Devil’s Playground by Heather Eagar

Travel back in time with Devil’s Playground – to Salem, Massachusetts during a very bad period. When Elizabeth and her family are caught up in the witch-hunting spree, she’s got to figure out a way to protect the ones she loves and also save Salem before it burns to the ground.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Devil's PlaygroundTitle:  Devil’s Playground
Author:  Heather Eagar
Series: stand alone
Publish Date:  January 11 2016
Genre:  YA Historical Fantasy
Source: provided by the author

Publisher’s Description: Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Winters may be a witch, but she doesn’t know the first thing about magic—unless you count accidental bouts of spontaneous combustion. Elizabeth’s father, a wizard himself, has forbidden the use of her powers for her own protection, but when accusations of witchcraft start flying through Salem Village, she wishes she was more prepared.

Despite her lack of magical knowledge, Elizabeth appoints herself to save innocent women from the demise the village has in store for them. Elizabeth finds, however, that she is not the hero Salem needs her to be.

She meant to save them. She cursed them instead.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna_Lovebooks_100Luna Lovebooks says…

What I liked: I have always been partial to witches and to Salem. I find them fascinating for some reason. Having personally studied a little on the subject matter I love how, in the beginning, the author blends the fiction with the hysteria that many scholars believe sparked the witch hunts. While there are a few places where readers can easily guess what is coming next, there are still plenty of twists that kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting to read more. But my favorite part of this book was the character Elizabeth herself. She is a hot mess! She is constantly trying to do good but, often ends up making situations worse through her lack of control in her magic. She is fiercely loyal to her family and the people of Salem themselves.

badge4v4What I didn’t like: I try not to give too may spoilers away when I give my reviews so forgive me for this but Sebastian’s betrayal was one twist I was not happy about! Afterward, even though Elizabeth treats him coldly at first, I feel like she forgave him a little too quickly and bounced back to have a crush on the boy. I also didn’t like that the story didn’t quite match up with what most people have learned about the witch trails. At first it tows the line between the historical and the fiction, but then it crosses way over into fiction.

I give this 4 broomsticks.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

Elizabeth is your typical teenager – sometimes moody, most of the time acting like she’s old enough to know everything, and yet young enough to get herself stuck in some nasty situations. She is very caring though, and yearns to do what she can to protect her family, especially her younger sister, Anna. Sometimes though, she trusts the wrong people, and that’s often what lands her in the position we find her in.

The town of Salem is plagued by the “witch” craze, led by Reverrend Parish and Judge Hathorne, who are so bent on blaming others (by accusing them of witchcraft and then executing them) for their problems, they have no issues sentencing innocent people to death. Elizabeth and her family enter the fray when Anna begins to have nightmares and “fits” – just like several other girls in the town. When a lot of accusations are thrown around, Elizabeth loses control of her powers a lot, and lands herself the attention of a boy she likes – the same boy who turns her into the judge because she won’t heal his father. When she’s held prisoner against her will, she accidentally casts a dark spell upon the town, causing the ten biblical plagues of Egypt to come destroy everything she’s ever known. Now she’s got to figure out how to reverse the spell before it’s too late – and all first born sons and daughters (which includes her witch father) she cares about perish.

This is a nice retelling of a historical period. The Salem Witch trials were my specialty in college history, so I’ve read a lot about this particular issue.

badge4v4The story was inaccurate, yes, but that’s why we call it fiction. Personally, I liked this book a lot. It had a smooth flow, though repetitive at times, but everything is sharp, enabling you to visualize what’s happening very clearly. It’s a nice addition to the Salem fiction, though if I had to knock it down for everything, I’d have to critique it on the language and names. Though the writing was elegant and crisp, some of the dialogue was too…modern. I expected there to be a lot more formal, old-English tones. The name Levi also threw me off because it would have been incredibly rare to name a child that back then.

If you like this book…

…you might try The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi, and Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill. Devil’s Playground is recommended for fans of Witch Child by Celia Rees, Origins (Sweep series) by Cate Tiernan, and A Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Nell’s Opinion and Book Hunt

Welcome to One Book Two. I love free books, so I go on a hunt to find them every week and then share my finds with you.  It’s kinda like Indiana Jones searching for artifacts…without snakes.  BUT BEFORE I show you my finds, I will subject you to a little thing called My Opinion.

