Top 5 Favorite Reads of 2022

I feel like this is one of those personality tests I didn’t know I was taking! I completed my Goodreads challenge, and have managed to read 61 published (so not counting beta reads) books this year! I’ll probably squeeze in a few more before the end of the year, and if I’m lucky enough to stumble across another contender this late in the game, I’ll be sure to update accordingly!

For the record, I usually love fast-paced books with likable characters and satisfying endings. Throw a slowburn romance in there, and you’ve got me completely hooked. That said, sometimes the books I like the most are those I had no idea I was looking for.

Without further ado (and in no particular order):

BESt young Adult read

Not only is this the best Young Adult book I read this year, but this is probably one of the best young adult books I have read EVER. Yeah. A contemporary rivals-to-lovers romance with a fun premise that is paced to perfection. Seriously, give me the movie now!!! *Grabby hands* Full Review here!

Best Fantasy

Okay. I read Kemmerer’s A Curse so Dark and Lonely and enjoyed it, but not enough to read the sequel. THIS book, however, was on a completely different level, and I will DEFINITELY be reading the next book in the series. I adored the double POV here, the high stakes, the interesting world – basically everything I love about books. And I currently have the book 2 audiobook on hold! Squee! Full Review here!

Best Romance

Okay, you know I think highly of a romance when I recommend it to my mom, and I can definitely say we both loved this one. Emily Henry’s “People We Meet on Vacation” didn’t work for me, but I absolutely adored this one. I loved the emotional depth, and the progression of their relationship was just so sweet. Loved it, and I have the Book Lovers audiobook on hold now. Full review here.

Best literary

This one’s definitely not my usual read, but I’m so glad I picked it up. Nana’s voice is so strong, and lends a light, sardonic air to this bittersweet reflection on life. Heavy and yet so soothing at the same time. Yes, I loved this one too. Full review here.

Best series

Okay, generally speaking, I’m not a series person. If the first one is amazing, I often find the sequel disappoints. And if the first one wasn’t amazing, why would I want to read the second. It’s such a trap! However… sometimes they do suck me in, and this one was SO worth. The characters, the romance, their quirky little town, the mystery – I loved it all, and I would read a million more of these suckers. Please write more Sunshine Vicram novels! Pleassseee! Full review here.

A fantastic reading year over all! But if you think I missed some of your favorites, please feel free to drop them in the comments and I’ll check them out on Goodreads! I’m always on the lookout for new gems, and I’m excited to see what books 2023 brings my way. Please remember to support your favorite authors with ratings and reviews, and as always, thanks for reading! 😊

May your 2023 be filled with new and amazing books!

Book Review – The Controlled

The Controlled  by P.J. Willett follows a group of teachers and students in a bleak dystopian school after a human experiment goes terribly wrong. And, boy, is this book bleak. I’m all for dystopian shenanigans but these characters are absolutely a product of their horrible environment, and they are *rough*!

The story unfolds the fateful day from the perspectives of several of the main characters. Each one has their flaws and brutal backstory of surviving in this world in which the education system is now corporately controlled and has completely devolved. This book definitely has a message to convey, and it doesn’t hold any punches as it leans into a, at times, amusingly over-the-top caricature of a school under-siege by its mind-controlled-gone-wrong students. This dark narrative was wholly unique and definitely held my attention, but without anyone to truly root for, I didn’t feel super invested in the characters’ fates. However, if you’re looking for a twisted near-future dystopian that serves as an intense reflection on modern trends, I’d definitely give it a look!

Thanks so much to the publisher for the free ebook!


Definitely makes the top 3 schools I do NOT want to go to. 😂

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – Face the Music

Face the Music by M.L. East definitely ups the ante from A Trick of the Spotlight in so many ways! In Face the Music, we now get four more POVs (Ryo, Namgi, Mino, and Jaeyoon) and a whopping 171 more pages full of intense K-Pop drama that’s so hard to put down!

This book picks up right where the last one left off, with Kit in an almost impossible situation… and I hate to say it, but it doesn’t really get better for her. With the new POVs, there’s even more relationship drama, and we definitely get to know more about Vortex and its group dynamics. The stakes are higher here as Ryo’s controlling, gangster-like family gets involved, and Vortex is definitely on edge.

My only real critique is that I feel like Kit was almost a minor character in this sequel, and I liked her so much in book one! Hers was still my favorite POV, but I definitely felt like she was kind of sidelined here, and I wish we’d gotten to see more of her.

