The Supergirls by Mike Madrid

The Supergirls by Mike MadridThe Supergirls by Mike Madrid was published in 2009 and has been on my shelves since 2010. Why did it take me so long to read it? I can’t really give a reason, but I’m glad to be able to mark it as read and move it off my shelves. It was a decent read but not one I feel a need to keep. Madrid starts with comic heroines of the 1940s in his decade-by-decade discussion, and the first chapters were surface-level descriptions that didn’t interest me. Despite a subtitle of “Fashion, feminism, fantasy, and the history of comic book heroines”, there’s not a lot of analysis. That improves in later chapters, but I don’t think it ever lives up to the subtitle.

The limited analysis reflects mostly on how comic book heroines haven’t received the same attention as their male counterparts. They’re often viewed as sidekicks and/or girlfriends in spite of their own powers, and those powers are generally understood to be inferior to the guys’ powers. He specifically mentions the abundance of women with “stand and point” powers where they can stay outside the men fighting and never mess up their hair. I get his point, but as I recall, the heroes also rarely look worn out or roughed up after a fight. I’ll admit that it’s been a number of years since I followed graphic novels like I did in the years that my brother and I would pool our allowances for weekly trips to the local comic shop.

The most interesting bits of information came when Madrid discussed the evolution of superheroines and how they reflected the times. I wish he hadn’t sounded so derogatory about artists like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears when he talked about how their sexualization influenced heroines like Supergirl in the late 1990s and early 2000s. His flippant dismissal of those women was unnecessary and distracted from his other points.

Given the subject, it’s a real shame that the cost of licensing didn’t allow for illustrations. I did, however, discover that Mike Madrid created a website with illustrations organized by chapter: The Supergirls Visual Guide.

Tuesday Tidbits: Birthday Sprinkles Edition

I’m having an unfocused day with my brain running all over the place in an “Oooh shiny!” way. To go with that, I decided to write my first post in a series I’ve been calling Tuesday Tidbits in my head. These posts will happen on Tuesday (but probably not every Tuesday) as the name implies, and they will just cover a number of small things that are on my mind.

  • Today is my 39th birthday, and it feels odd. It’s not bad at all, and I’m definitely not bothered about the number or getting older in general, but “last year of my 30s” sounds strange to my ears. The past is always closer and farther away than you think it is is another person’s take on their 39th birthday this month, and it resonates.
  • I’ve decided not to track all the cookbooks I’ll be trying to go through this year on Goodreads because it feels like I’d be artificially inflating the numbers of book that I read even though I do read them cover to cover. Instead, I’ll mention here on the blog each month the cookbook I brought off my shelves for some new meals.
  • This month, I read Come Home to Supper by Christy Jordan from Southern Plate. I love her website because she feels like family and makes food that reminds me of home. We liked the chicken tortilla soup and the slow-cooker fiesta chicken and rice from this cookbook, but I’d suggest her first book Southern Plate to someone over this one because I think you see a little more of her personality and get more stories along with the recipes.
  • I don’t reread many books, but I find myself randomly remembering lines from the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery, so maybe that’s a sign. “There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.” I read those books over 25 years ago, and here’s another place where being 39 feels so strange!
  • I’m using Pinterest more lately. Scrolling through some pretty pictures seems like a nice way to start unwinding at the end of the day. There’s no worry that I’ll see a bunch of sad headlines or people arguing.
  • Did you know that Rider Strong (Shawn Hunter from Boy Meets World) co-hosts a podcast about books? Literary Disco is one in a very small group of podcasts that holds my interest. I should do a post about the few and the proud that keep me company on Podcast Republic.

Kindle Freebies: January 23, 2015

Two books I’ve read and enjoyed are free for a very limited time on Amazon.

The Very Best of Charles de LintCharles de Lint is my favorite author, and he has a short story collection titled The Very Best of Charles de Lint set as free for a limited time (through January 24). The book contains 29 stories that were chosen by polling his readers on social media. These fan favorites make a great place for someone new to Charles de Lint to start, and as someone who has read them all before, it’s nice to have them collected in one place. His stories tend to make me believe in magic and want to check behind every door for faeries and crow girls.

On Guard by William Lane CraigOn Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision by William Lane Craig may only be free for the rest of today. This book is an introduction to apologetics, defined by Craig as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith”. It is a shorter and easier-to-read version of his book Reasonable Faith and has illustrations, logic maps, and sidebars to aid in understanding the text.

