Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 12, 1 December 2018



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Hello readers. Welcome to the last newsletter of the year. I hope 2018 has been good to you!  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for being part of this wonderful worldwide community of book lovers.  Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of and my heart crumples like a coke can by Ali Whitelock

The poetry manages to be both pithy and almost hysterically funny, not an easy mix to achieve, but that is how life works: the paradox of what we carry and what we experience in each moment. Whitlock captures this duality perfectly, taking a stand-up comedian’s incision to pretension and human foibles. Read more:

Interview with Ber Carroll

An Irish native, Ber moved to Sydney in 1995 and spent much of her early career working within the financial sector. Since then, she has pursued writing full-time and has thus far penned eight novels, that include Once Lost, Worlds Apartand Less Than Perfect. The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthymarks the first work to be published under the name B. M. Carroll. She drops by to talk about her latest book and lots more. Read more:

A review of The Usual Story by Libby Sommer

It is impressive the ability of Sommer to fragment the narrative when we encounter Sofia’s visits to the psychiatrist. We read about her participation in Milongas, asking relatives about her past, and about love and its many facets. All of these interspersed with poetic descriptions of place. Sydneysiders will recognise many areas of the Eastern suburbs in Sommer’s vivid imagery. Read more:

A review of All The Answers by Michael Kupperman

As dementia begins to rob an already private and absentminded man of his memories, Michael becomes set on reconstructing his father’s childhood from recordings, news articles, and his father’s own accounts, in a journey to understand what had crafted his father into the man he is, and how that has formed Michael himself. Read more:

A review of Writing a Novel by Richard Skinner

The book is easy to follow, and is well-structured, moving smoothly from novel ideation through planning, character development, point of view, dialogue, plotting, conflict, dealing with tie, pace, setting and genre. Though the book is practically oriented, Skinner doesn’t dumb down the complexity of novel writing, or suggest, as many how-to books do, that it can be done quickly and painlessly. Read more:

A review of I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust by Mathias B. Freese

I realize this book is a work of fiction, but it cuts deeply, and leaves the reader contemplating some of the horror that people suffered during Hitler’s reign. Though not the easiest book to read, I Truly Lament is compelling, and very well written. The book was one of three finalists chosen in the 2012 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest out of 424 submissions, and it’s easy to see why.  Read more:

An interview with Tom Maremaa

The author of Reykjavik: A Novel talks about his book, the setting – both time and place, the composition, his characters and their transitions, and more. Read more:

A review of Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda

There’s a definite sense that Miranda really wants to make everyone feel a little bit better about themselves, and though this book won’t be for everyone, it will appeal to young people in need of a hug. Each affirmation in fact feels a bit like a hug.  Read more:

An Interview with Imogen Edward-Jones

The Witches of St Petersburg’s Imogen Edwards-Jones talks about the making of her new novel, the real characters behind the book, her research, historical fiction in general, and lots more. Read more:

A review of In the Measuring by Carol Smallwood

The aforementioned exuberance comes with the author’s novel treatment of the everyday—those ordinary, mundane tasks and chores we take for granted. Who would think to write a pantoum about dishwashing liquid? Yet Smallwood carries it off, and braids colloquial language with scientific. She assumes a persona the reader can identify with. Read more:

A review of America: The Farewell Tour by Chris Hedges

America: the Farewell Tour is an impressive book. Readers who lack a background in economics but are troubled with what is going on in the world will be absorbed in his analysis. Hedges is no academic pronouncing from an ivory tower, but a reporter who has gone out among the victims of global capitalism to gather information.  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 2,331!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the Canada Council for the Arts announced winners of the Governor General’s Literary Awards in 14 English- and French-language categories. Each winner receives C$25,000 (about US$19,035), with the winning publishers getting C$3,000 (about US$2,285) to support promotional activities. For English, the winners included Fiction: The Red Word by Sarah Henstra, Nonfiction: Mamaskatch by Darrel J. McLeod, and Poetry: Wayside Sang by Cecily Nicholson. The full list including French winners can be found here:

John James won the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize for his manuscript, The Milk Hours. The prize honors “the legacy of one of the most original and accomplished poets to debut in recent years, and to reward outstanding emerging poets for years to come.” It was created by Milkweed Editions in partnership with Riva Ariella Ritvo-Slifka and the Alan B. Slifka Foundation. Chambers will receive $10,000 and publication by Milkweed in June 2019. The winner was chosen by poet and judge Henri Cole.

