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, January 26, 2014

Vic: Mongol

Vic: Mongol, Jerry Gill, Ann Darrow Co., 2013

This is another novel about Victoria Custer, your average citizen of the early 20th century who really is not so average.

On the outside, Victoria, who now calls herself Vic Challenger, likes to wear pink and has a big interest in cloches (women's hats). On the inside, she has an avatar that is a part of her. It's name is Nat-ul, a female cave dweller who lived about 100,000 years ago. Because of her presence, Vic has acquired a desire, or a wish, to go to places that even the most experienced male adventurers would hesitate to visit. She is searching for the modern incarnation of Nu, her lover from all those centuries ago.

In this book, Vic, and her friend, Lin Li, travel to Mongolia. On the boat ride across the Pacific, they assist in a murder investigation. Upon reaching China, they meet up with Chu, whose family lives in an isolated bit of Mongolia. These are tough times for Mongolia, with the Chinese on one side and the Russians on the other, and criminals from either side ready to attack at any time.

The trio narrowly escape being eaten by giant worms that live under the sand. If the mouths full of sharp teeth (like a lamprey) don't get you, then the liquid they spew, that can dissolve flesh and bone in seconds, will. Later, they come under attack by a band of Russian pirates. They get some unexpected help from more of the giant worms. Chu shows them the entrance to a buried city that really is full of treasure. Almost too late, they learn that the city is not deserted. Does Vic find the modern incarnation of Nu, her lover?

This is a very good page-turner. It's exciting, and it will really keep the reader's interest. It has just enough weird stuff in it, and it shows the power of real love between two people.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

SOS: Stop Only Sugar Diet

SOS: Stop Only Sugar Diet, James A. Surrell, MD, Bean Books LLC, 2010

This book is all about a very easy weight loss program. It consists of only two rules.

Greatly reduce, or eliminate, your consumption of refined sugar. Greatly increase your consumption of fiber. That's all. The author strongly believes that most "diets" are much too complicated. He subscribes to the MISS principle (Make It Short and Simple).

When digested, refined sugar, is stored in the body as body fat. Among the potential, and reported, side effects are: it may lead to childhood and adult obesity; it may increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular disease; it may lead to Type 2 diabetes in children and adults; obesity will increase the risk of cancer, and it may double the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.

Sugar substitutes, like saccharin and aspartame, are much less unhealthy than is refined sugar. A popular weight loss idea is to do a colon cleanse. Getting rid of that waste material will drop your weight by several pounds. Don't do it. The colon is supposed to have waste material in it. A cleaned-out colon can lead to very bad things physically.

The human body is over 60 percent water, so drinking several glasses a day is a very good thing. Fast food restaurants are increasingly adding healthy items to their menus. Another side effect of excess refined sugar is that it causes the body to produce more insulin, which leads to the production of more cholesterol. The book also includes a list of low-sugar and high-fiber foods, and those foods that are to be totally avoided.

Just two rules: how much easier can it get? This book is short, very easy to read, and it has a lot to say. This is very highly recommended.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture

Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture, Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, Riverhead Books, 2013

Everyone has heard of Big Data; huge amounts of information, usually involving computers or the Internet. Is there a cultural or historical equivalent of Big Data?

Yes, and it comes from Google's intention to digitize all the world's books (or, at least, a significant portion of them). The authors created an algorithm that would search all those books for certain words. On a chart, it will show, for instance, how many times, per million words, the name "Abraham Lincoln" was used, or "World War II." It can also be used to compare the historical use of pairs of words, like Satan/Santa, evolution/DNA, men/women, war/peace, tea/coffee or old school/new school. It can be found at books.google.com/ngrams ("Possibly the greatest time-waster in the history of the Internet." - Mother Jones magazine). Google needed convincing that this was a good idea, that it would not open them up to millions of copyright infringement lawsuits.

Using this algorithm, it is possible to look at things like historical attempts at censorship. It can range from Nazi attempts to remove Jewish artists like Marc Chagall from the German cultural landscape, to the 1950's Hollywood Blacklist. A person can also look at how long a certain word or phrase stays in the cultural memory. For instance, "Korean war" has a huge jump in usage in the 1960's, then an equally huge drop in usage soon after, down to its present level of almost nothing.

The book also looks at the evolution of the English language. If we have pairs of words like drive/drove, what happened to thrive/throve? Also, what happened to words like burnt, learnt and dwelt? It all has to do with irregular verbs, which change over time.

This is a fascinating book, but it will take some effort on the part of the reader. It's very well done, and it gives the reader the chance to do their own historical research.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Streaming: Movies, Media and Instant Access

Streaming: Movies, Media and Instant Access, Wheeler Winston Dixon, University Press of Kentucky, 2013

Like it or not, the streaming of movies and music is becoming an increasingly large portion of all internet traffic. This book gives the details.

Why shouldn't a person be able to pay a few dollars to stream a movie at home, when going to the theater or buying the DVD costs a lot more? At the theater, does the projectionist load a film canister on a 35mm projector and turn it on? Increasingly, the answer is no. The majority of theaters have gone to all-digital systems. The movie is downloaded from the distributor, along with an electronic code. That code can be good for just one showing, on one specific day. If the right code is not available, or if it does not work properly, then there is no showing.

