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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good
I resisted buying this book because I didn't think I'd like a heroine who is so obsessed (a hypochondriac) that she's likely to wind up in a straightjacket if her syndrome continues to take over her thoughts. However, the good reviews this book received on Amazon convinced me to give it a try. Well, I just finished the book, and I'm a bit in shock. What an excellent...
Published on May 4, 2010 by Lifelong Reader

24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some risky choices, but well worth the read: 3,5 stars
Always on the lookout for new, exciting Urban Fantasy material, I came across MIND GAMES by Carolyn Crane. It's the start to a new urban fantasy series that also includes superhero comic and science fiction elements. The concept promises an exceptional read: a hypochondriac heroine reforms criminals by pumping them full with her fear.

Vein star syndrome - those...
Published on April 30, 2010 by hwm

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mind Games..., July 14, 2010
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What I Loved: I never knew what was coming! It was truly like being on a roller coaster without knowing which way you are zig zagging. The last 15 chapters were fantastic and very well written!

What I Liked: I really liked the interactions between all the characters. I felt that Justine's journey was both real and well paced. I never felt like I was missing part of the story even though there was a lot going on.

What I thought was So-So/Didn't Like: Not a darn thing. It delivered from start to finish. If I can make a request: MORE SIMON!

Why I gave it a 4: This is one of those books that was almost a 5 for me. I think the only reason I held back were Packard and Cuddy. I won't say what 2 scenes because of spoilers but that was just a personal thing.

Who I would recommend this too: PNR, UF, and Mystery/Thriller readers who don't mind a little suspension of reality
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First in a New Trilogy, April 28, 2010
Justine Jones is an extreme hypochondriac whose neurosis threatens her sanity and way of life. When Packard, a man with a mysterious gift to recognize and focus neuroses, notices Justine's phobia he asks her to join his team of vigilantes. With Packard's help, Justine is able to free herself of her hypochondria by sending it into another person. But Packard assures Justine that only criminals will be receiving these "disillusions," as a safe way of rehabilitating them back into society. But Packard is hiding something.

Justine is a sympathetic character, always second-guessing each of her difficult decisions. And the characters of Packard and his nemesis are incredibly mysterious and the highlight of the story for me. Crane has created a unique world where a subspecies of humans have developed different powers, such as telekinesis and mind reading, which the general population mostly fears.

This urban fantasy at times actually feels more like science fiction to me, with a super hero versus super villain quality to it. And by several chapters in, I couldn't put it down. With a complex and juicy plot, this urban fantasy debut is impressive to say the least. The first in a trilogy, Mind Games is a wonderful introduction to Justine Jones and a suspenseful, edgy mystery that unfolds in a surprising way.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You must read this book, pronto!, August 2, 2010
`Mind Games' is, hands down, one of the best books I've read all year.
I know Carolyn Crane is friend to many on the book blogosphere, but I've never visited her blog and I have no blogger camaraderie with her... so this review is wholly unbiased, based purely on the merit of the work. And with that in mind... this is *definitely* one of the best books I've read all year.

Justine Jones is going to die. She can feel it. It starts with a tingling in her cranium and builds to a pinpoint of pulsing pain. Justine has vein star syndrome - and a deadly attack can come on unexpectedly, just as it did to Justine's mother who died from the syndrome when Justine was a girl. The threat of vein star is heightened by anxiety - which is a guarantee considering Justine is a hypochondriac.

Justine's life seems to be all about waiting for vein star to kill her. She's dating a guy named Cubby, but he's at the end of his tether with Justine and her trips to the ER and constant worry - she knows it's only a matter of time before Cubby leaves her. But that's okay; she's going to die anyway....
And then she meets Sterling Packard who promises Justine a cure. Packard is a `highcap' - a citizen of Midcity who has higher mental capacity. Highcaps can take the form of telekinesis, telepathy or in Packard's case; he can see a person's psychological structure. In Justine he has a clear visual of her hypochondria and knows that in a few years her fear will see her institutionalized. So Packard offers Justine an out - in joining his `psychological hit squad'. Packard has gathered a group of neurotic individuals - those who specialize in ennui, self-doubt etc. Packard's `squad' push their fears into other people, called a `zing'. When they zing they lose their neuroses and give them to other people, bad people and criminals who deserve self-doubt and a lack of confidence to become disillusioned by the abundance of negativity. From disillusionment these criminals are able to be re-built and reformed and made to see the error of their ways;

