Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 22, Issue 7, 1 July 2020



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Hello readers.  Following is the latest batch of reviews:

An interview with Ronnie Scott

The author of The Adversary talks about his new book and where the idea came from, his settings, on rewriting, his nameless narrator, on making realistic characters, his influences, and lots more.  Read more:

A review of Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today edited by Alison Whittaker

Fire Front is critically important reading – not just for the messages it contains, though they are both timeless and relevant to the world we’re living in right now, but also because this is work that is fresh, urgent, astonishing, beautiful, and heart-rendering and have the power that Whittaker talks about in her introduction, to change the shape world for the better.  Read more:

A review of Born Slippy by Tom Lutz

The action moves at a pulse quickening pace, our hero’s journey peppered with witty asides and lively character driven observations. Frank has a special talent for describing rooms from a connoisseur contractor’s POV. It helps that Lutz did some carpentry in his younger days.  Read more:

A review of On Reflection by David Musgrave

On Reflection is a novelty. It is beautiful, delicate and memorable. The collection sweeps along philosophising possibilities, inventing life with breath-taking consciousness. In its own right, it reminds us to remain centred—in a word: read Musgrave.  Read more:

A review of A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Pablo Neruda once wrote: “If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life.”  In A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende’s characters are saved from despair by love, friendship and the satisfaction of helping others.  Is she suggesting that history repeats itself and that a democracy with social justice and economic equality is an impossible dream? I think not.  Read more:

A review of Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs

Having travelled the distance that Giggs takes us in Fathoms, it seems obvious that there is no choice: “Each of us now sharpens the focus dial on the future of the ocean, of the weather, of the whales and their kin.” Fathoms is a glorious, beautiful and deeply important book.  Read more:

An interview with Carmen Radtke

The author of Walking in the Shadow talks about her most recent (and oldest!) book, her writing routine (or lack thereof), advice for new writers, her research, the hardest scene she’s had to write, her work in progress, and lots more.  Read more:

A review of Walking in the Shadow by Carmen Radtke

It is the clever detailing of life on the Island, and of leprosy, that makes this book so very engaging. Three men alone, with only occasional visits, making their own entertainment, caring for one another, knowing that two of them will never escape the Island unless it’s to go to another leper colony… Yet Carmen makes these men and their lives fascinating. There is real love here; gentle, unselfish, sometimes hard-tried love. Read more:

A review of A Constellation of Kisses edited by Diane Lockward

You don’t have to be a card carrying poetry lover to fall in love with the poems in this book. I’m planning to put the anthology on my coffee table and look forward to the conversations it sparks with guests. (That is when we are allowed to have guests again. I am writing to you from the heart of social distancing.) Some of these poems turned me on. Some of them made me long to be the person being kissed for the attention and tenderness of it. Some of them made me cry.  Read more:

An interview with Gleah Powers

The author of Million Dollar Red talks about her latest book and what she’d like readers to know, Why she chose Vine Leaves Press, about genre fluidity, about working across artistic mediums, her work in progress, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Dear Terror, Dear Splendor by Melissa Crowe

This intricate mixture of joy and grief, celebration and fear, is expressed over and over again in these poems. In “Damage,” a poem about her young daughter mistaking the words damn it for damage, the poet reflects, hearing her daughter’s mistake when she stubs her toe or startles when a door slams, “damage [is] the right word.  Read more:

All of the reviews and interviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews and interviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives (currently at 2,639), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, winners have been announced for the Lambda Literary Awards (the “Lammys”), which have, for more than 30 years, “identified and honored the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books.”  Along with the book award winners, special honors for their extraordinary contributions to literature, publishing and the LGBTQ community went to Jericho Brown (Lambda’s Trustee Award), Jane Wagner (Visionary Award) and Brian Lam (Publishing Professional Award). See the complete list of category winners and finalists on Lambda Literary’s website:

