Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

Love From Mecca to Medina by S.K. Alli – ARC Review

This book was everything I ever wanted and more. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Adam and Zayneb. Perfectly matched. Painfully apart. Adam is in Doha, Qatar, making a map of the hijrah, a historic migration from Mecca to Medina and worried about where his next paycheck will come from. Zayneb is in Chicago, where school and extracurricular stresses are piling on top of a terrible frenemy situation and making her miserable.

Then a marvel occurs: Adam and Zayneb get the chance to spend Thanksgiving week on the Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, tracing the hijrah in real life, together. Adam’s thrilled, and Zayneb hopes for a spiritual reset—and they can’t wait to see each other.

But the trip is nothing like what they expect, from the appearance of Adam’s ex in their travelling group to the anxiety gripping Zayneb everywhere they go. And as one wedge after another drives them apart as they make their way from one holy city to another, Adam and Zayneb start to wonder: was their meeting just an oddity after all? Or can their love transcend everything else like the greatest marvels of the world? 

This book has my heart and soul! I absolutely adored Adam and Zayneb from Love From A to Z and seeing them older and married was so beautiful to read. The love and care they have for each other and the way they want to support each other in their passions and goals, made me love them even more.

In this book they are now in their early 20s and having recently got married we got to see them express their love for each other. The beginning was so funny to see them try to have some private time and someone would interrupt them. It was so relatable and Hanna reminded me of my little brother barging into our room because he wanted to cuddle or sleep in the bed with us so yes, I felt their pain! 

I loved that this isn’t just their love story but also their individual stories of discovering who they are and what they truly want in life both together and apart and I loved that so much. 

Through Adam and Zayneb we all get to experience Umrah and the beauty of Makkah and Medina and all I wanted to do was to be able to have the privilege of performing Umrah after reading this book. It made me long to be there, to visit the places where the Prophet (pbuh) had lived and to just be able to go to the most holy of places and strengthen my connection and love for Allah. I loved how Sajidah included the importance of each part of the Umrah without it sounding like a lecture and just so seamlessly woven into the story. I often turn to the stories of the Prophets especially when I am struggling and seeing Adam and Zayneb also do that was so wonderful to see. 

In this story we see how they are struggling with managing all the aspects of their lives and the long distance relationship and how it is having a toll on their physical and mental health. I loved seeing that they had their own struggles and trying to find that balance as it’s something a lot of us have to deal with and it also showed us that they have full lives and not just all about each other. 

The disability rep that we see in Adam and how he struggles to manage his symptoms was so well written. I related so much to him and how he tries to handle his daily life and his guilt. The guilt he felt made me cry because I have felt that guilt, that you feel you are holding your spouse back, that they deserve better, that you give your loved ones extra stress because you need their support more regularly. Adam being so wrapped up in trying to deal with this while also putting on a strong face for Zayneb was heartbreaking and I just wanted to give him a hug. I loved how he turned to Allah for help and put his trust in Him to find a way through his situations.

Zayneb also had some incredibly difficult circumstances to deal with and I felt so stressed out for her and was so worried about her! I loved seeing her grow from the Zayneb we meet in LFATZ because she would sometimes act before she thought through. But now she is more mature and thinks about the best way to deal with the situation and I loved seeing that aspect of her. She also struggles in her relationship with Allah and we see her grow and rebuild her relationship with Allah by going to Umrah and realising she needs to recharge herself as she can’t help anyone if she is broken. 

This book was everything to me and I loved every single second. Also shoutout to Bertha Fatima the real mvp. I love that cat so much. Everyone please read this book and all of Sajidah’s books. 

Adult Books

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean – Book Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

This isn’t the usual type of book I read so I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this but once I started reading I was hooked and was up late at night listening to the audiobook. 

This is a dark story and does not shy away from describing the gore and murders so do take that into account before reading.

The story revolves around the relationship of a mother and her young son so we get lots of discussions about motherhood and how the patriarchy has failed mothers in so many ways. I really loved seeing this in the book and its something I think we should see more of in books. 

Devon grows up believing in the fairytales she eats and is raised to believe she is a princess in her family and yet as she gets older she gets rebellious and others have to face the consequences of her actions so she learns to hide that part of herself. When she grows up she is married off to “the best match” essentially so she can give that family a child. 

