THE WORLD OF BOOKS 2017                                                              


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Here’s Claire’s third book review :

BOOK REVIEW – Missing, Presumed

by Susie Steiner

BOOK REVIEW - Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz




“Do you need my help?”

It was the first question he asked.

They called him when they had nowhere else to turn.

As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from an orphanage.

Raised and trained in a top-secret programme, he was

sent to bad places to do things the government denied ever happened.

Then he broke with the programme, using what he’d learned to vanish. Now he helps the desperate and deserving.

But someone’s on his trail.

Someone who knows his past and believes that the boy once known as Orphan X must die …

“Always respect life. Then you’ll value yours.”

This is what Evan Smoak is taught – despite being part of a covert black assassin programme – in an effort by his handler to keep him human whilst he is turned into a killer.

But after breaking with the programme does his soft heart really becomes his Achilles heel?

All I will say, because I don’t like giving the plot or spoilers away, is to read the book and find out.

After reading the back page blurb, to be honest my initial thoughts were along the lines of “Hm, sounds OK, could be a bit of a slog.”

It sounded a world away from my normal reads, written by a guy and a thriller to boot.

Boy, was I wrong!

I couldn’t get enough of it. Talk about a page-turner of a book.

A wise man once told me that there are two types of reader: those who read for the story (and can’t be doing with the fluff) and those who read for the description (the fluff).  I am firmly in the “read for the story” camp, if it’s got too much fluff I simply switch off.

This book has both, it has fluff and a well-woven story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. More importantly, it has you sitting there wondering who’s hiding things and who can Evan really trust? I changed my mind more than once I assure you and I certainly did not spot the epilogue coming!

I liked Evan from the word go. I can’t put my finger on why precisely, but the story was written in such a way that despite him being an assassin he was portrayed as very much a normal human being, living in the normal world. Unlike James Bond who seems to only occupy a world full of glamorous models, fast cars and casinos.

If you like thrillers, or even if you just fancy something completely different, I would thoroughly recommend Orphan X.

And even better, there’s another book coming out.

Claire Millins

The Widow by Fiona Barton



Recommend:It’s not a page turner, but it’s an OK read.

We’ve all seen him; the man – the monster –

staring from the front page of every newspaper,

accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm

on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted; her Prince Charming. But then he became that monster on the front page, a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

Now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms. Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

From the back of the book this looked like a good read.  Like the blurb says we’ve all seen those people staring out from the newspaper. “How on earth could they do something like that?” we ask ourselves.

The victims’ families have an outpouring of sympathy towards them, rightly so. But do we ever think about these monsters’ families? Aside from an unfortunate connection through birth, marriage or association, they are tarred with the same brush and held up to the same kind of abuse hurled towards the monster. Is that right?

So a book which deals with this side of the story has to be applauded for its originality.

By the time I got to Chapter 14 though I was not enjoying it.

The crime itself, without giving anything away, personally I found a little uncomfortable to read about.

However, the book is well written and an easy read, but it’s one of those books written in the 3rd person as a series of diary entries. The down side being that not all entries are by the same person and they are not all in the same time period. I found myself constantly flicking back and forth to work out where I was.

I was inclined not to finish, but I knew I needed to plough through. After all you can’t write a book review by only reading a little bit of the book. And who knows, it could get better.

The good news is, it did!

After Chapter 14, the diary entries mainly focussed on the time period of the crime itself and the investigation by the police. What actually happened was that as time progressed, the later diary entries became closer and eventually you were reading in a chronological order.

From an investigation point of view, it was interesting to read how the police went about their work and what they did, what they didn’t do but then subsequently did and on the flip side to get inside the mind of the monster and how he managed to do what he did.

But, and here’s the but – the end was one of those blink and you miss it, dealt with in the last few pages of the book. Call me demanding, but I needed more than a few lines of what happened. The story was complete about the victim’s family, but we never find out what happens to The Widow, or what really happened at the crime scene bar a few lines. The book just ends, and you feel a bit cheated.

Another book is due out with the same reporter catapulted into another investigation. Will I be reading it? Probably not.

