Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
Genres: Fiction
Pub. Date: Jan. 2022 (read Mar. 2022 on Audible)

So far 2022 is turning out to be the most off brand reading year for me. I feel like I’m reading a lot of different type books than I normally do and I am loving it! Whatever the opposite of a book slump is, that has been my 2022 so far! 

Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? is maybe a little less off brand than some of my other reads and I was drawn to it because it sounded a lot like Queenie. It’s definitely a different book than Queenie, but like Queenie, it has been compared to Bridget Jones, and also like Queenie, people are pissed about the comparison. Honestly, it seems like everything is compared to Bridget Jones these days, but I disagreed with the haters about Queenie and I disagree with the haters about this one too. In my opinion, Yinka has the most similar voice to Bridget Jones, while solidly still being her own original character. Yinka has the self deprecating humour or Bridget, without being quite as self sabotaging as Queenie.

Yinka, Where is your Huzband? is set in London and features a British-Nigerian family. Yinka grew up in Peckham, is Oxford educated, and has a great job in investment banking. Unfortunately, despite her career success, she’s still seen as the black sheep of her family because she is in her 30’s and still not married. While her sister, cousins, and friends are getting married and having kids, Yinka hits a tough spot at work and struggles to get over her last relationship. For the most part, she is content with who she is, but the repeated pressure and embarrassment from her family to settle down spurs her to make a plan to do whatever it takes to get a date to her cousin’s upcoming wedding.

I read this as an audiobook and it did take me a little while to get into it. Things aren’t too bad for Yinka at the start of the novel, but they slowly start to fall about and the more she tries to fix things, the worse it seems to get. There are a lot of cultural expectations placed on her and it’s sad that while her family is very proud of her achievements, she is still seen as a failure for being unmarried and childless. Her mother’s greatest fear for her is that she will be an old maid who never gets married, as if marriage is the pinnacle of achievement. I thought it was a great look into the Nigerian diaspora in Britain and I both loved and was extremely frustrated by Yinka’s family, especially her cousin. Yinka gets shit on a lot, and while she had some growing to do, I do think her outbursts and anger were entirely justified.

Like I said, this is a more subtle book than Queenie. Whereas Queenie drowned her pain and depression in abusive sexual relationships, Yinka is still looking for her Prince Charming and tries to change her looks and personality to be more attractive to the men in her life. She has a deep rooted insecurity about being dark skinned and equates her self worth and beauty with not having lighter skin. She disappears into trying to be who she thinks other people want her to be, yet I admired that there were still some things she wasn’t willing to compromise on. Faith is a key part of this novel and Yinka isn’t willing to compromise her decision to remain chaste until marriage. Sometimes it felt a bit preachy, but I feel we don’t often see characters like this in mainstream literature, so I liked that it was different. Plus Yinka was never pushy about her faith.

I wish this book wasn’t being marketed as a romance though. I kind of knew going in that it wasn’t a romance and I liked that instead it’s a book about learning to love and take care of yourself. But if you’re going into this looking for romance, you will likely be disappointed. That said, I had whiplash from how many romantic interests are presented throughout the story. I kept trying to guess who Yinka was actually going to end up with, but in the end it didn’t really matter because it’s not really what the book is about. 

As with any kind of book like this, I think some people will struggle with Yinka’s character. I really liked her and found her struggles to be very relatable. I understood the complicated relationships she had with a lot of her friends and family, but loved that she also had some solid relationships in her life too, namely Nana and Auntie Blessing. Her relationship with her cousin (I can’t remember her name now… Oola? Oona?) was really frustrating, but I liked the exploration of how friendships can turn toxic and how family dynamics can create unhealthy and competitive environments with the people we should love. Her cousin is looked down on by her mother for not having an education, while Yinka is looked down on by her mother for not having a husband. It’s hard for anyone to feel good about themselves and it really pitted the two cousins against one another. 

So there was a lot I liked about the book, but there were also some things I didn’t like, the first of which was Yinka’s career trajectory. It was tiring how everyone kept pushing Yinka to switch careers – on the one hand, it’s great to have friends that encourage you to pursue something you’re passionate about, but I didn’t really get the vibe that Yinka was passionate about helping the homeless. It just read more to me that the author thought there is something inherently wrong with being an investment banker and that Yinka should so something more “meaningful” (as is constantly preached to us through characters like Dominic). I don’t like attaching this kind of social or moral value to jobs because most people aren’t privileged enough to have the luxury to choose since, like Yinka, their number one priority is paying the bills. Working for a homeless charity is great if that’s what you really want to do, but it doesn’t necessarily make you make you a better or more virtuous person.

