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Justine knows she's going to die. Any second now.

Justine Jones has a secret. A hardcore hypochondriac, she’s convinced a blood vessel is about to burst in her brain. Then, out of the blue, a startlingly handsome man named Packard peers into Justine’s soul and invites her to join his private crime-fighting team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal. With a little of Packard’s hands-on training, Justine can weaponize her neurosis, turning it outward on Midcity’s worst criminals, and finally get the freedom from fear she’s always craved. End of problem.

Or is it? In Midcity, a dashing police chief is fighting a unique breed of outlaw with more than human powers. And while Justine’s first missions, including one against a nymphomaniac husband-killer, are thrilling successes, there is more to Packard than meets the eye. Soon, while battling her attraction to two very different men, Justine is plunging deeper into a world of wizardry, eroticism, and cosmic secrets. With Packard’s help, Justine has freed herself from her madness—only to discover a reality more frightening than anyone’s worst fears.

371 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published March 23, 2010

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About the author

Carolyn Crane

31 books1,169 followers
After spending her youth thoroughly obsessed with Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy and convinced that her suburban neighborhood was awash in dangerous secrets, Carolyn Crane grew up to become a RITA-nominated author of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and other tales of adventure and love; she also writes erotic romance about bank robbers as Annika Martin.

Her books have been published by Random House and Samhain; these days, this perfectionistic control-freak of an author likes to indie publish. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two cats and works a straight job as a freelance marketing writer. During rare moments when she’s not at her computer, she can be found reading in bed, running, or helping animals.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,032 reviews
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.2k followers
October 3, 2010
"I don't see how I could possibly move a napkin with the power of my mind," I say.

"All will be revealed," he mumbles.

"Did you just say 'All will be revealed'?"

He looks up. "Yes."

"Who says 'All will be revealed'?"

"I do," Packard says. "Just perform the task."

"The task. Ah, please, forgive me for interfering with your diabolical restaurant supply order."

It will be difficult for me to write a review of Mind Games objectively. mostly because I want to start spewing effigies to is fantasticness. I also am tempted to use the word "diabolical" and laugh maniacally at random intervals but that's neither here nor there.

So this book is refreshing. So very, very refreshing. The cover has some dark and mysterious chick (who vaguely resembles Angelina Jolie) dolled up as if she's prowling the streets in sexy garb to rid the world of evil. I can only imagine that this is the publisher's attempt to corner in on the market of Magic Bites, Some Girls Bite,Halfway to the Grave and all those paranormal romance kick-arse heroines who defeat evil with their snappy one-liners, black leather and smoldering sexual tension. Oh and their magical super powers.

Well, Justine uses other methods to defeat evil and the most street prowling she does is during the day on a single shopping spree so the cover leaves me baffled.

*ETA: What the fuck? She's carrying a knife. A KNIFE. I think Justine touches a knife just ONCE in the series. WHY?! Misleading much?! Who the hell did the cover for this book? Had they even been in the same room as the book at any point before they designed this cover? Or did someone describe the book to them except the telephone line kept cutting out on all the important stuff like the fact that Justine is not a leatherclad street warrior WITH A FUCKING KNIFE?

Now, don't get me wrong, I love Kate Daniels, Merit and Cat Crawford but none of them ever defeated evil through fake medical diagnosis and an unreasonable fear of Vein Star Syndrome.

Which is what made me love this book so much. Nothing was more awesome than reading about Justine babble her way out of dangerous situations by sparking the bad guy's fear of their own horrible demise. The sheer number of paranoid facts about skin diseases, muscle atrophy and decreased muscle movement plus obscure medical texts was fantastic.

So she's a hypochondriac, obviously, and she works with a crack team of other "disillusionists" to go after criminals, strip away the crutches that allow them to continue doing evil until they have nothing but themselves and their disillusionment left and then let them rehab and rebuild their lives.

Yes! Something different to the usual paranormal hijinks! Finally! It was getting to the point where I was going to be able to make up a chart for people to recommend books to.

Do you like werewolves? Read: Shiver, Mercy Thompson series, Twilight, Kate Daniels series, Women of the other world Series, the Summoning, Sookie Stackhouse Series, Strange Angels, Deamonica and Anita Blake

Do you like werewolves and mysteries? Read: Mercy Thompson, Kate Daniels, Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake.

Do you like werewolves and mysteries and beastiality? Read: Anita Blake.

Do you just like werewolves and beastiality? Read: Anita Blake, Demonica AND Shiver!

See? It is going to be an awesome way to rec today's paranormal romance and urban fantasy books to people! Just follow the chart for 100% success*!

*success may vary according to reading experience. Please consult your doctor before undertaking any strenuous werewolf sex.

There are two love interests in this book, and I'll call them Love Interest 1 and Love Interest 2 for the sake of not spoiling the storyline which actually had me gaping at the end going, "NOOOOOoooooooo Waaaaaaaaayyy!"

Love Interest 1 was hot. Just freakin' hot. Evil, horrible, despicable hotness.
Love Interest 2 was supposed to be hot but some of his descriptions made it so that I just couldn't get into him.

Oh and don't worry, you don't have to wait four books for the schmexy times to start. Crane doesn't believe in the long, hard, wet, drawn out romance which is JUST FINE with me!

So the storyline is refreashingly unique since there are no vampires, werewolves, fae, demons etc. Instead our supernatural element comes from "highcaps" people with specific mental powers that they can use like telekinesis.

Now unfortunately I couldn't quite suspend belief on the highcap ability to seal someone into a house by "speaking" to the structure. Let's put that in the: "You'll understand when you read the book" pile and you can come commiserate with me about that one when you do.

The writing was pretty good. I only saw a few clunky mistakes and other than that it seemed to flow quite smoothly though I'll be the first to admit that it was nothing stellar.

There is nothing TSTL about Justine - which was amazing. She's smart, flawed, creative and intuitive. Besides, where else are you going to find a bunch of superheroes who defeat evil with their manic social and mental disorders? Like Sybil with the ability to strip life of all beauty, or Simon with the ability to aid people into a destructive gambling spree or Jordan who relates to people the depressing "truths" about life. It's hilarious!

The story also brings up a number of moral questions about "right" and "wrong" "good" and "bad".

Is it right to rehabilitate criminals by destroying their lives? Is it right to take money from it? Is it right to take THEIR money from it? Is it right that you get a kind of drug high from depressing the hell out of them? Is it right that if you stop, you'll die?

So many questions... and all I can think about is the really hot sex.

Is it right to ignore glaring theological queries whilst rehashing the romantic aspects of the book? *shrugs* I don't know!

So all up, I felt the plot and pacing was pretty good. It had a high level of mental puzzles, facets of human behaviour and human disorders, personality queries plus a nifty little mystery for all those so inclined.

It also has sex for all those so inclined.

I was very inclined. Very, very inclined.
December 10, 2017
This book.

➽ When I started reading it, I was like:

At this stage, I was actually silly enough to wonder why the shrimp this book had such a low average rating. Then I remembered that everyone but me had DBT™ , and figured it all made perfect sense.

➽ Then I started feeling like this:

Which loosely translates to mean: uh-oh, my Crappy UF Radar (CUR™) is picking up some disturbingly alarming signals.

➽ Eventually, the inevitable happened, and I ended up feeling like this:

And also a little bit like this (watch out, getting my mostest favouritest gif out of storage):

Which loosely translates to mean: this freaking book has a freaking 3.51 average rating?! Were you people drunk/high/both/whatever when you read this?! Where the shrimp did this overwhelming surge of generosity come from?! Bemusement is me. Especially since a vast majority of my dearest, mostest awesomest friends the creeps I vaguely know rated this thing 4 stars. There is only one plausible explanation here: we didn't read the same book. Yep, that must be it. And I'm pretty sure this is the book they actually read. I mean, look at that cover, of course that's the type of book they would read. Ha! I'm so clever sometimes, I amaze my little self. I'm telling you, my Little Barnacles, Sherlock Holmes has nothing on me.

