Laini Taylor, Ben Winters, Joseph Luzzi … check out what’s teetering on CJ Lyons’ TBR pile

Fun (?) Fact:

“I have met a real life serial killer.” – CJ Lyons


41fq1czbw2blWhat are some of the titles in your current TRB pile?

CJ: Laini Taylor’s The Muse of Nightmares and an early copy of Ben Winters’ Golden State. Because my favorite reward after working hard on a book is reading, I’m saving both to savor after the release of my new YA thriller, The Color of Lies.

What book are you currently reading?

CJ: I always have several books going at once. For research for a new thriller centered on an ER doctor whose husband is murdered, I’m reading In a Dark Wood by Joseph Luzzi, which is a memoir about a man who loses his wife but also gains his first child that same day after the doctors perform an emergency C-section.

And for fun, I got my hands on an early copy of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, a debut novel by Ben Philippe.

What do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

CJ: Pierce Brown’s new Red Rising book, Dark Age, and Katherine Arden’s The Winter of the Witch. Both have such well-developed characters and wonderful world building that I simply get lost in their books!

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

CJ: Lisa Gardner—love all of her books!

Check out CJ’s interview about her new book, The Color of Lies

CJheadshotsquarelores copyNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over forty novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. 

CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

ColorofLiesHer novels have twice won the International Thriller Writers’ prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at 

Online Issue 18: Happy Thanksgiving

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It isn’t the turkey or the stuffing or the pumpkin pie that will make your Thanksgiving truly great. It’s the books you can buy on Black Friday, and we’ve got you covered with tons of recommendations! First, Jenn Stroud Rossmann talks about what engineers read, then Susanna Beard shares what she has lined up and Rusty Barnes talks about what’s overloading his Kindle. Barbara Winkes also drops in to talk about the books she’s reading and ones she hopes to get to soon (such as Vox, which sounds fascinating). Who’s reading Gary Philips? Who has Max Ellendale’s latest on their nightstand? Who is anxious for Nicole Chung’s memoir? Check out those TBR piles to find out.

In my latest review I look at Jenn Stroud Rossmann’s The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh. Lots of great insights about family, life and identity here, with appeal for teens and adults alike.

Need to escape all the family togetherness? Rusty Barnes talks about his latest novel, The Last Danger, and cross-border crime. (What could be a better gift for the wall supporter on your shopping list?)

And in case your family Thanksgiving is nothing but political squabbles and family drama, Susanna Beard has cuteness on tap with her two trusty author assistants, Cookie and Tipsy. Pictures here.


Miss our latest issues? Issue 17 contents  – featuring Tom Leins, Paul Brazill, Kelli Owen, JL Abrama, JJ Hensley, Terrence McCauley, Barbara Winkes and more – can be found here.


We’ll be back next week with CJ Lyons, Ovidia Yu, Wendy Webb and more.

Plus, December 1 I’ll kick off my Advent Calendar, covering a book, movie, TV series or something else I enjoyed from this past year and recommend.

(Not a ‘best of’ list, because I haven’t consumed everything so I couldn’t possibly say what’s best. And not a ‘best of stuff by my friends’ list either. Most or all come from people I have never met.)

Jenn Stroud Rossmann shares the galleys she’s reading for a feature called ‘An Engineer Reads a Novel’ and other titles that are teetering on her TBR pile

Fun fact:

“I have been (1) a competitive skateboarder, (2) a Nordstrom piano player, and (3) an expert in Wiffle ball aerodynamics, but not all at the same time.” – Jenn Stroud Rossmann


What are some of the titles in your current TBR pile?

TBR pileMy TBR pile contains some books I’m lucky to be the first to read, galleys I’ll get to review for Public Books in a feature called An engineer reads a novel; and some books for which I feel like the last party guest to arrive. In the first category, I’m thrilled to have an advance copy of Elizabeth McCracken’s 2019 novel Bowlaway – which had me at Elizabeth McCracken, and the fact that it’s about candlepin bowling just sweetened the deal. I do feel late to arrive at Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and Leni Zumas’s Red Clocks. At some point I decided that letting the hype die down a little would help me come fresh to these novels, without the freight of Expectations of Greatness. Alas, life gets busy, and some of the books in my stack began life in the first category, and have now slid into the second: Tommy Orange’s There There, and Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, for example. R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries is a special case: it’s so extraordinary and she’s cast such magic spells with her language that as soon as I finished, I placed it back in the pile so I could read it again, and try to figure out how she did it.


