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.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Remember Me

Remember Me, Mary Ann Barrucco, Morton Books, 2014

This is a non-fiction story about one woman's attempts to cope with life throwing everything at her.

Mary Ann is looking forward to life with Eddie, her husband. Both have good jobs with the City of New York. Eddie's drinking turns into full-blown alcoholism, and he takes it out on Mary Ann. To deal with the abuse, Mary Ann becomes a compulsive gambler. Eddie receives a really good incentive to stop drinking when his health collapses because he needs a heart transplant.

Eddie gets his new heart, and things start to improve between him and Mary Ann. They go on a cruise, and renew their wedding vows. Life is good. That is, until the day that Eddie is diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. The end comes quickly. Instead of being able to mourn her husband privately, Mary Ann is thrown into a battle among Eddie's family over, you guessed it, money.

Mom, the family matriarch, is 90 years old, and still has her faculties, but she can no longer live alone. Eddie's brother and his wife convince Mom to live with them in Florida. The problem is that the wife is a greedy, manipulative little you-know-what who makes no secret of her desire to get her hands on Mom's large bank account. A bigger problem is that Eddie's brother is totally unwilling, or unable, to stand up for himself or his family in New York to his wife.

Mary Ann makes her hatred for Greedy Wife very clear when the draining of the bank account starts (which the family in New York is able to stop). Greedy Wife cuts off all contact between Mom and New York, except to say things like 'Mom wants Mary Ann removed from the (already existing and rock-solid) will' or 'Mom wants no further contact with New York because they are being mean and inconsiderate' (which are total nonsense). Most of the contact between New York and Florida is done through attorneys. Through all this, a group of widows help Mary Ann grieve Eddie's death and keep her emotional bearings.

On the positive side, this is a very raw and plain-spoken story about love and death and family squabbles. It is short, and very much worth reading. On the negative side, this book really needs a trip, or another trip, to a professional proofreader.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay

I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay, Harlan Ellison, iBooks, 2004

For a number of years, attempts had been made to bring Isaac Asimov's I, Robot stories to the silver screen. In the late 1970's, the task was given to Harlan Ellison, winner of nearly every major fiction award that is available (except for the Pulitzer and the Nobel). This screenplay is his answer.

Ellison's introduction chronicles the screenplay's journey through the jungles of Hollywood. It actually incorporates several of Asimov's stories into the script. This would have been an incredible movie if it was made (alas, that never happened). It gives the viewer an interesting story, with excellent writing, instead of relying on sex, violence or car chases.

This really is the greatest science fiction movie never made. It is very highly recommended.


Indecent, Ethan Brant, CreateSpace, 2016

Inspired by true events, this book is about one man's journey through the criminal and political underworld of present-day Yugoslavia.

As a teenager, Zlatan (born in Bosnia, raised in Serbia) is sentenced to several years in prison for putting another teenager in the hospital. While inside, he is introduced to the criminal underworld. He becomes friends with an older ex-security agent who he calls "Uncle." He is suddenly let out of prison. Agents of the State Security Service pick him up and make it clear to him that his freedom is not free. He is expected to kill several government opponents living all over Europe. Saying no is not an option.

Zlatan finds it easy to pull the trigger; it does not mean that he likes it. After several such murders, he is under the impression that his obligations to The Service are fulfilled. Zlatan and a couple of friends get into the drug business with money from the robbery of a Cartier jewelry store. After several years of success, one day, The Service calls, and makes it clear that his obligations to them are not fulfilled.

Zlatan spends the next several years as the "power behind the throne" to President Koshtunica, the last President of Yugoslavia and then Prime Minister of Serbia. Zlatan wants, and gets, police protection for his drug shipments. After several more years, Zlatan leaves, and hides with a friend in an isolated cabin, away from everyone. The phone rings.

This is a novella, so it is a quick read. It gives an interesting look inside a very turbulent part of the world. It also has plenty of violence, and it is really good and worth reading.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Libertarianism for Beginners

Libertarianism for Beginners, Todd Seavey, For Beginners LLC, 2016

What is Libertarianism all about? This book attempts to give the answer.

