Review Tuesday: What is the Bible? By Rob Bell

I’m a huge fan of Rob Bell’s. I was introduced to his Nooma series back when I was in university volunteering as a youth leader at a church I went to. He spoke about Christianity in a way I had never heard before and it was captivating. He has published numerous books – his first one being Velvet Elvis. All of his books talk about Christianity in a new way – or at least a way that you don’t normally hear Christianity talked about, and What is the Bible? is without a doubt one of my favourite books of 2017.

From Goodreads:

Rob Bell, the beloved author of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, goes deep into the Bible to show how it is more revelatory, revolutionary, and relevant than we ever imagined—and offers a cogent argument for why we need to look at it in a fresh, new way.

In Love Wins, Rob Bell confronted the troubling questions that many people of faith were afraid to ask about heaven, hell, fate, and faith. Using the same inspired, inquisitive approach, he now turns to our most sacred book, the Bible. What Is the Bible? provides insights and answers that make clear why the Bible is so revered and what makes it truly inspiring and essential to our lives.

Rob takes us deep into actual passages to reveal the humanity behind the Scriptures. You cannot get to the holy without going through the human, Rob tells us. When considering a passage, we shouldn’t ask “Why did God say . . .?” To get to the heart of the Bible’s meaning, we should be asking: “What’s the story that’s unfolding here and why did people find it important to tell it? What was it that moved them to record these words? What was happening in the world at that time? What does this passage/story/poem/verse/book tell us about how people understood who they were and who God was at that time?” In asking these questions, Rob goes beyond the one-dimensional question of “is it true?” to reveal the Bible’s authentic transformative power.

Rob addresses the concerns of all those who see the Bible as God’s Word but are troubled by the ethical dilemmas, errors, and inconsistencies in Scripture. With What Is the Bible?, he recaptures the Good Book’s magic and reaffirms its power and inspiration to shape and inspire our lives today.

One of the features I most love about Rob Bell’s books is that he writes how he speaks. There are no crazy long paragraphs or chapters in any of his books, which makes what he saying easier to understand and much more digestible. It’s a great way of writing for what he’s talking about because he’s able to blow you away with just a couple of sentences.

In What is the Bible? Rob talks about a different way of reading/seeing the Bible. And his reasoning/arguments for seeing it that way are perfectly valid. I found it so mind blowing because as a kid going to Sunday school you are definitely taught to read the Bible in a certain way – and sometimes it felt that since the adults didn’t have the answers to your questions, your questions were either not valid, or God didn’t know. Faith and the Bible didn’t seem functional to the world that we live in. I changed my mind about that in university, but I’m thinking about it again in a new way because of this book.

I think my favourite part of this book is when Rob explains the history of something or puts a story/verse/word into its original historical context. In many instances there was a clarity that came simply from doing that, and my perspective shifted because now I understand the history. I definitely want more of that understanding, which is why I’m very happy that there’s a suggested list of reading at the end of this book. I’m definitely going to checking out some of those.

There are people who are seriously not going to like this book, and who will disagree with how Rob views the Bible simply because it doesn’t fit into their vision of what being a Christian and having faith looks like. The only thing I can suggest to those people is that you read it and see what it says. Your faith isn’t static or stagnant. It evolves and grows as you evolve and grow and if you’re not doing that then I think that speaks to a larger problem.

For anyone interested in the Bible, or interested in a really good non-fiction read I would suggest this book to you. It’s a good one.

Review Tuesday: A Lady’s Heart by Vivian Arend

I don’t remember how I stumbled across Vivian Arend, but I’m so glad that I did. I love the shifter series (fantasy + romance) and the cowboy series that she has. They’re so entertaining. You fall in love with her characters so easily in these two series.

