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

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon – ARC Review

Thank you Hodder Books for sending me and ARC in exchange for an honest review.

As soon as I heard about a Desi Beauty and the Beast retelling I knew I had to read it! And it did not disappoint! This has become my favourite Beauty and the Beast retelling!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

This book was such a wonderful read and one I could not put down. Even when I wasn’t reading it my thoughts kept going back to Jaya and Grey. I loved that Sandhya kept true to the story but also included some really interesting twists to them and throughout the book I was reading thinking is it truly magic? Or not? It made the story even more intriguing to not really be certain either way so we can make up our own minds.

One of the things that I loved was that it was set in a boarding school rather than the beasts castle as it took away the whole kidnapping and keeping Beauty hostage part of the story which I absolutely hated because Stockholm syndrome anyone?! With it being in a boarding school and Jaya having actively decided herself to go and attend the school it took away that issue. And the boarding school gave it a fresh take on the story too as there are other characters and their stories which are interwoven into Jaya and Grey’s.

I loved Grey from the moment we meet him because unlike other Beasts, he isn’t a jerk. He isn’t cursed because he was a horrible person. He is really closed off and doesn’t like interacting with anyone and that is mostly down to him being aware of the curse since he was a kid. He is called a misanthrope, who is someone who avoids human society, and honestly I think we can all relate to that! He is actually a pretty great person but because of his curse he feels like he shouldn’t bother thinking about the future or making friends. Despite him not wanting to make friends, he still does have some pretty great people in his life who do call him a friend and that was so lovely to see.

Jaya was someone who I initially wasn’t particularly fond of, she was condescending and judgemental towards anyone who had a different opinion to her when it came to her conservative view of how a young woman should behave or be allowed to do. She doesn’t approve of her sister wanting to study mechanics because it isn’t something appropriate for a princess. She does however have such a wonderful character arc that made me end up really rooting for her and really loving her. We learn that there’s more to her than we initially see.

The rest of the characters we meet, Grey’s friends and Jaya’s sister and even the “popular couple” have more depth to them than we initially think they would. Their friends are wonderful and I loved seeing that there was a great group of friends who were supportive and accepted each other for who they were. I also loved seeing Jaya’s relationship with her sister and how they are always there for each other and how much Jaya tries to protect and keep her sister safe.

I also loved seeing Indian culture incorporated into the story and how it’s an important part of Jaya’s life but also how some parts of the culture have certain expectations for women and expect women to stay in their place and how Jaya learns to deal with that inner battle of being who she is expected to be by her parents and society but also being true to herself. It also touches on the British Empire and colonialism and how the effects of that still affect people living in India today.

This whole story and the slow burn romance had me feeling all happy and gooey inside and I just loved this book so much. I saw a brown girl be the book nerd princess and my inner child just loved it so much! I really loved how the ending showed how much they have grown together and because of each other. And I absolutely cannot wait for the next book in this series.

Adult Books, Diverse Books

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – ARC Review

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

I had heard great things about this book so I just had to request it and I really loved it!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.

This is an ownvoices book so I was really looking forward to reading this. The main characters are Native Americans and the story is rich with their culture and folklore. This was one of my favourite parts of the book. I especially found it fascinating because unfortunately I don’t know much about their culture but from my understanding it felt like it had really great rep.

It’s a dystopian world set in the future, a future where climate change has caused catastrophic damage to the earth and the world is not like the world we live in now. There are water shortages and not much technology like we’re used to now. And the gods walk among us and so do the monsters.

Maggie is a monster slayer and is well known amongst Dinetah, right from the beginning we see her fight a monster and her abilities that make her such a lethal monster killer. We are thrown right into the action and I loved that. She makes difficult decisions and is brave yet she has difficulty with expressing how she feels. She has a great character arc and grows to learn to accept herself.

We also get a lot of information about the history of the clans and tribes and the stories and at times it felt a little info dumpy at times but I understand why the author felt it was necessary and I actually really enjoyed reading about the stories and history.

We are also introduced to another character, Kai, who joins Maggie to try and figure out where the monsters are coming from who keep killing people all over Dinetah. I loved Kai from the moment we meet him and my love for him just grows as we learn more about him and see what type of person he is. One of my favourite things about Kai is that he is kind and supportive and doesn’t push Maggie to do something she isn’t comfortable with. He also helps Maggie learn that she is more than just a killer and deserves more in life.

The story was really interesting and can get quite dark and brutal at times. There are some plot twists and although I had an idea of what they could be I still enjoyed the revelations. I really enjoyed learning more about Ma’ii and his trickster ways. He was such a complicated and interesting character and you can’t quite figure out his motives. Both Maggie and Kai are complex and mysterious and there is more to both of them than we see initially.

