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: Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

I first heard about the musical Hamilton around the time of the Tony Awards. I knew that it was nominated for a record-breaking number of awards, and I watched the intro song on YouTube a couple of days after the awards aired. I absolutely loved the mash up they created for the awards show, and went hunting for some of the real songs online. I was blown away. I have never heard anything like it.

Rap, (which I fully admit that I don’t listen to often if at all) to me is about a guy essentially listing how many things he has, how many women he’s fucked, and how awesome he is. I’m not interested in that. I really don’t care. But this. Hamilton was rap and hip-hop and spoke to me because it was talking about history, about stories, about legacy. And I loved it.

I bought the soundtrack that night after watching a couple of videos on YouTube, and it has quickly became one of my favourite soundtracks. Then I realized that there was a book (could this get any better?) and I had to read Hamilton: The Revolution.

hamiltonFrom Goodreads:

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country’s origins for a diverse new generation.

HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages–“since before this was even a show,” according to Miranda–traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don’t throw away their shot.

The book is beautiful. It’s a rather large book, and the paper is heavy. It has weight, and I like that because the story of an American Founding Father should have weight. The chapters are short, but there are a lot of images, and some full page or double page spreads of images that are in colour. The lyrics of each song are printed as they relate to each chapter. There are footnotes on the lyrics of each song explaining the thought process behind a line, or the reference or how it changed from the original. I love that behind the scenes look at things.

You also get introduced to the principal actors and hear a little bit of their stories, and their takes on the characters that they are portraying. I find that most interesting – the different things, or traits that they pick up in the people that they are playing and then use that one specific thing to relate, to understand this historical person.

Jeremy and Lin also explain more about these historical people and their relationships to each other. They make these people relatable. Understandable. They show that the Founding Fathers of America were flawed, had hopes and dreams, and different ways and thought processes of getting to a union, and most importantly, that that’s okay. The differences aren’t a hinderance. They make us better. They make us think in a new way. They challenge us.

One of the major things I love about this book and musical, is that Hamilton uses his words to evoke change. He writes like he’s “running out of time,” and he writes a lot. He has all of these ideas, thoughts, plans and he wants to do it all better than everyone else. He wants to make this union succeed and to do that he needs to convince people to his way of thinking. His words are his weapons. To me, when we live in a world of military might, when we converse in 140 characters, and when everything is instantaneous words seem to have less power almost. We use our words to talk about inconsequential things instead of using them to talk about things that really truly matter. And I also think because everything is so instantaneous we lose hope easily. We think that we can’t change anything. That this is the way things are and they are (often) terrible. I think musicals and books like Hamilton are imperative in reminding us that words to have power. They matter. And you can change the world with them. Just like Alexander Hamilton did.

One of my favourite lines in Hamilton is from a song that Eliza (Hamilton’s wife) sings called “Burn.” The line is “You built me palaces out of paragraphs…”.


How beautiful is that? How amazing is it to use your words to build something? To create something? And that is the last thing I want to talk about in regards to this book: legacy. The musical and book talk a lot about legacy and stories. Eliza spent 50 years after Hamilton died making sure that his legacy wasn’t forgotten and in turn making her own. The Founding Fathers all have a legacy. It is in the country that they built, in the writings that they made helping to build it, and in the stories that have become canon for the American people of how it happened, and what they stood for. “That’s the real power of a legacy: We tell stories of people who are gone because like any powerful stories, they have the potential to inspire, and to change the world,” (Hamilton: The Revolution, page 227). I’m sure, as Lin even says, that Hamilton would never have thought that there would ever be a hip-hop/rap musical about him years down the line, and truthfully, on one in this generation thought so either. But here we are, with an amazing story and an amazing medium in which to tell it.

Other than this being an amazing piece of art Hamilton is also a shout to the American people to own their own stories, their own legacy. Alexander Hamilton and the other Founding Fathers started to build it, but the building isn’t done. There is much to do, and this musical and book and story is inspiring people to come together and make that happen. To create and evoke change – across all of the spectrums. That’s a powerful thing. And fittingly, that’s in the epilogue of this book: “The most important affinity that Hamilton will carry into its future isn’t a specific message…: It’s an underlying belief in stories, and their power to change the world,” (page, 285).

I highly recommend this book, and this soundtrack. I’m so excited for when I can see the musical. One day I will, until then I just have to…wait for it.

5 Things: walks, books, musicals, and colouring

My 5 Things this week, is as ever, inspired by Emily and Cupcakes and Cashmere.


Last weekend I hung out with my friends Carmen and Sarah, and we went to the east end of Toronto to have lunch, do a little shopping and to take a nice walk. This picture is from our walk in Glen Stewart park. It’s completely gorgeous and very peaceful.


Last weekend I also went and saw Matilda the musical with my mom at the Ed Mirvish theatre. It was very cute, and I loved the story that Matilda told about the escape artist and the acrobat. The girl can definitely tell a tale. It also makes me want to read Matilda.


The best boyfriend in the world (aka Doug) order me the new Harry Potter for my birthday back in March. He picked it up for me while I was at Matilda and dropped it off at my place, along with a chocolate glazed donut (my favourite), with a note on the bag that said, “because power reading needs a little energy xoxoxoxo.” How awesome is he?! Also, my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming on Tuesday!


I know that some people find adult colouring ridiculous, however, I find that it really helps me when my anxiety kicks in. This is one that I’ve been working on for a night or two, and I do it while I watch tv. I find that it gives my brain something else to concentrate on (because sometimes tv isn’t enough to keep my attention) and it also gives my hands something to do. It’s incredibly relaxing.