Nervous_Nellie_100Today’s subject is: What book could I buy at Amazon in 1816?

Well… none. But IF I could, it appears that 1816 was a time to air your romantic dirty laundry.  Yep.  Scandalous dirty laundry.

Lord Byron’s poems “A Sketch from Private Life” and “Fare Thee Well“, concerning his separation from his wife Anne Isabella, are published without authority in The Champion.

I read “A Sketch from Private Life,” and didn’t really understand it, but I did understand the further Google searches telling me about how poorly he treated his wife and about his affairs. She really should have held off accepting his second marriage proposal.

Lady Caroline Lamb’s novel, Glenarvon, is published in London, a roman à clef containing an unflattering portrait of her ex-lover, Lord Byron, in the rakish title character of Lord Ruthven.

lord-byronI am by no way a historian, but I have a very vivid imagination.  I Googled a picture of Lord Byron and he’s not too hard to look at. You can guess that my imagination, fueled with a zillion Harlequin romances, ran with the scenario. He looks like a spoiled little rich kid who gets whatever he wants and indulges in anything he wants.

So…here’s what I found out, and it’ s close to what I imagined. Lord Byron was leaving his wife after he used and abused her, his ex lover was writing nastiness of him in another novel, and he was involved incestuously with his step-sister.  Eww (I hadn’t guessed that part.) In today’s romance, he would be cast as an evil villain because of his exploits.  Seriously, the crap he is historically known for is more for the XXX porn shop than in 1816 society. After the scandals hit the 1816 version of The Enquirer, he decided to take a trip to spend some time with his buds.  Well, it so happens that…

In July, Lord Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Polidori, gather at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in a rainy Switzerland in this ‘Year Without a Summer’, tell each other tales. This gives rise to two classic Gothic narratives, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Polidori’s The Vampyre (based on Byron’s “Fragment of a Novel“). Byron also writes the poem “Darkness.” In late August, Shelley and Godwin return to England, taking with them some of Byron’s manuscripts for his publisher.

So, in my imagination, they all sat around the card table, whiskey at hand, and stories getting more elaborate and more elaborate the more alcohol consumed. In reality, it was around a fireplace and they were telling ghost stories.  With the liquor flowing, and the tales telling, I imagine it was one hell of a party.

Now on to the part you really came here for:

BOOK HUNT!

imageTitle: Brainrush
Author: Richard Bard

DescriptionBefore he slid into the MRI machine, Jake Bronson was just an ordinary guy with terminal cancer. But when an earthquake hits during the procedure, Jake staggers from the wreckage a profoundly changed man, now endowed with uncanny mental abilities.

An ocean away, Luciano Battista wants a piece of Jake’s talent. Posing as a pioneering scientist, the terrorist leader has been conducting cerebral-implant experiments in a sinister quest to create a breed of super jihadist agents…and Jake’s altered brain may be the key to his success. But Jake refuses to play the pawn in an unholy war–and when an innocent woman and autistic child are taken hostage to force his cooperation, he embarks on a jihad of his own. Jake and his band of loyal friends are thrust into a deadly chase that leads from the canals of Venice through Monte Carlo and finally to an ancient cavern in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan–where Jake discovers that his newfound talents carry a hidden price that threatens the entire human race.

Free on Kindle | Free on Nook

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The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

Welcome to Saturday Shorts. A poodle has been kid—, er, dognapped, and Oberon will not stand for that! Told from Oberon’s point of view, this book is a hilarious short story about a mystery that Atticus and Oberon have together. Will Oberon, and his assistant Atticus, be able to rescue the poodle before something bad happens? And will Oberon be able to earn the sausages Atticus has promised if they find the poodle? It’s a fun read that answers those questions!

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Purloined PoodleTitleOberon’s Meaty Mysteries: The Purloined Poodle
AuthorKevin Hearne
SeriesIron Druid Chronicles, Book 8.5
Publish Date: September 30, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Netgalley

Publisher’s Description: Thanks to his relationship with the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, Oberon the Irish wolfhound knows trouble when he smells it—and furthermore, he knows he can handle it.

When he discovers that a prizewinning poodle has been abducted in Eugene, Oregon, he learns that it’s part of a rash of hound abductions all over the Pacific Northwest. Since the police aren’t too worried about dogs they assume have run away, Oberon knows it’s up to him to track down those hounds and reunite them with their humans. For justice! And gravy!

