Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 2, 1 February 2017



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
Coming soon


Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

An interview with Kaz Cooke

It was during completion of a Creative Fellowship at the prestigious State Library of Victoria (2013-15) that Cooke literally unearthed the inspiration for Ada. Now with its nation-wide release (as published by Penguin Random House Australia), Cooke took some time out of her hectic schedule to discuss her exhaustively researched novel depicting the life of titular Ada Bell – one of the most sought-after travelling performers of the bygone era, chronicling her poverty-ravaged beginnings to the dizzying highs of her apex and the tragic fall thereafter. Read more:

A review of Glasshouses by Stuart Barnes

The work resists an easy correspondence. You can’t “translate” it to a simple message or meaning. Instead the poems move between landscapes that feel like they should be familiar, with the unsettling quality of dreams or memory – slightly distorted and nightmarish, but also enticing. Read more:

A review of Scorn by Matthew Parris

Not only does this book deliver 432 pages of compressed and valuable entertainment, it releases a multitude of ready responses that if rehearsed well, will provide a source of heavy artillery for any form of social intercourse within societies’ boundaries. This is also a vernacular most Australians accept as dinkum. Read more:

An Interview with Lee J. Mavin

The author of Li Bai’s Shadow provides a sample of his new book and talks about his research into China’s most celebrated poet, key themes, his background, work in progress, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Lola Berry’s Beauty Food

Beauty Food makes a particularly good gift for a teen looking to make their own recipes for skincare and simple food like smoothies, veggie bowls, and bliss balls. The warm, upbeat presentation and emphasis on fun, high energy self-care is just right for younger readers who would likely have heard of Berry already, and Berry’s sensible approach to eating regularly is healthy and balanced. Read more:

An interview with Brian Paul Bach

Writer, artist, filmmaker and photographer Brian Paul Bach talks about his Forward to Glory series, his characters, favourite scenes, on the nature of film adaptations, provides a full list of who he would like to play Butterbugs in a movie adaptation, the best part of his writing journey, and more. Read more:

A review of Eye of the Moon by Ivan Obolensky

The story line travelled along at a comfortable trot, characters make their introductions and the chapters were just the perfect length to hold my interest, and before I knew it, a couple of hundred of pages had quickly passed by. Was this The Great Gatsby meets Alistair Crowley? Wrong again. Eye of the Moon is a classic gothic tale flawlessly composed with the author’s persona that is evident on every page. Read more:

An interview with Toni Stern

Toni Stern enjoyed a highly productive collaboration with the singer-songwriter Carole King. Stern wrote the lyrics for several of King’s songs, most notably “It’s Too Late” for the album Tapestry. Here, with affection and insight, she examines the breadth and boundaries of family, place, language, and self, and talks about her new poetry book About As Close as I Can. Read more:

A review of Appalachian Fall by Jennifer Maiden

Anyone who thinks of poetry as a hermetic art form has not read Jennifer Maiden. A keen and articulate observer of current affairs and trends, Maiden’s work explores a political and sociological landscape through the lens of poetic vision. This analysis takes many forms, often in multi-genred pieces that transcend essay, fiction, biography and poetry. In spite of the mixed literary forms, there is a consistency in characters, themes, and in approaches across Maiden’s oeuvre that makes for an accumulative effect. Read more:

A review of This Far Isn’t Far Enough by Lynn Sloan

Sloan’s characters are from various walks of life: an art dealer, a sculptor, a soldier, a convenience store clerk, a female prize fighter and several disillusioned mothers. Bullying, dishonest superiors, exploitative friends, devoted friends, women who love too much, and the darker side of parent-child relationships are examined in this collection 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 2,198!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.

Have you checked out our facebook page?  Come join us at: and you’ll hear about new reviews and interviews the minute they come out.



In the literary news this month, winners have been named in the five Costa Book Awards categories. Each author receives £5,000 (about $6,800) and is now eligible for the £30,000 (about $40,795) Costa Book of the Year prize, which will be announced January 30 in London. This year’s Costa category winners are: Novel: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor, First novel: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Biography: In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott, Poetry: Inside the Wave by Helen Dunmore, and Children’s: The Explorer by Katherine Rundell.

The three finalists for the Story Prize, honoring the best short story collection published in 2017, are: The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcón (Riverhead Books), Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press), and Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Random House). The winner will be announced at the Story Prize’s annual award event in New York City on February 28, where the finalists will read from and discuss their work with Larry Dark after which Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey will announce the winner, who will receive $20,000. Runners up will receive $5,000.

