Have you ever met someone who not only loves the same books you do, but they totally understand your quirky bookish habits? I must say, it’s oddly refreshing to have someone you can skip to the bookstore with, who doesn’t even flinch when you snag a paperback off the shelf and start sniffing its crisp pages like a weirdo. Hell. They might even join in on your happy little sniff sesh.
Every bookworm needs someone they can call at 2AM when they’re eager to verbally spew all their racing thoughts when they hit a massive plot twist in their novel. Despite it being a work night, this person understands this need of yours- they stay silent while you ramble on, and then sleepily validate your thoughts. These people are amazing. They’re the real MVPs in a bookworm’s life.
These people are book besties.
I met my book bestie, Catherine, in the 8th grade. My family and I had just moved to Nebraska from Okinawa, Japan and I was eager to make friends. Catherine sauntered into my life and I was immediately struck by her boldness, feistiness, and vibrant personality. I later discovered that most of my favorite heroines have similar personalities to my red-headed best friend- coincidence? I think not.
That year, I had introduced Catherine to the magical and addicting world of romance novels. We started off with the western and historical subgenres (these were all I could find on my Mom’s shelf)- genres we stayed in for most of high school. While other kids discussed the movies hitting the theatres and swapped gaming cards, Catherine and I gushed over the heroes in our stories and traded novels. Books bonded us together in a way that was truly magical. Fast forward 19 years and we are closer than ever (literally. I moved to Maine and she followed not long after and moved 10 minutes down the road) and still discuss our reads daily.
Without further ado, here are the top qualities of a book bestie:
1. This is the only person who can surprise you with a book as a gift and its one you’ll read. I can’t tell you how many books sit on my shelf unread- the unfortunate products of someone’s good intentions.
2. They’ll gladly stay on the phone with you for an hour…eh, make it three…and listen to you prattle on about your latest read. They’ll even provide a well-placed gasp or two to show they’re still listening and are completely engaged in this one-way conversation.
3. They love almost all the same authors and genres you do. There’s nothing worse than discovering a book that upends your entire emotional existence and no one understands. But your book bestie does, because the odds are, they’ve read it too and are equally besides themselves. You’ll both probably just meet up, freak out, gaze into space as you contemplate life for an hour, cry, and then encourage each other to move on.
4. They know the cure for a book hangover. Picture this: you just closed the covers to a book series you’ve been obsessed with forever. The series has ended. Your heart stutters for a moment and you wonder if its going to stop. You then stare at the world around you and notice that its completely untouched by the experiences you just read. Zombie-like, you putter around your home, idly touching objects, your mind still trapped in the masterpiece you just climbed from. Thankfully, your book bestie knew you were finishing that series today and randomly shows up at your door, ripping you from your musings. In their hands is a box of Kleenex, a plethora of sweet and savory snacks, and the first novel to a new series they want to introduce you to.
5. They don’t judge you for having a zillion book boyfriends. In fact, your book bestie has their own harem of book boyfriends. As you both have similar taste in guys, the odds are you share a book boyfriend or two, or three, or four. In true bestie style, neither of you is jealous and are more than happy to share.
6. They tag along on your numerous excursions to the bookstore. The clerks know you both by now. In fact, they have your shopping baskets waiting at the door for you. They know how you both encourage each other to spend all the money you don’t have on books you’ll only be adding to your mountainous TBR piles.
7. They return the novels they borrow from you. Your book bestie is probably the only person in your life you trust to return your precious book.
8. They’ll cover for you if you call in “sick” to work- also known as “I just started a book I can’t put down”. Your bestie understands that the novel you’re reading is just as important as paying your bills.
9. They’ll “like” and comment on all your posts on your bookstagram.
10. Finally, they’ll support your decision to turn down social events in favor of reading. Most likely, your book bestie is right next to you on the couch, wrapped in a warm blanket, an open book perched on their lap, steaming cups of tea in matching mugs resting on the table beside you. These are the moments you both live for.
