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30 of 33 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Mind Games, indeed, July 8, 2010
Reviewed for [...]

I can't say that I am a particular fan of Urban Fantasy, but I have to commend Carolyn Crane for the sheer ridiculousness of the premise. I doubt anyone reading the back cover of this book wouldn't be curious. In terms of setting, I truly appreciated the Gotham City-esque feel of Midcity. Apparently murdering psychopaths are a dime a dozen in this city.

The fantasy elements of the novel are particularly creative. Packard is a highcap, that is, a person with a mutation that leads to heightened mental powers. Packard's particular ability allows him to read people's psychological structures. He senses and enlists neurotics that dine at his Mongolian Restaurant and teaches them to unload their own neuroses on selected criminals, essentially pumping them so full of fear that they eventually break down and reform. WTF, I know.

I have read a few reviews that dismiss the heroine, Justine Jones, as yet another urban fantasy neurotic. I would add that she is a hilarious urban fantasy neurotic. Her narration is never self-pitying, she never broods and she is a bit of a wise-ass. I suppose for marketing purposes she is shown holding a knife on the cover, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Justine isn't a kick-ass fantasy heroine, but rather, she thinks on her feet, which is eminently more interesting. Though a few of her more gratuitous scenes near the end did skeeze me out, I appreciated that Justine contemplates her decisions and tries to do the right thing. At times she is rather deliberately clueless, but really aren't we all? Of the secondary characters, Packard is the most well drawn. He is manipulative yet charismatic and his particular situation is both sad and hilarious.

Now, I always loathe when someone warns me that a book has plot twists, as once I am warned of the fact I tend to predict all that twists. Nevertheless, I won't ruin any of the particulars, but be assured the plot is twisty and slippery although it does sag a bit in the middle. There are some very funny moments in the novel as well as some very tense sections towards the end. The ending itself is very well paced and oddly satisfying despite the fact that this is the first novel in a trilogy.

As far as the writing, Mind Games is written in first person and I am not sure how to class this, but it has a definite Urban Fantasy feel. It isn't gritty per se, but there is a definite graphic novel flair to the setting, descriptions and narration.

And of course the romance. Justine has several love interests and the ending leaves room for more developments, but Justine's interaction and chemistry with Packard is rather good. However, I can't say that I saw the attraction of her other love interest who is introduced through the latter half of the novel. I suppose further installments in the series will lead to the obligatory love triangle.

For me, as far as missteps go, I would have appreciated some of the more gratuitous erotic scenes near the end be cut, particularly as the situation was a tad disturbing. Further, I felt that Justine's idolization of the Police Chief was rather odd and unexplained. Lastly, I suppose the plot could have been tightened a bit further through the middle section of the novel, particularly as the ending advances at breakneck speed.

All this being said, Mind Games is definitely worth a read. Though this is a bit of a popcorn novel, there are no cut and dry characters or situations in this novel. It has been a long time since I was this thoroughly entertained by a novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wowzers, June 29, 2010
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Justine Jones is dying. Or so she thinks. Just about every day. An intense hypochondriac, Justine is sure that any minute now a blood vessel is going to burst in her brain. But, out of nowhere, someone seems to offer a cure.

Packard looks into Justine's soul and sees her as someone who could be very useful to his disallusionist team. Thinking of this as a temporary way to deal with her hypochandria, Justine agrees to join Packard. Soon, Justine is being trained to use her fears as a weapon against criminals and in turn freeing herself from the pain and panic. It seems like a great way to get a handle on her hypochondria... at first.

While Justine has been successful in her firsts missions, her next has her questioning Packard's true purpose. And, before long, Justine finds herself fighting an attraction to two distinct men, making her resolve to find the truth that much stronger. With Packard's help, she's now free from her neurosis, but has this only bound Justine tighter to this man? Has she traded in her madness only to find out the world is a scarier place than her mind?

It was easy for me to connect with Justine. While dealing with health issues due to her hypchondria, Justine never wallows in self-pity. She's not like the average kick-butt heroine, but a normal girl who was thrust into abnormal circumstances. Well, maybe not too normal if you think about her hightened hypchondria, but hey, everyone has their quirks. Which is why I not only fell in love with Justine, but all the secondary characters as well.

