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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What If? Jeremy Shuttle Adventures, Book 1

What If? Jeremy Shuttle Adventures, Book 1, Jeffrey M. Daniels, Booklocker.com, 2010

This YA novel is about a young boy who suddenly acquires a unique ability.

Jeremy Shuttle is your average middle school student. He loves asking questions in class, he deals with the school bully, and he has a friend named Natalie. He also loves drawing in his sketchbook. One day, an art supply store suddenly appears at the end of his street. Yesterday, it was no there. The elderly proprietor gives Jeremy a very special sketchbook. He should have listened more closely to what the proprietor said about it.

Just for fun, Jeremy draws a picture of his school being attacked by a multi-tentacled creature, kind of like a giant octopus. He is shocked to learn that his school really is under attack by a giant octopus. Jeremy tells Natalie about the strange art supply store, and takes her there, but it is gone, like it never existed. Natalie urges Jeremy to be really careful, but Jeremy has to "test" the sketchbook, so he turns himself into an ant.

Jeremy is a very big and strong ant; think of the ant equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He meets other ants and tries to tell them that he is not an ant, but a human. Their reaction is Whatever. Part way through his time as an ant, Jeremy realizes that he doesn't know how to turn back into a human.

Natalie saves his rear end, and strongly urges him to get rid of the sketchbook. Jeremy refuses, and has another "test" for the sketchbook. It involves going back in time to the caveman era, and drawing crude pictures on cave walls. When he returns, Natalie very strongly urges him to get rid of the sketchbook. Jeremy's continued refusal damages their friendship. His ultimate idea is to do something for his mother, whose husband, and Jeremy's father, disappeared during an archaeological expedition several years previously, and has not been heard from since then. Jeremy's idea is either a very considerate thing to do, or it will set new records for backfiring (which almost happens).

First of a trilogy, this YA novel is very good. Who hasn't wanted a way to answer What If? Teens, and adults, will enjoy this story.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dangerous Illusions

Dangerous Illusions, Joseph J. Gabriele, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014

This novel is about a murder that happens right in the middle of an upper-class Manhattan dinner party.

Eliot is the author of a couple of well-regarded books on economics. He lives in a fancy apartment building, with a doorman, and actual elevator operators. During the dinner party, Eugene, a member of the Mayor's administration and a former diplomat, is found dead in Eliot's office. An extremely valuable set of drums is missing (Eliot is working on writing a history of drums). Detective Garielik of the NYPD is a no-nonsense type who is convinced that everyone is guilty (not all at the same time). He asks very pointed questions of everyone involved, including the staff of the apartment building.

Charles is related to Eugene. His wife, Kate, is a lawyer and an overbearing you-know-what who loudly proclaims her anger at not being named executrix of Eugene's will, and at learning that she will get little or nothing of Eugene's considerable assets. Blair is a beautiful woman with several years of government service. She is in New York working for a jerk of a boss, and has developed a major drinking problem. There are a couple of other loveless marriages going on. A couple of times, Detective Garielik thinks that he has found the drums (they are much too valuable to go through the local pawn shop), but Eliot takes one look at them and says No.

As a murder mystery, this book does not work. The was no feeling of needing to keep reading to find out whodunit. It works better, but not much better, as a book about members of Manhattan's upper class. The reader will certainly learn more than they ever wanted to know about drums. Personally, the last quarter of the book, aside from the revelation of the killer (and thief) is the best part of the book. Ultimately, this book is not worth the time.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mindhealer

Mindhealer, Lilith Saintcrow, ImaJinn Books, 2008

Part of a series, this book is about a modern-day society in the middle of a long-term war between the forces of Light and Dark.

Caroline (Caro) Robbins is a Mindhealer, a special kind of witch. She has the ability to go into the mind of someone who has been psychically ravaged by Dark forces, and repair the damage. During an ill-advised drive to a safe house in the city, Caro almost becomes the next victim. She is rescued by a Watcher named Merrick, and brought to the safe house.

Watchers and Witches are never supposed to physically touch; if they do, the physical reaction is something like a severe electric shock. When Merrick touches Caro, and nothing happens, he realizes that the two are bonded. The Watcher/Witch relationship is much more than just a lifelong, 24-hour bodyguard.

