Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 18, Issue 6, 1 June 2017

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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of Peregrine Island by Diane B. Saxton

Weather plays a profound role in the novel; it is almost a character. Fog, dark clouds and storms set a mood, suggesting that the Peregrines are subject to forces beyond their control. Young Peda, the family member most in tune with nature, has a strong need for friendship and a belief in magic that lead to a positive outcome for her family members. Read more:

A Review of The End of Pink by Kathryn Nuernberger

Nuernberger’s unique understanding of her world illustrated in her work is a blend of the realistic and the fantastical in each of her characters and poems. It is Nuernberger’s outside-the-box perspective that is so striking and profound for a reader in The End of Pink. Read more:

A review of Grace and the Secret Vault by Ruth Latta

Latta tells this story in a fluid, fast-paced and conversational way, seamlessly weaving together the daily details of life in the British Columbia of a century ago with the book’s overarching political narrative. The characters’ dialogue is conveyed convincingly in the lexicon of the day, but the emotional pull of the story is timeless. And despite its subject matter, the author avoids propagandizing. Read more:

A review of Dark Convicts by Judy Johnson

The story itself is a fascinating one with themes very relevant to modern readers: the impact of colonisation, racism, cruelty and social inequality, as well as love, hunger, and the desire for meaning and self-actualisation. Johnson is a natural storyteller, providing narrative context in between each of the poems. However the real heart of the collection is the poetry, which goes deeper than scholarship would otherwise allow. Johnson puts the reader right into the moment of experience, using language that is both harrowing and wry. Read more:

A review of Something You Once Told Me by Barry Stewart Hunter

Trains and boats and planes – modes of transport abound in Barry Stewart Hunter’s interestingly varied collection of short stories, although the people they convey are seldom up to speed with their own lives. Persons in transit and the mental dislocations they experience are a recurring motif; thematically, however, there is a great deal more going on, much of which is intriguingly elusive. Read more:

Essential Eviscerations: A review of This Could Be You Composing Me by Gabriele D.R. Guenther

There is a stark, necessary brutality to these poems, and so many wonderful, poignant lines that one is tempted to quote continuously in an effort to impress upon readers the importance of this work. Therefore the best recommendation is to read it whole, in its entirety, to absorb its authentic reflections and stunning phrases and to reap the rewards of personal insight and possibly even enlightenment. Read more:

An interview with Tom Keneally

Keneally is a veritable storyteller and one that remains his earnest, candid self throughout our exchange. Perhaps his shirt-of-the-back affability could be traced back to his modest beginnings in working-class Kempsey, on the state’s mid-north coast. The author is still very proud of the place he grew up in, confiding, ‘I came from a working class family and came from terrific and noble people, nobler than those that sniff at the working class now.’ Read more:

A review of In Hubble’s Shadow by Carol Smallwood

What’s interesting in all of Smallwood’s work is how she manages to put together myriad disparities to create a whole. Thematically, these poems are drawn together by the overarching concept of exploration of the universe, but the poems themselves are as diverse and disparate as poems from different authors. Read more:

A review of The Loyalty of Chickens by Jenny Blackford

It’s rare to come across a collection that is suitable for such a broad age range, and yet Blackford, something of a literary jill-of-all-trades, manages it perfectly. Though her poems are lighthearted, often exploring the secret and not so secret world of animals and other aspects of nature, they are anything but facile. Often there is a dark heart, or a rich philosophical exploration of the nature of psychology, history and mythology. Read more:

An interview with Anurag Minus Verma

The author of Love in the Time of Pokemon talks about his new poetry book and its unusual title, why he writes, his unusual writing habits, the authors who inspire him and his desert island books, advice for new writers, and more. Read more:

All of the reviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives (currently at 2,106 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, this year’s longlist has been announced for the AU$60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s prestigious prize honoring a novel “of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.” A shortlist will be unveiled June 18 at the Australian Booksellers Association conference in Melbourne, and the winner named in September. The 2017 Miles Franklin longlisted titles are: The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam, An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn, Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O’Neill, A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe, Waiting by Philip Salom, Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson, Hold by Kirsten Tranter, and Extinctions by Josephine Wilson.

The 2017 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, a program of the Jewish Book Council, has been awarded to Idra Novey, author of Ways To Disappear (Little, Brown and Company). The largest literary prize of its kind—an award of $100,000—the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature honors emerging writers who “explore the Jewish experience in a specific work of non-fiction and fiction in alternating years.”

