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.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Unbound

Unbound, R.C. Butler, Bulldog Press, 2015

This is a present-day New York City police novel, with a twist.

Lt. Ellison Frost is a female Homicide detective. Her latest victim is Deedrie Bouton, member of a very rich and powerful family. For the past several months, Deedrie had frequently appeared in the local tabloids. She was found tied to a bed, with various ropes, harnesses and collars, and with sex toys nearby. Evidently, she was involved in some kinky BDSM sex before she was murdered.

The twist is that Lt. Ellison is part of that same sex community. The day of her murder, Deedrie made several calls to a local escort agency, wanting to book a specific person. Ellison goes to the agency to ask Angel, the owner, some unpleasant questions. The two women are old friends and former college roommates. Should Angel's client list get released, things could get very unpleasant for Ellison, because her name will be on it.

Ellison gets a lot of help from Rob, the Department's "IT guy." He just happens to be very handsome, and reveals that he, too, is part of the BDSM community. The sexual tension between them stays just below the boiling point. Both of them would love to go somewhere private, and "let it all out," but they know that catching the murderer comes first.

Deedrie, with plenty of money and intelligence, was planning to start her own business in the sex world. It also would have dragged her family name through the mud (intentionally). Did Angel want to eliminate the potential competition? Did her father place the family corporation above his own daughter?

This may sound like a cliche, but this novel is better than excellent. Just as a police novel, it feels very realistic. The reader is kept guessing until the last few pages. The erotic parts, which do not overwhelm the story, are also done really well. The reader will get a look inside the BDSM world, about the line between pleasure and pain which is not supposed to be crossed. On several levels, this is very much worth reading.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dylan's Cosydoze

Dylan's Cosydoze, Elsa Joseph, New Generation Publishing, 2017

Dylan is a very happy little boy. He is happy because he, and his parents, are off to Grandma's house to spend the weekend. Dylan can barely contain his excitement, but curling up with his cosydoze (his favorite blanket) puts him right to sleep.

Dylan has a great time playing with Grandma. When Dylan's bedtime comes, his cosydoze is suddenly missing. A diligent search of the house fails to find it. Grandma tries to substitute one of her blankets for the cosydoze. Dylan replies with the little child equivalent of "No Way." Dad tries to distract Dylan with food; Dylan does not cooperate. Mom suggests that a trip around the neighborhood in an old pram (baby carriage) will put him to sleep. Dylan is very much not interested. It looks like the weekend visit to Grandma will have to be cut short. Where is Dylan's cosydoze?

What child does not have a favorite item (toy, blanket, stuffed animal, etc.) that they can't live without? How many times has that item been misplaced or lost? This is a very good and heart-warming story, told all in rhyme, with which many children can identify. Yes, this is worth reading anytime.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Just Another Girl's Story

Just Another Girl's Story: A Memoir on Finding Redemption, Laura Eckert, CreateSpace, 2017

This is the autobiographical chronicle of one person's difficult journey through life.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Laura was the sort of child who lived for pranks and practical jokes in Catholic school. Dad walked out on the family when Laura was very young. Mom eventually remarried, and just before Laura was about to start high school, announced that the family was moving to a small town 40 miles away.

Laura found herself living the life of an addict. Her addiction was not to drugs or alcohol. She was addicted to sex, with Shawn, her 2-years-younger step-brother. They were intimate whenever, and wherever, they could be. The concept of "protected sex" was unknown to them, so, an abortion when Laura was 16 years old was followed by another one a year later. Her family was very supportive. At age 18, she decided to keep her third pregnancy. The family did what they could to keep them apart, but they used any opportunity to be together.

Laura began to turn her life around, going back to school and working as a waitress. She told her family the truth about her and Shawn. He joined the Army, and was stationed in Colorado. One night, he called her and asked her to marry him, along with moving to Colorado. She immediately said Yes. Now with two children, they managed, except for their frequent arguments, where their sordid past was never far away.