To be honest, I almost gave this book a 2.789-star rating (which would have been outrageously charitable on my part, I must admit), but I HATE it when Fantastically Brilliant Potential (FBP™) goes to waste, so QED and stuff. Because yes, my lovely arthropods, this could and should have been fabulous 5-star material. It could and should have been super cool and uber awesome and stuff. But it wasn't, so it wasn't. But hey, it could and should have been. Had it not been for the

Aggressive chick lit vibes generated by the absolutely fascinating descriptions of ALL of the delightful MC's sensational outfits. Yay.

Predictable everything. The good thing about this is that it made me feel super clever and stuff. I mean, I could see it all coming from thousands of miles away. So either I'm superiorly intelligent (which I obviously am) or my crystal ball was in particularly sharp mood while I was reading this PoC™ (yes, I have a sentient crystal ball. Her name is Daisy, by the way. She says hello.)

Increasingly Stupid, Stupid TSTL Moments (ISSTM™) on the above mentioned delightful MC's part. They kind of grow like mold as the story progresses. So cool.

Instalove crap, lovey dovey rubbish, manufactured relationship drama BS and Love Triangle of Doom and Destruction (LToDD™). Aka Pure bliss.

Enchanting MC that went from original and cool and deliciously hypochondriacal to foolish, fickle, exasperating, naïve, selfish, capricious, cheating, harebrained nitwit in less time than it takes to blink. I love her. She really is amazing.

» And the moral of this I Must Have Been Really Bad in a Past Life to Deserve This Crappy Non Review (IMHBRBiaPLtDTCNR™) is:

But hey, it's free, so if you're feeling slightly masochistic, go right ahead and download it. I'm pretty sure you won't be glad you did. You're very welcome.
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 47 books128k followers
July 6, 2010
Guys, it is rare that I am so excited about a book that I DELIBERATELY don't keep reading it until 3am so I can savor more of it the next day. Seriously, this book is awesome. I ordered 3 hard copies of it to give to friends, that's how much I loved it!
I'm not sure how to describe Mind Games, it's like neurotic psychological urban fantasy with a dash of romance. The first fifty pages is a BIT confusing because the world that's set up is pretty much different from anything I've ever read. Basically the main character is a hypochondriac, and she's recruited to be a "Dissolutionist", to undermine OTHER people with her psychological messed-upness. It's weird to have to describe it simply, but I loved the whole concept so much, maybe because I'm incredibly neurotic myself, haha.

I'm pretty sure the author infused a LOT of herself in the main character, because all the wonderful internal dialogue and insecurities were way too authentic NOT to have that. The supporting characters are incredibly interesting as well. Plot-wise, the smaller disillusionist "missions" are fascinating psychological studies, and the overall mystery/quest was great, I was totally rooting for the characters (who surprised me a lot in the end, nice twists). I really feel like I got under the skin of a lot of the characters in a way that I haven't in a long time, just really intelligent, internal character drawings in a genre piece that you don't normally see.
I'm not sure I can say much else, other than if you like Urban Fantasy you will probably like this. I hope so!
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,954 followers
January 25, 2013
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My name is Stacia and I approved of this book.
This message brought to you by the campaign for better living through escapism.

I have to give Mind Games two enthusiastic thumbs up for bringing me something unique which I hadn't read before. This book's mismatched team of disillusionists are as close to a crew of anti-superheroes as you can get. They call themselves a "psychological hit squad." These characters sort of remind me of a more neurotic version of Holly Black's Curseworkers.

They're invading your bases and getting inside your heads. Run for the hills!!1one!!!eleven!1!1one!!!

What if your worst fears could be made magnified through a simple influence? What if strongholds could be shattered without a war? This is the power of the disillusionists. They become your allies and work you over without you even knowing.

Justine, our female lead, is a hypochondriac. I had a blast reading about this woman who was tapped to use her fears as a weapon. This chick is crazy and she's going to project crazy onto others? As she noted about herself : No one ever admired her for being screwed up. By choosing to channel her issues outward, she's able to get inside people's heads and make them believe whatever she wants them to. This is freaky stuff.

Packard (the handsome maniac) and Otto (a beret? uh...no words) are the men she has to deal with. Which one is good? Which one is bad? Are they both good? Are they both bad? Who is Justine to trust? Life's got to be difficult when you don't know which way is up anymore because you've been repeatedly jerked around.

I had a lot of fun with this book. There's the mystery of the restaurant and the mystery of "the big baddie." Then you have the batshit crazy killer chick who's going around trying to dose her crazy on others. I loved the wide cast of colorful characters - this is going to make for some good times ahead, I'm sure.

Rarely does a first-in-series UF book impress me. Even my favorite series tend to have a weak first book. I'm glad that Ms. Crane managed to hit the ground running, right from chapter one.

Do I have any complaints? Nope, not really. I know, you're all shocked. Okay, so there was a boyfriend named Cubby and Justine owned a fanny pack...but those are minute details. Whatevs.

Hopefully this trilogy doesn't bite it later on (but I have friends who loved this, so I'm thinking we're going to be fine) because for now, I'm going to give my approval to anyone who's looking for a new UF series to try and has already blown through the standard recs we all know about. Crazy + Sexy + Snarky = good times.
Simon swivels around to face us. He's wearing an iridescent green suit coat with a net shirt underneath, and black pants and boots. We both just stare at the net shirt. You can see his tattoos through it.
I give him a smirk. "That's an attractive outfit."
"You told me I was going in as the destructive boyfriend," he says. "I ask you, what kind of motherfucker would wear something like this?"
"I said destructive, not deranged."

Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,607 reviews1,481 followers
June 18, 2015
Another Buddies Books and Baubles Buddy read with some fun peeps.

I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this story. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting but it wasn’t a group of people with extreme various neuroses and vices being something akin to superheroes. That is what Caroline Crane pulled of here and it was unusual and amazing.

Justine is a mess. At the beginning of this I had no idea how I was going to connect and like a girl with such deep seeded hypochondria so such that every head tingle is going to lead to some vessel in her brain bursting and sudden death. In the first chapter alone she spins herself into a huge panic over it in a restaurant to the point she is sure she only has minutes to live. Her current boyfriend has seen this before and you can tell he is not as concerned as he used to be in the beginning of their relationship.
“Do you think you might have time for dessert before you depart for the hereafter? The chocolate fondue looks excellent.”
I exhale indignantly. “You know, even hypochondriacs die of horrible diseases. Sometimes they even die of the horrible diseases they fear the most.”

Like I said she so broken, desperate and spinning out of control. She is also everything Packard is looking for to round out his team of uber neurotics. I loved Packard from the beginning of this story. He has a quality about him where he sees who people really are and accepts all those parts of them. He is a cross between a mentor, a therapist and just hot romantic lead. He also has a tragic past, some huge secrets and a nemesis just to round out his character and make him ever the more delectable.

The chemistry between Justine and Packard is intense and wild and I’m totally on team Packard, but she desperately just wants to be normal and find a nice solid guy. The man she really needs and the man she wants to need are totally different guys.
“I got it right Justine. Feel into it. Your sense of being a misfit blinds you to what your heart really wants. When you get around solid upstanding men you’re like a bird with tinfoil. It makes you incoherent on a romantic level.”
“My affection is incoherent unless it’s for you That’s the line you’re giving me here ”
“This is real.” He points out the door. “That isn’t.”

In-between trying to figure out and accept who she really is and what she honestly wants Justine is also learning how to use her neurosis for good and not evil. Packard has taught her a way to project it into a person giving them all the fear panic and hypochondria that she normally feels. He has an entire team of people that can do this and they fight the good fight by performing long cons on bad people to break them down and then rebuild them into something better. They are the Disillusionists:
I have this brief sense of us as supervillains from a B-rate thriller. Except we’re more like crime fighters—if there were crime fighters who got their superpowers from being really neurotic, and used them as part of a bizarre and marginally ethical program of criminal rehabilitation.

