Review, Character Interview + Giveaway: “Rose in Three Quarter Time” by Rachel McMillan

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I have the immense pleasure of sharing a review today of a novella written by an author who has also become a dear friend: Rachel McMillan. Her new contemporary novella, Rose in Three Quarter Time, releases today (happy book birthday!). It is one of THE MOST ROMANTIC books I’ve read this year (instant favorites shelf status). The second in her “Three Quarter Time” series, it takes readers back to Vienna for a marriage-of-convenience story that hits all the right notes with its story of friendship, music, and a rose-colored look at the picturesque city itself.

Lead character Oliver Thorne has also stopped by the blog for an interview! Also, Rachel has graciously offered a Kindle ebook giveaway to one of my blog readers, so be sure to stick around and enter it, too!

About the Book

Some people marry for love; others marry for music…

Rose in Three Quarter Time

Rose McNeil is rising the ranks at the Mozarteum in Salzburg as a violinist to watch. Her musical Nova Scotian heritage has loaned an unparalleled technique to her interpretation of some of the most beautiful compositions in the world. The opportunity of a first chair assignment to the Rainer Quartet under the tutelage and baton of Oliver Thorne is a dream come true— until her student visa expires and the threat of leaving Vienna looms. As much as she grieves the prospect of leaving Vienna and the quartet, it is Oliver—with his dry sense of humour and unexpected charm- she will miss most.

British ex-pat Oliver Thorne’s recent appointment as conductor to the Rainer Quartet make him the youngest in the role during its prestigious history. But it wasn’t the path he wanted. A tragic accident years ago forbade him from ever playing his beloved cello again. Now he spends his life conducting for premiere orchestras at the Musikverein. When he first hears Rose McNeil play, all the dreams he left by the wayside are reborn with her unexpected talent. When Rose learns she may have to leave Vienna, Oliver has to come up with a solution. Losing his first violinist is unfortunate, losing her is unimaginable.

So he comes up with a crazy idea: A marriage on paper only. She’ll take his name and his citizenship. They’ll split rent money and coin toss to decide who takes the bed or the futon every night. They’ll keep their secret from the orchestra. She’ll play and he’ll conduct and, most importantly…she’ll stay.

Unbeknownst to each other, Rose is in love with Oliver and Oliver is in love with Rose. They might even find a happy ending, if only their pesky marriage doesn’t get in the way.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Rose in Three Quarter Time is an exquisitely gorgeous love story. Set against the romantic backdrop of Vienna, Oliver and Rose traverse hot chocolate, friendship, and a witty and wonderful marriage of convenience for the sake of their passion: music. What neither expects, to the reader’s sheer delight, is to realize their mutual love is romantic in nature. Their journey is full of the details that make up everyday life, from loss to joy to selfless choices and 12 kinds of cereal. The references to music and composing alone are brilliant and work wonderfully in a world of timeless classical music. (You will want to read this with YouTube open to have a deeper “listening” experience for all of the works referenced. Rachel has even made playlist!)

Oliver and Rose are endearing and charming with their flaws and virtues. Oliver’s story of personal loss and Rose’s pursuit of a dream intersect and act as a catalyst that deepens their relationship’s common ground. Add Godiva chocolate, plenty of whipped cream, knee-weakening kisses, and a Shirley Temple or two, and their time together unfurls like the sweetest symphony of romance borne of friendship.

This is a book I will reread again and again, savoring it with some whipped cream and Mozart of my own.

Readers and fans of the first novella of the “Three Quarter Time” series will be ecstatic to see Klaus and Evelyn on occasion! Oh, and this story features one of my favorite fictional cats ever: Parcheesi. ❤

Thank you to the author for an advance copy of this novella. This review is my honest opinion.

Character Interview with Oliver Thorne

Welcome to my blog, Oliver! After reading your story, I’d like to know more about you and Rose, so I have a few questions…

