Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal
Genres: Fiction
Pub date: Jun. 2017 (read Oct. 2018 on Audible)

Whoa! This was WAY more intense than I was expecting and had a lot more depth. I’ve been seeing this book going around for a while nice since it was featured by Reese Witherspoon’s book club, and my book club decided to pick it for our October read.

I really didn’t know what the book was about, but based on the title I was expecting a light-hearted story and a few laughs. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows definitely delivered on the laughs, as well as copious amounts of blushing! I wasn’t actually expecting erotic stories, but I definitely got them.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is about the Sikh community living in Southall, London. It features 22 year old Nikki, who dropped out of law school, moved out of her parents house, and has been making ends meet by bartending at her local pub. She considers herself a “modern girl”, scoffing at her older sister for seeking an arranged marriage. When she sees a posting for a creative writing teacher at the temple, she applies, seeing it as a great opportunity to make some extra money and to help women. But due to a miscommunication, it turns out to be a basic English literacy class, attended primarily by Punjabi widows.

The widows aren’t enthused about learning to write and roll their eyes at Nikki’s learning exercises. But they are interested in storytelling, and in their loneliness as widows, they have a particular interest in sharing erotic stories.

There was a lot that I liked about this book. First off, the widows are hilarious and I love that Jaswal breathed such life into these (mostly) elderly characters. Society forgets about widows and seniors, especially in Southall where the women are seen as irrelevant without their husbands. There’s a limited amount of literature about elderly people and I loved how the author created these smart and dynamic characters. Sure, they couldn’t read and they were afraid of Nikki’s “modern” ways, but they were also funny, clever, and kind. They were very much mired in tradition, but the sharing of their stories was incredibly empowering for them. Reminding them of their commonalities, and the power of community, of standing up and supporting one another.

I also liked that the book had a lot more depth than I expected. Jaswal explores the challenges of breaking free of traditional, cultural beliefs, but she also explores the merits of those beliefs as well. Nikki’s feminism felt radical to the widows, and their conservatism was frustrating to Nikki, but the more they all got to know each other, they were able to realize they weren’t so different. Nikki discovered there are merits to having strong community values and a support network, and the widows discovered their own brand of feminism.

Believe it or not, this book also has a mystery element to it, as well as a romance. I liked that Jaswal kept adding additional layers to the story. While the story is mostly narrated by Nikki, some parts are narrated by Kulwinder, Nikki’s boss at the temple who recently lost her daughter. It was hard to relate to Kulwinder initially, but I enjoyed learning more of her story and where she was coming from.

While I mostly loved this book, there were a few things I didn’t like about it. I found it dragged a lot in the middle. There were a lot of erotic stories shared by the widows, but after a while I didn’t think it really added that much to the story. It also got really intense, really fast at the end, which I had trouble buying. It was a little too dramatic for this type of story and I didn’t think it fit that well with the tone of the rest of the book. I also would have liked to see a better resolution of Mindy’s attempts at arranged marriage and more growth from the brotherhood. They cast a foreboding shadow over a good part of the book, but ended up seeming not that relevant to the story. I wanted the characters to shake the brotherhood up a little bit more, although that might not have been the most realistic.

But overall I really liked this book. I listened to it as an audiobook and the narrator was fantastic! It provided some fascinating insight into Sikh culture and I really liked the dichotomy between conservative traditionalism and feminist awakening!

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A Conjuring of Light


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genres: Fantasy
Read: June 2017

 

Yes! This book was everything that I wanted from this series!

This is the third and final book in the Shades of Magic series and disclaimer, there are a few spoilers in here (I can’t figure out how to hide them in wordpress…), so maybe best to wait until you’ve read the series for this review.

For some reason I had a hard time getting into the first two books in the series. I can’t really pinpoint why – I liked the characters and I thought the writing was good, but whenever I’d put the book down I never felt anything compelling me to pick it back up again.

A Conjuring of Light still took me a fair bit longer than normal to read, but it was because I was on vacation and not for lack of suspense! The story starts right where A Gathering of Shadows leaves off and the action completely draws you in right away. I still found the pacing a bit off in places, but overall, a very fast-paced and compelling story.

