My Chocolate Bar Challenge

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Last weekend I was invited by my friend and fellow author, Tara Ford, to take part in the Chocolate Bar Challenge Blog Tour.

Ooh, chocolate, I thought. Ooh books, I thought. Ooh, chocolate plus books, I thought. What could be more fun? (Well… aside from wine of course). And so I have spent the past week sampling chocolate, because if you’re going to compare it to your favourite books, you need to do your research properly, right?

And now I feel fat and I have chocolate crumbs round my mouth, on my clothes, even in the duvet for chrissakes. So thanks a lot, Tara Ford.

For those who don’t already know, Tara is the author of the Calling All… series and her latest novel, Calling All Dentists was released earlier this year. Her genre is probably best described as chick lit and she is a very funny lady. If you like my humour then you will definitely like Tara’s.

To find out more about Tara and check out the result of her Chocolate Bar Challenge, visit her website http://taraford.weebly.com/blog/chocolate-book-tag-challenge

I have selected seven books for my challenge. Do check them out below and let me know what you think of my comparisons.

THE MAGIC FARAWAY TREE – ENID BLYTON

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This was by far my favourite book when I was a child. Enid Blyton had a fabulous imagination and with Faraway Tree novels (this was the second in the series, The Enchanted Wood being the first) created wonderful worlds for the reader to visit. The story follows four children – Joe, Bessie, Fanny and Dick (you couldn’t make this up) and their adventures at the top of the oak tree near where they live. There are many colourful characters living in the tree, Moonface, Silky the Fairy, Dame Washalot, who pours her dirty laundry water down the tree, and Saucepan Man, who is covered in pans and kettles. Together with the children they visit magical lands by climbing a ladder at the top of the tree, experiencing numerous adventures.

My chosen chocolate bar is the Kinder Surprise, as the lands at the top of the tree change every couple of days and the children never know what they are going to find.

THE SHINING – STEPHEN KING

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‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ types Jack Torrance, lead character in The Shining. Well, I have chosen a Mars Bar for this story, as it will help Jack work, rest and play. Hopefully then he won’t take his axe and try to butcher his wife and little boy, Danny.

Jack is an author struggling with writers block and takes a job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel. The hotel is vast and empty, albeit for Jack, wife, Wendy, and little Danny, and they are snowed in for the duration. As Jack starts to go slightly crazy, is it caused by cabin fever, or is there something sinister within the walls of the hotel? Danny knows something is wrong. He has the shining, a gift of seeing into the future. Can he use this to alert help before it is too late?

TALES OF THE CITY – ARMISTEAD MAUPIN

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After reading this book, I wanted to find a time machine to transport me to 1970s San Francisco.  Young, wide-eyed Mary Ann Singleton moves to the city and becomes the latest tenant at 28 Barbary Lane. TOTC follows the colourful characters who live there, including eccentric, pot growing landlady, Mrs Madrigal, hippy, Mona, womanizer, Brian, cagey man on the roof, Norman, and the recently ‘out of the closet’, Mouse.

Maupin really captures the colour and vibrancy of the city. The characters are all so different, but their personalities shine through and for this reason I have chosen Quality Street.  Mary Ann would be the vanilla fudge, Mouse the strawberry delight, etc, etc.

REBECCA – DAPHNE DU MAURIER

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I adore both Du Maurier’s book and the Hitchcock movie adaptation of Rebecca, a story for me that has a little bit of everything. Our protagonist is the second Mrs de Winter, a shy and innocent young woman in her early twenties, who has been working as a companion to a rich American woman. She marries Maxim de Winter, after a whirlwind romance and suddenly finds herself lady of the house at Mandalay, the home Maxim shared with his first wife, Rebecca. The new Mrs de Winter soon finds herself out of her depth, particularly when she comes up again the housekeeper, a bitter woman called Mrs Danvers, who was fiercely loyal to Rebecca.

There are many twists and turns throughout the book, which is in part a love story, but also has a much darker core. The foreboding Mrs Danvers is the domineering presence and for this reason I choose the smooth, fine and intense, but very dark, Bournville.

VALENTINE – TOM SAVAGE

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This book is a hidden gem and although it has sold moderately well (and spawned a movie – which I recommend you avoid at all costs, as it takes everything that is clever about this book and throws it out of the window) it is a real shame more people do not know about it.

Jillian Talbot is a successful novelist who attracts the attentions of a Valentine stalker. It starts innocently enough, but things soon get sinister, and she begins to suspect there could be a connection to her past. In high school, Jillian was part of a clique, and a prank played on a fellow student ended with devastating consequences. If you like my novels, you will love Valentine. Tom Savage is a master of twists and red herrings and the plot moves at breakneck speed, leaving you going ‘Oh my God!’ at the final revelation.

I can’t give you my heart, but I will certainly give you my last Rolo if you try this book.

SUPERSTITION – DAVID AMBROSE

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You know those times when you are alone and think you hear the presence of someone else in the room? Well for that reason, Wispa seems the most appropriate chocolate bar for this supernatural tale.

