Cover Image: A History of Wild Places

A History of Wild Places

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Member Reviews

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people and has been asked to look for Maggie St James an author of macabre children's stories that has vanished.  Through his search he stumbles across Pastoral a reclusive community founded in the 1970's and then also vanishes.

This one was intriguing and kept my interest.  Atmospheric and a little creepy, It did drag a little in the middle and felt a bit muddled.  I would  read another story with Travis Wren and wished we had more of him in this one.
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A History of Wild Places immediately pulled me in. The book opens with Travis, a man with a special gift that allows him to see the memories of a person when he touches their belongings. He’s been tasked with finding a missing author, Maggie St. James, who has been missing for five years. Travis might be Maggie’s last chance of being found - but soon he vanishes too. 

This book kept me guessing all the way through. It was twisty and I was constantly questioning what would happen next. Some of the twists I could see coming, but the whys kept me guessing. The writing was beautiful and very atmospheric, chapters told from Bee’s POV especially. As a character who is blind, Bee’s other senses are heightened and the way she describes the movements and sounds around her were truly like seeing. I truly felt like I was lost in the middle of the woods. 

I really enjoyed how the story unfolded through three different POVs. They were all written in different styles and it was easy to differentiate between the three main characters. It’s really hard to say much more without spoiling anything, but I would definitely recommend this book if you like atmospheric, mysterious books (plus it’s a little culty, if you’re into that). 

Also, this cover *chef’s kiss*. I know it’s bad to judge a book by a cover, but that’s what initially drew me in and I have to say it’s perfect for this story. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria for an advanced copy.
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This is a story about the power of suggestion.

I definitely went into this with flawed expectations based on my assumption that this was another fairytale like YA novel, like the authors previous works.  NOPE.  This was an adult mystery novel, with just enough of the paranormal to keep me really invested.  The author did a beautiful job of creating a rabbithole for the reader to tumble down & I had no idea what was real for a solid portion of the book.  One element isn’t sitting with me perfectly- but I thought this was an excellent work. 

Also, this is one of my favorite covers of the year- it’s *perfect* for this book.

Thank you so much @
Netgalley & Atria books for the eArc!
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Holy Moly!  Drop everything and read this now. This book kept me hooked from the start, just trying to figure out what exactly was going on Travis, not to mention what the heck happened to Maggie. This was the exact mystery I'd been craving for a cozy winter day. 

5/5 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Pastoral is an idyllic cult-like community gone wrong. Its founders planned a community of protection, simplicity, and harmony, but that vision doesn't always survive from generation to generation. 

When famous writer Maggie St. John goes missing, Pastoral is a destination that shows up as a lead. Travis Wren (semi-detective, semi-paranormal investigator) goes on a search for her... and winds up missing as well. 

There's lots of suspense, mystery, and revealing of secrets. You can't say much without potentially giving spoilers... but this was written in a way that reminded me so much of Where the Crawdads Sing and Educated. There was a sense of innocence and delusion in the tone of this story that was compelling. 

I guessed/spoiled myself on what was happening pretty early on, but this was still a great read! (***spoilers***: The only thing I didn't love is that Travis's "powers" are never fully explained. How could he see the afterimages? How did it become such an irrelevant plot device?)
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This was such a good book! I loved the shifting POVs and the slow reveals. This is a book about a hidden community - and the dangers it faces when it is threatened by outsiders. 

I only wished that we got more of a why for how certain things happened and the more immediate history of Pastoral.
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I think the ending might disappoint some people but this really appealed to me for a lot of reasons: a cult-y setting, in the woods, some light magical elements, and incredible writing. I really felt for all of these characters in a multitude of ways, and I love getting that deep character connection! I look forward to visiting Shea Ernshaw's backlist titles in the future.
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Okay. Holy crap. This book took me on a ride. This review is going to be purely emotional with little to no plot/character information.

