Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: A Pocket Full of Murder by RJ Anderson

A Pocket Full of Murder by RJ Anderson
Series: Uncommon Magic #1
Published: September 8th, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
252 pages (ARC)
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Mystery
Acquired this book: Via Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

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. . .

I haven’t read much Middle Grade, but since I’ve been trying to branch out in the last couple years, I’ve picked up a few and have really enjoyed them. I was intrigued by the concept (and the cover) of A Pocket Full of Murder, plus I enjoyed Anderson’s science fiction YA duology, Ultraviolet and Quicksilver, so jumped at the chance to receive an ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada.

A Pocket Full of Murder is a creative, clever, and fun read. The setting made me feel like I was reading a story set in Victoria era England with magic and other fantastical elements. Think Charles Dickens but with magic and murder. There were so many elements of the book that made it unique - the names, some of the language, the religion, and the magic. The world building itself reminded me of Harry Potter in a way - wonderfully unique and exciting, something you’ve never seen before. A world that’s completely fantastical and yet believable, something you can picture yourself in and immerse yourself in.

Isaveth, our independent and plucky heroine, was a great main character. She was smart, resourceful, and wise beyond her years. She’d been forced to grow up quickly because of her family’s circumstances, and she amazed me with her strength and resilience. I loved Quiz. He was an interesting mixture of mystery and humour and tough street kid.

There were so many great elements that set this book apart. Don’t get me wrong - just because I’ve mentioned Dickens and Harry Potter doesn’t mean I’m comparing the actual story to either. A Pocket Full of Murder had so many things that set it apart. The magical elements were really cool. I liked the concept that there were different kinds of magic for the different classes. There was spell baking, which is what Isaveth did, but then rich people could buy mass-produced magic and the sages could create their own magic. It was fascinating. I also liked the religious element. It was ever-present without being in your face. It added to the story, especially when it came to Isaveth’s family’s misfortunes - they were discriminated against not just because they were poor, but also because they were a different religion, one that was seen as troublemakers and the cause of a lot of problems. It was something real, relatable, and timeless in an otherwise fantasy world.

While there were so many things I loved about A Pocket Full of Murder, I did have a few minor complaints. I think the book would have worked better as a young adult novel than middle grade. I kept forgetting Isaveth was only twelve because she seemed much older. The ‘romance’ between her and Quiz also felt kind of weird since she was so young. At times when Quiz made me giggle and start to swoon, I’d be jarred from the story with a thought like, “GAH, but he’s only thirteen!” I have a nephew that age and the last thing I want to think about is him involved in a romantic relationship. My mind and heart warred over rooting for any sort of romance between Isaveth and Quiz because of their ages. Personally I think the story would have worked better if Isaveth and Quiz had been sixteen or seventeen. Besides that, I found the ending abrupt. There was all this build up and then suddenly it was over and there was an epilogue that wrapped things up but not in a very satisfying way. The overall outcome was satisfying, but the execution was lacking and felt hurried. I’m curious to see what happens in the sequel, A Little Taste of Poison.

A Pocket Full of Murder is full of great characters, magic, and a mystery that will keep you guessing with its twists and turns. I highly recommend this one!

{Read my review of Ultraviolet || Quicksilver}

Have you read A Pocket Full of Murder? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you read middle grade? If you haven't, would you be willing to give it a try if you found something that appealed to you?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bookstagram Weekly Digest #7

Bookstagram Weekly Digest ~ Every Friday or Saturday I'll share the pictures I posted on Bookstagram the week before. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram and see my daily bookish pictures, I'm SweetMarie_83!



Can you tell I'm obsessed with autumn? ;-)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: Peri in Progress by Cat Lavoie

Peri in Progress by Cat Lavoie   
Series: Standalone
Published: October 28th, 2015
Publisher: Marching Ink
206 pages (ebook)
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Acquired this book: Bought
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon Canada || Amazon US}                

You know what they say about best-laid plans…

After a disastrous thirty-first birthday party where she gets stood-up by a man she isn’t supposed to be dating, Peri McKenna decides it’s time to change what hasn’t been working—which is pretty much everything. Her love life is going nowhere fast, she’s bored to tears by a job that makes her the office pariah, and the lifelong junk food addiction that used to be somewhat quirky is now positively problematic. To top it all off, her newly-purchased home is falling apart and wishful thinking hasn’t done much to fix the leaky roof.

It’s time be an adult now that she’s officially ‘thirty-something.’ But when the first step of Peri’s self-improvement plan backfires, she starts to wonder if change might be overrated.

Enter Milo Preston, an up-and-coming chef who’s in town to take over a local restaurant. When Peri and Milo begin working together, she finds it hard to ignore his easy charm and captivating emerald-green eyes. Since Milo is her best friend’s estranged brother, Peri has to keep reminding herself that he is completely off-limits. As they grow closer, Milo introduces Peri to new foods, the joy (and pain) of jogging, and makes her think her luck might finally be turning.

But when the past catches up with them, Peri finds herself back at square one. Will she be able to sort herself out—or will the roof cave in on her once and for all?

