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Once a Witch

Once a Witch

4.2 202
by Carolyn MacCullough, Hannah Friedman (Read by)

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Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him.


Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
At Tamsin Greene's birth seventeen years ago, her grandmother prophesized that Tamsin would be one of the most powerful witches in the history of their family. But Tamsin's eighth birthday, the milestone by which her distinctive Talent should have appeared, comes and goes, leaving her apparently Talentless and bitterly jealous of her extremely Talented, not to mention perfect, older sister, Rowena. So when Tamsin, home from the feigned normalcy of her boarding school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is given a chance to impersonate Rowena and help a charismatic stranger in his quest to recover a lost object crucial for his own ancestral past, Tamsin leaps at the chance, only to find that she is both more desperately endangered—and more prodigiously Talented—than she ever dreamed. Some of the motivations driving Tamsin's story are unclear: if she believes she indeed has no Talent, why would she think she could help Alistair Callum in his quest? If she is able to help him only by drawing on the Talents of handsome and doting Gabriel, why would this provide her any satisfaction? And what exactly is at stake for her in the climactic scene of the book when she faces her "terrible choice"? Plot quibbles aside, MacCullough poignantly depicts the painful sibling rivalry between Tamsin and Rowena in an atmospheric, engrossing story that should resonate with anyone who has ever felt a misfit in her family, yearning for recognition and vindication. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
VOYA - Cheryl Clark
Seventeen-year-old Tamsin Greene comes from a family of witches, each gifted with a unique Talent. When Tamsin was born, her grandmother declared that she would be "one of the most powerful" witches in their family, but so far, that prediction has fallen flat. Tamsin's Talent never appeared, and she is resentful of her family, especially of her perfect older sister Rowena and feels like a misfit in her own home. One day Tamsin is working at her family's bookstore/magic shop when a handsome New York University professor comes in asking for help in finding a lost family heirloom. Tamsin jumps at the chance to show her family what she can do, and along with her estranged—and handsome— friend Gabriel, she soon finds herself on a quest through time that will unveil family secrets, ancient dangers, and ultimately Tamsin's true place in her family. The theme of teenage self-discovery, specifically of latent magic powers, is certainly nothing new to young adult novels, but MacCullough's novel adds value to the genre with its page-turning plot, likeable characters, and nascent romance. Teens will identify with the sibling rivalry and underlying love in Tamsin's relationship with her sister Rowena. Especially noteworthy and refreshing is the novel's positive portrayal of family and community. The book will appeal to teen readers who enjoy stories with romance, magic, or time travel, along with hardcore fantasy aficionados, and it is appropriate for all young adult collections. Reviewer: Cheryl Clark
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—It's hard to be the only normal one in a family in which everyone has a Talent that allows them to do such things as disappear, control the weather, read the future, or turn people to stone. Tamsin is bitter that she does not have a magical gift and dreams of the day she can move far away. So when a mysterious Scottish stranger, Alistair, shows up at her family's bookstore and assumes that the 17-year-old is her very Talented sister, Rowena, Tamsin jumps at the chance to help him find the family heirloom for which he is searching. She enlists the help of her childhood friend, Gabriel, who has recently reappeared in her life. Tamsin and Gabriel travel through time to find what sinister Alistair wants, and in doing so they will set in motion a chain of events that could mean the destruction of her family. Although Tamsin is a well-rounded character, the other people in the book are fairly one-dimensional. What is lacking in character development, though, is made up for in plot. This is an exciting book, and readers will be captivated until the very end. With a fairly easy reading level, an exciting story, and an edgier heroine (Tamsin drinks and smokes), this book is a good choice to hand to older reluctant readers.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Growing up Talentless in a family of witches has been hard on Tamsin, particularly since her older, perfect sister Rowena oozes Talent. When a mysterious, handsome stranger mistakes her for Rowena and asks her to "find" something his family lost, is it so awful that she doesn't correct him and accepts the challenge? Well, yes, of course. Her very Talented childhood friend Gabriel has moved back from the West Coast to attend Juilliard, and, in addition to being totally hot, he's willing to help her. Together Gabriel and Tamsin Travel to the past to recover the lost object, an action that lands Rowena in the clutches of the stranger and threatens Tamsin's whole family-and the rest of humanity to boot. While MacCullough's setup and plot may not shake the world with their originality, she has created an enormously sympathetic character in Tamsin, whose itchy relationship with her family will resonate with teens struggling to define themselves. Characters, setting, conflict-all develop nicely to create a light urban fantasy that goes down easy and will have readers asking for its sequel. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
Publishers Weekly
MacCullough (Drawing the Ocean) offers an absorbing and elegant urban fantasy involving magical "Talents," devious spells and family ties. When Tamsin Greene was born, her grandmother prophesied that Tam would be one of the most powerful witches in her huge and extended family. Tam's Talent was due to manifest by the time she turned eight, but at 17 she is still a dud, drifting on the outskirts of the family ("I know the looks I must be getting behind my back—the lifted eyebrows, the overly expressive shrugs, the whispers of sympathy"). When Tam is mistaken for her older and vastly Talented sister, Rowena, Tam can't resist the chance to secretly take on the task of locating a missing clock to prove her resourcefulness and make the Greenes proud. Enlisting the help of her old friend Gabriel, Tam unwittingly sets off a chain of events that could destroy her entire family. MacCullough's writing is evocative without distracting from her story; readers will identify with Tam's desire to create a space away from parental expectations and take comfort that even extraordinary families make mistakes. Ages 12 —up. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“[MacCullough] has created an enormously sympathetic character in Tamsin, whose itchy relationship with her family will resonate with teens struggling to define themselves. Characters, setting, conflict—all develop nicely to create a light urban fantasy that goes down easy and will have readers asking for its sequel.”—Kirkus Reviews