I think that I read A Lady’s Heart in about a day – maybe a day and a half. It was a quick read, with an engrossing story. I also really enjoyed the fact that the story was about Mandy. Readers met her in a previous book in the series. She was a character that you felt terribly for, and who you really wanted to get a happily-ever-after.

a-ladys-heartFrom Goodreads:

Lady Amanda Ainsworth found a safe place to pull herself together under the roof of the loud, boisterous Takhini Wolf pack. Safe—except for the sexy grizzly shifter with the oversized biceps and the steely-grey eyes who’s also hanging his hat with the Whitehorse wolves. Justin Cullinan makes her light up and shimmer inside like the Northern Lights, and she knows it’s time to start her new life.

He may be the bodyguard and not the CEO, but Justin’s powerful in his own right. He gets what he wants—and who he wants is the sweet seductive Mandy. He’ll go as slowly as necessary, but he has no intention of stopping until she admits they’re meant to be.

But when her safety is threatened, all bets are off. Justin’s going to keep his lady safe and find out who’s stalking her, and the best place is hidden in plain sight in the biggest shifter town in the north.

That is, if they aren’t running into a trap…

Like I said earlier, you met Justin and Mandy in an earlier book. In that book you immediately feel sorry for Mandy, and you instantly like Justin. So the fact that this book is about the two of them is awesome.

One of the things that I love about this  book is that Mandy learns how to stand up for herself. She decides what she wants and Justin helps her, in any way that he can, get it. It was so empowering watching her take bigger and bigger steps towards the person that she wanted to become. And I love that Justin always built her up. There were things that she wanted to do that she thought was silly and small, but he was always there to remind her when she gave in to self-doubt that if she wanted to do them, then they weren’t silly or small. It was simply what she wanted to do. Mandy gaining back her self-confidence, and trusting herself was a highlight of this book for me.

I also just enjoyed her and Justin’s relationship. There is a little zest of danger thrown into the story because someone is following Mandy and they’re not sure who is and what their motiviation is, but it does add  some heat to the story and to their romance.

In this story you also of course run into characters from previous books, and it’s just so wonderful seeing them all again. It’s like running into an old friend and playing a quick catch up. And what I like about it to is that you don’t run into ALL of the previous characters, just enough that you enjoy the catch up without being overrun with information that hinders the flow of the storyline.

There are of course hints dropped about upcoming books – there are at least 2 different sets of would-be couples, though one more than the other, that I’m excited about reading.

This was a quick read, and an enjoyable storyline. If you haven’t read any of her shifter series, and you’re into fantasy and romance then definitely give this series a go!

 

Review Tuesday: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I was in Indigo one day, in need, desperate need, for a book. You ever have that? Where you just need a new book to read? A new story to fall into? I usually go to the fantasy section when I get like that. Fantasy always takes me to an entirely new world, and sometimes you just need to get away and disappear for a while.

So, I was walking through the fantasy section and I came across The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I got excited – and even more excited because it was the first in a series. There are few things better in life than coming across a potentially good book series, am I right?

the-invisible-libraryFrom Goodreads:

The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies – think Doctor Who with librarian spies!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Firstly, right off the bat, this book reminded me of the American tv series The Librarians, (which is a fantastic show FYI). It mostly reminded me of the show because there’s a secret library, with secret librarians who are out to keep certain things safe. But, where it differs is that by the end of this book I wasn’t sure how good the library was. There’s definitely a cliff hanger – or at least unanswered questions – about that.

Secondly, this book kept your guessing. I was never sure what was coming ’round the corner – literally and figuratively. There was a lot going on in this book – with a lot of different factions. It was fairly easy to keep everyone straight, but the motives of everyone were unclear a lot of the time. I felt like I was walking around with only half a map. I found it frustrating, but at the same time – this is book one of a series. I’m not suppose to know everything yet, I suppose.

While I found parts of the story frustrating because I didn’t fully understand motives and why certain things were happening, the characters were wonderful. Irene is a great main character. She is an innovative thinker, a take charge and get things done kind of woman, and a woman who above all just loves to read. She does have her freak outs, but and I love that she has them because it makes her more real, but I also love that she has them internally. This is no woman who falls apart all over a man. She holds her own.

