Top 5 Wednesdays

Top 5 Wednesday – Strong Females

Hey booknerds! I have another top 5 wednesday post today! And I will be sharing my favourite badass female characters!

Nahri from The Daevabad Trilogy – Smart, resourceful and will happily con all the men in power. I love her.

Amara from The Wolf Den – She fought ruthlessly to escape her being sold into slavery and I cannot wait to see her take on the man who made her work in a brothel.

Rae from The Theft of Sunlight – She decided to fight systemic oppression and take on a slave trade ring. An absolute badass.

Laila from The Gilded Wolves – She is seen as exotic but she fights everyday for her friends and for a better world. She cares deeply and hasn’t let how people treat her get her down. 

Zaynab from The Daevabad Trilogy – She may be seen as a pampered princess but don’t let that fool you. She is the smartest Qahtani and her political skills will rival both Muntadhir and Ghassan.

I love each and every one of these incredible complex women and I highly recommend you all read these books so you can know them too.

Book Tag

Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag

So I finally remembered to do this tag! So here are my answers!

1 How much have you been reading?

As of writing this post I have read 67 books! 54% have been audiobooks, 12% EBooks and 34% have been physical books. I have definitely been enjoying audiobooks more in the last couple years.

2 Best book you’ve read so far

The Stardust Thief! I completely devoured this book and I have not stopped thinking about it since I read it. My review is here

3 Best sequel you’ve read so far

A Darkness at the Door by Intisar Khanani. This book was absolutely perfect and I am completely and entirely in love with this duology! My review is here

4 New release you haven’t read yet but want to

The House with the Golden Door is a book I really want to get to but i’m scared of what will happen to my faves and I don’t know if i’m ready for the heartbreak I know we will get.

5 Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Love From Mecca to Medina! The way I am absolutely DYING to read this book but also don’t want to say goodbye to these characters. 

6 Biggest surprise

My Mechanical Romance! I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did! I loved the discussions around women in STEM and the cute romance! My review is here

7 New favourite author

Chelsea Abdullah and Olivie Blake have become instant buy authors because their books were absolutely incredible!

8 Books to read by the end of the year

I really want to read Pandora & Elektra by the end of the year!

9 Biggest disappointment?

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen & The Balloon Thief by Aneesa Marufu. Both of these books were a mess and problematic. You can read my review for The Balloon Thief here and You Truly Assumed here

10 Newest fictional crush?

Bren from The Theft of Sunlight duology. I absolutely love him even if he is a thief lord. When he came with his hair in a top knot, I swooned right there and then. The love and care he shows for the main character and the fierce way he protects his people, how can I not love him.

11 Newest favourite character?

Amara from The Wolf Den has become an absolute favourite character. Her resilience and determination to build a better life for herself and just her ruthlessness and strength to make it a reality made me completely fall in love with her.

12 Book that made you cry?

I don’t really cry when I read a book and I haven’t cried over a book this year but I think Love From Mecca to Medina may change that!

13 Book that made you happy?

I read The River of Silver with a huge grin and the last story lives in my head rent free! I am so happy that we got these stories which I absolutely loved and just the best goodbye to these characters I adore. My review is here

14 Favourite post you’ve written this year?

I put my whole heart into writing this post. It’s about how much I loved the disability rep in The Theft of Sunlight duology. 

15 Most beautiful book you bought this year?

There have been so many beautiful books this year but I think one of my most beautiful ones is The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea! 

What are your answers to some of these questions?

Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

A Darkness at the Door by Intisar Khanani – ARC Review

Thank you to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

I’ve been cursed, betrayed, and sold into slavery – but the truth I carry can’t be allowed to die.

Only Rae knows the extent of the corruption at the heart of the kingdom of Menaiya, from the noble lord who betrayed her, to the Circle of Mages whose wards protect the slavers from discovery. Injured and imprisoned on a slave ship, Rae’s options are quickly running out. When a desperate escape attempt goes terribly wrong, she finds herself indebted to a terrifying Fae sorceress.

Now Rae will not rest until she has rescued her fellow prisoners and freed her land from the darkness that has taken hold. To succeed, she’ll need every ally she can find—including Bren, the thief who may have stolen her heart. But Bren is hiding his own bloody secrets, and the curses that encircle Rae have sunk their claws into her mind. With her debts coming due and time running short, all the truths in the world may not be enough to save her kingdom, or herself.