Engaging the services of his faithful Druid, Oberon must travel throughout Oregon and Washington to question a man with a huge salami, thwart the plans of diabolical squirrels, and avoid, at all costs, a fight with a great big bear.

But if he’s going to solve the case of the Purloined Poodle, Oberon will have to recruit the help of a Boston terrier named Starbuck, survive the vegetables in a hipster pot pie, and firmly refuse to be distracted by fire hydrants and rabbits hiding in the rose bushes.

At the end of the day, will it be a sad bowl of dry kibble for the world’s finest hound detective, or will everything be coming up sirloins?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

What I Didn’t Like: I can’t think of anything.

What I Liked: This was a fun, quick mystery that I really enjoyed reading. Oberon’s point of view is just so much fun to read. I do get Oberon’s Shenanigans, his monthly newsletter, so had some idea how it would go. I was not disappointed. Not only do we get a fun mystery, but we also learn why it would be better if everyone greeted each other with butt-sniffs and which meats are the best! And it’s just fun!

From a bigger picture perspective, this is a good story on why Atticus doesn’t get involved in things all of the time. It’s very difficult to explain your druidic powers to the authorities, much less have to explain them in a court! Atticus has to balance out what he tells the detective in charge as well as the owners, so that he doesn’t scare them off giving him the information he needs to help rescue the Purloined Poodle.

badge5v4A strong five. In fact, now that we have eight books, and a few short stories, in this series, I think this would be a strong contender as a short story to get new people hooked into the series. It’s self contained and while it does give away a few things from the series, I don’t think that what it gives away is that surprising. Indeed, having the perspective might make a few early novels be more fun.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

I just LOVE Kevin Hearne. Can I say that? Literary references, historical references, RPG references, sci-fi TV show references. Specific episodes, even, like the X-files episode with Big Mike. I just want to hug this guy and call him family.

Yes, all those references are made in The Purloined Poodle, in addition to it being a great mystery. Oberon, Atticus’s Irish Wolfhound and comic sidekick, gets his own story from his own point of view, and it’s wonderfully done. From the inaccurate sense of time to the obsession with meat to the ongoing battle with squirrels and other distractions, we really get a sense of what it’s like to be Oberon in Atticus’s world.

badge5v4The book had me laughing the entire time; but I cannot WAIT for the audio! I feel sorry for Luke Daniels, as voicing Oberon for a whole novella has got to kill his voice for a few days. But OMG it is going to be so epic.🙂

Lots and lots of geeky love for this awesome novella.

Nervous Nellie says…

This is a quick novella starring Oberon and his druid, Atticus.  Oberon wants to solve the mystery of Nervous_Nellie_100who is dog napping so many champion dogs.  Their people seem very distressed and Oberon just wants to be Sherlock Holmes complete with the hat and pipe.

Atticus cheats at solving this mystery by using his transportation skills and his ability to talk to dogs.

This was a fun murder mystery, dognapping conspiracy with riotous narration by Oberon himself.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Feature & Follow Friday

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The Feature and Follow, hosted by Parajunkee of Parajunkee’s View and Alison of Alison Can Read, is the premium BLOG HOP of Book Bloggers. Running for over five years, the Feature and Follow’s goal is to promote the book blogging and author community to join together and support each other – even if it is just through a simple follow. The FF also promotes creative post options by offering interesting topics we can all talk about and comment on! Come join us.

This Week’s Question

What’s Your Book Betrayal Story? (Someone borrowed a book and destroyed it? Waited for a book for forever and it was terrible?)

Kat Mandu’s answer is…

Kat_Mandu_100

My betrayal? Comes in two forms. First off, my own AUNT borrowed all of my Nikki Heat books once and absolutely destroyed them. The pages weren’t dog-eared but she’d turned it completely backwards to read it, making the spine all fuzzy and straining the covers. Plus, she’d taken one on vacation with her and accidentally dropped it in a puddle of water😦 I still have all the bad copies because I haven’t been able to get new ones yet. But I despise looking at them….

SERIOUSLY. Don’t borrow my books ever again! I love you, but no.

