Muslim Shelf Space #2017

Muslim Shelf Space 2017

So, for those of you that don’t know, #MuslimShelfSpace is a movement that’s been quite popular on Twitter this year, challenging people to read more books by Muslim authors. It’s a movement I’ve tweeted about quite a few times as it’s definitely a worthwhile thing to do and for those that have only just heard of it, I hope you’ll add at least one of these books to your TBR list for next year!

I’ve read a grand total of 6 books by Muslim authors this year, which although that might sound like quite a lot to some people, it’s actually only 3% of the total books I read this year! Now, the actual total might be slightly more as it’s not always easy to find out what religion authors are but that’s still way lower than I’d like.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are the books!


 

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HWJN by Ibraheem Abbas

So not only is this book by a Muslim author, but it’s actually a Saudi Arabian book translated from Arabic into English. I’m a big fan of stories involving Djinn and HWJN is perfect for that. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be reading more by this author in 2018!

You can find my review of it here.

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Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed

This is a fantastic collection of short SFF stories by an author I already loved. I really enjoyed Throne of the Crescent Moon and when I found this collection on Amazon, I just had to read it. The eBook is completely free too so you can try it out and if you don’t enjoy it, you’ve not lost anything.

You can read my review of it here

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Iraq + 100 ed. by Hassan Blasim

This is a collection of short stories by multiple different Iraqi authors who were all asked to imagine what Iraq would look like in 2103, 100 years after the invasion. It was incredibly interesting to see all the different worlds they imagined and the stories contained cover a range of genres.

You can read my review here

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Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

This is one of the books I’ve seen mentioned quite a bit of Twitter which is what made me choose to read it (that and my library had a copy so that always helps) and it definitely lived up to the hype I’d seen. It’s full of fascinating creatures such as Djinn and effrit and the storytelling was delightful.

I thought I’d reviewed this but turns out I haven’t, so I might need to do that at some point next year! I’d definitely recommend it though.

Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet & Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous

I discovered Amara Lakhous as part of my attempt to find an Algerian author for my “Read Around the World” challenge and absolutely adored Divorce Islamic Style so just had to read more by him. His tone is brilliant and the stories are both delightful and hilarious. I actually ended up getting my mum’s bookclub to choose Dispute over a Very Italian Piglet as their next book by raving about it so much to her.

I’ve reviewed Divorce Islamic Style which you can read here but not got around to reviewing Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet yet which again is on my to-write list.


 

Anyway, hopefully this will give you all some more books to add to your TBR for 2018 and for those that have taken part, please let me know what books you’d recommend I read next year because I can never have too many recommendations!

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Book Review – A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrell Drake

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been.

She commands the might of the constellations… though her magic is as unpredictable as the die rolls that decide its fate. But star-reckoners are humanity’s first defense against divs, so if Ashtadukht is to fulfill her duty, she must use every trick at her disposal—risks be damned.

An excuse. A lie she tells herself. All that remains of a life she should have had. She travels the empire to hunt down the div that brought her world to ruin. The longer her pursuit, the more her memories threaten to consume her. The darker her obsession becomes.

Every spell is a catastrophe waiting to happen, every div a tale of its own, every tale a thread in her tapestry of vengeance. This is the story of her path… a warning to those who would follow in her footsteps.

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been. Hers is no hero’s journey.

Review:

So I received a copy of this from the author months ago and it’s taken me a while to get around to finally reading as I was saving it for the self-published square of Fantasy Bingo and was trying to not read too much on my Kindle.

Anyway, I finally decided to give it a read when I got Kindle Unlimited and realised I was about to start reading a lot more self-published novels. This book is inspired by 6th century Iran which I don’t know much about and so I am unable to tell how accurate it is, but the setting was absolutely fantastic and was definitely one of the highlights of the book and it definitely makes me want to learn more about 6th century Iran myself which I feel will only just make me appreciate this book even more!

The main plot of the story starts out with Ashtadukht wanting to hunt down the Div that killed her husband, although of course that’s not going to go that smoothly as she keeps being called off to perform her duties as a star-reckoner despite being awful at it. Ashtadukht being awful at her powers is something I really enjoyed as often the main character is incredibly skilled and so seeing her constantly fail or end up with unexpected results was very fun.

