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, March 29, 2015

Mesmer's Disciple

Mesmer's Disciple, Edward Swanson, River Run Select, 2012

This historical novel is about a man forced to confront evil beings directly from Hell.

Alvord Rawn is a police captain in 1840's New York City. He is not afraid to fight violence with violence, until the day that he goes too far. Now an ex-police captain, he is traveling to St. Louis, the gateway to the frontier, on a private matter. Charles Deas is an up-and-coming artist, whose letters home to his mother, a member of New York's high society, have become increasingly dark and bizarre. She asks Rawn to find her son, and bring him back home.

Deas has fallen under the influence of Count Abendroth, a practitioner of mesmerism. It's an early form of hypnosis, but, in Abendroth's hands, it is a lot more than just hypnosis. In looking around Abendroth's estate, Rawn sees a woman literally climbing the walls. He also hears hideous sounds, not of this earth, coming out of people's mouths. Abendroth's plan is to train disciples in mesmerism, and use them to control the state of Missouri, then control the neighboring states and territories, and then, who knows?

Rawn gets his own taste of mesmerism (which has led to a population explosion in the psycho ward of the local jail). He is exposed to black, unspeakable beings who are just waiting for a chance to suck an innocent soul to Hell. Rawn fights his way out of it, but, to get to Abendroth, he has to get past Otto Volkmar, A Prussian giant and Abendroth's chief enforcer. Who wins the epic, no holds barred battle? What happens to Deas and Abendroth?

This is an excellent novel. It feels historically accurate (Charles Deas was a real person who lived in St. Louis, and later went insane in New York City), and is very easy to read from start to finish. It also has plenty of action. This is highly recommended.

How to Get What You Want For Girls

How to Get What You Want For Girls, Zanna Anne Jezek, CreateSpace, 2010

This short book, written by a teen for teens, shows how to get more out of life by setting and achieving goals.

The goal could be something small, like earning enough money to buy a new mp3 player. The goal could be something bigger, like spending more time with your family, or improving your academic performance in your worst subject in school. It needs to be specific; vague goals like "I want to get healthy" or "I want to win the lottery" are not acceptable. It needs to have a time limit attached to it. It is totally OK to break a large goal into smaller, more manageable pieces. Write your goal on a piece of paper, and post it somewhere that you can see it every day. Putting it on paper is more permanent than leaving it in the back of your mind.

When you write your goal on paper, put it in terms of what you want, and not what you don't want. For instance, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds before the start of summer vacation, write "I want to lose 20 pounds before the start of summer vacation so that I can feel better about myself, and so that I can look hot at the beach." Don't write "I want to lose 20 pounds before the start of summer vacation because I don't want to be overweight anymore."

There will be days when you don't want to do anything toward your goal; you might have to dig deep to find the discipline and motivation to keep going. Consider doing just one goal-oriented thing per day. After a couple of weeks, you will be that much closer to your goal. When you reach it, be sure to celebrate, then start looking for your next goal.

This book is short, very easy to read, and goes step-by-step through the whole process of setting goals. My only criticism is that it needs a trip, or another trip, to a proofreader or copy-editor. Get past that, and this book is well worth reading, for teens and adults.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Navigator

The Navigator, Eoin McNamee, Wendy Lamb Books (Random House), 2006

This novel is about a young boy who finds himself in a very strange situation.

Owen's father committed suicide, and people around town whisper that Owen will follow in his father's footsteps. Mom has sunk into a fog of depression. In Owen's forest hideaway, there is a huge flash, and everything has changed. Geographically, Owen is in the same place, but everything, and everyone, that he knew is gone. A person called the Sub-Commandant tells Owen that a rag-tag group of humans called the Resisters are at war with ethereal beings called the Harsh. They have succeeded in causing time to run backwards. The intention of the Harsh is to go back to a time before humans, take over Earth, and turn it into a frozen wasteland.

Some of the Resisters think that Owen is a spy for the Harsh, or, at minimum, a collaborator. Before he died, Owen's father played a significant part in causing the war. The only way to end the war, and to get time going in the right direction, is to bring a special piece called the Mortmain, to the Puissance, or Great Machine, far to the north. Then Owen must go down into the earth a great distance, and place the Mortmain in the right spot. Naturally, the Harsh will be waiting. Does Owen succeed? Does Own even survive? Is everything restored to the way it was?

