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House of Secrets Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 23, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review Review

Top 10 Secrets Behind House of Secrets

House of Secrets is the first book in a new series by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini, but there aren’t only secrets in the book—like the Wind Witch, a villainess who J. K. Rowling calls “seriously creepy.” There are also secrets about how it was written. Here, the authors reveal ten of them!

Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini

1. Denver Kristoff’s name is a coded message.

House of Secrets is about regular kids getting trapped in the worlds of a mad novelist. To name that novelist, we looked to ourselves. (We are a little crazy.) “Ned” backwards is “Den,” and when you add a “-ver” for “Vizzini” you get “Denver.” “Chris” became “Kristoff.” And so Denver Kristoff is us!

2. The book used to be called The Page Runners.

The Page Runners seemed perfect for an adventure about being trapped in books! But it sounds a lot like Maze Runners, doesn’t it? Derp.

3. Chris and Ned have only met in person five times.

Ah, the wonders of modern technology! We live 379 miles from each other (Chris in San Francisco, Ned in Los Angeles), so we wrote House of Secrets via email. In fact, the New York Comic-Con event where we introduced the book was the third time we had ever met!

4. Cordelia Walker used to be Violet.

Up until the middle of the book, we were calling Cordelia “Violet,” nickname “Vi.” Why’d it change? Because Violet is the oldest sister in the Lemony Snicket books! There is a shortage of names out there, seriously.

5. Fat Jagger used to be Fat Russell.

One of our favorite House of Secrets characters, Fat Jagger, is a dangerous but lovable colossus the size of a sixty-story building. Initially we thought he looked like Russell Brand, and even called him “a Brobdingnagian Russell Brand.” But we wondered how long Brand would be around as someone to visualize. So we renamed him “Fat Jagger” and made him look like “a mammoth Mick Jagger.” Because Mick is not going away.

6. It started with a visual.

A Victorian house, one of San Francisco’s famous “painted ladies,” floating in the ocean—that was the image that inspired House of Secrets. Chris had it in his head for years before he started working with Ned.

7. The author photo was not totally safe.

Ned’s wife, Sabra, took the House of Secrets author photo in San Francisco, at Chris’s 1492 Pictures production office. Chris suggested we go on the fire escape. “Careful,” he said, “or there’s not gonna be a second book.”

8. Chris and Ned worked double-time in different hemispheres to finish the book.

In the summer of 2012, during editing, we were in opposing time zones (Chris: Italy; Ned: Los Angeles). When one of us finished a chapter at night, we sent it to the other, who would just be waking up. That way the book literally kept growing as we slept.

9. The Book of Doom and Desire used to be called The Dark Bible.

That’s right, we did actually think that a magical book that granted wishes and warped its owner’s mind could be called The Dark Bible. And still get published in America! Turns out, not so much.

10. Cordelia’s favorite authors are actual authors whose books you can buy!

One of the purposes of House of Secrets is to celebrate reading and the worlds that it conjures. The people who Cordelia reads—Grace Paley, Richard Brautigan, and Jerzy Kosiński—are all here on Amazon with tons of great books for you to buy. Although if you’re reading House of Secrets, you may not be ready for The Painted Bird.