Devon is given no options or choices and her opinions and wants do not matter. She is just there to have the baby for the benefit of the men. She doesn’t even get a choice in who to marry and once she’s had the baby she cannot raise them or have contact with them again. Despite Devin being taught this is the life of women she fights against it and is beaten, lied to and manipulated to get her to stay quiet and in her place. I truly felt for her and was really rooting for her to get the life she deserved with her kids. 

There are so many parallels in Devon’s story with the story of countless women in similar situations. They suffer and their children are used against them to ensure their obedience and even escaping doesn’t always mean they get to be free. Sometimes they have to leave their child behind like Devon did, and we see her guilt and worry about leaving her daughter to suffer the same fate she did. But she had to choose between her and her son and even that had its own issues. 

I loved seeing who Devon was as she grew up and who she became, who she had to become to protect her son. She is ruthless and has to make awful choices but everything she does is for her son. In this book all the characters are morally grey, though some more than others. The men treat women as objects they own and even those who claim to be different aren’t. Though I did like seeing that Devon is able to meet at least one man who truly tries to help her as much as she can and they become friends. 

There is also very little romance in this book which was really refreshing to read and the main focus being the mother son relationship. We need more books that show different types of love because they are just as important as romantic love. 

This was such an interesting read and I really enjoyed it though I do wish we had been given a little more than the ending we got because I want to know more! 

Diverse Books, YA Books

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodderscape and Netgalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s 1931 in Shanghai, and the stage is set for a new decade of intrigue.

Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death, but the strange experiment that saved her also stopped her from sleeping and aging—and allows her to heal from any wound. In short, Rosalind cannot die. Now, desperate for redemption from her traitorous past, she uses her abilities as an assassin for her country.

Code name: Fortune.

But when the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion march, Rosalind’s mission pivots. A series of murders is causing unrest in Shanghai, and the Japanese are under suspicion. Rosalind’s new orders are to infiltrate foreign society and identify the culprits behind the terror plot before more of her people are killed.

To reduce suspicion, however, she must pose as the wife of another Nationalist spy, Orion Hong, and though Rosalind finds Orion’s cavalier attitude and playboy demeanour infuriating, she is willing to work with him for the greater good. But Orion has an agenda of his own, and Rosalind has secrets that she wants to keep buried. As they both attempt to unravel the conspiracy, the two spies soon find that there are deeper and more horrifying layers to this mystery than they ever imagined.

This book was incredible! I absolutely loved it. Chloe has once again destroyed me because how am I supposed to survive until the sequel?! 

This book has a lot more political intrigue but I loved it so much and seeing some of my favourite characters from These Violent Delights! I didn’t particularly like Rosalind in the duology but I ended up really loving her in this book. Orion however, stole my heart. I love him and I will protect him with my life.

We get several points of view in this book and I loved seeing things from the different sides and what each side is thinking. I loved getting all that insight and yet was taken by surprise when we got those revelations at the end. I really thought I knew what was happening but there were twists on twists that left me reeling!

The best way to hold up a false identity was to keep it as close to the truth as possible.

I really liked Rosalind’s character development in this book and how she views the events of what happened with Juliette and Roma, and how she influenced everything that happened. The events of the duology and her part in them impact the person she is now and why she decided to become a spy and yet she cannot tell anyone who she is because of the ending of Our Violent Ends. This causes her to become isolated and not let anyone in, she doesn’t form attachments or emotional bonds and when she meets Orion she really struggles with this. I loved seeing her slowly break down her walls a little at a time to start letting Orion in and letting him see the real her. How he shows her that she can trust him and depend on him and will have her back.

Orion is my new favourite character, he is a ray of sunshine and always ready to have a fun time but he also has his secrets and is hiding something from Rosalind but we just don’t know what. He quickly became my favourite character because of how charming and charismatic he is and I loved his banter with Rosalind so much. This boy fell hard and fast for her and I loved watching him be completely in love while she has no idea! The way he is protective of her and isn’t afraid to show how he feels, there were scenes that had me screaming! One of my absolute favourite scenes was the car chase scene and it now lives rent free in my head. Just chefs kisses, I loved it so much!

You cannot save the world. You can try to save one thing if you must, but it is enough if that one thing is yourself.

I also really enjoyed seeing Celia and the snippets we get of Orion’s family and also Alisa and how she is managing now. The whole cast of characters were so great and I cannot wait to see more of them in the sequel. 

This book had a lot of politics and intrigue and a murder mystery so there was a lot going on but I still felt the threads of the plot were all really great to read and fleshed out. When they all started coming together, I was on the edge of my seat and then those revelations left me shook! I cannot wait for the sequel and this has become a favourite read this year!

Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodderscape for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

This book was so warm and comforting and such a wonderful read. I read the whole book in one night because I was completely hooked and I absolutely adored this charming story and the wonderful cast of characters. A story of finding your people and belonging and it was just so beautiful and heartwarming.

There is someone out there who will accept you as you are, who will allow you to just be Mika.

We meet Mika who is a young woman living on her own and has spent her whole life alone and now struggles to let people in and build emotional bonds and attachments because she thinks everyone will leave anyways. She answers an ad for a witch wanted, thinking that they can’t possibly know that she truly is a witch and this changes her whole life. 

I loved seeing Mika grow and learn to accept people into her life and be able to love deeply and be loved in return. Her story touches on how childhood trauma can impact your adult life but it is possible to work through that and choose a better life for yourself. I loved seeing her relationships with each of the children and how different they were and how each of them had a different reaction to Mika coming to live with them and teach them to control their magic. I also loved seeing her with the adults in charge of the care for the children and how they had built a close loving family and how starkly different it was for Mika growing up.

He was the purest alchemy, lead to gold.

Jamie is the book loving, nerdy, socially awkward love interest and I loved him so much! It was so refreshing to read a story where the man openly expresses his love and affection the way he does towards the family he has and especially the children under his care. He loves deeply and fiercely and will do everything in his power to protect those he loves. He doesn’t initially trust Mika but soon realises she wants nothing but the best for these children and he eventually learns to trust her and falls pretty hard for her. He is very grumpy at the beginning but secretly he is an absolute cinnamon roll and the quiet ways in which he cares for Mika and helps her see that she can be loved was just so beautiful to read.

She had never felt so welcomed and included, so much a part of something and she couldn’t rid herself of a lifelong fear that it was too good to be true.

The family dynamics and how each of the characters love and care for each other, and how Mika becomes part of their family and is accepted completely and entirely as she is was so wonderful to read. Being accepted and accepting all of yourself was a theme that ran through the story for most of the characters and showing the children a better life so they don’t have to suffer the way they did. I just loved it all so much!

If you love grumpy/sunshine, found family and a cosy, heartwarming story, I highly recommend picking up this book. I read this in one sitting and it’s a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh – ARC Review

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

TW: death (adult & children), torture, sexual assault, murder, war, starvation, PTSD, grief

This book is devastating and hauntingly beautiful and a story that I will be thinking about for a long time. There are scenes that are seared into my memory, scenes that utterly broke me and I had to stop reading. This book made me sob and it is one of the most beautiful stories I have read. 

This story is set just after the Syrian revolution began and deals with what happens to the people who are living in a war torn country. We meet Salama who wanted to become a pharmacist but those dreams are shattered when the revelation begins and now helps at the hospital saving as many people as she can. She meets Kenan who wanted to study animation but now films what is happening in Syria and uploads it to youtube so people can see what is happening. Together they bring back hope into their lives despite the circumstances they live in.

As long as the lemon trees grow hope will never die.

There is also Layla, Salama’s sister in law and only family left after her parents are murdered and her brother imprisoned. And Kenan’s younger brother and sister that he is doing his best to protect. These people are Salama and Kenan’s lifelines. Seeing how they feel terrified that anything could happen to them and there would be nothing that they could do. There are several scenes that are inspired by real life events and that made it even more chilling and devastating to read.

This land is me. And I am her. My history, my ancestors, my family, we’re all here.

We also meet Khawf who is part of Salama’s hallucination, he is the one that keeps pushing her to find a way to leave Syria to find safety but she feels guilty for leaving while there is so many people who need her help. She has learnt on the job but she always has a wealth of pharmacological knowledge that helps so many people. Kenan feels like he needs to fight for his home and share with the world what is happening. I really loved seeing the different aspects and how they struggled with the choices they made. It was so raw and real and I felt that struggle with them. Zoulfa has written these characters so beautifully and they are complex and feel so real and I completely fell in love with them. I also loved seeing how they carved out some joy for themselves amidst all the sorrow.

When they realise they will not survive long enough to make any impact they decide they need to leave to keep their family safe. But even the journey to escape is harrowing. Zoulfa doesn’t shy away from the realities of what has happened and continues to happen in Syria and everyone needs to read it. 

This is a book that everyone needs to read. It gives voice to the voiceless and shows us the strength and resilience of the Syrians and their fight for justice and freedom and how hope can be find in even the most difficult circumstances.