Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 22, Issue 8, 1 August 2020



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Hello readers.  Following is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of Mammoth by Chris Flynn

Most of the human characters in the book are real, and an attempt to bring back the Wooly Mammoth is happening, as detailed in the “Epilogus hominum” in order to try and slow global warming.  Flynn does a stellar job of bringing together fantasy and history and Mammoth is a joy to read.  The book is a cautionary, bold, loving and instructive tale that is mostly historically accurate, always funny, and often poignant.  Read more:

A review of Fifty Miles by Sheryl St Germain

Reading Fifty Miles brought me to tears a few times, but St Germain courage and determination inspired me and made me reflect as a mother. Fifty Miles is a book that won’t disappoint readers. Read more:

A review of My Skin its Own Sky by Gillian Swain

My skin its own sky is an intensely honest book, one that doesn’t shirk at going into dark places or sharing what is unbearable.  But always, and throughout this gorgeous collection, in every poem, there is a moment of transformation, where pain becomes beauty. This is the power of the work—by looking and exploring these domestic, broken, and charged moments with the clarity of a poetic gaze, Gillian Swain gives them back to us whole. Read more:

A Land of Turmoil and Treasure: a review of Paul Rabinowitz’s The Clay Urn

Rabinowitz, through his deeply lyrical prose, reminds us that not all things are destroyed during war time and that some can never be, like love between two people, like the desire to create something beyond our imagination, something more beautiful than our history, than our present. Read more:

An interview with Jane Novak

Literary powerhouse Jane Novak talks about the changing role of the literary agent, the impact of Covid-19 on the world of books – reading and publishing, trends, predictions, advice, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Becoming Lady Washington by Betty Bolté.

Reading Becoming Lady Washington, one feels a little like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (published 1813) when she first sets eyes on Mr. Darcy’s palatial home and vast landholdings. Martha’s lifestyle on her first husband’s estate and then at Mount Vernon was similarly luxurious. Read more:

A review of Knitting Mangrove Roots by Kerri Shying

Shying’s themes are powerful and topical, exploring violence, drug use and dealing, parenting, ecological destruction, disability, prejudice, and sensual joy.  The mix is natural and compelling, working through a distinctive voice intensely, sometimes painfully honest. Read more:

A review of The Nail in the Tree by Carol Ann Davis

Davis expertly controls the narrative threads of their day-to-day reality while explaining what inspires her to write. Further into the book, these intimate details open up into a wider scope of the connection between life and art. She accomplishes this without appropriating the grief of the families with murdered children, instead Nail in the Tree tells how Davis’ life became what it is. Read more:

An interview with Jaylan Salah

The author of Workstation Blues talks about her new poetry collection, her background, on working cross-genre, on translating, her love of animals and how that impacts on her work, her work-in-progress and more. Read more:

A review of Griffins Perch by Ian Conner

Lovers of the fantasy genre will find many of their favourite creatures in this world, each with their own stories and important parts to play in making this an outstanding fantasy adventure. There are nasty little gargoyles, and black fairies with lots of tiny teeth, trolls, elves and pixies. 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 2,648), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Indian author Kritika Pandey was named overall winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and will receive £5,000 (about $6,265) for her unpublished work “The Great India Tee and Snakes,” which explores forbidden love, and the relationship between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man, set against the backdrop of a tea seller’s stall.

The winners in the many categories of the British Book Awards were celebrated yesterday and can be seen here: Among them: Author of the Year: Bernardine Evaristo, whose most recent book is Booker-winning Girl, Woman, Other.  Overall Book of the Year: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, which also won Debut Book of the Year.  Book Retailer of the Year: Waterstones, which was cited for “a remarkable revitalisation under managing director James Daunt.”  Independent Bookshop of the Year: Book-ish, Crickhowell, cited for “superb service, imaginative book buying, great promotions and lively social media” as well as a creative response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Royal Society of Literature announced that Patrick McGuinness won the £10,000 (about $12,530) Encore Award, recognising a best second novel, for Throw Me to the Wolves. “I’ve always thought this award was one of the most empathetic around,” McGuinness said. “It’s a real boost as well as an honor to win it because it understands that part of a writer’s life–neither sprint nor marathon–that gets forgotten.”

