Monday, February 29, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRANDMOTHER

Quote for the week:  Words, of course, are the most powerful drug used by mankind.  Rudyard Kipling

Today is February 29, 2016. February only has 29 days every 4 years. So today, I'm wishing Happy Birthday to Clara Blanche Rushing Stowe, my grandmother. She was born Feb. 29, 1876 and passed to heaven Dec. 3, 1962. She used to tease us about how "young" she was since she only had a birthday every four years. Well, today is your day, Grandmother. Enjoy.

 
Happy Birthday to all you Leap Year Babies.
 
 
 



Wednesday, February 24, 2016

THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW REVIEW

Do you enjoy fun stories, spooky stories, and stories with surprises along the way? If so, then
take a look at THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW, a novel for middle grade readers, by Authors Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson and a wonderful read.


The cover makes me wonder what they're looking for.
 
Here are my thoughts.
 
THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW
By Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson
Illustrated by Roman Muradov
 
Moving to a different house in a new town and leaving behind dear friends is rough on anyone. It’s especially tough for children, who also have to start a new school where they don’t know anyone.
 
In THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW, a novel for middle grade readers, by Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, Fairday Morrow faces such a situation. She’s not very happy about moving, either.  The house, known as Begonia House, is old and decrepit. Even though her parents are going to renovate the place, she just wants to go home. It doesn’t take long, however, for Fairday (I love her name) to discover a room on the third floor of the house, and in that room there are mysteries to solve. Enter Lizzie, her friend from her former town who comes to visit for the weekend, and Marcus, a new boy she meets at school, and the DMS (Detective Mystery Squad) goes to work to solve the weird things happening at Begonia House.
                                                    
I laughed. I held my breath. I followed the DMS crew through every room of the house and every experience they had. The authors give each character a distinct personality. The description of the house is perfect and who doesn’t love a haunted house? Well, maybe the ghosts or whatever’s doing the haunting don’t care for it so much.
 
Take the lively characters, the spooky setting, and the suspense waiting to see if the DMS succeeds in their quest to solve the riddles of Begonia House, and you have a winner. I can picture young sleuths now, after reading this novel, doing some investigating of their own. The black-and-white illustrations by Roman Muradov add just the right touch to the story. 
 
Every school library and classroom , as well as public libraries, should have a copy of this book, and your own library too, of course. Highly recommended.
 
###
 
 Happy Reading!
 
 


Monday, February 22, 2016

PIPER MORGAN TO THE RESCUE COVER REVEAL!

Quote for the week: In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln

Today, I'm excited to host Author Stephanie Faris in the cover reveal for her forthcoming children's book PIPER MORGAN TO THE RESCUE.

 
Now who can resist this adorable cover? Just look at the way these fur babies are looking at Piper. So, so cute.
 
Blurb:


Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!

###

Stephanie would like to share some facts about the challenge of writing chapter books for young readers.

The Chapter Book Difference
by Stephanie Faris
I’ve now written books with characters between the ages of eight and 35, starting at the upper end of that range and working my way downward. I have to say, after all of those books, the younger the character, the more fun it is to write. How many of us can remember what it was like to be a child, when your biggest problem was whether or not your parents were being fair?


Chapter books are especially challenging, since you have to stop and think before every sentence. Even the sentence I just wrote would be far too complex. An eight-year-old not only sees the world differently, she expresses her thoughts and feelings in a much simpler manner. I think writing for tweens helped with the transition, since twelve-year-olds also look at the world through their own limited frame of reference.

If someone asked me which I preferred, chapter or middle grade, I’d say both are equal. In fact, going back and forth between the two extremes keeps things fresh. I love living in Piper’s head for a while, then switching over to the twelve-year-old star of my current middle grade book. If I have trouble getting back into the voice, I just read a few books in that age group and the words start flowing.

Whatever the age of your main characters, at one time they were eight. They struggled to make friends and avoid getting in trouble at school and home. They learned and grew and eventually became the characters they are in your books today. It might be a fun exercise to imagine what your characters were like at eight years old. Were they feisty and fun like Piper or studious like Harriet in Harriet the Spy? You might understand your characters a little better after imagining them that way.

