Wild Court by Matthew Samuels

A secret organisation is losing the battle to maintain the empathy levels that sustain the planet’s protective barriers against the nightmare worlds.

A young aristocrat safeguards a terrible secret, sponsoring an archaeology graduate obsessed with biblical artifacts. An all-knowing orphan worshiped by a cult joins a textbook exemplar of toxic masculinity and an introverted librarian. Together with a retired demon hunter, they’ll face the apocalypse. (Taken from Amazon)

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

One of the great things about fantasy, urban fantasy in particular, is how authors explore ideas such as empathy, humanity, mental health, and its effects, all while also including magic and monsters. Wild Court presents a remarkable dichotomy between reality and fantasy, guided by Matthew Samuels’ skillful hand.

The book has a few different points of view; one isn’t enough to contain the narrative. Each one moves the story or plot in a way that makes the novel more complete. While they are all great characters, my favorite is Ben. He’s an introverted bundle of anxiety who appreciates a quiet life. I can relate. At the same time, when an opportunity comes to help in the struggle against otherworldly dangers- which are becoming more present in this day and age- he is willing to do what he can. His friendship with the extremely flawed Matt adds a new layer to an already complicated character.

The plot is a lot to take in at first. There are historical artifacts, ancient societies, and violent spirits. Hang in there. As the book progresses, all is explained and it meshes together well into a creative whole. It is a book that requires trust and attention. Trust that the author is going to deliver a heck of a story (he nails it) and attention to the nuances of both the characters and narrative.

Wild Court begins with introductions to the main players, then moves on to explanations in the most fun of ways: a series of “tests” to decide if the characters are a good fit for the secret evil-battling group. It was a little reminiscent of the movie Men in Black, but just a little. During these tests and training scenes, more detail is given, both to the characters and the reader. It is a clever way to avoid an overload of information all at once.

The pace isn’t slow, but it does take the time it needs to introduce the world. It ramps up as the book continues, which makes sense with everything that ends up happening (no spoilers given, I promise). There’s a doozy of an ending, a major payoff for all that happens throughout.

I love that the characters didn’t immediately go from zero to hardcore, shedding their initial personalities. They remained who they were while also growing and developing throughout the book. Wild Court is a unique book, one of the rare ones which wonderfully combines great characters with creative prose.

Vevin Song by Jonathan Neves Mayers

Years have passed since hostile creatures flew down from the sky and forced humanity to fight or flee. Now, the surviving humans live in underwater cocoons, knowing that the world above does not belong to them anymore.

Marla Hightower is just getting by with a job she loathes in a cocoon, longing for something more fulfilling after a rough start to life. But things change as she begins to develop unusual abilities not unlike the winged creatures who invaded her world.

Knowing that being discovered will result in her being experimented on and placed in confinement, Marla plans to escape from the cocoon and launch up to the surface, beginning her dangerous journey to uncover not only her origins, but those of humanity’s enemies. (Taken from Amazon)

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

Vevin Song started with a bang, immediately sticking the reader into danger and desperation. It served to introduce me quickly to the fears that led the entirety of humanity into hiding. We are introduced right away to a way of life that is ending. The humans are leaving, heading into “cocoons” under the ocean. However, the main story actually takes place years later.

After the first chapter, the pace slowed down a bit. That’s not to say there wasn’t any action. There was (and even more carnage!), but it took a while to get there. Marla is the main character and things really move at the pace of her character development, which meant some slower parts at the beginning. I struggled a bit with her. She came across as kind of a snot, which I normally don’t mind (I don’t need to like a character or relate to them to find them interesting), but I think she was meant to be likable. That kind of threw me a little. I really enjoyed reading the other characters, however, especially Erin.

Things start to open up when Marla returns to the surface. More and more is learned about the Vevin, and it was obvious that a ton of thought and effort was put into making them unique and different (although not as different as the people in the book thought). I loved the lore and mannerisms of the Vevin! Their addition made the book captivating.

The last part of the book picked up, hurtling toward a conclusion that was as attention-grabbing as it was appropriate to the story arc. I don’t read a ton of dystopia, but I can say with confidence that nothing about the book is cut and dry or anything like what you’ve read before.

