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.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Dark Energy

Dark Energy, Robison Wells, Scholastic Inc., 2016

Contact with an alien race has finally happened. A mile-long spaceship has crashed, putting a 300-mile-long gouge in the American Midwest, killing thousands of people. Alice has been put into a local boarding school, because her father, who works for NASA, has to be at the crash site.

After several days, a hole is cut in the side of the ship, and the aliens start coming out, by the thousands. They call themselves the Guides, and they sure do look human. A bit of secret genetic testing shows that they really are human. They also speak a version of an old Native American language from the American Southwest. The humans get a look inside the ship, and see large rooms with lots of spilled blood. Perhaps the ship crashed because of a major battle or mutiny on board.

The Guides are not the only inhabitants of the ship. These other aliens are gray-skinned, much taller than the Guides, with lots of horns and claws and a nasty disposition. It seems that the Guides were practically slaves, and that a mutiny did cause the crash, and that the "bad guys" are not going to let the Guides go that easily.

Alice and a couple of friends have been taking care of a couple of the Guides. They suddenly find themselves racing across America, to a supposed sanctuary, knowing that, at any moment, they could be blasted into atoms.

This is a really good Young Adult novel. The author does a first-rate job from start to finish. It has plenty of action, and is very much worth reading.

Meeting Nihena

Meeting Nihena, Ervin Agayan, 2018, Amazon Digital Services

First of a series, this novel is about Arsy and Zens, a pair of traveling thieves. They enter the city of Mozakon, the shining city on a hill (literally). They are there because a local sensei  is said to be the only person who can teach Arsy the martial art of cathastu.

Arsy has plenty of motivation to learn. Several years previously, he was an ally to a well-known outlaw named Erathos. Now they are on opposite sides. Maybe sooner, maybe later, the two will meet again. Without cathastu, Arsy is a dead man (again, literally).

Arsy is in love with Princess Parelia. She despises him, because of his past association with Erathos, and has made it clear that she never wants to see him again. While in Mozakon, Arsy and Zens run into Nihena, daughter of the city's Lord, and chief mercenary. Think of the human equivalent of a Tasmanian Devil. She is loud, brash, arrogant and with the fighting skills to back it up (which she is not afraid to use). She agrees to teach cathastu to Arsy, after the Lord withdraws official permission. Reports surface that Erathos is only a couple of days away from Mozakon.

There is a lot of dialogue, and not much sword or sorcery in this novel. The author almost, but not quite, reaches the level of writing an excellent story. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.


Nevermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles (ed.), Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2015

Here is a group of contemporary stories inspired by the writing of Edgar Allan Poe. They could be thought of as modern retellings of some of his most famous tales. Poe was a pioneer in several different literary genres, including detective stories, science fiction and, of course, horror.

The stories are mostly short (only a few pages each), and they are very easy to read. They are spooky/macabre stories, as opposed to actual horror stories. As with any Poe story, these stories will keep the reader awake, so don't read this book in bed.

Horror fans will love this anthology, and Poe fans will especially love it. All of these tales are really good.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Armada, Ernest Cline, Crown Publishing, 2015

Zack Lightman is an average teen-age resident of Oregon. His passion is video games, especially an Alien invasion game called Armada, at which he is one of the top players in the world.

Zack's father, Xavier, died when he was a baby (or did he?), but left behind some unique theories. He strongly believed that pop culture, from the Twilight Zone TV show to the Star Wars films all the way to present-day video games has a specific purpose. It is to indoctrinate mankind to the possibility of alien existence, because Contact has already happened.

At school one day, everyone rushes outside when a shuttle from the Earth Defense Alliance, exactly like the video game, lands on the athletic field. The people inside are looking for Zack. The invasion is real and imminent. Taken to a secret underground base, Zack and the other new recruits, all top players of the game, learn that swarms of drones are coming from Jupiter's moon, Europa. The intention is to wipe out humanity. All of Earth prepares for war.

While engaging the invaders, questions arise about their tactics. If they really want to destroy mankind, why are they using an inefficient method like a drone invasion? Pointing an asteroid at Earth, or releasing a worldwide plague would be much easier.

Anyone with any video game passion will love this novel. It is very easy to read, and understand, and would make a great movie. This is very much worth reading.

Quista - Book One: Danay

Quista - Book One: Danay, Aviva Bel'Harold, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2016

Quista is a very strange star system. It has three suns, a dozen planets and over fifty moons. The Emperor holds it all together with magic.

Danay is an outcast on the mostly water planet of Uma'Three. It is literally a piece of a larger planet, along with Uma'One, Two and Four. She is too tall, too thin and she doesn't have a second set of lungs, like everyone else.

Danay wears a Coming of Age bracelet, which, in the local language, says "Precious One". In another language, it says something totally different. Phillip, a boy that Danay secretly likes, suddenly returns after being away for a long time. He now won't leave her side.

The Emperor's troops arrive to perform loyalty tests. Phillip tells Danay that she has to leave now, but can't answer her questions. Eventually, Danay learns the other translation of her bracelet, and she learns the real identity of her mother, who she never knew. Danay finds herself in the middle of a growing rebellion.

