Book Review — 5 Ingredients Quick Easy Food by Jamie Oliver

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

How often have you googled recipes only to realize that the ingredients required are five times more than the number of servings or that the time needed to prepare the dish is a lot longer than what you’re ready to invest? With Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients Quick Easy Food, you don’t need to worry about a thing! It has clear cut instructions, pictures of ingredients, so you know exactly what’s required and drool-worthy snaps of the end product. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. From basic dishes like egg fried rice and and steak sandwich to extravagant meals like smoky mushroom frittata and succulent lamb stew, this cookbook offers something for everyone. Split into 11 sections based on the nature of the dish (veg, fish, salads, sweet treats, pork etc.), this volume is diverse and incorporates different cuisines. So now, you can cook as per your mood and have a fabulous meal ready in no time! Concerned about nutrition? Flip to the very end where you’ll find tons of information about staying healthy, straight from a nutritionist.

Skim through to whichever section you prefer at that moment.

The structure and form of each recipe. Ingredients to the left, final product to the right and some basic instructions in the middle.

Made the Egg Fried Rice and Quick Steak Stir Fry.

Cooking is not one of my favourite things to do. And yet, when I had a glimpse of what this book offers, I knew I had to get a copy. I was pleasantly surprised by how everything had been made convenient for the reader. For starters, the instructions to each and every recipe are written in a simple and direct manner, that too in just a couple of paragraphs. More often than not, I’ve found that lengthy procedures make the whole ordeal even more troublesome because you have to take care of so many elements. Since the specialty of this book is that all the dishes were made out of 5 main ingredients, it was very comforting. Secondly, the structure of this book earns major brownie points. Each section has 9 – 12 recipes on average. That way you don’t need to run to the grocery store, every time you intend to cook. 85% of the ingredients are basics like eggs, sugar, meats, sauces, bread, vinegar and so on. The only thing that bothered me a little is that a select few of the sauces and vegetables aren’t as easily available where I live. Another thing that I really liked about this cookbook is that pictures of the ingredients are aligned to the left in a strip format. So you can flip through the pages and pull out recipes relevant to ingredients that you have at home.

You can’t go wrong with a cookbook that has been put together by a renowned chef such as Jamie Oliver. All of the dishes look really enticing. I’ve tried out three recipes at random, and true to the word, they have all turned out spectacular with minimal effort! *pat on the back* I highly recommend this book to everyone, even if you’re not much of a cook. Don’t be intimidated by the names of the dishes, they are as easy as can be. Get a copy and see for yourself!

What do you get out of it? You learn how to cook different cuisines with ease, while retaining the quality of the dish. Quick, quality cooking at your fingertips.

Ratings – 4.5 out of 5 stars

Thank you Penguin India for sending me this book in exchange for a review. 

Advertisements

Book Review — How To Be A Bawse by Lilly Singh

Image Courtesy – Goodreads.

Summary – Lilly Singh’s How To Be A Bawse is as much an honest representation of the star as it is a well guided recipe to cure oneself of the blues. Her words of wisdom, courage and understanding fill us to the brim with the zeal needed to pick ourselves up and keep going. Split into 50 chapters and other sections, this book takes us on a journey of revelation as to how she rose to power and popularity – none of which came easy. As consumers of media, our perception of celebrities can be deficient if not entirely skewed. Lilly opens our eyes to the gritty truth of it all. Through the course of this book, she sets us on the path towards becoming change-makers, influencers and sculptors of a better world. Glossy pages, bouncy colors and a great sense of humor make this tome much superior in comparison to other self-help books. If you wish to conquer every aspect of your life, you’ll find a whole lot of inspiration and motivation here.

Review – Ever since I discovered her YouTube channel, I have been devouring any content that she put forth. So it was but natural that I would get a copy of her book for myself. At first glance, this book appears to have been manufactured by Skittles. No, really. There are four sections, each of which are done in a particular color. Within each of these chapters contained in these sections, there are page length photos of her as well as quote prints, and chapter-end tasks. This makes it a delightful reading experience because you’re able to apply the lessons to your life actively. Her undeniable sass and wit, which we are familiar with through her videos, translates perfectly into the narration. The writing style is colloquial, emphatic and humorous. What makes this book endearing is the inclusion of personal anecdotes in plenty. In fact those were my favourite parts!

I’m super lazy and I procrastinate a great deal. Reading this book has made me less of that person. And every chapter I re-read chisels away a bit more of the lethargy. The content is so inspiring, that I no longer think of my role in this world as a minuscule one. I know for a fact that I, too, can bring about a great change. Recurring themes of this book include positivity, self-control, hustling, being grounded etc. Some of her guidance overlaps across chapters, so occasionally you find yourself reading the same thing again. But that’s actually quite necessary to drive home the point. People are familiar with iiSuperwomanii who has done great deeds, but only few know of her insecurities and concerns. It is very evident that she has poured her heart and soul into this book, to encourage other’s to not give up on themselves. The chapters speak to people suffering from lack of self-esteem, depression, despondence and heartbreak. The lessons she has learned on her journey would be useful to anyone, regardless of their stature. That being said, I didn’t agree with some points in the book. But to each their own. I would absolutely recommend How To Be A Bawse to every one. I’m going to re-read this book again and again in the future. Lilly, you’re a gift to humanity.

