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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 14, Issue 12, 1 December 2013

New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Survey News
Competition News
Coming soon

Hello readers and welcome to another issue of The Compulsive Reader News. As this is the last issue of the year, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a happy holiday and to thank you for your continuing camaraderie, support and great book talk.  Here are the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang

As is also common in a fable, the vocabulary is accessible and the story is universal. The setting is a farm but not specifically a Korean farm. Although the story is about an isolated female and her wish for even one child, it can speak to old and young and to anyone who has ever longed to do what he thinks he/she was born to do. The story is about greatness of soul, perseverance, parental sacrifice, belonging and purpose. And it is also about fulfillment and accomplishing a dream in spite of the odds. Read more:

A review of Eyrie by Tim Winton

All of the characters in this book are needy in one way or another, even those, like Keely’s mum Doris, who appear to be self-contained. These needs, some of which are complex and subtle, form a subtext that operates as a perfect contrast to the thriller-like action that escalates as the story progresses. The result is a beautiful, deep and engaging story that illuminates human frailty, teases out the nature of risk and compassion, and goes very deep into the heart of love, loss, and personal responsibility. Read more:

An interview with Beau Riffenburgh

The author of Pinkerton’s Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland talks about the subject of his new book, about the research required for the book, about one of McParland’s most interesting cases, his extensive research, some of the surprises he found along the way, the inspiration for his biography, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Vengeance is Now by Scott D. Roberts

As a reviewer, books show up in my letterbox and I know I must read them soon to turn them around in a reasonable time frame. Occasionally it’s a chore. Vengeance is Now arrived in my letter box on a Friday. I picked it up after work. On Saturday morning I opened it, intending to read the first chapter to see what I’d be in for. By Sunday morning I’d finished reading the whole book. It’s one of ‘those’ – those rare books that you can’t put down until you get all the way to the end.  Read more:

A review of Hold Still by Cherry Smyth

It would be a shame if readers overlook this vivid, sensuous novel because of the plain cover and cryptic title. Written in the third person, it reveals the heart and mind of a girl in her late teens who blossoms in the art world. Irish-born, London-based Cherry Smyth, the author, is uniquely qualified to write such a novel, being an art critic, curator, poet and creative writing professor.  Read more:

Books Set in the South: Charlaine Harris’s Dead and Gone; James Wilcox’s Heavenly Days; and Tim Gautreaux’s The Next Step in the Dance

This is a genuine novel—it allows the writer to introduce us to people we would not know otherwise, and we see them struggle for love and forgiveness, for money and stability. The writer creates a vision of community that is both redemptive and convincing (I must say, it brought tears to my eyes several times: but thinking of it now, I am a bit wary of that effect). Rather than a comedy of remarriage, it is a drama of remarriage, showing the tests people must go through to know, accept, and love each other.  Read more:

Interview with Joan Heartwell

The author of Hamster Island talks about her upcoming memoir, the major difficulties she had to overcome to write Hamster Island, her experiences growing up, on memoir and catharsis, major themes, on living with handicapped siblings, her book’s structure, and lots more.  Read more:

A review of In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl

In Falling Snow is a great book with a little bit of everything—history, family drama, romance, lighter moments with Iris and Violet, and even a little bit of mystery. MacColl notes that the telling of the story itself and capturing the spirit of Royaumont and the women who ran in was more important than scrutinizing every historical fact and figure, and I feel she pulled this off very well.  Read more:

A review of Motherline by Lisa Rosen

Motherline is a bit like a coming-of-age story—Maggie is facing first-time motherhood, saying goodbye to merely being a daughter and granddaughter and now having to face responsibility for another human being, thus continuing the “motherline” of generations of women that had gone before her, while Katharine is still grieving the son that she lost but trying to move forward into her new role as grandmother (and eventual family matriarch) in her own way.  Read more:

Imagination, Wit, and Madness: The Wapshot Scandal, a novel by John Cheever

John Cheever is a wonderful writer, and his novel The Wapshot Scandal contains observed life and imagined adventure, bringing together ancient rituals and bourgeois affections and habits, private desires and deceptions and public reputations, romance called to reconcile a reality that resists, supernatural suspicions that subvert reason, and mournful, surprisingly poetic interrogations, as Cheever examines family and communal life. The novel does not contain stories that offer easy comfort, though their intimate cruelty and sensual pleasure and melancholy do entertain.  Read more:

All of the reviews listed above are on the front page. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our categorized archives, which can be browsed via the front page of the site.



In the news this month, the winners of the 64th National Book Awards included Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck (Young People’s Literature), Mary Szybist for Incarnadine (Poetry), George Packer for The Unwinding (Nonfiction), and James McBride for The Good Lord Bird (Fiction). After receiving the Poetry award for her second collection, Incarnadine (Graywolf Press), a visibly moved Mary Szybist remarked that “there’s plenty that poetry cannot do, but the miracle of course, is how much it can do, is how much it does do,” as she expressed her deep admiration of the other finalists in the category. Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison presented the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to Maya Angelou. E.L. Doctorow received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by National Book Award winner Victor Navasky.

Mozambican author António Emílio Leite Couto (Mia Couto) has been chosen by a jury of nine international authors to receive the 2014 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.  The $50,000 prize is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, the Neustadt family, and World Literature Today, the university’s award-winning magazine of international literature and culture. Couto is the first Mozambican author to be nominated for and to win the Neustadt Prize. He is considered to be one of the most important writers in Mozambique, and his works have been published in more than 20 languages.

