Monday, January 30, 2017

The Genius: Rules of the Game Main Match Rankings

So, here we are once again to do a ranking of things related to The Genius. Recently, I ranked the players of season 1 of The Genius, so if you missed that, you can check it out here

Like last time, I'm assuming you've found your way here because you're also a fan of this beautiful show. If that's not the case, turn back now, because I'll be discussing spoilers for season 1 and I really don't want to spoil you. 

Actually, I take that back. The first episode of the show is embedded below, so I encourage you to check that out. That being said, don't return to this post until after you've finished the season, because I'll be talking about stuff from the entire season. But that's all I'll talk about, so there will be no spoilers for subsequent seasons of the show.

Before I jump into my ranking of the Main Matches of S1, I wanted to briefly touch on my criteria for this ranking. Although I moved stuff around afterward, I did begin ranking these using a set scoring system. My 3 criteria for that were concept, gameplay, and entertainment. Breaking that down a bit:
Concept- Does the concept of the game interest me? Is it something I want to try? How does it compare to other Genius games in intrigue and complexity?
Gameplay- The actual strategy used by the players. Did they figure out a hack? Did they come up with clever strategies? Did The Genius theme or Extreme Ways start playing at a key moment?
Entertainment- Was it overall fun to watch this main match unfold? Usually, clever gameplay is entertaining, but sometimes it's not. 

Like I said, I scored each match in these categories, but I did shift stuff around just a touch because I like to keep things fluid. But I'll get into more detail when discussing each game. Let's go ahead and jump into the list!

11) Abundance and Famine

Don't even pretend you didn't see this coming. This is by far the weakest game of the season and it was also the least interesting one to watch. It's hard to even say that there was good gameplay on this as well, because the winning team miscalculated their tickets and would've lost if they hadn't purchased more. This was the first episode that was extremely straightforward, and that simply wasn't entertaining to watch. After the first round, it was incredibly clear that the large group was going to win and nothing got in their way. The most interesting thing that happened in this game was Changyeop pretending to purchase tickets and actually going through the motions. 

10) Election Game

When I first learned about this game and watched the episode, I enjoyed it. I listened to Geniuscast afterward and they described this as one of the worst games this season. I was surprised at the time, but looking back I have to agree. The rewind reveal is really great and clever, but it basically makes everything we've watched for the rest of the episode completely pointless. In terms of the concept, it's pretty solid. In terms of the gameplay, it's pretty solid as well. Both sides of the game make smart decisions to propel them toward a win-- it just turned out that one side was being completely played. However, in terms of entertainment, it's pretty low. Nearly every game is more entertaining to watch than this one. Except Abundance and Famine, of course.

9) Expression Auction

From what I've seen online, this might be a controversial opinion, but I thought the Expression Auction was just alright. When I scored this one in the 3 categories, it got average scores across the board, meaning that it's a solid game but not as memorable as other games for me. It's got a fairly interesting concept-- the best aspect of which is the betting blocks that you can't reuse. Gameplay-wise, it's pretty solid as well. Most of them have solid strategies and are able to implement it well. Entertainment-wise it's pretty average. There's not a major twist/reveal, but there are some clever moments. And Sunggyu being smug.

8) 1,2,3 Game

I think that this was a really great game to start off the season, but in the grand scheme of Genius games, this one is just pretty average. The gameplay is all over the place-- some people play really complexly and form a solid strategy, other people take a simple route and secure a spot in the middle, and other people are completely miserable. In terms of entertainment, it's a bit up and down as well. The Minseo/Sunggyu/Kyungran controversy is really entertaining, as are Jinho and Junseok's problems. However, Jimmy Cha teaching everyone is one of my least favorite things in this season. I enjoy everyone puzzling things out on their own, not having a single person explain the simple strategy. We could've gotten more entertaining gameplay from that, while instead we only got solid but boring strategy from about half the players.

In short, across the board, this is a solid game with a wide range of gameplay solidity and entertainment.

7) Confined Scamming Horse Race

Nearly all of the entertainment from this episode came from the clip embedded above. The Sunggyu/Sangmin bromance was in peak form this episode. However, this is only partially because of the game itself. The fact that they were locked in separate rooms made this scene really great... but I don't necessarily think that it made the game really great. In general, I tend to be biased against games that bring in people from outside, whether it's friends, randos or previous players (though the previous players are the least egregious for me). I guess it's an extra variable for the contestants to work around, which can be a good thing strategically. However, I feel like I never enjoy watching the dynamic created by the new group of people. 

In this case, it was hit and miss. HaHa was TV gold. He did exactly as Sangmin instructed and made it hilariously entertaining. I'm fairly certain there'd be no Hongchul on S2 if not for HaHa in this game. However, the other three helpers were duds in one way or another. Jinho's helper was a mess (shoulda got Yohwan), Sunggyu's helper refused to listen to him, and Kyungran won despite being oblivious because of her partner. I just don't think their influence on the game was a good thing. The concept of the game was alright, HaHa and Sunbae/Hoobae were entertaining, but the gameplay was a bit weak. Except Sangmin, of course. 

6) Kong's Dilemma

This is another game that I think is well-loved by Genius fans, and I think I'm a bit lower than most people on this one. Overall, I think this is a fairly interesting concept for a Genius game. It's not an all-time favorite for me, but it's definitely an interesting concept. And in general, I think the gameplay was really good in this game, especially from Sangmin and Sunggyu. Entertainment-wise, this one didn't stick with me very much. I remember a couple things here or there, like Sangmin trying to share his team's information and obviously, Sunggyu betraying his team and getting a solo win by keeping back a single kong. But other than that, there's nothing that stands out to me as extremely fun to watch (relative to other games in The Genius. Obviously in the grand scheme of things to watch this is still elite). This is a game that is stronger in the concept and strategy department, but weaker in the entertainment department.

5) Scamming Horse Race

I really enjoy the concept of this game. Games that hinge on information exchange are generally fun to watch because it's so easy to lie to someone and completely screw everyone else over. I definitely like this version of the game better than the "confined" version of this game, because I prefer the contestants having their fate in their own hands instead of depending on some sort of outside force. Overall, I felt like most people played this game well-- even Eunji, whose lie threw everyone else off their game. And those who weren't playing well (*cough*Poong*cough*) were really fun to watch, because he just went all-in on some random horse and it was hilarious. 

