Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga – Book Review

I had been recommended this book several times so when I saw it was on sale I just had to but it and it did not disappoint!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.
At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

I absolutely adored this book and read it in one day! It is beautifully written and completely in verse which I thought added to the beauty of this book. It’s a heartfelt story which had me shedding a tear because this is a story that is a reality for so many young people today and not all of them get the same ending as Jude.

It shows the horrors of what it is to be a refugee and the heartbreak of having to leave everything in your life behind including your family and friends in the hope that you will make it safely to another country and be safe when you get there and how you have to start a whole new life in a place where you don’t know anyone and can even be made to feel unwelcome there.

The beginning of the story we see Jude in Syria doing your average everyday things that kids do but also the underlying tension that even the kids feel because where they live is increasingly becoming unsafe for them. Then we see her journey to the US and have to navigate a place where she is unfamiliar with the culture (outside of the films she has seen) and the language barrier she faces.

The story shows how she struggles with adjusting at times and the loneliness she feels but also her determination and perseverance to live the life she dreamed of. Half way through the book she decides to wear a hijab and Jasmine showed how people’s perception of her changed and how people treated her, despite it being a middle grade book the Islamophobia was shown in a raw and realistic way that even young readers can understand.

This is a story that could be about any immigrant and refugee child which is what makes it even more hard hitting when reading about Jude’s life. It’s a much needed story in today’s society and written beautifully. It shows the hardship and difficulties but also the hope and dreams they have just like every other child. It’s such a wonderful story and I loved it.

Fiction Books, Middle Grade Books

The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer – ARC Review

I won this ARC at YALC this summer and I literally died of excitement because the Artemis Fowl series is one of my favourite childhood books and I am so happy that I was able to get an ARC!

Reading this book was such a nostalgic experience and I have absolutely missed being in this world and Artemis’ siblings are every bit as sassy and sarcastic as he was and wow I just loved this book!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Criminal genius runs in the family…
Myles and Beckett are eleven-year-old twins, but the two boys are wildly different. Beckett is blonde, messy and sulks whenever he has to wear clothes. Myles is fanatically neat, he has an IQ of 170, and he wears a fresh suit every day like his older brother, Artemis Fowl.
Perhaps you have heard of the Fowl family and their adventures?
This Fowl adventure is filled with the most unusual of individuals: an immortal duke, a miniature troll, a nunterrogator and a Police Specialist that’s 42% elf. And of course, the Fowl twins – one a certified genius with a criminal leaning, and the other possessing an unusual talent that has not been fully explored… yet!
Here begins the second documented cycle of Fowl Adventures.

Well, this book had me hooked right from the beginning, I ended up reading it in 2 evenings because I just could not put it down! If you read the Artemis Fowl series you will be familiar with this world and what type of crazy mayhem to expect and this book certainly takes you on a wild ride.

Eoin’s writing is sassy and sarcastic and I really love his writing style, it sucks you into the story and keeps you reading. I especially think that young kids and teens will love this type of writing style as it will immerse them into the story because it is fun and make them laugh, this book is hilarious! It has a sarcastic humour which is totally my type of thing.

It was also a great introduction to Myles and Beckett who are twins but very different from each other. Myles is like Artemis was when we first met him, and Beckett is very different but also pretty much a mystery. So while we can imagine what Myles might do and behave, it was more difficult to try to figure out what Beckett would do. It was interesting to slowly learn more about Beckett and realise he may actually be pretty smart, more than what Myles gives him credit for. I really loved them both and the faerie we meet in this that is obviously meant to be what Holly was for Artemis.

Fowl and fairy, fairy and Fowl, friends forever

This book left me feeling so nostalgic for Artemis and missing his adventures with Holly and Butler especially as we get small glimpses of who he is now and while he isn’t actually there the scenes made feel really proud of him.

This story is action packed, with great characters and full of sarcastic, witty humour. It’s inventive and I really can’t wait for the next book! I hope we get to see some Holly, Butler and Artemis scenes in this series too!

