Tag Archives: review

Only an Englishman would write about pubs in a book about Brazil

Anyone who does anything creative is always interested in seeing what others think about their work. Not just the supportive comments from friends and family, but the online reviews and comments from those in the media – and just regular readers. I’ve got musician friends and I know that they are just as interested in how people react to songs as I am when I publish a new book.

Reality Check: Life in Brazil through the eyes of a foreigner [Kindle Edition]

I have been really delighted with the reaction to the Reality Check book. There has been some good press coverage, many journalists are looking at the book now because they have expressed an interest, and all the reviews on Amazon itself are 5 or 4 star. It all looks good. And knowing that it has been spending some time in the number one slot has also helped. To see that it’s the best-selling book in English on the subject of Brazil is quite something.

But one review on the Amazon UK site really stood out for me. It’s by someone named Socrates – I don’t know who Socrates is and what country he is from, but he has clearly read quite a few books about Brazil as he references them in the review. He wrote an interesting comment on the book and how it has a certain ‘charm’ though:

“Any faults with the book are part of its charm. It’s does feel like a sketch for a longer book, but at the same time this is a great example of how self-e-publishing means a book like this can get on virtual shelves without an advance from a publishing house. It is also very fresh. Many of the issues discussed, like the June 2013 protests, are still news. Also Mark’s guide to bars and drinks is something maybe only an Englishman would dedicate a chapter to in such a brief guide, however as someone that also lived in London for much of my adult life I found this very useful and charming.”

I like this comment. The reviewer has noticed that maybe there are some quirks in the book. It’s more focused on the reality of my own induction into Brazil rather than some laborious run through the last 1,000 years of history, or a detailed analysis of the work visa application process.

I think there is plenty of useful information in the book and it really does include stuff on visas and going to the pub – because as a Brit moving to Brazil, these were both topics that fascinated me.

The idea of it as a sketch for a bigger book is interesting though. I have published big fat books with regular publishers and I deliberately wanted to avoid that experience in this case. As the review mentions, I really did manage to keep some of the comment right up to date – making some final edits just before the publication button was pushed. But it is a full-length book that feels short – it can be read pretty fast because it is punchy and direct, but it would be almost 200 pages if it were a regular paperback so there is some meat on the bones.

I felt that the personal nature of this book and my desire to release it globally as soon as I possibly could meant that it had to be released using Amazon. But it is doing well. There will be a lot on attention to Brazil in the next couple of years so if a big publishing house came to me now and suggested I add some additional content so they can release it as an airport paperback then I wouldn’t refuse – how could I?

But for the moment, I’m already working on a new book anyway. All my writing projects stretched into the future are exploring how work is changing – with the Brazil one fitting into that agenda just by exploring the difficulties of moving across the world and trying to slot in.

It was never meant to just be a sketch, but maybe it could be a stepping stone to a much more detailed analysis of Brazil? Maybe that’s an idea for 2014…

Reality Check

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Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins

Mark Kermode is the film reviewer on BBC Radio 5. His show goes out every Friday afternoon on the radio and is also available as a podcast on iTunes – it has become one of the most popular British podcasts on iTunes. Each week, Kermode runs through the new movies of the week and exchanges a considerable amount of banter with co-host Simon Mayo.

Some time back the film ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’ was released and Kermode criticised it as nothing more than an American Harry Potter – a kind of colour-by-numbers movie about kids at a boarding school where they learn about magic.

His review suggested that any filmmaker could produce a film about kids learning magic and with the support of the Harry Potter fan base, it would almost certainly be a success. He suggested the name ‘Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins’ during the review as a typical name that could be used.

And so an Australian filmmaker went off and made a film using that name. It has just been released and contains a number of jokes referencing the Kermode show. So regular listeners to the show will find references to Jason Isaacs, David Morrissey, Werner Herzog, and all the favourite characters that seem to pop up week after week on the film show.

I’m going to download and watch it soon. Given that the budget was only something like A$5,000, I don’t expect to be dazzled, but to put a full-length feature movie together based only on a BBC film review is an impressive (or mad) achievement so it deserves some support.

