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, June 29, 2014

Clockwork Heart

Clockwork Heart, Dru Pagliassoti, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, 2013

This fantasy/romance tale takes place in a very stratified society.

Taya is an icarus, a courier (with metal wings) who can move freely between the social classes in the city of Ondinium. A person's class is tattooed on their forehead; only through reincarnation can a person rise in class.

One day, Taya saves an Exalted (members of the elite class) and her son from what could have been a mid-air disaster. There is a growing terrorism problem in Ondinium; was this their handiwork? Her heroism attracts the attention of Exalted Alister Forlore, a member of the ruling council (he is also very handsome). He also writes computer programs for the Great Engine, the analytical engine that helps to run the city. He has written a program that is supposed to predict a person's most compatible mate. Taya also meets Alister's brother, Christof. He is a sarcastic you-know-what who has renounced his Exalted status and lives in the Ondinium equivalent of the inner city.

Tempting as it is, Taya knows that having any sort of intimate relationship with an Exalted is a really bad idea. A few days later, an aircar in which Alister was supposed to be riding explodes in midair. There is no chance for a definite identification of the dead, but everyone assumes that Alister is dead. It becomes known that someone has been trying to run unauthorized programs in the Great Engine, which is a huge offense, even for an Exalted. Taya and Christof learn, to their shock, that Alister staged his own death, and that his personal-compatibility program is only the beginning of his plans for the people of Ondinium.

I totally enjoyed this book. It's got steampunk, and it's got really good writing that is easy to read. It also has a bit of romance. I am very interested in reading the other parts of this trilogy (whenever they are available).

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Puzzle Box

The Puzzle Box, The Apocalyptic Four, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, 2013

This book shows that reality is not what we think it is, and the key is a puzzle box.

Professor Albert Mallory has stolen an ancient puzzle box, and plans to sell it to pay gambling debts. The night before the debt comes due, a man named The Chronicler visits Mallory and demands to see the box. From the open box, Mallory watches the stories of four other people who opened the box.

Warlock is a roadie for a rock band. He falls for a woman who really is part of a coven of witches, which he is all set to join. Through the open box comes Satan, who offers a chance to become the band's lead singer, replacing the current lead singer who is in the hospital. Autumn Bailey was sent to Earth to live as a human until her 30th birthday. She actually has a very strong connection to Greek mythology.

Angela Matterly is a video store clerk who likes to wear cats-eye contact lenses. One night, Roger, a fellow employee, gets the box open, and out pops an eight-foot tall djinn named Skip. Angela is offered three wishes, but there is a time limit. She uses one of the wishes, but things turn very bad, so she is able to put things back the way they were. Things get complicated when Angela learns that Ellen, her mother, and Skip, the djinn, already know each other (it's not what you are thinking).

Sam is a comic book artist who meets Lucy at an art show. Their relationship gets hot and heavy, until Lucy's ex-boyfriend interrupts them, carrying a shotgun. After he shoots Lucy, and then himself, things get weird.

These are all first-rate stories (personally, the second pair of stories are a little better than the first pair). They are well-done, and they are nice and weird. The reader will not go wrong with this book.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Factory World

The Factory World, Joseph Edward Ryan, Steam Press, 2013

This post-apocalyptic novel is about two people who find themselves in a very strange place.

Simon is a young boy who wakes up in a drain pipe, with no memory of home. He is wearing a Cowardly Lion costume, because he is a fan of the Wizard of Oz. Simon is met by an older man, who also doesn't know where he came from, or even his own name. Simon calls him the Tin Man.

They start walking along abandoned railroad tracks through a desolate landscape. They pass huge, deserted factories. There are a number of what look like mannequins made out of black rubber (later in the book, a way is found to make them come alive). They meet a couple of other humans who, in various ways, are not very friendly. Occasional shooting stars plow holes in the earth which show a series of pipes underground, like the planet is a giant factory. Do they find a way back home?

This is a pretty "quiet"novel, with only two main characters, so it will take some patience on the part of the reader. That patience will be rewarded, because this is a good story. My only criticism is that the ending felt a little too easy, or cop out-ish. It is still well worth reading.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Semmant, Vadim Babenko, Ergo Sum Publishing, 2013

This is the story of a man and his sentient computer program.

As a boy, Bogdan Bogdanov is taken away from his home in the former Yugoslavia, and sent to a special school for the very intelligent in Brighton, England. After several years, the school is forced to close, so Bogdanov finds himself on his own.

His first job is at a laboratory in Switzerland. He starts it with the highest level of enthusiasm, but, after a couple of years, he gets bored and quits. Moving from lab to lab all over Europe, the pattern is always the same. Bogdanov learns about world financial markets by working for a swindler and currency manipulator. He eventually finds himself alone in Madrid.

Bogdanov spends months writing the ultimate financial trading computer program, which he calls Semmant. He does not just fill it with prices from the financial section of the local newspaper. He also fills it with books and articles on psychology and sociology, anything that might have an effect on the financial world. Semmant's first solo financial trades do not end well, but it eventually gets the "hang" of it.

Meantime, Bogdanov has loved and lost the lovely Lidia. In an attempt to get her back, he creates an online character named Adele, and posts stories of their "relationship" in an online forum that Adele is known to frequent. The reconciliation does not end well, and Semmant (who has been filled with a lot more than just financial information) falls for Adele. It then takes matters into its own hands.

On the positive side, this book has a lot of interesting ideas, like a computer program that achieves anything resembling sentience. On the negative side, told in flashback, the reading is dry and slow. Also, cuts could have been made in the word count of this book. If the reader has a lot of patience, then this book is worth reading. Otherwise, this book can be skipped.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Nest of Worlds

Nest of Worlds, Marek Huberath, Restless Books, 2014

This dystopian novel is about a very rigidly stratified society, based on a person's hair color.

Gavein and his wife, Ra Mehleine, are moving to the Land of Darabel, by law. Every thirty-five years, everyone is required to emigrate to another of the four Lands. They are of different social classes, so Gavein needs special permission to include his wife on his passport. Time moves at very different speeds, based on altitude, so they are able to eliminate the several years age difference between them. All citizens also have a Significant Name, which details the manner of their deaths.

As time goes on, people start dying around Gavein (who was given the name Dave by the immigration authorities). It is many more than normal, and all in accordance with their Significant Names. Gavein professes total innocence; it could be someone he passed on the street, or someone he saw on TV. When the death toll reaches the hundreds, panic sets in. Central Darabel is deserted. Anyone named Dave is taken into the street and lynched. All attempts to kill Gavein and Ra Mehleine fail.

Ra Mehleine develops terminal cancer. The only time she is not in pain is when Gavein reads a book called Nest of Worlds. It's a Russian doll sort of book, with a world within a world within another world. If there are an infinite number of worlds, one inside another, and if the "real" world of Gavein and Ra Mehleine is World One, is there a Superworld Zero? Are they all characters in someone else's story?

I loved this book. The author has a way of quietly introducing new concepts, like the very different time speeds, so this is not a book for skimming and skipping chapters. For those who like to read the last chapter ahead of time, don't do it. The reader will have little or no idea what is happening without having read the rest of the book. Things get rather convoluted by the end, and it will give the reader quite a mental workout, but this book is extremely highly recommended.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Red Sky Radio

Red Sky Radio, Matt Howarth, Merry Blacksmith Press, 2011

Set in the far future, this book is about a group of freelancers who harvest gases from a Jovian planet.

Peri Fairchild is one of the divers who has been physically modified to survive in vacuum. She could become very rich harvesting gases from the gas giant Baltuss, but she is addicted to diving. All of the freelance divers live in an abandoned space hotel. Harvest Corp., the corporation who runs the harvest operation, considers the divers to be pirates, and would love to destroy the space hotel, if only they could find it (it's not as easy as it sounds). Another big headache for Harvest is the existence of Red Sky Radio, a pirate radio station that plays really good music, instead of the boring crap that comes from Harvest.

Dezi is an older miner, who has several personal secrets. He also loves to start rumors, just to see what will happen. He whispers to Peri that Harvest has developed killer robot drones, to pick off the "pirates" one at a time. During a mining trip in Baltuss' atmosphere, Peri spots one, and freaks out. None of the other miners will believe her. During another mining trip, accompanied by Juul, a recent defector from Harvest, Peri spots another "drone" and Juul shoots it with his laser gun. They have just done what Harvest has been unable to do for years, put Red Sky Radio off the air.

The other miners are convinced that this is the just the first move by Harvest Corp., and that the "final battle" is coming. Dezi admits to Peri and Juul that he is behind Red Sky Radio. It will take money to repair the transmitter, so Peri is obligated to go gas mining, for real this time. Meantime, one of Dezi's "secrets" causes the destruction of the entire Harvest Corp. base, and the moon on which it was built. Can both sides find a way to work together?

This is a very well-written story. It's nice and weird, and the inclusion of pirate radio certainly helps. The reader will not go wrong with this one.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Cross to Bear

A Cross to Bear, Jack Patterson, Green E-Books, 2014

This novel is about two young men caught up in the world of big-time college football recruiting.

Tre'vell Baker and Dominique Martin are lief-long friends, and very talented high school football players, from small-town Louisiana. Therefore, all the big southern universities (Alabama, Georgia, Florida State, LSU, among many others) are very interested in recruiting them. They verbally commit to Bryant University in Alabama, then visit the school. It's the sort of school that doesn't just severely bend the NCAA recruiting rules, it outright ignores them. While at Bryant, Tre'vell records something that causes both of them to un-commit, and would bring the NCAA Death Penalty down on the school. A couple of days later, Tre'vell is shot and killed by an unknown assailant.

Cal Murphy is a sports reporter from Atlanta. He is sent to do a story on college recruiting, focusing on Tre'vell and Dominique. He meets several "boosters" for several schools. They are passionate fans, whose unofficial job is to keep an eye on the recruit, and do whatever is necessary to get them to "their" school. One day, a brand new sports car is in Dominique's driveway. Supposedly, it's from his Uncle Bernard (who works as a janitor). Dominique knows that it is from one of these boosters (which is very illegal). He posts pictures of himself with the car online. He suddenly goes from Golden Boy to Radioactive; all the other schools who were very interested in him are no longer interested. As Cal gets closer to uncovering just what is going on, a burlap sack is thrown over his head, he is tossed into the back of a pickup truck, and taken deep into the Louisiana Bayou. Several hungry alligators are very nearby.

This story works on all levels. It works as a thriller. It works as a look inside big-time football recruiting, in a part of America where college football is taken Very Seriously. The author is a sportswriter, so it also feels real and plausible. This is a first-rate piece of writing.