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Unblemished
     

Unblemished

4.6 15
by Sara Ella
 

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“Sara Ella’s debut novel is a stunning journey into a fascinating new world of reflections. Intricately plotted, the story is complex, but not difficult to follow. Eliyana is a strong heroine, yet also has a vulnerable side that readers will definitely identify with. The other characters are also well-developed and have many hidden secrets revealed

Overview

“Sara Ella’s debut novel is a stunning journey into a fascinating new world of reflections. Intricately plotted, the story is complex, but not difficult to follow. Eliyana is a strong heroine, yet also has a vulnerable side that readers will definitely identify with. The other characters are also well-developed and have many hidden secrets revealed throughout the course of the tale. Good vs. evil is the overarching theme, and it’s easy to draw parallels with faith. The book is set up for further installments, and it will be fascinating to see where the author takes the characters next.” —RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 stars, TOP PICK!

Library Journal Starred Review – November 2016; Debut of the Month for October 2016

With plenty of YA crossover appeal, this engaging and suspenseful debut urban fantasy features superb world-building and a tightly paced story line. Reading groups will find plenty to discuss concerning self-image, the nature of good vs. evil, and the power of the marginalized to change the world. Suggest to fans of Tosca Lee’s Demon or Ted Dekker’s Eyes Wide Open.

Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a 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 like he does: 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?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/14/2016
A high school coming-of-age tale combining dystopian magical realism, a winsome romance, and a good-versus-evil messiah plot, Ella’s debut novel is an ambitiously intricate mashup of genres that never quite comes together. Eliyana Ember, a senior at the prestigious West Prep in New York City, has always been self-conscious of the birthmark on her cheek. Just weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Eliyana is left as the legal responsibility of her twenty-one-year-old next-door neighbor, Joshua, when her artist mom suddenly dies in a fire. When she makes the mistake of going to a party to combat her grief, Eliyana is kidnapped by Ky, a young man with a strange power over her, and transported to the Second Reflection—a parallel world existing within New York that seems familiar to Eliyana from her mother’s paintings. The novel struggles to find its footing amidst the many forces at play: building the world of the Second Reflection, introducing the broad cast of characters, weaving together the many plot points, and keeping the romantic tensions lively. The bookis at its best in the quiet moments between battles and explanations, when Eliyana can draw herself out, stop hiding her birthmark, and become proud of what her unique feature could mean. Although her promisingly ambitious debut struggles to maintain a clear focus, Ella has created a captivating, relatable protagonist and never hesitates as she keeps thingsmoving briskly through the many twists and turns. (Oct.)
RT Book Reviews
“Sara Ella’s debut novel is a stunning journey into a fascinating new world of reflections. Intricately plotted, the story is complex, but not difficult to follow. Eliyana is a strong heroine, yet also has a vulnerable side that readers will definitely identify with. The other characters are also well-developed and have many hidden secrets revealed throughout the course of the tale. Good vs. evil is the overarching theme, and it’s easy to draw parallels with faith. The book is set up for further installments, and it will be fascinating to see where the author takes the characters next.”
Library Journal
★ 11/01/2016
A disfiguring facial birthmark has been the source of endless taunting for Eliyana, who hopes to survive high school unscathed. With the exception of her mother, no one treats Eliyana with kindness. Until Joshua. For the three years they have been friends, Eliyana has hoped for more. But then her mother disappears and Joshua becomes her legal guardian and takes Eliyana to an alternate New York City where nothing matters except breaking free from a powerful demon of a man and the horror of the world he has enslaved. Eliyana is an unwitting heroine who finds the internal strength to go beyond her disfigurement and selflessly give of herself in order to save someone else. VERDICT With plenty of YA crossover appeal, this engaging and suspenseful debut urban fantasy features superb worldbuilding and a tightly paced story line. Reading groups will find plenty to discuss concerning self-image, the nature of good vs. evil, and the power of the marginalized to change the world. Suggest to fans of Tosca Lee's Demon or Ted Dekker's Eyes Wide Open.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780718081010
Publisher:
Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
10/11/2016
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
143,168
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Unblemished


By Sara Ella

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2016 Sara E. Larson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-8102-7


CHAPTER 1

Monster


It can't be true. I've known the news for a week, and still it hits me as if I'm finding out for the very first time.


Elizabeth Ember, Up-and-Coming Artist of the Upper West Side, Dies at 34.

