Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Spotlight on BELA’S LETTERS by Jeff Ingber

04_Bela's Letters_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Today I’m throwing the spotlight on to BELA’S LETTERS, a novel by Jeff Ingber.

I have this book to read on my kindle and I can’t wait! However, my kindle burnt out this week so I am awaiting a new kindle. Apparently I read the old one to death.

This Spotlight includes a GIVEAWAY – at the end of the post!

Here’s the description from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours:

Béla’s Letters by Jeff Ingber

Publication Date: February 18, 2016
Paperback; 596 Pages
ISBN: 978-0985410025

Genre: Historical Fiction

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“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.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Author

03_Jeff Ingber

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.

For more information visit Jeff Ingber’s website. You can also connect with him onFacebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Follow the tour and discover a new blog!

Wednesday, May 25
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Spotlight at The True Book Addict

Friday, May 27
Spotlight at The Writing Desk
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Saturday, May 28
Spotlight at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, May 30
Excerpt at Diana’s Book Reviews

Friday, June 3
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Monday, June 6
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, June 7
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, June 8
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Interview at New Horizon Reviews

Thursday, June 9
Guest Post at New Horizon Reviews

Friday, June 10
Review at New Horizon Reviews

Monday, June 13
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Spotlight at It’s a Mad Mad World

Tuesday, June 14
Spotlight at The Mad Reviewer

Thursday, June 16
Review at Nerd in New York

Friday, June 17
Spotlight at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, June 21
Excerpt & Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads

Wednesday, June 22
Review at Bookish

Thursday, June 23
Spotlight at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Friday, July 1
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, July 4
Blog Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past

But wait! There’s more….

Giveaway

To win a copy of Béla’s Letters please enter using the GLEAM form below.

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/PIFUN/blas-letters

Thank you for making me part of the tour and for my e-copy!

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Two Stories of the Holocaust

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I recently read two very moving memoirs from the Holocaust: FAREWELL TO PRAGUE by Miriam Darvas (sent to me by the publisher) and OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS by Manny Steinberg (which I got free on my kindle).

Both were amazing stories of strength and resiliency.

OUTCRY is Mendel (Manny) Steinberg’s story of his family’s experience. Manny and his brother Stanley clung to each other and kept each other going to survive the brutal conditions that they were forced to endure at Auschwitz and three other concentration camps. Their story is remarkable and a testament to their faith and strength. Honestly, when you read it, you can hardly imagine how anyone could endure what they did. OUTCRY is a short book and reads very quickly. It is published by Amsterdam Publishers.

FAREWELL TO PRAGUE was sent to me by the publishers (MP Publishing). This another short but unforgettable account of a young person surviving the war. Miriam’s father was Jewish and her mother German, but her father was quite outspoken against the Nazi’s. Her family sends her miles away to safety, but she travels alone and has to rely on her own wits and strengths and the kindness of strangers.Eventually she makes her way to Britain with other child refugees.

Since both of these novels were short, I read one on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. I have to say, it was a bit depressing when I was done with these books. I think I’m drawn to Holocaust stories because I am so amazed by the resiliency of the authors, and the incredible experiences they had – and how they can find kindness and goodness in the midst of so much depravity. These two stories were no different. I must be honest, though — I was making dinner Sunday night and looking at all our nice food and actually started crying thinking about Manny and his brother and how starved they were.

You can find both of these stories online at Amazon. As of this writing, FAREWELL was 99 cents and OUTCRY was free for Kindle Unlimited. Look for them at your favorite indie, too!

 

 

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REVIEW: My Thinning Years by Jon Derek Croteau

A while back I received a note from a publicist asking if I would read and review Jon’s book: MY THINNING YEARS, which is subtitled, “Starving the Gay Within”. It had published this past fall. It took me FOREVER to get to the book, and then it took me a while to read it as Jon’s story is so heart-wrenching (though the book is under 300 pages).

This book is a memoir of Jon’s life growing up in Massachusetts and how he was stifled by an incredibly overbearing, opinionated, and demanding father. Jon’s life was made to be sports (whether he liked it or not). Jon’s proclivities as a child leaned more towards theater, dress-up, and singing, but his father was having none of it. As Jon matured, his tried to hide and deny his sexuality, instead exercising and running relentlessly, and dieting to the point of anorexia. Eventually, Jon is able to accept himself and make a life for himself, find love, and be happy.

I have to say – this book is at some points just heart-breaking. Jon’s father is determined to turn him into his ideal of “American boy” and it’s not a pretty process. Jon’s mother is the one who accepts him unconditionally, but she is just not strong enough to take on his father. It’s basically disaster after disaster and I just felt terrible for young Jon as he went through his younger years trying to escape his father’s wrath and trying to deny or hide his natural proclivities and talents.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. It’s brave of Jon to share his story with the world, and I hope that it helps other young people who may be at the point he was when younger.

Thank you for my review copy, Claire McKinney PR!

