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.

YA Books

Mindwalker by Kate Dylan – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodderscape and Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Sil Sarrah is determined to die a legend. In the ten years she’s been rescuing imperilled field agents for the Syntex Corporation—by commandeering their minds from afar and leading them to safety—Sil hasn’t lost a single life. And she’s not about to start now.

She’s got twelve months left on the clock before the supercomputer grafted to her brain kills her, and she’s hell-bent on using that time to cement her legacy. Sil’s going to be the only Mindwalker to ever pitch a perfect game—even despite the debilitating glitches she’s experiencing. But when a critical mission goes south, Sil is forced to flee the very company she once called home.

Desperate to prove she’s no traitor, Sil infiltrates the Analog Army, an activist faction working to bring Syntex down. Her plan is to win back her employer’s trust by destroying the group from within. Instead, she and the Army’s reckless leader, Ryder, uncover a horrifying truth that threatens to undo all the good Sil’s ever done.

With her tech rapidly degrading and her new ally keeping dangerous secrets of his own, Sil must find a way to stop Syntex in order to save her friends, her reputation—and maybe even herself.

This book is a wild ride! I was hooked from the very beginning and could not put this book down! I really loved Sil and Ryder and their dynamic and the utter chaotic energy they have together. 

I love sci-fi but even if you don’t I think lots of people will enjoy it. It’s very character driven as we follow Sil who has a limited time to prove her innocence and uncover a conspiracy so it was a thriller with a sci-fi twist and I loved it. It was especially interesting because it was set in a post apocalyptic world where life is so different from now because of how we destroyed the planet and repercussions of that. So that was an interesting element in the story too. 

This is a story of powerful men who always get what they want and being able to get away with practically anything because they are powerful men and the parallels to our society was really interesting to read. We see how Sil learns this the hard way and how systemic corruption has a long lasting and wide reaching effect. 

Never underestimate the power a single man can wield when the rest of us quit paying attention.

I do wish the morality of being able to mindwalk and take over a person’s mind and body had been discussed a little more. I did like seeing those discussions though it was more showing how people were disgusted by what Sil did but it would have been good to see Sil and the other mindwalkers think about whether it is morally okay and how this can lead to someone deciding to use this technology to control masses of people. It was interesting to see that they were all recruited as children and the families given lots of incentives and compensations for them joining. Children are easier to manipulate and parents did not have the authority to say no if the child agreed so there wasn’t any protections in place for these children either. They also could not live past their teenage years which I felt was also a way to control and ensure that people did not get older and think that maybe this isn’t right or they no longer want to be a part of it. I just wish this was discussed a little more in the book though there are mentions of it.

I really liked the side characters too and the friendships between them. How they supported and protected each other and worked together to find out who was behind everything. I do wish we could have seen more of them, especially Sil’s friends. 

This is a fast paced and action packed book which will take you on a wild ride and the revelations in the second half of the book had me shook. I really liked the ending and how things were resolved but shows there is still more work to be done to deal with the corruption and whether anyone should be allowed to control another person’s mind and body.

YA Books

This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodderscape and Netgalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

This book had me hooked from the beginning and I flew through the book. I really enjoyed the story and the discussions around love and that there are different types of love and being lonely. I also liked the discussions around people in power and how the poorer people are not given the same protections.

Alessa was an interesting character though she could get annoying at times especially at the risks she took but you know what if I was under the pressure she was under I may become a little reckless too. I really did sympathise with her though as she is unable to touch anyone without killing them so she has become isolated and lonely and fed the fantasy that once she finds her true partner then she will have everything she desires. But unfortunately for her she keeps killing her partners and this makes her struggle with her own self worth and whether the world would be better off without her. 

Once she meets the mysterious Dante though, she starts to believe in herself more and learns that she is more capable than she gives herself credit for and he helps her to see a world outside of her gilded cage. I really liked Dante and how he showed Alessa that the world she has been taught to believe in may not be as just and fair as she thinks. He makes her question things and see that just because something has been done a specific way it doesn’t mean that is the only way. 

I also really enjoyed the side characters and hope we get to see more of them in the sequel and how they initially did not want to be near Alessa but by the end they learnt to trust her and she learnt to trust them and they became a unit. It was so great to see Alessa build relationships that are not romantic because she had been starved of friendship too which she needed and found in them.

The second half of the book had some intense moments and some revelations that I did not see coming but I loved as it added more mystery to the world and history that we have been told. I hope we get to explore this more in the sequel.

I did feel the ending was a little rushed, I was hoping to see more of the battle that has been built up throughout the book and some of the aftermath especially regarding Dante and what happens to him. I am especially looking forward to seeing more of him and his arc in the sequel.

Top 5 Wednesdays

Top 5 Wednesday – Bookish Happiness

Today I will be sharing books that brought me utter joy and had me reading with a huge grin. I highly recommend reading these books for that serotonin boost!

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali – This book is the cutest sweetest story ever

That Can Be Arranged by Huda Fahmy – The most adorable and hilarious story of how Huda met her husband!

Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali – Features a big fat Muslim wedding that had me laughing with such utter joy

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston – Set at a con with all the nerds embracing their passions

My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth – All the nerdiness and female friendships on top of a cute romance, what’s not to love?!

What books have you read that brought you pure joy?