Run, Riot by Nikesh Shukla

A powerful, gripping book about 4 teens who standing up for themselves and their community.

Hari and Jamal film an unarmed youth from their estate being beaten by police and suddenly they find themselves hunted by the very people who should be protecting them. But as they go on the run with Hari’s twin sister, Taran, and Jamal’s girlfriend, Anna, they soon discover the truth goes much deeper, with terrible personal consequences at hand..

I found this to be a fast paced, action packed thriller of a story that I believe to be The U.K’s answer to “The Hate U Give” (THUG). A story that explores social injustice at the hands of corruption, and rogue police. A story that turns the lives of 4 teens upside down when they become privy to too much information and the decision they need to make – either stay silent and go on the run or take a stand and have justice prevail. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, the dialogue between the characters and I even came to care for the characters we followed. The book’s structure was also well done as it was following a time line (as in time of day) rather than chapters so it really brought the story to life for me. To be honest, I really hope this story is adapted to film as I believe it would be well received by the YA reader community. I recommend this book to readers of YA who enjoy suspense, action and is interested in reading stories that explore deep themes such as social injustice and community.

Special thanks to Date A Book YA (Hachette) Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Advertisements

Short Stories – Muslim Voices

The 9th month of the Islamic Calendar marks the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. A special time of the year where Muslims worldwide reflect on their faith, commemorate the birth of Islam (divine revelation) and engage in a month of sun up to sun down fasting. A time to reflect and a time for prayer. And.. in a blink of an eye – the count down is on again as we are due to start mid-May 2018.

As we enter the holy month, I wanted to take a quick moment to share 2 books that bring out Muslim voices in Australia as I found these collections of short stories so insightful and inspiring. Personally, as a Muslim reader, I love seeing stories like this becoming more and more available for Muslim and Non-Muslim readers alike as I believe wonderful books like these do in fact help bring a mutual understanding within the community. They bridge gaps, dispel myths and even open up positive discussion.

Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia – edited by Amra Pajalic and Demet Divaroren
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

“Muslim people in Australia come from over 70 countries and represent a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and experiences. Yet we are constantly bombarded by media stories feeding one negative stereotype. What is it really like to grow up Muslim in Australia? In this book, famous and not-so-famous Muslim-Australians tell their stories in their own voices.”
Growing up a Muslim, hijab wearing Aussie of Indonesian heritage, I related to this book and the stories within very much. Sadly, the battle is real and when we say this, it’s not to play victim – it’s simply to call it what it is. These honest stories resonated with me and I believe them to be insightful for all readers as it provides different snapshots and perspectives of Muslim life in Australia that most importantly, dispel myths, stereotypes, and above all celebrates diversity, courage and friendship. A beautiful coming of age group that is said to be “coloured with many shades of humour, warmth, sadness, anger, determination and honesty, it will resonate with readers from all backgrounds and beliefs”

Headstrong Daughters: Inspiring Stories From The New Generation Of Australian Muslim Women – by Nadia Jamal
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

This book is a collection of short stories written by Nadia Jamal and based on interviews she conducted with ordinary Muslim women around Australia. This book takes a deeper look into the lives of Muslim women and their determination to stay true to their faith and to themselves. These are resonating stories told by working professionals, mothers and students and reveals a side that is little known and often misunderstood. This too, is a book I really related to as a young Muslim woman living in Australia, a working professional and a woman who strives to live a well balanced life with faith, work, family and being in touch with her culture without it clashing with faith. I also found this book dispelled a lot of myths that hang about with Muslim women – particularly with the hijab and status of women in Islam. I found it quite inspiring myself. Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me an advanced review copy of this book – this book should be available in leading book retailers.

Wishing all who commemorate the Holy Month of Ramadan a wonderful and blessed month. May your fasting come at ease and may you all have special time with loved ones this coming month.

Ramadan Mubarak!!!
-Annie

I am Thunder… and I Won’t Keep Quiet by Muhammad Khan

“A thought-provoking and empowering story which will encourage readers to question what they see and hear.”

One of the most confronting books I have read this year and a story that really hits the nail on the head. A new YA voice that demonstrates how far one can go to protect what they believe in and accurately depicts the world today. I really want to take this moment to thank the author, Muhammad Khan, for writing this story. As a Muslim woman reading this book – I felt this was a real eye-opener for non-Muslims and a warm hug to the Muslim brother/sisterhood as he stated in his author’s note.

“I am Thunder” is told by protagonist, 15 year old Muzna Saleem, who dreams of being a novelist but is trapped between 2 worlds: controlling parents who only care about her studying to be a doctor and growing up in a world that tells you to be what you want to be. As Muzna’s father lost his job, Muzna is forced to move to a new school in South London at a critical time of her life and after her best friend is shamed in a scandal.

Whilst dialogue among teens can be cheesy, I found the book to be very well written and honest. It’s a book that will definitely spark positive discussion. I had such a personal connection to the story and the character but felt extremely thankful I didn’t experience absolutely everything Muzna went through.

