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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Only Superhuman

Only Superhuman, Christopher L. Bennett, Tor Books, 2012

In the early 22nd Century, Mankind has expanded into the Asteroid Belt, allowing people to set up all sorts of societies. A major issue is the attitude concerning genetic and cybernetic modifications of people. Earth and its nearby colonies banned such practices many years ago, but, in the Belt, anything goes.

Emerald Blair is one such "mod." Inspired by old-time comic books, she and other mods join together to form the Troubleshooters, policing the Belt as best they can. Emerald had a difficult home life, and strongly believes in not taking another human life, if at all possible.

The Troubleshooters work for a powerful man named Gregory Tai, who feels that all the separate Belt societies (or, at least, the major ones) should be politically united, under his leadership. Emerald has a falling out with her colleagues, and meets an equally powerful man named Eliot Thorne. If there is such a thing as the "father" of genetic modifications, it's Eliot Thorne. He is also very handsome, and his daughter, Psyche, is beyond gorgeous. He is putting together a major conference, so that several of the major Belt societies can form an alliance. Emerald sees the rest of the Troubleshooters engage in some very questionable behavior (the Thorne's have convinced Emerald that Gregory Tai is the "enemy").

Are Eliot's motives really as innocent as they sound? Is Psyche more than just Eliot's daughter? Does Emerald rejoin the Troubleshooters?

Inspired by comic books, this novel is pretty good. It feels plausible, both scientifically and socially. On the good, or bad, side, there is a lot of sex in this book, maybe a little too much. Yes, this book is worth the time.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Occasional Diamond Thief

The Occasional Diamond Thief, J.A. McLachlan, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2015

On his deathbed, Kia's father, an interstellar space trader, entrusts to her a diamond from the planet Malem. The problem is that it is very illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond; the penalty is death. In order to get away from an unpleasant home life, Kia engages in the occasional theft to get money to pay for translator school.

Kia is caught by Agatha, part of the Order of Universal Benevolence; sort of like the religious police. Kia is sent to Malem, as Agatha's translator. Malem is a cold, wet planet, in great contrast to Kia's dry, arid home world. Malem recently got over a plague which may, or may not, have been started by Malem's planetary neighbor. Among the thousands of casualties was the Queen's young daughter. She blames Kia's father for not reaching the planet quickly enough with the necessary medicine.

Kia learns that she cannot, for instance, go into a local tavern and say that she found the diamond lying on the ground. Diamonds are passed down from one generation to another, with the recipient keeping it for their entire life. She has to find its rightful owner. A young child contracts the plague. The requirement is that she is quarantined, alone for seven days, in the Plague House, a stone house in the middle of a swamp. At the end of that time, she either walks out of the House cured, or someone goes in to get her dead body. Agatha volunteers to enter the Plague House to take care of the child, even though it means almost certain death. While she is in there, Kia begins to get the idea that the High Priest is using the Plague House, and what it represents, to mess with the facts, and keep the people on edge. It involves Agatha not leaving the Plague House alive. Does Kia find the diamond's rightful owner? Does Agatha survive the Plague House?

This one is really good. It's easy to read, and very well written. Having a main character of color certainly helps. This is recommended for teens, and adults.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tarzan and the Madman

Tarzan and the Madman, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Canaveral Press, 1974

These are harder times than usual for the Lord of the Jungle.

Someone who calls himself "Tarzan" has been kidnapping girls and women from the local tribes, never to be seen again. It is causing Tarzan's usual allies, both human and animal, to turn their backs on him. The latest kidnap victim is Sandra Pickerall, a white woman from Scotland. A couple of bounty hunters are very interested in the reward offered by Sandra's father for her safe return. They certainly won't ignore the reward for delivering Tarzan, dead or alive, also to Sandra's father. As an added complication, there is a tribe of cannibals in the area who are best avoided at all costs.

Sandra is rescued from the cannibals by Tarzan, and he is shot, and severely injured, by one of the bounty hunters. In their travels, the bounty hunters discover that the cannibals wear lots of gold jewelry. A person can almost see the dollar signs in their eyes; there has to be an incredible gold mine somewhere nearby. Meantime, "Tarzan" rescues Sandra from the bounty hunters, and takes her to the top of a high mesa, where God rules in real medieval castle. He isn't really God, just the leader of a group of Portuguese soldiers. Sandra is very uninterested in becoming a goddess.

