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 🙂

ARC Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Thank you! to Bloomsbury for the e-ARC of this wonderful book. I feel like every review I’ve done recently has been five-stars and this is no exception, but it fully. deserves. it.

Defy the Night is the dual-perspective story of the cruel Prince Corrick, brother of the King, and Tessa, an outlaw, smuggler and local people’s hero, as their paths converge on the brink of civil unrest. The two find themselves in very difficult but equally conflicting situations as they try to ultimately reach the same goal of preventing a civil war.

This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I didn’t want to put it down for even a second and, the few times I had to, I found myself itching to pick it back up. Multiple times I found that my heart was actually racing or that I was holding back tears, and I definitely became far too emotionally attached to Tessa, Corrick, and even Palace Master Quint, or Corrick’s brother King Harristan. It was gripping from the first page and I found myself hooked instantly.

The story is of civil unrest, so there are a lot of political undertones, but I found learning the politics of Kandala much more exciting and necessary than I expected to. It was fascinating to learn about the inner workings of all sides, and have these all be tied together with violence, action and romance. I likewise loved watching the characters’ romances building with dangerous intensity as the story went on, and found myself very invested in my ship from far too early in the story.

It’s hard to talk about this book without spoilers, but I absolutely urge any YA lover to read this. It has a gripping storyline, wonderful characters and so many climactic points that it’s impossible to put down, and I’ll absolutely be reading Brigit Kemmerer’s other books now to see if they’re all as truly incredible.

Rating: 5/5

OCTOBER TBR

Happy October! I had a pretty good reading month in September and I’m crossing my fingers for an even better (and scarier) reading month in October. My TBR isn’t quite as spooky as I initially planned, but there are definitely some dark YA fantasies in the mix that I’m excited to read.

Without further ado, my October TBR:

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino – if you saw this on my September TBR, pretend you didn’t… I started it last month and am loving it so far so will definitely get round to finishing it this month. And it’s a horror-y enough way to start my spooky October reading.

Steelstriker by Marie Lu– I’ve ordered two copies of this to buddy read with my fiancé and I can. not. wait. Every Marie Lu book I’ve ever read has been amazing and I really loved Skyhunter, so I’ve been anticipating this one for EVER.

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len– a dark fantasy romance about monsters is exactly what I wanted to read this month and Harper approving my request on NetGalley just in time seems like a sign that I need to read it ASAP. This seems like a pretty unique edition to a super fun genre and I’m really excited to check it out.

Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier – Having just loved Defy the Night (a story about a royal court, an apocalyptic plague and an unexpected romance), this book with all the same tropes seems pretty perfect. I’m super excited to start this one and hope that it lives up to my very high expectations.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Herman – The Hunger Games with high magic?! This book sounds amazing and, if it lives up to its description, it stands a chance at becoming a new favourite! I’ve been approved for it on NetGalley for longer than I’d like to admit and really hope I get round to reading it this month.

After the Rain by Natalia Gomes– I’ve been trying to get into this book for a while and haven’t been able to really get into it, but it does seem like an easy, important and emotional read. I’m giving it another try this month and think it will be quite drastically different to everything else I’m planning to pick up in October.

And that’s it! Let me know your most anticipated read for October in the comments (even more appreciated if it’s a Halloween-y book that I can add to my list!) 🙂

ARC Review: Gilded by Marissa Meyer

First of all, THANK YOU to Faber for the eARC of this incredible book. I dropped my entire TBR to read it and regret absolutely nothing.

Also may have *accidentally* preordered the stunning Fairyloot edition the second I finished reading it… Anyway –

Gilded follows Serilda, a miller’s daughter who has been blessed by the God of Lies with an ability to spin stories, as she catches the attention of an evil undead ruler and lies her way into his favour.

Convinced that Serilda has the ability to spin gold from straw, the Erlking draws her back at every opportunity and Serilda finds herself trapped between the dead and the living, trying her hardest both to escape the web of lies she’s found herself in and find a way to ensure nobody she cares about gets harmed in the crossfire.

I’ve never read any of Marissa Meyer’s other retellings, but I’ll absolutely be reading them all after this one. Gilded is in part beautiful and magical, and in part grotesque and gothic, as every good Grimm-inspired fairytale should be. The descriptions were so beautifully written that I found myself fully immersed in the villages, castles and forests as Serilda was, and the plot twists were so dark and often unexpected that the amount of scene-setting didn’t slow the pace for even a page. It became obvious early on where the general direction of this story was going, but the twists and turns weren’t predictable and I found myself excitedly awaiting each new section of the story.

