Author: Ben H. Winters

Short & Sweet | Summer 2021 Mystery Trio

Posted August 26, 2021 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Short & Sweet Reviews / 2 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet | Summer 2021 Mystery TrioThe Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng
Published by Berkley Books on August 10th 2021
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
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two-half-stars

Two lives. The one you wanted. The one that wanted you.

Her birthday should be like any other night.

One minute Kelly’s a free-spirited artist in Chicago going to her best friend’s art show. The next, she opens a door and mysteriously emerges in her Michigan hometown. Suddenly her life is unrecognizable: She's got twelve years of the wrong memories in her head and she's married to Eric, a man she barely knew in high school.

Racing to get back to her old life, Kelly's search leads only to more questions. In this life, she loves Eric and wants to trust him, but everything she discovers about him—including a connection to a mysterious tech startup—tells her she shouldn't. And strange things keep happening. The tattoos she had when she was an artist briefly reappear on her skin, she remembers fights with Eric that he says never happened, and her relationships with loved ones both new and familiar seem to change without warning.

But the closer Kelly gets to putting the pieces together, the more her reality seems to shift. And if she can't figure out what happened on her birthday, the next change could cost her everything...

“This life, I didn’t choose. It was chosen for me. But would it be so bad if I had to stay here?”

Is readbait a thing? Well, comparing this as Russian Doll meets Black Mirror is major readbait for me.

Kelly is attending her best friend’s art show in Chicago when she opens the bathroom door and steps into another life. Her hair is long, her tattoos have disappeared, and she’s married to a guy she barely remembers from high school. Kelly possesses all of the memories from her Chicago life but they’re now overlayed with memories of a life, a good life, but a life she doesn’t remember actually living. Desperate to get back to her old life but having no clue how to make that happen, she’s confronted with the possibility that she might be stuck in this life, but would that be the worst thing?

“[…]I remembered, eventually, everything that had happened to me in both lives. How they’re both still there, uneasily coexisting in my head.”

Jeng handled the various similarities and differences between the timelines well and the scenes where Kelly’s world began to “glitch” (her tattoos would reappear on her arm only to disappear again) really heightened the intensity of the story. I do feel though it would have been even more intense (and engaging) if Kelly had been glitching out of one life and the other, but alas, she did not. What really failed for me was the backstory behind why this was happening and who was responsible. If I was glitched out of one life and put into another that I didn’t choose, I doubt my nutshell response would be “it’s okay, they meant well.”

Best Nuh Uh GIFs | Gfycat


I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet | Summer 2021 Mystery TrioThe Quiet Boy by Ben H. Winters
Published by Mulholland Books on May 18th 2021
Pages: 448
Genres: Mystery, Sci-fi
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Countdown City, World of Trouble, Golden State

three-stars

From the bestselling author of Underground Airlines and Golden State,

a sweeping legal thriller about a sixteen-year-old who suffers from a neurological condition that has frozen him in time, and the team of lawyers, doctors, and detectives who are desperate to wake him up.

Wesley Keener lies in bed: not dead, not alive, not in a coma or vegetative state, but simply frozen at an unchanging 16 years old, the forward course of his existence having simply stopped midway through sophomore year. His condition is the result of something called Syndrome J, an extraordinarily rare neurological event, at least according to the brilliant young neurologist Anna Pileggi.

When Wes was first hospitalized, his parents Beth and David Keener hired acclaimed PI Jay Shenk to help find answers about the illness that befell their beloved son. Now, years later, when David is accused of murdering the brilliant young doctor who served as expert witness in the hospital case, Shenk and his son Ruben discover that this standard malpractice suit is part of something more sinister than anyone imagined. An alternate explanation, brought forth by a mysterious older man, suggests an inter-dimensional entity wrecking havoc on the community. The child is not a prisoner, this stranger insists, he is a prison.

Told from alternating perspectives, The Quiet Boy explores the tensions between justice and compassion, in heart-pounding prose. With clever plotting, and a knack for character, Winters expertly weaves a group of misfits together in a race to save themselves, and an innocent life.

In 2008, a boy named Wesley Keener suffered a traumatic head injury at school. Following his brain surgery, he begins pacing the small confines of his hospital room without reprieve. He doesn’t stop to eat or sleep. And as time unfolds, the careful observations of the boy reveal that his hair doesn’t ever seem to get any longer and he never seems to get any older. Personal injury attorney Jay Shenk rushes to the hospital after getting word about this case, intending on trying to pick up a medical malpractice case that seems like a slam dunk but he ends up with something far more on his hands.

This is my fifth book by Winters and I’m pretty sure if it was my first it would’ve been a DNF. The Quiet Boy is a very slow-to-build story and at first glance, it’s a bit deceiving. It comes across as nothing more than a courtroom legal thriller but it’s definitely more than meets the eye and deserves a little patience. It’s a dense yet captivating story that will keep you guessing till the very ambiguous ending where you’ll have to just keep on guessing. I appreciated the subtle hint at answers, the suggestion that nothing is ever just black and white, that nothing has just a single interpretation, that it’s all based on your own perception… but I wanted (or needed) less ambiguity and more transparency.


