November was a stressful month. The injury that sidelined me for the last half marathon of the season continued to plague me & myself but I pushed through it – ran 70 miles for the month. I don’t think I have ever mentioned this here but…back on January I was a dumbass and agreed to a 1000k challenge. By November 1st I had 267k left to go. I’m now down to 151k. Almost 100 miles. But enough of that. It stresses me out to even think about it.
Here are the books finished for November:
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. I thought of this as a short story because it’s less than 100 pages long.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
- The City and the City by China Mieville (AB)
- Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – confessional: I knew that a fictional political book might bore the crap out of me but what I didn’t expect was outright disgust after the election. I couldn’t stomach the contents of Advise and Consent.
- Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. (AB)
- Love Songs From a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill
- Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles
- Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen
- Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn (audio and print)
- Baby Doctor by Perri Klass
- The Fifties by David Halberstam
Postscript: it came in too late for me to mention here, but I DID get that Early Review book that I was pining for. I’ll review it next month.
Cotterill, Colin. Love Songs From a Shallow Grave. New York: SoHo Press, 2010.
Reason read: I started this series in May 2016 in honor of Laos and Rocket Day. It’s with mixed emotions that I announce this is the last book on my list. While the series goes on for me, it ends here.
Dr. Siri is just trying to watch a movie with his lovely wife, Madame Daeng, when he is rudely called away to examine the naked body of a young female security officer found in a sauna with an epee through the heart. In quick succession two more women are found murdered in the same manner. Dr. Siri can’t just be the national (and reluctant) coroner. He needs to find out who did this before the wrong man is condemned in public court. There is one problem, Dr. Siri is the only one who believes they have the wrong man and he’s locked up in a Cambodian prison.
It is always great when a series has strong supporting characters that only get stronger with each installment. Madame Daeng, Inspector Phosy, and best friend Civilai are back.. Even Mr. Geung, Dr. Siri’s assistant, is in the action. We learn in this installment that he gets his hair permed by Nurse Dtui.
Quotes I liked or laughed at: “To find a young crocodile with a good mind among the flock of flamingos was a rare delight” (p 8) and “Not knowing what’s going on makes my teeth curl with frustration” (p 35). Here’s a couple of not so funny ones to make you think: “Hungry people made poor environmentalists” (p 70) and “And what you don’t find you don’t lose” (p 298). Right.
Author fact: What have I told you thus far about Colin Cotterill? I mentioned his website twice (because I love it so much). I also told you he lived in Thailand and has taught in Australia. New info: he has a wife named Jessi and has a bunch of dogs.
Book trivia: this is book seven of the Dr. Siri Paiboun series. However, there are four more not on my list. Boo.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Laos” (p 128). Sad to say that for the last time!
I am trying to move into this month without cracking up or breaking down. I’ve lost the run temporarily and even a small interruption sets me back. You know it is with a mental stability that isn’t quite that solid. I don’t want to say anything more than that.
Here are the books. Nonfiction first:
- Living Poor: a Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen – in honor of the month Ecuador’s civil war for independence ended.
- Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn – (AB) in honor of the holidays and how much they can stress you out. I’m reading this and listening to it on audio.
- The Fifties by David Halberstam – in honor of finishing what I said I would.
- Baby Doctor by Perri Klass – in honor of National Health Month.
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton – in honor of National Education Week. This should take me a lunch break to read.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – in honor of Gaiman’s birth month.
- Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – in honor of November being an election month (and is it ever!).
- Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright – (EAB = electronic audio book) to continue the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.
- A Toast To Tomorrow by Manning Coles – to continue the series started in October in honor of Octoberfest.
- Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill – to END the series started in May in honor of Rocket Day.
If you have been keeping up with me, myself and moi then you know we love Halloween. Odd. Odd because we can’t watch Walking Dead or go to Fright Fest without peeing our pants. What I love about Halloween is the potential for witchcraft, darkness & something intangibly spooky, if that makes sense. I love mysteries and there is no greater mystery than death. Right? Jack-o-Laterns glowing on doorsteps. Ominous crows watching silently from the trees. Candlelight shadows wavering on the wall. Cemeteries shrouded in the fog…I love it all.
In other news, I bailed for the first time ever on a half marathon but made it home-home to put up a ceiling for my mother. And speaking of Monhegan, we almost got caught in Hurricane Matthew! Somehow we managed to get out just in time.
Having said all that, unrelatedly here are the books:
- The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to continue the series started last month in honor of Enright’s birth month. Took me two days to read.
- Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started last May in honor of Rocket Day. Took me two days to read.
- Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month. Took me the entire month and I still didn’t finish it.
- A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell – an audio book in honor of Halloween (this was my favorite story).
- Drink to Yesterday by Manning Coles – in honor of Octoberfest in Germany. Another really short book.
- The Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of Gorilla month being in October.
- The Aeneid by Virgil – in honor of Poetry month (celebrated in Great Britain).
- Hush by Jacqueline Woodsen – an audio book in honor of kids. This was only three discs long.
- The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani because I saw it in a running magazine.
