Diverse Books, YA Books

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman – ARC Review

Thank you to netgalley and Hot Key Books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good. 

This book has become a favourite read for me! I fell in love from the moment I started reading. We get the point of view of all four siblings which I loved because it gave each of them so much depth but it never felt like there was too many views to keep track of. Each voice was distinct and I loved seeing their internal monologue especially compared to how the others perceived them and how they saw themselves.

Memories only have power over us if we let them.

I love all four siblings and how the dysfunctional sibling relationship was one of my favourite parts of the book. I love seeing sibling relationships in books and I wish we got to see more of these. We see that they used to be really close but as they got older and their circumstances changed they drifted apart but now they have to work together to save their home but they each have their own motives too that would mean betraying their siblings.

I loved seeing how they each had their own strength and weaknesses, and they knew that they had to trust in the one who had the skills to complete the task which meant they had to start trusting each other again. One of my favourite things was watching them bicker over the smallest things which was so funny and reminded me of me and my sisters when we were younger.

“Would it kill you to act as though you liked people?” “I don’t,” Ronak said. “And I see no reason to pretend.”

This story starts with the siblings alone and they have to put past differences aside and come together to work together and complete the quest. It gave me Indiana Jones vibes but make it desi! I love that this quest was connected to their parents and that they never truly gave up hope in being able to work out the truth of their history.

I don’t think anyone loses any part of themselves just because they embrace another aspect of their identity.

I also loved how immersed in desi culture we were. The clothes and architecture to the customs and traditions. It was so great to see. I especially loved all the food! Food that I had grown up with eating and had my mouth watering at the barest mention of kachori’s and so much more!

This book was such a wonderful read and I cannot wait for the sequel especially after the way things ended in this book! I highly recommend picking up this book, it had me hooked and I was up late into the night reading.

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

Thorn by Intisar Khanani – ARC Review

Thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

As soon as I saw the cover I fell in love and then I read the synopsis and I was sold. This book was such a wonderful read!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.
When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.
But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.
With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

This is such a wonderful about self love and learning to accept yourself for who you are, not who everyone expects you to be and I think that a lot of young people will relate to Alyrra. The story is a very character driven story and I really loved it because Alyrra was such a great character to read.

Alyrra is a wonderful character, she was really interesting an unique. She is who values speaking the truth no matter the consequences and during the story she is forced into a situation where she has no choice but to lie about who she is. It was interesting to see her battle through this and how it made her feel. She is forced to be a goose girl and it was surprising to see that she actually accepts this life and makes the best of the situation rather than try to claim back her royal title.

She is smart and caring and I really loved seeing her make friends with the people she worked with as she grew up in a palace full of people who were abusive and condescending towards her. It helped her to grow and become more confident within herself and learn to see that there isn’t actually anything wrong with her and she is capable and not a burden on anyone. Reading how she deals with the abuse she faced was so heartbreaking because of how much it affected her and made her afraid to trust anyone but I love how she worked through this and was able to get back her title by the end of the book.

As this story is very character driven the focus is on Alyrra and what she goes through throughout the story, we see her doing everyday jobs and doing simple things like having dinner with the others who work in the stables. Through her interactions we learn about the wider world and the problems that affect the people which gives her motivation to push herself and try to save the prince and his kingdom.

One of the things I absolutely loved was how her relationship with the prince was. He is of course the love interest yet he isn’t in the majority of the book and when she does speak to him she is wary of him and questions his motivations for speaking to a simple goose girl. Even by the end when everyone finds out who she really is there is no happily ever after ending. It ends with them discussing being friends and a mutual respect for each other. There is of course affection there but not a sweeping romance. The focus on the end is on them respecting each other and building their relationship slowly over time. I really loved seeing that especially as it isn’t something we see in YA.

This is a story of a young girl overcoming her own self doubts and growing as a person and I think it is a story that everyone should read as I am sure many of us can see ourselves in her.

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

All The Things We Never Said By Yasmin Rahman – ARC Review

Thank you to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I first read Yasmin’s short story in A Change is Gonna Come and really loved it so I was really looking forward to reading her debut book. So I knew as soon as I heard about this book that I would love it and it did not disappoint!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

16-year-old Mehreen Miah’s anxiety and depression, or ‘Chaos’, as she calls it, has taken over her life, to the point where she can’t bear it any more. So she joins MementoMori, a website that matches people with partners and allocates them a date and method of death, ‘the pact’. Mehreen is paired with Cara Saunders and Olivia Castleton, two strangers dealing with their own serious issues.
As they secretly meet over the coming days, Mehreen develops a strong bond with Cara and Olivia, the only people who seem to understand what she’s going through. But ironically, the thing that brought them together to commit suicide has also created a mutually supportive friendship that makes them realise that, with the right help, life is worth living. It’s not long before all three want out of the pact. But in a terrifying twist of fate, the website won’t let them stop, and an increasingly sinister game begins, with MementoMori playing the girls off against each other.
A pact is a pact, after all.

This book had me sobbing by the end of the first chapter. I had never read a story where the mental health rep so completely accurate to mine and reading it felt like I had finally been seen, that someone else really understood everything that goes through my head. I have related to other characters in other books but there has never been a rep where the characters religious beliefs also influences how they feel. This book finally incorporated all aspects of my life.

I wish I had this book as a teenager when I felt that I was alone and didn’t understand why I felt this way. I even read the first chapter out loud to my husband because through Mehreen I was able to explain how it feels and how difficult it can become to manage. It’s safe to say that he was pretty shocked yet it really helped him to understand. So I hope that this book helps a lot more people too.

The book has three points of view but it is easy to distinguish between them as they each have distinct voices and personalities. All three girls are struggling yet when they meet each other, even they cannot understand why the others would want to commit suicide and I thought it was so important to see that. That just by looking at someone, even if they are smiling and laughing, they could still be drowning inside. They could still be struggling to cope with everything that is happening in their life. So it’s important not to dismiss someone, just because they look okay.

Another important theme throughout the book was friendship. How having true, understanding friends, who don’t judge you can help you get through your worst times and even save your life. Having friends that you can open up to about your mental health and they will be there for you. That’s the friendship that they found in each other, when they felt that they couldn’t speak to anyone about how they were feeling, and what made them realise that actually they want to live. There does however need to be a balance, that although friends can help you a lot it is still important to seek professional help.

Mehreen is such a wonderful character, she’s unapologetically, unflinchingly Muslim. We see her pray and talk about how that helps her, we even get a scene where the girls go out for a meal and they find somewhere halal so Mehreen can eat and I loved that Cara and Olivia were so understanding and accepting of it. I know how you can feel so left out if you’re the only Muslim in the group. But one of my favourite things that Yasmin spoke about is something that is SO IMPORTANT when speaking about mental health and especially suicide in Muslim communities. That Mehreen did not commit suicide because of her love for Allah, and that takes strength.

This is a raw, honest, heart breaking story yet it also has hope that we see as the story progresses. I absolutely loved this book and I wish I had this book as a teenager and I really think that everyone should read this book.