Tag Archives: The Little Friend

Books of 2013 (and bonus news)

Lalalalalala…Oh hello there, dear Reader. It has been a while since Old Pints has updated. And so for a hit of fabulous, here is my best books list of 2013. I read a “few” (*giggles insanely*) books in 2013 and have come up with a list of my 20 favorites. Some were published in 2013 and some were not. The only books I deemed ineligible were ones which I reread in 2013 but had read for the first time in a previous year. I also decided to only select one book per author in cases where I read multiple books by the same author over the course of the year.

The numerical order is irrelevant. I just like numbering things.

1.)    I Remember You by: Yrsa Sigurdardottir. I love Sigurdardottir’s mysteries, so I was ecstatic with joy to find she had a ghost novel out there. It’s creepy and wonderful!

2.)    Flora and Ulysses by: Kate DiCamillo. A squirrel who wants “gianter doughnuts” since the universe is expanding. That’s all I need to say about that.

3.)    The Pinhoe Egg by: Diana Wynne Jones. DWJ makes all the lists forever and anon.

4.)    The Goldfinch by: Donna Tartt. Was there anyway this wouldn’t make the list? Tartt is my idol. This book was so filled with depth and brilliant lines that you want to savor each word, but also so intense and intriguing that you want to read it all in one sitting. Still, The Little Friend remains my Tartt favorite and one of the best novels of all time. Just saying.

5.)    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by: Neil Gaiman. A short well-told tale with just the right amount of longing and sadness at its heart.

6.)    We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by: Karen Joy Fowler. Extremely well written and heart-wrenching without ever falling into melodrama.

7.)    The End of the Point by: Elizabeth Graver. One of the best written books I’ve read in a long time. Completely absorbing and deep.

8.)    Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by: Sara Gran. This book just makes me happy. A great mystery with a completely original detective at its center.

9.)    An Everlasting Meal by: Tamar Adler. I just love to read well-written descriptions of food. What can I say?

10.)  A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters by: Julian Barnes. Barnes is just brilliant.

11.) The Little Stranger by: Sarah Waters. Reading this perfectly rendered ghost (or not?) story made me think that reading everything by Waters was something I needed to do immediately.

12.) Three Graves Full by: Jamie Mason. I loved, loved, loved this. Sharply written, tightly wrought with fully realized characters and a genuine heart beating within.

13.) The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by: Manuel Gonzales. Go out and read this, dear reader. Each piece is so different from the last that one might expect to get dizzy, except that Gonzales’ prose is so strong that each story feels exactly in the right place.

14.) Splendors and Glooms by: Laura Amy Schlitz. Lovely and well told.

15.)  Madness, Rack, and Honey by: Mary Ruefle. Ruefle’s essays are funny and interesting and engaging.

16.) Mistaken by: Neil Jordan. I’ve long been a fan of Jordan’s films but had never read his fiction until this. This is a twisting and surprising and haunting novel. I keep going back to scenes from it in my mind long after having finished reading it.

17.)  The Shadow of the Wind by: Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A one sit read. I didn’t want to be pulled from the strange and dark and often beautiful world of this story.

18.) Catastrophe by: Dino Buzzati. Technically cheating because I had read some of these stories previously but never the whole collection. Ah, Buzzati!!

19.)  Vampires in the Lemon Grove by: Karen Russell. Mostly for two of the stories in this collection which were absolute gems.

20.) One for Sorrow by: Christopher Barzak. Lovely and sad in equal amounts.

PS Dear Reader, if you’ve come this far…Here is some good news from Pints. In the past month, I’ve been lucky enough to be included in some great literary journals: 3elements Review, Abyss & Apex, Driftwood Press, The Lake, Menacing Hedge, Rose Red Review, Sleet, and Treehouse Magazine. The links to all are up on my Writings page alongside my other published work. Please consider reading these lovely journals and let me know what you think about the pieces!


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10 things-October 2013 edition

I haven’t done one of these in a while. But here are 10 things that are currently keeping me sane (which is a heavy task between writing a novel, taking my MFA classes, teaching college composition, and maintaining the high levels of self-AWESOME that everyone is accustomed to from me).

1.)    Donna Tartt has a new novel out (and I’ve ordered it). Ms. Tartt is basically a flat out badass. The Secret History, her first novel, is often cited as being her best. And it is amazingly brilliant. But, her second novel The Little Friend, is one of my favorite novels of all time. In the years since it was first published, I have read it five or six times. It is exquisite and sublime and if her new novel The Goldfinch comes anywhere near to its wonderfulness than I am going to be one happy clam. Here’s a conversation between her and her editor that was up on Slate.

