YA Books

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni – ARC Review

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

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

This story sounded so interesting and had a really intriguing storyline yet I just didn’t love it like I thought I would. I liked the story somewhat but I just didn’t love any character which made it difficult for me to really root for them despite the fact that they endure some terrible things.

The story is about a young woman who has been in prison since she was seven and mostly entirely alone and it didn’t make sense that she had no one who looked after as a child and she had so many skills including being a healer after watching her dad for a year when she was seven. Her motivations for choosing to risk her own life and suffer through the trials which are known to be horrific also didn’t make sense and it was just confusing as to why she would have such a strong motivation to do something like that. Like yes she was told to keep her alive but why is she so personally invested in it? Especially for people who kept promising to help her but never actually came.

I also had issues with the big plot twist at the end because there was zero hints throughout the book and this is something we should have had an inkling about because we literally spend the book in Kiva’s head. She knew that twist but the readers didn’t and not once is it even remotely alluded to.

The romance was also very insta love and didn’t have much depth to it especially s Kiva kept saying she didn’t like him while also thinking about him all the time. He also conveniently doesn’t get marked with the Z like every single person who is taken to the prison and especially once we find out more about him it makes sense but also convenient. He risks so much for Kiva including getting tortured despite them barely knowing each other. I just couldn’t feel invested in their relationship.

I did like Tipp and how Kiva would take care of him and that despite the awful circumstances he somehow managed to be optimistic and find joy and love. He was sweet and he needs to be protected at all costs.

The end of the story had several revelations which made the motivations of Kiva make more sense and it has intrigued me to know what will happen in the next book. Especially as it seems we will get to see more of the world as this book is set solely in the prison with some flashbacks and references. And it seems as though we will get more political intrigue which I love seeing. So I am a little intrigued to know what will happen in the next book.

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.

YA Books

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew – ARC Review

Thank you Walker Books and Netgalley for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

The topic of the book intrigued me so I had to request it. I didn’t realise it was written in verse so when I started reading it, it was a nice surprise. I absolutely loved it!

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Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

BLOOD MOON is a YA novel about the viral shaming of a teenage girl. During her seminal sexual experience with the quiet and lovely Benjamin, physics-lover and astronomy fan Frankie gets her period – but the next day a gruesome meme goes viral, turning an innocent, intimate afternoon into something sordid, mortifying and damaging.

This book was incredible and I loved that it was written in verse. This is a topic I am passionate about I am glad that it is being discussed more and that there are even books being published that deal with periods and how it is normal and nothing that should cause someone to say eww.

This book deals with period shame and how something natural results in a girl being shamed and humiliated and bullied. It touches on how it can affect her whole life from her self worth to her self confidence and her mental health. It also deals with friendship and girls supporting girls and more.

When I started reading I was quickly hooked and then before I knew it, it was 4am and I had reached the end of the book which left me feeling a mess of emotions. I was angry and sad and hopeful and I just wanted to scream about this book.

This book was difficult to read at times because of the awful ways that the other teenagers treat the main character and anyone who tries to stand up to her. But also how quickly one bully can get so many supporters not only in their school but also on the internet. People think it is okay to humiliate a girl on the internet and won’t have to take responsibility or deal with any of the consequences of doing so. But in this book we see what the consequences of the humiliation and bullying is and it was heart breaking. No one should have to go through this especially as periods are nothing to be embarrassed about.

I hope we get more books that deal with periods and shaming women for their periods. I think the only thing I wished we had seen more of in the book was including women of colour and how it can affect them too and how it can be a different experience and the issues they deal with may be different to the ones that the young women in this book had to deal with. I also hope we get more books dealing with period poverty as that also has a huge impact on young people.

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

Once Upon An Eid Edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

Thank you to Abrams Kids and Netgalley for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely adored this book and all the wonderful stories!

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Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!
Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift-giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology will also include a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.

This book was pure joy and happiness to read. Even the stories which showed people in difficult situations were full of hope. I cried happy tears several times reading this book and this book will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Eid is such an important day for Muslims and this book captures what it can be like and how varied everyone’s experiences are. Being the oldest sibling I always tried to make Eid a fun and memorable day for my sisters and little cousins. From putting up decorations and gifts which would be opened after Eid prayer to going to the Eid fair and playing games we had so much fun. And reading this book brought back all those memories.

I loved every single story in this anthology which is rare but they were all written so wonderfully and beautifully and I sobbed my way through the book. I loved how diverse the stories were and how everyone celebrates differently and has their own traditions in their family, community and their culture. We see how people all over the world have different food they will want to make or the clothes they were and how they get together with family. I loved how family wasn’t just the mum, dad and kid but showed how families are a lot more varied. It was so inclusive and I was weeping with joy.

The stories themselves were so great and even though this is a middle grade book, and I am an adult I loved them so much. I loved Aisha Saeed’s story about how everyone in the family came to the rescue when Yusuf overcooked the brownies and Asmaa Hussein’s story of how Kareem learns what it truly means to be generous and giving and caring for those who are less fortunate. I also loved that there was also a graphic short story because I know lots of kids love graphic novels!

Each story is full of hope, even the stories where the situation the people are in are less than ideal. Searching for Blue by N.H. Senzai is the story of a young boy who is in a refugee camp in Greece and how the refugees get together with some wonderful people who love there to make the best of the situation and make it a special day for everyone. Such a beautiful heart warming story while simultaneously showing how difficult the lives of refugees are. In fact all the stories have some really wonderful lessons which are integral parts of Islam woven beautifully into the stories.

I cannot wait to get my finished copy and see all the artwork to go with the stories! This book is phenomenal, filled with much needed stories of joy and hope and I adored every single one of them!

PS. These books will make the perfect Eid gifts!

Fiction Books, YA Books

Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn – ARC Review

Thank you to Netgally and Zephyr for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this story and I am looking forward to the next book!

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?
In these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.

This book is about a group of young friends trying to help those who have no one else to turn to and in doing so they get in way over their heads and end up in a very dangerous situation.

I loved all the characters, they each had their own storylines which also overlapped into the main story so it made them more complex and interesting. We are told the story from the point ofview of Camille and Ade so we can really get into their heads and know how they feel and what they think throughout the story but I would have loved to get a point of view for Al and Guil too as they were such interesting characters. I hope we get it in the next book!

They each have roles in their group and feel the pressures of fulfilling it especially when they feel out of their depth. I really loved seeing how they struggled along the way but that they were there for each other and supported each other even when they fought.

Olympe was another really interesting character, this is who they break out of jail and there is more to her than they were told. She has these mysterious powers that no one really understands fully but each side of the revolution wants to use in their war. As she is being hunted the group of friends try to help her hide which created interesting dynamics as they didn’t always agree on what to do.

I also loved seeing how immersed in the history of the time the book is. I actually learned quite a lot about that time period and the history nerd in me was thrilled! From the discussions of whether the earth is flat to not understanding electricity it is clear that the author has done a lot of research for the book to feel authentic.

The story is fast paced and full of action. It is brutal and dark at times and the plot twists were done so well! I especially did not see one particular twist coming and let me tell you I was left shocked and actually gasped when it was all revealed.

I cannot wait to read the next book especially after that ending I just need to know what they will do now and where the story will take us.