Publication Date: February 18, 2016
Paperback; 596 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
“Béla’s Letters” is a historical fiction novel spanning eight decades. It revolves around the remarkable life story of Béla Ingber, who was born before the onset of WWI in Munkács, a small city nestled in the Carpathian Mountains. The book tells of the struggles of Béla and his extended family to comprehend and prepare for the Holocaust, the implausible circumstances that the survivors endure before reuniting in the New World, and the crushing impact on them of their wartime experiences together with the feelings of guilt, hatred, fear, and abandonment that haunt them. At the core of the novel are the poignant letters and postcards that family members wrote to Béla, undeterred by the feasibility of delivery, which were his lifeline, even decades after the war ended.
About the Author
Jeff is a financial industry consultant, who previously held senior positions at Citibank, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation. His latest book is “Bela’s Letters,” a family memoir based on his parents, who were survivors of the Hungarian Holocaust. Jeff also has written a screenplay entitled “The Bank Examiners.” He lives with his wife in Jersey City, NJ.
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Lots of other blogs with vast archives do this so I figured I might as well try it out too. What is a ‘blast from the past’ here on The Mad Reviewer? Well, for our purposes it will be me plugging some of my older posts way back from 2012 and 2013 (possibly even 2014) that my newer subscribers may have missed. Some of them are not the best written but I’ve definitely improved over time and my older posts are definitely a reflection of my blogging inexperience. They’re still pretty cool, though, if I do say so myself.
So here are some random articles over the years that I’ve particularly liked or had fun writing:
1. Why are Zombies so Scary? (March 2012)
Here in this post I examine the reasons why zombies used to terrify me and why they continue to terrify other people, even with the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead. Read the comment section to discover how zombies are like cows as well.
2. What Makes a Character Memorable? (March 2012)
What makes a character memorable? Why is it that some characters stick out to us and we remember them years later whereas some characters you forget instantly after finishing a book?
3. Accuracy in Historical Fiction (April 2012)
My views surrounding accuracy in historical fiction have slightly changed since this post but the essence of it is true: most history is exciting enough that it doesn’t need to be changed by authors.
4. A Plea for Diversity in Fantasy (April 2012)
No, this isn’t about racial and other diversity (I’ve addressed that in other posts) but instead this was a desperate plea for some unique plots in fantasy, YA fantasy in particular. I think part of my problem at the time was the fact it was the height of Twilight fever and I desperately needed a form of brain bleach to displace all the Team Edward vs. Team Jacob nonsense.
5. Should Reviewers Give Bad Reviews? (July 2012)
Yep, this controversy has raged for years and will continue to go on long after this generation of bloggers quits. Should reviewers give bad reviews or simply not post bad reviews? I think by now you guys know what side I’m on.
(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Selah Kilbrid keeps a dangerous secret: she has the power to heal.
A direct descendent of the Celtic goddess Brigid, it’s Selah’s sacred duty to help those in need. But as the last of the Goddess Born living in the New World, she learned from an early age to keep her supernatural abilities hidden. The Quaker community of Hopewell has always been welcoming, but there’s no doubt they would see her hanged if her gift was revealed.
When a prominent minister threatens to try her with witchcraft unless she becomes his wife, Selah has only one hope–that her betrothed, a distant cousin from Ireland, arrives as planned. Marrying Samuel would keep her secret safe, preserve her sacred bloodline, and protect her from being charged as a witch.
But when news of Samuel’s death reaches the Colonies, Selah is truly on her own. Terrified, she faces an impossible choice–forfeit her powers and marry the loathsome Nathan? Or find an imposter to pose as her husband and preserve her birthright?
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]
From the blurb, I had pretty high expectations about Goddess Born. Not only that, it came highly recommended to me from a friend/colleague! So you could say Kari Edgren’s book had a lot to live up to. As it turns out, Goddess Born would far exceed my high expectations. The characters were excellent, the world-building was fantastic and Kari Edgren brought the early Colonies to life.
First off, the characters were excellent. Selah in reality, had a horrible decision to make when she learned of her cousin’s death. Her father is dead so there’s no man to protect her from the law and Nathan’s wrath. Her only hope is to marry her cousin, who’s dead. But nobody in Hopewell knows that, do they? So she embarks on a long, arduous and sometimes funny journey when she marries Henry, an indentured servant set to play the role of her cousin. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that yes, of course Henry and Selah are going to develop feelings for each other, but I also have to say that those feelings were far from Insta-Love. In fact, it was almost Insta-Hate for a while there.
