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31 December 2010

Ahhh...the Nook Color...


Happy New Year, everyone!!

And I cannot even believe it!  A last minute trip to see my sister, brother-in-law and niece and nephew this week resulted in the product that I have been drooling over since September!  The Nook!  And I got the new one - the Nook Color!  My sister, the photographer, took the below pictures - visit her at Digital Graces!

Digital Graces

I must admit - I did research on the various options out there, but I really had my heart set on the Nook, primarily because I liked the idea of being able to bring it into a Barnes & Noble store if I had a question on it and I could then talk to a real human being instead of having to mail it out someplace.

Here is the main reason I wanted an electronic device - I travel for work frequently and trust me when I say, The Historian hardcover is no fun to carry around through airport after airport when you're also lugging a carry-on and a briefcase.

But I worried about whether or not I could truly sit still and read from an electronic device and be as satisfied with this form of reading versus the actual feel of book and paper in my hands.  The feel of the pages turning, the smell of the book.  I thought I would hate reading an electronic version.



So I planned to download The Passage if I ever got something like this since I've read more than enough reviews on how fantastic it was. I figured this would be the book that would help initiate me into the world of reading electronically.

I absolutely love it!  The Passage was just the trick to open the doors into this type of reading - and the Nook Color is fantastic!  The colors are wonderful, and if there is a wi-fi available, I can just connect to it and jump onto any site that I want to, so it has a multipurpose function.  It also has a bunch of extras already downloaded such as Pandora and Sudoku - so I don't think I will ever have a problem dealing with my travel again!

*Primary Suggestion
If you are brand new to an electronic device, make sure you download a book that you know will thoroughly engage you.  It wouldn't have been wise for me to download a classic to initiate me into this e-reading world!

I also got a fantastic Nook cover as well with a wonderful quote from Sir Christopher Wren.  "Choose an author as you choose a friend."

So on this New Year's Eve night, I will be celebrating with family and a fabulous book!  I hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year!




















Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

26 December 2010

I am always a fan of books that make me dive in and read more about the historical time period that is featured, and By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan is one of them - you can read my review by clicking here.  I'm so thrilled that the author stopped by today for a guest post and to go into more detail about the foundation of the Spanish Inquisition which his debut novel discusses. As the Jews in Spain feared for their lives while practicing their faith, and as a New Inquisition was assembled to reveal Jews who, although already converted to Christianity, were rumored to secretly study their religion, Christopher Columbus was campaigning to get support to travel to areas of the world never before seen. Written beautifully and filled with real people from this time, By Fire, By Water is one to be picked up immediately for yourself, as a gift for someone else, or as a book club selection.
 ________________________________________________________________________
The Roots of the Spanish Inquisition: A Brief Overview of a Complicated Subject 
People often refer to the Spanish Inquisition as “the inquisition.”  That is misleading. During the middle ages, there were many inquisitions throughout Europe. They shared a common goal: to investigate accusations of heresy, and thus save souls.
The Spanish Inquisition, especially during its first decades (let's say 1478-1500), was unique in three respects: It sought to investigate primarily one heresy, the “judaizing” heresy; its methods were unusually harsh, even by the standards of the time; and it operated independently of papal oversight. How and why did such an aberration come into being?
During the fourteenth century, and well into the fifteenth – particularly, during the 1390s and 1410s – ferocious anti-semitic riots swept the Iberian peninsula. A variety of forces caused these riots, some specific to the time and place, others characteristic of European anti-semitism in general:
Xenophobia. Jews were the most universal, socio-economically important, and yet vulnerable “other” woven into the fabric of European society. This was particularly the case in Spain, where the Jewish population was well-established, large, and influential, but hemmed-in by a wide range of legal restrictions.
Religion. Medieval Christianity held all Jews, for all time, personally responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jewish refusal to acknowledge Jesus's divinity struck many Christians as stubborn, contemptuous, and blind.  Anger and blame swelled in times of distress.
Politics. During the middle of the fourteenth century, Pedro of Castile vied with his illegitimate half-brother, Henry de Trastamara for the crown. Pedro relied upon the support  (including financial support) of Jews, while Henry claimed the allegiance of anti-Jews and used anti-Jewish sentiment as a tool to rouse the populace against Pedro. A number of eloquent and popular preachers supported Henry, who ultimately prevailed by murdering Pedro.
And last but not least, economics. Due to laws supposedly grounded in the Bible, Christians were not permitted to lend money at interest to other Christians; nor were Jews allowed to lend money at interest to other Jews. (A similar rule still pertains in Muslim sharia law today.) Therefore, Christians who needed to borrow money often turned to Jews and vice-versa. Since the Jewish population was so much smaller than the Christian one, these rules had the unintended effect of concentrating wealth into the hands of Jews, which led to additional resentment.
It should be added that Jewish trade with Christians was limited, as was the right of Jews to own land. As a result, and because Jewish culture placed value on learning, Jews tended to excel only in certain well-defined economic areas, including artisanal trades, cartography, law, and medicine (in addition to money-lending).
When the anti-semitic riots of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries threatened their lives, many Jews opted for survival rather than martyrdom, and converted to Christianity. Such forced conversions led to widespread suspicion. How could someone who embraced Christianity on pain of death be trusted to believe -- truly and deeply -- in the dogma of his or her newfound faith?
Keep in mind that we're talking about a society where crimes of belief were considered far more important than violations of secular law. A Christian who held unusual ideas about the nature of the Trinity or the timing of the apocalypse was viewed as more dangerous than a thief or a rapist. In fact, behaviors that we consider criminal today, such as murder and torture, were deemed not merely acceptable but righteous when they were “justified” by dogma.
Crimes of belief were not feared merely because they endangered individuals' souls, but also because they sometimes threatened the authority of the Church. And so the Church created “inquisitorial tribunals” to investigate alleged crimes of this type.
Had Spain's New Christians (that is, the Jews who converted to Christianity and their descendants) merely been suspected of insincerity in their new faith, that would have been bad enough. Even worse, they came to be seen as a distinct socio-economic class.  Freed from the economic restrictions of the ghetto, some converses found their unique skills and talents to be highly profitable in the much larger economic marketplace of Christian Spain. Families including the Santangel, Sanchez, and de la Caballeria clans grew immensely wealthy and powerful. New Christians constituted an upwardly mobile, proto-capitalistic entity in the heart of feudal medieval society.
As this “class” grew in wealth and influence, it came to be seen as a threat both to aristocrats (who owned land and armies, but rarely had access to a great deal of liquid wealth) and to peasants (who saw the ascendancy of Jews or quasi-Jews as an inversion of the God-ordained social order). Thomas de Torquemada came up with a brilliant way to solve these “problems.” Rather than merely accuse New Christians of deviance, why not create a New Inquisition to determine whether or not they really were guilty of “judaizing?” If they were, the Church of Spain would have the right to deprive them of their wealth, sharing it with the monarchs, initially Isabella (in Castile) and later Ferdinand (when the New Inquisition would expand into the kingdom of Aragon).
To establish any inquisitorial tribunal, however, it was necessary to obtain the authorization of the pope. From Rome's point of view, there were several problems with Torquemada's plan. First, the converses objected, both verbally and financially. These were men of influence whom the pope took seriously. They professed to be sincere in their Christian faith, and demonstrated their loyalty by supporting Christian monarchs and the papacy. Second, in Torquemada's plan for a “New Inquisition,” there was no provision for seized wealth to be shared with Rome.  The pope therefore initially refused to authorize its establishment in Spain.
In response, King Ferdinand wrote to the pope saying that Castille and Aragon would refuse to help defend Rome from the Ottomans, who had taken over Constantinople only thirty years earlier and who were rapidly expanding westward. If the Ottomans conquered Rome, Christendom would end in the west just as it had recently ended in the east with the fall of Byzantium.
Needless to say, with his back to the wall, the pope eventually found merit in Torquemada's idea, and the New Inquisition – which we call the Spanish Inquisition – was born. Relations between the dual crowns of Spain and the pope remained tense, though, and Rome objected more than once (without success) to the ferocity of the New Inquisition's practices.
If all this seems complicated, I apologize. But I don't care for simplistic, reductionist explanations of history any more than I like simplistic novels (good guy vs. bad guy novels).  Historical changes are like meteorological phenomena: a variety of forces, some observed and some not, conspire to create vast blizzards and balmy Indian summers. The roots of the Spanish inquisition extended deep into Judeo-Christian and European culture. Its leaves (if I may be permitted to stretch the metaphor) still litter the ground of our contemporary existence.
________________________________________________________________________ 
About Mitchell James Kaplan
Mitchell James Kaplan has lived and worked primarily in Paris and Los Angeles as a translator, screenwriter, and script consultant.  Currently, he resides in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.  This is his first novel.