After Shawn's Army tour was done, they immediately moved back to Wisconsin. Studying for her Bachelor's degree, she elected to write a paper on abortion for one of her classes. It forced her to re-examine her feelings from her two trips to the abortion clinic. She had a very hard time dealing with it. She withdrew from her family, and started drinking heavily, which her family certainly noticed. Can God ever forgive me for my actions? Can I ever forgive myself? When I reach Heaven, will the souls of my unborn children welcome me or, figuratively, turn their backs on me?

This is a very open and heartfelt chronicle of one person's experience with the aftermath of abortion. Any woman having a similar hard time would do very well to read this book. Anyone, male or female, who wants to know more than just the politics of abortion, would do very well to read this book. It is well worth the time.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Expect Civilian Casualties

Expect Civilian Casualties, Gary Bonn, Firedance Books, 2012

Jason is a teenager living alone on a secluded beach. There are hints of abuse and time in an institution. One night, a young woman joins him at his fire. She doesn't have a name, so Jason calls her Anna. She is wild and vivacious, and they have a great time hanging out together on the beach. That is, until the day that Jason sees Anna eat another person.

She sucks the other person down her throat, like a Hollywood special effect, instead of consuming flesh like a zombie. Anna immediately takes off, closely followed by a large group of soldiers and scientists. They are trying to get a handle on what Anna is doing, and are trying to stop Anna and the others (she is not the only one) by any means possible. When a report is received on their location, the intention is to kill them, instead of capturing them.

Later, Jason tries to convince Anna to give herself up (her answer is an emphatic No). Jason learns that Anna, and everyone in her group, are compelled to each consume 1000 people, and then they will leave. Is this the first step in some sort of invasion?

As Jason gets to know some of the soldiers, he realizes that he could consider them to be his friends. But they also want to kill Anna, with whom Jason has fallen in love. Taking matters into his own hands, a scientist has decided to do something about climate change. It involves doing something extremely illegal to Anna and the others. Do Anna and Jason ever get back together?

This story is told from Jason's perspective, so it may seem rather dry reading. It is also a really well-done story, combining love and chaos. This is very much worth checking out.

Terminal City

Terminal City, Trevor Melanson, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2016

This paranormal novel is about Mason Cross, resident of Terminal City and student at the local university. His father, John Cross, was a well-respected professor at the university until his death several months previously.

A mutual friend, Lester Wright, tells Mason that John was a Necromancer, someone interested in magic and communicating with the dead. Lester is also a Necromancer. Mason is shown Dad's library of old books on necromancy, and learns that he is also a Necromancer. Mason has no interest in raising the dead, or anything like that, he just wants to know more about it. That does not matter to the Inquisitors.

For the past several hundred years, an all-out war has been going on between Necromancers and Inquisitors, religious fanatics who think that the only good Necromancer is a dead one. Lester is killed by them, and so is Mason. He finds himself in the spirit realm, where the spirit of his father helps convince the being in charge to give Mason another chance. Mason is returned to Terminal City with a task; kill a "bad" Necromancer named Rowland, and send him back to the spirit realm.

Rowland has been alive for over 300 years, and has perfected the ability to kill with a mere thought. He also knows that Mason is coming for him. Meantime, Rowland has made it known to all the Inquisitors in North America that he is making his final stand at the top of a Terminal City skyscraper that is still under construction (come and get me). Mason is also there. Who is still alive when the battle ends; Rowland, Mason or any of the Inquisitors?

This is an excellent piece of writing. It is just weird enough, without being too weird, or too much like a horror story. The body count gets pretty high by the end, but it is very easy to read. I look forward to a sequel.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Dinnusos Rises

Dinnusos Rises, Tej Turner, Elsewhen Press, 2017

Dinnusos is a nightclub on the edge of town. It is not the sort of place frequented by tourists or drop-in visitors. It is also the center of a large group of people, some with unique abilities.

Faye plays the flute, and Ellen is the lead singer, for a local band called Summer Rain. They play the sort of music that reaches into a person's soul and finds a place the person didn't know they had. Ellen also channels the spirit of Jessica, her dead twin sister; Jessica died soon after birth. Jessica is wild child type who fancies Faye. Faye is not interested, so, one night, she and Naomi banish Jessica to wherever spirits are banished, without Ellen's consent.

