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, September 29, 2015

American Amazons: Colonial Women Who Changed History

American Amazons: Colonial Women Who Changed History, Alex Bugaeff, 2015

This is the second in a series about "Gomps," who entertains his grandchildren, Hannah and Carter, with stories about early American history. This book is about the women, some famous and some unknown, who helped shape this country.

Lucy Terry Prince, a former slave, argued a land dispute before the US Supreme Court in 1797, and won. During the crossing of the Mayflower, Bridget Fuller delivered three babies, and continued as a midwife in Plymouth for another 44 years. In practice, midwifes were doctors, but without the degree. In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to get a medical degree.

Mary Crouch, a native of Rhode Island, ran a newspaper in South Carolina after her husband died. She was a strong believer in independence, and made sure that her newspaper reflected it. Margaret Kemble Gage grew up in New Jersey, and was married to General Gage, the British commander in Boston. Margaret, a secret independence sympathizer, overheard her husband making plans. She told Joseph Warren, a Boston doctor who shared her sympathies, and he told Paul Revere, who then made his famous ride.

Women were supposedly not smart enough to understand military strategy, so many colonial women made the most of their opportunities to listen to British commanders, and pass on the information. There were a number of women who enlisted in the Continental Army as men, and fought on the front lines. Also, there were more women who worked as blacksmiths during the war, and others who provided the troops with food, equipment and clothing. Deborah Reed Franklin ran Benjamin Franklin's printing businesses, while he spent many years in Europe, as his common-law wife.

This is an excellent book. It is very easy to read, because each chapter is only a few pages long, and the book can be read starting at any point. It is highly recommended for those who study American history, and American women's history. It looks at people who don't get mentioned in the average history textbook.

They Don't Teach Corporate in College

They Don't Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something's Guide to the Business World (Revised Edition), Alexandra Levit, Career Press, 2009

You are fresh out of college, and you have just gotten your first corporate/white collar job. Aside from wearing a suit on your first day, what do you do?

If you have a lot of tattoos or piercings, strongly consider covering or removing them. This is just until you get familiar with your fellow employees, and they get familiar with you. As boring as it sounds, read the new employee handouts. It will include important stuff, like the company's smoking policy (if you are a smoker), and the number of vacation days that you have available (for the first couple of months, don't take any time off).

Get to know your nearby cubicle inhabitants. Some of them will be friendly and approachable, and some will not; don't worry about it. Realize that there is a difference between fellow employees who are good to have lunch with, and friends you can call when you significant other has just broken up with you. Sit down with your immediate boss, and iron out just what your duties are, and how often the performance evaluation (or other feedback) will be.

You will be given lots of boring, grunt work to do that you may consider beneath you. Just be quiet, and do it; it's called "paying your dues." Besides, it never hurts to show your boss, instead of trying to tell your boss, just how good an employee you really are. In meetings, it might be tempting to say that, in school we did it this way, or, at my previous job, we did it that way. In the first few months, don't do it; your job is to listen and learn.

Some of your fellow employees will be"difficult," at best. Take several deep breaths, count to ten, or get in your car and scream and curse, but don't lash out at them in the office. If you do, you will be the one with the attitude problem. Other employees are going to try to get you to do their work for them. Learn how to say no, without really saying no.

This is an absolute gem of a book. It will answer a lot of questions before they are asked. Large companies should in the habit of including a copy of this book (there is a more recent third edition available) with the handouts given to all new hires. It is very much worth reading.

The Pig Plantagenet

The Pig Plantagenet, Allen Andrews, Viking Press, 1981

Set in 13th Century France, Plantagenet the Pig is a very kind and considerate animal, but may be lacking in brains. He has a rather easy life in a farmstead carved out of the forest, and is doted on by Adele, the farmer's lovely daughter. His ability to run very fast keeps him in touch with the animals of the forest, and makes him lean enough to keep him off the menu.

