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The Compulsive Reader News

Volume 16, Issue 6, 1st June 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:

A review of A Short History of Stupid by Bernard Keane and Helen Razer

This is a book that is delightfully vulgar, bravely contrary, openly critical of media, government (especially the current one), the news, television in general, new age clap trap, and pretty much everything else. If they err on the side of being just a little too confident that they’re smarter than the average bear, it’s probably because they are. A Short History of Stupid is a panacea to all the soft serve we’re fed on a regular basis. Read more:

A review of Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack

Despite all that, the author makes the story come together and the book is a light fun summer read, especially for those who like dabbling in reincarnation stories. Being a historical fantasy with a spiritual sub-plot the story also brings past social mores, politics, and people from far-flung places to life, as the reader and protagonists rush about from ancient Egypt, through Russia, to other parts unknown. For the full review visit:

A review of Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen

In Bowen’s Enchanted August, Lottie and Rose are New York mothers of young children, dissatisfied at the way their lives are working out. Lottie’s husband seems to have lost interest in her. Rose’s husband is writing thrillers under a pseudonym, but her poetic talent has been overshadowed by her maternal role. The two women meet at the bulletin board of their children’s preschool, both drawn to a notice about a Maine cottage for rent for August.

Read more:

A Conversation with Brenda Bowen

The author of Enchanted August talks about how the idea for her latest novel developed, on the relationship between her book and the original Enchanted April, her feelings about Maine, her literary influences, her writing process, her perfect summer day, and her own Hopewell Cottage imaginary houseguests. For the full interview visit:

A review of Entrevoir by Chris Katsaropoulos

The book feels earnest. It pulls the reader along. From the beginning Jacob’s transformation/journey is about the role of artist as seer and priest in the world. Ideas of reincarnation, Identity, and the Self or Cosmic spirit all come together in an attempt to sing of life and time. Read more:

A review of Autoplay by Julie Babcock

It is tempting to say that Autoplay by Julie Babcock is a collection of poems about Ohio. It is and more. One way to put order to this book, a task that is almost if not totally impossible to do, is to separate the poems into categories. The Ohio poems would be one category. Another category would be poems dealing with childhood and adulthood. For the full review visit:

Interview with Mary Kay Andrews

The author of Beach Town talks about why she chose to write about Hollywood, the research she did, the real town behind Cypress Key, her Floridian setting, her characters (including the dachshund), her favourite beach town, her work in progress, and more. Read more:

A review of Words Without Music by Philip Glass

There is so much to learn here, not just about Glass, but about ourselves—how to live, how to learn, how to create. Towards the end of the book, Glass talks about his work on his Cocteau Trilogy in which he says, of Cocteau, that he “is teaching about creativity in terms of the power of the artist, which we now understand to be the power of transformation” (378) The same can be said of Words Without Music. Read more:

A review of Finding Love by Carolyn Martinez

Martinez’ new book, Finding Love Again, is another book full of stories about people who have made a go of love on their second or more attempts. Though the stories are presented without too much editorial interruption, Martinez provides a kind of cumulative wisdom as the book progresses, building up to practical tips to go along with such a wealth of anecdotal advice that it’s hard not to feel like it’s entirely possible to find true love, at any age. For the full review visit:

Interview with Joshua Braff

The author of The Daddy Diaries talks about his new book and its parallels with his own life, about the challenges of drawing from real life for his fiction, about the dearth of stay-at-home dads in fiction, about being a house-husband, the challenges of writing at home with children, about where, and how he writes, and lots more. Read more:

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.



Hello readers. In the literary news this month, the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing Shortlist has been announced. South Africans Masande Ntshanga and FT Kola have been included in the shortlist for the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing, along with 2005 winner Segun Afolabi (Nigeria), 2013 shortlistee Elnathan John (Nigeria) and 2010 shortlistee Namwali Serpell (Zambia). The winner, who will receive £10,000, will be announced on Monday, 6 July at a ceremony to be held in Oxford. All five shortlisted stories will be included in the new Cain Prize anthology which will be launched at the ceremony.

Alice Notley, a poet who has worked in a wide variety of forms and styles in more than 25 books, has been awarded the lucrative and prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The prize, presented annually by the Poetry Foundation to to a living American poet for lifetime accomplishment, comes with $100,000. Ms. Notley, who was associated with the New York poetry scene in the 1960s and ’70s, has lived in Paris since 1992. Her first book, “165 Meeting House Lane,” was published in 1971. Her other books include “How Spring Comes” (1981), “Disobedience” (2001) and “Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970-2005.” Adrienne Rich was the first winner of the prize, in 1986, and other previous winners include Philip Levine, John Ashbery, Kay Ryan and Lucille Clifton.

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud has won the Académie Goncourt’s prize for best first novel. The book is “a retelling of Albert Camus’s 1942 classic The Stranger from the perspective of the brother of the Arab man killed by that novel’s protagonist, Meursault,” the New York Times wrote. Other Press is publishing the book, translated by John Cullen, on June 2.

The Italian by Shukri Mabkhout has won the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, an award that includes a $50,000 prize and a translation into English. Mabkhout is president of Manouba University in Tunis, Tunisia, and the book, published by Dar Tanweer Tunis, is his first novel.

