The 2nd in Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy, Son of the Shadows picks up with Liadan, daughter to Sorcha from book 1, kidnapped by a band of ruthless mercenaries, where she learns that she stands outside of the Old Ones’ pattern–and thus might have the power to change destiny.

I enjoyed Son of the Shadows much more than Daughter of the Forest. The writing was richer, the characters more interesting, and the story denser. The story is set in medieval Ireland at the time of the British invasion, and uses elements of the story of Scheherezade, as Liadan uses storytelling to save her life.

I’m actually home sick today and my energy is flagging, so I’m signing off now. But when I read Book 3, which will be soon, I’ll make sure to spend some time giving more of my thoughts on Book 2.

I will say this, though–the end had a lot of similarities to the end of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Anyone read both books? I’d love comments.


Last night’s work read was a novel whose tone profoundly disturbed me. But that’s all I can say because I don’t blog in detail about the books I read for work. Instead, you get a post On Reading.

I recently posted a few of my blog reviews up on Amazon, just to see what would happen, and in doing so remembered that I posted a review on Amazon a very loooooooong time ago–my only one until recently. I wasn’t sure if it’d still be there, or if I’d even recognize which one I wrote, but lo and behold:

The Last Gentleman
What it means to pass from death to life
August 19, 1997
Reviewer: A reader
Marooned in New York City, displaced Southerner Will Barrett finds himself utterly abstracted from his world and himself. When a chance encounter in Central Park leads him to make the acquaintance of the Vaughts, fellow Southerners who knew his father, Will embarks on a journey that he hopes will tell him what he desperately needs to know. What does he need to know? If Will knew the answer to that, he wouldn’t need the Vaughts, or the South, or the haunted memory of his father. Traversing the country, Will seeks the one man he believes will tell him what to do. Percy not only weaves a lush character study of lost Will, but realizes a profound meditation on the nature of identity, place, and home. Above all, like any good picaresque novel, Will’s journey is not so much about the end, but about what he discovers along the way. However, as a testament to Percy’s imagination and probity, Will’s final destination provides nothing less than utter revelation. I closed this book and jumped out of bed immediately, my breath coming in gulps as I absorbed and processed what Walker Percy had taught me with such love, patience, beauty and truth.

I think for awhile it had my name on it, but I guess in some email switch my old identity was lost forever. Back in August of 1997 I was working for a film producer who taught me how to analyze screenplays and write coverage. I’d been obsessed with Amazon since earlier that year, because I remember killing time at my post-grad school internship by looking up books on the site in the winter of 1997.

The internet has changed, and so have I, but my opinion of The Last Gentleman by the great Walker Percy stands secure.

My little blog has only been up since October, and I’m still amazed that people are actually reading. So far, I’ve really enjoyed connecting with other reading bloggers, and conversing with readers in the comments section. Check out the list of “Kindred Spirits” in the sidebar for other blogs that offer incisive commentary on books and other fiction art forms. I really like to discover new blogs and add to this list, so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you think I should be reading your blog. I’m at superfastreader (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ve also got a list called “Friends Who Write” for people I am proud to know personally who keep blogs that have superlative writing.

At my day job, I do all kinds of evangelism for a corporate site, so I know how important word-of-mouth is to keeping a blog going. In that spirit, I’ve nominated a bunch of my favorite blogs for the 2007 Weblog Awards, in the hopes of getting worthy bloggers some much-deserved attention. A blogger friend of mine wrote:

It may seem like a lot of people are reading my blog already (thank you, mwah) but in the grand scheme of the internet this is a grain of sand on the beach: you really should pat yourself on the back because you’re a regular visitor and you found me despite the fact that I have
no marketing push
no corporate backing
no industry connections that I’m beholden to that would cloud my vision
no way of rising through the clutter of the blogosphere and outsider wary media ranks without your “word of mouth” be that in the form of forum linkage, blog entries about the film experience, informal chitchat, e-mailing of posts, and whatever else.

I like his reasons, and they apply to me, as well (though books, not film). Plus he totally deserves nominations, too–and since you can nominate up to 3 blogs, there’s lots of room for spreading the love to your favorites.

Anyway, I’ll still love you just the same whether or not you nominate me. Just thought I’d ask.

Yours till Niagara Falls,
Annie the Superfast Reader

The theft of a rare diamond from India throws an upper class family and their servants into disarray and suspicion.

Published in 1868 and taking place from 1847-48, The Moonstone is one of my selections for the Winter Classics Challenge and the Chunkster Challenge. I knew that it was the first novel to introduce the classic British detective character, but I was not prepared for how funny and satirical the book would be. Collins structures the book around a series of first-person narratives from various characters, and each one has a separate, distinct voice that shows them in all their idiosyncratic glory. They are so true to themselves that they are not aware that we could be laughing at their foolishness, particularly the odiously pious Miss Clack.

In terms of the mystery, well, modern readers will not find this to be a particularly satisfying or sophisticated story. A typical episode of “Law and Order” runs circles around this story, and it’s important to keep in mind that this book has not stood the test of time because of the intricacy of its plotting. Rather, it’s Collins’s keen understanding of human nature and his wickedly funny prose that make The Moonstone such a delight to read today. I would recommend this book to any younger reader enjoying Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie.

Here’s a list of the other Winter Classics participants who are reading The Moonstone:

Restless Reader
The Indextrious Reader
My Individual Take
Holly Dolly

Finished a book tonight for my reading job, which thankfully has started up again after a very loooooong holiday hiatus. I was getting used to having my evenings and weekends to myself, but if this had gone on any longer my paranoia over being replaced by somebody faster than me would’ve driven me bonkers. If you’re new to this blog, I don’t post reviews of my work reading, but use these posts to muse about reading itself.