4) 5:5 Game

I think many people aren't big fans of this game, but I really like it. I think the concept is really interesting- from the fact that random strangers show up with no explanation, to the fact that they have a limited number of characters to work with. In the end, I think that the weakness of this game is that it's one of the easier ones to figure out, but I think it was really entertaining to see the different ways that each of them was able to hack the game. Kyungran figures out quickly that she can add things together to get exactly 5, Sangmin runs around giving people bracelets and noting specific things about people, and Jinho creates unique information by rubbing people's hands and telling them his brother's name. 

I think all of them showed their cleverness in different ways and that was really great to watch. On top of that, it was so much fun to watch the three of them completely confused when they're simply told to ask people questions with no context. Overall, although this is a game that is fairly easy to figure out, I loved seeing the different ways that each of them hacked the game, and I think that's where the quality of the game lies. 

3) Catch the Burglar

I'll admit, I'm rather biased. I'm a sucker for what I like to call the "Hidden Traitor" trope. AKA someone is secretly a traitor & betraying other people. Hence my love of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie & the early 2000s TV show, The Mole (which you should totally watch if you're a fan of The Genius). And that's why I love games like this. There were two of those this season, and I liked this one just slightly less. I think the concept for this game is really cool. I think that in practice, it may not be the most entertaining to watch, but I absolutely love the concept. I think the gameplay overall was pretty solid. They came up with a smart way to determine the burglar quickly, and one village ran with that information, while the other made a critical blunder. I don't think this stands up to later games with the "hidden traitor" trope, but I can't help but love games that center around something like this. 

2) Zombie Game

I don't want to be a broken record, so I'll just briefly mention that this is the other "hidden traitor" game that we get this season. This one ranks higher because I like it slightly better than Catch the Burglar in all three categories I was looking at. This concept is by far my favorite of the season. I absolutely love games like Mafia/Werewolf, so the second I heard this concept, I was all-in. I think that this game would've benefited from either a re-shuffling of the Zombie cards (*sigh* Jungmoon. *UGH*) or the removal of Sangmin. I'm still impressed by how he immediately pegged Gura as the other zombie. If we'd gotten better zombies, I think this game could've been played to its full potential. 

We still get some really great gameplay from the 5 human winning alliance, who somehow managed to get everyone to the same point total despite the fact that Poong was having trouble keeping track of all of the touching. We also get a really great moment of Changyeop spitting into his cure and Sangmin drinking it. The chaos that ensues is hilarious. And we also get some really clever gameplay by Gura and Sunggyu, who dupe everyone into thinking that Gura isn't a zombie. From what I've seen and heard, this one isn't considered one of the better games this season, but it's definitely high up there for me.  

1) Open, Pass

Open, Pass is the perfect example of a game that just didn't grab me immediately. When it's first explained, it just doesn't sound very entertaining, even if there's good strategy. And then Jinho steps up with his cards, Extreme Ways starts playing, and we get the best reveal of the season. While Sunggyu was buying up packages of cards and discovering the different colored backs (which was also fun to watch, especially when Eunji called him out), Jinho discovered a hack that I'm surprised anyone figured out. Originally, I wasn't even sure that it was supposed to be a hack (because the card colors were clearly supposed to be used for the strategy). However, one of the producers confirmed that they hoped that someone would use the backs of the cards to figure the game out, but seriously... he figured it out via the direction of the pattern on the backs of the cards. That's absolutely genius. Thank goodness Jinho discovered it, because it gives us the best moment of gameplay of the entire season. 

This is the only game out of all of them that got a perfect score for gameplay, because this was an absolutely masterful move from Jinho. I think the best part was that the rest of the players didn't even understand what he'd done with the cards. The fact that the other players split up their cards by color to create optimal equations was clever in its own right, but it pales in comparison to Jinho being able to make the best out of being completely excluded from the rest of the players. This game just ended up completely exceeding all expectations that I had going into it and left me feeling incredibly impressed by the gameplay that Jinho exhibited. 

So, those are my rankings of the Main Matches of The Genius Season 1! I'm sure that everyone reading this will have a pretty different ranking, or will disagree with me on at least one of these, so let's get a discussion going in the comments because I always love talking about this beautiful show. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to create a separate page on my blog for all of my upcoming posts on The Genius, so when that's created I'll link it here. Coming up next will be my rankings for the Season 2 players and Main Matches!

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Genius: Rules of the Game Player Rankings

If you follow me on any of my social media, you'll know that I've gotten completely obsessed with the Korean reality show, The Genius. And since that previous sentence probably applies to approximately zero of you, all my social media is linked at the bottom of this post. 😏

Anyway, I'm assuming that most of you have found your way here because you, too, are a huge fan of The Genius. Which is super exciting for me, because I have very few people to talk about this show with. I talk with people on Twitter or Reddit occasionally, but mostly I've just been shoving The Genius in my friends' faces. And they're about thisclose to killing me for it. So let's get a conversation going in the comments of this post, so we can all chat about The Genius more. 

And if you haven't seen the show, it's embedded below. You should definitely take a moment to watch it, because it's beautiful and perfect. But don't read past this intro until after you've seen all of season 1, because massive spoilers await you.

Today, I'm going to be doing my personal rankings of the players of The Genius Season 1. My rankings will be explained for each, but the list is a mixture of how good of a player I think they are (in this season) and how much I personally like them. That being said, I will be discussing spoilers for Season 1. I won't talk about anything past season 1, but if you haven't seen the entirety of this first season, don't read any further. I really don't want to spoil you on this beautiful show. Sometime in the future, I want to do a post or video on why people should watch The Genius, but today is not that day. 

Similarly, I'll ask that no one comment any spoilers past season 1 as well, since I personally have not completed the entire run of the show. As a point of reference, as of the time I'm writing this sentence, I've seen Seasons 1&2 and half of season 3. (And now, when I'm about to post it, I've seen through the first half of season 4. But I haven't changed anything since starting S4) So just to reiterate: This list is based on Season 1 only. If any of these players return for subsequent seasons, that's not factored in to this list, especially in the case of all-stars because I haven't even seen that season yet. OK, no more rambling. Let's just jump into the list!

