Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 18, Issue 1, 1 Jan 2017



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
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Hello readers and happy new year. We are now in our 18th year and some of you have been with us for a long time and through a lot of life changes! Thank you so much for your company, fellow booksters – I’m honoured that you continue to visit/read/interact with Compulsive Reader. I’m also very excited to report that I have a new poetry book, Unmaking Atoms, due for release by Ginninderra Press sometime within the month or so (a formal launch will happen at this year’s Newcastle Writers Festival – please stay tuned!). If you’d like to be on the promo list, please drop me a line with your details and I’ll make sure you’re kept in the loop. In the meantime, here is the latest batch of reviews and interviews this month:

A review of Blue Hallelujahs by Cynthia Manick

Cynthia Manick’s Blue Hallelujahs is an impressive debut poetry collection. Manick’s talent shines here. Her poetry is like a good meal, worth savoring. She describes small things in big ways. This approach draws the reader into the landscape of her poetry. In The Shop Washington Built, laughter is described as “the size of two small ships” (8) and strength is the ability “to hold lightening inside/grow daughters among/shifting currents” (Things I Carry Into The World, 16). Read more:

Interview with Sue Duff

The author of Stack a Deck talks about book four in the Weir Chronicles, provides a catch-up on the first 3 books, her research, the Tick Tock anthology, her favourite method of writing and lots more. For the full review visit:

A review of Brie Season by Jen Karetnick

Jen Karetnick’s Brie Season reminds us that food is life and life is food. The pages of this collection is littered with odes to the art of cooking and eating. The poems remind us of the joy that is food. Karetnick reinforces this understanding by aligning food with mundane items. In this way, we become aware of the specialness inherent in what we eat. Read more:

A review of Pale Hearts by Emily Eckart

Emily Eckart’s debut short story collection, is unique and outstanding first and foremost for her literary craftswomanship. In “The Beech Tree”, the first story in the collection, she skilfully uses the imagery of trees, fruit and flowers in showing an unhappy girl’s relationship with her grandmother. More than just a detail of setting, the tree symbolizes the love between Grandma and her late husband, which flourished, grew large and endured. For the full review visit:

A review of Bulletproof by Wolfgang Carstens

Bulletproof is all about mortality and the poems develop like a verse novel as they attempt to come to grips with the inevitable that waits for us all. Despite the morbidity, the poems are never maudlin. In fact, they’re almost cheery, in a grim black sort of way, effectively giving the middle finger to death. How very Lemmy, though he wasn’t immortal after all. Read more:

A review of The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig

For much of the book, Zweig brings all his formidable talents as a writer to evoke the Europe which he had lost. There is a fierce intelligence, a passionate humanity, a reverence for art at play here. He is in a sense a revenant, for his first readers no less than for us too, in that he embodies that lost Europe. We are given vivid, indelible portraits of Rilke, Rodin, Freud, Herzl, Hoffmanstahl, Rathenau, Joyce, Richard Strauss… These are some of those whom Zweig met and knew, sometimes worked and collaborated with. For the full review visit:

A review of The Writers Room by Charlotte Wood

Most of the writers interviewed came across as incredibly generous, surprisingly humble, and warm and accessible. Wood allowed the writers to approve their interviews before they went to print, and the resulting transcripts are beautifully readable, smooth and lucid, without losing any of the candid nature of the conversations, or the intimacy. I felt, above all, that the information provided in these interviews was a tremendous act of generosity – not just in terms of authors sharing their best tricks, their struggles and their visions, but also because of the way these discussions draw the reader almost directly into the writing process. Read more:

A review of Ishmael’s Oud by Mark Rafidi

Mark Rafidi has tiled every page with a distinct selection of orientation and filled it with spicy metaphors. Sometimes he choses to focus on the father and son, and then flashbacks’, yes-unexpected flashbacks into Ishmael’s past collectively snap each jigsaw piece back in place. With every phrase, sentence and paragraph carefully trimmed and mitered an intriguing story emerges that flows into a family saga of blood and bone. For the full review visit:

A review of How to get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Frugality is Howard-Johnson’s stock-in-trade, and since none of her suggestions involve a large outlay, I’d say that picking up a copy of this book is about the most frugal and valuable thing a new author can do in order to generate inexpensive and highly credible publicity. The book is easy to read, and rich with Howard-Johnson’s own considerable experience. Above all, I think the point that she makes about treating the acquiring of reviews, not as an ancillary activity, but an integral part of the promotional campaign and one that cannot be skimped on, is key. Read more:

A review of Daintree by Annie Seaton

It’s obvious that Annie Seaton has put great efforts into researching this story and she is well at home with this genre. The characters throughout are all well honed, coming across as credible, and the immaculately portrayed places fully loaded with poisonous snakes, aggressive cassowaries, amusing characters, exotic parrots, random crocodiles, and a selection of assorted frogs. The writing reveals a majestic and ancient rainforest. For the full review visit:

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 2,029 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the National Book Critics Circle has announced finalists for this year’s John Leonard Prize for a first book in any genre. A panel of member-volunteers will read the finalists and select a winner, to be announced in January. The prize will be presented March 16 at the NBCC Awards ceremony in New York City. The 2016 finalists are: The Mothers by Britt Bennett (Riverhead), The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House), Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright), Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf), The Nix by Nathan Hill (Knopf), and Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (Graywolf).

