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In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder. Isaveth is determined to prove her In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder. Isaveth is determined to prove her innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution. But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . .


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In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder. Isaveth is determined to prove her In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder. Isaveth is determined to prove her innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution. But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . .

30 review for A Pocket Full of Murder

  1. 5 out of 5

    R.J.

    Just finished reading the ARC aloud to my youngest son, to whom the book is dedicated. I dearly wish I'd recorded his reaction when we got to a certain part of the story, but it was classic -- "YOU PLOT-TWISTER! HOW CAN YOU -- WHY DID YOU -- HOW DID YOU EVEN DO THAT?!?" So I think it's safe to say he didn't see it coming, and that made me very happy indeed. We also had to read the last six chapters all in one sitting tonight, since he was wringing his hands in despair that my characters could eve Just finished reading the ARC aloud to my youngest son, to whom the book is dedicated. I dearly wish I'd recorded his reaction when we got to a certain part of the story, but it was classic -- "YOU PLOT-TWISTER! HOW CAN YOU -- WHY DID YOU -- HOW DID YOU EVEN DO THAT?!?" So I think it's safe to say he didn't see it coming, and that made me very happy indeed. We also had to read the last six chapters all in one sitting tonight, since he was wringing his hands in despair that my characters could ever possibly get out of the sticky situation I'd put them in, and accusing me of being The Meanest Author Ever. When we were done, my middle son said thoughtfully, "You know, Mom, I think that's my favourite of all the books you've written yet." I was still glowing over it when my youngest decided to keep me humble by saying, "I think I still like NOMAD the best." Which just goes to show that tastes differ (and possibly that more people ought to read NOMAD than have done so up to this point). But judging by my sons' reaction, A POCKET FULL OF MURDER seems to appeal quite well to its intended audience, and that's all I could really wish for. I hope you will like it too.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susana

    Arc provided by Atheneum Books through Edelweiss Book Status: Released September 8th " There was a time in which I had to write a review immediately after I had finished whatever book I was reading... now I kind of dread this moment, because I haven't felt all that much love for the arcs I've been reading lately. This story unfortunately follows the same pattern. *sigh* I have to admit that practically after page one I had to force myself to keep reading this. Never a good sign. My main problem Arc provided by Atheneum Books through Edelweiss Book Status: Released September 8th " There was a time in which I had to write a review immediately after I had finished whatever book I was reading... now I kind of dread this moment, because I haven't felt all that much love for the arcs I've been reading lately. This story unfortunately follows the same pattern. *sigh* I have to admit that practically after page one I had to force myself to keep reading this. Never a good sign. My main problem with this story is that I found it preachy, and that is something that I hate in books. With a Charles Dickens' tone to it "woe is on us... and aren't we so poor... and everything bad happens to us", but with a Judaic connotation, this ended being a hot mess of a book. _ One has the religious part, which ends up engulfing the whole book, because Isaveth (the main character) and her family are Moshites (which is the made up word for Judaism), and they're frowned upon _ and basically hated _ because of that. _ Then there's the magical aspect of the story, which was basically reduced to cooking lessons: Magic is basically cooked... I don't know. Maybe a younger reader will find this interesting. I just found it dull. The world building ends up being built through the use of different words for things we're already familiar with. Then I know that Isaveth is very young: she's only thirteen years old (I think). But I found her too much of a goody too shoes. I honestly couldn't care less about her. Or about her older sister who is wasting away in her factory job... or about their younger sisters who need shoes and clothes. *inserts Kleenex* Look, if an author makes it impossible for me to feel anything else but pity for the characters because their life seems like something out of Jane Eyre, I am going to have a problem with that. Because unlike Jane Eyre's beginning in which characters die while Jane is in that "school", and you never again forget it, in this story this just felt like a crap artifice destined to fill a few more pages. When the good guys are just that good... and the bad guys are just that bad, just because. This will bore me. The only reason I kept on reading it was because of Quiz: the boy with the eye patch and the not so mysterious story: almost from the moment that he appeared that I thought "Can he be....?" I was right. It was him. *pats self on the back* So basically I just kept reading until the end to see if I was right about Quiz. On to the positives, the author continues to have characters who have some sort of physical impairment as the heroes of their own stories. It's a story full of lessons: Respect every one's religions... don't be fooled by a pretty face... suffering leads to happiness. Sorry, I couldn't resist about this last one. The writing is as competent as ever, I just couldn't feel a connection to the story, but maybe the younger crowd to whom the story is intended to, will like it seeing as they aren't as jaded as I am.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This is MG in the vein of Sarah Prineas's The Magic Thief: delightful stuff. Good worldbuilding, good characterization, a great plot. There's some French-Revolution-esque dissidence, some politicking, quite a few spies, and a brief examination of poverty and persecution, all wrapped into a really warm story about friendship. The story is possible because the adults are kept out of the way so the kids can solve crimes, but at least there are good reasons for that. And if there's the fantasy that This is MG in the vein of Sarah Prineas's The Magic Thief: delightful stuff. Good worldbuilding, good characterization, a great plot. There's some French-Revolution-esque dissidence, some politicking, quite a few spies, and a brief examination of poverty and persecution, all wrapped into a really warm story about friendship. The story is possible because the adults are kept out of the way so the kids can solve crimes, but at least there are good reasons for that. And if there's the fantasy that not only can children solve crimes but also fight against tyranny (without getting hurt!), well - MG has been written this way for long time, and the story is charming despite that. Or maybe because of that. It's an empowering fantasy, after all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Short Reviews

