Minding Your Reputation in the Digital Economy

Cover Image Reputation Economy by Michael FertikIn the digital age, your reputation is a valuable asset. All kinds of people can access all kind of information about you with — or without — your permission. Learning to manage your reputation is an important skill. Get it right, and the world is your oyster, says Michael Fertik author of The Reputation Economy : How to optimise our digital footprint in a world where your reputation is your most valuable asset.

Get it wrong? Don’t panic. Know when the set the record straight and when to simply move on. Balance out the negative by crafting and managing positive messages that enhance your digital reputation across all the platforms you use — professional and personal.

Fertik points out that data stored about you has an indefinite lifespan and can show up anywhere, anytime. Not only that, but more and more, we’re all being scored on the data that’s held — scored for our customer value, our credibility, even our health and longevity. The scorer is a computer and our achievements that count are the ones that can be measured — that we increased sales by x%, decreased employee turnover by x%., and so on.

Friends matter too. Got the wrong kind? Watch out, that could affect you in ways you weren’t expecting. But the good news is that reputation, like the stock markets, goes through highs and lows so if your’s takes a hit, don’t give up.

The Reputation Economy is readable, relevant and full of practical insights and tips. We all have reputations and this a good guide to learning how to mind them.

The Reputation Economy by Michael Ferkik and David Thompson is published by Piatkus.

A Rescue Dog, A Loner and a Delicious Debut Novel from Sara Baume

Cover Image Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara BaumeThe title, spill simmer falter wither  (all lower case, no punctuation) makes Sara Baume’s debut novel sound more like a collection of poetry than the rather addictive yarn of Ray, a 57-year old loner, a “boulder of a man”, and his former badger-baiting rescue dog, Oneye. But don’t let the title put you off because while this is certainly an inventive and literary novel, it is also an engaging and rather addictive read.

Neither Ray nor his bad-tempered one-eyed dog is particularly likeable and yet each evokes sympathy so that you find yourself rooting for them as they traverse the seasons, walking, driving and camping out on the beaches and rural roads of Ireland.

Then again it’s not the characters or the plot so much as the quality of writing that makes spill simmer falter wither a read to savour. Sara Baume’s language is inventive and imaginative and her words surprise and delight like a perfectly presented tasting menu.

An original and satisfying read, spill simmer falter wither is published by Tramp Press at €12 (pbk).

[Disclosure: an advance copy was made available by the publisher for the purpose of this review].

Page-turner debut by Paula Hawkins

Cover image The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsDon’t get me wrong. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is not perfect. I need to say that at the outset because I absolutely loved this book. Love, jealousy, lies all feature here and none of the characters is quite what they seem. Despite that, they’re believable and mostly sympathetic and if I have a gripe, it’s that one or two loose ends don’t get tied up but, for me at least, that’s a minor issue in an entertaining and enjoyable read that had my heart racing.
So what’s it about? Rachel’s an alcoholic. Drinking cost her her job but since she’s hiding that from her flatmate she continues to take the train every day as if she were going to work. While she sits sipping gin and tonic from a can she has plenty of time to think about  her ex-husband, Tom and his new wife Anna, whose house the train passes every day and she develops more than a passing interest in their neighbours, Megan and Scott. When Megan disappears, Rachel finds she know more than she realised and suspects begin to emerge, she is perhaps closer to each of them than is wise. But Rachel is an unreliable narrator — with gaps in her memory to boot since much of her life is experienced under the influence of alcohol. Her fellow narrators — Anna and Megan — appear more stable at first but the reader soon discovers they’re not entirely reliable either. And then there’s the men who, for one reason or another, are also not to be entirely trusted. All of this makes in a nail-biting page turner that is as strong on plot as it is on character.Trust me. If you liked Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, you’ll love The Girl on The Train.
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[Disclosure: An advance review copy of The Girl on the Train was provided by Random House UK via Netgalley.com for the purpose of this review].

What books are you buying this Christmas?

When family and friends are thinking about purchasing books as gifts I am often asked for recommendations and this year, more than most, there is plenty to choose from. Here are ten of my favourite fiction reads of 2014.

