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.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Murder By Proxy

Murder By Proxy, Robert L. Hecker, Hard Shell Word Factory, 2006

It's up to Benjamin Roan to save the President of the United States.

Roan is a private investigator from California who has done work for the government in the past. President Burgess is dying of leukemia (the public diagnosis is "pneumonia"). With no close relatives for a bone marrow transplant, things look bleak. From his hospital bed, Burgess tells Roan of an illegitimate daughter he had while in college. Roan's mission is to find her, and convince her to give up a blood sample. Get it back to Washington, and if it's a match, get her to Washington for a bone marrow transplant.

Her name is Lisa, and she's a photographer on assignment in Havana. She is gorgeous, and very opinionated. She doesn't know who her father is. Roan convinces her to give up a blood sample, then they are arrested by a Cuban Colonel named El Tigre. After several narrow escapes, they find themselves back in Washington. Roan and Lisa have both come to the conclusion that someone very high in the US Government wants the President to die. They just have to wait for the leukemia to kill him, so it won't actually be murder.

Even in Washington, in the custody of the US Government, several more attempts are made to kill Lisa, or otherwise prevent her from giving up her bone marrow. By this time, she knows that she is the daughter of the President. Roan and Lisa thought they had gotten rid of El Tigre back in Havana, but he is in Washington, wanting revenge. Ben is in the operating room with Lisa, making sure that nothing goes wrong. Does Lisa successfully give up her bone marrow? Do Lisa and president Burgess have one of those tearful reconciliations? Does Ben fall in love with Lisa?

This is an excellent piece of writing. It's well done from start to finish, it has plenty of political intrigue, and it's the story of a father and daughter who have never met. It is very much worth reading.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Private School Blogger - I Need My Iphone!

Private School Blogger - I Need My IPhone!, Sam Lyons, Gamertag Publishing, 2013

Told in a series of blog postings, this is the story of your average middle-school student at his new (private) school.

Matthew is more interested in computer games than in school. He thinks very little of the school uniform that he has to wear on the first day of school (including a clip-on tie). His mother drops him off in an average, older mini-van, while the other kids get out of  limos and Merecedes-Benzes.

He almost gets out of history class without homework, until another student brings up the subject during class. Mrs. Fuddles, the Vice-Principal, wants to lose weight, so she decides that all the students must also eat healthier food. The students come up with some creative ways to express their dislike of "bunny food." Matthew learns that a couple of his classmates, and fellow computer gamers, live nearby, so he finds that walking home from school is not so bad.

Matthew's mother decides that he needs a haircut, so to save money, she takes him to a local barber college. Matthew is not impressed with the results. After school is the obligatory visit to GameStop to check out new games. He bemoans the boring clothes he got for Christmas, while his new friends got electronics or cool games.

Sounds like the life of the average middle school student, doesn't it? I am sure that many young people can identify with Matthew. It's short, and it's worth reading.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Product is You! Position Yourself for Success as an Advisor

The Product is You! Position Yourself for Success as an Advisor, Mark Magnacca, 1st Books, 2003

There are thousands and thousands of "financial advisors" in America. Why should a person, or company, entrust their money to you over someone else?

First, you should remove any mental reservations, or "glass walls", that are holding you back. Some examples are the feeling that you aren't experienced enough, or that your degree wasn't from a "top" school. Next, you need to write a personal biography. It will tell potential clients about you, and begin to explain why you will do a better job managing their money than anyone else.

Potential clients can appear anywhere, so you need to have an "elevator speech" ready to go at any time. It's a 30-second speech that explains what business you are in, and what value you bring to the customer. (It's not as easy to answer as it sounds.) You need to get more creative than to simply say, "I sell life insurance", and hand them your business card. What distinguishes you from every other life insurance agent who is out there?

When it comes to marketing, you need to go where the fish are. You need to decide on your target audience (please be more specific than "everybody") and target them. Simply putting an ad in the local newspaper is not enough. Put together an Initial Prospect Offering packet to send to potential clients. It should include things like your biography, a summary of the type of services you provide, how you will get paid, testimonials from happy past customers and a sheet answering as many client questions as possible. No matter how basic it is, you will be far ahead of the vast majority of financial advisors, who might send a brochure and their business card, and nothing else.

Ultimately, what is for sale is you, your integrity and expertise, and not the business name on your door or the financial products that you sell. In this hyper-competitive business world, nearly anything that will help you stand out from the crowd is highly recommended. This is highly recommended and it is very easy to read.

Friday, July 19, 2013

E-learning 101

E-learning 101, Liz Hardy, Amazon Digital Services, 2012

You have been away from education for a number of years, perhaps earning a living, or, for whatever readon, physically attending college is not possible. You have heard about this thing called e-learning, but you wonder what it's all about. This ebook gives the answer.

The most important thing to learn is that no one will stand over you making sure your assignments are done. You can do them in your pajamas if you wish, but the obligation to hand them in on time is totally up to you. Before the course starts, make sure you can sign in to the education website. Find the spots where you can get, and hand in, your assignments. Also, find the spot where you can communicate with the teacher.

No time for school? Take a good look at your daily schedule. Maybe you can find only an available half-hour here or hour there, but multiply that by seven days, and you suddenly have more than enough time to study. Feeling less then motivated to study? You'll do the assignment "tomorrow"? This is where you have to discipline yourself to actually do the work, now. If not, then why are you taking the course? Set up a reward, like watching your favorite DVD, for after you finish the assignment.

Set up some kind of early warning system, whether paper or electronic, for major events, like exams or term papers. Deadlines are never fun, but, suddenly realizing that a multiple-page paper is due tomorrow, and you haven't started it, is much worse.

This book does not try to say what course, or what major, you should choose. It looks at the basics of e-learning, and does an excellent job. It is short, and very easy to read, even for those who think that they are "too old" or "too (whatever)" for school. It is well worth the reader's time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA

Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, Charles S. Faddis, Lyons Press, 2009

As shown in the title, the author, a CIA veteran, doesn't believe that the Agency needs fixing or "tweaking." He strongly believes that it needs to be torn down and totally rebuilt.

During World War II, in the days of the OSS, a person or group was given a mission, which usually involved being dropped behind enemy lines, and was told to make it happen. They treated intelligence work as some sort of holy calling. Today, the CIA is filled with bureaucrats and buck-passers who consider it as merely another federal job. It is thought of as a cardinal sin to make waves, even if it will save American lives. The solution to intelligence failures, like 9/11, seems to be to add layers of bureaucracy and "coordination" instead of reducing it.

The US Army's ROTC program trains and continually evaluates potential officers. If a person doesn't measure up to Army standards, they are asked to leave the program. The CIA has no such training program. A person could be a wonderful case officer, but be totally incompetent in a position of leadership. Despite the CIA's rigid bureaucracy, they still know how to put together a covert operation in days, or even hours, when an intelligence opportunity presents itself. Other agencies, like the military and FBI, need months and months of briefings, re-briefings, evaluations and approval from several different people before there can be a final approval. That is why the author strongly feels that the CIA should be the only foreign intelligence agency, and that other agencies should stop their foreign intelligence operations.

In a US embassy overseas, the ambassador is the boss. No covert operation happens without his (or her) approval. The ambassador works for the State Department, whose top rule seems to be "Don't upset the host country", even if that covert operation will save lives. Occasionally, there will be visits from Washington bureaucrats, who would not know a covert operation if they tripped over it. They usually have this wonderful intelligence idea, which sounds great in a Langley conference room, but on the ground, is an amazingly stupid idea.

Physical training for covert agents used to be very rigorous, because an agent had to be able to deal with almost anything. Over the years, standards have been reduced to almost zero. What was "very rigorous" training is now something like mildly stressful. The CIA is in strong need of people on the ground, so physical standards have been reduced to the point where people from other divisions have been let in to the program. It doesn't matter if they have asthma, diabetes or some other major ailment. If they complete the course (there are no repercussions if they don't), they suddenly think they are qualified to go overseas and work on real covert operations, right next to someone with 20 years experience.

