Blue Mood Cafe

I'm Jonetta (Ejaygirl) and just love to read and am pretty much game to try most genres. My bookshelf is pretty eclectic; I love discovering new authors and am willing to try them out if the premises look intriguing.

Who can you trust?

Dark Deceptions - Dee Davis

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


Quick summary
Nash Brennon and Annie Gallagher were once CIA covert operatives and partners. She disappeared following an op that went terribly wrong and hasn't been heard from since (eight years). He's now part of A-Tac, an elite CIA unit masquerading as faculty at an Ivy League college. She's been underground in Colorado. When they hear chatter about an assassination threat, Annie's name surfaces as the suspected sniper associated with the plot. What they don't know is that Annie's son was kidnapped and she's being forced into service.


The suspense
I cannot describe the heightened level of tension when a child is involved in this kind of scenario. Add a lot of deception from both sides to the mix and you get an even more toxic concoction. The book is aptly titled because both Nash and Annie have reason to be mistrustful of each other and don't know if they're the same people they knew eight years ago. The A-Tac team members also have points of view about it all and we are left to try to figure it out. Fortunately, we get Annie and Nash's perspectives and have a leg up but not much.


The romance
It helped knowing how passionate Annie and Nash's romance was before their split because there was a definite chill when they were reunited. Though it took awhile for these two to find their old common ground, it fit neatly into the storyline. Their romance developed slowly as they regained trust, which would have been tough to swallow if things had progressed more rapidly.


One more thing
Annie's son was another highlight of the story! He's just precocious enough to make you smile but not so much to be irritating. Having him at the center lessened the cynicism of a fairly jaded bunch.


The bottom line
The nod goes to the suspense in this story as everything centered around recovering Annie's son and determining who was behind the assassination plot. The ending was exciting but not all of the deceptions were resolved. Not a big cliffhanger, just a little tease that's working to get me started with the next book:) I love the concept of A-Tac (academics who are moonlighting as skilled operatives!) and the rest of the team was as intriguing as Nash and Annie. This was a great start to the series and I've already invested in the next books.

On The Book Nympho


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My Interview With Rebecca Zanetti & Giveaway!

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Carolyn Crane's Creepiest Villains & Giveaway!

Classic Coben

Missing You - Harlan Coben

Originally posted at The Book Nympho


You can always count on several plots that will eventually converge in a Harlan Coben story. The trick is to try to unravel them and find the connections before they're revealed. This book is no different in that respect but there were some new angles.


This is the first of his stories I've read where a woman is the main character. It's even better that Kat Donovan is an NYPD detective who is haunted by her father's murder 18 years ago and the subsequent breakup with her fiancé Jeff Raynes. When a friend signs her up on an online dating site and she finds her lost love, it seemed serendipitous. It was anything but.


There's another storyline involving a woman whose son believes she's missing and asks a skeptical Kat to investigate. It was a chilling aspect of the book and I stayed up all night to finish, riveted by a pretty exciting climax. The ending was fantastic and the requisite twists (another Coben staple) were pretty remarkable.


I've yet to be disappointed by a Harlan Coben novel. Though I was prepared for a satisfying reading experience I wasn't expecting it to be quite this good. This was very enjoyable as I wait patiently for that next Myron Bolitar series installment (hint, hint).


(I received an ARC from NetGalley)

Jaw-dropping twists

The Righteous Men - Sam Bourne

Will Monroe, a NY Times Metro reporter trying to prove himself, writes two seemingly unrelated stories that get prominent attention on the newspaper's front page and suddenly finds his world turned upside down.


The first part of the story moved painfully slow, not because of the pace but due to the overwhelming amount of information that couldn't be connected to anything. I struggled to keep focused so it took me longer to finish. Without revealing details you should discover for yourself, Will's main reason for continuing to investigate is what kept me in the story because I had to know.


I'm glad I stuck with it because when that crucial moment came where things started to make more sense, I finished the book in a day. In addition to a really complex mystery was the fascinating world of the Hasidic community, including the customs, practices and history of the Jewish faith. The ending had some jaw-dropping twists, one I suspected, others not so much. My initial issues were worth it in the end.

I loved everything!

Waiting On You - Kristan Higgins

Originally posted at The Book Nympho


The Matchmaker gets matched!


The set up
Colleen O'Rourke has a breezy personality with a witty, flirty retort for everybody. But underneath that generous heart is a serious bruise, created when the love of her life, Lucas Campbell, the only man she's ever loved, left her 14 years ago. Now he's back in town for a brief stay and he still takes her breath away.


The issues
No one understood why Lucas left Colleen so abruptly, including her. He had his reasons but they had nothing to do with him not still loving her. Though she's Googled him a little bit, Colleen really doesn't know what's happened in his life the last few years. He definitely hasn't a clue about her life but Lucas was a bit unprepared to face his unresolved feelings about her either.


