Review: A Spell of Murder (Book #1: Witch Cats of Cambridge Series) by Clea Simon



Becca, newly single and newly unemployed, wants to believe she has psychic powers. With nothing but time – and a desire for empowerment – she’s studying to become a witch. What she doesn’t know is that her three cats – Harriet, Laurel, and Clara – are the ones with the real power. And when Harriet – “a cream-colored longhair with more fur than commonsense” – conjures a pillow for her own comfort, Becca believes her spells are finally working. Could that be why Trent, the coven’s devilishly handsome leader, has been showing her special attention? Or why Suzanne, a longtime coven member, draws her aside to share a secret – a confidence that may lead to murder?

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Purchase          Rating: 2/5 stars

As a long-time, experienced reader I know what to look for when choosing a new book, I know what makes a book good/bad, and I know what I like/dislike in a book.  These are simply things that all long-time and experienced readers know and, in truth, knowing these things helps those of us who do so, to write better and (hopefully) helpful reviews.  In that spirit, I’m going to approach this book review according to those three things.

What I look for:  On the face of it, this book has everything I look for in a new book.  It has animals that talk, magic, a cozy mystery level plot, and (theoretically) characters I am going to enjoy.  In reality: Yes, this book has animals that talk and who also happen to be magical.  The humans have absolutely no magical capabilities though one, Becca thinks she does thanks to a prank played by one of her cats.  The two older cats are quite mean to the youngest cat, and Becca is quite possibly the dumbest human alive. 

What makes a book good/bad:  Good writing is a must, characters that are robust and engaging with the potential for growth are a critical, and a plot that makes sense and is entertaining is also quite important.  While I can accept some of these things not being perfect in a first-in-a-series read, I can’t reasonably expect to like a book of all the elements are somehow lacking.  In reality: I found a great deal of the writing to be repetitive, especially among the cats who tended to have the same arguments over and over.  I like to think I’m a competent and educated reader who doesn’t need constant repetition to get the point.  As to the human characters, I found Becca to be utterly ridiculous, her best friend to be angry and mean, at best, and the members of the coven to be gullible and somewhat simple.  Finally, though the plot isn’t bad, it also wasn’t something I found to be wholly original or even gripping. 

What I like/dislike in a book:  I can always tell how much I like or dislike a book by the amount of time it takes me to read it.  It took me a very long time to get through this rather simplistic book and I know it is because of the things mentioned above.  I didn’t give up on this book because I kept hoping I would surprise me in the end. Sadly, my hopes were dashed, and I finished this book feeling utterly disappointed.  

The Bottom Line:  I really hate leaving a wholly negative review as I fully understand and appreciate that the author has accomplished something difficult, the writing and publishing of a book.  While I largely disliked this book, it also has things I am generally drawn to, for example, talking animals and magic.  To that end, I finished this book knowing full well I was willing to give the second book a chance in the hopes some of the negatives will be turned into positives.  First-in-a-series books are tough, and they don’t always give you a good idea what a series is truly going to be once it finds its feet.  With that in mind, I am absolutely willing to give this author and this series a second chance.

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