Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 17, Issue 7, 1 July 2016

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Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of Word Migrants by Hazel Smith

Hazel Smith’s Word Migrants is a poetry collection that is utterly relevant right now. Smith brings her cross-media poetic aesthetics to such topics as racism, the plight of refugees, diaspora, stereotypes, climate change, grief, aging and death, semiotics and literary theory all in a way that weaves and intersects seamlessly. Though there’s a neat circularity in the book – starting and ending with disappearances, Word Migrants is organised into five sections, each with a slightly different focus. The first, “The Forgiveness Website”, focuses on the nostalgia and sense of loss that comes with displacement. This chapter explores refugees and migration, but also the motion from past to present, and of all that we lose in our identities as we try to find ways to live and forgive in the face of oppression. Read more:

A review of Unravelling by Channel D

Although its darkness is a little too unrelenting, Unravelling is a virtuoso performance, but it is much more than that. The long-awaited follow-up to Mosaic of Disarray was born of a terrible period in singer-songwriter Nick de Grunwald’s life when he felt he was coming apart at the seams. This new album dazzles the listener with the sheer variety of the songs, constantly delighting the listener with new soundscapes and characters stuck on the wrong side of life. For the full review visit:

A review of Review of Researching Creative Writing by Jen Webb

This is a book that has the potential to help creative writers ‘make knowledge festive’ in the process of creating their research projects. It is structured logically so as to make for optimal comprehension. It is superbly written and gives exciting examples of writers and books that illustrate the process of researching creative writing and writing as research. Read more:

A review of Local Time: a memoir of cities, friendships and the writing life by Inez Baranay

Baranay’s memoir is about travelling, art and culture(s) and food, home (and not having one), writing, and friendship. She begins by telling the reader that an inheritance has allowed her to plan a trip to Europe in 2006, one that will enable her to live well while she’s travelling but not be away too long as she does not want to stop writing for too many months. The author does not expect to write while she’s away, which gives us the first hint of a commitment to writing that is strong but realistic. In fact, she does write, and she describes how her life really revolves around writing and reading as well as friendship and human connection. For the full review visit:

An interview with Robert Eggleton

The author of Rarity from the Hollow talks in some detail about his new multi-genre novel, about why it’s not for the “prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended”, his characters, what draws him to science fiction, about the charity his book supports and why, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Cure by Jo Marchant

Marchant’s extensive tour of a range of placebo based trials around the world where doctors and patients who are seeing powerful results (thereby perhaps changing the whole meaning of the word “placebo”) on some previously intractable conditions. It’s not just the “power of positive thinking”, but actual real chemicals such as endorphins, dopamines, and hormones being released in response to a number of different stimulations. For the full review visit:

Desire, Perception, Conscience: Where Have You Been All My Life? by Villagers, featuring Conor O’Brien

The music of Villagers is an articulation of life and relationships, shaped by desire, perception, and conscience. The first song on Where Have You Been All My Life? is light, mellow, slow-paced, and focused on a man who prepares to leave place and person for the open plains despite the new promises of a lover’s good intentions. Read more:

A review of The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley

The Arrival of Missives is an immensely readable book. It contains delightfully light characterizations in which people are encapsulated by a phrase, a tone of voice, a gesture. And, towards the end of the novel, intentionally or not (what does it matter?), there is an image straight out of Hamlet that provides beauty and horror in equal measure. For the full review visit:

A review of My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Every story told in the book is written as a past memory and Lucy intertwines her own reflections as she tells her story. The story is told through the narrator’s point of view in the same fashion one would write a memoir about his or her own life. What Elizabeth Strout has done so brilliantly is convinced readers that Lucy’s life is real and we are a part of it. Read more:

Interview with Paula Wynn

The author of The Grotto’s Secret talks about the writing of her first novel, about her inspirations and influences, her unusual writing habits, her characters, the future of book publishing, her work-in-progress, the books on her night table, and her all-time favourites, and lots more. For the full interview 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 1,951!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, academic Parashar Kulkarni has become the first Indian author to win the Commonwealth short story prize, beating almost 4,000 entries to take the £5,000 award with the first short story he has ever written. His winning story, Cow and Company, is set in India in the early 1900s, and follows four men looking for a cow to feature in advertisements for chewing gum.

The Quotations of Bone by Norman Dubie and Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard were the international and Canadian category winners respectively of the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize, which honors “first edition books of poetry written in, or translated into, English and submitted from anywhere in the world.” They each receive C$65,000 (about US$50,620). Adam Zagajewski was this year’s Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s Lifetime Recognition Award recipient.