In addition, I feel like Yinka was chastised a little too much for changing and experimenting with herself. Like I get the whole “be true to yourself” thing, but I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with trying new things. Like, if Yinka wants to try having a weave or learn to make Nigerian food, is that really so bad? She shouldn’t suppress and lie about who she is, but I felt she was unfairly criticized for trying something new. The poor woman just lost her job, let’s cut her a bit of slack.

Likewise I didn’t blame her at all when she freaked out at her cousin and I was a bit annoyed at Nana for her whole “you’re better than this” speech. I think that kind of attitude likely goes back to the whole Christianity aspect, that you should always self-sacrifice and take the high ground, but Yinka’s cousin was a bit of a bitch and honestly I was glad to see Yinka stand up for herself. I just feel like everyone held Yinka to an unreasonably high standard and she was always in the wrong in every interaction.

For example, you’re not a bad person for having a few drinks because you’re sad and then showing up drunk at your sister’s house. If anything I was pissed that her sister was only concerned about Yinka exposing her apologetically drunk self to her newborn baby and then putting her in a cab home. How about instead, she have an honest conversation with Yinka about what’s going on in her life and how she is coping with being jobless and husband-less in such a toxic and challenging family environment. Only one of the two sisters was being a jerk in that interaction and it wasn’t Yinka. So give me a break, Yinka was only in the wrong half the times she was made out to be. So overall, I found it to be a bit too preachy and felt the rest of Yinka’s family could also do with a bit of personal growth.

But it did feel real. The author accurately captures the unfair pressures we put on women and how we de-value each other based on social achievements and milestones. Single women can be just as fulfilled as married women, as can childless women be just as fulfilled as mothers. It was a good exploration of the pressures women face and how sometimes the easiest way to achieve happiness is through self reflection and acceptance. Overall, the novel had some flaws, but I still enjoyed reading it and admired Yinka for her perseverance and personal growth. 3.5 stars.

A Treacherous Curse


Rating:
⭐⭐⭐
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genres: Historical fiction, Mystery
Pub. Date: Jan. 2018 (read Feb. 2021)
Series: Veronica Speedwell #3

Okay, so I’m really on the fence about this one. I liked the content and series development in this book more than the last book (A Perilous Undertaking seemed a bit like a side mystery to me and didn’t really advance the series plot that much), but I struggled to get into it at the beginning.

A Treacherous Curse has a compelling enough mystery, but it starts off so slow. After Veronica and Stoker start investigating, the first half of the book is basically just them interviewing people with very little action. If you like getting into the details of trying to get the mystery, you might enjoy it, but I just found it slow and kind of boring. But then in the second half the book really picks up and I ended up enjoying it more than the last book. There’s a lot of action and I thought the actual mystery was super clever.

What I did really like about this book though was the character development. We finally get some of Stoker’s backstory!! The first book is all about Veronica and the second book feels like a bit of a dead weight in terms of character development, but we learn all about Stoker’s history in this book, which I found a lot more engaging. It was the main factor that propelled me through the first half of the book cause I was so enthralled with what happened with Caroline.

But damnit Raybourn, I need some more romance in this series please! I mean, it’s totally clever to draw out the tension between your characters, but I’m a little obsessed with Veronica and Stoker and I need to see a bit more action here!

So overall, 4 star character development, 3 star pacing. Was on the fence if I would continue the series, but I’ve been convinced and just ordered the next two!

A Perilous Undertaking


Rating:
⭐⭐⭐
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pub. Date: Jan. 2017 (read Jan. 2021)
Series: Veronica Speedwell #2

I don’t have too much to say about this sequel, but I want to write a short review.

It’s impossible to deny that A Perilous Undertaking didn’t have quite the same charm as A Curious Beginning. Everything about the first book is just so delicious – the blending of genres and our quirky, progressive, mystery solving heroine are so fun and unique. I laughed a lot and thoroughly enjoyed reading about the hi-jinx Veronica and Stoker got up to.

A Perilous Undertaking definitely kept me laughing. This is basically a mystery novel set in the late 1800’s about a secret aristocratic sex club. Like wow! Raybourn definitely knows humour! So while I was along for the ride, this book didn’t spend as much time on the personal history of our characters, which I lamented. In A Curious Beginning, Veronica is right in the thick of the mystery and it was a shocking one. Her connection to this mystery was a lot looser and this was more of a “Veronica and Stoker as consulting detectives” scenario.

I still liked it, I laughed, I’ve since read the next book, but it didn’t have quite the same magic as the first book. However, if you love mysteries, you’ll probably still really enjoy these. I tend to read more historical fiction and lit. fiction over mysteries, which may be why I wasn’t as enthralled with this one. Either way, still a great series!

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!

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!