I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a little while ago. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.
First up, I’d like to talk about From Little Tokyo, With Love by Sarah Kuhn. Thank you so much to Sam Bonner at Penguin Random House International for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
If Rika’s life seems like the beginning of a familiar fairy tale–being an orphan with two bossy cousins and working away in her aunts’ business–she would be the first to reject that foolish notion. After all, she loves her family (even if her cousins were named after Disney characters), and with her biracial background, amazing judo skills and red-hot temper, she doesn’t quite fit the princess mold.
All that changes the instant she locks eyes with Grace Kimura, America’s reigning rom-com sweetheart, during the Nikkei Week Festival.
From there, Rika embarks on a madcap adventure of hope and happiness–searching for clues about her long-lost mother, exploring Little Tokyo’s hidden treasures with a cute actor, and maybe…finally finding a sense of belonging. But fairy tales are fiction and the real world isn’t so kind. Rika knows she’s setting herself up for disappointment, because happy endings don’t happen to girls like her.
Should she walk away before she gets in even deeper, or let herself be swept away?
Publication Date: 11th May
TW: panic attacks, racism, homophobia, bullying
From Little Tokyo, WIth Love is a deeply funny, flirty, adorable and romantic YA contemporary. Kuhn has crafted such a charming and adorable read about family, identity and community.
Yet again, Kuhn delves deep with an exploration of biracial identity and a culture of shame and silence that Rika has to break through, while also serving up such a fluffy and heart-warming romance. Shame is a key theme of the book, with the weight of it pressing down on Rika through the way others perceive her. Kuhn also explores how shame is almost an integral part of celebrity culture and how our obsession with these figures leads to scrutiny of their every move. They are almost always expected to be a source of entertainment and that lack of privacy and security is thoroughly explored here.
In many ways, this is a modern Cinderella story, but with a mutual saving of both the prince and princess. Kuhn just seems to always hit that sweet spot between heart-warming and heart-wrenching, balancing both personal happiness, adorable romances and realistic exploration of social issues. This makes her book feel so well-rounded and makes them linger on my mind long after the final page. Also, I have to shout out the judo scenes, which were some of the most fun scenes I’ve read for a while.
At its core, this is a book about finding yourself and owning your identity. Rika eventually finds strength in both the family and the community around her, though she ultimately draws her strength from herself. I liked how Kuhn explored embracing your rage and anger. These are not inherently bad emotions, rather natural responses that can be channelled into your own strength and determination. Rika is angry and rightfully so, leading to a climatic scene where she addresses the years of prejudice, marginalisation and belittling she has experienced from within her community.
From Little Tokyo, With Love is a fantastic read, packed full of heart, soul and laughter.
Next up, I’d like to talk about The Murder of Graham Catton by Katie Lowe. Thank you to Harper Collins UK for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
It’s time to hear the truth…
Ten years ago, Hannah Catton’s husband was brutally murdered in their home.
The murderer was convicted. The case was closed.
But now a podcast called Conviction is investigating this horrific crime – and they have Hannah in their sights.
Someone knows more than they’re letting on, and listeners are about to become judge, jury and executioner as they undercover the truth about the murder of Graham Catton.
Publication Date: 10th June
TW: death, murder, infidelity, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, gaslighting, physical abuse, anorexia, suicide
The Murder of Graham Catton is the whisper in the dark and the snap in the woods. It could be something brutal, dark and dangerous, or it could all just be smoke and mirrors. This is the type of book that constantly keeps you guessing as Lowe leads down her dark path.
I loved the brutal, brilliant opening. Lowe wastes no time and perfectly sets the tone. Straight away, the mystery is set up and you just want to keep digging to find the truth. This is a really, really compelling story. The whole way though, you never really know if you can believe what is being presented to you. It’s psychologically twisted, constantly tripping you up and making you reevaluate all you’ve seen before. In this way, Lowe perfectly captures the gaslighting and psychological abuse that characterises the book. This is such a monstrous book because it is so grounded in reality. Real life villains use the same techniques and Lowe’s mirroring of this through the narrative really highlights how disorientating and isolating this can be. You start to doubt yourself and everything else around you.
On top of that, Hannah is a fascinating and deeply complex character. Her headspace is confused and you can never quite be sure if you can trust her or not. I loved the inclusion of both the past and present storylines that allowed us to get glimpses of exactly what happened. Beware though as every time you think you’ve woven all the pieces together, you have not. Through this style of narration, Lowe invites us to ponder the ethical and moral implications of the case she is presenting to us. At each stage, you might wonder whether the motivations are worth the actions. Without spoilers, Lowe shows just how complex these can be and how very little is as straightforward as it may seem. Also, the inclusion of the podcast episodes is so intriguing for me. I love the inclusion of multimedia narration, as it just feels more immersive and helps pull me that much more into the story.
The Murder of Graham Catton will constantly keep you on your toes and invites you into a psychologically disturbing and complex story where you should always keep your guard up.
Finally, I’d like to delve into The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino. Thank you so much to Titan Books for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
When Tess and Eliot stumble upon an ancient book hidden in a secret tunnel beneath their school library, they accidentally release a devil from his book-bound prison, and he’ll stop at nothing to stay free. He’ll manipulate all the ink in the library books to do his bidding, he’ll murder in the stacks, and he’ll bleed into every inch of Tess’s life until his freedom is permanent. Forced to work together, Tess and Eliot have to find a way to re-trap the devil before he kills everyone they know and love, including, increasingly, each other. And compared to what the devil has in store for them, school stress suddenly doesn’t seem so bad after all.
Publication Date: 14th September
TW: self-harm, child abuse, parental illness, blood/gore, explicit violence, possession, death, abuse
The Devil Makes Three is the type of book that seeps under your skin and leaves a mark on your heart. This is a darkly entrancing gem of a book.
The writing is so gorgeously evocative and compelling. I hungrily devoured every exquisite sentence. Bovalino has a certain quality to her writing that is just impossible to pin down. It’s delectable and heady, sweeping you up in its atmosphere and making the pages just fly by. There’s this rich and dark glamour to the whole environment, contrasted by the gory moments of horror.
At its core, this is a story about family, expectations and the desire to not only survive but thrive. This is a deeply creepy and unsettling tale, with that constant sense of terror looming over you and giving you that feeling of something slivering down your spine. I loved how Bovalino slowly builds up the tension and horror, before it all explodes in an extremely bingeable and twisted spectacle. I also loved how this book centres on how ambition and the desire for a legacy can distort you and tempt you into darker paths.
There’s a real focus on how monsters appear in both human and other forms, which adds this extra realism and gravitas to the story. It allows for some really emotional moments, as you get glimpses into both Tess and Elliot’s lives. I fell in love with both of these complex and three-dimensional protagonists, with their sense of wit and also this hardened sense of cynicism produced by their upbringings. Their narratives were fascinating to read and their voices cried out for their shared desire for love, but also to make the impossible possible. On top of this, we have a third narrative voice that I won’t talk about too much for spoilers, but it’s an incredibly alluring voice that just happens to have a tendency towards death and destruction.
The Devil Makes Three is like the smouldering embers of a fire, beautiful in its own twisted sense and somehow unforgettable. You can’t quite draw your gaze away and time loses all meaning as you get lost in this deftly woven tale.