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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 15, Issue 5, 1 May 2014

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

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

A review of Biblical by Christopher Galt

I would categorise Biblical as historical surrealistic science fiction—or better yet, philosophical science fiction. However, it crosses almost every genre. Galt (the pseudonym of a mysterious best-selling crime fiction author) is clearly a master storyteller. He hasn’t simply grabbed an idea and run with it. The amount of research that has gone into the book is mind-numbing—and it’s detailed: Viking history, the holocaust and the complexities of quantum physics just to name a few. For the full review visit:

The Expanse of Emotions: Love is the Future by singer-songwriter John Legend

The pianist and singer John Legend’s album Love in the Future is a return to the kind of confident sentimentality that once was the province of most popular music stars, but for years now love has been replaced by sexual aggression and contempt and social violence as focus in a lot of mainstream culture. Legend’s song collection is emotional, lush, and contemporary: it is betting that there is still an audience that wants to hear a young, confident and successful African-American male make such romantic declarations. For the full review visit:

A review of The Killer Is Dying by James Sallis

Without wishing it to sound anything like routine: another extraordinary novel from James Sallis. This one, like many of his others, is hard to pin down exactly. Paranormal, science-fiction and metaphysical elements vie within a crime story a la Savage Night, about a hitman on his last job. Perhaps that catch-all label ‘slipstream’ will have to cover it. For the full review visit:

An Interview with Deborah Doucette

The author of The Forgotten Roses talks about her plot, her themes, her characters, her approach to characterisation, how she began writing, her greatest challenges, her writing process, her research, her influences, what’s on her night stand, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of The Lost Girls by Wendy James

Though solving the crime does certainly drive the narrative pace in The Lost Girls, this book is a rich, dense novel, that goes so much deeper than whodunit. As is almost always the case with Wendy James, her blockbuster, airport styled covers belie the fact that this is as much literary fiction as it is a crime novel, driven, above all, by character development and exquisite writing. For the full review visit:

On Robert Redford’s Biography and Film Work (& Other Books on Culture)

Appearance or truth? Both? Form and spirit. There has been a tension in our appreciation for Robert Redford, a dedicated actor and filmmaker who also happens to be an image of masculine beauty. Redford, as a young man of impulse and integrity, and not a little rebellion, was interested in adventurous exploration, whether involving art, travel, or relationships. Everything considered, he was a lot less selfish and shallow than most of us would be. That may be part of why he has become such an intriguing and respectable elder statesman. For the full review visit:

A review of The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Kidd’s extensive historical research does much more than provide a backdrop to the story. The period details further the plot. For instance, the Grimke family acquires a state-of-the-art copper bathing tub on wheels, an innovation which allows a lying-down bath, and can be drained rather than dumped or bailed. When Sarah discovers Handful emerging from this tub in her room she feels, at first, that her privacy has been invaded. Then she realizes that “Handful had immersed herself in forbidden privileges, yes, but mostly in the belief that she was worthy of these privileges. For the full review visit:

A review of Hand In Glove by Paddy Bostock

Hand in Glove is a different type of mystery that will make you wonder whether a comedy team such as Abbot and Costello wrote the script, acted it out in order to elicit the laughs readers will get when reading this book. The characters are quite different and yet all they want to do is solve the case but not before some other wild and zany things happen. For the full review visit:

A review of The Man Who Couldn’t Stop—OCD, and the true story of a life lost in thought by David Adam

In The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, David Adam provides a compelling history of mental dysfunction, its various treatments and cites numerous cases of the miraculous and downright bizarre. But far more than being a book filled with facts and figures, this is a story about Adam’s own battle with OCD, which began early in his childhood. No one understands the effect OCD has on a life quite like a sufferer, and it’s this unique insight that sets this book apart from others of its ilk. For the full review visit:

A review of Griffith REVIEW 43: Pacific Highways

There is so much diversity in the work presented – some of it written from the point of view of the migrant or even observer. The vantage point changes. The two editors, Julianne Schultz and Lloyd Jones open the book by orienting the reader, providing a kind of guide to modern New Zealand – from the indigenous history to the transition to the current polyglot nation “where all children learn Maori in school” and Auckland is one of the “most cosmopolitan cities in Australasia, boasting 160 ethnicities…” Roberto Onell takes a Chilean perspective, looking eye-to-eye across the Pacific Ocean to his neighbour 9,700 kms away. His essay, “To a neighbour I am getting to know” is translated, as are a number of the pieces in the books, also reflecting the polyglot nature of New Zealand. Following Onell’s essay is Li Po’s poem, translated from Chinese by New Zealand poet Ya-Wen Ho. For the full review visit:

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



In the literary news this month, Melbourne historian and author Clare Wright’s book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, has won this year’s $50,000 Stella prize for women’s writing.The book, which explores the lead-up to the famous Eureka stockade rebellion in the 1850s, offers a “rare combination of true scholarship with a warmly engaging narrative voice”, judges said. Wright said she will donate 10%, or $2,500, of her prize money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, with a further 10%, to her local school, Northcote High, to fund a women’s history award. The Stella prize was created last year in order to recognise the best writing from Australia’s female literary community.

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi has won the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Saadawi was named by this year’s Chair of Judges, Saad A. Albazei, at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi. In addition to winning $50,000, Ahmed Saadawi is guaranteed an English translation of his novel, as well as increased book sales and international recognition.

Karen Joy Fowler has won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Putnam). The award comes with a $15,000 prize. Fowler will be honored at the 34th annual PEN/Faulkner award ceremony on May 10 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., along with the four finalists, who each received $5,000. Among the finalists were Daniel Alarcón for At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead Books); Percival Everett for Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (Graywolf Press); Joan Silber for Fools (W.W. Norton & Company); and Valerie Trueblood for Search Party: Stories of Rescue (Counterpoint Press).

The longlist has been announced for the £10,000 (about US$16,625) Desmond Elliott Prize, which honors a first novel published in the U.K. The shortlist will be released May 26 and a winner named July 3 in London. This year’s Desmond Elliott longlist includes The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison, Idiopathy by Sam Byers, Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy, The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, Sedition by Katharine Grant, The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera, and Ballistics by D. W. Wilson.

This year’s longlist has been announced for the $60,000 (about US$64,884) Miles Franklin Literary Award, Australia’s prestigious prize honoring a novel “of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian life in any of its phases.” The shortlist will be announced May 15 and the winner named June 26. The 2013 Miles Franklin longlisted titles are The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay, Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko, The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane, Belomor by Nicolas Rothwell, Game by Trevor Shearston, My Beautiful Enemy by Cory Taylor, Eyrie by Tim Winton, The Swan Book by Alexis Wright, All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld.

Karen Joy Fowler has won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Putnam). The award comes with a $15,000 prize. Fowler will be honored at the 34th annual PEN/Faulkner award ceremony on May 10 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., along with the four finalists, who each received $5,000. Among the finalists were Daniel Alarcón for At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead Books); Percival Everett for Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (Graywolf Press); Joan Silber for Fools (W.W. Norton & Company); and Valerie Trueblood for Search Party: Stories of Rescue (Counterpoint Press).

Ten novels have been shortlisted for the 2014 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award, managed by Dublin City Libraries. The list includes five novels in translation from Argentina, Colombia, France, Norway, and The Netherlands and novels from Australia, Ireland, Malaysia, the UK and the USA. The IMPAC DUBLIN Award, an initiative of Dublin City Council, is worth €100,000 to the winner and is the world’s most valuable annual literary award for a single work of fiction published in English. The shortlisted titles, announced by The Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin Councillor Henry Upton, in Dublin are: The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker (Dutch), Questions of Travel by Michelle De Kretser (Sri Lankan / Australian), Absolution by Patrick Flanery (American), A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Norwegian), Three Strong Woman by Marie NDiaye (French), Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman (Argentinian), The Light of Amsterdam by David Park (Northern Irish), The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (Irish) , The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysian),   and The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombian). The five member international judging panel, chaired by Hon. Eugene R. Sullivan, will select one winner which will be announced by the Lord Mayor of Dublin and Patron of the Award, Oisín Quinn on Thursday 12th June in a morning announcement.