The characters were everything to me in this installment. Holland has fascinated me from the start and I was thrilled to finally get the full breadth of his backstory. What do other readers think of Holland because I thought the characters were quite hard on him – he had his faults, but I totally sympathized with him and I couldn’t blame him for Osaron. Kell questions whose actions set everything in motion – his decision to smuggle vitari into his own world, his decision to send Holland to Black London, or Holland’s deal with Osaron? I couldn’t condemn either of them, but it’s a powerful testament to the power of our choices, even tiny choices, to change and influence the world.

This story had a lot of depth and boy, was it dark. I never know what to expect from Schwab, she doesn’t hesitate to kill off characters, so it’s hard to predict how things will turn out. For example, she set the story up for us to hope that Holland would be able to trap Osaron in the inheritor, leaving Kell and Lila to pursue their own happy ending. And even though this is what happened, I really didn’t know which way things would go and I wouldn’t put it past her to have had either Lila or Kell take the fall.  I loved how each character had their own strengths and weaknesses. This was consistent in all 3 novels, and I liked that Kell and Lila looked out for each other and both came to each other’s rescue depending who was having a better day.

I’ve got to hand it to Schwab for her diversity of characters, a cross-dresser and a gay love story between two major characters seems like too much to ask for in a fantasy novel, so I loved seeing both of these elements play out in this series. There was a lot of sub-plots happening in this book and it was interesting to learn more about some of the minor characters. Lila is definitely my favourite character of the lot, but I enjoyed Rhy and Alucard’s story, and the insight into Rhy’s parent’s lives as well.

A Gathering of Storms was probably my least favourite of the 3 novels and felt a bit like a filler novel. In the scheme of things I didn’t think the Essen Tach was important and I was bored with the endless fight scenes. It was good character development and relationship building, but offered little in terms of the plot. The final book in the trilogy had it all though – a fast paced plot and a ton of character growth. A redeeming novel for me!

A Darker Shade of Magic


Rating: 
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genres: Fantasy
Read: May 2017

 

I feel like A Darker Shade of Magic probably deserves more than 3 stars, but it took me a while to get into it. The book has a really interesting premise. There are 4 parallel versions of London: Grey London, Red London, White London, and Black London. Grey London is essentially our world and doesn’t have any magic. Red London is a vibrant world filled with magic, as was White London once upon a time. But Black London is also known as Dead London and the dark magic that destroyed it has slowly been leeching into White London.

Our main character, Kell, is an Antari from Arnes in Red London. Antari are the only people who can create doors and travel between the Londons. Kell acts as ambassador for the king of Arnes, travelling between London’s to deliver messages to the other reigning monarchs. On the side Kell is a smuggler, sneaking objects between Londons. But when he mistakenly transports a dangerous magical stone from Black London, he is forced to pair up with Lila Bard, a cross-dressing pirate from Grey London who is in great want of an adventure, to try and destroy the dark magic that begins wreaking havoc in Red London.

I was intrigued by the concept of multiple Londons and I really liked the diverse set of characters in this book, but I found this book to be pretty slow paced at the beginning and it wasn’t really until the halfway mark that I got into it. I was really busy while reading this one though, so I’m optimistic about the rest of the trilogy and I’ve jumped right into A Gathering of Shadows and I already think it has a much stronger start.

I loved all the characters in this book, from Kell and Lila, to Holland and the evil Dane twins. I really liked that Kell and Lila both has strengths and weaknesses and both helped each other out of scrapes. I felt like they both made so many bold and stupid decisions, but that it was realistic of two young people bumbling along trying to make the right choices and not be seduced by the power of the stone from Black London. They both had a lot of vulnerabilities and I enjoyed the honest portrayal of their characters.

I really hope Holland returns in the next book because I found his character fascinating and I would really love to learn more about his background. I liked Rhy too, but I feel I haven’t got to know enough about him yet either. Kell obviously loves Rhy and I’d like to know more about his character so that I can better understand their relationship.

There were a lot of plot points that weren’t addressed in the first novel and the story still has so much potential, so I am excited to see where it’s going to go in the next book. I’m hoping for something a little more fast paced, but I did still enjoy A Darker Shade of Magic. Onwards and upwards!