Cover Image: Catherine House

Catherine House

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Member Reviews

Was there even a story in there somewhere?
Ines is accepted to Catherine House - a school or academy hidden away in the woods.  Selected students attend for three years at absolutely no cost .... with only one requirement .... they have to agree to live in isolation at Catherine House with no connection to the outside world.  The payoff is an extraordinary career.

Okay, so as a retired college instructor, the sex and excessive partying irritated me and the "You are in the house, the house is in the woods...." chant drove me nuts after the third or fourth repetition.  Plus, where is the story here??  Sorry, I just didn't get it and the story fell flat for me.
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Loved this book.The characters and the setting felt real and lived in but still with that romantic gothic influence of already feeling the bloom is fading off the rose even as you enjoy those golden days of meeting and making your own first adult friends.
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This was one of the most phenomenal books I've read all year. Catherine House is suspenseful and moody, atmospheric and twisty. It was everything I love in a book, and the fact that it features characters of color made it all the more multi-dimensional. This is what debuts are all about, and I would definitely re-read this book!
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Custom House and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Catherine House. I voluntarily chose to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

Catherine House is a school of higher learning, with rigorous coursework like the Ivy League colleges but more intensive and experimental. Deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, students of this learned institution are locked behind its gates for three years. Ines Murillo is, by all accounts, a lost soul. She barely got through her senior year in high school and finds herself in a pressure cooker environment. Will the freedom of self-expression lead Ines down a dangerous path?

For all of the deep thinking that the characters are expected to do during their time at Catherine House, readers of this novel will have a different experience. The novel can be boiled down to this: it has no purpose. The main character is unlikable, the plot thin, and the ending just puttered out. For a relatively short novel, it took me too long to read. I would not recommend Catherine House to other readers, for the reasons listed above.
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Well, it seems Catherine House is not everyone's cup of tea. I decided to take a big swig and find out where it left me. 

This book was a slow burn. A beautiful, intrepid, maniacal, slow burn. Frothing full of Gothic intents, the story spins in kaleidoscopic fashion. Always a beginning, yet never a true ending, ever. Only a change manifested synthetically again and again.  What is the point or the purpose other than reanimation? Life? Regeneration? Maybe perfection.  

Where does Ines fit in? Gotta read the book!
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Ines is running long before she is accepted into Catherine House at a teacher's recommendation.  In the house, she is offered the chance to free room and board and a stellar education for three years.  She is given a great opportunity as long as she doesn't question anything, or find out the secrets.  For me, this book really dragged out and was repetitive.  I was really disappointed with the ending and it felt like nothing was really resolved.  The scenery was intriguing and interesting, however I felt that the characters were very shallow.  Thanks for the ARC, NetGalley.
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Thank you Harper Collins for allowing me to read and review this ARC.  The following is my review as posted on Goodreads:
It’s like this...
Partying / Casual Sex / Drunk / Studying / Chanting / Casual Sex / Drunk / Studying / Secrets (not the interesting type) / Somebody Dies / Casual Sex / Drunk / Studying / More Secrets (still not interesting)
...over and over and over until the book ends. 
I feel like I just followed three years of these people in this school and nothing actually happened. 
I’m not sure how anyone can give it anything higher than two stars, and I really only gave it to because I truly wanted something good to happen to Ines once she started to change. 
Unfortunately I can’t recommend this to anybody...
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I absolutely loved this book and have been recommending far and wide. This was just the escape I needed during quarantine. I can't wait for more work from Elisabeth Thomas.
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Great debut novel and fantastic writing style.  The dreamy imagery of this book really drew me in and was the perfect feeling for adolescence  This was one of my favorites that I read this month.  I look forward to checking out more by this author once she writes them!  Also, I loved the ending.  To me, it meant, we are only prisoners because we can't get out of our own way..
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I was really fascinated by the description and design of the book and couldn’t wait to dive in. It started fine and then as I expected it to pick up it never really did. Each chapter is broken into various segments but there’s no real thread of story. The main character, Ines, just seems to meander about, listless. At times things improve but then fall flat again. There were several good threads that were started but just never finished. As I neared the end I was hoping for a good wrap up but really just never delivered. At times, Ines would have some clear mistrust and want to challenge her surroundings but they came out of the blue and fell flat also. It just didn’t make sense and mostly read like rambling thoughts.
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This is a "what if" story. Imagine a group of undergraduates sitting around commiserating about high tuition, crappy cafeteria food, uncaring professors, etc. Someone says: what if there were a college with free tuition, free rooms, fabulous free food, free condoms, coed dorms, plus all the wine you could drink? What if you had to give up all contact with the outside world and stay on campus constantly, but you could graduate in three years with a prestigious degree that would make you a success at your chosen field? Would you go? What if it was deep in the woods, behind tall, locked iron gates? What if there were some kind of mysterious dark science research going on?
When Ines first arrives, she feels safe. She's been on the run, afraid of going to prison. She doesn't intend to study seriously. She's lazy and promiscuous, spending her days and nights getting drunk and getting laid. She drags around from bed-to-bed, sometimes boys, sometimes girls, often both in the same night. It doesn't make any difference to Ines. She hates herself and thinks nothing she does will ever matter to anyone.
Catherine House is an atmospheric, darkly Gothic novel. There is a sense of overbearing dread in every chapter. Even so, there are long sections when nothing much seems to be happening. There's tremendous detail about food, about furniture, and about paintings. (I wasn't surprised to find the author was an art major.)
Elisabeth Thomas has a strong, powerful voice, but she seemed to always be building toward a conclusion that never happens. Although I was ultimately disappointed by Catherine House, I'll watch for her next book
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First of all thank you to NetGalley, the author, and publisher for the free e-copy of the book.
"Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises a future of sublime power and prestige, and that its graduates can become anything or anyone they desire."
I did not finish it--50%. I really wanted to get into this because I could not. I found at this point in the reading I could care less about what happened to the main characters. I honestly found myself feeling nothing when Baby died.
Positives: Started out fine; it hooked me into it.
Negatives: I felt like all the main characters did was drink and have sex; they were incredibly superficial and not intellectual giants or talented individuals that one would think would attend a school like this. Ines was not very interesting or seemed to care about what was happening around her, that is why I was finding it hard to believe that she would eventually uncover anything sinister. I bailed because Ines did not seem to care that her roommate, that she said she cared about, died suddenly.
Sorry, but this one is just not my cup of tea.
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Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas has a premise that usually gets me going. I love dark academia, gothic literature, boarding schools, and a mystery. I received the ARC (thanks NetGalley, HarperCollins, and Custom House) and realized that the author is a Black woman which made me even more interested in reading it. To put it simply, I’m disappointed and I’m having a hard time finding some redeeming qualities about this book here.

