I just realized I never announced the winner of the signed copy of House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier! (The winner has been contacted and knows the book is on its way, but I like to try to mention winners so other people who were hoping to win don’t wonder if the winner was actually ever drawn, like I used to when I entered giveaways for books I was DYING to win.) The winner is:

Jennifer from Scotland

Congratulations, and I hope you love the book as much as I did! (I admit I am a bit envious of the signed copy.)

Clean is the first book in the Mindspace Investigations series by debut author Alex Hughes. The second book in the series, Sharp, will be released in April 2013. The month before that a novella titled Payoff will be released.

First of all, I apologize if the following plot description for this novel is awkwardly phrased. The name of the first person narrator in this book is not revealed until the very end so I am going to avoid using his name and refer to him as “MP” (short for “Main Protagonist”).

As a powerful telepath with precognitive skills, MP used his Ability to work for the Telepaths’ Guild until he developed a drug habit that got in the way of his duties. Now he works for the police department, where he is their most successful interrogator and a consultant on matters related to telepathy and the Guild. In this latter task, MP must walk the fine line between revealing enough information to help the cops he is working with without revealing so much that the Guild decides he’s a problem. Furthermore, every day is a struggle to remain clean with his need for the drug Satin permeating his life.

When a string of people are murdered and the Homicide Department has no leads, Detective Isabella Cherabino decides to bring MP to the scene of the latest murder and see if he can glean any information about what happened with his Ability. The deeper MP gets into the investigation, the more convinced he is that the person behind the murders is a very dangerous person with at least one Ability of his or her own. The stakes are even higher when he has a vision in which he is being killed by the murderer while Cherabino is nearby and has obviously been abused. Can he change the future for both of them – and more importantly, can he stay clean long enough to even have the chance to try?

Clean is described as a dystopian thriller on the author’s website. While there are some elements of speculative fiction, it’s more of a crime novel than a science fiction novel that explores the society it’s set in. Because it is does have a standard mystery plot and only a little world-building, I did find it fairly forgettable once I finished reading it. That’s not to say I didn’t have some fun with it while I was reading it because the last 150 pages or so kept me entertained and on the very edge of my seat with suspense. Yet it took awhile for it to get to the point where I really wanted to keep reading, and there wasn’t anything about the book that made it stand out from many others I’ve read in the end. The world, plot twists, writing and dialogue, and characters all faded into the background once the book was done and out of sight, and if not for writing this review (and doing some rereading in preparation) they probably would have stayed there.

The setting in Clean is an altered future caused by a major event, the Tech Wars. Computer technology was used to wreak havoc on the world, and as a result, it’s illegal to own most types of computer technology. It also lead to the Guild gaining prominence since they were instrumental in ending the wars. However, they used terrifying means to do so and are also feared for their power. This is only mentioned briefly, and the details of what they did are not explained though it is also mentioned that people with a certain level of Ability are required to join whether they like it or not. Despite the fact that the main character has some wariness about them, I don’t think there’s enough specific information about the Guild to really get a sense of how terrifying they are. Between the restrictions on technology and the power the Guild has, there’s potential for the series to lean more toward a dystopia, but I didn’t think the effects of the society were shown enough in this book for it to seem particularly dystopian. It remains part of the background for now, and this installment was focused more on the case of the serial murders.

The murder mystery/investigation was spiced up a bit by the main character’s use of telepathy and Mindspace to gather information about the killers, but there was still a lot of the standard questioning that comes with police dramas. Some extra suspense was added with the main character’s vision of himself and Cherabino in the grasp of the killer and the question of whether or not the future could be changed. The conclusion was a page-turner, but at the same time the way it was wrapped up was a bit of a letdown. Certain parts of the resolution were very coincidentally tied to the past of one of the characters, and this seemed rather random and like a contrived way to make the situation more personal.

Most of the characters were not particularly developed, and the only two who had any significant time dedicated to their characters were Cherabino and the narrator. I did think Hughes struck a good balance with the main protagonist when it came to his drug addiction. It is shown that his addiction impacts every part of his life, but he was kept busy enough with the investigation that he didn’t gripe about wanting Satin so much that it became too much to bear. Most of Cherabino’s character exploration is just learning about her past, but the narrator’s character does actually develop over the course of the book. By the end, he’s come to a realization and made an important decision, and I liked that he at least didn’t remain static throughout the entire book.

Clean wasn’t a bad book, and the fast-paced second half did make up for some earlier setup and slowness. However, there’s not much about the book that stands out as above average once it is finished, and there are parts that seem too convenient. The occurrence that drives events at the end seems too random to be natural. All in all, Clean offers some entertainment value but there’s not much to linger on once it is completed.

My Rating: 5.5/10 – Mostly ok but there were some entertaining moments.

