Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets by Holly Bell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, BooksGoSocial, and the author in exchange for an honest review.
Actual rating of 2.5 stars.
Amanda Cadabra is magical, and it has nothing to do with her name. She’s a witch. Living in a cosy little village in a cottage that her Grandparents raised her in along with her familiar, Tempest, a cat who knows his worth. When news reaches Amanda of the start of construction on an asthma treatment centre, she’s is at once unsettled. It would do wonders for her as she suffers with chronic asthma, but it’s where they’re building the centre that doesn’t sit well. The centre is being built over the old ruins of Lost Madley, a small village that was bombed in WWII. When a death on the premises raises more questions than gives answers, Amanda is thrown into a cold case from the 1940s, that could possibly be connected. She needs to investigate without putting herself at risk, but that’s no fun now, is it?
I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally wanted to like this book. Everyone knows I love a good cosy mystery, throw some paranormal stuff in there as well and it’s right up my alley. However, I just struggled so badly with this one. I want to start with the good stuff, so here goes….
I love Tempest. For a witch’s cat he’s just fantastic. He has all the trappings of a normal cat – wanting to be served, thinking that people are beneath him, knowing he deserves the world etc etc. – and it just works so well for me. I’m a cat person, so of course I’m going to like it. I loved the little tidbit in there about how, the places that LET Tempest roam around and the proprietors who feed him miraculously have no rodent problems, but the ones that kick him out and give him nothing are infested. This made me smile, and I love that it was included.
I really enjoyed Granny and Grandpa – Serana and Perran I believe…I may have that wrong. Anyway, I love their inclusion and their guidance. It just added something extra to the story for me to have their characters around, even if they are ghosts. I also loved how the current case connected to the 1940s cold case. That was interesting and the connection was done well.
However, that is about where the good things cease…
I felt like this book took me forever to get through. The pacing was slightly off, there was a lot of writing but not much happening, if you get my drift. This goes hand in hand with the use of language in the writing. I really didn’t enjoy it. As soon as I started it I felt like I was in a book set in the 1800s, then there was talk of iPhones and iPods and I was like “hang on a minute….this is modern day.” So the language and dialect used in the narration as well as the conversations between characters just killed a lot of it for me. I understand having respect for elders, using Mr., Mrs, Miss before their last names while speaking to them, but to use it in the narrative itself just seemed a bit silly to me. Especially when one of the characters frequently mentioned goes by the name of ‘Miss Armstrong-Witworth’. It’s a lot to say even just in your head, for me anyway. It doesn’t sound like much, but when characters names like this are used constantly in the narrative, it really halts the pace and breaks me out of my reading trance. So I just found this to be a bit unnecessary.
The writing itself was sometimes TOO descriptive, and I don’t mean in a Tolkien/Martin way, I mean just listing entire things in the scene. For example, here is one paragraph that made my eye twitch:
“Everyone was there; every notable in the village, all in their Sunday finery. The Patels, the Mazureks, Joan and Jim, Sylvia and her husband, the Sharmas, Mrs Uberhausfest, Mrs Pagely the librarian, and her assistant Jonathan Sheppard, the Pveys who were the new owners of Sunken Madley Manor, Gordon French, the retired village headmaster, Irene James of The Elms, the ladies from the Grange attended by Moffat, Mr Hanley-Page, the Reisers, the Fleetfoots, the Dmirs, the Reids, Pawel the Royal Mail driver, Penny, the Patel’s receptionist with her fiance, the Whittles and the Kemps.”
Why? I ask you. Why? There weren’t any other instances as bad as this one that I noticed on my read through, but there were a lot of unnecessary details included that I felt could’ve been left out. As this is book 2 I feel like if you’ve read the first one, you’d know who the author meant when they said “Everyone was there; every notable in the village, all in their Sunday finery.” Which for me, is how the paragraph should have ended. As I haven’t read book 1, and this is my first foray into Bell’s writing, I find that a list like that would only be necessary if we needed to know of the characters, which a lot of them we meet in passing when Amanda is sleuthing around town, so I found this incredibly unnecessary and eye-twitchy. I’m not sure if Bell was trying to capture the feel from the stories of old, or if this is just her style. Either way, it is her story and she can write it however she deems fit, for me it just doesn’t work so well.
The mystery itself. While the broad scope of connecting the mysteries between the time periods was clever and I did enjoy that. I found that the mystery itself was just a massive jumble of confusion. Like at the end, I THINK I know who the culprit was? I’m pretty sure I know, but I’m just not 100% sure on it…there’s so many twisty turny knots in the story that it became difficult for me to untangle it all. It’s almost as though as the end was getting nearer Bell became anxious to finish the story and it just turned into a big mess for me. There was all this unveiling and I’m just left muddled and confused. I’m generally pretty good at analysing a story, getting right in there to dissect it and see how the bits an pieces fit, but for some reason I just cannot quite work out what was happening here.
Whether I’ll continue with this series, I’m honestly not sure, I’m leaning more towards a no at this point, but that could change eventually. Maybe I’ll give book 1 a shot and see how I go and whether it helps unjumble the mess that is book 2 (in my eyes).
I noticed that I’m in the minority here with my thoughts, and for that I’m glad. I’m so happy that so many people have enjoyed the characters and stories that Holly Bell has created, and I sincerely hope she continues to do so. This one just wasn’t for me unfortunately.