When did you know your feelings for Rose ran deeper than friendship?
I knew in the third bar of Bach’s Partita #2 that I was feeling differently than I ever had before. And I have seen a lot of performances. But, Rose was special. Not just the way she looks (which, truth be told, is gorgeous. She is a beautiful woman. Far more beautiful than should be attached to myself—though fortunately for me, she doesn’t seem to see that) but the way she connects with a piece as she is playing it. She loves it the way I loved to play. But, I truly believe it was when I saw her sipping a Shirley Temple. We work in a world of pandering to crowds and pandering to other musicians and patrons. Rose was so pure. Here was a girl…no…a woman… who had just played with several scouts in the audience: people who could change her life. She must have been terrified and then relieved and she orders a Shirley Temple of all things. When I saw her play, I knew she was special. But, when I saw her alone playing with a toy umbrella in her drink when she might have been working a crowd, I knew she was different. She played because she loved it. And she wasn’t trying to be anything but who she was. I had spent too much of my life with people who treated connections as a stepping stone toward personal gain. Rose wasn’t like that. I loved her immediately for that. Then we had hot chocolate at a nearby café and I spoke with her more easily than anyone I ever had in my life. People may think that my accident and its ramifications led to certain social limitations. That is an erroneous assumption. I have always been somewhat shy.

Shaun Evans from IMDB

Actor Shaun Evans resembles Oliver Thorne

What would Rose say is your best quality? Annoying habit? What about hers?
I like to think Rose thinks my best quality has to do with my work. At least I believe that this is so. She has also told me on occasion that I have a propensity to listen to people carefully and use the information they give me to make them comfortable. She was quite taken, she told me, by the fact that I made sure Parcheesi (our cat) had a space of his own when she moved in and that I had procured numerous options of breakfast cereal for her. I didn’t understand why this was so magnanimous. Listening to Rose is the easiest thing in the world. And after meeting her, you want to make her happy in whatever way you can… large or small.
Rose hates how I can immediately turn on what she calls my “conductor mode” and freeze out everything and act like (again, this is her perspective, I think I am doing just fine, thank you) “an automaton”. I just separate my personal life from music. I can flip it on and off like a switch. So, when we’re in rehearsal or in a performance, I don’t see Rose, per se, I just see a cog in the wheel that needs to turn in order to create a perfect experience for the audience and to honour the piece we are playing. Of course, there was one rehearsal when she was ill and it turned my world upside down. I don’t fancy that experience again. I need to have control of the world I am creating with each piece and so I can’t afford to focus on Rose no matter how distracting she is under the chandeliers of the Brahms Saal.
Rose’s most annoying habits? Her pop song alarms every morning. They’re so loud and she sings to them. Off-key, I might add. She also does a preposterous job of making the bed every morning she wins it from our nightly toonie-toss (it decides who gets the bed and who gets the futon in the studio). She often puts a milk or orange juice carton back in the refrigerator with just a smidgeon left. Who does that?
She also wears a lot of cat-themed clothing and she snores. But don’t think for an instant that any one of her habits would tear me away from her. I love her completely.

What is it like living with Rose (and a feline)?
I think that Parcheesi might just be the smartest of all of us. Rose has her habits but I love knowing she is there; especially because I came so close to losing her completely. Just to hear her humming while she’s washing dishes or see her on the sofa reading one of those romance novels she loves while eating cereal out of the box. Of course, I get to hear her play. A lot. And I love listening to her. It tends to get a little bit difficult (I supposed that’s an understatement) living with a woman I am madly attracted to and in love with knowing she solely married me for friendship and a piece of paper. That has its moments. She is very close. Always. And she smells like coconut (her shampoo and body wash, turns out).

Musikverein, Vienna

The Musikverein in Vienna

Do you have any “must listen” music recommendations? (Classical and contemporary?)
My favourite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich (though he is probably angry with me right now beyond the grave at an arrangement I did with one of his cello concertos). I like Shostakovich because he is a universe of music in so many different styles. And everyone is unexpected and tells a story. With the Rainer, my home orchestra, everything is pretty much Baroque and Baroque sounding. Safe. When I guest conduct Shostakovich I feel like there is something spiraling me away from myself. No two pieces are exactly the same and I love the energy. It is so different from my day to day world in the Rainer.
I love Coldplay. They have an intense musicality about them and really classical and baroque constructs. I think that is why when Viva La Vida came out, everyone called them “Chamber Pop”
Rose has me listening to music from her home in Cape Breton. The type played in ceilidhs and kitchen parties and there is a celtic flavour to it and it is really quite beautiful. It is this music that taught her her skill on the violin and I appreciate it for that. She listens to a lot the Rankin Family and a group from Newfoundland called Great Big Sea and everytime I hear this music’s flavour, I feel I am stepping into Rose’s past.
Living with Rose means living in close proximity to a million and one pop tunes on her iphone. I suppose I have learned that there is something in Celine Dion –an over the top pageantry and artistry —that is not unlike going to the Staatsoper to see Verdi.

