Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books

Rumaysa by Radiya Hafiza – ARC Review

This is the book kid me needed and I am so glad it exists now and so wonderfully written.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

This funny and empowering story weaves together three classic fairytales into one new adventure with an unusual structural twist: Rumaysa is a Muslim girl who lets her hijab down from a tall tower in order to escape. Set in a magical version of South Asia, Rumaysa explores enchanted forests and dragon lairs, teaming up with Cinderayla and Sleeping Sara along the way to create a strong sense of sisterhood. 

I loved this book so much! The story was fun and entertaining and also full of south Asian culture that was so familiar to me and the best part was that the characters were Muslim! Muslim princess fairytales, books I wish I could I have had as a kid.

I loved way that Radiya made each story her own while still keeping the original fairytale recognisable. While we don’t get to see all the illustrations in the arc we do get one of Rumaysa in her tower and it’s so cute. My finished copy has arrived and I can say that the art is amazing! Girls in hijab, south Asian culture on full display, I love it so much!

I really loved how three fairytales were woven together with Rumaysa as the central character but not overtaking the other stories. It was so well done and such a wonderful surprise to read those twists. I loved how her hijab is key to her escaping the tower and that we see her struggle with being so isolated and alone. Her sole companion is an owl who helps her escape and is her eyes to the outside world. It was also so great to see that Rumaysa mentions praying her daily prayers and that it gave her structure to her day. The way they were just included as a normal part of her just made me smile.

Rumaysa is a wonderful character, she is determined and resilient and because she has never been outside so she is so grateful for all the experiences she now gets to see because she has missed out for many years and it reminded me of how girls are kept incredibly sheltered and not allowed to experience things and kept at home and so miss out on so many things. Sara’s story is also similar in that because her parents are afraid of losing her they go to extremes to keep her safe but that puts her at a disadvantage and she is unable to help those that she is responsible for. It shows how girls are so much more capable than adults give them credit for.

I really loved all three stories even though I’m not a fan of the original Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty story. I especially loved how the princesses saved themselves instead of waiting for a prince to turn up to save them. They helped and supported each other and they knew their worth. Especially Ayla who stood her ground and said she doesn’t want to be with someone who thinks wealth and looks is so important. Ayla’s step sisters also were a nice surprise. They copied the way their mother behaved towards her and it shows that children will copy what adults will do. But they also knew it wasn’t okay and eventually changed for the better and stood up for themselves too.

I loved this book so much and how message of girls supporting girls but also how toxic masculinity was tackled too through Suleiman. He doesn’t want to be the type of boy that his parents expect and push him into her prefers building things and being creative, not being outdoors all the time and that this is okay too. This book tackles many issues that are prevalent in the south Asian community in a way kids can understand but also not being so heavy that it takes away from the fun and magic of the story.

Give this book to all the kids you know. Everyone deserves to see themselves as the hero in the story and this book made kid me so very happy.

Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Poison Plot by Annabelle Sami – Book Review

This is book two in the Agent Zaiba Investigates series. You can read my review for the first book here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Determined to be the world’s greatest detective, Zaiba is always on the lookout for a crime to solve!

Zaiba can’t wait for the school summer fair where she’s going to run a detective trail to help train other potential agents! But when the head teacher is poisoned during the highly competitive cake competition, Zaiba’s own skills are put to the test. With a whole host of suspects and a busy crime scene, Zaiba needs to stay focused if she’s going to get to the bottom of the cake catastrophe…

I love this series so much! This is exactly the type of book I would have loved to read when I was a kid because all I had was Secret Seven and while I loved them, to see Zaiba who is Pakistani and wears salwar kameez and is fully immersed in her culture would have been incredible to be able to read.

Zaiba is a wonderful character, she is smart and passionate and dedicated to finding the truth. She has a wonderful relationship with her family and a great female friendship. I also related to her mixed complicated feelings towards her cousin who doesn’t always get along with them but maybe there is something more to how she behaves with them and Zaiba slowly sees that.

It was so wonderful to see parents who are involved in the story and a part of the kids lives. So often the parents are absent in stories but we also need to see healthy relationships in books and this series does that. The way both Zaiba and Ali interact with their dad shows how close they are and that their step mum is a wonderful parent to them too. It was also great to see that it was the dad and son who took part in the baking content especially as in Asian culture there is often this stigma around boys cooking so to see it celebrated was so wonderful.

This book is set at Zaiba’s school and it brought back memories of the school summer fair that would happen when I was at school. It was great to see a book set in an environment that is so familiar to kids and adults alike and that Zaiba was in charge of the scavenger hunt which she put so much effort into. I loved how we see so many parents involved in the kids lives at the school.

We see Zaiba investigate the poisoning and we see how she immediately wants to find out what has happened. She is brave and smart and determined. I love how passionate she is about what she loves doing and how she is so driven. I loved seeing how she is inspired by her aunt who is a role model for her to become a detective. It’s so great to see that Zaiba had someone like her aunt to look up to.

