A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow


Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues.

Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can’t handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White’s Evil Queen has found out how her story ends and she’s desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone.

Will Zinnia accept the Queen’s poisonous request, and save them both from the hot iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path? (Taken from Amazon)

A Mirror Mended is the continuation of the Fractured Fables series. You can find my review of book one, A Spindle Splintered, here. Both books are available now.

A Mirror Mended continues the story started in A Spindle Splintered, with Zinnia traveling into various versions of the Sleeping Beauty tale to save the princess from her own story. It’s obvious that Zinnia is creating as many happy endings as possible because she feels she has no control over her own fate. She knows that her illness will catch up to her (sooner rather than later) and she will die. As far as avoidance techniques go, it’s a pretty creative one. It’s also alienated her from her best friend, Charm.

After one night of a particularly zesty victory celebration, Zinnia finds herself traveling into another fairytale- except for the first time ever, it’s not another version of Sleeping Beauty. Instead, she comes face to face with the Evil Queen from Snow White.

I’ve never been a big fan of Snow White (especially the Disney version) and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it dumped on its head. Since Zinnia meets the Evil Queen first instead of Snow White, she’s treated to an opposing view of what really happens in the story. Doubly interesting is that this villain knows she’s the bad guy and even knows her own fate (which is really rather grisly).

Just like Zinnia, Eva (short for “Evil Queen”) is looking for a way to escape her story. The book focuses mainly on their changing relationship and how they learn from each other. Now, before you think “boring” and write the book off- there’s also a fair amount of fairy tale shenanigans, including battles, magical witches, and romance. At the end of the day, though, the relationships and character growth were what kept me interested.

I was a little concerned at first because Charm is in very little of this book. I was worried that it wouldn’t give Zinnia the chance to continue to grow as a character without having someone who understood the entire situation. Fortunately, Eva is a quick study and more than made up for the missing Charm (weak pun intended).

Zinnia was in fine form, her snarkiness shining through, but Eva stole the show. Her mix of naivety and condescension made her a blast to read! She was always a force to be reckoned with, and it didn’t go well when people forgot that.

Author Alix E. Harrow packed a ton into such a short book. Every now and again I wished that more time could have been spent on a particular part (especially when a certain character helps raid a castle), but such is the nature of shorter books. I just enjoy Harrow’s writing so much that I’m always eager for more.

Is A Mirror Mended my favorite Alix E. Harrow book? No. But’s it’s well written, added a new facet to the Fractured Fables storyline, and kept me highly entertained.

Escapist Book Tour Spotlight: A Man Named Baskerville by Jim Nelson

I’m excited to be joining Escapist Tours in talking about A Man Named Baskerville, a book with a unique new addition to the Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

When people think about Sherlock Holmes, there are a few things that tend to come to mind: Sherlock himself (of course), Watson, a certain hat, Moriarity, and the Hound of the Baskervilles. Jim Nelson’s book, A Man Named Baskerville, takes a new look at the mysterious figure Rodger Baskerville.

About the Book:

He took on Sherlock Holmes and lost. Now he wants revenge.

In 1888, Sherlock Holmes slayed the spectral hound haunting the Devonshire moor, laying to rest the curse of the Baskervilles once and for all. The perpetrator escaped into the night and was presumed drowned, consumed by the murky bog…

In truth, the criminal mastermind survived the night to nurse his wounds and plot his revenge against Sherlock Holmes.

A MAN NAMED BASKERVILLE recounts the life and times of Rodger Baskerville, exiled heir to the esteemed family’s fortune. His journal records his adventures from the Amazon rainforests to the beaches of Costa Rica to Victorian England, where he attempts to take his rightful place at Baskerville Hall. Along the way, he peels back the layers of family secrets and scandals untold in Dr. Watson’s account of the demonic hound haunting the Baskervilles.

Most of all, he describes a Sherlock Holmes unlike the legendary detective you think you know.

A MAN NAMED BASKERVILLE retells the infamous Arthur Conan Doyle mystery in a way you’ve never read before. It’s a sizzling new take on a classic hailed as a masterpiece of the English language, named one of the most influential books ever by the BBC and Le Monde, and beloved by Sherlock Holmes fans worldwide for over a century.It’s a rousing adventure, from start to finish. What’s more—it’s a Sherlock Holmes story unlike any you’ve read before.

About the Author:

Jim Nelson’s novels include Bridge Daughter (2016, Kindle Press), Stranger Son, and In My Memory Locked.  His work has appeared in North American Review, Confrontation, Instant City, and other fine venues.

