Review + Blog Tour: Unraveling by Sara Ella

Welcome to the:

Thomas Nelson’s Young Adult Summer
of 2017 Feature

It’s a blog post today all about the stunning contemporary YA/Fantasy sophomore novel from Sara Ella: Unraveling. Read on for my review, a book excerpt, and GIVEAWAY info! Or, you could just take my word for it and preorder this book now. It’s not one to be missed!

Unraveling Tour Banner Sm

About the Book
Title:  Unraveling
Series: Unblemished, Book 2
Author:  Sarah Ella

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date:  July 11, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy

In the second installment of the Unblemished Trilogy, YA author Sara Ella asks, “What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?”

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After capturing the Void and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

With the Verity intertwined with her soul and Joshua finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her connection with Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Review

Where do I even begin?! This book is such an adventure from page 1, with multiple twists I didn’t see coming (especially the one at about the 30% mark). Continuing with themes of sacrifice, self-confidence, and even the power of true love, Unraveling delves deeper into the story world and deeper into the characters as they face unforeseen challenges to their world. The world-building alone is fascinating as we learn even more about these parallel worlds with Eliyana.

Side note: I think this book could be read out of sequence, but it would be best to start with book 1, Unblemished.

The hold-on-to-your-seat adventure contained in this story is amped up by the constant, elusive battle between good and evil and the soul-deep ties Eliyana has to the people surrounding her. Contrasting the serious themes, though, are pop culture references aplenty. They are included in a manner which makes the contemporary setting of the story shine brightly against the castle and pirate ship locations(!!!). The Disney references make me happy inside — from straight-up mentions to clever plays on words, chapter titles, or similar themes. And, the MUSIC and movie references are a bonus. (The Count of Monte Cristo or Shania Twain, anyone?)

This book progresses the romantic storyline just enough, building on the (very-plausible-because-fantasy-reasons) love triangle established in book one. It still serves as a usable plot device because it contrasts the battle between good and evil in oneself, and the way opinion is influenced by individuals. I appreciate that Eliyana is not a back-and-forth, I-love-both person, yet a genuine individual who knows her choices have an impact on many people, including her choice of a confidant and romantic interest. By story’s end, I think the direction this situation will take is firmly in place, and I’m totally happy with it. But Sara IS known to throw surprises at us readers! The waiting will be agony (insert Into the Woods musical number here).

Like with the first book, I am intrigued by the symbolism showcasing the battle of good vs. evil, or the Verity and Void, as it’s termed in this series. When this story is examined closely, an observant reader will see detailed Biblical parallels with elements of faith, the power of light to overcome darkness, and even a mirror of the creation story and Eden. I think this book raises important questions about choices and human nature — how much of our life is defined by our own choices or free will? How much because of other people’s influence? Will you choose to embrace the Source of light and truth or “feed” an evil nature?

From dimension-travel to pirate ships and deserts, Unraveling covers the bases of adventure and the young adult genre while still maintaining an overarching plot with elements of faith. I haven’t even mentioned the fun and mysterious secondary characters OR the fairies! And the troll. This is one stunning, well-developed story that should appeal to fans of YA, fantasy, adventure, Disney fairytales, or even contemporary YA romance. I seriously can’t WAIT to find out what happens in the conclusion of the series come book 3!

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy of this book for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review. 
Excerpt
Taken from “Unraveling” by Sara Ella Copyright © 2017 by Sara E. Larson. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

Prelude

I’m not ready for this.My shoulder is going to rip from its socket. My bicep is a torch, igniting my forearm. His fingers are sliding from mine, and I can’t hold on any longer. All I see is the gorge below, the beads of sweat dewing his temples.

He shouts, “Hold on!”

But the cliff crumbles with each passing blink. If we remain this way, we’ll both be swallowed by the chasm below.

I loosen my grip, my clammy palm slipping.

His eyes plead. Beg. Implore. “Don’t!” His cry echoes.

The river crashes and curls. Waiting to swallow. Devour. Obliterate anything entering its territory. But it isn’t the river I’m afraid of. It’s the black hole beyond it. The beginning of the end.

I know if we disconnect he might be lost forever. “I love you” is what I want to say. Instead I ask him, “Find me?”

His expression corkscrews, a mask of raw emotion. “Always.” His voice is weak, his energy drained. He’s not strong enough. Because of me.

So my fingers splay.

I let go.

