Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

I was so excited to read this book! When I saw that the Book of the Month Club was advertising this book for $5 as a special for the month of December, I jumped on it. I had been thinking about joining anyway and this was just the perfect enticement to pull the trigger.

Goodreads Summary:

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called “Pastoral,” this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.

My Thoughts:

This book took me down so many roads. I never knew what was going to happen, I wanted to know the secrets, what is going on, what is happening..I had to just keep reading and reading until I finished and then I was so upset that it was over!

I love a commune story, and this was a spectacular one. Bee, Calla, the others in the community all have their purposes and roles. Theo stands guard at the gate, watching an empty road day after day, staring into the woods beyond, the woods that no one is allowed to enter. Another theme that I love..a do not go into the woods theme. I feel like these two ideas, communal living, the woods being a place of danger, speak to such instinctual feelings we carry around in our DNA for survival – gather together, work together, stay out of the woods and dark places. Theo however, dared to be curious and it sets off a chain of questions and has them all wondering if they really know anything about Pastoral and each other at all.

This book is beautifully told, full of layers. I absolutely recommend it!

As you can tell, I had fun taking photos of this book for Instagram. It was a cold weekend, we didn’t want to hike but wanted out of the house so we drove around and occasionally stopped so the book could have its picture taken. I froze my fingers off for the one above on the fence! And walked across a huge sheet of ice for the photo below!

Have you read this? What did you think? Also, tell me which photo you like the best! I would love to hear!

A Few Mini-Reviews

It’s been a minute since I have posted any mini-reviews and I have been reading so many good mini reviews lately that I have decided to do a few of my own!

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: I love this podcast and I was so excited to read this book, that I never even bothered to read what this book was about! I figured it was going to be more true crime, but it was more self-help than anything. I still really enjoyed it, and while I find Karen and Georgia fun on their podcast, it was nice to hear their voices describe their own lives and past mistakes and how they have moved on, without all the banter. Some good truths in this book! I found it so relatable, but maybe because I was a less than perfect teen and twenty year old, who made some crazy mistakes too. (If I’m being honest, I still do!)

Brazen: Rebel Ladies who Rocked the World: This book blew me away, honestly. I learned about women I had never heard of before, I read about women I had heard about, and it was all presented in graphic novel form. I picked it up on a whim, and loved the illustrations, the message, the facts. I even found some new role models! Amazing read, loved it and read it all in one afternoon! I plan on seeking out more of Bagieu’s work soon.

Leaving Time: Another one that really was amazing. This is my first Jodi Picoult book and if all of her writing is like this, no one wonder she is so loved. This was our book club pick for my neighborhood book club, and the woman who chose it told me she thought I would like it. And I did! Half of the book was about elephants, and if you are familiar with my blog, you will know that I love animals and learning about animals. And these elephants will break your heart; you will never look at an elephant the same way again. At it’s core this book is about loss and grief and mothers and healing, and is so beautifully written. And then the end, I just didn’t see it coming. Excellent book.

Book Club and Crooked House

crooked house September book club was all me. I had chosen Agatha Christie’s Crooked House because it seemed like a perfect introduction to fall reading. I have only read a few Christie books, but every single one I have enjoyed – I really need to read more, but at the same time I don’t want to binge read them all at once. I want to take my time and read them here and there, to be enjoyed instead of just devoured. Plus I did that once with Joyce Carol Oates, and man I was so depressed!! Lol. Granted, Christie is not like Oates but too much of a good thing sometimes..

Anyway, back to book club. I had had a little minor happening and had gone to the ER the night before book club, and unfortunately did not get out of the hospital until 3 am. So I was not feeling super energetic later that day. However, with the help of my awesome husband, who had also had an extraordinarily long week, we managed to get the house together and food made. It was a very simple meal this time, but good. Spaghetti with freshly grated Parmesan, crusty bread and rolls, and a pie. And wine, of course.

Everyone started to arrive around 7 pm, and the evening was rainy and gray. I loaded my friends up with carbs and wine, and we had the sleepiest, coziest little book club in a while. It was the perfect atmosphere to catch up with each other, talk about the book, talk about whatever. We all felt as sleepy as my cats, who were taking advantage of so many laps. It was a pleasant evening, if not a particularly high energy one. Just a nice and gentle evening. We must have all needed a real break!

The book grabbed me from the first. Who was this crazy family, all intensity and quirks and savagery? Who could have done it? I had my suspicions, and I went back and forth on it as I read. It was a short read, but a good one. Perfect for a fall evening, if you are looking for something cozy and mysterious.

I had spotted that Crooked House had been made into a movie, and was available on Prime, and so this weekend my husband and I watched it. I was disappointed that they had changed so much about it, and I couldn’t see why they changed the things they did. Despite this, I did enjoy the movie anyway. The cast was amazing – Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Julian Sands to name a few, and they all delivered on their roles.  It wasn’t my favorite movie version of an Agatha Christie novel that I have ever seen – that goes to the newest version of Murder on the Orient Express. But it was fairly well done for what it was.

I am planning on reading another Christie book soon – I just need to figure out which one! Anyone have a favorite, or a suggestion? I’d love to hear!

April Book Club

Bottle of WineBook Club

Chrissy was our hostess this month, and the book we read was The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton – and I loved it.

It was a full house this time, with all of us able to go. We all loaded up our plates with pizza and cheese and bread, filled up our wine glasses, and took our places in the living room, where we admired Chrissy’s new couch. It has a “cuddler” feature, which juts out just a bit more, making it so you can curl up with a book or a toddler or cuddle with your sweetie while watching a movie. It was very comfy! But made us all super anxious – we were all paranoid of being clumsy and spilling our pizza or wine on it! I don’t think Kelly set her drink down all night!

