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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Vic Challenger 5: Fast!

Vic Challenger 5: Fast!, Jerry Gill, Ann Darrow Co., 2016

This is the fifth story about Victoria Custer, who, using the pen name Vic Challenger, is an adventure and travel writer for her hometown newspaper. She happens to have the avatar of a 100,000-year-old cavewoman, named Nat-ul, living inside of her, which gives her the self-confidence to do things that even experienced male adventurers won't do.

Vic, and her friend, Lin Li, travel to the Australian Outback to visit Vic's relatives. During a party with some of the locals to celebrate their arrival, the group is robbed at gunpoint by unknown individuals (The word "treasure" has been used). Vic and Lin Li go after them, after appropriate preparations. A person can't just chase someone who is on horseback in the Outback without carrying food and water, at minimum.

They are not totally sure if they are following the bad guys, or a decoy. Eventually, they catch up to them at an abandoned cattle station. Vic and Lin Li can't just burst in with guns blazing; two of them against several bad guys are not good odds. Before that, they have to deal with some Tasmanian wolves called thylacines that are kept at the station. They are large and carnivorous, and have been beaten and starved into becoming killers.

As the chase continues, dehydration is a major concern for Vic and Lin Li. They manage to find just enough water and edible plants and animals to keep going. The chase leads to a small forest, at night, where unseen, but very carnivorous, creatures mow down the rest of the thylacines like they were nothing like they were nothing, and nearly do the same to Vic and Lin Li.

The "treasure" is found in a grotto, next to a pond that is guarded by a creature that sets new records for carnivorousness. Again, our heroes barely escape, this time with the leather chest. Finally, Vic runs into the leader of the bad guys. Who wins the draw? Is this the end of Vic/Nat-ul's quest to find Nu, her lover from all those centuries ago?

By the time a fiction series reaches Part 5, there is bound to be some lessening, however small, in the quality of the writing. That is not the case here. The writing is still really good, with plenty of action. Any of these novels would make a really good movie.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., Sam B. Miller II, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2015 

Here is an alien invasion novel that starts with What Really Happened at Roswell.

The Chrysallaman Empire is looking for new colony planets. A very worthy planet is found, called HG-281 (Earth). The inhabitants, an inferior race called Humans, are very fragile, and are no match for Chrysallaman telepathy. They are very ruthless green lizards about five to six feet tall, and their military has no qualms about killing, or devouring any inhabitant of any planet who gets in their way. During their exploration, one of the scout ships is brought down in the American Southwest. The pilot is killed, but his son, approximately twelve years old, is captured.

The exploration ship, and its remaining scout ships, leave Earth, and head home, to a planet called Chrysalis, about 30 light years away. A very secret part of the US Military knows that they will be back, in force. A secret organization is formed, not of superheroes, but of really smart people, called the Federal Organization for Response to Celestial Enemies. Some attempt to understand the workings of the alien vessel, including what looks like a toy ray gun that shoots a very destructive beam. Knowing that conventional warfare will not work against a powerful telepathic enemy, others work on a way to genetically activate a person's latent telepathic abilities. A chemical is found, but the problem is how to get everyone in the world to take it without revealing its true purpose.

Fast forward about 60 years. The Chrysallamans return with several hundred warships, and a few million colonists. Humans have to let them land on Earth and get comfortable, because they are no match for the invaders in space. Needless to say, the human death toll is huge. The aliens are horrified to learn that their formerly unstoppable telepathic abilities have no effect on humans. But humans have found a way to bring down the ships of the invaders. It's time to take the fight right to the Chrysallamans.

This is an excellent novel. It is very easy to read, and certainly feels plausible. Famous bits of 20th Century history, like the Salk Polio Vaccine, fluoridation of water and the Hubble Space Telescope, make appearances in this book, in very unexpected ways. A second novel is in the works; I hope there is a third and fourth novel to come.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Best Time to Do Everything

The Best Time to Do Everything, Michael Kaplan, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005

Have you ever wondered when is the best time to place a sports bet, deliver a baby, sue for millions, buy life insurance, or snag a tough restaurant reservation? Wonder no more, this book has the answers.