When Muzna is thrown into this new school, just like the real world, she realizes bullies are everywhere and yes difficult times are ahead but do you take a stand and fight for what is right or do you fade out because it’s easier? Struggling with home life and school yard prejudice against her culture and faith, the world looks bleak for Muzna until she meets Arif – her knight in shining armour – or so she thinks…

The author did a fantastic job in demonstrating the constant confusion in families who put culture first, Islam second which is a leading cause of clash and confusion in families and the wider community. Cultural identity is a real challenge especially among the youth and I really felt for Muzna being an only child growing up in the western world with strong ties to her cultural traditions and expectations, it can be a challenge but it can also be an opportunity. I felt Muzna had the right idea of wanting to be a novelist as a means to set a passive example that demonstrates that these acts committed do not represent her or her faith.

In addition to cultural identity, the fury Muzna and her parents felt when waking up to headline news of terrorist attacks and murder of innocent victims carried out in the name of Islam was all too real for me. It was a wave of mixed emotions – anger for what this mob do in our name and the compounding weariness of stepping out of our house wearing the hijab, that need to constantly be vigilant in your own home in case you’re next to be on the receiving end of hate attacks for crimes you never committed or endorsed but refusing to live in fear. 

The story is so real – with strong characters making poor decisions or turning a blind eye to things you think is so obviously wrong, but that’s exactly why it was so real – because it demonstrates exactly how extremists operate. They select articulate, intelligent individuals and targe their vulnerability as leverage for their own agendas.

Again, this book is extremely well written and fast paced. I am sure readers will have an emotional reaction to the story. I gasped, cringed, laughed, cried and I even had to put the book down for a moment as I was getting so worked up over it (it’s so real). I feel this is an important story and I do recommend this as your next read. Suitable for the YA audience from ages 14 years and up.

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy of this book as part of the Summer Readings Blog Tour.
-Annie

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Synopsis from Goodreads
Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah. But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is…

My Thoughts
I can’t believe that I just finished a book that took me on emotional roller coaster ride. It’s been well over a decade since that has happened. The tears are still coming. Throughout Autoboyography I was crying my eyes out, squealing with joy, felt like my heart is braking in two and slowly mending again. I’m going to be recommending Autoboyography to anyone who asks me for a book recommendation. I leave with this question – How soon is too soon for a reread? …I’m off to get a tissue…
-Meredith

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

A new Black Witch will rise… her powers vast beyond imagining…

“Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else. As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.” -Synopsis from Goodreads.

With such mixed reviews on this book, I just had to read it for myself as soon as possible. To be honest I really couldn’t understand the negativity surrounding it but then again that’s my opinion..

The best way I can explain my thoughts would be to use Harry Potter as an example. For those who have read Harry Potter, do you remember the prejudice in that world by “pure bloods” who would look down on “half bloods” and “muggles” or “muggle borns” and go as far as to say “mixture of magical and muggle blood is an abomination”? That was the sort of world I discovered here, a fantasy world where such prejudices exist and naturally the dialogue brought that out of each character and in doing so, profiled the characters quite well. I read each dialogue in context and understood it was typical of what that character or that particular race/group of people would say etc therefore the story and what was said in each dialogue made sense to me. I was able to draw a parallel with what I read in this book and conversations I hear in real life. Sad, but true and with all stories I read, I find nasty characters either grow to become good or are destroyed at the hands of good.

Overall I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed getting to know each character (even the ones I hate in the story) I particularly like the beginning where in a world of “status quo” the protagonist’s Uncle was the one person who puts his foot down against the concept of the “wandfast” at a young age (which is like an arranged marriage) in order for his niece to go on and get educated first by going to university and learning apothecary then make her own decision in life later on. Again – not very far from what I have heard in real life. There are more examples however I don’t wish to spoil the book for anyone and I would like readers to be their own judge of this book. Personally I liked it and I recommend it to fans of YA fantasy who enjoy stories of power struggle, magic and a whole new world building.

Many thanks to Harlequin Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T Anderson

 

In a world where technology takes over and ATMs lead the charge!!!

An alien invasion story like no other!!!

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. But is it really an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? Apparently… yes…

I found this to be a quick and very interesting read that takes a different turn on alien invasion stories!!! Normally when we read about sci-fi and alien invasions we think green monsters or intergalactic soldiers defending earth against the universe.. this however treats an alien invasion as a colonisation – and to be honest, I can’t see how different this story is from the real world!!! A world where robots will take over and ATMs will lead the charge to help the economy and automate literally everything!! So where does automation leave families? Following the main character, Adam who is an artist and is battling what he calls an embarrssing illness. He takes it upon himself to support his family in an age of high unemployment in light of this technological invasion and the only way to get ahead is to be part of this alien reality tv show. The plot was quite unique and the story was quite cleverly executed. I found this to be a very fast paced read, all the while thinking – actually, this is happening right now!! I recommend this to readers who enjoy contemporary with elements of sci-fi.

Many thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

 

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

This book is infuriatingly good!!!

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.  But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known.

This book is infuriatingly good. The type of book where I will wave it at you and tell you to read it every chance I get. It is brutally honest with its themes and how they reflect on our own society. I feel like I will never be able to express how thought provoking and important this story is.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!!!
-Amanda