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Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

I've been eagerly awaiting Carolyn Crane's debut novel Mind Games for what seems like ages now. If you're not familiar with the name, I suggest you head on over to Carolyn's hilarious blog The Thrillionth Page and acquaint yourself with CJ and her hilariously eclectic style and wit. One night a few weeks ago I was lying awake in bed scheming on how I could get a hold of an early copy of Mind Games and then--POW--Carolyn contacted me wondering if I'd be interested in a review copy. I love it when the fates align like that. This is the first in the Disillusionists trilogy--and I really do love this cover. I love the tangle of highway behind her and her cool stance and watchful expression. The knife doesn't hurt. Or the blurb by Ann Aguirre at the top.

Justine Jones is on death's door. At any moment she could drop dead. Of this she is absolutely certain. But she's also aware that she is a hypochondriac in the worst way and her life has been one long, tense struggle not to give in to her disorder. And while she knows she's prone to over analyze her health (understatement much?), she also knows that her mother died from the rare vein star syndrome and, as her symptoms continue to mirror her mother's, Justine fears she's not long for this world. Then one night she goes to dinner with her numbingly normal boyfriend Cubby and meets Sterling Packard--the proprietor of the Mongolian Delites restaurant in which they are dining. Packard, it turns out, is a "highcap"--a human with mutant/super abilities. In Packard's case, he has enhanced psychic powers that allow him to channel emotions, which is how he zeroed in on Justine as she sort of blares pain and neuroses on the psychic plane. He makes her a deal she can't refuse when he offers to siphon off her constant, crushing fear and paranoia in exchange for her services on his elite psychological hit squad. As Justine delves further into Packard's history and the underground forces at work in her city, she grows increasingly uncertain as to what is right and wrong and who is worth fighting for. Or against.

I have to give props to Carolyn Crane for her insanely unique and clever idea for an urban fantasy series and protagonist. Your run-of-the-mill hypochondriacal dress shop manager turned psychological assassin fighting for justice on a vigilante special forces team headed up by a spatially challenged, rakishly handsome, possibly amoral mastermind? Genius. I lapped it up like cream. And I liked Justine from the start. I liked how torn, yet accessible she was. How she longed for normality or at least the illusion of it, almost to the exclusion of all else. How certain she felt that she was broken beyond fixing and how certain Packard felt that she wasn't and how fascinating he found her. It's alternately funny, sad, and charming to watch her find a group of friends and comrades in the other desperate misfits that made up Packard's squad. And, as much as it pained me at times, I appreciated how no single character was entirely black or white and how their abilities made them both strong and dangerous, highlighting those grays in between admirable and unbearably flawed. I will say that there is a love triangle of sorts and that, though I see pros and cons to both sides, I feel strongly inclined in one direction. It comes on a bit late in the game for me and a few more romantic scenes felt a bit awkward and/or rushed. I, of course, don't trust either of her love interests as far as I can throw them. Unless I was one of the awesome mutant throwing highcaps tearing about Midcity. In which case I would hurl both of them about at will for some of the pain they inflict on our girl! But what I enjoyed most about this story was the unquenchable comic book hero theme running through it. From the heroine's classic alliterative first and last names to the Gotham City-like atmosphere and truly disgusting villains to the normal person thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Made of awesome, my friends.

The good news is the sequel--Double Cross--is due out September 28th. That's right, this September! Also be sure to drop by tomorrow for my interview with Carolyn. We'll be giving away a signed copy of Mind Games to one lucky commenter!


Linkage
All Things Urban Fantasy Review
The Book Smugglers Review
Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings Review
Penelope's Romance Review
Read React Review
SciFiGuy Review
Tracy's Place Review

Comments

  1. I'm so happy for Carolyn! Her blog is always one I check and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book - it sounds awesome.

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  2. I love how you put the character,or rather are unable to put the character of Justine.

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  3. This book is apparently "storming the gates" and it sounds like an actually original reading experience to check out. The fact that someone can take a constantly neurotic female and make her into a likeable as well as believable heroine sounds interesting and the beauty of the series being a trilogy does not hurt either. The story line will be long enough in 3 books to keep being interesting and not drag out so long it makes the reader go brain dead waiting for the next installment!

    Nice review and am waiting now for the interview.

    jackie b central texas

    ReplyDelete
  4. Michelle, I know. It made me happy as well. And I think you'll enjoy it.

    bookaholic, lol. It's true. I fumbled around it, didn't I? She's a unique one for sure.

    Jackie, that's exactly it. She has so many issues and yet there was never a question of whether or not I liked her. She's awesome. And I agree with you on the trilogy thing. Lovely to go in knowing there are parameters set.

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  5. Awesome review, Angie. I picked up my copy on release day and look forward to reading it. Sounds like all kinds of insane fun. =)

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  6. Great review..you summed it up perfectly..I loved this one :)

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  7. Christine, oh, I'm glad you've got your copy secured. :) Enjoy.

    Mandi, I thought you might. Great stuff.

    ReplyDelete

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