“The Ranatanland Tales” by Dr. Lloyd Chiasson, Jr.

The Ranatanland Tales

Dr. Lloyd Chiasson Jr.
Independently Published (2020)
ISBN 9781735303208
Reviewed by Grady D. (age 8) for Reader Views (06/2021)

“The Ranatanland Tales” is an amazing book in which Gus is visiting his Grandpa and Grandma’s house when a hurricane hits. Gus is scared during the hurricane, which I can relate to because I get scared during thunderstorms. To help soothe Gus, his Grandpa reads him a book called “The Ranatanland Tales.” That book follows quite a few people, though mostly two characters called Willie G Soon and Joey Perch. I say, what an adventurous pair those two are!

I loved the story, which was quite amazing, especially the first book that Grandpa reads of “The Ranatanland Tales,” in which Joey Perch and Willie G Soon find the source of a river that seems to have no end. “The Ranatanland Tales” has a very good author and a captivating tale that’s just sure to catch your attention! I love how the author puts himself in the story, because it makes the story seem more real. I also really liked the plotline, but I can’t mention too much without ruining the book!

Some things that stand out about the book are:

#1: The setting, which is pretty interesting. I mean, Ranatanland? I HAVE to find out what happens in a setting with such an intriguing name! Also, that place is magical! I mean, there is Wickaberry Forest with dragons, a school called “The Terminal”, and a river called “Holiday Stream” that floods every holiday and waters the crops! One cool feature of the book is that the author included a map of Ranatanland, which helped me imagine the setting!

#2: The events, like an adventure to Holiday Lake, which Joey and Willie discover is the beginning of Holiday Stream. The most exciting parts are when they meet Yewknow Eyeknow, the dragon that knows everything you know. Joey and Willie also have to eat clover when they are starving, and they discover that it tastes good! I cook a lot with my dad, so I liked reading about them eating a new food. And finally, they have a really cool way to cross the bridge, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

#3: The characters, like Joey Perch and Willie G Soon, who are absent-minded but love adventure, and Ethel Bethel, who is popular apparently just for the green suspenders she always wears.

If I had to pick a favorite part, it would probably be when they meet Yewknow Eyeknow, because I found it interesting that the dragon eats clover and doesn’t breathe fire, or even have wings!

In conclusion, “The Ranatanland Tales” is a well-written book, with lots of captivating adventures, and some very interesting events. The book is perfect for 7-11 year olds who love adventure and fantasy, but anyone who is looking for a fun book to read should definitely check this out! Bye!

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“The War Inside His Mind” by Y. M. Masson

The War Inside His Mind: A Soldier’s Battle to Erase the Emotional Damage of Combat

Y.M. Masson
Middle River Press (2020)
ISBN 9781946886132
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (06/17)

“The War Inside His Mind: A Soldier’s Battle to Erase the Emotional Damage of Combat” is Y.M. Masson’s follow up to “When Paris Was Dark: A Sliver of WWII History.”

In this book, we are introduced to a grown-up Alain, who is now following in his uncle’s footsteps and paying his dues by serving his country. Despite not having much combat experience, Alain is promoted as a Lieutenant and is put in charge of a platoon of men stationed in the mountains of North Africa. The French-Algerian War is in full swing, and it is up to Alain and his men to keep the loyal French and Arab villagers safe from the brutal rebels. Faced with running into danger on the regular, Alain must steel his emotions as more of his men become casualties of a war that should have been ended by the French government two years earlier. He will also come face-to-face with the crude, horrendous brutality of the rebel Algerians against not only his men, but innocent civilians–farmers and families he is supposed to protect. Through it all, Alain must remain calm, sharp and focused on his mission: to take out the enemy and help put an end to such an awful war.

