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Once a Witch

Once a Witch

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Once a Witch

4/5 (75 ratings)
275 pages
4 hours
Sep 6, 2010


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

Sep 6, 2010

About the author

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

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Once a Witch - Carolyn MacCullough



I WAS BORN on the night of Samhain, when the barrier between the worlds is whisper thin and when magic, old magic, sings its heady and sweet song to anyone who cares to hear it. All night my mother struggled, and when she finally heaved me into this world, my grandmother hovered over me, twisting her fingers in arcane shapes, murmuring in a language only she knew.

What is it? my mother gasped, turning her face against the lavender-scented pillow. What’s wrong?

Finally, my grandmother answered, her voice full and triumphant. Your daughter will be one of the most powerful we have ever seen in this family. She will be a beacon for us all.

I always wonder how my older sister, Rowena, who had been allowed into the room, reacted to that statement. No one thought to check that part of the story, but I really would have relished the one moment when I, and not Rowena, was the sun and the moon and the stars combined.

They say I never cried at birth, never made a sound, but opened my eyes immediately and regarded them all with a calm and quiet gaze. As if she’s seen so much already, my mother whispered, touching my fingers and then my face.

Well, if I had seen anything, I’ve long since forgotten what it was, and as for what my grandmother promised, that’s been forgotten, too. Or not forgotten, but definitely scrapped.

Even now, seventeen years later, I still catch my mother’s gaze lingering on me and I just know she’s pondering how she managed to lose the child she’d been promised and gain me instead. I also wonder if my grandmother ever recalls the echo of her words: one of the most powerful . . . a beacon. Doubtful.

The story was told so many times in eager anticipation up until my eighth birthday. Then the whole family gathered and sang while my mother lit the eight golden tapers to represent the four elements and the four directions. Then they watched me, some openly, some furtively.

And what did I do?

Nothing. At. All.

Nothing that I was supposed to do, anyway. After a while, I got tired of everyone staring at me and then at one another so I went around blowing out all the candles, taking comfort in the dimness as I ate my way through two large pieces of sugar-sweet birthday cake. Eventually, everyone trickled home.

I come from a family of witches. Each and every member of my family down to my youngest cousin manifests his or her particular Talent without fail just before, and certainly no later than, the age of eight.

Except for me.

Nine years have passed since that birthday and I have nothing to show for it. Not a drop, not half a drop, not even a quarter of a half of a half drop of magic runs through my apparently very pedestrian veins.

As for what my grandmother said about me—one of the most powerful . . . a beacon, etc., etc., etc.—all this goes to show that contrary to popular belief, even the oldest and wisest of witches can be dead wrong.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door swings shut, sealing us in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He exacts his revenge in subtle ways. Will this be all? I ask, pointing to the book. In a flash, Hector bats at the silver bangles on my wrist and hooks a claw into my skin. Ow! I say, snatching my hand back. See what I mean about revenge, I mutter, glaring at the three beads of blood that have welled up on my pale skin.

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

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

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

"So you are English," I conclude.

He looks briefly pained. Scottish, he says.

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

No. I’m at NYU.

You’re a student there? I ask.

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

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

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

What do you teach? I ask.

Art history. Are you a college student?

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

He gives me a blank look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost it?

He waves his hand, the light catching on the steel band of his watch. Hector’s eyes widen, and I put a restraining hand on the cat’s neck until he settles down into a doze again. In a card game or a wager or something to that effect in the late eighteen hundreds in New York City. Gamblers in the family, I’m afraid.

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

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

‘This place’? I repeat. As I slip the book into a bag, I trace one finger over the GREENE’S LOST AND FOUND, NEW AND USED BOOKS logo. I can’t help but feel a little like Hector with a mouse caught between his paws.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. T—

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

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

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

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

I heard about your family in an antique shop—

That answers my next question. Which one was—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen, Dr. Callum—

Alistair, he insists.

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

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

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What people think about Once a Witch

75 ratings / 47 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    Time Travel and witches. Pretty awesome combination. I am a fan! I forgot to post this book and I read it like months and months ago, so i am just going to say that when the new book in this series came to the cataloger's desk I literally barely let her finish cataloging it before I had it checked out and home :) So good read :)
  • (3/5)
    Tamsin Greene is a fun, eccentric narrator - the kind of girl who always shops at thrift stores and always finds something great, and spends her evenings sneaking into clubs (with her trusty fake ID) so she can catch hip new bands in hidden, grungy bars. She's outgoing, funny, and nice.

