Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 17, Issue 12, 1 Dec 2016



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


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

An interview with Laurie Hess, author of Unlikely Companions

The author of Unlikely Companions talks about the inspiration for her book, about how she managed to fit writing into her busy schedule, about the sugar glider story, the best piece of advice she was ever given, her heroes, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Little Nothing by Marisa Silver

With these recurring themes and patterns of place, Silver establishes an internal logic to a book that otherwise often appears random and almost too wondrous. But because of her skill with both description and with the larger structure of the work itself, Silver is able to craft a coherent narrative that works both as a fairytale and a question. Little Nothing leaves a reader both entertained and puzzled; like a work of art should. For the full review visit:

A review of The Trespasser by Tana French

Despite the rapid pace at which I tore through this novel—it was just too good to put down—the actual solving of the crime is a slow, suspenseful rise and fall. Reading The Trespasser feels like playing Chutes and Ladders. I work my way towards the goal, find something exciting that lets me climb up the ladder toward the answers, then hit a snag and slide right back to the beginning, Read more:

A review of Growing Dark: Selected Stories by Dennis Must

Dennis Must’s Going Dark is a succession of 17 short stories. Must’s writing is expressive, as he approaches the numerous stages of life we all share in the transition from youth to maturity to the inevitable death that awaits us all. The lives in these stories are unrelated, and yet very much the same. The work is at once a multilayered thought provoking psychological frolic in addition to being a deeply seated thoughtful work. Whatever the overview or leitmotif, each portrayal in this work ultimately goes dark as Must probes deep within the core of his intricate, complex characters. For the full review visit:

A review of The Kiss and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov

These classic stories have been cast in wonderfully fresh translations by Hugh Aplin. To start with, let me say that it is an attractive package overall: seven stories, an account of Chekhov’s life and his works (the plays as well as the books), a fair few photographs of Chekhov and family, and a select secondary bibliography (to which should be added Rosamund Bartlett’s outstanding biographical work Chekhov: Scenes from a Life). Read more:

A review of The Abecedarium of the Artist’s Death by Moussa Kone

Kone’s drawings are beautifully composed and are not without a healthy dollop of black humour (e.g. ‘I is for Ingrid who trusted her friends…’) but for the most part they are quirky and amusing rather than disquieting, as is almost always the case with Gorey. They will raise a wry smile, certainly, but they won’t put you on edge as Gorey’s drawings are wont to do. For the full review visit:

A review of The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs

From the beginning to the end The Joyce Girl is an enchanting tale, beautifully written. It drew me in and wouldn’t let go; I was caught and trapped right up to the epilogue. And what a cast of characters … their names kept dropping from this book like exotic fruits, starting with James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Madam Egorova, Alexander Calder, Nijinsky, Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Stella Steyn, Thomas McGreevy, Pablo Picasso, Dr Carl Gustav Jung, Gertrude Stein, Margaret Morris, John O’Sullivan, Isadora Duncan, and Stirling Calder all get a mention. Read more:

Fresh Air and Empty Streets by Oliver Cable

The author’s descriptive passages of Paris are so powerful and illuminating that as Felix wanders through the City of Light it feels like we are right there beside him and when he stumbles his way into a romantic interlude with the beautiful waitress Senna, we can be thankful that the author allows us to turn away at the right moments. As his fumbling turns to manliness Felix begins to understand something about love and relationships and his attitude towards his father alters. For the full review visit:

A review of Fitting In by Colin Thompson

The clever storytelling of Colin Thompson in Fitting In somehow binds itself to you and makes you fully engaged with the pages in front of you. It invites you to sit and read a page or two and then ponder what you just read. My eyes were opened to a life completely different from my own. This is the beauty of memoirs. They pull you out of the self-centered life you may be living and make you engage with someone else’s life story. As I read, I saw the raw and coarse pain of depression and the desire to fit in. Read more:

A review of The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley

The author has researched her material thoroughly, even becoming a volunteer at the Queensland Museum and learning how to prepare ornithological specimens. This makes her descriptions of the preparations of the birds in her novel thoroughly convincing, as when Elizabeth is required to prepare the body of a brush turkey for its skeleton to be displayed. And the descriptions of her drawing and painting the prepared birds sometimes take the breath away, as with the quetzal, who ‘sported iridescent sheens in its plumage, like silk from China, gossamer and spider’s webs, droplets of water catching the light’ (94). 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 2,019 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the winners of the 2016 Kirkus Prize are for fiction: The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan (Farrar, Straus & Giroux. For nonfiction: In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi (Metropolitan/Holt) and for young readers’: As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum). The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature.

