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.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Paths in the Storm

Paths in the Storm, Ilana Maor, 2018, Alonim

Based on a true story, this is the tale of 20th century Europe as seen through the eyes of two Jewish families.

Marek comes from a family of medical doctors. He just wants to complete his studies, despite the increasingly harsh conditions for Jews. He is forced to keep moving from school to school, country to country. Max is obsessed with the new technology of moving pictures; he just wants to make films. This leads to several "relationships" with his female co-stars.

Living in Soviet-occupied Warsaw, as a well-to-do family, one of the families is rounded up, and forcibly deported (in a cattle car) to Soviet Central Asia. They are expected to become farmers. This is despite the fact that the soil is very bad for farming, and, as city dwellers, they know nothing about farming. After several years of bare survival, things improve slightly when they are reunited with an uncle who was similarly deported. They are able to get decent, non-farming jobs in a big mining town.

The level of storytelling in this book is excellent, from start to finish. For anyone who wants to know what WWII era Europe was like, at the individual, or family, level (not at the history textbook level), this is the place to start. It is a first-rate piece of writing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Glass Shards

Glass Shards, Emilie Vainqueur, Lili Books and Company, 2019

Part 3 of a series, this continues the story of Amethyst, a female jewel thief, and Diamond, her younger sister. Amethyst has made it out of the extremely lawless Devil's Backbone, alive and intact. She is increasingly concerned about her abilities, which shows itself when her eyes turn fluorescent purple. Amethyst is now able to control the weather.

The reader sees the (literal) hole in the ground that is home for the sisters. Amethyst wants very much to have her abilities removed, but that would mean leaving Diamond behind. Amethyst also rekindles a relationship with Tyryn, an ex-boyfriend. Several years previously, in a moment of stupidity, Tyryn pushed Amethyst away. Ever since, he has looked for a chance to tell her his true feelings. Amethyst also runs into the Black Flame, master jewel thief. This time, he is unmasked, and there is something familiar about him. . .

The excellent level of writing in the first two volumes of this series has not dropped off at all. This book, and the whole series, is very much worth reading. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Jimmy's Got a Gun

Jimmy's Got a Gun: The Crash Brothers Forever, Melvin Douglas Wilson, Yorkshire Publishing, 2017

This is the story of a group of inner-city junior high school students, led by Mely Mel, the narrator, who are bused to a suburban junior high school. This is because their local school is very unusable.

They form their own "crew," called The Crash Brothers. They concentrate on helping the elderly in their neighborhood, with things like lawn mowing and snow shoveling. They go to church every Sunday, and otherwise work to be good people. They run into Big Mike, the local bully, and his crew, and they scatter. Jimmy, one of the Crash Brothers, isn't so lucky. He is grabbed by Big Mike, beat up, and his lunch money is stolen.

Several days later, the Crash Brothers are at a local pizza parlor, when Big Mike enters, and asks Jimmy to step outside. Jimmy calmly finishes his pizza, walks outside, and pulls out a gun (registered to his father), pointing it at Big Mike's head. Does Big Mike become another gun violence statistic? Does Jimmy get hauled off to jail?

This story is intended for middle school students, and it is really good. Gun violence affects every corner of America, so this is extremely timely. The faith-based part is at the end, when the local pastor helps the crew understand exactly what just happened. It is short, and very much worth reading, for kids and adults.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Black Flame

The Black Flame, Emilie Vainqueur, Lili Books and Company, 2019

Part 2 of a trilogy, this is the story of Amethyst, a female jewel thief in the Devil's Backbone, an extremely lawless part of the city. She is captured by the Black Flame, a master jewel thief. While fighting, they learn each other's secret identities. This gives them plenty of reason to stick together. Such information would be fatal for them in the wrong hands.

The Black Flame gives Amethyst enough jewels to set her up very nicely somewhere else, on the understanding that she never returns to the Devil's Backbone. Of course, it is not that easy. Amethyst is hated, and shunned, by the people of the nearby city. Whenever she gets excited, or emotional, her eyes glow fluorescent purple. It leads to accusations of being a witch or a demon.

The reader gets a better idea of what it's really like to have such a gift/curse, from the "inside." The reader meets Diamond, Amethyst's younger sister, and the only family she has left. Amethyst also runs into Tyryn, an ex-boyfriend. Do they consider getting back together?

Here is another excellent piece of writing. It has everything a person could want, fantasy, romance and dystopia. This is very much worth reading.