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, January 6, 2015

Paul Robeson for Beginners

Paul Robeson for Beginners, Paul Von Blum, For Beginners LLC, 2013

Who was Paul Robeson? He was a lot more than just the singer of "Ol' Man River."

A native of Princeton, NJ, Robeson received a four-year athletic scholarship to Rutgers College. He was twice named All-American in football, and also played basketball, baseball and track. Graduating as class Valedictorian (an member of Phi Beta Kappa), Robeson attended, and graduated from, Columbia Law School. His attempt at a legal career did not go well. Robeson continued to play semi-pro football on the weekends, and tried his luck as a stage actor.

He became a huge star on the stage, including almost 300 performances as Shakespeare's Othello. Robeson also became a world-famous concert singer. He couldn't help but notice that during trips to Europe, especially the Soviet Union, he was treated much better than he had ever been treated in America. From the 1920's through the 1940's, Robeson made about a dozen films, including a couple of silent films. On the positive side, audiences could actually see a strong, intelligent black man in the lead role. On the negative side, Robeson's performance was usually the best part of the film. It was otherwise filled with clownish stereotypes about blacks. In frustration, Robeson walked away from Hollywood.

Robeson was not afraid to speak out on political issues, ranging from the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's, to racism in America, to opposition to the Vietnam War. Such activities made him a victim of the 1950's Blacklist, along with having his passport seized. This, plus his wife's diagnosis of terminal cancer, brought on a huge bout of depression. When he was next allowed to travel overseas, the "magic" was gone. There was time in a sanitarium, and a suicide attempt. For the last dozen or so years of his life, he lived quietly with his sister in Philadelphia, and saw very few people.

This is a wonderful book. Robeson's erasure from 20th century history should be on the level of a national embarrassment. This book will start to correct it. It is very highly recommended for everyone.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Modern Disciples (Volume 3)

Modern Disciples (Volume 3), Ian Anderson, Outskirts Press, 2013

This is the third in a series of novels about several people who learn that they are the offspring of various ancient gods of antiquity. They also have unique abilities to help them fight non-human evil.

Lisa Mikoto (daughter of the Japanese god Izanagi) travels to a Japan in crisis. An unknown force has put a sort of permanent black cloud over the whole country, cutting Japan off from the sun. Electric power plants have been attacked, leaving electricity sporadic over the whole country. The famous Tokyo nightlife is dead. Anyone who can leave Japan, by any route, is doing so. Those who remain do not go out after sunset, because of carnivorous flying creatures looking for a meal.

Lisa's initial task is to look for a young woman from Texas who vanished, without a trace, several years previously. She is rescued from a sex slavery ring, and put on a plane back to America. The other five members of the group fly to Japan, and join Lisa to find the cause of the black cloud. Many evil creatures are thrown in their way to stop them, or, at least, to slow them down.

A Shinto ceremony will encourage Lisa's sister, the sun goddess Amaterasu, to bring back the sun. An important part of the ceremony is the use of three very old mirrors, from Japanese folklore. The group has to travel considerable distances to get them. Naturally, the mirrors are not exactly in plain sight, just waiting to be found. This leads to more battles with inhuman creatures, including goblins and a giant spider. A major complication in the ceremony happens when the Shinto priest is murdered by the "bad guy" before he can finish. Does the sun return to Japan? Do all members of the group survive?

It's rare when the first three novels in any series are all excellent, but this author has done it. It has plenty of action, and the reader will learn more than they ever wanted to know about Japanese folklore. The reader will not go wrong with this book.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Necropolis, Michael Dempsey, Night Shade Books, 2011

This novel is about a man who wakes up in a strange, neo-futuristic world, after his murder.

Paul Donner is an NYPD detective who is out for the evening with his wife. They walk in on a bodega robbery, and are killed. He wakes up, forty years later, due to something called the Shift. Said to be the side effect of a retroviral attack, it re-animates the DNA of dead people, causing them to come to life. No, they don't turn into zombies, but they do age younger (an adult becomes a teenager, who becomes a child, then an infant, and ends as a hunk of protoplasm). Such reborn people, or "reebs," are considered third-class citizens, so Donner has to investigate his murder on his own.

A protective blister, or dome, is being built over New York City to keep the Shift "virus" (for lack of a better term) from infecting the rest of America. Manhattan has reverted to the 1930's, the time of Dashiell Hammett and the Studebaker. Harlem has gone back to the time of the Harlem Renaissance, and Greenwich Village is now in the 1960's hippie era. As Donner looks into his murder, he discovers some interesting things, like the person accused of killing him was intentionally released, without being charged. The conspiracy gets bigger and bigger, with Donner and his wife at the center. It involves the existence of an actual immortality serum, and a plan to kill millions of people in a very public, and gruesome, way, to solidify social control over the Big Apple.