For LibraryThing: nada
Cotterill, Colin. The Merry Misogynist. New York: SoHo Press, 2009.
Reason read: to continue the series started in May for Laos Rocket Day.
To bring everyone up to speed: The year is 1978 and Dr. Siri Paiboun is 73, soon to be 74. He has married 66 year old Madame Daeng, a noodle shop owner. When we first connect with Siri and Daeng they are trying to outsmart the Department of Housing. The overbearing department is after Siri for living with Madame Daeng instead of in his own, government issued house. His own home is filled to the gills with wayward characters, a puppet master, a widow with two kids, two supposedly reformed prostitutes, a supposedly nonpracticing monk, a blind beggar and his granddaughter and let’s not forget the two twin babies Siri offered to look after from the last book, Curse of the Pogo Stick . But, that’s the least of Siri’s problems. A serial killer prowls the neighborhood, looking for his 6th wife to kill. He has connections to Vientiane which makes him a problem. Siri can’t resist playing wannabe detective.
All of the usual suspects are back (including Siri’s dead dog, Saloop!). Nurse Dtui helps Siri play detective in an effort to find missing Crazy Man Rajid and catch the serial killer.
One of the best parts of The Merry Misogynist was getting to know Madame Daeng better. She and Siri are meant for one another. She shares his sense of humor and wit. He has definitely met his match in this woman!
Lines I liked, “His accent was so think, it would have stuck to the wall if you’d thrown it” (p 62), “If a hornbill with a machete had run across Siri in the bush and hacked him to death, he would have succumbed in good grace: a victim of the survival of the fittest rule” (p 109), and two lines together: “‘Dtui, get my gun,’ said Siri. Siri didn’t have a gin but Dtui ran off to get it anyway” (p 117). Funny!
Author fact: I can’t remember if I mentioned this before but Cotterill has his own website here.
Book trivia: this should be a movie, but it isn’t. Not yet, at least!
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Laos” (p 128).
October is…another half marathon. Maybe another trip to Monhegan (not sure yet thanks to it being hurricane season) but what I’m sure about is definitely reading more, more, more books!
- Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month
- The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
- A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell (AB) – in honor of Halloween
- Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles – in honor of October being the best time to visit Germany. Note: just found out this is the second Tommy Hambledon book in the series so you will probably see A Drink to Yesterday before A Toast to Tomorrow.
- Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of October being Gorilla Month
- The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to “continue” the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month (yes, another series read slightly out of order).
- The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. Don’t ask.
If there is time I would like to add Aeneid by Virgil in honor of Great Britain’s poetry month.
September was a cool month. On the 10th I ran a half marathon (2:10:16), was able to get to Monhegan (and introduce the island to some new people), and get to a lot of reading:
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
- Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
- Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
- Consul’s Wife by W.T. Tyler
- Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry (AB)
- Life and Death of Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
- Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
- Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden
- The Trial by Franz Kafka
- Which Side Are You On? by Elaine Harger (ER)
- Which Side Are You On? by George Ella Lyon (for fun)
AB = Audio book
ER = Early review
Cotterill, Colin. Curse of the Pogo Stick. New York: Soho, 2008.
Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day.
Here’s what we know about Dr. Siri Paiboun. He is a 73 year old coroner in the village of Vientiane, Laos. He has two loyal sidekicks, Nurse Dtui (now three months pregnant) and helper Mr. Geung. When we last left Dr. Siri he had proposed to Madame Daeng and she accepted so now he has a girlfriend to add to the mix. He is still plagued by the spirit of a thousand-year-old shaman, Yeh Ming and it’s this spirit that gets Siri into his trouble this time. He is kidnapped by a group of women Hmong villagers thinking Yeh Ming can exorcise the head tribesman’s daughter. She appears to be pregnant with twins by a demon. The title of the book comes from the Hmong belief that a pogo stick, sent in a relief package, was the root of evil.
Meanwhile Nurse Dtui and Phosy search for the Lizard, a woman hellbent on killing Dr. Siri.
One of the best things about Cotterill’s writing (besides the humor) is that way he subtly reminds the readers where they are at in the saga. Like a television series voice over recap “previously on Badge of Justice…” before the new episode. In this case, Siri’s best friend was found to be a traitor in the last installment. When Madame Daeng & Nurse Dtui pay him a visit in Curse his new role in the story makes sense.
Line I liked, “It was rather sad that his last memory on earth might have been how to encourage bulls to increase their semen count” (p 37).
Book trivia: This is another really short book. Expect to finish it in a weekend.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Laos” (p 128).
Cotterill, Colin. Anarchy and Old Dogs. New York: Soho, 2007.
Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. This is book four.
The opening scene sets the stage for the mystery: Dr. Buagaew, a retired blind dentist, has been run down by a logging truck after picking up a mysterious letter from the post office. Dr. Siri Paibaum, now 73 years old and still described as Laos’s reluctant coroner, must figure out who was Buagaew and why had he a letter written in invisible ink in his pocket when he died? Another death is far more disturbing. A ten year old boy is found dead in a river. He has two different rates of decomposition and his death doesn’t look accidental. Who would have wanted this boy dead and why?
