The Strawberry Thief (Chocolat #4) by Joanne Harris

StrawberryOnce upon a time there was a book that thought it was a regular story, it wrapped itself up in strangeness and fantasy and grew into a remarkable tale, a fairytale to enchant readers.

The Strawberry Thief was a fantastic read.  I absolutely loved it in fact I didn’t want it to finish and I can say, that to those of you looking at this as No.4 in a series and thinking there’s a lot of catching up, well, I can tell you that you don’t have to have read the previous three books – although of course I would recommend them.  I think there would be no problem at all in reading this as a standalone and I heartily recommend this book. It’s just beautiful.  Do yourself a favour and read it.

What can I say.  Picking this book up just felt right.  Comfortable and comforting.  Gorgeous writing, evocative and mysterious.  In fact a story with a mystery at its core surrounded by a heady mix of magic and motherhood – and chocolate.  Don’t forget the chocolate.

As I write this I can genuinely say that I am full of emotion.  The writing in this book was just intoxicating and I could frankly read this again, right now.

Vianne Rocher is a mother with two daughters.  One has flown the nest finding love and is living in Paris.  The other, Rosette, is still to find her voice.

Vianne now seems to have an almost comfortable life in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes.  She has finally found acceptance and her chocolaterie is popular with the locals.  But things are afoot.  Her ‘special’ daughter, Rosette, has been left a piece of land, following the death of the local florist Narcisse.  Narcisse had developed a soft spot for Rosette and left her is little forest, where the wild strawberries grow.  Of course, as you may imagine this causes uproar.  Narcisse’s daughter is outraged, naturally expecting to be bequeathed the full estate she is convinced that something is hidden in the forest and determined to get her hands on the piece of land come what may.  On top of this, it seems that Narcisse has left a confession, a compelling story that that has been left in the care of Reynaud, the village priest.  And then, to top it all, the old florist shop has a new tenant – and it seems that this new tenant is going to cause as big a stir as Vianne herself did when she opened a chocolate shop on Lent.

I won’t talk further about the plot.  It manages to twist and turn in the most delicious fashion.  On the face of it this appears to be a mystery.  Was Narcisse hiding something in his strawberry forest, why did he leave the land to Rosette and what is contained in that tantalising confession.  Two stories running parallel and both rife with the tension lent to them by the way in which the confession keeps switching hands in the most unexpected fashion.  Then we have the mystery of Rosette and her missing voice, her invisible friend and her ‘shadow’ voice.  Then, the newcomer.  The people of the village are simply bewitched by her.  Vianne needs to fight magic with magic – both of them have a way of knowing what a person needs but maybe this village is too small for two such larger than life personalities.

The other thing, there is an absolutely beautiful poignancy here.  Underlying the magic and mystery is a tantalising story of letting go, of having difficult choices, of being a mother, raising a child with love and care but then acknowledging that your child is now an adult and must be allowed to fly the nest and choose a path.

To be honest, I’m going to keep this review fairly short – which is absolutely not a reflection on the novel in any way – I adored this book.  I loved it in fact – and it’s turned me into a big ball of emotion and greed.  I can’t in fact say it any clearer than this.  Buy this book, read it and then come and tell me what you think.  I finished this story with tears in my eyes.  I was happy-sad.  Happy to read such a good book that just overwhelmed me and sad because it was all over and I wanted more.  Ooh, the book hangover!  Would I recommend this book – oh yes, without a doubt.

I received a copy, through Netgalley,  courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Waiting on Wednesday : The Testament of Loki (Runemarks) by Joanne Harris

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Testament of Loki (Runemarks) by Joanne Harris.

There isn’t even a write-up/blurb for this book yet but even so I’m really excited.  I’ve read a good number of books by this author and love her work.  I read the Gospel of Loki and loved it and so I’m very excited for this one.  Feast your eyes on this gorgeous cover:


Due out March 2018.


Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements – A cover with fruit

This week I’ve chosen two covers for Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris: (curiously, the other book I chose was Blackberry Wine, also by Joanne Harris!)

and my winner:


This is a lovely cover, it just appeals to me, the colour and the font.

Which is your favourite??

If you fancy joining in with the FFO the themes for the next few weeks are below.  

9th December – Soul Meets Soul on Lovers’ Lips – a cover with lips

16 December – Give a Girl the Right Shoes and she can conquor the world – a cover with shoes

23rd December – The first noel… – a cover with angels

30th December –  Ho ho ho! To the bottle I go… – a cover with drink

Chocolat or Blackberry Wine… (or both) with a sprinkling of Dr Who!