Whenever we get together there is the normal chatter, catching up on this and that and the other. We talked about our kids – over the years we have all become moms! We talked about Jill’s upcoming wedding, Chrissy’s plans for their house, Alyssa’s job; about our families, our pets. What we have been up to since last month. It was a gorgeous night out, spring might be finally here (fingers crossed, it’s been such a long winter!), so we had the setting sun behind us as we drank and ate and talked and laughed.

the hideaway

We finally arrived at the book. I loved this book, I read it so fast. It was one I read whenever I could get a chance, waiting to pick up my son, before bed, sometimes while brushing my teeth. I have to say, it was a little sad. The story begins with workaholic Sara Jenkins learning that her grandmother has died – a grandmother that she never really made much time to go and visit, a grandmother who raised her when her parents died, a grandmother who was her only family member. Sara reluctantly heads back to her small hometown, away from her life in New Orleans, which really isn’t much of a life, as she lives for work and not much else, for the reading of the will and to tie up loose ends.

Instead, she gets much, much more.

She learns so much about her grandmother, a woman who embarrassed Sara when Sara was a teenager because of her eclectic ways. Sara though, begins to know the woman her grandmother really was, and the story of their home, an old B&B that was no longer much of a B&B, aptly named The Hideaway. Sadly, Sara missed out on knowing her grandmother when she was alive, which made me a bit teary. Pay attention to your family while they are here, darn it! Don’t take loved ones for granted. Talk to them, learn their best stories.

The Hideaway itself was in actuality, a bit of a real hideway for Mags. And it made me think, what my hideaway would be like – not to go forever, but maybe a weekend. Or a place to go with my family, away from everything for a bit. I am a mountains girl – I am all about the foggy mornings and evenings in the mountains, looking out at a forest of old trees, the light streaming through the leaves. So for me, a perfect hideaway would be in the woods of the mountains somewhere, a cabin all cozy and snug. Chrissy is a beach girl through and through, so is Jill. Take those ladies to a beach house, a sandy spot with the sun warming them, and the salt heavy in the air, the sound of waves crashing, the water whispering at night.

My little niece Chickadee slipped down from the upstairs where my brother was hanging out with her while we were all there, and gathered up all her little toy horses to play. She also handed out My Little Pony toys to all of us to hang on to while we were there. I am sure her hideaway would be somewhere with “horsies” and trains, her current favorites. (She is a big fan of Spirit)

Then excitement! My husband called me to ask if I had heard and felt the rumbling – we hadn’t, I guess we were all enjoying our dessert of Turtle Pie too much. There had been an earthquake here in our area – very rare for Michigan! And it was a 3.6! I guess most of our area felt it, pictures shook, it was very loud and rumbly just a few miles further south. Book Club is a powerful force!

Then, all the excitement over, the wine drunk, the chocolate consumed, the chatting slowing down, the insanity of an earthquake, we headed on home to our families until next month.

So, how about you? How do you picture your hideaway?

Book Club – January

Bottle of WineBook Club

Last night we had our book club night. It’s a night I wait all month for – sometimes it is honestly my only night out! We were friends before we were a book club, and are more a girls night out than a book club sometimes, but we do usually have a book to discuss, and at least one or two of us read it. When we started book club, we all read the book, but as years have passed and we all started having more babies and jobs started getting more serious, that part of our night has not become as important as just catching up with each other.

I had so much fun last night. Alyssa hosted, and she welcomed us into her super cozy, super beautiful newly redecorated front room. I felt so comfortable, amid the grays and whites and blacks, the oversized furniture, the giant carousel lion. Alyssa always has cool stuff, and I really loved her new decorations. We all settled in amongst the pillows with our glasses of wine, missing our friend Jill, who is a respiratory therapist and extremely busy with work during this year’s flu season. It didn’t take long for us to start chattering away, talking over and around each other, sharing about our lives and catching up, elegantly shoveling crackers and cheese and fruit and hummus into our mouths. There was also soup and chocolate biscuits for dessert, which we devoured as well, like the pack of she-wolves we are.

We also had two reasons to celebrate!! Our friend Kelly had done something very brave, and our friend Chrissy finished her Masters Degree!! We toasted them with some pink bubbly, which seemed perfect for our setting.


Everywhere I looked last night there was a super tiny cutie running around! Alyssa is involved in animal rescue, and currently has a few fosters – two tiny Chihuahuas and a chunky little Siamese kitten. The Chihuahuas are strays she rescued from a shelter after Harvey, when pounds were filling up. They both have heartworm and are being treated, and are the most adorable little things! Dallas is a spitfire, with silky floppy ears, while Zoe is a sweet pea, a little lap dog who loves to wear clothes. If I had room for another pet, I would have stuck one in my coat pocket as I walked out the door, they were so sweet. Although, I think I would have had to fight Kelly for this little one…

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Sorry for the terrible photo of this cute girl! She just wouldn’t hold still! Lol. She did spend the rest of the night curled up on Kelly’s lap, like a little cat.

The book we read this month was The Marsh King’s Daughter, which was phenomenal. Set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a place many of us in book club are familiar with, and it was the edge of your seat kind of book that I love. I personally could not put it down, and absolutely loved it. It was so good! I definitely recommend it.

February is my month, and I have picked two short books – Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, and also We Should All Be Feminists. I am really looking forward to reading them!