###

Very good advice, Stephanie. Thanks.

Author Bio:


Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.


Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the upcoming Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive. 


Links:
 

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Thank you for visiting with us today, Stephanie. Congratulations on your latest book.

Happy Reading.




 



 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

HOT PINK IN THE CITY REVIEW

Not too long ago we looked at a lovely cover reveal for HOT PINK IN THE CITY, Author Medeia Sharif's latest novel. I recently had the pleasure of reading this book and am delighted to share my thoughts with you.

 Such a colorful cover. Looks like the girl is having fun.
 
HOT PINK IN THE CITY Review
By Medeia Sharif
 
Being a teen is tough. There are parents who think they know what is best for you. There are friends that may not be the friends you think they are. And don’t forget the boys.
 
In HOT PINK IN THE CITY, by Author Medeia Sharif, sixteen-year-old Asma Bashir, tomboy, soccer star and typical teen is spending a couple of weeks during her summer vacation with her uncle and his family in New York, which is quite a change from her home in Florida. She hopes to see Madonna, who she is crazy about, as well as check out guys. (Yep, typical teen.) Things don’t turn out quite the way she planned, however. Asma and her cousin Nasreen accidentally erase Nasreen’s father’s favorite tape and soon find themselves in hot water as they attempt to replace the tape before he discovers what they did.
 
Add a couple of bad guys and a gorgeous teen boy named Abe, that Asma met on the plane and who she runs into again in the city, and the girls’ attempts to find a new tape get even more complicated. The author has created teens that are believable and fun, and that you can’t help but laugh at their situation (at least I couldn’t) while you feel for them too and cheer them on to achieve their goal so they don’t embarrass themselves and their strict families.
 
Medeia Sharif is super at showing the emotions of the characters. I could feel the girls’ panic when things went wrong and wondered if they would succeed in their quest. HOT PINK IN THE CITY is a story that teen readers should be able to relate to as it touches on many of the crises that they face. This novel would make a great addition to school classrooms and libraries, as well as public libraries and of course your own.
 
The author provided me with an e-copy of the book for my honest review.
 
###  
 
Available at Amazon  Barnes and Noble  and other places.
 
Now go pick up a copy or download it to your reader. You'll be happy you did.
 
Happy Reading.

Monday, February 15, 2016

UNHOLY BLUE REVIEW

Quote for the week: I finally understood what true love meant...love meant that you care for another person's happiness more than your own, no matter how painful the choices you face might be. Nicholas Sparks

I am so excited to share the latest novel of my dear friend and awesome author Darby Karchut/Kaye. And here it is: UNHOLY BLUE (Bannerman Boru), sequel to THE STAG LORD.

 This cover fascinates me. Shay Doyle does also.
 
Here are my thoughts.
 
UNHOLY BLUE Review
By Darby Kaye

What does the word family mean to you? For me, I see a mother, a father, children, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. Perhaps your idea of family includes still others, someone that’s very close to you, that you can depend on when you need a friend or a hug.

Award-Winning Author Darby Kaye’s latest novel, UNHOLY BLUE, sequel to THE STAG LORD, is a story about many things: Celtic warriors, shape shifters, Goblins, dogs, and bravery, to mention a few. It’s also the touching tale of a family: a man, his eight-year-old son, and a woman who loves them both. And that’s one reason why I love this story so much.

I’ve been counting the days for Shay Doyle the Healer, Bannerman Boru (Bann) the immortal Celtic Warrior, and Bann’s son, Cormac, to continue their story. And boy do they. They still have Lord Cernunnos, the shapeshifter now in the dog Max’s body, the Tully clan, and those darned old Goblins and Fir Blogs to deal with. They have an additional problem, as well: to tell Cor about their forthcoming marriage.

