Chocolate and Books Tour

Where to begin?
When I was asked to take part in this tour that compares books to chocolate, I was thrilled that author Cat Michaels thought to include me. After it set in that I was going to participate in something so unique, panic set in. I thought, “What on earth am I going to write that doesn’t make me look like a complete idiot, especially because I prefer vanilla to chocolate?” I don’t think I came up with a good answer, but I can delay looking like a fool by thanking Cat for this invite and by telling you about her.

Cat started writing stories in fourth grade and hasn’t stopped since. She earned an an M.S. degree in special education from the University of Kansas. 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, www.catmichaelswriter.com. I know you will enjoy learning about and connecting with Cat as much as I do.

Now, on to the books that I chose…As you read through, you may realize how random my selections are. One of my quirks (or strengths, depending on how you look at it) is how random I can be with comments and my line of thinking. It’s an art…really.

Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene:

These were my favorite books to read as an adolescent. It was difficult for anyone to tear me away from a book, but it was doubly difficult to convince me to put a Nancy Drew book down. My cousins were big on giving everyone nicknames, so I suggested that they call me “Drew”. They didn’t…

I remember the Nancy Drew series being the first books that my dad and I discussed. I would tell him how much I loved reading them and how I wish I could be like Nancy. She was smart, thought quickly on her feet, and she was a hero to many. I specifically remember talking to my dad about The Secret of the Wooden Lady. In that book, a boat called “Dream of Melissa” was mentioned. My dad had a small boat (it was slightly larger than a bathtub, but not as clean as my mom kept ours) that we would take out fishing. I tried to convince him that he should name the boat “Dream of Kimberly”. His response was that if the boat was big enough for a name, it would have been called “Piece of Shit”. Seriously, the man with whom I share DNA would have rather named his boat after excrement than his own daughter! (I am still in therapy…)

My dad passed away this past Christmas Eve, and every day I miss our conversations about everything and anything: books we read, history, sports, what the password to his router was, why Bonanza was better than Gunsmoke, why he couldn’t close out of apps on his Kindle Fire, or why you can’t trust people who live on alpaca farms, just to name a few. Because my memories are now bittersweet instead of just sweet, I am pairing the Nancy Drew series with Ghirardelli’s Bittersweet Chocolate Bar.

Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder:

I also read this series as an adolescent and have even toyed with the idea of rereading the books. I love the simplicity of the time (other than the thought of having to use an outhouse and the lack of running water and good hair products). There was such a focus on family to which I could always relate.

I grew up in a close-knit family. My mom comes from a family of seven children, and all seven children, their spouses, their children, and some friends met every Friday night at my grandparents’ house for dinner and to play games or cards, talk, have food fights, or try to get my grandmom tipsy on beer. The kids were always running and jumping on something (and getting yelled at for one thing or another, such as tipping over the recliner when someone sitting on it) or trying to learn how to play poker (we used pretzels and crackers as our chips). We didn’t have video games to play, cell phones to text each other, the Internet to browse, but we had fun simply being kids. We looked forward to seeing each other at least every Friday night or at whatever party was coming up that weekend. (We had a lot of parties. If you ever came to one, you’d understand why my entire family should be in therapy…)

For those reasons I am pairing the Little House series with a Hershey bar, simple but rich. Like the Ingalls, we didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love, and it was all the simple things that mattered to us.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

I feel as though I would be remiss not to mention a classic book here. Although the book dealt with so many topics, such as racism, gender roles, and relationships, what strikes me the most is how the character of Atticus was written. He was an upstanding citizen who clearly loved his family, but he was not overly affectionate.

In that way, Atticus was my grandpop and my dad. Both were softies on the inside, but they rarely demonstrated that. I guess my grandpop let it show when he let me put pink, sponge curlers in his comb-over. He also showed it by making a ridiculous amount of mashed potatoes at every dinner because he knew his were my favorite. My dad was not overly affectionate, but if he liked you (or loved you), you got to go fishing with him, and he didn’t throw you in the lake, even if you stood on a bucket and gave him a sermon about why he should be in church on Sunday and not fishing (and the “you” in that story was me), although he stopped taking me fishing after I caught 60 fish to his 10. (He was in therapy for years afterwards.)

Because my grandpop and dad remind me of Atticus, I will pair them with s’mores, which are hard on the outside but soft and gooey on the inside.

Unholy Matrimony by John Dillman:

This book was written about the murder of my mom’s cousin Patricia. Her husband and the minister who married them killed her on her honeymoon so that her husband could collect life insurance money. The husband pushed Patricia into the street in front of a car driven by the minister.