He divides his time between San Francisco and Tokyo.

Author Website: https://j-nelson.net
Twitter: https://twitter.com/_jimnelson_
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/j.nelson.net
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/jim_nelson
Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/_jimnelson_

Where to find A Man Named Baskerville:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09VYVKK4H
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60656350-a-man-named-baskerville

Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise

Find the second star from the right, and fly straight on ’til morning, all the way to Neverland, a children’s paradise with no rules, no adults, only endless adventure and enchanted forests – all led by the charismatic boy who will never grow old. 
 
But Wendy Darling grew up. She has a husband and a young daughter called Jane, a life in London. But one night, after all these years, Peter Pan returns. Wendy finds him outside her daughter’s window, looking to claim a new mother for his Lost Boys. But instead of Wendy, he takes Jane. 
 
Now a grown woman, a mother, a patient and a survivor, Wendy must follow Peter back to Neverland to rescue her daughter and finally face the darkness at the heart of the island… (taken from Amazon)

I am not certain exactly what I expected with this book, but this was certainly not it! However, once I let go of my preconceived ideas of what Wendy, Darling would be, I found it to be a surprising read.

We all know the story of Peter Pan- the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Well, Wendy did grow up. She grew up and was admitted to a mental hospital by her brothers, in an attempt to cure her of her “delusions” (it seems they stopped believing long before she did). Wendy learned to adapt, was eventually released from the institution, and started a family.

Now a wife and mother, she is drawn back into Neverland. She has no choice; Peter has taken her daughter. What happens next is unexpected. It turns out there’s a secret at the heart of Neverland, one that is dark and dangerous.

I can’t say that I fell in love with this book. I feel like I was always waiting for something to happen and every time things got going, they’d slow down. The writing, while full of creativity and potential, came across as a bit timid at times. I believe this is more my take on things than what most people will glean from Wendy, Darling. It did lessen my enjoyment just a little.

I really liked Wendy. She was never beaten despite everyone attempting to make her question her own mind. She was strong but practical and had nerves of steel. Her inner battles were just as fascinating as her outer ones. The majority of the book actually focused on her time in the mental institution, told entirely in long flashbacks. While an ambitious way to tell a story, I’m not sure it worked out for me. Again, my own preconceived idea of what the book was about got in my way. Drat!

The author did something creative and new with Peter’s character and it was intriguing to see a different take on him. I do wish more had been done, though. The climax felt rushed to me. In fact, every niggle I had with the book comes down to an issue with the pacing.

Wendy, Darling ended up not being the book for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. It just wasn’t my bag. It was a fast read, and one that might appeal to readers who want a book that takes the original story and twists it into something new and completely different.

Odyssey: The Reboot: A Hooligan’s Tale by Keith Tokash

Homer’s back, and this time, it’s personal.

Odysseus, cleverest of Greeks, is missing. Having survived war, betrayal, and his own fat mouth, Gelios discovers himself oathsworn to find his friend, and save the kingdom of Ithaca.

With his squabbling entourage, Gelios careens through the Mediterranean in a desperate bid to save Odysseus and reunite antiquity’s most annoying family. Fleeing a trail of mercenaries, bad decisions, and angry women, the group struggles to answer one of humanity’s most enduring questions:

Why the hell is this my problem? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Odyssey: The Reboot is available for purchase now.

Odyssey: The Reboot: A Hooligan’s Tale is that wonderful mix of completely irreverent and smart that is so hard to find. I loved author Keith Tokash’s take on the Iliad (review here), and he continues in fine form here. The thing about “classics” such as the Odyssey is that they’re ripe for parody. There’s nothing like lovingly poking fun at a timeless tale that is pretty much required reading for every junior high school student. Tokash uses the classic to craft a fast-moving “true story” about the events of the Odyssey and it is hilarious.

Once again, Gelios (the cousin of Homer) crashed through an epic, causing mayhem. Gelios was pretty much born with his foot in his mouth, yet he is also somehow endearing. He’s a fantastic main character and reading the shenanigans he finds himself in was so much fun!

The writing is snappy, the humor is dry and witty, and the story is a blast. The author has taken everything that worked well in his first book (which was pretty much everything) and somehow made it even better. You don’t need to read Iliad: The Reboot to enjoy this book, although I highly recommend it. In a year (decade?) where humor is as good as gold, Odyssey: The Reboot: A Hooligan’s Tale delivers. Go ahead and grab both books; you’ll thank me.

