October was a busy month for me. I went to my college reunion, battled with a cold and lower back pain, and attended a professional conference. The end result of this is that I didn’t do as much reviewing as I had planned on, and now I’m having to play catch-up. Expect to see a longer list for November, but for now, I give you:
Jessie Baylin – Firesight
The arrangements and production work on Firesight are both so well done that one hardly notices them. It’s simply a collection of good tunes that flow together well with an appropriate balance between the lead vocals and everything else. This is essential to making the album work, as anything that stands out as too rough or too glossy would immediately break the mellow mood. [more]
Theresa Andersson – Hummingbird Go!
It took a few listens before I began to appreciate the complexity and depth of Andersson’s music. It’s quirky and a bit more subdued that the assortment of rock-tinged pop that tends to be on regular rotation in my house. Putting away all other distractions and focusing on the album alone, I was able to hear the energy and drive of her performance that was not as apparent when approaching the recording casually. Andersson’s creative use of unorthodox instrumentation and unexpected arrangements need the listener’s full attention to be appreciated. [more]
Click and Clack’s As the Wrench TurnsClick & Clack – As the Wrench Turns
If the creators of Click & Clack were looking to achieve the success of shows like The Simpsons or The Family Guy, they have a great deal of room for improvement. Click & Clack: As the Wrench Turns may be enjoyed in small doses, but I would not recommend buying or renting this DVD unless you are a consummate NPR/PBS fan who must acquire everything put out by those media companies. [more]
Awake, My Soul – The Original Soundtrack / Help Me to Sing – Songs of the Sacred Harp
With the release of the two-disc soundtrack, we are treated with the full recordings of the songs referenced in the documentary, including the solfège – singing the song with the names of the notes rather than the words in order to learn the music. The second disc of the set features 20 renditions of Sacred Harp tunes by a diverse group of folk and pop performers. The set is treated as two different albums, each with its own title. [more]
Agatha Christie: Mystery Lover’s Collection
Although the box is given a distinctive design and theme, the contents are clearly pulled from the various sets and single releases previously made available by Acorn Media. It’s a little disappointing that they did not change the packaging of the contents to match, rather than making it appear to be an assortment of remainders marketed as something new. Luckily, it’s the contents that matter more than the packaging. [more]
I tried and failed once again to complete the 50 book challenge last year. However, I did a little better than the year before, and probably would have read at least two more books if I hadn’t made a cross country move.
- The Empty Chair by Diane Duane (fiction)
- A Librarian Is To Read by Betty Vogel (non-fiction)
- Wordplay: The Official Companion Book by Will Shortz (non-fiction)
- Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Puss ‘n Cahoots: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery by Rita Mae Brown (fiction)
- So Say We All: An Unauthorized Collection of Thoughts and Opinions on Battlestar Galactica (Smart Pop series) edited by Richard Hatch (non-fiction)
- Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip (fiction)
- Gauntlet by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Progenitor by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Reunion by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- The Valiant by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Three by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Oblivion by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Enigma by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Maker by Michael Jan Friedman (fiction)
- Journey Between Worlds by Sylvia Louise Engdahl (fiction)
- Orphan’s Quest by Pat Nelson Childs (fiction)
- The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (fiction)
- Towards Zero by Agatha Christie (fiction)
- At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie (fiction)
- Nemesis by Agatha Christie (fiction)
- Ordeal By Innocence by Agatha Christie (fiction)
- First Have Something To Say by Walt Crawford (non-fiction)
- Social Software in Libraries by Meredith Farkas (non-fiction)
- Beer & Food: An American History by Bob Skilnik (non-fiction)
- Guinness – The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint by Bill Yenne (non-fiction)
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My review of Agatha Christie’s Marple: Series 3 was published on Blogcritics. Go read it and find out why I’ve spent the past month re-reading the books.
Read some stuff, reviewed some stuff, and I’m still working until late at night.
I’ve been swamped at work and at play, leaving little time for blogging. For anyone who is keeping score, I read two more books towards my goal of 50 this year, thus bringing me up to 22 total. Those two were Nemesis and Ordeal By Innocence, both by Agatha Christie. I re-read them before watching the new film adaptations of them. My review will be published on Blogcritics this week.
Speaking of which, I had two more music reviews published. Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Experience…101, which was released last week, and Amy Grant’s Greatest Hits, which was released today. I have been fans of the music of both for many years, so it was a nice change to review something… familiar.
The insanity will continue. I have tons of committee and seasonal work in my day job to keep me busy for quite a while, and my Blogcritics work is increasingly consuming even more time in the evenings. There’s still enough of it that I enjoy to keep the balance, but I fear that it may one day tip and something will have to go.
This is my least favorite Miss Marple mystery, but I had to re-read it before watching the new film adaptation of it.
At Bertram’s Hotel is my least favorite Miss Marple mystery, but I had to re-read it before watching the new film adaptation of it. It is just as unsatisfying as I remembered it being. Much like Bertram’s Hotel, the characters are not who they seem to be, and even though it is a Christie mystery, one is left with the feeling that something is not quite right. I wonder if the new version will be more appealing?
I’m not sure if re-reads count for the 50 book challenge.
Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
I’m not sure if re-reads count for the 50 book challenge. In this case, it’s one of four Agatha Christie mysteries I’ll be re-reading before watching the adaptations for the new Marple series starring Geraldine McEwan. The original book does not have any of the more well known sleuths, although Poirot is mentioned by the lead detective, Superintendent Battle, who also appears in a minor role in other books. The mystery is solid, and is told well. I had forgotten the outcome, so it was still a bit of a surprise. I wonder how Miss Marple will be incorporated into it?
I re-read 4:50 from Paddington (or What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw) by Agatha Christie because I had recently watched a new production of it staring Geraldine McEwan, which had some different details from the version with Joan Hickson, and I wanted to check them against the original. Of course, by the time I read the book, I had forgotten the two movie versions. Expect a comparison review at some point in the future when I have time to watch the movies again.
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.
I love a good cosy murder mystery. I’ve always assumed it’s something about sharing my birthday with Agatha Christie (who died the year I was born – cue spooky music). Actually, I set out a couple of years ago to read every Christie book I could find, and I’ve pretty much covered all of the mystery novels and short stories. But I digress.
The whole point of this entry is to direct your attention to yet another humorous list created by the witty contributors to McSweeney’s: Not-So-Good Names for Murder Mysteries
Free ebooks formatted for PDAs
You can download The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie formatted for your PDA for free at ManyBooks.net. There’s a bunch of other books there, too. [thanks sarah]