The author does and excellent with this Young Adult novel, from the characters to the story to the society-building. Young people will love this story; adults will, too.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Amped, Daniel H Wilson, Doubleday, 2012

Owen is your average high school teacher, with a neurological implant in his head to control his epilepsy. Thousands of people have such implants in their heads to eradicate learning disabilities and reduce the severity of neurological problems.

In a landmark court case, the Supreme Court declares that "amps" are not entitled to the same legal protections as everyone else. This unleashes a national wave of harassment, beatings, martial law and being forced into resettlement camps (think Nazi Germany) for all amps.

Just before he is killed by an anti-amp mob, Owen's father, who implanted him, tells him to find a man named Lyle, who is living in a trailer park in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. Lyle was part of an amped military unit, which was disbanded when things got out of hand. The trailer park has become an amp sanctuary, even though it is surrounded by anti-amp zealots, who seem to enjoy harassing the amps, fueled by large amounts of beer.

Lyle tells Owen that he does not have the average implant in his head. He is carrying some high-class, military grade software in his head. Owen learns how to turn it on and off, and has several chances to use it against the anti-amps. It sure looks like America is headed for a second Civil War. Is there anything that Owen, or anyone else, can do to stop it?

This is an excellent near-future thriller. It is very plausible, and it is very easy to read and understand. It is also nice and high-tech, and it is very much recommended.

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, David Neilsen, Yearling, 2016

The children who live on Hardscrabble Street are upset to learn that an abandoned house, their favorite playground, is no longer abandoned. It has been purchased by Dr. Fell, a man of indeterminate, but advanced. age. Attired in a long, black coat and a purple top hat, he is accompanied by many crates and large boxes.

The next morning, the children see the ultimate in playgrounds in his front yard. It has everything a child could possibly want in a playground. The children spend every spare minute at the playground. All of the elementary schools in town establish regular school bus routes to Dr. Fell's playground.

With any group of children playing, there are going to be bruises, skinned knees and other minor injuries. Dr. Fell takes them into his house to get fixed up, and they emerge brainwashed. Even more serious injuries are fixed by Dr. Fell like they are nothing.

As time goes on, the popularity of Dr. Fell's playground grows to the point where every elementary school within twenty miles sends their children to him. The brainwashing includes the parents, who want Dr. Fell to do their children's yearly physical (even if they have just had their yearly physical).

Jerry, Gail and Nancy are the only ones not under Dr. Fell's spell. Can they discover his evil plan before it is too late? Does Dr. Fell plan to take over the world, starting with the children?

Intended for children 8 - 12 years old, this is a gem of a book. It works really well as a mystery, and it will certainly keep the reader's interest. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Blue Girl

The Blue Girl, Charles De Lint, Viking, 2004

Imogene is new to Redding High, in the town of Newford. Having left her previous school because of fighting and gang activity, she resolves to work harder in school, and otherwise re-invent herself. But she refuses to give up her punk/thrift store wardrobe.

Imogene's first friend is Maxine, who everyone thinks of as a loser. It's because Maxine's mother is extremely domineering. Oddly enough, the friendship works.

Trouble is brewing. Imogene is noticed by the school bully, who is also captain of the football team. She makes the acquaintance of Adrian, the school's ghost. He is a former student who fell off the multi-story roof. He has also developed a crush on Imogene. She gets on the wrong side of a group of trouble-making fairies (no, they don't have wings and carry magic wands). As if that wasn't enough, Pelly, Imogene's imaginary playmate from when she was a child, is now real.

Adrian, inadvertently, makes Imogene known to the Soul Snatchers, beings who are best avoided at all costs. Pelly finds a Soul Snatcher "repellent", which temporarily turns Imogene's skin blue. Halloween is coming, when the barrier between worlds is at its thinnest. Is it possible to convince the Soul Snatchers to leave Imogene permanently alone? Does someone else get snatched in her place?

This is a very enjoyable young adult novel. The author is said to be the founder of the urban fantasy genre, and it certainly shows. The depiction of high school is very realistic, and it is just weird enough, without being too weird. Teens will love this story; so will adults.

Agent to the Stars

Agent To The Stars, John Scalzi, Subterranean Press, 2005

How can a spaceship full of friendly aliens introduce themselves to the people of Earth without causing a worldwide panic? Enter Tom Stein, hotshot Hollywood agent.,

Carl, Tom's boss, has given him the full-time job of representing Joshua, who looks a lot like a pile of green slime. Carl was "involved" in Joshua's birth (it's complicated) so Joshua speaks fluent contemporary American English. Joshua also has the ability to enter, and take over, another being, like a neighbor's dog.

Tom needs to hand off his present clients to other agents, which raises some eyebrows in Hollywood. Among his clients is Michelle Beck, your stereotypical twenty-something blond bimbo actress. Michelle is good for low-budget sci-fi pictures or beach pictures, but not for an ultra-serious film about the life of a Holocaust survivor. Michelle really wants the lead role, but the audition does not go well. On the set of another low-budget sci-fi film, Michelle suffers a freak accident, which puts her in a deep coma.

Can Joshua and his alien friends do anything about it? Is there enough of Michelle left to save? Do the aliens come up with a way to say Greetings to mankind without causing a planet-wide freak out?

I totally enjoyed this book. It's an excellent mashup of Hollywood and a really intelligent first sontact story. It's also very easy to read, and is very much recommended.