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How to Suck at Business Without Really Trying Book Review

How to Suck at Business Marah Archer Book Review

How to Suck at Business Without Really Trying is, if it isn’t nakedly apparent from the title, a satirical text on breathtakingly bad business management.

Written in the style of a self-help business book, it’s designed to impart pearls of wisdom and innovative insights from a sociopathic entrepreneur who has grown their corporate empire from nothing.

These types of books, often penned by self-styled ‘LinkedIn Gurus,’ are ripe for parody and yet How to Suck at Business Without Really Trying falls flat. Amusing in parts, the book unfortunately leans into predictable satire that never truly evolves beyond the first joke.

How to Suck at Business Without Really Trying
Overview

From business strategy and HR policies (a particular highlight), to marketing and project management, Archer’s text features some of the most egregious, irresponsible, and morally bereft business advice, packaged as wisdom. That in itself has the potential to be hilarious.

It’s a social commentary on American workers’ rights, damning the power that unscrupulous bosses have over their employees.

This should be a fairly straightforward target for some sharp satire. And yet somehow How to Suck at Business Without Really Trying is to satire what a blunt instrument is to open-heart surgery, bludgeoning the same point over-and-over.

Even the title is problematic. The writer-character of the book is absolutely convinced he’s the world’s best boss, and yet How to Suck at Business Without Really Trying breaks immersion by implying that the ‘real’ author simply wants to vent at their experience of bad managers.

Still, it’s not an altogether bad book. There’s some solid social commentary and amusing remarks on business culture that, frustratingly, shows what this book could have been.

Like David Brent, but Without the Charm

Our main character, the self-proclaimed ‘world’s best boss’, reveals as much about his own life through his running commentary and actions, as the misery he piles upon his employees. He’s a seedy, tragically bad manager who has convinced himself that he’s an industry thought leader.

But he lacks any sort of charm to offset the lack of humanity. The boss of How to Suck at Business Without Really Trying is a straight-up terrible human being, without any vulnerabilities or complexities that would enable the reader to connect with him on any meaningful level. He’s insecure and hates his employees succeeding.

There’s a missed opportunity here to introduce doubt, or sincerity, like The Office’s (UK) David Brent. Brent is a pretty ethically and morally dubious boss, but he’s entirely sincere in his buffoonery.

How to Suck at Business David Brent
Like this guy, but not.

The boss in this book is only comparable with David Brent insofar that he possesses the same dated and misguided views, but lacks any corresponding charm whatsoever. The result is that the running joke quickly begins to grate.

Satire at its best works with a wink and a smile, straddling an uncomfortable gap of truth and exaggeration. The problem is that How to Suck at Business Without Really Trying keeps winking over and over, whilst holding up a sign daubed with “this is satire”.

Conclusion

Anyone who has worked for terrible (or hostile) management will find some relatability in this book. It runs the full gamut of areas in a business, with our main character naturally professing to be an expert in almost all areas.

However, the humour is very on the nose, and once you’ve read a couple of chapters, you’ve pretty much read them all.

A mildly humorous read, but not the most original.

2/5

Full disclaimer: A review copy was kindly provided by the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May Book Review

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May Book Review

Review contains affiliate links to bookshop.org. Purchasing the book through these links provides the blog with a small commission at no additional cost to you.

A reimagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby with a supernatural twist, Francesca May’s Wild and Wicked Things spins a compelling yarn about the bond between three women – Annie, Emmeline, and Bea. It’s a terrific tale of witches, blood magic, and small-town intrigue on the shores of the North Sea.

An atmospheric, slow burner that delights throughout, it’s clear that May has poured love and passion into building her characters, as well as the dark, moody setting of Crow Island. The result is a tangible and authentic world – a kind of richness that many authors dream of.

And whilst the aesthetic often recalls more Roaring Twenties America than its apparent UK setting, Wild and Wicked Things is a sensual and stylish Sapphic novel.

It’s an exceptional piece of writing.

Drawn to Crow Island to settle some routine legal affairs following the death of her father, Annie Mason walks the shore of her holiday cottage, drawn along the beach to the revelries of the manor next door.

Cross House, home of the notorious Emmeline Delacroix, is renowned for its raucous parties and flowing of Kazam (an alcohol that may-or-may-not be laced with magic). Warned of this, Annie is nonetheless magnetised, pulling her into a world of illicit magic and forbidden romance.

With the exception of brief diary entries from a mysterious individual, the novel functions as a twin narrative, flowing between both Annie and Emmeline’s perspectives. Given Wild and Wicked Things’ predilection for revealing its secrets in a gradual manner, this style works well – each character’s perspective proffers pieces of a narrative jigsaw in an attempt to uncover the true nature of the mysterious bond between Annie and Emmeline.

