Hobbies For Romance Heroines

Writers of any level can tell you that a quick way to character development is to give a character a hobby. Maybe your tough action hero has a sensitive side and likes to bake. Likewise, have your shrinking violet accountant really into crossfit, and therefore, a secret badass. As I’ve been on a bit of a romance kick, I’ve noticed a little bit of a trend to have hobbies as main personality driver and/or major reason for conflict in a lot of these romances. My personal favorites range from the geeky, like coding and cosplay (Level Up and Game of Hearts by Cathy Yardley) to the athletic, like power-lifting (Advanced Physical Chemistry By Susannah Nix) to the too real it hurts (like trying to turn your nerdy interests into a career as in Alyssa Cole’s Can’t Escape Love). Knitting is also a very, very popular hobby (see everything by Penny Reid, but especially Neanderthal Seeks Human).

cover of can't escape love by alyssa coleNow dear fellow readers, let me tell you that I eat this up. This is an adorable, lovely feature of some of my favorite genres, but I ESPECIALLY love it in romance. It’s also wonderful when an author actually does said hobby, took the time to actually research the hobby or painstakingly make it up. Yes, please give me three full pages on the mechanics of cake decorating or werewolf politics!

But that got me thinking, what hobbies aren’t or haven’t been explored yet? So I present to you:

A (non-comprehensive) List of Hobbies For Romance Heroines

Miniature Horse Breeder: Have those horses pull tiny chariots or what is even the point?

An Actual Tomb Raider: Indigenous art theft by another name.

Handcrafted Coaster Maker: Makes coasters out of interesting and found objects. Very trendy. I promise.

Ancient Greek Olympics Reenactor: Have an entire collection of olive oils to wash in or go home. Worth noting that the Olympic events were traditionally performed naked, just in case you need a steamy scene.

Art Restoration Specialist: There’s a lot of chemistry involved, hopefully also between the leads. Will they find a mystery in the x-rayed version of a painting? Will they answer that mystery…with love?

Bubble Wand Collector: Both whimsical and a little creepy.

Likewise, a Troll Doll Collector: There was that movie, so it’s probably more popular than we think.

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Competitive Eater: Maybe it’s hot dogs, or pancakes, or cocktail weenies. Just food, and lots of it.

Professional Madonna Impersonator: All I can say is this spells hijinks. Will she fall for a professional Elvis impersonator?

Wig Maker: For a hair-raising good time!

Deadhead: Appealing for a certain generation.

Cat Show Competitor: Really, the meet cute writes itself when Mr. Tingles hisses at Harrington Snugglesworth the third.

Professional Insulter: It’s a thing! Also you can totally make this an “enemy to lovers” plot surrounded by a ton of snark.

Harmonica Player: Is this a profession? Is this hobby? Is this Blues Traveler fanfic? You decide!

Pickler: Pickles things. Cucumbers. Eggs. Cabbage. Garlic. Anything really. Also “Pickler” is a lot of fun to say and think of all the double entendres!

Candle Maker: Two Words: Hot. Wax. Also, think of the double entendres!

Ex-Nun Turned Lounge Singer: It’s Sister Act in reverse, only without the criminal element. Or maybe with the criminal element? We still expect a Lauryn Hill cameo in the sequel.

Broadway Costume Designer Understudy: Not very glamorous, but a vocal and appreciative group. Give their blistered fingers a chance.

OSHA Inspector: They are all about a clean and hygienic environment, until it’s time to get dirty. Hair nets and closed toed shoes are required.

Food Staging Specialist: A career for both commercials and the Instagram age. Make sure they don’t mistake their motor oil for syrup or their shaving cream for whipped cream.

Hot Air Balloon Operator: Whimsy! Baskets! Fire! It writes itself.

Book Riot Contributor (1):

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Are any of these already in use? Or have I missed other hobbies? Feel free to comment below with your favorites!

(1) Let us know when we can collect our Secret Duke Millionaire.

Bacon Bookmarks and Cheeto Lures: The Funniest and Weirdest Stories Of Damaged Library Books

Confession: I’m a terrible library patron. I don’t know how to return things on time, and no matter how much I say I’ll do better, I just don’t.

Things only became more embarrassing this year when I resolved to not accrue more than $30 in fines all year and, well, within two months not only doubled that, but ended up needing to pay for replacements of two books.

