Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 9, 1 Sept 2018

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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of All the Lovely Children by Andrew Nance

All in all, Nance has done a marvelous job in creating a well-written, suspenseful novel. His language is crisp and fresh, and his world-building is authentic, and his pacing just fast enough to keep readers at the edge of their seat, but slow enough to let them enjoy the ride. He has crafted a compelling, engrossing novel with more than one scene of gritty-realism that will prickle the back of your neck. Read more:

A review of Shelf Life of Happiness by Virginia Pye

In her short story collection, Shelf Life of Happiness, Virginia Pye has a character, Nathan, in the title story, remarking about the “long shadow” that “Papa” casts over “lesser writers.”  If Ms. Pye ever felt overshadowed by the great Ernest Hemingway, or compelled to imitate his style, she has overcome it. Read more:

A review of The Crying Place by Lia Hills

There is a solitary quality to Saul’s first person narrative, which isn’t exactly stream of consciousness, though the truncated sentences and visual imagery has a poetic and interior feel. The reader discovers this landscape through Saul’s perceptions and they continually return to the elemental – the earth, the rhythm of time, the ocean. Read more:

A review of Go because I Love you by Jared Harél

We may not often be able to control the trajectory of our choices, but we do have the option to recognize them responsibly and honestly. Harél shows us we have an obligation to not glaze over those choices with false distortions that appease our fragile egos and illusions and compromise truth and reality. He examines places where our expectations and confidence become derailed. Read more:

A review of The Last Jazz Fan And Other Poems by Kenneth Salzmann

Kenneth Salzmann may be a musical guy enthralled with jazz, but in this instance music is really a metaphor for poetry. He is a poet. I’m a fan of poetry like his. It’s as simple as that—and as messy. You see, his poetry really does creep into the bones, the marrow, the blood. Read more:

An interview with Elaine Neil Orr

Elaine Neil Orr grew up in Nigeria and returned home on occasion to North Carolina, where she has now lived for quite a while. All her life, she stretched between two worlds, and as she grew, she grappled with expressions of racism here, which did not exist in Nigeria. In her latest novel, Swimming Between Worlds, she writes in part about the experience of negotiating an identity between these two continents, acts of conscience, and history of place. Berkley/Penguin released Swimming Between Worlds in April to excellent reviews. This detailed interview covers all of Orr’s works, not simply this novel but also her first novel and her memoir, and her process in writing each. Read more:

A review of The Frozen Dream by Edward James

Some parts off the story follow history closely. The author, Edward James, knows this period well. HIs descriptions of the boats, their crews, and the historical settings are fascinating. The book also describes the real life and death of Richard Chancellor, a historical figure who stumbled into Ivan the Terrible’s court and became the first English diplomat to Russia. The other character, Arthur, is fictional, but his side of the story gives life to the nomadic tribes, the Sami people, who are too often left out of history but whose lives and customs remain unchanged since the dawn of time, even until today. Read more:

An interview with Twin Peaks’ Kimmy Robertson

Actress Kimmy Robertson had originally intended pursuing a career as a ballerina, before fate intervened in the form of her being headhunted by a talent agent. Launching with several small, but nevertheless memorable roles in films such as The Last American Virgin and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Robertson was then called to an audition for the pilot of a new television series, Twin Peaks. Set to tour with several of her Twin Peaks collaborators in the looming Twin Peaks: Conversation With The Stars, Robertson catches up with Samuel Elliott to discuss her storied career. Read more:

A review of Soap By Charlotte Guest

These are poems that pivot on a moment: a chance meeting, a sudden change in situation, or a close observation that takes something commonplace such as an afternoon on the back verandah watching fireworks, driving a vehicle, or reading the news and moves in so close it becomes abstract: a synecdoche for something else. In a way that’s Proustian, the imagery gives rise to a memory, or a perception which is emotive and powerful, revealing something subtle about the world. Read more:

A Review of The Girl from Blind River By Gale Massey

Comparisons aside, Jamie and Girl from Blind River stand on their own as remarkable achievements in popular literature. Gale Massey has a poet’s eye for the telling detail, and can evoke a feeling with a few deftly written words. Readers don’t need to be told Jamie is poor after Massey has her searching “the remaining pizza boxes until she found a piece of crust and chewed it while she watched the [poker] hand play out.” Read more:

A review of The Love That I Have by James Molony

The Love That I Have should be an educational experience for many entertained and amazed readers. We take our freedoms for granted and the stark comparisons between our own carefree lives and the inhabitants of Nazi Germany are a chilling reminder of how important it is to maintain these privileged liberties. This is a book that belongs within a bookcase, the one you can reach for, then show your houseguest and say…”Now, this is a great story I’m sure you would like…” Read more:

A review of Before We Died by Joan Schweighardt

Though Before We Died is a fictional story, full of intrigue, mystery, and a driving plot that makes it very readable, it is also built around real events as described in the prologue, particularly the catastrophic impact of the rubber boom on some areas of the Amazon, ecologically and in terms of the impacts on the native tribes. The book also confronts issues like racism, exploitation, slavery, and rampant colonialisation, seamlessly integrating the universal into this particular story in a way that feels natural. 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 2,297!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, The Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction announced its shortlist.  The annual award is given to a writer whose work is set in the US South, exemplifies the tenets of Southern literature—quality of prose, originality, and authenticity of setting and characters—and reflects, in the words of its namesake, Willie Morris, “hope for belonging, for belief in a people’s better nature, for steadfastness against all that is hollow or crass or rootless or destructive.” The award comes with a $10,000 cash prize and an all-expense paid trip for the winner to New York City for the reception and ceremony, which will be held on Monday, October 22, 2018.This year’s finalists are: Joshilyn Jackson, The Almost Sisters (William Morrow), Bren McClain, One Good Mama Bone (The University of South Carolina Press), J.C. Sasser, Gradle Bird (Koehler Books), and Stephanie Powell Watts, No One Is Coming to Save Us (Ecco)​.

