Hard To Survive CRACKED OPEN–A Review and get a free book!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic new YA dystopian novel from Susan Kaye Quinn. CRACKED OPEN is the fifth book in her MindJack series and I’m pretty much breathless for the next book already. You can start the whole series with OPEN MINDS, which is free and fantastic, but you absolutely must read LOCKED TIGHT before jumping into CRACKED OPEN.

About the book:
Zeph always knew he was a weapon. He didn’t count on being a spy.

But he made a dangerous bargain with the Director of the Jacker Technologies Division of DARPA–he’d let Wright test his mutant mindjack ability if she’d release his parents. Simple. Occasionally painful. And the screams of his victims fill his nightmares. But it will be worth it as long as she can’t crack open his head and find out his sister, with her super-surge jack-ability, is still alive. And if his parents are finally set free.

Once that happens, he’s gone. Even if it means giving up everything he’s just now getting back. A home. Friends. A girl who believes in peace and love even when the world is falling apart.

My Review:
This is the fifth book in the MindJack series where humans have evolved the ability to broadcast their thoughts–but the new wrinkle is mindreaders who can hijack your brain. These “mindjackers” are a super powerful minority, being hunted for experimentation and extermination. And Zeph, a “locksmith” mindjacker who can lock and unlock the toughest minds, will do whatever it takes to keep himself and his family safe.

In LOCKED TIGHT, book four, Zeph allied himself with some horrifying persons in the government and private enterprise–people who truly want to hunt down and kill “jackers”–in order to find his missing sister and parents. He’s also infiltrated the jacker population, attempting to get close to the young, powerful and charismatic jacker senator. Hiding his jacker nature from readers has made Zeph a loner, by necessity, and his plan to rescue his family and go back on the run is upset by the new connections he’s made. What if there could be a balance between the jackers and the readers? Could he then find sanctuary instead of isolation?

In CRACKED OPEN, the battle lines have been clearly drawn. His employer, a MindWare developer who hired Zeph as a bodyguard to his daughter, believes Zeph’s a reader, and shares all sorts of anti-jacker tech with Zeph, by way of relating how it will help Zeph be a better guard. The government’s shadow lab, run by Dr. Wright, is preparing a jacking operation on the highest levels of government–to destroy any sympathy the President or populace might have for jackers. Once Zeph recognizes how dangerous all of this has become, he reaches out to Kira Moore, one-time spokesperson for the defunct Jacker Freedom Alliance, to offer his services as a mole.

Zeph had rescued his sister in the previous book, but things aren’t all quiet on that front. Her powers are raw and untrained, making Olivia a fourteen-year old walking weapon. Now, Zeph’s trying to find his mom, and he knows Wright has her locked up somewhere. In fact, Wright agrees to release her if only he’ll assist with the grand scheme she’s cooked up. Zeph knows it’s a bad job, but he has no choice if he wants his mom freed. This time, however, he’s got friends who can assist him–and he calls them.

Fundamentally, the MindJack series is about discrimination, and surviving intact after the powerful have sought to crush you. It’s an allegory to the current political climate where discrimination by the government (of any marginalized community) has been lauded by a segment of the population who allow themselves to be led by fear, instead of community. For readers, it’s a chilling journey into discovering what the experience might be for a marginalized population, if the government ideologically decided that (insert your personal minority) was Public Enemy Number One, and needed to be studied and eradicated. And yet, throughout, it’s a humanizing story. One of hope and desperation, and succeeding against all odds against your most feared, armed, bully.

CRACKED OPEN marks the midpoint of Zeph’s three-book story and clearly articulates his rage and fear at the situation he’s in for no other reason than being born different. But mostly, it’s filled with Zeph’s resolve to save his family, and to help all the other jackers out there lead whole lives, not the half-life he’s lived. For being roughly 17-18 years old, Zeph’s survived a lot of bad, bad stuff. And that’s formed him into a weapon. Unlike a gun, however, Zeph has the presence of mind to keep his targeting mechanisms on the bad guys, to ensure he does the most good. Expect things to go from bad to worse, however, and for Zeph to make mistakes–because he’s working within a narrow framework. The day might be lost, but the battle continues. Cannot wait to get my hands on the next book!!

Interested? You can find CRACKED OPEN on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and GooglePlay.

