NOVEMBER WRAP-UP

I can’t process a couple of things about this wrap-up. The first is that it’s already the end of November?? It seems impossible that we’re weeks away from Christmas now and, although I’m very excited about that, it’s also terrifying to think about… The second thing I can’t process about this wrap-up is that I read EIGHT books this month. EIGHT. As in: double what I read last month. So happy to have had such a good reading month and crossing my fingers that I don’t find myself slumping in December to make up for it!

Anyway, I read a lot of great books this month and I’m very excited to talk about all of them.

First up is Only a Monster by Vanessa Len – This was my first read of NetGalley November and I absolutely loved it. It took the villain protagonist trope very literally and I loved how conflicted I felt about 90% of what happened. Although it took me a while to get into it, it was very much worth the read. 4/5

Lock the Doors by Vincent Ralph – This was a very quick and easy thriller read. Sadly not one of my favourite books of the month as it was a little jumpy and I didn’t find myself overly invested, but it was still a fun read with an interesting protagonist, and it definitely got better towards the end. 2.5/5

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan – This is an absolute MUST read for YA fantasy lovers. It’s definitely similar in many ways to a lot of other fantasy books out there right now, but it was still a unique and impressive read with characters that I loved, incredible world building and some very dramatic climactic scenes. My favourite book of the month, for sure. 5/5

After the Rain by Natalia Gomes – Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book. It’s been on my TBR for a while and I made myself read it for Netgalley November, but I didn’t connect with the characters or their friendship as much as I hoped I would. The author does handle sensitive topics very well and I did appreciate the characters’ journeys towards recovery, but that was sadly the only thing I really enjoyed about it. 2/5

Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman – I was starting to feel a little intimidated by my TBR this month so decided to take a break and read a fun graphic novel instead. This book is so sweet and so worth the hype, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next few volumes asap. 4/5

If This Gets Out by Cale Dietrich and Sophie Gonzales – This is a sweet contemporary read about two members of a world famous boy band who fall in love, and how they deal with the complications of it. It seemed really genuine in its portrayal of their relationship, and handled some other sensitive topics with the side characters as well. Although not my usual genre, I did really enjoy it. 3.5/5

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J Taylor – This book is more my style than anything else on this list. It gave off major Caraval vibes and I instantly fell in love with both of the main characters. It reads as slightly younger YA and I’m definitely above the YA target audience, but the setting was very well-developed, the story was fun and it was perfect as a quick, escapist read. 4/5

Finally, The Girls are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh – such a fun read. It has ghosts, it has a creepy mansion, it has romance, it has influencers. The YA horror vibes reminded me of Anna Dressed in Blood (which is one of my all time FAVES) and I devoured this book in basically one sitting. It was definitely a little cliched at times but, to be honest, that kind of made me enjoy it more… 4/5

And that’s it!… phew. I’d love to hear what you think of any of the above, and what your favourite book of the month was! All best wishes for a good reading month in December ❤

ARC REVIEW: JADE FIRE GOLD by June CL Tan

First of all, thank you to Hodder for the eARC of this incredible book, and SORRY to Hodder for taking so ridiculously long to pick it up. I’m kicking myself for leaving it unread on my shelf for so long when I knew how much I was going to love it, and I’m very happy that I finally got round to it. Anyway!

Jade Fire Gold tells the dual stories of Ahn, a young woman who finds her life completely upended, and Altan, a former prince, as their lives and missions completely and unintentionally converge.

Ahn is an orphaned young girl living with a kind stranger in a small outskirts town, who is uprooted suddenly when she discovers that her father is a very senior ally to the royal family that desperately needs her help to solve an age old problem. Altan, meanwhile, is a presumed-dead outlaw former heir to the throne who realises that Ahn may be the key to regaining his position, and knows that he needs to do whatever it takes to do just that. What follows is an intense and epic adventure, filled with magic, slow-burn romance and a lot of action and adventure.

This story was so much fun to read. The imagery was vivid, the magic was intense (very ATLA-esque) and both protagonists were so well-developed that I found myself equally excited every time the perspective changed to either of them. I did find that the pacing was slightly odd at times, and that weeks seemed to pass by in the space of one or two lines but, whilst this was off-putting at first, I found by the end that it just allowed much more time to develop the story.