What struck me about this book is that the detective mentioned that my great-aunt routinely checked in on him to learn the status of the case, which detectives first ruled a hit-and-run accident. My aunt, convinced that the husband’s story did not add up, stayed on top of the detectives until they would listen to the reasons why she thought foul play was involved.

When I read this, I was much younger and didn’t give much thought to my mom and how she would feel and what she would do. Although my eyesight is getting worse as I age, I can see some things more clearly. Like my great-aunt, I am certain that my mom would fight tooth and nail to get justice for my sister and me if something like this happened. Also like my great-aunt, I know the loss of either my sister or me would tear her heart out. No amount of therapy would cure that pain.

I am pairing this with Hershey’s Hugs for two reasons. The first is because I would want my mom to be comforted by warm embraces of those who love her if God-forbid she lost either or both of us. The second reason is because I owe my mom a lot of hugs for all the years that she fought for me, whether in small ways or big ones (like when she picked a fight with my teacher over diagrams that I had done correctly but were marked incorrect…yup, I’m still in therapy).

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel:

This book is about Tita, a young girl who, because of family tradition, cannot marry the man she loves because she must remain home to be a caretaker to her family. Devastated, she puts her emotions into her food, and all who eat it take on her feelings, as well.

Tita reminds me of my grandmom. Unlike Tita, my grandmom was able to marry the man she loved, but she was a caretaker to many. She had seven children, and when my great-grandfather was too sick to stay on his farm, he moved in with my grandparents. My grandmother was also known for her cooking. On a very tight budget, she managed to feed seven children, a husband, father, and other family members and/or friends who would come by. She taught many how to make pierogi, beet soup, stuffed cabbage, and much more. Any person who met my grandmom said how much food and love she had to share with anyone who walked in her house. (If you didn’t like my grandmom, you should be in therapy.)

I am pairing this book to a Whatchamacallit because my grandmother used that term when she couldn’t think of the right word for something (and that was pretty much daily) and because I used to buy her this candy to tease her.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young:

This is the story of Mack, a man who must deal with the kidnapping and murder of his youngest child, Missy. His wife remained strong in her faith after the ordeal, but Mack questioned why God would allow this to happen. After receiving a note from God to visit Him, Mack travels to a shack where spends the weekend there with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. There, he comes to terms better with the loss of Missy and other things in his life.

I felt very comforted by the descriptions of the weekend provided by Mack, as well as the thought that our deceased loved ones are in a beautiful place. About a year after reading this, a friend of mine passed away. Thinking of the lessons in The Shack helped me to somewhat put her passing into perspective. Perhaps I should read this now that my dad has passed. Maybe it can be some kind of therapy for me.

I paired The Shack with hot chocolate, which is comforting to me, especially on physically and emotionally cold days.

White Girl Problems by Babe Walker:

This book is simply a guilty pleasure for me because I read it without thinking of anything other than how much I want to be amused by it. I didn’t read this to learn any lesson or to ponder the meaning of life. What I especially like is that this time it’s the main character, Babe, who is in therapy (well, shopping rehab). Is Babe out-of-touch with “real” people? Yup. Is the narcissism inspiring? Someone on Amazon.com thinks it almost is. Did my friend Claudia think this was a true tale? Yup.

I am pairing this book with Twix because that is what I treat myself to when I am running errands. Unfortunately, I don’t have the means to shop in stores where I could meet Babe and thank her for entertaining me.

The tour continues…
If you enjoyed this post (and I hope that you have), please know that the tour will go. On July 12, authors K.R. Morrison and Kirstin Pulioff will give readers their pairings of books and chocolate delights.

K.R. Morrison wrote her first book, Be Not Afraid, after a nightmare she experienced would not leave her mind, even when awake. Before this book, she had not written much of anything outside of the annual Christmas letter. She also has co-authored the book Purify My Heart with Ruthie Madison, and she edits for her publishing house, Linkville Press. Book reviewing and blogging take up a lot of her time, as do quilting and garden work.

Her post can be found on her blog, krmorrison325.wordpress.com.

Kirstin Pulioff is a storyteller at heart. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to the Pacific Northwest to follow her dreams and graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Forest Management. Happily married and a mother of two, she lives in the foothills of Colorado and enjoys being a stay-at-home mom. When she’s not writing an adventure, she is busy living one.

Her post and contact information can be found on her website, www.kirstinpulioff.com.