Wild and Wicked Things might be a slower-paced novel, but it never wastes the reader’s time. Each conversation reveals aspects of character, driving the plot forward, or helps further build this marvellous world. Take your time with it – it’s a rewarding piece of writing that has been crafted meticulously to be enjoyed.

Something Wicca this Way Comes…

Being a Gatsby-inspired novel, Wild and Wicked Things is glamorous and raucous. In fact, May’s novel leans fairly heavily into the Gatsby-like influences early on. 

For example, there’s a purple light across the bay instead of a green one; Emmeline resembles Jay Gatsby in numerous ways, and Annie’s modest house, set across the way from Emmeline’s, is similarly placed to Nick Carraway’s own humble abode. Fans of Gatsby will find these references comfortingly familiar.

Still, because it’s so culturally intertwined with Roaring Twenties America, it’s difficult to divorce Wild and Wicked Things from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel. Crow Island itself is a fictional place and therefore exists in its own spatial dimension. So whilst the setting feels authentic, it never feels especially British. 

This isn’t a bad thing at all, and it certainly doesn’t affect immersion – Wild and Wicked Things is a highly stylised novel that borrows ideas from The Great Gatsby and builds upon them in some really fascinating ways. 

Any surface-level influences eventually yield to reveal deeper, darker secrets. It’s when the parties are over and the lights are dimmed in the hallowed halls of Cross House that Wild and Wicked Things truly comes into its own, usurping readers’ expectations with a thrilling plot.

There’s also far more at stake than a linear plot about witches. Wild and Wicked Things is also a thoughtful, methodical examination of what it was to be LGBT in the early 20th century. 

Magic is often presented in the society of the novel as a frowned-upon practice, functioning as a smart metaphor for homosexuality. Indeed, Emmeline herself is often portrayed as a mysterious and malevolent force, her predation upon young women playing into age-old, harmful tropes that many will be familiar with.

It’s a social topic handled sensitively, with May’s novel challenging these tropes and social mores, engendering empathy in the reader thanks to fantastic, well-written characters.

To Bea or Not to Bea

It’s fairly clear when an author knows their characters, and May has evidently spent many a day and night with these individuals. These aren’t just characters on a page. From mannerisms and gestures to inflections in dialogue, they feel like real people, and that’s testament to the writing and world-building. 

Bea is insecure and desperate, but unlike Daisy, her counterpart in The Great Gatsby, it’s relatively easy to empathise with her.

Likewise, Emmeline is a complex woman, tortured by her past and haunted by her future. She’s strong but vulnerable, with a reputation as an Anne Lister-like sort; corrupting young women and ensnaring them into her cult of personality (if, of course, you believe the rumours). Naturally, the truth isn’t quite as clear-cut as that.

Annie, on the other hand, appears at first glance to be an inquisitive but shy young woman. But unlike Nick Carraway of The Great Gatsby, she’s an active participant in Wild and Wicked Things, driving the narrative and shaping the lives of those around her. Beneath her innocent, seemingly passive, demeanour is an influential, forthright woman trying to find her true self. 

Meanwhile, Isobel & Nathan, two of Wild and Wicked Things’ supporting cast, are excellent additions, playing off against Emmeline’s dark, brooding demeanour.

Conclusion

This is one of the books to read in 2022. Especially if you enjoy witchy vibes and magic realism. But it also features some fantastic social commentary.

May has a wonderfully evocative style of descriptive writing that conjures vivid imagery at the mere turning of a page. The setting and aesthetics drip with detail, and the characters are fully-realised three-dimensional people. They have flaws, make terrible decisions, and it’s because of this, amongst other reasons, that they’re so much more believable. May takes all the time necessary to reveal their hopes and fears and the novel is far stronger for it.

In short, Wild and Wicked Things is a terrific novel that’s well worth your time.

5/5

Full disclaimer: A review copy was kindly provided by the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Must-Visit Bookshops in Leeds

Best Bookshops in Leeds
Best Bookshops in Leeds Cover

A History of Literature in Leeds

The bookshops in Leeds are diverse and extensive, reflecting the fact that Leeds itself is home to a range of famous writers including Barbara Taylor Bradford and Tony Harrison.

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, even lived in Leeds for a time whilst he worked at Leeds University as a professor of English Language.

More recently, friend of the blog, Stu Hennigan is set to release his debut book, Ghost Signs: Poverty and the Pandemic, exploring social inequality in the UK.

Must-Visit Leeds Bookshops

OK Comics is the premier comic bookshop in Leeds. 

Nominated for a number of Eisen awards, it’s a veritable trove of comic and graphic novel goodness.

OK Comics Leeds Bookshop
Image by OK Comics

I first stumbled into OK Comics by accident during my first year at university and was taken aback by how impressive it is. The owner is really kind and welcoming, whether you’re new to comics and graphic novels or a seasoned veteran.