13) Minseo

Ugh. Minseo is just not a good player. The only positive thing that she added to this season was that she was at least partially involved with the infamous garnet heist, but she was literally just a vessel for Sangmin's cleverness. In fact, I'd say that she really just played right into his hands. She was easily tricked in episode 1, and only survived to episode two because of the aforementioned garnet heist.

12) Jungmoon

Time to start throwing that shade. Almost no one would argue with my placement of Minseo, but this one might ruffle some feathers. Some people really love Jungmoon... and I just don't get it. In fact, I think she's fairly abysmal this season. The first few episodes, sure, she isn't too bad. Episode 1, she and Changyeop figure out a strategy that's slightly better than Cha's very simple strategy. Not bad at all, but not that clever when compared to some other gameplay going on that episode. Episodes 2 & 3, she's not too big of a deal, so job well done for surviving and not getting chosen for a death match. Unfortunately, that doesn't make for good TV, so personally I didn't find her too entertaining to watch. 

And then we get to episode 4, in which she's a complete and total trainwreck. Like, Jungmoon's gameplay on episode 4 is possibly the worst gameplay from any player this season. She makes it immediately obvious that she's one of the zombies-- Sangmin's intuition wasn't even necessary here. Then, she refuses to admit to being a zombie to her closest ally despite the fact that she's completely incapable of lying convincingly. Then, when she's chosen for the death match, she chooses to play against Changyeop, the person who'd been her closest ally the entire game. Idiotic. And then literally an episode after eliminating Changyeop, she gets eliminated and despite the fact that he doesn't actually take his revenge... he basically gets his revenge. 

11) Jimmy Cha

I'm not going to even pretend like I was sad when Cha left. I think most people at this point were rooting for Cha (and usually are glad he lost by the end of the season), but I was all aboard the "Beat Cha" train when I knew who the two death match players were. I wasn't even incredibly high on Sunggyu at that point, but I still was rooting for him to win. He had at least had entertaining moments, even if he hadn't yet shown his real aptitude for the games.

Cha was just... boring. The Genius is at its most fun and strategic when people are trying to puzzle out the best strategy for the game at hand. It's much less entertaining to watch Cha sit and lecture to a room of people about one way to win. And on top of that, his strategies were... wait for it... SIMPLE. Look, I'm all for people playing to be in the middle. The goal of the main match isn't to win; it's to not go to the death match. But watching players get spoon-fed strategy isn't anywhere near as entertaining as watching the acclaimed "ugly victories and beautiful defeats." Cha getting eliminated was honestly one of the best things to happen to this season.

10) Junseok

I wanted to put Junseok a bit higher, but given that he was eliminated in episode 1, I felt like I didn't have justification for putting him higher than some players that make a bit more of a splash. There's not too much to say about Junseok. He and Jinho came up with a good strategy for episode 1... and then completely failed to implement it correctly. And on top of that, he didn't do very well socially, because he was barging into rooms and only talking to Jinho. Jinho was able to do much better in subsequent episodes, but unfortunately we don't have that for Junseok. And there's something to say for the fact that the single ally he made in the game was able to be swayed to betray him with a single garnet. I personally liked watching this very brief character arc, but he didn't make a big enough impact to show up higher on this list.

9) Eunji

If there's anyone on this cast that I've complained incessantly about, it's Eunji. But when I looked at the list, I realized that she wasn't quite as low as I thought. My main problem with her is that I thought she stayed way too long. And I can't even say that she did that well in main matches, because she went to so many death matches, whether because of her own doing or because someone else picked her. To be honest, she was kind of just... there. There were a couple times when she showed some level of gameplay awareness (hence her placement above some other people) but when we narrowed down to the top 5, she was the CLEAR dud in the group. It left me scratching my head as to how exactly she made it there, when other more solid players had fallen before her. 

8) Yuram

I don't have incredibly strong opinions one way or the other about Yuram, for a few of the same reasons as stated for Eunji. I personally like Eunji less, so she's slightly lower on the list. That being said, I feel like Yuram was a bit of a blah character as well. The strongest opinion that I have is that her death match opponent selection was just dumb. She blatantly picked the person with the largest garnet count every time. Sure, it's good to have garnets. But, if you take out the garnet leader... you become the garnet leader. It worked out for most of the game, but it wasn't a good strategy. She played... alright? She went to a couple death matches along the way. She was part of the majority. But she wasn't entertaining to watch, and she doesn't inspire strong emotions one way or another. 

7) Changyeop

I can hear the complaints now. WHY do I have Changyeop up this high? He didn't really do that much. He wasn't a huge character. True. You're right. But he at least did a couple things that made an impact, especially on me personally. First of all, he was propelled to a win in episode 2. It wasn't necessarily of his own volition, but he had enough sense to shut up and go along with it, and therefore got the token of life and won for the day. And he was a strong enough force in his team for episode 3 that he was given the token of life by the winning player. Are those amazing moves? No. But it's at least something that was slightly more interesting to watch than the actions of the people lower on the list. And the way that he pretended to buy tickets in episode 3 was hilarious and adorable. He literally went through all the actions. Every time. So, was he amazing? No. But he was cute and more entertaining than some other people. 

6) Poong

Poong isn't necessarily a good player, but he's fun to watch. The drama surrounding the alliance with him, Sangmin, and Gura was fun to watch. Yes, he was definitely playing third fiddle to Sangmin and Gura, but watching him turn his back on them was fun. Poong wasn't exactly a disaster or anything, but he was... sloppily funny? I guess? He aligned himself with some strong players and was able to succeed because of that, and he recognized when it was time to jump ship for the bigger, more accepting alliance. On top of this, I think he was just more entertaining to watch than the players who fell lower on this ranking than him. He's got an endearing personality and he's fun to watch. He may not be at the center of attention, but oftentimes, he's right there in the thick of it, and that makes him more entertaining than people who were on the outside.

