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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 16, Issue 2, 1 February 2015



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Clabber

Klaber vividly depicts life in untamed Minnesota on the brink of statehood. There, Lobdell lives (as a man) in a shanty town outside St. Paul’s and works in a hotel kitchen. To make more money, he signs on as one of two guards at a land claim at Kandiyoki, in a remote part of the state. He encounters aboriginal people and finds a vast, wolf-haunted snow-covered wilderness with game to hunt. Read more:

An interview with Stewart O’Nan

The author of West of Sunset talks about his new novel and why it was a novel instead of a bio, his attraction to F. Scott Fitzgerald, how he you developed his ear for Algonquin-style repartee, the paradox of the alcoholic, his greatest challenges, on Los Angeles, Hollywood, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of Alterworld by Philip Salom

Woven throughout these poems is so much music, art, myth, magic, politics, and even the domestic, in such a silky and natural interplay, that it is possible to read them over and over, uncovering a little more each time. Though I think that each of the books is powerful in itself, having these three together creates a far grander picture, where each poem is informed by, changed, and strengthened by those around it. So we understand this imaginative work to be a multiverse, rich with hell and heaven together, and also our daily struggles – love, death, desire, and loss. Read more:

A review of I Let Go of the Stars in my Hand edited by Jane Ormerod, et al

According to the Introduction, I Let Go includes “some of the most experimental poems” that the editors have ever included in an anthology. In some, “the writers let go of more than just stars.” Poets Zev Torres “Jamnation” and Stephen Mead “Researching Plague” have created poems which do not lend themselves to being performed aloud; their cleverness is best appreciated on the printed page. Kit Kennedy’s “Fog Descends: I Walk into a Koan,” consisting of cryptic proverbs, and ending with “How many crows inhabit an imaginary tree?” provides food for meditation. For the full review visit:

A review of The Yanks are Starving by Glen Craney

The “bonus” in “Bonus Army” or “Bonus Expeditionary Force” refers to the bonus for wartime service, a tradition in the U.S. ever since the War of Independence. A law passed in 1924 during the Coolidge administration stipulated that World War I veterans were to get a bonus in the form of a certificate redeemable twenty years later. In 1930 and 1931, when the impact of the economic downturn following the 1929 stock market crash was making itself felt, unemployed veterans demanded their bonus immediately. Read more:

An interview with Christopher Noxon

The author of Plus One talks about why he made the switch from journalism to fiction writing, about his foray into beads, about where the story for his first novel came from and how closely it aligns to his own story, how he came up with his illustrations, his creative process, what’s next for him and lots more. For the full interview visit:

Freedom, Knowledge, Power: The State of the Nation and Its Arts, circa 2015

Where does one go if one wants to discuss the arts, philosophy, or political problems and solutions? Where does one go if one wants to discuss socialism or multiculturalism or feminism or bisexuality or androgyny? How does one reconcile the fact of genuine intellectual work with a society that values the shallow and sensational? Read more:

A review of Wet by Toni Stern

There is definitely a welcomed playfulness in the poems of Wet. However, one needs to search for it. Any practitioner of mindfulness would tell you that everything is a teacher if we but pay attention. Fortunately, there are books like Wet that helps lead the way. For the full review visit:

A review of The No Nonsense Guide to Degrowth and Sustainability by Wayne Ellwood

Ellwood packs a great deal of information into his 192 pages. He discusses ominous signs of strain on the earth, such as the depletion of major world fisheries, the melting of Arctic ice, and depletion of fossil fuel resources. Capitalism, he says, is to blame for the relentless pillaging of Earth’s resources. Though capitalism “wears different masks…adapts to different political configurations,” the common denominator is growth. Like a shark, it constantly moves forward, consuming. Profit, not production, is its over-riding preoccupation, as Karl Marx pointed out. Read more:

A review of White Lady by Jessica Bell

Though a strong plot is what drives the book forward, it is characterisation that makes White Lady an engaging read. Mia is particularly well drawn, and the most pervasive voice through the book – her bravado and insecurity as she tries to deal with her mother’s betrayal providing a psychological anchor to the more chaotic story of drug deals and blood lust. For the full review 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, which can be browsed from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, author Ali Smith and historian/novelist Marina Warner were among those named in the U.K.’s New Year Honors 2015, the Bookseller reported. Duffy was made a Dame for services to poetry; Warner received a Damehood for services to higher education and literary scholarship; and Smith was given a CBE for services to literature. Other honorees included novelist and screenwriter William Nicholson, who received an OBE for services to drama and literature.

The category winners in the 2014 Costa Book Award have been announced. Ali Smith won in the Novel category with How to be Both, a Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel about grief and the experience of making and appreciating art. Emma Healey’s debut novel, Elizabeth Is Missing, which is narrated by a 90-year-old woman with dementia, won the First Novel award. The 29-year-old author was praised for her “incredible flair and unusual skill” by the judges, who called the mystery novel “a very special book”. H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald’s Samuel Johnson Prize-winning account of grief and falconry, has won the Biography Award. Macdonald, an academic at Cambridge university, immersed herself in falconry following the death of her father. Her account explains how she dealt with grief by training her own goshawk. The Costa Poetry Award was won by Jonathan Edwards for his collection, My Family and Other Superheroes, in which celebrities and fictional characters such as Sophia Loren and Evil Knievil collide with reflections on the social architecture of working class Welsh valleys. Edwards works as a schoolteacher and this is his first collection of poetry.