Where I got my reading copy: I was contacted about reviewing the book by the author and received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Read a Guest Post by Alex Hughes: A Quick Guide to the World of Clean

Read an Excerpt from Clean

Other Reviews of Clean:

Today I’m happy to have a guest post by debut author Alex Hughes to share with you! Alex’s novel Clean, the first book in the Mindspace Investigations series, was released earlier this month, and this post gives some background on the world it is set in. Hope you enjoy reading about it!

Clean by Alex Hughes

A Quick Guide to the World of Clean
By Alex Hughes

  1. Tech Wars
    Sixty years ago, the world was broken when a madman and his followers turned technology against the people. Cars turned against them, phones publicized all financial data, and the smart houses turned into prisons. People died in deliberate car wrecks, went penniless overnight, companies imploded, and your neighbors literally rotted in their homes. Even now, decades later, the people can’t forget. Any computer technology bigger than the chip that powers your oven timer is strictly forbidden. Of course, that doesn’t mean the power to make it doesn’t exist…
  2. Fusion-Powered Flying Cars
    Turns out you can modulate a small-scale fusion engine with a very tiny chip on the scale of that oven timer. And fusion is stable, relatively clean, and powers cars (and anti-gravity fields) very well. We’ve run out of fossil fuels, sure, but really, who needs them anyway?
  3. Telepathy, etc. etc.
    A small but significant portion of the population now has mental Ability. Sure, that means a lot of telepaths of various strengths, but it also means precognition, telekinesis, teleportation, and pyrokinetics. But that’s the fun part.
  4. The Guild & Jurisdiction
    After the Guild stepped up to save the world at the end of the Tech Wars, they’d earned themselves both fear and respect. They also won the Koshna Accords, where they get total jurisdiction over their members… and where membership gets compulsory at a certain strength of telepath. Born with Level Seven Telepathy? Welcome to the Guild, your new home/prison/family/collective. Mind the rules – they’re enforced swiftly and strongly.
  5. Internet & Privacy Laws
    Remember those cameras in public places? Gone. Electronic banking? Gone for the likes of us. The little Internet is still full of superviruses and scary things, and even email takes three days to go through Quarantine. It’s okay though. For the first time, this country finally has the privacy laws it’s always needed so desperately.
  6. Pollution
    Yes, the rain is carcinogenic, but with advances in medical science, they can take care of most of the cancers in an afternoon. Plus produce artificial organs if yours wear out. So the horrific pollution really isn’t so bad…
  7. Lingering Technology
    If you see Tech left over in your local reclaimed buildings, please report it promptly to the Tech Control Organization. We rely on citizens like you to help us keep these dangers off the street. Remember, a safe world is a Tech free world. Thank you.

About Clean:

A RUTHLESS KILLER—
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND

I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars.

My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it—real scary.

Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.

About Alex Hughes:
Alex has written since early childhood, and loves great stories in any form including scifi, fantasy, and mystery. Over the years, Alex has lived in many neighborhoods of the sprawling metro Atlanta area. Decatur, the neighborhood on which Clean is centered, was Alex’s college home.

On any given week you can find Alex in the kitchen cooking gourmet Italian food, watching hours of police procedural dramas, and typing madly.

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The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This week’s post is a short one since the only book that came in this week was a book I won from a Goodreads giveaway.

First, just a brief update about reviews and guests coming up. Alex Hughes, author of Clean, is going to share a guide to the world in the Mindspace Investigation series next week. I finished reading Clean last weekend, and I’m going to start on my review today so that can go up next week as well. A review of The City’s Son by Tom Pollock is in progress, and my next review after that will be the book I’m reading right now, The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer (which I am enjoying so far!).

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett

I remember hearing a lot about this book a couple of years ago, and most of my Goodreads friends really liked this one. One of the cover quotes mentions it’s dark fantasy and the reviews also mention it being character-driven so it sounds like something I might like!

In the UK and Australia, the title of this book is The Painted Man. The Warded Man is available in mass market paperback and ebook and as an Audible audiobook (and you may be able to find a hardcover, although that doesn’t seem to be as easy to find now as the other formats). The second book in the series, The Desert Spear, is also available. The Daylight War, the third book, is scheduled for release in February 2013.

An excerpt from The Warded Man can be read on the publisher’s website.

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

Today I’m happy to be participating in the blog tour for The Midnight Court by Jane Kindred! I haven’t yet read this or the first book in The House of Arkhangel’sk series, The Fallen Queen, but have been very interested in these books since reading the first chapter of the first book. Read on to find out more about The Midnight Court and how to enter the international giveaway for an ebook copy of either book in this series – your choice! If you did miss the first book, here’s where you can find out more about The Fallen Queen and read an excerpt.

