7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review & Giveaway: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill RoadTitle: Sparrow Hill Road

Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Ghost Stories

Publisher: Daw
Publication Date: 6 May 2014
Paperback: 432 Pages

Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.

They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone but possibly the start of a new series

How did I get this book: ARC from the publisher

Format (e- or p-): Print ARC

Why did I read this book: I am a huge fan of Seanan McGuire’s books and when I first saw this, I immediately added the book to my TBR shelf.


Rose Marshall was sixteen years old in 1952 when she died on a hot summer night in her junior year of high school. Driven off road the night of the prom when she was on her way to meet her sweetheart Gary, she became the first victim of the man called Bobby Cross.

On that night, Rose got killed but she didn’t exactly stay dead. Ever since then her ghost has been racing the ghostroads of midnight America, leaving her life behind to become legend.

Because Rose? She is the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Diner, the Spirit of Sparrow Hill Road. She is the ghost in the green silk gown who terrifies those who come across her. She is the lonely ghost who has looked sixteen for the pasty sixty years. She is the one who helps those who die when traveling her roads to move on, even as she always stays behind.

The stories told about her have a little bit of truth in them but also a lot of exaggeration. It’s time she told her own tale.

Set in the same universe as Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid novels (which I have yet to read), Sparrow Hill Road is a collection of ghost stories featuring new characters and facets of that world. It originated as a series of short stories first published at Edge of Propinquity from January through December of 2010 and most of the original stories re-appear after being altered and edited by the author.

The stories here are divided into short, independent chapters with a few recurring characters and a uniting theme: that of Rose’s story. From a narrative point of view, the stories are presented in a non-linear fashion, moving back and forth in time out of order (although the latter stories in the book do appear to move more linearly toward a specific point in time than the earlier ones) as Rose reminisce about her life and her afterlife.

The collection reads as an engaging and surprisingly moving blend of Americana, thriller, and love story and as I read it, it struck me how the collection has a very distinctive feel from the rest of McGuire’s oeuvre. It’s not exactly the voice that gives that impression even though I thought Rose’s voice was strong and relatable. It’s more about the construct of the background story, the slow revelations about the ghostroads and the movers and shakers of this world, all of it stemming from what I understand to be a very American tradition of ghost-related storytelling.

Painting a really vivid portrait of imagined American ghostroads and its cars, highways, truck stops and dinners the stories invite us to learn about a the plethora of supernatural beings that inhabit them, feed off them and haunt them. Rose herself is a hitchhiker who can become corporeal and interact with the living when she receives gifts – a coat will just do the trick. She also does the odd job as a psychopomp, conducting recently deceased souls to the end of the road, so to speak.

Her personal story is one that links to this rich background in many ways. For example, I just loved how Rose loves cars – the mechanics of them, the feel of them – to the point of being able to sometimes communicate with them. In a way it makes perfect that she became what she became after her death (and this is addressed in-narrative when we learn about her family history too).

This is a collection that probably reads better when unhurriedly consumed, little morsels at a time. Because the truth is, those stories have a level of repetitiveness that (although understandable given their nature as short stories) when read in one sitting, stand out.

Nonetheless, I lost the count of how many times this book brought me to tears with its touching portrayal of Rose’s life.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:


The Dead Girl in the Diner

THERE’S THIS VOCABULARY WORD— “linear.” It means things that happen in a straight line, like highways and essays about what you did on your summer vacation. It means A comes before B, and B comes before C, all the way to the end of the alphabet, end of the road . . . end of the line. That’s linear.

The living are real fond of linear. The dead . . . not so much. It’s harder to make everything fall into a straight line when nothing be­gins until you die. The dead begin our “lives” as newborns with heads full of memories, and it can make even the most straightforward story a little difficult to follow. I’ll do my best.

My name is Rose Marshall. This is not a story about my life, al­though my life will occasionally intrude on the proceedings. It’s messy and unfortunate. It’s also unavoidable. Sorry about that. Only not re­ally, because like I said, the dead aren’t all that invested in “linear,” and I’ve been dead for a long damn time.

I was born in 1936. The country was just starting to come out of the Great Depression. Skirts were tight, movies were big business, and everyone was trying to put their best foot forward. Of course, it wasn’t sunshine and roses for everybody. My parents were still tight­ening their belts and pulling up their bootlaces when little Rosie Mar­shall made the scene, just one more mouth to feed and one more untried heart to break. They wouldn’t be feeding me for long. Daddy split when I was eight years old. Me, I made it all the way to 1952, sixteen short years of chances and choices and opportunities. And then it was over.

I died on a hot summer night in my junior year of high school, driven off the road by a man who should never have been there. My body was battered almost past recognition by the accident. My spirit fared a little better, sweet sixteen for the rest of time, missing the warm coat of life’s embrace.

