Tag Archives: creatures

My Favorite Books of 2020

5 Dec

At the end of every year I like to blog about my favorite reads—the books I couldn’t put down, the books that shocked me, the books that will stay with me forever—and this year is no different. I’m going to be talking about my 2020 favs. If you’re interested in my previous years, here’s 2019, 2018, 2017. To add a little clarity, these are books that I read in 2020, not necessarily books that released in 2020. You can see the full list of books that I’ve read this year on Goodreads.

This year, I read a total of 96 books (though I admit I’m still adding to it)! It’s kind of funny actually. Last year, I remarked that it was the year of the audiobook, because I listened to a lot of them while driving for my day job. Well, that came to a screeching halt this year. I’ve been working from home since March, so I haven’t listened to many audiobooks this year. Instead, I spent a lot of time reading Webtoons and re-reading old favorites. I guess you could say it was the year of nostalgia for me. But there was still plenty of new reads, too! Out of all the new reads I came across, these were my favorites. 

Favorite series:

The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black

I was way behind on this trend and picked up this trilogy for the first time this year. It’s also my audiobook exception. I listened to all three during my commute to work before the pandemic sent me home, and I gotta say that I devoured these. I started taking the long route just to listen to more (or sitting in my driveway after getting home from work just to listen to the next scene). The audiobooks are fantastic. I, like many YA readers, loved this trilogy from beginning to end. I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I found Jude so easy to cheer on. Cardan had to grow on me (but that’s the point!), and the magic was super fun. The second book was probably my favorite. But in the end, I am convinced that Holly Black is the queen of fae. 

Favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy

Sci-Fi: Skyhunter by Marie Lu: I’m a huge fun of Marie Lu, so I’m always looking forward to her latest. This book is wild, and I especially loved the first half. It was really imaginative, from hints of our world as a lost-past, to vampire-zombie-like beasts that are attacking everyone, my heart was pounding. I knew I’d love it from the opening pages alone.  

Dystopian: All These Monsters by Amy Tintera. I picked this up on a whim when I saw it while scanning the library catalog. If you loved 2009 dystopian books, this is the perfect read. It has all those elements that you used to love, plus some. Clara, the main character, is really easy to root for, and I think the second book will be even more explosive! 

Fantasy: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab: If you want to sink into prose like it’s a warm, rose-petal bath after a long, terrible day, then this book is for you. I definitely think it’s among Schwab’s strongest work. It’s slow, but in a delicious way. So if you need constant action, it might not be for you. But if you want an emotional discovery of what happens when a woman wishes for independency from a god of the night, then pick this up immediately. You will not be disappointed. 

Favorite Contemporaries

Favorite Thriller: They Never Learn by Layne Fargo. I’m starting this off with a trigger warning: TW: sexual assault, especially to do with college campuses. This book was hard to read, but oh so worth it. It deals heavily with themes of sexual assault, especially in regard to what is happening on college campuses. That said, it’s about a professor who is taking matters into her own hands and killing men who have done horrible things but weren’t punished. It’s a brutal, raw book, and I couldn’t put it down. But the trigger warning should not be taken lightly. Take care of yourself while reading, and be careful when recommending it to others please!

Contemporary: Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan. (It’s also a movie now!) I read this at the very, very beginning of 2020, but it has stayed with me! It starts off in Missouri, which is where I currently live. At the time of publication, a minor could only get an abortion with a parent’s consent form. Since then, Missouri has shut down all abortion clinics. So this book was really timely. It follows the story of a girl who wants an abortion in Missouri, but can’t get one, until an old friend offers to help drive her to New Mexico. An insane road trip happens, and you have a really great story about friendship and family, while tackling some important issues. 

Verse: The Truth Project by Dante Medema: This book is written in verse and follows a girl who takes a genealogy test only to learn that she is the result of an affair—one her father and siblings don’t know about. It’s a powerful story and such a quick read. Definitely recommended. 

Favorite Fun Categories

Favorite debut: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen: Ever is sent away on what is supposed to be an educational Taiwan trip over the summer, but it turns out to be a place where usually strict parents look the other way. For the first time in her life, Ever has lots of room for rebellion, parties, and boys. I won’t lie, I am Team Xavier, and I really hope we get to see more of him in the sequel. This book is so much fun. 

Favorite What-is-happening-right-now: Horrid by Katrina Leno: This was my favorite horror read. I picked it up over Halloween and read it in one sitting. It’s such a quick read, and it slowly immerses you in the uncomfortable until you are stuck flipping pages, gapping. It’s so good, and the ending—CHILLS.

That book I should’ve read forever ago, but finally got to it: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson: This book is also that book. You know, the one I should’ve read forever ago, but somehow just read this year and totally loved. It sat on my TBR pile forever, and now I have no idea why. Goes to show you that sometimes you can find those favorite reads in those unread books piling up on your nightstand. If you love magical prose and books that are magic, then this book is for you. It’s one of my favs. 

Biggest surprise: 

Creatures by Chrissy Van Meter: I think I heard about this book through Shelf Awareness, a library newsletter, but don’t quote me on that. I just remember seeing the cover, stopping, and reading the description, then needing to read it. Friendly warning, you will feel like you are drowning while reading this book—which is the whole point. Talk about atmosphere. It is done with terrifying perfection in this novel, and that alone makes me recommend it to everyone I know. The content is really focused on family sins and how generational trauma is passed on from one person to another, but you will feel like you’ve lived in a coastal lobster village after putting it down. SO. GOOD.

