|4.3 Stars||135 Reviews||100%|
5 Star Reviews
64) Sarah’s Review ★★★★★
By Sarah Coleman on 9 April, 2020 (Goodreads Review)
This had some interesting vibes to it. I enjoyed this book and the nature of it, and would definitely read more by this author. The main character is interesting, and the world building was nicely done.
63) A Book with an Attention-Grabbing Storyline. ★★★★★
The Secrets of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith is a very interesting book with a unique story. I have read many suspense stories with unique storylines, and now, I am glad I got to read this book and add it to my list.
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is filled with friendship, drama, grief, secrets, suspense, mystery, different cultures, and much more that the author penned in a very realistic manner. Written in eloquent prose with an easy to understand storyline, the story becomes increasingly interesting as it progresses. The plot of the book is clever and will very easily capture the readers’ attention. In addition to the fascinating storyline, the highlights of the book are the way the author has written each character in the book, their circumstances, and their experiences from grief to the start of a friendship, from the Hawthorne’s secret to everything else. It was just perfect.
Overall, The Secrets of Hawthorne House is filled with humor, sorrow, suspense, mystery, adventure, love, friendship, realistic characters, and an attention-grabbing storyline. So, read The Secrets of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith. You will enjoy reading it, too.
62) Thank you, Donald! ★★★★★
By Tilly T. on 10 March, 2020 (Amazon US Review)
I did not buy the book; I joined a reading book club, and Donald gave me a free copy, which I’m so grateful for. A review for a free copy! Awesome and I was immediately fixated on the cover. I messaged the author and told him, I want this book! I didn’t even bother reading the description. I know people shouldn’t read a book by its cover, but the cover had such a Goosebumps vibe to me that I had to give it a go. The Secrets of Hawthorne House is a reputable book. I did feel it lacked a elaborated/ board conflict, like everything was easy to solve, and I just think the problems should have been more complicated. But at the same sense, I can see why it isn’t because of the age range this book appeals to, so readers younger than me don’t get too lost in the sauce, if that makes sense. 🤣
In some form of way, I think by character development, Donald reminds me of Darren Shan. When I was a kid, just starting out reading, I can across the Cirque Du Freak series. Donald kind of resembles the same general idea of a dynamic “hero” of the story. So I really enjoyed kind of being brought back to a childhood memory while reading this.
61) Mystery, Adventure and Thought-provoking Fun ★★★★★
The Secrets of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith is a YA fantasy novel, a genre I’ve read very little. Not being the target audience for this book, I was astonished at how well it held my attention.
After Matt’s mother is killed in an auto accident, his father moves the family to a small town in Indiana. Their new home is next door to a massive dilapidated mansion, inhabited by, rumor has it, a witch. Short of cash, Matt does odd jobs for his neighbor and makes friends with Gerallt, her grand-nephew, who has come to live in the mansion.
When bullies target both boys, the adventures begin! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the fun and mystery will keep the reader entranced throughout the story.
While the story is a fantastic escape, it also addresses topics such as science vs. religion, the effect of technology on interpersonal communication, and bullying. The author also sneaks in details about life before the industrial revolution, folklore, and Celtic history. Still, Hawthorne House is an easy read and a page-turner.
Enjoy and keep an eye out for the sequels.
60) Ghosts, Magic, and Grief-Oh My! ★★★★★
By D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Reviews on 8 February, 2020 (Midwest Book Review – To Be Published in March)
Teen Matt Mitchell’s life is nothing but pain and suffering. After his mother died in a car accident, his grieving father moved the family far from their beloved seaside home to the small town of Hawthorne, Indiana, where Matt and his family struggle to start over despite school bullies adding to the problems.
As Matt learns the woman next door is rumored to be a witch, The Secrets of Hawthorne House heats up with a supernatural element, as well…but readers of all ages who anticipate a ghost story may be surprised to find that Matt’s story is far more than one of investigating spirits or struggling with loss holding magic beyond supernatural realms.
The story begins with the family’s loss and changes, and moves quickly to the Indiana setting, which at first promises nothing than more experiencing pain in an unfamiliar environment. Matt never expected to get familiar with neighbor and suspected husband-murderer ‘Old Lady Hawthorne’, but this evolves along with a mystery surrounding their family and home.
As Matt confronts various forms of magic and his own abilities, he begins to change. From spells and blackmail to family secrets, accusations, and damaged reputations, The Secrets of Hawthorne House is especially strong in its dialect and depiction of small-town interactions, politics, and history.
Contrasting newcomer Matt’s struggles are those of Gerallt, of druid ancestry whose people were driven into hiding, and who has inherited a cultural and religious legacy of isolation and suspicion towards outsiders. As their friendship blossoms, so do the conundrums it brings to not just themselves, but their peoples and heritage. The learning process between them holds the promise of breaking down centuries of barriers carefully constructed in the name of survival.
Their story of finding family in the unlikeliest of places just when each feels the most isolated from their roots creates a powerful interplay of mystery and intrigue and healing that will keep all ages thoroughly engrossed.
All these make for far more than a story of ghosts, magic, secrets, and grief, weaving all these elements into a tale greater than its subplots and themes. Some readers who resist dialect may balk at Donald Firesmith’s heavy hand on representing a Maine dialect that only the Hawthornes have, but this adds a realistic element that captures individual speech patterns yet is completely understandable, adding atmosphere to the characters: ” I’d like tah introduce you tah my niece Gwendolyn, Gerallt’s mothah.”
It should also be noted (and applauded) that the story is a standalone creation that concludes its events with an opportunity for more adventures, yet is concluded under one cover. Its lessons about different cultures and backgrounds, the process of grief and recovery, and the acceptance of ideas and realities a bit different from the norm are all solidly presented and in keeping with character and plot developments.
The complexity and depth of The Secrets of Hawthorne House, as well as its incorporation of magical elements with realistic struggles and confrontations creates a captivating story that is hard to put down, original, and satisfyingly unique. Its lessons about different cultures and backgrounds, the process of grief and recovery, and the acceptance of ideas and realities a bit different from the norm… creates a powerful interplay of mystery and intrigue and healing that will keep all ages thoroughly engrossed.
59) A BOOK FULL OF MYSTERY AND MAGIC ★★★★★
“If you have a question about how something works, you have to run the experiment and see what the universe answers.”
The book is set at a location called Hawthorne, a small town in northeastern Indiana. The Mitchell family has to shift to this place after they lose a beloved member of their family and run out of money in making every endeavor to keep her. Matt Mitchell, a 15-year-old, finds it tough to recognize that her mother is no more and is troubled by [his memories of her] until he confronts the Old lady Hawthorne (i.e., Aunt Vivianne) one day and asks her to help her with her yard as he needs to make some money. He finds Aunt Vivianne’s [accent] to be unusual, and the lady was even weirdest as she always kept herself behind the doors and not let anyone see inside her house. Things become all unusual when new members arrive at the mansion, and Matt becomes friends with Gerallt, one amongst them. Their friendship grew to a length that Gerallt stakes the hidden Hawthorne’s family secret with him in exchange for a promise that he would never utter a word about it to anyone. Together they [confront] the bullies in the school, and soon they become inseparable.
Meanwhile, Matt’s father, Sam, and Gerallt’s mother, Gwendolyn, fall for each other, but Sam [does not know] the biggest unknown of her life. What is the secret grounded in the house? Why is their family matrilineal? Why do they say Goddess and not God?🙄 Will Sam be able to digest all of it? Will Matt be able to know how he was able to do the same things that Gerallt [could]? Grab this book today for it’s the Readers’ Favorite Silver medal book, which has also been nominated for the 2020 Top Shelf magazine Book awards😍.
I really enjoyed the story and could feel like moving back to the days when I used to read Goosebumps👻 a lot (though it’s a higher version of it). It has such an exquisite writing style, and the detailing by the author made it more and more enjoyable. I was completely hooked till the very last. Loved all the characters and their beautiful names😍. The best part was the information at the end about everything in the book, which sounds different. A lot of things have made me more curious about the next [book], which holds a lot more disclosures.
[Note: minimum edits made for readability as English was not the reviewer’s native language.]
58) Absolutely magical ★★★★★
By Sanah Bukhari on 8 January, 2019 (Amazon UK Review)
This was a fun read. I loved the characters and how each character intertwined with the rest. There was humor and love. A true story of friendship and family. This book definitely evoked a lot of happy emotions, and I can say it is one of my favorite books within this genre.
I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author via Voracious Readers.
57) Excellent Read for Halloween! ★★★★★
By Dee Williams on December 29, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
The first thing that attracted me to this book was the cover art. It is so beautifully done and fits perfectly with the story within. Donald Firesmith’s book grabbed my interest right from the start because he didn’t rush the story development, making the narrative flow smoothly. It was so easy for me to immerse myself in this teen urban fantasy, despite being an adult, and I was very involved in the characters, their successes, and predicaments. The Hawthorn’s peculiarities intrigued me instantly, especially when Matt got to know more about them, through his friendship with the older son, Gerallt. I found the plot well thought out and full [of] useful messages to target readers on dealing with life’s hardships, the loss of a parent, bullying, and financial stress. There was even a part that dealt with discrimination and respecting other’s beliefs. Overall, I found The Secrets of Hawthorne House truly enjoyable, and if the author, Donald Firesmith, writes a second book, I would love to be one of the first to read it.
56) I will follow this author in the future. ★★★★★
By Jana Harmon on December 12, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
As a 68-year-old grandmother, I found this book to be very entertaining. Yes, I read adult literature also. This book was hard to put down. I found the characters real and well defined. I had a visual of all the surroundings throughout the story. This author truly delivers, and I look forward to more from him in the future.
55) Magic, mystery, and friendship ★★★★★
A perfectly magical read for young teens and tweens. Matt, a nerdy outsider, moves back to his father’s hometown after his mother is tragically killed by a drunk driver. The house next door is creepy, and Matt is convinced its owner, Old Lady Hawthorne, is some kind of witch. He gets bullied at school, and things are bad, but they get better when Gerallt, the great nephew of Old Lady Hawthorne moves in and they become unlikely friends. Beautifully written, and ideal for a cozy night by the fire, this book is a delightfully poignant and fun adventure.
54) What if a Druid moved next door to you? ★★★★★
I really enjoyed this tale. At first I thought it was going to be about Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I was a bit disappointed when the story had nothing to do with the venerable writer. But, I kept reading. This magical narrative so reminded me of the books I enjoyed speeding through in Junior High and High School. Adventure. Druids. Supernatural spells. Secrets buried in the house. Witches. Goddesses. Even a rich history of the family going back thousands of years. And as a coming of age tale, I love the idea Matt and his friend Gerallt have the ability to cast spells on bullies and get them into all sorts of trouble. I think this is perfect fun for a 15 or 16 year old, and I highly recommend it to young readers.
53) Great Cover Art & Intriguing Story ★★★★★
By Howard A. Fox on November 30, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
I had the opportunity to interview Donald Firesmith on my [#SuccessInSight] podcast, and enjoyed learning about his writing. I was especially intrigued by The Secrets of Hawthorne. The cover art was fantastic. As a young Baby Boomer, I found the story light and enjoyable; it was the perfect distraction for a few hours. I am looking forward to more adventures from the Hawthorne & Mitchell families.
52) Like a classic middle-grades paperback from the 1980s, in the best possible way ★★★★★
By Amazon Customer on November 29, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading The Secrets of Hawthorne House. To my surprise, I was quite charmed by its throwback vibe.
If you were a child during the 1980s, you probably remember those wonderful paperback volumes from your school or library that contained well-written stories with interesting characters. If so, this would be the perfect book to recapture that feeling- or pass it along to the next generation.
The story starts with a boy who is firmly enmeshed in the “normal” world, albeit with a tragic backstory involving the loss of his mother to a drunk driver. Through carefully paced revelations, we find out more and more about the history of the forbidding Hawthorne House and its inhabitants, eventually revealing a long-kept secret. To say more would be to reveal too much.
All in all, an absorbing read with rich details that make it stand out in the field of middle-grade fiction.
51) Heartwarming ★★★★★
I received a free copy of this book from the author via voracious readers only in exchange for an honest review.
I instantly fell in love with this book, the friendship between Matt and Gerallt is so pure and wholesome, it went straight to my heart. They are both a bit cheeky and prone to rule breaking, but they’ve got good hearts and the best intentions, which makes them both such likeable characters. The story was really well-paced and weaved together that it never felt rushed, and it kept me hooked at all times. In a way, the supernatural elements came second to the relationships forming between all the characters, but it was so well done that I didn’t mind. I won’t write anything about the story as I really believe you need to experience it for yourself, but I will say that if you enjoy heartwarming relationships coupled with magic and adventure, you should definitely read this book.
50) Anita Fenton’s Review ★★★★★
By Anita Fenton on November 11, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
This book starts out like a normal bullying of the new kids. The characters were written very well, I felt their pain and their happiness. The story was good, and the families came together like true friends. They all had their own worries and their own happiness. Would like to see a book 2 of this story to see where they decide to go.
