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, June 16, 2018

The Result

The Result: The Practical, Proven Formula For Getting What You Want, Dave Crenshaw, Amazon Digital Services, 2018

Many books have been written purporting to show how a person can get what they want from life, personally or professionally. This book attempts to do it in less than 100 pages.

What result do you want that you are not getting right now? It's tempting to write a long list. Focus on just one thing at a time. It also needs to be specific. Saying that, for example, you want to lose ten pounds in the next two months is better than simply saying you want to get healthy. How will you know when you have reached your goal? What will you (or others) feel when you have reached your goal? Give your self a reasonable amount of time to reach your goal.

How are you going to do it? Start with the formula Systems + Accountability + Motivation = Goal. All three elements are required. The book looks at what happens when each of these elements are missing.

Accountability to a third party is essential. Someone else is needed to encourage (or push) you when your willpower is lacking. Follow-up is the way to gauge, and maintain, your accountability. What is your motivation? Set a specific period of time each week to think about your goal. Are you still on the right track? Resolve to do just one goal-oriented thing every day.

This is a gem of a book. It is made for busy people who want to get right to the action steps. It is very easy to understand, and is time and money very well spent.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Born To Be An Entrepreneur

Born To Be An Entrepreneur, Kristyna Zapletal, 2018, independently published

Many books on entrepreneurship concentrate on the "hot" industries that will attract everyone. This book looks at the inner, psychological aspects.

There will never be a "perfect" time to become an entrepreneur. What if I don't have enough money to get started? What if I am not smart enough? What if I fail? There is only you, and there is only now. Do you have the willpower to stick with it, through good times and bad?

Find a product or service that will bring value to others. Fill a need that people don't even know that they have. Do that, and the profits will come. If things don't work out, and you do fail, it is not the end of the world. You will have a much better idea of what not to do next time.

Every day, you will have to deal with negative thoughts and emotions, sometimes caused by other people. Just let those thoughts pass right by you, without letting them inside. You won't be able to help others until you first help yourself. The world is changing every day, so it's a good idea to stay a few steps ahead of everyone else. That can be done by, for example, learning a new language or becoming better at time management. We can't control negative events in our lives, but we can control our responses to them.

Other chapters look at regaining your self-esteem, being an innovator no matter where you live, getting rid of the victim mindset and the reason that numbers don't always tell the right story.

After the decision has been made about the product or service to be sold, reading this book is a very good idea. The chapters are very short, and they will help a ,lot on those days when your willpower is lacking.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The MECE Muse

The MECE Muse: 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules and Habits of Great Consultants, Christie Lindor, 2018, SDP Publishing

In this world, there are two types of business consultants. Some will do the minimum amount of work to not get fired by the client. They will answer only the question or problem that they have been given. Others will go out of their way to learn a client's business, and answer questions that the client has not even asked. Which do you want to be?

Never underestimate the power of common courtesy. Network, network, network (then network some more). While you are on the road, flying from city to city, set aside some time for yourself. You will be no good to anyone, especially the client, if your health suddenly collapses due to stress and unhealthy eating. Metaphorically speaking, "force" the client's CEO to put you in his or her rolodex, because of the wonderful job you did. You should be the first person they call with any future problems.

The first day of a new consulting assignment is not the time to start researching the client. Spend a couple of weeks ahead of time learning the client's business and industry. That way, you can hit the ground running, while everyone else is just getting started.

If you are part of a large group of consultants, you will come into contact with all sorts of personalities, some of them less-than-pleasant. If you are done for the day, and a colleague is still working, Always ask if you can help. The final product is the important part, not what individual consultants did, or how quickly they did it.

If there is such a thing as "one stop shopping" in the consulting world, this is it. It is most recommended for new MBA's who think that they have all the answers. Experienced consultants will also learn something from this book. It is well worth reading.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Royal Bengal Horror

Royal Bengal Horror, Nafee Muhammad Anam, 2017

This is a group of spooky/macabre stories set in South Asia.

A newspaper editor visits his top writer, who seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth. He has not been into work in a long time. The writer has physically changed a lot, and not for the better. He says that he was forced to let go his driver, his cook and his housekeeper. The editor is drawn to the basement, where he finds four coffins, three of which are occupied. The door to the main level suddenly closes.

