No Limits (review)

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No Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your CapacityNo Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your Capacity by John C. Maxwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though he’ll be 70 this year, John C. Maxwell is still going strong. No Limits, his latest book, gives readers an understanding of what drives him with lots of how-to on staying productive themselves long after one would expect their batteries to be drained.

The book’s organization is based on Maxwell’s formula for reaching maximum capacity: “If you grow in your awareness, develop your abilities and make the right choices, you can reach your capacity” – p. 2.

The first section of only two chapters, explores awareness. The second seven-chapter block focuses on abilities. Maxwell discusses abilities in many spheres including energy, emotion, thinking, people, and leadership. The last eleven-chapter section focuses on choices. It challenges readers to increase personal capacity and the capacity of the group they’re leading by making the right choices in areas like taking responsibility, being intentional, having a positive attitude, faith, being a good partner, and more.

Though the book targets leaders in the world of work, it also has much to offer individuals who lead in informal ways.

I found this book wide-ranging, positive, encouraging, and wise, though it did leave me wondering where Maxwell gets the seemingly boundless energy he has for work, family, and friends. His recitation of the activities of only one of his days left me tired. How does he manage to live such a full and productive life? I would say by actually living his own advice.

Even as I read it, I realized, this is not me. So, though I personally will not be trying everything in this book, I did find myself underlining passages all over the place and will, in the days ahead, implement more than one of Maxwell’s suggestions to hopefully boost my own capacity and productivity.

Here are a few of my favorite bits:

From Thinking Capacity: “Writing about an idea gives your thinking intellectual weight. It creates clarity in your thinking. Talking about an idea gives it emotional weight. It connects your thinking to your heart – p. 83.

From Creative Capacity: “You will become as creative as the amount of time you set aside for it…. There is a relationship between scheduling a time to be creative and being inspired to create” – p. 129.

From Production Capacity: “Find ways to focus your time and attention and work toward eliminating from your schedule anything that doesn’t have a high return” – p. 145.

From Character Capacity: “Good character uses the same standard in every situation. It something is right, it’s always right. If it’s wrong, it’s always wrong. People with good character are consistent” p. 190.

From Discipline Capacity quoting Steven R. Covey: “Once you have a burning yes inside you about what’s truly important, it’s very easy t say no to the unimportant” – p. 214.

This would be a great book for leaders in any field, as well as young people entering the work force, middle-aged workers who are considering where they’ve been and asking where to now, and healthy, energetic seniors who want to make the most of the years remaining.

I received No Limits as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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Complete Guide to Bible Journaling (review)

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Complete Guide to Bible Journaling: Creative Techniques to Express Your FaithComplete Guide to Bible Journaling: Creative Techniques to Express Your Faith by Joanne Fink

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I got this book, I had only a vague idea there was such a thing as Bible journaling and no idea how to go about it or what a movement it had become. But now that I’ve read it, I’m a convert!

What a comprehensive and gorgeous guide this is!

Six sections take the reader through:

Getting Started: An explanation of what Bible journaling is and how to begin.

Tools and Techniques: A walk through many Bible journaling techniques including lettering in different styles, tracing, using stamps, drawing, coloring with colored pencils, preparing Bible pages for paint, painting with watercolour and acrylics, the use of washi tape etc. The book is lavishly illustrated with colour photos that show processes step-by-step and display the finished designs.

Artist Profiles: An introduction to eleven Bible journaling women who have connected and attracted a following on the internet (through their websites and social media). Their stories are as varied as their styles, which go from demurely decorative illustrations filling the margins of journaling Bibles to scrapbooked Bibles chubby with bold whole page paintings and attached memorabilia.

Gallery: An embarrassment of riches here, featuring 20+ pages of Bible journaling reproductions in full colour, organized by themes (“Patterning,” “Coloured Pencils,” “Line Work” etc.).

Resources and Index: In addition to an index of the book, here you’ll find lists of resources—artist websites and the favourite social media hangouts for Bible journalers.

Bonus Section: A final 30+ pages feature examples of lettering styles and simple graphic items as ideas and to copy, stickers and traceable line drawings printed on see-through vellum.

I was impressed by the artistry and beauty of the work with which these women (no, there was nary a man to be found in the pages of this book—pity, I’ll bet some guys would enjoy this as much as the girls) illuminate their Bibles.