    She's a wonderful girl, but there's a huge shadow hanging over her head. Tamsin comes from a tight knit family of talented witches, for whom magic is an integral part of daily existence. Everyone in her family has a Talent...except for Tamsin. Tamsin's too-perfect sister has a gift for mind control, her wise grandmother can see into the future, her father can manipulate the weather. The list goes on and on. Tamsin feels inadequate - and it seems like her witchy relatives are of the same opinion. She became a hip young New Yorker in order to escape her identity as a failed witch.

    Which is why it's so strange that Tamsin offers to perform a magical task for a strange professor. He wants her to locate an opulent old clock that his family lost more than a hundred years earlier - though, the way he describes the loss, it sounded to me like it could have been through sale or gambling. I wasn't sure why Tamsin decided that the object should be returned to him without a little bit more research.

    In any case, Tamsin can't find the clock without help - enter Gabriel, a hunky cousin who has a Talent for finding things. Together, the two of them get into a mess of trouble. It turns out that the clock once belonged to her ancestors - and the professor's reasons for wanting it are anything but innocent.

    Not much more I can say without spoilers, so I'll stop. The ending clearly set this up to be a series, and I was engaged enough to read a second book. I liked Tamsin a lot, and I liked the sheer variety of magic that was possible in this world. The writing is very good, elegant and fluid without being showy, and I had a strong sense of place and time throughout. All in all, a fun and smart read.
  • (4/5)
    I just devoured this novel from the first page, which is set in a bookstore by the way (what's not to love?). The Talents are similar to some other stories I have read, most recently those in the Alcatraz Smedry series by Brandon Sanderson, although he did something quite different with them. It reminded me too, for reasons I cannot divulge, of Shanna Swendson's Enchanted, Inc. books, which are also completely fabulous. The writing is good, the characters are interesting and the plot draws you in and keeps you there.

    Tamsin was easy to relate to from the get-go. Most everyone has felt like an outsider at some point or had sibling issues (although not me, as I'm an only child) or wished desperately for some special talent. She has a bit of an edge to her, which I appreciate for the most part. She sneaks out to bars to drink beer and watch bands with her roommate Agatha. She's sarcastic with her family. In addition, she adapts well to all crisis situations, trying desperately to make things work out; even though she doesn't always succeed, it's awesome that she tries, rather than sitting idly by waiting for a savior.

    My one big complaint about Tamsin is the scene where she smokes a cigarette in her room. Blah blah rebellion blah blah badass. I really hate smoking, because, well, it's awful. However, what really bugs me about this scene is that it has so little bearing on the rest of the book. It seems so out of place. Tamsin never smokes again, nor does anyone else mention her doing so. I can't help wondering if she was a smoker originally and most of it got edited out. Either way, it struck me as clunky and gross.

    Gabriel was totally awesome. His talent (finding things) rocks. I seriously want one of him for my own, so he can keep me from having to turn my house upside down trying to locate my missing remote. (This happened this evening and the remote was, of course, in the first place I looked. Why I didn't see it, I don't know, but that's always how it goes.

