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

Jason Reynolds

Type of Book
Mid-Grade or Young Adult Fiction

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


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 – 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

Selma P. Verde

Type of Book
Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction

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 Launch – The Hard Way

The day is finally here! The Hard Way is an officially published e-book on Here is the link!

The Hard Way E-Book

The Hard Way Thumbnail

It has been quite a journey to get here. Thank you to all of my followers who have been there to either give advice or just support me by being there.

The paperback version will be coming out next week. I’ll make another announcement when it happens. Then I’ll really get to the promotion side of things.

This has been a four year project but a dream since I was a preteen. If you believe in your dreams and put in the work required to do it, you can make it come true too.

More news coming soon!

Book Review – Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary was an author I remember reading while I was growing up. Do you remember The Mouse and the Motorcycle? How about the many stories she wrote about her character, Ramona Quimby? Did you know that Ramona’s character was born in an earlier series that Cleary wrote about another one of her characters, Henry Huggins? Henry’s friend, Beezus was Ramona’s older sister. When Cleary stopped the Henry Huggins series in 1968, she turned the focus of her writing to the two sisters.

The first book in the series, Ramona the Pest, Ramona is just entering kindergarten. This book, like the remaining books in the series, it is written from Ramona’s point of view. Having the stories written from the child characters’ point of view is a method used to make the story more relatable to the audience it has been written for. Many middle grade authors do this because having a peer tell the story makes it easier for them to relate to it. Same story told from an adult point of view, may not be received as well.

Through reading this book, I learned about the epistolary style of writing. It is a style based on having the story be told in the form of letters, diary entries or newspaper clippings. This book is written in that style. It adds an intimacy to the story that writing in a more traditional style may not be able to portray.


Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Dear Mr. Henshaw


Beverly Cleary

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction


Newberry Award Winning book in 1984. In a 2007 online poll Dear Mr. Henshaw was named Teachers Top 100 books for children.

Summary of the story

Leigh Botts, our sixth grade main character, is writing letters to the author of his favorite book, Ways to Amuse a Dog. He starts by writing letters to ask the author, Boyd Henshaw, questions about his book and being an author. After a while his letters become a sharing of Leigh’s day to day feelings with Mr. Henshaw about his parents divorce and being the new kid at school. The author suggests that he put all of this writing into a journal instead of sending him so many letters.

Reactions to the book

I enjoyed the story. Cleary did a great job of making Leigh’s character very relatable to the reader. By writing with an epistolary style,  the reader gets a very intimate view of the character’s thoughts and feeling without interference from the author telling his story.

The writing style confused me in the beginning. I kept reading thinking it was going to change to a more traditional story format, which became my own distraction. When I realized that it wasn’t, I enjoyed the story more.

Leigh came across as a pretty mature kid in how he dealt with Mr. Henshaw’s responses, or sometimes lack of. It may have frustrated him a bit, but it didn’t stop him from writing. His need for someone to listen to him kept him wanting to write more.

I believe this story is very relatable for a middle grade reader. The issues that Leigh faces would be typical for kids his age. Not only with what goes on at school, but also with the thoughts that he is having about his parents’ divorce and how much he misses his Dad. I would definitely recommend the book.

A Girl is building her writing house

We finally wound up with a weekend the boys didn’t have any weekend baseball tournaments and I wasn’t on call for my day job. So, I took some vacation time, made it a long weekend, and we were able to get away from the day-to-day life in the city. As we got closer to the day we were going to leave, I was hoping the trip would help me rejuvenate and refocus my energies towards my writing.

Status of my writing this past week starts with baseball, baseball, baseball. Love the sport and to watch the boys play, but between that and some personnel changes at work, finding time to work on my WIP edits has been nearly impossible. I’m so excited to get working on them and not being able to is creating some additional stress.

I’m not the type of person who procrastinates on getting things done. I make a plan and  figure out a way to get it done. I thrive on making progress towards goals. For me to get started on this project, I seem to be looking for a good time with a lot of quality writing time. I have a feeling this approach is going to get me into trouble. I probably won’t find what I’m looking for. Normally I’m able to put that kind of time into my schedule here and there. I currently do this when I work on my blog or writing platform during my lunch breaks. At this point of my life it seems almost impossible to find enough of those times.

When I think about what is going on with me right now, I do have more responsibilities at work. My home life has some big changes coming soon. Most of which we weren’t planning on doing right now. Don’t worry, none of it is bad, just stressful because it is all coming to us at once. So again, my writing goes on the back burner as my energies are spent in other places.

It isn’t as if I didn’t write at all this weekend. I wrote a preliminary blog post for Monday Morning (this one that you are reading right now). And, I was working on an online writing workshop through one of my Facebook groups to improve the views and content of my WordPress site. I know the work put into it will help my writer’s platform for future marketing initiatives.

With all of that being said, the editing on my manuscript still is not getting done.

Most writers are not fortunate enough to be able to write as a full time career. Many are in the same boat that I am, having to write while working another job. Add family life on top of that and it makes me one busy person. There are many books and seminars on setting priorities and creating manageable plans to get tasks done. Sometimes creating and following those plans has worked for me. Then there are times like this when those plans just can’t fight off the challenges brought on by every day life. So, I wind up dropping that plan and start taking care of the immediate issues at hand.