As you may have guessed, this is a young adult novel, and, as such, it is pretty good. There are good characters, and plenty of action. Older young people, and adults, will also like this book.


Uncategorized, Sue Lange, Book View Cafe, 2010

Here is a group of previously published stories on a variety of subjects.

There is a story about suicide, from the "inside." A small-town tinkerer builds a mobile anti-bullying device. Its artificial intelligence is able to learn the difference between teasing and real bullying. In a world where the weekend entertainment consists of watching bulls be slaughtered and cut into pieces, while still alive, what is the worst, most disgusting thing that a person can do with their spare time?

A woman runs the bar at a run-down, isolated hotel. Just before she calls a plumber for a water-pipe problem, an elderly woman walks up the road to the hotel, saying that she is a plumber. But, she is more than just a plumber. The workers on a mining planet are about to stage a wildcat strike. Having spent years on the planet, they figure they can easily get jobs on other planets. A female worker, who recently came to the planet from outside, and who supposedly has no management aptitude, quickly corrects the notion: there are no jobs out there.

Will there come a time when a company health plan includes quotas? For instance, Company X is required to have a certain number of pregnancies, or cases of cancer, per year. What if that quota is not reached? A female worker is able to spend a lot of time, unprotected, in the radioactive part of a nuclear reactor. It is because of a cell-transformation process that uses a special protein to cause her cells to secrete the biological equivalent of lead. A central ingredient in that protein is male sperm. Company policy says that she has to have sex a minimum of once a year, taking time off work, if necessary. If she doesn't do it, her cell walls break down and she dies.

The only thing these stories have in common is that they are all really good, and well written, and pretty thought-provoking, too. This is very much worth reading.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Protest Inc: The Corporatization of Activism

Protest Inc.: The Corporatization of Activism, Peter Dauvergne and Genevieve LeBaron, Polity Press, 2014

In a time of what seems to be a rise in global activism, this book presents a very different view.

Things are not at the point of "Greenpeace/Pepsico" or "Amnesty International (A Division of Unilever)," but a person could be forgiven for thinking that such a day is coming. Major NGOs have entered into multi- million dollar partnerships with corporations like Shell, Coca-Cola or Walmart (they certainly have more global than the United Nations). These corporate partners are going to expect more business-like behavior out of what, twenty years ago, was a rag-tag bunch of activists. Groups like the Sierra Club or World Wildlife Fund now have multi-million dollar annual budgets, boards of directors, offices all over the world and hundreds (or thousands) of employees. A growing number of organizations are interested in "corporate friendly" activism.

The consumerizing of activism is another growing trend. Purchase a certain item (usually made in China) and a portion of the money will be donated to some worthy cause. It helps the retailer to look good, and the worthy cause may get a small amount of extra money in their bank account. On the other hand, is more consumerism really the answer for world hunger or cancer research?

When dealing with the police or city officials, taking the streets has never been easy. Post-9/11, new laws have been passed which make it nearly impossible. Almost any public protest or disruption of daily activity can be equated with terrorism. Facing a police force that dresses and acts like the military, courtesy of surplus equipment from the Defense Department, certainly doesn't help.

In the middle of the 20th Century, there was much more of a social interest in getting together, like at the local union hall, to discuss the state of society. Those days are gone. Today, society is much more atomized. People are working two jobs, just to make ends meet, or they are spending their free time playing video games, so getting together to better society is low on the list of priorities.

This is a gem of a book, though also rather disheartening. It is a huge eye-opener, and should be read by all parts of society, including activists and non-activists.

The Trillionist

The Trillionist, Sagan Jeffries, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2013

This novel is the story of a young man named Sage Rojan. Even from birth, Sage's parents knew that he was "different."

In the crib, it looked like he was talking to someone. He spoke in complete sentences at a very young age. As a child, Sage would suddenly fly into a rage, for no apparent reason. He was also incredibly smart.

The reason was that Sage had a Presence, not an actual being, living inside him. The Presence needed a technologically advanced planet, so, with its "help," Sage invented all sorts of techno-marvels. It started with a way to learn what was happening on the other side of the world. Imagine if America had technologically progressed from the light bulb to the Internet, within ten years. Sage becomes the most popular person in the world.