    Once a Witch was such a fun read and I am eagerly anticipating starting the sequel. If you're looking for an awesome summer read, definitely pick this up at your local library or book store!
  • (4/5)
    Once a Witch is the first ebooks I've read from our library. It is a fast-paced read that is sure to keep your attention. I enjoyed it, but I would have liked it to be a little more detailed in some areas. I know this is a series though, so I'm hoping that some areas will be cleared up and detailed more in the next books. Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of powerful witches. Each member of her family has a special Talent that manifested itself before the person reached the age of 8. Unfortunately for Tamsin, this never came to pass, eventhough at her birth, her grandmother predicted that she would be one of the strongest witches ever. Tamsin has always felt like a failure and an outsider to her family, so when a mysterious professor comes into her grandmother's book store asking for her help in finding a lost object, she fails to tell him that she is not her talented sister, Rowena. Her omission sets off a chain of deadly events that puts her family in danger, and causes Tamsin to take a trip back in time with the help of her friend, Gabriel.
  • (3/5)
    Once a Witch wasn't groundbreaking or original material if you've read any fantasy novels at all but it was diverting enough.If you've grown up in the shadow of a bossy, perfect older sister then you'll appreciate how this novel captured that feeling of inadequacy perfectly. Not as well as Margaret Mahy's The Tricksters however. That book explored the family dynamic profoundly in why parents treat kids differently and how it effects the unit. I wanted to slap that sister so much.Tamsin accepts her role in the family by saving them. But why they treated her like that was too deep seated for how it was explained. Her dad treated her like she was an idiot.I would not have been as forgiving as Tamsin was to her family. I have a hard time accepting the entire community went along with the decision to lie on her because the matriarch [her grandmother] said so as the book didn't develop the relationships enough. No one but Gabriel saw her as worthy because she didn't have powers then that community has problems.I got why Tamsin felt like an outsider but unlike in White Cat by Holly Black everything ends cleanly. That series delved more into the community and their unhealthy family dynamic. This book doesn't hold up to scrutiny. In a nutshell this book is a junior high version of the Black Swan Rising & Watchtower novels by Lee Carroll.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed "Once A Witch". This book was extremely fast paced and easy to read. I can't believe that it sat so long on my TBR pile. Tamsin Greene attends a boarding high school where she can escape from her family for a bit. Whats the problem? All of Tamsin's extended family are witches, each with their own unique talents or special abilities. Some can move quickly, some can freeze people where they stand, others can persuade with just a few words. At Tamsin's birth, her grandmother declared her to be the biggest talent her family had ever seen, a 'beacon' for the family. Except that Tamsin's talents never came to be. Now Tamsin just wants to be around human's without the constant reminder that she failed to become what she was supposed to have been. One day on summer break she is back home and working at her family bookstore when a mysterious man named Allistair comes in and mistakenly takes Tamsin for her older, extremely talented big sister Rowan. Tamsin goes along with this misunderstand and promises to recover a missing heirloom for the gentleman. With the help of a handsome, long-lost talented friend named Gabriel, Tamsin begins a journey to find the object and ultimately discovers more about herself and her family than she could have imagined.I was very happy with this book and with these characters as a whole. I adored Tamsin's crazy extended family and watching them interact with each other. I don't often really like the love interest in these YA stories but I think Gabriel is a hoot. He is funny and charming and very likeable. I would want him on my side during something like this. Rowan the perfect sister is very easy to not like. I can see why Tamsin always felt like she could never live up to the huge footsteps her sister left in front of her. I also think that there is much more to Rowan that I hope we see in the next installment "Always A Witch". I know this is petty, but although I like Tamsin a lot, I hated that she smoked like she did. It was just gross. Anytime there was stress, Tamsin was chain smoking. I don't see where it added to her as a character or where it could add any value in a book aimed at 9th graders and up. I loved that Tamsin was different than the other girls or family members. I just didn't care for the smoking bit. My only other complaint is that the story is SO fast paced that as the story begins to unravel I felt a little confused in a few places and felt like I needed some clarification on what just happened. Still the conclusion was excellent and again the characters were excellent. I am eager to read the follow up "Always A Witch".
  • (5/5)
    I am not really fond of reading books but this book somewhat changed my perception about reading books. It actually changed me into someone I never expected I will be. After reading this book, a part of me longs to read more and more books..haha..(i'm not kidding)The best thing about this book is that it doesn't focus on romance. Well yes, there's a little brush of love story but the story revolves around a seventeen-year old girl (were on the same age) named Tamsin Greene who wants to prove something to her family. With her undiscovered talents and Gabriel, her childhood sweetheart, she managed to defeat her enemies, their rival family--the Knights (oh well, it's Alistair Callum aka Alistair Knights). Tamsin becomes a very strong witch she never imagined she will be. Tamsin is an inspiration to all the teenagers out there who wants to prove something to their selves as well as to their families.
