Audiobook Review: Broken People by Sam Lansky

Broken People by Sam Lansky

Published: June 9, 2020 by Hanover Square Press

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Rating:

Synopsis: A groundbreaking, incandescent debut novel about coming to grips with the past and ourselves, for fans of Sally Rooney, Hanya Yanagihara and Garth Greenwell

“He fixes everything that’s wrong with you in three days.”

This is what hooks Sam when he first overhears it at a fancy dinner party in the Hollywood hills: the story of a globe-trotting shaman who claims to perform “open-soul surgery” on emotionally damaged people. For neurotic, depressed Sam, new to Los Angeles after his life in New York imploded, the possibility of total transformation is utterly tantalizing. He’s desperate for something to believe in, and the shaman—who promises ancient rituals, plant medicine and encounters with the divine—seems convincing, enough for Sam to sign up for a weekend under his care.

But are the great spirits the shaman says he’s summoning real at all? Or are the ghosts in Sam’s memory more powerful than any magic?

At turns tender and acid, funny and wise, Broken People is a journey into the nature of truth and fiction—a story of discovering hope amid cynicism, intimacy within chaos and peace in our own skin.

Review: I gave up on this book about halfway through. It was just boring. It wasn’t so awful that I felt I needed to give it one star, and the writing was somewhat competent, but it was really pointless. Another point that hindered this book is that it read like a poorly disguised memoir and the audiobook was voiced by the author. It was monotone and came across as whiny.

The first 20% of this audiobook was about the main character, Sam, whining to his friends. And his friends whining back at him. Seriously, we spent (what felt like) hours hearing his friends drone on and on about their pointless lives. Brand name clothes they bought, disappointing lovers they had, drugs they did recently, bad parties they attended, and on and on. At one point I forgot to put it on pause and walked away for 20 minutes and when I returned had no idea that I’d missed anything because we were STILL WHINING when I got back.

I thought things would pick up once we got to the shaman. That was mildly more interesting until Sam has a conversation with his friend about whether it’s a moral problem to see a white shaman who was using rituals inspired by indigenous people. And his friend replies (not an exact quote but close), “Well yeah, probably, but capitalist worshippers are screwing over everyone anyway so whatever.”

It was just so asinine. Nothing actually happens. Then I realized what happened when I read a few other reviews. Sam wrote a memoir, by all accounts a profound one. He approaches his editor (this is real life Sam, not character Sam) and says he wants to write a memoir. His editor replies, “Sam, buddy, memoir sequels are not really a thing. So that’s a no.” So Sam went home and wrote this memoir and then called it fiction.

In the end this was nothing more than a young white male whining about the endless privileges he enjoys. It was boring. I didn’t want to read an entire book about Sam’s self loathing and woes about being a prep school graduate who would consider a dusty condo in the middle of Manhattan to be slumming.

Review: The Good Stranger by Dete Meserve

The Good Stranger by Dete Meserve

Published: May 19, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing

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Synopsis: From the bestselling author of Good Sam—now a Netflix feature film—comes another Kate Bradley story about the nature of generosity and finding unexpected connections with strangers.

TV reporter Kate Bradley arrives in Manhattan ready to take on a challenging new position as a national news correspondent. When a massive power outage plunges New York City into darkness, the disaster she expected to cover takes an unexpected turn. Someone is leaving thousands of mysterious gifts throughout the city, and the only clue to the giver’s identity is the occasional note from “A Stranger.”

Together with handsome TV series host Scott Jameson, Kate must make sense of these random generous acts, which quickly escalate in scale and capture the attention of viewers across the country. In early-morning stakeouts and late-night surveillance, they crisscross the city hunting down leads, but the elusive Stranger is always one step ahead.

Menacing letters and videos addressed to Kate threaten to derail the investigation, but she’s determined to uncover the identity of the benefactor. The closer Kate gets to the truth, the more clearly she sees that even the smallest act of generosity can bring about powerful change. And it just may take her own selfless act of kindness to solve the feel-good mystery of the year.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing!***

I am not sure just what I expected when I got this book to read. Obviously I had heard of the book Good Sam, but I have not read it. Readig the synopsis for both books they seem pretty similar to be honest. In the end I liked this one fine, but it didn’t blow me away.