The winners of the Jewish Book Council’s 2017 National Jewish Book Awards have been announced. The Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award was given to Francine Klagsbrun for Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel (Schocken). David E. Fishman won the inaugural Holocaust Award, in memory of Ernest W. Michel, for The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasurebs from the Nazis (ForeEdge). David Grossman took the J.J. Greenberg Fiction Award for A Horse Walks into a Bar by (Knopf), while Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) received the Miller Family Book Club Award; and Barren Island by Carol Zoref (New Issues Poetry & Prose/Western Michigan University) won the Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction.

Finalists have been announced in multiple categories for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards, which “celebrate the best travel writing and travel writers in the world.” The winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year (in partnership with the Authors’ Club) gets £5,000 (about $6,770).

Australian independent booksellers have announced their Shortlist for the Indie Book Awards 2018, for the best Australian books published in 2017. The fiction shortlist includes: Force of Nature by Jane Harper (Pan Macmillan Australia), The Choke by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin), On the Java Ridge by Jock Serong (Text Publishing), and City of Crows by Chris Womersley (Pan Macmillan Australia). The twenty-four shortlisted books, the best titles of the year as nominated by Australian independent booksellers, will be vying for the top spot as the Overall Indie ‘Book of the Year’ for 2018. Panels of expert judges (all indie booksellers and avid readers) will choose the winners in the six book categories – Fiction, Debut Fiction, Non-Fiction, Children’s books (up to 12yo), Young Adult (12+) and Illustrated Non-Fiction (new for 2018). Independent booksellers from around the country will then vote to select their favourite book of the year from the six category winners. The Category Winners and the Overall ‘Book of the Year’ Winner will be announced on Monday 26 March, 2018 at the Leading Edge Books Annual Conference Awards Dinner to be held in Hobart, TAS.

Ocean Vuong won the T.S. Eliot Prize, awarded annually to the author of the best new collection of poetry published in the U.K. and Ireland, for Night Sky With Exit Wounds. The Guardian reported that to mark the 25th anniversary of the prize, Vuong received £25,000 (about $34,515), up from £20,000 last year, “and will feature on a special U.K. postmark issued by Royal Mail.” Calling the winning collection “a compellingly assured debut, the definitive arrival of a significant voice,” chair of judges Bill Herbert said, “There is an incredible power in the story of this collection. There is a mystery at the heart of the book about generational karma, this migrant figure coming to terms with his relationship with his past, his relationship with his father and his relationship with his sexuality. All of that is borne out in some quite extraordinary imagery. The view of the world from this book is quite stunning.”

Finalists were announced for the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize for literary nonfiction, which recognises a book that “best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception.” The award consists of CA$30,000 (about US$24,190) and a crystal trophy for the winning author, and CA$5,000 (about US$4,031) for each of the remaining finalists. The winner will be unveiled in Toronto February 26. The Charles Taylor Foundation and RBC will also present an Emerging Writers Award. Shortly after the announcement of the RBC Taylor Prize, the winner will name their choice of emerging author to receive this CA$10,000 (about US$8,060) award. This year’s RBC Taylor Prize shortlisted titles are: Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on Bering’s Great Voyage to Alaska by Stephen R. Bown, Yardwork: A Biography of an Urban Place by Daniel Coleman, Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine by James Maskalyk, Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga, and In the Name of Humanity by Max Wallace.

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the 30 finalists for its 2017 literary awards, as well as the recipients of three additional prizes. The NBCC winners will be named in six categories––autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. For the other prizes, John McPhee has been unveiled as the recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors a lifetime contribution to letters and book culture. Carmen Maria Machado’s debut story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, is the recipient of the fourth annual John Leonard Prize, established to recognize outstanding first books in any genre (and named in honor of founding NBCC member John Leonard.) Charles Finch is the recipient of the 2017 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

Finally, shortlists have been released for the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Awards, sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People. The awards “recognize lifelong achievement and are given to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important, lasting contribution to children’s literature.” The two winners will be announced March 26 at the IBBY press conference during the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair. The shortlisted authors are Marie-Aude Murail (France), Farhad Hassanzadeh (Iran), Eiko Kadono (Japan), Joy Cowley (New Zealand) and Ulf Stark (Sweden). The shortlisted illustrators are Pablo Bernasconi (Argentina), Linda Wolfsgruber (Austria), Xiong Liang (China), Iwona Chmielewska (Poland), Igor Oleynikov (Russia) and Albertine (Switzerland).

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Alex Phuong who won a copy of Just Between Us by Rebecca Drake.

Our new site giveaway is for copy of Hard Dog To Kill by Craig Holt. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “Hard Dog” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of 4321 by Paul Auster, Little Me by Matt Lucas, North and Central by Bob Hartley, Never Completely Awake by Martina Reisz Newberry. 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 the latest interview with Jessica Townsend, who reads from and talks about her book Nevermoor. 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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