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. 

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!

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.

YA Books

Mindwalker by Kate Dylan – ARC Review

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah is determined to die a legend. In the ten years she’s been rescuing imperilled field agents for the Syntex Corporation—by commandeering their minds from afar and leading them to safety—Sil hasn’t lost a single life. And she’s not about to start now.

She’s got twelve months left on the clock before the supercomputer grafted to her brain kills her, and she’s hell-bent on using that time to cement her legacy. Sil’s going to be the only Mindwalker to ever pitch a perfect game—even despite the debilitating glitches she’s experiencing. But when a critical mission goes south, Sil is forced to flee the very company she once called home.

Desperate to prove she’s no traitor, Sil infiltrates the Analog Army, an activist faction working to bring Syntex down. Her plan is to win back her employer’s trust by destroying the group from within. Instead, she and the Army’s reckless leader, Ryder, uncover a horrifying truth that threatens to undo all the good Sil’s ever done.

With her tech rapidly degrading and her new ally keeping dangerous secrets of his own, Sil must find a way to stop Syntex in order to save her friends, her reputation—and maybe even herself.

This book is a wild ride! I was hooked from the very beginning and could not put this book down! I really loved Sil and Ryder and their dynamic and the utter chaotic energy they have together. 

I love sci-fi but even if you don’t I think lots of people will enjoy it. It’s very character driven as we follow Sil who has a limited time to prove her innocence and uncover a conspiracy so it was a thriller with a sci-fi twist and I loved it. It was especially interesting because it was set in a post apocalyptic world where life is so different from now because of how we destroyed the planet and repercussions of that. So that was an interesting element in the story too. 

This is a story of powerful men who always get what they want and being able to get away with practically anything because they are powerful men and the parallels to our society was really interesting to read. We see how Sil learns this the hard way and how systemic corruption has a long lasting and wide reaching effect. 

Never underestimate the power a single man can wield when the rest of us quit paying attention.

I do wish the morality of being able to mindwalk and take over a person’s mind and body had been discussed a little more. I did like seeing those discussions though it was more showing how people were disgusted by what Sil did but it would have been good to see Sil and the other mindwalkers think about whether it is morally okay and how this can lead to someone deciding to use this technology to control masses of people. It was interesting to see that they were all recruited as children and the families given lots of incentives and compensations for them joining. Children are easier to manipulate and parents did not have the authority to say no if the child agreed so there wasn’t any protections in place for these children either. They also could not live past their teenage years which I felt was also a way to control and ensure that people did not get older and think that maybe this isn’t right or they no longer want to be a part of it. I just wish this was discussed a little more in the book though there are mentions of it.

I really liked the side characters too and the friendships between them. How they supported and protected each other and worked together to find out who was behind everything. I do wish we could have seen more of them, especially Sil’s friends. 

This is a fast paced and action packed book which will take you on a wild ride and the revelations in the second half of the book had me shook. I really liked the ending and how things were resolved but shows there is still more work to be done to deal with the corruption and whether anyone should be allowed to control another person’s mind and body.

YA Books

This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede – ARC Review

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

This book had me hooked from the beginning and I flew through the book. I really enjoyed the story and the discussions around love and that there are different types of love and being lonely. I also liked the discussions around people in power and how the poorer people are not given the same protections.

Alessa was an interesting character though she could get annoying at times especially at the risks she took but you know what if I was under the pressure she was under I may become a little reckless too. I really did sympathise with her though as she is unable to touch anyone without killing them so she has become isolated and lonely and fed the fantasy that once she finds her true partner then she will have everything she desires. But unfortunately for her she keeps killing her partners and this makes her struggle with her own self worth and whether the world would be better off without her. 

Once she meets the mysterious Dante though, she starts to believe in herself more and learns that she is more capable than she gives herself credit for and he helps her to see a world outside of her gilded cage. I really liked Dante and how he showed Alessa that the world she has been taught to believe in may not be as just and fair as she thinks. He makes her question things and see that just because something has been done a specific way it doesn’t mean that is the only way. 

I also really enjoyed the side characters and hope we get to see more of them in the sequel and how they initially did not want to be near Alessa but by the end they learnt to trust her and she learnt to trust them and they became a unit. It was so great to see Alessa build relationships that are not romantic because she had been starved of friendship too which she needed and found in them.

The second half of the book had some intense moments and some revelations that I did not see coming but I loved as it added more mystery to the world and history that we have been told. I hope we get to explore this more in the sequel.

I did feel the ending was a little rushed, I was hoping to see more of the battle that has been built up throughout the book and some of the aftermath especially regarding Dante and what happens to him. I am especially looking forward to seeing more of him and his arc in the sequel.