Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 4, 1 April 2018



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst

This novel is more than just another a period piece of fiction. Crowhurst has written an evocative experience: a time-machine back to three and a half centuries ago into a world so unlike the present day that it actually become entangled and is essentially involved in generating our present heritage. This is set in a time before those childhood nursery rhymes were yet to be constructed as political satire and when the Dutch were the current adversary. Mix up the wrong potion and you could be accused of witchcraft. Read more:

A review of Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Anatomy of a Scandal reads like a story ripped from today’s headlines: a prominent man is accused of sexual harassment. I couldn’t put the book down—I actually felt edgy when I wasn’t reading it, almost like the story was an addiction. Read more:

A review of The Arab’s Ox by Tony Ardizzone

Morocco stands for something to each of the characters. In order to decipher this symbol in their lives, they must look inward. They each arrive at a turning point in which Morocco speaks back to them, helps them discover its meaning to them. For Henry, Ahmed becomes his guide not only to various Moroccan sites, but to his own mortality. Rosemary, an American ex-patriate, a grizzled but classy woman, sees her younger self in Sarah and tries to steer her toward a different future. Read more:

A review of The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen

It’s hard to believe that The Lucky Galah is a debut. It’s an ambitious, complex novel full of varying points of view, voices, historical narration, a variety of themes, and all sorts of subtle references, including many literary links and allusions, but the writing is so assured and smooth that these complexities become rich undercurrents that seamlessly integrate into the story rather than digressions. Read more:

A review of Incredible Floridas by Stephen Orr

Times and places appear to so often remain in a form of flux throughout this novel, and to help me keep track I began underlining the locations with a yellow highlighter. As for those past decades chosen by Orr, I only have to close my eyes and it all comes back to me as if it were yesterday. Every neighbourhood seemed to have a problem son like Orr’s Hal: the one who started all the fires, or sometimes shot at you with his air rifle, and all too often kicked a neighbour’s garbage tin up and down the street. Read more:

A review of False Claims of Colonial Thieves by Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella

Though the poems stand alone and many have been published in literary journals that way, it’s the dialogue itself where the most important meaning happens. Both poets take on similar subjects of dispossession, occupation, the landscape and ecology, exploitation and historical revisionism. Both poets ultimately situate the work as a search for an identity born out of pain, guilt and suffering, and both respond through the others work to create connection and reconciliation. Read more:

A review of Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling

The seven adults in the circle are the most successful members of their families of origin and have more in common with each other than with their relatives. All remember their parents as “hopelessly authoritarian, yet clueless and also uninterested in parenting.” As it turns out, however, one family’s failure at parenting shakes the group to its foundations. Read more:

A review of All The Women In My Family Sing edited by ZZ Packer

The stories, poems and essays of this book’s authors are courageous, refreshing and from the heart. We identify and are not strangers to their pain, love, joy, and their uncompromising outcries for justice. They address immigration, brokenness and the turbulent political and social climate we live under today. There are attempts by authors to fill wells of understanding. Read more:

A review of She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

This is a professional writer at her best and she is so good at her craft. Joy Fielding slips in many clever additions through her odds and evens chapters that skilfully gel everything together. She also maintains tautness within the dialogue that infects the reader’s curiosity and stays there all the way to an amazing and unexpected conclusion. Read more:

A review of Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

Millburn and Nicodemus used their own discontent as a springboard to identifying the things that were ‘anchoring’ them or holding them back from finding meaning in their lives. This included the big mortgage payments that came with the expensive houses, unhealthy relationships, car payments, debts, continual spending and the high pressure careers with long hours that were required to keep the cycle going. 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 2,220!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Elizabeth Strout has won the Story Prize for Anything Is Possible (Random House). After an evening of readings by and conversation with the three finalists last night in New York City, she received $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl. The judges praised the winner: “The intelligent prose is seemingly humble but elegant in its subtlety and enchanting in its overall effect. The blade of her wit is so sharp, you barely feel it until after the slice. Strout is a specialist in the reticence of people, and her characters are compelling because of the complexity of their internal lives, and the clarity with which that complexity is depicted. It is a sublime pleasure to read her work.” The runnersup–Daniel Alarcón for The King Is Always Above the People (Riverhead Books) and Ottessa Moshfegh for Homesick for Another World (Penguin Press)–each received $5,000.

