Audiobook Review – Into the Drowning Deep

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant follows a research vessel and the many characters upon it as they go out to investigate the disappearance of another entertainment vessel whose crew was… well… eaten by mermaids.

And I really enjoyed the first third of this book. The characters are varied and interesting, and as they’re battling their demons and beginning to set off it really gives off Jaws like vibes. We are going to hunt a monster… and we are both excited and kind of scared, but it’s okay because we’re prepared for anything, right? …right?!?

Should’ve brought a bigger boat.

But as stuff starts going down, people are dying and blood is washing the deck, I didn’t feel the rise in tension that I felt like I should have. Mostly because the characters are surprisingly …okay with it? They’re kind of like “oh well, we knew people would die, but we have TO DO THE SCIENCE!” I really felt like there would be more people storming the cockpit to get them turned around.
So, I felt like the middle got a little mushy for me and the reveal/climax at the end felt a little underwhelming.

This book had all the capacity to read as a stand-alone (while still part of a larger series), but rather, it feels like it got stretched a little too thin and then just kind of ended.
Still! While I don’t think I’ll be picking up the sequel, if you like mermaids that eat people and interesting characters, I recommend giving this a look (or a listen because the audiobook narration is fantastic.)


As a mechanical engineer, I would’ve been sure the shutter system worked. Just saying.

Thanks for reading!

Audiobook Review – The Maid

I picked up this mystery on the recommendation of a friend, and definitely enjoyed this modern murder mystery. I liked the main character, Molly’s, unique voice and her moral compass made the narrative interesting to puzzle out. The side characters were all fleshed out well, and even the hotel seemed to have a character of its own from Molly’s eyes. Her growth and resolution were both strong and satisfying, but the only thing that really threw me at the end were a few missing pieces (are there no video cameras in the hotel? No alibis?) that I kind of had to suspend my disbelief for. Overall though I found this to a fun murder mystery with a unique perspective and a few fun twists.


Molly would be *horrified* at the state of my house. I wonder what her hourly rate is?!

Thanks for reading!

NYC Midnight Challenge Entry: A Moment of Joy

A MOment of Joy

August 2022 (Final Round)
Genre: Open (Drama)
Word: Lift
Action: Laughing
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 100 words

CONTENT WARNING: Childhood illness, Cancer.

“Up, Mama, please.” Millie lifts her arms, her eyes huge and dark beneath hairless brows, a rainbow scarf swathing her smooth head.

And though grief and exhaustion weigh heavy on my limbs, this is an easy request to grant. Because today’s a good day—a day she’s strong enough to ask.

I swoop her up and throw her into the air amid a swell of sweet giggles. Though tears prick my eyes, I laugh along with her. Because there won’t be many good days left. So this moment, this joy, has to be enough.

I have to make it enough.

JUDGe’s Feedback

Unfortunately, this one didn’t place, but the feedback is below!


{1943}  ‘A Moment of Joy’ brought tears to my eyes. What a poignant, heartbreaking narrative. I loved the simplicity of the premise, with the child having the strength to ask to be picked up. The idea that she often wasn’t even strong enough to ask was heart wrenching. I liked the juxtaposition of the mother’s limbs being heavy with grief with the child flying in the air with a “swell of sweet giggles”. This was gorgeous writing. Well done.  

{1788}  The reader’s first view of Millie was truly wonderful, showing not only her vulnerability but her youth (i.e. the rainbow scarf). She was instantly lovable and her request was simple and poignant. The narrative voice had a terrific amount of sincerity. Since the author created such strong intimacy between the reader and the narrator, the reader was anxious to hear more about their final days together. 

{2035}  I thought that you captured Millie’s cluelessness about what was to come well. Her easy giggles and how she asked her mom to lift her up were both great details that showed us how the mother had to carry this burden by herself. 

{1963}  This well scoped piece makes good use of the prompt criteria to tell a focused and emotional story. The narrator can’t change what’s coming, but she has the power at least to choose how she faces it, and that keeps the reader invested. 

{1970}  I was taken by the emotion as I read “A Moment of Joy”. I really felt it when the mother sees the positive side, that today she’s strong enough to ask, in this tragic situation. This story pulls the heartstrings with just enough restraint when it comes to sweet sentiment. Thanks for the story. 


