House of Secrets (House of Secrets, #1)

By Ned Vizzini

11,527 ratings - 3.81* vote

From legendary Hollywood director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and bestselling author Ned Vizzini (It's Kind of a Funny Story) comes this first book in an epic new fantasy series.Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia Walker once had everything: two loving parents, a beautiful house in San Francisco, and all the From legendary Hollywood director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and

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Book details

Hardcover, 490 pages
April 23rd 2013 by Balzer + Bray
0062192469 (ISBN13: 9780062192462)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


J.K. Rowling put a "blurb" for this book as being a "breakneck roller coaster of an adventure." Sadly, roller coasters make me very seasick, and this book left me feeling much the same way.

Chris Columbus directed the first two Harry Potter films, and is now helming the Percy Jackson films, so I'm sure he loves the world of fantasy and adventure.

However, this first book in the "House of Secrets" series is just WAY too busy and frenetic. He throws in everything but the kitchen sink, and in so doing, I became as tired of all the action as I do in the modern chaotic "action films" which sacrifice character development to constant "blowing things up" scenes.

I like the Walker children--Brendan, Cordelia, and Eleanor. However, with all the busyness, I never really felt I got to know them. And I'm appalled at the elitism of this story; the Walker father is a doctor who has lost his career, but still can afford to get a "cheap" house for $300,000. That is so insulting to people without money that I almost stopped reading right then.

The plot is simply spaghetti, since it's based on the children being in a world where books can become reality--so we get Will and his Sopwith Camel crashing into a prehistoric world where warriors from medieval times are chasing the kids.

I read a great deal of YA literature with my grandchildren--Rick Riordan has done such a good job of creating three series based on mythology (Greek, Roman, and Egyptian). Since he has a framework upon which to build, the storylines are clear and the characters become very real imho.

And of course Rowling created her own amazing, extensive mythology that let Harry, Hermione, and Ron come alive for millions.

Columbus simply has no framework, and the children get lost in the chaotic plot. It's a shame--I love the idea of bringing characters out of books into reality, but Cornelia Funke has done that SO well in her INKHEART series.

Chris Columbus, having directed films of the Rowling and Riordan books, must have wanted to write his own story. I wish I could have liked it better.

Mohammed Arabey

"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."

That's how J.K.Rowling describe the book in the back cover...and That's how she ruined for me an opportunity to express my feeling about the book...
I believe anyone read it will think about the same lines to describe the experience of living with the Walkers family in this Creepy House..with creepy secrets..

The Setting

I love the realistic fantasy type ,or as I've recently learned from a friend the term is "The Urban Fantasy".
And from the moment that I reach Sea Cliff road,and the view of San Fransisco's Bridge and I knew I'm in one Good urban fantasy setting.
Then comes the Gothic 3 storey house,Victorian decor with big halls and an ancient library room..with shelves of books that some of them written by the original owner of the house...Denver Kristoff
Then....I'm no longer in the real San Fransisco....I'm in totally different world...Totally fictional and fantasy...into 3 HORRIBLE novels' worlds mixed together.. 3 Books that written by the House owner..very dark and dangerous even bloody ,like those of H.P. Lovecraft.
I may be not that big fan of extreme fantasy BUT it was really easy to get along this adventure and this horrible world of the 3 books, specially with .....
The Characters

It was so funny when in one of the many mentions and spoofs about modern movies and TV shows they mention "Game of Thrones" and how Elanor -the youngest,8 years old- is forbidden to watch it..The funny thing here is that I've imagined the 3 younger of the Stark's Kids as the cast of the book in my Head's movie version :).

Well ,8,12 and 15 years old sibling ,each one with a different personality,a talent and interests. that made me feel trapped with them into this fantasy world and ,with them, trying to escape from.

I loved them so much, that gives the novel a good variety of characters' age that is impossible to not fall in love with.
They're so like everyone of us,or every kid we know in our is a books' nerd, one is a gaming addicted with every teenager way of dealing with his family, and one smart daring dyslexia-fighter who's her love for her family would make her do anything.

