Tag Archives: Purple Hyacinth

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

What Novelists Can Learn from Webtoons

1 Aug

I won’t lie, 2020 has been the year of the Webtoon for my reading list. There are a couple reasons for this, the main one being access. When COVID first hit and Kansas City closed down, the library shut its doors completely, and that’s where I get 99% of my books. Granted, I managed to smuggle a pretty big TBR pile home beforehand and they have since opened up curbside service. But I also found myself consistently drained of energy by the end of my workday. A whole novel often felt like too much commitment. I just wanted to read something quick and fun, and be able to put it down at the end of the evening without more pending pages or due dates.

And so, Webtoons entered my life. 

A little background: I’ve always loved graphic novels. I grew up on manga, and I had heard of Webtoons from my reader friends who were enjoying them. The selling point for me was the free app. I downloaded it to my phone and started reading immediately. Which brings me to my first, and perhaps biggest, point: 

Episode Release/Payment Model/Community

This is more relevant to indie authors who have more control over their release dates and payment systems, but I find the Webtoon model really fascinating. Basically, you can read 100% for free—if you are patient. On average, a Webtoon releases one episode a week for free. If you want to read ahead of the free release, you’ll have to pay with coins, which you can purchase in the coin store. Sometimes, you get to spin a wheel and earn free coins. I love this setup a lot more than I thought I would. 

I don’t mind getting cut off and having to wait. It not only gives me something to look forward to throughout my week, but it also frees up some space, where I can read 3-4 Webtoons at the same time without feeling like I have to read the whole thing before my library due date comes up. In many ways, it actually keeps me reading, because my phone sends me a notification every week with updates, whereas an eBook or novel just sits on my device or nightstand, and am in charge of remembering it. (I know how that sounds, trust me, but speaking honestly, there’s something inherently satisfying about getting notifications from something you are looking forward to but don’t have to remind yourself of.) It changes the tone of your day. Even better? If I absolutely can’t stand that cliffhanger and I need to keep reading, I have that option. (Which, if you want a lesson in writing cliffhangers, these Webtoon artists are talented.) This sets it apart from platforms like Wattpad, where you either are paying to read or not. 

A last payment feature I loved? Many of the artists provide their Patreon, where you can further support them. With a few clicks, I was able to follow one of my favorite illustrators, look at their other works, support their Patreon, and check out their Instragram, where they post behind-the-scenes pics. EBooks, by in large, haven’t been as user friendly, let alone physical novels. I think we could be better about analyzing our platforms and asking ourselves how they can be more accessible, fun, and energizing. I mean, did I mention that comments are open to the public on every episode? Not only can you read each episode, but you can interact with the community right then and there, rather than having to finish the whole piece to write a review. (It’s similar to Wattpad in that way, but I definitely see more celebrating and fan theories on Webtoon.) In many ways, you feel like you’re sitting around in a big circle of friends while reading the same scene at the same time. And that’s not the only fun aspect that happens on the platform.

Music & Other Extras

Not only are Webtoons often colorful (Hello, Lore Olympus), but they are also filled with unique extras. Imagine reading a fight scene and hearing gunshots as they go off? Well, guess what. Webtoons do this! At least some of them do, and I love, love, love it. Why? Because it made the text so immersive to me. Plus, if I’m not in the mood to hear the sound effects, I can just turn them off. A great Webtoon that does this is the Purple HyacinthOther Webtoons lean more toward mood music, such as SubZero. I won’t lie, I’ve found some awesome writing music through Webtoons. Authors should consider how they can add such elements to their books. Though it would be harder to add many of these elements to a novel, why not provide a playlist on your website? I still remember reading Twilight back in the day and Stephenie Meyer releasing her music inspiration, and I jammed out to Muse for weeks. I wish more authors did this and/or artists from different mediums were open to collaborating. Maybe one day! 

The other part I loved is the fanfic-style mini episodes. When I was a teen, you went to fanfic websites to get fanfic. Or, if you followed the author, sometimes the author would share posts from artists who had drawn fanart. What I find really interesting about Webtoon is that the artist themselves often create fanart for their own work, like drawing their characters in chibi form and showing everyday scenes that wouldn’t fit into the story. It’s super fun! I also love seeing the behind-the-scenes sketches often included during breaks. Siren’s Lament is a great example of chibi artwork mini-sodes. Basically, as the author, ask yourself what behind-the-scenes sneak peeks can you give? Can you create new material that fits in with your overall material? How is it fresh and fun and unique to you? Where can you offer this to your readers? Newsletters is often a go-to for many, which I think is great, but I think we can take it a step further. Why not provide character sketches in the back of books? I always loved how mangas had character breakdowns in the beginning or fun facts at the end. Or—gasp—a book that starts off in graphic novel format, then converts to prose. W.I.T.C.H. did this when I was a kid and I still miss it! I always thought it was so fun, like slipping into a story.  

In the end, when I started analyzing why I was getting so much joy from Webtoons and not the same from novels, I feel like the modern novel—and what it offers as a product—has become really static. It has its classic appeal, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading novels, and I read over 100 novels a year. Nothing will replace the traditional paperback for me. It’s still my #1. But I also believe we have room for improvement, for innovation, for fun. And that includes the novel community as a whole. In many ways, I feel like authors have been shamed when they speak about or celebrate their own work, whereas Webtoons definitely has an air where the creators are their own biggest fan. I mean, how many times have you seen an author tweet about their book release, then apologize for spamming the feeds? Meanwhile, in Webtoon land, artists are drawing fanart for their own work and having a blast. Publishing could use some of that energy. It’s so addictive, because it is welcoming and fun and exciting. Every download is a new experience. Every novel should be, too. 

Next time you’re working on your novel, consider the modern reader. Do they only want your story delivered, or do they want an experience? How can you provide a broader experience to them? How can you push the definition of novel? Of story? 

I know I’ve been looking at writing in whole new ways as of late! I’ve definitely added “have my novel adapted into a Webtoon” to my author dream. 

Have you read any Webtoons? Which ones did you love?

If you are interested in Webtoons, here are some that I’ve read recently and loved:

~SAT

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