    Wow, that was just fantastic! I wish I had finished it sooner. but part of me kept stalling simply because I didn't WANT the novel to end. This novel can be best described as fantasy, with a dash dystopian. I freaked when the novel started off on that typical POOR vs RICH dystopian route, with the angry-common-folk-trying-to-start-a-revolution thang going on - in fact, I was tsk-tsking and pursing my lips in disappointment - and then as I continued reading, R.J.'s excellent writing skills ensured Wow, that was just fantastic! I wish I had finished it sooner. but part of me kept stalling simply because I didn't WANT the novel to end. This novel can be best described as fantasy, with a dash dystopian. I freaked when the novel started off on that typical POOR vs RICH dystopian route, with the angry-common-folk-trying-to-start-a-revolution thang going on - in fact, I was tsk-tsking and pursing my lips in disappointment - and then as I continued reading, R.J.'s excellent writing skills ensured the book quickly picked up its pace and goddammit I LOVE THIS BOOK! 12 year old Isaveth lives in a dilapidated house on Cabbage Street with her father and three sisters. Her mother passed away years before, and her father struggled to earn a living after losing his job. She lives in a city where the Rich rule with their superior magic, and the Commoners don't get jack. Now that part was dreadfully cliche, along with the silly ass names (Erix being my least fav name), but let's note that this IS a kids book, so I wasn't really surprised that there would be parts I would deem too childish. Anyway, back to the plot. One night, her father was escorted from their home for allegedly committing the crime of murdering one of the higher ups (they call em Nobel's in this book). Isaveth and her sisters are devastated and Isaveth decides she's going to find the real culprit. She also meets Quiz, the boy with the eye patch, after being harassed by the neighbourhood dickhead. Quiz fends off the harasser, and then their adventure and budding friendship begins. There were parts of the novel that I figured out long before Isaveth did, but I DIDN'T GIVE A SHIT! The adventure, the slowly budding romance, the way the villian was portrayed made me continue on right til the end. I cannot wait for book 2.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Intisar Khanani

    Oh, I enjoyed this MG fantasy / mystery story. I wish the ability to do magic was investigated a bit more (you just bake and if you have magic, it works out and you have a spell tablet? Surely there's some effort involved in getting your magic to work?). But, all told, that was a minor annoyance. The story is fun and well-paced, and the main characters a pleasure to read. Oh, I enjoyed this MG fantasy / mystery story. I wish the ability to do magic was investigated a bit more (you just bake and if you have magic, it works out and you have a spell tablet? Surely there's some effort involved in getting your magic to work?). But, all told, that was a minor annoyance. The story is fun and well-paced, and the main characters a pleasure to read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mauoijenn

    What a wonderful book full of magic. Again, I normally don't read these tween kind of books, but the title I admit grabbed my attention. This is an action packed book that had me flipping the pages as fast as I could. This book series is a strong contender for me to follow up and read the next one in the series. What a wonderful book full of magic. Again, I normally don't read these tween kind of books, but the title I admit grabbed my attention. This is an action packed book that had me flipping the pages as fast as I could. This book series is a strong contender for me to follow up and read the next one in the series.

  7. 5 out of 5

    E.K. Johnston

    I love this book so very much. The things I love about it are, but by no means limited to: 1. Fanfiction as a coping mechanism 2. Food vs. new clothes vs. new shoes 3. MAGIC. COOKIES. 4. Murder 5. Sissssssssssters 6. Politics 7. "Toronto" 8. Isaveth, just, oh, my heart. 9. The Moshites are oppressed do badly that the Unifying church struck an *entire day* from the week, just to be jerks to them. 10. DID I MENTION THE MAGIC COOKIES AND ALSO THE POLITICS???? 11. Also: crime. Like the best Middle Grade, Anderso I love this book so very much. The things I love about it are, but by no means limited to: 1. Fanfiction as a coping mechanism 2. Food vs. new clothes vs. new shoes 3. MAGIC. COOKIES. 4. Murder 5. Sissssssssssters 6. Politics 7. "Toronto" 8. Isaveth, just, oh, my heart. 9. The Moshites are oppressed do badly that the Unifying church struck an *entire day* from the week, just to be jerks to them. 10. DID I MENTION THE MAGIC COOKIES AND ALSO THE POLITICS???? 11. Also: crime. Like the best Middle Grade, Anderson has managed to write a book that is a wonderful adventure for some, and a thoughtful examination of class, privilege, poverty, religion, socio-economics, and family for others. And, if you're like me, you can read both at once and be THOROUGHLY CHARMED.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    I bought this one on impulse and good grief was it a good impulse. An amazing mystery. Excellent characters. Families which feel real, from the younger siblings to the parents. FANTASTIC world building-- a depression-era world fuelled by spell craft-- my WORD just fantastic. This one is going on my award slates.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brandy Painter

    Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile. R.J. Anderson is one of my favorite authors. Being a voracious reader, I have a lot of authors I really like, but she is included in a special group of authors whose books I would scoop up in my arms if I was escaping my house in a disaster. They are all excellent and stand up to multiple rereads. Anderson has written books about (awesome) faerys and amazing girls in a mind boggling sci-fi duology. Her latest book, A Pocket Full of Murder Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile. R.J. Anderson is one of my favorite authors. Being a voracious reader, I have a lot of authors I really like, but she is included in a special group of authors whose books I would scoop up in my arms if I was escaping my house in a disaster. They are all excellent and stand up to multiple rereads. Anderson has written books about (awesome) faerys and amazing girls in a mind boggling sci-fi duology. Her latest book, A Pocket Full of Murder, is a MG magical murder mystery and it is a perfect book for me in every way possible. Isaveth's family has fallen on hard times since her mother's recent death. Her father, a builder, lost a major job he was counting on and has fallen into despair. Her sister had to quit school to get a job in a sweatshop factory. Just when things begin to look better for the family and her father's commission is restored, a worse tragedy befalls them. When the man who had fired then rehired Isaveth's father is found dead by means of Common Magic, Isaveth's father is arrested. Isaveth knows her father is innocent, but she's not sure how to go about proving it. As she begins to investigate, she is joined by a street boy with an eye patch named Quiz who has eyes and ears all over the city and a knack for getting at information. Together they begin to try and discover the real murderer in a case that has too many suspects and disastrous consequences for both of them if they fail. GAHHHHHH!!!!! I don't really know where I want to start with this. I have so much love for every part of this book, and my brain just keeps doing cartwheels and squealing LOVE LOVE LOVE. Trying to calm it down and act rationally is a challenge. I even waited a few days after finishing to give myself space so I could write this. But as soon as I started thinking about the book again, I got a rush of endorphins and lost control of my critical thinking skills. I will start with what I always love most, the characters, and hope my brain calms enough to cooperate. Isaveth is smart, courageous, and stubborn. When her family is having hard times, she pulls down her mother's book of magic recipes and concocts spells to sell on the street to give them a little extra money. She has a passionate love for dramatic crystal set (radio) shows and writes fanfiction for it on any scrap of paper she can get her hands on. She is perfecting her craft. Her imagination is vast and she's bursting with twelve year old idealism mixed with the harsh realities of the life she is living. She is desperate to free her father, and her headlong rush into investigating the crime causes her to stumble into unfortunate situations at times and make rash judgements and mistakes. This includes not listening to Quiz on the occasions when he tells her to slow down and think something through. Quiz is no stranger to dashing into dangerous situations without thinking them through first himself though. He is also a bit of an adrenaline junkie who rides down hills at breakneck speeds and is prone to getting into sticky situations in defense of those who need defending. He is adorably awkward around Isaveth at times. When he's interacting with her sisters you can see how badly he longs for a regular family and normalcy. Together Isaveth and Quiz make a fantastic team. He can go places and get information she can't, and vice-versa. He is there to give her rides when she needs them and generally back her up when she's in a tough spot. And when the tables are turned and he is in the tough spot, she does the same for him. I have all these FEELINGS for both of them, separate and together. Feelings I will never be able to properly put into words. The mystery is a good old fashioned mystery where there are clues that seem to lead to everywhere or nowhere, lots of suspects, and a few good twists. (Some of which I saw coming due to reasons I imagine will not be the case for the majority of the readers of this book.*) The ways in which Isaveth and Quiz find their information makes sense for the world they live in, and they are reliant on those older than them for crucial things. Isaveth's older sister plays a major part in helping them collect information. The way the mystery all came together in the end was fascinating and the resolution complex and layered, but simple to understand for the intended audience. The world Anderson created for this book is one where society is split between nobility and those who are not. The nobility has a very specific sort of magic they use to keep the world running smoothly. Common Magic is for those not so privileged and was a hard won ability for the regular people. The city of Tarreton where Isaveth and Quiz live is divided. The common people are tired of being abused, underpaid, and unable to make decisions. Rebellion is whispered of and unrest is high. These political issues are an integral part of the story and woven into the texture of the character's lives perfectly. Religion plays a part in this as well. Isaveth's family are Moshites (very similar to real world Jewish faith) and therefore looked on as outsiders, if not dangerous dissenters. It's part of the reason her father makes such a perfect frame for murder. Anderson presents the religious and political aspects as part of everyday life important in different ways to different people and this makes the world she has built all the more realistic as a result. I highly recommend this book to all lovers of mystery and fantasy of any age. There is something here to enjoy for everyone. I can not wait until my pre-ordered copy arrives so I can read it again. And so my daughter can read it because this is exactly the sort of book she adores. *I saw some of the twists coming because I am a fan of the source material that was Anderson's inspiration. A HUGE fan actually. If you are completely unaware of what that source material is or anything about it, you have lots of surprises in store. I'm including this note for those of you who know what inspired this and love it as much as I do. I just want you to know that Anderson did an awesome job with that. It's a nice little treat for those of us who know and love that particular literary detective. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, but want to, ask in the comments and I'll tell you. Not spoilers. Just what the source material is.) I read an ARC made available from the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss. A Pocket Full of Murder is on sale September 8th.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Miss Clark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I loved Isaveth and her defiant struggle to prove her father innocent and save him. I loved her strength and the tidbits we get about her floundering with her faith. Not even so much in her belief, but more what exactly it means to her? What demands does it make of her? Does it have to be the same for her as her much more solemn and observant older sister Annagail? Is it ok to hide her faith/heritage if it causes so much trouble and just practice it in secret? Or is that too a betrayal of her fa I loved Isaveth and her defiant struggle to prove her father innocent and save him. I loved her strength and the tidbits we get about her floundering with her faith. Not even so much in her belief, but more what exactly it means to her? What demands does it make of her? Does it have to be the same for her as her much more solemn and observant older sister Annagail? Is it ok to hide her faith/heritage if it causes so much trouble and just practice it in secret? Or is that too a betrayal of her faith? "Isaveth." He repeated it softly, as though it were a wonder. "Well, good right, then...Isaveth." He touched his cap to her and ambled off up the street. I loved her friendship with Quiz and I was so unhappy when the reveal happened (which I did not see coming - I was expecting an entirely different direction) because I could not stand these two abandoning their friendship, but things were sorted and I have hope for the sequel. I need more background for Quiz. Maybe even POV? I thought the relationship between all the sisters - Mimmi, Lilet, Annagail, and Isaveth - was realistic and I appreciated seeing a family so much. No single child. And Anderson took the time to show Isaveth with her siblings and to let us know them and how much they mean to each other. Thus when Isaveth makes choices based on her affection and care for her family, it is meaningful because we as readers have firsthand experience of them as a family rather than just being told that they really care about one another. (Had another book recently that vexed me because the siblings of the MC were continually given as her reason for doing almost everything and we only see them together in a smattering of scenes that did nothing to establish her care or connection to them so her choices felt very empty and lacked weight.) Drawbacks? I needed a bit more world-building and context. I felt like I didn't know where things were - Where is Tarreton in relation to the other cities and countries that are mentioned in the story? And I did not get nearly enough about the faith systems to properly understand the conflicts between the different religions. Moshites vs. Unifying Church vs. Arcan Temple. I honestly hope we get more insight and history on the religions in the sequel. Looking forward to A Little Taste of Poison this fall! Typo page 357: "No," said Isaveth, "and you to see him again. But I don't need his help to make you listen." Shouldn't it read "and you won't see him again"? Or something along those lines?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Raymond

