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 🙂

Book Review: Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson

I read this book forever ago now (okay, two months ago… but still) and it wasn’t actually a gifted review copy but a book I went out and bought for myself. So I didn’t always plan on reviewing it.

But as we get deeper into Spook-tober, I find myself remembering how fun and creepy this book was, and finding myself wanting to recommend it to everyone all over again. So… this post is basically that. I loved this book and can’t wait to go on a hopefully intelligible rant about it.


Every Line of You tells the story of Lydia, a young coding prodigy who, somehow, accidentally falls in love with the AI that she’s developing, Henry. What starts as basic coding hobby turns into so much more as Henry begins to develop, rewrite and reprogram himself until he’s fully independent, portable, sentient and… romantic?

I heard about this book for months before it published and knew that I had to go out and buy it as soon as I was able to (I ended up walking four miles to get the Forbidden Planet exclusive edition and, honestly, no regrets). I love love love books about VR, AIs and pretty much any of that technical stuff, and this seemed too unique and creepy an addition to the genre to miss.

Anyway, this book totally lived up to my expectations. Although very dark and at times a little gruesome, it does read like it’s intended for the younger YA audience, which made it a really easy read. I finished the whole thing in a few hours because it was so fast-paced, gripping and, honestly, pretty short.

Lydia is a fairly straightforward character: a young girl who has suffered much more loss and sadness than she should have to deal with, who is suffering both at home and with bullying at school. She was totally believable as an impressionable teenager looking for an escape, and that made what happened with Henry feel all the more believable and, as a result, all the more terrifying. It was fascinating and horrifying to watch her go completely off the rails under the influence of her AI, and to see what terrible things grief and pressure can encourage a young girl to do.

Henry, although not a person, was an equally impressive character. Like Lydia, I often forgot that he was an AI because he was so well developed and fascinating in himself. He definitely got scary as the story went on, but I somehow found myself rooting for him for the majority of the story in a way that I’m still kind of concerned by.

The story itself was a great twist on a classic YA thriller. We saw everything Lydia was feeling as her life started to unravel, and I found myself desperately turning the pages to see either when she would snap out of it or when she would completely go off the rails. This book really had all of the elements needed by a YA thriller: high school drama, revenge, plot twists and – after all of the build up – an ending that didn’t disappoint.

If you’re into dystopia or YA thrillers or even scary articles about how fast technology is developing, I absolutely recommend this book. It’s the perfect line between fun and creepy and I will definitely be going back for a re-read in the (likely very near) future.

Rating: 5/5

The Halloween Creatures Book Tag

If your question is ‘how many book tags can she possibly do this month?’, my answer is too many. I’ve posted more reviews in the last month than I have in the rest of the year and, honestly, I haven’t read enough this month to keep up with it. Sooooo… I found another tag! The first of many spooky ones in the lead up to Halloween and definitely the one that took the most thought!

Without further ado, the Halloween Creatures tag.

Witch – A Magical Character or Book

The first book that comes to mind is Threadneedle by Cari Thomas. It’s a magical book about a magical witch, set partially in a magical version of the British Library. So… a win. (review here)


Werewolf – A Perfect Book to Read at Night

The Last Girl is an excellent book to read at night. Bonus points if you read the entire thing in one night. It’s scary and excellent. (review here)


Frankenstein – A Book that Truly Shocked You

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson! I expected it to be flawless, which it was, but I did not expect all the twists. It’s incredible and I’m still not over it. (review here)


The Devil – A Dark, Evil Character

Hmmm, it took me a while to think of this one, but I’m going to go with the Emperor from The Bone Shard Daughter. (review here)


Grim Reaper – A Character that Should Never Have Died

I’m going to go off-brand for a minute and pick a classic. A *certain* character in A Tale of Two Cities. His death had me SOBBING at five AM and I’ll never be over it.


Zombie – A Book that Made You Hungry For More

Gilded by Marissa Meyer!! I need more!! I’m obsessed. (review here)


Gargoyle – A Character You Would Protect at All Times

Hideo Tanaka. I’m sure he could protect himself, but I’d protect him at all costs.


Vampire – A Book That Sucked the Life Out of You

I try not to insult books often but, to be thematic, Vampire Academy


Ghost – A Book That Still Haunts You

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake still haunts me. And not even because of the ghost. Mostly because this book broke my soul.


Demon – A Book That Really Scared You

There’s Someone Inside Your House! It wasn’t the best horror book I’ve ever read but it was terrifying to read home alone.