Speaking of Cor, he’s my favorite character. He’s all boy, confused at his father’s and Shay’s behavior sometimes, brave when necessary, and friend and protector to his puppy, Sam. One of my favorite scenes is with Cor and Sam, where Shay tells him not to let the puppy sleep on his bed. So what does Cor do? Like most any boy, he solves the problem in his own way. He puts his pillow and blanket in the dog cage and curls up with Sam. I laughed when I read this: all boy. The relationship between Cor and his father is sweet and touching. There are funny scenes that made me laugh and also scary scenes when their lives are in danger, and I wondered if Bann and Shay (a great warrior herself) would survive. Some of the fighting got pretty bloody.

Darby Kaye/Darby Karchut has a way of creating characters that come to life. I can picture Bann and Shay as they fight together, make love together, and try to be good parents for Bann’s and soon-to-be Shay’s son. Speaking of the hunk, Bann is brave and fears little, yet he’s gentle with his son and Shay. He’s not perfect, however, and he and Shay, with her strong personality, sometimes clash.

UNHOLY BLUE has violence. It has romance. Most of all it has a family that will have you cheering for them when their future looks bleak. I’ve read all of Darby Kaye/Darby Karchut’s books, and they just keep getting better and better.

One thing I’d like to know. There is a third book in the series, Ms. Kaye, right?

Highly recommended.

###

Available at AMAZON     BARNES AND NOBLE

About the author:

Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. She's been known to run in blizzards and bike in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby is busy writing urban fantasy for tweens, teens, and adults, and is now trying her hand at contemporary fiction.

 

Friday, February 12, 2016

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY AND GIVEAWAY!


A Couple Days EARLY!
 
 
To celebrate, I'm having a giveaway. One of my publishers cleaned out her warehouse and sent me a box of my books. Now my closet looks like Fibber McGee and Molly's closet. If you've never heard of these people, (you young things) they were a husband and wife team that had a radio show from 1935 to 1959, when they switched to TV. Their closet was always full (like mine) and when you opened the door everything fell out. So you have a picture of my closet. Boxes stacked on top of boxes. I would very much appreciate your help in cleaning out my closet, so I'm giving away one paperback copy of my YA paranormal novel LISTEN TO THE GHOST and one paperback copy of my YA contemporary novel REBEL IN BLUE JEANS.
 
It's easy to enter. Just email me at Beverlysmcclure (at) aol (dot) com. Tell me which book you'd like and you'll be in a drawing for a copy. Free. The cats will draw the winning entries.
 
Thank you for helping to unclutter my closet.




A girl's quest to discover the truth not only about her ghost but about herself, as well. The story is set in Charleston, South Carolina, where, according to legend, many old houses have a resident ghost. Dream Realm Award Finalist.









What's a girl to do when her mother runs away with the drummer in a rock band, her friendly relationship with the boy on the neighboring ranch turns serious, and a handsome college guy with a bad reputation takes an interest in her?






Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

KING OF BAD BOOK BLITZ

I have the pleasure today of participating in Author Kai Strand's book blitz for her teen novel, KING OF BAD, SUPER VILLAIN ACADEMY BOOK I. This is a great story, trust me, especially if you enjoy reading about super villains and also super heroes.

 
 
King of Bad (Super Villain Academy Book 1) by Kai Strand
Genre: YA Fantasy
 

Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.
He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?
 
 
Excerpt:
 
An alarm blasted, startling the occupants of the room into silence. The double doors burst open, slamming against the walls with an alarming crack. A swarm of people, clad in black from head to toe, poured through the door. Blue flames erupted from those on the outer edge of the group. The flames weren’t directed at the kids in the room, but acted more like a battering ram to clear the way.
 
“Blue flame?” Oceanus whispered.
 
Jeff stepped between her and the melee. He saw a panicked look on Source’s face and wished the intruders didn’t separate them. Jeff knew Source’s lack of skill left him vulnerable.
 
Oceanus stepped around Jeff. “What do you think you’re doing?”
 
With her eyes sparking, Oceanus didn’t look as helpless as Jeff would like to think she was. Regardless, the need to protect her was strong and he again stepped in front of her. Hoping to distract her, he said, “Uh…you’re more experienced than me and you can help me fight if we need to. Stay back.”
 
Oceanus glared at him.
 
“Uh…for now.” He nodded to give his feeble statement strength.
 
