Book Review – The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Good Morning! Here’s the Monday Morning Blog!

How was your week? Mine was good. Second week of work at my day job under my belt and it was a good week. Confidence in my skills is increasing and I’m learning more every day. Did you get a chance to check in with a teen last week? Let me know what you found out!

After my post last week, I decided to pick up a book by Jason Reynolds, the novelist who did the remix with Ibram X. Kendi of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You for a young adult audience. It is fun when one book can lead you to pick up another. After reading it, I could see Jason Reynolds writing style shining through both books.

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title
The Boy in the Black Suit

Author
Jason Reynolds

Type of Book
Mid-Grade or Young Adult Fiction

Background
Reynolds is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. He believes in empowering young people to “Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story”. Part of the inspiration for writing this novel was the fact that his mom brought him to many funerals when he was young.

Summary of the book
The main character, Matt Miller, started by wearing a black suit at his mom’s funeral. Then he gets a job at a funeral parlor in New York City and continues to wear the black suit, not only for work, but also for how it makes him feel. He meets a teen girl named Love, who has lost her mom and recently her grandma.

Reaction to the book
I enjoyed the book. The story and characters were very relatable. It is a coming of age story about how a teen would react to his mom’s funeral and how he reacts to things afterwards. Life changing events tend to make us change, and I think wearing the suit just helped him take on this new role as a young adult with some more real life experience. With everything that happens to Matt after the funeral, it shows how life really goes and how hopeful Matt’s reaction to it is.

Link to the author
If you want to learn more about the authors, here is a link to his website Jason Reynolds

Link to the book
If you want to purchase this book, here’s a link to Amazon The Boy in the Black Suit

Are you looking for another good middle grade/young adult read? How about checking out The Hard Way? A coming of age novel about peer pressure and the importance of choosing the right friends. Follow this link to my website and get your copy.

The Hard Way

COMING SOON!

A little bit of news, Shawn’s Way, book #2 of The Way Series will be coming out later this fall. There is still time to read The Hard Way in preparation for Shawn’s Way.

What do you think is the one thing that challenges teens the most? Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a great week.

Book Review – Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Good Morning! Here’s the Monday Morning Blog!

How was your week last week? I was busy starting my new “day job”. It was a challenge to change my routine back to going to work every day. But it was nice to be going to my office (dining room table) to work from home. I’m excited to be working again, but with COVID still an issue, it’s nice to not have to go to an office yet. It is a part of the new world we are living in. We then took this weekend for some family time at the cabin.

Did you try and reach out to any teens this week? Take the time to check in and see if they just may need someone to listen? Please let me know in the comments below.

Read any good books lately? I have read quite a few more than normal due to the COVID stay at home movement. I have been trying not only read for enjoyment, but also to learn a little something too. With the recent racial events (which have been going on for a lot longer than the last few months), I’ve been reading books other than fiction to understand how much I really know about race and our history.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned in my What Ya Reading Wednesday? Instgram post that I was reading Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. This book is a remix of the book originally written by Kendi called Stamped from the Beginning written for a young adult audience. And since that’s the audience I’m writing for, I thought I’d read that version instead.

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You

Author
Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Type of Book
Teen or Young Adult Non-Fiction

Background
This is a remix of a book originally written by Kendi called Stamped from the Beginning. This version was written for a young adult audience.

Summary of the book
The first thing the author tells you is that this isn’t a history book. And it isn’t. What it shows you is the other side of what we have been taught about our history in school.

Reaction to the book
I enjoyed the read and found the book to be very informative. The remix was written in a very engaging way for teens and young adults. It tells the history of our country from a different angle. It’s like a court case, this book gives a chance to hear all sides of the case before we can confirm what actually happened. It seems like we have always had our history told from only one side. I would recommend this book for the young adult audience, however, adults, be ready to talk about it. They will have questions about why we let politics and the economy dictate how we treated citizens of our country. When I think about it, people protect what they have and don’t want it to change. They were taught not to trust these citizens, even though, these citizens wanted the same things out of their life in America as they did.

Link to the authors
If you want to learn more about the authors, here are the links to their websites – Jason Reynolds Website and Ibram X. Kendi Website

Link to the book
If you want to purchase this book, here’s a link to Amazon Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You. Or, you could go to Bookshop.org and purchase your book through your favorite independent book seller.

