Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Outstanding Library Service Award & Acceptance Speech.

I'm on my way to Ohio today, instead of in Tucson at AZLA where this award is to be presented. Since I won't be there, and a representative of the Library System is accepting the award on my behalf, I'm sharing the news release, although I shared the news two months ago. And, then, you can read the acceptance speech that someone else is reading in my place.

Glendale Library Manager Lesa Holstine
 Wins Outstanding Library Service Award

Glendale, Ariz. – The Arizona Library Association (AzLA) will honor a select group of people at its 2011 conference in November. This year’s Outstanding Library Service Award recipient is Lesa Holstine, library manager for the Velma Teague Branch of the Glendale Public Library.
Presented to an individual whose activities go beyond the standard requirements of good library service, the award recognizes activities that impact the local community and serve as a model for other libraries.
In her seven years as the Velma Teague Library manager, Holstine’s highly esteemed book critiques and renowned authors’ visits have transformed the small downtown Glendale library into a literary powerhouse. Holstine has attracted the attention of national publishers, best-selling authors and library patrons who line up for a steady stream of discussions, author appearances, book signings and lectures.
Holstine reads an average of twenty books a month for reviews, with a heavy emphasis on mysteries and thrillers - - a passion she says began in her childhood with the Nancy Drew series and other children’s mysteries.
Many of the books she reads are sent to her by publishers hoping for a review. After the books are read and reviewed, she donates them to the library to help offset budget cuts in the library’s collection development fund. As a result, the Velma Teague Library is now home to one of the finest collections of mysteries and thrillers in the area.
Winner of the “Spinetingler Award for Best Reviewer” in both 2009 and 2010, her widely acclaimed reviews can be found in a number of publications including Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, The Strand Magazine and Women’s World.
Holstine started her popular blog, “Lesa’s Book Critiques,” in 2005. Her book reviews have been picked up by, Reuters, and other distributors.
Authors praise Holstine for giving honest reviews of their books, even if it means going against the grain. Many of her reviewed authors are hosted at the library for book signings through the popular “Authors @ the Teague” series, which regularly attracts nationally best-selling authors such as William Dugoni, New York Times bestseller and William Dietrich, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
Holstine’s career as a library manager/administrator has spanned over 30 years from Ohio to Florida and now to Arizona. 
Holstine’s nominator for the AzLA award, colleague Anna Caggiano says, “Lesa exemplifies outstanding library service. She goes above and beyond for her library, the authors and her community.”

Here's my acceptance speech.

I’m sorry I’m not with you today to accept the Arizona Library Association’s Public Service Award. However, you should probably be grateful that you don’t have to watch me stand up here and cry.

Instead of being here with you, I’ve gone back to my roots. I’m home visiting my family in Ohio. And, since this award is really about roots and community, I wanted to just mention them.

I’m from a small town in northcentral Ohio, right on the lake. I started working in the Huron Public Library as a page when I was sixteen, and I never left the library. My roots are there. My mother worked in a high school library, and, my sisters both worked as pages after I did.  A year after grad school, I went home to Huron as Library Director, and stayed there for five years before moving to Florida.

It was the women I worked with at the Huron Public Library, though, who taught me about libraries and service to the community. I’ve never forgotten that. They shared their passion for readers, authors, and books. As Director of the Huron Public Library, I brought my first author to the community, a local author who talked about books, writing, family, and home.

Huron gave me my start in libraries. I worked in Florida for eighteen years, and, then I came to Arizona seven years ago. The library directors in Glendale, Rodeane Widom, Sue Komernicky, and Cheryl Kennedy, allowed me to share my passion for books and authors with the people of Glendale, and the wider community of readers. It all started when Rodeane sent me to a workshop sponsored by the state library. Honestly? I didn’t get much out of the three day workshop, but I learned to blog. That blog put me in contact with readers, authors, and publishers, and I’ve tapped into that relationship. The brown bag luncheons in which I share books with library patrons and library staff, and the Authors @ The Teague programs, which bring authors to Glendale., are a result of my blog, and that one workshop. The programs happen because the library staff in Glendale, at the Velma Teague Branch where I work, and at the Main and Foothills Libraries, try to bring outstanding programs to the public. And many of those authors programs came about because Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, partnered with me to bring authors to Glendale. Barbara Peters understands public service and the commitment to enhance the quality of life in a community. She’s a former librarian.

