YA Books

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – ARC Review

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without . . . and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future. 

I loved this book so much! The characters are written so well, they are complicated and nuanced and this book is full of morally grey characters!

Despite the characters doing questionable things, I still felt myself rooting for them because they were put in such difficult situations and you can see they are trying their best to do what’s right but also make decisions that aren’t the best. But they acknowledged what they had done and that it wasn’t right but they did it because it was the lesser of two evils. They had remorse for it and actively tried to do what’s right. It just made the two brothers so interesting to read. I especially loved Corrick’s point of view because of that. Seeing him and his brother from other perspectives it seems as though they are just heartless people who care nothing for the suffering of it’s people but when you see how they think and everything they are trying to do and trying to juggle and balance between so many groups of people.

Corrick is probably my favourite character just because of how complex and nuanced he was. He did questionable things but he also deeply cared for his people. He could trust no one and so struggled with all this alone unable to even speak to his brother because he had to protect him. I did like Harristan as well but we didn’t get to see as much of him but I hope we see more of him in the sequel as I think he will also be a really interesting character.

Tessa was another interesting character because she sees everything as black and white at the beginning of the book. But as she learns more about the complexities of everything that is going on she realises that everything isn’t as simple as she first thought. I also really loved that she is a healer and that she uses that to help those who are the most vulnerable and even helps the King to help the people. I liked seeing that she had confidence in her skills and yet still has moments of self doubt, it made her seem so much more real.

This book surprised me with a plot twist early on that I did not see coming at all and left me shook! I literally had to stop reading to scream because WHAT! But I loved that twist so much because it made the story so much more interesting! I also loved the slow build up to the climax where all the pieces finally fit together and I liked that the ending felt like a complete story but also that there’s more and honestly I am so excited for the sequel!

I highly recommend reading this the story had me hooked from the beginning and I just couldn’t stop reading. I loved the complex characters especially and cannot wait to read more about them.

Diverse Books, YA Books

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria – ARC Review

Thank you to hodderscape and netgalley for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book so much! The sibling relationship and the growth of both sisters was so wonderful to see in a book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

I loved this book so much! I love seeing sibling relationships in books and this one had such a complicated nuanced relationship. I loved both sisters and their individual arcs as well as how they were together. I related to each of them in different ways and it was so great to see a story where sisters are the main relationship we see.

Dani is  the younger sister and always feels like she can’t live up to her “perfect” older sister. She also doesn’t want to take on the family  legacy which I related to a lot. It’s like when your parents have their own dreams for you but what you want is different but you don’t want to hurt them either but hers is way more intense! Her character growth throughout the book was also so great to read, how she learned to balance her family and what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to also call out the parts that she knew were wrong and shouldn’t just continue the same way just because that’s how it’s always been done.

Edan, the older sister, yet feels like she will never be truly seen as she always feels overshadowed by Dani and this makes her strive for perfection. In trying to impress her parents she neglects all other parts of her life to her detriment. She also has anxiety and had panic attacks which I felt were showed really well. I really appreciated how they were shown in the story and especially her journey to coming to terms with this part of herself. She thinks this is a weakness and makes her less and just wants it to go away but she learns to see it as a strength and that she is more than capable even with her anxiety. She doesn’t need “fixing” and I thought that is such a important thing for young people to read in books. I just really loved seeing it in the story.

Their relationship with each other was also so great to see. They were close but there was also walls up because they both thought they can’t live up to the other. I loved that Dani did everything she could to help Edan and how they finally started to accept each other for who they are.

There was also some wonderful side characters that I am really looking forward to seeing in the sequel especially that potential love interest for Dani. Tomas was adorable and a wonderful best friend to Dani like seriously this is the type of friendship I love to see in books. I also loved seeing Dani intereact with Tomas’ family and how his mum would force her to take food home. It reminded me of the Asian aunties who insist on doing this too and I think it’s such a wonderful part of the culture we got to see.

I also loved Nox who is the dragon that Dani meets and how sassy and sarcastic he is. His relationship with Dani was so great to see too and how they both learned to accept and trust each other. I am really looking forward to learning more about the dragons.

The story was so much fun to read even though it was dark at times especially in the second half of the book. It’s also fast paced and I couldn’t stop reading once I started, often reading late into the night. And after the ending of the story I am absolutely dying to read the sequel!

Musings of a Muslimah, Reflections

International Women’s Day – Islam and Feminism

So it’s international women’s day and this year I thought I would try to share my thoughts on Islam and Feminism and what it means to me. This is an area that I am incredibly passionate about and will often speak up about these things regarding issues both with how Muslim women are perceived in the wider community and the treatment of women within Muslim communities.

Islam and feminism is a topic that ignites many varying opinions and I often find myself having long discussions with people about this. Some Muslims believe there is no space for feminism in Islam and some believe that it is the way forward and there are many opinions that range from one end of the spectrum to the other. This is also affected by what the word feminism means to each person and how they interpret it. Me, personally, I am somewhere in the middle.

For me feminism is fighting for justice for all women and people all over the world. However, to me justice and equality isn’t the same thing. Being equal doesn’t necessarily make things just. So I will advocate for justice for all. This to me is exactly what Islam teaches. Islam teaches that we must treat everyone with justice and any act of oppression is sinful and every person who was treated unjustly will get their justice whether it is in this world or the next. This has always brought me peace to know that Allah is The Just and that He will always make sure that we are all given our justice. So for me feminism and Islam go hand in hand.

I can however see why many have issues with calling themselves a feminist, the media perpetuates a single type of feminism and many of us have encountered people who believe in this type and that we must all adhere to this or we aren’t feminists. This type is white feminism and I truly hate this brand of feminism. It only advocates for certain women who look like them and that we must all believe in these beliefs. I have been told by white feminists that to truly be free I must take off my hijab and my refusal to do so is in fact internalised misogyny. They don’t think that women can have different views on what is empowerment for them. For many this is the only view of feminism they have seen and so are obviously hesitant to call themselves feminists and be linked to this brand of feminism.

Islam has given women so many rights and yet all we see are the narrative that Muslim women are submissive and oppressed. This is the only narrative the media is willing to show everyone and yet when you actually look at Muslim women we are excelling in so many areas. Yes, there are those who want to keep us submissive and do so in the name of our faith but that doesn’t mean it is the reality of so many of us. It is an issue all over the world no matter what culture or religion you come from. Yet Muslim women are often singled out, even though Muslims come from all walks of life and cultures.

When you look at what Islam actually says about women you will see that we are given such a high status in our faith and we have so many rights from owning property, education, working, our money is ours and so much more. We are to be treated with the utmost respect and when you see Muslim women throughout history you will see they were incredible women. They were scholars, warriors, queens, scientists and more. They were feisty and opinionated and fought for what they believed in. They were not these submissive meek women that people today would have us believe.

Over the years I realised that this is a battle on two fronts, one is the wider society and media that will perpetuate a single harmful narrative and the other is that there are people within the Muslim community who want to keep that patriarchal society where women are controlled by the men in their lives as this is what benefits these men. But more and more we are seeing change, we are seeing that there are so many incredible women excel in so many ways. And at the end of the day whether women choose to study, work or decide to stay at home, be a full time mother (les face it this is a whole full time job) it should be these women’s choices. Not something that is enforced upon them.

For me the more I learnt about Islam and women in Islam the more empowered I felt. I knew my rights, I knew what Islam said about women and it helped me to actually build a better relationship with Allah. I learnt about justice in Islam and how everyone will get their justice for any form of oppression that happens to them and that this is why we need to be extra careful in how we treat people (and even animals and plants) because we will be held accountable for our actions. I spent time learning about Islamic history and especially women throughout history and I was left in awe of how incredible these women were.

My journey started with learning about Khadijah (ra) who was the first person to become Muslim and was the wife of the Prophet (pbuh). She has been my role model since I was a teen and she has been the person who has truly shaped who I am today. She taught me so much and in many ways she saved me. Growing up in a culture that treated women as less, despite that Islam advocates for justice and equality in treatment towards men and women. I felt suffocated at times and it made me push away from my culture and faith but after I learnt about her and how she was a successful businesswoman and did so much for her community, known as the Princess of Quraysh and still perfected her faith. For her there was no contradiction in fighting for justice for women and her faith and it made me re-evaluate and go and learn more which lead me down the path I am on today.

I will continue to advocate for justice for women both within our communities and share how incredible Muslim women are through the blog posts I write and more. I will continue to learn and grow and my journey will continue to change me because I know that the person I was 10 years ago isn’t the person I am now.

If you want to learn more about Muslim women throughout history, I share a monthly blog post series about them. You can find it here.