    There's a habit in middle grade fiction to blur genres a bit to grab a broader audience. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it's a mess a bit. A Pocket Full of Murder is a murder mystery wrapped in fantasy elements, neither of which ends up being compelling enough to sustain a narrative on its own. The good? A pretty interesting magic system that ends up being almost completely unimportant to the overall plot by the time the story ramps up. A mystery that, on the surface, sounds compelling and int There's a habit in middle grade fiction to blur genres a bit to grab a broader audience. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it's a mess a bit. A Pocket Full of Murder is a murder mystery wrapped in fantasy elements, neither of which ends up being compelling enough to sustain a narrative on its own. The good? A pretty interesting magic system that ends up being almost completely unimportant to the overall plot by the time the story ramps up. A mystery that, on the surface, sounds compelling and interesting. The bad? Most everything else. When you set up a fantasy universe and then basically abandon it, why bother with it at all? The answer, of course, is to bolster the mystery aspects, but it's clear the magic is a bit of a crutch to flesh out what ends up being a pretty straightforward tale without a lot of reason to call it a "mystery" at all. It almost feels like the book is looking to use the existing tropes and expectations to mask a story that doesn't really work and, more importantly, would not appeal to the kids its geared toward without the gimmicks. A solid pass here. I had decent expectations for this, and it didn't even really come close.

