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.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Pandemic Capitalism

Pandemic Capitalism: From Broken Systems to Basic Incomes, Chris Oestereich, Wicked Problems Collaborative, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has totally changed American society, maybe permanently. Perhaps the biggest change has been economic. Millions of people were laid off, because nearly everything was closed. Some of those jobs are starting to return, but other jobs are gone forever. What is a lower-paid retail or hospitality worker (usually a minority) to do? Enter the Universal Basic Income, or UBI.

It is a monthly cash payment, from the government, that goes right into a person's bank account. It is intended to provide some financial stability while a person is looking for work, or waiting for their job to return. No doubt, some people will use that money to buy unhealthy things, like liquor or cigarettes. Most people will use it to stock up on groceries, or pay overdue bills, or make a long-delayed trip to the doctor. That money will actually be spent, thereby helping the economy, instead of being stashed in some investment account. Isn't nearly anything better that pushing more people into the confusing and overwhelmed welfare system/

This book does not attempt to answer questions like: the size of the monthly check, is there an upper income limit for recipients, or how it will be paid for. It is short, easy to read, and if it simply gets people thinking about a UBI, it will have done its job. This is very much worth reading. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Connecting Beyond

Connecting Beyond: Observing and Learning Relationships, Amazon.com Services LLC, 2020

This book looks at relationships by comparing them to the human body.

The spine represents the bedrock social and moral principles with which we were raised. Just as tendons and cartilage allow the body to be flexible, experiencing new people and places allows for emotional flexibility to adapt to our environment. Any living organism will experience cuts, bruises, broken bones or chronic illness. In interpersonal relationships, pain, frustration, abandonment and trauma are almost part of the landscape.

The author also includes her autobiography. She was raised in Israel, of Yemeni origin. Her darker skin caused some unpleasant moments while she was growing up. Her father's alcoholism brought about a very hard life at home; any residual love between his parents was gone. She left as soon as she could; eventually heading to America.

Several exercises are included to help the reader understand whatever is, emotionally, ailing them. This book is very easy to read and understand. It is recommended for anyone dealing with emotional potholes in their journey through life.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Isolation Moderation

Isolation Moderation, Tonali Windslor, Handwritten Direct Mail LLC, 2019

This book attempts to present solutions to some of the problems faced by America, and the rest of the world.

The main idea is encapsulated in the book's title. Countries, including America, should put much more effort into fixing things at home before they try to fix the rest of the world. America needs to do a much better job at getting a handle on immigration. If a wall along the southern border is needed, so be it. There should be only a couple of places of entry. Maybe should send some technical assistance to Mexico and the countries of Central America to help build up their countries enough so that citizens won't head for America.

The author feels that a temporary military alliance, for a specific purpose (like Operation Desert Storm to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait) is a good idea. A permanent military alliance, like NATO, is not a good idea. Once the objective has been accomplished, the alliance should dissolve, and the foreign troops should go home. Pushing a tyrannical dictator out of power is another good reason for a temporary military alliance. Peacemaking and peacekeeping are two very different things. UN peacekeepers should have the authority, and the firepower, to start shooting, if it becomes necessary (Rwanda 1994).

An important concept in politics is to read the "other" side, to get an idea of what they are thinking. This book may be pretty conservative, but it offers solutions, without finger-pointing. It's short, easy to understand, and will benefit those on the political Left (trust me, the conservatism in this book is pretty painless).

Monday, June 29, 2020


Psi-Wars: Classified Cases of Psychic Phenomena, Joshua Viola (ed.), Hex Publishers, 2020

This group of new stories looks at the subject of psychic phenomena, that mainstay of science fiction from the earliest days.

The settings of these stories range from Atlantis to the far future. A nurse in World War I France uses her powers to care for the injured soldiers. But, it's not that simple. There is a secret war going on between psychic factions, a war about which the average present-day person is totally unaware.Another tale is set in Europe, during World War II, after the Nazis have taken the entire continent, and repulsed the D-Day invasion.

Individually, these stories are really good. Put them together, and this is a first-rate anthology. These tales are easy to read, and they are very much worth reading. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Ass, Cash and Grass

Ass, Cash and Grass: Welcome to Cali, Chad Vegas, Amazon.com Services, 2017

Part 2 of a series, this continues the story of Max and Chad, who are trying to make it in the marijuana business in 1990's California. Max has bought a piece of land in Peru, for some heavy duty growing of weed. The land has suddenly become very valuable, so powerful people, with the help of the Peruvian Government, are doing their best to steal it from him. Max and Chad are back in California to sell some of their weed supply, to help pay the legal bills.

