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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

The Cicadas Sing Tonight: A Review of Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.


I hope all my LGBTQIA+ readers had a safe and happy Pride Month. As always, RHRML is a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community. You are welcome here. You are safe here. You are respected here.

Oscar Wilde said "gay rights."

Now during Pride Month, Bridgerton released. Meaning I skipped a week of LGBTQIA+ reads to review the show. Because I did this, I owe you a review of an LGBTQIA+ read.


So please welcome to the stage Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters!

Book cover of Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order. This is your one and only warning. If you’ve read any of my other reviews then you know I simply love to spoil the entirety of the books I read. I also must issue a quick content and trigger warning. Ghost Wood Song has discussions of depression and suicide. While these scenes can be skipped over, I recommend readers don’t do that as they are very powerful scenes. While I recommend reading them, please do so at your own discretion. There are also mentions of sexual assault and abuse in Ghost Wood Song. The first topic can be completely avoided. The second topic cannot as it plays a big part in the end of the story. With that, it’s synopsis time.


Shady Grove was raised on bluegrass and folk music. She grew up on her father’s knee as he played the fiddle day and night. He taught her everything he knew, save for one thing, how to raise the dead through music. His family owns a special fiddle that draws the dead in. Shady was never allowed to touch it, let alone play it, her father would have told her its secrets when she was old enough; sadly he died before he could.

Man crying.
It's not a YA book without a dead parent.

Now, a few years later, Shady’s mother is remarried and her father’s fiddle is lost. Shady believes the fiddle to be buried at the bottom of the lake where her father tragically drowned, but she soon learns it may be closer than she thought. And while she originally doesn’t have a need for it, she soon discovers it may be her family’s salvation.


Her stepfather Jim is found murdered at a construction site, and her brother Jesse is the prime suspect. Really he’s the only suspect and he’s arrested. He continuously pleads his innocence to deaf ears; thus leaving Shady as the only one to believe him and defend him. Enter magical fiddle. It’s her family’s only hope. So she must find it and raise her stepfather’s ghost to discover the truth and find his actual killer.


Can she do it? Can Shady find the fiddle in time? And if she does, can she even figure out how to work it? Then there’s the whole problem of providing proof to contend with. Sadly a ghost giving evidence to convict a killer has only worked once, and I don’t think the 21st century police and court system would really roll with it. So, can she do it? Find out in Ghost Wood Song.


Alright, let’s crack in! First of all, I’m a fan of this one. I read it a few years ago after picking it up on a whim and I remembered enjoying it. And thankfully for me, I didn’t remember much about the book after two plus years so I got to experience it again for the first time. Yes, I’m giving Ghost Wood Song bonus points for my lack of memory regarding it. Anyway, I’ll move onto the actual review now.


We’ll start with our main character Shady. Despite her name, she does not have a degree from Shady Lady University. In fact the only shady thing about her is when she goes behind her mom’s back to find her father’s magical fiddle. I appreciate that my perception about her, i.e. me thinking she’ll be shady because that’s her name, is totally wrong. Though I will say that while I like her, she’s a little cut and dry. Her personality is mainly perfectionist who is highly protective and loyal. Like I said, she’s not a bad character and I like her, she’s simply one readers have seen thousands of times before without being anything new or different.


Though I must say, my favorite character in the entire read is Shady’s friend Orlando. He’s a nerd who doesn’t believe in the supernatural so he’s shell-shocked when Shady busts out her magic fiddle and ghosts appear. 10-out-of-10, I love Orlando. I just love his vibes. He’s not in the book too much, but I was overjoyed when he appeared.

Shia LaBeouf clapping.
He offers very little to the plot, but I love him.

Speaking of vibes, Ghost Wood Song has immaculate vibes. Southern Gothic excellence if you will. It has atmospheric chills, humid swamps full of creepy crawlies ready to eat ya, cicadas screaming on each page, and ghosts that go bump in the night all while juxtaposed to the longing and comforts of home. The descriptions make this book. Well the atmospheric descriptions and the plot.

*chef's kiss*
Love a good atmospheric read.

Part murder mystery, part magical realism, and part family drama; this book has it all. Seriously, this book is everything I love! I’m a sucker for a haunted house. Ghost Wood Song has that. I enjoy a murder mystery. Well the primary genre is indeed mystery. Gothic Literature, my one and only. Yeah, Ghost Wood Song is a beautiful piece of Southern Gothic Literature. It’s pretty obvious, but I’m head over heels for this book.

*chef's kiss*
Is it too soon to put this gif again.

Back to the plot, our story begins as a simple murder mystery. Shady sets out to prove her brother’s innocence when no one else seems to care. That’s nothing new, we’ve all seen it before, then Shady talks to ghosts via magical fiddle. I’m sold right there, I don't need anything else to make me like this book, but the murder mystery then mixes with some long forgotten/unknown family drama. The murder mystery part ends and readers still have quite a few chapters left. Some seriously dark family secrets and traumas are revealed thanks to Shady and her magic fiddle playing. I got two books in one! And the second story sucker punched me. Spoiler alert, the second story is where those trigger warnings come in to play. I’m not saying this story comes out of nowhere, it’s briefly alluded to earlier in the book, but I never expected it to be as dark as it is. I applaud Ghost Wood Song for keeping me guessing when it came to the mystery and not holding back with the darker subject matter.


As I’ve said, I’m a fan of this read. Ghost Wood Song is made up of tons of aspects and genres I love. So if you enjoy haunted houses, Gothic Literature, and mystery novels, you’ll likely enjoy this read too.


With that I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you again next week with another great post. If you can’t wait that long then you can always check out my podcast Nothing to See Hear. New episodes go live every Wednesday, just like RHRML, and you can listen to me tell you a spooky story. Or you can listen to me and my two co-hosts talk about Disney, Scooby-Doo, a weirdo of history, 90’s wrestling, and so much more; there’s bound to be something you’ll like.


Until next time, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!



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