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.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Red Rising

Red Rising, Pierce Brown, Del Rey Books, 2014

First of a trilogy, this book is all about revolution, and love.

Darrow has spent his entire life as a miner, living underground on Mars. Part of a colony whose job is to mine Helium, all of the miners have been told, for many years, that the surface is uninhabitable. They are helping to build a new human society on Mars. Doubts enter into Darrow's mind after his wife is murdered by the brutal, sadistic government. Recruited by a secret underground group, Darrow learns that, for the past couple of hundred years, the miners have been Really Lied To.

The usual revolt would be crushed within a couple of days, so Darrow is given a different assignment. Months are spent turning him into a member of the elite class, both physically and mentally. He is to infiltrate the elite class, and become one of them. After he has risen to a senior position in the regime, then he will bring it down from the inside.

Along with a couple of dozen other young people, Darrow becomes a student at an institute to decide the next member of the ruling class. Split into several groups, they are each assigned to a castle in a river valley, and told to go from there. What follows is a Hunger Games-style competition, with real casualties, to winnow down the field. Darrow shows real leadership, and plenty of guts. Another student, the son of one of the rulers, is "supposed" to win, but isn't going to follow along. Does Darrow pull off an unauthorized win? Does he even survive?

This one is a gem of a story. It has everything; a brutal government and dystopian society, growing revolution, young people and some possibilities for romance. It also has an easy to read story. This is very much worth reading.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vyrkarion: The Talisman of Anor

Vyrkarion: The Talisman of Anor, J.A. Cullum, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2013

Last of a trilogy, this fantasy tale takes place on a planet with nine different races. For the humans, an ever-present threat is of being enslaved by a race of shape-changing lizard people. There's also an ancient prophecy whose time has come.

While traveling, a young noblewoman named Alanna meets Myrriden, a wizard who is also bearer of Vyrkarion, one of eight living crystals. Myrriden makes Alanna Vyrkarion's new bearer. He had little choice; he was dying at the time. Myrriden tells Alanna that she must be trained in how to handle a living crystal by a famous wizard named Jerevan. (In part 2 of this trilogy, Jerevan was given a very advanced curse by another wizard. It's the sort of curse that can only be lifted by Jerevan becoming an "expert" wizard.) Alanna is very aware of Jerevan's past, so she would rather get her training from anyone else.

Aavik is the leader of the isklarin (the lizard people). He is very aware of Vyrkarion's change in "ownership," and makes plans to get the crystal for himself.

Rhys Cinnac is cousin of the king, and also bearer of Cyrkarion, another of the living crystals. He is most interested in the part of the prophecy which says that the king will die, and a child will be saved. Could the child be Aubrey Cinnac, legitimate heir to the throne? He acts incredibly mature for his age. Can Alanna get over her strong dislike for Jerevan, and let him train her, so Aubrey can stay alive, and help the crystal to show its full power?

This is an excellent novel, and trilogy. The author does a fine job from start to finish, with the storytelling, the society-building, and the wizardry (and other weird stuff). It is very much worth reading.

 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Perpetual Motion Club

The Perpetual Motion Club, Sue Lange, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013

This novel is set in a near-future high school. It is similar to, and very different from, today's high school.

Northawken High School is full of the usual high school cliques. It is also a place where many of the students are sponsored by one or more corporations, ranging from Abercrombie and Fitch to Microsoft. The school is full of six-foot high logos for the latest junk food or software.

Elsa Webb is one of the few un-sponsored students. She is very smart, but full of the usual high school emotions. Despite encouragement from her friends, her parents and her geometry teacher, Elsa is very uninterested in joining the school's Science Society. It will supposedly look very good on her resume; she may not get into a good college without it. Impulsively, she decides to start a Perpetual Motion Club.

Interest among her classmates in joining the club is nearly non-existent. The only other members are her friends May, who is a witch, and Jimmy, who has loved Elsa from afar. She is unable to get the club sanctioned by the school. Meantime, Elsa has a major crush on Jason, the new kid in school, who is part of the basketball team. Even though Elsa helps him out of a huge jam, Jason barely knows that she is alive.

With a school-wide science competition called Future World rapidly approaching, Elsa decides on a major change in emphasis. Instead of trying to build a perpetual motion machine, she will look at the subject from a different angle. Will Jimmy and May help build her new idea? Will Jason and his basketball cohorts lend a hand? Will she get it to school on time?

