Adult Books, Books by Muslim Authors, Fiction Books, Muslim Shelf Space

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar Book Review

I read this book a month ago and I still think about it. It was such an amazing story of love and loss and how everything can change in the blink of an eye. I highly recommend reading this book!

map of salt and stars

Rating: 4.5/5

For anyone who hasn’t heard of the book here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

This rich, moving, and lyrical debut novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living eight hundred years apart—a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and a medieval adventurer apprenticed to a legendary mapmaker—places today’s headlines in the sweep of history, where the pain of exile and the triumph of courage echo again and again.
It is the summer of 2011, and Nour has just lost her father to cancer. Her mother, a cartographer who creates unusual, hand-painted maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria to be closer to their family. But the country Nour’s mother once knew is changing, and it isn’t long before protests and shelling threaten their quiet Homs neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s house and almost takes her life, she and her family are forced to choose: stay and risk more violence or flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety. As their journey becomes more and more challenging, Nour’s idea of home becomes a dream she struggles to remember and a hope she cannot live without.
More than eight hundred years earlier, Rawiya, sixteen and a widow’s daughter, knows she must do something to help her impoverished mother. Restless and longing to see the world, she leaves home to seek her fortune. Disguising herself as a boy named Rami, she becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, who has been commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily to create a map of the world. In his employ, Rawiya embarks on an epic journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where she encounters ferocious mythical beasts, epic battles, and real historical figures.
A deep immersion into the richly varied cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, The Map of Salt and Stars follows the journeys of Nour and Rawiya as they travel along identical paths across the region eight hundred years apart, braving the unknown beside their companions as they are pulled by the promise of reaching home at last.

This is a beautifully written, poignant story. And it is so relevant to what is happening with the refugee crisis around the world. I heard about this book a while ago and had eagerly been awaiting it’s release and it did not disappoint. I must warn you though, have tissues ready, I was teary eyed throughout the book.

“Things change too much. We’ve always got to fix the maps, repaint the borders of ourselves.”

The story begins with Nour just after her father’s funeral and then her family decide to move back to Syria where she struggles to adjust as she doesn’t understand Arabic as much as the rest of the family. This is where we first hear of Rawiya. It is the story her father told her of the young woman Rawiya who became an apprentice to the world’s greatest mapmaker.

From then there is two interwoven stories following the story of Nour and Rawiya. I loved both stories and seeing how Syria and the whole region once was through the story of Rawiya and then how unstable and dangerous it has become now through the eyes of Nour. The story of Rawiya also shows the bond between her and her father and her trying to remember him.

Nour has synaesthesia so the descriptions are so vivid and refreshing as she links what she sees and hears to colours. It’s the first time I have read a character with synaesthesia so I really loved seeing that. Each of Nour’s interactions and the people she meets along her journey as her and her family try to get to safety leave a lasting impression on her. Her story felt so real as if I was also travelling with her which made it even more heart wrenching. She goes through so many hardships but there is still hope among her family that they will make it to safety.

“Sometimes the smallest stars shine brightest, no?”

Rawiya’s story contrasted Nour’s in the sense that we see Syria when it was flourishing and when people lived in relative safety. Rawiya is smart and brave and kind and I really loved her and her story.

Another thing I loved was the way there was poetry included in the story. As Nour and Rawiya travelled from country to country the story is separated with a poem written in the shape of the country. The poems were not only beautiful and heartfelt but looked amazing too.

“People make such beautiful things, I think, even though they destroy so much.”

As I mentioned earlier this is the story of Nour essentially becoming a refugee and fleeing for her life. Her whole life is uprooted in one moment, their home destroyed and they literally leave with only what they can carry. This is the reality of many all over the world, who one day are living their normal lives and the next running for their life with only what they can carry.

I love that despite everything that happens to them they never give up even though they do sometimes doubt that they will make it to safety. Their strength is inspiring and it really made me feel for not only them but also for all the refugees across the world who are going through this.

“You choose what defines you. Being a refugee doesn’t have to.”