I found “The War Inside His Mind” to be quite breathtaking. When I read the first book, I had some trouble connecting with Alain as a child, because the way he spoke just did not feel authentic or reminiscent of a child, but in this second installment, Alain makes a fantastic narrator who commands readers’ sympathies from the first page. He is humble, scared, angry and constantly wondering just how much damage his military service is doing to his mind. Though quickly making his way up the ranks, he has no desire to be a career soldier. Reading Alain’s narration felt like being right inside his thoughts.

I also found “The War Inside His Mind” to be quite informative, because I had never really learned about the French-Algerian War before. I knew that Algeria, especially, has had quite a violent history at times, but I never knew that there was an actual war. In particular, I liked how Masson portrayed the war not in big battles or gory injuries, but through regular, almost daily skirmishes with rebel groups that, though quick, always seem to claim more young lives. The emphasis is not on the blood and gunfire as much as on the fact that this was one of the first wars in which soldiers were dealing with more advanced technology. Instead of air raids and trench wars, there were grenades, rebel attacks on farms and refugees, and machine guns that could fire more rounds in a minute than ever before. In theory, this war was simpler than World War II, but in execution, it was far more unpredictable and harder to strategize against. 

Masson’s book is a wonderful, if melancholy, portrayal of everyday life for a combat soldier in a modern war. It can be read on its own, but the first book will provide some context to some characters and events referenced throughout Alain’s narration. I recommend “The War Inside His Mind” to readers of historical fiction, military fiction, and those who identify with characters struggling with PTSD or psychological trauma. 

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“Stories for My Sons” by Marko Vukosavovic

Stories for my Sons

Marko Vukosavovic
Independently Published (2021)
ISBN 979-8741764992
Reviewed by Cynthia Hammell for Reader Views (06/2021)

“Stories for my Sons” by Marko Vukosavovic is a history of his Montenegrin family from the 15th-century beginnings of their village Sotonici to his own autobiography. He illustrates how the region’s history was shaped by war throughout the years. Some of the more memorable stories Vukosavovic shares are those which he and his father Rasko experienced.

During World War II, Rasko bravely fought with the resistance against the Fascists, narrowly escaping Mussolini’s forces multiple times. In one example he hid in a haystack while a farmer’s wife tried to persuade enemy officers that he was not there. After the war, Rasko was educated in the US, but still returned to his homeland.

Marko, born in 1974, had a largely peaceful childhood, though his teenage years were a tumultuous time. Belgrade was a dangerous place. Ethnic and religious tensions were extremely high in the former Yugoslavia leading to wars, as happened in Sarajevo. After high school, in 1993, Marko was recruited into the army. An illustration of their army’s poverty recalls one night near the end of his service, when there was only one can of food for six of them and were debating giving it to a dying dog.

When he graduated from the University of Belgrade in 2000, he joined his siblings in the US, where he now lives in New Jersey. His three sons are the sons in the title. Marko realizes the world he grew up in is gone, which I am sure others can relate to.

Vukosavovic states, “These stories follow the style of the book of Genesis and tales from the medieval Balkans a style I loved as a young boy. They were written in the style of short stories focusing on one event or one feeling and characterized by only limited descriptions of the external environment devoid of modern interpretations, justifications or glorification of the characters (p.5).” While the book is rich in history, I personally found the way the incidents in were presented actually distracted from the flow of the stories.  I think the book would benefit from a map and maybe some old photographs or pictures to enhance the stories. The author did list the family members in the back of the book in an appendix, which may have worked better for the reader in the front of the book.

The author gives readers a glimpse into a world that has been dramatically changed. This book will appeal to those interested in autobiographies and family histories. It is a wonderful legacy to leave his children and a historical addition to books about the Balkan region.

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“Horde” by Bryan Cassiday

Horde

Bryan Cassiday
Independently Published (2021)
ISBN: 978-1732976368
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/21)

“Horde” is the sixth book in the Chad Halverson Zombie Apocalypse series. Ironically, the zombies were created by a plague that began in China. The first book in the series was written in 2011. The timing of reading this novel, during a pandemic, was perfect.

