Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books

City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda – Book Review

 I have been so excited for this book since it was announced, and it did not disappoint!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Thirteen-year-old Sik wants a simple life going to school and helping at his parents’ deli in the evenings. But all that is blown to smithereens when Nergal comes looking for him, thinking that Sik holds the secret to eternal life.Turns out Sik is immortal but doesn’t know it, and that’s about to get him and the entire city into deep, deep trouble.

Sik’s not in this alone. He’s got Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, on his side, and a former hero named Gilgamesh, who has taken up gardening in Central Park. Now all they have to do is retrieve the Flower of Immortality to save Manhattan from being wiped out by disease. To succeed, they’ll have to conquer sly demons, treacherous gods, and their own darkest nightmares.

This book was so wonderful in so many ways. The wonderful witty characters and how the mythology was woven into the story and the captivating writing with some unintentional Tangled references that had me screaming. This book was so hard to put down and I found myself reading well into the night. But the thing that I loved most was just how unapologetically Muslim this book was and how it was just Sikander’s normal life to go to the masjid and use words like inshaAllah which is a huge part of lots of Muslim’s lives.

Sikander is a wonderful character and I loved how much he loved his family and yet at the same time had a complicated relationship with them and how he had been deeply affected by the loss of his brother. He is witty and sarcastic and reminded me so much of my cousin who is the same age. Pre teens are truly the most sarcastic people I have ever met! I loved how he was connected to his community from helping in the masjid and how so many people knew him and his family.

We also meet Belet who is new to Sikander’s school and we find out she is the adopted daughter of Ishtar and has been trained as a warrior. She saves Sikander and they slowly become friends throughout the book. Their banter and witty remarks to each other was so much fun to read especially when you can see they are both becoming friends and yet neither wants to really admit it first. I also loved that Ishtar had so many cats! But these cats aren’t your ordinary cats they are magical cats! I loved every single scene with them!

The story was captivating from start to finish. Action packed and hilarious yet also dealt with some really difficult topics but in a way that kids can understand and relate to which I really loved. There’s discussions about how Daud can only get roles in films as a terrorist because he is a brown Muslim and how the word Jihad has been twisted and what it truly means to Muslims. Grief and death is also discussed really well in the book with Sikander still trying to come to terms with the death of his brother and also the unresolved feelings he has towards him and the situation he has found himself in. Things he wanted to say to his brother, how he wanted to go on an adventure with him too. It was so heartfelt and real and had me so emotional.

I just really loved this book and I truly hope we get a second book because I would really love to go on more adventures with Sikander and Belet! This book was funny and full of adventure and just such wonderful Muslim representation. I wish I had this when I was younger. I highly recommend everyone go read this wonderful book.

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Friday Favourites

Friday Favourites – Books To Cheer You Up

This weeks Friday Favourites is books to cheer you up and honestly right now we could all do with some cheering up so here are some of my favourite books that will leave you with a big smile on your face!

So here the books that you should read to give you that serotonin boost!

Love From A To Z by S.K. Ali

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha Dean and the Istanbul Intrigue by Melati Lum

My So Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

The Once Upon a Con Series by Ashley Poston

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

That Can Be Arranged by Huda Fahmy

Once Upon an Eid Edited by Aisha Saeed and S.K. Ali

She Wore Red Trainers by Naima B Robert

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

Blog Tours/Street Teams, Diverse Books, YA Books

Blog Tour: Wings of Ebony by J. Elle – ARC Review

Thank you to the publisher Caffeine Book Tours for sending my an ARC in exchange for an honest review and for having me on this blog tour for Wings of Ebony.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighbourhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighbourhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

I really loved this book and the magic system that the author has created. But mostly I just really loved how Rue and her whole community looked out and helped each other. How when she needed people to have her back they were there for her even though they aren’t her blood relatives because family isn’t only those who you are related to, it’s the people who are there for you when you need them.

The story starts and we are thrown right into the it and throughout the story we are told through flashbacks what happened in the last year that lead to the moments we see in the first chapter. It was really interesting to read the story like this as we are slowly fed information about the magic system, Ghizon and East Row which made it more intriguing.

When people we love are in danger and we have the means to stop it – we do something. Even if it’s against the rules.