{1943}  I wondered if you actually needed to be so explicit with telling us that the child would die. I think this was already clear, so I would consider removing ” Because there won’t be many good days left.” I think the idea of this moment being enough might feel stronger if we weren’t just told that she was dying, eg: I laugh along with her. This moment, this joy, has to be enough….” I also wondered if we needed both details about the child having cancer. I would consider removing the detail of the brows, and instead, just showing us the smooth head and the scarf, which was a very vivid image.

{1788}  The last three lines pretty much tell the reader what they already know, and the author may want to think about focusing on imagery or small details that show her feelings instead. The reader can discern that there won’t be many days left and that she has to make this enough, but there are other things they’d like to know and don’t know. For instance, can Millie tell Mom’s crying? Does she comfort Mom? Does her giggle sound weak? What else will the author allow us to see that the reader can’t figure out themselves? Think about highlighting more gestures or observations that show her emotions. This will make the second half just as unique as the first half (the hairless brows, the rainbow scarf). “A Moment of Joy” makes a lovely impression on the reader. Once the author concentrates on the second half a little more, it will be a splendid microfiction narrative.

{2035}  To me, the latter half of the story felt a bit like the lines were only reinforcing one another rather than adding another layer to the piece. I think that condensing the final three sentences down to one could free up enough space to show readers the mother and daughter interacting more.

{1963}  You tell the story with an excess of clarity, which shows that you have a lot of leeway for shifting towards subtext. Perhaps better than being told directly of the narrator’s grief and exhaustion, we can be shown it through her words and deeds. If you let the reader participate in the comprehension of the story, any discoveries the reader makes belongs to them. When a reader feels personally invested in a story, that’s your opportunity to connect directly and fully. 

{1970}  There is only one thing that had me thinking it might need a tweak, but, I could be wrong. It’s the ‘…and throw her up into the air…’ part. Yikes. The image that came to mind. Perhaps I overdid it, but to envision a frail child with advanced cancer being thrown up in the air was a bit disturbing. What do you think? Thanks again for the tale.

Author Interview: M.E. Aster

And today I’ve got another fun author interview! Thanks so much to my twitter friend and fellow indie author, M.E. Aster (he/they), for participating in a Q&A! (Also as a reminder, if you’re interested in being featured in one of these author interviews, please feel free to reach out via email/social media/or carrier pigeon!)

M.E. Aster lives in the country with their parents, their youngest sister, and their three cats, Ghost, Boo, and Snickers. They also maintain a full-time job in customer service. Aster has an educational background in music performance, web design, and computer programming, but they have decided to pursue writing as their favored career path. M.E Aster is the author of Three Halves of a Whole, Take His Place, & Hopeless, Breathless.

Hayley: Hey Mandy! Thanks so much for letting me ask you a few questions! So I’ve read Three Halves of a Whole, and I would definitely describe in as a deeply emotional read. What first inspired you to write it?

Mandy: Hello Hayley! Thank you so much for interviewing me! My inspiration for Three Halves of a Whole was actually real life events. I had a friend that I based Riley off of although we definitely didn’t have as much romantic connections as I wrote into the story, but he was the main inspiration for it. It was one of the first stories I ever finished and thought–wow I wanted to share this with people. Looking back after publishing three more books, I see so many things I could have done better, but I am still proud of that story, and it holds a special place in my heart.

Hayley: Whoa. That is really intense. Thank you so much for sharing. So I haven’t gotten a chance to read Take His Place yet, but are there any common themes or elements readers should expect from your novels? Any tropes you love or love to avoid?

Mandy: So Take His Place is very different from Three Halves of a Whole. It is a slow-burn, friends to lovers romance with a HEA. Although the stories differ in a lot of ways, romance pretty much always plays a theme in my stories, and almost all of my characters are queer. 

As a kid growing up, I never had any books about gay or trans or queer people in general, and now I want all my stories to represent some part of that spectrum. And as for tropes, I am a sucker for them so I am sure most of the traditional romance tropes will show up in my books eventually.

