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Five picks for June

Cindy Burnett
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WHAT TO READ This month’s picks include a compelling story about a female entrepreneur’s forays into the biotech startup world, a thriller featuring a woman whose DNA leads to an unexpected and mysterious discovery, a nonfiction book uncovering the ways department stores shaped shopping and women’s employment, and two more fiction books — one is a hilarious rom-com and the other is a feel-good tale about a social club for senior citizens. (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.

Anna Bright Is Hiding Something by Susie Orman Schnall (fiction) – In this timely and engaging book, Anna Bright is one of the only female entrepreneurs making a splash in the start-up world. On the brink of filing with the SEC to take her company BrightLife public, all is not as it seems with the company’s cutting-edge product called BrightSpot. The ocular implant is supposed to contain a biosensor and computer chip that will revolutionize the biotech world, but the technology to support the implant is not complete – no matter how much Anna wants it to be. When journalist Jamie Roman learns about Anna’s malfeasance, she sets out to uncover the story and expose the truth. Schnall has written a compelling story that addresses the inequities women face in the business world and how the actions of one woman can reflect on all women, something men don’t usually have to contend with. I enjoyed Schnall’s glimpse into the startup world, her strong characters, and the engaging story line as well as the true-to-life ending.

How to Age Disgracefully by Clare Pooley (fiction) – Clare Pooley has perfected the art of writing feel-good books with depth and lots of humor. Lydia’s new job as the director of the Senior Citizens’ Social Club is not what she expects it to be. She plans card games and puzzles for the members, but this group of seniors wants to do exciting activities like skydiving. When the city council proposes selling the local community center where the group meets, the Social Club and the parents of the daycare housed in the center join forces to fight back. Pooley crafts a tale filled with engaging characters, each with their own unique backstory, who come together to accomplish a goal while all sorts of hilarity ensues. I love the focus on older characters and intergenerational relationships. I highly recommend this one.

Long Time Gone by Charlie Donlea (mystery/thriller) – In this compulsively readable thriller, Charlie Donlea focuses on the ripped-from-the-headlines topic of forensic and investigative genealogy, which has recently been used to solve cold cases. Toggling back and forth between 1995 and 2024, the story follows Sloan Hastings, who submits her DNA to a genealogy website as part of her fellowship in forensic pathology. Sloan grew up knowing she was adopted, but she was surprised to learn that her DNA proved that she was the missing “Baby Charlotte,” whose disappearance had captivated the nation in 1995. Donlea strikes the perfect balance between explaining the science and usage of forensic genealogy with a clever and captivating mystery and well-developed characters. Chapters frequently end on cliffhangers, which kept me turning the pages and wondering who was at fault and why. 

One-Star Romance by Laura Hankin (rom-com) - One-Star Romance combines romance, humor, and reflections on life's complexities. Right before Natalie Shapiro walks down the aisle as her best friend’s maid of honor, she discovers that the best man has left her newly published book a one-star review on Goodreads, creating strife between the pair. Over time, the duo is thrown together , and they slowly come to understand each other better. As various truths become known, the pair realizes they may have more in common than they initially thought. Hankin’s heartwarming and hilarious storytelling ensures that this rom-com also touches on the importance of friendship, growing up, and what it means to be human. The literary aspects of the book are an appealing add for diehard readers, and this will make a great vacation read.

When Women Ran Fifth Avenue: Glamour and Power at the Dawn of American Fashion by Julie Satow (nonfiction)When Women Ran Fifth Avenue tells the stories of Hortense Odlum of Bonwit Teller, Dorothy Shaver of Lord & Taylor and Geraldine Stutz of Henri Bendel. It also provides a brief history of department stores and how they changed the world of shopping and opened up employment opportunities for women. At a time when most working women were nurses or teachers, the department store created a new career path for them in sales and business. This glimpse into the department store phenomenon and its impact on our culture and shopping habits is fascinating, especially in light of their slow demise as online shopping popularizes. While this is narrative nonfiction, it is a page-turner chock full of trade secrets, drama, and intriguing history. I truly could not put it down.

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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