And second, when authors kill off your favorite characters. I mean, I’m an author and I do it too (and enjoy it) but when the girl or guy you’re REALLY rooting for and hardcore crush on just DIES? I become a train wreck of crazy emotions. Do I understand it? Maybe in the sense that authors really enjoy messing with their readers. Sometimes deaths have a purpose. Otherwise it’s just a sadistic plot to drive all the fans crazy. But do I like it? Of course not.

Well, maybe a little? Isn’t that why we read though?


Ruby Lee’s betrayal is…

Ruby_Lee 100The end of the book Hannibal by Thomas Harris. I don’t think I have gotten over the disappointment and outrage at the end of this amazing trilogy.  I honestly thought that the writer may have died and someone else just added a random end to the story so they could publish it. The end was so disjointed and out of sync that I still don’t have words to accurately describe how I felt.


Invested Ivana’s answer is…

Invested_Ivana_100

Oh, man.  Here’s a very personal story.  Do you remember the series of Time Life books put out in the 80s?  There was one series called The Enchanted World that I REALLY wanted.  I was somewhere between 9 and 13 at the time, I suppose.  I saw it advertised on TV all the time and I REALLY wanted it.

Well, we didn’t have much money, so I didn’t expect I’d ever get it.  But one day my mom told me to go ahead and order it.  I was SOOOO excited!

When the first book finally came and she had to start paying for it and all the ones after, she told me I had to send it back.  We couldn’t afford it.  I was so crushed and angry.

I expect my mom *wanted* to be able to get it for me, and since you didn’t have to pay until the first one arrived, it seemed easy enough to say yes at the time.  She was trying to make me happy. But in reality, she couldn’t pay for it, and just ended up being a disappointing betrayal.


Nervous_Nellie_100

Nervous Nellie’s betrayal is…

My first book betrayal has to be when I read the trilogy Niki Slobodian series.  I dedicated a couple of weeks to reading this series and it ended less than satisfactorily.  The story was awesome, but the ending sucked.  Yes, I said that.  The ending was a betrayal that I’m having a hard time forgetting.  Actually, I credit that series as the reason I’m so nervous about book endings.

My second book betrayal was when Demon Lord Rhyzkahl in Diana Rowland’s Kara Gillian series totally forsakes his summoner.  I hate him forever for what he did, but the author was brilliant because she succeeded in getting such a response from me.


Vagabond_Vahn_100Vagabond Vahn’s answer is…

My book betrayal may be a tad different. I’ve never eagerly anticipated a novel release only to hate it, nor have I had a book borrowing disaster.

My betrayals tend to be books I remember fondly, that I try and return to… only to find the experience distasteful and feel let down.

A good example? Lord of the Rings. I read it when I was young. I remember loving it. I tried to re-read it about 2 years ago. Hated it. With a capital ‘H’. I’m not entirely even sure why, other than the fact that I apparently no longer enjoy the writing style employed by Tolkien.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is another great example. My memories of that novel are incredibly fond when I think back to my first reading it, well over a decade ago. I tried to read it a couple years back, and couldn’t make it more than 30 pages or so.

It’s an interesting observation – every time I choose to re-read a novel I remember fondly, I run the risk of being let down and wondering what made it so great the first time around. Other novels hold up well – I recently re-read the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. The same is true of the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks.


Luna Lovebooks has a book betrayal that will break all book lovers hearts...

Luna_Lovebooks_100I had a friend, let’s call her Sally, that wanted to borrow one of my hard back books – Percy Jackson. I’m very particular about my hardback books so I was leery about lending it out. But Sally was convincing so I let her borrow it. Several weeks went by. Sally wasn’t the fastest reader but Percy should have been done by then. So I inquired as to how the reading was going. She looked at me sheepishly and said it was in her car. I asked her to get it. When she handed it to me the pages all fell out. Apparently she hadn’t even read it. She left it in her car the entire time. Between being tossed around in the back seat and the heat the pages seprated from the glue in the spine! Pages were missing and torn and folded. I almost cried!

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

In this action-packed fourth installment, Harry has to face off against a dragon, fight some spear-wielding merpeople, and enter a deadly maze where his greatest enemy lies in wait…all while finding himself estranged by his own best friend, trusting the wrong people, and dealing with the deaths of people he cares for.

hp-gobletTitleHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K. Rowling
Series: Harry Potter, Book 04
Publish Date: July 8, 2000
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionLord Voldemort, the dark wizard responsible for the deaths of Harry’s parents, is growing stronger. At the Quidditch World Cup, Voldemort’s signature Dark Mark appears in the sky over the stadium, causing pandemonium. The lightning-bolt-shaped scar on Harry’s forehead is sporadically causing him agonizing pain, and he is also hearing disturbing voices. Harry realizes that all this is the result of a strong connection between himself and the Dark Lord, one that is putting him in grave danger.

