My Review of The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) by Deborah Harkness

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Info from Goodreads:

The #1 New York Times bestselling series finale and sequel to A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night

Fans of the All Souls Trilogy sent this highly anticipated finale straight to #1 on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. Bringing the series’ magic and suspense to a deeply satisfying conclusion, The Book of Life is poised to become an even bigger phenomenon in paperback.

Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present—facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency.

Paperback, 561 pages – Published May 26th 2015 by Penguin Books (first published July 1st 2014)

My Review

4-4.5/5 stars (depending on the day)

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Trigger warnings: violence, mention and talk of rape(s)

Sorry it has taken me SO LONG to get this posted but I did it. Lol. Hopefully before the month is up I can get you a post regarding my thoughts on the TV adaptation of this series. Let me just say I’m not happy, although it was still interesting…mostly…sort of…*sigh*

I was all set to give this book 5 stars but I’ve been re-thinking it. The Goodreads’ rating system is what I refer to when I’m thinking simply about how I feel.

  • One star – did not like it
  • Two stars – it was okay
  • Three stars – liked it
  • Four stars – really liked it
  • Five stars – it was amazing

Four stars for sure as I really liked it but I got stuck thinking how I loved this book but I don’t know if it necessarily is amazing. Ugh… and yet I think the series as a whole is pretty amazing.

While I disagree with a lot of other reviewers I do agree that this book has a lot of flaws. I’ll be more transparent here. Okay, I was set on five stars right and then I read several other reviews with two stars that made some pretty valid points in terms of unanswered questions. Then I felt kind of embarrassed that I still liked this book so much when Deborah Harkness and her editor(s) really missed some key points, or didn’t care to include them. That said I think it says a lot about the book that even without those answers – some of them key plot points – I was wholly satisfied with the ending. And yet, even as I think about these complaints I recall that I’m very sad to see this trilogy come to an end as I will miss the characters.

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Unlike the bad reviews I didn’t mind the large amount of characters, especially those brought back from the other books. Sure there was a lot to keep up with but I think Harkness did it well. For the most part I found the majority of the characters, especially all the “important” ones, to be distinct. There are some very satisfying character reveals. As far as characters are concerned, five stars all day!

She does change POV from chapter to chapter and it is a little strange at times. I can’t say I loved it, this being one of the complaints from the bad reviews. For me these changes were like that little bump in the sidewalk that you don’t catch when you’re strolling along having a lovely time and then OPE, you trip but catch yourself and turn around like WHAT THE HECK! Huh, what a nice little rush of adrenaline. And you walk on, BUT you DON’T fall and wreck your day. These POV changes tripped me up a second but the bulk of the story kept me moving along swiftly.

Maybe half way through the book I felt like I did after a couple seasons of the TV show True Blood. (I did not read the books by the way.) It got weird and not in a cool way. It was like they were trying too hard to make things extra different. I started to worry about this happening in The Book of Life. If you’ve gotten this far in the series you already know Diana is an incredible witch with all the powers a witch can have. Sure that’s a trope that bothers some from the get go, not me, and it might bother even more people as her power grows and grows. But let’s be honest, that’s what this story is about. This story is about that extraordinary moment in time when everything changes. A time when two powerful people discover each other and more about themselves. In my humble opinion, tropes are a problem when the story and characters are lacking, perhaps that’s why the bad reviews exist, because for those people it was lacking. I disagree; I think the story itself carried its weight. The content woven in and out, the character arcs and the constant discoveries, however great or small, worked for me.

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All in all I can’t make a decision, some days it’s 4 stars, others it’s 4.5. Either way I was satisfied. My great aunt has finished book two at this point and she’s on to book three so we’ll see what she thinks about this finale.

As I mentioned there is a TV adaptation of this series on AMC (pretty sure). It’s over now but of course you can find it on demand on Sundance or AMC (depends on your subscriptions of course). They are planning a second season, and I will watch it no matter how frustrated the first one made me.