49) Fee (Ebook Addicts)’s Review ★★★★★
I really enjoyed this book. Geared at teens, I can see my oldest son enjoying this book. Also, it was a perfect read for upcoming Halloween. Matt has just moved to Hawthorne after the death of his mother forced the family (his twin sister and father) to have to move. Matt and his twin, Tina, start at a the local high school, and whilst Tina settles in okay, Matt becomes a target for bullies. They have moved next door to infamous Hawthorne House; yet Matt, he doesn’t believe the stories so starts working on the house doing odd job for the owner – who it turns out the town believes to be a murder and a witch. Matt finds her odd, but soon her family moves in with her, and Matt makes an unlikely friend in Garellt, her nephew. Garellt has lost his father, so the two bond over losing a parent. The Hawthorne family do have some paranormal traits. I liked the idea of the amulets and incantations, and the whole witchy other-worldly feel they had.
Over all, this was a good read, and there seems to be a mash genres in this book, but Firesmith somehow makes them work together, making this an interesting read for any teen who may be interested in the paranormal aspects.
48) Brilliant ★★★★★
Amazon: Oh, I loved this book. It’s fun and funny in places. It’s brilliantly written and has a brilliant story line. I’m now looking forward to reading the next chapter in this story.
Goodreads: This is a brilliant book. It’s about friendship, loyalty, secrets, magic, loss, and love (there’s a little romance in there too). It’s funny in places, well I thought parts were funny lol. It’s about two families from backgrounds which couldn’t be more different if they tried who come together. It even covers high school bullying and of course, magic. If you are a fan of Harry Potter and Bella Forest’s Spellshadow Manor series, you will love this book. The story-line has been well thought out and draws you in wanting to know what is going to happen next. It’s brilliantly written, and [I] really do recommend you read it if you like any books that involve magic and mystery. I think you will enjoy it!!
I’m looking forward to reading the next chapter of this story. It would make a great series. 😀📚💞
47) Kris Yarych’s Review ★★★★★
By Kris Yarych on October 14, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I enjoyed reading this young adult fiction.
Life has changed forever, and keeps right on changing! This is true for everybody. I enjoyed the paranormal twist to the lives on this book.
It was a unique experience to read the accents of the neighbors, while the 2 boys became best friends. I always forgot the boys were older than my mind portrayed them.
I [received] this book from Voracious Readers. I look forward to reading more from Donald Firesmith.
46) Kerry Martin’s Review ★★★★★
By Kerry Martin on October 12, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
The struggles of Matt Mitchell on moving to a new town & new school, dealing with bullies and rumors of a Witch and murderer next door at Hawthorne House.
Matt finds a best friend in Gerallt Hawthorne who just moved into Hawthorne House, and the two of them with the help of Gerallt’s secret abilities will leave you chuckling as those bullies get some payback dished to them.
Matt and Gerallt get to discover the secrets of Hawthorne House, and Matt learns the secrets of the Hawthorne family and some of the reasons behind the rumors about his unusual neighbors.
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more about Matt, Gerallt, and their families.
A great read I’d recommend for anyone still young at heart!
45) Druids exist ★★★★★
A wonderful story about a young boy who helps an elderly next door neighbor and becomes friends with her great nephew. Together, they battle bullies and discover a treasure, while one’s Dad and the others one’s Mom get acquainted. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
44) Jasmine’s Review ★★★★★
By Jasmine Little on October 1, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I absolutely loved this story! I was hooked from beginning to end. I love how it touched on all different things: bullying, love, loss, grief, religion and plain differences. This story was able to intertwine all of these into one and make a masterpiece.
When it comes to witches, you usually get pretty mediocre stories without any background. However, the story of the Goddess surprised me. Everything was explained and every situation had a reason in the story. I wasn’t left wondering or confused at all. I kept trying not to read it so fast so that I wouldn’t finish it. I’m so excited for the next book in the series!
43) Read this Book! ★★★★★
Excellent, amazing, fantastic! What begins as a sad, almost horror story turns into a refreshing story of friendship, love, and family. Beautifully written with enough little twists to keep the mysteries going, the characters are fully realized and genuinely interesting. I can’t wait for more of the Hawthornes.
42) I loved it ★★★★★
Matt Mitchell gradually learns that he is living next door to a real witch after her niece and 2 come to live with her. This is a wonderful story about acceptance and the importance of having an open mind. 👍👍👍. You won’t be disappointed.
41) Great supernatural mystery! ★★★★★
I’m in love with this book! When a widower and his children move in next door to the town’s purported haunted mansion with stories of the old witch that lives there having murdered her philandering husband and best friend 50 years ago, the father encourages his children not to believe such nonsense. Matt, his son begins going over to offer to help clean the dilapidated yard and porch. Although she never lets him in, and always blocks his view into the huge old mansion, she is polite and happy for his hard work. Thus begins a friendship and a mystery. When Mrs. Hawthorne ‘s niece and her three children move in with her, it opens the door to friendship, and learning the mysteries of the Hawthorne House and it’s residents. Just when you think you’ve learned the mystery, a new and bigger one becomes uncovered! Very well written and I can’t wait to read the next book!
40) Interesting and different ★★★★★
I really enjoyed this book. The story is filled with realistic characters and situations but also touches on magic/religion/personal/familial beliefs. It explores the kindness and cruelty of strangers and how you can make friends in unexpected ways. The story moves along nicely but also leaves enough of an open ending that I’m interested in reading the next book in the series.
39) Very Entertaining Book ★★★★★
By R.J. on September 13, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
Although this book is meant for middle school readers, as a PhD, I found this book immensely engaging. The author was clear and rich in his descriptions. The characters were strongly written and completely engaging. I am looking forward to future books in this series.
38) Good read… ★★★★★
By Lisa Parkinson on September 6, 2019 (Amazon UK Review)
I really enjoyed this book. Found it a little hard to get use to the dialogue at first, but once I got use to it, it was great. I would recommend to anyone who likes an easy read, with a bit of everything involved.
37) Rhonda’s Review ★★★★★
By Rhonda on September 5, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
This was a good read, more for young adults but with a lot of mystery and suspense. It brought back memories of growing up and how what you see isn’t always what is. Also no swearing or graphic sex talk – thank you!!
36) Thrilling and unexpected ★★★★★
This book headed in a direction I was not thinking. I was expecting… well I don’t know what I was expecting, but this was not it. I enjoyed reading this book and getting to know Matt and Gerallt. I love how the Hawthorne family was not as bad as everyone made them out to be. It was a good read, and I want a second book!
35) Jessica Bronder’s Review ★★★★★
By Jessica Bronder on August 30, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
Matt Mitchell has had a rough year. His mother died in a car accident, and his father has moved him and his sister to a small town of Hawthorne in Indiana. Because Matt is the new kid, there are a group of guys that have decided that they are going to bully him and make his life even more difficult. Then Matt learns that he lives next to the Old Lady Hawthorne, the town’s witch. But when the woman’s niece and children move into the house, Matt learns about their story. He makes a new friend and starts looking into the story of Hawthorne.
This is a great story. Matt is a great kid and just had his world turned upside down with the loss of his mother. Of course, the sadness felt by everyone is just heartbreaking, and I understand why his father moves them. Unfortunately, this is not going to give the now new kid in town an easy time with other boys his age.
Gerallt is a great guy and the perfect friend for Matt. Add in a little magic, and this book just keeps getting better and better. The rich history of Hawthorne also adds to this story. I love how the story goes into bullies, rumors, family, and magic. I recommend it to any child and adult that would like a little magic added to their world.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
34) Great Book ★★★★★
By Amy Dalton on August 15, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
Good book for children of all ages, young and old. Lol. Loved the story and the well written characters.
33) Great Book! ★★★★★
I really enjoyed reading this book! The author has a way with words that made the story come alive. This book is very well written, moving along at a good pace. I found myself looking forward to what was going to happen next. The characters are well developed. I actually liked the main characters and looked forward to the nasty characters getting their comeuppance. I like the storytelling ability that the author has, the stories within the story were enjoyable to read, for example, when the history teacher told the class about the history of the town of Hawthorne or when Gerallt told Matt the story of his ancestors and Modron. I look forward to reading more about the Mitchell and Hawthorne families, and I’m curious what will happen next! I received this book from the author for a fair review through Voracious Readers Only.
32) Khalilah Abdullah’s Review ★★★★★
By Khalilah Abdullah on August 7, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
It’s a really good book for the YA. I enjoyed the book. Thumbs up!
31) Emma Hewitt’s Review ★★★★★
By Emma Hewitt on July 26, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I loved this book! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I couldn’t put it down. I was hooked by the characters from the start – wanting to find out how Matt got on in his new school/life. The story unfolded at a good pace with the new characters being introduced at just the right time. I finished the book and am looking forward to reading the next one… great book – thank you.
30) 5 out of 5! ★★★★★
By Maggie Baird on July 25, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
This book deserves applause. Middle school/young adult age books with a haunted feel that have a touch of magic in the stories are my absolute favorite! This author did not disappoint me in the least. Going up next to my Mary Downing Hawn collection.
P.S. I got this book from voracious readers 🙂
29) Tay’s Review ★★★★★
By Tay on July 24, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
Fun spooky book perfect for fall! In this book, you follow the main character, Matt, as he moves to a new town after his mother’s death. In the book, you meet characters like Gerallt who knows magic (sounds like a real witch-er. Eh? Eh? Get it?) Although this Gerallt is not of Rivia… his magical abilities help Matt stand up to the school bullies. This is a fun book that would be a great middle school fall read!
28) Very entertaining ★★★★★
Amazon, BookBub, and Goodreads) Thoroughly enjoyed this book, reading late into the night and finishing it on the second day. It’s the story of kindness, friendship, and starting over. I loved all the characters, but Matt, Vivianne, and Geralt were my favorites. I received an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review, and that’s what I have provided.
Sherry’s Book Confessions) The Secrets of Hawthorn House was wildly entertaining. It’s the story of kindness, friendship, and starting over, all wrapped up in two mischievous teenage boys. I can’t wait to read the next book.
27) Tonya’s Review ★★★★★
By Tonya Vautier on July 15, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I loved this book. Donald Firesmith built a heartwarming story around the friendship of two 15-year-old boys whose shared pain of losing a parent, being the new kids in town and becoming the targets of bullies secures the development of a very strong friendship. Not since ‘Harry and Ron’ have a read a book that celebrates the friendship of two boys so successfully.
I would highly recommend this book and will definitely keep Donald Firesmith in my authors to read and follow list. There are a lot of Young Adult books that I would not recommend to younger readers because of content; this is not one. This would be a great read for younger readers wanting to sink their teeth into something meatier.
26) A great story of friendship and adventure ★★★★★
I was given a complimentary copy of this book from Voracious Readers Only and the author.
When I first started reading the book, I loved the characters but had a little difficulty getting into the plot. Then about a quarter of the way into the book, I could not put the story down. I loved how Matt’s family was able to welcome Gerallt’s family to town. I loved the reference to the Hocus Pocus movie, one of my favorite Halloween movies. I cannot wait to continue their story.
I recommend this story to everyone who loves a great story about families becoming friends and accepting each other for who they are.
25) Fun ★★★★★
Amazon) I loved this book! Can’t wait to read it to my grandkids. There was enough mystery to keep me interested, enough fun to be enjoyable. It was magical. I can’t wait for the sequel if there will be one. In the meantime, I will look for more from this author. Appropriate for later grade school, middle school, and us grandmas. Give it a try!
Goodreads) Loved, loved this book. It’s a fun romp with mystery, love, and family. Great for grade school or middle school kids. I’m a grandma, and I am looking forward to the next book. It’s great for grandmas too!
24) Amber’s Review ★★★★★
By Amber on July 6, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
When Matt’s mother dies in a car crash, his father moves him and his sister away from the Ocean to a place called Hawthorne. Little does he know that next door to him are some very magical neighbors. Can he survive his new high school, survive the bullies, and become friends with the neighbors who, the town thinks, live in a haunted house and are witches? Read on and find out for yourself.
This was a pretty good fantasy magical middle grade story about friendship, standing up to bullies, and more. If you love these types of stories, be sure to look for this book wherever ebooks are sold.
23) The Druid Nextdoor ★★★★★
Just finished The Secrets of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith. I understand there is a sequel on the way. Very happy about that! All I can say is that I want to be adopted by these lovely folks.
After Matt’s mother is killed in an auto accident, his father moves him and his sister to a small mid-western town. Matt does not feel like he fits in with kids his age and immediately becomes a target for three mean bullies in his class.
His new home is next door to a huge dilapidated mansion inhabited by a woman other kids say is a witch. Short of cash and with no allowance currently available, his father encourages him to find work in the neighborhood, suggesting that he check with the lady next door to see if he can mow the long overgrown lawn. He works hard for her, and a relationship begins to build. When school starts, Matt finds that he is in the same grade with her great-nephew Gerallt who has come to live in the mansion. As time passes, they become best friends.
The bullies target them both, but odd things begin to happen to the three bullies. In one incident when the bullies are about to beat up on Matt, Gerallt shows up and so does a flock of seagulls who poop on the heads of the bullies until they run away. Of course, that makes things even worse as you might imagine. Chaos follows. But having a best friend who seems to know magic really helps. Matt eventually gets Gerallt to tell him about it. He explains it is not magic, but the answer to his prayers to The Goddess of Celtic lore. And there is so much more to this intriguing story.
