A Brief Note

Hi there — just a brief note to let you know that the superb new book From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal by Christopher Cooper is now available for preorder. Here is the link.
Thanks! Don

From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal by Christopher Cooper

Hard-won hope and happiness conquer death and despair in this wonderfully inspiring new book by Christopher Cooper.

In its pages Cooper recounts his wife Jenn’s brave two-year battle with cancer and the ripple effects her illness caused for their small family.

His intimate narrative, often tinged with touching vignettes about Jenn’s grueling treatment regimen, puts the reader right in the middle of a family in crisis, and vividly brings home the truism that cancer doesn’t have just one victim. In this case, it tried to  claim Cooper and both boys — one school age, the other in daycare.

To fight back, he made a number of proactive moves that he strongly recommends to anyone going through a similar struggle. First, he advises, seek the help of a professional therapist well before your loved one passes on. Friends are great to vent with and talk to, he says. But there is no substitute for professional assistance. It can mean the difference between you making it all the way through the dark tunnel of despair — or going down in flames emotionally midway through, never to rise again. In that case, he points out, you’re of no use to anyone, much less the people counting on you.

There is also a wealth of solid practical advice throughout this remarkable book. Cooper tries a number of techniques to cope with the pain, grief and — occasionally — guilt brought on by Jenn’s impending death. Everything from binge-playing Minecraft to Zen Buddhism meditation to making sure he listens to plenty of therapeutic music.

Then he goes into great detail about the fulfillment of Jenn’s Bucket List. This included seeing — and meeting — several world-famous bands and a classical music composer whose work both Jenn and Chris admired. Plus, there were trips to Disneyworld and DIsneyland, thanks to generous donors.

At one point, however, Cooper references a brief YouTube video Jenn made about this time, to be posted after her death, and it is well worth searching for. It is both riveting and heartbreaking at the same time. Some readers may be upset by it. But even so, it shouldn’t be missed. All the verbiage and photos in the book can’t make the story as real as watching these eleven unforgettable minutes. It’s no wonder it has amassed more than 70,000 views.

In the final analysis, this book is a thoughtful, articulate, detailed account of a young mother gone too soon and the husband and children she leaves behind to cope as best they can.

Cooper does an excellent job of allowing us to share in their emotional journey. His hope is that others going through a similar Hell can also find happiness on the other side by reading his book and adopting some of his coping techniques.

Early and often, he admonishes, put these tips into practice — before your loved one passes away. You’ll still have to go through all five stages of grief. But, by following this patient and good man’s advice, you’ll arrive on the other side of Hell with a much better chance of being happy.

We award five and a half stars to this courageous book. It is so much more than just another self-help primer on how to cope with losing a loved one.  It will undoubtedly have a huge and life-altering impact on anyone who finds himself — or herself — in Chris and Jenn’s unfortunate situation.

Preorder here.

War Eternal: Book II: The Emergent Threat by J.F. Cain

A beautiful seacoast sunrise enters a mansion’s lavish bedroom to find a fallen angel wrapped in the arms of a mortal man; and not just any angel. Aranes had been the Superior of all Celestials until just last night when she sacrificed her immortality to save the life of Alex, the man now at her side.

It’s a sensual start to standout author J.F. Cain’s new book, War Eternal: Book Two: The Emergent Threat. In this powerful sequel to Angels’ Whispers, Cain reveals that it’s not the first time Aranes has tasted mortality. Indeed, angels have been walking the earth since before time began, engaged in the tumultuous task of protecting us from evil forces that would otherwise soon overwhelm and destroy the human race.

But, as the story unfolds, the celestial beauty finds that this incarnation is different; she has lost her angelic powers — the terrible price exacted by The Source in exchange for Alex’s life. And the timing couldn’t be worse.

Just as in the first book, Cain thoroughly imbues her well-defined characters with style and immense believability. It becomes no stretch at all, therefore, to find oneself as a reader relentlessly rooting for the Angels as they engage demons, vampires and a host of similar bad guys in a series of cinematically staged fight scenes — all in deadly pursuit of Aranes’ and Alex’s demise.

During one particularly intense battle, it is revealed that Alex’s best friend is not human. Turns out, he’s been here for at least the past ten years, watching over Alex. Upset by the revelation, Alex flees in his Aston Martin. This proves unwise as it makes him easy prey for Aranes’ evil nemesis Lyla to pounce on him with a host of her demonic minions. And yet another otherworldly set-to takes place.

