penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.

Famous Last Words

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I’ve finished my last book of the year for 2013 – Age of Persuasion – How Marketing Ate our Culture by Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant.  My husband, a branding consultant and social media guru bought this book at some time in the unidentifiable past and I plucked it off his office bookshelf.

I really enjoyed the book, although I must confess to having picked it up and put it down a number of times.  It’s the kind of book that forgives you if you walk away from it – while the book in its entirety is about marketing, and each chapter builds on the other somewhat, any individual part can be read on its own without the sense of losing the thread of the book.

I work in communications, so the book was of significant interest to me.  I recently have switched jobs as well and while still in the specific field of strategic communications, there has been more of a focus on working with my marketing colleagues these days so I figured it might be good idea to study up a bit.  That being said, you don’t need to be working in the field of communications, public relations or marketing to enjoy this book.  It’s well written, the format is easy to read and it’s filled with real life stories that are sure to entertain regardless of whether or not you have your doctorate of spin. It’s also chock full of useful information and anecdotes from the trenches that can be of use to you both on the job and in your everyday life.  I particularly enjoyed the extra tidbits of intelligence supplied through side bars – titillating trivia that could possibly get in the way of the flow of the narrative, but made available within context in order to add further depth to the story.  I also liked the “myth” sections provided at the end of each chapter – where within less than a page, the authors use devastating arguments to explode common marketing myths.

I would also recommend this book to any parent who wants to teach their teenager about the importance of critical thinking – and to any teenager who wants to advise their parents on how to stay current with the modern media environment.  To use an analogy from the book – the author draws aside the curtain of the magic of marketing to show the man working furiously behind the curtain to make you want to buy, buy, buy!  At the same time, the book demonstrates how this becomes increasingly difficult for the magicians to dazzle each succeeding generation as they become jaded and wise the wizard’s tricks.

My only complaint – and it is a minor one – is that the book is clearly heavily based on material from the successful radio show of the same name produced by the same authors.  I’m a fan of the show, and I found the book went into greater depth than what is possible in a half hour broadcast.  That being said, it didn’t perhaps cover as much new ground as it could have.  Additionally, I found that I heard O’Reilly’s voice “speaking” the text out loud in my head the entire time I was reading.  The only thing missing were the sound effects and audio clips.

Final verdict:  A good read whether you live and work in the world of communications or not.

On the children’s literature side I recently finished Matilda by Roald Dahl.  I picked my copy up at a second hand book store I frequent that is close by my dentist.  I love Dahl’s books but at the same time I have concerns about their darkness and some of his themes concerning parents.  I was particularly concerned about this book as I had heard that the parents and school headmistress were depicted as small-minded, mean-spirited, dim-witted bullies. (Our friend had been to see the musical of the same name and had raved about it).

While this is certainly true, the over-the-top, comic book nature of Dahl’s characters is such that they can’t be taken seriously.  While Matilda is disrespectful to her parents (decidedly and creatively so) you really can’t blame her given the abuse she puts up with.  Additionally, these characters are balanced by Miss Honey, Matilda’s teacher.  She is portrayed as a sensible, loving adult and the perfect role model for Matilda to look up to – although even Miss Honey needs to be saved by Matilda in the end.

I did find the resolution of the story to be a bit more fantastical than expected given the opening of the book and I also found it came to a bit of an abrupt halt at the end. It doesn’t quite have the masterpiece qualities or epic sweep that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has, nor the dark creepiness of The Witches, but it was still enjoyable, fast paced and deliciously naughty.

Final verdict:  I gave it to my daughter to read and she devoured it in a day.  Then she asked for another Dahl book.  With some trepidation I gave her The Witches.  And she swallowed that whole too.

A Year of Reading

Want to check out the rest of the books I read over the last year?  Head on over to the Penny in a Castle books section!  This past year was a bit heavy on children’s books/young adult side as I try to keep up with the ever increasing demand for appropriate reads for my book devouring horde of children.  It is starting to become a losing battle though, so I may just give up and read some things that are a little more grown up (although I must admit, I can’t resist a few kids’ lit books – just enough to stay young).

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Written by pennyinacastle

December 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm

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