Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: Benefit of the Doubt by Neal Griffin

Benefit of the Doubt
Author: Neal Griffin
Publication: Forge Books; Reprint edition (May 12, 2015)

Description: Neal Griffin is a twenty-five year veteran of law enforcement. He's seen it all, from routine patrols to drug enforcement to homicide investigations, from corrupt cops to men and women who went far above and beyond the call of duty.

Benefit of the Doubt is a gripping thriller that exposes the dark underbelly of policing in small-town American, where local police departments now deal with big-city crimes and corruption.

Ben Sawyer was a big-city cop, until he nearly killed a helpless suspect in public. Now a detective in the tiny Wisconsin town where he and his wife grew up, Ben suspects that higher-ups are taking payoffs from local drug lords.

Before long, Ben is off the force. His wife is accused of murder. His only ally is another outcast, a Latina rookie cop. Worse, a killer has escaped from jail with vengeance on his mind, and Newburg—and Ben Sawyer—in his sights.

My Thoughts: Ben Sawyer, his wife Alex and his tween son have moved back to their hometown of Newberg, Wisconsin, after Ben, who was a police officer in Oakland, California, had a meltdown at work that was caught on camera. He was more or less forced to resign to save the department embarrassment. He called on his father-in-law who was the chief of police in Newberg for a job. He was hired but not really accepted by the other police officers. Then his father-in-law had a massive stroke and a new guy, who doesn't like Ben at all, is chosen as the new chief of police.

Tensions are high at work and Ben is still dealing with the consequences of his meltdown when a convicted murder is paroled and decides to take his revenge on the people who framed him for murder. The current chief of police and his lackey who does the drug investigating don't want anything to rock their current boat. Both are siphoning tons of money off the illegal sales of drugs which could come to light if the murderer makes it to Newberg.

The supposed murderer - Harlan Lee - does come to town and kill a friend of Ben's wife Alex neatly framing her for the crime. The police chief and his deputy McKenzie are very willing to look the other way given that it might be a good way to get rid of Ben who is much too honest for them.

The thing that struck me the most through this story was how isolated Ben was both from his fellow officers and from people he might have known when he lived in town. His only support comes from the chief of police's secretary who has also been his father-in-law's secretary and a rookie cop named Tia Suarez who has an interesting and very useful military background.

The story was packed with tension and action. Fans of very suspenseful police procedurals will enjoy this offering by debut author Neal Griffin.

Favorite Quote:
What was it the old man always used to say back when Ben first started hitting him up about being a cop?

"It's like working in a sausage factory. People don't want to know how you make it. They don't even want to know what goes into it. They just want to buy it with no questions asked."

True enough. Police work could get ugly. Unconventional, even.
I got this one from the publisher for review. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: A Voice from the Field by Neal Griffin

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Tia cut her off, not wanting to hear it. "What is it they say about six degrees of separation? That's all there is between you, me, and a girl like her. Think about that when you get home and crawl into bed tonight."
This week my teaser comes from A Voice from the Field by Neal Griffin. I got this ARC for review from the publisher. Here is the description from Amazon:
Tia Suarez jumped off the pages in Griffin's brilliant debut novel, Benefit of the Doubt. Now she takes center stage in her own story, A Voice from the Field, a gripping thriller about human trafficking in the U.S.

Gunther Kane and his white supremacist group are using forced prostitution to finance the purchase of automatic weapons. Kane snatches young women off the streets and sells them to hundreds of men. When a victim is used up, she's killed and dumped. After all, there are always more where she came from.

Physically recovered from being shot but struggling with PTSD, Tia Suarez almost doesn't believe her eyes when she glimpses a Hispanic teenager bound and gagged in the back of Kane's van. The look of terror on the woman's face makes Tia desperate to rescue her.

Kane's in the crosshairs of the FBI, who don't want a small-town Wisconsin detective messing up their big gun bust.

Tia Suarez doesn't back down for anyone. Not the department shrink; not the feds who dismiss her; not even her boyfriend, a Marine veteran who thinks she doesn't know what she's getting into. Tia will find the missing teen come hell or high water.

