Strains of Silence (Bethany Kaczmarek) – Review + Giveaway

6 Jan Strains-of-Silence-FB-Banner-copy

5 stars

~ About the Book ~

Music was her driving passion and the truest expression of her faith, but three months before her wedding, twenty-year-old Kasia Bernolak can’t even pick up her guitar. Feeling like a fraud who will ruin her dad’s pastoral reputation, she can barely meet his eyes. When Kasia finds the strength to break off her engagement, she still doesn’t realize the dangerous truth: Blake Hamilton isn’t ready to say goodbye. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.

Alexander “Zan” Maddox has seen what a domineering man can do to an unsuspecting woman, and Zan is sick of injustice. He gave up a college baseball scholarship so he could protect his sister from her abusive husband. When he rescues Kasia from her ex-fiancé, he instinctively appoints himself her personal bodyguard. Now, all he has to do is keep from falling for her himself.

Kasia and Zan become fast friends, but true healing and justice might cost more than either of them is willing to pay.

Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Release date:  1 August 2017
Pages:  416
Publisher:  Pelican Book Group

Amazon US  //  Amazon AU  //  iBooks  //  Goodreads

~ Excerpt ~

“Blake, believe me.” She pulled her face away, studied the grass, straight and proud. So unlike her. “I wish I had answers you liked better.”
He white-knuckled the bench. The yelling would start any second now.
A few people approached, and Kasia’s head swam with relief. “Maybe one day it’ll be different.” She held the ring out to him, and he glared at it, unblinking.
Strength came from somewhere—filled her—and she didn’t question it. She opened one of his hands, pressed the ring into it, and closed his fingers. “I’m walking away. To figure out what God wants for me, so…this is the end.”
Blake sat, tense and too silent.
People were still around. “I’m sorry, Blake, but I need to go.” She stood.
“Wait. Please.” He shot off the bench. “Can we pray about this together? I can do that. Just…don’t leave.”
He’d never offered to pray with her, not once in all the Sundays they’d attended church together. Had he simply needed an ultimatum? A tear slid down his cheek, sliced her heart.
He pressed his lips to hers. This time, the kiss hummed with familiarity and warmth. Her resolve faltered. What if they could make changes? Follow God together? She reached for his fingers, longed for the simple and sweet moments they’d shared in the beginning. A shuddering breath escaped her.
She immediately wished it back. But too late.
He pulled away, and his mouth tipped up in a rueful smile. “You still love me.”
She blinked. No. Somewhere along the way, love dried up. Along with her music.
His smirk taunted her. “You won’t stick to this, Kosh. That kiss told me everything I need to know.”
She wiped her mouth with shaking fingertips. “One kiss changes nothing.” She spun away and strode toward the dorm, furious at herself. She’d acted like a sickening fool.
She stomped to her room and locked the door behind her.
Then she locked the window.
Closed the blind.
Stood there, expecting tears to come.
And then flung her keys at the wall when they didn’t.

~ Review ~

This was a hard-hitting and deeply-felt novel—so much more than ‘just’ a contemporary romance. In fact, for the first half of the novel, the focus of the story is squarely on Kasia’s and Zan’s individual lives—on Kasia establishing herself with a new group of friends and getting her focus back on God (including a trip to Peru as an English teacher), and on Zan’s disillusionment with his current life, his concern for his sister (who has just left her abusive husband), and his gradual transition from being anti-religion to seeking Christ. And yet the chance meetings that take place between Kasia and Zan during this half of the novel set the stage well for the friendship that develops in the second half.

Despite dealing with the difficult subjects of physical and sexual abuse, there is a lot of hope and grace in this story, and one of the most beautiful scenes in the novel is a scene where Zan, in his unsteady steps as a new Christian, reminds Kasia of that hope and grace. But what warmed me to Zan most of all was his heart for Kasia. He was there for her all the way—to the extreme in one particularly emotional scene—but he was very aware that he needed to take his cues from Kasia: “You deserve to dance—and climb. And if you’ll let me, I’ll help you…If you wake up and need to unload at three in the morning, I’ll listen. If you get angry, I’ll take whatever punches you need to throw. When you’re finally ready to cry, I’ll hold you if you’ll let me. And when you’re ready to dance, I’ll be there.” ❤ ❤ ❤

Yes, there’s some tough stuff in this novel, particularly as things come to a head for both Kasia and Bailey in the second half of the story, but there is healing, too, and genuine love. An excellent debut, and well worth the read.

I received a copy of this novel through Celebrate Lit Tours. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.

~ Giveaway ~


To celebrate her tour, Bethany is giving away a grand grand prize a signed book, a Polish pottery mug with two of the main character’s favorite kinds of teas, 4 of her favorite albums (Josh Garrels, Waterdeep, The Gray Havens, and Andrew Greer), a box of chocolate butter cookies, and a $50 Amazon gift card.!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

~ Guest Post from the Author ~

Strains of Silence: A Novel for Anyone Who Can Say #MeToo

We’re everywhere. After years of silence, many survivors of sexual assault are raising our voices. You’ve seen the hashtag. You know someone who suffered like this—a friend, a sister, a daughter.

Maybe you know personally what it’s like to be used.

I’m thankful for the conversations the #MeToo campaign has started, proud of the brave women who are speaking out. But I know some are still quiet, nursing wounds.

