Oct 16

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction 26

Bookworms, Bookworms, let down your hair!

I’m eeeeeeeevil and have locked you in a tower and forced you to grow your hair to unimaginable lengths that don’t occur in nature and now I want to use it as a rope, damnit! Heck yes, y’all, I just finished reading Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, a re-telling of Rapunzel. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration through NetGalley. May I be locked in a tower if this review is untrue.*

bittergreensBitter Greens begins with a note about how the folk tale Rapunzel originally surfaced in Italy but its best known published version appeared in France. What follows is Forsyth’s imagining of how the tale managed to travel. It gives a fictionalized account of the life of the French author, Charlotte-Rose de la Force as well as a creative interpretation of Rapunzel’s origin story.

Charlotte-Rose was a courtier in Louis XIV’s lavish and fickle court. After a series of scandals, Charlotte-Rose is, for all intents and purposes, disposed of in a poverty ridden convent. Out of sight, out of mind, no? Her greatest love was writing, but even that is denied to her inside the cloisters. It certainly doesn’t help anything that Charlotte-Rose was raised a Huguenot and was forced to convert to Catholicism… And then, you know, unceremoniously dumped in a convent. Bad form, Louis.

In any case, Charlotte-Rose is in a bit of a pickle, but comes to befriend Sœur Seraphina who comes to teach her the glories of gardening and shares her stories. What story do you think she starts with?! Why, a young maiden locked in a tower with a ginormous length of hair, of course!

Fairy tale retellings can be a bit hit or miss for me, but Bitter Greens was a big hit. It had all my favorite historical fiction elements; I felt like I was IN these times. And there was plague. MUAHAHAHAHA! Really though, the best part of this novel from my perspective was that the witch got a fantastically developed back story. I like my villains to have depth, and Selena Leonelli was one complex lady. If you like historical fiction, fairy tales, and interwoven storylines, Bitter Greens is your book, y’all!

Alright Bookworms, let’s talk villains! Who’s your favorite fairy tale villain? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will NOT be using it on hair extensions, because at the moment, long hair seems incredibly over-rated.*

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Oct 14

I Want to Go To There: Top Ten Tuesday

Uncategorized 36

G’day Bookworms!

It’s Tuesday again and today I’ve got an especially fun list to treat you with. The ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have challenged us to list places we’d like to visit (fictional or otherwise) because books got us utterly hooked on the locales. Pack your bags, Bookworms, we’re going on an adventure! (My photoshop skills suuuuuuuck. But you’re welcome.)

TTT travel

1. Hogwarts from The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling- located somewhere in Scotland (more on this later), the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry is where I feel I belong. I’d be a Ravenclaw and spend my time solving riddles and chatting up the Grey Lady. Pass the pumpkin juice, would you?

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I’ve got an owl, y’all!

2. Elmwood Springs, MO from Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven (and others) by Fannie Flagg- Ooooh Fannie Flagg! She created the sweetest small town in the history of EVER in Elmwood Springs, Missouri. It’s practically Stars Hollow, only, you know, south.

3. Neverland from Peter and Wendy by JM Barrie (review)- Oh I’d go to Neverland alright. And I’d join the dang pirates because Peter Pan is actually a complete jerk. Wendy stays home and does housekeeping and goes on approximately ZERO adventures. Ugh.

KatieHook

Arrrrrr!

4. Mary Poppins’ chalk painting from Mary Poppins by PL Travers (review)- The movie version of this scene is significantly more whimsical, but I’d accept the book version gladly as well. A jolly holiday indeed!

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Four guesses as to why this is my favorite scene in the movie.

5. Wonderland from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll- I have but one goal in mind. I want to attend a tea party with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. I have every intention of avoiding any and all royalty.

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A very merry un-birthday to me!

6. Oz from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum- So there’s a lot of upheaval and chaos and craziness, but I wouldn’t mind a jaunty trip down the Yellow Brick Road.