Past blogs
Please stop by the blogs of authors who already have participated. Those include my friend and fellow author Geena Bean’s, www.geenabean.com; the blog of author K. Lamb, http://www.authorklamb.blogspot.com; the website of C.L. Murphy, http://lovablelobo.wordpress.com; and the Facebook page of Jamie Stevens, https://www.facebook.com/PeepandFriends.

If you were part of this tour, what book would you choose and to what chocolate treat would you pair it? I look forward to your comments!

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Review of Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK

Disclosure: I was given a review copy of Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK for an honest review. All opinions expressed are mine.

My review:
Although Little Miss HISTORY travels by land, sea, and air to reach her destinations, readers of the Little Miss HISTORY books need only to crack open one of her books to visit exciting places. In Barbara Ann Mojica’s third installation of the series, Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, you will learn about trees and their importance, the men in the park for which the trees were named, geology of the land, animals that call the park their home, and a major problem that the park faces.

The description from Amazon states, “Since her last expedition to the Statue of Liberty, Little Miss HISTORY is flying across the North American continent to the recesses of Sequoia National Park, where she is skydiving into its forest! Here in the ‘land of the living giants,’ the reader will learn about the differences between redwood and sequoia trees and of its first inhabitants and wildlife. Through breathtaking illustrations, adventurers will traverse its trails and immerse themselves in the awesome beauty and magnificence of Sequoia National Park. Readers will also discover the hidden dangers lurking there.”

As with her first two books in this series, Little Miss HISTORY Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE and Little Miss HISTORY Travels to The STATUE of LIBERTY, Barbara gives readers a delightful book with much information about American history and environmental issues. Facts about people, places, and things are told in a clear way that will entice children’s desire to learn without confusing or boring them. As in other books, she ends asking a question. This time it’s to ask readers to think of ways to solve pollution that affects Sequoia National Park.

As I have stated before, I wish these books were out when I was in school or that Barbara was my teacher! I never had much interest in history (please don’t tell Barbara!), but I love these books. I think that they have enough information to satisfy children (and some adults) who are reading them and will make them want to learn more. My dad, who was a history buff, would have loved these books. I know he would have had these nearby to read to me as I was growing up.

Illustrations, provided once again by Barbara’s husband, Victor Ramon Mojica, are wonderful. His custom mix of drawings and photographs catch the eye and help explain the words on each page. His talent adds much strength to Barbara’s books.

Like the other books in the Little Miss HISTORY series, this book is 8.5 inches by 8.5 inches and available in paperback. This book is a bit longer than her last two at 44 pages, but is still easy for hands of all sizes to carry.

What others on Amazon.com have to say about Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK:
“Purchased this for my children after being drawn in by the illustrations, and they all loved it (even my youngest one). Little Miss History gets kids excited about traveling to different places across the country. It is tough to find a factual history book that kids will sit and listen to. This one proved to be just that (and even mommy learned several new facts). Highly recommend for kids from preschool on up to high school. 5 Stars, you will not be sorry you purchased this book!”

“What a great series of books to get children interested in history … and such a fun way to learn history!! This book starts with a bang … and is packed full of historical facts about Sequoia National Park told in a way that will entice children to become curious about finding out more. I know I am! The illustrations are fabulous! Right from the beginning, the book drew me in with “Little Miss History,” as the guide. She’s a strong (and fun) guide and spokesperson. I can see these books being presented as an animated TV series, possibly on the History Channel, or similar channel! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, which is cleverly introduced to readers on the last page of the book.”

“I have tutored children in the UK for many years and am fully aware that it is always imperative to hold the child’s attention by providing interesting stimuli around the subject. Barbara Ann Mojica delivers on all fronts with this great little book.”

“Travels continue for Barbara Ann Mojica’s Miss History. In the third installment of her delightfully entertaining and educational series, “Little Miss HISTORY Travels to Sequoia National Park.” Mrs. Mojica’s heroine, the erudite Miss HISTORY, takes the reader on an expedition to the breathtaking Sequoia National Park, as she eloquently divulges fascinating facts about the park’s history, about the people instrumental in making this park a reality, and about the fascinating characteristics of the awesome sequoia trees. Victor Ramon Mojica’s gorgeous illustrations add a joyous dimension to this lovely masterpiece.”

Where you can find Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK:
Links to purchase Little Miss HISTORY Travels to SEQUOIA  NATIONAL  PARK  include www.createspace.com, www.amazon.com, and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Also, don’t forget to check out Little Miss HISTORY’s website, www.littlemissHISTORY.com, where you can find Barbara’s blog and Little Miss HISTORY merchandise.

Little Miss HISTORY next travels to Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Do you know anything about Ford’s Theater?

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