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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 15, Issue 7, 1 July 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 Conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert

The author of The Signature of All Things talks about her return to the novel, about shifting genre gears, about the impact of popularity and notions of success, the book’s epigraph, on achieving authenticity, her characters, on the spiritual aspects of her book, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

Millie’s plight alone should have had me in tears by page two, but Davis has drawn this character so skilfully that at no point did I pity her. Yes, I wanted to give her mother a slap for leaving her daughter in a shopping centre—but at the same time I understood why she did what she did. And that is the magic of this story: Everyone who has ever been torn asunder by loss will relate to these broken people. For the full review visit:

A review of Cry of The Fish Eagle by Peter Rimmer

An excellent read for those interested in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and the transitions time has wrought. A somewhat melancholy, sad story, the tale nevertheless manages to present the pathos of the time without becoming maudlin. For the full review visit:

A review of The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert, famous for her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, presents a fictional early 19th century woman botanist. Alma Whittaker arrives at a theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest almost simultaneously with Charles Darwin, whose seminal work, On the Origin of Species, was published in 1859. For the full review visit:

A review of Mr Ballpoint by Gerald Everett Jones

Milton is larger than life and Jones seamlessly incorporates an historical perspective that includes World War Two and the Cold War, the operations behind the scenes at big department stores like Gimbels and Macy’s, Milton’s round the world twin-engine propeller flight that broke Howard Hughes’ record. In addition, Milton and Jim’s difficult relationship, coupled with both Milton’s marriage and Jim’s marriage to Zelta, mingles the domestic with the historical perfectly. For the full review visit:

A review of Radiance by Andy Kissane

Though the poems in Radiance are powerful and hard-hitting – making the familiar new, and challenging the reader’s perspective, the entire collection is suffused with warmth that continues to charm, even when we’re reading about horror. These are poems that, regardless of theme, remain unabashedly positive, at times, extremely funny, and inviting, even as they’re undermining our prejudices. For the full review visit:

A review of Penny From Heaven by Jennifer Holm

Holm has intertwined a delightful narrative within a story. On the one hand the reader spends the summer and autumn with Penny Falucci and her loving and fun loving extended family. Penny’s maternal relatives are home, Mom and apple pie American with Penny, Me-Me, Pop-Pop and Mom. While Penny’s Falucci relatives encompass many uncles, aunts, cousin and Nonny-Grandma is the pillar of the family. For the full review visit:

A review of Dreaming for Freud by Sheila Kohler

Stylistically, Kohler makes excellent use of interior monologue, alternating between Freud and Ida. The novel is presented in a poetic, intimate way that encourages readers’ intense emotional involvement. Kohler also makes effective use of “flashes forward”, interrupting the present of the story to provide tidbits of information about the characters’ futures. The novel is suspenseful. We wonder: Will the young woman give in to Freud, or will she assert her own interpretation of her feelings? What becomes of her and the adults who poisoned her teenage years? For the full review visit:

A review of Barracuda by Christos Tsiolklas

Danny’s growth process through Barracuda raises questions about the nature of what it means to be a ‘good’ and self-fulfilled person, about marginality and the politics of difference – in terms of race, sexuality, and capability, about notions of ‘home’ and nationality (and not only with respect to migrants, though the migrant perspective is strong), how we make meaning in our life even when our dreams falter, the notion of privilege, and questions of class. All of these things are handled subtly and powerfully, through dichotomies that play out naturally through the course of the narrative. For the full review visit:

A review of Working Stiffs by George Dila

The characters in Working Stiffs don’t openly embrace the company’s mean-spirited, oppressive, or murderous policies. They get talked or lulled into them. Out of exhaustion, fear, or basic survivalism, they accept their superiors’ language and logic—however it comes. In “Eyes to Wonder, Tongues to Praise,” the narrator, Baker, learns that he’s bound for a promotion but only because his buddy is getting canned. Baker has to keep it secret, and it eats him up. He’s riddled with anxiety, but he manages the discomfort and accepts his own complicity. For the full review visit:

All of the reviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the first and second pages of the site. 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, The Swedish author Barbro Lindgren was awarded the 2014 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize, the literary world’s largest award for children’s literature, at a ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on Monday. The prize, which is named for the Swedish author and editor, who died in 2002, has been given annually since 2003, and is meant to honor a writer, illustrator or storyteller for a lifetime’s work. It includes a cash award of five million Swedish krona (about $748,000).

The £10,000 Forward Prize for Best Poetry Collection shortlists have been announced. These include Colette Bryce ‘s The Whole & Rain-Domed Universe, John Burnside’s All One Breath, Louise Glück Faithful and Virtuous Night, Kei Miller’s The Cartographer Tries to Map A Way to Zion, and Hugo Williams’ I Knew the Bride. The full list of titles can be found here:   The Forward Prizes for Poetry are the most prestigious awards for poetry in Britain and Ireland. They were set up in 1991 to celebrate excellence in new writing, and are awarded to published poets for work in print in the last year. The three prizes – £10,000 for Best Collection, £5,000 for Best First Collection and £1,000 for Best Single Poem. The winners will be announced on Tuesday 30th September 2014 at London’s Southbank centre.

The Irish writer Eimear McBride has won the Baileys book prize for her first novel, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, beating bookie’s favourite Donna Tartt’s gigantic third novel, The Goldfinch. Although Tartt was tipped from the start for her 771-pager, it was McBride’s dark family tale, written in the hurtling, comma-free voice of an unnamed narrator, that won over the judges of the women’s prize for fiction.