Later, "Tarzan" rescues Sandra from the Portuguese, after learning the truth about them. As time goes on, she begins to have feelings for him. She realizes that he is not insane or a psychopath, but an average guy with a case of total amnesia. When the Tarzans meet, can Sandra keep Tarzan from killing "Tarzan?" The bounty hunters find the mine, with chunks of gold just lying on the ground. Do they make it back to civilization with their new riches?

This is a lesser-known, but pretty good part of the Tarzan series. It's easy to read, with plenty of action, and will keep the reader entertained. Yes, it's worth reading.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Genius Dilemma

The Genius Dilemma, Dustin Grinnell, CreateSpace, 2014

This novel is about an attempt to artificially enhance the abilities of the human brain.

Richard Powell is the CEO of Cerebrical, a high-tech company that has created Trillium, a serum that it says will create geniuses. To get much-needed venture capital financing, the company needs a well-known neuroscientist as its public "face." Alan Price is a world-renowned Stanford researcher who has fallen on scientific hard times after switching to the "dead end" of investigating Alzheimer's Disease. The venture capital meeting does not go well.

The US military has a secret unit called Project Genesis. Sophisticated computer algorithms are used to predict which politicians, or rebel leaders, around the world are going to pose a threat to America in the future. They are then assassinated before they can do anything. Project Genesis is very interested in Trillium, and it is administered to the members of the team. It really does increase their IQ by a lot, but, naturally, there is a huge and unpleasant side effect. A member of the team kills the other members, and takes off on what he is convinced is a mission to keep America safe.

The latest victim of Project Genesis was Nassir Lwazi, the president of Kenya. He was a tyrant who pitted the two main tribal groups against each other. The whole country is on edge, just waiting for the spark to start a civil war (can anyone say "Rwandan Genocide, Part 2?"). Thomas Amani is a student at Harvard who does not know that Lwazi was his father. He feels compelled to go to Kenya to bring peace, even though he has no idea what he is going to say. The surviving member of Project Genesis is totally convinced that Amani is just as much of a tyrant as his father. Therefore, Amani must die, along with the American President, who is there as part of the "peace process." Can he be stopped? Is there any way to reduce the influence of the side effect? Can Trillium lead to a cure for Alzheimer's Disease?

This story works really well. It works as a regular political thriller, and the scientific part feels very plausible. I am not sure why the book was printed with every line double spaced, making it twice as thick as necessary, but it is still a first-rate piece of writing.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The King of Elfland's Daughter

The King of Elfland's Daughter, Lord Dunsany, Ballantine, 1969

Written in the early 20th century, This fantasy tale is about a small town that wishes to be ruled by a magic lord.

Several leading citizens of the Vale of Erl go to their King, suggesting that a magic lord will help their town to be famous far and wide. The King sends his son, Alveric, into Elfland to bring back Lirazel, the King's daughter, as his bride. The misty border between the two lands causes those who live just to the west of Elfland to pretend that the compass direction of East, toward Elfland, does not exist.

Lirazel produces a son, Orion, but the marriage is not happy. She is unwilling, or unable, to give up her belief in praying to the stars, in favor of Alveric's religion. In his desperation to get her back, Lirazel's father sent over a powerful rune to Lirazel, which she puts in a drawer. She knows that if she reads the rune, it will immediately send her back to Elfland. After being told, again, to give up her religion, now, in frustration, Lirazel uses the rune. Alveric immediately goes after her. After traveling for several days through a vast wasteland, he is forced to realize that not only has the castle of Elfland disappeared, but the entire land of Elfland has vanished.

Alveric goes back to Erl and puts together an expedition to the far North to find some piece of Elfland that is not gone. After several years, a couple of members of the expedition return to Erl, no longer as committed to finding Elfland as they once were. Alveric shows no sign of giving up. Watching with her father, Lirazel begins to think that maybe she should go back to Alveric. Do they get back together? Do the people of Erl get their wish to be ruled by a magic lord?

