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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-05-24 09:12
Borderline - Mishell Baker
Borderline - Mishell Baker

This is one of those books where I wavered for a long time between 3 and 4 stars. Over here, I lay out roughly why I make a decision between those and sticking to that really does make me give Borderline 3 stars rather than 4. My first clue probably should have been that I could put it to one side for a few days and not really wonder about what was going to happen next.

 

Anyway, on to the plot. Borderline is the first in an urban fantasy series but one which thankfully escapes the sexy leather-clad woman discovers her secret abilities/heritage and that the world isn't quite what everyone thinks. Well, it has the latter but our protagonist has all sorts of issues - a significant mental health issue that's ongoing through the book (and referenced in the title) and also the serious physical aftermath of a failed suicide attempt. Millie is recruited straight from her rehabilitation centre into working for the Arcadia Project, a group of humans who work as intermediaries with the fae, in Hollywood of course! 

 

It's pretty much stated early on that the kind of people that get recruited are those who won't be missed if they disappear and that the attrition rate is high, with Millie subsequently also discovering that the amount of metal she now has holding her skeleton together helps her deal with some fae magic. There's an ongoing plotline about an actor (who is secretly fae) disappearing and the idea that fae and humans are matched together - one of the things I liked about this book was the fact that when Millie meets her fae match, the circumstances mean nothing can happen and nothing does happen, rather than some kind of magical exemption for plot service purposes. 

 

Anyway, the things that annoyed me a little about the book and which mean I probably won't be reading the sequel (Phantom Pains): while I accept that it would be difficult to get across Millie's mental health issues without it, the ongoing monologue about 'I do this because of my brain doing this' got a bit wearing after a while (a.k.a. 'my ongoing issues with first person'). Likewise, I didn't really give a crap about any of the characters sufficiently to wonder about their future lives but then the author also killed off one of the more interesting characters, making me even less likely to continue with it. 

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review 2018-04-09 01:56
Borderline by Mishell Baker - My Thoughts
Borderline - Mishell Baker

I picked up this book after reading this review by KJ Charles (one of my fave authors).  I don't read everything that KJ recs, because some of it isn't my cup of tea, but many of the books she recommends I eventually pick up and try out.  I've not been disappointed yet!

So I found this book, the first in the The Arcadia Project series, fascinating for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the main character who narrates the story, Millie, is one of the most intriguing main characters I've read in a long while.  I can't say it better than KJ does in her review (so if you didn't read it, go and click the link and READ IT!).  What I can say, is that I grew to really LIKE her by the end of the book and can't wait to see what she gets up to in the next book. 

Secondly, I liked the way the two worlds/realities were treated.  Sure, we didn't see anything of the fairy realm itself, just some of the creatures and beings that inhabit it and cross over into our world. I have to hope that we see more of it and learn more of it in the next book.

So, even though I'm not a huge fan of urban fantasy/paranormal, I really did enjoy this one and will be adding the second novel to my list.

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review 2018-04-07 21:39
Review: Impostor Syndrome
Impostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project) ... Impostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project) - Mishell Baker

Book 3 of the Arcadia Project trilogy. I wasn't actually sure how many books would be in this series, but this reaches the kind of conclusion where, even if more books were added to the series, I'd still call the first three a trilogy. 

 

This book has the same excellent pacing and unreliable narrator as the previous two, but adds more locations to the mix. Both other parts of Earth and extended periods in Arcadia. There are also some new great characters and some excellent returning characters. And Caryl cannot handle any of it. Jesus, Caryl, what the fuck.

 

One of the things I love about this book is that I can't explain the story to you. In spite of the fast pace of the whole series, Baker has managed to integrate a ton of world building, and the plot in this one is constructed so deftly from those constructs that a summary would be unintelligible without having read the first two. There are heists? And high jinks? 

 

Another of the things that I love about this series is that it's heavily character driven. Even if watching the pieces of the plot come together weren't superb, I'd still be all over this series for the narrator. I'd read her narrate fucking up an Uber ride to the airport. 

 

The only thing I didn't love about this book was the interior vision quest sequence, but if Life Is Strange couldn't sell me on that concept, I doubt anyone else can.

 

A solid conclusion to a fun and interesting series. I'll be interested to see what Baker writes next.