Webtoons

I needed to make an entire section dedicated to Webtoons this year, because I read so many of them and loved them even more. If you haven’t yet checked them out, I highly recommend doing so. In case you missed it, I also wrote a small article: What Novelists Can Learn From Webtoons. That said, my top three are:

Thriller/Mystery: The Purple Hyacinth, which follows a cop who teams up with a serial killer’s henchman to catch the ultimate crime boss, a person who caused an act of terror ten years prior. Did I mention the cop can tell when someone is lying? Also, this Webtoon has the best soundtrack ever. 

Fantasy: Siren’s Lament: A young adult fantasy romance that really focuses on grief, loss, family, and friendship after Lyra, who’s broken hearted falls into the sea and is kissed by a merman. The exchange is supposed to turn him back into a human and her into a mermaid, but instead they both get stuck in-between. Now the mystery must be solved before Lyra turns into a full mermaid and loses her memories—and her chance at love.  

Sci-Fi: In the bleak midwinter: A sci-fi for all terminator fans. Really, though, I’m not even the biggest fan of the terminator, but I LOVE this webtoon. It starts in the present day, but quickly devolves into the future, where Anya finds herself immortalized against her will, and the world as she knows it is gone, robots hunting down humans. Did I mention that she has a soulmate timer? (A timer that goes off when you meet your soulmate??? AND it goes off when she meets one of the killer robots.) Dun. Dun. Dun.   

Ultimate favorite:

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: I read this front to back without stopping, which was a big deal in 2020. I had a really hard time getting into books this year, I won’t lie. Not because I don’t love reading, but because this year was so damn hard. THIS book made me forget everything, and that is why it gets my favorite slot. It follows Avery, who inherits a lot of money from a total stranger, but there’s one rule: She must live in the mansion for one year, and the mansion includes the billionaire’s four grandsons—not to mention dozens of head-twisting puzzles that Avery must solve in order to understand why she inherited his wealth. It’s full of mystery, family secrets, a true tragedy, and a little bit of falling in love. I cannot wait for book two. 

I hope you found some books you might check out! I would also love to hear about your favorites. I’m always looking for recs. 

Who knows? Maybe one of your recs will be on my favorites list next year. 😉 

Happy reading!

~SAT

Writing Tips: Creating the Paranormal

16 Sep

As many of you know, Minutes Before Sunset is a YA paranormal romance, and my other novel, November Snow, is a YA sci-fi. Although I’ve written in other genres, I wanted to concentrate on these genres, because I’ve found a lot of people (especially those who hesitate to try out the genre) think the genre only consists of vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. While these creatures aren’t bad, this belief is completely wrong. There are all kinds of demons, witches, time travelers, magically-empowered beings, and shape-shifters that aren’t werewolves.

For writers, I wanted to talk about this belief and going beyond the vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. There are so many creatures and/or legends to get inspiration from. But where do we start?

Three things you can consider:

1. Creating your own creature entirely–something never heard or seen of before.

At some point, an author used a creature for the first time. Even vampires were new at one point. But there seems to be one thing these creatures have in common: they come from legends, stories passed down for generations. There are entire websites dedicated to urban legends, so why don’t we expand and use these to inspire new legends? You can also use mythical creature lists and/or other cultures tales. For instance, I am fascinated by Japanese legends; they seem to be entirely different than Western legends, so it helps inspire that stretch of creativity.

From the New X Group: Black Eyed Kids

From the New X Group: Black Eyed Kids: I imagine this is how Fudicia would look.

Fun fact: “Lights” in Minutes Before Sunset were inspired by the legend of the black-eyed children, kids who show up at your door and attempt to coax you to allow them inside your home. I also thought it was a perfect legend to use, because it’s really popular in Missouri, and, at the time of writing Minutes Before Sunset, I was living on the border of Kansas-Missouri, and the novel is set in Kansas. However, these black-eyed children have been reported from all around the world throughout history, so…look out and don’t open your door for them! ;]

2. Using a spin-off of an already popular creature.

Personally, I love any creature as long as the author makes it their own. For instance, The Forest of Hands and Teeth revolves around zombies, but they aren’t called zombies. They’re called the Unconsecrated, and that’s just the beginning. They have all types of rules, explaining why some act differently and what created others. This concept became a writing obsession for me. Personally, I think I combined 1 & 2 in my writing style. I love creating something new, something that might be influenced by one creature and spun into another world entirely, but it is generally influenced by another creature I’ve heard of.

For instance, you might realize the Minutes Before Sunset “shades” fit under shape-shifting, telepathics. Even though they are “shape-shifters,” they only shape-shift into another person and only one person. In other words, they have two identities. There isn’t a lot of range when it comes to their shape-shifting abilities, but they have other magical abilities when they are shades or lights. When it comes to their telepathy, they can talk to one or more people at once. (Like a private message and/or a chat room.) They can also block people from communicating with them. Other shades–specifically Eric’s father, named Jim (or Bracke)–can sense when people are using their telepathic abilities.

3. Write with the traditional version of any creature.

I want to clarify that there is nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to create something new. You can use the traditional vampire if that’s what your writing heart desires. What matters is the storyline, and it’s entirely possible to have a fantastic story with a traditionally used creature.

Basically: there are endless possibilities and ways to create the paranormal worlds readers love.

So embrace the upcoming fall, make a bonfire, sit around, and tell some paranormal stories. Who knows what will influence your inspiration next.

If you have any experience in creating or using traditional paranormal creatures, please share! 

~SAT

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