  • (5/5)
    At first I wasn't interested in this book because of the somewhat iffy description and the cover. But then I started reading it and couldn't stop! Tamsin is snarky, vulnerable and lovable. She's into vintage clothing, has a very cool best friend and goes to boarding school in New York. Oh and on top of that, he family all have magic powers - she supposedley doesn't. There is a case of mistaken identity involving her 'pefect' older sister Rowena, and she agrees to help Professor Alistair Callum find a lost family heirloom. Add in a hot childhood friend (Gabriel) who moves back into town and some time travel. TIME TRAVEL. I am a sucker for time travel and that hooked what little hesitation right out of my mind. Also, the second I finished I made up my mind to buy the sequel so I could read it right away. I never do that because I am a poor cheapskate! I loved this book, it was just that good.
  • (5/5)
    Sibling rivalry - Tamsin Greene has it in spades. Her older sister, her Talented older sister, Rowena has it all - beauty, Talent, a handsome, adoring finance, and of course the knowledge that she will be head of the family some day. For Tamsin, whose predicted powers never materialized, her sister is a shade more than annoying, and all she wants is to get away to somewhere where ordinary is normal and she'll fit in. When a young and handsome art-history professor turns up in the family bookstore looking for Rowena to Find a lost item for him and mistakes Tamsin for Rowena, Tamsin doesn't correct him. And suddenly everything changes. Tamsin's lie leads to sinister revelations, long-buried family secrets, and a desperate quest through time. Well-written with sympathetic characters, good pacing, and a nice lead-in to further installments.
  • (4/5)
    This was a good story. Just not a great story. I think I had trouble connecting with Tamsin and she was really the whole story so therein lies the problem. Tamsin was supposed to be the witch of all time, greatest to be born in her family and she's a flop. She didn't get her powers. And it doesn't really seem like her family rubs her nose in it except possibly her older sister Rowena, who being a bitch anyway, would do that as a bigger sister. That's what they do. I had an older sister.But Tamsin has this New York size chip on her shoulder, so big that she pretends to be her sister and that's where the trouble begins and it takes two books to fix her mistakes.Yeah, there's some budding romance with childhood friend, just returned to the clan and looking much more sexy, Gabriel. I liked him. He was teasing, wary, friendly and always looking out for Tamsin. More so than she deserved.I know heroines are supposed to be risk takers, all bravado, make sure all the harm comes to herself and no one else, but Tamsin just doesn't think before she literally leaps. If she'd just have shared once with someone then she could have saved what she valued so much and I'm realizing this review is spilling over into the next book, so I'll stop here.Rowena was bossy and unlikable. Tamsin, well I just couldn't get behind. So you aren't like everyone else in your family. That happens sometimes. Deal with it. I just didn't buy that as her reason for her angst and the impetus for starting this huge problem she started. I loved Gabriel. As I said, he was loyal, willing to do whatever was necessary to help Tamsin, and very protective. I like protective guys. Not smothering, just protective. And Agatha, her roommate seemed great, what little we saw of her. I'd like to have her for a roommate, but Tamsin had to keep her whole life a secret from her because of the witch thing and she could never even have her down to her family's house. That would stink! It's like only knowing someone halfway.You do have to read this one though because the next book is a great treat! A whirlwind of action and tragedy and survival.And you have to have the background of this one to read that one. So read away! It's not a hard to read book. It's just that in comparison, Always a Witch is by far the better book.I don't want to leave the impression that I didn't like this book. I did very much. And I liked it so much I made sure I got the second book to read which I enjoyed even more. This story line is very clever again, it amazes me how an author takes a witch story and can come up with something totally unique and different. That's exactly what Carolyn MacCullough did with Once a Witch. Domani's and families of witches where each has one unique ability. Evil witches are always around, but Alistair Knight is altogether a different type of evil. I can picture him and his pale skin with blue veins and a dark gray running underneath his thin skin. Just because I did not like Tamsin doesn't mean the story isn't worthwhile. It is and it's necessary to read for the next book. And I think Tamsin had to be the way she was in this one for her to be the way she is in the next book. I highly recommend that you read the series. It's worth it if you like paranormal ya. There is some romance, but it is not the focus, though Gabriel is a great character, someone I'd like to know in real life.
  • (5/5)