You left your country, England, and chose Austria as your home. Why is Vienna so special?
Vienna is the city of music. The mecca of composers and musicians and has been for centuries. I was drawn to the beautiful concert halls I had played as a cellist and am meeting again as a conductor. The Viennese also don’t mind if you are quiet or not effusive. The culture here is polite and reserved which works wonders for someone like myself who is not adept at meeting people — but has to in high social gatherings. Once I step out from a meeting or a party or a concert, I can lose myself in the city and shrug off all of the social expectations like a coat.
But I also wanted to choose a place so completely different from London –where it happened. Where my life changed. To start over, perhaps. Too many places in London reminded me of playing and thinking about playing. I needed a fresh start. Now, Vienna is special because it is a constant reminder of Rose: turning and seeing her wearing a baroque get up and peddling a concert, accidentally running into her at the U-Bahn station, taking her for a birthday dinner at the Sacher Hotel. Everything in Vienna is Rose now. Which is pretty perfect for me.

What should readers expect from your love story?
Take the one thing you have loved more than anything else in the world. It could be a talent. A hobby. A pursuit. A purpose. Then multiply it by 20 thousand. This love story is one shaped around my realizing that I love a person more than I could ever anticipate loving anything in the realm of my control: music.
For years of my life, music was my compass. My center. You never feel, as a musician, you could love anything more than music, the art, the craft. Turns out, I love Rose more.
I also think readers can expect a lot of awkwardness. When two close friends get married (for whatever reason), there is bound to be some challenges.
There are so many stories (in films, on television) where something tragic or dark or secretive gets in the way. I love Rose for many reasons, one of which being she is kind and good. There is nothing sordid in my past. Nor hers.

The Dowager Countess (Downton Abbey)

A Dowager meme for Oliver!

Do you have anything to say about Downton Abbey?
How do you know that? Rose swore to secrecy on that. Well, having watched it through twice now, I have two stand out thoughts: Why did Lady Sybil have to die? I would very much like to take Mr. Carson for a pint.

Your role as a musician has been a challenging one, changing from proficiency at the cello to that of conducting a world-famous orchestra. How has that shaped you?
I had to relearn how to live life after my accident. Not just learning how to live with the use of only one hand (it is just as difficult as it seems. For years later, I would go to do something and still forget that I had this limitation. It becomes so natural), but how to live in a spotlight. In order to stay in the world of music (and there was really no option for me but to stay in the world of music, truth be told), I had to take center stage. Sure, I could teach; but conducting still allows me to be a part of the magic of the whole thing. The performance. The adrenaline and the sound. And to have control over music in proxy with the players. This role clashes with my natural disposition, though. I am not altogether comfortable with people and in front of a crowd. Hiding behind a big cello was one thing, when I could look down and just concentrate on the instrument. Now I am the focal point of concert goers. So I was shaped by two things: relearning life when the thing I loved most about it and poured my heart and soul into was taken away and learning how to be in the spotlight.

Rachel McMillan

What is it like working with Rachel McMillan?
She giggles a lot. And she talks to me. She thinks I look like a fellow from the telly. One of those detective shows. I googled him once, I can’t be as dour as all that! Besides, his eyes are blue and mine are grey.

I have to agree with Rachel! I think you look like “that detective”, too. Thank you SO much, Oliver (and Rach!), for taking the time to answer my questions. It was delightful to hear your thoughts on music, Rose, and especially Downton Abbey 😉 !

Giveaway

Author Rachel McMillan has graciously offered a kindle ebook giveaway of Rose in Three Quarter Time! Click the link below to enter the giveaway!

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Open internationally. Giveaway ends 10/04/2018, 12am CT time.

Music Review + GIVEAWAY: “Whole Heart” Album by Passion Music

This is release day for the latest installment in the “Passion” event live praise & worship albums: WHOLE HEART. Today I’m sharing a review + ways to learn more about Passion and an opportunity to win your own copy of the music.

Before you go, be sure to enter the CD GIVEAWAY (US only) via the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post.

MUSIC REVIEW

Whole Heart is a collection of truth-filled praise anthems. Upon my first listen, a line or two gave me chills. These songs display the styles and tones I expect from the veteran artists, while the newer voices offer refreshing artistic variance to the set.

I was happy to discover a couple familiar and already favorite songs like Crowder’s “All My Hope” and “Great Are You Lord” sung by Matt Redman on this album. And, I think I’ve found some new ones to set on ‘repeat’, particularly “Ghost” and “Reckless Love”.