I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet | Summer 2021 Mystery TrioJust One Look by Lindsay Cameron
Published by Ballantine Books on July 27th 2021
Pages: 304
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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two-half-stars

A young woman's escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking--love, friends, stability--and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.

While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn't read them. But it's just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can't look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest's corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a "chance" meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she's been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn't simply admire Annabelle--she wants to take her place. And she's armed with the tools to make that happen.

“Eyes aren’t the windows to the soul. Emails are.”

Cassie Woodson had a promising legal career until a breakup with her boyfriend led to some workplace violence that went viral. The incident got her fired and blacklisted and the only job she could get was a temp job reviewing documents where she sat in a windowless room with scheduled bathroom breaks. Her sudden and disastrous fall from grace has transformed her into an angry individual with a drinking problem but when she stumbles upon some personal correspondence between a husband and wife in her work documents, she develops a mild obsession with the couple. The mild obsession only grows and Cassie is no longer satisfied with simply reading about their lives: she wants it for herself.

As can be determined based on my review, this wasn’t a home run for me. I give this book enormous credit for pulling me out of the reading rut I found myself in when I decided to pick this up though. The beginning of this is entertaining as shit and Cassie and all her crazy actually reminded me a lot of good ol’ Joe from You. It was basically like watching a train wreck because you know nothing is going to end well so you might as well grab the popcorn.

The ending quite literally fell apart for me, thus my low rating. Oddly enough, still entertaining and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what’s next from this debut author.

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Book Review | In ‘Golden State’, Anything but the Truth is Illegal

Posted February 22, 2019 by Bonnie in 2019, Audiobooks, Book Reviews / 10 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review | In ‘Golden State’, Anything but the Truth is IllegalGolden State by Ben H. Winters
Narrator: Kiff VandenHeuvel
Published by Mulholland Books on January 22, 2019
Length: 10 hours and 26 minutes
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
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Also by this author: Countdown City, World of Trouble, The Quiet Boy

three-stars

A shocking vision of our future that is one part Minority Report and one part Chinatown.

Lazlo Ratesic is 54, a 19-year veteran of the Speculative Service, from a family of law enforcement and in a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else. This is how Laz must, by law, introduce himself, lest he fail to disclose his true purpose or nature, and by doing so, be guilty of a lie.

Laz is a resident of The Golden State, a nation resembling California, where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life, and governance, increasingly impossible. There, surrounded by the high walls of compulsory truth-telling, knowingly contradicting the truth--the Objectively So--is the greatest possible crime. Stopping those crimes, punishing them, is Laz's job. In its service, he is one of the few individuals permitted to harbor untruths--to "speculate" on what might have happened in the commission of a crime.

But the Golden State is far less a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the Objectively So requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance, recording, and record-keeping. And when those in control of the truth twist it for nefarious means, the Speculators may be the only ones with the power to fight back.

‘Each is an interesting fact, and each fact, each piece of truth, is valuable and precious in and of itself, every fact beloved in our good and golden world […]’

Golden State is set in a dystopian, and sovereign, California where cops possess the ability to detect lies and emitting falsehoods will earn you years in prison. Video cameras capture everything and it is all stored in the permanent record as a part of what is “Objectively So,” people greet one another with undeniable statements to vocalize their commitment to the truth, and at the end of each day, citizens are required to itemize their day in a journal (making sure to include any applicable receipts or documentation available). Laszlo Ratesic is a speculator in the Speculative Service and his job is to seek out lies which appear to him as a slight ripple; a dissonance in the air. His current case is investigating the irregularities surrounding the death of a construction worker that fell off a roof. Despite the seeming straightforwardness of the case, Laszlo’s investigation will lead him to the center of a grand conspiracy seeking to undermine the fundamentals of the Golden State.

‘[…] the preservation of reality’s integrity is the paramount duty of the good citizenry and of this government alike. Imagine what kind of mad society would be organized otherwise.’

Golden State reads like a blend of 1984Fahrenheit 451, and Minority Report but really played well on what Winters is becoming known for: well-written speculative futures + noir style mysteries that easily play on fears of possible futures to come. This plot is most definitely a play on the current administration’s continued insistence regarding “Fake News” and “alternative facts” and brings to life a world where the truth is absolute. Winters intent is obviously to show just how dangerous this concept is but for me, the plot got a little messy, the end goal really missed the mark, and the whole story strayed instead into predictable territory. What could have been a fascinating inside look at a corrupt government instead transformed into your standard corruption thriller.

‘…he has made his monstrous point about the rings of truth, about context and omission: he has illustrated that no matter how much we know, there are parts of the story that are missing.
There are elements unknown and unknowable, whether we know it or not.’