After reading this book, it made me approach the history of our country from a different perspective. It is like when three people see the same event. Each one has their own version of what happened. I’m not trying to discount any one version as being less important, we just need to be open minded to the other versions of the same story to form our opinion on what really happened.

The internet has given us the opportunity to see those additional sides of a story. For example, we’re able to get online and see what happened in France yesterday, basically real time. But, you can’t believe everything you read either. Some of these “sides” of the story can be exaggerated just to get your attention. Or, are told before the reporting agency has all of the facts, just to be the first one to get the story out there.

Writing for the teen/young adult market is kind of a group of readers that is forgotten about. There are many children’s and adult books out there. Teens are a hard group to reach. Many of them will tell you that they don’t even read the books they are assigned for class. But, maybe those books aren’t as engaging as they need to be? Or are written in a language that’s really relatable to them?

Authors can take the challenge of engaging teens to read through the books they write. I hope my books, The Hard Way and soon to be published, Shawn’s Way, are resources for teens to go to when they need help working through the challenges they are facing. Here is a link for you to pick up a copy of The Hard Way, a teen novel which discusses the challeneges of peer pressure and choosing the right friends. The Hard Way by Selma P. Verde

What books would you suggest as good resources for teens? Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a great week!

Book Review – The Hard Way by Selma P. Verde

Good Morning! Here’s the Monday Morning Blog!

Hoping to pick up where I left off. It has been a while since I have posted. This summer has been a challenging one for me. Between my lay off from my day job and my dad passing away, I have been pulled away from the blog with other priorities. They say that you need to make time for the important things. What do you do when life events get in the way?

So, I’m back! I am on a mission to sell 2000 books this month to meet my first goal to becoming a bestselling author. I know it will happen, just not sure when and not sure how, but I am ready to embark on the journey to get there.

Remember my first book, The Hard Way? Well, here is my review of the book. Kind of a different spin on the traditional book review, huh. How often have you seen an author review their own book? Not very often I bet. You may ask, how objective can I be about my own book, right? Well, the reason for this review is to get the word out there about a great coming of age novel for the middle grade and young adult reader. And I can do just that!

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title
The Hard Way

Author
Selma P. Verde

Type of Book
Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

Background
Selma P. Verde was always a writer of things. From diary entries to capture life experiences to writing funny plays and stories. When she was a preteen, she decided she wanted to publish a novel someday and become an author. It took a while, but her first novel, The Hard Way, was published in 2017.

Summary of the book
Paul Jones is a freshman at Brooklyn Heights High School. He faces his first day of school without his best friend, Desmond Peterson, who moved away with his family during the summer. His parents were concerned that he needed to make new friends, so Paul did just that. He befriended Anik Hatcher, a guy who liked to play Tangorka, the video game he liked to play. Anik was involved in a group of guys who liked to play pranks and create mischief. The night that Paul met the gang, he found out that the pranks they pulled were a little more destructive than he thought. After pulling a prank at his high school Homecoming game, he found out that staying loyal to this group of friends would get him into a lot of trouble. And, he learned it the hard way.

Reaction to the book
I enjoyed creating and reading this book. It focuses on the issues of peer pressure and the importance of choosing the right friends, two of the many challenges teens face while growing up. It would be a great read for a preteen or young adult. The characters and storyline are very relatable and the story itself may provide a little mentoring if they are struggling with either of these issues.

Link to the author
If you want to learn more about Selma P. Verde, here is a link to my website. Selma P. Verde

Link to the book
If you want to purchase The Hard Way, here is a link to the books tab on my website. Books by Selma P. Verde


I’m getting very excited about the upcoming publication of Shawn’s Way. Book #2 in The Way Series. More news and specific release date coming soon.

Have a great week!

Book Review – Two versions of Taming of the Shrew

Good Morning! Here’s my Monday Morning Blog.

Last week I read two versions of Taming of the Shrew. One version was the Sixty-Minute version by Cass Foster that I talked about in my Shakespeare post a couple of weeks ago. And the other one was Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler.

The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy written by William Shakespeare between 1590 and 1592. The main story centers around the courtship of Petruchio and Katherina. Katherina’s father, Baptista, will not allow her younger and more desirable sister Bianca, to marry until after Katherina has been married off. Katherina is a very headstrong woman who was seen by the community as not suitable to marry. Petruchio takes on the challenge of “taming” her and converting her into a desirable bride.