Seriously if you sum up all what I've said you'll find it perfectly fit the first praise from J. K. Rowling.. may be it was the main reason I've get the book..also it's written by Chris Columbus, who's direct my beloved fantasy of all time "Harry Potter" in the most loyal for the book.
He made here a thriller/fantasy movie pack full of action that when you read/watch it you can not just "Pause", hard to let down.
And there's also Ned Vizzini who I believe a wonderful teenager and young adult expert ,as I know from his other famous books"

SO they together made a wonderful pack of Great thriller and super adorable characters, and mix it with a pit of the real world events "There's The famous San Fransisco's earthquake, and some other mystery real club 'The Bohemian Club' which I guess we'll learn more about later"
The illustrations in the book is also AMAZING and get you into the story without being silly or childish, was a real Art.

Can't wait for Book Two..which I hope get more revelation for some mysteries that we still dying to know..

I believe it'll be amazing series..I hope Part two would be even bigger and same -or more- strong.
It was really a wonderful week -the plot main runtime- with The Walkers that I'll never forget.

Mohammed Arabey
From 10th Nov. 2013
To 19th Nov. 2013


21st April 2013
J.K. Rowling have Written a Praise for the book on the top of the front cover...Is there's any thing more to add on "Why I MUST read that book"?

جي كي رولينج كاتبه جمله عن الكتاب ده في اعلي غلافه..المؤلف كريس كولومبس مخرج اول فيلمين لهاري بوتر واللي التزم بالروايه بامانه شديده لانه بيعشقها
هو اللي "خلق" عالم هاري بوتر من صفحات لشئ ممكن تشوفه بعينيك في الفيلم
ولو انت بقي مش معترف بهاري بوتر اساسا..فالمؤلف بيعترف انه كتبها متأثر بطريقه
H.P. Lovecraft
عرفتوا بقي ليه "لازم"اقرأ الروايه دي؟؟..مفتكرش في اسباب تانيه اهم من كده


--------------21 Dec.2013-----------------------
***** To The Memory of Ned Vizzini (1981-2013)*****

I;m really so sad and depressed since I heard that sad news on 20th Dec.2013..It shock me that sweet smile,that calm peaceful man, that's you'd feel through his writing in this book and sure all of his other writings, would end it all with subside
I just know him a month ago at his blog here at Goodreads
I feel so sad,very depressed till now, even regret that I didn't message him with my opinion on his talent and wonderful writing style.. I know he read my small pre-read review since he hit like to it But I wish he know the final one,I wish I said more..while he was still here....
It really hurt me and make me even more sad..

It's all sad..talented young man with so much to give..just gone..another Candle in the wind ..
May God bless his soul and Rest in Peace ...

Ned Vizzini: Writers and friends pay tribute

21st December 2013

Darth J

Pre-read reaction:


Post-read review:
Wow, it’s official: Chris Columbus has lost his touch. The man responsible for directing some of the best family movies now has no idea how to appeal to children in an intelligent or original manner anymore. He should honestly just stick to producing instead of writing or directing. The well is dry; the magic is dead. He’s a muggle now.

First of all, this book reads like an unhip dad who is trying too hard to seem cool to his kids wrote it. How the kids talk and what cultural references and technology they use are outdated by the time this book was published (2013).

Secondly, the plot is made of up random events that are loosely linked together. I know Columbus is a director, but this book feels like a bunch of discarded action storyboards were tossed together in the hopes of this being adapted into a film one day. I’m sure some of the scenes would be exciting on the screen, but it’s honestly not good storytelling to have something so fragmented put on page just because it might look good as a movie. It is a story about pirates? Castles? Haunted houses? Giants? World War I? I can't tell you because the book doesn't even know what it wants to be; the story is so all over the map that it's schizophrenic in its scope.

Thirdly, the whole premise is hackneyed. It’s like someone threw The Neverending Story, Jumanji and some Goosebumps books into a blender. It honestly could have been enjoyable if the writing was good or believable, but it isn’t. I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors, just poor prose and lame attempts to pander to children.

