Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 23, Issue 3, 1 March 2021



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
Coming soon


Hello readers.  Here is the latest batch of reviews and interviews:

A review of Here Lies a Father by McKenzie Cassidy

Secrets and lies permeate this entire story. “Mom had probably known most of his secrets just being married to him for so long, and he had slowly been filling Catherine’s ears with tidbits, I knew close to nothing.” The author of Here Lies a Father, McKenzie Cassidy, might very well been talking about the process of constructing his first novel when he reveals Ian’s state of mind as well as the main thematic elements concerning all of the lies he has heard his whole life. “The truth didn’t matter as much as the way a story made you feel… Read more:

A review of My Stunt Double by Travis Denton

Mourning vies with exultation at every crisp turn of phrase and every crunchy, unexpected line break. Some of that mourning is for the earth, for its creatures, for human folly and ignorance, for the apprehended apocalyptic end of days. Mourning is sometimes captured in references to popular music hits — Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash always blaring out of cars of boys, and fathers who don’t know what to do with, without or about the boys — and sometimes in the symphony of stars, skies, space and otherworldliness.  Read more:

An interview with Anahid Nersessian

The author of Keats’s Odes: A Lover’s Discourse talks about her latest book, the way in which her lived experience complicates her understanding of this canonical poet and the way in which she’s had a personal conversation with him about poetry and pain, activism and revolution, love and the sublime, on poetry and social movements, what’s exciting her in contemporary poetics, and lots more. Read more:

A review of HellWard: The English Cantos Volume One by James Sale

In HellWard we find powerful, often disturbing language, simultaneously raw and refined, beautiful and at times jolting in its honesty. What struck me particularly throughout the book is the way Sale uses mono-syllabic words to powerful effect: death, hell, pain, depth, weak, guts, ache, dark, gunk, blight, flesh, tears, stench, dread, blood, hiss, oozed,“clots of gore” (a wonderful image), cries, groans, filth, swill, “smelt the blood” (another wonderful image), skull, skin, bone, ice, heat, hot, bare, raw, mess, froth, “dark webs,” “hard  knots”, guilt, “black holes,” blotch, stank, bleak, slop, “greed and pride and lust,” and “sick slime.” Read more:

A review of Tears of Amber by Sofia Segovia

Sofia Segovia uses interior monologue, an excellent technique for showing readers what goes on in characters’ hearts and minds. Sometimes, though, the time shifts in a character’s thoughts make the story hard to follow. In some sections it takes careful reading to distinguish between the recent past and the less recent past. Segovia could have put the wartime parts of the story in the present and the older characters’ memories in the past, but perhaps use of the present would have spoiled the story’s “once upon a time” quality.  Read more:

A review of How to be Australian by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

Of course every migrant’s experience is different, but Ashley’s story is one that’s both poignant and often hysterically funny.  Like a Canadian Bill Bryson, she shines a light on the distinctive Aussie culture that locals take for granted, but also renders those quirks hilarious and also painful in a way that only comes with a kind of deep-seated observation edged with love. Read more:

Interview with Jess Corban

The author of A Gentle Tyranny talks about the inspiration for her novel, characters, and setting, writing for a YA audience, her research, themes, how she became a writer, and lots more.  Read more:

A review of The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Though set in Naples, The Lying Life of Adults is not about friends rising from the slums, as in Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet. Nor is it about the value of returning to one’s roots. Giovanna, the narrator-protagonist, who is twelve to sixteen during the novel’s time frame, is being raised in a progressive way by her middle-class, secular, intellectual parents. Read more:

A review of Vegan Junk Food by Zacchary Bird

The name of the book is, of course, a misnomer. There’s nothing junky about these recipes, which use high quality fresh ingredients, often made from scratch and generally, with only a few (worth it) exceptions, pretty healthy. However, Vegan Junk Food is not a book that tries to extol the health virtues of eating a vegan diet.  Veganism is better for the planet and less cruel to animals, and that’s reason enough to eat vegan more often. Read more:

A review of Sonnets by Theresa Rodriguez

As both a poet and a trained classical singer, Rodriguez is more consciously aware of the musicality of poetry than most, and it is not surprising that other poems in this collection such as ‘The Piano,’ and ‘Oh, When I Hear,’ also take music as a subject. Most are of course not directly about music, per se, though all display the melodious qualities of regular meter and perfect rhyme. 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 2,745), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Laura Jean McKay was named winner of the 2021 Victorian Prize for Literature for her debut novel, The Animals in That Country. In addition to receiving Australia’s richest literary prize, McKay’s novel – which takes place amid a pandemic that causes victims to hear the voices of animals – also received the Prize for Fiction. The Awards ceremony was held as a free online digital event for the first time, making the celebration accessible for viewers across the country. The People’s Choice Award, worth $2,000, went to Louise Milligan for Witness: An Investigation into the Brutal Cost of Seeking Justice. Charting the experiences of those who have the courage to come forward and face their abusers in high-profile child abuse and sexual assault cases, Witness is a call for change. ThePrize for Poetry went to Case Notes by David Stavanger (NSW, UWA Publishing). The Prize for Indigenous Writing went to Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music by Archie Roach (Victoria, Simon & Schuster Australia). Read about all the shortlisted titles – including excerpts and judges’ comments – here:

A shortlist has been released for the £4,000 (about $5,475) Wingate Literary Prize, which is run in association with JW3 and recognizes “the best book, fiction or nonfiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader.” The winner will be named March 7 at an online event. This year’s shortlisted titles are:  House of Glass by Hadley Freeman, On Division by Goldie Goldbloom, The Slaughterman’s Daughter by Yaniv Iczkovits, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb, Apeirogon by Colum McCann, When Time Stopped by Ariana Neumann, and We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation has released a 10-title longlist for the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Five finalists will be announced in early March and the winner named in April. The longlisted titles are: Bestiary by K-Ming Chang (One World), Dear Ann by Bobbie Ann Mason (HarperCollins), Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear by Matthew Salesses (Little A), The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe (Knopf), Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman (Scribner), Nine Shiny Objects by Brian Castleberry (Custom House), The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (Riverhead), Scattered Lights by Steve Wiegenstein (Cornerpost), The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia University Press), and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf),  In addition, LeVar Burton, award-winning actor and longtime host of Reading Rainbow, has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion, which recognizes “devoted literary advocacy and a commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers.”

