Reviews Published

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 was the year I...

2010 was the year I...

  • Realised that my family is more important than my writing
  • Decided what kind of novels I want to write
  • Made a firm resolution NEVER to buy cheap lead-laden junk from a $2-shop EVER again

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I do believe in Santa, I do, I do, I do believe in Santa, how about you?

Dear Santa, this Christmas I would like:
  • joy
  • laughter
  • soft voices
  • magic and wonder.
Dear Santa, all year long:
  • more time for writing would be good
  • more patience with the children
  • more tenderness and understanding
  • financial peace.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction

2010 was a strange year. If - ten years ago - I'd written a futuristic novel set in 2010, what editor would swallow that in 2010:
  • the heroine's royalties from writing e-books exceed tenfold her royalties from print books;
  • an octopus in Germany correctly predicted almost every game in the FIFA World Cup;
  • Russia and an unknown country starting with a Q (who can even name a country that starts with a Q?) beat USA and UK in the bid to host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022;
  • 33 trapped miners in Chile were rescued from under 700m below ground after months of careful preparations - the miracle was watched on TV around the world;
  • but when 29 trapped miners in a coal mine in New Zealand a few months later, no rescue attempt had been made?
Stranger than fiction? Post your "incredible 2010 stories" here.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

When "The Nile" Is Not A River

The Nile is New Zealand's coolest online bookstore. I love it because they sell my books... and the good news for you is that you can get them cheaper there than directly from me. How is that for crazy?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

It's December already...

... where did the first 11 months of 2010 go?

I can guess where. A large portion was spent on making school lunches, being mom-taxi, supervising homework, playing the same old boring Snakes&Ladders, watching school sports, making beds, tidying up toys, hanging tiny t-shirts out to dry in the sun. Those hours, I don't regret, even if they blend in my mind into a stream of mind-numbing beige-ness.

Another large portion was sold to various people who kindly paid for my written words about topics I wasn't necessarily all that interested in. Those hours, I consider a necessary distraction.

A small portion was squandered on watching The Big Bang theory, Eureka, LOST and 5 seasons of "How I met your mother". Fun and relaxing, but ultimately a waste of the precious time we have here on earth. This message struck home after the Pike River Mine disaster.

Lessons learnt? Enjoy family time more, enjoy TV less. Write more books and fewer blogs. Send fewer emails and see more friends.

Now, for the implementation....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pike River Mine Disaster

Flags are flying at half mast in New Zealand today as the nation reels from the tragedy in the Pike River Coal Mine, which claimed the lives of 29 men.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Yvonne Walus on Crime Watch!


What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
Define my hometown. If it's where I live, and it's North Shore City (not Super City), they should sit on a bench at the Tui Park beach in Beach Haven, look at the water and listen to the silence. My original hometown is Warsaw, Poland, and there I would invite the visitors to take the first mode of transport out of the city and head south until you hit a tiny spot called Wieliczka, where you go underground to tour a salt mine.


Read more here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Despicable Me

What is it about animated children's movies that makes them so accessible to parents? I mean, if you look at my favourite movies of the year, you'll notice a pattern:
  • 2001, Shrek
  • 2002, Ice Age
  • 2004, Shrek 2
  • 2005, a tie between Madagascar and Hoodwinked
  • 2006, Ice Age 2
  • 2008, Kung Fu Panda
  • 2009, Up (with Avatar a close second)
  • 2010, a tie between How To Train Your Dragon and Inception
  • and I'm really hoping to put up Kung Fu Panda 2 for 2011.
We can debate all we like whether it's mommy-brain or parent-sensitivity that's to blame, or whether it's the simple fact that more thought and creativity goes into animated movies in order to recoup the budget. The point remains: "Despicable Me" was one of the better movies I saw this year.

From an adult perspective, the plot was a tad too pat and predictable (Annie meet The Two Who Stole The Moon), but it had enough quirkiness and humour to make for an enjoyable hour and a bit in Gold Class. My own 8-year old female found it funny and touching. From my 6-year old male's perspective, the best part was when the yellow animals made photocopies of their naked bums. And on that expert note....

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Heroines We Like To Read

Who is your favourite heroine? Scarlett O'Hara, Stephanie Plum, Bridget Jones? Do you admire the feisty and the sassy, or the girl next door with a scratch card addiction?

In my search for a heroine I love to read (and write!), I turned to Jane Porter books, who allegedly writes intelligent heroines with a great sense of humour. I didn't get past the Amazon reviews. For every 20 or so 5-star reviews, there would be a not-so-good-one calling the heroine whiny, spoiled and irritating.

Linda Howard's heroines vary from the kick-ass female butler in "Dying to Please" to the bad-tempered shallow crybaby in "Mr Perfect".