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In other news Deborah Harkness published her latest book (and I do believe the first since The Book of Life) Time’s Convert (All Souls Universe, #1) in September 2018. I think it’s fair to say it’s a paranormal fantasy romance that follows the history of Marcus – Matthew’s vampire son – up to the present. I’m not sure yet how I feel about reading this but I’ve signed up for a giveaway so if I win then of course I’ll be reading it. We’ll see.

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Thanks for reading everyone. Please let me know what you think about this series if you’ve read it or maybe you want to? If I’ve introduced you to the series please do give me a shout out. See you next time!

My Review of Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2) by Deborah Harkness

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Info from Goodreads

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

Hardcover, 584 pages – Published July 10th 2012 by Viking Adult

4/5 stars

This book deserves a Wow as well. Forgive me as I stumble over reviewing this because I’m not so sure how to do so without spoiling some of the first book. It’s like seeing a preview to a movie sequel before you’ve seen the first one, now you definitely know that one lady lives because she’s in the second trailer. So then I say to you dear reader, if you haven’t read the first book, A Discovery of Witches, and you think you will, don’t read this yet. I recommend you just go right to reading it or you can read My Review of A Discovery of Witches. I have no doubt if you enjoy the first one at all you’ll have to read the second. By all means if you’ve read the first and are still unsure, then read on! Or please if you’ve read them both or the whole trilogy and want to discuss your thoughts and feelings read on and let’s chat. I’d love to hear how you thought it worked or what didn’t. However, PLEASE do not spoil book three for me!

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Okay, some basic spoilers to follow…

This book got saucy with the romance, which we knew it had to but not being a regular romance reader it made me blush. While the author went there with the intimacy I don’t think she overdid it. The scenes weren’t long and drawn out and many times they concluded or started with other bits of useful information. I really appreciate that about a writer, when they don’t box a scene up to serve one purpose. If you don’t like romance or reading about intimacy AT ALL, you’ll probably get more than a little annoyed. That being said, Diana and Matthew’s relationship is central to this story so, pick your battles. Oh and for those of you that might be triggered, there are a couple aggressively passionate love scenes between Matthew & Diana. They’re not abusive or unwanted, they’re just…intense to say the least. If you ask me, regardless how you feel about love scenes, the overall story is worth it. The scenes are at least PG-13 – R-rated, but don’t quote me on that.

Traveling back in time as we did was really interesting. I wondered how it would work out and if it would. Harkness did not disappoint with her research and ability to make it work in a natural way even though time travel is so unfortunately unnatural. Spoiler: she did not force the concept of hiding it from everyone. Lesser or less experienced (pardon me) authors might try and make you believe no one noticed Diana was out of place. You don’t just slip back into the 16th century unnoticed. Nope, not Harkness, she works with and through that. The other characters’ responses to such details are great.

Now, do I think this book had to be 584 pages? No. It would not have suffered from leaving some more pages on the cutting room floor. At least halfway through the book you might be feeling like you’re more than ready to move on from time traveling. There were at least a few places where they mentioned going back to the…future/present and I got excited for a change of pace. Alas it did not yet come. But that’s not to say the time spent in the past was full of the same monotonous routine. Not at all. A lot happens in 1590-1, interesting twists and turns full of creepy people. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot we could have skipped.

That’s probably my biggest critique besides Deborah Harkness’ love for lots of setting and time period details, not my favorite. If I liked this amount of detail than she deserves a high five. 😉

This book is full of emotion. There’s so much going on what with Matthew returning to a past he once knew, people he once knew and loved. We get to dive into his vulnerability and watch him fight to unfold, unfold and then come back together again. The relationship with his father Phillipe is very special, never mind that Phillipe himself is a well-written, nuanced character. I do hope they personify him well in the TV series because he’s so iconic. It would be an enormous shame should they miss the mark. We meet a lot of other great characters, including Matthew’s nephew Gallowglass. The characters alone are a great reason to read this book.

This book really gives us a chance to get to know Matthew better. Plus I really enjoyed getting a better look at the history of witches, vampires, and daemons. The traditions and ceremonies were fun, sometimes drawn out, but still interesting.