The bold headline on the front of the New York Times obituaries blares up at me, a black-and-white photo of Mom posted beneath. Was it only last month this exact photo adorned another section of the paper? Even with gray skin, her dark hair swept into a messy bun, Mom's organic beauty radiates from the page. Why she hated being photographed, I'll never understand. I flip the paper upside down. When I die, will my portrait grace the news?

Of course not. My face looks as if a toddler scribbled on it with a red Sharpie while I was asleep. No reporter in his right mind would put my picture in the paper. Not unless it was a Halloween edition.

Mom used to sit in the rooftop garden of our brownstone, a cup of hot Earl Grey in her hands, and gaze out over Manhattan. She adored this city for its energy and symphony of cultures. "It's always alive, always moving," she'd said.

Now, every consolation from a complete stranger invites a fresh wave of sobs. My chest heaves with each one, rising and falling like the steady tumult of the Hudson on a stormy day. I drive back the waves with smiles and nods and deep, controlled breaths, all for the sake of appearances. To be the hostess Mom would've been. The one I'll never be.

"I'm so sorry for your loss ..."

Smile.

"She'll be missed ..."

Nod.

"It will get better with time ..."

Inhale.

"You know we're all here for you, dear ..."

Exhale.

Nothing more than empty words from phony people who can't even look me in the eye as they give their condolences. Can I blame them? I don't enjoy looking at me. Why should they?

My phone vibrates, dancing along the granite countertop in our — my kitchen. The screen lights up, flashing the name and selfie that hurts and comforts in one ping of mixed emotions.

Joshua.

My fingers curl around the orchid-colored case, squeeze. I asked him to stay away, to give me space. Time. He agreed with a solemn nod, giving me what I wanted.

If it's what I wanted, why do I long to go next door and fall into his arms?

I close my eyes, mentally pushing away the cacophony of voices echoing around our — my home. It doesn't work. This is all just too much.

A sea of catered dishes covers the kitchen island. Nothing offers comfort like platters of prosciutto and tartlets, right? What is this, a cocktail party? And could it be more obvious these people know nothing about me or Mom? Prosciutto? Really? Gag me. I haven't touched meat in ten years, and I'm certainly not going to start now.

Beyond the bar, the sunroom with its large bay window, upright piano, and ornate fireplace is set up as an art gallery. Mom's recently commissioned dealer, Lincoln Cooper, took care of all the details, despite the setback his recent gallery fire caused him. How very noble of him considering he's known us less than a month. Where did he find all these people? Do they even know who they're mourning, or are their sympathies part of the show?

Easels display oil-pastel renderings and watercolor paintings, along with a few of Mom's charcoal sketches. Most of the pieces featured are from her Autumn collection, Lincoln's idea of staying on theme with the current season. He negotiates prices while admirers speak overtly about the tragedy of such a talented artist dying so young.

"What better way to remember Elizabeth than to display and sell her masterpieces at the wake," he'd said with enthusiasm. "Eclectic art is all the rage now."

I nodded my consent, but I knew better. Lincoln Cooper couldn't care less about paying tribute to Mom. He hardly knew her. All he cares about is his big fat commission. And considering he's priced each painting well beyond what Mom would approve of, I don't think he'll have trouble getting what he wants. Sheesh. Maybe this is a cocktail party. Let him have his fun. I only want one painting for myself, along with Mom's sketchbooks.

The essence of her surrounds me. In every brushstroke and ebony pencil rub. In the scent of canvas. In the crinkle of brown paper as Lincoln unwraps a new piece to replace one he's just sold. My lower lip quivers, and I suck it in between my teeth. Mom would want me to be brave now, but how can I be? She'll never again sit on our roof and paint the sun rising over Central Park. Never send me down the block to pick up a new box of pencils from Staples or sketch me while I do my homework.

At once I can't breathe. I'm suffocating, but no one notices. I can't be here anymore. I won't do this. She's not dead. She can't be.

Nausea takes over. I cover my mouth with one hand, bolt from the kitchen. My empty stomach lurches, but I welcome the chance to escape. I shove past the mingling art enthusiasts in the sunroom who turn their attention to me for a moment before I enter the bathroom across the hall. Slam, flip, click. Finally having a moment of privacy and solace, I collapse to the floor, clutch my throbbing head in my hands, and cry.

"Mom ..." Sob. Swipe. Sniff. "Mom, I need you."

"Beneath winter's icy sadness lies spring's blooming joy."

Mom's poetic words breeze across my heart. She was always repeating things like this, urging me to remember them, to write them down.

"Not this time, Mom." Not this time.

Tap, tap.

I jerk my head up. Hold my breath. If I don't answer, whoever it is will go away eventually.

