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: The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry

The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry is book one in his Cotton Malone series. The series was recommended to me by a coworker who knew that I loved history and to read. I’m so glad that I gave this book a try because this series is right up my alley – and there are at least 13 books so far! I always love when you find a new series that you love and that has numerous books. It can be like finding an oasis in the middle of a dry book dessert.

From Goodreads:

The ancient order of the Knights Templar possessed untold wealth and absolute power over kings and popes . . . until the Inquisition, when they were wiped from the face of the earth, their hidden riches lost. But now two forces vying for the treasure have learned that it is not at all what they thought it was–and its true nature could change the modern world.

Cotton Malone, one-time top operative for the U.S. Justice Department, is enjoying his quiet new life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen when an unexpected call to action reawakens his hair-trigger instincts–and plunges him back into the cloak-and-dagger world he thought he’d left behind.

It begins with a violent robbery attempt on Cotton’s former supervisor, Stephanie Nelle, who’s far from home on a mission that has nothing to do with national security. Armed with vital clues to a series of centuries-old puzzles scattered across Europe, she means to crack a mystery that has tantalized scholars and fortune-hunters through the ages by finding the legendary cache of wealth and forbidden knowledge thought to have been lost forever when the order of the Knights Templar was exterminated in the fourteenth century. But she’s not alone. Competing for the historic prize–and desperate for the crucial information Stephanie possesses–is Raymond de Roquefort, a shadowy zealot with an army of assassins at his command.

Welcome or not, Cotton seeks to even the odds in the perilous race. But the more he learns about the ancient conspiracy surrounding the Knights Templar, the more he realizes that even more than lives are at stake. At the end of a lethal game of conquest, rife with intrigue, treachery, and craven lust for power, lies a shattering discovery that could rock the civilized world–and, in the wrong hands, bring it to its knees.

Now, there have been numerous books published about the Knights Templar and their lost treasure. It’s a fascinating topic that has entertained conspiracy theorists and historians for centuries. The most recently runaway famous tale of the treasure is of course Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The Templar Legacy is a smarter, more in depth, story than The Da Vinci Code. Oh yes, I said it. If you love history, conspiracy/treasure hunts, and adventure this is definitely a book for you.

This book is plot driven. There isn’t really character development – the characters are who they are. The plot thought is intense, and dense. It is fairly easy to follow along, but you do have to pause every once in awhile and connect the clues in your head – or at least I found that I had to – but I liked that. I liked that I had to think about how everything was connected, and about which character and side (there are definitely sides in this book) knows what, and doesn’t know something else. It was just lovely storytelling.

Cotton is the best of both worlds by being a book lover as well as an action man. He knows how to handle himself in risky situations, and his mind is razor sharp. He’s slightly stereotypical in that he’s a divorced man and has no real interest in any kind of family life (other than a son that he sees over the summer), but he isn’t an alcoholic, which I loved. I always find a lot of single male characters who are some kind of detective (even in the loosest sense of the word) are. So that was a bit of fresh air. I think that all of the other characters in this story are really only here for this book, I’m not assuming that I’ll see much of them again. But, that’s just how these series books go.

I have two complaints about this book.

  1. For Cotton being an action man, there are a couple of times where he’s just stupid and he makes what seem to be basic mistakes that I don’t think that he should have made, or that a character with his background would have made.
  2. Some scenes just go on WAY too long because it shifts perspective back and forth while people are shooting at each other. It would be a great action movie because you would know when to switch cameras to focus on another person, but in the middle of reading it, it just bogs the flow down I felt.

Overall, it was great, enjoyable, smart read that blends history and fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can’t wait to keep reading the series.

Review Tuesday: One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

It’s been a long time since I did a Review Tuesday, and it’s not like I stopped reading books (I’ve read 47 so far this year), it’s just that I got super lazy. But, I’m trying to kick the lazy-ness. So, I’m back with the Review Tuesday. And first book I’m back with is One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul.

From Goodreads:

A collection of essays about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada, “a land of ice and casual racism,” by the cultural observer, Scaachi Koul.