Lastly…

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I want to address something I saw people complaining about in the first book: Matthew’s dominant, aggressive personality and behaviors. It seemed his character got the feminists all riled up. Don’t forget that Diana is more than attracted to Matthew, she’s wildly in love with him, all of him. She’s more than capable of handling herself and is in no way an unwilling participant or victim here. I am not implying that whatever he does is made okay because she loves him. Nor am I saying that love somehow makes abuse okay. I’m also not saying that a woman who can handle herself can’t be abused. All I’m saying is keep it in the context of the story. Diana is not abused or taken advantage of by Matthew. But there are OTHER people who abuse and physically harm Diana, as we saw in the first book.

It’s not okay to hurt or (try to) control another person, whether you’re a man, woman or child. It’s also important to be able to distinguish an abusive person from a personality you just don’t care for. Masculinity is not toxic, but not unlike femininity, it can be.

Deborah Harkness didn’t create a chauvinistic prick in Matthew. No, she created a 1,500+ year old alpha male vampire with heavy emphasis on the fact that he is a predator, and I mean predator as in the animal kingdom, not a sexual predator. Matthew is very cognizant of his domineering behavior and worries about the parts of him that make him dangerous. In the first book you discover that he is avoiding being intimate with her. He’s worried about the possessive nature of a vampire once they take a mate. I get it if the aggression triggers you and any trauma you may have experienced, and for that I’m sorry if you have those experiences. I’m very sorry if you or anyone you care for has been affected by abuse and/or violence of any kind. It’s never acceptable for anyone to be taken or used in any way against their will. I do not condone violent masculinity and I’m not supporting it here. But there’s a difference between highly masculine men and abusive masculinity. However that is NOT what is happening in this story with Diana and Matthew. His over-protectiveness is not the abusive kind; he has EVERY right to be worried about and for her. His behavior cannot be taken out of context. And lest you forget, Diana more than handles herself when she thinks people MIGHT being pushing her around.

Diana and Matthew’s relationship is not an abusive one. While there are elements that might trigger you, kept in the context of the story, you will see that there is a real relationship of love and compassion. And let me tell you, Diana does more than what she wants. There are more than plenty of instances where Diana will annoy you because she doesn’t listen and just goes and does what she wants. Trust that Diana very much her own woman no matter.

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I welcome your thoughts and comments, but not your book three spoilers. 😉 If you read this based on my referral please give me a shout out on your blog and link back to me here. I will start reading Book 3, The Book of Life, immediately following so stay tuned for my review of that in the next couple weeks. Then I’ll give watching the AMC TV series a try, although I’ll tell you right now, I don’t like their pick for Matthew.

Thank you! If you want to read more of my reviews, CLICK HERE.

You can also see what I’m reading at 2019 TBR

Or what I plan to read soon Spring 2019 TBR

My Review of The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst

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Info from Goodreads:

(My review follows)

The natural magic of the classic The Island of the Blue Dolphins meets the danger and courage of The Hunger Games in this dazzling, intricate stand-alone fantasy novel set in award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst’s beloved world of Renthia.

Life is precious and precarious on the islands of Belene. Besieged by a capricious ocean full of malicious spirits, the people of the islands seek joy where they can. Mayara, one of the island’s fearless oyster divers, has found happiness in love. But on the day of her wedding to the artist Kelo, a spirit-driven storm hits the island with deadly force.

To save her loved ones, Mayara reveals a dangerous secret: she has the power to control the spirits. When the storm ends, she is taken into custody by the queen’s soldiers and imprisoned with other women like her.

They vary in age and social status, but to many they are heroes who will aide the country or witches that will sacrifice themselves trying. No matter who they are, the women are sent to a terrifying place—an island filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and left without food, water, shelter, or any tools except their own instincts and magic. Whoever survives the Island of Testing will be declared heirs to the queen. But no matter if she wins or loses, Mayara knows that the life she dreamed of is gone.

368 pages – Published March 19th 2019 by Harper Voyager

My Review of The Deepest Blue

3/5 stars

It was very difficult for me to rate this book. In part because I’m a fan of this author and her Queens of Renthia trilogy as well as her book Lost (unrelated to this world or series). I think reviewing a book is made even more troublesome when you’ve been anticipating its release and it doesn’t live up to your expectations. That’s what happened here.