Serilda is a bold, impressive protagonist with an unexpectedly solid moral compass for someone so adept at lying, and the cast of characters she surrounds herself with are equally fascinating, from the schoolchildren, to the forest folk, to the dark king himself. Gild (the castle’s mysterious resident poltergeist) was, unsurprisingly, my absolute favourite character, with his intricate and beautifully-told backstory and his adorably charming personality.

I knew halfway through this book that it was going to be one of my favourite reads of this year, and the second half fully lived up to my expectations. Gilded is a dark, magical, twisty tale, and I’m seriously begging for a sequel.

Rating: 5/5 !

Gilded publishes in the UK on 2nd November 🙂

Book Review: Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

*Thank you to Hodder for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

Fire With Fire tells the story of Dani and Eden Rivera, who could almost be your average competitive sisters if not for one added complication: they come from a family of well-renowned and highly dedicated dragon slayers. Eden is the responsible older sister and Dani is the reckless teenager with little interest in the family’s business but, so as to be as unfair of possible, Dani is of course the young dragon-slaying prodigy that excels in every aspect of her training.

As if life isn’t complicated enough for the Rivera sisters, everything becomes a little more confusing and a lot more dangerous when Dani stumbles across a dragon one night and finds that they may not be the lethal, heartless creatures that she’s always been taught that they are. With dragons, slayers, high school romances, sorcerers and rivalries, Fire With Fire is an exciting story about sibling rivalries gone too far, loyalties, and how it isn’t always easy to know who you can trust.

Although I enjoyed it from the beginning, it took me quite a while to get into this book. When I did get hooked though, around 40% in, it became completely impossible to put down. The plot was exciting and the action scenes were well-written, but my favourite thing about this book by far was the wonderful cast of characters. The lengths that her anxiety and pride take Eden to make her a fascinating character, and Dani’s growth was possibly even more gripping to read about. The entire set of side characters – Nox, Tomas, Sadie, Kieran – were also really likeable, and the strength of their trust and friendships was so pure and refreshing to read about.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Its combination of intense and detailed fight scenes, teen angst, magic, sibling rivalry and great representation made it a fun, unique read that I would absolutely recommend.

Rating: 4/5

August Wrap-Up & September TBR

Hi! How is everyone? Hope August was a wonderful reading month!

I’m back from my first ever blog hiatus and excited to share my August wrap-up and September TBR 🙂 I took it easy in August and had some me-time, so I’m back with an overwhelming amount of books to read – once again – and even more to talk about.

I only read a book per week last month so it’s quite a modest wrap-up, but there are some really fun books on here. So, without further ado, my August wrap-up:

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria – 3.5/5

This was a really fun read with a lot of action, rivalry, drama and… dragons. It was a fun and easy read with an interesting cast of humans, sorcerers and dragons alike and, if you’re a big fantasy reader, I’d recommend.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – 4/5

I was in the middle of a slump when I picked this book up, and it pulled me out of it so quickly. This is a fast-paced, set-in-real-time thriller with a lot of twists, a lot of tension, and an insanely unreliable narrator.

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan – 4/5

A story about a girl caught between two rival faerie princes from the Seelie and Unseelie courts??? Honestly, I’m not sure I need to say more, but this was a fun, Cruel-Prince-esque fantasy about handsome princes, dark magic and a fierce heroine.

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson – 5/5

I think I’d read any book in existence about AIs/VR/futuristic tech at this point. This is a gripping thriller about a girl who falls in love with her morally-corrupt AI and all of the havoc that ensues as a result. It’s such a quick read and I one-billion percent recommend.

And that’s it for August! If you’ve read any of the above, I’d love to hear what you thought!

Although I’m happy with my August wrap-up, I definitely need to be slightly more ambitious with my September TBR to keep on track with my GR goal, so I have quite a lotthat I want to get through this month.

First up, Fools in Love, a short story anthology based on all of the most popular romance tropes out there right now. I’m partway through this and really enjoying it, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – this is absolutely not my usual type of book but my fiancé is obsessed with it right now and really wants me to check it out. I’m really looking forward to trying something difference and seeing what the hype is all about.

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan – this has been on my ARC TBR for so long and I don’t know why I haven’t picked it up already. It’s an intense fantasy YA (ie. right up my street!) and I’m really excited to check it out.

