Saturday, February 23, 2013

TBR Challenge 2013: The Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt

You know what they say, better late than never! So I'm going to take that saying to heart and post my TBR challenge entry for the month of February tonight :) Yay! LOL. Funny, because I've actually read the book in advance this time around, but as you know, I've been off my game when it comes to blogging. Sigh. I tried really hard to get the review up in time, but work, curling, reading and some computer games got  me side-tracked ^_^; Guess I should start on next month right away if it continues this way LOL.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the review!

The Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt
published by Berkley in January 2006
Double, double, toil and murder...

Bringing a little culture to Stony Mill, Indiana, Enchantments is one of the area's finest antique stores. But shop clerk Maggie O'Neill and her employer Felicity Dow do more than conjure up curios for the locals--they each possess a talent for spellbinding sleuthing...

Bored with her office job, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to work at Enchantments. She was a little weirded out when Felicity described herself as a witch, but if her boss wants to play with broomsticks and cauldrons, where's the harm? However, Maggie's first day on the job may turn out to be her last when Police question Felicity in the murder of her estranged sister.

With everyone in town proclaiming Felicity's guilt faster than the Salem Witch trials, Maggie finds herself wondering if she'll also be tied to the stake. And lately, she's been receiving messages on a spiritual frequency guiding her to prove Felicity's innocence--and to embrace her own "charmed" life.
Genre: Cosy Mystery
Series: A Bewitching Mystery, Book #1

The Story: The blurb is quite accurate, but the way it's formulated is weird ^_^; So here is my two cents.

Maggie O'Neill has an office job that she doesn't enjoy a lot. On a morning, before work, she decides to window shop in the yuppy part of Stony Mill and literally stumbles in Enchantments, a charming antique shop that sells a bit of everything. The next thing Maggie knows, she's being offered a job by the owner, Felicity Dow, a woman she immediately looks up to... despite the fact Felicity proclaims to be a witch.

Maggie is thrilled to start the new job, especially after she's been fired from her office job. However, her first day doesn't go as she expected. First, her new boss leaves her alone in the shop because she has to rush to her estranged sister's side after getting a phone call... and second, said estranged sister is murdered and Felicity is the prime suspect! Sure that her new employer is not a killer, Maggie decides to clear Felicity's name and starts her own investigation.

My Opinion: So, I've had this book in my TBR pile for quite a while... Highly possible I bought it when it first came out, so for 7 years ^_^; Oups, LOL. Even back in 2006, I had a weakness for witch-y characters and magic which is why I picked up The Trouble with Magic. What can I say, I know what I like :P However, this one slipped through the cracks for me and I think the main reason is that it's a cosy mystery. I read the genre, but it's just not my first choice... I finally decided to pick this book up for the TBR challenge to get it out of my TBR pile, but also, since the series is still ongoing, it must be good right? Well that's what I thought...

First books in series are tricky. They are introductory books, meant to set up the characters and build up the world... Most of the time, they'll blow you away and make you want more or leave you indifferent. Unfortunately, The Trouble with Magic fell in the latter category for me due to a combination of a bit of everything that didn't work for me :( For example, when I see the word "magic" in the title and witch in the blurb, well that's what I expect. Normal right? Well, there was very little magic in the story and the characters were more psychics than witches. It changes things around in term of what the characters can do in my opinion... But at the end of the day, it didn't really matter since Ms Alt didn't do much with it. It's as if she didn't have a clear of idea herself and decided to focus on building the setting (i.e. the town) and the characters instead. And perhaps, she spent too much time on those elements because pacing was slow and the story, a bit dull ^_^; The mystery just wasn't very suspenseful and didn't draw me in. As I said, part of it was because the focus was on setting the series up, but the other weakness was the lack of foreshadowing and hints to the real culprit. Also, Maggie's sleuthing was pretty much simply talking to people and asking questions, so there was a lot to weed through and quite frankly, it just wasn't interesting. Finally, there's the characters. I think Maggie was okay as a heroine... the problem is that she was quite typical. Unhappy with her job, the constant comparison with the sister who has it all, etc. and then, the pesky hint of a love triangle. Again, a little bit dull ^_^;

As a whole, The Trouble with Magic wasn't a bad book, but it was definitively flawed. And those flaws were the reasons I didn't get hooked and why the book didn't work for me. I think that in term of mystery, while not very exciting, it did work because I did not guess the identity of the villain. For fans of cosy mysteries who can overlook these flaws, they might find an enjoyable series... However, that's not going to be me.

My Grade: C-


  1. I've yet to find a cozy mystery/magic series that works for me. But then it takes quite a bit to get the paranormal elements of a story right for me - I think it usually tends to feel like an afterthought with cozies (as opposed to an UF with a mystery plot - does that make any sense?!)


  2. Li - It's the same for me and your comment about the magic being an afterthought is spot on. I guess it kind of has to be, otherwise, it'd be urban fantasy right? LOL.

    The thing though is I find it sad that the cozies series always have to be themed, always have to have a hook. It's hard to find one that is interesting and then, well-executed ^_^;

  3. Sorry it wasn't better, I get sometimes this happens when you keep a book in your TBR pile for a long time.
    But at least it wasn't all bad :D

  4. I have that book to read for a long time just like you. Now I don't think it will be a priority either...but it never was and I got it because of a discount, so...too bad it's not that special....

  5. I have no idea why it is but when I see the word witch in a book blurb I have a hard time continuing reading. I've read witch books before and enjoyed them but for some reason I've been shying away from them lately.

    Sorry this one was as good as you thought it would be - at least you didn't figure out the villain - always a good thing.

  6. Definitely late than never!

    Awww, sorry you didn't enjoy this one. I know you love your witches. :) I'm like Tracy, I have a tough time reading about witches... for some reason they turn me off rathern than on these days. Sigh...

  7. Alex - Nod nod. Sometimes, there's a reason why you haven't picked up the book for so long. Other times, you kick yourself for not reading it earlier :P

    It wasn't all bad and now, I know I don't need to pick up the rest of the series ;)

    Sonia - Yeah, it's just too bad. I guess you can always read it when you'll be in the mood for cosy mystery.

    Tracy - Really? Perhaps over-dose? I know that I haven't been picking up anything with vampires. The thing about witches is that it's really broad, there's a lot of options. It isn't like vampires where you have stereotypes and you can laugh at those beliefs in your world building. Being so broad, I think that a lot of authors bungle it up because they don't have a clear idea from the start. Or they go very typical. Ah well.

    Well I was debating whether it was a good thing or not. Sure, it's a surprise, but at the same time, it's a proof of the lack of foreshadowing, no?

    Hilcia - Nod nod. I hear what Tracy and you are saying, Hilcia. I guess I'm just still hoping LOL.