The American Library Association named the winners of the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. Each winning author receives $5,000. All the finalists will be honored during a celebratory event at ALA’s 2021 Annual Conference in June. This year’s Carnegie Medal winners are: Fiction: Deacon King Kong by James McBride (Riverhead), and Nonfiction: Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs (S&S). Read our review of this phenomenal book here:

The winners of the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were announced by the Minister for Creative Industries, Danny Pearson. Prize money of $25,000 was awarded in each of the following categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Indigenous Writing, Drama, Poetry and Writing for Young Adults. A prize of $15,000 was awarded to the winner of the Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript. All seven of the Award categories went on to contest Australia’s richest literary prize, the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature. The major award for the night, the Victorian Prize for Literature, was won by Laura Jean McKay whose novel, The Animals in That Country, also took out the Prize for Fiction. Prize for Non-Fiction
Body Count: How Climate Change is Killing Us by Paddy Manning (NSW, Simon & Schuster Australia). The Prize for Drama went to: Wonnangatta by Angus Cerini (Victoria, Sydney Theatre Company). The Prize for Poetry went to Case Notes by David Stavanger (NSW, UWA Publishing). For Young Adult Writing: Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore (Victoria, Text Publishing), Indigenous Writing: Tell Me Why: The Story of My Life and My Music by Archie Roach (Victoria, Simon & Schuster Australia), Unpublished Manuscript Award: Anam by André Dao (Victoria), and People’s Choice Award: Witness: An Investigation into the Brutal Cost of Seeking Justice by Louise Milligan (Hachette Australia). You can watch the ceremony, which took place online this year, here:

Poet Kiki Petrosino has won the 2021 University of North Texas Rilke Prize for her collection White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia. The annual award, which comes with a $10,000 prize and is named after German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, recognises “a book that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision written by a mid-career poet and published in the preceding year.”

A longlist has been released for the €100,000 (about $120,320) International Dublin Literary Award, which is sponsored by Dublin City Council to honor a single work of fiction published in English. Nominations include 18 novels in translation with works nominated by libraries from 30 countries across Africa, Europe, Asia, the U.S. & Canada, South America and Australia & New Zealand. The shortlist will be announced March 25 and the winner named May 20, as part of the opening day program of International Literature Festival Dublin. Check out the complete International Dublin Literary Award longlist here:

Jessica Au has won the 2020 Novel Prize for her unpublished novel Cold Enough for Snow. The Novel Prize is a biennial award for an unpublished book-length work of literary fiction written in English by anyone around the world. It honors books that “explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and are innovative and imaginative in style.” The winner receives $10,000 and simultaneous publication in the UK and Ireland by the London-based Fitzcarraldo Editions, in Australia and New Zealand by Sydney publisher Giramondo, and in North America by New York’s New Directions. Au’s novel will be published in 2022.

The shortlist has been released for the £30,000 (about $41,190) Rathbones Folio Prize, which recognizes “works of literature in which the subjects being explored achieve their most perfect and thrilling expression.” The winner will be named March 24 in a digital ceremony hosted with the British Library. This year’s shortlisted titles are:  handiwork by Sara Baume, Indelicacy by Amina Cain, As You Were by Elaine Feeney, Poor by Caleb Femi, My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado, A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. 

Finalists in the 25 categories of the 2021 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year and the Audie Award for Young Adult, have been announced by the Audio Publishers Association and can be seen here. Winners will be revealed during the virtual Audie Awards Gala on March 22 at 9 p.m. Eastern and will stream live here:

Finally, The longlist has been unveiled for the £25,000 (about $32,375) Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. A shortlist will be announced at the end of April, and the winner named in mid-June. Because of the postponement of the Borders Book Festival this year, the winner will be announced online and through media. This year’s longlisted titles are: Hinton by Mark Blacklock, The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte, The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd, A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville, Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths, Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah, A Treacherous Country by K.M. Kruimink, The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. 

Have a good month. 



Congratulations to Mary Preston, who won a copy of Biological Necessity by Jennifer Maiden. 

Congratulations to Jean Patton who won a copy of Prepped by Bethany Mangle.

Congratulations to Laurie Blum who won a copy The Measure of Gold by Sarah C Patten. 

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of The Curator’s Daughter by Melanie Dobson. To win send me an email at with the subject line “Curator’s Daughter” and your postal address in the body of the email.  

We also have a copy of Catch 42 by Felix Holzapfel to give away! To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Catch 42” and your postal address in the body of the mail. . 

Good luck, everyone!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Love Objects by Emily Maguire, Foxline by Chris Mansell, Airplane Baby Banana Blanket by Benjamin Dodds, Third Eye Rising by Murzban F. Shroff, 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 in which Paul Rabinowitz, author of The Clay Urn, is interviewed by Tinfoil Crowns author Erin Jones. You can listen to the latest episode directly from the site widget or go to show directly here:

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) 2021 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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