5) Gura

I have a lot of complaints about Gura. In fact, I really don't like him that much as a person and I don't think he's necessarily a particularly good Genius player. But he brought so. much. entertainment to this season. He created so many of the key moments of the show. He certainly misplayed his hand a bit due to cockiness-- was it really necessary for him to just sleep and ignore everyone in episode 2?-- but he played such a compelling antagonistic role. And he wasn't even really a bad player. He had a lot of good strategies and if his personality didn't get in his way, he could be a force to be reckoned with. 

The obvious complaint about Gura is obviously this major attitude shift in the last couple episodes he's in. The graphic literally calls him a grumpy old man, and that's incredibly accurate. He clearly didn't care anymore and he seemed to feel like he was almost too good for the game. In some cases, this would make him fall in my rankings, but I can't ignore the fun that he brought to the beginning of this season. If he'd stuck around for much longer with his bad attitude, maybe I'd be a bit lower on him, but I feel like he brought the entertainment and promptly exited at the right moment. 


If you've gotten to this point in the post, you're (probably) aware that the top 4 on my ranking are also the top 4 placing players. I just wanted to pause the ranking for a moment to mention that there's a rather large gap between #5 & #4 on this list.  I cannot say enough about this top 4 and how strong they are. Seriously. These 4 are some of my all-time favorite Genius players ever. 

4) Kyungran

OK. I know we're unlikely to get more seasons of The Genius. But if we do, we need more female cast members along the lines of Kyungran. Quite unfortunately, so few of the women on this show have both the challenge prowess and a compelling personality, but Kyungran is one of those few. Kyungran is probably my favorite woman to ever play The Genius. Right out the gate, she shows her craftiness by manipulating Sunggyu and then manipulating Minseo to keep her out of the death match. For some reason, I almost view the Kyungran of episode 1 as a different person than the Kyungran of the rest of the season, because she begins the game so manipulative and the next episode she's very much a team player and maintains that for the rest of the game. 

However, she also shows that she's strong across the board. She doesn't go to a death match until the semi-finals, when there are simply no other options. She wins her fair share of main matches and shows that she's strategically very sound. Some of her best playing is when she aligns herself in the middle of the game with Sangmin and the pair keep each other safe. She was an incredibly strong player who was able to win main matches while still flying under the radar enough that she was never picked for a death match. 

3) Sangmin

This top 3 was incredibly hard to rank. I went back and forth, but based on this season, this is where I ended up putting Sangmin. These top 3 are all solid players in season 1. I love watching them play, I find them endearing, and they had some incredible moments. But Sangmin got edged out because I rooted for the other two more than I rooted for him. 

I don't even know what to say about Sangmin. He's just... brilliant. First and foremost, never forget the Garnet Heist. The Garnet Heist is the defining moment where most people get hooked into The Genius. It's not necessarily the best reveal in the history of the show, but it's the one that introduces you to Sangmin as a player and oh boy is he a great one. He's constantly in the thick of things. He immediately allies with Gura and Poong, which turns out to be the "antagonist" alliance at the beginning of the game, and it almost seems like Sangmin is playing second fiddle to Gura. But it becomes clear rather soon after that Sangmin is the clear star there. Everyone works against the Gura alliance, but Sangmin still manages to keep ties with the other side and gain slight advantages over his alliance members so that he's never in jeopardy. Alongside Kyungran, Sangmin was also never chosen for a death match. He showed time and time again that he was skilled at literally every aspect of The Genius game-- he had a freaking phenomenal intuition, killer strategy, and played a great social game as well.

And on top of that, he's such a dynamic personality. Sangmin bursts onto your screen and refuses to let you go. He's loud and hilarious and commands your attention. Most importantly, he's just so much fun to watch. He knows how to make a show entertaining, and he takes every opportunity that he gets to entertain the audience. Sangmin is a total package. 

2) Sunggyu

I think the hardest part of making this list was choosing who was 1 & who was 2, because these two are basically completely tied. Both are super strong players and I absolutely love them. The reason that Sunggyu ended up at #2 is because I tend to root for Jinho over Sunggyu, and because I think Jinho is a better player. 

HOWEVER, I originally had Sunggyu at #1 on this list for this reason alone: He is by far the most entertaining person to watch this season. He had such a beautiful character arc. At the beginning of the season, he was being portrayed as the bumbling doofus, not quite sure of how the games worked or how to succeed at strategy. Literally, week one, his goal was "I just want to understand the game." Fast forward to his elimination in final four and he's become a dominant, powerhouse player. He and Sangmin do such a good job in the later part of the season as a duo, helping each other succeed and propelling Sunggyu to several wins. 

But, other than the character arc, he just makes the season so much fun to watch. That moment in final four where Sunggyu and Sangmin are tossing notes back and forth is one of my absolute favorite moments in TV history. Seriously. The ending of the episode where he's eliminated is equally heart-wrenching. Everyone's upset and they do this adorable montage of moments he and Jinho had. There are just so many genius Sunggyu moments throughout the season. He's constantly willing to play strategically-- to turn plans on their head and to make it entertaining while doing so. Although he starts a little quiet, he ramps up rather quickly and becomes a key character and a key player. I absolutely love watching him play. He's smart, sneaky, and incredibly endearing, which is the ultimate combination for a Genius player. 

1) Jinho

And obviously, Jinho, our eventual winner, comes in first on my list. I was rooting for my lil Kong the entire way. He was the first person who jumped out at me in the cast. He'd been mentioned in a podcast I listened to, so he was the one I was familiar with going into the season. That podcast didn't give spoilers or anything, so I had no idea of his eventual placement. But, when you pitch someone to me as a gamer who created the sad legend of second place and has never been able to win a tournament... I'm going to root for them. I have a soft spot for nerds and gamers, so he was the ultimate underdog for me. And the fact that he quickly became a prominent character just served to further solidify my love for him.

Like I said when talking about Sunggyu, Sunggyu was probably the most fun player to watch, but the entire time I was rooting for Jinho. And he was the player who impressed me the most in terms of intelligence and strategy. Even in the first couple episodes where he has huge blunders in gameplay, you can tell that he understands the strategy and is incredibly intelligent. He then quickly course-corrects and gets in with the major alliance as the strategist of that group. It's incredibly rare that Jinho has a weak strategy. He may not always implement that strategy correctly, but he knows what he needs to do. Despite the fact that he went to his fair share of death matches in season 1, he was never actually chosen for one-- he just had quite a few beautiful defeats. 

