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.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tao-Girls Rule

Tao-Girls Rule! Finding Balance, Staying Confident, Being Bold in a World of Challenges, CJ Golden, Eronel Publishing LLC, 2009

Imagine that you are a river, just flowing along. Suddenly, a large boulder is dropped in your path. Do you find a way around the boulder, and keep flowing, or do you, figuratively, panic and stop flowing because there is an obstacle in your way? This book is intended to help young women accept, and deal with, life's obstacles.

Tao ("path") is an ancient Chinese philosophy, not a religion. It implies that all creatures seem to find their own way through life; humans are the only ones who try to control their futures. Invariably, we end up frustrated and unhappy. It is possible to live life much more contentedly once we accept, instead of fighting, life's challenges.

What does this mean to the average young woman? A Tao-Girl is accepting of herself. You may not be the prettiest or smartest girl in school, but learn to make the most of your abilities, and forgive yourself for your weaknesses. Maybe you haven't yet found that thing at which you really good, and enjoy doing. A Tao-Girl is tenacious; not giving up when life gets unpleasant. A Tao-Girl recognizes the good things in life, even in the midst of disappointment. A Tao-Girl is able to make the best of any situation. She is also grateful for her life, family and friends. Last, but not least, everyone knows someone who simply radiates joy, happiness and sunshine; one can almost hear the birds chirping as they walk past. Then there are the people who seem to radiate gloom, doom and thunderstorms. Which person better represents the definition of a Tao-Girl? (The first one.)

In this book are plenty of real world examples of situations faced by every young woman, at one time or another. It's short and really easy to read. Even if you can't do all of the things mentioned here, doing some of them will help greatly. This book does a really good job at making growing up just a little easier.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Get Where You Want to Go

Get Where You Want to Go, David M. Mastovich, Page Publishing, 2010

The author runs a business consulting company in Pennyslvania. The book contains tips to help any sort of business to prioritize the work flow, and to help any owner or manager to get the most out of their resources, human and otherwise.

Poor service is a big problem these days. If you tend to keep missing goals, whether it's reaching your monthly sales figures or messing up a customer's order, the circumstances are less important than the fact that you are not delivering what you are promising. Admit it, and honesly work to fix the problem. A boss, or customer, will be a lot more forgiving toward someone who admits that they made a mistake, and is trying to fix it, than someone who is full of excuses.

Consider deliberate practice of presentations, sales calls, etc. It can be repated many times, it is designed to improve performance, it's mentally very demanding and continuous feedback is necessary. Usually, the difference between good and great performers is due to something like practice and preparation.

It's not enough to have a "great" product or service, and expect the world to beat a path to your door. You have to find your target audience (please be a lot more specific than, say, "women 25-54"), come up with a central idea or slogan, and tell your audience about it, many times. How will "it" save your client time or money, or otherwise make their life easier? It's all about the customer, not about you.

Has a salesman ever gone on and on to you about how wonderful their product is, without giving you a chance to tell them what you want? Don't do it to your clients. Learn to ask the right questions, and listen to their answers. They may just tell you exactly how to sell to them.

Why do some messages stick, in an ocean of messages that don't stick? The message has to be simple, it should be explainable in human terms, it needs to be believable, and it has to capture people's attention. Does your message fit any of those conditions?

This book covers a number of other subjects, and it is a gem of a book. It is recommended for all sorts of businesses, including schools and health care facilities, and is full of real world examples. This should be on the reading list of all managers and business owners.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

You Are Still Being Lied To

You Are Still Being Lied To, Russ Kick (ed.), The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2009

This is a remixed version of a previously published book, containing articles on a wide variety of topics that will not be covered in the mainstream media. There is something here to upset or offend nearly everyone.

Howard Zinn talks about the real Christopher Columbus. Alex Jones talks about the coming North American Union. There is a piece on John McCain and his attempts to cover up the POW issue from the Vietnam War. R. Crumb contributes a graphic novel piece on the religious experience of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Jim Marrs explores the reasons behind the attempts by the Iraqi Government to ban Blackwater. There is a piece on getting high by licking toads, along with a piece on the unconscious roots of the Drug War. Other contributions in this book reassess the "official" version of the Oklahoma City bombing, along with the cover-up of the murder of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The titles of some of these articles are pretty self-explanatory. For instance, there is AA Lies (all about Alcoholics Anonymous); Amnesia in America; The Information Arms Race; The Truth About Corporations; Cheap, Crappy Food = A Fat Population; Chemicals Are Killing You; Drug War Mythology; We Were Silenced by the Drums of War; NutraFear and NutraLoathing in Augusta, Georgia; Pharmaceutical Crimes and Misdemeanors; The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV and Fear and Lying in 2012-Land.

Like I said, there is something here for everyone. It does a really good job at exposing the reader to a number of different subjects. For anyone who wants to get past the mass media version of how the world works, and get the "real" story, start right here. It is highly recommended.

Coming to Terms With Aging: The Secret to Meaningful Time

Coming to Terms With Aging: The Secret to Meaningful Time, I. Michael Grossman, RDR Books, 2007

Most people have a less than healthy attitude toward aging and death. This book aims to change that.