2.)    Daniel Alarcon has a new novel coming out this month, too! Like, what? It is a bountiful month indeed. Alarcon’s first collection, War by Candlelight, was filled with gorgeous stories including one of my top 100 “A Strong Dead Man.” His novel, Lost City Radio, is on my list of best first novels. So basically all I have for this one is ridiculously high expectations. Here’s some more info from Alarcon’s website.

3.)    The Pinocchio lizard, believed extinct, was recently spotted. Gorgeous, no? Here is an article up on National Geographic!

4.)    I have been getting back to baking. I was thrown off by starting school up, but, now I am into pumpkin scones and deliciousness full speed ahead. This weekend will be chocolate-stout cupcakes!

5.)    I am hard at work on the novel. Stage magicians are in this. STAGE MAGICIANS. That should just make everyone happy.

6.)    I have a prose poem coming out soon from Cease, Cows and one of my favorite ghost stories that I’ve written will be in the winter issue of Supernatural Tales. These are both wonderfully fantastic publications. So, I’m doing the happy dance of writerly acceptances.

7.)    I started a new interviewy project of Extremely Brilliant Creative People and so far have had the chance to interview the fabulous Dan Pankratz and the amazing ean weslynn. Next month, there will be a pretty awesome poet being interviewed too, so stay TUNED.

8.)    I have found out that the town I’m now living in not only has a shop with a pretty kickass puppet collection but that there is also a store that carries treacle. Treacle tarts will be made. I have wanted to make them since I first read Harry Potter and I could never find proper treacle. Until now. Sound the freaking trumpets!

9.)    Squashes are out. And squash season means one thing: ravioli. From scratch.

10.) My people continue to be amazing and as always a moment of thanks for having them in my life. Plus, then I have someone to make food for. It is win-win.

So, not all is bad in the world of Pints and Cupcakes. This seems a good time to remind all you, Dear Readers, that if you want more daily updates and rantings than consider following me on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes


Happy October!

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30 Day Book Challenge (super compresssed into one day)

Okay, so I’ve been seeing this 3o-day book challenge thing going around and I decided to try it out (anything to sooth a troubled mind that only wants to think about MFA programs sending out notices of acceptance but that really shouldn’t be thinking about that because oh god…oh god…oh god…ad infintum).

Looking over the list of the challenge, I thought “oh, that sounds quite fun” (we all know I’m a book nerd, don’t act so surprised). Then I thought “the one to make this better would be to do it all at once” (I say yes to instant gratification, apparently).

So, here goes:


The Rules…
Day 1: Favorite book

Can I possibly pick this? The answer is no. This changes all of the time. I could give you a list of what I term my “soul books:” but then you might know too much about me. So, I skip this one (see? I’m ALREADY cheating! On Number 1! I’m just cool like that.)
Day 2: Least favorite book

That I’ve ever read through? I’d have to say probably something by Jane Austen.
Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud

Apex Hides the Hurt By: Colson Whitehead, Me Talk Pretty One Day by: David Sedaris, Archer’s Goon by: Diana Wynne-Jones, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by: Douglas Adams, All Families are Psychotic by: Douglas Coupland, The Commitments by: Roddy Doyle.

Day 4: Book that makes you cry

As a defender of my stone-cold heart reputation, I scoff at this, while I’ve never cry-cried at a book, I have gotten teary-eyed at the last line of Lord of the Rings, the final battle in Harry Potter, the final scene of Of Mice and Men (but you would have to be the devil himself not to be moved by it).
Day 5: Book you wish you could live in

I don’t think I’d live in any, but I would visit Oz, Neverwhere, Unlundun, Hogwarts, and quite a few others.
Day 6: Favorite young adult book

Anything by Diana Wynne-Jones, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by: Terry Pratchett, Blitzcat by: Robert Westall, Unlundun by: China Mieville, The Graveyard Book by: Neil Gaiman.
Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite

The last lines of quite  a few. Definitely whole passages of The Beach by: Alex Garland. Lines of dialogue from Harry Potter. certain passages from Ghosts and Lightning by: Trevor Byrne, Huge portions of Ffangs the Vampire Bat, some Calvino.
Day 8: Book that scares you

Hmmm…..I’ve never been consistently scared by a novel, but the short stories of MR James, “The Specialist’s Hat” by: Kelly Link, when I was younger Alvin Schwartz scary stories.
Day 9: Book that makes you sick

Like physically? What can this mean? Sick of the world? Then Beasts of No Nation by: Uzodinma Iweala (gorgeous book and completely traumatic to read).
Day 10: Book that changed your life

Several short stories: “The Twenty-Seventh Man” by: Nathan Englander, Bullet in the Brain” by: Tobias Wolff, and others.
Day 11: Book from your favorite author

Can’t pick a favorite author. Sorries!
Day 12: Book that is most like your life

Ha. Let’s see someone try to write my life. Okay, fine, I’ll answer, it’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Day 13: Book whose main character is most like you