About the Author

Sara Ella is the author of Unblemished, book one of the Unblemished Trilogy. Once upon a time, Sara dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a castle, and she did work for Disney! Now she spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away.”

 
CONNECT WITH SARA:  website ⎸facebook ⎸twitter ⎸pinterest ⎸instagram ⎸youtube
 
 
Giveaway

(3) Winners will each win a finished hard copy of Unraveling by Sara Ella, courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Giveaway ends June 2, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST.

Tour Schedule

5/22 – Melony Teague (Author Interview)

5/23 – Thorn & Vine (review) & Between the Pages of This Bookish Life (Spotlight)

5/24 – A Baker’s Perspective (review), Singing Librarian Books (Spotlight) & YA Book Divas (Spotlight & Excerpt)

5/25 – My So Called Chaos (review) & Thinking Thoughts (Spotlight)

5/26 – Reading is My SuperPower (review)

5/27 – The Green Mockingbird (review)

5/28 – Bookworm Mama (Spotlight)

5/29 – Just Commonly (review)

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on my Spring TBR

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s TTT topic is all about that growing, towering, To-Be-Read pile, shelf, island, or whatever shape it may be. Mine seems to be ever-increasing with new releases happening ALL THE TIME, lovely reviews from other book bloggers, and recommendations from friends. It’s a delightful problem.

These are the top 10 books on my Spring TBR. More like the top 10 books I’d like to read next. The first 5 will be conquered because they are review copies from generous authors or publishers (Ya’ll are awesome for keeping me in books! Thank you.).

Top 10 Books on my Spring TBR

(Book titles linked to Goodreads)

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Shoes to Fill by Lynne Gentry

Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan

With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall

second-impressions


Love at First LaughSecond Impressions
by Pepper Basham (and the rest of the Love at First
Laugh
novella collection)

Close To You

Close To You by Kara Isaac

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Sweet Surrenders

Sweet Surrenders by Rachel Fallin

Edenbrooke

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Sway by Amy Matayo

Sway by Amy Matayo

What is on your Spring TBR?

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!)

Review: “I’ll Be Yours” by Jenny B. Jones

Review: “I’ll Be Yours” by Jenny B. Jones

Today I’m here with a review of a book not in my typical reading genre: Young Adult (YA for short). It’s Jenny B. Jones’ latest release, I’ll Be Yours. Sometimes it’s fun to read something a little tiny bit out of the norm. Let me tell you, I’m so glad I did!

This story is at the same time fun and serious, with a storyline that has unexpected intensity and characters you’ll fall in love with (or at least have a fictional crush on, no matter your age. Seriously.). If you’re familiar with Jenny, you know she has written under the Christian Fiction banner in the past. While this story may not be labeled as such, it’s a clean YA story with Christian morals (though not directly stated). So, fans of both genres will likely be pleased!

About the BookI'll Be YoursAdd to Goodreads

She’s the coach’s brilliant daughter, clueless about love. He’s the dethroned football star, ready to teach Romance 101. When dark secrets and sparks collide, there’s no playbook for what happens next.

The day Andrew Levin arrives at Washington High, Harper O’Malley knows he’ll make the perfect starter boyfriend. The school’s newest band geek is totally in Harper’s league, yet completely out of this late-bloomer’s reach. Between fitting in with a new family, scoring the first chair in band, and rescuing dogs for the local animal shelter, Harper’s never had the opportunity to hone her dating skills. But even though Harper’s love life is far from perfect, she’s got the perfect plan.

Harper knows she’s insane to agree to tutor Ridley Estes, a notorious heartbreaker and the star of her high school’s football team—but in exchange, he’s offered to school her in the game of love. Just when she sees promise with her crush, a football scandal rocks her family, her town, and Ridley’s entire future. Harper suddenly has everything to lose—her family, friends, and even her heart. When the dust of the scandal settles, nothing will be the same. Including the girl who asked the most popular jock to teach her about love.

Review

This story has totally different conflict than a normal YA situation, I think. Instead of your typical awkward (or even rebellious) teenage scenario, these characters are in circumstances not of their choosing or influence. External forces have shaped and pushed Harper (and even Ridley) to cope and mature with wisdom. The arc of their story shows how reactions and choices can be made to be better, brave, and to accept the love offered them.

I liked the way the romance was gradually developed through the book. After the first few chapters, it’s obvious who the love interest for Harper will be. And the way that particular relationship started with a sweet friendship was pretty perfect.