In One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi deploys her razor-sharp humour to share her fears, outrages and mortifying experiences as an outsider growing up in Canada. Her subjects range from shaving her knuckles in grade school, to a shopping trip gone horribly awry, to dealing with internet trolls, to feeling out of place at an Indian wedding (as an Indian woman), to parsing the trajectory of fears and anxieties that pressed upon her immigrant parents and bled down a generation. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of colour, where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision or outright scorn. Where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, forcing her to confront questions about gender dynamics, racial tensions, ethnic stereotypes and her father’s creeping mortality–all as she tries to find her feet in the world.

This is one of my favourite books of the year. I’m usually not a big fan of essay-style books, but I fell in love with this one. I truthfully found out about it through a Facebook ad where the ad copy was something along the lines of “my boss told me I have to market this book even though one day we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter,” and it made me laugh, so I had to look up the book. (Well done marketing person).

The one thing that I loved about this book was that it was written from a completely different perspective from my own. I’m a middle class white female. I’ve never experienced racism before – I’ve definitely experienced sexism, (which she also talks about) but not racism. So it was interesting to read about someone close to my age who experiences it on a fairly regular basis. Interesting and disturbing. Her version of Canada is different from mine, and I wasn’t happy that she was experiencing – and is experiencing – something so awful. But, it was good to read about it because I needed to know. And every Canadian needs to know that this happens. Nothing can change if we don’t all frankly talk about what we experience.

Racism was one of the big things that Scaachi talked about, but she also talked about sexism (Good Lord I hear ya on that), and just other life experiences that she’s had. I also really enjoyed her essay about the perpetual fear that she lives in – only because I also have that going on (though to a lesser degree).

Overall, this was a very smart, funny, and engrossing book. I loved that it made me think, made me reevaluate things that I thought I knew, and just made me laugh. The writing is brilliant and engaging and I couldn’t put it down. I also LOVED that it was Canadian. I’m starved for Canadian content.

If you haven’t read this book you definitely should. It’s not one that you can miss.

Review Tuesday: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

One of the endorsements quotes for Leviathan Wakes was from George R.R. Martin, which since I hated Game of Thrones (I’m pausing here for a moment for you to blink in shock and then curse at your computer…over it now? Good. Moving on.), was not an endorsement for me. I bought this book in spite of his quote. And I was not disappointed.

From Goodreads:

Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

I was excited to start this book because I was looking for a new series to get into, and this series is at least 5 books, I think, and about 500 pages long. I ended up getting it originally from the library, and then halfway through it, I decided to buy the first 3 as a box set.

The book, at the very beginning, is a little bit challenging to get into only because there are a couple of different factions, languages, and politics to understand/learn about. Once you get the basics sorted out in your head then you fall into the story very easily.

The story was engaging, (though definitely gross in parts. This is not a book to read while you eat), and the characters memorable, (though I have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of Miller’s storyline from about the halfway point onwards). I never fully guessed what was coming down the pipeline, and I was always interested in finding out what was going to happen next.

I have not started watching the tv show yet, and I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to or not. (The gross parts really creeped me out, and I don’t know if I want those visuals in my head). However, I am definitely going to be reading book 2. I want to know what’s in store for humanity in The Expanse.

Review Tuesday: Love Story by Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is one of those authors that I just buy. I don’t even need to know usually what the book is about, I know that I’m at least going to enjoy it and more than likely fall in love with it. Love Story by her, however, was one of those books that I enjoyed but didn’t love – still good read, but not one of my favourites by her.

love-storyFrom Goodreads:

When Lucy Hawkins receives a job offer in San Francisco, she can’t wait to spread her wings and leave her small Virginia hometown behind. Her close-knit family supports her as best they can, by handing over the keys to a station wagon that’s seen better days. The catch? The cross-country trip comes with a traveling companion: her older brother’s best friend, aka the guy who took Lucy’s virginity hours before breaking her heart.

After spending the past four years and every last dime caring for his sick father, Reece Sullivan will do just about anything to break free of the painful memories—even if it means a two-week road trip with the one girl who’s ever made it past his carefully guarded exterior. But after long days of bickering in the car turn into steamy nights in secluded motel rooms, Reece learns that, when it comes to Lucy, their story is far from over. And this time, they just might have a shot at a happy ending.

This book alternatives points of view (POV) every chapter, and it’s not my favourite way to tell a story. I find that most of Lauren Layne’s non-series books are like this. (Which is maybe why I’m not in love with any of her books that aren’t part of a series…).