This is a very entertaining book and quite original. Just waiting for the sequel now.
22) Carlynne’s Review ★★★★★
This was a fun easy read for me. I loved the way the author described scenes and the details in the opening dream sequence drew me in instantly. This is definitely a teen/YA read with just enough romance to entice the older group and magic to keep the younger group enthralled. I really enjoyed it and hope that there is another book, even though this one isn’t a cliffhanger.
BookBub) Reasons why I liked this book: Easy-to-read, page-turner, and wonderful characters.
21) Lillian’s Review ★★★★★
By Lillian Wakulchyk on June 16, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
A book about a boy discovering his newfound abilities, but also about his family’s struggle as they move from town to town. With summer approaching, the main character and his friends are set for their kind of summer adventures-digging caves, “stunt” biking, but they encounter a darker side of their town- in the house of Hawthorne. I found this book well written, and I was rooting for the kids! A bit of a darker read, but I still could find the hope in the pages of this book.
20) Easy read with good flow, perfect vacation read ★★★★★
Although written for middle school age and high school, I found this a fun book to read as an adult. I was never bored. I also feel advanced elementary readers would enjoy it too. The main characters are between fifteen and seventeen years old, along with parents and an elderly aunt.
There is some discussion about bullies and being respectful to the beliefs of others.
The initial, major, section of the book is about the NEW kids at high school, who have trouble fitting in. When the bullies make it look as if Matt and Gerallt are the trouble makers, and teachers and parents believe the lies, the boys must prove they were set up. This also helps seal their best friendship. Difficult times allow for the two families to form even more of a bond, which is when further adventures happen. I don’t want to give too much away. Gerallt has some magical abilities that he is not allowed to talk about. Let’s just say that the boys give in to some temptations and must deal with consequences.
This is an easy read with a good flow. Perfect for a summer or vacation read.
BookBub Review) Reasons I enjoyed this book: Easy-to-read, entertaining, great world building, original, and wonderful characters.
19) Friendship, Magic and a Future! ★★★★★
The book starts slow, a little too wordy at times, but it builds to a great read. Two boys with similar heartbreaks in their families lead them to be best friends. Battling school bullies and revenge makes it hard to put this book down. Great read for kids, teens, and even this adult.
18) Middle schoolers will greatly enjoy this story. ★★★★★
By Sherri Packard on June 4, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
I enjoyed the story. Especially the interaction between the boys and the families. It skipped around a little but is an excellent read and will be fantastic for middle schoolers.
17) Wonderful story to read by a brand new author for me. ★★★★★
The Secrets of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith is a wonderful story that I have read and fallen in love with. I really loved reading this story with mystery and magic through the whole story and written by a brand new author for me to read. I highly recommend this story to everyone who loves mystery and magic in their stories.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
16) Great book ★★★★★
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is the first book in a middle grade and YA fantasy series about a family of magical Druids. After a drunk driver kills his mother, fifteen-year-old Matt, his twin sister, and their father move to a small town in Indiana. It just so happens that they move next door to the famous Hawthorne house, rumored to house a witch. Matt doesn’t believe in such fairy tales, but when he becomes best friends with Old Lady Hawthorne’s nephew, Gerallt, he finds a whole new world.
I loved this book and never took my eyes off the pages! I’ve never heard of the Goddess Modron or the Druids before, but I certainly know a lot about them now. Magic intertwining with religion and history is fascinating! How Gerallt used his magic to defend himself from the bullies was hilarious, and I found myself frequently laughing out loud! The plotline was extremely creative, and I loved how it kept constantly changing and evolving into new issues. Every chapter was a new adventure. This book was like the game Wack-A-Mole, but I was surprised at how everything was still blended together evenly.
Mythology aside, I loved the real-life message of being friends with people regardless of how they look or the reputation that they have. The theme of acceptance is very clear and the bullying extremely realistic. I’m not typically a fan of male protagonists, but Matt has such a kind heart that he is impossible to dislike. I enjoyed the journey of these two families coming together in the hardest of times.
I cannot wait to read the next book in this series! I highly recommend this book!
15) Great book ★★★★★
By Gwynn on April 13, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
Interesting story. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
14) Fun and Magical! ★★★★★ (actually 4.5 stars)
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is the first book I’ve read by Donald Firesmith, and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. My sister has reviewed his Hell Holes series, so I figured it was time I discovered his writing as well.
This story has a middle-grade vibe to it but is also something that will appeal to young adult readers, and even adult readers. I may be 34, but I consider myself a kid at heart, and I love reading MG/YA stories more than anything else, I think.
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is, at its core, a story about family. The main character, Matt, has lost his mom, and now his dad is uprooting them all (Matt, his sister, his father) and moving them back to the small town his dad grew up in. And to make matters worse, the house next door is supposedly inhabited by a mean, evil witch (or so the rumors say). Needless to say, Matt has a lot he has to deal with.
But, as Matt soon discovers, not all rumors are to be believed, and some secrets are worth uncovering. Especially when the “witch’s” niece and her three kids move in next door as well. There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Gerralt, and Matt finds himself befriending the strange boy.
I don’t want to spoil anything about the book and what’s really going on, nor do I want to give away the secret. I will, however, say that this was a really fun book. It’s got a lot of heart. I liked that Matt didn’t let the rumors about his neighbor keep him from interacting with her. I also liked how Gerralt was willing to jump to the aid of a boy he barely knew because of bullies. With how rampant bullying seems to be nowadays, seeing a victim with a friend who’s willing to stand up for them was nice.
The characters are all really well-written. I thought Matt’s dad, while a bit…off in his own world (understandable, though), he was a good, decent person who just wanted to do whatever he could to take care of his family. I also liked pretty much everyone else in the story, save for the bullies and the principal of the school (and a couple of the teachers too). They were the ones you just couldn’t help but dislike. Some more than others.
The book has an exciting plot, full of adventure and thrills. It was interesting to see how everything played out, and the pacing was good too. It didn’t lag, nor was it too quickly paced. I found myself intrigued and curious to know what the secret was, and what would happen after it was discovered.
And that ending… Well, I won’t spoil that, but it did make me even more interested in reading more by Mr. Firesmith.
Overall, The Secrets of Hawthorne House was a great book, and I’d recommend it to fans of mysteries, YA readers, and people who enjoy stories with paranormal elements. There’s a lot going on, but it’s well worth the read. Definitely check it out!
4.5 stars from me!
13) Readers’ Favorite Review ★★★★★
Fifteen-year-old Matt Mitchell lost his mother in an accident caused by a drunk driver. His devastated father moved him and his twin sister, Tina, from the Oregon coast to the small town of Hawthorne in rural Indiana. As he is the new kid in school, three bullies are determined to make Matt’s life miserable from day one. He also learns that the old recluse who lives in the dilapidated Victorian mansion next door is Lady Vivianne Hawthorne, the town’s infamous witch and murderer. Things become more strange and interesting when Lady Hawthorne’s niece, Gwendolyn Hawthorne, and her three children come to live with her. Matt forms an unlikely friendship with Gerallt, Gwendolyn’s teenage son, and discovers their secret culture and belief, magic, and eventually gets involved in the search for the Hawthornes’ lost treasure.
Rudy Parfaite’s cover art is the first attractive feature of Donald Firesmith’s The Secrets of Hawthorne House. It’s beautifully done and complements the story well. Engaging readers from the start, Firesmith doesn’t rush the story development, making the narrative flow deftly. It was easy for me to immerse myself in this coming-of-age urban fantasy combined with Celtic mythology. I was invested in the characters, their successes, and predicaments. The Hawthornes’ peculiarities are instantly intriguing, especially when Matt gets to know more about them through his friendship with Gerallt. The plot is well thought out, substantiated with imperative messages to the targeted readers on dealing with life’s hardships, the loss of a parent, bullying, and financial stress. There’s also the matter of dealing with discrimination and respecting others’ beliefs. As an adult, I found The Secrets of Hawthorne House truly enjoyable even though it’s for teen readers. A commendable work from Donald Firesmith, and I look forward to the sequel.
12) The Secrets of Hawthorne House ★★★★★
By Tamara Ingram on March 6, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
A really great book that I got from BookFunnel. Immensely enjoyable! I hope more are forthcoming!
11) Well done ★★★★★
By Anna del C. Dye on February 21, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
Matt and Tina Mitchell are twins who just lost their mother in an accident. Their father takes them far away from the seaside they love to the small town of Hawthorne. There they find themselves next door to the famous haunted house of the ghost of the gray lady. Matt needs some money and starts to clean the yard of the haunted house for Mrs. Hawthorn, getting to know her and her timid ways.
One day, her niece comes to live with her along with her three children. Matt becomes Geralt Hawthorne’s best friend and soon discovers that his family is not the common family he is adjusted to. Their secrets, their corky ways, no electricity, no games or computers make for an interesting friendship. Not only that, but the bullies at school are after them…they will have to pull together or be defeated.
This is a great, clean, and entertaining story for middle grade and young adult kids who like mystery, treasure hunts, and magic. It is nicely done by Donald Firesmith. I would keep my eyes out for the next book in this series.
I received a free copy in exchange for a honest review.
10) Nice Feel Good Book ★★★★★
By Jan Gray on January 8, 2019 (Amazon UK Review)
I quite enjoyed this book, teenagers dealing with school, the bullies and different backgrounds.
The different accents used took a bit to get used to (with the spellings ) but once I got used to it I found it fun.
The description was detailed enough to give a good picture of things but not too much so that it distracted from the storyline.
A bit of everything, sadness, stress, magic, joy and love amongst others. Well worth a go.
9) Watched by a Goddess ★★★★★
A great book for readers of all ages. Middle school and high school students will enjoy the humiliation of the school bullies. Adults will connect with the families trying to cope after death strikes. Two families from opposite sides of the country join to fight what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles. But one group is hiding a secret that threatens to end the friendship. Donald Firesmith created a story that has humor, sadness, love and realistic characters. All this combines for a spectacular reading experience. I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book.
8) A lot of action-packed into a well-written book ★★★★★
Firstly I am a big Harry Potter fan so this book was an excellent book for me! That is where the similarities stop!!!
After Sam’s wife died in an accident he uprooted himself and his children Matt and Tina to back to his home town. Their new home was next door to Hawthorne house, which was very run down. The rumors were that it was haunted and the old lady was a witch. Sam did not believe this and encouraged his young son to go there and offer his services to clean the yard for her.
Old Mrs. Hawthorne’s niece and three children moved in with her when the niece Gwendolyn lost her husband in an accident.
Matt soon makes friends with Gerallt and after being bullied at school, strange things kept happening. This is when the fun began.
There is a lot packed into this well written excellent book, there is so much more to this book and of course a happy ending.
7) The Secrets of Hawthorne House is full of history, mystery, magic and great characters. ★★★★★
Matt Mitchell lost his mother a year ago in an accident. Matt his twin sister Tina and their father move back to his father’s hometown so they can all get away from the memories that their mother Mary left behind in their cottage by the ocean.
After the move and without their mother’s income the family’s finances start to dwindle. Matt’s father is having a hard time keeping up with all the bills and things Matt and Tina want.
They move next door to the famous Hawthorne house. Old Lady Hawthorne a recluse known as the town’s witch and murderer. When Matt wants money for new games and CDs and other things, his Dad suggests that he go next door and speak with Lady Hawthorne about taking care of her lawn as it is in dire need of some repair. Matt takes him up on his idea and does just that. He asks Lady Hawthorne for a job and she abides.
Lady Hawthorne’s niece and her three children move in next door. Matt and the oldest son Gerallt become best friends in no time. Gerallt lost his father last year as well. The three Hawthorne children start school with Matt and Tina at Hawthorne High. Matt and Gerallt have a run of bad luck with three bullies at the school. Before long the bullies frame Gerallt and Matt for attacking them and other children which results in Matt and Gerallt getting in-school suspension as well as grounded at home.
Matt and Gerallt are both very strong boys and are determined to set things right with the bullies and set out to prove their innocents and to prove to everyone including their parents that they didn’t do what they were accused of. Someone has to do something before someone gets hurt big time by one of the three bullies. How are Matt and Gerallt going to stop the three bullies? Can they stop them? Will their parents ever believe them again?
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is very intriguing and interesting with the history of the Hawthorne house. The stories of how the house came to be and who built it and how it got its name and the stories of all the Gods and Goddess were very interesting as well. The Secrets of Hawthorne House is full of history, mystery, magic and great characters.
When I was reading The Secrets of Hawthorne House it reminded me of the kids in Stephen King’s It and the kids in Stranger Things of how they stuck by each other no matter what they always had each other’s back and kept each other’s secrets. I can’t wait to see what the Mitchells and the Hawthornes have in store for us in the next book.
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is for anyone who loves a good story with lots of magic. If you like It and Stranger Things then I believe you will like The Secrets of Hawthorne House as well.
