The Pretender by Ta’Mara Hanscom Review and Giveaway

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Synopsis: Set in South Dakota in 1975, where eighteen-year-olds could order 3.2 beer in a bar, and loaded guns were kept under the counter.

Frankie Valli sang “My Eyes Adored You,” and American soldiers returning from Vietnam struggled with their new reality.
It’s within this tumultuous season of American history that Tillie Caselli meets Noah Hansen, and they are never the same again. Their lives were mysteriously intertwined-and had been for many years-yet they had no idea.
From the moment they met, Tillie and Noah wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, but a deliberate omission will keep them apart—and that same omission will be responsible for the escape of a murderer, and a bride’s deception.
About the authors:
 

Born and raised in South Dakota, Ta`Mara loves to write about the Great Plains and the beauty and people of Italia. While her husband and children manage their two pizza ristoranti, Ta`Mara works full time on The Caselli Family Series, and ministers to women. It is Ta`Mara s prayer that as the readers explore the truths in these volumes, they will come away with a new perspective on love, forgiveness, obedience, and God’s plan for marriage
Find out more about Ta’Mara at https://www.tamarahanscombooks.com.

 

 

My Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this book. The first 1/3 was 5 stars…the romance was perfect and warmed my heart but the middle and end became a bit frustrating and left me feeling unsatisfied. This is the first book in a series, so I know that the story is far from over but some of the decisions made by the characters really made me sad.

This story follows Noah and Tillie, who have a whirlwind romance when they meet but then, after a misunderstanding, lose each other and move on (but keep each other in their hearts). In a lot of ways, the story reminded me of the movie, “The Notebook”. Noah has a great transformation throughout the story and I love how he grows and matures. Tillie was a bit frustrating to me at times…she’s the only girl and the baby of an Italian family and was a bit selfish and immature at times.

I loved the concept of Blackguards and Knights and although I wouldn’t necessarily use those words, I would love to impart this lesson to my daughter for when she chooses a life mate.

I also loved the strong family dynamics that were weaved throughout the story. The Casellis are the definition of a close-knit family and our world needs more families like that. The bar is set very high for the men Tillie can date and I appreciated the overprotective nature of her older brothers.

Overall, this was a good story and I’m glad to have read it. I just need to pick up the next one to find out what will happen next!

My Rating: 3 stars

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group to review.

Join Ta’Mara in celebrating the release of the second printing and new covers by entering to win her $75 prize basket giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of The Pretender
  • A $75 Amazon gift card
  • A decorative box containing measuring cups, ten recipes from the book, a potholder, a kitchen towel, pepper and salt grinders, kitchen utensils, and an olive oil dispenser

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 11. The winner will be announced October 12 on the Litfuse blog.

 

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The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson Review

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Synopsis: When she receives the news in late 1944 that her baby’s father was shot down in the South Pacific, Amelia Richards loses hope. Jobless and broke, she has nowhere to turn for help but her infant’s paternal grandparents. The only problem is, they don’t know that she–or their grandson–exists. When Amelia discovers that the family is wealthy and influential, dare she disclose the truth of her relationship with their son? Or could the celebration of the arrival of another unexpected baby nearly two thousand years ago be the answer to her dilemma? Beloved author Melody Carlson pens a story of love, hardship, and reconciliation that will leave readers filled with Christmas joy.

My Thoughts: This is my third year of reviewing Melody Carlson’s Christmas stories and I always enjoy reading them. (Reviews for The Christmas Angel Project and The Christmas Joyride).  Every year, she releases a Christmas story that warms the heart and gets the reader in the mood for the Christmas season and this book was no exception.

The story follows Amelia, who lost her sweetheart in World War 2 after a whirlwind romance that produced a child. Her sweetheart, James, left for the war before they knew she was pregnant (or were married) and now she is setting off to find his family and introduce herself and her son Jimmy to them.

I liked the plot of the story and the time period of World War 2, a scary and uncertain time, I imagine. I also liked Amelia’s character, she adored baby Jimmy and wanted what was best for him. My only qualm with this book is that Amelia states that she doesn’t regret having Jimmy out of wedlock and premarital sex almost seems condoned because they were planning on getting married the next day anyway. Something about that didn’t quite sit well with me. I don’t judge people for their actions or sins but I wasn’t fond of how sin was almost justified in this book (I always hold Christian books at a higher standard than secular books).