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – another that has spent too long on my ARC TBR and another that I’m insanely excited about. Corruption, action and a star-crossed romance? Yes please.

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino – I started this one a while ago and really enjoyed it, so I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t finished it sooner. I’m only about 20% in but really excited to see where this one goes. It’s been a while since I read YA Horror, so it’ll be such a fun change from the rest of the month’s reading.

And that’s it! I’d love to read more, but I got some advice to put less on my TBR than I plan to read so that I can branch out a little, and that’s what I plan to do.

What’s the number one book on your September TBR? I’d love some more recommendations and to hear what you’re excited to read.

ARC REVIEW: Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

First things first: THANK YOU to Hodder for sending me an eARC of this amazing book in exchange for a review. I spent half a day screaming when my request got accepted, and then spent the rest of the day reading it so… thank you!

Evangeline has always believed in true love, fairytales and happily ever afters, but her world is turned completely upside down when she discovers that Luc, the love of her life, is engaged to someone else. Convinced that her love’s betrayal is the result of a curse or magic, she runs to the Prince of Hearts – the mysterious Jacks – and begs him to stop the wedding.

But Evangeline soon realises that you should never make a deal with a Fate, as one small agreement with Jacks sets her life on a whole new path, full of danger, betrayal and dark magic.

Caraval is one of my favourite series’ and I’ve had Once Upon a Broken Heart preordered since last year so my hopes were incredibly high, but it lived up to all of my expectations and more. Evangeline was a great protagonist, with a great combination of selflessness, determination and intelligence, without being needlessly reckless like a lot of YA fantasy protagonists are. She was so easy to root for all the way through and I really think she’s one of the most entertaining protagonists I’ve read this year. Jacks was, as expected, the fascinating character that I remember him being, although I definitely loved him more this time around. He was unpredictable all the time and so consistent with his character in Caraval that it was easy to get sucked back into his story almost immediately.

Stephanie Garber’s world-building is incredible, and her writing never fails to impress me. Every setting felt both real and magical, from the little trinket shop to Wolf Hall, and the story that combined them all was a fast-paced quest with elements of romance, fantasy and adventure that kept me hooked from the very first page. I read this entire book in one sitting because I genuinely couldn’t put it down, and even though I finished it over a month ago now, it’s still completely stuck in my head, in the same way that all of her books so far have been.

I genuinely loved every aspect of this book, from the protagonists, to the story, to the setting, and I’m already desperate to read the next book in the series. Once Upon a Broken Heart is absolutely a new favourite for me, and I’ll definitely be telling every fantasy-lover I know to read it.

Rating: 5/5

BOOK REVIEW: IN THE RAVENOUS DARK by AM Strickland

I’m back from yet another unintentional blog hiatus today with a review of a book that I am completely desperate to talk about. I finished In the Ravenous Dark earlier this month, after have the eARC sat on my NetGalley shelf for far too long, and I’m honestly ashamed that I haven’t been raving about it on Twitter every second since.

So… first things first, thank you to Hodder for the eARC of this book!

In the Ravenous Dark follows Rovan, a young bloodmage who, after her powers are discovered and abruptly used against her, turns against the city she grew up in to seek revenge and spark a revolution. She quickly finds herself teaming up with various members of a fascinating royal family, a guardian spirit that she openly despises and a whole host of other dangerous allies to fight against the nation’s dangerous rulers, both in the land of the living and the land of the dead.

Young adult fantasy is easily my most-read genre, but I can honestly say that I have never read anything quite like this. It’s unique, darkly intense and set in such a well-woven world that I was completely sucked in as soon as I started reading. The setting was quite typical of a royal, fantasy YA, but the atmosphere was so unsettling and the blood magic so… graphic, that I was completely unprepared going in for what the book ended up being.

Rovan’s moral ambiguity and her warring desires to do what’s right for her loved ones whilst also seeking power and vengeance made her a fascinating protagonist, and I found myself falling so deeply in love with Japha, Lydia and Ivrilos as well that I couldn’t pick a favourite character from their team of rebels. I love antiheroes, and both Ivrilos and Rovan came across as these, with their motives varying from freedom and revolution to brutal revenge. The amount of representation of LGBTQ+ characters and relationships in this book was also really great, as it included positive representation of pansexuality, lesbianism, asexuality, a major non-binary character and a polyamorous relationship.