When I was sixteen, I found my life’s passion, working in the public library. It’s been a joy to share my love of books and reading with the people in the communities where I’ve lived and worked, as well as the community of far-flung readers on the Internet.

To me, the public service award recognizes the people who have given me a gift, a love of books, libraries, and people, and the opportunity to bring them together. Thank you for honoring all those people who gave me roots, and all those people in the communities I’ve served, by presenting me with this award.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Christmas Note by Donna VanLiere

This year, Donna VanLiere, author of The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, brings  us The Christmas Note. To be honest, the note actually has nothing to do with Christmas itself. The note sparks a change in a number of lives, though, and the book is set during the Christmas season, so I guess that makes it a Christmas note.

The day they move into their new condo, Gretchen Daniels could tell her new neighbor, Melissa McCreary won’t welcome her and her two children to the neighborhood. Melissa begrudges any contact she has with Emma and Ethan. And, Gretchen has her own issues to handle. She has to try to get a job, get her kids settled, and get them in their new school. Fortunately, her mother and her mother’s best friend, Gloria, are there to help.

But, who’s there for Melissa when a strange man shows up looking for her, and tells Gretchen to tell her neighbor that Melissa’s mother died? With a little prodding from her kids, Gretchen makes gestures of friendship, and ends up helping Melissa clean out her mother’s wretched apartment. And, Gretchen’s the one who finds the note, just two lines that reveal family secrets. The two women might have come together reluctantly, but that simple note will change both of them forever.

There is a great deal of coincidence in this book. Remember, though, it’s a Christmas book. And, coincidence is part of VanLiere’s message. We pass so much in life off as coincidence. What if someone has planned it all, and nothing is a coincidence? What if it was all meant to happen the way it does? If you can accept that premise, you can appreciate Donna VanLiere’s The Christmas Note.

Donna VanLiere’s website is

The Christmas Note by Donna VanLiere. St. Martin’s Press. ©2011. ISBN 9780312658960 (hardcover), 208p.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Spirit of Christmas by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson

There’s always a tearjerker among the Christmas books. This year, it’s The Spirit of Christmas by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson. It’s a collection of short stories, true anecdotes about the Christmas season, and the true meaning of the holiday. I couldn’t even wear my reading glasses while I read this one. Too many tears. But, a friend of mine does tell me I’m “mushy.”

There are stories of needy families helped out for Christmas, with unexpected gifts of food, toys, and friendship. There are the Christmas miracles, an elderly mother who delighted in the Santa on a firetruck, and wished for snow. There’s the one about the last Christmas phone call, one that never happened according to Ma Bell. Marley Gibson’s cats destroyed their Christmas tree, but saved Christmas in “that Chaotic Christmas.”

My niece is in South Korea, her second year teaching English in a middle school there. So, I appreciated Pamela Jo Flores’ “An Irish Pub in Korea,” her story of her first Christmas as an ESL teacher in South Korea.

Right now, with unemployment and families without homes, many of these essays are timely. But, there’s a timelessness to all of them as well. “Karen’s Gift” reminds us all to slow down and appreciate family.

Kelly J. Stigliano sums up the book, and the theme, perfectly in her story, “The Most Beautiful-Ugly Christmas Ornament.” She ends with, “Because that’s what Christmas and this lie really mean: the lives we touch, the people we love, and the precious moments we spend together.” If you’re tired of all the Christmas romances, try a little Christmas reality, The Spirit of Christmas.

