Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

CatherineHouse

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A gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, set within a secluded, elite university and following a dangerously curious, rebellious undergraduate who uncovers a shocking secret about an exclusive circle of students . . . and the dark truth beneath her school’s promise of prestige.

Read the full description on Amazon, or visit Goodreads to learn more.

I received a copy of this from NetGalley; this in no way has influenced my opinion.

So this book. I read it all in a single sitting, and I’m really still trying to gather my thoughts and opinions about it. As soon as I finished, I thought “5 stars”, no doubt. As you can see, I’ve lowered that to 3.5 stars, albeit reluctantly.

This is a story about a girl in a house. She and her peers cannot leave; they can have no connection to the outside world. They have chosen, and been chosen by, Catherine House for one reason or another. They are there to learn, and work hard, and excel in a rigorous interdisplinary education. This is dark academia at its most oblique; it is moody and mean and introspective.

I will warn that this book put me in a funk. The main character is pretty severely depressed. Her environment is completely toxic and her thoughts tend to pull her deeper into her surreal and nightmarelike state of mind. It felt extremely real, which was both the highest achievement of the novel and the biggest trigger warning. It felt especially relevant in this strange time in the world right now, where the days are bleeding together and the passage of time is marked only by when our bodies need to eat.

I’d like to talk more about the introspective tone I mentioned in the previous paragraph. In the book, one of the characters describes the main protagonist, Ines, as having a “sideways” perspective of the world, although she wasn’t particularly academically intelligent. I think that applies to the book itself, in a strange way. Ines takes us through the story in a haze of depression and drunken glee; she overlooks important things and focuses intently on insignificant details. We learn about the setting, the all-powerful Catherine House, in small bits and pieces as Ines pores over details about wallpaper or bouncy houses. No writing in this book is what you will expect it to be. There is nothing typical about the dialogue or the tone or the plot or the characters. It is strange because it seems like everything we learned felt so trivial, but when added together, the details form a more complete whole than most other books can hope to achieve. We know the characters by their quirks and mannerisms instead of the color of their eyes or where they are from.

This book feels like the strange nostalgia of dusk near the end of summer, or the unsettling emptiness of an airport early in the morning. It’s driving down a deserted road in the night or returning to a temporary home when traveling abroad. It’s not that the book described these feelings, exactly, but the emotions it made me feel were similar. It was rich and all-encompassing, a beautiful sort of sadness.

Where the book is, I’d say, nearly flawless in terms of atmosphere, it falls a bit short when it comes to the plot itself. It is a bit mysterious and strange, but quite predictable, even as someone who doesn’t read a lot of thriller-type novels. This is why the star-rating has been reduced. Honestly, I don’t mind books that are all moodiness and little plot (see also: my complete devotion to Murakami), but for the sake of this being advertised around a “dark truth”, I think it won’t quite meet some readers’ expectations.

This review ended up being several paragraphs longer than I intended, so if you made it all the way here, thank you for sticking with me. This book made me feel icky and sad, and I really loved it for that. It’s been a while since a book has made me feel so deeply, and as a reader, I don’t care how dark those feelings are.

I would highly recommend this to fans of Murakami. A few other points of comparison I can offer are The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin and (strangely enough) Fallen by Lauren Kate, with a dash of Roshani Chokshi’s beautiful prose.

Sad Happy reading 🙂

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Getting That 80% Ratio (A Stuck-Inside Challenge)

Hello, long time no see!

I hope you, your family, and friends are all staying safe. To any of those who are providing essential services right now, whether it be in the medical field or service sector, thank you. I know you’ve heard it many times but you deserve to hear it many, many more. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And to the rest of you… you better be staying inside. Six feet apart, people!

Anyway, the title of this post might make you think that these are tips on achieving the golden ratio of requested books to reviewed books on NetGalley… I’m sorry, but it’s not. I myself am sitting at a pitiful 60%.

Instead, I’m writing this as a challenge for myself. I haven’t been reading much at all lately, and even less so from my little (ha!) list of NetGalley titles. So, a challenge to myself, and all other reviewers out there, is to reach that 80%!

The bookworm’s ultimate point of sadness, and also a common excuse for reading slumps, is the “I don’t have time to read” conundrum. Whether or not this was true before, it’s definitely probably not true now.

So go log into NetGalley. Look at your shelf. You requested those books for a reason. They intrigued you for a reason!

I myself have 35 books received and 21 reviewed, which means I have to read 7 to reach that 80% mark. Easy peasy. I’m going to be tagging a few people who I will invite to participate in this little quest as well. But if any of you are sitting below 80% (or somehow, you’ve reached it), I’m sure NetGalley authors would love your participation as well!

Thank you all for reading, and good luck!

Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer

 

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Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy and A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.

And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.

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Goodreads

I received a copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Continue reading “Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer”

Days of Sugar and Spice by Loïc Clément, Illustrated by Anne Montel

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Amazon
Europe Comics
Goodreads

Rose is not a happy young woman; she is closed off and angry and she hates her job. But her life changes drastically when she inherits her father’s bakery in a small town in Brittany. Returning to a place that brought her both joy and grief forces her to confront painful memories of her past and find the courage to open her heart to a new, happier life that awaits her if she will just let it. A story about new beginnings, filled with small town charm, delicious pastries and the warmth of home and friends.

I received a copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. It is spoiler-free!

Continue reading “Days of Sugar and Spice by Loïc Clément, Illustrated by Anne Montel”