Like the title song alludes, this album carries a theme of hope and grace shared through praise. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of commitment on both sides: God freely offering His whole heart to us to accept through salvation, and our returned praise and faith lived out daily.

ABOUT THE ALBUM

Passion Whole Heart

WHOLE HEART is the new live album from Passion—captured at Passion Conference 2018 in Atlanta, GA. Passion Conference 2018 was a beautiful worship experience, and the live album captures each powerful moment, allowing those who were not in attendance to experience it.

Featuring songs by these artists:

Kristian Stanfill, Melodie Malone, Sean Curran, Matt Redman, Brett Younker, Crowder, and Tauren Wells.

Buy Whole Heart by Passion Music:

http://capcmg.me/PassionWholeHeart

ABOUT PASSION

Rooted out of the Passion movement, we are committed to leading people towards renewed intimacy with God and fresh encounters of worship. Passion is more than music. More than events. Passion is a generation living for His name.”

Learn more about Passion at: http://passionmusic.com/story/

You can listen to Passion music at http://capcmg.me/PassionSpotify

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Giveaway is for (1) copy of Whole Heart, US mailing addresses only. Giveaway ends 3/1/18 12am.

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“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Music Review + GIVEAWAY: “Glory Song” Album by Matt Redman

While I mostly talk books around here, music is one of my very favorite things. I’ve long been a fan of Matt Redman’s music and songwriting, so sharing a review of his latest album today is a treat! *And*, before you go, be sure to enter the CD GIVEAWAY via the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post.

MUSIC REVIEW

Glory Song captures the familiar praise and worship style Matt has authored for years now, with a fresh sound and approach due to the vocal guests and arrangements. A few of the songs feature a backing choir that lends a gospel feel. Most of all, I appreciate the Scripture-based truths incorporated into the songs, clearly pointing to God with declarations of praise.

My favorites include the mid-tempo song “It Is Finished” and the slower, worshipful “One Day (When We All Get To Heaven)” (yay for refreshed classic hymns!) and “Simple Pursuit/Glory Song”, a new take on a song familiar to me because of the Passion version.

ABOUT THE ALBUM

Glory Song

Matt Redman teamed up with several of his worship-artist friends for this album, first releasing the track “Gracefully Broken (feat. Tasha Cobbs Leonard).” Tasha Cobbs Leonard also released her own version of this song on the same day! The album also features Kierra Sheard, Guvna B, Madison Cunningham, and Kim Walker-Smith.

 

 

SOCIAL CORNER

Gracefully Broken Top Of The Tower Live Video

Gracefully Broken (Lyric Video)

Gracefully Broken (Song Story):

 

Buy the Album (iTunes)

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Giveaway is for (1) copy of Glory Song, US mailing addresses only. Giveaway ends 10/5/2017 12am.

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Winner guidelines:  Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Review, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo

Today is a happy day because I get to share my thoughts on author Amy Matayo’s new indie release, The Whys Have It, along with a fabulous interview she took the time to do, AND a GIVEAWAY of a signed copy of this book (US only).

What makes this even more fun, for me, is knowing Amy Matayo is a local author, of sorts. I didn’t know this for a while, but thanks to social media (high-five!), I discovered Amy lives in a city not too far from me in the northwest corner of Arkansas. (Someday I plan to stalk her and meet her in person). Anyway, the setting of this book is also a city I go to at least a few times a year: Springfield, Missouri. I can attest that the feel of the setting Amy portrays is accurate…. from the June heat to the crazy storms, I loved the familiar feel of it.

Now, on to more about The Whys Have It…..

About the Book

“His music holds the heart of America…but his soul holds a terrible secret.” 

The Whys Have ItChart topping pop musician Cory Minor has it all—fame, money, more women at his disposal than time to spend on them. He’s living the life most American men only dream of. Until an ordinary concert in Springfield threatens to destroy everything he’s worked for. 

As he and his band leave the arena for his next show, Cory’s tour bus crashes into two teenage girls, killing one girl instantly and leaving the other barely clinging to life. Lawsuits are threatened, tabloids are talking, and Cory’s idyllic world falls apart. But what no one knows is that this scene is all too familiar. Because this isn’t the first accident Cory has caused. This isn’t the first time he’s destroyed someone else’s life to save his own. 

It’s just the first time he’s had to face it head on. 

Small town girl Samantha Dalton has no one—no mother, no father, and now no sister. She’s lost everything in a world that celebrates excess. So when Cory Minor shows up at her doorstep offering money and apologies, she turns him away too. You can’t lose what you don’t have, and she can’t take another letdown, especially not from someone who has managed to rip away all she had left. Samantha has been fine on her own for years, she’ll be fine now too. 

