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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 16, Issue 1, 1 January 2015



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
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Hello readers and happy new year to all of you. The Compulsive Reader is now in our 16th year! Lots changed during that time, but not the joy of a good book. Hope you all had a good holiday with lots of new reading material (I know I have). Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of Rrose to the Occasion by John Cage and Thomas Wulffen

Cage wrote once that chance (the use of aleatory procedures in composition) liberated him ‘from what I had thought to be freedom and which actually was only the accretion of habits and tastes.’ He abhorred whatever was consistent and predictable, hence his difficulties with German (though not only German) organisers, alluded to here. His creative ambition was to always transcend himself, and clearly this was for Cage an existential (spiritual) aspiration too. Read more:

A review of Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig’s only novel was published in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War and some three years before his death, and its tale of a naive army officer in pre-World War One Austria seems to be set wholly apart from the terrible times he was living through. But it would be a mistake, in my view, to see it as an escape into ‘the world of yesterday’. Instead, I’d read the novel as an attempt to locate the low poisonous roots of Nazism, roots which later found expression in the despicable doctrine of Lebensunwertes Leben, in the world that Zweig was so familiar with. For the full review visit:

A review of Sirs & Madams by Joanna C. Valente

Joanna C. Valente speaks of death in her collection of poems, Sirs and Madams. The poems remind us that we are wrong—dead wrong—if we think of death only as something that happens when life ends. This reminder weaves its way throughout the book and is most poignant when Valente writes about relationships. The stories within the poems are told by “three sisters dangerous as swans, broken into a hundred versions of themselves depending on which day of the week” (Tell Them They’re Dead, 75). Read more:

An interview with Melissa Pimentel

The author of Love by the Book talks about the inspiration for her novel, about the world of dating and her own experiences, on the relationship between agenting and writing, on dating guides, dating advice, and some of her funniest anecdotes. For the full interview visit:

A review of The Medici Boy by John L’Heureux

Donatello, whose concentrated gaze and one time kiss brings to life the embittered Matteo as well as the bronze, or marble upon which the great Master lays his hands seems to breathe life not only into the statues he creates but into the very air breathed by those fortunate enough to share it with him. Read more:

A review of Beautiful Trouble edited by Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell

The “Principles” range from pithy to profound, including tips like “Don’t dress like a protester” and deeper matters like “Take leadership from those most impacted.” This latter principle means that those on the receiving end of a great injustice have the most to gain from a successful action but will bear the brunt of a failed one. They know the problem and potential solutions better than outside experts do, and their knowledge must be heard and respected within the movement. For the full review visit:

A review of The Rough Guide to Vienna by Rob Humphreys

Happy to have got ahold of Rob Humphreys’ guide to one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Vienna is relatively small as capital cities go, hence many of its key cultural attractions are close together, and it is surrounded by beautiful countryside – the much vaunted, verdant Wienerwald. There’s much to see and do. Read more:

A review of The Secret Lives of Married Women by Elissa Ward

For all its BDSM and thriller elements, at heart this novel is really just an old fashioned romance (two or three of them, actually) – and that’s no bad thing. For the full review visit:

A review of Hidden Impact by Charles Neff

Hidden Impact is a well-crafted narrative chockablock with turns and twists. I enjoyed meeting each of the numerous characters through the eyes of Norberg as he gauges those he had known before along with those who are new to his experience on this expedition. Populated with CIA operatives, dedicated American colleagues, Nicaraguan and activists, devious millionaires, and their insensitive associates; the cast of players is believable, plausible and acceptable. Read more:

A review of Chewed Confessions by Cheryl Kirwan

In Chewed Confession, Cheryl Kerwin’s Indie Excellence Finalist Book Award book, characters are connected in a straight-forward linear manner. In this case, the characters in these stories are often friends, family, colleagues, or acquaintances. Thus the main character of one story might casually call a friend or family member and this friend becomes the main character in the following story. This is generally the pattern throughout. 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, a shortlist has been announced for the $50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which was created to “celebrate the rich and varied world of literature in this region and promote the achievements of South Asian writers as well as writers of any ethnicity writing about South Asia and its many diaspora.” The winner will be honored January 22 during the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. This year’s shortlisted titles are: The Scatter Here Is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer , The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie, Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera, and The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Fraud

