“The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball” by Dori Jones Yang


Dori Jones Yang
SparkPress (2017)
ISBN 9781943006328
Reviewed by Marten Weldon (age 12) for Reader Views (9/17)

“The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball” by Dori Jones Yang is historical fiction novel about eleven-year-old Woo Ka-Leong (Leon) and his fourteen-year-old brother Ka-Son (Carson). In 1876, the Chinese brothers were part of the Chinese Educational Mission to the United States. They were sent to live with a family in Connecticut, to learn English, go to school, eventually graduate from college, and bring technology back to China.

It was a duty to the Emperor and a privilege to be selected for the Chinese Educational Mission. Only one hundred and twenty of the smartest boys were chosen. In addition to going to American schools, they had to keep up their studies in Chinese so they would be able to communicate when they got home. They had to continue to demonstrate their loyalty to the Emperor by wearing a long braid, and Leon had to always obey his elder brother because it was the Chinese way. This was very difficult because Elder Brother did not like America and did not want Leon to play baseball or become Americanized.

Leon was the main character. He was frisky and open to new ideas and experiences but was held back by Chinese tradition enforced by Elder Brother. When Leon first arrived, American culture felt very unusual. For instance, walking into a sick person’s house was considered very dangerous to Chinese people, and he refused to carry a basket that been inside a sick person’s house. After a while and some struggle, American culture rubbed off on Leon and he found himself speaking up and participating in American life, including baseball.

The storyline focuses less on baseball than the title would lead you to believe. There is enough baseball included if you are a baseball fan, but not too much if you are not. I liked this book because it was very engaging. I learned a lot about Chinese culture, and as a younger brother, I could relate to brothers being brothers. There is also a Fun Facts section at the end of the book with some interesting historical information. “The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball” by Dori Jones Yang was very well written, and I would recommend it to everyone!

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“Daniel: The Age of Anxiety” by Peter Pactor


Peter Pactor
Friesen Press (2017)
ISBN 9781525500848
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (09/17)

“Daniel: The Age of Anxiety” by Peter Pactor, is a delightful historical fiction novel set in the late 1920s. The sequel to “Daniel: The Age of Discovery,” readers pick up the story as Chester Alexander (Daniel French, now a 95-year-old billionaire) continues the telling of his life story to his biographer, Michael Chandler.

The narrative begins in the year 1929. There is growing uncertainty surrounding the stock market.  Daniel doesn’t believe the experts touting a stable economy – he fears the market will crash.  Starting with the customers of his bank, Daniel sets out to alert as many people as will listen about the impending doom. He meets some highly influential people in the financial and political world, overcomes personal obstacles, and makes a few enemies on his mission to inform the public.  Did I mention Daniel is12 years old?

Pactor has an incredible talent for drawing the reader directly into the environment of the story.  I actually felt like I stepped through a time portal and was delivered to 1929.  I could hear the music of the era playing in the background of my mind as I read. I pictured delivery boys on their bicycles shouting the daily headlines as they delivered the morning newspapers. And though it was most certainly a colorful time in history before the depression, I imagined the story in black and white. I was completely enchanted by the overall tone.

The characters in the story are equally appealing.  The development of Daniel as a wealthy, privileged 12-year-old is impressive.  Daniel exudes confidence and an almost-but-not-quite arrogance that is beyond his years, both in intellect and maturity.  His “almost” arrogance is held in-check by his social ineptness (though he also grows in this area as the book progresses), and his willingness to learn. As an adult, I found Daniel’s character to be quite remarkable; at times I often forgot he was just a young boy.  That said, I do wonder if young readers of today will be able to connect with Daniel and his equally mature friends.

The author’s background as an educator is heavily imprinted in the story, teaching readers along the way, almost invisibly, with the life lessons introduced to Daniel and his friends.  He also includes some very interesting information in the back of the book about some of the historical figures in the story as well as a list of recommended reading.

As the book ends with a nice opening for more adventures with Daniel, I hope to see more work from this author soon. A wonderful, well-written piece of historical fiction, I highly recommend “Daniel: The Age of Anxiety” by Peter Pactor.

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“The Portal: The CORT Chronicles Book 1” by David D. Bernstein


David D. Bernstein
Outskirts Press (2017)
ISBN 9781478783107
Reviewed by Marten Weldon (age 12) for Reader Views (09/17)

“The Portal: The CORT Chronicles Book 1” by David D. Bernstein, is a book about a 13-year-old boy named Zack, who tries to find his 11-year-old brother Andy, who disappeared by jumping into a time portal during a baseball game. The New York Zack found on the other side of the portal was not the same as the New York he left. It was now the year 2110, and the city was a war zone. The only people Zack could see were between the ages of twenty and fifty and they were mind-controlled minions. There were no children or old people. The city was run by robots that were controlled by CORT, the company running the city.

Zack soon finds his brother Andy, who was working with the resistance movement, fighting against CORT. They were not together long before Andy was captured by CORT. Now Zack will have to rescue his brother. The book ends rather abruptly at that point. To find out what happens next, we’ll all have to wait for the sequel.

