Bulldog Book Reviews

Reviews by Adrian College Advanced Writing Students. All titles available at SHML.

The Seekers by Heather Graham

Finding ghosts and solving murders is always spooky, no matter what time of the year you read about them. Heather Graham’s The Seekers, takes you on just such a spooky journey. Graham takes us on a paranormal journey that is thrilling and builds your anticipation about what’s coming next in this book that easily falls into a variety of genres, from paranormal romance to mystery and horror.

 

In The Seekers, Keri Wolf joins a paranormal group to try and find ghosts in a supposedly haunted inn between Philly and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but the investigation is soon interrupted when they find a dead body in the basement. The group soon starts helping with the investigation, and Keri learns about her new ability to see spirits. Along the way she gets paired with Joe Dunhill, a former cop from Savannah, Georgia, and the head of the investigating Krewe, working together to find the truth about this sudden murder. The amateur detectives call themselves a Krewe in the tradition of Mardi Gras float builders. Together they use their skills to help catch those who are at fault for the murders and to put it all to rest to make for a safer town.

 

Along the way, more murders take place, and they have to figure out who is to blame. Joe and Keri form a romantic connection, and, working together, solve the murders.

 

Readers will enjoy the book because of the mystery leaping from every page. It takes readers on a journey that appears at first to be merely a ghost hunt but then quickly switches gears to a murder mystery. Needless to say, it will surely keep readers on their toes waiting to see what happens next. The Seekers is unique because of its thrilling edginess.

 

--Samantha Daugherty

 

 

Under Currents by Nora Roberts

With Under Currents Nora Roberts brings her readers a thrilling, romantic, crime based book with four interweaving parts to keep you from guessing what will happen next. Roberts, who has published more than two hundred novels and is a New York Times bestselling author has done it again with this novel.

 

In the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, in a small town called Lakeview, we meet the Bigelows. Everyone knows everyone, there. Just a few streets make up the town along with the lake. The Bigelows own the largest and most glamorous house in the whole town. This is Graham Bigelow’s way of showing off his success and importance in the town. As the head general surgeon at the local hospital, of course, he would have the perfect wife and perfect children. They take numerous family vacations, and their children are each the best at their chosen sport, with 4.0 GPAs. From the outside, they look like the family most people want to be like, but they are far from that. Graham is an abusive husband and father.

 

Eighteen years later, after escaping his demons, Zane comes back to small-town Lakeview to start his life over. Emily, his aunt, who he is forever thankful to for saving him and Britt from their father, has a huge family business renting out bungalows. She hires the new girl in town, Darby, to do the landscaping at the bungalows. The relationship Darby grows with the people of Lakeview is one that no one sees coming. But Darby, herself, is running from past demons, also.

 

By the third part of the book, we learn that the important characters from part one will come back into play with the characters of part two to make for the big twist you do not see coming. The long list of characters that are introduced throughout the book can be frustrating and confusing, but Nora Roberts makes it all worth the read at the very end, because each section of the book keeps you on your toes. In each part we see romantic interests, thrilling crime and mini-plot twists. You don’t see how these parts all intertwine until the very last minute of the book with a surprise ending. With not a second of a disappointment, this book is something you won’t regret reading!

 

--Candice Kaars-Mulholland

 

 

Window by the Bay by Debbie Macomber

Window by the Bay is a heartwarming read. The novel begins by explaining the friendship between Jenna and Maureen: how their personalities compare and contrast, how they met in college and how they made plans to go to Paris before they graduated. Then life takes a sharp turn as Maureen gets pregnant with her only daughter, Tori, putting many plans on the back burner.

 

This book is enticing for the sole fact that it is a very realistic read. Jenna and Maureen’s lives move forward through marriage, pregnancy, and divorce, while keeping their friendship strong. Author Debbie Macomber does a great job at showing the compassion that both Jenna and Maureen encompass as divorced, single mothers. It is not easy to get married, have children, get divorced, to then try to come back into the dating scene after so many years. Jenna allows us to see just how hard it is to allow another person into your life when she was “Quick to say it was my turn to live my life, without understanding that it would mean lowering the walls I’d erected around my heart.”

 

One aspect of Window by the Bay, that will really catch your attention is its several plot twists. While reading this novel you will think that you have this book figured out pretty early but don’t be too quick to assume. Shortly after any assumptions you might know what was going to happen but could get caught off guard by a life changing event in either Jenna or Maureen’s life. From surprise college drop-outs to a grandmother breaking her hip Debbie Macomber always keeps you on your feet.

 

While reading a chapter of Maureen’s life I was taken off guard. She went out on a date with a man named Logan, who wasn’t afraid to confront Maureen and hold his ground. Maureen built up thick tall walls around her heart, never wanting to be hurt by another man again. But he tells her what any woman with many doubts sometimes needs to hear, “You need a man who understands and appreciates you for the woman you are.” That is where she had me even more hooked than before.

 

Some people think that a simple ‘love story’ can tend to get boring. Debbie Macomber enchants our hearts in a way that gets swallowed up in the relationships that form for Jenna and Maureen. Following both women through dates, advice from their children, and many cups of tea we get to really connect with all of the characters throughout the novel.

 

With multiple characters to focus on throughout the book readers experience many different aspects of relationships as well as different experiences: following Jenna as she is a first time empty nester, all excited for new activities she always wanted to try, as she realizes that it is not as easy as it sounds to just let go. Readers also see Maureen fall for a man who she would describe as very polar opposite to herself, only to push him away because she is afraid.

As insecurities and walls fall, hearts open up. Debbie Macomber pulls at the heartstrings throughout this novel that keeps you engaged.

