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!

Embarrassed to Read Fiction

Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone about reading. They mentioned that they don’t read much. Fine, no problem, my partner isn’t much of a reader either. I said, it’s one of those “to each their own” kind of things. When she does read she says she prefers biographies, true stories. For a moment my little anxiety brain felt a spark of embarrassment. Am I embarrassed to read fiction? We’re both adults right? She reads true stories, I read fiction. I mean, I read non-fiction too. However, I read more fiction than non-fiction. I mean if you’re a writer you have to read, so even my fiction is for my writing. But still, AM i embarrassed to read fiction? What’s that say about me?

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I shook those thoughts away and shared my thinking, not the entire split-second conversation with myself but the gist of it. In my late 20s I didn’t read fiction for about 5 years. I felt that it was a waste of time. If I’m going to be reading than I should be reading informational stuff or research or news or you know, real life. And if I’m doing anything with fiction it should be me writing my novel (I was working on a different novel/idea back then). That was my protest against reading fiction. Boy am I glad I grew up, and came out of it.

Fiction is not a children’s game. Much like acting is not for children or less serious people. We don’t chide each other for watching movies do we? Do you ridicule someone for going to see a play? Do you laugh at them when they say they have a favorite fictional show on TV? No. Okay depends, but that’s another story. My partner might not read fiction but he sure as heck watches it. Reading fiction is simply a different method of delivery.

Sure it takes a lot more time than watching it; I watched the show “You” on Netflix and will not be reading it, what for, I already watched it? That’s not a slight at anyone who reads and watches shows or movies, again, to each their own. But reading something provides you the opportunity to explore and go on an adventure with someone else inside your own mind. Yes it’s their story, their imagination but I see it like implanting their imagination into yours; they’re driving the car, taking you down their story-road. You’re still putting in work to see and digest what they’re showing you, imagining the characters, the setting, the actions. It’s you tasting their recipe and deciding if you like it. You connect with someone else’s mind behind the scenes and on your own time.

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Reading fiction also gives you perspective into a lot of ‘what’ifs’. The book Binti is science-fiction. She leaves her family and her home land, something that no one else has done, to go to a prestigious university set far away on another planet. Sarah Beth Durst’s Queens of Renthia series is set in a made up world with vicious spirits that will tear you to shreds should the queen lose control of them. Girls are chosen because of their affinity for spirits to study and train to be a possible heir to the queen should she fall. It’s a story of hope and beating the odds when you don’t think you’re as good as everyone else and yet you know that you have something to offer, even if you don’t yet know where you fit. Both stories are based around themes we experience in non-fiction life.

Sometimes stories don’t have any obvious message. If you read murder mysteries you might not get some charming message to appreciate yourself, but I bet you’ll open your eyes a little wider at night when you’re walking through a dark parking lot. But who’s to say a story has to have a life-altering message? Don’t we just like stories because they play with our imagination? Don’t we think it’s awesome that animals play? Reading is a form of play, whether you see it like that or not is up to you. But it is.

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Even though I might tell you sheepishly that the book I’m reading is a fantasy novel I will remind myself that I am not afraid to let my imagination live and play in this world. I will not harness it from interacting with the arts and entertainment of this world or the next. Of course we should have some kind of filter, there’s a lot of entertainment out there that’s not worth a fly’s spit, if that’s a thing.

Oh and by the way, I was getting my tire fixed when I told grown man at the counter that I would wait in the lobby with my book. He asked what I was reading. Huh? Oh, yeah it’s a fantasy novel. Turns out he likes fantasy. (Yes skeptics my brain goes their too, maybe he just said that to appease me the lady in front of him. Maybe. Maybe not.) He was interested in the series I was reading, Borderline by Mishell Baker. I at the time was reading book two, Phantom Pains, and I’m now reading book 3, Impostor Syndrome (which I’ll finish this weekend). You never know. Sorry to stereotype the guy behind the counter and be surprised he was interested but, isn’t that what we’re talking about? Should a grown man be embarrassed to read fiction?

My Challenge to You: Are you embarrassed to read fiction?

Next time you go somewhere, if you’re reading a physical book, bring it with you. Don’t put it in a bag, carry it in your hand or make it visible. Maybe no one will bother, go somewhere where there aren’t already loads of people reading books. Or heck if there are lots of readers, what are they reading? Maybe someone will notice your book. Or if you don’t have a physical book at the moment, get one. Engage someone you see with a physical book that looks interesting to you. Or if you’re a chatty bloke like me, refer to your book. Make a scene or story out of you and your PHYSICAL book. Have fun with it, be polite and respectful of course, but have fun. Then tell me about it. 😀 Are you embarrassed to read fiction?

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