Review: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road (Ghost Stories, #1)Published: May 6, 2014 by DAW
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback

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.

I found Sparrow Hill Road at the bookstore when I was picking out books for my birthday present from my parents. I’ve read and loved several of Seanan McGuire’s other books, and I definitely don’t regret one of her books being a birthday buy.

For those familiar with the InCryptid books (Discount ArmageddonMidnight Blue-Light Special, etc.), Rose’s story takes place in the same universe, and while some of the characters from that story are mentioned very rarely (the Healy family), I have only read Discount Armageddon so far and didn’t feel that I was necessarily missing anything. I do think that someone who is more familiar with the universe will definitely appreciate the mentions, though!

Going into Sparrow Hill Road, it is necessary to mention that it was originally serialized. Due to the original format, there is a lot of repetition across the stories, so if that’s something that you as a reader wouldn’t be able to look past and would get horribly annoyed by, Sparrow Hill Road may not be for you. That said, there is a really awesome story here, so it would be a shame.

The collection opens up with “The Dead Girl in the Diner,” and the story completely blew me away and even made me cry. It was creepy, sad, and awesome all at once. While some of the following stories didn’t grab me quite as much as that one did, they all showed us another piece of Rose’s world, and I really liked what I was seeing. I will warn potential readers that the stories don’t seem to have a connection between them until about halfway through. At that point, the skips through time between stories becomes much smaller and each story is more closely linked to the one before it.

While I liked the short story-esque aspect of the collection, it also has the downfall that, for the most part, once a story concludes, the reader doesn’t feel a huge need to continue on to the next one until they want to know what Rose is going to get herself into next time. I think this is basically just because of the original way the story was told, so be prepared for the beginnings of most of the stories to slow down a bit, but I will say that once each story gets going, it’s hard to put down again.

My only complaint in terms of the writing (which I’m not factoring into my rating) is that a lot of the terms of this world are mentioned and then not really explained. While it can be gleaned from the text what and who these terms refer to, I personally found it a bit overwhelming at first. I was happy to discover that there is a field guide at the back of the book which explains some of them in more depth (however, there are some minor spoilers in the explanations, as a warning). My confusion with the terms may be related to not having read other stories from this universe, though, and the field guide at the back of the book cleared up the grand majority of my questions. I also admit that it would probably be a little strange for Rose to need to explain them, since they are and always have been a part of her world.

I LOVED the idea of the different layers of America, and the ghostroads, and the twilight and midnight and daylight and all of it. I just… I can barely express how much I loved it. Such an awesome idea and McGuire does awesome things with it. I was completely entranced by the imagery of the several layers of America, and I just… AHHH, I just loved it. So awesome. Overall, I found this to be a really enjoyable collection, and I’m really looking forward to (hopefully) seeing where Rose’s story goes next!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl With All the GiftsPublished: June 10, 2014 by Orbit
Pages: 407
Format: Hardcover

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair.  She thinks they don’t like her.  She jokes that she won’t bite.  But they don’t laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

It was so awesome going into this book not really knowing what it was about or anything else about it. It made the beginning especially so much more awesome.

I saw The Girl With All the Gifts advertised in GoodReads’ ads on my phone and filed the title away in my brain for another day, and then a little while after it came out, it became one of my birthday book picks. I was very excited when it was chosen for my online book club, and while my expectations were fairly high, I was not disappointed.

I fell in love with the first few chapters of this book as I learned about the world and the people bit by bit through Melanie’s eyes, and while I was a bit jarred and disappointed by the changes of POV that take place after the first few chapters, I eventually grew accustomed to it and didn’t mind quite as much later on. I loved Melanie’s POVs and she was definitely a part of what made this book so awesome for me.

There’s also a lot of science in this book, and though I will admit that in parts, it went over my head, I enjoyed what I understood. It was really interesting in parts, and I liked that it felt plausible, or at least was explained in such a way that it did. I loved that the mystery here was unveiled bit by bit through science and through the characters’ experiences and observations.

As I mentioned before, I was originally disappointed by the multiple POVs. I was also a bit tripped up by the present tense, at least initially. Instead of flowing in my mind, it really stood out to me and I had a hard time getting past it at first, but eventually the story seemed to flow with it a bit better, and I didn’t mind so much after I’d read a bit more of the book.

It’s really hard to talk about books that blew you away, but I loved how everything came together. Even though it’s been a week since I finished this book, Melanie is still in my head. I can’t stop thinking about her.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

Dangerous BoysPublished: August 14, 2014
Pages: 328
Format: Kindle Edition

Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage.  Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire.  But which brother survives?  And is his death a tragic accident?  Desperate self-defense?  Or murder?

Chloe is the only one with the answers.  As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there – a story of jealously, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

OMG, this book.

When this book arrived on my Kindle at 12:04 AM on August 14th, I basically put all other books aside to throw myself into it, and I don’t regret it. I read Dangerous Girlslast year and it was one of my favorite reads of 2013, so I went into Dangerous Boyswith some very high expectations, and it met them. While there are a lot of similarities between the two in terms of how the books are structured, Chloe’s story is wildly different from Anna’s, and this was one book I couldn’t put down.

I loved watching the threads in Dangerous Boys come together. I loved how my opinions changed about the characters in an instant, loved making guesses of where the story would go next or what was going to happen, loved piecing together the clues Chloe gave us as she told her story. I was both repulsed and amazed by the characters, and I so badly wanted to see how it would all turn out while also desperately not wanting the book to end. I both loved and was horrified by the ending.

I can’t wait to see what Abigail Haas comes out with next. :D

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsPublished: May 13, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Pages: 228
Format: Kindle Edition

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends – the Liars – whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution.  An accident.  A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

When I started this, I commented that I liked it but wished I had an idea of where it was going. Looking back on that status update, I am both amused and so glad I didn’t know. I highly recommend going into this book with only a basic idea of what it’s about, if anything. We Were Liars is lyrical and well-crafted, and won’t disappoint.

I would have read this in a day if I hadn’t gotten super sick the day after I picked it up. Cadence has a beautiful voice and the writing is just… really beautiful. It drew me in and didn’t let me go. As things were being tied up, I was alternatively amazed and horrified.

I had two minor complaints – I was a little thrown by Cadence referring to her mother as Mummy and her aunts as “aunties” – I don’t know any 17-year-old who does that, and a few of the other things kind of struck me as things that teenagers wouldn’t say. I had no other complaints, though. I loved piecing together the mystery of this story piece by piece alongside Cadence. I loved the concept of the Liars and the atmosphere of the story.

Amazing and manipulative and fucked up and great.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars