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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 16, Issue 8, 1st Aug 2015

New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of The Boy Who Killed Demons by Dave Zeltserman

It’s an absorbing novel, and we’re quickly caught up in Henry’s concerns and anxieties. Zeltserman convincingly captures the grumpy, grouchy voice of an adolescent boy – spoilt yet with a core integrity. Read more:

A review of Invisible Streets by Toby Ball

I very much enjoyed Toby Ball’s novel, the way his snappy prose propelled the story forward, making everything both more convoluted and clearer at once. He conjured up a vital, bustling sense of place. For the full review visit:

A review of Inside my Mother by Ali Cobby Eckermann

The poetry is universally evocative, delicately wrought, and linguistically powerful even taken out of context, or published individually, as many of the pieces have been. However, knowing the personal and political backdrop on which the work is developed not only adds depth, it becomes another story – the story within the story – that informs and enlivens the work further. Read more:

A review of The Frugal Book Editor by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

This book fills a very special niche between the dry, technical style manuals and the more user-friendly, kinder-gentler teacher approach. Howard-Johnson’s presentation gives us the feeling that we are seated in her classroom (she is, in fact, a UCLA Writers Program Extension instructor) with the benefit that she will not disappear at the end of the semester. For the full review visit:

An interview with Carolyn Howard-Johnson

The author of the newly revised The Frugal Book Editor talks about her biggest mistakes and how they’ve helped her become a marketing whiz, her best ‘bang-for-the-buck’ marketing idea, the worst thing a writer can do with respect to promotion, the changes she’s seen in marketing books (and readers) over the years, and lots more. Read more:

A review of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a lovely, easy to read, and powerful book. The simplicity of its narrative belies a far deeper and more complex underlying truth, and this new Faber & Faber edition draws attention to how fresh and relevant the book remains to a modern audience. For the full review visit:

A review of Blood to Blood by Ife Oshun

Blood to Blood is a different take on the vampire and paranormal media craze. Though vampires, witches and werewolves exist in Oshun’s world, a Shimshana is something different, which breathes a degree of freshness into the story. And while paranormal tropes are prominent in the novel–such as a love triangle and the co-existence of vampires, witches and werewolves–the story and characters do not suffer, thanks to Oshun’s expert storytelling ability. Read more:

A review of Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

O’Connor portrays Emily sensitively and sympathetically. Writers will identify with her need for peace and solitude, co-existing with a yearning for understanding and closeness. Emily’s girlhood friend, Susan Gilbert, who married her brother, Austen, was her closest friend. For the full review visit:

Interview with J Ryan Stradal

The author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest talks about his new book and his main character Eva, his love for and knowledge of food, the source for his recipes, the J in his name, his work on reality shows, the best meal he’s ever had, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of To Banquet with the Ethiopians by Philip Brady

Brady paints a wide spectrum that not only includes the world of ancient Greece and Ethiopia but also the terrain of Queens, New York, where he grew up. Brady’s book makes known the impact of the Homeric texts on the young life of the protagonist. 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) categorised archives, which can be browsed from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, The Desmond Elliott Prize has announced that Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller has been chosen as the best debut novel of the year. This dark story is set in the British survivalist movement of the 1970s, and features a father who keeps his daughter captive in the German wilderness for nine years, under the pretence that they are the last people alive on earth. Fuller was selected as the winner of the £10,000 Prize from a shortlist which also featured Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey and A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray. Chair of Judges and award-winning author Louise Doughty said: “Our Endless Numbered Days is both shocking and subtle, brilliant and beautiful, a poised and elegant work that recalls the early work of Ian McEwan in the delicacy of its prose and the way that this is combined with some very dark undertones.”

Zambia’s Namwali Serpell has won the £10,000 (about $15,600) 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “The Sack” from Africa39, published in the U.K. by Bloomsbury. The organization said the story “explores a world where dreams and reality are both claustrophobic and dark. The relationship between two men and an absent woman are explored though troubled interactions and power relationships which jar with the views held by the characters.” Serpell is an associate professor in the English Department of the University of California, Berkeley. Her first book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty (Harvard University Press), was published last year. Her first published story, “Muzungu,” was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Shirley Hughes, author and illustrator of more than 200 children’s books, won the inaugural Book Trust Lifetime Achievement Award, which celebrates “the body of work of an author or illustrator who has made an outstanding contribution to children’s literature.” Among Hughes’s most celebrated works are the “Alfie stories” and Dogger, which was voted the public’s favorite Kate Greenaway Medal winner of all time. Michael Morpurgo, award judge and Book Trust president, commented: “Many millions of our children have come to love reading through the wonderful books of Shirley Hughes. She is also a national treasure to parents, because many millions of them too have grown up with Shirley Hughes, and are now passing on their affection for her stories, her characters and her illustration, to their own children. Book Trust’s first Lifetime Achievement Award could not be more richly deserved.”

