Blog Tours/Street Teams, Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Blog Tour: A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi – ARC Review

Today I am sharing my review as part of the blog tour of A Thousand Questions.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

This is such a beautiful and heartfelt story of two young girls from completely different worlds who end up spending time together over a summer and realise that despite their differences they can be friends and support and help each other. I related so much to both Mimi and Sakina in different ways and I loved both of them but I do love Sakina a little bit more and my heart broke for her and the circumstances she was in.

Mimi is a young girl who knows little about her roots and her family beyond her mum and seeing her realise that she has more family and get to know them better was so lovely to see. When you are a child of an immigrant there are often family members who you don’t get to see very often and it can cause a disconnect from them and your families background because you also want to fit in wherever you are living. So it was nice to see that Mimi gets to experience her culture and meet her grandparents and that by the end she knows that she wants to visit regularly to stay connected with them.

Sakina is a young girl who lives a difficult life and has to work from such a young age to help provide for her family and unfortunately this isn’t that uncommon. Her wanting to make sure her family would be okay while also having hopes and dreams of being able to go to school broke my heart. I was really rooting for her and hoping she would find a way. I related a lot to how conflicted she felt having to choose between her parents and her responsibilities and her dreams. I loved that we got a hopeful ending for her and after everything she went through she got the help she needed.

The running theme of friendship was so beautiful in this book. Mimi helps Sakina learn English to help her get into school and Sakina helps her connect with her dad. I really loved seeing their friendship build and that Mimi would take Sakina with her when going out treating her as an equal. It was also great to see both their points of view so we truly get insight from both their world views.

I also loved how we see real, raw family dynamics and how despite the fact that you love your family you can also have a somewhat strained relationship with them but you can still work on making it better. Initially I did not like Mimi’s grandma but I did like how her character developed throughout the story. Sakina’s dad was a lovable character but because he had diabetes and couldn’t afford the medicine his responsibility fell on Sakina and their family dynamic was interesting too. Each character was complex and I really loved seeing the different sides of them.

I loved that it’s set in Pakistan and we see all the different parts of it and what it’s like to live there for different people. It isn’t perfect but even Sakina was defensive of her home and how much beauty there is there and was determined to show that to Mimi. The food and the culture was really great to see in the book and honestly my mouth was watering remembering how amazing the food is in Pakistan.

I really loved this beautiful story and the bittersweet yet hopeful ending and that two young girls found friendship and support in the most unlikely of places. A story I wish I had been able to read when I was younger and made me reminisce about the few times I have been able to visit my family in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Blog Tours/Street Teams, YA Books

Blog Tour: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco – ARC Review

Thank you to Terminal Tours for having me on this blog tour!

This book was dark and magical and seductive and I loved it so much!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Emilia and her twin sister Victoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Victoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn…

This book is a murder mystery with magic and demons and it is dark and bloody and the perfect spooky read. I absolutely loved this book and I was completely hooked by the first chapter. I loved the whole atmosphere of this book and how it showed the dark side of people.

“Find forgiveness and acceptance in your heart, or darkness will seep in and destroy you.”

The main character, Emilia, goes down a dark path of vengeance when she discovers her sister murdered and will go to any lengths to find the killer, even making a deal with the devil himself. I loved how conflicted she was from wanting to find who murdered her sister to also seeing there is more to her sisters death and wanting to find out what her secrets her sister had been hiding and to do that while working with a Prince from Hell. I really liked her character and how driven she was and how she overcame her fears to find her sisters killer.

“Vengeance was now a part of me, as real and necessary as my heart or lungs.”

I also loved how passionate she was for cooking and worked in the family restaurant. We got so many incredible food references and it just had me drooling over everything and I do not recommend reading this book on an empty stomach! I just wanted to try everything that she would cook, I loved how vivid the descriptions were too and could practically smell the food cooking.

The descriptions throughout the book were really vivid and created a dark and creepy atmosphere where you really felt for the life of Emilia on several occasions in this book especially as we see what lurks in the shadows. The terrifying creatures released from hell and other dangerous creatures and that doesn’t even include the other Princes from Hell that we meet. There is no one truly good person in this book which made all the characters complex and intriguing.

“Lethal, Beautiful. Wholly untouchable.”

The most intriguing character in this book was Wrath who is a literal Prince of Hell and yet I couldn’t help but like him. Kerri did a great job creating a complex character who we know isn’t good but we can’t help but root for too, especially as he is usually the type of character I don’t like! While he is unable to lie to Emilia due to her summoning him, he still withholds information from her and has his own ulterior motives and then there is the intense chemistry between him and Emilia which becomes more and more electric as the story progresses.