  12. 5 out of 5

    K.A. Wiggins

    Great balance of fun action/adventure fantasy with some heavier themes and topics. I loved the "baking magic" idea, and the political/social unrest, classism, and religious discrimination (maybe referencing Judaism?) were well done. Good for generating discussions with upper elementary or middle school readers. The romance subplot seems like it might appeal to younger YA readers as well (main character is 12, so solidly middle grade on that end.) Great balance of fun action/adventure fantasy with some heavier themes and topics. I loved the "baking magic" idea, and the political/social unrest, classism, and religious discrimination (maybe referencing Judaism?) were well done. Good for generating discussions with upper elementary or middle school readers. The romance subplot seems like it might appeal to younger YA readers as well (main character is 12, so solidly middle grade on that end.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    We just didn't click, me and this book. The tinge of romance made me wonder if I'd like it more as a YA. I might still read the next one. We just didn't click, me and this book. The tinge of romance made me wonder if I'd like it more as a YA. I might still read the next one.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I am going to shamelessly steal from this review because it perfectly expresses why this book fell flat for me: A Pocket Full of Murder is an awkward blend of fantasy and mystery that unfortunately disappoints on both levels. There is some real potential in the world building. There is a justice system, city council, press, religious dissidents, and levels of magic that all feel unique and interesting. But then there is also the tendency to just re-name random words without much reason why. (For I am going to shamelessly steal from this review because it perfectly expresses why this book fell flat for me: A Pocket Full of Murder is an awkward blend of fantasy and mystery that unfortunately disappoints on both levels. There is some real potential in the world building. There is a justice system, city council, press, religious dissidents, and levels of magic that all feel unique and interesting. But then there is also the tendency to just re-name random words without much reason why. (For example, 'pipe baccy' instead of tobacco/tobaccy. What purpose does that serve? I don't know.) At the same time, there really isn't enough world building to totally embrace the fantasy? I am struggling to put my finger on what exactly went wrong. Perhaps it is that the mystery overtakes the fantasy and by the end the fantasy matters less. Honestly, the mystery was boring. I loved Quiz and I liked our heroine and the Epilogue salvaged the story for me. But I truly struggled to care about what happened to the murdered man and whether Isaveth would prove her Father innocent. I found Quiz's true nature obvious and the final conclusion...kind of obvious? I frequently had to force myself to read the entire paragraph on the page because my care factor was just not there. There was enough potential here that I am excited for the sequel. But I can't say this was a super worth-it read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    asmaa🌻

    Booktubeathon book number 4 of 7 is done! 2/5 stars because the plot, the events, the characters, the world, and the writing were all somewhat bland. Maybe APFoM was just not the book for me but at any rate, unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Liz at Midnight Bloom Reads

    R.J. Anderson's latest middle grade novel, A Pocket Full of Murder, introduces a memorable fantasy world divided by religion and social class as twelve-year-old Isaveth Breck races against time to solve a murder and save her father. In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy nobility use a refined magic called Sagery while commoners use the more practical, everyday magic simply called Common Magic. But this magical world is far from wondrous—while the nobility live in lavish excess, the R.J. Anderson's latest middle grade novel, A Pocket Full of Murder, introduces a memorable fantasy world divided by religion and social class as twelve-year-old Isaveth Breck races against time to solve a murder and save her father. In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy nobility use a refined magic called Sagery while commoners use the more practical, everyday magic simply called Common Magic. But this magical world is far from wondrous—while the nobility live in lavish excess, the poor struggle to find work and feed their families. Ever since Isaveth's mother passed away months ago, life has been harder for her and her family. When their father couldn't find any jobs as a stonemason, Isaveth's older sister, Annagail, was forced to quit school to work in a shirt factory, and their aunt very reluctantly cares for her two younger sisters, Mimmi and Lilet, during the day. Isaveth is doing all that she can to support her family by baking spell-tablets to sell on the streets. But when their father is accused of murdering one of the most influential men in Tarreton, Isaveth must team up with a mysterious street boy named Quiz to find the true murderer. Political tensions are escalating in the city, and Isaveth is her father's only hope. She knows in her heart her papa is innocent, but the Lawkeepers are already convinced he's guilty of the crime. Not only is Isaveth's father a man of Moshite religion, a minority among the Unifying, but he's also a member of the Workers' Club, an organization trying to attain equality for the lower class. Isaveth is the kind of girl who believes in the best of people, that justice and goodness will always prevail at the end of day. Perhaps it's a naive notion, a reflection of Isaveth's age, since she lives in a city that discriminates against her Moshite faith and low social status, but I still adored her relentless resilience and optimism. Even when the odds are so terribly stacked against Isaveth, giving up is simply not an option to her. And I absolutely loved Isaveth's relationship with her three sisters: Annagail, Mimmi, and Lilet. Her youngest sisters bicker and fight, often jealous that one sister has what the other does not, but you know that it's just natural, trivial problems that all siblings experience. Annagail spends long days at the factory and returns home tired, so Isaveth often shoulders the responsibility of cooking and stopping Mimmi and Lilet from causing too much mischief. But no matter what happens, the Breck sisters will always stick together in the end. Brimming with magic and thrilling adventure, R.J. Anderson's A Pocket Full of Murder is a captivating murder mystery that held my attention right until the final page. There's just so much to love about this book! When Isaveth and Quiz are not following the trail of a murderer, the novel's focus on friendship and family captured my heart... and perfectly balanced the darker themes of racial and social discrimination. Tarreton is not a kind city to a girl like Isaveth, but her brave heart and curious mind give me hope she will accomplish all her dreams. I absolutely can't wait to see what happens next in the sequel!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    This book was, in my opinion, very boring. I didn't feel any connection to the characters, but I did like the magic in this book. The way it worked was interesting--it's cooked (baked). I think that was the best thing about this book. The ending was all right. I didn't expect the bad guy to be who it was. Also, it was nice to find out who Quiz really is. This book was, in my opinion, very boring. I didn't feel any connection to the characters, but I did like the magic in this book. The way it worked was interesting--it's cooked (baked). I think that was the best thing about this book. The ending was all right. I didn't expect the bad guy to be who it was. Also, it was nice to find out who Quiz really is.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Belles Middle Grade Library