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

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

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-8-Brendan, Cordelia, and Eleanor Walker are dragged by their parents to look at houses in San Francisco. Their father, a doctor, has lost his job due to an incident at the hospital, and the family has to downsize. The Kristoff House overlooking the bay seems to be too good to be true for the money, but, surprisingly, their father buys it. Once the family moves in, all kinds of strange things start to happen. It turns out that there is bad blood between a former owner of the house, Denver Kristoff, and an ancestor of the Walkers. Kristoff's daughter is now the Wind Witch, and she has enticed the family to the home so that she can get hold of The Book of Doom and Desire, which she plans to use as her vehicle to rule the world. To accomplish this, the witch incapacitates the parents and sends the children into the books her father created in the hope that they will help her retrieve the magical tome she desires. Along the way the youngsters meet many of Kristoff's characters, some of whom help them and others who try to annihilate them. The setup of the story drags a bit, but once the siblings leave contemporary San Francisco for the magical world of the Wind Witch, the pace picks up. The young Walkers are plucky, quick thinkers whom readers will grow to love. With a new adventure that seems to arrive with every chapter, the story unfolds quickly, thus keeping kids hooked and wanting to find out what will happen next.-Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson, LAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Series: House of Secrets (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062192469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062192462
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on May 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book after listening to the interview on NPR. Sounded like a ripping yarn and there was the possibility that I could read this to my 4th grade class at school. Huge disappointment. While the plot is ok (magic house transports kids, characters come to life, much peril), it reads like something I'd write. Barely fleshed out main characters, unexplained leaps, not believable enough to keep you immersed. Throughout the book I got the idea that the author(s?), after working with the Harry Potter movies, looked at each other and said, "How hard can this be? Let's write a book!"
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jessica on July 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book, but nothing really made me care about the characters enough to be fully engaged. Every time I put it down, I never really felt the need to pick it back up. It was just kind of jumbled up for me. The Wind Witch and other various bad guys do some really twisted and horrible things, and yet they aren't that scary. The relationship between the Walker children didn't really come off as true-to-life. And while they each had their own "thing" and point-of-view, their voices just seemed a little too similar. So, sadly, this book is one of those that had potential but is really pretty forgettable.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jesse H on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
House of Secrets was touted as a being written by the creator of Goonies and Gremlins, two movies I loved when I was a child. Columbus (One of the authors) was even the director of Harry Potter 1 & 2. In an interview with Chris Columbus, stated that JK Rowland had even given him some pointers on the story. All of those factors lead me to read this book. That being said, it was definitely written for today's children. If you want a read something comparable to spiderwick chronicles or another tween series read this. If you are an older reader who enjoyed the HP I would suggest finding another alternative.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Audra B on April 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
From beginning to end, House of Secrets by Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus was a wild adventure that was amazing to read. Brendan, Eleanor and Cordelia Walker along with their mother and father are out to look for a new home after falling on rough times thanks to "the incident". They've found themselves stuck looking for a new home in the very expensive San Francisco real estate market where nothing seems right for their family in their price range. Suddenly, they come upon a giant house that seems to good to be true. Their realtor tells them the affordable price is only for a special family in need. Sure enough, the Walker family seems to be a match and they move right in despite the bad feelings and perhaps omens that two of the kids experienced before even moving in.

House of Secrets was a fantastic mix of adventure and suspense. Following along with the trio of siblings as they tried to make it out of their rather unfortunate situation was thrilling from beginning to end. We meet a wild card mix of characters that put the kids through the wringer with all sorts of challenges. They meet foes and friends from all walks of life as we try to figure out exactly what is going on and why these kids were thrown into this new world.

I felt a little disappointed with the characters within the pages. The relationship between the siblings reminded me of my brother and I growing up, which made them easy to relate to. However, I had a really hard time finding them endearing.

Overall, House of Secrets was a great read fit for a middle grade reader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dan Thompson, Author on October 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
We really do have to thank JK Rowling for making reading and books enticing for children. Before the Harry Potter series, reading amongst children was on the decline, but it is as strong as ever now, with hundreds, if not thousands of new titles being published each year - all with varying degrees of success. So it was always going to be a winner wasn't it when JK Rowling has a quote saying: "A breakneck, jam-packed, roller coaster of an adventure." written on the cover. But with Ned Vizzini being a popular YA author already and Chris Columbus well-known for the popular 80's film, The Goonies as well as directing some of the Harry Potter films, House of Secrets was always going to be well received and big on adventure.

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

I guess the first qualm is with the writing itself. It must be very difficult writing a book with two authors; each taking a turn to write a chapter before swapping over - and the two voices here are obvious, yet neither successful. It suffers from way too many cliches and badly formed descriptions.
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