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The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 16, Issue 3, 2 March 2015



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
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Hello readers. Before I get into the latest batch of reviews, I just want to let you know that I’ll be at the Newcastle Writers Festival on Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st of March. On Friday I’ll be reading with other poets featured in the anthology A Slow Combusting Hymn (145 to 315pm at City Hall, Cummings Room) and on Saturday I’ll be in conversation with none other than Garth Nix (see my review of his latest book Clariel this month) – 10-11am. You can grab the full program here and if you want to catch the Garth Nix session, you’ll need to pre-book as tickets are selling fast (the poetry reading is free and no pre-booking necessary):

I don’t want to knock other writers festivals because I love them all, but I will say that the NWF is the best I’ve been to: warm, relaxed, welcoming and incredibly accessible – you might get to hug Les Murray! Take a selfie with Helen Garner! Please consider joining us and if you do, come say hello. I’d love to meet some of you face to face. We could do a CR Meet up! Right, enough burbling. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of Only the Dead by Wolfgang Carstens and Janne Karlsson

I would say that this book isn’t for the squeamish, or those who prefer to think about death as something that doesn’t really happen. I personally think it would make a superb birthday card – a day when everyone needs a little extra reminder that life is worth living “to the point of tears”. Maybe don’t give it to anyone under ten (though I knew a few canny nine year olds who would love it). Read more:

A review of Count Me In by Emily White

White’s search for community confirmed her belief, first expressed in Lonely, that social policy affects people’s sense of belonging. Her good experiences at a public pool and community garden were made possible by elected officials of the past who directed tax dollars toward construction of a the community centre that housed the pool and the park that had space for the garden. For the full review visit:

An Interview with Neil Spector

The author of Gone in a Heartbeat talks about his new book, about his own medical ordeal and mis-diagnosis, what it feels like to receive a new heart, advice to readers to help them advocate for themselves in medical situations, on the nature of the current medical profession and how it needs to change, on trusting your instincts, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Clariel by Garth Nix

While it might be tempting to contain the magic of the Old Kingdom series under genre classifications like “fantasy,” or “young adult” fiction, I think it’s fair to say that Nix is a writer whose work goes well beyond genre definitions and edges towards the classic. The work will appeal to readers of all tastes – particularly those who want to be transported into a world richly drawn and exotic, and yet so full of a very human verisimilitude of life, coming-of-age, and loss. For the full review visit:

A review of Plus One by Christopher Noxon

Noxon’s gift as character creator compels us to believe in the slightly zany, uber LA Plus One leader of the pack Huck whose apparent ease with all things, comfort with this moment’s offering appeals to the protagonist, Alex’s character. Marked by a Woody Allen type of insecurity and running commentary of self-doubt Alex emerges as a kind of “all man” in a surprising way. Read more:

An Interview with Andrea Michaels

The author of Reflections of a successful Wallflower – Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life? talks about her new book, about her earliest books, her inspiration, her writing style, her work-in-progress, and more. For the full review visit:

A Different Mary: An essay on the novel The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

The reader will immediately recognize the tone of sadness and fear that permeates the text. But there is a niggling sense that there is something missing, of something not being said. It is only after the narrative has advanced a long way, to its end almost, that what is withheld becomes clear: guilt and shame. It is not withheld deliberately from the reader, rather it is something she is hiding from herself with poignant delicacy and tact. Read more:

An interview with Patricia Bracewell

The author of The Price of Blood talks about her new book, her title, the attractions and challenges of Emma of Normandy’s story, her extensive research, the appeal of Vikings, her other characters, advice for aspiring writers, her ideal book club, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of The Moon in the Pool by Gary Metras

Gary Metras’s The Moon in the Pool is a small book that packs a big poetic punch. Metra makes something out of what appears to be nothing at first sight. Mundane items, such as stones or the sight of an old man, serve as inspiration for Metras. It is not surprising, then, that Metras has ten other books under his belt. The Moon in the Pool is the work of a seasoned poet, a writer accustomed to having his way with words. But there is more to these poems; they make us what we already are. In other words, they tap into our shared humanity. Read more:

