Friday, August 30, 2013

Review - The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle (Check it Out Before Book #2 Comes Out!)

Series: The Hallowed Ones #1
Author: Laura Bickle
Release Date: Sept, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 311, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4.03 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
My Content Rating: PG-16? (Some pretty grisly violence, sexual situations, but not much is really shown)

Summary from Goodreads: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

The Hallowed Ones was AMAZING and I loved it!!  I picked this book up because I signed up to do a tour of book #2 in the series (The Outside, which releases on Sept. 3rd).  I actually don't think I made it onto the tour, but I was intrigued by the concept of an Amish horror book, so I decided that I needed to read book #1 anyway.  I am SO glad I did!  Now, I can't wait for September 3rd so I can rush out and get my hands on the next book!

The book follows Katie, an Amish girl who has been eagerly awaiting her chance to see the outside world during her Rumspringa.  But, before she's able to head out, disaster strikes the Outside.  While no one knows exactly what's happened, they know that it's big and that it's devastating.  The elders respond by making a rule that no one can enter or leave the community.  But, Katie finds herself breaking the rules when a young man shows up at their fence and its obvious that he will die without her help.  She also ventures Outside and finds that the situation is even more dire than they all first imagined.  There are creatures out there - something is hunting, and Katie and her people are anything but safe.

The negatives:
  • Somewhat negative view of the Amish.  This is the one and only thing that kept me from giving this book 5 stars.  While the book started out with a relatively positive portrayal of the Amish people, as the book went on I felt that they were more and more vilified.  The elders were shown as being closed-minded and controlling - what really bothered me, though, was that they weren't acting this way because of their core beliefs, but because they seemed to be power hungry.  Also, one of the characters (who I don't want to name because I don't want to spoil anything) seemed to suddenly turn into a really bad person once they embraced the Amish faith - I'm not sure if it was Bickle's intention to have this transformation specifically coincide with embracing the faith or not, but it was a bit jarring to me.  Still, I enjoyed the story so much overall that I gave this issue a bit more of a pass than I would have otherwise.  I think that some of these negative perceptions were needed to get Katie to where she needed to be as a character, so I could forgive them a bit.
  • It's an Amish horror/paranormal book!  I've always been really interested in Amish life and Amish communities and I love a good paranormal novel.  This is the weirdest, best combination ever!  The first half of the book kept me completely entranced with the portrayal of Amish life and the mystery of what was happening in the town.  Then, as we really got into the creepy, horror part of the story, I was glued to my book.  I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.  I'm not even generally a horror fan (though I love paranormal), but this had me hooked.  I was terrified for Katie and for the her friends and family.  So, Amish story = really good.  Horror/paranormal = really good.  Amish paranormal/horror story (when done right) = AMAZING!
  • Katie.  I absolutely loved Katie!  She was such a strong character - I loved that she had a strong faith in God and in the moral foundation of her religion (such as the fact that it is her moral responsibility to help others in need) even while she struggled with whether or not she could embrace the Amish life fully.  I loved that Katie fought for what was right based on her own moral compass.  She didn't back down from her beliefs when the authorities in her life told her that she was wrong, and she didn't let anyone force her into making decisions she wasn't ready to make.  Add to that the fact that Katie is incredibly brave and strong (nobody needs to save Katie - she takes care of herself!) and you have an amazing heroine.  Love her!
  • Did I mention that it's an Amish horror/paranormal book?  Um, yeah, I think I did.  Really - it was awesome.
The Hallowed Ones was a unique and scary roller coaster ride that I wanted to stay on forever.  I absolutely cannot wait to read the next book to find out what happens to Katie next.  I suggest you go out and get this book now so that you can be ready for The Outside when it comes out on September 3rd!  4.5/5 stars.

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Feature & Follow Friday - Only One Book

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! This is a blog hop that allows bloggers to gain new followers and find some awesome new blogs to follow themselves!

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host has a blog that they feature each week!

So, if you're a blogger, come join in on the fun!

Here's today's question -

Q: If you could only have ONE – one book – for the rest of your life. Don’t cheat…what would it be?

