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Five picks for April

Cindy Burnett
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WHAT TO READ This month's picks include the start of a fabulous new mystery series, two nonfiction books, a tale based on Lafayette's chateau and its inhabitants, and a story about the Smith College Relief Unit in World War I.

Buzz Reads is a column about books by reviewer Cindy Burnett. This month, Cindy recommends five recently released titles.

Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig – During World War I, a group of women volunteers from Smith College traveled to France to help the country’s citizens whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed by the German invaders. The Smith College Relief Unit, including two female doctors, arrived in France ready to contribute aid, but found that, first, they had to overcome numerous obstacles, including dissension within their own group. Much of the historical-fiction novel is based on letters from the actual women who served in the Smith College Relief Unit, and Willig fills the book with fascinating facts about these Americans who headed to Europe as part of relief efforts, the work they did, and the role they played in the war.

I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust: A Memoir of Autism and Hope by Valerie Gilpeer and Emily Grodin – Emily Grodin was diagnosed with non-verbal autism as a child and did not communicate until she was 25 when she typed the following phrase: “I have been buried under years of dust and now I have so much to say.” Emily’s mother, Valerie Gilpeer, writes about Emily’s early years and this extraordinary breakthrough in I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust: A Memoir of Autism and Hope, which incorporates poetry and stories told from Emily’s perspective about their lives together. A story of unconditional love and faith in the face of difficulty, this powerful mother-daughter story highlights the importance of acceptance and perseverance. This one is a tear jerker.

When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong – The arrival of television was ignored by many men in the entertainment industry who felt radio was the better platform. Four women, Irna Phillips, Betty White, Gertrude Berg, and Hazel Scott, individually used this opening to each forge their own path in the television industry and, as a result, significantly impacted the way we still watch the medium today. When television did in fact prevail, these women were pushed to the side as men began to dominate the industry. When Women Invented Television spotlights their forgotten stories and their significant contributions. I was captivated by their stories.

Win by Harlan Coben – Harlan Coben is known for his fabulous Myron Bolitar mystery series about a basketball star turned private detective. In Coben’s latest novel, the story centers around Myron’s sidekick Win, full name Windsor Horne Lockwood III, as he is drawn into a complicated but thoroughly engaging mystery from the past when the FBI recruits him to help solve a case. Combining missing Vermeer and Picasso paintings and a domestic-terrorism attack, Win kept me turning the pages as fast as I could, trying to figure out what would happen next. Win is the classic antihero who lives in an uberwealthy world (which Coben frequently details) and is not bound by any type of moral code, and his humor and wry personality drive the story. While a small portion of the ending is unrealistic, it does not ruin an otherwise stellar and highly entertaining mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and read it in less than a day.

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie DrayThe Women of Chateau Lafayette is based on a true story of the Château de Chavaniac, the family home of the Marquis de Lafayette in France. The Chateau played a pivotal role in three major wars, the French Revolution and both World Wars, and The Women of Chateau Lafayette highlights the extraordinary women whose lives intersected with the Chateau and who sacrificed and fought for freedom during these wars. In this epic historical novel, Dray tells the stories of Adrienne Lafayette during the French Revolution, New York socialite Beatrice Chanler during World War I, and French school teacher Marthe Simone during World War II. The author’s meticulous research and vivid prose bring these women’s powerful stories to life.

Editor’s note: Southside Place resident Cindy Burnett also writes our weekly Page Turners column at thebuzzmagazines.com. She hosts the Thoughts from a Page Podcast, is co-creator of the Houston literary event series Conversations from the Page, runs the Instagram account @thoughtsfrompage, and regularly speaks to groups about books.

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