A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables) by Alix E. Harrow

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no-one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate. (taken from Amazon)

Here’s the thing: Alix E. Harrow is a brilliant writer. She could write a book about the color taupe and I would stand in line to read it. She’s that good. So when I heard about A Spindle Splintered, I grabbed it as quickly as possible. I didn’t know too much about it, but I knew I needed to read it.

I was a little surprised at how short it was. I expected it to be longer based on Harrow’s last few books (which I highly suggest reading, by the way). I am always a littles hesitant about shorter books, wondering whether they can tell complete tales as well as a longer novel can. That’s a silly hang-up on my part since I’ve read many shorter novels that have been absolutely amazing, but we all have our failings.

The author embraces the shorter format, eschewing long character introductions in favor of quick ones with the development continuing at a rapid pace throughout the rest of the story. While there is no doubt that the characters are fully rounded (especially Charm), I do wish that there had been time to really get into the nitty gritty of what made them tick. For example, Zinnia has spent her entire life in a tug of war between trying to do the things that every kid and teen does and the awareness that she is living on borrowed time. I would have loved to see more of that struggle and view how that has shaped her every action. There is a bit of explanation about her relationship with her parents which I found very interesting but I would have loved to see more.

I loved that there wasn’t a ton of lead up to the main event. Instead, we are pretty much tossed right in, which added to the tone of unbelievability meets why the crap not? that pervaded the story. The side characters were great, especially the witch that cursed the Sleeping Beauty that Zinnia meets. That whole confrontation did not go at all the way I expected and I was completely on board with that.

There wasn’t a lot of time spent on the world building because there didn’t need to be. It was every fairy tale you’ve ever read, every fantasy trope played out in exaggerated detail. It worked very well for the plot as everyone knows the original story of Sleeping Beauty (or at the very least, the Disney version) and this was a new take on the tale. There didn’t need to be a ton of explanation. That being said, Alix E. Harrow made sure to provide extra details where it was needed, without slowing the pace of the book, again showing off her writing chops.

There are Arthur Rackham illustrations throughout, which provided an enchanting touch, if a wee bit twisted. In fact, the entire book points out the less-than-savory parts of fairy tales and fables, and finds ways to compare them to the less-than-wonderful things in real life. It was very well done.

My big quibble with A Spindle Splintered is that I really didn’t like the length. I wanted more. More detail, more expansion, more from the final confrontation. Not because the book was bad, but because Alix E. Harrow is such a good writer. I wanted to live in her story for much longer than I was able to.

At the end of the day, I really did enjoy A Spindle Splintered, but not nearly as much as I loved The Once and Future Witches and The Ten Thousand Doors of January. In this case, definitely blame the reader and not the book.

Iliad: The Reboot by Keith Tokash

Iliad: The Reboot by [Tokash, Keith]

History cares about kings, but the gods love a buffoon.

The hapless young soldier Gelios faces execution for offending his king. Desperate, he accidentally volunteers his cousin to chronicle the coming war.

Equipped with only a sword and a stunning lack of judgment, Gelios must keep his cousin alive amid the greatest war of an era. Worse, he must survive the egos of the two most powerful kings in their army.

But his deadliest struggle is with his mouth. Can he keep it shut long enough to make it home alive?

The Iliad has long been the definitive source of knowledge surrounding the kings, gods, and heroes of the Trojan War. Now, for the first time, readers can experience the clash of two ancient superpowers through the eyes of the biggest jackass in history. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

This is the book that launched a thousand laughs! Equally hilarious and smart, every moment of this well-crafted comedy was perfect. Perfection is hard to come by, especially when retelling a classic, but that’s what this book is.

It was impossible to put down. Not literally; I could put it down if I had to, but I really didn’t want to. Told from the point of view of Gelios, the cousin of Pelos (ahem- Homer), this satire of the epic poem happily took every part of the original and twisted it into the funniest possible telling. Gelios was hilariously unable to keep his mouth shut, even when it behooved him to do so. It got both himself and Pelos into no end of trouble (it’s amazing he kept his head long enough to tell the full story).

The language was quippy and updated; think snark instead of flowery. It flowed well and there were no slow or unnecessary bits or characters. Even the nicknames added to the fun of the book: I particularly liked “Aggy”.

Should you read this book? Abso-freaking-lutely! I’d advise that you get to it sooner rather than later. You’ll thank me.