Just Read

Memory House – Bette Lee Crosby

Genre: Magical realism, women’s fiction, chick-lit

Ophelia Browne has a gift – she can relive memories made by others. She just has to place her palms to a bicycle, sleep with a watch below her pillow, carry around a ball in her pocket for a few days, and memories of the people who owned these things come rushing to her. If the memories are willing to offer themselves to her, that is. However, Ophelia is getting on in years – she is over 90 now – and knows that she doesn’t have much time left on earth. Soon enough, she has to find someone worthy to pass on her gift, someone whose soul is beautiful, someone who will believe in magic and all that she has to tell them. And then, there are the secret remedies held within the precious herbs she tends to in her garden.. those need to be passed on too. Will Ophelia find someone like that? What is she putting into motion by trying to find a potential successor for her gift? This, and more, forms the storyline of Bette Lee Crosby’s Memory House.

I had been wanting to read this book for ages, and ordered it immediately when I recently found a good deal. I did like it but, sadly, I didn’t grow to love the book as much as I had expected I would. The story is magical and enchanting, yes. The storyline is very interesting, yes. The book did keep me engrossed till the very end, but the writing felt very, very plain and simple. The story was told in a highly straightforward manner, with none of the flourishes that I have come to expect out of a magical realism book. The book starts off well, but the storyline gets more and more predictable as it progresses. It touched my heart at several places, but I failed to really connect with the characters. All in all, I would say this was a book that had a lot of potential (at least for me), but which failed to deliver a punch. Or, maybe, it is just me?

The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain

Genre: Chick-lit, translated works, women’s fiction, contemporary fiction

Parisian bookseller Laurent Letellier is going about his daily business one fine day, when he comes across a woman’s handbag on the streets. He picks it up, intending to deposit it at the nearest police station. However, circumstances force him to take the bag home, where he rummages through it so as to find some clue to locate its owner. A red notebook within the handbag catches his fancy, and he can’t help but read through it – and read through it he does, over and over again. He is struck with the urge to locate this woman who has shared her innermost thoughts in the red notebook; he is charmed by her; he is intrigued by her. What does the red notebook contain? Will Laurent be able to find its owner? And who will the owner of the bag and the red notebook be? You will find this and more in Antoine Laurain’s The Red Notebook.

With a premise like that, how do I not pick up this book? Of course I had to! Sadly, though, the book turned out to be a tad disappointing. It starts off well, and Laurent’s efforts to locate the handbag’s owner are sure to grab the reader’s attention. As the story progresses, though, I felt the storyline became too predictable, the characters a little too weird, and things starting falling into place a little too smoothly. That, sort of, put me off.

The Red Notebook is a translation from the original work in French, a well-done one at that. This is a novella, actually, one you can read through in the course of a day. Sadly, it failed to bowl me over. I’ve heard great things about The President’s Hat, French Rhapsody and The Portrait, other novellas authored by Antoine Laurain, and I’m planning to give those a shot, too. Do try this one out – maybe you’ll like it better than I did?

Have you read any of these books? What did you think about them?

What are you reading at the moment?

 

 

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Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice On Love And Life From Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed

Genre: Non-fiction, self-help, real-life, life advice

Tiny Beautiful Things is a reproduction of an advice column in The Rumpus, that used to run by the name of Dear Sugar. People would write in to the newspaper with their real-life problems, and a woman called Sugar would reply to chosen ones, with sage, practical advise. The woman, it was later revealed, was Cheryl Strayed, the author who went on to write the well-known Wild.

I don’t usually read Agony Aunt columns in newspapers and magazines and, so, didn’t think I would enjoy this book much. I picked it up solely because there were so many good reviews for the book, and I am happy I did, because it turned out to be one of the best books I have read in recent times.

Tiny Beautiful Things made me laugh out loud, gasp in horror, tear up, cry, sigh, and filled my heart with gratitude, all at the same time. It opened me up from within, made me think about my life afresh, struck chords deep within me, and made me look at the world through new eyes.

This is the sort of book I would heartily recommend to every single one of you. If there is just one book you can attempt to read in the near future, I would suggest you to make this that one.

Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop – Abby Clements

Genre: Chick-lit, fiction, foodie fiction, women’s fiction, contemporary fiction

When their grandmother Vivien leaves them her ice cream shop by the sea, Anna and her sister Imogen have no clue about what to do with it. Anna is well-settled in her corporate job, has just moved into her new apartment and is looking forward to a happy life ahead with boyfriend Jon. Imogen is happy with her boho life as a photographer in Thailand. What could they possibly have to do with Granny V’s shop? Or could they? This and more forms the storyline of Abby Clements’ Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop.

I picked up the book when I saw it at a discounted price at a store, craving for a light, easy read. And a light and easy read this did prove to be. The pages turn fast and easy, at no point stressing you out. I loved how the author has developed the characters – all with their own shades of grey and black.

The storyline, however, is way too slick and smooth. A problem just has to come up, and there’s a solution that crops up to it almost immediately. Anna and Imogen supposedly have very different temperaments, but there are absolutely no fireworks between them. The sisters are supposed to be completely inexperienced in the running of a shop and short on cash, but things miraculously fall into place… so much so that the book begins to feel like a dud after a certain point. That is exactly what happened to me.

Do check out the book if you want a simple read is what I’ll say. Just don’t expect it to be layered and complex and real. It’s a pleasant enough read if you don’t expect too much, and it will surely make you crave for some exotic flavours of ice cream in the process. It did, to me.

Have you read any of these books? I would love to know your thoughts about them!

What are you reading at the moment?

 

Book Review: Frank Goes To The Market

Frank Goes To The Market is the latest book I read with the bub.

As the name suggests, is the story of a little boy named Frank who visits the market with his mother. His mother has a lot of shopping to do in the market, and tells him to stay close to her, without wandering off anywhere. Soon, though, Frank notices a cow with bells around her neck and, attracted, starts following her. It doesn’t take him long to realise that he is lost, alone in the bustling market.

What happens next? How does Frank find his mother in the crowded marketplace? Check out my review, just in on my photo blog!

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The Lost Ravioli Recipes Of Hoboken: A Search For Food And Family – Laura Schenone

Genre: Food, Food memoir, Real life, Non-fiction, Memoir

This is a book that I coveted for a long, long, long time, and got as a surprise birthday gift from the husband, a couple of years ago. I ended up reading it only now – I really don’t know what kept me from reading it all this while. Sadly, though, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had thought I would.

Laura Schenone – food writer, blogger, mother and wife – is a good cook herself, but she cannot cook wonderful ravioli, the way her Italian great-grandmother would. This realisation sets her on a quest to find the recipe for the exact recipe for ravioli that this ancestor of hers made. It isn’t a very easy task, though – most of her ties with the Italian side of her family are either broken or strained. Laura is determined to get the recipe, come what may, even if it entails a trip (or two) to Italy, even if the quest doesn’t really make sense to her husband, even if it puts her personal relationships under stress. The Lost Ravioli Recipes Of Hoboken is Laura’s recounting of the little steps she took towards this end.

Parts of the memoir are very beautiful, I have to admit. The passages where the author tries out ravioli in Italy, musing about whether her frugal great-grandmother would have used this ingredient or that, are very touching. Her pondering about the history of certain foods is brilliant and thought-provoking. Her quest for unique, regional dishes and extremely local ingredients is admirable – I must say it alighted in me a similar passion.

That said, the author’s quest did seem to be quite obsessive in some respects. I couldn’t really understand why she made things so difficult for herself at certain points. Also, the memoir seems to go round and round, each relative of hers suggesting a possible change. In the end, there is no conclusion, I felt – no firming up of facts, no ‘real’ recipe in hand.

Overall, The Lost Ravioli Recipes Of Hoboken is a book that I entered into with a lot of expectations, which weren’t, sadly, met. There are some really good bits in the book, though, for which I’d suggest you to read it.

The Twentieth Wife – Indu Sundaresan

Genre: Historical fiction

What a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous book!