    When Tamsin was born her grandmother fortold that she would be a witch with powers like they had never seen. Unfortunatel Tamsin has had to live down the disappointment of that prediction her entire life. Not only does she not have an impressive Talent she has no Talent at all. A mysterious young professor comes to her family shop asking for magical help and mistakes her for her golden child of a sister Rowena. Tamsin jumps at the chance to prove herself to her family once and for all. She and her childhood friend Gabriel will embark on a journey through time uncovering secrets that were meant to remain hidden, kept from her and the rest of her family for a good reason. Tamsin's life and that of those around her will forever be changed.This book has been around for a while now and I just read it last night. I have no idea why I waited so long and fully regret that now. This book is absolutely amazing. I loved every minute of it. Seeing past the supernatural part of the book it relates to readers on a much more basic level. At some point in time most of us have felt that we needed to live up to someone else or prove ourselves just as worthy as they are. This book touches on that,feeling the outcast, sibling rivalry and the love that goes with it, and that of self discovery. This book is absolutely recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Tamsin Greene is the only witch in her family who isn't, well, a witch. The "witchly powers", or Talents, seemed to just pass her by. Her grandmother must have been senile when she told her mother at her birth that Tamsin would be "one of the most powerful... a beacon...". Tamsin believes she is an outsider until a stranger wanders into her life looking for something. She is determined to find it and prove to her family that she does not need to rely on a Talent. This journey unlocks much more than Tamsin expected.I really enjoyed this book. It was such a fun and effortless read. I didn't once feel bogged down with too much information or description. I loved Tamsin. She was determined and gutsy. She felt out of place in her own family and tried hard to distance herself. I truly felt for her. Gabriel was a wonderful character, as well. I loved his friendship with Tamsin and it was fun to follow their budding "relationship". After finding that they had a history, I would have like to have seen a little more romance-wise, but oh well. Maybe next time around.The plot was engaging and full of action, adventure, mystery, intrigue with a dash of romance thrown in. I am definitely looking forward to continuing this story with Always a Witch.
  • (5/5)
    I really liked this book. I liked the characters and I liked the story. I felt it left off making you want more of the story in a good way, not with a lot of unanswered questions.
  • (5/5)
    I love misfits. The ones in the family that no one cares about and then they become something more. Tam is the misfit of the family. She has grown up that she is nothing more than normal and never will be.I loved Tam and felt for her so badly. I felt her anger,her jealousy, and her wanting to leave away from everyone. Tam is a character that I could relate to right away. From the very first page, I fell in the story. Ms. MacCullough writing had me thinking I really was in the story. Her characters come to life beautifully with her writing and the plot blew me away.The love interest is good. I am, however a bit confused with it. I was under the impression that Gabe is Tam's cousin. But I am not sure if they just relate to Gabe as family and call him cousin because they are so close as a real family. If anyone can clear that up for me that be great.The best part of this book is the plot. Here we have a girl who doesn't want to be a part of her family because she believes she doesn't belong. Then she becomes something more and learns more secrets. The secrets is one that I felt on Tam behalf. I would have been furious had I known what she knew. It's not right. But I was glad that she upheld with great maturity and handled the situation smoothly. I admired Tam and loved the strength she carried with her.
  • (4/5)
    I really, really enjoyed this novel. It was a refreshing change from the stuff I usually read, and the writing was really easy to get into - I found myself immersed in the world of Talents (magical powers) right away. Tasmin, the main character, is also really easy to identify with. She's always felt like the 'outsider' in her family, being the only one without so much as a drop of magical power. Reading the summary on the back, I couldn't help but be reminded of the 'Squibs' from the Harry Potter Series (people born into a family of witches having no power of their own). You immediately begin to feel for Tamsin when she describes her family; especially her older sister Rowena. Rowena is the prettier, more powerful older sister who is set to take over the role of 'head of the family'. She is constantly rubbing in Tasmin's face the fact that she has no Talent and that she is the more powerful one. I picked this book up (honestly) because of the beautiful cover art. I love in Canada, and the canadian version of the cover art is really pretty (the picture used for this post is the canadian cover, although it doesn't really do it justice). After reading some of the reviews, I decided to buy it because people described it as a 'light read'. To be completely honest, I thought it was a great book with great characterization and a complex, intriguing plot, so I have no idea why people call it a 'light read'; I, personally, was so enthralled by the story that I didn't stop reading until the sun was up and I'd read it cover to cover.Some things I really liked about this book: There was a lot of stuff that I enjoyed about this book. The first was the way the author wrote the family dynamic and the relationship between Tasmin and her older sister. Having an older sister myself, I know what it's like to feel overshadowed by somebody else's achievements (I'm sure anyone with an older sibling knows what I'm talking about), and Tasmin's large extended family reminded me a lot of my own family. Secondly, I really liked that the characters were real - Rowena was jealous of her sister (and vice versa), Tamsin was witty and sarcastic (and also a smoker), Gabriel made sexual jokes constantly, Uncle Morris was constantly drunk... the characters seemed really believable, and the dialog didn't seem forced at all, which tends to happen in YA novels.All in all, I really enjoyed it (how many times have I used the word 'enjoyed' in this post?!). I think it's worth picking up, and I'll definitely be pre-ordering the sequel, Always a Witch. Hopefully (fingers and toes crossed!) netgalley will accept my request for an ARC and I'll have a review for you guys before it's released.
  • (4/5)
