Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 8, 1 Aug 2018


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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of The Journal by R D Stevens

The Journal is thus principally concerned with western individuals churning up other people’s cultural and physical environments with their motorbikes and all-night beach parties, blithely unaware of their largely egocentric and instrumental approach to the world they despoil. What one might accept initially as gently accurate satire of youthful pretensions becomes the unsettling suspicion that we are meant to take much of this seriously – that the novel is as blind as many of its characters. Read more:

Spotlight on Twin Peaks Cast & Crew – Sabrina S. Sutherland

Prior to becoming an Executive Producer on the second series of Twin Peaks, Sabrina S. Sutherland had already collaborated with auteur filmmaker David Lynch on an array of projects, including commercials, shorts, features and numerous other works ultimately left unrealised. Having worked closely with Lynch over a period now spanning some thirty years, she has acted as a main driving force across his oeuvre, often as the pragmatist essential in ensuring the visionary’s vision completed the transition to screen. Catching up with Samuel Elliott in the lead-up to touring Australia and New Zealand as part of the Twin Peaks: Conversations With The Stars event, Sutherland discussed both working on such an inimitable show and with such staggeringly prolific filmmaker as David Lynch. Read more:

A review of The Well Deceived by Isaac Kuhnberg

The Well Deceived is a magnificently realized novel full of wonderful invention and wicked characterizations. From its steam-powered motor vehicles to its urban squalor, it seldom ceases to enthrall and amuse and bewilder. It is angry and sad, refusing to accept defeat although defeat is assured. Read more:

A review of The History of England Volume III: Civil War by Peter Ackroyd

Civil War is not for those who want a detailed account of the Civil war period specifically; it is particularly void of military detail, but offers an insightful and vivid narrative of the whole of 17th century England that retains the period’s intricacy and complexity. While Ackroyd’s style is to make the civil war period seem rather like a series of accidents, common themes emerge that still influence our culture today. Read more:

An interview with Sofija Stefanovic

Sofija Stefanovic is a Serbian-Australian author now based in New York. Among her other writing endeavours, Stefanovic regularly hosts the prestigious literary salon Women Of Letters New York and This Alien Nation, the latter being founded on the ideal of offering those of immigrant backgrounds a platform through which to tell their unique stories. In addition to these hosting duties, she also constantly appears as a storyteller for The Moth and her writing has featured in the likes of The Guardian, Elle and The New York Times. Miss Ex-Yugoslavia is Stefanovic’s memoirs, detailing her childhood as an immigrant in Australia. Read more:

A review of A Matter of Selection by Carol Smallwood

Smallwood’s collection of finely honed, detail filled verses spring from the page as though borne on wings to fill the air, the room, the location with perfume for the eyes. I enjoyed reading these verses, some more than once, others a quick passage with scant time to savor the message before rushing on to the next just to see what was there. Read more:

A review of White Houses by Amy Bloom

Naturally Lorena is subjective, althought historians have written that Franklin’s affability and charm hid a selfish, determined core. One must remember that he was coping with a disability and deteriorating health while pulling his country out of a depression, then leading it through a world war. As Doris Kearns Goodwin shows in her non-fiction work, No Ordinary Time, Eleanor played a vital role during these national crises. Read more:

An interview with Richard Godwin

Richard Godwin is the critically acclaimed author of Apostle Rising, Mr. Glamour, One Lost Summer, Noir City, Meaningful Conversations, Confessions Of A Hit Man, Paranoia And The Destiny Programme, Wrong Crowd, Savage Highway, Ersatz World, The Pure And The Hated, Disembodied, Buffalo And Sour Mash, and Locked In Cages. He joins us to talk about his later book Insincerity, as well as many other things like social conspiracies, where the book came from, his writing space, and lots more.  Read more:

A review of The Boulevard Trial by Stephanie Laterza

In clear, often compelling prose, Stephanie Laterza’s debut novel, The Boulevard Trial, offers us a contemporary story of moral dilemmas, confused intentions and missed connections that frequently result in disappointing resolutions and, at times, even tragic consequences. The traumas of the novel’s characters bleed into their ongoing personal experiences like an unchecked, gaping wound. Read more:

A review of ​Cubist States of Mind/Not the Cruelest Month​ by Marc Jampole

If anything is consistent throughout Jampole’s work, it is its semiotic density. ​Cubist States of Mind/Not the Cruelest Month​ can feel like a lightning-quick read from cover-to-cover-to-cover, but begs to be re-read. The moment one closes the book, one has the peculiar sensation of having read it years ago, its contents so intricately layered that memory alone can only render the broad strokes. Read more:

A review of Tiny Shoes Dancing by Audrey Kalman

Kalman’s courage in tackling difficult subjects (unplanned pregnancy, psoriasis, adultery, anorexia, autism, depression and death) her gift for language, and her understanding of human nature make Tiny Feet Dancing a book to keep and reread. Read more:

A review of Broken Ground by Steve Armstrong

Broken Ground is a wonderful collection, deeply rooted in the natural world: in stone, eucalypt, “mounds of spinifex”, and above all, in an exploration of how life is created though language, recollection, in the precision of our natural world, and above all in the connections that we build over the short space of our lives. Read more:

A conversation with Justine Ettler

Justine Ettler burst onto the literary scene with her novel, The River Ophelia, in 1995. A debut that divided critics, it nevertheless went on to sell an almost unheard of 50,000 copies, propelling Ettler to the forefront of the Australian literary scene virtually overnight. Since then, her second novel, Marilyn’s Almost Terminal New York Adventure, was released to near universal acclaim. After which Ettler continued to net prestigious titles and awards, including being selected as one of the six Australian authors for the New Images Winter Tour, embarking on an extended journey of the United Kingdom that concluded with her living in the country until 2007. Bohemia Beach is her hugely anticipated new novel, now available with Transit Lounge. Read more:

A review of Black Queen White City by Sonya Kudei

Trams. Cats. Circles. We are immediately alerted by these allusions to Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita (1966) that we should expect the unexpected in Black Queen White City, an ambitious novel that aspires to paint its own universe (no less) by means of framing devices, parallel worlds and an eccentric cast of characters that includes the white city of Zagreb itself, where the author was born.  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 2,279!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the Swedish Academy is not awarding a Nobel prize for literature this year, but more than 100 Swedish writers, actors, journalists and other cultural figures have formed the New Academy, which will hand out its own award this autumn, following the same timeline as the Nobel. “We have founded the New Academy to remind people that literature and culture at large should promote democracy, transparency, empathy and respect, without privilege, bias arrogance or sexism,” they said in a statement. The New Academy is inviting all of Sweden’s librarians to nominate authors. Contenders can come from anywhere in the world, and must have written at least two books, one of which was published in the last 10 years.  Once nominations have been received, the New Academy will launch a public vote, with the four most popular authors to then be put before its jury. Led by editor Ann Pålsson and also including Gothenburg University professor Lisbeth Larsson and librarian Gunilla Sandin, the jury will announce its winner in October, the same month the Nobel is traditionally announced. It is currently expected that the Swedish Academy will announce two Nobel winners in 2019.

Makena Onjerika of Kenya has won the £10,000 (about $13,175) Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “Fanta Blackcurrant,” published in Wasafiri. Chair of judges Dinaw Mengestu called the story “as fierce as they come–a narrative forged but not defined by the streets of Nairobi, a story that stands as more than just witness. Makena Onjerika’s ‘Fanta Blackcurrant’ presides over a grammar and architecture of its own making, one that eschews any trace of sentimentality in favour of a narrative that is haunting in its humour, sorrow and intimacy.” Onjerika is a graduate of the MFA Creative Writing program at New York University and lives in Nairobi, Kenya.

English PEN announced that Richard Beard is the winner of this year’s PEN Ackerley Prize, which is dedicated to memoir and autobiography, for The Day That Went Missing. Chair of the judges Peter Parker said: “The title of Richard Beard’s beautifully written memoir refers to the day in August 1978 when his nine-year-old brother accidentally drowned during a family holiday. The family’s way of dealing with this catastrophe was to suppress all mention and memory of it. Determined to discover the truth, Beard turns detective, sifting evidence and comparing conflicting accounts in order to piece together the long-buried events of that dreadful day and its lingering aftermath. Compulsively readable, fearless, and in places surprisingly funny, the book is an extraordinary act of reclamation and reconciliation.”