It’s rare in a fantasy book that the fight scenes are my favourite part, but it was definitely the case with this one as they were so intense and perfectly described that I found myself completely sucked into the action. I genuinely cried at multiple points and I felt so emotionally connected to the characters by the end of the story that I was truly sad to have to put it down. The romance was also really beautifully done, as what could very easily have been insta-love based on their first interaction turned into a beautiful slow burn romance with a couple of tropes and clichés thrown in along the way that I really found myself enjoying.

I think it may be obvious, but I adored this book. I couldn’t get over it for days after putting it down. The characters are still living in my brain at this moment, and I’m so excited to see what June CL Tan releases next.

Rating: 5/5

ARC Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Hi, readers! I read You’ve Reached Sam way back in April and somehow convinced myself that I’d already shared my review when, in fact, I never did. So, since it published this week, I thought I’d share now!

You’ve Reached Sam follows Julie, a high-school girl who is trying to come to terms with the loss of her long-term boyfriend and the unravelling of all of the plans that they had for the future. Her mourning takes a sudden turn, though, when she calls Sam’s phone in a moment of weakness and he actually picks up.

What follows is a heart-wrenching story of love and loss, and an emotional portrayal of a young woman dealing with grief and the urge to move on.

This book is as emotional as you’d expect it to be. It’s completely filled with touching scenes about Sam and Julie’s relationship, heart-breaking moments of grief as she tries to cope with her loss, and touching friendships with Sam’s family and friends as they all struggle to move on in different ways. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to cry for the majority of the time you’re reading (I personally cried during the very first chapter…) so, if you want a book that will break your heart, this is a solid choice.

Some of Julie’s actions are flawed and, normally, I would criticise a protagonist for their mistakes, but everything she does is because of her grief and mourning and that really comes across throughout. I got frustrated when she missed opportunities that I wished she would take, but it was so understandable for someone in her position that, instead of being critical, I felt largely empathetic.

This was a really bittersweet, emotional story about young love, loss and figuring out what’s important in life. It’s a poignant contemporary with fantasy elements that I would absolutely recommend if you’re looking for a book to make you cry.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: Only A Monster by Vanessa Len

Thank you thank you thank you to Hodder for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review! I’m SO glad I got the chance to read and review this book and I don’t think I’m going to be able to get it out of my head, ever…

Only A Monster follows Joan, a teenage girl sent to stay with her mother’s side of the family, who finds out that there’s more to them – and herself – than she ever realised. Namely, that they’re monsters, and that means she’s half-monster too.

If that wasn’t enough, Joan then discovers that the cute boy that she’s been volunteering with, crushing on and generally obsessing over, isn’t just a human either: Nick’s a monster hunter, fabled as the only one who can unravel the hidden world that they’ve created.

When Joan suffers an unimaginable tragedy at the hands of the boy she’s in love with, she’s forced to team up with her worst enemy in an attempt to repair the damage that Nick’s done, before it’s too late.

I’ve read so many YA books that have flipped tropes and age-old stories on their heads, but I’ve never read anything that does it quite like Only A Monster. It’s a typical hero story except, for the first time ever, I had to root against the hero, and the moral-greyness of it all was completely flawless. I found myself confused by how I felt about all of the characters at so many different points that, while I knew who I was supposed to be supporting, I was never entirely sure if that’s actually how I felt. It made for a very confusing but incredibly unique reading experience, with one of the best uses of the anti-hero trope I’ve ever read.

It definitely took time for me to connect with the three main characters – Joan, Nick, or Joan’s now-ally, Aaron – and I was worried initially that I wasn’t entirely rooting for any of them. I didn’t particularly ship Joan with anyone at the start and I couldn’t figure out if I trusted her family or not (what with them being monsters, and all) so I was definitely concerned for the first few chapters that I wasn’t going to get into this story at all. But, somewhere in the middle, I became completely hooked, and developed a mild obsession with all three characters that took me completely by surprise. Joan developed into a strong-willed fierce heroine (villain??), Aaron became the newest addition to a long line of arrogant, fictional posh boys that are super easy to fall in love with, and Nick got more and more complex until I genuinely couldn’t figure out how I felt about his mission.