The team is full of quirky characters with multiple issues such as anger, gambling, big picture world destruction, self-esteem and much much more. It was so interesting to see how they weaved these in and used them to break down the bad guys physiologically before they could be rebuilt.

This is one of the easiest reads I’ve had in a while. I picked it up and since it is UF it isn’t as complicated as straight fantasy. It is so easy to fall into this world and see how works. The story was different and I didn’t guess quite a few things in the story and was surprised by the direction it headed off into more than once. Every character in this is flawed and that makes them even more likable in a lot of ways.

The only issues I had with the story is EVERYTHING ESCALATES QUICKLY. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing all of the time but when stuff happens it goes from 1 to 10 in half a page. Sometimes it just leaves me breathless and thinking WTF just happened. Good news is that it resolves out quickly too.
There is a bit of a love triangle happening as well. I don’t really like love triangles for the most part and honestly it felt a bit awkward since the guy she is semi swooning over wears a beret (I’m sorry I can’t take him seriously) and has the same hypochondriac tendencies that Justine does. Also this part of the story went from 1-10 in 3.5 seconds as well and I was uncomfortable with it.

Overall I liked that Packard and Justine are both so unpredictable. It made the story unpredictable and I am loving the dynamic of the team of Disillusionists. This is different than most things I’ve read in the UF genre lately but I’m hooked. I already bought the next two books because between the plot of reforming people, Packard’s Nemesis (I hate that dude) and the romantic entanglements I must know how the whole story will play out.
June 23, 2011
With Mind Games, Carolyn Crane somehow manages to take the common tropes of female lead urban fantasy and turn them askew in a very appealing fashion. This book has no vampires, werewolves, or faeries. Nope. All humans here. Even if they are humans who can use their minds in ways that you didn't even really consider possible.

This book took a while to get going. I think it took me about 60 or more pages before I felt invested. After that point, I was engaged. Beforehand, I had to process Ms. Crane's writing style and what she trying to accomplish with this book. However, I came out of this book so emotionally invested, my stomach was hurting.

Justine is like a modern girl in her 20s. Dealing with identity issues, trying to make her relationship work with her boyfriend that she feels can give her a normal life, and working a job to make a living. But on top of that, is Justine's uncontrollable hypochondria. She is convinced that she will succumb to the Vein Star syndrome that killed her mother, who was also a hypochondriac. When she meets an absurdly gorgeous red-headed man with green eyes in a restaurant called Mongolian Delites, she discovers that there is a way to deal with her crippling health anxiety. Pass it onto other people. The delish red-head is named Packard, and he runs a group of people with mental issues, or abilities, if you will, called Disillusionists. They help to reform criminals by passing on their mental issues until the criminal breaks down and reboots, becoming an effective member of society. Justine thinks it's a load of junk, but she notices that for the first time in her life, after sharing energy spheres with Packard, that she isn't weighted down by her health anxieties. She begins to crave that release, and before she knows it, she's in. That doesn't mean she wants to give up her ideas for the 'perfect normal life'. She's got her exit strategy firmly in mind. Little does she know that she won't easily be able to part ways from the Disilliusionist crew and Packard's sphere of influence.

This is one book that sure is hard to analyze and rate for me. First of all, with the slow start, it makes it hard to qualify for a five star rating. However, it was very fascinating once it got going. I also loved the quirky, odd humor, and the off-the-beaten path characters. I am quite fascinated with the exploration of powers of the mind, and I like the fact that Carolyn Crane wrote a story in the urban fantasy genre that lives in this sphere. I also liked the superhero-y vibe of the story. Not the cape-wearing types, but the idea of super-powered humans who can use their mind to accomplish a variety of tasks. The whole deal with Packard and his imprisonment was brilliant and novel. This element is what had me clicking in my seatbelt to hang on for the book ride. In other words, that switch got flipped and I was 'in.' I like that Justine is refreshingly human in her anxieties, fears, desires, and her convictions to do the right thing, the best way she can. She might come off as whiny, but people who struggle with anxieties will surely get her. I know I did.

On the downside, I am just not a fan of the love triangle, and Ms. Crane throws a whopper here. This element caused me the most of my emotional angst when I read this story, and was part of why I couldn't put it down. Packard is my man! He is the kind of guy that makes a girl want to fan herself. I have this deliciously mind-numbing image of him in my head that I can't shake. Normally, I am so not the date the boss girl, but I'd make an exception for this hottie. No question about it. For me, there was no dilemma on who she should choose. I knew who I wanted to be the main man for Justine. Even though Justine had the hots for Otto Sanchez, and intellectually he seems right for her, and they have some pretty intense passion between them, my heart doesn't feel it. I think Otto is a very charismatic guy, but maybe a bit too charismatic. I like Packard's messy energy, his slightly anguished mien, his insight into people, and his conviction in himself, his crew, and his mission. I like that he gets Justine in all her messiness. I don't think what he did was right, but that doesn't mean he can't be the right guy for Justine. To me, Otto is more of a wish fulfillment ideal. I liked how the love triangle tied into the story very intrinsically. Justine truly faced a moral dilemma here. Which man did she owe her loyalty to? It wasn't just about what she wanted for herself, and that was an effective way to handle the storyline, on the part of the author.

I feel that Ms. Crane has a very good concept here, and this book just touches the surface. I want to see where she goes with this series, because it has a lot of promise. The characters are quirky and engaging, the humor is witty and odd-ball, and at times just on the urbane side of raunchy, which really works for me. I had a lot of fun reading this, and it got me thinking about the idea of what superheroes and supervillains are. Also about how the world processes and addresses criminality and what can cause a truly bad person to seem like someone you could have sympathy for.

There is a lot to like here with this book, and it is a fresh, interesting offering to the urban fantasy genre. That's why I would give it 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Elle.
34 reviews845 followers
June 21, 2011

Alright Flannery. Keep your nanna knickers on. Here's your review:

*clears throat*

So. Mind Games ay?


Ok so Janice is this outrageous hypochondriac who....

Waitaminnit. Janice? No. Not Janice. Her name is... Janine? No, that's not right either. *looks up protagonists name*

JUSTINE. Right. It's Justine.

See, this is the problem I was having. As good as the book was, I kept forgetting who the effing chick WAS telling the story. Mostly because she had no personality and I wanted to punch her in the face for being such a whore.

Harsh, you say? Perhaps. But honestly, someone needs to vote that mole off the island and give the role to someone else because she's as dull as a bug on a biscuit.

Meanwhile, have you met Packard? I would definitely read the next installment if it began in such a way that involves Justine's head finally exploding and proceeded to follow on from Packards POV while he plots his evil mastermind plan to avenge her death, or something.

Oh and the SCHMEX! Oh the filth. I had an awesome case of the tomato-faces while reading this and I frakking love it when that happens.

Mind Games is definitely unique. I'll give it that. I will await Flannery's decision as to whether we continue on with the series. Over to you, Flan.
Profile Image for Regina.
625 reviews390 followers
January 21, 2012
4.5 Stars. This is such a unique series! I had so much fun reading Mind Games. It is literally laugh out loud funny. The main character, Justine, is a hypochondriac and Ms. Crane writes her in a very sensitive but undeniably amusing manner. Despite her neurosis (and this is an area where it might be a tad bit annoying to read – however it never is), Justine is likeable. In Mind Games, readers get a heroine that is … well … real, she is worried about money, her boyfriend and her health. Justine is a very cute girl and likes to dress nicely. But somehow, despite these very real world characteristics, Justine gets caught up in a supernatural struggle.

The book begins with the heroine trying desperately to be normal. She hides her neurosis and her fear; she does not want others in her life to fully understand how scared she is about her health. This desire seems so relatable, despite not being a hypochondriac, who doesn't want to bury their faults? I too want to bury my own perceived defects. Justine is pretty, Justine is weird, but she is also very honorable and this is what makes her stand out among other heroines and as a character in Mind Games.