Overall, this was a very sweet story that was paced well and had a great ending. I highly recommend it for fun Christmas reading!

My Rating: 

4.5 stars

I received this book from Revell Publishing to review honestly.

 

 

Life After by Katie Ganshert Review

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Synopsis: On the day of a late spring storm, in Chicago, Autumn Manning boarded an “L” train. A bomb explodes, killing everyone in the train car except for Autumn—the sole survivor. A year has passed and Autumn suffocates under a blanket of what ifs and the pressing desire to bring the victims back to life, every day, if only for her. She doesn’t want their stories to be forgotten. She wants to undo what cannot be undone. An unexpected ally joins her efforts, also seeking answers and trying to find a way to stumble ahead.
But one victim’s husband, Paul Elliott, prays to let the dead—and their secrets—rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to hurt his loved ones.
Caught between loss and hope, these restless souls must release the past to embrace a sovereign God.

My Thoughts: This is one of those books that will pull at your heartstrings. The main character Autumn is the sole survivor of a train bomb and she is left with survivor’s guilt. Through a set of circumstances, she comes to meet Paul, the husband of one of the victims and secrets are revealed on both sides.

I really liked the characters in this story…each one had his or her own voice and felt very real. I also felt that the story was not “sugar coated” in any way, there are many raw emotions on display and characters go through a gamut of emotions after dealing with a senseless tragedy.

This is a Christian fiction book and the mention of God is definitely present but I feel like the story would still be very enjoyable to non-Christian readers. I loved the Christian aspect of the story, it was subtle but very beautiful.

This one is definitely a winner, but if you are sensitive, keep a box of tissues handy when reading it.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Because You’re Mine by Colleen Coble Re

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Synopsis: Alanna has been plagued by tragedy. So it should come as no surprise that in the beauty that surrounds Charleston, all is not as it seems.

When her husband is killed by a car bomb while their band is on tour in Charleston, Alanna doesn’t know where to turn. Her father-in-law is threatening to take custody of the baby she carries, but the one thing she knows for sure is that she can’t lose the last piece of Liam she has left.

Their manager offers her a marriage of convenience to gain her U.S. citizenship and allow her to escape her father-in-law’s control. It seems like the perfect solution . . . but her doubts begin almost as soon as she arrives at Barry’s family home, a decaying mansion surrounded by swamp.

To make matters worse, Liam’s best friend survived the car bomb. She’s never really liked Jesse and now she can’t seem to get away from him. When he takes Liam’s place in their band, it’s almost more than she can bear.

But then things start happening. Things that could easily cost Alanna her life—or the life of her unborn child. Are they merely coincidences? Or is there something much more sinister at work?

My Thoughts: I had never read a book by Colleen Coble but she’s a popular author in the Christian Fiction world so I was excited to request and read this book. I was a bit hesitant about it as I’m not a fan of romance but this book was light on the romance and heavy on the suspense (which is what I love).

The story was unique and had a gothic feel as a large part of it took place in a large dilapidated mansion in Charleston, South Carolina. It was very atmospheric and entertaining to read.

I enjoyed each page that I read, the writing was very fluid and the pacing was steady. I found the story very entertaining. Unfortunately, it was also very predictable and extremely far-fetched and unrealistic. I guessed each surprise and was a bit disappointed in the main character’s lack of insight into what was really happening.

Although the story was far-fetched and predictable, I still found it very entertaining and would definitely pick up another book by Colleen Coble in the future.

My Rating: 3 and a half stars

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Breaking Free by Jennifer Slattery Review

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Synopsis: Sometimes it takes losing everything to grab hold of what really matters. Women s ministry leader and Seattle housewife, Alice Goddard, and her successful graphic-designer husband appear to have it all together. Until their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage?