Plus, his gameplay in Open, Pass is still one of the most iconic moments in the show. He found an absolutely brilliant hack to the game that no one else even considered. And that's just one challenge that he totally destroyed. And not only was he a strong player, but he was entertaining to watch and to root for. He's such an underdog. He's in such a bad position at the beginning of the game, but he keeps fighting and constantly finds a way to get through. And he's got an entertaining personality. He's not the biggest personality on the list, but he's also no wallflower. He's constantly a key character on the show, and when he's not, you know that he's scheming something. I just absolutely love him as a player. 

So, those are my rankings of the players on The Genius, Season 1. This is definitely not the last of my posts about The Genius, so I might create a separate page specifically devoted to these. Next up is going to be my rankings of the Main Matches of S1. I think I'm going to hold off on the Death Matches and do all 4 seasons' DMs in one fell swoop since there's so much overlap, so I'll probably be moving on to season 2 after finishing the Main Match post. Because literally all I can think about is this beautiful, perfect show. 

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ranking ALL the Books I Read in 2016

It's that time of year again-- the time when I rank every single book that I read in 2016. I'll try not to ramble too much at the top since this is already going to be a pretty long post, but here's what you need to know:

-- Every book that I read in 2016 is ranked separately. Series are split up into individual books rather than being ranked together in a single spot.
-- Pretty much anything that can be linked is linked. If I wrote more than a sentence or two about it on Goodreads, my written review is linked. If I talked about it in a video, the video is linked. If I did a full book/series review, it's definitely linked. All of the things are linked.
-- Finally, I also have a video where I ranked the top 12 books of 2016. In that video, series are ranked in a single slot, and stuff is shifted around accordingly. 

Now that that's out of the way, let's jump into the list.

58) The Selection
(The Selection #1)
by Kiera Cass

Rating: 4/10

I feel like there isn't very much left to say about this book that I haven't already said in text or in video form. I re-read my blog post on the book and it made me laugh all over again, so I'd definitely suggest to check out that post and the video as well. But very quickly, I thought that the writing and world build were very weak. The characters are annoying. The society is set in some very arbitrary gender norms and sexism that drove me crazy. That being said, it was really fun to read and make fun of, which saved it from being absolutely awful.

57) Ghosted, Volume 1: Haunted Heist
by Joshua Williamson

Rating: 5/10

I was just really underwhelmed by this. It's about a group of people trying to steal a ghost from a haunted house, which sounds like a really cool premise. But this was honestly just a bit... blah. Nothing stood out as very interesting or unique, and I didn't connect to anything in this story at all. Overall, this first volume didn't impress me and I won't be continuing on with this series.

56) Where Futures End
by Parker Peevyhouse

Rating: 5.5/10

I had high hopes for this book. It's a dystopian story told through five novellas that take place throughout time. It's meant to be a bit of a puzzle for the reader to put together-- a mystery for the reader to solve-- but it just wasn't impressive. I thought that it was rather straightforward, and the ultimate reveal left me very underwhelmed. 

55) In Real Life
by Cory Doctorow

Rating: 6/10

In Real Life suffered from being a quick read. It tried to deal with some deeper subject matter, but because of the fact that it was a quick read, everything ended up being very surface level and therefore felt very cliche. There was an attempt to make something very moving, but it was very underwhelming.

54) The Elite
(The Selection #2)
by Kiera Cass

Rating: 6/10

I already said quite a bit about The Selection, and nearly all of that criticism translates over to The Elite. The one thing that makes this one better than book one is that the inherent gender norms & sexism are much less prominent. Everything else about it was still pretty sloppy, but it became a more entertaining read to laugh at/make fun of without the sexism. 

53) Quiet
by Susan Cain

Rating: 6.5/10

This is one of the few non-fiction books that I read this year, and I guess it doesn't have much of a fair chance, because I had to read this for the research assistant position that I held. It was a perfectly fine read, and in terms of non-fiction, books, it certainly wasn't boring. However, it's a novel about the power of introverts in a talkative world, and I felt that (as an introvert) it didn't necessarily give me any insights that I wasn't already aware of. 

52) Reflections of the Mole
by The Mole, Season 2

Rating: 6.5/10

This one needs a brief explanation. The Mole is one of my favorite TV shows ever. EVER. Like... top 2 status. Possibly #1. Anyway, it's a reality show and the premise is that there is a group of contestants who compete in challenges to win money for the group pot, which one of them will eventually win. However, among this group of contestants, one is "The Mole," a person placed there by production who is there to sabotage the games. The contestants' goal is to discover who among them is The Mole. That's the quick synopsis, but it's an absolutely brilliant show and it's available on YouTube, so I highly recommend checking it out.

OK, so now on to the book. The book was written by the person who was The Mole in season 2. The book cover has the author's name and image on it. Since I'm such a big fan, I really don't want to spoil the identity of the mole for anyone, so I'm leaving out the cover. The book talks about the mole's experiences on the show. And I thought it was pretty good. For Mole fans, I think it's a must-read. It gives really awesome insight into some behind the scenes stuff. However, there are some sections dealing with "The Mole's" past that were just boring and unnecessary. On top of that, the book reeeeeally needed editing, as I literally began keeping track of how often the word "inasmuch" was used because it was waywayway overused. Because of that, I couldn't really give it a high rating.

51) Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Rating: 6.5/10

Overall, I thought the Scott Pilgrim series was pretty good, but this was my least favorite volume. There were sections that were pretty nonsensical (which is impressive, given how nonsensical this series is overall). The plot seemed a bit messy in this one, and there were sections that were a bit hard to follow. It was still enjoyable and fun, but definitely lower quality-wise than the rest of the volumes.

50) Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Rating: 6.5/10

This was another shakier volume in the series. It was alright, and it was easier to follow than volume 2, but this one felt a bit forgettable to me. I didn't enjoy it as much as other volumes. And, although the volume was about the same length as the other volumes, it seemed like not quite as much happened in this one. Overall, it was alright, but not as strong as other volumes. 

49) Monster, Vol. 5: After the Carnival
by Naoki Urasawa

Rating: 7/10

So far, this has been my least favorite volume in the Monster series. The series has hovered a bit above this rating, so it's not much below the others, but I felt like not a lot happened in this volume. I still enjoyed it, just not as much as the ones before it. 

