Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 21, Issue 10, 1 Oct 2019



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
Coming soon


Hello readers.  Following is the latest (bumper) batch of reviews on site:

A review of Gifts for the Dead by Joan Schweighardt

Though it’s a fine sequel, Gifts for the Dead can be read on its own. Schweighardt does a wonderful job of weaving the first book through the narrative subtly, picking up and expanding on some of the themes of the first book:  family ties and the sometimes wrought bond between siblings, the enduring nature of trauma and recovery, and the impact of greed on all that is precious in this world.  Read more:

Friendship and Historical Materialism in Raoul Peck’s The Young Karl Marx

Raoul Peck’s film, begins with the young philosopher Karl Marx’s critique of the persecution of desperate peasants, who go into forests to gather dead wood, something considered theft, for which they were arrested or beaten or even killed.  Marx, a passionate but poor writer married to a well-born woman, was censored for his examination of political power. Read more:

A review of Haywire by Thaddeus Rutkowski

In her cover endorsement, Alison Lurie characterizes Rutkowski’s writing as “his low-key continually surprising fiction.” Just when you think you know where he’s going, he changes direction. Indeed, “deadpan” aptly describes Rutkowski’s humor. And make no mistake, there’s a lot of humor in Haywire. Read more:

A review of Heathcliff: The Lost Years by David Drum

David Drum’s Heathcliff: the Lost Years has plenty of atmosphere, conflict and obsession, presented in an historical context distinct and in an accessible way. It will appeal not only to those with some knowledge of Wuthering Heights but also who anyone who likes a dramatic action-packed story. Read more:

A review of Six Legs Walking: Notes from an Entomological Life by Elizabeth Bernays

Six Legs Walking is a tribute to a time-honored but sadly vanishing tradition of vigorous biology conducted principally in the habitats where creatures live. Many of this reviewer’s environmental studies students figure their future depends upon mastering the science of genetics and what an elder field biologist friend dismissively refers to as “blender science.” Read more:

A review of Solid Air by David Stavinger and Anne-Marie Te Whiu (Eds)

It’s as if, by bringing in a multitude of varying voices including some multilingual, we begin to see a common humanity in the recognition that comes with such intense vulnerability, anger, self-reflection, empathy, and perhaps above all, the radical inclusion that is not only evident throughout the poems in this collection, but a powerful underlying theme. Read more:

Interview with Theresa Rodriguez

The author of Sonnets talks about her new book, the sonnet form, its variations and appeal for her, her themes, the relationship between her vocal and poetic work, her work in progress, and lots more. Read more:

A review of The Returns by Philip Salom

The streets of Melbourne are vividly alive in this work, and nowhere more so than in its description of the natural world around the city, from Royal Park where Trevor walks Gordon to the steel carriages tram, the graffitied buildings or the flora and fauna that is everywhere in flashes of beauty. Read more:

A review of The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: Collected Poems 1974-2018 by Mary Mackey

Serious topics such as ecofeminism, history, and ecology might sound dry, but like many magnificent thinkers before her, Mackey is in full possession of a wild and wacky sense of humor that always puts her readers at ease. I’ll also say here that while her mind is magnificent and her interests broad, her work, while stunningly layered, is always accessible. Read more:

A review of World Heritage Sites of Australia By Peter Valentine

The visuals are breathtaking, arresting, and very powerful, but this is no simple coffee table book. It conveys a critical message, not only about how beautiful our world heritage sites are, but also how important they are historically, culturally, and ecologically. Read more:

A review of Stars of Alabama by Sean Dietrich

While the plot and the characters are engaging and profoundly well done, the writing itself is a star attraction in Stars of Alabama. Sean Dietrich can turn a phrase like nobody’s business, and his words sing with sharp images and telling details. Read more:

An interview with Dan Tuttle

The author of Rewriting Stella talks about his new book, the draw of the verse-novel, his challenges and inspiration, highlights, and lots more.  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 2,510), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the shortlist for The Booker Prize, the U.K.’s top prize for fiction, has been announced. Two former winners, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie, both made the cut—a week before Atwood’s book, The Testaments, has been published. The full shortlist is as follows: Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus), Lucy Ellmann (U.S./U.K.), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press), Bernardine Evaristo (U.K.), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton), Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown), Salman Rushdie (U.K./India) Quichotte (Jonathan Cape), and Elif Shafak (U.K./Turkey) 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking). The six nominees were selected from 151 submissions. Peter Florence, chair of the Bookser judges, says of the selections: “The common thread is our admiration for the extraordinary ambition of each of these books. There is an abundance of humor, of political and cultural engagement, of stylistic daring and astonishing beauty of language.” The winner of this year’s Booker Prize will be named on October 14. This year’s award is the first following the Man Group’s decision to cease funding the prize.

Poet and teacher Jayson Iwen has won the 2020 Miller Williams Poetry Prize for his collection Roze & Blud. Two finalists were also named: Judy Halebsky for her collection Sky of Wu and Angie Mazakis for her collection I Was Waiting to See what You Would Do First. The books were selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and will be published by the University of Arkansas Press as part of the Miller Williams Poetry Series. In addition to publication, Iwen will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

Translator Edith Grossman has won the 2019 Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature, sponsored by Words Without Borders and recognizing “an individual whose work and activism have supported WWB’s mission of promoting cultural understanding through the publication and promotion of international literature.”

