Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 18, Issue 4, 1 April 2017



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
Sponsored By
Coming soon


Hello readers.

We have rather a bumper issue this month – lots of extra reviews and lots of news.

A review of A Vicious Example by Michael Aiken

Through the dystopia of styrofoam cups, depleted forests, rotting garbage, and an overabundance of aggressive species – colonists or currawongs, there is still laughter, a sense of hope, and a deep, abiding love for the city. In Aiken’s world, the human is absorbed into nature as just another animal, a predator who will one day be supplanted by another species. Though that may not sound like the prettiest of visions, A Vicious Example presents a collection of great beauty, and intense reflection. For the full review visit:

A Howl of Disenchantment: A review of Still Howling by Mary Dezember

For those who saw beneath the veneer of our country’s prosperity, “Howl” was the response of those supposedly mad or insane, observing the interior disintegration of a society enamored of materialism, steeped in religious doctrine but becoming increasing devoid of spiritual direction, still segregated and racist and generally intolerant of sexual honesty. “Howl” helped define a generation that saw beyond America’s inflated sense of progress and supremacy. Read more:

A review of Still Pilgrim: Poems, by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell

Like the best poetry collections, Still Pilgrim coheres absolutely. It has one theme, expressed in the book’s title and the title of every poem. And it sticks firmly to one form, the sonnet. O’Donnell’s take on the form, though, is like Pope Francis’s approach to pastoral care: merciful and generous and forgiving. Meters range from trimeter to pentameter, some of them tight and sprightly, others elastic, heterometric, even sprung, Hopkins-like. Rhyme schemes are many. Rhyming is tolerant of slants and assonances. Read more:

A review of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys by Sonya Huber

I can tell you I only read art. I put down what isn’t. Call it literary or what you must. If it’s not art, my breaths will slow and I’ll out of hopelessness turn to the next thing. That won’t do anything for me. And it can’t be my family because during this time I’m trying to protect them so I act or am grateful they are away for just during this time if this time ends. Sonya’s book is art. Read it. For the full review visit:

A review of The Beachcomber’s Wife By Adrian Mitchell

Adrian Mitchell’s exquisite writing captures the essence of the island in such a way that the reader becomes immersed in the life upon it. And within these wonderful descriptions of a tropical paradise it is easy for the reader to be completely captivated by the imagined life of his subject. The author’s words, spoken through the mind of the beachcomber’s wife, draw us in so that we feel her emotions one after the other. For the full review visit:

A review of Sunset by Maggie Walsh

Light and hope seems to play like a continual refrain through Maggie Walsh’s Sunset. Though these are poems that reflect the hardship and suffering that Walsh has experienced, they are never dark; never dour. Always there is an appreciation of the natural beauty, and a kind of joyousness that comes from sensation and perception in the face of racism, the grief that goes with being separated from home and family, and of feeling different. Read more:

A review of The Principle by Jérôme Ferrari

Perhaps, by working on the atomic bomb, Heisenberg undermines the beauty he lives for; Ferrari refuses to let judgement be the last word. Instead, he tells a story, not unlike a letter, the overall effect of which is a sweeping, panoramic view of both the internal workings of one’s soul, as well as the wide scope of science in modern history, in short, the quantum effect. For the full review visit:

A review of Position Doubtful by Kim Mahood

The writing is exquisite, poetic, and very detailed. Mahood’s observations are often minute explorations: a delicate rock formation, the texture of a rope, the sound of grass crunching under the feet, a sunrise, the smell of cooking, or an empathic exploration of a companion’s discomfort. Though Position Doubtful is sophisticated, charged as it is by ethical considerations, the political impact of government policy, and a deep-seated understanding – both visceral and intellectual – of the ethics of colonial occupation, power struggles, and feminist discourse, it’s also a personal journey and deeply moving. Read more:

Interview with Kevin Michaels

The author of Still Black Remains talks about his new book, about its themes, the American Dream, his plot and characters, his favourite part of writing the book, on the nature of conflict, the most surprising thing he’s learned in writing the book, on genre, why he became a writer, his writing process, his publication challenges, his favourite authors and books, on Bruce Springsteen’s storytelling, upcoming work, his motivations, the most important elements of good writing, his infamous doppelgänger, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

Kendi wisely narrowed the scope of his book by telling the stories of five exceptional American leaders who greatly influenced the progression, side by side, of racist ideas through segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists throughout America’s entire history. These Americans are the minister Cotton Mather, Pres. Thomas Jefferson, politician William Lloyd Garrison, writer W.E.B. Du Bois, and antiracist activist Angela Davis. Read more:

A review of Out from Calaboose by Karen Corinne Herceg

Out from Calaboose is an ambitious work, rich with mythology, politics, ecology, and psychology. The book moves through darkness and light, trauma, loss, desire, pain, but also, and always, leaning towards freedom from these things. One gets the sense that this freedom lies almost entirely in the power of words – the poems themselves are the keys. For the full review visit:

Inheritance and Reclamation: A review of Miriam’s Book: A Poem by Harold Schweizer

It is rare when we can call a poetry book a “page turner” in the sense of a drama or mystery, but in his remarkable new work, Miriam’s Book: A Poem, Harold Schweizer accomplishes just that. The connective tissue of each chapter, organized as in a novel, propels us forward with anticipation and curiosity. Read more:

A review of Hope Farm by Peggy Frew

Hope Farm is an exquisite and powerful book that explores the gaps between desire, societal norms, and love, loss, and memory. Both Silver and Ishtar’s story is deeply affecting, and as full of beauty as it is of verisimilitude. For the full review visit:

A review of Wild Gestures by Lucy Durneen

The language is silky and seductive and as a reader I was drawn in, drifting about like a leaf in a stream taking in sights, sounds and feelings. Lucy Durneen leaves the door open to her mind and as the pages pass I’m looking out of her eyes focusing and feeling the world as she describes and experiences it. Read more:

A review of Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel (A Memoir) by Jessica Bell

Bell’s first (and possibly not last) memoir is a well-written, fast paced, and engaging read that chronicles Bell’s extensive struggles with depression, with being the child of two semi-famous gothic musicians, years of coping with her mother’s drug addiction, and the ongoing battle to maintain self-esteem against an inverse of Snow White’s evil queen’s mirror on the wall – the “reflection” of the title. For the full review visit:

A review of Goodwood by Holly Throsby

Goodwood doesn’t pursue the path of a traditional mystery novel and those looking for a heart–racing style whodunnit built around the two disappearances might be disappointed. The shock of those events is a catalyst here for deeper explorations of what lurks below the surface and how we create meaning in our lives in this tender, rich, and deeply enjoyable book. Read more:

A review of Walking Through Walls by Karen Cioffi

Walking Through Walls is just right for around 8-12 year olds (or to read to younger children), providing an engaging, engrossing story with a strong plot, lots of atmosphere, and a positive message that is perfect for young readers, without being preachy. The story is set in the sixteenth century, and is based on an ancient Chinese story “Taoist Master and the Lao Mountain,” also an animated film Lao Mountain Taoist. Cioffi fills the story with details to evoke the setting and timeframe, from the mountains in the distance, lemon lilies, yellow cakes with red berries and tea, and the scents and sounds of rural life. For the full review visit:

A review of If I Can Make It There, I Can Make It Anywhere by M. Stefan Strozier

Have you ever wondered how to go about producing a play or musical theatre? In New York? Though I’m sure it’s difficult, Strozier makes the process of producing plays and musical theatre in the Big Apple seem relatively easy – breaking it down into its key components and providing a very clear and quite thorough set of instructions for each component. Read more:

An interview with JAnn Bowers

The author of She’s Gone…Broken, Battered & Bruised talks about herself, how she started blogging, blogging tips, about poetry and her favourite poets, and more. For the full interview 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 2,075 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, winners were announced for the Windham-Campbell Prizes, administered by Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The awards are worth $165,000 to each of the eight winners and this year, for the first time, include poetry, in addition to fiction, nonfiction and drama. This year’s recipients will gather at Yale September 13-15 for the Windham-Campbell Festival that will include a keynote delivered by Karl Ove Knausgård. The winners are: Fiction: André Alexis (Canada) and Erna Brodber (Jamaica), Nonfiction: Maya Jasanoff (U.S.) and Ashleigh Young (New Zealand), Poetry: Ali Cobby Eckermann (Australia) – check out my interview with Ali here:, and Carolyn Forché (U.S.), and Drama: Marina Carr (Ireland) and Ike Holter (U.S.)

Ross King won the C$25,000 (about US$18,640) RBC Taylor Prize, which honors the best in Canadian nonfiction, for his biography Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies, CBC News reported. As winner, King will select the next recipient of the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award, which is given to an up-and-coming Canadian writer who will receive $10,000 and be mentored by King.

Rick Bass has been named the 13th winner of the Story Prize for his new and selected stories volume, For a Little While (Little, Brown). The prize comes with a purse of $20,000, and honors the author of an outstanding collection of short fiction. Bass’s book was selected from among 106 books entered in 2016, representing 72 different publishers or imprints. In their statement, the judges wrote: “Rick Bass’s gift at conveying the vastness of the American wilderness through a form as compact as the short story is a cause for wonder.”

The longlist has been announced for the £30,000 (about $36,500) Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, which celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world.” The winner will be announced June 7. The longlisted books are: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, Little Deaths by Emma Flint, The Mare by Mary Gaitskill, The Dark Circle by Linda Grant, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride, Midwinter by Fiona Melrose, The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan, The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso, The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, Barkskins by Annie Proulx, First Love by Gwendoline Riley, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, and The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain.

The Publishing Triangle released the finalists for the 29th annual Triangle Awards, honoring the best LGBTQ fiction, nonfiction, and poetry published in 2016, as well as the year’s best trans and gender-variant literature. Michael Bronski is the 2017 recipient of the Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, named in honor of the editor of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Other award winners included novelist Chinelo Okparanta, named Triangle’s inaugural Betty Berzon Emerging Writer, and John Scognamiglio of Kensington Books, winner of Triangle’s Leadership Award. The full list of awards can be found here:

A 13-book longlist has been unveiled for the £50,000 (about $61,020) Man Booker International Prize. The award will be divided equally between the author of the winning book and its translator. A shortlist of six books will be released April 20, and the winner named June 14 in London. This year’s longlisted titles are: Compass by Mathias Enard (France), trans. by Charlotte Mandell, Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg (Poland), trans. by Eliza Marciniak, A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman (Israel), trans. by Jessica Cohen, War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (Belgium), trans. by David McKay, The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (Norway), trans. by Don Bartlett & Don Shaw, The Traitor’s Niche by Ismail Kadare (Albania), trans. by John Hodgson, Fish Have No Feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson (Iceland), trans. by Phil Roughton, The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke (China), trans. by Carlos Rojas, Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou (France), trans. by Helen Stevenson, Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer (Germany), trans. by Katy Derbyshire, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors (Denmark), trans. by Misha Hoekstra, Judas by Amos Oz (Israel), trans. by Nicholas de Lange, and Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina), trans. by Megan McDowell

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards this year are: Fiction: LaRose by Louise Erdrich (Harper), Nonfiction: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Crown), Poetry: House of Lords and Commons by Ishion Hutchinson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Biography: Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (Liveright), Autobiography: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Knopf), Criticism: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson (Bloomsbury). Novelist Margaret Atwood, winner of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, received a standing ovation from the crowd when she was introduced. But she also spurred the crowd to laughter when she reminded them that she is Canadian and “just happy to be here because they let me cross the border.”

