Cover Image: Catherine House

Catherine House

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Member Reviews

This novel is set at a very unusual school - post-high school but not exactly a regular college. You can tell from the start that something weird is going on, but it takes a while to find out what is really happening. Though you don't really find out precisely, it was rather confusing and I'm not sure I fully understood it. The book is definitely very atmospheric and the writing is interesting, just at the end of the day it's one of those books that feels a little hollow, like there is no "there" there as the saying goes. I definitely would like to discuss it with someone else who has read it, but not really sure I would recommend it. So all that averages out to 3 stars.
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Catherine House seems like the ideal school of higher learning deep in the woods of Pennsylvania.  The school's alumni include highly successful politicians, authors, artists and inventors.  And best of all tuition, room and board are free.  The only catch is the students must remain at the school for three straight years isolated from the outside world.  

For some students, like Ines, with a troubled past the school seems like an opportunity that is too good to be true.  And it is...The school takes on a cult like quality.  Its leader, Viktoria is mysterious and controlling.  Not all students will survive.  And what is going on in the school's laboratories reserved for only the most elite students?

I usually like books centered around boarding schools.  The setting allows for the exploration of growth and maturity in the characters.  However, I did not feel like the characters were developed in this book.  The story was often repetitive which did not allow the suspense to grow.  And the ending was lackluster and left too many storylines unfinished.
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I really enjoyed this book! I'm always drawn to stories that feature a remote school as well as a gothic atmosphere. The author builds suspense slowly, and the prose isn't flowery, which I also really enjoyed. I think this book will be popular with readers who enjoy the subtle suspense of classic gothic storiese as opposed to edge of your seat thrillers.
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Catherine House is Elizabeth Thomas’ debut novel. And I’m impressed. 

You are never given a clear path or explanation of what the characters paths consist of, nor their future. It only exists in the House and what they are a part of. The main character, Ines, is running from a dark past and yet is still never comfortable in her new academic home. She is listless, skips classes, and spends much of her time in an alcohol induced haze. It is very similar to how you feel when you are reading the book.

In short, the writing is brilliant. Elizabeth is able to weave the feelings and current state of the character, layer upon layer, and impresses upon you the same feelings. Most of the time I had no idea what was really and truly happening, where the truth was, and what it was all about. But the journey and discoveries were so apparent. 

Does it seem like I can’t really talk about this book clearly? I can’t. It’s definitely one you need to experience for yourself. It’s totally understandable if you don’t jive with this book though. I still am not sure how I fully feel about it. But if anything, you have spent some time exploring your place in this world.

I apologize for the other worldly, fluffiness of this review. You will understand if you read this book. 

You can see my video review here:
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This was a phenomenal read. Absolutely couldn't put it down. So thought provoking and full of twists and turns. An A+ addition to any shelf.
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This is a gothic, atmospheric, suspenseful debut about a group of students at an elite university. I adore books about universities or boarding schools, so this was right up my alley. The protagonist is a troubled,  isolated and poor girl who is encouraged by a teacher at her high school who was a graduate of “Catherine House”, an intense and challenging school that isolates the students to the school for a three-year degree equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. Depending on their gifts, they are separated into fields of study. The most secretive and intense, that Catherine House is most known for, is the study of “plasm”. This is a unique concept that some students are extremely competitive about studying. 
The protagonist is not the sort of student who wants to be absorbed by her studies and she struggles at times. But she perceptive and attentive to those around her. She is also skeptical of this selective program and the work being done in it. 
This book was somewhat slow at the beginning but about halfway through it I was captivated by the story and zipping through the pages. 
Well done story in the end that I really enjoyed. 
Thank you to #Netgalley and #HarperCollinsPublishers and #CustomHouse for the eARC. 
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This story follows Ines, a young woman with a past, through her time at the illustrious, mysterious, controversial Catherine House – a 3 year experimental learning program that has churned out some of the most creative, intelligent, and successful members of society. For someone like Ines, who has a troubled past, this opportunity seems too good to be true. And what do we all know about things that are too good to be true?

The usually are.

Well, it turns out that life at Catherine House is…weird. You can’t leave the grounds, there’s no outside anything (no clothes, personal effects, etc.), and on top of the usual study concentrations, they also offer a rather controversial one that has caused some rather unpleasant accusations to be lobbed at the school in years past. But they’re still keeping up with this field of study – they’re just keeping their findings much closer to the vest these days.

They also have some strange, and vaguely threatening-feeling ceremonies, in which the students are pinned (not explaining what that is – you’ll just have to read the book if you want to find out), and made to do some interesting call and reponse-type stuff.

    “You are in the house and the house is in you.”

