Image shows book cover -- a cat from the shoulders up, it wearing a business suit, against a black background, the book title in yellow typeface.

What I’m Reading – The Cat Who Saved Books and Starter Villain

Here are a couple of recent reads with cats on the cover. Just coincidentally.

Image shows book cover -- a drawing of a cat walking through a book.THE CAT WHO SAVED BOOKS by Sosuke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai. This was an interesting story about a young boy who inherits his grandfather’s bookstore and the magical cat who takes him on otherworldly adventures to save books in other realms. Each adventure speaks to how certain characters value or devalue books, how they judge their worth, and inward reflection on one’s self. This book was marketed to young adults in Japan, yet marketed to adults in the U.S. It’s a short, light read well tailored to lovers of cats and books.

 

Image shows book cover -- a cat from the shoulders up, it wearing a business suit, against a black background, the book title in yellow typeface.STARTER VILLAIN by John Scalzi. Inheriting his uncle’s supervillain business was more complicated than our protagonist expected, particularly after discovering who’s running the place. There are longtime, traitorous flunkies, sentient cats, foul-mouthed dolphins, a mountainous evil lair, and a cohort of rival supervillains out to snatch thrones, er, inheritances. Our poor every-man is in over his head. I woke my husband laughing so hard at one point. Very highly recommended.

 

(The above links are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I make a few pennies off the sale of each book, at no cost to you.)

Image shows the cover of the book "KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE." Cream-colored background, the title words in red, a red hand holding a black knife.

What I’m Reading – Killers of a Certain Age, Grave Reservations, Flight Risk, and more

I’m reading of assassins and murders. Fiction, of course.

As a caveat, I generally don’t read true crime stories because, as a former journalist, I saw too much pain and horror from true crime. But fictional crime, especially cozy mysteries, I can find entertaining. That’s just me. (Cozy has a lot of different meanings to different people, but I categorize it as having amateur sleuths and off-the-page crime. So we hear of the crime, maybe even see some of it, but we’re not subjected to traumatizing horrors.) So what have I read and enjoyed?

Image shows the cover of the book "KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE." Cream-colored background, the title words in red, a red hand holding a black knife.

KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE by Deanna Raybourn, in which four female former assassins find themselves as marks of their former organization. To save themselves from an untimely demise and be able to enjoy their well-earned retirement, they rely on their tried-and-true, low-tech skills to survive the day. Honestly, I loved this book. It was such a fun ride, featuring older women who weren’t portrayed as superheroes. They actually have to keep up with their yoga routine to be limber, haha. And I adore stories about female friendships as opposed to mean-girl dynamics. I was rooting for these ladies. Recommended.

 

Image shows cover of the book GRAVE RESERVATIONS. Blue background behind a graphic of a white female with bright red lips, wearing red sunglasses reflecting a crime scene. Yellow title.GRAVE RESERVATIONS (Book #1 of the Booking Agents series) by Cherie Priest. This was a fun mystery with smart, capable characters. The lead is a clairvoyant and travel agent who saves a police detective from an ill-fated flight. Recognizing her unusual skill, he enlists her help to jumpstart a lagging case. Intrigue and deceptions come from all sides, yet our protagonist’s powers come through. For some reason, perhaps conditioning (?), I sort of hoped the protagonists would become a romantic couple, but then perhaps the story would fall into romance, which it doesn’t. I found myself questioning why I expected that, but it’s obvious because they do seem like they’ll make a great couple. Maybe that’ll blossom throughout the series. At any rate, this author has an easy, contemporary voice, and the novel features super karaoke. Recommended.

 

Image shows graphic image book cover of FLIGHT RISK. Purple sky, green mountains, white girl with purple lips, wearing sunglasses reflecting part of the crime scene. Title in purple text.FLIGHT RISK (Book #2 of the Booking Agents series) by Cherie Priest. I won this book from my book club leader after giving its predecessor the highest rating. I didn’t know my favorable rating would lead to a prize, so that’s nice. This sequel brings another mystery, with wholly different motivations, to our trusty characters. It was another enjoyable mystery.