The winners of the 2019 Ned Kelly Awards, sponsored by the Australian Crime Writers Association, are: Best Fiction: The Lost Man by Jane Harper, Best First Fiction: The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, and Best True Crime: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee. Judges praised “Jane Harper’s atmospheric and evocative outback mystery; Dervla McTiernan’s assured, complex and engaging procedural debut; and Bri Lee’s nuanced, impactful and important memoir.”

A shortlist has been released for the C$10,000 (about US$7,590) Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction, which is administered by Wilfrid Laurier University and recognizes a Canadian writer of a first or second published book with a Canadian locale and/or significance, CBC reported. The winner will be named at the end of September. This year’s shortlisted titles are: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris, and Mad Blood Stirring by Daemon Fairless.

The Academy of American Poets announced the 2019 winners of its annual poetry prizes. Rita Dove won the $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award, which recognizes “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.” Ilya Kaminsky received the $25,000 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which honors “distinguished poetic achievement.” Kyle Dargan’s Anagnorisis (TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press) won the $25,000 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for “the most outstanding book of poetry published in the U.S. in the previous year.” Aditi Machado’s Emporium (Nightboat Books) won the $5,000 James Laughlin Award, which is given “to recognize and support a second book of poetry forthcoming in the next calendar year.” Gloria Muñoz’s Danzsirley/Dawn’s Early won the Ambroggio Prize, a $1,000 publication award given for a book-length poetry manuscript originally written in Spanish and with an English translation. The winning manuscript is published by Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe. Clare Cavanagh’s translation of Asymmetry by Adam Zagajewski (FSG) was cited for the $1,000 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, which “recognizes a published translation of poetry from any language into English that demonstrates literary excellence.” Will Schutt’s translation of the work of Italian poet Fabio Pusterla won the $25,000 Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize, which is given for “the translation into English of a significant work of modern Italian poetry.” Jonathan Teklit won the $1,000 Aliki Perroti & Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award, which recognizes a student poet.

The winners for the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Awards, honoring the best in New Zealand crime writing, are: Novel: This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman, First Novel: Call Me Evie by JP Pomare, and Nonfiction: The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Jane Furlong by Kelly Dennett.

Finalists in three categories have been named for the 2019 Kirkus Prize. Winners, each of whom wins $50,000, will be named October 24. To see the 18 finalists, click here.

The longlist for the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry consists of: Variations on Dawn and Dusk by Dan Beachy-Quick (Omnidawn Publishing), The Tradition by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press), “I”: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte (University of Pittsburgh Press), Build Yourself a Boat by Camonghne Felix (Haymarket Books), Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (Graywolf Press), A Sand Book by Ariana Reines (Tin House Books), Dunce by Mary Ruefle (Wave Books), Be Recorder by Carmen Giménez Smith (Graywolf Press), Sight Lines by Arthur Sze (Copper Canyon Press), and Doomstead Days by Brian Teare (Nightboat Books). Finalists will be unveiled on October 8, and the winners announced at the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 20 in New York City.

Finalists have been announced for the C$50,000 (about US$37,725) Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, recognizing “Canadian writers of exceptional talent for the year’s best novel or short story collection.” The winner will be named November 5 at the Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony in Toronto. The five finalists are: Days by Moonlight by André Alexis, Season of Fury and Wonder by Sharon Butal, The Innocents by Michael Crummey, Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji, and Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin.

Finally, the shortlist for the $10,000 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, given to the best debut novel of the year, has been chosen. The winner will be announced at the Center’s Benefit and Awards Dinner on December 10 in New York City. The shortlist includes The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin (FSG), Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Knopf), Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad (Riverhead), On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Penguin), Fall Back Down When I Die by Joe Wilkins (Little, Brown), American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (Random House), and In West Mills by De’shawn Charles Winslow (Bloomsbury)

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Celia Pzyrembel who won a copy of Rewriting Stella by Dan Tuttle.

Congratulations to LuAnn Morgan who won the print copy of The Neon Jungle by Tim Smith and to Zoltan Almasi who won the Kindle copy.

Congratulations to Tracy Mackay who won a copy of Wearing Paper Dresses by Anne Brinsden.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Chronicles in Passing by Carol Smallwood.  To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Chronicles”.

We also have a copy of If Anyone Asks, Say I Died from the Heartbreaking Blues by Philip Cioffari. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “Heartbreaking Blues” and your postal address.

We also have a copy of 1 print copy and 1 kindle copy of Floating on Secrets by Tantra Bensko. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “Floating” and your postal address if you want the print copy or your email address if you want the Kindle.

Finally, we’ve got a copy of Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson.  To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “Glass” and your postal address.

Good luck, everyone!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Wolf Hour by Sarah Myles, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, Union Square by Adrian Koesters, interviews with Sybil Baker and C.B. Anderson, and lots more reviews and interviews.

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 Peter Valentine, who reads from and talks about his book World Heritage Sites of Australia.  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, straight to your favourite listening device (in my case, that’s the phone – as I usually listen to podcasts in the car). Find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe.


(c) 2019 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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