What book are you currently reading?

As is pretty typical, I’m reading two books at the moment. Mohammed Hanif’s subversive, darkly funny Red Birds — I chose this to review based on an early description that was enticing, but which frankly did not do it justice. It’s wild and weird and funny about geopolitical catastrophe of war. For my book group, I’m reading Fortunata and Jacinta, Benito Perez Galdos’s classic novel. Alas, unlike one of my book group pals, I must read it in translation. My book group reads widely and so thoughtfully, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from and with my friends. This particular novel is dense and long and takes its time getting started, with the kind of leisurely description of a world that contemporary authors are discouraged from indulging in. It’s not unpleasant, given the current state of the world and the pace of our lives, to be forced to slow down and look around at 1880s Madrid.


What do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

512d1j1jarlI cannot wait to read Nicole Chung’s memoir, All You Can Ever Know. Her experience as an adoptee with white parents is similar to the situation my main character Chad is in, although Chad’s just 14 and pretty confused, and I know from Nicole’s essays that she is erudite and thoughtful and sage, with real empathy for adoptees and parents. As I write this, Jill Lepore has a new book called These Truths that sounds wonderful in a typically Leporean way. I feel like I want to be Jill Lepore when I grow up; she just embodies this all-embracing curiosity and desire to understand and contextualize our history. (Let’s not concern ourselves with how much growing-up that would require of me in a relatively short time.) I’m also very much looking forward to Morgan Parker’s new collection Magical Negro. I love her poetry’s energy and candor, and the way she shows that life—especially, life as a black woman in America—is both beautiful and harrowing. Hearing her read “Now more than ever,” in 2017, I felt called to a kind of prayer.

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

I am eager to read anything by my good friend Nami Mun, who wrote a searing novel in stories, Miles from Nowhere that was so excellent I’m willing to wait. “Patience is a virtue,” as my mother reminded me once or twice (a day). Oh, and Danielle Evans, whose Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is amazing; I hope she is working on another collection!

Check out a review of Jenn Stroud Rossmann’s novel,

The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh


Jenn Stroud Rossmann is a fiction writer and an engineer. Her first novel, The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh, is forthcoming in Fall 2018 from 7.13 Books. She writes the essay series An Engineer Reads a Novel at Public Books. Stories have appeared recently in Cheap POP, JMWW Journal, Literary Orphans, Jellyfish Review, and failbetter, and have garnered multiple Pushcart nominations. Rossmann earned her BS and PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a professor of mechanical engineering at Lafayette College, and previously taught at Harvey Mudd College. She throws right, bats left.





Eryk Pruitt, Vicki Hendricks, Gary Philips, Christa Faust and more: what Rusty Barnes has on tap for holiday reading

What are some of the titles in your current TBR pile?

Townies-Cover-DesaturatedI only buy new books on Kindle these days, so what’s on deck is mostly newish material: My Darkest Prayer, by S.A. Cosby, The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney, Townies, by Erik Pruitt, Peepland, by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks, The Girl from Blind River, by Gale Massey.

What book are you currently reading?

Some Die Nameless, by Wallace Stroby. The opening action scene seems to me to be a clinic in how to do it well, and so far, it’s taking a grizzled old plot–the over-the-hill special operative brought in for one last job–and making it new for me again. I’m also reading the poet Philip Larkin’s letters over. He was a complicated and curmudgeonly man who wrote some the most beautiful and feeling poems I’ve ever read while simultaneously being an often repellent personality, at least in some of his correspondence.