The author does a really good job exploring the good and bad of the high school experience. The story is interesting and believable. This is not just for high school students; adults will also enjoy it.  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Clockwork Heart

Clockwork Heart, Dru Pagliassoti, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, 2013

This fantasy/romance tale takes place in a very stratified society.

Taya is an icarus, a courier (with metal wings) who can move freely between the social classes in the city of Ondinium. A person's class is tattooed on their forehead; only through reincarnation can a person rise in class.

One day, Taya saves an Exalted (members of the elite class) and her son from what could have been a mid-air disaster. There is a growing terrorism problem in Ondinium; was this their handiwork? Her heroism attracts the attention of Exalted Alister Forlore, a member of the ruling council (he is also very handsome). He also writes computer programs for the Great Engine, the analytical engine that helps to run the city. He has written a program that is supposed to predict a person's most compatible mate. Taya also meets Alister's brother, Christof. He is a sarcastic you-know-what who has renounced his Exalted status and lives in the Ondinium equivalent of the inner city.

Tempting as it is, Taya knows that having any sort of intimate relationship with an Exalted is a really bad idea. A few days later, an aircar in which Alister was supposed to be riding explodes in midair. There is no chance for a definite identification of the dead, but everyone assumes that Alister is dead. It becomes known that someone has been trying to run unauthorized programs in the Great Engine, which is a huge offense, even for an Exalted. Taya and Christof learn, to their shock, that Alister staged his own death, and that his personal-compatibility program is only the beginning of his plans for the people of Ondinium.

I totally enjoyed this book. It's got steampunk, and it's got really good writing that is easy to read. It also has a bit of romance. I am very interested in reading the other parts of this trilogy (whenever they are available).

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Puzzle Box

The Puzzle Box, The Apocalyptic Four, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, 2013

This book shows that reality is not what we think it is, and the key is a puzzle box.

Professor Albert Mallory has stolen an ancient puzzle box, and plans to sell it to pay gambling debts. The night before the debt comes due, a man named The Chronicler visits Mallory and demands to see the box. From the open box, Mallory watches the stories of four other people who opened the box.

Warlock is a roadie for a rock band. He falls for a woman who really is part of a coven of witches, which he is all set to join. Through the open box comes Satan, who offers a chance to become the band's lead singer, replacing the current lead singer who is in the hospital. Autumn Bailey was sent to Earth to live as a human until her 30th birthday. She actually has a very strong connection to Greek mythology.

Angela Matterly is a video store clerk who likes to wear cats-eye contact lenses. One night, Roger, a fellow employee, gets the box open, and out pops an eight-foot tall djinn named Skip. Angela is offered three wishes, but there is a time limit. She uses one of the wishes, but things turn very bad, so she is able to put things back the way they were. Things get complicated when Angela learns that Ellen, her mother, and Skip, the djinn, already know each other (it's not what you are thinking).

Sam is a comic book artist who meets Lucy at an art show. Their relationship gets hot and heavy, until Lucy's ex-boyfriend interrupts them, carrying a shotgun. After he shoots Lucy, and then himself, things get weird.

These are all first-rate stories (personally, the second pair of stories are a little better than the first pair). They are well-done, and they are nice and weird. The reader will not go wrong with this book.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Factory World

The Factory World, Joseph Edward Ryan, Steam Press, 2013

This post-apocalyptic novel is about two people who find themselves in a very strange place.

Simon is a young boy who wakes up in a drain pipe, with no memory of home. He is wearing a Cowardly Lion costume, because he is a fan of the Wizard of Oz. Simon is met by an older man, who also doesn't know where he came from, or even his own name. Simon calls him the Tin Man.

They start walking along abandoned railroad tracks through a desolate landscape. They pass huge, deserted factories. There are a number of what look like mannequins made out of black rubber (later in the book, a way is found to make them come alive). They meet a couple of other humans who, in various ways, are not very friendly. Occasional shooting stars plow holes in the earth which show a series of pipes underground, like the planet is a giant factory. Do they find a way back home?

This is a pretty "quiet"novel, with only two main characters, so it will take some patience on the part of the reader. That patience will be rewarded, because this is a good story. My only criticism is that the ending felt a little too easy, or cop out-ish. It is still well worth reading.