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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery, romance, and a surprising twist all in one!
Before Ever After--the whole story is a journey, and it was one that I couldn't put down. Advertised as the story of a young widow as she travels with her husband's 32 year old grandson in search of the husband she had thought was dead, but the grandson claims is very much alive. Recounting how they had met as they travel towards the husband she thought lost, her...
Published on August 3, 2011 by Southern Mississippi

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars After "Before Ever After"
I thought I knew what to expect going into this novel. The synopsis seemed to indicate that the reader was in for a journey across Europe with a young widow named Shelley and the grandson of the man to whom she was married (and who is apparently immortal). I figured I was in for an academic journey of sorts - the duo chasing down clues across Europe, getting closer to...
Published on August 16, 2011 by dizzyweasel


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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery, romance, and a surprising twist all in one!, August 3, 2011
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Before Ever After--the whole story is a journey, and it was one that I couldn't put down. Advertised as the story of a young widow as she travels with her husband's 32 year old grandson in search of the husband she had thought was dead, but the grandson claims is very much alive. Recounting how they had met as they travel towards the husband she thought lost, her husband's own story begins to unravel, until when you were sure you were going to find out the "rest of the story", there is yet one more twist to the tale.

From the first page to the last, the book hold's the reader's heart right in its hands, never letting go as it carries you through to the end (or is it a beginning, really?) of the tale.

It's a fantastic tale with history twisted with our modern mundane lives and seasoned by something older than time.

I'm not even a romance novel fan, and not much for mysteries either, but this was a fantastic story. I loved it, and honestly could not put it down. I lost my entire afternoon to the tale's telling, and don't regret a moment I sacrificed to it either. So grab a cup of tea (perhaps some jasmine?) and find a comfortable chair to read this book!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great first book!, August 2, 2011
This review is from: Before Ever After: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
This is a great feel good book to read on a rainy day and you can just lose yourself in the characters and the story. What I loved about the book was how the author slowly revealed facets of Max's character through various characters from different time period and how she was able to intersperse quirky chicken facts into the story. Plus, I love the flowery words, the research and learning about little known tidbits on historical events - with my favorite being that chapter on the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius! Looking forward to her second book.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing and enjoyable read, August 7, 2011
*Disclaimers: spoilers at bay.

I was amused on how Sam stuck to the entire theme of the story, which I think delved on the "journey". More than how Max became immortal, etc., I thought how each detail was strung together to develop the journey of Max and Shelley beautifully. Though I was thirsting more about the details regarding Max's immortality, I also thought how it was more important to expound on his journey after he became immortal and midway, he came to know and love a certain Shelley who took her own journey in confronting Max's immortality. I admit, I enjoyed the story 10000x better than The Time Traveller's Wife (which I think was one of Sam's inspirations for her story). I maybe a sucker for happy endings but more than this, I appreciate how the story conveys the importance of living in the "now" and how we sojourned rather than where we will end.

Other than that, I appreciate how the settings of each place were woven together to develop the story and characters. I remember Elizabeth Kostova who also has a knack of using vivid descriptions of places, etc. The difference with Sam and her is that in the former's story, the description of the places did not go overboard. It was not as superfluous as Kostova did it in her two books "The Historian" and "The Swan Thieves". With Sam, it was just right. Just the right amount of salt and pepper to allow the reader to use her own imagination in seeing the places each character has seen.

On the downside, I got more curious about Mihael. Somehow I wonder how he himself became immortal. For a while, I thought he was Max's maker haha. Thinking in hindsight, there was quite a missing link between the vial, him, and his "reconciliation" with Max. How did Shelley ended up with another vial anyway when Max supposedly gave it back to Marija as a "donation"? Mihael seems brooding and quite mystique. But that is his allure and surely, I wanted that more developed. =) I also felt sorry for Paolo. His exit was quite swift. Nevertheless, this is about Max and Shelley so I thought it was very forgivable.