Carys Davies won the €25,000 (about $38,400) Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award for her collection The Redemption of Galen Pike, the Guardian reported. Éibhear Walshe, part of this year’s judging panel, called the book “a truly original and striking collection, full of funny, keenly observed stories replete with twists and turns that surprise…. The language is economical with not a word to spare. Davies takes historical moments and themes and examines them in novel ways which intrigue the reader.”

The Georg Büchner Prize – one of Germany’s top literary accolades – has been awarded to Rainald Goetz. The German author and playwright is acclaimed for his fusion of social realism and pop culture. he Academy will officially award Goetz at a ceremony in Darmstadt in October, which includes prize money of 50,000 euros ($55,000). Goetz was born in Munich in 1954 and studied history and medicine – both for which he achieved doctorates – before leaving the medical profession to become a full-time writer at age 30. His debut novel “Irre” (“Crazy”) was released in 1983 and drew on his own studies of psychology as well as Germany’s punk counter-culture. Goetz drew attention when he cut his forehead during a televised reading of the book and let blood drip down his face through the broadcast.

As part of its Soar With Reading program, US airline Jet Blue, in partnership with Random House Children’s Books and Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne is “placing vending machines in communities it calls “book deserts.” The machines are fully stocked with books, and children are allowed to take as many as they want. For free. The pilot program has placed three vending machines in different locations in Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood. The program was started on the back of some dire research. In 2001, one study found that in “underserved communities, there was “only one age-appropriate book available for every 300 kids.”

Finally, the longlist, or ‘Man Booker Dozen’, for the £50,000 Man Booker Prize has been announced. This year’s longlist of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges chaired by Michael Wood, and also comprising Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne. The judges considered 156 books for this year’s prize. This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK. Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. The list includes: Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape), Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road (Jonathan Cape), Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications), Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing), Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island (Jonathan Cape), Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press), Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations (Faber & Faber), Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila (Virago), Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus), Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways (Picador), Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes (Sceptre), Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus), and Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life (Picador). The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive a further £50,000 and can expect international recognition.

Have a great month.



NO MAN’S LAND: The Crime Edition – Call for submissions

Altaire Productions and Publications, publisher of the critically acclaimed The Antigone Poems and co-producer of such films as Raymond Carver’s Whoever Was Using This Bed and New Orleans documentary Bury the Hatchet, is open for submissions to a forthcoming anthology titled “No Man’s Land: The Crime Edition”. Open to all writers writing in English, we’re interested in stories of traditional and non-traditional crime. Think Jim Thompson, Patricia Highsmith, William Gay; think moral, physical, legal and psychological crime; think hardboiled, noir, procedural. Send us your best.  The anthology will also feature the inaugural Altaire Short Fiction Award, with $1000.00 going to what Altaire Productions deems the best story of the collection.  Visit:

=============================================== is the place to go for all your reading needs. We have book reviews, book giveaways, and many other interesting places to visit. Visit:



Congratulations to Janet Donbavand, who won a copy of The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera.

Congratulations to Myra Yavitch who won a set of Ana of California by Andi Teran and a limited edition version of Anne of Green Gables.

Congratulations to Jean Patton, who won a copy of Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

Congratulations to Linda Sheehan who won a copy of The Accidental Art Thief by Joan Schweighardt.

Our new site giveaway is for one of 3 copies of A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “A Thousand Miles”.

We’ve also got a copy of The Ogallala Road: A Story of Love, Family, and the Fight to Keep the Great Plains from Running Dry, by Julene Bair. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Ogallala”.

I’ve also got a copy of Life in New York: How I Learned to Love Squeegee Men, Token Suckers, Trash Twisters, and Subway Sharks by Laura Pederson. To win, send me an email (usual address) with your postal address and the subject line: “Life in New York”.

I’ve also got a copy of The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes. To win, send me an email (usual address) with your postal address and the subject line: “The Woman”.

Finally (phew), I’ve got a copy of 100 Days of Happiness: A Novel by Italian director Fausto Brizzito. To win, send me an email with your postal address and the subject line “100 Days”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna, Ground by Martin Langford, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, interviews with Val Brelinski and Mary Martin, and lots more reviews, news, interviews, and 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 Lucy Dougan, author of The Guardians. To listen, visit the showpage or you can listen directly from the site widget (middle of the right hand side).

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(c) 2015 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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