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Review: Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas

Review: Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas published on 6 Comments on Review: Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas

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For a thousand years, the half-breed nephilim have kept the angels and Fallen from meddling in the world. And the angels would do anything to change that. Destroy cities. Turn oceans to blood. Raise the dead. Sacrificing two powerful little girls should be easy.

Except… the two little girls are protected by one mortal woman.

Haunted by visions of catastrophe and crippling anxiety attacks, Marley Claviger has never heard of any celestial cold war. But when the twin daughters of a friend come to her for help, she will do whatever it takes to save them. Even if it means working with Fallen, discovering the nephilim, and facing the source of her power.

The first paragraph of Matchbox Girls is revelatory in a subtle way – a black dream has Marley Claviger reaching for her phone seconds before it rings. She dismisses it, but we, the readers, know this is something important, something to be explored later. Her dream was obviously prescient, and Marley had no idea – why? I read books for a lot of different reasons: love for reading, learning binge, bored on the toilet, need to write a review, etc. But no matter what reason drove me to pick up a book and flip to the first chapter, my very favorite feeling is that moment when my mind engages and asks why.

senyazaMatchbox Girls is crowded with answers. It might, perhaps, be overly crowded with answers. In the space of a couple of days, Marley’s life cracks open and in the light of truth, a lot of truths come scurrying out: angels are real! so are fairies! lawyers are evil! you’re surrounding by things you don’t understand. It happens fast. One moment, Marley is receiving a phone call from a set of twins she met at the park – and for whom she assumes guardianship after their uncle disappears – and the next her life is utterly and irrevocably changed in many (almost too many) ways.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel is Marley herself. She is about as far as one can get from a standard Urban Fantasy heroine. She is no ass-kicker, but she is anxiety-ridden, terribly sad, and these traits are so apparent that even a couple of four year olds know she needs medication. Marley is crippled by her own anxiety, and throughout the book it is not entirely defeated. It’s refreshing to see such a heroine in a fantasy novel.

I’m pleased I read this, and I recommend that you do as well. It’s smarter than a lot of urban fantasy, it’s engaging, and it will make you want to read more about Marley.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As an Air Force kid, Chrysoula went to twelve schools in twelve years and spent a lot of time wondering what made people tick. Books, it turned out, helped with that question.These days she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, which includes many small and demanding creatures who fight over her attention. Her first book, urban fantasy MATCHBOX GIRLS, was originally published in 2012 by the small press Candlemark & Gleam, followed annually by two more books in the same SENYAZA Series, all of which explore the impact of the supernatural on different lives. Her current release is a collection of short stories in the same setting, followed by another novel this autumn.

AUTHOR ONLINE: Website Twitter @chrysoula | Facebook

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Review: A Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire

Review: A Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire published on

I didn’t start reading the October Daye books until last December. I like to think I was fashionably late to the party, sidling in the back door after all the boring small talk had been said, grabbing a drink, and, in general, pretending that I was there the entire time. I may have been late, but I am still a fan.

As with all my favorite kinds of series, I can’t even begin to discuss Red-Rose Chain without also briefly mentioning some of the other books. It’s impossible for me to separate the book from the series – if done well, they fit together like puzzle pieces, and how does one review a single puzzle piece without thinking of the big picture? I give the series as a whole an 8.5 out of 10 (with 1 being a simply terrible series that I really shouldn’t name because I’m a professional now; and 10 being Dresden Files). When held up against the rest of the books, I give Red-Rose Chain a 7.

It was simply not my favorite, which is fine; I am still a fan. I still love October Daye, I love the undertone of mystery, I love Tybalt, I love Spike, and I love how San Francisco is a character – a creature somewhere in the margins between crass and lovely, human and fae. I missed that in this book. Most of it is set in Portland, and Portland as a character was simply too new, and too… not San Francisco.

There was a lot of awesome in this book, don’t get me wrong. The mysteries (oh yes, plural) were deftly laid out. Seanan McGuire used our own prejudices to confuse us, and then dropped several bombs. Toby and the friends she brought along with her on her diplomatic mission were placed in the most sinister kind of danger they had ever been in, and we got a satisfying (if probably temporary) conclusion to a plot that took first seat in Chimes at Midnight. There are also some very fascinating scenes that deal with mind-control techniques, suppression of memories, and what can happen when a people group is traumatized. McGuire has always been good at digging into the psychology of everything, and it truly shines in this book.

It was always going to be hard for Red-Rose Chain to follow The Winter Long. That book blew up the series, and perhaps I will look back on this one as a pleasant interlude filled with sadistic monsters, traitors, and secrets, and a necessary respite from the sinister happenings in San Francisco. Everyone needs a vacation, but don’t get too cozy in Portland, Toby. San Francisco needs you.

It was time to head into the future. It had been waiting long enough.

And quite a future that is! Red-Rose Chain will be followed by Once Broken Faith (expected 2016), The Brightest Fell (expected 2017), Night and Shadow (expected 2018), and When Sorrows Come (expected 2019). All published by DAW.

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Review: The Blood Guard (#1 & 2)

Review: The Blood Guard (#1 & 2) published on
The Blood Guard by Carter Roy
The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

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I never could resist a good adventure story.

Carter Roy has thrown his hat into the ring of adolescent male adventure books, and it looks like he’s a major contender. Like Percy Jackson, Evelyn Ronan Truelove (he is a guy, I swear) is thrown into a supernatural situation almost right off the bat. Also like Percy Jackson, Ronan (as he wishes to be called) has family ties that lead him into danger.

In some ways, this series is a lot like other middle-grade adventure books, complete with a surprise twist. But in other ways, it is far superior. While Riordan, author of Percy Jackson, exposed a fanatic interest in mythology, Roy exposes an interest in quantum physics and philosophy. This is what catapults the books from engaging to must-reads for the younger crowd.

Blood Guard sets things up nicely. It exposes the underlying philosophy. There are thirty six Pure souls in the world, and the job of the Blood Guard is to ensure their safety, that they might never know how many people belonging to the organization the Bend Sinister want them dead. They are meant to live simple lives of grace and happiness, while others (some with supernatural powers) risk their lives and sacrifice all to ensure this happens. Carter Roy knows his audience (he was an editor for many years, so it is no surprise that his debut novel is confident and well-paced); seeds are planted and grown.

In The Glass Gauntlet these story seeds begin to sprout. It is here that Carter Roy begins to really show off his originality in weaving these different elements together. After the madcap adventures of the first book, the three main kid characters are sent to a ghost town in order to begin training to be one of the Blood Guards. If it reads like they’re in a holding pattern, it’s because they are: the story quickly moves them to a weird competition. The story devolves into spoiler territory from there, but I will say that Glass Gauntlet does not suffer either sophomore book syndrome or middle book in a trilogy syndrome.

Speaking of it being part of a trilogy, I only just found that out, and I am both surprised and disappointed. It feels like there is so much story possibility here – how can I be absolutely certain that Ronan, Greta, and Sammy will be safe if their (complex) story ends after a paltry three books? I can’t, that’s how. I need more Ronan Truelove books, Carter Roy!

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