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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Mobile Youth: Voices of the Mobile Generation

The Mobile Youth: Voices of the Mobile Generation, Graham Brown, 2012, Kindle e-book (B009FEIRUM)

This book looks at the ways that present-day young people use, and interact with, their cell phones. They are not used just for phone calls anymore.

A teenage boy from China wanted an iPad and a cell phone so much that he felt compelled to sell one of his kidneys on the black market to get the money. He is now in the hospital, suffering from renal failure. He received a lot less than the going rate for his kidney. A young Amish man is returning to the community after rumspringa, but he does not want to give up his cell phone.

In the slums of Rio de Janeiro, a couple of young boys and their cell phones are the only ones telling the world about a gun battle between the government and drug dealers. A majority of the world's youth sleep with their cell phones.

A Venice Beach food truck has created quite a following by using Twitter each morning to give its lunchtime location for that day. Between 1996 and 2010, the number of American teens who smoke has gone down. It might have something to do with the explosion in cell phone usage among teens in that same period.

As part of a study, young people all over the world were asked to go without their cell phones for 24 hours (they had to actually remove the battery). Some found it difficult, but bearable. Others described their feelings using words like dead, lonely, helpless and anxious. A teenge girl posted unpleasant comments about her family on Facebook. When her father found out, he recorded a seven-minute rant, which ended with the father putting two bullets in her laptop.

Regular human contact has generally become a thing of the past. Children don't play outside anymore. Young people don't have anywhere to congregate, like the local movie theater. A group of people can be in a coffeeshop, all working on their laptops (together and alone at the same time). That is part of the reason for people's near obsession with technology. It is the closest they can get to human contact.

If your teenager is spending "too much" time on their cell phone, maybe they are looking for some version of human contact. Reading this book may help explain what they are thinking, and feeling. It is highly recommended. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Swallowtail

Swallowtail, Sheri Meshal, 2012, Kindle e-book, B009913Q98

This novel is about a family experiencing an incredible heartbreak. It's also about love, family bonds and the human spirit.

Claire is an employee at the main office of a Chicago bank. Walking in to work one day, the place is in an uproar. Julia, Claire's office neighbor, has absconded with 3 million dollars of the bank's money. Claire is able to convince her bosses that she knew nothing about it. A few days later, on Halloween, Claire is on a busy road attempting to save a wayward kitten, when she is hit by a car and killed instantly.

Claire had no ID on her, so she is treated as a Jane Doe at the morgue. There is also nothing for the police to tell her husband, Paul, and Anna and Em, her two daughters. That is, on those days, when Paul is not being questioned about her disappearance. Claire is watching everything from the astral plane (for lack of a better term). As her family goes through a reasonable version of Hell, Claire makes a number of attempts to let them know that she is still with them.

No one wants to admit that Claire is not coming back, but, after several months with no news, hope is gone. Christmas comes, and Paul, along with friends of the family, wants it to be as normal as possible (which does not happen). Claire meets Julia, who is now living in Brazil, on the astral plane. It seems that Claire and Julia are much more than just office neighbors. Does Julia get what is coming to her? Does Claire let bygones be bygones? Is Claire's body ever reunited with her family to provide them with closure?

Wow. Need I say more? This may sound like a silly cliche, but do whatever is necessary, and legal, to get a copy of this book. This is a wonderful piece of storytelling, and it is very highly recommended.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Absurd Adventures of Mira

The Absurd Adventures of Mira, Sujata Rayers, Black Rose Writing, 2012

Mira is an Indian-American living in present-day Louisiana. She is also swarthy, weighs 250 pounds, and fantasizes herself as blonde, blue-eyed Cameron Diaz. At a high school party, she is raped by a member of the Black Panthers. her father refuses to acknowledge the rape out of concern that it will make her "spoiled fruit" when it comes time for marriage. Mira moves in with Andy, the manager of the local grocery store that soon goes out of business.

Among their neighbors is a Julio Iglesias look-alike. He is so convincing that a married couple, also neighbors, kidnap him and hold him for ransom. While they spend the next several years in prison, Andy and Mira become foster parents to their two children. Junior is a precocious child who is helping Dad write a guide to local plants while he is in prison.

Mira gets a job at a local clothing store, where her handmade Mardi Gras costumes are a hit. Another clothing store where Mira works is bought and becomes part of a chain. Mira is part of a group who travels to India looking for companies who can supply them with clothes to sell. Mira is able to meet some of her relatives.

Back home, Devi, Mira's sister, becomes part of the clothing empire (her proper, Indian, marriage ended in divorce). Mira has not spoken with her father since the day she disobeyed him by moving in with Andy (who was killed by a grizzly bear during a camping trip). Do they get back together? Do they at least talk to each other?