“But I want to see.” Oceanus stepped sideways. “I’ve never seen blue fire before, Polar. What is it?”
 
“I don’t know, but it looks like they have more tricks up their sleeve.”
 
The tight knot advanced militarily to the center of the room. Then they unfurled like a flower bud, revealing a deadly stamen. A small woman, with ebony skin and violet eyes, stood in the center, seeming seven feet tall with the importance she emanated.
 
She spoke in a smoky, low voice to a ferret-like kid. “¿Dónde está, el?”
 
The ferret pointed and she raised her long nailed hands above her head. Nets, conjured from thin air, shot up and sailed across the room landing over her surprised target.
 
“No!” Jeff yelled. He lunged forward, his hands instantly aflame, but when he tried to shoot his fire it balled back on him, burning his own hands. He blew ice onto his hands to squelch the burn. Seeing the frost gave him a thought. “Oci, water!”
 
He pointed to the floor and indicated that he wanted it to snake across the room.
 
Oceanus pulled water from the overhead sprinklers and dropped it onto the floor. Jeff drew a deep, deep breath and breathed across the surface of the water. It iced over, immediately sending half the blue flame people to the floor. Jeff blew again, refreezing the water over their hands and trapping them.
 
“It won’t last forever, let’s move.” He grabbed Oceanus’ arm and they ran. They were halfway across the room when roots burst through the floor and wrapped around their ankles. They sprawled face first on the floor. Another kid fell, knee first, onto Jeff’s back, knocking the wind out of him. Jeff squirmed around until he sat up and grew a small controlled fire in his palm. He showered sparks onto the roots that had snaked up around his calves. The roots shrank away from the fire, loosening their hold and Jeff tore free of their viney grip. He did the same for Oceanus and they scrambled to their feet again.
 
The intruders hefted their squirming captive toward the door.
 
Jeff anchored his feet firmly on the ground and gathered all the gravity he could feel around him. As quickly as he could, he bound the feet of those carrying the hostage.
 
“See if water will work on that blue fire, Oci. Before they get to us.”
 
Oceanus swung around and saw four of the blue flames approaching. She pulled water from the drinking fountains and doused the flames. But instead of putting it out it seemed to increase it. “No good. I think it’s feeding on it!”
 
Jeff felt light headed from having to split the gravity in so many directions. He imagined his feet were buried in the ground, giving him a deeper contact with the source, and his head cleared a bit.
 
“Can you smother it somehow?” Jeff yelled.
 
“No, I don’t have anything. And the others are getting free.
 
Sure enough the blue flamers who’d been temporarily frozen were up and re-igniting their fire.
 
One of the intruders with the blue fire yelled, “¡Detenganlo!” and pointed toward Jeff.
 
Teachers had joined the fight. In the midst of pelting milk cartons, lightning strikes, and lashing ropes, Jeff was struck by one strange fact. His fellow students seemed to be fighting for the sake of fighting. No one appeared intent on retrieving the hostage. As a matter of fact, Jeff watched a kid blast one of the captors and turn away from the hostage.
 
Jeff roared. He had to get over there, but if he moved, he’d release the gravitational hold he had on the captors. Experimentally, he slid a foot forward without lifting it from the ground. He felt the hold weaken, but it didn’t break. Concentrating all his efforts on maintaining control, Jeff slid his feet across the floor. The going was agonizingly slow. He felt some of the captors struggle against the gravity that locked them in place, hoping to break free. Someone’s psych ability nudged around his head looking for a way in. With all his efforts focused, he continued to slide across the room.
 
A blast of steam and heat hit Jeff, knocking him sideways. He slid a couple of feet across the ground and came to a rest in a heap. Dazed, he shook his head and sat up. Then he remembered what he’d been doing. He leapt to his feet and searched the room for the group of captors. Too late. The doors swung closed behind them. Source was gone.
 
Links:
 
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/King-Of-Bad-Edition-Villain-ebook/dp/B00DQGA6MW

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/king-of-bad-super-villian-academy-book-1-kai-strand/1115915105?ean=2940016426198
 

 
Box Set Links:
 
 
Whiskey Creekhttp://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1318

About the Author:

When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.


