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Five picks for March

Cindy Burnett
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WHAT TO READ This month’s picks include two fun and light mysteries, a compelling historical-fiction title set in Colorado, a stunning climate-fiction book, and an excellent family drama. (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.

Go as a River by Shelley Read (historical fiction) – Go as a River is a stunning and unforgettable debut set in rural Colorado that tells the story of one woman’s hardscrabble existence and how she learns to make her way in a man’s world. Seventeen-year-old Victoria Nash keeps her family’s household running while her father and brother tend the family’s peach farm in 1940s Iola, Colorado. When she meets a young Native American man on his way through Iola, the pair fall in love, but their relationship sets in motion a shocking chain of events that ultimately sends Victoria into the mountains and onto a new path. Read’s incredibly strong sense of place and ability to bring the natural world to life is the backbone of the story, but the characters stole my heart, particularly Torie, and this book will stay with me for a long time.

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell (mystery) – The creative concept of this book drew me right in: A dead body is found during the filming of a highly rated baking show set at Grafton, a historical mansion in rural Vermont and the main host’s childhood home. For the 10th season of “Bake Week,” host Betsy Martin is less-than-thrilled to be sharing the spotlight with “Cutting Board” host Archie Morris while filming the episodes at her home. When small things start going awry on day one like salt replacing sugar in a cannister, no one thinks twice about it. But when a dead body is found, the contestants realize that something more sinister is at play. Told from the point of views of the various contestants and Betsy, The Golden Spoon is a delightful mystery set in the world of baking competitions with an Agatha Christie vibe. The book is already being made into a limited series on Hulu and will lend itself well to the screen.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano (fiction) – With Little Women as a jumping off point, Napolitano writes an incredibly moving and engrossing family drama centered around the four Padavano sisters and William Waters, the lonely individual with a sad past, who becomes intertwined with them and inadvertently threatens to rupture their bond. Each sister has a distinct personality, some more likable than others, but it is William who truly steals the show. Growing up, his parents treated him poorly, causing him to struggle with mental health issues but as the story progresses he finds the inner strength with the help of some loyal friends to find his path and to learn to accept honest and real love into his life. Hello Beautiful is storytelling at its finest, and it portrays life, loss, and love in all its different forms, the beauty and price of love, and the extraordinary power of human connection. This is a must read.

The Last Beekeeper by Julie Carrick Dalton (climate fiction) – This stellar addition to the fast-growing climate fiction genre is set in the future, approximately 10 years after society collapsed. While most of the world believes that honeybees are extinct, Sasha returns home to find the research her father, nicknamed The Last Beekeeper, swears exists, research proving that bees are still alive on Earth. With her father in prison, the family home was abandoned so Sasha finds squatters occupying her old home, individuals anxious to avoid the terrible state housing. As she settles in, the group becomes a refuge for her until she spots a lone honeybee, a sighting that can subject her to derision and potential harm. Toggling back and forth in time and slowly unraveling the mystery at the heart of the story, The Last Beekeeper is a powerful reflection on the importance of caring for our planet and how dependent humans are on the natural world. Interwoven with this disturbing glimpse at what the world could look like without bees is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and the importance of relationships and community. I highly recommend this one.

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto (mystery) – Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers is a laugh-out-loud mystery set in San Francisco’s Chinatown. When 60-year-old Vera Wong finds a dead body in her tea shop, she calls the police, but not until after taking a flash drive from the dead man’s hand and hiding it. Frustrated with the police’s investigative work (it looks nothing like how the cops solve cases on TV), she decides to do a little detective work herself. Corralling the four individuals who stop by the shop following the body’s discovery, Vera works to crack the case while inadvertently making new friends with the people she is sure are suspects. Filled with humor and hijinks, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers is a delight from beginning to end.

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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