    I finished this last night, & I really loved it!! It’s so good! It’s such a good mystery! I never knew what was going to happen, & there were soooo many surprising parts to the ending! I adored all these characters-Quiz(love that name!), & all the sisters. I could imagine everything perfectly & I loved this place the author created. I loved all the amazing & unique names-from the characters, the religions, the street names, the city, neighborhood names..all of it. With everything going on in the I finished this last night, & I really loved it!! It’s so good! It’s such a good mystery! I never knew what was going to happen, & there were soooo many surprising parts to the ending! I adored all these characters-Quiz(love that name!), & all the sisters. I could imagine everything perfectly & I loved this place the author created. I loved all the amazing & unique names-from the characters, the religions, the street names, the city, neighborhood names..all of it. With everything going on in the US right now, I saw some similar things in this book in some ways. Not against race, but still horrible. Treating people with certain religious beliefs badly. Treating people who are bad off financially badly. Like these people all had a disease or something. Another similar type of thing are how protests that have been peaceful, the media reported weren’t peaceful. That happens in this book. Also, peaceful members of a protest group are treated roughly by police even though they are peaceful. I’ll insert this from the book-“..women shrieking & young men begging for mercy as the clouters struck again & again...” &:”These people were unarmed, & most of them weren’t even attempting to fight. Yet the Lawkeepers were treating them like wild animals who had to be beaten into submission.” Wow. When worlds collide. I loved this book, & I love this author now too. She is also very sweet on IG. I definitely recommend this book! I love the beautiful cover too!😍😍I started the second one today as well! I don’t think there will be more, but I’m loving them!💜💜 Synopsis of book 1: In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder. Isaveth is determined to prove her innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution. But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . .

  19. 5 out of 5

    Milliebot

    This review and others posted over at my blog. Here’s a middle-grade mystery adventure that deals with religious persecution, the struggle of the lower class, the use (and abuse) of welfare (known as “relief” in the book) and standing up for justice, no matter the cost. Looking back, there are some potentially heavy themes in this book, but they were folded neatly into the story of a young girl who aspires to uphold justice like her favorite champion in the talkie series and save her father. I This review and others posted over at my blog. Here’s a middle-grade mystery adventure that deals with religious persecution, the struggle of the lower class, the use (and abuse) of welfare (known as “relief” in the book) and standing up for justice, no matter the cost. Looking back, there are some potentially heavy themes in this book, but they were folded neatly into the story of a young girl who aspires to uphold justice like her favorite champion in the talkie series and save her father. Isaveth is lower class and she and her family struggle to make ends meet since the death of her mother and her father losing his job. On top of that, they are Moshites and because of their religious beliefs, they are often discriminated against. Anderson managed to write about Isaveth’s plights without feeling preachy or heavy handed and Isaveth is a determined, bright heroine. The world Anderson created blends steam power (yes!) with magic to create a world similar to our own, yet also very Victorian feeling. I especially loved the baking element of magic. Different spells and potions are crafted before they can be used. The upper-class use a different type of magic because they have different materials available to them, like metals. Isaveth, unable to afford materials like that, follows her mother’s cookbook and through her “spell baking” she creates tablets and potions at home out of ingredients like flour and sunlight. I’m very fond of the character names Anderson uses as well. I don’t know about you, but I’m very picky when it comes to character names. Especially in the fantasy genre, it can be hard to create an original or uncommon name without making the reader mentally choke on too many vowels or consonants (ie: Cealeanae from Throne of Glass). Isaveth, Mimmi, Annagail, Lilet, Eryx, Quiz – I liked them all! If you’re looking for a magical mystery with a Victorian feel, I highly recommend this. I’ll be purchasing the sequel as soon as it’s in paperback – gotta make sure my editions match!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emma Rose Ribbons