The purpose of Bible journaling—to get individuals to interact with God’s word—gets lots of emphasis in the explanations by the authors and the stories of the profiled artists. I appreciated that.

Over and over the authors remind readers that the object of this activity is not to achieve perfect art. The tone is accepting of any effort and a celebration of the wide variety of styles and personalities that come through in the artists’ works as they dig into the Bible. The book makes you feel like you can do it too.

In addition to people who journal in their Bibles, I can see this book being useful to anyone who scrapbooks, as well as to those who enjoy crafts like making cards and wall hangings.

Perhaps not surprisingly I’ve picked out a journaling Bible (Bibles with wide lined margins, especially designed for journaling) in my favourite version and can’t wait to get started. I’m sure my Complete Guide to Bible Journaling will soon look quite used.

I received the Complete Guide to Bible Journaling from the publisher (Design Originals, an imprint of Fox Chapel Publishing) as a gift for the purpose of writing a review.

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Red Notice (review)

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red-notice-9781476755748_hrRed Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With a special talent for sniffing out stock that would make money for his clients, Bill Browder and his company Hermitage Capital did very well beginning in the mid-1990s from their headquarters in Moscow. Then came November 13, 2005.

That day on his return to Moscow from London, Bill was detained at the airport and kept overnight with no food, water, or explanation. The next morning rough officers escorted him to the departure lounge and put him onto a flight back to London.

It was the beginning of an ordeal that lasted for years and put him in the bad books of Putin himself. Though Browder had begun fighting the dishonest Russian oligarchs while still working in Moscow, the backlash he experienced then was nothing compared to what happened next.

A raid of his Moscow office (after he was kicked out of Russia) and the office of his lawyer resulted in his companies resurfacing registered to new owners. They went after him for tax evasion of millions. However, a tax audit proved he had over-paid his taxes. This set him and his Russian lawyer Sergei Manitsky on the track of a crime ring of corrupt police officers, bankers, and petty criminals. Unfortunately, the chase ended in murder.

This book opened my eyes to the rotten center of Russian business. I’m sure that criminals like computer hackers are considered the lightweights of white collar criminals in a land where the decay starts at the top.

An interesting sidebar to the book: one of Browder’s contacts in Moscow and to whom he told his initial story of corruption was Chrystia Freeland. She was Moscow Bureau Chief of The Financial Times when she interviewed him (1998-ish). She is now a Liberal MP and has recently been appointed Canada’s Foreign Minister. She is also persona non grata in Russia.

The YouTube video linked below was made by Browder in 2010 to help expose the complicated web of criminal activity. It adds background and clarity to the story of this fascinating and disturbing book: Russian Untouchables – Episode 1

 

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Finding Sarah Finding Me (review)

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Finding Sarah Finding Me: A Birthmother's StoryFinding Sarah Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story by Christine Lindsay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this heart-wrenching memoir, Lindsay tells the story of giving up her newborn daughter for adoption and takes us on the grueling journey of reuniting with her. The book also tells the adoption stories of five more individuals.

Written from the heart, Finding Sarah, Finding Me underlined for me how strong is the mother-child bond, of both birth and adoptive mother.

A touching read. Have tissues handy.

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Note – to readers and to self:

I haven’t been blogging much here lately. I will try to do better. I’m aiming for a post a week. (There, I’ve said it; maybe that will keep me more accountable.) The reviews will be shorter, though.

Anna Karenina (review)

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Anna KareninaAnna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve just finished reading Anna Karenina—that 140-year-old tome by Leo Tolstoy. I read it on the recommendation of another old book—If You Want to Write (first published in 1938) by Barbara Ueland. (By the way, Ueland’s book is one of the most inspirational books on writing you’ll find anywhere.)

I did read Anna Karenina many years ago while trekking through Europe. But I must have absorbed very little because it felt like a brand new book to me.

What a read!

It’s a story set in Russia before the Communist Revolution (first published as a serial from 1873-1877, as a complete book in 1878). The characters belong to the nobility class. Anna Karenina of St. Petersburg is married to statesman Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin. While visiting her brother Stepan Oblonsky in Moscow she meets the dashing Vronsky (an army man) at a party. Vronsky is immediately smitten by her beauty.