Tap. Tap, tap, tap, tap —

"Occupied," I call out. "There's another bathroom — "

"El? Are you in there? It's me."

I roll my head back against the door. He's here? He's here.

"Come on." A hint of humor mellows Joshua's tone. "I brought pizza. I know how much you hate fancy hors d'oeuvres."

My stomach rumbles. I've hardly eaten in days. Still, I can't bring myself to budge.

"If you don't come out, I'll start singing."

He wouldn't dare, not with all those people around.

"One ..."

I stand and push the tears away with my palms.

"Two ..."

I force myself to look in the mirror, and my heart tumbles to the floor. What did I expect? Crying and mascara streaks would actually help my appearance? I can't let him see me this way.

Shattered. Broken.

I've fallen apart in his presence once, and all it brought was more heartache. Never again.

"Three."

I glance at the door and wait. One, two heartbeats. Footsteps depart. I sigh. Guess he gave up. It's for the best. I'm a wreck.

My gaze returns to my reflection. The strange crimson birthmark winds up the right side of my face in creeping, curling tendrils. Like vines choking my skin. Thorns drawing blood in trickles, permanently staining my complexion.

I'm a monster.

I lift a hand and let it hover there. Now I look almost normal. Too bad I can't walk around this way all the time. Or better yet, wear a paper bag over my head. My only trinket of beauty is the silver treble clef-heart pendant Joshua gave me last spring. The one he made me swear never to take off — a token from a time that will never be again.

I swipe my fingertips beneath my eyelids to extract some of the runny mascara goop. My ombre hair, mocha melting into blonde, hangs in drab sheets to my shoulders. Mom's idea of something wild for senior year, though it just makes me feel as if I'm trying to be someone I'm not. I comb my fingers through my full bangs, the ones I cut to cover my forehead, to help me blend in. Some birthmark covered is better than none covered at all.

The soft picking of guitar strings breaks the silence. A familiar melody floats under the crack beneath the door, cradles my heart, and lifts it off the ground.

Joshua sings out pure and strong. The chords to "Daydream Believer" are the first he taught me to play — G transitioning into A minor, then B minor to C. I could play the song in my sleep. He's not being fair.

More notes. Closer. Louder. His dynamic tenor beckons me as it crescendos at the chorus.

I place a palm on the door. A smile surfaces for the first time in a week. In the three years I've known Joshua, he's never once sung in public. I turn the lock and open the door to a crowd gathered around a boy and his guitar. The boy I love.

No. The realization is a slap in the face. The confession may be internal, for my heart alone, but it's there. Complicating. Everything.

When he finishes the song, everyone applauds. Once they disperse, trickling from the foyer back into the sunroom, Joshua smiles and shrugs in his boyish way.

"I thought you weren't coming," I say to the floor.

"You asked me not to."

My head lifts. "And yet here you are."

He takes a step closer. "Here I am."

The silence between us is easy. Comfortable. The first bout of normalcy I've had since Mom died.

"You didn't think I'd let you deal with these suits alone, did you?" He hitches his thumb over one shoulder, then lays the guitar against the stairs and crosses the hall, closing the remaining distance between us.

"Thank you." The words release on a much-needed exhale. Maybe I misunderstood what happened between us the other night.

"Of course." He smiles and his fingers brush mine. An accident? Aside from the times he had to position my hand on the guitar, Joshua has never initiated physical contact. I search his eyes for some confirmation the touch was intentional.

A throat clears. Joshua shoves the hand that grazed mine into his pocket. The moment, whatever it was, is gone.

An elderly gentleman with a pocket square and a circa-1970s briefcase steps forward, a manila folder tucked beneath his right arm. "Ah, Mr. David. Glad you could make it. I just need your signature on a few more papers."

Joshua glances between me and the man. Scratches the back of his head. His dark hair is a mess, and his black-and-green plaid shirt is rumpled. The disheveled look is out of character for him. "Right." He takes the folder from the man. "Thanks."

My eyebrows pinch. "What's that? Who are you?"

"Forgive me." The man sets down his briefcase and offers a hand. "My name is Wallace Matthews. You must be Eliyana. Elizabeth told me so much about you." I can't help but notice he doesn't meet my eyes. My face.

I cross my arms, not bothering to shake his hand. "Joshua? Do you know this guy?" My eyes don't leave Joshua's stubbled face, but his gaze remains downcast.