Packard was hands down my favorite secondary character, and I do so hope to see more interaction between him and Justine in the next two books. He has a quiet alpha quality about him and seems to have his thoughts well guarded, although at times letting it down around Justine. I loved the scenes between Justine and Packard. You can see the change and growth in their relationship. They become attuned to one another, even through their anger towards each other.

Mind Games was a mind blowing read! I did not want to put this book down, and even lingered towards the end so I wouldn't finish too soon. First in a trilogy, Mind Games brings you into a different world where highcaps and disillusionist live secretly among average citizens. This story captures your attention from the get-go as it unfolds and brings to light an ingenius plot author Carolyn Crane has woven.

This story line was very original and exceptional. It had much depth and showed how the lines can sometimes blur between good and evil.

While I may be a die-hard romance reader, if I had to choose my favorite read of this year so far, hands down, Mind Games would take top place. What a brilliant and awesome debut for an author. This book has put Ms. Crane on my list of authors to be on the watch for.

Though, not be a huge urban fantasy reader, if I could find more superb and entertaining stories like Mind Games, that might soon change. This will definitely be re-read for me and a book that I'm definitely recommending to everyone.


Dude, this makes the sci-fi geeky girl in me happy, hehe. I loved how this story gave me a comic book feel. Another reason I may understand Justine? I'm a bit of a hypochondriac myself... you don't even want to know what I thought was wrong with me the other night, lol. This book was so fantabulous and I've already pre-ordered book two! *yay*
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great start to a great new series!, May 23, 2010
Alexia (The Carolina Coast USA) - See all my reviews
Thought that this book was one of the most original, clever stories I've come across in a long time! Loved Justine, the hypochondriac heroine. And the whole idea of a team of disillusionists was incredibly unique! To actually put together a team of people who use their fears to disillusion their targets, basically rebooting them, was very clever. I didn't exactly get how they transferred their fears into their victims, but they had it down to a science and it seemed to work. And the team was made up of ordinary humans, not the mutated 'highcaps' who have special abilities.

Justine is a hypochondriac, convinced that she's going to die any minute now from vein star syndrome. Her life is an endless round of ER visits, countless looks of pity, numerous broken relationships, and panic attack after panic attack. While she doesn't like the idea of being a vigilante, she can't resist the allure of finally being free from her fear. But little does she know that once she signs up, there's no going back. Being a disillusionist is a lifetime commitment, whether she likes it or not.

Gave this book a 4/5 rating as I thought it was well written, had great characters, an interesting premise, and had a great plot! This was the first in the series, and I'm looking forward to see what happens next! Book two, Double Cross, is due at the end of September. Can hardly wait!
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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 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A+ rating...., May 9, 2013
My Review:
Wow...just wow! This book and the idea behind it is so amazingly and utterly ridiculous that it's brilliant! Seriously, the author has taken a band of neurotic misfits and made it so that they can use those neurosis as weapons for the greater good of society!

Justine is a new member in the group of Disillusionists. Her super-power, severe hypochondria. Packard is the leader of this misfit bunch and I loved the dichotomy between the two of them shifted so much and so many times throughout the book. I love that Justine is honestly just a normal woman...I could see as a friend I would make in the coffee store. She's normal and as a normal, although highly neurotic, person, she has questions and doubts and makes wrong choices all the time. I love how unsure she is all the time. She wants to do the right thing and is constantly having to weigh that in her mind if what she's doing is right or not. Because the justice the disillusionists dish justice without a trial. Packard is judge and jury. I love how torn she is about it makes her even more likable and human.

There is a lot that happens in this first book and a lot of relationships twist and transition within Justine's life. I don't want to spoil any of that, but wow...seriously emotional stuff happening within her life...because Packard tricked her into this life. I can understand and empathize with her anger with him. BUT that being said, I still love him and think their connection is true. I'm torn with the way that the story ended because I like that character too. Like Justine, I'm not sure who she should trust and who's true...right now. That will probably change with the next book.

Suffice it to say, I LOVED this book. Everything about it...I'm in love. Justine is a strong character while maintaining a normal-girl feel that I really enjoy reading. There's a ton of humor in this book, but some great angsty moments too. I can't wait to see where things go from here, because everything changed at the end of the book.