Fourth, the villain was some cross between Voldemort and a Weeping Angel. Her powers were supposed to be wind-based (hence her name: the Wind Witch) but she could do all sorts of other things. When there are no boundaries to the world and characters you create, you write yourself into a corner. Why does she even have wings if she can teleport?? It made zero sense that she could hurl lightning from her hand, and yet when it came back to her it destroyed her hand. What the what? That's like a dragon being burned by the same fire they just spat. #plothole

Also, let’s not forget that J.K. Rowling is shilling this book. Take a closer look at her blurb though; she doesn’t actually say that this is a good book at all but allows us to infer that is what she’s saying: “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.” Really Jo, you gonna do me like this?! After all we’ve been through you pull a fast one on us because Columbus is your friend?

Look, the only good aspect of this book were the illustrations inside but the rest is nearly 500 pages of pure garbage. It's not even an entertaining popcorn book. I was expecting much more and was really let down. This may have been edited only for errors, but the content needs a complete overhaul.

Kat Heckenbach

I gave up about 2/3 of the way through. There was potential for this story, but it never got off the ground. There was no real plot once the kids got trapped in the books' stories--they just went from one tight squeeze to another with no actual progress. The characters were just barely fleshed out enough for me to care about them at all, but after a while the lack of plot made even that go away.

One of my biggest complaints was little Eleanor. While I liked her, she was completely unrealistic. An eight year old with dyslexia would not be able to read 50 pages of a book written for adults. And she would not know what the word vivisection means. She talked FAR too old, even for an intelligent child of that age.

Anyway, I was going to try to make it to the end, but when I saw that this was the first in a series, I decided there was no point as I'm not going to read the sequel. I'm really disappointed, too, as this book is endorsed by JK Rowling. I was really hoping for something with some intelligence, but no...


Enter to win House Of Secrets on my blog!
"Sometimes you can't get your life back. Sometimes you have to take it back."

I have been a fan of Ned Vizzini ever since I read It's Kind Of A Funny Story a couple years ago (If you haven't read this book yet, what are you waiting for? Stop reading this review immediately and get It's Kind Of A Funny Story. I know you'll thank me later). I have read everything by Vizzini except for Teen Angst? Naaah . . . which I need to read pronto. I even interviewed Mr. Vizzini back in the day when I was a noob blogger. Once I saw The House Of Secrets on Edelweiss, I immediately downloaded it.

Imagine if The Goonies had a baby with Inkheart, I think the result would be House Of Secrets. (I really loved The Goonies and Inkheart so this is my way of complimenting it). House of Secrets is one of the most entertaining middle-grade fantasy novels I have ever read. The thing about House Of Secrets is that it's not just for little kids. I'm a grumpy male teen and I just absolutely loved this book. Anyone can enjoy House of Secrets because it's chock full of action, adventure, and humor.

House Of Secrets is unlike any fantasy novel I've read recently. There's pirates, witches, magic houses, a WWI soldier, and just so much more. There's a lot going on in House Of Secrets plot-wise but Vizzini and Columbus manage to keep everything interesting. House of Secrets is well-written in a very cinematic way and I just kept imagining this book as a movie. This book actually started off as a movie script and Chris Columbus commented "I completed about 90 pages of the script, and realized that if I continued writing, this film would cost over $500 million dollars. " (from Chris Columbus's comments on House of Secrets).

House of Secrets was a nice reprieve from all the generic dystopian books I have read recently. I really loved the way Columbus & Vizzini manage to include a ton of humor into the action-packed plot. One thing that irritated at me at first was the constant product references but I realize that these references gave it a realistic feel. There was one pop culture reference that was absolutely perfect: "I can see him from up here! He looks like thar really skinny British guy on the cover of Dad's old CDs..Yeah he looks like Mick Jagger if Mick Jagger ate a whole truckful of Snickers." Only Vizzini could pull off comparing Mick Jagger to a Snickers-obsessed-giant with dandruff without it becoming ridiculous.