The story was incredibly fast-paced, and there wasn’t a single page that didn’t include any intense action, intense romance or intense gore. It’s certainly not an easy read or a book for the squeamish, but it’s so perfect for fans of dark YA fantasy that I know I’ll be recommending it to anyone who will listen.

Rating: 5/5

ARC REVIEW: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

*Thank you to Orbit for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

It’s nearly the end of the month and I should probably be posting a monthly wrap-up BUT this month was a somewhat… small reading month. Instead of reading ten books like last month, I read the grand total of three (and, honestly, one was just okay and another was just plain bad).

Because of this very tiny reading month though, it’s with great confidence that I can say that The Bone Shard Daughter is the best book I read in May. So, instead of a wrap-up, here’s my review:

The Bone Shard Daughter tells a lot of intertwined stories, but primarily follows Lin, the Emperor’s daughter, as she tries to unravel her family’s secrets and face her father’s declining rule. She’s unhappy with her life in the palace and desperate to discover what her father is hiding behind all of his closed doors, but the more truths she uncovers, the more complicated everything suddenly seems.

Meanwhile, revolution is stirring across all of the Emperor’s isles, and Jovis- the nation’s most renowned smuggler- and Phalue – the daughter of one of the isle’s governors – find themselves becoming dangerously wrapped up in it.

What combines these stories is a fascinating and intricate narrative of magic, revolution and a hunger for power and justice.

This book is dark, magical and incredibly well written. For the first few chapters, as more and more perspectives were being introduced, I did find myself quite confused as to what tied all of the stories together and, honestly, who I should be rooting for, but the more sucked into this story I got, the more captivated I was by every single chapter. Jovis and Mephi were probably my favourite characters in this story, but I adored Lin’s chapters as well, especially as her story got progressively darker and much more dangerous.

The bone shard system and magic in general within this book is unlike anything I’ve read before, and it was so fascinating to discover everything as Lin, Jovis, Phalue, Ranami and Sand did. It was also so unique to see perspectives of all sides and how they tied together, including inside the palace, at a local governing level, and deep inside the rebellion’s HQ.

I was really intimidated by this book at first so it took me longer to fall in love with it than I thought it would but, by halfway, I was completely hooked. There were moments that broke my heart, moments that made me terrified for what was coming next, and plot twists that I absolutely did not see coming. I’m desperately awaiting book two and can’t wait to see how much darker and more intertwined all of these stories can get.

Rating: 4/5

ARC REVIEW: Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

If you follow me on Twitter (@rarelyinreality, come say hi!), you’ll probably know that I am obsessed with the Blood of Stars duology by Elizabeth Lim (and that I just ordered the Fairyloot special editions and could cry at how beautiful they are).

I talk about this series all the time but only just realised I never shared my review of Unravel the Dusk so… here we are.

As with book one, THANK YOU to Hodder for the eARC!!

Unravel the Dusk follows Maia, the newly-appointed Imperial Tailor, as she struggles to cope with the raging war, her recent sacrifices and all of the traumatic events that she suffered in Spin the Dawn. She finds herself on a new mission, this time without the help of her Enchanter, to help end the war before she loses herself to the magic that is overtaking her.

Spin the Dawn is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I’m so glad that I found myself as completely blown away by its sequel. Unravel the Dusk is much less of an adventure-based story than its predecessor, but the action is infinitely more dramatic. Maia’s inner turmoil and physical struggle with herself make up a large part of the book, but these slightly more reflective scenes were balanced really well by the scenes of war, the intense battles and some incredibly dramatic sacrifices towards the end.

My favourite thing about this book was definitely the character growth. Maia’s strength by the end of the story is incredible and it was so fascinating to see her develop from the brave-but-wary tailor at the beginning of Spin the Dawn to the powerful and motivational leader that she finally becomes. In much of book one, Maia is completely reliant on Edan and his magic, so seeing her grow on her own is both fascinating and empowering.

Lady Sarnai’s growth was equally incredible and she went from a character that I liked but didn’t love to one of my favourite characters in the entire duology. It was wonderful to see her also develop her own identity and fight for what she believed in, rather than following the people she had always been forced to listen to.

Reading Spin the Dawn is an absolute must before reading this book, but I cannot recommend the duology as a whole highly enough. It’s magical, beautifully written and completely gripping, and I will absolutely be buying everything I can get my hands on by Elizabeth Lim going forwards.

Rating: 5/5

The *beyond* beautiful paperback edition of this book publishes on June 1st 🙂