Cecil Murphey’s website is
Marley Gibson’s website is

The Spirit of Christmas by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson. St. Martin’s Press. ©2011. ISBN 9780312645014 (hardcover), 190p.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber

With 1225 Christmas Tree Lane, Debbie Macomber wraps up her Cedar Cove novels. This book must have been intended as a gift to the faithful readers of that series. Her listing of some of the residents of Cedar Cove includes at least sixty-seven characters. And, every one of them is mentioned in the book, along with their dogs.

Beth Morehouse is the focus of this particular story. The owner of the Christmas tree farm in town, she lives at 1225 Christmas Tree Lane, where she is also a dog trainer. As Christmas draws near, she is in possession of ten Lab-mix puppies, hoping to find homes for them before she and her college-age daughters take a skiing trip after Christmas. Her daughters have a surprise for Beth, though. They’ve invited their father, Beth’s ex-husband, for Christmas. Being daughters,
Bailey and Sophie have plans to get their parents back together. They didn’t count on their father bringing along a friend.

Beth scrambles to accommodate her husband, his friend, her two daughters, the ten puppies, and her own dogs. Those puppies give Macomber the opportunity to re-introduce most of the characters that have appeared in the Cedar Cove novels. As Beth drops off puppies, or as people arrive to adopt a dog, the reader catches up with stories from previous books.

Macomber’s introductory letter to her readers lets everyone in on the future of the residents of Cedar Cove. Over the years, Macomber’s readers have made these books bestsellers, and the people of the town have undoubtedly started to feel like friends. It’s hard to let go  of a town when readers have a chance to drop in and catch up every once in a while.

One of my high school English teachers would have a fit right about now. I’m going to say this was a nice story, and he never let us use the word “nice.” I’m sure Macomber’s fans will miss the small community they’ve grown to love. For the rest of us, it’s a “nice” story with an enormous cast of characters. 1225 Christmas Tree Lane really wasn’t anything special. There were no surprises. It was just a pleasant way to end the series, wrapping everything up in a tidy package.

Debbie Macomber’s website is

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber. MIRA. ©2011. ISBN 9780778312697 (hardcover), 283p.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller

Leave it to a McKettrick to ride into town, and in a few days win everyone over. That’s a perfect situation for a quiet man who wanted his own place in life, away from the family homestead in the Arizona Territory. And, it’s perfect for Linda Lael Miller’s A Lawman’s Christmas.

When Clay McKettrick arrived in Blue River, Texas in 1914, he knew he was taking over the job of marshal following the unexpected death of the previous marshal. But, he had no idea he’d also take over Parnell Nolan’s wife and children. When six-year-old Edrina Nolan met him at the train station, she made it very clear she understood she and her family were going to have to move out of the marshal’s house since it was owned by the town. The precocious Edrina prattled away about her father’s death, her mother’s worry about finding a place to live, and their sorry situation.  Clay was struck immediately by the beauty of Dara Rose Nolan, but he could tell the widow was too proud to admit she had few choices when it came to keeping her family together. But, Dara Rose was more cautious than her daughters when it came to admiring the new lawman in town.

Linda Lael Miller’s Christmas offering is a romance, but it’s a western about survival and people learning to make do as well. The courage of the people in small town Texas in 1914, particularly the women, resonates in this book. It took strength to survive the hard times, and determination to stick together as a community.

A Lawman’s Christmas is a romance between a man and a woman, but it’s about a patient man who wants to take on a wife and daughters. And, it’s about a woman doing her best against tough odds. Miller’s women are as strong as men, in their own ways. And, it’s that equality, and shared strength and partnership that make her romances satisfying. Add the Christmas setting to this novel, and A Lawman’s Christmas is another one of Linda Lael Miller’s satisfying romances.

Linda Lael Miller’s website is

A Lawman’s Christmas by Linda Lael Miller. Harlequin. ©2011. ISBN 9780373776146 (hardcover), 249p.