Jack is half-fae and is squatting in an abandoned building. His globe-trotting father suddenly shows up and wants to resurrect a political action group called Taxus Baccata. They have no problem with in-your-face civil disobedience. Tilly is an introvert who jumps into the drug and alcohol culture (provided by Jack's father) head first. There is a large protest march which turns violent, courtesy of someone who is paid to cause chaos. The government uses the resulting riot as a pretext to pass legislation that basically criminalizes dissent.

The hand-painted murals inside Dinnusos are changing, all by themselves. A shadowy figure is appearing in different places in the murals. Jessica may be out of the way, but she is not gone. It is necessary for Faye and Naomi find her, and convince her to return. Jessica agrees; there are surprisingly few recriminations between the three. But Jessica needs to borrow a body. Is she able to help find those who are "lost" and start the process of getting the legislation rescinded? Does everyone live "happily ever after?"

This book leaves "Excellent" in its rear view mirror and zooms right to the level of "Deserves Six Stars." The author does an excellent job at telling the story from several different points of view. It is very highly recommended.

The Salarian Desert Game

The Salarian Desert Game, J.A. McLachlan, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2016

On the desert planet of Salaria, games are taken very seriously. Losers in the Salarian Desert Game are required to spend several years as an indentured servant/slave in the crystal mines to pay off their debt. Kia is a translator for the Order of Universal Brotherhood (sort of like the religious police). She is determined to go to Salaria to rescue her sister. Just before she is ready to leave, she is ordered to accompany Agatha, as her translator, to Salaria. There has been a vision, so the mission is more important than anything. Kia has surgery to become Idaro, daughter of Philana, who left Salaria many years previously, in opposition to the way things were. Philana helps Kia to become Idaro.

Salaria is a matriarchal planet. The men are a little better than slaves. As a rite of passage, all fifteen-year-old girls are sent into the desert on a survival mission. Kia/Idaro is included. The idea is that the girls will bond with others, and choose their triad. It's stronger than marriage, and it's for life. Women are not identified by family names, but by the triad  of which they are a part.

As soon as they arrive on Salaria, Kia and Agatha are separated. Kia realizes that Salaria is on the verge of civil war. Kia first has to convince Ryo, the matriarch of her triad, that she really is Idaro. Kia also knows that if she makes one wrong move, joining her sister in the mines will be the least of her problems. She joins the other "fifteens" in the desert, and almost does not return. The others run the gamut, from decent, reasonable people to those with their own agendas. Do Kia/Idaro and Agatha ever find each other? Does the planet erupt in civil war? Does Kia rescue her sister? Can Idaro do anything about the slavery on Salaria?

This is an excellent novel. The author does a fine job at making the reader care about the characters, especially Kia. The story explores a number of subjects. Even though it is marketed as a Young Adult novel, adults will also enjoy it.

It Happened One Doomsday

It Happened One Doomsday, Laurence Macnaughton, Pyr, 2016

Dru is a young woman who runs a New Age shop. She can use crystals to see enchantments, and she can brew the occasional potion. Dru does well enough to not get evicted.

Things get very interesting when a very handsome man, with unnaturally red eyes, and driving a possessed, black muscle car, enters her shop. The man, named Grayson, has been having bad dreams where he has turned into a demon. Along with three other demons, they are about to destroy the whole world. Grayson also has little nubs growing on his forehead; the beginning of actual horns.

Dru realizes that Grayson is not just turning into your average demon. He is turning into one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The other three Horsemen, looking like creatures right out of an H.P. Lovecraft story, are looking for their "colleague." Dru's crystals can slow, but not stop, Grayson's transformation. The only choice is for Grayson to fully become one of the Horsemen, and hope that Dru can find some way to not kill him.

A group of seven fallen sorcerers called the Harbingers want to rule a new magical realm where humanity is out of the way, permanently. An ancient scroll called the Apocalypse Scroll has been unearthed. It has seven seals on it; four seals have been broken, for the Four Horsemen. If all seven seals are broken, very bad things will happen to humanity. Along with her friend Rane, who has a very unique ability, can Dru save the world? Can she rescue Grayson, which whom she has fallen in love?