Skeleton – A Character You Have a Bone to Pick With

Taryn Duarte. I have so. many. bones to pick with Taryn Duarte from The Folk of the Air.


Mummy – A Book That You Would Preserve Through Time

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim. A new favourite for me and an absolute masterpiece of a book. (review here)


Creepy Doll – A Cover Too Scary to Look At

Asylum by Madeleine Roux. This book has been on my TBR forever and I haven’t got round to it yet, but the cover perpetually haunts me.

And that’s it! If you’re looking for some spooky content to post, consider yourself tagged! 🙂

ARC Review: Dead Lucky by Andreina Cordani

*Thank you to Little, Brown for the eARC*

Dead Lucky follows Maxine, and her various influencer frenemies, in the aftermath of the murder of fellow influencer, Xav, which was filmed and uploaded for millions to see. Xav had a lot of enemies and a tendency to provoke, but nobody could have predicted that something so brutal would happen to him. And as Maxine and her friends try to figure out the whodunnit of it all, it becomes clear that this may not have been a one-off event. What’s even worse: Maxine could easily be the killer’s next target.

This is a very quick and easy read. Like most books I’ve read about influencers, it comes across perhaps more light-hearted than it should for a book about a brutal murder, but it was really fun to read about their lives and struggles as internet celebrities. Although it’s difficult to sympathise with a lot of the characters, Maxine is quite a down to earth protagonist who is aware and appreciative of her supporters, and at least somewhat concerned about everyone around her.

The suspense in this book was really well done. With the bursts of narrative that were scattered throughout from Sam (one of the influencers’ former best friends and an incredibly suspicious presence), I felt nervous the entire way through, like something bad was always about to happen. There weren’t that many pivotal climaxes in the story and I think there could have comfortably been a few more, but the build up throughout was really good and I did like a lot of the plot twists and reveals that were thrown in. The big ‘whodunnit’ reveal was handled well too and, although I wasn’t hugely convinced by the killer’s motivation, it was entertaining and quite unexpected.

Overall, this was a good read with a unique set of somewhat caricature-ish characters and a fun combination of tension and celebrity. It’s an easy book to finish in a couple of days and an interesting commentary on influencer culture.

Rating: 3.5/5

Dead Lucky publishes on 11th January 2022 🙂

The Cosy Autumn Book Tag

I’m struggling to comprehend the fact that I’ve actually stuck to my posting-every-other-day schedule this month but, somehow, I’m still on track! And, as a result, I’ve posted a lot more reviews than normal this month. So I thought it would be nice to break these up with a seasonally appropriate tag.

I’ve seen this one going around recently and love any opportunity to talk about my favourite season so, without further ado, the Cosy Autumn Book Tag.

What book always reminds you of fall/autumn?

I don’t actually know why this was the first book to come to mind but: Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield. I read this book in Autumn last year, wrapped up in a blanket and completely freaked out by the combination of the plot, a thunderstorm and the creepy noises that my last flat made, and I will always associate it with this time of year as a result.

What is your favourite autumnal book cover?

Cemetery Boys! It doesn’t have that much Autumnal stuff on the cover, but it definitely still reminds me of the season a lot. And it’s completely beautiful. And one of my favourite books ever. Anyway…

What is your favourite autumnal drink to read with?

Hot chocolate! I used to hate hot drinks but, after getting obsessed with coffee last year, I started to like this too. Now, the second the temperature drops low enough, I love to switch from iced caramel lattes to hot chocolates and cream.

Do you prefer to read late at night or early in the morning?

Definitely late at night. I’m much more of a night owl than an early riser and love knowing that I can curl up in bed with a book at the end of the day, with no obligation to move until I’ve read as much as I want to.

Halloween is coming! What is your favourite spooky read?

I’ve been reading a lot of scary YA lately and it’s been getting me super nostalgic for Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, the YA horror anthology. I read this whole collection years ago but find myself visiting some of its stories often, especially when we’re nearing Halloween.

What is the ultimate comfort read for you?

Not autumnal in the slightest, as it’s the most summery book I can think of but… We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. It’s been getting a lot of hate recently thanks to TikTok but it’s the book I’ve read most in the world and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. Although not the happiest of stories, it’s just so easy, gripping and now nostalgic.

What is your favourite autumnal reading snack?

I baked Halloween-themed brownies recently (complete with spooky ghost decorations, of course) and they made a really cute reading snack. But really, anything with chocolate is a good reading snack all year round.

What is your favourite autumnal candle to burn whilst reading?

It’s a very unpopular opinion in book world, but I don’t actually really like candles. I do love the idea of Pumpkin Spice scented candles, or Vanilla Latte ones, but I only use electric ones, oops.

When you’re not reading, what is your favourite autumnal activity?

I love autumn walks! Seeing the streets covered in leaves and being able to leave the house wrapped up in cardigans and boots rather than summer clothes makes me happy.

What is on your autumn/fall reading list?

So much! I’m mostly focusing on Halloween rather than Autumn in general this year, so anything dark is great. Only A Monster is next up, then You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen McManus and, of course, Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco.

And that’s the tag! If you want to do it, consider yourself tagged 🙂 I’d love to know what your favourite autumnal read is too, so drop a comment below if you have any great Autumn recs!

Book Review: The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino

*Thank you to Titan Books for the eARC*

The Devil Makes Three is a dark-academia YA horror that follows Tess, a scholarship student and resident school librarian, and Eliot, the evil-headmaster’s privileged son, as they pair up to find grimoires and histories of dark magic to help Eliot on a personal quest and… accidentally unleash a book-bound demon. The two find themselves forced to put their differences and personal problems aside so they can work together to figure out what they seem to have set free, as Tess is all the while plagued by dreams of the devil and Eliot finds himself losing touch with the magic he has been struggling all his life to get a grasp of.

I’m mad at myself for having had an eARC of this since July and only now, in October, getting round to reading it, but I can’t deny that it fits perfectly on my scary October reading list. It’s a really dark story with a typical spooky setting and it had all of the atmosphere that I wanted from pre-Halloween reading. If you’re squeamish, it’s important to know that the author definitely doesn’t shy away from gore, but it really does help push the intensity and danger of the characters’ situations, and I do think that this was generally done well. Likewise, you should definitely look up the trigger warnings of this book before going into it as well, as there are a lot of triggering subjects such as child abuse, death and self-harm.

In terms of characters, I really liked the combination of Tess and Eliot’s perspectives. Tess was strong-willed, completely independent and unwilling to take anything from anyone, and Eliot’s quiet, inquisitive, hiding-behind-his-office-door nature made them a really fun pair to root for. It was a little strange at times that the way they described each other didn’t always completely align with the way that they actually behaved, but the use of both characters as protagonists made it much easier to understand both of them and why they might be falling for each other, despite their drastically different outlooks. It also definitely helped my enjoyment of this story that the rich-boy/scholarship-student romance trope is one that I love, and I may or may not have found rooting for them from before they even met (oops).

The story is a fairly straight-forward one, with a lot of intense moments of action and not a lot of twists. If you’re looking for a lot of surprises, this book may not be for you as it definitely relies more on atmosphere than mystery, but if you’re in the mood for a gory (for YA) page-turner, it definitely is. It’s an entertaining, not-quite-slasher-level horror with elements of dark academia, witchcraft and dark magic, and I’d absolutely recommend if you’re looking for some YA to get you into the Halloween spirit.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: Survive the Night by Riley Sager

*Thank you to Hodder for the eARC*

Survive the Night follows university student Charlie as, in an attempt to get away from the grief and anguish of losing her best friend, she accepts a carshare away from their university with a handsome stranger. Charlie is losing grip on reality though, and the longer she’s in the car, the more convinced she becomes that Josh, her driver, isn’t what he seems. It becomes clear that her only option is to mentally study all of the movie history that she’s learned from horror to get through their six hour drive and survive until morning, or until she can find help.

I don’t read a lot of thrillers so I don’t have a huge amount to compare this to, but this was definitely one of the best I’ve read this year. It was fast-paced enough to get me out of my reading slump and, from the very beginning, completely unputdownable. Charlie’s deteriorating grip on reality made her an incredibly unreliable narrator and it was so interesting to try and guess all the way through whether she was in danger, what kind of danger she was in, and what reckless thing she would attempt in order to get out of it. What made it even more entertaining for me is that the entire book takes place over a day or so, so it really felt like I was on their journey with them, with every second accounted for, without the book becoming slow at all.

This book was twisty and definitely went in a lot of directions I wasn’t expecting so, even though some of the major plot twists were very guessable, the amount that weren’t balanced these out incredibly well. There were some parts that were easy to foresee and some characters that were too suspicious to ignore even when I think we were supposed to, but I didn’t find that this slowed the pace at all. It was easy to keep track of what was happening too, and all the twists all made sense as well, which was a pleasant change to a lot of confusing and jumpy thrillers that I’ve read in the past.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I definitely liked the first half slightly more than the second, with the incredible amount of suspense that the author built from the get-go, but the whole book was a gripping, edge-of-your-seat read that I’m sure will become a new favourite for fans of Riley Sager’s other books and fans of the psychological suspense genre in general.

