Excerpt · Reviews

Review of Cracked, A Magic iPhone Story by Janine A. Southard

Panoramic shot of Seattle Washington skyline from Queen Anne nieghborhood.


Title: Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story

Author: Janine A. Southard

Series: Stand Alone

Genre: Contemporary/Humor/Slight Fantasy Elements

Publisher: Cantina Publishing

Release Date:
Digital: January 2015

Print: February 2015

Edition/Formats: eBook & Print


What can your phone do for you?


This is the story of a girl and her iPhone. No, that’s not quite right. This is the story of a middle-aged statistician and her best friend. Though she didn’t consider herself middle-aged. And the best friend was more of a roommate-with-whom-she’d-developed-a-friendship. And this description completely ignores the 6,000-year-old elf with whom the woman and her best friend enjoyed story gaming.


So let’s try this again.

This is the story of a woman who wished to find love, but who would rather play story games than actively look for it. Especially in the wake of a horrid break-up six months before from a man who had never sent her a single gift.

Until this Valentine’s Day, when she received a brand new iPhone in a box with his name on it.

Between story gaming and succumbing to the phone’s insidious sleekness, she learns that friendship trumps romance.

In Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story, award-winning author Janine A. Southard (a Seattle denizen) shows you how the geeks of Seattle live, provides a running and often-hilarious social commentary on today’s world, and reminds you that, so long as you have friends, you are never alone.

Excerpt 3 – 1000 words

“Oh my god, woman.” Morena slapped an ineffectual hand against Suzyn’s shoulder. “What are you doing?”

Suzyn played with the iPhone while, as usual, slouching in a broken chair. The steam from her chai wafted past her wrists where they pointed toward the roof, her head thrown back so that the ceiling lamps backlit the phone’s screen. “Finding you a new guy,” she said. She would have shrugged, but it was hard enough to worm her body into a slouchy sprawl that included the broken back of a wicker chair without adding extraneous movement into the mix.

“Oh my god,” said Morena again, this time in a hissing whisper. “You can’t just use that thing. What if it’s forcing people?”

For that piece of apparent stupidity, Suzyn sat up and looked her best friend straight in the eye. “Morena. It’s an iPhone app, not a satanic love spell.”

Morena’s vertebrae slumped, and she waved a permissive hand back at the phone. “Yeah, I know. I just got worried for a minute there. Like, what did Vadim see in me to get him started, you know?”

Suzyn arched her spine and wedged it against the spikey pale wicker once again. “Dude, that guy was so into you.” She forced out a laugh.

Trying to make any talk of Vadim into a joke was harder than romcoms made it seem, Suzyn found. Not that she watched romcoms much. Except at Christmastime when Disney, the WB, and even the Hallmark channel made some horrible but funny ones.

A choked-off sob came from the other woman, but Suzyn refused to look away from the phone. (She was too unsympathetic to be a good friend when the messier emotions got involved, so she prudently avoided them.) She set the age range for 21-26, then thought the better of it and went for 27-35. That was still a little younger than Morena, but not so young that it’d be weird.

“I’m going to be single forever,” moaned Morena. “Why don’t guys want me?”

Magic Guy finally came back with his hot apple cider and one of their Wash Bagels. “Because other men are morons who don’t appreciate you.”

Suzyn kicked her feet up onto Morena’s lap to provide her friend with more tactile reassurance and to increase the area of her own sprawl. “Don’t worry, Ems.” Sometimes, especially after guiltily watching Gossip Girl, Suzyn was taken by the desire to give people diminutives based on the initial letter of their first name. She didn’t do it often. “I’m gonna find you a hottie in a point-three-mile radius.”

At this point, Suzyn and Morena devolved into some good-natured bickering about whether or not to increase the radius to 1 mile or reduce it to 0.1 miles, with a tangent wondering why people who made geo-relevant apps didn’t think 0.5 or 0.75 seemed like a good increment. Those were still walkable in the snow. One mile was pushing it. And three miles as the next level up? That was where cars started. There was no difference between three and ten miles, really.

But Magic Guy didn’t notice this conversation, even if he might have been interested by its insight into the casual city-dweller’s psyche. No, he was too busy reeling from the vibrations in the air. Not the auditory vibrations from JACK-FM playing over the speakers, or the imperceptible (to humans) spray from the milk steamer. Not the shivering air currents from the people setting up Pathfinder miniatures at the table next to them, nor the emotions focused in his direction by the woman with an impeccably styled gray bob from the writers’ table in the back.

No, these were bad vibrations he was picking up. They were the opposite of the Beach Boys song.

His lungs lurched, and his heart contracted as the vibrating sensation strengthened, then washed over and through him. He grabbed the table to stay upright and was half-offended that his companions hadn’t noticed. (The other half of him was relieved he wouldn’t have to explain anything.)

Someone was performing dangerous magics nearby.