And I’ve also had the pleasure of reading several as-yet-unpublished manuscripts to provide back-jacket blurbs. those recommendations you’ll find on the back jacket of the books once they come out. I’ll let you know when.

Until then, keep reading, folks!

 

(The above links are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I make a few pennies off the sale of each book, at no cost to you.)

Image shows a bookshelf with books

Tallying the year

Image shows a bookshelf with booksI genuinely love end-of-year lists.

Best of. Worst of. Most this or that. The year 2023 at a glance. I like being reminded of all that’s transpired in the past 365 days. I forget a lot of it and like revisiting with the benefit of hindsight.

One of the lists I always see is “How many books I read this year.” I keep track too, but I don’t feel any strong need to share it. I made the list for myself, not to later share in the hopes to impress or shame. Plus, I like to see how many books I read and actually enjoyed. See, those are the only books that make my list. My tally would be much, muuuuch higher if I included all the books I started but didn’t finish.

That’s the point of this post. If you need permission, I’m hereby granting it. You do not need to finish books you aren’t enjoying. The book police won’t come get you. The creators involved won’t be any the wiser. No one will know what you did or did not finish unless you tell them. There are too many books in the world to read them all, and you have too little life force to expend on entertainments that don’t feed you.

So, keep a tally, if you feel so inclined. Or don’t. Finish that book. Or don’t. But of course I’d always advise you try another. A year without books would be a tragedy indeed.

Here’s hoping your new year is bountiful with spectacular reads.

I’ve joined a book club–and I love it!

Picture of poster showing a girl holding a red book in front of her face. The poster reads, "That's what I do. I read books."I know, I know. It’s shouldn’t be big news if an author is part of a book club. But can I confess something here? **looks around sheepishly** I’ve never taken part in a regular book club.

As a kid, I read the books suggested by my school or library, but I didn’t join group discussions about them. I guess I didn’t want to hear people potentially criticize a book I enjoyed. What can I say? I was fragile. Then, as I got older and talked endlessly about books, I joined short-term clubs led by publishers or literary agencies or even clubs with the focus of having the creators attend. So I’d get to meet the authors or illustrators or editors, etc. That’s amazing, right?

But a club with readers who aren’t publishing-adjacent? Not until November 2023 when I joined one of the many monthly book clubs offered by Boswell Books, my local independent bookstore. I’ll post reviews of those books soon, but for now, I just want to say how fun it is to read books outside of what I may have chosen and then talk with fellow readers about them. Further, it’s fascinating to hear from readers who speak freely about a story (because the creator isn’t right there to hear what they have to say) and expound on other elements of a book (because they may not have thought about industry reasons for certain publishing choices). PLUS, a couple of fellow authors whom I’ve invited to join have, so it’s an overall lovely time.

Do you want to make more friends in the new year? Join a book club. Or another club focused on a hobby or passion you enjoy. I hope joining adds fun and friendship to your life. As for my new enterprise, so far so good. 🙂

Illustration Intensive 2022

Whoo hoo! We got to hold this event in person for the first time in three years!

Fantasy Art Workshop’s Illustration Intensive is my husband’s and my week-long art workshop for professional and inspiring illustrators. It’s a fantastic event with lectures and teaching by top industry pros, art demos, deep-dive creating, and a week of networking. We last held it in 2019, and wow, judging by the response, people missed it!

To learn more about it, I really do encourage you to go the Illustration Intensive website, as I won’t cover it all here. If you’re an illustrator, do yourself a favor and look into it. If you know someone who’s into art, please share this event with them. We’re thrilled to know that many who’ve attend our event launched their professional careers here. And we love a good time, too.

A poem published!

I recently mentioned renewing my membership to a local writing association. That gave me some encouragement, let me tell you, because I’ve spent the past month and half trying to get back into my writing groove. And it’s paid off! — Not just because something I wrote was published but because I’ve finally, Finally, FINALLY (!) been able to put some words to paper once more.

Like so many people around the world, the past two-years’-plus worth of U.S. and world events have been stunning and horrifying and enraging and exhausting and deflating and utterly stifling. So many people could barely function, much less work at their best levels. I was among them.