Why did I need to replace those books, you ask? Because when we had those record-breaking cold days in Chicagoland, cases of seltzer exploded in my car, getting the books covered in ice, which then warmed up and melted, thereby destroying the spines and pages of those books. My library, bless them, tried to salvage the books by putting them in the freezer, but alas, I’m now the owner of two library books I simply wanted to borrow. One of the librarians told me after that that wasn’t even the weirdest water-related incident they’d had. A book was returned damaged one time because the patron’s dog had gotten a claw stuck in their waterbed, caused a gush of water to spring forth, and thereby, damaged the book.

The funniest and weirdest stories of damaged library books. libraries | library humor | library stories | librarians

But this isn’t even the weirdest damaged book return story I have. At my first job as a librarian, I had to return and pay for a damaged book that had been eaten by my cat.

The dog might eat your homework, but my cat will eat my library books.

After my most recent return embarrassment—paid for in full immediately—I asked a variety of librarians to share the funniest or weirdest stories of damaged books returned to their library. These were kept anonymous, since privacy is vital in libraries. In answers where a nickname was used, I’ve changed those to “a patron,” to protect the innocent. Also note, some of these stories involve bodily fluids, so read with caution. There is also a nice number of dog-related stories.

I’ll say this much: I feel a bit less red in the face about my own stories. Of course, if you have your own story of a damaged book return, please drop it in the comments and make me, as well as other problem patrons, feel a little less alone.