You can find this book at an indie bookstore near you — I am an Indie Bound Affiliate:


My Thinning Years

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Quick Review: AS YOU WISH by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

I was more than thrilled when Maria at Simon and Schuster asked me if I’d like to review Cary Elwes’ new book, the full title of which is As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. I just love that movie, and I figured it would be a fun read.

This book starts with Elwes getting cast to play Westley and goes through the entire filming and creation process. Interspersed throughout are pictures, along with quotes and snippets from other cast members, often sharing their view of the same incidents that Elwes writes about. His book is not a self-serving bit of megalomania (a worry I had since it is written by a Hollywood star!) but more of a tribute and a very touching personal recollection of what could be described as the best job of his life. Throughout it you come to intimately know the real people behind the characters, along with Rob Reiner, the director (apparently one of the greatest and most lovable guys in Hollywood). This book was a lovely and fun read, paying homage to a film classic that many of us count in our top ten favorite flicks of all time.

If you love this film, don’t miss reading AS YOU WISH.

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

 

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Quick Review: ON MOUTAINEERING by Radford C. West

My friends at Smith Publicity sent me this small volume to read and review. ON MOUNTAINEERING is part memoir, part travel guide, part tips and suggestions all related to mountain climbing. Radford West started mountain climbing after returning from duty in Vietnam in the early 1970’s. He covers seven different climbs, complete with pictures and his personal journal entries from the times he climbed them. Since they read almost like individual vignettes, you can easily pick up this book for a short time and revisit it later without losing the flow. The entire volume is only a bit over 100 pages.

Inspiring, interesting, and informative, ON MOUNTAINEERING is a fine read for those interested in mountain climbing – both in real life and through armchair travel!

Thank you, Kendell at Smith Publicity, for my copy.

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Quick YA Review: SURVIVING THE ANGEL OF DEATH by Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri

This YA read is subtitled The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz. Jewish twins, Eva Mozes and her sister Miriam, along with their parents and sisters, are sent to Auschwitz in 1944 from their home in Romania. While their family is sent to the gas chambers, Eva and Miriam are selected to be part of Mengele’s study group of twins. While their treatment is considered better than the regular prisoners (but don’t kid yourself- this is a concentration camp and no one is treated well!), Eva’s determination to protect Miriam and survive the war gives her an incredible resiliency and strength to carry on.

This was a very short read for me – less than 200 pages – and it follows Eva and Miriam’s story from being taken to the camps, to their experience there, to their survival after the war. Aimed for a middle to high school audience, the book is less graphic than other Holocaust stories, but it is understandably still highly disturbing. The inclusion of pictures from before and after the war are a nice touch. Written as a memoir, we get Eva’s voice throughout. Particularly touching in this book is how Eva found forgiveness in her heart years after her war experience was over.

Thank you, Net Galley and Tanglewood Press, for my review copy.

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Review: SECRET STORMS by Kathy Hatfield and Julie Mannix von Zerneck

I was recently contacted by Rachel, the publicist for SECRET STORMS, to see if I’d like to read and review this novel. It sounded interesting — a mother and daughter reunited 43 years after the young mother had given her baby up for adoption. It was a true story, too, and I said yes.

Once I started SECRET STORMS I could not put it down! I read 300 pages the first afternoon and finished it the next day. SECRET STORMS (which is subtitled: A Mother and Daughter: Lost then Found) starts in 1963 with teenage, Philadelphia debutante Julie Mannix being admitted into a psychiatric hospital. She is nineteen and pregnant. Her parents feel that hospitalizing her for the extent of her pregnancy is for her own safety and well-being, and they really want her to have an abortion, but she refuses. So Julie experiences her pregnancy while living with some interesting characters who are suffering from various psychiatric illnesses, oddly reminiscent of Girl, Interrupted. Upon having her baby girl, the baby is taken away for adoption and Julie goes home and tries to return to a “normal” life (though her family life is far from normal). Julie continues with acting and has a growing career as a stage and screen actress. She marries the father of her child and they start a life together. However, she never is able to forget her first baby, or truly forgive herself.

Meanwhile, baby “Aimee” grows up as “Kathy”, in a loving family with two brothers. Sadly, her adoptive mother dies from cancer when the three children are all less than ten years old. This is a devastating loss for the family and one from which they never truly recover. Her father tries to keep it together, with first his parents living with them and then by remarrying the beautiful but unpredictable and abusive Gloria. I felt for this family so much. This poor man lost his wife, then had a disastrous marriage, then lost his job and his house and a lot of his income. The kids were amazingly resilient, but it was a sad story.

Eventually, though, Julie and Kathy’s paths cross, and they finally build a life together as mother and daughter.

This was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I felt so much for little Kathy growing up and all the hardships she faced. I was also fascinated with the unique childhood that Julie had with her somewhat eccentric parents and their lifestyle. It seemed incredible to me that, with a little luck, Kathy was able to find her mother in about 15 minutes using the Internet. If this wasn’t a true story I would have said that was unbelievable!

I highly recommend this story for those who enjoy this type of family drama and memoir.