Reece’s story is a heartbreaking one. He had a very traumatic childhood that has impacted his emotional wellbeing harshly. I spent this book simply wanted to give Reece a hug and protect him from the world. No one should have to go through what he has gone through. One of the things that I love about Lucy is that she wants to do the same thing. She wants to love Reece and protect him and be there for him in a way that no one else ever has. I love her for that.

These two run aground because of Reece’s emotional baggage, Lucy not quite understanding that baggage, and because the two of them simply cannot communicate well enough (or at all) to articulate their feelings, and what they are thinking. That was frustrating because I spent most of this book just wishing, demanding, and finally yelling at my Kobo screen, that they would just talk to each other and be honest.

One of the great things about this book is that it shows you that even though you’re in love with someone, it takes a lot of work to get onto the same page sometimes. It takes a lot of work and energy and effort to love someone. And it also takes a hell of a lot of trust – in order to be vulnerable in front of the person that you love. It takes Lucy and Reece a long time to get to that point. But when they do, my heart did a little tap dance because these two definitely deserved their happily-ever-after.

Like I said at the beginning of this review, this isn’t a book I’m in love with, but it is very good. It’s a quick read (with some potentially yelling at characters part way through) and well worth it.

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: Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis

Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis came out January 24 – and I finished it on January 24th. It downloaded to my Kobo in the morning, when I was able to read a little bit before work, then I read at lunch, and then I came home and essentially read all evening until it was finished.

This was a great book. And it’s my favourite one in the Heartbreaker Bay series so far. But, before I continue:

accidentally-on-purposeFrom Goodreads:

There’s no such thing as a little in love…

Elle Wheaten’s priorities: friends, career, and kick-ass shoes. Then there’s the muscular wall of stubbornness that’s security expert Archer Hunt—who comes before everything else. No point in telling Mr. “Feels-Free Zone” that, though. Elle will just see other men until she gets over Archer . . . which should only take a lifetime . . .

There’s no such thing as a little in lust…

Archer’s wanted the best for Elle ever since he sacrificed his law-enforcement career to save her. But now that she’s earned happiness and success, Archer just wants Elle 24/7. Their chemistry could start the next San Francisco Earthquake, and Archer doesn’t want to be responsible for the damage. The alternative? Watch her go out with guys who aren’t him . . .

There is such a thing as…

As far as Archer’s concerned, nobody is good enough for Elle. But when he sets out to prove it by sabotaging her dates, she gets mad—and things get hot as hell. Now Archer has a new mission: prove to Elle that her perfect man has been here all along…

Archer and Elle have great chemistry – and not just sexual chemistry. They argue and bicker, but there is this friendship, this understanding, this deep caring for each other that is evident from the first page. That caught my interest first.  Most importantly though, the other person always mattered most. You saw the love these two characters had for each other long before they realized it themselves.

The sexual chemistry for these two was off the charts – the story and the plot lined wasn’t overwhelmed with sex scenes, but there was enough for you to get hot and bothered.

The other thing that I loved about this book was the plot line. Elle and Archer have a fantastic backstory and it’s something that gets played out in this book (it’s hinted at, and alluded to in the other books in the series). I was dying to know the history between these two, and I was not disappointed. The plot line gave the story a depth and a weight to it, that also gave their love a weight to it. These two characters got to where they are through a very long and painful road. They both deserved the happiness that they found at the end.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book. The plot line kept me interested, and the chemistry and snappy banter kept me entertained. (Also, it’s always nice running into old characters from the other books).

The only thing that I was disappointed about with this book, is that the author Jill Shalvis had said, a couple of weeks ago, that anyone who had pre-ordered the book (and I did months ago) would get an extra little story about two previous characters. I however, didn’t one. So, that I’m bummed about.

However, the story itself was awesome, and clearly something that I could not put down. Definitely pick this one up when you need a feel good book. It will not disappoint.

Update February 2 2017: Jill Shalvis’s PR company reached out to me about the bonus scene that I was missing. Turns out, I’m a moron, and did not read the instructions properly. *face palm*. However, they were super amazing and sent me a link to the scene. It was fantastic. I love these characters so much, and I cannot wait for Spence’s story. So if you haven’t read this series yet, I question your life choices and demand that you go and start it now. Yeah. Like right now.