Back at Hogwarts, the students are getting ready for the upcoming Triwizard Tournament. Witches and wizards from two other schools are coming to Hogwarts for the year to compete in a series of grueling contests. The tournament is open only to students age 17 and above, but when someone secretly enters Harry’s name, he is forced to compete. How can a 14-year-old possibly pass tests that might be fatal to an advanced wizard? And with the threat of Lord Voldemort looming, will he be able to focus on the tournament at all?

For Harry, his friends, and everyone in the Wizarding world, the stakes are about to become much higher. This fourth installment, with a heart-pounding and emotional climax, serves as a turning point in the series, for the reader and for Harry himself.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

This is the first HUGE volume in the Harry Potter series and there’s so MUCH to learn from it. JK Rowling not only expands Harry’s mind of the marvelous wizarding universe he’s had the fortune to land in, but also her readers. For the first time, we’re seeing glimpses of the ministry and how magic works outside Hogwarts. We’re meeting new wizards who will come into play for future books and also discovering how much Rowling exceeds at world building.

There’s a lot of action in this, lots of spell-wielding duels, fights against dragons, and dangers that lurk around every corner. But there’s also a lot of emotional drama that Harry has to face – Ron temporarily turns against him; he’s got to face the death of an innocent boy, Cedric; Rita Skeeter, a nosy and pesky journalist, is making him seem crazy – all ideas that set up for plots in the next book, where the Ministry refuses to admit Voldemort has returned to power. Though Harry comes out of his fight with Voldemort alive, it is a Pyrrhic victory.

I love that Rowling writes with such wonderful emotion. She’s putting a fourteen-year old through hell and readers are so sympathetic for Harry the whole way through as he navigates through a rollercoaster of people, opinions, and feelings.

Here are some of my favorites:

Character – Hagrid, because he’s just so damn likeable. But also Sirius because he gets to play a more parental role in Harry’s life.

Scene – I really love the scene where Harry is in the prefects’ bathroom and Myrtle comes in to practically stalk him. Though I do love the first task chapter, where Harry goes up against a dragon and gains some of his confidence back.

Creature – Dobby! He gets the win from me for being so cute and grateful to Harry, willing to do anything to help him out, even if it may get him killed.

Luna_Lovebooks_100Luna Lovebooks says…

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my FAVORITE out of the series. I love that there was so much magic in this one with the tasks and the Quidditch match! My favorite scenes are the Quidditch World Cup and the final task in the maze. I love the drastic change between the two as book four gets increasingly dark. The characters are still amazing and it feel like you grow with them as you read.

I was severely disappointed in the movie. I was expecting all the magical wonders that were in the book and instead got a rushed confusing mess. They changed so much and left out very important characters.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Some of the parts of Goblet of Fire that I really love are:

  • The whole storyline between the Weasley twins and Ludo Bagman.
  • Meeting the elder Weasley brothers.
  • When Harry doesn’t recognize Hermione at the Yule Ball.
  • When Harry saves everyone from the merpeople.
  • When Hermione finally realizes how Rita Skeeter has been listening in on private conversations.
  • How Harry and Voldemort’s wands, with the common core, react to each other.  I love how this tidbit, that was mentioned in Book 1, finally pays off here.

There is actually a whole lot to like in Goblet, from the innocence of first romance to the betrayal of a trusted mentor, to the loss of a peer and a life. This is why Harry Potter never felt like a “kid’s” book to me; the author manages to pack in so much relatable emotion into every single book.

Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was another great read as the series keeps getting better and better. It’s been several years since I’ve read the whole series but I do remember how it all ends, and the extraordinary groundwork JK Rowling has already started to set up the ending and lay clues to how it does end is wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the Pensieve in Dumbledore’s office when we learn Crouch’s history and are introduced to some of Neville’s background. It’s also fun to have even more awkward teenage courtship, and the Yule ball section was fantastic. I can so picture Ron’s embarrassment over those hideous dress robes. Again a 5.

Our reviews in this series…