This is a really interesting story. It's plausible, and well-written, amd Mira certainly has plenty of "adventures." Yes, it's worth reading.

The Cellar Door

The Cellar Door, Brett Gadbois, Belltown Press, 2010

This is the tale of a young boy and his amazing adventures.

Sam Bixby is your average nine-year-old. His parents have been divorced for most of his life. The concern and uncertainty that comes with divorced parents comes back to Sam when Mom asks him to live with her in California. Sam and Dad live near Seattle. On a camping trip to northern Minnesota with Dad, Sam explores an abandoned farmhouse (the kind that children should not explore alone). He falls, and hits his head, and he wakes up in a very strange land.

An elderly human sage teaches Sam the ability to change into whatever he wants (bird, animal, etc.) simply by thinking about it. Sam meets a talking squirrel who is searching for his father. Squirrel Dad has been on the run for a number of years because of a botched robbery. Sam meets talking blueberries who are proud of their color, and streams of water that give Sam fits of laughter even on the worst days. Through it all, no one knows just how Sam can get home, but they suggest that a magic pool of water in a nearby city is the place to start.

Sam also meets several human/animal hybrids, including a pair with human bodies and the heads of crows. They really want the secret to Sam's transformation ability. While Sam is a bird, they trap him inside a bird cage until he gives up the secret. Will Sam spend the rest of his life as a bird? Will he ever be reunited with his father?

This book is made to be read to children, perhaps as a multi-part bedtime story. It's nice and weird, and many children can identify with Sam. The reader will not go wrong with this one.

Cops, Crooks and Other Stories in 100 Words

Cops, Crooks and Other Stories in 100 Words, Mark S. Bacon, Archer & Clark Publishing, 2012

Here is a group of extremely short stories, on a variety of subjects.

There are murder mysteries here, along with speculative fiction and mainstream fiction. As the book title says, the attraction behind each of these stories is that each of them is exactly 100 words long. Anything under 1000 words is known as "flash fiction." Such a limitation certainly forces the author to get right to the point of the story.

Some of these stories are easy to understand, while others will require some extra thought. This book was made to be read while siting in the doctor's office, or at the airport. For a very quick read, this book deserves serious consideration.

50 Facts That Should Change the USA

50 Facts That Should Change the USA, Stephen Fender, The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2008

Here is a compendium of little-known facts about America.

America has some of the world's best universities, and some of the worst high schools. More than 37 million Americans live below the official poverty line (today, in late 2012, no doubt that number is much higher). The inventor of recorded sound, Thomas Edison, thought that jazz sounded better played backwards. American conservatives hate political actors, but they had no problem backing Ronald Reagan as President, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California.

Despite assertions that America is in the middle of a crime epidemic, violent crime has dropped by more than half since 1993, while it is rising in Europe. American workers have the shortest vacations in the developed world; over 40 percent take no summer vacation. There is a huge volcano under Yellowstone Park. When it erupts, it will make the loudest noise heard by man in 75,000 years, along with killing thousands of people. More than twice as many US residents claim to attend church as actually do. Americans spend more on civil litigation than any other industrialized country.

America has always been considered an immigration "magnet." Throughout history, about one-third of all immigrants have returned home. Few Americans can name all fifty state capitals. More than 18,000 American adults die each year due to lack of health insurance (again, in late 2012, no doubt that number is much higher). The American national holiday is . . . Thanksgiving.

This is a fascinating bunch of facts, wih references included. It will certainly get the reader thinking, and its' recommended.

The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Anger: Dynamic Tools for Healthy Relationships

The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Anger: Dynamic Tools for Healthy Relationships, Jane Middleton-Moz, Lisa Tener and Peaco Todd, Health Communications, Inc., 2004

Anger is a normal human emotion. How a person deals with that anger is what, metaphorically, "separates the men from the boys."

Many of our attitudes toward disputes and conflict resolution are formed by our families while we are still children. Anger can range from loud and violent to giving each other the silent treatment to blaming the other person and being judgmental. Such people have never learned healthy attitudes toward conflict and anger.

Everyone has things that they don't like about themselves. Whenever they are mentioned by others, intentionally or unintentionally, they can cause feelings of shame or self-hatred. No one can make you feel like a victim unless you allow it. Whenever your height, weight, ethnicity, etc. are brought up, have a response ready to say to the other person or to yourself, to keep that comment from getting you upset.

There are many unhealthy ways to express anger. Among them are constant whining, throwing temper tantrums, being convinced that you are perfect and the rest of the world is wrong, people who remember every injustice ever perpetrated against them and aren't afraid to throw them in your face, bullying & intimidation and gossiping. The book tells how to deal with each type of person.