The story was fairly fast-paced, but there was so much world-building included too that the hidden monster world within our own was completely believable and fully developed. It was so easy towards the end to get completely sucked into Joan’s world that I found myself anxiously turning the pages, genuinely concerned about what would happen next, until the very last chapter. Even during the times when the story was slightly slower, I was already so invested that I couldn’t stop reading for even a second.

I had high hopes for this book, and yet it took me completely by surprise how wholly I got sucked into it. I have so many questions that I want answering in the next book and, honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get this one out of my head until then.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

*Thank you to Bloomsbury for the eARC!!*

How We Fall Apart follows Nancy, a scholarship student at the elite Sinclair Prep School, in the aftermath of the tragic death of her classes’ top student, Jamie Ruan. The whole school is shaken when they hear the news, but it only gets worse when an anonymous poster on the school’s social media app tries to pin the murder on Nancy and three of her closest friends, by revealing their deepest darkest secrets, one by one. Nancy and her friends need to find out the identity of the poster, and Jamie’s murderer, before they go down for a crime that they all swear they did not commit.

If you like Karen McManus books, or AGGGTM or any of the other trending high-school murder mystery books, you will absolutely love this book. It’s so fast-paced that I found myself saying ‘just one more chapter…’ for hours on end until I finished the whole book in two sittings, and it’s a really quick and easy read. It’s also quite terrifying at times, with the intensity ramping up and up towards the end in the lead up to the book’s big reveal.

The protagonist in this book was absolutely my favourite thing about it. I liked that Nancy’s friends – Alexander, Peter, Akil, Krystal and Jamie – were developed with their own troubles and backstories, but the depth of Nancy’s character overshadowed all of this. What on the surface came across as inconsistency with her actions turned into a complicated sense of self as the story went on, and Nancy’s erratic emotions and behaviour seemed completely justified as we delved deeper into her difficult relationship with Jamie, the school, and her other privileged classmates.

I wasn’t overly surprised by the ending, but it was written in such a dramatic and intense way that I didn’t mind that I guessed the ‘whodunnit’ element before it was revealed. It definitely felt worth the lead up with an intense and dangerous climax and there were enough suspicious characters throughout the story that it didn’t feel like it was too obvious.

I’d definitely recommend this if you’re in a slump or looking for a fun, gripping, drama-filled read, and I’m excited to see what Katie Zhao writes next.

Rating: 4/5

OCTOBER WRAP-UP

It’s officially my last post of Blogtober!!!! And officially my last post of my crazy schedule of one post every 48 hours! Super happy with all the blogging achievements I’ve had this month and I’m very excited to hopefully pick up a much more regular schedule going forwards – wish me luck on that🍀 


But enough on blogging… In terms of reading, it’s really just been an okay month! The books have been pretty good, and all very quick, but I’ve been so busy with other things that I only finished four. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a better NetGalley-November!


Anyway, the books I read this month were:


Dead Lucky – this was a fun murder mystery about influencer lifestyles gone wrong, and how you shouldn’t trust everything you see online. I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would and found some bits a little too caricature-ish but it was a very fun and quick read with a plot twist and a lot of suspense – 3/5 (if you want to check out my review, you can do so right here)


The Devil Makes Three – dark academia horror may be one of my new favourite things! I feel like I haven’t stopped talking about this book since I finished it, because it’s quite unlike what I usually read, and I definitely want to find more books in this same genre. It was a dark, creepy horror set in a cursed library, and it was completely perfect for Spooktober – 4/5 (if you want to check out my review, you can do so right here)


You’ll Be the Death of Me – I’m convinced that Karen McManus books can do no wrong. Although sometimes they’re a little cliche, and they follow a lot of similar tropes, they’re always so quick, fun and full of twists, and You’ll Be The Death of Me was no different. It was perfect to get me out of my mid-month slump, and I’d fully recommend – 4/5 (if you want to check out my review, you can do so right here)


How We Fall Apart – in the same vein as You’ll Be The Death of Me, this is another fast-paced, high-school murder mystery thriller. It was twisty, fun and contained some surprisingly complex characters, and the constant jumping between timeframes kept me on my toes all the way through. I’d definitely recommend – 4/5 (review to come!)

And that’s it! Let me know what your favourite read of the month was in the comments, and best of luck for a great month of reading in November 🙂

NOVEMBER TBR

October’s nearly over! I’m struggling to comprehend the fact that it’s almost November, but I’m also super excited for the colder weather, the Christmas books and movies, and curling up with a million Costa Gingerbread Lattes (no spon, I’m just obsessed…).

