I’ve been intrigued by the notion of sin-eaters since I saw a movie concerning the topic years ago (The Last Sin Eater, 2007). Recently, I spotted this YA historical fiction work on the theme. It’s an intriguing book with a nice murder mystery at its heart.
But what is a sin-eater? Sin-eaters are designated individuals within a community who consume ritual foods thereby taking on the sins of a deceased person. The foods symbolize (or absorb, depending on your perspective) the sins and through ingestion, the sin-eater acquires the sin thereby absolving the deceased, and paving the way for entry into heaven. Historically, the practice is associated with Wales and the English counties bordering Wales.
In the book, The Sin Eater, 14-year-old, May, is made a sin-eater after stealing a loaf of bread during the reign of Elizabeth I. Marked as a sin-eater and shunned by society, May eventually seeks out an older woman in the same situation. This woman mentors May in this hard life through example because verbal communication is forbidden. Sin-eaters are well fed and outcasts who are redeemed only upon death, having faithfully served their purpose—or so May is led to believe. Things are turned upside down when the older sin-eater refuses to consume a deer heart for a royal governess who’s died. Refusing to do so costs her life. May loses her teacher and ends up center stage in a mystery of death and intrigue involving the royal bloodline.
I enjoyed the book because it is an imaginative tale about something very little is known about. And yet, it did exist culturally, and the legacy carried on to some extent in areas including western England, Wales, Bavaria, and 17th century Dutch America. Campisi’s novel is now available in paperback.
Bryce was seventeen when she stood on the diving platform five years ago during Olympic trials. The dive went horribly wrong. In the coma, time stood still. One day she miraculously awakens to a world that’s left her behind. Her parents’ marriage is on the rocks, her sister is grown up and engaging in rebellious behavior, her boyfriend engaged to her best friend. For Bryce, yesterday she was a world class Olympic athlete with everything going for her, now she’s a twenty-two-year old woman whose body is damaged and all the relationships she counted on are forever changed.
As Bryce starts to adjust to being back in her body, certain odd experiences begin to happen. Her interaction with everyday reality is altered. Colors and shapes are more vivid, some things less tangible. These were very promising glimpses that kept me reading thinking this book could be quite special. Eventually, Bryce has recall of events that occurred while she was in the coma that Newtonian science would have a hard time explaining. Toward the end of the book, she has a precognitive event. Unfortunately, these incidents are not the main thrust of the book and don’t form any kind of cohesive plot.
This book is focused on a budding romance with a medical student Bryce meets at the hospital and her building new relationships with friends and family. The problem with this for me is that the author has a structure with strong life and death themes and has side-stepped them a little too conveniently. As a result, this is one of those books that splits the readership down the middle. There are many five- star reviews for this book, but equally there are a lot of people who hate it.
Tommy Smythe is a geeky teen who’s gone missing from a small town in Texas. We learn about him through bits of his diary (he loves quantum theory) and police interviews of the townsfolk who know him. Tommy is socially awkward, a loner. What happened to Tommy? Did he run away seeking the truth about his birth parents? Did something bad happen in the turn around? And what about his almost compulsive fascination with the possibility of alternative universes? Did he slip into another dimension? All we know is, as the entire town searches, all these possibilities are equally valid.
We never meet Tommy but we do meet some fascinating interconnected characters who dance near him. Some of their tales are sweet. Some are harsh and horrifying. The book contains mature themes including child labor abuses, violence, rape, and child prostitution.
The last place Tommy is seen is used to anchor the story and becomes almost a character in and of itself. The construction of this novel is fascinating and worth a read for that alone. This is a memorable book. The ending is somewhat open ended but satisfying at the same time. Certainly, the book that will stay with you after you close its cover.
As you all probably know, I have a deep interest in Buddhism and recently came across this book. It is a wonderful story of a teenager coming into contact with Tibetan Buddhism for the first time.
Here’s the blurb:
Weslyn Redinger wants one thing: to be normal again. Racked by panic attacks that have ruined her life and driven off her friends in the months since she saw the body of a young boy she loved rolled out to a waiting ambulance, she is now drawn into a circle of seekers who surround a mysterious stranger living in her grandmother’s backyard shed. After reluctantly attending his teachings, a series of dreams is unleashed—as vivid as her waking life. At night she is an attendant to the female teacher Uza Khandro from the Tibetan countryside, during the day she is a flawed sixteen-year-old struggling to get control over her body and her life. Why does she care so much about this man’s story of a long-lost set of Tibetan books hoarded by a greedy collector?
This is an engaging story of teen Anna Van Housen’s life as a stage magician during the 1920s. When Anna and her mother relocate to New York City, their lives become more stable with sold-out shows. Unfortunately, Anna’s relationship with her mother is strained and when she insists that they continue to do séances on the side, Anna becomes worried. Although the séances are totally fabricated, Anna has real psychic ability she has yet to come to terms with. Continuing with the séances also puts them under the scrutiny of the police and debunkers (not the least of which is Harry Houdini who happens to be in New York as well). As success with the magic show and the séances grow, Anna gets mixed up with paranormal researchers, a high society bachelor, and a kidnapping plot. It’s a fast moving book with lots of well-researched facts about New York and the 1920s. And Harry Houdini might just be Anna’s father.
What happens when two very different teenagers are forced to live under one roof because their parents decide to live together? This is the story of a blended family in modern times facing the age old dilemma: how to get along and make the best of a challenging situation. Stewart is 13, socially challenged, just lost his mother. He’s as brilliant as he is awkward. Ashley is 14, not good at school, and very concerned with her social standing and appearance. She is coping (just barely) with her parent’s divorce and her father announcing he’s gay. The story is told in alternating chapters revealing how each of them is adjusting to the changes. Stewart is a very likable character, but Ashley comes off like a spoiled brat. Their interaction shows Ashley’s ability to be cruel. I suppose, that’s why this book rings so true. The author’s use of humor certainly softens the tension and we do see Ashley begin to change over time. Issues of bullying and intolerance are core themes here. It’s an easy, entertaining read. RECOMMENDED!
This is a fast paced mystery book that will keep you guessing. It is one of the few books I read quickly cover to cover.
The story opens with Chris in his first week of college. An FBI agent appears asking questions about his best friend, Win. The last time Chris saw his friend was when Win ditched him near Seattle on their cross-country bike trip. Win has been reported missing having failed to come home or arrive at Dartmouth. At first, Chris thinks Win is just up to his usual shenanigans, but as time passes and the FBI agent’s attention on him becomes uncomfortable, he’s forced to dive into Win’s disappearance.
The author has done a wonderful job constructing the novel using alternating chapters showing the investigation and flashbacks to the bike trek. The novel explores the depth of friendship and the mysteries of trying to fully know another.
Who doesn’t love a free book? Here are five, YA ebooks currently listed as free on Amazon. Make sure they still are before you download them. Looking for a new book? Maybe one of these is your next read. Don’t forget to leave a review to thank the author for the freebie!