FTC Full Disclosure – Library book

Friday, November 25, 2011


Just a note of congratulations to Virginia D. of Tempe, AZ who won the autographed copy of Carolyn Hart's Merry, Merry Ghost, and Helen W. of Achille, OK who won Louise Penny's autographed The Cruelest Month. I'll put the books in the mail this morning.

And, I'll kick off the new year in style. The next contest will start on January 5, the night before the seventh anniversary of my blog. I don't know what the contest will be, but I'll try to do something special for that one.

In the meantime, I know we're all going into a crazy month, with only a month until Christmas. I hope you stop by now and then, take a break, and relax with a note about books and reading. Thank you for reading with me!

Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell

What gives Sarah Wendell the credibility to write a book called Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels? Wendell is “Smart Bitch Sarah” from the romance novel website, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. For six years, she’s been reviewing romance novels, discussing them with thousands of readers, and evaluating readers’ likes and dislikes. Now, she’s compiled lessons learned from the books and authors in a fascinating book containing life and relationship skills.

Wendell finds it’s worthwhile “Celebrating romance novels for every important thing they teach us about ourselves, the people we love, and the relationships we value.” Although the emphasis is on romantic love, it’s important to know that lessons about respect and communication can benefit any relationship. Romance author Loretta Chase said, “Romances teach readers that we should know ourselves and value ourselves, in order to find happiness.”

This is a serious, but fun book. What reader wouldn’t want to see the list of “The Top Nine Romance Heroes”? Wendell left room for everyone to add their personal favorite. And, it’s fascinating to read the comments of romance authors and readers about their favorite characters. And, then there’s Wendell’s funny tribute to all those romance covers with the men on them, “Six Simple Steps to Looking Like the Quintessential Romance Hero.” It starts with, “Acquire a mullet.”

I’m not going to give you the list of romance heroes, or the rest of Wendell’s tongue-in-cheek list view of pictured heroes. I am going to suggest this book is worth picking up with its messages of personal growth, value, and respect. Author Kresley Cole addresses the “Happily Ever After,” HEA of romances. “I believe that above all things, romance novels teach us that HEAS don’t come easy. As in real life, these relationships take effort, dedication, and sacrifice.”

Romance novels have come a long way from the “bodice rippers” people scorn when they think of romances. There just might be valuable lessons for everyone in Sarah Wendell’s Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels.
Sarah Wendell’s websites are and

Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell. Sourcebooks. ©2011. ISBN 9781402254499 (paperback), 222p.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

I love Thanksgiving. It’s a chance to pause before the hustle and bustle of Christmas. I love the food, the television (Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then The National Dog Show followed by Miracle on 34th Street), the calls home to family, and the four-day weekend. But, most of all, I like the chance to remember the year, and give thanks.

Jim died in 2010, and my wonderful mother came in for Christmas last year so I wouldn’t be alone that first year. So, before I even summarize 2011, I have to say I’m thankful I have a wonderful Mom and sisters, along with the rest of the family. But, I love sharing time and laughter with Mom, Linda and Christie. Sometimes Linda and I spend an entire phone conversation laughing.

And, thank you to all my friends, the ones I traveled with this year, visited, and shared laughter with. Then, there are all the authors who shared their time, at Velma Teague, at conferences, at The Poisoned Pen, and on my blog. Thank you. There are friends I’ve never met, but we still share conversations and love. Thank you. I'm thankful for all the authors who have appeared for Authors @ The Teague. And, I'm grateful to the authors, the publishers and publicists who have sent books, appeared on my blog, corresponded, Tweeted, and written to me on Facebook.  Thank you! My life would not be as full without all my friends in the book community.

I had a year filled with joy. What will I remember about 2011 with gratitude? This was my year for travel, and I loved every second of it. I always wanted to see Santa Fe. I jumped at the chance to combine Santa Fe with my love of crime fiction. Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe was fun, and I had the chance to spend time with my friends in Desert Sleuths, Zoë Sharp and her husband, Andy, and meet other authors and fans of crime fiction.

