Thursday, April 7, 2016

YA READ-2-REVIEW - Devils Playground by Heather Eagar

 Devil’s Playground
By Heather Eagar
Publication Date: January 12th 2016
Published by Clean Reads Publishing
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Living in Salem is dangerous business – especially for a witch.

The Book Junkie Reads . . . Review of Devil's Playground . . .
I could literally feel the magic in the air. The words on the pages gave an aura of realism in each phrase. I felt line I was back in the Salem Witch Trials. I took my time reading this one but it still was not slow enough. I was done and it was all over. I eagerly await more. This was a very good YA Fantasy read. I have had the pleasure of greatly enjoying this debut offering from Heather Eagar. 

Elizabeth was in no way your typical sixteen-year-old. She was a witch. Not allowed to practice her craft. She was living in a time when witches were feared, misunderstood. She finds a way around the father's decree of no magic use. With the rampid accusations flying around Salem, Elizabeth found that she needed to do something. But was her something the thing that was needed by the town. Jump in to this magical read of a brave sixteen-year-old girl and her attempts to make a difference in her community.

This was not your typical read that you could predict 90% of what was coming around the corner for you. You will enjoy this journey you will share with Elizabeth, her family, and the community of Salem. 
          **This ARC was provided from Heather Eagar in exchange for an honest review.**

BLURB
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. 
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Epic Kindle Giveaway/Battle of the first pages
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Giveaway hosted by the author of EERIE, C.M. McCoy. 

Salem, Massachusetts 1692 
I shiver as my bare feet hit the wood floor. It is too early to be awake. It is always too early. An incessant throbbing behind my eyes tells me I ought to be back in bed.
“Elizabeth, are you ready?” Mother calls from the kitchen.
“Yes, I will be right there,” I lie. With a tired shuffle, I make my way to the large chest at the foot of my bed and pull out the first dress I see. It doesn’t matter much when my choices are the black dress, the dark black dress, or the other black dress. Shall I wear the one with the hole, the one with two holes, or the one the mouse chewed through?
“Elizabeth! We are going to be late, we need to leave.”
“Just a moment,” I say.
After exchanging my white nightdress for the dark black dress that the mouse chewed through, I tie a white apron around my waist, attempting to hide the hole. Before walking out the door, I realize my cap is missing.
With a sigh, I pin my hair back before covering it with the white cap, a symbol of my purity. I now look like every other girl in Salem Village, just how it should be. It seems a shame to let my curls go to waste, and I can’t help but pull a few forward.
After double-checking that everything is in order, I walk out to the front room where Father, Mother, and my younger sister, Anna, are waiting. Mother shakes her head.
“What did I do now?” I ask.
Mother walks over and combs my hair with her fingers, straightening the curls into small waves. She tucks the long strands back beneath the cap with the others. “We are to be a simple   people, not elevating ourselves above others,” she reminds me. I don’t understand how showing a few curls can be a sin. But the reverend preaches often that even seemingly small things can lead to impure thoughts. And Reverend knows best.
“She wants to elevate herself for Sebastian Corey,” Anna taunts with a smile.
“It is a sin to lie, Anna.” I am about to say more, but Father steps between us.
“That is enough, girls,” he says, herding us outside. Mother follows as he ushers us along ‘The Road to Salvation.’ The road goes straight through the heart of the village and leads to the chapel, the doctor’s home, the courthouse, and the jail. This enables one to access repentance, God’s mercy, and God’s justice all from the same path.
I’m not certain how I feel about all of that. Of course I would be ostracized if I ever admitted it to anyone, but it is all a little too harsh for my liking. The reverend is always going on about repenting or being thrust down to Hell and so on. I know I get out of bed late most days and don’t work as hard as I ought, but all things considered, I don’t feel like I deserve fire and brimstone.
“You’re being slow,” Anna says, interrupting my thoughts. “If we are late, I’m telling the reverend that it was your fault.”
I laugh and run ahead, Anna chasing after me. 
We bound inside the chapel, not bothering to wait for our parents. Finding empty space on a pew near the back, we collapse next to Edward and Margaret Bishop, our parents joining us shortly after.
“Late again on the Lord’s day, Mary?” Margaret asks Mother as she sits down.
“Not quite,” Mother answers with a tense smile.
“I see your girls are full of energy this morning, as usual,” Margaret continues. “I wonder that it is not spent on supplication to the Lord for their shortcomings.”
“My girls stand well in the sight of the Lord. They are respectful and dutiful, both in our home as well as in the House of the Lord.” Mother is attempting to keep her patience, but her smile slowly fades into a grimace. She seems relieved when Reverend Parris approaches the pulpit, saving her from further conversation.
“Good morning, Brothers and Sisters,” he greets us. A moment of silence follows, his eyes piercing us with their typical accusatory stare. “I see there are many who have not joined us today. How sad I am for them. If they do not repent of their ways, a painful and harrowing death awaits them! Let us not share a similar fate.” He pauses to open his Bible. “How many times ought you to forgive your neighbor? Let us turn to what Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, has taught us.”
As Reverend Parris drones on, the back door scrapes open. It echoes through the chapel, and the congregation turns to see who dares come late. On seeing Giles Corey enter with his son, Sebastian, I whip back. I am aware of every footstep, my breath catching when I realize they are about to sit directly behind my family.
How many times am I supposed to forgive my neighbor? Who cares? The only thing I gain from Sunday service is that Sebastian Corey smells of fresh milk, dew, and pig slop. I savor every breath.
I sense Sebastian leaning forward. He is so close his breath tickles my neck. My heart races, my breathing fast and erratic. It isn’t until Reverend Parris says, “Amen,” that I catch a whiff of smoke.
“Not again,” I whisper and concentrate on slowing my breathing. Father will kill me, along with the rest of the village, if I manage to burn down the House of the Lord.
I force myself to think of the thousands of trees in Salem Village as they blossom and awaken from their long slumber of winter. When that doesn’t do anything for my racing heart, I think back to the time Anna got tree sap stuck in her hair, and Mother had to cut most of it off. Anna cried for three days. Mother cried for four. I stifle a giggle, but it isn’t enough to stop what has already begun.
Panicked, I attempt to locate where the smoke is originating from. There it is, curling from beneath the pew, right under Margaret Bishop. It takes a couple of irreverent coughs to attract Father’s attention. He looks over, his eyebrows raised, and I nod in the direction of the gray wisps. The muscles in his jaw tighten when he sees the smoke. His eyes narrow, but I am safe for the time being. I hope.
As the congregation sings the closing hymn, Father waves his arms in an attempt to alert the reverend. But aside from a disapproving glare from Margaret Bishop, his efforts are in vain. Reverend Parris is thoroughly engrossed in singing much too loud and much too off-key.
Father stands and shouts, “Lord Almighty, our pew is on fire!” The reverend’s head snaps toward Father, and he finally takes notice of the danger.
“What are you going on about?” Margaret demands. “Sit down, Goodman Winters.”
“Look down,” Father says, pointing.
Scowling, Margaret looks. Her jaw drops when she sees, not only smoke, but a small flame licking at her dress as well. “What is everyone just sitting around for?” she shrieks. Without waiting for a response, she jumps from the pew, leaps over my lap and runs from the chapel in a panicked frenzy.
I groan as confusion and chaos ensues. ‘Fire starter’ ought to be added to my list of imperfections, considering how often I manage it. Though starting a fire in the chapel is a first.
Men, women, and children stampede out, many running to fill buckets with water. “Where is everyone going?” an elderly woman asks. “I didn’t think we had the closing prayer yet.” Mother takes her by the arm and attempts to explain the situation as they make their way outdoors.
Father pulls me aside before I have the chance to follow them. “Go home,” he whispers through gritted teeth. “I am going to help out here. We will talk about this later.”
“But…” I start.
“Just go!” He rushes outside before I can say more.
“You’re in trou-ble,” Anna sings as we trudge out the door.

