Early Book Review: A Guide to the Other Side (Beyond Baylor) by Robert Imfeld

A Guide to the Other Side is the first book in the Beyond Baylor series by Robert Imfeld. It is currently scheduled for release on October 4 2016. There are a few things you should know about Baylor Bosco: He’s thirteen-years-old, he has a twin sister, and he really does NOT like ghosts…which is problematic because he’s a medium and sees ghosts everywhereOh, and his twin sister, Kristina? She’s a ghost too. They’ve been working as a pair for years, expertly relaying messages from ghosts to their still-living loved ones. Baylor’s even managed to come up with an introductory phrase—one that he has to use far too often. But when a strange ghost shows up close to Halloween, a grown man, covered in a sheet, with only his black leather shoes showing from the bottom, Baylor starts to wonder if something else has taken notice of him. And when his sister goes missing, somehow ghost-napped, he’s forced to figure out the truth about the Sheet Man and his sister’s disappearance, all without his usual ghostly ambassador.

A Guide to the Other Side is the story of a very special middle grade boy that has the ability to see and speak to ghosts. While dealing with the inopportune requests from the other side he still needs to get through school and family life without constantly freaking out other people with his abilities. The added complication of a ghostly twin acting as his companion, confidant, and protector make things more complicated. By the time readers join Baylor on his adventure he is well versed on blending in and feels fairly confident in his skills and place as messenger for the dead. However, things are about to get harder and Baylor needs to face his responsibilities and learn more all aspects of the world around him. I like that he has both scary moments, and some very emotional issues to face. While the mystery of the sheet man and the danger Baylor faces is a huge part of the story, I really love that his emotional growth and understanding- including empathy for his family and friends- is just as important to the story. This is not just a paranormal adventure full of mischief and mayhem, it is also a heartfelt coming of age story, I also enjoyed the fact that while the adults in Baylor’s life dogged upset with him for putting himself in harm’s way and breaking rules, they are also aware and intelligent characters rather than the bumbling adults that seem to frequent children’s fiction. 

A Guide to the Other Side is a wonderful middle grade novel with plenty of heart, excitement, and wonder for readers. I am very glad I read it and can think of many I would recommend it to. 

Early Book Review: The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on October 11 2016.  Santa has a problem. This kid? Harold? Santa doesn't think he's real. He WANTS to believe in Harold--after all, Harold is one of the most magical parts of Christmas.  But Santa's just not sure. Some of his friends are telling him they think Harold's not real. And the Harold that sat on his knee last Christmas looked AWFULLY different. Santa comes up with a plan to find out once and for all if Harold really exists, with hilarious consequences.

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold handles the questions many children face when they start hearing whispers of the more magical parts of childhood being less than real. Classmates, siblings, cousins, television shows and any number of sources could have a child wondering if Santa and the other magical forces that inhabit childhood are real. By twisting the narrative so that it is Santa not fully believing in a particular child makes the story fun and more engaging to young readers. I think this is a fun and helpful read for families wanting to keep the belief alive a little longer. 

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold is a delightful picture book for dealing with declining faith in the wonders of Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the like. A wonderful read for families and particularly children that still want to believe. 

Book Spotlight with Excerpt: Night Ringing by Laura Foley

Night Ringing
By: Laura Foley

Blurb  "I revel in the genius of simplicity" Laura Foley writes as she gives us in plain-spoken but deeply lyrical moments, poems that explore a life filled with twists and turns and with many transformations. Through it all is a search for a fulfilling personal and sexual identity, a way to be most fully alive in the world. From multicultural love affairs through marriage with a much older man, through raising a family, through grief, to lesbian love affairs, "Night Ringing" is the portrait of a woman willing to take risks to find her own best way. And she does this with grace and wisdom. As she says: "All my life I've been swimming, not drowning." 
-Patricia Fargnoli, author of "Winter, Duties of the Spirit, " and "Then, Something 

"I love the words and white space of poetry. I love stories even more. In this collection, Laura Foley evokes stories of crystallized moments, of quiet and overpowering emotion, of bathtubs and lemon chicken. The author grows up on the pages, comes of age, and reconciles past with present. Almost. Try to put the book down between poems to savor each experience. Try, but it won't be easy. 
-Joni B. Cole, author of "Toxic Feedback, Helping Writers Survive and Thrive" 

Plain-spoken and spare, Laura Foley's poems in "Night Ringing" trace a life story through a series of brief scenes: separate, intense moments of perception, in which the speaker's focus is arrested, when a moment opens to reveal a glimpse of the larger whole. Memories of a powerful, enigmatic father, a loving but elusive mother, a much older husband, thread Foley's stories of childhood, marriage and motherhood, finally yielding to the pressure of her attention, as she constructs a series of escapes from family expectations, and moves toward a new life. In these lucid, intense poems, Foley's quiet gaze, her concentration, and emotional accuracy of detail, render this collection real as rain. 
-Cynthia Huntington, author of "Heavenly Bodies" 

Foley's voice rings with quiet authority undercut by calamity, examining a life so extraordinary, she seems to have lived several people's lives, setting a high bar for poetic craft she meets, in great mystery perfectly expressed in the tiny, quotidian, "spent matches pressed on wet pavement," to soulful beauty, "as wind lifts/every shining wave"; in wisdom rooted in humor, from the deliciously funny "Flunking Jung," to self-deprecating wit, misreading "poetic" as "pathetic," reminding us wisdom is love, grown from self-compassion. 
-April Ossmann, author of "Anxious Music"


Not Drowning
On my back like a corpse, enjoying buoyancy,
I drift downstream as Amtrak, hooting, passes over.

I'm waving at passengers from the city,
who peer out their little windows, down at me.

I wave so they'll know I'm not dead,
but floating.

All my life I've been waving
to passengers passing,

all my life I've been swimming,
not drowning.

      Amazon  / Norwich Bookstore / B&N
Author Info Laura Foley is the author of five poetry collections. The Glass Tree won the Foreword Book of the Year Award, Silver, and was a Finalist for the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, Outstanding Book of Poetry. Joy Street won the Bi-Writer’s Award. Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines including Valparaiso Poetry Review, Inquiring Mind, Pulse Magazine, Poetry Nook, Lavender Review, The Mom Egg Review and in the British Aesthetica Magazine. She won Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Award and the Grand Prize for the Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Contest. 
Author Links:  WebsiteGoodreads 
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