Finding the time has been one of my biggest obstacles to get myself into my writing. As I have found out, it is a lot of work to write, market and publish a book. Putting  all of the pieces together to get the actual book published is only a part of it. Setting up and utilizing all of the tools and sites that social media has to offer for marketing is a job all by itself, for an author just trying to publish a book. Through the WordPress workshop I’m currently involved in, I’m getting some great information and some ideas on subjects I may want to try out on my blog. How about Middle Grade book reviews? Or, YA book reviews? Or, some thoughts and research on the issues facing young teens today? Another thing I’m adding to my list of writing projects is to start searching out those groups who work with middle grade and YA readers and start networking. It will not only help me get more ideas for my writing and blogging, but it will help me create a network with other authors who are writing in the genre I am.

All of the work is positive progress towards creating my book and writer’s platform. I need to remember there are a lot of pieces to this project and they all need my attention. It is like building what I will call a writing house. It may mean that I can’t get to the parts I want to get to right now, like painting the rooms or hanging the curtains. I may need to work on some of the other tasks that are not necessarily seen, but definitely add things to the foundation or structure of the house itself.

My original idea for today’s blog was going to be writing about the progress I made on editing my middle grade manuscript, The Hard Way. I was going to talk about the process and how I was working my way through it. That is not what happened here at all. This wound up being more of a journaling about why I can’t get to my editing project. It’s not meant to be a whining session, but a real life soul search for an answer to the question of why I can’t get a start on it. The answer I stumbled onto here is I have quite a few things going on in my life right now. Things that need to get done before my writing can be worked on and completed successfully. It’s an important conclusion for me to come to here. I can accept that’s just where I am right now. It tells me not getting to my edits is o.k. I know I’ll get there. It’s just where I am in the process of building my writing house.

The Hard Way – the editing step

The name of my first manuscript is currently titled The Hard Way. I’ve been struggling to take the step of having a professional editor look at it. I’ve been checking on different editing sites and Facebook pages to understand how much it will cost. I got a little overwhelmed with the fact that it might be a little out of my price range right now. Wanting to get to the publishing step of my journey, not being able to afford it made me consider whether I really needed to do it or not. I thought, the beta readers that I asked to read it for me should have given me adequate feedback, right? Coming back to the fact that it should be done, I started spinning my wheels to come up with a way to get the money put together for it. With all of the family expenses we have, I wasn’t seeing it to even be possible until our youngest son graduates from high school in three years. This potential road block on my journey to publish a novel has been really upsetting me a lot lately.

By checking out different writing sites, Facebook groups and author pages, I’ve been trying to figure out how I would go about finding the right editor. I want to find one that I can build a relationship with, and not someone who is going to do a onetime read for me and then leave the scene. I know that I’m looking for an editor that works in my genre of YA/Middle Grade. They will be knowledgeable about how the story should read and what is required for the audience that I’m ultimately trying to get my book out to.

After thinking about how important my publishing goal is to me, I took a big step yesterday and started searching for an editor to see if I could make this work. Being a writer with aspirations of publishing a book someday, I wanted to take the right steps to get this done. Many published authors talk about how important it is to have an editor involved in your work. If it is the right person, they are able to collaborate with you to produce a successful book for the readers. The trained second set of eyes can see a lot of things the writer can’t see, like ideas or information that may be missing from the flow of the story. I realize how important it is to have those trained set of eyes on the manuscript before it becomes a book and goes out into the world to the reader.

Yesterday when I started my search, I noticed that some editors offered a free read through and critique of a few pages to provide the writer with a sample of how they edit. I think that this could be a good way to interview an editor. I looked through one of my Facebook Writing Groups and found a YA/Middle Grade editor that I decided to contact. Sending the initial e-mail set the process in motion. I e-mailed back and forth with her and it seemed to be going as expected. I sent her what she required from my manuscript for her to take a look and see what kind and how much editing it may need, in her professional opinion. I’m excited to hear what she has to say. Maybe a little scared too. But it feels good to make that step, a step I needed to take to move my project forward.

I’m sure there are things that will need to be changed and or cut out to make the story cleaner for the reader. A little anxiety wells up when I think about how much of the story the editor thinks doesn’t need to be there, but I feel that it is important to be included. I saw all of the work it took to get the story on the page, but I have to remember that the editor is going to have a good idea about how it should go. These conflicting feelings are a normal part of the process that all writers go through when they send their stories out to be edited.

To make myself vulnerable and put my work out for the masses to see has definitely taken some courage to do. I started with a few friends and had them read my story, which wasn’t too hard for me. We got together for coffee and they gave me their thoughts. Then I decided to present it to my book club for our monthly club selection. I felt a little more anxious about doing that one. They commented and critiqued it during our book club meeting and that was a bit intimidating. But I’m so glad that I did it. Now I’m working on finding a professional editor critique it for me, which is a bigger step than the other editing and feedback opportunities, but those opportunities gave me some experience going into this one.

I got to the point with my own self editing that if I read it again, I either wouldn’t be able to see anything more to change, or I would make too many revisions to things that didn’t need to be changed. In my case, the editor is going to bring objectivity and knowledge about getting a book ready for publication, which is what I need at this stage in the process. I’ve heard that writers must develop a thick skin to accept the critiques and rejections that are received from the editors and critics. But those are usually offset by the readers who love and enjoy the story. Not everyone is going to like what we create, but it must put out there if we want the story to be heard.

I was originally planning to post a segment of my WIP for the blog today. Now I think I’ll wait until I’ve had an editor take a good look at it!