And if I have not already said it, “Hello Jason Isaacs.”
Phoenix Cinema

Book review: A few kind words and a loaded gun

Noel ‘razor’ Smith has produced an amazing book. It’s a life story, but it reads like a London version of Goodfellas. It describes the need for crime, the ability to use crime as a career choice, and the downsides of time spent in jail – not least the fact that he never managed to create a stable family environment for his wife and kids.
Crime clearly doesn’t pay, but if you want to understand how someone finds crime to be the most attractive career option and then how the code of criminal honour works once inside that life then this is the book for you. Written in a frank and engaging style, it doesn’t pull any punches, but the violence is never glamourised – when punches connect in this book there is hospital and broken bones involved.
My only criticism of the book is that the editor should have looked more closely at some of the simile use. Razor sometimes uses a simile and then uses the same one again within a page of using it earlier. I noticed this a few times in the book, so it could be a little quirk of his writing style, or just that the editor didn’t want to delete any copy with ‘razor’ being the author…!

Book review: Facebook Marketing for Dummies

The `for dummies’ franchise has covered just about every topic under the sun, including information technology, so it’s no surprise to see a new title focused on how companies can get the best out of Facebook.

Facebook has grown into the dominant global social network over the past few years with over 400m active users, so I read this book with some trepidation about which level of user it would aim to inform. As an experienced Facebook user with experience of online promotions and campaigns, I was interested in seeing what it could offer.

However, the first 52 pages of the book are consumed with a step-by-step guide to Facebook, without any focus on the specifics of using online marketing tools. Then the book focuses the next one hundred or so pages on creating pages, groups, and events.

Only in the latter third of the book does it begin to explore the use of applications and viral marketing, which is a shame, because there is an important tale to tell for companies who really want to reach out to consumers online.

Facebook is a constantly evolving environment so the book should have steered clear of screen shots and detailed guidance on menu options – who can say whether those menus will look the same next week, let alone in a couple of years? This book will have dated by summer 2010.

A book is not the natural medium for guidance on how to use a social network. The authors should have abstracted away from the nuts and bolts of Facebook and focused more on the challenges of marketing using any social network. This may not have given the book a typical `for dummies’ approach, but it would make it more useful for marketing professionals.

The book assumes the reader is still considering whether to sign up and use a social network. Educated marketing professionals are not browsing bookstores looking for guides that will give them a reason to get online. They are already online, already using Facebook, and already familiar with all the tools described in at least the first 200 pages of this book. This is 2010 – not 2006. Over 100m mobile devices connect to Facebook every single day…

File this one under doorstop.

Santa Maria pizza: “best pizza in London”

I was really pleased to see this review of the Santa Maria pizza restaurant in Ealing in the April 14 edition of Time Out magazine.

I had just walked past the restaurant the other day and Pasquale came out to say that he was short-listed in a Time Out survey of Italian restaurants. He was telling everyone that they may possibly be listed as the best pizza restaurant in west London. I was only walking past the restaurant and he came over to tell me this. I’ve only eaten there three times, but already it feels like I’m a regular… it’s new though, just a few months old, so he must have noticed a few people developing into ‘regulars’.
Santa Maria, Ealing

But the Time Out review goes much further, giving the restaurant 5 stars for food and listing it at the top of all their pizza restaurant reviews for London. And it’s listed as the best pizza place in London whilst also being listed in the ‘budget’ category for price!

Congratulations to the guys at Santa Maria. I loved the food there when I tried it and I know I will be returning more often – if I can get a table.

Oh, and if you want to know how to find it, use the 65 bus. The bus goes north from South Ealing station or south from Ealing Broadway – the 65 runs right past the restaurant, and it’s next door to the Red Lion pub. Well worth a visit for their collection of ‘Ealing Comedy’ posters and photos (the pub and restaurant are directly opposite Ealing Studios), and the Fuller’s beer.
Best pizza in London