Tag Archives: fiction

The Dark Dark – Samantha Hunt

A collection of really creepy, bizarre, thoughtful, short stories. Some of these have stayed with me for weeks after reading them, and those are the sort of short stories I love.


I am currently reading more short stories because I’m doing a short story writing course with UCLAN and Comma Press. This gave me the motivation to finally pick up The Dark Dark – a book I’ve had waiting to be read for about a year.


The back of the book describes it as:

Step into The Dark Dark, where an award winning , acclaimed novelist debuts her first collection of short stories and conjures entire universes in just a few pages  – conjures, splits in half, mines for humor, destroys with absurdity, and regenerates. In prose that sparkles and haunts, Samantha Hunt playfully pushes the bounds of the expected and fills every corner with vibrant life, imagining numerous ways in which the weird might poke its way through the mundane. Each of these ten haunting, inventive tales brings us to the brink – of creation, mortality and immortality, infidelity and transformation, technological innovation and historical reinvention, loneliness and communion, and every kind of love.

Laced with lyricism, hope, and Hunt’s characteristic sly wit, illuminated by her unflinching gaze into the ordinary horrors of human existence, The Dark Dark celebrates the mysteries and connections that swirl around us. It’s never all the same, Hunt Tells us. It changes a tiny bit every time. See for yourself.

I love stories that are a bit dark and a bit odd, and a bit feminist, and just a bit creepy and weird. Honestly, the short stories I’ve read recently that are about someone just wandering about thinking about their lives (I’m looking at you, Joyce). or some other dull events, just don’t do it for me. But clones, and really weird, mind bending recursion within a story, or… robots… Yes.  In fact, just flicking back through the book, I’ve just realised two of the stories contain the same start! I really need to reread the whole thing. I loved this collection.


I’m being careful to not spoil any of the stories, so what I’m about to describe is extremely vague! One story ends with a very emotional experience of the main character, but it is overshadowed by world events happening around them. I loved this, it was heartbreaking. There are so many moments from these stories that I keep finding myself thinking about, and that is really telling me how great they were.

I would definitely recommend this collection.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

This is the story of Lale Sokolov, an Auschwitz survivor who met and fell in love with Gita Furman, another prisoner. They meet after the war and spend the rest of their lives together. Lale had a privileged position in Auschwitz due to his role as the tattooist of new arrivals.


Lale told his story to Morris when he was an old man. His story has been verified with records from Auschwitz, but I feel it’s important to note that this is a work of fiction, and isn’t presented as a memoir. There are many historical inconsistencies and it isn’t an attempt to present a real history at all.

It’s a nice enough story. But it left me weirdly emotionally unmoved. And considering this is a book about the actual holocaust, that’s really strange. You couldn’t get a setting that should automatically have me weeping through the story. But I just wasn’t feeling it at all. It felt like an easy read. Too easy. Lale’s Auschwitz experience seemed charmed compared to most stories.


book club

It read like Holocaust-lite. And that was just bizarre. Also, a lot of the details of the story just seemed fanciful and unreal. This was a book club read, and it split the book club. Seems you either really like it or hate it.

I really wouldn’t recommend this book, I could recommend many books with the same setting that are so moving. I would actually be unhappy to thing someone might read this and think it gave a great representation of what life in Auschwitz might have been like. Read Night by Elie Wiesel instead.

My Top Fiction Reads of 2018

I managed to read 37 fiction books this year, out of a total of 53 books. Really happy with that. For the purposes of my yearly review, I go December to November because I still might read something brilliant over the next week! Here are my top ten:



The Pisces by Melissa Broder

A struggling PhD student breaks up with her long term boyfriend and has a bit of a breakdown. To aid her recovery, she house sits for her sister on Venice Beach, attends group therapy, and falls in love with a merman. It’s clever, filthy, sweary, funny, and dark. I loooooved it. My review is here.




Sight – Jessie Greengrass

Our narrator is pregnant for the second time, and contemplating the significant relationships in her life; with her mother, grandmother, partner, and daughter. Long, beautiful, poetic sentences mixed in with three science stories that complement the main story. Contemplative and moving. I adored this book and felt greatly moved by parts of it. My review is here.




The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Inspired by Black Lives Matter, The Hate U Give is the story of Starr Williamson and the aftermath of her being witness to her friend’s murder by a police officer. The book follows Starr’s move toward activism, and explores her life as a black student at a mostly white school, and how she is treated in her own neighbourhood because she is sent out of the local district to school. It’s emotional! My review is here.




The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

A gay Iliad adventure! We follow the life of Patroclus from his banishment for killing another child, his new life being brought up as a companion of Achilles (his father takes him in), to his adulthood as Achilles lover, and their adventures in the Trojan War. Special shout out to Thetis, Achilles’ Godess sea nymph mother, who does not like Patroclus. She is terrifying and brilliant. My review is here.