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review 2018-01-17 00:19
Review: Borderline
Borderline (The Arcadia Project) - Mishell Baker

I'm not into Fantasy. Nor do I go for investigative mysteries. And I generally don't care much for series. So it's probably a bit of a surprise for everyone that I'd pick up a novel that has every bit of these traits. There are two reasons I did so. One, I want to venture into new reading grounds. I figured that with this wonderful cover and description, Borderline held more promise than most books in the genre. Two, as someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I take a particular interest in books that tackle the subject. Here, our protagonist, Millie, suffers from BPD. My curiosity was piqued.

As a complete novel, Borderline did not impress me as much as my four stars may imply. I didn't buy into Millie or her diagnosis. At the novel's opening, she is under psychiatric watch after a botched suicide attempt—not the kind of safeand careful suicide attempts that characterize much of a Borderline's life, but the final “I truly do not care anymore” attempt. We're to believe Millie has hit rock bottom. By the end of this novel, I would celebrate if Millie had done no more than drag herself out of bed and make her own breakfast. That would certainly be more believable. While I'd like that story, the average genre reader probably wouldn't. Instead, Millie picks up the pieces rather quickly—broken pieces, yes, but she gathers them nonetheless—and begins a journey of self-discovery and supernatural crime fighting.

Maybe this novel and the resulting series of books is really an allegory for the mental health journey. Maybe it's not expected to be realistic—it is Fantasy, after all. But I personally would've been in Millie's corner much more if she'd resembled a person living with BPD, not just a normal person who battles with BPD symptoms when it's convenient to the plot. And I think this is true of all the characters. I liked many of the characters and Baker does a fabulous job of creating a memorable and interesting cast. But these are people who are supposedly some of the craziest, yet they can function and most often do. In this story, I wanted to see paranormal detectives who struggled with the decision of “do I stop evil from infesting the world” or “do I pull the covers back over my head and hope my death is as pathetic as I am”?

Obviously, I had my personal qualms, but as far as Mystery-Fantasy hybrid series go, this was fairly entertaining. Now, I'd originally intended to read the whole series, but I just wasn't that into this first installment, so I don't think I will. It's just not my thing and there are so many other books I'd rather spend my days with. But as a non-reader of the style, I must say that while I didn't enjoy this book as it was intended, I also didn't dislike it. And strong dislike is my normal response to stories that start throwing around magical incantations and fairies and what not.

So my four star rating does not mean “Borderline was as wonderful as the last Toni Morrison novel I read.” There's no comparison. But it is meant to show that it is a pretty good novel for its style. With a little better characterization and some toning down of the action, I might've not stopped at four stars, but I don't want the reader of this review to think I'm growing too soft. If you're into Fantasy Mysteries, I think this is a great choice, but clearly I'm no expert.

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review 2017-09-28 23:40
Borderline: Urban fantasy meets an exploration of borderline personality disorder
Borderline - Mishell Baker

It is impossible for me to read, and thus review, this book without constantly thinking about my past. To keep it simple: Once upon a time I was deeply involved with someone with BPD. That person then spent a decade of their life focusing all their energy into making my own life a living hell. So yes, I'm very familiar with BPD, which meant I went into this book with quite a bit of experience, but also baggage. Because of this I could never trust Millie. At all. And I also strongly disliked her. Whenever she did something terrible she would then remind you she had BPD, which felt like disingenuous apologism to me. This technique might be effective for a lot of readers, but because I never trusted Millie it only make me dislike her more.

 

Rationally I know this is a pretty strong urban fantasy. The fey and magic were neat. There were some good ideas in here. I particularly liked Baker's description of what living with disability was like, both physical and mental. The voice was strong and distinct, and it was a quick read. The climactic scene was a muddled mess, but that felt like a stumble not a fall. It was a solid first novel.

 

Here's the thing, since I read for character, and I felt personally adversarial toward this imaginary person, I couldn't enjoy reading this book. For once I feel like it would be 100% accurate to say it's not the book it's me. If you're hunting for an urban fantasy with a fresh take, and want to read about a deeply flawed main character, maybe give this one a shot. If you have experience with the darker sides of BPD then go into this book knowing it might raise your hackles.

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