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House of Secrets Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Apr 23 2013

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 23 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062192469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062192462
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.8 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #214,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“A breakneck, jam-packed roller coaster of an adventure about the secret power of books, HOUSE OF SECRETS comes complete with three resourceful sibling heroes, a seriously creepy villainess, and barrel loads of fantasy and fear.” (J.K. Rowling)

“A swift-paced…clever page-turner for any reader who has wanted to take part in literary adventures … This story is compelling, great fun, and sure to be popular.” (ALA Booklist)

“The young Walkers are plucky, quick thinkers whom readers will grow to love. With a new adventure that seems to arrive with every chapter, the story unfolds quickly, thus keeping kids hooked and wanting to find out what will happen next.” (School Library Journal)

“The story is an engrossing page-turner with a parade of near-escapes, hilarious mishaps, and courageous face-offs with terrifying villains. The nonstop action will keep readers on the edge of their seats” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

From the Back Cover

Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia Walker once had everything: two loving parents, a beautiful house in San Francisco, and all the portable electronic devices they could want. But everything changed when Dr. Walker lost his job in the wake of a mysterious incident. Now in dire straits, the family must relocate to an old Victorian house that used to be the home of occult novelist Denver Kristoff—a house that feels simultaneously creepy and too good to be true.

By the time the Walkers realize that one of their neighbors has sinister plans for them, they're banished to a primeval forest way off the grid. Their parents? Gone. Their friends? A world away. And they aren't alone. Bloodthirsty medieval warriors patrol the woods around them, supernatural pirates roam the neighboring seas, and a power-hungry queen rules the land. To survive, the siblings will have to be braver than they ever thought possible—and fight against their darkest impulses. The key may lie in their own connection to the secret Kristoff legacy. But as they unravel that legacy, they'll discover it's not just their family that's in danger . . . it's the entire world.

From master storytellers Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini comes this wildly imagi-native fantasy about a family's journey to find its way home.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The "House of Secrets" is a superb fantasy that plays on the magical qualities of reading books and will entice readers of all ages, not only those who are pre-teens. Distinguished film director and screenplay writer Chris Columbus and acclaimed Young Adult author Ned Vizzini have crafted a veritable rollercoaster of ride, chronicling the misfortunes of the young Walker family - brother Brendan and sisters Eleanor and Cordelia - as they stumble into a fantasy realm inhabited by the fictional worlds created by the mad late Victorian novelist Denver Kristoff, who reminds me of a deranged version of H. P. Lovecraft blended with Edgar Rice Burroughs. Their misfortune begins almost as soon as they move into Kristoff's old San Francisco home, and encounter their next door neighbor, the mysterious Dahlia Kristoff, Denver's sinister spinster daughter, who emerges as a villainess worthy of comparison with C. S. Lewis' White Witch in his "Narnia" fantasy novels. Assuming her diabolical alter ego, the Wind Witch, Dahlia sends them into a strange fantasy realm replete with World War I pilots, savage Medieval European warriors and pirates, directing them to find a mysterious book, The Book of Doom and Desire, capable of conjuring magical spells and honoring the wishes of anyone who dares to read it. The "House of Secrets" should enchant anyone who has had a love affair with reading, and, to their credit, Columbus and Vizzini have their characters mention frequently, everything from J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" to the fiction of Jerzy Kosinski. It will also entice anyone who is familiar with J. K.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
In "House of Secrets," by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini, we are introduced to the Walker family, including 15-year-old Cordelia, 12-year-old Brendan, and 8-year-old Eleanor, along with their parents (who don't figure much in this story). Something bad happened in the recent past, such that Dr. Walker has lost his job and the family must find a very inexpensive place to live where they can regroup. They are amazed to find a very large, but incredibly affordable house in Sea Cliff, one of the most exclusive areas of San Francisco, and of course they leap at the chance. But the house is not what it seems, and soon the parents are gone, and the house with children inside is transported to.... Well, you'll have to read the book to find out. Suffice to say there are many adventures and adversaries, and it's up to the Walker children to use their individual strengths (and weaknesses) to overcome nearly overwhelming odds. This is apparently the first book in a series, and it's quite a lot of fun - somewhat long for a children's book (almost 500 pages, divided into a whopping 77 chapters, plus an Epilogue), but engaging throughout. The three siblings and the good characters they meet are nicely fleshed out, and the villains are all quite cinematic - not surprising as Chris Columbus is a film director, known for a couple of the "Harry Potter" films among many others. I'm not sure how far out of my way I'll go to find the next book in the series, but I enjoyed reading this one. No great revelations here, but fun, so a mild recommendation from me.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have difficulty finishing the book. I find it too juvenile. I still have not finished it. Wont recommend it to adult readers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xb2157918) out of 5 stars 128 reviews
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb1dce9a8) out of 5 stars Reads like fan fiction May 29 2013
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book after listening to the interview on NPR. Sounded like a ripping yarn and there was the possibility that I could read this to my 4th grade class at school. Huge disappointment. While the plot is ok (magic house transports kids, characters come to life, much peril), it reads like something I'd write. Barely fleshed out main characters, unexplained leaps, not believable enough to keep you immersed. Throughout the book I got the idea that the author(s?), after working with the Harry Potter movies, looked at each other and said, "How hard can this be? Let's write a book!"
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By jessica - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book, but nothing really made me care about the characters enough to be fully engaged. Every time I put it down, I never really felt the need to pick it back up. It was just kind of jumbled up for me. The Wind Witch and other various bad guys do some really twisted and horrible things, and yet they aren't that scary. The relationship between the Walker children didn't really come off as true-to-life. And while they each had their own "thing" and point-of-view, their voices just seemed a little too similar. So, sadly, this book is one of those that had potential but is really pretty forgettable.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb21cf45c) out of 5 stars Potential Ruined by Awful Writing and Derogatory Stereotypes Oct. 15 2013
By Dan Thompson, Author - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
We really do have to thank JK Rowling for making reading and books enticing for children. Before the Harry Potter series, reading amongst children was on the decline, but it is as strong as ever now, with hundreds, if not thousands of new titles being published each year - all with varying degrees of success. So it was always going to be a winner wasn't it when JK Rowling has a quote saying: "A breakneck, jam-packed, roller coaster of an adventure." written on the cover. But with Ned Vizzini being a popular YA author already and Chris Columbus well-known for the popular 80's film, The Goonies as well as directing some of the Harry Potter films, House of Secrets was always going to be well received and big on adventure.