The Story Prize, an annual award for books of short fiction, has named its three finalists for works published in 2014: The Other Language by Francesca Marciano (Pantheon); Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken (The Dial Press); and Bark by Lorrie Moore (Alfred A. Knopf). Founder Julie Lindsey will announce the winner and present that author with $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl on March 4th. The two runners-up will each receive $5,000.

The longlist for the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction consists of 16 novels from nine countries. The shortlist will be announced on February 13 at the Casablanca International Book Fair in Morocco, and the winner will be named May 6 at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The six shortlisted finalists each receive $10,000, and the winner receives an additional $50,000.

After four previous appearances on the shortlist for the TS Eliot prize for poetry, David Harsent has finally taken the honour for his 11th collection of poems, Fire Songs. He was described by the chair of the judging panel, the poet and novelist Helen Dunmore, as “a poet for dark and dangerous days”. he prize for the best collection of new verse in English, run by the Poetry Book Society, was launched in 1993 and funded and presented by Eliot’s widow Valerie until her death in 2012. It is now funded by the poet’s estate. Last year it was awarded to Sinead Morrissey for the collection Parallax.

Six finalists were named for the £3,500 (about $5,270) Costa Short Story Award, which honors “a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words by an author aged 18 years or over and written in English.” The writer’s primary residence must have been the U.K. or Ireland for the past three years. A winner and two runners-up will be announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony on January 27. You can check out the complete list of finalists here.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Lowland won the $50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which was created to celebrate “the achievements of the authors writing about this region, and thereby raise awareness of South Asian literature and culture around the world.” Speaking on behalf of the jury, chair Keki N. Daruwalla praised The Lowland as “a superb novel written in restrained prose with moments of true lyricism. It starts with a sense of loss and trauma due to the death and then the ongoing presence of a key character. The novel is partly political and partly familial, starting with an unromanticized account of the Indian Naxalite movement and ending with a series of individual emotional resolutions. The Lowland is a novel about the difficulty of love in complex personal and societal circumstances, inhabited by characters which are finely drawn and where the lowland itself is a metaphor running through their entire lives. This is a fine novel written by a writer at the height of her powers.”

Novelist Masatsugu Ono has won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize for up-and-coming authors, while the Naoki Prize for popular fiction has gone to writer Kanako Nishi, the selection committee said Thursday. Ono, a 44-year-old associate professor at Rikkyo University and a native of Oita Prefecture, won the 152nd prize for his work “9 Nen Mae no Inori” (“A Prayer Nine Years Ago”), which depicts the sentiment of a single mother who returns to her hometown with her little son after parting from a Canadian man. Nishi, 37, who was born in Tehran and brought up in places including Osaka and Egypt, was awarded the prize for “Saraba!” (“Farewell!”), the story of a man born in Iran who suffers, recovers and grows while moving from Iran to Osaka, Egypt and Tokyo. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Tokyo in mid-February, with each author receiving ¥1 million in prize money.

The Akutagawa Prize was founded in 1935 in memory of renowned Japanese novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa, while the Naoki award, also created in 1935, is named after popular writer Sanjugo Naoki.

The finalists for the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize, who all tell the story of Jewish immigrants in their debut works, are Yelena Akhtiorskaya for Panic in a Suitcase: A Novel, Molly Antopol for The UnAmericans: Stories, Kenneth Bonert for The Lion Seeker: A Novel, Boris Fishman for A Replacement Life: A Novel, and Ayelet Tsabari for The Best Place on Earth: Stories. For more detail on each of these works visit:

Finally, Helen Macdonald has won the 2014 Costa book award for ‘haunting’ H is for Hawk. H is for Hawk was named the £30,000 winner of the 2014 Costa book prize, adding to the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction that it won in November. The writer Robert Harris, who chaired this year’s judges, said it was a book that haunted several members of the panel and was one they would never forget. “Everybody agreed it was wonderful, muscular, precise, scalpel-like prose. It was a very clever and accomplished piece of writing that wove everything together. “There are some books that win prizes because they demand it and then the public don’t quite get it. This is a book I think which everyone will like.” Macdonald’s book has been hailed a triumph by almost every critic who has written about it.

Have a great month.


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


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



Congratulations to Audrey Larson, who won a copy of Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm.

Congratulations also to Sabine Blanch who won a copy of The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elder kin

Congratulations to Nancy Ludvik, who won a copy of Tempting Fate by Jane Green, including a set of wine charms.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Sunset”.

We’ve also got a copy of The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Price of Blood”.

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

I’ve got two Kindle only versions of 10 Stacks To Success: How to Achieve Success One Goal at a Time by Jerome “Jay” ISIP. To win, send me an email at, and the subject line “Ten Stacks”.

But wait, there’s more! (lots of giveaways this month!). I’ve also got a copy of Martine Bailey¹s An Appetite for Violets. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Violets”.

Finally (phew), I’ve got a copy of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Miss Hazel”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Clariel by Garth Nix, Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas, Springtime by Michelle De Kretser, 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.

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(c) 2015 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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