Reviews Published

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Check out the course I'm tutoring

Kill Boring Plots with Yvonne Walus:

New this year at SavvyAuthors!
Basic and Premium Members Prices
Premium Members $25 & Basic Members $35

*** Register before November 12 and use the coupon KILLPLOTSWALUS for a $5 discount ***
Structure, Plotting
$5 off Early Registration Coupon-expires 1 week before class starts
Learn how to write books that impact the reader and become conversation topics at parties. Make your books count.

They say that a human body can survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, and 3 minutes without oxygen. So how long can a human mind survive when bored? How long can a reader stick with a book that doesn’t carry any meaning?

Meaning is more than goal, motivation and conflict. It’s beyond the plot or the theme. Meaning is how the plot affects the protagonist and how it impacts on the reader’s life.

Don’t kill your story with an empty plot. Come to this workshop to discover techniques that help you translate “First this happened and then that happened” into four-dimensional reader experiences.

Lesson 1 – What's the Big Deal?
Lesson 2 – Generating Ideas
Lesson 3 – Did I Feel This?


Lesson 3 – The Process: from Idea to More-than-Plot
Lesson 4 – Story Outline for Plotters / Story Lake for Pantsers
Lesson 6 – Tips and Q&A

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Lost Man - Jane Harper

Probably my favourite Jane Harper so far. It grips you from the first chapter and doesn't let go. You're not reading, you're living the book: the heat, the heartbreak, the suspense.

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Past Tense - Jack Reacher 23

"Past Tense" is a must-read for all Jack Reacher fans. I probably wouldn't start with this one if you're a newcomer, simply because this book works better once you know the main character and his family, but if this is your first and you want to start now, don't let me stop you.

Great pacing, as usual. An effortless writing style. Ticks all the Reacher boxes without being formulaic.

Jack Reacher plans to follow the autumn sun on an epic road trip across America, from Maine to California. He doesn’t get far. On a country road deep in the New England woods, he sees a sign to a place he has never been - the town where his father was born. He thinks, what’s one extra day? He takes the detour.
At the very same moment, close by, a car breaks down. Two young Canadians are trying to get to New York City to sell a treasure. They're stranded at a lonely motel in the middle of nowhere. It’s a strange place … but it’s all there is.
The next morning in the city clerk's office, Reacher asks about the old family home. He’s told no one named Reacher ever lived in that town. He knows his father never went back. Now he wonders, was he ever there in the first place?
So begins another nail-biting, adrenaline-fuelled adventure for Reacher. The present can be tense, but the past can be worse. That’s for damn sure.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred Year Old Man

Jonas Jonasson has done it again. And just as entertainingly. If you liked "The Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped Out the Window and Disappeared", you will love the protagonist's views on modern politics: Trump, the Supreme Leader, Angela Merkel, uranium and Kenyan safaris in "The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred Year Old Man".

If you haven't read the first book, this one can be enjoyed as a stand-alone. Chances are, you'll read the other one as soon as you've finished this one, anyway.


The news on Allan’s black tablet had the curious habit of being both big and small. Mostly big, unpleasantly enough. Allan sought out the small and charming but got the rest of it into the bargain. It was impossible to see the molehills for the mountains.

During his first hundred years of life, Allan had never reflected upon the bigger picture. Now his new toy was telling him that the world was in a dreadful state. And reminding him of why he had, once upon a time, rightly chosen to turn his back on it and think only of himself. He recalled his early years as an errand boy at the gunpowder factory in Flen. There, half the workers had devoted their free time to longing for a red revolution, while the other half was horrified at the threat from China and Japan.

Their understanding of the Yellow Peril was nurtured by novels and booklets that depicted a scenario in which the white world was devoured by the yellow one. Allan did not care about such nuances, and he continued along the same path after the Second World War when brown shirts made brown the ugliest colour of them all. He noticed this as little then as he did the next time people converged around an ideological expression.

This time it was more a longing for something than away from it. Peace on earth was in, and so were floral VW buses and, frequently, hash. Everyone loved everyone else, except Allan, who didn’t love anyone or anything. Except his cat. Not that he was bitter: he just was.

The flowery era of life lasted until Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took over in their respective realms. They thought it was more practical to love oneself and one’s own successes. But if you insisted on disliking someone it should be the Russians. Essentially there were no other threats, and when Reagan killed Soviet Communism simply by talking about sending missiles from space, it was peace and joy for all, except the half of humanity who had no daily food and the several thousand British miners who no longer had a mine to go to.

The new view was that there was no reason to care about your neighbour; it was enough to tolerate him or her. And people did, until the winds of change blew once more. A bit unexpectedly, perhaps, the brown-shirt ideology made a comeback. Not by way of Germany this time, at least not fi rst and foremost. Or even second and middlemost.

But in a number of other countries it was in. The United States wasn’t fi rst among them, but it soon became the most noticeable, thanks to its recently elected president. It was impossible to say how much he really believed in it: that seemed to change from day to day. But the old adage about doing something yourself if you want it done right wouldn’t suffice: it was time to point out external threats to the white Western lives we all deserved to live.

A River of Stars

This is a beautiful novel about a head-strong Chinese woman trying to make it in USA against all odds. Written in an easy, original voice, by Vanessa Hua, this story will captivate your heart and imagination.


When Boss Yeung first told her about Perfume Bay, she’d tossed the brochure onto the dashboard and reached for a slice of dried mango. Shaking his head, he took the bag, but before he could stop her, she snatched a slice of chewy sweetness. During her pregnancy, he’d begun scrutinizing her, prescribing advice—­some backed by science but most by superstition—­to protect the baby. She shouldn’t eat mangoes, as their heat would give the baby bad skin; no watermelon, whose chill would cool her womb; no bananas, which would cause the baby to slip out early. No water chestnuts, mung beans, or bean sprouts, either. The list of traditional prohibitions grew each time she attempted to eat.

As he drifted into the next lane, she told him to keep his eyes on the road. He gripped the steering wheel and told her his plan: he wanted to send her and their unborn child halfway around the world to Perfume Bay, five-­star accommodations located outside of Los Angeles. After she delivered, staff would file for a Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport for the baby. Their son—­his sex recently confirmed—­would give them a foothold in America.

“Eventually he could sponsor our green cards,” Scarlett had responded. “For now, you’ll get rid of me. Clever plan, Boss Yeung.”

At the factory, she called him Boss Yeung, and she kept it up in private, too, a reminder that she was a deputy manager, and not a xiaojie—­a mistress, a gold digger from a disco or a hostess bar. They passed factories covered in grimy white tile, built on land that had been fields when she arrived here as a teenager. People from around the country had moved to the Pearl River Delta, just across the border from Hong Kong, to make their fortunes, and the factory girl you snubbed might someday become your manager.

Boss Yeung reached into the glove box for a brand-­new U.S. atlas that he must have hand-­carried from Hong Kong. Hope unfurled in her chest. She always navigated on their weekend drives, and with this gift, she pictured them traveling across America together.

“Whatever hospital you’d deliver in would be top-­class,” he said.

“The hospitals are good in Hong Kong, too,” she said. Unlike in China, the government wouldn’t hassle her there for being an unwed mother, wouldn’t fine her or force her to terminate her pregnancy. Women there could have as many children as they wanted.

Boss Yeung frowned. Hong Kong was also home to his wife and three daughters.

“It doesn’t matter how good the hospitals are in America, if I end up in jail,” she said.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Nine Perfect Strangers

I love Liane Moriarty, and I love her books. This one may not be in my top 3 Moriarties, but it's still a beautiful read, a page turner with memorable characters and those profound life insights so typical of this author.

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out...

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Thirteen - Steve Cavanagh

"Thirteen" by Steve Cavanagh is a 4th book in the Eddie Flynn series, but don't let it discourage you from reading the thriller as a stand-alone (you can fill in the blanks and read the earlier books afterwards, like I did).

Clever. Original. Fast paced. Lovable main character.

Start reading.

All the evidence points to Robert's guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the court room start to raise doubts in Eddie's mind.

What if there's more than one actor in the courtroom?