This is the sequel to The Theft of Sunlight and it was absolutely phenomenal. It has fast become a favourite read this year and one of my all time favourite series! I cannot even begin to describe how much I absolutely adored this book and just how seen Rae made me feel. I did in fact sob at the wonderful nuanced disability rep in this duology.

These books mean so much to me not only because being Pakistani and seeing a desi inspired magical world with brown characters but also because the main character has a physical disability and the representation was so well done and made me feel so seen. As someone who has a disability that affects my mobility it was so refreshing to see a young woman who has similar issues but this isn’t her whole personality nor is it tokanised. She fights injustices that she sees and while her mobility may limit her in some things she adapts and continues the fight. 

One life to protect many is not a hard decision.

I also loved seeing that the love interest accepted her completely and entirely as she is and didn’t for even one second think less of her or pity her because of her disability. I think it’s so important for people with disabilities to see that. To be reminded that they are enough the way they are and they don’t need to hide or minimise themselves to fit in or be loved. 

I absolutely adore Rae and how determined and passionate she is about fighting injustices and fighting for those who can’t and her journey into seeing that actually the justice system that is in place may not actually protect everyone. That it only protects the rich and the rest have had to turn to the thieves for justice. And how she struggles to reconcile her ideals with the reality of the situation and then make decisions as to how she can help change the system. The discussions on systemic corruption needing systemic change was so well written into the story, especially the parallels between this world and ours. How Rae had to speak up and stand against those in power and how difficult and scary it can be especially when they can hurt those you love in retaliation. 

She can certainly try to fight the injustices she’s chosen. That’s her decision, not yours.

Bren has become one of my favourite male characters ever. I love him so much. From when we first meet him in Thorn to his arc in the duology. How his tragic backstory has made him into the man he has become. He knows that the system is corrupt so he built his own and while it isn’t perfect and technically makes him an enemy of the government he fights for the poor and those who the system does not protect. I loved seeing how his ideas of justice also changed and evolved just like Rae’s. In needing to find a balance that helped everyone and that the thieves justice is not a long term solution to the systemic issue. 

Rae and Bren’s relationship was one of my favourite parts of the story. The slow burn romance that bloomed while they both tried to deny their feelings and the flirting was just top tier! I loved every single scene between them and a particular scene that left Bren speechless for once lives in my head rent free! I cannot begin to explain how much I loved them together. How Bren accepts every part of her, how Rae accepts all of him and how they both change to be better for each other. 

It’s not cheating, it’s changing the rules.

This has one of the most satisfying endings I have ever read and how the pieces that started in Thorn are all wrapped up in a realistic way but still satisfy the readers and yet there are little tendrils where we can see that there may be more story there, especially when it comes to Niya. I hope we get to see more of the world and maybe even more of Rae and Bren and Alyrra. But I love how the story ended for them all.

Please everyone go read these books, you will not regret it!

Book Recommendations, Booksish Discussions, Muslim Shelf Space

Why I Love the Disability Representation in The Theft of Sunlight Duology

The Theft of Sunlight and its sequel, A Darkness at the Door by Intisar Khanani has some of my favourite disability rep. It made me feel so seen and I was literally sobbing at how wonderful the rep is. This is a book I think everyone should read for so many reasons and it will always hold a special place in my heart because of the incredible disability rep.

These books mean so much to me not only because being Pakistani and seeing a desi inspired magical world with brown characters but also because the main character has a physical disability and the representation was so well done and made me feel so seen. As someone who has a disability that affects my mobility it was so refreshing to see a young woman who has similar issues but this isn’t her whole personality nor is it tokenised. 

She fights injustices that she sees and while her mobility may limit her in some things she adapts and continues the fight. She is constantly underestimated because people only see her disability but she proves time and time again through her actions and the person she is that she is more than capable. 

I also loved seeing that Bren accepted her completely and entirely as she is and didn’t for even one second think less of her or pity her because of her disability. I think it’s so important for people with disabilities to see that. To be reminded that they are enough the way they are and they don’t need to hide or minimise themselves to fit in or be loved. That they are deserving of love just the way they are. That Bren supported her and when he overstepped, she told him and he realised and fixed himself and did not take it out on her that she should be grateful and appreciative of receiving any help at all. 