When Talia Sherer from Macmillan asked me to be on a panel at BEA, it meant a trip to New York City. I met librarians I have admired, and had a great time. I’d go back to New York in a second. Three Broadway plays! Time Square. Just the magic of New York City. I’m grateful to Talia for inviting me to participate in BEA, and making that trip possible.

In June, I went home to Ohio for Mom’s 75th birthday. It was a trip filled with family, friends, and lots of laughter. Thanks, everyone!

Everyone here read about my October trip to Los Angeles, Disneyland, and my time with my college roommate. Thank you, Jamie, for thirty-six years of friendship.

Next week, I’m going home to Ohio. I haven’t been home this late in the year for over twenty years. I’m hoping I don’t see snow, but I’ll be thankful to see family and both my hometown and Cleveland decorated for Christmas.

Of course, I’m thankful for my co-workers. I still can’t believe they nominated me for the Arizona Library Association’s award for public service. Thank you. And, thank you for all the laughter and hugs we’ve shared over the years.

And, my last thanks are reserved for home, the place I go where the cats wait for me, where I settle in with good books, music, a college football or basketball game. I love my cats, my books, and the comfort of home.

My Thanksgiving wish for you? May you appreciate the unique pleasures of your own life, your health, your family and friends, the good books you love. I hope you have the comforts of home, and joy in your life.
I’m thankful for 2011, and all the joy it brought to my life. Thank you for sharing 2011 with me.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron

Some readers were waiting for the next Judge Deborah Knott mystery from Margaret Maron. I’ve been waiting sixteen years for the next Sigrid Harald book. Maron satisfied all her fans by bringing her characters together in Three-Day Town.

Deborah and her husband, Dwight Bryant, have been married for a year, but they finally have time to take a honeymoon. Dwight’s sister-in-law loans them her Manhattan apartment for a week. After taking the train from North Carolina, they expect a week of playing tourist and playing honeymooners. And, everyone at the apartment building welcomes them, from the building superintendent to a minor TV celebrity who invites them to a party. Before they can settle in and enjoy themselves though, they have an errand. Deborah has to deliver a package to Lieutenant Sigrid Harald of the New York Police Department, a box sent from her grandmother.

When Sigrid hears what is in the box, she suggests she’ll pick it up that night, meeting the Bryants at their neighbor’s party. When Deborah realizes the apartment door is open, she asks the police to accompany her. Together, they find a body. It looks like it will be a busman’s honeymoon for the judge and her husband, a major in the sheriff’s department. Sigrid Harald has her team to bounce ideas off of, but has an additional team with Deborah and Dwight. And, as people disappear, and stories of thefts pile up, Sigrid will need all the suggestions she can get.

Mysteries probably make up about 70% of my reading, so I read about three of them a week. But, mysteries become something special when they come from the hand of a master. It’s no slight to other authors to say Margaret Maron’s characters and plot rise above so many others. Maron has been concentrating on the Deborah Knott books in recent years, but she skillfully brought Sigrid Harald into the story, and gave enough backstory to introduce her to new readers or remind others of the characters. And, if readers hadn’t read any of the award-winning Deborah Knott novels, it was easy to “meet” the judge and her husband.

Maron manages to switch point of view skillfully, moving from first person as Deborah speaks to third person for Sigrid’s chapters. It works perfectly in Three-Day Town.

In fact, so much of Three-Day Town was perfect. As a fan of New York City, I loved the glimpses of the city. I totally agreed with Deborah’s love of Times Square. Maron captured the glitz and enchantment at night.

But, my favorite part of the book wasn’t even the mystery. It was the chance to catch up with Sigrid Harald, her wonderful roommate, Roman Tramegra, and her team. As fellow blogger, Kaye Wilkinson Barley said, it’s like coming home.

So, thank you, Margaret Maron, for Three-Day Town, a trip back to New York City and Sigrid Harald’s world as seen through Deborah Knott's eyes.

Margaret Maron’s website is

Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron. Grand Central Publishing. ©2011. ISBN 9780446555784 (hardcover), 278p.

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