"So very sorry," Wallace mumbles, retracting his hand and letting it fall limp at his side. "I am Elizabeth's attorney. And Mr. David here is your legal guardian now." He picks up his briefcase and flips his wrist to check his out-of-date watch. "Strange she never mentioned any of this to you — "

"Is this why you're here?" I snap at Joshua, cutting Wallace off. "Because you have to be?" My expression tightens.

Joshua's cerulean eyes widen and finally lock on mine. "What? Of course not. El — "

"How long have you known?" My words slip through clenched teeth.

He hesitates. "Awhile."

"So all this time we've been friends, it's been a lie?"

"No. We were friends first. It was only a month ago Elizabeth came to me and asked if I'd be willing to take responsibility should something happen to her."

"Responsibility?" My voice quivers. "Are you serious? I'll be eighteen in less than a month. I can take care of myself."

"That isn't quite accurate," Wallace interjects. "Your mother left everything to Mr. David. The home. Her bank accounts. She wanted to ensure you'd be looked after by a responsible adult. Someone who could work and provide while you finish high school and begin college." A lady in a ridiculous black feathered hat taps Wallace on the shoulder with her dragon fingernail and he excuses himself.

Once we're alone again I say under my breath, "You're only three years older than me. How much more responsible can you be?"

"I'm going to take care of you. It's what your mom wanted." He bends the folder and shoves it into his back pocket.

I step back. Shake my head. Why would Mom keep this from me? And why isn't she here so I can ask her?

"El." Joshua reaches for me. "I'm sorry. We should've told you. If it bothers you that much, I'll find someone else to be your guardian. I'll do whatever it takes to make this transition as easy as possible. To make you feel safe. That's all I want."

Someone else. Transition. Easy. Safe. The words blur together as I retreat into the bathroom. Lock the door. Invisibility is the only way I know how to survive. Because if I let him see how much this hurts, if I let him witness the broken heart on my sleeve, he might find someone else to care for me.

Then he'll leave me too.

And there it is. The truth. As much as I hate for him to stay out of guilt or pity or duty, it would be worse to see him go. Mom's death is the hardest thing I've ever endured. If I lost Joshua, too, I don't think I could bear it. I'm not that brave. So I'll do what I'm best at. I'll pretend. If he sees I'm okay, he'll stay.

And I won't have to feel this way ever again.

CHAPTER 2

Think Again


Someone's in my room.

I lie unmoving atop rumpled sheets. Sweat sticks to every crease and pore on my skin, reminding me I fell asleep with the space heater on again. Floorboards whine beneath my intruder's weight. I keep my eyes closed and feign sleep. My breaths release as if rehearsed.

The light flicks on. An orange glow penetrates my eyelids.

"Happy birthday!"

I open my eyes. Mom?

So this isn't real. Just a memory. A dream. Still, I'll take what I can get.

She floats over to my bed. A Crumbs Bake Shop cupcake with a single lit candle rests in her palm. Blackout — my favorite flavor. Mom sits, her ageless smile beaming. "Make a wish."

How could I forget? Every year it's the same. At midnight on my birthday Mom wakes me and insists we begin celebrating. Except my birthday is still three months away. I laugh. "It's not even September."

Her brown eyes twinkle. What's she hiding? "I know, but I thought we'd start the festivities early this year."

Wax drips down a purple candle onto chocolate frosting. "Three months early?"

"You only turn eighteen once." She says this every year, about every age. "As far as I'm concerned, all of autumn belongs to you this year. Now make a wish."

"Hold on. I have a surprise for you too." I open my nightstand drawer and withdraw the latest copy of the New York Times. Beaming, I pull out the "Arts & Leisure" section, pass it to her.

The paper crinkles as she unfolds it. "What's this?"

"Your surprise." I sit up and cross my legs, unable to contain the bouncing five-year-old inside. "I know you've postponed your dream because of me. Now you don't have to." I tap the paper. "Look."

Mom gasps, covers her mouth with a trembling hand. All color drains from her face. "Eliyana, what did you do?"

My excitement falters. "I entered one of your paintings in an art competition. You know, the one that fancy gallery downtown holds every year? The one you've always wanted to enter but never have." I nudge her with my elbow. More than just my mom, she's my best friend. She deserves this.

Mom remains silent.

I shift uncomfortably. Weird. I thought she'd be excited. "Um, anyway," I continue, the rush gone from my words, "you were selected as one of twenty artists to exhibit your work. They wanted to include your picture with the other winners, so I sent it in. I didn't think you'd mind."

She sets the paper down, her emotionless expression gives nothing away. Is she angry? Embarrassed? Finally she says to the wall, "You know how private I am."