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I started the year reading Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, a historical novel set in Iceland during the 1820s and based on the true story of the last woman to be executed in that country. This is one of those books that draws you in from the first page and utterly holds you all the way through to the end. My biggest regret is that I didn’t buy a beautifully bound edition with blue-edged pages that was in stock in my local bookshop last year. If you like suspense and historical fiction and good writing, Burial Rites is one that I definitely recommend.

From Iceland to Ireland for my second choice which is Colm Tóibin’s Nora Webster. Tóibin writes with tremendous authenticity about ordinary people and has the gift of making the everyday profound. To me, he is at his best when he writes about his native County Wexford and this new novel finds him back in the village of Blackwater as he explores the impact of a father’s death on his young widow and family. I preferred Nora Webster to Brooklyn and The Testament of Mary. If you’ve read Toibin before, it’s probably more like The Blackwater Lightship.

From Blackwater to Boston for my third choice which is The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant who is perhaps best known for her novel, The Red Tent. The Boston Girl tells the story of a Jewish girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents. It takes the form of a conversation between an 85-year old grandmother and her 22-year old granddaughter — an easy and enjoyable read that many grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters will relate to.

From grandmothers to grandchildren for my next choice. Usually young adult fiction wouldn’t cross my radar however I stumbled upon E Lockhart’s haunting mystery We Were Liars in Time magazine’s Best Books of 2014 and because I love books set off the coast of Massachusetts, I decided to give it a go. This is a coming of age story about family secrets and jealousies concealed behind an apparently perfect facade and was one of the reading highlights of my year.

One of the most talked about books early in the year was Donna Tartt’s long-awaited The Goldfinch. Donna Tartt is probably best known for The Secret History. This new novel, The Goldfinch, is old-fashioned story that is strong on plot with a good cast of believable characters and occasionally brilliant writing. Put that together with some interesting themes about life and art not to mention a ‘moral of the story’ and it all adds up to a pretty satisfying read of Dickensian dimensions.

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Not surprisingly, quite a few novels this year tackled the first world war theme and although none of the ones that I read equalled Pat Barker’s fabulous Regeneration trilogy or even Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong, one that did appeal to me was Helen Dunmore’s The Lie which explores the long term psychological impact of war. It’s not an action story by any means — instead it focuses on the interior life of its hero, Daniel Branwell.

For action, you can’t beat a good thriller and among those that caught my eye this year were The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins — an absolute page turner told from the perspective of three different women — each of them utterly believable as characters and deliciously unreliable as narrators. If you liked Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, you will LOVE The Girl on the Train. I couldn’t put it down and it had my heart racing.

Another thriller that I enjoyed was Chain of Events by Fredrik T Olsson. In this one, journalist Christina Sandberg’s ex-husband disappears from hospital while being treated for a suicide attempt. A cryptologist with expertise in military code breaking, William Sandberg has special skills that a top secret international organisation urgently requires. But who is behind the organisation and why are they so intent on withholding the contextual information that might help William crack the code? And how is William Sandberg’s experience linked to the killing of a homeless man in a fake ambulance in Berlin?

I started this list in Iceland and my second last choice heads back into Northern waters and the Faroe Islands for a taut thriller by Craig Robertson. The Last Refuge opens with John Callum lying on a stone slab on Torshavn’s harbour, unable to remember how he got there. Callum, who is in Faroe Islands to escape from an incident in his past, is a former teacher from Glasgow haunted by terrifying, violent dreams about an incident involving one of his former pupils.

My last choice is a quirky one for readers who remember those scary movies on television in the 1970s that featured variations on the curse of the mummy’s tomb, Lesley Glaister’s Little Egypt is a captivating tale of twins abandoned by their egyptologist parents, now aged in their nineties having spent a lifetime together trapped in their childhood home by circumstance and a terrible secret.

So, there are my ten suggestions based on what I’ve read myself in 2014. If you enjoyed this list and would like to connect with me for more book suggestions, you’ll find me on Twitter and on Goodreads. Happy reading!

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