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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Assassination Complex

The Assassination Complex, Jeremy Scahill, Simon and Schuster, 2016

Based on leaked documents, this book gives an inside look at America's military drone program.

Publicly, drone strikes are used only on those who are deemed an imminent threat to America, including American citizens living abroad. The intelligence community is as sure as they can be that they know Terrorist X's exact location and that the possibility of civilian casualties is reduced as much as possible. That's not the reality.

In countries like Somalia and Yemen, America has very few people on the ground who can confirm Terrorist X's location at any given time. Therefore, America relies on tracking their cellphones. Some drones carry what is, in effect, a fake cellphone tower. When Terrorist X's cellphone makes a call, it is forced to connect to that fake tower. The location is pinpointed. The possibility that the cellphone is in the possession of Terrorist X's wife or cousin, or that the SIM card was taken out and given to an associate, is not considered. Civilians who are killed in a drone strike are usually called "militants."

The book talks about America's no-fly lists (there is more than one list). How a person gets on, and off, the list is highly classified. Evidently giving Americans a way to get off the list would hamper the War on Terror. Ramstein Air Base in Germany is a vital relay point between drones flying around Southwest Asia, and their pilots back in America. Officially, this is in violation of German law, but the German Government intentionally does not ask America about it. Ultimately, despite the occasional high profile, and extrajudicial, killing, the drone program has not had much effect on Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

This book deserves six stars. It is fascinating, eye-opening, upsetting and very highly recommended for all Americans.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Steve Jobs: American Genius

Steve Jobs: American Genius, Amanda Ziller, HarperCollins, 2011

This is a young adult version of the life of Steve Jobs.

It looks at all the major events in his life, including meeting Steve Wozniak, the Homebrew Computer Club, Xerox Parc, the Apple I, the Macintosh, being thrown out of Apple, NeXt, Pixar, returning to Apple, the Ipod, the Ipad and the Iphone.

This book is very much recommended for all young people who want to know why Steve Jobs was so important. It is equally recommended for adults who want a quick, and easy to read, biography, but who don't want to attempt the "official" biography.

Communication: Golden Rules for Effective Communication Skills

Communication: Golden Rules for Effective Communication Skills: Communication for Beginners, William Prior, Amazon Digital Services, 2015

This is a very basic book about the art of communication.

Information can be conveyed non-verbally, through facial expressions, hand gestures and tone of voice. Verbal communication allows for immediate feedback from the receiver, and written communication provides a permanent record and can be used as legal evidence.

There are many obstacles to clear communication. The receiver could jump in before the sender is finished speaking (thinking that the sender has used a period when they have actually used a comma). Other obstacles include use of technical jargon, a bad transition from one language to another, not paying attention to the speaker and too much use of hand gestures.

The author's Golden Rules in communication, at work or outside of work include: Be clear when sending your message. Listen to the other person. Silence will help both of you to analyze your thoughts. Focus on the problem, not on the other person.

Most people will consider this book common knowledge. There are people (including those who should know better) who really need this book. It's worth reading.

Jewelry Can Be Deadly

Jewelry Can Be Deadly, Cindy Bell, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2016

A couple moves into a retirement community. She is wearing a very unique diamond necklace that greatly interests Jo, a former thief and fellow resident. Hours later, she is dead, and the necklace is gone. Along with Samantha, a reporter, and Eddy, a retired cop, Jo investigates. Was it the "grieving" husband? Was it one of Jo's fellow thieves? Was it someone else entirely?

This is a pretty "quiet" and really good mystery tale. It has lots of twists and turns and will keep the reader guessing until the end. It is very much worth reading.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dirty Martini

Dirty Martini, J.A. Konrath, CreateSpace, 2013

Part of a series, this novel is about Chicago Police Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels. Her nemesis this time is The Chemist, someone who spreads very lethal poisons in public places. The body count, along with the level of panic, rises very quickly. Before heading to parts unknown, The Chemist plans one last act of terror. Can Jack and the police stop it? Do they stop The Chemist, permanently?

This is an excellent story. It easily reaches the level of Stay Up All Night Reading Until Finished. It also gets two strong thumbs up.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Get Smart!

Get Smart!, Brian Tracy, Jeremy P Tarcher/Penguin, 2016

Everyone wants to act and think like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. This book shows how anyone can move in that direction.

What do you really, really want to accomplish, either personally or professionally? Writing that Ultimate Goal on paper, and posting it somewhere prominent, is more meaningful than simply keeping it in the back of your mind. Be sure to break that Ultimate Goal into smaller, more manageable pieces. Resolve to do at least one goal-oriented thing every day.

Corporate thinkers are concerned with pleasing their bosses, following the rules and doing the absolute minimum necessary to keep from getting laid off. Customers are nothing but whiny irritants. Entrepreneurial thinkers obsess about customers all the time, they continually upgrade their skills and look for ways to become more valuable to their company. Which one are you?

Is it worth it to be in motion all day, looking like a video tape stuck on fast forward, and ultimately not getting much done? On the other hand, maybe you should prioritize your tasks, doing the important ones first, and resolve to actually work while you are at work. Leave the socializing for lunch time. Also, you should resolve to check your email only at specific times during the day. Stay away from it for the rest of the day.

Every policy and procedure in your company should be periodically re-evaluated, for possible changing or removing.The reason that most people stay poor is because of ingrained bad habits, like procrastination, fear of failure and lack of persistence. This book tells how to change those habits.

