Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 23, Issue 4, 1 April 2021



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

A review of Love Objects by Emily Maguire

Though Love Objects shines a bright light on everyday misogyny, institutionalised sexism and classism, it is not the least bit polemical. Love Objects is as engaging a novel as I’ve read, full of beauty – some of it very subtle – including the deep love between the main characters, and a rich sense of what remains when you strip away judgement and artifice, moving towards an almost exuberant affirmation of life and love.

Read more:

A review of Foxline by Chris Mansell

Foxline is an exquisite, bold work of poetry, with each poem taking on multiple meanings and holding back just the right amount at the point of denouement to allow space for the reader to pause, think, and engage.  Mansell’s writing is masterly in its restraint, and beautifully written throughout. Though Flying Island’s Pocket Poetry series uses a tagline of “minor works,” Foxline is anything but. Read more:

A review of Mostly Sonnets: Formal Poetry in an Informal World by James A Tweedie

Tweedie is a very fluid writer with a clean, clear, expressive style, which grabs ahold of you with its immediacy and beauty of execution. What is most striking is the mixture of Christian belief intermingled with an honesty of thought, never coming across as sermonizing, but expressing a faith-filled wonder and appreciation for the natural world and the place of the intelligent believer within it. Read more:

A review of The Gopher King by Gojan Nikolich

The Gopher King is a ribald fantasy wrapped up in a psychological drama. As such, it can be appreciated at several levels. How much of Stan’s delusions do readers take literally? It is hard to say. But, in the words of the gopher king himself, “If you want to have a headache about the meaning of things, then you have to provide your own aspirin.” Read more:

A review of What a Wonderful World This Could Be by Lee Zacharias

Zacharias skilfully achieves a balance between Alex’s personal journey and the historical events of the 1960s and ‘70s by presenting events from Alex’s unsophisticated perspective. Alex loves Ted Neal, but it is her photography that gives her an identity and  a sense of agency. As she tells her students many years later: “You are the subject of your photographs. You act upon the object.” Read more:

A review of Third Eye Rising by Murzban F. Shroff

Seamlessly, these stories jigsaw together to show the startling offshoots of the traditions of India: the greater freedom of husbands than wives; the camaraderie of male drinking and its hazardous spill into families; the ways wealth and poverty bedevil relationships; the unslakable appetites evoked by success; the homely places where love thrives. Read more:

An interview with T.I. Lowe

The author of Under the Magnolias talks about her new book and why it is different from her other romance novels, the emotions she felt while writing, her characters, setting, themes, her own personal experiences and inspiration, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Red Hands by Colin Sargent

The dangers Ceausescu faces become all the more convincing in Sargent’s depictions of their interviews in which information leaks out bit by painstaking bit. In contrast, she comes across in the rest of the story as a confident and principled woman. The novel focuses on the actions she takes to protect herself, her son, and fellow citizens. Read more:

A Review of Beyond the Moon’s White Claw by Patty Dickson Pieczka

Perhaps what is most heartrending is the poem is cast in the present simple conditional mood until the last sentence throws it into the past, which cannot be changed. The speaker’s helplessness before the pain of the PTSD of her ex-husband is compounded and yet inevitably accepted by that painful turn. In the collection, the various symbols from here on begin reversing and resolving. Read more:

A review of Airplane Baby Banana Blanket by Benjamin Dodds

From the first poem, in this compelling book, the reader will experience a variety of emotions as well as thoughts questioning the ethics of the experiment. In narrative poetry form, with creative talent and imagination, the author recount events in in the life of Lucy. His words flow with musicality and stories are fascinating. Read more:

An interview with Melanie Dobson

The author of The Curator’s Daughter talks about her new book and what inspired the storyline and characters, how she connected her two main characters, what makes the book unique compared to other books in the WWII genre, some of the surprising things she found in her research, her favourite and most difficult characters, her new work-in-progress, and lots more. 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 2,757), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the considerable literary news this month, A shortlist has been released for the €100,000 (about $117,965) Dublin Literary Award, sponsored by Dublin City Council to honor a single work of fiction published in English. The shortlist features novels from Ireland, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S., nominated by librarians worldwide. The winner will be named May 20, as part of the opening day program of International Literature Festival Dublin. This year’s shortlisted titles are:  Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli , Apeirogon by Colum McCann, Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. 

The finalists for the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction have been announced, and are as follows: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia University Press), Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear by Matthew Salesses (Little A), The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe (Alfred A. Knopf), Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman (Scribner), and Scattered Lights by Steve Wiegenstein (Cornerpost). The five finalists were selected from a list of 419 novels and short story collections published in the U.S. during 2020. The winner will receive $15,000, and will be announced on April 6. An awards celebration will be held virtually on May 10, and will also honor LeVar Burton, who has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion.

The Los Angeles Times has announced the finalists and honorees of the 41st annual Book Prizes. Leslie Marmon Silko will be honored with the Robert Kirsch Award, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation will receive the Innovator’s Award and Andrew O’Hagan will be presented with the Christopher Isherwood Prize. The winners will be announced virtually on Friday, April 16, prior to the Festival of Books, Stories, and Ideas.  The full finalist list is here:

The longlist for the 2021 Stella Prize, which celebrates Australian women’s writing, has been announced. The prize includes Rebecca Giggs’ Fathoms, SL Lim’s Revenge: Murder in Three Parts, Laura Jean McKay’s The Animals in that Country, Louise Milligan’s Witness, Cath Moore’s Metal Fish, Falling snow, Intan Paramaditha’s The Wandering, Mirandi Riwoe’s Stone Sky Gold Mountain, Ellena Savage’s Blueberries, Nardi Simpson’s Songs of the Crocodile, Elizabeth Tan’s Smart Ovens for Lonely People, Jessie Tu’s A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing, and Evie Wyld’s The Bass Rock. The 2021 Stella Prize saw over 160 entries. Stella’s judges — Zoya Patel (Chair), Jane Harrison, Elizabeth McCarthy, Ian See and Tamara Zimet — have selected twelve outstanding books for the 2021 Stella Prize longlist.

The Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize shortlist has been announced: Brooke Scobie for ‘Bidjigal Double Brick Dreaming’, Sara Saleh for ‘Border Control: Meditations’, Frances Libeau for ‘sea-tree emblem’, Yasmin Smith for ‘The Saltpan’, Harry Reid for ‘Book of Hours’, Brian Obiri-Asare for ‘what’s hobbling the beat (a soliloquy in three related rhythms)’, Declan Fry for ‘Wanala Sunset’, and Andrew Brooks for ‘Threshold”. Established in 2007, the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for new and emerging poets is supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation. Entrants must have no more than one collection of poems published under their own name. This year, the major prize is $6000, and second and third prize is $2000 and $1000 respectively. All three poets will be published in the autumn 2021 issue of Overland.

The 2020 Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize shortlist includes Adam Thompson for ‘Crossroads’, Nicholas Duddy for ‘Six Facts about Monarchs’, Amanda Niehaus for ’Genesis: A Field Study’, Laurie Steed for ‘The Butterflyfish’, Tricia Dearborn for ‘The Case of G: A Child Raised by Trains’, Alison Martin for ‘Kaleen Means Water in Wiradjuri’,Madison Griffiths for ‘And Then There is Pink’, and Allison Browning for ‘Anchor Point’.  This year, first place receives $5000 and publication in the autumn 2021 issue of Overland, while two runner-up stories will be awarded $750 each and published at Overland online, coinciding with the print edition.

Yaniv Iczkovits won the £4,000 (about $5,580) Wingate Literary Prize, which recognises “the best book, fiction or nonfiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader,” for his historical novel The Slaughterman’s Daughter.