Four finalists have been named for Blackwell’s Book of the Year. The Bookseller reported that the category winners “were whittled down following a vote by all the company’s booksellers and will now be promoted in shops and online throughout Christmas and 2019.” The overall winner will be chosen from the four category winners in a vote by all Blackwell’s booksellers in November and announced December 4. This year’s finalists are: Fiction: Everything Under by Daisy Johnson, Nonfiction: Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch, Debut: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday, and Children’s & YA: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave,  Johnson worked in Blackwell’s Oxford store in Broad Street “until she landed a two-book deal with Cape in 2015. She became the youngest ever author to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in September,” the Bookseller noted.

Ruth McIver won the A$10,000 (about US$7,230) Richell Prize for Emerging Writers for the manuscript of her novel, I Shot the Devil. The award is a partnership between Guardian Australia, the Emerging Writers’ Festival and Hachette Australia in memory of Matt Richell, the former Hachette Australia CEO who died in a surfing accident in 2014. In addition to the cash prize, McIver receives a mentorship with a Hachette publisher to help develop the work to publication.

Winners have been announced for the 2018 Writers’ Trust of Canada awards. Elizabeth Hay won the CA$60,000 (about US$45,255) Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for All Things Consoled; Kathy Page received the CA$50,000 (about US$37,715) Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for her novel Dear Evelyn; and Shashi Bhat took the CA$10,000 (about US$7,540) Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize for her short story “Mute.” Four authors received CA($25,000 (about US$18,855) awards for their contributions to Canadian literature through a body of work: Jordan Scott (Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize); David Bergen (Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life); Alissa York (Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award); and Christopher Paul Curtis (Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People).

Restless Books has announced the winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, which each year will award $10,000 and publication to a first-time, first-generation American author. The 2018 prize went to Priyanka Champaneri for her novel The City of Good Death, a novel about the proprietor of a death hostel in Benares, the Indian city where Hindus come to die a holy death. The City of Good Death will be published in Spring 2020.

Poet, essayist, scriptwriter and performer Samuel Wagan Watson won the 2018 Patrick White Literary Award, honoring an author who has ” made a significant but inadequately recognized contribution to Australian literature.” Established by Patrick White with the proceeds of his 1973 Nobel Prize in Literature, the award is worth A$20,000 (about US$14,430). Books + Publishing noted that Watson “is the second Indigenous writer to win the award in its 45-year history, after Tony Birch was awarded the prize in 2017.”

The winner of the C$100,000 (about US$75,900) Scotiabank Giller Prize is Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Knopf). The jury wrote: “How often history asks us to underestimate those trapped there. This remarkable novel imagines what happens when a black man escapes history’s inevitable clasp–in his case, in a hot air balloon no less…” Edugyan also won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues.

Serhii Plokhy won the £30,000 (about $38,500) Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction for Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy. Chair of the judges Fiammetta Rocco said the winning book “is an unprecedented retelling of a familiar disaster. It is a horror story–of political cynicism and scientific ignorance–in which the world was saved only by heroism and luck. This extraordinary account leaves you wondering: could the narrowly missed nuclear Armageddon of Chernobyl happen again, with even worse consequences?”

Finally, the winner of the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is Joy of Waterboiling by Christina Scheffenacker. The Bookseller, which sponsors the prize, noted that “for the first time in the 40-year life of the world’s most prestigious literary gong, a foreign-language tome” has won. Published in Austria by Asche Verlag, the book is eligible for the prize despite being in German because its title is in English.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Marion Mills, who won a copy of Writing a Novel by Richard Skinner.

Congratulations also to Robin Rabie who won a copy of What Makes a Man Run by Mark Thompson.

Our new site giveaway is for one of 3 copies of In the Measuring by Carol Smallwood.    To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “In the Measuring” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



Girls on Key Poetry Portal Bookshop.

Your one-stop shop for poetry books online including print and electronic copies, special events, free downloads, and poetic artworks.

Discover a world of poetry at the click of a mouse:



We will shortly be featuring reviews ofCedar Valley by Holly Throsby, The Northway by Lisa Bellamy, Naming the Silence by Michael David Blanchard, The Seas are Dolphins’ Tears by Djelloul Marbrook, 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 latest 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.

Happy holidays to all those who celebrate at this time of year and see you in 2019!


(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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