Tuesday, 24 April 2018

BLOG TOUR! Everybody Works in Sales by Niraj Kapur: Review

The book...

We all work in sales. If you work for somebody, you earn a living by selling their product or service.

If you are self-employed, you earn a living by selling your product or service.

When you buy from Amazon, they always recommend other products similar to the ones you are purchasing or have already purchased - that’s selling.

When you download a song, movie or TV show from iTunes, they always recommend more similar products. That’s selling.

When you register for most websites, they sell their products or services to you through a regular email.  

When you attend an exhibition at the NEC, London ExCel, Olympia, Manchester or even a local market, everyone is trying to sell you their product.

We all work in sales, yet few people know how to sell. Until now.

Containing 27 valuable lessons, plus 17 interviews with experts, Everybody Works in Sales combines unique storytelling and personal development to ensure you have the tools you need to do better in your career.

Purchase from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ET89nn

The review....

The title of this book immediately intrigued me and drew me in. I have never worked "in sales" as such – my career is in the public sector – but as Niraj Kapur points out in this book, we’re all selling something, be that a product, a service or our own skills and experience to an employer.

Niraj takes a very personal and anecdotal approach which makes for an easy and entertaining read as he recounts his professional and personal ups and downs, and what he has learnt as a result.

The book is structured around 27 "lessons", starting with "Learn your craft and keep on learning every day". (Can’t argue with that.) Many others had me nodding in agreement as I read. The book then concludes with a series of interviews with "people who sell every day but aren’t in sales" (including his wife, who owns a successful beauty salon!), and these are an interesting read and a further source of many useful tips and insights.

It’s refreshing to find that in terms of selling, the focus is on operating with integrity and building relationships rather than beating potential customers around the head until they give in out of sheer exhaustion. (I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving end of this tactic at some point, and it doesn’t leave you feeling good.) There is no space here for the "Always Be Closing" mantra or similar.

Most importantly for me, he operates from a strong ethical base which accords with my own. I’ve always believed you get far more out of people by treating them with respect and kindness – in addition to that just being the right thing to do. It sounds self-evident but unfortunately not everyone operates in this way, and there are still many managers out there who believe intimidation and fear are the most effective tools when dealing with people.

Niraj is clearly a great list maker and there is an effective use of numerous bullet pointed lists which helps to break up the text and get the points across with minimum fuss.

Each chapter ends with a brief recap of the key points covered therein and one or two relevant and inspirational quotes – I really liked many of these. At one point Niraj also provides a brief reading list of some of his favourite business and personal development related books, and I will definitely seek out some of these.

While the book is written in a very readable style, the edition I read did have a number of typographical or grammatical errors and would have benefited from more proofreading. However this did not interfere too much with my reading experience.

All in all it was a very interesting and engaging read which left me feeling inspired! Many thanks to the author and Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to be part of the blog tour.

The author...

Award-winning executive, Niraj Kapur, has worked in corporate London for 23 years.

From small businesses to a national newspaper to FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, he’s experienced it all and shares his insight, knowledge, big wins and horrible failures.

Containing 27 valuable lessons, plus 17 interviews with experts, Everybody Works in Sales combines unique storytelling and personal development to ensure you have the tools you need to do better in your career.

Niraj has also had several screenplays optioned, sitcoms commissioned, kids' shows on Channel 5’s Milkshake and CBBC. His movie, Naachle London, was released in select cinemas across the UK.

He’s working on his next book while advising companies and coaching individuals on how to improve their sales.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Day of the Doctor (Target novelisation) by Steven Moffat: Review

Watching The Day of the Doctor in the cinema (that’s movie theater, transatlantic readers!) with my then six-year-old daughter, complete with sonic screwdriver, definitely ranks among my best Doctor Who-related memories. In fact, it’s pretty high up there among my best anything-related memories. Along with many others we laughed, gasped and sat on the edge of our seats throughout (Doctors! Zygons! Eyebrows! John Hurt!! Tom Baker!!!), and joined in the spontaneous round of applause from the audience at the end. It was quite an experience. I’ve watched it numerous times since, but needless to say nothing will ever match that first time.