Again, hmmm….I’d say I identify with the protagonist of The Little Friend by: Donna Tartt and Polly (sort of) of Fire and Hemlock. Also, Smaug,
Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry

Yeesh, some of us have very certain plans to NEVER marry. And, seriously, this is just an odd question….I know the authors who would make excellent trophy husbands, though….
Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

The Secret Garden
Day 16: Longest book you’ve read

Actually, I don’t know page length, here. The longest book I read at the youngest age though would have to be The Stand when I was ten. I read it when I was home sick in one twelve hour span. Talk about an experience.
Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read

Again, I’m not sure, about page length. Is this just a filler question?
Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

I would never be embarrassed for liking a book! That’s like being embarrassed about the people who you are in love with!
Day 19: Book that turned you on

Um, skipping with a *shudder*
Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times

Um, ha, there are so many I’ve read greater than 20 times. I reread things with a disturbing frequency. I can say that the top contenders for this position though are: books by Diana Wynne Jones, Harry Potter series, The Beach, Of Mice and Men, Le Morte D’Arthur, various fairy tales collections…
Day 21: Favorite picture book from childhood

Ffangs and Rumpelstiltskin (Paul O’Zelinsky version)
Day 22: Book you plan to read next

Finally, get around to The Hunger Games, the new Dan Chaon collection, the new Nathan Englander collection.
Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

None. Honesty when it comes to books is always my only policy.
Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene

Yeesh, I can’t pick one! Who could possibly pick just one scene???
Day 25: Favorite book you read in school

Goodness….I’m not sure.
Day 26: Favorite nonfiction book

Hoop Roots, Assassination Vacation (oh, Sarah Vowell, I love thee!), On Photography by: Susan Sontag, Jean Robert Houdin’s autobiography (though nonfiction should probably be applied loosely here)…
Day 27: Favorite fiction book

Yeah, like I’m going to pick.
Day 28: Last book you read

Mr. Fox by: Helen Oyeyemi.
Day 29: Book you’re currently reading

Rereading Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.
Day 30: Favorite coffee table book

I actually have to admit I don’t really know what a coffee table book is….Like an Art book? Then it would be the complete artwork of James C. Christensen or Donald Roller Wilson.

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Things that go through my mind on a sadly regular basis

1.)    Why when an author has huge success with their first book is there second novel so routinely badly reviewed?

Two of my favorite novels are The Autograph Man by: Zadie Smith (and, why fault Smith for so wonderfully going away from the intergenerational saganess of White Teeth—which don’t get me wrong is a lovely book, funny and beautiful, and was adapted delightfully by the BBC—to try something really quite different.) and the amazing The Little Friend by: Donna Tartt. The Little Friend is a gorgeous book. Did I identify with it because the main character was so perfectly constructed out of things I too love (any little girl obsessed with Shackleton and Houdini has to be close to my heart)? Yes, absolutely, but I also found it to be so perfectly constructed that it made me want to cry.

2.)    When will there be a really good (i.e, actually enjoyable to read and not completely full of scholarly dryness) academic book done on subterranean fantasy?

In particular I want something that covers the Subway fantastic of recent years: King Rat by: China Mieville, Neverwhere by: Neil Gaiman, the Hungarian film Kontroll (trust me I can make a very excellent argument as to why this great film fits into subterranean fantasy), etc. If there is such a book, let me know about it…Or, if there are any subterranean fantasy novels that I should check out, I am all ears (and wouldn’t that be something frightening? A person/ creature who was all ears? It could hear EVERYTHING!!)

3.)    And speaking of China Mieville (which apparently I am never not doing): why is the man so amazing?

His books are each so distinct and so well created. How can someone go from a children’s fantasy novel (UnLunDun) to a truly glorious mash-up of noir and fabulism (The City and the City) to an excellent sci-fi dissection of truth and language (Embassytown) and on and on and I haven’t even mentioned quite a few books here?

4.)    In the vein of UnLunDun, why am I so fascinated by stories of contemporary people who end up falling into fantastic worlds and why am I equally fascinated by the ways in which these types of books diverge?

There’s the person who is taking/ falls into a completely separate world in the vein of Alice in Wonderland, the Oz books, Peter Pan, UnLunDun, etc  and then there are the ones where the protagonist learns of worlds that exist within our own such as the Harry Potter series and I could argue that Stardust fits into this category versus the other. I think my fascination probably stems back to an early fascination with fairy tales that were centered on children stolen away to the land of fairy, etc.  Or, perhaps, on my over watching of Return to Oz (one of the greatest literary adaptations to film. Ever. I will fight people on this one, if I must).

5.)    And perhaps the most important question: Why am I rambling on about these things and letting them fill up my head?

This is actually the simplest to answer and in just two words: MFA applications.

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