Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 25, Issue 12, 1 Dec 2023



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Hello readers.  Happy December!  Here is the latest batch of reviews and interviews:

An interview with Andy Mozina

Andy Mozina’s latest novel Tandem is a wild ride that explores the psyche of victim and perpetrator as well as the weirdness and malleability of love. It’s at the same time hilarious and morally jarring. In this warm and engaging interview, he speaks with Steve Hughes, writer and publisher of Detroit’s longest-running zine Stupor about his book, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Distance by Simeon Kronenberg

It is interesting to note the variety of styles that the poet utilises in this collection. Some of the poems are “persona” poems like one titled “Akhenaten to Smenkhkare” in which the speaker takes the identity of the Pharoah, some are descriptive, and others in narrative mode, always utilising a good range of literary techniques and poetic devices. Some of the poems are made of simple lines but loaded with meaning. Read more:

A review of Well Dressed Lies by Carrie Hayes

The writing in Well Dressed Lies is wonderfully well done at an intelligent level and with a formal tone that fits the time, place, and circumstances of the story. The language is rich, pleasing, and in places, appropriately lyrical. World-building is superb—with the English weather, streets, countryside, and architect so well drawn as to make readers feel like they are there. Seemingly small details add realism and appeal to the novel. Read more:

A review of Just Dope by Allison Margolin

It would be easy to call her a chip off the old block, but it would also be wrong. Margolin makes it crystal clear that she hasn’t rode in on anyone’s coattails in becoming herself a well-known marijuana defense attorney that has witnessed firsthand the hypocrisy of America’s War on Drugs, which has always been primarily a war on marijuana, for the bulk of her entire life.  Read more:

A review of The Future Will Call You Something Else by Natasha Sajé

In each of the five sections of the collection, she points to the limits of our control—as the title suggests, whoever we think we are, the future will see us differently. Yet, Sajé encourages these difficult conversations because through language we have the chance of being heard, and for better or worse, the reassurance that we belong to the world. Read more:

A review of Rhododendrons by Sreetanwi Chakraborty

The novel has a splash of colours on the cover, drawn by the author herself, depicting Rhododendron flowers, from which the title of the book is derived. The plural of Rhodendron might be a pointer to sundry memories and characters that people the canvas, and in singular this would be just the protagonist. If we allow our imagination to stretch a bit, it might mean the protagonist and her dear ones, as all are colourful like the Rhododendrons. Read more:

A review of The Storm by Mark Lipman

Lipman’s poetic style is obviously drawn from his world travel and experiences interviewing different people, seeking new adventures, and gaining an intimate knowledge of wide-ranging cultures and beliefs. This has given a unique perspective to his poems. Read more:

A review of Tender Machines by J. Mae Barizo

It is a book of personal revelations and truths, some raw and shocking that are intimate to the core. It is a book about women contemplating their fate in what still seems to be a man’s world. It is a book about loss of self in a country that was a coloniser of ancestors. It is the feeling of not knowing who you are and where to hide. Read more:

A review of Ian Fleming: The Complete Man by Nicholas Shakespeare

It’s not the purpose of this review to repeat much, or any, of Fleming’s life, his various jobs, relationships and in particular his wartime experiences. That’s what the book is for. Whether one ends up liking or disliking Fleming, thinking the (in my opinion mostly rather awful) Bond novels were the result of a midlife crisis or a desire to make money out of real or second-hand experiences, is a toss-up. But certainly Shakespeare has given his readers every chance to decide, on a good deal of evidence. Read more:

A review of A Brilliant Life by Rachelle Unreich

Unreich tells her mother’s story with an immediacy that feels close. Though Mira sees some of the worst of what human beings are capable of, she talks about her luck, and the goodness of people. Even in the midst of her worst hunger and bleakest moments, Mira never stops being a beacon of hope for those around her. Read more:

A review of See What I Mean by Charles Rammelkamp

What a delicious literary emporium See What I Mean is, with treasures waiting to be unearthed and read.  In this age of the hermeneutic and precious, Rammelkamp gets down to the itty-gritty of poetry and existence using the language of real people to help us see the complexities and complicities of our lives. Read more:

A review of The Unreal City by Mike Lala

There is a lot of muscular movement in Lala’s poems. The poet’s interest (almost what seems to be an obsession) in labor and work defined through movement can be read in My Receipt, a poem about him being a spectator in a theater: “… his knees, his body at work, / part/ of a sum / (a company): men together — their bodies / in labor together, / for whom the audience puts their hands together”. Read more:

A review of Aboard the Time Line by Bastian Gregory

Young readers will be entertained and find the story educational. Bastian Gregory has a creative mind, describing settings in detail as well as all kinds of different creatures. I admired Pete because he represents the virtue of friendship. Even when he is concerned that he can’t solve a problem, he does everything he can to help others and never gives up. Read more:

A review of The Lady in The Bottle by Rozanna Lilley

Lilley is a brilliant writer. She creates pictures with words. Each episode is a short gem with sprinkles of captivating humour. Page by page we enter Jeannie’s life, we read about her travelling with the astronaut in a space capsule, a yacht or a car, we read about her trying to constantly please her master, and forever hoping to get married to him. 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 3,239) which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, there are two winners of the $5,000 ninth annual Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award, which honours “the Columbia University faculty member whose book published by the Press in the two years prior brings the highest distinction to Columbia University and Columbia University Press for its outstanding contribution to academic and public discourse.” The co-winners are Antagonistic Cooperation: Jazz, Collage, Fiction, and the Shaping of African American Culture by Robert G. O’Meally, and Not Exactly Lying: Fake News and Fake Journalism by Andie Tucher. 

The winners of the World Fantasy Awards were announced at the 2023 World Fantasy Convention, held last weekend in Kansas City, Mo. The winners are, for Best Novel: Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney, Best Novella: Pomegranates by Priya Sharma, Best Short Fiction: “Incident at Bear Creek Lodge” by Tananarive Due (Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology), Best Anthology: Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Zelda Knight, Best Collection: All Nightmare Long by Tim Lebbon (PS), Best Artist: Kinuko Y. Craft, Special Award–Professional: Matt Ottley, for The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness, Special Award–Non-Professional: Michael Kelly, for Undertow Publications, and The Life Achievement Awards, honouring individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the fantasy field, went to Peter Crowther and John Douglas.

Winners have been named for the Diverse Book Awards 2023, which celebrates “outstanding inclusive books by authors and publishers based in the U.K. and Ireland”.  The YA category winner was When Our Worlds Collided by Danielle Jawando, with second place going to Love in Winter Wonderland by Abiola Bello, and third place to If You Still Recognize Me by Cynthia So. In the adult category, One for Sorry, Two for Joy by Marie-Claire Amuah won, followed by Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, and The Attic Child by Lola Jaye. The picture books category was won by Rashmi Sirdeshpande’s Dadaji’s Paintbrush, illustrated by Ruchi Mhansane; with second place going to Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa Tarnowska, illustrated by Vali Mintzi; and third to Our Tower by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Richard Johnson. J.T. Williams took the children’s category with The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger, illustrated by Simone Douglas, with The Twig Man by Sana Rasoul coming in second, and A Flash of Fireflies by Aisha Bushby third.

The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters is the winner of the $10,000 B&N 2023 Discover Prize. The Discover Award finalists were: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Where There Was Fire by John Manuel Arias, The East Indian by Brinda Charry, Open Throat by Henry Hoke, and In Memoriam by Alice Winn.

The Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize, has been awarded to Jean-Baptiste Andréa for Veiller sur Elle (Watching Over Her), published by L’Iconoclaste. The prize is given by the Académie Goncourt to the author of “the best and most imaginative prose work of the year.” The prize carries an honorary award of €10, but sales because of the prize can run in the millions.

Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution by Tania Branigan (W.W. Norton) has won the 2023 $75,000 Cundill History Prize, administered by McGill University and recognizing the book that most “embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal.”

Mosab Abu Toha has won the $2,000 2023 Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry from Arrowsmith Press for his debut poetry collection, Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza (City Lights Publishers). The award honors a book of poems by a poet who is not a U.S. citizen.