What I loved about this story
Everything. No, seriously, everything. There's not a perfect person in it and most are pretty likable. I laughed my butt off, cried a lot, got angry occasionally and had a few "aww" moments.


I loved Colleen whose mission in life is to see everyone matched with their soulmate and she's got quite the track record to back up her success. No matter how many times life punched her, she persevered and came back with her head held high. Lucas drove me nuts on occasion but he's a really great guy despite his harsh upbringing. Those important in their lives play substantive roles in the story and are completely fleshed out.


The bottom line
I loved these two characters and their messy lives and romance. Lucas is über sexy and Colleen is just the dream heroine but is definitely no angel. There's a surprise punch near the end but I was prepared for it and it just made the story richer. This is will always be one of my favorites as I couldn't get enough of these two and the crazy people around them.


(I received an ARC from NetGalley)


Come Home to Me - Brenda Novak

Originally posted on The Book Nympho


I've looked forward to Presley's story as she has emerged from the lowest depths to completely turnaround her life. The only drawback was the big lie concerning the paternity of her 18-month old son. She's not only not told the father, Aaron Amos, he has a son but Presley out and out denied that he was. And, her sister Cheyenne is in on the secret and she's married to Aaron's brother.


What I liked about the story
It was truly uplifting to witness the change in Presley Christiansen. Not only was she totally committed to the welfare of her son, Wyatt, she was determined to make a sustainable life for herself. Presley had a career plan and was focused on achieving her goals. What she accomplished was extraordinary and she was unafraid to hold her head up around those aware of her past or who had previously looked down on her.


Where the story left me cold
It was inevitable that Wyatt's father would discover the truth about the child's paternity. Since Presley's sister, Cheyenne was complicit in this deception (keeping it from her own husband), I anticipated that the reveal would be explosive. Not only was it not, Cheyenne and Presley continued to believe they were justified and really didn't suffer any repercussions. What was even more disappointing was Presley's reaction to Aaron's later bonding with Wyatt. She resented it and most of her actions were to try to push him away.


There's a parallel story involving a dreadful deception by Cheyenne. I kept reading, knowing that brighter, more ethical heads would prevail. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and this character is truly unredeemable for me. Given her personal circumstances, it was inconceivable to me that she could ever even entertain the idea of what she did, let alone do it. I have no further interest in this character and just couldn't understand the course selected. It was unrealistic and unfortunate.


The bottom line
I love this series because of the characters and small town setting. But, I had a tough time with the last romance and this story left me freezing cold. It's well written and the storyline hooked me from beginning to end. However, most of that was because of my hope that it would turnaround but, sadly, it didn't. I really liked Cheyenne and Dylan but now I'm hoping he gets a new HEA; her actions were that repugnant to me. This storyline eclipsed the romance of Presley and Amos, which was also somewhat of a letdown. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.


(I received an ARC from NetGalley)

I Got Rowdy

Getting Rowdy - Lori Foster

Originally posted at The Book Nympho


This book couldn't be more aptly named as it's all about getting rowdy (as in acting up) and getting Rowdy, the main character.


In the two earlier books in this series, Rowdy emerged as this murky person, not really certain on what side of the law he was actually operating. Now that his beloved sister, Pepper, is married to a police detective, getting this aspect of Rowdy became more important.


Enter Avery Mullins, the former waitress who saved his butt at the shady bar where she worked before Rowdy bought it. He promoted her to head bartender and now wants her...really bad. He's a notorious one night stand kind of guy and she's wanting none of that, even though she's kind of crazy about him. When her past reaches forward into the present and puts her at risk, it's a game changer in their relationship.


Rowdy isn't a character you're going to fall for from the start. Though he's not a traditional "player" as he's a woman magnet who doesn't turn many away and he's typically not the aggressor. But he sleeps with a LOT of women and is very clear there's zero chance of relationship or second encounters. No way was he going to win me over. Well, famous last words.


The more the story evolved, the more I GOT Rowdy. As he and Avery become closer, she's able to reach beneath his exterior and uncover who he really is, what's really important to him and why he's alone. Their relationship slowly developed as both got to know each other and those lustful feelings deepened into something more precious.


I ended up being crazy about Rowdy and no one is more surprised about that than me. This is a really good story, the best of the series to date as both characters were wonderfully developed, each having a nobility that worked well together. Very nicely done for a guy I was intrigued about but not really impressed with initially. Oh, and there's a guy named Cannon who was introduced here that I want to know LOTS more about.