I do know. I had to sneak a candid shot for the contest because she's always hated having her photo taken. Won't even let me get my picture done at school, insisting she do my portrait herself, which means no yearbook photos for me. I've never argued against her protectiveness. Who'd want to remember my ugmug anyway? I have no Facebook account, no Twitter or Instagram. Not that I'd have any friends or followers if I did.

"Mom, your photo is in the paper because you're an amazing artist." My hand finds her shoulder. "I thought you'd be happy."

She stands, tightens the tie on her robe. "Go back to sleep, Eliyana. I'll see you in the morning. We have back-to-school shopping tomorrow. You need your rest."

"Mom —"

"Good night." She blows on the candle. The flame extinguishes.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Unblemished by Sara Ella. Copyright © 2016 Sara E. Larson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Once upon a time, Sara Ella 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.” Facebook: writinghistruth Twitter: @SaraEllaWrites

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Unblemished 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
EpicFehlReader 7 days ago
There were some things I noticed at the beginning of this novel that had me saying "uh oh, not another one..." Most noticeably, I spotted A LOT of elements that I've seen in various fantasy movies, tv shows and novels in recent years. Sprinkles of Once Upon A Time here and there... at times it felt like I could almost imagine Sara Ella's DVR line up. I'm not saying anything was directly lifted, I'm just saying if you're a fan of the genre, there is a ton of stuff here that you're likely to quickly recognize. First off was the similarities to The Never Ending Story: 1) mother dies 2) teased kid in this world becomes hero in alternate world 3) The Void = The Nothing >>> El has to find vessel of Verity to save world from The Void = Atreyu & Bastian have to stop the spread of the Nothing. Step away from Never Ending Story and you still see likenesses to Star Wars (especially when it came to that almost awkward link between Ky and El... Clueless-esque awkward). El transporting from NYC to the Reflection where she thinks her mother was taken = very 10th Kingdom. Even the tense triangle between Joshua, El and Ky was reminiscent of the Edward, Bella, Jacob business from Twilight -- there's even a blink-and-you-might-miss-it reference to one of the Twilight films. Oh and btw, I myself am totally team Ky throughout this whole book. So, given that I was spotting all these similarities, I was concerned that this was just going to be a sloppy rehashing of popular fantasy plots from the past. Good news though! This one is a little shaky in the early portions but gets REALLY good after Act III! All the characters here are dynamic with great personalities (healthy doses of snark included) that keep the story moving at a fun pace. While the plot itself can get a little muddled and murky at times, I do think Sara Ella developed her characters admirably well, giving them all noticeable yet reasonable amounts of individual growth... some towards the light, others going dark... as it should be if you want your reader to get heavily invested! ;-) As for our protagonist, El, I liked her personality for the majority of the story. My one gripe with her is how she would persistently knock any meat-eater she came across yet she proudly rocked UGG boots. Weirdly though, her harping on this topic seemed to stop halfway through the book... guess everyone just got so caught up in the battle of good and evil there was no longer any time for meal breaks! So if you're all about any of those stories I mentioned above: Never Ending Story, Star Wars, Twilight, The 10th Kingdom, etc... or if you want to just dip a reading toe into the fantasy genre pool, definitely try out this one. I'm all set to jump into the second book of this series -- I need to know what all's gonna go down if / when Ky returns! -- but sadly Amazon says it won't be available for release until this summer :-( FTC Disclaimer: Both TNZ Fiction Guild and Book Look Bloggers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book with a request that I might check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.
Jennybug52 15 days ago
4 stars- It is hard to imagine living Eliyana’s life, shunned as she is with a birthmark marring half of her face. She tries her best to hide in the shadows and doesn’t have any friends, until Joshua comes along. Is it possible that her birthmark isn’t hideous after all? I really enjoyed this book. Sara Ella did a great job creating her new worlds and it was a feast for the imagination. I loved learning about the other Reflections along with Eliyana and joining her on her journey of self discovery. There are so many great underlying themes to this story- of good vs evil and learning your worth is more than skin deep. The book kept me guessing and I could not put it down at the end. Eliyana, Joshua, Ky- all such great characters. The book reminded me at times of Katie Ganshert’s “The Gifting” series and even at times of the “Twilight Series”. The only bad thing- waiting for book two! I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 16 days ago
Beautiful and enchanting, I enjoyed every moment of this debut novel!
Cynthia181 25 days ago
I received this book for an honest review from the Fiction Guild. It was a very intriquing book with a lot of twist and turns. It is a very good book with interesting characters and a lot of different things happening in it to keep you wondering what is going to happen next
