Book Review: Throne of Glass

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Yes, I’m just now reading this book. 😛 I was very late to the Sarah J. Maas train, only discovering her books after the publication of A Court of Mist and Fury. I was intrigued by reviews I saw of THAT book, and on the strength of those alone I read A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first in that series (which I wasn’t entirely on board with but then there was a horribly cliffhanger ending sooooo) quickly followed by ACOMAF, and I’ve been obsessed with the series ever since. Naturally I wanted to read her original series as well, but to be honest I’ve been a little scared. What if I don’t like it as much? What if I just think it’s crap compared to ACOTAR? Such high expectations. Honestly though, I was kind of braced to not like it, as everyone kept saying (as with ACOTAR) not to judge the entire series off the first book. So, SJM, I love you, but something about your first book game isn’t quite meshing with me…or maybe I just take a long time to fully commit to characters. Hrm. Anywho.

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This is my Treat choice for the Halloween Read-A-Thon!

I have done my best to avoid spoilers and there are definitely no plot spoilers! However if you don’t want to know ANYTHING about the characters you might not want to read.

Throne of Glass launches us into what promises to be an epic fantasy adventure. I love the way we’re immediately thrown in with Celaena in a dangerous, scary situation because I, naturally, want to know HOW THE FUCK she ended up there. Also how she can seem to be so young and yet so skilled, so brutal…and yet so obsessed with frilly dresses.

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Both of these are totally Celaena. I’m still not sure how she does it or why, especially as she even notes that all the layers of skirts hamper her fighting skills. Only somehow she doesn’t seem to get caught in particularly bad situations while all dolled up. Hmm.

The forest was different here. The leaves dangled like jewels – tiny droplets of ruby, pearl, topaz, amethyst, emerald, and garnet; and a carpet of such riches coated the forest floor around them. Despite the ravages of conquest, this part of Oakwald Forest remained untouched. It still echoed with the remnants of the power that had once given these trees such unnatural beauty.

Maas has created a beautiful world that is by turns thrilling, intriguing, and terrifying. I would like to visit, but retain the option to return to my own world with the push of a button. 😛 Because Cain and those demon things were scary AF, and the king gives me nasty chills. I want to know all about it though, and I feel like there is SO MUCH that still needs explaining. Where did the current King of Adarlan come from? What happened to Celaena’s family and why? Why is Dorian so very unlike his father? Who is Chaol, really? How did the magic of Adarlan just…die? Where did the Faery people go?

The plot really moves along at a good clip. I loved the constant suspense of waiting for each new test of the Champions, and seeing who would be eliminated or die trying. I also really enjoyed the continuous building of tension in the court, as Celaena tries over and over to piece things together as she gains new information.  It all flows smoothly leading up to the final duel…except that Kaltain’s part seemed rather forced and contrived, to me…of course there is someone like her in EVERY court (usually several), but it was just very convenient and felt a bit out of place.  Maybe part of that was due to the influences on her, I’m not sure.

There are a couple of tropes here, and I spotted them almost as soon as the book started. I took notes as I rolled my eyes around page 47. Verbatim: “Celaena is naturally the most gorgeous woman at court, both the captain and prince will fall in love with her, and the prince is possibly/probably not the prince at all.” I was slightly annoyed.

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Not this AGAIN.

HOWEVER. The love triangle was handled much better than a lot that I’ve seen, and the special snowflake turned out to be a special snowflake through much hard work, not just being born to it. Why does she have to be so gorgeous that practically every man falls at her feet? With the exception of the other Champions, thank the gods that be. But the constant references to her beauty in the first part of the book were really annoying. Blah. The love triangle was slow in the build-up, and if I hadn’t already seen so many memes and fangirl sites over ToG I might not have been so sure about it early on (thanks, interwebz), but I still feel like it was pretty obvious.

