THE WORLD OF BOOKS 2018                                                              


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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

March . 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

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.



Local author has his second book published

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

Interested then click below.

Link -

JAN 23. 2018 The Food Teacher Wins ‘Best in the World’ at the Gourmand Cookbook Award.

Following success in national business awards and a string of appearances at Food Festivals and Community events, Katharine Tate, The Food Teacher, has won her second world renowned Gormand Cookbook Award.

‘Now We’re Cooking!’

Teaching cooking and nutrition was brought back into primary schools in 2014 and since this time Katharine Tate, The Food Teacher has been supporting schools to successfully deliver the curriculum but most importantly make cooking and nutrition education purposeful, engaging and fun. Her latest book ‘Now We’re Cooking!’ was co-authored with Tim Baker, Headteacher of Charlton Manor Primary School in Greenwich and experienced class teacher Marie Reynolds. (pictured below with Katharine on the right)This focuses on supporting schools to deliver the National Curriculum through food, an education model delivered at Charlton Manor Primary that has proved highly engaging and motivating for pupils.

The book aims to support other schools who wish to follow this ethos themselves. It outlines what can be done in class and the school to develop positive food culture, how to take food education beyond the classroom, effective parental engagement and how Charlton Manor and The Food Teacher can support you.



“Head Teacher Tim Baker, The Food Teacher, Katharine Tate, Marie Reynolds, his staff, and the pupils have created a brilliant book here. Schools and local authorities need all the help they can get, and this book contains brilliant ideas for lesson plans that bring food into every part of the curriculum.” Jamie Oliver, MBE

“The impact of these changes at Charlton Manor has been significant particularly around pupil engagement and enthusiasm for learning within a purposeful, hands on theme – food.” Tim Baker, Head Teacher at Charlton Manor Primary School.

Crime Pays

No Exit Press authors Leigh Russell, Nick Triplow,

Howard Linskey and J. Paul Henderson reveal the secret.

I began the evening by talking to Leigh Russell who has become very successful with over a million books now sold. Her novels feature police procedures and forensics in depth giving weight to the plot. She likes to explore the motivation for the murders, exploring all the psychological aspects of the killer and the police during the investigation of the crime. Included within her novels are references to social issues and misgivings within the justice system when appropriate.

Leigh is active in social media believing it helps her to connect with her readers and gain valuable feed back. In her latest book is ‘Deadly Alibi’ DI Geraldine Steel is thrown into a double murder investigation which threatens not only her career, but her life.

Next up was Nick Triplow who writes both fiction and non fiction. He was promoting his latest work ‘GETTING CARTER  TED LEWIS AND THE BIRTH OF BRIT NOIR’. It is all about Ted Lewis, one of the most important writers you've never heard of. His life described as a cycle of obscurity to glamour and back to obscurity, followed by death at only 42. He sampled the bright temptations of sixties London while working in advertising, TV and films and he encountered excitement and danger in Soho drinking dens, rubbing shoulders with the ‘East End boys’ in gangland haunts and writing for Z Cars.

Nick’s first priority before writing is researching in depth to ensure total accuracy. In fact the striking book cover image (Michael Caine with Ted Lewis) was found looking through scrap books... ‘and the photo just fell out’. With all the factual data in place Nick can make a start. He writes in a film script style evolving the story and developing the characters with surprises throughout.

Howard Linskey was next and as an ex Harpenden resident we got on really well, reminiscing about his time here before moving to Welwyn Garden City. Before becoming an author he was an investigative journalist in Cheshire and spent time on the Ian Brady case. He featured in CBS Reality’s true crime TV series ‘Written In Blood’ giving an insight into the Moors murders and also wrote ‘The Search’ featuring a fictional character, loosely based on Brady. Research is therefore part of his DNA.

He sets his novels in the 90’s, before the influence of mobile phones, the internet and social media. Having decided upon a story theme he writes the ending first and works backwards developing the plot and characterisation. Writing in a shorter paragraph style he likes to keep readers hooked with page turning endings to each chapter before the grand finale.

He takes time to keep in touch with his readers via facebook and Twitter where he tweets on a regular basis, as well as emails and he loves to get feed back. During the interview Howard was asked to dedicate a message in 3 of his books that had just been bought. Unlike his first three books... a crime series set in the north east of England featuring journalists Tom Carney & Helen Norton, his latest book ’Hunting The Hangman’  is a historical thriller about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during WW2.