It was a great loss to the book world when Madeleine Wickham became Sophie Kinsella. Madeleine wrote memorable heroines, quirky and often flawed as human beings yet perfect as book characters and always immensely likable. Sophie's heroines are larger than life but extremely mediocre: after all, there are only so many seconds in a year that I spend thinking about shoes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A plea to Lee Child

Dear Lee Child

You're an awesome writer. From a wannabe potentially envious colleague that should count for something, so let me repeat it: you're an awesome writer. Your main character is quirky and fun, your plots rock, your style rolls.

For those who don't know your work, let me give an example.

Blurb for Lee Child's "Gone Tomorrow":

When Jack Reacher witnesses a suicide on a Manhattan subway, he knows that there is more than meets the eye. Soon he's in deep, trying to unearth a dark secret for which both the feds and Al-Queda are willing to kill to keep from being revealed. Even in a city of eight million, a lone wolf like Reacher tends to stand out, and before long he is being hunted from all sides—which is exactly what Reacher wants.

See what I mean? Your books are page-turners, and would remain page-turners even if you were to remove the excessively horrific bits you inject into your novels. Trust me. You don't need them.

Keep the fight scenes if you will, let the blood flow in graphic detail. The war atrocities, though... please leave them to the reader's imagination.

A would-be fan

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yvonne Walus is...

... reading a Linda Howard, listening to a Lee Child and watching Salt. Not all at the same time.

  • The Linda Howard book: A jungle rescue, a stolen microfilm, a super alpha hero and a competent heroine. Tick.
  • The Lee Child Book: Starts with a suicide bomber, or is it just a suicide? A hook definitely worth its while.
  • Salt: I love the Polish actor who played the Russian spy master. Go Daniel!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Juliet, Naked - a review for those who read the book

In honour of Nick Hornby, I'm writing this review in point form. As a fan and self-appointed Hornbyologist, I'm convinced he's a list guy. (If you don't believe me, just read "High Fidelity", one of the greatest love novels ever written. Or let's start a website dedicated to all things Nick Hornby, analysing his work word for word and agonising over what made him stop writing novels for ten long years.)

  1. To quote another fan's cyber review: "Obviously there's deep irony in posting a review of a new book by one of my favorite authors when one of the key elements of the book's plot is an adoring fan's online review of a new album..."
  2. Throughout the novel, I kept wondering which characters and situations might be autobiographic. Naturally, Nick Hornby as Tucker Crowe is an obvious first assumption. Might there be more? Let's see...
  3. Hornby is a football fan, possibly also a Cobain fan. Might he see bits of Duncan in himself?
  4. Hornby divorced his first wife. Did he want to go back to her a la Juliet? Did he leave her for a Gina-like lover and regret it Duncan-style?
  5. Hornby's father deserted his family. Does the author identify in part with Grace, Lisa and the twins?
  6. As a stay-at-home father (writers don't work in the City), did he intend the relationship between Tucker and Jackson to reflect.... You get the drift.
  7. "High Fidelity" is all about pain and rejection, full of power and beauty and shards, just like the album "Juliet". Does Hornby feel he over-exploited his inspiration for that novel? Does think himself a fraud?
  8. "Juliet, Naked" the book is just like Tucker Crowe's latest album, full of sitting in the garden being happy. It might not appeal to the fans of the sharp-edged "High Fidelity". It might actually be more beautiful.
  9. In the words of another fan: "Hornby is a rare writer who crafts literary novels for mass audiences. He is proof of an argument he has made about many great recording artists in his music writing - that you can create art of great, lasting value while remaining a crowd-pleaser. In that respect, he doesn't aspire to be Tucker Crowe, prototypical cult artist - he wants to be the Beatles."
  10. Nick, you're welcome to email me your thanks for my perceptive review. I won't ask you to prove it's really you, I'll know you're not Duncan.
P.S. The Internet is a wonderful place. Want to listen to a recording of fictional Tucker Crowe's fictional "You and your perfect life"? Or see the album cover of "Juliet, Naked"? Or hear Nick Hornby on Tucker Crowe? No problem. William Goldman, with his fictional foreword to "The Princess Bride", can eat his heart out.

Juliet, Naked - a review for those who haven't read the book

"Juliet, Naked" is Nick Hornby's much awaited latest novel. On the surface, its premise seems a little bland and confusing: a middle-aged protagonist is obsessed by an obscure reclusive musician, but it is the protagonist's girlfriend who starts an email relationship with the recluse.

Certainly not the type of book I would pick up if it weren't for the author, whose "High Fidelity" put him firmly on my top 5 contemporary English-language novelist list.

I finished the book five days ago and am still under its spell. Its actual premise, the one not mentioned in the book, is too enormous for me to encapsulate here, but its aspects include:
  • what is art?
  • when is art a lie?
  • who is an artist without his inspiration?
  • what makes a fan turn obsessive?
  • how does the Internet fuel fandom?
  • what do minor celebrities feel when they read about themselves?
  • is it better to be happy or creatively brilliant?
  • are the two concepts mutually exclusive?
I realise Nick Hornby himself identified the themes in the novel as parenting, middle age and romantic relationships. To me, they are incidental. All I see is a beautiful book about creativity and obsession, and it doesn't take a genius to see the parallels between the fictional musician and the writer who created him.