As far as writing goes, this was brilliant. It took a while to get used to the writing as the author has a tendency to use his clearly extensive vocabulary but thankfully as I was reading on my Kindle, it was easy enough to look up the unfamiliar words. This meant it was a bit slower to read for me than usual and I got distracted part of the way through which meant there was a slight gap between my reading so the beginning was less fresh in my mind when I went back to it.

One very important thing I should mention about this book is that it starts off slow but just keeps getting better. I wasn’t a big fan of it at the start but wasn’t going to give up so early and I’m glad I stuck with it and the ending, in particular, was brilliant and means I’m definitely going to want to read more by this author!

I’ve not mentioned the characters too much because we don’t know that much about them at the start and slowly learn more about them as the novel progresses and this slow introduction to them all was something I really enjoyed and so I want to save that enjoyment for other readers. One thing I will mention though is that I absolutely adore Waray and her fascination with eggs which constantly amused me throughout the book.

To conclude, despite being a slow start this is definitely worth sticking with and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you’re doing the Fantasy Bingo it’s an excellent choice as it fulfills several squares and of course is just an enjoyable read in general. It’s also nice to read a Fantasy book with a very different setting than usual. For those that are hesitant about reading self-published books, I’d recommend this as a great example of how fantastic they can be.

Book Review – A River is a Lot to Lose by Mason Frey

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Goodreads Synopsis:

An extended narrative riddle, A River is a Lot to Lose recounts the story of a small survey expedition sent to assess the roads in a mysterious backwater of the kingdom. Though commissioned to map and measure the region, the team quickly finds itself lost amongst a bizarre community of backwoods locals. Revolving from house to house through an endless carousel of trees, the crew begins to suspect they might be caught in the snares of something more sinister than the landscape alone. 

Review:

So, I got this book for free on Amazon not that long ago as a special promotion by the author and at the same time as I downloaded it, I also got all the Kindle Unlimited books I’d checked out. I actually thought this was one of them (it is on KU) and as it was short, I decided to read it so I could return it and get another book. I didn’t realise until I’d already started that it was one I owned. Anyway, that explains why the cover…isn’t the greatest to put it mildly. That being said, I’ve seen much worse covers and my main issue with it is that I’m just not a fan of that font.

So, I’ve put this down on my Fantasy shelf because the author shared the post about it in /r/Fantasy but really I’m not sure what to class it as. It describes itself as a narrative riddle, which isn’t that accurate and there are slightly otherworldly aspects which leads me to place it in Fantasy.

The basic premise is fantastic, they’re travelling down a river and then manage to lose it and get lost in the woods. I really enjoyed that and the fact they seem to keep going in circles while meeting all sorts of odd inhabitants. The ending let me down quite a bit though and it felt a bit rushed at the end.

The characters though, the characters are all very flat. It alternates between referring to them as their titles (such as the Surveyor) and using their names and to be honest it refers to them so little that I could hardly every remember their names which in a book this short and with just three main characters is…not a good sign. I can understand not wanting to refer to them too often but seriously, this was sparing at best. Another big issue I had was with the dialogue – it hardly ever mentioned who was talking other than perhaps at the start and then left it up to you to figure out who was speaking. Their personalities weren’t that distinctive enough for me to be able to recognise them based on dialogue alone and I feel this is something that really should be fixed as it was a major hindrance to my reading. I do not enjoy having to actively stop and go “Wait, who’s speaking again?” or go “Wait, who is Malory? Which one is he again?”.

The writing itself wasn’t too bad, but could definitely still use some improvement as a lot of the time, I felt the chapters could be fleshed out a lot more with more descriptions, more interaction between the characters and more insights into their thoughts. It all felt a bit shallow and constantly hinted at the potential for something much deeper – rather like how the characters themselves felt at the fact that they knew the river was there, they just couldn’t find it. One major thing too is that while reading, I noticed one very glaring mistake that should have been picked up during proofreading which was using “your” instead of “you’re” (if you’re the author and you happen to read this, it’s 17% of the way through).

All in all, this book let me down and I think I’m being harsher on it than I usually would due to the fact that I loved the concept and felt it had so much potential and could be so much more if it was just a little more polished and expanded on. That being said, if the author releases further books then I’m likely to give them a try to see how his writing has improved because there’s definitely talent there and I think this just needs a good editor to make it into a much better book.

Currently, I would not recommend this book due to the issues mentioned however I am adding this author to my to-watch list as I have a feeling once their writing improves, I’ll be a big fan.