Vevin Song was an enjoyable book, and fans of dystopian science fiction will find themselves immersed almost from the beginning.

Rise Red Kingdom by Kristen Espinosa Rosero

It starts with a rift that burns a thousand scars into the sky. It makes the winds stop. It makes the stars go dark. It awakens an ancient beast. And with it, a new reign of blood. It is the Summoning. And at the heart of it is fire.

Dove’s plan to slay a dead dragon has backfired spectacularly. Now there are two dragons, and Valerya the Fireborne is burning everything in her path to hunt her down. In the aftermath of battle, Dove must use her courage, wits-and an erratic, impulsive dragon-to protect her companions, make unexpected alliances… and survive.

A must read for fans of dragons, airship smugglers, and elemental magic! (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Rise Red Kingdom is available now.

I was fortunate to read and review Burn Red Skies, book one in the Burn Red Skies series, for SPFBO 7. Once again, the author captured my attention immediately. With most of the world building done in book one, Rise Red Kingdom jumped immediately into the story, focusing on both the plot and character development.

I’m a sucker for nuanced characters. If you give me an amazing world but the characters are flat, I’ll lose interest halfway. But give me complicated characters who shift and grow, and I’ll be hooked. Doubly so when the world is creative and interesting like it is here.

After the events of book one, the characters find themselves going in different directions and facing entirely new obstacles. I liked that they were taken out of what had (almost) become comfort zones for them. It gave them the opportunity to keep evolving. Dove, in particular, was no longer only the inexperienced girl from Burn Red Skies. She’s becoming her own person, although she still sometimes struggles with that. She’s a supremely human character, utterly believable and fascinating because of that.

Valerya was my favorite this time. In Burn Red Skies, she felt like an enigma wrapped in a mystery. In Rise Red Kingdom, some of her personality traits are explained. Just like there is always something new to learn about someone you know in real life, there were new truths revealed throughout that I felt added complexity to her.

My only niggle in book one was that the pacing was choppy in parts. Not so, here. The author had a good pace throughout and it picked up near the end as things ramped up. The writing felt even more confident.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are DRAGONS! You say “dragon” and I’m immediately on board. Author Kerstin Espinosa Rosero has done something unique and absolutely awesome with hers.

Rise Red Kingdom is a more-than-worthy sequel in a series that has much to offer. This is a story to lose yourself in. Highly recommended.

*This review was originally published on Before We Go Blog

The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill by Rowena Miller

There is no magic on Prospect Hill—or anywhere else, for that matter. But just on the other side of the veil is the world of the Fae. Generations ago, the first farmers on Prospect Hill learned to bargain small trades to make their lives a little easier—a bit of glass to find something lost, a cup of milk for better layers in the chicken coop.

Much of that old wisdom was lost as the riverboats gave way to the rail lines and the farmers took work at mills and factories. Alaine Fairborn’s family, however, was always superstitious, and she still hums the rhymes to find a lost shoe and to ensure dry weather on her sister’s wedding day.

When Delphine confides her new husband is not the man she thought he was, Alaine will stop at nothing to help her sister escape him. Small bargains buy them time, but a major one is needed. Yet, the price for true freedom may be more than they’re willing to pay. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Redhook and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill will be available on March 28th.

The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill was not at all what I expected. The book starts with a fairy bargain. One of the things that I love about faeries in books is their capriciousess. You never know what you’re going to get. Well, at the beginning, a fairy bargain yields a farm, one that is passed down from generation to generation. Each new family member learns the right way to bargain. You can make little bargains to tweak situations in a favorable way, but beware large ones. You have to be willing to pay the price.

Alaine and Delphine are two sisters with very different ways of trying to make their mark on the world. Alaine now runs the farm that was won in a fairy bargain and wants it to flourish. However, she is rapidly running out of money and banks aren’t known to be patient. Meanwhile her sister, Delphine, wanted to be the wife of a businessman and make her way in society. Both want to be seen as successful, knowledgable, and important, they just have different ideas on how to make that happen. Alaine starts making more bargains than she should, forgetting the rules. Delphine finds out that her husband is an atrocious excuse for a human and has to get out of the relationship.

