Review: Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Published: May 12, 2020 by Custom House

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

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.

Review: The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

Published: April 14, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Filmmaker Tessa Shepherd helped free a man she believed was wrongly imprisoned for murder. When he kills again, Tessa’s life is upended.

She’s reeling with guilt, her reputation destroyed. Worse, Tessa’s mother has unexpectedly passed away, and her sister, Margot, turns on her after tensions from their past escalate. Hounded by a bullying press, Tessa needs an escape. That’s when she learns of a strange inheritance bequeathed by her mother: a derelict and isolated estate known as Fallbrook. It seems like the perfect refuge.

A crumbling monument to a gruesome history, the mansion has been abandoned by all but two elderly sisters retained as caretakers. They are also guardians of all its mysteries. As the house starts revealing its dark secrets, Tessa must face her fears and right the wrongs of her past to save herself and her relationship with Margot. But nothing and no one at Fallbrook are what they seem.

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

I was not sure that I was going to like this one when I first started it. I liked Tessa as the narrating character but the story just didn’t grab me at first. Tessa was so real. She had flaws and had made mistakes, she was open with these things and wanted to escape from it. I like characters that feel like real people and Tessa did. This book weaves three different stories that all center on the idea of justice, family and the damage that the past can do to the present.

The first storyline is of Oliver Barlowe. Tessa did a documentary about his conviction for rape and murder. She didn’t go into the project with any particular agenda but along the way she began to believe that Oliver was innocent. And so the documentary ended up leading to a new trial where he was released. But then, a year or so later, he kidnaps and murders the daughter of the police chief. There’s no doubt he did it this time because he made a video admitting it. This throws Tessa into an unwelcome spotlight as she has to examine whether or not she was wrong the first time. And even if she wasn’t wrong about his innocence then, she can’t deny that he’s a murderer now.

Then we have the story of Tessa and her sister Margo. Something really terrible happened when they were newly college-aged that yanked Tessa out of her sister’s life. The death of their mother forces the two of them to confront that past and the reasons why neither one reached out to bridge the gap.

Finally, we have the story of the forgotten family homestead. Again it is a place where awful things have happened. Things that just about everyone would love to forget. But when Tessa runs there to hide from public pressure about Oliver, she can’t resist pressing into the history and trying to find out the truth.

At first, I wasn’t in love with the story about Fallbrook. I kept hoping we’d hear more about Oliver instead, but in the end that story won me over. It chilled me, it touched me, and then it shocked me. Similarly the story of Tessa and her sister. At first I didn’t really care and thought it didn’t belong in the book at all. But as the book went on I was drawn into the tale and it took on a much greater significance to the overall story.

I read the last 140 pages of this book in one sitting. I was so entranced by it that I simply couldn’t put it down. I loved how the three storylines ended up coming together and each one was given more gravity and significance together than it did on its own. I loved it.

Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Published: October 1, 2019 by Ace Books

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell … and Earth. 

Review: I think I fell in love with this book, and with Claire and Brevity and Hero and Leto. I feel such much emotion for all of them. Every single character is layered and deep, which is severely lacking in fiction these days. The plot was similarly complex and layered. Just when I thought the story had peaked it was raised to another level entirely.

Claire was one of the single best characters I have ever read. We are introduced to her as the surly, prickly Librarian of the Unwritten Wing of Hell. She takes no crap and expects everyone to follow commands without question. She is 100% certain that the role of Librarian is to prevent characters from rising from their novels because who knows the damage they could inflict on the world. She is steadfast, she has an iron will on this issue. But it’s not that simple. There is a heartbreaking reason why she feels this way. When it was revealed, I cried with her and for her.

Leto was a mystery when we are first introduced to him. He is a human who recently died and, for some reason, he has condemned his own soul to hell in the form of a demon. And he refuses to tell anyone why. Again, as we revealed the whole of his story, I fell in love with him too. I cried with him, I cried for him, and my heart rejoiced when he found his way.

My only minor complaint is that the story meandered quite a bit. I feel like this could have been a lot shorter but not sacrificed anything that made it wonderful. This world had so many layers and I loved exploring them.It is a very unique take on heaven, hell and all things in between. I also glanced rather uneasily at the unfinished manuscripts on my computer throughout this book, maybe I should work on those. I hope to further explore the different areas of this world in the next book, which I pre-ordered as soon as I finished this one.

New Releases Wednesday

Another week, and another list of newly released books that I am really excited to read!

 

51934838Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Published: May 12, 2020

Goodreads link

Synopsis: 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.

My thoughts: This sounds so gothic and thrilling that I can’t wait to read it. It’s not a new story, a secretive school that has a hidden agenda. This one will be all about the execution.

 

52668915._SX318_SY475_Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

Published: May 12, 2020

Goodreads link

Synopsis: When we think of fungi, we likely think of mushrooms. But mushrooms are only fruiting bodies, analogous to apples on a tree. Most fungi live out of sight, yet make up a massively diverse kingdom of organisms that supports and sustains nearly all living systems. Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel, and behave.

In Entangled Life, the brilliant young biologist Merlin Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view, providing an exhilarating change of perspective. Sheldrake’s vivid exploration takes us from yeast to psychedelics, to the fungi that range for miles underground and are the largest organisms on the planet, to those that link plants together in complex networks known as the “Wood Wide Web,” to those that infiltrate and manipulate insect bodies with devastating precision.

Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They are metabolic masters, earth makers, and key players in most of life’s processes. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms–and our relationships with them–are changing our understanding of how life works.

My thoughts: One of my Goodreads friends said this and I absolutely agree, the author sounds like a professor in Harry Potter. That makes me want to read it even more. But I am also really intrigued by the synopsis. It actually makes fungi sounds…..interesting. I want to see what its all about.