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, June 19, 2011

Shaky Ground

Shaky Ground, Steve Stelle, 2011 (Kindle e-book)

This is a murder mystery involving drug money and shady real estate deals. It is set against the back drop of the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake.

Jeff Burke is a process server and sometimes private investigator in Santa Cruz, California. Along with everyone else in the Bay Area, he is watching the World Series when the ground starts shaking. His house suffers minor damage. After he and his neighbors make sure that everyone is all right, Burke goes to the local mall near his office, where the damage is much more severe. Volunteering for search and rescue, Burke and other ex-military personnel (he is a former Army medic) understand discipline and organization, so they know what they are doing. This is in great contrast to a group of mall workers, who loudly demand that the emergency personnel (who are equally stressed out) find their missing co-worker.

There is nothing like a major earthquake to get a person wondering what life is all about. Burke decides to sell his house, and start over in Florida. Perry Harris, a local real estate agent, visits and everything seems fine. The police get interested when Harris is found murdered a few hours later, and Burke is the last person to have seen him alive. The next day, Harris' widow, Sunny, another real estate agent, comes by to try and salvage the listing. Fueled by liberal amounts of wine, she tells Burke about their deep involvement in the local drug trade (an important part of the local economy), first as pot users, then later creating shady real estate deals to launder drug money. Perry is also a psycho, who tells Sunny to get plastic surgery one (or two) too many times. She is in no condition to drive, so Burke lets her crash on his couch. Things get weird when, the next morning, Burke finds Sunny murdered on his couch, and the police barging in the door.

Burke survives a murder attempt in prison, and is able to escape from custody. He reluctantly kidnaps Karen, another real estate agent, because he is desperate for help. She eventually agrees to help him, after whacking him on the head with a beer bottle, which knocks him out for three days. Can Jeff and Karen find the identity of the person behind everything, before the police catch up, and charge Jeff with the murders? Do they survive the scene where the guilty party takes them on a boat far from shore, intending to killthem and dump their bodies overboard?

This one is really good. The reader will certainly learn a lot about the California drug trade, and about what to do (and not do) after an earthquake. My only criticism is that the text could use a trip to a proofreader, but that's just being picky, and looking for something to criticize. This will keep the reader guessing, and is well worth the reader's time. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Hardline Self-Help Handbook

The Hardline Self-Help Handbook, Paula Renaye, Diomo Books, 2011

There seem to be a million self-help books on the market. This one is different in that it takes a much harder line with the reader.

Most people say that they are willing to do "anything" to change their lives. Really? Are you willing to quit your lucrative, but unfulfilling, job to start on a new career? Are you willing to move to a different town, or different state, to advance your career? Write down five things you are not willing to do. Why aren't you willing to do them? (There are no right or wrong answers; this is simply to give you a better idea of what your subconscious is thinking.)

Everyone has "buttons" that are pushed on occasion. Do you really think that cursing, and giving the finger, to someone who cuts you off on the highway will really convince them to never do it again? Also, please remove the phrase "if only" from your brain right now. Your life will not suddenly become happy and perfect if only you get that big promotion, or if only your spouse stops acting like such an inconsiderate jerk. You cannot change or control other people; all you can do is change your reactions to other people.

For some people, forgiveness toward others is a near impossibility. Keeping that hurt inside will only injure you, not the other person. Don't try to minimize or justify it by saying something like "They didn't mean it, and I know they won't do it again." You don't know that they won't do it again. What you can do is acknowledge that it happened, and how you felt at that moment, and let the pain go. When your subconscious tries to bring it back, make it clear to yourself that it is done and over with, end of story.

Everyone knows someone who is a hypochondriac, constantly running to the doctor with imagined ailments, or is Mr. or Ms. Negative Attitude (perhaps that person is you). If they show no desire to even try to change their lives, then let them enjoy their corner of Self-Pity Land by themselves, while you go back to improving your life (If you have become some kind of self-pity addict, and don't want to "kick the habit," then please shut up. The rest of us are no longer interested.).

For those who are honestly willing to do the work necessary to change their lives, this book is very much worth reading. The chapters are short, and they can be read in any order.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Killing of a Bank Manager

The Killing of a Bank Manager, Paul Kavanagh, Honest Publishing, 2010

This novel is about Henry, who has an apartment on the High Street (the shopping district) of an unnamed city. It's practically barren, with only a couple of pieces of furniture. There are no magazines on the artfully-designed coffee table; there is no coffee table. He is about to leave his job as a butcher at a local shop.

He lives above a beauty parlor, where little beauty actually occurs. The only bright spot at the parlor is a woman named Laura, on whom Henry has had his eye. He also lives across the street from a bank. Every morning, he watches the female tellers arrive for work. He also watches the bank manager unlock the main doors each morning. Henry decides, one day, that the bank manager must die.

There is a lot of great writing in this book, but, overall, I'm not sure what to make of it. It tends to jump from one thing to another, kind of like James Joyce, or stream-of-consciousness writing. Those who like modern, edgy fiction that gets rid of the literary "rule book" will love this novel. On the other hand, for those who prefer more conventional plot, characters and storytelling, look elsewhere.