Visit the author's site by clicking here.


Note from Coffee and a Book Chick
I'd like to personally thank Mitchell James Kaplan for staying so incredibly engaged with his readers and the book blogging community, even during his busy author tour and holiday season -- when an author does this, you know they believe strongly in what they have created, and it is a treat to be a part of that.  Many, many thanks to him and I look forward to his next book!

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

24 December 2010

Merry Christmas...and Do You Track Santa?


A very Merry Christmas to all - I can't thank you enough for regularly visiting my blog, reading, and commenting!

And tonight, don't forget to let the little ones track Santa's trips through NORAD.  After all, if a bi-national government organization tracks Santa, Santa must be real, right?  Check out their satellite tracking system to see how close Santa is to your house...

Feeling like a vintage Christmas spirit this year?  Oh, if only I could travel back in time...

Clara Bow, 1920
Welcome Home, Soldier. Christmas 1945
Jane Greer
Clara Bow, 1927
Marilyn Monroe

Happy Reading!
Coffee and a Book Chick

22 December 2010

Planning to Live, by Heather Wardell


From the Author's Site
Thirty-something Rhiannon is an obsessive planner and goal-setter, but somehow nothing she achieves ever seems good enough to her. Determined to lose forty pounds for her best friend's August wedding, Rhiannon flees her parents' house in a Christmas-day blizzard to avoid the temptation of all her favorite foods, but her car skids off the deserted road into a tree.
Unable to escape the car, with her leg trapped and bleeding and her cell phone out of reach, Rhiannon is at first certain she'll be rescued and writes notes to her friends and family to pass the time. As the weather cools and her condition deteriorates, though, she recognizes the possibility that her life might be over. Interspersed with increasingly desperate escape attempts, her letters become deeper and more heart-felt as she comes to see what really matters in life.


It's not a story I normally would have picked up to read, however I found it enjoyable.  The majority of the story is told in flashback and Rhiannon is definitely your standard high achiever and go-getter.  She's obsessed with goals and closes each day by running off her list of achievements while staring at herself in the mirror.  She applies the same methodical and diligent approach to all areas of her life, with her job as a brilliant programmer for a computer game, and with her attempt to lose weight.  There is a separate storyline with her former fiancĂ© that really did keep the first 100 pages turning and the event that separates "before" and "now" is definitely not what you would expect, but it helps to clear up why Rhiannon has become even more goal-obsessed.

However, it's clear that Rhiannon's way of life is debilitating.  No one can be this driven in life without losing something else in the process, and she is no different.  The sacrifices that she makes to always check each item off her list seem suffocating, and almost a never-ending cycle of never feeling good enough.  I did wish that the story had been told more in a third person voice versus first person -- at times it seemed tough to really get to know the character because Rhiannon herself may not have been familiar with who she truly was.  And maybe that was the goal, but I think I would have felt it a bit more grounded if told in a more removed voice.  There also were a few scenes that, with clapping and cheering from co-workers, seemed just a little contrived and fit more with a typical "Hollywood" moment than in a story of a real girl who is faced with a revelation at, potentially, the last moments of her life.