Both Selah and Henry stand out for me as characters. They both have complicated histories behind the circumstances that found them married and neither one is really keen to divulge their past to the other. At the same time, it’s obvious that both of them feel for the other’s plight. Selah doesn’t like forcing Henry into a marriage just to save her own skin and Henry doesn’t like the fact that he’s the only one standing between Selah and Nathan’s considerable wrath. He feels for Selah and she for him, but of course things are always more complicated than that.
As for the magic of Selah’s line, I think it was pretty well thought out. It comes from the Celtic goddess Brigid and puts a lot of strain on its possessors. They have the power of life and death over medical matters, so you really have to appreciate the fact that Selah is a good person who would never hurt anyone, even her own worst enemy. Power like that can become heady and change people, but Selah is the sweet and level-headed young woman that she always has been. What I really liked about the fact of Selah’s power is that she does run out and she does have to do a complicated ritual to renew it by going to the Otherworld. Maintaining her power is not easy and adds another layer of conflict, rather than like in most stories where the power is never-ending and/or naturally replenishes itself.
I have to say that I also loved both the descriptions of the time as well as the pacing of the plot. Kari Edgren really made me feel like I was in Pennsylvania in 1730, even though obviously I haven’t and I’ve never even studied that period of history. I can’t vouch for authenticity in her descriptions but I do know that her writing really makes you feel like you’re in the period. Sometimes that’s almost better than being accurate and boring. The pacing, however, doesn’t allow for boredom. It starts out a little slow at first, but quickly we have Selah’s life spiraling out of control as Nathan makes his ultimatum, her father dies, she learns her cousin dies and she marries an indentured servant to pose as him. There is no such thing as a boring moment in Goddess Born.
So, at the end of all this, I don’t have anything but praise for this book. It came highly recommended and exceeded my expectations. It was fast-paced, felt historically authentic and the characters were amazing. I can’t recommend it enough and even if you’re not necessarily a big reader of historical fiction, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.
I give this book 5/5 stars.
Join Anna Belfrage as her beloved time-slip series, The Graham Saga, is featured around the blogosphere from July 28-August 15 with HF Virtual Book Tours and enter to win your own set of Books 1-6!
About The Graham Saga
This is the story of Alex and Matthew, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him.
It all began the day Alex Lind got caught in a thunderstorm. Not your ordinary storm, no this was the mother of all storms, causing a most unusual rift in the fabric of time. Alex was dragged three centuries backwards in time, landing more or less at the feet of a very surprised Matthew Graham.
In a series of books we follow the life and adventures of the expanding Graham family, both in Scotland and in the New World – and let me tell you it is quite an exciting life, at times excessively so in Alex’ opinion.
Sometimes people ask me why Alex had to be born in the twentieth century, why not make her a woman born and bred in the seventeenth century where the story is set? The answer to that is I have no idea. Alex Lind is an insistent, vibrant character that sprung into my head one morning and simply wouldn’t let go.
Seductively she whispered about terrible thunderstorms, about a gorgeous man with magic, hazel eyes, about loss and sorrow, about love – always this love, for her man and her children, for the people she lives with. With a throaty chuckle she shared insights into a life very far removed from mine, now and then stopping to shake her head and tell me that it probably hadn’t been easy for Matthew, to have such an outspoken, strange and independent woman at his side.
At this point Matthew groaned into life. Nay, he sighed, this woman of his was at times far too obstinate, with no notion of how a wife should be, meek and dutiful. But, he added with a laugh, he wouldn’t want her any different, for all that she was half heathen and a right hand-full. No, he said, stretching to his full length, if truth be told not a day went by without him offering fervent thanks for his marvelous wife, a gift from God no less, how else to explain the propitious circumstances that had her landing at his feet that long gone August day?
Still, dear reader, it isn’t always easy. At times Alex thinks he’s an overbearing bastard, at others he’s sorely tempted to belt her. But the moment their fingertips graze against each other, the moment their eyes meet, the electrical current that always buzzes between them peaks and surges, it rushes through their veins, it makes their breathing hitch and … She is his woman, he is her man. That’s how it is, that’s how it always will be.
