Book Recommendations

Reasons to Read Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

This book means so much to me in so many ways and it will forever hold a special place in my heart and I just want you all to experience this beautiful story too. So here are some reasons why you should read this book.

A Cute Halal Love Story

We get to see how you can truly fall in love and find the person you want to spend your life with while maintaining the boundaries set in place by our religion. Their faith was so important to them and so it influenced how they interacted with each other and it was so beautiful to see these small moments like Adam putting his hand on the table saying he wants to hold her hand but can’t so this will be the replacement. It’s so amazing to see that they put their faith first.

Adorable Meet Cute

Everyone loves a meet cute and this is one of my favourites! They meet at an airport and end up on the same flight where they interact for the first time after spotting each other and sharing a special connection by saying salaam to each other.

Disability Rep

Adam is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis which is what makes him decide to quit university and go home. The rep was so great, we see him battle his many feelings about how this will affect his life but also his families. We see him struggle to manage it initially but eventually find his new normal. He never thinks he needs fixing or that there is something wrong with him and I really loved seeing how relatable it was.

Female Friendships

While this is a love story we also see love in many forms including the friendships that Zayneb has with her friends and how they care deeply for each other and if they mess up they apologise and try to make amends. It was so great to see women supporting women.

Smart Assertive Muslim Women

This is a story with multiple women who are so different from each other and yet are united in the battle against injustices.They may approach it in different ways but they are all incredible and resilient and they have each others backs.

Cinnamon Roll Love Interest

Adam is so sweet and an introvert to Zayneb’s bold and outgoing nature and it was so lovely to see a sweet soft boy. He shows strength in so many ways but I loved how his nature was to be kind and sweet and thoughtful. I loved his relationship with his little sister and his dad and how much he cared for them. We see how he is with Zayneb too and how he isn’t afraid to express how he feels and I just love him so much.

#EatThemAlive

This book also deals with Islamophobia both in the west and in Muslim countries. It discusses how it’s a thousand small cuts that slowly diminish us and that we face so many injustices because we chose to wear a scarf on our head or cover up in a swimming pool. We are judged and looked down on just because we are Muslim and how that affects us and our everyday lives and how it can make us feel hurt and angry and want to fight these injustices but that it also drains us. 

I just need you all to read this incredible book especially as the sequel, Love From Mecca to Medina, will be out on October 18th.

Books by Muslim Authors, YA Books

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh – ARC Review

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.

Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.

But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.

Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.

TW: death (adult & children), torture, sexual assault, murder, war, starvation, PTSD, grief

This book is devastating and hauntingly beautiful and a story that I will be thinking about for a long time. There are scenes that are seared into my memory, scenes that utterly broke me and I had to stop reading. This book made me sob and it is one of the most beautiful stories I have read. 

This story is set just after the Syrian revolution began and deals with what happens to the people who are living in a war torn country. We meet Salama who wanted to become a pharmacist but those dreams are shattered when the revelation begins and now helps at the hospital saving as many people as she can. She meets Kenan who wanted to study animation but now films what is happening in Syria and uploads it to youtube so people can see what is happening. Together they bring back hope into their lives despite the circumstances they live in.

As long as the lemon trees grow hope will never die.

There is also Layla, Salama’s sister in law and only family left after her parents are murdered and her brother imprisoned. And Kenan’s younger brother and sister that he is doing his best to protect. These people are Salama and Kenan’s lifelines. Seeing how they feel terrified that anything could happen to them and there would be nothing that they could do. There are several scenes that are inspired by real life events and that made it even more chilling and devastating to read.

This land is me. And I am her. My history, my ancestors, my family, we’re all here.

We also meet Khawf who is part of Salama’s hallucination, he is the one that keeps pushing her to find a way to leave Syria to find safety but she feels guilty for leaving while there is so many people who need her help. She has learnt on the job but she always has a wealth of pharmacological knowledge that helps so many people. Kenan feels like he needs to fight for his home and share with the world what is happening. I really loved seeing the different aspects and how they struggled with the choices they made. It was so raw and real and I felt that struggle with them. Zoulfa has written these characters so beautifully and they are complex and feel so real and I completely fell in love with them. I also loved seeing how they carved out some joy for themselves amidst all the sorrow.

When they realise they will not survive long enough to make any impact they decide they need to leave to keep their family safe. But even the journey to escape is harrowing. Zoulfa doesn’t shy away from the realities of what has happened and continues to happen in Syria and everyone needs to read it. 

This is a book that everyone needs to read. It gives voice to the voiceless and shows us the strength and resilience of the Syrians and their fight for justice and freedom and how hope can be find in even the most difficult circumstances.

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. 

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

Nura & The Immortal Palace Blog Tour – Book Review

Thank you to ed.pr and walker books for having me on this blog tour! I will be sharing my review as part of the tour!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Nura has worked all her life in the mica mines, earning just enough to keep her family afloat – and enjoy the odd delicious gulab jamun from the market. Some day she’s going to find the Demon’s Tongue, a legendary treasure buried deep in the mines, and her family will never have to worry about money again.

But when a terrible accident buries her best friend below ground, Nura goes in search of him and passes over into the magical and terrible world of the jinn. Across a pink sea and under a purple sky, she finds her way to a palace, where great riches and a whole new life are on offer.

But it’s not long before Nura discovers this world to be as unfair as the real one, and that trickster jinns will always live up to their reputation…

This book was so wonderful and it was so great to see Pakistani culture and Muslim and Pakistani folklore in the story. From clothes to food everything was so familiar and I just loved it all. The descriptions of the food especially had me craving all of my favourites, especially gulab jamuns! I felt completely immersed in the world and just the small mentions of Ayat al Kursi and Eid celebrations it made my heart so happy!

If anyone says they work for passion or world peace and not the delicious food on their plate, they’re lying.

When I saw this story had jinns and set in Pakistan I knew I had to read it! It did not disappoint. We grow up with stories of jinns and how we each have our own Qareen that influences us to do some…not so great things and then I see how it’s so wonderfully woven into the story and how Nura and Faisal meet their Qareens and are tricked by them and then have to escape. It felt like my childhood stories come to life!

Not only is this story a magical adventure where a young girl is whisked off to the jinn world but through this there are discussions around child labour and exploitation of poor people which keeps the poor, poor and the rich get richer. I really loved how this is woven into the story without it being too heavy and it’s written in a way that young people can understand. I think these discussions are so important especially as it happens globally and so many people suffer as a result. How these people are pitted against each other so they don’t see who is truly causing their suffering.

The poor stay poor because the rich aren’t willing to spread their resources.

I loved the friendships in this book, between Nura and Faisal and how different they are to each other but how well they work together. How they deeply care for each other and go to great lengths to protect and help each other. It was also great to see how Nura slowly learns to work with others too that she initially finds difficult but as she learns she realises how everyone struggles in their own way.

I just loved Nura even though she was quite hot headed and always ready to fight, it felt real for a 12 year old who has had to grow up too quickly and been unfairly burdened by responsibilities that she shouldn’t have had to shoulder at such a young age. I loved how stubborn and resilient she was and yet it was also heart breaking to see her and the other children go through everything they had suffered and how it affected them.

I highly recommend everyone read this wonderful story!