I was sucked into this book from page one. Justine is an endearing and fascinating protagonist, and her first-person narrative is a wonderful peek into the world of a hypochondriac. Her mind and inner workings make for truly disturbing reading, but like a car crash you can't look away. Justine lives in constant fear of the most miniscule, unsubstantiated things. It's hard to understand, but Crane makes it easy to sympathize. Especially because Justine is very aware of her neuroses, she's even embarrassed by it. But like an addiction she can't stop; she can hear herself annoying those around her with incessant worries, but she can't stop articulating her fears. I really felt for Justine, but as much as I was given to empathy for her it was her wry sense of humour that really endeared me.

Everything about `Mind Games' worked for me. The plot is an especial joy ride. I loved the concept of neurotic superheroes - it gave me visions of Superman using his X-ray vision to check for fissures and busted hips. And the idea of rehabilitating criminals with disillusionment is inspired. This is also quite a dark Urban Fantasy - a nittier-grittier fare than the genre is used to. But Crane works well to keep things dark and reader's a little bit squeamish. A grimmer tone is expected for a book about fatalist superheroes and reformed criminals; for instance, Carolyn Crane has totally put me off ants forever - *forever*!
But at the end of the day `Mind Games' is so good because Crane has woven together a thrilling story. Her plot takes so many twists and turns, especially toward the end when I was thrown for several loops and knocked off balance. I loved every second of this book because it kept me on my feet and I was constantly trying to figure out the mystery. I really didn't know how the book would end, but I trusted in Crane and she delivered on a fulfilling ending ten-fold.

This book also has a tricky romance. Justine is drawn to Packard, as her saviour and teacher and they have real chemistry and heat. But toward the end a second romance enters and a triangle is created. I think the romantic entanglements of `Mind Games' are mysteries unto themselves, so I don't want to give anything away. Only to say that I was very conflicted by book's end - I was all set to be smitten with Packard, but then I found myself rooting for the second romance. Urgh! Even now, having finished the book, I still don't know who I want for Justine. I only hope Crane has lots more books in store for Ms. Justine Jones so that all these questions can be explored and resolved in depth (and with many more smutty scenes).

I adored this book, it is hands-down one of my favourite 2010 reads.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the kind of story that will appeal to both urban fantasy and paranormal romance fans - I loved it, March 24, 2010
Plot Summary: Justine Jones is not your average hypochondriac. During her childhood Justine's mother died of a rare brain aneurysm, and now every prick and tingle in her head can trigger an anxiety attack. Justine is so tired of sleepless nights, ruined relationships, and visits to the ER, that when a charismatic stranger offers her a cure, she listens. Packard can train Justine to siphon off her fear, and to do it in a way that weaponizes her worst weakness. After one zing she's addicted to feeling `normal,' and Justine joins the most unconventional crime fighting team in history.

Carolyn Crane's debut novel is a brilliant original in every way. Just when I think that urban fantasy heroines are becoming too clichéd and predictable, Mind Games blows me out of the water with its unique premise. Justine does not wield a katana, or ride a Harley, or kick like a ninja. Instead she fights with her mind, and speaking as a nerd myself, I find that concept oh so sexy.

If I have a fear for Mind Games, it's that someone will try to describe too much and blow the suspense on one of the best love triangles I've encountered. I want readers to experience it just like I did - without a single clue. Ms. Crane has a lot of surprises in store, and during the last 100 pages I honestly couldn't predict how it would end. As you can imagine, I also couldn't put it down.

Mind Games is one of those rare books that takes the best elements from urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and combines them into one package. It's my favorite kind of read, because above all else I like to see a strong romance in an urban fantasy. Add to that some sensual sex scenes that had me asking, is it warm in here?, and I was in reading heaven. Mind Games took me on the kind of journey I'm always hoping to find, but so seldom do.

