Review: The Secrets of Ghosts

By Sarah Painter

Available on: Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Blurb: Katie Harper is turning twenty one and hopes, on this birthday, she will finally come into the powers she has been working towards for years. Most of the Harper women are known for being “wise women”, each having their own abilities. For Katie, her power suddenly appears in the wake of a death at her workplace. Now, she can see and talk to ghosts! Secrets abound with her new-found powers and danger from unexpected sources.

Trigger Warnings:

Death, Food, Gore, Murder

Body Count: 3, technically?

The Specs:

  • Series
    • While not part of a named series, this is the sequel to “The Language of Spells, which I likely should have read first. Whoops.
  • Genre
    • Technical Genre: Metaphysical Fiction, Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction, Ghost Fiction
    • Theo Genre: Feminist Fiction, Magical Realism
  • Page count: 304
  • POV: Limited 3rd
  • Publication information:
    • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
    • Language:  English
    • ISBN-13: 9781472054807
    • ASIN: B00HELJII8

Other Fun Stuff:

To Read or Not To Read (Again):


Rating out of five: 3.0 out of 5

Representation, Morality, and Sexism Tests:

  • Bechdel–Wallace Test
    • Purpose: to establish actual female characters that act independently of male characters in a story.
      • Do two female characters talk about something other than a male character? Yes
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • DuVernay Test:
    • Purpose: to establish characters of color in a story.
      • Are there fully actualized characters of color? No
    • Pass or Fail: Fail
  • Ellen Willis Test:
    • Purpose: to show balance in characters regardless of gender.
      • Would two related characters still work to carry the story if their genders were reversed? Yes
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Hays Code Test:
    • Purpose: to ignore outdated and queer-degrading/punishing standards that once were the standard for produced mass media.
    • Part One: outdated moral guidelines
      • Are there any outdated “moral content” rules gloriously kicked in the teeth by this story?
      • Are there people of color allowed a happy ending?
      • Is there an interracial couple?
      • Is there profanity used at all?
      • Is there one or more homicidal acts and/or murder?
    • Part Two: queer representation
      • Are there queer characters that get a happy ending?
      • Is there an illegal or otherwise distasteful age gap between characters, queer or otherwise?
      • Do the queer characters die tragically, violently, or at all?
    • Pass or Fail: Fail
  • Mako Mori Test:
    • Purpose: to assure that in the story there is at least one female character independent of a male character’s story.
      • Is there a female character? Yes
      • Does she get her own arc? Yes
      • Does it do anything other than serve to support a man’s story? Yes
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Sexy Lamp Test:
    • Purpose: to assure that a female character in the story serves as an active protagonist, not just a device to be used by the male main character.
      • Would the plot fall apart if the female character was replaced by a sexy looking lamp? Yes
    • Post-It Note Caveat:
      • Would the character be able to be replaced by a Sexy Lamp with a sticky note on it for information conveyance? No
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Tauriel Test:
    • Purpose: to help support the existence of competent, independent female characters regardless of a romantic sub-plot.
      • Is there at least one woman in the story? Yes
      • Is this woman competent in her chosen occupation and not immediately shown up by a newcomer male character? Yes
      • If she has or develops a love interest during the story, either implied or explicitly stated, does she suddenly abandon her job and/or chosen path to support or pursue said love interest?  Nope!
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Vito Russo Test:
    • Purpose: to establish more characters that are on the SAGA (Sexuality And Gender Acceptance), QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) or LGBTQIAP+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual/Biromantic/Bigender, Transgender, Queer/Genderqueer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, Pansexual/Panromantic, and others not listed here) spectrum.
      • Is there a character on the queer spectrum? No.
      • Are they a character beyond their orientation? Not applicable.
      • Do they actually affect the plot? Not applicable.
      • Is the character something beyond a punchline? Not applicable.
    • Pass or Fail: Fail

Overall review:


This particular book was read with the intention of it being an escape. I didn’t realize it was the second book in a series, but it did stand alone quite well.

Katie…is an interesting character. She starts out this fearful little rabbit of a person and grows as the story does, over the course of just a few days, I believe. But the way it was handled was believable and engaging. Her not-a-boyfriend Max is quite the interesting character himself. Being a grifter, he seems genuine in his desire to turn over a new leaf and is the first to admit that he is a work in progress.

The story itself was a delight to read. While this is my first introduction to the world of the Harper women and the magic they possess, I feel like The Secrets of Ghosts was a strong novel about women who are delightfully flawed and human, even with magical powers.

I will be reading more by this author.

Was it engaging?

Yes, but sometimes the pacing was a bit off. And Katie and Max’s chemistry seemed a little rushed.

Favorite Character:

Violet, the ghost.

Review format updated 10 June 2019

One thought on “Review: The Secrets of Ghosts

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