The setting of the book is a metropolis on Lake Michigan, but the metropolis is not Chicago. Ms Crane has created a fictional city with fictional problems. The premise is so out of the ordinary that it could have utterly failed in the hands of the wrong author. Luckily, Carolyn Crane wrote this book and she really hits her mark! Being an urban fantasy fan, I have read the full range that books in this genre have to offer – vamps, were creatures, angels, demons, witches, fae, skin walkers, ancient gods, the ability to see dead people and well, if you read a lot in this genre then you know the themes. And I am not criticizing those themes, I love to read them too but it is nice to read something so new and different. So, Mind Games is none of that – not any of that; what it is, is completely unique. There are a team of people – the disillusionists – who have the power to alter the way other people feel and think simply by touching them. I do not want to spoil the details of how, because discovering the how of the supernatural power is very fun.

Having now read and completed the trilogy, I highly recommend it. It is a fun series, with an interesting cast of characters whose personalities are well developed. The dialogue between the characters is often funny and/or insightful. There is a love triangle, but it such a unique triangle and it is done in a way without jealousy, without the over bearing possessiveness and male territorial marking that is present in so many paranormal books. Once you finish this book, you will be rushing to get #2 in this series – Double Cross.

Profile Image for Armina.
176 reviews96 followers
April 10, 2015

10 April 2015: Free on http://amazon.co.uk (meaning you must have an UK address!*wink*)

Actual rating 4.5

Such a wonderful new concept. Fresh, original, often 'laugh out loud' funny, action packed and diabolically fantastic! Oh and with great romantic sub-plot(this is not PNR though). I'm so tempted to round up to 5 stars but it's not full 5 ;). One of the better UF offerings with a female lead.
Profile Image for Didi.
865 reviews288 followers
August 11, 2014

The day I stumbled upon this series was a great day, I tell you. The plot was very original, very fresh, very addictive. The first 50 or so pages I'm bouncing along, world building going on, characters being fleshed out...then BOOM! It just took off and I couldn't put it down! This is fantastic UF, utterly fantastic. The premise was so different that I didn't understand what it was about till I started reading. People with neurosis of various kinds somehow, in a very metaphysical sense, transfer them into someone else by accessing their energy dimension. Sounds weird right? These people that do this are called dissolusionists, and let me tell you, it's a phenomenal way of fighting crime!

This book was so good, SO GOOD, and so unpredictable, that when things were revealed I didn't even know what the hell was happening until they were right on top of me!! That's genius suspense there, where you hide things so well that the reader can't even figure out what's what till she's told?! I loved Justine, she was not a cliche of any UF/PNR heroines I've ever read. She wasn't annoyingly feisty, or always in distress. She was a smart and thoughtful woman that always put others before herself and used her brain to figure things out. Even when she was justified in screwing over certain people, she didn't, she helped them. And then there's Packard. What a mysterious and sexy man. You can't quite figure out whether he's good or not so good, but I am loving him anyway. Let's not forget Otto Sanchez. He's also a difficult man to figure out but his presence is very closely tied to Packards. Are you thinking love triangle? Perhaps, but I can tell it won't be an overly annoying kind, maybe not a triangle at all?
Regardless, this is absolutely wonderful! I was blown away from the sheer intelligence of it all. Funny, mature, suspenseful, sexy, steamy, thrilling...I can go on all day. Highly recommended, I'm dying to continue this series and thankfully it's complete so no waiting for books here!
July 15, 2012
An impressive debut novel from a new author. The urban-fantasy genre is currently saturated with vampires and werewolves, but Carolyn Crane came up with an exciting new concept. Justine Jones is a hypochondriac who is brought into a shadowy group of vigilantes nicknamed "The Disillusionists". Every member of this group suffers from some kind of crippling anxiety issue, and they've learned how to transfer their phobias into the minds of criminals in an attempt to convince the criminals to reform.

Crane's greatest strength is her ability to write compelling characters. Justine Jones is a flawed-yet-lovable heroine, and her compatriots are all interesting personalities in their own right. Also, Justine's adversaries are bizarre enough to hold your interest as well.

This book was a real page-turner. The only reason I couldn't give it a perfect score is because Crane makes a huge misstep in the last few chapters, when she shoehorns in a second love-interest for Justine that just feels clumsy. It feels like Crane was almost finished writing and then said, "Wait a minute...all urban fantasies have to feature love-triangles these days, don't they"!

Yes, the clunky love-triangle element at the end did detract from my overall enjoyment, but other than that, Crane hits all the right notes with charismatic characters and exciting plotting. I can't wait to read her next book!
Profile Image for Anna (Bobs Her Hair).
909 reviews194 followers
August 21, 2011
I MUST help make Carolyn Crane known! So, to ALL sixteen of my friends and my devoted group of three followers I say to you that the Disillustionists world is cool!

What is it about?
Justine Jones is a hypochondriac to the extreme. She is in a near constant state of anxiety fearing a blood vessel will burst in her brain and she will die just like her mother. She meets a man named Packard who offers freedom from the debilitating fear by becoming part of his crime-fighting team. Packard's way of fighting crime is unique. His team of Disillusionists "zing" transfer all your emotional pain, rage, or addiction to a repeat offender. The offender is pushed to the brink of his or her sanity, erased of his evil ways, and rehabilitated. This is done so previous victims' families can attain justice and maybe some peace. (It made me think of Clockwork Orange.) Is this revision/rehabilitation moral? Who are we to judge and dispense punishment? What about free will?

It's something new in this genre saturated with vampires, werewolves, and changelings. I love all those gorgeous creatures yet it is a breath of fresh air when an author creates a new world and invites us into something original. This trilogy is written from Justine's point of view. We watch as she spirals into an anxiety attack, struggles to maintain a relationship, and delivers justice and guiltily finds peace. The characters are engaging. There's romance. Packard is sexy. He's bad and he's good. Things are not black and white, and we are invited into murky territory. I found the story so interesting.

My Rating
Overall, I give this book 4.5 stars or an A-. I've alread read the second book, Double Cross, and gave it 4 stars. Lots of good stuff happen and it left me dying for more. The last book in the trilogy, tentatively titled Head Rush, releases December 2011. I hope you try this fairly new author's work.
Profile Image for Catherine.
523 reviews539 followers
May 18, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Glamdring.
503 reviews113 followers
September 5, 2013

*Buddy reading with Nikki <3*
*DNF at 16%*

Although I'm not sure I liked the author's voice, I did not really dislike the book. The problem is I couldn't find it interesting enough to read more than few pages at a time. And when cleaning the house has more appeal than the book you are reading, you know you are in trouble.

I only read 16%, so I can't say much. So this is my few thoughts:

--> I thought that the world building was sadly missing. According to the few elements given to us, we suspect that we are in the future. But how far in the future? No one knows. Also we have no geographical elements. At one point the heroine refers to Lake Michigan but the city she lives in is called Midcity (which reminded me, Mercy Thompson's Tri-Cities).

--> I found the hypothesis upon which the plot is based way too far fetched and borderline moralistic.

--> The heroine is hypochondriac which implies too much drama and repetitions to my liking.

--> I didn't like how the author uses some verbs in the narrative parts. One of them being to creep.

""I understand," he says. He reaches over and places a heavy hand on my knee.
He creeps it up teasingly.
Saved by the honks. The line is finally creeping."

"I let myself in and creep across the living room and down the hall to find him asleep in the snuggly softness of his bed."

There are other examples but this one was the most speaking to me.

--> I also didn't like her way of describing the characters:
"I smile at his dark lord talk and don't look away from his handsomeness anymore. I just enjoy him: the wonderful meatiness of his nose, the stray curl that kisses his cheekbone, the rough puff of his lips."

The wonderful meatiness of his nose? The rough puff of his lips?

--> When the story starts the heroine is the manager of a fancy dress store called "Le Toile". Le toile means nothing, "La Toile" however does.

