Carolyn Crane

The third book in the urban fantasy trilogy with superheroes.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Rebecca Wiscoky
Running Time: 10 hrs and 47 minutes

Justine Jones is a hypochondriac; she’s convinced that a vein in her head is going to burst and kill her. After all, her mother died of a vein star syndrome. However, she’s found a way to make her fears work for her. For a while she was a ember of the Disillusionists, a group of people who can manifest their fears into other people and hopefully make them reform their lives. Unfortunately, their handsome but manipulative leader Sterling Packard turned out to be a cold-blooded murderer and now he’s on the run.

Meanwhile, Justine is engaged to the man of her dreams. She’s happily, if nervously, planning their wedding but something doesn’t seem quite right.

Head Rush starts immediately after the shocking ending of Double Cross. All of the familiar cast returns, well, the live ones, anyway. We also get to meet Justine’s dad who was a great character. He has a phobia about germs and Justine is afraid that he’ll go the church in his Hazmat suit.

The first half of the book focuses on Justine trying to figure out a mystery which the reader already knows. The book also focuses on the romantic aspect more than the previous books. Unfortunately for me, I don’t really care for the romantic lead and I’m not romance reader. However, the rest of the cast are very entertaining and Justine is a hilarious narrator, when she isn’t angsting.

Still, Head Rush is far more predictable than the previous two books because certain things have to happen to get a romantic happy ending. However, it ties up the plot lines satisfyingly.

Recently, I found out that there are two novellas in the series, but with different point-of-view characters. I’ll probably get them.

The first chapter is available on the author’s site for free.

The second book in the Disillusionists super hero trilogy.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Rebecca Wiscoky
Running Time: 10 hrs and 19 minutes

Justine Jones is a hypochondriac but thanks to Sterling Packard she can now project her fears into other people (this is called a zing). Packard is the handsome leader of the Disillusionists, a group of neurotics whom Packard has given the ability can project their fears into other people. Packard chooses villains who have hurt other people as the targets. Justine is still not happy about twisting other people’s minds that way but she has grown to accept it when the targets are hurting other people.

Justine’s newest target is Ezmerelda, a woman who can invade other people’s dreams and make them do things while sleepwalking. Years ago before she was unofficially imprisoned, she made other people into cannibals. Justine has to touch Ez in order to zing her and now Ez has a channel to Justine’s dreams. And Packard’s. However, Justine isn’t convinced that Ez was behind the cannibal attacks and wants to be sure that she’s guilty.

At the same time, three people are shooting highcaps, the people with super powers. Even the highcaps don’t know each other so Packard and the city’s new mayor Otto Sanchez are very interested in stopping the shooters. The trio (called Dorks because the mayor doesn’t want the press giving them cool names: I loved that!) have some way to shield themselves against the highcaps’ powers.

The Disillusionists have their work cut out for them but then Justine suspects that something else is also going on. The plot is quick with a lot of twists and the ending is a real surprise and promises interesting and dramatic things for the last book.

Unfortunately, Justine’s love life is still rather confused. Previously, she was hesitating between two men, Packard and Otto, and chose Otto. However, she’s still very much attracted to Packard and her new relationship with Otto isn’t on solid ground. She makes the mistake of not telling crucial things to Otto and she angsts about it. This is my least favorite aspect of the series. Packard can read psychology and he profiles other people quickly. However, Justine is convinced that he’s wrong about her. In the previous book Packard lied to her and manipulated her coldly, and Justine can’t trust him.

On the other hand, Otto is committed to keeping Midcity’s population safe. He’s also a hypochondriac and his fear is the same as Justine’s. Otto seems quite heroic compared to Packard but they share a dark history. In the previously book Otto was the police chief and he has been elected mayor since then.

The Disillusionists squad is just as entertaining as before. They are all neurotic and that of course colors everything they do and say. They often go undercover to meet their targets and zing them with a fear. This creates great comedic moments. For example, Justine pretends to be a nurse and she can push her fear of diseases into the targets. During the book, the group has to make interesting moral choices. Simon, one of the neurotics, calls the team “reverse emotional vampires”, which amuses me greatly.

The book is written in first person and present tense.

The first book in the Disillusionists trilogy with a definite comic book tone.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Rebecca Wisocky
Running Time: 11 hrs and 50 minutes

Justine Jones is sure that she will die of vein star syndrome, just like her mother. She spends much of her time concentrating about her various head aches, waiting for death. Unfortunately, this tends to drive away her friends and boyfriends. Currently, she manages a fashion shop and dates the wonderful Cubby who just might be able to offer Justine the normal life she craves for, if she can keep her neurosis from driving him away.

Then Justine meets Sterling Packard who is very handsome and Justine is quite taken with him until he offers her a place in his crime fighting group called the Disillusionists. If Justine joins, she will also get rid of her hyprocondria, although temporarily. Of course, Justine can’t resist. She meets the rest of the group and makes friends, feels very attacked to Packard – and then she finds out the group’s dark secrets. After that, it’s very hard to know just who the good guys are.

Justine is a pretty standard heroine, except for the neurosis. She wants to have a normal life and at first she tries to get it through her boyfriend. But she also wants to help people. She wants to do the right thing but she’s thrust into situations where it’s very hard to know what the right thing is. Fortunately, when she’s agonizing or angsting over her medical condition, it’s written in a very humorous way.

The book has clear comic book tone. The world has people with superpowers. They are called Highcaps and they have what I would call psionic powers, in other words their powers aren’t physical, such as telekineses or medical intuitionist. Some people don’t believe that they even exist and most people are afraid of them. Some of the characters’ names are almost out of a comic book. The Disillusionists think of themselves are heroes. Their leader Packard allows them to project their own fear or neurosis to another. The Disillusionists believe that projecting fear to bad guys will open the bad guys’ eyes to their own awfulness and reform them. Crime victims pay to Packard to disillusion a man or a woman who has wronged them in some way. In order to get close to their target, the Disillusionists go undercover and interact with the target to increase his or her fear.

The Disillusionists are pretty interesting group. They all have their own neurosis and fears, and that colors their personalities. Packard is pretty arrogant and charismatic from the start, and he’s clearly scheming something. I especially liked it that Justine got female friends, and male friends, during the book and not just a harem of adoring men. Then there’s the police chief Otto Schansez who likes opera, dresses fashionably… and is hetero.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the romance angle. Justine starts with a boyfriend and is attracted to two other men, too. Both of them are essential to the plot and, frankly, poor Cubby pales in comparison to the others. Justine also drools over the both men a bit too much. There’s also quite a lot of descriptions of clothing and fashions which aren’t interesting to me.

For a comic book style book, Mind Games doesn’t have much violence. However, like the name implies there are a lot of twists and turns, and Justine finds it hard to know who to trust.

Mind Games is written in first person and present tense. However, I didn’t much notice this while listening. I really enjoyed Wisocky’s narration. She does a Russian accent for Shelby.

This was a fun new series and I will continue with it.