Friday, October 24, 2008


This month was my 33rd birthday, and for once I wanted to have.. well, not a party, but let's say invite friends over for munchies. Added bonus of inviting people over is of course the presents that follow, and among other nice things I got two books that I promptly read. My friends are very clever people who understood what my brain is up for, so I got one definite chick-lit (Janet Evanovich: Lean Mean Thirteen) and one chick-lit-ish (Toni Jordan: Addition). Dilemma – which one to read first? I decided on Evanovich out of both loyalty and a sneaky suspicion that Addition might well turn out to be the better book on the whole. However, I ended up reading half of the Evanovich and then bringing Addition on the bus to read one morning because I didn’t want to go back into the bedroom to fetch the Evanovich. I tend to avoid parallel reading, probably for the same reason that I read short story and poetry collections from the front cover to the back cover with no skipping around (and possibly this is why I don’t much enjoy reading poetry). Um, I put “for the same reason” without really having a clear-cut idea of what the reason is – possibly my very own brand of OCD. A feeble attempt to bring order into my universe. Kitchen floor knobbly with pasted-down dirt? No matter, at least my short story books are carefully plodded through from beginning to end. This Bani-OCD also manifests itself in how I choose my week-day socks, by the way. I bought the socks because I needed black socks for my work uniform, and ridiculous as the Monday to Sunday writing at the top is (both as concept itself and as look), it at least functions well as a method to separate the socks from all the other black socks of the household, thus ensuring that I always can find my socks in the morning. And the OCD? Well, I can’t wear the correct day socks on the actual day obviously, since that would be dorky, but I also can’t bear to wear a different day on each foot (mostly because the days are written in different colours). So I wilfully mismatch days but match socks. Fantastic.

Addition was indeed the better book. It's basically a boy-meets-girl-story (could be a Marian Keyes), but the twist is that our heroine Grace has a mental illness - she counts everything. To keep her universe in order she measures, weighs, counts and performs rituals every day. At first we're not told the reason, just that she's always done it, but gradually we discover why. When Grace meets Seamus she falls in love. With Seamus she can sometimes forget all about the numbers.

I was reminded of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. The similarities aren't huge or anything, but both novels tell a story from the perspective of the "ill" person, and in this way in an easy manner teach us about the affliction. This is not a bad novel. Grace becomes very real and quite complex, and Jordan doesn't shy away from being explicit about sex even though Grace is a nutter. Recommended - maybe not the greatest book ever written, but a refreshing addition (tee-hee) to the genre.

Lean Mean Thirteen is one I've been longing to read, obviously. It saddens me a little that the Stephanie Plum concept is getting so worn though. Over the books things have gotten more and more slapstick and cartoonish - a bit like that film, Last Action Hero, come to think of it. The first couple of books had that nice balance between funny, a bit cheeky, a bit OTT but also a bit of grittiness. In this the 13th novel I felt a little closer to the roots than I have in a while. Stephanie gets really scared here, which is good. More grit, less "what would this look like in the movie"-thinking. In this one Stephanie becomes a murder suspect, and the supposed victim is none other than her ex-husband. Oh, I'll definitely read Evanovich's 14th and 15th too...

Next week sees the Banis in Ireland, actually. With any luck I'll spot a second-hand book shop with lots of hard-to-get Ngaoi Marsh books (miraculously weighing next to nothing), or maybe the elusive E.C. Bentley I've been wanting. We'll see. May the chips be with me.