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.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Black and White Cinema: A Short History

Black and White Cinema: A Short History, Wheeler Winston Dixon, Rutgers University Press, 2015

I got an advance copy of this book, and after seeing it recommended on TCM, all I have to say is that it is a really interesting book. Most movie histories focus on the actors or director. This book focuses on the cinematographer, the person running the camera (also known as the Director of Photography, or D.P.)

Black and white film, even during the silent movie era, allowed an opportunity to experiment with light and shadow, and camera angles, in order to create a mood. Some directors were happy to give their D.P. free rein to light a scene the way they thought best, knowing that what showed up on the screen would be amazing. Other directors planned every bit of a scene, including the lighting, ahead of time, giving the D.P. not much to do except run the camera.

For every great film that was made, like "Citizen Kane" or "Casablanca", hundreds of cheap, lesser-quality B-pictures were produced. During the height of the studio "system", in the 1930's and 1940's, an Oscar-winning D.P., as an employee of one of the studios, might be obligated to work on a low-budget film, that if made today, would go straight to video. Each studio owned their own chain of theaters, which needed a constant supply of movies, so Hollywood really was a factory, churning out film after film. People needed an escape from the Great Depression and World War II, so they went to the movies.

The 1950's and 1960's were the era of Cold War paranoia, and New Wave cinema. It was also the time of the introduction of various "versions" of color movies, like Panavision or Cinemascope. Some of the D.P.'s profiled in this book were able to make the transition to TV and color films; others were not so fortunate. The last great black and white film was 1962's "Psycho."

The author starts the book by mentioning that the vast majority of films from the early days are no longer available, at all. The reasons include improper storage of film canisters, human stupidity, or the fact that movie film does not last forever. A film might be a boring, amateurishly done piece of schlock, but it is still a piece of film history, and it is still gone, forever. A number of the films mentioned in this book are not available anywhere.

This book is highly recommended for really passionate fans of old movies, people who are familiar with names like Gregg Toland, Nicholas Musuraca and John Alton. For the rest of us, this is a really interesting look at black and white films. Yes, it is well worth reading.

  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Vic 4: Terror Incognita

Vic 4: Terror Incognita, Jerry Gill, CreateSpace, 2015

This is the fourth adventure of Victoria Custer, your average resident of the early 20th century. Using the pen name Vic Challenger, Victoria, and her friend, Lin Li, travel to exotic places and write about them for their hometown newspaper. The unique part is that inside Vic is the avatar of a 100,000-year old cavewoman  named Nat-ul (who is not afraid to call Vic an idiot when necessary). The two are engaged in a never-ending search for Nu, Nat-ul's lover from all those centuries ago. After all, Nat-ul is still alive (in a sense), so Nu must also be out there, somewhere.

In this volume, Vic and Lin Li plan to do some hiking and exploring in the Amazon rain forest. While in Brazil buying provisions, Vic meets Ech, and elderly woman who speaks the original language of the uprights; Nat-ul's language. Ech comes from the land of Goch, in an isolated area of the Amazon. Vic and Lin Li agree to go to Goch, if only to tell Ech's people that she has passed on.

After several days of traveling by boat upriver, and hacking through nearly solid vines and undergrowth, the two are taken prisoner and brought to a man, who speaks English, named Tis. They have found the land of Goch. Tis has a very effective means of keeping the people under control. Think of a cross between a large lizard and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, large enough to have a semi-human, but equally hideous looking, being riding it. They know how to deal with anyone who gets out of line. There are only two pairs at the moment, but Tis has hundreds of eggs ready to hatch, with which he will take over the world.

The two are separated for several days, but they make their escape. They are able to neutralize one of the dinosaur pairs, but even after reaching their boat, with the fuel line conveniently missing, the enters the river and comes after them. There is quite the pitched battle in the piranha-infested water, with some help from Nat-ul. Meantime, with Tis overthrown, do the people of Goch exact their revenge?

I really enjoyed this book. It has plenty of action, and exotic peoples and locations (exotic to the average American). I hope there are more tales of Vic/Nat-ul.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Women's History for Beginners

Women's History for Beginners, Bonnie J. Morris, For Beginners LLC, 2012

Look through the average history textbook, and it seems like all of human history was achieved by only one gender - men. Why? This book attempts to answer that question.