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

This week I was lucky enough to have two tickets to an event being held at Oldham Library where Joanne Harris was visiting.  So off I trekked – through extreme rain I might add, to see and hear one of my favourite authors.  (Okay, I admit, I was driven by the lovely hubby so no real hardship was involved).

I do love Joanne Harris, I’ve read most of her books and, in fact, given when I started reading these you could almost say that it was reading her books that helped to encourage and sustain my love of fantasy.   My favourites are Coastliners, Blackberry Wine and Holy Fools.  Oddly, I haven’t read Blue Eyed Boy – which seems to have been one of those books that has a divided opinion.  I was very happy to go along and sat right at the front like a big teacher’s pet! (I defend myself by saying that I was trying to get a good view and I certainly achieved that!)  So, did this event live up to my expectations.  Hell yes.  Joanne Harris is a wonderful speaker, incredibly articulate, interesting and amusing.  Now, you probably think ‘hello! author’ – but that doesn’t necessarily give you the ability to stand up in front of a room full of complete strangers and talk to them with confidence, without props, without prompts,  without notes and be interesting and captivating.  I literally felt like she was talking directly to me, of course she wasn’t, but that’s how it felt and I related to all her stories – particularly about the library.

Now, of course, there’s a slight incentive to these events in that Joanne has recently released her latest book – The Gospel of Loki – but nothing wrong to incentives.  The book was on sale of course with the potential for signatures at the conclusion (and JH was happy to sign any books that were brought along) – and, I must say the book looks absolutely gorgeous.

Basically JH gave us a few stories – starting with a recounting of how she first joined the library and discovered the world of fantasy – in spite of the fact that she was only supposed to be reading books that were ‘improving’.  (I actually maintain that fantasy is improving – and I really mean that – they feed your imagination and lead you to experience wild adventures!)  Anyway, JH joined the library.  Dark and dusty, up a rickety staircase and watched over by a protective guardian (who I imagined with eccentric horn rimmed spectacles and a bun! – I’m recounting a story here!!).  Long story short, one of JH’s favourite books proved to be a book of norse mythology and this in turn fed her interest and imagination.  Year’s later we have the Gospel of Loki – of course there were plenty of little stories in between but I won’t go into them all here.  We were then treated to a reading of the book and on the back of that I came straight home and purchased a copy (I wanted the kindle version).  I haven’t read this yet but from the reading at the event it seems to be told in that wonderful story time voice that JH has perfected whilst also managing to sound refreshing and amusing.  I can’t wait to get to this.

We then moved to a Q&A.  I can’t remember all the questions and I’m kicking myself that yet again I didn’t take some notes – but there was a discussion about characters.  How, sometimes in a story ,some of the characters are fairly flat and one dimensional, there to serve the plot really but then, without realising, the author breathes more life into these characters and they become unruly, refuse to behave and end up taking over the story!  There was discussion about ‘the shed’ and ‘twitter’ which was really amusing because I do follow JH on twitter and she is very entertaining to say the least. How, once an author, always an author – you can’t switch off.  The ideas arrive at inopportune hours, unrestricted by the 9-5 of a regular job.  And then there was the ‘what’s next’ question.  Again, my memory isn’t spot on for this (for which I blame the excitement of the moment) – BUT, I do remember some!  There’s a piece being written/worked up for JH’s fantasy author, really exciting is a short novella which is being worked on for a future Doctor Who episode – I think some time November/December and there was definitely another project (at least or maybe more, yes definitely more – damn my peanut sized brain!).  Sorry, I can’t remember it all but the news about the Doctor Who episode and the fantasy novel is very exciting!

Anyway, I had a lovely evening.  My esteem for JH has risen even higher and I have a new book on top of it all! (No doubt I will eventually buy the hardback because the cover is so lovely – but don’t tell the husband!  I think he thinks the house is sinking under the weight of books!  Personally I think we just need to move out to somewhere bigger – perhaps an old unused library – and make it our mission to fill it with books again – but, shhhh, you didn’t hear that, seal your lips and throw away the key).

This is my third of this type of event and Joanne Harris is in good company now with Robin Hobbs and Neil Gaiman.  I think I could become quite addicted to such evenings.  I read, reading is my passion and therefore for me authors are my superstars – unfortunately this does turn me into a massive pool of dribbling nonsense, unable to speak or ask questions and with the memory of a sieve- but I will get better, and I will take notes.