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Five picks for April

Cindy Burnett
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WHAT TO READ This month's selections include a clever tale about choice, two historical-fiction titles, a nonfiction book about the importance of booksellers and librarians, and a thriller about a girl who goes missing. (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.

American Daughters by Piper Huguley (historical fiction) – Piper Huguley’s latest novel, American Daughters, charts the unlikely and secret friendship between Alice Roosevelt, President Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, and Portia Washington, daughter of educator Booker T. Washington. When the two men developed a friendship, their daughters were unexpectedly brought together in 1901 and began a lifelong relationship that triumphed over race and politics. This relationship was kept under wraps due to the time period and drama that result from President Roosevelt’s and Booker T. Washington’s interactions with each other, but Huguley relies on both research about the two women individually as well as the time period to develop a story of what it would have looked like and how it would have impacted their views of what was happening with respect to race relations in the early 20th century. I found it fascinating to evaluate how much has changed from this time period compared to our current one and to see what has not. American Daughters is a timely read that will have readers thinking about what we all have in common versus focusing on our differences. 

The Husbands by Holly Gramazio (speculative fiction) – This delightful and unique debut novel explores the possibilities and ramifications of endless choice. Lauren, an unmarried young woman on a night out with her friends, arrives home to find a random stranger ensconced in her flat, claiming to be her husband. While she doesn’t know this man, the photos on her phone and her friends say otherwise. While Lauren is trying to come to terms with this altered state, the new husband goes up into the attic to change a lightbulb and promptly disappears with a new man taking his place. Realizing that her attic is providing her with an endless supply of different husbands, Lauren begins to evaluate how to decide when enough is enough after swapping out a large number of husbands. I loved the concepts explored in this book including finding an ideal mate, settling, exploring choice, and so much more. And I loved the humor infused throughout. The Husbands will appeal to readers who like clever and thought-provoking reads as well as those who enjoy creative premises.

The Secret Lives of Booksellers and Librarians: True Stories of the Magic of Reading by James Patterson and Matt Eversmann (nonfiction) – This gem is perfect for anyone who loves books and the way in which they bring people together. The authors spent countless hours interviewing booksellers and librarians, as well as others in literary-related jobs including researchers, archivists, teachers, and more. The result is a compilation of anecdotes and stories about how these individuals began their careers and/or the impact their role has had on them and others, heartwarming or humorous anecdotes about their stores/libraries, and how book banning is impacting bookstores and libraries. What I particularly loved about the book is that each chapter has a unique voice and viewpoint to it; I felt like I was sitting with each individual and listening to their particular story. Some resonated more than others with me, but every chapter was engaging and interesting and reminded me why I like to read.

The Underground Library by Jennifer Ryan (historical fiction) – Inspired by true events, The Underground Library follows three young women in London during World War II, Sofie, Katie, and Julie. They meet at the Bethnal Green Library, right before the German bombs destroy the roof of the library. Forced to seek shelter underground, they decide to bring the library into the Underground Station as well and succeed after some pushback. The story is a celebration of libraries, librarians, and books as well as the manner in which Londoners survived extreme hardship and how they endured. Ryan vividly depicts life underground and brings to life fascinating aspects of World War II that I had not been privy to before.

What Happened to Nina? by Dervla McTiernan (mystery/thriller) – With echoes of recent real-life cases, What Happened to Nina? takes the reader on a whirlwind journey following Nina’s disappearance. Together since they were 16 years old, Nina and Simon attend separate colleges and occasionally struggle to spend enough time with each other. When the couple takes a weekend trip to the country, only Simon returns, claiming that Nina went off to see friends. But why can no one reach her? Her disappearance draws intense media focus, and people begin speculating on social media about where she is and what might have happened. In an effort to protect Simon, his parents launch a malicious social media campaign targeting Nina and her family. McTiernan chose to have the four parents and the police detective relay the tale, each character slowly disseminating important details about what is unfolding. I loved hearing from each parent, and she inhabits each character so persuasively. While I didn’t like certain individuals, I did understand what motivated them to take the actions that they each did, and I was forced to reflect repeatedly about what I might do in such a situation. What Happened to Nina? is a thought-provoking and cautionary tale.

Editor’s note: Southside Place resident Cindy Burnett also writes our weekly Page Turners column at She hosts the award-winning 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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