The latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education has an article about the Orbis Cascade Alliance, a consortia of which my place of work is a member. The article focuses on book collections and sharing, which was interesting to me since I am mainly concerned with the electronic resources we purchase. In fact, I was in the middle of sorting out whether or not to join a collective purchase when a colleague emailed me the link to the article. Guess I’d better get back to work.
Mrs. Mallory Investigates by Hazel Holt is the first book in a modern cozy mystery series featuring a middle-aged widow in a seaside English town. I saw it recommended in A Common Reader last year. I recently found a copy of this book, so I decided to give it a whirl. Earlier this fall, I had read a later book in the series, but without the back story on the character, it was hard for me to get into it. This one was a little more accessible, but still not quite as entertaining as I had hoped. The whole thing is told in first person, so that’s at least something different from my usual reads.
Turn the Other Chick is the fifth book in the Chicks in Chainmail series edited by Esther Friesner. The book is a collection of 22 short stories by fantasy authors (including one by the editor) that almost all involve at least three elements: a chick (er, woman), chainmail (or other body armor), and adventure with the chick wearing said chainmail. Most of the stories are told tongue-in-cheek, with some more entertaining and coherent than others. My favorites are as follows:
- The Girl’s Guide to Defeating the Dark Lord by Cassandra Claire – Being kidnapped by a Dark Lord can have a happy ending.
- The Gypsy Queen by Catherine H. Shaffer – Transgendered barbarian swordspersons find true love.
- Over the Hill by Jim C. Hines – Grandma Guardswoman isn’t ready to retire just yet.
- Defender of the Small by Jody Lynn Nye – Be kind to your small fury friends.
Murder and mayhem on the coast of Maine
In 1984, TV viewers were introduced to Jessica Fletcher, mystery novelist and amateur sleuth. “Murder, She Wrote” ran for twelve years before going off the air in 1996, and the mark it left on the American public cannot be denied. Although the formulaic nature of the program and the disturbing volume of murders that occurred around the central character left it open to criticism from audiences eager for more hardboiled mysteries such as Law & Order and CSI, the show filled a niche for a generation that grew up on cozy mysteries by authors like Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen. The appeal has remained strong enough that twenty years after the original broadcast, Universal has released the second season on DVD.
There were few central characters besides Jessica Fletcher, so each episode had a handful of guest actors ranging from the very-well-known to never-seen-again. What does “Murder, She Wrote” have in common with early 1980s TV favorite “WKRP in Cincinnati”? WKRP actors Frank Bonner, Gordon Jump, Richard Sanders, and Howard Hesseman all appeared as guests in the second season of “Murder, She Wrote”. However, you wouldn’t know this from the episode descriptions on the box set. A full listing of guests can be found at the Internet Movie Database, if you’re interested. Some notables not mentioned include Brock Peters, Robert Culp, and John de Lancie. John Astin is in three episodes as a re-occurring character of note.
To me, this is indicative of the lack of care and attention paid to the creation of this box set. There are no extras or frills to entice buyers, and the episodes still have that slightly grainy quality prevalent in 1980s television filming. One must also be careful in handling the discs themselves. They are double-sided so as to hold eight episodes on two discs and six on the third disc.
One thing this collection has going for it is the script writing. Season two of “Murder, She Wrote” had the advantage of fresh ideas and mostly realistic plots. Locations alternated between Cabot Cove (Fletcher’s home) and someplace else. The murders were complex and the identity of the murderer wasn’t quite yet obvious from the start. The set is well worth getting if you’re a fan wanting to wander down memory lane and re-visit the show back in the golden years. Just don’t expect anything else from it.
Karen Schneider makes an argument for notifying readers of extended absences from blogging. This wouldn’t work for me, because I rarely know when I’ll be taking a break from blogging, and these times don’t necessarily occur around holidays and other such things, because often time away from work allows me to catch up and write. Still, if someone is prolific, it makes sense to let readers know that they’ll be gone for a bit. But, don’t expect any BRB notices from me.
Three down, forty-seven to go.
On Monday, I read The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia McKillip because it was the shortest of the three books I was considering (The Rover by Mel Odom and The Garden of Iden by Kage Baker were the other two). Good book, but bad choice if I was expecting something quick and light. The book has a cliff-hanger ending, which leads to Heir of Sea and Fire, which also has a cliff-hanger ending that leads to the final book in the trilogy, Harpist in the Wind. The whole thing reminded me of Le Guin’s Earthsea books with a little hint of The Book of Three. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy with wizards, magic, shape-shifters, and light romance.
I plan to read at least 50 books this year.
I just read about this 50 Book Challenge thing on a variety of blogs, and it intrigued me. I keep a recently read list on this blog, and I was surprised to discover that I read 67 books last year. Some of them were short and fluffy, while a few were rather substantial. Most were read before July. I’ve gotten out of the habit of obsessive reading, and I’m thinking that a goal might help me get more motivated to make time for books. Also, the number 111 after my unread tag on LibraryThing is an unpleasant sight. So, I plan to participate in the 50 Book Challenge in some fashion. I have no goals beyond reading at least 50 books this year and I don’t have a list of what I will read beyond the unread books in my current and future collection.
I bring you a list of my current favorite podcasts.
I got an iPod Nano for Christmas this year (whee!), but I have been listening to podcasts without it for a couple of months now. Here are a few of my favorites:
Rubyfruit Radio reminds me of my old college radio show, the Estrogen Nation. It’s an all female artist music program that runs from 30-45 minutes per episode. Host Heather Smith gets the music from the PodSafe Music Network and by permission directly from the artists.
Podcast Fondue is the creation of singer/songwriter and humorist Deirdre Flint. It’s filled with original songs and Deirdre randomness, and I love it! Deirdre is a current member of the touring group the Four Bitchin’ Babes.
The Coffee Geek is a review and opinion show produced by self-avowed coffee geek Mark Prince. Informative, but sometimes a bit over my head.
I’ll be adding more to my listening rotation. I should check out some of the librarian podcasts, too.