I had a bit of a problem with just how naive Kate was throughout the book. Granted, she had just moved to New York City and it can take some adjusting to become accustomed to the flavor of a new city. But she had been a crime reporter for years in Los Angeles, surely that should have jaded her a little bit with regard to human nature right? Instead, she is surprised when people in the street largely ignore her. Seemed constantly surprised that the news station seemed more interested with stories on crimes and politics than on people doing nice things for each other. And she steadfastly refused to believe that all the good deeds had some kind of ulterior motive. It didn’t seem very realistic to me, it’s not like she was a sheltered small town girl or something here. Her father is a senator, she was raised around the absolute bottom of the filth pit with regard to humanity, and she used to live in Hollywood…the neighbor of politicians in the bottom of the filth pit. It was kind of annoying.

At a certain point I also felt like the story got repetitive. Good things happen, Kate and Scott try to find a lead to the source of it, they fail, they argue about why the station shouldn’t kill the story, and repeat. I also felt like the vaguely threatening messages Kate kept getting of “Stop looking for these people!” was not needed. It ended up leading her to the people that the individual was trying to warn her to stay away from in the first place. Talk about a fail.

The story was sweet and nice. The romance was sweet and nice. And at the end of the day it was a feel good story and not much more. I’m okay with that.

New Releases Wednesday

Dare to Speak by Suzanne Nossel

Published: July 28th, 2020 by Harper Collins

Goodreads

Synopsis: A vital, necessary playbook for navigating and defending free speech today by the CEO of PEN America, Dare To Speak provides a pathway for promoting free expression while also cultivating a more inclusive public culture.

Online trolls and fascist chat groups. Controversies over campus lectures. Cancel culture versus censorship. The daily hazards and debates surrounding free speech dominate headlines and fuel social media storms. In an era where one tweet can launch–or end–your career, and where free speech is often invoked as a principle but rarely understood, learning to maneuver the fast-changing, treacherous landscape of public discourse has never been more urgent.

In Dare To Speak, Suzanne Nossel, a leading voice in support of free expression, delivers a vital, necessary guide to maintaining democratic debate that is open, free-wheeling but at the same time respectful of the rich diversity of backgrounds and opinions in a changing country. Centered on practical principles, Nossel’s primer equips readers with the tools needed to speak one’s mind in today’s diverse, digitized, and highly-divided society without resorting to curbs on free expression.

At a time when free speech is often pitted against other progressive axioms–namely diversity and equality–Dare To Speak presents a clear-eyed argument that the drive to create a more inclusive society need not, and must not, compromise robust protections for free speech. Nossel provides concrete guidance on how to reconcile these two sets of core values within universities, on social media, and in daily life. She advises readers how to:

Use language conscientiously without self-censoring ideas;Defend the right to express unpopular views; And protest without silencing speech.Nossel warns against the increasingly fashionable embrace of expanded government and corporate controls over speech, warning that such strictures can reinforce the marginalization of lesser-heard voices. She argues that creating an open market of ideas demands aggressive steps to remedy exclusion and ensure equal participation.

Replete with insightful arguments, colorful examples, and salient advice, Dare To Speak brings much-needed clarity and guidance to this pressing–and often misunderstood–debate.

My Thoughts: Anyone who knows me in person knows that I am an absolute Libertarian on almost everything, including speech. I am an absolutist when it comes to free speech. In my neighborhood I am that weirdo person advocating for why hate speech should be allowed, why I should be able to have a grenade launcher, legalizing all drugs, and legalizing prostitution too. Yep, that’s me. So I am interested in this “guidebook” to free speech.

The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell

Published: July 28, 2020 by St Martin’s Press

Goodreads

Synopsis: Tabitha Girard had her heart broken years ago by Connor Ford. He was preppy and handsome. She was a pool girl at his country club. Their affair should have been a summer fling. But it meant everything to Tabitha.

Years later, Connor comes back into Tabitha’s life—older, richer, and desperately unhappy. He married for money, a wealthy, neurotic, controlling woman whom he never loved. He has always loved Tabitha.