Sixty Minute Shakespeare’s version of Taming of the Shrew

As I started reading this version, I was brought back to my days of reading Shakespeare in high school. It took me a little bit to get into it. I have been reading quite a few of novels lately, so when I was reading the story in a play format, I needed to expand my mind to imagining the scene and setting a bit more.

Like I have told my kids about any book they are getting ready to read, check online and see what it is about. It can help you get into the story quicker, especially with Shakespeare. I wish I had that option when I was in high school. Cass did a great job with making it easier to read, but kept the language true to how Shakespeare really wrote it and intended it to be. Knowing what the story was about beforehand allowed me to focus on reading the Shakespeare flair, which is what took time to get through.

The production rights for this version are owned by a company called Dramatic Publishing. So, if you would like to perform this version in public through your school, church group or community theater, check out their website for more information about obtaining the rights for it.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Taylor: The Taming of the Shrew retold

Upon hearing the name of this book, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but after reading The Taming of the Shrew, the title of this book made a little more sense. I was led this book by Ann Hawke, the president of the Woodland Shakespeare Club, a group I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. She said that this book was one of their groups favorite ones to read the retold version of.

This is the story of Kate Battista, who is portrayed as Katherina in Shakespeare’s original. With her mother’s passing away, Kate has taken on the role of mother instead of daughter. She is a spinster who works as a pre- school assistant and takes care of her father and sister at home. Her father, wanting to keep his research assistant in the country, comes up with a grand plan to have Kate marry him. Kind of like an arranged marriage of sorts. Her younger sister, Bunny, in this case is too young to be married, but Tyler makes her personality a little more outgoing and likeable to set her up as the more desirable sister, like Shakespeare’s character, Bianca.

I enjoyed reading both versions of this story. Reading a Shakespeare play reminded me it isn’t necessarily a easy read, but it is neat to see how he created his plays and characters to put on the show for the crowds of the time. Reading the retold version of Vinegar Girl in a novel form was a little easier. I was abe to see the similarities in the characters between the two. I felt that Tyler did a good job of keeping Shakespeare’s themes in her version even with the moderized setting.

There are other Shakespeare works which have similar themes to other published works. Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince is a retelling of Hamlet while Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is retelling of The Tempest. However, Anne Tyler’s book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project which is an effort by Hogarth Press to retell works by William Shakespeare in a contemporary context. Please check out their website for more information and the upcoming titles to be retold. Hogarth Press – Shakespeare project. If you decide to read both versions of these stories, I would recommend reading the Shakespeare version first to see what he was trying to portray and then see how the author’s retold version uses his themes in their stories.

If you are looking to get a hold of the Sixty-Minute versions of your favorite Shakespeare play, they are available on Amazon and Story Monsters LLC. Sixty-Minute Shakespeare Collection

If you want to learn more about the author Anne Tyler, here’s her website Anne Tyler and the link to purchase the book Vinegar Girl.

What was your favorite Shakespeare play? What was your least favorite? Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a great week!

Looking for a teen/young adult coming of age novel? How about taking a look at The Hard Way!

Available on Amazon and BarnesandNobel.com. Or follow the link below to the books tab of my website to get your copy.

Hark! Who goes there? Why it’s William Shakespeare, again!

Good Morning! Here’s my Monday Morning Blog?

About a month ago, I posted an update and wrote about William Shakespeare. I was inspired by a couple of social media posts which became popular when stay at home orders were starting to take affect throughout the country with the Coronavirus outbreak. This past week, I saw mention of his April 23rd birthday and decided to take another look at this well-known literary playwright.

William Shakespeare celebrated his 456th birthday and the 404th anniversary of his death last week. The experts aren’t sure of the exact date of his birth, but they do know he was baptized on April 26th.

His birthday tends to fall on St. George’s Day, England’s National Day. Who was St. George? He’s the patron saint of England and parts of Portugal and Spain, a Christian martyr, and celebrated as the ideal for martial valor and selflessness. Legend has it that he was a soldier in the Roman Army who slayed a dragon and saved a princess. Most of the time, St. George’s Day is celebrated on Shakespeare’s actual birthday. However, if it falls during the week of Easter, then it’s observed the weekday following the celebration of Easter. Due to the Coronavirus, the British were asked to fly the flag from their homes instead of going out and celebrating this year.