This book is based on interviews with experts in each of the fields. The best time to go to the emergency room is Wednesday, Thursday or Friday morning. The best time to get comped at a casino is when you make your reservations; don't wait until you arrive. According to Bill O'Reilly, the best time to rattle an interview subject is when he is about to give you a canned response.

If you want to serve on a jury, the best days are Monday or Tuesday. Early January is usually very heavy, due to the Christmas holidays layoff. The best time to turn state's evidence is just before you are going to get whacked. When do you reveal a potentially disturbing fetish to your lover? After you have had sex three times. That way, the other person knows that you can still enjoy regular sex. When is the best time to pick up someone in a bar? After you have already gotten one phone number that night. You will be extra sure of yourself, and you won't worry as much about being shot down.

There really is a best time to be dragged through the gossip columns; it's when you are young and desperate to prove yourself (there is no bad publicity). The best time to get drunk with a client is when he is Japanese; it's no sin to get drunk with clients. Summer is the best time to come out of the closet. You can take a week off from work, spend three days explaining things to your family, and take long weekend mini-vacation the rest of the time.

This is a very interesting book of the type that can be picked up and read at any point. If you want to live your life cooler, smarter and better, you could do a lot worse than start right here.

The Bridge of Light

The Bridge of Light, A. Hyatt Verrill, Capricorn Publishing, 2005

This is a rousing adventure tale about the lost city of the Mayan Empire.

Traveling through rural Spain, the narrator purchases a couple of old books from a cubbyhole of a shop in a former monastery. A piece of folded papyrus falls out of one of the books. It is a 2000-year-old Mayan Codex that has never been seen before. It's value is beyond priceless. He takes it to eminent archaeologists all over the world to get it interpreted. They can't help, but they all agree that it is a historic find. He travels to Central America, and decides to look for Mictolan, the lost cities of the Mayans.

Naturally, there are no signs saying "Mictolan-This Way". A person must pass through the Valley of Death, the Tunnel of Serpents and the Pit of the Great Crocodile. After that, the person must cross eight deserts with a raging whirlwind that cuts solid rock. There is a demon and a fiend to face in the realm of hot ashes and two blazing mountains. Last, but not least, there is a Cave of Bats to be traversed, and a Bridge of Light to be crossed. By this time, the narrator is alone, everyone else in the caravan having run away in fear, or been killed by various carnivores.

He finds the city of Mictolan. He falls for a beautiful woman named Itza, who is about to be wed to the Sun God (it involves human sacrifice). Ancient prophecy says that Kukulcan, the winged Mayan God, will send his son, a white man, to lead the Mayan people back to their former glory. This gives him some authority over the people, which he uses by stopping the "wedding". This really upsets the ruler of Mictolan, a religious dictator named Kinchi-Haman. He can't publicly say that the "son of Kukulcan" is a fraud, but he waits for his chance at revenge.

The narrator learns exactly why the Mayan people disappeared. They have done amazing things with astronomy, but the introduction of the wheel is a stop-the-presses Event. The major obstacle in his escape from Mictolan, along with Itza, is the Bridge of Light. Is is a natural phenomenon, or does Kinchi-Haman control it? Do they escape Mictolan, and make it back to civilization? What happens to the people of Mictolan?

First published in a 1920's pulp magazine, this is an excellent adventure story. To quote from the back cover, "Before there was Indiana Jones, there was A. Hyatt Verrill". He knew a lot about the Mayans, and he is also a good storyteller. This will certainly keep the reader entertained.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tesseracts Eighteen: Wrestling With Gods

Tesseracts Eighteen: Wrestling With Gods, Liana Kerzner and Jerome Stueart, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2015

This yearly compendium of Canadian fantasy and science fiction tales deals with matters of religion and spirituality.

The religions of Christianity and Shintoism are mashed together in a weird amalgamation, led by an android Jesus. A Muslim woman uses surgery to get closer to Allah. A woman summons Ra, the ancient Egyptian Sun God, to see if he can do anything about a Canadian winter. There is a story about a teacher in a rural school, forcing Indian children to learn the ways of the white man, a teacher who just happens to be a vampire. The Hindu god Ganesha is convinced to get rid of his elephant trunk to be more acceptable to modern Hindus. There is also a Last person on Earth story.

