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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Paradox Resolution

Paradox Resolution, K.A. Bedford, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2012

This is the second novel about Aloysius "Spider" Webb, your average individual just trying to get through the day. Of course, it is not that easy.

A former member of the Western Australia Police, Webb was forced out because he became a whistleblower. In a world where time machines are cheap and portable, Webb is eking out a living as a time machine repairman. Most of his business is cause by people who are too impatient, or too stupid, to read the directions.

Things get weird when, one day, in the breakroom refrigerator, Webb finds the severed head of his much-disliked ex-boss, Dickhead McMahon. Iris Street, the local Police Inspector who deals with time travel matters, and who hates time travel as much as Webb, is called in. Footage from the surveillance camera shows no sign of any intruders.

Meantime, Mr. Patel, Webb's new boss, has a huge problem. His young son, Vijay, and Phoebe, a neighbor's child, have taken Mr. Patel's very tricked-out, and very illegal time machine, and disappeared. There is no time machine equivalent of a GPS system, so they could have gone to the distant past or future. Patel asks for Webb's help in finding them.

Webb hears of a concentration camp for time travellers in the far future. Using Patel's other time machine, a working, exact copy of the machine used in the 1960 film, Webb and Street take a trip to the far future. Do they find Vijay and Phoebe? So they stop the destruction of the universe? Do they survive?

This is a fine piece of writing from start to finish. It does a really good job exploring the societal impact of a huge technology like personal time travel. Things might get a little convoluted toward the end, but this is still highly recommended. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes

Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes, J.R. Campbell & Charles Prepolec (ed.), Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2011

Here is a new collection of fantasy/mystery stories about that most famous of detectives, Sherlock Holmes.

Who was Sherlock Holmes before he became a famous detective? He was a student at Cambridge University, who, while living in Paris, learned the art of detection from another famous person, Edgar Allan Poe. Holmes and Watson travel to the English countryside, where, according to the locals, the Devil himself is causing hoofprints from invisible horses to appear in the turf during frequent storms.

A book, but not just any book, has disappeared from the monastery where it has been under lock and key for several hundred years. It is a compnedium of evil, hideous acts; when anyone reads from the book, they are compelled to enact what they have read. The passage then disappears from the book. Can a book actually be a malevolent, living thing?

Despite Holmes' well-known disbelief in the supernatural, a strange green slime may be legitimately alien. It hypnotizes its victim, before it turns them into a mass of green protoplasm. In another story, Holmes is assisted by a certain Count named Dracula. Another tale takes place in 21st Century Las Vegas.

Five years previously, a disaster on a salvage ship left a man on the ocean bottom in a diving bell. Now, he seems to be alive and communicating from the diving bell. Is it possible, or is the explanation more down-to-earth?

This is a gem of a collection. Fantasy fans will love it, and so will Holmes fans. Those who enjoy good writing, in general, will also love it.

The Return of the Sorcerer

The Return of the Sorcerer, Clark Ashton Smith, Prime Books, 2009

Here are a group of stories by an overlooked master of the science fiction, fantasy and horror fields.

First published in the 1930s, the unearthly beings in these stories are not just denizens of Hell; they come from someplace worse than Hell. Some of these stories take place in the present day. Other stories take place in the distant past, in an era of amazing cities. Still others take place on impossible worlds in some other universe.

Those who are not horror fans need not be concerned; the horror in these tales is not overwhelming. For those who are fantasy or horror fans, and have never read Clark Ashton Smith, you are in for a huge treat. This is a wonderful place to start. Few writers can reach the level of poetry in their fiction; Smith does it.

Crossed Genres: Year One

Crossed Genres: Year One, Bart R. Leib and K.T. Holt (ed.), Crossed Genres, 2010

Crossed Genres is a speculative fiction magazine based in Massachusetts. These stories come from the first year of its existence.

There is a tale about a pitched battle that takes place in a diner, after closing time, among the condiments. A superhero named The Sentinel is getting on in years, with a wife and daughter who don't want him to go out each night, fighting crime.

A story is narrated by the only AI on Mars. It was part of a group of 2 AI's and 300 robots that were to build shelters for human colonists to start terraforming the planet. They hold a burial service for an early human rover found on the surface, rusted into uselessness.

Earth has become a ghetto, with all the rich people living in orbit or on the Moon. A man, and his family, build a rocketship in a junkyard, intending to head for the Moon, where everyone is free. England has a new weapon in its war against germany; witches and warlocks who knock enemy airplanes out of the air.