This is a very scathing book, but it is much needed. Regardless of your opinions about recent CIA actions, America needs some sort of foreign intelligence agency. This book is an excellent place to start putting together such an agency the right way.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss

Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, Gloria Tsang, HealthCastle Media, 2010

Like most people, you have tried every diet known to man. Whatever weight you are able to lose comes right back. After 14 or 28 days, or however long the diet lasts, do you go through the whole cycle again? Instead of getting discouraged, or believing that you are destined to be overweight forever, there is an alternative.

Forget about dieting. Forget low-carb/high-carb, or low-fat/high-fat. This book provides easy actions, that anyone can do, that can only help your weight loss. In addition to reading the nutrition label, also read the ingredient list. The shorter the list, the better; if it contains anything that sounds like it belongs in a chemistry experiment, put it back on the shelf. If you feel the need to cut back on anything, cut back on your salt intake. Items that say they are "low fat" use chemicals to replace the taste that was removed with the fat.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are best, but don't ignore those that are frozen or canned; they can be just as nutritious. Stay away from products with cartoon characters on the box. Also stay away from products with partially hydrogenated oil. When it comes to meat, it has less fat and calories than many junk foods. Choose meat from animals that are raised naturally, and totally avoid processed meats. Drinking several glasses of water per day can be very boring, so add a tea bag or some frozen fruit.

Use produce to put some color in your diet. When looking for a multivitamin supplement, choose one that is right for your age and gender. Don't worry if you can't prepare a home-cooked meal every night; any home cooking is better than nothing. Don't be afraid of fish; it isn't all high in mercury.

Don't try to do everything in this book at the same time. Pick just one action, and do it for a week. When you have it firmly under control, add another action to it. Losing weight does not get much easier than this. It is very easy to read, and will work for anyone.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mossad X

Mossad X, Ori Rotem, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2013

This novel is about the lengths to which a father will go for his daughter.

The book is set in present-day Israel. Nili works for the Mossad. Yakov, a senior figure in the Mossad, sets up a meeting with her for the next day. The rumor is that the subject will be about Paris. Reuven, another senior Mossad figure, can't let the meeting take place. Both Nili and Reuven were part of a Mossad team that committed a huge error in Paris a few years previously. Reuven is convinced that Nili is going to tell everything, so she must be eliminated.

An assassination is much too obvious, so Meir, Nili's boyfriend, arranges for her to be brutally attacked, and injected with a drug that paralyzes her entire body, including her vocal cords. Nili is not totally paralyzed, so she is able to tell Eli, her father, that she knows the men involved. Eli kidnaps them and "convinces" them to start talking.

If Nili does not receive the antidote within a few weeks, she will die. Reuven has the antidote, but he is not about to save Nili on humanitarian grounds. Eli and Miriam, his wife and former Mossad employee, come up with a plan to get Reuven's teenage children "out of the way" and convince him that they have been kidnapped. Reuven is given a stark choice: save Nili and his children will be freed. Otherwise. . .  Does Nili survive? Do Eli and Miriam survive? Is the huge error in Paris made public?

This one is really good. It's about a father's love for his children, and the things they will do to protect them. It also has plenty of intrigue, and yes, it is very much worth the reader's time.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Vampyric Variations

Vampyric Variations, Nancy Kilpatrick, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2012

Here is a collection of new and different vampire stories, written by one of the masters of the field.

For hundreds of years, a small village in Rumania has played host to an ancient man who does not seem to age. The job of taking care of him has fallen to one family; the responsibility is passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. He is kept in a cage, and deliberately kept weak, so he will not be a threat to the villagers. Count Dracula is in Victorian-era London, and is quite disgusted by what he sees around him. In a zoo, he finds a wolf who still has plenty of "wild," and helps it gain its freedom.

Turning women into vampires, and making them your "followers," may not be such a great idea if they still have the ability to perform sexually, but you, their "maker," have lost it. The eternal search for vampire victims enters the 21st century, with a blog called Vampires Anonymous. Vampires are not limited to Southeast Europe. They can also be present-day domestic servants in Southern California, originally from Ecuador. There are also a couple of longer "classic" vampire stories, that involve lust and romance.