I have a love-hate relationship with chick lit. Some of it is really funny and well-written, but unfortunately a lot of it has main characters who are vapid and do and say ridiculous things, get into unrealistic situations that they somehow fumble out of, and quite often the love interest is a jerk who makes you spend most of the book wondering what the heroine sees in him. I have to admit, Peri in Progress started out a bit like the latter to me. Peri seemed like a shallow character who I thought I wouldn’t be able to connect with. She was impulsive to the point of potentially ruining her own life, and I found myself getting impatient with her. I reached 30% of the book and set it aside with the intention to DNF. By the next morning, I decided to give it one more shot, and I’m really glad I did. Really glad. Even though it took me awhile longer to get into the story completely, when I finally did I ended up admiring Peri for her strength and growth.

Being around the same age as Peri, I understood that feeling of being stuck, along with her desire to change but the realization that change isn’t easy, especially when you’ve lived your life a certain way for a long time. What I ended up loving most about this book was how believable Peri’s growth was. It was slow, it was a process, and it didn’t happen overnight. She struggled to make changes, but she was willing to try, and keep trying even when she failed. Milo helped and encouraged her, but she didn’t change for or because of him, which I appreciated. I enjoyed the romance, but it was Peri I rooted for most - her self-discovery and the changes she went through inspired me and left me feeling satisfied. She was a believable, flawed character, and I loved that she realized she was a work in progress and that sometimes even when you’re open and willing to make changes, you still backslide and that’s okay.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun read with plenty of humour, romance, and a heroine you can cheer for, Peri in Progress is a must read.

Have you read Peri in Progress? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you have any favourite women's fiction/chick lit books?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Overexposed by Megan Erickson

Overexposed by Megan Erickson
Series: In Focus #4
Published: September 20th, 2016
Publisher: InterMix
177 pages (ebook)
Genre: Contemporary New Adult/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Levi Grainger needs a break. As a reality show star, he’s had enough of the spotlight and being edited into a walking stereotype. When he returns home after the last season of Trip League, he expects to spend time with his family, only to learn his sister is coming back from her deployment in a flag-draped casket. Devastated, Levi decides the best way to grieve will be to go off grid and hike the Appalachian Trail—a trip he'd planned to do with his sister.

His solitary existence on the trail is interrupted when he meets Thad, a quiet man with a hard body and intense eyes. Their connection is stronger than anything Levi has ever experienced. But when Levi discovers the truth about what Thad is hiking to escape, their future together looks uncertain, and uncertainty is the last thing Levi needs...

Megan Erickson has done it again. The whole In Focus series is basically perfection. Starting with Trust the Focus, these characters, with their journeys both physical and emotional, have stolen my heart. Each book is an emotional roller coaster, with moments that make you laugh, cry, swoon, and really stop to think about your life and the people in it. Not to mention the sexytimes that leave you needing a cold shower! Overexposed is no exception. While these books can technically all be read as standalones, I highly recommend reading all of them since the characters do connect. I always got so excited seeing familiar characters, and I legit started happy crying at a certain point in Overexposed, so I’m not kidding when I say I recommend reading the whole series.

Despite being a well-known reality TV celebrity, Levi is really just an average guy. He’s desperate for some space and peace after the show ends and also after the death of his sister. He and his sister had planned to hike the Appalachian Trail (which I previously knew absolutely nothing about and enjoyed learning about in this book), and he’s determined to do it in her honour, even though that means doing it solo. He’s uncertain about his future and is trying to figure out what life holds for him, all while grieving. When he meets Thad along the trail, he’s a welcome distraction that turns into so much more. Each of Erickson’s books has had at least one character who I’ve connected with on a personal level because I’ve experienced something similar. With Overexposed, that character was Levi and the connection was his grief. It was very real, and it was a factor in a lot of his decisions. I thought it was realistically handled well, and I appreciated that it never overtook the story or bogged it down. I also connected with his uncertainty over the future and wondering what comes next.

Thad is the strong, silent type - the broody hero with demons in his past. And let me just say...Thad is so. Freaking. Sexy. He’s an alpha male done right. He had this presence that jumped off the pages and came through in every scene, no matter what he and Levi were doing. I loved his fascination with Levi and how protective he was of him. He seemed like the type of guy who would be confident and comfortable with himself, and while he was in a lot of ways, he also had these little insecurities that crept in because of stuff that happened in his past. He and Levi seemed like an unlikely pair, but they ended up being perfect for each other and helping each other in so many ways.

Overexposed is a beautiful story about healing, self-discovery, and love. Levi and Thad are complex, genuine characters, and the setting of the Appalachian Trail added a unique layer to the story that made it even more enjoyable.  The In Focus series is definitely one of my favourites, and one I recommend often. Overexposed is supposed to be the last book in the series, but Erickson has said she’ll ‘never close the door’ on these characters, so I’ll remain hopeful that we’ll get more eventually. There's a character in Overexposed that’s begging for his own story, so here’s hoping!


{My review of Trust the Focus || My review of Focus on Me || My review of Out of Frame}

Have you read Overexposed or any of the other books in the In Focus series? What did you think? If you haven't read them, do you plan to?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bookstagram Weekly Digest #6

Bookstagram Weekly Digest ~ Every Friday or Saturday I'll share the pictures I posted on Bookstagram the week before. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram and see my daily bookish pictures, I'm SweetMarie_83!



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