Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 26, Issue 1, 1 Jan 2024



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Literary News
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Hello readers – happy new year!  We’re now in our 26th year!  I especially want to thank those of you who have been with us for much of that time, while also welcoming new subscribers.  This is a terrific list of wonderful readers and I appreciate all of you.  Here is the latest batch of reviews and interviews:

A review of Ordinary Time by Audrey Molloy and Anthony Lawrence

One poet has a ‘time travel machine’ which takes him/her through past and present the other poet writes ethereal intense beautiful words. As I read each poem my mind struggled trying to decide who is he and who is she. I read a few lines and decided, yes this was written by Lawrence, then I read a few more lines and I decided no it was written by Molloy. Finally, I gave up and decided that beautiful poetry does not need a ‘gender’. Read more:

A review of Fugitive by Simon Tedeschi

Fugitive is a moving and thought-provoking book. It is pithy and at times, funny, full of minor transgressions, extensive scholarship, music and yes, poetry. There is so much compacted into each of these small pieces and yet Fugitives is airy, with enough space to encompass contradiction, breath and above all, silence, another recurring theme. Read more:

A review of Milk cans & cornflowers by Ken Smith

The poems in Ken Smith’s collection, Milk cans & cornflowers, show a love of language that rises above workmanlike prose. The author lets readers experience walks along the St. Lawrence River; shares some of his past, points out striking objects or phenomena, and acknowledges the importance of family, including the “family” of great poets and writers of the past. Read more:

A review of Earlier by Sasha Frere-Jones

I also really wished that that was going to create a clearing in the critical discourse in which I could discuss the Situationists, among other Francophile souvenirs I’ve collected over the years.  Afterall, “Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces” is the last bit of language on the back cover.  Possibility of a backdoor?  Read more:

A review of Strange Meadowlark by Michael Simms

The music of the poems is suffused by a nuance of idiosyncrasies that leaves one having to learn how to read them, stopping and starting occasionally. But these reveal themselves as integral to the themes. For instance, there’s a conspicuous absence of periods. Read more:

The Archaeology of Memoir: A review of It’s No Puzzle: A Memoir in Artifact by Cris Mazza

It’s No Puzzle: A Memoir in Artifact was a challenge to write and assemble with its vast cache of memorabilia. The publisher, Spuyten Duyvil Press, did an exemplary job of logistically formatting the book to its polished result. What Mazza uncovers explains her challenges even if it doesn’t quite resolve them. Read more:

A review of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth

As a protagonist, Lily is not easy to love. She isn’t down to earth and feisty like a Jane Austen heroine or destitute and virtuous like one of Thomas Hardy’s. She is vain, materialistic, and small-minded. She obsesses over clothes, incomes, and table settings, and is cruel to the friends whose modest means render them socially useless to her. Read more:

A review of Transcript of the Disappearance, Exact and Diminishing by Lynn Emanuel

In what may be in the voice of the Coronavirus talking to the poet, she writes in “Plague’s Monologue,”: “I erased the world so nothing can find it…” and concludes the piece, “…there is no limit to my appetite, my lust, my zeal for emptiness. But I know you—and you have kept a transcript of the disappearance.” Read more:

A review of Bleedings by Gabriele Tinti

Poetry is this ability to transcend, to cross through the masks that feed the comedy, living bulimically on illusions; it is looking beyond what appears, entering the shadow, listening to the unspeakable until the original silence while keeping the wound always open because we need to be there, close to the blade,/ at the mercy of pain, letting that blood, which is life, flow. Hence, bleeding as an opening, as the only possibility of existence. Read more:

A review of Balmain Contemplations by Noel Jeffs

This system of imagery is woven with religious associations of annunciation or resurrection, but with an innocent freshness that removes too much knowingness or didactic artifice. The quote on the back cover is Proust’s observation that the real voyage of discovery is not travelling but seeing newly. One should observe at this point that to see something as if for the first time is not the same as seeing it once again differently, and that these two things have a separate poetic function. Read more:

A review of One River by Steve Armstrong

Haibun is the perfect form for these reflections, combining prose and poetry to create a work that is both descriptive/educational and deeply intimate. Armstrong has replaced the traditional Haiku of Haibun with the Korean Sijo which allows for double the line length and extra syllables, with a focus on the rich nature of the spaces he’s inhabiting. The result is quite beautiful, inviting the reader to join in both the descriptive amble and the poetic pauses of the Sijo creating a space for connection. Read more:

A review of The Iliad translated by Emily Wilson

In summary, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Iliad is a tour de force that navigates the fine line between faithfulness to the original and contemporary relevance. While some critics accuse her of excessive modernization, these criticisms often overlook her intent: to make this epic tale accessible to a broader audience without sacrificing its original integrity. Read more:

A review of Thieves by Valerie Werder

Ostensibly Thieves is Valerie’s coming-of-age as she works through and try to escape the constraints of her upbringing and the world in which she lives. The story appears progress in more or less linear ways, however, there is a recursiveness that functions almost as a Möbius strip where time loops around itself and the endpoint of the work is not so much Valerie’s transition as the work itself.  Read more:

A review of The Girl Who Cried Diamonds & Other Stories by Rebecca Hirsch Garcia

But regardless of genre, these character-driven pieces explore uncomfortable truths and show how patriarchal power structures encourage violence against women, physical and psychological. Each story has new characters confronting different forms of abuse and betrayal. Two high schoolers dealing with body issues bully each other with a mix of fascination and revulsion. Read more:

All of the reviews and interviews listed above are available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews and interviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive categorised archives (currently at 3,255) which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell has been chosen as Waterstones Book of the Year 2023.  In Memoriam by Alice Winn was named Waterstones Novel of the Year.  For more details on these books including interviews with the authors, visit:

The Day He Left by Frederick Weisel (Poisoned Pen Press) has won the Nero Award, sponsored by the Wolfe Pack, the official Nero Wolfe Literary Society, and honouring “the best American Mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories.” “Alibi in Ice” by Libby Cudmore (to be published in July in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine) has won the Black Orchid Novella Award, sponsored by the Wolfe Pack and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to celebrate the novella format popularized by Rex Stout. Black Orchid Novella honorable mentions were Paul A. Barra’s “Death of a Papist,” Lawrence Coates’s “Jimtown,” and Tom Larsen’s “El Cazador.”

