Thursday, June 22, 2006

'The Martha Rules' (Martha Stewart)

I must admit to being extremely sceptical about Martha Stewart’s The Martha Rules: 10 Essentials for Achieving Success as you Start, Build or Manage a Business.

What could this woman, fresh out of a federal prison and famous for apron strings that are stylishly tied to the kitchen sink, possibly know about dog-eat-dog business?
Silly, short-sighted me.

I was hooked from page four, where Martha explains that “[i]n the freelance world, you start every day at zero”, and the insights got better from there.

The Martha Rules
offers 10 must-haves for entrepreneurial success, from the obvious ones like passion and an innovative idea, to the less self-evident ‘Teach so you can learn’ and ‘Make it beautiful’.

Along the way, the book also explains vision statements, encourages quality service, advocates superb personnel, advances promotional techniques and unpacks calculated risk-taking; each chapter peppered with celeb anecdotes, case studies and Martha-isms like “The journey begins in the mirror”.

I wouldn’t recommend The Martha Rules for hard-nosed businessmen keen on Robert Kiyosaki-style wisdom, but if you’re an ‘entrepreneuse’ – a female fire-starter – who’d like a solid grounding in how to get your Big Idea off the ground, take Mama Martha as your mentor.

'Dirty Blonde' (Lisa Scottoline)

Anything set in a courtroom and I’m an easy target. Particularly if the protagonist sits atop the dias and offers witty insights into what goes on behind closed courtroom doors.

Lisa Scottoline’s Dirty Blonde heroine, Cate Fante, is such a protagonist. But she’s also a real person, with all of the petty insecurities, fragile relationships, big dilemmas and ugly secrets common to real people.

Cate’s pretty, smart, successful and plagued with a dangerous sexual compulsion. And when both plaintiff and defendant in one of her high-profile trials are found dead, her life is ripped open for public scrutiny.

Fighting to keep it together, Cate is forced to brave the muddy waters of entertainment law, where human crocodiles await her.

Be warned: this is not Great Literature. Dirty Blonde offers minimal challenge and few surprises. What is remarkable, though, is the subtlety with which Scottoline develops her plot and characters, and the pace and personalities that result.

If you’re looking for a good escapist read, this is it.

'Where the Heart is' (Marita van der Vyver)

Marita van der Vyver’s Where the Heart is is like a pretty cake tin filled with slices of life. And I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book (or indeed, a cake) this much.

With delicious tales about realities that resonate with everyone, like renovations, strikes and the quest for food colouring, the book offers a taste of life in Provence.

It is also full of unexpected humour. When I read this little gem, my shoulders shook with such uncontrollable mirth that I woke the sleeping man at my side:

“In French Alain is pronounced Aláng, Thomas is Tommah and Hugo is Ighó. Try and explain that to your uncle in Upington. My friend Koos gave up after three days and started calling Alain Elaine. Alain still calls Koos Quees.”

Formerly Die Hart van ons Huis, Where the Heart is doesn’t read like a translation – instead featuring beautiful English flavoured with whimsical Joanne Harris-type ingredients.

Not only a delightful book to read, it’s a wonderful book to own.