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Five picks for February

Cindy Burnett
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WHAT TO READ This month’s selections include two contemporary novels set in New York City and London, two historical-fiction novels, and a memoir about friendship and the work it takes to maintain relationships. (Photo: Cindy Burnett)

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

B.F.F.: A Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found by Christie Tate (memoir) – B.F.F.: A Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found is Christie Tate’s follow-up to Group, a 2020 Reese’s Book Club Selection. This time, Tate performs a deep dive into why female friendships are a struggle for her. With her friend/mentor Meredith by her side, she begins to examine why she cannot maintain friendships with other women and what the source of the trouble might be. As she reflects on why certain past relationships fell apart, she comes to realize that she viewed friendships as relationships that should just magically happen – no effort or work required. As Tate begins to reframe how friendships work, Meredith becomes seriously ill, and Tate is once again evaluating her self-sabotage mentality and how she must find a healthier path forward. This book will appeal to all women whether they struggle with friendships or not, and readers will want to explore their own approach to friendships. B.F.F. is such a compelling read. Author Tate grew up in Texas and went to Texas A&M.

Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff (historical fiction) – After escaping Nazi Germany following the murder of her fiancé in 1942, Hannah Martel boards a ship for the United States. But when her ship is turned away in Cuba, she lands back in Brussels where her cousin that she hasn’t seen in years, Lily, lives. Anxious to leave Nazi-occupied Europe, Hannah agrees to help an underground network called the Sapphire Line in exchange for receiving new papers that will grant her a way out. But when her cousin’s family is arrested and headed to Auschwitz, Hannah must decide how much she is willing to risk for the family with which she has reconnected. With Code Name Sapphire, Jenoff continues to shine a light on untold World War II stories about courageous women.

The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson (historical fiction) – Set in 1950s Philadelphia, The House of Eve follows Ruby Pearsall, a 15-year-old who plans to be the first in her family to head to college, regardless of the lack of familial support. But when she gets drawn into a forbidden relationship, she threatens to destroy her future before it even starts. Meanwhile, Eleanor Quarles moves to Washington, DC, where she meets and falls in love with William Pride at Howard University. But William’s family is one of DC’s elite Black families, and his parents have other ideas for William. Eager to integrate into the Pride family, Eleanor decides a baby will help her feel more accepted by his parents. When the two women’s lives unexpectedly collide, they must contend with choices that will impact them both for years to come. In The House of Eve, Johnson brings 1950s Philadelphia and Washington, DC to life while demonstrating what it was like to be a Black woman during that time period. I highly recommend this one.

Maame by Jessica George (fiction) – Maddie’s father struggles with late-stage Parkinson’s and her family has designated her as his primary caregiver with no input from her and very little help. Her mother spends most of her time in Ghana while constantly giving Maddie advice about how she should live her life. Her boss makes her job unpleasant, and Maddie is tired of serving as the sole Black person in every meeting. When her mom finally returns to London from Ghana, Maddie decides to spread her wings and experience what others her age are doing: she rents an apartment, goes out with co-workers, and dips a toe into the crazy world of internet dating. Maddie stumbles along the way, but ultimately comes to understand who she wants to become. I both read and listened to this beautiful coming-of-age tale and feel the audio enhances the experience of the book.

The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel (fiction) – Amy Poeppel, one of my favorite authors, returns with another stellar tale. Three women come together to care for a baby that is not theirs and plenty of comic hijinks ensue. Lauren and her family move into a beautiful brownstone with a classic dive in the basement called The Sweet Spot. But several days after they move in, Lauren accidentally sets in motion the divorce of a couple she doesn’t even know. Melinda’s husband, who never wanted a child, has now jettisoned her for Felicity, and he and Felicity are expecting a baby, causing Melinda to publicly express her anger in a manner that is broadcast all over social media. In an effort to end the situation, Olivia creates her own drama and is subsequently fired. In the midst of all of this drama, the new lovebirds flee the city, leaving the three women with their new baby. With her signature humor and engaging characters, Poeppel has created a delightful tale of modern life and the importance of human connection.

Editor’s note: Southside Place resident Cindy Burnett also writes our weekly Page Turners column. 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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