You can see it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Quick Review: ONE GOOD EGG by Suzy Becker

I had heard of Suzy Becker – we live in the same small town – so I was happy to see ONE GOOD EGG pop up on Net Galley. I downloaded a galley to read and also contacted Suzy (I hope to follow up this review with an author interview!).

ONE GOOD EGG is Suzy’s very personal story of finding her life partner and wife, Lorene, and their quest to have a baby. Suzy’s struggles with infertility and their journey to motherhood is the basis of this book – often told so humorously it had me laughing aloud. Suzy has illustrated this memoir with line drawings, most of which are witty, too. Beyond the “top story” of Suzy’s journey through life decisions, infertility, fertilization (from donor friend Steve), pregnancy, and childbirth, is a touching and very candid look inside a very likable and honest woman.

While some readers may find this book’s honesty about Suzy’s pregnancy too personal, others will be nodding their heads in recognition of a journey that was similar to their own.

Thank you, Suzy, for sharing your very personal experience with us -and the offer of an author interview still stands! 🙂

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Thanks, Net Galley and Bloomsbury USA, for my digital download!

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Review: “A Soul’s Calling” by Scott Bishop

Several weeks ago, Scott Bishop contacted me to ask if I would like to read and review his book, “A Soul’s Calling”. Termed a memoir, this novel tells Scott’s own story to climb to base camp on Mount Everest as part of a physical and spiritual journey. I’ve always liked the “journey to find oneself” theme, so I said yes.

Scott is not a mountaineer. In fact, he is a lawyer in New Jersey with limited wilderness experience. Additionally, Scott’s spirituality plays a huge part in who he is. In a nutshell, Scott sees and talks to spirits – entities from the “other side”. These spirits guide Scott and control him to an extent. They compelled him to go on this trek. Scott is also well versed in Shamanism.

I have to say that I found the journey to Everest the most interesting part of this book. I always have the utmost respect for folks who do these amazing physical treks. Personally, I would never ever be able to do it – not would I want to. It sounds downright miserable — rewarding once you get these and once it’s over — but seriously miserable. I found Scott’s “travelogue” so to speak interesting and I only wish there were pictures as it sounded like it would be visually stunning. I also was intrigued with the relationship between Scott and his porter and his guide. Both of these men, locals, adhered to stringent “social codes” designated by their position in their society/culture. I found the rigid mores held in the local culture there so interesting. i would have liked to hear more about the people!

While I generally find people’s beliefs and spirituality interesting to read about, this whole aspect of the book did not speak to me, and instead bogged me down in my reading. With the exception of an interesting passage where Scott explains the tenets of Shamanism to a fellow traveller, I found Scott’s struggles with darkness and malevolent forces distracting me from the Everest storyline. There was a lot of darkness/angst/tears/fear/torment. At one point I wondered how Scott ever got a good night’s sleep as he always seemed to be tormented by spirit that he was fighting and that had made him go on this journey.

All in all, an interesting read – and I have to say that Scott seems like a genuinely good guy. Thanks for sharing your book with me, Scott!

You can see this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

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Review: “Wild – from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed

My friend Alison suggested I read Cheryl Strayed’s new book “Wild” (thanks, Al!). I tend to stay away from Oprah book club suggestions (purely because I find EVERYONE is reading them and talking about them) but this one looked so intriguing that I purchased it from Amazon.

You probably have already heard about this book, but in case you haven’t, “Wild” follows Cheryl Strayed’s trek along 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (the western cousin to the East’s Appalachian Trail) as she seeks to heal and redefine her life. At the start of the book we find Cheryl as a lost soul. Her mother has died (which devastates her), her relationship with her family of origin is shaky, her biological father is out of the picture, and she’s recently divorced her husband (who seems like he’s still a steady “beacon” in the mire her life has become). She’s been dating a guy who gets her into heroine. She’s openly honest about her sexual promiscuity. In a word, Cheryl is a bit of a mess. Then she decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to save and heal herself. It’s a classic “journey to find oneself” story, but it’s Strayed’s own memoir.

I have to say when I started reading this novel, I did not relate to or care for our protagonist. She seemed incredibly self-centered, to the point of hedonistic. She was drifting around her in her life, making bad decisions. She was suffering but dealing with her suffering through self-indulgence. Then she almost randomly decides to hike the PCT with little to no preparation or experience. I actually found that part funny. It was then that I started to connect with Cheryl as her first hiking days were basically bumbling and mishaps. I’d think to myself: “Gee, that would probably be my experience, too: blisters, rattlesnakes, a too-heavy pack, and band-aids that blow away”. By the time Cheryl got to Northern California I was rooting for her to finish. I was hoping she stayed safe (personally, the thought of trekking 1,100 miles alone is terrifying). I was hoping she figured out that her drug use and abuse and her sexual behaviors were not the way to deal with her pain and grief. I was hoping she would come through the journey stronger and wiser and healed.

I’ll leave it to you readers to discover how Cheryl makes out!

See this book on Amazon where I am an Associate:

 

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