    I brought this book to read as l had the second book to review called Always a Witch (Not yet released). l never like to read a book which is second in the series before having read the first book because l hate missing out on a good book and would never read the first book after reading the 2nd already.Anyway, my thoughts -Carolyn is a new author for me and l am glad l have found her, l love the way she writes, her writing style makes the book constantly interesting and great to read. This book is also one of my first (if not my first .. can't remember) book which l have read that focuses so much on the magic that the characters hold. I was a bit nervous this would be too unrealistic but actually you quickly get dragged into the world which is created and start to believe this world really exists.I love how the book started off and Tasmin introduced me to her world and that she felt a very normal girl. The characters and their relationships are fun to read about, l especially loved the relationship between Tamsin and her sister. It is so similar to real sister relationships out there (mine included with my sister!) but has the added factor of the magic in the family which makes it very funny to read about. You find the characters themselves and the relationship between other characters changing as the story goes on and bonds between characters are quite out of the blue! The complex connections and ties between different people in this book makes for an interesting 'community' within the book and more so because of the different opinions with the characters hold about their family. As well as many of the bonds between the characters coming as a surprise the main storyline within this book was not expected. I thought l had a idea of how this book would turn out but l was totally wrong with new twists coming up in this book constantly. It really is a book which you can't get bored reading. The talents which Carolyn included in this book was great, l loved every single one of them and some were a very clever idea . I was excited to start the second book, Carolyn really leaves you with a cliffhanger in this book and l would very much recommend it, it's so close to being a 4.5.
  • (4/5)
    Once a witch helped me realize that you shouldn't give up on yourself that your made to do something, and that you can. Not to every sell yourself short. That family is important and to do what ever you can to help them no matter what trouble it brings.
  • (4/5)
    This book was surprisingly good. The plot was interesting as well as the characters. All of the characters appear to have room for growth and that makes things even more interesting. Rowena was my least favorite character. I hope that there is a sequal to this book.
  • (5/5)
    I picked this book up on a whim while browsing for something to read because the cover and description caught my eye. After reading it and thoroughly enjoying it I'm surprised that I've never heard of it before. The story follows a 17 year old girl named Tamsin, the black sheep in a family of witches. In trying to prove herself to her family she unknowingly opens up a chapter in her family's past that everyone would have rather not remembered. Tamsin is a loveable, stubborn, witty, and funny protagonist that readers will surely love. My favorite part of this book is how the system of magic in their world is set up, it seems to be pretty interesting and I hope to learn more about it in future books. The only problem one might have when reading this book is keeping track of events through time travel. You may become desperately confused if you haven't been paying close attention to the plot, but the time travel is just another part that makes it a great read.
  • (4/5)
    "Your daughter will be one of the most powerful we have ever seen in this family"... or not. Tamsin has lived most of her life feeling like a disappointment to her family. Predicted at birth to be one of the most powerful amongst them, she is the only one in a family without a Talent. When her Talent fails to manifest itself by age 8, the absolute latest anyone in the family has ever shown, she begins to feel like an outsider. To make matters worse, she has a perfect older sister in Rowena. So, when she is 17 and a mysterious stranger mistakes her for Rowena, she fails to correct him and determines that she will find a way to help the stranger despite her lack of Talent. Her long-lost childhood friend Gabriel is brought back into her life at just the right time to help Tamsin help the stranger. Unfortunately, the stranger is not who he appears to be and the story of an ancient feud between families comes to light. The stranger needs the real Rowena to help him change the past & only Tamsin can stop him.I really like Tamsin. She is not a helpless female character and while she is without Talent, she is not without wit and resources. She is funny and smart, while still being a vulnerable, insecure teenaged girl. She is a pretty good role model for other girls, despite the smoking. She really begins to come into her self during this story and I am interested to see how she develops as a young woman in the stories to come. I am also interested in how her role in the family will change in the future, as well as her relationship with Gabriel.I really enjoyed this story and look forward to reading the next installment.
  • (5/5)