My favorite story takes place in near-future America. The US Army upgrades it soldiers with things like artificial eyes, and titanium ribs. The soldiers are supposed to re-enlist for two years to help pay for the upgrades. If they don't, the Army no longer provides maintenance for the upgrades, leaving them vulnerable to gangs who kill just to get the upgrades.

There is a good variety of stories, and they are all well-done. The reader will not go wrong with this book.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Od Magic

Od Magic, Patricia A. McKillip, Ace Books, 2006

This fantasy story is about a young man who doesn't know the extent of his magical powers.

Brenden lives in the far north and has an innate connection with plants. He doesn't so much talk to them as instinctively nurture them and understand their healing properties. One day, he is visited by the great wizard Od, who invites him to become a gardener at her wizard school in the city of Kelior, far to the south.

The Kingdom of Numis, with Kelior as its capital, is a place that fears magic. All students at the school can only learn "authorized" magic; even the instructors are not allowed to know any "unauthorized" magic. All graduates are required to serve Numis.

A portion of Kelior is called the Twilight Quarter. It is the sort of place where the shops and taverns open each day at sunset, and continue until dawn the next day, every day. What happens in the Twilight Quarter, stays in the Twilight Quarter. It is visted by a group of magicians led by a man named Tyramin. No one knows what he looks like, or where he comes from, but news of his arrival spreads through the Twilight Quarter like wildfire. There is a fine line between harmless illusions to thrill the average person, and serious, hardcore magic that might be used against the King of Numis, so the authorities are very interested in Tyramin. Several attempts are made to arrest him, but he always manages to keep just out of reach. Brenden is in the Twilight Quarter looking for the name of a strange plant, where he, unintentionally, shows just how powerful he really is.

This is a gem of a story. McKillip ceratinly knows her way around a fantasy novel, and this one is no exception. It is easy to read, and well done from start to finish.

Hammered

Hammered, Elizabeth Bear, Bantam Spectra, 2006

First of a trilogy, this near-future tale is about a woman for whom time is running out.

Set in the mid-21st Century, Jenny Casey is a former member of the Canadian Special Forces. She was part of the UN peacekeeping troops sent to New England in reaction to the food riots of the 2030's. She decided to stay in Hartford, Connecticut, mostly hiding from her government. A new, and very deadly, drug, a Canadian military enhancement drug called The Hammer, has become available on the streets of Hartford. Not even Razorface, the local crime lord, can discover the supply route. Much more important to Jenny is that her cybernetic enhancements are failing.

Years earlier, in a different war, Casey was severely injured. She walked out of the hospital with a metallic left arm, an artificial eye and various internal "improvements." If she doesn't have the required surgery now, she will die. Traveling to Toronto on the track of The Hammer, she is roped into having the surgery (she is pushing fifty years old). Casey is given a chance at what might be the ultimate pilot job (she is a former medevac pilot). It has to do with the "space race" moving to Mars, and shifting from Russia vs America (which is now a Christian Fascist state) to Canada vs China.

Bear does an excellent job from start to finish. I live just a few miles from Hartford, so I was most interested in her portrayal of the city (she gets it right). The book has enough high-tech and near future dystopia to keep anyone happy. This is a gem of a book.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Captives

Captives, Barbara Galler-Smith and Josh Langston, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2011

First of a trilogy, this historical fantasy is about two druids who must escape slavery, and protect their ancient magic from one who would really abuse it.

As the spiritual representative of his clan, Druid Mallec is loved and respected by all. But he, and they, can't help bu think that the recent calamities befalling their clan means that they have fallen out of favor with their god. Mallec is also troubled by constant visions of a dark-haired woman. He doesn't know who she is, or where she is, but they are meant to be together.

An evil druid named Deidre has woken prematurely from the druid equivalent of suspended animation. She is a power-mad type who is ready to use anybody, or anything (including abusing the ancient magic), to get what she wants. She has Mallec thrown into slavery to get him out of the way, permanently.

Driad Rhonwen is already in slavery, with each master worse than the last. Her rebellious nature gets her plenty of punishment; her expertise in the healing arts is about the only thing keeping her alive. Mallec and Rhonwen (the subject of Mallec's visions) find each other, and eventually escape slavery. Deidre has broken nearly every rule in the druid "book," so they have to deal with her, once and for all. Are Mallec and Rhonwen able to stop Deidre? Do Deidre, and Caradowc, her equally dislikable son, prevail?