The tipping point for me was a personal loss, two cats, adorable sweet sisters, rescues, whom we had to re-home because they couldn’t get along with our resident cats. They were lovely on their own. But we weren’t on our own. So in the best interest of all, they found new homes. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t heartbroken. So I set pen to paper and wrote a poem, tears streaming down my face. Poetry isn’t my default genre, but I’ve dabbled, and it leant itself to this raw emotion. I submitted the poem to the Wisconsin Writers Association’s Creative Wisconsin magazine.

And then a week or so later, I used WWA again as inspiration to write another spooky short story. This one I submitted to their Jade Ring contest. I don’t typically write to submit to contests, but, once again, these are strange times. We take inspiration where we can get it. It can sometimes lead to something good.

Today the inaugural online Creative Wisconsin magazine has my poem within. I’m a published poet! How cool is that? And how wonderful is it that I may be starting to get my writing groove back. It’s jarring when you lose a bit of yourself. It’s joyous when it comes back.

To enjoy the magazine, click on the image below. My poem is on page 21.

June 2022 Creative Wisconsin magazine put out by the Wisconsin Writers Association

Creative Wisconsin magazine – June 2022

Mad Town Grad

My youngest child has graduated college. I can barely believe it. I’m immensely proud of him even though I don’t share too much of my kids’ lives here, as they deserve some privacy. However, a parent is also allowed to brag a bit. 🙂

Armando was a full-ride scholar with an honors degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus at Madison — my alma mater! He’s brilliant, funny, cheerful, chill, and just a joy to be around. Congrats, m’boy!

Photo shows a college graduate in cap and gown with his proud parents

Glyph

Back home and added another member to our family. Glyph is eight months old, cute, cuddly, purrs a lot, and is a sweet and happy boy.

Those green nail covers, by the way, were put on by the shelter to prevent scratching. They’ll fall off naturally, and I won’t replace them. Cats gotta cat, after all. 😉

Glyph, the orange tabby kitten

Glyph, the orange tabby kitten

One adventure ends and another begins

What an adventure!

New York City has so much energy, excitement, and cultural relevance. Every bit of it seems famous, the food and social scene are incredible, and there’s goodness all around. I love New York, and I’ve loved my time here, but the adventure is coming to a close.After seven months at Scholastic, I realized the job wasn’t working out, which isn’t the end of the world. I’m proud of myself for recognizing it. Plus, I have forces pulling me back home, in a good way.

Experiencing the publishing world in its global heart was amazing. I learned so much, made great friends, and might continue in another capacity, just not in NYC and not in this moment. Here are a few final pics before I head back to a Great Place Near a Great Lake (aka, Milwaukee —- who remembers that jingle?)

Jeff Miracola and Silvia Acevedo outside NYC's main library

Jeff and me outside NYC’s main library

Main-library-rose-room

The library’s famed Rose Reading Room

Main-library-rose-room

And from the other side

My daughter Antonia and Silvia Acevedo at Central Park

My daughter Antonia and me at Central Park

Family on the ferry

And on the ferry

Silvia-Acevedo-at-the-John-Wick-Continental-Hotel

At John Wick’s famed Continental Hotel. Sanctuary!

Silvia Acevedo with her yoga group

My yoga group as we wish each other well 🙂

Manhattan-skyline-at-night

The endlessly gorgeous Manhattan skyline, this time at night. Goodbye for now, my dear NYC.

Snow!

Finally, some snow! Jersey City and New York City seems generally about ten to 15 degrees warmer to me than Milwaukee, and their weather events are a day behind. So when I saw that a snowstorm was expected to hit Wisconsin and travel on as a nor’easter, I was like, whoo hoo!!! Snow at last! It wasn’t deep, not a huge snowfall, but area officials and regular folks took precautions. It was a generally well handled storm, and yes, it was beautiful.

silhouettes of two cats on a cat tower

My cats sensing snowy weather

Manhattan skyline under a stormy sky

The sky above Manhattan portends a storm

snowy city from above

The snowy city from my top floor apartment window

Snow-street-view

Street view

Silvia Acevedo and Jeff Miracola smiling with snow and a colorful sunset behind them

Snow and a beautiful sunset would make anyone smile