Profile Image for Anzû.
548 reviews1,108 followers
June 22, 2012
First, there was Anzu’s brain. Then a little crazy gnome claimed it as his home. That gnome had big plans for Anzu’s brain, and he kept on guiding her book reviews for a long time. Until the day Anzu started reading Mind Games. Then two more gnomes invaded her brain, and confusion reigned.

Each gnome had a different opinion regarding certain parts of the book. In order to please everyone, Anzu allowed each gnome to write its opinion in her review.

The beginning (Gnome 1)
Lots of mentions of a certain vein star syndrome which seemed important, but my mind failed to remember and care about it. Some other issues regarding mind powers, highcaps and all that. No idea what those are and how these things will affect the story. Justine’s issues were kind of weird. I had no idea how everything will connect.

The middle towards end (Gnome 2)
Holy fucking goose people this book is awesome! I have no idea what’s going to happen, and I love it. Hit me Carolyn Crane! I said hit me goddammit!!

The end (Gnome 3)
I was so happy when Justine ended her relationship with Cubby. Finally the love triangle will end! Finally Justine will hook up with Packard. Awesome stuff! And then Justine gets her final assignment, and I can’t handle the excitement and pressure and, most importantly, the fear of something dreadful happening to her. Otto Sanchez seems like a bad guy. Really bad.

But then something happens. Something so big that the whole book changes for me.

That is all.
Profile Image for Alkyoni.
111 reviews168 followers
May 21, 2017
A psychological hit squad that fights crime by channeling its members' neuroses into their targets. Wait, what?

There’s a Mongolian restaurant somewhere in Midcity. Its door bears the mysterious symbol of a laughing giant, its indoors decoration is the definition of kitsch and it’s filled with the smells of kebab and ouzo. Plus it serves really bad coffee. It is also the meeting point for a group of people who have as many similarities between them as the kids from the Breakfast Club did. A mysterious restaurateur, a woman who believes that a vain in her brain is gonna explode any minute now, a guy full of rage, a girl who knows with absolute certainty that happiness is an illusion, a gambler, an alcoholic, a man with no self esteem and another one that loses sleep over a potential war over water... What do all these people have in common? Why, they are members of a crime fighting squad of course.

I really don’t want to give away the plot, it will take forever to explain what’s going on in this book and I don’t want to give away any spoilers either.

I’ll just say that I’m a little bit ashamed to admit that I was mentally prepared to not like Justine, the hypochondriac main character. It was wrong of me and I’m glad that I was mistaken. She’s great, she’s funny, she’s smart and yes, she is the kind of person that gets abducted by Jack the Ripper and freaks out because the scalpel he’s about to use on her hasn’t been sterilized.

I should also mention that it took me a while to get used to Crane’s writing. It’s full of everyday dialog and there were times when it felt like I was reading a script instead of actually reading a book.

But the plot… It’s insane I tell you! Where did the woman come up with such an idea? It’s so original and action packed, full of twists and surprises. Oh and romance.

There is some cheesy dialog and no matter how original this book is, it just couldn’t escape the UF norm of a love triangle BUT it is really well written and so far the best love triangle that I’ve ever read about.

For me to give 5 stars would mean that I find the book to be perfect in every possible way. This book might not perfect but it is so original that I just can’t bring myself to give it a lower rating. Please, please, please next two books, be as good as this one.
Profile Image for Mrs. Badass.
566 reviews225 followers
July 13, 2011
See here: Ode to Carolyn Crane

Ever pick up a book and just think, “Wow, does this book sound…odd” But you figure, what the heck, you need something different, and this sure sounds like it fits the bill. Not only is the book odd, but it’s weird in the most fantastic way possible, it was an extremely interesting, well thought out, and twisty read! Author Carolyn Crane has some serious issues I tell you. In order to come up with this psychological hit squad, and this world filled with mind bendingly awesome characters, she has to be half off her rocker I tell you! I jest. OK maybe not. I don’t know her in real life, but the Disillusionist Series is just plain old awesomesauce!!!. Did you know that if you were a hypochondriac and thought you were going to die of a brain star, and every day you pretty much end up in the ER with symptoms of impending doom, that you could work for Packard, the um Hero of our story, and you can “fix” the bad people in the world, by injecting your paranoia into another person? Leaving yourself feeling euphoric, and the zingee feeling your craziness? Well, you can! Sound weird? It is! But it’s sooooo cool! You have got to read this Urban Fantasy series. It will make you think, and it will make your heart pound, and it will fill your brain with mush. Just sit back and enjoy seriously crazy people, and in time, you will feel like you are the sanest person alive =)
Profile Image for Rachel (BAVR).
150 reviews1,020 followers
February 13, 2012
You know that part in the horror movie when the scantily clad girl wanders right into the bad guy's clutches? Her thought process goes something along the lines of, "Hmmm, I have two choices here. I can take my cell phone and my stupid ass outside and run to a neighbor's house to call for help, OR I can wander into the dark blood-stained hallway and take my chances with a man with a machete. I'm just that curious." Inevitably, she comes face-to-face with Mr. Serial J. Killer, and is all like ...

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Well, for the entirety of Mind Games, the main character Justine is that dumbass girl wandering up the stairs to play hide-and-seek with Freddy Krueger. I despised her character with a visceral passion that I haven't experienced in years, which left me feeling insecure, like I was suddenly the irrational one. It's just a character in a book, Rachel, I told myself. Don't let it spoil your reading experience. But it's hard to escape those feelings when the Worst Person Ever(TM) is narrating the book. Without Justine dragging the whole party down, I would have rated this book 4 or even 5 stars for the excellent world-building. Alas, it just wasn't meant to be.

Justine is a hypochondriac who's a couple more trips to the ER for non-existant diseases away from being institutionalized. She's terrified of dying of vein star sydrome like her mommy, the original hypochondriac, did years ago. She lives a co-dependent life with her decent and normal boyfriend, Cubby, who can't take much more of Justine's irrational fear. Enter Sterling Packard: red-haired hottie with a proposition for Justine. He wants her to join the Disillusionists, a psychological hit squad that basically destabilizes criminals to the point where they become decent people again. Packard teaches Justine to channel her fear into their targets, increasing her quality of life while making Midcity a safer place. There's also the teeny tiny detail that Packard and Justine want to bone SO BAD. But Cubby's still a factor, and then there's Justine's irrational fascination with police chief Otto Sanchez. What's a speshul snowflake to do when she's gots teh new powerz and all teh menz want in her panties?

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This, probably. Always this.

I'll start off on a positive note. I love the world that Carolyn Crane created. It's a regular city where high-caps, people with special powers, can do things like sling bricks at unsuspecting citizens and crush their skulls. The concept of the disillusionists targeting murderers and rehabilitating them is so cool, too. When the justice system fails, Packard and his crack team of misfits can step in and turn horrible people into upstanding citizens. Awesome freaking sauce. Crane has a great style for explaining how the disillusionists touch "energy dimensions" and "zing" targets with their anxieties. The writing didn't disappoint me. Unfortunately, the story came from the direct narrative perspective of a woman posessing maybe half a brain cell.

The disillusionists are a very interesting collection of people. There's Shelby, probably the most insightful person in the book, Simon and his gambling addition, Carter and his rage, and Strongarm Francis and his silly name. My favorite person of all, though, is Packard. Oh, Packard!

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Packard's an intriguing mix of sexy, infuriating, brilliant, and diabolical. The scenes between Packard and Justine crackled with energy. I love the way he talks, too. He just sounds like an evil mastermind.

"I don't see how I could possibly move a napkin with the power of my mind," I say.

"All will be revealed," he mumbles.

"Did you just say 'All will be revealed'?"

He looks up. "Yes."

"Who says 'All will be revealed'?"

"I do," Packard says. "Just perform the task."

"The task. Ah, please, forgive me for interfering with your diabolical restaurant supply order."