Monday, February 8, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Feb. 8, 2016)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

Other Than Reading... 

This week was consumed by the "cold that defies description." I finally went to Fast Care after school on Friday to find out it is bronchitis. I was prescribed some strong pills to mute my cough, which I expected, and steroids for the infection, which is new to me. I don't think I've ever gotten steroids for bronchitis.

We also had two snow days this past week. I was delighted to nurse my cold on my couch on Tuesday and Wednesday and watch the snow fall and the wind blow without having to go out in it. Our teaching contract requires that teachers make up the hours missed. Half of those hours can be done at home; the rest need to be at school. I made up about 4 of my 11 hours rearranging my calendars and lesson plans. I also set up the next two lessons in Google Classroom for my 4th and 5th graders.

I also spent a fair amount of time trying to reschedule our Continuing Education committee meeting. It is really hard to find a day when a majority of our seven members are available to meet. After trying to find a date next week, I gave up and asked about the week after. Hopefully, we'll be meeting on February 18, weather permitting.

This coming Monday night I have to be at an Open House for the Middle School/High School. Our school is on the block schedule and teachers got whole new groups of kids on January 26. It is going to be a similar event to our Open House in September. The elementary keeps the same kids all year and does not have this Open House. They do have two evenings of conferences in March.

Read Last Week
The latest In Death - Brotherhood in Death - was another excellent addition to this long-running series. I love watching the relationships in the story develop from book to book. I also thought this was an interesting police procedural as Eve has to find the murderers of some men she really doesn't like because their crimes bring up old memories of Eve's abused childhood. My review will be posted on Feb. 24.

Ghost Gifts by Lara Spinella was my choice from this month's Kindle First offerings. It is a paranormal mystery and will be released on March 1.

Next Week
I have two more mysteries on my TBR stack for next week.
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
I got the long-anticipated 4th book in the Alex Craft urban fantasy series - Grave Visions by Kalayna Price.

I also bought Iron Lake by William Kent Kruger when it was a Kindle Daily Deal. I have been meaning to give this series a try.
Brotherhood in Death by J. D. Robb arrived on Tuesday and I spent my whole first snow day reading it.

I also added a couple of books to my review stack.
The Thing Is by Kathleen Gerard sounded like an intriguing story when it was pitched to me by its author. It will be released on Feb. 9 but my calendar is full until the middle of May. I slotted it in on my first open slot - May 17.

Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella was my pick from the Kindle First program. It will be released on March 1.

State of the TBR Pile - I have added 52 books this year. 42 are still unread. 29 are review books.

To see what Young Adult books I have been reading and plan to read, check out Ms. Martin Teaches Media - my other blog.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

ARC Review: Hostile Witness by Leigh Adams

Hostile Witness
Author: Leigh Adams
Series: A Kate Ford Mystery (Book 1)
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (February 9, 2016)

Description: When single mom and computer security specialist Kate Ford is suddenly and mysteriously put on administrative leave, she finds herself drawn into the drama of a lurid kidnapping case with ties to her company. Kate has enough on her plate dealing with a condition that leaves her extra-sensitive to stimuli, but the case is too juicy to leave untouched.

But what begins as simple curiosity quickly leads her to the country’s darkest corners of power and leaves her and her family the target of a ruthless network of war profiteers, who will stop at nothing to protect their billion-dollar interests in Hostile Witness, the first in this sharp and engaging series.

My Thoughts: The mystery had one of the more unusual heroines I have ever read about in a mystery novel. Kate Ford is a computer security specialist who also suffers from an unusual illness. She has spells that mimic epilepsy and is almost always hyper-aware of her surrounding sometimes losing herself in the minutiae of everyday life. When she is given a new project at work, things start seeming wrong to her. The various problems and solutions of the company which is named Robotix and makes robotic vacuum cleaners and pool cleaners and other robotic devices sets off alarms in Kate's mind. When she triggers something that locks her out of the company, she goes to the secure military computers that are in another part of her company where she triggers the same lock outs. She is placed on administrative leave which will probably lead to her being fired.

