Fast food Nation review -Eric Schlosser

If we are what we eat, then we are totally doomed. That is the message of Fast Food Nation. According to Schlosser fast food is destroying us: communities, work and family life, and indeed, our very connections with the world. A huge blame but one he completely validates with research and facts in the book.

In fact how’s this for scary? Americans drink soda at the annual rate of 56 gallons–or nearly 600 12-ounce cans– per capita. McDonald’s employs about 1 million people in the US, more than any other organization, public or private. McDonald’s earns the majority of its income not from food sales, but from rental income from its vast property holdings. The golden arches that signify the firm are arguably the best-recognized symbol across the world, rivaling even the Christian cross. Frightened? You should be as there more facts like these in the novel to jolt you out of eating that burger for lunch.

Written in an engaging journalistic prose the book is easy to read and once you begin to read about the horrors of the fast food industry you will be hooked on it just like you are hooked on the chips you are so fond of. Schlosser takes up the industry’s little-known practices that keep us addicted: chemicals that are added to flavour the burgers, fries, and milk-shakes and practices like frying potatoes in fat that is 7% soy oil and 93% beef tallow that will turn you off fast food forever.

For me the most engaging part of the book dealt with the suppliers of fast food- the meatpacking industry–and their social and health impacts. Conspiracies and scandalous fraudulent cases are documented in the book committed by industry leaders in price-fixing, cheating, and under-representing worker injuries and safety violations.

With the junk that goes into the food in fast food restaurants it’s no wonder that nations are reporting higher increases of obesity.

Schlosser is a winning, detail-oriented writer who vividly paints pictures that stay with you for days; for example the mistreatment of animals haunted me for days. The descriptions of how the food is made and what it contains sickened me beyond belief and made me realize that that quick bite isn’t really worth my health.

Schlosser also attempts to proposes solutions to change the industry so it doesn’t completely leave you feeling depressed.

But if I were you I would definitely check out this superb book that has altered my cravings for fast food and nearly convinced me to turn into a vegetarian. Once again we can choose what we are by what we eat, read the book, it will change your eating habits forever! A definite must read.

 

 

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Gregory David Roberts’ ‘Shantaram’ A cure for insomnia

‘Shantaram’ at one point was the ‘it’ novel that everyone wanted to read as it was supposedly life-changing, terribly insightful and a great read.

But its large size always daunted me and instead I used it as an uncomfortable pillow on a road trip which doubled into an ankle relaxing stool. Thanks to a delayed flight I had no choice but to get down to it.

‘Shantaram’ is the fictionalized account of the real life adventures of author Gregory David Roberts. The narrator is a man called Lin, who escapes from an Australian jail and arrives in Bombay, with a fake New Zealand passport.

He meets a taxi driver named Prabaker, who helps him tour the city, the slum and even helps him acquire a hut in the slum. Being a do-gooder Lin helps the slum by setting up a free clinic and by applying basic first aid to patients he helps them more than the local corrupt government hospitals.

But Lin isn’t a complete saint and to make money he sells drugs to tourists which garners him attention from local gangsters.

In ‘Shantaram’ which is his Marathi name, Lin falls in love, nearly dies in an Indian prison and even goes to war in Afghanistan. Sounds like a Bollywood film doesn’t it? The fact that he does it all- even appearing in a Bollywood film- made the story a bit farfetched and slightly unbelievable for me.

There are also many memorable and cheesy metaphors in the novel that made me laugh. His love-making with Karla was described as:  ”My body was her chariot, and she drove it into the sun. Her body was my river, and I became the sea’ ‘which sounded like a quote from a Harlequin romance.

However the powerful philosophies Lin churns out like ‘the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life’ make the book a somewhat worthwhile read if you like being preached at.

Sadly Roberts did occasionally bore me with his trivial writing especially when describing characters and giving them stereotypical, annoying 1 physical characteristic like Karla’s green eyes, Vikram’s cowboy hat, Khader’s yellow eyes and Prabaker’s big smile.

Unfortunately it didn’t change my life, or give me insight into life’s intricate problems nor did it produce many ‘AHA’ moments but before the fans guillotine me I will say that In the end it was an interesting and entertaining read but It took me longer than a weekend to read and it did drag every now and then-which is when I used the novel to squash bugs.

Nicholas Sparks- Dear John

I have always been a Nicholas Sparks fan, ‘The notebook’, ‘A walk to remember’ and ‘Message in a bottle’ are romantic and now ‘Dear John’ joins the rest.

It’s a story intertwining themes of young love, a father- son relationship, Aspergers autism, the army and magnetic love between opposites that urges even the most cynical to read on .

John Tyree , the main character, meets Savannah Curtis on a beach in North Carolina whilst on leave from the military. Very dramatically he dives into the ocean after her purse to save her from financial ruin, it is indeed a meeting that Hollywood dreams are made of.