The winners of the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize include: Fiction in English: State of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang (Epigram Books), Poetry in English: A Field Guide to Supermarkets in Singapore by Samuel Lee (Math Paper Press), and Creative Nonfiction in English: ‘Others’ Is Not a Race by Melissa de Silva (Math Paper Press) For a full list of winners, each of whom receives S$10,000 (about US$7,330) visit:

Five finalists have been named for the C$10,000 (about US$7,605) Toronto Book Awards, honoring books of literary merit that are evocative of the city. The winner will be announced October 10. This year’s shortlisted titles are: The Unpublished City, edited by Dionne Brand, Brother by David Chariandy, That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung, My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle, and Floating City by Kerri Sakamoto.

The shortlists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction and nonfiction have been announced and can be seen here. A winner and runner-up in both categroies will be announced on September 18. Winners receive a $10,000 honorarium and runners-up receive $2,500.

This year’s finalists have been announced for the 2018 Not the Booker Prize, the Guardian’s alternative award that includes public voting. This year’s shortlist features five titles chosen by voters and one wildcard entry picked by a judging panel. The winner, which will be announced October 15, “will receive a Guardian mug. They may not want it, but there’s nothing we can do about that.” The complete shortlist includes: Sealed by Naomi Booth, Dark Pines by Will Dean, Raising Sparks by Ariel Kahn, Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, Three Dreams in the Key of G by Marc Nash (wildcard).

Winners have been named for the 2018 Davitt Awards, presented by Sisters in Crime to recognize crime books by Australian women. This year’s Davitt winners by category are: Adult novel: And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic. YA novel: Ballad for a Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield, Children’s novel: The Turnkey by Allison Rushby, Nonfiction: Whiteley on Trial by Gabriella Coslovich, Debut: The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey, and Readers’ choice: Force of Nature by Jane Harper.

The winners of the Hugo Awards and for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer were announced by Worldcon 76 yesterday in San Jose, Calif., and can be seen here. Among the many winners: Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit), Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Tor), Best Novelette: “The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, 9/17), Best Short Story: “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, 8/17), Best Related Work: No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image), and Best Series: World of the Five Gods by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Voyager; Spectrum Literary Agency).

The winners of the £10,000 (about $12,750) James Tait Black book prizes were announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The biography winner was Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown, which judges described as “a witty and unconventional picture of royal life in the mid 20th century.” The fiction winner was Attrib. and Other Stories by Eley Williams, “a series of experimental short stories centered upon the challenges people face in communicating thoughts and feelings.”

The shortlist for the A$3,000 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction is: The Town by Shaun Prescott, Pulse Points by Jennifer Down, Pink Mountain and Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau, The Fireflies of Autumn by Moreno Giovannoni, Flames by Robbie Arnott, and The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorenson (check out our review and interview with Sorenson on CR Talks).  The winner will be announced in late October.

David Mitchell has been named this year’s recipient of the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, which is given in recognition of a writer’s entire body of work, the Bookseller reported. The author of seven novels, he joins a prestigious list of writers to have won the prize, including last year’s winner Sarah Waters, as well as Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Harold Pinter, Anne Tyler, Muriel Spark, John le Carré, William Trevor, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Tom Stoppard, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Martin Amis, Peter Carey and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Michelle de Kretser has won the 2018 Miles Franklin Literary Award for The Life to Come, which the judges called “a powerful novel that effortlessly blends sharp satire of the literary world with deeply compassionate portraits of lonely people and their strategies for survival.” The book was published in the U.S. in March by Catapult. De Kretser receives A$60,000 (about US$43,960). She also won the award–Australia’s most prestigious literary honor–in 2013 for Questions of Travel.

Finally, The Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine announced the five recipients of the 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships, which are given to “encourage the further writing and study of poetry” and are open to U.S. poets between the ages of 21 and 31. Safia Elhillo, Hieu Minh Nguyen, sam sax, Natalie Scenters-Zapico and Paul Tran each receive $25,800. They will appear at the Dodge Poetry Festival in October, and the December 2018 issue of Poetry will feature a sampling of their work.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Paul Tuersley, who won a copy of Before We Died (Rivers, Book 1) by Joan Schweighardt.

Congratulations also to Barbara Raeuber who won a copy of Lone Wolf in Jerusalem by Ehud Diskin

Our new site giveaway is for copy of Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “Not Her Daughter” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!


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We will shortly be featuring reviews of Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (!), Beneath the Mother Tree by D M Cameron, Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, Welcome to Saint Angel by William Luvaas, Medusa’s Country by Larissa Shmailo, 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 poet Steve Armstrong, who reads from and talks about his new poetry book Broken Ground. 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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