Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 17, Issue 3, 1 March 2016


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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivack

Kathleen Spivack’s Unspeakable Things has everything a great novel, let alone debut novel, should have. There’s irreverent passion, unexpected ways of shocking, a healthy libido (in this case the two are connected), light touches of magical realism, and poeticism. For the full review visit:

A review of The Last Thread by Michael Sala

Life isn’t always a linear path though, and there is a strong though subtle meta-fictional aspect to this story that reminds us we are always working towards a broader meaning making than a single story might provide. It’s here that the themes re-emerge, along with questions about genetic inheritance, about how we make and remake ourselves, how meaning is created, and the role of language and love in all of its forms. The Last Thread is about all of those threads and more. For the full review visit:

A review of Raking the Dust by John Biscello

John Biscello is clearly an immensely gifted writer who has attempted something in Raking the Dust that will certainly win it admirers. I admire much of it myself, yet I find I cannot warm to it. The trade-off between life and literature often involves some strenuous negotiations, the outcomes of which are not always what we would wish. Raking the Dust describes an extreme case, and our appreciation of the novel will depend on our responses to Alex and his problems. Read more:

A review of Candyland by Vicki Salloum

Salloum has excelled in evoking the Katrina disaster and in depicting a criminal sub-culture. The action keeps readers alert, and the New Orleans landmarks will interest those who lived or have visited that city. Candyland has been described as a “noir” suspense thriller, and it is that, but it is less pessimistic than Salloum’s earlier novel, Faulkner and Friends, and reaches a satisfying conclusion. For the full review visit:

A review of Baggage by S.G. Redling

Redling’s fast-paced novel is full of well-wrought scenes, including one in which Anna’s artist father finds her colouring an outline of a Cezanne that she saw at an art museum. He flies into a rage and destroys her prized book because she is colouring rather than creating. Read more:

A review Of The Arrangement By Ashley Warlick

Warlick’s bio mentions her work as editor of a food magazine, and her lush, detailed style is well suited for this type of writing. Reading one of her novels is like biting into something rich and decadent—it is something to savor. Her writing style is a sensory as well as literary experience—she brings the reader fully into the smallest moments of a scene. For the full review visit:

A review of Something is Rotten in Fettig by Jere Krakow

Characters are well developed, many are despicable and familiar, taking their cue from so-called experts that rant in the public view on television. This fast paced work is filled with good writing, presented in highly readable prose. Read more:

A review of The Decision by Britta Bohler

The Decision Britta Bohler has written a wonderful novel, an immersive and psychologically convincing account of Mann’s agony of decision. Smoothly translated by Jeannette K. Ringold, it is well researched and chock-full of sharp insights into one of the great writers of the twentieth century. For the full review visit:

A review of Deliciously Ella Everyday by Ella Woodward

Just reading the book is inspiring – with lots of tips for improving the diet and just having more fun with food, and every recipe I’ve tried has been a winner: easy, fast, using ingredients that are readily available (no obscure superfoods here) and reasonably priced. Read more:

A review of Dark Avenues by Ivan Bunin

Dark Avenues If you’re looking for a point of comparison, I’d say Bunin as a writer is similar to Chekhov, that’s his model. Though he is darker, more risqué and also narrower in his sympathies. There are some people, you feel, that Bunin is just not interested in – something you never feel with Chekhov. There are some people, you feel, that Bunin is just not interested in – something you never feel with Chekhov. Bunin is a little old-fashioned or out of touch too, you sense. Set in his ways. You read a story written in the ‘40s – and so contemporaneous with Hemingway, Waugh and Greene – and the people are behaving like turn of the century Russian nobility. Read more:

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 1,890 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced. The Winners were: Broken by Mary Anne Butler, winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, Fiction: The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau (Bloomsbury), Non-fiction: Something For The Pain by Gerald Murnane (Text Publishing), Drama: Broken by Mary Anne Butler (Currency Press), Poetry: Crankhandle by Alan Loney (Cordite), andWriting for Young Adults: Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward (Xoum Publishing). The Victorian Prize for Literature: Broken by Mary Anne Butler (Currency Press)The awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour literary achievement by Australian writers. The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

Tareq Bakari, Rabai al-Madhoun, Mohamed Rabie, Mahmoud Shukair, Shahla Ujayli and George Yaraq have been announced as the six authors shortlisted for the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). Their names were revealed by a judging panel chaired by Emirati poet and academic Amina Thiban at a press conference hosted by The Cultural Club in Muscat, Oman. The novels selected were chosen from 159 entries from 18 countries, all published within the last 12 months. This is the ninth year of the Prize, which is recognised as the leading prize for literary fiction in the Arab world. The winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2016 will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 26 April 2016, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists will receive $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.