A longlist of 31 has been announced for the 2024 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, sponsored by the New Literary Project and honouring “a mid-career author of fiction in the midst of a burgeoning career, a distinguished writer who has emerged and is still emerging.” The award has a $50,000 prize, and the winner spends a brief residence at the University of California, Berkeley, and in the Bay Area, where they may give public readings and talks, teach classes, and make appearances. Finalists will be named in March 2024, and the winner in April. To see the longlist, click here:

Poets & Writers is giving the 2024 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award to Laurie Halse Anderson, Roxane Gay, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, and the Champion for Writers award to Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in south Florida. The awards will be presented at Poets & Writers’ gala on March 26, 2024, in New York City. 

The 2023 First Novel Prize winner was Tyriek White, author of We Are a Haunting (Astra House). The award was announced at The Center for Fiction Annual Awards Benefit on December 5, 2023 at Cipriani 25 Broadway. Author Ayana Mathis presented White with the award, which carries with it a prize of $15,000.

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray has won the 2023 An Post Irish Book Awards Book of the Year, the overall award of the book awards program. The Bee Sting had won the Eason Novel of the Year category of the An Post Irish Book Awards. It was published in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

The Saltire Society has announced the winners of 2023 Scotland’s National Book Awards, with Leah Hazard receiving the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award for Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began.  The other category winners were Martin MacInnes for In Ascension (fiction), Victoria MacKenzie for Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on my Little Pain (first book), Taylor Strickland for Dastram/Delirium (poetry), Hugh Miller’s The Old Red Sandstone or New Walks in an Old Field, edited by Michael A. Taylor & Ralph O’Connor (research book), and David Taylor for “The People Are Not There”: The Transformation of Badenoch 1800-1863 (history). fLiz Lochhead, poet, playwright and former Scots Makar, was presented the 2023 Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to Scottish literature.

Finalists have been announced in the chapter book category for the 2024 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, sponsored by the Jane Addams Peace Association and honoring “children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.” Winning and honor books will be announced January 12. The finalists are Hands by Torrey Maldonado (Nancy Paulsen Books/PRH), Ida in the Middle by Nora Lester Murad (Crocodile Books/Interlink Publishing), Indigo and Ida by Heather Murphy Capps (Carolrhoda/Lerner Books)

Land of Broken Promises by Jane Kuo (Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins), The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan), Mascot by Charles Waters & Traci Sorell (Charlesbridge Press), Saving Sunshine by Saadia Faruqi, illus. by Shazleen Khan (First Second Books/Macmillan), School Trip by Jerry Craft (Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins), Top Story by Kelly Yang (Scholastic Press), Warrior Girl by Carmen Tafolla (Nancy Paulsen Books/PRH) and World Made of Glass by Ami Polonsky (Little, Brown).

Kenya Kiprop Kimutai won the Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize, given to a first novel manuscript by an African author primarily residing in Africa, for The Freedom of Birds. The winner, who was chosen by judge Tsitsi Dangarembga and Graywolf editors, will receive a $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf Press.

Finally, the Victorian Premier’s 2024 Literary Awards shortlists and highly commended works have been announced. Chosen from a record-breaking 807 submissions, the works span eight award categories comprising fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, Indigenous writing, writing for young adults, children’s literature and unpublished manuscripts. Shortlisted authors include established voices such as poet and writer Maxine Beneba Clarke, Miles Franklin Award-winning author Melissa Lucashenko and Stella Prize-winning novelist Charlotte Wood, alongside emerging storytellers such as Jessica Zhan Mei Yu, Hossein Asgari and Eugen Bacon. Winners will be announced on Thursday 1 February 2024. For the full list visit:

Have a great month! 



Congratulations to Kathleen Gardiner who won a copy of A Yellow House in the Mountains by Glenn Hileman.  

Congratulations also to Marcela Nader who won a copy of Tandem by Andy Mozina.  

Our new site giveaway this month is for a copy of The China Shelf by Jennifer Maiden. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “China Shelf” and your postal address in the body of the mail.  

Good luck!



Lottery Corruption, U.S.A

Lottery Corruption, U.S.A. is very unique as compared to any other book written about the lotteries. There’s more than enough data and information to convince the reader, that our state lotteries are definitely being manipulated and controlled, illegally. This book is informative, enlightening, educational, and entertaining, so enjoy reading it. Available at any website that sells books, or visit:



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Perfume by Patrick Süskind, Monkey Wars by Deborah Blum, Magus: The Art of Magic from Faustus to Agrippa by Anthony Grafton, City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita, The China Shelf by Jennifer Maiden, Nightfall Marginalia by Sarah Maclay, and lots more reviews and interviews. 


Drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see the widget on right-hand side of the site) to listen to our latest episode which features Valerie Werder reading from and talking about her book Thieves: You can also listen directly on Spotify, iTunes or whatever podcatcher you use.  


(c) 2023 Magdalena Ball. Please feel free to forward and share this newsletter in its entirety.

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