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

The Battle by Karuna Riazi – ARC Review

I loved The Gauntlet so much so when I heard that a companion novel was being published I knew I had to read it! I was lucky enough to get this ARC in a trade. And I really loved this book too!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Four years after the events of The Gauntlet, the evil game Architect is back with a new partner-in-crime—The MasterMind—and the pair aim to get revenge on the Mirza clan. Together, they’ve rebuilt Paheli into a slick, mind-bending world with floating skyscrapers, flying rickshaws run by robots, and a digital funicular rail that doesn’t always take you exactly where you want to go.
Twelve-year-old Ahmad Mirza struggles to make friends at his new middle school, but when he’s paired with his classmate Winnie for a project, he is determined to impress her and make his very first friend. At home while they’re hard at work, a gift from big sister Farah—who is away at her first year in college—arrives. It’s a high-tech game called The Battle of Blood and Iron, a cross between a video game and board game, complete with virtual reality goggles. He thinks his sister has solved his friend problem—all kids love games. He convinces Winnie to play, but as soon as they unbox the game, time freezes all over New York City.
With time standing still and people frozen, all of humankind is at stake as Ahmad and Winnie face off with the MasterMind and the Architect, hoping to beat them at their own game before the evil plotters expand Paheli and take over the entire world.

In The Gauntlet, Farah was the main character and she had to play the game to save her brother Ahmad, who at the time was 8 years old. We don’t really see Ahmad much in The Gauntlet as it’s Farah’s story so it was really nice to see that Ahmad would be the main character and we would follow him on his adventure into Paheli.

This Paheli isn’t exactly like the one we saw in The Gauntlet so it was interesting to see how it had changed but we do see similarities and familiar faces. Ahmad is taken into the game with Winnie, a girl who he doesn’t really know well at the beginning but they become great friends as the story progresses. It was so nice to see their friendship grow as the story went on and they had to learn to trust each other and rely on each other to get through the game.

I really loved that Ahmad was the main character because we never get to see young Muslim boys as the main character in books so it was really great to see the great rep. I especially loved that he’s an artist! It’s so rare to see that in books and it really made me excited to give it to my 11 year old cousin to read as Ahmad reminded me of him. Being introverted and an artist are often seen as not great things for young Muslim boys so it was great to see that shown in a positive light.

Winnie was also a really great character who helped Ahmad come out of his shell somewhat and see that he is just as great as the other kids in his class and he helped her to work through her insecurities too. It was just so great to see their friendship and how they learned to understand each other. Both Ahmad and Winnie have really great character arcs, especially Ahmad and it was so nice to see them both grow throughout the story.

This book, like The Gauntlet, is action packed and fast paced, filled with rickshaw chases and challenges that push both Ahmad and Winnie to work together. I really loved that this version of Paheli is more high tech yet still had the middle eastern influence that made me fall in love with Paheli in The Gauntlet.

This book is about discovering yourself and growing as a person and accepting that being different from others isn’t a bad thing and that everyone has strengths and weakness. It was so great to be back in this world and I definitely recommend reading both the Gauntlet and The Battle and give it to all the young Muslim boys and girls especially so they can see themselves in books too!

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books

A Pocketful Of Stars by Aisha Bushby – Book Review

I really loved Aisha’s story in A Change is Gonna Come so I was really looking forward to reading her debut book and it did not disappoint!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Safiya and her mum have never seen eye to eye. Her mum doesn’t understand Safiya’s love of gaming and Safiya doesn’t think they have anything in common. As Safiya struggles to fit in at school she wonders if her mum wishes she was more like her confident best friend Elle. But then her mum falls into a coma and, when Safiya waits by her bedside, she finds herself in a strange alternative world that looks a bit like one of her games. And there’s a rebellious teenage girl, with a secret, who looks suspiciously familiar . . .

This is a book that I wish I had been able to read when I was younger and trying to navigate my way through high school. It deals with friendships and bullying and growing up and changing. Everything that a lot of young people can struggle with. And the way Aisha deals with these issues is so beautifully done.

Reading a book where Safiya learns that it is okay to not be interested in the same things that other girls are interested in and want to talk about boys was so refreshing to read. High school can be so difficult for so many reasons and peer pressure being one of them. You feel like you have to like what the other girls and your friends like. But Safiya learns that it’s actually okay to continue to enjoy video games and have her own interests that are different from her friends. It doesn’t make her childish and she doesn’t need to “grow up” and like the same things as her friends. I loved seeing that so much!