  • MY OWN DOG ate a book about French cheeses I had checked out from the library I am a librarian at. She destroyed it, completely and utterly. I think the fact that it was made of paper, and not cheese, is what fueled her rage. I had to pay the full replacement cost for it too! Bad doggie.
  • This one’s a horror story: one patron walked out with a particular book, then walked back in in minutes to open up the book and show us where a previous patron had—and to this day I cannot imagine why—layered three pieces of cooked bacon in the very middle of the fairly large book, now calcified and half-moldy and pressed flat by the weight. Surely the very grossest—I don’t know how it got reshelved and left without notice, I truly don’t.
  • Four-year-old, returning a book after a book care lesson: “I tried really hard to take care of my book, but my sister peed on it.”
  • My favorite story is not so much weird as inevitable. We got back a book that was crayoned all over, had water damage (some mouth-shaped), and torn. The book was What to Expect: The Toddler Years.
  • When we’re asking patrons to check again for a book they think they’ve returned, we often suggest checking under the car seat; however, this patron didn’t drive so he dismissed that idea. A few days later, he rushed in with the book, very excited, because the book had, indeed, been under the car seat—of his pot dealer.
  • Someone brought a copy of The Hallow Boy to the reference desk. They opened it up to reveal a smushed packet of McDonalds BBQ sauce inside. The patron looked me straight in the eye and said “I found it like this.”
  • Once a chewed up book came back with an apology note written from the dog’s POV.
  • We had a case once where a patron put a book in their microwave (they thought they was taking precautions for…I’m not even sure what). Turns out the customer didn’t know the book had a security tag and it blew up their microwave and our book. They brought the damaged book in, happily paid for it while regaling this hilarious and awkward tale. We felt for them!
  • We once had a book that was returned to the branch water damaged. When I called the customer a little boy picked up the phone (it had been a children’s book). When I asked to speak to a parent, the boy admitted that his parents only spoke Chinese (I sadly, am not a Chinese speaker). I explained to him that the book had water damage and that his parent would have to be charged for the item. He felt terrible and said he had accidentally dropped it in the snow. I told him how great it was that he was being honest. He then asked me what the book cost and I said “It is $8.” He yells into the phone “My Daddy has $8!” and he hung up on me. I have never forgotten this kid because he still comes into the branch even now after that incident.
  • We had a patron return five DVDs and a few books to the library covered in sticky goo and absolutely reeking. This is fairly common for us, so staff took them in the back with bleach wipes and and the Stinky Book Box to see if we could salvage them. It wasn’t until the man was leaving that he mentioned that he had just gotten back from a fishing trip. Upon further (very kind and understanding) questioning, we discovered that he put the items in an empty cooler to keep them safe from the elements on his fishing trip, forgot they were in there, loaded his fish into the cooler, forgot the fish were in there, and left the cooler in the car for a week. Our items were covered in rotting fish guts.
  • 10 brand new DVDs came back with the cases & discs destroyed…the patron had just gotten a new puppy and the puppy decided it loved our movies!
  • When my mom got Jean M. Auel’s Valley of the Horses, the sequel to Clan of the Cave Bear, from the library, I couldn’t wait for her to finish to take my turn. But by the time she finished it, she had decided I wasn’t old enough to read it, so she declared it off-limits. My interest totally piqued now, I stole it secretly from her room whenever I was in the bathroom behind the safely locked door. While reading in the bath on evening, I dropped the library book into the water. Frantic, I tried to dry the pages with the blow dryer. I returned the book to her nightstand, crossing my fingers that she wouldn’t notice. When the bill for a damaged book came from the library, my mother was first incensed at being wrongly accused of the damage. After thinking further, her brain made up a memory of my brother dropping it in a snowbank when he jumped out of her car to put books in the return slot. I was ashamed, but off the hook. I kept my mouth shut and let her believe her false memory.
  • A man handed me a book and as soon as he placed it into my hands he said, “My son threw up on it. He’s a nervous flyer.” It was still damp and clearly ruined. That was my first day in a public library, five years ago. I have since learned to ask for the full story before touching it.
  • A kid decided his still wet and slimy leftover popsicle stick was the perfect bookmark. His mother laughed when she told us but I didn’t.
  • A mom tried to tell us that the corner of a new book that looked like it had been nibbled on by a puppy wasn’t their puppy who did it. When she turned to ask her son if he had seen the puppy chew on the book, he wholeheartedly confessed. Needless to say his mother was not happy.
  • A raccoon got into a book and had to be lured away with Cheetos.
  • A kid feel asleep reading the book, wet the bed, and thus, peed on the book.
  • A few years ago when I was beginning my career as a branch supervisor in a public library, I had a mother and son come into the library with a book the son had borrowed. The mom had her son show me how he “corrected” the book with permanent marker. The book was a children’s nonfiction about dinosaurs, and he had crossed out entire sections about why the dinosaurs disappeared, and wrote that the flood of Noah was responsible. He also wrote in several places that the earth was 6,000 years old. The boy was not apologetic, and frankly the mother wasn’t too upset either, but at least made her son tell me what he did and paid for the damage. I understand that everyone has their own beliefs, and to each their own, but please don’t “correct” our library books! Afterwards I took pictures of the pages and shared with many of my librarian friends. It’s always a great party story!
  • One woman had to pay to replace a considerable number of books because she ate Cheetos while she read and pages were a mess from those Cheeto stains. She obligingly paid for the books but couldn’t stay away from her Cheetos.
  • So many dog training books get returned with their corners chewed! (Editor’s note: I used to get a lot of car repair manuals back covered in grease and oil!)
  • A woman came into the library with a book in a plastic bag. “I need to pay for a damaged book.” The book in question was a water-damaged kids’ book with red stains. She handed me the book, and as soon as I took it, she casually informed me that her granddaughter had thrown up on it. 😫😫😫.
  • There was a cover with a dog w/ red glowing eyes…the book was destroyed by a dog eating two of the corners off.
  • A man once called our library and explained that his elderly mother had picked up a dvd from the library and walked home in the rain. The dvd case was wet, so when she got home she decided the best way to dry it off would be to pop it into the microwave for a few seconds. The dvd case melted and the microwave broke, and suffice it to say she was too embarrassed to tell us and had her son call. We marked it as damaged and billed her, and she came in to pay for it weeks later. I wish we could have been able to see the dvd though!
  • My baby fell off the bed and kicked a glass of water and the book Raising Sheep with her! I didn’t notice the book was soaked until I had finished comforting her and feeling terrible.
  •  The reader was using a piece of bacon as a bookmark. One of the staff members found it in the book drop, bacon still inside. What a waste of a perfectly good piece of bacon!
  • A woman returned around 10 books rather…wet. Claimed it got rained on, thing was, it hadn’t rained in three weeks…when I took a moment to actually look at the book I found they were all romance novels. Upon further inspection, and curiosity I took a small sniff of the book—it smelt like…lavender? I quickly figured out the woman was reading these books in the bath and either got so riled up reading them that she dropped them—or fell asleep. Not sure which…and I don’t want to know.
  • Book was dropped on a sticky trap for mice. Thankfully, it was covered in plastic, so the cover wasn’t damaged, but we had to cut off the old plastic and put on a new layer of plastic.
  • I work in an elementary school library, and one day the principal came walking in with a book. He handed it to me and said that a student had chewed it up. There was indeed a big bite taken out of the corner. I’ve had a lot of books returned after being damaged by animals, but this was the first and only time a person has eaten part of a book. At least it was a paperback.
  • As a librarian, I often tell this true story to make patrons feel better about their damaged books. When my kids were young, we checked out the hedgehog puppet and then could not find it to return. All 3 swore up and down they had not seen it. Come spring, when I was getting my garden ready, I found it—rolled into a ball and planted in my flower bed.