My two books that I’m currently reading! I’ve just started both of them, and I’m excited for them. They should be really good!

Review Tuesday: History’s People by Margaret MacMillan

Margaret MacMillan is a world renowned historian and I’m slightly ashamed to say, this is the first book of hers that I’ve read. History’s People is the compilation of  the 5 Massey Lectures that Margaret MacMillan did in 2015. Thus, each chapter is one lecture making for 5 chapters in total.

historyspeople-220From Goodreads:

In History’s People internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own personal selection of figures of the past, women and men, some famous and some little-known, who stand out for her. Some have changed the course of history and even directed the currents of their times. Others are memorable for being risk-takers, adventurers, or observers. She looks at the concept of leadership through Bismarck and the unification of Germany; William Lyon MacKenzie King and the preservation of the Canadian Federation; Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the bringing of a unified United States into the Second World War. She also notes how leaders can make huge and often destructive mistakes, as in the cases of Hitler, Stalin, and Thatcher. Richard Nixon and Samuel de Champlain are examples of daring risk-takers who stubbornly went their own ways, often in defiance of their own societies. Then there are the dreamers, explorers, and adventurers, individuals like Fanny Parkes and Elizabeth Simcoe who manage to defy or ignore the constraints of their own societies. Finally, there are the observers, such as Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, and Victor Klemperer, a Holocaust survivor, who kept the notes and diaries that bring the past to life. 

I found this book fascinating. Firstly, the question that she poses – does the time make the person, or does the person makes the time, is a question that has been asked countless times, and it is a hard question to answer. And in the end, she doesn’t give a finalized answer because how can you? History is not black and white, there are countless shades of grey because everything interconnects with everything else.

The book is separated into 5 chapters: Persuasian and the Art of Leadership, Hubris, Daring, Curiosity, Observers.

One of the things I really loved about this book was the people that she focused on that I didn’t know. As a history major and a qualified history teacher I know about the heavy hitters like Churchill and Hitler, but I didn’t know anything about Babur the first Munghal Emperor of India, or Victor Klemperer – who’s story I have to say made me cry.

This book made me think of what it means to change the course of history, and how history is perceived, and written about. It also was just an enjoyable read where I got to learn about people that I didn’t know and gave me a reading list of people that I now want to know more about.

I think that this book serves as an excellent introduction to Margaret MacMillan for those people, like me, who haven’t read anything by her before. But I also think that fans of Margaret MacMillan will really enjoy this book as it’s her opinion on why and how history matters, and how it effects us in the present day.



Review Tuesday: Tolkien: An Illustrated Atlas by David Day

I am a huge fan of Tolkien and Middle Earth in general. However, for all that I am, I’ve only ever read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. So, when I stumbled across Tolkien: An Illustrated Atlas I was instantly intrigued because it was all about the history of Middle Earth, plus, it had some awesome artwork.

tolkien atlasFrom Goodreads:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional universe is as vast as the human imagination, so an atlas is a helpful tool to get around. Consider this book your navigational guide to Middle-earth and the Undying Lands. Maps, images, and vivid descriptions in full color create an enchanting reference to all the fantastical places and creatures that sprung from Tolkien’s mind. The deluxe, heat-burnished cover makes this a charming addition to your Tolkien library.

Other than the time period that The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings take place, I didn’t know much about Middle Earth. This book takes you through how Middle Earth came to be, the different Ages, and the different races and kingdoms. And if that sounds boring or stuffy, it really isn’t, I promise. Each age is a section in the book, and within those sections it’s broken down further into different characters, or different events that happened, or different kingdoms, to name a few. Most of the little sections are a page or two, and 90% of them have artwork attached. Artwork that is simply gorgeous.

The book also only gives you enough detail so that you get the main gist of what is going on, but it doesn’t delve too deeply into tales or specific stories.

It’s a completely stunning book, and a fairly quick read. And if you’re a Tolkien fan and want some background knowledge on Middle Earth before you dive into the Unfinished Tales or The Silmarillion this is a great place to start.


Today, my country, for the first time experienced what some are calling a terrorist attack. One man, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a 24 four year old reservist, while he stood guard over The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The shooter then made his way over to our Parliament and started shooting there too – injuring 3 other people before he himself was shot and killed.

Canada is known the world over as a peacekeeping country. We go in and help countries. We go in and try and stop people from killing each other. Today, one of our own, a home grown something – I hesitate to say terrorist – tore into our heart. He created violence in the heart of our democracy. And it’s made us afraid.

What makes me afraid though, and what also disturbs me, is that there is someone or a group of someones here in my country who are preaching hate. There is someone who is teaching people to hate Canada, and the people in it. And this is not okay. And worse, it makes me feel powerless. What can I do, or the average person do, to keep Canada safe?

The only answer that I have for that, is to be kind. It seems silly I know, but whoever is preaching this hate is picking on the people who are outcasts, who are loners, who are easy pickings. To combat this, that means we have to be kind to those people. We have to be inclusive. We have to get people involved in their communities, in the business of our country because if someone loves where they are, the country they live in, the people in their country, they’re less likely to attack it. So let’s be kind Canada. Let’s be overly kind because someone is luring our countrymen to extremism. And we won’t stand for it.

The other thing that the world needs to remember is that Canada will not be intimidated. Canada does not back down. And if you think that we do, or that we will, learn your history. It proves otherwise.

Canada won’t ever be broken or beaten. Take note world. #CanadaStrong.