John Irving is this year’s recipient of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize’s Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, which recognizes authors for their complete body of work. Irving will be presented with the award October 28 during the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Gala. “John Irving’s body of work creates worlds that allow the reader to explore the contradictions of twisted morality, the consequences of suspicions of the other, the absurdities of pride and ignorance, and the tragedy of a lack of sympathy and empathy for our fellow humans: characteristics that make peace unreachable,” said Sharon Rab, founder and chair of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation. “Through books–especially Irving’s books–readers learn to understand and identify with people who are different from themselves.”

For the first time, the Toronto Book Award jury has released a longlist. The shortlist will be announced August 9, and a winner named October 10. Established by the Toronto City Council in 1974, the award honors books of literary merit that are evocative of the city. The winner receives CA$15,000 (about $7,580) and each shortlisted author will gets CA$1,000. This year’s longlisted titles are: The More by Ronna Bloom, The Unpublished City, curated by Dionne Brand, Brother by David Chariandy, The Bone Mother by David Demchuk, Why Young Men by Jamil Jivani, That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung, My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle, The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern by David McPherson, Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill, Floating City by Kerri Sakamoto, and The Videofag Book, edited by Jordan Tannahill and William Ellis.

Anne Charnock won the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature for her novel Dreams Before the Start of Time. The winner was announced during a special ceremony held at the Foyles flagship bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London. She receives a commemorative engraved bookend and £2,018 (about $1,525).

The 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction longlist has been announced, consisting of six writers from the U.K., three from the U.S., two from Ireland, and two from Canada. The list was chosen from 171 submissions—the highest number of titles put forward in the prize’s 50-year history—published in the U.K. and Ireland between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018. The Man Booker Prize for Fiction, first awarded in 1969, is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the U.K. and Ireland. This is the first year that novels published in Ireland are eligible for the prize, following a change in rules announced at the start of 2018. Longlisted this year are: Belinda Bauer (U.K.), Snap (Bantam Press), Anna Burns (U.K.), Milkman (Faber & Faber), Nick Drnaso (U.S.), Sabrina (Granta Books), Esi Edugyan (Canada), Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail), Guy Gunaratne (U.K.), In Our Mad And Furious City (Tinder Press), Daisy Johnson (U.K.), Everything Under (Jonathan Cape), Rachel Kushner (U.S.), The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape), Sophie Mackintosh (U.K.), The Water Cure (Hamish Hamilton), Michael Ondaatje (Canada), Warlight (Jonathan Cape), Richard Powers (U.S.), The Overstory (Willian Heinemann), Robin Robertson (U.K.), The Long Take (Picador), Sally Rooney (Ireland), Normal People (Faber & Faber), and Donal Ryan (Ireland), From A Low And Quiet Sea (Doubleday Ireland).

“Passage” by Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad and Tobago) won the £5,000 (about $6,570) Commonwealth Writers’ Short Story Prize, recognizing the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English–including entries translated into English–from the Commonwealth.

Finally, The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English has awarded The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas the 2018 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. Established in 2008 to honor the wishes of young adult author Amelia Elizabeth Walden, the award allows for the sum of $5,000 to be presented annually to the author of a young adult title selected by the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Committee as demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Sue Collins who won a copy of A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A Villareal.

Our new site giveaway is for copy of Before We Died (Rivers, Book 1) by Joan Schweighardt. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at maggieball@compulsivereader.comwith the subject line “Rivers” and your postal address.  I’d just like to stress that this is an international comp and entries from around the world are eligible!  Sometimes publishers do express a local preference (and I like to mix up the locale), but this one is truly international.

We also have a copy of Lone Wolf in Jerusalem by Ehud Diskin.  To enter the giveaway email me at with the subject line “Lone Wolf” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



Discover a world of women’s poetry including exclusive titles previously out of print, beautiful poetic artwork, and much more at the Poetry Portal:



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Soap by Charlotte Guest, The Crying Place by Lia Hills, The Love That I Have by James Moloney, All the Lovely Children by Andrew Nance, The Frozen Dream by Edward James, 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 poet Jill Jones on her latest book Brink. 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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