Catherine House

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 May 2020

Member Reviews

3 1/2 Stars

Catherine House is an odd yet compelling book that doesn’t quite live up to the promise of shocking twists and thrilling suspense, yet it still kept me reading nonetheless. I disliked all of the characters but found them intriguing, and the world building and claustrophobic setting infused the story with a sinister sense of menace which was somewhat mesmerizing despite my other issues. I will definitely be looking for future books by Elisabeth Thomas.
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I am not really sure what this book is supposed to be about. An ultra private college called Catherine House, houses a batch of incoming first year students including Ones, Theo, and Baby.  Throw in the controversial  study of Plasm and the school becomes one of secrets and suspense. There is some tension built into the story but Plasm and the concentration in the study of it is never explained well enough. The characters fall flat because the premise is not clear. The art concentration was full of description that brought it to life but the rest of the narrative was stagnant. Components did not come together as expected.

Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley
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Reading Catherine House was like wandering drunk or sleepwalking through a gothic mystery.  As seen through the eyes of Ines, Catherine House is both confounding yet intoxicating as she struggles through her classes and her interactions with classmates, professors and Viktoria, the woman in charge of them all. I’d like to thank William Morrow, Custom House and Netgalley for the ARC of this book. This is going to be an interesting choice for some of my patrons and especially our book clubs.
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I am just not sure how I am feeling about Catherine House. On one hand it was twisty and unique, but on the other I felt that it lacked plot movement. The cast of characters was interesting. I am just not sure what really happened in the story. I still have so many questions that went unanswered.
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The ideas behind this book are decent, but the execution left a lot to be desired. The character and relationship development was pretty non-existent and the world building in terms of what plasm is and how Catherine House worked was weak and under-explained, all of which meant that the climax of the book wasn't as shocking or horrifying as it should have been. I didn't really care about the characters and I didn't really understand the science/magic that was going on, so the reveal and final act just fell flat.
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Catherine House was a very enjoyable read that kept me pulled in from the get go! It begins by dropping you right in the aftermath of the middle of the action and relationships in a school term that has already begun, leaving you with immediate questions, and maybe a little of the feeling that "outsiders" not a part of Catherine House may feel! Always wanting to know more about something that becomes more mysterious as you do.  Being along for the ride with Ines at first felt along these lines too--she also felt unsure of how she ended up here, and maybe even a little unworthy, and also wanted to know more, while not letting herself get too attached or too used to the idea "in case."  It was interesting to watch how the allure of Catherine House shifted Ines, both from the inside of Ines' experience and simultaneously an outside reader of the story.  While the story at times felt overwhelming and too fast, and maybe like I had missed something, there were also times that it dragged a little for me, and made me question what the hook was going to be.  Despite this, it was a very entertaining read, and Elisabeth Thomas did a great job connecting you to the character emotionally. Excited for her next book!
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This novel is a suspenseful mystery set in an isolated, exclusive university catering to a specific group of students. The question is why these students and what exactly are they studying? The school has an amazing track record of elite graduates but just what did they have to give up to attend Catherine House? The story centers on Ines who is a somewhat reluctant and skeptical enrollee who begins to question the university's methods. She starts to work at infiltrating the chosen inner circle who are working on unraveling the mysteries of plasma, a material that is said to be at the center of everything in the world. What she discovers is quite shocking experimentation and wonders just how far will the school go to get what it wants?

This story is a SLOW burn. The descriptions of the school are utterly stunning, I could easily picture myself standing within the dark gothic grounds with the students. If this school really existed, it's exactly the type of place I would have vied to be accepted to and I bet I would have followed Ines' exact path. Partying and fun, just generally taking advantage of soaking up knowledge from those smarter than me. I'm not sure I would have had the gumption Ines did to dive head first into what might have been a very dangerous investigation. Although there weren't a ton of twists or action along the way, I enjoyed the slow peeling of the onion to figure out just what was going on. There is a payoff in the end which I spent much of the book worried that I wouldn't see, however it was a bit more of an open-ended finish than I'd like... unless there is going to be a sequel in which case the ending was just the right tease.

The story is very well written and creative. It reminded me in a lot of ways of a combo of The Ninth House with more subtle fantasy elements, Vampire Academy with the gothic setting and Pretty Little Liars with the cult-like mystery and intrigue. And come on, how great is that cover?!
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A wildly impressive debut. Emphasis on the wild part. But quietly wild, if you’ll permit such a typically incongruous combination of words. 