Kate now has too much time at home dealing with her thirteen year old son who happens to be a genius and her father who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Her father urges her to get out of the house and take an interest in a hot court case that involves her boss's daughter, a possible kidnapping, and a mentally wounded vet from the Afghan war. Kate meets a police detective who was eased off the case when it went high profile and he offers to let her use his spare seat in the reserved section.

It doesn't take long for Kate to realize that something is wrong with the whole trial which starts her investigating the company she worked for and Robotix, government cover ups, and corruption of all sorts. The story was filled with twists and turns and interesting characters. The most interesting to me was Kate herself. She is a very bright woman dealing with physical and mental challenges that would bury a lesser person. She is persistent and dogged in her investigation into the court case that was just supposed to take her mind off more immediate problems.

Mystery lovers will enjoy meeting this unique detective. I can wait to read more of her adventures.

Favorite Quote:
The impound yard had exactly one employee on duty and approximately fifty people waiting to retrieve their cars. Most of those people were in even worse moods than she was, and the attendant was a dedicated passive-aggressive. The more infuriated a customer became, the slower and more inarticulate he got. At one point, he seemed to be pretending not to speak English. 
I got this eARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Memes: Hostile Witness by Leigh Adams

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

A man stood in the middle of the road, just inside the perimeter, and there was something wrong with him.
Friday 56 (from location 560 on my Kindle):
"You're going to have to say something sometime," Kate said. "I'm not going to be able to figure it out on my own."
This week I am spotlighting Hostile Witness by Leigh Adams. This is one of Crooked Lane Books's February releases. Here is the description from Amazon:
When single mom and computer security specialist Kate Ford is suddenly and mysteriously put on administrative leave, she finds herself drawn into the drama of a lurid kidnapping case with ties to her company. Kate has enough on her plate dealing with a condition that leaves her extra-sensitive to stimuli, but the case is too juicy to leave untouched.

But what begins as simple curiosity quickly leads her to the country’s darkest corners of power and leaves her and her family the target of a ruthless network of war profiteers, who will stop at nothing to protect their billion-dollar interests in Hostile Witness, the first in this sharp and engaging series.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

ARC Review: The Fine Art of Murder by Emily Barnes

The Fine Art of Murder
Author: Emily Barnes
Series: A Katherine Sullivan Mystery (Book 1)
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (February 9, 2016) 

Description: Former Police Chief Katherine Sullivan has been called brilliant, brave, compassionate, and quirky, but after decades of crime fighting, this resilient grandmother with an artist’s soul is discovering that retirement can be just as deadly as being on the job.

When Katherine returned to her hometown, her only thought was to comfort her recently divorced daughter. That was before a young woman was found murdered on the estate of the town’s richest family. Now, in order to track down the killer, Katherine must uncover the generations of secrets that at least one person as already killed to protect in this charming and smart series debut, The Fine Art of Murder.

My Thoughts: Katherine Sullivan is a retired Chief of Police turned artist and a grandmother too. She has traveled from her home in New Mexico to spend some time with her daughter in Edina, MN. Her daughter is recently divorced and is feeling the pressure of her job as a child advocate, caring for her two tween children, and getting over her anger at her ex-husband.

I enjoyed the setting of this one. As a native Minnesotan, I was familiar with both Edina and Minneapolis. I liked the relationship that Katherine has with her daughter and with her grandchildren. I especially enjoyed her interactions with her grandson who shares her love for art. I also liked the way Katherine dealt with his Asperger's. Katherine was consistently wise and unflappable.

I enjoyed the mystery too. A young woman was found murdered inside the estate of one of the richest families in the area. She was helping get the mansion ready to be turned over to the State as a heritage property. There had long been rumors that a notorious family member - the grandfather of the current owner - had hidden stolen art somewhere in the mansion. Perhaps she was filled by someone looking for the art.

