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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 2016-10-07 23:40
Review: Borderline
Borderline - Mishell Baker

I'm not a big fan of fairies. Yeah, yeah, they can't lie but are super good at not being honest. They're oh so pretty. They have courts. They don't like iron. There are rules.


What the fuck ever. 


This book isn't so much an exception as that it doesn't matter. Because this book is all about the protagonist and her ongoing attempts to keep her shit together while navigating vague rules nobody seems to follow. And I love how dark her sense of humor is.


The first quarter feels a bit wonky. There are too many instances of her finding out about a rule because she broke it, or after the fact exposition where someone explains what she's seen. And at some point, I'm just like - isn't this supposed to be her job?


This book starts with an interview and moves into a probation period, but never bothers to put her through any sort of orientation. Or provides her with any sort of structure. In a home filled with people who all have mental illnesses? There's no structure? No support mechanisms? The after the fact explanation when things finally turn to shit is that the case she's working is so important that they skipped that stuff. Um, maybe don't put the most important case ever into the hands of the new employee who hasn't had any training? Maybe? And it's not like there is actually all that much for her to do the first few days, when they only have a few leads.


Whatever, soon she knows enough that I don't have to keep getting fairy info dumps. 


The thing that works much better is when she stops to explain borderline personality disorder. I expected that to be as tedious as the worldbuilding, but it actually feels in character for her to stop and mentally review what she's experiencing and how she's reacting to it. Like her rational mind has this as a coping mechanism - to stop and assess. And it's pretty great.


Very interested in reading the next one of these.

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review 2016-04-17 19:43
Borderline (Arcadia Project Trilogy #1) by Mishell Baker
Borderline - Mishell Baker

Millie doesn't have much of her inheritance money left and with few prospects, life is a little bleak.  A year ago, Mille was a student at UCLA having made her directorial debut and things were great but now, after trying to commit suicide by jumping off a seven story building, Millie is a double amputee and is struggling to deal with her borderline personality disorder.

When Millie is offered a job with the Arcadia project, though she is skeptical, she jumps at the chance to get out of the hospital and possibly rebuild her life.  What she doesn't realise is that it's going to introduce her to world that she had no idea existed.  Hollywood has always been a magical please to many but what people don't realise is that the magic isn't an illusion, it just comes from a different world.

All artists are talented because they either have a muse or are warlocks.  The greatest films, books or paintings could not have been created without the help of a fae muse.  This puts a new spin on how the media works.  Having adopted the human customs of ranks, only those who are considered royalty are allowed to travel to earth.  This means that every step of creation whether mystical or human, there is a gatekeeper in place.

I must admit that I was attracted to Boderline because of the fact that the protagonist is disabled. Disability is often erased in urban fantasy and when it does appear, more often than not, the character is either a side character or disabled in name only.  I am happy to report this is very much not the case with Borderline.  Millie's BPD affects every facet of her life and she is often forced to come up with coping mechanisms to deal with everyday situations.

"One of the fun bits about BPD is a phenomenon shrinks like to call “splitting.” When under stress, Borderlines forget the existence of gray. Life is a beautiful miracle, or a cesspool of despair. The film you’re making is a Best Picture candidate, or it’s garbage. People are either saints, or they’re scheming to destroy you."

Due to the conditions of her residency, Millie is forced to do without her medications and deals with it by talking herself down from extreme situations and employing the tools that she learned in therapy. This doesn't mean that she can always control it, as evidenced when she beat Teo with her cane for rejecting her sexual advances but it does mean at times she actively puts her "rational brain" in control, aware that she is not perceiving the situation correctly.

Millie is also hyper aware of the way in which the world views her.

As wrong as it is, people in wheelchairs don't get treated normally by strangers. People see the chair first and wrestle with their discomfort, then their guilt over their discomfort.  Sometimes they cover for it with extra-friendly smiles; sometimes they look sympathetic; mostly they just avert their eyes for fear of being rude. 

Sometimes how the public views Millie, is enough for that to factor into which disability device she chooses to use on a particular day.  She wears makeup to cover her scars and tries to blend though she knows that there will always be something different about her now. As much as her disability makes her different from the able bodied population, it also grants her a great deal of protection when dealing with the fae.  Because so much of her body is made up of iron, it means that she cancels out fae magic, making her that much harder to kill.  I very much appreciate that Baker wrote the story this way, rather than falling prey to the supercrip trope which too often appears in media.  Daredevil anyone?

As much as she is clearly skilled at investigation, when things start to a little rocky for Millie, she learns that she will be released from the Arcadia Project without any consequences.  Part of the reason that the project chooses people with no ties and disabilities is because society is less likely to view their testimony as reliable. If Millie, with her history of mental illness, were to try to go to the media and let the world know about the fae and the roll they play in the world's artistic endeavors, she would be quickly dismissed.

I know I've said so many good things about Borderline thus, but wait, there's even more.  Baker did a really good job of not only including characters with various disabilities, Borderline is also very racially inclusive. Millie is very aware of her whiteness and the privilege and how easily it is to internalize racism.

"Billy's had a 'Help Wanted' sign in the window of the market since Lela got herself in trouble," my grandfather said.  In trouble meant single and pregnant, but I had no idea who Lela was. "how old are you now he asked?"
Bill'd be tickled to have you show up.  No one's come about the job so far but schoolkids and Negroes."
I stood there with the phone in my hand for a minute.  Hearing casual bigotry from my flesh and blood was like turning over a rock in my yard and finding a swarm of white larvae. I felt filthy; I wondered how badly those mind-maggots had been gnawing away at my own thought of Tjuan, Ellis and Inaya. 

Throughout most of the book, Millie is actively questioning whether her responses to a person are based in their race or who they actually are. When she determines that she has done something racist, Millie is quick to check herself.



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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2016/04/borderline-arcadia-project-trilogy-1-by.html
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