From a young age I was captivated by love and romance- I was the girl who was enraptured with films like The Princess Bride and Beauty and the Beast, and later- Pride and Prejudice and Titanic (though the ending on this last one made me realize how much I prefer HEAs). Eventually, I got swept into reading, but those were more along the lines of fantasy/adventure and mystery series like Nancy Drew, as those were the books my parents purchased for me. What I noticed is that I tended to latch onto the romance aspect of the story, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it was (such as the subtle hint of feelings between Nancy Drew and Ned). Eventually, I needed something a little more.
Thankfully, my Mom was an avid romance reader and her bookshelves were brimming with stories from a few different subgenres- primarily regency, western, and a few contemporary romances. I’m not sure what made me grab this particular book off her shelf, maybe it was because my thirteen year-old self was going through a “cowboy” phase (I was addicted to the movie Young Guns and listened to country music on repeat on my Walkman) – but the second my gaze fell upon Diamond Spur by Diana Palmer, I just knew it was “the one”. I had snatched it off the shelf, tiptoed to my room, locked myself inside, and dove into the story…and then didn’t come out of it for HOURS.
I had been well, and truly, hooked.
And have been ever since.
Nowadays, there is hardly a subgenre within the world of romance I wouldn’t read. It doesn’t matter if the story takes place on the stormy seas aboard a pirate vessel, the glittering ball rooms of the regency-era, the primitive tundra of the 19th century Western United States, the boardroom of a CEO’s enterprise, a white-washed spaceship 20 light years away, or in the isolated town of a shifter colony- if the story has believable characters, a compelling plot, chemistry that feels natural and not forced, then I’m going to read it…
Because if you strip the scenery away and focus on those two (sometimes multiple people if I’m reading a well-written reverse harem) people, it leaves behind just pure and raw emotion. Love is something beautiful, something to be cherished and revered- because it literally is one of the most remarkable feelings.
Maybe that’s why, initially, I would get so upset when people accused me of reading “smut” books, trashy novels, and “garbage”. I was told I needed to read “real” literary works of art. I needed to read “real” books as opposed to “fake” books that provide me with “unrealistic” expectation of love, romance, and relationships. I didn’t understand why anyone would depict something so beautiful in such an ugly, twisted way.
Of course, I didn’t listen to them. I continued to read romance.
And I began to realize a few things:
1. The people that were putting me down for reading romance novels probably were in more need of reading romance than I was.
2. Love isn’t just about passion- it’s about acceptance and growth as well. The heroines I read about did not need a man to complete them. Nor did the hero need a woman to complete them. It was more of a mutual self-discovery. Take for instance- a magnifying glass. Sometimes you need this glass in order to see the words more clearly on a page, that way you can better understand what it is you are reading. This is basically what the characters were doing. They were each other’s magnifying glass- they helped each other discover parts of themselves they may have inadvertently been skimming over- and through that discovery they grew as individuals.
3. Romance novels are filled with strong female protagonists. I can’t even tell you how many female role models I encountered in my sojourn through these literary portals. I never encountered a heroine who “fainted in fright” every other page and was in constant need of saving by some perfectly kempt hero with an overly-inflated ego. There is always an equal balance of “saving”-whether physically, mentally, or emotionally- between both the hero and heroine.
4. Romance novels make me appreciate the world a little more. I have heard people say they escape the awfulness of the world by diving into a book. I lose myself in the pages for the pure wonderment of experiencing a little magic every day- and when I come out; I notice all the truly beautiful things about life. For example, the older couple sitting by the river together watching the sturgeon in all their creepiness leap out of the water, or the two women holding hands as they walk down the street- oblivious as to how enchanting they look while shooting loving looks each other’s way, or the couple tossing discreet glances at one another as they pass a couple with an infant.
5. Romance novels are about human connection. Love, friendship, kindness, understanding, compassion, and empathy- the stories have it all. These are feelings and emotions that make people truly remarkable. I like to think that maybe, just maybe, if more people read romance novels rather than spinning them into something shallow and ugly, that the world would be a more tolerant and beautiful place.
6. Passion is OKAY to enjoy and not feel ashamed about. Maybe “okay” is too blah of a word to toss in here- feel free to LOVE the passion occurring in the novels. My toes tingle every time the heroine and hero kiss. And when that hero whips his shirt off and the metaphorical gloves are thrown down and you know they’re rearing to go…well, let’s just say I’m cranking the air conditioner, grinning like I just snuck a cake into my room without the kids seeing, and mentally fist bumping the heroine for getting some mind-blowing some-some. La petite mort is proof that there are some “deaths” we humans can recover pleasurably from *wink*.
