cloudsinvenice: woman resting her head on her hand, thinking (A woman's place is in the revolution)
[personal profile] cloudsinvenice
It's been a while, but the meme is back! Also, I see this is my first public entry in ages. I swear, potential friends, it's not a complete desert - there is more going on beneath f-lock...

Finished recently:

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine: Fantastic, insightful YA novel. 15-year-old Rowan's been holding the family together (severely depressed mum, separated dad, 4-year-old sister) since her older brother Jack died. When an American guy in a local shop picks up a photo negative and hands it to Rowan, telling her she dropped it, Rowan knows it doesn't belong to her. But on developing the photo, she finds that it's of her brother Jack - a happy, intimate portrait she's never seen before. The mystery of Jack is bound up in Rowan's feelings for the finder of the negative, Harper, and her increasing closeness to Bee from school, who's dealing with some similar stuff at home.

I loved how this book avoided predictability or easy answers - it deals with some very painful subjects (young carers, grief, attempted suicide) sensitively but also shows how amazing it is to connect with people who show you different ways of living and different sides to yourself. I'll definitely be hunting down Valentine's earlier novel, Finding Violet Park.

Bonfire Of The Brands: How I Learnt To Live Without Labels, by Neil Boorman: This is a book that belongs to a very specific point in time - namely, 2006, before the global recession happened. And that's very apparent as you read about Neil Boorman's realisation that he's based his whole life around brnads and needs to stop in the most dramatic and public way possible: by burning all his branded goods.

Early in the book, I was often frustrated. Why the waste? The pollution? Why not give the items to charity, or sell them and do something good with the money? In fairness, he does address these issues, and also tells the story of a lifelong relationship entwined with branding, from going to school and discovering he needed Adidas to be accepted, to working as a magazine editor and events promoter, which came with the thrill of working with the brands he worshipped - plus, lots and lots of shopping.

Brands had been so central to his life that, post-bonfire, he found himself stuck for ideas on how to fill his time. He'd smashed his TV and mixing decks (the local council wouldn't let him burn those), recreational shopping was right out (though buying groceries without relying on supermarkets at least became a time-consuming adventure), and the considerable press he'd done meant he was frightened of being spotted gazing lovingly at branded goods, smoking, or any other activity that would be hypocritical in light of his vow. It has to be said that he's taken all this very seriously and you have to admire that - he's determined to do the right thing for himself, without becoming a prude or a nag about other people's choices.

But he does go deeply into the psychology of our relationships with brands, and some of the most interesting parts of the book recount his research into the history of advertising and marketing and how our psychology is manipulated: basically, how we went from shopping because we needed stuff to shopping because we felt incomplete without stuff. It all made me think a lot about my own relationships with branding. I don't think of myself as particularly brand-oriented, but I definitely have long-standing emotional relationships with brands I've loved since I was a kid (Marvel, Nintendo, Lego), and there is branding involved in services I use online like social media and email. Why is it seen as naff or dated to have non-Gmail webmail? And what about when the services we use becomes part of our own personal branding? As someone who prefers Twitter to Facebook, I think of myself as part of a knowledgable commentariat, and I'm definitely a snob about LiveJournal over Tumblr (despite loving Tumblr). It's insidious, and hard to escape even in areas of culture that we think of as just being about storytelling. Marvel vs. DC, anyone?

Currently reading:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling: This peeped at me from a charity shop shelf right when I'd started marathoning The Mindy Project, so that worked out nicely. It reminds me a lot of Tina Fey's book, but that's not a criticism - short, punchy chapters, self-deprecating humour, lots of the "how the comedy-obsessed child I was produced the woman I am" stuff that I eat up with a spoon.

Reading soon:

The other day we ordered lots of Yoko Tsuno comic albums and the first one arrived today. It's a Belgian series R remembered from when he was younger, and the stories are about a Japanese electrical engineer solving mysteries and having adventures with her friends. The coolest thing is that other readers have said the female friendships are really the biggest deal in it, and it's not afraid to bounce around different genres: the one we got today is about a suspected vampire attack, but there are also a lot of strong SF elements in the series in general. I think I'm going to really enjoy these. And helpfully, they're pretty cheap to obtain secondhand in their English-language editions published by Cinebook (they also publish the Thorgal comics, which I started reading last year; really, I'm glad Cinebook are around).
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cloudsinvenice: woman resting her head on her hand, thinking (Default)
"What can the cat-posters hope to gain?"

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