In this sixth episode, the story begins with the protagonist having no memory of how he ended up alone in a desert, or any recollection about who he is. Two men help rescue him and take him back to a compound where they reside with a ragtag group. Naming him “Box,” it quickly becomes apparent that he has had some elite military training and it is well ingrained into his psyche. The residents of the compound are not receptive to Box being there. They fear he might be a carrier for the plague. When the compound is taken by force, things get even more precarious for Box and several others who have aligned themselves with him. The new leader is demented and cruel, and he doesn’t trust Box or his friends. The residents of the compound soon show that they are weak willed and will do anything to show support to their new leader. This means putting Box’s group in danger. They have to fight both the new regime and the zombie attacks in order to survive. When Box remembers who he is, which is Chad Halverson, he also remembers that he needs to resume his mission in hopes of saving the country.

“Horde,” moves quickly. Readers will get so caught up in the story, they will have to remember to breathe! This is the first book that I read in this series and I was very impressed. While I suspect readers will enjoy reading the books in order of the series, it is actually not necessary to do so, because it stands well on its own. If I had read the previous books in the series, I would have known the identity of the protagonist, and what he had already gone through, but again, not necessary. I enjoyed discovering who he was, as the character himself regained his memories.

While I love a good zombie apocalypse with a lot of blood and guts, such as this one, I also enjoyed watching how sociological aspects of the story affected how the residents of the compound treated the protagonist and his group. I felt that the desperate struggle to survive had them easily following a leader who made them act in ways in which they wouldn’t have in normal circumstances. This would be a brilliant book for a sociology student to read!

It was also interesting to read this while being in lock down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It kind of made me grateful that our symptoms usually aren’t as bad as the plague in this series, but the horror aspects of the story also made me a bit fearful about what our future holds. Yes, I know it was fiction, but I have an imagination that tends to wander and wonder. Fans of zombie apocalypse adventures will really enjoy “Horde.”

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“The Pact: The Illustrated Colonials Book One” by Tom Durwood

The Pact: The Illustrated Colonials Book One

Tom Durwood
Empire Studies Press (2021)
ISBN 9781952520150
Reviewed by Jeni Tahaney for Reader Views (06/2021)

“The Pact” is Book One in The Illustrated Colonials series, a historical fiction saga for teens and young adults with a distinctive spin on the American Revolution.

The main characters of this story are Mei Ying, Glibert, Sheyndil, Leo, Mahmoud, and Will O.  The author takes the first part of the book to introduce each of these characters. Jiaya Mei Ying is the moody teen whose family controls the canals on behalf of the Chinese Emperor. Gilbert du Motier is the handsome French Dragoon. Sheyndil is the Russian farm girl and emissary to Catherine the Great. Leo is of German blood and next in line to inherit the title of Baron. Mahmoud is the spoiled prince who will one day become the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Will O. is the second son of a prominent family of Dutch traders. 

All of these young people, due to different circumstances, find themselves attending the same boarding school in the Alsace region of the French Alps under the tutelage of Master Frestel and Master Dubin. Each has been chosen because he or she is a “member of a family with a wide reach” which is advantageous now that the “Bostonians have triggered a world war.” (p.43)

The second part of this story shows the readers how these main characters interact while undergoing an education that includes academics, teamwork, manual labor, taking care of animals, self-defense, and the British Nine Rules of War. As Master Frestel and the others at the school reiterate, these young adults are being coached to help the colonials, learn the American ideals of freedom, and to bring back these ideals to their various countries. After the ultimate battle at the end of book one, Master Frestel is headed to Boston while Mei Ying, Glibert, Sheyndil, Leo, Mahmoud, and Will form a pact. The pact includes being honest with each other, to always try to do good, and as Sheyndil so eloquently declares, “if one of us calls, the others must answer. We each vow it.” (p. 92)

“The Pact” sets the stage for the ultimate skirmish, the Revolutionary War. It will amaze readers how the author seamlessly weaves the young heroes’ stories into the fabric of this historical event without altering the actual circumstances of the war. Personally, this reader enjoyed seeing the war from a fresh perspective. Typically, the audience is used to a white male perspective when it comes to the great Revolutionary War. Mr. Durwood humanizes this dry subject by inserting these six interesting characters from different countries. 