For the most part, all of Siri’s friends are in Anarchy and Old Dogs except this time Mr. Geung is recovering from his ordeal in Disco and is only brought up in mention at the beginning and end. Dtui’s mother has died and best friend Civilai has a new secret.
An element of Cotterill’s writing that makes the Dr. Siri series so interesting is his “cross -contamination” of characters. Siri was inspired by Inspector Maigret who is a character of mysteries written by Georges Simeon.
Cotterill also includes a running commentary on the political climate. Laos has reached a point where the Communism government has become increasingly oppressive. Oppressive to the point that “even the death of livestock, even from natural causes, had to be accounted for in writing” (p 3).
Other quotes I thought worth mentioning, “But he felt bad about pulling out the wrong teeth and that” (p 31), ” When you are drinking with a corpse there is no such thing as irreverence” (p 38) and “As many counterrevolutionaries would have you know, when in the midst of diverting a national crisis, there is always the case for taking a little time off for tourism” (p 139).
Author fact: Cotterill has taught in Australia.
Book trivia: Anarchy is the fourth book in the Dr. Siri series. I said that already, but that’s all I got on this one.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Laos” (p 128).
My obsession with moving rocks has come to an end now that the big boys are playing in the backyard. This hopefully means I’ll scale back to just two fanatical activities: running and reading. Or reading and running. I wonder who will win out? I am in the last month of training before the half marathon, but here are the books planned for August:
- Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. I have been able to read other books in the series in one to two days.
- Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell – in honor of July being one of the best times to visit Sweden (listening as an audio book).
- Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon by David Grann in honor of August being the driest month in the Amazon.
- The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann in honor of August being Aviation month.
- If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin in honor of Baldwin’s birth month (print & AB).
- Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch in honor of Busch’s birth month (short stories).
- Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich in honor of Columbia’s independence.
PS – on the eve of posting this I ran 7.93 miles. Why the .93? My calf/Achilles started to give me grief so I had to stop. Now I wonder if the running has a chance to catch the books?
Cotterill, Colin. Disco for the Departed New York: Soho Press, 2006.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Rocket Day (May).
Dr. Siri is back! We are in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos and the year is 1977. In this third installment of our reluctant yet humorous coroner we learn more about his life as a shaman, hosting the spirit of Hmong Yeh Ming and how, despite being 73 years of age, Siri grows younger everyday. This time Dr. Siri is called to a small mountain town to solve the mystery of a Cuban buried alive in concrete. While there he is inhabited by a spirit who loves to dance and keeps taking Siri to a disco (hence the title). Nurse Dtui accompanies Siri into the mountains and has her own little romance. We also learn more about Siri’s assistant, Geung Watajak. Interestingly enough, Disco backs up and explains Geung’s arrival into Dr. Siri’s life as morgue assistant which was a nice surprise. I appreciate the building of supporting characters.
Quotes I’d like to quote, “She became renown for wild solo rantings and spontaneous acts of flashing” (p 13), “Socialism was having a negative effect on the weather” (p 79) and one more, “Siri sat alone in the guesthouse restaurant and stared into a mug of coffee so thick you could lose an anchor in it” (p 150).
Book trivia: Like the other Cotterill books before it, Disco for the Departed was a quick read. I read it in one day.
BookLust Twist: obviously from Book Lust to Go in the chapter simply called “Laos” (p 128).
Cotterill, Colin. The Coroner’s Lunch. New York: SoHo Press, 2004.
Reason read: Laos Rocket Day is in May. Coroner’s Lunch takes place in Laos.
This was one of those books where the plot steals you away. You sit down to read and before you know it your lunch break is over, your coffee is cold and a hundred pages have flown by before your eyes. It’s a fun read.
The year is October 1976 and Dr. Siri Paiboun is a reluctant chief police coroner for the Republic in Laos. He didn’t want the job. At 72 years old, he was ready to be a gardening, reading, coffee and brandy drinking retired physician. He lacked the qualifications to be a coroner, had next to no on-the-job training with dead people (in theory, as a physician he tried to avoid the dead at all cost) and truly lacked enthusiasm for the job entirely. Yet, when bodies suddenly start popping up with suspicious causes of death, with the help of few slightly charred textbooks from 1948, some ghosts, and his sidekicks, a Downs Syndrome technician and a dowdy nurse, Siri slowly embraces the role of detective/coroner. Complicating matters is the Communist Pathet Lao party. They want Siri to report on these deaths in only one way – natural causes. But thanks to Siri’s disregard for authority and his sly sense of humor he only wants one thing – the truth.
Yes, there is a paranormal element to The Coroner’s Lunch but it works. Everything about this book works. In fact. I read it in one day.
Author fact: Cotterill has one of the best websites I have seen in a long time here. I knew I would love it as soon as saw the “nose” joke. You’ll get it when you visit the site, so GO!
Book trivia: I got really excited when I read S.J. Rozen’s review of The Coroner’s Lunch because Cotterill was compared to Alexander McCall Smith, another favorite author.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called, “Laos” (p 128).