I have also written a whole post about Khadijah (ra) and how much she means to me which you can read here.

Inspirational People

Inspiring Muslim Women Throughout Islamic History – Rufaida Al-Aslamia

This month’s post is about Rufaida, who was the first nurse and surgeon in Islam and her work was considered so important that it is still used today. She drafted the world’s first code of Nursing Conduct and Ethics for preventing sickness and it is still used today. While we are often taught about Florence Nightingale and the things she accomplished, Rufaida has been forgotten and even though she was doing incredible work even before Florence.

She lived in Medina and even before Islam she was already learning about the human body and treating people as her father was a doctor and she learnt from him. When she heard about the Prophet and his message she was one of the first people to go to him and become Muslim. Because of this she was present as a healer from the beginning of the call.

She took part in all the battles that happened and was in charge of taking care of the injured soldiers. She was given her own tent, which was essentially a mobile care unit, to treat those injured and the Prophet (pbuh) himself would praise her abilities and tell people to send the injured to her to treat them. Not only did she treat people herself she also trained other women and was in charge of them during battles too.

Outside of battles she continued to treat people regularly and was even given permission to set up a tent to work from in the Prophet’s (pbuh) masjid. She ran a clinic where she cared for everyone especially those who would not be able to go anywhere else to get help including the poor and orphans.

She was known to be kind, generous and empathetic, a great teacher and organiser and also trained Aisha (ra) in nursing. She taught many health education and even did social work going out into the community to help prevent the spread of diseases. She expressed the importance of hygiene and stabilising a patient before any surgical procedure and more.

She not only revolutionised how people were treated by creating new practices to prevent sickness but also taught many women so that they could continue her work. She was an incredible woman who empowered generations of Muslim women.

Blog Tours/Street Teams, Books by Muslim Authors, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Blog Tour: A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi – ARC Review

Today I am sharing my review as part of the blog tour of A Thousand Questions.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.

The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?

Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most. 

This is such a beautiful and heartfelt story of two young girls from completely different worlds who end up spending time together over a summer and realise that despite their differences they can be friends and support and help each other. I related so much to both Mimi and Sakina in different ways and I loved both of them but I do love Sakina a little bit more and my heart broke for her and the circumstances she was in.

Mimi is a young girl who knows little about her roots and her family beyond her mum and seeing her realise that she has more family and get to know them better was so lovely to see. When you are a child of an immigrant there are often family members who you don’t get to see very often and it can cause a disconnect from them and your families background because you also want to fit in wherever you are living. So it was nice to see that Mimi gets to experience her culture and meet her grandparents and that by the end she knows that she wants to visit regularly to stay connected with them.

Sakina is a young girl who lives a difficult life and has to work from such a young age to help provide for her family and unfortunately this isn’t that uncommon. Her wanting to make sure her family would be okay while also having hopes and dreams of being able to go to school broke my heart. I was really rooting for her and hoping she would find a way. I related a lot to how conflicted she felt having to choose between her parents and her responsibilities and her dreams. I loved that we got a hopeful ending for her and after everything she went through she got the help she needed.

The running theme of friendship was so beautiful in this book. Mimi helps Sakina learn English to help her get into school and Sakina helps her connect with her dad. I really loved seeing their friendship build and that Mimi would take Sakina with her when going out treating her as an equal. It was also great to see both their points of view so we truly get insight from both their world views.

I also loved how we see real, raw family dynamics and how despite the fact that you love your family you can also have a somewhat strained relationship with them but you can still work on making it better. Initially I did not like Mimi’s grandma but I did like how her character developed throughout the story. Sakina’s dad was a lovable character but because he had diabetes and couldn’t afford the medicine his responsibility fell on Sakina and their family dynamic was interesting too. Each character was complex and I really loved seeing the different sides of them.

I loved that it’s set in Pakistan and we see all the different parts of it and what it’s like to live there for different people. It isn’t perfect but even Sakina was defensive of her home and how much beauty there is there and was determined to show that to Mimi. The food and the culture was really great to see in the book and honestly my mouth was watering remembering how amazing the food is in Pakistan.

I really loved this beautiful story and the bittersweet yet hopeful ending and that two young girls found friendship and support in the most unlikely of places. A story I wish I had been able to read when I was younger and made me reminisce about the few times I have been able to visit my family in Pakistan and Bangladesh.