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
Shelfari.com
Goodreads.com
Bookwormr.com
SoulofWit.com
Books-a-million.com
Reviewcentre.com
Lunch.com
Bookblogs.ning.com
Chatabout.com
Flickr.com
Pinterest.com
and on Twitter
(seriously)

I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

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.  

The Secret World of Oil

The Secret World of Oil, Ken Silverstein, Verso Books, 2014

This book provides a peek behind the curtain at the business part of the oil industry, still a major part of the world's economy.

If an oil company wants to start drilling in a "new" country, like Equatorial Guinea, or somewhere in Central Asia, all they have to do is go to the president or Prime Minister, buy an oil lease, and start drilling, right? Wrong; there are other officials who need to be consulted, and compensated, first (American law forbids bribery, but American oil companies know that it's part of the cost of doing business). That is why "fixers" are so important. They know the local political landscape, or they have connections to the right officials. They also know how much the company should pay in "rebates" or "commissions."

Your father is the leader of some small country, with lots of oil reserves (the national treasury is treated like your own personal bank account). Your biggest decision is what glittering residence will you visit, your Malibu mansion, your Manhattan penthouse, or your villa on the French Riviera. Also, which of your dozen luxury cars will you bring with you?

There are a number of ex-politicians who travel the world making speeches about oil. Former British Prime Minister traveled to Azerbaijan where he received $150,000 for a speech lasting less than half an hour. In it, he said nice things about President Aliyev, whose human rights record is pretty horrible.

Neil Bush, part of the Bush family, has a bad record in the oil business. His companies don't just fail; they tend to crash and burn. But the Bush name is enough for foreign companies and governments to pay him tens of thousands of dollars for introductions.

This is a very interesting look at the oil industry. The author actually traveled the world, meeting the people portrayed in this book. The reader will learn a lot, and it is very much worth reading.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, Matt Taibbi, Spiegel & Grau, 2014

Among the consequences of the Wealth Gap in America seems to be the establishment of two different sets of laws, one for the rich and one for everyone else. This book gives the details.

The sale of Lehman Brothers to Barclays Bank was advertised as a last-minute, desperation fire sale. How did Barclays manage to get an extra five billion dollars as part of the deal? Among the reasons why the Justice Department doesn't prosecute "too big to fail" banks, or their top executives, is because they have lots of money, and lots of lawyers, to delay and delay the case until the government gives up. It is easier for the government, and it looks better, to go after smaller targets. Evidently, the agreements where a bank agrees to pay several billion dollars without admitting guilt, even for money laundering or handling Colombian drug cartel money, "sends a message." (Really?) There is the story of a group of billionaire hedge fund managers who conspired to drive a Canadian insurance company out of business, using dirty tricks. Countrywide Financial intentionally did not want to know details of the financial health of the people to whom they were lending money. They were happy to lend to anyone.

On the other side of the divide, how can America's prison population be going way up while the rate of violent crime is way down? The answer is: Stop and Frisk. Did you know that standing on the sidewalk in front of your house in New York City can get you arrested and thrown in a police van that just happens to be nearby? After going through the court system, charged with Blocking Pedestrian Traffic (even if there was no one else on the sidewalk at the time), you could be back in front of your house. This time, you are standing at the edge of the sidewalk, almost on the street. Prepare to get arrested again, charged with Blocking Vehicular Traffic (even if you weren't actually in the street).

The new criminal class in America seems to be welfare applicants and recipients. The author does not mean to suggest that accusations of welfare fraud should not be investigated, and, if necessary, prosecuted. What is the sense in assuming that Everyone is trying to defraud the system? This is not a case of "guilty until proven innocent" but "we know you are guilty, and eventually, we'll prove it."

This book easily reaches the level of Wow. It is a very eye-opening, and rather disheartening, look at life in present-day America. It is extremely highly recommended for all Americans.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fantastic Voyage: Microcosm

Fantastic Voyage: Microcosm, Kevin J. Anderson, Onyx Books, 2001

This novel is about exploring the body of an alien...from the inside.

During a Soviet military operation in Azerbaijan, an alien ship is shot down. Instead of handing the escape pod, with an alien inside, to the Soviet government, the Deputy Foreign Minister ships it to Project Proteus. It's a Top Secret base located in an isolated part of the California desert. They have found a new method of exploration, by miniaturizing people and machines to microscopic size.

The escape pod resists all scanning attempts (x-ray, MRI, CT scan), so a specially-built vessel, with a four-person crew, is shrunk and sent inside (by drilling a needle-sized hole in the view plate). Once inside, they find lots of nano-machines, who treat the vessel as food, a threat or as raw materials to build whatever they are building. The crew is in the middle of a running battle/chase scene to keep away from the nano-machines. Unknowingly, the crew finds an On switch, which, among other things, opens the escape pod.

On the outside, the nano-machines easily make the jump to the two physicians who are examining the alien's body. Within a few minutes, the nano-machines transform the physicians into aliens. If even one of those nano-machines gets loose, it will create others and they will turn all of humanity into aliens before Earth can mount any sort of defense.

Inside the alien, the crew has been running from the nano-machines for so long that they no longer know where they are. The shrinking effect lasts for only a few hours, so it is very much in their interests to find any sort of escape route. Once they exit the body, they learn what has happened to the tow doctors; the original alien has also woken up. Can they make it out of the sealed room, while staying away from the three aliens, and not let out any of the nano-machines, before returning to normal size?

In my experience, Kevin J. Anderson has always written strong, well-done stories, and this is no exception. A person could question some parts of the story, but, for those who are new to science fiction, or have never read the original Isaac Asimov novel, this book is well worth reading.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Get Rich Quick Book

The Get Rich Quick Book, Jeffrey Blake, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014

Here is a short, and interesting, book about how to make money online, even while you are sleeping.

There are many different types of items that can be sold online. The easiest, and least costly, for you, the seller, to sell is some sort of electronic product, like an audio or video recording, or an e-book. If your website is properly set up, you can receive orders any time of the day or night. It takes just a few keystrokes to "mail" the product, removing the need for inventory and overhead.

Find a way for your product to make the life of your customer easier. How can it fulfill a need they don't even know they have? It's easier to make money teaching a person to do something instead of doing it for them.

The book gives some subject areas to consider. Can you do something to help people get over their fear of heights, or flying? Perhaps you can sell miniature cameras, and other such spy equipment, for couples in the middle of divorce proceedings. There seem to be a million smartphone apps available. Consider starting a subscription site where you review some of these apps. Find someone on one of the freelance sites to actually create the apps for your client (be sure to split the revenue equally).

If you are a fashionista, you can start a site keeping women informed about the latest fashion trends (with affiliate links helpfully provided). Start a site that provides the services of a psychic, astrologer or medium. Last, but not least, where would the internet be without pornography? Start an adult web chat or phone sex site. Start a subscription site where you review other porn sites.

This is a very "basic" book that is light on details. Those are in the free, with purchase of this book, DVD (with a retail value of $97). Maybe that will help ease the pain of the high price for this book. Yes, this is worth checking out.