The Midnight Court by Jane Kindred

About The Midnight Court:
Against the pristine ice of Heaven, spilled blood and a demon’s fire will spark celestial war.

The exiled heir to the throne of Heaven, Grand Duchess Anazakia and her demon companions, Belphagor and Vasily, have made a comfortable home in the Russian city of Arkhangel’sk, but their domestic bliss is short lived. When their daughter Ola is taken as a pawn in Heaven’s demon revolution, the delicate fabric of their unorthodox family is torn apart—threatening to separate Belphagor and Vasily for good.

Anazakia is prepared to move Heaven and Earth to get her daughter back from Queen Aeval, risen in Elysium from the ashes of temporary defeat. But Aeval isn’t the only one seeking Ola’s strange power.

To conquer the forces amassing against them, Anazakia is prophesied to spill the blood of one close to her heart, while Vasily’s fire will prove more potent than anyone suspected. In the battle for supremacy over Heaven’s empire, loyalties will be tested and secrets will be revealed, but love will reign supernal.

Read an Excerpt from The Midnight Court


Jane Kindred

About Jane Kindred:
Jane began writing romantic fantasy novellas at the age of 12 in the wayback of a Plymouth Fury—which, as far as she recalls, never killed anyone…who didn’t have it coming. Born in Billings, Montana, she was soon whisked away to Tucson, Arizona where she spent most of her childhood ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. Although she was repeatedly urged to learn a marketable skill in case she couldn’t find a man to marry her, she received a B.A. in Creative Writing anyway from the University of Arizona.

She now lives in San Francisco with her son Samson, two feline overlords who are convinced she is constantly plotting their death, and a cockatiel named Imhotep who punishes her for sins in a past life (and whom she frequently imagines tastily smoked, dried, and splayed on a stick like omul fished from Lake Baikal).

Her pen name was inspired by the twin sister of Philip K. Dick who died shortly after their birth, and by whom he felt haunted until the end of his life.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

The House of Arkhangel’sk Giveaway

Courtesy of Entangled Publishing, I have one ebook copy of The Midnight Court to give away. If you haven’t read the first book in The House of Arkhangel’sk yet and win the giveaway, you can get a copy of The Fallen Queen instead. The winner will also have a choice between ePub and mobi files for the book selected.

For further opportunities to win one of these books, check out these sites on the date listed:

Sept 18 – Brazen Reads
Sept 20 – Buckeye Girl Reads
Sept 21 – Beth Yarnall
Sept 24 – Shortie Says
Sept 26 – K-Books
Sept 27 - Paranormal Urban Fantasy Reviews

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen (AT) fantasybookcafe (DOT) com with the subject line “The Midnight Court.” One entry per person. This giveaway is open to anyone from any country in the world and a winner will be randomly selected. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, September 29.  The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with which book and file type they would like).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Note: Now that the giveaway is over, the entry form has been removed.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week – old or new, bought or received for review. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This week’s post is a short one since the only book that came in this week was the one I ordered for National Buy a Book Day.

Queen's Hunt by Beth Bernobich

Queen’s Hunt (River of Souls #2) by Beth Bernobich

Queen’s Hunt was released earlier this year in hardcover and ebook. An excerpt from the book is available on Tor.com.

I read and reviewed the first book in this series, Passion Play. While I had some reservations about it, I also enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book in the series. If you missed the first book, you can read some of the beginning on the author’s website. A related short story titled “River of Souls” is also available to read on Tor.com. (I thought the short story was really good.)

Four books total are listed on the author’s website. Book 3, Allegiance, is scheduled for October 2013. The Edge of the Empire, book 4, is scheduled for October 2014.

Queen’s Hunt is the second title in Beth Bernobich’s River of Souls novels, following her startling debut, Passion Play. Filled with dark magic and sensual images, this is fantasy writing at its best.

Ilse Zhalina has left to start a new life in a garrisoned fort, leagues from her estranged lover, Raul Kosenmark. The violent quarrel that ended Ilse and Raul’s relationship was quite public. And also, quite fake. They hope to mislead Kosenmark’s enemies so that he can continue to influence the politics of the kingdom in an attempt to stave off an ill-advised war, while keeping Ilse safe from royal assassins who would kill anyone Raul is close to. Ilse longs for Raul, but is set on her own quest to find one of the three fabled jewels of Lir. One of the jewels is held by King Dzavek, sworn enemy of Veraene, who has used the jewel’s power to live for centuries. Ilse seeks one of the other stones to counterbalance Dzavek’s efforts to destroy her country.

In her search, she encounters a shipwrecked prisoner from another land, a woman who has a secret of her own…and the second jewel in her keeping. The two women become allies in their quest for the third jewel, because finding and controlling these stones could mean salvation for both of their nations. And their failure the ruin of their peoples.