In Our Mad and Furious City – Guy Gunaratne

Five residents of a London estate are followed in the aftermath of a terrorist killing that happens nearby.  It’s a brilliant book about life in London, and struggles against racism, oppression, religious expectations, and uniting them all – poverty. I just wanted good outcomes for all the characters so desperately! My review is here.




Ponti – Sharlene Teo

Ponti follows the relationships between three Singaporean women. Szu, an awkward teen, her beautiful, cruel, one time film star, mother Amisa, and brash Circe, Szu’s only school friend. We go back to Amisa’s childhood and teenage years, and forward to Szu’s adult life in 2020. The women are all interesting and complicated, and I really enjoyed being immersed in their world during Ponti. My review is here.




Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

The Iliad written from the perspective of Briseis, the war bride taken from Achilles, by Agamemnon, that kicks off the whole story of The Iliad. We join Briseis while she is still a princess, before her city is destroyed by the Greek fighters. I loved the different perspective given to the Trojan war by the women’s story. My review is here.




White Tears – Hari Kunzru

Audio nerds and their descent into obsession with an old blues song that may be cursed. It’s about privilege, racism, ‘authenticity’ and cultural appropriation. Eventually it becomes a quite strange ghost story too, but I liked this weird element! My review is here.




Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

A wide ranging story, set over eight generations, of two separated sisters, beginning in the 1770s. One stays on the Gold Coast in Africa as a slave trader’s wife, one becomes a slave and is shipped to North America. You follow each generation of the family up to the present day. My review is here.




Heartburn – Nora Ephron

Hilarious book about a woman coping with her discovery of her husband’s infidelity. I haven’t managed to review this yet! I don’t know whhhyyyyyy. I’ll add the link when I do!


Here are all the fiction books I read this year. Click the name of the book to go to my review of it:

My Top Fiction Reads of 2017

Oh this is going to be hard to narrow down! I have read 43 non-fiction books this year. A great achievement for me and I’m so happy to be reading a lot again after years of not finding the time (answer: I watch less TV). I am aware the year isn’t done yet. If I read any amazing books in the last two weeks of December I’m going to have to add them to next years list!

Click the images to go to my longer review of each book. Here we go:


The Power – Naomi Alderman

Women develop the power to give deadly electric shocks. Goodbye patriarchy. This winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017 is a visceral, shocking look at a complete reversal in the power balance between men and women. I absolutely loved reading The Power and you would too!



Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

An emotional look at a family who are terrible at communicating with each other. 1970s America, white mother and Chinese Father, with three children. We meet them on the morning that the middle child, Lydia, goes missing and is found drowned. This book was such an emotional read and I loved it.

Also, one of the main characters shares my name, and that was really weird.



Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

Abraham Lincoln mourns the death of his beloved son, Willie. He visits his coffin twice during a night where Willie is residing in the Bardo – the middle place between life and death, along with a host of other ghosts, all with their own shit to deal with before they can move on. A beautiful poetic exploration of grief and parental love. I finished Lincoln in the Bardo feeling uplifted, and much more educated about Lincoln and the American Civil War.

It won the Man Booker Prize 2017 and I am not surprised at all.



Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Firefighters no longer put out fires in this dystopian future. They cause them when someone is found to be in possession of books, any books, they are all illegal. The population have been taught that thinking deeply is a bad thing and they are kept distracted and dumb with frivolous soaps and constant entertainment. Written in 1953, it felt like it could have been written last year. Brilliant.



Living the Dream – Lauren Berry

Late 20-somethings hilariously navigate life and friendship. Sharp and sarcastic, they are a fairly aimless group of friends approaching 30 and dealing with their lives not being what they expected they would be by this age. Funniest book I have read for a long time.



The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is made physical in this story of Cora escaping slavery from a plantation in the Southern USA. Cora stops off in several states during her journey North and in each one the laws and atmosphere around slavery are different, but equally awful. Cora is trying to make it North, but is being hunted…

The Underground Railroad hits you in the gut with it’s stark and immersive description of Cora’s life on the plantation. It’s part thriller and we have to consider, will Cora ever be free?



Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Man creates monster. Man abandons monster. Monster starts out loving and intelligent but is changed by his treatment by humans and, more devastatingly, his creator. Monster wants revenge. The wretch! #teammonster



Beloved – Toni Morrison

This book will break your heart. Sethe was born into slavery and she will do anything to protect her family from suffering this same fate.

This is the first Toni Morrison book I have read and I’m so glad I did.



The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

A crisis with human reproduction means women capable of bearing children are forced to live with ‘important’ men and their wives. They are raped in an official, state sanctioned ceremony to try and save the population. Fear and control are everything.



Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

I came away from Bel Canto feeling like it was the most beautiful exploration of love I’ve ever read. I didn’t want it to end and yet I needed to know what happens! A group of internationally important people are taken hostage while attending a party in a South American country. I don’t want to give any more of the plot away here!


These are all the fiction books I’ve read this year. Click to go to my longer review of each book.


What were your favourite fiction reads this year?