(I received an ARC from NetGalley)


Lost Lake - Sarah Addison Allen

Originally posted at The Book Nympho


Kate Pheris lost her husband, Matt, in an accident over a year ago. She's just emerging from her fog of grief, tuning into the world around her for the first time since Matt's death, only to find that her mother-in-law has taken complete control of her life and her 8-year old daughter, Devin. When her daughter finds some old correspondence from her great aunt Eby Pim, Kate is reminded of the wonderful summer she spent with her at a place called Lost Lake. She suddenly decides to share that experience with Devin and they head for the lake. What was originally planned as an overnight trip blossoms into an indefinite stay.


This trip sets off a whole new path of self discovery for not only Kate but an interesting group of people connected to the lake and Aunt Eby. Lost Lake holds some wonderful memories for them as well as some tragedies. As each of them explore his or her past and connection to the place, some find redemption and others new beginnings. There's also something mystical in the air, subtle but definitely ethereal.


I was captivated by this story with it's eclectic mix of characters. It was lovely to see Kate use the lake as her anchor to restore herself, rekindling a romance from her past and letting her daughter be a child again through the magic of Lost Lake.


The secondary characters play strong roles in this story, often colorful and always complicated. The stories oddly but effectively converge at Lost Lake and blend beautifully.


The narration is superb as there were several Southern dialects, one French character, many male roles and a child. All were delivered flawlessly and I was able to distinguish each easily.


I enjoyed the story, writing style, narration and the twinge of mysticism. It's lovely and I look forward to reading more from this author.


(I received an ARC from the publisher)

Historical romance with contemporary relevance

Lips That Touch Mine (Grayson Brothers) - Wendy Lindstrom
The setup
Claire Ashier runs a respectable boarding house located near Boyd Grayson's saloon. She's a widow trying to support herself but can't keep boarders because of the noise from her business neighbor disturbing her customers late into the night. She wants to shut down the saloon. Boyd is sympathetic and taken by the lovely Mrs. Ashier but has no plans to close down his thriving business. 

The issues
There's so much more going on here than a noisy saloon. Claire's deceased husband was an alcoholic and an abuser. When a group of women from the church begin talk of a temperance movement, Claire's enrolled into leading the effort. When the campaign strengthens, she's threatened and Boyd takes steps to ensure her safety. As they grow closer, they are at an impasse on how to move forward with a relationship while Claire associates alcohol with spousal abuse and marriage as a loss of independence. 

What I enjoyed
There were so many layers to this story. What starts out as a simple issue regarding the noisy saloon evolves into situations regarding spousal abuse, the inequities between men and women's rights, alcoholism and family secrets. These subplots were seamlessly interwoven, making this a rich reading experience. Claire and Boyd's romance was complicated by her past and her baggage from her marriage. While there were moments where her stubbornness was irritating, it was true to her nature and the story. Boyd has his own issues, despite his affable and charming outward nature, and they have a place in this conflict. 

The bottom line
I don't often find meaty and tough issues in historical romances that have contemporary relevance. This story offered so much more than the traditional romance and it was very well presented without burdening the love story. The narration continues to be subtle and understated, not overpowering a riveting story. Each book in this series seems to best the last so I'm excited about starting the next one. The Grayson brothers keep surprising me. 

(I received an ARC from the author)


Truly serendipitous

Serendipity - Lisa Clark O'Neill

Originally posted at The Book Nympho

When I started this book I was curious as to how the story would explain the title. It soon became clear how aptly it was named as the two main characters' meeting was certainly serendipitous. Ava Martinez and Jordan Wellington were destined to connect in spite of their circumstances and the dramatic differences in their backgrounds. 

She's a veterinarian and he's an assistant district attorney. She's from a fragmented, "colorful" family and he's from a close-knit, successful one. Ava's pretty tough and isn't afraid of the goons working for her uncle (she should be) and Jordan's got a strong sense of justice, even if it puts him in the crosshairs of some dangerous people. 

There's lots of action and sexual tension as Ava tries to resist getting involved with Jordan for obvious reasons. He's tenacious though and I loved how he refused to back off. Their snappy dialogue and clever repartee is one of the many highlights. It's some of the best I've read in awhile. And, there's no lack of heat between these two. 

Ava's failure to be upfront about her background almost derails their relationship but thankfully the story didn't go down a clichéd path or belabor the point. There was more of a romance balance than suspense but it was sufficient. 

The bottom line
Jordan's got quite a few brothers, too, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in future stories. This was a wonderful find and I'm glad I trusted my friend and read it. It's a well-written, fast-paced story with surprises and twists throughout. The retro looking cover is completely in keeping with the storyline. You'll just have to read it and find out for yourself. It'll be worth it.