Savannah is a college student at the time and is volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. She is a dream come true for lost, rebellious John and soon their love blossoms. In a span of two weeks she helps John mend his tumultuous relationship with his father and discovers that Johns father has Aspergers Autism (The cynic in me found this pretty unrealistic). John goes back to the army and Savannah to college but their bond is stronger than distance and they communicate with letters to each letters hence the title ‘Dear John’. Everything is quite hunky dory until September 11th changes everything.

Yes some of the twists and turns are predictable like in any romance novel but the story does touch an emotional cord within the reader. Plus having relatable characters helps the reader to form a friendship with the characters. When John’s heart is broken you cry for him and when he feels joy, you want to punch a fist in the air with jubilation.

The language did get a bit flowery and poetic for me at places but it is a romance novel so read it expecting cheesiness. Romance is always difficult to write and thankfully Sparks doesn’t trigger your gag reflex, nor does it get too mushy or encompass the Danielle Steel tackiness.

Despite it’s predictability the end is very different and a wee bit depressing but Savannah opens John up to a myriad of experiences and teaches him that life is about living, loving, sacrificing, giving and rejoicing. It does end on a romantic note at least and with the message -that love transforms us forever.

In the end you will enjoy it for its light reading as well as the fast paced writing style, plus if you like sappiness delivered with a bit of meat then this is the ideal novel for you. I recommend you read it with a glass of wine, some chocolate and a box of tissues.

3
stars

Get it from Simply Books- ABC  place

PUBLISHED  in The Star September 2010

Eat Pray Love –Elizabeth Gilbert

When I found out that Julia Roberts latest film was adapted from a novel, and endorsed by Oprah I went looking for it at my favorite bookstore and I wasn’t disappointed.

If you are looking for a writer’s irresistible, candid, and eloquent account of her pursuit of worldly pleasure, spiritual devotion, and what she really wanted out of life the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ is for you.

Around the time Elizabeth turned 35 she went through a depression. She had everything she was supposed to have- a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. So she went through a divorce, a depression, and decided to take a journey around the world for a year on her own.

Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. She learns about pleasure and food in Italy, spiritual devotion in India and falls in love in Bali.

I loved it for its honesty, wit, charm and pure entertainment. It’s a memoir of self-discovery that I needed to read to love myself all over again and to learn that change is good and should be taken positively and that you truly love when you stop caring about society’s ideals. However don’t use it totally for self-help, it helped me personally but might connect differently with you.

Writing about self discovery is always difficult because if you take yourself too seriously you become a bore and if you are too light hearted then you come off as flippant. But Gilbert blends both making her the most likeable writer and not in the least self-indulgent. She writes “my one mighty travel talent is that I can make friends with anybody,” she writes. “I can make friends with the dead. . . . If there isn’t anyone else around to talk to, I could probably make friends with a four-foot-tall pile of Sheetrock “and true to form-she makes a friend out of her reader as well.

She’s enlightens us about different places and not in your usual boring -tour -guy -droning -on -and -on kind of way. For example she describes Messina, Italy, as “a scary and suspicious Sicilian port town that seems to howl from behind barricaded doors, ‘It’s not my fault that I’m ugly! I’ve been earthquaked and carpet-bombed and raped by the Mafia, too!’ ”

It’s quick and easy to read, humourous, not whiny and Gilbert tells you where to find the best pizza in the world.

Even better is that Gilbert rescues herself from her life and doesn’t need or use a prodigal Prince on his white steed to save her. So rescue yourself from boredom by reading ‘Eat Pray Love’ as it’s truly nourishing.

5 stars

Get it at: Simply Books-ABC place, Waiyaki way

PUBLISHED  in The Star September 2010

Who will cry when you die???

 

I was one of those few rare people who thought ‘The monk who sold his ferrari’ was beyond boring. Sure it made sense but I honestly didn’t see what the fuss was about. So when a workmate was gifted Sharma’s ‘Who will cry when you die’ I was not too impressed until I began reading it.

Sure the title is morbid, but being eccentric I have asked myself this question at my darkest moments and know you have too. In fact if you have ever felt like life is whizzing past you so rapidly that you might never get the chance to live with the meaning, happiness and joy you know you deserve then worry not, as the supposed guru addresses these fears and guides you on the best way to live your life in a not too preachy way.

It’s an easy-to-read manual filled with wisdom as Robin S. Sharma offers 101 effortless solutions to life’s most intricate problems. It has truly changed my life-read the chapter on neighbors, my personal board of directors and sleeping less. Sharma made me realize how precious each day is in my life and how grateful I should be for all that I receive during the day. And miraculously his chapter on Anger has helped me deal with my anger management issues.