I was alive, and then I wasn’t. Someday, they’ll say the same thing about everyone. Someday, they’ll say the same thing about you.

There are a lot of names for people like me, the ones who can’t let go, even when the movie’s over and the credits finish rolling. Specter, haunt, phantom . . . and my personal favorite, the sweet and simple “ghost.” “Ghost” is a lot like “linear”: it’s a word that doesn’t fuck around pretending to be something it’s not. There are even a lot of names for me in specific, names that try to dance around the word “Rose.” I’m the phantom prom date, the woman at the diner, the girl in the green silk gown, and the walking girl of route 42. But most of all, I’m the ghost of Sparrow Hill Road. Rosie Marshall. Just one more girl who raced and lost in the hand of the forest, the shade of the hill, on the hairpin curves of that damned deadly hill.

People call me a lot of things these days. You can call me Rose.

Now come with me.

Rating: 7 – Very Good.

Reading Next: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge


Because we loved it so much, we are giving away two copies of Sparrow Hill Road, open to all. The contest will run until 17 May 2014 at 12:01AM EST. Use the form below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Paul (@princejvstin)
    May 8, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I’ve been wondering when Seanan would extend her “Seanan” brand again.

    But wait “Set in the same universe as Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid novels”

    Really? Are you sure? This sounds much more like Toby Daye’s world rather than InCryptid.

  • Becky
    May 8, 2014 at 10:19 am

    I have been wanting to read her novels. This one looks like a good starting point!

  • celia
    May 8, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Oof! I’m reading An Artificial Night right now. I love Seanan McGuire.

  • mary anne
    May 8, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Didn’t realize this was connected short stories. I usually don’t read short stories because just about when I’m am getting nice and carried away, they end. But if there is a story arch with a central character….plus, Seanan McGuire. So yeah – this goes on the wishlist.

  • Carl
    May 8, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I haven’t seen a story based on a classic “ghost in the road” legend for a while now. Those are always good I’m looking forward to this one. Thanks.

  • Clare
    May 8, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Aww, love already

  • Kyla Alyanna Fontalva
    May 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Ooooh, a horror novel! I can’t wait to read this one. 😀

  • Anonymous
    May 8, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Sounds good, I do love Seanan McGuire’s work.

  • Ivana
    May 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I love the Toby Daye series, the InCryptid not so much. This sounds really interesting, though!

  • hapax
    May 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Ah, I used to eat up those “Vanishing Hitchhiker” urban legends books. This sounds very cool.

    Is it YA – appropriate?

  • Katie M
    May 8, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I really love McGuire’s Toby Daye series, and this collection sounds like it would be a fun read!

  • de Pizan
    May 8, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I’m the opposite of Ivana, I love the InCryptid series, the Toby Daye is just ok for me. I’m looking forward to reading this one.

  • Marla
    May 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I am rapidly developing a Seanan author-crush, and her tweets about this book have been making me regret my book-buying diet. I like that it’s short stories!

  • Sabrina
    May 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve also been wanting to try Seanan McGuire’s books for a while. Thanks for the opportunity to enter!

  • Lexi
    May 8, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    I have never tried this author before but this sounds like a good book to start with.

  • Marie-Claude
    May 8, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    I love all novel by Seanan Mcguire, especially her Incryptid serie. I’ve been waiting for this one !!!

  • Jenna
    May 8, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Seanan McGuire is someone who’s been on my TBR list for a long time. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good short story collection and combining the two sounds awesome.

  • Anonymous
    May 8, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Great review! Funny, I’m just now reading a ghost story, “A Greyhound of a Girl” by Roddy Doyle. I’ve not read any of McGuire’s books, so I’ll have to give them a try. Thanks!

  • Malin
    May 8, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    I love Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books, but haven’t read the InCryptid ones yet (my TBR list is just too long). I would love to win a copy of this, as I haven’t got round to buy it in e-book yet.

  • Victoria Van Vlear
    May 8, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I don’t usually go for short story collections, but this one looks interesting, with its overall arching story. Thanks for telling us about it!

  • Natalia
    May 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    I love the InCryptid series and her Mira Grant books so excited to read this book.

  • Jacqueline
    May 8, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed the InCryptid books and can’t wait to see how this collection fits into that world.

  • Jazz
    May 8, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    I’ve been a fan of Seanan’s for a while now, but I feel like this is the book I’ve been waiting for. Ghost stories have always been my thing, so I’ve stoked to read one by such a great urban fantasy author.

