Sunday, December 30, 2018

Making Your Way Through Sales

I am currently working on a small project on sales, the first ever I did and I am shyly half through it, therefore I picked up this book for 100% professional reasons. 
Wise Me Up to Cold Calling by Shea Heer helps the beginner and mid-level sales professional to learn how to do sales right by approaching potential customers using the right message and attitude. Although cold calling might be considered obsolete in the era of Internet and social media, approaching someone on the phone it is still a doable alternative, based on the very human urge to communicate and connect. 
Personally, my biggest issue when started this small project was that I will really turn into a big joke, by fear of not having anything really interesting to say and sometimes not really interested in saying it. However, everything changed when I considered taking every potential contact as a way to connect, not necessarily to sell something but to offer something valuable in exchange. Of course that my PR and communication background helped me to really create some stand alone attractive offer in only a couple of words and a couple of seconds, but before sending my message, those couple of seconds before actually making the call were sometimes painful and Shea Heer is addressing this fear. The fear is usually the result of lack of confidence in what you are about to say. As 'being prepared is half the battle', figuring out what your project or company stands for is very important and must be clarify way before starting the conversation.
Talking about communication, it is equally very important to make everything as plain and simple as possible, especially by avoiding the heavy jargon language. When you send a communication via email, the words are there to be seen and eventually someone can do his or her own Internet research for checking your wording, but when you only have a couple of minutes, firing a conversation loaded with difficult words is a loss at first sight. 
The book is simply written, systematic and well organised which makes it an easy read, eventually at the beginning of starting your week of cold calling. I would have expect also a little bit of more writing about how to organised the call calling schedule, for instance by including a follow-up etc. Nowadays there are very efficient management systems that help coping with a big range of calls, such as, not mentioned in the book.
Strongly recommended to anyone curious about sales, or considering to begin a career in this domain.

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A World of Joyful Living in 50 Words

I am fascinated with languages and trying to learn as many as I can. Learning languages is like getting a new life, with a completely new world of meanings and feelings opening up in the front of your eyes and mind. As a translator myself, I know that there are so many words hard to translate and finding locals equivalents is rather an approximation of the meaning than a reproduction of the word. 
Therefore, I approached The Happiness Passport by Megan C. Hayes with a lot of curiosity, but also keen to learn new words. Although it makes the world tour in just 50 words, there are enough new insights into languages to win you more than a life. The words chosen are mostly words of yearning, expressing familiarity, intimacy and happiness. Words deeply rooted into the culture telling in just a few letters unique ancient stories full of hidden meanings to the non-native speaker. Take, for instance the Russian prostor which means yearning for wide plains. Or the Innuit unikkaagatigunniq, which reflects 'the power of storytelling and the role of stories in the communal ways of being'. I've also learned on this occasion two English words: petrichor - 'a noun that describes the pleasantly earthy smell of rain after a long period of dry, warm weather' and psithurism - 'the sound of wind whispering through the trees'. And I was reminded of an old Hungarian expression: 'Ugy szép az élet, hazajlik', meaning approximatively: 'Life is beautiful if it is happening'. 
Of course there are many more than 50 words to catch the spirit of the world, as the number of spoken languages and dialects in the world is impressively high, but this small level approach open up your eyes to search in your own native language(s) about those words that are impossible to substitute. 
The illustrations, the work of Yelena Bryksenova are nostalgic, romantic pastels that inspire to meditate about life, worlds and its making in words.

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Captivating Middle-Grade Novel: The Elephant Thief by Jane Kerr