What do you get out of it? Unicorn kisses. Haha, just kidding! HTBAB has a feel-good factor in it that convinces you of your greater potential in life. It makes you want to dream big and then act on it. And it shows you exactly how to do it.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review — The Sacred Sword by Hindol Sengupta

Thank you Penguin Random House India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Summary – The Sacred Sword chronicles the rise of Guru Gobind Singh, a Sikh warrior to be reckoned with. At the prime age of 9 years, Gobind Rai’s childhood came crashing down when his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was assassinated by the Mughals. In order to restore the Sikh faith in the minds of thousands of people, Gobind assumes the position of guru and begins to train villagers. He builds the Khalsa, a group of extraordinary warriors who mirror the values of Sikhism and fight to defend its honor. Despite all of his successes, the northern kings underestimate his power, plotting with Emperor Aurangzeb to defeat the guru. But they too learn by experience, what it is to cross Guru Gobind Singh. Hindol Sengupta’s novel merges history and fiction to create an empowering tale.

Review – Historical fiction is one of my all time favourite genres. I have never read anything by Hindol Sengupta, so this one was a pleasant surprise. Even though the author forewarns us that there’s a good mixture of fiction in the novel, I found myself rooted to the spot with all of the events I was learning about. I have never been exposed to stories about the Sikh community. And I felt like this book was great in conveying their values, mannerisms and other sensibilities. The fact that their sayings or proverbial phrases were even translated in English was a wonderful addition. You get to understand their religious texts and their perspective about God. Naturally, religion is a major theme in this novel. It poses quite a few questions about the clashing of two religions. In light of their outlook, you find yourself evaluating certain perspectives of yours. Further, the novel also explores elements like war, blind faith etc.

The writing style is refreshing and vivid. For a majority of the novel, I was so inspired by the portrayal of Guru Gobind Singh that I could almost imagine myself as a character in the story. Aurangzeb’s depiction did him no good. I wanted to punch him every time his narcissistic persona made an appearance. The battle scenarios were invigorating to say the least. All those who aren’t familiar with Hindi or Punjabi terms, fear not; there’s a sizable glossary at the end. While the story reflects Guru Gobind Singh’s expertise, we are not made privy to how he became so well versed. I would have liked to know about his upbringing and training. That would have made the story more realistic. Some of the poetry included is truly splendid. I really enjoyed reading The Sacred Sword because it was a worthy history lesson devoid of the monotony of textbooks. It is told from the point of view of Gobind and that makes it more special. If you enjoy historical fictions, PICK UP this novel.

What do you get out of it? Invaluable lessons about loyalty, bravery, the Sikh faith and the tyranny of the Mughals. Overall, a good update on Indian history.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review — Encounters Of A Fat Bride by Samah Visaria

Thank you Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Encounters of a Fat Bride unveils the humiliation and harsh circumstances that an overweight woman has to undergo in order to find a groom in India. Madhurima Pandey has learnt to set aside her complex about feeling like the quintessential DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). While all her friends find fairytale-esque romances, Madhu has devoted her time to work and study, so as to steer clear of the reality that no man in his right mind would ever choose her. But as per societal norms, marriage is the most essential rite of initiation into adulthood. And soon, her middle class family begins to invite a bevy of eligible men in the hopes that one of them would accept Madhu into their household. Samah Visaria’s novel aptly reflects the age-old customs of dowry and arranged marriage, complete with nosy neighbors and body-shaming parents of potential grooms.

It should be noted that some people may view this novel as being offensive, but I assure you that it is not. The author, in no way, propagates discriminating against “fat” brides. She is merely trying to convey to the audience that women should be confident regardless of their physical appearances.

As lighthearted as this book is, it also approaches some very serious issues like that of fat-shaming, mental health disorder, the dowry system (wherein the family of the bride compensates the groom’s family in cash or kind for going ahead with the marriage) and gender bias. While a lot of these issues are dealt with rationally, I wasn’t comfortable with the way mental health disorders were handled. You begin to think that Madhu is a very mature and educated woman, but then her sidelining of mental instability as “retarded” or “losing it” is totally not acceptable. On the other hand, through Madhu’s strength of character, we see how other negative elements are treated strictly. Her acceptance of her body image and understanding that all genders ought to be equal attempts to remove society’s misconceptions.