I expected a book filled with magic. I must admit that the first half of the book or so didn’t really keep my attention. There is a lot of buildup, some of which probably could have been condensed a little. The pacing was odd because of this and I found myself struggling to stay focused. I kept waiting for things to start, eventually noticing that I was almost halfway through the book and nothing much had happened yet. There were a few times that I contemplated setting the book down entirely, but the characters of Alaine and Delphine kept me reading.

This isn’t because they are particularly likeable. They aren’t. They are, however, supremely and believably flawed, which was better. I felt for them. I could see that, despite being selfish or making (really!) bad choices, their reasons made sense in regards to their characters. I felt bad for Delphine in particular, because of her situation with her horrible husband but also because her insecurities were heartbreaking. It was hard to read at times.

The relationship between the two sisters was interesting to watch unfold. They loved each other, but it was a love tempered by misunderstandings and little jealousies. Both saw the other as supremely confident and not needing anyone else. It took a while for either of them to really open up. It was aggravating to read at times because it was also understandable. There may have been some teeth gnashing on my part.

Once things got going, I was a little more interested. Sadly, I saw a lot of what happened coming from pretty early on. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t entertain me, but the fact that so much of it had already been forecast made it a little less gasp-worthy. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. In fact, that unfortunately sums up my feelings for this book: I liked it but I didn’t love it. The writing was solid and the historical aspect of it was intriguing, but the first half was slow enough that my attention wandered. The second half was more exciting, but it was almost a “too little, too late” situation. Ultimately, The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill wasn’t the book for me.

This would be a good read for people who want good, slower paced historical fiction and don’t mind a small splattering of fairy magic.

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell

Every summer for the past ten years, six awe-struck bakers have descended on the grounds of Grafton, the leafy and imposing Vermont estate that is not only the filming site for “Bake Week” but also the childhood home of the show’s famous host, celebrated baker Betsy Martin.

The author of numerous bestselling cookbooks and hailed as “America’s Grandmother,” Betsy Martin isn’t as warm off-screen as on, though no one needs to know that but her. She has always demanded perfection, and gotten it with a smile, but this year something is off. As the baking competition commences, things begin to go awry. At first, it’s merely sabotage—sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high—but when a body is discovered, everyone is a suspect.

A sharp and suspenseful thriller for mystery buffs and avid bakers alike, The Golden Spoon is a brilliant puzzle filled with shocking twists and turns that will keep you reading late into the night until you turn the very last page of this incredible debut. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Golden Spoon will be available on March seventh, 2023.

The Golden Spoon was advertised as a mix of Clue and The Great British Bakeoff. That sounded delicious to me (pun intended) and I couldn’t wait to pick it up. While there was a lot to like, there were also some things that just didn’t work for me.

The story features a group of contestants joining their hosts on a large estate to film a baking competition. Each has their own reason to be there and some have nothing to do with baking. Secrets abound. When a body is discovered, the secrets begin to unravel leaving the reader trying to follow the clues and solve the murder.

The book opened with a press introduction of the contestants on the show, a great way to quickly introduce a group of characters without taking a lot of time to break down each one in exacting detail. This lets the author slowly add details throughout the book which gave me the chance to guess at connections and motivations. It was a clever idea and worked very well.

Once the book itself got going, though, I found myself alternately drawn in and knocked out of the narrative. See, the book is told in first person present tense throughout, which tends to keep me from being too sucked in. I don’t know why it irritates me, but it does. At times this choice added tension, but in other instances, it was distracting. Doubly so because the book also switches back and forth between different points of view. It was never confusing, but it was jarring.

Despite this, the story was engaging and the characters were interesting. I was bummed that the first contestant to get booted from the show left so quickly that they weren’t fully explored but they served brilliantly to drop hints that would otherwise have been given awkwardly. Author Jessa Maxwell was incredibly smart in how she revealed her information. Going back, clues were there but she made the reader hunt to find them. I love being able to go back through a story and see the logic that leads to the conclusion.

The characters were all interesting. I had my favorites, of course. I liked Gerald with his logic and intelligence. I also liked his addition to the story. I also really enjoyed Pradyumna’s character. His reason for being there and his involvement was different from things I’ve found in other mysteries and his reasoning was intriguing. It explained his actions and choices well. There were even a couple of characters that I loved to hate.

