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.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Vic 4: Terror Incognita

Vic 4: Terror Incognita, Jerry Gill, CreateSpace, 2015

This is the fourth adventure of Victoria Custer, your average resident of the early 20th century. Using the pen name Vic Challenger, Victoria, and her friend, Lin Li, travel to exotic places and write about them for their hometown newspaper. The unique part is that inside Vic is the avatar of a 100,000-year old cavewoman  named Nat-ul (who is not afraid to call Vic an idiot when necessary). The two are engaged in a never-ending search for Nu, Nat-ul's lover from all those centuries ago. After all, Nat-ul is still alive (in a sense), so Nu must also be out there, somewhere.

In this volume, Vic and Lin Li plan to do some hiking and exploring in the Amazon rain forest. While in Brazil buying provisions, Vic meets Ech, and elderly woman who speaks the original language of the uprights; Nat-ul's language. Ech comes from the land of Goch, in an isolated area of the Amazon. Vic and Lin Li agree to go to Goch, if only to tell Ech's people that she has passed on.

After several days of traveling by boat upriver, and hacking through nearly solid vines and undergrowth, the two are taken prisoner and brought to a man, who speaks English, named Tis. They have found the land of Goch. Tis has a very effective means of keeping the people under control. Think of a cross between a large lizard and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, large enough to have a semi-human, but equally hideous looking, being riding it. They know how to deal with anyone who gets out of line. There are only two pairs at the moment, but Tis has hundreds of eggs ready to hatch, with which he will take over the world.

The two are separated for several days, but they make their escape. They are able to neutralize one of the dinosaur pairs, but even after reaching their boat, with the fuel line conveniently missing, the enters the river and comes after them. There is quite the pitched battle in the piranha-infested water, with some help from Nat-ul. Meantime, with Tis overthrown, do the people of Goch exact their revenge?

I really enjoyed this book. It has plenty of action, and exotic peoples and locations (exotic to the average American). I hope there are more tales of Vic/Nat-ul.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Women's History for Beginners

Women's History for Beginners, Bonnie J. Morris, For Beginners LLC, 2012

Look through the average history textbook, and it seems like all of human history was achieved by only one gender - men. Why? This book attempts to answer that question.

The basic answer is: patriarchy. Through most of history, women were subject to control by men in their families by laws, customs and religious edicts dictated by men. Many women were denied education, so they could not write down their experiences in the servant's quarters, at the Salem witch trials or as a slave in the Deep South. Other women were married at puberty, then after they gave birth, they were subject to control by their husbands.

Why isn't women"s history taught in college? Until the 1970's, women were not even allowed in college as students. If they were let in, they were limited to majors like English or Nursing. Some academics feel that women's history, like black or Native American history, is nothing more than political correctness. Some conservative women feel that the "timeless truths" of Western heritage will be replaced by a radical agenda. There are many reasons for the lack of women's history in school. It will require deconstructing, and really taking apart, religious teaching on women's status; it will undermine male authority, and make men look bad; it will damage, or destroy, traditional family values, and discussion of female sexuality in school will be roundly condemned by parents.

The author gives one version of women's history, which is not pleasant reading. That's because there is no such thing as one story of women's history. Does a person study Aztec women, or Early American women, or women of ancient China or women of World War II Europe? Does a person study marriage, or childbirth, or legal rights after her husband dies (if she has any)?

This is a very eye-opening book. I was aware that women's history was not very pleasant, but I didn't know that it was this unpleasant. This is highly recommended for all women, and for any men whose mind still has some openness and flexibility.  


Hubris, P.A. Wilson, (self-published), 2010

Charity Deacon is a private investigator and occasional free-lance journalist in present-day Vancouver. One night, she witnesses a motor vehicle accident downtown (with a fatality). Amid all the hubbub of police, ambulance personnel, and gawkers wanting to record it all on their smartphones, Charity sees two Asian men standing off to the side. It's almost as if they are making sure that the accident went off without a hitch.

Charity asks her friends about them, and learns that they are part of the Chinese mafia. They are the sort of people who have no problem with killing anyone who gets too close. Even Hell's Angels are nervous and apprehensive around them.

Meantime, Charity is approached by Val, a teenage prostitute who hires to help find Val's sister, Emma, another prostitute, who has been missing for the past couple of days. Inquiries among the local prostitutes yield nothing. From one minute to the next, Val shows herself as a scared teenage girl whose parents are dead (murdered by the same Chinese mafia), or as a tough, streetwise veteran with enough attitude for ten people.

Charity's inquiries about the two Asian men get her a trip to the hospital, beaten up by one of them. It also gets her houseboat ransacked. Released from the hospital, but hardly recovered from the beating, Charity gets word of a shipment of trafficked Chinese women coming to a local warehouse. With Val outside as lookout, Charity hides herself inside the warehouse, looking for enough evidence to put the Asian men away for a long time. Does Charity succeed? Is Emma found?

This would make a really good movie. It has plenty of dirt, grime and action. This story is also very well done and easy to read.