What do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

There’s a new biography of Ross MacDonald I’ve been itching to get to after reading his correspondence with Eudora Welty, as it’d be tough to find two more distinctly different writers. I’m a fan of Welty’s from way back when my obsession with things Southern began twenty-five years ago in the Kmart bargain book lot when I discovered Larry Brown and now I want to become a fan of MacDonald’s based on the letters.

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

I have a hankering for Appalachian literature lately having finished my friend Charles Dodd White’s most recent–and great–book In the House of Wilderness, so it would be especially nice to see a new Ron Rash or Pinckney Benedict novel or to see Chris barnes-the-last-danger-3Holbrook or Chris McGinley publish a new book. They have a knack for the vernacular and a love for the country,which shows in the writing. I’m always on the lookout for new crime writers, too, but I keep my ear pretty close to the ground on those.

Rusty talks about his latest novel, The Last Danger, here.


Rusty Barnes is a 2018 Derringer Award finalist and author of the story collections Breaking it Down and Mostly Redneck, as well as four novels, Reckoning, Ridgerunner, Knuckledragger, and The Last Danger, His fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals and anthologies. He founded and edits the crime journal Tough.


Teetering on the Nightstand: Barbara Winkes talks about works from Tess Gerritsen, Alexandra Sokoloff, Christina Dalcher and more

What are some of the titles in your current TRB pile?

Where Are You, a romance about college best friends that fell in love, but lost touch and meet again in the present, Breaking Steele (#3 of the Jasmine Steele Mysteries), and Rise of the Darkwitch (LGBT YA Fantasy). What’s next will depend on time and mood, but with Halloween approaching, the fantasy novel might be a good idea.

What book are you currently reading?

The first book in Max Ellendale’s Four Point Trilogy. A female cop hunting a serial killer? I’m there. I’ve always thought of this premise as a metaphor of the fight against patriarchy (at least in fiction, it usually comes with the desired outcome).

414myifeqnlWhat do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

I’m always up for the next good thriller, but I’ve come across a book called Vox, a dystopian novel. Women are only allowed to speak a 100 words a day, and the main character is challenging that rule. It might make me too mad at the moment. Alexandra Sokoloff’s The Huntress/FBI thrillers look interesting to me (a female serial killer, vigilante justice), and so does The Book Addict by Annette Mori (a lesbian romance with a bit of magic. I have read more by this author, and her stories are always outside the box. Since I’m not a genre purist, I appreciate that). I have my comfort genres, but I also like contrast.

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

I’d love to see a new book in Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series. I have a few favorite serials. Coming back to them is always like meeting with old friends you haven’t seen in a while. I find it very comforting – even if the content isn’t. And a new book by Karin Slaughter that featuring Lena Adams (for the same reasons).


Check out Barbara’s Q&A about Cypher!


Cyphercover1 (2)


Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings.

Discover a variety of genres, serial and standalone. Women loving women always take the lead.

Dian Setterfield, Francesca Kay, Maggie O’Farrell, Rachel Edwards … Susanna Beard talks about the books she’s lined up to read

The Truth Waits Cover with quotesWhat are some of the titles in your current TRB pile?

Once Upon a River by Dian Setterfield – I heard her speak at the Henley Literary Festival, and this book concerns the River Thames, which is close to my home and I walk there every day.

The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay – I loved An Equal Stillness, which I admired both for the writing and the power of the story.

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell – she’s such a great writer.

What book are you currently reading?

Darling, by Rachel Edwards – it’s fab. It concerns the relationship between a stepmother and her stepdaughter, and includes themes like racism, bullying and family tensions. It’s full of suspense and I can’t wait to find out how it ends.

What do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

I want to read more of Marian Keyes’ books, because I’ve only read one, and really enjoyed it; anything by Matt Haig, because he’s such a great storyteller and his books about mental illness are life-affirming and tender; Milkman by Anna Burns, to see what makes it good enough to win the Man Booker prize 2018.  

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

Elizabeth Day, who wrote The Party. Wonderful writing and a beautifully told, complex and rich story; and Sarah Winman, whose titles When God Was a Rabbit and Tin Man are among my favourites.  


Check out Cookie and Tipsy, Susanna’s trusty writing companions, here!