This is Stephen King's "Misery" gone literary and without the horror bits.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I Shall Wear Midnight

Terry Pratchett's 4th Tiffany Aching book, "I shall wear midnight" is really good. I loved reading it and I look forward to reading it again soon.

My only quibble is with the target audience. I know Tiff is growing up, and perhaps the idea is that the readers grow up with her, but as she's sixteen, I expect 12-14 year-olds to want to read the book, particularly if they'd read the previous offerings in the series.

Now I know some 13-year olds have sex. I know most of them use swear words. And yet I don't think it's appropriate to include swear words or teen pregnancies in a Discworld book.

Oh dear, now I sound like my own father, LOL. And, to be fair, my mother let me read "Rich Man, Poor Man", with all its sex scenes and violence when I was 12, and I didn't get corrupted by it. So who am I to argue?

Still. There are lots of teen books out there that deal with sex, drugs, bereavement, divorce and family violence. If teens need them, it's important that they exist and are accessible.

It's just that I would have preferred Discworld books to remain pure fantasy and escapism from the world tainted bleak by teen hormones...

Friday, October 01, 2010

Competition Results

As we're coming out of winter in the hemisphere "down-under", I'm celebrating the results of the Nelson Romance Writers' Short Story Competition. The top three winners are announced here.

And this is the lovely certificate, book by Emily May and hamper I won.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Seventh Taboo - review

A beautiful one compliments of "Long and Short Reviews":

"... Clones are identical? Clones are the same sex? The future stretches the scientific boundaries until even the people of that time aren't sure what can be achieved.

In a world of virtual reality, some workmates decide to play an illegal Face to Face game. This is when Jade and Lorri-Ann meet. They are immediately attracted to each other and Lorri-Ann wonders if she has met her soul mate, but realizes this can't be as they are different genders.

In a world where the young and cloned have live-in monitors, these two young people steal moments to investigate and maybe advance their attraction for each other.

Although short this story is full of mystery. Jade and Lorri-Ann combine their skills to outwit their mentors and search the files for clues to their origins.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"How I Met Your Mother"

I have a brand-new vice lately, which is fabulous, because I was getting bored with the old ones. It's called "How I Met Your Mother". Yes, I mean the popular TV series now in its 845th season or so. And yes, when it comes to TV, I can be slow on the uptake sometimes (I still haven't seen Heroes or Survivor, and have only sampled House).

What I love about "How I Met Your Mother" is the quirkiness. The plot keeps wagging in unexpected directions, and yet there is an underlying wholesomeness to the show, so notably absent from True Blood, to mention a random example.

Having watched only the first season, I can't imagine how they're going to keep the storyline fresh throughout the remaining 844... but I can't wait to find out!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Looking for good books....

I found myself in a bit of a quandary lately. I've run out of books to read. Oh, my to-read pile is still as high as ever, and yet I find myself re-reading the old classics:
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Harlan Coben
  • Nick Hornby
  • Joshilyn Jackson
  • Lionel Shriver
  • Minette Walters
  • Agatha Christie....
I'm looking for books in which:
  • no bad things happen (particularly to children)
  • are uplifting
  • and fun to read
  • and make me think.
Suggestions welcome... nay, humbly begged for!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Nick Hornby's Books

I've read "About a boy" before, and I've seen the movie. Now I'm listening to the audio book (audio books are great for car journeys and household chores). Nick Hornby is a brilliant writer. Brilliant.

Only yesterday, somebody asked what books I'd write if I could write anything I wanted without paying heed to the market. I mentioned Pratchett-like fantasy settings and satire, I mentioned Coben's thrillers, I mentioned Minette Walters and her issues-driven crime fiction.

I should have added Nick Hornby to the list, with his beautiful and understated commentary on life.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

I'm currently listening to "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" by none other than Richard Dawkins. It's a good book, an almost perfect balance of scientific and layman terminology. I particularly enjoyed the story about the flog with a bit of belly skin grafted onto its back... read the book if you want to find out about it. It was also fascinating to learn how quickly physical changes can occur in lizard and fish populations when their gene pools are isolated from one another.

But, and it's a big one, there is one problem with the overall argument made. While the whole evolution argument is sound and I have no trouble accepting it, what I do have an issue with is the concept that there is no overall designer. Yes, I get that there is no blueprint and cells do things on their own, independently of one another, independently of any global picture. So?

There may not be a design an embryo follows. That may be exactly how The Designer designed it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Witch Hunts on the Internet

If you enjoyed Harlan Coben's "Caught", you might like "Witch Hunts on the Internet".

See book trailer here or read the blurb:

Danger!!! Internet chat are immediate and intimate, but sometimes they only create the impression of a relationship. Sometimes they break hearts. Sometimes they claim lives.

Danger!!! The Internet makes many things look ok even though they are not: porn, sex parties, talking to strangers. It changes the rules and the way the world works.