All of these said, I would like to say that I enjoyed Sam's book very much. When I started to read the book, I got giddy and excited over how Max and Shelley fell in love and how Sam played the "elephant in the room" scene as well as the "black and yellow blur". Thus I coined my opinion as "I love the book...so far" but after finishing the story, it's not anymore of "I love the book..so far" but rather, I love it. Period. Sam's writing style and the way she told the story was truly refreshing, to say the least. It was unconventional, as other critiques have said, which gives it is exceptional appeal. For me, it was like Sam was right in front of me and telling me the story herself. It had that personal and chummy vibe. =)

That said, I honestly admit that I am looking forward to Sam's next project. I hope it is as refreshing as "Before Ever After". =)
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Ever After, August 10, 2011
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Imagine the shock Shelley felt when, having been widowed for three years, she opened the door to see her husband! However, there is a plausible explanation. From this shocking opening of this book, the storyline meanders through breath-catching plots, through twists and turns, into the most wonderful and most cleverly skillful circuitous love story I have ever read.

Shelley had vowed never to fall in love. She had seen the pain that her mother had lived with since the death of her father. But it happened. Shelley loved Max, and there was no way around it! Then her ultimate dread became a reality! He died! Shelley lived as half of a person, daily mourning her loss, never figuring out how to go on without him. But the day she answers the door and sees Max's familiar face, everything changes.

This book is told in three main narrations. One narration takes place in the present day. Another is from five years ago when Shelley first met Max on a tour he was giving. The other narration is from the time period in which Max's stories from the tour took place. The latter ranged from 79 AD, the time of the violent explosion of Mount Vesuvius to 1778, during those bloody days of French revolution. Past, present, and future meld together to form a beautifully written romance with a highly emotional impact.

This book has everything! The characters are written with humor and stark humanness. The settings are breath taking, vivid, and brilliantly real. The story contains truths and realities about life and death, masked in an endearing romance story. The twists and turns of the plot make this book impossible to put down. This book is nothing short of amazing!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TRAVELING ACROSS THE CENTURIES, October 8, 2011
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Before Ever After is the type of book defies genre. It is part romance novel, part historical fiction, part travelogue, part supernatural fantasy, part fairy tale and part history lesson. Does that feel like a lot to pack into one book? Well it is! Before Ever After asks its readers to abandon logic and accept the veracity of this tale that whisks you away to other times and other worlds as seen through the eyes of one man, Max, and related by his widow, Shelley. I will not go into the intricacies of the hows and whys of their story or the lives of the other characters who flesh out the tale, instead I will merely give you my personal impressions.

Although the back story of Max and Shelley's romance, his subsequent death and her amazing discoveries about the man who was her husband, is the foundation on which the story is constructed I found the historical details most interesting. I had never thought about how the canals of Venice were constructed but learned that they was built on wood pilings most of which came from the alder forests of Slovenia and Croatia. The wood petrified as a result of the constant flow of mineral-rich water around and through it, so that it becomes a stone-like structure on which the Venetians built their city. Who knew!). Many of Max's adventures through the centuries actually sent me to my computer to research the "factual" data about Medieval Vienna, Revolutionary Paris, the volcanic destruction of Herculaneum and other historic events.

History aside, the most pressing question presented by this book seems to be that of immortality. What is it? Is it actually living forever (ala all those Twilight vampire tales) and if you could would you really CHOOSE to LIVE FOREVER? OR.....is living forever just the sum total of the contributions each and every one of us have made while we were living that ultimately become immortalized in the memories of those we love and in whose lives we have made a difference.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a keeper! Must read!, August 6, 2011
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I just finished reading the book and I am left speechless (in a good way). I am still trying to find adequate words to describe just how brilliant it is! It is unlike any other book I've read so far!

The love story between Shelley and Max and their journey through time is exquisitely written. You get a good sense of the characters and can picture them in real life. The dialogue is witty, and the life (love) lessons hit straight to the heart. Even the different places where the Slight Detour "tour" is set come alive -- it's obvious from the way that it's written that the author knows what she's talking about or has in fact been there herself (which she has!). Fact and fiction are interwoven so intricately that the lines between them blur into one fluid yet unique historical fairytale.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am definitely a fan. I would highly recommend this book to those looking for a captivating yet entertaining read. :)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a lovely journey, August 7, 2011
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This review is from: Before Ever After: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
Samantha Sotto knows how to tug the heartstrings. Before Ever After sets the reader on a journey fueled by the author's vivid imagination. She writes as if she's humming a lullaby that puts readers in a trance. It is really difficult to put the book down. And this is just her first book! I am so looking forward to the next one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Ever After review by Tanya Reimer, February 12, 2012
Having to continue to breathe after her husband dies is almost impossible, yet somehow, Shelly does. One little gasp at a time, until those breaths open the door and standing there is her husband. Well, not really, just a man his age who looks too much like him. This stranger claims to be her husband's grandson. How could he have a grandson the same age as him? As she journeys to find the truth, she discovers that her answers are in the magical stories he's shared.

