What are two of my favorite things in the world that make me happy? Books and chocolate, of course!
Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So when I was asked to join a chocolate and books blog tour, how could I resist?
The idea is to list six of your favorite books and pair it with a chocolate that best represents that book.
Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
How fun is that?
Before I delve into my choices of chocolates and books, I first want to thank author and fellow blogger Cat Michaels for asking me to join her on the tour. After earning a M.S. degree in special education from the University of Kansas, Cat spent two decades helping students from kindergarten to college reach their potential and then served at a community college as a writing coach for students with Asperger’s syndrome and learning disabilities.
Cat builds on her teaching experiences to write illustrated chapter books for young readers of all abilities to develop imagination and critical thinking skills. Watercolor illustrations by Irene A. Jahns help bring the stories to life. Cat’s books, Sweet T and the North Wind and Finding Fuzzy: a You-Decide Tale of a Lost Friend, can be found on Amazon and ordered from local bookstores. To connect with Cat, please visit her website. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this talented author’s literary offerings.
Okay, time to move on to my tasty tidbits of chocolate along with some delicious literary delights. Need I mention, that as a lover of books, how hard it was to narrow my list down to only six choices? But here we go:
Okay, normally I’m not a big fan of westerns. But Larry McCurtry’s grand novel realistically depicts the violent Wild West during the 1870s in a way that makes your heart ache. If you want to learn how to write a multi-dimensional, unforgettable character, look no further than the courageous, lazy, hard-drinking hero Texas Ranger Augustus (Gus) McCrae. This book starts off slowly, but quickly gains momentum with tons of non-stop action. If you don’t have time to read this lengthy novel, the TV miniseries stuck closely to the book and Robert Duvall (who says this was his all-time favorite role) does a fabulous job playing the lovable Gus. McCurtry also wrote Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment (in the latter case, the movie is better than the book, in my opinion) but this is his jewel.
Because this book accurately and brutally depicts the violent and short-lived lives of beastly buffalo hunters, murderous and destitute Indians, brave pioneers, shifty gamblers, talented scouts, and prostitutes with big dreams, I’m going to pair this book with unsweetened chocolate. No sugar coating here, but oh, what a read!
The Prince of Tides
This sprawling saga about a family who endures sorrow, pain, and unmentionable horror managed to put me under its awful, wonderful spell right from the start. The story is narrated by former high school teacher, Tom Wingo, who is unemployed after a nervous breakdown. Alternating from flashbacks of Tom’s younger years spent on Melrose Island to the present time in Manhattan where his twin sister and renowned poet, Savannah, is recovering from a suicide attempt, this novel keeps you guessing as family secrets unravel. Tom’s older brother, Luke, is dead although we don’t know how he died or why. And although the reader is aware that something awful happened on the island when the three siblings were young, I promise that you’ll never foresee the grisly scene of horror and carnage that unfolds. Pat Conroy beautifully writes about the South Carolina coastline in such poetic language that you’ll yearn to visit this marshland country. Do NOT see the movie – it did not do the book justice.
This one is easy. I paired it with Ghiradelli’s Intense Dark Midnight Reverie chocolate – but with a secret surprise inside that bursts with flavor.
And The Mountains Echoed
First of all, I must confess, I’m a fan of Khaled Hosseini. In addition to this book, I also loved A Thousand Splendid Suns and Kite Runner. This author’s remarkable descriptive talents give us intimate glimpses into the daily life in Afghanistan — a country I only was familiar with through news stories about war and terrorism. Like my last book choice, this book delves into the lives of siblings who are haunted by the past. From the telling of a compelling folk story in the beginning of this novel to the heartbreaking separation of two siblings to interlinking tales from a wide cast of fascinating characters, I found this book to be stirring, absorbing, and captivating.
This story definitely is bittersweet chocolate. Read it and you’ll see why.
East of Eden
I had to include one of my favorite classics. John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors and I loved Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath as well – but this by far was my favorite addiction. Along with other Steinbeck books, this story is set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley (where I briefly lived as a small child). With brilliant comparisons to the venomous and murderous sibling rivalry of Cain and Abel, Steinbeck creates some of his most memorable characters in this epic and sometimes fierce novel. Please read the book, but if you must watch it – the mini-series starring Jane Seymour, who was perfect as the bewitching, evil, corrupting Cathy Ames – stays more faithful to the book than the 1955 movie with James Dean. I hear Hollywood is making a remake starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by her “Hunger Games” collaborator, Gary Ross. I’m there.
I’m a self-confessed chocoholic that finds all kinds of chocolate addicting but my favorite is caramels with nuts – like Snickers. Since Cathy is kind of nutty and this book is downright addicting, it’s the perfect match.
Flowers for Algernon
Since I have written two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody-Two-Shoes and Time to Cast Away, I thought my next selection would be one of my favorites from my teen years. I also wanted to mention this book in honor of the recent death of its author, Daniel Keyes. This heart-rending, and ultimately tragic classic was brilliantly written using journal entries from the viewpoint of the beloved main character, Charlie Gordon. When the book opens, Charlie is 32 and works as a janitor in a small bakery. He is severely intellectually disabled but learns that he may be a candidate for an experimental surgery to artificially increase his intelligence. I won’t say anymore in case you’ve never read this sci-fi, philosophical, beautifully-written story.
I’ll pair this story with a simple Hershey bar to match Charlie’s simple mind in the beginning of this book along with the more complicated Lindt Excellence Bars which involves a complicated, hours-long churning process like Charlie’s evolving, increasingly intelligent brain.
The Box Car Children
Finally, with three grandchildren ages 6, 4, and 3, I wanted to include one of my favorite children’s books. Gertrude Chandler’s endearing story about four orphans who run away and find shelter in an abandoned boxcar in the woods during the Great Depression has been passed down through three generations of my family. I was absolutely fascinated by the way these kids managed to live on their own using their talents and resourcefulness to outfit their refuge. Of course, this story has a happy ending when the children find love and security from an unexpected source.
Let’s pair this with a delicious cup of hot chocolate.
There you go. If only I could share with you the other books that have brought me joy, comfort, and friendship through the years! Maybe sometime in the future.
In the meantime, The Chocolate and Book Tour will take a break for the Fourth of July weekend. However, you can continue the fun by checking out the following author’s choices coming up on the tour on JULY 12:
Kathrine LaFleur grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lurking beneath the stairs where her grandmother kept a small, dusty library is one of her best childhood memories. She loves reading and writing books for children and young adults, Her books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Kathrine also enjoys visiting schools to talk with students about stories and writing. She currently lives in Oakland, CA where she joyfully pursues her passion of writing and publishing books. To learn more about Kathrine, check out her blog, The Persistent Author.
Kelly Wilson is a Portland author and comedian trying to maintain sanity through laughter. She is the author of Live Cheap and Free, Don’t Punch People in the Junk, and Caskets from Costco as well as numerous articles and short stories for children and adults. Kelly Wilson currently writes for a living and lives with her husband, two children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her and check out her entertaining and funny blog at Wilson Writes.
Thank you for joining me on the tour. Feel free to share with me your favorite books and chocolate pairings in the comments below.