Hayley: Aw yay! I love happily ever afters and some romantic tropey goodness! I also absolutely love the reels on your TikTok! They’re always so catchy and poignant, and they make me itch to crack open your books right away. How do you go about making such accurate visual representations of your stories? Do those kinds of visuals help you in the inspiration process, or do you mostly make them after the story is written?

Mandy: Aw thank you so much! I am so honored that you like my reels. I am fairly new to Tiktok and making reels for my books/characters, but I have always loved making moodboards and aesthetics for my stories, usually at the planning stage to help give me inspiration. For some books I have a vivid picture of everyone already in my head, but other times I more have a personality and not so much a look, so I will browse Pinterest and put together inspiration boards to get me motivated. I have one for each of my books, and it really helps me to get in the mood for the story I am working on.

Hayley: That’s so cool! I used to be obsessed with Pinterest but have never tried it for book inspiration. I’ll have to try that out. So, I’ve seen you post about your full-time day job before and your three cats Ghost, Boo, and Snickers, so it seems like you stay really busy. How do you go about balancing your full-time job and the other aspects of your life with your writing schedule? Do your experiences in your job influence or inspire your writing in any way?

Mandy: Honestly I have not been doing the best job balancing things lately so I will get back to you on that…

I don’t know what happened but I used to find so much time to write, and now I am lucky if I sneak in an hour a day. I do work full time at a grocery store, and I also help care for my youngest sister who is disabled. Add that in with the cats and life in general and I feel like I am always busy.

But my work experiences have definitely inspired a lot of my stories. Kaleb in Take His Place is based off a guy I dated who I met at work. I also name a lot of my less likeable characters after people or customers who irk me. I actually attempted to write a version of my life as a story once as well, but I put that on the back burner because it hit too hard at the time, but I might come back to it one day.

Hayley: Oof. It definitely sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate, and I hope you find more time for yourself and your writing soon! I’m totally smiling about the naming unlikable characters after customers that irk you though. That seems rather therapeutic!🤣Can you give us any hints on what you’re working next and when readers can expect your next book to launch?

Mandy: Well my next book actually launches on Nov. 29th, which is coming up way too soon in my opinion (I hope it’ll be ready by then.) It is an omegaverse novella titled Hopeless, Breathless featuring a timid alpha and his omega best friend. It is my first time dipping my toes into this kind of romance, but I have always loved reading this trope, and I had just as much fun writing it. If you are interested in checking it out, it is available for preorder right now for only 99 cents!

And as for my next story, I think I am going to focus my attention on finishing my Kindle Vella story Dancing With Monsters once Hopeless, Breathless is published. It’s a rockstar romance with tons of angst and once I finish it on Vella I want to make it available as an ebook and a paperback as well!

Hayley: Yay! I’m sure you’ll nail the book launch, and a rockstar romance sounds like so much fun. Thanks so much again for participating in the Q&A. I really enjoyed the interview! Now it’s time for a Lightning Round!

o    Favorite book you’ve read lately?

I am currently reading Face the Music by M.L. East and I am loving it! It is the sequel to Trick of the Spotlight and it is sooooo good!

o    Favorite quote?

I have always loved this quote by Oscar Wilde…“You will always be loved, and you will always be in love with love.” I don’t know why but it has always resonated with me. I am definitely in love with the idea of love, that is for sure.

o    Favorite show?

This is a hard question…I have so many shows I love, but I think if I had to pick just one it would be Dr. Who. That show was such a big part of of my childhood and although I wasn’t as a big a fan of this current season, it is still very special to me.

o    Favorite season?

I always want to say that Autumn is my favorite season but where I live (Texas) it really doesn’t exist. I love the cooler temperatures and the leaves changing and the festive atmosphere and all that, but here it’s more like “oh wow it’s 80 degrees instead of 100 degrees nice.”

o    Advice for aspiring indie authors?

My only advice is to write the story you want to read. You can try and pander to what is popular or what is selling, but if you aren’t enjoying it, then it won’t matter. And yes, you might not be a bestseller or make a lot of money, but if those are your goals then maybe being an indie author isn’t the best path. I attempted to query and find an agent and a publisher but in the end, I just wanted my books out in the world, and I wanted control over what I put out there. That’s why I chose to be an indie author and self publish, and if that is what you want to do, then go for it. You got this.