Intriguing enough, yet it's the characters that had me hooked. Shelly is too much like me and her husband is the person I thrive to be. He knows the secret to life, and he enjoys it with every breath he's earned. Fantastic story that left me guessing right to the last word and gave me this weird craving for eggs with a couple drops of... Anyway, this is one I recommend to everyone, you'll find a touch of yourself in these pages and a touch of who you want to be. Magical tale that begins at the end, after a slight detour.

I fell in love with these characters and their journey. I laughed, I cried, I sat tense, and I never wanted someone to find a moment of happiness so desperatly.

Cool idea right? Was this woman's husband immortal? Why would he leave her if they loved each other so much? I just had to find out.

INCREDIBLE. This book is everything I love. Magical, daring, breaks the rules, and brought up my cholestrol just reading it.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Journey, August 12, 2011
Max used to be a tour guide, but not an ordinary tour guide. He led his `campers' to unusual spots around Europe not to appreciate the sights or the food, but the history and the lives of those who once inhabited the land, walked on those fields, swam in those waters. And that's when Shelley fell in love with him, while he led her through time and attempted to teach her, and the other campers, the value of a chicken and some eggs.

Years later, Shelley is Max's widow, but one can't say she's actually alive. She survives in a daily struggle to breathe and keep a parody of the life she shared with him. Everything, however, is about to change.

There's someone at the door. She opens it.

And there is Max.

For the split of a moment, she believes herself insane. She's a prisoner of her own hallucinating mind.

But, no, that cannot be. That's not Max. That's Paolo Rossi. Max's grandson.

How can that be possible? Max wasn't more than a couple years older than herself.

Paolo brings photographs showing a greying Max, whose face never seemed to gain those unavoidable lines time gifts everyone with. That's just a detail, though. More importantly, Max may be alive. There is another photograph and there is Max, standing by his famous eggs and cheese, the blank piece of Scrabble she had given him hanging from a chain around his neck.

But why would he lie to her? Why would he make her believe he's gone?

It's time for Shelley to face reality, and a journey towards truth has never taken so long. Literally.

It's a journey which is also hard to describe, it provokes feelings words cannot express. More than a timeless romantic tale, Samantha Sotto created many lives within two, many stories within one. The settings are very vividly depicted, both with awe and appeal, not leaving room for tediousness born out of long and meaningless sentences.

The plot has a quality of rare originality - so I'll stop talking about it right now, or I'll spoil it. It suffices to say that it starts unpretentiously, but then it gets the reader back and forth in time. One minute you are travelling with Max, Shelley and the campers throughout Europe, but when you least expect it, you are immersed in the Fall of the Bastille or in a monastery somewhere. For every story Max shares, there is a different storyteller's voice in the reader's mind, and a distinguished set of characters who shine on their own and for different reasons.

Pavel and his wish to never cause pain to his mother.

Gestrin and his fear of loneliness.

Uri and his grief.

And so many others. There is a connection between these many historical figures and Shelley, a connection which, eventually, changes her life in such a way that there is no turning back.

And how does Max fit into this?

Forgive the cliché, but that is for me to know and for you to find out!

Max is a wonderfully developed character, though. He's got a very philosophical attitude towards life and how to make the best of it, a sense of humour to give the Weasley twins a run for their galleons and something else, something uniquely his, that makes him special, lovable, sensitive.

The story is beautifully brought to a close. It is simultaneously predictable and unimaginable, happy and sad, bitter and sweet.

An authentic story and a talented debut writer can only make a highly recommended book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Works Well, September 14, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I won't go over the plot line here as many other reviewers have done so- but this is a wonderful fantasy/mystery type novel that tugs on the heart strings and makes you imagine "what if". The plot moves swiftly and you can't help but fall in love with the characters as you learn about their pasts and their possible futures. The language that is used might be considered a bit "flowery" but it works really well with this story are only adds to the mystique of the book. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes romance fantasy and anyone who is looking for a enthralling book.
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Before Ever After: A Novel
Before Ever After: A Novel by Samantha Sotto
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