The story, though, was well written and paced -- Rhiannon is an "every-girl" character.  Relatable to many women, her struggle to lose weight is forefront, but underneath it, her thoughts of true happiness in life are overshadowed by the immediate danger that she is in.  While she struggles to stay alive, she writes letters to the people that mean the most to her and as she writes, she feels the strength to acknowledge that perhaps she didn't really live her life the way she should have.  Is the realization too little, too late?  Or is it too late, but enough?  Questions that all of us, at one point or another, go through.

It's a sad story, yet uplifting, and it did keep my interest.  While it still may not be the type of book I normally pick up in the future, I enjoyed the story, and felt a bit better for it.

Thanks to the Crazy Book Tours for providing a copy for my review.  Visit the author's site by clicking here.

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

15 December 2010

My Persephone Secret Santa Revealed...


I am so very excited to share with you all the wonderful gift I received celebrating the Persephone Secret Santa program hosted this year by Claire from the Paperback Reader.  There were thirty-three participants from all over the world.  Made up of book bloggers, Library Thing members, and Twitter readers, she coordinated it so efficiently - thank you, Claire!  This is my first time participating and it will be my very first time reading a Persephone book, so I know I am in for a treat.

Thanks go to...  the fabulous Nadia at A Bookish Way of Life!!  She also just happened to throw in Sense and Sensibility and Monsters.  I've never read one of these sorts of books before, so I'm definitely excited for it!  And... the big reveal was the Persephone book -- The Making of a Marchioness, by Frances Hodgson Burnett!  Persephone Book # 29 was published in 1901 and is 328 pages of the most beautiful paper and ink printed upon it that I've ever had the good luck to lay my eyes upon and my hands to touch!  I am quite a lucky gal and I cannot wait to dive into this book.  According to Nadia, she wrote in her card that she felt it was a cheerful, happy story -- perfect for the holidays!

Oh, did I forget to mention that she also included that little red box full of delectable chocolate from Lindt? Have I failed to share with you that I dream of chocolate, will devour it within an instant upon having it within my grasp?  Suffice it to say that I did exercise some self-control this evening and only had one chocolate.   Hmm.  Well, maybe I had two?  Let's just say that the chocolates have found a fabulous new home!

Many, many thanks to Nadia at A Bookish Way of Life!  How thoughtful and kind for you to throw in those extra goodies and I wish you and yours a fabulous holiday season!

Happy Reading!
Coffee and a Book Chick

13 December 2010

Monday, Monday! What Are You Reading?


Thanks to all of our Mailbox Monday hosts!  Created by Marcia at The Printed Page and on tour this month with Jenny at Let Them Read Books.  A thank you as well to Sheila at Book Journey!

I'm excited about this past week - do take a look and let me know what you received as well.  Have you read the books that I received?  Did you like them?






And...

TWO autographed copies of Susan Gregg Gilmore's books thanks to Bermudaonion's giveaway.  Thanks, Kathy!  The books are:


What did you get this week?

