Sunday, October 19, 2014

READATHON: Best of the Best Challenge (Hour 22)

Lisa from over at Lisa's World of Books is hosting a challenge for the best of best of your reading year. I didn't realize until this moment what a lackluster year I've had so far this year. Looking over my list of books that I've read this year, I realized that there are so few that I'm excited about, but here are my choices:

Best Setting of Your Reading Year

Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes

A terrible loss. A desperate journey.
A mother seeks the truth.

In December of the year 1377, five children were burned to death in a suspicious house fire. A small band of villagers traveled 200 miles across England in midwinter to demand justice for their children’s deaths.

Sinful Folk is the story of this treacherous journey as seen by Mear, a former nun who has lived for a decade disguised as a mute man, raising her son quietly in this isolated village.

For years, she has concealed herself and all her secrets. But in this journey, she will find the strength to claim the promise of her past and find a new future. Mear begins her journey in terror and heartache, and ends in triumph and redemption.

Why? I could picture this entire book in my head. If you've ever seen Game of Thrones and know the barren cold of the North, then you know the setting for Sinful Folk. The author did a great job developing the setting.

Best Mystery of Your Reading Year

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

Twelve years ago, Eve Lattimore’s life changed forever. Her two-year-old son Tyler on her lap, her husband’s hand in hers, she waited for the child’s devastating diagnosis: XP, a rare genetic disease, a fatal sensitivity to sunlight. Eve remembers that day every morning as she hustles Tyler up the stairs from breakfast before the sun rises, locking her son in his room, curtains drawn, computer glowing, as he faces another day of virtual schooling, of virtual friendships. But every moment of vigilance is worth it. This is Eve’s job, to safeguard her boy against the light, to protect his fragile life each day, to keep him alive—maybe even long enough for a cure to be found.

Tonight, Eve’s life is about to change again, forever. It’s only an instant on a rainy road—just a quick text as she sits behind the wheel—and another mother’s child lies dead in Eve’s headlights. The choice she faces is impossible: confess and be taken from Tyler, or drive away and start to lie like she’s never lied before.

Why? This was an interesting story. Built on top of this "whodunit" mystery of who was responsible for a hit and run that killed a neighborhood girl, there is this boy with a rare genetic disease that forces him to live in the night, where he wanders his neighborhood and learns his neighbors' secrets.

Best Series Book of Your Reading Year

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

#1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years – Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secret past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Why? I've never understood why this book is described as "the first in a trilogy", as it is the fourth book in a series involving the character Penn Cage. Perhaps it is the first that takes place in Natchez? Regardless I really enjoyed the writing and it held my attention throughout. This was a really exciting story about an attorney trying to solve murders that took place during the civil rights era, now decades later. It was so good, that I now want to go back and read the first three books showcasing Penn Cage.

Best Non-Fiction Book of Your Reading Year

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg 

An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom that will transform your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.

The Underground Girls of Kabul is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults.

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.

Why? This book is absolutely fascinating! In the West, we tend to simplify things, but the issues in Afghanistan are so much more complicated than we want to acknowledge, and this book delves into what leads many parents to turn their daughters into boys, at least for a few years leading up to puberty, and some that remain this way long beyond.

So those are my favorites so far this year. I hope maybe someone else out there who reads this will give at least one of these books a try!

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