year, my only goal is that I would like to do some.
Here are some things you may see here at Jedi by Knight in 2022:
More Fan Art Friday, though probably sporadically, where Kiri and I both color the same picture from the Star Wars coloring book, often with very different results
Maybe a few more book reviews; look for a post about recent novellas at some point
Maybe some Lens-Artist photo challenges?
Wordless Wednesday photo posts
Probably lots of random short thoughts
My biggest stumbling block to blogging is not just lack of time, but rather lack of focus because my brain is so tired. Any suggestions from other busy people on how to find focus for writing?
Happy 2022 everybody! We can only go up from here, right? …Right?
You probably wouldn’t know it from my dearth of reviews this year, but in 2021 I read about 150 books. This year I joined Storygraph to log my reading, so here are some fun stats from my 2021 reading. (You’ll notice it lists 135 as my total because I missed logging a few books)
I only reviewed three books over two blog posts this year, so here are some quick notes on the ones I didn’t have time to blog about, but still want to share.
Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore: One of the first book reviews I did for this blog was Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, the third book in the Graceling series, so it was great to come back to the series with Winterkeep. Each book in that series is unique and wonderful, and I’m so happy to say that this fourth installment carries on that tradition. The worldbuilding is fantastic, moving into a new region of the same world, and the intrigue is suspenseful (there’s a character that really reminds me of Mrs. Coulter from His Dark Materials). The characters both old and new are engaging, and as always representation is on point. One downside: now I have to buy a new set of books so my covers match.
Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater: A fairy story set in the Regency period, which is like catnip for me. It manages to be fun and romantic while having surprising depth. As a debut novel from an indie author, it was one of my favorite surprises this year, and I’m so looking forward to continuing the series.
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton: Another Regency fantasy! You’re shocked, I know. But this one is slightly different in that it is a novel of manners set in a world populated by dragons. If you like 19th century British literature, you will like this story. There are obnoxious relatives, country manors, marriages, courtroom drama, and descriptions of hats. All overlaid with dragon culture. It was a slow start for me but once I was in, I was hooked.
Fairy Tale Retellings
Valiant and Flight of Swans by Sarah McGuire: I’m so glad I discovered McGuire this year, because her work needs more hype. Her debut, Valiant, is a clever retelling of “The Brave Little Tailor,” and her next work, Flight of Swans, is a lovely take on “The Six Swans.” I loved them both, but Flight of Swans in particular has stayed with me. It’s a tale of love and loyalty in a beautiful ancient British setting, and I don’t know how she wrote a mute protagonist so seamlessly. I really feel it holds up next to the classics of the genre.
Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer: This was a solid retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” with a few other similar tales thrown in. It gets major points for its magical-house atmosphere (including a magic library where you can jump into the stories) and the way it blended in the details of the different tales. There was nothing particularly unexpected here, but I really enjoyed reading it and I’m looking forward to the companion novel coming out this year.
Thorn and The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani: I mentioned last year that I got hooked on Khanani‘s first indie works, and this Dauntless Path series is really holding to that promise. Thorn is a fabulous retelling of “The Goose Girl” that holds up to Shannon Hale’s classic retelling of that tale. I had high expectations coming into Theft of Sunlight, and I was still blown out of the water. I think I read it like three times. It moves away from retellings into an original story, wrapping up some things from Thorn while moving into the new territory prepped by “The Bone Knife” story at the end of Thorn. The protagonist Rae is amazing, there is no overt romance just some squishy understated feels, and the plot is really getting interesting. The only reason you should not read this (yet) is that it ENDS ON A CLIFFHANGER OMG. I need the next book NOW.
Author discovery: Mimi Matthews
In the course of my historical romance reading, I came across indie author Mimi Matthews and her wonderful, clean Victorian novels…and I kept reading. And reading. I read nine books of hers this year, including one series and several standalones: the most of any one novelist I read. In particular I recommend the Parish Orphans of Devon series and Gentleman Jim. Matthews also has her first release with a major publisher coming out this month, The Siren of Sussex, and I am so ready for it!
Spain in Our Hearts by Adam Hochschild: During the semester I spent in Spain over a decade ago, I had the opportunity to attend an exhibit on the Brigadas Internacionales, the foreign volunteers who fought in Spain’s civil war in the 1930s. I had no idea of this history before then, and frankly many people in Spain still deal with Guerra Civil topics with a light touch. Hochschild’s book gives a good overview of the war, mainly from the volunteers’ perspective, from everyday Americans there to fight fascism to idealistic writers like Hemingway and George Orwell; there’s also an interesting bit about Texaco selling oil to Franco on credit, with no interference from the US government. It is an interesting look at a complex time; of course, it does read a bit like a tragedy since the Republicans eventually lost the war, leading to decades of fascist rule in Spain. For another book on the Franco period, I recommend Ruta Sepetys’s novel The Fountains of Silence.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick: Speaking of autocratic regimes, this book is a fascinating peak inside one of the most closed off countries on the planet. Having read Park Yeonmi’s memoir of her escape and taken in some South Korean TV shows like Crash Landing on You, I wanted to learn more about the people of North Korea rather than the government. This book focuses on the daily lives of six defectors and is surprisingly comprehensive, as much as that is possible. The parts about the famine in the 90s are particularly haunting; whenever I hear about current food shortages in the DPRK in the news I wonder what the real story is and if history is repeating itself there.
