Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Muslim Shelf Space, YA Books

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud – ARC Review

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

This is the sequel to Mirage which I loved so I was excited to read this. I really enjoyed this book and I liked how it ended.

Here is my review for Mirage

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

This is the sequel to Mirage and starts pretty much where Mirage ended. Amani has to try to gain back the trust of Maram while also deciding whether she wants to risk being part of the rebels or not anymore.

I have mixed feelings about the sequel, the story went in a direction I wasn’t expecting but I did love what happened in the book. I did feel however that the story felt quite slow at the beginning and felt myself losing interest in the middle of the book. But the ending was really great though I wish we had spent more time on the ending as opposed to the build up.

I loved seeing Amani’s character development from being the scared girl we meet at the beginning of Mirage to the young woman who leads a rebellion by the end of Court of Lions. She builds the relationships and ties needed for Maram to be a good leader and helps Maram to overcome the conditioning she has been taught her whole life to look down on her mother’s people. It was really great to see their friendship build to becoming like sisters and Amani became the family Maram never had who she could trust and turn to for help and advice. I loved seeing Amani’s love for Maram and how much she fought for her despite the rebels wariness.

Maram was the character that surprised me most in the sequel. I really wasn’t sure which way Maram would go after the ending of Mirage and I am actually really happy to see her point of view in the sequel as it made her more complex and gave her character more depth. I especially liked seeing how conflicted she was underneath her mask of indifference and wanted to be a part of her mother’s heritage and family despite her father trying to stamp it out of her. I liked seeing her relationship with her new mysterious falconer, Aghraas. Though I do wish I could have seen more build up of their relationship before they got to the ‘I would do anything for you.’ I had the same issue with Amani and Idris though I do like both couples in the books.

The political intrigue is most prominent in this book as Maram and Amani must navigate the politics of both the rebels and the Vath and I really loved seeing them both deal with all the complications and trying to keep the peace between everyone while also showing they were willing to build a new world where no one would be oppressed.

Overall I did enjoy the sequel and how it concluded I just wish we had gotten more from the ending rather than so much of the political intrigue which made it drag a little in the middle. But I think most people will enjoy how the world is expanded and that this is a lot more plot based and had more characters which I loved seeing.

Diverse Books, YA Books

Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust – ARC Review

Thank you to netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

This story had me hooked from the beginning, there is so much intrigue and questions that make you just want to read one more chapter. I loved that the world was inspired by Persian culture and we are fully immersed into the culture from the clothes and food to the traditions. I really loved the world that the author created!

The most interesting thing about the book though is the characters. They are all morally grey and all of them make bad choices which has big consequences. I really loved that you can never tell who was good and bad because you can see why each of the characters make the choices they do and how they justify it and you want to root for each of them.

I really loved Soraya, she has poison in her veins and is twin to Sorush who is the Shah of Golvahar. We follow Soraya’s story and how she feels imprisoned because she is so deadly and has to live a life of isolation, hidden away in a corner of the palace while her brother rules and can live a normal life. She isn’t a damsel though waiting for someone to rescue her, she decides that she will free herself and though she doesn’t always make the best decision, she does not let anyone else to dictate her life and her choices and I loved that about her.

When we meet Azad, he is kind and caring and sees Soraya as someone more than a dangerous, deadly girl. This is what initially drew Soraya to him and their relationship was really interesting throughout the book. I also really like Parvenah who is also complicated and makes bad decisions which causes lasting consequences not only for herself but causes pain for her family too. She also works to right her bad decisions like Soraya and I liked how their relationship developed.

There were definitely points in the story where I wanted to tell Soraya to go to the dark side! Be the powerful dark queen she should be! But at the same time I don’t think Soraya truly has it in her to manipulate and hurt those she loved and cared for. It was more that she wanted to belong and not be a social pariah because of poisonous touch.

This is a story of people who make bad decisions but it is the way they handle the consequences that determine who they become. It was really interesting to see how different their lives turn out because of the decisions they make and how different they could be if they had chosen differently.

YA Books

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew – ARC Review

Thank you Walker Books and Netgalley for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

The topic of the book intrigued me so I had to request it. I didn’t realise it was written in verse so when I started reading it, it was a nice surprise. I absolutely loved it!

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Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

BLOOD MOON is a YA novel about the viral shaming of a teenage girl. During her seminal sexual experience with the quiet and lovely Benjamin, physics-lover and astronomy fan Frankie gets her period – but the next day a gruesome meme goes viral, turning an innocent, intimate afternoon into something sordid, mortifying and damaging.

This book was incredible and I loved that it was written in verse. This is a topic I am passionate about I am glad that it is being discussed more and that there are even books being published that deal with periods and how it is normal and nothing that should cause someone to say eww.

This book deals with period shame and how something natural results in a girl being shamed and humiliated and bullied. It touches on how it can affect her whole life from her self worth to her self confidence and her mental health. It also deals with friendship and girls supporting girls and more.

When I started reading I was quickly hooked and then before I knew it, it was 4am and I had reached the end of the book which left me feeling a mess of emotions. I was angry and sad and hopeful and I just wanted to scream about this book.