A new family moves in next door. The only child, named Christina, has not been outside at all for several days. Urmi, a young woman of the same age, goes next door to say Hi. In the sitting room are hundreds of drawings of snakes, all done by Christina. Urmi reluctantly enters Christina's room, which is filled with glass showcases holding thousands of snakes. Urmi turns around to get out, and Christina is gone, along with the door to the room. As if on cue, all the glass cages open, and all the snakes head straight for a panicked Urmi.

On the positive side, this is a very good group of stories from a different part of the world. They will certainly keep the reader entertained. On the negative side, this book needs a trip, or another trip, to a proofreader whose first language is English.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Appointed Hour

The Appointed Hour, Susanne Davis, Cornerstone Press, 2017

This group of connected stories shines a spotlight on rural America.

A woman walks into a tattoo shop, wanting a large tattoo across her chest for a less-than-intelligent reason. The male tattoo artist reluctantly fulfills her wish. A few years later, when the artist has his own shop, the same woman wants another tattoo. This time he says no; the art outweighs the money.

A local handyman, who has acquired the nickname Useless John, goes to a woman's house to install a hardwood floor in her kitchen. She just happens to look exactly his wife who died several years previously. He was driving when there was a bad auto accident.

A descendant of the Mayflower attempts to deal with a monument to an ancestor. A woman with post-traumatic stress disorder finds a group of other women to help her regain her voice. There is a story about dealing with HIV. An actress in the 1950's who got to kiss Elvis Presley on screen decided, in later years, to become a nun. She is now known as Mother Agnes.

These stories take place in Connecticut, but they could take place anywhere. Individually, these stories are excellent. Put them together, and this collection nears the level of Amazing. It is extremely highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

My Twin Sister and Me

My Twin Sister and Me, Emiliya Ahmadova, Women's Voice Publishing House, 2018

This Young Adult novel is about Julieta and Rafaela, twin sisters living in Venezuela. They have a typical home life. There is some sibling rivalry, mostly with Kara, their older sister. Montano, a male friend, is the subject of constant bullying at school. He is kind of overweight, and has a severe intestinal gas problem. A beloved uncle, who lives in America, is dealing with Stage 4 Cancer.

The girls have joined the local Girl Scouts, and they have a chanced to go to a Jamboree in Russia. The only problem is that the Scouts have to pay part of the cost of the trip. Their parents are skeptical, but the girls' Inner Entrepreneur has been unleashed. The money is raised, and the girls, and Montano, are going to Russia.

The living conditions at the campground where the Jamboree is being held are basic, but livable. There is plenty of opportunity to meet Scouts from other countries. A bus trip is planned to a museum in Moscow, but Montano has to go to the bathroom, now. Julieta gets off the bus with him, without telling anyone. The bus leaves without them. Everyone is under strict orders to not leave the campground. Just outside the campground is a Russian Orthodox church. Along with Lena, a Scout from Russia, Julieta and Montano visit the church. They also meet an elderly woman who has been reduced to begging. Are there any other eye-opening moments while they are in Russia?

This is a very interesting story, the sort of story that could take place anywhere. For any young girl between nine and thirteen years old (the age range for this book) who is having trouble dealing with adolescence, or thinks that no one can understand what they are experiencing, reading this book is a very good idea.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tantric Traditions

Tantric Traditions: Gods, Rituals and Esoteric Teachings in the Kali Yuga, Gwendolyn Taunton, Manticore Press, 2018

In the West, the word "tantra" is usually followed by the word "sex". Part of mainstream Hinduism, there is much more to tantra than just sex.

Tantra is actually loosely defined, consisting of multiple schools that worship various deities and practice different techniques. Tantra cannot be "nailed down" to a specific tradition.

The God Siva is a very important part of the social and religious life of India. Among the aspects, or portrayals, of Siva is that of Nataraja, King of the Dance. Another aspect of Siva is Sankara the Beneficent. Nataraja uses constant dancing, and Sankara uses yoga, as a route to a higher level of consciousness. Such different facets of Siva lead to the description as a God that transcends opposites and the limitations of humanity.

Devi is a Goddess with many aspects which are shown under numerous names and forms. In Hindu law, menstrual blood and menstruating women have all sorts of taboos. Touching a menstruating woman is akin to touching an outcast or a corpse. A woman who wears her hair unbound is a sign that she is menstruating.

The holy city of Kasi is not just a place of pilgrimage. The God Siva is said to be always present there. It is said that merely to die in Kasi is enough to release a person from Hinduism's cycle of death and rebirth.