A couple of additional facts about him,

-According to shakespeare.org.uk (a website dedicated to a charity which cares for the Shakespeare sites and offers tours and information about Shakespeare and his family), Shakespeare was born to John and Mary Shakespeare. He was the third of eight children and the oldest surviving son. His two older sisters, Joan and Margaret both died before reaching the age of two and of his younger siblings, Gilbert, Joan (named after her older sister), Anne, Richard and Edmund. His younger sister Joan was the only one of his siblings to outlive him.

-Upon his father’s death in 1601, he inherited the house which became an inn called Maidenhead and later on the Swan and Maidenhead. It remained an inn until 1847 when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought it and to restore and care for the family history.

-When it comes to him being an actor and a playwright, an interesting thing about the Globe theater, where Shakespeare was an actor and shareholder, it accommodated people from all walks of life, so anyone could see a play. Just like going to an event at a theater or stadium now, what you can afford, will determine where you can sit. At the Globe, the cheap seats were on the ground floor and were open to all of the weather elements. The more expensive seats were in the higher levels complete with comfy seats which were out of the weather. A reversal of how a concert or sporting event is set up now. With the more expensive seats found on the lower levels and the least expensive seating found in upper level “nose bleed section”.


Shakespeare’s writing is complex and sometimes hard to understand. What are your thoughts?

In response to my blog post from March 24th, Authorbookings.com (a part of Story Monsters LLC) reached out and referred me to another Shakespeare resource. When I checked out the website, getshakespeare.com (which will take you to the Story Monsters LLC website), I learned about Sixty-Minute Shakespeare Collection. Cass Foster makes works of Shakespeare accessible for all ages. These versions are not adaptations, but timeless tales that may help make my understanding Shakespeare a lot easier. They are available through the Story Monsters LLC store and are suitable for students in sixth grade and up. I ordered one of the Shakespeare’s plays I haven’t read before, Taming of the Shrew, which was written originally written by Shakespeare between 1590 and 1592, we’ll see how it reads.

As a side note, Authorbookings.com has a great program for book awards and outreach to the schools and media to get in touch with authors, artists, publishers and speakers for school and library visits. My first novel, The Hard Way, is a 2018 honorable mention Dragonfly Book Award winner, through Story Monsters LLC.

As I was reading the reviews for Sixty-Minute Shakespeare, I saw one which was posted by the Woodland Shakespeare Club, now the oldest women’s clubs in California founded in 1886 with the goal to “study, with intellectual and spiritual growth as goals”. It is a literary, multi-generational group, limited to 50 members, that started out just discussing works of Shakespeare, but in 1878, the women started reading works by various authors when they called upon each other at their homes for the meeting. Kind of like the book clubs of today.

According to the article published in the community section of the October 27, 2019 edition of the Davis Enterprise, Woodland Shakespeare Club: Your cup of tea? the California based group reads and discusses books with topics of California to Southern Women Writers to music themed books. The typical meeting is a discussion of a previously chosen book and ending with a cup of tea. Their reading season runs from October to April, with April being the month they celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday with a luncheon and a special cake. Their theme changes from season to season with their recently completed season, 2019-2020, theme being “In Other Words: Shakespeare’s plays reinterpreted, retold and reimagined.” Members read current novels which are similar in type to one of Shakespeare’s plays.

I contacted the president of the group, Anne Hawke, and asked if they have a website. She replied, no it is too expensive for the group. If you Google, Woodland Shakespeare Club, like I did, you’ll find some interesting articles about the group. The group has 50 active members and they aren’t seeking new members. Any potential member must be referred by a current member of the group. When I asked what a favorite read for the group was, she said they enjoyed these Shakespeare plays reinterpreted. The Anne Tyler book, Vinegar Girl, is the Taming of the Shrew retold was one of her personal favorites. Looks like I found my next book to read and review along with the Sixty-Minute Shakespeare version of the story.

Funny how all of that information and a couple of future reads fell out of a second look at Shakespeare’s life. What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a great week!

How are you doing on your To Be Read (TBR) Lists?

Good Morning! Here’s my Monday Morning Blog!

