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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 15, Issue 4, 1 April 2014

New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Survey News
Competition New
Coming soon

Hello readers. Here are the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of My Journey by Olivia Chow

Olivia Chow’s memoir is an inspirational account of her rise from immigrant poverty and a troubled childhood to a position of fame, influence and respect. It is also about how she found and lost the great love of her life.  Read more:

A review of Random Acts of Kindness by Lisa Verge Higgins

Random Acts of Kindness is a road trip novel involving three forty-something high school friends, who live on the U.S. west coast. The novel opens with Jenna fleeing her Seattle home with some belongings thrown into a milk crate and her Chihuahua, Lucky, in the passenger seat. She turns up at the rural Oregon home of her high school classmate, Claire, whom she hasn’t seen in sixteen years. Claire, who has breast cancer, is longing for time-out from her ultra-helpful sisters and from an atmosphere of gloom (her mother and one sister died of the disease.).  For the full review visit:

The Heroism of Pakistani Poetry

The seventy or so poems in this volume appear to have found their best translators in English. The translators and the editor are well-respected scholars and translators, who worked from the original texts; at least three of them are also poets in their own right. It is noteworthy that all four are based in different continents (viz., Asia, North America, and Europe) and have together put their expertise to a most fruitful use, with excellent results.  Read more:

A review of Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P Frankel

While a book of “do’s” rather than “don’ts” might have been more positive, Frankel draws readers in with her warm tone, entertaining writing style and assurances that no one makes all of the 133 errors she identifies. The book contains some good general advice for women in or out of the work force; for instance, her admonition to be discriminating about helping others, and not letting people waste our time.  For the full review visit:

The Star-Flung Ramparts of the Mind: Valerie June’s Pushin’ Against a Stone

Of course, the banjo is an African instrument. Valerie June loves old-time music, folk music, the music of banjo and fiddle and violin, the kind of music that people make to fit into country lives, the kind of music that people in cities find a healthy, nurturing relief; and she has added something to that tradition. Valerie June has cited Alan Lomax’s collection of recorded folk songs as being part of her research.  Read more:

A review of Get it Done — From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 minutes a day by Sam Bennett

The book is full of strategies, worksheets, anecdotes, and guidance to help the reader deal with perfectionism, procrastination, lack of focus. Instead of judging the procrastinator, Bennett shows how something valuable and powerful in the procrastinator is causing the delay. She highlights the hidden potential, the perfectionist fears, and the capabilities in such a way that the cynical reader actually believes her.  For the full review visit:

The Rule of Knowledge by Scott Baker

As Baker takes us between time continuums, a grieving husband, a fierce warrior, supporting characters, and confounding hints, leads, and fast paced action, two things are guaranteed – you will enjoy this book, and you will be surprised. If you saw any of what comes, you’re a much smarter person than me.  Read more:

A review of The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

The names of these characters alone would be enough to inspire a novel, but Forsyth goes deeper, exploring a range of themes that includes the impact of tyranny (shown on multiple levels – both domestic and historical), emotional strength and weakness as manifested in drug addiction and prejudice, and the enduring power of the human spirit and love even when under great duress. In short, The Wild Girl is a novel that speaks, like the fairy tales that are woven deftly throughout the narrative, to the very nature of human existence in all of its frailties and strengths.  For the full review visit:

Tourists with Typewriters: Writers in the Sternthal-Klugman film The Words and Lucy Fischer’s book Body Double

There are many writers in many films. In Body Double, a book of eight chapters, with acknowledgements, afterword, notes, filmography, bibliography, and index, University of Pittsburgh English and Film Studies professor Lucy Fischer gathers together for examination a great bunch of films in which writers appear—Naked Lunch, Smoke, Deconstructing Harry, Paris When It Sizzles, Barton Fink, Adaptation, How Is Your Fish Today?, Swimming Pool, The Singing Detective, and Providence, among others.  Read more:

A review of It Came! by Dan Boultwood

Dan Boultwood’s endearing homage to British science fiction films of the 1950s and ‘60s (perhaps above all to The Day of the Triffids) is a wonderfully entertaining read. Jokes aplenty lie on every page, many arising from the xenophobic, sexist attitudes of our hero, a smug scientist and period cad named Dr. Boy Brett.   For the full review visit:

All of the reviews listed above are on the front page. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive categorized archives, which can be browsed from the front page of the site.



