Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 7, 1 July 2018



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of Waiting for You at Midnight by Vicki Salloum

Salloum bravely brings the reader into her fictional psychological and experienced discomfort zone. We follow Arabella into crowded AA meetings, observing frightening declarations, addiction denials and relationship failures. We watch as her broken heart bleeds, and all the while continually hope and pray for Arabella’s redemption.  Read more:

A review of Rail by Kai Carlson-Wee

Kai Carlson-Wee’s debut book Rail embarks on a never-ending journey that montages places in his life, from a freight train to apartments to highways to skate parks to the rolling hills of the prairie to a dumpster. At the heart of the narrative, Carlson-Wee discusses life on the road, spiritual poverty, addiction, liminal spaces, and the erasure of America’s past. Read more:

A review of The Things We Can’t Undo by Gabrielle Reid

Reid’s informative depiction of one such episode should become essential reading within the national high school curriculum and would also provide a great foundation for supervised classroom discussion groups exploring these issues and the consequences of such actions. Read more:

A review of sing out when you want me by Kerri Shying

sing out when you need me is a powerful collection which reads easily but continues to reveal secrets and expand outward with each re-reading.  The mostly short poems stay with you, becoming little charms against all of our inevitable deteriorations. It is all about “keeping going” which, in the face of pain, poverty, confinement, medical visits, the poking and prodding of life itself, becomes a heroic, transcendent act

Read more:

An interview with Bill Luvaas

Welcome to Saint Angel is the fourth novel of this multi-nominated novelist. He joins us to talk about his new book, about living in California, advice for aspiring writers, the changes in the world of promoting, his work-in-progress, and more. Read more:

A review of The Murderer’s Maid by Erika Mailman

Fans of historical fiction (especially those based on true events) will likely enjoyThe Murderer’s Maid.  Mailman clearly did her research—she included some of the documented incidents that are now part of the Borden family lore, and creates an interesting secondary storyline that weaves together the past and present into a compelling read. Read more:

A review of A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

There is never a dull moment throughout Villareal’s novel. I’m not generally the type of reader who’s into vampires, but this novel is on a completely different foundation. Villareal’s detailed portrayals will be very familiar to readers. His gloamings are out there now – they are those celebrities and political leaders that we worship and imitate. This is a book with wide-reaching appeal, which is going to be very very big.  You heard it here first.  Read more:

A review of Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

Ackland handles these themes carefully and subtly – never overstating or diagnosing Thistle or Audra, or giving us too many answers in the mystery, but treating all of the characters with a kind of tender acceptance that is unconditional. Mysteries remain. Time moves forward. Memory is entirely unreliable, but the clues it leaves us are all we have. Little Gods is a poetic book full of beauty, loss, and resilience, exploring what remains in our lives as we move past our pivotal transitions and crises.  Read more:

A review of Beatific Toast by Anna Forsyth

Beatific Toast is a poetry collection that is as rich with silence and music as it is with semantical meaning.  Though the book is only fifty nine pages long – chapbook size – there is a lot of ground covered, with poetry open enough to encourage and reward multiple re-readings. These are poems are charged by sound, by light, by colour and scent, inviting the reader to join in, to participate, not just by reading the work but by moving with it.

Read more:

A review of The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarragó

The Water Rabbits exposes the limitations of the review process to an embarrassing extent. It is entirely artificial to read this book from cover to cover more or less in one sitting. It is doubly artificial then to sit down and think of things to say about it. The Water Rabbits needs to be read in small doses; indeed, its stories, dialogues and occasional poems and photographs are arranged in small doses. Sense needs to be made of each individually before the collection can be grasped as a whole.  Read more:

A review of How It Is: Selected Poems by Neil Shepard

And savored these poems should be. Shepard is an exceptional and emphatic writer, with a sharp eye for the telling detail, for landscapes both real and emotional, and for hearing the music in words, as well as in the sounds of the natural world. It’s not just the way his poems and his birds sing, but his poems can startle the senses of the reader with their rich scents as well. Read more:

A review of Monash’s Masterpiece by Peter FitzSimons

I’m a military history aficionado, and the amount of information presented within this book is astonishing. I can only guess at how much research went into the preliminaries, and can see similarities to Sir John Monash’s extensive planning before the Battle of Le Hamel. I’m visualising somewhere in Mosman these large white-boards and spreadsheets travelling all around the walls of the FitzSimon’s operations-centre with countless pages of information attached to them.  Read more:

A review of Brink by Jill Jones

The poems take us to the brink of who we are in many aspects: animal, alien, destroyers, inhabitants, lovers, indivudals and collectives. These are poems that make no concessions to humanity’s frailties. We’re about to reap what we’ve sown and all of these exquisite conceits may be illusions against time’s inevitable collapse: “but all these vapours will be unmade” (“The Woodland Chapel”), and yet there is something audaciously beautiful, subversive and permanent in the moment of our experience, in the placement and play of language and in the almost languid sensuality of touch. 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 2,263!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, this year’s Best Translated Book Award winners are The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán, translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden (Open Letter Books) for fiction and Before Lyricism by Eleni Vakalo, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (Ugly Duckling Presse) for poetry. Each author and translator will receive a $5,000 prize.

