Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 5, 1 May 2018

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Literary News
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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

An interview with A.E. Sawan

The author of Al Shabah: An Assassin’s Story talks about his debut novel and his inspiration for writing it, the blending of non-fiction with fiction, the challenges of writing about difficult and personal things, the steep learning curve of a first novel, and lots more. Read more:

A review of the Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

There is a kind of magic that is woven through the book, primarily from the language of flowers that works in conjunction with the semantical story but has its own silent meaning.  Flannel flowers mean “what is lost is found”, Sturt’s Desert Peas, which are integral to the plot, mean “Have courage, take heart”, and Foxtails mean “Blood of my blood”. These flowers become Alice’s language when words fail her. Read more:

A review of Rome’s Sacred Flame by Robert Fabbri

Throughout the reading my mind often reflected back to Colleen McCullough’s collection. She remodelled Gaius Julius Caesar to her own interpretation and I sensed the same thing happening with Robert Fabbri’s Titus Flavivus Vespasianus. In this book he wastes little time in dispatching friend or foe (including his brutalised wife) into the next world with his trusty gladius. I can understand why this is a bestselling series with an ever-growing audience. Read more:

A review of Xaghra’s Revenge by Geoff Nelder

Geoff Nelder is one of those writers who seems to be able to work across multiple genres seamlessly. There’s always an element of action, a hint of steamy romance, and his trademark twist. In his latest novel, Xaghra’s Revenge, the twist is a mixture of history, science, horror and fantasy. The research that underlies this novel is obviously impeccable. The narrative is built on the true story of Turkish pirate Rais Dragut, a brutal and deranged man who, in 1551, captured the entire population of Gozo, one of the Maltese islands, and sold whoever survived the terrible journey into slavery in Northern Africa. Read more →

A review of Drift Stumble Fall by M. Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee mesmerizingly develops each story with baby steps that allow the release of tension, which is not necessarily predicated on a joyous turn of events. Sometimes tragedy must happen for this change of perspective, of new awareness and conscience. Mother Nature carries us along in its snowy arms, but it’s human love, wrapping around our fingers, that happily delivers us. Read more:

A review of Thrive Through Yoga by Nicola Jane Hobbs

There are plenty of yoga guides out there, and a very confusing set of different yoga styles and philosophies, but Nicola Jane Hobbs’ presents a particularly compelling approach that transcends style and focuses on practical application.  For one thing, she’s seriously charismatic, demonstrating each pose with grace and clarity, and very openly using her own personal story of anorexia, OCD, depression and anxiety in order to provide real empathy and connection. For another, she’s not just another charismatic young ‘influencer’. Hobbs has serious qualifications in Yoga, Psychology, and Nutrition, and has clocked up many hours of experience which are put to good use in this very readable book.  Read more:

A review of Fig Tree in Winter by Anne Graue

While familiarity with and reverence for Plath’s work enhances the poems of Fig Tree in Winter, this collection is strong enough to stand on its own. Each poem is accessible and beautiful. The words and ideas are clear. The themes are relatable, and the thoughts which get explored are deep. Graue’s collection truly compliments Plath’s legacy. Read more:

A review of Domestic Interior by Fiona Wright

The observations are visceral, coming from within a strong sense of the body.  Thinness and its relationship to illness is a continual theme, though very different to the analytical approach of Small Acts of Disappearance.  In Domestic Interior the perceptions are simultaneously more delicate and more intense, drawing the reader directly into the deepest heart of pain. The body and its relationship to food informs nearly every perception. Read more:

An Interview with Laura Greaves

Prior to focusing full-time on penning books, Laura Greaves spent twenty years in journalism, earning several illustrious awards for her work throughout her career. Ever influenced by her lifelong love of dogs, fused with her unquenchable passion for writing, Greaves utilised her contacts and experience as an editor for Dogs Life magazine to commence producing a series of books catering to fellow doggy enthusiasts. In addition to her books focusing on amazing real-life dogs, she has also produced three romantic comedy novels. The card-carrying, self-proclaimed ‘crazy dog lady’ is the proud human of two Tollers (Nova Scotia Ducks Tolling Retrievers, a boy and a girl). Read more:

A review of Deliverance by Miantae Metcalf McConnell

The lives of forgotten, marginalized persons – among them, people of other ethnicities to our own, and women – are in desperate need of recuperation. Many of those lives are fascinating, enlightening and inspiring, but if we seek deliberately to make them inspiring from our own positions of power and privilege, then we do them a grave disservice and perpetuate the historical imbalances that marginalized them in the first place. 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 2,232!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, four debut authors make up the female dominant shortlist of six for the 10th edition of the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize, which celebrates the brightest young writers in the world. Worth £30,000, it is the world’s largest literary prize for young writers aged 39 or under, open to writers from all nations, writing in English.  Featured on the shortlist this year are Zambian-born poet Kayo Chingonyi (31) for his debut collection of poetry Kumakanda, Cuban-American short-story writer Carmen Maria Machado’s (31) debut short story collection Her Body & Other Parties, Six-time British novelist Gwendoline Riley (39) shortlisted for First Love, Irish debut novelist and Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Sally Rooney (27) for Conversations with Friends., Debut American novelist Emily Ruskovich (31) shortlisted for her thriller hit Idaho, and American thriller author Gabriel Tallent (30) for his debut novel My Absolute Darling. The winner will be announced on 10th May.