One of the best decisions I ever made was to sneak into my Mom’s room and pick that book up off the shelf and read it. Romance novels have literally changed my life for the better. So, to all the romance authors out there who are weaving such remarkable tales and sending them out into the world, so that people like me could read them- THANK YOU! You truly are amazing.
On a narrow, unassuming road within the bustling, chaotic streets of Boston, the Brattle Book Shop stood quietly and welcoming. As I leapt from the warm interior of our cab, I raced through the rain and stepped through the book shop’s doors. The second I took in the perfectly lined shelves stacked high with books, and the winding staircase that led to the two stories above me- also filled with books- I couldn’t contain my excitement. In fact, I’m certain I positively glowed as I gazed gleefully around me. I remember feeling this way when stepping into a brightly-lit candy shop as a child and inhaling the temptingly sweet aroma of all the colorful candies and chocolate. Only this time I was inhaling a scent much richer and tempting- that of old and well-loved novels. I trailed my fingertips along the worn and colorful spines as I winded my way down each aisle, my mind racing as I imagined all the wonderful stories being played out within those covers. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving empty-handed, but I needed to pick the one. But how to choose in a book shop this big?
I slowly made my way to the top floor of Brattle’s where the rare and antiquarian books were located. I froze at the top of the staircase- my gaze falling upon novels and tomes that have clearly been around a lot longer than I have. I took in the faded leather bindings and pages browned with age and inhaled the euphoric scent of antiquated novels. Oh yeah. I was in bookworm heaven! To say I lost myself in enjoyment and pleasure as I gently and reverently picked up novels in every genre imaginable, from centuries long-past, would be an understatement. I just knew the one I was looking for was located on this floor…and it took me quite a while to find it.
I found “the one” while ambling past the section labeled “Civil War”. A small, unassuming brown novel with the faded words “The Female Spy” on its spine was tucked away in the looming shadows of much larger novels. I can’t exactly say what made me pause and pick it up. Maybe it was the interesting title? Or the soft brown fabric with the unique floral design? I still honestly don’t know. I flipped the cover open and saw that it was printed in 1864 in Boston and was written by S. Emma E. Edmonds. The full title was “The Female Spy of the Union Army. The Thrilling Adventures, Experiences, and Escapes of a Woman, as Nurse, Spy, and Scout, In Hospitals, Camps, and Battle-Fields.” It was quite the title- and my interest was instantly piqued. I found it intriguing that the publisher basically apologized for some of the alarming and unnatural content- such as the descriptions of the female author having to dress as a man! (how risqué!). They went on to say that the author’s morals should not be questioned as everything was done for patriotism and for a good cause. My how the times have changed! It made me chuckle to think of all the warnings that would need to be placed in modern literature. Can you picture this 19th century publisher reading Fifty Shades of Grey? I envision the Foreword reading something like:
The content of this novel does not reflect the beliefs, opinions, and morals of this publishing house. Some of the content (most of it actually) may be disturbing to readers. If you do not wish for your delicate sensibilities and own moral fortitude to be otherwise discomposed, we ask that you heed this warning- this novel depicts a young woman placed in a somewhat binding and disturbing relationship with a more mature, though sadly spiritually conflicted, man of a much higher standing in society. Should you be offended by any of the following, we ask that you do not proceed beyond the Foreword. These topics of debauchery will be thoroughly addressed and demonstrated: the loss of virginity outside of matrimony, a contract of a darkly sexual manner, and the use of devices to stimulate a physical response from its recipient.
I then proceeded to read the first chapter and was instantly hooked! Though the price tag on the novel made me shudder a bit- I knew I had found a lovely little gem that would keep me entertained. Learning that it was a first edition was equally thrilling. After stepping out of Brattle Book Shop with my bag clutched happily in my hands, I found myself missing the shop’s comforting interior. It truly is one of the best places to visit in Boston if you find joy in books the way I do.