This month has absolutely not been the best reading month for me and I’m cramming to finish a fourth book by month end but, as always, I’m overly optimistic about how much reading I’m going to get done in November. So, without further ado, my November TBR:

The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh – this book has been living rent-free in my mind since I first discovered it and, honestly, the fact I haven’t already bought and read a copy is a crime. I’m hoping it will be a fun, easy read, and a good way to keep Spooktober going past October 31st

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich – I’ve been reading exclusively horror/thriller/dark fantasy books for the last month, and this one looks like a really interesting change of pace. I’m hoping for an adorable whirlwind read and have my fingers crossed that this will live up to my high expectations.

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan – if you’ve seen this on my TBR for like four months now, pretend you haven’t. And also please convince me to read it. It looks incredible and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a five-star read when I finally get round to it but, for some reason, I just keep getting distracted by other things! This month will hopefully be the month I finally start it.

Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain – maybe I’m not ready to move away from the spooky vibes of my October TBR because I know that this is a dark, creepy thriller but it’s also my number one priority on my November TBR. It looks like a quick, fun, mysterious read and I’m hoping I can devour the whole thing in one sitting.

It’s Behind You by Kathryn Foxfield – I actually have no idea what this book is about, oops, but I bought it because I loved Good Girls Die First and it looks like it has the same creepy tone. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you thought!

And that’s it. Let me know which book you’re most excited to read in November, and if there are any November new releases that you’re looking forward to picking up!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Book Tag

I promise I’m going to take a break from tags soon because I’ve absolutely spammed with them this month but, for now, just one last one!

I saw this tag over at Kristin Craves Books and it looked too fun to miss.

Without further ado, the Pumpkin Spice Latte Book Tag:

Pumpkin Spice Latte – a book everyone likes to hate on but is delicious

I didn’t even think for a second before Anna and the French Kiss came to mind. I know that the hate it gets is often justified, but it’s my ultimate comfort read and honestly 90% of the reason I visited Paris…


“Fall is my favourite season” – a cliché you can’t get enough of

The Chosen One cliché. It’s been done to death and, sure, I roll my eyes at it sometimes too, but am I ever going to stop reading The Chosen One books? Probably not.


Sweater Weather to T-Shirt Weather – a book you thought was one thing but was completely different by the end

The Spiral by Iain Ryan. I knew it was a thriller and I knew it was going to be weird, but it turned into one of the most bizarre and unnerving things I’ve ever read. I don’t know remotely how to describe it but, if you want to check out my review, it’s here.


“Spoops” – do you have a spooky book on your tbr?

A million spooky books are on my TBR! I’ve had my eye on The Girls are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh for a really long time and, if anyone can tell me how good it is, please do.


Tarot Reading – a five-star prediction

I’m absolutely expecting Daughter of the moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan to be a five-star read! The cover is absolutely stunning and the blurb sounds incredible. I don’t want to judge a book entirely because it’s pretty, but I have impossibly high hopes for this book and can’t wait to read it.


Sephora Sage + Crystal Set – a book that meant well but missed the mark

Resistance by Val McDermid. I try not to hate on books and I’m sure releasing a graphic novel about a pandemic in the middle of a pandemic was, umm, well-meaning, but… this book was not it for me. Unfortunately, at all.

And that’s the tag! If you want to do it, consider yourself tagged 🙂

ARC REVIEW: YOU’LL BE THE DEATH OF ME by Karen McManus

First things first, THANK YOU to Penguin for the eARC! I’ve been meaning to read more of Karen McManus’ books since I read (and loved) One of Us is Lying a few years ago, and my 2017 self is screaming that I got this opportunity to do so with an ARC. I had no choice but to drop my October TBR for a while to read this one and I was definitely not disappointed…

You’ll Be the Death of Me follows high-school students and former friends, Cal, Ivy and Mateo, as they experience the day from hell, when what they thought would be a Ferris Bueller inspired day of skipping school leads instead to a murder enquiry.

When Ivy finds the body of one of their classmates, and her recent school council rival, in an abandoned art studio, the three find themselves completely wrapped up in the enquiry, trying to figure out what happened, keep themselves safe and, most importantly, not become the case’s primary suspects.