What if the killer isn't on trial? What if the killer is on the jury?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Believe Me

"Believe me" by JP Delaney is a disturbing book. All thrillers are meant to be, of course, but there's a certain brand of "what's reality" disturbing that pushes this book to a new level.

A good read.

The Great Alone

"The Great Alone" was meant to be a thriller, before the author (Kristin Hannah) changed her mind and delivered a novel about growing up in Alaska in the 1970s.

I love, love, love this book. The setting is awe-inspiring, the writing beautiful, the characters realistic. Don't expect a fast-moving plot, but that's not that kind of book.

Definitely deserves to be a bestseller.

Monday, August 13, 2018

"Snap" by Belinda Bauer

I'm so glad I've discovered Belinda Bauer! She's about to become my favourite crime fiction author. "Snap" is the sort of novel that could easily be heartbreaking or icky, yet the difficult topics are handled with compassion and gentleness.

The language is beautiful, the plot twisty, the characters multi-dimensional.

And now, for the blurb:

On a stifling summer's day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack's in charge, she'd said. I won't be long.
But she doesn't come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.
Three years later, Jack is still in charge - of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they're alone in the house, and - quite suddenly - of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Life or Death by Michael Robotham

"Life or Death" by Michael Robotham is set - uncharacteristically - in the USA. After a leisurely start, it became an action-packed thriller, with enough emotion to make the reader care, and with enough philosophy to make the reader think. Always a bonus.

A must-read.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

"The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle" by Stuart Turton is a time-travel body-snatching who-dun-it. It reminded me of "The Rook", but even so, I found the concept highly original.

A must read.

One of the better crime fiction books I read this year. 


'Somebody's going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won't appear to be a murder and so the murderer won't be caught. Rectify that injustice and I'll show you the way out.'
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.
But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden - one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party - can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.
The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Memory Box

"The Memory Box" by Eve Lesko Natiello has a super-interesting premise at the outset, with another cool premise in the epilogue. For that reason alone, it's worth a read, even if the main character gets on your nerves from time to time (this is probably a personal dis-preference of mine not to read about flaky or weak heroines, so don't let me put you off).

What would you do if you Googled yourself and discovered something shocking? A group of privileged suburban moms amuse themselves by Googling everyone in town, digging up dirt to fuel thorny gossip. Caroline Thompson, devoted mother of two, sticks to the moral high ground and attempts to avoid these women. She’s relieved to hear her name appears only three times, citing her philanthropy. Despite being grateful that she has nothing to hide, a delayed pang of insecurity prods Caroline to Google her maiden name—which none of the others know.

The hits cascade like a tsunami. Caroline’s terrified by what she reads. An obituary for her sister, JD? That’s absurd. With every click, the revelations grow more alarming. They can’t be right. She’d know. Caroline is hurled into a state of paranoia—upending her blissful family life—desperate to prove these allegations false before someone discovers they’re true.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Let Me Lie - Clare Mackintosh

"Let Me Lie" by Clare Mackintosh was a page-turner. I really cared about the characters and stayed up way past stupid-o'clock to finish it. Can't wait for the next book by this author.


The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They're both wrong.
One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.
Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to ask questions about her parents' deaths. But by digging up the past, is she putting her future in danger? Sometimes it's safer to let things lie . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Hate U Give

People will tell you that "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas is about race issues. Heck, the author herself will tell you that "The Hate U Give" is about race issues. And yet here I am to tell you that  "The Hate U Give" is about so much more than race.

I'm not trying to make light of the very weighty issue, which the book handles beautifully, BTW. It's just that to me the themes that came forward were family, love, the bond between father and daughter, the definition of friendship, the duty you have to people around you.

I loved the author's voice, I loved the characters, I loved the message.

Monday, March 05, 2018


"Neighborly" by Ellie Monago is a true suburban thriller. Somebody said that the setting is like "Pleasantville" but already in full colour - and I can't find a better way of expressing it. Add intrigue and crime, and you have "Neighborly".

Some themes are truly disturbing, but they're handled in a way that doesn't scar.

