In no particular order, we have my top 14 books of 2014!  Links to Goodreads are below, in alphabetical order.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams | Boomerang | Cress | The Evolutionary Void | Glitter & Glue | The Help | In the Blood | Landline | My Life Next Door | Necessary Lies | Red Rising | Then and Always | The Truth About Alice | The Tyrant’s Daughter

Which books did you enjoy most this year?  Do any stand out above the rest?

Giveaway alert!

I read Necessary Lies earlier this year, and it’s one of my few five-star books in recent memory.

It is 1960 in North Carolina and the lives of Ivy Hart and Jane Forrester couldn’t be more different. Fifteen-year-old Ivy lives with her family as tenants on a small tobacco farm, but when her parents die, Ivy is left to care for her grandmother, older sister, and nephew. As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness, and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she is given the task of recommending which of her clients should be sterilized without their knowledge or consent. The state’s rationalization is that if her clients are poor, or ill, or deemed in some way “unfit” they should not be allowed to have children. But soon Jane becomes emotionally invested in her clients’ lives, causing tension with her new husband and her supervisors. No one understands why Jane would want to become a caseworker for the Department of Public Health when she could be a housewife and Junior League member. As Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed. Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing a life-changing battle.

Necessary Lies is the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: How can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

Goodreads currently has 10 copies available for giveaway, so enter to win if it sounds like something you’d be interested in!

Goodreads | Amazon

Jane Forrester just wants to help people. It’s as simple as that. So she takes a job as a social worker, and while her husband isn’t exactly on board with that idea, he allows it. It’s the 1960’s and it’s just not proper for the wife of a physician to work, but Jane is strong-willed, independent, and unsatisfied with simply playing the role of a subservient housewife. As a social worker, she’ll get to help people. She’ll bring them much-needed supplies, much-needed money, much-needed assistance. Or so she thinks.

Assigned to a few families in rural North Carolina, her job is nothing like what she imagined, and the Hart family quickly sucks her in. Ivy Hart is practically running the family at fifteen years old. Her parents are gone. Her grandmother, Nonnie, is sick. Her older sister, Mary Ella, has some intellectual problems. And Mary Ella’s son, Baby William, while well-loved, isn’t well-cared for. Ivy, Mary Ella, and occasionally Nonnie work on a tobacco farm, barely earning enough to keep themselves fed, even with the extra assistance from the state. Jane gradually becomes more and more involved with this family, bending the rules and paying them extra attention.

When she finds out that a large part of her job is ordering the sterilization of at-risk children, such as Ivy, her world comes crumbling down around her. It seems so wrong to her, to sterilize these girls without their consent, without their knowledge – yet to her coworkers, it’s common practice. As Jane protests more and more vigorously against the sterilization, she puts her job – and her marriage – at risk.

I was pulled into this novel from the very first sentence, and I was absolutely done for by the time Jane got her job as a social worker. I couldn’t believe what I was reading about the eugenics program – in all the history classes I’ve taken, all the college courses I sat through, all the books I’ve read, I never once heard about this awful program. I had to research it myself, see if it was true, and the horrifying part is that it was. North Carolina had a particularly aggressive eugenics program, approving nearly all proposals involving the “mentally defective,” “feebleminded,” or those with epilepsy. Knowing that this book is based on real events is chilling.

If I could give this book more than five stars, I would. Not only is it incredibly well-written, it’s such an important topic. Highly, highly recommended.

Final rating: