The Dark Side of Grace by M.L. Cooper

★ ★ ★ ★ ★/★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Dark Side of Grace is an original tale about the fragile veil that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead—and a rupture in the veil sends one woman, and her lover on a quest to uncover the truth about her family’s haunted slave past.

In the midst of Newark, New Jersey’s urban decay and newfound revitalization, Asha, a brilliant, sensual social worker and director of the New Day Job Placement Program for ex-convicts, struggles to uncover the horrific secrets that have led to a history of what has been called mental illness in generations of women in her family. At a time when everything in her life seems all so unstable—her ill-conceived lust for a former client and ex-con, the collapsing relationships she shares with her sisters, and her grandmother’s failing health and apparent manic hallucinations—Asha is forced to confront a haunted past that may very well destroy her future. M.L. Cooper’s Dark Side of Grace follows Asha through the poverty infested streets of Newark, New Jersey to the old-world Spanish moss laden landscape of the South Carolina coast in pursuit of slave master Henry Tisdale’s ghost. Master Henry’s torments and haunts drive Asha to the point of no return. Asha’s quest to undo the family curse that binds them to the ghastly, malevolent apparition reveals her hidden connection to black magic, voodoo and Santeria, and seals her love for the only man strong enough to stand by her side. 


I don’t have an up-to-date review of this novel having read it about three years ago, and not really being a “reviewer” I didn’t have a good one available but I still felt that I should showcase it somehow. So instead of doing a review I’m modeling this to be in the form of a recommendation…without the review part…(I’m trying to think if that makes sense), so let’s get started.

M.L. Copper can seriously write a story. This was my first novel by this author, and whenever they decide to write another one I’ll definitely book looking to read it. If you are into urban mystery paranormal fiction, with historical elements this is so for you and even if it’s not just read it! This novel surpassed being a good novel because of its black, urban, paranormal, historian, mystery roots and went to just being an awesome read, and one of my favorite books. The characters, along with the storyline, and the history lead to an extremely interesting as well as entreating novel to read.

If you’ve ever read the novel Impossible by Nancy Werlin, this book is quite similar to that but in my opinion it was so much better. The dark nature of the novel was just so enticing to my horror side but not overdone, and the progression/pace was perfection. It does feature an AA romance with very engaging characters like Asha, who was strong and independent, but also not afraid to admit her fears. Rahman who was a wonderful character, he is the embodiment of a black man that has done wrong in his life and is looking to change, even though society is really against you. Asha’s best friend could have had more of a role to me, she was kind of thrown in there a little bit, but she was a forceful character and I liked her. And Nzinga (I believe I’m spelling that right) was an awesome character.

This story isn’t the typical slave novel, nor is it a typical romance, paranormal, mystery, historical or urban fiction story – it’s a lovely novel bursting with vitality and strangeness that takes those completely different themes and meshes them into a cohesive story about consequences of the past and changing your future.

This novel was wonderfully written, had great characters, an amazing storyline, as well as a wonderful plot. I cannot explain the greatness of this novel, so you have to read it yourself. The Dark Side of Grace had me captivated from the very first page.

Steel Infidels Series (Volume 1 & 2 Steel Infidels Biker MC Romance) by Dez Burke

Liberated_Safe-House_Fotor

2.5 out of 5 stars

★ ★ ★/★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Book 1:

Safe House

★ ★/★ ★ ★ ★ ★


After receiving the news that his best friend has been murdered by a rival MC, Flint Mason, the prodigal son of the Motorcycle Club Steel Infidels, returns to the club to exact revenge. Kendra Shaw is a veterinarian who’s love for animals outweighs caution, so when she receives a mysterious call about an injured eagle she jumps at the opportunity by traveling to a secluded cabin in the mountains. However, instead of finding an eagle, she gets an eyeful of an injured Flint. Flint and Kendra are forced together in a tense situation where neither wants to be.

What they soon discover hidden behind their differences is a fiery passion that ignites and bursts into flames. Can they overcome their obstacles and fight for their love or will the grim reality of life in the MC destroy their chances forever?

♥♥♥

My expectations for this novella was awfully high, having recently gotten off of my SOA high and the cover being so magnetic – but sadly my expectations were extinguished after we’re introduced to Kendra. Her character is extremely preposterous and utterly unlikeable in my opinion, however I had faith that as the novel progressed my dislike would be reversed and turn into admiration or, at the very least, a tolerance but the length of this novella prevented that. My reasons for not liking Kendra stemmed from her behavior and actions, but this could have been forgiven…if she wasn’t a freaking doctor! But according to Kendra, “I’m a vet, not a doctor!”  (WTF I know a few veterinarians and they all refer to themselves as doctors, well to people they don’t know) so that kind of sums up her stupidity, along with her having sex with a man she barley knows in a notorious motor cycle gang.