Accelerating Returns

Accelerating Returns, Peter Anthony, CreateSpace, 2011

Here is a near future techno-thriller about those who welcome the accelerating pace of technology, and those who want to subvert it.

Isaac and Julia are part of group of rogue extremists called "blockers." Their intent is to perform acts of terror to present the public with spectacles of worst-case scenario science. They are not your average technology-hating luddites, but people in corporate boardrooms and research labs who want to slow the seemingly inevitable joining of man and machine.

There is a major corporate battle going on between Pelius Research and Talbot Laboratories, and Talbot is losing. Even though Talbot is America's largest biotech company, every day seems to bring another lawsuit, ethics violation, or other bit of bad publicity, all orchestrated by Pelius. To say that Arrica, the female CEO of Pelius, does not like Talbot, and Marcus Jovan, its founder and CEO, is much too generous. She wants to put Talbot out of business, and then buy out what's left in a takeover.

Robert Ploof is an arrogant little you-know-what who is not afraid to walk over people on his way to the top. After being fired by Talbot, and quickly hired by Pelius, he takes credit for a potentially huge breakthrough in the coming man/machine integration. A public demonstration of the breakthrough goes very wrong, with "help" from Julia. Meantime, there is a story of an estranged father and son, and a senior executive at Pelius with his own anti-science agenda. Does either corporation survive the Pelius/Talbot war?

This is an excellent story. Not only is it thought-provoking (is technology changing at maximum speed really such a good thing?), but it is also a strong and well-done piece of writing. It is very much worth the time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

American Amazons: Colonial Women Who Changed History

American Amazons: Colonial Women Who Changed History, Alex Bugaeff, 2015

This is the second in a series about "Gomps," who entertains his grandchildren, Hannah and Carter, with stories about early American history. This book is about the women, some famous and some unknown, who helped shape this country.

Lucy Terry Prince, a former slave, argued a land dispute before the US Supreme Court in 1797, and won. During the crossing of the Mayflower, Bridget Fuller delivered three babies, and continued as a midwife in Plymouth for another 44 years. In practice, midwifes were doctors, but without the degree. In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to get a medical degree.

Mary Crouch, a native of Rhode Island, ran a newspaper in South Carolina after her husband died. She was a strong believer in independence, and made sure that her newspaper reflected it. Margaret Kemble Gage grew up in New Jersey, and was married to General Gage, the British commander in Boston. Margaret, a secret independence sympathizer, overheard her husband making plans. She told Joseph Warren, a Boston doctor who shared her sympathies, and he told Paul Revere, who then made his famous ride.

Women were supposedly not smart enough to understand military strategy, so many colonial women made the most of their opportunities to listen to British commanders, and pass on the information. There were a number of women who enlisted in the Continental Army as men, and fought on the front lines. Also, there were more women who worked as blacksmiths during the war, and others who provided the troops with food, equipment and clothing. Deborah Reed Franklin ran Benjamin Franklin's printing businesses, while he spent many years in Europe, as his common-law wife.

This is an excellent book. It is very easy to read, because each chapter is only a few pages long, and the book can be read starting at any point. It is highly recommended for those who study American history, and American women's history. It looks at people who don't get mentioned in the average history textbook.

They Don't Teach Corporate in College

They Don't Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something's Guide to the Business World (Revised Edition), Alexandra Levit, Career Press, 2009

You are fresh out of college, and you have just gotten your first corporate/white collar job. Aside from wearing a suit on your first day, what do you do?

If you have a lot of tattoos or piercings, strongly consider covering or removing them. This is just until you get familiar with your fellow employees, and they get familiar with you. As boring as it sounds, read the new employee handouts. It will include important stuff, like the company's smoking policy (if you are a smoker), and the number of vacation days that you have available (for the first couple of months, don't take any time off).

Get to know your nearby cubicle inhabitants. Some of them will be friendly and approachable, and some will not; don't worry about it. Realize that there is a difference between fellow employees who are good to have lunch with, and friends you can call when you significant other has just broken up with you. Sit down with your immediate boss, and iron out just what your duties are, and how often the performance evaluation (or other feedback) will be.

You will be given lots of boring, grunt work to do that you may consider beneath you. Just be quiet, and do it; it's called "paying your dues." Besides, it never hurts to show your boss, instead of trying to tell your boss, just how good an employee you really are. In meetings, it might be tempting to say that, in school we did it this way, or, at my previous job, we did it that way. In the first few months, don't do it; your job is to listen and learn.

Some of your fellow employees will be"difficult," at best. Take several deep breaths, count to ten, or get in your car and scream and curse, but don't lash out at them in the office. If you do, you will be the one with the attitude problem. Other employees are going to try to get you to do their work for them. Learn how to say no, without really saying no.

This is an absolute gem of a book. It will answer a lot of questions before they are asked. Large companies should in the habit of including a copy of this book (there is a more recent third edition available) with the handouts given to all new hires. It is very much worth reading.