Aw, that’s definitely good advice! Thanks so much to Mandy for the fantastic interview! To hear more from Mandy, you can check out his Twitter here for updates. I hope you all enjoyed this interview, because I’m totally loving them and hopefully will be able to do many more in the future!

Audiobook Review – Once Upon A Broken Heart

This was a charming fantasy about a girl who makes a deal with a fate following a broken heart. For me, the highlight of this story really came in the world itself. Roughly split between Magic and non magic, there’s tons of interesting lore and eccentricities that really made me want to soak this world up. The mystery of the fates, prophecy, and stories without endings also definitely kept me turning pages. But though I liked Jax and Evangeline well enough, I didn’t totally fall for them, and I was definitely wishing the connection between them was a little stronger. Really, Evangeline’s goals in general didn’t feel super compelling, and the ending felt a little forced. The narration was great though, and I’d still totally recommend this to YA fantasy readers. Although this doesn’t work well as a stand-alone in any way, I’d definitely give the sequel a look to see what happens next!


(Update: Tried to listen to the sequel, The Ballad of Never After, and got a third of the way through before I had to DNF. Evangeline’s poor decisions were killing me, but lots of people love that series, so it could just be me!)

This is why I never trust sequels!

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – The Captain’s Daughters

The Captain’s Daughters by Doreen D. Berger is a charming middle-grade sci-fi that follows two twelve-year-old girls on their (mis)adventures aboard their adoptive father, Captain William Marsh’s, starship. This book absolutely reads like the Star Trek: Enterprise meets middle-grade adventure, and it’s a lot of fun.

The girls, Robin and Diane, both read like authentic MG characters with big personalities that manage to get themselves into and out of trouble on a regular basis. Their love of geology, horses, exploration, and independence are all aspects I would definitely have been able to connect to as a young reader. And honestly, who wouldn’t want to live aboard the Polaris and explore new worlds?

Captain Marsh definitely gets the *cool but firm* Dad award, and it was sweet to see his dedication and love for the girls through his POV. And the plot of a kidnapping gone wrong into a parallel universe was a cool twist that I really enjoyed.

The writing flows super easily and is well-suited to the MG crowd or even confident chapter-book readers. My only real critique, is there are quite of lot of flashbacks throughout the POVs showcasing the relationships between the interstellar family, which weren’t really my cup of tea, but that’s totally just my subjective opinion.

Themes of adventure, consequences, and the bonds of family are strong here, and I think this would be a fun sweet read for any middle grade sci-fi fan (ESPECIALLY for Star Trek fans.) Thanks so much to the publisher for the free ARC!


I want to live on the Polaris too! Capt Marsh, please adopt me!

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – A Hard Day for a Hangover

Ah yes, how shall I start this ode to the newest Sunshine Vicram book, except it was absolutely *amazing.* Please just inject this series into my veins. I loved the audiobooks of the first two entries in the series, and the cliffhanger at the end of book 2 just about killed me, so when I saw the ebook for #3 on NetGalley, I jumped at the opportunity, and was NOT disappointed.

However, for the sake of the uninitiated (please start with the first audiobook and then we can all squeal together), I will try to keep my gushing spoiler free.

All of the elements we love from the first two books are here and in force: the witty banter is fun and a joy to read, Del Sol is as quirky and weird as ever, the muffins are back, The Dangerous Daughters and Sinister Suns are at play, the stakes are high, there’s a mystery to solve, and Levi plays his biggest part to date.

There were a lot of plot lines from the first two books (specifically regarding Levi & Sunshine) that came to a really satisfying end here. However, I am a little torn, because I’m seeing that this is supposed to be the end of the trilogy, and I feel like there is so many more questions/loose ends to tie up. So basically, if this WAS the end of the series, I think I would feel just a tiny bit disappointed because I’m still hoping to see a little more of Auri & Cruz, Hailey & Quincy, and the Dangerous Daughters.

