Sunday, February 6, 2011

48 Hour Read-A-Thon: Mostly Done

My second 48 Hour Read-a-thon is nearly over. After a sluggish start, I managed to finish and review Megan Abbott's Queenpin. I also read the first two Seanan McGuire's October Daye series: Rosemary and Rue and A Local Habitation. I enjoyed both quite a lot. I love the world building in the Daye universe, both very fantastical and very real. Toby is a very likable heroine, although she's frustrating in the first book, so determined to avoid the very people that could help her. And while it's understandable, given her backstory, I like her infinitely better when she's bouncing off her supporting cast, rather than pulling the lone wolf routine. The villains honestly aren't nearly as creepy as the monsters that inhabit Toby's world. I will definitely keep reading books in this series.

I'd call this Read-A-Thon a decent success again. I did get some reading done, even if I haven't really touched the older books at the bottom of the list. I'm hoping I can ride the momentum from this weekend into reading some more. I do appreciate all the encouragement I received in comments or on twitter.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


"The legs were the legs of a twenty-year-old Vegas showgirl, a hundred feet long with just enough curve and give and promise."

Our unnamed 22-year-old narrator is working as a bookkeeper at a rundown nightclub when she encounters Gloria Denton in Queenpin. Gloria has a world weary been there-done that attitude, but she also has a remarkable style and ease and confidence. Gloria is no man's wife and she's no moll either. She's not the femme fatale that seduces and breaks the heart of the leading man, she's another kind entirely, a presence that overshadows all the characters. Everyone knows and fears Gloria.

So dazzled by the money and surroundings, the narrator doesn't see the danger until she's in Gloria's spider web. The narrator is remade into Gloria's "girl", picking up collections or placing bets. And it all goes well, until our girl meets Vic Riordan, a perpetually down-on-his-luck gambler. The wheels start to come off a little as she falls for him and she gets ensnarled in his world. Suddenly the narrator has to find a way to stay a few steps ahead of her mentor, only to discover nothing was quite how she figured it.

The frustrating part is the POV. Our narrator has a very clear voice full of sass and attitude. But it's really a story of two women and sometimes I feel Gloria's side is shortchanged by the POV. The narrator doesn't how to separate the stories and legends about Gloria Denton from the reality. Because the story is so securely in the narrator's eyes, neither do we. We never see beyond Gloria's motivations, what drove her or what she really thinks of her young protégé. Like her, we only get glimpses into Gloria; we can only imagine what she was really like in her heyday when she partied with the big boys.

Megan Abbott has made quite a name in the crime writing circles for writing period era noir stories, including Die a Little, The Song is You, and Bury Me Deep. They're all standalone books, so you can read them independently and in any order.

What I love about Megan Abbott's writing is her use of language, the clever turn of phrase. Abbott doesn't sound like a modern writer playing around in an earlier era. Queenpin sounds like it fits squarely in its chosen time frame of the early 1960s. This is a hard world, filled with crime and corruption, of bribes and payoffs, but Abbott never flinches from any of it, but she twists around the descriptions and metaphors in inventive ways. It's only when she's describing the actual blood and violence that the poetry breaks down a little.

Queenpin includes all the usual hallmarks of noir: greed, corruption, desire, and deception. There are twisted loyalties and double-crosses. Everyone has an angle. Everyone is playing someone. The question isn't really what they want as much as what are they willing to do (and how far are they willing to go) to get what they want.

Queenpin is noir in all her infinitely screwed up glory. There are no happy endings, no driving off into the sunset. All the characters dig themselves deeper and deeper into trouble, no matter what they do. Even when they think they're out of danger, something reels them back in. It's hard to sympathize with any of them, even our narrator. She's already lost by the time she meets Gloria. She gets a taste of the other side of life when she starts working at the nightclub. She talks about staying after clocking out so she can soak up the atmosphere. Rather than being scared by this other world, she's intrigued and fascinated by it. She wants that life. Even after it's utterly destroyed her, she still craves it again and again, like an addiction.

"More. I want more."

(Megan E. Abbott; Queenpin: A Novel; Simon & Schuster; 2007; 180 pages; available in trade paperback)

48 Hour Read-A-Thon: Still a Mystery to Me

So I wound up getting a bit of a late start on the Read-A-Thon last night. I had this lovely dream of finishing my errands after work and then rushing home to curl up with my pile of books. Well, you know what they say about best laid plans...

Rather than jump immediately into my new reading list (see "What I'm Reading" sidebar), I wanted to finish two books I had been currently working my way through -- Megan Abbott's "Queenpin" and Seanan McGuire's "Rosemary and Rue". Remember when I said I didn't pick these books with any set theme? Ironically, I did still have one, although it may be saying more about my general taste in subgenres. Because all of my books, even the paranormal/supernatural ones, feature mysteries or investigations of some kind. But as a friend reminded me on twitter, San Francisco is still the town of fog and mystery, whether they're involving Sam Spade or October Daye.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another 48 Hours

That sounds like a bad movie sequel, doesn't it?

Last August I signed up for the 48 hour Read-a-thon on a total whim. I needed a kick in the proverbial pants to nudge me towards reading again. Pleased by my success, I was delighted when I learned the next Read-a-thon was scheduled for this weekend. I was eager to participate again, only I had to face the age old quandary -- what did I want to read? On every trip I’ve gone on, that’s the biggest question now, which books do I bring? I’m beginning to envy my friends with their Nooks/Kindles. They can bring a whole library along.

I was having such a hard time deciding, I finally started letting my book browsing eyes be the guide. What was I in the mood for? What did I notice in the bookstore? What was I drawn to? Were they authors people have recced and talked about? Or were they random books on display? Er, yes? I’m embarrassed to admit an interesting title/cover/blurb is sometimes all I need. I’ve made some bad decisions that way. I’ve also discovered some favorite authors that way.

Along the way, I discovered that after a stressful and cold January, all I really wanted was to kick back and relax. I want to curl up on the couch and enjoy a good read. So I haven't put any age old classics on this list, no pressure to finally get through something either. I just want to be entertained and dragged along for the adventure. All the books I've pulled hew closer to the supernatural and fantastical – a little magic, some faerie, a few vampires, and who knows what else?

I'll be updating the "What I'm Reading" list when we get started on Friday. The rules are pretty much the same as last year – pick some stuff to read, read and read some more, and occasionally pop online to share what you think. We'll see how it goes... again.

There will come a change...

In the interests of avoiding yet more compartmentalizing, I'm turning the Right Broad into my regular reading blog. That means broadening my focus more with all the other genres I read, so I'm not so limited in scope. End result is more books to read and blog about and hopefully a few more readers to follow suit. That does not mean I will stop reading mystery or noir books by any means. Judging by my TBR shelves, there will be plenty where those apples came from...