Which then leads me to Flint’s character – who I cannot take seriously after watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – who is this successful lawyer who drops everything to rejoin his legendary life of crime as a Steel Infidels. Perhaps it’s me not understanding the gravitational pull to the streets, or in this case the road, that prevents me from fully grasping the magnitude  of his decisions. I mean he goes from being an outlaw, to the law, and then turns back to being an outlaw again; it could be me but that just seems so unstable and, therefore, makes an incomplete character when that wasn’t the intention. And then we have another story about lust at first sight that magically turns into love overnight, storyline that I’m fed up with reading. That being said, Flint’s still totally smoking hot and sexy in every way.

Finally we arrive at the root of the issue with this novella, which is…drum roll…it’s entirely too short. This novella comes to its cliff-hanger conclusion much to speedily for us because just as the ice cream cake is about to be sliced the knife just gets stuck (I’m sorry, that was just awful and the guilty party is: my sugar crazed mind). So to say this basically would be to say there wasn’t enough time for character development, therefore, once again, I’ve been burned by book longevity but since there’s a second book it gives me hope (FYI: hope = dangerous emotion for book readers)

♥♥♥

Book 2:

Liberated

★ ★ ★/★ ★ ★ ★ ★


With there location compromised, Kendra and Flint are forced to flee the safe house with the danger of Liberators trailing them. However, the threat isn’t neutralized and soon they find themselves in a perilous situation that forces Kendra to make a life changing decision. 

♥♥♥

This story was definitely superior to the first novella in both storyline and progression.

So, book two kicks off directly where book one ended and it’s an action packed “scene” that I imagine could rival a Mission Impossible movie, with Flint and Kendra fighting for their lives against the Liberators. In this battle of MC’s we’re rewarded to read a rather entertaining fighting sequence, that puts Kendra – the veterinarian – directly into the line of Liberator fire. So instead of being smart and removing herself from the situation with as much adroitness (although I don’t know how much she’d have) she decides to start shooting back…at a rival gang…with a shotgun…while being stuck on mountain…

But somehow I was able to surpass that and continue with my reading and find out that she’d killed a man and didn’t feel bad about it because they were bad people.

*Applies Brakes*

Now, I know that there are some truly horrific people in the world that have done unimaginable wrongs and are clearly hellhound, but any normal human being would still have more emotion towards killing a man than that. The novel literally reads,  “Kendra made the conscious decision right then to put it out of her mind and get the hell over it. She didn’t have time for regrets. She always did what needed to be done, and this time was no different than any other.  She took a deep breath. Whatever happened, there would be no regrets.” Ummmmm. I just couldn’t get over this for remainder of reading Liberated. Perhaps if Kendra would’ve been a former assassin, or at least apart of a MC I might have been able to let this slide, but Kendra being a doctor that’s never done anything spontaneous or even knew how to shoot a gun, but that’s not the case in this story.

One thing that improved was that the story wasn’t a true erotica like the first one, this installment had much more depth, which was needed in order to receive those 3 stars. So, now Flint and Kendra are dating and they’re all cute and cuddly but Flint, of course, has to break it off with Kendra because this life is too dangerous for her, blah blah blah – the usual. But this really wasn’t a conflict because it literally lasted for two pages and then kaboom, threat neutralized. Ugh there isn’t anything really interesting about the rest of the story, so I just don’t feel the need to keep explaining it because there’s nothing to tell.

♥♥♥

Overall, this was a disappointing series to read although the MC theme is something I’d like to see more of in the IR genre. With unreasonable actions of characters and an irrational amount of pages to accompany it, these stories are a relaxed read with nothing truly remarkable about them. However, check them out for yourself in the two-in-one below:

Buy

Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence

Sons_and_lovers

2.5 starts out of 5

★ ★ ★/★ ★ ★ ★ ★

What happens when the love of a woman isn’t good enough?

The marriage of Gertrude and Walter Morel has become a battleground. Repelled by her uneducated and sometimes violent husband, delicate Gertrude devotes her life to her children, especially to her sons, William and Paul – determined they will not follow their father into working down the coal mines. But conflict is evitable when Paul seeks to escape his mother’s suffocating grasp through relationships with women his own age. Set in Lawrence’s native Nottinghamshire, Sons and Lovers is a highly autobiographical and compelling portrayal of childhood, adolescence and the clash of generations.

♥♥♥

My reaction:

♥♥♥

Pros:

  • Writing Style – I love D.H. Lawrence’s writing style, it’s fun (for an autobiographical written during this time) and full of imagery that allows you to feel and see everything he’s painting. Although sometimes drawn out, his writing was the main thing possessing me to continue the novel.
  • Plot – Surprisingly enough the plot (which is semi-autobiographical) is intriguing, especially for people who are interested in the psychological side of the novel. It’s not everyday I read a novel based on the Oedipus complex, so I was interested in how he was going to pull it off without crossing that line where it’s unforgivable – and Lawrence pulled it off splendidly.
  • Walter Morel – His character was a beautiful disaster. I have it on good authority that the novel would have been exponentially superior to Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. He is a character living a life he believed was suitable, however was condemned the moment he met Gertrude. I know it might seem weird to enjoy the antagonist of a novel but he was the only character with some substance.