I hate giving up on books, because I feel a threefold sense of responsibility: to the writer, to Literature, and to myself. This is especially acute when I’m reading a classic work–I feel like I need to push myself for my own good. It’s much the same feeling that impels me to complete a run even when it’s going badly because I’m tired or unmotivated. I’m not really a quitter.

If I’m going to give up on a book, I like to do so before I’ve hit page 50 for a short one or page 100 for a long one. I recently gave up on a four-part series on page 300 of book 3, and it just about killed me. The other day, I gave up on Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children on about page 75 because I realized that I didn’t care about any of the characters or what happened to them, and that I had ceased to process with my brain the words my eyes were pulling from the page. Since I knew it was a hot title on BookMooch, I decided to swap it for something that I’d actually enjoy and give it to someone who’d appreciate it.

But this hardly ever happens. More typical are the books that languish on my nightstand. I bought Marguerite Duras’s The Lover at a used bookstore sometime in 1998. It sat next to my bed until I moved in 2003, then sat next to that bed until I ditched it on BookMooch just two months ago. And it’s a short book! Probably very good, too. I’ll never know. I keep thinking if I put Tess of the D’Urbervilles face down I can pretend like she hasn’t sat there, forlorn, for the last two years.

It all goes back to Anna Karenina–but that’s a tale for another day. Maybe when I actually get around to reading/re-reading it…

Three spurned first wives plot the ultimate revenge against their ex-husbands.

First Wives’ Club was my New Year’s Day football counterprogramming read. Light and frothy, heavy on plot and as on-the-nose as they come, and I loved every page of it. Goldsmith is my guilty pleasure, I won’t lie. I’m gearing up for some heavy reading in the next few weeks, so in the immortal words of Bill the Cat, “phlfft!”

An outcast girl with telekinesis wreaks havoc at her prom.

I’m ending the year by clearing some easy reads off my nightstand, and gearing up for some big reads in the first part of 2007: Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, Fyodr Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. I’m not sure if I’ve got the best translations of the Tolstoy & Dostoyevsky–any advice?

I’ve read Carrie a zillion times and it never ceases to thrill me. I was fortunate enough to read it before I saw the movie (a favorite of mine), but now the two intermingle in my mind to form one seamless text.

Go Ask Alice, only with teen pregnancy.

My friend gave Annie’s Baby to me as a joke because my name is Annie, and she wants me to have a baby. This book is worthless dreck that I would never give to a teen to read.

The best way to learn to write is by the close reading of great literature.

I wish I could get Francine Prose to tell me about every book I read. She is so astute and insightful about the craft of writing, and equally tuned into the joys that reading has to offer the lover of language. You might think that the Superfast Reader would be averse to a technique asking her to slow down and smell the sentences, but nothing could be further from the truth. I may be a fast reader, but I am a careful reader.

Close reading involves reading for more than just theme, plot, and character psychology. She takes passages from literature and holds a microscope up to them, revealing depths of richness intentionally created by the author. Close reading not only enhances the reading experience, but provides the writer with an arsenal of techniques to better his or her own writing.

My favorite portion of her wonderful book describes a season in her life when a writing job required that she take a long bus ride twice a week. While on the bus, she read Chekhov’s short stories, each one contradicting a hard and fast rule she’d instilled in her students. By the end of the class, all she could say to the budding writers was, “Read Chekhov.” Her humility is genuine, made all the more lovely because she does know so very much about how to read and how to write. Much of what she’s requiring is that readers turn off autopilot and actively participate with the words. I know I’ve been guilty of letting the words go straight to my subconscious–one of the pitfalls of being a book junkie–but the authors that I love the most are the ones who make me stop and savor their prose. I feel like I’m always looking for the writer who can rein me in and make me like it.

Reading Like a Writer instilled in me the desire to reread those books she mentions that I’ve read already, and a hunger to read the books she’s mentioned that I haven’t. I bet she’s a hell of a teacher.

A little girl becomes possessed by an ancient, evil spirit.

Here is a solid case of the adaptation transcending the source material. As a book, The Exorcist just doesn’t have the same air of menace and terror created by William Friedkin’s movie adaptation. Blatty gives readers passages describing black masses, and doesn’t shy away from the more salacious events during Regan’s possession, but these are just gross-outs. They don’t conjure prickling at the back of my neck, or made me afraid to turn out the lights. I found myself more disgusted than horrified.

I was also expecting a touch more theology in the book, given that the movie hints at deep issues of faith, doubt, and guilt, but there’s nothing in here that goes any deeper than the movie did. In fact, the screenplay for the movie could have been a literal translation of the book, scene for scene and with much of the dialogue intact, because the book isn’t exactly Henry James. It’s very cinematic in the way that it’s written.

I wasn’t crazy about the characters, either, but I think that’s a matter of taste more than anything else. Everyone had a zingy comeback, even the cops and the servants, giving the dialogue a falsely “sparkling” quality that gave the air of hollow glamor. Maybe it has something to do with the gap between the Baby Boomers and Generation X, but these people all seemed so old to me in a way that I never want to be. I found the same thing when I read Susan Howatch’s Glittering Images. I can relate more to Jane Eyre, whose world is alien to me, than I could to Chris MacNeil.

In blog-related news, check out the new links in the sidebar. I’ve added a list of Favorite Authors with links to resources about them, as well as a list of Recommended Author Websites. These are authors whose works I’ve really enjoyed who maintain informative and fun sites and blogs. The Superfast Reader loves loves loves book recommendations, so please feel free to email me at superfastreader gmail com.