The Whiting Foundation has named the recipients of its 2017 Whiting Awards, which come with a $50,000 purse, and recognized ten emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. The winners include poet Simone White (Of Being Dispersed), and debut novelists Kaitlyn Greenidge (We Love You, Charlie Freeman) and Tony Tulathimutte (Private Citizens), among others. For a complete list of winners visit:

The Cleveland Foundation has announced the winners of its 82nd Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. The 2017 recipients of the prize, which is the only national juried prize specifically dedicated to awarding literature that confronts racism and examines diversity, includes Isabel Allende, Lifetime Achievement, Peter Ho Davies, The Fortunes, Fiction, Tyehimba Jess, Olio, Poetry, Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs, Fiction, and Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures, Nonfiction, The new Anisfield-Wolf winners broaden our insights on race and diversity,” said Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who chaired the jury. “This year, we honor a breakthrough history of black women mathematicians powering NASA, a riveting novel of the Asian American experience, a mesmerizing, poetic exploration of forgotten black musical performance and a spellbinding story of violence and its consequences. All is capped by the lifetime achievement of Isabel Allende, an unparalleled writer and philanthropist.”

Finalists have been announced for the $10,000 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, “honoring the works of five commanding, diverse, young authors” aged 35 or younger. The winner will be named June 1. This year’s finalists are: We Show What We Have Learned by Clare Beams, The Mothers by Brit Bennett, We Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge, Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, and The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan.

A blend of books telling stories that cross cultural divides forms the shortlist of Britain’s oldest book awards, the James Tait Black Prizes. The list was announced on March 27. Contenders for the James Tait Black Prizes include: A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker; What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell; The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride; The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan. The shortlisted biographies are: The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velazquez by Laura Cumming; A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip by Alexander Masters;, A Stain in the Blood: The Remarkable Voyage of Sir Kenelm Digby by Joe Moshenska; Rasputin by Douglas Smith. The winners of the Prizes, presented annually by the University of Edinburgh, will be announced on August 14 at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Claudia Rankine has won the 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for her acclaimed book “Citizen: An American Lyric.” The award is presented by the Library of Congress and comes with a prize of $10,000. Nathaniel Mackey won the Bobbitt lifetime achievement prize. The pair will receive their awards and read selections from their work on April 20 at the Library of Congress.

The Return by Hisham Matar (Penguin Random House) won the inaugural $75,000 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award during the PEN America Literary Awards ceremony Monday night in New York City. Other award winners announced at the event included: PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature ($50,000): Adonis, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction ($25,000): Insurrections by Rion Amilcar Scott (University Press of Kentucky), PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay ($10,000): The Girls in My Town by Angela Morales (University of New Mexico Press).

Finally, the shortlist for the £30,000 (about $37,700) International Dylan Thomas Prize, for the best published literary work in English by an author 39 or younger, is The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam (Sri Lanka), Pigeon by Alys Conran (U.K.), Cain by Luke Kennard (U.K.), The High Places by Fiona McFarlane (Australia), The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (U.K.), and Dog Run Moon: Stories by Callan Wink (U.S.). The winner will be announced on May 10.

Have a great month and if you do attend the Newcastle Writers Festival next weekend, please come and say hello!  Maggie



Congratulations to Susanne M. Troop who won a copy of a copy of The Origins of Benjamin Hackett by Gerald M. O’Connor.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of The Book of Air by Joe Treasure. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “The Book of Air” and your postal address.

We’ve also got a copy of Kevin Michael’s crime fiction novel Still Black Remains (see our interview with Kevin this month). To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Still Black Remains” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



Sentinels; a Florida mythos, by Rich McKee

Environmental politics, old time religion, Bigfootery, and novel writing itself suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune in this satiric tale.



We will shortly be featuring reviews of The Golden Child by Wendy James, Porch Light by Ivy Ireland, The Restorer by Michael Sala, Magnesium by Ray Buckley, Line Study of a Motel Clerk by Allison Pitinii Davis including an exclusive interview with Allison, 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 Jennifer Maiden, who reads from and talks about her Playing With Knives trilogy. 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.

Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser

unsubscribe from this list