When Connor’s wife Nina takes her own life, he’s free. He can finally be with Tabitha. Nina’s home, Windswept, can be theirs. It seems to be a perfect ending to a fairy tale romance that began so many years ago. But then, Tabitha finds a diary. “I’m writing this to raise an alarm in the event of my untimely death,” it begins. “If I die unexpectedly, it was foul play, and Connor was behind it. Connor—and her.”

Who is Connor Ford? Why did he marry Nina? Is Tabitha his true love, or a convenient affair? As the police investigate Nina’s death, is she a convenient suspect?

As Tabitha is drawn deeper into the dark glamour of a life she is ill-prepared for, it becomes clear to her that what a wife knows can kill her. 

My Thoughts: I know what you’re thinking. “Stefani, it’s another of those lackluster domestic thrillers with a great cover, how many of those have to disappoint before you don’t pick it up!?” I know. Really I do. And you’re right. But I am addicted. I cannot say no.

Audiobook Review: His & Hers by Alice Feeney

His & Hers by Alice Fenney

Published: July 28, 2020 by Macmillan Audio

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Synopsis: There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She’s worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC’s lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she’ll do almost anything to keep it.

When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown–the sleepy countryside village where she grew up–Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can’t leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn’t just covering the story, she’s at the heart of it.

DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he’d end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation.

One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn’t telling the truth. Alternating between Anna’s and Jack’s points of view, His & Hers is a fast-paced, complex, and dark puzzle that will keep listeners guessing until the very end.

Review: ***I received a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Audio!!***

This audiobook was just another in a long line of underwhelming thrillers for me this year. It had a lot of promise but it was just never realized. At least the audio of it was well done otherwise I probably would have stopped halfway through.

Both narrators did a wonderful job. I thoroughly enjoyed their reading and felt that they did the book as much justice as they could. I have no problem with anything related to the audio. The problem this book had was a plot problem and a disappointing twist.

So the synopsis lays out that Jack becomes a suspect in his own investigation. Unfortunately for everyone that didn’t actually happen until about 80% of the way through. Anna was also supposed to be a suspect, but that comes up very late in the story too. The lead up to the finale was alright. There was nothing earth shattering about it but nothing overtly bad either. I found the characters lack luster and I had a hard time connecting with any of them.

The ending of this book is where the wheels really fall off. The entire last two hours of the audiobook were an equivalent of a ping pong match. Ten minutes on giving us reason to suspect Jack, then explaining that and giving us reason to suspect Ann, then switching to Priya, then switching to Kathleen, then back to Jack, then back to Priya. And then at the end it’s a whole chapter of the killer breaking the 4th wall to explain to us (the readers) who they are and why they did it. It didn’t work for me. It was such a bizarre explanation that I just kind of sat there listening to it with a very puzzled expression before exclaiming “WTF, that doesn’t even make sense!”

Review: Anomaly by K.A. Emmons

Anomaly by K.A. Emmons

Published: April 7, 2020

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Synopsis: 14-year-old Ion Jacobs just wants to belong to a family and feel normal. But his past is a mystery, his future is a question, and his whole life is about to change.

Tossed from one foster home to another and shadowed by his mysterious past, Ion fears he’ll never fit in — until one day, when he drops a pencil and instead of falling to the floor…it floats.

Shocked and bewildered, Ion searches deeper and discovers an undeniable truth about himself: he possesses extraordinary powers beyond his control. Healing injuries, levitating objects, and superhuman strength come as easy to him as breathing. Now Ion only has one goal: make sure no one finds out what he’s capable of.

Struggling to keep his newfound abilities a secret, Ion finds himself more isolated than ever — until he meets a mysterious stranger in the woods who seems to understand Ion better than anyone else. As tensions rise at home with his new foster family, Ion finds it harder and harder to control his powers. And when he accidentally sparks a fire that nearly destroys their home, Ion is forced to face the reality of his situation: not only is he capable of healing — he’s also capable of fatal destruction.

Anomaly is the gripping paranormal prequel to The Blood Race series by K.A. Emmons.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and K.A. Emmons!!***

This was an enjoyable litte novella. It introduced me to the world of Ion quite well. I assume that the first book in the series picks up where this left off, with Ion trying to figure out his powers. It was nice to get a sense of the things he is able to do. Obviously he can control things with his thoughts. But it isn’t fleshed out to a great extent since I assume that is the plot of the first book.