Winners of the Agatha Awards, which celebrate the “traditional mystery–books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie,” were honored recently at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Md., last weekend. This year’s winners are, for Contemporary Novel: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan, for First Novel: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran, for Historical Novel: Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen, for Nonfiction: Writes of Passage: Adventures on the Writer’s Journey, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan, for Children’s/YA: The Code Buster’s Club: The Mummy’s Curse by Penny Warner, and for Short Story: “The Odds Are Against Us” by Art Taylor (EQMM)

Catherine Schelbert won the $10,000 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize, which honors an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the U.S. the previous year, for her translation of Hugo Ball’s Flametti: oder vom Dandysmus der Armen (Flametti, or the Dandyism of the Poor), published by Wakefield Press. Funded by the German government, the prize is administered by the Goethe-Institut New York. The jury said Schelbert “rendered Ball’s slangy, offbeat German into equally exuberant English. Her translation was far and away our first choice and makes this Dada classic at long last available to an English-speaking readership.”

The Alliance of Radical Booksellers announced that Here We Stand: Women Changing The World, edited by Helena Earnshaw and Angharad Penrhyn Jones, won the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing. The editors were presented with a check for £500 (about $790), which was funded by the General Federation of Trade Unions. Guest judge Nina Power commented: “Anthologies can often be uneven affairs, but this collection was consistently moving, insightful and inspiring in equal measure. The editors deserve particular praise for having so brilliantly presented these essential accounts of women involved in so many areas of struggle.

Alexander McCall Smith’s novel Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party is the latest winner of one of literature’s most eccentric prizes, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction, which sees the winner win a large quantity of Champagne, a 99-strong set of books, and a pig named after their winning novel. Speaking about the award, McCall Smith said: “I am greatly honoured to be awarded the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. I very much enjoyed writing that book and if there are those who are enjoying reading it, then I am content. I am also content with the jeroboam of champagne, the 52 Wodehouse novels, and the pig that go with this award. That is what I would call a very well-balanced prize.”

Fremantle author Joan London’s novel The Golden Age, set in a polio clinic in 1950s Leederville, has been shortlisted for this year’s $60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award. London’s third novel is one of five shortlisted for Australia’s most prestigious literary award. The other four are Sonya Hartnett’s Golden Boys, Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep, Christine Piper’s After Darkness and Craig Sherborne’s Tree Palace. Each author will receive $5000 regardless of the outcome. Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville said “The 2015 Miles Franklin shortlist presents a powerful group of Australian novels with a rich cast of unforgettable characters, and themes ranging from childhood gangs and domestic violence to itinerant thieves, wartime internment and the post-war polio epidemic.” The winner will be revealed on June 23.

Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood by Justin Marozzi has won the £10,000 (about $15,540) Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, which honors “a book of the highest literary merit–fiction, nonfiction or poetry–evoking the spirit of a place.”

Hungarian author László Krasznahorkai won the £60,000 Man Booker International Prize, which is “awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage.” The judges said that “what strikes the reader above all are the extraordinary sentences, sentences of incredible length that go to incredible lengths, their tone switching from solemn to madcap to quizzical to desolate as they go their wayward way; epic sentences that, like a lint roll, pick up all sorts of odd and unexpected things as they accumulate inexorably into paragraphs that are as monumental as they are scabrous and musical.”

The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and illustrator Terry Denton won this year’s Australian Book Industry awards for both Book of the Year and the prize for best book for younger children, praised for its “huge impact on encouraging young children to read, particularly boys”. The funny fantasy-adventure story was the best-selling book in Australia in 2014 and is the fourth in the Treehouse series, which has total sales of 1.5 million in Australia and New Zealand and is selling well in the US. Brooke Davis, another international success with her first novel Lost & Found, won the awards for general fiction and Matt Richell New Writer of the Year, a new award honouring the chief executive of Hachette Australia, who died surfing last year. Maxine Beneba Clarke’s debut short-story collection, Foreign Soil, added literary fiction book of the year to her accolades.

German writer and director Jenny Erpenbeck won the £10,000 (about $15,320) Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The End of Days, translated by Susan Bernofsky. Author and translator will share the prize money. The Bookseller reported that Erpenbeck “is the only living German author to have won the prize in its 25-year history; W.G. Sebald and Gert Hofmann were both awarded the prize posthumously.”

Finally, Jennifer Willoughby has won the fourth annual Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry for her manuscript Beautiful Zero, which was chosen from more than 150 submissions from poets across the Upper Midwest. Willoughby receives $10,000, as well as a contract for publication of the work by Milkweed Editions.

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:


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



Congratulations to Les Warriner and Gill Corbitt, who won a Kindle copy of Bahama Love by Khara Campbell

Congratulations to David Barclay and Christine Barter who won a copy of Peace on Earth by Paddy Bostock.

Congratulations to Sabina Edwards who won a copy of Naked and Transparent by Vladimire Calixte.

Congratulations to Kelly Grant, who won a copy of The Daddy Diaries by Joshua Braff.

Congratulations to Janet Gould, who won a copy of I Don’t Have a Happy Place by Kim Korsen.

We also ran a surprise giveaway for all subscribers for a copy of The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. The winner was Mary McLain. Congratulations, Mary.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen (see review and interview with Bowen above). To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Enchanted.”

We also have a copy of Beach Town, the latest novel from perennial bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Beach Town.”

Finally, we’ve got a copy of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “Love and Miss Communication.”

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Vagabondage by Beth Spencer, The Guardians by Lucy Dougan, The Hydra by Graham Stull, The Tower by Carole McDonnell, 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 Ben Okri, who chatted with me life from the Sydney Writers Festival right after his Age of Magic talk. Ben shared a lot of secrets with me, and if you’d like to hear them, just toddle over to the showpage or listen directly from the site widget.

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 n

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