Another Tesseracts volume equals another bunch of Very Good to Excellent stories. They will certainly get the reader thinking about Truth and who we are as human beings. As usual, this is very much worth reading.

Dragon of the Mangroves

Dragon of the Mangroves, Yasuyuki Kasai, iUniverse, Inc., 2006

This is a World War II novel told from the Japanese point of view.

In early 1945, part of the Japanese Twenty-eight Army is sent to Ramree Island , off the coast of Burma, to blunt the Allies' counter-offensive. While they are there, one of the soldiers, Superior Private Kasuga, asks a local villager about the horrible smell coming from Myinkhon Creek, which separates the island from the mainland. It comes from the man-eating crocodiles that inhabit the creek.

Fierce fighting against British and Indian troops drives the Japanese to the eastern edge of the island. Their only option is to swim Myinkhon Creek (which is a couple of hundred yards wide) to reach the mainland. Private Kasuga smells that crocodile smell again, and tells his sergeant, who is not sympathetic. The men are ordered to start swimming, at night.

Meantime, Second Lieutenant Sumi has been sent from the mainland, on a desperate mission to rescue as many soldiers as possible. A couple of more direct rescue attempts failed disastrously. Renting several rickety Burmese fishing boats, Sumi and several soldiers land at the south end of Ramree Island (it is not a small island). They have to walk for several days through thick jungle, to reach the Twenty-eighth's last known position. Are they in time? Is there anyone left to rescue?

This is a good novel (inspired by a true story) that shows Japanese soldiers as real people, with loved ones back home. It also shows them dealing with a huge shortage of food and water, ammunition and military leadership. The appearance of the crocodiles takes up only a little bit of the end of the book. Otherwise, it is short, and worth reading.

Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places

Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places, J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did more than just create the character of Sherlock Holmes. He also created Professor George Edward Challenger, a hulking, bombastic man of science (think "bull in a china shop"). He doesn't take any nonsense from anyone, and is not afraid to say so. He also frequently remarks that he is the smartest man in England, which is usually correct. Here is a bunch of brand-new Professor Challenger stories.

An investigation into what looks like a prehistoric man menacing rural England reveals something a lot more horrifying. Challenger and one of his companions, a newspaperman named Malone, find themselves on a derelict sea vessel that is under attack by a real kraken. The British authorities want Challenger to control the beast, and weaponize it, so that it can be used against German ships, an idea that Challenger considers beyond idiotic. A wealthy man serves real dinosaur meat to his dinner party guests, meat that contains a really unique parasite.

There is a trip to the Moon, which has a breathable atmosphere. Challenger and his companions are taken prisoner by the Selenites. There is a tale about growing human brains out of a sort of malleable crystal. It may be able to keep a person alive, but can a person's personality be transferred into the crystal brain?

I totally enjoyed these tales. They are all well done, with enough and weird stuff for anyone. I guess I shall have to read Challenger's most prominent previous appearance, in Doyle's novel "The Lost World." This book is highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Disruptive Feminisms: Raced, Gendered and Classed Bodies in Film

Disruptive Feminisms: Raced, Gendered and Classed Bodies in Film, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Palgrave Pivot, 2015

This book looks at several films that explore issues like class, gender, patriarchy and income inequality without being overwhelming about it.

Post Tenebras Lux is a recent Mexican film about two families, one rich and one poor, attempting to survive in present-day Mexico. It is one of those films that has a rather flexible border between fantasy and reality, and leaves a lot of interpretation up to the viewer. A person could watch the film several times, and have several different interpretations. That may be why, at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, it received mixed reviews, and the Best Director Award.

Made in the early 1950's, The Hitch-Hiker is about a pair of war buddies who tell their wives that they are going camping for several days. They are actually planning several days of drinking and carousing. That is because they despise their new post-war lives of consumer and office worker. The buddies run into a homicidal maniac who may, or may not, be a repressed, self-loathing homosexual. Being the 1950's, the violence is more implied than actual, but this is still a very dark film. Bottled Up is a more recent independent film set in upstate New York. A grown woman is addicted to prescription painkillers, and her mother has no problem in enabling her, even faking injuries to get her own prescriptions. The daughter has no interest in trying to kick the habit.

In the early days of television, there was an actress with a couple of very popular, but short-lived, shows that spoke to women as real people, and not just as consumers. Her name was Betty White. She was willing to portray women having real thoughts and feelings, including of a sexual nature. The show's sponsor was not in agreement, so the shows were turned into your average sitcoms, and ultimately cancelled.

This is a very interesting book, not just for passionate movie fans. It is recommended for those dealing with issues like sexism and ageism. It is very much worth reading for everyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Sex Guide - Pleasures of a Blow Job

A Sex Guide - Pleasures of a Blow Job, Marguerite de Lyon, 2015 (audiobook)

This is a fiction/non-fiction audiobook all about fellatio, the art of sexually stimulating a man's penis with a woman's mouth (i.e., blowjobs).

Tammy is a college freshman, and, like all of the other women in her English class, she is infatuated with Marcus, the handsome Graduate teaching assistant. After class one day, Marcus invites Tammy to his dorm room for some "private studying." With the door closed, Marcus teaches her how to stimulate a man's penis, starting with the basics. Tammy is a very willing student. Over a couple of weeks, she learns all about the art of fellatio, in great detail.

The non-fiction part starts with the anatomy of the male penis. The author looks at the very reasonable hangups a woman may have, like dealing with his taste in your mouth, swallowing or how to get around the gag reflex. Then it's all put together in Advanced Fellatio. Take your time; this is not a race. If a certain position or technique will not work, or is painful for you, go right ahead and adjust it any way you want. If he doesn't tell you what he likes, or does not like, be sure and ask. If all of him will not fit in your mouth, don't worry about it. The pleasure part is much more important than doing it the "right" way.

Obviously, this book is very much Adults Only. For couples who want to put some lightning (not just a spark) in their relationship, this is the book. For women who want to give their man some out-of-this-world sex, and keep him coming back for more, this is the book. It is very graphic, and very much recommended.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

Black and White Cinema: A Short History

Black and White Cinema: A Short History, Wheeler Winston Dixon, Rutgers University Press, 2015

I got an advance copy of this book, and after seeing it recommended on TCM, all I have to say is that it is a really interesting book. Most movie histories focus on the actors or director. This book focuses on the cinematographer, the person running the camera (also known as the Director of Photography, or D.P.)

Black and white film, even during the silent movie era, allowed an opportunity to experiment with light and shadow, and camera angles, in order to create a mood. Some directors were happy to give their D.P. free rein to light a scene the way they thought best, knowing that what showed up on the screen would be amazing. Other directors planned every bit of a scene, including the lighting, ahead of time, giving the D.P. not much to do except run the camera.

For every great film that was made, like "Citizen Kane" or "Casablanca", hundreds of cheap, lesser-quality B-pictures were produced. During the height of the studio "system", in the 1930's and 1940's, an Oscar-winning D.P., as an employee of one of the studios, might be obligated to work on a low-budget film, that if made today, would go straight to video. Each studio owned their own chain of theaters, which needed a constant supply of movies, so Hollywood really was a factory, churning out film after film. People needed an escape from the Great Depression and World War II, so they went to the movies.

The 1950's and 1960's were the era of Cold War paranoia, and New Wave cinema. It was also the time of the introduction of various "versions" of color movies, like Panavision or Cinemascope. Some of the D.P.'s profiled in this book were able to make the transition to TV and color films; others were not so fortunate. The last great black and white film was 1962's "Psycho."

The author starts the book by mentioning that the vast majority of films from the early days are no longer available, at all. The reasons include improper storage of film canisters, human stupidity, or the fact that movie film does not last forever. A film might be a boring, amateurishly done piece of schlock, but it is still a piece of film history, and it is still gone, forever. A number of the films mentioned in this book are not available anywhere.

This book is highly recommended for really passionate fans of old movies, people who are familiar with names like Gregg Toland, Nicholas Musuraca and John Alton. For the rest of us, this is a really interesting look at black and white films. Yes, it is well worth reading.