“Yes, I know.” This is not the first time I have messed up, but there is no denying it is the worst. If people find out what caused the fire—well, it will be bad. Very, very bad. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Devil’s Playground?
A: It was actually my husband’s idea! Years ago when I was working on a different novel he said, “Hey, why don’t you do a story about an actual witch who lives in Salem during the witch trials.” I thought it was the best idea EVER and took it from there. It has become quite a different story than either of us envisioned, but so much better.
Q: Do you use actual people from the trials in your story?
A: Yes, I do! My main characters are mostly fictional, but I use actual people from the trials as supporting characters, and also some of quotes from the trials as well.
Q: Is Devil’s Playground a part of a series, or is it just one book?
A: I always intended for it to be just one book. Even as I was submitting it to agents and publishers, I didn’t want there to be a sequel. But with some invaluable feedback, my whole ending changed. And with that change, it seemed pretty clear that there was more to Elizabeth’s story. So…that was a long answer to say, it is the first book in a series. Because I never intended for there to be another book, I am still in the rough draft stage for book #2.


About the Author:
Heather Eagar currently resides in Logan, Utah where she strives to balance her love of writing with raising a husband and two kids. Devil's Playground is her debut novel, but it will not be her last. She is currently working on the second book in the series. Heather is also a book reviewer and you can find reviews for Middle-grade fiction through Adult novels on her website, www.heatheraeagar.com.
Author Links:
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Epic Kindle Giveaway/Battle of the first pages
Prize Kindle Fire or $75 PayPal Cash winners choice.
Giveaway hosted by the author of EERIE, C.M. McCoy. 
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