While I enjoyed the story, and I already enjoy spending time in Renthia, there are a number of things that felt superficial and missed their mark. I liked the main character Mayara. She’s tenacious and brave, and full of love for the people she cares about. The book opens beautifully on Mayara and Kelo’s wedding day. Right off the bat we get a taste of why Mayara’s family sometimes calls her reckless. We know this protagonist is going to take us on an adventure. For the most part the opening to this story was spot on. There is some spoiling that goes on in the rest of this review, not in detail but enough detail to spoil the story some or a lot.

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But then there were things that started to get to me. For instance, mentioning repeatedly how Mayara gets ready for a deep dive, how she compares so much to getting ready for a deep dive and every time she takes deep breaths we have to remember that that’s what she does when she’s getting ready for a deep dive. *Sigh.*

A major pet peeve of mine when it comes to reading in general, and something I’m trying to remember as I write my own book, is opportunistic writing, as I like to call it. I don’t like when characters are just made to fit because you need them to. Or turns in the story just go that way because the author needs them to, not because they flow naturally. In the case of this story, Mayara’s new found friend Roe has apparently been studying in secret and yet she seems to be no better at controlling the spirits than Mayara? How and why? In this case, if you’re going to make your character be awesome, more awesome than they should be, then build that case for us please. Don’t just say yup there you go, that’s how it is, Mayara is just a natural. Break some scenes down for me. Don’t just tell me oh yeah she’s not so good but then, she’s still got this. What does she figure out that helps her that she didn’t know before? How does she break through what she doesn’t know? Don’t just keep reminding me she’s not practiced but then showing me she’s plenty capable. Show me something in Mayara’s character that makes her special with regard to the scene. Other than her ability to swim and dive. Expand on these things.

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Again, these are notes to myself as I write and to all of us writers in addition to critique of this story. Remember show-don’t-tell is a relevant, worthwhile piece of advice. Even if it’s just a little scene or a little tidbit or even something that isn’t obvious, put it in there to show us this character has an edge. Show me, don’t just tell me they do. And don’t keep telling me about the same quality, that’s not enough to carry me through believing and rooting for her. Yes she’s brave and fearful and that’s real, but go deeper please. Show me how it comes to be that she navigates through these murky waters (pun intended) instead of expecting me to roll with it because she’s the main character, and ya know, that’s how it goes.

The author constantly tells us that Mayara likens every challenge to a deep dive and here’s the ritual that precedes it (please no more). Give us more of her inner character and how she breaks things down to get through them, but please know that once you’ve told us a couple times you don’t have to spell the same thing out every time thereafter. (Have I done it enough with regard to this detail? That’s how it felt reading.) It was things like that by the way that made me wonder if Mrs. Durst wasn’t getting confused with her art of writing middle grade. I’m probably reading into that since I know she writes in different age groups, nevertheless, that’s how I felt, that she at times forgot she was writing for adults.

Back to what I was saying: she tells us about getting ready for deep dives. (OMG, this again, really eLPy?) Tell us more about what’s happening that makes her capable of handling the spirits when, in this part of the world, girls hide their affinity for fear of being found out and sent to the island for testing. They don’t get to explore their affinities on their own or often. And maybe expand on this especially for those of us who have read the other series. What did Mayara miss by not being able to study her affinity? What does everyone miss? Don’t spend so much time on the same elements of love and Kelo and her family. Now she’s face to face with this affinity that she’s had to hide, how does she face it? What does that feel like for her to confront this?

It’s fair to say that we know from the start that this girl is going to be our hero, she’s going to go to the island. But what happens once we get there and even the immediate lead up to their departure feels so forced! She just so happens to be the last girl and now they’re off? So everyone else got to train for some undisclosed amount of time and she’s just shit out of luck? I know I’ve already given some spoilers here but I don’t think they’re too consequential however I won’t go into much detail in terms of other incidences that bothered me once they got to the island. All said and done for me it felt like the author tried too hard by not being creative enough to make Mayara the heroine. How? Why? How? There’s a lot that was opportunistic. Put her in a desperate situation because that’s what these stories do. Right? NO, don’t do that! I mean do it but show us readers how and why, not just because that’s what you think the story needs. Build us a sand castle but show us the tools, the methods, the failed attempts, the learning curves, the successes. Show us that the “it-just-so-happened-that” moments are realistic in your story, they don’t just happen. They happened. Don’t remind me I’m reading a made-up story.