In many families, especially in the West, death is joked about, or it is not mentioned at all. Consider the billions of dollars spent every year on anti-aging creams and treatments. The elderly are pushed into convalescent homes or assisted living faclities in a sort of medical apartheid. The first exposure to the word "mortality" is when a grandparent dies, or when the person is told by their doctor that something is not quite right.

The main reason for such attempts to deny the existence of death is fear. What if there really is nothing after death? On the other hand, what if there really is a Judgment Day after death? What if it is decided that I don't "make the cut"? Other fears include the loss of control, the loss of identity, and physical pain at the time of death.

What to do? Write your own obituary. Be honest about yourself. Don't be overly hard on yourself, but don't make yourself sound like a cross between Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama. What would Heaven be like for you? Would it be a place where angels sit around and discuss the great issues of time and space or more like a writer's colony, or a place of action like a NASCAR race? There is no wrong answer.

The book also includes several meditations on the subject of death. Imagine the moment of your death. Life is a gift that has been given to you by the universe, and now you are returning the gift. In another, you are walking into the ocean, and the water is getting deeper and deeper. You feel no fear or panic, even when the water is over your head. As you watch the fish and other sea creatures swimming past, you feel your body liquefying, becoming one with the ocean. Starting with your head, you feel your body fading away. Then when you have become part of the ocean, slowly bring yourself back into human form and walk out of the ocean.

For the vast majority of people, death is the Great Taboo. In a way, this is not pleasant reading. But, it is very hopeful and optimistic reading that can do a really good at enriching this thing called Life.

Zoolin Vale and the Chalice of Ringtar

Zoolin Vale and the Chalice of Ringtar, Craig Smith, Stonegarden.net Publishing, 2010

This is a fantasy story about a set of friends on two very different quests.

Disaster has struck the land of Melin; the Chalice of Ringtar has been stolen. It is a sacred relic, and its absence will make Melin look weak and incompetent in the eyes of their neighbors. A young man named Tennen, newly selected earlier that day as Lord Protector, leads an expedition to track down the chalice. Accompanying them is the wizard Rimotar, carrying a type of homing beacon, keeping them going in the right direction. When they aren't fighting off mud and stone creatures, the group hears stories of a being of great power, dressed all in black, a day or two ahead of them. Whoever stole the Chalice is not your everyday thief.

Devlin, Tyvn and Myke, friends of Tennen, are on a different sort of quest. Devlin has just learned that a long time ago, his parents were kidnapped and sold into slavery. Devlin was occupied at the time, having just escaped from an evil warlock who kidnapped and brainwashed him. On their journey, they rescue an imp named Hugen, who was tricked into going down to the bottom of a well, and was left there. The neighboring land of Welkland, where Devlin is from, is without a king. A grand contest, open to all comers, will choose the next ruler. The four are accosted by a man who says that he has given Hugen and Tyvn a special kind of poison. Only he has the antidote. To stay alive, the four must enter the contest, held at a place called Zoolin Vale. If any of them win, and become King, they are supposed to rsign in favor of their tormenter. Hugen doesn't make the cut, but the others make it to the finals. Along the way, Devlin gets closer and closer to finding his parents. When he finally finds them, things are not what he expected.

Here is a really good piece of writing. It's interesting, it has plenty of action, and it has intelligence. The reader will enjoy this.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ageless Spine, Lasting Health

Ageless Spine, Lasting Health, Kathleen Porter, Synergy Books, 2006

This book shows how the human body is designed to work, and how real fitness can come from standing, sitting and walking in a more natural way. The answer will not be found in developed muscles, but in muscles and properly aligned bones working together the "right" way.

Everyone has seen pictures of women in Africa and Asia carrying improbably large bundles on their heads, with seemingly no trouble at all. How do they do it? Having developed muscles is not the answer. They can do it because their spines, and the rest of their bodies, are in natural and proper alignment. Any structure, whether it is an arch, a building or a human skeleton, can carry a lot more weight when it is properly aligned than when it is not properly aligned. The book includes plenty of photos of aligned, and mis-aligned, skeletons.

The Western conception of fitness (the more developed muscles, the better) is actually bad for the body. For instance, strong rectus abdominis muscles, or "abs," are supposedly necessary to support the back, and they must be firm in order to be considered attractive. Cultural standards, to which all must conform, frequently have little to do with what is healthy or natural. Actually, relaxed "abs" allow the bones of the spine, sacrum and pelvis to naturally align to each other, and let the deeper transversus abdominis, or "corset" muscle, provide the required support.

The book also includes exercises, with pictures, showing how to sit, stand and walk so that your body's alignment will start to return to normal (didn't know you were doing it wrong, did you?). Realigning your body, and getting rid of your bad habits, will not be quick or easy, but it will help, even if you don't have any acute pain.

If the medical profession can only suggest a long and expensive course of treatment, you owe it to yourself to read this book, and try the exercises first. You will be glad that you did.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Your Body Speaks Your Mind

Your Body Speaks Your Mind, Deb Shapiro, Sounds True, 2006

This book asserts that there is a very close relationship between physical illness and the mind or emotional state. After all, the human body is a giant chemistry set; thoughts and feelings are translated into chemicals that are sent throughout the body, altering cells in a positive (or negative) way.