“With the glut of contemporary romantic supernatural tales, this will be popular, but the action, drama, and great potential for compelling sequels set it apart from the crowd.”—Booklist

"MacCullough's writing is evocative without distracting from her story; readers will identify with Tam's desire to create a space away from parental expectations and take comfort that even extraordinary families make mistakes."--Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

“Twenty more minutes, Hector,” I say, “and I’m free of this hellcrater.” Hector, whose tawny eyes flared open when I spoke, now only flashes his needlelike teeth at me as he yawns. He blinks once, then curls back into sleep, his tail covering his front paws.

Hellcrater is not exactly a fair description, I concede as I look around my grandmother’s bookstore, making sure nothing is out of order. But hellcrater has become my favorite word lately. I have to go to the hellcrater, I like to say to my roommate, Agatha, whenever I’m summoned home for a holiday or for the weekend. Agatha always gives me a blank look in response.

“I think it must have been so awesome to have grown up in a commune,” she ventured once.

I didn’t bother explaining how it’s not really a commune. I can kind of see how it might sound like one from the edited descriptions I’ve given her. A big rambling stone farmhouse in upstate New York, with a revolving door of cousins and aunts and uncles and the adjoining barn and fields and gardens, which fuel the family business, Greene’s Herbal Supplies. All presided over by my mother and grandmother in their long, colorful skirts and shawls and strings of beads.

“I mean, I grew up Pine Park, Illinois, Tamsin. Come home with me sometime and you’ll see a hellcrater. And by the way, that’s not even a word.”

“I’d love to,” I answered eagerly at the time. And I meant it. I would love to see what it’s like to be part of a real, normal American household. Where your mother and grandmother aren’t reading tea leaves and entrails every other second. Or making strong-smelling brews from the garden herbs for dozens of village girls and women. They come after dark, rapping timidly on the back door, begging for something to slip into some man’s coffee or beer when he isn’t looking. The women’s eyes fill with grateful tears, those same eyes that’ll skitter away from meeting yours if you cross paths in town during daylight.

In a real, normal household people celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas or Hanukkah. Halloween is for the kids to dress up in costumes. It’s not a holiday when your whole family gathers in the deep woods behind your house and builds a bonfire and burns sweet herbs on the altar built to the four elements. Not a holiday when your whole family dances until the first fingernail of dawn scrapes at the hills and finally you can stumble home, bare legs scratched and bruised, hands and feet freezing, sick from Uncle Chester’s homemade wine.

“Hellcrater,” I say again now with feeling, as sheets of rain splatter against the oversize windows. At least there’s only one more week until I can take the train back to Grand Central. I yawn, stretch my fingers to the polished tin ceiling. The bell over the door chimes three notes softly and I drop my arms midstretch, startled. I’m not the only one. Hector leaps off the counter, lands with a disgruntled meow, and disappears between two stacks of poetry books that I just remembered I was supposed to re-price and shelve in the half-off section.