Danger!!! Internet People are not always what they seem. When your 13-year old daughter pretends to be 15 and in a dating chat room with a 40-year old guy... how far would you go to protect her?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Harlan Coben - "Caught" - Review

I've just finished reading "Caught", and a good thing it is too, because I've been neglecting my long-and-getting-longer list of urgent tasks in favour of curling up in the winter sunshine with this latest Harlan Coben.

Overall, this stand-alone novel deserves a 5 out of 5. It contains the usual magic ingredients: a protagonist you want to root for (and if you're a man from Down Under, you probably want to root her, too), snappy dialogue with that unique HC rhythm, pace for Africa, gritty realism of parental emotions, moral dilemmas to mull over long after the last page is turned and a f-ing good plot.

Mind you, sometimes a writer has to have enough reader cred to get away with a plot like this one. With a lesser writer, I'd be screaming But-what-about-the-fact-that-Wendy-managed-to... and Why-doesn't-Hester-simply-tell-him-to-write-an-anonymous-letter-to-the-cops-with-the-exact... and Yo-have-you-forgotten-the-timeline-question. Not to mention (OK, to mention) my personal darling: NOW-you-expect-us-to-buy-the-trophy-theory????

So. A lesser writer, I'd be reading with my eyebrow cocked. Because it's Coben, though, I just read, giving him my full trust that all the niggles will be tied up at the end. Which they are. This book is a perfect example of "nothing is as it seems". A marvellous job.

I know he says he doesn't plan the stuff in-between the beginning and the end, but I still wonder whether this complex plot was designed or resulted from being written into a corner and having to twist the ways out.

As a huge Win fan, I welcomed his cameo appearance in this non Myron-B book. Again, I can't help wondering how that came about, whether the author sat there with writer's block one morning, forcing himself to type in something, anything, already excited by the idea of his next book and throughly sick of this one....

Hard to imagine being sick of "Caught". I'm planning to read it again. Soon.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Let's go to the movies - Inception

Inception is simply brilliant and brilliantly not simple. In fact, it is so not simple that I spent the first ten minutes wondering what the hey is going on... and not in a good intrigued way, but in a completely lost way.

It probably would have helped to have read the movie's blurb. Had I known it was about entering people's dreams, I would have been ok. But when I sat down in the Gold Class reclining chair, cocktail in hand, I couldn't even remember which movie we were going to see. Di Caprio's face was the first clue this was not the "I want to be a teenage vampire Part 3" movie.

Anyway, once I got past the confusing bit, the rest was simply brilliant. It deserves being said twice. I loved the way Inception stayed with me for days as we discussed the possible meanings. Leaving the ending open interpretation was also a stroke of genius.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Up to date with the Twilight movies

I'm probably the only novelist in the Western world who hasn't read the Twilight series.
  • Because vampires are not my thing.
  • Because werewolves are not my thing.
  • Because I'm wary of runaway bestsellers based on a dream.
However, I've recently sat through all three movies, and I was pleasantly surprised. Definitely watchable and without the cheesy dialogue I was led to expect. Vampires that shine are only marginally more my thing than vampires with gory mouths a la True Blood, but the main actress is mega cute and I'm in love with Jacob (both as a character and because of what he looks like without his shirt on).

I'm told the movies beat the Hot Tub Time Machine (I haven't see it so can't comment)....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Based on my latest murder mystery novel....

I write like

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

James Joyce. That's the angst-ridden chap whose books I've never been able to start, let alone finish. The one whose sentences run over pages and pages, streaming his bleak consciousness into bleak reality. Yay. So flattered. Not.

PS Depending on which of my books I plug in, I also write like Stephen King and Dan Brown. Much better.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

"The bride will keep her name"

"The bride will keep her name" by Jan Goldstein (that's a male version of "Jan") is an interesting book, and I don't mean "interesting" in a euphemistically negative sense.

From a reader's perspective, it's a romantic suspense with more emphasis on the suspense bit, which is refreshing. While the romantic bits are almost too sugary in their perfection, you can almost forgive them in view of the imperfection that's to come. The twisty bits of the plot are also fun. My biggest disappointment was insufficient sleuthing. while I understand not all brides-to-be have detective skills, surely some basic questions should have occurred to her, like "How does the adversary know where I am and what I said in the ladies' room" and "Why is he doing this?" which neatly translates into "Who will benefit?"

From a writer's POV, the points of note include:
  • The hardcover was published by Shaye Areheart Books who subsequently got restructured out of Crown Publishing. (The paperback has been picked up by another imprint of theirs, though.)
  • How unusual is it for a man to write romances?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Entertaining, short, interesting read about South Africa in the late 90s

My thanks go to Ursula Pieper for a wonderful review of "Murder @ Work". Read more.

Incidentally, I'm looking for 2 reviewers to write up something about "Murder @ Play". Hands up?