“Being brave is about doing something even when it scares you.”

One of the themes in the book is friendship and how as you grown and change you can find yourself drifting apart from those who were your best friends. Safiya feels like she needs to hold on to those friendships because it is safe and constant in her life, even when that friendship is no longer safe and starts to become toxic. But slowly she learns that she shouldn’t stay friends with someone who is toxic to her and that it is okay to let go, that it is okay to become friends with others as your interests change and align with them. It can be painful but it will be okay. I also really loved how Safiya learns to stand up for herself and for those who are being bullied. It was so great to see these things in the book.

Aisha’s writing is beautiful and her descriptions are vivid that I felt like I was right there with Safiya. I loved the magic of Safiya seeing her mother’s memories and learning about her mum. The sounds and smells and tastes, oh the food descriptions! I just wanted to eat everything! The journey she takes to learn about her mum especially as at the time she wasn’t seeing eye to eye with her mum, not only helped her to understand her mum better but it was also a journey of self discovery.

“If you cut mum and me open we’d be filled with the very same fire, glowing red and orange and gold.”

This book is beautifully written and I really think that young people should read this book, in fact everyone go read this book!

Fiction Books, Middle Grade Books

The Rise of Winter by Alex Lyttle – ARC Review

Thank you to Central Avenue Publishing and Netgalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoy reading middle grade books and when I read the synopsis of this it sounded really interesting so I was excited when my request was accepted! I really enjoyed the book and despite it being middle grade it dealt with some really relevant issues that affect all of us today and I felt it was done quite well.

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Centuries ago, Terra, the world, was nearly destroyed by humans. In the wake of that destruction, Terra created the Guardians – a group sworn to protect Her. But humans have returned to their plundering ways and Terra needs the Guardians. The Guardians are now fractured, their leader murdered years before. They need a new leader – a new Terra Protectorum – but when a young girl is chosen outrage ensues. Questions demand answers.

Why has Terra selected a girl with no knowledge of the Guardians? Why has she chosen a human when it is the humans destroying the earth? And most importantly, why has she chosen the girl whose father murdered the last Terra Protectorum?

This book is about a young girl finding out that she has been made into a guardian and needs to help the animals save the earth. She has to quickly learn what it means to be a guardian especially as the humans have once again begun polluting the planet and destroying the homes of the animals.

She is helped along the way by different animals, Vulpeera the fox, is someone who first believes in her and helps her and becomes a teacher and mentor to her. There is also Proctin the racoon, an exile and one who loves to eat. Each of the animals have distinct personalities and their own backstories which I really liked seeing as it helped flesh out their character arcs and made them more complex. This makes the reader really feel for their story and makes us want to root for them and help them save the earth.

The story revolves around Winter needing to save earth so there are lots of environmental issues spoken about in the book, from how humans are polluting the air and rives and land to how animals are being affected by us building everywhere. I did like seeing these mentioned and I felt that younger readers would be able to understand what was being said though I do feel it was portrayed as black and white when in reality it is much more complex. Not all humans are “bad” and we do need to build homes and roads for us to be able to travel and live. There are also lots of humans who do speak about saving the environment yet aside from Winter, every other human was seen as “bad”.

There is lots of action packed, fast paced scenes and I felt they were quite well balanced between more light hearted, fun scenes. I especially liked the conversations between Proctin and Winter and how their friendship developed. I think the characters were all shown really well but I felt the world building wasn’t as great. It was hard for me to truly imagine what the world looked like as it wasn’t explained as well. It seemed like it was a post apocalyptic world yet it also seemed like it was set at the start of the industrial revolution and there was mentions of the lands behind the mountain that no-one had explored. It felt a little confusing.

The ending was really action packed and there was quite a few revelations and plot twists that I didn’t see coming which made the story even more interesting and left me wanting to know more. I especially want to know what will happen next after the last line!

Overall I really enjoyed the book and I think younger readers will enjoy it too. There was lots of issues that are relevant today included in the story like the environment and deciding who you are and not the labels that people give you. And I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

The book releases on 1st May.