As I’ve said many times, characters are what really make a book for me. This one is STUFFED FULL of wonderful amazing people that I want to go live with. They are flawed – each and every one of them. They do annoying things that make me want to choke them. (Chaol, anyone?) They also have pasts that I am DYING to find out about because they are such strong people but they have scars and tender spots that show through now and again and yet NO. Apparently I must wait for the next book (which, not to worry, has already been requested from the library).

“Second place is a nice title for the first loser.”

Ah, Celaena, our heroine. Despite her annoyingly perfect body and face (even with her time in the mines and the abuse to the rest of her body, her face was somehow left alone), she’s definitely someone I’d want in my corner. She’s got a backbone of steel, a quick mind, and…well, she’s The Assassin. She’s been hurt, and horribly. But she hasn’t entirely hardened herself again the entire world yet. She is, however, a badass with a flair for the dramatic, and she likes attention.

“My name is Celaena Sardothien. But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”

Also, she loves books and good food. Seriously, the descriptions of the library in Rifthold made me feel lightheaded and all delicious food she was forever gobbling down kept me feeling hungry. Thankyounotreally.

 “I can survive well enough on my own— if given the proper reading material.”

Girl after my own heart, I’m telling you. Such a fighting and adventurous spirit – and yet she loves books.

She had often wished for adventure, for old spells and wicked kings. But she hadn’t realized it would be like this – a fight for her freedom. And she’d always imagined that there’d be someone to help her – a loyal friend or a one-armed soldier or something. She hadn’t imagined she would be so…alone.

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No, they’re not brothers, but they might as well be.

Dorian and Chaol – best friends consisting of the crown princeling and captain of the guard – are…well, they’re just sweethearts and good guys. Dorian more openly so. Chaol is, to be honest, something of an ass, but underneath it is a soft heart that shows through from time to time and I just want him to be able to open up and trust SOMEBODY. Geez Louise, but the man seems to wear his tough guy armor 24/7 . Dorian, on the other hand, needs to grow a pair (he’s working on it, I know I know but come ON). I am solidly team Chaol, at the moment. Also, not going to spoil for anyone that hasn’t read it but…Celaena NAILED IT towards the end of the book, when dealing with these two. HATS OFF. YOU GO GIRLFRIEND. Now that, took guts.

Oh, but back to other characters. There is of course Princess Nehemiah, who is very intriguing indeed and has me dying of curiosity about her country and magic and all the sparkly creepy things she seems to know about. I’m sure we will see more of her. There’s also Nox, who I’m NOT sure we will see more of but I hope we do. The most intriguing side character by FAR though, is Elena…who I can’t really discuss without giving stuffs away. Mph.

“You could be great. You could rattle the stars. You could do anything if only you dared.”

SO MUCH POTENTIAL IN THIS BOOK. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Now that the competition is over but ALL the dastardly schemes are just getting started.

That said, I’m giving 3.5/5 stars. It definitely got better as the story progressed, but I did a lot of eye-rolling during the set-up, and still feel like the love triangle itself was/is unnecessary, even if the characters are definitely not. Also I’m still not sure on the prince thing, nothing else ever happens to make us think that Dorian isn’t the prince, but for some reason it’s still in the back of my mind.

 

 

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Book Review: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

This cover is horrible. Seriously, when I saw it, I thought the book was published in the 80s. WHAT WAS YOUR GRAPHIC ARTIST THINKING, YO.

This cover is horrible. Seriously, when I saw it, I thought the book was published in the 80s. WHAT WAS YOUR GRAPHIC ARTIST THINKING, YO.

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

This book was recommended to me by one of my oh-so-awesome penpals (no, WordPress, I do NOT mean pencils…as I’ve spent 5 minutes trying to give a cease and desist letter to your autocorrect)! I’ve been on a real fantasy kick lately and she provided some spot-on recs…like Sabriel.