What’s unique is that the chapter titles feature a countdown; so you are made aware of the ending but you don’t know how that transpires. See, there’s some mystery in there too. The author’s writing style is colloquial, humorous and incorporates few Hindi terms. There are a couple of cliches, but nothing major. She makes several references to the movie industry, juxtaposing Madhu’s behavior and feelings which made light of the situation at hand. The narration is so convincing that I’d feel just as infuriated at society as Madhu does. I mean, it is appalling that people expect you to be a certain way and if you aren’t, they rain down the most horrible comments on you. I really liked the plot because it is still so relevant. Some aspects of the story were a little over the top, but you can’t expect anything less from a dramatic character like Madhu. Her character arc sees quite a change throughout the novel. Initially, she is against the idea of arrange marriage, then tired of being lonely, she begins to crave it. Even her outlook undergoes certain essential changes. Without a doubt, Madhu’s funny quips renders the entire novel so enjoyable that I finished it in one sitting. I liked the book and I look forward to anything else the author may write in the future. You should check it out!

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review — A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

Image courtesy of Goodreads

In this Little Black Classics volume, Penguin has put together a bunch of short stories written by Jonathan Swift, whom we know for his popular work Gulliver’s Travels. While a majority of the pieces in this book is satiric in nature, I would like to draw your due attention towards the first piece  titled A Meditation upon a Broomstick. Herein, he places surprising emphasis on the life of a Broomstick, comparing its features to that of humans. His rumination of how a broomstick lives out its usefulness, much like human beings is startling, albeit true. Other texts like A Modest Proposal, An Examination of Certain Abuses, Corruption and Enormities in the City of Dublin, A Short View of the State of Ireland follow the standards of life in Ireland. His indignation at the poor state of affairs in Ireland, because of lack of policing and enforcement of laws, meddlesome countries and even the corruption within Ireland are reflected in the sarcastic tone of narration.

I rather enjoyed reading this collection of stories. While there were tons of cultural innuendos that I simply couldn’t grasp, I was definitely able to understand what was being spoken of. My two favourite pieces from this book are A Meditation upon a Broomstick and A Modest Proposal. Some may find the content of A Modest Proposal extremely horrifying as he suggests eating children to solve the problems of poverty, famine etc. But it must be understood that it is a satiric piece, and Swift is not actually suggesting that people sell/eat their children. His writing style is interesting, complete with the capitalization of letters that one wouldn’t normally use nowadays. While written as humor, some of the sections are thought provoking. And I appreciated that about his writing. I’m looking forward to reading more Irish texts. I liked this collection of stories a lot better than some others that Penguin has to offer. Although I wouldn’t recommend it as light reading. If you’re interested in Irish Literature or satire, you should give this one a try.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — Gooseberries by Anton Chekhov

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Gooseberries is a collection of three short stories written by Anton Chekhov. The Kiss features a troop of soldiers who are invited to dine with a certain General Rabbeck and follows their celebratory night at the General’s abode. In the tale The Two Volodyas, Sophia Lvovna’s dilemma, concerning life and the two Volodyas, are explored. Lastly, a story recounted by Ivan Ivanych is the focus of the tale Gooseberries.

All in all, I found this bunch of stories to be lacklustre. It was not gripping in the least bit. With every story, I kept telling myself that the next one was bound to be better. But at the end, it turned out to be not. In fact out of the three, The Two Volodyas was the decent one. I didn’t much understand Ryabovich’s musings in The Kiss. And most of what happened in the Gooseberries flew over my head. That was the extent of how disinteresting the book was. But since The Two Volodyas was bearable and the writing wasn’t bad, I did not give it a zero star rating. I’ve heard that Chekhov’s works are masterpieces and so I hope that whatever I read next will be a lot better than this.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — Mrs Rosie and the Priest by Giovanni Boccaccio

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Mrs Rosie and the Priest makes for an interesting accumulation of stories set in Italy. All the 4 tales are unique because they revolve around different themes. While in Andreuccio’s story, we glimpse the treacherous side of society; Patient Griselda depicts the strength and will power of women in those ages. Ricciardo’s misfortune which he brought upon himself is rather funny as is the witty outcome of the Priest’s bet with Rosie. There certainly was a greedy and lusty angle to these stories. Some of which made the comic timing great.

Out of all the Little Black Classics I’ve read, this was one of my favourites. It had good humor, good plots, a great deal of morals. Boccaccio’s stories were great reads but they don’t offer much in terms of cultural insight. Somehow, even the tragedies in his story could be taken lightheartedly. I didn’t have much of a problem with his characterization, except for the fact that I found Griselda to be naive as she repeatedly put her self-worth on the line. It’s commendable that she showed great strength in her demeanor towards the injustice she was facing, but it would have been more realistic had she yelled and cried than dealt with it silently. On the other hand, just when I was starting to feel bad for Andreuccio, he turned out to be a smartass. The book is definitely fun. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and so would recommend it to y’all for quick, humorous reads.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera