Compulsive Reader

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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 17, Issue 1, 1 Jan 2016



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
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Hello readers. Happy 17th year of The Compulsive Reader. Hard to believe we’ve been around for so long. Thanks to all of you for your marvelous support, camaraderie, and the joy in books we share. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of The Last Wife of Attila the Hun by Joan Schweighardt

The Last Wife of Atilla the Hun manages the perfect balance between the epic setting from which it takes its cue, and the intimate and domestic world that Gudrun finds herself in. Gudrun is cut off from the battlefield from which she only hears news, and unlike Sigrid, doesn’t go on a quest for dragon’s gold. For the full review visit:

A Review of Seven by Antonio J. Hopson

During the Crusades, European priests kissed cannons, by way of blessing them, as soldiers marched east to fight what was perceived as the threat of Islam. Instead of cannons, Antonio J. Hopson uses words as his weapon of choice in the poetry collection Seven, and that for the most part focuses on a love affair. “I am a poet. I use words” (Mr. Law, 31). Amazingly, his use of words gives the impression that this affair—at least for him—resembles the carnage of the Crusades. Read more:

A review of Fainting with Freedom by Ouyang Yu

Time and again, the poetry confounds expectations and unpicks itself, structurally, grammatically, and linguistically, presenting what looks like a story, a letter, a footnote, a telegram, a Wikipedia entry, a diary entry, or even a simple poem about a single thing, only to undo the stereotype, the perception, or the form, through a reworking of its conventions. For the full review visit:

A review of The Snail’s Castle by Mark Gordon

For all its seriousness, The Snail’s Castle has a light, assured tone that makes for compulsive reading. At turns amusing and disturbing, it is among the most literary of literary works, with a deep intelligence that expects its readers also to be intelligent. That is a rare compliment that should be savoured. Read more:

A review of Spiralize! by Stephanie Jeffs

For anyone who has a spiralizer or who has purchased one and is not using it to its full potentially, this book is a must. It’s a relatively small book, but by using it, you’ll begin to think more creatively about the different ways you can maximise the benefits of your spiralizer, giving it new life and enhancing your own through better nutrition. For the full review visit:

A review of Swing State by Michael T. Fournier

The unique writing style and sympathetic characters found in Swing State create an intriguing read. Fournier draws potent scenes depicting their struggles – returning from war, finding acceptance and approval, and asserting their own independence. Although each character has a unique story to tell, Fournier deftly interweaves and connects their lives until they come together in the explosive conclusion. Read more:

A Review of Like Family by Paolo Giordano

For those who study fiction, form, or genre, Like Family should be required reading. It begins as a tribute but morphs into a eulogy for love itself, a stark realization that passionate and all-consuming love is far beyond the narrator, maybe beyond modernity. The story invites such an epic statement, but it also keeps us in check. For the full review visit:

An Interview with Justin Isis

The author of Welcome to the Arms Race talks about his new novel and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to his previous novel, about his favourite sci-fi writers, and particularly about Lawrence Miles, about the Singularity, Artificial Intelligence, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

Cuba and Mali, Man and Woman: Diawara & Fonseca’s At Home (Live in Marciac)

David Honigmann of The Financial Times wrote of the performers Fatoumata Diawara and Roberto Fonsecaand of the audience’s affection for the two artists alone and together, and of the developing harmony of the concert, the variety of Diawara’s singing, and the delicacy and power of Fonseca’s keyboard playing.  The conscientious Diawara and the experimental Fonseca brought compassion, drama, friendship, and rhythm in their creation and exploration of a shared international musical palette. Read more:

A review of Cloudless by Christine Evans

The voice of the playwright is obvious in Christine Evan’s verse novel Cloudless. A rich blend of characterisation, setting, and powerful thematic weaving from poem to poem, the novel takes us deep into the heart of working class Perth in the 1980s. Each of the eight key voices who make up the story are on the cusp of something: their lives about to change. 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, which can be browsed from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Singer and debut novelist Morrissey has won this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction award for his debut book, titled List of the Lost. The judges said they were swayed by an “ecstatic scene” involving two of the lead characters. Morrissey was unable to attend the ceremony due to touring commitments. Morrissey’s work triumphed over a varied shortlist, which included George Pelecanos’s The Martini Shot, Joshua Cohen’s Book of Numbers and Erica Jong’s Fear of Dying. Previous winners of the prize, established by The Literary Review in 1993, include Melvyn Bragg, Norman Mailer and AA Gill. Last year the award was won by Ben Okri for Age of Magic (Head of Zeus). The award’s aim is to draw attention to poorly written passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them. It doesn’t cover pornographic or erotic literature.

The longlists for the New Zealand Book Awards have been announced. The winner of the fiction award receives NZ$50,000 (A$45,354), and the winners of the general nonfiction, illustrated nonfiction, poetry and Māori Language awards each receive NZ$10,000 (A$9070). No longlist has been released for the Māori Language award. Books written by debut authors are also eligible to win the Best First Book awards in each category, worth $NZ2500 (A$2267) each. The shortlists will be announced on 8 March 2016 and the winners will be announced at a ceremony on 10 May 2016 on the opening night of the Auckland Writers Festival. For the full longlist set, visit:

The 2015 Portico Literary Prize winners are Richard Benson for The Valley (non-fiction) and Benjamin Myers for Beastings (fiction and poetry). Each received a £10,000 cheque at a prize dinner in the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel, hosted by queen of crime fiction Val McDermid, herself a previous recipient of the prize first established by the Manchester-based Georgian Portico Library 30 years ago.

Elizabeth Harrower has won the 2015 Voss Literary Prize for her novel In Certain Circles (Text). The Voss Literary Prize is awarded to the best novel published in Australia in the previous year, and is managed by the Australian University Heads of English, the peak body for the study of English at Australian universities. Harrower’s novel was selected from a shortlist of six, which also included: The Tribe (Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Giramondo), The Eye of the Sheep (Sophie Laguna, A&U), A Million Windows (Gerard Murnane, Giramondo), Merciless Gods (Christos Tsiolkas, A&U) and To Name Those Lost (Rohan Wilson, A&U).

Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Center for Fiction’s $10,000 First Novel Prize for The Sympathizer (Grove Press). Judges were Siri Hustvedt, Ann Packer, Akhil Sharma and 2014 First Novel Prize winner Tiphanie Yanique, who made the presentation Tuesday at the Center for Fiction’s annual benefit and awards dinner in New York City. Daniel Halpern, publisher and president of Ecco, was presented with the 2015 Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction, which had been previously announced.

Among the nominations for the Grammy Awards, which will be held February 16, are some book-related ones. In the Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audiobooks & Storytelling) category: Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø, read by Patti Smith (Random House Audio), Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments and Assorted Hijinks by Dick Cavett (Macmillan Audio), A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter (S&S Audio), Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller, read by Janis Ian and Jean Smart (Audible Studios), and Yes Please by Amy Poehler, read with various artists (HarperAudio)

The Australian 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards winners have been announced. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commended the 2015 winning authors for sharing these Australian stories which capture the complexity of contemporary life and insightfully reflect on the past. Minister for the Arts Mitch Fifield remarked on the outstanding body of work shortlisted this year and acknowledged the challenge for judges to recommend winners. The 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards winners include, for fiction, The Golden Age by Joan London (Random House Australia), for poetry, Poems 1957 & 2013 by Geoffrey Lehmann (UWA Publishing). The full list can be found here:

Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Penny Busetto and Rehana Rossouw are today announced as the three shortlisted authors for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature. The Etisalat Prize for Literature is the first pan-African Prize that is open solely to debut fiction writers from African countries. Now in its third year, it is acknowledged as the most prestigious literary prize for African fiction. The winner of the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature will be announced in March and will receive £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen. The Prize also includes an Etisalat sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia, mentored by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.

Asking for It, the second novel by Louise O’ Neill has been voted the ‘Bord Gáis Energy Book of the Year’ for 2015. The ‘Bord Gáis Energy Book of the Year 2015’ was chosen by public vote from the list of category winners announced at the recent Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. The Eason Book Club Novel of the Year was won by The Green Road by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape). Best Irish Published Book of the Year was The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers edited by Sinéad Gleeson (New Island Books). The full list of award winners can be found at:

Happy new year and have a great January!


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Congratulations to Myra Yavitch who won a copy of The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Congratulations also to Nancy Ludvik, who won a copy of The Moment by Achim Nowak

Congratulations to Roger Sarao who won a copy of Not Black and White by G. A. Beller

Finally, congratulations to Kelly Greenwood, who won a copy of The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nick Decker.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of The Expatriates by Janice Y.K Lee. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Expatriates”.

We also have a copy of The Journey of the Penguin by Emiliano Ponzi to giveaway. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Penguin”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Everyday Epic by Anna Kerdijk Nicholson, You Are Dead by Peter James, Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm, Mr Copacabana by Jim Proser, 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 Martin Langford, author of Finding Love. To listen, visit the showpage or you can listen directly from the site widget (middle of the right hand side).

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(c) 2016 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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