I was intrigued by Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba when I heard the recent movie had claimed the title of highest-grossing anime release in Japan, beating out Spirited Away and Your Name. After watching the first episode of the anime on Netflix, I picked up the manga from the library and have been reading as fast as I can get it (each volume has a very long wait list). It is a dark story, sometimes creepy and sometimes gory, but the struggles of Tanjiro and his friends, and especially his bond with his sister Nezuko, are really compelling. I definitely had some feels at the end of the Mugen Train arc! If you liked Fullmetal Alchemist and other similar stories, I think you would like this one.
As far as reading goals, last year I said:
I’m not making any reading goals for 2021. I’m going to read whatever I want to!
And I did! haha I’m starting to figure out a way forward with my reading list that works for me as a working mom. Of course I wish I had more time to read award-winning novels or the latest hot thing, or that I hadn’t staying up til 2am reading on that night my kid wouldn’t sleep. But like everything in life, it’s a work in progress.
Next year I really want to get back to writing more, both here on the blog and my own fiction. I already have a couple book reviews kicking around in my head. Here’s hoping you’ll see me around more!
What were your favorite books from 2021? Do you have any reading goals for 2022?
As always, here is my list of the MVs I had on repeat this year.
1. “Rosario” by Epik High
The year started off strong with this collaboration, which is hands-down my most-watched video this year. Epik High is a phenomenal hiphop trio whose playlists helped get me through lockdown last year. CL is the former leader of my favorite Kpop group, 2NE1, and Zico is the main rapper from Block B who has consistently been putting out bops with his own label. So when they say they are legends, they are not exaggerating.
There are so many great little details in the MV: Mithra Jin’s The Shining reference, Tukutz’s bare feet, the different hotel rooms. I especially love Tablo shooting with the remote at the end, and the way the MV is shot vertically, like a TikTok; these both speak to the song’s themes about fame and longevity/obsolescence. There are a lot of great fan theories about the MV as well, like that they are all actually dead and the narrow rooms represent graves, or that there is a criminal conspiracy going on between the characters. So many possible levels of meaning!
2. “Love Peace” by Tiger JK
Another legend of K-hiphop here, Tiger JK created a real piece of art with this MV (and the song features his wife and collaborator Yoon Mirae as well). It’s beautifully shot and the aesthetics are amazing, plus the song is so culturally relevant with its positivity about Asian cultures during this time of increased hate crimes against people of Asian descent.
Plus, how cool is this??
3. “Lalisa” by Lisa
All of the solo debuts of the BLACKPINK members have been great, but Lisa’s MV really stood out this year. She can sing and rap, is one of the best dancers in Kpop, speaks fluent English, and has that natural swagger and stage presence that just can’t be taught. I love how the MV incorporates her Thai heritage at the end.
Long hair Taemin is back!! Taemin’s solo releases never disappoint and this one is no exception. Catchy song, intricate yet effortless choreography, amazing aesthetics: that’s SHINee’s multitalented maknae for you. And how does he look so good in that crop top?? He’s just unreal.
5. “Lilac” by IU
One of my favorite Kpop singer/songwriters, IU reflects on her career and the end of her 20s with this charming and slightly bittersweet song and MV. Her other releases this year “Celebrity” and “Coin” also had really excellent MVs, but I feel this one is destined to become a classic.
How wonderful to be looking forward to another new year here on my blog. Aside from all else going on in the world, last year was not the best year for my blog as it got shunted aside in favor of some more important things going on in my life.
In 2020, Jedi by Knight got over 11,000 views from more than 8,000 visitors representing 118 countries around the world. I posted 70 times, though most of those were my weekly Lens-Artist photo challenges.
I hope to continue to do some blogging this year, though I warn you that my posting may be rather erratic. I had been doing a lot of my writing during my kid’s nap time on the weekends, but my toddler has stopped napping and my baby hasn’t worked out a set nap schedule yet. Plus, if either of them is asleep, I’m often asleep, too! But I am hoping to post at least once or twice a month.
Here are some things you can hopefully look forward to here at Jedi by Knight in 2021:
The return of Fan Art Friday, where Kiri and I both color the same picture from the Star Wars coloring book, often with very different results
More doodles from my school notebook margins, as I found a big stack of them when we were moving
A few more book reviews; there were a couple books I read last year that I made notes on but never found time to write the full post
Weekly Lens-Artist photo challenges will continue as much as possible, though the content will change. Since I am typically posting from my phone now, I will be sharing mostly photos from my daily life taken on my phone instead of images from my travels.
What would you guys like to see me write more about? Writing? Books? Star Wars? Nerdy parenting?
I have also come around to the WordPress block editor. It may be a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, but it seems to be working for me, especially when blogging with the WP app on my phone. Which is great, because I’m currently doing almost everything one-handed while holding a baby, and also the WP website is kind of crap right now.
Happy 2021 everybody! What are you looking forward to this year?