Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 17, Issue 8, 1 Aug 2016


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

A review of Edenland by Wallace King

Edenland is the evocative title of an evocative novel set in the early days of the US Civil War. Its story plunges us into the Great Dismal Swamp that straddles Virginia and North Carolina, and never quite allows us to escape the treacherous waters that threaten to engulf its protagonists. Read more:

Interview with Tiffany McDaniel

The author of The Summer that Melted Everything talks about her latest novel and its inspiration, her characters, on writing sad stories, favourite quote from the book and why, the nature of the devil, her publishing journey, and more. For the full interview visit:

A review of Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book

It is an excellent package overall and would make an ideal complement to an elementary textbook on tactics. You could think of it as being a kind of missing workbook. By diligently attempting to solve each position you will undoubtedly increase your tactical skill. Read more:

A review of Year of the Wasp by Joel Deane

Though the narrative presents a fast-paced story of ambulance, medication, confusion and return, we’re in the realm of poetry, which can be dream-like, with a multitude of simultaneous meanings. The poems operate on several levels at once, from the struggles of a failed body and its attempts to come back from the nightmare of “motor neurone degradation, to the writer’s daily struggle to make sense of language and the self against an increasingly incomprehensible world. For the full review visit:

A review of Beulah’s House of Prayer by Cynthia A Graham

I would categorize this book as historical fiction first and foremost, though it is touted as magical realism. I had this in the back of my mind as I read, but other than Beulah’s mysterious arrival in town and her omnipresence for most of the rest of the book, the “magical realism” elements weren’t obvious—until the end. This is where Graham’s gift of storytelling shines through. Read more:

Interview with Dane Cobain

The author of No Rest for the Wicked. drops by to talk about his work, his editing process, where he gets his ideas, his secret novel, his writing routine, his favourite books, best writing advice, promotion tips, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

Singer-songwriter Caroline Rose and the band Algiers, Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey, and Music Culture

Caroline Rose is one of the performers who is keeping the singer-songwriter tradition alive, one of the performers who is keeping the independence music scene a resource for liberation: so are Alabama Shakes, Arctic Monkeys, Bright Eyes, Broken Bells, Camera Obscura, The Dears, Father John Misty, Foster the People, Rhiannon Giddens, Valerie June, Frank Ocean, Josh Ritter, Savages, St. Vincent, and Vampire Weekend. Read more:

A review of Museum of Unheard (of) Things by Roland Albrecht

These stories, which function to cast a dim aura to the otherwise miserable objects, are “Unerhörten” in the two sense of that German word: they are “unheard” and “unheard of”—unknown and outrageous, suppressed and surprising. But for the non-German speakers, this adjective carried a third meaning: it was impossible to hear them, because all the stories could only be read in German. Until now, that is. The 78 stories in the entire collection have been translated into English by You Nakai and Alexander Booth, assembled together following the order of their weight, and published as the official catalogue raisonné of the museum. For the full review visit:

A review of The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory

Obviously Robin Gregory is a well-read writer. Not only does she mimic Homer’s “wine dark sea” with the novel’s opening of “dories…and spider crabs flood[ing] the beach like a ghostly pink tide,” but also refers back to great YA series like A Series of Unfortunate Events through her grim imaginativeness. Gritty magical realism is in vogue, if we account for the non-YA St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell and Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi beside which The Improbable Wonders holds its own. Read more:

A review of The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

Andrews has two outstanding strengths as an author: character development and attention to detail. She takes readers right to this quiet, beautiful island and gives us a tour of its dwellings, many of which date back to the 1920’s and ‘30’s. Most of her protagonists are strong, funny, Southern women who accept their flaws and own the choices they’ve made, good or bad. 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 1,965 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Publisher Frances Lincoln, in association with the National Trust, has tannounced the shortlist for The Wainwright Prize 2016, an annual award to celebrate the best UK nature and travel writing. The six shortlisted titles are: Common Ground, Rob Cowen (Windmill), The Outrun, Amy Liptrot (Canongate), Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane (Penguin), The Moth Snowstorm, Michael McCarthy (John Murray), The Fish Ladder, Katharine Norbury (Bloomsbury), and The Shepherd’s Life, James Rebanks (Penguin).

The Georg Büchner Prize, the most important literary accolade for the German language, goes this year to writer Marcel Beyer, renowned for his exploration of Nazi history through experimentation with language. The Georg Büchner Prize, along with the Goethe Prize, is considered the most important literary prize for the German language. It is named after the author of the influential German play, “Woyzeck.” Four laureates of the Georg Büchner Prize subsequently received the Nobel Prize in Literature: Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, Elias Canetti and Elfriede Jelinek. Endowed with a cash prize of 50,000 euros ($55,000), this year’s award will be handed out to Marcel Beyer on November 5 in Darmstadt.