    Who else is getting sick of this whole new craze of supernatural young adult novels? Is it just me or are those YA novels the only ones that are being pushed lately? It's just me? Okay... I admit, yes, the whole supernatural thing is grating on my nerves just a bit, but Once a Witch, while a supernatural YA novel, is just unique enough to work and not seem like a knock-off. Tasmin comes from a long line of witches. She's supposed to be this huge beacon for all the Talented, as predicted by her grandmother (one of the most Talented herself). But instead of having this huge power, it doesn't show up. So what's Tasmin to do? Well, go to a boarding school in the city and pretend to be normal, hating going back home because she's the black sheep in the family. I think any teen can relate to this book. Relate to a book about witches and spells and potions, you ask? Well, yes. Every teen has at least once felt like the black-sheep in their family or at the very least felt excluded. Who also hasn't felt bad for not living up to your family's expectation of you? Carolyn MacCullough has exceeded in making a very remarkable heroine in Tamsin. She's relateable, likeable, witty, and everything that I believe a young adult heroine should be. This novel has everything any young adult book fan would wish for. Intrigue, wit, sarcasm (or maybe that's just me?), witches (I've always loved anything to do with witches, starting with my anything, but brief obsession with the tv show "Charmed"), mystery, romance (one that didn't make me roll my eyes and that has to be a first with me), quirky and amazing characters (Tamsin's family is just deliciously weird) and an enchanting, yet action-filled plot that will have you rooting for the main character. And while I'm also a bit tired of almost every novel having a sequel (seriously, what's so bad about a stand-alone novel? I quite like those...), this one is just begging for a sequel, if not more than that. If you're a YA fan, pick up Once A's an amazing light-hearted read.
  • (4/5)
    Any book that has to do with witches is a great book to me. I have always liked witches, and I really love reading about them. This book was a perfect young adult witch story. It had a lot to do with Tasmin's life and how she doesn't fit in with the rest of her family because she never got her powers when she was supposed to. Her and Gabriel find themselves liking each other, and also getting into trouble together-like time traveling when they aren't supposed to be. This book held my interest the whole time. It especially got good when the professor gets involved and takes Tasmin's sister.
  • (4/5)
    This book is about Tasmin, a teenager from a family of witches. Despite predictions that she'd be a great witch, Tasmin never manifests her own "Talent" and she struggles to fit in with her family. Until one day, a stranger walks into her bookstore, and everything changes. I don't usually read young adult fiction, but I checked this out on a whim for a quick easy read. That is exactly what it was. However, it was also really enjoyable. I was pulled into the story quickly and loved how fast the plot moved. Tasmin, the narrator, was relatable and not so annoyingly teenager that anyone over the age of 16 would have a hard time reading her. It was interesting, fun, and definitely has the potential for a sequel, or even a series. I'd love to see what happens to Tasmin in the future!
  • (4/5)
    Likable but something's just missing...Living up to a family legacy of magic isn't easy for Tamsin Greene. Upon her birth her grandmother claimed she would be one of the most Talented witches the family had yet seen. Until her eighth birthday came and went without her Talent manifesting itself. She sees herself as an outsider among the very gifted witches in her family, particularly her elder sister Rowena who has the ability to control others with her voice. Attending a boarding school in New York City is a welcome escape from the constant reminder that she is the family pariah except for her summer vacation where she returns home to help out at the family bookshop. When a strange but compelling man comes to the Greene family's bookshop hoping to hire one of them to find a missing family heirloom Tamsin decides not to reveal that she has no Talent. If she can somehow find this object maybe she can prove useful to the family.Getting her childhood friend, Gabriel, whom she hasn't seen in several years, to help sends the two back through time to retrieve the missing item. But when their plans go awry and the heirloom proves to be more than just a beloved trinket Tamsin puts herself and those she loves at risk. She will learn family secrets and unravel deceptions that could be a blessing or a curse depending on how she uses this knowledge and ultimately comes into her own.If you love witch stories like I do, Once a Witch isn't one to easily pass up. Though certainly not in any way truly comparable to the much beloved Harry Potter series there is a certain flavor about this one that I found reminded me of them. Like the Weasley family of Potter fame, Tamsin's large, eccentric family of gifted magic weilders is easy to fall in love with. Tamsin's kooky Aunt Beatrice in particular provided comic relief and charm. Seeing them through Tamsin's eyes, however, and her feeling of being rejected for her lack of Talent will have most readers wondering just what went wrong.I did anticipate that time traveling would play a slightly larger role in this plot based on the premise. These scenes are well written but not as involved as I would have liked to have seen. This is one area where the book fails to deliver to my satisfaction. Where this is made up for in my opinion is in the fact that on the whole the plot isn't completely predictable. I often catch on to the twists before they happen and with this one I was able to get surprised which was really refreshing.Overall, I didn't love this book. It had some flaws that detracted from the storyline in ways that frustrated me and left me feeling as if there should have been much more to the book. But it was generally enjoyable and if MacCullough continues to write about Tamsin or her family I would be happy to dive into their world for another!
  • (5/5)
    Everyone had one but Tamsin. EVERYONE! The Talent of each witch in her family had manifested by the time they were 8. Not hers. They were Initiated into the family coven at 12. Not her. Tamsin is the odd duck on the Greene family - or so she has been led to believe.A senior at a boarding school in New York City, Tamsin and her non-witch friend Agatha do the typical school things, use fake ids to go to concerts they aren't old enough to attend and smoke for the heck of it.Tamsin is happier there than at home where she just doesn't fit in.Then eveything changes: a man comes into her grandmother's herbal shop and asks if she can "find" something for him. Her older sister Rowena can find anything - no matter where in the world or in time it resides. Tam just "forgets" to mention she isn't Rowena and takes the job. With the help of a long-lost friend Gabriel who has returned to New York, they do indeed find the object. In 1897. The Object is the key to the Greene family history and so much more.....This story is written for ages 12 and over. I loved it! The characters were so well written and the plot held me to the very last page. You don't have to be in middle school to enjoy this one!