The basic answer is: patriarchy. Through most of history, women were subject to control by men in their families by laws, customs and religious edicts dictated by men. Many women were denied education, so they could not write down their experiences in the servant's quarters, at the Salem witch trials or as a slave in the Deep South. Other women were married at puberty, then after they gave birth, they were subject to control by their husbands.

Why isn't women"s history taught in college? Until the 1970's, women were not even allowed in college as students. If they were let in, they were limited to majors like English or Nursing. Some academics feel that women's history, like black or Native American history, is nothing more than political correctness. Some conservative women feel that the "timeless truths" of Western heritage will be replaced by a radical agenda. There are many reasons for the lack of women's history in school. It will require deconstructing, and really taking apart, religious teaching on women's status; it will undermine male authority, and make men look bad; it will damage, or destroy, traditional family values, and discussion of female sexuality in school will be roundly condemned by parents.

The author gives one version of women's history, which is not pleasant reading. That's because there is no such thing as one story of women's history. Does a person study Aztec women, or Early American women, or women of ancient China or women of World War II Europe? Does a person study marriage, or childbirth, or legal rights after her husband dies (if she has any)?

This is a very eye-opening book. I was aware that women's history was not very pleasant, but I didn't know that it was this unpleasant. This is highly recommended for all women, and for any men whose mind still has some openness and flexibility.  

Hubris

Hubris, P.A. Wilson, (self-published), 2010

Charity Deacon is a private investigator and occasional free-lance journalist in present-day Vancouver. One night, she witnesses a motor vehicle accident downtown (with a fatality). Amid all the hubbub of police, ambulance personnel, and gawkers wanting to record it all on their smartphones, Charity sees two Asian men standing off to the side. It's almost as if they are making sure that the accident went off without a hitch.

Charity asks her friends about them, and learns that they are part of the Chinese mafia. They are the sort of people who have no problem with killing anyone who gets too close. Even Hell's Angels are nervous and apprehensive around them.

Meantime, Charity is approached by Val, a teenage prostitute who hires to help find Val's sister, Emma, another prostitute, who has been missing for the past couple of days. Inquiries among the local prostitutes yield nothing. From one minute to the next, Val shows herself as a scared teenage girl whose parents are dead (murdered by the same Chinese mafia), or as a tough, streetwise veteran with enough attitude for ten people.

Charity's inquiries about the two Asian men get her a trip to the hospital, beaten up by one of them. It also gets her houseboat ransacked. Released from the hospital, but hardly recovered from the beating, Charity gets word of a shipment of trafficked Chinese women coming to a local warehouse. With Val outside as lookout, Charity hides herself inside the warehouse, looking for enough evidence to put the Asian men away for a long time. Does Charity succeed? Is Emma found?

This would make a really good movie. It has plenty of dirt, grime and action. This story is also very well done and easy to read.

Accelerating Returns

Accelerating Returns, Peter Anthony, CreateSpace, 2011

Here is a near future techno-thriller about those who welcome the accelerating pace of technology, and those who want to subvert it.

Isaac and Julia are part of group of rogue extremists called "blockers." Their intent is to perform acts of terror to present the public with spectacles of worst-case scenario science. They are not your average technology-hating luddites, but people in corporate boardrooms and research labs who want to slow the seemingly inevitable joining of man and machine.

There is a major corporate battle going on between Pelius Research and Talbot Laboratories, and Talbot is losing. Even though Talbot is America's largest biotech company, every day seems to bring another lawsuit, ethics violation, or other bit of bad publicity, all orchestrated by Pelius. To say that Arrica, the female CEO of Pelius, does not like Talbot, and Marcus Jovan, its founder and CEO, is much too generous. She wants to put Talbot out of business, and then buy out what's left in a takeover.

Robert Ploof is an arrogant little you-know-what who is not afraid to walk over people on his way to the top. After being fired by Talbot, and quickly hired by Pelius, he takes credit for a potentially huge breakthrough in the coming man/machine integration. A public demonstration of the breakthrough goes very wrong, with "help" from Julia. Meantime, there is a story of an estranged father and son, and a senior executive at Pelius with his own anti-science agenda. Does either corporation survive the Pelius/Talbot war?

This is an excellent story. Not only is it thought-provoking (is technology changing at maximum speed really such a good thing?), but it is also a strong and well-done piece of writing. It is very much worth the time.