Author and illustrator Judith Kerr, who escaped from Hitler’s Germany as a child and went on to write over 30 children’s books, including one of the best-selling of all time, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, has been named BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, 2016. The award, which BookTrust set up to celebrate the body of work of an author or illustrator who has made an outstanding contribution to children’s literature, is being presented to Judith at a ceremony hosted by former Children’s Laureate and BookTrust President, Michael Morpurgo, at London Zoo on Wednesday 6 July 2016.

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang has been chosen as the newest winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. The book was selected by Graywolf editors and judge Brigid Hughes of A Public Space. The Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize is designed to honor and encourage the art of literary nonfiction, and is given to an outstanding manuscript by a writer not yet established in the genre. The book will be published by Graywolf Press, and Wang will receive a $12,000 advance.

Sharon Dodua Otoo won the €25,000 (about $27,665) Ingeborg Bachmann Prize for her short story “Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin” (“Herr Gröttrup Sits Down”). The Guardian reported that Dodua Otoo moved from England to Germany to work as an au pair in 1992, and 24 years later she “has just won arguably the most prestigious award in the German language, the Ingeborg Bachmann prize–for the first and only short story she has ever written in the language of her adopted homeland.”

Lucy Treloar has won the 2016 Dobbie Award for Salt Creek, published by Pan Macmillan.  The Kibble Award was won by Fiona Wright for Small Acts of Disappearance, published by Giramondo Publishing. Small Acts of Disappearance was also shortlisted for this year’s Stella prize and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Wright’s work was shortlisted alongside Elizabeth Harrower’s story collection A Few Days in the Country and Drusilla Modjeska’s memoir Second Half First. On behalf of the judging panel of the Kibble award, which is awarded for fiction or non-fiction classified as “life-writing”, emeritus professor Elizabeth Webby praised Wright’s collection for its uncommon take on adversity.

Blackwell’s has named Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Profile) as its Book of the Year for 2016. The company’s employees were asked to nominate and then vote for their winning title from a shortlist of six, which also included The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan (Bloomsbury); Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney (John Murray); Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee (Heinneman); Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder (Bloomsbury), and The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf (John Murray). The company’s employees also voted Oxford University Press as their choice for Publisher of the Year.

The longlist, or ‘Man Booker Dozen’, for the £50,000 Man Booker Prize has been announced. It was chosen from 155 submissions published in the UK between 1 October 2015 and 30 September 2016. The 2016 longlist is: Paul Beatty (US) – The Sellout (Oneworld), J.M. Coetzee (South African-Australian) – The Schooldays of Jesus (Harvill Secker), A.L. Kennedy (UK) – Serious Sweet (Jonathan Cape), Deborah Levy (UK) – Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton), Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) – His Bloody Project (Contraband), Ian McGuire (UK) – The North Water (Scribner UK), David Means (US) – Hystopia (Faber & Faber), Wyl Menmuir (UK) – The Many (Salt), Ottessa Moshfegh (US) – Eileen (Jonathan Cape), Virginia Reeves (US) – Work Like Any Other (Scribner UK), Elizabeth Strout (US) – My Name Is Lucy Barton (Viking), David Szalay (Canada-UK) – All That Man Is (Jonathan Cape), and Madeleine Thien (Canada) – Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Granta Books). The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday 13 September at a press conference at the London offices of Man Group, the prize’s sponsor. The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book.  The winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize will receive a further £50,000 and can expect international recognition. Last year’s winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, has sold over 315,000 copies to date in the UK and Commonwealth and is available in 20 languages.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Jean Patton who won a copy of Fitting In by Colin Thompson

Congratulations also to Pat Foster who won a copy of Deep Quarry by John E Stith.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Beulah’s House of Prayer by Cynthia A Graham. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Beulah”.

We also have a copy of The Seed Apple by Sheldon Greene. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Seed Apple”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Brought to Our Senses by Kathleen Wheeler, The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, The Dead Man by Nora Gold, Mick by Suzanne Falkiner, Andrei Tarkovsky by Sean Martin, The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, 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 Joel Deane, who reads from and talks about his poetry book (see review above) Year of the Wasp. To listen, visit the showpage or you can listen directly from the site widget (right hand side of the site). You can also subscribe to the show 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.

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