 

--Jalyn DeForest

 

 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is the story of a young, African American couple told from the points of view of three main characters. Well-educated  and very much in love with each other, Celestial and Roy look like they have it all. They experience the struggles that every married couple faces, and the reader immediately empathizes with the two of them. When Roy is wrongfully convicted of rape, Celestial is left on her own in the world. She finds solace in her best friend Andre during this trying time. This novel explores the idea that although someone may be locked behind bars and facing more than we can imagine, his partner is imprisoned other ways.

 

One of the many reasons I would recommend this book to anyone is the three-dimensional characters. We are introduced to Roy first. Roy is a middle class African American male. He enjoys having a drink with his friends, and also being around his family. When he goes away to college, he meets Celestial. Celestial, whose parents are wealthy grew up a world apart from Roy, with a love for art and strong family ties. The third main character is Celestial’s best friend, Andre. Andre and Celestial are like peanut butter and jelly, they fit together perfectly. The book explores these three characters and their relationships with one another. They fight together, love together, cry together, and grow together.

 

A unique feature of this domestic fiction novel is how the characters’ stories are told. Although the book starts in first person, switching character every chapter, it changes when Roy goes to prison. We are thrown into the letters between Celestial and Roy. We read about Celestial and her in interest in doll-making; we read about Roy and his bunkmate who is referred to as “Ghetto Yoda,” we read about Celestial growing up and about Roy staying frozen in time. Telling part of the story in letter format was the perfect way to pass a lot of information along to the reader. 

 

This novel also speaks to current issues in society, especially the wrongful conviction of African Americans in the United States. As Celestial says early on, “There’s no appealing a cop’s bullet.” The topics and references are recent and important to the readers especially when associated with these lovable characters. As we read further, we feel as though we are walking alongside them through their lives. They can be fickle, make mistakes, and even change up their attitude in the middle of a sentence. We are with them the entire time, and never confused. You know a book has a good author behind it when you can picture the facial expressions throughout the novel, and this happens with almost every line.

 

I would highly recommend this book to anyone currently living in 2019. It speaks to the times, and also can open your eyes. Every year, there is a book that speaks to the people. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is that book this year.

 

--Abigail Wise

 

 

Smokescreen by Iris Johansen

Regardless of the pace at which you read, Johansen will have you ripping through sentences as quickly as the fingers “tearing through the mud” on the first page. Despite being the twenty-eighth novel in Johansen’s “Eve Duncan” mystery series, Smokescreen immediately distinguishes itself as an award-winner. In this staggering thriller, Eve Duncan, a master of forensic sculpting, finds herself torn away from her home and loved ones by the desperate plea of a slick talking reporter named Jill Cassidy. Before she knows it, Duncan finds herself deep in the jungles of Africa in the wake of a sadistic massacre. There, she fights to bring families peace by reconstructing the faces of those they have lost and “bringing their loved ones home.” But Michael, her son, is once again having those intuitions that something is just not right. She knows Michael is usually right about these things… but what shrouded malice is he sensing? While she strives to bring the African victims home to their families, will she be able to make it back to her own?

 

As skillfully as Duncan crafts the faces of the dead with her tireless hands, Johansen proves to us once again to be a connoisseur of suspense. Every paragraph is charged with something raw and powerful. Within the space of a few pages you will go from your stomach squelching at the grisly handiwork of cold-blooded mercenaries to feeling unnerved by the elitist fantasies of a dominatrix queen.  Each and every character is crafted with precision and intensity. I dare you to try and find any shallow characters in this novel. You won’t. The coldest and most barbaric of characters still show themselves to be weak, fearful, and irrational at times. And even the most timid and seemingly powerless earn for themselves a day of reckoning.

 

--Brianna Boley

 

 

The Night Visitors by Carol Goodman

The main theme of Carol Goodman’s becomes clear within its first chapters. Domestic abuse has a heavy impact on both main characters as their perspectives switch chapter by chapter to demonstrate the distrust that the cycle of abuse creates. Alice, a single mother on the run from an abusive boyfriend, and Mattie, an aged woman who works to protect women and children from domestic abuse, are quick to judge one another because of their different ages and upbringings, despite their similar circumstances.

 

However, this story does not have a singular theme. There are frequent twists and turns, taking a spin on what the reader is supposed to believe about Alice and Mattie’s circumstances. Though neither of them are particularly likeable as people, their choices are reasonable based on experiences that are revealed are as the novel moves forward. In addition to the variety of twists and cliffhangers, there is a supernatural element that is seamlessly intertwined with the sheer drama and scandal that the novel brings. Character deaths are hardly ever what they seem and even concrete evidence can be completely obscured by the scandal hidden in the snow of Delphi, New York.

 

Oren, Alice’s ten-year-old son, is immediately recognizable as a lonely and intelligent child. Though his imagination is incredibly active and he hears voices in his head, both Alice and Mattie care for him immensely. His love for Star Wars and Greek mythology digs up Mattie’s fading memories of her life when she was young. Though she is calloused by her family history and haunted by the death of her kid brother, Caleb, she breaks rules that she set herself by allowing Alice and Oren to stay in her house to avoid the cold and the snow of upstate New York, all to remind herself of her brother’s memory. Alice is not fond of the old house or the woman with a brash personality, but for Oren’s sake, she stays. Though frightened, her maternal nature kicks in and allows her to put the child ahead of the danger that lies ahead of them.

 

A broken family on the run, a mysterious old woman with a dark past, and a snowstorm secluding them from the already lonely confines of upstate New York provide the perfect backdrop for two women who are more similar than they hope to be. The Night Visitors is more than just a story about domestic abuse. Its complex plot, intriguing characters, and hints of the supernatural allow for the novel to be both an intense and interesting read.

 

--Lily Brueckman