Since I’m trying to organize my life, I’m also trying to read my way through the books that have accumulated in my TBR pile. And I thought that maybe I’d review the ones I read here because I need to organize this blog, too, and a review thread seems serious and focused. But the first book I picked up . . . well, even if I hadn’t intended to review things here, I’d have talked about this one: The Action Heroine’s Handbook.
My big problem was that I thought it was a sequel to The Worst Case Scenario book, so I thought I was going to learn something; that is, it’s a sequel to The Action Hero’s Handbook and I mixed that up with the WCS books which was what the publisher intended since the format is the same. So I was appalled as I paged through looking for actual content. Once I realized that it was supposed to be funny, I tried it again, but the problem is, it’s not funny. At least, it’s not funny the way the authors intended. So not informative, not funny, a real opportunity for a terrific book wasted.
The subtitle is How to Win a Catfight, Drink Someone Under the Table, Choke a Man with Your Bare Thighs, and Dozens of Other TV and Movie Skills, but even if you define “Action Heroine” as “Movie Action Heroine,” I am hard-pressed to determine why there’s a section titled “How To Hook A Millionaire.” Marilyn Monroe was not an action heroine. Or the section headed “How To Give Birth Under Pressure.” Because giving birth normally has no pressure. So this section is to tell the Action Heroine how to push and disarm the bad guy, too? How to give birth on the run? Nope, it’s just an explanation of how to give birth if you’re not near a hospital. So their definition of “action heroine” seems to be so loose as to be non-existent which pretty much makes the book about some things some women have done in some movies. Which means we get an appendix headed “Action Heroine Hairstyles,” including “The Ripley” (that was a hairstyle?). And a section on how to go undercover with three options: Beauty Queen, Prostitute, and a Man. Because that covers the kinds of situations a heroine might find herself needing a disguise for? How are we defining “action heroine” again? The instructions for going undercover as a man include the helpful advice to “assume a manly posture,” use masculine phrases like ‘What’s up?,” “Dude,” and “man,” and order beer not spritzers, so the sexism goes both ways. Not helpful, not funny, lame.
The thing is, this could have been a good, fun book. Appendix A is Handbag Essentials, and they could done some fabulous things with that. Instead we get:
A metal nail file has multiple uses for the manicured heroine on the move. A double-sided file may be used:
As a tool for eye-gouging
To file one or two nails to a sharp point
As a lock pick, in combination with a bobby pin.
Okay, what have we learned here, campers? Nothing we didn’t already know. Did they think they were the first people to look at a nail file and say, “You know, I could do some serious damage with this thing”? If this is a handbook, don’t tell me I can use a bobby pin and a nail file to pick a lock, show me how to pick the damn lock.
Or there’s “How To Win a High Speed Chase in High Heels and a Bustier.” Because those bustiers can really slow you down. Really, “How to Run in High Heels” could have been useful and funny but this is neither. Here are the section headings:
Assume the sprinter’s stance.
Push off from the ball of your front foot and hit your stride.
Regulate your breath.
If the bustier is not giving you sufficient support, alternate your arm action to restrict breast movement.
Create a diversion with your breasts.
When you catch your quarry, use your shoes as weapons.
Think how funny and useful this could have been–I could do two pages alone on how to create a diversion with your breasts–and then look what they did with it.
And it goes downhill from there. Use a panty liner as a bandage (those things are thin so I don’t think so); as a writing surface for jotting down notes (oh, please), and as sleep mask “after you’ve save the world” (if I’ve just saved the world, I’m getting more than a panty liner for my freaking sleep mask.) Use your nail polish to write notes (try this at home). Blow up twelve condoms and use them as a flotation device (I’m drowning, but I have twelve condoms in my purse so I’m going to blow them up one at a time as I tread water and . . .) And my fave, “How To Choke a Man With Your Bare Thighs” which made me first ask “Why do they have to be bare?” and then realize that for most of us it would be “How to Smother a Man with Cellulite.” And even then, you have to get him down there . . .
There’s some serious advice in here—the giving birth section is really informative and they had experts weigh in on some of the topics—but that jars with the ridiculous stuff that’s probably intended to be funny but isn’t, so I never figured out what kind of book it was, but as author, I’m looking at it and thinking, “It could have been so good.” It could have given honest, useful advice that was funny, too, so that people learned while they laughed. It could have really said something about what the archetype of action heroine means while keeping tongue in cheek and advice sound. Even the old, “Put your keys in your fist with the ends poking out between your fingers to turn your hand into a weapon” thing is better than 95% of the stuff in this book. Missed opportunities: The bookstores are full of them.
So because I know you’ll do this anyway, what entries would you put in the Argh Ink Heroine’s Handbook? Useful info, please. Funny optional and probably unavoidable.
Oh, and since this is a review, I have to say that I don’t recommend The Action Heroine’s Handbook. On a scale of one to five cherries, good being five, it gets none.