Usually when I read a book, the relationships between the siblings is just so fake but that's not the case in House of Secrets. (I kind am questioning how the Pevensie didn't really fight too much in The Chronicles of Narnia, maybe they were C.S. Lewis's ideal children.) The relationships between Cordelia, Brendan, and Eleanor was completely realistic. Their relationship kind of reminded me of my relationship with my two siblings. Besides the fact that the relationships between the characters were spot on, the characters themselves were realistic and extremely developed. Cordelia, Eleanor, and Brendan don't just sit around and mope that they are in the middle of a disaster. "Sometimes you can't get your life back. Sometiems you have to take it back." This is a fantastic quote from House of Secrets because not only does it describe the children's attitudes but it's also very applicable in life.

I would highly recommend reading House of Secrets for people of all ages. Fans of Spiderwick Chronicles, Inkheart, and Narnia will love this fun. action-packed novel. I really loved how even though House of Secrets was entertaining, it was still filled with valuable morals. Once you read House of Secrets you'll be begging for the sequel!

Niahara Erskine

I love reading Middle Grade novel. I think these books are the ones that you can enjoy and cherish no matter how old you are. There is a feeling of innocence surrounding a good MG novel that always leaves me giddy. As a result, taking into account my fondness for MG novels, I was looking forward to reading Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus's "House of Secrets". The description and cover alone were enough to make me curious about the book. I can definitely say I was not disappointed. The book is very interesting and engaging; it will leave you hanging on every word until the end.

"House of Secrets" is a perfect mash of adventure - it has pirates, witches, WWI soldiers-, action, fantasy and humor - brilliantly inserted in the book by its authors. The protagonists are well developed and able to shine throughout the book. They are also very credible, making you feel like you could meet Cordelia, Brendan, and Eleanor on the street any day and not be surprised. I also loved the authenticity of their sibling relationship; it was very realistic and once again made me think of a family I might meet at the market.

All in all, if you're a fan of MG novels or if you are simply looking for an engaging story to read, give "House of Secrets" a try. You will not be disappointed.

Erica Henry

This was a very adventurous read. I felt like I was actually there. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

Becky B

The Walker kids are trying to make the best of their situation. They have to move into a cheaper place because their dad lost his surgeon position due to an incident, involving sleepwalking and carving strange symbols into the skin of a patient. But the new house looks way too cool for the asking price. It's an old mansion and comes complete with cool furnishings. The family thinks it is too good to be true. It turns out, they may be right. After they move in the old lady who lives next door goes psycho and sends the kids and the house into the imagined world of the former house owner's books. That might not be so bad, except he wrote about WWI, a realm ruled by a horrible queen, and pirates. Nell, Brendan and Cordelia (ages 8-15) have to figure out where they are, how to survive, and how to get back to the real world. That turns out to be quite the task between crazy mean knights, pirates and sharks. Oh, and the next door neighbor witch lady who has a certain task for them.

This story could have been good. A house that travels into the land of books has promise, but I think Vizzini and Columbus are out of touch with the children's world and are more used to an adult audience. Because this story was a bit more gorey and crazy evil than normal for kids. Most of the magic involved in the story is tied to occult practices and involves death. The pirate captain has this thing about vivisecting his captives, and this is explained! Umm, I'm pretty sure most of the parents of kids at our school would not be happy if I handed this book to their child to read. I also really didn't feel like it was great writing. The voices of the kids were inconsistent. Sometimes Nell does sound like she is 8 but sometimes she sounds just like her 15 year old sister, and vice versa. They all kinda blended together and became indistinct, even the brother, Brendan. (Maybe that was because of the 2 authors???) Whatever the reason, I can't recommend it unless it could go back to the editor for some consistency and be adapted with appropriate content for the target audience.

