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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 15, Issue 12, 1 December 2014

New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
Sponsored By
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Hello readers. Welcome to the last month of the year. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of The Last Days of Troy by Simon Armitage

You know the story. The abduction of Helen. The wooden horse. The fall of Troy.Simon Armitage’s new play is a vivid re-engineering of Homer and Virgil, a meditation on ‘own’ and ‘other’, an unblinkered look at the costs and sorrows of war. In truth, a play about war (rather than a lion hunt, say, another ancient theme) will always be of the moment: Achilles mutilating Hector’s corpse; a British soldier giving a thumbs-up over the body of a dead insurgent.

Read more:

A review of Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba – The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire by Gabriel Constans

What is interesting about this book is that it is presented in such a way as to appear serious and it is only in the fineprint that fiction is mentioned (and oh, I’ve just noticed the words “delusional” and “satire” in the title). If a newbie to zen philosophy picked it up, there’s enough sentences in this book to convince them it’s non-fiction; a book to be studied and unravelled. For the full review visit:

A review of Margarita Wednesdays by Deborah Rodriguez

I find Rodriguez’ breezy, blunt writing style to be very readable. She is an excellent weaver of a tale, readers will find their interest whetted via the uninhibited panache of Rodriguez’ writing. I like when someone, writer or not, can see their mistakes, can laugh at themselves and not resort to mawkish or maudlin behavior or writing in order to gain empathy or sympathy for their plight. Read more:

A review of Vienna – Vienna Woods By Fritz Peterka

Fritz Peterka is a native son of Vienna, and in this information-packed pocket book (measuring about 16.5cm x 11.5cm) he describes 50 walks that can be taken in and around the Austrian capital. For the full review visit:

An interview with Allen Wyler

The author of Deadly Odds talks about how he comes up with his story ideas, his protagonist, on choosing Vegas as his setting, on the attraction of the thriller genre, on the upcoming sequel, on the book’s cinematic potential, and more. Read more:

A review of Act of Fear by Michael Collins

All the characters are terrific, utterly convincing; there is an authentic sense of place: Chelsea, N.Y., a blue-collar neighbourhood where authority figures, police officers most of all, are treated with suspicion; and there’s Fortune’s voice, streetwise but by no means hard-boiled, compassionate yet missing nowt. And with a nice line in epigrams: ‘A man in prison needs a human word.’ ‘Unanswered questions are like lurking monsters.’ For the full review visit:

Shakespeare As the Father of Us All: On Romeo & Juliet, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and At Any Price, Bamako, Cesar Chavez, The Darjeeling Limited, Prisoners, Thurgood, and The Wolf of Wall Street

Shakespeare writes about human emotion and impulse in a heightened realm, a realm of people with liberty and power, people of mind and passionate expression. Shakespeare gives us a language that is complex, eloquent, and true, a language to savor. Read more:

A review of We Walk Alone by Mariah E. Wilson

The poems in We Walk Alone by Mariah E. Wilson, remind me of the great writer John Edgar Wideman’s description of one of his characters in his Damballah. Wideman writes, “He has the gift of feeling. Things don’t touch him, they imprint.” Wilson, too, has the gift of feeling. Things don’t touch her, they imprint. For evidence, read her poetry. For the full review visit:

A review of On Leave By Daniel Anselme

Anselme’s approach is to dig deep into the attitudes and motivations of three soldiers who are home on leave, let loose in Paris for a week or two. He shows us the distance between civilians safely ensconced at home and combatants who are fighting an unpopular war – a situation we have since come to know only too well. For sure, there is no sanctuary: these three guys may as well be ghosts, they’re on their own. Adrift from lovers, friends and family. Read more:

A review of 20/20 Meals by Julie Goodwin

Goodwin fans will particularly enjoy the non-pretentious and warm presentation of good home cooking. Goodwin makes it clear that you don’t need to study for years to be able to cook high quality food for your family. Anyone can, and should do it, and the recipes and tips in this book will certain encourage that. For the full review visit:

All of the reviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the first and second pages. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives, which can be browsed from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Finalists have been named in 12 categories for the 2014 Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards, which “recognize and celebrate the very best of Irish literary talent,” the Bookseller reported. Winners will be named November 26. 

Shortlisted for the Eason Novel of the Year are Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín, The Thrill of It All by Joseph O’Connor, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, A History of Loneliness by John Boyne, From Out of the City by John Kelly and Academy Street by Mary Costello. Check out the complete Irish Book Awards shortlists here.

The day before the Goncourt anouncement, they announced the prix Médicis-winners, with Antoine Volodine winning the fiction category for Terminus radieux and Lily Brett — longtime Aussie expat in New York — won the prix Médicis étranger (best translated work) for Lola Bensky.

A former psychiatrist has won France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, with her novel centred on the Spanish civil war. Lydie Salvayre’s book Pas Pleurer (Don’t Cry) saw off competition from, among others, the bestselling French author David Foenkinos, to win the coveted award. n 2013, sales of Goncourt winner Pierre Lemaitre’s Au Revoir là-haut jumped from 30,000 to 620,000 according to his publisher, Albin Michel.