This one is surprisingly good. It's got ancient magic, love, loss, slavery, betrayal; everything a great fantasy novel needs. It's also full of great writing, from start to finish. If the other parts of this trilogy are as good as this, then here is a major fantasy find.

Out of the Storm

Out of the Storm, William Hope Hodgson, Centaur Books, 1980

Here is  group of imaginative fiction stories from the early 1900s, a very different era in the fiction world.

There are a pair of stories about large sailing ships being attacked by huge, hideous sea creatures. On a ship where the crew is starting to talk back to the drunken captain, the second mate is murdered from behind, but there is no one nearby. The crew, all of which are accounted for, can't help but think that there is a supernatural explanation.

There is a daring mid-ocean rescue of a young woman who is the only person still alive on a derelict ship. The complication is that the ship is also home to thousands of very hungry rats, who are not particular about what, or who, they eat. There is also a mystery story about a pair of dead bodies that are found at the top of a rural water tower.

Hodgson was one of the pioneers of the entire imaginative literature field. He did it all; he wrote mysteries, horror, fantasy and adventure tales. This book is a really good example. If a copy can be found, it will certainly keep the reader entertained.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Circle Tide

Circle Tide, Rebecca K. Rowe, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2011

Set in Los Angeles in the mid-22nd century, this novel is about two unlikely people on a mission to save the world.

Noah is a rebellious member of high society. His mother runs a Domus, which is something like a family-owned multi-national corporation (but a lot bigger). She is not afraid to roll over people to get what she wants, and is a very dislikable person. Noah promises that he will deliver a datasphere to the right person. Meantime, and ecological disease called Circle Tide is ravaging the city, a disease that is fast-acting and deadly. Noah is afced with knife-wielding monks and a smart intelligence that wants him dead.

Rika is a Data gatherer (or data thief) whose expensive, and not-paid-for, neural improvements are failing. Her last chance to prove herself, and get out of debt, is to stop Circle Tide (simple, no?). But she has to steal Noah's datasphere.

The pair travel from the top of society to the bottom, accused of crimes thy did not commit. They seek clues to catch a murderer, and keep mankind from being destroyed by Circle Tide.

Here is an excellent piece of society-building. It has enough going on (virtual worlds where memories are stored, for instance) to satisfy anyone. This may not be a very fast read, but it is very much worth the reader's time.

Broken Slate

Broken Slate, Kelly Jennings, Crossed Genres Publications, 2011

This novel is about a brutal, planet-wide system of slavery. It's also about one person's attempt to push back.

Martin Eduardo was taken off his family's merchant spaceship in his mid-teens. He was put into the contract labor system on the planet Julian, where he has spent the other half of his life (perhaps "contract labor" sounds a little less awful than "slave," but it amounts to the same thing). Among the first things a contract laborer, or "cot," learns is Do Not Fight Back. Any attempt at talking back to your contract holder, or trying to stand up for yourself, leads to an automatic beating. Any attempt to run away is complicated by the computer chip implanted in each cot's shoulder bone, which makes tracking easy. It also leads to a very public murder, in front of the other cots. Also, all cots are assumed to be lazy and lying, even when they are telling the truth.

Martin's contract has been sold six times in the past. He has a decent, but very precarious, relationship with Lord Strauss, his seventh Holder. Strauss is a lecturer at the local university, and finds that Martin actually has a brain, and knows how to use it. A number of times, Martin has sat outside classrooms, listening to the lectures. Strauss has Martin run some of his classes, which does not go over well with the other students. Martin is also kept around for other tasks, which take place in the bedroom, and behind closed doors.

A cot rebellion is brewing in the hills, but it's only a little more than rumors. As it begins to gain monentum, Martin has some serious deciding to do. He is very aware of the penalty for disobedience, but the penalty for obedience may be even higher. Does Martin get his chip removed, and join the rebellion?

This is a really good story about an oppressive social system. The author has also left room for a sequel. It will keep the reader interested, and, yes, it is well worth reading.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Curse of Borage-Doone

The Curse of Borage-Doone, RA Jones, 2012, Kindle e-book

This young adult novel is about a young boy, and his grandmother who opens the "wrong" email.