The ending felt a little rushed which was a bummer because the author put so much care into building up tension. I did see the whodunnit coming, but I have a knack for doing that. It was in no way broadly broadcast. In fact, it’s that fun combination of a quick, fun read that also requires you to pay attention so you don’t miss something. It was an entertaining read.

I do want to say that there is reference to sexual assault. I only mention this because it is something that I struggle with as a reader. That being said, it isn’t spoken of in extreme detail. It is, however, something that I wish I had been aware of ahead of time. That goes back to the “trigger warning” argument: are they useful and do they take away from the book’s content. This isn’t the right place to discuss my thoughts on that. Suffice it to say, the author was delicate and respectful in her use of that subject.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The Golden Spoon is a fun, creative mystery. Jessa Maxwell is an author to watch.

Messengers of the Macabre: Halloween Poems by LindaAnn LoSchiavo and David Davies

All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain, Day of the Dead… during this interval, the barriers between the two realms are thinnest. Normal turns paranormal; what’s natural becomes the supernatural. That’s when the messengers of the macabre are in their rightful element. Step inside this collaborative chapbook and embrace a haunted harvest of verses embracing bewitchment, boneyards, and all things that go… Boo! (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to author LindaAnn LoSchiavo for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Messengers of the Macabre: Halloween Poems is available now.

While I love poetry, I’m also picky about it. Not for me is the cutesy rhyme (although I don’t mind rhyming if there is substance to the poem). Poems need to have purpose, whether it is to entertain, scare, communicate, or say those things that otherwise stick in the throat. Messengers of the Macabre is a solid collection of well-written poems, but there were a few that stood out to me.

“A Sleepy Hollow Halloween” is a fun homage to Washinton Irving’s spooky tale. I loved seeing it make an appearance and the cliffhanger ending left my imagination happy.

“Emily Post’s Etiquette Book for Ghosts” is a clever tongue-in-cheek poem that leans toward the fun side. Every person who encounters a specter or unruly poltergeist could benefit from Post’s Etiquette Book for Ghosts. After all, it must be tough to know how to properly host a ghost.

“Elizabeth Siddal Rossetti, Cemetary Superstar” is fascinating. This one is about a woman’s body exhumed (along with her ghost) to retrieve poetry buried with her. Reading it, I thought, “What a clever idea for a poem” and then I saw the note at the bottom. It’s based on something that really happened! It was morbid but so interesting. I won’t forget this poem anytime soon.

The weather didn’t particularly cooperate for me,being warm and sunny when I read this collection. However, Messengers of the Macabre: Halloween Poems would make an enjoyable colder weather read.

The Sapphire Altar by David Dalglish

In this epic fantasy from a bestselling author, a usurped prince must master the magic of shadows in order to reclaim his kingdom and his people.

Cyrus wants out. Trained to be an assassin in order to oust the invading Empire from his kingdom, Cyrus is now worried the price of his vengeance is too high. His old master has been keeping too many secrets to be trusted. And the mask he wears to hide his true identity and become the legendary “Vagrant” has started whispering to him in the dark. But the fight isn’t over and the Empire has sent its full force to bear upon Cyrus’s floundering revolution. He’ll have to decide once and for all whether to become the thing he fears or lose the country he loves.(Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Sapphire Altar is available now.

The Sapphire Altar is the second book in the Vagrant Gods series. So much happened in book one, The Bladed Faith, that I was supremely grateful for the summary provided at the beginning of book two. It helped ensure that nothing was forgotten.

Wow! I was absolutely floored by the brilliance of the writing and the complexity of the plot. Religious fanaticism and rebellion interacted in ways that went far beyond “good vs bad”, instead exposing motives that were surprisingly nuanced. Themes of faith and redemption once again drove the book. This is a complicated story, one that asks for and deserves the reader’s full attention. Honestly, though, it was hard to put The Sapphire Altar down once I picked it up.