I just really love these books and how incredible they are at making me feel so seen and truly wish I had them when I was younger. If you know any kids please give these books to them because honestly everyone deserves to see themselves in books.

Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali – Book Review

This is Sajidah’s debut book and a book I reread for the first time since I read it when it released.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?

Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

And Janna suddenly finds herself caring what people think. Or at least what a certain boy named Jeremy thinks. Not that she would ever date him—Muslim girls don’t date. Or they shouldn’t date. Or won’t? Janna is still working all this out.

While her heart might be leading her in one direction, her mind is spinning in others. She is trying to decide what kind of person she wants to be, and what it means to be a saint, a misfit, or a monster. Except she knows a monster…one who happens to be parading around as a saint…Will she be the one to call him out on it? What will people in her tightknit Muslim community think of her then?

Honestly I appreciated this book a lot more during my reread than I did the first time I read it. It’s a story that deals with several important topics within the Muslim community that don’t get enough attention and ways to deal with these issues openly and without stigma.

Janna is 15 and going through what a lot of Muslim teens go through living in the west, how to balance your faith and trying to fit in. A lot of youth don’t have someone they can trust to turn to for help in navigating this so they do so on their own and no one is perfect so they can make mistakes, they can bow to peer pressure which does happen to Janna.

Janna is assaulted and harassed by a boy who is known to have a wonderful reputation within the Muslim community and so she finds it difficult to speak up about what has happened to her. It was heart breaking to read about how much Janna struggles to work through her trauma completely alone and she also has to listen to everyone talk about how amazing her assaulter is. She even has to be around him because no one knows what he did to her and she can’t find a way to avoid him. He begins to stalk her and start a smear campaign against her because that will make it harder for her to speak up and be believed. It felt so real to read this. She is trying to move on but keeps getting pulled back and navigating all these complicated feelings. She feels isolated and it affects her relationships with family and friends. It was heart breaking to read about it.

One of the things I did love was that Janna may not have been able to speak up about the assault but she knew that it wasn’t her fault, that even though that monster tried to manipulate her she knew it wasn’t. This is something so important to read and see, that it is never the fault of the victim. I think the only thing I wish we got to see more of was what happened after she finally spoke up. Maybe we will get to see this in the sequel!

I also loved the range of Muslim women that are in this book from niqbi Sausan to “Saint” Sarah and even Fizz. Suasan is amazing and a badass, her sass and and how she carries herself wearing the niqab was so wonderful to see. Sarah may seem like a saint to Janna but once she spends some time with Sarah, she realises that actually she isn’t perfect but just trying her best like Janna. Fizz is another person in Janna’s life but one who is also related to the monster, she can be a little judgemental and see Islam in Black and white and it causes a rift between her and Janna. It was great to see all these different women in the book because we are all different and everyone is on their own journey in their faith.

And then we have Nuah, who clearly has a crush on Janna even though she is oblivious. She has a crush on Jeremy and it was interesting to see her journey through navigating her feelings towards him and trying to figure out how to manage these feelings because she didn’t want to date but also did want to spend time with him. It felt real and relatable. She is 15 and many of us have to navigate and balance our faith and our feelings especially at that age it can be difficult and you can feel pressured to do things you may not want to. But by the end she has resolved her feelings and realises that dating isn’t something she wants to do.

Nuah meanwhile is actually a great friend to her and never pressures her to feel or be more than a friend. He also is one of the few people who figures out that the monster has hurt Janna in some way and immediately believes her and says he is there for her if she needs some support and honestly I just fell in love with how sweet he is. I cannot wait to see him in Misfit in Love!

This is a story that deals with many difficult topics that young people deal with in the Muslim community and I am so glad I reread it as I think I appreciated the story a lot more in my reread. I am so excited for the sequel releasing in a few months!

Blog Tours/Street Teams, Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

Blog Tour – The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani – ARC Review

Thank you to Harper Teen and Qamar Tours for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

I did not choose this fate. But I will not walk away from it.

Children have been disappearing from across Menaiya for longer than Amraeya ni Ansarim can remember. When her friend’s sister is snatched, Rae knows she can’t look away any longer – even if that means seeking answers from the royal court, where her country upbringing and clubfoot will only invite ridicule.

Yet the court holds its share of surprises. There she discovers an ally in the foreign princess, who recruits her as an attendant. Armed with the princess’s support, Rae seeks answers in the dark city streets, finding unexpected help in a rough-around-the-edges street thief with secrets of his own. But treachery runs deep, and the more Rae uncovers, the more she endangers the kingdom itself. 

I loved this book so much, it’s a story about a young woman who is often overlooked and underestimated but she is capable of so much more than anyone gives her credit for and it resonated with me deeply.

Rae isn’t like the usual fantasy heroines we see, she doesn’t have secret magic powers, she’s an average girl who has a family and doesn’t have a tragic backstory. She is however a young woman who will protect those she loves and will fight for the people who no one else will fight for. I think this made her so much more relatable and real because she could be any of us. She is smart and resourceful and she perseveres no matter what obstacles are put in her path. She is kind and empathetic but also knows that not everyone is trustworthy and is cautious about who she trusts.