This was written in a very different time, so it is not a quick read; it will take some effort on the part of the reader. But that effort will be richly rewarded, because Dunsany, one of the overall masters of the fantasy field, does a wonderful job with the language and descriptions of this story. It is lyrical and poetic and it is a joy to read.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Heads of Cerberus

The Heads of Cerberus, Francis Stevens, Fantastic Books, 2013

This is a rarely reprinted science fiction novel of the early 20th Century about three people suddenly sent on a wild adventure.

Set in Philadelphia of the early 20th Century, Robert Drayton is a young lawyer in ethical trouble. Terry Trenmore is a big, strapping Irishman, full of muscles, but perhaps a bit lacking in brains. Viola is Terry's teenage sister. Through a busted burglary and a bit of intrigue, they are sitting at a table with a mysterious glass bottle in front of them. The sterling silver stopper is shaped into Cerberus, the mythological three-headed dog. It contains "the dust of Purgatory," said to have been collected by Dante himself during his time there. Terry touches the dust, and immediately disappears. Viola and Robert soon follow.

They find themselves in a strangely changed Philadelphia. After just a few minutes on the street, they are arrested for not wearing their number in public. It turns out that they have traveled 200 years into the future, to a dystopian Philadelphia, where everyone has numbers instead of names. They are taken to the Hall of Justice, where the punishment for breaking the law is to be thrown into the Pit of the Past. It is a large pit that is home to a carnivorous creature with steel spikes for teeth. Instead, the three are entered into "democratic" civil service exams, to become part of the ruling class.Actually, the contests are fixed, and the losers die. The ruling class does have names, like Cleverest, Swiftest and Loveliest; they also have total control over the population. History has been suppressed, and literacy is forbidden. Drayton gets in big trouble simply for asking for a newspaper. In 22nd Century Philadelphia, William Penn is worshiped as an angry god, and the Liberty Bell has been turned into a disintegrator machine. Can the three return home? Do they survive this dystopian nightmare?

This novel should be much more available than it has been. It does stereotype its characters, but the author stays away from insulting stereotypes. It certainly works as a dystopian novel, and is very much worth the reader's time.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Dress for SEXcess

Dress for SEXcess, The Scissor Man

There seem to be a million books available on how couples can rejuvenate their sexual relationship. Most are written by psychologists, or academics with letters after their name. This is written by an average person.

Ladies, when your husband makes an admiring comment about some part of your anatomy, think of it as a request to occasionally wear something that emphasizes that area. Please don't respond with "Is that all you think about?" (Yes) Your husband is going to look at other women; it's part of his DNA. Instead of considering it as a personal insult, think of it as a way to find out exactly what turns him on sexually. If you don't already know what turns him on, ask him. He will be happy to tell you.

Gentlemen, to encourage your wife to be more amenable to sex on your schedule, you must treat her like a goddess all the time. Every girl wants to be swept off her feet by Prince Charming. Be that Prince Charming. Treat her like she is the most important person in the world. An underlying foundation of mutual trust and respect will improve the sex. It's not necessary to jump right to sex every time. Kissing, hand-holding and making out can be just as meaningful for her. Make absolutely sure that she agrees before you even think about bondage or more forceful sex. If you don't already know what turns your wife on sexually, ask her.

There is no reason to spend lots of money on lingerie or sexy outfits at the local mall. Go to your local thrift store or church tag sale; sometimes you can buy clothes by the pound. Depending on her physical size, consider looking in the children's section. Bring them home, and don't be afraid to use a pair of scissors on them. The book, written from a male perspective, goes into lots of detail on exactly how to modify clothes to emphasize her figure. If your wife is the creative one, and creates a sexy outfit for you to wear, of course you should wear it (even if it looks totally ridiculous). Whether or not it gets her excited, and interested in sex, is all that matters.

This book is written by a man in his 70's, who is still deeply in love with his wife, even after 50 years of marriage. The sex is still great, and frequent; nearly every day (!). Newlyweds have no trouble being interested in sex. Those who are going through marital problems need more help than this book can provide. It is intended for people who have been married for several years, and have a good marriage, but their sex life needs a jump start. As such, it does a wonderful job. Anyone who cannot find just one idea in here to
re-start their sex life is in serious trouble. This is highly recommended.