6) Is she evil, a witch, or just lonely and scared… ★★★★★
For Matt Mitchell, life had thrown him lemons and turned those lemons even more sour. He had lost his mother in a horrific accident and then his dad decided to uproot the family from his home in Oregon to Hawthorn, Indiana…a “nowheresville” sleepy town. Here was Matt, with no friends, just getting ready to start his first day in High School. As seems to be the norm in schools everywhere, Matt was excluded and tormented for no greater reason than being the new kid. The stories about the “crazy” next-door neighbor and the killings in her house are almost more than Matt can handle. That is until he starts to help the neighbor with yard work. When the neighbor’s niece and kids move in, Matt meets others who are outsiders and he finally makes some friends. Only thing is, the kids are definitely different.
I received an ARC of this ebook. It was such a great story that I wanted to review it, And I hope that the author continues the saga.
5) You must read this delightful, magical book for all ages! ★★★★★
By Teresa Fronek on October 7, 2018 (Amazon US Review)
I’m extremely impressed with The Secrets of Hawthorne House, which was gifted to me. But unlike other books I’ve won or been given for an honest review, I genuinely loved this book! It begins quickly, draws you in, but never slows, so that once you finish one chapter, you’re on to the next. It’s the story of fifteen-year-old Matt Mitchell, who after losing his mother in a tragic accident and is forced to move far from his former home and life, finds a new life and a strong interest that begins next door. He’s intrigued by the”haunted” Hawthorne House next to his own, a house whose inhabitant is said to be an old witch. Once he hears the true story of the mansion from his teacher, however, he’s compelled to meet the owner himself. What follows is his delightful relationship with the white-haired Lady Hawthorne or Mrs. Carter (ex) and when her extended family comes to stay…with Geralt. The rest is a mixture of magic and interesting experiences that allow him to get over his nightmares of his mother’s death and the sadness that had threatened to send him spiraling into a depression. I couldn’t wait to reach the end and find out the mysteries of the old house and its inhabitants! It’s such a delightful story and the first one I’ve read by this author but if this is any indication of his other works or if he continues to write more great books; he has found a fan in me!
4) The Secrets of Hawthorne House ★★★★★
By Kelly Pfister on October 4, 2018 (Amazon US Review)
This is the first book that I have read by this author and I am glad I did! Well-written and a great story.
3) An adventure that stays with you ★★★★★
By Lisa Caudill on October 3, 2018 (Amazon US Review)
This is my first book by Donald Firesmith but it definitely won’t be my last. The Secrets of Hawthorne House is not just one adventure but many and I didn’t want the book to end. The characters are defined and complex and it draws you in so subtly that I found myself talking to the characters! I would love to see these characters again. (hint, hint Mr. Firesmith).
2) The unlikely encounter of 2 families, one having mysterious origins and powers. ★★★★★
By Phillip Lebacq on October 3, 2018 (Amazon France Review)
The unlikely encounter of two families: one very normal, the other with mysterious origins and powers. I loved it. To read urgently. Thank you, Donald, for allowing us these delicious moments of reading.
1) Love this book ★★★★★
By Crystal Fenerty on October 3, 2018 (Amazon Canada Review)
Wonderful book and a wonderful story. Kept me guessing what would happen next as you get drawn into the two families and their building friendships. Recommend for all readers!
4 Star Reviews
56) Slightly spooky, magical and so much more than that ★★★★☆
While this tale seems to promise tons of spooks and paranormal bumps in the night with some magic thrown in, I was surprised that it runs quite a bit deeper than that.
Due to the death of Matt’s mother in a car accident, his family leaves their seaside cottage and heads to Hawthorne, Indiana. But they aren’t the only new family there. The house next door is supposedly haunted and creepy…not that Matt understands why. When a family moves in, who’s father passed away, it does draw quite a bit of attention, especially since they are a little odd. One of the children does become Matt’s best friend. Although things seem to be working out on that end, Matt is faced with bullying at school, and having his best friend’s mother always dress in black eggs it on. Matt learns that the family is harboring a secret, and learning what it is adds a whole new twist Matt could have never seen coming.
While many stories run along a direct plot line, this one has a wider spread. While the paranormal aspect and spooky sides are present, they tend to take a back seat to more important lessons. Matt needs to come to terms with his mother’s death, deal with bullying, and learns to see past differences to find the true things which build friendship. So, while there are creepy and magical moments, there are also quite a few ‘family’ scenes. While these do slow the story down somewhat, they allow the reader to really sink into the characters’ world. Even an action girl like me enjoyed being drawn in like that.
There are quite a few things to enjoy about this tale. Not only are the messages fitting for the age group, but there is enough adventure and tension to keep it pretty interesting. The author melds in a type of druid-ish magic, which opens up the entire thing with a nice amount of fantasy. Especially the characters are a treat as they are easy to like and root for. I’m didn’t find that Matt really fit a fifteen-year-old, as the story places him, as much of his speech and thoughts hit a younger bracket. Even the family situations sometimes didn’t fit the teen scene. Plus, some of their dialogue got a bit tedious and could have been tightened up more.
Still, it’s a fun read and promises an interesting tale still to come in the rest of the series.
55) TBD ★★★★☆
By Jessica McBee on 4 June, 2020 (Goodreads Review)
I thought this was a really enjoyable middle-grade read. My tween will love it as well! There are great characters, a good take on the Maine accent, and adventure/hi-jinks. A nice easy read. I though it was great!
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
54) Halloweentown meets Harry Potter ★★★★☆
** spoiler alert ** I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. I downloaded this from booksirens.com and am leaving an honest review.
This book was a fascinating read. To me, it was somewhat a combination of Disney’s Halloweentown franchise and the Harry Potter franchise. The Hawthornes are an interesting bunch of people. They are druids or druidesses, people who can cast magical spells with the help of their goddess, Modron. The magical spells are fascinating and somewhat remind me of the ones the Cromwell family use in the Halloweentown franchise or the wizards use in the Harry Potter franchise. They are good people who I look forward to getting to know more about in the future.
The Mitchells, meanwhile, are a family who relocated to Hawthorne, Indiana from Oregon to escape the pain of the passing of Matt and Tina’s mother, Mary. The family is forced to adjust to living in the Midwest and having to adjust to a new school, and deal with the bullies in the school, who get Matt in trouble every chance they can. They live next door to the Hawthornes and eventually become friends with them, and I look forward to seeing what new adventures await them.
I do look forward to reading more books in this series as this series is fascinating so far.
53) TBD ★★★★☆
My #1 reason for wanting to read The Secrets of Hawthorne House is because I love the cover, which reminds me of of the mystery middle grade books that I read during my childhood, where a young protagonist is walking by an old (and possibly haunted) house.
Yes, the beginning of this story is a slightly cliched. I don’t how many books I have read that have a family moving to small town after a recent death, and they either move in or near an old house or mansion.
For this story, the Mitchells move next door to the old Hawthorne House, which is supposedly owned by a witch. From that point in the story, I was convinced this was going to be a horror story, but it turned out to be the opposite. There’s no horror of any kind. However, there’s plenty of fantasy and adventure involving druids, which is a subject I’m not too familiar with besides from the few Shannara Chronicles novels I have read. No, there’s no sword & sorcery either, but there is a treasure hunt.
Overall, The Secrets of Hawthorne House is a well-written children’s tale with likeable characters and detailed descriptions. It’s definitely worth reading!
52) ‘A fun, exciting mystery for younger teens.’ The Wishing Shelf Book Awards ★★★★☆
This book was entered in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. This is what our readers thought:
Title: The Secrets of Hawthorne House
Author: Donald Firesmith
Star Rating: 3.5 Stars
Number of Readers: 15
Writing Style: 7/10
Of the 15 readers:
9 would read another book by this author.
12 thought the cover was good or excellent.
15 felt it was easy to follow.
9 would recommend this story to another reader to try.
Of all the readers, 6 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘plotting a story’.
Of all the readers, 9 felt the author’s strongest skill was ‘developing the characters’.
7 felt the pacing was good or excellent.
9 thought the author understood the readership and what they wanted.
“Although this is for YA, it felt more like a book for 9 – 12 year olds. I did enjoy it. I liked the mystery of the manor, and I thought the characters were fun and interesting. It’s a bit slow in the middle, but the ending is excellent.” Female reader, aged 15
“I thought it was going to be a spooky horror when I saw the cover, but it’s not. It’s sort of an adventure/mystery – with a little magic thrown in. The author is a good writer and keeps the mystery going until the end. The bully element is sort of overdone; it’s hard to find a teenager book without a bully or two in it! But I guess it was handled well. I think this writer will write even better books in the future.” Female reader, aged 15
“I liked the book, but it was almost impossible to work out what the characters were saying. I know the author was trying to show dialect, but he went too far. There were also big parts that were agonizingly slow. Not for me.” Male reader, aged 15
“I would happily read a sequel to this. But I think I spotted a few errors in it so it might need better editing.” Girl, aged 13
To Sum It Up:
“A fun, exciting mystery for younger teens.” The Wishing Shelf Book Awards
51) Is There Really a Witch Next-Door? ★★★★☆
This was not the book I expected; it was better! The Secrets of Hawthorne House promised to be the story of a boy whose family moved from Oregon to Indiana after the death of his mother. Matt Mitchell now lives next door to a creepy old house, where his next-door neighbor is the town witch. And if that’s not bad enough, the school bullies decide to make him their latest target. In a nutshell, life sucks. And money is tight, so when Matt asks his dad for an allowance to buy video games, Mr. Mitchell suggests that Matt get a job, maybe mowing lawns. Ask the neighbor if you can work for her. Matt asks the neighbor and finds that Mrs. Hawthorne, while a bit eccentric and a complete recluse, is actually a very kind lady.
The story I just recounted is a great story. It’s fairly predictable but comforting. We know how the story is going to go. But that’s just the first two chapters, and then the story doesn’t go where we knew it was going to. The book takes us through countless surprises as Mrs. Hawthorne’s extended family moves in and her great-nephew, Gerallt, becomes Matt’s best friend. The entire Hawthorne family dresses in old-fashioned, black clothing. And they can do magic.
There’s a whole religious system that goes along with the magic. I find the system a bit unbelievable, but it is interesting and well thought through. I hope that Matt’s alternate explanation at the end of the book turns out to be true. Matt, being a skeptic, doesn’t believe in magic, but there comes a point that it becomes impossible to deny what he has seen.
I loved how the first half of the book dealt with bullying. I loved that magic offered a way to defend themselves and others from bullies, but I loved, even more, when Matt and others stood up to the bullies, without expecting any sort of rescue. The three school bullies were a bit stereotypical (two of the three were dumb and they weren’t very careful about who overheard their plans), as were their targets (new kid, overweight girl, siblings who dressed differently). The way the story dealt with these stories felt true to life, and not always the easy answers, which I appreciated. There was one incident with Matt’s sister being treated badly, which I wished the book explored more, but the focus stayed primarily on Matt and Gerallt.
The two boys got into quite a few scrapes and escapes, chased down a thief, searched for a treasure, and broke a ton of rules together in the process. They were fun. I was at the edge of my seat many times, just waiting for them to get caught or hurt, but they always seemed to make it out alright in the end. I liked all of the siblings in both families.
The love story felt too contrived and too convenient; at one point the couple shared true love’s kiss, and I threw up a little on the inside. I won’t spoil it by saying any more, but I think most readers will see what I mean. Additionally, there was a bit too much explaining what the characters were thinking or what their motivation was. I don’t like being stuck in the character’s heads (my biggest problem with Hunger Games), and it felt unnecessary. Of course, people felt guilty when they lied, since they don’t normally lie. You don’t need to tell us that. But over-explaining wasn’t constant; it just appeared from time to time. I would be interested in hearing the next part of the story, if the author wrote a second book, and there were quite a few unanswered questions, however, the ending doesn’t leave us with a cliffhanger.
I received a free ARC of this book from BookSirens and have reviewed it willingly.
50) Good YA Fantasy ★★★★☆
The secret in this novel is a dream every school child must have at some time: a magical way to deal with bullies. Of course, the problem is to use the magic without letting anyone, especially your new best friend, know you’re using magic. This theme of the problems of “otherness” adds depth to the book, and compensates for the plain nature of the other conflicts: money worries, generational conflict, and a rather last-minute treasure hunt.
The form of this novel is a bit fragmented. The plot reaches a strong climax about half way through, then after a few chapters of a lot of things happening but nothing important going on, it starts with another conflict, this one more serious, almost as if it’s a new book.
Another minor problem with the writing is the use of regional dialect. The usual technique with writing accents is to hit them harder at the beginning, then fade them as the story goes on, because they become irritating over time. In this case, “ayah” as a version of “yes,” began to bother me after a while. On the other hand “tah” instead of “to,” and “heah” instead of “hear” can slip in anywhere; we pretty much don’t notice them, and they add richness to the characters.
The strength of the writing is in the personalities. The outside characters are slightly stereotyped, as can be expected in a YA story, but the members of the two families involved are well-rounded and entertaining. Matt, the main character is a great study in teenage inner conflict, and a sympathetic and positive role model as well.
In general, a smoothly written, well-edited book which will be enjoyed by YA readers.
49) A Magical Read ★★★★☆
By Nicole Nadeau on December 30, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is a fun adventure that shows what happens when the magical world meets the real world. It shows how two people from different worlds can find common ground and become friends and encourages us to believe in what we can’t see. I would highly recommend it.