The winners of the 28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards (the “Lammys”) were announced by comedienne Kate Clinton at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. The Lambda ceremony brought together over 500 attendees, sponsors, and celebrities to celebrate excellence in LGBT literature and 28 years of the groundbreaking literary awards. The full list can be found here:

Lisa McInerney, who started her career as a writer with a blog about life on a council estate in the “Arse End of Ireland”, has won the Baileys women’s prize for fiction with her debut novel, beating Man Booker winner Anne Enright and bestseller Hanya Yanagihara to the £30,000 award. McInerney was one of 11 debut novelists to be longlisted this year for an award that has increasingly become a showcase for new and emerging talent. Previous surprise winners include Madeline Miller for her Iliad-inspired debut The Song of Achilles, Tea Obreht for The Tiger’s Wife and Anne Michaels for Fugitive Pieces, alongside more established names such as Zadie Smith, Marilynne Robinson and Ali Smith.

Benjamin Johncock has won The Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award for his critically acclaimed novel of the space race, The Last Pilot. Anthony Quinn, who presented the award, commended the novel for ‘its disciplined craftsmanship, its immersion in an historical era, and its profound engagement with human loss.’

Akhil Sharma has won the €100,000 Dublin International literary award for his second novel, Family Life, an autobiographical account of the tragedy which devastated his parents and left him adrift throughout his childhood. Although Family Life had also won the Folio Prize last year, Sharma’s win is unexpected considering the popular support for Marlon James’s brashly obvious 2015 Man Booker winner, A Brief History of Seven Killings and the magisterial presence on the short list of Marilynne Robinson with her acclaimed Lila.

Margaret Atwood has been awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. Atwood also announced tour dates to promote her new novel Hag-Seed (Hogarth). The prize, founded in 2009, is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze upon the world and shows a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.

Finalists have been named for the £15,000 (about $21,173) Forward Prize for Poetry and the £5,000 (about $7,057) Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection, which are “dedicated to heralding fresh new voices as well as commemorating famous names.” Winners will be announced September 20. This year’s shortlisted books are: Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo , The Blind Roadmaker by Ian Duhig, Considering the Women by Choman Hardi, Falling Awake by Alice Oswald, and Say Something Back by Denise Riley.

Anne Enright, the Irish Fiction Laureate, has won the Independent Bookshop Week award voted for by independent booksellers. Her novel The Green Road won in the adult fiction category, beating works by Bill Bryson and Kate Atkinson. Enright said it was “such an honour to be selected for this award by my favourite people – booksellers”. The author also took the opportunity to praise independent bookshops, saying: “Long may they remain.”

Two weeks after Lisa McInerney won the Baileys prize for women’s fiction, the Irish writer has won the £10,000 Desmond Elliott prize for her debut novel The Glorious Heresies, which judges said had “electricity running through [its] prose”.

The three winners of the second-annual Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, which highlights Canadian authors with a debut book published in 2015, have been announced in Toronto. Each winner from the literary fiction, romance and non-fiction categories receives $10,000, along with promotional, marketing and communications support to help their careers. Simon Fraser University molecular biology and biochemistry lecturer Irina Kovalyova won the literary-fiction prize for Specimen, a collection of short stories exploring the relationship between science and the human heart. The romance prize was awarded to Nova Scotia writer Nicola R. White for her novel Fury’s Kiss, which tells the story of a woman living on Cape Cod who discovers she has strange powers. CBC broadcaster Wab Kinew won the non-fiction prize for his memoir The Reason You Walk. Camilla Gibb, author and non-fiction judge, called the book “a gift to this country.”

Pumla Dineo Gqola and Nkosinathi Sithole have been announced as the winners of the prestigious Sunday Times Literary Awards. Apart from receiving the prestigious Sunday Times Literary Awards accolade, each author is also awarded prize money of R100,000. Debut novelist Nkosinathi Sithole was awarded the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for his book Hunger Eats a Man, published by Penguin Books. Pumla Dineo Gqola received the Alan Paton Award for her book Rape: A South African Nightmare, published by MF Books.

Finally, Room novelist Emma Donoghue has been granted this year’s AWB Vincent American Ireland Fund Literary Award, a $25,000 prize recognizing excellent literary achievement. Donoghue received the honour at Dublin’s Mansion House on June 23, later donating the full prize to the UN Refugee Agency.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Helen Meadows, who won a copy of Grotto’s Secret by Paula Wynn.

Congratulations to Laurie Blum who won a copy of The A to Z of Normal by Helen Barbour

Finally, congratulations to Debra Guyette and Renate Majumdar, who each won a electronic copy of Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Deep Quarry by John E Stith. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Deep Quarry”.

We also have a copy of Fitting In by Colin Thompson. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Fitting In”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring an interview with Deep Quarry’s John E Stith, reviews of Brooke Waggoner’s Sweven, The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews, The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory, Year of the Wasp by Joel Deane (Joel and I have just locked in an interview date), 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 Hazel Smith, who reads from and talks about her latest poetry book Word Migrants. 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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