For starters, it’s about an emotionally bankrupt student named Ines who finds herself at this boarding school sort of place that promises excellence after three years of total isolation from outside life. Based on how Ines and her housemates behave, it immediately comes off like some sort of social experiment or introduction into a cult. None of the students give me any signs of possessing extraordinary talent or skill so it was difficult for me to understand why these students were chosen to be in a place that is regarded as gifted. In the early pages of the story, Ines tells her roommate Baby that she will be a bad roommate and I wish I took that as a warning that she would be a bad narrator.

The writing is bad by any means. It’s atmospheric to an extent, I’ve read books that were more atmospheric than this both in YA and in general fiction. It has a creepy vibe but it’s not something that is obvious. It’s a creepy vibe that I only think is creepy in retrospect but while reading, I just didn’t feel that way. 

The problem is that I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it. I’m a reader of a lot of dark academia and a lot of my favorite books of all time could be classified as such. They all have their share of debauchery, parties, sex, and horrible people but there is still more story there. With Catherine House we are introduced to this blob of a character with no personality who just sort of exists to party and skip class and have sex with random people. Some of the more descriptive moments grossed me out. I was halfway into the story and nothing was really happening. It was a chore to finish the rest of it. 

I’m sure that this book is for someone but that someone isn’t me. It seems more like a dark academia for someone who is a fan of Riverdale or another CW show which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just missed the mark for me personally.
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I was not able to download this file - I am happy to read and review if I can access a copy of the book.
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This was a weird book because I'm not sure what it wanted to be, precisely. Everything I've seen describes this as "gothic" and I don't think it is. I mean there's a house. The author tried to write the house as a sort of character in its own, but it just didn't work. At least not for me.

This was written decently for a debut. I'm not arguing that at all.

It's just so convoluted or something. It's a bunch of misfit kids, supposedly some kind of geniuses. There's this bizarre field of study, "plasm", that connects people to objects (weird, random no-reason objects) and turns them into literal plastic. I guess.

I never felt connected to the characters or the house or the atmosphere of the novel. They were supposed to be intensely studying and then graduate out into the world as major movers and shakers on all the world's platforms but I couldn't see how that was going to be possible, given the fields of studies. Especially since the school was so liberal it believed in keeping them drunk most of the time. Sanctioned drunkeness. And lots of bodily functions.

It was just. . .weird. And I guess, not for me. I hope someone eventually explains to me what I missed here. It just failed me. And I'm bewildered.

Actual rating: 3

ETA: I went back and read some reviews and I feel better now. So, it's not just me. And, I would like to say, the blurb is wrong. This is NOT gothic and it's definitely not literary suspense, whatever that is! I went in mostly blind and it's a good thing or that blurb would've thrown me. The gothic part is the cover art. This is pretty much YA sci fi Stepford Wives stuff.
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To be honest, I had a tough time finishing this book.

Catherine House is about a mysterious school where getting admission is close to impossible. You don't have to pay any fees if you do get selected, but you have no contact with the outside world for the entire time. Plus, there are weird experiments being done which are related to 'plasma', a mysterious weird substance which the school is famous for creating.

There were a lot of things that didn't work for me. I can get behind the bizarre storyline of a school which has uber talented teenagers who are completely okay with what goes on in the school - but the writing really didn't work for me. Though the writing is very ethereal and has a dream-like quality to it, the progression of the story is very disconnected. One scene changes to the next without any proper ending to the previous scene. Also, I understand that the characters are teenagers, but the way their dialogue was written was maddening to read.

I think this book did have potential to be good, but the writing didn't work for me. But it could just be me. You might like it if you like out-of-the-world storylines.
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Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas is set on the campus of an elite school where students come for three years and can't leave or communicate with anyone outside of the school for the duration of their stay. Ines has come to the school hoping to reset her life and gain focus for her future. As she becomes enveloped into the school she begins to suspect that there's a hidden layer to the school. She becomes determined to peel away this layer and get to the secrets of the school. Read and enjoy!
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I absolutely adored the writing style of this book. The long flowing paragraphs that would end in a sentence that were clipped and to the point. I went into this book with an open mind and it didn’t not disappoint. I loved the ending. It came together perfectly.
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Well-written with an interesting premise. The pacing felt a bit slow at times. Thank you very much to NetGalley and the Book Club Girls for this advanced reader's copy.
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I've heard great things about this book but I've been trying to read it off and on for six weeks and it's just not engaging me. I love the cover art but the writing is slow and boring. I got about half way thru so I do feel like I gave it a chance. It's just not the right book for me right now.
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