48) Middle School Magic! ★★★★☆
By Loves Reading on December 19, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
This book follows Matt, who moved to a new town. He is lonely and gets picked on at school. He becomes curious of the house next door where the town “witch” lives. He ends up befriending another new boy named Gerallt, and they seek revenge on the bullies. I loved that this book had magic, witches spells, and secrets. It intrigued me in the beginning, but fizzled out midway, because it was long and drawn out. However, it was age appropriate, and I would recommend it as a middle-schooler read.
47) Intriguing ★★★★☆
This was a different genre to what I would normally read, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It did take me a while to get into, but when I got started, I did want to continue reading. The part that did put me off was the way the Hawthorne’s spoke as it made it difficult to read, and as the spells were in Latin, they were also hard to read. I did like the part at the end of the book which shows how to pronounce the words that were being spoken. I would of loved to have this at the beginning of the book.
I did feel sorry for the 2 main characters when everything was going wrong and they were not believed but I wanted to tell Gerralt to stop at certain points, so I felt for the characters.
The story was better than the blurb but the blurb was enough to grip/intrigue me. I would definitely read the next book(s).
I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author via Voracious Readers Only.
46) A beautifully written, nicely paced, and fun to read fantasy book… ★★★★☆
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is a beautifully written, nicely paced, and fun to read fantasy book with interesting and well fleshed out characters.
This book is told from a 3rd person point of view, focused primarily on Matt Mitchell, the main character. Matt and his twin sister are 15-years-old when their mother dies unexpectedly. Their father then moves them to a new town several states away, and they start their first year of high school, where Matt has a difficult time fitting in and becomes the target of bullies. The story takes a fascinating turn when mystery and magic are brought into Matt’s life through his eerie neighbors and their dark secrets.
I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading its sequel!
Note: I received “The Secrets of Hawthorne House” from its publisher via BookSirens in exchange for my honest review, for which I am very grateful.
45) Debbie Dorobat’s Review ★★★★☆
By Debbie Dorobat on November 23, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
A good read which builds the story-line well with hints to a deeper underlying story. Really enjoyed it and will recommend other books by this author. Read through Voracious Readers.
44) Enjoyed the trip learning the Secrets of Hawthorne House ★★★★☆
By Thomas Trimble on November 23, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
The Secrets of Hawthorne House takes you to a world you may or may not believe. There are many secrets on many levels hidden in this old Victorian Mansion. Secrets in the people and their lives and in the house itself. All interacting with a family they happen to have living next door. Along with good descriptions, the author used an interesting technique to make you feel the Northeastern accent of part of the cast. I totally enjoyed the book and recommend it. The author did an excellent job.
43) Julian White’s review ★★★★☆
By Julian White on November 20, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
A fine YA novel, dealing with bereavement, loneliness, school bullies… all leavened with a hearty dose of fun. Following the death of his mother, Matt’s family moves from the coast to Indiana. New school, new house – and Matt is obviously going to be the new loner. Living next door in the archetypal Gothic ‘haunted house’ is reclusive Mrs. Hawthorne; local gossip has it that she is a witch, having done away with her husband and his lover… Straightened financial circumstances force Matt to seek work at Hawthorne House – and Matt finds that the reclusive householder, while strange, is not the villainous figure she is made out to be. Matt is cheered when another family moves in with their aunt – from the east coast and also having lost a parent.
While Matt forges a friendship with the middle boy, Gerallt, he finds that the Hawthornes probably deserve some of the ‘spooky’ reputation the house engenders.
I am far from the target audience – but this is a delightful book, and I’ll say no more about the plot. It is a stand-alone book in that it comes to a definite point in which the plot is tied up neatly – but there is room for a sequel, which is promised. I, for one, will look out for it.
42) Great for Young Teens ★★★★☆
This would be a great book for teens – a fun, easy read about middle school kids and magic. I believe there’s a sequel, but the book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger and makes for an interesting stand-alone read. There are a few grammatical errors (dropped words, incorrect punctuation), but that’s not too big of a deal. Overall well-written and interesting, touches on several relevant topics for teenagers, and is engaging to read.
I received a complimentary copy through Voracious Readers in exchange for my honest opinion.
41) LaGina ★★★★☆
By LaGina on November 8, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
I was able to enjoy this book at the right time since Halloween has just passed. This story was simple and really enjoyable to read. I loved how both the families bonded with each other and found the Hawthorne’s secret and lore to be interesting enough. I will be giving this book to my 12-year-old to read.
40) Samah’s Review ★★★★☆
By Samah Hussain on November 5, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I received a copy of this book via BookSirens in exchange for an honest review.
The Secrets of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith is middle grade fantasy paranormal revolving around Matt who, upon moving to a small town in Indiana, gets to know about the mystery surrounding the old lady Vivianne in Hawthorne house and when Vivianne’s niece comes for a stay with her children, THINGS happen!
There is so much variety in terms of what happens, and therefore with each happening, you get a message which I found quite nice, since it is a coming of age novel.
I really liked the interaction between Matt and Gerallt and how they both had differences in opinion, but all those sometimes seemed too much as it was mention several times on how they are differences in opinion, but it’s fine to accept them and not argue. The message was fine indeed but repeated a lot.
Also the writing at times was boring , there were a lot of details and explanations that i was not particularly interested.
Apart from those little things, in total I really liked the cozy aspect and the overall atmosphere.
It was a cute and warm read, for sure.
39) Rosie’s Review ★★★★☆
By Rosie Miller on November 5, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I received a copy of this book through the Voracious Reader website.
I enjoyed reading this middle grade story. It was a gentle story with many small “adventures” that happened to the main characters, all nicely resolved within the book.
The characters were likeable, and the plot was interesting with different twists and turns.
As an adult reading the story, some of the reactions of the adults in the story felt a bit unrealistic (the teachers with the fight and the parent’s reactions afterwards come to mind), but I think a middle grade reader probably wouldn’t pick up on this and would feel empathy for the plight of the boys.
Overall a nice read, I would happily read the sequel to find out what happens next.
38) A fun read ★★★★☆
This was one fun book with spooky elements and mystery captured in the eerie Hawthorne House filled with secrets and a buried treasure.
After the death of his mother, 15-year-old Matt and his twin sister were relocated by their father to the town of Hawthorne. Difficult times came with the loss of a loved one, bullied in school, and living next door to a supposed witch and murder added to their woes. When the niece and her children moved in with the witch, Matt made a new friend, and life became an adventure.
A good book by author Donald Firesmith, where I was pulled in after the first few pages. I love any book which has a mystery in it, whatever be the age of the protagonist. The writing encapsulated the emotions and the vibes of the children’s story in most parts. Magic weaved in, and a spirit of adventure soon gripped me as the kids found a way to their problems.
A few niggles, some parts felt too descriptive, certain things felt off. But they didn’t detract anything from the main story. Acceptance of different ways of life and standing up to bullies were the main themes forming the tapestry of the story along with adventure.
Overall, friendship and fun, spooks and secrets, witches, and magic made this a fun breakfast read.
37) Erika Sarutobi’s review ★★★★☆
By Erika Sarutobi on October 13, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
It was fun reading this book, and I miss reading some middle grade that I gobbled it up and finished it in two sittings! I really needed that break from YA.
The story is about Matt, who moved to Hawthorne after his mother died in an accident and met Gerallt a few days later who moved next door. They quickly become friends, and eventually, Gerallt tells Matt their family secret.
The book was simple, and no major predicaments happen since it is a middle-grade book with all the problems being conveniently solved and never reappearing. Regardless, I loved how both the families bonded with each other and found the Hawthorne’s secret and lore to be interesting enough.
However, I have a few problems with some stuff in the book.
First, I can’t help but feel like some conversations were too childish despite the characters involved are adults, and a few conversations were unrealistic in how they went.
Second, the main characters are around 15 year olds but the way they talked and acted felt like they were thirteen. I wished the sisters had more moments too.
Lastly, I’m not a big fan of bullied having a revenge moment since it just makes them the same as the bullies, in my opinion. In the chapter right after Gerallt explained that the magic powers they have are sacred, he uses said powers to pull tons of pranks on the bullies then making them go down on their knees to apologize.
Overall, the book was fun and a good break from all the drama events that happens in YAs. It wasn’t as sinister as it sounded from the synopsis, but it was great nonetheless. I definitely will continue with the series when I need another break!
Thank you, BookSirens, for providing me with the digital copy for an honest review.
36) Believably written young adults ★★★★☆
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
I went into this book with low expectations. I’ve read a few YA books recently and, unfortunately, very few good ones.
I was very pleasantly surprised. Snappy writing, lyrical descriptions and believable children. I have read too many books where the children are written as mini-adults, and Hawthorne House was not one of them.
I did have minor problems deciphering the dialects used in some places. As an Australian, I guess I just don’t know American accents to ‘hear’ them in my head as I’m reading.
Descriptions of people and places were great, I had no problems picturing locations and people as I was reading, and I noticed no continuity errors. 🙂
The storyline was, again, believable (although the adults falling in love I thought was a bit soon), but all in all, this was an enjoyable book, and I will read others by this author.
35) It an ok read but not scary ★★★★☆
By Amazon Customer on September 23, 2019 (Amazon UK Review)
I enjoyed this book, but it really didn’t scare me very much, although I like horror books now and again, this one just didn’t do anything for me.
34) Lindsey’s review ★★★★☆
By Lindsey on September 3, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
This book had me hooked on page two! Then a chapter or two later, I lost interest, but continued on and was hooked again. It’s definitely a good read for teenagers/young adults. Especially those into magic.
Overall it’s a good book.
**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
33) Charli’s review ★★★★☆
By Charli on September 2, 2019 (The Spooky Bookshelf Review)
I’m going to start off by saying that I felt this book was going to be the perfect read for the coming Halloween season, and I seriously wasn’t wrong. The Secrets of Hawthorne House isn’t exactly spooky or creepy, but the magic and mystery are perfect for the Halloween season regardless. I found myself connecting with both Matt and Gerallt, mostly because I lost a parent when I was around their age. So, I felt for them in that respect. I also know what it is like to have money issues, so I felt for them in that respect as well. I loved how the boys handled the bullies they encountered. That was awesome and kind of made me wish I could have done something similar to my bullies in school. I wasn’t, however, thrilled with the way the parents handled a situation that arises, but then again, it was quite realistic. You’ll know what I mean when you read it.
There were a couple of things that bothered me in the book. The first was the way the Hawthorn family’s dialogue was written. I understand it was meant to convey their accent, but honestly, once I knew what accent they have, I just didn’t need the constant reminder. For me, it was annoying, although others may not feel the same way. The other thing that bugged me was there was a place in which the weather pattern had a storm blowing from east to west – but weather patterns actually don’t move that way. They move from west to east. It was a small thing, but it did bug me because I’m just enough of a nerd to know how weather patterns work.
Other than that, I found the characters to be likable and hateable as they were supposed to be. I gave this 4 stars on Goodreads because of the couple things that bugged me. However, I would definitely recommend this to YA lovers looking for a Halloween vibe without it being horror, because it has a great story. I can’t wait to see what the sequel brings.
32) Mary Ellen Anaka’s review ★★★★☆
By Mary Ellen Anaka on September 2, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
This book was sent to me by the author, for an honest review. I really liked the storyline, of two families that had lost a parent before moving to Hawthorne. There was a mystery cloaking the town, a haunted mansion and a so-called witch. When the kids from both families started school, they were being bothered by three school bullies. Lines were drawn, and alliances were made. I wonder who came out in front? You will have to read and find out. Written for middle school, I give this a 3.5 out of 5.
31) Delightful Middle-Grade (or Younger) Novel ★★★★☆
This delightful middle-grade novel is about two 15 year old boys each with different backgrounds, but a shared grief. Matt recently lost his mother, Gerallt lost his father, and both ended up moving next door to each other in Hawthorne, Indiana. The twist is Gerallt moved into the infamous Hawthorne House with his Great Aunt and everyone is town is convinced the place is haunted or that a witch lives there. Of course, it doesn’t help when Gerallt’s family (mother, older sister, and younger brother) dress in black all the time. Nevertheless, the two boys become great friends and learn to deal with bullies and teenage life together.
A few quibbles… the slice-of-life scenes tended to run long and slowed the pace of the book considerably. Also, the dialogue of the Hawthorne’s did become a tad tedious at times and I’m not sure it was necessary. Using different syntax or vocabulary might have worked though I do understand what the author was trying to do.
What this book does well is teach tolerance. The boys come from very different backgrounds and both learn how to be open-minded enough to understand nothing is absolute. It also touches on recovering from grief and how it affects people in different ways. I’d recommend this book for readers younger than 13 and perhaps something that parents and kids read together.
30) Liesbeth’s Review ★★★★☆
By Liesbeth on August 18, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
This book reminded me of the books I used to read when I was young. Those detective, adventure types of books. These adventures have an extra element, not so common element into the natural way of the Goddess.
Matt moves with his sister and dad to a town far away from the coast, after his mother’s death. Worse off, actually a question of how to look at it against the whole story. His father is an atheist, and Matt and his sister Tina believe in science. It goes even worse when Matt attracts the attention of the three school bullies.