I am not much of a horror reader, but I really enjoyed these stories. They show other aspects of the vampire world, and the "horror" part is not overwhelming. Vampire readers will love this book (if you have not yet read anything by Nancy Kilpatrick, what are you waiting for?), and everyone else will also like it.

Welcome to Sarnia

Welcome to Sarnia, Jan Musil, 2012, self-published

In Mankind's expansion through the galaxy, one of its conquests was the inhabited planet of Sarnia. They ran the planet for about 40 years, until they were beaten by the Mi'ukmac. That was over 130 years ago.

Sarnia is a busy place. Before Mankind came, the planet was run by the Toharrians. Several plagues devastated the three indigenous species, leaving large areas of Sarnia's one continent uninhabited. After the Mi'ukmac took over the planet, they herded all humans into one small area on the eastern edge of the continent. Humans were presented with several good reasons why any attempt to expand their area of residence is a bad idea. Just to make things more complicated, the Mi'ukmac control Sarnia, but they don't administer it. They handed that to another race, the Nu'homish.

Years before, a human rebellion caused the Mi'ukmac to shut off all electric power to the humans, and they show no inclination to turn it back on. Society has therefore regressed to a pre-industrial level. A huge complication is the existence of flying predators (something like pterodactyls) that would love to devour an animal or person. That is why all human habitation, farms and towns, is covered by nets and cables strung from trees and poles. That is why there are no fields of grain (the soil is not good for Earth agriculture) or herds of animals in a pasture. Human houses consist of three levels: the top level is the greenhouse, where the agriculture happens; the middle level is the living quarters, and the ground level is where the animals are kept. The Mi'ukmac are also keeping away any new colonists from Earth.

Considering that this is the first of a projected nine-book series, the actual plot may be a little thin. But the author has done an excellent job at society-building. This is a thick book, but, yes, it's worth reading.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound

Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound, Mark Leslie (ed.), Edge Science Fiction and fantasy Publishing, 2012

This latest collection of speculative fiction stories and poems from canada focuses on the subjects of culture and the arts.

A long-time rock music fan is looking for the ultimate AC/DC bootleg tape, which may or may not actually exist. There is a story about language (not any particular language, but language in general) being intelligent. In a world where genetic engineering has eradicated most congenital diseases, the next genetic abnormality to be eradicated is the "art gene." A famous composer lives alone on a space station orbiting Saturn. His final composition involves playing Saturn's rings like an instrument.

There is a poem called "Zombie Poet". A pair of stories explore the world of dance. The first is about a special kind of memory cloth that can transfer insanity to a sane person, and the other concerns a dance competition between humans and aliens. A woman returns to her high school for her 60th high school reunion. She became a famous singer, and she meets up with an old boyfriend (she is white, and he is black). Muses are treated like intestinal parasites, and removed from people, but destroying them is not easy. A man has rented an isolated cabin in British Columbia to write a novel, but what is on the page becomes a little too real. Another story is about genetic engineering, but, this time, humanity has abolished moods, in effect making Prozac permanent. A desperate attempt is made to bring artists about to die forward in time to provide a dying humanity with emotion and creativity.

This is yet another first-rate collection of stories from Canada. All parts of "the arts" are covered, in very unique ways. Individually, these stories are excellent; together, this book is highly recommended.

The Demon Left Behind

The Demon Left Behind, Marie Jakober, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2011

Melusine is a female demon. No, she doesn't have horns and carry a pitchfork. She is an otherworldly being who lives on a different plane of existence. As leader of a group of demons who have come to present-day Earth (in human form) to investigate the 21st century, she realizes that one member of the group is gone.

Wye-Wye is the youngest member of the group, and insatiably curious, so it is very easy for him to follow his own path to satisfy that curiosity. After much diligent searching, and several broadcast summons (respond immediately or else), the group concludes that Wye-Wye is not just hiding or has lost track of time, he is Seriously Missing.

