Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 18, Issue 8, 1 August 2017



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

An interview with Edward Carlson

The author of All the Beautiful People We Once knew talks about his new novel, about his inspiration for fictionalising his experiences as a lawyer in a NYC law firm defending big insurance companies being sued by soldiers returning from contracting jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan, his characters, some of the insights about US politics and its dysfunction that underpinned his novel, the intersection of mental illness, war, and profit, and much more. Read more:

A review of Kylie’s Ark by Rita Welty Bourke

It’s invariably true that Herriot’s animal stories ended happily, as she notes. Her stories, well, invariably do not. They resist a chipper ending and, indeed, conspire to break her heart. Being a veterinary student certainly is no picnic for her, but when she’s finally graduated and chosen to set up her practice, the life still is no picnic. Not that Wheeler wishes it was! Her last words confess that she’ll look for another line of work if she ever stops struggling to save suffering animals in her care. Read more:

A review of The Memoirs of Billy Shears by Thomas E Harriet

Suggestions that the original Paul was getting a little too big for his britches, that his interests were veering into subversive areas and that he was considering using his notoriety and influence to confront some of the bedrock pretenses of the world he lived in, abound on internet forums devoted to this topic. Perhaps one day even this stunning tome will be superseded by yet another more revelatory dissertation that tells the whole truth. It could well be that a still more unimaginable, mind-blowing story is waiting in the wings. Read more:

An interview with John Safran

Safran first addresses why he chose to write his new book, instead of opting for the more traditional (and seemingly easier) medium of filmed documentary making. ‘All sorts of reasons,’ he says. ‘One is that I really like that, how with a book, I can come and go as I want on my own and just kind of needle my way into places. Like rocking up at the front door of some dude whose is part of the United Patriots Front. It’s a lot easier to sell that just with a Dictaphone, than a full camera-crew already recording.’ Read more:

A review of Claws of the Cat by Susan Spann

Spann effortlessly brings us into Hiro’s world of both violence and grace where katana swords and ritual burial armor coexist with the intricate art of flower arranging. The details reflect rigorous research, down to the measure of a room based on the number of tatami mats and the cadence of the characters’ speech. You can almost smell the cherry blossoms. Read more:

A review of Imperial Plots by Sarah Carter

Government and Canadian Pacific Railway officials (all men), subscribed to the myths that women lacked the technological and physical ability to farm successfully. In practice, wives and daughters of homesteaders frequently performed hard physical toil and operated machinery. Carter’s study uncovered many women who farmed and ranched, some quite successfully. Read more:

A review of Writing True Stories by Patti Miller

Miller, the “writing whisperer” as Jessica Rowe puts it, has created a vital guide to memoir and other forms of creative nonfiction. Though there are many how-to guides on the market, this one is special, both for its depth of wisdom – Miller has over 26 years of experience in teaching others how to write creative nonfiction, as well as her own experience as a nonfiction author/memoirist – and for the simplicity and practicality of its approach. Read more:

An interview with Jack McMasters

The author of Molly Fish talks about his new book, his inspiration, his research, his rally through Southern India and other things about his setting, where he writes, his planning process, his best tips for aspiring authors, and lots more. Read more:

Veracity and Transformation: A Review of Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin

The book is wonderfully informed by multiple metaphorical depictions of our inner and outer struggles. Young Marcus loses his mother, his only parent, and goes to live with his eccentric and spiritually bruised great Aunt Charlotte on a small island in South Carolina at the beginning of the summer. Aunt Charlotte has past wounds that haunt her, rendering her a reclusive but renowned local painter. Read more:

A review of Those Wild Rabbits by Bruce Munday

I found Bruce’s fascinating book packed full of information, statistics, photographs, and historical accounts His style is relaxed and friendly. Enormous amounts of facts are delivered in a pleasant and easy to read delivery, that carries the engrossed booklover from chapter to preceding chapter at an unexpected rate of pace. This is entertaining and informative reading at its best. 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 2,130 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, “Sweet Sop” by Ingrid Persaud (Trinidad and Tobago), a tale that explores “harrowing themes of fractured families, death and terminal illness, through the medium of chocolate,” won the £5,000 (about $6,505) Commonwealth Writers’ Short Story Prize, the Bookseller reported. The award’s aim “is to seek out talented writers and bring stories from new and emerging voices, often from countries with little or no publishing infrastructure, to the attention of an international audience.”

The short story “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” by Bushra al-Fadil of Sudan has won the Caine Prize for African Writing. Al-Fadil receives £7,000 (about $9,040) and translator Max Shmookler receives £3,000 (about $3,875). Chair of judges Nii Ayikwei Parkes said that the story “explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception–including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration–the allure of, and relentless threats to freedom. Rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location, Bushra al-Fadil’s ‘The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away’ is at once a very modern exploration of how assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we would turn to for solace we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging in to a fantasy existence where we seek to cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.” The story was first published in The Book of Khartoum: A City in Short Fiction, published last year in the U.K. by Comma Press.