Cuddy by Benjamin Myers (Bloomsbury) has won the £10,000 Goldsmiths Prize, which, in association with the New Statesman, honours “mould-breaking fiction.” Organisers said that Cuddy incorporates “poetry, prose, play, diary and real historical accounts [and] retells the story of the hermit St. Cuthbert, the unofficial patron saint of the North of England.”

John Burnside has won the £40,000 David Cohen Prize for Literature, sponsored by the John S. Cohen Foundation and New Writing North, which recognizes “a living writer from the U.K. or Republic of Ireland for a lifetime’s achievement in literature.” Burnside is the author of 14 books of poetry, including Black Cat Bone, which won both the T.S. Eliot and the Forward Prizes in 2011 and, most recently, Ruin, Blossom, which will appear in April 2024. Among his prose works are the novels Glister and  A Summer of Drowning, three memoirs, of which the most recent is  I Put a Spell on You, and The Music of Time, a personal history of 20th century poetry, which was a  Financial Times  Book of the Year in 2019.

Sarah Bernstein won the C$100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize, which recognizes the “author of the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or short story collection published in English,” for her novel, Study for Obedience. Each of the remaining finalists receives C$10,000. The winner will be honoured with an in-person interview as part of the 2024 San Miguel Writer’s Conference & Literary Festival, on February 22, 2024.

Halik Kochanski won the £50,000 Wolfson History Prize, presented by the Wolfson Foundation to recognizes books that “combine excellence in research with readability for a general audience,” for Resistance: The Underground War in Europe, 1939-45 (Liveright). Each of the five shortlisted authors receives £5,000.

Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World by John Vaillant (Knopf) has won the £50,000 2023 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. Chair of judges Frederick Studemann said, “Fire Weather brings together a series of harrowing human stories with science and geo-economics, in an extraordinary and elegantly rendered account of a terrifying climate disaster that engulfed a community and industry, underscoring our toxic relationship with fossil fuels. Moving back and forth in time, across subjects, and from the particular to the global, this meticulously researched, thrillingly told book forces readers to engage with one of the most urgent issues of our time.”

Titles in three categories have been chosen as Blackwell’s Books of the Year. Representing titles Blackwell’s booksellers said they were most passionate about recommending to customers this year, the category winners are now in the running for Blackwell’s Book of the Year 2023, which will be announced November 28. This year’s shortlisted books are: Fiction: In Ascension by Martin MacInnes, Nonfiction: Emperor of Rome by Mary Beard, and Children’s: Greenwild by Pari Thomson. 

Winners have been announced in 20 categories for the 2023 An Post Irish Book Awards, which “celebrate and promote Irish writing to the widest range of readers possible.” The Eason Novel of the Year is The Bee Sting by Paul Murray. The Dubray Non-Fiction Book of the Year is A Thread of Violence by Mark O’Connell. The An Post Bookshop of the Year is Halfway Up the Stairs children’s bookshop, Greystones, County Wicklow. The 2023 overall An Post Irish Book of the Year will be revealed on December 6. All category winners can be seen here:

Finally, Prophet Song by Paul Lynch has won the £50,000 2023 Booker Prize, making him the fifth Irish writer ever to win a Booker. Originally published by Oneworld, Prophet Song will be published in the U.S. by Atlantic Monthly Press on December 12. Paul Lynch’s five novels include Beyond the Sea, Grace, The Black Snow, and Red Sky in Morning. Grace won the 2018 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year and the 2020 Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award. The Black Snow won France’s bookseller prize, Prix Libr’à Nous for Best Foreign Novel. Lynch was the chief film critic of Ireland’s Sunday Tribune newspaper from 2007 to 2011 and wrote regularly for the Sunday Times on cinema.

Have a great month! 



Congratulations to Sharon Berger who won a copy of Finding Sunlight by Chrissy Holm. 

Our new site giveaway this month is for a copy of Yellow House in the Mountains  by Glenn Hileman. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Yellow House” and your postal address in the body of the mail.  

We also have a copy of Tandem by Andy Mozina to give away! To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Tandem” 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 Thieves by Valerie Werder (along with an interview on the podcast), Emily Wilson’s The Iliad,  Thine by Kate Partridge, 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 Beatriz Copello reading from and talking about her latest book No Salami Fairy Bread here: 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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