Quoting from the book, it is a "political philosophy that emphasizes individual rights, including strong property rights, and the radical shrinking or abolition of government (since government routinely interferes with your use of your body and property)." A person can do what they want with their body or possessions as long as they don't use someone else's body or possessions without their consent.

Victimless crimes, like using drugs (without physically injuring anyone else) or watching pornography are not grounds for arrest. How do we pay for public services without taxes? By imposing voluntary user fees; the people who actually use the service should pay for it. Government has taken over the task of providing aid to the poor, destroying networks run by poor people themselves. In some cases, government has imposed restrictions on private charities, making their job much more difficult.

There are many different types of libertarianism. Objectivists, followers of Ayn Rand, reject anarchism, religion and other parts of conventional morality. Minarchists believe in a minimal, limited state that consists of little more than police, courts and purely defensive military. Left-libertarians advocate the abolition of the state and of other unequal relationships, like between landlords and tenants, bosses and workers and traditional husbands and wives.

This is a pretty painless introduction to libertarianism. It might take more than one reading to understand the whole book; the effort will be well worth it. Yes, this is recommended.

The Delmont Street Gang

The Delmont Street Gang, Eric A Mann, CreateSpace, 2012

This is a look at life in the 1960's and 1970's in the town of Manchester CT, a few miles east of Hartford, the state capital.

It was a time when young people played outside until dark, with no parental supervision. There was no such thing as supervised play dates. There were just three or four channels on TV, and no cell phones or video games, so there was no choice but to play outside. The local baseball field was a bare patch of ground next to the local elementary school. In an attempt to make it look more like a major league field, numbers were painted on the wall of the school showing the distance from home plate. School officials were not amused. Things got deadly serious when one of the "gang" was hit by a car and killed instantly.

It was a time when it was nothing for kids to get on public transportation, spend the day in Hartford, and come home, all without parental supervision. A person could watch a movie, with popcorn and soda, at the State Theater on Main Street (now a fundamentalist church) for one dollar or less. Winter meant throwing snowballs at passing cars. Summer meant building forts with material pilfered from local construction sites. To the parents, corporal punishment was a normal part of raising a child. If a kid wanted to go somewhere in town, like to the local municipal swimming pool, they rode their bike or they walked. There was no parental taxi service.

Full disclosure: I was born and raised, and still live, in Manchester, so I am automatically going to love this book. I grew up in the same time period, but in a different part of town. This book brought back a lot of memories. For anyone else, the stories in this book could take place in any town in America. It is well worth reading.  

The Sinful Man

The Sinful Man, Keith Rommel, Sunbury Press, 2014

Leo is running through a night-time forest, frantically trying to escape unseen, but evil, creatures that are chasing him. He stumbles upon a small house, and pounds on the door. Twyla, the elderly woman inside, eventually lets him in.

Leo's only thought is to find a phone, or the nearest road, or maybe he can outrun his tormentors (in an unfamiliar forest at night). Twyla tries to tell him that there is no phone, or road, and with an injured shoulder, Leo should forget about trying to outrun the creatures that are waiting for him. She also tries to tell Leo that his presence at this time is not an accident.

Included is the story of Leo's immediate past. He became a junkie with "help" from Saint Nick, the local drug kingpin. Leo's parents have thrown him out of the house. Leo wanders the streets in a torrential rainstorm. A local priest tries to help, but Leo is not interested. Leo owes Saint Nick a considerable amount of money, and really needs a "hit" to calm his physical agony.

Back at the house, someone else is pounding on the door, desperate to get in. Keir, a young boy who lives with Twyla, eventually lets him in, and takes him to a different part of the house. It is vital that Leo and the other man don't see each other until the right time. The other man's thoughts are also consumed with escape, and Keir tries to tell him that it's not possible. The other man tries to escape, but does not get very far.

Twyla takes Leo into a different room in the house, which opens into a vast room, full of shelves containing a book for every person who has ever lived. Leo's name is on one of those books. He also gets to confront the other man, who Twyla says is the source of all of Leo's problems. Is it Saint Nick?