In typical Karen McManus fashion, this is a clever and gripping high-school murder mystery. Like One of Us is Lying, it is told from the perspectives of three wildly different characters, all of whom have a million reasons why they absolutely can’t get caught up in the crime investigation. I think Mateo was my favourite of the three characters, as the most down-to-earth and genuinely kind of the three, but I liked all three protagonists a lot, and the interesting dynamic of three former friends accidentally reuniting for their nightmarish day.

The story itself is a straightforward murder mystery, with fairly standard motivations and victim, but the twists kept it interesting the whole way through. I definitely guessed a few of the big reveals before they happened, but I also found myself going off on completely wrong tangents multiple times, to the point that I stopped trying to guess what would happen around ¾ of the way through when I realised I would inevitably be wrong. I felt that the ending was a little bit dragged out, with a lot of chapters taking place after the mystery has been solved, but this did mean that every possible question you could have is definitely answered and tied up really well. Although I found this part to be a little slower than the rest of the book, I did really appreciate that the author literally thought of *everything*.

I really enjoyed this book and, having been in a reading slump for almost the entirety of October, I don’t think I could’ve picked a better book to get myself out of it. It was an excellent combination of fun, dark and clever, and a reminder that I should definitely be reading every book that Karen McManus puts out.

Rating: 4/5

10 Dark Reads For Halloween

Here I am, once again, coming at you with books to read on Halloween!

One of the first ever posts I made on Rarely in Reality was Halloween Book Recommendations and, in honour of the fact that today is my two year Blogiversary, I thought I’d recreate it. So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 dark book recommendations for reading next weekend:

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake – this book was definitely featured on my Halloween recs post two years ago, but it’s too good not to include again. It’s an incredible YA thriller/horror/romance with a heart-crushing sequel and I definitely cannot recommend it enough.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke – I will never shut up about this anthology, and one of the best things about it is that there is a story for everyone. There’s so much variation in this collection and so many incredible authors that, even if one or two of the stories are not to your taste, there will be a story that you absolutely love. And at least one that scares the life out of you.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin – Any book that features a sleepover in an abandoned asylum and a girl who can kill creatures with her mind deserves a place on my Halloween recommendations list. This is dark, creepy and one of my favourite series’ ever – and also features your next fictional crush, Noah Shaw.

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield – A YA horror set on an abandoned pier with a creepy magical presence, a group of suspicious teens and a mysterious invitation is also the perfect book to curl up with on Halloween. It’s a really easy standalone with the kind of scene-setting that makes you nervous to read while home alone.

The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood – This one’s a little different to the others on the list in that it’s not exactly horror, but it’s just as deserving of a spot on your TBR. It’s a very gothic and creepy Cinderella retelling with a morally corrupt protagonist and a fair amount of gruesome deaths so, if fantasy is more your thing than straight-up horror, this could be the book for you.

In the Ravenous Dark by AM Strickland – or this one! This is another fantasy where the author does not shy away from gore. It’s got an excess of dark magic, a royal setting and plenty of untrustworthy characters, and it’s one of the first books that comes to mind when I think of genuinely dark YA.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – the first and only non-YA book on this list, this adult thriller is dark, unpredictable and very fast-paced. It’s got a completely unreliable, grieving narrator, a mysterious stranger and an overnight car journey that could go wrong in a million ways. Though it’s definitely more thriller than horror, it’s perfectly creepy for Halloween.

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco – A YA fantasy about beautiful princes of Hell, a sacrifice and a vengeful, witchy protagonist. I think everyone knows about this book at this point and it’s not exactly a niche recommendation, but it definitely deserves a spot on your TBR if you haven’t already read it.

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino – a very recent addition to this list, since I only read this book earlier this month! It’s a dark academia horror with a haunted library, gruesome violence and a demon that resides in an old grimoire. It’s very traditional YA horror and a straight-forward choice for reading on Halloween.

The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky – if you’re into horror films and looking for something more along the lines of your favourite slashers, this could be a great option. With a film buff protagonist who’s obsessed with horror movies and gore, a group of disturbed outcast teens and a masked stalker, this is another obvious choice to curl up with on a dark and stormy night…

And that’s it! I’d love to hear your favourite Halloween recommendations, so please let me know in the comments what go-to read for October 31st 🙂