Stress is a part of daily life, but it needs to be released in some fashion. It's like squeezing a tube of toothpaste with the cap still on; the toothpaste will come out somewhere else. Unresolved stress will come out through headaches, anxiety problems or messed-up speech patterns. The fight-or-flight mechanism is meant to be temporary; the body is supposed to return to normal function. If high stress is constant, that could lead to a weakened immune system and physical illness.

The author provides a number of exercises to help the reader to listen to their bodymind; it's probably trying to say something. She also explores each part of the body, and gives the reader things to consider if that is the source of the pain. A stiff neck implies resistance, usually to other ways of thinking, like you are wearing blinders. It could also indicate an inability to reach a decision; literally not knowing which way to turn. A sprained ankle indicates a lack of flexibility for the direction you are going. Osteoporosis implies a thinning of the life force, due to a sense of feeling hopeless or helpless. A hernia indicates that an inner longing to explode is being repressed. The resulting muscle strain causes it to implode, rather than explode. Are you resisting someone else's control?

Among the causes of headaches are: a rigid personality, repressed feelings, pushing yourself to achieve, avoidance behavior, and too much time spent in the head. A sore throat implies that something you want to say is not getting said, or that some reality is making you feel sore or inflamed.

The author does not mean to imply at all that the reader should ignore the physical aspect of their pain, and treat it as purely an emotional or psychological problem. By all means, see your family doctor. But, it certainly won't hurt to take a look inside yourself, and see if something else is going on that has to do with your illness. This book looks at the human body in a very different way, and is well worth reading.

All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?

All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?, Joel Berg, Seven Stories Press, 2008

This book looks at the current state of hunger in America. Written by an anti-hunger activist, and former government official, it is not a pretty picture.

If food insecurity (the new euphemism for "hunger") is such a huge problem, then why are there so many obese African-Americans? Doesn't it show that they are getting more than enough food? What it really shows is that those whose food insecurity situation is bad, but not totally desperate, have to rely on cheaper high-calorie food that is full of chemicals and preservatives.

Why don't inner-city residents buy more vegetables, even organic vegetables? Most inner-city neighborhoods don't have a supermarket, so the people have to rely on convenience stores, that will carry cheaper pre-processed foods, instead of organic vegetables. Also, if you are given a certain amount of money, and have to make it last an entire week, vegetables are rare, and expensive organic vegetables are simply not a possibility. Find out what your state gives food stamp recipients each week to live on, and see if you can do it.

Another problem for inner-city residents is that the various government programs are administered by different agencies, which physically are nowhere near each other. It requires taking time off work, or finding child care, and getting on several buses, in order to go through several different sets of bureaucratic nonsense.

Everyone knows someone who says they have seen a food stamp recipient buying lobster or caviar or something else very expensive with food stamps. That is highly unlikely, because the average inner-city recipient has no access to such items, and benefits are distributed on what look like regular debit cards, to reduce the stigma.

What to do? Among other things, the author advocates putting all hunger programs together into one giant program. He also advocates making free school breakfasts available for all children, to reduce the stigma for children, and making healthy food much more available in the inner city.

This book is a large eye-opener. It is full of practical solutions, and is very easy to read (even with the charts and graphs). It is very highly recommended.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Red Serpent: The Prophet's Secrets

Red Serpent: The Prophet's Secrets, Delson Armstrong, 9ine, Inc., 2010, ISBN 9780982952337

This is part 2 of a projected 14-book far future science fiction epic. It is all about humanity fighting to return to Earth from which they were exiled by a race of humanoid vampires.

In part 1, mankind, living on a giant space station in orbit, fought a major battle against the vampires, and was victorious. Also, Alexander Howe, nephew of John Howe, newly-appointed dictator of humanity, learned that he is The Falsifier, the long-prophesied savior who will defeat the vampires, once and for all.

In this novel, both sides are making all-out preparations for the war that everyone knows is coming. Humanity's priority is to build an immense energy weapon on the Moon that will destroy any and all ships that the vampires can launch against them. They are also creating enough room under the Moon's surface to hold all the people, because they know that when the vampires attack, the space station, called the Regnum, will be the first target. Humanity is also building thousands of ships, and gathering an army in the millions. The vampires are not standing still, either. Their top-priority plan invloves creating thousands of genetically-modified werewolves.

Meantime, Alex is learning more about his destiny as The Falsifier. He has gained the power to bring the dead back to life, which he uses more than he should. He watches disks left by his father, who died the day Alex was born; disks which tell Alex a lot more about where he actually came from. Part of the prophecy says that Alex is supposed to die three times, and be brought back to life three different ways, one of which has already happened. Alex also learns things about himself from communicating with his grandmother, in a hospital in an irreversible coma.

The human attack catches the vampires off guard. It turns into one of those grand space opera battles, full of beam weapons, energy shields and sword fights.

This is more of a politics and revealing of secrets type of novel, and the author does a fine job at it. It touches on themes like cultural intolerance, it's interesting and is very much worth reading.