Winter Men – Jesper Bugge Kold

This is another of my 99p Kindle Daily Deal purchases and one that at first I regretted buying.

I started reading the book at least 3 times and then set it aside wondering what had induced me to read it.

It seemed to be about a former Nazi who had escaped to somewhere in South America, grown old and then died.  But it seemed to be being told by someone who didn’t know him other than by watching the man go about his daily routine.

Typically, I got into the book when it was just about all that was available to read on a flight.  Once I got beyond the beginning, at the end of the life of one of the main characters, the real story began.

It is the story of the Strangl family from Hamburg.  The main characters are Karl, Gerhard and August.  Karl and Gerhard are brothers and August is Karl’s son. At the beginning of the book Karl is running the family clothing business and trying to accommodate the Nazis to win contracts from them.  Gerhard is a mathematics Professor at the university and a published author of a mathematics book.  August is an introverted child ill at ease within a society that values macho-military skills.

Via different routes both Karl and Gerhard end up working for the SS and August ends up in the army.  Karl ends up on the Eastern Front managing a supply chain.  August is also in Russia and a very frightened, inept soldier.  Gerhard ends up managing the logistics of moving Jews to Concentration Camps and then working in a Camp.

Gerhard is the only one to survive and he is the man who escapes to South America, the character at the beginning of the book.

I think overall the book is inconsistent.  Some parts are absorbing and interesting whilst others you read simply to get through to the next interesting bit.  I’m pleased I read it although I probably won’t seek out another book by this author.

The bit that lingers with me is the recognition that all of these characters were complicit in the evils perpetrated by the Nazi regime but they are not monsters.  They are “normal” people sucked into doing extraordinary, dreadful things.  It’s chilling to read how easily it might happen.

Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet: My low-carb, stay-happy way to lose weight – Tom Kerridge

As a TV chef I like Tom Kerridge.  He comes across as a normal, cheerful soul who enjoys life.  I also enjoy watching his cookery programme and think his food always looks like something you’d actually want to eat.

I’ve also been really impressed with how much weight he has lost, which is partly why we bought his diet book.

It’s probably important at this stage to point out that I see cookery books as reading matter rather than a book of recipes to try out.  I occasionally have a go but not very often; I once made a New Year resolution to cook from a recipe book at least once a month.  It lasted exactly 1 month!

I did have the best of intentions to actually try some of the recipes.  The problem is that some of the best sounding dishes were the omelettes…and my partner is allergic to eggs, which makes them a no-go area.  Even the smell of them makes him ill.

The other problem is that the recipes are quite chef-y – time consuming and requiring ingredients that aren’t commonly available to non-chefs living in a rural village unless you plan well In advance.

As a book I enjoyed reading about how Kerridge created his diet to work for him and his lifestyle.  I liked the creativity he used to make sure his taste buds were satisfied by what he was eating.

As a diet I liked the fact the author was visible proof that it worked. But as a diet it really doesn’t work for two people who travel quite a distance to work and can’t be bothered to do too much to prepare and cook an evening meal when they eventually arrive home.  Neither does it really work for two people who don’t have great culinary skills.

Flesh and Blood – Patricia Cornwell

I’m sorry but this is going to be more a rant than a book review!  I used to really love the Kay Scarpetta books of Patricia Cornwell but really!  Just how many dead people can you bring back to life in one series!  And how unlucky can one person be to have all of these not quite dead people either in her life or after her life!

Each new book seems to have a storyline more preposterous than the last.  This series is getting silly and I just can’t be bothered to read any more to see if it gets back on track.

At the start of the series I thought Kay Scarpetta was a great central character.  She was portrayed as an intelligent, savvy woman with sharp instincts and skills.  She now appears to be a hopeless judge of character – my HR-focussed brain screams out that given the number of employees she’s had who turn out to be psychopaths this woman should never be allowed within 5 miles of a selection panel – and such a terrible person that half the population of the eastern seaboard are out to get her.

And, worst of all, it’s put me off re-reading the early books, which I enjoyed and were regular “comfort” reads.

Sorry, Ms Cornwell, but it’s time to retire Scarpetta before you become a laughing-stock as an author.

The Penguin Lessons – Tom Michell

A book bought on a whim simply because of the cute picture on the front.  And worth every penny!  I loved this book.

I should probably say that it is aimed at young adults so don’t expect anything too deep and meaty but it is a heart-warming, true story about a teacher who rescues a penguin from an oil-slicked beach.  Once he’s rescued the bird and cleaned it up he tries to return it the ocean but it just turns around and follows him back.

Eventually, Tom decides to try to smuggle the penguin across the border from Uruguay to the school in Buenos Aires where he is teaching.  When he gets back to the school everyone, pupils and staff alike, welcome the bird into the community.  Juan Salvador, as the penguin is named, becomes confidante, companion and confidence builder for the boys.  It is a story of how humans interact with other animals and how they respond to us.

This was the perfect book to read at the start of a new job; engaging, interesting, enough new things to learn but not too challenging.  I enjoyed it hugely, although I might have found it a bit lightweight had I read it with my brain not bent out of shape through learning my new job.

The bits of the book I didn’t enjoy relate to the beginning – I’m scared of dead birds so a description of Michell finding a beach full of them was, frankly, terrifying! – and another bit that I can’t reveal without spoiling the book for people who haven’t read it.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is interested in animals, Gerald Durrell-type books and similar or anyone who wants a cosy book to curl up with.