This is a book that I think everyone should read as it is a beautifully written, lyrical story and so, so relevant today. It kept me hooked throughout the book and it’s a book that will stay with you for a long time.

Adult Books, Books by Muslim Authors, Fiction Books, Muslim Shelf Space, The Daevabad Trilogy

The City of Brass Book Review

This book was one of my most anticipated releases this year and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! I loved this book so much and it’s probably one of my favourite reads this year!

If you haven’t heard of or read this book then you really need to go buy it and read it! Trust me you won’t be disappointed!

city of brass

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty is an adult fantasy set in 18th century Cairo. And this was enough to make me want to read it! Then the cover was revealed and I fell in love!

This is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

The City of Brass is a book that had me hooked from the first page! I read the first page and literally squealed because the main character, Nahri, was wearing an abaya and I finally got to see a character dressed like me! So after that I had really high expectations and I loved the references to middle eastern culture and Islam. It was wonderfully woven into the story.

The story is told from two different points of view. Nahri, who grew up in the human world and was a con artist and worked as a healer and as someone who exorcised djinns from humans. She doesn’t really believe in any of this but one day she accidently releases a real djinn called Dara. And this is where her adventure begins and leads her to the world on djinns. She travels to the City of Brass (Daevabad) with Dara which is where the djinns live.

The second point of view is told from Ali who is a Qahtani Prince. His story starts with him being shown a world within his city of the lesser class. He is shown the injustices done to them just for being born a shafit and not a pureblood djinn. This is where his story progresses and he has to battle between his loyalty to his father (and king) and doing what is right and just.

I adored both their characters! Nahri is such a badass and definitely capable of taking care of herself. She has great character development from the selfish girl who puts herself first to someone who puts a whole tribe first by the end of the book. I loved that she wasn’t perfect or able to develop her abilities easily, instead she struggles with using her powers which made her so much more relatable and a much more interesting character.

Ali is a cinnamon roll and I will not be able to deal with anything happening to him in the next book! He is someone who wants to help the lesser class of people in the city but to do so would be to betray his family and risk being killed as a traitor. His conflict happens throughout most of the book and although I loved him I just wish he would have acted a bit more on doing what is right. Though I did feel for him as other people on both sides put him in difficult positions.

Dara who was another main character, although we don’t see his point of view, we still learn about his history through both Nahri and Ali and at first I found him really interesting but as the story progressed I found him less likeable and I am not actually sure where I stand with him though I am interested to see where his story will go in the next book.

One of my favourite parts of this book was the incredible world building! I loved this world so much and felt totally immersed in this world. The backstory and the politics of why the city is the way it is was so intricately and well done. It made me feel for both sides and it was hard to see who was truly at fault and who was telling the whole truth. I also loved seeing the rich culture of 18th century Egypt and it was such a different setting from the usual fantasy settings in fantasy books.

This story despite having some tropes we are familiar with the story was still unique and original and I cannot wait to continue with this story! There was so many plot twists and some I did not see coming at all! The ending especially left me dying and just wanting the next book straight away! And then the epilogue left me wanting more!

This book was enchanting and I was drawn in from the very first page and this book left me wanting more! There are amazing characters, a wonderfully complex and interesting story and such incredible world building. If you haven’t been able to tell already I adored this book from the story to the cover to characters. And I am so excited to see where the story will go next, especially with that epilogue!

You should all go read this book! You will not be disappointed!

Rating: 5/5

 

 

Monthly Wrap Up

June monthly wrap up

Hey booknerds! It’s crazy how fast this year is going! We’re already halfway through the year! And June went by in a flash!

Today I want to share my monthly wrap up with you all. I read 11 books including 2 rereads via audiobook. I’m starting to really enjoy audiobooks now though I only use them for rereads.

So lets get to the books I read this month:

june wrap up

Smoke in the Sun – I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this and I loved the story so much! It was amazing being back in this world and I’m actually sad we won’t be seeing more of Okami and Mariko. You can read my full spoiler free review here

Rating: 4.5/5

The Night Diary – I did enjoy this book and it was great seeing an insight into what it was like when India and Pakistan split and how it affected the general population.