The Twentieth Wife is set against the backdrop of Mughal-era India, when Akbar is ruling, and Salim is but a mere prince, a little boy.  The book opens with a description of how fate brings Mehrunnisa, the baby daughter of a Persian refugee called Ghias Beg, to Emperor Akbar’s realm, too. Mehrunnisa and Salim grow up in the empire, each leading a life the other has no clue about. Well, Mehrunnisa has heard of Salim, of the riches of Akbar’s court, but that is that. She is intrigued by him because he is the son of someone so majestic as the King of India, but Salim has absolutely no inkling of her existence.

As the book progresses, the reader gets to know how the grown-up Salim meets the grown-up, now extremely beautiful, Mehrunnisa, a meeting ordained by fate. They fall in love with each other then, but fateful events keep them from marrying each other. Salim and Mehrunnisa’s love for each other sustains, though, and they do end up getting married, towards the fag end of the book. Mehrunnisa is the twentieth wife to Salim, who has several marriages for the sake of the empire’s politics. Salim’s and Mehrunnisa’s is a very different kind of marriage, one forged by love, in an era when princes weren’t supposed to marry for anything but the benefit of the empire.

The Twentieth Wife is a very beautifully written book, and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading of it. I drew out my reading of the book over the course of a month, savouring it little by little, because I didn’t want it to end. It is difficult to say where fact begins and fiction ends in this story, but I can tell you how compelling a read this is. In spite of being quite a long book, I was captivated from the first page to the last, entranced by the workings of the court, heart all mush at the beautiful love between Salim and Mehrunnisa, who later becomes known as Noor Jehan.

It has been quite some time since I completed this book, but thoughts of it still linger. I am still caught in the wonder that was Mughal-era India – I’m still in Mughal-era hangover, if you may.  If you haven’t read this book, I would urge you to do so. You will surely fall in love with it, too, I’m sure.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think about them?

What are you reading at the moment?

 

 

 

 

Just Read

The Lost Art Of Mixing – Erica Bauermeister

Genre: Chick-lit, women’s fiction, fiction, foodie fiction, contemporary fiction, magical realism

I wish I could write like Erica Bauermeister. Her writing has a fluid quality to it – while you read her books, you feel her words washing over you, entering you, filling you up. It wouldn’t be wrong to call her a master storyteller, someone who captures moments expertly. She can make you see the characters of her books in front of your very eyes, make you feel their pain and glee. Her books stir something deep inside you, make your heart flutter. I take my time with this author’s books, savouring them bit by little bit, prolonging my reading as much as I can, but then, there are moments when I want to gobble up large chunks of them, greedily. These feelings of mine were strengthened as I, recently, completed my latest read – Erica Bauermeister’s The Lost Art Of Mixing.

I adored the author’s The School Of Essential Ingredients, and couldn’t stop recommending it to people. The next book of hers that I read, Joy For Beginners, made me fall further in love with her writing style, but I didn’t connect as much with the book. The Lost Art Of Mixing is the third book by this author that I have read.

The Lost Art Of Mixing is a continuation of, a sequel to, The School Of Essential Ingredients. The book offers an in-depth look into the heads of all the principal characters of The School Of Essential Ingredients, all the students who take a cooking class together – Lillian, Chloe, Tom, Al, and Isabelle. You get to know the characters better, understand why they are the way they are. I loved spending time with these characters, all over again, understanding their quirks. I didn’t like all of the characters and their stories, but I loved reading about them – again, I think, something only a writer like Erica Bauermeister can achieve. Some stories were extraordinarily beautiful, some extraordinarily bizarre, but, I guess, that’s how real-life people are too.

I absolutely adored the author’s writing again, in The Lost Art Of Mixing, but it didn’t hold the same magic for me as The School Of Essential Ingredients. Like all of the author’s books, this one too doesn’t have a proper beginning and end. There’s no well-drawn-out plot. The book is, actually, a collection of moments from the lives of the characters, a collection of their thoughts. I like reading those kinds of open-ended books, but someone who doesn’t might feel frustrated with it.

I can’t describe this book any better than this. It is the kind of book that has to be read, experienced, felt, understood. I would highly recommend the same to you, after you complete The School Of Essential Ingredients.

(Do check out my interview with author Erica Bauermeister here!)