Okay, this is a REALLY hard question.  There's the obvious answer (at least for me) - The Bible. (I don't know what these circumstances are that I can only have one book, but they can't be good - I think I'd be needing my Bible!)

But besides that, I think I would possibly choose Les Misérables?  It's a really long book, so it would keep me occupied and I've always wanted to read it, but I've never gotten around to it - this way I'd be forced!

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I'd love it if you could follow me via BlogLovin', Networked Blogs, email or RSS, just in case GFC disappears for good! Links are all to the right.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review - The Returned by Jason Mott

The ReturnedTitle: The Returned
Author: Jason Mott
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Pages: 352, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 3.77 stars
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
My Content Rating: PG (Some violence, no sex)

Summary from Goodreads: Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time ... Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

The Returned is an emotional story that poses an interesting question - What would happen if the people we have loved and lost returned many years later?  Would we welcome them with open arms?  How would they fit into our lives after so much time had passed?  

In The Returned these questions and more are posed.  When long-dead people suddenly start appearing out of nowhere, it creates a worldwide controversy.  First of all, no one is sure what these people are.  Are they truly the same people who had died, suddenly come back to life?  Or are they something more sinister than that?  Families must decide whether or not they want to embrace these returned loved ones.  Then there is the simple issue of population control.  With so many dead people returning, many without easy ties to the modern world, how are they to be supported?  Where will they live and who gets to decide what is to be done with them?  The response to the Returned varies from love and kindness to terror and outrage and everything in between.

The negatives:
  • The pace.  Sometimes this book moved a bit slowly for me.  While the blurb made me think that this book would be a paranormal novel, it reads more like literary fiction than genre fiction.  The focus of the story is on the emotional implications of the situation.  And while there are plenty of questions presented about who the Returned are and where they came from, the focus of the novel is not answering those questions.  So, while the book was interesting on an emotional level, it sometimes felt slow to me.
  • Many POV's.  I'm not a big fan of books that are told from many points of view because I feel like I always end up not really caring about the parts of the story that are told from more minor characters' POV's.  I end up feeling bored or frustrated during these parts.  In this book, I generally enjoyed the parts that were told from Harold or Lucille's POV, and sometimes appreciated Fred's POV (he is one of the main people who are really against the Returned and reading from his POV helps explain why) but didn't enjoy others as much.
  • No solid answers.  If you're the type of person who doesn't like mysteries to be presented if they're not going to be resolved, this is not the book for you.  There are lots of questions about the Returned, but none of them are actually answered.  Are the Returned the same people who had once lived?  You'll have to read the book and then make that call for yourself - there are no pat answers given.
What I loved:
  • The questions posed and the emotional depth of the story.  As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, this book really evokes a lot of questions about what would happen in these circumstances.  I found it very interesting to think about how the world would react if people just suddenly appeared again after being dead for many, many years.  In the case of Jacob, he was still eight years old, but his parents were now in their seventies.  They felt very unprepared to be thrust back into child-rearing at their age.  In another case in the book, a long lost love is returned, but the person who was left behind has moved on and is now married.  His lost love's return has many ramifications because he had been holding onto her memory for so long and because he had felt guilt regarding her death.  How does he deal with all of that and where does it leave him where his marriage is concerned (and is his lost love's return ultimately good or bad for his current marriage)?  And how would it feel to have a love one returned, but not to be sure if the person was really who they once were?  Then there are those people who didn't return - why didn't they return and what does that do to the people left behind?  And these were just the examples given in the book - I could sit all day and think about the what if's.
  • No solid answers.  Ha!  I know I listed this as a negative (and it definitely might be for a lot of people), but in some ways the fact that there were no specific answers was a good thing.  It kept me thinking about the book, pondering what really happened.  I also really appreciated this even more when I read the author's notes at the end of the book and understood Mott's motivation behind the book.  He wasn't writing a paranormal book about the dead coming alive - he was writing a book about the emotional ramifications of being able spend time with those you thought you'd lost. (And about the ramifications for society as well).
The Returned gave me a lot to think about and was an emotionally compelling novel.  It did feel slow at times and it won't appeal to people who don't like unanswered mysteries in their books, but I enjoyed it overall.  I give it 3.5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the NetGalley and Harlequin in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Excerpt & Giveaway! - Aberrant by Ruth Silver