On Carolyn Crane's website it says that Mind Games is the first book of The Disillusionists Trilogy. Like the Doublemint gum jingle I think that's double our fun, because 1) there will be more books, and 2) I have a particular fondness for trilogies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just couldn't get into Justine, November 20, 2012
This review is from: Mind Games (Kindle Edition)
I chose to read Mind Games because I'm a fan of supernatural/suspense novels and the reviews seemed positive. Plus, as a person with hypochondriac tendencies, I wanted to see how Crane would put together a superhero whose "power" was her disorder. The plot is a little hard to explain (and the synopsis on Amazon and Goodreads didn't do a great job either), but here it goes:

Justine Jones is a hypochondriac and convinced she has vein-star syndrome. She has her reasons - the disease killed her mother - but aside from that she has no real symptoms. Of course, when you're a hypochondriac, fear and anxiety can do a damn good job at impersonating them.

Between the panic attacks landing her in the ER, Justine desperately wants a "normal" life - a plan which includes her perfectly vanilla boyfriend, Cubby. (Really? Cubby? What kind of name is that? I kept picturing him as a Carebear .).

Her quest for the bland hits a snag when she meets the mysterious Packard. He recognizes her disorder as a gift and teaches her how she can "zing" (actual term) her neurosis into others through some sort of energy exchange. Zinging allows Justine to be free of her disorder (for a while) as it is pushed into the other person. Packard enlists her into his squad of "disillusionists" - sort of for-hire crime fighting team zinging all sorts of neurosis into the bad guys.

Barely into her new "career," Justine begins to question whether pushing her disorder into other people -- no matter how bad they might be -- is right. More importantly, she doesn't trust Packard. And she wants a way out.

Really, that's as far as I think I need to go with the plot. The story is more-or-less establishing the beginning of Justine Jones: Dissilussionist. Not to say there isn't a subplot, but it seems to play second fiddle to Justine's internal struggle.

Crane could've done a much better job at providing a background for this story - especially since it was the first book in the series. It began almost assuming I already knew what the author was talking about. The setting is "Midcity" but I didn't know the year. The city is under siege by criminals, namely an invisible assailant slinging bricks at people's heads (to the point the kids go outside with helmets). Bricks? Yes, really. The charismatic police chief Otto Sanchez says the brick thrower is using some sort of catapult to launch his projectiles at citizens, but rumor on the street the suspect is a Highcap.

What's a Highcap? Good question. As far as I could tell, it meant they were somehow special (like telekinetic or dream walkers), but there wasn't really any explanation of who they were or how they were that way until much later in the book. Packard was identified as a Highcap. There are other Highcaps, apparently. Yet, some people say they don't exist. How mythical are Highcaps? I mean, are we talking conspiracy theory UFO/Bigfoot type of skepticism, or are we talking about being a Salt Lake City gay. Sort of a don't ask-don't tell policy?

Not a biggie. Mind Games isn't meant to be an infallible work of pure genius. It's a fun read and for that it doesn't need to cross every I and dot every T (just most of them). It wasn't exactly a stay-up-late page turner, but it kept me interested.

The biggest ding (or should I say zing?) to my overall rating, however, was because of the unlikable, flat, underdeveloped or otherwise awful characters. The story was littered with so many random minor people I never felt like I could relate or understand any of them. The superficial interactions that tried to imply a greater story or insight never went anywhere. For example, Packard was written to be enigmatic, but his vague and mysterious "plans" and peculiar behavior never really led to any big revelations about who he was or unlocked a deeper understanding into his character. He just acted like a total douche canoe.

But the brunt of my disappointment and frustration was with Justine. When it came to being the female lead, Justine had the strength of a wet noodle. It was such an interesting and unique concept - the hypochondriac heroine - but she spent more time riding her high horse with a holier-than-thou attitude than learning how to use her disorder/gift. I'm not sure she ever applied logic or reason to any of her opinions. To her, everything Packard did was bad. He could've told her to save a baby from a burning building and she would've found some way to turn him into the villain. What if the baby was really a superpowerful Highcap destined to destroy the world and this is all part of Packard's evil plan! And then she'd start making out with Packard and stop halfway through. And then become furious, and blame him for making her cheat on Cubby. Really?

Despite the criticisms, it was a breakout novel and it's normal for a writer to have a few bumps along the road to finding their groove. I considered reading Double Cross (the second book in the series), but browsing through the first few pages in the sample it seemed like the characters hadn't changed much and I just couldn't get into it.