Ion was an enjoyable narrator. He felt genuine as a 14 year old boy who has spent his entire life in the foster care system. His anger and despair at being abandoned by his parents and then shuffled from home to home was poignant. I feel like this series was written for a middle grade, early high school audience and I think that’s the right audience for it. At an age when bullying and despair at not fitting in are common, Ion would be a relatable companion.

While this novella doesn’t get too deep into the world or the characters it did interest me enough to want to check out the series. So, it did just what it was intended to do.

Take My Money! Sunday

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Expected publication: January 2021 by One World

Goodreads

Synopsis: A whipsmart debut about three women–transgender and cisgender–whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

Why I’m Excited: It’s not often that I come across a book that sounds so utterly unique. This is that book and it made me HAVE to read it. It sounds emotionally riveting and one of a kind.

Where Madness Lies by Silvia True

Expected publication: January 29, 2021 by John Hunt Publishing

Goodreads

Synopsis: Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.

USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby.

Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.

This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations.

With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.

Why I’m Excited: World War II historical fiction is having a moment, much of coming across almost exactly the same storylines in the process. But this one sounds different. This is examining two women, separated by time but not by circumstance. I am further intrigued that this is based on a story from the author’s family history. I am sure that will make it an emotional story.

Review: God is Dead, Long Live the Gods by Gus diZerega

God is Dead, Long Live the Gods by Gus diZerega

Published: June 8, 2020 by Llewellyn Publications

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Rating:

Synopsis: God is Dead, Long Live the Gods shows how polytheism–unlike monotheism–fits with the revolutionary ideas found in quantum physics, biology, and ecology. Beginning with the Enlightenment and the roots of what we now know as science, Western thought has generally turned away from religious belief. But what if the incompatibility of science and religion only applies to monotheism?

Gus diZerega explores contemporary science to show why consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality, why the universe is alive at all levels, and why polytheistic experiences are as varied as the enormous array of life forms that enrich our world. This fascinating work develops a bold new vision for polytheism’s evolving role in our society and in our individual and collective spiritual experiences.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Llewellyn Publications!***

I found this book utterly fascinating. I was not quite sure what to expect when I picked it up, but as a long time practicing polytheist I was interested in what the author had to say. The message was insightful, logical and very respectful. Sometimes books like this can come across as demonizing or ridiculing faiths that are traditionally considered monotheistic. But I didn’t get that vibe from this one at all.

The research that the author did on this was immense. Literally every paragraph has some quotation from a scholarly source. He looks at the vicious debates that Christianity has had with itself over its 2,000 year history as well as similar vicious theology debates that have happened in Islam and Judaism also. But rather than come to the conclusion that this means the faith is inherently flawed (as other authors have) diZerega instead focused on the why those theological debates are happening. They happen because of a logical fallacy in the theology, so in an effort to “close the gap” a new branch of the religion is formed on a similar but often very different theology. Leading to an entirely different idea of God.

At the end of the day, diZerega came away with a conclusion similar to the one that led me to polytheism all those years ago….religion is inherently polytheistic, even if it doesn’t recognize that fact itself. That no religion is inherently right or wrong, good or evil. He comes away with a vicious respect for the right to religious freedom and details a long history of religious totalitarianism from all branches of religion over human history. Acknowledging that when that control over faith is removed all of these theology debates crop up, which turns out to be a beautiful thing.

Ultimately all humans are looking for answers to how the universe works and the path that we take to get those answers is different for everyone. But ultimately we all might be a little happier if we recognize that following the logic is easier than living with the cognitive dissonance required by monotheism. I think this one will be making a space in my permanent library.

Review: What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs

Published: May 15, 2020 by Thomas & Mercer

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Synopsis: Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

Review: ***Disclaimer*** I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer!!***

I could not get enough of this book. It was similar to seeing a horrifying car crash on the side of the highway. You know that you don’t want to look. You don’t want to see the potentially mangled bodies or the severed head rolling down the shoulder. But you have to be sure that those things aren’t there too. You have to keep looking.

That comparison got rather dark, not nearly as dark as this book though. But this book in a less gruesome way. This was a psychological kind of dark. And just about every page had me sitting on the edge of my seat wondering what secrets I would discover next.