Aberrant (Aberrant )
Release Date: 04/17/13

Summary from Goodreads:
In the future Dystopian society of Cabal, the government instills equality for all and offers its citizens the perfect system. There is food, shelter and jobs for everyone. The one requirement is to follow the rules without question, including the government's match in marriage and "The Day of the Chosen", a lottery that randomly selects families to conceive children as natural means hasn't existed in generations. Following her eighteenth birthday, Olivia Parker accepts her requirement to marry her childhood best friend, Joshua Warren, and is eager to start her work assignment and new life when it all comes abruptly to an end as she's arrested and thrown in prison. The only crime committed, her existence. Olivia is unlike the rest of the world born not from "The Day of the Chosen." The truth haunts the government and puts her life in grave danger as one simple fact would destroy the perfect system.

With Joshua's help, Olivia breaks free of prison and is forced on the run. Together they set out to find the promised rebel town in search of a new home and new life together. Their situation seems less than promising as they reach the town of Haven. New rules and customs must be adhered to in order to stay. Leaving would mean most certain death in the large expanse of the Gravelands. Time is running out as the government mounts an attack to destroy Olivia and bury her secret with her. Thrown into a world unlike their own, they must quickly adapt to survive.

Available from:
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...I sighed softly and did something I'd only read about in forbidden novels. I leant in, brushing my lips against his. The kiss was soft and chaste. It lasted no more than a mere second before I pulled back. 
"What was that, Olive?" He gave me a horrified look and all I could feel was my stomach somersault. I knew romance and love weren't ever spoken of in Genesis. There was no need when the government knew who was perfect for one another, and children were won by lottery and conceived in a lab. Intimate acts were considered unnecessary. 
"I read about it in a book," I whispered, afraid I'd done it all wrong. "It was a kiss," I breathed, chewing on my bottom lip nervously. I’d never kissed anyone before and worried he thought it was terrible. I’d never seen two people share a kiss, I didn’t quite know what it was supposed to look like, but I thought I’d done it right after reading about it. My hand reached out, grabbing his arm. "Please don't be mad at me." I breathed. "You have to swear you won't tell anyone!" Joshua hesitated for only an instant before he leaned in, taking another taste from my lips trying again. The second kiss was softer and satisfied both of our curiosities. My heart raced and my skin warmed to his touch. "I thought today was going to turn out so much worse," I confessed. 
Joshua laughed as he pulled back slightly, staring at me. His eyes had darkened a deeper richer shade of blue. I'd never seen his eyes change colors before. His fingers moved to tickle my stomach with a grin. "Worse? Really? You're not happy you married me? You're just relieved it wasn't someone worse?" 
"No!" I shrieked, "That's not what I meant!" I tried to catch my breath, but he hardly gave me a second more than necessary. I pulled from his ticklish grasp, jumped from the couch and ran across the room in a fit of laughter. He quickly followed, jumping over the sofa as he was just inches from me. He was close now, smiling and trailing behind me as I ran toward the bedroom. It was probably the worst place I could go, trapped between Joshua and a mattress. I felt him tackle me down onto the plush bed, his hands skimmed my stomach but he was no longer tickling me. The laughter still hadn't subsided. 
"Breathe," Joshua said, staring intently at me. 
"Trying," I gasped between fits of laughter. Lying down helped settle the feeling of my racing heart, and after a moment I shifted along the mattress, reaching out to him. "I want to tell you a story," I insisted as my fingers found his cheek. "One I read in a book." I wanted him to learn the things I had about love and romance. I couldn't help but feel my body stir with a strange fire and warmth as he loomed just above me. Staring up at him I froze on the mattress hearing the latch click on the front door. I knew it had been locked.