Fewer and fewer movies are being shot on actual film, because fewer and fewer theaters have film projectors. Unless there is an art house cinema nearby, any watching of older, or less well known, films, on actual film, is pretty much impossible. When is the last time that an older or obscure film was available at the local multi-theater megaplex? If whoever has a film copy of that older, obscure film, does not think it is lucrative enough to put it on DVD, there is little that can be done about it. Soon, the only way to watch films of any kind, will be through on-line streaming. Depending on your point of view, this is either that natural progression of technology, or it's the end of the world.

What Netflix is doing to the movie business, Apple is doing to the music business, and Amazon is doing to book publishing. Amazon is now selling more Kindle copies of books than paper copies. Facebook is little more than a way to suck up people's personal information, and sell it to advertisers (Google Glass, plus new facial recognition technology, will make that much easier). Facebook has created over 80 million fake accounts. The hope is that the author, for instance, will see their account already set up, and decide to use it. For that reason, the author says that he will never post on Facebook.

This is a very interesting book. For some, it may be common knowledge, but I learned a lot from it. It's no-technical, and very easy to read. It's also very much worth checking out.  

Eden M51

Eden M51, G.R. Paskoff, Amazon Digital Services, 2012
(Kindle Book Review)

Set a few decades from now, this science fiction novel is about an Earth that has seen better days. A potentially Earth-like planet is found. . .in another galaxy.

The climate of mid-21st Century Earth has pretty much fallen apart. The polar ice caps are gone, leading to a big rise in sea levels. This has forced the creation of cities like New Orlando, and a new Washington DC. That is because the old cities are under water. Common animals like cows and horses are extinct; the situation is no better in the oceans. Earth's population has risen to over 20 billion. Very long range space probes have found an Earth-like planet, in the M51 galaxy.

America would prefer to keep the news to itself, but that becomes not possible, so an international expedition sets off for a trip that takes six months each way (intergalactic travel in only six months?!). Led by Captain Nathan Hawke, some small bits of sabotage are discovered. It's nothing obvious like a bomb found in an inaccessible spot, but someone does not want the expedition to succeed.

The planet Eden really does live up to its name. It has a breathable atmosphere, crystal clear water, abundant plant and animal life, and friendly humanoid natives called the Myng'h. They knew the humans were coming, because Ahn-Ben, their god, told them. Each of the humans has a private conversation with Ahn-Ben. He finds the secret spots in their souls that they don't like to talk about. He also knows a lot about humans.

There are those among the humans who think of the Myng'h as little more than animals to be rounded up and confined to some barren part of Eden. The flood of colonists and corporations would spell the end of the Myng'h culture. Ahn-Ben is not interested in doing anything about it. Can the human expedition keep Eden for the Myng'h?

This novel gets four stars. While parts of it may be a little predictable, the author does a very good job throughout, especially with the society-building (of Earth and Eden). Yes, it's well worth reading.

(The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book in exchange for an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career

Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career, Daniel Roberts, Fortune Books, 2013

Based on Fortune Magazine's "40 Under 40" column, this book gives short profiles of some of the biggest names in American business, and how they got there.

Of course, the people that one would expect to see in any such book are here, including Marissa Mayer, Elon Musk, Tony Hsieh, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Also included are the CEO's of Rent The Runway, TOMS Shoes and Change.org, senior executives from Heineken and ArcelorMittal (one of the biggest steel producers in the world), and Lebron James.

It is very acceptable to want to take on Goliath (the dominant company in your field). It is just as acceptable to concentrate on doing one thing really well. These days, it seems to be fashionable to jump from one company to another during your career, never spending more than a couple of years in one place. There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending your career at one company.

Some people are serial entrepreneurs. They thrive on getting a company established, or taking it public. Once that happens, they go one to the next one; they are less interested in actually running the company. What do you do after making a large, public blunder? Do you stay at the same company, withdraw from the public eye, and work to rebuild your image? Do you move to another company, and work to rebuild your image? Find something that you are passionate about, something that gets you up in the morning. It may be possible to find, or create, your dream job in that area, no matter how un-high tech it may be.

If they can do it, why can't you? This is a very inspiring group of portraits of today's business leaders. Each portrait is only a few pages long, so they are also easy to read. This is well worth reading for anyone in business, whether large, small or start-up.

The Unholy Trinity: Origins

The Unholy Trinity: Origins, Daniel Gage, 2013
(Kindle Book Review)

First of a series, this paranormal novel is about a young woman who is suddenly running for her life.

Kathryn has a unique ability to influence people to do whatever she wants. She never knew just what she was, until the day that men dressed in red, showed up at her workplace, a strip club, armed with swords and a crossbow. She is rescued by Jacob, a man who walked out of a hospital earlier that day after being seriously injured the previous day.

Imagine Kathryn's surprise when Jacob tells her that she is half-demon, but not just any half-demon. They travel to Kathryn's father, who lives several hours away by car. An expert wizard, he is in the process of resurrecting his dead wife. He is opposed by Rebecca, his daughter, who also knows a lot about the wizard world. After the resurrection attempt is permanently stopped, Rebecca joins Kathryn and Jacob.

Imagine the reaction when Jacob says that he is a full demon, direct from Hell. Very powerful forces from Hell want Kathryn dead, not just the men in red. In their travels, the trio battles vampires and human-looking werecoyotes. Because of who and what she is, there are only a few ways to make Kathryn less easy to track. Can a demon, a half-demon and a wizard survive against the forces of Hell?

Told from the point of Kathryn, Jacob and Rebecca, this is a really good story. It moves very quickly, and has plenty of action and weird stuff. This deserves at least 4 stars, maybe even 4.25 stars.

(The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book in exchange for an independent, honest and fair review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.)