To be fair, this book had a lot of potential, and yes, it does take you on a hugely action packed adventure, whether that be fighting skeletons, riding with pirates, toppling an evil queen, feeding a giant colossus ... the list goes on. This type of packed adventure will undoubtedly please and excite its 10 year + age group. And in particular, when everything comes to a head in the form of magical battle at the end of the book against the 'Wind Witch' - it gets very exciting indeed! But I'm afraid, for me at least, this is where the positives end. I have numerous qualms with this lengthy book, it's almost difficult to know where to start.

I guess the first qualm is with the writing itself. It must be very difficult writing a book with two authors; each taking a turn to write a chapter before swapping over - and the two voices here are obvious, yet neither successful. It suffers from way too many cliches and badly formed descriptions. At times the books is written quite formally, whereas in other parts, colloquialisms take over and it can get a little confusing. The viewpoints change mid paragraph sometimes also and one of the most obvious signs of poor technique is when a character describes their own blue eyes - how can they see what their eyes are doing if they aren't looking in a mirror. "If Bellamy Walker had wanted to press assault charges, she could have," is a perfect example of how ridiculous some of the sentences are. In this example, the children are glad of their parents being alive and hug her.

You really need to connect, care or like the characters in a book to really love it, yet the three children in here are pretty annoying. They just got on my nerves I'm afraid. Even child simply fits into a typical American stereotype, Cordelia being a book 'nerd', Brendon being a computer game playing, sports lad and Nell being, well, totally over the top. She's meant to be about 8 years old, but she watches Game of Thrones and talks as if she was a late teenager. In fact distinguishing between the three characters is paper thin most of the time. They never develop as characters, are often contradictory and really emotionless in the bigger impact moments. There is one moment where they think their parents are dead, and apart from one paragraph where they are sad, the next page moves along discarding the emotional seriousness of this realisation. In fact, in the next page, Brandon goes to try and 'chat up' a girl.

Stereotypes hinder this book too much. They befriend a WWII British pilot about midway through and therein after, all they do is comment on his bad teeth, confirming that derogatory comments like that take centre stage, but also at the same time alienating its English market. The youngest Walker child is also dyslexic and towards the end of the book, Brandon says to Nell: "Like if you wanted to write, 'Brendan stops the Wind Witch', but you dyslexed it up ..." - I'm sorry, but to me that is an outrageous line to put in a children's book. I'm afraid that the two authors are totally naive when it comes to realising how impressionable young children can be, who may pick that up to later bully someone who may be dyslexic.

House of Secrets had a bagful of potential, but is deflated rather quickly by the awful writing technique, derogatory stereotypes and cliches, as well as the overly written characters, which only serve to annoy you. I couldn't care less if they died or failed in their task to try and retrieve the magical book. It's like the book was purposely written just so it can be turned into a film, and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens. The characters just strike you as simple, never really evolving as the book progresses, and that's mostly down to the disjointed narrative. There are much more entertaining, original and captivating children's books out there. I have read that is the first book in a series, so you never know, it may get better from here. Did I also mention that not once do you actually read any description to what the children actually look like - oh, apart from Cordelia's dirty blonde hair. If your child loves pure action, they'll get something from this, but trust me when I say, this is far from perfect.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb1d8ae64) out of 5 stars Childishly insulting to an intelligent young reader! Jan. 30 2015
By Paul Weiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
A random collection of criticisms of a book that has earned many more than I care to take the time to write:

Even without referring to a poorly conceived, wandering plot line that seems to be headed simultaneously in several different directions without any single plot direction ever really reaching adequate resolution, it has to be said that the writing in this story is at best stilted and outrageously amateurish.

Apparently the story is directed at young readers in grades 4 to 8 but it is difficult to imagine anyone in that age group understanding musical references to Mick Jagger or Styx, American cultural references to the cartoon Scooby Doo, or British historical cultural references to such terms as "above stairs" and "below stairs".

The use of random Latin quotations as magical spells sounds rather familiar and derivative at best (or should one call it actual plagiarism?) from another young adult series we're all familiar with. The device of simply saying the words backwards to undo the spell was trite and ridiculous even for a child's novel.

Strongly recommended against. There's little enough precious reading time in this world.

Paul Weiss
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb1d9636c) out of 5 stars Good kids book, but no Harry Potter May 9 2013
By Jesse H - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
House of Secrets was touted as a being written by the creator of Goonies and Gremlins, two movies I loved when I was a child. Columbus (One of the authors) was even the director of Harry Potter 1 & 2. In an interview with Chris Columbus, stated that JK Rowland had even given him some pointers on the story. All of those factors lead me to read this book. That being said, it was definitely written for today's children. If you want a read something comparable to spiderwick chronicles or another tween series read this. If you are an older reader who enjoyed the HP I would suggest finding another alternative.