The Sapphire Altar serves to open the series up even more, focusing on characters other than just Cyrus (although I still find him fascinating). Reading more about what made the different characters tick made them all the more believable. Keles, in particular, stood out to me. There’s always something risky about writing a character who is dealing with a crisis of faith. If you are too heavy-handed, it loses its importance. If you don’t stress it enough, the emotional impact is lost. Holy moly, Dalglish nailed it. Faith can be tied to a person’s sense of self, so reading about someone’s struggle with it should feel raw and vulnerable. I was uncomfortable at times, reading about the shifts and loss of belief in different characters, but it was the sort of uncomfortable that comes from incredible writing and character development. These characters jump off the page.

The pacing was good, although it felt a little different this time around. I think that was simply because of the amount of emotional baggage that these characters were carting around. I’m sure it was heavy! There was a lot going on, but it was balanced with a large dose of introspection. I am a fan of characters who have to come to grips with their pasts and make decisions that reflect who they’ve become, so I was completely on board with this. The pace picked up at the end, galloping with almost reckless abandon into a conclusion that left me reeling.

The world is fantastic and continues to become more fleshed out. It is one that feels very well thought-out to me. I like that it seemed to grow as we see it in regard to what is happening. The fight scenes were killer (pun intended) and kept me on the edge of my seat.

I was left waiting desperately to see what happens next. In the words of the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, “Curse you and thank you”, author David Dalglish. Thank you for an incredible book. And curses that I have to wait until 2024 for the next one in the series. Make sure to pick this one up, folks!

The Foxglove King by Hannah Whitten

In this lush, romantic epic fantasy series from a New York Times bestselling author, a young woman’s secret power to raise the dead plunges her into the dangerous and glamorous world of the Sainted King’s royal court.
When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.
Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die.
Lore is thrust into the Sainted King’s glittering court, where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted. Guarded by Gabriel, a duke-turned-monk, and continually running up against Bastian, August’s ne’er-do-well heir, Lore tangles in politics, religion, and forbidden romance as she attempts to navigate a debauched and opulent society.
But the life she left behind in the catacombs is catching up with her. And even as Lore makes her way through the Sainted court above, they might be drawing closer than she thinks.

Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Foxglove King will be available on March seventh, 2023.

I’m sorry, The Foxglove King, it’s not you. It’s me. Well, it’s a little bit you. There were things you did well that were rather intriguing. Unfortunately, these aspects were never fully realized. Now, there is a distinct possibility that you’ll get it together and will become an excellent series. In a year or so, I’ll realize that I gave up too soon, that I should have made a commitment and stayed in for the long haul. In fact, that is most likely the case. Hannah Whitten is a skilled author who obviously has a well-thought-out plan as far as the direction of the series. At this time, though, we need to go our separate ways.

You do have some desirable qualities, several in fact. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, The Foxglove King, how you respect the reader’s intelligence and jump straight into the story without the dreaded info dump. You were willing to put yourself out there in that way, which is always awesome. You reveal more of yourself as you go along, and there’s a lot to you. Your magic, Mortem, which is the power to raise the dead, was intriguing. The way that it was controlled by the Church (no separation of Church and state here) and utilized in ways that are suspect at best is fascinating and makes for great tension. I’m a fan of tension. That being said, I’m a little unsure about why having this ability would make Lore (your main character) a good spy.

Your use of modern language, while taking me out of the world and story at times, was nonetheless a bold choice and one that made you instantly accessible. There were no misunderstandings. You moved at a good pace, not rushing things that are important but also taking storytelling risks. Your author, Hannah Whitten, writes confidently. Reading this, it might be tough to tell where our relationship went wrong. So I’ll just hop right into the crux of it: you cheated.

You have a love triangle. I think this is a matter of miscommunication. You see, I thought based on your description, that “forbidden romance” meant one relationship. Not a confused muddle between three people. Also, it seemed a little yucky to me that Gabriel was a part of Lore’s original abduction (albeit an unwilling member) yet they are somehow attracted to each other. I also don’t understand how everyone involved can feel an instant attraction, an “I know you” toward one other. You might explain this in more detail later on, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m starting to think I’m emotionally unavailable. That’s unfair to you, The Foxglove King.