Notes on content: 2 or 3 minor swear words. There is a kiss, but nothing more. There are 25 people who appear naked in the story after being brought back to life from being skeletons. The children see all of them naked. There's a LOT of violence. Each of the children gets injured in some way. Two get serious stab wounds. Several people get shot by a gun. One person gets shot by an arrow and the kids do surgery to remove it (with some description). A woman describes being killed by a flaming mace. Three people describe getting killed by vivisection, and the kids watch a fourth person start to get vivisected. A bad guy gets a dart in his eye and pulls out his entire eyeball in front of the kids (and they are not phased by this). And there's more. The pirates also get drunk on wine.

Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

Alright, audiobook reviews can be sort of tricky to review, since the experience can be so different from reviewing a print book. I notice such different things and don't tend to remember super specific details as well. I'm going to try borrowing (with approval, of course) April of Good Books and Good Wine's format she's been using lately.

Why Did I Read This Book?
Okay, this may not reflect particularly well on me as a person, but the allure was equal parts the famous name and the awesome cover. Basically, I was curious about whether this would be any good, and whether it would live up to the cover. Obviously, I was skeptical, because Chris Columbus isn't an author, but Ned Vizzini's written things of which I have had good report, so I thought maybe it would pan out well.

What's the Story Here?
The Walker family lost most of their money and their reputation when the surgeon father did something totally whack during a surgery. They've moved to San Francisco in hopes of getting far enough away from the lawsuit that he can find employment in a hospital (good luck, buddy). Though they lack much money for a house, the realtor show's them this totally insane house, Kristoff House, and they can have it for pretty much nothing. Obviously, they are stoked and ready to move in immediately. Then, the inevitable drawback: Dahlia Kristoff, the daughter of author Denver Kristoff, who built the crazy house is like totally evil and she kills the parents and sends the three kids to a magical world that continually tries to kill them. They face, among other things, barbarians, pirates, skeletons, sharks, witches, and giants. Basically, action, action, action. Oh, and there's a surprising amount of violence. Pretty much everyone gets injured throughout the course of the book and a few die.

How Are the Characters?
Characterization is totally not what this book is about, so they're pretty flat mostly. Elinor, the youngest walker, tends to actually be the most useful, even if she does tend to run into things without a plan, like when she stabs the leader of the barbarians with a fork. Brave, but ill-considered. Brendan is a teen boy, and he's pretty typical. He doesn't like to read much, and constantly has his eyes on a video game, but he steps up to defend his sisters. Cordelia, the eldest, should be my favorite, because she's all about reading and vocabulary, but she ended up annoying me because of her blindness with regards to boys. Oh, one touch I did like is that both teens actually had acne. That is so rare in books, and, seriously, how many teens don't have pimples now and then? Or, you know, all the time?

What About Romance?
So, like I said, Cordelia desperately wants a certain boy within this book. He's an aviator named Will, and he's British and handsome. Like, I do not blame her for crushing on him, because British and hot, however, he regularly says seriously sexist things and pisses her off. Yet, she will quickly brush that off and reset to swooning all over the place and being jealous, which only reinforces his negative attitudes towards women. He is totally not a candidate for romance right now, because that is not cool. Overall, though, Cordelia would rather have him as a boyfriend, even if he is sexist, than NOT have him as a boyfriend. Brendan has a couple of little crushes too. I will say, though, that mostly there's not much romance, and that the authors seem to delight in crushing their hopes for the most part, which was a pretty nice change from the romance heavy books I usually read.

Am I Going to Continue with the Series?
Probably not. It's not character-based enough to be an ideal read for me. I'm glad I satisfied my curiosity, but I'm not interested to continue on for more, especially since the direction it's going in at the end annoys me. I feel like this could have been a standalone, but those aren't all that popular right now.

How Was the Audio?
Daniel Vincent Gordh does a pretty good job. His lady voices are a little bit weak, but that's not uncommon. His little girl voice for Elinor was really obnoxious, though. Otherwise, he was easy to listen to, and the audiobook was an enjoyable way to pass the time. I don't think I would have been able to three star this in print, because it's just not really my thing, but it was fun on audio.

Jillian -always aspiring-

J.K. Rowling gave a blurb for this book (and she rarely does that), so I must give it a fair chance!