Mother’s Day – Kirsty Scott

Genre: Chick-lit, contemporary fiction, fiction, women’s fiction

Katherine is the super rich, beautiful mommy who has the glam life and always-perfect mannerism that everyone envies. Gwen, mother of three children, quit her career to take care of her babies and is frustrated with her ‘home-maker’ status and her no-longer-beautiful body. Alison is struggling to regain her foothold at her workplace after becoming mother to a baby girl. At the onset, there seems to be just one thread in common between these three, very different, mothers – the fact that their kids are studying in the esteemed Farquahar’s Academy. Kirsty Scott’s book, Mother’s Day, is about how these three women find each other and, in the process, find themselves.

I picked this book up because my gut feeling told me to. I loved the storyline, but thought it would be just another brainless chick-lit that I would use to relieve my pent-up stress in between two ‘heavy’ reads. But then, this book was so much more than chick-lit! I absolutely loved reading it.

The author has done a brilliant job of etching out the characters – they are so very real, with their real lives and problems. They definitely aren’t damsels in distress who need to be rescued, but women with brains of their own. These women are mommies, too, a part of life that I am all too familiar with and could absolutely relate to, in the book.

I loved how the book isn’t all sappy romance or high drama, but still manages to grip one’s interest till the very end. There’s raw emotion, there’s wit, there’s sadness, there are twists and turns, there’s humour, there’s romance – everything in moderation. The book made me laugh out loud at places, brought tears to my eyes at others. I loved how the author has kept the ending open, and not brought it to some abrupt, happily-ever-after conclusion. The writing style is lovely, too.

There is so much that elevates Mother’s Day to a status above ‘mere chick-lit’. I would urge you to give it a shot, too.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts about it?

What are you reading at the moment?

Mexican Chilli Chocolate Ice Cream| No-Egg, No-Churn, No-Ice Cream Maker Recipe

My desire to combine chilli with chocolate began with the reading of Laura Esquivel’s Like Water For Chocolate, I think, though I’m not sure. Since this book happened, I have wanted to make something that would combine these two ingredients – chocolate and chilli, sweet and hot – but never took an initiative towards this end. Just recently, though, this foodie dream of mine came to fruition, and my imagination took the shape of a Mexican chilli chocolate ice cream. It turned out beautifully, I must say.

Check out my recipe for the ice cream, here!

Just Read

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Genre: Magical realism, chick-lit, fiction, Southern fiction, small-town lit

The plots of Sarah Addison’s Allen’s books sound so beautiful, so magical, that I cannot help but pick them up, even though I haven’t been impressed by several of them. So far, I have liked just one of her books out of the many I have read. My most recent read by this author was The Peach Keeper, yet another read that I didn’t particularly like.

The Peach Keeper, like the author’s other books, has an interesting premise. Willa Jackson, the primary character in the book, is living a ‘settled’ life in southern America, running a camping goods store. Paxton Osgood, the other primary character of the book, has a life that many would envy – she is beautiful, always well-mannered and presentable, and belongs to a rich family to boot. The book is about how these two characters, Willa and Paxton, are brought face-to-face after years of never having talked, after having studied together in high school. There are other elements to the story too – a heritage bungalow in town that is being converted into a hotel, a grand gala in the happening, Paxton’s eccentric grandmother, Willa’s grandmother who has all but lost her memory, a cafe, a small-town setting, and a quirky barista.

There are a lot of things happening in the story, at the same time, but nothing seems to have been explored by the author in depth. Everything is touched upon in a very light, frivolous way. All of the book, in fact, reads like a piece of fluff, with no meaning at all, none of the characters really getting under your skin. The characters seem to be revolving around their old high-school selves, measuring up the other characters by their high-school selves, too, though it has actually been decades since they left high school! That felt, kind of, silly, really. The storyline, the book itself, seems rather forced rather than having flowed naturally from the author’s pen.

There’s nothing to indicate why the book got the name ‘The Peach Keeper‘ till the very end. Then too, there are just a few lines to explain it, as if it were an afterthought.