With the stay home orders, I’m enjoying a lot pleasure reading. How about you?

Have you ever heard of TBRs? If you are avid readers, you may know what that acronym means. Even though I consider myself an avid reader, I didn’t know what a TBR was until just recently. A TBR is your To Be Read (TBR) list. Simply, a list of books you want to read.

Have you ever used the Libby app? It allows you to check out eBooks from the library and has become one of my favorite apps to use to pick up eBooks or audiobooks for my phone or tablet. It is also a great way to pick up books while the libraries are closed right now.

While I was waiting for one of my holds to come from the library through Libby, I checked out my TBR on my Goodreads App (where I keep track of it). I was amazed to learn I have 201 books on my Want to Read List (it is what Goodreads calls your TBR). I wondered what books were it and how long they have been sitting there. I browsed through a few of the titles I recently added and wondered, what title has been sitting on this list the longest? I resorted the list and saw Megan’s Way, was added on August 14, 2011. So, I went to my Libby App and found out it was available to borrow.

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title
Megan’s Way

Author
Melissa Foster

Type of Book
Women’s Fiction, Drama

Background
Melissa Foster is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She also helps other authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training program on Fostering Success. Foster has written over 152 novels in the romance and drama genres.

Summary of the book
Megan is a cancer survivor. She fought the disease once before and now it has come back with a vengeance. Her fourteen-year-old daughter, Olivia, dealt with the battle before, but Megan didn’t want to put her through the emotional strain of supporting cancer treatment again. She has to make the decision to keep fighting, or to let the disease take her. She makes a decision that will ultimately affect her family and friends.

Reaction to the book
I really enjoyed the book. Battling cancer and deciding when enough is enough was a path my family took when my mom was battling breast cancer, so I could relate to the choice she had to make. Megan’s story is true of many other families who have had or going to make the same decision, not only for their own families, but also for their own quality of life. I would recommend this book to young adult or adult readers who are looking for a story of hard life decisions and effects on themselves and others.

Link to the author
If you want to learn more about the author, here is a link to his website Melissa Foster

Link to the book
If you want to purchase this book, here is a link to Amazon. Megan’s Way

After I finished Megan’s Way, I went back to my TBR list to see what the next longest one riding on the list was. Dean’s List by Jon Hassler. It was put on the list on September 15, 2011. I have read quite a few of his books, so I was excited to read another one. When I went to find it on Libby, I learned not all books are available on the platform. Some of the older books don’t have an eBook format available. I will have to check out a hard copy when that option is available again. I checked through the next few books on my list and finally came across one which is available on Libby, The Devil’s Bed by William Kent Krueger, another of my favorite authors. It is available on Libby, but I actually had a paperback copy of it hanging around my house.

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title
The Devil’s Bed

Author
William Kent Krueger

Type of Book
Mystery/crime fiction

Background
William Kent Krueger is the author of the now nineteen book Cork O’Connor series and a couple of standalone novels like this one. His books are typically written at a diner in St. Paul, Minnesota and have their settings in different parts of the state. Being a Minnesota native myself, I can relate to the settings of his books. Krueger has always wanted to be a writer. His third-grade story, “The Walking Dictionary” was praised by his teachers and parents. Since then he has written many books and won several awards for his writing.

Summary of the book
Bo Thorsen, a Secret Service Agent, is assigned to protect the First Lady, when she comes to visit her dad after an accident out in his orchard. Things about the accident didn’t seem to add up for Thorsen, so he did some checking into the facts. This was starting to raise the eyebrows and anger some people connected to the case. As Thorsen got closer to the truth, connections to powerful people in Washington, DC start to surface and his investigation becomes more dangerous, even deadly.

Reaction to the book
Unlike the books in his Cork O’Connor series, this one had a more political flair with its characters being the President of the United States and the First Lady and the dealings with Washington DC. Even so, it still had the feeling of a William Kent Krueger novel which I really liked. The charters and story line were engaging and kept me guessing what was going to happen right up until the end of the book. I would recommend it for any William Kent Krueger or crime fiction fan.

Link to the author
If you want to learn more about the author, here is a link to his website William Kent Krueger

Link to the book
If you want to purchase this book, here is a link to Amazon. The Devil’s Bed


How many books do you have in your To Be Read (TBR) pile? Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a great week!