Based on real facts that took place in the 19th century, The Elephant Thief is also a beautiful story of friendship between the elephant Maharajah and the pickpocket Danny. From the slums of Edinburgh until Manchester, he will be part of a race against all odds to save a menagerie and gentlemen's honour. 
Slow paced yet not missing adventures and page turning events, this middle grade book has an elaborated plot which reminds a bit of the Dickensian novels about children from unpriviledged environment, faced from an early age with the hardship of outlaw adulthood. The writing is simple, accessible for the mindset and reading habits of a child outlining though creating an easy to grasp authentic historical ambiance. 
There is a big array of characters appearing more or less suddently in this story, often with doubtful intentions and problematic character features. The human mosaique as portrayed in The Elephant Thief is really diverse and complex and a challenge for a mid-grade child although it offers a good knowledge about the human diversity in itself, regardless of the historical location of the story. Personally, I've learn a lot about human nature while reading at the same age the novels of Balzac and Dickens, both outstanding artists of humanity with all its lows and highs. 
In addition to the human story, there is another part of the story which is highly sensitive and well done from the literary point of view: the wordless communication between Danny and the elephant Maharajah and the deep connection built in a relatively short time between the two of them. 
Although not the audience target of this book, I've found it highly enjoyable and the smart writing makes it a good reading choice for everyone. The way in which historical facts were researched and used further for creating a good story that stands the test of time is an example of how far you can go when you do your historical homeworks while filling the episode with quality writing.

Rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Runaway Amish Girl Memoir

I am personally fascinated by Mennonite/Amish stories, as I am curious about the possibilities of surviving as a very recluse community in a world which is very fast moving forward. As the members of the communities themselves are closed and without access to modern tools - Internet, edition houses - to share their stories, the information about everyday life are predominantly coming from people that leaved the fold. 
Runaway Amish Girl: The Great Escape, by Emma Gingerich is such a story. Growing up in what she described as the 'group of the least modern and uneducated Amish people on the planet' - the Swartzentruber Amish a group created following a split from the mainstream at the beginning of the 20th century - she decided to run away from her Missouri community finding her own path as an educated, modern free woman. Speaking mostly a local German dialect, with a very restricted use of technology use and refusing to accept hot water or plumbing into the house, the Swartzentrubers (named after a religious leader) look indeed very reclused and my later documentation about them outlines their insularity among other Amish groups that they refuse to mix or inter-marry with. What for me was extremely awkward was the description of some of their dating habits sleeping and hugging together in a bed while fully clothed. 
Once away, Emma is having a lot of challenges understanding the modern world, not only from the technological point of view, but also in understanding human relationships and intentions. Some of her tragic episodes reminded me of accounts shared by Leah Vincent in her excellent memoir Cut Me Loose, of leaving the strictly religious Jewish life. The transition is never easy and time will only help to alleviate the pains of the cultural shock. 
The story in itself has a certain anthropological and cultural value but when it comes to the literary aspects, the shortcomings are evident and bothering sometimes. The style is linear and lacks any literary appeal, mostly following the memory lane, without too many serious personal insights from the author. The story is simple, predictable and self-focused, which makes it into a healing confession but with a very limited literary value.
My interest for reliable interesting reliable Amish stories will continue, as it helps to put many things into the right cultural and history of religions' perspective. 

Rating: 2 stars

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Who is on Your Dinner List?

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle is the second book in less than one week that I wish I liked, give it 5 star and heartly recommend to other people. The writing is gentle, emotional and connecting the dots between characters, but I couldn't heart the idea itself - of bringing together at a birthday dinner dead and alive people, among them Audrey Hepburn.
The love story between Tobias and Sabrina - the main character at whose birthday party the people are invited to - although a typical young relationship, with all the innocence given by age - is by far one of the most beautiful I've read lately. Sabrina's struggle to reconciliate with her now dead father who left her when she was a little girl is also worth a literary mention. The writing flows and the intertwinning of the temporal streams iswell-braided. 
However, as much as I tried, every couple of pages at a time, I couldn't stand the idea. It was not because I might not like magic realism or because my imagination is limited. All the time, I felt that it is such a good story told in the completely wrong context. Therefore, I was left with the strong impressions about character looking for connection that ended up in a spiritist-kind of session. I also wished that Audrey Hepburn was not on the list - among the possible guests, there was also Plato - only because it become such a omnipresent character, with all its kitschy downsides of such an overuse and often abuse of the brand. 
I would definitely read something else by Rebecca Serle as I was won over by her writing style. However, I wish for myself there is a different spin of the story. 

Rating: 2 stars