Overall, this is not a book that I enjoyed reading. It sorely lacks the bits and pieces of brilliant characterisation and beautiful story moments that I know the author is capable of.

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland

Genre: Bookish fiction, fiction, chick-lit, small-town lit

I got a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The book isn’t out yet – it will be on the stands later this year.

Lost For Words is the story of Loveday, a young woman who, on the surface, seems to have the life that all book lovers long for. She works in a bookshop, has a somewhat flexible schedule and an adorable boss, gets allowances to buy books, and has the time to read all the books she wants to. It goes without saying that Loveday loves books. Why, she even has tattoos of the first lines of some books! As the story progresses, we get to know Loveday a little bit better. We get to know why she is the recluse that she is, and why she isn’t comfortable with people.

With a premise like that, how could I resist choosing Lost For Words for review?! I did like the book, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way I had thought I would. The first half of the book is superb – it drew me in, captivated me, had me hooked to it. I was drawn into Loveday’s world, and was so deep into it that my family would have to tap me on the shoulder and gently tell me that it was time for lunch or to go to bed… The language was beautiful, the prose flowed in a lovely way, in the first half. After Loveday’s big secret is revealed, though, almost 50% into the book, the story, the language, everything seemed to go downhill for me. Then, the book began to resemble a melodramatic TV show and Loveday began to look far, far away from the brilliant recluse that she was in the first half of the story. Things begin to progress rather abruptly in the second half – after the rather laid-back scheme of things in the beginning. Things seemed to tie up way too neatly for my liking, in the end.

The book made me think a whole lot, and was, in a lot of ways, an enlightening read for me. For that, I am glad I read the book. I just wish I had been able to love the second half of it, just as much as I loved the first half.

I would still recommend the book to you, for the beauty that part of it is.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts about it?

What are you reading at the moment?

If We Were Having Coffee…

… I’d tell you of how I have started taking little, baby steps towards better health. I have been brushing certain health issues under the carpet for quite long. I haven’t been going for regular check-ups. Also, post-baby, my eating habits have been quite bad – I have not been eating healthy at all. I’ve been giving in to cravings all the time. I haven’t been exercising regularly, and am quite, quite overweight. Guilt over all of this has been keeping me up in the nights often, as a result of which I have been tired in the mornings and unable to go for a walk or exercise. Such a vicious downward spiral! I had to break it somewhere, right? I took the first step towards breaking the cycle by getting a complete health check-up, recently. The results haven’t been bad, but some stuff isn’t great either. I know just what to do to improve, now. When all the figures are before me, in black and white, on a piece of paper, it pushes you just enough to exercise and figure out ways to improve your lifestyle. I did myself a huge favour by going for that check-up. It did need a whole lot of guts to go for it, too, so, yes, I’m patting myself on the back for it.

… I’d tell you of how we have still not zeroed in on a school for Bubboo. We do have a couple of schools in mind, but haven’t finalised anything. It is freaking me out a bit more every single day. We have to step up on this, and soon.

… I’d tell you of how a few places have been calling out to me. Madurai and Madras, basically. I want to explore these places thoroughly, discover the little and big secrets their streets have been hiding. Why these two places now? I don’t really know. I think places, like books, call out to you when you are ready for them. I hope they will make the trip happen, too.

… I’d tell you of how Paati, my paternal grandmother, hasn’t been doing well. For over a year now, she’s been entirely bed-ridden, not even getting up from the bed to walk to the living room or the washroom. I can see her weakening, day by day, and it is saddening to see her like that. Every time I visit, she tells me of how she wants God to send for her now.. I don’t know what to say. Thankfully, Amma takes good care of her – having someone by your side, to help you, to care for you, in old age, is a luxury that not everyone can boast of these days.

… I’d tell you of how I started reading this book called The Art Of Hearing Heartbeats, with great expectations. Sadly, though, the book is super-disappointing. I can’t wait for it to end, so I can get on with reading something better. Sigh!

… I’d tell you of how I have just been unable to write. I mean, I can write book reviews and stuff about food, but nothing that really, really moves me. Nothing comes even when I try to keep my mind open, and sit with the keyboard and a blank document on the ready, waiting for the words. I feel blocked in that sense. I so want this to change!