Eight days. That’s how long Catherine planned to be in Nebraska visiting her folks. Now, eight days may seem remarkably short to some, but to Catherine and I, eight days is a really long time. Naturally, we decided that if we are expected to be apart so long, then we might as well enjoy some quality time together. So, I packed an overnight bag and drove the hour and a half to Portland, Maine with Catherine and we began a search for a decently priced hotel. Now, if you’ve never been to Portland, Maine in the Summer time, then let me tell you- there is absolutely no such thing as a decently priced hotel. None whatsoever.
We stopped first at the Days Inn. This facility certainly wasn’t Hilton owned, so there was no way it should cost us over 100.00, right? Incorrecto mundo. We were quoted 140.00. And the worst part? The “free” continental breakfast they threw in to sweeten the deal didn’t begin until 6:00AM. Unfortunately for Catherine and I, we needed to be at the airport by 4:30AM. This meant no mildly toasted bagels with questionable expiration dates, tepid coffee, or individually packaged frosted flakes for us. We were going to have to make do with whatever facility was open that early in the morning…such as Cumberland Farms at the gas station…eh.
After leaving the Days Inn, we began a futile search around Portland for a “decently” priced hotel. To assist us with this, Catherine searched online which helped us to narrow locations down according to some of the prices and reviews. One motel had multiple reviews that claimed that they had “bed bugs” *shiver*, another claimed that a similar facility in the area was acting as a refuge for people of questionable morals and background- not quite sure what that means, but we were unable to bring ourselves to find out. Finally, we spotted one that was nearby to our location that was slightly cheaper than the Days Inn. The reviews weren’t horrendous so we decided to check it out.
Our first impression…The motel was in a slight state of disrepair. As we pulled into the motel, we noticed weeds growing alongside the building and random, abandoned objects littered around the property. These objects consisted of a shopping cart, tools, unidentified materials, and a mop (not quite sure who decided it would be a great idea to mop the parking lot-but kudos to them for trying!). There was a couple screaming at each other outside one of the rooms and a questionable exchange occurring on the floor beneath them. After circling the building three times (the entrance was unmarked, and honestly, all the doors looked the same to us), we pulled into a random parking spot and gathered our thoughts. It was during this brief moment of heavy silence that Catherine and I both noticed the large red, white, and black sign haphazardly nailed to a post in front of us. The sign warned us not to leave our items in the car and mentioned theft and criminal activity.
Naturally, we mutually decided that 140.00 at the Days Inn was well worth it if it meant we wouldn’t be sleeping on beds littered with bugs, or we wouldn’t be the unfortunate recipients to theft or other nefarious deeds.
After dropping our belongings off in our room (which was quite comfortable and devoid of bugs, thank goodness), we had dinner at Uno. The restaurant boasted a diverse menu that appeals to a variety of people. For example, I enjoyed a mushroom and cheddar flatbread (I’m a vegetarian), and Catherine delved into buffalo chicken mac and cheese. While I sipped a raspberry iced tea, Catherine enjoyed a pomegranate margarita. The service was spot on! Our waitress was friendly and engaging and the atmosphere was perfect. As we chatted about every random and entertaining thought that popped into mind, Catherine grew increasingly giggly. Let me tell you, the woman can toss back shots like a champ, but give her a cocktail and her eyes grow bright, her cheeks become flushed, and you just have to brace yourself for an evening filled with shenanigans.
Now, if you ever find yourself in Portland and are in need of a good book or two, or three, or four *cough*, you have to check out Books-a-Million near the mall ( I write Book Reviews by the Way). After finishing our dinner at Uno, we headed over to Books-a-Million. You see, there is one place that Catherine and I cannot resist…a bookstore. Books are our Achilles’ heal. It’s bad enough that if a strange man pulled up to us on the street in a white van and offered us books instead of candy, I honestly worry that we’ll fall for it. We’ll probably grin like a couple of foolish, overly trusting victims from those horror movies I watch and gleefully leap into the van in order to snatch the book from his deceiving fingertips. Luckily for us, this hasn’t happened yet.