Then one day, the Hawthorne house has new 4 occupants. Matt didn’t see any moving truck stopping by. They soon get acquainted with the 3 Hawthorne children; they dress and act and talk funny. During this time, Matt becomes good friends with Gerallt and uncovers their secret. Will this secret be the downfall of the Hawthornes? Is Sam, the father of Matt falling for the mother the 3 Hawthorne children?
As for Matt and Gerallt, will they outwit the school bullies? And what about the lost Hawthorne’s treasure? Is it true?
This is a nice adventure read for the whole family, and an easy read. I loved it very much.
29) Melodramaticalli’s Review ★★★★☆
By Melodramaticalli on August 16, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
This is a great story for young adults. I received a free copy in exchange for a review, and I am happy to say this story did meet my expectations. It initially gave me vibes of Haunting of Hill House and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
It’s a great blend of fantasy and adventure!
28) Fun pre-teen YA reader! ★★★★☆
Fun pre-teen reader, but can be a bit age confusing. The main characters are about 15, but tend to act more on a middles school level such as trick or treating in costumes. The lack of chapter breaks makes it hard for me to find a stopping point, but the story is a true friendship story with secrets and all. Really is a fun read!
27) You are going to like it ★★★★☆
By Amazon Reviewer on August 5, 2019 (Amazon UK Review)
This book was amazing and very scary too. I love it.
26) A side of magic that hasn’t been seen before… ★★★★☆
By Kari Fredlund on August 4, 2019 (Amazon Canada Review)
Great read! Fulfilling, and lots of little bits of history so you learn something while being entertained.
25) Leah’s Review ★★★★☆
By Leah Thomson on July 30, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
This book was quite interesting, the plot was good. If you like paranormal mystery books, then you’ll enjoy this one.
24) Relocating ★★★★☆
I did enjoy this book, I did. However, I am not really sure where it is going and it seems to be a bit of a mish-mash of ideas and genres. It does deal with everything well and reads almost like you are a fly on the wall of the families concerned (the mysterious Hawthorne family and the far more regular Mitchell family). This does mean that there is a lot of the minutiae of life to wade through – actually this was no bad thing as it helps you submerge yourself in the fictional world that the author has created and it makes the characters feel very real. The downside to this is that I never really understood where the author was intending to take the tale and, indeed, nothing is ever really resolved and there is no natural segue into a second book to explore the paranormal theme that is touted as the genre the book is lodged in. In actual fact, I found that the paranormal aspect was maybe a tenth of the tale and got lost amongst the themes of dealing with the death of a parent, moving to new town, being a new kid at school and just trying to get through being a teenager.
The main thing that annoyed me was the Hawthorne family’s speech. We get it, they are from Maine and have a specific accent. However, I found it entirely unnecessary to litter the text with “ah’s” to show their speech patterns. In fact, each time I picked the book up it grated afresh to see “heah” or “fathah”. A few pages in each reading session and I did find I could overlook it as I was enjoying the rather work-a-day storylines but it was a constant annoyance and I felt it was completely unnecessary and was a distraction from the story being told.
I also had issues with the paranormal element of the story. Supposedly the Hawthornes are descended from Ancient Britons, specifically Druids, and worship an obscure Goddess (Modrun) who has imbued them with powers via artifacts gifted to their ancestors and subsequently passed down through innumerable generations. The whole clutching your amulet or wand and praying in pigeon Latin to the Goddess to get what you want made me feel ever so slightly uncomfortable. I get that it is a fairly unique take on where Power comes from but I think I would have preferred it if they just had Power and used the artifacts to concentrate their mind to achieve their aims instead of some hokey pseudo-religious aspect to it all.
The characters themselves are pretty good and do come alive on the page. You expect Gerallt, Gareth, and Gwyneth to be fairly naive and almost other-worldly after being raised in almost total isolation at Deer Isle within a like-minded community. What you don’t expect is for Matt Mitchell to be as naive as they are, for a 21st Century 15 year old he does seem particularly “young” with an outlook that felt more like a 10-year-old than his purported age. We don’t learn much about his fraternal twin Tina but she does seem to be more akin to a modern teenager.
On the whole, this is a gentle tale, told at a lilting pace that deceptively sucks you into the lives of these two transplanted families. There is a lot to enjoy here and enjoy it I did; despite the issues raised above.
THIS IS AN HONEST REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK KINDLY SUPPLIED BY THE AUTHOR.
23) Liz’s Review ★★★★☆
By Elizabeth Nedrub on July 26, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
A complimentary copy of this book was received through Voracious Readers.
Enjoyed the story. Found the ‘accent’ a bit annoying but otherwise, the book was quite well written.
22) Light-hearted, magical, atmospheric ★★★★☆
eBook provided by BookSirens and the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Secrets Of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith is a coming of age paranormal fantasy that follows fifteen-year-old Matt Mitchell after his father moves him and his sister to a small town in rural Indiana following the death of his mother who was killed in a drunk driving accident. Matt soon hears rumors that he’s moved next door to the town’s resident witch (Old Lady Hawthorne) who may or may not be responsible for the death of her husband and former best friend. When Old Lady Hawthorne’s niece and three children move in with her, Matt makes an unexpected friend, and his life suddenly changes forever.
If you’re looking for a light-hearted read about magic and friendship, this one’s for you, friends! This book also covers topics such as grief and bullying! It’s safe to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this one, and I honestly can’t believe more people haven’t read it!
I could sit here and gush about this one all day, but I’ll wrap this review up by saying that there wasn’t much that I didn’t love about this! The writing was good, the pacing was never off, the characters were highly likable, and the plot was clearly well thought out!
21) Wendy’s Review ★★★★☆
By Wendy Pollard on July 20, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
With its magic and mystery, this book will appeal to young adults. The historical twist added another unexpected dimension to the story. I’m looking forward to the next installment.
20) Great! ★★★★☆
By Kris McGuigan on July 17, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
Disclaimer: I was given a free electronic version in exchange for a review.
That said – I got hooked on the story before I realized I was hooked on the story! I think it was about chapter 3 before I realized it! The reader is very easily drawn into this tale. The characters’ development was just right, and the setting description was perfect – I really wanted to see inside that house!! I loved the flow – until the end….the last several chapters were just too quick and jumpy – granted, they are a set up for the next book, but I was disappointed that the end was rushed after such nice pacing throughout the book.
I am definitely looking forward to the next book and learning a bit more about the unusual pets, and seeing where all these relationships between the characters will go!
This not too long and not too short book is definately worth a read!
19) Alayne’s Review ★★★★☆
By Alayne10 on July 17, 2019 (BookSirens Review)
I enjoyed this book, although it didn’t scare me very much. When it comes to horror books, I’m very lukewarm about them.
18) Learning acceptance with a touch of magic ★★★★☆
I received a copy of this through Voracious Readers and thoroughly enjoyed it, even though it is not something I would normally choose.
Overall it is a story about acceptance – accepting people for who they are. It also deals with those who don’t, bullies, thieves, etc in a very funny and satisfying way. The family story is also very rewarding and how the two families become friends despite all their differences.
It is fast paced, and I pretty much read it all in one sitting.
17) Worth the adventure ★★★★☆
By Michelle Rene Goodhew on July 11, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
This was a fun read, with great characters! Just when you think it’s over, there’s more. Looking forward to the next adventure!
16) Great story. ★★★★☆
By Brooke Barnett on July 11, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
Very enchanting story line. A little slow for me in some places. But all in all a very good story. With great detail!
15) Di’s Review ★★★★☆
By Di Bryan on July 8, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
A gripping tale with an interesting and unusual cast. The story is at times frustrating as you feel so much sympathy for the characters when things go wrong…
It tells you not to judge by appearance and to embrace uniqueness. Great lessons for us in an uncertain and at times unkind world.
14) Tam’s Review ★★★★☆
Wildly imaginative! Wonderful characters. Interesting plot. Vivid descriptions. Simply a GREAT read!
BookBub) Reasons I enjoyed this book: Action-packed, easy-to-read, entertaining, great world building, original, page turner, realistic, unpredictable, whimsical, and wonderful characters.
13) Magic and the trials of growing up ★★★★☆
By Anita Ogden on June 20, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
This was a magical book with lots of fun characters. I highly recommend this book. It is the start of a series that looks very exciting with a good premise to start from. I was sent this book free of charge by the author and thru VR. I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters. Anyone who has been in high school and dealt with bullies and the trials of school will find the characters are very easy to identify with. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series!
12) The Secrets of Hawthorne House ★★★★☆
The Secrets of Hawthorne House is a good book. At first, I struggled with the fact that there was no one overarching dilemma or antagonist, that the problems were fairly small and quickly resolved. As I continued to read, though, I began to appreciate the “slice of life + magic” feel of the story. There are five well fleshed out characters, and the rest are background players. The only females that get any real play are both adults, and it would have been nice to learn more about the two teen girls, as they both have a lot of potential to add to the story. I probably would have given the book 5 stars, but there are editing issues, (i.e. questions with no question marks) that were somewhat distracting. Overall, a good book, and I look forward to reading more in this series.
BookBub) Reasons I enjoyed this book: Easy-to-read, entertaining, page-turner, and wonderful characters.
11) A fun combination of modern times and ancient magic ★★★★☆
By Zach Spieth on April 23, 2019 (Amazon Review)
It was a very good book and I enjoyed it very much. It combines modern times and ancient magic to produce a very interesting plotline. The characters were well developed and easy to follow. Overall it was just a very good, easy read that would appeal to almost any reader. I would definitely recommend it!
10) A fun read that’s well worth it ★★★★☆
By Kathy Davie on April 18, 2019 (Amazon Review)
A standalone paranormal fantasy novel for Young Adult readers and revolving around a pair of unlikely friends who have both recently moved to Hawthorne, Indiana. I wouldn’t mind seeing this as a series…
For the first couple of paragraphs, I dove in with delight and then slowed. Firesmith was way too descriptive. Incredibly wordy! And then I slid all the way in, enjoying The Secrets of Hawthorne House with its focus on faith. And I did like Gerallt’s explanation of magic!
I loved that the boys stood up to the bullies and the loyalty of each of them to the other. The costuming and lifestyle of the Hawthornes were fascinating. I did have to wonder why it was still necessary for the candles and all, but it was a pip. And I certainly got hungry reading of Vivianne’s and Gwendolyn’s cooking!
It’s not just the bullying, but the nasty gossip that destroys people, which runs with a subtheme about ignorance and bigotry. Then there’s that contrast between Matt’s and Gerallt’s lifestyles that provides yet more interest, and with Firesmith using third person point-of-view, we get an impersonal perspective from all sides.
A few niggles. Why would Sam think he’d actually be able to cut it as a computer programmer? I’m not too keen on Matt’s self-entitlement. The “accent” was annoying, and yet I do understand why Firesmith made use of it. Then there’s Matt taking everyone out to dinner when he claims they’re so broke.
What’s with the bullies? How can teachers not know who the bullies are? It is unacceptable that these creeps are allowed to get away with it! As for their parents!?! WTF?? This is part of the problem with parents, that they refuse to listen to their children’s side of things. That they simply believe whatever the other side, the teachers, tell them without understanding that there are always two sides to any issue. What an incredible disservice to their own children! Oh, sure, I can believe that a parent who truly knows their child is bad would believe the teacher over their child, but these parents??? When they’ve never had trouble with them before?? No.
There’s plenty of conflicts: the bullies, the familial losses, the money issues of all three, religious and cultural differences, fears about witches and their craft, science versus faith, and those idiotic school employees who believe they can diagnose psychological issues.
Nor is the action lacking. I’ve already mentioned the bullies, and there’s also the assault, the treasure hunt, and Matt’s arrogance.
Life is forever changed when Matt’s mother is killed, and their father uproots them from everything they know.
But Matt’s life will change forever when a family of druids moves into the dilapidated Victorian mansion next door.
Fifteen-year-old Matt Mitchell is more nerd than his popular twin sister, Tina. Their dad, Sam, taught intro to programming back at Port Orford High School. Midnight is the family cat. Their artist mother was killed by a drunk driver back in Port Orford, Oregon. Uncle James.
The Hawthorne House
Vivianne Hawthorne Carter, a.k.a., Old Lady Hawthorne, has been a recluse for decades. She’s the daughter of Henry and Rhiannon. Vivianne had married John Carter who ran off with Mary Collins, Vivianne’s best friend. Gwendolyn Hawthorne is Vivianne’s niece whose fisherman husband, Medwyn, died. Her children — Gwyneth, Gerallt, and Gareth — and she accepted Vivianne’s invitation. Nightshade and Belladonna are the family cats. Nightwing is Gerallt’s crow. Shadow is Gareth’s squirrel.
Ezekiel Hawthorne founded the town of Hawthorne in 1826. Harold was his son who worked hard to increase the family fortune and founded the Northern Indiana Railroad Company. Henry Hubertus Hawthorne was Harold’s son who married Rhiannon Llewellyn from Deer Isle. Their children were Morgan and Vivianne.
Hawthorne High School
Fellow students include the much picked-upon Sarah Duffy who runs the A/V; Harper, and Paul Stephens who had also lost his mother to a car accident. Clayton Cartwright, Dylan Jones, and Colin O’Connell are bullies. Brad O’Connell is one of Colin’s cousins, and his nastiness seems to run int he family.
