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Suspect April 25, 2013

Filed under: Books,Staff Pics — Heather @ 10:12 pm
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Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nitz

suspect book

Seventeen-year-old Jen is fresh from junior year of high school and a break-up with her boyfriend.  A fun-filled summer now awaits her-working at her Grandmother’s bed and breakfast.  Grandma Kay’s Schoenhaus lies among the vineyards of Missouri (who knew Missouri was know for its wine?), and will give Jen a much-needed break.  She’s even on board to play a role in the murder mystery weekend at the B & B, until she learns it may include solving a real-life mystery- her mother’s disappearance!

Jen’s mother abandoned her and her father fifteen years ago.  Periodically receiving gifts and letters from her absent mother, the contact came to a halt a few years ago.  Jen has lived her entire life without a mother, holding on to a few fleeting memories while trying to move on with her life.  Now Grandma Kay suspects Ellen didn’t really leave at all.  She thinks she was murdered!  Could it be true?  Could her mother really have been dead all these years?  Then who’s been sending the presents?  And even more frightening, who could have killed her?

All these questions are answered in this delightful tale.  I am a die-hard mystery fanatic and I suspect the author is as well.  Rarely do you find a well-crafted mystery (without some kind of supernatural beings) in young adult novels.  The teen characters are realistically portrayed.  The plot is engaging.  From the moment I picked it up, this book didn’t leave my hands.  Okay, maybe I had to go to the bathroom once, but that’s it!  I found myself literally on the edge of my seat, not able to read the pages fast enough to reach the satisfying climax of this novel.  Suspect is a great way to introduce teens to the wonderful world of murder and mayhem every mystery lover craves.  I can only anticipate future winners from Ms. Nitz.

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Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu February 24, 2013

Filed under: Books — Heather @ 8:29 pm
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dirtylittlesecretsLucy Tompkins has a dirty little secret…her mother is a hoarder.  For years her mother has been “collecting” items that are too precious to throw out.  The result is a house filled to the ceiling with newspapers, clothes and garbage.  There is no heat and no running water.  Lucy navigates her way around the trash and her mother’s illness, biding her time until she can leave the house like her two older siblings.  This is the deep, dark secret she’s been living with her whole life.  Lucy has artfully controlled the situation by never letting anyone in her home and choosing her friends carefully.  All that falls apart when she returns from a sleepover to find her mother has died under a pile of National Geographic magazines.  Panic-stricken she starts to dial 911, but stops.  If the authorities come…everyone will know their dirty little secret!

The majority of the novel deals with Lucy’s attempt to clean up her house so she can attend to her mother.  At first I didn’t understand why she just wouldn’t call for help.  Her mother’s dead, who cares about the house.  But then we are given a glimpse into exactly what Lucy has been living with.  If you’ve ever seen the TV shows about hoarders, you’ll understand.  Lucy’s mother has saved every single scrap for years and years, and it’s all in the house.  There’s no where to walk except for winding, claustrophobic paths carved into the debris.  The smell is overwhelming. Lucy recalls how family members have tried to help and clean up in the past.  This was seen by her mother as a betrayal.  Lucy has no choice but to live in the squalor until she graduates.

Her mother’s sudden death has made Lucy take action like never before.  The dichotomy between the anger and sadness she feels towards her is perfect.  Lucy is finally free of her mother and she’s left with the mess, but the fact is that her mother has died.  The guilt she feels for not mourning properly is equaled by her fear and sadness.  By the end of this Dirty Little Secrets I came away with a great respect for Lucy and her strength to endure her mother’s illness and try to protect her family.  I can not even imagine what it must be like to live and function in this situation.  For many people out there, this is a reality.  I applaud C.J. Omololu for shedding light on the issue of hoarding and those it affects.