THE BORDER KEEPER - Kerstin Hall
This is the kind of story that I love. It’s lingering, it’s mythic, and it leaves you on the edge of a conclusion. The story of traveling to the afterlife with a guide, but with such an interesting edge.
Concept: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Execution: ★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Pacing: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
The Border Keeper opens with a landscape. A tiny house lies on the horizon of a desolate, completely empty desert. There is a low fence stretching across the world behind the house—it extends beyond all eyesight in either direction, and it leaves no shadow. The border.
A man walks up to this spot on the horizon. He’s traveled beyond his means to reach this house, and he needs to speak to the being inside: the border keeper.
The border keeper has been the border keeper for all time. She’s lived many lives, traveled many realms, and holds a bone-deep power. She is what stands between the realm and the other, the afterlife. And she’s not interested in attracting company.
But the man needs to go across the border, and he’s here to petition his case.
So begins The Border Keeper. With this impressive and visually gripping opener, the author had me hooked on the plot. I love underworld/afterlife stories and renditions, and this one was so incredibly singular, and perfect for its novella size. I wanted more, but I feel like I didn’t need more—it would have cheapened the questioning nature of the world and the mysteries of the border keeper herself.
However, the pacing bothered me. When you have limited pages, each page should have a specific purpose and carefully execute each plot point with the right amount of give and take. I found certain scenes to be rushed, leaving me confused, and other scenes to be completely, utterly unnecessary.
Honestly, give this one a go. It might surprise you! And if the plot doesn’t hook you, read it for the surprising humor and stunning visuals.
GOOD GIRLS LIE - J.T. Ellison
Fast-paced, fantastic setting, and the amount of drama that you'd expect from Pretty Little Liars, this is a fun romp for fans of boarding school mystery/thrillers.
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Reveal(s): Not overly surprising, but incredibly entertaining
Enjoyment: I love boarding school mysteries, so... yes.
Nestled in a small town in Virginia, there sits a prestigious all-girls boarding school catering to the elite. Appearances and social ties are everything, and these girls are primed for success at any cost.
Enter Ash, a girl with a secret and everything left to lose.
Ash has come to the Goode School to escape her tragic recent past and remake herself in the image of a Goode girl. Goode girls are honorable, smart, and polished. Goode girls are dedicated to their studies and are guaranteed spots at Ivy League schools. Goode girls can't afford to have setbacks or secrets.
But this "perfect" boarding school is built on secrets, hazing, and lies. Nothing is what it seems, and Ash finds herself not only in danger of revealing her true past but also getting crushed by Goode's other members—who have some serious qualms about an English girl one-upping them on their home turf.
I loved this devious, back-stabbing, girls' revenge mystery/thriller story. It definitely knows its audience, and it caters to us well. There is plenty of intrigue, hidden romance, double-crossing, atmosphere, and of course murder(s).
In particular, I loved the framing of the story—we have several POVs, and certain facts that I took for facts turned out to have different conclusions. Which was sometimes a nice surprise and sometimes an easily guessed—yet entertaining—reveal. I will say that I definitely guessed the largest mystery plot point, but I still kept reading because the story itself was so entertaining.
My main reluctance to rate this higher was due to the easy to guess plot points and the pacing. At times, this felt long. It IS long, but unlike some long books that feel short, this one feels as long as it is.
Come for the drama, stay for the drama! This is definitely a worthy inclusion into the genre of boarding school mysteries. I loved it.
Thank you to Harlequin - MIRA for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.