Welcome!! My name is Paul Lappen. I am in my early 50s, single, and live in Connecticut USA. This blog will consist of book reviews, written by me, on a wide variety of subjects. I specialize, as much as possible, in small press and self-published books, to give them whatever tiny bit of publicity help that I can. Other than that, I am willing to review nearly any genre, except poetry, romance, elementary-school children's books and (really bloody) horror.

I have another 800 reviews at my archive blog: http://www.deadtreesreviewarchive.blogspot.com (please visit).

I post my reviews to:

2 yahoo groups
Amazon and B&N (of course)
and on Twitter

I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Rock of Achill

 The Rock of Achill, Jim Sheehan, Newman Springs Publishing Inc., 2020

Set in Ireland during the time of Napoleon (around 1800), this is the story of a young man named Donn. Intending to save enough money to recover his family's land, Donn joins a crew of rebels and Irish knights as they attempt to restore an ancient kingdom. It involves recovering the lost treasure of Tuatha de Danaan.

Donn has all sorts of adventures in his travels. He battles faerie guardians and Barbary pirates. There are giant sea creatures that can sink a ship very easily, and brawls in foreign ports that quickly turn deadly. Uppermost in Donn's mind is the lovely Bridget, waiting for him back home. Or, will she wait? Her parents are pushing her to marry someone more "acceptable." Does Donn survive the voyage? Do Donn and Bridget live happily ever after?

This is a half-fantasy/half-historical novel, and the author does an excellent job. The reader is right in the middle of the story, with enough romance and action for anyone. Here is some Really Good Writing.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

How to Sell on Amazon.com

 How to Sell on Amazon.com: Complete Guide for Selling on Amazon.com, Aleksejs Leal, 2020

This book attempts to explain how anyone can sell on Amazon.com.

Why do people buy online, instead of in person? Among the reasons are: a more extensive choice of items, lower prices and convenience/availability (open 24 hours a day). Why do people sell online? Among the reasons are versatility, higher profit margins and being able to gain insight into the shopper. The book talks about dropshipping vs. customary order fulfillment vs. outsourcing.

Among the good parts of selling on Amazon are sales (of course), customer acquisition and Amazon's worldwide influence. Among the bad parts of selling on Amazon are lots of competition for your product, having to follow Amazon's rules once you sign up and Amazon's fee structure (learn it ahead of time).

The book goes through the process of setting up an Amazon seller account and what documentation is needed first. After you have set up your account, the author also explores how to add your product. Included are things that must be considered, like customs, shipping and Amazon's fees when calculating your selling price. Once your "business" is up and running, the book includes tips on turning from an average seller to a successful seller.

This book is pretty good. It is brief, less than 70 pages, so it is a good place to start your quest to become rich selling on Amazon.com. On the negative side, this book could use a trip, or another trip, to a proofreader or a copy editor.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

20 Japanese Short Stories for Travelers and Learners

 20 Japanese Short Stories for Travelers and Learners, Yokohama English Japanese Language and Travelers Club, 2020

Intended for students of the Japanese language, this book contains short stories written in Kanji, Hiragana and Furigana (different types of Japanese writing). There is also a line-by-line translation of each story into English, so that a student can compare the English and Japanese words.

This book is not intended for beginners; some familiarity with the Japanese language is needed, This is my first exposure to learning Japanese, so others are qualified to assess this book's effectiveness. This feels like the right way to do it, with the Japanese and English words right next to each other. For intermediate students of Japanese, this is very much worth checking out.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Waiting for Gary Cooper

 Waiting for Gary Cooper, Gabriel Bensimhon, 2020

Set in Israel of the 1950's, this is the story of Jonathan, a young boy who, along with his family, emigrated to Israel from a small town in Morocco.

Jonathan is in love with Nurat, a Sabra (born in Israel) girl who listens to the opera "Carmen." He get a copy of the record, and immerses himself. But, she only has eyes for someone else.

Jonathan's uncle is an exorcist; there is not much need for them in modern-day Israel. After the family made it to Israel (Jonathan and his younger brother travelled separately from their parents), Dad, a carpenter, got the required permissions to turn an old, abandoned building into a synagogue. He did everything the right way, and built it all himself. Everything was good, until the members of the synagogue started arguing about what songs should be sung during the service. Dad got fed up, and left, to build a new synagogue, and another, and another, with the same arguments breaking out. Jonathan got a job at the local movie theater running the translation machine. Someone else did the actual translating into Yiddish. His job was to get the translation on the screen at the same time as the English words spoken.