Things like: so and so got injured so ya know, it’s all up to Mayara. Really? I mean, really? How perfect that our heroine has to do it on her own instead of someone more qualified with the spirits. Really? The whole scene on the island was tied up like a bow and way too neat. And I’m sorry but I was really hoping for the diversity of spirits that we saw in the previous trilogy. It’s really an inconsequential thing but I got sort of bored with the spirits seeming to be of the same five or so forms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a fan of Sarah Beth Durst and I will continue to read her work. I do hope she continues in this world, in fact, I hope she explores the entire world, that whole darn map she drew for us! But please don’t sew them all up so nicely. I love happy endings, I’m not saying leave us with some sour bitter ends, but don’t make the bow so damn perfect!

There were some nice twists in this story, some conclusions that were satisfying but the end result as a whole was very disappointing because it was SO similar to another book she wrote. How did Mayara with her supreme lack of experience and training with spirits wind up in THAT position? I was left shaking my head going “REALLY! HOW?!” At least in one of the Queens of Renthia books the character built up, and worked up to her position. It didn’t “just-so-happen”. There are what should be deep emotional conversations that fall flat and/or feel like they’re written for a younger group. Then these violent scenes that are like whoa, was that for shock and awe, oh yes this is for young adult/adults. All in all, perhaps this book was rushed. It missed its mark for me. I don’t dislike Mayara or the other characters but I’m not connected to her. Do I want to see her again? Meh…sure? But give her some more meat please, more emotion, more depth.

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While you may think I’m a jerk and mean and all that fun stuff at this point – that’s fine – I will say I very much enjoyed the sociopath we met in previous books, Lady Garnah. She is a well-developed character who is both loathsome and likable in the strangest way. I dare say I had to root for her a few times. This character has had time to marinate and she works. She exhibits the difference between rushing a character and/or forcing their story to your will and allowing them to be who they are in the story. She was a welcome surprise and an A+ for me.

At the end of the book Durst explains that she wanted to write a book about someone growing and strengthening from love, not just pain. In her personal experience she grew a lot from her love for her husband and her family. I respect and admire her making this attempt to approach this from a different angle. That said while she didn’t completely miss the mark she kind of did because for me she tried so hard to stay on the love page that it felt like she may have deliberately avoided character and story development that leaned too much towards pain and hardship. I hope if we see Mayara again we get a full pallet of the colors of her personality and a deeper look inside.

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And it is with a heavy heart I give this book 3/5 stars. I have to be review with integrity so there it is. Sarah Beth Durst keep going, I can’t wait to read more, but this one I think IMHO needed more time in the oven especially given the deep philosophy behind what you were attempting.

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Note to myself and all authors, not every main character should be a queen.

My Review of The Honours by Tim Clare

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Info from Goodreads:

(My review to follow.)

TRUE HONOUR IS ENDLESS. JOIN US.

1935. Norfolk.

War is looming in Great Britain and the sprawling country estate of Alderberen Hall is shadowed by suspicion and paranoia. Thirteen-year-old Delphine Venner is determined to uncover the secrets of the Hall’s elite society, which has taken in her gullible mother and unstable father.

As she explores the house and discovers the secret network of hidden passages that thread through the estate, Delphine uncovers a world more dark and threatening than she ever imagined. With the help of head gamekeeper Mr Garforth, Delphine must learn the bloody lessons of war and find the soldier within herself in time to battle the deadly forces amassing in the woods . . .

The Honours is a dark, glittering and dangerously unputdownable novel which invites you to enter a thrilling and fantastical world unlike any other.

Kindle Edition, 416 pages – Published April 2nd 2015 by Canongate Books

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My Review of The Honours:

4/5 stars

This book gets a very well-earned 4/5 stars.