Before you start thinking this story is all seriousness, let me say I really enjoyed Jenny’s sense of humor! She has a wry sense of humor that is 1 part sarcasm, 1 part fun, and 2 parts reality. She brings to light the humor in “everyday life” situations, making her characters feel real, normal, and sometimes gritty.

Beneath this story of finding a place to belong is an underlying theme of love as a choice. Choosing to love, even when a person does not return those feelings, is a choice to be both brave and vulnerable. But in that choice, peace can be found. This story is a call to be brave, with a cute first-love-romance that sometimes uses rescue dogs as metaphors :).

 

Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and Jenny B. Jones for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books People Have Been Telling Me I MUST Read

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

Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me I MUST Read

Some of these are on my TBR, some are just ones people have been telling me I MUST read, and some are new to me authors I haven’t had the chance to check out yet. My list includes a little over 10 books this week. I thought it was going to be a little tough to come up with 10, but it proved to be very easy!   In no particular order, here are the ones I keep hearing about:

TTT 10 I Keep Hearing I Must Read


Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

I’ve heard fellow bloggers and reviewers say they loved this one – and some say they didn’t like it at all. I’m anxious to see who I agree with. I have a copy sitting on my shelf, just waiting….


The “Daughters of Boston” series by Julie Lessman (A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, A Passion Denied). 

Because I LOVED the follow-up series (“Winds of Change”), I know I’ll enjoy these, too. Julie never disappoints. Several blogger friends have recommended this series.


Once Upon A Prince by Rachel Hauck

I hear this is a realistic and cute modern-day fairy tale. Everyone dreams of becoming royalty, right? 😉


Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish

The cover alone should be enough to convince me. After reading some great reviews of this one, it’s found a place on my eventual TBR list.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

After reading Jamie’s gushing review (and after reading Dear Mr. Knightley), I’m intrigued by the letter format of this story. I have a copy I’m itching to get to.


“The Heart’s Spring” series by Amber Stokes (Forget Me Not, Bleeding Heart, Morning Glory [one of her current WIP])

I really do want to read this one – it’s by fellow blogger and author Amber Stokes. She’s pretty fabulous, so I’m sure her stories will be, too. I’ve heard some great things about her writing. And have you seen her latest cover reveal????!!!


The “Alaskan Courage” series by Dani Pettrey (Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced, Sabotaged releasing 2/2015 )

The McKenna family gets a lot of publicity time in the blogosphere. I think I need to read these to see what the all hype is about 🙂 Really, a contemporary suspense/romance series set in Alaska seems like the perfect setting.


The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

It seems everyone and their best friend has read this one… at least some of my friends and family have. I’m not totally convinced yet, because I HAVE seen the movie, and I’m not all that interested in spending my time to read it because I know how it ends (plus some of its content seems a little much for me). (Is that awful?)


Have you read any of these??? Are there any I’m missing that I simply MUST add to my TBR?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books On My Summer TBR

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

 

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR

This week it’s the top 10 on my summer TBR (to-be-read) list. First, let’s establish that “summer” officially goes through September 22, if we’re considering the change of the seasons. Sometimes September doesn’t feel like summer, though. But that’s another topic 🙂

Some of these are new releases, and some are just now making it onto my soon-to-be-read list. (And a few appeared on my “beach bag” Top Ten Tuesday).

Top Ten Tuesday - Top 10 on my TBR

My top 10 on my TBR, listed in order of most-anticipated:

10. The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

9. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

8. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

7. Made to Last by Melissa Tagg

6. A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

5. Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

4. Love’s Fortune by Laura Frantz

3. Stuck Together by Mary Connealy

2. A Table By The Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

1. When I Fall In Love by Susan May Warren

 

What are you most anticipating this summer?

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I’ve Read This Year

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

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

 

Top Ten Books I’ve Read This Year

I have a feeling this should be called the top ones I’ve read SO FAR this year, because there are some awesome books set to release soon. Also, there are a few others I really want to include, but I can’t, because they are INSPY nominations I’m judging. Alas, I can’t discuss them until the winners are announced. But, these books I’ve included are each wonderful in their own right. It’s just so hard to pick 10!

Top Ten Tuesday - Top 10 I've Read This Year

Here’s my list of this year’s top favorites, in no particular order:

It Had to Be You by Susan May Warren (review here)

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton (review here)

Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter (review here)

The Sentinels of Andersonville (review here)

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger (review here)

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander (review here)

A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley (review here)

The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd (review here)

Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry (review here)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (mini review here)

 

What are YOUR favorites from this year???