This is just the hook our young adult audience needs to be able to relate to this piece of history.  However, young adults are not the only audience who will enjoy the beginning of this saga.  Adult readers who know a bit more about the Revolutionary War will enjoy both the storylines and the history of the war.  People ages 12 and up who love historical war fiction should start their journey by reading “The Pact: The Illustrated Colonists Book One” by Tom Durwood.  They will enjoy both the story and the beautiful illustrations that accompany this story.

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“Somebody’s Watching You” by Robin D’Amato

Somebody’s Watching You

Robin D’Amato
Atmosphere Press (2021)
ISBN: 9781636495965
Reviewed by Lily Andrews for Reader Views (06/2021)

“Somebody’s Watching You” is a highly engaging, gripping fictional thriller that follows the lives of Melody, a married woman who works as a designer, and her husband Jeff. Jeff falls into depression, something that is difficult for Melody to deal with. She engages a therapist to help her navigate through her new life of living with Jeff. Soon after, Jeff joins a cult-like church that begins indoctrinating him.

 At first, Melody thinks this is a good thing for Jeff, since he seems to be getting better and happier. Gradually, Melody realizes that the cult is a dangerous operation set on recruiting more people and keen on harming those that try to get in their way. Her marriage and Jeff’s life at stake, Melody is forced to join the church and uncover their activities from within.

“Somebody’s Watching You” is a contemporary story that is both relevant and well written. Even with scenes changing, perspectives switching and characters developing, it was easy to keep up with what was happening with all the characters. The major themes were resilience and triumph which were masterfully spelled out to make the plot memorable. Author D’Amato does a remarkable job in immersing the readers into a plausible story to the extent they feel they are part of the story.

The author does a commendable job describing the emotions that Melody, the main character, goes through. It was easy to feel her confusion, fear, and determination. It was equally endearing to see the extent Melody was willing to go to save her marriage and her husband. My favorite part of the book was the realness of the storyline, which made it easy to connect and learn from.

The writing is strong, and the author uses it to lure the readers into the psyche of the protagonist. Backstories and present events are interwoven in a captivating manner. The pace of the story is a bit slow, but I understood this feature as it gave me ample time to connect with the characters and to become more in tune with Jeff and Melody’s situation.

I heartily give this ” Somebody’s Watching You” 5 stars as the book is professionally edited, insightful, and beautifully written. This book will certainly tick all the boxes for lovers of psychological thrillers.

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“Glennie Fairy: A World of Many Colors” by Melanie Dawn

Glennie Fairy: A World of Many Colors

Melanie Dawn
Independently Published (2021)
ISBN: 9781034793281
Reviewed by Lydia (age 7) for Reader Views Kids (6/21)

“Glennie Fairy: A World of Many Colors” by Melanie Dawn is the story of a fairy named Glennie who likes to wear pink glasses. Her favorite color is pink and she likes to see everything around her as being pink because it makes her happy. Glennie is outside and sees her friends. She sees Ruby the fox and asks her if she’d like to play with the pink berries. Ruby says that she would rather play in the red flowers. Glennie then sees Mr. Bee and wants him to play with her on this pink day, but Mr. Bee doesn’t like the color pink, he likes yellow! To Mr. Bee, yellow makes him happy like pink does to Glennie and red does to Ruby fox. Then Glennie sees Biggie Blue Jay and finds out that he likes the color blue instead of pink! Last, Glennie meets Kiki grasshopper and she’s not feeling very happy. Kiki talks to her and helps her feel better and to remind her that she can look at the world through different colored glasses and see things differently.