 
The Giveaway:
 

$15 Amazon gift card plus a signed bookmark and a pack of King of Bad playing cards; open US only














Monday, February 8, 2016

INTO THE FIRE COVER REVEAL AND BLITZ

Quote for the week: Life is like a novel. It's filled with suspense. You have no idea what is going to happen until you turn the page. Sidney Sheldon

What a wonderful way to start the week with the cover reveal for Author Kelly Hashway's novel INTO THE FIRE, the heavily edited version with new scenes. And a new cover. Take a look.

Isn't this gorgeous? The girl's expression makes me wonder what she's thinking.
 
INTO THE FIRE
by Kelly Hashway
 
Synopsis:

In one month’s time, seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman will die and be reborn from her own ashes…


Her life of secrecy has never been easy. She’s watched her younger brother, Jeremy, burn and rise again in a coming-of-age process called rebirth. And just like her brother, when her time comes, she won’t remember anything from her first life other than she’s a Phoenix—a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical Phoenix bird.


The last thing she needs to worry about is falling for the new guy in town—Logan Schmidt.


Cara is drawn to Logan in a way she can’t explain, but she’s not exactly complaining. Everything is perfect…except it’s not. Once she’s reborn, she’ll forget Logan. And to make things worse, a Phoenix Hunter is on the loose, and Cara’s involvement with Logan is bringing out her Phoenix qualities—the very qualities that will draw the Hunter right to her.


Desperate times call for desperate measures…


Afraid of hurting Logan, Cara breaks it off for good. But her attraction to him runs deeper than a typical high school crush. She wants him—needs him. And if he proves willing to stay by her side, their love might destroy them both.


Can Cara hide from the Phoenix Hunters long enough to survive her rebirth? And if so, will it mean a new beginning with Logan—or the beginning of the end?


Pre Order Link:
http://amzn.to/1nPz3Q1

Email: khashway@hotmail.com

Website: www.kellyhashway.com

Blog: http://kellyhashway.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Kelly-Hashway

 
 
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KellyHashway



Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/khashway
 
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KellyHashway

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/kellyhashway/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Hashway/e/B004B3W3CU



Author Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1g2JpYn
 
Book Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28805293-into-the-fire

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/kellyhashway

Congratulations, Kelly.

Happy Reading!



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

INSECURE WRITER'S SUPPORT GROUP

What? It's February already? January just started. Well, the calendar says it's Feb.2, so it must be.
It's also a very special day: INSECURE WRITER'S SUPPORT GROUP.


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.



Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG
Our awesome founder of IWSG is Alex J. Cavanaugh.

His awesome co-hosts for the February 3 posting of the IWSG will be Allison Gammons, Tamara Narayan, Eva E. Solar, Rachel Pattison, and Ann V. Friend!  

Insecurities. Do I have any? Not too much. Mostly it's hoping that my works-in-progress make sense. That I find the right words to tell the characters' stories. That the characters have a story to tell. A story that will touch the hearts of the readers.

In the meantime, while my characters are telling me their story, I put together this cat tree.
No, my stories don't have a cat in them. Both have a dog, however.

 
The cats aren't impressed. Patches sits underneath it.
Tiger climbs the "real" trees outdoors.
 
 
 
May all you insecurities be little ones.
 
Happy Reading!
 
 


Monday, February 1, 2016

##InkRipples and Chocolate!

Quote for the week: Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. Frank Lloyd Wright.


#InkRipples is a monthly meme created by Kai Strand, Mary Waibel, and Katie L. Carroll. They post on the first Monday of every month with a new topic. They're all authors, but you don’t have to be to participate.

 


 

The idea of #InkRipples is to toss a word, idea, image, whatever into the inkwell and see what kind of ripples it makes. They provide the topics and will be blogging about them on the first Monday of the month. You can spread your own ripples by blogging about the topic any day of the month that fits your schedule, just be sure to include links back to Katie, Kai, and Mary.

 
Or you can simply share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #InkRipples. You might simply comment on one of their posts to play along. Tag them and they’re always happy to share your posts and thoughts to keep those ripples going and intersecting.