  • Caitrin
    May 8, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    I’ve been waiting all week for this review! 😀

  • Barbara Elness
    May 8, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    I haven’t read any of Seanan McGuire’s books yet, and she’s an author that’s been on my radar for awhile. This sounds like a good place to jump in, and I’m hoping to read Sparrow Hill Road soon.

  • Summer
    May 9, 2014 at 3:09 am

    I’ll read anything she likes, and I really enjoyed her Velveteen books which had a similar format

  • Gerd D.
    May 9, 2014 at 3:26 am

    Been reading her InCryptid short stories on her website and fell in love with them. Am so looking forward to the release of Sparrow Hill Road.

    Many thanks for the giveaway.

    From the stories I read on Seanan’s website, and what she says about her outset concerning UF writing in on her blog, I would think it will be most certainly YA appropriate.
    It’s one of the main reasons I’ve put her on my to-read shelf.

  • Mieneke van der Salm
    May 9, 2014 at 3:52 am

    I’ve got several books of Seanan’s on my TBR-pile after my husband raced through them so this would seem a good starting point to get into her writing!

  • k.
    May 9, 2014 at 4:00 am

    I love Seanan McGuire! Cannot wait to start on this 😀

  • Llehn
    May 9, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Sounds intriguing!

  • Amy
    May 9, 2014 at 8:39 am

    This looks great.

  • Jenni
    May 9, 2014 at 9:06 am

    I love the Incyptid and Toby Daye books, excited to read this!

  • Donna Armstrong
    May 9, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I haven”t read any of Seanan McGuire’s books yet.This one sounds great.Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Mallori
    May 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I just finished reading the 3 Incryptid books and the short story where Verity from the books meets up with Rose in New Orleans. That got me super excited for this book! I am so curious to learn more about Rose. I stumbled into the Incryptid novels based off a recommendation for the second book- Midnight Bluelight Specail. A few chapters in, I realized there was a previous book, so I stopped to get caught up, but I actually liked the second book much better. The characters felt more solid. Definitely recommend it, Verity Price is awesome.

    I haven’t read the Toby Daye books yet, but they are on the TBR list 🙂

  • Lauren
    May 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Reminds me a little of Anna Dressed in Blood (also an awesome horror novel), but a little less gruesome!

  • Ray Pratt
    May 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I read and enjoyed “Rosemary and Rue” so I would really like to try this one.

  • Lisa (Fic Talk)
    May 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I’m glad that you liked it so much. The cover was what drew me in at first when I saw it on goodreads, but then I read the summary and was sold.

    Great review.

  • Tina
    May 9, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    I’m only familiar with Seanan McGuire’s writing from the Toby Daye series, but this book sounds really interesting. Definitely adding it to my TBR list!

  • Joel
    May 9, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    I’ve liked her InCryptid stuff, but not her “Mira Grant” novels. Mileage may vary…

  • octoberwoman
    May 9, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    I’ve not read this author before, though I’ve seen her name. But this sounds very intriguing.

  • Hebe
    May 9, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Oh, this sounds awesome! I love the excerpt, it’s kind of fairy-tale-ish in an urban-fantasy-type way (if that makes any sense at all..)

  • Kelley
    May 9, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Sounds like an interesting premise!

  • Katrina
    May 9, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    I’ve never read any Seanan McGuire, but I’ve heard so many amazing things!

  • Alyssa
    May 9, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    After hearing so many great things about her for so long, I finally started reading Seanan McGuire’s books two weeks ago. Aaaaand now I’m totally caught up on the Toby Daye series, getting ready to move on to the InCryptid series, and psyched about this one! Definitely binge-reading. 🙂

  • Tom Mathews
    May 10, 2014 at 12:36 am

    I love a good ghost story, especially if it’s based on urban folklore.

  • Mary Preston
    May 10, 2014 at 5:11 am

    It’s been a while since I read a ghost story. Yes please!!

  • Liat
    May 11, 2014 at 2:46 am

    I first read about this book a couple of weeks ago. Interesting concept..

  • Anita Yancey
    May 12, 2014 at 9:19 am

    It sounds amazing, and I really love stories about ghosts. This is a must read. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  • Suz Glo
    May 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I do love a ghost story and this one sounds like it has an interesting twist.

    Thank you for the giveaway.

  • ihate_00
    May 14, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    …..I have been meaning to check out this author…..the giveaway is international right?…..

  • Rebecca S
    May 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I didn’t realize this was set in the InCryptid universe! That’s a nice bonus; I find I’m preferring that series to the Toby Daye books (not a matter of writing quality, just which set of characters resonates more with me). I also love the whole “Americana ghost story”.

  • Katakis
    May 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    I love Seanan’s books, so I’m really looking forward to reading this.

  • Emma
    May 16, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    This sounds really interesting. I love ghost stories!

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