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena was named WH Smith’s Book of the Year. The Bookseller reported that the British chain “selected the book from the year’s bestsellers and from titles which it viewed to have ‘ultimately taken the market by storm.’ ” WH Smith praised it as “a real page turner” and “one of the most talked about thrillers of the year.” Sandra Bradley, the company’s head of fiction, said: “I am absolutely delighted that The Couple Next Door is the WH Smith Book of the Year for 2016. It’s such a thrilling read–and our customers have loved it too.”

Italian author, poet and translator Erri De Luca won the 2016 Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award for The Day Before Happiness, the Bookseller reported. The judges said: “This adds a further accolade to De Luca’s already distinguished list of achievements.”

Bob Dylan, who last month said he would not attend the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm because of “pre-existing commitments,” has delivered a speech that will be read on his behalf. In a Twitter post, the organization, the Swedish Academy, also said that Patti Smith will perform one of Mr. Dylan’s songs, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” as a tribute. Ms. Smith, 69, who in 2010 won a National Book Award for her memoir “Just Kids,” has been an occasional collaborator of Mr. Dylan’s, and has called herself a longtime fan.

The Center for Fiction has named Kia Corthron winner of the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize for her novel, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter (Seven Stories Press). The prize includes a $10,000 purse, and was presented at the Center for Fiction’s annual benefit and awards dinner in New York on December 6. The presentation was made by Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of The Center’s First Novel Prize in 2015 for The Sympathizer (Grove/Atlantic). The Center also presented its 2016 Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction to Eric Simonoff, agent and partner at William Morris Endeavor. This award honors an editor, publisher, or agent who “over the course of his or her career has discovered, nurtured, and championed writers of fiction.”

Mike McCormack won the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year award for Solar Bones, a novel written in a single 223-page sentence. The winner was chosen by public vote from the list of category winners announced at the recent Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. The prize organizers praised the novel as “a profound new work by one of Ireland’s most important contemporary novelists…. Funny and strange, McCormack’s ambitious and other-worldly novel plays with form and defies convention. A beautiful and haunting elegy, this story of order and chaos, love and loss captures how minor decisions ripple into waves and test our integrity every day.”

Erin Adair-Hodges won the $5,000 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, which is given for a writer’s first full-length book of poems, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Her manuscript, Let’s All Die Happy, will be published next fall by the prize’s sponsor, the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Universal Pictures has won the 2016 award for best international literary adaptation from the Frankfurt Book Fair for Nocturnal Animals, directed and with a screenplay by Tom Ford, adapted from the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright.

British poet Gillian Allnutt is the winner of Her Majesty’s Gold Medal for Poetry, which will be presented by Queen Elizabeth in the spring, the Bookseller reported. Allnut’s titles include How the Bicycle Shone: New & Selected Poems; indwelling; Lintel and Sojourner. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy said: “From her first collection published in the early 1980s, Gillian Allnutt’s work has always been in conversation with the natural world and the spiritual life. Her writing roams across centuries, very different histories and lives, and draws together, without excuse or explanation, moments which link across country, class, culture and time.

Finally, The San Francisco Chronicle has written a beautiful farewell tribute to Obama, the “Reader-in-Chief” and the positive work he has done for literacy, and in supporting and recognizing the arts (and also provided a bit of an um, contrast with the new non-reader in chief):

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Kylie Plester, who won a copy of Daintree by Annie Seaton.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Global Sustainability: 21 CEOs Show How To Do Well By Doing Good by Mark Lefko. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Sustainability”.

We also have an great giveaway bundle of Sue Duff’s entire The Weir Chronicles series which includes an Audible (audio book) of the first book Fade to Black and eBooks for Books 2-4. Book 4, Stack a Deck, has just been released – visit for more info. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Weir Chronicles”

Good luck everybody!



20: Fans of Haruki Murakami will enjoy this atmospheric and deeply felt debut from Vatsal Surti, who was described by an Amazon HALL OF FAME reviewer as “a young author to observe.”



The Adventures of Fawn series: Fantastic! Fun-tastic! Fawn-tastic!

The precocious, young daughter of legendary reindeer Comet and Vixen thinks she knows more than her mum and dad, and against their wishes, sneaks out of Santa’s Village each day to find excitement and adventure, and friends. She finds them…and lots of danger, too! Excitement, adventure and heart-warming friendships combine for a North Pole trilogy well worth reading!

Melissa Smith of Jessica and Gracie’s Tree writes: “I’m giving…a five for the whole trilogy. They are very good books and they should become Christmas classics. If these books had been published by one of the big publishing houses, they already would be and we’d probably be getting movies soon.”




We will shortly be featuring reviews of Release the Bats by DBC Pierre, I Must be Living Twice by Eileen Myles, So Much Smoke by Felix Calvino, Safe at Home by C Dennis Moore, Gnarled Bones by Tam May, and lots more reviews, news, interviews, and giveaways.

Don’t forget to drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) or at to listen to the latest interview with Michele Seminara, who reads from and talks about her book Engraft. 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. Just find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe.


(c) 2017 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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