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

09 December 2010

Tonight, I'm honored that Robin Spano, debut author of Dead Politician Society, has stopped by to guest post on a subject near and dear to her as a new writer.  I had a chance to review Robin's incredibly fun and edgy book a few months ago (read my review by clicking here). I'd love to hear your thoughts to the challenge she poses to all of you in this post!
___________________________________________________
The online revolution is a new writer's best friend. Gone are the days when new and lesser-known writers had to languish in obscurity, only sometimes on some shelves, while big famous names – Nora Roberts, Stephen King – were everywhere for all book-buyers to see.
It's still famous names on the buzz tables. And airport stores and drugstores only stock bestsellers. But shelves aren't where people are shopping. Online retailers have just started to outsell brick-and-mortar stores. The ebook revolution takes that further – on Amazon, Kindle books have begun to outsell hardcovers.
This is sad news for bookstores – particularly independents, who do a lot for the book community. Maybe we'll see a shift to wine and book bars, or library-cafes with literary readings - I look forward to seeing how creative store owners are able to change with the times. I'd love to see a government incentive program help stores make the transition.
But we can't stifle progress because one side of the industry is dying. There is so much rebirth going on.
Yesterday, Publishers Weekly's released a report saying ebooks have reached 8.7% of the total book market share. That's up from 1.5% in the first quarter of 2009. Sales can't keep climbing at that rate – they'd be over half of the market by the middle of 2012. But ebooks are finally at a place where even those who fear them can't ignore them and hope they go away.
As a new writer, these statistics are the happiest news I could hear. Ebooks and online retailers go a long way toward leveling the playing field, so new and lesser-known writers can have their work available to anyone, anywhere.
Publishers are less thrilled, but the savvy ones are shifting their business models to include and promote ebooks. My publisher, ECW Press, has even recently launched an ebook imprint.
But what no one seems to know is how to price ebooks. New releases are currently valued between $10-$12. I think that's a ludicrously high standard set by fearful big publishers who are afraid of ebooks putting them out of business. I guess they think if they price the ebook so high, it won't steal their print sales – and if it does, they won't lose money.
It's time to kill that fear. Ebooks are here to stay, and they are by no means terrorizing the industry. Environmentally, they're a massive step forward. It's time to figure out a price that's both fair to the consumer, and still makes it worth a publisher's and writer's time and effort.
I think that price is $4.99 – about half of a mass market paperback. An ebook can't be loaned, it can't be signed, and – come on publishers, you know this: it costs a lot less to produce.
ECW Press disagrees. They've priced my mystery novel at $10.99. They don't want to make it lower because (a) they're afraid to devalue it by making it less than other new releases in its genre, and (b) they don't think people shop based on price – they don't think more copies will sell if it's cheaper.
I differ on both counts. On (a) I promise not to feel devalued. I'd like the book to cost what it's worth – not what the big publisher dinosaurs are trying to set as the standard. On (b) my mouth drops. What? Who doesn't shop based on price? Take me shopping.
So they've set up this challenge. I feel lucky to be with ECW, because they're like that. They don't tell me to go away with my little opinion – they say, okay, we'll entertain this.
Until Monday, December 13th, Dead Politician Society is $1.99 in iBooks, Kobo, and Kindle stores. ECW has run similar experiments and they've seen no spike in sales. So if sales stay static, I'll concede – I'll agree that price doesn't drive ebook sales.
But if sales do spike, ECW will look at what book buyers are saying to them. They'll rethink their price structure. They might not change all at once, but they love books, they love readers, and they care about going strongly into the future. 
They're listening.
___________________________________________________

Thank you so much for stopping by, Robin - I look forward to the next book in the Clare Vengel series!

And I encourage all of you to take on her challenge!

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

08 December 2010

Operation Paperback


Operation Paperback on Facebook
The troops like to read, too.

Tonight, I'm taking a look at a list sent out by Operation Paperback.  It's a wish list of books that members of our armed forces would like to read, and I thought you all might be interested. I know that there are so many wonderful non-profits out there, but here's another one to consider.  Our troops are in different parts of the world -- in the cold or heat, from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan and everywhere in between. They'd like to read some of the good books out there that you and I are fortunate enough to be able to go to the store and easily pick up, or check out at the library.  Thanks to them, we have options.



So here's what a typical list can look like.  And if you want to participate, go ahead and sign up to contribute the next time around.  I'm sure it would be appreciated.

  • A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard  [on 3 lists]
  • Art of War by Sun Tzu [on 4 lists]
  • Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose [on 3 lists]
  • Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson [on 3 lists]
  • Battle Leadership by Adolph Von Schell  [on 2 lists]
  • Caine Mutiny [on 2 lists]
  • Constitution of the United States  [on 4 lists]
  • Ender's Game by O.S. Card  [on 2 lists]
  • Face of Battle by John Keegan  [on 5 lists]
  • First to Fight  [on 2 lists]
  • Flags of Our Fathers [on 3 lists]
  • For the Common Defense by Millet and Maslowski  [on 2 lists]
  • Killer Angels [on 4 lists]
  • Lincoln on Leadership  [on 2 lists]
  • Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer  [on 2 lists]
  • Red Badge of Courage [on 3 lists]
  • Savage Wars of Peace by Max Boot  [on 4 lists]
  • Soldier's Load by S.L.A. Marshall  [on 2 lists]
  • Starship Troopers [on 2 lists]
  • Supreme Command : Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime by Eliot Cohen [on 4 lists]
  • This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrenbach  [on 3 lists]
  • Village by Francis West  [on 2 lists]
  • We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Moore and Galloway  [on 4 lists]
  • Sudoku and word search puzzles
  • The Sookie Stackhouse series
  • Children's books to distribute to the kids in war-torn countries
  • Contemporary fiction and romance
  • Biographies, political thrillers