I loved the bickering and tension building throughout the book between the two of them and while it’s clear they both have some sort of feelings they both have their own motivations too which of course complicates matters. I am really intrigued to see what will happen between the two of them in the next book.

“In the end, the monster we feared didn’t come from hell. He came from privilege.”

This book had me intrigued from the beginning and while I was able to figure out some twists there was some that took me by surprise and I really loved the whole eerie atmosphere of this book. The ending of the book left me instantly needing the sequel so I am really looking forward to reading what will be next!

Author Bio

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

She is the #1 NYT and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series and the forthcoming Kingdom of the Wicked.

JIMMY Patterson books is running a pre-order incentive campaign. All who pre-order a hardcover, ebook, or audiobook edition of Kingdom of the Wicked before 11:59pm ET on October 26, 2020 will receive an enamel pin, signed bookplate, and pair of oracle cards. This offer is only available in the US and pre-orders from subscription boxes are not eligible. Conditions and details here for the preorder

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Blog Tours/Street Teams, Inspirational People, Muslim Shelf Space

Khadijah (ra) – A Phenomenal Woman And My Role Model (Blog Tour)

Khadijah (ra) is the first person to become Muslim and follow Prophet Muhammad (saw). Ever since I first read about her life as a teen, I fell in love with this phenomenal woman who perfected her faith and was promised Paradise. She has been my role model for so many years and she gave me the courage and strength to stand up for and fight for what I wanted to do in life.

Yes, she is the wife of the Prophet (saw), yes she was an amazing mother to their kids but she was also so much more. She was a businesswoman, and not just any businesswoman, the most successful businesswoman in the Quraysh. She was wealthy and lived life on her own terms. She didn’t allow the fact that at that time women were not equals to men stop her from being independent and thriving. Before Marrying the Prophet (saw) she was a widow and she was a single parent. She showed me that I don’t have to give up on my dreams and goals in life just because I got married. She gave me the strength to say to a potential suitor that this is what I want to do in life and I won’t compromise on this. I will not give up my career or further studies for you and I expect you to help equally in the home.  

When I met my (now) husband, I realised that actually he is someone I would want as a spouse though he is very introverted and I honestly had no idea if he would ever actually approach me so I decided to take things into my own hands and ask him, after all, Khadijah (ra) had sent her friend to propose on her behalf to the Prophet (saw). I asked him and I was terrified and shaking but I’m glad I did because why should I have to wait around in uncertainty because “it’s not socially acceptable for a girl to ask a boy” we should be able to take initiative and dictate what happens in our own lives rather than waiting around on the chance that a guy might ask us or that we might get recommended by someone.

Growing up I got mixed messages, I need to get an education but most importantly I need to know how to be a good wife and make the sacrifices for the marriage to work. So I can have ambition but not too much because men don’t like women who achieve more than they do and it’s my job to have kids and look after house so I don’t really need to. I should get an education and work but it’s so that I am able to raise my kids properly. Everything was tied to being a wife and a mother. But she (ra) taught me that having goals and ambitions is a good thing, that even if the society has certain expectations, you can still achieve what you want to achieve. To not let society dictate what you can and cannot do in life. As a woman I can thrive and not be held back because I was born a woman. I can be more than a wife and a mother if I want to. I can have a thriving career and more. My life doesn’t have to just revolve around being a caregiver for others. I can do things for myself.

Her marriage also showed me what I should want and expect from my husband and also taught me what I should do as a wife to make our marriage work. She saw kindness and empathy in the Prophet (saw) she saw a smart man but who was also humble and honest in everything he did. He was not short tempered and a man who accepted her for who she was. And I thought to myself that I will not compromise on qualities and values that are important to me even if people make remarks about me being single. As Allah had written, I actually met that man much earlier in life than I ever thought I would. But I was content and happy to be single. I didn’t need a man to be able to do what I wanted in life. She spent years being single and even raising her children on her own, refusing proposals because they weren’t the type of men she wanted to marry, but when she saw the right man she took initiative and asked him (through her friend). She taught me that I should want my husband in my life not marry a man because I feel I need a man in my life.

Learning about Khadijah (ra) helped me to unlearn all the toxic things that women are taught in our cultures and what’s worse is that they contradict Islamic beliefs, yet we are taught them anyways. Because of her I spent more time learning about women in Islam and I learnt about so many other amazing Muslim women. They were warriors and leaders and scholars and so much more. I cannot even begin to explain how much she means to me. In many ways she saved me. She helped me to realise that I deserve better than just that bare minimum and I can aim as high as I want to achieve my goals.