Don't want to review? Then read on: if you buy a copy of "Murder @ Play" (on Kindle, but you don't need Kindle to read it, any PC will do) and contact me before the end of July 2010, I'll send you an e-copy of "Murder @ Work".

Thursday, June 24, 2010

FIFA 2010 - venting

WARNING to my regular readers: This post is only about soccer. If you haven't caught the bug yet, read Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch.

Now, to FIFA 2010, and in no particular order:
  • Despite all the glam expectations and promises of foreign money pouring into the country, fewer that 8,000 tourists entered South Africa on a FIFA visa. If the number seems reasonable enough to you, here's some perspective: the purpose-built Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg can hold over 88,000 spectators.
  • I'm not blaming those who chose to stay away. I did, too. To find out why, read this article.
  • Bafana Bafana played an awesome game against France, and the only reason they didn't get to go through was the disgraceful ref call (penalty) in the game with Uruguay. It's unfair that the diving Uruguay team is going into the elimination stages and I hereby promise to support any team playing against them. Except for Italy, that is....
  • All Whites played an awesome game against Italy, and the only reason they might not get to go through is the disgraceful ref call (penalty) in the game with Italy. It's unfair that the diving Italy team is going into the elimination stages and I hereby promise to support any team playing against them. Except for Uruguay, that is.
  • If you want to know why I love soccer, look at the photos of the Portuguese team (on this post).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chapter and Woman's Day

My thanks go to Chapter Book Store and Woman's Day magazine for sponsoring our RWNZ short story competition. I'm thrilled for one of my stories to have placed 3rd.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Interview with Carlton Scott

Q: What technique did the author use for his illustrations: Pencils? Oil Pastels? Textured Paper? Layered Images?

A: In the early 1990’s, when I did my first book, Grin’s Message I used crayons and colored pencils. I tried to make the characters very cartoon like and full of expression. After losing my sight in my left eye from glaucoma in 1996, I was very frustrated with my lack of depth perception and could not draw the Rocky Mountains like I had hoped for my second book Little Big Wolf.

Since I had many beautiful photos from my hikes while living in Denver, Colorado I messed around with the idea of combining my drawings and scanned images. After realizing this unique effect would work, I chose to publish the book and see how people would react. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from kids and adults and I think the blending of my photography and pencil drawings works well. I then decided that when I attempted my third book, I would do the same…

With my Glamour Girl book, I used colored pencils and photos I had taken during my travels as a nurse. The sky and clouds are enlarged to 17” x 11” as the backdrop for my colored images and are all scanned together in photo-shop on the computer and my art placed into the photo. When I do any drawings I always sketch them out in pencil first to make sure I like it and then color them in after with Prismacolor pencils. Sometimes part of a drawing will look really nice and then I’ll mess up another section. Instead of trashing the whole image like I would do in the past, I cut out part of the picture that works and layer it with another drawing from another piece of paper, like a collage. When I teach kids in elementary school how to write, illustrate, and publish their work, I always tell them to draw out their entire story first in pencil so they can erase any errors before they bring their characters to life with color...

Scott has dedicated his life to working with children, both as a nurse and mental health worker. He has written and illustrated three picture books for children. As part of his commitment to supporting children’s health, he donates 50 percent of all profits from his books to children’s hospitals across the country. He created his newest book, Glamour Girl from the Stars, to foster self acceptance in young girls.

For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit You can learn more about this author and purchase his books at

Live up to your potential

Book Review
"Glamour Girl from the Stars" by Carlton Scott
Children's Fiction

The first thing I noticed about "Glamour Girl from the Stars" was the very pink cover with a hand-drawing of an alien stepping out of her space ship. It's clearly meant to look like a child's drawing, not like a super-realistic computer generated graphic, and yet the green bald alien is clearly female, with a body language full of attitude.

The beautiful visuals continue throughout the book as they illustrate the alien girl's journey. From the stars straight into Dinosaur Era (you have to see the dinosaurs!), fast forward to 2010 right into Area 51 (a nice touch for the adults), then on to Waikiki, China, Rome.

When she finally arrives at the Miss Universe Pageant, she can't believe the number of hungry earth girls she sees there. The book's moral about self-confidence and living up to your potential is a lovely touch.

The author has kindly answered my questions about his drawing technique. Please see the next post.

Scott has dedicated his life to working with children, both as a nurse and mental health worker. He has written and illustrated three picture books for children. As part of his commitment to supporting children’s health, he donates 50 percent of all profits from his books to children’s hospitals across the country. He created his newest book, Glamour Girl from the Stars, to foster self acceptance in young girls.

For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit You can learn more about this author and purchase his books at

Thursday, June 03, 2010

No, it's not what you think!

This book is NOT about economics. I repeat: not related to, not remotely, and nothing to do with the price of eggs. Or the price of margarine when the price of butter goes up. Or any of the boring topics like value-adding, the 3-6-3 rule, stock, derivatives, zzzz zzzzzzz zzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... that ensured I never became a rich actuary.