Kamila Shamsie has won the £30,000 (about $40,375) 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction for Home Fire (Riverhead). Chair of judges Sarah Sands commented: “We chose the book which we felt spoke for our times. Home Fire is about identity, conflicting loyalties, love and politics. And it sustains mastery of its themes and its form. It is a remarkable book which we passionately recommend.”

Debths by Susan Howe and This Wound Is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt were the international and Canadian category winners respectively of the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize, which honors “first edition books of poetry written in, or translated into, English and submitted from anywhere in the world.” They each receive C$65,000 (about US$50,020). Romanian poet Ana Blandiana was this year’s Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s Lifetime Recognition Award recipient.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has won the PEN Pinter Prize 2018 for her “refusal to be deterred or detained by the categories of others,” the Bookseller reported. The prize honors a writer from Britain, Ireland or the Commonwealth who, as Pinter said in his Nobel speech, casts an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze upon the world, and shows a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies.” She will be presented the award in October. Author Antonia Fraser, one of the judges and Pinter’s widow, commented: “Not only is Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie a brilliant, compelling writer but she embodies in herself those qualities of courage and outspokenness which Harold much admired.”

Irish author Mike McCormack won the €100,000 (about $117,895) International Dublin Literary Award, which is organized and sponsored by Dublin City Council for a single novel published in English, for Solar Bones. Solar Bones, the Irish author’s fifth book, is told by a ghost on All Souls’ Day and was turned away by major publishers as too uncommercial. The novel is written in a single sentence that flows over 270-odd pages, and spans a single day: All Souls’ Day, when, according to superstition, the dead can return to the land of the living. The 2018 shortlist included six novels in translation and authors and translators from the U.S., Germany/Ukraine, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Norway, South Africa/Nigeria/Barbados, South Korea and the U.K. The winner was chosen from a total of 150 titles, nominated by libraries in 111 cities across 37 countries.

The Canada Council for the Arts has awarded author Diane Schoemperlen and historian Lynne Viola this year’s C$50,000 (about US$38,160) Molson Prizes, which are given annually to two recipients, one in the arts and the other in the social sciences and humanities, who have “distinguished themselves by their outstanding achievements.” Schoemperlen is the author of 14 books of fiction and nonfiction, including This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications, which was shortlisted for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize.

The shortlist was unveiled for Australia’s prestigious A$60,000 (about US$44,655) Miles Franklin Award, given annually to a novel which is judged to be “of the highest literary merit” and presents “Australian life in any of its phases.” The winner will be announced August 26. This year’s shortlisted titles are: No More Boats by Felicity Castagna, The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser, The Last Garden by Eva Hornung, Storyland by Catherine McKinnon, Border Districts by Gerald Murnane, and Taboo by Kim Scott.

Preti Taneja has won the £10,000 (about $13,135) 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize for first fiction for her novel, We That Are Young. Judges said that this “retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in modern-day India… explores the play’s themes of severed relationships and warring families against the backdrop of the 2011 anti-corruption riots in India. It follows a central cast of characters as they react to ageing patriarch Devraj’s decision to pass control of ‘the Company’ to his three daughters, Gargi, Radha and Sita.”

Three winners were announced for the inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize, presented by the Whiting Foundation in print and digital categories to smaller and mid-sized journals with budgets of up to $500,000. Each prize includes an outright gift in the first year, followed by “substantial matching grants in the next two years and capacity building opportunities.” The winners are: A Public Space, which receives $20,000 this year and again in 2019 and 2020, “stands as a paradigm of what literary magazines can be: a gorgeously curated collection we experience as a cabinet of wonders,” the judges said. Receiving $10,000 a year over the same time period are Fence (“This pioneer remains central to the canon.”) and Words Without Borders (“a monument to international collaboration and a shared belief in artistic possibility”).

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Mary Preston who won a copy of Play With Knives 3 & 4 by Jennifer Maiden.

Our new site giveaway is for copy of A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A Villareal. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “Vampire Uprising” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



Discover a world of women’s poetry at the Poetry Portal:



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Black Queen White City by Sonya Kudei, Cubist States of Mind/Not the Cruelest Month by Marc Jampole, Broken Ground by Steve Armstrong, Tiny Shoes Dancing by Audrey Kalman, an interview with Insincerity author Richard Godwin, 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 interviews with with poet Jill Jones on her latest book Brink, and Kathryn Fry on her book Green Point Bearings. 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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