About the Author
Ruth Silver first began writing poetry as a teenager and reading heaps of fan fiction in her free time. She has written under three unique pseudo names and penned well over a hundred stories.

She attended Northern Illinois University in 2001 and graduated with a Bachelor's in Communication. While in college she spent much of her free time writing with friends she met online and penning her first novel, "Deuces are Wild", which she self-published in 2004. Her favorite class was Creative Writing senior year where she often handed in assignments longer than the professor required because she loved to write and always wanted to finish her stories.

Her love of writing, led her on an adventure in 2007 to Melbourne, Australia. Silver enjoys reading YA novels and sharing her favorite books with other readers. She runs her own book blog and also enjoys photography and traveling.

Her favorite YA genre is a mix of Dystopian & Fantasy which is evident in the upcoming release of her latest book, Aberrant. Slated for release April 2013 by Lazy Day Publishing, it is the first in a trilogy.
***Author Links***
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1 signed paperback of Aberrant (US only)
3 scrabble tile necklace charms & signed bookmark (INT)
3 bottlecap keychains & signed bookmark (INT)

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Review & Giveaway - The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard

Series: The Danaan Trilogy (Book #1)
Author: Laura Howard
Release Date: April 28, 2013
Pages: 197, eBook
Goodreads Rating: 3.79 stars
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Content Rating: 16+ (One scene of a sexual nature)

Summary from Goodreads: Allison O'Malley's plan is to go to grad school so she can get a good job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She has carefully closed herself off from everything else, including a relationship with Ethan, who she's been in love with for as long as she can remember.

What is definitely not part of the plan is the return of her long-lost father, who claims he can bring Allison's mother back from the dark place her mind has gone. Allison doesn't trust her father, so why would she believe his stories about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan? But truths have a way of revealing themselves. Secrets will eventually surface. And Allison must learn to set aside her plan and work with her father if there is even a small chance it could restore her mother's sanity.

I really enjoyed The Forgotten Ones and thought that it was a great start to this series, but there were a few things that kept me from truly loving the book.  

The story follows Allison O'Malley who spends her life working hard to take care of her schizophrenic mother.  When her father suddenly reappears in her life, Allie finds out that he is no ordinary man - he is a Danaan, a fairy, and that he may hold the key to helping Allie's mother recover.  But, the question is, can Allie protect her mother long enough to help cure her?

The negatives:
  • Not enough fantasy.  The whole first half of this book really feels more like a contemporary romance than a paranormal novel.  I think that the book could have been a bit longer so that we could have spent more time in Tír na n’Óg (the fairy realm).  As it was, the part of the book that involved the Danaan (fairies) went by just a bit too quickly and I didn't feel like I got enough of them.
  • Too many Tuatha de Danaan characters.  Again, this might have been solved if we'd spent a bit more time in Tír na n’Óg, but there were so many characters names being thrown at us (all of which were unfamiliar Irish names) that it was hard to keep track of who was who.  I never felt like I really got to know any of these characters, so they all just sort of blended together for me.
  • The ending.  The ending of this book didn't really feel like an ending to me.  There was just not enough of a climax and I felt a bit let down when I was finished.  I found myself feeling like this could have been the first half (or maybe three-quarters?) of a really good book, but I just didn't think there was enough in this one book alone to truly grab my attention and the ending felt a little too abrupt.
What I loved:
  • Ethan and Allie.  I mentioned that the first half of the book felt a bit like a contemporary romance and I actually really enjoyed this part of the book.  Allie feels like she has to take care of her mother and she won't let anything get in the way of that responsibility.  She is sure that a relationship with Ethan will do nothing but distract her from her true goal.  I thought that Allie was a very relatable character and I truly felt for her because of her situation with her mother - she felt that she had to provide for her mother because she had somehow "caused" her mother's schizophrenia.  This is quite a burden for her to bear.  I really loved Ethan as well.  I thought that he was the perfect love interest - he's a bit cocky, but in a good way - he's not a jerk and you can tell that he really cares about Allie.  I liked the fact that the two had a history together - I could really feel that history and it kept the dreaded insta-love at bay.  I was definitely rooting for these two!
  • Allie's Family.  I really enjoyed the family dynamic between Allie and her grandparents.  I thought that the bond between them was really sweet and I loved how they banded together to take care of Allie's mom.  
  • Tír na n’Óg.  I thought that the fairy realm was really amazing with it's sentient plants and air that was sweet as honey.  My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen even more of it!
Overall, I enjoyed The Forgotten Ones and I will be very interested to read more about Tír na n’Óg.  I will definitely read the next book to see what happens with Allie and her friends and family!  3/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

