Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 22, Issue 3, 1 March 2020



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
Sponsored By
Coming soon


Hello readers.  Happy festival season!  If you happen to live in NSW Australia, you might like to drop by the Scone Literary Festival on the 14th of March or the Newcastle Writers Festival  between 3-5 April.  I’ll be at both events launching various wonderful books, and hosting or participating in a number of panels.  If you are at either of these please come say hello and let me know what you’ve been reading!   Following is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of Meowku by Patricia Carragon and Flight by Robert Anthony Gibbons.

Bringing together 2 cultural forms of good luck exemplifies some of the more fun poems in the collection. Various puns and cross-stitchings of image and implication make the collection surprisingly wide-ranging. Read more:

An interview with Holden Sheppard

The author of Invisible Boys talks about his debut novel and how the book came about, characters and themes, on writing earnest depictions of guys, the bisection of the personal journey and healing with the creation of art, how things have changed, and how they haven’t, the power of music and its role in the book (and his life), excellent advice for writers, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh by Alan Catlin

As Catlin himself notes, Asylum Garden “is a book about seeing: what we see and how we see it.” Like his previous volumes, Wild Beauty and American Odyssey, Catlin’s poems here are inspired by artists and photographers. Blue Velvet and Hollyweird, two other recent collections, similarly find inspiration in grade B movies. Read more:

A review of Nina’s Memento Mori by Mathias Freese

Nina Wingard Freese was a retired special education teacher of autistic students who died as a result of ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. Contemplative and enhanced with photographs, the book presents Nina as a little girl and again several more times as she is growing up and as a young mother and then as a handsome, mature woman. Read more:

A review of The Land of Last Chances by Joan Cohen

It is fascinating to watch Jeanne’s character transformation. Early in the novel, she is businesslike, professional, and analytical. She wishes to get things done quickly so she can get back to work. But slowly, cracks in that façade emerge, and she learns human emotions are not business transactions or “deals” to be made. Read more:

A review of Howard Zinn & Lois Mottonen Fistfight in the Equality State by Rodger McDaniel

Having lived in Wyoming for the past four years, reading it was verification for what I see, experience, and find problems with, constantly. I have often thought that Wyoming’s undeserving motto is a farce in comparison with its laws, policies, priorities, and politicians. And here was a Wyoming woman who lived, captured, and published the cruel reality of being a minority in this state with so much detail, accuracy, and innocence. Read more:

A review of Food or War by Julian Cribb

Though the topic of Food or War is inherently uncomfortable, the book is beautifully written, wide-reaching in its scope, intelligently presented with detailed and careful evidence. Cribb writes eloquently about complex, and in many cases poorly understood, topics. Read more:

An interview with Nan Sanders Pokerwinski

The author of Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta talks about her book, her broad interests, her background, on writing about potholes, on the link between photography and writing, on Michigan, her work in progress and more. Read more:

A review of Bone Chalk by Jim Reese

Whether serious or silly, Reese’s prose reads like poetry. He says more in a paragraph than most authors achieve over several pages. The final chapters are the shortest and most personal vignettes featuring his wife, daughters and co-workers.  Reese finds the profound in everyday, parochial life in Bone Chalk. Read more:

A review of Who’s Minding the Farm by Patrice Newell

We cannot currently survive in this world without agriculture–our food needs are dependent on farmers, but we all know that our food system must change quickly, if humans (and other creatures) are to survive as a race. As both scientist and farmer, Patrice Newell understands this conundrum all too well. Read more:

A review of Dancing in Santa Fe by Beate Sigriddaughter

Richness of character and content run throughout the collection. These represents the author’s wealth of resources and display her thoughtfulness resulting from inward reflection, along with her ability to define external scenes surrounding her. 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 2,576), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Jessica Andrews won the £10,000 (about $13,070) Portico Prize for Literature, which recognizes “outstanding literature that best evokes the spirit of the North,” for her debut novel Saltwater. Lynne Allan, chair of the Portico Library, said: “The Portico Prize aims to shine a spotlight on the very best writing about the North and the voices that deserve to be heard. We are more than proud to award this year’s prize to Jessica Andrews whose remarkable debut is full of optimism. It is a tender tribute to women across generations and an important exploration of women’s lives today.”

The winners of the 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction are: Fiction: Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf) and Nonfiction: Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham (S&S).  Carnegie Medal winners each receive $5,000. All the finalists will be honoured during a celebratory event, sponsored by NoveList, at ALA’s 2020 Annual Conference in Chicago.