Sam is your average ten-year-old resident of Britain. His Gran is staying with him while Mom and Dad go hiking up European mountains. The two have a strong connection, because they are both "cunning people." This means that Gran is teaching Sam what herbs, and incantations, to add to his baking to, for instance, hypnotize people, or force them to tell the truth. This means that they have dealt with various beasts and goblins that are invisible to the rest of us.

Gran is an internet beginner, so she believes an email saying that she has won a chance to meet Aaron Kid, her favorite TV chef, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sam is skeptical, to say the least, but off they go. They stay with Mungo and Lottie, who are fellow cunning people. Mungo's eyes don't point in the same direction at the same time, and Lottie is physically frail, due to some ailment that is beyond the reach of human and cunning medicine.

Sam's skepticism is justified, and Gran is kidnapped. The whole thing has been orchestrated by a woman named Tabetha. Gran, Lottie and Tabetha were classmates, and good friends, when they were children, but something happened, and Tabetha is now looking for some serious revenge. Sam travels in the tunnels under Edinburgh, looking for help, a mission which, at best, is very foolhardy. Does Sam find, and rescue Gran, stopping Tabetha once and for all? Meantime, the stress of worrying about Gran, and searching for her in the damp Edinburgh climate, has pushed Lottie's condition from frail to critical. Can anything be done for her?

This one is surprisingly good. It is intended for 9-12 year olds, but older children, and maybe some adults, will enjoy it, too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Success Attitude: Haunting Messages Guiding Us

The Success Attitude: Haunting Messages Guiding Us, Janice Davies, 1st World Publishing, 2011

This is the true story of an average woman who left an unpleasant personal situation, and found herself.

Born in New Zealand, Davies grew up in a very normal family. There were yearly Christmas camping trips, and many excursions on sailing ships. As a child, she showed leadership qualities, and had an attitude of saying Yes to new challenges and opportunities. A year of being bullied in secondary school changed everything.

Davies suppressed herself, wanting to fade into the background, and changed her attitude to No. After high school. she did some traveling, living and working in Australia and England. She came back to New Zealand, and married Phillip. A pair of daughters soon followed. Phillip was not physically abusive; he did not smoke, drink or stay out all night. Phillip was mentally and emotionally abusive. After several years of such treatment, Davies took her daughters and left him. Nearby parents and relatives helped greatly. Money was tight, but they managed.

Even on good days, being a single, stay at home parent is hard and exhausting. Getting involved with other mothers, Davies slowly started to re-discover herself. She got a job as a travel tutor, teaching others to be travel agents. The hours were very long; most weekends, she would collapse from exhaustion. The three moved into a large house that provided rooms for tenants to help pay the mortgage. It was not until after they moved in, and strange things started happening, that they learned that the house was haunted.

Davies continued to grow, emotionally and professionally. She became a full-time life coach. On several occasions, she received clear messages from "God" (meant as a generic term). Writing this book was the subject of one of those messages. Have you ever received such a message, telling you to do something outside of your comfort zone? Did you listen to the message?

This is a very inspirational story. It shows how one person got out of a very difficult marital situation, with children involved. It also shows how messages from "God" (or Spirit, or The Universe) can help us to become the person we were meant to be. This is very much worth the reader's time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Life Coaching for Mothers

Life Coaching for Mothers, Melissa J. Magnus, 2011

Being a mother is one of the most rewarding, and stressful, jobs available. This book shows how to find a middle path between being a mother and an individual.

What did you like to do when you were a child? What sort of things do you like to do now? Who do you admire and why? What are your values? These are the sort of questions you should ask yourself to determine your purpose and goal in life. Visualize that goal, make it specific (please be more specific than "I want lots of money"), and express gratitude for what you do have.

An important tool for any mother is time management. Have a daily to-do list. Get a big calendar and write down each day's activities. See if you can trade babysitting duties with another mother, or a group of mothers. If you are a stay-at-home mother with internet access, start a home-based business. When your child is old enough, get them involved in daily goals and chores. Start with something simple, like eating their vegetables or picking up their toys.

You will be of no use to anyone if you don't take care of yourself. When your baby is sleeping, you should also be sleeping. "Eat right and exercise regularly" may sound like a cliche, but it's true. Exercise could consist of putting baby in a stroller, and going for a walk; housework can also be a workout.

The book also looks at how to deal with your child's behavior. What works for one child may not work for another child. Make it clear that the action is bad, like hitting or making a mess, not that they are bad for doing it. Practice leaving them alone in a room for a few minutes at a time, that slowly increase that period of time. Getting used to not having you around every minute will help when it is time for them to start kindergarten.