This book was difficult to read at times because of the awful ways that the other teenagers treat the main character and anyone who tries to stand up to her. But also how quickly one bully can get so many supporters not only in their school but also on the internet. People think it is okay to humiliate a girl on the internet and won’t have to take responsibility or deal with any of the consequences of doing so. But in this book we see what the consequences of the humiliation and bullying is and it was heart breaking. No one should have to go through this especially as periods are nothing to be embarrassed about.

I hope we get more books that deal with periods and shaming women for their periods. I think the only thing I wished we had seen more of in the book was including women of colour and how it can affect them too and how it can be a different experience and the issues they deal with may be different to the ones that the young women in this book had to deal with. I also hope we get more books dealing with period poverty as that also has a huge impact on young people.

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

Once Upon An Eid Edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

Thank you to Abrams Kids and Netgalley for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely adored this book and all the wonderful stories!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!
Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.

This book was pure joy and happiness to read. Even the stories which showed people in difficult situations were full of hope. I cried happy tears several times reading this book and this book will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Eid is such an important day for Muslims and this book captures what it can be like and how varied everyone’s experiences are. Being the oldest sibling I always tried to make Eid a fun and memorable day for my sisters and little cousins. From putting up decorations and gifts which would be opened after Eid prayer to going to the Eid fair and playing games we had so much fun. And reading this book brought back all those memories.

I loved every single story in this anthology which is rare but they were all written so wonderfully and beautifully and I sobbed my way through the book. I loved how diverse the stories were and how everyone celebrates differently and has their own traditions in their family, community and their culture. We see how people all over the world have different food they will want to make or the clothes they were and how they get together with family. I loved how family wasn’t just the mum, dad and kid but showed how families are a lot more varied. It was so inclusive and I was weeping with joy.

The stories themselves were so great and even though this is a middle grade book, and I am an adult I loved them so much. I loved Aisha Saeed’s story about how everyone in the family came to the rescue when Yusuf overcooked the brownies and Asmaa Hussein’s story of how Kareem learns what it truly means to be generous and giving and caring for those who are less fortunate. I also loved that there was also a graphic short story because I know lots of kids love graphic novels!

Each story is full of hope, even the stories where the situation the people are in are less than ideal. Searching for Blue by N.H. Senzai is the story of a young boy who is in a refugee camp in Greece and how the refugees get together with some wonderful people who love there to make the best of the situation and make it a special day for everyone. Such a beautiful heart warming story while simultaneously showing how difficult the lives of refugees are. In fact all the stories have some really wonderful lessons which are integral parts of Islam woven beautifully into the stories.

I cannot wait to get my finished copy and see all the artwork to go with the stories! This book is phenomenal, filled with much needed stories of joy and hope and I adored every single one of them!

PS. These books will make the perfect Eid gifts!

YA Books

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant – ARC Review

My friend Anisha had this ARC and she kindly let me borrow it to read and I’m so glad she let me borrow it as I absolutely loved it!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

This book was dark and brutal with characters who were ruthless because that was the only way to survive and showed the stark contrast between the wealthy and poor. I loved the main character, Nina, so much. She was so complex and interesting and I loved seeing how much she grew and changed because of the circumstances she was put in.

She lived in a world where having people you loved in your life made you weak as they could be used against you yet she still loved fiercely. She takes Ettie in and becomes an older sister for her and her fierce protectiveness for Ettie drives her to do whatever it takes to protect her, which makes her become more and more ruthless but she is smart and patient too which makes her even more dangerous to her enemies. Yet they underestimate her time and time again because she is nothing but a young thief to them and they are some of the most powerful people. I loved seeing her plan heists which would be impossible for anyone else, showing how smart, inventive and creative she is.

Her relationship with Ettie was my favourite thing in this book, especially as it contrasted so differently from the brutal world they lived in. Ettie was so sweet and even I felt protective over her, she would tease Nina over boys, was sassy and loved listening to stories and was such a little chatterbox that I completely fell in love with her.

This book deals with some really dark and difficult topics including drugging, buying and trafficking women. Which was quite difficult to read at times and to see the state of the women especially as we see it through Nina’s eyes. She lost her older sister to that so her determination to save Ettie is fuelled by her not being able to save Azelma.

The world building was incredible especially as through Nina we see the poorest parts of Paris and the richest and we also see the underground where all those who aren’t accepted because they are different in some way live. We see how the poor are dying from starvation while the wealthy live so lavishly that they throw food away. We see how the powerful and wealthy keep the poor in a vicious circle of starvation and death to control population and how that results in a people deciding to rise up against them.

The cast of characters were sp great too and their interactions with Nina made the story so interesting and I really hope we get to see more of them in the next book as I would love to learn more about them. I loved how the court was set up and how the lords protected their own but they also should have done more to protect the women that the tiger drugs and traffics. It was interesting to see their justifications and eventually their realisation that they should have done something.

This book was such a great read. I was completely hooked and the second half especially kept me on the edge of my seat. I felt so stressed on Nina’s behalf because I just felt so strongly for Ettie that she needed to be protected at all costs. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next book especially with that ending!