You should check it out if... you dabble in sci-fi crossover novels and don't read too much into a plot. It will also help if you don't get incredible annoyed at self-righteous main characters and overly drawn out, random, explicit sex scenes.

Skip if... you read between the lines and expect more than meets the eye or are incredibly judgmental on the portrayal of female main characters (guilty).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Original, June 29, 2010
Carolyn Crane has taken people who should be on the psych ward and turned them into covert operatives to evoke laughs, suspense, sexy romance and drama. This is the most original story I have read in recent years. The plotting is well done and the prose way above the norm for Urban Fantasy. Cudos to Ms. Crane.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly Original, September 12, 2010
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This review is from: Mind Games (Kindle Edition)
I really liked this book. It's not often something unique comes along in this genre.

Justine is a hypochondriac who gets recruited, somewhat unwillingly, into a group of vigilante crusaders who use their personality defects (gambing addiction, anger management issues, depression...) to rehabilitate bad guys. Somehow they manage to inject their targets with their neurosis ("zing" them). The side effect is they're temporarily cured, though they then crave more zings.

Justine is likeable, and while totally fixated on her health issues, has a sense of humor and hope about her situation. Normally I don't like novels in first person present tense, but it works for Justine & makes her more compelling. The rest of the vigilantes (the "disillusionists"), with varying degrees of screen time, are all well-rounded and interesting characters. Packard, the group's leader, manages to come off as sypathetic and likable, even though he does some pretty underhanded things and we're never quite sure if he's good or bad. The same holds true for the character set up as the bad guy - it's hard to tell if he really is the bad guy after all.

While I think the strength of the novel is the characters, the plot is interesting too, had some surprises, and unfolded nicely. That being said, I figured out the identity of the "bad guy" early on, and I'm not sure it was meant to be easily figured out. Nonetheless, it didn't take away from the story.

I had a hard time understanding how the disillusionist zing their targets. There's a supernatural element to the story in that some people have a mutation giving them enhanced mental capabilities (i.e. telekenetics...) and Packard is one of them, but it was never clear to me how Packard taught regular people to weaponize their neurosis. I also have mixed feelings about the ending. While it definitely works and pulls the story together, it's not how I wanted it to end.

Overall, an entertaining book somwehere b/w 3 1/2 and 4 stars.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Conflicted View, May 18, 2010
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I'm very conflicted about my opinion of this book. Did I like it? Did I hate it? I just can't tell; it seems like a bit of both. That's why I went straight down the middle with my rating.

On one hand I really liked how different this book is. I can't think of another book I've read that similar to this, so kudos to the author for originality. I was a bit confused in the beginning about high caps and vein star syndrome and was waiting for the author to explain what exactly was going on. I did, however, kind of like (though I found it frustrating) that the author didn't info dump right in the beginning and let us find out what this world was like as it came up in conversation. On the other hand, I had a real problem with Justine. I constantly found myself wishing that I could reach through the pages and strangle her. Why are you doing these things? You have horrible decision making skills! Ugh!

We meet Justine, who is a hypochondriac, while she's in a relationship with Cubby. He's everything normal she wishes she could be. There comes a moment in the book when Packard gives Justine a very unwanted reality check about her relationship with Cubby. I found every word true and I wish Justine would have eventually realized how right he was. I just have to mention something that really bothered me. I hate the name Cubby. I know it's just a nickname, but it really bothered me. I also didn't like how the story was written in first person present tense. That was weird and kept jarring me out of the story.

Justine becomes involved with Packard and his group of disillusionists and feels like she has finally found a group of friends that she really fits in with. Even though she doesn't get along with all of them equally well she understands them because on the inside they're just as messed up as she is. I liked the look we had at all the other disillusionists. I felt that we didn't really get much depth to them and wanted to know more about them.

As Justine becomes more involved she questions whether they are doing the right thing or not. As she is confronted with a criminal from her past she will have to face some tough questions. Is he the same man? Is what they did to him immoral? Are they now criminals because of their very conduct? Is Packard getting anything else out of this? I found these questions fascinating and wish we got more answers. I'm interested in seeing how it all unfolds in the rest of the trilogy.