My 2015 Reading Habits

Robin at Dear Author asked some questions in her post The State of our Reading Habits (2015 edition) that are related to thoughts I’ve had the last few months as I pay a little more attention to what I’m reading. I thought I’d address some of her questions here.

With all the Romance being published right now, are you reading more of it? And if so, what are you enjoying most? Do you feel like your reading tastes are adequately represented by the current market, and if not, what would you like to see more of? What do you wish would trend out of fashion for a while? And how have your reading habits changed, if at all, since self-publishing became so popular? Do you anticipate any change as agency pricing makes its grand return?

Romance Reading Habits

Over the last two years, romance has made up the bulk of the fiction I read, and I’ve read mostly fiction. Before that, I read a lot of romance, but I also read urban fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction set in the Victorian time period, and a smattering of young adult along with whatever else interested me. I read a number of series like Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris, The Hollows by Kim Harrison, Night Huntress by Jeaniene Frost, Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and Anita Blake by Laurell K. Hamilton. If you’re familiar with any of those series, then I’m sure you can see a theme there with the mix of fantasy and romance and kick-butt heroines in the style of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I still want to get around to the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, but I picked up the first book in that series right as my interest in those types of books was dropping, so it didn’t really stand a chance back then.

Most recently, I’ve read in the broad category of contemporary romance with books that range from Amish settings or other inspirational types of stories to more erotic reads with all the requisite billionaires and secret princes and SEALs and cowboys and combinations of all of the above. The rise of self-publishing has brought a lot of those books to me because I pick up free books for my Kindles (old Kindle keyboard and slightly newer Kindle Fire HD 7″) and then buy additional books from those authors I enjoy. This habit has also made me more likely to simply stop reading a book and move on to something else. When I was buying paper books, I rarely started a book I couldn’t finish because I put in more effort to ensure I was getting books I’d enjoy. As I pick up more free books, I also find more books that don’t work for me, and I’m fine deleting those and moving on.

I have way too many ebooks now that are just waiting to be read in addition to shelves and shelves of unread paper books. This year, I’m making an effort to sort through my unread books of both types and see which ones still interest me and which ones can be filed away or given away. I think I’ll be buying fewer books even as I read a similar amount as I have over the last few years. The books that I do end up purchasing will likely be ebooks that cost $2.99 and less.

Romance Trends

I’m all aboard the trend that reminds me of the old category romances I first read as a kid. I like younger, inexperienced heroines paired with slightly older alpha males. Butting heads is fine with me, but I want there to be some obvious tenderness too. Also, inexperienced doesn’t have to become too stupid to live because those heroines make me crazy. Shifters probably aren’t considered trendy any more, but those are a newer love of mine after I burned out a bit on vampires. I particularly like bear shifters because they’re often portrayed as bigger men and women, and I’ve enjoyed many gentle giant heroes who were bear shifters.

I’m completely over the trend of romances released as multiple short stories. These serials irritate me, and I don’t mind potentially spoiling myself on a storyline as I read through reviews to make sure I’m not picking up a book with a cliffhanger. I don’t buy romances for cliffhangers. Just give me my happily ever after please. Related to this, I’m also tired of contemporary romances that are released as trilogies or longer series with the same main hero/heroine pairing. I enjoy series set in towns or families where each book is a standalone with a different couple and past couples pop up with updates, but I don’t want to wait months for another book about the same couple.

Ebooks or Paper or Audiobooks?

My fiction reading is primarily done on my Kindles, and that’s only increased over the last few months with my library’s expanded ebook options and my Scribd subscription. I have the Kindle and Scribd apps on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S3), but I find reading on it to be less enjoyable and rarely do it. Buying paper books is mostly reserved for special editions of favorite authors like Charles de Lint who has released some beautiful books through Subterranean Press.

I have a few non-fiction books in ebook format. If it’s something I want to go back to in the future like a cookbook and/or is heavily annotated, then I still prefer paper. Otherwise, I’m fine with ebooks for nonfiction too. I’ve yet to find any way that I enjoy audiobooks. This could be related to my inability to enjoy most talk radio and podcasts. I often get impatient with the pacing, and disembodied voices just don’t seem to hold my attention.

The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition

The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition by C.S. Lewis

The first read of the year for me was technically a reread, but this was my first time reading the annotated edition of an old love, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. In another of his works, Lewis wrote, “The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers, ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty, or thirty times during the course of their life.” Based on that, I still have a few more reads of this work in my future.