That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu has won the £10,000 (about $12,485) 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize for the year’s best debut novel, the Guardian reported. It called the book a “semi-autobiographical novel [that] follows a British-Ghanaian boy, K, as he passes through different foster homes. It explores identity, sexuality, mental health and abuse as K moves from the Suffolk countryside to inner-city London. Owusu began writing it while he was in a mental health facility, creating the character of K to help him understand the breakdown he was going through.”

Winners have been named for the 2020 Orwell Prizes, which reward work that comes closest to achieving George Orwell’s ambition to “make political writing into an art.” Each winner in the four categories receives £3,000 (about $3,760). Colson Whitehead won the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction for The Nickel Boys, which the judging panel called an “expertly crafted historical novel,” adding that it “is as convincing in its character portrayal as it is unsparing in its depiction of corruption and racial brutality. All the while it provides unimpeachable evidence that human dignity and love can provide a beacon for transforming lives that’s ultimately more powerful and enduring than violence.” The Orwell Prize for Political Writing went to Kate Clanchy for Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. In the journalism categories, Ian Birrell won the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils and the Orwell Prize for Journalism went to Janice Turner.

Matthew Dooley’s Flake became the first graphic novel to win the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, “celebrating the novels that have really made people laugh in the past year.” Dooley receives a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and a complete set of the Everyman’s Library Wodehouse.

Nigerian-British writer Irenosen Okojie won the £10,000 (about $12,530) AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “Grace Jones,” which was published in her 2019 collection Nudibranch (Dialogue Books). Because of the coronavirus pandemic and continuing government restrictions, this year the organizers commissioned British-Nigerian filmmaker Joseph A. Adesunloye to direct and produce a documentary film celebrating the shortlist and announcing the winner.Okojie’s debut novel, Butterfly Fish, won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her short story collection, Speak Gigantular, was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Saboteur Awards and nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced on Monday that Colson Whitehead, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad, will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction during the 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival. The annual Prize for American Fiction, one of the LoC’s most prestigious awards, honors an American literary writer “whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination.”

Tillie Walden’s Are You Listening? (First Second), a magical and emotional story of the friendship and grief shared by two young women, was awarded the 2020 Eisner Award for the Best New Graphic Novel, during an online version of the annual awards ceremony that was streamed the evening of July 24. Eisner winners also included actor George Takei (with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker) for his graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy. Raina Telgemeier’s Guts (Graphix) won the Eisner for Best Kids Graphic Novel; writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Rosemary Valierio O’Connell’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (First Second) was awarded the Eisner for Best Graphic Novel for Teens; and Ivan Brunetti’s Easy as ABC (Toon Books) won the Eisner for Best Publication for Early Readers.

The longlist for the 2020 Booker Prize was released. The prize, which is valued at £50,000, is open to English-language novels from authors of any nationality published in the U.K. or Ireland. This year’s list was chosen from 162 novels published between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020. Eight of the novels chosen are debuts; nine of authors are men and four are women. The full longest can be found here:

Finally, Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch was named the winner of the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award for her novel The Yield. The announcement was livestreamed via YouTube ceremony, as befits the era of the coronavirus pandemic – and to accommodate the fact that the Wiradjuri writer is currently living in France. The Yield took her a decade to write. In awarding her the $60,000 prize, the judging panel praised the novel as “haunting and accomplished”. “It broke my heart to write it,” Winch says.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Carol De Brikasaan who won a copy of Gifts Without Wrapping by Michał Choiński. 

Congratulations to K Peters, who won a copy of Radio Ireland by Kevin Mahon.

Congratulations to Siri Hansen and Michael O’Sullivan, who each won a copy of  My Kind of Guy by Paddy Bostock.

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

We also have an autographed copy of The City that Barks and Roars by JT Bird. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “The City that Barks and Roars” and your postal address in the body of the message.

Finally, we have a copy of Have You Seen These Children? A Memoir by Veronica Slaughter. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Have you Seen These Children” and your postal address in the body of the message.

Good luck, everyone!



Mia by Joseph Sciuto

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from coming up to bat.”  BABE RUTH 

A baseball book wrapped in a domestic drama, Mia teaches us as much about love and family as it does about the imperfect history of America’s beautiful game  




We will shortly be featuring reviews of Imperfect: How our bodies shape the people we become by Lee Kofman, No Finish by Deborah Woodard, Virginia Woolf and the Women who Shaped her World by Gillian Gill, Karen Pearlman’s trilogy of films rediscovering the work of Soviet women filmmakers and artists: Woman with an Editing Bench, After the Facts, and I want to make a film about women, 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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