Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Mini-reviews: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty and Jackal by Erin E. Adams

Because I know that I'm going to forget what I even thought of some of these books, I'm going to have to resort to mini-reviews...again.  

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty 
Read by Caroline Lee
Published September 2018 by Flatiron Books 

Publisher's Summary: 
Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? 

These nine perfect strangers are about to find out... 

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be. 

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer—or should she run while she still can? 

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

My Thoughts: 
I've long been a fan of Moriarty's and even when I felt like one of her books was starting slowly, it always came around to draw me in, to make me think. I come to care for the characters. 

Except this one. I kept waiting for the moment when Moriarty would reel me in but it never happened. Maybe it was because I never cared much for any of the characters. As much as we learned about them, I never felt like any of them was particularly nuanced; rather that they were each developed to fill a need. I fact, before I finished listening, I had set the pace to 150%. I had heard that this one wasn't Moriarty's best, but I assumed that even a lessor Moriarty would still be a book I'd enjoy. I'm sorry to say I was wrong. 

by Erin E. Adams
336 pages
Published October 2022 by Bantam

Publisher's Summary: 
It’s watching. 

Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward and passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the bride’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood. 

It’s taking. 

As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: a summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart missing. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls. 

It’s your turn. 

With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness.

My Thoughts:
Honestly can't remember what made me request this book on Netgalley. I think I received an email saying, "since you read _______, you might like Jackal." I must have liked that first book because it made me think I would enjoy this one. And I did. But for one thing and I'm not sure I can even tell you what it was, without giving away the ending of the book. 

Let's just say that it threw the book into a genre that isn't my usual read. To be fair to the book, Adams gave me plenty of hints that's where she was going. I just kept hoping that the evil would turn out to be something different. Fair enough to say that there's plenty of evil in this book that has nothing to do with fantastical elements. And there are plenty of monsters of all kinds, as Adams uses the horror genre to explore racism. 

Did I hope for a different ending? Yes, slightly. But along the way, Adams had me chasing my tail, trying to figure out who Liz needed to be most afraid of, tossing red herrings out all through the book, making a book that was well worth the read. 

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