Graham Saga Titles
Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest (November 2014)
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (March 2015)
About the Author
Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…
For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.
For additional information regarding Anna, her characters, extra scenes, and teasers for her next books, have a look at Anna’s website at: www.annabelfrage.com. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.
Book Blast Schedule
Tuesday, July 29
So Many Books, So Little Time
Wednesday, July 30
A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Thursday, July 31
Friday, August 1
The Lit Bitch
Saturday, August 2
Tuesday, August 5
Wednesday, August 6
The True Book Addict
Thursday, August 7
Impressions in Ink
Saturday, August 9
Historical Fiction Connection
Monday, August 11
Gobs and Gobs of Books
Tuesday, August 12
Pages of Comfort
Wednesday, August 13
Thursday, August 14
Passages to the Past
Friday, August 15
To win a set of Anna Belfrage’s Graham Saga (Books 1-6) please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Two winners will be chosen. Giveaway is open internationally!
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 16th and notified via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Designed by: Nadica Boskovska
Series: The Diviner’s Trilogy #3
Genre: Epic/Historical Fantasy
The man Maea loved is gone. Johai has been possessed both body and soul by the specter. The newly possessed Johai has not wasted time as Maea discovers through the link they seem to share. Johai is plotting with the Biski to start war against the kingdoms. In order to prevent the coming war, Maea goes south to the wilds where the Biski tribes reign in order to search out the Oracle, the only person who seems to know how to help Maea perfect her powers.
The prophecy has awoken and the prophesized day is fast approaching. Everything Maea has learned in her journey will guide her to the final meeting between Johai and herself. The age old battle between the diviners and the specter will end with her. Only one may live. Is Maea ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for love?
Other books in the series designed by Nadica Boskovska
Nicolette Andrews lives in beautiful Southern California with her husband and two daughters. She is the author of the Diviner’s Trilogy and other works of fantasy. She’s been know to often escape into world of fantasy and has happily been playing make-believe her entire life. When she is not writing, she enjoys gardening, spending time with her family and numerous outdoor activities, including hiking and camping.
Other books in the series
HF Virtual Book Tours invites you to join Joyce Wayne as she tours the blogosphere for The Cook’s Temptation! Enter the giveaway to win an eBook of The Cook’s Temptation or a $10 Amazon Gift Card!
Publication Date: February 1, 2014
Formats: Ebook, Paperback
Joyce Wayne brings to life the complexities of Victorian life, first in County Devon and then in London’s East End. The ‘big picture’ is about one woman’s life, class conflict, religious intolerance, suspicion and betrayal. The central figure is Cordelia, a strong-minded Jewish woman who is caught between her desire to be true to herself and her need to be accepted by English society.Cordelia Tilley is the daughter of a Jewish mother and an Anglican father. Her mother has groomed her for a life in English society while her father, a tough publican, has shown no tolerance for his wife’s social climbing or the conceits of their perspicacious daughter. Cordelia’s mother dies from typhoid fever, she tries to run the family ‘s establishment, she falls prey to a local industrialist, she gives birth to a son, she is tormented by her husband and his family. Finally, she is rescued by suffragette friends and sets off to start a new life in London.The Cook’s Temptation is about a woman who is unpredictable, both strong and weak willed, both kind and heinous, victim and criminal. It is a genuine Victorian saga, full of detail, twists and turns, memorable scenes, full of drama and pathos.
Praise for The Cook’s Temptation
“Joyce Wayne’s debut novel, The Cook’s Temptation, has the stately bearing of a nineteenth century novel – the mercilessness of Thomas Hardy, the black allegory of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the tense marriages of George Eliot. It is a story of how people become what you blame them for being.” – Ian Williams, poet and fiction writer, short listed for the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize
Buy the Book
Joyce Wayne has an MA in English literature, has taught journalism at Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario, for twenty-five years, and lives in Toronto, Ontario. She was a winner of the Diaspora Dialogues contest for fiction and the Fiona Mee Award for literary journalism. She is the co writer of the documentary film So Far From Home (2010), a film about refugee journalists persecuted for their political views, and various of her other works have been published in Parchment, Golden Horseshoe Anthology, Canadian Voices, and TOK6.