The Screwtape Letters was first published as a serial in a weekly magazine in 1941. Lewis imagined a series of letters from Screwtape, a senior demon, to his nephew Wormwood. Wormwood has been assigned his first human patient to secure, and his uncle gives him lessons about effective temptation and human nature. Lewis uses Screwtape’s perspective to share interesting insights about what really makes humans tick. Wit and satire make the letters enjoyable to read while presenting a serious analysis of our relationships to God, Satan, and each other.

Although references to “The War” clearly mean World War II, Lewis used no dated examples, and descriptions of “The War” could apply to any war. Wars and vices like envy, vanity, greed, and lust will always exist, so the situations the patient faces are much the same ones that humans face today. In this way, the letters can speak to people of all ages from all walks of life. The fact that the patient is never named lends to that feeling.

An annotated edition of The Screwtape Letters was released in 2013 on the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death with annotations written by Paul McCusker, director of the Focus on the Family Radio Theater dramatization of The Screwtape Letters with Andy Serkis (Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy) as Screwtape. As far as I know, this is the only book by C.S. Lewis to have been released with annotations, and I hope it’s not the last. The notes do not attempt to interpret Lewis’s words or add commentary based on Lewis’s biography. These annotations are explanations of literary references and World War II English phrases and pointers to other writings by Lewis on selected topics.

Although I read a lot of ebooks, I would encourage anyone interested in this work to go with the hardcover edition. I’ve yet to see any annotated ebooks that work as well as a physical copy, and this particular hardcover is a beautiful addition to your bookshelf. inside view of the hardcover edition of The Screwtape Letters: Annotated EditionEach page of the book has two columns of text, with the original text in black in a large font and the annotations in red. This layout is easy to read whether you’re a casual reader or someone who picked this up for a deeper study.

"All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary." - C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape LettersI appreciate Lewis’s insights into spiritual matters and the human heart, and every time I read anything by him, I walk away thinking that he talks about temptation in a way that resonates with me. He wrote of the deepest things from a Christian point of view and explained them in a way that works into my soul. During this reading of the book, I was reminded of several quotes that had been sitting in my brain without sources. I created a few small images to better commit them to my memory, and I thought I’d share one here that I’m currently using as the lock screen on my phone.

New Year, New Reading Challenge

The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition by C.S. Lewis

I’ve pledged to read 150 books again this year with the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge. I’m already 1 book behind, so that’s lovely. The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition by C.S. Lewis will most likely will my first completed book as it’s the book I’ve started reading. I sometimes have multiple books going at once, but I still think that will be the first I finish this year.

I’ve never really done much with New Year’s resolutions, but I do have a few book-related goals this year that I’ll share and track here.

  • I want to make more conscious reading choices rather than just reading whatever pops up next on my Kindle and plowing through all the free books. Related to this, I want to stop hoarding books I really want to read like I’m saving them for some special occasion. I should actually read them instead of just anticipating the read! (I’m looking at you 2014 Kristen Ashley releases!) Also, I want to read some of the hardcovers and paperbacks on my shelves instead of defaulting to my Kindle because it’s handy.
  • As part of those conscious choices, I’d like to read at least one non-fiction book each month. I don’t care if it’s a celebrity memoir or a political economics book.
  • It would be nice to get more use out of my huge collection of cookbooks, so I’ll highlight one of them each month and select 2 recipes to try during that month.
  • I’m committing to weekly posts here at my shiny new blog. Some weeks may have more than one new post, but I think once a week is a good goal as a start.

Getting started as 2014 ends

I’ve promised myself that I will come back to blogging in 2015, so this is a quick early start. Books were my first love, so it’s fitting that I finally dedicate a blog to the books that send me out of this world.

In this first post, I’ll share some data from Goodreads about the books I read in 2014. I read 176 books, and I gave most of those books 3 stars. Only 1 book got 1 star, and I had 5 5-star reads.

My 5-star reads in 2014:

  • Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell
  • Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix
  • Yes to Everything by Shayne McClendon
  • Unrestrained by Joey W. Hill
  • Old Loyalty, New Love by Mary Calmes

Most Read Authors in 2014:

AUTHOR # OF BOOKS READ
Mary Calmes 4
Kristen Ashley 3
Lynette Bernard 3
Terri Anne Browning 3
Evan Grace 3
J.S. Scott 3

I’m surprised that I didn’t read more than 4 books from any one author this year. It seems like I read books from more authors this year than in past years and did fewer author binges. I believe 2012 was my year of the author binge with Kristen Ashley and Diana Palmer leading the pack.