This has lots of politics and culture, but it is not a political novel. It does a very good job of showing life in 1950's Israel, warts and all. It has lots of good writing, and will certainly keep the attention of the reader.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Italian Culture Today

 Italian Culture Today, Thalby Originals, 2020

Part of a series, this book is an introduction to present-day Italian culture.

New novelists are bringing about a boom in contemporary fiction. The Italian film tradition is justifiably world-famous. It started with Benito Mussolini wanting to make propaganda films. The Italian hip-hop scene has flourished in recent years, partly due to TV collaborations. There is something actually different about Italian sunshine; maybe it has to do with the high altitudes, or less dust, and other pollutants, in the air.

The Italian fashion industry is starting to emerge from a financial crisis. The making, and drinking, of wine is a very important part of everyday life. Vatican City is the place where politics, culture and religion meet. Old, abandoned buildings are being given new lives as communes, clubs and creative spaces. Did I mention Italian motor racing, of which Ferrari and Formula 1 are pivotal parts?

Like the other books in this series, this book contains several helpful extras, including great festivals to attend, some phrases in Italian and helpful etiquette tips. Also, this book does not try to be a comprehensive guide, but a brief introduction to Italian culture. It works very well at that, and is well worth reading.

Italian Society Today

 Italian Society Today, Thalby Originals, 2020

Part of a series, this book is a basic introduction to present-day Italian society.

Family is still everything in Italy, but more and more families are multicultural. There is much more of a regional identity among residents of Italy than a national identity. It is more important to say, for instance, "I am from Venice" or "I am Sicilian" than to say "I am Italian." Italy's citizenship laws are based on blood, not birth.

Italy has one of the lowest rates of condom use in Europe. Part of the reason is because of the influence of the Catholic Church, and part is because Italian sex education "needs improvement."

Education in Italy is more and more inclusive, affordable and usually public. You can't talk about Italy without talking about food, and the Italian appreciation for beauty, whether in cars or fashion. The Catholic Church still dominates Italy, but it is becoming more progressive. Things have started to improve for women, but Italy still has the highest gender inequality in Europe.

As with the other books in this series, this includes a list of places to visit while in Italy. It also includes some Italian phrases (learning a few words of the local language is always a good idea), and some Italian etiquette (dinner starts at 7:30 PM; if you are an early eater, you are out of luck). This does not try to be a comprehensive guide to Italy. It is a brief introduction to Italy, something to read while on the plane. In that respect, it works really well. It is very much worth reading.

Sunday, November 22, 2020


 Shapers: Reinvent the Way You Work and Change the Future, Jonas Altman, Wiley, 2020

Everyone wants to work at a job where they feel empowered and engaged, and want to make the world a better place. This book gives the details.

The problem with such an attitude is that few people actually work at such an empowering job. Large numbers of people treat their job as just a paycheck. What's worse is that some people actually hate their job, and are honestly considering sabotage. What can a company do to increase the engagement level, since an employee will be there for only a couple of years? It will take a lot more than a foosball table, and free pizza on Fridays.

If there is one buzzword to take from this book, it is "fluidity" or "flexibility." Employees, and employers, must realize (if they haven't already done so) that the days of spending your entire career at one company are gone forever. The average employee will change careers several times during their working lives.

Good bosses sometimes get noticed, but bad bosses go to the top of the list of Reasons To Quit. A great salesman may make a horrible Regional Sales Manager. It is not always his (or her) fault.

This is a very interesting book. It is recommended for everyone, but especially for those who want to feel engaged at work, but don't know how to get there

Monday, November 16, 2020


 Investpreneur: Real Estate Lessons for the Determined Investor, Kristen Cripps, Leaders Press, 2020

This is the story of one woman's rise from massage therapist and part-time bartender to real estate mogul, buying her first home before she was 20 years old.

According to the book, several questions must be answered before you buy your first investment house. Is this to be a short-term, or long-term, rental? Will it be posted on a site like Airbnb? Have you watched too many home renovation shows on TV, and are convinced that flipping houses is an easy way to make money?

The author then looks at the next question to be answered, which is getting financing from your local bank. After that, do your homework on your potential purchase. Visit the neighborhood at night. What is the sale price of nearby comparable houses? Have a local real estate agent look up the house's history. Has it been on the market for a long time; why is it selling for a lot less then nearby comparable houses? Get a home inspection.