251A1726Susanna is fascinated by human relationships. She can be found people-watching wherever she goes, finding material for her writing. Despite the writer’s life, she has an adventurous streak and has swum with whale sharks in Australia, fallen down a crevasse in the French Alps and walked through the sewers of Brighton – not in that order.

Her passions include animals — particularly her dogs — walking in the countryside and tennis, which clears her brain of pretty much everything.

Susanna’s debut novel, Dare to Remember, a psychological thriller, was published in February 2017. Her second, The Truth Waits, launched on 1 November 2018. She aims to keep writing, and never to get old.


What Do John Verdon, Annette Dashofy, Gwen Floria, Eric Beetner and Kyle Mills Have in Common? JJ Hensley talks recent reads and more

51kdu-urmclWhat are some of the titles in your current TRB pile?

White River Burning – John Verdon

Uneasy Prey – Annette Dashofy

Silent Hearts – Gwen Florio

The Devil At Your Door – Eric Beetner

Red War – Kyle Mills

What book are you currently reading?

Jar of Hears – Jennifer Hillier

BOLT ACTION REMEDY coverWhat do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

I need to make myself branch out and read more works outside the crime fiction genre. However, I love mysteries and thrillers and there are so many talented authors writing really groundbreaking novels right now—especially through small presses. Although I veer off and occasionally read something from classic literature or even pick up something bordering on horror or supernatural, I tend to end up back in the crime fiction realm. But, to be a well-rounded author you need to be a well-rounded reader.

Record Scratch coverBonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

For me, John Verdon and Shannon Kirk can’t crank out books fast enough. Their styles couldn’t be more different, but both of them have a way of drawing the reader into the story and making the act of reading the book an emotional investment. Verdon’s protagonist is so analytical and the puzzles are so interesting, you have to know how it all turns out. And Kirk’s characters are one-million emotions poured into 220 pages of action. You kind of what to find one of her main characters and give her a hug, but think better of it because you realize it’s possible you could end up with a knife in your back.

JJ Hensley author photo Record Scratch

J.J. HENSLEY is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.  He is the author of the novels Resolve, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, and Record Scratch.  He graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University.  

Mr. Hensley’s first novel RESOLVE was named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was named a Thriller Award finalist for Best First Novel. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers.

J.L. Abramo talks about global events that impact his current reading, works by Erik Larson and Bryan Burroughs and his hopes for new Tim O’Brien novels


What are some of the titles in your to be read pile?

I was born in 1947.  In that year two critical events effectively ended the centuries-long dominance of the British Empire and changed the map of the world—the British withdrawal from the Indian sub-continent and its partitioning into India and Pakistan, and the British withdrawal from Palestine leading to the creation of Israel. On my TBR list are two books by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight and O Jerusalem, dealing with each of those historic milestones.  


What book are you currently reading?American History Cover

Having just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, set in Berlin in 1933-34 when Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party was beginning to gain total control of Germany, I am now reading Public Enemies by Bryan Burroughs which is set in America in those same two years when the infant FBI was hunting down the likes of John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Clyde Barrow, and others.

What do you hope to add to your to be read pile soon and why?

Erik Larson refers often to Hans Bernd Gisevius, who served in the Gestapo and the German Intelligence Service during World War II while a covert opponent of the Nazi regime, and who later testified at the Nuremberg trials.  I plan to add his book To the Bitter End: An Insider’s Account of the Plot to Kill Hitler, 1933-1944 to my TBR pile.  It accounts a number of such plots to end Hitler’s life, and the subject intrigues me.

What author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

Having read The Things They Carried, Going After Cacciato, and In the Lake of the Woods, I have been continually moved and awed by the writing of Tim O’Brien and hope he will write more soon.


JL Abramo photoJ.L. ABRAMO was born and raised in the seaside paradise of Brooklyn, New York on Raymond Chandler’s fifty-ninth birthday.