There were a variety of suspects. Was it the art expert called in to value the art? Was it the grandson who was watching his family home being turned over to the state? Was it his crazy aunt who felt that the mansion and all its contents should belong to her? Was it the aunt's boy toy, a former football player turned addict, who made a habit of latching on to rich older women?

Katherine calls on an old friend, who also retired from the police force and then formed a security business, and his crew of odd employees to help her solve the case. One thing I noticed was that, for a former police chief, she took a pretty cavalier approach to the law when she was doing her investigating and she didn't seem to have much of a sense of self-preservation.

Fans of cozy-ish mysteries will enjoy this first book in a new series.

Favorite Quote:
Randolph Pierce had told Lizzie he'd "found himself" while living in New York. I never understood that term. It's exhausting how much energy people spend losing and finding themselves.
I got this eARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ARC Review: Betting the Bad Boy by Sugar Jamison

Betting the Bad Boy
Author: Sugar Jamison
Series: Bad Boys of Destiny (Book 2)
Publication: Swerve (February 2, 2016)

Description: Ten years ago, Duke King knew that getting involved with Grace Truman would only bring trouble into his already hard life. After all, the son of the town drunk has no business falling for the judge’s daughter…a passion that led to disaster and ended with Duke serving a ten year prison sentence. Duke never wanted to return to Destiny, especially now that he’s built a multimillion dollar custom car empire with his brothers. But when his sick aunt calls him home, he must face his past and discover a secret that instantly changes his life.

Grace never thought she would see Duke again, especially after years of silence. But when Duke comes storming back into her life, looking hotter than ever, and determined to get to know the son he never knew he had, she realizes that maybe she’d been wrong about him so many years ago. So Grace decides to make Duke a bet. If he can stay in the house with them for the next thirty days and prove he’ll be a good father, she’ll agree to letting him be part of his son’s life. If not, he’d better be prepared for a fight.

Going from single guy to family man isn’t going to be easy for Duke, especially with the still sexy, now fiery, Grace clouding his every thought. Can Duke be the man he never thought he could be or will his old bad boy ways be too much to conquer?

My Thoughts: Book two of the Bad Boys of Destiny stars Duke. He is the oldest King boy. It is also an example of the hidden baby trope.

Duke, the son of the town drunk, falls for Grace who is the banker's daughter. They have a hot, secret romance when she was eighteen and he was twenty-one. When he learns that she has a chance to go to Dartmouth to become a doctor, he breaks up with her because he doesn't want to stand in her way. She goes out with another boy from the town to try to show Duke what he'd be missing, but the boy gets drunk and makes improper advances. Duke sees this and almost beats the boy to death.

Since the victim was the son of the sheriff, Duke winds up being sent to prison for ten years. Grace is sent away by her father and her letters to Duke are intercepted. She finds herself pregnant and makes a life for herself and her son in Boston. When her mother becomes ill, she comes back to Destiny. Before she dies, her mom makes her promise to take care of her father. Their relationship is not good because he encouraged her to get an abortion when she became pregnant.

Now, thirteen years later, Duke is very reluctantly back in town to visit the aunt who raised him and his brothers after his father abandoned them. She is in the ICU but has some requests for each of the boys. She makes Duke promise to spend 30 days in the town and to talk with Grace.

Their relationship is filled with anger. Each feels betrayed by the other. However, Grace has never loved another man and Duke has never had other long term relationships. The sex is the easy part of their relationship. Duke wants to get to know that son he didn't know he had who has some anger issues of his own. And now the tables have turned. Duke is a multi-millionaire who owns a string of car detailing shops and Grace works two jobs as a nurse to take care of herself and her son. She feels that Duke is belittling her efforts when he spends lots of money on her.

This was a quick read and an entertaining story. I can't wait to read about the third brother's romance.

Favorite Quote:
"You sent me away. You tried to marry me off to someone else. You wanted me to get rid of Ryder."

He looked pained. "I regret that part, but I could have fixed things for you if you let me."

"Don't you get it? I didn't want you to fix things for me! I just wanted to live my own life."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.