BTW, I did listen to this book on audio until the last few chapters when I couldn't stand the suspense anymore and had to pick up my print book to finish it. The narrator is phenomenal on this. Her inflections and different accents are incredible....and I love it. To the point where I bought the second book on audio too. Audio takes a special patience in really good books because it takes about 3 times as long to get through them...and I have all these books in print. BUT the narrator on this one is so phenomenal, I chose to go the long route least to start for the second book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars between 3.5-4 stars, November 29, 2011
Mind Games, Book 1 of the Disillusionist Trilogy introduces us to Justine Jones. She's a bit of a hypochondriac--to put it mildly. She freaks out that she's going to die any day now and it affects her life and interactions with those around her in so many ways. That is until she stumbles into a bar, meeting this mysterious bar tender named Packard. He seems to have all of the answers to solve Justine's little problem. Little does she know what she is getting herself into when she takes him up on his offer. It turns out Justine can use her neurosis as a weapon, passing her fear into criminals instead with a process called "zinging". Better them than her, right? She joins Packard's vigilante crime fighting team that uses their own powers to re-program these bad guys and make them into more upstanding citizens. But of course nothing is that easy, right? Is the law usually on the side of vigilantes? And exactly how bad ARE these bad guys? (I'll give you a hint: VERY bad)

There's a fair amount of originality here. It's definitely interesting to use people with heightened senses more so than the usual super natural creatures like vampires, werewolves, demons, etc. It's quite difficult to stand out in the urban fantasy genre with those staple species, though I admit those are usually my preference when well done.

I also want to forewarn you to be prepared for first person present tense. It is an extremely jarring adjustment to make and I found it distracting for most of the book, though I finally adjusted towards the end. Considering that this is a modified review I can say that initially I planned to avoid this style like the plague, but after reading several titles in this tense more recently, it's no longer an issue.

While there is some gore, overall this book has a lighter urban fantasy feel to it, which is usually more up my alley. It's plenty descriptive and there is plenty of suspense as Justine isn't a seasoned crime-fighter and all of these experiences thrust upon her are new, so it's up to her to use her wits to figure out how she'll survive. I'm usually pretty sensitive to annoying protagonists, but Justine wasn't so bad. She's a little quick to jump in the sack, but I think that she more or less handles the situations as best as she can at the time. She's definitely no Mary Sue.

Considering that this isn't your everyday run-of-the-mill urban fantasy tale, I'm not sure if this is what every fan would be looking for, but if you've read lots of stories and want to give something different a try, this is worth the time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, something different!, November 16, 2011
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This review is from: Mind Games (Kindle Edition)
What a refreshing story! As a borderline neurotic reader, there comes an inevitable sameness to many books in the UF genre, and I can happily say that this novel does NOT suffer from that affliction! I loved it.

A great story is always made by the characters, and these characters are so delightfully dysfunctional, and yet so earnest in their actions toward the greater good, you can't help but be drawn to them. The humor at both Justine's thought processes and the conversations between Packard's crew, is cumulative, until even the smallest mentions had me laughing out loud, as the pictures of their psychologies were being built up.

Probably the biggest tell for me on how well I enjoyed the book--plot, characters, flow--was that I read through it without skipping through paragraphs just to find out what happens so I can move on.

I highly recommend giving it a try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Action, romance, mystery - you'll have no idea who to trust in this story, and you'll love it!, October 19, 2011
Mithrendiel (Sunny California) - See all my reviews
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I have Mind Games to thank for a Monday spent nodding off at my desk, failing to form coherent sentences, and generally suffering symptoms of sleep depravity. I started this book Sunday afternoon, and could not put it down, until I finished at about 6 AM Monday morning. Sign of a good book? Yes, I think so.

~ Premise ~

Crippling physiological issues = ultimate power!

Justine suffers from severe hypochondria. She has an irrational fear of a killing vascular condition called Vein Star. She is consistently plagued by severe panic attacks, just barely maintaining her sanity well enough to stay out of an institution.

