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 🙂

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: 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

ARC REVIEW: Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant

*Thank you to Penguin Teen for the eARC*

Tell Me When You Feel Something tells the story of somewhat-friends Viv and Davida in the lead-up and aftermath of a tragic event in their lives. When Viv is seen taking a pill that causes a potentially fatal reaction at a party, Davida is desperate to prove that this was some kind of mistake; but as we witness the weeks leading up to the party, it becomes clear that maybe nobody really knows Viv enough to understand what’s going through her mind at all.

This book is very intense and covers some incredibly serious and troubling subjects including addiction, sexual assault and drug use, but this is definitely handled carefully and, sadly, believably. The book is told from Viv, Davida and Davida’s boyfriend Tim’s perspectives, with police interviews with all involved parties mixed in following any big reveals in the plot. This was a really fascinating style for me, as I loved that the police interviews were almost responses to Viv’s chapters, and that the police were discovering things just as the reader was.

I can see from the twists and even the characters why this book is compared to One of Us is Lying and I would absolutely recommend it to fans of Karen McManus’ books, or anyone who likes intense, high-school set thrillers and contemporaries. It was a fast-paced, serious story with a troubled set of characters, an impossibility to determine who to trust, and a page-turning quality that no other book has gripped me with for a while.

Not only was the end surprising, it was also fascinating to see Viv throughout the story in situations that you wouldn’t expect and reacting in ways that were completely unpredictable. She’s a likeable, realistic character who is in no way to blame for anything that happens to her and that really makes this a heart-breaking tale and a saddening warning about society and the struggles that young people go through in the wrong situations.

RATING: 4/5

Tell Me When You Feel Something is publishing in June 2021.

ARC REVIEW: The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a thriller that follows former mean-girl Amb as she is forced to return to her university for her ten-year reunion and, in turn, to face all of the horrible things she did as she tried to fit in. It tells two stories: one of Amb at the reunion, trying to hide her former self from the husband that knows her as a sweet and innocent woman, and one of Amb at university as she finds herself becoming wrapped up in drugs, alcohol, drama, and her toxic best friend, Sully.

It’s so interesting to read the story of a girl who clearly becomes the villain in her own story as she creates nightmares for everyone around her and rapidly unravels. Her relationships are toxic, her friendships are toxic and, of course, there’s a traumatic event from her teenagedom that she is trying desperately to move past, despite the ghosts in her head that refuse to allow it.

I hated Amb but in all the best ways. She was actually quite a terrible human being but a fascinating protagonist, and it was unnerving how many of the toxic behaviours she and her friends exhibited that I’m sure everyone will have come across at some point in their lives. I didn’t like her and I wanted to scream at her to live her life differently, or to choose different friends but somehow, deep down, I was also kind of rooting for her in a terrible way.

The ending was really satisfying and helped resolve some of my struggles with who was really the good guy/bad guy in the situation and, although I didn’t find myself growing attached to many of the characters, I was deeply interested in a few of the side characters and could happily have read much more about them: namely Flora and her boyfriend.

This was an interesting read and an exciting story for anyone who has ever wanted to get inside the head of the mean girls from your past. It was quick and both timelines became equally gripping, to the point that I was completely unable to put it down, and I would definitely recommend to lovers of plot twists and unique thrillers.

RATING 4/5

ARC Review: The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky

THANK YOU to Electric Monkey for this ARC.

Okay, so I made an observation a while ago that I’ve never disliked a book published by Electric Monkey and, as a result, I have ridiculously high expectations for every single one of their books that I read. The Last Girl– a high-school-set, YA thriller about horror addicts- is really no exception.

And yet, I still found myself taken aback by how completely hooked I was by this book. I started it at 11:30pm with the promise of ‘just one chapter’ and, by the time I went downstairs for breakfast, I’d finished the whole thing and was raving about it to anyone who would listen.

So… you can probably guess how my review is about to go 🙂

The Last Girl (publishing in the US as The Mary Shelley Club) is about a girl named Rachel who moves to a new city and a new school after a break-in at her former home scars her for life. In an attempt to forget the nightmares from that terrible night, she develops a coping mechanism of immersing herself in horror movies and gore, which has her completely shunned by her new classmates. That is, until she meets the rest of the Mary Shelley Club: a secret group of misfits, dedicated to arguing over horror tropes and terrifying their classmates.

Rachel finds herself rapidly becoming wrapped up in the twisted club, beginning to fall for the mystery of it, as well as the allure of its members, and finding it to be her only source of peace as trouble picks up for her at the new school. But the Mary Shelley Club is not as perfect for her as it seems, and what started as a simple game suddenly seems a lot more lethal the more they play it.

This book was the most unputdownable book I read last year. Rachel, as a result of her trauma, is an innocent and likeable character who develops a warped sense of what is right, along with some mildly disturbing coping mechanisms that help her fit right in with the Mary Shelley Club. Each character plays an entirely different role and it was really fun figuring out who I should and shouldn’t trust as the game turned deadly. The horror movie references (there are a lot) largely went over my head, but I love the way they are included throughout as a reminder of just how sinister the characters’ minds are and how deeply captivated they are with all things truly gruesome.

I would definitely consider this much closer to the thriller genre than the horror genre despite this, but if you like any form of exciting, twisty YA, I would absolutely recommend this book.

Rating: 5/5

The Last Girl is publishing in the UK in April 2021!