This was the time when medical marijuana was legal in California, so everyone was growing their own. This led to a huge drop in price for people like Chad. Evidently, driving all over central California to sell several pounds of weed to dispensaries is not something to be done alone, or sober. Jorge, a friend and fellow total drug addict, is up for a road trip. Armed with huge amounts of drugs and alcohol (for them), they are off.

Along the way, there is a home-made porno film (done in a casino hotel room), there are several instances of Chad passing out (from way too much drugs and alcohol in his system at the same time), and Chad gets a chest-sized tattoo that includes a Care Bear taking a Xanax. What happens with Max's court case in Peru? Is there a Part 3 to the series? (spoiler alert: Yes)

As with the first book, this is certainly not a boring book. It will very much keep the attention of the reader. Some might have a hard time with the insane amounts of drugs and alcohol that are consumed in this story. Get past that, and there is lots of good writing, and this book is very much recommended.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Vanwest: The Past

Vanwest: The Past, Kenneth Thomas, Amazon.com Services LLC, 2020

Set in the year 3000, Earth has been environmentally devastated. The only habitable land is in Antarctica, which is under the total control of the Universal Council. Captain Vanwest is an Enforcer (sort of like the secret police). A group of anti-tech zealots, called Utopians, wants to get rid of the Council, and stop man's scientific progress, by time travel far into the past. Vanwest is given the task of stopping them.

Vanwest travels to Geneva 1951, to the international meeting which led to the formation of CERN, the European nuclear research agency. He is able to disrupt their plans. Returning to the year 3000, Vanwest falls for the daughter of the founder of the Utopians. The final confrontation happens at Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1998. The Space Shuttle "Endeavor" is about to launch, carrying an important part of what will become the International Space Station. Stopping the ISS from being built, by causing the shuttle to explode in flight, would throw a huge obstacle in the way of man's scientific progress. Is Vanwest successful in stopping the Utopians? Does he return to the year 3000?

On the positive side, this is a very good story that is worth reading. On the negative side, this book needs a trip, or another trip, to a proofreader or copy editor. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Bamboo-Scented Love

Bamboo-Scented Love, Vered Kaminsky, 2020, self-published

Set in 1990's China, this is the story of Mira and Ron, a couple from Israel, who, along with their two young children, are spending the next two years in the city of Qingdao. 

They are there for Ron's job; he has been appointed manager of a rice processing plant. The early days are not easy. The children are enrolled in the local elementary school. Eventually, they relax and start to enjoy school. Mira's housekeeper, Linda (she came with the apartment), helps her get used to China. Linda helps Mira learn Chines, and Mira helps Linda learn English, one word at a time. Linda also helps Mira navigate the local food stalls. Mira is greatly helped by making contact with the local expatriate community. She learns to relax, and even enrolls in a Chinese language class at the local university.

Cheng is the assistant manager at the rice processing plant. He was in line for the top job until Ron was appointed over him. Cheng says he is OK with being passed over. Whenever Mira needs a ride somewhere, Cheng suddenly appears. Over time, Mira starts to have feelings for him. Does it become a full-blown affair? Does Mira "find herself"?

This is a very good story. It gets very "ground level," down to the level of individual people, just trying to live their lives. Set in a, for most Westerners, exotic part of the world, this is really worth reading.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Reverse Engineering God

Reverse Engineering God: Irreligious Answers to Fundamental Questions, Michael Rothschild, Amazon.com Services, 2020

This book attempts to use science to answer some of the great religious and philosophical questions that have occupied mankind through history.

Religion contributes to the survival ... of itself only. Why do we empathize? The unquestionable fitness of evolution. Why did the Big Bang bang? Do we live in the Matrix? A paradox is always an error in judgment. The meaning of life. Free will: real or imagined?

This will certainly give the reader quite a mental workout. It 's a very thought provoking book. It may not be a page-turner, but, for those who stick with it, it is very much worth the reader's time.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

How to Live the Dream

How to Live the Dream: Things Every Van Lifer Needs to Know, Kristine Hudson, 2020

Whether by choice or necessity, hopping in a van and traveling the highways and byways of America is becoming an increasingly popular choice. This book attempts to give the details.

If you are traveling solo, a Volkswagen bus might be your vehicle of choice. If children and/or pets are included, something bigger will be needed. Do you want a vehicle that is "move-in ready," or, are you ready to do some re-habbing? Where do you go to find out how to rehab an old school bus? Whatever vehicle you choose, high mileage is acceptable, as long as a mechanic goes through it from front to back, and approves of it. Learn some basic auto maintenance on your vehicle. If possible, get a paper copy of the repair manual. Rest assured, your vehicle will break down, at the most inconvenient place and time.

