Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 17, Issue 2, 1 Feb 2016



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

A review of I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek

The vitriol of I hate the internet is the misery of the bourgeoisie, almost all of which “lack eumelanin in the basale strata of their epidermis” (as Kobek repeatedly describes whiteness); I sympathize regardless of my eumelaninlessness. More than being a prolonged expletive flailing absurdly about like a verbal Bernie Dance though, this self-described “bad novel” is a madcap, mad-dog, remonstration of Post-Industrial America. Read more:

A review of Bad Behaviour by Rebecca Starford

The writing is beautiful throughout, without ever over-shadowing the plot or narrative flow, which moves forward quickly. Starford remains non-judgmental, even towards those who caused her the greatest pain, including the many adults who clearly failed in their duty of care. For the full review visit:

A review of The Metaphysics of Ping Pong by Guido Mina di Sospiro

The humility to which he begins his story is surprising given this title, starting with a simple, “my full-blown obsession with ping-pong began four years ago with the semi-epic road trip.” From the there the story follows a surprisingly human pattern: Beaten by son (at ping-pong), age begins to show (as blood pressure), attempts to reclaim youthfulness (or, at least, not die). Read more:

A review of Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind by Charlene Jones

Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind describes in simple terms how our brains work with meditation. As Jones shares the dreadfulness experienced during her teens, we chart her journey to enlightenment and a life without suffering via visualization and meditation. For the full review visit:

A review of Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

It worked for Gone Girl. Not to the same degree, it works for Try Not To Breathe. That’s what Seddon brings to fruition more than anything. It’s the same way her stretching into sci-fi with her short story “Graduate Schemes,” published in the dystopian anthology Broken Worlds, leans closer to squabbling than the high stakes of a truly broken world. Read more:

A review of Everyday Epic by Anna Kerdijk Nicholson

Kerdijk Nicholson’s poems are not difficult to read: they flow in straightforward rhythms, and take on familiar landscapes and territories, but the poems in Everyday Epic are much more complex then they seem at first glance. It is through the everyday moments of such universal elements as love, grief, work, that we find the epic, and in those old stories of conquest and domination, where we find our most shameful and least ‘epic’ natures. For the full review visit:

A review of What You See by Hank Phillipi Ryan

While Ryan hasn’t convinced me that there is no suspense in love, no love in suspense, she’s shown she’s less a muckraker than her credentials makes her out to be in her stories focused on political scandal, police corruption, and institutions which create the circumstances for felonious activities. Read more:

A review of You Are Dead by Peter James

I don’t read thrillers regularly, but You Are Dead caught and kept my attention throughout. James kept a tight rein on the plot, and there was no obvious suspect. He added a twist to Logan and Jamie’s engagement that I didn’t expect, although I would have liked more details on that relationship. For the full review visit:

A review of Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Rebecca Scherm’s Unbecoming is a heist tale, a bildungsroman, a love story, and above all, a compelling psychological study of a likeable young woman with strong anti-social tendencies. As the novel progresses, Grace, the protagonist, not only behaves in “unbecoming” ways, but “unbecomes” the promising girl she once was. She grows in independence, strength and daring, but it is impossible to approve of her. Read more:

A review of Mr Copacabana: An American History by Night by Jim Proser

Monte lived the American Dream and its Nightmare. He frequently had it all and just as frequently had nothing – often, it seems, at the same time. He opened the Copacabana nightclub in New York City in 1940 and for thirty years it remained the centre of the show business world: if a performer could succeed at the Copa, their career was made (and for those on the skids, frequently remade). 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 1,876 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the shortlist was announced for the third annual £15,000 (about $22,120) Etisalat Prize for Literature, which is open to debut fiction writers from African countries. The winner will be named in March. All shortlisted authors get a sponsored multi-city book tour and have 1,000 copies of their books purchased by Etisalat for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across the continent. NoViolet Bulawayo won the inaugural Etisalat Prize in 2013 for We Need New Names, while Songeziwe Mahlangu took the 2014 prize for Penumbra. This year’s shortlisted Etisalat titles are: Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Democratic Republic of Congo), The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself by Penny Busetto (South Africa), and What Will People Say? by Rehana Rossouw (South Africa).