At least that’s what she tells herself. 

But Cory won’t leave. He’s persistent in the worst possible way. 

Will Cory’s determination to make things right pay off in the end, or will Sam keep pushing him away until there’s nothing left to fight for? How can two people learn to rely on each other when life keeps hurting them both? 

Review

AM - TWHI (8)Life is full of challenges. For Cory and Sam in The Whys Have It, life dealt them unfortunate tragedies and pain. Ironically, each of them chose to react in opposite ways: Sam, to forge ahead, sometimes in bitterness, even at the cost of her own happiness. Cory, to run away, try to dull the pain with vices, and give in to self-loathing. The contrast between these responses is brought to life in the dynamic of their unlikely friendship. They gradually learn from each other, realizing hope is really worth the risk and second chances are possible through forgiveness.

Amy Matayo’s style is brilliantly complex. She portrays the emotional turmoil of grief, the lingering shadows of regret, and the ache of loss in the most relatable of ways. A light of joy shines through it all for Cory and Sam, though, sometimes in a small moment of camaraderie or friendship, eventually growing into a romance. I liked how their relationship showed what it means to accept another person for who they are, disregarding expectations or what they might deserve because of mistakes.

AM - TWHI (5)I’m beginning to recognize Amy’s signature snarky sense of humor she pours into her novels. At times it’s laugh-out-loud sarcastic, at others it had Sam (and maybe me) blushing from the double entendré of Cory’s unfiltered flirting. 🙂

The Whys Have It cleverly sits on a blurred line between secular and Christian fiction. Just enough portrayal of faith and a belief in a higher purpose combined with just enough grittiness and candor to push me out of my reading “comfort zone”, so to speak. I believe this novel will have a broader appeal because of its relatable style and the way it handles subjects like grief, forgiveness and even romance with a raw honesty. If you’re a fan of contemporary drama/romance, indie Christian ficiton, or even new adult romance, this is one story not to be missed!

Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and the author for a complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write The Whys Have It?

Seven years ago something happened in my hometown. A local high school girl went to a concert and was killed in a car accident on the way home. The accident didn’t involve the musician, but he did make a statement the next day. His statement stuck with me; the sadness in his tone, the underlying sense of guilt in his words. He wasn’t at fault, but I began to wonder what might have happened if he had been more involved. It’s the way my brain works. I read something–even something small–and my mind begins to spin. Originally I planned to make it more like the actual events. Later I decided to separate the two out of respect. Hopefully I have done that.

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

That forgiving yourself is as important as forgiving others. That you can’t outrun your past, but you can stand in place and face your future. That mistakes don’t have to define you; it is possible to start over and make a new ending. And that you are worthy of love, always.

What was most challenging about writing this story?

That I don’t plot. It’s always my biggest obstacle, because almost everything is off the cuff. I wish I were more organized, but I’ve come to terms with it.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Cory, because he’s the guy. The men are always my favorite, because I relate to them the most and they are sooooo much easier.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Well, writing and reading are my number one and two. After that–and to relieve stress–I paint (walls and furniture because I have no artistic talent), and I have a zigsaw for woodworking. And I walk all over my neighborhood every night, which is totally not a hobby but it’s somehow one of mine.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I would live next door to Anne of Green Gables and we would be bosom friends. I’m going to Prince Edward Island with my daughter in a couple weeks for this reason. Maybe if I wish hard enough?

What are you currently reading?

FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell

About the Author

AmyMatayoAmy Matayo is an award winning author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, Sway, In Tune with Love, A Painted Summer, The End of the World, and The Thirteenth Chance. She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But don’t feel sorry for her – she’s super proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn’t put it to good use.

She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel.

Connect with Amy

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/13/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address and answer this question: What is one of your favorite songs?

Review: “Unblemished” by Sara Ella

I would consider myself an occasional YA (or young adult) reader, enjoying the lighter side this genre can present or a rare “popular” series (in the dystopian sub-genre). I’m also a fan of fairytale-esque stories, whether they be retellings or stories with underlying themes similar to happily-ever-after adventures. When I read raving reviews for Booktuber and author Sara Ella’s debut, Unblemished, and heard it was a combination of a fantasy-fairytale adventure with a modern twist, I was eager to experience this story world for myself. Especially when a review opportunity presented itself. What I discovered surpassed my expectations, sweeping me away in Eliyana’s journey of discovery and her newfound world of mystery.