The two women, Hiromi Kawakami and the ‘Japanese Angela Carter’ Yoko Ogawa, vie with exiled Iraqi short story writer Hassan Blasim, bestselling Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, French author Hubert Mingarelli and German writer Birgit Vanderbeke. Birgit Vanderbeke joins the aforementioned writers with her debut novel The Mussel Feast; this modern German classic first appeared in 1990 but is now published in English for the first time. The full shortlist of 6 titles includes The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim and translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright, A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett, A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli and translated from the French by Sam Taylor, The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke and translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch, Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder, and Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell.

Hannah Sanghee Park has won the 2014 Walt Whitman Award, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. Park’s manuscript, The Same-Different, will be published by Louisiana State University Press in 2015, and the Academy of American Poets will purchase and distribute thousands of copies of the book to its members. Park also receives $5,000, a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center and promotion on Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout, who selected Park, commented: “The poems in The Same-Different, beginning with a set of gnomic sonnets, tell it slant, then slanter. They are so full of chiasmus, pun, and near-rhyme that their figures twist back on themselves like strands of DNA or a staircase by Escher. They are mirror-bright. This book is a literally dazzling debut.”

The 34th annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were awarded this month at the Festival of Books. The complete list of winners includes Biography: “Bolivar: American Liberator” by Marie Arana, Current Interest: “Five Days at Memorial” by Sheri Fink, Fiction: “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki,Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo, Graphic Novel/Comics: “Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life” by Ulli Lust, History: “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914” by Christopher Clark, Mystery/Thriller: “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, Poetry: “Collected Poems” by Ron Padgett, Science and Technology: “Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?” by Alan Weisman, and Young Adult Literature: “Boxers & Saints” by Gene Luen Yang. The full details of Festival of Books, including lots of videos, articles, and interesting writing can be found here:

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Dan Fagin’s Toms River were among the winners of the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes, announced at Columbia University on April 14. The winner of each letters category took home a $10,000 cash prize. Other winners included The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor (history); Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall (biography or autobiography); and 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri (poetry). Graywolf said they would be reprinting another 10,000 copies of 3 Sections with Pulitzer Prize lettering. For a full list of the prize winners and finalists in all categories, click here:″>

This year’s finalists for the £10,000 (US$16,775) Caine Prize for African Writing–sometimes referred to as the “African Booker”–were announced Tuesday by Nobel Prize winner and Patron of the Caine Prize Professor Wole Soyinka, as part of the opening ceremonies for the UNESCO World Book Capital 2014 celebration in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The winner will be named July 14 in Oxford. The Caine Prize shortlisted stories are: “Phosphorescence”by Diane Awerbuck (South Africa), “Chicken” by Efemia Chela (Ghana/Zambia), “The Intervention” by Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe), “The Gorilla’s Apprentice” by Billy Kahora (Kenya) , and “My Father’s Head”by Okwiri Oduor (Kenya).

Mexican writer and journalist Elena Poniatowska has received the most important award for literature in the Spanish language, the Cervantes prize. King Juan Carlos of Spain made the presentation at a ceremony in the town of Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes. Ms Poniatowska, 81, is only the fourth woman to be awarded the prize in its almost four-decades-long history. Her writings often explore the social injustice of her home country.

Have a great month!


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Congratulations to Mary Tharp, who won a copy of Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom.

Congratulations to Carole Gowett, who won a copy of Fly Away by Kirstin Hannah.

Congratulations to Lisa Pulignani, who won a copy of the newly released 25th anniversary (limited edition) version of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

Our new giveaway is for a copy of a copy of Hamster Island by Joan Heartwell. To win, send me an email at with the subject line Hampster Island. Good luck.

We also have a copy of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution to giveaway. To win, send me an email at with the subject Bunker Hill.

Finally, we’ve got a copy of The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming. If you’d like one, send me an email with the subject line Romanov.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of The End of the World by Maria Takolander, The Twelfth Raven by Doris Brett, Mosaic of Disarray” by “Channel D”, In the Chameleon’s Shadowby Mark Hummel, and lots more reviews, interviews, and of course 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 Ninety9 author Vanessa Berry. 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) 2014 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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