Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dull Minds Are the Enemy, and "Big Girl Panties" by Stephanie Evanovich

"The enemy of the black is not the white. The enemy of capitalist is not
communist, the enemy of homosexual is not heterosexual, the enemy of Jew
is not Arab, the enemy of youth is not the old, the enemy of hip is not
redneck, the enemy of Chicano is not gringo and the enemy of women is
not men.
We all have the same enemy.
The enemy is the tyranny of the dull mind.
The enemy is every expert who practices technocratic manipulation, the
enemy is every proponent of standardization, and the enemy is every
victim who is so dull and lazy and weak as to allow himself to be
manipulated and standardized." --From Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom
Robbins, who lives in Seattle, WA.
I love Tom Robbins quotes, he always knows just what to say when you think the world has let you down. I also loved "Jitterbug Perfume" and "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" and "Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas." Just by his presence out here in Western Washington, he makes the Pacific Northwest a cool place to reside.
Also, I think this trailer is brilliant, and I look forward to seeing this movie starring the fabulous Emma Thompson, my favorite British actress, the day after my birthday (it opens on December 13).
The first trailer has been released for Saving Mr. Banks
the "true story of how the ultimate classic," based on a children's book
series by P. L. Travers, made it to the screen, reported.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, the film stars Tom Hanks as Walt Disney
and Emma Thompson as Travers. The supporting cast includes Colin
Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Annie Rose
Buckley, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths and Kathy Baker.
Saving Mr. Banks has a limited release December 13 before opening
nationwide December 20.

I just finished Stephanie Evanovich's "Big Girl Panties" and I must say that I was surprised at how easy it was to read and how much fun it was, especially in light of the protagonist, Holly, having to lose weight to get a man. That kind of storyline usually pisses me off, and it also hacks me off when the author always makes a big deal of the protagonist only eating junk food in mass quantities to get fat in the first place. There's never any mention of the fact that you can eat regular healthy food and still become overweight and/or obese. 
However, the book goes on to make some serious points for correctly pointing out that some women, even with exercise and diet, will always be pudgy or voluptuous, or carry around an extra 20 pounds. The author also notes that it is sexy to be voluptuous and juicy and that there are a number of men who dig the curves on women. I know that my husband, even when he was just my boyfriend, loved my curves and he wasn't the only one who found me sexy, even at a higher weight. The book also points out that food is not the enemy of weight loss success, and that treats every now and then are healthy. They also have a great take on exercise, making the point that weight training to gain muscle will make you tighter and appear leaner, and that women don't usually 'bulk up' when they work with weights like men do. But muscle does help the metabolism burn calories. 
The male protagonist, Logan, who is a personal trainer (he meets Holly on an airplane and decides to take her on as a project to transform her "ugly duckling" into a "swan") comes off as kind of a tool, and there are several times in the book where I wanted to kick his ass. Fortunately, he matures and becomes a fairly decent fellow by the end of the book, someone worthy of Holly's affections.  
Though Evanovich doesn't make the mistake that Wally Lamb did in "She's Come Undone" by portraying all fat/larger women as having been abused, usually sexually, as children or teenagers, she does have Holly come from a cold and distant family, with parents who are hoarders and a brother who is only interested in how soon she can be enslaved to take care of her parents now that they are seniors. Apparently Holly also had few friends in school, and ended up marrying in college just to get away from her needy, soul-deadening family.
My problem with this is that not everyone who is overweight and obese is a victim of abuse or a rape survivor. Sure, there are those who are, but it is ridiculous to assume that fat is a byproduct of sexual abuse. There are women who have health problems, women who take medications that cause obesity, women who are genetically inclined to be larger, women who have thyroid or other hormones out of whack. There is no one reason that fits all the fat women out there.Also, there are as many smart and kind and talented women who are fat as there are ones who are thin. You can't assume that a larger woman is some no talent, uneducated back woods mama. That is a stereotype, a cliche that needs to be removed from our lexicon. Fat shaming helps no one.
Anyway, I'd give "Big Girl Panties" a B+, within a whisker of an A, and I'd recommend it to all women who have worked with perfect bodies in the gym and always wondered what it would be like to get some horizontal exercise with one of the hot young personal trainers. 
I've also read "Belle Epoque" by Elizabeth Ross and Kersten Gier's "Sapphire Blue,"which is the sequel to her fine "Ruby Red" of last year.
Belle Epoque is the story of Maude Pichon, a young, plain woman who is hired as a companion to a beautiful young woman as a 'foil' to highlight her beauty by contrast. There is a whole group of women who are all hired because they are considered plain or ugly, who are rented out by Monsieur Durandeau to various wealthy aristocrats in Paris and London during the debut season so that they will appear perfect and get the right husband, ie someone rich and aristocratic/royal. What is great about this book is that Maude grows to realize that there is beauty in all of the women she works with, and that they all have talents and dreams that are worth pursuing, regardless of their looks. While there are strong sexual themes that run throughout, I believe this would be a good book for the YA audience from age 13-18. Girls tend to be their own harshest critics, and I believe this book, which shows that young women of any type can achieve their dreams, would provide some great contrast to the airbrushed and photo-shopped models and actresses that grace the covers of magazines with looks that are impossible for normal human females to achieve. A solid A for this book, which I'd recommend for teenage girls everywhere.
Sapphire Blue was more coherent than its predecessor, with a stronger plot and a more intelligent heroine, who is finally on her way to solving the mystery of the Circle of Twelve. Though Gwen is at times rather a brat, she shows signs of growing up and taking responsibility for her actions or inactions in this novel, and by the end readers are excited about her progress and ready to read the final installment, Emerald Green. A B for this one, and I'd recommend it to readers of the first book, "Ruby Red."

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