Kai, is also a great character. I suspected what he was before it was revealed, but it took me a little while. His character was interesting because he has so many facets. I’m definitely interested in seeing how his character grows as the series progresses.

The world building was also very interesting in this book and because of the laws of the world (and sometimes lack their of) were so versatile you never knew what to expect.

Overall, this book was a very quick read (it’s one of those, you pick up and just fly through), with some memorable characters and settings. I got frustrated now and again because I didn’t understand how things fit together, but that didn’t really take away from the enjoyment of the story.

I will definitely be reading book two.

 

Review Tuesday:The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

fate-of-the-tearlingThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is book three in the Queen of the Tearling series. I picked up The Queen of the Tearling after I heard that Emma Watson was going to produce and star in it. I love Emma Watson – she’s a force of nature, and she reads. (Why does it seem like the majority of people the world pays attention to don’t?) So, after hearing this tidbit of news I picked up a copy. It was fantastic. I loved book one. Book two came along and I gobbled that up as well. It wasn’t as good as the first, but still pretty damn good. Then book three came along. The conclusion. And well…it tanked.

From Goodreads:

The thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Tearling trilogy.

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.

Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

The main theme and purpose of the protagonist Kelsea Glynn is to make her country, the Tearling, the utopia that it was originally suppose to be. However, corruption of that ideal set in hundreds of years beforehand and to fix it, well there are no easy answers. The idea of being a good Queen, of protecting her people and her kingdom was a great storyline, and the main storyline of book one.

The problem with this book for me is “utopia”. The author has set up this world where that is the end goal, which is lofty because at the end of the series she has to get there. And she does get there in one sense. The book ends in a utopia of a world. Kelsea fixes the moment where things start to go wrong hundreds of years in the past and thus changes the present. However, getting to that point was where the author lost me. I just wasn’t on board with the plot line. I think that the author was so concerned with getting to the utopia that she sacrificed the story to get there – the first books were shown to be unnecessary and I felt that I was cheated because she made the first two books redundant.

The Fate of the Tearling plodded along at a rather slow pace until the end when all of a sudden it was like the author realized she was running out of time and still had so much story left to tell. So much plot to get through, and thus she jammed it into the last 50 pages. It felt like she had all these strands she was desperate to weave together to make the story end the way she wanted it and it showed. It was like being pushed down a path covered with branches and told “this is the only way to go”. I feel like if she had decided to forgo utopia the book would have been so much better.

And that’s the other problem I have – utopia. The last few pages is devoted to it, but it rings hollow. The problem with utopia, just like the problem with communism is that it doesn’t take into account the human condition. It doesn’t take into account greed, or that fact that some people are assholes. It doesn’t take into account the desire for power, for control. It instead pretends that it doesn’t exist, which is more dangerous than acknowledging that it does. The ending of this book rings hollow because it’s unbelievable. It’s not a trustworthy ending. I was completely unsatisfied.

The first two books in this series are great, engaging and interesting. This book, however, was not. Before the end, I was longing for it to be over, and when it was, I was longing for a different storyline because this one drowned in the author’s desire to reach a particular ending that the story didn’t seem to want to follow.

 

 

My Favourite Books of 2016

If you’re looking for some book inspiration to start of 2017, here are my top 3 favourite books that I read in 2016.

aeronauts windlassNumber 1: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher.

This book is without a doubt my favourite from 2016. My bestie Jay recommended it to me – and without his recommendation I would never have picked this one up. I didn’t like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series and have stayed away from him, but Jay told me to give this one a go, and I’m so glad that I did. This book was epic. It was an amazing fantasy story, with a very well  built and thought out world, and consisted of characters that were unforgettable. I cannot wait for book two! Which reminds me I should go check the publishing date for that…anyway, you can check out my full review here.

 

Number 2: For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne.

I read a lot of romances this year (though truthfully for the last couple of years I’ve been reading a lot of romances) and while I have a couple of favourites this one is without a doubt my favourite. Lauren Layne has become for me one of the those authors that I just buy without evefor better or worsen needing to know the story because 9 times out of 10 the story is amazing and I fall head over heels for the characters. This book was no exception. The banter and chemistry that existed between the two main character was swoon worthy. I inhaled this book. More like this please Lauren Layne. You can read more about what I thought of the book here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

melting-pointNumber 3: Melting Point by Kate Meader.

I never wrote a review for Melting Point because it’s a short novella, but this book made my heart sing. The characters are simply so wonderful and have gone through so much that when they get their happily-ever-after it was just perfection. This book is part of the Hot in Chicago series (which is an amazing series, and which Lauren Layne actually recommended in her Weekly). And while the series was incredible, this little novella is my favourite part. It is a love story about 2 men, which I don’t read often – mostly because I just don’t come across very many of them – but it was such a moving story. Gage and Brady. Two characters who have gone through their own version of hell (and seriously, was that ever heart breaking) to eventually find each other. Now, I would most definitely recommend that you read the Hot in Chicago series because it’s SO good. And definitely read Melting Point. It’s one that packs a hell of a punch.

 

What were some of your favourite books of 2016? I’m on the hunt for good reads because the last two books I read I really didn’t like. (You’ll be hearing all about them in the coming weeks!)

 

Review Tuesday: Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

I am a huge fan of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich and so every time that she has something new come out I usually give it a go. Curious Minds is the first book in a new series called Knight and Moon, and in the way that all of Janet Evanovich series are it’s silly and adventurous.

curious-mindsFrom Goodreads:

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.

What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.

The book is essentially about a heist. It’s a lot bigger than that in terms of global scale, but the nuts and bolts of it is that it’s a heist. That part of the story I found entertaining and very Stephanie Plum like in the sense that it’s over the top, no way would this ever work out outside of these page, but I’m enjoying myself nevertheless. You most definitely suspend your belief in order to get through this book.

That part of this book I enjoyed. It’s what I was expecting from the author of Stephanie Plum. What I didn’t like as much though were the protagonists. I found Emerson to be beyond over the top. I felt like he, and his house of “what the hell” push the boundaries beyond the ridiculous and was unnecessary. I didn’t really like him as a character.

Riley was a better character. She definitely gets pulled along for the ride for a good while, and she holds her own for the most part. But she too isn’t someone I loved as a character. I wanted her to stand up to Emerson more, and not be so wishy-washy.

The plot for me was what I enjoyed about the book, the characters not so much. And I most likely will not be reading the next in the series. I just don’t care enough about the characters to be interested in what they get up to next.

 

5 Things: weekend away, zombies, Hamilton, art shows and pen pals

The 5 things that brought me joy this week:

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Last weekend I went up to Doug’s parents’ place with Doug, and two of his best friends. The views from the area are gorgeous and it’s so peaceful there.

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While at Doug’s parents’ place we went to the gun range. I have never shot a gun before, but this was my target. I’m thinking if the zombie apocalypse ever happens, I’ll be okay.

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I’m currently reading Hamilton: The Revolution (about the musical). It’s really interesting, fun, and a beautiful book. Also, I love the soundtrack.

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I received a flyer in the mail today from the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) about a couple of exhibits that they’re having later on this year, and I’m super excited. There’s the Small Wonders one, which is what the above picture is about. And there’s also a showing of Monet and Van Gogh. Super stoked.

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I’m involved with Postcrossing, but Postcrossing also lets you make direct swaps with people, which is awesome because now I have a pen pal in the US. I’ve never had a pen pal before, so I’m really looking forward to this.

As always, my 5 Thing is inspired by Cupcakes and Cashmere, which is a great blog and something that you should check out if you haven’t already.