If you’re looking for a suspenseful murder mystery full of unexpected twists and turns, check out Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia. An enthralling new novel that cleverly uses the narratives of the victim, the main suspect and the sheriff investigating the crime to reveal whodunit and why, while also exploring how a murder has effected a small, close-knit community.
Hattie Hoffman, an 18-year-old on the verge of graduating high school in the sleepy town of Pine Valley, Minnesota, has been found dead in an abandoned barn. Hattie, an aspiring actress, had plans to leave for New York City after graduating, and to everyone who knew her, she was the perfect daughter, a model student and a loving girlfriend to her football player boyfriend Tommy.
Unsurprisingly, the crime sends shock waves through the community made up of mostly farmers, where the worst crimes to take place are traffic offenses. Sherriff Del Goodman, a friend of Hattie’s family, is tasked with finding out what happened the night Hattie died, and his investigation into the last few months of her life uncovers secrets that have him questioning whether anyone actually knew the real Hattie.
Everything You Want Me to Be is an intricately plotted thriller that gradually unravels the mystery through the three connected narratives. And just when you think you have figured everything out, Mejia throws in a twist to let you know things are not always as they seem, and that innocence and deception sometimes go hand in hand.
What’s more exciting than cracking open a book and recognizing your own neighborhood? Here are three new picture books featuring fun and history from the Baltimore area.
First, we have Poe’s Road Trip to Ravens Gameday written by the Ravens mascot Poe and illustrated by Brian Martin. Poe begins his week pumping iron at Merritt Athletic Club, shares his favorite story (The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, of course) on the Ravens Bookmobile, visits Maryland’s capital city, goes down the ocean, visits several Baltimore-area landmarks and ends the week on game day at M&T Bank Stadium. Anyone can appreciate this jaunt around Maryland, but football fans will be especially enamored.
For another exciting tale penned by a local bird, check out The Autobiography of a Pigeon Named Pete: A True Baltimore Story by Pete the Pigeon, interpreted by Gary Meyers and illustrated by Stephanie Helgeson. This book tells the true tale of a pigeon with ordinary beginnings in an ordinary Baltimore row home who went on to live a long, happy and extraordinary life with his “person” Muriel. Although the story is largely based on news articles, author Meyers has a special connection to this special pigeon — Muriel is his mother.
Finally, we have Night-Night Maryland: A Sleepy Bedtime Rhyme by Katherine Sully and illustrated by Helen Poole. Young readers will recognize the Baltimore-centric landmarks, from sleeping animals at the Maryland Zoo and the ducklings of Patterson Park to the quiet darkness of Fort McHenry and Port Discovery at night. The short, pleasant rhymes make for a nice final book before bed.
Her Every Fear, Peter Swanson’s latest suspense thriller, is just what its title suggests. This novel knows exactly what you’re afraid of — and it’ll get you when you’re least expecting it.
Kate Priddy is more familiar with danger than she cares to admit. She is the survivor of an abusive, suicidal ex-boyfriend and she has crippling anxiety. In her mind, any situation can be life-threatening, and any person can be a killer. That is why everyone (especially Kate) is surprised when she agrees to apartment-swap with her American cousin, Corbin, for six months. This is the fresh start she’s been looking for.
When Kate arrives at Corbin’s luxurious Boston apartment complex, however, something is already wrong. Her next-door neighbor is missing, and Kate knows even before the body is found that the woman is dead.
Now, with a murder investigation underway and her cousin as the prime suspect, Kate has no idea who she can trust. She tells herself that she’s safe because Corbin is halfway across the world and that the noises she hears around the apartment are just her mind playing tricks on her.
Swanson uses multiple perspectives to control the information he gives his audience and build the suspense to almost unbearable levels. Her Every Fear will have you glancing over your shoulder and thinking twice about turning off the lights.
Stephenie Meyer, author of The Host and the world-renowned Twilight series, is back with a new, thrilling tale of espionage and love in The Chemist, her second adult novel.