bntyle01 3 months ago
This is one book to definitely judge by its cover
Ziff130 4 months ago
Eliyana was a typical teenage girl. Well, maybe not so typical. She had a hideous birthmark that covered half her face. Students at school teased her and she was never thought of as beautiful by anyone except her mother. At least, not until Joshua moved in next door when she was fifteen. The two of them quickly became best friends and he treated her like a "normal" person. All that changed after her mother died. Joshua was given legal custody of her and strange people started coming around. All of these lead to other worlds full of mythical beings and magical powers. Her world is about to turn upside down. Could what had always been viewed as ugly, suddenly become something more beautiful and power than Eliyana could possibly imagine? I was pretty much immediately sucked into this story. It's fun, it moves quickly. It's a popular genre that I really love to read. Seriously, it's one of my favorite genres. However, sometimes the present tense first person style of writing got confusing and I didn't know what was going on. I had to go back and reread some to try and figure out and then I'd realize, "Nope, I didn't miss anything. I just don't know what's going on." After a few pages, I was normally able to fill in the missing pieces. Also, the constant onomatopoeia was a little bit distracting. There was a clatter here and the next paragraph was a shish and so on. It may be great for some readers, but I had a hard time with it. Now, I would totally still read this book knowing now what I didn't know then and I would recommend it to other people who love this genre. If you've never read this genre or are fairly neutral about this genre then you should probably not read it.
GlennHaggerty 5 months ago
At seventeen Eliyana Amber is too young to be orphaned in New York City. But when her best friend, her only friend, Joshua is appointed her guardian, things go from dark, to strange. As El grieves her mother’s death she seeks answers from her guardian, and the strange man who seems to know so much about her. But when the sinister Kyaphus abducts her, the strange becomes bizarre when she lands in the middle of an epic struggle between good and evil in another dimension, a reflection of her own New York City. She discovers that the flaming birthmark on her face that shamed her all her life, is a sign that she is called to save this world—this second reflection. Now, she must summon her courage, and all of her wits to discover the truth, to find out who’s lying and who isn’t and find a way, if there is a way, out of this fantastic dream. Ella writes in deep first person, present tense point of view with tight and compelling prose. The heroine’s emotional journey was fascinating, compelling and realistic. The world building was also well done and the tension filled plot and mystery kept the pages turning. Although I’m not a fan of the love triangle that evolved later in the plot, the writing was so strong that I must give Unblemished the top rating. I received a free Advance Reader Copy of Unblemished in return for a fair review.
soleilB 7 months ago
found out about this book from Nadine Brandes, and I am really glad. Sara Ella has done a stupendous job writing this book. and I really enjoyed it. The story was exciting, and I love how Sara Ella mixed our normal, modern world with a totally new world. The story was well paced, and there were a lot of new and creative things throughout the story. The characters were awesome, and I liked how relatable they were. Eliyana was awesome. She is a girl from our world who is suddenly thrust into a realm full of mythical beasts and an ongoing battle. Because of her birthmark on her face, she has never believed that she is beautiful, and her journey shows her what true beauty is, and that looks don't define you. Joshua was very sweet. He is one of El's only friends, and does whatever it takes to protect her. His parent's died when he was young, and was raised as a guardian in another realm. Ky is one of my favorite's. (I think I just like any character that is bad, but kind've good, and ends up one or the other, but you really hope they'll be good.) He lost his sister to the enemy and, after the death of his father, had been doing anything to survive the void that is trying to overtake him. Different realms, mystical creatures, people with gifts, and an amazing adventure. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I recieved this book free from Booklook Bloggers for an honest review. 
Maari 8 months ago
Now there is a twist! Love this cover! This is the first book of Ms. Ella's that I have read, and surely will not be the last! I am ready for book two now, please? Ms. Ella is wonderful with her imagery! She can put you right where you need to be, feeling the surroundings of Eliyana, as well as experience each emotion. I loved the musical references, by the way. This book did tend to drag a bit for me at one point, but the ending made it all worth it! I am rooting for a certain character, but we shall see how I feel about that as the series continues... I just wish that book two was ready for me to read now, I hadn't realized that this was part of a series until I reached the end. I also am thinking that the next book may be in duo perspective, just from the taste we were given. Recommended to YA fans, who like Fantasy interwoven within the story, also the Author does make it known that this is a love triangle, but it is written well.
maggie-martin94 8 months ago
Sara Ella, you are a gorgeous writer! I loved being immersed in this unique world with such beautiful prose to pull me along. Eliyana's character development throughout, being able to accept herself for her inner beauty and finding her self worth, was such a relatable way to ground your character in a world of griffins and tromes :). I read this in less than 24 hours because I had to find out more about this world and these characters. I know the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi happens to be one of Sara's favorite series, and I got total Shatter Me vibes in the best way possible from this book. Dying for book 2 to come around. How can it leave on that cliff hanger?!
VJoyPalmer 8 months ago
I just... I can't... This book... I... LOVED IT!!!!! Oh my goodness, guys. I had such a book hangover after finished Unblemished. My husband had to repeat questions because all I could do was stare dumbly, still digesting every delicious morsel of this delectable story. You're dropped into the middle of sweep-you-off-your-feet action. Eliyana is thrust into a whole new world, a world completely different than what I envisioned. Twists, turns, and amazing world building keep your eyes glued to the page. El's character development is wonderful. Her growth from the beginning to the end of the story is truly transformative. And I adore how the message of Who determines your worth is wonderfully woven into the story. And, for those of you dying to know, I've thought about my team a lot. I always look for elements of my husband and our love story in the hero. I see him in both. My heart was just as torn as El's...until...The Incident. I normally choose the road of unrequited love. And if Sara Ella wrote an alternate reality with him, I'd be all over that. However, I think the writing is on the wall. Team Ky, peps. (If you thought the love triangle in Twilight was intense, you haven't seen anything yet.) Fans of Wayne Thomas Batson, Bryan Davis, Rachelle Dekker, Ted Dekker, Mary Weber, and the popular Doon series by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon will adore Unblemished. But honestly, even if you haven't read those authors (I don't understand why... ;) LOL! ), you will enjoy this epic journey. Unblemished is the first book in Sara Ella's new trilogy! Unraveling, book two, releases July 2017! I. Can't. Wait. I received a copy of Unblemished by Sara Ella published by Thomas Nelson from BookLook Bloggers. All opinions expressed are my own.
JustCommonly 8 months ago
Sara Ella has one very imaginative mind! Her debut novel, Unblemished was romantic and mysterious. It's like you're in a dream, and I guess you can say it is kind of like one in this alternate realm in the book. I'm amazed with what authors can come up with when it comes to world building. I love to read books where the setting is so different. It's a creation that came straight from the author, and when it's complete, it really is a whole new world. And the plus side is being set in NYC, my hometown. That always adds some points in my book! In Unblemished, we see urban fantasy with similarities to the hit TV series, Once Upon A Time, adding in fairy tale vibes of good versus evil. And the thing is, sometimes things may not be what they seem. In the real world, Eliyana (love that name!), in short, El, has a birthmark on her face, leading to a lifetime of ridicule and dismissal by others. Yet, in the alternate worlds of Reflections, her blemished may very well be a saving grace. I like the premise and I like what the author created, especially the imagery she written. It's both lyrical and mystical. Her descriptive prose gave way to a visual that matches the beauty of Unblemished's cover. What I do find needs a little more is the completeness of how. There are several areas that I find lacking in how things were done. From one setting to the next, it was hard to follow, but it wasn't a big factor, since the plot and the characters intrigued us enough to keep moving. Speaking of characters, boy o boy! When it comes to two boys and one girl, do we always tend to pick the bad boy? Yes! Especially if said bad boy is Hook, I mean like Hook (from Once Upon a Time), with brooding good looks and a mysterious/traumatic past. Plus, he really does look out for our girl, El. And El. Hmmm. Sometimes I'm not so sure how I feel about her. She annoys me at times with her self-consciousness and her obsessiveness of Joshua. Even from the first couple of chapters, her mentioned of Joshua and what he's doing was a tad over board. Yet, I can't blame her, because I understand. I understand how kids can be cruel when you have a mark on your face or how loving someone can become all consuming. A world where you're most unlikely feature to be the reason you are special. A world that beauty may not be just what we see. That being said, Unblemished is one good start to a trilogy with Christian connotations, serious pop culture references, realistic characters, and a dreamy world that lives up to the gorgeous cover! Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and have not been compensated for this. This is my honest opinion.
MeezCarrie 8 months ago