From the very beginning I recognized this would be a well-written book with beautiful prose. Tim Clare, I’d say, masters “show, don’t tell”. It took a little bit longer than I would have liked to get into the action, the meat of the book, but once that happened I was all in. The second half of the book seems to fly by, making it hard to put down.

I found that I wasn’t always guessing what would happen next, which is an easy thing to do when reading especially with books that are less than original. This is because I couldn’t guess, I didn’t know. The Honours is wholly original. It’s a worthy read even if you find the beginning kind of slow, keep reading, trust me you’ll be glad you did.

The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be but it wasn’t a “bad” ending, just left me with more questions. Luckily, at the time I read this I know book 2, The Ice House, is coming out in a month. I will be pre-ordering my copy soon and adding it to my Spring TBR. Some might find this to be a strange story and/or not what they expected, but it is very interesting and entertaining, to say the least. Well-worth the time spent reading it.

Considering I listen to his podcast, which is how I found this book in the first place, I must say he lives up to his hype. I wondered as I’d hear him critique people’s first pages (which was half of why I took to his podcast) if his reading really lived up to his critiques. Did he critique himself as thoroughly and did he live by his own rules? Yes folks he does. You might already know I don’t love loads of description, which would normally make this book slow to read. While it did make this a slower read in the beginning especially, it really made reading it like watching a movie for me. He does such a great job engaging the senses. This is an admirable work of art.

“Delphine woke with a start, gripped by the conviction she had missed her stop. The carriage was empty. She swung her feet tot he floor and turned to the window. Her groggy face gaped back at her. Beyond the glass, the night was rock-black. Her damp hair stuck to her cheek in strands. She shivered.

“Pulling on her duffel coat, she got to her feet and walked around the carriage. It was deathly quiet, aside from a steady ca-chuck ca-chuck. Her chest tightened. The train was heading back to the rail yard. She imagined spending the night on the cold carriage floor, Mother doubled over in tears on a deserted platform, policeman searching the tracks by electric torchlight, digging in snowbanks, the whisper of pencil lead on notebooks, her fellow passengers brought in for questioning, the finger of blame swinging sure as a compass needle towards the large man with the cigar – well, he was still with her when I left – the conductor recounting with relish the man’s sudden unprovoked aggression, his wild gesticulations and fiery eyes – like a fiend he was, sir, like a man possessed – the newspapers tattooed with lurid headlines: CIGAR-SMOKING CHILD-SNATCHER STILL AT LARGE, and Daddy, ashen, wracked with torment (at this she felt a pang of guilt), before a knock at the front door, and in she would glide to bellows of relief, to tears and a hug as tight and strong as plate armour.”

Now tell me that isn’t how your imagination works, especially when you were 12 years old? This isn’t even an eventful seen but I thought it gives you a very small taste of his writing, plus I really didn’t want to spoil anything or tell you too much about the book. It’s way more fun to discover it as you with no solid expectations or understanding of what’s to happen. And I think the name Delphine is lovely. 😉

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Have you read this? Are you going to now? Be sure to let me know when you do if you read this because of my recommendation, and if you don’t my giving my review a pingback or shout-out I would be so grateful. Don’t forget The Ice House is coming out in May, so read this in time to pick it up!

If you want to read more of my reviews CLICK HERE.

And check out my 2019 TBR as well as my Spring TBR to know what I’m reading, or at least planning too.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

My Review of Borderline (The Arcadia Project #1) by Mishell Baker

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Info from Goodreads:

(My Review of Borderline follows (from May 2018))

A year ago Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

Paperback, 390 pagesPublished March 1st 2016 by Saga Press

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My Review of Borderline (from May 2018)

4/5 stars

Disclaimer: I don’t read a lot of fantasy per se so I don’t have a whole lot to compare to. With that said I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick easy read – read it in a weekend – and I’m not a fast reader. A more character-based story if you ask me, it was relatively fast paced with short chapters (of which I’m a big fan), but not action packed.