So there was no way in the universe that I could possibly resist the Target novelisation, especially when written by – who else? – Steven Moffat himself

In true Moffaty style, this is far from a straight re-telling of the story. From the beginning (The Night of the Doctor) onwards, there’s lots added, some noticeable changes, a lot of timey-wimey-ness ("as an idiot once wrote" – his words, not mine), plenty of similar little writerly asides, an intriguing narrative voice (who’s telling the story?) and a fair bit of Osgood. Or Petronella, as no-one will ever call her. Oh, and a pretty good running joke involving the Silence.

We get plenty of background – how the Doctor’s relationship with Elizabeth came about, for instance. And there are lots of other additions - lines one suspects Steven previously either hadn’t thought of or more likely had to cut for reasons of time. ("Queen Elizabeth the only. She didn’t like being numbered, and I sympathise entirely.")

On that note the author, probably wisely, avoids the whole numbering business, referring to them all as the Doctor (that’s who they are, after all), and deftly navigates the obvious potential pitfalls.

We see a lot here from the Doctor’s point of view and the War Doctor, in particular, gets a lot of time. As is only right

The on-screen scene where all the Doctors team up to save Gallifrey never fails to bring a tear to my eye (don’t judge me). The version here is a bit different – expanded – but equally if not even more emotive. Like various other elements of the story it takes full advantage of the written word’s ability to describe what would be difficult to put on screen. There’s no "Oh for God’s sake – Gallifrey stands!" moment, though.

You can’t improve on perfection… but this book adds a lot to the story and is an utter delight from start (the cover!) to finish (a lovely nod to the future).

On a final note: "Osgood lives – and so long as the fangirls stand guard on the gates of humanity, so will we." Can’t argue with that!

Monday, 9 April 2018

The Man on the Middle Floor by Elizabeth S Moore: Review

There have been a number of recent-ish novels with non-neurotypical main characters, but I don’t think you will have read one quite like this before...

The plot centres around three people who inhabit, separately, the same London house. On the top floor, Karen, a doctor working on what she hopes will be ground-breaking research into how people with autism can lead fulfilling and productive lives. On the ground floor, Tam, a policeman, previously injured in the line of duty, who now finds there is no place for him in a modern police force, or at least no place he wants to inhabit. And the man on the middle floor: Nick.

It’s an interesting, unsettling read with some unusual and often challenging themes. We get inside the head of Nick, a troubled young man with Asperger’s, and it’s not a comfortable place to be.  

Karen is obsessed by her work and able to think of little else; she’s incapable of remembering to perform basic functions of everyday life (putting petrol in her car, picking up her children at an agreed time.) Separated from her husband and children, the visits from the children feel like an imposition and she counts the minutes till they leave and she can get back to work. Since Karen seems to have  always been pretty much like this, why she chose to have three children in the first place is a mystery. She’s certainly an appalling mother and a disaster for her children, but I do wonder if as a woman, she’s judged more harshly for her behaviour and attitude than a man would be.

Karen herself seems somewhat disconnected from the usual emotions and it makes a kind of sense that she’s chosen to work in the field of autism.

The blokey Tam, dealing with the loss of his career through booze and sex, is the most obviously “normal” and to me, at least initially, perhaps the least interesting of the three. However Tam definitely goes on a journey over the course of the story and by the end is, if not a different person, one who has broadened his horizons and outlook.

And then... there’s Nick.  His sections of the story are written in first person, and it’s hard reading at times. Life is a struggle for Nick; not only because of his Asperger’s, but there is clearly something dark in his family history , particularly in his relationship with his grandfather. He is a very troubled and damaged young man, failed by those around him and beset by feelings he cannot understand or deal with about sexuality, violence and death. He clings to his routines and when these are disrupted, all hell breaks loose - almost literally.