I was instantly doubtful of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. However, I am happy to report that the actual reading improved the impression I had drawn based on the cover (gag) and title (odd). Overall I’m giving it 3.5 stars…I am leaning towards 4, but…the sheer length of it is taking a half star off for me. I don’t mind longer books, as I read faster than average…but honestly this one could have been edited a little better, starting with less scenes of boring medieval castle chores. The writing itself is of excellent quality, I have no complaints whatsoever! Emily Barker has created a colorful world peopled with interesting characters. I finished it in about 3 days, despite the staggering 570 pages!

 

I’m a sucker for any books that have to do with books or bookish people, and Nora’s grad school/literary critic/teacher occupation intrigued me. Her personal life woes in the beginning are oh-so-very first world, but thankfully we don’t spend much time with that before she goes wandering and plunges headlong into the other world. The first, oh, about 60 pages…I felt like I was drunk and wandering around trying to figure out what was going on. At first I was extremely annoyed and though I wouldn’t be able to finish the book, but then as I kept going I realized that the feeling was intentional, to make us feel how Nora feels when she first enters the alternate world. Well done indeed. Maybe keep it to 40 pages next time though. 😉

The world she enters has a deep history and so many interesting characters – most of which are MUCH more interesting than Nora herself. There are stories within stories – both in the form of sub-plots, and actual stories characters are telling. I loved that part. I absolutely despised Aruendiel until the last 100 pages or so, but his story was just so DAMN INTERESTING I had to keep reading. So much intrigue – and so much innuendo and crimes hinted at but not fully explained. Which, I suppose, is quite in keeping with the medieval type society depicted. Oh…don’t even get me STARTED on all the patriarchal nonsense that Nora has to put up with. I did really like that she was constantly resisting all that malarky, even when it was shoved on her day in and day out.

The overarching conflict was very long in coming to its conclusion (see comments on editing). I could have done with a few more fight scenes. If the tempo of the last 200 pages had been over the majority of the book, it would have definitely been 4 solid stars. Emily Barker has, thankfully, avoided the dreaded tropes of either a love triangle or a special snowflake. Nora is underwhelmingly average, as she is frequently reminded. I can really appreciate that after so many books lately just chock-full of ALL THE SPECIALNESS.

Just when I thought the ending was resolving itself…oh, haha, nope just kidding! We’re left hanging by a thread and while part of the conflict was resolved we never find out what happens to some of the main characters. *flail* This is so unfair! Especially since there is no hard and fast date for a sequel. *cries* I. Must. Know. I actually checked my book to make sure no one had torn out the last chapter (I had a library copy). Nope. Just a massive cliffhanger. I will definitely be looking at for the next one, even if from the sounds of the author comments on GoodReads, it might be a long time in coming.

Book Review: Equal Rites

I’ve read a hodgepodge of the Discworld books over the years, enough to be completely and totally obsessed with Terry Pratchett’s whimsical, scathing, hilarious writing. I was so sad when he passed away last year. The world truly has lost a great soul, but I really believe he will live on in his writing for decades to come. Partly due to this, and also due to Gollancz putting out the gorgeous, drool-worthy new editions of some of his early works, I said in January that I wanted to read through the Discworld books chronologically. Obviously not going to happen entirely within this year, as I have a bad case of reading ADD (but it’s so much fun to…oh look, squirrel!), but I’m excited to finally be reviewing one! I re-read The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic earlier, but this one I hadn’t read at all yet. I was very excited to see the debut of Granny Weatherwax! While you can definitely read just about any Discworld book and enjoy it without having read the others (I started with Thud!, which is actually #34), seeing how the characters were introduced and how certain jokes come into being is really cool. Another thing about the Discworld books: while they are ALL in the same world and most of them overlap or connect, there are several little sub-series within the series.

204939141Equal Rites is the third Discworld book, but the first Witches book (the first two books were in the Rincewind sub-series). I was immediately hooked by the mildly hysterical battle of the sexes that takes place within the first few pages – a dying wizard tries to bequeath his powers (and staff!) to the 8th son of an 8th son…who turns out to be a daughter. Said daughter – Esk – absorbs magic in a slightly different but no less powerful way than a son might have done, resulting in a family and community that really has no idea what to do with her. A boy would have been sent off to Unseen University, but a girl…”Girls can’t be wizards,” everyone tells her. Thankfully, she has Granny Weatherwax for a guardian. Despite Granny’s slight misconceptions of children, they soon get along quite well.