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Laura.jpgLaura Howard lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children. Her obsession with books began at the age of 6 when she got her first library card. Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High and other girly novels were routinely devoured in single sittings. Books took a backseat to diapers when she had her first child. It wasn’t until the release of a little novel called Twilight, 8 years later, that she rediscovered her love of fiction. Soon after, her own characters began to make themselves known. The Forgotten Ones is her first published novel.
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Sunday Post 8/25/13

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on my blog and share news about what's coming up in the week ahead. 

Last week on FYFA:
Coming this week on FYFA:
  • The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard (review & giveaway)
  • Aberrant by Ruth Silver (book blitz & giveaway)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review - Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

Inside Out (Insider, #1)Title: Inside Out
Series: Insiders (Book #1)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Release Date: 2010
Pages: 320, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 3.86 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Content Rating: PG-13? (Some kissing and some violence)

Summary from Goodreads: Keep Your Head Down.
Don't Get Noticed.
Or Else.

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? The only neck at risk is my own…until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution.

This book was my August Random Read and, while I didn't remember adding it to my TBR list, I was excited about reading it once I read the blurb.  It seemed like it would be right up my alley and... well, it was!  I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series!

The book follows Trella, a seventeen-year-old girl who has been raised in an overpopulated world - essentially a giant box, six stories high.  The living conditions in the lower levels are miserable and Trella pretty much avoids the craziness of her world by escaping into the ducts where she works.  She has remained detached from most of the people around her until her one and only real friend, Cog,  puts the idea of Outside into her head. She doesn't believe the stories of Outside and only wants to prove Cog wrong, but somehow she finds herself becoming the key player in a rebellion - whether she likes it or not!

What I wasn't crazy about:
  • Slightly rushed ending.  The ending of the book felt a little bit rushed.  It wasn't horrible, but enough to make me take off a half star or so.  I felt like the book spent a lot of time building up to something big and then everything kind of happened at once at the very end.
  • Characters without curiosity.  This is a pet peeve of mine.  The main character is handed the key to her past and says, "Eh, no thanks, I don't really need to know anything about that."  This really bugs me when it happens in a book because it just feels like a way to keep the reader in the dark (but still throw us a bone to let us know that there's something interesting that we could learn at some point).  I've just never known anyone with a complete lack of curiosity before and this seems to happen in books quite often.
What I loved:
  • Trella.  Often when a character is detached, I have trouble connecting with them as well, but that didn't happen in this book.  I think that it helped a lot that Trella did have a strong relationship with Cog - so even though she says she doesn't really have many other connections, we have this one important relationship to help us see who she really is.  Trella is an intelligent, incredibly strong character who (despite her protests to the contrary) puts others above herself.  I loved that even though she felt disillusioned with life, she still held out a small spark of hope that things could be better - a spark that she couldn't shake, no matter how hard she tried to convince herself it wasn't there.  It made her a very interesting character because she was so conflicted about everything that was going on around her.
  • A minor romance.  The romance in this book was actually not a huge c0mponent of the book, which I kind of appreciated in this case.  I think the story would have been stalled if Trella had stopped worrying about keeping herself and her friends alive so that she could ponder her love life.  That didn't happen here.  There was a romance - and I felt like it was relatively believable, but it didn't take center stage in the novel and it didn't take away from the main plot.  
  • The  twists.  There were quite a few twists and turns in the last quarter or so of the book - a few that I saw coming, and some that I didn't.  Throughout the book, you never quite knew which characters were trustworthy and which weren't.  I did not see the major twist coming at all (though maybe I should have), and I LOVED it!
I thought that this book was an exciting read, with high stakes and full of twists.  I can't wait to find out what happens next - in fact, I already got my hands on book #2, so I can't find out.  I highly recommend Inside Out to dystopian and fantasy fans! 4/5 Stars.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review & Giveaway: Before Midnight by Jennifer Blackstream