Anneliese Mackintosh won the Green Carnation Prize, which is presented “to LGBT writers for any form of the written word, and has a reputation of championing LGBT writers from the U.K.,” for Any Other Mouth. Chair of the judges Kaite Welsh praised Any Other Mouth as a “a raw, uncompromising debut… that defies categorization. It isn’t quite a short story collection or a novel and, as she tells us at the very beginning, it’s only almost a memoir. In the end, the only category Any Other Mouth fits neatly into is the one of very, very good books.”

Colin Barrett’s Young Skins won the £10,000 ($15,600) Guardian First Book Award, which recognizes “the finest new authors who have had their first book published in English in the last year, seeking excellence, promise and originality in both fiction and nonfiction.” The collection also won this year’s Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

Winners have been announced for the Specsavers National Book Awards, which “showcases the best of British writing & publishing, while celebrating books with wide popular appeal, critical acclaim and commercial success.” Voting is now open to choose the overall Specsavers Book of the Year from the category winners, which include, for Outstanding achievement: Mary Berry CBE, for International author of the year: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, for Books Are My Bag new writer: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, for U.K. author of the year: Us by David Nicholls. For the full list visit:

Mary Costello’s debut novel Academy Street won the Bord Gáis Energy Book of the Year award, which was chosen by public vote from the list of category winners announced last week. The Board of the Irish Book Awards praised Academy Street as “a worthy winner,” adding that her earlier story collection, The China Factory, “signaled the arrival of a major new Irish literary talent and her first novel has been lauded by illustrious luminaries such as J.M. Coetzee and Ron Rash, proof positive that Mary Costello is the real deal.”

Hammour Ziada became the first Sudanese author to win the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for his 2014 novel The Longing of the Dervish (Shawq al-Darwish). At its core, The Longing of the Dervish tells the story of two enslaved lovers — a Sudanese man and a Greek woman — who are thrown together and torn apart by the first victories of the 1881 Mahdi uprising. The award, announced each year on Mahfouz’s birthday, was first given in 1996. Naguib Mahfouz Medal winners receive the medal and a $1,000 prize. They’re also offered a contract for translation with AUC Press.

Imtiaz Dharker is the winner of Her Majesty’s Gold Medal for Poetry, which will be presented by the Queen in the spring. The Bookseller reported that the Poetry Medal Committee “was unanimous in recommending Dharker as this year’s recipient of the award on the basis of her 2014 collection Over the Moon and a lifetime’s contribution to poetry.” Dharker’s books include Postcards from God, I Speak for the Devil, The Terrorist at My Table and Leaving Fingerprints.

Finally, novelist and filmmaker Ruth Ozeki will be awarded the 33rd John Dos Passos Prize for Literature at Longwood University in spring 2015. Ozeki, who has Japanese-American heritage, is a Zen Buddhist priest who has traveled and worked extensively in Asia.  A Tale for the Time Being is the story of a mysterious diary that washes up on a Pacific Coast beach after the 2011 Japanese tsunami. The diary is discovered by a girl named Ruth, who becomes obsessed with discovering the diary owner’s fate.

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 John Dallal who won a copy of Deadly Odds by Allen Wyler.

Congratulations also to Tish Vaughan, who won a copy of The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Seigal.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Novel Cure”.

We’ve also got a copy of Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Unbecoming”.

Finally, I’ve got a copy of Tempting Fate by Jane Green, including a limited edition set of 8 custom Tempting Fate wine charms. There are 4 charms per set: a purse, a shoe, sunglasses, and a goblet. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Tempting Fate”.

Winners for Unbecoming and Tempting Fate will be chosen within a week or so, so get your entries in quick!

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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