The author does an excellent job at turning up the tension in the first few pages, and keeping it going until the end. It also gets nice and weird, without going overboard, by the end. This one is very much worth reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Last Autumn

The Last Autumn, Opheila Juliet, Lepak Monkey Publishing, 2016

Richard Robertson is a young piano prodigy who totally avoids playing the piano; he claims that he can no longer hear the music. His parents died in an auto accident a few years previously; he still lives in the family mansion with Nana Rosy, the maid and cook, and Jackson, the chauffeur (not "chauffer").

Lizzie is the daughter of Richard's piano teacher; the two form a life-long friendship. When they reach high school, Richard's feelings toward Lizzie become more than platonic. He is afraid to tell her out of fear that it will damage or destroy their friendship. It breaks his heart to watch Lizzie become the girlfriend of someone else. He also envies those who have no problem playing the instrument they love.

Life deals Lizzie a major setback. Does Richard get up the courage to tell Lizzie how he feels about her? Does Richard ever return to the keyboard?

This is a really good teen romance. It's clean and wholesome, it's got teens and lots of emotion, and it's got classical music. This would make a really good movie.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Assassination Complex

The Assassination Complex, Jeremy Scahill, Simon and Schuster, 2016

Based on leaked documents, this book gives an inside look at America's military drone program.

Publicly, drone strikes are used only on those who are deemed an imminent threat to America, including American citizens living abroad. The intelligence community is as sure as they can be that they know Terrorist X's exact location and that the possibility of civilian casualties is reduced as much as possible. That's not the reality.

In countries like Somalia and Yemen, America has very few people on the ground who can confirm Terrorist X's location at any given time. Therefore, America relies on tracking their cellphones. Some drones carry what is, in effect, a fake cellphone tower. When Terrorist X's cellphone makes a call, it is forced to connect to that fake tower. The location is pinpointed. The possibility that the cellphone is in the possession of Terrorist X's wife or cousin, or that the SIM card was taken out and given to an associate, is not considered. Civilians who are killed in a drone strike are usually called "militants."

The book talks about America's no-fly lists (there is more than one list). How a person gets on, and off, the list is highly classified. Evidently giving Americans a way to get off the list would hamper the War on Terror. Ramstein Air Base in Germany is a vital relay point between drones flying around Southwest Asia, and their pilots back in America. Officially, this is in violation of German law, but the German Government intentionally does not ask America about it. Ultimately, despite the occasional high profile, and extrajudicial, killing, the drone program has not had much effect on Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

This book deserves six stars. It is fascinating, eye-opening, upsetting and very highly recommended for all Americans.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Steve Jobs: American Genius

Steve Jobs: American Genius, Amanda Ziller, HarperCollins, 2011

This is a young adult version of the life of Steve Jobs.

It looks at all the major events in his life, including meeting Steve Wozniak, the Homebrew Computer Club, Xerox Parc, the Apple I, the Macintosh, being thrown out of Apple, NeXt, Pixar, returning to Apple, the Ipod, the Ipad and the Iphone.

This book is very much recommended for all young people who want to know why Steve Jobs was so important. It is equally recommended for adults who want a quick, and easy to read, biography, but who don't want to attempt the "official" biography.

Communication: Golden Rules for Effective Communication Skills

Communication: Golden Rules for Effective Communication Skills: Communication for Beginners, William Prior, Amazon Digital Services, 2015

This is a very basic book about the art of communication.

Information can be conveyed non-verbally, through facial expressions, hand gestures and tone of voice. Verbal communication allows for immediate feedback from the receiver, and written communication provides a permanent record and can be used as legal evidence.

There are many obstacles to clear communication. The receiver could jump in before the sender is finished speaking (thinking that the sender has used a period when they have actually used a comma). Other obstacles include use of technical jargon, a bad transition from one language to another, not paying attention to the speaker and too much use of hand gestures.

The author's Golden Rules in communication, at work or outside of work include: Be clear when sending your message. Listen to the other person. Silence will help both of you to analyze your thoughts. Focus on the problem, not on the other person.

Most people will consider this book common knowledge. There are people (including those who should know better) who really need this book. It's worth reading.