… I’d tell you of how Bubboo amazes me every day, with all her questions, all the stories she conjures up, all the things she soaks up from her day-to-day life. It feels like just yesterday when she was a tiny, mewling, breast-feeding baby. She’s now a little girl, ready to go out into the world. Will I ever get used to just how fast she’s growing?

… I’d tell you of how, on the foodie front, I am continuing to do experiments in my kitchen. I’m trying to walk the fine line between ‘being a foodie’ and ‘eating healthy’. 🙂 There are some lovely recipes that I can’t wait to put out on the blog. Wait and watch!

… I’d tell you of how, lately, I have been thinking a lot about Bubboo’s growing-up years. I mean, when she is nine or 10. I’m sure parenting then won’t be just about feeding her the right food, bathing her, getting her to bed on time, or making sure she gets enough physical exercise. It is going to get a whole lot more complicated, and that is scaring the living daylights out of me! The book that I am reading now, a yet-to-be-released one called Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland, is causing this feeling, largely. I hope we do a decent job of parenting Bubboo through the years!

… I’d tell you of how the OH and I recently celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. We had a simple, homely celebration, that included a lovely lunch at Nasi And Mee. He got me some little things I wanted to experiment with (read: soaps, chocolates and some other foodie stuff). I’m yet to get him his gift. Boring, eh? But we had fun! 🙂

… I’d tell you of how all my days feel like a blur. I don’t really know what I’m doing all day long, but the time seems to pass really, really quickly. At the end of the day, I am amazed that the day is actually over! I so want to add some meaning, some more charm to my days. I don’t want them to pass, just like that!

… I’d also ask after you and your loved ones. How has life been treating you lately? What have you been up to?

**********************

For Weekend Coffee Share, an interesting meme here. Do check it out!

Just Read

The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi

Genre: Fiction, contemporary fiction, Indian author

This book came to me by chance. I would say it found me, as if it knew that this was the exact time when I should read it. 🙂 I was browsing through some book blogs and came across a good review for this book and, considering that I am in the mood for foodie books these days, I picked up a copy immediately. I have to say that this is my first book by this author – I have never read anything by Amulya Malladi before.

Priya, a young girl from a conservative Telugu Brahmin family, goes to America, just because she wants to escape her routine life at home. In the US of A, she finds a home, friends, work and makes a life for herself. In the process, she also gets involved with an American boyfriend, Nick, with whom she has been living together for the past two years. Now, after seven long years, it is time to return to India, and Priya is faced with more than one dilemma. How much would India have changed in these seven years that she has been away from home? How on earth would she tell her family about Nick? How would she ever end up escaping the trap of arranged marriage that her parents were sure to set up for her? All this and more makes up the story of The Mango Season.

I must say the author has a lovely, simple, fresh style of writing that makes the book a fast read. I loved how the author has etched the characters of Priya and each one of her family members, evocatively, so that you can imagine everyone in your mind. I loved how the book is well written, in spite of the very Hyderabadi phrases used in it, several times over – at no point of time does the book begin to feel colloquial or boring or not understandable. In fact, these phrases just add to the overall feel of the story.

I especially liked how the author has depicted Priya’s internal struggles – she has done a wonderful job with showing the turmoil of a woman who has almost left behind the shackles of society, but not quite. I loved the parts where the protagonist tackles the overwhelming sights and sounds and experiences of India with a bittersweet feeling, after so many years of having been away. I loved how the author has shown the protagonist maturing, in the short span of her vacation to India, her coming-of-age of sorts. The book also depicts how India, as a whole, is changing, too, and I liked that. Last but not the least, I loved the backdrop of the mango pickling season that the book is set against.

This book could easily have been a limp, dull piece of prose, with yet another heroine who is afraid to tell her family about her life away from home. I can’t be more thankful that the author for not turning Priya into that kind of woman.

The Mango Season did feel quite dramatic at times, like something straight out of a Hindi movie, but that can be quite easily forgiven as compared to the, overall, good experience that I had with the book. And, yes, I know conservative Indian families do have that tendency of becoming overly dramatic, at times, if not always.