The 30th annual Triangle Awards, honoring the best LGBTQ fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and trans literature published in 2017, were presented on April 26 at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium in New York. The Publishing Triangle, an association of LGBTQ people in publishing, began honoring a LGBTQ writer for their body of work a few months after the organization was founded in 1988, and has now partnered with the Ferro-Grumley Literary Awards and the New School’s Creative Writing Program to present an array of awards each spring.  The full list of finalists can be found here:

Weike Wang won the 2018 PEN/Hemingway Award, honoring a distinguished first book of fiction, for her novel, Chemistry (Knopf). The judges praised the book, a first-person narrative of a graduate chemist’s personal and professional indecision, as a “brilliant book” written in “elliptical prose, spare and clean as bone.” 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, and a $5,000 stipend. The two PEN/Hemingway runners-up are Lisa Ko for The Leavers (Algonquin) and Adelia Saunders for Indelible (Bloomsbury). Two writers receive honorable mentions: Curtis Dawkins for The Graybar Hotel (Scribner) and Ian Bassingthwaighte for Live from Cairo (Scribner).

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) won the Philip K. Dick Award, which recognizes distinguished original science fiction paperbacks published for the first time in the U.S. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society. Results were announced at Norwescon 41 in Seattle, Wash. A special citation was given to After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun (the Unnamed Press).

Khadija Abdalla Bajaber won the inaugural Graywolf Press Africa Prize, which is awarded for a first novel manuscript by an African author primarily residing in Africa. Her book, The House of Rust, was chosen from nearly 200 submissions by judge author A. Igoni Barrett in conjunction with the Graywolf editors. Bajaber, who lives in Mombasa, Kenya, will receive a $12,000 advance. In addition, 66th&2nd will publish The House of Rust in Italy, a partnership that will continue with the Graywolf Press Africa Prize. Publication is scheduled for 2020.

Finalists have been unveiled for this year’s €100,000 (about $122,415) International Dublin Literary Award, which “aims to promote excellence in world literature” by honoring a novel written in English or translated into English. The prize is sponsored by Dublin City Council and managed by Dublin City Libraries. The winner will be named June 13. The shortlisted titles are: Baba Dunja’s Last Love by Alina Bronsky (Ukrainian/German), translated from the German by Tim Mohr, The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (Mexican), translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman, The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (Norwegian), translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, Human Acts by Han Kang (South Korean), translated from Korean by Deborah Smith, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (Irish), Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Irish), Distant Light by Antonio Moresco (Italian), translated from Italian by Richard Dixon, Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye (French), translated from French by Jordan Stump, The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (South African/Nigerian/Barbadian), My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (American).

Alexis Wright won the AU$50,000 Stella Prize, which recognizes and celebrates Australian women writers’ contribution to literature, for her collective memoir Tracker. Chair of judges Fiona Stager, owner of the Avid Reader in Brisbane, said the “winner of this year’s Stella Prize in a strange way chose itself. The winning book is unique in the history of Australian letters and it artfully fulfils all the Stella Prize’s criteria: it is excellent, engaging and original.

Finalists have been announced for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, which “celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world.” The £50,000 (about $71,140) prize is divided equally between author and translator of the winning entry. This year’s winner will be named May 22 in London. The shortlisted titles are: Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes (France), translated by Frank Wynne, The White Book by Han Kang (South Korea), translated by Deborah Smith, The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai (Hungary), translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes. Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina (Spain), translated by Camilo A. Ramirez, Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq), translated by Jonathan Wright, and Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), translated by Jennifer Croft

This year’s international and Canadian shortlists have been announced for the Griffin Poetry Prize. The seven finalists are invited to read in Toronto on June 6 and will each be awarded C$10,000 (about US$7,945) for their participation in the Shortlist Readings. The two winners, who will be named June 7, each receive C$65,000 (about US$ 51,650). The shortlisted Griffin titles are: International: Heaven Is All Goodbyes by Tongo Eisen-Martin, Debths by Susan Howe, Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, and Hard Child by Natalie Shapero and Canadian: This Wound Is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt, I have to live. by Aisha Sasha John, and Same Diff by Donato Mancini.

The shortlist for the £10,000 (about $14,200) Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, for a work that evokes “the spirit of a place” and written by someone who is a citizen of or has been a resident in the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland, is: The Epic City by Kushanava Choudhury, Once Upon a Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo, Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Border by Kapka Kassabova, Elmet by Fiona Mozley, Mama Amazonica by Pascale Petit.

The shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, honoring “excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world,” is: The Idiot by Elif Batuman, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar, Sight by Jessie Greengrass, When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

The Second War of the Dog by Ibrahim Nasrallah won the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. In addition to the $50,000 cash prize, funding will be provided for the book’s English translation. Chair of Judges Ibrahim Al Saafin praised the winning title as “a masterful vision of a dystopian future in a nameless country, using fantasy and science fiction techniques. With humor and insight, it exposes the tendency towards brutality inherent in society, imagining a time where human and moral values have been discarded and anything is permissible, even the buying and selling of human souls.”

Finally, the winners of the LA Times Book Awards were announced during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and include, the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang (Lenny/Random House), Fiction: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead Books) and Poetry: Incendiary Art: Poems by Patricia Smith (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press).  For the full list visit:

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Vicki Wurgler, who won a copy of Al Shabah: An Assassin’s Story by A.F. Sawan.

Congratulations also to Jan Dean, who won a copy of Selected Poems 1967-2018 by Jennifer Maiden.

Our new site giveaway is for copy of 60 Days Left by Andrea Lechner-Becker. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “60 Days Left” and your postal address

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Green Point Bearings by Kathryn Fry, The Anarchist Thing to Do by Michael Raship, Brink by Jill Jones, an interview with Scott Erickson, 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).

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(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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