I really liked the interaction that Justine and Packard have throughout the book. They fall into a friendship that I wish we were shown more of instead of being told about it. They also have some really nice chemistry together. Unfortunately in the back of my mind her supposed commitment to Cubby always lurked and I couldn't help but be skeezed out by her actions and her justifications for them. I didn't really blame Packard because she left the door open for him and he wasn't the one who was in a relationship with someone.

Packard was my favorite character of the whole story. He's manipulative and out for himself, but he's fascinating while he does it. I can't really blame him for seizing the opportunity presented to him for escape. On the other hand I can't really blame Justine for feeling betrayed by it and no longer wanting to be friends. I do however think she overreacted and was irritated by her refusal to listen to him. I'm not surprised that he would do anything to be free. I felt so bad for him when Justine had something happen to her by one of their marks and he couldn't go to her to see if she was ok. She didn't care enough to return his call and so he was stuck there waiting until she decided to come to him. What kind of hell that would be!

The end of this book was a huge problem for me. That's when I really started to dislike Justine. The decisions she makes and the fact that she's willing to risk all the friends she feels she fits in so well with... I just couldn't respect her. Throughout the book I felt that she was "me, me, me" but at the end she practically screamed it. She put her wants above the safety of her friends and based all this surety in her rightness off of what? I felt so bad when Packard found out that she went to that level with that guy. I'll read the next book because it's a fascinating story, but I really hope that I can find something to like about Justine before it grows too tedious to be in her head.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this Book, June 14, 2010
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This review is from: Mind Games (Kindle Edition)
I'm a fan of vampire & werewolf books, but I wanted to change things up a little bit. I'm trying to broaden my horizons, so to speak. I've seen this book come up on quite a few blog sites that I visit, so I thought I would give it a chance. It's been sitting on my Kindle for a while, but I kept passing over it. Well imagine my surprise when I started reading it! I couldn't put it down. I loved the premise of this story, it was really different, but it worked. I've never been a fan of UF, but this story has changed my mind. I can't wait for the 2nd book. I may try out some other UF books now. Anyone have any suggestions? :)
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh air in the Urban Fantasy genre, March 25, 2010
Mind Games is Carolyn Crane's much anticipated, debut Urban Fantasy novel and the first book in The Disillusionists Trilogy.

Coming from a dysfunctional family, it's not surprising that Justine Jones has some serious issues of her own, hypochondria. Her deep seated fear is that she has a blood vessel about to burst. She just knows that the tingle she feels on her scalp is sign of the life threatening blood vessel on the verge of bursting, even if none of the doctors she frequents can find any medical proof of her condition.

On a celebration date with her boyfriend Cubby, Justine meets the strikingly good looking Packard who immediately recognizes her hypochondria with his own special insight. Justine recognizes Packard as a highcap, a person with unexplained special abilities. Packard offers Justine the opportunity to weaponize her fear against some of the vilest criminals in Midcity while alleviating herself of it at the same time by joining his vigilante group of extraordinary disillusionists. Is fighting the crime wave that has engulfed Midcity as black and white as Packard and his team of disillusionists have made it out to be?

When I first heard about Mind Games, it immediately claimed my attention with a hypochondriac heroine. I was curious how a heroine with health phobias would play out in a genre saturated with the usual mixing of vamps, shifters, witches and zombies. The creativity of the plot was beyond anything I would have imagined, Mind Games turned out to be a breath of fresh air in the Urban Fantasy genre. It was full of dangerous and wicked suspense that took off in directions I didn't see coming from start to finish. I found this story to be full of scenes containing action, paranormal mystery and relationship intrigues threaded throughout the entire novel, and those scenes were "sit on the edge of your seat" tense.

The characters are all so original with personalities that add a quality of realism to the story. Justine Jones is an optimistic, who puts a lot of faith in good always prevailing over evil. Justine also just wants be an average, normal person without phobias. Packard is mysterious man, and deviling through the mysteries surrounding him is one of the main draws of this story. Then there's Chief Otto Sanchez, and he is what I would call a debonair man with a flair for theatrics, his character is one you can't help but like even when he calls criminals "evildoers" in such a dramatic fashion.

Mind Games needs to be a on everyone's must-read-now list. Seriously - not kidding.

You can bet Double Cross, the next book in this trilogy, is at the top of my most anticipated books list now.
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Mind Games by Carolyn Crane
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