The book is “quietly wild” in the way that the best gothic build books are. This is indeed a slow burn (even the climax is more of a sinister simmer than an explosive denouement), but like all solid gothic, it boasts an off-the-charts sense of atmosphere and setting. 

The plot is more suspense/coming-of-age than true gothic horror (Think Donna Tartt mixed with Anna Pitoniak), but Thomas has shown in her first effort that she is a master of macabre. The eponymous Catherine House is a creepy, crumbly setting that delights and unsettles, playing heavily on anachronism and a haunting sense of place.

There are no true “haunts” here and the villains of the story are 100% human, though their experiments are not exactly real world stuff. 

Speaking of said experiments, I’m still wondering exactly what plasm is, though I don’t think this vagary particularly detracts from the narrative in the end. There are other plot points also left open-ended, though none left me feeling at all unsatisfied. 

Catherine House is a strange tale that doesn’t fit the mold exactly for fans of the gothic or thriller or suspense genres, but it employs many well-rendered elements of all three. Elisabeth Thomas can now count me as an enthusiastic fan of her work.
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Thank you NetGalley and and HarperCollins for my ARC.   I have to admit this is a rare time for me.... DNF 40.  I always try to finish every book and give it a chance.  But I just couldn't with this one.  I could not get into the story or the protagonist - Ines.   I will not give it less than 3 stars, because as with other reviews I read before deciding how to word mine - make sure I was not being unfair.... I do believe the author has a lot of potential, just not this book for me.   

Authors create stories and wonderlands and I will not give them a low rating as they have more talent than I do, but this story just did not vibe with me.  

Again I'm so sorry.  I really wanted to get into it and finish it.  I love a good thriller.
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I typically love the classic ivy school secret society story mixed up with some gothic thrill, but this fell flat.
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Full disclosure: I received an unproofed copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for possibly writing a review.

I thought Catherine House would be like Hogwarts or the Xavier Institute. It isn't. The students don't have powers. They are just regular kids with something unique about them that only the Catherine House admissions process can seem to identify. The school sounds amazing until you start to scratch the surface. Maybe it isn't as fabulous as it seems. Maybe there is a price to pay for this one-of-a-kind education. Is there something sinister afoot or is that just my imagination?

Gothic is a good description of the writing. The story haunts you. It has a dreamy feel. And while it wasn't what I expected and sometimes I wondered where the story was going, I got it in the end and was satisfied.
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I have to admit I couldn't get into this. I read the first few chapters, and then just skimmed the rest of the book.  The premise of intrigue and gothic suspense drew me in, but couldn't keep my attention
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While well written I kept waiting for this book to draw me in with the promise of gothic intrigue and mystery, instead I kept looking at where I was in the percentage and wondering if I'd read the correct description.
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A well written gothic suspense novel but all of the unlikeable characters kept me from truly investing in this novel. Just an okay (and strange) read.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for providing me with an ARC of Catherine House!
What a strange nightmare of a book! This was not what I expected at all, but I did really enjoy it. On its surface, Catherine House is a campus novel, though this college campus is unlike any other. The students spend three years on their education, never leaving, only allowed outside items from a commissary. If that sounds like's not far off. The narrator, Ines is introduced to this strange world, running from some event in her past, happy to be safe inside the walls at Catherine House, though she struggles with her studies.

It reminded me a little bit of Ninth House, in that the main character feels like an outsider to the primary culture of the school, and she's running from her past. However, it's much slower than Ninth House, and the central "mystery" is much more philosophical in nature. It also kind of reminded me of The Secret History, in the way that the school turns into a sort of cult. I really liked that even though what's going on at Catherine House is very different than your traditional campus, this book does a fantastic job describing the feeling of college culture. How you feel distant from the outside world, and how the unique facets of the place feel so special and known to only the people who live there. Small college campuses can be strange, inwardly focused places, and this book really understands that and describes it well.

I honestly did not think I was going to like this after reading the first few pages, and I thought about giving up at first, but once I was about 20% of the way through the book, I was really engaged in what was happening at the school, how the narrator was progressing through it, and what the ultimate "point" was (although I'm still trying to figure that out).