This book works on a number of levels. It works really well as a regular detective story. It also works for those who liked the film "Blade Runner." It's well done from start to finish, and the twists and turns will keep the reader guessing. Here is a first-rate piece of writing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The NSA Files

The NSA Files, Terry Persun, CreateSpace, 2013

This detective novel takes place in a very new and different area, inside the human soul, or spirit.

Dan Johnston is not your average private investigator. He is a shaman, which means that he can enter the spirit world very easily. While there, he can, for instance, find a missing person, or convince a cheating spouse to stop cheating. It's not fulfilling work, but it pays the bills.

The NSA learns that some members of Congress are on the receiving end of some unusual political intimidation. An important bill is coming up for a committee vote, with billions of dollars at stake. The messages are received in their dreams, delivered by their spirit totems. Dan is asked to do what he can to stop it, before the vote.

Dan's grown son, Jason (their relationship is strained), and a shaman-in-training, gets involved. What they do in the spirit world has a noticeable effect on the Internet. A couple of assassination attempts convince Dan and Jason that they are on the right track. Marian, Dan's ex-wife (and Jason's mother) is kidnapped to make sure that Dan and Jason back off, permanently.

Focus shifts to a high-tech company in Arizona. Dan is able to find the source, in the spirit world, but nicely asking Mr. Big to stop what he is doing will not work. A more permanent solution is needed (like with guns and bullets). Are Dan and Jason able to start re-building their relationship? Do they even survive?

This one is very good. It works as a regular detective story, and the look inside the siprit world is quite interesting. Yes, it is well worth reading.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

1969: Once Upon a Time in Montreal

1969: Once Upon a Time in Montreal, Richard Austin, Thou Art That Publishing, 2014

This is a personal look, through the lens of a camera, at 1969 Montreal.

As a young man, the author became almost obsessed with photographing people, places and events around the city. The largest student occupation in Canadian history, at what is now part of Concordia University, began when West Indian students accused a biology professor of discrimination because of unfair grading. Austin was there, with his camera. Some small fires were set, damaging campus buildings, but there was no actual "riot."

The author spent some time working at a local, independent record store (who remembers record stores full of 45's and LP's?), where he met lots of interesting people and was exposed to all sorts of music. There are photos, including of some of the female customers.

During that time, the drug scene was quite active; Austin did his part. He shipped some lysergic acid to a friend in Greece who developed a thriving business selling LSD to American soldiers who were in port. He was very careful with the acid-soaked blotters until he accidentally spilled garlic pickle juice on them, causing the trips to get weird.

The annual St. Patrick's Day parade had been going on since the early 19th century. The Irish had a strong community, and maintained their identity, something which did not always go over well with the city's French population.

This is not meant to be any sort of comprehensive look at Montreal, just one person's photographic journey through one year in one city. Some of the photos are blurry, or could have been better framed. That's OK; it just adds to the informality of the book. Yes, this book is very much worth reading.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience

Just Add Hormones: An Insider's Guide to the Transsexual Experience, Matt Kailey, Beacon Press, 2005

This is an inside look at changing one's gender. In his 40's, the author made his female-to-male transition.

Among the central questions is what name to call them (transgender, transsexual, transman or transwoman). Another important thing to consider is whether or not to have Sex Reassignment Surgery (to change your genitalia). If not, then male-to-female transsexuals have to learn how to flatten, or hide, their genitals.

The biggest problem for anyone in the middle of their transition is public bathrooms. Do you use the gender that you are, biologically, or the gender with which you identify? Where's a unisex bathroom when you need it? Another problem is looking for a way to make it easier for sales clerks to call you Sir or Ma'am (without them choosing one and apologizing when they get it wrong).

As a woman, whenever Kailey got a flat tire, she could count on several men stopping to change the tire. As a man, Kailey was expected to do it himself. As a man, Kailey was expected to make disparaging remarks about women's bodies, and to be fascinated by bodily functions (and to think that farting was funny). A further revelation was being able to take his shirt off in public, and not hide the scars from getting his breasts removed.

Friends and family members may, or may not, support your transition. Some might consider it like a death in the family, while others might ask, "What took you so long?" The book also looks at how you tell your boss, and whether or not it is acceptable to ask a person what pronoun they prefer, if it is not obvious.

This book is very easy to read. The author does a very good job at calmly exploring parts of the transsexual world. For anyone who is transitioning, in either direction, give this book to friends and family members. It will answer a lot of questions before they are asked.