One awesome thing about Leeds’ OK Comics is their free regular order service. Even if you’re not a local, you can still get your hands on the latest issues of your favourite comic book series, with free delivery as standard. Pretty neat!

Next time you’re in Leeds, do pop by OK Comics. It’s a proper old-fashioned comic book store, cozy and inviting, and a memorable bookish spot.

OK Comics
19 Thornton’s Arcade,
Briggate, Leeds,
LS1 6LQ
0113 246 9366
shop@okcomics.co.uk
https://okcomics.co.uk/

Just a bus ride away from Leeds city centre lies The Little Bookshop in Chapel Allerton.

It’s a beautiful bookshop that focuses primarily on selling and promoting children’s literature.

In fact, The Little Bookshop is the only independent children’s bookshop in Leeds. Featuring regular author reading events, it’s perfect for families looking to find the next book they can read together.

The Little Bookshop
47 Harrogate Road
Chapel Allerton
Leeds
LS7 3PD
hello@thelittlebookshopleeds.co.uk
https://www.thelittlebookshopleeds.co.uk/

Open since September 2020, The Bookish Type is an independent queer bookshop, hidden away in Leeds’ Merrion Centre.

Image by Visit Leeds

Championing LGBTIQA+ authors, The Bookish Type’s mantra is to ensure that its readers feel seen in the books they read.

Stocking fiction, children’s books, YA, memoirs, poetry, short stories, zines, non-fiction, colouring books and graphic novels, The Bookish Type has a bit of everything!

They also some brilliant community outreach schemes such as a book club for older LGBTQIA+ people. A brilliant Leeds bookshop that’s conveniently located and well worth visiting.

The Bookish Type
58 Merrion Centre,
Leeds
LS2 8NG
07947 460692
thebookishtypeleeds@gmail.com
https://thebookishtype.co.uk/

4) Philip Howard Books

Philip Howard Books is a classic community bookshop in Leeds’s pleasant suburbs of Roundhay.

As self-styled guardians of knowledge, the staff at Philip Howard Books know their stuff!

Featuring a wide range of books, they also offer an ordering service over the phone and via email, whilst students, reading groups, and teachers can benefit from generous discounts.

Roundhay also has some great bars and pubs nearby.

Philip Howard Books
47 Street Lane
Roundhay
Leeds
LS8 1AP
0113 225 9797
philiphowardleeds@yahoo.co.uk

Village is an independent bookshop specialising in art, fashion, design, and photography from both local artists and those around the world.

The bookshop also includes a not-for-profit art gallery, showcasing talent from Leeds and beyond.

Holding book launches and art exhibitions, Village is a really neat little place in the centre of Leeds, if you’re into your art & photography.

Village
10-12 Thornton’s Arcade,
Leeds
LS1 6LQ
hello@villagebooks.co
https://villagebooks.co/

Arguably the most beautiful place on this list, The Grove Bookshop, based in Ilkley is one of the most popular independent bookshops in the UK.

It’s also the official bookseller of the annual Ilkley book festival!

A short train ride from Leeds, The Grove Bookshop has everything, ranging from brand-new bestsellers to quirky, less well-known titles.

Plus, if you’re looking for something particular, they can order it in for you in time for the next day! Efficient.

If you’re not local, you can browse their full stock online and either get your book delivered or stocked ahead of your visit. 

Grove Bookshops
10 The Grove,
Ilkley
LS29 9EG
01943 609 335
info@grovebookshop.com
https://www.grovebookshop.com/

Travelling Man is awesome.

A specialist bookstore that focuses on comics, graphic novels, and board games, it’s a palace of nerd culture.

Image by Travelling Man

Beginning as a small shop in Headingley, Travelling Man can now be found in Leeds City Centre proper, as with a small handful of additional stores around the UK.

Owners Simon & Nabil are knowledgeable about all things table-top gaming, and love to stock books and comics that explore the boundaries of what is possible, hence ‘Travelling Man’.

This is a must-visit indie bookshop.

Travelling Man
32 Central Rd,
Leeds
LS1 6DE
01132 450 822
leeds@travellingman.com
https://travellingman.com/

Truman Books Leeds
Image by Truman Books

Coffee, cake, literature.

These are three things you’re sure to find in the stunning Truman Books, based in Farsley, West Leeds.

One of the newer independent bookshops on this list, Truman Books opened its doors in early 2021 and has proven a hit success since.

It’s all about the community here. Truman Books wants you to stay, have a drink, and chat whilst browsing the shelves.

From storytime sessions for children to bookish chats with both emerging and established authors Truman offers something for everyone. It’s a beautiful place and well worth visiting.

Truman Books
95 Town St,
Farsley, Pudsey
LS28 5HX
0113 805 6019
info@trumanbooks.co.uk
https://trumanbooks.co.uk/

How many of these Leeds bookshops have you visited? Let me know some of your favourites in the comments below!