From epic Biblical battle scenes to steamy, yet restrained, sexual interludes, this book once again measures up mightily to expectations, giving readers still more of everything a fan of this genre might expect — and then some. As the book careens toward a climactic conclusion — with still another epic sword-wielding battle — Lucifer reaffirms his goal of world domination and sets the stage for a decisive third book with the most astonishing revelation of all. Readers will be suitably shocked, and we all will eagerly await Book Three, due next year.

Five-plus stars to this sensational sequel. While many long-awaited sequels fall short of expectations, The Emergent Threat proves to be more than equal to the task. It’s a triumph in storytelling that should move author J.F. Cain to the forefront of her genre.

Amazon Link

Campanile: As it was Where it was – by Peter Melaragno

A hurried promise to a dying man lies at the heart of a remarkable book by one of the best new writers in Indie publishing today.

In Campanile, first-time author Peter Melaragno draws deeply on his Italian-American heritage to bring life and a wealth of color to his brilliantly drawn, yet achingly conflicted lead character, Ethan Canavaro.

Ethan is haunted throughout the book by his pledge to return to a poverty stricken town in Mexico to rescue the granddaughter of a terminally ill acquaintance. For years afterward, the girl dances in and out of Ethan’s consciousness, alternating her appearance as either a wide-eyed young girl or a withered old woman.

In reality, she is neither, having perished in the desert trying to reach the United States only months after Ethan left Mexico. Yet still the guilt lingers, decades after the fact.

The novel traces Ethan’s subsequent journeys across many time zones and through many troubled relationships in search of solutions to questions both articulated and unspoken. Unforgettable characters appear, go away, and then reappear in a series of slow reveals that very effectively hold readers in suspense. What, for example, becomes of Ethan’s first professed love, Ariadne? Indeed, she haunts his thoughts almost as much as the unfortunate deceased granddaughter, Dina.

And then there are the solid supporting male cast members as well, like old friend Victor, who knew Ethan’s equally troubled father, and kept a dark secret about him close for many years.

There are many other players intersecting and crisscrossing Ethan’s past, present and future: Teodolinda, his widowed grandmother, whom he oddly wished had never left her village in Italy; flamenco artist, Maya, who figures subtly but importantly in the unfolding back story; and young, yet wise-beyond-his-years, Khalil, whose trusting friendship with Ethan may yet be his redemption.

Finally, we must mention the preponderance of superb writing in this book. On just about every other page there is a truly outstanding passage, from the simply lyrical to the markedly profound. Here are a few examples from early in the book:

It was at just that moment of suspended mystery, a crossroad of hands, that Ethan found himself at a singularly pristine bend of life’s river.

It is the pervading sense of dislocation that dogs him; the sense that no matter where he is or whatever he is doing, he is never where he is supposed to be.

He reflects on how the perpetual motion of life seems to halt so cleanly at certain difficult beats, how emotional upheavals sink into memory as postcards rather than video.

“All gangsters are patriots,” she said. “You didn’t know this?”

“And what is not strictly forbidden will happen again and again. Always.”

So, in the final analysis, as a reader, come for the crisp, polished writing. But stay for the book’s stunning conclusion in which much is made clear and one is left with deep satisfaction at a thoroughly absorbing piece of fiction from beginning to end.

Five plus stars to Campanile. It is an impressive start to what we hope will be a long literary career.

Amazon Link

The Big Bopper by Reb MacRath

Holy kick-butt P.I. fiction! It’s two heroes for the price of one in this sensational new series by the creator of noir legend Boss MacTavin.

MacTavin teams with the diminutive detective formerly known as Dirty Boy as he morphs from Boss’s indispensible sidekick into the easy-walking, tough guy-talking Diogenes Baryshnikov, and, still later, into a classy, sartorially splendid private eye in his own right. His name by the end of the book is no less than Chief. That is, Chief Armstrong — The Big Bopper.

The Scene: Seattle, Washington. The Players: D.B. Boss, and a small but deeply dedicated team of other operatives. The Caper: creation of a unique new detective agency here. It is speedily christened Seattle BOP: (Bureau of Protection, Payment, Payback, Providence, Placation, Prudence, Pacification.) Or a hundred other possibilities, as needed.

It won’t be easy.

They’re hamstrung at every turn by employer-imposed behavioral restrictions. Like no fighting. But D.B. still finds ways to debilitate and discourage the feckless foes who test him.

Their initial assignment deals with an alleged case of insurance fraud. But when the beneficiary of the settlement dies mysteriously, the case escalates to murder one in this self-proclaimed “cool gray city of uncommon funk.”

