Book Review: “Diagnosis: BURNOUT” by Ariyana S. Nishe

Rating: 1 star

Headline: Questionable facts, confusing anecdotes that lead nowhere and uncomfortable levels of over familiarity. Diagnosis? Checkout

Review:

Burnout is, to pardon the pun, a hot topic at the moment. I only need to pop down to my local community centre, shop or healthcare provider and within seconds there will be someone venting about their personal frustrations of working in an increasingly pressurised environment. From this inevitably comes the term ‘burnout’, a mental health condition that can be triggered by chronic workplace stress.

From this the writer Ariyana S. Nishe has decided to invest her passions into producing a 45-page self-help guide, Diagnosis BURNOUT.

With the subline, “Reclaim your time, health, energy and relationships” I was expecting something that could provide clear and concise guidance for those on the brink (or wanting to take proactive steps to avoid) a mental health crises. However the cover imagery is very divisive and features an eclectic mix of imagery that is distracting.

Nishe states in her introduction that burnout has been added to the list of medical diagnoses by the World Health Organisation (WHO), yet when visited the WHO website the only definition of burnout I could find was that the condition is “an occupational phenomenon. It is not classified as a medical condition.”

My confusion over the author’s interpretation of burnout left me doubting many other elements of this book. I’m not an expert on mental health conditions, let alone burnout syndrome; that is why I turn to publications like these. Yet suddenly my eye is drawn to other elements; the formatting could be tightened, use of imagery could have been reduced and improved and the tone of voice would have significantly benefitted from editorial input.

It’s clear that the author is passionate about this field of study, and I appreciate her detailed reference section to acknowledge her source materials, but it’s not enough to pull at quotes from obscure places, couple them with images pasted from search engines and label it as self-help. This is a publication that is both confused and lacking direction.

While Nishe’s attempts are valiant, sadly they don’t hold enough water to make Diagnosis: BURNOUT marketable to the audience it’s intended for. This should be seen as a product of the author’s aspiration to be published, not something for mass-market consumption. Less book material, more blog.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “Diagnosis Burnout”

(Since publication of this review the author has decided to remove the book from sale)

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Book Review: “The Customer Affinity Manifesto: How AI can Help Businesses Connect with Customer Emotions”

Rating: 5 stars

Headline: For those who want to stay ahead of the increasingly steep and bloody curve of customer satisfaction, this book is a must

Review:

Once upon a time, loyalty was decided by large armies and costly landgrabs. A knight (or similar) would swear their loyalty and in turn all the sprawling hordes of peasants (or similar) underneath would also find themselves also pledged to that cause. But we are no longer in that period. In Westernised countries, gone are the knights, swept away the uneducated masses and in its place born is the freely accessible internet.

Joss Gillet’s guide to business, The Customer Affinity Manifesto: How AI can Help Businesses Connect with Customer Emotions, brings into conversation the need to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into brand building. Before all else, Gillet details two home truths, 1) AI is not going anywhere and 2) your business is not going anywhere without it. (The phrase “suck it up and move on” springs to mind.)

That said, Gillet is equally keen to not let AI become seen as a digital enemy, if anything in many cases throughout recent history he cites many examples of where AI systems have benefited improvements in marketing and how, before then, psychology experimentation was mimicking a lot of what we see today, be it on a much more labour-intensive scale. From telephone response times to the words and colours on a digital app, a better understanding of customer frustrations can lead to better targeted improvements. Happy customers equals happy economic growth.

Using his previous experience in the Telecommuncations sector to build a case study, Gillet identifies sixteen specific pain points (or ‘topics’) where customers feel particular disillusionment with their provider’s service. Gillet then presents the case that anyone can use deep learning to build a simple AI model to utilise freely accessible data on social media platforms, such as Twitter, to produce highly effective data charts and sentiment scores. Later on, there contains more detail about how business can implement effective AI, without needing to rely on the brand popularity of 10,000+ Tweet mentions a day.