The winner of the Story Prize for books published in 2020 is The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (West Virginia University Press). The other finalists were The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (Riverhead Books) and Likes by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The winner receives $20,000 and the runners-up each receive $5,000.  Because of the pandemic, rather than hold a live event as usual, the Story Prize has recorded short readings by and interviews with the three finalists for the award. The complete video will be posted on YouTube.

A longlist has been released for the £30,000 (about $41,880) Women’s Prize for Fiction. The shortlist will be announced April 28 and a winner named July 7. This year’s longlisted titles are: Because of You by Dawn French, Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi, Consent by Annabel Lyon, Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters, Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones, Luster by Raven Leilani, No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers, Summer by Ali Smith, The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, and Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.

The finalists of the 33rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards have been announced. These include, for Lesbian Fiction, Bestiary, K-Ming Chang, One World, Butter Honey Pig Bread, Francesca Ekwuyasi, Arsenal Pulp Press, Exile Music, Jennifer Steil, Viking, Fiebre Tropical, Juli Delgado Lopera, Feminist Press, and Pizza Girl, Jean Kyoung Frazier, Doubleday. For Gay Fiction, Cleanness, Garth Greenwell, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Neotenica, Joon Oluchi Lee, Nightboat Books, Real Life, Brandon Taylor, Riverhead Books, Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart, Grove Atlantic, and This Town Sleeps, Dennis E. Staples, Counterpoint Press. For the full list visit:  Winners will be announced in a virtual award ceremony on Tuesday, June 1

The Science Fiction Writers of America has announced the finalists for this year’s Nebula Awards. The awards are presented and voted upon by SFWA 2,000 members. The 56th Nebula Awards ceremony will take place virtually on June 5, during the Nebula Conference, which will be held June 4-6. For novel, the finalists include: Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury US; Bloomsbury UK), The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US & UK), Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher), The Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk (Erewhon), Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga; Solaris), and Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom).  For the full list visit:

Nicole Krauss has won the inaugural Sami Rohr Inspiration Award for Fiction and will be presented with the $36,000 award at a virtual ceremony in June. The Inspiration Award, introduced this year to mark the 15th anniversary of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, recognizes “a well-known author whose books have made a valuable contribution to Jewish literature and who will serve as a role model to Fellows of the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute.“ Krauss is the author of Man Walks Into a Room, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year in 2003; Forest Dark; Great House, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Orange Prize; The History of Love, winner of the Saroyan Prize for International Literature and France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger; and To Be a Man, her first collection of short stories, which was published in November 2020.

The Category Winners of the 2021 Indie Book Awards have been announced.  The overall winner of Book of the Year was: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (Affirm Press). For fiction, Honeybee by Craig Silvey (Allen & Unwin). For nonfiction, Phosphorescence by Julia Baird (Fourth Estate Australia), for debut fiction, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (Affirm Press), for illustrated nonfiction, Plantopedia by Lauren Camilleri & Sophia Kaplan (Smith Street Books), for children, The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor (Affirm Press), and for young adult, This One is Ours by Kate O’Donnell (University of Queensland Press). The Indies are considered the forerunners of all major Australian book awards. Since the Awards inception in 2008, the Indies have a well-deserved reputation for picking the best of the best in Australian writing. 

The State Library of NSW has announced 2021 NSW Premier’s Awards shortlist. The Christina Stead fiction prize includes A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville, Murmurations by Carol Lefevre, Cherry Beach by Laura McPhee-Browne, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, The Weekend by Charlotte Wood, and The Bass Book by Evie Wyld. For the full list of all shortlisted titles, visit:

The winners of the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prizes have been announced. Eight writers, who are being honored for their literary achievement or promise, will receive $165,000 each to support their work. The prize is administered by Yale University. There is no shortlist and the judges are not named. Two awards are given in each of the following categories: drama, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The winners are Dionne Brand (Canada/Trinidad and Tobago), Kate Briggs (United Kingdom/Netherlands), Nathan Alan Davis (United States), Renee Gladman (United States), Vivian Gornick (United States), Michael R. Jackson (United States), Canisia Lubrin (Saint Lucia/Canada), Natalie Scenters-Zapico (United States).