Word quickly spreads throughout the forest of a plan by the feudal lords to systematically go through the forest, and herd all the animals toward a specific spot. Killer dogs will be waiting for them, to kill them. The humans are getting tired of losing animals to the forest inhabitants. Contact is made with animal residents of a nearby forest, who agree to take in the animals that are on the move. The big problem is that there is a clear space between forests, where an attack by humans and dogs, against the animals, is expected. Plantagenet is appointed leader of the animal exodus, and takes his job seriously.

The mass migration is underway before the human forest sweep begins. Plantagenet is in the lead, with Grondin the boar and Hurlaud the wolf keeping everyone in line, and watching for the expected attack by the dogs and humans. It happens in the clear space between forests. There are many animal casualties, on both sides. Plantagenet is not unscathed. The animals make it to the other forest, to rest and lick their wounds. Is there any chance of going back to their old forest? Will Plantagenet ever see his old pig sty, and Adele, ever again?

This is a very good story. It's a well done allegory about forest conservation and teens will enjoy it (the battle scene might be too much for younger children). Adults will also like it. 

A Thane of Wessex

A Thane of Wessex, Charles W. Whistler, Capricorn Publishing, 2005

Set in Saxon England, in the 9th Century AD, Heregar is a nobleman, with lands of his own, in what is now the county of Somerset. Out of the blue, one day, he is arrested, and thrown into solitary confinement. After a couple of months, he is brought before a grand council, called a moot, where he is charged with treason against the King.

Heregar freely realizes that with the impetuousness of youth (he is in his early 20s), he occasionally says some stupid things, especially when the ale is flowing. But there is a huge difference between that and treason. He is confident that his friends will exonerate him, but they are the ones who condemn him. They are led by Matelgar, the father of the fair Alswythe, the love of his life. He is found guilty, declared an outlaw, stripped of his lands, and told to leave Somerset, permanently.

His only option is to head for the coast, and join the Danish Vikings. When he reaches a town on the coast, it's in flames. The Vikings are already there. Heregar knows that Matelgar's lands, formerly his lands, will be next, so he manages to warn the people, while staying out of the way. He runs into a messenger, who gives him a war arrow. It means that all able-bodied men are called to fight, immediately. A person does not ignore a war arrow. Heregar walks up to Matelgar, and, returning the arrow, says, in effect, "I am reporting as ordered, and now I'm leaving."

The Saxon authorities feel that the best thing thatt Heregar can do is to get Alswythe, and her maidens, out of the way. Meantime, Matelgar falls in battle, and Heregar has a couple of visions of Matelgar apologizing for the way Heregar was treated. Heregar becomes a senior adviser in the counter-attack, led by the local bishop. A major problem for the Danes is that, during low tide, their ships are literally stuck in the mud. Does the counter-attack succeed? Do Heregar and Alswythe liver happily ever after? Is Heregar's punishment lifted?

This one is surprisingly good. The author, an Anglican priest who lived in the early 20th Century, does an excellent job with this book. It really feels like it was written more than 1000 years ago, and recently discovered, and republished. Very few authors of any kind of fiction can do that. It has heart, and adventure, and is well worth reading.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Twice Sold Murder

Twice Sold Murder, Margaret Evans, Moonlight Mystery Press, 2014

Laura Kane is returning to her hometown of Raging Ford, Minnesota, after growing up with an aunt in Baltimore. The death of her parents, under mysterious circumstances, made the move to Baltimore necessary.

Laura plans to open a thrift store in town, and live in an apartment upstairs. A person might think that the residents of Raging Ford would descend on Laura en masse, and welcome her back home, but Harry's Rules (Harry is one of the three members of the Town Council) say that everyone has to basically wait their turn. In stocking her store, Laura buys a couple of pieces of furniture that belonged to a family from a nearby town who perished in an accident. The parents, and one identical twin, perished in the accident. Which twin survived, the "good" twin, or the sociopath?