  • (5/5)
    WOW! I don't have one complaint about this book. It got a bit slow during the end, but other then that I've got nothing. Nothing I tell you. I adored this book, it has everything in it that will make all the readers engaged and enjoying it. It's fast paced, well written, well described, and has understandable, lovable characters. Carolyn MacCullough did a fantastic job in writing this book. If you've lost hope in the fantasy genre or are getting tired of it, Once a Witch will pull you back in. It will also make readers excited to read more. My favorite thing about this book is Tamsin is such a realistic character. I seriously think that if Tamsin and this situation were real, Tamsin would of done just that. Or maybe anyone would act the way she did. Tamsin doesn't act cowardly or brave from the start, no she acts confused. I think that if I were in a situation like that I would act the same as she does. Also her problem of being left out and feeling forgetten if very understandable and I know many people *especially with siblings* have gone through this one time in there life. Also this is the first book where the describing and writing was so well done that you understand every, single thing thats happening. Also the plot isn't predicatable so you keep guessing and figuring out things to the end. I highly recommend this book, it was a enjoyable read and I'll be looking out for the sequel.
  • (4/5)
    A great book with many twists and turns. You never know what is going to happen until it happens. Leaves you wanting more and looking forward to the next book.
  • (3/5)
    Tasmin Greene has accepted the fact that she has no Talents, unlike the rest of her family. She can't throw fireballs at anyone, or foresee the future, or find lost articles for people. She does, however, still work in the family bookstore, which is where she is when Alistair Callum, a very young professor, walks through the door looking for Rowena, Tasmin's older sister, who is very talented. Without realizing the consequences of her actions, Tasmin finds herself pretending to be Rowena, and promising the professor that she will help him find something for which he's been searching. Along the way, Tasmin discovers that she is not without Talent, and that her place in the family is much more important than she had ever been raised to believe. This is an easy, fast read which will engage those who love books about witches and magic. The only thing I really disliked is that it appears to be the first book in a series. I'd have liked it much better if it had been a stand alone.
  • (4/5)
    Tamsin only wishes to be a normal girl. After having spent most of her life as the family blacksheep she is now moving forward. Attending a prep schools has also helped Tamsin construct was appears to be a semi normal life. Tamsin was supposed to be a witch of great power, but at the age of eight it was discovered she lacked a talent. Talents are the power that a witch gains at a certain age. It is then that a member is guided through initiation rites, and begins to truely learn how to be a witch. Only when Tamsin failed to gain a talent, she rejected the witch lifestyle and never learned the rules. On summer break Tamsin returns home to a summer of torture. When a strange strolls into town Tamsin finds a chance to finally fit in by agreeing to help them find what they have lost. Only with no talent this presents a problem, and what the strangers looking for turns out to be more than just a family heirloom.Once a Witch is a very fast paced story, and had my attention full invested by the second chapter. This was my first book by Carolyn MacCullough, and I really enjoyed her writing. The storyline was easy to follow, and the plot was strong. Although, I felt that characters were some what lacking, while I felt as though I knew the characters at moments they still seemed like strangers in the story. I still would without a doubt recommend Once a Witch it is excellent read. I hope to sequel in the future.
  • (4/5)
    This book, despite being aimed at teens, caught my interest from the very first chapter. The lead character, Tamsin has more then the usual teen angst - she is the black sheep of her mystical family. Tamsin is the only member of her large, commune-like household to not have a special "Talent". She is envious of her beautiful sister, Rowena, who is perfect and talented, and Tamsin is pitied by her extended family who don't understand how a baby born with great promise has managed to grow into a high school student so thoroughly ordinary. Through this story, she comes to learn about her family history, solving a mystery and discovering her own strengths.It is a coming of age story, with fun, humor, romance, adventure, time travel and witchcraft, and allegorical for all teens who are looking to find their "talents". Teens (and adults) will find plenty to enjoy in this book. It is easy to relate to the characters, who are well developed , inviting you to care about and root for them. Tamsin is written with great depth and you feel she is an actual person. Carolyn MacCollough has done a great job of "showing" instead of telling her story. Unlike many other popular teen novels, the lead female character has a strong personality, and stands up for herself. There is romance and some rebellious teen behavior, but nothing too inappropriate for most teens.I would feel very comfortable adding it to a classroom library and encouraging teens (and adults) to enjoy it. I have several students eager for me to share. I will personally be looking forward to a sequel.Highly recommended -- Thank you!