I think that Thomas did an admirable job of creating a dark, unsettling atmosphere at Catherine House. She is a very visually descriptive writer, which really allowed me to picture the gothic, gorgeous, slightly-dilapidated but also very nice and fancy interiors of the buildings and grounds. Where this book really failed me was in the characterizations.

I found that Ines was the character that I was the least interested in. Out of all the people the reader interacts with, she comes off at first as vapid, lazy, and (stay with me here) the human embodiment of a buzzing whine – like a circular saw that is perpetually catching on a knot. I thought as the story went on I would like her better, but even as her behavior shifted somewhat, I couldn’t get on board with her. She still sort of stayed that way, but a little less so. But only a little less. By the end of it, she still had no idea who she was, what she was doing, where she was going, or anything of the sort. She was the same non-entity she started as – just a collection of one bad thing that happened to her, her shame about that bad thing, and her confusion at one person with ulterior motives saying one nice thing about her and suggesting she be enrolled in this incredibly dicey Catherine House program.

I feel like if she had shown more growth as a character, I might have felt differently about the book overall, but she didn’t, so I didn’t. With that being said, there were some really cool elements to the story, it’s just unfortunate that I felt like the main character wasn’t one of them.
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What a strange novel! Catherine House is definitely unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s odd, mysterious, confusing, and very blunt with its writing. That said, although I loved all the uniqueness and strangeness, the story and end left a lot to be desired.

Most importantly — what happened in this book? It felt like the entire story was a lot of strangeness that never came to conclusion. In simpler terms, it felt like there was no rhyme or reason as to why characters were acting the way they were; or why Catherine House was the way it was or anything. Everything/everyone seemed lost and confused, but there wasn’t a lot of connection on that — rather everyone was that way, just because, I guess.

Therefore, while I enjoyed the beginning and was eager to see how the mysteriousness of the story would unravel, after the 50% mark once I realized nothing was progressing, I started losing hope, because sometimes there are books that have so much promise but fail to execute. I feel this was one of them.
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Nothing really ever happens in this novel and I'm a little disappointed in the ending. I couldn't care about any of the characters and Ines wasn't a likable main character either. I did want to know more about the plasm and I feel like we never really got to learn the whole point behind that. This wasn't much of a thriller and I found myself a little bored. 
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced copy.
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This book had a mysterious vibe that drew me in - I love books set in boarding schools because they very rarely disappoint. In some ways, this had a Never Let Me Go feel to it (edit - apparently whoever writes the descriptions for goodreads felt the same way, haha). I loved Ines though there were times that I just wanted to shake her and tell her to get her sh*t together! Other times, I was jealous of her carefree attitude. Overall, I found myself less satisfied with the ending but I definitely enjoyed the ride to get there :)
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This was the perfect book for my reading mood - a spin on a campus novel where the institution known as Catherine House manages to be elite but also questionable, cutting off the outside world (and all technology) from the students for three years. It is moody and features a MC with a past, a mysterious layer of secret deeds, an external legacy, and art! 

I think all the pieces are here and the fragmentation in how the novel is told aligns with Ines and how she experiences the world, but it did create a bit of a barrier between her story and what I get as the reader. Still, I ate it up in two evenings.
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First time reading from this author, as well as not my usual read. However I did open my mind and ended up enjoying the book despite some slow parts.
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Catherine House is not what I expected.  I struggled to finish this book.  I continued to read, though, determined to find out the secret and to see how Ines story plays out.  Catherine House is a strange book.  A school for people with superior intellects and those who think in different ways (linear is not good enough).  The book has an unlikeable main character.  Ines’ behavior and attitude were deplorable.  There is rampant alcohol drinking, nudity and casual sex (Ines had more partners than a street walker).  Foul language is prolific as well (for brainiacs their vocabulary was lacking).  There is strange food that I wondered if the school drugged from the way the students behaved.  Some of it is odd and difficult to understand.  An example is "You are in the house and the house is in the woods. The woods are in the house. The stairs are in the house. Down the stairs is the hallway, and at the end of the hallway is the ballroom. The ballroom is in the house. You are in the house and the house is in you."  Another example from Catherine House, "Your hands are on the table. The table is in the hall, across the yard, in the house. The house is in the woods. In the woods, across the yard, in your hands, is the cup. The cup is in your hands. Your hands are in the house."   I did like the dark, Gothic atmosphere the author created.  The author is a descriptive writer that allows the reader to visualize the scenes.  However, I thought Catherine House moved along at a plodding pace.  Nothing really happened.  I expected suspense and action which never materialized.  I found Catherine House a challenge to finish.  Catherine House left me confused, disappointed and anxious for a good book.
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This was a DNF at 50%. I really wanted to love this, but I may have went into this with too high of expectations. I don’t like to DNF, especially arcs, but I just couldn’t push through this one. I’m not saying it’s a bad read because I have a couple of friends who LOVED it, but it just didn’t work for me. 