Marcus Thompson is the American History teacher interested in the why, Tanner is the principal, Mrs. Fletcher is at the principal’s front desk, Mrs. McKinney teaches English, and Mr. Armstrong is the gym teacher.
Modron is the great mother goddess the Hawthornes worship. The High Coven is the ruling body of all druids. George Smith is a scumbag of a handyman. Peter Henderson of Peter’s Pawn Shop isn’t too picky.
The Cover and Title
The cover is DARK with a cloudy yet bright deep blue sky and a full moon. The background is a dilapidated Victorian mansion with turrets on either end and a light burning in an upper window. A bare tree is to the house’s left. A broken-down fence separates the house from a young boy, carrying a backpack, trudging past the house on a broken sidewalk. The author’s name is at the top in white. The title is in a fun Gothic font in shades of yellow and orange.
The title is what it’s all about, The Secrets of Hawthorne House.
9) Light, spooky and yet a story that is soulful ★★★★☆
The Secret of Hawthorne House turned out to be just the book I needed. I have been reading a lot of Urban Fantasy and Dark existential books so I needed something light, spooky and yet a story that is soulful for a change. TSoHH did good on that account.
The book did creep me out at times because who mentions a scary murder story to a stranger on a school bus? But then again, I let many instances skip because middle school kids and their curiosities are something I am familiar with.
I really liked Matt’s character because he is like any other average kid that does not have any biases and is not easily influenced by rumors. I appreciate these kinds of characters because they really teach good values. But that won’t change the fact that his life was really hellish. Losing his mother, being bullied and then on the constant verge of confusion regarding the secret of the Hawthorne house? Poor kid. Moving to a place to forget the memories, father’s dwindling finances, being the new kid and the only friend being a strange boy whose friendship gets you bullied more? Poor kid.
“That’s what happens to people who side with a Hawthorne,” Colin hissed in Matt’s ear.
The worse I felt for Matt, the more I enjoyed the story though. Because the writing is just that good and meant to keep a reader engaged. That is something I love about most middle-grade books. Kids don’t usually have a good attention span so unless the writing is alluring, the attention wavers off. That didn’t happen with this book. I read half the book in one go, flipping pages, enjoying the contradictory behaviors of Matt and his twin Tina, seeing Matt develop a sort of friendship with the mystery kid next door Gerralt. The plot of the book is also exciting if not unique. But I enjoyed the added mysticism of Wiccan beliefs and magic.
One thing I thought was that at the beginning of the book, the chapters seemed to be rushing in giving information, regarding the characters, the place and it was more telling the story than narrating it. After a couple of chapters, though, the narration smoothened out. As we got to know more about the Hawthorne House, its history and Matt & Gerralt developed a bond of friendship, the flow of the book settled down.
Without spoiling the actual mystery, I would just say that the book is good enough to be read until the end. It is equal parts spooky and equally heart-warming; quite an easy read.
8) Aislynn’s Review ★★★★☆
The Secrets of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith is a charming ‘found family’ story that deftly illustrates how people of different cultures/spiritual backgrounds can get along just fine. For decades, Vivianne Hawthorne has kept to herself and not interacted with the residents of the town her grandfather gave [his] name to. That changes when the Mitchell family moves next door. Matt, looking for odd jobs to earn money, approaches Mrs. Hawthorne about working in her overgrown yard. The elderly lady reluctantly agrees, thinking he’s just there to trick her like several bully kids like to do. Matt proves his worth though, and every weekend works to tame the yard. Then Vivianne’s great-niece and her kids move in, and Matt finds a best friend in Gerralt, a boy his age. But there’s more to Gerralt and the Hawthornes than ever Matt might guess.
Over the course of the story, the boys confront bullies (in hysterical ways!), learn to trust that difference isn’t bad, and the strange and unusual need not be feared, and even find treasure! This story engaged me right from the start. At first, I wasn’t so certain ‘druid’ was the correct term for the Hawthornes, but that gets resolved later in the story. I enjoyed learning about their ancestors’ past. I’m doubly grateful that Matt, and later his family, learned to at least accept the Hawthornes’ faith, even if they cannot share it, and believe there must be a different explanation. I adored that the author wrote the Hawthornes as they spoke, accents and all. It immediately reminded me of how my Welsh friend speaks, and it’s later revealed that the Hawthornes’ ancestry is Welsh, and that they tend to live in isolated colonies which may serve to preserve parts of the accent. At any rate, I loved it! Also, most of their names reflect Welsh ancestry. Slow me took a bit to recall that Gerralt is nothing more exotic than Gerald.
Several characters have to step out of their comfort zones. Matt must learn to accept Gerralt’s faith, the younger Hawthornes have to have far greater interaction with technology than they’re used to. On Deer Isle, where a colony exists, electricity is not used. They are living experimental archaeology. Vivianne, I think, took the bravest step by going out to supper with everyone despite being terrified of ridicule and persecution by the townsfolk, many of whom believe she killed her husband and best friend over an affair. I just can’t imagine her doing such a thing. She seems so sweet. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next in the series!
***Many thanks to the author for providing an ecopy in exchange for a fair and honest review. Reviewed for Silver Dagger Blog Tours
7) Review for United Indie Book Blog (UIBB) ★★★★☆
I enjoyed reading The Secrets of Hawthorne House and learning all the mysteries that surround it. I was drawn in from the beginning and enjoyed Matt and his outsider status. I love that his circle of friends stuck by him with the bullies. There is humor, sorrow, adventure, mystery, love and realistic, relatable characters in this book. It’s a middle school YA read, but I think just about anyone would enjoy reading it!
6) Creepy old house tells a story about a town’s history and a family of mystery ★★★★☆
Matt is new in town, and everyone seems to be obsessed with the spooky house next door. Matt just isn’t seeing it. It’s old, creepy and run-down, but he doesn’t believe the lady who lives there is a witch. The secret of Hawthorne house is a hot topic around this town. It’s the stuff of legends and spooky stories. This is the story of friendship and mystery. Every house has a story, every town has a history, and every new kid needs to experience what the town has to offer.
I don’t read many middle school books, but this one had an interesting plot, and I enjoyed the change of scenery. I joined up to the book tour and received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
5) Very good book! ★★★★☆
By Mary Nickell on January 17, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
I really enjoyed this fun magical read! The characters and the story was engaging. There was a bit of romance. The fact that the main character was only 15 added to the story, I believe. I received an ARC and this is my honest opinion. Now going to purchase the book, I enjoyed it so much.
4) Engaging Story and storyline ★★★★☆
By PatK on January 16, 2019 (Amazon US Review)
First up, I don’t give 5★ reviews easily, so a 4★ one is high praise from me. I am waiting to read the second book, as although this one is not really a cliffhanger, there is a lot of story left to tell. The meeting of two families, one seemingly normal, and the other immersed in magic, is quite good. Both the kids and adults are open to the changes in their lives, which I find very refreshing.
3) A fun easy magical read ★★★★☆
By Retired Techie on November 30, 2018 (Amazon US Review)
For me, this was a fun, easy read about middle school kids doing mostly middle school stuff. And magic. Magic the users of which are to never tell anyone else! But what do you do when you say and do a little too much in front of your best and only friend because of some bullies? For Gerallt, someone who’s never had electricity; therefore no TV, computers, cellphones; and learns about their wonders from his only friend, that becomes his dilemma. So he breaks his ‘code of silence’ so as not to lose his friend. What happens after he reveals his secret not only puts him in jeopardy of losing his gifts, but his whole family could as well. Of course, the story has a happy ending.
This story seems to be targeted toward middle schoolers, but it’s a fun read for any age, which keeps moving throughout. Another nicety for me is the story has a conclusion, not a cliffhanger (I am Not a fan of cliffhangers), though it ends with the ability to continue their adventures.
I gave it 4 stars because of a few grammar errors, mainly missing words that one can figure out after re-reading those sentences. But other than that, I found it a fun read. I almost titled it: What if you, an ‘outsidah’, learned you can perform magic?
2) Young adult read ★★★★☆
Not sure if kids book or young adult perhaps. Just enough romance to not be icky for young’uns. I was grabbed early, not wanting to put it down, eager to see what adventure next came for the boys. Now I’m eager for the next book!
1) Very entertaining read! ★★★★☆
By Baz on October 1, 2018 (Amazon UK Review)
What an interesting read. Follow Matt through his many trials and tribulations never quite knowing where the next twist and turn will lead especially when things are not always as they appear. A well written thoroughly enjoyable read.
I received this book as an ARC from the Author this is my honest voluntary review.
3 Star Reviews
11) Christine Hunter’s Review ★★★☆☆
This is a good story. Not a great one but definitely a good one for someone who enjoys the supernatural. I do, however, think it’s a YA book. As the main characters are kids and the plot revolves around them, I could see this thrilling the 10–14-year-olds. The storyline moves at a decent pace, but some of the situations are a little contrived and convenient. Overall, I would recommend this book.
10) Dorothy’s Review ★★★☆☆
By Dorothy on May 12, 2020 (Goodreads Review)
Now I got this book for free for an honest review, and that what they get. Now it took me a long time. I got this about a year ago and being an ebook was one reason anyone who knows me, it takes me forever to read ebooks. It easier for me to turn on an audiobook or pick up a physical book, But that not the only reason it took me so long to read 1. the language some of the characters speak is a little hard for me to get used to. 2. it took me a while to care about what was going on most of the book is just everyday thing with this that happens until the end where everything is rushed to tie up in a little bow. With that said, I don’t like the story. I don’t love it, but I would say I’m hooked. I want to know what these people get into with magic. Overall it okay, and pick it up if you want something different when it comes to magic.
9) YA story, good read but the dialog is hard to read ★★★☆☆
This is definitely a YA book. The plot is well thought out and the characters are nicely developed. The half dialog is done in a colloquial accent making it hard to read. The ‘episodes’ are well crafted, too. There is nothing wrong with what is there. I did find it somewhat lacking in dramatic action and surprises.
8) Sarah Fairbairn’s review ★★★☆☆
The story opens with POV Matt Mitchell having a recurring nightmare. 15-yr-old Matt and his twin sister Tina are still reeling from their Dad moving them from the seaside town of Port Orford, Oregon to Hawthorne Indiana where he grew up. With both kids still very much mourning the loss of their mother, the story moves onto their first day at a new school. Matt and his sister wait out the front of their new house for the school bus; this is when we first get a glimpse of Hawthorne House through Matt’s perspective. The bus arrives, and Matt steps up onto the school bus after his sister and takes the only available seat next to a girl who promptly starts telling him ghost/wicked witch stories about the house next door to his. And so, the mystery of Hawthorne House begins.
Matt ends up having a rather rough first day at Hawthorne High, managing to get in the school bullies’ way almost instantly. BUT it’s not long before there is a new boy in Matt’s year that’s even more of an outsider than he is, Gerallt Hawthorne. After the loss of his father, Gerallt, his mother, sister, and little brother move into their great aunt’s house, the creepy mansion that is Hawthorne House.
The first 50% of this book was really good. The boys meet and grow to become friends, hang out together, and bond over being outsiders and the fact they have both recently lost a parent. Together, the boys find the courage to stand up to and then outsmart the bullies. A fantastic tale filled with the power of friendship. Drop the boys from 15 to 12, and it would have made an adorable, heart-warming, well rounded, and fun MG novel.
But there is still more story to come!
Before the end of the book, we have two more story arcs. One involving Gerallt teaching Matt the Hawthorne ways and then the theft of a Hawthorne artifact. Of course, the boys must figure out who stole the artefact and then get it back. Then at 80%, we get another new story arc [with] all the main characters searching for the Hawthorne family’s lost treasure. I think the latter two story arcs deserved to be expanded on, rather than cramped into the second half of the first book.
All and all, this was a very clean and innocent feeling, magic-filled YA (hence my age dropping MG suggestion). Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read, with my only qualm being the later story plots deserved more fleshing out – I’m asking for more, so I’d say that’s a positive thing!
7) Where’s the promised Intrigue, drama…?? ★★★☆☆
I had a hard time coming up with an honest review of this book, of which I did receive an ARC from Book Sirens for such.
I must say the description had me intrigued, and I couldn’t wait to dive in, YA or not. By the end of it, I was dragging my feet just to finish it.
First, although it is written for YA, it seemed more like a novel for YC-young children. We’re talking 8-12, at the oldest end of the spectrum.
The book was way too lengthy, with an excessive amount of pointless fillers that never really seemed to go anywhere, other than to be repeated a few times later in the book.
For the age of the main characters, I was rather surprised, simply because some of the behaviors, actions, and thoughts seemed more like those of YC.
The intrigue, drama, subterfuge, and bewitchment just wasn’t there for me, and it definitely didn’t pique my curiosity enough to read anymore in the series.
6) Interesting Middle School read, Misleading summary ★★★☆☆
By Morgan on January 26, 2020 (Amazon US Review)
When I encountered the book on Amazon, I thought it would be a Goonies style story. Teens becoming friends and searching for treasure. While the book had that, it took a while to treasure.
The book is more high school kids doing high school things + magic. Conflicts are easily resolved, but the characters are interesting and keep you reading.
5) Great Character Building ★★★☆☆
I so badly wanted to love this book, but I can only like it.
It starts out with Matt, his father Sam, and his sister Tina moving to his father’s old hometown of Hawthorne, Indiana, due to financial issues and the passing of Matt’s mother. It was time for a change, and his father was having a hard time coping with the passing of his wife and being near things she loved reminding him of his loss every day (aside from his children).
Matt quickly learns on his first day of school why the town and house next to his is called Hawthorne (very convenient, I must say, but a nice outlook for the class) and also who the school bullies are.
Matt, with encouragement from his father, slowly befriends the recluse, Vivianne, who lives next door at Hawthorne house and earns her trust by showing her that he does not mind what others have to say about her, that he just wants to help. Soon Vivianne’s niece Gwendolyn and her children come to stay as Gwendolyn has lost her husband. A nice parallel and future set up option for Sam, Matt’s father.
Matt quickly becomes best friends with Gareth, rallying against the bullies, and having fun. Like all books, there is a time when the best friends are separated due to the bullies’ retaliation.
This is just a brief synopsis of the story-line, and you will truly enjoy the characters and cheer them on, but it is just a very lengthy story. One that could easily be broken into more than one book and become a series. Once I hit the climax, and things begin to fall in place, I felt like I had reached the ending. Until I realized I was only halfway through the book!!! From then, it felt like the story drug on and was just trying to make everyone happy and fill in some blanks.
I recommend reading this yourself and seeing if you have the same viewpoint or a different one. But it has great character building!
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
4) Entertaining ★★★☆☆
The Secrets of Hawthorne House made for a bit of light entertainment, and I think younger teens would enjoy it. Some serious topics are addressed, and I think the author did a good job of giving some food for thought without getting too heavy. These young people are dealing with normal problems – loss, making friends in a new town, high school, bullies, gossip, etc. Of course, some of them have a leg up with a touch of Celtic magic, which was a nice touch to this one. The story feels a little scattered, almost like a continuing set of short stories with this group of teens working through various problems. I’m not really a fan of that style, but it did work for this book and these characters. The biggest drawback for me was really more a personal pet peeve than anything else. The Druids all speak with an accent, and everything they say is spelled out phonetically. That would’ve been okay for a few lines to give the idea of how they sound, but it’s all the way through. As I said, that’s something that irritates me but may not bother others at all. I do think that would work very well for an audio version to let the accent be heard. In the end, there were things I liked and things I didn’t, but the story was entertaining, and it was certainly worth the read.
3) Toni’s Review ★★★☆☆
By Toni on August 12, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book is great for middle-grade school. I found the accent hard to grip at times. Unless I pretended the character had a Billy Connelly voice. Lol.
It was sort of Sabrina the teenage witch mashed up with the Addams family, with a touch of Brady bunch.
Great for younger audiences. Or a great Halloween read.
2) Katie’s Review ★★★☆☆
By Katie Garnett on June 10, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
I’ve recently seen The House with a Clock in its Walls (haven’t read the book tho’) and this reminded me a lot of that. This is a perfect book for older children and younger teenagers; they’ll love it! The story includes lots of elements that schoolchildren will find familiar: bullying, unfair teachers, perhaps the loss of a parent, grounding, one-parent families, etc. But this time there’s a dash of magic to liven things up. One of the criticisms I would make is that there wasn’t enough magic or a wider variety of spells. I also feel that the treasure hunt should have taken up a larger portion of the story, maybe as background vein running through the whole thing, but that might be just me. All in all a good story.
1) A Decent Read for YA Audiences ★★★☆☆
It was a drunk driver that crashed into his mother and killed her. It was something that 15-year-old Matt has never been able to get over. Now, he, along with his father and twin sister, has moved to Hawthorne, IN, as far away from the ocean as possible.
New house, new town, new people.
The first day of school, Matt meets Sarah, who tells him about Lady Hawthorne next door. She was supposedly a witch who murdered her husband. So then why was she running free if she was a killer?
Eventually, Matt starts doing household chores for Lady Hawthorne and soon befriends one of her relatives. Suddenly, life in a strange town gets even stranger.
Story goes into a brief history of the Hawthorne Haunted House and how it came to be. It was interesting but lags considerably with an endless monologue that seems irrelevant. The Hawthornes certainly have incomprehensible dialogue with their weird accent (it was Southern or Eastern or something,) making it harder to follow and understand them.
Ultimately, the question was: What were the secrets of Hawthorne House? Although the answer wasn’t too clear, the bond and friendship between Matt and Gerallt were admirable.
This strange tale of Wiccan folklore was punctuated by childhood mayhem, dark secrets, and a touch of magic. Of course, judging by the cover, I expected more spookiness, like a haunting impression really, but it just sort of remained stagnant at a mild and mediocre level. It’s a decent read for YA audiences, but I would’ve liked it better had it been shortened and less complicated.
2 Star Reviews
3) Alyssia Cooke’s Review ★★☆☆☆
Whilst I was interested at the start of this novel, by the end, I was trudging through just to reach the final page. It’s a book that certainly has potential, but it falls short of the mark repeatedly and not just due to one issue. In fact, I found near enough all aspects of the novel problematic at points from the writing style to the world-building, the pacing to the heavy use of coincidence to further story goals.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, whilst the idea behind the magic system being a gift from the Goddess is really quite interesting, I found the frankly juvenile manner in which it was used aggravating and distracting. It’s one thing if you have a world of endless magic to play stupid pranks or use it to clean a room, but not when you are quite literally praying to a Goddess whom you apparently revere in order to make these parlour tricks work. Likewise, the necessity of complex Latin prayers that you need to get ‘exactly’ right seemed superfluous; this is a deity after all, and prayers don’t need to be said in an exact way… or even out loud at all. When combined with the idea that the magic is a closely held secret that outsiders cannot find out about at all, it beggars belief as to why Geralt repeatedly uses it openly in order to make mischief or get revenge. Surely sacred powers wouldn’t be used in such a juvenile and demeaning way?
It comes down to the fact that the magic system isn’t fully developed or explained very well and so what you end up with is contradictory and as full as holes as a Swiss cheese. You get some references to a ‘Coven,’ and yet that’s never expanded on, leaving you to fill in the gaps. You get an info dump of historical background about halfway through the novel, but the faith itself isn’t explored, and the moments where you feel like you might be getting somewhere, the characters shut down, and it all becomes about religious tolerance. Tolerance is all well and good, but when half your characters are reliant on this faith, understanding would go significantly further. I also felt that nothing important is actually done with this magic; it is brought up near enough constantly, and yet whilst we see occasions like calling a flock of pigeons to alleviate themselves in your enemies’ hair, we don’t see anything useful or even significant being done. It sets the entire thing up to fail as there is an expectation that the magic will actually lead somewhere… and yet it all just fizzles out.
Next, language and writing style. One of my pet peeves in writing is when the author repeatedly tells rather than shows, and this particular flaw is present here in droves. This was never clearer in the emotional development of characters and particularly in the rather obvious and flat love story that was hammered in. I guess it made a change as it wasn’t a teenage angst style, instead focusing on some of the adults, but it all felt rather flat. I also found the written accents distracting, and as they failed to add anything to the book, it would have been better for the character to describe the accent he was hearing rather than constantly spelling out ‘heah’ or ‘fathah.’ If it was a minor bit character written phonetically, it wouldn’t be an issue; but you spend so much time with the Hawthorne’s; it is just repetitive and unnecessary.
Let’s also be honest; this is a wordy book, and that is not a compliment. It’s quite a long book for a youngster’s book, and yet not a lot actually happens. The blurb of the book sounds far more dramatic than it actually is; instead of being one cleverly building narrative leading to the conclusion, this feels more like a random assortment of various acts, all thrown together in what ends up being a rather scrambled tangle. Things that are hugely important at the beginning of the novel are then dropped as soon as they are not useful to the author anymore; school being one of the huge examples about this. The initial story arc finishes about halfway through the novel, and instead of wrapping things up cleanly, the book just goes on, putting together more random acts. Unfortunately, this fails to add depth to the story, and whilst I understand some of it was used to add background, it just never really felt like it came together.
And of course, you have the highly improbable co-incidences that seem to be Firesmith’s main way of moving a narrative forward. If there’s something I dislike more than authors telling rather than showing, it’s them being utterly reliant on exceptionally convenient co-incidences that just happen to occur at exactly the right time. That happens quite a lot here, but it is never more evident than at the ending where it becomes so ridiculously cheesy and unlikely that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes in exasperated despair. When writing literature for children, you can get away with several things that you just can’t in adult literature I accept, but there’s a limit, and this stretches, bends, and then snaps that limit without blinking.
So, not for me. And it’s not because of the age range; I have read a range of children’s and young adult books; some of which I have actively recommended to my younger siblings. This isn’t going to be one of them.
I still offer my thanks to BookSirens and the publishers for my review copy of this title.
2) Anna Maria’s Review ★★☆☆☆
This book started very well for me, but it ended up slowly going downhill all the way to the end.
I liked a lot the Hawthorne family and the whole atmosphere in their house. The magic was pretty simple, and it worked just fine for the story. What bothered me was when the plot moved on, everything that happened before most of the times was ignored for the rest of the book like it never happened. For example, school is a very big part of the kids’ life at the beginning of the book. But when they solve the issues that they had there, not only that situation is never mentioned again, but the school itself is never mentioned again.
There was a lot of telling but not showing, especially with the emotions of the characters. If a character had a rough time emotionally, we would never have known if the book didn’t keep mentioning it several times, while the character appeared just fine. Lastly, the author really REALLY wanted this book to have a happy ending. Things happened very conveniently and everything worked out perfectly for everyone, making overall a very cheesy ending, even for a middle grade.
In the end, I was left disappointed because the begining was very promising, but the book just fell flat. Still like the Hawthorne family though!
I received this book for free via BookSirens.
1) Bullies and Magic ★★☆☆☆
By Sarah Brown on April 28, 2019 (Goodreads Review)
Whilst this book started out so well for me, it began to fall flat as the plot progressed. Completing this young adult, paranormal story, I felt underwhelmed and relieved that I had reached the end. Disgruntled that this was merely the start of the series, I do wonder how much further the writer could take this story.
First off, one of my massive frustrations with this book is the use of accents that the Hawthorne family speak in. I guess it is supposed to imitate the Welsh accent but for me, this failed miserably. The differently-spelled words became an inconvenience that initially hindered my understanding of the dialogue. Once I had adapted to reading these unusual, sometimes shortened words, I was simply irritated by the volume of it! The Hawthorne characters naturally speak a lot in this story as they live in a town of the same name and hey, even the book features their name, but, it just didn’t work. I’m all for one for recreating accents but I think it works best if it doesn’t dominate the novel or the author merely describes the sound of it and then writes in standard English for the rest of the novel.
Secondly, I found this book a disappointment because of Matt’s naivety. It is obvious to the reader that there is something paranormal happening when the school bullies are miraculously defeated, but Matt turns the other way and weakly denies what happens. Maybe the writer is trying to duplicate Matt’s father’s atheist, scientific views but I think this made Matt appear stupid and lacking sense. Indeed, when Gerallt and Matt become very close friends and Gerallt reveals some of the Hawthorne secrets, even then, Matt still displays qualities that I did not like – pushy, dense and lacking awareness of others.
Matt and Gerallt find themselves being bullied at school. The way in which the bullies are “defeated” made uncomfortable reading for me. Gerallt uses his amulet and his Druid powers to literally bully and threaten the bullies in return. This happens as well to when Tina, Matt’s sister, has an unfortunate end to a date. None of the Hawthorne characters seem bothered by their bullish nature and how they inflict pain on others to seek revenge over behavior they dislike. I have always had a strong opinion about books taking the moral high-ground and for me, the writer is simply showing these characters behaving like bullies themselves and sinking to their level; not rising above it and taking the honorable path. This was particularly irksome for me as this is a book aimed at young adults. I fear what message is being conveyed here when the characters feel it is acceptable to threaten others in return when “revenging” poor behavior. What message are we sending out to our young people?
Whilst some may consider this point as taking the novel too seriously, I personally found that this significantly lessened my enjoyment of the story. The novel was pacey enough and relatively interesting, but the morals within it made uncomfortable reading for me. I grew to dislike the characters and whilst there is a happy ending for all, I was relieved to reach its conclusion. I do tend to enjoy young adult, paranormal fiction but this one failed to spark my imagination, leaving me feeling frustrated and looking ahead to my next read.
1 Star Reviews
1) Alisha’s review ★☆☆☆☆
By Alisha on April 21, 2020 (Goodreads Review)
I really tried to like this book. It has so much potential, but sadly falls flat. It attempts to cover themes of grief, bullying, friendship, religious beliefs, and family dynamic. However, there is just too much, it’s way too long, and there are too many subplots. The book is all over the place until a number of coincidences happily wrap it up. I would have never stuck with this book when I was a middle grader. I also feel like not a single character had a fully developed character arc- no lessons learned, no transformations were made.
The hardest part of the book was the writing/dialogue. The author tries to write in some sort of Old World, East Coast accent. Sentences are riddled with words like: “you’ah,” “fathah,” “ahnt,” and “tah.” It becomes so distracting, I honestly am just glad to have marked complete on this read.
*This ebook was provided free of charge by BookSirens, and in exchange I am leaving this honest review voluntarily.