Sandeep Parmar won the inaugural £5000 (about $6,470) Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize, which is dedicated to second poetry collections, for Eidolon, the Bookseller reported, noting that the work, “partly a modern revision of the Helen of Troy myth, meditates on the visible and invisible forces of Western civilization from classical antiquity to present-day America.” The judges praised Eidolon for its “combination of intimacy and sweep,” noting that the “language is sharp and contemporary, but also very gentle in places, and lyrical. There are lines which seem to reach far back (to Whitman and Shakespeare and Sappho, and of course to the book’s basis in the Helen of Troy myths), and there are other sections which use the stilted language of contemporary reports and news and snatches of conversation. A strange and compelling mix.”

A shortlist has been unveiled for this year’s Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title. The winner will be decided by public vote through the Bookseller’s website, which noted: “As usual, the winning author and publisher win nothing (save the adulation of millions), but the nominator will be sent a passable bottle of claret.” Voting closes July 21 and the winner is announced July 28. The shortlisted titles are: Nipples on My Knee by Graham & Debra Robertson, An Ape’s View of Evolution by Peter Andrews, Love Your Lady Landscape by Lisa Lister. Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors: The Premier Guide for Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors, edited by Ian McConnelly, and The Commuter Pig-Keeper by Michaela Giles.

Irish novelist Colm Tóibín will receive the 2017 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award at the Dayton Literary Peace Prize ceremony on November 5. The award is named in honor of the U.S. diplomat who helped negotiate the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia. Founded in 2005, The Dayton Literary Peace Prize is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the United States. It honors writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. The Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes authors for their complete body of work. Marilynne Robinson received the award in 2016.

The 13-book longlist for the £50,000 (about $65,565) Man Booker Prize Has been announced. The shortlist will be unveiled September 13 and a winner named October 17. This year’s long listed titles are: 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (U.S.), Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland), History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (U.S.), Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-U.K.), Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland), Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (U.K.), Elmet by Fiona Mozley (U.K.), The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India), Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (U.S.), Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (U.K.-Pakistan),
Autumn by Ali Smith (U.K.), Swing Time by Zadie Smith (U.K.), The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (U.S.).

A gripping biography of Australia’s first media magnate has won this year’s $25,000 National Biography Award. The founding father of the Murdoch family empire, Sir Keith Murdoch, (1885–1952) is the fascinating subject of Before Rupert: Keith Murdoch and the Birth of a Dynasty (UQP) by Tom DC Roberts, the extraordinary work selected for Australia’s richest biography prize. Each shortlisted author received $1,000: Georgina Arnott, The Unknown Judith Wright (UWA Publishing), Suzanne Falkiner, Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow (UWA Publishing), Kim Mahood, Position Doubtful: Mapping landscapes and memories (Scribe), John Murphy, Evatt: A Life (NewSouth Publishing), and P.J. Parker, The Long Goodbye (Hardie Grant Books).

Finally, The Commuter Pig Keeper has won the Bookseller magazine’s Diagram prize for oddest book title of the year. Subtitled A Comprehensive Guide to Keeping Pigs When Time Is Your Most Precious Commodity, the book took 40% of the public vote.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Vicki Wurgler, who won a copy of Molly Fish by Jack McMasters.

Our new site giveaway is for copy of The Book of Air by Joe Treasure. To win, send me an email at maggieballatcompulsivereaderdotcom (please replace at with @ and dot with.) with the subject line “Book of Air” and your postal address.

We also have a copy of The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards. To win, send me an email at maggieballatcompulsivereaderdotcom (please replace at with @ and dot with.) with the subject line “The Lucky Ones” and your postal address.   Be quick as I’ll be drawing this one within the week.

Good luck everybody!



The Classics: Why and How we Can Encourage Children to Read Them

With the aid of the various techniques mentioned in this book, I hope to propagate the reading of Classics to everyone . . . every student, parent, and educator. The book also focuses on the importance of reading good literature, methods for encouraging students to do so, and the lifelong benefits children will reap from exposure to classic literature. It is my hope that this book will encourage everyone to make reading the classics a habit rather than a chore. We must do so, for the welfare of the modern generation and those to follow. Visit:



We will shortly be featuring reviews of The Museum of Words by Georgia Blain, Prisms, Particles, and Refractions by Carol Smallwood, Lucky or Not, Here I come by Gerry Orz, The Bookshop at Water’s End by Patti Callahan Henry, Datsunland by Stephan Orr, and lots more reviews, news, interviews, and giveaways.  Don’t forget to drop by to listen to our latest interview with Writing True Stories author Patti Miller.


(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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