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, March 29, 2016

251 Things to Do in Tofino

251 Things to Do in Tofino: And It Is Not Just About Surfing, Kait Fennell, BlueFire Media, 2016

Tofino is a small town on the west side of Vancouver Island, right on the Pacific Ocean. It is known as Canada’s surfing mecca. As this book says, there are lots of things to do in Tofino that do not involve surfing. A person can hike through the nearby rain forest, go whale watching, sample local First Peoples culture, or just hang out and enjoy the vibe.

Tofino sounds like a great place to visit to get away from it all. This very complete book, with addresses, phone numbers and websites, is well worth the money for any such visitor.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ben Franklin for Beginners

Ben Franklin for Beginners, Tim E. Ogline, For Beginners LLC, 2013

This book looks at the life of Benjamin Franklin. He was a lot more than "just" one of America's Founding Fathers.

A native of Boston, Franklin's father wanted him to become a minister. Realizing that Ben was not cut out for the religious life, he took Ben on a tour of the local trades. Ben ended up as an indentured servant to James, his older brother, a printer. It was not a happy relationship. Ben left Boston and found himself in Philadelphia.

Over time, he became a successful printer, gaining contracts through word-of-mouth advertising. He used a variety of pseudonyms to write articles, poems and letters to the editor for a number of different newspapers, including his own. James, his older brother, was not happy on learning that a series of very popular letters signed "Silence Dogood" that he printed, actually came from Ben, his younger brother. Ben was also a well-known hoaxster and humorist.

Franklin was interested in many things besides printing. He invented swim fins (at age 11!). He invented the Franklin Stove, a new kind of fireplace. People were reluctant to accept his invention of the lightning rod, fearing that re-directing lightning bolts was defying the will of God. Ben felt that six of the alphabet's 26 letters were redundant, and could be removed, replaced with new letters. He was also known for his famous "air baths." Ben founded the first lending library, the first volunteer fire department and helped raise money for America's first hospital.

Franklin made several trips to Europe, spending more than 25 years overseas. His duties ranged from agent for several different American colonies, to later being American Ambassador to France.

This is an excellent introduction to the life of Benjamin Franklin. It is very much worth reading for everyone, including teens, and those who know him only as one of America's Founding Fathers.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Snowden, Ted Rall, Seven Stories Press, 2015

In graphic novel form, this book looks at the life and motivation of Edward Snowden, one of the most famous, or infamous, people in the world.

Snowden grew up in Maryland, just a few miles from the headquarters of the National Security Agency, or NSA. It was the sort of community where one learns not to ask their neighbor, or their spouse, just what they do for a living; it's probably secret. An attempt to join the Army after 9/11 was not successful. As a CIA employee, he was stationed for a time in Switzerland. He was exposed to other systems of values, and began to wonder if America was really the "good guys."

He left the CIA, and joined the NSA, eventually becoming a systems administrator, or sysadmin. He spent some time in Japan, which further removed any notion that America was on the side of the angels. As a sysadmin, he had access to all sorts of classified files that detailed America's surveillance plans. Whenever he had a chance, he downloaded file after file onto flash drives.

Here are a couple of examples. An NSA program called "Captivated Audience" lets them track you through your smartphone and listen to conversations in your home, even if the phone is Off. "Gumfish" allows the NSA to take a picture of you, at any time, using the camera in your laptop. Smart TVs, those that allow streaming of web content, have a camera that the government can activate at any time to watch anybody (like the telescreens in Orwell's "1984").

Now working in Honolulu for an NSA contractor, one day Snowden hopped a taxi to the airport with his flash drives. His next stop was Hong Kong where he leaked his information to a couple of journalists. After the worldwide bombshell, he was planning to fly to Latin America to ask for asylum. While in the air, his passport was revoked. He also knew that if he flew through the airspace of a US ally, the ally would force the plane to land. Snowden would be arrested, handed over to American authorities and "disappeared" (like Bradley/Chelsea Manning). Snowden got as far as Moscow, where he remains today.

Say what you will about Edward Snowden (he is a hero or he is a traitor), this is an excellent, and very easy to read, look at why he did what he did. It's very highly recommended.

Digital is Destroying Everything

Digital is Destroying Everything, Andrew V. Edwards, Rowman and Littlefield, 2015

Digital (which includes robots, the internet, algorithms and smartphones) is supposed to usher in a new era of convenience and lower prices for the consumer. There is no downside to all this inter-connectedness, right?

Very wrong, according to the author of this book. He explores how streaming and file sharing have basically destroyed the music industry. The newspaper business is also on "life support." Those who are unemployed are told to learn how to code or re-train for some 21st century job. That may be possible for some people. What is your average middle-age factory worker whose job has just gone overseas supposed to do? Besides, is there much of a demand by companies to hire these semi-trained, but inexperienced, coders?