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There’s no place like home.

7. Scotland- I want to go to Scotland and it’s all Diana Gabaldon’s fault! It’s the only non-fictional locale on my list, but ooooh I want to visit so badly! On a short study abroad to London in college, I tasted Irn Bru and didn’t hate it. AND, because I’m a nutcase I’ve been re-listening to the Outlander books on audio, so my inner monologue currently sports a Scottish brogue. I would like to see all the things and frolic through the heather. Frolicking rules. (Alright so maybe it’s not ALL Diana Gabaldon’s fault… I was in a production of Brigadoon in high school, too. My travel dreams are swathed in tartan plaid.)

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It’s cool. Hubs and I have an arrangement. If I fall back in time and meet a super hot Scotsman, he’s free to pursue the Hollywood starlet of his choosing.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Where have you wanted to travel, thanks to a book? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Oct 13

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Coming of Age, Psychological 7

Greetings Bookworms!

You may have noticed over the past month or so that I’ve been on a little bit of a Native American author kick. Since it’s been such an awesome ride so far, when I was contacted by Open Road Media to check out Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, I jumped at the offer. *I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. This in no way reflects opinions expressed on the novel.*

monkeybeachMonkey Beach centers on a Native American family in British Columbia. (I can still say Native American when referring to native peoples who reside in what is now Canada, right? I mean, the US kind of bogarted the term “American” despite the fact that there are TWO FULL CONTINENTS who have a claim on it.)

20 year old Lisamarie Hill had a crazy childhood. She finds herself reliving her life’s journey in a speedboat while she travels to meet her parents in the place her brother Jimmy went missing (and is presumed drowned.) The Haisla community Lisa hails from has seen its own share of trials including alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence. and untimely deaths. Lisa’s own predicament is complicated by the fact that she deals not only in the physical world, but the spiritual world as well. She doesn’t understand her “gift” and struggles to reconcile Haisla traditions with contemporary Canadian life.

This book was pretty intense. I mean, what IS IT with the Native American authors bringing the pain? Travelling back and forth between Lisa’s past and present was a bit jarring, but I think it stylistically served to demonstrate how scattered Lisa is feeling while reeling from yet another potential loss. Robinson also has some mad skills with describing scenery. I felt like I could see the beaches and channels and forests described in this novel. Plus the cuisine? I mean, I can’t say that I’m aching to try oolichan grease, but you’ve got to respect a writer who can describe fish grease, soapberry foam, and the intricacies of blueberry picking and make it INTERESTING. Respect.

If you’re looking for a book to break your heart and teach you more than you ever really wanted to know about fish grease, Monkey Beach is where it’s at!

Talk to me Bookworms! What’s the last gut-wrenching book you tackled?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Oct 10

The Bird Is the Word (An Idiosyncratic Lit List)

Idiosyncratic Lit List 30

Tweet tweet, Bookworms!

It feels like there’s something missing in my life, and that something is a nonsensical book list. In the spirit of doing things just for the heck of it, I’ve compiled a list of books for y’all today that include birds in the title. Because why the heck not?

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 1. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (review 1, review 2)- Fake Spoiler Alert: It’s not about a bird. Well, not a literal bird anyway. It’s about Jesuits in space. And aliens. It’s awesome.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- Fake Spoiler Alert: It’s not about killing mockingbirds, much to the chagrin of every cat meme on the internet. It’s actually about civil rights and non scummy lawyers and neighborhood weirdos.

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (review)- Okay, you guys, this book ACTUALLY has a bird in it. Ha! I’m lying again. It does have a portrait of a bird, though, and the greatest ne’er-do-well to grace the pages of modern literature. BORIS, I love you.

4. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (review)- Man, I am good at picking books with birds in the title that have very little to do with birds, aren’t I? The only owl to appear in this book is taxidermy, but you guys, it’s a DAVID SEDARIS book and therefore hilarious and wonderful.