I really enjoyed this book and I cannot wait to be able to read book two because I really need to know what happens after THAT ending!

Diverse Books, YA Books

The Beautiful By Renee Ahdieh – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have loved all of Renee’s books and The Beautiful was no exception! Once I started reading I was completely hooked!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

Renee has made me completely and entirely fall in love with her books and her writing. Ever since I read The Wrath and the Dawn I have been hooked! If you haven’t read any of her books then you need to go fix that asap!

The Beautiful is set in New Orleans and although I don’t know much about it, after reading this book I most definitely want to go and see it. Renee’s writing is beautiful and you become completely immersed in her world. She creates this wonderfully dark atmosphere with rich and vivid world building from the setting to the clothes and food. I could see all of Celine’s beautiful clothes and was practically salivating reading the scenes which describes the food they ate.

I’m a girl who’d rather experience life than watch it pass by from my window

One of the things I love about Renee’s books is that her female main characters are all so wonderful and Celine is no exception. She is smart and witty and outspoken. She fights for what she wants and doesn’t let anyone walk all over her. I related to her so much and how she was so tired of being told what to do and being treated as if she isn’t capable of doing anything herself and just needs to be saved by a big strong man. She is a badass and won’t allow men to talk for her.

And of course a Renee Ahdieh book would not be complete without a swoon worthy male main character, in the case of The Beautiful, his name is Bastien. Say hello to you newest book boyfriend. I loved him from the moment we met him. He is roguish and charming and because we see him from Celine’s point of view it made him really mysterious and intriguing, and even though we know that is no gentlemen you can’t help but fall in love with him.

And I really loved the scenes between Bastien and Celine. They have such great witty banter and the romance that slowly builds between them is intense and left me screaming at them to just admit their feelings! The angst and the tension that builds up between them was done so well! I also really loved the side characters, every single character is so complex and there’s more to them than we initially see from them.

It’s the land of the free in idea only, then.

One of my favourite things in this book was seeing how diverse it was! All the diverse characters including both Celine and Bastian. And I really loved how Renee showed the social inequalities and how being a person of colour meant they were limited in what they could do in life despite being capable and qualified and how unjust that was. It was also interesting to see that Celine was white passing and as a result of that she had to hide half of herself and her heritage to the point where she doesn’’t even know anything about her mother and where she is from and so feels like she is missing part of herself but that because of this she is able to take opportunities that would otherwise be denied to her.

The story itself is intense and thrilling and will keep you on the edge of your seat wanting to know more. It kept me up reading late into the night because I was so enthralled by it and I just needed to know who the murderer was. We are slowly given the information and as it becomes more tense near the end and then when all is finally revealed you are left with your mouth hanging open because you did not see that coming! We are left on one hell of a cliffhanger and I have no idea how I am going to wait until next year to get my hands on the next book!

Diverse Books, YA Books

Nocturna by Maya Motayne – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton and Netgalley for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this book, there are some intense moments and great characters which kept me reading well into the night!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Set in a Latinx-inspired world, a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed.
To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.
As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.
After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.
But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

Once I started this book I could not put it down! The story was intense and fast paced and action packed! The characters were all great too and I especially loved Finn! The magic system was really interesting too.

The only thing I wish there was more of was the Latinx culture. One of the reasons I was so interested to read it was because it was a Latinx inspired world but I didn’t feel it was included as much as I would have liked.

The magic system where each characters propio is different depending on what they needed it to be and how a significate event triggers their power. It really shows how different each of the characters are.

Finn is my favourite character in this book. She has such a great character arc and seeing how much she grows and learns to believe in herself and become more than what she has been constantly told she is was so great to see. She has had a difficult life and has been told she is a monster her whole so much so that she thinks she is. She is so complex and morally grey and I really loved that.

I really loved how Alfie believed in her even when she didn’t believe in herself and how she helped Alfie through his grief. It was really great to see characters supporting each other.

Alfie is has made some selfish decisions while grieving for his brother but he does accept that he needs to move on be the king that his people need. I did find him annoying at times when he wouldn’t go to the people who could have helped him instead trying to fix it himself.

I also really liked Luka, who is Alfie’s cousin, he is adorable and I wish we got to see more of him. It was so nice seeing how much Alfie loves him so much that he puts his life above the kingdom. I am also interested in seeing what Luka’s new abilities will mean for him the next book.

The villain in this book was actually pretty terrifying and we get to see a lot of his backstory through Finn and Alfie and it just made me hate him even more. The way he tried manipulating Finn and Alfie by showing them their worst fears, it was horrible to watch them go through it. But I did love how both of them started to work through them and overcome them.

I know this book is the first in a series but this book has a complete arc so I’m interested to see what will happen in the next book.

Have you read the book? What did you think?