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

05 December 2010

Hotel du Lac, by Anita Brookner


Hotel du Lac, by Anita Brookner surprised me.  The first forty or so pages, while beautifully written, were a tad tough to meander through at times.  But then, oh then, all of a sudden, and at some point I can't recall, I was quite happy -- it pulled me in and although it's a quiet and contemplative story, it was really quite interesting and I felt at home with it.

Edith Hope is a romance writer who writes under another name -- she's accomplished, but to be honest, she writes about feelings and events that she's never sure she'll ever have, or at least have forever.  She's withdrawn, and doesn't fit with her "friends."

Edith is sent away from "civilized" society in London to a quaint and quiet hotel in Switzerland following a scandal that it has been deemed should not occur amongst polite and learned men and women.  While there, she encounters a sad variety of characters that initially seem almost so uninteresting, that they are interesting.  Eventually, you are drawn into each one, into their nuances, their sad or internally destructive personalities. While one character, Mrs. Pusey initially impresses upon Edith that she is kind and lovely, it soon becomes evident that she's really just lacking in the same things that most of the hotel guests are without as well -- after all, why are they all sequestered in this hotel, away from family and friends, during a quiet time of season?  It seemed to be that they all were suffering in some way.

Do not expect a flurry of events in the winner of the Man Booker Prize of 1984.  Expect instead a quiet discussion, a studied review of a writer's perspective of those she meets and interacts with, amidst the background of an incredible hotel.  There is not a hurry from one thing to another.  It is a slow exercise of evaluation and word usage to describe each scene, moment, person.  Could it be considered tedious and boring to some?  Perhaps.  Could it also be viewed as deceptively pleasing, slowly building the undercurrent of anticipation for something, something brilliant and cunning to breach the water line and unfold its secret?  Yes.

At times, it was a bit humorous, but I found it to be an overall sad book, about people who were sad and who either were forced to be in exile by others, or simply had nowhere else that they could go.  It's an insightful and thoughtful novel on love, loss, and regret.  Although I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, I would say that if you like a quiet novel that delivers an introspective view on one's own life, then this sad little beauty is a book for you.

Every word is quotable in this beautiful and very short book, but this one I found delightful:
He was a man of few words, but those few words were judiciously selected, weighed for quality, and delivered with expertise.  Edith, used to the ruminative monologues that most people consider to be adequate for the purposes of rational discourse, used, moreover, to concocting the cunning and even learned periods which the characters in her books so spontaneously uttered, leaned back in her chair and smiled.  The sensation of being entertained by words was one which she encountered all too rarely.  People expect writers to entertain them, she reflected.  They consider that writers should be gratified simply by performing their task to the audience's satisfaction.  Like sycophants at court in the Middle Ages, dwarves, jongleurs.  And what about us?  Nobody thinks about entertaining us.
I look forward to reading more Anita Brookner novels.  Particularly when I learned from Thomas at My Porch that Ms. Brookner is now in her eighties and has written a book a year since her first published fiction novel in her early fifties.

Other fabulous book bloggers said this:
Carol's Notebook
Vintage Reads
Savidge Reads

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

01 December 2010

Happy Hanukkah...and The Last Ember, by Daniel Levin


National Geographic, Sam Kittner
To all those in the blogging community who celebrate the holiday, Happy Hanukkah.

The History I Should Know More About
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is an eight-day celebration which commemorates the reclaiming of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century by the Maccabees from the tyrannical monarch led by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  He was not quite as compassionate as his father when it came to the Jewish religion.  His father permitted the faith to be practiced, but his son outlawed it, and when his soldiers came to Jerusalem, the murders of thousands occurred.  The soldiers then moved to the Second Temple and further defiled it by setting up statues of Zeus and sacrificing pigs.