Book Review: Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic by Michael McCreary

Good Morning! Here’s my Monday Morning Blog!


Did you know, World Autism Awareness Day was April 2nd and April is Autism Awareness Month? It is a great time to bring awareness about people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) including Autism and Asperger syndromes.

While looking into Autism, I found an Autism 101 course on the Autism Society Website that helped me understand it better. Autism is a complex developmental disability affecting individuals in the areas of communication and social interaction. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning symptoms can occur in any combination and with varying degrees of severity. There are many resources available for parents and teachers. Here’s a link to their website Autism Society

In 2020, the Autism Society of America launched its Celebrate Differences campaign to build better awareness of the signs, symptoms and realities of autism. See the Celebrate Differences Pledge below.

What a perfect time to pick this book as the Big Library Read, eh? The Big Library Read, started in June of 2014, is “the first ever global eBook club.” It’s facilitated by OverDrive and is a reading program through your library which connects readers around the world with the same eBook at the same time without any wait lists or holds. There are three reads scheduled for this year, the one for this book being the first. The second one starts towards the end of June and the third one is in November. The website provides marketing materials for your local library to get involved and provide a way to join a discussion with other readers around the world. Be sure to take a look at their website. Big Library Read.

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title
Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic

Author
Michael McCreary

Type of Book
Teen or Young Adult Memoir

Background
Michael McCreary was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of five. His parents enrolled him in the Stand up for Mental Health program at the age of thirteen where he found a positive outlet for his anxiety and met the founder of the program, David Granirer. McCreary trained with Granirer to create his comedy act, “Does This Make My Asperger’s Look Big?”. He was a contributor to the 2015 book published by the Autism Society called Autism: The Gift That Needs to be Opened. Now at the age of twenty-four, he is a self-defined Aspie Comic, a stand-up comedian who uses his love of the theater and being funny to breakdown the misconceptions about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Summary of the book
This memoir is McCreary’s story about growing up on the autism spectrum. Sometimes funny and sometimes sad, McCreary takes us through his day to day life and the challenges he faced being “a little different” from the rest of us.

Reaction to the book
I enjoyed the read and found the book to be very informative. I liked how it was more informally written, without a lot of statistics and textbook definitions. As he told this story, we could feel his humor and personality shining through. Engaging read for young readers as McCreary’s story could be very relatable for someone on the autism spectrum. It would be a very insightful read for those of us who aren’t as informed about ASD.

Link to the author
If you want to learn more about the author, here is a link to his website Michael McCreary

Link to the book
If you want to purchase this book, here is a link to Amazon. Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic


Be sure to tune in to my Facebook page this Thursday, April 16th at 11:00 AM (Central Daylight Time (CDT)) for a live reading of chapter two of The Hard Way. Haven’t read chapter one yet? You can pick it up for free if you sign up for the e-mail list on my website. It will be a pop-up window when you first arrive on the home page. Hope to see you then.

Have a great week!

Book Review: If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Good Morning! Here is the Monday Morning Blog!
With the additional downtime the stay at home orders and my furlough have given me, I was able to read both of the books in Gayle Forman’s young adult If I Stay series. I don’t know if I have ever read an entire series of books back to back, but I am glad I read these books that way. Her characters were very engaging so I had to find out what happened in their story. Since I was in marching and concert band in middle school and high school, I enjoyed the focus on music and what it meant to the story.

Selma’s Book Review

Book Titles
If I Stay and Where She Went

Author
Gayle Forman

Type of Books
Young Adult Fiction

Background
Gayle Forman began her writing career writing articles for Seventeen magazine about young people and social concerns. If I stay and Where She Went are the two books in If I Stay series written by Forman. If I Stay was published in 2009 and Where She Went was published in 2010. She was inspired by an actual accident that killed an entire family. She asked herself what would happen if one survived, and that is the basis of the story. One of the main characters, Mia Hall, is a cellist. As she wrote her novel, she was inspired by the life and work of world-renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, and makes him Mia’s musical idol.

