Mini Reviews: The Halloween Tree, Prince of Thorns, Firelight, Darkfever

The Holiday Book read has officially concluded—that and all my books were due back at the library. So let’s get to it, shall we?


Thanks to the recommendation of Gloria Weber and my own love of Ray Bradbury, I checked out The Halloween Tree. It’s an easy read, I think middle grade, and a lot of fun. Mr. Bradbury does a great job of setting up the characters, the night, and the conflict. He’s got great descriptions and really pulls you into the story right at the beginning. It’s a fun tale about how Halloween came to be (at least in the book’s world), reminiscent of the style of Roald Dahl. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it.

My only complaint was the pattern got a bit tired toward the end. I think there were 6 boys in costumes, so they had to explain how each costume tied into Halloween with its own scene. By scene 4 or 5 I found myself saying, “Get on with the rest of it already.” I think the lesson to be learned here is not to delay the payoff with the same devices too many times. I think it would have worked out better if the boys had rescued their friend and then learned more about Halloween. Or maybe he could have combined a couple costume explanation scenes.

Don’t get me wrong though, that was some pretty decent story. Although I do find the beginning of it sticks in my mind more than the end. A little bit of a let down.

My grade for this book: A-


This book I picked up because of another blog recommendation. After reading the review, part of me wondered if this book held any similarities to my own. Yeah, this one’s far darker. But I found it helpful for my own writing, in that Mark Lawrence still got me to feel empathy for what was, in my opinion, a mostly despicable character. Understandably despicable, but despicable nonetheless.

It’s interesting how some books are a struggle to get through and others just click. That’s how Mark Lawrence’s writing was for me. I didn’t have to struggle to get interested, I was immediately drawn in. Granted, I’m not saying it’s the most brilliant prose you’ll ever read, but it’s very clean and precise and stays out of my way so I can get involved in the story. That’s the kind of writing I like.

The story is about a prince who’s mother and brother are murdered while he lays helpless in a patch of thorns watching. The thorns nearly killed him, but he survives, seeking revenge.

Revenge plots aren’t necessarily my favorite, but Mr. Lawrence built in enough tension I felt like I had to see it through to the end. And he built that brilliant empathy to boot. Just as he becomes too despicable, he weaves in hints of Jorg’s humanity so we’re drawn back to this hope of redemption. He does it very well.

But Jorg seems written a little older than he is, a little more confident than he should be. It made me wonder whether Mr. Lawrence has been around that age group recently. Granted, it is supposed to be a medieval time frame fantasy, but still… There’s explanation for that later, sort of, but it feels a bit convenient. I may have shrugged it off, but then a lot of other convenient-feeling plot wrap ups commence. By the end he’s a bit too invincible.

Anyways, everything wraps up and by the end I’m lamenting the thrill I had in the beginning, killed by convenience and invincibility. I won’t be reading King of Thorns, but I’m grateful for the lessons learned in strong writing and making despicable characters likeable. And I love the book cover. 🙂

My grade for this book: B+


Sophie Jordan writes the tale of a girl who’s a Draki—a human who can become a dragon, and her dangerous love with a boy from a dragon hunting family. I thought of the book I read earlier, Abandon, and how these were both speaking to the same audience, using a lot of the same story elements, but Firelight easily kept my attention while Abandon did not.

Like Prince of Thorns, I enjoy writing that gets out of my way so I can get absorbed in the story. Ms. Jordan isn’t as strong a writer as Mr. Lawrence, but what she lacks description she makes up with plot. And don’t take this the wrong way, but it made me think, “Oh, so this is what Twilight could have been in a different author’s hand.” Because honestly, they’re almost exactly the same story. Girl feels awkward in new town, meets bad boy who has dark secret. Has other boy who she should probably date instead, but there’s just something about bad boy she can’t resist.

I think it was the idea of dragons secretly masquerading as humans that drew me in. Plus it has those universal struggle of mother-vs-daughter, both of which have valid points to their views of how daughter should live her life. It’s a good story, and I will probably pick up the sequel in the future to see how things turn out.

But I’m beginning to see what the Mystic Cooking ladies were saying about love triangles. Not sure if they were referring to this book or another, but if it goes the same route the Uglies series did, I’m going to be one unhappy camper.

It’s not a brilliant literary tale by any means, but an enjoyable read, and that’s all I was looking for.

So my grade on this book: A


You know it’s pretty terrible when you can’t even remember the title of the book you didn’t like and have to go searching through the library queue to remember what it was. And here we have Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning. I should have suspected this when Charlaine Harris is calling it brilliant. It’s not that I have anything against Ms. Harris, it’s just after hearing her speak at a Comic Con panel, well, let’s just say our tastes are different.

It begins with the dreaded info dump prologue. You know, the one where they tell you everything you might need to know about the novel before the story gets going because the author lacks the cleverness to weave this information into the story as we go along. That or they think the audience is too dumb to get it otherwise. Both are insulting and leave me with a sour taste. Not the best way to start off a novel.

Nine times out of ten I hate prologues. I never write them myself, I usually skim those I do encounter, and what I’m telling you right now is either cut the prologue you have in front of your novel or have a ridiculously undeniable reason for having it there. I still say cut it.

Once I got through the info dump, the story began with a spoiled girl I could care less about who narrated the story like it was one of those hoaky mystery novels, reminiscent of Sam Spade (expect those are probably better). This novel has already pissed me off twice. But I feel an obligation to at least try and give novels a chance, and kept trudging through it. I guess her sister was murdered (yawn) and now she thinks she needs to go play detective (yawn). I think eventually she finds out she’s a faerie or something (she may have told me that in the beginning, but my brain has already quit caring).

Needless to say I made it two or three chapters in and seeing that the book was due back at the library anyway, took it back. I’m calling it lits.

What’s lits you say? It’s a phrase the BFF and I have taken to using, especially when encountering things of a lesser quality we feel isn’t worth our time. It’s more appropriately L.I.T.S. or Life Is Too Short. I could be reading Firelight 2 for crying out loud, or watching another episode of Chuck, or checking out what’s happening on Facebook.

I know that’s not a fair review, but having dragged myself through books I didn’t like only to still not like them, I gave up. Lits.

My grade for this book: D


And that’s all the ones I could squeeze in between Christmas and New Year’s. Did you read any books over the holidays? Have any recommendations? Have any books you think everyone should stay far away from? Let me know below.