Do you need creature comforts, like an actual mattress, stove and/or toilet, or, are you OK with "roughing it"? You will have only a certain amount of storage space in your vehicle, so make every inch count. Figure out some sort of power source, in order to charge up your cellphone and/or laptop. Set a financial budget, and stick to it like glue. Resist the temptation to eat in a restaurant every day. Do you have one of those "remote" jobs that can be done on a laptop from anywhere? If so, that can be a good way to make some money while you are on the road. When your vehicle is all ready, and everything is packed, try a short -term trip, for a long weekend, or an entire week. Better to fix any glitches now, instead of later.

This is an excellent book that is very easy to understand. It belongs on whatever electronic device you are taking on your Grand Excursion. It is very much worth reading.

Monday, May 25, 2020

AIPAC'S Grassroots Path to Congress

AIPAC's Grassroots Path to Congress: How Isaiah Kenen Built AIPAC To Be A Powerhouse, Kobby Barda, Simple Story, 2020

This book looks at how the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) became one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.

What became AIPAC was started during World War II. It was a way from American Jews to influence the American Government to help European Jews who were fleeing to Israel. Early on, it became clear that the way to influence Congress to be more pro-Israel was to flood it with telegrams and phone calls from constituents (this was before e-mail and smartphones).

A man named Isaiah "Si" Kenen became CEO in the early 1950's, and took the organization to the next level. AIPAC was registered as a lobbying organization, not a foreign agent. There was only a small staff in Washington, with a few lobbyists. AIPAC established an inverted pyramid structure, with the CEO at the bottom , and the individual members, in cities and small towns, were at the top. He started a national newspaper, to get AIPAC's point of view out to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. For instance, Kenen calls ten regional leaders to alert them to a bill in Congress important to AIPAC. Those ten people will call ten more people, each of whom will call ten more, and on, and on. Within one or two days, Congress will be flooded with comments from constituents about that bill. Even those members of Congress who may not be pro-Israel were forced to admire AIPAC's ability to get their members to communicate with Congress.

This is a really interesting book. It takes years to create an organization that can effectively influence Congress; this is one way to do it. Any new political organization could do a lot worse than read this book. It easily gets four stars, maybe even four-and-a-half stars.

Changing World

Changing World: Origin, Sergei Katz, Amazon.com Services, 2018

First of a series, this novel is about Dave, a well-known computer analyst. A disability has left him unable to smell, taste or see color. When a Japanese company needs beta testers for a new virtual reality full immersion game, Dave jumps at the chance.

The only catch is that he has to remain in the game for at least one year (in real life). If his character dies in the game, rebirth is not possible. A computer glitch puts him right in the game, without any tutorials.

While enjoying his new senses, Dave teams up with a small woodland creature who can turn into almost anything (and who really likes his liquor), a young boy named Alex (who is on a quest of his own) and a hawk who he calls Copper Wing. They battle lots of monsters, and engage in several smaller quests, while Dave's in-game numbers, in categories like Intuition and Herbalist, keep going up and up. Can Dave extend his time in the game while in a fairy forest full of killer spirits?

This is a really good fantasy novel, intended for lovers of games like Dungeons & Dragons. Non-gamers may have a hard time with the constant listing of abilities like Craftsman, Scout, Attentiveness and Intellect. Get past it, and this is a very worthy start to a series.

Perception vs Truth

Perception vs Truth: Spirituality in Simple Words, Eyal Cohen, Amazon.com Services, 2020

Believe it or not, it is possible to change your life for the better. It involves opening your mind, and changing your perception of reality. That is what this book is all about.

This book consists of short sections, one or two pages each, with titles like: Point of Reference, Victor or Victim, The Principle of Simplicity, Religion, Polluted Minds, Become What You Are and Wisdom of Life.

In order for our hope to connect to reality, we have to act in a way that facilitates the thing we hope for. The seed of change exists solely inside of us. We can decide for ourselves -- either we are a victim or a victor of life. Instead of agonizing over the past, we can learn from it. Why is life so difficult? Because we have lost our Simplicity of Being. A sense of wisdom comes when we are being mindful. Religion is the underlying principle of all that is good, noble, honorable and beautiful.

Our perceptions of reality are shaped by many forces, including society, parents, culture and the internet. Maybe it is time for a change, and this book will help. It is very short, and is the sort of book that can be picked up and read starting on any page. It is well worth reading.