I say supernatural, but the twist here is Superstition follows parapsychologist, Sam Towne, who sets out to prove that ghosts come from the human mind and not beyond the grave.  He invites a number of volunteers, including skeptical reporter, Joanna Cross, to take part in an experiment to ‘create’ a ghost. The experiment appears to be a success, but then things get out of control and when the volunteers start dying, it seems their ghost has taken on a mind of its own.

A THIN DARK LINE – TAMI HOAG

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I have saved my favourite book for last and as it is set in Cajun country in the deep swampy south of Louisiana, close to New Orleans, my final chocolate choice is Black Magic.

Pamela Bichon was horrifically murdered and the prime suspect, Marcus Renard, who relentlessly stalked her prior to death, has just been freed on a technicality. Detective Nick Fourcade blames himself for Renard walking free and goes after him in a drunken rage. Enter rookie cop, Annie Broussard, who comes across the scene and arrests Fourcade. This action sets the scene for the rest of the book, as Annie finds her alienated by her male dominated colleagues for turning on one of their own. Worse still, Renard is very grateful and Annie has just become the object of his latest affection.

Tami Hoag is a brilliant storyteller and the characters and the setting come alive off the page, making you feel the sticky swampy heat and Cajun flavour and as a reader you are really drawn in to Annie’s battle to do the right thing in a mostly corrupt police department.

If you have never read this book then I strongly recommend it.

 

So those are my choices for the Chocolate Bar Challenge and now it is time for me to hand over to three new authors, whose blogs will appear next week. They are all from across the pond, so I guess it now becomes the Candy Bar Challenge.

Say hello to Robin Hardy, Bryan Koepke and Megan Denby.

Robin Hardy is an award winning author, who has been writing Christian fiction for 29 years. She has dozens of novels to her name, including Chataine’s Guardian (runner-up for the Gold Medallion book award) and Streiker’s Bride. Robin says about her writing ‘What I have learned (and keep learning) is that the most powerful story in the world is that of redemptive love. So I keep working at it, trying to get the story right, and to adequately express something that is really beyond me’.

Robin is most prolific on her Facebook author page and this is where she will be posting her Chocolate Bar Challenge Blog. You can find her page here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-Hardy/55052677826

Denver based, Bryan Koepke, published his first novel, Vengeance, earlier this year. The thriller follows Reece Culver, a former aerospace engineer turned PI, who is tortured by unanswered questions revolving around the mystery of his father’s cold-case murder. His latest case puts him on a collision course with the man who can provide those answers.

Bryan’s blog can be found at http://thewriterscabin.blogspot.co.uk/

Finally, onto Megan Denby, award winning Canadian author of A Thistle in the Mist, an atmospheric and epic tale of love, tragedy and murder set on the shores of Scotland and Nova Scotia. The story was inspired by her Scottish Grandmother. Megan is currently working on the darker and disturbing sequel, Lost to the Mist, which should be released later this year.

Find out how Megan gets on in the Chocolate bar challenge at http://www.megandenby.com/

 

The Shining – Stephen King

Over the coming weeks I plan to introduce you to some of my all-time favourite novels, giving a brief overview of each one and explaining why I love the stories, and how they have influenced me as a writer.

A few titles are instantly recognisable, but others are lesser known gems and I hope you guys will check them out and enjoy reading them too.

My first book is a classic. The Shining by Stephen King.

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I was fourteen and on holiday in Cyprus when I first read The Shining, and even though I was sitting around a busy pool in broad daylight, there were still parts of the story that were so damn scary I had to momentarily put the book down and reassure myself what I was reading wasn’t real.

In the television show, Friends, Joey keeps his copy of The Shining in the refrigerator, because that’s where scary books have to go. I’m not sure I have room in my fridge, but if I did, The Shining would be the first book I would want to put in there.

Most of you will be familiar with the story, but to summarize, Jack Torrance is a writer and, for additional income and a chance to work on his novel, he takes a job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. The hotel is in Colorado and due to heavy snowfall is closed during winter months. Jack and his family, wife Wendy and son Danny, are the only occupants until it reopens in the spring.

Add to this, Danny’s ‘gift’ of being about to see things before they happen – shining – and the fact the Overlook has an unsettling history, and you have all the ingredients for a classic horror tale, as, trapped in the hotel, Jack starts to lose his grip on reality. Is it down to cabin fever or is there something more sinister hidden within the walls?

Stephen King is a master storyteller and one who know how to crank up the tension through suggestion; something I have tried to do in my own novels, as I fully believe what you are left to imagine is far scarier than having the words spelt out for you. It was after reading Misery, some years later, that I decided I wanted to take my hobby of short story writing and try and complete a novel, but The Shining will always be the Stephen King book that sticks with me the most.

I finished The Shining on holiday and we were then delayed by airport strikes and moved to a luxury hotel in Limassol for the night. Our room was about three doors down from 237 and if you’ve read the book, you’ll understand why this scared the bejesus out of me.

In fact, I don’t think I got a wink of sleep all night.

Coming next on my recommended list – Valentine by Tom Savage

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