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.

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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: Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I had read We Should All Be Feminists a couple of years ago, and I completely loved it. I felt that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had explained feminism so well, and it’s definitely a book/talk that I recommend to a lot of people. So, I was very excited when I learned that she had a new book coming out called Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.

From Goodreads:

A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a dear friend from childhood, asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response.

Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions–compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive–for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. From encouraging her to choose a helicopter, and not only a doll, as a toy if she so desires; having open conversations with her about clothes, makeup, and sexuality; debunking the myth that women are somehow biologically arranged to be in the kitchen making dinner, and that men can “allow” women to have full careers, Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.

This book is a very short read, but it packs a punch, so while it’s easy to breeze through it because it is so short, I advise you to stop and take your time because it’s easy to miss important points.

As I was reading this book/letter, some of the suggestions of the author I had already thought about – such as if your daughter wants a “boy” toy and not a “girl” toy, that’s okay, buy it for her. But some of the other suggestions and points I hadn’t thought about before. For example, the author uses the example of a play group and mentions how parents of daughters tell their girls to be careful, and don’t go too far, whereas for the sons they push them to go further, try new things, etc. It was interesting to me – in this example and others – how much of a way of being and thinking sexism is. So much so, that at times I didn’t even realize that that’s what I was experiencing or reading or thinking.

Not realizing how sexism society is, is also why feminism is so important. I mean, why do I have to change my name when I get married? Why can a male employee be assertive, but a female is a bitch? Why can’t I show that I’m feeling shitty when I have horrific cramps instead of pretending that my biology is, at the moment, not kicking my ass?

There is also the reverse of this coin too. Why when dad’s are parenting their children does society call it (or joke) that a dad is babysitting? He isn’t. He’s parenting. Why is parental leave for new dad’s a more common occurrence?

Sexism hurts both sexes, and your sexual organs should do hinder you from anything.

This book – and others like it – are vitally important because these issues are still happening, because society still feels the need to put women and men into specific boxes.

This is another book that I’m recommending to everyone because let’s face it – we should all be feminists.

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: The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

I came across The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way To Live Well by Meik Wiking while perusing the shelves of a bookstore, and I picked it up purely because it looked so cute. The book is small in size, with gorgeous coloured photos spread throughout and it immediately draws the eye. The information also comes at you in digestible bite size pieces, which doesn’t leave you feeling overwhelmed with information. And the information, is incredibly interesting.

From Goodreads:

Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That’s down to one thing: hygge.

‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight…’

You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.

Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.

Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. He is committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.

After reading this book, I am still hard pressed to be able to define hygge in a sentence. It is part culture, part way of being, and part mindfulness. But this book does a fantastic job of combining all of those elements to explain what hygge is, why it is so important, how to create it, and most importantly perhaps, how it affects your happiness levels.

The book is broken down into chapters that firstly, start defining what hygge is, and how it is woven into Danish culture, then secondly, how to create it and thirdly, why it is so important.

I found the whole book fascinating. I loved learning that Denmark as a country burns more candles than any other country in the world and that is because candles are essentially to creating hygge. (Also, I found it very interesting that they, in general, don’t go in for scented candles at all). I loved learning about the culture aspects of hygge, and how it affects Danes and thus society.

It was also wonderful to learn how to go about creating hygge. I found myself relaxing as I read this book. Hygge is about unplugging from the world, having relaxing times with your friends – potluck dinners, picnics, board game nights etc. – with good food, and wearing comfortable clothing. It’s about slowing down, and creating moments that can be remembered long after they’ve ended. It’s about sitting with a cup of tea, a blanket and a book or watching the world go by from the window. And I think the most overwhelming thing about it is about creating mindfulness.

Danes purposefully go about creating hygge. They are mindful of what makes it, and about places that have it. They ensure that they make it or get it because it makes them feel good, it puts them in the moment, it connects them with other people and/or themselves, it makes them appreciate life so much more – and thus makes them that much more happy. (Danes are routinely coming in first place for happiness reports – they’re the happiest people in the world).

After reading this book, I’m definitely more mindful of what makes hygge, and how I can go about making it – in my home, with my friends etc. It’s also rather fortuitous because I have a new apartment, so I’m going to work in some of the suggestions about creating a place that is hygge – less overhead lights, and more standing or table lights – it creates a better atmosphere for example.

This is definitely a book for you if you’re looking to be more mindful about being happy, and interested in creating hygge for yourself. One of my favourite books so far this year.

Review Tuesday: The Circle by Dave Eggers

I definitely picked up The Circle by David Eggers because I found out that Emma Watson was going to be starring in the movie, and I wanted to read it beforehand. This book was…wow. Very good, and super creepy.

From Goodreads:

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

The only real negative things that I can say about it, is that it’s too long – by about 100 pages. I started getting a bit bored part way through because the pace seemed really slow, and things started to get repetitive. However, the story as a whole was engrossing.

The Circle is essentially Google on steroids. It’s a tech company with a monopoly, the stereotypical campus that no one wants to leave, great pay and benefits – it’s a dream job, at a dream company that is making the world better for people. And as Mae starts to work there, you, the reader, also think that she’s hit the jackpot of a career.

And then…

Things start to get slightly creepy. Not overly at first, I mean you, the reader, have also drunk the Kool-Aid they’re providing, but as the book progresses you realize that what seemed like a great technological innovation 100 pages ago, is now becoming much more “Big Brother-y”, until well…you’ll have to read to find out.

I did find though that after putting down the book each time (it was a lunch time reading book) I didn’t want to be on my phone. I didn’t want to post my photos, comments etc. to the world at large. I wanted to remain silent, anonymous.

Has this book made me rethink my privacy and what I’m allowing companies to learn about me when I log into their apps? Definitely. And I also realized how little we (the consumer) know about what we’re agreeing to when we sign the “Terms & Conditions”. We don’t know what privacy we’re giving away and we certainly don’t know how to get it back.

I think this book (and the movie that is coming) will definitely start a conversation about privacy especially, but also about how we interact as humans, and what a healthy relationship and self-image should be.

This was definitely a must-read. It’s a very good book, and will certainly get you thinking about the consequences of giving up your privacy so freely. (And if you say that you’re not, please remember that you have zero idea what you’ve given up because there’s no way you’ve read the Terms & Conditions of anything app related).