The Man on the Middle Floor is a very well written and thought provoking debut. The author clearly has a lot to say on certain subjects and does so in a very effective way. Some dreadful things happen in this book (it’s very dark and disturbing at times) and it’s clear there can be no easy resolutions for the characters - Nick, in particular - but the ending is quite satisfying, though can feel a little heavy on the exposition at times as the author fills in the gaps. There’s a great courtroom scene too. 

While reading I wasn’t always sure that I liked the book - like I said, it’s hard reading at times in terms of the subject matter - but I was always interested and challenged.

I was intrigued to learn more about the author after finishing the book, and found this interesting post on her website in which she discusses the book and some of the reactions to it - worth checking out.

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall: Review

Mike loves his ex-girlfriend Verity - and he’s one hundred per cent certain that she still loves him, even though she has not only left him but is now getting married to someone else. 

But that’s all  just a more elaborate, extreme version of their private game - isn’t it? A sexual game they called the Crave, in which they would go out separately-but-together, Verity would wait for a man to make a move on her, and at a prearranged signal Mike would step in to send him on his way.  Apparently, this would give them both a thrill. A bit strange, yes, but basically fairly harmless.

Mike’s confident that whatever Verity says, her marriage to the eligible Angus is all a part of the game - a new version of the Crave. He just needs to understand the rules and figure out what Verity expects him to do next.

This story is narrated by Mike, once a bitterly neglected child taken into care at the age of ten, who has grown into a very successful adult with a highly paid job in the City and a beautiful house (in which he fully expects Verity soon to be living with him). Because he knows her better than anybody, and he knows that however often she says she doesn’t want to be with him, she doesn’t really mean it. Her signals and coded messages prove that. Mike and Verity are different from other people, their love is more important than anything else and it’s worth any sacrifice.

It often feels like Mike’s running only on obsession and barely suppressed violence. And inevitably, it’s going to erupt at some point.

Our Kind of Cruelty is a fascinating read, as we inhabit the mind of Mike, who’s frequently terrifying, but not a bad person; he is motivated entirely by love. He’s flawed - but so is his beloved Verity, his idealised woman. And he’s deeply vulnerable.

As the story progresses it becomes a courtroom drama and a trial by media; suddenly, other people are privy to the details of Mike and Verity’s relationship -  and standing in judgement. And not only on Mike. (I loved, if that’s the right word, the feature from what was obviously the Daily Mail, with its unhealthy obsessions with how much people earn, what their houses are worth, and the numerous ways in which women fail to live up to arbitrary standards.)

How complicit is Verity in what has happened? Where does guilt lie - and how is that decided?

Really putting the psychological into psychological thriller, this was a brilliant read which is highly recommended.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce: Review

London, 1940: Emmeline Lake spends her days working as a secretary for Strawman’s Solicitors and her nights as a volunteer telephone operator for the Auxiliary Fire Service, but dreams of a future as a Lady War Correspondent. Her dreams seem one step closer to coming true when she spots a job advertisement for an Office Junior at Launceston Press, publishers of the London Evening Chronicle. 

Emmy imagines herself in a busy newsroom, learning the business of reporting from the ground up. Reality proves rather different though, and via an unfortunate failure to listen properly at her interview, Emmy accidentally finds herself instead at Woman’s Friend magazine typing up problem page letters for the ferocious Mrs Bird, whose list of Unacceptable Topics doesn’t leave much she’s willing to answer.

But there are a lot of women out there who need help and guidance, even on Unacceptable Topics. If Mrs Bird refuses to provide it, maybe Emmy should?

I knew from the first page I was going to love this book, and love it I did. Emmy is an incredibly engaging heroine - intelligent, funny, brave and loyal, but far from perfect. I should think it’s impossible not to warm to her and to root for her throughout, even when she makes somewhat rash choices. The other characters are similarly lovable (well.... maybe not Mrs Bird) and well drawn.

The frightening reality of life in blitz-torn London is not played down, and my tears were flowing freely at points as the effects of war came horribly close to home for Emmy.

If I have any complaint at all it’s that the ending was perhaps a little abrupt, although that could just be because I really didn’t want it to end!

A delightful read which I’m sure is destined to be very successful.

Review has also been posted on NetGalley and on Amazon.