Just two years after winning the Costa novel award for Life After Life, a major bestseller hailed as “astonishing” by judges at the time, the novelist has landed the prize again for her follow-up, A God in Ruins. Over 630 books were submitted for this year’s Costa awards, which go to the “most enjoyable” books written by authors resident in the UK and Ireland. Along with Atkinson, four other writers were named as winners in different categories, each of whom will receive £5,000. Michael Hurley’s gothic chiller The Loney took the first novel prize, the Scottish poet Don Paterson won the poetry prize for his new collection 40 Sonnets, Frances Hardinge took the children’s award for her “dark, sprawling, fiercely clever” Victorian murder mystery, The Lie Tree, and the Costa biography award went to Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature. All five winners will now go forward to compete for the overall Costa book of the year prize, which Atkinson won in 1995 for Behind the Scenes at the Museum.

The 2015 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation was awarded to Paul Starkey for his translation of the novel The Book of the Sultan’s Seal: Strange Incidents from History in the City of Mars by Youssef Rakha, published by Interlink Books. Jonathan Wright was commended for his translation of Land of No Rain by Amjad Nasser, published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. More details on each of these books can be found here:

A new voice, who judges say “will change British poetry”, has won the TS Eliot poetry prize. Sarah Howe, a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, was awarded the £20,000 prize for Loop of Jade, which explores her dual British and Chinese heritage. Howe’s work – the first debut poetry collection to win the British prize since it was inaugurated in 1993 – triumphed over a particularly strong shortlist, which featured some of poetry’s biggest names, including Don Paterson, Claudia Rankine, Sean O’Brien and Les Murray. Organised by the Poetry Book Society, the TS Eliot prize was funded and presented by Eliot’s widow Valerie until her death in 2012. It is now maintained by the poet’s estate.

The Story Prize’s three finalists for books published in 2015 include There’s Something I Want You to Do by Charles Baxter, Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson, and Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann. The Story Prize, now in its 12th year, recognizes outstanding short story collections chosen from 100 submissions representing 64 different publishers or imprints. The winner will be announced at the Story Prize’s annual award event at the New School’s Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street in New York City at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2. The winner will be presented with $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl. The two runners-up will each receive $5,000.

The winners of the Jewish Book Council’s 2015 National Jewish Book Awards have been announced. The Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award was given to Bruce Hoffman for Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917–1947 (Knopf). Daniel Torday took the fiction category prize for The Last Flight of Poxl West (St. Martin’s). Newbery Award recipient Laura Amy Schlitz became the first winner of the Posner Award for YA literature for The Hired Girl (Candlewick Press). Other winners and runners-up in several categories can be seen here:

India’s Anuradha Roy has won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2016 for her novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, which deals with the subject of violence against women. At the Fairway Galle Literary Festival in Galle, about 130 km south of Colombo, Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday presented her the prize, which carried a cash award of $50,000 and a trophy, according to a release. Other authors and novels in contention for this year’s prize were: Akhil Sharma (Family Life); K.R. Meera (Hangwoman) [translated by J. Devika]; Mirza Waheed (The Book of Gold Leaves), Neel Mukherjee (The Lives of Others) and Raj Kamal Jha (She Will Build Him A City). Now in its sixth edition, the DSC Prize received 74 entries this time with participation from publishers from the South Asian region as well as from countries such as the U.K., U.S., Canada, Australia and South Africa.