This book is short, but it does a really good job. A visit to http://www.lifecoachingformothers.com/sign_me_up.html to get a copy and find more information for stressed-out mothers is a very good idea.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

5 Steps to Financial Freedom

5 Easy Steps to Financial Freedom: Do What You Love and Get Rich Doing It, Duane Harden, CEOeBooks, 2012

Many books have been written about how to make money doing what you love. This book reduces the process to just five steps.

Before anything else, you have to commit to changing your life. Don't just say it; you also have to mean it. Write a Creed, or other inspirational saying, and post it someplace where you can read it every day. Some people, knowingly or unknowingly, will try to discourage you, convinced that you are going to fail. Limit your exposure to such people.

What are you passionate about? What do you love doing? That is where you should look for income-generating ideas. Don't get into, for instance, real estate investing because all those infomercials have convinced you that you will be instantly rich. Do it because you want to do it. Get a copy of your credit report and credit score. If your score is Average or Poor, work now on fixing it. The book talks about using OPM (Other People's Money) to finance your venture. A bank, or other lender, will have a hard time approving your loan request if your credit score is just Fair.

It's normal to want to plan and plan and plan, removing all possible obstacles before starting your income-generating plan. You may just over-analyze yourself right out of a great business opportunity. At some point, you have to Just Do It (to quote Nike). If things don't work out, pick yourself up, regroup, and start over.

You need to register your venture as a separate business entity (like an S Corporation or an LLC) with the state and federal governments. If for no other reason, do it to reduce your personal liability should someone get injured on the premises. You can't do this alone, so you need a team behind you. Start with a CPA and an attorney who specializes in real estate investing, or whatever your venture entails. The book also explores what to do when the time comes to sell your venture (your CPA says that you have gotten all the tax benefits you are going to get, or you decide that it is time to retire).

This is an excellent book, written by someone who has been through the process. It is easy to read, and full of information. The hardest part is to convince yourself that Now is the time. This book shows the reader how to do everything else.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sudden Unexplained Death

Sudden Unexplained Death, Ryan Clover, 2012, Kindle e-book

This novelette is about a woman who ends up on a coroner's table with no discernible cause of death.

Jessica Firth is the local Toronto detective investigating the sudden demise of Cleister Vanier (the woman on the table). She learns that Ms. Vanier was on a trip to Eritrea, accompanied by Marilyn French. Ms. Vanier had donated a large amount of money to a local orphanage, and wanted to see for yourself where the money was going. She was concerned that the money was going "elsewhere."

While in Eritrea, Ms. Vanier went out to dinner with the director of the orphanage, which is where she suddenly died. Ms. French brought her body back home. A little background research by the police on those on the suspect list, including Ms. French, show some interesting things. Was the culprit some strange, undetectable African poison from the days of "deepest, darkest Africa?" On the other hand, was the culprit, and motive, much more down to earth?

This is a really good story. It's short, so it can be read in just a few minutes. Few present-day murder mysteries involve the country of Eritrea, which, automatically, makes this worth reading. Yes, it's worth the reader's time.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Razor Sharp 3.0

Razor Sharp 3.0, Ola Adigun, CreateSpace, 2012

This novel is about a young man who, in trying to pay off a debt, gets in way over his head.

Zeus (real name Supo) is a resident of present-day Nigeria. His father died recently after running up large debts in online stock trading. Zeus assumed his father's debt, and, as a math genius, is able to do something about it. Along with a few friends around the world, including Dido, a female Ph.D. computer student from California, Zeus comes up with Razor Sharp. It's supposed to be your average stock picking program, until it develops a mind of its own.

A glitch in the program allows it to go into aggressive mode, hacking into more and more computers, looking for processor power. Among them are computers best left alone. Zeus and Dido (who impulsively flies to Nigeria to meet Zeus) find themselves on the run from anonymous people from an unnamed organization, the sort of people who have no problem with killing anyone who gets in their way. Do Zeus and Dido escape? Is there any way to shut off Razor Sharp, or, at least, slow it down? Does Razor Sharp have any other value than in the financial world?

This is a first-rate piece of writing. It's high-tech, it was written by someone who certainly knows their way around present-day Nigeria, it's got action and a bit of romance. Someday, Nigeria will be known for more than just religious violence and spam e-mails. This novel may help. It's worth reading.