Rating: 3.5/5

Between the Sea and Stars – I received an eARC of this book and I really loved this book! It’s a dark mermaid story and the first in the series. You can read my full spoiler free review here

Rating: 4/5

Scythe – I have mixed feelings about this book. I did enjoy it and the plot twists were so unexpected but in between I did get a bit bored. I will continue with the series though as the ending was left on a really interesting cliffhanger

Rating: 4/5

Sky in the Deep – I was so excited about this book was I was really disappointed. I didn’t enjoy the story and felt like not much happened. I know, I know, unpopular opinion!

Rating: 3/5

The Raven Boys – This was a reread via audiobook and I loved it as much the second time around!

Rating: 5/5

The Diminished – This book was really interesting and a unique story and I am really looking forward to reading book 2!

Rating: 4/5

When Wings Expand – This book made me cry! It’s about loss of loved ones and grief and eventual hope in continuing with life. You can read my full spoiler free review here

Rating: 4.5/5

State of Sorrow – I really enjoyed this book! There were many plot twists that I wasn’t expecting and I’m looking forward to continuing this series.

Rating: 4/5

The City of Brass – Wow this book was amazing! I absolutely loved the story and the world building and the characters! Basically I can’t get enough of this book and I need the next book asap!

Rating: 5/5

Cinder – This was another reread via audiobook. I loved being back in this world and there was so many little details I had forgotten and my love for this series has only increased!

Rating: 5/5

As you can probably tell my favourite books this month were Smoke in the Sun and The City of Brass! If you have not read these books then you really need to change that and read them!

You can also find my other book reviews that I shared this month:

You can read my review of Written in the Stars here

You can read my review of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work here

How many books did you read this month? What was your favourite book this month?

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

When Wings Expand by Mehdad Maryam Sinclair – Book Review

Thank you to publishers Kube Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. This does not affect my review.

when wings expand

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Writing on the pages of her journal, Nur, a teenage girl in Canada, charts the onset and advance of her mother’s cancer. Nur watches her mother’s body begin to shrink and her mood begin to darken. And when family and friends begin to encroach, Nur must face the prospect of her mother’s looming death.
Nur bears the crushing loss and finds her adolescent life more demanding and complex. But with the legacy of her mother’s love, her family’s support, and the guidance of her faith, she manages to overcome the searing pain and use her newfound strength to bring joy to the lives of others, showing them that after death wings can expand.

This story is set in Canada and follows the life of a young girl, Nur and her family who are struggling to come to terms with losing her mother to cancer. It’s written in short diary entries, written by Nur, and because of this we really get to see how she is truly feeling. We go through all her stages of grief and struggle and eventual hope at being able to continue her life without her mother in such a personal way.

She also writes about her struggles between her identity as a Muslim and balancing it with living in the west and being a teenager. The Islamic references in this are so wonderfully woven in and do not feel preachy at all. I really loved the Muslim rep in this book!

This story had me teary all the way through so I would warn you to keep a box of tissues handy! As I’m writing this I’m trying to express how much I loved this book. It’s a book that is not only a wonderful story but also something that teenagers can read and relate to and even help deal with their own struggles especially dealing with loss of a loved one. This is a book I wish I had when I was younger especially having lost my granddad as a teenager, I really struggled with it.

I really loved how the author showed a realistic view of how someone suffering from grief can be, how Nur would struggle with accepting what had happened even though she had faith in God. At the end when she meets a young girl with cancer who is finding it difficult to come to terms with it, I love how Nur helps her. It was a wonderful way of showing how to help someone who is going through a difficult time. Honestly I loved this book so much!

I loved the way she used a caterpillar turning into a butterfly as a metaphor for how life changes and even though we may want it to stand still we could continue on to something even more beautiful than what we had, if we only had faith.

I was putting off reading it as I knew it would be a book that would make me cry but I am so glad I read it. It is heart breaking at times but also so heart warming. It’s such a well written book and I am really looking forward to reading more books by this author.

So as you can tell I loved this book and definitely recommend you all to read it, it’s a book that no matter the age you will be able to relate to but I would especially recommend teens/young adults to pick it up!

Rating: 4.5/5