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1) by Margaret Atwood [Purchase|Review]
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva [Purchase|Review]
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker [Purchase|Review]

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Early Review – World of Trouble (The Last Policeman #3) by Ben H. Winters

Posted July 11, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2014 / 0 Comments

I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – World of Trouble (The Last Policeman #3) by Ben H. WintersWorld of Trouble Series: The Last Policeman #3
on July 15th 2014
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
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four-stars

Critically acclaimed author Ben H. Winters delivers this explosive final installment in the Edgar Award winning Last Policeman series. With the doomsday asteroid looming, Detective Hank Palace has found sanctuary in the woods of New England, secure in a well-stocked safe house with other onetime members of the Concord police force. But with time ticking away before the asteroid makes landfall, Hank’s safety is only relative, and his only relative—his sister Nico—isn’t safe. Soon, it’s clear that there’s more than one earth-shattering revelation on the horizon, and it’s up to Hank to solve the puzzle before time runs out . . . for everyone.

The Last Policeman series

The Last Policeman (The Last Policeman #1) {Purchase}
Countdown City (The Last Policeman #2) {PurchaseMy Review}

‘…there are not jostling anxious crowds outside, no frightened people rushing and pushing past each other in the streets. No klaxon howl of car alarms, no distant gunfire. The people are hidden now, those that remain, hidden under blankets or in basements, encased in their dread.’

With mere weeks left before the impending asteroid makes an impact with the earth, Detective Henry Palace is on a last minute mission to get to his sister Nico before it’s too late. Nico is convinced that the group she’s joined up with is going to be able to save the world with the help of a nuclear scientist by the name of Hans-Michael Parry but Palace is convinced that it’s nothing but a farce. One way or another, he intends to do anything and everything he can to ensure his sister’s safety and solve his final case for the brief time that he may or may not have left.

‘They say that just before impact the sky will brighten ferociously, like the sun has burst from its own skin, and then we will feel it, even on the far of the earth we will feel it, the whole world will quaver from the blow.’

The journey to find his sister is a difficult one. The few clues he has takes him and his dog Houdini from New Hampshire to Ohio and upon reaching the abandoned police station in the small town of Rotary, the evidence he sees leaves the outlook bleak. His determination to find his sister despite the knowledge that in a few days it will no longer matter is heartrending but his resolve is truly admirable. Society is crumbling around him and the world is literally about to come to an end yet Detective Henry Palace is doing whatever he can to maintain his morality even in the face of mortality. World of Trouble is an engaging end to a thrilling trilogy that you will want to race through to determine the fate of the earth and its inhabitants. I’ve never been so pleased with a not so happy ending.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker [PurchaseReview]
The Road by Cormac McCarthy [Purchase]

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Early Review – Countdown City (Last Policeman #2) by Ben H. Winters

Posted July 12, 2013 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013 / 5 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Countdown City (Last Policeman #2) by Ben H. WintersCountdown City by Ben H. Winters
Series: Last Policeman #2
Published by Quirk Books on July 16th 2013
Pages: 316
Genres: Detective, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: World of Trouble, Golden State, The Quiet Boy

three-half-stars

There are just 74 days to go before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Hank Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank's days of solving crimes are over...until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.

Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace—an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees.

The second novel in the critically acclaimed Last Policeman trilogy, Countdown City presents a fascinating mystery set on brink of an apocalypse--and once again, Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond "whodunit." What do we as human beings owe to one another? And what does it mean to be civilized when civilization is collapsing all around you?

Last Policeman series

The Last Policeman
The Last Policeman (The Last Policeman, #1) {Purchase}

How would you spend your remaining days if you knew an asteroid was on target to destroy the Earth in a few short months? Would you pack everything and travel the world? Would you finally do all those things you’ve been pushing off and just haven’t ever gotten around to? Or would you continue living your life as if nothing has changed?

Henry Palace is no longer employed with the Concord Police Department, but that doesn’t stop him from solving various mysteries. Sure, the Earth is in the direct path of an asteroid but he continues working because that’s what makes sense to him. That’s always been what his life was about, what gave his life meaning and he isn’t going to stop now just because his days are numbered.

A missing person case has become quite simple in this day and age where people are running away from their lives to fulfill bucket lists and the like. Palace’s lasted missing person investigation leads him to a group of revolutionaries that are slowly building their own society with their own new set of rules. As the clues begin falling together Palace realizes that not only is this not a simple missing person case but this is one individual that is on a crusade and doesn’t wish to be found.

While I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic novels, I’m beginning to understand the appeal of pre-apocalyptic novels as well. Being able to witness a society that is slowly preparing themselves for catastrophe and watching the evolution of society and civilization and watching things slowly change for the worst is not only mesmerizing but frightening in its realism. It will definitely leave you wondering how you would respond: would your survival instincts kick in or will you scramble away in fear?

While the mystery aspect didn’t hold the same intensity as the one in The Last Policeman, this was still an engaging installment. Society as we know it has reached its saturation point and the situation is bound to get worse. I eagerly await the final installment of this thrilling pre-apocalyptic tale to find out the fate of the Earth and the whole of civilization.

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