Olivia Folmar Ard

Book Reviews

Here, I will share with you my 3.5, 4- and 5-star reads. Let's fangirl together! 

Note: Unfortunately, I am no longer able to accept review requests. Between writing, working full-time, attending courses for my second bachelor's degree,  and freelance projects, I just don't have the time. Once I finish reading and reviewing the ARCs I've already received, I will be reviewing personal library items only.

Is the Bible Good for Women? by Wendy Alsup

Is it possible to embrace the inherent dignity of womanhood while still cherishing the Bible? 

Many people, both inside and outside the church, are concerned than an orthodox understanding of the Bible is threatening and even harmful to women. After all, the Bible has a number of passages regarding women that are deeply troubling and hard to read. 

But is that assessment correct?

In this fascinating look at God's work of redemption from Creation to today, Wendy Alsup explores questions such as:

 

  • How does God view justice and equal rights for women? 
  • What does it mean to be made in the image of God? 
  • How have the centuries distorted our interpretation of how God views women? 
  • How did Jesus approach the Old Testament and how does that help us read difficult passages today? 
  • What is the difference between a modern view of feminism and the feminism that Scripture models? 
  • How does the Bible explain the Bible to us? 

Using a Jesus-centered understanding to look at both God's grand storyline and specific biblical passages, Alsup gives practical and accessible tools for understanding the noble ways God speaks to and about women in its pages and the dignity He places on His daughters. 

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of his homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that--every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment. 

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie--a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies. 

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort--and maybe even freedom--as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before. 

Turn the Page by Sydney Logan

Life in the fast lane is nothing new to Corbin James. After completing his second stint in rehab, Corbin heads home to Riverview, determined to leave the music world behind and focus on his family, his songwriting, and his sobriety.

Crippled with debt but determined to make it on her own, Jolie Daniels pours her heart and soul into the town's bookstore. When Corbin finds his debut album in Jolie's discount bin, sparks fly between the pretty bookstore owner and the rock star musician. Corbin knows he's nowhere near good enough for a sweet girl like Jolie...But he wants to be. 

When a record label approaches Corbin with the chance to make a musical comeback, he doesn't think twice before saying no. He's ready to settle down, and he wants to do it with Jolie. However, when her beloved bookstore is threatened with foreclosure, Corbin finds himself signing a contract that will take him away from home and back on tour for three months. 

Can Corbin resist the temptations of the tour? Or will the loneliness of the road resurrect all the demons he's worked so hard to bury? 

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen

It's the summer of 1982, and for Scott and Cath, everything is about to change.

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been friends for most of their lives. Now they've graduated high school, and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard. 

Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it's through their letters that they survive heartarche, annoying roommates, family dramas, and the pressure of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they've ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear: Change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share unbreakable bonds with the friends who help us navigate it. 

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark Things combines elements of Latin American mythology with a literary voice that leads readers on an exhilarating and fast-paced journey. 

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Here in the city, heavily policed to keep the creatures of the night at bay, Domingo is another trash-picking street kid, just hoping to make enough to survive. Then he meets Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers. Domingo is smitten. He clings to her like a barnacle until Atl relents and decides to let him stick around.  

But Atl's problems, Nick and Rodrigo, have come to find her. When they start to raise the body count in the city, it attracts the attention of police officers, local crime bosses, and the vampire community. Atl has to get out before Mexico City is upended, and her with it. 

When the Timer Dings by Katharine Grubb

If there is a sequel to Write A Novel in Ten Minutes A Day, this is it!

If you write (or paint, or read, or crochet, or watch television) in 10-minute increments, then you know what will happen. The timer is going to ding after 10 minutes and you'll have to go back to your to-do lists and your reality. But if your tasks are overwhelming, your stuff is in the way or you've forgotten your plan then you've lost your motivation to do what you really want with your time. This book gives you practical tips on how to organize your foundational truth, attitudes, people, time, stuff, tools, margins and fails so that you go through your day with order and determination. 

This is more than a time management book. This is a confidence management book. You are more than your to-do lists. You are more than your obligations. You are more than your tasks. You have the potential to make some major changes in your life. You have the power to be organized and make more time for the people and passions that you love.

Your dreams are worth ten minutes, but the rest of your life is worth so much more.

You can grab your life by its hand and say, "I'm the boss of you! Let's get busy!"

The Firstborn by Quenby Olson

Sophia has sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy. She has removed them from the only home they ever knew, taken on the care of Lucy's illegitimate son, George, and even assumed the role of a widow and mother in order to erase all hint of scandal from the boy's birth. But rumor continues to follow them like the darkest of clouds, and Sophia must adapt to her new existence as a false widow with no prospects beyond the doors of her small cottage. 