Claire Millins

It’s the first time that an author has ever won both the Gold and Debut Daggers in one year with the last Double Dagger title achieved in almost ten years ago by Gillian Flynn (author of Gone Girl) for Sharp Objects in 2007.


For fans of THE WIRE, GEORGE PELECANOS and CLOCKERS, Dodgers announces the arrival of an exceptional new talent. This gripping literary thriller, with an ensemble cast, fuses a moving, coming of age story with a meditation on the very nature of belonging.

When fifteen year old East, a low-level lookout for a Los Angeles drug organisation, loses his watch house in a police raid, his boss recruits him for a very different job: a road trip – straight down the middle of white, rural America – to assassinate a judge in Wisconsin.

Having no choice, East and a crew of untested boys – including his inscrutable, trigger- happy younger brother, Ty – leave the only home they’ve ever known. Setting off in a nondescript blue van, with a roll of cash, a map and a gun they shouldn’t have, this amateur crew embark on a life-changing odyssey into the unknown.

Along the way, the country surprises East. The blood on his hands isn’t the blood he expects. And he reaches places where only he can decide which way to go – or which person to become.

An intense, dangerous thriller delivered with a poignancy that will break your heart, Dodgers is the American road trip for our times. From the mean streets of south LA to the hinterlands of the American Midwest, the pared down, raw prose of Beverly’s incredible debut will keep you spellbound, shocked and thrilled to the very last page.

BILL BEVERLY (right) was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He studied literature and writing at Oberlin College, including time in London studying theatre and the Industrial Revolution. He then studied fiction and pursued a Ph.D. in American literature at the University of Florida. His research on criminal fugitives and the stories surrounding them became the book On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America. He lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland, and teaches American literature and writing at Trinity University in Washington D.C. He collects beer cans.

‘There’s not much in this little nugget of a debut novel that doesn’t impress...Beverly’s writing turns the most banal setting into a thing of beauty. Terrific.’ Paul Connolly, Metro


Stars:2½ / 5

Recommend:Only if you like thrillers.


Edith Hind is gone, leaving just her coat, a smear of blood and a half-open door.


Each of her friends and relatives has a version of the truth. But none quite adds up.


The press grows hungrier by the day. Can DS Manon Bradshaw fend them off, before a missing persons case becomes a murder investigation?

So, on the face of it, judging by the back blurb it sounded an OK book.

But, “never judge a book by its cover”, isn’t that what they say?

In all honestly I found it a long slog and hard-going. Not that it was a difficult book to read, on the contrary, but maybe because it was the 3rd thriller in a row it just felt a bit like overkill. I attempted to read it 3 times, and in the end forced myself to read it.

I just couldn’t get going with it. 

I didn’t really care that DS Manon Bradshaw was the Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s answer to Bridget Jones, on an even more desperate scale.

The real story really didn’t even get going until halfway through the book, and I kind of guessed half of the ending fairly close to the start of the story and the other ‘twist’ about two-thirds of the way through.

By the end of the book, I was just relieved I’d finished it if truth be told.

Now, these are just my own feelings about the book, inside the front covers are 2 pages of glowing reviews. It was just a book that I, personally, didn’t enjoy.

That aside, there were some positive things about the book that I did like.

It was a very easy read, not one of those books where you have to constantly flick backwards and forwards to remember facts.

I liked the fact that the author researched regional dialects and wrote those characters’ dialogue in a phonetic way, so that you effectively read Irish or Scottish.

And I did like the insight into the Police’s attitudes into the type of person who disappears (without giving too much away there).

I also like the small insight into what happens to children in care, even though the fact that a child was handed over, with no questions asked, to a single, childless policewoman seemed a bit far-fetched. I very much doubt in reality that would happen.

So, the big question, would I recommend it? Having not enjoyed it personally I could not enthuse and encourage someone else to read it. However, if thrillers are your favourite genre, then you will probably enjoy it.  It is just unfortunate that, in this instance, I didn’t.

March 2. Claire Millins, now a regular book

reviewer for Harpendia  with her review of:

‘A Parcel of Pigs and other funny tails’ by Andrea Prior.

Genre:Children’s (Age 2-7)


Recommend:Some good rhymes

Reading aloud with children is the single

most important activity for building the knowledge

and skills they will eventually require for learning

to read.

Reading with your child is not just about learning,

it’s quality time where you can snuggle up and enjoy

adventures together. You can read them your favourite

books from your childhood, or maybe discover some

new amazing books. There is a whole world of magic

to be found between the covers of a book.

This newly published book is an enjoyable read for children as young as 18 months to as old as seven or eight.

At 18 months your child will enjoy the sounds, the rhyming repetition and the colourful pictures in the book. When you are reading, try and use lots of sounds and actions to involve your toddler. That is what the ‘educators’ call active listening, which means they are learning without realising.

For emergent readers, this book will help them pick out rhymes, letters, sounds and again as you are reading together try and make it as physically active as possible – so it’s probably not the best book for bedtime, when you want them to settle down.

Once your child is a beginner reader, they should be able to pick out lots of words and sound most of the others out. There is always going to be some tricky words out there.

From about the age of four, the questions at the end of each poem will be an extra starting point for all kinds of interesting discussions – you know what children are like, and if these rhymes can fire their imaginations then the author will have done a very good job.

After all as Einstein said: “logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.”

2017 Book reviews

WHS Top Selling Paperbacks.  April. 2017


  1. 1.Dead to Me by Lesley Pearse

  2. 2.Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern

  3. 3.Night School by Lee Child

  4. 4.The Butlins Girls by Elaine Everest

  5. 5.The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

  6. 6.BBC Proms Festival Guide

  7. 7.Daughters of Castle Deverill by Santa Montefiore

  8. 8.Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

  9. 9.Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

  10. 10.The Flame Bearer by Bernard Cornwell

  11. 11.The Girls by Emma Cline

  12. 12.Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  13. 13.The Hourglass No 3 by Tracy Rees

  14. 14.Magic by Danielle Steel

  15. 15. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

  16. 16.The Queen of Wishful thinking by Milly Johnson

  17. 17.Private Delhi by James Patterson

  18. 18.The Shadow Sisters by Lucinda Riley

  19. 19.Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

  20. 20.Never Never by James Patterson

  21. 21.Sleeper’s Castle by Barbara Erskine

  22. 22.I Found You by Lisa Jewell

  23. 23. The Doorstep Child by Annie Murray

  24. 24.The Coal Miner’s Daughter by Maggie Hope

  25. 25.End of Watch by Stephen King

HOW TO BUY ‘A Parcel of Pigs’

Contact Andrea directly for a signed copy

OR From the publisher at by putting in the title of the book in ‘Search the Book Shop’

The books are £8.99 + £2.95 P&P

Also available from Amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones etc.,

She has also started a dedicated FB page to inform about book signings/new events/recitals/reviews

BOOK REVIEW – The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Genre:General Fiction



“Noah is a little boy who knows things he shouldn’t and remembers

thing he should have forgotten. Because as well as being a

four-year-old called Noah, he remembers being a nine-year-old

called Tommy.

He remembers his house.

His family.

His mother.

And now he wants to go home.

Two boys. Two mothers.

One unforgettable story…”

From the blurb on the back of the book, this looked a really interesting story. A definite and welcome change from thrillers!

And do you know what? I really enjoyed this story.

I liked the characters from the get-go and the author drew you in, in such a way that I actually cared about the characters’ journeys.

Whether you believe in the concept of reincarnation or not, this story makes you think just a little bit deeper. Maybe there is some truth in it?

The author has cleverly interwoven real-life case studies by real-life doctors into the body of the book at points where the action switches, almost to re-emphasise that may, just maybe, the concept of reincarnation is not so “wacky” as people think.

Why does Noah think he’s a nine-year-old called Tommy? What happened to Tommy?