That said, this book still has that addicting, tear-through-the-pages feel of the first book, and I would totally recommend it to readers looking for juicy K-Pop drama.


Locke is always here for juicy K-pop drama!.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – R.I.P. Viola Winkle

R.I.P. Viola Winkle by E.P. Stavs is described as Rip Van Winkle x Beauty & the Beast x Celtic Fantasy, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen comp titles that match a book so well!

After reading may of E.P. Stavs’ other books, I did not hesitate to grab up this ARC and was definitely not disappointed. Every time Stavs’ writing style immediately pulls me in with smart dialogue, quick pacing, and strong plot flow.

The characters were all likable, and I really liked the feel of Ethan’s gothic home and the strong found-family vibes. Viola was fun and quirky as a 1950s librarian in a new world, and I loved her interactions with the 21st century child that was Sylvie. Red of course was my favorite, and I loved the conflict between him and Viola. The Buinnean family in general was also just an interesting Celtic addition to the mix!

Overall, I totally recommend this one to fans of a contemporary fairy-tale like romance that leaves you with the warm fuzzies of a happy ending and a well-told story.

Thanks so much to the publisher for the ARC! R.I.P. Viola Winkle launches 11 Aug on Amazon!


Elsa doing her best coonhound impression.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – Broken (After the Plague #1)

After the Plague is a dual POV story that follows Yorke (a returning soldier) and Frankie (an artist) as they navigate the very beginnings of a plague-brought apocalypse. The writing flows well, the characters are likable, and the apocalyptic details feel real and hit close to home. My biggest critique is that this very short book doesn’t feel complete. It really reads like part one of a bigger novel. And while there may be action and romance in the sequels, I didn’t find as much of it here as I would’ve liked to hook me into book 2. However, the introduction of Beast and Auden was cute, and I have a feeling a future found family might be in order once the two MCs meet up.

So if you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic read and are committed to reading more than just the first one, I’d say definitely give it a look!


Tula in the seemingly apocalyptic mess that is the play room.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – Beneath Her Skin

Beneath her Skin by C.S. Porter follows Kes Morris, a hardened homicide detective called to a small seaside town to investigate a disturbing murder. This a fast-paced murder mystery that hits all the right beats. It’s a gripping story, tugging you along as the time clicks down on the clock with an underlying sense of creepiness laced in with every scene.

Kes’s take on getting into the killer’s head is really interesting, and the intensity increases right up to a satisfyingly finale. Although the murders are definitely disturbing, I wouldn’t classify them as exceedingly gory or gritty, which is about right on my level. The descriptions, setting, and atmosphere of a small town living in the shadow of killer were vivid and drew me right in to the scenes. While I couldn’t predict the plot twists, they felt really natural and were well-executed. . Kes is a smart and no-nonsense character, but I wish I’d gotten to see a little more of the side characters.

Overall, this was a quick read that I definitely enjoyed, and would totally recommend to crime thriller fans! (Content Warning: Child Abuse.) Thanks so much to the publisher for the free review copy.


Tula looks satisfied to me, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading!

Ten Favorite Reads of 2021

It’s been quite the year! Goodreads is telling me I’ve read 78 books as of December 13th… which is quite a few for me! So I figured I’d round up my favorite highlights and a one line review for anyone that’s looking for a good read to start off 2022.

Note: these books were not necessarily published in 2021, that’s just when I happened to read them!

And second note: If I love the first book in a series, but overall the series is unsatisfying, I won’t recommend the first book. (However… if I haven’t read the sequel yet but I plan to, I’ll still recommend the first.)

Favorite Sequel: Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews
Book 5 of the Innkeeper Chronicles is every bit as good as the 4 books before it. If you want some light sci-fi romance in your life, this series about a magical inn that connects to the rest of the universe and the uncountable species and cultures in it (including a fun take on vampires and werewolves) is absolutely fantastic. I NEED MORE.

Favorite Novella: Split Therapy by E.P. Stavs
A fast-paced psychological thriller with two likable leads, a sweet side of romance, and a vigilante. Recommended to cure any reading slump.

Favorite Romance: The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams
I actually just finished this one, and was able to come add it to this post just in time! There’s so much to love in this book! Wonderful characters that feel real (especially in the audiobook!), a cute romance, fun plot (although as a gym rat I might be biased) and body positivity. I’m so glad I stumbled on this 5 star read, and highly recommend!