5. A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin- Dark wings, dark words, kids. Ravens are the cool birds in Westeros, what with their message carrying and all, but crows like to hang out and pick at carrion, too. And, let’s face it, there’s a lot of carrion to be picking at in Westeros by book 4, you know what I’m saying?

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6. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater (review)- You didn’t really think I was going to make a list dedicated to birds and not list a book about penguins did you? Silly, silly bookworms! This is among my all time favorite whimsical children’s books. I sent my “nephew” a copy. When he was 3. And unable to read. I just get REALLY EXCITED about books.

7. A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (review)- I love Fannie Flagg, some books more than others. This wasn’t my favorite of hers, but you know. I like Christmas. I like books with birds in the title.

8. Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex- I love me some hist-ART-ical fiction, and this book went back to the Italian Renaissance to get inside the lives of some of DaVinci’s subjects.

9. Wild Swans by Jung Chang- Swans again? Heck yes! This book is AMAZING and it’s about the lives and journeys of three women in China. It’s intense and true and you should read it and learn things. It’s non-fiction and worth all the brain power.

10. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood- A crake is a bird, y’all. A dude who calls himself “Crake” after an extinct bird in the future and goes on to mastermind a new race of sentient beings while bringing about the destruction of humanity is a mad scientist. Subtle distinction.

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I’m sure I’ve missed many a bird. What are your favorite books with birds in the title, Bookworms? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’ll use it to feed the birds. Tuppence a bag, you say?*

Sorry, I had to.

Sorry, I had to.

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Oct 09

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Contemporary Fiction, Friendship 20

Hi ho, Bookworms!

If you’re anything like me, you accumulate books faster than you can read them. I don’t suppose it helps that I enter giveaways on other blogs, but I have a severe weakness for free books. A few months ago I won a copy of Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen from Bookalicious Mama and it taunted me from my bedside table with its pretty cover mercilessly. I finally got around to reading it, and I’m SO GLAD I did!

lost lakeOur heroine Kate recently “woke up” from mourning the loss of her husband. She’s been going through the motions for a solid year and has only just managed to muster the will to participate in life again. While clearing out some detritus to prepare for a move, Kate and her daughter Devin (a budding fashionista, with an eccentric sense of style) find an old post card reminding Kate of the summer she spent at her great aunt’s cabin resort, Lost Lake.

Kate’s re-awakening came with a healthy dose of “carpe diem” so she loads Devin into the car and sets off for rural Georgia to seek out some R&R in the serene environment. Kate’s Aunt Eby is thrilled to see her long lost niece, but Lost Lake is on the verge of closing up shop. Eby, Kate, and a few regular guests set out to make Lost Lake’s final summer one to remember. A little romance, a little magic, and a healthy dash of Southern fried fun make Lost Lake a wonderful escape.

This book is utterly charming and heartwarming. Sarah Addison Allen puts together a cast of quirky characters that can’t be beat (and you know how much I LOVE quirky characters, especially when some of them are cranky old women. It makes my inner Mildred positively gleeful.) I read this tasty morsel in a single day. If you need a little escape from reality, Lost Lake is as refreshing as a cold glass of sweet tea.

Tell me, dear Bookworms. Do you enjoy books that offer an escape?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will use it to take a flipping vacation!*

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Oct 07

Literary Love Connection: Friend-Zoned

Literary Love Connection 36

Welcome, Bookworms!

I’m putting on my very best Chuck Woolery voice today so I can announce the newest feature here on Words for Worms. I’m going to start playing matchmaker with literary characters in a little game I’m calling Literary Love Connection. The concept is simple. Choose literary characters. Send them on a fake date. Watch sparks fly. Will we make a love connection?!

literaryloveconnectionToday’s Bachelor is Severus Snape from the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. Severus likes potions, sneering, and giving detentions. He spends his free time wallowing in self loathing and pining for The One That Got Away And Was Subsequently Murdered By His Boss.