A parallel story is that of Levin, a friend of Stepan’s. Levin owns a rural estate and comes to Moscow only occasionally. But he is lonely and the story opens with him summoning his courage to ask Kitty, whom he has courted sporadically and shyly, to marry him. (Kitty is the younger sister of Stepan’s wife Dolly).

However, before he meets Anna, Vronsky has been paying a lot of attention to Kitty. Though she is fond of Levin, Vronsky—who Kitty and her family expect will pop the question any day now—is a better catch. So Levin’s proposal to Kitty comes at a bad time while Vronsky meeting and falling in love with Anna permanently dashes Kitty’s hopes of marrying him.  That’s the beginning…

Some of the things I loved about this book:

  • The psychological understanding and depth with which Tolstoy portrays his characters. He captures nuances of feeling and motivation that are quite remarkable. A passage late in the book where Anna descends into madness is one I thought particularly brilliant.
  • There are large chunks of prose I found poetic and beautiful, for example the peasant life seen through Levin’s eyes and Levin’s wedding.
  • The insights the book gives into the social life of the nobility in Russia at the time (I think of Tolstoy as Russia’s Jane Austen in that way). He addresses themes of religion, the position of peasants, and status women in society documenting particularly society’s double standard regarding acceptable morals of men and women.
  • The plot is, for the most part, captivating.

Some things that put me off:

  • All the Russian names, diminutives and variants. Confusing!
  • Long passages where Levin and his friends discuss the place of the peasants in society and religion. I got the feeling that Tolstoy was working out his own thoughts and positions on these things through Levin. (Others who comment on the book describe Levin as the most autobiographical of Tolstoy’s characters in Anna Karenina.)

If you haven’t read what some describe as”the greatest book ever written,” you owe it to yourself to do so. Plus it is such a fat volume (paperback = 752 pages) you won’t be needing another book for a long time with this one. (I got mine as an e-book, though, so no hand strain with that edition!)

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YesterCanada (review)

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YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and AdventureYesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure by Elma Schemenauer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In YesterCanada Elma Schemenauer tells thirty historical tales of Canada.

Using her considerable story telling skill she puts us right into the various Canadian settings these stories inhabit, from the grassy fragrance of the Saskatchewan prairie, to the bone chill of the arctic, to the salt spray of the seaboards, east and west.

What a fun read! You’ll find individuals, mysteries, wonders, and heroes aplenty in these 230 pages.This book is a must-have for all Canadian 150th birthday memorabilia collectors (a celebration just around the corner in 2017).

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Essentialism (review)

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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of LessEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book after I heard Michael Hyatt interview Greg on one of his podcasts.

I probably read it a few years too late (although it wasn’t yet written when I could have used it—when my kids were little and I was juggling parenting, running my home-based business, homemaking, and volunteering at church).

The book deals in an organized way, from idea to execution, with the topic of paring down one’s life. McKeown, it seems, has done this himself and so understands the obstacles—the desire to please, the fear of missing out, how available our technology has made us to everyone.

I read a library copy of the book and so didn’t have the freedom to underline that I would have with my own copy. However, McKeown has highlighted some of his major takeaway points in the book’s format. Here are some that grabbed m attention.

“The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away—it can only be forgotten” p. 36.

“We can try to avoid the reality of trade-offs, but we can’t escape them” p. 54.

“Our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritize” – p. 101.

“If it is not a clear yes, then it’s a clear no” – p. 109.

“The Latin root of the word decision—cis or cid—literally means “to cut” or “to kill” – p. 159.

What I took from this book were some ideas that weren’t new to me but by reading them here, were re-emphasized. I also felt affirmed in that some of these principles I’ve discovered on my own and they’re the way I live. For example McKeown speaks of the freeing power of routine (Chapter 18). I love my routines for exactly the reason he says they’re important: they preserve my decision-making energy for the important stuff.

Though this book hasn’t inspired me to make any huge changes, it has made me aware:
– I can’t do it all.
– It’s okay to say no.
– When I say yes to a new commitment, I’m saying no to something else.
– Bu focusing on less there’s a good chance I’ll accomplish more than by spreading myself thinly over many things.

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