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) announces the selection of the 10 finalists for the 2019 Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards. The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award honors a midcareer poet with $100,000; the Kate Tufts Discovery Award recognizes the work of a poet of promise with $10,000. Winners will be announced in February. This year’s finalists for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award are Tyree Daye for “River Hymns,” Diana Khoi Nguyen for “Ghost Of,” Justin Phillip Reed for “Indecency,” Vanessa Angélica Villarreal for “Beast Meridian” and Javier Zamora for “Unaccompanied.” This year’s finalists for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award are CAConrad for “While Standing in Line for Death,” Terrance Hayes for “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin,” Brenda Hillman for “Extra Hidden Life, among the Days,” Dawn Lundy Martin for “Good Stock Strange Blood” and Craig Santos Perez for “from unincorporated territory [lukao].” The Kingsley Tufts Award was started at CGU in 1992 by Kate Tufts to honor her late husband, Kingsley, who held various executive positions in LA-area shipyards and wrote and published poetry. The Kate Tufts Discovery Award followed a year later.

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced last night in a virtual event produced by Wildbound Live. This year’s NBCC Award recipents are:Fiction: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf), Nonfiction: Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire by Tom Zoellner (Harvard Univ. Press), Poetry: Here Is the Sweet Hand by francine j. harris (FSG), Autobiography: Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong (One World), Biography: Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World by Amy Stanley (Scribner), and Criticism: Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration by Nicole R. Fleetwood (Harvard Univ. Press). The John Leonard Prize was presented to Raven Leilani for Luster (FSG); the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing to Jo Livingstone; and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award to the Feminist Press.

In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado has won the £30,000 (about $41,150) 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize, which honors “works of literature in which the subjects being explored achieve their most perfect and thrilling expression.”

The prize givers described In the Dream House, published in the U.S. by Graywolf Press, as “a breathtakingly inventive, unflinchingly honest examination of domestic abuse in a female relationship, in which Machado breaks down the idea of what the memoir form can do and be–and bravely approaches a subject for which literary treatment has been extremely rare.”

The shortlist for the 2021 International Prize for Arabic Fiction consists of: The Eye of Hammurabi by Abdulatif Ould Abdullah (Algeria), Notebooks of the Bookshop Keeper by Jalal Bargas (Jordan), Calamity of the Nobility by Amira Ghenim (Tunisia), The Bird Tattoo by Dunya Mikhail (Iraq), File 42 by Abdelmajid Sebbata (Morocco), and Longing for the Woman Next Door by Habib Selmi (Tunisia). Each of the six shortlisted authors will receive $10,000, and the winner, who will be announced May 25, receives an additional $50,000.

Finally, phew, the recipients of the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards Career Achievement honors, recognizing “distinct, lifelong contributors to literary and artistic excellence,” are: PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature: Anne Carson, PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing: Kwame Dawes, PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award: Daniel Alexander Jones, PEN/Manheim Award for Translation: Pierre Joris, and PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award: George C. Wolfe. 

Have a good month. 



Congratulations to Cheryl Greenleaf, who won a copy of The Curator’s Daughter by Melanie Dobson.  (Our Catch 42 giveaway has been put back to June but I will readvertise it then and if you’ve already entered, you’re in)

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Kicking and Screaming: A Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts by Melanie Gibson.  To win send me an email at with the subject line “Kicking and Screaming” and your postal address in the body of the email.  

We also have 2 copies of Raging Waters in the South China Sea by Rachel A Winston and Ishika Sachdeva. To win send me an email at with the subject line “Raging Waters” and your postal address in the body of the email.

Good luck, everyone!



We will shortly be featuring a conversation between HL Hix and Dante Di Stefano, reviews of Second Story by Denise Duhamel, Sylvia Pankhurst, Natural Born Rebel by Rachel Holmes, One Hundred Letters Home by Adam Aitken, 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 Chris Mansell reads from and talks about her book Foxline, reviewed this month. 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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