The dark power made his thighbones quake with the urge to run somewhere safe. But this was his place, and his story game circle didn’t deserve to have him abandon them with no warning. He sent out his magic senses through the room, trying to follow the unfriendly wave that had so jarred him. He turned, following a ripple in the ambient magic. There! He slammed his eyes open when he pinpointed the vile practitioner, the better to catch them in the act.

His quarry was Suzyn. Suzyn, whose feet still warmed Morena’s lap and whose fingers still tripped over the touchscreen of a sexy new iPhone. She was saying, “No, I haven’t liked any of the guys it’s sent you. I’m changing your underlying search settings.”

Morena grabbed for the phone, but she couldn’t reach the full length of Suzyn’s body and seemed disinclined to shift her best friend from a supposedly comfortable position for such a little thing. “You figured out how to get an options dash?” She made frustrated wavy motions with her fingers. “Show me!”

And Suzyn obligingly sat upright, tilting her chair in such an alarming manner that Magic Guy was sure she’d fall over. The two women crowded around the phone, and Suzyn poked at an icon while Morena jittered with anticip—

Magic Guy swooped in and scooped the iPhone out of their hot little hands. Well, little compared to his own hands, anyway. Well, Morena’s were. Suzyn had extremely long fingers for a female of the human species.

“Hey!” Suzyn objected.

“What gives?” Morena’s slang was more out of date.

In his hand, the phone felt oily and wrong, and not because it had one of those strange military-grade cases (it didn’t) but more as though it had been molded out of some unethical putty which had never once attended sensitivity training and didn’t think it was important to discuss consent or permissible acts with a new sex partner. This phone was the worst kind of PUA (pick-up artist), and he didn’t know why such beautiful people (soul-speaking) as Morena and Suzyn would own it.


A book about Seattle…check.  Friendship…check.  A non-romance book…check.  One thing that I kept thinking when reading the book was the movie Singles.  Yes, Singles.  Loved that movie even though I didn’t like the whole Grunge thing.  Nirvana killed rock and roll in my opinion.  But that’s a whole different post for me.

If I had to put a list together of the top 5 things I liked about the book, here goes:

1.  Seattle.  I’ve never been but I’ve always wanted to go.  Plus, the book reminds me of the movie Singles.

2.  Gaming…I’m not a gamer by any means but I love reading about it in books.  It sounds fascinating and interesting but I’m old and never got into when I was younger.

3.  Friendship…I love a book where an author can bring together people from completely different backgrounds and despite that, make me like them all.  Sometimes I don’t like one of them but in Cracked, I liked everyone.  In fact, Suzyn was my favorite character.  I know, I shouldn’t have liked her that much but trust me, I had a couple of friends like her.

4.  The phone itself…the magic that it held and the journey it takes them on.  Loved it.  Plus, I got to read more about Seattle.  😉

5.  Humor…yes, I’m old but I love when a book tickles my fancy and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments.  Plus, the magic element is nicely done and not too heavy of an element.

Things that didn’t work for me:

1.  The phone.  I know, crazy but I’m not an Apple person so some of the lingo and such went over my head.

2.  Gaming…some of the things I just didn’t understand and I felt lost at times.  Plus, I have the attention span of a gnat, so why you would want to sit and play games for hours is beyond me.

3.  The narrative voice.  Sometimes in the book, I wanted to know what someone else was thinking.  Don’t get me wrong, I love 1st person and I even write in 1st person but for some reason, I was put off by it here.

4.  I actually missed the romance.  Sure this is a book about friendship and not romance but a touch of it would have been nice.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book.  Anytime that I can sit down and read a book; dream about the place and laugh out loud.  I’m your girl.  I will say though that I wasn’t the target audience.  I would still recommend it to everyone to read.  Great humor, characters to love and SEATTLE!!!!



recommend-harlies- new

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Author Information



Janine A. Southard is the IPPY-award-winning author of Queen & Commander (and other books in The Hive Queen Saga). She lives in Seattle, WA, where she writes speculative fiction and reads it aloud to her cat. She’s story gamed a few times and hopes to someday make a tie-in game for this novel, but first she needs to finish writing all the other books on her list. Besides Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story, she is also the author of:

Queen & Commander (The Hive Queen Saga, #1) – IPPY award-winner for Science Fiction (2013)

Hive & Heist (The Hive Queen Saga, #2) (2014)

“The Robot Who Stole Herself” (A Hive Queen Tie-In Short Story, 2014)

These Convergent Stars (2013)

“Maintaining a Free Mars” (2014)

“Prophesy Murder” (2014)


If you want email updates when Janine A. Southard’s latest books are released, sign up here (http://bit.ly/janinenews). You’ll be contacted for new releases and release-related news (like when her next Kickstarter project is coming). Usually, this is once a month or so, but sometimes goes longer or shorter. Your address will never be shared, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Plus, you’ll get a free short story!

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