If the house is to be a relatively inexpensive first home, than a little bit of skimping on the furnishings is acceptable. If it is to be a high-end house, worthy of a magazine photo spread, do not even consider skimping on anything (potential buyers will notice).

The book also looks at what to do if the house is to be a rental (the ups and downs of being a landlord). Get everything in writing, and be very clear about what is, and is not, covered in the rental agreement.

For anyone who is determined to get into the real estate business, reading this book ahead of time is a very good idea. At least your eyes will be wide open when you sign on the dotted line. This book is very clearly written, and is very much recommended. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Game of Life

 The Game of Life, Chad Vegas, 2020, self-published

This novel is fourth in a series about Chad and Max, two men involved in the California marijuana trade. Max bought a piece of land in Peru for some high-volume weed growing. There are squatters on the land, and Max has to deal with corrupt gold miners and the Peruvian justice system, which seems to move at the speed of continental drift. Max is ready for the challenge. That leaves Chad in charge of growing, harvesting and selling high-quality weed back in California to make money to send to Peru.

Large-scale marijuana growing is very labor-intensive. There is a fine line between a successful crop and total failure. After it is harvested, there is a short window of opportunity to trim the bad parts off of each plant, leaving only the good parts. Then comes the problem of selling it for a good price.

Everyone is getting into weed growing, causing the price per pound that Chad can get to plummet. There are only a certain number of dispensaries to sell to, forcing Chad to drive farther away to sell his crop. Chad begins to wonder if growing and selling weed is still worth it.

Is Max successful with his legal case, despite the Peruvian justice system? Does Chad get out of the drug business?

As with the previous books in this series, this is not a boring book. Some might have a problem with the insane amount of drugs that are consumed in this book. Get past that, and there is lots of good writing here that will certainly keep the reader's attention.

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Three Brothers

The Three Brothers: When George Washington and Edmund Barton Sat Down to Dinner, Stephen Marantelli, Waratah North Books, 2018 

Set in World War I London, this novel is about a rather strained dinner conversation between George Washington and Edmund Barton, who, from 1901 to 1903, was Australia's first Prime Minister.

The book is full of behind-the-scenes looks at the creation of each country's federal Constitution. In neither country, was it a case of tall, square-jawed individuals, united and agreed on the future. There was a lot of disagreement, frustration and false starts. There were times when a person might wonder how a Constitution ever came into existence, in both countries.

This book is not exactly an exciting, action-packed page turner (it has been likened to an arm wrestling match), but, for anyone interested in the building of America or Australia, this is very highly recommended. The amount of detail and research on the American Constitution, in particular, is incredible.

100% Choice: Becoming a Conscious Creator of Your Life

 100% Choice: Becoming a Conscious Creator of Your Life, Sharon Shahaf, Amazon.com Services, 2020

There seem to be a million self-help books available these days. You understand, intellectually, what needs to be changed. When it comes to actually doing it, nothing happens. You feel frustrated and ready to give up.

Among the chapters in this book are "Awaken from the Bad Dream" and "Changing from the Outside In." Instead of "God" or Fate or Them (whoever Them is) being against you, and making you miserable, consider the possibility that you are doing it to yourself. Your thoughts, and your emotions, are helping to create your reality (good or bad).

This book goes into lots of detail about exactly how to change your life story and one day wake up as a totally new person. This book feels different than all the other self-help books that are on the market. It is clearly written, and is recommended for  anyone in an emotional rut, or who wonders "Is this all there is to life?"

Shadow Talker

 Shadow Talker, Sergei Katz, Amazon.com Services LLC, 2020


Part 1 of a series, this book takes place on a world where a series of intellectual and athletic games determines a person's profession. James is happy to be assigned to the elite School of Detectives. Finding the School is east, but gaining admittance is much more difficult (you don't just knock on the front door). The sentient School makes it clear that James must solve his first case to stay at the school.

Paired with an enchanted panther and a woman with unique abilities of her own, James must find out who is stealing people's souls. They spread out in the city, looking for clues. A soul cannot survive outside a body indefinitely, so there is a big time constraint included. There is a lot of Sherlock Holmes-style deduction and observation going on. Can the trio find, and stop, the culprit before James gets added to the list of people missing their souls?

This is a really good start to a series, with lots of good writing. It works as an urban fantasy novel, and it works as a detective novel. This will appeal to a lot of people, and it is very much worth reading.