I was lost as heck in the beginning. Travis’ whole character and the situation was confusing. I almost DNFed. But I really don’t DNF books so I continued on. When we get to Pastorale? Are you kidding me? I was HOOKED. I was all in then. Unfortunately (but not really) I was able to figure out the plot twist less than half way through. I had strong suspicions and I was certain. My thoughts confirmed, I found I wasn’t that upset because I still had about 25% of the book left. Holy crap I did NOT see any of that 25% happening. For real. I thought the author did a phenomenal job with 85% of the book. I could’ve done without the first part, and I really don’t think you need it for the rest of the story. Otherwise yes. Read this book. It’s too adult for my middle school class but I will definitely recommend to friends!
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I had such a great time with this book overall. It's very fast paced and definitely had a feeling of "what in the world is going on here???" I really wanted to keep reading to unravel everything! I did end up guessing correctly on some things, and I felt pleased that I put the clues together correctly. We have a mix of timelines and narrators with Travis trying to find Maggie and then years later following the three residents of the mysterious community. I felt a bit confused about this time jump initially (because I apparently forgot the synopsis), but I ended up liking it.

There are lots of mysteries to be unraveled with what happened to Maggie, what's going on in the village, and more! I had several different theories, some supernatural, others not, and I kept going back and forth on this. I do feel a little let down by the end - I think I liked it, but I also wanted a bit more explanation.

Travis was an interesting character. He's down on his luck and isolated. He's not the most likeable and does have some self destructive tendencies, but I did like his skills and determination to find Maggie. Speaking of his skills, I really liked his talent at finding people because this is a particular element that I love seeing in books.

In terms of the residents of this community, we follow two sisters, as well as the husband of one of them. Bee is blind, and I liked seeing how her other senses are enhanced and how she utilizes these. She might be my favorite character because she's a bit wild, stubborn, and very much her own person. She has to deal with some unexpected things over the book, and I liked seeing how she handles these. She does sometimes make some dumb choices, but I can ultimately understand where she's coming from.

Calla, Bee's sister, can be a bit self-righteous at times and doesn't really question what they've been told. She's very much a rule follower, but I liked seeing her growth over the book. Theo, Calla's husband, is interested in what's beyond the borders of the community but has to hide this because people aren't allowed to leave for certain reasons. I liked him overall, especially with how he starts investigating what happened to Travis and Maggie. Of course, we have some other community members here as well. The leader is a bit creepy and gives off some cult-like vibes! He certainly feels rather power hungry at times.

Overall, this was definitely enjoyable, and I'll be looking out for more of Shea Ernshaw's books (especially the adult ones). I would absolutely recommend this!

My video review can be seen on my booktube channel (around minutes 7:30-10:41 of this video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in7GxyvT_d4
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Shea Ernshaw has crafted an incredibly vibrant world, and if I had to describe this book in a single word it would probably be 'atmospheric'. The characters are complex, flawed, human, and easy to understand. The way the stories within the story are woven into the book and the interconnectedness of it all was nicely done, I feel like the balance was slightly off with regard to the supernatural elements involved, and we never really got closure on how two characters with preternatural abilities reconcile them in the end. Do they retain these abilities? Does it serve them well or are they haunted by it? It's something that may not be super essential to the story but personally I would've liked to see, because it felt important to the characters for me. Fair warning: the book lags really bad in the middle, to the point of very nearly stalling out. I'm glad I continued reading though, because with stories like these the payoff is everything - and I would say that it's definitely worth it. It's well written and once the pace picks up it really sucks you in, forcing a deeper examination of what you thought you knew about the characters and the world they occupy. It's definitely a world I wouldn't mind revisiting in the future.
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This is absolutely one of those novels where you fall into it, Alice in Wonderland-style, and come up afterwards amazed by the beauty and otherworldliness of it all. I loved this story. I was sucked in right from the first chapter and let me tell you I didn't want to put it down for a single moment. The prose is lush without being overly flowery or distracting and the veil of mystery hangs over all of it that gives a strange mixed vibe of oddity and beauty. 

All of the characters, with multiple POVs included, have unique voices and ways of interacting with the world and each other. I enjoyed all of them, I was never upset when we left one person behind for the next, though my favorite was Travis. Without giving anything away, I really enjoyed his personality and how he made the decisions he did. The sisterhood between Bee and Calla was also amazing. As a big sister myself, I found their love for one another to be truly lovely. 

I would absolutely recommend this book to any reader. It's unique and wonderful and I think it'll end up being one of the best in its genre for 2021. Get yourself a copy! 