Start with "excellent" and go from there; that is how good this book is. It is highly recommended for people from any walk of life, young or old, blue- or white-collar.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Wish, Scott Hungerford, Amazon Digital Services, 2013

The city of Emerald (formerly known as Seattle) is like something out of the Arabian Nights. Communication is done through a form of Skype that uses talking mirrors. Getting around the city is not done with cars or buses, but with flying carpets. The Sultan (the absolute ruler of Emerald) has been deposed in a coup. The new Sultan is a young man named Cassim. He is known to Shea, and her scholar father, as an arrogant, elitist jerk. Several magic rings give Cassim the power to, among other things, command an army of stone soldiers.

Few people know this, but Cassim started his reign by marrying his sister (without her consent), taking her to his bedroom, and, the next morning, ordering the disposal of her headless body. The stone soldiers spread out throughout Emerald, gathering up 500 young women, including Shea, and her best friend, Chloe, to be part of Cassim's harem. The previous night, Shea was attacked by a djinn who forced on her the ability to know a person's complete life story, including when they were going to die, just by touching them. Inside the palace, a sprawling complex of unimaginable luxury, the other women dream of being Sultana, but Shea knows that they have a very short life expectancy. Cassim finds out about Shea's abilities, and orders her to read anyone he wants, and tell him their story, especially the violent and sexual parts.

After being forced to read Chloe, the two manage to get Cassim's magic rings away from him, and help many others to get out of the palace with help from Shea's mother, Eve, a professional assassin. It's now a race to a cavern deep inside a mountain to get a magic lamp, the ultimate source of Cassim's power. It just happens to be guarded by a very large dragon. Do Shea and her parents get to the lamp first? Is Cassim the winner, and does he consolidate his tyranny?

This belongs in that large gray area of Pretty Good or Worth Reading. The story gets better in the second half of the book. Even a small explanation as to how Seattle became Emerald would have been appreciated. Teens will enjoy this book, and adults will like it, too.

Europa Journal

Europa Journal, Jack Castle, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2016

Harry Reed was part of a US military training flight that left Florida in December 1945. It vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. How did his body end up inside a submerged pyramid on Europa about two hundred years later?

Commander Mackenzie O'Bryant is called in, because she has a prominent place in Reed's journal, which she pockets. A member of her crew accidentally pushes the On button. They just manage to escape the flooding of the pyramid, but they don't escape the suddenly-created wormhole that sends them Somewhere Else.

After crash landing on an alien planet, their attempts at First Contact do not go well. They eventually meet up with Reed, who is the only survivor of his flight. He has been accepted by several awumpai (think of a samurai crossed with a yeti). The planet is ruled by a very powerful being called Atum-Khaos. He knows of Earth's existence. His ultimate objective is to take an entire floating city back through the wormhole, and kill or enslave all of humanity. Can he be stopped by a handful of humans, and a couple of World War II-era bomber aircraft? How does Reed's body get to Europa?

I totally enjoyed this novel. It's very easy to read, with heart and emotion along with very alien aliens. It also has lots of action, with a rather high body count by the end. This is another case where just as a novel, this is excellent. Considering that it is the author's first SF novel brings it to the level of Wow.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Subversion: Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm

Subversion: Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm, Bart R Leib (ed.), Crossed Genres Publications, 2011

This is a group of new science fiction and fantasy tales about challenging the status quo. It doesn't have to be political; the status quo can be social, religious or even personal.

In an interplanetary confederation that uses slavery (it's called "contract labor"), a young boy, son of the slave owner, becomes friends with a female slave of the same age. After learning exactly what contract labor is all about, he starts to plan the revolution that will bring down the system, once and for all.

A Jewish woman's grandmother was a pro-union activist in the Great Depression era. The woman's average teenage daughter suddenly decides to drop out of college and become a political activist. That wouldn't be so awful, except that the daughter suddenly starts speaking in Russian-accented Yiddish (just like grandma), a language to which she has had no exposure. Maybe the grandmother is not yet ready to "cross over."

A pair of brothers in the foster care system each have their own android Guardian. On a car trip, they stop at a seedy-looking house for some very illegal upgrades to the Guardians, without the Guardians catching on.

The only way to keep a powerful dragon from destroying a trio of kingdoms is to send heirs to those kingdoms to the dragon, as sacrifices. But one of the three takes the words Know Your Enemy more seriously than do the others.

As in most anthologies, some stories are better than others, but, overall, this group of stories is well worth the time. There is a good variety of times and places, and the writing is really good.

Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen

Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen, Claude Lalumiere and Mark Shainblum (ed.), Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2016

This latest installment in a yearly compendium of science fiction and fantasy stories from Canada focuses on superheroes. It involves a lot more than constant battles against Dr. Bad Guy.

A female super-villain breaks out of prison and crashes her family's barbecue, in order to visit her dying grandmother. The rest of the family is not thrilled about her sudden appearance. When a superhero is injured in battle, does he or she go to the local hospital, or to a special superhero hospital?   After the public adulation has disappeared, and the government no longer needs their services, what is a superhero to do? Are they forced to fly around the city, carrying a giant "Available" sign, like an airborne taxi?

A woman becomes sidekick to Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost things. A native of Prince Edward Island passes up a chance to join an all-Canadian league of superheroes. There is a story about a person who sets herself on fire, and then reincarnates, like a human phoenix. A female friend of Captain Freedom was murdered, chopped to pieces and pinned to a wall as a warning for the Captain. Now she's back from the dead.

Not only is this an excellent bunch of stories, it's also an excellent addition to the superhero universe. There is a lot more to being a superhero than fighting evil.