You deserve readers who appreciate a little bit of romantic tension and a fair bit of angst. Trust me, you’re going to get them in droves. You have so many qualities that attract readers: a fast pace, an intriguing plot, and even the relationship drama that you bring with you will appeal to many. I’m the wrong reader. So, I guess at the end of the day, it really is me and not you. I wish you the best of luck, The Foxglove King, and I know I’ll see you around, on bestseller lists and recommended shelves.

And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky

All roads lead to Underhill, where it’s always winter, and never nice.
Harry Bodie has a famous grandmother, who wrote beloved children’s books set in the delightful world of Underhill. Harry himself is a failing kids’ TV presenter whose every attempt to advance his career ends in self-sabotage. His family history seems to be nothing but an impediment.
An impediment… or worse. What if Underhill is real? What if it has been waiting decades for a promised child to visit? What if it isn’t delightful at all? And what if its denizens have run out of patience and are taking matters into their own hands? (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Rebellion Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. And Put Away Childish Things will be available on March 28th, 2023.

Have you ever had a dream that slowly shifted into a nightmare? You wake up, heart pounding, sweat on your brow but you can’t remember the exact moment when your dream became something dark and sinister. That’s And Put Away Childish Things: a dream that becomes a nightmare, one that leaves you unsettled yet engrossed.

As is always the case with Adrian Tchaikovsky, the writing is astounding. He creates, not just a world, but a feeling. Harry Brodie’s discontent with his life becomes the reader’s discontent, his feeling of being trapped, the reader’s. The book begins with a very unhappy Harry working on a kid’s TV show (I immediately pictured Death to Smoochy). He decides to go on one of those interview shows to hopefully remind people he exists and get better acting gigs. Unfortunately for him, the host did her homework and came up with some new information about Harry’s grandmother: the author of the children’s Underhill book series. That information (left unsaid here to avoid spoilers) sends Harry into a tailspin, which gets a whole lot worse when he starts seeing his grandmother’s fantasy creatures hanging out on his doorstep.

This might be where the shift starts. See, these aren’t your usual children’s book creatures. They aren’t even the villains from those worlds. These are horribly, horribly wrong. The author describes them in great detail, bringing life to dilapidated, decaying creatures. My gut reaction was one of horror (and yes, pity) which, of course, seems to be what he was going for. The reader gets taken on a trip both physically and emotionally as Harry (and some companions) enter a world he never believed in, but has always believed in him. And it’s been waiting.

The writing is fantastic, not overly flowery but detailed enough to paint vivid pictures. Interestingly, Harry’s personality is defined just enough to show a desire to feel important, but not much else is explained. This would normally irritate me (I like extremely nuanced characters) but he is more of a thought experiment, a “what if?” than your average character. What if you missed your chance at magic as a child? What if disillusionment and broken expectations with adulthood transfer over to a world where the magic has also broken down and become something less than expected? What if knowledge makes a simple thing simultaneously uglier yet more important?

The ending felt tentative and uncertain, which I thought was perfect for this book. I do wish that it had been a little longer because certain parts felt a little rushed. That being said, And Put Away Childish Things is fascinating, a book that begs to be discussed, reread, and savored.

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie- A Mom/Son review

This year I’m participating in a reading challenge with my teenage son. We’re taking part in Read Christie 2023, which is a year-long Agatha Christie challenge. Each month features a different theme and a book list to choose from. January’s theme is jealousy and my son and I chose The Murder on the Links.

We will be sharing our thoughts below and the format will be a little different than usual. I really really love discussing books with my son!

My son: “Recently, I read The Murder on the Links and I really enjoyed it! Here are my thoughts on it. The first half of my review will be spoiler-free, and the second half will have ALL the spoilers! Let’s begin!”

Me: “Sounds fair. Here we go!”

My son: “I’m just going to come right out and say it: I think Captain Hastings is my favorite character in The Murder on the Links. He had some stiff competition too! Hercule Poirot is a classic, sure, but there’s just something about Captain Hastings that’s just fun to read!”

Me: “I thought Hastings was a blast too, but I still have to stick with Poirot as my favorite. As you said, he’s a classic. I like how particular he is and it’s interesting to see his thought process (although it’s often hard to parse out what he’s thinking in the moment).