An Interview with RosaBella Bloom

The author of Ruby ShinesBright and the Birthday cake talks about the inspiration for her book, her fantasy writing mentor, the value of stepping out of the comfort zone, her writing challenges, advice for other writers, and more. For the full interview 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, Ófeigur Sigurðsson, Snorri Baldursson and Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir were awarded the Icelandic Literature Prize by President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Ófeigur was the winner in the belle-lettres category for his novel Öræfi (‘Wasteland’), Snorri won the prize for his book Lífríki Íslands about Iceland’s flora and fauna in the non-fiction category and Bryndís for her children’s book Hafnarfjarðarbrandarinn (‘The Hafnarfjörður Joke’). Bryndís also won the Fjöruverðlaun literature prize for women in the children’s book category last week. Each of the winning authors received a prize of ISK 1 million (USD 7,500, EUR 6,700). Author Elísabet Jökulsdóttir received the Fjöruverðlaun prize for her poetry book Ástin ein taugahrúa. Enginn dans við Ufsaklett (‘Love is a Nervous Wreck. No Dance by Ufsaklettur’) in the belle-lettres category and Guðrún Kristinsdóttir for Ofbeldi á heimili – Með augum barna about domestic violence through the eyes of children in the non-fiction category.

Nathaniel Mackey has been named the winner of Yale’s 2015 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, joining a list of past winners that includes such luminaries as Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, E.E. Cummings, and Marianne Moore. Of Mackey’s work, the three-member judging committee said: “Nathaniel Mackey’s decades-long serial work — ‘Songs of the Andoumboulou’ and ‘Mu’ — constitutes one of the most important poetic achievements of our time. ‘Outer Pradesh’ — jazz-inflected, outward-riding, passionately smart, open, and wise — beautifully continues this ongoing project.” The prize, administered by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, includes a cash award of $150,000. This year’s judges were Al Filreis, the Kelly Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania; Tracy K. Smith, professor of creative writing at Princeton University; and poet and writer Elizabeth Willis.

Booker prize-winning author Anne Enright has been named the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction. The Irish Times reported that Enright was the unanimous choice of an international panel for the €50,000 (about $56,450) per year position, which lasts for three years. “The laureateship is not about one writer, but about a series of writers stretching into the future who will each play a briefly emblematic role in Irish letters,” she said. “It is a great honor to be chosen. I hope I can rise to the role, and maybe have some fun along the way. I take courage, as ever, from the readers I have met–especially in Ireland, but also abroad–who allow fiction do its deeply personal work; who let Irish writers into their minds and hearts, and welcome them as their own.”

Kwame Alexander has won the 2015 John Newbery Medal for his novel The Crossover (HMH). Dan Santat has won the 2015 Randolph Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Little, Brown. Jandy Nelson has won the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award for I’ll Give You the Sun (Dial). It was a first-time award for all three recipients.

The Folio Society has unveiled the shortlist for this year’s £40,000 (about $60,970) Folio Prize, which recognizes “the best English-language fiction from around the world, regardless of form, genre or the author’s country of origin.” A winner will be named March 23. The shortlisted titles are: 10:04 by Ben Lerner, All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Family Life by Akhil Sharma, How to Be Both by Ali Smith, Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín, Outline by Rachel Cusk

Mark Wunderlich won the $10,000 University of North Texas Rilke Prize for The Earth Avails (Graywolf). The prize “recognizes a book written by a mid-career poet and published in the preceding year that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision.”

The six titles shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction with their countries of origin are A Suspended Life by Atef Abu Saif (Palestine), Floor 99 by Jana Elhassan (Lebanon), Diamonds and Women by Lina Huyan Elhassan (Syria), The Italian by Shukri al-Mabkhout (Tunisia), Willow Alley by Ahmed al-Madeeni (Morocco), andThe Longing of the Dervish by Hammour Ziada (Sudan). Each finalist receives $10,000, and the winner receives an extra $50,000.

Vale Philip Levine, U.S. Poet Laureate from 2011-2012, who died on Saturday at 87 at his home in Fresno, Calif. ong published by Knopf, Levine won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for his collection The Simple Truth. His most recent collection is News of the World (2009). Other books include the poetry collections The Mercy (1999) and Breath (2004), and the autobiographical volume The Bread of Time (1994).