Abramo is the author of Catching Water in a Net, winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America prize for Best First Private Eye Novel; the subsequent Jake Diamond Novels Clutching at Straws, Counting to Infinity and Circling the Runway (Shamus Award Winner); Chasing Charlie Chan, a prequel to the Jake Diamond series; and the stand-alone thrillers Gravesend, Brooklyn Justice and Coney Island Avenue, a follow-up to Gravesend.  His latest novel is American History.

Abramo is the current president of Private Eye Writers of America.For more please visit:

Online Issue 15


TSP OI15 cover

Darrin Doyle’s short story collection, Scoundrels Among Us, hit shelves this week and Darrin is here to talk about the common thread that ties these stories together. “A lot of fiction contains somebody doing something bad or wrong, but often they’re making bad decisions for themselves (or to themselves). My collection features many folks (mostly men) behaving in creepy, questionable, violent, or otherwise unseemly ways.”

I found the collection to be a celebration of the absurd and highly entertaining. Darrin also shares what’s on his TBR pile – including works such as Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, Christine Schutt’s All Souls, Christine Sneed’s The Virginity of Famous Men and Katie Chase’s Man & Wife.


Hunter Shea admits his love for Real Housewives and talks about the scariest night of his life and inspiration for Creature. Hunter also talks about his cats, Iris and Salem, in this author assistant feature.

Judy Penz Sheluk talks about her writing companion, a pup named for a character from NCIS: Gibbs

James Oswald talks about writing from the female perspective, insights from social media and claims to be “rubbish” at performing one specific author task.


Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Scoundrels Among Us by Darrin Doyle reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Solemn Graves: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery by James R. Benn reviewed by Theodore Feit

The Sinners by Ace Atkins reviewed by Theodore Feit

A Book To Look Up


What is ‘voice’ anyway?


Thoughts on Horror


I suspect there could be as many conversations about what horror is as there are about what noir is. Laura Lauro’s tweets pointed me to the article by M.M. Owen, which is well worth a look.

“Horror is what anthropologists call biocultural. It is about fears we carry because we are primates with a certain evolved biology: the corruption of the flesh, the loss of our offspring. It is also about fears unique to our sociocultural moment: the potential danger of genetically modifying plants. The first type of fear is universal; the second is more flexible and contextual. Their cold currents meet where all great art does its work, down among the bottomless caves on the seabed of consciousness. Lurking here, a vision of myself paralysed in the dirt, invisible to those I love.”


Darrin Doyle shares what’s on his To Be Read Pile


Fun Fact: Darrin says, “I saw Ben Affleck at the airport in Washington, D.C., then boarded a plane, flew to Detroit, and saw Willem Dafoe!”



What are some of the titles in your current TRB pile?

51hngprhful-_sy346_I have such a large pile. It’s a mix of contemporary and classic authors: Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, Christine Schutt’s All Souls, Bill Knott’s poetry collection I Am Flying Into Myself, Ha Jin’s War Trash and The Crazed, Alison Lurie’s Foreign Affairs, Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer, Christine Sneed’s The Virginity of Famous Men, Katie Chase’s Man & Wife.

What book are you currently reading?

I recently finished Jess Arndt’s story collection, Large Animals. What a wonderful book: dark, surreal, challenging, funny, serious, and laced with dazzling prose.

What do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?

51rvdbjtwrl-_sy346_I’m trying to keep up with the releases from Tortoise Books. I’m so proud to have two of my books with this press because they consistently publish interesting, well-written works. So I’m eager to pick up Jeremy Wilson’s Adult Teeth and Joe Peterson’s Gun Metal Blue.

Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?

I’m looking forward to whatever Jess Arndt comes up with next (see Answer 2). I also recently discovered Bill Cotter – who writes down-and-dirty comical fiction in the mold of John Kennedy Toole and Charles Portis – and will keep an eye out for his next project.


Check out our interview with Darrin about his latest work, Scoundrels Among Us.

Scoundrels Among Us is reviewed here.


IMG_8884Darrin Doyle’s most recent book is the story collection Scoundrels Among Us. He has previously published two novels – The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo and Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet:A Love Story – as well as the story collection The Dark Will End the Dark. He believes in Bigfoot, shaves on days of the week that contain the letter T, and teaches at Central Michigan University. His website is