My Thoughts: This story is an eye opening look at what addiction can do to a person and how it  affects the people around them. Trent has fallen into a pit of alcoholism and gambling. His wife Alice is trying to deal with the effects of his choices. The author never sugar coats the situation, she shows how a person can truly hit rock bottom. She then shows how God can pull us out of any pit and set us back on the path.

I loved all the characters in this book. They were all developed very well. Alice is a devoted Christian woman who learns what it means to trust in God and to forgive and show grace. Trent, whose intentions are good is caught up in a trap of gambling and alcoholism, thinking that “this will be the last time”. I also loved Alice’s friend Beth, who is supportive of Alice and never gives up on praying for her.

This book shows a great look at addiction and how it can take a hold of a person. It had some surprises and a great ending. I would definitely recommend this book.

My Rating: 4 stars

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Things we Knew by Catherine West Review

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Goodreads Synopsis: After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to harbor animosity toward their father, silently blaming him for their mother’s death. Nobody will talk about that dreadful day, and Lynette can’t remember a bit of it.

But when next-door neighbor Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, he brings the past with him. Once her brother’s best friend and Lynette’s first crush, Nick seems to hiding things from her. Lynette wonders what he knows about the day her mother died and hopes he might help her remember the things she can’t.

But Nick has no intention of telling Lynette the truth. Besides the damage it might cause his own family, he doesn’t want to risk harming the fragile friendship between him and the woman he once thought of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets begin to surface—secrets that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question all they ever believed in.

My Thoughts: This book had mystery and romance as well as some coming of age aspects to it. Set on Nantucket, the story centers around a family with secrets and some skeletons that are coming out of the closet.

I connected a lot to the main character, Lynette…she is the youngest sibling and is treated as such…her siblings left her to take care of her ailing father and they sometimes treat her as though she is still a child. As the “baby of the family”, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with some of the feelings Lynette was experiencing.

The secrets are slowly revealed as the story progresses. The pacing is good, the story progressed at a pace that made me want to keep reading.

I love the setting of Nantucket, it’s a very unique place and the type of small community where word gets around fast.

The romance in this book was done very well…there was no inst-love. It was presented in a very realistic way and was very sweet.

Overall, this was a great book. I was surprised by how gritty it was, but in a good way. It would make a great beach read.

My Rating: 4 stars

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

There Will Be Stars by Billy Coffey Review

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Goodreads Synopsis: No one in Mattingly ever believed Bobby Barnes would live to see old age. Drink would either rot Bobby from the inside out or dull his senses just enough to send his truck off the mountain on one of his nightly rides. Although Bobby believes such an end possible—and even likely—it doesn’t stop him from taking his twin sons Matthew and Mark into the mountains one Saturday night. A sharp curve, blinding headlights, metal on metal, his sons’ screams. Bobby’s final thought as he sinks into blackness is a curious one—there will be stars.

Yet it is not death that greets him beyond the veil. Instead, he returns to the day he has just lived and finds he is not alone in this strange new world. Six others are trapped there with him.

Bobby soon discovers that rather than the place of peace he had been led to believe he was in, it’s actually a place of secrets and hidden dangers. Along with three others, he seeks to escape, even as the world around him begins to crumble. The escape will lead some to greater life, others to endless death . . . and Bobby Barnes to understand the deepest nature of love.


My Thoughts: I wasn’t sure if I would like this book because the plot seemed a bit “out there”…the parallel world or alternate heaven story line isn’t something I’ve read much about and haven’t had much interest in. But this book was impossible for me to put down. This was a very deep story that delves into the choices we make and the effects of those choices.

This book was packed with twists and turns, I never knew what to expect with each turn of the page. The story was very unpredictable, but in a good way. The characters were richly developed. I really felt like I knew each person in the book. They each had their own issues…they were gritty, very flawed, and dimensional.

The author is very gifted at story telling…while reading this book, I was in the town of Mattingly, walking beside Bobby, Dorothea, George, and all the other characters. I will definitely be picking up more of his books in the future.

The plot is very clever and thought provoking and the pacing was great. I flew through this nearly 400 page book in 2 days which is very rare for me.

Overall, this was a very unique story that kept me interested from the first page to the last. I would highly recommend it!

My Rating: 5 stars

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.