It’s also not just another self-help book. It’s full of small ideas and strategies that you can start applying in your life from today.

I won’t spoil if for you by divulging most of the details as it is something you must read to nourish your soul. But I will impart some of his wisdom before I leave you: Stop complaining and start living, Think big, Be Unorthodox, Be more than your moods, imagine a Richer Reality, Become the CEO of Your Life and Keep Your Cool: “Anyone can become angry- that’s easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy”.

 

Get it at Simply Books- ABC Place, Waiyaki way.

‘Zorro-the novel” more than a swashbuckling hero on his noble steed

 

Zorro.jpg

I have always had the hugest character crush on Zorro and the image of a sexy, smart, heroic, witty and charming character is fully reinforced in Isabel Alllende’s ‘Zorro-the novel’. Allende finally helps us meet and know the person behind the legend.

 You learn about the boy and his journey to becoming the Zorro we all know today. You finally understand why his brother/ side-kick Bernardo is important to de la Vega’s yearning for justice and his protective stance toward California’s Indians. And you finally understand his hatred for childhood nemesis, Rafael Moncada, and what happened for him to detest him into adulthood.

Born Diego de la Vega in 1795, Zorro is the son of a Spanish soldier-turned-don and his Native American wife. The young Zorro grew up heavily influenced by his grandmother, a Native American shaman and his “milk brother”, Bernardo. Due to these roots he adopts the title of Zorro from his totem and his spirit walk and so you understand why the character is cunning and outfoxes his enemies (Zorro is fox in Spanish)

Despite his class, wealth and privileges, Diego’s ties to the natives instil in him a hunger for justice. And when he is sent to Spain for his education he joins a secret society, La Justicia, that battles oppression and teaches him most of his fighting and sword skills that help him become a successful Zorro. In fact Zorro is born in Spain and he fights his first battles for the persecuted here.

But he returns home to California in good time to defend his Native people

What is intriguing about the novel is the unidentified narrator who tells the story (which becomes a ‘twist’ in the end) and you learn about his early days in conversation with yourself and the narrator. While this style of writing tends to slow down the pace at times it helps to cover the vast terrain of his life ensuring you don’t end up nodding off.

What I truly loved is the connection he has with Bernardo and his Native Family as it makes his struggle more real and personal. You finally understand his passion for the people as they are his roots and he isn’t a noble saint out to protect the masses-well maybe to an extent he is, but at least you know why he becomes the legend!

Sometimes it does get a tad bit sentimental, awkward and exaggerated but then again so did the film. Another negative was his grandmother White Owl who seemed a bit too New Age and gaga.

In the end Zorro is more than a swashbuckling adventure as it adds more depth to the character we have grown up watching but never understood. It is engaging and action-packed and Allende creates an engaging and real hero that might be based on a Hollywood version but is still relatable and not just cute accent and great bottom. It is fabulous action fiction and I recommend you read it with a bowl of popcorn and not be tempted to carve out your own z into your arch rival (I have to admit I was sorely tempted- En garde!)

Get it at Simply Books, Waiyaki Way, ABC Place.

The Blind Side-Michael Lewis

   Buy The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

As ‘with it’ with the entertainment world as I am you can imagine my surprise when I found out that the Oscar winning ‘The Blind side’ starring Sandra Bullock was actually a novel. In fact I can say It blindsided me when I stepped into my favourite bookshop at ABC Place and saw it displayed there in all it’s novella glory.

Despite having watched the film, the critical nerd in me bagged it wanting to see if the book was indeed better than the film (I love deducing that in the Harry Potter films).

I can safely tell you that the book in this case is indeed better than the film. This is because you can instantly tell it is a true story without the Hollywood tint and haze making Michael Oher more real to you. Lewis magnificently unites the sports world, family life, human fallibility and the business world making it an easy enjoyable read.

Oher’s story becomes more compelling when you read about it as you get snippets of his life that you never got when you watched the film. It is pretty much the same story you watched about a boy from an underprivileged life being adopted by a white family who adopt him as their son and help him become the best NFL player-well nearly the best.

Just like the film it is a feel-good story but doesn’t get over the top inspiring as Lewis keeps it grounded with humour and constantly brings in the issues of race and class reducing the Rah Rah in the novel.

Lewis’s characters are real, quirky and my favourite part is when an NCAA investigator tells Sean Tuohy she can’t believe some of his answers, Sean says, “Ma’am, I hate that it baffles you. But all you asked me to be is truthful. You didn’t ask me to be smart.”

The dialogue continues to be witty and crisp and the scenes are concise and don’t drag. However there were times when the football got too much and I wanted to stop reading. The key is to skip a few pages to get back to the good bits.

Even if you have watched the film, the novel is worth a read and is a novel truly top of its game.

Get it at SIMPLY BOOKS, ABC PLACE, waiyaki way

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