    I enjoyed this novel very much indeed. While it did have a lot of fantasy elements I'd seen before, it was also pretty original - it explored the life of a working-class family, for one, and the way magic works was rather unique (you can bake magic they way you would a cake and sell it). The mystery was alright, I thought, but what I enjoyed the most was the worldbuilding and the relationship between the sisters. I don't think I'll reread this but I'm looking forward to the sequel. I enjoyed this novel very much indeed. While it did have a lot of fantasy elements I'd seen before, it was also pretty original - it explored the life of a working-class family, for one, and the way magic works was rather unique (you can bake magic they way you would a cake and sell it). The mystery was alright, I thought, but what I enjoyed the most was the worldbuilding and the relationship between the sisters. I don't think I'll reread this but I'm looking forward to the sequel.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hanifah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had already read this book in middle school but I can say without a doubt that this is one of my most favorite books. I love the characters the setting and the story was even better than I remembered. I also love the Quiz and Isaveth ship<3 :p

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    I really like this book! It was really interesting and a great read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    3.5 STARS

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    Isaveth's father has been arrested for the murder of one of Tarreton's most important people but she knows he can't have done it. With the help of new friend Quiz, she is determined to solve the mystery and save her father. Isaveth's father has been arrested for the murder of one of Tarreton's most important people but she knows he can't have done it. With the help of new friend Quiz, she is determined to solve the mystery and save her father.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melodramaticfool

    An adorable story, really. Some might say it's predictable, and while it is, readers must keep in mind the audience this book was intended for. Isaveth is a poor girl who dabbles in Common Magic. She is sweet, full of gusto, loyal, and clever. Together with her new found friend, Quiz, they're the Detective Duo of the streets! They try to solve the mystery of a murder, one her father was wrongly accused of. We get a feel of this little magical world as the two explore and experience their surroun An adorable story, really. Some might say it's predictable, and while it is, readers must keep in mind the audience this book was intended for. Isaveth is a poor girl who dabbles in Common Magic. She is sweet, full of gusto, loyal, and clever. Together with her new found friend, Quiz, they're the Detective Duo of the streets! They try to solve the mystery of a murder, one her father was wrongly accused of. We get a feel of this little magical world as the two explore and experience their surroundings and the people in it. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Anderson wrote a well paced and fun book, and I felt in some ways this book was realistic: not all stories get a fully resolved ending. Some reviewers said they felt the religious aspect of Isaveth's life wasn't really working for them, but honestly I did not mind it all that much. I felt it gave the book the extra twist of despair that it needed to make things harder for our main characters. If I had to choose a favorite for me, it's definitely Quiz with his pure, innocent love, his strong desire for justice, and his bravery. I can't wait for more!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Best of 2015. Totally want more of this world; please write a sequel! Loved the prickly mc; the world building was terrific (lots of parallels to our world can be found); and the mystery kept twisting and turning till the end. Interesting bit of the mc's religion (parallels to certain religions here) and her family being treated with persecution, distrust, animosity and fear--all of this is handled deftly. There's a lot more going on in this book than the not so very good cover might suggest. De Best of 2015. Totally want more of this world; please write a sequel! Loved the prickly mc; the world building was terrific (lots of parallels to our world can be found); and the mystery kept twisting and turning till the end. Interesting bit of the mc's religion (parallels to certain religions here) and her family being treated with persecution, distrust, animosity and fear--all of this is handled deftly. There's a lot more going on in this book than the not so very good cover might suggest. Definitely read this!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Ohi

    Just finished this recently and thoroughly enjoyed it: a wonderful middle grade novel packed with mystery, magic and plot twists. And now I desperately want to learn how to bake spells!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer McCague

    I am now searching for the sequel...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bernadette