My son: “As for the other characters (i.e. the suspects), I think that most of them were somewhat simple background types who I found easily forgettable. All except one who I mention in the second half of the review. I won’t name any names but I thought she was a fun character if a bit less important/prominent as Hercule Poirot and some of the other, more involved characters.”

Me: “That’s an interesting point. I can see where you’re coming from: the background characters aren’t as fleshed out say, say, the zany characters from the movie Clue. I think they’re meant to be more archetypes than anything. I do agree that there is one character who is definitely more memorable than the others! I’ll avoid mentioning her name too since you’d like to save that for later on.”

My son: “Next up is the pacing! I thought that the book had a good steady pace overall. It did get a bit faster toward the end, which was simultaneously exciting and easy to get confused by, as the story moved very quickly and changed direction suddenly towards the end. At least, in my opinion.”

Me: “I’m right there with you! The pace definitely ramped up toward the end with a lot being thrown at the reader very quickly. I have read a fair bit of Christie so I saw that uptick in pacing coming but it can be hard to follow. I can’t read it when I’m tired or it will go right over my head!”

My son: And about the location, I’m afraid that once again I found it to be somewhat unimportant when it wasn’t being actively investigated. If you’re looking for an Agatha Christie book with an exciting location [refers now to the review readers], I’d recommend either Murder on the Orient Express (if you’re looking for more Hercule Poirot) or And Then There Were None. The latter is my mom’s favorite Christie book, but I found the ending disagreed with me slightly.”

Me: “I still can’t believe And Then There Were None didn’t just blow you away! I abhor your reaction, my friend (but I love you anyway)! Joking aside, I think that the setting was okay here, but nothing to write home about.”

My son: “Switching topics a bit here, I also really enjoyed the mystery itself. I can’t go into too much detail here in the first half (because so much of what made it interesting are spoilers) but I can assure you, I am a big fan of this one! The twists are very twisty, the crime is very criminal, and so on and so forth.”

Me: “The twists are very twisty! I thought some of them were a bit over the top. I like mysteries where I can go back afterward and pick up the threads of clues that I wasn’t smart enough to catch the first time around and I’m not sure they are there in this case. Maybe they are and I’m just not observant enough. As Sherlock says, “You see but you do not observe” (I’m mixing my detectives now). That quote describes me pretty well.”

—From here on out, there will be spoilers! Tread with caution!—

My son: “All right, time to get down to business. Here are my real opinions on The Murder on the Links. Spoilers ahoy!”

Me: “Ooh, time for the nitty gritty!”

My son: “First off, I really enjoyed how Agatha Christie carefully laid clues out that we (the readers) could follow, then added in new information to completely change everything. The second Cinderella “fainted” in the shed near the weapon and the weapon was discovered missing, I was immediately suspicious of her. I think I might’ve suspected even earlier than that, even! A few chapters later, I found out my suspicions were simultaneously valid and incorrect. It was really exciting having my theories confirmed then almost instantly tossed out the window with the discovery of new information. Which, funnily enough, was heavily reliant on a window to present itself. I guess you could say that the information chose a very fortunate window of opportunity. Ha ha! Oh man, that wasn’t really that funny…”

Me: “Hey, I thought it was funny! The faint was very suspicious indeed. Remind me later and I’ll tell you about the time I fainted (well, your dad says I did. But I really didn’t. I just decided to accidentally tilt dramatically). I love having suspicions confirmed! I was so busy being suspicious of everything (I’m sure there was even a shifty squirrel in there somewhere) that I didn’t settle on her over anyone else. Well done!”

Me: “So, any thoughts on the theme of jealousy?”

My son: “I really didn’t notice, to be honest.”

Me: “Fair enough.”

My son: “Anyway…I personally think that Agatha Christie did a fantastic job writing an interesting and compelling mystery, which I really enjoyed! Of course, writing good mysteries is nothing new to Miss Christie. I personally think that overall, The Murder on the Links might be one of my favorite Hercule Poirot mysteries (Murder on the Orient Express is some pretty tough competition, though)!”

Me: “Wow, that high praise! I didn’t love this one as much as you did, but I’m still glad I read it. Not least because I get to talk about it with you! I can’t wait for next month’s book! Thanks for doing this challenge with me!”