48) The Body in the Library
(Miss Marple #3)
by Agatha Christie

Rating: 7/10

Agatha Christie's novels usually fall somewhere in this area, but this one is on the lower end. This was my first Miss Marple mystery, and I found her to be a less compelling sleuth than Hercule Poirot. In fact, I didn't think she was incredibly present in the story. As always with Christie's books, there were interesting twists and turns along the way, but it wasn't as compelling as other books I've read by her.

47) Monster, Vol. 4: Ayse's Friend
by Naoki Urasawa

Rating: 7/10

My one complaint about this volume is that it felt like a diversion from the main plot. The previous volume was my favorite in the series so far, and this one didn't live up to the setup provided by volume 3. 

46) Clockwork Angel (Manga)
(Infernal Devices #1)
by Cassandra Clare

Rating: 7/10

I love The Infernal Devices. I believe that I gave the original novel either 8/10 or 8.5/10, so clearly this one was not as good as the novel. I think that overall, this series is a good adaptation of the original novels, but it's obviously difficult to portray all of the intricacies of a novel in a manga form. And occasionally, the art made it a bit difficult to tell the characters apart.  

TL;DR: The manga adaptation is good, but if you're wanting to check out The Infernal Devices, read the original series because you'll get a lot more out of it.

45) Lumberjanes, Vol 2: Friendship to the Max
by Noelle Stevenson

Rating: 7/10

I've enjoyed the first couple volumes of this series. The first was still better, but the characters are enjoyable, and it's definitely a fun and light-hearted series. Definitely not my favorite series ever, but enjoyable. 

44) Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Rating: 7/10

Not gonna lie, it's been a long time since I read this series, and I read volumes 3-6 in one fell swoop so they all run together a bit. All I can say is that it was enjoyable and that it was a solid installment in the series. Not amazing, but enjoyable. 

43) Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
by Neil Gaiman

Rating: 7.5/10

I have more conflicted opinions about this book than I do about almost any other book ever. I think that this just really, really, really, wasn't my thing. There was nothing wrong with it, and I certainly didn't think that it was bad in any way. I just felt absolutely nothing toward this. Quality-wise, it was perfectly solid. Therefore, I gave it just under 4/5 because it was very clearly a good book, so I couldn't bash it or anything, but I just didn't personally like it or connect with it. 

42) Chew, Vol. 1: Taster's Choice
by John Layman

Rating: 7.5/10

I enjoyed this first volume in the Chew series. It introduced a very intriguing world and enjoyable characters. I enjoyed it, but I haven't continued the series despite the fact that I read this volume almost a year ago. It was good, but it didn't completely grab me and compel me to want to pick up more. I'm still undecided on whether or not to continue this series.

41) Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
by Noelle Stevenson

Rating: 7.5/10

I feel like I already said everything that I wanted to say about this series when talking about volume 2. It's a fun, lighthearted series with interesting characters. I think at this point that I'm not going to continue the series because it wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be, but I think other people will really enjoy it. 

40) The Iron Trial
(Magisterium #1)
by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rating: 7.5/10

I found this to be an enjoyable read, but I found it very hard to disconnect this from Harry Potter comparisons. I found that there were many similarities to Harry Potter, and I found that hard to shake. That being said, I did like this book, and it did introduce a world that was rather different than the Harry Potter world, and that was probably the most interesting aspect of the book. That being said, it didn't totally grab me and I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I'm going to continue the series. 

39) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
(Poirot #4)
by Agatha Christie

Rating: 7.5/10

I'd often heard that this was the best of Christie's Poirot novels, but I think this book really suffered from the fact that it's been 90 years since this book was published. I figured out what was going on rather quickly, for a few reasons: 1) I'm familiar with the way that Christie writes, so I noticed a deviation rather quickly. & 2) In the 90 years since this book was published, other books have borrowed from it. Because of this, despite the fact that this book inspired those other books, this felt less fresh because I'd already seen certain things done before. However, this was still a really great book and I really wish I hadn't figured out what was going on so quickly. 

38) The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson

Rating: 8/10

I kinda picked this up out of the blue. It was nearing Halloween and I was in the mood for some creepy books, and this was one that caught my eye. Overall, I thought it was really intriguing and it kept me interested and trying to figure it out throughout the entirety of the book. It also subverted my expectations quite a bit, because I went in expecting a haunted house story and got quite a bit more than that. 

37) Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 3: Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Rating: 8/10

Like I said, these middle volumes run together a bit, but I do remember enjoying this specific book quite a bit. It added a bit of interest and intrigue to the story that wasn't present in the previous volume, and some of the more interesting moments in the series come into play in this volume.

36) Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Rating: 8/10

Overall, I thought this was a really cool finale to the series. A lot of epic stuff goes down in this volume and it was just a fun conclusion to a fun series. I really want to go back at some point and re-read the series in the hopes that I enjoy it and appreciate it more, because I feel like I did a disservice to the series by reading it so quickly. I think that re-reading with the understanding that I currently have of the series, I'd understand some of the stuff a bit more and therefore hopefully enjoy it more. 

35) Saga, Vol. 5
by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Rating: 8/10

So far, this has been my least favorite volume of Saga, but I did still definitely enjoy it. Overall, this series has been pretty solid, but no singular volume has really impressed me. I guess that "monotony" (not a good word for it, but the only one that really makes sense to me??) got a bit tiring with this one, and it made me enjoy it a bit less.

34) Saga, Vol. 4
by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Rating: 8/10

Pretty much the same reasoning that I gave for volume 5. This series is enjoyable, but it's just been solid rather than impressive. I want it to finally wow me, and it continually doesn't. I enjoyed this volume slightly more, so it ended up slightly higher. 

33) Peril at End House
(Poirot #8)
by Agatha Christie

Rating: 8/10

I really enjoyed this Poirot novel. Often, it's very hard to keep track of what is going on in Poirot's brain because he's just so intelligent, but there were actually some moments where I was able to follow along with what was going on, and I really enjoyed that. I loved that I figured out one corner of the puzzle, and got the rest of it pieced together for me by Poirot. And it was also a really interesting mystery to try to figure out. It kept me guessing and on my toes. Overall, a really solid Poirot novel. 