Cons:

  • Characters – It’s rare that every character in a novel annoys the everliving shit out of me, but this book succeeded beyond my imagination. Paul never stops whining about being dissatisfied with living because it didn’t live up to his standards, and neither do the women in his life, which are Miriam and Clara. Miriam is a hard character to understand because you feel compassion towards her, but then you’re like girl have some confidence. Clara started off strong, a true feminist, but then she just became another dumb, annoying girl in Paul’s life. Along with his mother, Gertrude who’s conclusion was where the story should have started.

  • Length – I’m not a person who is generally concerned with the length of a novel, if a novel is good it’ll take no time for me to gobble-up every word entirely; but this novel was too long when it didn’t need to be.
  • Boredom – Basically I was plagued with serious boredom while reading this novel, which is probably the reason it took so long to complete it. My mind has been trying to wrap around the purpose of the novel but it doesn’t seem to have one, and I think D.H. Lawrence hypothesized that his life was much more provocative and thought-provoking than it actually was.

♥♥♥

Overall, this novel was painful and uniteresting but for some it might be beautiful and heartbreaking – therefore it really just depends on the person. Regardless the link to buy the novel is below:

Buy

I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent Series #1) by Barry Lyga

i_hunt_killers_Fotor

4 our of 5

 ★ ★ ★ ★/ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A true case of nature vs. nurture, although for Jasper “Jazz” Dent both psychological studies would put him in the same category. Can being raised by a serial killer make you one? Or could the bloodline decide it? 

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal’s point of view. And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod. In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

♥♥♥

This was an interesting novel and quite disturbing on some accounts, however it was also immensely entertaining! The beginning started off a tad bit slow for me, but once Mr. Lyga got into a groove I was extremely impressed, hence my four star rating. I do have to heed some reader with the knowledge that this book is on the cusp of not being a YA fiction novel, but borderline adult mystery. There isn’t much steaminess to it, however it does go into graphic detail about murdering people and crime scenes, definitely not for the squeamish. I can say that this book would also not fit the mode for most die hard mystery fans either, because the killer is easy to spot and the dialogue can be sophomoric at times. Basically this novel has a cozy mystery murder plot, but the detail is not cozy and is indeed slightly disturbing.

♥♥♥

My reaction:

♥♥♥

Pros:

  • Originality – Now, some of you might have read YA fiction that has featured a plot like this one but this is a first, and hopefully not the last, for me; this plot was so different from anything I’ve ever even encountered in the YA fiction genre. Now, granted I’ve kept myself in a tight bubble when it came to YA novels, sticking with authors like Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot, Susane Colasanti, Laura Ruby, Cory Doctrow, Lauren Barnholdt, Edward Bloor etc. but this was so dark and disturbing that I have to give major props to Barry Lyga (who also wrote The Adventures of a Fanboy and Goth Girl which was good). I mean when’s the last time you read a young adult novel that was napping in murder, rape, and overall brutality?
  • The Murder – Although I figured out who the murderer was quite quickly still doesn’t downplay the entire murder…right? Well, anyway the murder was nicely played out and kind of reminded me of Criminal Minds.  Leaving a fair amount of mystery to each kill, while also supplying the information needed to try and maneuver your way through it was very exciting.
  • Jasper’s Friends – Jasper had amazing friends in Howie and Connie, who is also Jasper’s girlfriend, that the awful illustration of Connie in particular, was forgiven. I loved Howie the way I love Stiles on Teen Wolf – hence the usage of him as Howie in the collage – and he reminded me of him, too. Which also brings us to Connie, who was an awesome female character in this novel that truly balanced out Jasper and Howie. She was fun but reasonable in her dealing’s with Jasper and his dilemma. I also enjoyed the different kind of characters the novel had. Connie being Black and dating Jasper was awesome, because the novel wasn’t about that, similar to David Handler’s The Cold Blue Blood (The Berger and Mitry series)As well as, Howie being a hemophiliac which is a medical condition I’ve never heard a character been given until this novel.
  • POV – I’m a huge fan of male point of views in YA fiction, just because it seems as though it doesn’t occur often. Sometimes the female POV is great, other times I want a different perspective on life and ideas that pass through male characters.
  • Jasper’s Grandmother – Her character was hilarious and extremely psycho. She reminded me of the mother on Pink Flamingo (not Divine, but Edie) just crazier, which says an awful lot.

Cons:

  • Jasper – I feel bad putting Jasper in the Cons section because he really was a wonderful character, however he bitched so much about his inability to feel and how he wasn’t sure if he was a serial killer too, in addition to how many people he could possibly kill if he allowed himself to…blah…blah…blah. At one point i literally remember yelling at the book:

Which I know is probably insensitive.

  • The Pace – Sometimes authors struggle with pace IMO, so for me the pace in this book needed to be a littler faster in some places and slower in others.
  • Writing – This novel is indeed a YA novel. The writing is not altogether complex and can be juvenile, so going into this novel you should be prepared for it to not be too in-depth of a storyline.

♥♥♥

Overall, you should check it out for yourself and enjoy the roller coaster ride that is, I Hunt Killers:

Buy