"Freakonomics" and "Super Freakonomics" are humorous and chatty books about people:
  • what makes us give to charity
  • why an IT specialist chooses to "turn tricks"
  • parenting
  • school teachers
  • drug dealers who live with their moms
  • ... all that plus three easy way on how to avert the global warming crisis.
Read one or both of them. That's coming from me, someone who dislikes non-fiction almost as much as she loves fiction.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I felt cheated

LOST, the final episode. I loved the character development. I didn't care about the unresolved mysteries. But as soon as I realised the "sideways" or "LA X" reality was a sham, I felt cheated.

I felt cheated. As she was dying, Juliet said "it worked". This was reinforced a few episodes before the finale, when Miles did his speaking to the dead routine. It worked, he said. That's what the whole final season was about, that it worked. It didn't. A video review points out that when Juliet said "it worked", she meant the candy machine (the "enlightenment" scene with Sawyer in the last episode). I would have said "what a long con", only it would be besmirching to Sawyer, so I'll say instead "what a cop-out".

I felt cheated. I got a glimpse of the way life could have been for these people if only Jacob hadn't messed with it, and, having done his dirty work on the island, having completed their save-the-world mission, they deserved a chance to have that original way of life back, with all their island memories switched on so they remember every day how lucky they are to live their happy HERE-after. Instead, their grand prize was a waiting room.

I felt cheated. Just as it was imperative for the actions taken in the Island Reality to influence the final resolution, so should the actions taken in the Sideways Reality have mattered. Switching on their memories should have helped good overcome evil in the Island Reality.
Speaking of good overcoming evil, I felt cheated. Other reviewers have put it eloquently enough (see the 2 paragraphs beginning with "I was especially disappointed when Kate killed MIB...", then the comment Steven Says "What I took away from this, is if I ever get into a fight with a creature made of spirit possessing no body..." and WarnaBrutha's comment "An alternate version of the fight scene...").

Look, I still loved every 120 or so (somebody else on the forums did the maths) of the hours I spent watching LOST. The characters were iconic. The mysteries mind-blowing. It was fun to keep track of the timelines. But did I mention how, at the end of it all, I felt cheated?

PS: I love this alternative interpretation (although emotionally crippling, it's actually much more satisfying from a writer's perspective):
Damon Says:

You guys just don't get it. Did you even watch the show? Some of you seriously need to go back and watch it again if you did. It was clear that they didn't die when the plane crashed. The island was real, and the losties created there own after-life get-together so they could be with the ones that were most important to them. At least that's what they thought. The twist was that in the church Christian Sheppard was actually the smoke monster. He took old-man Sheppard's body as he had done many times before throughout the series. It was his way of getting even with the losties for all the trouble they put him through -- his long con. After Jack kicked Smlock off the cliff, they thought he was dead. Well, wasn't it odd that a creature that lived hundreds of years and could withstand bullets and everything else and turn into smoke was so easily beaten by Jack and Kate. He didn't really die. When the losties weren't looking, Smokey left Lock's body. When the losties all eventually died and went to their after-life gathering, little did they know that Smokey was there as well -- he had found another loop-hole. That's why Christian's body wasn't in the coffin, just like in the early episode when Jack found the coffin in the woods without the body and then saw Christian, who was actually the smoke monster. At the gathering, Smokey was misleading them into believing that they were "moving on." Nothing he said was true. Instead, Smokey was ushering them into a fate "worse than death." Didn't you see the light from the door he opened? It was the light from the cave. They never really left the island. The sideways world was not in L.A. It was something they created after they died on the island. No one ever left. It was a perfect ending. It was true to Lost being about the duality of man. Good versus Bad. Light and Dark. But with no clear winners and losers. The thing is, we never saw the losties walk into the golden light, so we don't know if they did. Perhaps they didn't fall for Smokey's trap. But then again, maybe they did. Now I know some people think the smoke monster snuck on the plane when Miles and Richard were fixing the wiring and that the plane took off before Jack corked the hole in the cave so Smokey possibly got off the island like he said he would. If he did, then maybe the world (and the island) were destroyed, which explains the island being at the bottom of the sea. I guess that's possible. It's all up to how you see it. Best show ever. (

PPS: I felt cheated: "Over the duration of the series, much speculation was made that the Island was Purgatory or Limbo where the characters all existed after dying in the crash of flight 815. The purgatory island theory was officially denied by the producers. In the series finale, it is revealed that the Flash-Sideways "Timeline", where the uninhabitable Island existed, was the purgatorial limbo existence. (Irony)"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Literary Fiction versus Pop

Why are all the literary fiction books out there so dreary? Yvonne Walus investigates and fails to find the answer here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

African Murder Mysteries

For those of you interested in African Murder Mysteries, here is a cool magazine, Mystery Readers' Journal, featuring two articles of mine. You won't be able to view much of the contents online, though of course you're welcome to purchase the PDF or the hard copy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You are invited...