Thriller Pitches for the 21st Century

Beach season is in sight, and along with it: paperback thriller season. Readers will want to get their salt-stained fingers on this new crop of thrillers for the 21st century. Modern nightmares await.

On a hot, dry day in early January, the East Coast loses power for good. There is a ferocious pack of killers on the loose; no one is safe and anyone could be the next victim. Where are they coming from and what do they want? They killed all of the pets first. In a surprising twist, it turns out everyone is a killer when you’re fighting for the last few drops of water. Who will survive the climate apocalypse and who will be killed by a thirsty grandma?

You spend your life devoted to security—but what happens when you become the target? Cyber security specialist Anna Thompson learns the hard way what happens to your credit score when hackers overseas steal your identity. A nail biter until the very end, readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering: will she ever be able to buy a house?

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Karen has spent her life working at a job she hates just to earn enough money to get by. She wakes up most nights in a cold sweat, haunted by the memories of bussing tables to pay off her student loans. Echoes of “How hard is it to get an order right?” taunt her in her sleep. When she finally makes the last payment she is sure the nightmares will stop, but then her daughter tells her it’s time to look at colleges. Karen wonders if she’ll make it out alive this time.

Haunted by a string of bad boyfriends, Jodie has decided she’s ready to be single for a good, long while. But during a tropical storm in February, she receives a text message from an unknown number: “I have ur nudes” it says. Jodie’s stomach drops; she was always so careful to only send them via Snapchat, and she never received a screenshot notification. Her phone dings again: “By the way, this is your internet provider.” The power goes out.

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An uneasy crowd is gathered in blizzardy California. People are starting to get anxious and the crowd starts moving closer and closer. It’s becoming difficult to breathe, and Jason Hedge is claustrophobic. He pulls out his phone. “Mom, I’m getting scared—do you think this is all worth it?” A Range Rover pulls up. Kendall Jenner steps out. Jason screams.  

In a small town outside of Baltimore, all of your neighbors are falling ill around you. The elderly lady on the corner dies and a teenager is rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Sirens echo hauntingly through the quiet, dark night. Everywhere you turn, faces are tense, eye contact scarce. You’re scared to leave your home, afraid to be the next victim. The police are frantically trying to locate the cause, questioning parents and young couples. Is it suburban anti-vaxxers or is there E. coli in the lettuce? FDA Inspector Kyle may be the only one who can save them.

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Accessories for Nature and Science Book Lovers

Accessories for nature and science book lovers should include tools for observation of the natural world, right? Therefore I submit to you, dear fellow nature and science books lover, this list. A few of my favorite nature and science book reading accessories:

The iNaturalist app is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. “One of the world’s most popular nature apps, iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you…” And it is a great community party of like-minded nature nerds.

At the seashore this summer in a tide pool? People like us frequently find ourselves in them.  Peterson’s Field Guide To The Atlantic Seashore Is Actually A Guide To Life.  You will need a magnifying hand lens or loupe for up close looking at lacy bryzoan species on kelp, no euphemism (see above).

wild cheryl strayedWhat are you wearing? A backpack of course. And bib overalls or a very of-the-moment Us jumpsuit as you potter about the community garden looking every inch a farm girl. Duluth Trading Company patented its own “crouch gusset” overalls for “crouch without the ouch.” Spring fashion goals!

Anyone who spends any amount of time out-of-doors outdoors sauntering or urban birding needs a wide-brimmed sun hat and tick repellentAnd binoculars, obviously.

Let’s talk about footwear.  Hiking boots or trail-running shoes that are waterproof are a must-have because, duh, nature trails are not always tidy. Try these, Salomon Quests recommended by Wirecutter for the muddy path less taken.

Furthermore, a jaunty bandana. You need one for sopping sweat from your brow, for carrying wild-picked blackberries.

How have you styled your beard, gentlemen? Like this, I hope, as you read from the nature and science book Peterson’s Guide to Wildflowers.