Granny, in fact, was at a loss, but she knew she had to do something. “Didda nasty wolfie fwiten us, den?” she hazarded.

For quite the wrong reasons, this seemed to work. From the depths of the ball a muffled voice said: “I am eight you know.”

I’m quite sure only Granny would be capable of dealing with a small child with such interesting abilities and ways of dealing with seven annoying older brothers.

“Turning people into pigs is not allowed,” she hissed. “Even brothers.”

I don’t even have GIFs for this book. Call me a fangirl, but Pratchett’s prose is both so pointed and poignant that it really speaks best just by itself. I love Esk, and I love Granny, and watching them tear through Discworld was just a rollicking, fun ride (complete with flying broomsticks that have to be kickstarted). While Granny at first tries to insist that Esk study the traditional female magic, she soon realizes that Esk’s  gifts are quite different and she needs alternate methods of instruction. Eek and Granny share the stage and despite the multi-generation gap between them, make a great team. Of course, like any good guardian, Granny spends a good deal of her time chasing or getting Esk out of trouble, but Esk’s independent little self does fantastic on her own, most of the time. Her sometimes unwitting (maybe?) use of magic creates a variety of reactions from the people she meets, especially as they travel closer to Ankh-Morpork, the large capitol city.

Esk, in fact, moved through the fair more like an arsonist moves through a hay hayfield or a neutron bounces through a reactor, poets notwithstanding. 

Needless to say, they create QUITE the stir at Unseen University, break all sorts of rules, cause all sorts of upsets and feelings. But every insular world needs shaken up now and then, and I think Unseen University will definitely be the better for it. 😉

5/5 stars. Pratchett, as usual, manages to create his own very entertaining world and somehow have it be a satirical commentary on our own.  I throughly enjoyed this Discworld installment and it’s definitely going on my list of favorites! Highly recommend.

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Book Review: Imprudence

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I’ve been waiting so long on this book! I had so many expectations. As I’ve stated before – I love the world Carriger has created. I’ve read every single book (not all the short stories yet, I’m working on those!) and enjoyed them all. I love the characters. I love hunting for references to the various storylines in the different series. When I sit down with a Gail Carriger book, it’s like sitting down with an old friend and hearing what they’ve been up to.

That said, I need to get something off my chest: I will never love Rue as much as I love her mother, Alexia.

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She’s charming and winsome in her own way but Alexia has my heart. The entire time I was reading this book and the first in this series, I was missing Alexia and the Alexia/Conall vibe. I have tried to get as much behind Rue as I did Alexia and…she’s definitely her mother’s daughter, but she’s not her mother. Which is a good thing! But I just wanted more Alexia. I need to re-read the original Parasol Protectorate series in its entirety. I’ve read Soulless I think 3 times but definitely time to go through all 5 again. Anyway, on to the actual review!

Imprudence picks up almost exactly where Prudence left off (WARNING: spoilers for the FIRST book). The queen is, as expected, rather displeased with Rue’s handling of the weremonkey situation, but that quickly takes a back seat to Rue’s family troubles. Perhaps it’s awful of me, but I was so glad that Alexia and Lord Maccon were more in the forefront of this one! We see them through Rue’s eyes, which was rather entertaining, but they are there for a good portion of the book. The family is struggling to deal with Lord Maccon’s oncoming Alpha madness. He’s slowly losing his grip on reality and becoming entirely werewolf. It was so sad. By the end of Chapter 5 I was bawling while reading in bed. My husband was very concerned. Thankfully they didn’t just sit around moping about it – this is Alexia’s husband, after all! They were very quickly off to do something about it, and rampages and capers ensued.

Well, Lord save anyone if a vampire tried to steal a werewolf’s prey, even if only to kill that prey himself. Especially then.