This is a story of a mother and daughter. Both of them have secrets. Both of them have a boatload of resentment and anger. And the two of them are trapped in a house together, punishing each other for their respective secrets and past history.

I really loved this book. I can’t really say too much more about it without giving anything away. This book is deep and layered. The title has layers and nuances. The layers have layers. Just read it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

New Releases Wednesday

Clean: The New Science of Skin by James Hamblin

Published: July 21, 2020 by Riverhead Books

Goodreads

Synopsis: The author of the popular Atlantic articles “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus” and “I Quit Showering, and Life Continued” explains the surprising and unintended effects of our hygiene practices in this informative and entertaining introduction to the new science of skin microbes and probiotics.

Keeping skin healthy is a booming industry, and yet it seems like almost no one agrees on what actually works. Confusing messages from health authorities and ineffective treatments have left many people desperate for reliable solutions. An enormous alternative industry is filling the void, selling products that are often of questionable safety and totally unknown effectiveness.

In Clean, doctor and journalist James Hamblin explores how we got here, examining the science and culture of how we care for our skin today. He talks to dermatologists, microbiologists, allergists, immunologists, aestheticians, bar-soap enthusiasts, venture capitalists, Amish people, theologians, and straight-up scam artists, trying to figure out what it really means to be clean. He even experiments with giving up showers entirely, and discovers that he is not alone.

Along the way he realizes that most of our standards of cleanliness are less related to health than most people think. A major part of the picture has been missing: a little-known ecosystem known as the skin microbiome–the trillions of microbes that live on our skin and in our pores. These microbes are not dangerous; they’re more like an outer layer of skin that no one knew we had, and they influence everything from acne, eczema, and dry skin to how we smell. The new goal of skin care will be to cultivate a healthy biome–and to embrace the meaning of “clean” in the natural sense. This can mean doing much less, saving time, money, energy, water, and plastic bottles in the process.

Lucid, accessible, and deeply researched, Clean explores the ongoing, radical change in the way we think about our skin, introducing readers to the emerging science that will be at the forefront of health and wellness conversations in coming years.

My Thoughts: As a bar-soap enthusiast I am really fascinated by this book. I have also been thinking that we may have done ourselves a disservice as a society by our determination to be “clean” and “germ free”. It’s an interesting take and I will be reading this book.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Published: July 21, 2020 by ACE

Goodreads

Synopsis: A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.

My Thoughts: I ❤ dark fantasy. I ❤ stories about witches. A young woman rebelling against a conservative religious upbringing into witchcraft (vaguely reminiscent of my own journey). Yes, please! This sounds so creepy and wonderful. I am looking forward to it immensely.

Review: Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Published: May 12, 2020 by Custom House

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Rating:

Synopsis: A seductive, gothic-infused tale of literary suspense — the debut of a spectacular new voice — about a dangerously curious young undergraduate whose rebelliousness leads her to discover a shocking secret involving an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.

You are in the house and the house is in the woods.
You are in the house and the house is in you . . .

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 its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.

For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

Review: This is another book that I was so torn about that I had no idea how to rate or review it. I found that I really loved the story but I can certainly see its flaws. I have seen five star reviews and one star reviews and frankly I agree with the points of both of them, so that means that I feel a three star rating is probably the most accurate.

Ines was a good narrator for this book, to an extent. Her rebellious nature made her a good conduit to see through some of the mystery shrouding the school. But it also meant that she was erratic as a narrator. Occasionally she would be trying to pry open mysteries and then the rest of the time she was getting blackout drunk and having random sex with people she couldn’t remember in the morning.

I found the school, and the mystery surrounding it, very interesting as well. The staff of the school. The students. And the journey of those students from their first year to their third year. That was all fantastic and drew me into the story.

The ending was okay. I saw it coming a mile off but it was well written and so I didn’t mind too much. But it wasn’t great either. What sold me on it was the last few lines of the book. It threw me for a loop with the possibilities that would never be realized. Had everything gone according to plan? Was the gig up? What was going to happen when that door opened? I’ll never know! That expectation sold me on the ending entirely.

At the end I was left with a book that I thoroughly enjoyed but I recognize all the reasons I should not have liked it. It’s a conundrum. I just can’t deny that I enjoyed it immensely.