Rounding off a fascinating evening was J. Paul Henderson who is NOT a crime writer but a writer of books with humour and social messages and as down to earth a person you could wish to meet. He has had a varied career following his Master's degree in American Studies, working in a foundry, as a bus conductor, training as an accountant and then, returning to academia in Mississippi, returning four years later with a doctorate in 20th Century US History. Now residing in England he concentrates his efforts on writing. Different in story construction to most authors he gets a sense of a concept, knowing how the book will start and finish but leaving the middle to develop as he progresses with the storyline. Each chapter ends with a cerebral comment leaving the reader to ponder a while before reading on. Being a traditionalist he does not get involved with all things on social media.

His latest book ‘Larry And The Dog People’. It’s all about Larry MaCabe  a man who needs people more than most... The problem for Larry is that most people have little need for him...apart from an administrator of a care home, a Bassett Hound and the complications that develop following this friendship.

He is already planning a new book with ten chapters written in the first person taking a theme from normal life in which the main character falls in love with a TV presenter.

Crime fiction is one of the biggest selling literary genres with over 30% of all UK book sales.The majority of the crime fiction readership now is female, and female characters are dominating the genre. So an invitation to attend a Christmas gathering of NO EXIT PRESS authors at Harpenden Books on Nov 30 was irresistible, lured in particular by the opportunity to interview them all (for a limited 20 mins each) including Leigh Russell again, whose recent books feature Detective Geraldine Steel.

There was a concensus amongst all the authors on three elements that contribute towards the perfect novel:

Creating believable characters...developing intriguing plots...accuracy and authenticity.

What helps to sell books?

All four authors had similar views, first and foremost being the book cover with powerful images and dynamic type faces to reflect the crime content or more subtle images for other genres. NO EXIT PRESS have a design team to activate most of the creative work, which is shared with the author pre publication. Coming close in joint second place were book reviews across all media sectors AND distribution via traditional book retailers, supermarkets and on line. Finally in the case of ‘big name’ authors there are advertising/promotional campaigns. PLUS special meet the author events where books are available to buy.



Katharine is delighted to have won a special award in the Gourmand, which is often described as the ‘Oscars of the Food Awards’.  “For our book to have won from over 26,000 food and wine books produced each year is a huge achievement. As the Food Teacher I encourage children and families to think about what they eat and to embrace a healthy lifestyle.  When writing Now We’re Cooking we set out to use our expertise to support schools to put food at the top of their agendas. The impact of developing school food culture can have wide reaching benefits included greater engagement, improved long-term health and community inclusion. To get this level of recognition for this book is an amazing achievement.”

Hertfordshire Litfest 2018 has now launched and we are hosting the fabulous Leigh Russell to talk about the 10th book in her Geraldine Steel series.

Thursday April 19. 7.15pm

It will be a wonderful opportunity for people to meet Leigh, hear about her writing process and buy a signed copy of the book!

Light refreshments will be provided and customers can buy their tickets in the Library or online.

27 High Street





Telephone Number: 0300 123 4049    

End May Hardbacks from WHS in Harpenden

1. World’s Worst Children 3 by David Walliams

2. Forever And A Day by Anthony Horowitz

3. The Outsider by Stephen King

4. Private Princess by James Patterson

5. Arnham by Antony Beevor

6. How to Stay Alive by Bear Grylis

7. On Leopard Rock by Willbur Smith

8. The Grey Ghost by Clive Cussler

9. Dead if You Don’t by Peter James

10.First Man In by Ant Middleton

11.  5 Ingredients, Quick and Easy Food by Jamie Oliver

12. Mr Grumpy Nails Fatherhood by Liz Bankes

13. A Column Of Fire by Ken Follett

14. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson

15. The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

End May Paperbacks from WHS in Harpenden

1. The Break by Marian Keyes

2. Don’t Let Go by  Harlan Coben

3. Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

4. Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

5. Haunted by James Patterson

6. Wartime at Woolworths by Elaine Everest

7. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie by Annie Barrows

8. On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond

9. Sleeping in the Ground by Peter Robinson

10. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

11. 12.Only Fools and Stories by David Jason

12. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Haran

13. The Midnight Gang by David Walliams

14. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

15. The Street Orphans by Mary Wood