Get yourself a FREE book!
The MindJack universe began with OPEN MINDS, the story of Kira Moore, a sixteen year-old jacker learning about herself and prejudice she’s been born into. Kira is a strong MC, and her steadfast commitment to doing the right thing, even if it’s hard, gives readers a protagonist worthy of respect. It’s a super-fast read that tackles real societal problems with grace and confidence. I read this book in a day. Mostly because I couldn’t stop until I knew Kira was safe.

The great thing? OPEN MINDS is a FREE on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, GooglePlay and Kobo. OPEN MINDS is the first in a trilogy, but has a satisfactory ending that resolves completely while leaving room for the companion books to develop.

About the Author:
Susan Kaye Quinn is a rocket scientist turned speculative fiction author who now uses her PhD to invent cool stuff in books. Her works range from young adult science fiction to adult future-noir, with side trips into steampunk and middle grade fantasy. Her bestselling novels and short stories have been optioned for Virtual Reality, translated into German, and featured in several anthologies.

She writes full-time from Chicago, inventing mind powers and dreaming of the Singularity. You can find out what she’s up to by subscribing to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!).

Catch up with Susan on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

What’s Your Life Worth? Ask the DEBT COLLECTOR–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m reprising a review for a collection of serials I loved a few years back–and still enjoy today. DEBT COLLECTOR Season 1 by Susan Kaye Quinn is a fantastic ‘future-noir’ sci-fi/action/romance story about people who have the ability to shift life energy from one person to another. This is usually done for money, and the conflicts inherent for those who wield such ultimate power. I’ve long been a fan and friend of Ms. Quinn, having gotten hook on her Mindjacker Trilogy is Hunger Games quality political-suspense-sci-fi-action-thriller with less bloodshed. I’m bringing Debt Collector back to the blog, because it’s fab, and because it’s FREE through 3/25. THere’s even a sequel, of sorts–DEBT COLLECTOR SEASON TWO–that you can jump into if you like this one.

About the book:
What’s your life worth on the open market?
In this gritty urban fantasy, debt collectors take your life energy and give it to someone more “worthy”… all while paying the price with black marks on their souls.

Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat, jackboots, and the black marks on his soul that every debt collector carries. He’s just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja’s sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane… until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn’t what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone—a dark pit he’s not sure he’ll be able to climb out of again.

Contains mature content and themes.

dc-1

My Review:
The Debt Collector occurs in a future L.A. where pollution and corruption are a daily menace (okay so not very different from now). Still, in this brave new world, everyone’s life’s value is constantly calculated, assessed between the amount of money you could potentially earn versus that which the person might owe. That balance is never breached—if you near the point of equilibrium your lingering life energy is drawn out by a debt collector and transferred to another person more worthy. (Kinda makes me glad my credit card debt isn’t higher, amiright?)

Lirium is a young debt collector. He’s not so keen on the job–honestly, who wants to be a grim reaper? He deals with his depression in the natural way—booze and women—until the night his hired sex worker, Elena, convinces him to give the hit of life energy he generally bestows on his partners to her ailing sister, a child suffering an incurable disease. This turn of events leads Lirium down a path he never envisioned. Unwittingly drawn into the Kolek mafia, Lirium becomes a hit man of the highest order—taking life hits from the dregs of society and selling it to mafia patrons—along with fellow debt collectors Olivia and Valac. Along the way Lirium learns that kids are being illegally transferred out, and he’s compelled to stop the mastermind.

And, did I mention there’s romance? Not the main feature, but still present and pertinent.

Omigod.

I was dying waiting for each episode to go live. Following along with the release dates was like the anticipation of a new The Walking Dead episode—especially when the best characters got killed just after I fell in love with them! As for The Debt Collector, each episode provides a satisfying arc and an excellent resolution while still propelling the overall storyline toward it’s finale. However, now that the serial is complete, you don’t have to wait any time at all to read the whole set.

Interested? You can get the complete 9 episode first season on Goodreads Amazon. It’s currently FREE!

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Caught in the Crossfire in TIME WAITS–A Review for Joyfully Jay

Hi there! Well, I’m feeling elated after yesterday’s big SCOTUS decision, and wanted to pass on my recent update via Joyfully Jay. This week, I shared my review for TIME WAITS, a fascinating near-future time-travel M/M romance recently released by a new author to me, CB Lewis, and Dreamspinner Press.

Time WaitsAbout the book:

Badly wounded and on the run from his WWII Hungarian brigade, Janos Nagy stumbles through a temporal gateway to the future. Suddenly stranded in Manchester, England, 2041, Janos wants answers about a crazy world he doesn’t recognize.