Merrick is bound by honor and duty to never let Caro out of his sight, and to sacrifice his life, if necessary, to keep her alive. This is despite Caro's extreme disinterest in having another Watcher. Her previous Watcher died in the line of duty, and she is determined to not go through that again.

The safe house is under nearly constant attack by Dark forces, despite being covered in magical protection spells. Being saved by Merrick, more than once, has not blunted Caro's very wide stubborn streak. During one trip inside a victim's mind, a waiting Dark carnivore almost makes a psychic, and physical, meal out of Caro. Merrick is tormented by not wanting to disobey her, wanting to handcuff her, and sit on her, to keep her out of danger, and the tendency of his crotch to do the thinking, instead of his brain. Do they survive the attacks?

 My only complaint about this book is that it is not the first in the series; I am one of those who has to read a series in order. It's a first-rate piece of writing, with enough romance and emotion between Caro and Merrick (maybe a little too much). Even for those who don't think that they like dark fantasy stories, this is very much worth reading.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Missing Microbes

Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues, Martin J. Blaser, MD, Henry Holt & Company, LLC, 2014

This book looks at the harm that is being done to the human body by modern medicine, especially by the overuse of antibiotics, one of the greatest health discoveries of the last century.

First of all, if a person is suffering from some major ailment, and antibiotics have been shown to work in the past, then don't hesitate to take them. But, taking antibiotics for every sniffle and sore throat is a terrible idea. Penicillin, for instance, is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. That means that it does not just kill the "bad" bacteria, it also kills beneficial bacteria (yes, there is such a thing). Out of, say, a million cold germs, at least one will be resistant to penicillin. With the "good" bacteria, that may have neutralized all of those cold germs, out of the way, that penicillin-resistant germ is now free to multiply without restrictions. Maybe it turns into penicillin-resistant flu, or even worse, pneumonia. What does the person do now?

According to the author, overuse of antibiotics starts in early childhood. A baby spends nine months in a sterile environment before being born. It's first exposure to beneficial bacteria and microbes comes from going through the mother's birth canal. Wiping babies clean, as soon as they are born, while understandable, is a bad idea. Taking a baby by caesarian section, purely for convenience, totally bypassing the birth canal, is an even worse idea (if the life of the mother or the baby is in danger, then, by all means, do a c-section).

Nearly all types of farm animals are fed antibiotics to keep them healthy, or fatten them up for slaughter. Some portion of those antibiotics will end up in the milk you drink, or the meat you eat. The lack of "good", disease-fighting, bacteria in the human body may be behind the recent huge rise in allergies, digestive diseases, asthma or some types of cancer.

This is a huge eye-opener, and it will give the reader plenty to consider. It is very highly recommended for everyone.  

Will There Be Donuts? Better Business One Meeting at a Time

Will There Be Donuts? Better Business One Meeting at a Time, David Pearl, HarperCollins, 2013

Meetings are the bane of modern-day business. Is there any way to make them not so long, boring and unproductive?

First of all, exchange the donuts and soda for something much healthier, like water and protein bars. The sugar rush, followed by the mid-afternoon sugar crash, helps no one.

Why do people attend meetings? It's a nice alternative to doing actual work, technology makes it possible, we confuse "efficient" and "effective", and we forget that there is an alternative.

Looking at the anatomy of meetings, there is a big difference between what a meeting is about, and the intention. Make sure the "right" people are at your meeting, like the Leader, the Recorder, the Facilitator and the Coach. Look at things from the point of view of your customers. Read magazines that you would not normally read; listen to other radio stations. Who attends meetings? Do they have to be there?

What can be done? The average hotel "business conference room" is a windowless room in the basement with harsh artificial lighting. Stay out of that room. Hold your meeting in the hotel lounge, or, even better, hold it outside. Back at the office, consider getting rid of your big, rectangular conference table, and replacing it with several smaller tables with swivel chairs.

Have an agenda, and stick to it (but leave room for the unexpected). Is this meeting to brainstorm new ideas, or to keep everyone informed on recent developments? Don't let anyone change the focus of the meeting, or otherwise monopolize it. Impose a Fine Jar, where all participants are required to pay if they are caught texting during the meeting.

This book is very much worth reading for companies of all sizes. Even small changes in a company's meetings can only help. Some sort of summary or bullet points would have made this book even better, but, yes, it is worth the money.