Favorite Middle Grade: Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
An achingly beautiful book told half in verse and half in prose about friendship, being different, and the difficulties and confusion of being a middle-grade kid.

Favorite Picture Book: Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
Love love love love love this book. Fantastic illustrations and a wonderful message about dealing with bullies and embracing your awesome self.

Favorite Fantasy: Thief of Spring by Katherine Macdonald
A fae Persephone/Hades romance that I didn’t know I needed in my life. Great YA fantasy with a fun romance that totally sucked me in.

Favorite Young Adult: Billy Lemonade by Sarah J Maxwell
A beautiful paranormal tale of two healing teenagers. I read this book in one sitting, and I think it’s probably the most poignant, emotional tale I read this year.

Favorite Sci-fi: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
A sci-fi, post-apocalyptic pandemic novel with a unique premise, a twist, and a solid romance. I haven’t read the sequel yet, but it’s mostly because I’m scared it can’t live up to the first!

Favorite Thriller: The Whisper Man by Alex North
It was creepy, it was tense, it kept me guessing, and I was rooting for the characters the whole time. This is the kind of thriller that makes you want to read more thrillers. And the audiobook was amazing, so bonus!

Favorite Novel Overall: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
This book absolutely blew my mind. A book about a group of goofy strangers that get caught up in a hostage situation that manages to be funny and sweet and poignant all that the same time. Definitely my number one book this year, no contest. And the audiobook is superb. If I have to recommend only one book this year, it’s this one.

If you have any best reads of 2021 I’d love to know! Thanks for reading!

ARC Sites: NetGalley, BookSirens, or Hidden Gems?

Read all the ARCs!

Wait, slow down, girl. what’s an ARC?

Right right right. So an ARC stands for an Advance Reader’s Copy or Advance Review Copy. They’re books (can be ebook, audiobook, or paperback) that the publisher/author sends out prior to release to try to drum up some good, buzzy reviews on Goodreads. That way, when your book launches on Amazon, you have people waiting to upload their reviews and tell the world how awesome your book is STAT! ARC listing sites let you pay to make your book available for reviewers to download, with the general understanding that they will leave an honest review. (Although this does not always happen.)

Before I dive into this, I should say, I do talk about the process of formatting and creating ARCs in my more in-depth self-publishing articles one and two, but this post is going to focus more on comparing my indie author experiences with the eARC listing sites: NetGalley, BookSirens, & Hidden Gems. This site has no affiliate links, because honestly, I’m just too lazy to put them in.

So, let’s just get into it then, shall we?

My Results:

Listed through Books Go Social: $100 for 2 months
Listed through Anne Victory’s Co-Op: $90 for 2 months
Listed through Anne Victory’s Co-Op: $45 for 1 month (Also keep in mind this was a stand-alone sequel, so a little harder to market)

What I like About NetGalley

  • This is where the librarians, teachers, and indie booksellers hang out!
  • One of the few places where you can get honest, anonymous opinions on your cover
  • Most of these reviewers are not writers, and some are actually casual readers!
  • NetGalley is big! They have way more readers than BookSirens or HiddenGems, so you have a way better chance of getting out of your bubble.
  • You pay by month, not by download. So if 1000 people download your book in the first month, all the better for you!
  • You can rub shoulders (virtually) with the big publishers that also use NetGalley
  • You get lots of data on impressions, clicks, and post-reading surveys

What I don’t like about NetGalley

  • I would estimate that around 25% of reviewers cross-post to Goodreads, and even less cross-post to Amazon. That’s because, if the book isn’t out yet, NetGalley does not remind readers to post to Amazon when the book launches, and it doesn’t require the reader to post to Goodreads. (This is painfully obvious to me as a new NetGalley reader.)
  • Not all of these reviews are created equal. Some are helpful! Some are… not. I’ve seen people’s books get bombed on NetGalley because the reader didn’t read the blurb, and mistook a clearly labeled sci-fi for a fantasy.

Helpful Notes:

  • I would estimate approximately 95% of the downloads in a two month period occur in the first month, so if you’re going to do NetGalley, one month is plenty
  • Cover is KING. If you have an amazeballs cover, people will download your book. (I, alas, do not have an amazeballs cover… but NetGalley is a good place to go look around and see what kind of covers draw people’s eyes.
  • Reviews have a way of trickling in. Even if your monthly listing expires on 31 July, if someone downloads it on 31 July, they still have two months to read it and post a review.

