Summer is a time for publishing industry doldrums. Most of the spring titles have come and gone and there is that long 6 weeks to wait till your favorite authors’ fall releases start to populate the online catalog. What’s a person who loves to read to do? Well, with all the books from all the public libraries in Allegheny County at your fingertips, try my method: choose a new-to-you author and read as many of their books as you can locate.
My reading taste runs to romances and suspense/thrillers, so if you like those genres here are some of my “read-em-all” suggestions, along with the stories of how I stumbled across the authors.
Julia Quinn – The Bridgerton series started in the early 2000s. My mom was in the hospital in 2003 having tests and I forgot to take something to read! Shame on me. So I found Julia Quinn’s To Sir Phillip with Love, book five in an eight book series, in the AGH gift store. What a lucky break. These warm, poignant, funny Regency romances kept me charmed that summer as Mummy declined. The British manners and customs of the ton, meddling siblings and a simple bee sting changed everything for this aristocratic family.
Stephanie Laurens – Bar Cynster series – There are 23 books in this series! I’ve read them all. When I read In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner in 2004, one of the characters was reading Captain Jack’s Woman, one of Laurens’ earliest stories. The Cynster series represents just a fraction of the romances written by Ms. Laurens.
The Cynsters are a noble British family and the time frame stretches from the early 1800s to the 1850s, as generations and branches of the family find love, kinship, mystery and renown. Book one is Devil’s Bride. That got me started with Laurens and with the Cynsters and their lush, sexy, romantic tales. I alternated reading or listening to this series and British actor Simon Prebble really puts his heart and soul into describing those passionate relationships in the audio versions.
Patricia Cornwell – In 2006, I was heading out on a road trip and had to grab something quickly to listen to. I grabbed an audio tape of Point of Origin that was sitting on a display shelf. I’d read and heard that Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta Series were great, award-winning mysteries. This title focused on several connected gruesome deaths by fire. Or are they connected? The forensic details had me hooked.
So from book nine in the series I retreated and began listening to the series from the beginning, book one – Postmortem through Predator. Actually this marathon took me well into 2007. And, I continue reading today, despite Cornwell’s inconsistencies in voice (first person, to third person, to first person), terrible reviews (most not really deserved) and characters’ personalities changing on a dime or sudden aging (niece Lucy is a kid, then seemingly an FBI recruit overnight). Kay Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist par excellence, and her cases, her relationships and her criminal adversaries are worth the time. Suspend that disbelief!
Harlan Coben – In 2007, I fell upon Coben’s mystery series about professional sports agent Myron Bolitar. The manager of Main Library’s New and Featured department recommended Coben to me. A talented basketball star with a degree from Harvard Law who flamed out quickly in the NBA, main character, Myron, dedicates himself to seeing to the best interests of his athlete clients, both professionally and personally. His best friend, elitist Win, not only serves as financial consultant to Myron’s clients, but back-up to Myron when he gets into binds with the criminal underworld, unhappy relatives and disgruntled spouses of the sports stars. Coben’s standalone novels often have minor characters in common with each other and with the Bolitar series. Myron makes a brief appearance in The Stranger, published in 2015.
William Lashner – The Victor Carl series. Schlubby Philadelphia defense lawyer Victor Carl takes all of the cases no one else would touch with a ten foot pole. I glommed onto this series when looking at a display of Pennsylvania authors in 2008. Lashner’s writing is spare and beautifully evocative at the same time. When he describes a character (and believe me, the people Victor Carl encounters in his cases are “characters”) you can see, smell and hear them as well as get inside their heads – whether you want to or not! Try Falls the Shadow and meet the strange dentist, Bob. You will see what I mean.
I love Lashner. His recent standalone, The Barkeep, (on order – keep an eye on the catalog) is an Edgar Award nominee. It is also one of my favorite books of 2015.
Janet Evanovich – Stephanie Plum/By the Numbers Series – books 1 -10. I started these books during the summer of 2010. The Library was fighting for its financial life and closing some CLP branches seemed possible. The senior staff spent the summer in a series of discussions across Pittsburgh to engage the community and discuss the future path for the library. This was a very intense time for us and I really needed a few laughs.
My cousin Kathy recommended Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum stories. These fast-moving, delightful and often hysterically funny stories pit tough bail bondswoman Plum against the low life criminals of Trenton, NJ. After about book ten, Ten Big Ones, the series formula has been firmly entrenched, and while there are still some laugh aloud scenes, Janet is phoning it in … i.e. there’s nothing new under the Trenton sun. But the early stories are fresh and funny and hold the promise that maybe, someday … Stephanie will do something, anything, new.
Kristan Higgins – Higgins writes funny, thoughtful, contemporary romances, distinguished by quirky, relatable characters, a dog or two and small town America. I kept seeing her books appear on the annual “best romances of the year lists.” I tried The Next Best Thing, about a young widow who is trying to get on with her life. So she was my 2014 choice and has only ten titles published. I burned through them last summer, they were that enjoyable. I am anxious to read her next book, If You Only Knew, which comes out in September (also coming soon to the Library catalog).
So, choose an author, any author, and end the summer by devoting your reading just to them. It’s very satisfying!