Dieter Schmidt, flamboyant historian/linguist for the Temporal Research Institution has those answers, but the TRI is a neutral entity, set up to verify historical events under a strict code of noninterference. That doesn’t stop Dieter from taking Janos under his protection. Trust doesn’t come easy to Janos, who came from a time when revealing his secrets could get him killed, but the two men slowly build a tentative friendship with a possibility for more. But Janos’s continued presence in the future and Dieter’s persistence raise questions about the limits of the noninterference policy.

Since the rules have been bent once, one agent sees no reason why he can’t push them further, and he travels back to 1914 to make a few changes of his own. Under Janos’s guidance, Dieter must leap back in time to stop the rogue agent from changing the past and risking everyone’s future—if he can survive history.

I really liked the idea of this book and felt like it was well-executed. The romance between Janos and Dieter is slow to build and develop. Each man experiences an attraction he feels is wrong—Janos due to ingrained homophobia and fear, Dieter because he feels like he’s taking advantage of a man trapped in time. Dieter and Janos were fantastic characters. They have a real chemistry that simmers. Dieter is required to retrieve his fellow time agent, and he’s intellectually prepared for a job that he is physically untrained to perform. He’s never BEEN on a mission, and his own mother was lost to a time incident, but Dieter is determined to do this right. It is heartbreaking for Janos to have to train him, both of them knowing that this time jump will likely separate them forever, even if Dieter is successful in his mission.

Check out my entire 4.25 star review on Joyfully Jay Reviews.
Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends.

Serially Addicted…to Serials–SOCIAL MEDIA and DEBT COLLECTOR–Reviews!

Hi all! Today I want to ramble a bit on some great serials I’ve enjoyed and new ones I’m gearing up to read. I’m a fan of the serial–which I have mentioned before–because I’m a busy gal. I do not always have a week to devote to a book (I’m looking at you, Diana Gabaldon!)

I can generally finish a 300 page paperback in a day or less. Still, I work, and I’m a mom, and a blogger and a writer, and, well, you get it–all this other stuff of life cuts into my reading-time, the one thing that I do only for myself.

So, a novella, or serially-written novel series, allows me to wedge in a bit of escapism between my kid’s practices, or while waiting at the doctor’s office, or on a lunch break. Serials aren’t new, they have been around since the printed word existed. They were most often printed in magazines or newspapers–and some still are. For me they like a TV series–one I don’t have to present for every week at the same time to enjoy.

I’m currently reading two fantastic serials: The six-part SOCIAL MEDIA series by JA HUSS and the nine-part serial, DEBT COLLECTOR: SEASON TWO by Susan Kaye Quinn.

Follow (Social Media, #1)You can check out my review of the first two Social Media episodes HERE. This is a contemporary erotic romance series between moviestar extraordinaire Vaughn Asher and event coordinator with a horrific past, Grace.

Here are my reviews for FOLLOW, LIKE, BLOCK and STATUS. Check them out to see if this serial is for you. I can tell you, I’m eagerly awaiting the next, penultimate, episode: PROFILE.

The fifth episode, PROFILE, drops on Wed Oct 22. As with all the Social Media episodes pre-orders are $.99–which increases to $2.99 after release day. A small aside, pre-orders are so fun! I love waking up and finding a new book waiting in my iPad! 😀

Susan Kaye Quinn’s DEBT COLLECTOR: Season One was one of my fave books last year. Please check out my series-long review. for more info on this future noir, dystopian series.If you haven’t read the first season, however, you can STILL jump into Season Two.

What is IMPORTANT TO KNOW: in this futuristic world a debt collector has unique ability to absorb and harness the life energy of a human. One can draw the energy through any skin-to-skin contact, and drawing energy will shorten the life span of the people they touch. They also have the ability to transfer the life energy they collect to others. In the world of Debt Collectors, they are licensed by the government to draw life energy from dying adults and transfer it (legally) to high-potential peoples who can live longer to solve the world’s problems. Of course, there is HUGE black market for this skill–and lots of rogue debt collectors exist on illegal life energy collections….

Wraith (Debt Collector 10)My Review of WRAITH: Debt Collector Season Two, Episode One:
Alexa Sterling is heiress to Sterling Cybernetics–and she’s not happy. Mostly because her father was murdered, presumably by debt collectors, only three weeks ago. What Alexa’s anti-debt collection crusader father didn’t know? That Alex herself is a debt collector.