Gillet’s book is well researched, well put together and visually is very engaging (the use of clearly explained graphs being welcomed sight). Granted, this would perhaps not be the best birthday present for someone selling the occasional bead necklace on Etsy, but for the truly aspirational, those who want to grow their business and stay ahead of the increasingly steep and bloody curve of customer satisfaction, this book is a must.

AEB Reviews

Links:

Reedsy Discovery Review: AEB Reviews – “The Customer Affinity Manifesto”

Purchase Link: “The Customer Affinity Manifesto” by Joss Gillet (Amazon)

Author Website: https://jossgillet.com/

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Book Review: “The Ultimate Workbook to Train Your Brain, Body and Spirit” by Steven Clinch

Rating: 3 Stars

Headline: The only place where you can complete sudokus and hug trees: a little book of fun

Review:

The Ultimate Workbook to Train Your Brain, Body and Spirit by Steven Clinch is a neat little publication, at 129 pages there is by far more visual content in here than words (for context, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is around 77 thousand words in length, The Ultimate Workbook nears a modest 1000). It is a welcome relief from a lot of the denser material that exists in the market.

This publication provides the reader with 150 different exercises to conduct at their own pace. Activities include colouring in, wordsearches and short exercise routines, all of which are intended to trigger feelings of relaxation or deep thought as the reader is given the opportunity to pick (and subsequently tick off) the activities they’ve completed. For those needing a bit more guidance, answers to the puzzle activities are provided towards the back.

Be it sudoku or crosswords or even wordsearches, for a indecisive person like me I like the variation in activity and puzzle. I could pick and choose an activity based on how much time I had or how I was feeling on a particular day. I tended to reserve the ethical dilemma questions for when I had the most time and use the brain teasers as a bit of fun when spending time with friends and family. In this sense the book is perfect across a broad range of age groups.

The cover’s intense and dark imagery is easy to misconstrue, I had to take a second glance before recognising this as being aimed toward mental stimulation rather than physical. The solutions on the final pages have not taken into consideration accessibility – my eyesight is perfectly fine but I still found myself struggling to read some of the answers and I am not convinced the author should be making bold statements. Claiming the completion of the activities will create more brain neurons and therefore result in to a longer and happier life? The colouring lead to a happier half hour, let’s start there.

AEB Reviews

Links

Original Reedsy Discovery review: AEB Reviws – “The Ultimate Workbook”

Purchase link: “The Ultimate Workbook” (Amazon)

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Book Review: “Picturing Freedom: African Americans & Their Cars, A Photographic History”

Having read some of my fabulous book reviews on MHAM, the good editorial team at Reedsy Discovery approached me to start writing reviews for them.

Here’s my first one…

Picturing Freedom: African Americans & Their Cars, A Photographic History”

Rating: 5 Stars

Headline: The pictorial history of American civil rights you never knew you needed

Review:

I’m not always a fan of photographic books, most often the content seems to take a back seat to a random consortium of imagery, thrown together by the author to fill out pages. They don’t provide the level of substance I look for when I want to fully immerse myself in a period of History. Not this book, however.

Picturing Freedom is a fascinating collection of imagery of African Americans with their motorcars from across the twentieth century. Shedding light on an overlooked element of American culture, Burns highlights the significance of car ownership for what was most often the most impoverished segment of society. It offered freedom from segregation, class and gender structure and from the bindings of Jim Crow laws.

Opening with an introduction, extensive historical context, and several case studies of influential African Americans, the book showcases hundreds, if not thousands, of images from the Burns archive. Moving chronologically from the turn of the 1900s, where expensive cars limited most to posing in studios with set props, through to the roaring twenties, thirties and forties and beyond, the clothes and models may change must the sense of owner pride remains the same.

As I moved through this book I found myself completely transfixed by the characters and the stories I desperately wanted to learn more about. The young solider headed to war, the women with the blunt stare down the lens, elbow proudly rested on the bonnet. These are truly the untold stories of ordinary people during a turbulent period of American civil rights. And yet for the most part, these individuals are nameless, limited to the occasional half-written note on the back of a photo. It leaves the reader guessing, who are these people? What were their thoughts, ambitions and dreams in life? And did they achieve them? Forget people watching, this is photo watching at its very best.