Today’s Bachelorette is Éponine Thénardier from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Eponine enjoys long walks through Paris, crossdressing, and recreational stalking. She spends her free time wandering the city while singing songs of loss for The One That Got Away And Fell In Love With That Bitch Who Used To Live With Her Family.

The Date takes place in a quiet cafe in Paris.

Snape: You don’t eat much.

Éponine: My corset doesn’t allow for more than 3 mouthfuls of food a day. I thought you’d have been clued in by my alarmingly narrow waist.

Snape: Pfft. Muggles. You worry about food. I can brew glory and put a stopper in death!

Éponine: How are you with love potions?

Snape: Abysmal, unfortunately. Not that I ever tried one. After Lily married that filthy Potter, what was the point?

Éponine: I know what you mean! Here I am, on the streets, singing the best song in the musical version of my life, and Marius goes for that ninny Cosette. He should have seen her as a child. She looked AWFUL.

Snape: My indifference toward you seems to be waning. More wine?

Éponine: Yes, please. After dinner would you like to take a walk along the Seine? I can show you the spot where that cop offed himself.

Snape: I can think of nothing I’d like better.

snaponine

 

 Now that Snaponine is a thing, I am desperate to create more unholy unions. Chime in, Bookworms. Are there any literary characters you’d like to see set up on a date? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I am also fully aware that both the fictional characters involved in this particular love connection are fictionally deceased.*

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Oct 06

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Audio Books, Coming of Age, Fantasy 24

Pick a card, any card, Bookworms!

Actually, don’t. I would be a hot steaming pile of horrible if I tried to do card tricks. Depressing though it is that I lack actual magical powers as well as the manual dexterity to perform sleight of hand, I still dig books about magic. If it happens to be October, all the better! I listened to the audio version of The Magicians by Lev Grossman to help get me in the spirit of the Halloween season.

The MagiciansQuentin Coldwater is a genius, but at 17, he’s got a serious case of the mopies (I can relate, yo!) He’s obsessed with a series of novels about children who visit a magical land (think Narnia), but he tries to play it off as nostalgia. Quentin is minding his own teen angst business when he finds himself being tested for admittance into a legit, elite, magical college. That’s right. It’s sort of like Hogwarts for the older set. A little less whimsy, a lot more booze, sex, and apathy.

The Magicians had the same darkly mystical tone as The Night Circus (review) which was a delightful surprise. The book was darker than I had anticipated, and it dabbled in some heavy philosophy. When you have immense magical power, the fulfilling stuff of life no longer presents a challenge. Grossman’s magical world doesn’t have the structure that Rowling’s does- magicians are left to their own devices wandering the ordinary world. A few magicians will go in for charitable endeavors or research, but mostly they wander aimlessly searching for meaning, as they have no need for careers to provide them with money or purpose. It was this thoughtful analysis of the human condition that had me loving the first 2/3 of this book.

Then? Grossman went full Narnia on me. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the book now. I’m a little less excited to finish the series, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do it. There are a lot of loose ends I would like to have wrapped up, so I’ll probably get to it eventually. It was a mixed bag for me, but if you liked The Chronicles of Narnia, The Night Circus, and His Dark Materials , it’s definitely worth sampling.

One of the major reasons I related to Quentin and his longing for a fictional world is my own (perhaps unhealthy) obsession with Harry Potter. Is there another literary world you desperately wish you could escape into?

*If You make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Like magic. Only not.*

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Oct 03

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Audio Books, Historical Fiction, Time Travel 34

Well Hello my Lovely Bookworms,

I’ve been spending a good amount of time multi-tasking lately and utilizing the glory of the audio book. Last year Life After Life by Kate Atkinson was ALL the rage, and I, as per usual, missed out on it. I decided to play catch up when I saw this was available through my library’s digital audio offerings, and it was a wise decision.

lifeafterlifeWho out there likes Bill Murray? I suppose the more telling question would be who DOESN’T like Bill Murray, but I digress. Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies. I first saw it on an airplane ride to a fun family vacation, can you blame me? The premise of the movie is that Bill Murray keeps living the same day over and over and over again until he gets it right. My husband is a huge nerd on the subject and he saw somewhere that the creators estimate that for Bill Murray’s character to have acquired all the skills he did he was likely living the same day for somewhere in the neighborhood of TEN THOUSAND years. Crazy right? Why am I rambling though?