Still haunted by this story

Strain - Amelia C. Gormley
Originally posted at The Book Nympho

An earlier review of this book had me a little nervous because of some of the sexual content that normally is outside of my comfort zone. But, I've come to trust Amelia because the story is always first with her and she didn't let me down with this one. 

The setup
The country was decimated by a plague that was man made in origin when a virus strain, Bane Alpha, was developed to create a superhuman military force. It mutated when others were exposed to it as a blood pathogen, creating two separate, lethal strains. The only hope to combat infection was for the infected individual to have sex with as many different Juggernauts (they are the created species with the Bane Alpha strain) as possible, daily, over several weeks. When Rhys was rescued by Darius and his squadron, he had been exposed to the mutated strains. 

The issues
Rhys is young, inexperienced and, having been subjected to some warped sense of values, is terribly conflicted and in need of something more when having sex. He bonds with Darius at the onset and is almost loathe to be with anyone but him. However, Darius is solely focused on the physical cure and isn't sensitive to Rhys's emotional needs. 

The heart of the story
The book is aptly titled as it involves more than just the virus strains at the heart of the story. It delves into the strain associated with sexual and emotional repression experienced by Rhys before he was rescued. There was also Rhys's emotional and physical strain due to the amount of sexual activity and partners needed to save his life and the conditions he was subjected to earlier in his life. And then there's the emotional strain he and Darius both experienced as they struggled with their feelings for each other. 

Rhys and Darius' relationship is incredibly complex as Darius is much older but in some ways Rhys is the wiser of the two in spite of his youth. I found the emotional construct of the story to be extraordinary. There were times I broke out in tears as I lived Rhys's humiliation vicariously. And at other times I was heartened by his strength and optimism. I was also sometimes confused by Darius' borderline sadistic needs (though they were never really manifested in the story). 

There's a suspense element as Rhys's brother-in-law posed a constant threat for most of the book. While I found the conflict to be realistic, I was somewhat troubled by the Juggernauts' reactions to him. He was given the benefit of the doubt more than he merited. 

The bottom line
I haven't been able to let go of this story since I finished it. I LOVED Rhys, everything about him. I admired Darius and was grateful for his points of view as he was honorable yet somewhat jaded because of his years of hopeless experience. The contrasts were intelligently presented without necessarily clear cut resolutions. Yes, some of the sexual situations are tough but they are COMPLETELY in context of the story and the dystopian world. It's thought-provoking, creative and powerfully written. If you're drawn to something "more," I highly recommend this book. 

(I received an ARC from the publisher)


I loved Tsara!

Wrong Place, Wrong Time - Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Tsara Adelman was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. After years of estrangement, she agrees to visit her Uncle Cass for a gala event at his home. That night while she was preparing for bed, she was abducted from her room at his chateau in New Hampshire. She then embarks on the most harrowing experience of her life. 

The heart of the story
Details about Tsara's life and the reasons she and her brother hadn't seen their mother's brother for years unfold throughout the story. I liked that method as it helped me understand the characters filtered through the ensuing events. The story also presented points of view about the abductors, which really helped create conflicted opinions about them and Tsara. 

One of the best things about this story was Tsara. She's five foot nothing and was no victim! She initially took out one of the kidnappers and fought them throughout her ordeal. Her struggles following her rescue were extremely realistic, even though at times I thought her a little callous considering some of the circumstances. I also appreciated how aspects of her Jewish faith were integral to the story and her evolution. It was enlightening and informative, explaining a lot about the woman and the people in her life. I especially liked her rabbi. 

My "nits"
The one distraction was what I felt was an inordinate amount of description that slowed the pace. A lot seemed unnecessary and I found myself skimming routinely through a lot of passages. A bit of trimming would make this a much more satisfying read. Also, I never knew what city Tsara lived was never mentioned and it bugged me a lot!

The bottom line
This was a very good story that I'd recommend for those who appreciate a book full of suspense and complicated characters and issues. And, the ending was so very satisfying. 3.5 stars

(I received an ARC from NetGalley)

Disturbing and provocative

The Judas Child - Carol O'Connell

Two 10-year old girls disappear one afternoon from a small, upstate New York village town. The investigation resurrects the lives of those involved in a similar case from 15-years ago and involves local, state and federal law enforcement departments and agencies. 

This is an extraordinary story with vividly drawn characters and venues. Heroes aren't always completely virtuous and morally challenged individuals can't be tossed aside. It's a tough subject matter that can be disturbing at times. I found the tension surrounding the children, whether they were still alive or not, to be almost unbearable at times. There were astonishing twists at the end of the story that I'm still thinking about. 

I consider this to be a provocative and well written story. It's a standalone with characters you'd like to see again. Just be prepared to be uncomfortable if you find it difficult to deal with the possibility of cruel things happening to children.