The winners of the 2020 SFWA Nebula Awards, sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, are: Novel: A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker (Berkley), Novella: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga; Jo Fletcher), Novelette: “Carpe Glitter” by Cat Rambo (Meerkat), Short Story: “Give the Family My Love” by A.T. Greenblatt (Clarkesworld magazine, 2/19).  The Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation: Good Omens: “Hard Times” by Neil Gaiman (Amazon Studios/BBC Studios). The Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction: Riverland by Fran Wilde (Amulet), Best Game Writing: The Outer Worlds by Leonard Boyarsky, Kate Dollarhyde, Paul Kirsch, Chris L’Etoile, Daniel McPhee, Carrie Patel, Nitai Poddar, Marc Soskin, Megan Starks (Obsidian Entertainment).  The SFWA Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award: Lois McMaster Bujold. The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award: John Picacio and David Gaughran, and the Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr., Service to SFWA Award: Julia Rios

A shortlist has been announced for the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize, which honors a debut novel written in English and published in the U.K. National Centre of Writing, which administers the prize, said the books ” ‘grapple with questions of identity and belonging as their young protagonists navigate the maze of modern-day life’ and explore issues such as class difference, faith versus secular life, and the creation of new forms of family,” the Bookseller noted. This year’s Desmond Elliott shortlisted titles are: The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu, That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu.

The 2020 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award has been given to Chinese essayist and civil rights advocate Xu Zhiyong. Xu Zhiyong has not been heard from since February 2020, when he was arrested for writing an essay that called for China’s president Xi Jinping to resign following mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. Xu, a lawyer, has been a civil rights activist  for more than twenty years. PEN described his detention as “a targeted attack on writers and those who question the social and political status quo” and reported Xu is facing charges of “subverting state power,” which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.

A shortlist has been released for this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, which celebrates “the very best in crime fiction” and is open to U.K. and Irish crime authors. The award is produced and curated by arts charity Harrogate International Festivals and is presented in partnership with T&R Theakston, WH Smith and the Express. This year’s shortlisted titles are: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald, The Lost Man by Jane Harper, Joe Country by Mick Herron, The Chain by Adrian McKinty, and Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee. The winner, set to be revealed July 23 in a virtual awards ceremony, receives £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from Theakstons Brewery.

The novel Bluff (Poisoned Pen) by author Jane Stanton Hitchcock has won the 2019 Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing. The annual award recognizes quality writing in any U.S. or Canadian book examining or depicting crime and its effects, in any genre. It was established in 1991 and is awarded by the North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers.

Irish author Christine Dwyer Hickey has won the eleventh Walter Scott Prize for her novel The Narrow Land (Atlantic Books), in which she explores the marriage of the artists Edward and Jo Hopper. The prize is worth £25,000. It was founded in 2009 to honor the best fiction set sixty or more years ago, and is open to novels published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. Previous winners have hailed from England, Ireland, Scotland and Malaysia, with Irish author Sebastian Barry the only writer to have won the prize twice.

David Abulafia won the £40,000 (about $50,125) Wolfson History Prize, which recognizes a work of historical nonfiction that “combines excellence in research and writing, with readability for a general audience,” for The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans. The five shortlisted authors were each awarded £4,000 (about $5,010).

The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade will go this year to Amartya Sen, the Indian economist, philosopher, author and Nobel Prize winner who has taught at Harvard University since 2004, Börsenblatt reported. The board of the Prize Foundation called Sen “a philosopher who for decades has focused on questions of global equality and whose work fighting social inequality in education and health is more relevant today than ever.” The €25,000 (about $28,115) prize will be presented on October 18 in Frankfurt.

Lark by Anthony McGowan has won the CILIP Carnegie Medal for writing, and Tales from the Inner City written and illustrated by Shaun Tan has won the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration. The winning books were chosen by 14 volunteer Youth Librarians, from a total of 162 nominations this year, as the very best in children’s writing and illustration published in the U.K. The winners each receive £500 (about $625) worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a gold medal and a £5,000 ($6,250) Colin Mears Award cash prize.

The shortlist for the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, consists of: The White Girl by Tony Birch, Islands by Peggy Frew, No One by John Hughes, The Returns by Philip Salom, Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany, and The Yield by Tara June Winch. The winner of the A$60,000 prize will be announced July 16.

Téa Mutonji’s Shut Up You’re Pretty won the C$20,000 (about US$14,715) English-language Trillium Book Award, which is one of four prizes given to “recognize excellence, support marketing and foster increased public awareness of the quality and diversity of Ontario writers and writing. Unmeaningable by Roxanna Bennett took the C$10,000 (US$7,355) prize in the poetry category. The winner of the C$20,000 French-language Prix Trillium was Paul Ruban for Crevaison en corbillard, and Véronique Sylvain’s Premier quart won the Prix de poésie Trillium.