This is a really good story. It has first-rate writing, good characters and plenty of action. The reader will learn a lot about crystals, and will not go wrong with this novel.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Portals, Passages and Pathways

Portals, Passages and Pathways: In the Land of Magnanthia, B R Maul, CreateSpace, 2014

This young adult fantasy novel is about a young boy who suddenly finds himself in very strange circumstances.

Simon is your average nerdy tween. He is good friends with Jessica, his neighbor. With no prior warning, one day, Simon is invited to go on an overnight fishing trip with Jessica and her parents. Their destination is Lake Itasca in Minnesota, the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Simon becomes more and more sure that Something Is Going On, and that he is the centerpiece of It, whatever it is. Eventually, a portal is opened to another world, and people come through looking for Simon. They come from a place called Magnanthia, and Simon must return with them, because he wears a very powerful ring called the Ring of Affinity.

Meantime, elsewhere, another portal to Earth is opened, and a young man named Jak is taken. He comes from a very rich family, and has become an arrogant little you-know-what. He is in a land called Bedlam, run by an evil person called Severn. Jak is forced into the Maze of Mayhem. Six young men go in, and only one survives. The winner's "prize" is to become an automatic warlock. Is Jak the survivor?

Simon learns that Bedlam and Magnanthia have been at war for many years. The final battle is coming, and things are not looking good for Magnanthia. Simon, and his ring, are a vital part of Magnanthia's hopes for survival. An added complication is that Simon was not supposed to be introduced to Magnanthia for another couple of years. A lot has been thrown at Simon all at once. Does Simon rise to the occasion, or give up and ask to go home?

First of a series, the author does a very good from start to finish, especially with the society building. It's easy to read, and teens will enjoy it.

The Transference Engine

The Transference Engine, Julia Verne St John, Daw Books, 2016

This steampunk novel is set in 1830's London. Madame Magdala has reinvented herself many times. Several years previously, she destroyed a machine called a transference engine. Lord Byron was totally obsessed with being able to transfer his soul into another body, thereby becoming immortal. Magdala's fear is that Byron's fanatical followers will kidnap her and Ada Byron Lovelace, his only legitimate daughter, and force them to rebuild the transference engine.

During the day, Magdala runs a fashionable coffee salon and reading room while living on the edge of polite society. She and Ada use the massive library stored there to keep an eye on political and business activity around the world. An army of street urchins keeps Magdala informed about what's going on around London.

The coronation of Queen Victoria is coming in a few days. An all-black hot air balloon that shoots searing light from a hidden cannon suddenly appears above London. Is Victoria the target? Does this have anything to do with the disappearance of a number of young women from all walks of life? Lord Byron died a few years previously, or did he?

I enjoyed reading this book. It's just weird enough, and it is very easy to read and comprehend. I am looking forward to reading a sequel.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Halo: New Blood

Halo: New Blood, Matt Forbeck, Gallery Books, 2015

Set approximately 500 years from now, this novel, part of a series, is about humanity in the middle of an interplanetary war. Their opponent is a large group of species and factions collectively called the Covenant.

Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck is an average soldier in that war. He and his Strike Team are part of the Orbital Deep Shock Troopers, or ODST. The relationship between Strike Team members is much more than just trusting each other. They have to know what their colleague is going to do before he does it. Even though they have the latest weapons and battle armor, the Troopers still have a high death rate.

The ODST play a major role in thwarting a Covenant invasion of Earth at the end of the Covenant War. Buck has every justification for wanting to retire to someplace quiet with Veronica (who works for the Office of Naval Intelligence), his girlfriend. The Spartan program will give Buck and the other Troopers the chance to, literally, become super soldiers. Buck is very reluctant to go through the internal, and external, modifications that are necessary, until Veronica convinces him.

Meantime, there are some humans who really don't like the United Nations (the name of the human planetary confederation). Now that the Covenant War is over, they can't help but think that the Spartan soldiers will be used on them, to stifle all dissent. For Buck, fighting the Covenant War, was, figuratively, easy (if a being is alien, fire away). It gets a lot harder when the enemy is human, perhaps even another Spartan.

This is my first exposure to the "world" of Halo, based on the popular computer game. This novel is really good. As you can expect, there is a lot of action, but the characters are real people, too. The author does a first-rate job from start to finish, and it is well worth reading.