I assure you I am well aware of what I am capable of

She also has a disability and it affects her mobility which means she is often underestimated and overlooked, she is seen as less capable but I really loved how she didn’t allow that stop her from protecting her loved ones and seeking justice. Her internal conflict was so relatable as someone who also has a mobility disability, I really felt for her, how she will sometimes push herself too far and that fear of being looked down on or pitied if someone finds out about her disability, how her disability is the only thing anyone sees. I loved her arc and how she realises her disability may affect some things that she can do but it doesn’t define her and only she decides who she is.

I also completely fell in love with Bren from the first moment we meet him. From his first conversation with Rae I loved their interactions and how he looked out for Rae right from the beginning without making her feel helpless or self-conscious about her disability. He never thinks less of Rae because of her disability and I just loved that so much. He sees her for who she really is and not just a helpless girl. I loved their banter and sass and how they worked together. It was such an interesting dynamic between them as Bren is a thief and Rae doesn’t always approve of things in his life but she accepts him for who he is. Some of my favourite scenes were between them two.

She has more power than the stories grant her.

It was also great to see Thorn again and especially see her happy with Kestrin and how she dealt with her family. I loved seeing their wedding celebrations and it reminded me of a big fat desi wedding! The beautiful clothes and all the functions and food and traditions. I just loved seeing it in the book. It was also a great contrast between the rich and the poor and how different the lives of nobles are compared to the average citizen.

There is also discussions of the violence women face and how they have to adjust the way they live and how they don’t always feel safe. Even Thorn has to deal with this and it was chilling because it was her brother and he was enabled by those around him who didn’t hold him accountable, instead ignoring what he did to her. The comparisons to how this happens a lot in our society was easy to see and I could relate to how Thorn and Rae felt.

While this is a character driven book where we see everything from Rae’s point of view we also got to explore a lot more of the world outside and the politics of the nobles too and how the nobles ignored what was happening to the children as it didn’t affect them directly. We see how it affects Rae and the frustrations she feels and it makes her more determined to help, it was interesting to see Thorn as her ally but she was also limited in many ways because of the politics at play. The end of this book and the plot twists and revelations shook me, I was not expecting them at all. And then the book ends in a cliffhanger which has me dying for the next book!

As much as we ask for help. We have to help ourselves.

I highly recommend this wonderful story with a main character you will fall in love with and root for and I cannot wait for the sequel as there are things which were alluded to in this book that I think will come into play in the sequel, especially the fae angle! Everyone please go read this book!

This is the tour schedule so do check out the other bloggers posts too!

Here are some quote art designs I made with some of my favourite quotes!

Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books

Amina’s Song by Hena Khan – ARC Review

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Books for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the last few days of her vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family—all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. Now that the school year is starting again, she’s sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale.

After she’s home, though, her friends don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen?

This story is one that I think many young people and even adults will be able to relate to a lot. A story about belonging and being the child of parents who immigrated to a different country for various reasons and now you’re in between two worlds. A story about how even though there can be many differences in being from different cultures there are also many things that can bring us together.

Reading this book reminded me of how I felt when as a young teen I went to Pakistan for a holiday and while I loved it, I couldn’t shake that feeling of not quite fitting in and yet being born and raised in the UK, sometimes I still feel like I don’t quite fit in. That sense of not quite belonging in either place because you are a combination of both cultures and also how you may even reject one culture to be able to belong in the other. Amina doesn’t want to wear salwar kameez or take Pakistani food to school for lunch because it would make her stand out and yet her white friend can bring kebabs without feeling like that. There were so many scenes like this in the book that really hit home for me and how I had felt growing up.

How when the only thing you see about countries you’re family is from is how “backwards” and “violent” they are it can make you want to distance yourself from it yet that isn’t the truth of things and people being violent is a universal thing no matter where you are from. As Amina learns about Malala and tries to show the beauty of Pakistan through her she is faced with people only seeing how a group of people hurt a young girl when all she wanted was to get an education. How people pity girls from there but don’t see how the same thing is happening in their own countries albeit in different ways. That there are incredible people all over the world. I just truly loved how Hena wove all this into the story and showed how beautiful countries like Pakistan can be.

I really liked how Amina has an internal conflict but is determined to show how beautiful her heritage and culture is. It felt so real and relatable and also woven into the story of friendship and family and loving each other despite differences.

At the end when Amina shared the stories of some of the many incredible women from Pakistan and their incredible achievements, it was wonderful to see and seeing people’s reactions go from pity to awe. In the west we are rarely told positive stories of people living in places like Pakistan and I love how Hena tackled this problem through Amina’s story.

This book is one I related to deep in soul and I am so happy to see these stories being published where we can celebrate our heritage and culture instead of being ashamed by it. It’s a wholesome story of love between family and friends and how despite being worlds apart you can still be connected to each other.