Unfortunately, Packard somehow ends up enamored with Justine. He could do so much better. We all could do so much better. When I read, characterization is my number one concern. I want to like or at least understand the characters so I can enjoy the book. Now, everyone's tastes differ, and I'm sure that some people think Justine is the cat's meow. Sadly, I don't. She's more likable as a pathetic hypochondriac than she is as a so-called empowered woman. Not thinking about vein star just gives her the opportunity to judge everyone around her and make poor life choices.

Justine has a horrific case of foot-in-mouth syndrome. She just blurts things out at the most inopportune moments, and never gets a grip on her bad habit. At the end,

Justine also has a serious self-esteem crisis. She spends half of the book trying to please Cubby, then she simultaneously hates and thinks about smexing up Packard. Later, I can't respect a woman who has no loyalty to anyone who doesn't happen to be her boy of the week. Her need for security and the perfect life is understandable, even if her motivations are TSTL. But freaking hell, she never even tries to get better. She just judges and blurts things out, and everyone still thinks she's super swell. Well, I don't, Justine. I don't.

I'll stop ranting now.

Also, during Justine's love scene with one of the male characters, the phrase "cucumbery cock" is used. Cucumbery cock for the win! A mature person wouldn't have guffawed after reading that statement. But I'm not mature.

Lastly, the description of Otto is LOL-worthy. A beret and a cape? Every time she mentioned his damn beret, I had mental images of Sadam Hussein and Fidel Castro. Never trust a man in a beret, ladies.

Despite my issues with Justine, I would recommend this book. The world-building is superb, and Crane has a great sense of humor. Just be prepared to want to swat Justine upside the head 95% of the time.
Profile Image for Dija.
413 reviews230 followers
September 26, 2011
Mind Games has restored my faith in the urban fantasy genre. This book made my head spin, heart pound, and legs hurt when I stood up after laying down reading for so long.

Honestly, this book is worthy of 5 stars. I just had a few personal problems with it that ruined the final star, but I doubt most people would have the same issues. This is a rare and precious book that blends action, suspense, and romance perfectly.

One problem I had is with the names. Crane is an amazing writer, but she has an absolute dreadful taste in names. Justine, Packard, Cubby, Henji, Shelby, Helmut, Otto, Aggie, they're all awful names for characters. There are a lot more unique and beautiful names out there, and I would have found it easy to ignore this issue if it had just been a couple of names, but really, nearly every member of the cast has an awkward name. I'm sorry if that offends anyone named any of the mentioned ones, but I mean all of them as a collective whole; I don't have anything against a name in particular.

I love Justine, but I hate some of the things she did. I understand why she did them, but it doesn't make up for the way she went about it. At times, she reminded me of a petulant toddler who can't understand why she got the trike instead of the bicycle she wanted for Christmas and decides to be annoying just to get back at her parents. On the other hand, I did admire and respect her for fighting back and never giving in, no matter how hopeless the situation seemed. She definitely makes it to my list of top 5 kick-ass heroines.

Our two main love interests are as far from the norm as you can possibly get in UF/PNR. For most of the book, it's impossible to tell which guy is good, which one is simply self-serving, and which one deserves to die. They're both more manipulative and selfish than the other. I hate making analogies between books, because it's unfair to readers who haven't read both books, but the only way I can describe the difference I feel between Packard and Otto is that Packard is like Barrons and Otto is like V'lane. They're both after their own gain, but Packard is still a million times better than Otto. If you've read both books, maybe you understand what I mean. If not, then do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Darkfever.

The action and suspense part of this book is extraordinary. Once I got started with the last half of the book, I literally couldn't put it down. I frantically ate up every word, desperately trying to stay ahead of the action, and failing. This is definitely a book for anyone searching for the long-lost charm that the UF genre initially used to hold but seems to have recently lost.
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews235 followers
October 8, 2015
4.5 stars

What a pleasant surprise! I am baffled by a low GR rating.
Is it because it's so untypical an doesn't have any werewolves or vampires? ^^


I wanted to finish the series before writing this review to make sure it doesn't disappoint me in the end. Well - it did not.

Although it fits in an urban fantasy genre - this book reads more as a psychological suspense thriller with sci-fi/fantasy element and romantic subplot. Very unusual premise. There are no vampires or werewolves or any other magical creatures, there is no magic per se. One in a thousand humans is born with a mutation, allowing the higher brain capacity - they are called high-caps. Most common of highcaps abilities are telepathy and telekinesis.
Our main character is not that lucky though. She is merely a hypochondriac. She is convinced that a vein in her brain is going to burst any minute now. Vein Star syndrome - that killed her mother at a young age - is dangerous but very hard to detect medical condition. All she wants is to be normal, to live a normal happy life instead she is loosing the fight with her neurosis spending more and more time in ER gripped by overwhelming fear. The dream of the normal life fades and ending her life in the institution becomes the grim reality she is heading for. Until she is offered a solution.

But everything has a price.

The story starts deceptively light and simple, but with each new twist and revelation it uncovers a bigger and darker picture and before you notice - it really draws you in. The writing isn't spectacular except when it's about medical conditions, in which case it goes on with such detail and reverence the only comparison that comes in mind is Kate Daniels describing her blades and guns. Prominent romantic line and seemingly transparent romance raised the red flags for me at first. But it did not disappoint, lets just say - things are not as simple as they appear. The best part of the book for me is the storyline - the suspense, the action, the twists and revelations - executed very well.

Recommended for urban fantasy readers looking for something original in the genre, for fantasy readers with interest in psychology.
Profile Image for Heather.
292 reviews13.9k followers
October 14, 2010
Neurosis is a class of functional mental disorders involving distress but neither delusions nor hallucinations. Effects of neurosis can involve: anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc. Neurosis can also evoke behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, including lethargy. Additionally, neurosis can cause cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc… Sounds fun right?

Imagine if you will, that your life has been hijacked by a gripping fear that at any moment, a vessel in your brain will explode, killing you before you can register a blink. Suddenly, itchy scalp takes on a whole new meaning. Do you want to scratch your head because you forgot to condition whilst in the shower, or is that tingling sensation you feel at the top of your skull a symptom of impending doom? And is that a headache coming on? Logically, it could be a result from all of your increased anxiety, ratcheted up from the itchy scalp assessment, or it could be thrombosis! This is it, you could by dying right now, or you could be a whack job. Now you’re faced with a dilemma, do you risk potential ridicule, by rushing yourself to the ER for the umpteenth time on the off chance that you could in fact be tying a silent mental death or do you wait it out, to see if your fear subsides and takes your symptoms with it?

These are the daily, hourly, issues that plague Justine. Justine’s a hypochondriac who lives with a debilitating fear of Vein Star Syndrome (I’m pretty sure this syndrome is fictitious). In knowing moments, Justine understands that her fear is somewhat unfounded, but those times of lucidity are becoming increasingly rare. That is until super sexy, diabolical (Don’t you just love that word? Mwahahaha) and oh so infuriating Packard enters the scene. Packard is a highcap (someone with super powers like telekinesis, dream invaders, etc.) with the ability to evaluate your physiology and psychology. Simply put, he can look at you and grasp what makes you tick. Packard has a team of disillusionists (fellow whack jobs, aka, neurotics) that take down criminals by projecting their personal neurosis into their target. Turns out Packard needs a hypochondriac to complete his team, making it Justine’s lucky day. Or is it?

MindGames was chalk full of win. It’s so refreshing to read an Urban Fantasy pick that doesn’t include werebeasties, ubervamps, and malicious fey.

Justin is equally invigorating with her neurotic and frank voice. While she is undeniably female, her honesty, both internally and externally, makes her a bit of an oddity. She’s incredibly outspoken, but not in that typically, feisty, saucy whench way, that so often coincides with this genre. Furthermore, she isn't filled with good intentions only to have them go awry. She is logical and thoughtful.

There are no heroes in this book, nor are their villains. You pretty much love to hate, and hate to love everyone. Even the minor characters are well drawn and pumped full of quirks that endear and repel you.