The Society of Authors distributed £100,000 (about $125,315) to 32 writers during the 2020 SoA Awards, which were announced via a video ceremony hosted by the organization’s chair Joanne Harris. Among the honorees, Kathryn Hind’s Hitch took the £10,000 (about $12,530) Betty Trask Prize for a first novel by a writer under 35; and the inaugural £5,000 (about $6,265) Queen’s Knickers Award, honoring an outstanding children’s original illustrated book for ages 0-7, went to Elena Arevalo Melville for Umbrella. See a complete list of winners here:

The Writers’ Union of Canada announced that Zalika Reid-Benta won the C$10,000 (about US$7,355) Danuta Gleed Literary Award, honoring the best first collection of short fiction, for Frying Plantain. Christy Ann Conlin’s Watermark and Terry Doyle’s DIG were named runners-up, each receiving C$1,000 (about US$735). Describing the winning book as “brilliant,” the jury said through Reid-Benta’s “quiet but unflinching prose, we witness a Black girl’s journey into adulthood. Along the way, we meet characters that are by turns lovable and frustrating, stubborn and vulnerable. Reid-Benta writes her characters into existence with great assurance, skill, and tenderness. Frying Plantain is as accomplished as it is delightful.”

Have a great month and please stay safe!



Congratulations to Sandra Merrick, who won a copy of Becoming: The Life & Musings of a Girl Poet by Nadia Brown.

Congratulations to Janet Donbavand, who won a copy of House of Weeds by Jack Wallington and Amy Charlotte Kean. 

Congratulations to Melanie P, who won a copy of Time Off by John Fitch & Max Frenzel

Also, surprise giveaway winner was Kathleen Gardiner, who won a copy of The Gringa by Andrew Altschul (we may do this from time to time, so stay subscribed and watch your in box!). 

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Radio Ireland by Kevin Mahon. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Radio Ireland” and your postal address in the body of the message.

We also have 2 copies of My Kind of Guy by Paddy Bostock. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “My Kind of Guy” and your postal address in the body of the message.

Finally, we’ve got an autographed copy of Gifts Without Wrapping by Michał Choiński ( To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Gifts Without Wrapping” and your postal address in the body of the message. 

Good luck, everyone!



Griffins Perch

Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings fans – here’s the new fantasy you’ve been waiting for!  Not since the Dragon Riders of Pern has the bond between rider and beast played such a important role.  Griffins Perch is “An epic fantasy which will transport you to another world. a world where anything is possible, and unimaginable creatures from mythology, and fantasy come alive before your very eyes.”  Visit:


Beyond the Graveyard

“When One Coffin Closes, Another One Opens.”  Active spirits roam far beyond the graveyard in this haunting collection of verse told ghost tales.  Eerie ghost stories for teens and adults who brave the paranormal.   Visit:

For more about the book and author visit:


The Road to Delano by John DeSimone

The Road to Delano is a coming of age novel set during the Delano grape strike led by Cesar Chavez. “…a historical narrative that will stand the test of time. Its messages of nonviolence being stronger than violence remind us of the great need to choose the higher moral ground, especially during harrowing times of unrest. DeSimone’s novel tells a classic story of the strength of friendship and how the choices we make every day pave life’s path.”  Book Review Directory  

Find out more here:



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Knitting Mangrove Roots by Kerri Shying, Mammoth by Chris Flynn, Worming of America or an Answer to the Arraignment of Women by Autumn Leaf, Shrapnel Maps by Philip Metres, and lots more reviews and interviews. 

Drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) to listen to our latest episode which features an interview with Nicola Redhouse who talks about her book Unlike the Heart. You can listen to the latest episode directly from the site widget or go to the website for all of our interviews (currently at 137 episodes). You can also subscribe to the show via iTunes and get updates automatically, straight to your favourite listening device. Find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader Talks. Then just click subscribe.  If you listen on iTunes and enjoy it, please leave a review – it will help others find us!  Thank you!


(c) 2020 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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