It’s also amazing to me that when the Prophet (saw) started going to cave hira for weeks at a time she was effectively left alone to manage the business, the household, the kids and she did that. We are told about how amazing and patient she is as a wife in these times for understanding what her husband needed but I never hear anyone say how amazing she is herself for taking all this responsibility and not only managing but continuing to thrive. Her business didn’t stop, her kids have never said that they were neglected by her during these times. We don’t talk about how resilient and persistent she was. We don’t talk about her strength and proactiveness. She had to have known the ins and outs of not only her home and kids but her business too which tells me even after marriage she was just as involved in all aspects as her husband. He didn’t take over, they were equals. In fact he continued to work for her.

Her thriving in her business meant that she was able to use that wealth to help the Prophet (saw) when he started teaching Islam and was able to spread and protect those who were most vulnerable. Because of her, the Prophet (saw) was able to free the slaves who were being tortured for becoming Muslim and so much more. And that just made me love her even more that she used her wealth to help those most vulnerable.

I learnt from her to be humble in my success and to give to those who are less fortunate. She was wealthy and successful yet all homeless and vulnerable people all knew they could turn to her for help and she always reminded me to give generously whenever I could and to help those around me. She taught me to be generous in what I had and to use my money and ability to do good. That having wealth was a responsibility and we shouldn’t squander it. 

Khadijah (ra) was a woman who I cannot think about without bursting into tears out of love for her. I could literally talk about how much I love her and how much she has influenced my life all day and I hope that you will all go read about her so you can see what a truly phenomenal woman she is.

Make sure to check out all the other amazing bloggers taking part in the blog tour

Blog Tours/Street Teams, Diverse Books, YA Books

The Damned by Renee Ahdieh – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodder Books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

I am part of The Damned Blog Tour and I will be sharing my review of The Damned with you all. I absolutely adore everything that Renee writes and The Damned is no exception. This is the sequel to The Beautiful which came out last year and quickly became one of my favourite reads of 2019 and The Damned is definitely become a favourite this year!

You can read my review of The Beautiful here

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.

We pick up where The Beautiful ended and what an ending it was! We get to see several points of view in the first half of this book which I loved because I really love these vampires, especially Odette! Her friendship with Celine was everything!  

This book takes the world we are introduced to and expands it so we see so much more of the world hidden from humans. We get to go to the world of the fae and we learn more about the history of the vampires and werewolves and I loved it so much. It made me see things that happened in The Beautiful in a new light. I love the incredible world building and how it was incorporated into the story so it didn’t feel like it was just info dumping. We are introduced to new characters and we get to see more of some of the characters in the first book. One of my favourite side characters is Arjun and I just hope we get to see more of him in the next book!

For far too long, Celine had looked to others for answers. It was time for her to look within herself.

Celine starts this book so unsure of herself because she has lost her memories and doesn’t know what has happened to her and she hates how everyone thinks they what’s best for her so she goes looking for answers and ends up learning so much about herself and her history. I loved seeing how she didn’t let anyone dictate her life and took charge of it herself.

It is was easy for a man to be kind and generous in times of plenty. The real measure of a man was what he did and said in times of difficulty.

While The Beautiful was Celine’s story, this book is Bastian’s. He has such wonderful character development in this book. Through Bastian we also get lots of discussions of toxic masculinity and what truly makes a man great. I loved seeing how he has to unlearn all the things that have been drilled into him by his uncle and he has to consciously choose to be better. It was so wonderful to read and see his development and the choices he makes, especially when it comes to Celine. Everyone insists on knowing better for her but he trusts her to make her own decisions and supports her in those decisions. I just loved it so much!

Renee’s writing is so beautiful and the vivid descriptions were so wonderful and I could really see the world that Renee has created. I loved the vampires who were dark and seductive and you’re just instantly drawn to them and it was also interesting to see how they were different yet similar to the werewolves especially considering their shared history and why they don’t like each other.

If a mediocre young man could crow to the world about his mediocrity, then why should a superior young woman not do the same?

I love how diverse the characters are and how Renee has so many cultures seamlessly incorporated into her world and it’s one of the things I love about her books especially that I can see myself in her worlds. There are discussions of how being a person of colour affects how you are treated and it was so wonderful to see this in a book but also people like Arjun, make the best out of their situation.

I absolutely adore this series and I cannot wait to read the next book! I am so happy that we get another book because I am not ready to leave this world and I’m excited to see where the story will go next and who it will follow.

Make sure you check out everyone else’s posts too!