The author skillfully inserts character after outre character: beautiful Ammy, formerly a homeless waif and now Flow Director for Seattle BOP; Duncan and Starr Jackson, D.B.’s married team of go-to operatives; Dirk Ramsey III, makeover manager for the image conscious Gestalt Insurance; Giorgio Amande, man about town and cage fighting aficionado; Buster and Elena Blackmon, incredibly rich couple-swapping swingers, complete with a diamond chip in ear and nose, respectively. And so many other red herrings that you’ll think you’ve wandered into the Seattle Fish Market.

It’s a delightful detective book, though, deeply layered with a reveal a minute to send your suspicions down a completely different byway, and leading up to a masterful denouement that will leave you wilted with cranial exhaustion.

And the author’s many turns of priceless phrase are at once lyrical, pithy, and streetwise:

“I didn’t make my bones or fortune by tiptoeing on eggshells. Were there corpses ahead? C’est la vie…and la mort.”

“The three feel (they are) about to be goosed by good luck.”

And our favorite:

“Chief could handle a goon with a snotlocker as red as a June rose.”

Five plus stars to The Big Bopper. It’s the debut of a new hard-boiled detective who measures up mightily.

Amazon Link

My Name is Nelson: Pretty Much the Best Novel Ever by Dylan Fairchild

It’s Christmas day in dusty, barren Raindale, New Mexico, and exotic dancer Tiffany Golden hears a local news report that changes her life forever. A mysterious, blinding bolt of light has leapt from the heavens to incinerate a feed shed belonging to one Herbert Hickelcropper, a local llama farmer.

And with that singular piece of plot development in place, author Dylan Fairchild goes on to weave a brilliant and unique sci-fi novel called My Name Is Nelson.

The story goes on to tell of the Rainman-like research scientist Nelson Troutman’s all-consuming drive toward creation of a limitless energy source. Then, it explores the poignant but platonic relationship with heart-of-gold stripper Ms. Golden. And, it reveals the fate of two brutal groups who engage in what Troutman calls “mean” behavior. (Hint: Don’t set a place for any of them at dinner tonight…)

The book has been dubbed by its author as “pretty much the best novel ever.” We don’t know about that. But it’s safe to say he’s crafted a potential bestseller — and, possibly, a hit movie. Clearly, the rapid-patter dialogue would play well on the big screen.

But it’s the audacious plot that really grabs the reader’s attention.

Troutman is a former long-suffering orphan who has been bullied and made to feel “different” all his life. But that’s over now. He has developed a next gen wonder weapon that can cruise the global skies indefinitely without landing and with only minimal operator input. And when that operator — in this case, Troutman himself — becomes aware of a situation anywhere in the world where innocent people are being “treated mean,” he unleashes the weapon’s onboard death ray, instantly vaporizing bad guys and buildings with equal aplomb.

It’s a tremendously entertaining storyline with rich characterization and cinematic action scenes designed to draw you deep into the book. And, in terms of sheer storytelling mastery, it’s one of the best books we’ve seen in awhile.

We give My Name Is Nelson five-plus stars and look forward to an equally well-written sequel.

Amszon Link

Permeable Divide by Ellen Rachlin

Amazon Link

“In her splendid fourth collection, poet Ellen Rachlin explores what she calls the “Permeable Divide”–the breach between the living and a loved one lost to death, the gap between confidence and hesitation, the gulf between banking and art, and perhaps most devastatingly, the chasm between freedom and habit.

“Rachlin combines her deliciously unique talents and background to speak about the differences between money and value. She crafts aphoristic and well-aimed poems that explode when we least expect them to–into a tender understanding of the rifts in our world. I don’t often read a book of poems straight through, but I did that with Permeable Divide. I was catapulted from line to line, moved and inspired.” Molly Peacock

“There is no fooling grief, Ellen Rachlin wisely writes, in her elegant, clear-eyed book, Permeable Divide. These are incorruptible poems of life’s inevitable losses that always harbor emotional barter. Bad weather is useless as sorrow, the poet insists; but sorrow, without self-pity, is what Rachlin recognizes– honestly, calmly, and compassionately — as part and parcel of our sentient human design.” – Emily Fragos

“In her stunning new book, Ellen Rachlin explores, as if from a philosopher’s point of view, the world around her. Reality, at times, is observed from a distance–a traveler contemplates the landscape and reckons, “The natural world is never enough.” These are gems of poems which seek clarity while catching flashes of light.”-Elise Paschen

“Math, science and the crunching of numbers show up in Ellen Rachlin’s book next to stars, supernovae, meteor showers and memory, a desire for order. She collapses the time between memory and implosion.” -Kate Gale