As a mother, in all honesty, I have absolutely no idea what I would have done in Janie’s shoes (Janie, being Noah’s mother). Like Janie, I would have been shocked, hurt, unsure and all the emotions that go with it, and I’m sure that, just like Janie, my first port of call would have been Doctor Google and trawling the internet for hours searching in the vain hope that I would find some glimmer of hope.

Without giving too much away, it’s obvious from the back of the book that the boy Noah believes he is – Tommy – is dead, but as you travel on the book’s journey you get into a question of ethics and moral dilemmas, especially when tracking down and meeting the dead boy’s parents comes up.

In the realms of fiction is it that far-fetched for a random stranger to knock on your door and announce that their child believes he is your dead child? But in reality, what are the protocols in these situations? Are there any?

By the end of the story you do get a sense of completion, which is great. Each character is afforded time in the book to be given an ending, a sense of closure and a chance for a new beginning. 

Maybe a little bit like the idea of reincarnation itself?

I really enjoyed this story and would definitely recommend it.

BOOK REVIEW – The Readers of Broken Wheel

Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Genre:Fiction (with a bit of Romance thrown

in for good measure)



“Sara has never left Sweden, but at the age of 28 she decides it’s

time. She cashes in her savings, packs a suitcase full of books and

sets off for Broken Wheel, Iowa, a town where she knows nobody.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps some romance too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

With a little help from the locals, Sara sets up Broken Wheels’s first bookstore. The shop might be a little quirky but then again, so is Sara. And as Broken Wheel’s story begins to take shape, there are some surprises in store for Sara too …”

Just from reading the back of the book my mind was full of questions:

•Why would anyone just pack a suitcase of books and go somewhere you know nobody?

•Is a bookshop really a life-saver, or in this case a town-saver?

•Is it chick-lit in disguise?

•Is this going to be as dull as all those other Swedish “must reads” of a couple of years ago?

In answer to the last question, no. No this book was definitely not as dull as those other Swedish books. I really liked it.

I cared for the characters, all of them and was glad that things turned out the way they did.

Was it chick-lit in disguise? Possibly. However, not your typical chick-lit read.

Personally, I think chick-lit has been given a lot of bad press, sometimes we all need a little escapism. Some read thrillers, some read sci-fi and some read chick-lit. It’s just escapism via a boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back tale, really no different than rom-coms. So why is chick-lit badly maligned by the literary snobbish, whereas a rom-com is just brushed off as a chance to escape from reality for a few hours?

Anyway, back to the review of the book.

There are lots of books discussed within the book, spanning time and genre and being reminded of some books, maybe from nothing more than a title got me thinking, “oo, I haven’t read that in a while,” or “I loved that book!” and even, “must put that on the reading list.”

Being a bookworm myself, I really connected with Sara’s character and I loved her bravery for just packing up and travelling halfway across the world despite objections from her family. I really liked the fact that the residents of Broken Wheel were so welcoming and took Sara into their community. If only that were true in real life, but, it’s only a story!

The saying goes sometimes a change is as good as a holiday, and in Sara’s case she really came out of the shell she had built up around herself in Sweden. By the end of the story I was glad that everything turned out the way it did.

The author went to great lengths to ensure that although the main character of Sara was the focus of the book, all the secondary characters had their own battles they were fighting. You ended up feeling that you knew everyone in that small Iowan town.

Did everyone get closure on their battles?

On the whole, yes they did. For some you had to read between the lines, others were obvious. There was only one part of the story that I felt was left unanswered – you could hazard a guess, but were never actually told.

Now, for me to tell you what that was, I would have to give away one of the major plot lines. All I will say is read the book and let me know if you think anything was left unanswered.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely, within a heartbeat. It is a lovely, quick, easy read which is a bonus after all those thrillers.

So, what’s next on the Richard & Judy Book Club Reading List?

A thriller!  Great!




Local author has his second book published

"Grandad What was Football like in the 1970s ?"

Interested then click below.

Link -

Half Price on Richard & Judy Books at WHS in Harpenden (subject to availability)

NB, Half price refers to a 50% saving off RRP

Conclave by Robert Harris

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Miss You by Kate Eberten

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell

The Trespasser by Tana French