Yeah. Alexa has an alter ego as Wraith. She discovered her Debt Collector ability inadvertently, it seems, and it hurt someone close to her. Believing that Debt Collectors killed her father, she is averse to dealing with them. She does have a physical need to transfer life energy–as doing so is a bit of a high and not doing so leads to severe depression.

So, Alexa/Wraith is a bit Robin Hood. She takes energy from people she knows to have gotten life energy pulses illegally, and donates them to sick individuals–giving them the strength to survive their diseases. It’s an admirable use of a deleterious skill, which make Alexa/Wraith an anti-hero of my favorite sort.

The read is intense, picking up in the throes of a life energy hit. Alexa is creative and utilizes her power in the best way she can, but she’s also impetuous, and this leads not only to a bad collection, but also puts her on the radar of a rogue Debt Collector network, Gehanna. She is being recruited against her will–with exposure of her secret life as a Debt Collector in the offing.

So looking forward to the next episode!

WRAITH releases Oct 20th. Now’s your chance to get in at the beginning. Preorders being taken at Amazon and for those people who want to read the WHOLE BOOK ALL AT ONCE, they can pre-order Season Two for release on Dec 15–just in time to rock your Christmas reads!

Please also consider checking out Season One. Every person with whom I’ve shared this book has come back with RAVE reviews. I seriously swooned for the anti-hero, Lirium, as he fought to keep himself free of the mafia and save the lives of terminally ill children. Yeah. I still get melty remembering…

Thanks for popping in my friends, and keep reading!

Serial issue–THE DEBT COLLECTOR

I’m a reader. And, when I say that I mean it. Not in the ordinary way of people who read, really. See, when I get interested in a story I will read all night, all day, forget to eat, barely make it to the bathroom in time, until I hit the end pages. (I am AWARE that this is problematic…therapy is expensive!)

I can’t begin a new story before bed because I will read until the lines blur and I doze (book-in-hand) for a few hours then wake and read until I have to shower for work.

Which is why I thought I would hate a serial.

A serial is not simply a novel broken into bite-sized chunks, it is a recurrent character story with new adventures that all build to a coordinated climax.

Think:  24, in book form.

And for those who can’t stand cliffhangers (ME!!!) I couldn’t fathom how I would be able to survive the 3 month roll-out of all the episodes in The Debt Collector.

But I know Susan Kaye Quinn’s work. It’s solid.  She’s a critique partner and friend. Her Mindjacker Trilogy is Hunger Games quality political-suspense-sci-fi-action-thriller with less bloodshed. If she was writing a serial I knew it was something I didn’t want to miss despite my obsessive reader nature.

I wasn’t let down.

Quinn calls The Debt Collector future-noir—which, simply put, means that it feels like a gritty noir feature, but it’s timescape is future. It’s ingenious!

dc-1The Debt Collector occurs in a future L.A. where pollution and corruption are a daily menace (okay so not very different from now). Still, in this brave new world, everyone’s life’s value is constantly calculated, assessed between the amount of money you could potentially earn versus that which the person might owe. That balance is never breached—if you near the point of equilibrium your lingering life energy is drawn out by a debt collector and transferred to another person more worthy. (Kinda makes me glad my credit card debt isn’t higher, amiright?)

Lirium is a young debt collector. He’s not so keen on the job–honestly, who wants to be a grim reaper? He deals with his depression in the natural way—booze and women—until the night his hired sex worker, Elena, convinces him to give the hit of life energy he generally bestows on his partners to her ailing sister, a child suffering an incurable disease. This turn of events leads Lirium down a path he never envisioned.  Unwittingly drawn into the Kolek mafia, Lirium becomes a hit man of the highest order—taking life hits from the dregs of society and selling it to mafia patrons—along with fellow debt collectors Olivia and Valac. Along the way Lirium learns that kids are being illegally transferred out, and he’s compelled to determine the mastermind.

And, did I mention there’s romance? Not the main feature, but still present and pertinent.

Omigod.

I was dying waiting for each episode to go live. Following along with the release dates was like the anticipation of a new The Walking Dead episode—especially when the best characters got killed just after I fell in love with them!

As for The Debt Collector, each episode provides a satisfying arc and an excellent resolution while still propelling the overall storyline toward it’s finale.

Interested? You can get the complete 9 episode first season on Amazon.

Don’t forget to come back and tell me what you thought of it!