But instead, I glance at the man who has just entered. He’s tall, and since I’m tall myself, this is saying something. Tall and thin and muffled up in a dark overcoat that seems to overlap his frame. He politely folds his umbrella and puts it into the copper planter that serves as a stand by the door. His eyes find mine across the room. “Sorry,” he says, and his voice is a nervous wisp almost blown away by the wind.

The door swings shut, sealing us in.

“For what?” I ask lightly. “You haven’t even met me yet.” In my mind, I can hear Agatha groan. She despairs of me and my obvious one-liners.

He indicates the area around his feet. Puddles are spreading across the hardwood floor, trickling from the wet hem of his raincoat and sleeves.

“Oh,” I say. And then all my wit deserts me. “I . . . have a mop,” I finish brilliantly.

He nods, shakes his coat a little, then looks abashed as more rainwater drips onto the floor. “Are you about to close?”

His accent is faint but familiar, and I try to puzzle it out. “No,” I lie gamely, because after all he is a customer and I’ve made somewhere around twenty-two dollars in sales today.

I move behind the cash register and begin to straighten the stack of ledgers there, pretending not to watch the man as he drifts past the new fiction display. When he moves a little closer to the occult and arcane section, I feel the familiar prick of resignation. So he’s one of those. An out-oftowner, definitely, who thinks that magic can be found in a book. I sigh. Believe me, I want to shout at him, if magic could be found in a book, I would have found it long ago.

I fiddle with the cash register tape, then look up again, expecting to see the man fully immersed in Starling Ravenwood’s latest book, Spells for Living a Life of Good Fortune, our current bestseller. But he is nowhere to be seen.

I crane my neck, balance on one foot. Suddenly, he materializes from between the poetry shelves and makes his way toward me while holding up a slim bronze-colored book. Inexplicably, I find myself taking a step backward. My elbow grazes the coffeemaker that I insisted my grandmother buy if I was going to work in the store all summer. The pot gives a hiss, its oily contents sloshing a little as I jerk my arm forward. “Ouch.”

The man doesn’t seem to notice. Up close, I see the glints of gold stubble on his chin and that his thick, rainsoaked hair is dark blond. His stylish black-framed glasses reflect the light back at me but don’t allow me to see the color of his eyes. I put his age at about thirty. He’s not conventionally good looking, but there is something about him, something that makes me look away, then look back again.

“Do you have any more like this?” he asks, and the origin of his accent niggles at me again. The clipped syllables, the perfect enunciation. English, I decide. That definitely adds to the attraction factor. Agatha, for one, goes crazy for accents.

I flip open the cover, flick through the pages. “This is one I haven’t read,” I say, surprised because I’ve read most everything in the store. At least everything worth reading. The book seems to be a photo montage of my town’s origins. Pencil sketches and ink drawings of early mansions give way to glossy photos of autumn foliage, the town square, the waterfalls, and the cemetery. Underneath each photo is a brief paragraph or two of text explaining the history. “Interesting,” I say with a noncommittal smile, handing it back to him.

He adjusts his glasses on the bridge of his nose and says, “Interesting is one of the most banal words in the English language. What does it mean, really?”

My smile freezes in place. “It means I don’t have anything better to say so interesting comes in handy.”

He shakes his head once. “Somehow I don’t think you’re the kind of person who would find herself in a situation where she has nothing better to say.”

The coffeepot hisses again, and casually I rub my hand across the back of my neck to stop a chill from spreading there. Out of nowhere, Hector leaps up onto the counter again, arching his back and butting his head fiercely against the book the man is holding. The man appears startled for one second, and then suddenly lines curve around his mouth, creating these not-quite-dimples.

“Hector sees all books as rivals for people’s attention.”

“Bad place for him to live, then,” the man comments.

“He exacts his revenge in subtle ways. Will this be all?” I ask, pointing to the book. In a flash, Hector bats at the silver bangles on my wrist and hooks a claw into my skin.

“Ow!” I say, snatching my hand back. “See what I mean about revenge,” I mutter, glaring at the three beads of blood that have welled up on my pale skin.

“Allow me,” the man says, and swiftly, so swiftly that I don’t have time to react, he pulls a blue handkerchief out of his raincoat pocket and presses it to my wrist. His tongue flickers at the corner of his mouth.

I yank my hand back, a smile wobbling across my face. “Who owns a handkerchief these days?” My voice sounds shaky—pinched, even. I examine the corner of the cloth, which is embroidered with the letters AEK.

He shrugs and looks embarrassed, and it disappears back into his coat pocket. “Yes, it’s not a very American habit, I’m gathering.”

“So you are English,” I conclude.

He looks briefly pained. “Scottish,” he says.

“Sorry,” I mock-whisper. “Bad mistake. Mortal enemies and all, right?” I bring my wrist to my mouth, pressing my lips to the flaps of torn skin. He stares at me and I drop my hand, embarrassed. “On vacation here?” I ask, filling in the gap of silence.

“No. I’m at NYU.”

“You’re a student there?” I ask.

A fine stain of color washes over his cheeks. “I’m a professor there.”

“You are?” I say, realizing belatedly how rude that sounds. “I mean . . . you are.” I nod. “Sure. Sorry, you just look so young.” Now I’m the one who’s blushing. I can feel it across my cheeks and forehead. Even my nose feels hot.

“First year,” he says, then adds with a slight smile, “I guess I’ll grow into it.”

“What do you teach?” I ask.

“Art history. Are you a college student?”

“Not yet,” I say. “I go to New Hyde Prep.”

He gives me a blank look.

“It’s a boarding school in the city. On the Upper East Side. I’m just home in Hedgerow for the summer.” I push a stack of cardboard bookmarks closer to the register, aligning their edges perfectly. “NYU is one of my top picks. So if I get in, maybe I’ll end up in your class next year.”

“That would be lovely,” he says. Then he looks up and smiles briefly, almost wickedly, at me. “As long as you promise to not use the word interesting in any discussions.”

“I wouldn’t dare,” I say. I consider letting my lashes sweep down. I’ve been bored all summer and in need of a little flirting practice. The small town of Hedgerow, while big on rustic charm, doesn’t carry much in the way of male diversion. Even if I weren’t a member of the town’s most infamous family, the options are limited.

But the moment passes, so I take the book from him once more and check the flap for the price that my grandmother has penciled in with her looping scrawl. “Seven dollars,” I say, taking the twenty from his outstretched fingers.

He accepts the change that I hand him, not even checking it before he puts it away in his wallet. And all the while he wears a faint look of unease. He takes off his glasses, massages the bridge of his nose, and looks up at me, and I decide that his eyes are a toss-up between blue and gray.

“There’s something else I’m looking for,” he blurts out suddenly. “Not a book, though.” He glances at the door, as if thinking about changing his mind and escaping into the rain.

I shift on my feet, pressing Hector’s ears lightly against his head the way he likes. “What is it, then?” Somehow I’m not surprised we’ve arrived at this. Most out-of-towners come to this part eventually.

“An old family heirloom. A clock. It was in my family for generations and then we . . . lost it.” He settles his glasses back onto his face.

“Lost it?”

He waves his hand, the light catching on the steel band of his watch. Hector’s eyes widen, and I put a restraining hand on the cat’s neck until he settles down into a doze again.

“In a card game or a wager or something to that effect in the late eighteen hundreds in New York City. Gamblers in the family, I’m afraid.”

“And how can I help?” I ask and wait for him to meet my eyes, which he does with what seems like reluctance. Glacial blue, I decide finally.

“It’s just that . . . well . . . I had heard that . . . that this place . . .”

“‘This place’?” I repeat. As I slip the book into a bag, I trace one finger over the greene’s lost and found, new and used books logo. I can’t help but feel a little like Hector with a mouse caught between his paws.

He flushes again. “I had heard that this place specializes in that sort of thing. Finding things, that is. Lost things.”

“Very rarely is something lost forever,” I say enigmatically because that’s what my grandmother always says to potential clients. Then I grow tired of this game and a little tired of myself. The poor guy traveled all the way from New York City on a rainy night to find something, doubtlessly something of no value except sentimental, and the last thing he needs is to be toyed with by a seventeen-yearold girl with a chip on her shoulder regarding her family’s special Talents.

Since Agatha took Intro to Psychology last year, I’ve been prodded into becoming more self-aware.

“Okay, look . . . you’ve come to the right place, Professor, but—”

“Callum,” he interjects. “Alistair Callum. And you’re Miss Greene, of course?”

“Yes. T—”

But words are tumbling out of him now. “Frankly, I was a little doubtful that a place like . . . like this existed. I mean, how fascinating. I want to . . . I just want to say . . . what a brilliant thing this is that you do, Miss Greene.”

I’m not the person you want. I know I need to tell him that. But it’s so rare that anyone looks at me the way Alistair is looking at me now. With admiration and awe. I feel all at once a brightening and a dimming in my head as if someone flipped on a light switch and then just as quickly slammed it off again. Suddenly, I want to be back in my dorm room bed, skimming passages from a book propped open on my chest before giving up on my homework and ambling down to the student lounge to watch TV with anyone who happens to be there. Normal people. People who have no idea about my family’s Talents. People who don’t look at me sidelong with wonder or unease or fear or any combination of the three.

And yet Alistair is looking at me hopefully, his hands tightening on the counter as he leans toward me. I picture myself saying the right thing, the thing I am supposed to say should a customer ask for help beyond where to find the latest Pat Griffith mystery. My grandmother is the one you need to talk to. She’ll be in tomorrow. I’m just watching the store and I’m not the one. Not the one you need.

Instead, I hear myself saying, “I can help you.” And then I pause. Fix it, fix it now, a tiny voice screams at me.“This is my grandmother’s store.” That’s right, that’s right, backpedal. I take a breath, stomp on the voice, grind it into silence. “But I do this kind of work with her all the time.” My words are steady and surprisingly assured. Hector stops purring and opens his eyes, giving me a long yellow stare.

“I heard about your family in an antique shop—”

“That answers my next question. Which one was—”

“Go see Mrs. Greene, they told me. Or her granddaughter Rowena. Rowena Greene will be the one you want.” And then he smiles again, but this time it’s an odd half smile, and he adds softly, “The words I had waited so long to hear. Rowena Greene.

My throat has just gone dry, a kind of wandering-inthe- desert-for-a-week-without-water dry. We have a bunch of weird names in our family. Even so, I hate mine especially. Tamsin. It sounds so . . . hard and unmusical. Unlike Rowena, which ripples off the tongue, Tamsin falls with a splat. I asked my grandmother repeatedly when I was little why she had saddled me with such a name, but she only smiled and said it was a story best saved for another time.

Now I swallow and try to say, “Um, actually my—”

“And when I walked in the door tonight, I just had this feeling that it’s you I’m supposed to talk to.” He tucks the bag away into an inner pocket of his coat. “You’ll likely think I’m mad. Maybe I am mad.” He pinches the bridge of his nose briefly with two fingers.

“I don’t think you’re mad,” I say after a moment, when it appears that he’s finished speaking. It seems to be my new job to reassure him. I’ve seen my grandmother put nervous clients at ease in no time. “I’m flattered, really,” I say truthfully and stop myself from adding, You have no idea how flattered. No one has ever, ever mistaken me for my extremely Talented older sister before.

He leans across the counter, seizes my hand, and pumps it up and down a few times. Hector utters an offended meow and edges away from our clasped, flailing hands, but Alistair doesn’t seem to notice. “I’m so delighted to hear this. I just have this feeling that you really will be able to help me.”

I swallow, refrain from pointing out that he’s pressing on my injured wrist.

“Listen, Dr. Callum—”

“Alistair,” he insists.

“Alistair,” I repeat after him. “I need to tell you . . .”

“Yes?” he prompts, and when I don’t answer right away, his shoulders twitch a little and his hand, suddenly limp, falls away from mine. I can’t bear his disappointment.

“Um . . . I wanted to say that I can’t promise anything.” Actually, I can promise you that I most likely won’t be able to get the job done.

Maybe I should have phrased it the way my grandmother does when confronted with a particularly pushy customer or an exceptionally hard case. What wants to be found will come to light. I will not rest until I have shone this light into all corners and chased away all shadows.

Not that she’s said much of anything lately. This summer when I came home from school, I found her spending most of her time sitting quietly in the garden or in her room, a dreaming haze spreading over her face and stilling her hands. Nobody else will admit it. At least not openly. Instead, my mother told me that I’d be working in the bookstore most of the summer while Rowena stayed at home and helped with everything else. “Everything else” being the business of living as witches in a world that doesn’t really know they exist.

“No, no. Of course, of course,” Alistair is saying, and I focus on him again. “I completely understand. Whatever you can do.” He backs up toward the door and reaches for his umbrella without taking his eyes off me, as if he’s afraid I’m about to start chopping up bats’ wings and muttering incantations.

“Wait. Don’t you want to tell me more about it? What it is I’m supposed to be looking for?”

He stops and closes his eyes briefly, and the corners of his mouth tug upward into a small smile. “Yes, of course. But . . .” He glances at his watch. “I have a train to catch in just a few minutes. Can we make an appointment to talk in my office when the semester starts?”

“Sure,” I say, struggling to keep relief from spilling into my voice. I know how it is with these people. Once he’s back in his office and school starts, this night will start to seem more and more unreal as the pieces of it slip away. Soon enough he’ll begin to wonder if he even had this conversation with a girl on a dark evening full of rain. Maybe it will become a story he’ll tell someone someday—that he once tried to engage the services of a witch to find something that was destined to stay lost anyway. “I’ll look you up. NYU, right?”

He fumbles in his coat pocket for a minute, an expression of alarm crossing his face. “I had a card in here somewhere. Just had them made.” He pats his pockets with increasingly violent motions.

“Don’t worry about it,” I offer finally with a wide smile. “I’ll find you. I mean, if I can’t, you probably really don’t want to hire me for the job anyway, right?”

He looks startled and then he laughs, flashing those almost-but-not-quite-dimples again. “True. And . . . well, whatever you want, whatever’s your usual price?”

“My usual?” How does my grandmother handle this part? She’s so effortless about everything. “Um . . . we’ll discuss it when I have a better idea of the job,” I say in my most official tone.

This seems to satisfy him, because he nods and finally disappears into the thick-falling rain. I flip the closed sign outward, turn the large brass key in the lock, and drift back to the cash register. I feel as if there’s something I’ve forgotten to do, so I look around the store, my eyes skipping over the stacks of poetry books I have yet to re-price. All of a sudden, the last of the pleasure that I felt at Alistair’s assumption, his assurance in me, drains away, leaving me flat. I wish I could tell Agatha this story, but somehow I don’t think it would survive the heavy editing it would have to go through.

The phone jangles sharply. I give the instrument a malevolent look as it shrills and shrills and shrills. I don’t need any of my family’s Talent to know who it is. Finally I pick it up. “Greene’s Lost and Found, New and Used Books, may I help you?” I singsong into the receiver.

“Tam,” Rowena says, and her voice is all business. “We need you to pick up three gallons of vanilla ice cream at McSweeny’s. The ice cream churn broke.”

I roll my eyes. “Can’t Uncle Chester fix it?” Uncle Chester can fix anything that’s broken. Appliances, glass, china, bones.

“He tried. Now part of the handle is attached to Aunt Minna’s hip.” There’s a short, exasperated sigh. “He’s drunk,” Rowena adds unnecessarily.


“Just close early and pick it up, would you?”

“Maybe I have customers,” I say grandly. I sweep my arms out to the empty store.

“You don’t have customers.”

Talented as she is, my sister can see only what’s in front of her, so I lie with perfect ease. “I do, actually.”

“Who?” she demands. “Besides, it can’t be anyone important. At least no one you could help,” she adds.

I am silent. I touch the tip of my finger to Hector’s nose. He opens his eyes and we stare at each other.

“I’ll bring the ice cream,” I say woodenly. “Just as soon as I close up here.” Yeah, right.

“Tam,” my sister says, and if possible she sounds even more annoyed than before. “I didn’t mean—”

“You did,” I say, my voice cheerful again. “Anything else?”

“Remember that Aunt Lydia and Gabriel will be here tonight.”

I make a circling motion in the air with one finger. “Great.” But inwardly I stifle a pang. Gabriel.

“Aren’t you excited?” she demands. “I mean, we haven’t seen them in years.”

Aunt Lydia is not even our aunt, but she’s part of the loose network that has formed around my family over the years, and since we call all older women “aunt” and all older men “uncle,” it just slops into one big happy family. Or something like that.

Gabriel is her son. He also used to be my best friend when we were kids. Then he developed his Talent of being able to locate anything: keys, wallets, books, jewelry, any number of things that get put in one place and become lost almost instantly. People, too. At that point, Rowena and our cousin Gwyneth decreed that he could no longer play hide-and-seek with us. In protest, I stopped playing the game, too.

They moved when he was ten and I was just about to turn eight. Aunt Lydia had agreed to move across the country to California, probably to save her marriage to this Talentless guy, Uncle Phil. This caused some serious heat with my mother and grandmother because they’d like nothing better than for everyone in our family, even our “extended family,” to stay in one place. Apparently, the move didn’t work out. And now tonight Aunt Lydia and Gabriel are scheduled to make an appearance, where they will presumably be welcomed back into the proverbial fold.

“Great,” I repeat. I rub Hector’s head and he closes his eyes, arches a little into my open hand. From the other end of the line I hear someone start singing. It sounds like Uncle Chester, his rich baritone cracking and wavering in places.

“I have to go,” Rowena says firmly as if I’ve been yammering on and on. “Don’t forget the ice cream.”

“The what?” I say, but she has already clicked the phone down and so my last little dig is wasted on her.

Meet the Author

Carolyn MacCullough is the author of the young adult urban fantasy Once a Witch and three other YA novels. Born and raised in Connecticut, she has lived in Sicily, Scotland, and even the wilds of New Jersey before settling down in Brooklyn where she now lives with her husband and daughter. In addition to writing, she also teaches creative writing at NYU and The New School. Visit her website at www.carolynmaccullough.com.

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Once a Witch 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 202 reviews.
acsimps More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was very good. I was a very quick read (finished in an evening). I don't think there are plans for a sequel at this point..but I hope that Carolyn MacCullough writes one. There is definitely still story to tell. Great characters, romance, magic, and secrets all combine to create an awesome book worth reading!
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
I love misfits. The ones in the family that no one cares about and then they become something more. Tam is the misfit of the family. She has grown up that she is nothing more than normal and never will be. I loved Tam and felt for her so badly. I felt her anger,her jealousy, and her wanting to leave away from everyone. Tam is a character that I could relate to right away. From the very first page, I fell in the story. Ms. MacCullough writing had me thinking I really was in the story. Her characters come to life beautifully with her writing and the plot blew me away. The love interest is good. I am, however a bit confused with it. I was under the impression that Gabe is Tam's cousin. But I am not sure if they just relate to Gabe as family and call him cousin because they are so close as a real family. If anyone can clear that up for me that be great. The best part of this book is the plot. Here we have a girl who doesn't want to be a part of her family because she believes she doesn't belong. Then she becomes something more and learns more secrets. The secrets is one that I felt on Tam behalf. I would have been furious had I known what she knew. It's not right. But I was glad that she upheld with great maturity and handled the situation smoothly. I admired Tam and loved the strength she carried with her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A tight, coherent, well-paced story. Fully dimensional, likeable characters. Magic, mystery, and suspense balanced with realistic personalities and relationships. A real pleasure to read, for teens or adults.
pagese More than 1 year ago
I've had this sitting in my to read pile for awhile now. I knew I need to read it before I picked up the sequel. Now, I'm really looking forward to the next one because this one was excellent. I liked that Tasmin is the outcast in her family. Growing up in a family with Talents (as they call them) and being the only one without would be hard. Since she doesn't fit in at home, she convinced her parents to let her go to boarding school in NYC. There she feels normal and I think she likes her time away from her family. But, no matter what, I think she still longs to fit in with her family. Why else would she go back there so much to work in the family bookstore. I think it's also the reason she accepted the task to find the lost family heirloom. I wonder how she planned on doing that before Gabriel showed up? Aww... Gabriel. I think he might have been my favorite character. Gabriel moved away when they were young and Tasmin stopped writing to him when she didn't develop her Talent. When he moves back, you can bet she wasn't expecting to be so attracted to him. Turns out he feels the same, and has the Talent for finding lost objects and time travel. Together they must journey through time to find the object that the professor wants without giving him the power he also craves. Along the way Tasmin discovers that her family has been keeping secrets. Tasmin is more than what she thinks she is. But, the professor is tired of playing games and puts Tasmin's sister under a powerful love spell. It was interesting to watch the character match whits and powers against each other. This is no ordinary family and they have the power to stop you in your tracks. They also possess the power that could possibly destroy the future by changing the past. I really enjoyed this story even though I think the ending got a little muddled. Sometimes, I think to many things have to happen at once and it's hard to comprehend what really happened. I'm hoping the next book clears that up a little. But, overall I really recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was really good, but I had a lot of trouble with the editing. One sentence would be in the present tense and the next in the past. It was a little bit jarring at times
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have you realized that not only does Tamsin smoke, but she and her COUSIN, Gabriel, have a relationship! They are related!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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PirateVanRock More than 1 year ago
Tamsin Greene comes from a family of witches who all possess a special Talent. All except her. When she was born, her powerful grandmother prophesized that she was be the one of the most powerful witches her family had ever seen and they had high expectation. But when her eighth birthday rolls around and nothing manifests, everyone starts distancing their selves from the only person in the family to not develop a talent. Her best friend, Gabriel, moves away just before this so there is no one to really comfort her. When a gentleman shows up at her family's bookstore asking for her sister, Rowena, to help him find something (one of the many services her family offers), things really start to unravel. Everything she knows changes and when her sister's life is put in danger, she'll stop at nothing to save her. I had seen this book at Ollie's several times and though it caught my attention, I never picked it up because I am sometimes iffy and witch books. It's only logical to be so since there are so many. They are like the vampire and werewolf novels, every freaking author seems to feel the need to write about them these days. I realize not all of them are bad (in fact most are quite good), but weary of the bad ones, I am hesitant to read them unless I know someone who has enjoyed them. Anyway, stuff happened and this was one of the few books I had on my flash drive last week, so while waiting for my computer class to start, I started reading. And I couldn't stop. I ended up transferring the pdf to Luna (my kindle) so I could read it any moment I had to spare. This book is one of the great ones. I really loved it. Things I liked: - I loved Tamsin. She is quirky, rebellious, sarcastic as hell, and has a decent sense of humor. -There are no love triangles. There is just Tamsin who is attracted to Gabriel and Gabriel who is attracted to Tamsin. There is no angst over which guy to choose, just those 2 on an adventure to save the day. -It is written in first person. I love things written in first person because I always get a better feel for the characters. -It doesn't shy away from sexual innuendos. Some YA novels do these days and it bugs me. I hate to break it to anyone out there with a teenage daughter 16 and up, but sex does cross their mind and is a topic that will be discussed with their peers. That being said, this book has no sexual content. Tamsin and Gabriel kiss a time or two, but that is it. My point is more that it isn't an issue that is just completely left out. I love how Gabriel is portrayed as an amazing guy who does think about it a lot, showing that guys don't have to be either or. It's something I think YA is lacking these days. -Gabriel. Yeah, I am so still going through that phase where I love all the main male characters. Hot, sarcastic, and he plays guitar...need I say more? -I liked the ending. This doesn't end in a cliffhanger. Tamsin and Gabriel save the day and though they don't ride off into the sunset, there isn't a massive cliffhanger there is grade on my nerves. The ending just leaves it open for another book. Thinks I disliked: -............ I really don't think there was anything I disliked about it. This novel really is amazing. I will be starting book 2 next and I look forward to raving about how great it is next :)
fangirl166 More than 1 year ago
this is a great book and i would recomend this to anyone. there are a few swear words in it but nothing too bad. there is a sequel called"always a witch" which is great too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The initial plot set up was pretty good. I was intrigued. However about halfway through the book I got bored. There were so many unfinished ideas and so much going on that I got overwhelmed and confused. Also, the characters weren't developed enough for me to really relate to any of them. I gave it three stars for creativity but the writing just wasn't quite there. I really only finished it for the sake of finishing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
I really like this book but one aspect really bothered me, our 17 year old protagonist smokes. It does not fit with her character, and is pretty much accepted and overlooked. The rest of her moral standards as well as her families appear to be higher than that. I just do not think it is something that I would want my YA reader to read in this setting. The plot was engaging and fast-paced with some Mystery a touch of romance and plot twists. I love the idea of different “Gifts or Talents” (abilities) for each witch and the addition of time travel in the magic realm. I related well with the characters and found it refreshing to read about a “normal” happy and loving family. The romance is appropriate for the age of the characters. There is chemistry there so that it is obvious that they like each other but their friendship is the most important element and not overshadowed by mush. He supports her even when it may not seem like the best thing to do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books i have ever read! The second book is good too, i really reccommend reading this book ASAP!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
raerose13 More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to read the next book!
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