Blog Tours/Street Teams, Booksish Discussions, Muslim Shelf Space, The Daevabad Trilogy

Muslim Representation in the Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

Today is the last day of the World of Daevabad blog tour! I hope you enjoyed reading all the posts! Today I am going to be discussing the Muslim rep in the books.

One of the many reasons that I completely fell in love with the Daevabad trilogy is because of the wonderful Muslim representation in these books. Shannon created such wonderfully diverse and nuanced Muslim characters and especially having an unapologetically Muslim character as one of her main characters.

While there are many Muslims in Daevabad, we don’t meet many practicing Muslims there. Especially in the palace and those amongst the rich and powerful where people do what benefits them and their tribe over what is actually right and just.

Alizayd is one who always fights for what is just and right and that means breaking the status quo which makes him disliked amongst the people in power. They make him out to be a fanatic and someone who will kill indiscriminately to get what he believes to be right but time and time again we are shown that isn’t the case. They call him slurs from sandfly to crocodile. It actually reminded me of how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was treated when he refused to stop teaching Islam and it was an interesting parallel to see in a fantasy book and honestly just made me love Ali even more.

While, 18 year old Ali in City of Brass, is quite rigid in his beliefs and sees everything in black and white we still see instances when he still won’t cross that line. From not punishing the daeva boy for shooting an arrow at him. He has incredible growth throughout the trilogy too and realises that there are better ways to create change and that it will take time. It was honestly incredible to see how he never stopped practicing his faith but he grew wiser as he got older and learnt to see how to use what his faith teaches in a way that won’t alienate anyone.

At the end of The Kingdom of his decision to stop the killing of innocent shafit made me so proud of him but I was especially proud when he said that the innocent daevas are also to be kept safe and that he would execute the people who hurt them himself. Finally someone in Daevabad who cared about everyone in Daevabad and not just those who are their own or that they will benefit from if they cared for those people. Throughout Kingdom of Copper we see time and time again that he cares for all of the people in Daevabad. Social justice is a huge part of Islam and to see a main character embody that was incredible to see.

One of my favourite things throughout the books was how Islam was such an intricate part of the books and it was just there as if it’s completely normal. From the first page with the fajr adhaan and Nahri wearing a black abaya to Ali’s first chapter where he goes to the masjid to pray in congregation. In fact we see Ali turn to his faith time and time again. When Ali is distressed or worried he turns to Allah, when there is a moment of joy, he thanks Allah. It was incredible and so heartwarming to see that in the books.

We also see small things like, Ali and Zaynab not drinking alcohol because it’s forbidden, we see that Ali does not want to have a relationship with anyone outside of marriage and that he even says to Nahri that they can’t be alone because the devil is the third person (who will tempt them to do something that isn’t allowed in Islam). This last one especially was amazing to see, this is a teaching of our Prophet (pbuh) and yet it isn’t considered societal norm for most in the west especially so to see that plainly, unapologetically in a fantasy book, it blew my mind. Ali even gets made fun of by Muslims and non Muslims alike for these beliefs and yet he stays firm. For a teenage boy, a young man to fight this type of peer pressure it is incredibly hard and a lived experience of many Muslim youths and just seeing it in a book. Honestly I cannot begin to describe how much I loved seeing these little things. I wish we had gotten to see more of what it was like for Zaynab too as that would have been so interesting to see.

There are so many instances in the book where people say that Ali is a fanatic and I found it really interesting reading it because according to these people, a fanatic is someone who stands firm in their faith. Ali definitely is one who stands firm in his beliefs but the discussion on what makes a person a fanatic was really interesting and subtly woven into the story. He always questions what happens and learns and grows but his core belief of social justice stays firm. That does not make him a fanatic. Blindly following and being completely devoted to someone despite them doing something morally and ethically wrong is a more accurate definition of what a fanatic is. That isn’t Ali, yet he is always the one who is accused of it but as readers we can see that isn’t the case and I am so glad that Shannon included this discussion in the books.

We also see many instances of people manipulating Islamic beliefs for their own benefit from Ghassan in City of Brass “reminding” Ali that in Islam, parents have a high station and we should listen to them unless it goes against Islam. To the tanzeem who use Ali’s faith to manipulate him into supporting them and then gaslight him when he questions them. To people telling Ali that he is far too strict in his beliefs and that he should just calm down and that people would like him more this way. People would like him essentially if he compromised on his beliefs. He also has to battle through all of this and it was so relatable.

I can truly talk about the wonderful Muslim representation in these books, it gave me the rep that I had been craving and I will forever be thankful for Shannon for this rep.

The Empire of Gold is out in the US today and is already out in the UK and many other places so make sure you pick up a copy because it is phenomenal.