The Prix Goncourt is given to the author of the “best and most imaginative prose work of the year”. It is named after Edmond de Goncourt, an author, critic and publisher, who willed that his estate be used to found the Académie Goncourt to present the annual award. Previous winners have included Marcel Proust for volume two of In Search of Lost Time, Simone de Beauvoir for The Mandarins, André Malraux for Man’s Fate, Marguerite Duras for The Lover, Jonathan Littell for The Kindly Ones, and Michel Houellebecq for The Map and the Territory.

Author Helen Macdonald has won the £20,000 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for her book about how becoming a falconer helped her deal with grief. H is for Hawk – described as “a book unlike any other” by the chair of the judging panel – is the first memoir to win the award, now in its 16th year. In it Macdonald reveals how training her own goshawk helped her come to terms with the death of her father. The poet and historian beat five other titles. This year’s shortlist, which included a biography of Roy Jenkins and a look at life in Vichy France, marked the first time female authors had outnumbered their male counterparts.

Joshua Ferris has won the International Dylan Thomas prize for his darkly comic novel about a New York dentist grappling with an existential crisis. In celebration of the legacy of the Welsh poet and writer, the annual award is given to the “best literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under” – marking the age Thomas was when he died. In previous years, the award, worth £30,000 to the winner, was given to the best writer under 30. The American author Joshua Ferris has won the International Dylan Thomas prize for his darkly comic novel about a New York dentist grappling with an existential crisis.

Koala by Lukas Bärfuss (Wallstein Verlag) has won the Swiss Book Prize, which carries an award of 30,000 francs. The judges praised the book for connecting in a bold way “great themes like suicide, colonialism and meritocracy.”

Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts and Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest were joint winners of this year’s $50,000 (US$43,190) Barbara Jefferis Award, which recognizes “the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society.” The judges praised Sea Hearts as “a tale that is both intensely of its time and moment, but also explores idealization, history, miscegenation and loss”; and The Night Guest for being “brilliantly original, and perfectly achieved.”

Sean Michaels has won the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Canadian fiction, for his novel Us Conductors. Us Conductors is the debut novel by Michaels, a music critic living in Montreal. His book is about the history of the theremin — a musical instrument that is suddenly getting a lot of attention. He also founded Said the Gramophone, one of the earliest music blogs. Anticipation for the Giller Prize was greater than ever this year thanks to the doubling of the prize purse — with $100,000 earmarked for the winner and $10,000 for each of the other finalists. This made it the richest literary award in Canada, exceeding even Britain’s Man Booker Prize of £50,000 (about $90,000). The finalists were: David Bezmozgis, The Betrayers (HarperCollins); Frances Itani, Tell (HarperCollins); Sean Michaels, Us Conductors (Random House); Heather O’Neill, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night (HarperCollins); Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows (Knopf); and Padma Viswanathan, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao (Random House).

Author and playwright Brian Castro is the 2014 recipient of the Patrick White Literary Award. Castro was presented with the $24,000 award on 7 November. The annual award was established by Patrick White using the proceeds of his 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature and is traditionally awarded to authors who ‘have made a significant but inadequately recognised contribution to Australian literature’. The award does not involve a submission process, with writers being ‘automatically eligible’.

The thirteen strong longlist of titles for the Green Carnation prize celebrating LGBT writing have been whittled down, after many hours of debate, to a shortlist of six titles which include a diverse range of fiction, non-fiction, short stories, works in translation and memoir. This includes All The Days and Nights – Niven Govinden (The Friday Project), Thirst – Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus), The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales – Kirsty Logan (Salt), Any Other Mouth – Anneliese Mackintosh (Freight), Unspeakable Things – Laurie Penny (Bloomsbury), and Invisible Love – Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt (Europa Editions).

Nominees have been announced for the €100,000 (US$124,620) International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, which honors a single work of fiction published in English. The 142 nominations for 2015 include 49 novels in translation, spanning 16 languages. A shortlist will be released April 15, with the winner named June 17. Check out the complete longlist here:

Brian O’ Driscoll, Graham Norton, Cecelia Ahern and Majella O’ Donnell were some of the winners named at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2014 held in Dublin. Renowned contemporary Irish poet Paul Durcan was presented with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award 2014 by Paula Meehan, Ireland Professor of Poetry, while bestselling author Jeffrey Archer was presented with the inaugural International Recognition Award by broadcaster George Hook. Academy St by first time novelist Mary Costello beat off stiff competition in the Eason Novel of the Year category which featured literary heavyweights John Boyne, David Mitchell, Colm Tóibín, Joseph O’ Conor and John Kelly. For the full list, visit:

Have a great month, thank you for all the bookish camaraderie throughout the year, and all the best for a happy holiday season!


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:


The Antigone Poems questions power, punishment and one of mythology’s oldest themes: rebellion. Visit:



Congratulations to Cheryl Greenleaf, who won a copy of MORE AWESOME THAN MONEY: Four Boys and Their Heroic Quest to Save Your Privacy from Facebook by Jim Dwyer

Congratulations also to Elise Devlin, who won a copy of Return to Oakpine by Ron Carlson.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Anatomy”.

We’ve also got a copy of Deadly Odds by Allen Wyler (see interview with Allen above). To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Deadly Odds”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Joan Makes History by Kate Grenville, The Secret Lives of Married Women by Elissa Wald, Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig, 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 Julie Goodwin, author of 20/20 Meals.

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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