Before I get to the news, I just wanted to mention that , if any of you live in the vicinity of Newcastle Australia, the Newcastle Writers Festival is on next week (from the 4-6 April) and is an event designed to appeal to readers and writers of all genres and tastes (including a wonderful kids program, most of which is free).  I’ll be running 2 events on Saturday – one centred around poetry titled “How Do Poets Survive” (with John Knight, David Musgrave, Chistopher Polllnitz and Rob Riel) and one with the amazing Kate Forsyth (whose book, The Wild Girls, I reviewed this month) , and will also be participating in a poetry reading in the afternoon. If you are able to come, please find me and say hello (maybe join me for a coffee).  I’d love to catch up with some of you that I know so well by name but have never met in person.  The full program is here:

Now onto the literary news, of which there is rather a lot.  Mental Floss reports on which country reads the most. The answer might surprise you as it certainly did me.  Australia is right now there at 15.  The US is further down at 22, and the UK right down the bottom at 26.  India, Thailand and China top the chart:

Colombian author Jorge Franco was named as winner of Spain’s Alfaguara Novel Prize for “El mundo de afuera,” which is loosely based on a kidnapping that rocked Medellin – the Andean nation’s second city – in 1971.The award, accompanied by a $175,000 cash prize and considered among the most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking world, was conferred on Franco a day after Spanish media group Prisa announced the sale of Alfaguara and other imprints controlled by its Santillana publishing house to Penguin Random House for 72 million euros ($100.2 million).

Finalists have been named for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Five books were chosen from among more than 420 submitted works. The winner, who receives $15,000, will be announced April 2, with the four finalists receiving $5,000 each. All five authors will be honored May 10 during the 34th annual PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The 2014 shortlisted authors are Daniel Alarcón for At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead), Percival Everett for Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (Graywolf), Karen Joy Fowler for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Putnam), Joan Silber for Fools (Norton), and Valerie Trueblood for Search Party: Stories of Rescue (Counterpoint Press).

Anthony Marra’s debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth/Crown), and Justin St. Germain’s memoir, Son of a Gun (Random House), are the winners of this year’s Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards. Each writer was awarded $10,000 and a full year of marketing and merchandising support from the bookseller.  Second-place winners ($5,000 each) are NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (Little, Brown) for fiction and Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave (Knopf) for nonfiction. Third-place awards of $2,500 went to Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee (Algonquin) for fiction and With or Without You by Domenica Ruta (Spiegel & Grau) for nonfiction.

The first longlist of the newly named Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced, and it offers a great sweep of geography, genre and style. With a total of 20 novels included, it’s almost impossible to interpret any particular shape or slant to the list, yet the broad range and high quality itself indicates that fiction written by women is thriving.  The Baileys list for 2014 includes last year’s Man Booker winner, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, which was on that prize’s shortlist. Charlotte Mendelson, who was longlisted for the Man Booker, is also here. Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, which is on the shortlist for the inaugural Folio Prize, is included, as is Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing, which earned her inclusion on the Granta list of Best Young British Novelists.  A full list of longlisted titles cab be found here:

George Saunders has won the inaugural Folio Prize for his short story collection, Tenth of December.  The new prize, open to English-language writers from around the world, pre-empts the Man Booker Prize, which this year expands to a global level. Saunders picked up his £40,000 cheque at a ceremony in central London on Monday night. Formerly known as the Literature Prize, the Folio Prize was first announced in 2011 amidst a row in literary circles over the decision by that year’s Man Booker judges to focus on “readability”.  The Folio Prize joins a literary awards landscape that already contains the £50,000 Man Booker, the £30,000 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and the new £10,000 Goldsmiths Prize.  In September last year it was announced the Man Booker Prize – which had only considered works from the Commonwealth, Ireland or Zimbabwe – would open up to authors around the world in 2014.  The full list of shortlisted titles can be found here:

The Best Translated Book Award jury announced its longlist yesterday.This year the submissions exceeded 500 for the first time, and came from more than 140 publishers worldwide, many of them small presses like Frisch & Co., Hispabooks Publishing, New Vessel Press, Sylph Editions, Nightboat Books, Ugly Duckling Presse and Tam Tam Books. Books from 23 presses made the longlist. The honorees range in length from the 36-page cahier Her Not All Her to the two-volume 854-page, slipcased A True Novel. Two books, both from Archipelago Books, are from series: Blinding is the first of a trilogy and My Struggle, Book Two, second of a hexology. Both are striking new works of autobiographical fiction.  Books translated from Spanish, with four submissions, edged out French, Hungarian, Norwegian, Japanese, Romanian, Dutch, Swedish, Arabic, German, Czech, Russian, Chinese, Italian, Hebrew and Icelandic.  It’s crunch time for the BTBA jury, who are required to read all of the longlist titles. That’s 24 books in 35 days. The finalists will be announced on April 15, the winner on April 24.  The full longlist can be found here:

The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced the 20 writers who will receive its 2014 awards in literature, which will be presented in May at the Academy’s annual ceremony in New York City. The literature prizes, totaling $230,000, honor both established and emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. You can find the complete list of this year’s honorees here:

The winners of the National Book Critics Circle’s Book Awards are Poetry: Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Criticism: Distant Reading by Franco Moretti (Verso), Autobiography: Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti by Amy Wilentz (Simon & Schuster), Biography: Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World by Leo Damrosch (Yale University Press), Nonfiction: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (Crown), Fiction: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf)

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has won the US National Critics Book Prize for her novel Americanah. The writer’s work tells the story of a Nigerian woman who moves to the US to pursue a college education. In 2008, her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the UK’s Orange Prize and Purple Hibiscus was longlisted for the Booker Prize four years earlier. The writer is also in the running for the UK’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction – formerly known as the Orange Prize – for Americanah. The National Critics Book Prize was first awarded in 1974 and is open to writers of all nationalities whose work has been published in the US.

NoViolet Bulawayo won the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction for her novel We Need New Names (Little, Brown). Winners of this year’s PEN New England Awards are Jennifer Haigh in fiction for News From Heaven (HarperCollins), Douglas Bauer in nonfiction for What Happens Next? Matters of Life and Death (University of Iowa Press) and Karen Skolfield in poetry for Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3 Press).

Afaa Michael Weaver won Claremont Graduate University’s $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his collection The Government of Nature (University of Pittsburgh Press). In addition, Yona Harvey won the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for Hemming the Water (Four Way Books).

The shortlist for Australia’s all-female literary award, the Stella prize, celebrating six female authors for their contribution to literature, including two debut novelists and an increased prize pool. The shortlisted authors include Hannah Kent for Burial Rites, and Fiona McFarlane for the Night Guest, first novels for both. Kent and McFarlane appear on the list beside Anna Krien (Night Games), Kristina Olsson (Boy, Lost: A Family Memoir), Alexis Wright (The Swan Book) and Clare Wright (The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka). The winner will receive $50,000. Additionally, and for the first time, the other five shortlisted authors will also receive prize money of $2000, courtesy of the Nelson Meers Foundation. This carries forward the extraordinary gesture of the inaugural Stella Prize winner, Carrie Tiffany, who last year shared $10,000 of her prize money with her fellow shortlisted authors. More details about the shortlisted authors, including synopses of their books can be found here:

Finally, The Diagram prize, honouring the year’s strangest title, has been awarded to How to Poo on a Date, a self-help guide to toilet etiquette.  Almost 1,500 votes were cast for the 2014 award, with the pseudonymous Mats & Enzo’s guide to dating toilet etiquette taking 30% of votes cast. Joint second place went to Are Trout South African and The Origin of Feces, with Working Class Cats coming in fourth. The Diagram prize, run by the Bookseller magazine, has been going since 1978, when Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice was spotted at the Frankfurt book fair.

Have a great month!


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Congratulations to Debbie Warilla, who won a copy of The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag.

Congratulations also to Christine Martin who won a copy of The Lost Girls by Wendy James.

Our new giveaway is for a copy of the newly released 25th anniversary (limited edition) version of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.  To win, send me an email at with the subject line Joy Luck.

We also have a copy of Fly Away by Kristin Hannah to giveaway.  To win, send me an email at with the subject  Fly Away.

Finally (I love book giveaways), we’ve got a copy of Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom.  If you’d like one, send me an email with the subject line Steal the North.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life by Cherie Calborn, Forgotten Roses by Deborah Doucette, The Upright Ape by Dr. Aaron G. Fuller,  Griffith Review 43: Pacific Highways, and lots more reviews, interviews, and of course giveaways.

Don’t forget to drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) or at to listen to the latest interview with Ninety9 author Vanessa Berry. You can also subscribe to the show and get updates automatically. Just find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe.


(c) 2014 Magdalena Ball. Nothing in this newsletter may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher, however reprint rights are readily available. Please feel free to forward this newsletter in its entirety.

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