Of Ants and Dinosaurs

Of Ants and Dinosaurs, Cixin Liu, Amazon Digital Services Inc., 2012

This novella is about an unlikely partnership, between ants and dinosaurs, that started many centuries ago, during prehistoric times.

Fast forward tens of thousands of years. With much help from the ants, the dinosaurs have developed quite a technological civilization. The ants have the capacity to make the required fine electrical connections, while the dinosaurs contribute intellectual curiosity to the partnership. There are now dinosaur-sized automobiles, computers and spacecraft.

The two dinosaur "countries," Gondwana and Laurasia, have also developed nuclear weapons, with the ability to launch them at their opponent. The ants really don't like this. An ant general strike is crushed, literally. The ants hatch an audacious plan to take out the top levels of both dinosaur societies, not just the political and military leaders, and destroy all of their computers, all at the same time.

The plan works, but, then the ants learn that the dinosaurs had a version of Mutual Assured Destruction in place, to keep either side from "pushing the button." It involves the transmission of a certain electronic signal, every day. Can the ants fix the dinosaur transmitters, and convince some very upset dinosaurs that they sincerely want to help, before it's too late?

It's a really interesting science fiction fable that has something to say about life in the present day. Young people will enjoy it, and so will adults.  

The Wandering Earth

The Wandering Earth, Cixin Liu, Amazon Digital Services Inc, 2012

This novella is about Earth being on the move - literally.

Astronomers have determined that the Sun is using up its supply of fuel much faster than expected. It will explode, and turn into a red giant, swallowing the Earth, in approximately 400 years.

For most of that time, humanity has built giant rocket engines, powered by rocks and debris from Earth's mountains, pointing into the sky. The intention is to stop Earth's rotation, and then to send the whole planet to its new home, in the Proxima Centauri system, more than four light years away.

It is not simply a case of turning on the engines, and sending Earth out of the solar system. A number of years are needed to get Earth's orbit more and more elliptical, to make it possible to break out of orbit. The floods, earthquakes and the trip through the asteroid belt have laid waste to the entire surface of the Earth. What's left of humanity has long since moved into giant underground cities.

Nearing the edge of the solar system, many people take one last look at the Sun. They can't help but notice that it looks exactly like it did 400 years ago. Where's the red giant star that the Sun was supposed to become? Is it possible that the worldwide Unity Government has pulled off the biggest con job in human history?

This story has lots of ideas, and lots of possibilities. The author does a very good job at this length. There is a longer novel version available. I look forward to reading it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Empath's Ultimate Guide to Shield Yourself From Negative Energies

Empath's Ultimate Guide to Shield Yourself From Negative Energies, Sandy Quinn, 2017, Amazon Digital Services LLC

Are you afraid to say No to friends and family who ask for your help? Do certain smells or bright lights give you a headache? Do you not watch the TV news because all those negative events totally drain you? Do you intentionally avoid people because of their negative emotions? Congratulations, you are a Highly Sensitive Person, or maybe even an empath.

There is no reason for concern; all it means is that you feel emotions more strongly than the average person. Empaths look for time to be alone to recuperate and de-stress. Empaths can easily read and interpret emotional cues, and they can also easily tell when someone is lying to them. The "sixth sense" of an empath is more tuned in than average, so they can sense potential danger before other people.

An energy vampire does not have fangs or suck blood. They are deceptive, and masters of manipulation. They are also notorious guilt-trippers and are prone to making threats. What can the average empathetic person do to lessen their influence? Don't talk to them. Use mindfulness practice and visualization to improve your positive outlook on life. Get in the habit of smiling; the higher emotional vibration will be felt by low-vibration energy vampires. Practice positive affirmations.

What can an empathic person do, in general. to shield themselves? Learn how to say "No" (it will take practice). Your health and well-being should be your top priority. Take up yoga or other light exercise. Enjoy the outdoors. Buy flowers for yourself. Get eight hours of sleep. Create physical distance or barriers. Consider using protective stones or crystals.

This is a short, and interesting, general look at the "world" of empathy. If you, or someone you know, is more empathic than average, then reading this book will be time well spent.