Welcome!


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:

booklore.co.uk
midwestbookreview.com
2 yahoo groups
Amazon and B&N (of course)
Librarything.com
Goodreads.com
Bookwormr.com
Books-a-million.com
Reviewcentre.com
Onlinebookclub.org
Pinterest.com
and on Twitter
(seriously)

I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Elpis: Terico's Revenge

Elpis: Terico's Revenge, Aaron McGowan, Lulu, 2011

This is a fantasy story about a young man who has lost everything in his life. It's also about the lengths to which he will go to exact revenge.

Terico is your average young man, living with his parents in the village of Edellerston. Suddenly, the village is under attack by warriors of the Shire Brotherhood, the sort of people who seem to enjoy killing. Everyone in the village is murdered, including Terico's parents. Terico's best friend, Turan, is taken prisoner by the Brotherhood, and Suran, Terico's girlfriend, is missing. After Terico single-handedly buries everyone in the village, he meets Jujor, who is a lot more than just the town drunk.

Jujor tells Terico that Delkol Shire, the leader of the Brotherhood, and the man who killed his parents, is looking for pieces of the Elpis stone. It's a stone of immeasurable power. A millennia ago, it was broken into four pieces, specifically to keep any one person from having that much power. Jujor leads Terico to one of the pieces, in an underground city under Edellerston. Terico gathers a rather interesting group of people around him in his quest for the rest of the stone. Areo is a teenage vampire, Borely is a ship's captain without a ship and Kitoh, a young boy, is able to turn into a giant dragon. Terico acquires another piece of the stone, and is informed that Delkol Shire has the other two pieces.

By the thousands, Brotherhood forces mass for an attack on Setar, the capital of the Fiefs Kingdom (the good guys). Shire says that he just wants the rest of the Elpis stone, and will not attack Setar. Even if he gets it, everyone knows that Setar will be wiped off the map. Terico is the only one, with his half of the stone, with any chance of stopping Delkol Shire. Is he successful? What happened to Turan and Suran?

This is an excellent piece of storytelling. It has plenty of action (maybe a little too much action), it also has heart, and intelligence, and some first-rate writing. (And the author is only 23 years old!) First of a series, this one deserves a much wider exposure.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Taliban Shuffle

The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kim Barker, Doubleday, 2011

This is one person's chronicle of life as a newspaper reoprter in present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. Evidently, even today, war has its humorous moments

The author was a total newbie, when, in 2004, she became the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Chicago Tribune. She spent much of her time in Afghanistan, when the world's attention was focused on Iraq. Everyone knew that they were fighting the "other war," so they tended to relax. Everyone, that is, except the Taliban, who spent the time quietly regrouping. President Hamid Karzai has been called "The Myor of Kabul," because his influence extends only that far. According to Barker, even that description might be too generous.

Afghanistan is run by warlords, and is a place where your tribe or clan, and your language, is taken very seriously, especially if you find yourself in the "wrong" part of the country. Barker attends a training session of the Afghan National Police, the people who are supposed to take over after America leaves. Descriptions like "travesty" and "fiasco" come to mind. There is little, or no, coordination of aid, so the chances of aid getting to those who need it the most are tiny.

In Pakistan, the city of Islamabad is not just a sleepy, quiet city; one person described it as "twice as dead as Arlington National Cemetery." Barker is romantically pursued by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who offers to play matchmaker, and wants to be her "friend" (which has a very different meaning in Asia). Vacations in Europe or America are few and far between, and are usually cut short by some major happening in South Asia. For Barker, in both countries, there are a couple of attempts at romance, which don't end well. She meets a constantly changing group of journalistic colleagues, aid workers, military people and various kinds of adrenaline junkies.

After several years of American money, effort and lives, why are Afghanistan and Pakistan still so messed up (for lack of a better term)? This book does a fine job at giving the answer. This is not meant to be a sober political analysis of both countries, but one person's subjective chronicle. It is very much recommended.

The Vertical Farm

The Vertical Farm, Dr. Dickson Despommier, Thomas Dunne Books, 2009

The current method of human agriculture is in bad shape, and is ultimately unsustainable. This book provides an alternative.

Agriculture as we know it has worked for many thousands of years, but the system is breaking down. If there is such a thing as The Chronicle of Farm Life in the 20th Century, it is "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. Three things that had a huge impact on agriculture were the internal combustion engine, and the discoveries of oil and dynamite. When irrigating fields, runoff is created that is full of chenicals and fertilizers applied to those fields. During floods, runoff gets even worse, because that chemical-filled water gets into the rivers, which empty into the ocean, creating aquatic "dead zones." In less developed countries, there is little or no attempt to filter or treat the water, and since fecal matter (human and animal) is frequently used as fertilizer, that just spreads lots of intestinal parasites. In many places, a 55-gallon drum of clean water is now more valuable than oil.

Greenhouse gases are turning the world's oceans more acidic; the time will come when calcium carbonate, a central component of coral and mollusk shells, cannot form. Various bugs and plant diseases can also do immense damage to a wide area of crops. As agriculture becomes more commercialized, and farm sizes grow, food safety becomes a huge concern. Corporations want to cut costs wherever they can (like food inspection), and consumers have made it clear that food safety is at the top of the list.

Imagine stacking several high-tech greenhouses on top of each other. Hydroponic gardening, which uses one-third the water of regular agriculture, is well known. Aeroponic gardening, where the roots are misted at the right times, uses one-third the water of hydroponics. The water can be treated and recycled so that it can be used over and over. No artificial chemicals would be needed. Such a vertical farm can be built in the city, vastly increasing the availability of fruits and vegetable for inner-city residents. The outer walls would be a type of clear, hard plastic, which is lighter than glass, to let in every available bit of sunlight. The corresponding amount of farmland would be allowed to turn back into whatever it was, usually hardwood forest, before it became farmland.

Of course, theory is easy, while turning the theory into reality is much harder. This a fascinating book, even though it is light on the reality of what a vertical farm would look like. If it does nothing more than get people thinking about other methods of agriculture, this is a gem of a book.