I love how Rue and Alexia share the tendency to go off on their own and drag everyone else along in their wake. Also have to love that Rue seems to be the only one capable of dragging Alexia herself around – Alexia is much more concerned about appearances than I remember her being, perhaps a by product of all her time serving the Queen. Rue…Rue gives almost no fucks. Especially where her relationship with Quesnel is concerned.

“Like to go somewhere more private and be scandalous some more?”

Ah, yes, Quesnel, the little Frenchman we all fell in love with when he was just Madame Lefoux’s charge and constantly running amok. Quesnel, as we saw in Prudence, has grown up to be a innovative inventor in his own right. He’s also quite the ladies’ man…but somehow Prudence has managed to twist him right around her little finger. Despite her repeated insistence that their relationship is only for “lessons” and her own experience…
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Ok. This is the big reason this book didn’t get 5 stars for me. I can’t get behind Rue and Quesnel. I wanted to. I really did. But I just…can’t. Quesnel is too much of a pretty boy for me…I am Team Big-hairy-dominate-but-gentle-werewolf (aka Lord Maccon) all the way and I guess I was hoping the same for Rue. Of course she’s entitled to her own taste! But it just…it seems forced. I didn’t feel it, and I’d like to think I can usually feel a character’s emotional involvement even if the parties involved aren’t to my own preferences.
Like Tasherit and Prim. I feel their attraction. I feel Prim’s confusion and anxiety and flutterings. And I’m very eager to find out what happens to them in the next book!
Gail wrote in one of her newsletters/posts that she was trying to wrap a lot of things up in this book, since there will not be a 3rd Custard Protocol book until at least 2018. I think she did that very well while still leaving several storylines open for exploration. Like Tasherit and Prim. Like the Woolsey Pack  – oh, I almost forgot.
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OMG, my beloved Woolsey Pack. I can’t believe what happened. That was also a large part of the tears.WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO WOOLSEY??? This was a huge turning point in the first third of the book and then…crickets. AAAAAHHHH. I think we were supposed to kind of forget but I can’t. Buffy. Lyall. Channing. And of course the Kingair Pack too, even though God knows they’re still off brawling in some distant land like good Scottish boys – capably led by their fierce female Alpha (who, thank GOD, will be having her very own novella some time in the near future). I really hope we have more werewolves in the next book too.
Anyway, overall, 4/5 stars. And I will be eagerly awaiting whatever comes from Gail Carriger’s pen next. 🙂
Book Review - Imprudence

Mini Book Review: Sabriel

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Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book knowing pretty much nothing at all about it. It was recommended by a good friend who generally has good (i.e., similar to mine :D) tastes, so I felt good about picking it up! Funny enough, outside of Lord of the Rings, it’s the oldest fantasy I’ve read. Which, I know I know, is hilarious, because it’s only 20 years old. Haha. Fantasy isn’t typically my gig, okay? Though lately I’m enjoying it more and more. Anyway!

My favorite part of this novel was the collision of old world and new – the archaic, medieval world “across the Wall,” and the more modern, WWII type world on the other side. The world (or worlds, I guess, even though they are definitely interconnected) is very layered and complex. Color me intrigued. Intrigued enough to keep reading, even when I felt the characters were kind of flat. Sabriel, god love her, was just…eh. Touchstone was slightly more interesting but also…eh. Mogget was definitely the most interesting character of the entire book. I…well, I’m not sure what I feel about Mogget! I want to love Mogget, but I’m kind of afraid to because…what is Mogget? As it is, the chain of events, piling sinister and weird on top of each other, was enough to keep me reading. Characters are, honestly, the biggest draw of a book for me. To not be totally in love with these was kind of a downer. They’re sympathetic, don’t get me wrong! Just kind of two-dimensional. Also, the romance? Better left out entirely than the way it was just thrown on top like too-stiff frosting. It could have been written so much better. That’s really the only complaint I had about the writing though. The world descriptions were fabulous. I could see the gown Sabriel wore, could hear the winds behind the Paperwing and see its yellow eyes. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series.