Disclaimer 2: I am personally biased towards her use of mental illness in the story. Mishell Baker knows what she’s doing and doesn’t fuss around putting make-up on a pig. This isn’t a dark story, it’s light-hearted in a lot ways which complicates writing about mental illness as you don’t want it to be romanticized. I think she balanced this well. Might it seem too light a treatment to some people? Sure. But this is a light fantasy so what do you expect. But I respect that she chose a main protagonist who’s handicapped both mentally and physically. There are a lot of struggles she faces that ground us in a sense of reality even as we’re dealing with bad fairies and good fairies. This story was dynamic and unique. All the characters main and otherwise had personality and stood out on their own.

Sure as a story I think this is more an introduction to this system of magic, the Arcadia Project and our main protagonist so it may fall flat for those of you looking for a lot of excitement and action; it’s more mystery than action. If you want to read an interesting story about magic and mental illness than dive in.

As far as the ending goes I was satisfied but a little mixed. It kind of felt too swift. On the one hand I don’t want the conclusion to unravel super slowly but it was kind of a wham-bam action scene. Well it did unravel in terms of the information and then there’s the final scene, like I said the conclusion. And yet what more did I want? In terms of a conclusion to the “mystery” it worked, it made sense, but it wasn’t super exciting. I think there were other parts of the book that I was more interested in. However the ending didn’t discourage me from wanting to hurry up and read the next one. More than anything the book left me saying okay next, can I have the next book now please? 

So I’m giving this book 4 stars, I’d reach for 4.3 if I could. It was kind of light, nothing totally mind blowing, but I found the portrayals of mental illness to be intense. The author deserves a lot of credit and respect for doing that well. Like I said I’m going to read the next book and I will also be looking into more of Mishell Baker’s writing.

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I’ve since read all three books in this series (I don’t know if there’s more to come in the future). You can read my reviews HERE.

Want to see what else I’ve read so far in 2019? Go to my REVIEWS.

You can see what I’m currently reading and what I hope to read this year at my 2019 TBR.

My Review of Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker

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Info from Goodreads:

(My review of Phantom Pains follows.)

Four months ago, Millie left the Arcadia Project after losing her partner Teo to the lethal magic of an Unseelie fey countess. Now, on what’s meant to be a last visit to the scene of the crime, Millie and her former boss, Caryl, encounter what seems to be Teo’s tormented ghost. One problem: according to Caryl, ghosts don’t exist.

Millie has a new life, a stressful new job, and no time to get pulled back into the Project’s chaos, but she agrees to tell agents from the Project’s National Headquarters her side of the ghost story. During her visit, an agent is gruesomely murdered in a way only Caryl could have accomplished. Millie knows Caryl is innocent, but the only chance she has to save her from the Project’s severe, off-the-books justice is to uncover the mystery behind incorporeal fey known as wraiths. Why has the centuries-old Project never heard of them? And how do you fight an enemy that is only seen when it wants to be seen? Millie must answer these questions not just to save Caryl, but to foil an insidious, arcane terrorist plot that would leave two worlds in ruins.

Paperback, 406 pagesPublished March 21st 2017 by Saga Press

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My Review of Phantom Pains:

5/5 stars

Four months after the last book took place we’re back with Millie Roper, the unlikely and oh so imperfect hero from last time. While no longer working for the Arcadia Project they need her, and she needs them, to help tie up some loose ends. But loose ends they are not! Arcadia and the Arcadia Project have found themselves in turmoil and faced with a new mystery. Millie has to help her friend who’s facing exile, help her boss to keep her job, and help herself get through every day challenges. In this book we meet a whole host of new characters that stand out in a number of ways, the head of the Arcadia Project, Arcadia royalty, monsters, and more Echos!

This book was great, I have no trouble giving it five stars. I really appreciate that Mishell Baker uses short chapters, it makes for an easier read, IMHO. This story is fast-paced and full of new information about this strange world of fantasy. I’m impressed by Mrs. Baker’s imagination and her expression of it. There are some great twists and turns in this book. A very entertaining read no doubt. Pay attention because there’s a lot of details at times but interesting nonetheless.