About the Book

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Unblemished.jpgEliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

Review

My first thought when I finished this book was WOW. I’m still stunned by the genius of this story and all its complexity. One of the many things that stood out to me was the way the setting was established throughout. At first, it is an authentic and real feeling New York City. As the story picks up pace, the “reflection world” is a place of clever design, utilizing urban elements of NYC and an enchanted-forest-world, if you will, to create a vast backdrop for all the scenes.

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I wish you all could see the hard copy of this book! It has a beautiful, pearl-like paper finish that just makes the purple “pop”.

Another thing I really loved was the symbolism of sacrifice and a good vs evil, dark vs light element. As the secrets of the power figures in the reflection world are revealed –and then, PLOT TWIST! — revealed a little more, a battle for every heart’s allegiance is clearly at the center. Though completely a fantasy story, it mirrors a spiritual battle and a grand design that allows for free will and the sacrifice of a savior figure. I noticed and appreciated subtle threads of Biblical truths (though not expressly said) which would make this story a great conversation starter and topic of God’s divine plan of redemption.

This story employs a bit of a love triangle, not usually my favorite device. BUT, it works very well because it builds more complexity into the story. Forces outside of El and the two leading love interest figures influence and manipulate the situation, too. The story wouldn’t be as cleverly complicated without the triangle because it raises deep questions of purpose and destiny. And, it left me with plenty of lingering questions and theories concerning the next book in the series! (If you’ve read the book, I’m #TeamKy. Let me know your choice in the comments!)

Unblemished is a story of beauty and brave actions, emphasizing that life is not about the surface, but the heart. Add to this message a plethora of pop culture and music references, a bit of sarcasm on Eliyana’s part, two opposite and fascinating possible love interests, controlling figures and mystery surrounding this new world, plus a few surprises and major plot twists, and you have a great start to promising series.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild for the complimentary review copy. This review is my honest opinion.

To learn more about author Sara Ella, visit her WEBSITE.

What is your favorite YA novel? Or favorite fantasy? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations! (And, if you’ve read this book, I’m ready to discuss!)

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Songs I’m Listening to Right Now (Audio Freebie)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s topic is all about audio, or an audio freebie (music, audiobook, etc.). I’m choosing to veer from my random book musings a little to share some songs I’ve been listening to (some on repeat) recently. Without further ado, here are

10 songs I’m listening to right now

(ok, not right now, but lately)

1 & 2

from Of Dirt and Grace by Hillsong United

Say The Word and Here Now (Madness)

3

Live It Well by Switchfoot

4

Prince of Peace by Hillsong United

5

Ordinary Love by Ben Rector

6 & 7

from Hard Love by Needtobreathe

Testify and Clear

8

Come Alive (Dry Bones) by Lauren Daigle

9 & 10

Dawn and Within These Skies by Icelanders (actually instrumental/ambient music by Hillsong band member Dylan Thomas). You can only listen to them on musicbed.com (for free!).

Your turn!!!! What are YOU listening to on repeat? What’s on your current playlist? Do you like any of these songs/artists I’ve mentioned? I welcome your thoughts and comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Music & Books (or, my favorite music from book to screen adaptations)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s theme is books we’d give theme songs to or songs we wish were books. Well, I’m stretching it a bit and going with my favorite instrumental music from book adaptations. If music with no words is not usually your thing, I get it. I really do. But, trust me here, you might just be captivated by the emotion and beauty in some of these themes.

 

Top Instrumental Music from Book Adaptations

1. Poldark by Winston Graham – “Theme from Poldark” composed by Anne Dudley (BBC series)

2. Emma by Jane Austen – “Knightley’s Walk” composed by Samuel Sim (2009 BBC series)

3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – “Northbound Train” composed by Martin Phipps (2004 BBC series)

4. & 5. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – “Mrs. Darcy” and “Leaving Netherfield” composed by Dario Marianelli (2005 Focus Features film)


6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – “Orchard House” composed by Thomas Newman (1994 Columbia film)

7. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – “Main Title” composed by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman (1992 Fox film)

8. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – “Tara’s Theme” composed by Max Steiner (1939 MGM film)

9. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – “My Father’s Favorite” composed by Patrick Doyle (1995 Sony Film)

10. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans – “The Rhythm of the Horse” composed by Thomas Newman (1998 Buena Vista film)

What are some of your favorite series/film themes or scores? Have you seen any of these? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!