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, May 29, 2011

The Awakening

The Awakening, Jeffrey Pierce, 2011 (Kindle e-book)

First of a trilogy, this is a dark suspense/horror novel about the end of the world.

Drew is your average 21st century computer geek. He runs into Alicia at a local club, and recognizes her from his dreams. She is one of the Old Ones, an ancient, immortal race of beings who come from somewhere else. The reason that Drew recognizes Alicia is that, as he learns later, he is of the bloodline; he has some of the blood of the Old Ones in him. They move in together, and fall in love. Evil forces, led by a being named Lotomas, are coming after them, so they head for an isolated spot in eastern Montana to decide on their next move.

A disparate group of people, from all walks of life, join them in Montana. The only thing they have in common is that they have all had the same kind of strange dreams; they are all of the bloodline. Things end very badly for the group; Lotomas and his minions don't just kill them; their souls are also stolen. Alicia "saves" Drew by placing her hands on his chest, stopping his heart, and sending his soul to the afterlife. Alicia finds herself in a place called Ahnnchalla, a dark and dismal place with corpses as far as the eye can see.

Meantime, an angel named Nathaniel, woken after a 200-year sleep, and Jenny, a teenage girl who is also of the bloodline, arrive in Montana just after the slaughter. Being questioned by the police would be very bad, so they take off and hole up in a motel room, where Nathaniel has Jenny do some Internet searching. The intention of Lotomas is to make Earth part of Ahnnchalla. If the contemporary societal threads that will lead to such a thing can be found ahead of time, perhaps they can be pulled the right way to prevent it from happening. Humans are good at seeing the threads after a thing has happened, but have a tough time at putting things together ahead of time. Jenny finds plenty of possibilities on the Internet: war, poverty, racism, etc. When people talk about the "end of the world," it doesn't necessarily mean the destruction of Earth. Something like the world's climate going haywire, or some sort of bio-war will radically change the world for those who survive.

Do Drew and Alicia get back together, in any form? Can Jenny find the right societal threads to pull to prevent the end of the world? The writing in this book borders on amazing. It will give the reader plenty to consider, about theology and society in general. There's also a really good story here. I am not much of a horror reader, so I was glad that the horror parts were not overwhelming. This gets two strong thumbs up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Escape the Cubicle

Escape the Cubicle, Mark Anthony Germanos, Smashwords, Inc., 2011

Many books have been written about ditching your boring and unfulfilling corporate job to follow your passion. This one takes the reader through the process practically step-by-step.

Find, and join, a group of like-minded individuals, like other self-employed people. Start with your local Chamber of Commerce. The support system will help you through the rough times, and the networking possibilities could lead to customers for you. Put together a business plan, and be willing to change it as circumstances dictate. If you plan to take on investors or partners, they will want to see it.

Set a definite mission for yourself. It can be more than just one thing, but make them specific and achievable. For instance, instead of saying "Learn about computers," say "Get Microsoft A+ Certification" or "Purchase (specific software) and take a continuing education class to learn it."

No matter how unpleasant your job is, when you are at work, you owe your boss eight hours of effort. Don't give your boss a reason to fire you before you are ready to leave. Start researching the costs and availability of health insurance (group insurance, if necessary) sooner rather than later. The same goes for business liability insurance. The book also talks about things to consider if you plan on having employees, and about setting up a federal tax ID number.

A person comes up to you at some business conference and asks you what you do for a living. Do you stammer and impersonate a deer in the headlights, or do you confidently give them a one to two-minute description of your business? It's called an elevator speech. Practice it, and have it ready; you never know when you will need it. If you are one of those who lacks self-confidence when speaking in front of a group, join a group like Toastmasters International, that specializes in helping people get that self-confidence.

The author spends a lot of time talking about social media. Sign up for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and strongly consider a blog and/or website. Get help if necessary. Have some company that hosts websites take care of yours. It's much cheaper, and involves fewer headaches, than hosting it yourself. Also, strongly consider having your information automatically backed up offsite. Again, it's easier than doing it yourself, especially when something crashes. The book also talks about password security; there is a program to help you remember all your various passwords.

This book belongs on the reference shelf of every would-be entrepreneur in America. It contains a lot of information, and will make the process of starting a small business much less difficult than normal. Yes, it's worth reading (and making notes in the margins and highlighting).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Do It Yourself Business Sales Guidebook

Do It Yourself Business Sales Guidebook, Ben Brickweg, DIYBizsales.com, 2011

The easy part is to decide when to sell your small business; the hard part is knowing how to do it. This book makes that process much easier to navigate.

First of all, why are you selling? If it is to get enough money to retire to Florida or Arizona (or the south of France), giving the business to your children is probably not a good idea. Get an accountant and tax attorney (if you have not already done so); you are going to need them. Obviously, keep it quiet. The last thing you want is for your employees, suppliers and/or customers to be running for the hills in panic. Get rid of all old or obsolete inventory, and give the facility a thorough cleaning.

There are several financial reports that you will need, but the two most important ones are a Balance Sheet and a Profit and Loss statement for the past several years. Make sure that they are absolutely accurate. It's tempting to fool with the "books" in order to make your business look more profitable than it really is. It's also a really bad idea; your deception will be exposed, sooner or later. Besides, showing a "down" year is not the worst thing in the world.

The book looks at things to consider when you are coming up with an asking price. You need to get on the Internet, and look up the asking price of comparable businesses that are up for sale. If your asking price is noticeably higher than the "average" price, reduce your price accordingly. You can count on a potential buyer doing the same search, and asking why they should pay more for your widget company than for a comparable widget company.

Put some time and effort into the marketing materials that will get potential buyers interested in your business. Get help if you need it. Find the right magazines and websites to place your advertisement. Keep track of everyone who shows interest. If they seem legitimate, send them a Confidential Business Plan, which gives some, but not all, details of your business, right after they sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. If they object, they are not a legitimate buyer, and you can cross them off the list. Serious buyers know that an NDA is part of the procedure, and will have no problem in signing it.

This book covers the rest of the process, from negotiating terms of the deal (compromise is the important word), to due diligence (where you are obligated to reveal all of your business, good or bad), to ensuring a new transition to the new owners. It also comes with a number of checklists and worksheets, to make the process as painless as possible.

For anyone who is even contemplating selling their small business, this book is very highly recommended. It's easy to say that you will never sell your business; life has a way of making that decision for you. This is equally recommended for anyone thinking of buying a small business; it does a very good job of showing what the seller is thinking and seeking.