I also appreciate Baker’s diverse cast of characters. You know she’s word painting this world with a realistic brush. It’s not often that you find a main character who suffers from mental illness, is a double-amputee, and is a woman. Baker teaches and shows us another world in a number of ways and makes it easier to get lost in the story. 

I recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of adult fantasy and diverse characters. This is not your usual cast of characters or fantasy novel so it’s a must read. If you haven’t read the first in this series, Borderline, do start there. This could be read as a stand alone, perhaps, but best playing its part in the series. I will be reading Book #3 very soon, which was published in 2018. 🙂 😀

Thanks for reading my review of Phantom Pains. As I write this I’ve already read and review the third book in this series, Impostor Syndrome. I’ll also be putting up my review of the first book Borderline, from May 2018.

And I have more Reviews!

Have you read any of this series or perhaps you plan to? Tell me what you think. Or maybe you’re a fan of fantasy or all things Fae. Whatever the case I’m game to talk. 😀

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For more of my reviews of the Arcadia Project, CLICK HERE. You might also find interesting bits of Arcadia Project news there in the future.

And don’t forget to check out my 2019 TBR, promise you’ll find something interesting to read there! Soon I’m going to put up a sort of reading schedule, let’s call it a monthly TBR so you know what to expect. Stay tuned for March plans (maybe when YOU read this they’ll be a link there for you to follow).

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My Review of Impostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project #3) by Mishell Baker

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Info From Goodreads:

(My review of Impostor Syndrome follows)

In the third book of the Nebula Award–nominated Arcadia Project series, which New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire called “exciting, inventive, and brilliantly plotted,” Millie Roper has to pull off two impossible heists—with the fate of the worlds in the balance.

Three months ago, a rift between agents in London and Los Angeles tore the Arcadia Project apart. With both fey Courts split down the middle—half supporting London, half LA—London is putting the pieces in place to quash the resistance. But due to an alarming backslide in her mental health, new LA agent Mille Roper is in no condition to fight.

When London’s opening shot is to frame Millie’s partner, Tjuan, for attempted homicide, Millie has no choice but to hide him and try to clear his name. Her investigation will take her across the pond to the heart of Arcadia at the mysterious and impenetrable White Rose palace. The key to Tjuan’s freedom—and to the success of the revolution—is locked in a vault under the fey Queen’s watchful eye. It’s up to Millie to plan and lead a heist that will shape the future of two worlds—all while pretending that she knows exactly what she’s doing…

Paperback, 480 pagesPublished March 13th 2018 by Saga Press

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My Review of Impostor Syndrome:

4.5/5 stars

This was tricky for me to rate. I really enjoyed this whole series and wonder if there will be a fourth installment. While this was a great installment it didn’t wow me the same way the second did. So I gave it five stars since you can’t leave half stars but 4.5 is what I really give it.

Mishell Baker is a great writer. Her imagination and creative direction impress me, I look forward to discovering more of her work. Hopefully we’ll see more of this cast of characters. That said, I thought this book could have been a lot shorter. As with the previous two this was a busy, active book, which makes for an entertaining read. However a lot of time was spent on relationships, too much time IMHO.

Other than that this was another fun read I could read it relatively fast, for me that’s saying a lot. It was full of the usual cast of characters in addition to some cool new ones. I enjoyed getting to know them all more. Great twists and turns and the system and workings of the magic in this world do not get old. I really appreciate the beings she’s created in this world and how they vary. Her characters are real and dynamic, human and otherwise. I appreciate that her main character, Millie, is a double amputee finding her way through Borderline Personality Disorder. She’s not a character you see every day but this story is proof that we need more real life characters. She is an unlikely hero but a good one nonetheless.

Of course I recommend this book, I recommend this series! Definitely start from the beginning. 😉 

Thanks for reading my review of Impostor Syndrome. I’ve got more reviews, click here!

For more of my reviews of the Arcadia Project, CLICK HERE. You might also find interesting bits of Arcadia Project news there in the future.

Check out what else I’m reading or planning to, 2019 TBR.

Have you read this or other Mishell Baker books? Please share your thoughts, I love comments!