If you want to read a weird, dark, twisty tale of academia that's a little on the slower side (ignore the "suspenseful page-turner" part of the description. That's not really how I would describe this at all) that feels like you're being sucked into a nightmare, then I recommend this book.
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Title: Catherine House
Author: Elisabeth Thomas
Genre: Gothic fiction / Suspense 
My Rating: 3.5  ++


I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Catherine House ended up being something that started out delightfully engaging, then withered as time moved on. I commend the author for her vivid imagination. The plot wasn’t bad, the characters were great; merely lacking with some developmental issues. I loved how descriptive Thomas' writing was; very detailed. And there was even a part in the book I got excited. Unfortunately, nothing happened after that and I was a bit disappointed. Still this book is a decent read and why my rating it at 3 and ½ stars. 

*I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
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Catherine House lures readers in with passion, intensity, and a fire in the belly that never fades!
Having grown up in rural Pennsylvania I can relate to this nightmarish boarding school that makes many promises but delivers nothing but nightmares.
Catherine House is a 'community of minds' and what many fail to realize is there's educational smarts, streets smarts aka life of hard knocks, and there's common sense.
Which avenue you choose depends on many factors such as upbringing, education, supportive systems, finances, and dare we say experimentation/research?!
Ok, here goes the manipulation takes many forms in this one and not just upon students as this is a 'prison atmosphere.'
Our protagonist and heroine is Ines and she's restless in adulthood and this new school.
She's not prepared for the manipulation, brain washing, experimentation, and dark seeded research.
The plot takes us through the matriculation to the "coming in" segway that's built upon fear and terror.
How can one mend a circuit not an object ?
How can one manipulate between objects rather than within each object?
These are all valuable questions for which answers must be uncovered.
As the story progresses we get a feel for the writers talent in connecting one theme with another more pertinent theme involving psycho sexual mending ie. Freud style
The characters were perfectly flawed and fit well into the story line with action beyond measure.
Which brings me to substance and the resulting factors involving life and death, prisons and wards, and of course the ultimate suspended animation.
Catherine chose them all because of secrets they kept not despite them.
Keep this in mind when reading.
Some would rather heed the warning signs and take off with a fight or flight response in recovery mode while others simply want to run and never look back.
In the end, the one question remains- What makes a house a home?
How you answer depends on your ability to interpret what's put forth before you.
Catherine won't let you go...
But perhaps you may never want to leave!
A great new work that I truly enjoyed.
Thank you to Elisabeth, the pub, and NetGalley for exciting the reading senses in providing me this early ARC to devour.
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I am truly not sure how to feel about this odd but strangely compelling book. The plot is absolutely terrible, for sure: sort of a B-list horror movie meets Heathers. But the irreverent writing and abrupt and often funny jolts and turns of phrase: those kept me reading, and the whole experience reminded me of Maurice Sendak's "wild rumpus." A refreshingly unique voice, if not a well put together story.
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I don't think I'm smart enough to enjoy this book.

It reminded me of art history class - staring at priceless scribbles for hours and rolling my eyes when the professor would say "the artwork is not on the canvas, it's how it makes you feel."

Well, this book left me feeling profoundly confused, disturbed, and a little grumpy, primarily for the lack of payoff after a buildup that is stretched day in and day out over the course of three years of college. And for all of the mystery and intrigue of the cult-school vibes that I was anticipating, the meat of it was largely mundane, which was amplified even more by the most aloof, careless, nonexistent main character I've ever read. This girl just gave zero fu**s, but not in a cool way. In a frustrating way. In a, "why aren't you calling the cops", "why are you letting this happen" kinda way. This girl has literally no self-preservation. She sees some wacky, crazy, messed up things happening to her and the people around her and she just goes about her day.

There has to be a message here - one overarching premise that I'm too ignorant to understand. The book is deep - it hints at very existential, critically theoretical ideas about the self, identity, the universe. People and things are all connected, we are all just dumb little finger puppets of a singular almighty existence that we don't even know is there. And I will admit that I was transfixed for a majority of this story, because I love love LOVE weird, dystopian, culty stories reminiscent of Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. But the climax fizzled out and I didn't get the answers I needed to feel satisfied. And the ending left me wondering what the point of all of it was. 

I say these things like it's a negative thing but I find myself thinking about this book constantly after finishing, trying to put the pieces together. And that's the point of stories I guess - to linger with you. So I guess it did its job. 

Thank you to netgalley for a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I really wanted to love this book but I just couldn’t. I could not get into the surreal style of writing and I found the whole atmosphere and storyline very odd. It took way too long for anything thrilling or interesting to happen. The ending was a big let down. The premise is very cool but I just did not enjoy this book. Thank you to NetGalley and Custom House for allowing me to read and review this book. I will publish this review to my Bookstagram and companion Facebook page, @thatreadingrealtor, by tomorrow.
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