Juliana Fortis is dead; at least, that’s what she wants the people searching for her to think. She spends her days making wide circles around her routines to throw off trackers, and she spends her nights sleeping in a gas mask just in case an intruder sets off one of her booby traps. She plans for any and every outcome of a given situation: that is the only way to keep breathing when you’re being hunted.
What Juliana (or Alex, for now) doesn’t plan for, however, is the email from her governmental ex-employer that changes everything. Her old boss, the very man that wants her dead, offers Alex a deal: if she will use her very special skill set one more time to help prevent a worldwide catastrophe, the agency will stop looking for her.
Alex tentatively embarks on her new assignment, but learns quickly that not everything is what it seems. In the midst of the most dangerous mission of her life, she finds herself falling for the man she is supposed to stop, and no amount of planning could have prepared her for the events that follow.
Meyer has come through once again with a story so captivating that you won’t want to put it down. Lovers of espionage and romance alike will tear through the pages of The Chemist.
Like most avid readers, there are a handful of books from childhood that I became completely lost inside. I still love Francis Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden, and reading it always brings me right back to my childhood, as well as that lonely old mansion in the English countryside. Megan Shepherd’s debut novel The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is sure to spark this same feeling in readers young and old. A blend of history and fantasy, it sucks readers into another world filled with mysterious characters and magical creatures.
Emmaline is one of many at the makeshift hospital for children with tuberculosis, but she is the only one able to see the winged horses in the mirrors of the once great house. Against the nuns’ strict orders, she sneaks out to play in the walled garden whenever she can. One morning, she discovers a horse from the mirror world hidden there. The horse, Foxfire, has a broken wing, which prevents him from returning to his own world. Letters from The Horse Lord begin to appear in the garden’s ancient sundial, and explain that Foxfire isn’t just wounded, but is being hunted by a sinister Black Horse. This creature hunts at night and is repelled by colorful objects. In order to save her new friend, Emmaline must find colorful objects to surround him. This is hard to do in the drab, gray hospital where all color seems to have been washed from the world.
This deeply moving story will have readers on the edge of their seats and will stay with them long after they have discovered all the secrets hidden in the pages.
Jason Overstreet’s suspenseful debut transports readers to the dazzle and excitement of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance in The Strivers' Row Spy, the first entry in a promising mystery series. Sidney Temple is a recent college graduate on the brink of opportunity that even his bourgeois family could not have imagined. His impulsive marriage to artist Loretta brings him great happiness, but even more is in store for this bright young man.
J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, hand-picks Sidney to be the FBI’s first African-American agent, and Sidney knows this is his chance to make a change and work for justice. The FBI is intent on bringing down Marcus Garvey, prominent head of the back-to-Africa movement. Sidney uses his previously unknown skills at deception and undercover work to thwart the Bureau’s investigation. And by giving renowned leader W.E.B. DuBois insider information, Sidney gambles on a change that could mean a fair future for all Americans.
As Sidney and Loretta climb into the most influential Harlem circles, the stakes become more perilous. Tragedy threatens to shatter Loretta’s trust in her husband, and Sidney’s double-life is dangerously precarious. Overstreet does a marvelous job of capturing the heady atmosphere of 1920s Harlem, and is so convincing in his storytelling that readers may forget this is all fiction and Sidney Temple never existed. Overstreet peppers his story with real historical figures from the ‘20s. Besides Hoover, DuBois and Garvey, Sidney also has encounters with James Weldon Johnson, Adam Clayton Powell and Max Eastman. Readers who enjoy spy stories or historical fiction will definitely find a new author to follow in Jason Overstreet.
Are you doing BCPL’s Reading Challenge? This would be a great one for February’s challenge. Don’t forget to take a picture of yourself with the book and submit your entry by visiting Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and post or tweet the photo with the hashtag #bwellread. Camera-shy participants may post a photograph of the book they’ve chosen.