Once a Witch

Once a Witch

by Carolyn Maccullough

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547417301
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/01/2010
Pages: 314
Sales rank: 554,879
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: HL790L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About 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 .

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.


“Already?”


“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.

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Once a Witch 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 233 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!
pacey1927 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed "Once A Witch". This book was extremely fast paced and easy to read. I can't believe that it sat so long on my TBR pile. Tamsin Greene attends a boarding high school where she can escape from her family for a bit. Whats the problem? All of Tamsin's extended family are witches, each with their own unique talents or special abilities. Some can move quickly, some can freeze people where they stand, others can persuade with just a few words. At Tamsin's birth, her grandmother declared her to be the biggest talent her family had ever seen, a 'beacon' for the family. Except that Tamsin's talents never came to be. Now Tamsin just wants to be around human's without the constant reminder that she failed to become what she was supposed to have been. One day on summer break she is back home and working at her family bookstore when a mysterious man named Allistair comes in and mistakenly takes Tamsin for her older, extremely talented big sister Rowan. Tamsin goes along with this misunderstand and promises to recover a missing heirloom for the gentleman. With the help of a handsome, long-lost talented friend named Gabriel, Tamsin begins a journey to find the object and ultimately discovers more about herself and her family than she could have imagined.I was very happy with this book and with these characters as a whole. I adored Tamsin's crazy extended family and watching them interact with each other. I don't often really like the love interest in these YA stories but I think Gabriel is a hoot. He is funny and charming and very likeable. I would want him on my side during something like this. Rowan the perfect sister is very easy to not like. I can see why Tamsin always felt like she could never live up to the huge footsteps her sister left in front of her. I also think that there is much more to Rowan that I hope we see in the next installment "Always A Witch". I know this is petty, but although I like Tamsin a lot, I hated that she smoked like she did. It was just gross. Anytime there was stress, Tamsin was chain smoking. I don't see where it added to her as a character or where it could add any value in a book aimed at 9th graders and up. I loved that Tamsin was different than the other girls or family members. I just didn't care for the smoking bit. My only other complaint is that the story is SO fast paced that as the story begins to unravel I felt a little confused in a few places and felt like I needed some clarification on what just happened. Still the conclusion was excellent and again the characters were excellent. I am eager to read the follow up "Always A Witch".
millett23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I liked the characters and I liked the story. I felt it left off making you want more of the story in a good way, not with a lot of unanswered questions.
MrsBoswellBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tamsin Greene is the only witch in her family who isn't, well, a witch. The "witchly powers", or Talents, seemed to just pass her by. Her grandmother must have been senile when she told her mother at her birth that Tamsin would be "one of the most powerful... a beacon...". Tamsin believes she is an outsider until a stranger wanders into her life looking for something. She is determined to find it and prove to her family that she does not need to rely on a Talent. This journey unlocks much more than Tamsin expected.I really enjoyed this book. It was such a fun and effortless read. I didn't once feel bogged down with too much information or description. I loved Tamsin. She was determined and gutsy. She felt out of place in her own family and tried hard to distance herself. I truly felt for her. Gabriel was a wonderful character, as well. I loved his friendship with Tamsin and it was fun to follow their budding "relationship". After finding that they had a history, I would have like to have seen a little more romance-wise, but oh well. Maybe next time around.The plot was engaging and full of action, adventure, mystery, intrigue with a dash of romance thrown in. I am definitely looking forward to continuing this story with Always a Witch.
BrandisBookMusings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Tamsin was born her grandmother fortold that she would be a witch with powers like they had never seen. Unfortunatel Tamsin has had to live down the disappointment of that prediction her entire life. Not only does she not have an impressive Talent she has no Talent at all. A mysterious young professor comes to her family shop asking for magical help and mistakes her for her golden child of a sister Rowena. Tamsin jumps at the chance to prove herself to her family once and for all. She and her childhood friend Gabriel will embark on a journey through time uncovering secrets that were meant to remain hidden, kept from her and the rest of her family for a good reason. Tamsin's life and that of those around her will forever be changed.This book has been around for a while now and I just read it last night. I have no idea why I waited so long and fully regret that now. This book is absolutely amazing. I loved every minute of it. Seeing past the supernatural part of the book it relates to readers on a much more basic level. At some point in time most of us have felt that we needed to live up to someone else or prove ourselves just as worthy as they are. This book touches on that,feeling the outcast, sibling rivalry and the love that goes with it, and that of self discovery. This book is absolutely recommended.
