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Five picks for December

Cindy Burnett
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WHAT TO READ

WHAT TO READ This month’s picks include three memoirs, a holiday story set in North Carolina, and a clever mystery about a nearly 90-year-old serial killer.

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

Christmas in Peachtree Bluff by Kristy Woodson Harvey – With Christmas in Peachtree Bluff, Harvey returns to her beloved fictional town of Peachtree Bluff for a holiday extravaganza with the Murphy family. When the oldest Murphy sister, Caroline, announces that she and her husband are divorcing, her 15-year-old daughter Vivi does not take the news well, so Caroline leaves her with her mother and father in Peachtree Bluff for the holidays to give them all a break from each other. When a hundred-year storm heads towards Peachtree Bluff and Vivi’s foolhardy behavior strands them in the town with no provisions, the Murphy sisters must set out on a rescue mission.

An Elderly Lady Must Not be Crossed by Helene Tursten – This small book, which can fit in your hand, is written in Swedish and translated into English. The main character, Maud, is a nearly 90-year-old serial killer. She targets those who cross her or abuse others, and she is super sneaky about it. In this installment (this is Book 2), she heads to Africa on a vacation, and trouble ensues. Part of the story is told in flashbacks as she reflects on issues earlier in her life, and the rest takes place as she travels across Africa. I enjoyed this comically dark book and need to go back and pick up Book 1. An Elderly Lady Must Not be Crossed can easily be read as a standalone.

Going There by Katie Couric – For many people, Katie Couric will always be associated with The Today Show, the popular morning show on NBC. But other aspects of her career and life are not as well known. In her memoir Going There, Couric chronicles how she got started, her career path, what she has learned and the mistakes she has made, the losses she has endured, and what she is doing now. When she graduated from college, she knew she wanted to work in journalism, so she started as an errand girl at ABC, then hopped to the fledging CNN’s Washington, D.C. offices, and ultimately landed at The Today Show, where she became a household name and face. The conversational tone Couric strikes in this memoir carries the book; she writes as if talking to a close friend as she relays her story. Moreover, her ability to look back on certain events with a fresh lens and to frequently take responsibility for her missteps, instead of making excuses for those actions, made her more likeable to me as I read. Going There is an engrossing and entertaining memoir that will appeal to readers who enjoyed watching Couric on The Today Show.

A Season with Mom: Love, Loss, and the Ultimate Baseball Adventure by Katie Russell Newland – Newland, who resides in Austin, and her mom loved cheering the Cubs on from their New Orleans home and dreamed of visiting all of the Major League Baseball ballparks one day. When Newland’s mom passes away before they can fulfill this dream, Newland sets out to visit all 30 ballparks in one season to both honor her mother and to reflect on their relationship along the way. Each chapter pairs a visit to a particular ballpark with a relevant story about Newland’s mother and includes beautiful black-and-white photos, with one item highlighted in red, from each stop. Peyton Manning, her childhood neighbor, writes the introduction, and Kaley Cuoco has optioned it for the screen. I highly recommend this one. This book came out earlier in the year, but I am including it now because it will make a great gift for the holidays.

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog by Jenna Blum – Blum’s Labrador retriever Woodrow was her constant companion; through thick and thin he was always there. Since she lived across from the Commons in Boston, they would venture over daily to what became his bench and greet friends and strangers alike. Once he reached 14, she began to worry about what would happen when he was gone. Woodrow on the Bench pays homage to her sweet companion and the lessons he taught her and others. I loved this book and finished it with tears streaming down my face.

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 @thoughtsfromapage, and regularly speaks to groups about books.

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