There is no wrong way to do #InkRipples (with the exception of following basic human decency!). It’s about having a conversation, sharing ideas, and connecting. So if this sounds at all interesting, please do participate in whatever way you can. And feel free to use any of the meme’s images (created by the wonderful Mary Waibel).

The topics for 2016 are:

 

February – Chocolate

March – Feminism
April – Poetry
May – Memories
June – Movies
July – Inspiration
August – Guilty Pleasures
September – Banned Books
October – Masks
November – Heritage
December – Cookies
 
 
 
Chocolate! What can I say? Dark Chocolate Kisses. Chocolate Easter Bunnies. Chocolate Pie. Chocolate Cake. You name it. I like it. I was curious as to where, when, and how chocolate came to be. So I did a bit of research and found this great site.
 
 
Year Published 2014
Publisher A+E Networks
 
The Sweet History of Chocolate by Christopher Klein 
 
Chocolate may be the “food of the gods,” but for most of its 4,000-year history, it was actually consumed as a bitter beverage rather than as a sweet edible treat. Anthropologists have found evidence that chocolate was produced by pre-Olmec cultures living in present-day Mexico as early as 1900 B.C. The ancient Mesoamericans who first cultivated cacao plants found in the tropical rainforests of Central America fermented, roasted and ground the cacao beans into a paste that they mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chili peppers and other spices to brew a frothy chocolate drink.
Olmec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations found chocolate to be an invigorating drink, mood enhancer and aphrodisiac, which led them to believe that it possessed mystical and spiritual qualities. The Mayans worshipped a god of cacao and reserved chocolate for rulers, warriors, priests and nobles at sacred ceremonies.


When the Aztecs began to dominate Mesoamerica in the 14th century, they craved cacao beans, which could not be grown in the dry highlands of central Mexico that were the heart of their civilization. The Aztecs traded with the Mayans for cocao beans, which were so coveted that they were used as currency. (In the 1500s, Aztecs could purchase a turkey hen for 100 beans.) By some accounts, the 16th-century Aztec emperor Montezuma drank three gallons of chocolate a day to increase his libido.


In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors such as Hernán Cortés who sought gold and silver in Mexico returned instead with chocolate. Although the Spanish sweetened the bitter drink with cane sugar and cinnamon, one thing remained unchanged: chocolate was still a delectable symbol of luxury, wealth and power. Chocolate was sipped by royal lips, and only Spanish elites could afford the expensive import.


Spain managed to keep chocolate a savory secret for nearly a century, but when the daughter of Spanish King Philip III wed French King Louis XIII in 1615, she brought her love of chocolate with her to France. The popularity of chocolate quickly spread to other European courts, and aristocrats consumed it as a magic elixir with salubrious benefits. To slake their growing thirst for chocolate, European powers established colonial plantations in equatorial regions around the world to grow cacao and sugar. When diseases brought by the European explorers depleted the native Mesoamerican labor pool, African slaves were imported to work on the plantations and maintain the production of chocolate.


Chocolate remained an aristocratic nectar until Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten in 1828 invented the cocoa press, which revolutionized chocolate-making. The cocoa press could squeeze the fatty cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder that could be mixed with liquids and other ingredients, poured into molds and solidified into edible, easily digestible chocolate. The innovation by van Houten ushered in the modern era of chocolate by enabling it to be used as a confectionary ingredient, and the resulting drop in production costs made chocolate affordable to the masses.


In 1847, British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons created the first solid edible chocolate bar from cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar. Rodolphe Lindt’s 1879 invention of the conching machine, which produced chocolate with a velvety texture and superior taste, and other advances allowed for the mass production of smooth, creamy milk chocolate on factory assembly lines. You don’t need to have a sweet tooth to recognize the familiar names of the family-owned companies such as Cadbury, Mars and Hershey that ushered in a chocolate boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s that has yet to abate. Today, the average American consumes 12 lbs. of chocolate each year, and more than $75 billion worldwide is spent on chocolate annually.

12 lbs. of chocolate a year? That sounds about right. Happy eating, umm, happy reading.