Digital (especially Amazon) is one of the forces that has emptied Main Street of mom and pop retail shops, and emptied hundreds of strip malls all over America. Retail itself deserves some of the blame (JC Penney, for instance). The newest trend in retail is to build "lifestyle centers" or "Town centers" which are little more than strip malls with a village facade. Have you ever hesitated to go into a store out of fear that the owner might actually. . . talk to you? The object of American entrepreneurship seems to be to create a smartphone app to be sold to some major corporation for an insane amount of money. Creating actual revenue through sales of the app was never a consideration.

Human interaction seems to be deader than dead. How many dinner times are silent because everyone in the family considers the happenings on their tiny screen to be more important than the person sitting across from them? Is personal privacy an obsolete concept? Political discourse has become balkanized, in that believers in nearly anything can put up their own website (or websites) and tell themselves that they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

What can a person do about it? Reduce Your Digital Exposure. Leave your smartphone off until you actually need it. This is an excellent and eye-opening book. It should be read by everyone, especially by those who have to check Facebook (for instance) every few minutes.

Friday, March 18, 2016

What Next?

What Next?, Jeffrey M. Daniels, Booklocker.com, 2013

This is Part 2 in the story of Jeremy Shuttle, a young boy with a very special sketchbook. Anything he draws in the sketchbook becomes real.

Jeremy makes what he thinks will be a quick trip to Washington DC using the sketchbook. He is kidnapped by a couple of henchmen who work for a man named DaHurst, a man who knows how to get what he wants, like the sketchbook. Things do not end well for those who get in his way. Jeremy escapes through a self-imposed time limit on his sketchbook trip.

The story shifts to caves in southern France, where Jeremy drew a cave painting 30,000 years ago, during a previous trip (read Part 1). There Jeremy, his mother, Teresa, and his sort-of girlfriend, Natalie, run into DaHurst, who really wants the sketchbook, and his henchmen. Jeremy has been working on a special sketch that will take him to his father, so he slips out of DaHurst's grasp. Dad disappeared in these caves 13 years ago, but there are current indications that he is still alive. Things look pretty bleak for Teresa and Natalie.

Jeremy is somewhere else (think "collective unconscious") telling this story to someone who may, or may not, be his real father. "Dad" is less than forthcoming with straight answers to Jeremy's many questions. They find themselves on a small plane traveling over ocean for a long time. They are forced to jump, with one parachute, after the plane is struck by a pterodactyl. Jeremy and "Dad" find themselves on an island full of dinosaurs right out of Jurassic Park. How can they get out of where they are, and find Teresa and Natalie? Does Jeremy find his real father?

This novel, and this series, is pretty good. Teens will enjoy it, and adults will, too. It is really well written, and will keep the reader's interest. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Revenge and Blood Sacrifice

Revenge and Blood Sacrifice, Celeste Walker, Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2012

This novelette is about the things that some people, including vampires, will do for love.

Seamus is the leader of a group of Vampire/Areneas (giant spiders) Hybrids living high in the Himalayas. He recently lost his daughter, Ariel, to a true vampire named Caleb, so Seamus wants revenge. The rest of the Hybrids agree to join the war; it is not just Seamus' battle. Nessa's human lover/husband, Thomas, agrees to stay behind; he would simply get in the way, and Nessa would spend too much time worrying about him.

The battle turns into all-out war, with a number of true vampire casualties. Caleb joins the battle, and tries to tell Seamus that Ariel's death was an accident. Seamus is not interested. Just then, Aidan, a nearly indestructible First Vampire, and Caleb's uncle, joins the battle. Both sides really hate the other. Seamus falls in battle, along with Caleb, so the Hybrids decide to retreat.

Nessa is among the Hybrid wounded, having been bitten on the neck by Aidan, which is supposed to be fatal. She is alive, for now. The only way to heal her is to replace her blood with a fresh supply of blood, not from a blood bank, but from a living human. What does Thomas decide to do?

This one is pretty good. If it is part of a larger novel, I would like to read that novel. It is well written, and is more than just vampires or just violence. It can be read in a few minutes, and is worth reading.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Black Glass

Black Glass, John Shirley, Elder Signs Press, 2008

In near future Los Angeles, ex-cop Richard Candle has just been released from prison. This is not your average prison; he has spent the last four years being UnMinded. What happens is that your body functions as normal, used for heaven knows what, while your conscious mind is turned off. It basically turns a person into a brainless automaton. Richard took the fall for Danny, his younger brother, who would have done hard time in a real prison.