So, this is definitely a book that I would recommend. I am going to look out for more books by this author, for sure.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Come Into My Kitchen by Ranveer Brar

Genre: Non-fiction, cookbook, foodie memoir, Indian author, food, memoir

I had been quite keen on picking up this book, ever since I attended an event by Chef Ranveer Brar. It promised a peek into his growing-up years, as well as some very interesting fusion recipes. Sadly, though, the book turned out to be a disappointment.

The ‘memoir’ part of the book is very brief, just an outline of Ranveer’s life in general and how he grew in his career. There could have been a lot more depth and colour to it, but this section just read bland. The language used in the book is very colloquial, the kind of ‘Boss‘ and ‘Arre‘ talk that you would use with a friend, not what you would expect from a book of this magnitude, sadly. The book could have done with tighter proofreading and editing as well. Also, the memoir section of the book would have been better off with colour pictures from the author’s life, depicting the major events from his life, but the few black-and-white pictures that have actually been used just don’t cut it.

As for the ‘cookbook’ part of it, the recipes were interesting, yes, but the formatting wasn’t great. Some of the headings and subheadings seemed to be mixed up, with recipes including chicken and egg indicating ‘vegetarian’ protein content. The food photography is good, but the photographs are clumped together in one part of the book, while the recipes are elsewhere. It would have been nice to have the a particular food picture along with the recipe for the same, especially in case of new-to-India stuff like cannoli. The descriptions of each of the recipes included here could have been much, much better, too.

I might try out some of the recipes from the book, but the memoir part of it is just forgettable. To be honest, the memoir part has a whole lot of potential; I feel it wasn’t explored at all.

Overall, this isn’t a book I would recommend. 2.5 out of 5, I would say.

The First Book Of 2017…

… is finally done and dusted!

The book in question is Tiffin by Rukmini Srinivas.

Rukmini Srinivas’s Tiffin, as the name suggests, is all about ‘tiffin’, snacks that are served as breakfast or in typical South Indian households at 4 PM, with a cup of filter coffee. This is a cookbook-cum-memoir, with the author narrating anecdotes from her life, all revolving around tiffin time. Being a staunch vegetarian herself, she has has included only vegetarian recipes in the book, Indian as well as fusion.

I quite liked the book, though I would have loved to see some more depth in it. Most of the situations the author has written about seem to be good – there is nothing dark or challenging or difficult, mostly. I would have liked to see the inclusion of that in the book, too, but then I understand that this is not the author’s autobiography (she has explicitly mentioned the same); this is a book of anecdotes revolving around tiffin.

The anecdotes are written in typical Indian English, which I both liked and disliked. On one hand, it gives the feel of a grandmother talking to you, telling you about her life. On the other hand, I couldn’t help feeling that the language could have been better. The book could surely have done with tighter proofreading and editing – I think that would have worked wonders for it! The food photography, too, could have been better. There are no captions for the food pictures in the book, so you are left to figure out which recipe each picture refers to (not that that is too difficult for a person used to Indian tiffin items, but still). Also, there is no cataloguing of recipes in the book, so you need to flip through all the pages to find something in particular.

In spite of my little grouses with the book, I would say I still enjoyed reading it. It is a light, simple read that doesn’t stress the brain. There are charming black-and-white photos of the author and her family. Some of of the anecdotes are interesting, especially those about the author’s travels, cooking and the availability of ingredients in the pre-Independence era, but most are, sadly, just about been-there-eaten-that.

Many of the recipes in the book are good. I like how the author has suggested substitutes for certain cooking techniques that might be difficult for newbie cooks – using condensed milk to thicken a kheer, for instance, rather than cooking milk for ages. She has also advised how to ‘stagger’ certain complicated recipes – how to make the dish in parts, over a couple of days’ time, so that one is not overwhelmed with the process on a single day. The recipes could be of immense help to someone new to cooking, I think. I am, for sure, going to be trying out some of them.

Overall, this turned out to be a book that I liked, but didn’t love for various reasons. 3.5 out of 5, I would say.

Have any of you read this book? What are your thoughts about it?