Little by little, things get more and more mysterious for Laura. Jenna, a good friend from high school, is engaged and ecstatic. His name is Jeremy, and the best way to describe him is "creepy." He says that he grew up in Raging Ford, but there are too many holes in his story. Laura investigates the story of the family who perished, and is not very careful about leaving her laptop where customers can see what is on the screen. Not all of the customers are from Raging Ford, maybe one of them is the culprit. The store is broken into, and only those two pieces of furniture are taken. Encouraging Laura to continue her investigation into the deceased family is a mysterious cat who does not eat, and who only Laura can see.

First of a trilogy, this is a really good piece of writing. It's a pretty "quiet" story in that there are no hair-raising crises fro our plucky heroine (until the end). It's very easy to read, and it's the sort of story that can take place in any small town in America. It will certainly keep the reader's interest.

Time of the Great Freeze

Time of the Great Freeze, Robert Silverberg, Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1964

In the year 2600, Earth has been in an ice age for the past couple of hundred years. Jim Barnes is a teenage resident of New York City, which is actually several miles under the ice. Learning that the ice is starting to recede, is part of a small group that has made radio contact with London. For unknown reasons, London sounds less than overjoyed at the thought of visitors from New York.

The group is forced to quickly turn their talk of an expedition to London into reality. In the space of a few hours, they are arrested, tried, convicted of treason and exiled to the surface (with appropriate supplies). It seems that hundreds of years of no contact with any other cities have made New Yorkers (or, at least, their rulers) very mistrustful of foreigners.

The expedition is helped by a pair of solar-powered jet sleds. Along the way, the group runs into several groups of wandering nomads, some of whom are more civilized than others. Having spent their lives underground, eating synthetic protein, they have a hard time eating raw meat from a freshly killed animal. Jim "convinces" a sea captain to take them across the open water of the Atlantic (the only way they can get to London) by using his knowledge of judo to defeat the captain in hand-to-hand combat.

Eventually, they are met by a delegation from London, who have come to meet them. New York's rulers don't have a monopoly on distrust and paranoia. Does the entire group make it to London? Can both groups start to regain trust in outsiders?

This story might seem rather simplistic, but remember when it was published, long before Young Adult fiction became popular. It is still worth reading for young people, or those who are new to science fiction.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Discovering the IT Factor Within You

Discovering the IT Factor Within You: Developing Your Charismatic Personality, Leesa Rowland, Kismet Publishing, 2015

Whenever a person like Oprah or Bill Clinton enters a room, people are drawn to them like a magnet. Why? Were they born that way? Do they have "good genes"? Is it a case of "you either got it (charisma) or you don't"? Can charisma be learned by the rest of us? That's what this book is all about.

There are several qualities that help make a person charismatic. Among them are: being open to change; developing good taste, whether in art, literature or clothing; staying humble; being approachable; improving eye contact and listening to others with your full attention (like there is no one else in the room at that moment).

The first step to developing charisma is to take a long, hard look inside yourself. If you are the sort of person who makes racist or sexist remarks (even if you intend them as a joke), or yell at the neighborhood kids to get off your lawn, then you have some work to do. After that, keep a positive attitude, stand up straight, be flexible, be confident, treat people like they want to be treated, don't compare yourself to others, and realize that charisma comes from the inside, so don't worry if you aren't the most attractive person in the room.

The author looks at the connections between spirituality and charisma, love and charisma and karma and charisma. Is it possible for animals to be charismatic? Can a person be charismatic at work? Concentrate on your body language (stand up straight). Look like a leader (dress appropriately for the message you want to convey). There is nothing wrong with dressing like a VP when your company's dress code is jeans and t-shirts. Influence people by really listening. Sometimes, what you don't say is more important than what you do say. Also, show that you have the ability to think outside the box.

This is a gem of a book. It is full of tips to help people from all walks of life. Anyone who cannot find just one helpful idea in this book is in serious trouble. It is very much worth reading for everyone.