Melusine takes a big chance, and calls in Paige Ballantyne, human investigative reporter, to help in the search. She tells him all about their origin, and why they're on Earth. As a professional cynic, it takes him a while to accept it. Their search takes them to several different cities. In Toronto, Melusine meets Cyprian, an old friend and fellow demon. He has spent too many years in human form, so he is now "stuck"; he can't change back to demon form. Meantime, the relationship between Melusine and Ballantyne turns serious.

The search moves to Austin, texas, and has to do with an academic conference on the "Left behind" series of novels. It's a place where the residents take their religion (specifically, the End Times) very seriously. Stand-up comedy jokes about it are not acceptable. The group of demons gets involved with the leader of a small local militia group. He has a very well-stocked underground bunker, and is not going to just wait for the End Times to come.

This is a gem of a book. It is an easy to read love story, and a search-for-missing-person story, with just enough weird in it. This is recommended for everyone, even those who think that they won't like fantasy or paranormal books.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wildcatter

Wildcatter, Dave Duncan, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2012

Throughout history, there have always been people willing to risk large amounts of money looking for something lucrative in places where no one else is looking. Wildcatters are best known in the oil drilling industry. In the future, there is a different kind of wildcatter.

Mankind is starting to explore the galaxy, but not for the usual reasons. When unmanned probes report the discovery of a suitable planet, the race is on. There are corporations that specialize in visiting alien planets and looking for chemicals that can be turned into pharmaceuticals back on Earth. The risks are huge, and the profits uncertain. But, if a corporation finds something that becomes the future equivalent of a drug like Viagra or Lipitor, the payoff can be immense.

The spaceship "Golden Hind," part of the Mighty Mite Corporation, is racing to the planet Cacafuego. Having to spend more than a year in hyperspace, in the equivalent of a 2-bedroom apartment, makes relations among the crew very important. That is why the crew consists of 2 men, 2 women and 2 hermaphrodites. When they reach their destination, Galactic, the dominant corporation in the field, has put a beacon in orbit. But, it's a "beware of this planet" beacon, instead of a "stay away, this planet is ours" beacon. The crew of the Golden Hind decides to stick around, so Seth, the prospector of the crew, comes up with a very risky plan to land on Cacafuego.

That is not as easy as it sounds, because the planet is barely tolerable for humans. The temperatures are worse than tropical, the gravity is noticeably higher than on Earth and powerful hurricanes go over the potential landing site every couple of hours. The planet is also inhabited. While on the planet, Seth finds that Galactic has broken nearly every rule in the planetary exploration "book". Does Seth find anything potentially profitable? Does he even get off the planet alive?

This is a solid, well-done piece of writing. Duncan is a veteran writer who shows, once again, that he knows what he is doing. The reader will not go wrong with this short novel.

The Writer

The Writer, Emily Sun Li, Itoh Press, 2012

June is your average resident of the planet Pren. It's a beautiful place, with colorful trees and flowers, and birds who tweet Mozart. According to June, it's also really boring. Out of frustration, she fashions something called a pencil out of a piece of coal, and sits down with lots of paper, to write stories of a whole new world. The place is called Earth.

June learns that she is a Writer, with the ability to Write an entire world into existence. One Earth, June meets a young artist named Jackson. He has a hard time believing her story; he has an even harder time believing that he has related "abilities' of his own. As a Writer, the intention is that June create a Writer for Earth, someone who, out of frustration and boredom, will Write a whole new world into being.

Meantime, Vivien is the Master Writer. Her son, Victor, is a manipulative little you-know-what who thinks that he "deserves" to be the next Master Writer. He also desperately wants to be reWritten (reborn). It is used only in cases of extreme emergency. In her Will, Vivien makes June the next Master Writer, and practically begs her to never, ever reWrite Victor. She is afraid that it will magnify his negative qualities (of which he has many). When told that the answer is No, Victor does not take it well. He spends weeks and weeks plotting the "perfect" way to force June to reWrite him. Does it work? Does Earth get unWritten out of existence (always a possibility)?

This one is surprisingly good. The author does a fine job from start to finish. She is only 16 years old (!), but writes like someone older. Young people will love this book; it's well worth reading for adults, too.