Author's Bookshelf: Silvia Villalobos

We're bringing something a bit different to Writing in the Modern Age today. Awhile back, I had an idea for a new feature so I reached out to some author colleagues to see if they'd like to participate. I thought it might be nice to show readers a few books that have inspired authors. You might find it enlightening, and at least be able to answer the age old question, "What the heck do authors read?"



Writers are readers too! Most authors love to collect books for their vast personal libraries. The written word is fascinating to us, and many newer authors as well as those in the past have helped to shape who we are today. 

Without further ado, our guest today is Silvia Villalobos, a mystery author and ruler of short fiction. Won't it be interesting to hear about a few books that have inspired Silvia on her writing and publishing journey? 



Sounds pretty awesome to me. So, take it away, Silvia!



I have a long list of favorite books, but I couldn’t say there is one that stands out as better than the rest.  A lot of titles on my list tend to be books from childhood, or recent favorites. There are too many options, and my favorite changes all the time.

The wonderful Marie Lavender, however, invited me to compile a list of five favorites. Okay, five is much better than one. Before I begin, I have to say that many, MANY books I love didn’t make it on the list. Maybe next time. 

So, here we go:  




1. A Fair Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates




Sixteen-year-old Katya Spivak is out for a walk on the gracious streets of Bayhead Harbor with her two summer babysitting charges when she’s approached by silver-haired, elegant Marcus Kidder. At first his interest in her seems harmless, even pleasant; like his name, a sort of gentle joke. His beautiful home, the children’s books he’s written, his classical music, the marvelous art in his study, his lavish presents to her — Mr. Kidder’s life couldn’t be more different from Katya’s drab working-class existence back home in South Jersey, or more enticing. But by degrees, almost imperceptibly, something changes, and posing for Mr. Kidder’s new painting isn’t the lighthearted endeavor it once was. What does he really want from her? And how far will he go to get it?

In the tradition of Oates’s classic story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" A Fair Maiden is an unsettling, ambiguous tale of desire and control.


Silvia's Thoughts:


A sense of foreboding fills the entire story. Katya, a sixteen-year old, doesn’t know what to make of the older gentleman courting her. The drama and sense of mystery, not to mention outstanding writing style, gives the reader no choice but to devour the pages. And in the end … surprise.  


2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco



Umberto Eco’s first novel, an international sensation and winner of the Premio Strega and the Prix Médicis Étranger awards. The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon—all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.”

“Like the labyrinthine library at its heart, this brilliant novel has many cunning passages and secret chambers . . . Fascinating . . . ingenious . . . dazzling.” – Newsweek


Silvia's Thoughts:


I fully agree with the writer who said: Any work by Umberto Eco raises the reader’s IQ level by several points. Rose is a skillful murder mystery set in a 14th century Italian monastery. It’s heavy on descriptions, but that made it all the more interesting. 

3. Nostalgia by Mircea Catarescu



A stunning translation of one of Romania's foremost authors.
Mircea Cartarescu, born in 1956, is one of Romania's leading novelists and poets. This translation of his 1989 novel Nostalgia, writes Andrei Codrescu, "introduces to English a writer who has always had a place reserved for him in a constellation that includes the Brothers Grimm, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Bruno Schulz, Julio Cortazar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milan Kundera, and Milorad Pavic, to mention just a few." Like most of his literary contemporaries of the avant-garde Eighties Generation, his major work has been translated into several European languages, with the notable exception, until now, of English.


Silvia's Thoughts:

Well, I’m biased. Catarescu hails from Romania -- my native land -- and as someone who read his works early on, I couldn’t recommend Nostalgia higher. His prose is wonderful, painful, subtle, and funny. This is a collection of stories, and each can be read on its own. Call it magic realism or surrealism; this book is a work of art. 


4. A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming



From the internationally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of The Trinity Six, comes a compelling tale of deceit and betrayal, conspiracy and redemption.

On the vacation of a lifetime in Egypt, an elderly French couple are brutally murdered. Days later, a meticulously-planned kidnapping takes place on the streets of Paris. Amelia Levene, the first female Chief of MI6, has disappeared without a trace, six weeks before she is due to take over as the most influential spy in Europe. It is the gravest crisis MI6 has faced in more than a decade. Desperate not only to find her, but to keep her disappearance a secret, Britain's top intelligence agents turn to one of their own: disgraced MI6 officer Thomas Kell. Tossed out of the Service only months before, Kell is given one final chance to redeem himself - find Amelia Levene at any cost. The trail leads Kell to France and Tunisia, where he uncovers a shocking secret and a conspiracy that could have unimaginable repercussions for Britain and its allies. Only Kell stands in the way of personal and political catastrophe.


Silvia's Thoughts:


An international mystery, a perfect spy thriller. This is one of those rare tales the reader hopes it will never end.




5. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari



New York Times Bestseller
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?
Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.
Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.


Silvia's Thoughts:


I’m still reading this book -- a brief history of the human kind. Quite the description, isn’t it? I find it fascinating due to its secular, high-level narrative. Extremely thought-provoking and inspiring account of who we were and continue to be.

Thank you, Silvia!


And here is a little about Silvia's book, Stranger or Friend


Book Blurb:


Zoe Sinclair finds her Wyoming hometown reeling from the murder of its most popular resident: her best friend, Lori. Not less unnerving are the strange cries coming from the woods. The lawyer inside the woman is prompted into action, but she meets resistance from a town wary of outsiders. When a second body is found and Zoe is threatened, the case turns personal. Under pressure from the sheriff to leave the probing to the police, and taunted by the killer’s subtle messages, Zoe finds herself trapped in a game of hunter and prey. 


Here is an excerpt.

"Across the gravel road Zoe's childhood home looked smaller, as if shrunken under the weight of life. Smoke from the chimney caught the moonlight in a slow dance, blurring it into the sky. A place of happiness, but Zoe knew better. She pushed the car door open and stepped out, ready for her final visit home."
Genre: Mystery/Suspense


Purchase Links:


Amazon Universal link:

Barnes & Noble:




Fascinating! Thank you for stopping by to give us a glimpse of your bookshelf, Silvia!  :)


About the Author:


Silvia Villalobos, a native of Romania who lives immersed in the laid-back vibe of Southern California, is a writer of mystery novels and short fiction. Her stories have appeared in The Riding Light Review, Pure Slush, and Red Fez, among other publications. She is constantly drawn to premises filled with questions, which arouse feelings that are often beyond imagination yet seem real. When not taking long walks through the local paseos or hiking the Santa Clarita Woodland Park trails, she can be found writing, blogging, or preparing and giving speeches for Toastmasters International.

Author Links:





Amazon Author Page:






Silvia's Books:



  1. Thank you so much, Marie, for having me. Honored.

  2. Great post Silvia. Very informative reviews. I may have to pick up some of those books!

  3. Hi Marie - this is a fascinating read ... and I like Silvia's choices ... Umberto Eco has been on my radar for a while and with his recent death even more so. While I asked and got given the Sapiens book ... which looks an extraordinary read. Brilliant bookshelf and I need to read Nostalgia and feel some more of Romania ... cheers to you both - Hilary

  4. I love your choices, Sylvia! I've read The Name of the Rose twice, loved it. I need to try some of the other books you recommended. I just need time to read!!

  5. Thanks, everyone, for stopping by! :)

  6. Thank you, Hilary and Noelle. Thrilled to see you here. Eco is an absolute master, once the reader gets comfortable with the long descriptions. And that's easy to do. Noelle, do read Catarescu. You'll love it. As for Sapiens, Hilary, it says so much about our very own species. Thank you again. And of course, Marie. Thank you!


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