In the bookstore, Catherine and I decided to 1. Buy some books, 2. Browse every section you can think of, and 3. Purchase a dirty magazine to chuckle over when back in our hotel room. As we surveyed the store, our eyes immediately honed in on the bargain section. Thirty minutes later, an employee of the store noticed me teetering under the mountain of books I balanced in my arms and kindly offered to grab me a cart. Yes. I am one of those people that needs a freaking “cart” when shopping for books. Between Catherine and I, our cart filled rather rapidly. Did we receive astonished gazes from other fellow book readers as we proudly strolled around with our bounty? Yes. Did we care? Absolutely not.
Now on to the fun part. The dirty magazine. What struck me as amusing was the placement of the magazines. Standing in the aisle, the National Geographic and Travel magazines were to the left of us, and the risqué reading material for men and women were to the right. At the time, there were no other patrons in the aisle with us which gave Catherine and I plenty of time to peruse the selection. Interestingly enough, all the reading material were geared towards male viewers. Now, you would think with this being the 21st Century, and post Magic Mike and Fifty Shades of Grey, more people would be comfortable with the idea of creating dirty magazines geared towards female viewers, but that is clearly not the case. Very disappointing. It was during this last thought that Catherine and I noticed two men step into the aisle. The second they noticed us standing in front of the “male” magazines, they quickly spun on their heels and casually picked up the nearest magazines, their backs to us. Now, it’s possible that they had every intention of coming to this aisle in hopes of picking up the latest copy of Better Homes and Gardens, but it is even more likely that Catherine and I were currently occupying the spot they wished to be in.
To test my theory, I encouraged Catherine to move away to the next aisle to admire an impressive display of cat-themed calendars. We waited a moment, and then peeked around the corner. As I predicted, the gentlemen set down their copies of Better Homes and Gardens and began perusing magazines that featured an entirely different form of “hedges” *cough*.
Snagging a nearby Cosmopolitan, Catherine and I left Book-a-Million with our bounty and headed for Chili’s which was conveniently located next to our hotel. You can imagine our server’s surprise when instead of ordering dinner, we ordered a large skillet cookie topped with vanilla ice cream and a couple of “girly” tropical cocktails. Let me tell you, that coconut-blended beverage was a gift to my tastebuds, a delightful taste of vacation in a chilled glass. Catherine and I sucked those bevvies down like a couple of thirsty college girls on Spring Break in Cancun. And that skillet cookie? Oh lordy. That chocolate gooey delight will be something I dream about in the years to come. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a sugar rush and two minutes of pure, sinful heaven.
A few degrees warmer, definitely fuller, and a whole lot more giddier, Catherine and I made our way back to our hotel room. Luckily, it was a short jaunt across the parking lot. Once inside, we leaped onto our double beds and preceded to chatter about everything that popped into our minds. I’m not quite sure how it happened (though I highly suspect it was the consumption of a few cocktails), but Catherine decided to demonstrate a few of her favorite yoga poses. I learned new ways in which to contort myself like an oddly-shaped pretzel. I will not, however, fall into the “happy baby” pose with as much enthusiasm and glee that Catherine has for the pose. She’ll make a man a very “happy” man one day *wink*.
Our night ended with our causal perusal of our Cosmopolitan magazine. This was where Catherine and I learned about a new trend among women called a “yoni egg”. Interestingly enough, a yoni egg looks exactly what you think it would look like….an egg. Except it’s smooth and polished stone of some sort and is meant to be used for sexual wellness and healing. Ladies, if you don’t know what a yoni egg is, look it up. All I can say is that it’s placed somewhere the sun doesn’t shine *wink*.
The next morning, tired and hangry, I dropped Catherine off at the airport. It’s never easy saying goodbye to your best friend. Especially when you’ve gotten used to seeing them every day. Eight days may seem short to some, but to us, it may as well be a lifetime.
I discovered my love of reading at an early age and spent a great deal of my time devouring books- from mysteries like Nancy Drew, whimsical fantasies like Harry Potter, and eventually the turbulent and passionate stories in the romance genre, I found myself engrossed in a completely different world than this one. I believe it is through my experiences and the books I read, that I have developed a keen interest in a myriad of things. For that reason, The Vagaries of Us represents multiple areas of interest
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