But even if this is the last one, honestly, I can’t even hate, because I do feel like this *could* be the end of Levi & Sunshine’s story and it totally left me with such a gooey, satisfied feeling, I am TOTALLY okay with it.

Let’s just say, regardless of what Darynda Jones writes next, be it Sunshine or something else, I will *definitely* be reading it. Five wholeheartedly glowing stars.

Thanks so much to NetGalley for the free ARC! A Hard Day for a Hangover launches on 6 December!


Please tell me there will be more Sunshine books, Darynda. PLEASE!

Thanks for reading!

Into the Churn: Street Team Sign-Ups & ARC Requests Open!

This week Whimsical Publishing officially revealed the title and blurb for my upcoming Young Adult Science Fiction, INTO THE CHURN, launching April 4th 2023! 🥳 So now, I’m thrilled to announce some other exciting news!

First, the Into the Churn Street Team is officially open for sign-ups here! If you’re willing to help with the December cover reveal & spreading the word, we’d love your help & can offer some fun perks—including the chance to win a *very* rare physical advance reader copy (ARC) in return! And if you’ve never seen Whimsical Publishing’s books, they’re absolutely gorgeous. 😍

Second, if you’re interested in an electronic advance reader copy (eARC) you can request one on Whimsical Publishing’s website here!

And lastly, if you’d like to check out a sneak peek of a scene from the book, you can find it on Whimsical’s back-up Instagram account here!

As a author publishing with a small press, we depend on readers to help spread the word, so any social media shares, retweets, posts are so greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much for reading, and the text-version of the blurb is included below!

Seventeen-year-old Ezren Hart interns in her mother’s terraforming lab, studying Belethea’s deadly storms with the dream of giving her backwater planet open teal skies. But when budget cuts threaten to shut down her mother’s lab, Ezren enters Belethea’s Race Royale, the system’s deadliest and most lucrative race. To win, she’ll have to run, drive, and fight her way across Belethea’s barren landscape while navigating its savage and volatile storms. With her planet’s future, and her family’s, on the line, she can’t afford to lose. But first, she’ll have to convince her handsome royale partner that their planet is worth saving.

Foster Sterling is a jaded ex-prodigy royaler still reeling from the death of his partner in a training accident. When Ezren Hart comes charging into his life, her passion reminds him of what he once loved about racing and his dream of returning pride to their planet. Still, no matter how fast they go, they can’t outrun the mysterious string of deadly accidents following them like a curse. As Foster falls harder for Ezren, he races to piece the clues together. But with time running out and their survival on the line, he’ll have to decide if their dreams are worth their lives.

Perfect for fans of underdog heroes, slow burn romance, and high stakes sci fi, INTO THE CHURN races across a new planet of savage storms and dazzling tech. Fall in love with Ezren and Foster as they battle side-by-side to save their scrappy world on a ruthless interplanetary stage where appearances are everything, speed means survival, and the only thing deadlier than the storms are the other racers.

This is the Canva cover I put together when drafting. I can’t WAIT to share the real thing Whimsical Publishing created. It’s absolutely GORGEOUS!

Author Interview: Shelby Elizabeth

I’m so excited to announce I’m going to start posting fun little author interviews as part of this bookish blog as well! And for our first author interview, it’s my pleasure to introduce Shelby Elizabeth, a fellow indie author of young adult novels!

Shelby Elizabeth is an English teacher in Upstate New York. She’s also a major geek. When she isn’t writing about fantasy worlds or romance, she can be found reading, playing with her nephews and spending time with family, or watching just a bit too much television. She is the author of the Celestials trilogy and a standalone contemporary romance novel, Don’t Hate the Player.

Hayley: Hey Shelby! Thanks so much for letting me ask you a few questions! Reading your Goodreads bio, I see you’re a big fanfiction writer! What are some of your favorite fanction works and how do you think that’s influenced or inspired your novels?

Shelby: I started out writing fanfiction, and wrote one as recently as early 2022! I can’t advocate it enough. It really helps you find your voice and hone your craft–and it’s a lot of fun! My favorite fanfics to write let me explore big moments in my favorite characters’ stories. Introspective pieces that really dig into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. I’ve actually reworked pieces of fanfics into my books!