We also see how she is defensive and has walls up to protect herself because of how people have treated her so it is difficult to accept help and see that some people are truly just trying to help her. We see how this has affected her relationships with people and that she struggles to trust and open up to people but as she meets people who truly have her back she slowly starts to break down those walls and open up to people more. I related to this a lot as it’s so tiring to have to deal with people who demand answers about why I use a walking stick or say things like, but you’re so young you shouldn’t need a stick. It is easier to just not let new people in but it does get lonely and I saw that in Rae too. 

Rae has to walk and run a lot because of what is happening in the books and because of this it causes her pain in her foot. Her chronic pain tires her quicker and slows her down and it makes her frustrated and angry at herself and I loved seeing that part of her in the books too. Having chronic pain is exhausting and yes we do get tired much more quickly than an able bodied person. It is frustrating for us and affects us emotionally and mentally and seeing this in the book just made Rae more realistic and relatable. 

But I also loved seeing how Bren and the others helped her through these times and didn’t make her feel less because of it. One scene where Bren quietly asked her if it would be more helpful to stand on her other side so she could hold onto his arm and just supported her in a way that she needed. These a tiny details in the story but for me they stood out so starkly because we don’t get to see this in books or even in real life and it was so wonderful to see these small instances in just the way Bren cared for her without expecting her anything in return. 

Then we get the scene on the rooftop in Darkness that has been seared into my memory because of just how much I absolutely loved it and I will forever be thankful to Intisar for giving me and all of us Rae and Bren. 

This duology is so incredible in so many ways and made me feel seen in ways I had never felt seen before and these books will forever hold a special place in my heart. 

Adult Books, Diverse Books

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah – ARC Review

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Neither here nor there, but long ago…

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

This book has already become one of my favourite reads this year. I loved the story and the characters so much. 1001 Arabian Nights are some of my favourite stories and I loved how Chelsea wove those stories with her own twist into the main arc of the story. We see the story of Scheherazade and the Sultan, the 40 thieves and more and it just made me so nostalgic as I remembered reading them when I was younger and especially being told these stories in urdu by my grandparents.

The storytelling had me completely hooked and sucked into the story and I could truly imagine the story in my head as I read. The writing is beautiful and has such a great flow that you just want to continue reading even as your eyes are literally closing. (Yes this did happen to me several times as I read.)

These characters have my whole heart, Loulie and Mazen were such wonerful characters. So different from each other but they had such great chemistry together. Qadir fast became a favourite, he gave me tired dad chasing after his hyper daughter vibes with Loulie and I am here for it. I really loved seeing their relationship develop thoughout the story. Aisha was a surprise and even though I was wary about her, she still won me over. All four of them had some great banter and I especially loved when they were sassy and sarcastic with each other.

However my favourite thing was that Mazen was the single sunshine amongst this group of grumpy travellers. All he wants is to see the world and hear all the stories and somehow he gets dragged into this quest with Loulie and is completely out of his depth in every way but still perseveres. His older brother Omar is the leader of the 40 thieves and yet Mazen can barely swing a sword. It was an interesting contrast to see that between the brothers. When we first meet Mazen he is escaping the palace in search of a storyteller that has come to the city and that causes a domino effect where he ends up fighting ghouls in the desert with Loulie and the others. I loved his character development throughout the story and how we see him change and become braver, though I do think he is brave in a different way, and always the optimist that also showed the others that they were more than the labels given to them.

Loulie is a thief and con artist and very good at her job, so much so that she has created a persona for herself which quickly becomes famous and results in the sultan sending her on the quest. Her story arc was so heartbreaking to read and you can see why she does not trust people and only relies on herself but I loved seeing her slowly learn to trust the others as the story progresses.

Throughout the story through the events and the wonderful short stories within the story we learn of the history of the world and how and why the jinns are hunted and killed, this is lead by Omar  and his thieves. It was such an interesting backstory and honestly I could read a whole book about the jinns before they were almost exterminated by humans.

This book is fast paced and action packed we are thrown right into the story from the very beginning and we slowly learn more as the characters learn more. Once I got about halfway I could barely breathe because the revelations and the plot twists left me screaming! I was stressed and absolutely terrified for these characters, the neat death experiences one after the other and it did not stop until the very end. I absolutely need the next book immediately after that ending and I don’t know how I will wait a whole year for that sequel.