The shortlisted titles for the 13th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (with the author’s country of origin) are: The Spartan Court by Abdelouahab Aissaoui (Algeria), The Russian Quarter by Khalil Alrez (Syria), The King of India by Jabbour Douaihy (Lebanon), Firewood of Sarajevo by Said Khatibi (Algeria), The Tank by Alia Mamdouh (Iraq), and Fardeqan: The Detention of the Great Sheikh by Youssef Ziedan (Egypt). Each of the shortlisted authors will receive $10,000. The winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi on April 14 on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Toi Derricotte is the recipient of the 2020 Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry, sponsored by the Poetry Society of America. The Society wrote: “There are few poets who are as brave as Toi Derricotte; brave in her subject matter and brave in how she insists that even the deepest hurts must sing on the page. Derricotte’s New and Selected is an amazing statement of her dedication to craft, vision and invention, which she has built, book by book through her writing life. Her work dives into the interior of African American womanhood, and brings back such lyric beauty. Her poems have given vast permission to the poets who have followed her to tell the truths of their lives, and in doing that, have allowed us all a chance to re-discover the world.” Derricotte’s sixth collection of poetry, “I” New and Selected Poems, was published last year and was shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award. Her other books of poetry include The Undertaker’s Daughter, Tender, Captivity, Natural Birth and The Empress of the Death House. Her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

To honor the 40th anniversary of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation has unveiled a longlist of 10 titles instead of the usual five finalists, who will be announced next month. The winner will be named in April and receive $15,000, while the finalists each get $5,000. The longlisted titles are: Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis (Catapult), Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright), Sing to It: New Stories by Amy Hempel (Scribner), The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li (Random House), The Night Swimmers by Peter Rock (Soho Press), We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World), A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian (Algonquin Books), On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin Press), and The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson (Grove Press).

Finalists have been named for the 40th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which will be awarded April 17, on the eve of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Stories and Ideas. See the complete list of finalists here. The Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement, which recognizes a writer whose work focuses on the American West, will be presented to Walter Mosley. L.A. Times book editor Boris Kachka said: “We are pleased to celebrate Walter Mosley’s 30-year writing life, which spans mysteries, short stories, science fiction, nonfiction, plays, and works for television and film. Whether through a detective story set in the streets of 1950s Los Angeles or essays about contemporary politics, Mosley reaches a wide range of readers, bringing about a deeper understanding of the world and the people who live in it.” WriteGirl, a mentorship program for young women, and its founder and executive director Keren Taylor have been honored with the Innovator’s Award. “For nearly 20 years, they have been doing exceptional work matching professional women mentors with teen girls to promote self-expression and empowerment through writing,” said Kenneth Turan, L.A. Times film critic and director of the book prizes. Emily Bernard, author of Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time and Mine, will receive the Christopher Isherwood Prize for autobiographical prose. The panel of judges noted: “With deceptively simple and luminous prose, Emily Bernard invites us to inhabit her life as she poses perilous questions seemingly as simple as ‘when is a doll just a doll,’ and pushes ever deeper refusing easy solutions. This is a beautiful, important collection of essays.”

The winners of the PROSE Excellence Awards, sponsored by the Association of American Publishers and honoring scholarly publications that are best in class, are: Biological & Life Sciences: Clinical Psychopharmacology: Principles and Practice by S. Nassir Ghaemi (Oxford University Press), Humanities: Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered by Carmen C. Bambach (Yale University Press), Physical Sciences & Mathematics: 99 Variations on a Proof by Philip Ording (Princeton University Press), Reference Works: Roman Architecture and Urbanism: From the Origins to Late Antiquity by Fikret Yegül and Diane Favro (Cambridge University Press), and Social Sciences: The Cult of the Constitution by Mary Anne Franks (Stanford University Press)

Finalists for the 2019 Nebula Awards, sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are, for novel, Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen), The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK), A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor), Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher), Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir ( Publishing), and A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley). The full list can be found here:  Awards will be presented May 30 during the SFWA Nebula Conference, which takes place May 28-31 in Los Angeles.

Finally, Ariana Reines won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, presented by Claremont Graduate University for a single book of poetry by a mid-career poet, for A Sand Book (Tin House). The award includes a weeklong residency at CGU in the fall. In addition, Tiana Clark is the recipient of the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, which recognizes a first volume by a poet of promise, for I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburgh Press). “Both of this year’s winners are big, bold, and audacious books. They contain enormities; they’re rich in detail,” said finalist judging chair Timothy Donnelly. Reines and Clark will receive their awards during a private ceremony April 15. There will be a public reading the following day at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanic Gardens in San Marino.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Susan Norminton and Maggie Volland, who won Kindle copies of Jim’s Revenge by Andrew R Williams.

Congratulations to Laurie Blum who won a copy of Bells for Eli by Susan Beckham Zurenda

Finally, congratulations to Vicki Wurgler, who won a copy of Wild Ride Home: Love, Loss, and a Little White Horse by Christine Hemp.  

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Good Dogs Don’t Make it to the South Pole by Hans-Olav Thyvold.  To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Good Dogs” and your postal address in the body of the message.

We also have a copy of Blame the Dead by Ed Ruggero. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Blame the Dead” and your postal address in the body of the message.

Good luck, everyone!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin, Matthew Thorburn’s The Grace of Distance.Not What You Think by Clark Gormley, an interview with Towards a Peeping Sunrise’s Carol Mertz, and lots more reviews and interviews. 

Drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) to listen to our latest episodes which features Roslyn McFarland on All the Lives We’ve Lived: and Jim Reese on his novel Bone Talk:  To listen, visit the show page, or you can listen directly from the site widget (right hand side of the site). You can also subscribe to the show via iTunes and get updates automatically, straight to your favourite listening device. Find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe. 


(c) 2020 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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