I think the idea of kids fighting against a robot-dominated city is an interesting story. For me though, the story was not totally believable as I wanted to see more development of the plot and to know more about the characters so I could relate better to them in their adventures.  Plus, the characters didn’t talk like normal children, or at least any of the kids I know. Their speech was more formal–they never used contractions like don’t or won’t, so the language seemed kind of stiff.

There are a few illustrations in the book, which are very good, but I thought they made the kids look about half their actual age.

“The Portal: The CORT Chronicles Book 1” by David D. Bernstein, is a quick read at only 78 pages long.  Overall, I found the concept of the story to be interesting and really liked the action. I think it is a story that will be enjoyed very much by readers just a bit younger than my age group.

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“White Wine and Medical Marijuana” by Julia Cirignano


Julia Cirignano
CreateSpace (2017)
ISBN 9781548228972
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (9/17)

I was happy to read “White Wine and Medical Marijuana” by Julia Cirignano as a wine and poetry lover as well as writer; and an advocate for marijuana as a prescribed solution for chronic pain. But my perception of the book title was totally wrong as the reference to ‘Medical Marijuana’ gave me the impression of a topic very relevant to my life lately.

Having said that, the thoughts, feelings and sensory experiences painted a deep, raw, and relatable picture of a current reality for young and old alike about addiction, darkness, passion and sadness that captivated my own thoughts in many instances. The only thing that confused me at times was the titles, as I was not always able to find a connection with the poem. An example of this is the poem titled ‘Ghost.’

Julia Cirignano shares without restraint, using words bluntly and openly to express her inner thoughts and feelings about instances in her life. Her communication technique of choice is Modern poetry which allows for words and format to flow freely, straight from her mind to the paper giving the reader a raw view of the author’s heart and inner thoughts. Readers will be immersed into different moments of her life, many of darkness, toxic passion, and pain like, ‘Broken Paragraph.’ Yet I found pieces that were empowering like a quick glimpse of hope for light like, ‘Freedom.” There is one that encases these two extremes for me and thus became my favorite, which I quote below:

Lost Kingdom

One day
You will be drinking
And you will realize
That no amount of alcohol
Can erase me
And no amount
Of weed
Can make you feel
As mighty
As we were together
The world in our hands
Me in your arms.”

Overall, I found, “White Wine and Medical Marijuana” by Julia Cirignano to be a deep collection of raw thoughts relatable to Millennial’s life experiences, great for young adults and even older crowds. It is a thought-provoking modern poetry collection which many will read again and again.

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“The Word Search Oracle: Yoga for the Brain” by Cristina Smith and Rick Smith and Darity Wesley


Cristina Smith, Rick Smith, Darity Wesley
CreateSpace (2017)
ISBN 9781544211558
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (09/17)

“The Word Search Oracle: Yoga for the Brain,” by Cristina Smith and Rick Smith, featuring oracle messages by Darity Wesley, is Book 2 in the Sudoku Wisdom Series. The series is unique in approach by incorporating philosophy into an entertaining, challenging puzzle book.

Having previously read and reviewed “The Tao of Sudoku: Yoga for the Brain,” I was excited to get my hands on this next edition.  The book starts with the definition of an Oracle and how we can use the messages in the puzzles to delve deeper and create or expand a mindful spiritual practice and greater awareness of oneself.

Each puzzle presents a focused theme (i.e., Connection, Gratitude, Purpose, Forgiveness), with a short paragraph of reflection on the subject, the word search puzzle itself, and a secret message revealed at the end by using the letters left-over after the word search is finished.  The secret message presents in the form of a mantra or positive affirmation, which are helpful tools for building a positive mental attitude and outlook.

Mixed in throughout the puzzles are pages that present interesting facts about our eyes, the brain, the practice of mental yoga and the benefits to our general well-being. There are also some great tips for solving the puzzles, using some techniques I had not considered before.

I am partial to word search puzzles. I’ve been doing them since I was a young girl, usually timing myself, and creating a competitive atmosphere. “The Word Search Oracle: Yoga for the Brain,” challenged me to incorporate a different attitude and approach; to slow down and consider the individual puzzles as part of a conscious spiritual experience.  With that in mind, I tried to develop a (somewhat) consistent routine, typically at the end of the day, when I was ready to unwind and still my mind.

That said, while I did try to stick to my nightly routine, there were times when I couldn’t help myself and rushed through a puzzle because I was eager to reveal the mantra on topic matters that really struck a chord with me.  Gratefully, this book teaches there is no wrong way to solve the puzzle, and I learned a lot about myself during the process.

I subscribe to a daily online crossword puzzle where users’ completion times are tracked.  After reading this book, I realize there is a lot of unnecessary stress created with timing yourself.  My experience with “The Word Search Oracle: Yoga for the Brain,” by Cristina Smith, Rick Smith, and Darity Wesley has taught me that life (and puzzle solving) can be much more pleasant when you slow things down a bit!  I highly recommend this book for puzzle gurus and those who want to develop or enhance their spiritual practice.