You are invited to the following event:
Book Launch - South African Murder Mystery

On behalf of Echelon Press Publishing (USA), Yvonne Walus would like
to invite you to the book launch of her latest South African murder
mystery, “Murder @ Play”. It’s the second book of the series,
featuring the amateur detective Dr Christine Chamberlain.


In the new free South Africa of 1994, men are still boss, women carry
handguns for self-protection, and some mistakes can change your life

When a body is found during their weekend away with friends, Christine
Chamberlain must use her brilliant mathematical mind to prove her
husband's innocence...

... whether he's guilty or not.

Where your loved ones are concerned, is it possible to know too much?

Friday, April 23, 2010 from 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM (GMT+1200)

East Coast Bays Library
8 Bute Rd
Browns Bay
New Zealand

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Power of Your Child’s Imagination by Dr Charlotte Reznick

Introduction (excerpt)
How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success

Imagine your frustrated four-year old calming his anger with a special “Balloon Breath.” What if your seven-year-old’s own heart could teach her to love herself no matter what? Picture your fourth grader visualizing an ice blue pillow to cool his hot headaches. Or your worried eleven- year- old improving her concentration by consulting a personal wizard to assist with homework.
Imagine if every child could tap into an inexhaustible source of strength and wisdom when life gets tough. Think of how their lives would transform.

Growing up today is harder than ever as kids cope with unprecedented stress. The nightly news is a parade of bleak images—natural disasters, terrorism, street violence, and war—making our children feel unsafe. People are more isolated; extended families aren’t the haven they once were. Troubles that challenge adults—divorce, addiction, and financial worries—translate into conflict at home as kids absorb their parents’ woes. Add to that the traditional hurts and challenges of childhood—academic and social pressure, schoolyard bullies, the death of a pet or dear grandparent—and it’s not surprising that more kids are acting out or simply shutting down.

The Power of Your Child’s Imagination is a heart-felt guide that shows parents and professionals how to empower children with easy, effective, and creative skills for surviving – and thriving – in our stressful world. It’s an indispensable guide that provides nine simple tools to help kids access their natural strengths and resources. There’s a mini-primer for each Tool—a sample script, troubleshooting tips, and real-life examples of how it is used. The Tools are adaptable to all ages (even adults can use them), and their benefits accumulate over time.

Dr. Charlotte Reznick has dedicated her life to helping children, adolescents, parents, and professionals. She is a nationally recognized child and educational Psychologist and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA. Upon earning her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California, she was honored with "Dissertation of the Year"
for her work on the effects of parental divorce on adolescents.

For more information, or to purchase a copy of The Power of Your Child's Imagination, please visit

Thursday, April 08, 2010

How to train your dragon (in 3D)

"How to train your dragon" was just one of those movies. You know. I saw the trailer last school holidays when I took my two to see... er... something... The Tooth Fairy? The Princess and the Frog? After a while, all the kiddie movies blend into one.

And not only the kiddie movies. While watching "How to train your dragon" (in 3D), I was acutely aware of having been there, done that (still hankering after the t-shirt). Wait... hang on... I've got it!

"How to train your dragon" is just "Avatar" for kids.

And yep, I loved "Avatar". Especially in 3D!

Monday, April 05, 2010

A curious experiment

The Hanukkah Time Capsule - Now at the new low price of $1.49!!!

This is the publisher's experiment to see whether lower prices of e-books lead to more sales. Don't disappoint!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

I can write better than Agatha Christie!!!

I started reading Agatha Christie's books when I was 10, and it's been my dream to write like her ever since. Every single book of hers was a bestseller, and she still ties with Will Shakespeare for the title of Author Who Sold The Most Books (and no, J.K. Rowling doesn't come close).

So imagine my surprise when, listening to the audio book version of "Elephants don't forget", I found myself mentally red-pencilling all the echo words and fact-repetitions. While the puzzle itself is sound enough, the writing could have done with a good full edit. Certainly my two murder mystery cozies, Murder @ Play and Murder @ Work, read heaps better than "Elephants don't forget".

OK, so perhaps a fairer test would have been pitching myself against "A Murder Is Announced" or "And then there were none"... but I'll leave that to my readers. :-)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Have Button

We have a new kitten, Button. At the moment, he's sitting on my shoulder purring.
Typing's a challenge....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I've just discovered Linda Howard...

I've just discovered Linda Howard. As in, her books, not her murdered body in my library, LOL. "Kiss me while I sleep" is a perfect example of what a romance book should be, in my not so humble opinion.

It has all the elements:
  • thriller-like pace
  • high stakes that mean something to every individual
  • emotions
  • no-nonsense romance
  • erotic sex
  • no graphic violence
  • no sickly sweet "ahhhh" moments (you will not find anything remotely like "she put her head on his bronze chest, and they spoke about her feelings till dawn").
Ok, it might not win The Booker. But I'd read Linda Howard rather than J.m. Coetzee any day.

Friday, March 05, 2010

If you only read one non-fiction book this year...