Paper_Dreams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I originally stumbled upon this by chance at my local library. Witches are probably my all-time favorite supernatural beings, so I am always looking for a good book/series that feature them. I am so glad I ended up picking this up! It¿s a fun, dramatic read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.It is immediately easy to feel sympathetic for Tamsin. Everyone in her family has a Talent, except for her. The really bad thing is the fact that Tamsin was supposed to be quite talented, and instead has to deal with her rather irritating, talented older sister. One of my favorite parts of the book, though, was the friendship between Tamsin and Gabriel. The two of them are such a fun, entertaining pair. The romantic tension between them is sizzling!This was rather a quick read time-wise, but every page was worth it. I love the author¿s take on witches & magic. The extensive inclusion of family was also a huge plus. All around this is definitely a fantastic read. The history behind the current story is completely tied into it, which makes for a compelling, interesting time. Alistair is just¿Alistair. The end of the story is perfect. I would love to explain that, but I do not want to spoil anyone.Overall, this is probably my favorite witch-themed book out there. Combined with its sequel, Always a Witch, I can definitely say it is my favorite witch series. I would highly recommend this especially to fans of the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan or witches in general. This is well worth the read and you will definitely be reaching for Always a Witch upon finishing this!
AnnaKay21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first I wasn't interested in this book because of the somewhat iffy description and the cover. But then I started reading it and couldn't stop! Tamsin is snarky, vulnerable and lovable. She's into vintage clothing, has a very cool best friend and goes to boarding school in New York. Oh and on top of that, he family all have magic powers - she supposedley doesn't. There is a case of mistaken identity involving her 'pefect' older sister Rowena, and she agrees to help Professor Alistair Callum find a lost family heirloom. Add in a hot childhood friend (Gabriel) who moves back into town and some time travel. TIME TRAVEL. I am a sucker for time travel and that hooked what little hesitation right out of my mind. Also, the second I finished I made up my mind to buy the sequel so I could read it right away. I never do that because I am a poor cheapskate! I loved this book, it was just that good.
SunnySD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sibling rivalry - Tamsin Greene has it in spades. Her older sister, her Talented older sister, Rowena has it all - beauty, Talent, a handsome, adoring finance, and of course the knowledge that she will be head of the family some day. For Tamsin, whose predicted powers never materialized, her sister is a shade more than annoying, and all she wants is to get away to somewhere where ordinary is normal and she'll fit in. When a young and handsome art-history professor turns up in the family bookstore looking for Rowena to Find a lost item for him and mistakes Tamsin for Rowena, Tamsin doesn't correct him. And suddenly everything changes. Tamsin's lie leads to sinister revelations, long-buried family secrets, and a desperate quest through time. Well-written with sympathetic characters, good pacing, and a nice lead-in to further installments.
UrbanFantasyGuy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up on a whim while browsing for something to read because the cover and description caught my eye. After reading it and thoroughly enjoying it I'm surprised that I've never heard of it before. The story follows a 17 year old girl named Tamsin, the black sheep in a family of witches. In trying to prove herself to her family she unknowingly opens up a chapter in her family's past that everyone would have rather not remembered. Tamsin is a loveable, stubborn, witty, and funny protagonist that readers will surely love. My favorite part of this book is how the system of magic in their world is set up, it seems to be pretty interesting and I hope to learn more about it in future books. The only problem one might have when reading this book is keeping track of events through time travel. You may become desperately confused if you haven't been paying close attention to the plot, but the time travel is just another part that makes it a great read.
Reader_Barbara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Your daughter will be one of the most powerful we have ever seen in this family"... or not. Tamsin has lived most of her life feeling like a disappointment to her family. Predicted at birth to be one of the most powerful amongst them, she is the only one in a family without a Talent. When her Talent fails to manifest itself by age 8, the absolute latest anyone in the family has ever shown, she begins to feel like an outsider. To make matters worse, she has a perfect older sister in Rowena. So, when she is 17 and a mysterious stranger mistakes her for Rowena, she fails to correct him and determines that she will find a way to help the stranger despite her lack of Talent. Her long-lost childhood friend Gabriel is brought back into her life at just the right time to help Tamsin help the stranger. Unfortunately, the stranger is not who he appears to be and the story of an ancient feud between families comes to light. The stranger needs the real Rowena to help him change the past & only Tamsin can stop him.I really like Tamsin. She is not a helpless female character and while she is without Talent, she is not without wit and resources. She is funny and smart, while still being a vulnerable, insecure teenaged girl. She is a pretty good role model for other girls, despite the smoking. She really begins to come into her self during this story and I am interested to see how she develops as a young woman in the stories to come. I am also interested in how her role in the family will change in the future, as well as her relationship with Gabriel.I really enjoyed this story and look forward to reading the next installment.
sch_94 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really, really enjoyed this novel. It was a refreshing change from the stuff I usually read, and the writing was really easy to get into - I found myself immersed in the world of Talents (magical powers) right away. Tasmin, the main character, is also really easy to identify with. She's always felt like the 'outsider' in her family, being the only one without so much as a drop of magical power. Reading the summary on the back, I couldn't help but be reminded of the 'Squibs' from the Harry Potter Series (people born into a family of witches having no power of their own). You immediately begin to feel for Tamsin when she describes her family; especially her older sister Rowena. Rowena is the prettier, more powerful older sister who is set to take over the role of 'head of the family'. She is constantly rubbing in Tasmin's face the fact that she has no Talent and that she is the more powerful one. I picked this book up (honestly) because of the beautiful cover art. I love in Canada, and the canadian version of the cover art is really pretty (the picture used for this post is the canadian cover, although it doesn't really do it justice). After reading some of the reviews, I decided to buy it because people described it as a 'light read'. To be completely honest, I thought it was a great book with great characterization and a complex, intriguing plot, so I have no idea why people call it a 'light read'; I, personally, was so enthralled by the story that I didn't stop reading until the sun was up and I'd read it cover to cover.Some things I really liked about this book: There was a lot of stuff that I enjoyed about this book. The first was the way the author wrote the family dynamic and the relationship between Tasmin and her older sister. Having an older sister myself, I know what it's like to feel overshadowed by somebody else's achievements (I'm sure anyone with an older sibling knows what I'm talking about), and Tasmin's large extended family reminded me a lot of my own family. Secondly, I really liked that the characters were real - Rowena was jealous of her sister (and vice versa), Tamsin was witty and sarcastic (and also a smoker), Gabriel made sexual jokes constantly, Uncle Morris was constantly drunk... the characters seemed really believable, and the dialog didn't seem forced at all, which tends to happen in YA novels.All in all, I really enjoyed it (how many times have I used the word 'enjoyed' in this post?!). I think it's worth picking up, and I'll definitely be pre-ordering the sequel, Always a Witch. Hopefully (fingers and toes crossed!) netgalley will accept my request for an ARC and I'll have a review for you guys before it's released.
ACleveland on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once a witch helped me realize that you shouldn't give up on yourself that your made to do something, and that you can. Not to every sell yourself short. That family is important and to do what ever you can to help them no matter what trouble it brings.
Bookswithbite on LibraryThing 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.
peptastic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once a Witch wasn't groundbreaking or original material if you've read any fantasy novels at all but it was diverting enough.If you've grown up in the shadow of a bossy, perfect older sister then you'll appreciate how this novel captured that feeling of inadequacy perfectly. Not as well as Margaret Mahy's The Tricksters however. That book explored the family dynamic profoundly in why parents treat kids differently and how it effects the unit. I wanted to slap that sister so much.Tamsin accepts her role in the family by saving them. But why they treated her like that was too deep seated for how it was explained. Her dad treated her like she was an idiot.I would not have been as forgiving as Tamsin was to her family. I have a hard time accepting the entire community went along with the decision to lie on her because the matriarch [her grandmother] said so as the book didn't develop the relationships enough. No one but Gabriel saw her as worthy because she didn't have powers then that community has problems.I got why Tamsin felt like an outsider but unlike in White Cat by Holly Black everything ends cleanly. That series delved more into the community and their unhealthy family dynamic. This book doesn't hold up to scrutiny. In a nutshell this book is a junior high version of the Black Swan Rising & Watchtower novels by Lee Carroll.
BooksforCompany on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I brought this book to read as l had the second book to review called Always a Witch (Not yet released). l never like to read a book which is second in the series before having read the first book because l hate missing out on a good book and would never read the first book after reading the 2nd already.Anyway, my thoughts -Carolyn is a new author for me and l am glad l have found her, l love the way she writes, her writing style makes the book constantly interesting and great to read. This book is also one of my first (if not my first .. can't remember) book which l have read that focuses so much on the magic that the characters hold. I was a bit nervous this would be too unrealistic but actually you quickly get dragged into the world which is created and start to believe this world really exists.I love how the book started off and Tasmin introduced me to her world and that she felt a very normal girl. The characters and their relationships are fun to read about, l especially loved the relationship between Tamsin and her sister. It is so similar to real sister relationships out there (mine included with my sister!) but has the added factor of the magic in the family which makes it very funny to read about. You find the characters themselves and the relationship between other characters changing as the story goes on and bonds between characters are quite out of the blue! The complex connections and ties between different people in this book makes for an interesting 'community' within the book and more so because of the different opinions with the characters hold about their family. As well as many of the bonds between the characters coming as a surprise the main storyline within this book was not expected. I thought l had a idea of how this book would turn out but l was totally wrong with new twists coming up in this book constantly. It really is a book which you can't get bored reading. The talents which Carolyn included in this book was great, l loved every single one of them and some were a very clever idea . I was excited to start the second book, Carolyn really leaves you with a cliffhanger in this book and l would very much recommend it, it's so close to being a 4.5.
DeeDee10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was surprisingly good. The plot was interesting as well as the characters. All of the characters appear to have room for growth and that makes things even more interesting. Rowena was my least favorite character. I hope that there is a sequal to this book.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think this is a cut above the cookie cutter teen urban fantasy I've been reading lately. Tamsin is the only normal person in an extended family of witches, when her talent failed to manifest on her eight birthday, she became more and more excluded from the family. Now a 17 year old, when someone assumes she is her powerful sister and asks for help, she decides to show the family she can be useful. But the stranger she's assisting has hidden ties to her family, and Tamsin's family history begins to unravel all around her.I loved that while there was a romance, it was low key, and very secondary to the important plot. And while there is bad hat, Tamsin's family members are nicely nuanced, with selfish and kind and boorish and wise strands all mixed.This reminded me a little bit of Diana Wynne Jones's simpler stories of destiny - a faint echo of Charmed Life had me guessing a major twist early on. The way family talent manifest brought Savvy to mind, although the tone is very different. And the feeling of inevitability running through the story reminded me of The Changeover.I'd give this to urban fantasy fans, but also light-fiction readers (dare I say chick-lit) who will appreciate the family drama aspects..
mishlkari on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book, despite being aimed at teens, caught my interest from the very first chapter. The lead character, Tamsin has more then the usual teen angst - she is the black sheep of her mystical family. Tamsin is the only member of her large, commune-like household to not have a special "Talent". She is envious of her beautiful sister, Rowena, who is perfect and talented, and Tamsin is pitied by her extended family who don't understand how a baby born with great promise has managed to grow into a high school student so thoroughly ordinary. Through this story, she comes to learn about her family history, solving a mystery and discovering her own strengths.It is a coming of age story, with fun, humor, romance, adventure, time travel and witchcraft, and allegorical for all teens who are looking to find their "talents". Teens (and adults) will find plenty to enjoy in this book. It is easy to relate to the characters, who are well developed , inviting you to care about and root for them. Tamsin is written with great depth and you feel she is an actual person. Carolyn MacCollough has done a great job of "showing" instead of telling her story. Unlike many other popular teen novels, the lead female character has a strong personality, and stands up for herself. There is romance and some rebellious teen behavior, but nothing too inappropriate for most teens.I would feel very comfortable adding it to a classroom library and encouraging teens (and adults) to enjoy it. I have several students eager for me to share. I will personally be looking forward to a sequel.Highly recommended -- Thank you!
WilowRaven on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tamsin is a character I immediately felt connected to. She's an ordinary girl with an extraordinary family. I hadn't read a good witch story in a while and this one was defiantly a good choice. Tamsin's family are all witches, she is too technically but she has never felt like she fit in. Her family isn't overbearing about it - they are all very accepting. I loved the cast of characters - from Tamsin's matriarchal grandmother to her annoyingly perfect older sister.The one thing that stood out for me in this book was how genuine Tamsin's feelings were portrayed. Her family and friends mean everything to her and you can really feel it through MacCullough's writing. There is some romance, but it isn't over done. It's actually very cute and again, genuine.Another thing I loved about this book - best first line ever:"I was born on the night of Samhain when the barrier between worlds is whisper thin and when magic, old magic, sings its heavy and sweet song to anyone who cares to hear it."There is a lot to this book - including a really good mystery - enough to keep you well entertained and draw into the story and the ending is open to a sequel - I hope!I highly recommend this book to any YA Urban Fantasy fans.5 Stars
nicole on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tamsin was predicted to be one of the most powerful witches in her family when she was born; however, her Talent is a no show on her eighth birthday. To escape the shame she feels, Tamsin who is now seventeen convinces her parents to allow her to attend boarding school. Tamsin is thrilled that the school requires all students to live in the dorms since it means her parents can¿t force her to live with family. Although she tries to live a normal life as someone who is Talentless, Tamsin does work in her grandma¿s store which is where she encounters a professor who is part of a rival witch family. Alistair, of course, doesn¿t reveal that to Tamsin so she agrees to help him. Only after it is too late to turn back does Tamsin discover the truth about Alistair and the clock he asked her to find.The plot of Once a Witch moves along nicely and has a great twist that comes as an excellent shock to Tamsin. There¿s an appropriate amount of tentative high school romance to go along with the suspense of discovering the secret surrounding the clock and how it ties to Tamsin¿s family. It¿s a quick read ending with a cliffhanger that implies there will be a sequel if not an entire series.
Raben on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great book with many twists and turns. You never know what is going to happen until it happens. Leaves you wanting more and looking forward to the next book.
BookWhisperer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tamsin only wishes to be a normal girl. After having spent most of her life as the family blacksheep she is now moving forward. Attending a prep schools has also helped Tamsin construct was appears to be a semi normal life. Tamsin was supposed to be a witch of great power, but at the age of eight it was discovered she lacked a talent. Talents are the power that a witch gains at a certain age. It is then that a member is guided through initiation rites, and begins to truely learn how to be a witch. Only when Tamsin failed to gain a talent, she rejected the witch lifestyle and never learned the rules. On summer break Tamsin returns home to a summer of torture. When a strange strolls into town Tamsin finds a chance to finally fit in by agreeing to help them find what they have lost. Only with no talent this presents a problem, and what the strangers looking for turns out to be more than just a family heirloom.Once a Witch is a very fast paced story, and had my attention full invested by the second chapter. This was my first book by Carolyn MacCullough, and I really enjoyed her writing. The storyline was easy to follow, and the plot was strong. Although, I felt that characters were some what lacking, while I felt as though I knew the characters at moments they still seemed like strangers in the story. I still would without a doubt recommend Once a Witch it is excellent read. I hope to sequel in the future.