The Presence thought nothing of taking over Sage's body, working it past the point of exhaustion, and letting Sage deal with the aftermath. He couldn't tell anyone about the Presence, because his popularity would vanish, and he would be thrown in the equivalent of a mental hospital. His popularity did vanish, because the Presence's single-minded determination turned Sage into a mean, rotten person.

In space, Sage is forced to build a thing which goes very wrong. It starts moving toward Sage's planet, and will destroy the planet if it reaches it. An attempt to tow it out of the way is a failure. A plan to teleport the whole population to another world never gets going. The only possibility is for Sage to plead his case before The Artisan, the being which created the universe. Does he succeed? Does The Artisan help Sage get rid of the Presence, once and for all?

The story is very easy to read, and does a fine job at showing a society in technological fast-forward. From start to finish, it is very much worth reading.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Hook, Nicolas Tsamis, Amazon Digital Services, 2012

In part one of a series, in India, a Buddhist holy man dies of old age, but not really. His spirit stays around, somewhere between life and death. He is able to inhabit, and speak through, any being that he wishes. Spirit's press conference, via a talking German Shepherd, is a worldwide sensation.

In present-day Greece, Spirit urges Konstantino, through his parrot, Hook, to do a really heartbreaking thing concerning Myrna, his long-time girlfriend (no, he doesn't kill her). He is convinced, through mental images supplied by Spirit, that it really is for the good of mankind. Myrna is not told, intentionally, but Konstantino's emotional anguish is very severe. When "it" happens in Vienna, Konstantino begins to start to understand.

Everything involves the holy man being born to Myrna, and leading mankind to new era of peace and happiness. Rahul, one of his followers is brought in and will be able to tell if the holy man has made it into the soul of Myrna's child.

The CIA gets interested. Many years before, they kidnapped a brilliant scientist, and have kept him isolated ever since. It's for a good reason; his invention would totally revolutionize the world. His only companion has been a parrot, which is how his invention got to "the group" (it's more than just Myrna and Konstantino). They have been quietly amassing huge amounts of money, to bring the invention into reality. Despite their very diligent precautions, the government is closing in. Does everyone survive? Does the holy man make it into the soul of Myrna's child?

This is an intriguing idea that almost makes it to the level of "excellent." There is nothing specifically wrong with this book, just a feeling of "almost, but not quite."


The Great American College Tuition Rip-Off

The Great American College Tuition Rip-Off, Paul Streitz, Oxford Institute Press, 2005

This book gives a very different view of the world of college tuition.

It's rare when any college's annual tuition increase is at or below the rate of inflation (usually they are far above the inflation rate). Colleges know that parents are a captive audience, that they will pay whatever the college decides.

A major culprit is the yearly college listing published by US News and World Report. Among the things they measure is college expenditures, so any thought of cutting spending is forbidden. Heads will roll at a college if it drops in the ratings. Is there any real difference in the quality of education between a Top Ten and a Top Fifty school?

Back at school, the academic requirement that professors must "publish or perish" needs to stop. Most academics will make no real contribution to their field, but they still require the latest in (very expensive) equipment to do their "research." If they do get published, it will be in some obscure journal that no one reads, and that exists only to publish papers. Professors should be hired to just teach.

A large number of clubs or other activities at a school shows that the academic part is not enough to hold a student's attention. Are parents shelling out tens of thousands of dollars a year so their children can get an education or be involved in the Chess Club or Drama Society? There are colleges that focus just on academics, and they are surviving quite nicely. When a wealthy benefactor gives money for a new library or sports building, is the gift enough to cover the entire cost of construction, or is it just enough to start construction, with the school, and the parents paying the rest of the cost?

The author also has nothing good to say about multiculturalism. All points of view, even those that hate America, are to be celebrated, while the achievements of white Americans are denigrated or marginalized. At Hamilton College, a private "elite" school in New York where the author spends most of the book, all of the fraternities were arbitrarily abolished, in the name of "diversity". A person from the outside was chosen to teach a course in the school's brand-new Gender Studies Center. This person just happened to have spent twenty years in prison as part of the Weather Underground. A public outcry forced the canceling of the teaching offer.

This is a very eye-opening book. Read it, and then look at your local college. You might be surprised at what you suddenly see in your own backyard.