Life After Life is about a woman named Ursula. Instead of living a single day over and over again, she lives her whole life. Some of those lives aren’t particularly long, though. I mean, she’s strangled by her umbilical cord at least once. And YOU try escaping the Spanish Flu. It is NOT as easy as it sounds. If you manage to avoid the flu, though, good luck surviving the London bombings during WWII. The universe isn’t particularly kind to any of the Ursulas. Just when you think she’s finally gotten it right, though, you’re hit with a bit of an ambiguous ending. And so it goes.

I thought this book was very good. The only thing that hampered my enjoyment slightly was that the narrator insisted on saying “et” instead of “ate.” That, and she really wasn’t particularly good at American accents so the couple of times one popped up they sounded funny to me. Of course, it’s not as though I could do any better. I’m sure my British accent is downright offensive in its clownishness. I’d recommend Life After Life to those who enjoy literary fiction AND time travel type novels. A little bit o’ metaphysical mystery is going on and it’s quite the ride.

Alright Bookworms, talk to me. If you had to live one day of your life over and over again, which one would you choose?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Oct 02

The Ark by Annabel Smith

Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction 15

It’s The End of the World As We Know It, Bookworms!

I feel fine. How about you? It’s no secret that post-apocalyptic fiction is my jam, so I was pretty excited when Annabel Smith contacted me about checking out her new book The Ark. You might recognize Annabel’s name as one of the founders of the Six Degrees of Separation meme. Annabel and I bonded over the fact that her meme was fun and it allowed me to connect books using yogurt (it really happened). *In the interest of full disclosure, Annabel Smith is my blog friend. I was offered a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration. That said, I’m honest to a fault, so y’all can still trust me.*

theark-annabelsmithThe Ark is one part e-book, one part app, and one part high tech epistolary novel. It’s 2041 and the future is UGLY. Hidden in the Australian wilderness lies a secret bunker of sorts. It’s a seed bank, you know, where seeds are stored so humans have a backup plan when they destroy the planet. (Seed banks are a real thing, and totally legit. Swearsies.) An exclusive group of scientists and their families are invited to ride out The Chaos (peak oil, civil unrest, food shortages, general anarchy) in the seed bunker known as The Ark. It sounds like a great plan, except whenever you confine people into an underground bunker and lock them in, things get weird. Charismatic leaders always have hidden agendas, and the folks in The Ark are left wondering who they can trust.

The Ark was published as an e-book with a cool collaborative app experience. Or so I heard. The book is best experienced on an iPad, and relative luddite that I am, I’ve only got a Kindle Paperwhite. (Which I love the way humans are never meant to love electronic devices.) Luckily, I was able to poke around the novel’s corresponding website after I’d finished reading and came to appreciate it even more. If you’re going to read this one, don’t skip the website. Or, you could just read on an iPad and be one of the cool kids and not have to take the extra step. Whatever.

The story itself is laid out in a series of e-mail communications, text messages, and blog posts. There are also several segments presented as transriptions of conversations and it was exceptionally cool to get to listen to those through the website/app. Heaven help me, I LOVE Australian accents. Certainly an innovative idea for a disturbing story.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me without a minor gripe, would I? There’s a section of the book written in the form of a teenage boy’s blog posts. I know teenagers are all about the text-speak and the new-fangled lingo, but I struggled to read portions of it. That’s really more on me than the author, my inner old lady is spoiled by correct grammar and conventional spelling (they don’t call me Ethel for nothing!) Still, if you’ve got the itch to read some delicious post-apocalyptic fiction, I recommend you get your paws on a copy of The Ark post haste!