Finalists for the 2018 Lambda Literary Awards, announced today, include Paula Vogel, Annalee Newitz, Avram Finkelstein and Bill Goldstein. The Awards, which recognize achievement in LGBTQ literature, honor works published in the previous year in a variety of genres, from mystery novels to academic texts. This year’s Awards will be presented on June 4. Vogel is a finalist for the prize in LGBTQ drama for her play “Indecent”; Newitz is a finalist in LGBTQ science fiction, fantasy and horror for her novel “Autonomous”; Finkelstein is a finalist in the category of LGBTQ nonfiction for his book “After Silence”; and Bill Goldstein is a finalist in the category of gay memoir/biography for “The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and the Year That Changed Literature.”

The longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced. Jennifer Egan, Arundhati Roy, Gail Honeyman, Imogen Hermes Gowar, and others have been longlisted for what was previously known as the Baileys Prize. Founded in 1996, the Prize was set up to celebrate excellence, originality, and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world. The full longlist and details of the celebrity judges can be found here:

David Levithan is the winner of the 2018 Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Award, which recognizes “an author whose work is aimed at a young adult audience, addresses themes especially relevant to adolescents, inspires young readers, and champions literacy.” Levithan is editor of the Scholastic young adult imprint PUSH and has written 23 novels, both as a solo author and in collaborations with John Green, Andrea Cremer, Nina LaCour, Rachel Cohn, David Ozanich and Chris Van Etten and illustrator Brian Selznick. His novels include Boy Meets Boy; Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Every Day; Hold Me Closer; and You Know Me Well.

The shortlist for the A$50,000 (about US$39,300) 2018 Stella Prize, which “showcases the power and diversity of writing by women in Australia,” is: The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar, Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman, The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser, An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen, The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe, and Tracker by Alexis Wright Fiona Stager, chair of the 2018 judging panel and owner of the Avid Reader, Brisbane, said that the titles “showcase the incredible breadth of talent in the writing by women in Australia today. The personal interweaves seamlessly with the political as these authors investigate the past, examine the present and re-imagine our future. Ideas about family, identity in all its forms, and politics at both its most profound and intimate levels are themes that connect these six diverse, engaging and original books.” The winner will be announced April 12.

The Man Booker International Prize, awarded annually to the best in translated fiction, announced the longlist of 13 novels vying for the prize, including novels by previous Man Booker winners Han Kang (2016) and László Krasznahorkai (2015). The longlist was selected from 108 submissions by a jury that includes author and jury chair Lisa Appignanesi, authors Michael Hofmann, Hari Kunzru, and Helen Oyeyemi, and journalist Tim Martin. In addition to new novels by previous Man Booker prize winners Kang (The White Book) and Krasznahorkai (The World Goes On), the list includes works by Admed Saadawi (Frankenstein in Baghad), Javier Cerfas (The Imposter), and Jenny Erpenbeck (Go, Went, Gone). The 13 books on the longlist have been translated from 10 different languages from Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East. on May 22 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The complete longlist can be found here:

Reni Eddo-Lodge won the £1,000 (about $1,390) Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, which celebrates works by British/British resident BAME authors, for Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury Circus). This year’s winner also received a trophy designed by ceramics artist Chris Bramble and made possible by the support of novelist Dorothy Koomson.

