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on 1 June 2006
Well, I have read the book and can report it is just as funny as "Lemons" and "Parrot", and even better written. Those of us who have followed Chris's escapades in those books will be pleased to know that he is still at El Valero, his Spanish mountain farm, and still just as full of zest for life as ever. In "Almonds" we get to see Chris coping with his daughter Chlöe becoming a Spanish teenager, and laugh aloud through further farces on the farm, like when the police come to arrest his scarecrow, or when he louses up his entire olive crop.

But there is also a serious - and new - strand in this book, which is Morocco, Africa and Fortress Europe. Chris finds himself on the frontline of immigration to Europe when a group of Moroccan youths turn up, en route from a terrible, dangerous crossing of the straits to seeking work in the greenhouses around Almeria. They walk the backroads to avoid detection, and pass by El Valero. Caught up in their plight, Chris goes to work in an advice centre in Granada, and, as you would expect, he is not cut out for office work! He then retraces the immigrants' route, with writer friend Michael Jacobs, but ends up eating more jamon and drinking more wine than is strictly Muslim. It's all described as a self-deprecating farce, but beneath the humour he has a point to make about tolerance. We also get some marvellous descriptions - perhaps the best writing Chris has done in any of his books - about his own time in Morocco, a few years back, scratching a living seed collecting in the Middle Atlas.

All in all, this is another great slice of Stewart and one that remains entirely rooted in 'real life' - very far from the ex-pat ramblings of so many of his imitators. Most important, he remains an irresistibly funny writer, with a voice uniquely his own, and a style of storytelling that is never less than engaging.
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on 22 December 2006
The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society contains more stories from Chris Stewart and his farm in the hills of the Sierra Nevada. This is a collection of stories rather than one story from start to finish. I don't think it is as laugh-out-loud funny as his second book (A Parrot in The Pepper Tree) but I don't think the books are sold for their comedy value. The stories are interesting, and include re-tracing the route of illegal immigrants from Morocco after a few stopped by his farm and another story follows his travels through Morocco to harvest a particular plant for one of his money raising schemes. I almost feel part of the family because the characters and scenery seem so familiar. I really hope Chris writes another instalment but I worry that he'll run out of genuine stories soon because his life these days probably revolves around meetings with publishers in London rather than living on a small farm in Spain.
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on 1 November 2006
Readers of Chris Stewart's earlier titles can rightly expect to be rewarded in his latest volume with another charming, playfully self-deprecating account of everything he turns his hand to, and an empathetic appreciation of the people he runs into.

Once again, we are treated to a delightful but informative romp through matters that most of us know nothing about - from dung beetles, frogs, dogs, trees, sheep (and their droppings), to olives, Costa wine and the eponymous almond blossom. All this set in the now familiar landscape around El Valero, the family cortijo in the Alpujarras in Southern Spain, at the junction of the rivers Trevelez and Cadiar,

As before we can count on his wife, Ana, and daughter Chloe - now a teenager, to provide quizzical counterpoint to some of his escapades, and on a charming coterie of local characters who accompany him on them.

But times change, and global issues reach even Alpujarreñan backwaters. Semi-starved illegal immigrants from Morocco ghost past his door, and Stewart feeds them, tries to simulate their furtive trek up from the coast. He works as a volunteer in an Immigrant Help centre in Granada. A seed-gathering expedition to Morocco years before is lovingly related, but hopes of helping his Berber helpers to escape their poverty trap ultimately came to nothing.

Climate change arrives with a vengeance. Life in the Alpujarras - always precarious and ever subject to extreme highs and lows, both physical and emotional - suffers unprecedented cold and severe drought. Crops are ruined, trees freeze and sheep risk starvation. A smallholding couple invests a huge amount of money to build a 600,000 litre concrete water tank to protect their irrigation water supply and with it their chosen lifestyle - albeit one of "ferocious" hard work. It makes no economic sense.

But Stewart explains "we need to go on taking some active part in our landscape, ploughing its soil, planting its orchards, tending its trees. That is how we keep a sense of who we are."

A sense that may be doomed. The Alpujarreñan life-style is irremediably uneconomic and as vulnerable as canaries in a coal mine before the onslaught of climate change. Between the lines there is the distinct possibility that the almond blossom will not be there to appreciate much longer, and that Chris will have to redefine his sense of "who we are".

Does that make his books also an endangered species? Given Stewart's irrepressible enthusiasm and willingness to `have a go' -almost certainly not. But don't be surprised to find him doing his bit to save the planet and, with customary bonhomie, giving his take on the issues that concern us all. Swan song for the Alpujarras, maybe, but if this canary falls off its perch we all really are down the shaft.
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on 30 November 2006
Having really enjoyed the easy wit and charm of Chris Stewart's first two Alpujarran chronicles, I began the third with eager anticipation.

What a let down! This is perfectly readable, but feels like distinctly thin gruel - leftovers if you will. It is said that everybody has a book inside them - it seems that Christ Stewart was fortunate in having two, but is now floundering.

No doubt it will still sell well to fans of his previous work - but another dud like this and I expect his fan base will dwindle rapidly. Pity.
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on 4 September 2006
I really enjoyed the two previous books in this series and was quite looking forward to reading this. Often follow ups of this type are disappointing but I had high hopes as I didn't find Parrott in the Pepper Tree much inferior to Driving over Lemons.

As a result this was a real disappointment. Rambling and only very occasionally entertaining I really struggled to get through it. If you haven't bought the others do so and avoid this one.
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on 19 July 2006
I've waited four years for this latest instalment of life at EL Valero and it's absolutely worth the wait. Almond Blossom contains all of of Chris' genuine charm and humour and gives some surprising insights into the way the Alpujarras are changing. It would be impossible to imagine Chris' neighbours inviting him on an Almond Blossom Appreciation walk in the first book. I loved his piece about olives and I'm glad someone has finally explained to me the best way to drink from a bota. The section on his trip to Morocco was a revelation. A lovely book to pack away and read with delight in the shade of a fig tree.
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on 28 June 2016
Having bought the 3rd book of the trilogy in a daily deal, I ended up buying the first two and the fourth. Chris Stewart seems able to strike just the right tone and allow the reader to enjoy a delightful view into his family's lifestyle, friends and neighbours. One can only admire the commitment to developing a lifestyle so well integrated to the land and the local community.
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on 14 August 2015
I really enjoyed the third book in this trilogy, Chris writes with a flair and passion that takes the imagination on a journey :-)

I feel like I've followed the Stewart family though their ups and downs, and it's been fun seeing Chloe change from a child into an adult and I've loved hearing about Chris' neighbours and learning more about them, and their relationships also, A brilliant series of books, which I have now recommended to several friends.
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on 19 July 2006
A thoroughly enjoyable read. Chris is just as good company as he ever was and I like the way his style has matured. His travels to Morocco, which form the centre of the book, are so vivid I can almost smell the mint tea. And I really laughed at his descriptions of his misadventures at the olive mill!

A warm, wonderful and very funny companion.
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on 5 August 2015
Another very well written and enjoyable book from Chris Stewart relating his experiences in Andalucía and following on from his two earlier novels. I enjoyed it very much but not as much as the two previous books, however I would still recommend it to those who have read the other two in the series, just to 'complete the circle'.
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