As for the schmexy times, which we all secretly live for and expect of this genre, well, they’re sating to say the least and coincidently introduced very early on, which only enforced my belief that Carolyn Crane is my kind of woman/writer.
Profile Image for Sofija.
178 reviews54 followers
December 24, 2010
I don't know why so many people love this book. For me it was just awful! The only reason I gave this book 2 stars is because the plot was fresh and unusual. The whole hypochondria thing was interesting, and I enjoyed reading these panic attacks the main heroine had. But this was all that was good in this book.
I can’t criticize language, construction of sentences or right words using, because English is not my mother language. But writing was horrible! First of all, the book is written is present tense which was really confusing for me. Then I felt like author was lazy to describe some scenes. It was just like "so we go there and do that thing. Okay, next scene now..." All the time I read it, I had a feeling I was reading some script.
And finally, main character was plain, naive and not very bright.
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews243 followers
December 28, 2016

DNF at 36%

I give up. The world building is pathetic. Strange words thrown from time to time, do not constitute proper world building to me...
Justine, the main character?
Well she's really too stupid to live. And to read about.
The plot?
There's a killer on the loose: and he uses flying bricks... with his telepathic powers?? -_-
Really guys, with this kind of plot I rather see some Kim Possible.
In Iko's wisest words, I "don't compute".
365 reviews37 followers
May 8, 2022
Three stars means "I liked it" according to Goodreads, and I did enjoy reading this book enough in the main for three stars, though I had some problems with it along the way, especially in the first half. Towards the end, I couldn't put it down and stayed up late to finish it.

The publisher's blurb, reprinted in full at the top of this Goodreads page, is startlingly accurate for the first part of this unusual story, but the cover belongs on a very different book. The main character, Justine, does think for herself but otherwise she is nothing like the cover model and never wields a knife or other weapon (except to defend herself with a stun gun in one scene). Read the blurb, ignore the cover!

Justine is the first-person narrator, and her thoughts and feelings predominate over the action (in spite of a narrow escape or two). She's a painfully self-aware hypochondriac whose intense fear of death by the same rare malady that killed her mother conflicts with her determination to do the right thing in every situation, even the really scary ones. She repeatedly does something while thinking this is the wrong thing to do. That internal battle rages on and on as she undertakes a new life as a disillusionist.

This is urban fantasy free from critters--no vampires, werewolves, fae, or the like. The paranormal part is that there are two special kinds of people in the story, highcaps and disillusionists.
"Do you understand how the highcap mutation works? How different highcaps get different powers?"
"The mutation involves a kind of wildcard DNA that's blank until you tell it what to do, like stem cells. That's why it's impossible to test for. The highcap baby who first wants a toy from across the room...becomes a telekinetic. A different highcap child might try to divine its mother's thoughts, so its mutation would take the form of telepathy. Another might strive to interact with its napping father. That one turns into a dream invader. The impulse to hide the truth creates a revisionist."
The blurb says, "...Packard peers into Justine's soul..." --that's his special power-- "...and invites her to join his private crime-fighting team." That team is called the disillusionists, people with mental illnesses or very negative mindsets whom Packard has trained to "zing" his chosen targets with their particular problem.

Mostly they don't work alone; Packard will assign two to four disillusionists to take down a given target in a carefully orchestrated series of zings based on Packard's understanding of the target's psychology. The final zing will hopefully bring the target to rock bottom:
"Like rebooting computer. ...Disillusionment crashes and reboots people."
The targets are evildoers who've gotten away with murder and/or other crimes (either they can't be touched by law or they were acquitted on a technicality), and Packard's understanding of their psychology leads him to believe disillusionment will rehabilitate them to become valuable members of society. He admits it doesn't always work, often because the team has to bring off a long con game to get close enough to the target to perform the right zings at the right time. There is a lot of that sort of detail in chapter after chapter.

So when Justine zings someone, she transmits her hypochondria to that person and is temporarily free from it herself; over weeks, it comes back, and she needs to zing again. She partners up with several of the other disillusionists, especially Shelby, who zings the impossibility of happiness; some of the others are Vesuvius, who destroys self-esteem; Helmut, dread for the world; Jay, addiction to alcohol.

Only four targets are portrayed, and it takes many scenes for the disillusionists to get their personal relationships with the targets to the right level, so it feels like chapter after chapter with nothing much happening, sometimes just Justine's wondering what to do. Not mentioned in the blurb, though, is an overarching issue among highcaps that develops gradually until it governs Justine's choices of action.

And then the action heats up, and it takes us to an ending that is quite unlike the conclusion of any other urban fantasy I can think of. I have to admit, though, that it was foreshadowed in all those chapters where nothing definite seemed to be going on.

Trigger warning: some pretty important plot points are embedded in graphic sex scenes. Zing!
November 21, 2012
Justine is a hypochondriac fearing that she will die from the same disease that killed her mother. This has caused people to label her as weird and all she wants to be is normal. That's what her relationship is with Cubby...normal. But one night when they are out for dinner, she meets a group of people and her whole life changes to definitely not normal.

This was a really interesting spin on getting inside someone's head who's a hypochondriac. All the fear that Justine goes through was incredible and just the desire for someone to believe in her. Couple that with just wanting to be a normal, regular person and how can you not root for her? I also like that she has a really strong drive to be just and help people out.

I'm always drawn to the first guy in a series and I really like Packard...for the most part. I think they have some really strong chemistry but I'm not sure if that's enough. Plus, he hasn't been honest and the whole "he's the master and they're the minions" thing is a bit much. It will be interesting to see how he will handle himself in the next book especially with his freedom.

Then there's Otto. Justine has always been in awe of him and as much as he was mentioned, you just knew there would be something about him. As the story unfolds, it isn't hard to figure out Otto's story. The hard part is figuring out who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. I was a bit shocked as to how far things went with Justine and Otto and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

I really enjoyed the characters that make up the disillusionists. They are interesting because they deal with people's emotions...fear, self worth, etc. but it was a bit confusing as to how their powers actually worked unless they were on a case. I really liked the relationship that formed between Justine and Shelby but I'm a bit apprehensive about trusting her. And I'm not sure it was a good idea for Justine to tell her everything!

The action kept the book going pretty quickly. I was amazed that there were three different cases in one book and they were all pretty major. I was really disappointed in Cubby...I would've liked to see more backbone from him. And the whole ordeal with the Alchemist seemed really played down. Even with the situation with Otto, Justine seemed on her own a lot of the time.

I love UF books that have romance and steamy scenes and this one did not disappoint! The line about the "cucumbery" body part had me dying!! Like I said, I'm not sure how I feel about some of the action but I guess I'm going to have to wait and see.

The ending did make me a little sad especially when they all left Justine...even Shelby. And I felt her "talk" with Packard was lacking...I expected more from him. But I'm really looking forward to the next book!

Favorite quotes:

♦ “I can’t say I’ve encountered anybody with your level of health anxiety outside of a straitjacket.��

♦ “We’re like reverse emotional vampires.”

“I prefer the term crime fighter.”
Profile Image for MISS VAIN.
200 reviews496 followers
June 5, 2011
"I can't say I've encountered anybody with your level of anxiety outside of a straightjacket," Packard continues.

Justine is a hypochondriac, which is what makes her a ideal "dissilusionist." A a dissilusionist she helps to restore criminals to non criminal behavior by inadvertently "zinging" her health anxieties on to them mentally. These "zaps" bring criminals to their rock bottom forcing themselves to have empathy for their victims therefore assisting them to alternatives besides crime for a living. As part of her job as a health anxiety dissilusionist she must portray herself as a nurse which to me is quite funny considering most of training to qualify her as a nurse is her many trips to the ER to ensure herself that she isn't suffering a reaction to her neurological diagnosis called "Vein Star Syndrome." She takes her job as a "nurse" seriously and at time I question whether or not she remembers she's not really a nurse.

"Listen here, and listen good. You can take away my freedom, you can change my outfit, but you will never, never take away my dedication to my profession."