A six-book shortlist has been announced for the £2,017 (about $2,605) Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel of the year. The winner will be named July 27 at a public ceremony held in partnership with Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road. This year’s shortlisted titles are A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers, Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, After Atlas by Emma Newman, Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan, Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Jim Shepard has won the $30,000 2016 Rea Award for the Short Story, given to “a writer who has made a significant contribution to the discipline of the short story form.” Rea is the author of five short story collections and seven novels. The World to Come: Stories was published by Knopf earlier this year.

The judges wrote in part that Shephard has “proved himself an original, darkly funny, and deeply humane writer. His prodigious research combined with a kind of X-ray vision of the soul produces stories that we learn from, that improve us, that expand our sense of what a life can be. He is a master of stance and throwaway wit. His scholarship and surpassing imagination work in tandem in matchless stories that glorify the commonplace and understate the extraordinary.

Francis Spufford has won the £10,000 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize for his debut novel, Golden Hill (Faber). Winner also of the Costa First Novel Award, the book will be published in the U.S. by Scribner on June 27 as Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York. One of the judges, Mimi Khalvati, commented: “Joyously written in mock 18th century prose, Golden Hill is a remarkable evocation of New York in its infancy, along with its more reprehensible inhabitants–a new world indeed for Mr Smith, fresh from England, arriving with a secret portfolio. An unpredictable, exhilarating, protean novel, Golden Hill also captures the vein of darkness, the fear of the other, that runs through American history.”

Joy Harjo has won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which honors “a living U.S. poet whose lifetime accomplishments warrant singular recognition.” The award is sponsored and administered by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It will be presented June 12 during a ceremony at the Poetry Foundation.

A shortlist has been announced for the £10,000 (about $12,940) Desmond Elliott Prize, which honors a first novel written in English and published in the U.K. This year’s Desmond Elliott shortlisted titles are My Name Is Leon by Kit de Waal, Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. The winner will be revealed June 21.

Fiona McFarlane has won the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas prize for her “deliciously unsettling” short story collection, The High Places. The High Places is the third short story collection to win the prize, which is for the best work of English-language literary fiction – poetry, drama or prose – by a writer of 39 or under, marking Thomas’s death shortly after his 39th birthday. This is the 11th year of the award, which has been won in the past by Max Porter, Joshua Ferris and Maggie Shipstead.

The Indigenous Australian playwright, actor and musician Leah Purcell has won $40,000 at the NSW premier’s literary awards, taking out two major prizes for her radical reimagining of Henry Lawson’s short story The Drover’s Wife – the same work that won Purcell the $100,000 Victorian prize for literature in January. Other major winners include Heather Rose, who won the $40,000 prize for fiction for her Stella prize-winning novel The Museum of Modern Love; Thornton McCamish, who won the $40,000 non-fiction prize for his biography of celebrated correspondent Alan Moorehead; Leanne Hall who won the $30,000 Patricia Wrightson prize for children’s literature for Iris and Tiger, Peter Boyle, who won the $30,000 poetry prize for Ghostspeaking, and Michelle Cahill, who won the UTS Glenda Adams award for new writing ($5,000) for Letter to Pessoa (reviewed here: ). A full list can be found here:

Finally, shortlists have been announced for the 2017 Trillium Book Awards, which recognize “literary achievement for a first, second or third published work of poetry.” The winning authors, who will be named June 20, receive C$20,000 (about US$14,585) and their publishers $2,500 for marketing and promotion. The Trillium Book Award for Poetry winner gets $10,000, with $2,000 going to the publishers. Check out the English and French language finalists here:


Congratulations to Mary Preston, who won a full set of the three books in Tricia Stringer’s Flinder’s Range Series including Jewel in the North, Hearth of the Country and Dust on the Horizon.

Congratulations also to Vicki Wurgler who won a copy of Misfortunes of T-Funk by Barnaby Hazan.

Our new site giveaway is for copy of Peregrine Island by Diane B Saxton. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Peregrine” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!


We will shortly be featuring reviews of Waiting by Philip Salom, How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell, All I Want To Do Is Love by Trace Ramsay, Life in Suspension by Helene Cardona, Are We Here Yet? Questions + Answers + Drawings by Aevi, and lots more reviews, news, interviews, and giveaways.

(c) 2017 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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