Judah Maccabee and his small group rose up against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and was able to push them out of Jerusalem.  The Second Temple was then cleansed and the Menorah was lit.

When they went to light the candelabra, they only had enough oil for one day, but by a miracle, the oil lasted for eight days.  The Menorah holds nine candles -- eight for each night that the oil lasted, and the 9th (center) candle that represents the shamash (servant) candle.  The shamash candle is used to light the others, one on each of the eight nights.

Did you know that Hanukkah means "dedication" in Hebrew?




This picture to the right is from my honeymoon to Italy last year, and the Arch of Titus depicting the Menorah.  You can see a Menorah being carried by the Roman soldiers which was part of their stolen spoils of war of the Temple of Jerusalem.  When I came across my picture tonight, I was reminded of a book I read last year that covered the Arch of Titus and this particular relief in detail. 

If you enjoy thrillers that include history, culture, and religion, set in stunning locales of both Italy and Jerusalem, I highly recommend Daniel Levin's The Last Ember.  I had a chance to meet Daniel Levin last year at our local independent bookstore (he was also introduced by Steve Berry of the Cotton Malone series). Levin had such wonderful insight to share on the research for this book, and the room was spellbound by his stories.

From the website
An Italian antiquities squad discovers a woman’s preserved corpse inside an ancient column. Pages torn from priceless manuscripts litter the floor of an abandoned warehouse. An illegal excavation burrows beneath Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, ground sacred to three religions.
Jonathan Marcus, a young American lawyer and a former doctoral student in classics, has become a sought-after commodity among less-scrupulous antiquities dealers. But when he is summoned to Rome to examine a client’s fragment of an ancient stone map, he stumbles across a startling secret.  The discovery reveals not only an ancient intelligence operation to protect an artifact hidden for 2000 years, but also a ruthless modern plot to destroy all trace of it by a mysterious radical bent on erasing all remnants of Jewish and Christian presence from the Temple Mount.

Daniel Levin has created an anxious page-turning thrill ride through legends and rumors, faith and culture, and it's one that I absolutely could not put down.  The Last Ember -- it will not disappoint.

Happy Hanukkah,
Coffee and a Book Chick

Oh, my.  I'm signing up for a challenge.  But it feels so simple to sign up now when it starts in a month and I have the entire year to complete it.  I believe that I can do this, but I may need a gentle nudge and support from you all.  Would you care to join me?

I am going to try for somewhere between the levels of Hard Times and Desperate Remedies.  A lofty goal, yet I hope I can succeed.  I haven't quite decided on which books I'm going to read -- perhaps you can suggest your favorites for me?

Hosted by words, words, words, here are the details:

This challenge will run from 01 Jan 2011 - 31 Dec 2011.
Participants can sign up at any time throughout the year.

Read your Victorian literature.
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901. If your book wasn't published during these particular years, but is by an author considered "Victorian," go for it.  We're here for reading!  Also, this can include works by authors from other countries, so long as they are from this period.

Literature comes in many forms.
There are so many Victorian reads out there, including novels, short stories, and poetry.  One poem doesn't count as a "book," though.  Instead, pick up an anthology instead!

Choose your books.
List your books before you begin, or pick up titles along the way.  It's up to you!  You can review them if you choose to, but it's not necessary.  If you don't have a blog, that's fine!  Link to a Facebook, or a page somewhere where you can list what you've been reading.  If you can't link up, no problem - feel free to just comment and enjoy.

Spread the love.
Post the reading challenge on your blog - make your own post(s), or stick the button on the side of your page.  The more the merrier, after all.  Let's build a big community of Victorian literature lovers!

Choose from one of the four levels:
Sense and Sensibility:  1 - 4 books
Great Expectations:  5 - 9 books
Hard Times:  10 - 14 books
Desperate Remedies:  15+ books

Visit words, words, words' site and consider joining the many bloggers who have already signed up!

Happy Reading!
Coffee and a Book Chick

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