The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation has awarded the 2016 Erasmus Prize to the British author Dame Antonia Susan Byatt (1936). She receives the prize for her inspiring contribution to ‘life writing’, a literary genre that encompasses historical novels, biographies and autobiographies. The jury describes A.S. Byatt as a born storyteller with a keen eye for relations in public and private life. The Erasmus Prize is awarded annually to a person or institution that has made an exceptional contribution to the humanities or the arts. His Majesty the King is Patron of the Foundation. The Erasmus Prize consists of a cash prize of € 150,000. The prize will be presented in the autumn of 2016.

The National Book Critics Circle has unveiled 30 finalists in 6 categories –autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry–for the best books of 2015. The awards will be presented March 17 in New York City. The NBCC also announced the following prize winners: Wendell Berry is the recipient of this year’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Kirstin Valdez Quade’s story collection Night at the Fiestas (Norton) won the third annual John Leonard Prize, which recognizes “outstanding first books in any genre.” Carlos Lozada, associate editor and nonfiction book critic at the Washington Post and former managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, has won the 2015 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

The International Dylan Thomas Prize 2016 longlist has been revealed, including Granta senior editor Max Porter’s debut and two books that were shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. The £30,000 prize, designed to ensure a “Welsh link with the great global phenomenon of contemporary English writing”, is now in its 10th year. The prize is open to poetry, drama, novels and short story submissions, and across all genres. Specifically for those aged 39 and under, it is hoped the prize will help “savour the vitality and sparkle of a new generation of young writers”. The 12-strong longlist is composed of four American authors, a Nigerian novelist, Manchester-based poet Andrew McMillan, a debut Irish author in Lisa McInerney, and Welsh short story writer, Thomas Morris. Granta senior editor Max Porter has made it onto the longlist with his debut Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Faber & Faber)​ described as “part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief”. 2015 Man Booker shortlisters The Fishermen (ONE, an imprint of Pushkin Press), a debut novel by Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma, and The Year of the Runaways (Picador) by Derbyshire-born Sunjeev Sahota, also both feature in the Dylan Thomas longlist.

A children’s novel has been named Costa Book of the Year for only the second time in the prize’s history. The judges said Frances Hardinge’s Victorian murder mystery The Lie Tree would “grip readers of all ages”. Hardinge beat bookmakers’ favourite, debut author Andrew Michael Hurley’s gothic horror The Loney, to win the £30,000 prize. The previous children’s novel to win was Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass in 2002. The Costa prize honours outstanding books by authors based in the UK and Ireland and was previously known as the Whitbread award. Last year’s Costa book of the year went to Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk.

Finally, finalists have been named for the Claremont Graduate University’s $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, “which goes to a mid-career poet of a current book,” Jacket Copy reported. The shortlisted writers are Kyle Dargan for Honest Engine (University of Georgia Press), Ross Gay for Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press), Amy Gerstler for Scattered at Sea (Penguin), Fred Moten for The Little Edges (Wesleyan) and Jennifer Moxley for The Open Secret (Flood Editions). The $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for an emerging poet also unveiled its finalists: Meg Day for Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street), Bethany Schultz Hurst for Miss Lost Nation (Anhinga Press), Michael Morse for Void and Compensation (Canarium), Danez Smith for [insert] boy (YesYes Books) and Henry Walters for Field Guide a Tempo (Hobblebush Books).

Have a great month!



Devon had always assumed that he was normal, just like everyone else. It wasn’t until he met Renee that he realised that he was something different – something dangerous.

He is a Mage

Visit*Version*=1&*entries*=0 to read the first chapter of Christopher George’s Mage Catalyst.

********************************************* 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 Sarah Bojorquez, who won a copy of The Journey of the Penguin by Emiliano Ponzi.

Congratulations to Julie Rupert who won a copy of The Expatriates by Janice Y.K Lee.

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

We also have a copy of Baggage by S.G Redling. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Baggage”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of The Last Thread by Michael Sala, The Decision by Britta Bohler, Dark Avenues By Ivan Bunin, West by Julia Franck, Something is Rotten in Fettig by Jere Krakoff, 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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