Rue is such a wonderful character, she doesn’t take crap from anyone and fiercely protective over those she loves but she will still call them out if they do something wrong and honestly that’s the best type of friend. She is empathetic and caring but she’s also stubborn and finds it hard to rely on anyone or ask for help because she feels it’s her against the world but I loved seeing her slowly realise she isn’t alone. One of things about her I really loved was that she is afraid but it doesn’t stop her from doing what is right and to get justice for those who couldn’t get it for themselves. Her protectiveness over her sister was so relatable as I’m also an older sibling and I just felt for her that she feels responsible for her sister and the guilt at not being able to do more for her.

It was also so heart breaking to read about her grief for her mum and her complicated relationship with her dad as she only meets him after her mum dies and he just drags her away from everyone and everything at a time when she needs those who she loves and knows. I really liked seeing that over time she slowly becomes more open to speaking to her dad but that doesn’t mean she absolves him of never being there or dragging her away to Ghizon, even though he explains why. It just felt so much real. Basically I just really loved Rue and I cannot wait to see what she will do in the sequel especially after that ending!

Who expects their history be erased?

I also loved the discussions on colonisation and erasing history and twisting to make the colonisers the heroes. It was just so real and hard hitting and it would make me stop reading to just think and reflect on what I read. I also loved how Rue calls Bri out for centring herself and making herself the victim when Rue tells her how the magic was stolen. I was literally screaming YESS when I read those scenes.

There was also some incredible discussions on how people view certain communities, always assuming the worst from those people when all they are trying to do is get on with their lives and they want to provide the best for their kids just like the white people from more affluent neighbourhoods. How the people there are mostly ordinary people who live in fear because of the violence that could come for them any day. How youth are killed for refusing to be forced into a life of crime. How a young person can be manipulated by adults into a life of crime and violence and then find there isn’t a way out. How often the one doing this isn’t even from their neighbourhood but from somewhere else and yet it these people who suffer.

We gotta be twice as good from the start to get half of what other people get. People everywhere waiting for us to fail.

This is such a wonderful book with an incredible story and a great main character. I highly recommend reading it!

Inspirational People

Inspiring Muslim Women – Queen Amina of Zaria

Amina lived in the 16th Century and became the first woman to become queen in a male dominated society. She was known as a great military strategist and expanded the territory of the Hausa people of North Africa to its largest borders in history.

Born around 1533 in Zazzau, renamed Zaria, (one of the original states of Hausaland). This is now a province in modern day Nigeria. She was born to the ruler of Bakwa and after the death of her father, her brother became the ruler. Her brother passed away after a 10-year rule and it was then that she became Queen.

While her brother had ruled, she had become an incredible military leader, honing her military skills and eventually becoming the leader of Zazzau cavalry. She accumulated great wealth and military awards which earned her the respect of the military and established her authority as the leader of the Zazzau cavalry even before she ruled the city-state. So, she was able to become Queen after the death of her brother.

She ruled for 34 years and during this time she continued to lead and expand her kingdom and lead an army of 20,000 men. She opened up many trade routes and it is believed that she was the first person to form a government of the Hausa people.

She brought incredible wealth from gold to crops to the land. She also introduced metal armour including chain mail and iron helmets to her army. She built and fortified the walls around her lands, known as Amina’s walls, and these were used as the prototype for all the walls built in the Hausa states. Many of these walls still exist to this day and have become an incredible testament to her reign as Queen and military leader.

She refused to marry, instead focusing on her reign and was given the name Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man. She is still remembered as a brave, fierce and intelligent leader.

The Daevabad Trilogy

Why Ali and Nahri From the Daevabad Trilogy Mean So Much To Me

I think it’s a well established fact that I adore The Daevabad Trilogy and I could truly talk about all the different things I love about it. I do, in fact, have a whole section on my blog dedicated to the trilogy, which you can find here. Today I want to talk about specifically why I love Ali and Nahri and why their relationship means so much to me.

As a reader I have of course many ships like all of us do, characters who’s relationships we love because of the way they develop and the angst and the romance so much more. But Ali and Nahri came along and completely took my breath away at just how real and relatable they were to me. I haven’t read another book with a couple quite like there’s and how much of myself and my husband and out relationship I saw in them. I have said it before but one of the reasons why I fell so completely in love with Ali is because he reminds me of my husband in so many ways.

Nahri is someone I saw myself in a lot. She has lived a life where trusting people is difficult, she can only truly rely on herself to get through and I felt that. So opening up and trusting someone is incredibly difficult for her and when she finally does, he breaks her trust so spectacularly that she completely closes herself up to prevent the hurt and betrayal she felt happening again. That hurt and betrayal was so real to me, it takes a long time to overcome and does it ever truly go away? How do you overcome a lifetime of not being able to trust anyone and being hurt again and again.