The time and effort Burns has invested into compiling, researching and editing this book is nothing short of admirable. If you’re looking for something to spark a deep and meaningful conversation, or simply a new addition to your coffee table, then look no further.

AEB Reviews

Links

Reedsy Discovery Review: Picturing Freedom (AEB Reviews)

Purchase Link: Picturing Freedom: African Americans and Their Cars

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Come Again?

Doing a bit of industry research one evening I come across this book of poetry, “Dung Beatles Navigate by Starlight”.

I know I can give as good as it gets on the waffle game (and I’m not talking about sweet treats) but this is next level:

The book’s description reads:

These poems explore the boundary between science and poetry, and juxtapose the lexicon of organic chemistry, in particular, with a botanical discourse which is more conventional in poetry, but which the scientific treatment defamiliarises. Far from being abstruse and heavy, the treatment here lightens the subject with an imaginative playfulness, as in ‘The First Green Human: The Observer Interviews Clorinda’, where Marvell’s pastoral character is turned, through a journalistic register, into a personification of current ecological concerns.

My reaction?

I’m done. No way can I compete with that level of blurb-ery (#ShouldBeAWord) talent (and I’m not entirely kidding).

In other news, Mumma B says she’s reassured in knowing that her daughter isn’t the only one who can spout waffle. Whoop.

(Link: https://cinnamonpress.com/store/dung-beetles-navigate-by-starlight/)

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Five Minute Book Review: “Ways of Living” by Gemma Seltzer

Five minutes to type-up a quick review of a recent read. This time, I’m reviewing Seltzer’s collection of ten short stories in her anthology, “Ways of Living”.

Five Minute Book Review: “Ways of Living” by Gemma Seltzer

In this collection many of Seltzer’s short stories can be traced back to common, yet very relatable, themes. It feels quite apt that I’m writing this whilst buried deep in oversized lounge wear, cup of tea to my left. Isolation, personal loss, the constant readjustment of itchy face coverings; these aren’t always the most comfortable visualisations, but the ones we can readily embrace.

The anthology is set around working and living in London, drawing a lot on the author’s Jewish heritage and personal research within broad and diverse communities. Light humour peppers the emotional undertone of most stories, such was the case in Parched, with its protagonist who can’t stop crying, or the surreal tale of a woman who takes to believing her deceased mother is still alive and living in her coat (Some Women Carry Silence in their Pockets).

What Would You Have Said?, depicting the fallout of an enforced office policy of “Quiet Wednesdays” (with strong inklings of Blackmirror) and Handover, a tale about a friendship breakup, introduces some interesting topics for broader discussion. For instance why, in an age where people aren’t as geographically fixed as they used to be, doesn’t popular culture mourn the loss of friendships as much as romantic relationships? Maybe it’s a more generational problem as much as anything else.

These short stories were a nice quick-read during busy working days from home. A moment of urban escapism, within four magnolia walls.

AEB

(Author Website: http://www.gemmaseltzer.com/)

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Alice’s Book (Cover) of the Week #2

Again, as per the last one I shared, this too comes from an online forum.

Errrrrr…..

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It’s Not You, It’s Me…And My Editing

If ever there was a cartoon strip more applicable to me and less applicable to everyone around me right now, it would be this…

And equally, a cartoon strip that made me smile so much when I saw it but couldn’t be of less interest to most my ‘normal’ friends, followers etc.

I mean, you can tell I enjoy writing, can’t you? The person who drew that cartoon strip, they themselves probably spent less time formulating the concept and execution than my internal predicament about sharing it on social media.

I just love the damn cartoon, alright?

Another reason I find this image particularly relatable is because it is me right now. Yes, I am indeed a stick drawing with a blob of a body, tirelessly reviewing and re-reviewing every joke and humorous jab listed in my manuscript.

It’s 90k words, it’s a comedy-farce, there’s A LOT of one-liners to review. And I’ll be honest with you, a lot of the time I re-read stuff on this very blog and go ‘what the fudge was I on that night?’ Let alone what I’m going through right now.