An original manuscript with accompanying sketches by Dr. Seuss, aka Ted Geisel, which was discovered in the La Jolla, California home of the late beloved children’s author will be published by Random House Children’s Books, it was announced today by Barbara Marcus, President & Publisher, and Susan Brandt, President, Licensing and Marketing, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. WHAT PET SHOULD I GET? will be published on July 28, 2015. At least two more books will be published from the materials discovered, with titles and publication dates to be announced.

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library has announced the winners of the 2015 Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes at Yale. The writers, who hail from the United States, United Kingdom, Nigeria, and South Africa, were chosen confidentially in three categories — fiction, non-fiction, and drama. Honored for their literary achievements as well as their potential, the winners will each receive $150,000 to support their work. The 2015 winners are: in fiction, Teju Cole, Helon Habila, and Ivan Vladislavić; in non-fiction, Edmund de Waal, Geoff Dyer, and John Jeremiah Sullivan; and in drama, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Helen Edmundson, and Debbie Tucker Green.

Ayelet Tsabari, author of “The Best Place On Earth: Stories,” won the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Tsabari takes home $100,000 for winning the prize, which was announced Monday in a statement by the Jewish Book Council. Fellow Canadian Kenneth Bonert was awarded $25,000 U.S. as the runner-up for his novel The Lion Seeker (Knopf Canada).

Winners were announced for the Windham Campbell Prizes, which “call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns,” the Bookseller reported, noting that the awards are worth $150,000 to each of the nine winners and “can be given for a body of work or extraordinary promise.” This year’s Windham Campbell winners are Teju Cole, Helon Habila and Ivan Vladislavić (fiction); Edmund de Waal, Geoff Dyer and John Jeremiah Sullivan (nonfiction); and Jackie Sibblies Drury, Helen Edmundson and Debbie Tucker Green (drama). In September, they will be honored at Yale University during an international literary festival celebrating their work.

Finally, the finalists have been announced for the 2014 Aurealis Awards. Judging Coordinator, Tehani Wessely, said that with over 750 entries across the twelve categories, the judges had a hugely challenging job. There were a lot of finalists, including, for best fantasty novel: Fireborn, Keri Arthur (Hachette Australia), This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin), The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia), Dreamer’s Pool, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia), Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia), and Daughters of the Storm, Kim Wilkins (Harlequin Enterprises Australia). Garth Nix’s Clariel, reviewed this month, was shortlisted for best young adult novel. The full list can be found here:

Have a great month.



Feeling nostalgic for the post office days?  Want to foster a love of reading and writing? And excite and educate your kids all at once?  For only $5.50 a month or $58 a year, Letters For Kids will send your child two letters each month created by children’s authors exclusively for the program and not available anywhere else.  Past letters have been from Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler, Adam Rex, Matt Holm, Rebecca Stead, Susan Patron and more. Check it out at:

================================================== 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 Heather Ellis and Louise Raffaelli, who each won a copy of 10 Stacks To Success: How to Achieve Success One Goal at a Time by Jerome “Jay” ISIP.

Congratulations to Theresa Dell, who won a copy of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell.

Congratulations to Cathy Burkhead who won a copy of The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell.

Congratulations to Laura Shangraw who won a copy of Martine Bailey’s An Appetite for Violets.

Finally, congratulations to Diana Ramsay, who won a copy of West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan.


Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Bettyville by George Hodgman. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Bettyville”.

We’ve also got a copy of Entrevoir by Chris Katsaropoulos and The Possibility of Snow by Al Riske’s. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Entrevoir and Snow”.

I’ve also got two Kindle gifted sets of Unscrambled Eggs, and Becoming: The Life & Musings of a Girl Poet by Nadia Brown (one set to each of two winners). To win, send me an email at, and the subject line “Nadia poetry”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Springtime by Michelle De Kretser, The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber, Brush by Joanne Burns, 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 Philip Salom, author of Alterworld.

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) 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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