The shortlist for the 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards has been released, with some of Ireland’s most famous names making receiving nods.  The likes of Roddy Doyle, Frank McGuinness, Catherine Dunne and Colum McCann have been nominated for the Novel of The Year prize. In the nonfiction category, Dunphy’s “The Rocky Road” is joined by the likes of “Fatal Path” by Ronan Fanning and “The Price of Power” by Pat Leahy. Ross O’Carroll Kelly, Patricia Scanlan and Claudia Carroll will fight it out for the popular fiction prize, while Seán óg O’Hailpín will do battle with DJ Carey yet again, this time for the Sports Book of the Year prize. The 2013 awards also include a new category, the Short Story of the Year.

Author Lucy Hughes-Hallett has won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for her biography of philandering Italian poet and politician Gabriele D’Annunzio. The Pike “transcends the conventions of biography”, the judges said. Hughes-Hallett was announced as the winner in a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London on Monday night. The prize, now in its 15th year, is worth £20,000. Hughes-Hallett’s book beat Charles Moore’s Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not for Turning and Dave Goulson’s A Sting In The Tale, about the mysterious ways of the bumblebee. Also on the shortlist were Empires of the Dead by David Crane; Return of a King by William Dalrymple and Under Another Sky by Charlotte Higgins

Au revoir là-haut, by Pierre Lemaitre, has won the most prestigious French literary prize, the prix Goncourt 2013. Lemaitre is known as a crime writer, and this is his first non-genre novel.  You can find all the previous winners here:

Mozambican author António Emílio Leite Couto (Mia Couto) won the $50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which is presented every two years to a novelist, playwright or poet. The award is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma, the Neustadt family and World Literature Today. His first novel, Sleepwalking Land, “is widely considered one of the best African books of the 20th century,” the organizers observed. In her nominating statement, Gabriella Ghermandi praised him as “an author who addresses not just his country but the entire world, all human beings…. Some critics have called Mia Couto ‘the smuggler writer,’ a sort of Robin Hood of words who steals meanings to make them available in every tongue, forcing apparently separate worlds to communicate. Within his novels, each line is like a small poem.”

American author Richard Ford’s novel “Canada” about a boy whose parents rob a bank on Wednesday won the Femina Prize for best foreign novel, one of France’s top literary awards. The Femina Prize is awarded in three categories — best French novel, best foreign novel and best essay — by an all-woman jury. The Femina committee awarded its prize for best French novel to Cameroonian author Leonora Miano for “La Saison de l’ombre” (“The Season of Darkness”) about the loss of loved ones experienced by sub-Saharan Africans during the slave trade. Best essay went to Jean-Paul and Raphael Enthoven for a work entitled “Dictionnaire amoureux de Proust”.

Lynn Coady was awarded Canada’s most prestigious literary prize – the Giller – for her book of stories, Hellgoing, at a gala ceremony in Toronto on Tuesday.The Edmonton-based Coady was previously a finalist for the $50,000 prize in 2011. The winning book — and, to a lesser but not insignificant extent, the entire shortlist — traditionally experiences a dramatic spike in sales following the ceremony. The 43-year-old Coady is the author of one previous short-story collection, Play The Monster Blind, and four novels: Strange Heaven, Saints of Big Harbour, Mean Boy and The Antagonist, a previous Giller finalist. In total, the jury considered 147 titles submitted by 61 publishers from across Canada.

Claire Vaye Watkins won the £30,000 (about US$48,247) Dylan Thomas Prize, an international award sponsored by Swansea University that is “open to any published author in the English language under the age of 30,” for her short story collection Battleborn, BBC News reported. Chair of the judging panel Peter Florence said the winner “has some of Dylan Thomas’s extraordinary skill in the short story form of giving you a perfect vision of a complete world and that’s extraordinarily rare.”

Finally, This year’s shortlist for the Literary Review‘s Bad Sex Award, “Britain’s most dreaded literary prize,” has been announced. A “winner” will be named December 3. The shortlisted titles are My Education by Susan Choi,The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood, House of Earth by Woody Guthrie, Motherland by William Nicholson, The Victoria System by Eric Reinhardt, The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds, The City of Devi by Manil Suri, and Secrecy by Rupert Thomson. The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to the crude, badly written, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.

Have a great month!

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Congratulations to Bruce Hamilton who won a copy of Pinkertons Great Detective: Amazing Life and Times of James McParland by Beau Riffenburgh

Congratulations also to Sandra Capron, who won a book and poster set of the new Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Fairly Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman

Congratulations to Ann Fuller, who won a copy of The Family by David Laskin

Our new giveaway is for a copy of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang and a poster featuring the original art by Nomoco. To win, send me an email ( with the subject line The Hen.

We also have a copy of Obstacles by Chris Reardon.  To win, send me an send me an email ( with the subject line Obstacles.

Finally, we’ve got a third giveaway to celebrate the new paperback release of Rosie Sultan’s Helen Keller in Love (you can read our review here:  To win send me an send me an email ( with the subject line Helen Keller.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Homespun Humor by David R Yale, Helene Cardona’s Dreaming My Animal Selves, Seven from Haven by Daniel Grotta, How Music Works by David Byrne, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, and lots more reviews, 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 Blood Secret author Jaye Ford. 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) 2013 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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