My verdict:

  • Despite its flaws, I still use NetGalley. At $45 for one month, I’m averaging about $4/review, and it’s worth it to me to get the chance to nab librarian, teacher, and bookseller readers. Now… if one of these days I bust out the big bucks for a killer cover… then we might really be in business.

Hidden Gems

So I kind of randomly came across this one. Someone on Twitter had described it as the “gold standard” of ARC listings so I decided to give it a shot, but this one’s a little tougher to gage. I *think* I got around 5ish Amazon reviews each for Odriel’s Heirs and Idriel’s Children, but it’s hard to tell… which is part of the problem.

What I like about Hidden Gems

  • So your $20 deposit covers 10 readers, which is reasonable. (It’s $3/reader after that… but I have yet to hit this milestone on Hidden Gems)
  • You don’t have to finalize your information until about a month before your reserved date (*see in the next section why this is important)
  • Reviews seem mostly positive
  • Reviews are only posted on Amazon

What I don’t like about Hidden Gems

  • The number one problem is that they’re so backed up, you have to reserve a spot A YEAR out. The good news is you can reserve a spot, and then put whatever book you have ready in there. But still… it’s not super convenient for planning purposes. Especially since I prefer to put ARCs out either right before or right after launch. Will I have a book ready for Hidden Gems in July 2022? I’m not sure.
  • My second problem is that I have no transparency about what goes on behind the curtain. I don’t have an impressions/clicks/reader data of any kind. The only email I got was, “Hey, we got less than 10 readers, so you don’t have to pay beyond the deposit.” I don’t even know which/how many of these left a review. I can only guess based on reviews that said “I got this ARC in exchange for a free review” that don’t seem to be from BookSirens or NetGalley.
  • The reviews seem to be mostly only a few sentences. “I liked it!” “It was pretty good.” etc. (But this could just be my limited experience.) Of course all reviews are wonderful! But I do like the ones that help me grow as a writer by tell me what they liked and what they didn’t like.

My Verdict

  • Not for me. The timing issue is too hard for me to plan out, and in combination with the “I don’t really know what I’m getting” situation, I would much rather use NetGalley or BookSirens. Maybe if you plan your book launches a year in advance, this might be worth a shot.

My Results:

Odriel’s Heirs: $44 for this listing
The Gatekeeper of Pericael: $74 for this listing
Idriel’s Children: $22 for this listing (reviews still incoming, and once again keep in mind this is a stand-alone sequel)

What I like about BookSirens

  • It’s $10 for a listing that lasts 3 months, and $2 for every ARC downloaded through BookSirens’ link
  • They have easy links to cross-post to Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub (this one is new)
  • If the reader doesn’t review, they give you a credit for the download
  • It’s easy to access data on clicks/impressions/etc
  • They have a huge database of reviewers that you can reach out to, and they give you a link to send to reviewers. If reviewers use your link to download your ARC, then BookSirens won’t charge you for it.
  • They will remind readers how much longer they have to read a book, they will let a reader ask for more time, and when the book launches, they will remind the reader to cross-post.
  • Usually BookSirens reviews are very helpful and detailed (mostly because the site has a lot of other indie authors that also review, like yours truly… however, on the downside of this, I don’t find a lot of “average, casual readers” on Booksirens)
  • If the reader gives lower than a three star review, they’re given the option not to cross-post

What I don’t like about BookSirens

  • Hmmm… I’ll keep thinking about this, but honestly I don’t really have anything bad to say about BookSirens. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best one I’ve found so far.


  • If you have to go with one service, I would recommend BookSirens. Bottom line, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.

And as a bonus round, we have Sandra’s Book Club! This one works a little differently than the others. You can pay $18.75/month to have your book listed at the top of the list, or you can submit a review for another book on the list in order to list your books for a few months. Odriel’s Heirs got a few reviews from this site when it had a smaller book list, but there are a LOT of books listed now, and I haven’t gotten a review for a while. Most of the reviewers are other writers, and if I had to guess, I’d say shorter books usually get more reviews for obvious reasons. That said, I review enough books in the book club to keep my books listed because it’s doesn’t cost me money and it’s still great exposure!

So please keep in my mind this is just my experience and my personal opinion, but hopefully this was helpful to you! If you have any questions or other topics you’d like me to get into, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Or if you have any other ARC listing services you swear by, please let me know. I’d love to give them a college try and add the results to my list!

Happy ARCing!