Summary of the books
If I Stay is the first book in the series. In the story, Mia and Adam Wilde meet at school and start dating. They are both involved in music programs, which becomes their common bond. One day when Mia’s family decides to go for a family drive on an unplanned snow day from school, her family is involved in an automobile accident which kills her mom, dad and eight-year-old brother. It leaves her in grave condition and battling for her life. Throughout the rest of the story, we are in Mia’s head as she decides whether she will stay (live) or go (die). We find out at the end, which way she decides.

The second book in the series is Where She Went. The story starts up three years later and is told from Adam Wilde’s point of view. We find out what both characters have been up to since the end of If I Stay and what happens to make them cross paths in New York City.

Reaction to the books
I really enjoyed reading both books. I had a hard time putting either one of them down. I am glad I was able to read both books in one sitting (which wound up being about a week). It gave me a really neat experience to read their whole story. Forman presents characters who are easy to relate to and engage with. I also like how she had a different character tell the story from their point of view in each of the two books. I would definitely recommend the books for a young adult reader or one who enjoys young adult novels.

Link to Yo-Yo Ma
As I was writing this review, I was interested in the fact that Gayle Forman was inspired by Yo-Yo Ma and used his persona as Mia’s idol. As I was sitting down to start writing this review, I came across Yo-Yo Ma‘s Facebook page and am now following it. I did a search on You Tube and came across a PBS News Hour interview that Yo-Yo Ma recently did about a program he started called Songs of Comfort. Here’s a link to that interview Songs of Comfort PBS News Hour (3/18/20)

He says music is for everyone. Finding the needs in others and representing them has become his voice amid our current global crisis. Follow his hash tag #SongsofComfort

Link to the author
If you want to learn more about Gayle Forman, here is a link to her website Gayle Forman

Links to the books
If you want to purchase either one of these books, here is a link to Amazon. If I Stay and Where She Went

They also sell this series as a set, which is available on Amazon as well. If I Stay and Where She Went book set


How did the week go for you? For me, being on furlough meant I could watch a couple of webinars, read a few more books and work on the writing side of my life. It also allowed me to be able to pause and let some of the stress roll off of me from the crazy stressful lifestyle I was leading before. You don’t realize how crazy things are until you take a break from it, either voluntarily or through something like a furlough. Yo-Yo Ma was able to find a new voice for his music through this pause. Are you finding something changing for you? Or, has this pause helped you find a new habit? Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a great week!

Book Review – Honeysuckle Holiday by Kathleen M. Jacobs

Good Morning! Here is the Monday Morning Blog!

As an author who writes young adult fiction, I am always up for reading a young adult novel from a fellow author. When this book was suggested to me, the title, Honeysuckle Holiday was definitely intriguing. I turned the book over to the back cover, like most people do, to find out what it was about. As I was reading it, I was drawn into the fact that the story was being told by a teenage girl from the south during a time of great racial tension.

Selma’s Book Review

 

Book TitleHoneysuckle Holiday

Honeysuckle Holiday

Author

Kathleen M. Jacobs

Type of Book

Young Adult Fiction

Background

This is Kathleen M. Jacobs first young adult novel. After reading through her author bio on her website, it became clear where the inspiration for this story came from. With her favorite book being To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and making a move to rural West Virginia as a teenager, Jacobs writes this young adult novel flavored with two things which are personally important to her.

Summary of the story

Lucy is a spirited teenager growing up in the late 1960s. She is the middle child in a middle class family in Memphis, TN. With the racial tensions of the time, her father gets  involved in an incident which leads to the unravelling of his marriage and family. Their mother, not wanting to worry her daughters, doesn’t tell them what their father had done. As the story progresses, Lucy and her sister Caroline, find clues to the story of what happened to their dad. And they learn a more about how they feel about themselves and others who may be different from them.

Reactions to the book

It was a good read. I liked the coming of age theme and engaging characters. I loved how the girls worked together to try to figure out why their dad went away. Reminded me of playing Nancy Drew when I was their age. Jacobs even mentions that Caroline liked to read those books. The author does a great job with setting by bringing historical themes from the 1960s and 1970s into the story. Made it easy to imagine what was going on in the story relative to the time period.

I think it would be a great read for any young adult reader. With February being African-American History Month, this would be a good read with the topic of racial relations in the south being addressed.

If you interested in learning more about the author, you can find out information about her at Kathleen M. Jacobs

If you are looking for a copy of the book, here is a link to it on Amazon.com Honeysuckle Holiday

Have a great week!