Rating: 4/5

ARC Review: Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach

*Thank you to Usborne for the e-ARC*

It’s taken me almost a month to get my thoughts in order about this book and, even now, I admit that this review is pretty much just a stream of consciousness about how much I ADORED it. It’s not uncommon for me to get obsessed with books, but it is actually pretty rare for me to love a contemporary as much as this one, and I’m so excited to finally share my thoughts on it!

Not Here to Be Liked tells the story of Eliza, editor-in-chief candidate for her school newspaper and all round academic perfectionist.

What she lacks in people skills, she makes up for with her desperation to be the best journalist their school has ever seen, and she’s obviously the ideal candidate to run the paper in her senior year…

Eliza’s plan to become editor-in-chief is completely foolproof – that is, until former footballer and reforming jock, Len, shows up and decides that he can steal her spotlight. Eliza is outraged that Len is running against her, and even more outraged that his popularity and masculinity seem to be ensuring he gets the position that she was always destined for.

The story that ensues is angry, feminist, and all too real, as Eliza fights for the position that is rightfully hers – against a boy who may have a little more to him than meets the eye.

This is easily the best contemporary I’ve read this year, and I haven’t stopped raving about it since I put it down. Eliza was sold as an unlikeable, angry protagonist and, whilst this would probably be true if she was in your class at school, she’s a really, really great character. She was very relatable, very real and completely honest with herself, which was so refreshing to read about. So many contemporary protagonists are unaware of their flaws or striving to be perfect, likeable individuals, but Eliza is a conflicted young woman with strong opinions, who is not afraid to admit her shortcomings, and I wish I’d read more protagonists like her when I was growing up.

Eliza wasn’t the only character I loved in this book, though. Len was the perfect love interest too. Not too ‘woke’ and perfect to be real (he definitely made his fair share of mistakes too…), he was still a completely likeable character that was easy to fall for. Serena was a prime example of taking the mean girl trope and flipping it on its head, and Winona was honest, tough, and incredibly relatable in her ambitions, so I found the entire cast to be entertaining and very well-developed.

This book tackles a lot of real life sociopolitical issues and, whilst feminism is becoming more and more prominent in YA, this book is definitely the best I’ve read so far that so openly explored the issue. It’s a masterclass in how to teach young readers about feminism in the real world and how to be an activist about it, without reading like a spoon-fed guide to gender politics and I (a woman who is possibly older than the intended target audience) came away with a refreshed outlook on the topic.

In case it isn’t already obvious, I’m completely obsessed with this book. It’s fun, easy, informative, important, and so entertaining to read, and I will definitely be recommending it to anyone who wants to listen.

Rating: 5/5

PS. If you’ve read it and loved it as much as I did, please let me know, I’d love to hype with you😂

ARC REVIEW: This is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore

Thank you! To Harper 360 YA for sending me an ARC of this very exciting new YA mystery. I’ve had my eye on it for a while and was SO excited for the opportunity to read and review 🙂

When Jenna Dallas, a high school student in a small coastal town, and Adam Cole, a student from Rockwood – a local boarding school – find the body of one of Jenna’s classmates on a local beach, the entire town is completely taken by surprise.

With every student at Rockwood a reformed teenage boy with plenty of secrets, and a whole lot of drama between the girls in Jenna’s class, everybody is suddenly a suspect – and the more time we spend uncovering their secrets, the more obvious it becomes that literally everyone has something to hide.

This was such a fun and easy read. The story was told from Jenna and Adam’s perspectives, as well as through various text chains and interviews, so it had short chapters and stayed really fast-paced all the way through. Even as I read their views and their sides of events, I couldn’t figure out whether I trusted anyone at all, so I read desperately to the end in order to could get the answers I needed without waiting. It only took me one afternoon to read the entire thing, and I’d definitely recommend if you’re in a reading slump and looking for something easy to get you out of it.

If you enjoy high-school mysteries, there’s a high chance you’ll enjoy this book. It definitely had some predictable tropes and some clichéd bad-boy/mean-girl characters, but they were unique and interesting enough that they didn’t feel completely overdone. The plot as well felt a little familiar in places, as can be expected when you’ve read as many high school thrillers as I have…, but it was overall surprising enough that I didn’t guess the majority of the plot twists or the final whodunnit!

This book is a great addition to a popular genre, and I’m fully here for it. With its creepy small town setting, its suspicious cast of characters and its fun and easy format, it made for a really exciting afternoon of reading.

Rating: 4/5