Meantime, Grist is the head of Slakon, the world's largest multinational corporation, which owns everything, including the police the courts and Congress. He is building a multisemblant, which is a melding of the copied personalities of the other Slakon board members into one artificial program. His intention is to kill the other board members, and, with the multisemblant's help, run Slakon on his own.

It is a world where the only "good" thing seems to be the ability to lose one's self inside a 3D virtual reality existence, sometimes to the point of starving to death. Richard's intention is to take Danny, a VR addict, away from LA, and get him cleaned up. Danny slips out of Richard's custody, and takes one last VR trip. Things do not end well.

The multisemblant decides to take matters into its own "hands". There are a number of loose ends to be tied up before it can run Slakon on its own. People start dying in all sorts of graphic ways, including Grist. Can Richard find the actual server where the program is stored, and put it out of business for good, before his name is added to the death toll?

This is a very cool, and very high-tech, novel, written by one of the pioneers of the cyberpunk genre. A person can almost feel the grime, the pollution, and the neural implant telephones while reading this book. This might be the first the novel to do something different with the chapter headings at the start of each chapter (read the book and you'll see). This novel may not be for everyone, but it is extremely highly recommended.

Change the Story, Change the Future

Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy For a Living Earth, David C. Korten, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2015

For many years, the world has been operating under a Story (or Narrative) that governs many aspects of daily life. It's all about money and markets, and it goes something like this: "Money equals happiness. Those who have a lot of money are to be admired and revered. Those who don't have a lot of money are just lazy or stupid. Slightly altering the 1980's bumper sticker: He Who Dies With the Most Money Wins. Nothing must be allowed to get in the way of economic growth, whether it's an increased level of air pollution, or an endangered animal whose forest habitat is about to be clearcut." Among the effects of such a Story are the near destruction of the American economy, and an income inequality gap the size of the Grand Canyon. Maybe the time has come for a new Story.

The author calls it a Sacred Life and Living Earth Story. It is designed to work in harmony with the Earth, and not treat this world like it's a dead rock for sale. The author calls for shifting employment away from activities that harm society to activities that help society. Unproductive financial speculation should be made unprofitable. In college, the focus should shift from pre-employment degree programs to facilitation of lifelong learning. Replace the business school curriculum of phantom-wealth economics with one of living-wealth economics. Get rid of the walls that isolate academic departments from each other and the walls that isolate formal learning from the living world. It is reasonable to say that these proposals have no chance of being adopted, given the current conditions in Washington. Don't all great social movements go through stages, from Impossible to Maybe to Inevitable?

The author does a great job diagnosing the present state of the world. His proposals for how to fix it are not exactly new, but they are still very thought-provoking. Perhaps it is time for a radical rethinking of our current impasse. This book is an excellent place to start.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Women Own All the Vaginas

Women Own All the Vaginas, Richard Nocera, Dick N Jane Publishing, 2010

Why do men do what they do? That's the question this book attempts to answer.

Men are genetically programmed to want to have intimate relations with as many women as possible; it's to propagate the species. They think about it every day. Even a woman he passes on the street will bring about a momentary "What about her?" His ultimate goal is to receive a long-term all access pass to a woman's crotch. Every man starts off as Vagina Man.

Competitive Man compares himself to other men on a constant basis. Distorted Man fiddles with people's perceptions of him by finessing the truth. Dishonest Man thinks that lying will change reality. Scared Man wants to run away as fast as he can.

After he is married, he has no idea what he is getting himself into (Married Man). He didn't know that his life was pre-programmed (Socially Engineered Man). Crisis Man creates a crisis, so it will change his life for him.

The time will come when he has to take a hard look at his actions; it won't be pretty. That's when Courageous Man dares to feel his raw emotions. Honest Man commits to a mantra of No Lying. Wounded Man is deeply affected by his past.

When he comes out the other end, Healing Man starts to heal his emotional wounds. Conflicted Man realizes that he has two aspects to his nature. Whole Man integrates his truth into how he lives his life.

The author is not a psychologist, or an academic with letters after his name. He is a hairdresser, who has spent many years in therapy experiencing the 29 interwoven characteristics of a man's life explored in this book. It is recommended for men, for obvious reasons. It is also recommended for women. It will help to explain why men feel that they must watch porn, or must visit a strip club.

Voices of Our Children: Stories of Music Education

Voices of Our Children: Stories of Music Education, Tatiana Bandurina, Quintecco Educational Products Inc, 2008

Among a parent's "jobs" is to decide when, or if, their child should learn to play a musical instrument. That's what this book, written by a music educator, is all about.