I like “Glennie Fairy,” both the story and the character. Glennie is nice, playful, and looks at things in a happy way. I like that the other animals look at things in a happy way, too, even though it wasn’t with the color pink. Pink is one of my favorite colors, too, but I also like other colors that I use to color pictures in my books. I like that the animals are all nice to each other, even though they like different colors, and none of them are mean to each other about that. I like that I can read this book by myself and to other people. I like that the pages are colorful and fun to read! I think that any kid would like to read “Glennie Fairy!”

Note from Mom: “Glennie Fairy” is an important message for kids and adults alike; it is important to not be closed minded when we view things around us, even when the way we view things makes us happy. If we continue to view things our way, then we shouldn’t be offended or upset when other people claim to view things their own way. All in all, “Glennie Fairy” is a cute short story that is easy to be understood by everyone listening with an important and powerful message.   

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“Scott Stokely: Growing Up Disc Golf” by Scott Stokely and Aaron Rath

Growing Up Disc Golf

Scott Stokely and Aaron Rath
Independently Published (2020)
ISBN: 9781652342014
Reviewed by Mark T. Sneed for Reader Views (06/2021)

Before Scott Stokely became a national disc golf champion, he was many things. As a teenager, he bordered on being out of control. He dabbled in drugs. He was arrogant and dangerous and a fugitive from the law. Yet, somewhere in that madness, Stokely turned it around. “Growing Up Disc Golf” is a revealing story that reads as a memoir but seems to be so much more. It is part biography, part memoir, part confessional, part sports story and consistently a fun read.

The biography part of “Growing Up Disc Golf” happens at the outset. There are many dark moments as Stokely struggles to find his footing as a young man. He experiments with drugs and becomes a low-level drug addict eventually as a result of his friendships. That part of the story is well done.

Those same friends who lead Stokely astray, are also the friends that introduce him to disc golf. It is disc golf that saves Stokely. Despite all the negatives, disc golf is where Stokely shines.

He is drawn to a newly created sport and as readers we watch as the boy grows into a man while the unofficial sport begins to catch on and gains acceptance, with nearly two thousand recognized courses across the nation.

I particularly liked all the war stories Stokely survived for the nearly twenty years he participated at the highest level of the sport. Stokely, who eventually becomes a national champion, explains all the intricacies of disc golf in his book. I thought disc golf was just tossing a Frisbee. Stokely points out the differences.

And while the story is about disc golf disc, it is not just a sports book. If this was just a book about disc golf, I might say that it was an okay book. I’ve read several books about sports and sports activities. In this book Stokely grows up. He struggles. He struggles a lot. Yet, in the struggles he seems to grow and get better.

All the while as readers we travel this road with the distinctive voice of Scott Stokely. It is truly distinct and one that is friendly, funny, open, and honest. Stokely is insightful. He teaches as he relates all the disc stories, tours, and tournaments he participated in as disc golf grew in popularity.

What is refreshing about “Growing Up Disc Golf” is the humor. There is a feeling of sitting across the table from Scott just listening to him tell these stories while drinking a beer or having lunch. The writing is so seamless that the conversational storytelling just works. Doing that is hard. There is a subtlety to the writing. At times, the story does go a little off track, as any storyteller who is worth his beans will tell you. And though the story meanders just a little, it does not take too much away in doing so.

Stokely’s exploits are numerous. He wants to be a champion. He wants to go to the World Championship and compete. He also wants to fall in love. (Sorry no spoilers.) The book is a great big bunch of stories told by Stokely. Well done. If there is one element of “Growing Up Disc Golf” I did not enjoy it was the ending. As a story being written, the conclusion comes out of nowhere and seems to end abruptly, like Stokely had to run to the bathroom and just never came back. The story seems to just end. Be prepared.

All in all, “Growing Up Disc Golf” by Scott Stokely and Aaron Rath was a fun and interesting book to read that will be enjoyed by sports fans and memoir fans alike. Highly recommend. Well done.

