Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017

As the attacks on the right to read escalate, a celebration of reading is needed now more than ever. Banned Books Week Coalition is here to support the community of readers, including students, educators, libraries, and booksellers, in the United States and abroad. Please join us during Banned Books Week, September 23 – 29, 2018!

What are YOU reading this week?

Somtimes I Lie by Alice Feeney


Sometimes I Lie


Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

My take: 3 looks

Love the way Feeney lays out this story. Told in three time periods, Before (in the form of a child’s diary), Then (days before the accident), and Now (present day), the cadence of the timelines is pure perfection. I was shocked to find that this is the first book by the author. The story is crisply told and doesn’t pander to what Feeney knows is a smart reader base. There is a lot going on in these pages, and just like life, when the tale starts to unravel, it is fast and furious.

There is a feeling … an inkling … of a coming twist toward the middle of the book, but the size and scope of the turn of events will leave you breathless, wondering, “What did I just read?” I found myself questioning almost everything I believed about the characters and story to that point, feeling almost disoriented as I turned the pages faster and faster.

While there is a very Gillian-Flynn feel to the book, I found this one to be more realistic than “Sharp Objects” and more provocative than “Gone Girl”. However, if you like that genre, don’t let this one pass you by. You’ll want to read it before the television version is released, which I understand sold for six figures.

This one is recommended, and I have already put Feeney’s next book, “I Know Who You Are”, published in 2019, on my TBR.

Short Story Saturday: What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley NNeka Arimah

Man falls from skyWhen I read the first story of this collection, “The Future Looks Good”, I stopped, and reread it. I didn’t believe that I had correctly read the first time, or was sure that I had not properly understood. Yes, I had understood correctly. WOW.

“Light” is a lovely and touching story about how a father feels as his daughter grows, and one day, leaves the nest. “Who Will Meet You at Home” is just the opposite: a searing look at the lengths to which a woman will go in order to become a mother…to the point of death.

With stories as diverse as what I hope is Arimah’s readers, this is a volume worth your time. I suggest you read one story, then put the book down. Run an errand, complete a task, take a moment. Then read the next. You will want to give your mind time to process these stories, allowing them to fall into the proper folds, crevices, and bridges of your memory.

The Mystery of Julia Episcopa by John I. Rigoli and Diane Cummings

The Mystery of Julia Episcopa Summary:

In ancient Rome, a woman flees for her life. Her enemies are those she once called ‘brother’. Hidden beneath her blue cloak are secrets men will kill for – forgeries that prove the newly self-appointed bishops are not followers of the way, but pretenders who have seized power and will stop at nothing to shape this new religion to their own ends. Now, Julia – a woman who had once walked with Mary Magdalene and taught alongside Paul must preserve the legacy of the apostles in the face of terrifying danger.

My take: 3 looks

Initially, a tiny bit difficult to get into because of the rapid introduction of numerous characters. However, once the story was set in motion, and the characters and their relationships fell into place, it was easy reading. As a matter of fact, it was a riveting page-turner. Far from character-heavy, there were a handful of central characters, all with very different personalities and all nicely and richly drawn.

The writing takes the reader from past to present as the road to the climax is brilliantly planned. Interlaced with history, Biblical figures, and a notion that women meant much more to the early Christian church than any of the faith’s founding fathers care to admit, the premise is stunningly believable. Prepare to be a bit disillusioned as you read, but also invigorated at the drive of the characters, both ancient and contemporary.   

If you like this one, check out Donna Woolfolk Cross’s “Pope Joan”.  


Noir by Christopher Moore


It’s not every afternoon that an enigmatic, comely blonde named Stilton (like the cheese) walks into the scruffy gin joint where Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin tends bar. It’s love at first sight, but before Sammy can make his move, an Air Force general named Remy arrives with some urgent business. ’Cause when you need something done, Sammy is the guy to go to; he’s got the connections on the street.

My take: Three looks

This is my third Moore book, and they are always very entertaining. I particularly loved the “wiseguy” feel of the dialogue, the choppiness of the conversations, and the straight-from-1940s-Hollywood imagery. Also, just returning from a trip to San Francisco, I was very familiar with the locales in the story.

The chapters are just enough to leave the reader wanting more, and add much motivation to the reading rhythm. The way it is written made it a page-turner for me. 

Moore always throws in a bit of the fantastic, though, and this novel was no exception. It wouldn’t be his writing if he didn’t demand the reader to suspend belief for at least part of the story. The fact that there was an alien who learned to drive, and a narrating snake named Petey should be enough for you to add this one to your TBR.


Short Story Saturday: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Multi-award winner “The Paper Menagerie” anchors this wonderful collection of short stories by Ken Liu. As a matter of fact, this title story is the only one to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. I read this book in August of 2016. That is two years ago, and a few of the stories still crash into my mind occasionally. paper menagerie.jpg

For example, “State Change” is a story that I think of often. It was poignant, thought-provoking and a little crushing. It challenged the status quo, made me question things I had been told/taught my entire life, and had me reflect on my very essence. What is MY truth, versus the truth I have been led to believe?

“The Paper Menagerie” is a beautiful story about the complexities of heritage, race, and (what I clung to most savagely) the intricacies, both beautiful and ugly, of a mother-son relationship. Fraught with emotion, imbued with years and experience, and finally, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, it doesn’t take hundreds of pages to touch a heart or strike a nerve.

Various lengths and many different premises make up this wonderful collection, many of which have won awards on their own. Do yourself a favor, and pick this one up. Or better yet, purchase it for your collection. You are going to want to read it several times.

What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah


Man falls from sky

A dazzlingly accomplished debut collection explores the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home.

My take: 3 looks

Since I am planning to feature this book on one of my Short Story Saturday spotlights, I will keep this review short and sweet. Some of the stories made no sense to me, feeling as if I were dropped into the middle of a conversation which ended before it was truly over. Like the middle of a sandwich with no bread. However, most of the stories had me on the edge of my seat, flipping pages with anticipation.

At first I was a bit reminded of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor because of the jarring nature of the ending of the opening story. I just didn’t expect it. However, Arimah is her own storyteller, with a distinct taste of African culture, yet universally relatable tales. It is with interest that I note a repetitive theme in mothers and daughters. As an only child, a daughter, to a very present mother, I appreciated this, and read these stories several times.

Written to shock, console, engage the little gray cells, and entertain, don’t let this one pass you by. Recommended