I have to get something off my chest before I proceed with my review of Unblemished. #teamKy Ky Rhyen is one of the most intriguing characters in Unblemished, and while I wasn’t expecting to like him at all he quickly became my favorite. BECAUSE he is so intriguing. Is he bad? Is he good? Is he the purest of hearts or the vilest of souls? Or somewhere in between? And then at one point I just didn’t even care anymore which of those answers applied to him because … well… no spoilers. Unblemished is an absolutely riveting mix of well-crafted fantasy and stellar world-building as well as adorably placed references to pop culture, music, Disney, fairy tales, and literature. C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are treated to a special nod as well, one that made this fan smile happily. The Reflections are a bit like Narnia, a bit like Wonderland/The Looking Glass, even a bit like The Matrix… and yet this world is distinctly unique and extremely creative with surprises at every turn. Bottom Line: Unblemished is completely captivating! The cover is deliciously romantic and mesmerizingly gorgeous, and so is the book. Fans of fairy tales, Once Upon a Time, Narnia, even the Harry Potter series will find much to love in this book as well. Sara Ella’s writing voice is simultaneously adorable and compelling, and you will find yourself unable to put this book down until you find out what happens. You will find yourself drawn to Eliyana and will happily tag along with her on her journey and her earnest love for Joshua. Until… well… again, no spoilers. The subtle message of seeing beyond first impressions, of looking beneath someone’s surface level features or personality, lilts across the pages with grace and truth. There are some whom you’ll dislike initially but will become your favorites by the end… and vice versa. (I’m still recovering from the ending…seriously wanted to purse whomp a certain person… and I cannot WAIT for the next book!) (I received a complimentary copy of this book)
EmilyAnneK17 8 months ago
Eliyana has had this weird birthmark on her face for as long as she can remember. It is her greatest insecurity, because how can someone love an unattractive girl? Even her best friend/crush can’t seem to bring himself to tell her whether he’s as in love with her as she is with him. But then everything goes crazy. El’s mom dies,—or does she?—her crush becomes her legal guardian, and a stalker seems to be following her. Add to that some alternate worlds called Reflections, the Verity, the Void, and some epic abilities, and Eliyana is truly in a mess. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!!! I think I found my new favorite book! There is so much in Unblemished, from the gorgeous worlds caught in the battle between good and evil (also called the Verity and the Void) to the layers upon layers of secrets and deceit that the characters have to wade through to discover the truth. The magical abilities are awesome and the mystery kept me guessing to the end. And the romance! Never have I seen a more painful, swoon-worthy, romantic, agape, death-defying, high-stakes love triangle. I am like Eliyana at the end—I still can’t figure out which to choose or how she will ever be physically able to choose. I mean, it’s not like one of them can *conveniently* die so she doesn’t have to choose. High-stakes is the best description. Yikes! And the message is more than I could have hoped for. It is so beautiful, about unconditional love—true love in its purest form. The entire story centers around it, the climax rests at its core; it is the one thing, the strongest good, that can overcome the overwhelming evil. (And the evil is most definitely overwhelming.) The resolution of the problem was epic, but the ending! It’s beautiful but at the same time a bit of a cliffhanger. “She will seek answers eventually. When she does, I’ll be waiting.” I mean, come on! Forget her, I need answers! How am I supposed to wait for a second book that may or may not be coming? Basically, I recommend this book to everyone, but especially those people who enjoy a good YA fantasy with some romance and Christian themes. (At least, considering the strong fight between Good and Evil, the unconditional love, and the Christian publisher, I’d say there are Christian themes, even though the characters don’t really mention a God.) I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TNJodi 8 months ago
I LOVE this book!! It's magical and will suck you in before you know it. By the end, you'll be like, "Jacob and Edward who??"
Laura_Pol 8 months ago
Describing my review of UNBLEMISHED in a sentence: The feels are real and they're not going away anytime soon. Sara's debut is so very good and one that kept me up late or sneaking off to read. I couldn't and didn't want to put it down! The world-building was superb and loved the map in the beginning. I felt like I had been transported to this reflection and was caught up in the Callings of each character. The story was intense, but in such a beautiful way where you lose track of time or even your surroundings. I was completely living a new life through El that I didn't want to leave. Plus, those chapter cliff hangers and plot twists make it hard to do anything else when I'm wanting to see what happens next. One of the messages I have been reflecting on (no pun intended) is something that Ky has said as well as others about looking past the surface, to not see with the physical eyes of a person's value. I loved this message because it encouraged me to "see" deeper than what I feel is true about a person based on outward appearances, whether that's me looking at my reflection or someone else. I am SO eagerly wanting book two and continue El's story. Rock on #TeamKy! I definitely recommend this book to urban fantasy readers and to anyone who loves reading about a heroine who is so relatable. *(I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed are my own and was not required to write a positive review.)*