A Paris ruined by war, a dark planet peopled by the incestuous descendants of two abandoned astronauts and the dangerous surface of the moon are some of the settings for the year’s best science fiction novels, as chosen by the members of the British Science Fiction Association. The nominees for best novel include: Dave Hutchinson: Europe at Midnight, Chris Beckett: Mother of Eden, Aliette de Bodard: The House of Shattered Wings, Ian McDonald: Luna: New Moon, and Justina Robson: Glorious Angels. The winners of the prizes will be announced on 26 March during the 67th British National Science Fiction Convention in Manchester. For the full set of nominees and more detail visit:

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) has announced finalists for the 21st annual Audie Awards® competition, the premier awards program in the United States recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. Winners will be revealed at the Audies Gala on May 11, 2016, at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Award-winning comedian, author, and commentator Paula Poundstone will emcee the event. The list for literary fiction and classics includes The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, narrated by Chukwudi Iwuji, Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, narrated by Kieron Elliott, Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, narrated by Scott Sowers, Sweetland by Michael Crummey, narrated by John Lee, and Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma, narrated by Ron Butler and Bahni Turpin. For the full list of shortlisted titles visit:

The 2016 Stella Prize longlist has been announced. From more than 170 entries, this year’s Stella Prize judges have selected 12 excellent, original and engaging books for the longlist, which is testament to the depth and quality of Australian women’s writing. The list includes: The Women’s Pages by Debra Adelaide (Pan Macmillan), The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop (Hachette), Panthers and the Museum of Fire by Jen Craig (Spineless Wonders), Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight (Random House), Hope Farm by Peggy Frew (Scribe), A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories by Elizabeth Harrower (Text), A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones (Random House), The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau (Bloomsbury) , A Short History of Richard Kline by Amanda Lohrey (Black Inc.), Anchor Point by Alice Robinson (Affirm Press), The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin), and Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright (Giramondo). The 2016 Stella Prize shortlist will be announced on Thursday 10 March, and the 2016 Stella Prize will be awarded in Sydney on the evening of Tuesday 19 April.

The Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes for 2015 have been announced. This year’s prizes honour the most accomplished works of translation into the English language from the Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Spanish and Swedish. The awards were presented by the judges at a ceremony held at Europe House on 17 February. A total of £11,000 and €5,000 was distributed to the winners. The Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes celebrate individual talents and the importance of the art form. These winning books, spanning fiction, poetry and memoir, exemplify the importance of translators in unlocking voices and worlds with meticulous attention and stunning creativity.

The inaugural UWAP $10,000 Dorothy Hewett award for an unpublished manuscript has gone to West Australian writer Josephine Wilson. The judges, Publishing Director of UWA Publishing Terri-ann White, poet and niece of Dorothy Hewett, Dr Lucy Dougan, and author and RMIT academic David Carlin, praised the novel for its, “strong, complex sense of Perth” and called it, “funny throughout in a wry, as well as an absurd laugh-out-loud way.” ‘Extinctions’ was one of 130 entries that arrived at UWAP following the announcement of the Dorothy Hewett Award late last year. Created by UWA Publishing in partnership with Copyright Agency Limited and ABC 720 Perth, it’s an initiative to support the growth of Australia’s literary talent. Named in celebration of renowned radical Australian writer Dorothy Hewett, the award will become an annual fixture in the Australian arts scene.

Vale Harper Lee and Umberto Eco who died on the same day at the ages of 89 and 84 respectively. Though you probably couldn’t find two more different novelists – both in terms of their output and in terms of their styles, each had a massive impact on the world of literature. Lee wrote only two novels, one published just last year, but her first work, To Kill a Mockingbird, sold more than 40 million copies and became one of the most beloved and most taught works of fiction ever written by an American. Eco, an academic and semiotician, published more than 20 nonfiction books and 7 novels (my favourite being Foucault’s Pendulum – a book that usually makes my top ten list of best novels of all time, though I have to admit that Prague Cemetery is still sitting unread on my shelf). Eco’s final book will be published on February 26, 2016, having been brought forward from its scheduled May release. Pape Satan Aleppe. Chronicles of a Liquid Society is a collection of essays that have appeared in Italian weekly L’Espresso since 2000, Eco’s publishers La Nave di Teseo said.

An academic tome about the cultural history of the anus is among the contenders on the shortlist for the 2016 Diagram prize for the oddest book title of the year. Whichever title wins this year will join a peculiar elite that also include Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (1996), The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003) and last year’s winner, Strangers Have the Best Candy. As is tradition, the winner will not receive any money, but a “passable bottle of claret” will go to the person who nominates the winning entry. The shortlist is now open to a public vote, with the winner announced on 18 March. The shortlist includes: Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers by Mark Avery and Keith Betton (Pelagic Publishing), Paper Folding with Children by Alice Hornecke and translated by Anna Cardwell (Floris Books), Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus by Jonathan Allan (Zed Books), Reading the Liver: Papyrological Texts on Ancient Greek Extispicy by William Furley and Victor Gysembergh (Mohr Siebeck), Soviet Bus Stops by Christopher Herwig (Fuel), Too Naked for the Nazis by Alan Stafford (Fantom Films), and Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space: A Consideration of Cult Film by Mark Kirwan-Hayhoe (MKH Imprint)

Have a great month!


SPONSORED BY: is the place to go for all your reading needs. We have book reviews, book giveaways, and many other interesting places to visit. Visit:



Congratulations to Judy Cox, who won a copy of Baggage by S.G Redling,

Congratulations to Betty Dennis, who won a copy of The Arrangement by Ashley Warlick.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivack. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Unspeakable”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Wild Things by Brigid Delaney, Apostate Englishman: Grey Owl, the Writer and the Myths by Albert Braz, an interview with Steven Manchester, We’re Going to Run this City by Stefan Epp-Koop, 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 Christine Evans, author of Cloudless. 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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