I really like Justine because she's so ridiculously pitiful. Whether its her health anxiety or just get overall low perception of herself. She has unrealistic obsessions, one of those obsessions is Chief Otto Sanchez. He gives me the creeps and he not even sexy in my opinion but in Justine's eyes he's a super sexy crime fighting hero who never leaves his beret behind. How sexy does that sound to the average person?! Ughhh. Lol. Unfortunately her perceptions of men and people in general are wrong but she has a good heart.

Justine see's the good in everyone even criminals making her job as a disillusionist that much more difficult. She feels empathy for these people putting her life in danger with the risk being caught. She's very likable, but dangerously naive, and her inner dialogue is brilliant, I laughed many times while reading this book at witty and insanely ridiculous things Justine either said or did.

Justine's boss of her psychlogical hit squad is Packard a stunningly cryptic gorgeous man but who wants her but, even though she feels something more than just a working relationship with him she doesn't fully trust him. Gosh I find Packard incredibly sexy. *Sigh*

"You chose wrong, Justine."

I loved this book, and would recommend it for anybody wanting a unique and original change to Urban Fantasy!

Like what you see here, check out more of my reviews at http://missvainsparanormalfantasy.com/
Profile Image for Kelly.
616 reviews148 followers
May 23, 2011
Justine Jones is a hypochondriac whose mental health is quickly spiraling downward. She’s convinced she has vein star syndrome, the condition that killed her mother. Then she meets the mysterious Packard, who recruits her into his team of Disillusionists. Disillusionists are essentially psychic vigilantes, attacking criminals by zapping their own psychological problems into the bad guy’s energy field. When the criminal has been reduced to a gibbering mass of anxiety, so Packard’s theory goes, he or she can start building a new life as a better person.

Mind Games is set in a fictional city where “highcaps” (high-capacity humans) exist alongside regular humans. A few holdouts don’t believe in the highcaps’ superpowers, but most people do. These powers make it difficult for highcap criminals to be caught and incarcerated, a problem that comes up several times in the story.

Carolyn Crane gets major points for originality. The metaphysics of Disillusionment is amazingly inventive, and Justine makes a unique heroine in that her powers are psychological rather than physical or witchy. The plot is original, too; you think you know how it’s going to go, but that’s not what happens. The way the climax and ending unfold is delightfully unpredictable.

The beginning is rockier than the end. There’s some “telling” where one might expect “showing” — for example, there are conversations that are mentioned after the fact when they’d be more effective onstage — and some scenes that don’t seem to advance the plot much.

Additionally, Justine can be annoying. This is partly because her hypochondria is so severe that she can’t distance herself at all during an attack. Instead of thinking “I wonder if this is another attack,” she always thinks she is actually dying at that very moment and narrates these scenes accordingly. While this can be exhausting, though, it also inspires sympathy. The larger problem is her extreme wishy-washiness about the men in her life.

I’ll definitely look into the second book, Double Cross, however. Crane has set up a creative world with paranormal phenomena that aren’t at all like the well-worn ones you’re used to. You’ll probably enjoy it if you’re a fan of Stacia Kane or Laura Bickle; to me, the “feel” is similar to the books of those two authors. Just don’t read Mind Games if you have even the slightest nagging trace of a headache — you might just become convinced you have vein star too.
Profile Image for Mandapanda.
833 reviews268 followers
February 10, 2016
Reread Feb 2016
Totally ingenious urban fantasy trilogy about Justine Jones, Hypochondriac and Disillusionist. I was completely blown away by the originality of the story and world that this author has created. Justine has led a life debilitated by her hypochondria and abnormal fear of 'vein star syndrome' (which her mother died of). She is completely the opposite of the kick-ass UF heroine but I LOVED her! She is quirky, delusional, slightly slutty, and conflicted but at the same time desperately wanting to be a better person and wanting her life to mean something.

In this amazing world, there are 'Highcaps' (people with psychological gifts like telekinesis and mind control), 'Disillusionists', (people with phobias, addictions and other emotional weaknesses who can use their fears as weapons against other people), and the normal human population. Justine is recruited by the enigmatic and tragic Packard to join his team and 'disillusion' selected evil doers. The positive side of being a disillusionist is that once your dark emotions are passed onto the target, you no longer suffer from them for a few weeks.

You really have to read the book to get it. Some of the other disillusionists include an alcoholic, a pessimist, a gambling addict, one who is afraid of grim world events, etc, etc. It might sound a bit 'comic book-y' but it's not at all! And the characters are so complex and intriguing and mostly quite likeable. It's hard to know who is good and who is bad. Lots and lots of questions leave you off balance throughout the book and make you eager to know more. The romantic relationships are also confusing... Who should Justine believe?? I don't know but I'm dying to find out in book 2!

Oh, I forgot to say it's really funny too. Plenty of LOL moments.

Recommended for Urban Fantasy fans. Lucky for me all three books are out now so no cliffies! YAY!!
Profile Image for Sarah.
3,336 reviews1,017 followers
June 30, 2015
Buddy read with Buddies Books and Baubles

Mind Games is the first book in Carolyn Crane's Disillusionists trilogy and I have to give props to the author for coming up with such a unique concept. The Disillusionists are a great group of anti-heroes, they all have unique abilities and together they have formed a psychic hit squad who take down the bad guys by fundamentally changing them on a psychic level. They can take your fears and insecurities and ramp them up to turn you into a complete basket case and the results are quite surprising. I still think this is a moral grey area and I'm not convinced that the punishment is always enough considering the crimes committed by some of the people they go after but it was an incredibly interesting idea and I really enjoyed seeing the team put it into practice.

Justine is the newest member of the group, a self confessed hypochondriac she is more than a little obsessed with her impending death. She is convinced that she is about to have a brain aneurysm and that fear effects everything about her day to day life, she is always on the edge of terror and she suffers with frequent panic attacks. People she meets are very understanding in the beginning but constant trips to the emergency room quickly start to wear thin and she struggles to build lasting relationships. When Packard offers Justine the chance at a normal life she is sceptical but grabs it with both hands. Packard teaches Justine to channel her fears into other people and for the first time in years she knows what it is like to not be afraid. Unfortunately, there are consequences to using her abilities that Packard didn't bother to explain upfront and she now finds herself in a very difficult position.

I loved how different Justine is to normal UF heroines, she is a completely crazy in a lot of ways and it was actually kind of hilarious watching her fears spiral out of control as an attack came on. I was surprised at how easy it was to relate to her worries but I think we've all had that moment when we're convinced something is going awfully wrong with our bodies, luckily I don't have the same fears as Justine though because that's just a recipe for madness. I enjoyed the interactions between Justine and the rest of the group, the side characters were all really interesting and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. It was nice to see a positive female friendship between Justine and Shelby but I think my favourite character was Packard. You know from quite early on that he's keeping secrets and I didn't always agree with the choices he made but I loved him anyway and I really liked the chemistry between him and Justine. I'm definitely rooting for them as a couple even though things aren't looking positive right now.

I did have a few issues with the story though, as much as I liked Justine in the beginning I have to admit that she had started to get on my nerves by the end of the book. It wasn't just her neurosis that irritated me but her attitude to men and relationships, I didn't understand her obsession with her ex-boyfriend Cubby (ridiculous name by the way!) and I thought they were a really ill suited couple so her constantly talking about him was overkill. There was also a particular scene with one of their targets that initially seemed to come out of nowhere but was then over with just as quickly, I felt it should have left Justine feeling at least a little traumatised but she seemed to forget all about it within a few pages. Then you have the obligatory love triangle and I wasn't impressed with the introduction of Otto. To be honest he just creeped me out from the moment he stepped onto the page and the interactions between them turned my stomach. I was really disappointed with a particular turn the story took and there was one scene that left me feeling more than a little bit sick.

Although there were parts of the story that didn't work for me I'm still curious enough about the Disillusionists that I want to carry on reading the series so I'm planning on picking up the sequel, Double Cross, as soon as I finish writing this review. I have high hopes for the series and am keeping my fingers crossed that things take a turn for the better in the next book.
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