French-Moroccan novelist Leïla Slimani won the 2016 Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious French book award, for her novel Chanson Douce (Sweet Song). The New York Times reported that “several commentators had predicted that Ms. Slimani would win. The novel has been a best seller–more than 76,000 copies have been purchased–and Ms. Slimani, 35, has a high profile as a former journalist at Jeune Afrique, a French-language magazine of African news.” “She’s a young woman, talented, so we’re completely in the spirit of the Goncourt prize,” Bernard Pivot, head of the Goncourt Academy.

Madeleine Thien won the C$100,000 (US$74,744) Scotiabank Giller Prize, presented annually “to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English,” for Do Not Say We Have Nothing. The other five finalists received C$10,000 each. The judges wrote: “Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien entranced the jurors with its detailed, layered, complex drama of classical musicians and their loved ones trying to survive two monstrous insults to their humanity: Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in mid-twentieth century China and the Tiananmen Square massacre of protestors in Beijing in 1989. Do Not Say We Have Nothing addresses some of the timeless questions of literature: who do we love, and how do the love of art, of others and ourselves sustain us individually and collectively in the face of genocide? A beautiful homage to music and to the human spirit, Do Not Say We Have Nothing is both sad and uplifting in its dramatization of human loss and resilience in China and in Canada.”

Irish author Mike McCormack won the £10,000 (about $12,445) Goldsmiths Prize, which celebrates “the spirit of creative daring” and rewards “fiction that breaks the mold or extends the possibilities of the novel form,” for Solar Bones, a book written in a single novel-length sentence. Chair of judges Blake Morrison commented: “Set over a few hours in a single day, and told in the first-person voice of a middle-aged engineer, Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones transcends these seeming limits magnificently. Politics, family, art, marriage, health, civic duty and the environment are just a few of the themes it touches on, in a prose that’s lyrical yet firmly rooted. Its subject may be an ordinary working life but it is itself an extraordinary work.”

Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein won Australia’s A$50,000 (about US$37,705) Sydney Peace Prize, which honors public figures who “promote peace‚ justice‚ and non-violence‚” Quillblog reported. The prize jury said Klein was recognized “for exposing the structural causes and responsibility for the climate crisis, for inspiring us to stand up locally, nationally and internationally to demand a new agenda for sharing the planet that respects human rights and equality, and for reminding us of the power of authentic democracy to achieve transformative change and justice.”

Winners were named for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. More than 45,000 readers and book lovers voted, and the public is now invited to help select the overall Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year. Voting is open until midnight on December 9. A complete list of category winners is available here.

Six books made the shortlist for this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award, presented annually by the Literary Review to “an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel.” The “winner” will be announced on November 30. The Guardian helpfully featured “the contenders in quotes.” This year’s finalists are: The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis, A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin, The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler, Leave Me by Gayle Forman, The Day Before Happiness by Erri de Luca, and Men Like Air by Tom Connolly.

A novel written in a single sentence has won the 2016 Goldsmiths prize, becoming the third Irish winner in the four-year history of an award set up to reward fiction that “breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form”. The novel emerged as winner at a ceremony in London from a six-strong shortlist, which included Deborah Levy’s Booker shortlisted Hot Milk and The Lesser Bohemians by the first winner of the Goldsmiths, Eimear McBride.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Kathleen Gardiner, who won a copy of Unlikely Companions by Laurie Hess.

Congratulations also to Zena Gray, who won a copy of The Three Miss Allens by Victoria Purman.

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

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of The Writer’s Room by Charlotte Wood, The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig, Pale Hearts by Emily Eckart, Daintree by Annie Seaton, 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) 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.

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

unsubscribe from this list