John Banville has been awarded Spain’s prestigious Prince of Asturias literature award. Banville beat 23 other contenders to take the €50,000 (around £40,600) prize. The judges praised Banville’s “skill in developing the plot and his mastery of registers and expressive nuances, as well as for his reflections on the secrets of the human heart”. The Irish novelist, who is 68, also writes screenplays, drama adaptations and literary criticism. Banville won the Booker Prize in 2005 for his novel The Sea, about a retired art historian looking back at the events of a formative childhood summer. After winning the Booker, Banville began writing thrillers under his pseudonym, Benjamin Black. Banville said it was a “great pleasure and a great honour” to win the award. I interviewed John, who was charming and lucid, some time ago here:

Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire by Brenda Hillman and Red Doc by Anne Carson were the International and Canadian winners respectively of this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize, which honors first edition collections written in, or translated into, English and submitted from anywhere in the world. They each received $65,000. Brazilian poet and writer Adélia Prado was presented with the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry’s 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez won the €100,000 (about US$135,280) International Impac Dublin Literary Award for The Sound of Things Falling, translated by Anne McLean. According to the judging panel, the winning book “is a consummate literary thriller that resonates long after the final page. Through a masterly command of layered time periods, spiraling mysteries and a noir palette, it reveals how intimate lives are overshadowed by history; how the past preys on the present; and how the fate of individuals as well as countries is moulded by distant, or covert, events.”

Charles Wright has been named by the Library of Congress as the New Poet Laureate. Wright is a retired professor at the University of Virginia and has won “just about every other honor in the poetry world, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.” Contacted by the Times, Wright said, “I’m very honored and flattered to be picked, but also somewhat confused…. I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do. But as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.” James Billington, the librarian of Congress, praised Wright for his “combination of literary elegance and genuine humility–it’s just the rare alchemy of a great poet.” Wright’s work offers, he said, “an infinite array of beautiful words reflected with constant freshness.”

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi from Uganda, Regional Winner (Africa Region), is the Overall Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, 2014. The Commonwealth Short Story Prize unearths, identifies and develops original voices from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth. This year unpublished stories were entered by nearly 4,000 writers from the five Commonwealth regions. The award was presented in Kampala, Uganda, on 13 June by the novelist and short story writer Romesh Gunesekera. The judges praised Jennifer’s short story, Let’s Tell This Story Properly, for its risk- taking, grace and breadth. Listen to a BBC World Africa podcast featuring Jennifer here.

A shortlist has been announced for the €25,000 (US$33,900) Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The winner will be honored during the Cork International Short Story Festival this September in Ireland. This year’s shortlisted O’Connor titles are: Young Skins by Colin Barrett (Ireland), All the Rage by A.L. Kennedy (U.K.), Redeployment by Phil Klay (U.S.), Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus (U.S.), Bark by Lori Moore (U.S.), and The Isle of Youth by Laura Van Den Berg (U.S.)

Salman Rushdie has been awarded the 2014 Pen / Pinter Prize. Established in 2009 by English Pen, the worldwide writers’ association and freedom of expression charity, it celebrates the memory of the playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter and is awarded annually to a British writer of outstanding literary merit who 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”.

Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing has won the 2013 Encore award. All the Birds, Singing is Evie Wyld’s second novel. Her first novel was After the Fire, a Still Small Voice. All the Birds, Singing is published by Jonathan Cape. The shortlist includes The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Granta), This is the Way by Gavin Corbett (4th Estate), How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti (Harvill Secker), The Professor of Poetry by Grace McCleen (Sceptre), and Snake Road by Sue Peebles (Chatto & Windus). In addition, Evie Wyld has also won the 2014 Miles Franklin literary award All the Birds, Singing. Wyld’s win, announced at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday night, saw her book win out over a “stellar” shortlist that included acclaimed Australian novelist Tim Winton. The Miles Franklin award is Australia’s highest literary honour, celebrating Australian literature that features aspects of Australian life. She will take home $60,000 in prize money, awarded by Perpetual’s the Trust Company, which has been the trustee of the award for its 58-year history.

Finally, Donna Tartt and Doris Kearns Goodwin were announced as the winners of the 2014 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. Tartt won for her book The Goldfinch (for which she also received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction), while Goodwin won for The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. The winners beat out an impressive shortlist of contenders including, for nonfiction: On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand Year History by Nicholas A. Basbanes, and Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. And, on the fiction side: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat.

Have a great month!


SPONSORED BY: is the place to go for all your reading needs. We have book reviews, book giveaways and many other interesting places to visit. Visit:


An intensely personal invocation of the Sophocles tragedy, The Antigone Poems questions power, punishment and one of mythology’s oldest themes: rebellion.




Congratulations to Diane Dubay, who won a copy of Lynne Cheny’s James Madison: A Life Reconsidered.

Congratulations to Jane Robinson, who won a copy of Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale.

Congratulations to Mary Tharp, who won a copy of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Signature”. Good luck.

To celebrate the release of the finale in Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy, we’ve got a copy of Diana’s commonplace book as featured in Shadow of Night, a gorgeously designed and full of never-before-seen original content by Deborah Harkness, including spells, recipes, astrology, and blank space for the booklet’s new owner to write memos and journal entries, along with a set of Holographic Book of Life buttons. To win the book and buttons, send me an email at with the subject line “Book of Life”.

Finally, we’ve got a copy of Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Mr Mandela”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Autoethnographic by Michael Brennan, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (we do sometimes feature classic reviews!), Monday Morning Motivation by David Cotrell,The Double by Maria Takolander 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 Radiance’s Andy Kissane. 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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