Author: Jennifer Blackstream
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Pages: 180, eBook
Goodreads Rating: 4.33 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
My Content Rating: 18+ (Explicit sex)

Summary from Goodreads: Loupe always dreamed of getting married. She yearned for a caring husband who would take her away from her servant-like existence at home with her stepmother and two stepsisters, a man who would love her forever. Those dreams ended the day she was bitten by a werewolf. Now she’s a mindless beast on the night of the full moon—a condition that forever prevents her from sharing a marriage bed. Not even the attentions of a handsome and endearingly strong prince can convince her that the life she wants is still possible. 

Etienne is a prince in need of a werewolf. A werewolf himself from birth, Etienne and his family have protected their kingdom with tooth and claw—literally—for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the spell of a well-meaning witch is slowly turning him human. Only the bite of a cursed werewolf, one who was not born with the beast inside, can save him from becoming human. He has no time for anything that will not lead him to a cure for the cure. Not even the beautiful maiden whose gentle nature soothes his soul can take his mind from his goal.

Love cares little for the best laid plans or the impossible. A grand ball. The stroke of twelve. A magic “slipper.” All kinds of things can happen when you don’t leave the ball…Before Midnight.

Before Midnight was such an incredibly fun read!  I absolutely loved this paranormal retelling of the classic Cinderella story.  So much more fun than the original!  (Oh, and steamier too - this book definitely leans toward erotic, but I didn't feel like the sex overshadowed the story.)

The negatives:
  • The length.  The book felt a little short, which made for a nice quick read, but it meant that there wasn't a lot of time for development of the secondary characters.  I didn't feel like we really got to know Loupe's stepmother or (especially) her stepsisters, so this lessened their impact in the book, in my opinion.  Still, the book read a lot like the original fairy tale in this regard, so I guess that's okay.
What I loved:
  • The twists on the classic.  I really thought that Blackstream did a great job of taking elements of the original Cinderella story and twisting them to fit in with the world that she created.  The ball, the midnight deadline, the glass slipper, the fairy godmother - all of these elements were there, but none of them happened quite the way they did in the original story.  I really enjoyed this unique take on the classic! 
  • Loupe and Etienne.  I fell in love with Etienne. I felt for him because of his struggle with becoming human, and his primal wolf side was just plain sexy.  Loupe was a great heroine as well - starting out as a meek and timid Cinderella, but gradually embracing the wolf within!
  • Etienne's parents.  Loupe fell in love with the king and queen and so did I.  
  • Wolf pups.  How did Jennifer Blackstream know that adding cute little wolf pups to this story would just make me fall in love with it all the more?  The pups were key to a few different parts of the plot, so they weren't just there to be cute - but, awwww, wolf pups.  Who could resist these little faces?

Wolf puppy
  • The prologue and epilogue.  While this book could have easily worked as a standalone novel, the prologue and epilogue show you that the story is woven into a larger overall story.  I can't wait to see what Blackstream will do in the next installment of this series!
Before Midnight is a really fun and fantastical retelling of an old tale.  I highly recommend it!  4.5/5 Stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

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About the Author:

Jennifer Blackstream is a psychology enthusiast with both a B.A. and M.A. in Psychology. Her fascination with the human mind is most appeased through the study of mythology and folklore as well as all of Terry Pratchett’s novels.

Jennifer enjoys listening to Alice Cooper, trying new recipes (to which she will add garlic whether it calls for it or not), watching television with her family, and playing with her woefully intelligent four year old son.  

Jennifer spends most of her time drinking coffee from her X-Men mug and desperately trying to get all her ideas written down before her toddler can find that all magical button on her laptop to make all her work vanish. 

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