32) Clockwork Prince (Manga)
(Infernal Devices Manga #2)
by Cassandra Clare

Rating: 8/10

Once again, I liked this manga adaptation a bit less than the original novel, which I believe I gave either 8.5/10 or 9/10. And it's pretty much for the same reasons as with the first volume. The characters get slightly confused with some of the illustrations, and some of the intricacies are missed out on when changed into a manga format.

31) Off to Be the Wizard
(Magic 2.0 #1)
by Scott Meyer

Rating: 8/10

This was a really fun, light-hearted novel. I loved the narrator's voice. He was funny, witty, sarcastic, and really relatable. The thing that kept me from loving this book was that the plot wasn't quite as compelling for me. There was always interesting stuff going on, but the plot was a bit choppy, which made it a bit less enjoyable. It was a fun read, and I did really enjoy it, but it hasn't gripped me so much that I feel the need to pick up book 2 ASAP.

30) Saga, Vol. 6
by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Rating: 8/10

I'll mention the same exact criticism about the series not wowing me, but I did feel like this volume was a bit more intriguing and I'm hoping that the series is ramping up for something exciting.

29) Monster: Perfect Edition, Vol. 1
(Bindup of original vol. 1 & 2)
by Naoki Urasawa

Rating: 8/10

As mentioned above, this is a bindup of the first 2 volumes of this series. The first time I read this, I actually gave it 7.5/10 (3/5) but when I got further in the series, I bumped it up to 4/5. I thought this gave some really interesting and solid background for the series. It really establishes the main character's background and is just really solid setup for the volumes to follow.

28) Death Note: Black Edition, Vol. 4
(Bindup of original vol. 7 & 8)
by Tsugumi Ohba

Rating: 8/10

This is my least favorite volume in the Death Note series, but it's still a solid volume. The end of original volume 7 is fairly controversial for fans of the series, and is the majority of the reason that this volume is this low. I won't go into detail, but I wasn't a huge fan of it and it took me a while to come to terms with it and accept it. 

27) Death Note, Black Edition, Vol. 2
(Bindup of original vol. 3 & 4)
by Tsugumi Ohba

Rating: 8/10

I love this series, and have enjoyed every volume. That being said, I'm one of those people who's a bit averse to change. The first black edition sets up a really interesting series and this volume is when that setup begins to get twisted, changed, and shuffled around. It took a while for me to actually come to terms with that and appreciate it. I eventually did, but since this was the transition, this was lower on my list of favorites.

26) Wolf in White Van
by John Darnielle

Rating: 8.5/10

This book was rather outside of my comfort zone, but I ended up really enjoying it. It's very complex, jumping around and playing with the timeline in very interesting ways. It's one of those books that is a slow burn, getting you more and more interested as the book goes on. However, I felt like it burned and burned... just to fizzle out with an ending that was a bit unsatisfying. So that's where the points were docked.

25) Calamity
(Reckoners #3)
by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 8.5/10

This is a solid book, but it's actually my least favorite Brandon Sanderson book. A lot of interesting stuff happened in the finale to this trilogy. There was some really awesome fast-paced action, and even though it was the weakest book in the series, the series was pretty solid overall.

24) The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

Rating: 8.5/10

This book is notoriously difficult to describe to people who haven't read it, but it's this very odd mix of a creepypasta/no sleep story and a children's story. That sounds weird, but that's because it is. I thought it was a very unique and endearing story.

23) Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
by Brian Lee O'Malley

Rating: 8.5/10

I really loved this first volume in the Scott Pilgrim series. I immediately connected with Scott as a character and the general tone and humor of the series. This volume is seriously the reason that I want to go back and re-read the whole thing because I really appreciate this first volume and I want to appreciate the rest of it in the same way.

22) Monster, Vol. 3: 511 Kinderheim
by Naoki Urasawa

Rating: 8.5/10

So far, this is my favorite volume in the Monster series. It added some really interesting depth to both the plot and to the antagonist, and the plot was extremely interesting.

21) Dark Matter
by Blake Crouch

Rating: 8.5/10

The premise of this novel grabbed me really quickly, and the book didn't disappoint. It was a really intriguing thriller, and kept me constantly on the edge of my seat. It was really interesting to follow the main character as he tries to understand what exactly is going on and there are so many complexities that make it incredibly compelling. 

20) Orange: The Complete Collection, Vol. 2
(Bindup of original vol. 4 & 5)
by Ichigo Takano

Rating: 8.5/10

This was an incredibly heartwarming story, but I'll talk about that more when we get to volume 1. The reason this one is lower is mostly because some of the logistics underlying this series are finally explained in this volume... and it's an incredibly flimsy explanation. The story is still incredibly endearing and adorable and heartwarming, but it's a bit of a knock on what otherwise is a really great series. 

19) Death Note: Black Edition, Vol. 5
(Bindup of original vol. 9 & 10)
by Tsugumi Ohba

Rating: 8.5/10

So much interesting stuff goes down in this volume. The series regains its footing a bit after the incident in black edition vol 4 and begins to prepare for the epic finale in B.E. vol 6. 

18) Death Note: Black Edition, Vol. 3
(Bindup of original vol. 5 & 6)
by Tsugumi Ohba

Rating: 8.5/10

This volume is really where the series gains a lot of momentum. The back and forth between these extremely clever/genius characters is incredibly compelling and just really entertaining to watch. So much intriguing stuff in this volume. 

17) The Queen of the Tearling
(Tearling Trilogy #1)
by Erika Johansen

Rating: 8.5/10

2016 was the year that I finally got through The Queen of the Tearling. I'd tried reading it twice and set it down both times-- not because I didn't enjoy it, but because it's a slower read and took a while to get into it. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The main character, Kelsea, is really likable. The world is well-crafted and really interesting. The plot is a bit slow-paced, but introduces a lot of very compelling aspects. I haven't moved on to book 2, but this was definitely a really interesting introduction to the series. 

16) Clockwork Princess (Manga)
(Infernal Devices Manga #3)
by Cassandra Clare

Rating: 8.5/10

I don't want to be a broken record, but it's still not quite as good as the original. Gave me lots of feels, but the original was my favorite book of 2014 and a full 10/10 stars, but the manga series still has a few little problems. Still really enjoyed it, but the novels are definitely better. 

