Author: Shea Ernshaw
Genre: magical realism, mystery/thriller
Age Group: adult
ARC?: No

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.


Review

I love Shea Ernshaw so I picked this book up and added it to my wishlist without even reading what it was about. I mean…it’s Shea Ernshaw, what’s not to like?

For me…well. I liked the book. I did, but it just was not what I was expecting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just didn’t realize what it was about. Would I have wanted to read this book if I had read the description?

No, I probably would not have. And I’m glad I didn’t because I did enjoy the book, even if it wasn’t what I was expecting. I want to say there was nothing that I overly dislike about this novel. I can’t say that I hated any part of it, because I didn’t.

Ernshaw’s writing is just so stunningly beautiful and it lull’s you into the story. I love reading her books because it is so easy to become engrossed and lost in the atmosphere of the book. You get sucked in and aren’t let out until you finish the book.

Part of that is because I felt, even after I finished reading this book I was still thinking about it, and all the little intricate pieces that Ernshaw had woven into the story.

I felt this was a different type of mystery/thriller than I’ve seen recently. It wasn’t your typical one I would say, which makes it stand out among all the mystery/thrillers. And the ending too, was unexpected to me. I was rather shocked about it.

I did love how the story held together and how the plot led you on a journey. There were some parts that had me scratching my head and wondering if I was imagining things and the other half of me was speculating.

I very much enjoyed this book even if it was different than what I expected. I love how the story unfolded and when little clues were revealed to us.

I recommend this book to people who like mind bending thrillers, but at a slower pace. 

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Author: Bethany C Morrow
Series: A Song Below Water
Series #: 1
Genre: paranormal/supernatural, contemporary
Age Group: young adult
ARC?: yes

Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.


Review

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw sirens, I knew I wanted to read this book. There is little more I love than sirens and mermaids and well, I couldn’t resist. So I was so happy when I was given the chance to review this book ahead of publication. I was delighted for it. I really think though, that this book will mean so much more to POC. This I believe, will probably resonate with them. While I don’t face the same issues discussed in this book, I found the read to be wonderful and address many important issues of today.

The Writing & Pacing
The writing was very good. I think that Morrow is a good writer, and that is conveyed through how easy the book is to read. It all flows so well together, and I loved the dialogue. I think it was well done, and it really added to the story. It is also #ownvoices in the topics that it touches on. The pace is a little bit slow at times, but I think that is because some really relevant issues are addressed and the plot and pacing needed to slow down to address them. We get dual POV from both Tavia and Effie, and the voices were distinct, and so that worked really well for me.

The Plot
The plot was mostly character driven in my opinion. Most of the characters were in some way acting or reacting to events in the plot, but the main bulk of the story was about their journey and their introspection. I liked that. I think the combination of magical realism and the relevancy of the topics to today were great plot driving forces for the character arcs.

The Characters
Through Tavia and Effie we are presented with important, real life issues interspersed throughout the book. They’re worked in so well, that everything flows together. You really feel for the both of them as they struggle with their inner selves and the world at large. There is a lot going on in terms of character development and I think this book is really pointed about certain ideas. I don’t want to go into them here, as I feel this book is best experienced by actually reading it, not me just telling you this book does this, this and this. However, it reflects on what is occurring to POC today, and in my opinion, someone who is POC is going to relate to this far more than me, a white girl. I may understand the issues, but I do not live them.

There was a tiny romance subplot, I didn’t love it, and I didn’t hate it. It was there.

The World building
I think the world building was a great concept; and it was interesting too. Especially the parts about the sirens and their relation to being black. Excellent on all levels.

Overall
This was a great book, and one I highly recommend that everyone should pick up and read. There is very little in this book that doesn’t work — and it was an amazing read. I think this is going to resonate with many readers!

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