    A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson is an incredibly unique book that I was delighted to have the chance to read. As a Canadian myself, I am also happy to say that a Canadian has written a superbly engaging children's fiction story! The story follows Isaveth, a twelve year old Moshite girl, as she teams up with a mysterious yet charming boy named Quiz and tries to prove her father innocent of a grisly murder. The book takes it's time to develop the country of Tarreton, it's current politica A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson is an incredibly unique book that I was delighted to have the chance to read. As a Canadian myself, I am also happy to say that a Canadian has written a superbly engaging children's fiction story! The story follows Isaveth, a twelve year old Moshite girl, as she teams up with a mysterious yet charming boy named Quiz and tries to prove her father innocent of a grisly murder. The book takes it's time to develop the country of Tarreton, it's current political state, and the role magic plays within the world. Anderson creates a very fun experience of showing a world where common objects are powered by magic, or familiar tasks are completed through the use of spells, and it's really something I found unique to her story, and not something I find in every story that has a world centered on magic. Anderson's characters are an absolute delight! Isaveth is believable, sympathetic, and has amazing development as she deals with her mother's death, her father's imprisonment, and the prejudice she experiences due to her Moshite faith. She's realistic and believable in most situations, and at times so awkward I couldn't help but think: "Thank goodness I'm not 12 anymore!" I couldn't help but see her faith life as very much Jewish, but under the different name of Moshite. However, I think it was very well done, and showed with great care what it's like to be abused or ignored or denied positions due to your faith beliefs, especially as a child. Isaveth's decisions of whether to hide her faith or to live it out proudly were real and understandable, and Anderson does an excellent job of showing what that looks and how the unfairness feels through a child's eyes: how you don't necessarily have all of the knowledge to understand why it's important, but you feel in your soul that it is. Quiz was probably my favorite character in the entire book. He was likeable, personable, and charming from the moment he steps into the story. I fell in love with him immediately, no questions asked, and his character only gets better and better as the story continues on. I have never been so swiftly enchanted by a twelve year old in my entire life as a reader and writer. I give Anderson incredible praise for him, especially because Quiz is so GOOD, and never wavers from being good, and that doesn't make him boring or uninteresting, and I think that is so important in stories. If anything, the motivations and personalities of the villains are boring compared to the vivacity of Quiz, and the energy he brings to the story and to Isaveth's life. There are few authors who are able to do this well, and Anderson does it effortlessly! Although I understand Anderson's need to world build, as this is the first book of her series, there were times I felt the book was dragging. There's a moment where Isaveth thinks to herself that she's only known Quiz for a week, and I was shocked because I felt as if I'd been reading about her life for at least a month. About two-thirds through, I also felt my heart just drop because for so long nothing actually goes well AT ALL, and I thought to myself: "Literally nothing good has happened, and how could anything good ever happen, Isaveth is only twelve and she's up against the law and the police, and what can one girl do?" While I commend Anderson for making the odds so great and therefore the conclusion so satisfying, I felt that she dragged me out almost to the point of closing the book. Even the ending, in a way, isn't quite as conclusive as one would like after going through such emotional stress, though I suppose by doing so she's forcing me to read the second book, which I will, so I guess you win Anderson. There were also a number of typos in the book that, while amusing, boggle my mind as to how editors didn't catch them. I complained of this in my Scarlet and Ivy reviews as well, and it in no way is an attack against the author, because the point of an editor is to catch these things. My favorite typo was "turnπed". I wish I had made note of which page it was on, but those who have the book I hope find it as well, because I'm not even sure how you can accidentally type the pi symbol into a word. Overall, A Pocket Full of Murder was a unique and fun story, with incredibly engaging and likeable characters. Canada should be proud to have it as a part of Canadian Children's Literature, and I can't wait to read the sequel!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rikki

    This book. Aaaahhh I still love it. I first read it like five years ago, and I was nervous that rereading it would ruin it. But no. It is still great. (Although I have more trouble believing that a couple of twelve-year-olds could solve a murder now than when I first read it. But a similar complaint could be made against most children's, middle-grade, and YA books, so we'll let it go.) Anyway. My favorite thing about this story is the world. I am a sucker for books with atmosphere, and R. J. Ande This book. Aaaahhh I still love it. I first read it like five years ago, and I was nervous that rereading it would ruin it. But no. It is still great. (Although I have more trouble believing that a couple of twelve-year-olds could solve a murder now than when I first read it. But a similar complaint could be made against most children's, middle-grade, and YA books, so we'll let it go.) Anyway. My favorite thing about this story is the world. I am a sucker for books with atmosphere, and R. J. Anderson creates this whimsical yet realistic magical world in her Uncommon Magic books that I fell completely in love with. The magic system , the government and city infrastructure, and the relatively subtle social commentary are great. But my favorite part is the completely fictional religion. Religion and religious discrimination are rarely addressed in fantasy, and they're done well even less often. But I loved the portrayal of religion in these books (especially when they show that religious observance is a spectrum). You should read the book for this quote alone: (Explaining why people discriminate against Isaveth's family for their beliefs) "'They think we're fantastic,' added Mimmi thickly, and Quiz looked blank until Lilet corrected her: 'Fanatics.'" Also, I was totally not expecting to find any non-white characters in these books, and I was pleasantly surprised (although there isn't really any representation of their culture, but I think that's just because of how different the world-structure is from our own). Yay for diverse books! And speaking of representation, that little tidbit of chronic-illness-type rep in the second book was so well-done. The mystery and the process of solving it, as well as character development, are much better than I was expecting from a middle-grade book. My underestimating ways were proved very wrong. And I absolutely loved the role family played throughout these books. It makes me so happy to see functional families in fantasy! Also the covers are absolutely beautiful. The only thing stopping me from giving this the full five stars is a few annoying typos that just jarred me from the story. (Seriously, there was a pi symbol stuck inside one of the words. Like, you have to deliberately try to make a typo that bad.) But that's more the fault of the editor than the author. P.S. Gaping plot hole in all fantasy: what differentiates "magic" from nature if that's just the way the world works? Like, unless there's a magic world and a non-magic world (like in Harry Potter), how do characters know that flying is magic and not just physics? But that's a completely different discussion. Actual rating: 4.5/5

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