It tells the story of Jessica, who, along with her husband, Nicholas, wants their baby daughter, Alexandra, to learn the violin. At the local park, she runs into an older woman named Elizabeth. A music educator, Elizabeth is a seemingly inexhaustible source of wisdom, and connections, about music education.

If your child, or spouse, loves to sing, but sings horribly off-key, don't worry about it. The music-loving "gene" is already inside them. Training will help them find the right key. Is there such a thing as starting your child's music education too soon? When looking for a music teacher, first watch them interact with other students. If the teacher says that your child is musically hopeless, thank them and look for a different teacher. Don't choose the one with the lowest price or the biggest ad; be sure that they specialize in young children.

Your child is playing the piano or violin like a musical prodigy (Next stop: Carnegie Hall!). All of a sudden, they start hating the instrument and refuse to play it any more. What happened? What can a parent do to keep their child's interest? Is it ever a good idea to remind the child how much money was spent on the instrument and lessons, so you better keep practicing? (No) Who gets to decide what instrument the child should play, the parent or the child? If possible, try to turn learning music theory into a game. Finally, what is the benefit (if any) of a music education for children?

This is a really good book. It is pretty easy to read as a story, instead of a dry recitation of pedagogical techniques. For any parent who wants their child to learn a musical instrument, here is the place to start.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Useless Arithmetic

Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can't Predict the Future, Orrin H. Pilkey and Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, Columbia University Press, 2007

Government administrators and policy makers use quantitative mathematical models to form future environmental policies. The authors of this book assert that these models are basically useless, that they lead to policies that make things worse, not better.

These models are filled with assumptions, suppositions and several pure guesses. "Fudge factors" are included to come up with an acceptable answer. Politics is frequently involved. An example is when the Canadian government said that the Grand Banks fishing area was in good condition, when "collapse" was a much more accurate description.

The EPA has required that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site must be safe for the public for the next 10,000 years. Based on current models, that is absurd enough, but, in 2004, a federal appeals court ruled that the safety of the repository must be assured for up to one million years. Really? That is longer than Homo Sapiens has existed, and there will be at least one major advance and retreat of glaciers, with corresponding huge changes in climate.

Open pit mines are frequently dug beneath the level of the local groundwater. Constant pumping of water keeps the mine dry. When the mine is abandoned, the local water, filled with all sorts of chemicals from the mine, fills the pit. How to predict things like the balance between inflow and outflow of water from the lake, acid production, and chemical reactions within the new lake?

Perhaps it would be better to say, for instance, "Given current conditions, the ocean level will rise over the next hundred years" instead of "Given current conditions, the ocean level will rise by (a specific number) over the next hundred years." Researchers freely admit that the models are full of flaws, but, until someone comes up with something better, they will continue to use them.

Written for the non-scientist (like yours truly), this book is very thought-provoking, and injects some much needed skepticism. It's a must-read of a book.

Witches of Yerosia

Witches of Yerosia, Celeste Walker, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2012

This Kindle edition fantasy short story is about Allison, your average teenager, but not really. Allison is also a real, live witch.

The high school gymnasium is decorated to look like the land of Yerosia, part of a famous fantasy story that is part of the school curriculum. During a school dance, Kyle, Allison's high school crush, takes her away and shows her that the imaginary land of Yerosia really exists. He has an important position there, and he has a curse hanging over him. There is a blue sapphire of great power that Kathaleya, the bad guy, wants very much. Kyle gives Allison an ancient book to take home.

Allison's mother, who knows more about witches and Yerosia (and the location of the blue sapphire) than she has ever told her daughter, gets very upset at her possession of the book. Looking through the book, Allison finds a place where the words turn into English right before her eyes. She makes the mistake of reading that part out loud. A few minutes later, Kyle/Kathaleya is in her bedroom demanding the blue sapphire. Kyle's curse has been partially activated. What does Allison do?

This story is very short; it can be read in just a few minutes. It is also pretty good. It's recommended for anyone who is new to witch stories, or anyone who wants a witch story set in the present day.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Unleash the POWER of Branding

Unleash the POWER of Branding: The Smart Guide to Branding for Beginners, Joe Praveen Sequeira, BlueFire Media, 2016 (Kindle edition) 

A brand is a very important part of any business. It separates your company from everyone else. It is the overall perception of your business.

There are ways to find out why people visit your website, then leave. Constantly try out new ads through Google. Don’t let any negative online comment go unanswered. Well-defined values, and amazing customer service, will encourage people to buy from you, when they can get it cheaper elsewhere.

CEOs of any size company, especially those that are struggling, would do very well to read this book. It is easy to read, and very much worth it.