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“At The Root: My journey to health and healing” by Kimberly Miles


Kimberly Miles, M.A.
Sojourn Publishing (2017)
ISBN 9781627470087
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (09/17)

From the minute I opened this book, I knew that it was going to make an impact on my life. “At The Root: My journey to health and healing” takes an in-depth look at one woman’s passage from pain and suffering to joy and restoration. Kimberly Miles’ memoir could be your story as it presents the difficulties associated with dealing with unexplained illnesses and the frustration in managing the symptoms they produce.

This account presents a wide spectrum of medical and natural health research over a period of nearly 30 years. During this extensive span of time, the author experiences a myriad of illnesses and diseases, ranging from persistent pneumonia to chronic lymph node swelling and memory loss. Her frustrating account has her dealing with symptoms that incapacitate her and affect her career, marriage and overall outlook on life.

After trying a multitude of doctors, diet changes and medicines, she is told, “it was likely that my health issues were all in my head.” Supported by anatomical figures and chronicled symptom charts and reports, Kimberly explains how she educates herself on ways to understand (in layman’s terms) what is happening to her body and how she can help.

Diagnoses of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lymphoma and Epstein Barr Virus champion her to search out lifestyle changes that might improve her health and alleviate stress. Although she receives intermittent periods of functioning health, she continues to encounter symptoms and finds that the worry involved depletes her energy sources even more. Refusing to “maintain this low standard of wellness,” she strives to discover the stressor that is responsible for keeping her body ill.

Finally, her search leads her to a doctor who associates her previous dental procedures with her general health issues. From there, she encounters a biological dentist who presents facts that, for the first time, ring true to her quest. What follows is a dramatic account of how chronic focal infection interferes with the whole body’s ability to heal.

I read this book voraciously realizing that many of my own symptoms, which typically come and go, could be attributed to some of the many dental procedures I have had over my lifetime. This memoir is in no way presented to evoke fear or scare you into never going to the dentist again. It is a genuine eye-opening biography written in true form to give the reader insight into how to take more responsibility for your wellness and to have the courage to work in conjunction with your providers to make the wisest choices when faced with health challenges. In the final analysis, it is the challenges that we are faced with that present the most opportunity for growth. In the words of Ann Allen, “boldly go into the great and vast unknown.” In this book, you will learn how and why these words stayed with the author throughout her ordeal and gave her the drive and determination to persist.

Even if you are not a medical person, you will be absorbed by the details in, “At The Root.” It is a great blend of science and art. Once digested, you will realize, like I did, that Kimberly Miles’ experiences prepare her for this tedious pilgrimage toward healing. Therefore, it is not just a tale of illness and struggle toward health. Kimberly’s experience and awareness along this 30-year long journey have culminated in a philosophical book that is truly remarkable and even magical.

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“Variance” by Josen Llave


Josen Llave
iUniverse (2017)
ISBN 9781532012808
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (09/17)

“Variance: Raise Your Weapon,” by Josen Llave is an energetic and fast-moving sci-fi thriller.  Intriguing, non-stop action, set in an extraordinary alternate world, this space opera will satisfy newbie and hard-core sci-fi fans alike.

Scientifically blessed with Cellular Infinity, Utopians of Azure enjoy immortality, living in total peace and love. When confronted with danger, they simply smile and turn the other way.  This becomes a problem when the Kazats of Crimson, who believe Utopians are pure evil, vow to completely annihilate the race.

Paul Benedict is a different sort of Utopian.  Paul possesses independent thinking and free will and knows he must fight against the norm to save his family and the Utopian race from total extinction.   With the help of his family, an AI named Siren, and a few unlikely cohorts, Paul sets out on a mission doomed from the start. For in order to accomplish his task, he must fight and win the gladiator game called Divine Might, a seemingly impossible feat, where he will face every conceivablechallenge, and some beyond the wildest imagination.

Intellectually stimulating and captivating, Llave’s writing style really sets the tone for non-stop entertainment.  The setting is quite unlike anything I could ever imagine–both unique and customary at the same time, as distinctive out-of-this-world machinations combine with an almost old-fashioned sense of family and tradition.  The story is full of action, and great detail is shown in the battle scenes, providing intensity and moving the plot along nicely.

I thoroughly enjoyed the characters in “Variance.” The Utopian citizens created lemming-like images in my mind, while the character of Ryan is hilarious, providing engaging sarcasm and almost unintentional comic-relief. Siren–the AI, was the most captivating character in my opinion.  She completely unnerved me, as I likened her to the AI in the movie, “Ex Machina” by Alex Garland.  Paul Benedict as a protagonist grew on me as he developed with the progression of the story.  There are some cheesy moments with Paul and his daughter involving a somewhat grating catch-phrase they use between them but hey, it does establish a sense of familial tradition.

Overall, I highly recommend “Variance” by Josen Llave as a thrilling sci-fi experience, and look forward to the sequel, “Celestial” coming soon.

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