If you only read one non-fiction book this year, make it Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers - the Story of Success". It poses many challenging questions, such as:
  • Why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential?
  • What contributes more to a child's achievement: their IQ or culture, circumstance, timing, birth and luck?
  • Why were the best hockey players born in January?
You'll be amazed at the answers!

Some reviewers question the scientific validity of the author's findings, saying that his theories are too "out there" (e.g., that coming from a rice-growing culture helps you be a good maths student) but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying the easy anecdotal narrative of the book, nor should it prevent you from drawing your own conclusions about your unique recipe for success.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pratchett's Unseen Academicals

I love Terry Pratchett's books and I love soccer. This book is by the one about the other, and yet it didn't work for me. It read like the first draft. Conflicts were hinted at and not developed, information was repeated and the few twists were predictable. What a let down after Nation and Going Postal.

But hey, I've read reviews that rate Unseen Academicals in the top 5 Discworld novels, so, as usual, it's all a matter of taste...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sir Julius Vogel (SJV) Awards

Great news: I have been nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel (SJV) Award for:

  • Best Short Story - Safe Sex Incorporated (as Eve Summers)

  • Best Short Story - The Hannukah Time Capsule

  • Best Short Story - The Seventh Taboo

Friday, February 05, 2010

Iggy the Iguana

About the Book:

Iggy the Iguana is the first book in the Iggy Chapter Book Series for ages 7 to 11. The story focuses on the major themes of acceptance, friendship, and diversity while Iggy starts a brand new school. The transition from a private "all-lizard" school to a public "all-animal" school is eye opening, as Iggy soon accepts that just because other animals are different doesn't mean they can't be your friends. By the end of Iggy's 4th grade year, he realizes that changing schools was the best move he could have ever made!


In the cyber-studio tonight we have the author of "Iggy the Iguana", Melissa Williams.

Q: Welcome, Melissa. Please tell us about the target audience for your book. What made you decide to write for them?

The Iggy the Iguana Chapter Book Series is perfect for boys and girls in elementary school. The specific target audience being 3rd to 4th grade, but I have 1st through 5th graders enjoying the book as well! Parents and teachers really appreciate the lessons and values presented in each book. The purpose of the stories are to find situations that kids will relate to while learning something on their own through the dialog and experiences of the unique and lovable characters.

I decided to make Iggy a fourth grader in the first book after spending a few years substitute teaching for different age levels. I witnessed the many changes fourth graders go through and the learning opportunities that are presented at this age. It was the perfect grade for me to present a multitude of relatable scenarios to the target audience. During the writing of Iggy the Iguana I was also finishing my Masters Degree in Professional Counseling and Psychology, so I wanted to use that knowledge to lay down a positive foundation in the stories. My goal was to make a story that would make kids laugh, experience empathy, and understand the importance of acceptance at a young age.

Q: An iguana as the main character is a cool idea. Does the plot depend on Iggy being an iguana, or would the story work if you did a global search-replace and made Iggy a rabbit or a snake?

Well, I don’t think I would have been able to use as many reptile jokes or details if Iggy wasn’t an iguana. I grew up with reptiles as pets, iguanas, lizards, turtles, horned toads, and water dragons … so needless to say, I have A LOT of reptile experience. I actually started writing this story about Iggy when I was eight years old, after picking out my first iguana at the pet store, Iggy! What a guy!

Q: And if you could be an animal, you would choose to be....?

An Iguana of course! They are sooooo cute!

Q: Of course! Now could we please have some buy links for the book?

Iggy the Iguana:

Summer League (Sequel):

Q: So noted. What are you writing at the moment?

Turtle Town! This is the spin off series to Iggy the Iguana. Iggy’s best friend, Snap Shell, the “Wanna-be Surfer Box Shell Turtle” is getting his own book! I plan to spend a little more time on location in Cardiff Beach, California to finish writing.

Q: Who are you when you're not a writer?

That question gets harder and harder every time it is asked. The type of career I have chosen is not just a job, but it is my passion, so ultimately it becomes me. When I completely turn it off, which is usually on vacation away from Texas, I am pretty laid back. (Many people probably don’t believe that.) When I’m away from working, it’s the simple things that I enjoy. I love to experience new things, the outdoors, hiking, biking, running. I love going away to the lake for a weekend or the mountains to ski. It’s times like these I feel like its okay to not look at my blackberry every .5 seconds … I get to re-center and balance out my positive icons. When I feel out of whack, I drive down to the beach.

Thank you, Melissa. And thank you for the wonderful contest offer (coming up next):

Win the Iggy the Iguana Give Away! Including the Newly Released Items in Iggy Collection, Snap Shell the Turtle (Plush Doll), Iggy Collector's Baseball Cards, and The Read3Zero T-Shirt ... supporting the fight against illiteracy 30 minutes at a time. Be our most active visitor during the tour for a chance to win this Iggy Collection -- the tour schedule is posted at to make it easy for you to visit and comment. To learn more about Iggy and Melissa Williams – visit