sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 3, 2016

into the stacks: march 2016
posted by soe 2:35 am

I know, I know. I never finished February’s list. But March’s list is short, so let’s get these up, shall we, and then circle back to February’s longer list later this week.

I only finished two books last month:

The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Longest Season, by Barry Svrluga

I like to read at least one baseball book a year. At last fall’s National Book Festival, Sarah wanted to hear Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga speak, so I tagged along and enjoyed his talk about following the Washington Nationals around to cover what is the world’s longest sports season. In your head, you might be saying, “But baseball is only played for six months.” You would be right … sort of. There are games for six months, nearly every day. In a modern regular season, there are 162 games, but that’s over the course of 183 days. That means a baseball player only gets a maximum of 21 days “off” over those six months, and even then they’re probably working out for part of each one or traveling. They report to spring training six weeks before the season, and modern players are expected to arrive at spring training in shape from the off-season. This book is a fleshed out collection of the columns that he wrote, each focusing how people within various parts of a baseball organization deal with it. Because that schedule doesn’t just affect the players on the roster. It affects the coaching staff, the administrative staff, the scouts, players in the minor leagues, and all of their families. And, according to the book, each and every one of those people is carrying the weight of it.

As a baseball fan for many years, I admit that I hadn’t thought about baseball in this way before — neither about how little time away from the job they get (if your job affords you the luxury of two consecutive days off in a week, think how grumpy and less productive you might become, no matter how much you love what you do, if suddenly you were expected to give nearly all of them up for six months at a time) or how much of the burden of that falls on support staff and family members.

The book is a fast read, only ten chapters in all, and it does feel like it came from a weekly newspaper series. That said, if you enjoy baseball or how any large organization becomes successful, I’d recommend picking it up.

Pages: 176. Library copy.

Death at Wentwater Court, by Carola Dunn

This cozy mystery, set in 1920s England, is the first (of 22, to date) in a series about Daisy Dalrymple, a journalist and the daughter of a late viscount. (In case you aren’t up on your titles, as I was not, a viscount is better than a baron, but not as good as a baron/count.)

At the outset of her first novel, Daisy has convinced a magazine editor that her unique combination of journalistic skills and aristocratic connections make her the ideal person to write a series of articles about the homes of the gentry. She has come from London out to Wentwater Court to interview and photograph Lord Wentwater and his estate. Upon arrival, she discovers that in addition to him and his wife (they were recently wed) and his four grown children, those in residence at the estate include his sister and her husband, the eldest son’s fiancee (and her brother, who was Daisy’s late brother’s best friend and is Daisy’s on-again, off-again admirer), and the gentleman friend of Lord Wentwater’s daughter.

It is this gentleman, a truly unpleasant fellow, who turns up the next morning dead, and Daisy is asked to take a few photos of where the man’s body was found. When she discovers an anomaly and reports it to the detective who has been asked to investigate, she is pressed into becoming his secretary during interviews and finds herself knee-deep into the investigation.

Let me say that the plot of the mystery is stretched a little thin at points and that the secondary characters are not especially fleshed out, but neither was what drew me into the story. Daisy is a plucky, but kind character, as is Alec, the Scotland Yard detective sent to the estate, and they both have interesting back stories I’d like to learn more about. They are characters with potential, and I can also see a potential for the mysteries themselves improving, too, as we get further into the series. If you like the Maisie Dobbs books or Lord Peter Wimsey series, I think Daisy will appeal to you, as well.

However, may I suggest that if you are interested in reading this series and in being surprised by plot twists that you not Google the character or the book, but simply request it from your library or book purveyor? A simple search of Daisy’s name gives away several plot points just in the descriptions on the first page of results, so if you want a spoiler-free reading experience, let my mistake be your guide.

Pages: 252. (I listened to the audio version, though.) Library copy.

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