Kat and Doug felt like Aurora Village was the perfect community. Minutes from the city, affluent without pretension, low crime with a friendly vibe—it’s everything Kat never had, and that she’s determined to provide for her infant daughter. Snagging a nice bungalow in this exclusive enclave was worth all the sacrifice. But everything changes overnight when Kat finds a scrawled note outside their front door.
That wasn’t very neighborly of you.
As increasingly sinister and frighteningly personal notes arrive, each one stabs deeper into the heart of Kat’s insecurities, paranoia, and most troubling, her past. When the neighbors who seemed so perfect reveal their open secret, the menace moves beyond mean notes. Someone’s raising the stakes.
As suspicious as she is of every smiling face and as terrified as she’s become of being found out, Kat is still unprepared for the sharp turn that lies just ahead of her on Bayberry Lane.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Emma in the Night

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker can be described as "intelligent suspense". There is a lot of psychoanalysis of the characters, and it adds to the plot rather than slow it down. I ended up liking even the not-so-likeable protagonists, and I was sorry when I ran out of pages to read.

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Look for me

"Look for me" by Lisa Gardner continues the story of detective D.D. Warren and survivor Flora Dane. Read it for the thriller part, or for the excellent commentary on social services and what it means to have a perfect family.

The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one—a sixteen-year-old girl—missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case—but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

"Blame" - Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott is a new author for me, and I wish I could remember how I noticed his books (probably one of Amazon's suggestions), because whoever recommended it, got the match right with "Blame". I love suburban thrillers with small-town mentalities and big issues, and "Blame" did not disappoint.

Sometimes the person you thought you knew best...
Turns out to be someone you never really knew at all.

The crash that killed him
Two years ago, Jane Norton crashed her car on a lonely road, killing her friend David and leaving her with amnesia. At first, everyone was sympathetic. Then they found Jane's note: I wish we were dead together.

A girl to blame
From that day the town turned against her. But even now Jane is filled with questions: Why were they on that road? Why was she with David? Did she really want to die?

The secrets she should forget
Most of all, she must find out who has just written her an anonymous message: I know what really happened. I know what you don't remember...

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Playing Dead by Julia Heaberlin

By the author of "Black-Eyes Susans", "Playing Dead" is a thriller set in Ponder, Texas. It's a fast-paced read, with characters you really care about, and some philosophical bits to think about afterwards. I can't wait for Julia Heaberlin's new book.

“Dear Tommie: Have you ever wondered about who you are?” 

The letter that turns Tommie McCloud’s world upside down arrives from a stranger only days after her father’s death. The woman who wrote it claims that Tommie is her daughter—and that she was kidnapped as a baby thirty-one years ago.

Tommie wants to believe it’s all a hoax, but suddenly a girl who grew up on a Texas ranch finds herselfĂ‚  linked to a horrific past: the slaughter of a family in Chicago, the murder of an Oklahoma beauty queen, and the kidnapping of a little girl named Adriana. Tommie races along a twisting, nightmarish path while an unseen stalker is determined to keep old secrets locked inside the dementia-battered brain of the woman who Tommie always thought was her real mother. With everything she has ever believed in question, and no one she can trust, Tommie must discover the truth about the girl who vanished—and the very real threats that still remain.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Secrets She Keeps

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham is a skillfully-written page-turner. More than a thriller, more than a psychological study into the criminal mind's motives, this book asks the important questions:

  • what is a perfect life?
  • why would you forgive an affair?
  • what rights do biological fathers have?
  • what's the worst thing that can happen to you?
  • how does love happen?

And here's the blurb:

How far would you go to create the perfect family?

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

Friday, January 05, 2018

The Kind Worth Killing

"The kind worth killing" by Peter Swanson is a psychological thriller, the kind worth reading.

Delayed in London, Ted Severson meets a woman at the airport bar. Over cocktails they tell each other rather more than they should, and a dark plan is hatched - but are either of them being serious, could they actually go through with it and, if they did, what would be their chances of getting away with it?
Back in Boston, Ted's wife Miranda is busy site managing the construction of their dream home, a beautiful house out on the Maine coastline. But what secrets is she carrying and to what lengths might she go to protect the vision she has of her deserved future?