The characters didn’t seem very developed. They all seemed to have a trait that was played upon a lot, but nothing that pulled them together as a whole. The plot had an interesting set up, split into three parts. I just didn’t completely understand what was going on half the time. I really didn’t enjoy our main characters narrative. I don’t think you’re necessarily supposed to, but it was to the point that I just couldn’t keep reading. 

I’m not saying pass this one up, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins/Custom House Book for the digital review copy of this one.

Catherine House is unlike any other higher education institution. If you can get in, tutition is free, but selection criteria aren’t cut and dry, and acceptance comes with three years of isolation from the outside world. Students don’t just live on campus, they can’t leave, and they aren’t allowed many modern “necessities” like the internet. They can buy antiquated tech and personal items with credits earned throughout their tenure, but their commitment is a big one.

Ines Murillo has nothing left to go back to, so what’s a few years isolated from a life she’s been running from? She makes friends and has random hookups, but there’s always something lurking under the surface. There’s something about Catherine House that just feels strange. The further she gets into the culture, the more she wants to know the mysteries of this isolated institution, but discovery might be worse than the bliss of ignorance.

This book has many of my favorite elements. It’s basically a boarding school book. There are queer characters whose queerness isn’t their defining trait. It’s moody, and there are plenty of mysterious elements and intrigue without it being a genre title. I would call it a thriller, but it moves at a more relaxed pace than some others. I really liked that it wasn’t a break neck pace. Sure, there were things to figure out, but I didn’t feel like Thomas was just throwing one curveball after another. She really built the tension well and let the story unfold naturally rather than try to force the audience into a roller coaster.

Not sure where you are, but on the East Coast we’re expecting some serious storms the rest of the week, and this book is PERFECT for staying in on a dreary day and getting lost in this world.
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Review: ⭐️⭐️.5 stars. Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas is a unique Gothic horror/thriller/mystery/suspense novel with a dark, twisted center. The premise is interesting, albeit a tad confusing, and I did enjoy being immersed in the labyrinth of Catherine House and the grounds. That said, I found the characters to be flat and the dialogue to be a bit odd and choppy. The characters can never talk about their past as it is forbidden in the school, so it was hard to really understand any character and why they did what they did. There were a lot of moments where I found myself asking “why is this happening?”! If you are someone who can suspend all belief and just go with it, then you may enjoy it more than myself!
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Catherine House is an intriguing, gothic suspense and unlike anything I've ever read. Readers quickly learn that those accepted to Catherine House are dedicated for three years, which lent itself to the chapter structure of this title. Slowly but surely the intricate details of the school, its history and main character Ines unravel in a luscious, sophisticated way and had me more and more invested in seeing where the story took me. The atmosphere and characters may not be for everyone but goodness, it was a refreshing read and kept my curiosity from start to finish. Give this title a chance and I promise by Ines's final year, you too will be page-turning as fast as possible to see what happens.
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This is one of the most unsettling intense books I have read. Did I like it? NO! But I do not like the rock musical, Tommy, either but I have seen it several times because that unsettling story stayed with me, too. Books do not necessarily need to entertain. Sometimes they are there to disturb you, to make you think. _Catherine House_ the story of a very isolated three-year college where students break all contact with their past lives to go to school year-round really bothered me. I kept hoping that it would turn into Hogwarts, but it did not. At Catherine House, kids study hard, drink hard because the booze is provided by the school. Everything is provided by the school. No one leaves it. If they are not studying, sleeping, or drinking they are having sex. And thanks to a non-conformist student, Inez, the hidden agenda is brought forward. The ending is just as unsettling as the story. Nope, did not like it, but I’m giving it four stars, because I couldn’t put it down.
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What a brilliant twist on the "elite university" plot! When I read  the description of this book I expected it to be good, but similar to others I have read before. But with its bizarre, heady atmosphere and a strong sci-fi element, it is something completely new and unusual. I will be enthusiastically recommending this - I think it could appeal to so many readers. Looking forward to reading more from Elisabeth Thomas.
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This debut novel is very well written with a promising premise, but ultimately disappointing. I typically enjoy stories set in schools, and there is some vivid imagery and creepiness in this book, but the plot and characters were too vague and under-developed. The story seems intentionally mysterious and unclear in the beginning as we learn more about Catherine House and our narrator Ines, but I never felt connected to any of the characters or storylines. It remained too dreamy and the concept of plasm seemed to belong in another novel.
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