Lord Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest whiff of disgrace from tainting his family's name. When he learns of his younger brother's latest indiscretion--one that leaves a bastard child in his wake--Haughton rushes across the country to offer the boy's mother a comfortable living in exchange for her silence about the child's true parentage. But he arrives only to have his generous offer thrown back in his face by Sophia Brixton, a sharp-tongued and sharper-witted woman who proceeds to toss him out of her house. But just because he is banished from her home does not mean he is so easily banished from her life. 

With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge

With the Old Breed presents a stirring, personal account of the vitality and bravery of the Marines in the battles at Peleliu and Okinawa. Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1923 and raised on riding, hunting, fishing, and a respect for history and legendary heroes such as George Washington and Daniel Boone, Eugene Bondurant Sledge (later called "Sledgehammer" by his Marine Corps buddies) joined the Marines the year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and from 1943 to 1946 endured the events recorded in this book. In those years, he passed, often painfully, from innocence to experience.

Sledge enlisted out of patriotism, idealism, and youthful courage, but once he landed on the beach at Peleliu, it was purely a struggle for survival. Based on the notes he kept on slips of paper tucked secretly away in his New Testament, he simply and directly recalls those long months, mincing no words and sparing no pain. The reality of battle meant unbearable heat, deafening gunfire, unimaginable brutality and cruelty, the stench of death, and, above all, constant fear. Sledge still has nightmares about "the bloody, muddy month of May on Okinawa." But, as he also tellingly reveals, the bonds of friendship formed then will never be severed.

Sledge's honesty and compassion for the other marines, even complete strangers, sets him apart as a memoirist of war. Read as sobering history or as high adventure, With the Old Breed is a moving chronicle of action and courage.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. 

My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill

Sometimes love stories go off script.

Another sultry Georgia summer is about to get a lot hotter. Dee Wilkie is still licking her wounds after getting rejected by the precollege fine arts program of her dreams. But if she'd gone away, she wouldn't have been around to say yes to an unbelievable opportunity: working on the set of a movie filming in her small Southern town that just happens to be starring Milo Ritter, the famous pop star Dee (along with the rest of the world) has had a crush on since eighth grade. 

It's not like Dee will be sharing any screen time with Milo
--she's just a lowly PA. And Milo is so disappointingly rude that Dee is eager to stay far away from him. Except after a few chance meetings, she begins to wonder if just maybe there's a reason for his offensive attitude, and if there's more to Milo than his good looks and above-it-all Hollywood pedigree. Can a relationship with a guy like Milo ever work out for a girl like Dee? Never say never . . .

Vanished (The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan #3) by Erin McCole Cupp

Born not in a past of corsets and bonnets but into a future of cloning and bioterror, could Jane Eyre survive? In this final book of Jane E's memoirs, Jane has finally found the love she's always wanted, but can her love for Thorne survive the deepest of betrayals? Celebrate and reexamine the continued relevance  of a literary classic, as Jane E shows the Dear Reader that self-respect and honest love are worth a fight, regardless of where--or when--we live.

Nameless (The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan #2) by Erin McCole Cupp

Born not in a past of corsets and bonnets but into a future of cloning and bioterror, could Jane Eyre survive? In this final book of Jane E's memoirs, Jane has finally found the love she's always wanted, but can her love for Thorne survive the deepest of betrayals? Celebrate and reexamine the continued relevance  of a literary classic, as Jane E shows the Dear Reader that self-respect and honest love are worth a fight, regardless of where--or when--we live.

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

In the overlooked moments and routines of our day, we can become aware of God's presence in surprising ways. How do we embrace the sacred in the ordinary and the ordinary in the sacred? Framed around one ordinary day, this book explores daily life through the lens of liturgy, small practices, and habits that form us. Each chapter looks at something--making the bed, brushing her teeth, losing her keys--that the author does every day. Drawing from the diversity of her life as a campus minister, Anglican priest, friend, wife, and mother, Tish Harrison Warren, opens up a practical theology of the everyday. Each activity is related to a spiritual practice as well as an aspect of our Sunday worship. Come and discover the holiness of your every day.

Unclaimed (The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan #1) by Erin McCole Cupp

After I finished Jane Eyre for the first time in January, I thought what better time than now to finally read Unclaimed? It had been sitting in my Kindle queue since its release last summer, but I wanted to wait until after I'd read the original story before diving into a retelling. 

Unclaimed introduces us to Jane E, an unclaimed embryo being raised as a foster child by the VanDeer family. Mrs. VanDeer is fairly wealthy and her three biological children receive the best she can afford, but she loathes Jane and supplies her with only the bare minimum. After Jane snaps under the abuse of her foster siblings and fights back, Mrs. VanDeer essentially sells her to the Naomi Foundation, a mysterious organization located in India, where she becomes a data mule. 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I always find it difficult to review a classic. What could I possibly say to add value to a book which has done quite nicely for 170 years without my praise? Certainly nothing of substance. How can I assign a star rating to a book whose influence has lasted lifetimes before me, and will surely last lifetimes after? However, I will make an attempt, however paltry, at imparting my feelings and thoughts on Jane Eyre.