Perhaps the cause of your anger is more physical than emotional. Maybe eating too much sugar, or not drinking enough water, will cause a meltdown. The cause of your anger could be lack of sleep, or consuming too much alcohol. The book explores what happens to our bodies in the midst of long-term, unhealthy anger.

For married couples, notice your partner's anger style. Are they passive-aggressive or a shouter? At your next argument, consider: taking a time-out, avoiding hurtful words, admitting your frailties, not interrupting and changing your behavior.

At the end of each chapter, there are exercises and places to write down your thoughts and feelings. This is a practical and easy to read book that can help bring about changes in our relationships, and inside ourselves. This is very much worth the reader's time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stop Autism Now!

Stop Autism Now! A Parent's Guide to Preventing and Reversing Autism Spectrum Disorders, Bruce Fife, Piccadilly Books, Ltd., 2012

The rise of autism spectrum disorders worldwide in the last 30 years is rapidly reaching the level of an epidemic. The book presents an easy way reverse its symptoms (legitimately).

The medical profession has no idea as to what causes autism or how to cure it. The best they can do is to prescribe anti-psychotic drugs to ease the symptoms, and tell the family to deal with it.

There is a strong connection between autism and bowel or digestive problems. Cure your child's Crohn's Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or whatever the ailment) and the autism may be reduced, or disappear. The author has a lot to say about childhood vaccines. Does the average child really need 48 doses of 14 different vaccines before they are six years old? Among the ingredients in vaccines, aside from the virus, are: formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, ethylene glycol, polysorbate 80, MSG and mycobacteria. That is going right into your child's bloodstream, where it has easy access to the brain, liver and other organs.

What causes autism? Microglia are the brain's equivalent to whit blood cells, protecting it from assault by toxins and other infections. When the brain senses danger, the microglia become very active. They return to normal when the danger is over. If assaults on the brain become more frequent, the microglia can stay activated. In the long run, they can do a lot of damage, including disrupting the regular glucose metabolism. If those cells have problems turning glucose into energy, brain function declines. Older children lose some of their social and cognitive skills. Children under 2 years old never learned these skills, so they may seem to have been born autistic.

What can a parent do? The book goes into lots of detail, but start feeding your child coconut oil each day, adopt a low-carb diet, make sure they get some fish oil each week (the best method is by eating fresh fish) and raise their level of Vitamin D, either through supplements or sending them outside.

Can reversing autism really be this easy? This book is very highly recommended for all parents, whether or not an autistic child is in the family. 

The Skinny On Credit Cards: How to Master the Credit Card Game

The Skinny On Credit Cards: How to Master the Credit Card Game, Jim Randel, Rand MediaCo, 2009

Here is a simple, but not simplistic, look at the world of credit cards.

Beth and Billy are your average married couple who suddenly find themselves with a lot of credit card debt. Billy feels that as long as he pays the minimum payment each month, everything is fine, but Beth is not so sure. Along comes Randel, the author, to explain to them the reality behind credit cards.

Credit card companies want cardholders to pay just the minimum payment each month. That way, they can charge interest on the unpaid balance, raising your overall bill. If that particular ard was never used again, it can take years to pay your total bill by paying just the minimum amount. You will also pay the credit card company more than you originally owe, because of the accumulated interest on the unpaid balance.

Credit card companies can, and will, raise your APR (Annual percentage Rate) whenever they want; the Cardholder Agreement says so. They can also be very sneaky about setting the cut-off time for receiving payments. For instance, they can set the cut-off time for 10 AM, when they receive their daily mail delivery at noon. Even if your payment was received that day, it is still late, which means that they can charge a late fee. College students are a goldmine, because they are probably financially illiterate, and think of credit cards as free money.

What can the average consumer do about it? Pay off as much of your bill each month as possible; forget about paying just the minimum payment. Call your credit card company, and ask them for a lower interest. It could shave months, or years, off the time needed to eliminate your debt. If you have a large debt, look for a one-time infusion of cash to reduce the debt. Consider a low-interest credit card as a place to which to transfer your balances.

This book does a wonderful job at teaching the financial literacy not taught in school. get past the stick figure illustrations, and this book is highly recommended for everyone.

Quexistence: The Quest For the Meaning of Existence: The Dream Begins

Quexistence: The Quest For the Meaning of Existence: The Dream Begins, Tom Stafford, 2012 (Kindle e-book)

Gork is a being who is looking for answers to life's universal questions: Why Am I Here? What Is My Purpose? He meets Itbee, who declines to answer his questions, but directs him to Ustubee, who is behind him. Ustubee is also not willing to answers his queries, but directs him to Yetubee, who is ahead of him. Does Gork get his questions answered, or is he directed to someone else?

This is a short story (less than 2,000 words), but it will get the reader looking inside him- or herself. The quest for the meaning of existence is very normal and very broad. This is a prequel to a soon-to-be published novel, which is why it might feel like a well-done part of a story, instead of a complete story. Yes, it's worth reading.