Posting will probably be rather sporadic this week and next. I had to work part of the weekend, hence the lack of a Something Else Sunday post. And, I’ll have weird hours all the next two weeks. However! Next up reviews are (covers link to GoodReads):

Aiming for at least 2 of these this week.

 

Book Review: Alice

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Cheshire’s fingers, cold and slightly damp, stroked down the scar on her cheek. She swallowed the shudder of revulsion at his touch.

“Yes,” Cheshire said. “He marked you so that he would know you again, and know that you belong to him.”

“I belong to no one,” Alice said.

This is my new fight song. I belong to no one. You better believe it. You do not own me. I may be small, and I may be weak, and I may be frightened, but I belong to no one. Without even knowing the complete context in which that is spoken in this book, doesn’t it make you want to stand up and shout?

Alice is my first Christina Henry book. I already have the sequel, Red Queen, on my bookshelf. I knew I was in it to win it by the time I finished the 3rd chapter of Alice, and so I put away the digital version I had of it, ordered both books, and waited until they arrived to finish. I really thought it might kill me, but it was well worth the wait. Thankfully, Alice doesn’t end in a cliffhanger. The ending is definitely OPEN for future tales, but it’s not one of those OMG WTF cliffhanger endings that seem to be par for the course for a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately. Phew.

Obviously, this is an Alice in Wonderland retelling. However, unlike most retellings of various stories I’ve read, I think you could enjoy this one even without knowing the original! Shocking! Raises the bar, I think. So many retellings depend on our love of the originals to carry over – and often, at least in my case, it does – and make us more accepting or forgiving to the new work.

The story is fairly graphic and sometimes disturbing in its depictions of violence, killing, rape, and abuse. It’s creepy right out of the gate. The world of this Alice is definitely not ours, but it has enough resemblance to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Alice and her friend Hatcher have been locked away in an insane asylum for years, abused and neglected, barely kept alive – and not entirely sane or insane. Are they innocent? Maybe not entirely. Justified? You have to decide for yourself. I loved the complexity of their struggles, not only to find the Jabberwocky but to figure themselves out. I love Alice, her sheer will in the middle of circumstances that would bring most of us to our knees. I love that she and Hatch are there for each other even when they annoy the daylights out of each other, that when one is weak the other is strong. The best kind of partners. Neither perfect, both so very human and tortured by their own demons.

He [Hatcher] would not stand and argue with Alice when they did not agree, even if she wished to. And she did wish to.

Hatcher always had changeable moods…out here the world was bright and sharp and full of hungry mouths waiting to eat her up. She couldn’t afford Hatcher’s instability, and she wouldn’t leave him either. They were bound together by love and need and other feelings she didn’t entirely understand. 

Despite pretty much nothing going her way – except that she isn’t killed or raped, Alice just keeps going. She and Hatcher both struggle against the effects of what to me is PTSD, as well as the drugs fed them by the hospital. The story may be fantasy but the flashbacks and the horror is not. Henry did an excellent job of portraying the day-to-day struggles of some mental health patients. People who just want to live their normal lives, but have even the most mundane of tasks interrupted by the terrors that live in their brains. I hope people who read this see that, and not just the dark fantasy land.

“I w-want to go h-home,” she said. Her tongue tasted like salt and roses.

“Where’s home, my Alice?” Hatcher said. “Where’s home? We don’t have a home, you and I.”

“Then I want to go back to the hospital,” she said. “We were safe there. Nothing could hurt us…”

“Except the doctors,” Hatcher said…”Theres nowhere for us to go back to. We can go forward. We can find our way out.”

Forward and out.

I gave it 4/5 stars because I really wanted MORE. I felt like more explanation, more backstory, and more tying up of loose ends was needed to really bring the story to closure, especially since the ending wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger. That’s really a small thing, I guess, for as much as I enjoyed the book!

Book Review - Alice