Hayley: Very cool! Hearing you talk about it definitely makes me want to give it a go. I also see that you’re a teacher! How awesome! How does your role as a teacher influence or inspire what you write in your novels?

Shelby: Thanks! Classroom conversations generate a lot of ideas, haha! Whether it’s random side conversations (with colleagues or students) or interpretations of a class text, the environment inspires creativity for me.

Hayley: So, though I have Stars Begin to Burn downloaded on Kindle and Don’t Hate the Player is definitely on my TBR, I haven’t gotten a chance to read either of them yet! What are some common themes or elements we can expect from your books?

Shelby: That’s awesome! I always have found family in my books. It’s one of my favorite tropes, and I love exploring different types of found family dynamics. And at least one character will be a geek in some way. Riley (Stars Begin to Burn) loves Harry Potter. Eli (Don’t Hate the Player) loves music. As for common themes in my books, some favorites are exploring shades of gray and recognizing the power of love (platonic, familial, and romantic).

Hayley: That sounds absolutely lovely. So I see you’ve both finished a series (Celestials) and written a standalone (Don’t Hate the Player), but do you prefer writing one over the other? When you write your series, do you plot the whole thing out from the beginning or do you just see where the story takes you?

Shelby: I love the challenge of writing a series, but I also love the succinctness of having one book tell a whole story. I plan to do more of both–and series of connected, standalone books, as a happy medium. For my Celestials trilogy, I knew how books one and two would end when I started it, and had a rough idea for the end of book three. I knew all of the big events, and filled in smaller arcs as I went. Some projects I outline a lot. Others I outline the big things and fill in.

Hayley: I love the flexibility there! But what’s next? I know from Twitter you’re working on a Pegasi novel for Nanowrimo, and I think I saw a teaser that you might also be thinking about a volleyball inspired romance? When do you think we can expect to see your next work? Do you think you’ll stick to YA or do you have plans for other genres and age groups?

Shelby: I have an idea for an MG fantasy series using Greek myth at some point, but for now I’m sticking to YA. My current focus is a series of interconnected standalone fantasy romance novels called All the World’s a Story. Shakespearean inspired, with magical creatures. The first one, Lady of Dragons, is in the editing phase and should release next year! The second, Lord of Pegasi, is my work-in-progress. I might write the volleyball romance next, and set it in the same school as Don’t Hate the Player. I found I like alternating between contemporary and fantasy, though fantasy remains my focus.

Hayley: Thank you so much for your thoughtful answers! Now it’s time for a Lightning Round!

o    Favorite book you’ve read lately?

A Curse of Hope and Shadows Parts Two and Three by Katherine Macdonald

o    Favorite quote?

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” – J. K. Rowling

o    Favorite trope?

Friends to lovers! And found family.

o    Favorite season?

Spring or fall.

o    Advice for aspiring indie authors?

Write what you want, when you need to. Just keep writing as long as it makes you happy. Oh, and before you publish, build up hype for your book by sharing snippets and info about the characters. It makes a huge difference to have people excited to read your book on release day, instead of telling them about it after you’ve published (trust me on that).

Yay! Thanks so much to Shelby for coming on as our first author interview! I really enjoyed your passion, and I can’t wait to read your books! To hear more from Shelby, you can check out her Twitter here for updates. I hope you all enjoyed this interview, and if you’re an author interested in an interview please feel free to drop me a line! As always, thanks for reading!

Book Review – Mirrorfall

Mirrorfall by Stormy Sto Helit really hooked with the premise (think Men in Black meets the magical realm), and it starts strongly with the action. The plot follows Stef, a hacker with a rough start, and she finds herself in the middle of some darkly magical mayhem. The magical world has everything and the kitchen sink and I found the characters she meets there to be interesting (Ryan is my favorite, but I also like Curt and Dorian as well.) However, Stef herself was a little difficult for me to connect with, and after about the first 25% I was wishing for a little more plot coherency. However if you’re into found family vibes and pop culture references, definitely check this urban fantasy out! Thanks so much to the publisher for the free copy!


Bring me all your Men In Black comp books please!

Thanks for reading!