(Available for free on amazon.com on October 4-6, 2012.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Criminal Investigative Function: A Guide for New Investigators

The Criminal Investigative Function: A Guide for New Investigators, Joseph L. Giacalone, Looseleaf Law Publications, 2011

Many law enforcement textbooks have been written by academics with little, or no, real experience. The author of this book has many years of actual, crime scene experience.

On TV, detectives will get a phone call, quickly write down an address, and then rush out the door. It's dramatic, and it's also a bad idea. A quick check in the police computer will show if police have been to that address in the past, or if there has been criminal activity in that area in the past.

At the crime scene, the investigator will go over the crime scene with the first officer on the scene (who is supposed to establish the crime scene perimeter, detain witnesses, etc.). The investigator will sketch the scene, take lots of photographs and lots of notes, and establish chain of custody for all physical evidence found at the scene. There is a good, and bad, way to search the scene for evidence. It is vital to document everything. The defense attorney can be expected to focus on the smallest error in police procedure, and use that to move for an acquittal.

The follow-up investigation is necessary, but not very glamorous. It involves things like going over the crime scene photos again, and visiting the various law enforcement databases. The book talks about what is, and is not, allowable when it comes to eyewitness identification.

Much time in the book is spent on what haapens in the interrogation room, whether it is interviewing a witness, or interrogating a suspect. It is vital to establish some sort of connection between the interrogator and suspect. Last but not least, the investigator has to appear in court. The investigator should refresh their memory by going over the file, answer only the question that is asked, and give the impression that they are prepared and they know what they are talking about.

This book should be required reading for all law enforcement personnel. For everyone else, it is very easy to understand, and shows what the police field is really like.

No Other Way

No Other Way, Roger Real Drouin, Moonshine Cove Publishing, 2012

This novel is about two men and a near-mythical bird.

Samuel is a famous bird photographer who is also dealing with his wife's death from cancer a year earlier. He is very familiar with the story of the Northern Stilted Curlew. It is a bird that has not been photographed in the wild in many years. That is because it may, or may not, be extinct. It is the bird watcher's equivalent of the Holy Grail.

The Curlew migrates several thousand miles each year. Among its last untouched nesting areas is in the northern reaches of the Sanford National Forest in Utah. There are no roads; the area is accessible only after several days of hiking. Samuel makes the trek to look for the Curlew.

Things are complicated by a natural gas corporation getting the required permits to beging fracking inside the forest. There will not be just a few wells; there will be many wells, including in the Curlew's nesting area.

Thomas is a forest ranger who has had a run-in with the law. He did a stupid thing, but for the right reasons. He and Samuel put their heads together and see if they can do something to stop the fracking, and preserve a small piece of untouched wilderness.

This an excellent piece of writing. Drouin shows that he knows, and cares, a lot for the natural environment. This is very much recommended.

Ideas are Free: How the Idea revolution is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations

Ideas Are Free: How the Idea Revolution is Liberating People and Transforming Organizations, Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder, Barrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2004

In this hyper-competitive and economically uncertain world, there is a free resource for efficiency and money-saving ideas that few companies have accessed. Why not ask your employees for their suggestions to make the company better?

It's not as easy as putting up suggestion boxes, and waiting for the flood of ideas. First, look at your corporate culture. If yours is the sort of company that discourages ideas from employees (workers are there to work and not think), it will take a lot of work on the part of senior management to convince employees that, this time, things are different. The actual idea submission form must be short, no more than one page. There needs to be a system in place where every idea is acknowledged and evaluated within a specific period of time (for instance, within 24 and 72 hours, respectively). If a middle manager is "sitting on" an idea, for whatever reason, senior management needs to know about it.

In many cases, the immediate supervisor is most qualified to evaluate ideas. Feedback is very important, especially if the idea needs more work, or if the idea has to be rejected. Explaining the reason to the employee will keep them from getting discouraged. When an idea is approved by the right people, there is no reason for it to not be implemented sooner, rather than later (within hours or days, not at the start of the next quarter). There should be continuous checking of ideas to see if they can also be used elsewhere in the company. Managers seem to be only interested in the huge, million-dollar idea. Is there something wrong with a few thousand-dollar ideas?

Setting up a system of monetary rewards for ideas is popular, but not needed. The best "compensation" for an employee is to see their idea implemented, to know that they had a hand in bettering their company. It is very easy for a company to do rewards the wrong way, increasing mistrust among employees. The authors show how to do rewards the right way.

Filled with many real-life examples, this is a clear and insightful book about a surprisingly easy way to get money-saving ideas. This is applicable to all sorts of companies, big and small, and is very much recommended.