Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: Everything Romance compiled by Todd hafer and Rebecca Currington

[Sigh] Yes. I read a book called Everything Romance. You know what? Shut up. It was free. Which reminds me: I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah on the condition that I review it publicly. I was not paid to give a good review, obviously.

This book is, well, it's hard to classify. It's a reference book? I guess? The inside flap says that this book "abounds with all you need to show your adoration, revel in your relationship, and create a legacy of romance to last a lifetime." What it actually provides is a shotgun blast of random quotes (many of which are loosely about love, some of which are definitely not); short, sappy stories; recipes; suggestions for dates; terms of endearment (everything from "All Mine" to "Yummy Bear"); useless trivia; lists of various things; and, well, you get the point.
I think, though I cannot confirm, that the idea is that anyone could pick up this book, flip to a random page, and be encouraged in everything romantic in their life.

Okay, so much for the summary. Now for the review:
This is a sort-of reference book on love. And that, I think, is where we can see the problem with this book. Romance isn't really something that first can be reduced to blurbs, and then have all of the blurbs about it gathered into one place. So really this book was fighting an uphill battle from the very beginning. And it's a battle which I do not think it has won. In a world full of books, blogs, and advice on romance, a book that follows "Ten Things a Couple Can Make, Besides Money" (everything from "time" to "believe", pg 21) with "Couples Look Good In Green" (how to live in an environmentally friendly way, pg 22) is probably not the place to start.
So, topic by topic, here are my thoughts on the book:
  • "Blessings and Prayers" This is actually probably the most interesting and useful part of the book. It also is a grand total of 15 pages out of 281. Most of these prayers are either 1) from the Bible or 2) public domain, so there's really nothing new here.
  • "Dating: It's Not Just for Singles" Frankly, the activities here are either so common that they hardly need to be mentioned ("take your sweetie to a play or musical production", 125) or so vague that they really aren't helpful at all ("plan a walk or bike ride", throughout, but especially on 211).
  • "Did You Know?" useless trivia, most of which is about love, some of which is just bewildering. My favorite of the latter category: "For more than twenty years 'Morganna the Kissing Bandit' snuck onto Major League Baseball fields to plant kisses on unsuspecting players." (148) Which frankly, I think is more "creepy" and "stalkerish" than "romantic", but hey, who am I to judge? Oh yeah, a book reviewer... Also, apparently a million monkeys with a million typewriters will create Hamlet, but 12 monkeys with a computer will use "their computer as a toilet or beat it with rocks." (123) This fact may be the one part of the book that has actively enhanced my romantic side...
  • "Features" Odds and ends that wouldn't fit anywhere else, including a list of traditions about Valentine's Day, Traditional Wedding Anniversary Gifts by year, and the aforementioned "Couples Look Good in Green". Some of these were interesting, but some were just pointless.
  • "Lists" Exactly what it sounds like, these are the places in the book where we are told about "How to Love for a Lifetime" or "Four Ways God Answers a Couple's Prayer" ("No, not yet; No, I love you both too much; Yes, I thought you'd never ask; Yes, and here's more!", 36). Same as the "Features" section, some were interesting, some were, well, much less so.
  • "Love Boosters" and "Love Busters" These sections include advice on how to "boost" your romance (dance together, for one) or "bust" it (hold on to grudges). Frankly, if you're the kind of person who actually needs to be told anything in either of these sections, you're pretty unlikely to be reading a book like this in the first place.
  • "Love Letters" includes a selection of highly edited love letters from great people in history, including Jack London, Mark Twain, and... uh... Napoleon Bonaparte. Seriously, Napoleon? What, they couldn't find Stalin's or Mao's? (Note how I avoided Godwin's Law there...)
  • "Perfect Pairs" are brief biographies of well-made matches of famous people, such as Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. This section was kind of interesting, but it was also only seven pages out of the book.
  • "Poetry" is, well, poetry. Mostly sappy "How Do I Love Thee" stuff, and not a limerick to be seen. If you're into the "Your eyes make flowers grow in the winter" kind of lines, this section is for you.
  • "Quotations" another that is what it sounds like it is. See "Poetry" for my thoughts on this section.
  • "Recipes" are recipes. I have no way to judge if these are good or not, as I'm not much at cooking anything that doesn't require an open flame...
  • "Scriptures" From the copyright page: "All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson." QED.
  • "Special Occasion Gift Ideas" Here we have a mix of obvious (antique jewelry, because people in love never think of jewelry as a gift option), impractical (plant a shrub, which works as long as you don't rent or live in an apartment...), and dangerous (putting your picture on inanimate objects like mugs or t-shirts will eventually just be a reminder of how young and in shape you once were, and only works if you don't grimace in photos anyway).
  • "Stories." We will not speak of these, EVER! We certainly will not speak of the story where "Sharon" felt all alone when her mother died. Fortunately "God saw to it that I was not alone" by providing James ONE FREAKING HOUR LATER, while Sharon was still at the hospital with her mothers corpse quietly decomposing in the next room. (Okay, so that last detail wasn't in the story, but we all know how it works.) Nor will we speak of the single mom whose daughter, if she had a hundred dollars, would use it to buy a "real daddy," and who just happened to meet her recently-home-from-Iraq-high-school-sweetheart (who still has the hots for her and likes kids). And, well, the vomit is rising. Let's move on.
  • "Trivia" This section was fine, and even occasionally fun, like the couple who may have the longest-lasting marriage at 86 years (248). Though again, these tidbits don't take up much of the book, and mostly are used as filler.
So, overall I'd say there are enough good books on romance out there that this one likely isn't worth your time.

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