Seriously, how do you guys put up with some of the things I say?

If in doubt, I’m editing.

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Woman on The Verge of a Birthday Breakdown

Another novelty of lockdown – birthdays aren’t going ahead in the traditional way, so as part of a collective project I recorded a short video to celebrate my mate turning another year older.

Well, at least that was the plan. In reality, it was on a to-do list which I may have have let slip until the last minute, when it became a 1am scramble to get filmed. Which is inevitable when you get this:

Now, even though it was stupid o’clock in the morning, I felt strongly possessed to rerecord my message, again, and again…and again. Eight attempts later, I STILL was after another the perfect VT.

“I know! My background is too plain!” I exclaimed.

Initial hurdle, I don’t have any of those fancy bookcases the boffins on TV tend to have.

Must…promote company, but must also…show off intellectual status! Argh!
Ooh, a man with TWO Oxford dictionaries!

However, I thought I’d try something similar. Presently I don’t own many of the classics, over than those Dick King Smith story books from when I was a kid and The Victorian Celebration of Death. What can I say? I’m a girl of extremes.

Knowing that both wouldn’t really set a great tone (“Happy Birthday!! Did you know the Victorian aspiration wasn’t necessarily to save up for a nice house or clothes? Nah, it was to have a super expensive tombstone carved out and a burial plot decided on whilst still alive. Coincidentally, the male life expectancy was 40 so, you know…chop-chop.”)

Exactly…couldn’t fit that on any greetings card.

In the end I went for this:

Did you see it? You may need to re-watch the video a few times to spot the subtle message, it’s quite well hidden on my headboard. I went and sent that one over.

So yeah, I think that’s done the job in reassuring my mate in her ability to select friends.

(Oh, before I forget, I actually did write-up a five minute review on that book. Check it out…or not. It’s a free country, I’m not your mother.)

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Why I Haven’t Published my Book…Yet

In response to the frequently asked question “hey, Alice, when do we get to read your book?” here is a list of genuine reasons why I haven’t and why I’m not sorry for it.

  • My manuscript (at time of writing) is c. 70,000 words and nearing 200 pages. That’s a lot, but I want to make it up to the 80,000 mark. My History dissertation back (in 2014) was 10,000 words and took a year of solid research and writing (with no distractions). Go figure.
  • I realised three weeks ago at least half of it needed rewriting.
  • I’ve spent about six weeks working on the opening extract (first 5000 words).
  • I have a full-time job which I have continued to do throughout pandemic.
  • Up until mid August, I had only take one day off of my allocated annual leave. One day, in all of 2020.
  • I have to do human things; shop for food, eat, sleep, poop etc.
  • Shoot me, I get writers’ block/creative fatigue.
  • Covid-19. Just Covid-19.
  • I commute frequently from family home to the actual home I pay a mortgage on. A 1.5 hour car journey will just about sap up any energy you got.
  • Some days I really can’t be bothered to write.
  • Some days I really write a load of rubbish.
  • Believe it or not, I do other creative exploits. All writers need the satisfaction of quick-win completion, which is why I’ve also been writing more short stories. I can’t post these on the blog, because then I’d be unable to make money from them at a later date and/or submit for competitions. A ‘short story’ for me is 2000 words. Nine pages (double-spaced).
  • I blog.
  • I self-promote. See TV/Radio Appearances for a flavour of how much!
  • I’m busy building up a social media following. Half the battle with any published book is having an author that people love and can market.
  • Is there a chance this will NEVER be published? Yes.
  • I therefore need an agent. And to submit to an agent means you have to have your manuscript at the absolute top of it’s game.
  • (Mumma B suggestion) – ‘why don’t you just say “the dog ate my manuscript”?’
  • And as for the publishing industry in general? Please see video below. Spoilers, it’s infamous for being a slow.

Pinky promise to keep you posted on progressed. It still means a lot that I have a massive fan base that are chomping at the bit to pre-order something I haven’t even completed yet!

Much love xx

To give you an idea of time passing…that succulent I bought, it’s dead now.

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