Enter Packard - a (evil?) mastermind that offers a way to offload that excess of fear and paranoia into others, thereby temporarily freeing Justine of its effects. Not just any other person, but criminals, those that have sliped through the cracks of the law. Packard has put together a team of people to disillusion these bad guys, by psychologically breaking them down. He uses people like Justine -with severe issues, teaches them to psychically push their derangements into others. With enough fear, paranoia, hopelessness and anger the mind of the victims become destabilized, and ultimately break, leading to rehabilitation. And Justine's hypochondria makes her the final perfect addition to his crack team.

Packard himself is the international man of mystery. He was imprisoned in a Mongolian restaurant years ago by a force field user known only as the nemesis. He hasn't been able to set foot outdoors for more than eight years. He refuses to answer any questions about his mysterious enemy and will not let his team take action against the man.

The story focuses on the team's disillusionment efforts as well as the mystery involving Packard's past.

But Packard's motivations are less then clear. Is he really trying to help others or using his team for his own agenda? Who is his mysterious nemesis? Is he ... *raises pinky* EVIL?! This and more answers you will find in Mind Games.

~ My thoughts ~

So, what made Mind Games so special? It's uniqueness! This is a story about a group of people weaponizing their physiological issues. That's certainly never been done before, and it gives a fresh feel, that equally fascinates and engages.

Justine is flawed in ways that make her stand out from the standard fair found in the urban fantasy genre. The only protagonist that compares is Chess from Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series. Despite the cover art, depicting Justine in a trench coat with a knife, she actually is not your standard bad ass, lean-mean-fighting-machine heroine. She's not a werewolf, a vampire, or a magic user of any sort - she does associate with anyone who is. She's not even powerful. Nope, she's just an extreme hypochondriac with a learned ability to push her derangements temporarily into other people. I love it!

Now if you are like me, the idea of reading a whole book about a hypochondriac probably doesn't sound that appealing. After all, we want our heroes to be, well... heroic! But don't let this concern hold you back from reading the series - you don't spend the series wandering around in Justine's mind, watching her try to deal with her issues. Her mental issues are not belabored. Instead she weaponizes them, and therefore controls them. Justine is smart, witty, and courageous enough to fill the role of heroine for this story. And she has a supporting cast of other equally mental and likeable characters to help her out.

My only nitpick with the story involves Justine's phycology - oddly enough, not the hypochondria, but rather her enforced nativity. Justine is a truly good person, who tries to see the best in everyone around her. She clings to those she considers normal with the desperation of a drowning woman. Which, in a way she is. With her condition, nothing in her mind is normal, so she clings to normal people. This means, in my opinion, she trusts too quickly, and she makes poor decisions about who to love. This frustrated me.

Speaking of love. The romance is definitely smexy. Unfortunately the story suffers from the dreaded love triangle. Or is it a love square? Behind door number one we have Justine's boyfriend - Cubby (wtf is up with this name). He's nice enough, fun, into Justine, but kind of self-involved. Then we have the morally grey, possibly evil Sterling Packard - leader of the Disillusionists. Lastly we have the seemingly heroic, morally rigid Otto Sanchez - Chief of Police. Count me in the Packard fan club, but both he and Otto have their sexy moments. This book has one of the hotter sex scenes I've seen in fiction. I won't tell you with who, but those that enjoy the steamer side of romance will find plenty to swoon over in this book. I must say the romance of this story was fantastic - and it kept me turning the pages just as much as the action.

And the action is definitely something that really shines in this book. Mind Games immerses you in it from the first page. The story is suspense filled, with a good helping of mystery, and a lot of action. It twists and turns continually leaving you unsure of what's going on and what's going to happen next. You'll have a hard time figuring out who is an enemy and a friend in this story. You'll also probably struggle with deciding who Justine should love. It's these suspense filled quandaries that make this a book you'll have a hard time putting down. Definitely worth the read!

** WARNING: Word to the wise - having finished book #2 of the series, Double Cross, I suggest you wait until book #3 comes out before starting on this series. Double Cross closes with such a cliff hanger, you'll be twitchy as hell waiting for the #3. Save yourself that pain and wait until Dec 2011 before reading. **
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Mind Games by Carolyn Crane
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