Contemporary works by leading and emerging Australian writers have been shortlisted for the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Thirty judges considered almost 600 entries across 10 prize categories, with $295,000 in prize money to be awarded – making these the richest state-funded literary awards in the country. The winners will be announced at the State Library on Monday 30 April 2018 as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. The full list of shortlisted titles, many of which have been reviewed in the past year on Compulsive Reader, can be found here:

The Audio Publishers Association has announced the Audie Award finalists for Audiobook of the Year and for Excellence in Design, Excellence in Marketing, and Excellence in Production. Nominees for Audiobook of the Year are: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood written and narrated by Trevor Noah (Audible Studios), Columbus Day: Expeditionary Force, Book 1 by Craig Alanson, narrated by R.C. Bray (Podium Publishing), The Handmaid’s Tale: Special Edition by Margaret Atwood and Valerie Martin, narrated by Claire Danes, Margaret Atwood, and a full cast (Audible Studios), Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, narrated by George Saunders, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, and 163 others (Random House Audio), and The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, written and narrated by Paula Poundstone (HighBridge Audio, a division of Recorded Books). The full list, with sound clips and reviews can be found here:

Debut author Weike Wang won the 2018 PEN/Hemingway Award, honoring a distinguished first book of fiction, for her novel Chemistry (Knopf), PEN America has announced. Seán Hemingway, the grandson of Ernest Hemingway, will present the award to Wang on Sunday, April 8, at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. This year’s judges—authors Chris Castellani, Geraldine Brooks, and Elizabeth Strout—praised Chemistry, a first-person narrative of a graduate chemist’s personal and professional indecision told almost entirely in the present tense, as a “brilliant book” written in “elliptical prose, spare and clean as bone.” Weike Wang will receive $25,000 underwritten by the Hemingway Family Prize and the Hemingway Foundation; a month-long Residency Fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artists and writers; and a residency from The Distinguished Visiting Writers Series at the University of Idaho’s MFA Creative Writing Program, along with a $5,000 stipend.

A 10-book longlist has been unveiled for the £10,000 (about $14,130) Desmond Elliott Prize, which honors a first novel written in English and published in the U.K. A shortlist will be released April 27, and the winner revealed June 20. This year’s Desmond Elliott longlist: The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks, How to Be Human by Paula Cocozza, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak, Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, How Saints Die by Carmen Marcus, One Star Awake by Andrew Meehan, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, We That Are Young by Preti Taneja.

Finally, Thomas Pynchon has been named the first winner of the Christopher Lightfoot Walker Award, a lifetime achievement honor worth $100,000. Marlon James, Rick Moody and Mary Gaitskill are among eight writers receiving $10,000 prizes for “exceptional accomplishment in literature.” Atticus Lish will be presented a $20,000 award for a writer “whose work merits recognition for the quality of its prose style.” Honorees also include Bill Porter, winner of the $20,000 Thornton Wilder Prize for translation; British author Jon McGregor, whose winning of the E.M. Forster Award in Literature will provide him a $20,000 grant to spend time in the United States; “History of Wolves” author Emily Fridlund, who will be given a $5,000 award for best debut fiction; and Noy Holland, recipient of the $20,000 Katherine Anne Porter Award for “achievements and dedication to the literary profession.” In May, the academy will also formally induct its new members, including the Pulitzer Prize winners Ron Chernow and Jeffrey Eugenides.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Patti DelValle, who won a copy of Prisms, Particles, and Refractions by Carol Smallwood.

Our new site giveaway is for copy of Selected Poems 1967-2018 by Jennifer Maiden. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at maggieball@compulsivereader.comwith the subject line “SelectedPoems” and your postal address

We also have a copy of Al Shabah: An Assassin’s Story by A.E. Sawan To enter the giveaway, send me an email at maggieball@compulsivereader.comwith the subject line “Assassub” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Domestic Interior by Fiona Wright, The Bookworm by Mitch Silver, a Q&A with author A E Sawan, Fig Tree in Winter by Anne Graue, 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 our new interview with The Lucky Galah’s Tracy Sorensen. 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. Just find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe.


(c) 2018 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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