Note: I received a free electronic edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for the honest review above. I would like to thank them, the publisher, and the author for the opportunity to do so.
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Reading the synopsis of this book, I knew I had to read it. It combined all my favorite things: Crime, children's authors, and horror! Author Maggie St. James has gone missing, and psychic Travis Wren has been hired by the family to help locate her. Well, he goes missing too. Now it is up to the reader and a few other characters to attempt to locate these missing people. I couldn't put the book down until the end. The twists and turns, the characters connections, and wisdom that Ernshaw places into the excerpts of St. James's books and character's dialogue and knowledge of what is true is a work of art. Looking forward to reading more of the authors titles now that I have discovered her.
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I loved this book! Ernshaw is a puzzle master and I loved the way the pieces came together. Great story, great mystery, great unraveling. I will be thinking of this wild place for a long time come!
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I honestly had some hesitation when I read the synopsis of this book since it seemed so different from her other books. 
But I really shouldn’t have questioned Shea Ernshaw! She can do no wrong. 
Yes, it was different than her previous work- but I ate it up!!
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I love, love, love a different kind of story. A writer who writes outside of the box.. A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw, was able to do just that.. I received my copy from Netgalley and really had no expectations..  But I have no trouble giving an honest review. This book is one of only a few 5 star reviews this year. I was vested within the first few pages. Travis Wren has the ability to find missing people, without many clues. He just needs an object or two to get going. This has served him well until he searches for his sister. While in the middle of a downward spiral, he gets a new case.. He is tasked to find a young lady, named Maggie St James. Travis starts his search and the next thing we know we are introduced to the town of Pastoral and some of its residents. This community was started in the early 70’s for like minded people who want a better/easier life. Travis leads take him to Pastoral and he like Maggie disappears. Fast forward a few years and we meet new characters. Theo and Calla are married and starting to question the community and how to get out. The leadership has convinced all the members that outside the community is sickness and evil. So most people don’t even think of leaving.. But this married couple have questions. Calla’s sister Bee also has questions and they want answers. The newest leader won’t answer questions and is very harsh for people that step outside the perimeter. The couple and Bee work together to find out what is really going on. This story is an excellent example of suspense and mystery. The writing is great and the characters are awesome.. there is so much depth and so many twists and turns.. It rad this very quickly to see where it would go. This is some rabbit hole and I didn’t mind it one bit. Does the couple get answers? Do you really get sick if you leave the perimeter? Is there really something called pox? Does the leader, go crazy to keep things the way they have always been? You have to read this to get all the answers.. I am sure you will love it.
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This was a great story. I loved the cult aspect, it made it all the creepier. The setting was fantastic. Overall the writing was beautiful. I did think it lagged a bit in certain areas and I was waiting for the plot to pick back up.
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While I was hoping for more of the magical realism aspects of this book, the writing was outrageously good! There was also a huge twist I did not see coming, but was expertly plotted. Fans of cult stories should run to this book.
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Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for an eARC version of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This book left me with mixed feelings.
I thought the beginning was great—Travis Wren, searching for a missing woman. Getting stuck in the woods, finding Pastoral, a rural cultish “town.”

And then the pacing slowed way down.
It was page upon page of gorgeously lush prose, but the majority of the action in the story was after the 50% mark. It was a lot of setup and I found myself wishing for more to happen.

But when the plot took off, it was very predictable. 
Levi’s character was so easily pegged as power-hungry in his first interaction with Bee. The twist of the story did not surprise me. The ending was satisfying. Calla and Theo were likable narrators. 

Overall, I did enjoy it, and the author definitely writes a beautiful atmospheric story.
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“𝘋𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘤𝘳𝘶𝘮𝘣𝘴, 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘤𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯.”

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw is highly atmospheric and dripping with prose. The story took hold of me right off the bat, but I admit I got a little bored as it went on. I found that a bit disappointing because Sheas actual writing is so magical I wanted to really love the story. That being said, it’s not that I didn’t like the book because I did, I just didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped to. I will definitely be reading more of Sheas work tho because I’ve never felt so mesmerized by a simple string of letters. Her words come to life on those pages and I can’t wait to be transported back inside
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Wow, this book made me want to live in a community deep in the woods...with some stipulations of course. Ernshaw knows how to write atmosphere and scenery, and let me tell you, that was the highlight of the book. Don't get me wrong, I loved the plot, but I stayed for the atmosphere. I did guess the twist much earlier than it was revealed, but I didn't guess HOW it happened. I know that isn't very clear, so you will just have to read the book. :) When the big reveal happened, I found myself to be pretty skeptical (never mind the other wild abilities some of the characters have), however upon thinking about it, I'm actually pretty curious if it could happen. We've definitely seen it happen to that extent in other forms of media. Basically, go into it with an open mind and fall in love/hate with Pastoral just like the rest of us.
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