15) Obsidian
(Lux #1)
by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: 8.5/10

This was my last read of the year, and oh boy was it a doozy. It's like Jennifer L Armentrout took everything that you hate from Twilight and was like "I'm gonna make you love this." It was one of those books that you just can't put down, and I got so incredibly engrossed in it. It wasn't the best thing that I've ever read, but it was a super fun read. 

14) Death Note: Black Edition, Vol. 1
(Bindup of original vol. 1 & 2)
by Tsugumi Ohba

Rating: 9/10

This was such a great introduction to the Death Note series. Watching our main character, Light, begin to understand the Death Note is really compelling, and getting introduced to L as a character is really interesting as well. The setup for this series is just incredibly compelling and it immediately sucked me into this world and made me want to read more. 

13) Don't Look Back
by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: 9/10

This was my first Jennifer L. Armentrout book and it made me want to read every other book she publishes. This is one of the most addicting books I've ever read. I was immediately interested in what exactly was going on, and the suspense and intrigue surrounding the plot and the characters made the book impossible to put down. I was up until 5 AM reading this book, before finally forcing myself to put it down and go to sleep. It was so interesting and just so addicting. 

12) Steelheart
(Reckoners #1)
by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 9/10

This is a really good introduction to the Reckoners Trilogy. David, our main character, has a really great voice with his failed attempts at humor. The world is really interesting, and the plot is also very compelling. Brandon Sanderson does not disappoint.

11) Firefight
(Reckoners #2)
by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 9/10

And... here he is again. This is definitely my favorite book in the Reckoners Trilogy. I read the majority of it in one sitting because so much stuff was going down and I wanted to find out exactly what all of those things were. The plot is really compelling, the characters are really awesome, and some of the stuff that goes down in this book is just... whoa.

10) Coda
(Coda #1)
by Emma Trevayne

Rating: 9/10

The world of Coda is super cool, and I immediately fell in love with it. It's a dystopian novel centering around music, and if there's anything I love, it's dystopian novels and music. The society is incredibly interesting, and despite the overarching predictability of the novel, there were lots of things along the way that really surprised me, and I really loved it. 

9) Lair of Dreams
(The Diviners #2)
by Libba Bray

Rating: 9/10

This series is only two books in out of an eventual four, but it has completely made me fall in love with it. Both books have really impressed me. The 20s mood that is created in this series is outstanding. The way that Libba Bray weaves together different storylines between different characters is outstanding, and the characters are all so fleshed out and interesting. This one wasn't quite as good as book 1 but oooooh boy is it good. Eagerly waiting for book 3.

8) Death Note: Black Edition, Vol. 6
(Bindup of original vol. 11 & 12)
by Tsugumi Ohba

Rating: 9.5/10

This was such an amazing conclusion to what proved to be one of my all-time favorite series. The sheer genius of the characters and of the schemes that they come up with is just so entertaining and so amazing to watch. And it all comes to this amazingly impressive head in volume six that was so complex that even I had trouble keeping up sometimes. It was so epic and so awesome. Seriously, read this series. And then watch the anime.

7) Orange: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1
(Bindup of original vol. 1,2 & 3)
by Ichigo Takano

Rating: 9.5/10

Like I said with vol. 2, this series is adorable. It's just such an endearing story of friends and their love for each other throughout the years and the lengths that they will go to in order to help each other and bring each other happiness. It's just so heartwarming and so adorable and I fell completely in love with this story.

6) Carry On
by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 9.5/10

I went into this rather skeptical and came out of it completely in love. At first, it seems to be a Harry Potter fanfic that somehow got published, but it quickly diverts from that into a really wonderful and unique story. It plays with typical tropes in really interesting ways, and at many moments it's just... so... cute. It did take me a little while to get into this, but once I did, I fell completely in love. 

5) The Way of Kings
(Stormlight Archive #1)
by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 9.5/10

This book is epic. Brandon Sanderson, as always, is incredibly impressive. This story is massive. This world is massive. There's so much stuff going on that I can't really even talk about one thing specifically. It did take me a little while to get engrossed in this, but it's a 1000 page book that's the first in a 10 book series. There's a lot of setup, but it's just so well crafted. 

4) The Forgetting
by Sharon Cameron

Rating: 10/10

Yet another book that I simply couldn't put down. The premise of this novel was so intriguing and the novel certainly didn't let me down. It did slightly rely on some familiar tropes, but personally that didn't take away from my reading experience in any way, shape, or form. The world-build was super interesting, I really loved the characters, the plot kept me intrigued, and there was a cute romance on top of that. This was the total package.

3) The Chimes
by Anna Smaill

Rating: 10/10

Speaking of the total package, allow me to introduce you to The Chimes. This. Book. Is. Beautiful. It's very heavy on the literary fiction, but it's also a dystopian novel with an incredibly interesting world. Smaill's prose, with all of the musical aspects woven into it, is stunning, and the story is really wonderful as well. The world-build is super solid, and despite the plot being a bit slower in the beginning, it's very intriguing as it continues on. This was longlisted for the ManBooker in 2015 and there's definitely a reason why. 

2) The Mime Order
(The Bone Season #2)
by Samantha Shannon

Rating: 10/10

The Mime Order solidified this series as my favorite ongoing series. It's not quite as great as The Bone Season, but I still really loved it. The world in this series is fantastic. I love our main character, Paige, as well as the other key characters in the mix. The plot in this story is also really intriguing and allows us to explore a different section of the world that we didn't get to see too much in the first book. Basically, I'm just really excited about book 3's release in March.

1) Warbreaker
by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 10/10

This. Man. Sanderson. He's so good. I love this book so much. It was the ultimate package. The world? Fantastic. The magic system? Holy crap amazing. The characters? LOVED. THEM. The plot? Woven beautifully. Everything was outstanding. Everything. I have nothing bad to say about this book. It's so good. 

So, that's my ranking of the books that I read in 2016! Overall, I think it was a really great reading year and I'm very happy with the majority of the books that I read in 2016. Hopefully, my 2017 reading year will be just as great, if not better!

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