This book is not Hinduism For Beginners. It is recommended for religious scholars, university students or people who otherwise know their way around the Hindu religion. For everyone else, this book can be skipped.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Art of Invisibility

The Art of Invisibility, Kevin Mitnick, Little, Brown and Co., 2017

In this age of government and corporate online surveillance, being anonymous while online is becoming more and more important. This book, from "the most famous computer hacker in the world" (according to Publishers Weekly) gives some pointers.

In this day and age, anyone who still uses "password" or "12345" for their computer password should be ashamed of themselves. Change that password to a long and random string of letters and numbers, like twenty or twenty-five characters long. Write it down, or use a password management program, and frequently change it.

If you are on a public wifi connection, like at the local library or coffee shop, do not do any online banking or e-commerce. It is very easy for a hacker to get your information, or send you to a site that looks legitimate but is not legitimate. If you are using anyone's computer, other than your own, it is a very good idea to delete the browser history, and reboot or shut off the computer before you leave it.

Did you know that many printers, including work printers, have a hard drive that records everything that was printed? Save the printing of personal items, like medical test results or your credit report, until you get home. You can be sure that your boss is keeping a close eye on your internet usage, even during your lunch hour.

For anyone traveling to the US, even American citizens returning from overseas, border authorities have the right to seize your laptop or cellphone, and keep it for as long as they want, searching through files. It is possible to use "strong" encryption on any personal files, store those files securely in the cloud, then wipe, not just delete (there is a difference) those files from your computer, and re-download them later.

Parts of this book may be too technical for the average reader. The rest of the book may be considered common knowledge, but it certainly bears repeating. It is very much recommended.   

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, W.W. Norton and Co., 2017

What is the nature of time and space? What is our place in the universe? Those are the sort of questions that this book attempts to answer.

Scientists don't know just what dark matter or dark energy is all about. It could be some new particle or new phenomenon, as yet undiscovered. Whatever it is, it accounts for the vast majority of the weight of the known universe. Scientists have been able to recreate conditions the tiniest fraction of a second after the Big Bang. They just can't get back to the actual moment of, or just before, the Big Bang.

Several thousand exoplanets have been discovered orbiting other stars. At interstellar distances, it is usually not possible to see the actual planet. Therefore, scientists have to focus their attention on a specific star, and look for a slight dimming of its brightness as a planet passes in front of it. It would be wrong to think that the space between galaxies, like the Milky Way, is just empty space. All sorts of things have been found, like runaway stars, gas clouds, x-ray emitting gas clouds, high-energy charged particles, dark matter and dwarf galaxies. Visible light occupies only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Mankind has started to look at the stars using detectors that focus on everything from ultraviolet rays to infrared to radio waves.

This is a gem of a book. It is very easy to read and understand, even for non-scientists. This book was made to be read on the commuter bus, or while waiting at the doctor's office. It is very much worth the reader's time. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Nomadland: Surviving America In The Twenty-First Century

Nomadland: Surviving America In The Twenty-First Century, Jessica Bruder, W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2017

This book looks at a growing number of people, usually retirees. Not always by choice, they have abandoned their homes, and are living in a van or trailer or RV as they travel around America.

Perhaps their savings disappeared during the Great Recession, or they are officially "underwater" on their mortgage (owing more than the house is worth). Regardless of the reason, they are living on Social Security as they travel around the country. There are several websites dedicated to the subject. It's possible to make friends with other such "vanampers."

It is also possible to get temporary employment while living in your vehicle. A person, or couple, could, for instance, spend the summer as Camp Hosts at a campsite. Then they could spend a couple of months flipping burgers for a professional baseball team during spring training. More important than the modest pay is the chance to get a safe place to park the vehicle for a time. Then there is working for Amazon; they call the vanampers their "camperforce." Not all Amazon warehouses accept them; who wants to live in a van up north during the Christmas rush? It's normal to walk the equivalent of ten or twelve miles a day at an Amazon warehouse.

There are many things to consider when living in a vehicle. The first night in your vehicle, parked in a parking lot, will be nerve-racking. You fear that any footsteps you hear will be vandals, or the police. A growing number of cities and states have taken to criminalize homelessness. If your vehicle is not set up for it, how do you go to the bathroom, or take a shower?

This is a fascinating, and eye-opening, book. Many Americans are just one layoff, or hospital stay, away from joining the "vanampers." If such a thing is in your near future, start your preparations by reading this book. It is very much worth the time.