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“The Conscious Marketer” by Jim Joseph

The Conscious Marketer

Jim Joseph
Mascot Books (2020)
ISBN: 9781684018710
Reviewed by Chelsy Scherba for Reader Views (06/2021)

“The Conscious Marketer” by Jim Joseph is every business person’s guide to enhancing their advertising practices in today’s world. Mr. Joseph leverages his expert knowledge and experience to teach you the tips and tricks most successful marketing companies are using today to help you decide whether or not these techniques are something you should start implementing in your business. The author walks you through supporting a cause that fits your brand, explains “the millennial mindset” and how to be truly inclusive (while avoiding pitfalls), among other important topics. This book provides real-world examples of successes and #Fails that will get you thinking about your next marketing campaign and how to make it a success.

I really enjoyed how easy this book was to read, absorb, and digest. The author unapologetically adopts a conversational tone that makes it seem like he’s really there to talk you through the topics he discusses. I prefer this approach to learning over bland, overly technical reading. In my opinion, it made it much easier to remember the concepts and apply them to the marketing projects I’m currently working on.

This book is all about how to market “consciously,” an approach many brands like Disney, Amazon, and Target are implementing today. What that basically means is seeing a political or social issue that the company perceives as being important to its target audience and taking a very public stance on it. It was interesting to see how companies previously remained neutral on hot-button issues of the day; yet, the author makes some compelling points as to why that may no longer be a wise choice for businesses now, especially in the long term.

I found another particularly valuable topic was the way in which different brands offering the same basic service, such as coffee or skin care, can reach different audiences through emotional connection. Mr. Joseph shows the importance of knowing your market, staying consistent in that niche, and building a community of lifetime loyalists to your brand. Furthermore, he offers brands advice on how to monitor the topics that are important to the people you’re serving via social media, news outlets, and market research.

While this book mostly provides examples of conscientious marketing from well-established brands like McDonalds, the author insists this book is valuable even for small businesses. Jim Joseph will help you get the knowledge you need to make the best choices for your advertising strategy in the easiest way possible; in other words, he’s found your “pain-point” with regards to learning the ins and outs of conscientious marketing and provided the solution with this instructional gem.

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“Shlok’s Dad: A Father’s Perspective of Parenthood” by Vivek Sharma

Shlok’s Dad: A Father’s Perspective of Parenthood

Vivek Sharma
Independently Published (2021)
ISBN: 9798577186753
Reviewed by Lily Andrews for Reader Views (06/2021)

Fatherhood cannot be expressed in words. It is a feeling, an emotion, which can only be experienced. “Shlok’s Dad” is a delightful and entertaining book written by Vivek Sharma. Written in a humorous way, this heartwarming book celebrates the role fathers play in their children’s lives. It is a shining light that gives fathers much-needed recognition in the society. Author Sharma shares his personal experiences of being a dad from the birth of his son Shlok and raising him.

He shares life lessons and parenting tips to soon-to-be parents, couples hesitant about parenting, and those already cruising the journey of parenthood. Peppered with a warm and intimate tone, “Shlok’s Dad” showcases the high and low moments of raising a child, something many parents will relate to. This is not just any parenting resource but one that has raw and honest narrations of even the challenging times of raising a child. “Shlok’s Dad: A Father’s perspective of Parenthood” makes readers reflect on cherishing the blissful moments one shares with their children.

Sharma uses a welcoming way while detailing his journey as a dad to Shlok. He recalls the unforgettable moments that he has shared with his son which will almost likely relive nostalgic moments in parents that have walked the parenting mile. I loved the author’s clear and easy way of writing. It takes the natural talent of a writer to immerse a reader into a book to an extent that they feel they are part of the story. This book did just that.

I rate the book 5 stars because of the smooth and descriptive style used that draws the reader in immediately and provides a vivid look into the author’s fatherhood journey. I commend the author for having gone into great detail while writing this book. The book cover is aesthetically pleasing, and I found the color coordination to be exquisite. The light read was practical and relatable. “Shlok’s Dad: A Father’s Perspective of Parenthood” by Vivek Sharma will put a smile on every reader’s face. For that reason, I highly recommend it.

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