I could list loads of valid reasons a victim chooses to suffer in silence.

  • People won’t believe her.
  • If she doesn’t say it out loud, it’s easier to pretend it was a nightmare.
  • He’s got authority over her—at work, at church, in the family—and it’ll cost her too much. He’s done enough damage already.
  • He’s threatened to destroy her reputation, and she believes him. One, because he’ll do it without flinching. Two, because she’s already convinced that she’s living a lie.
  • Because at church, she’s supposed to be fine, smiling, rejoicing in her suffering and pressing on. Besides, people don’t want to sit with her in her pain and listen. They’d rather offer bumper-sticker theology and trite spiritual bandages.
  • The few times she’s tried to speak up, her used-to-be friend basically made her feel like it was her fault.

The list could go on, but it’s fair to say that being honest about what happened to us makes us vulnerable all over again. The idea is understandably stressful.

But you know what? Pretending we’re fine is exhausting too. We bear a great strain when we hide our hurts, for whatever reason.

Kasia Bernolak, the heroine of my novel Strains of Silence, gets it. She’s got reasons for keeping it quiet too. But when God brings some new people into her life, she realizes she doesn’t have to be alone.

And speaking up offers a freedom, a lightness, she wants.

It’s a freedom I want for my readers.

I know. Strains of Silence sounds like a heavy book right now. The themes are heavy, no doubt. There’s no glossing over and prettying up sexual assault or domestic violence. But—just like in real life—it’s how well we surround and support the suffering that can set the tone. Kasia’s friends are real, they’re funny, they’re quirky, and they believe in her.

Besides, it’s not all dark and brooding. There’s travel—an entire summer in the mountains of Peru. There’s a lot of music—Kasia’s a singer/song-writer who loves indie artists (I’ve got a playlist on my website). There’s heritage and culture—meet her immigrant family and you’ll get a delicious taste of Poland. There’s humor—enough to keep the story light when you need it to be.

And there’s hope. Kasia’s life is absolutely full of possibility.

So are the lives of everyone who can say #MeToo.

Sometimes, it just helps to see someone else fight the battle on our own horizon. And if you can do it with a fantastic new playlist and some laughs, why not?

My hope is that Strains of Silence will lead to real discussions with reader-friends, book-club gatherings that become turning points, and the true pursuit of freedom. It’s time to throw off the burdens we wear and stand up. Raise your voice, link arms with others, and fight for hope.

Healing is within our reach.

~ About the Author ~

bethany-kaczmarek-HR-2_previewBethany loves a home filled with family and friends. Word gets around that—at the Kaczmarek house—food is abundant, conversations are real, and anything is up for discussion. She and her clan are fans of laughter, indie music, sonic screwdrivers, and superheroes. Home is wherever in the world they’re all together.

Connect with Bethany:
Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest


~ Tour Stops ~


January 6 – Quiet Quilter  //  proud to be an autism mom

January 7 – Inklings and Notions  //  Bibliophile Reviews

January 8 – Fiction Aficionado  //  Genesis 5020

January 9 – The Fizzy Pop Collection  //  Bigreadersite

January 10 – Red Headed Book Lady  //  Mommynificent

January 11 – Texas Book-aholic  //  allofakindmom

January 12 – Blogging With Carol (Interview)  //  The Power of Words  //  Pursuing Stacie

January 13 – Reading Is My SuperPower  //  A Greater Yes

January 14 – Christian Author, J.E.Grace Blog  //  Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations

January 15 – Mindy Houg Guest Review on Artistic Nobody  //  Janices book reviews

January 16 – Faithfully Bookish  //  Kat’s Corner Books

January 17 – Margaret Kazmierczak  //  Jeanette’s Thoughts

January 18 – The Important Things in Life: God, Books, & Chocolate  //  Carpe Diem

January 19 – Remebrancy  //  A Baker’s Perspective

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
This entry was posted in Book Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Strains of Silence (Bethany Kaczmarek) – Review + Giveaway

  1. Vivian Furbay says:

    Would enjoy reading tis book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erynn Newman says:

    This made my heart smile. So glad you loved this story. I’m kind of partial to it myself. And the author is okay, I guess–for someone who always hogged the bathroom and stole the best piece of my dessert I was saving till last. 😉 I jest. Couldn’t be prouder of my big sister, and I’m so glad Kasia and Zan are out in the world. I like it better with them in it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed reading your review! 🙂 I’ve just started reading this, and am finding it well worth my time!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kathy Jacob says:

    This sounds like a good book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yay for gritty, emotional, raw, redemptive fiction. My favorite kind!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Heidi says:

    Loved this book. ❤ And love the lady who wrote it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Winnie Thomas says:

    Great review, Katie! This book sounds so intriguing. It must go on my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The book description and review are intriguing. Bethany’s guest post is powerful. I feel like it probably reflects the depth of emotion we’ll find in the story. Tough but important content.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. diannekc says:

    Sounds like a great read. I really enjoyed the description of the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sounds like an intriguing read!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. karaleigh2 says:

    This book sounds really good–I’d love to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Laurin says:

    Sounds like a wonderful book! Can’t wait to get a copy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Best of 2018: The Emoji Files, Part II – Got Me in the Feels | Fiction Aficionado

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