Alright Bookworms, let’s get real. If you were locked in an underground bunker, how long do you think you’d make it before losing your ever loving mind? I think I could hack it a week. Maybe. What about you?

 

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Sep 30

Author Event: I Met My Doppelgänger

Author Events, Memoirs 40

Greetings, Bookworms!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve always imagined that I look a bit like Danielle Fishel, the actress who played Topanga on Boy Meets World (and now Girl Meets World.) When I was 15, a stranger told me he thought I looked like “Topanga.” I was, of course, THRILLED, because Danielle Fishel was (and is) pretty! And famous! I like compliments, okay? Thus, I’ve stuck with the celebrity doppelgänger schtick for 16 years now.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I received an email from my IRL pal Chrissy (of Quirky Chrissy) saying that Danielle Fishel had 1. written a book and 2. was going to be doing a book signing on a Friday night a mere 2 hour drive from where I live. There were a LOT of SHOUTY CAPITALS included in my response. (The odds of me making this trip for any other celebrity memoir <barring, of course, celebrities who are active comedy writers. Hi Tina! Hi Mindy! XOXO!> are slim to none. Clearly, extenuating circumstances were at play.)

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I went to the signing and purchased the book because 1. BOOK and 2. Danielle was under contract and not allowed to sign things that were not her book. (I didn’t ask her to sign my face. I bet that would have been allowed. But, you know. Sharpie. Meh.) I met up with my friends Chrissy and Lauren (of Filing Jointly…Finally) at said signing where we mostly behaved like fine upstanding citizens. (Well, Chrissy may have tried to cut in line, but attempting to cheat the system is kind of her thing.)

I was quite surprised at the number of people who queued up at Anderson’s Book Shop in Naperville, IL (holla!) There were 250-300 autograph seekers crammed into a fairly small bookstore. I prefer a good deal more personal space, but I’m willing to make sacrifices. The good folks at Anderson’s handled the crowd admirably, though, it was quite an efficient operation they had going. They went around with post-its so people could have their books personalized. The staff was writing out the names, so I just told the clerk to put “Katie” on my post it. I was telling Lauren and Chrissy that I chickened out of asking the clerk to write “To My Doppelgänger” on the post-it when Lauren rather devilishly pulled a pen out of her handbag. We then had a discussion about whether or not the word “doppelgänger” has an umlaut in it and where it belongs (I thought it was over the “O”. I was WRONG.)

Amended post-it note

Amended post-it note. No umlaut.

When it was my turn, I approached Danielle Fishel bearing a hardcover book with a post-it reading “Katie, My Doppelganger.” (No umlaut. The only thing worse than ignoring accent marks is putting accent marks in the wrong places.) When she saw the note, she gamely smiled at me and said, “You’re my doppelgänger, huh?” To which I blushed and shrugged. “People have told you that?” To which I responded “Yes” in a rather sheepish voice. She then turned and smiled for a photo, and I went on my merry way feeling ridiculous, as per usual, and slightly disappointed in myself that I had not left her a Words for Worms bookmark like I planned. Panic trumps self promotion, apparently.

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I’m wearing a Pride and Prejudice sweatshirt and an Alice in Wonderland necklace. That’s how I roll.

Our interaction took all of 10 seconds, and though Danielle didn’t acknowledge our twinly status in writing, she was a remarkably good sport about the whole thing. She didn’t once say “yeah, I can sort of see the resemblance… You know, if I were to gain 40 pounds.” Which is EXACTLY what went through MY head when I saw the photo. Still. Twinsies. And this is why I shouldn’t be allowed out in public. Ever. You’re welcome, Internet!

Bookworms, talk to me. Have you ever met someone famous? Have you ever embarrassed yourself at a book signing? Do you know the proper usage of umlauts? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. So will Danielle Fishel, because it’s her book. Support your favorite look-alikes, would ya?*

 

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