I also find it hard to trust people and truly I related to Nahri so much in this especially, how she was so hesitant to build anything between her and Ali because she had been hurt so many times. Keeping him at a distance was safer for her heart, she can’t be hurt again if she doesn’t build an attachment to him beyond him. But he was something so wholly unexpected that despite herself she ended up becoming attached anyways. He was the one real friend who accepted her completely and entirely for who she was, human appearance and all. So much so that despite not being able to see him for 5 years her feelings had not diminished in the slightest.

Nahri is a pragmatic person so to have suddenly developed these feelings for someone who could hurt her in so many ways would have been terrifying. Admitting these feelings even more so. When I finally admitted I maybe had some feelings for my now husband I shook so hard and trembled for ages after. I can see why Nahri took so long even admitting these feelings to herself let alone anyone else, especially to Ali. Ali who could hurt and betray her because of who his family is. Ali, who’s family don’t like Nahri for the most part and who’s father uses her for political gain. Admitting to someone like that, that you have feelings for them is no small thing.

Alizayd al Qahtani is a character who I truly thought had leaped out of the pages in the form of my husband. Like Ali he is oblivious when it comes to speaking to women, social skills aren’t his greatest asset and he has no filter when he speaks. He also is someone who tries to follow and practice Islam to the best of his ability while also sometimes having tunnel vision and not always seeing that things aren’t as black and white as he assumes. Younger husband was exactly like Ali when it came to being uncompromising in his beliefs, he has now realised there is more to Islam than just a list of yes and no answers.

When I met my husband my immediate thought was that he is very tall and bless his heart for the sort of almost there beard that he is clearly desperately trying to grow. And then almost 10 years later reading Nahri’s first impression of Ali to be so similar to mine?!

It was however his complete inability to speak to girls that first endeared him to me. How excitedly he would talk about things he loved and how completely flustered he became when a girl did try to flirt with him. It has actually been over 6 years since we’ve been married and he still gets flustered when I, his wife, flirts with him. I love that about him though because when he does say something, I know he isn’t sugar coating or before we were married just trying to sound good. That was just him being him saying exactly what he felt. Can you see how he is so like Ali in so many ways? And why Ali would mean so much to me? He is my husband with pointy ears and water magic!

Oh lets not forget how just like Ali my husband has no clue how to dress up, he is most happy in his thobe and dressing up nice requires outside assistance from his wife. But when he does well lets just say I feel Nahri when she thinks about how well formed Ali is. Ali may not be the best with his words when it comes to expressing how he feels but he does show it through the things he does for Nahri. From getting her favourite Egyptian food made to building her office to look like Cairo and just supporting her in what she does and truly, completely accepting her for who she is. My husband may not know how to express himself but he does it through bringing me tea in bed at the weekends and holding me up so I can walk to the bathroom when my pain is at its worst to the forehead kisses. When we got married the day after the walima I was in tears because I missed my family and he drove me home to see them because he literally cannot see me upset. He is still like this now too.

Their tentative friendship which became something more and that neither of them saw that coming was something so completely relatable. When I met my husband I was not at all in any way interested in meeting a guy, I wanted to get my degree and work on my career as a Physiotherapist and yet Allah had other plans when He sent my husband into the same class as mine and had me sit in front of him in that Monday morning lecture.

We were friends for a while before we realised that maybe there was something more (also friends telling us that we did in fact like each other which we vehemently denied). I was the one who decided to take the risk and say something and we also had to deal with our families who did not like each other when they met and were against us marrying (it took 5 years for us to actually get married after we told our families) and now we have been married for 6 and a half years and have our own little shedu called Sherlock. Seeing Ali and Nahri and reading their journey and how their relationship progressed through the years and how so insanely similar it was to ours probably made me love them even more than I do for any other characters.

I will forever be thankful to Shannon for bringing these characters to life in a way that I made me completely fall in love with them individually and together. Reading about their relationship and the way it grew slowly and hesitantly into something more was so deeply relatable and I saw me and my husband in them in a way that showed me things about us that I hadn’t even realised. From why it was so terrifying to putting my trust in him and more.

And if you haven’t read this trilogy I highly recommend reading it. You can also find more posts about the Daevabad trilogy on my blog here.