Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lesa's Book Critiques

I am so pleased to welcome today's guest blogger, Lesa Holstine, whose influential book review blog is one of the best on the web.


It was a pleasant surprise when Donis asked me to be a guest blogger to discuss my blog, and the life of a book reviewer. (Happy Birthday, Donis!)  I’ve been blogging for four years now, and I’ve enjoyed talking with readers and authors in that time.  I’m passionate about books, and my blog.

My name is Lesa Holstine, and I blog at  I’ve been a public librarian for twenty-eight years, and it’s that job that led to my blog.  I’ve managed libraries in Ohio and Florida, and, while in Florida, I was the Chair of Authors’ Programming for the Lee County Reading Festival for five years.  That job gave me the chance to meet authors such as Carl Hiaasen, Sue Grafton, Les Standiford, Elaine Viets, Tim Dorsey, P.J. Parrish, and so many other terrific crime novelists.

I missed that contact with authors when I moved to Arizona.  But, I started reviewing books for Stacy Alesi (Bookbitch), and Library Journal.  Then, in January, 200 I reluctantly attended a series of workshops.  It was there I learned to blog, and I fell in love with it.  I started blogging to share my love of books and authors.  Other readers, and authors, chime in with their comments, and we get to discuss books.  I started by emphasizing mysteries, but I review a little of everything – women’s fiction, nonfiction, sports books, and, even children’s books.  Sometimes, I cover authors’ appearances when they speak at my library, the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, Arizona, or at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale.

I’ve been very lucky with my blog.  Two years ago, I joined BlogBurst, a syndicator, and my book reviews have been syndicated throughout the country.  Reuters,, and The Chicago Sun-Times pick up articles most frequently.  The syndication, along with infrequent reviews for Blogcritics, and comments on Twitter, have brought the blog to the attention of more readers, authors, and publishers.  I’ve also joined social networks, solely for the purpose of publicizing my blog, and talking about books.  I use MySpace, Twitter,, and other sites just to connect with the reading community.  

What do I enjoy most about blogging?  It gives me an outlet for my opinion about books.  And, it gives me a chance to discuss books with other readers.  Sometimes, I get a chance to discover a first time author, and share them with readers.  My blog brought a special challenge this year.  My New Year’s resolution this year was to read one more book in 2008 than I read in 2007.  (I’ve already reached that point, passing 164 a few books ago.)  My niece, Elizabeth, read that resolution, and said her resolution was to read one more book than I did.  Elizabeth is in fourth grade.  I sent her a book journal and two pens.  Her mother told her she had to read at grade level, and, together, we’ve been reading all year.  At the end of the year, I’ll post her picture, and her final total.  She was a little ahead of me all year. 

The blog has provided me additional outlets to talk about books, with people other than my niece. As I varied my reviews, and had more of them syndicated, I had more offers to review.  I just started to review books for Mystery News.  I regularly read manuscripts for a mystery publisher.  I’ve also had some flops.  I found I wasn’t the right reviewer for one online journal.  They wanted well-researched reviews with links to sources, and internet sites.  Although I’m a librarian, I found this source wanted too much time.  I found myself spending three or four hours on one review.  I can almost read the book in that time!  And, I do still have a full-time job as a library manager.

So, now is my opportunity to apologize to all of you authors.  You are my rock stars.  There’s no one I’d rather see than you.  (Other than Barack Obama, and I have met him in his role an author.)  I wish I had time to read every book you send me, or every book your publisher or agent sends.  But, if you check out my monthly listing of “Treasures in My Closet” on my blog, you’ll see that I have more books than I can get to in one month.  And, the treasures extend to the piles of books on the floor.  I prioritize them.  Library Journal, Mystery News, and the mystery publisher come first.  Then, I pick out the books my library patrons will want to know about, and I sneak in books by a few favorite authors.  And, then there’s my mood.  Sometimes I need to read a nonfiction book for a break, or a romance.  

But, thank you for offering me your books.  Thanks for continuing to tour, despite the small crowds and the high cost of gas in the last year.  I’ve been lucky enough to meet a number of you here at The Poisoned Pen, including Lee Child, Cornelia Read, Louise Ure, Debby, Betty Webb, Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller, Brad Meltzer, and so many others.  I try to get there as often as I can.  Thank you for visiting my library for a series we’ve had for just over a year, Authors @ The Teague.  Donis has been there, and Vicki and Debby will be there this year.  We may not get large crowds, but I publicize your appearances on my blog, on The Glendale Daily Planet, on LibraryThing and Goodreads, as well as Twitter and MySpace.  After you appear, I’ll blog about it, mention it on DorothyL, and, maybe, it will be syndicated.  You are my rock stars, as I said, and on Lesa’s Book Critiques, I get a chance to say thank you for everything you write.  Sometimes I have to give you a negative review (and I have one coming out for the latest book by an author I like), but I always respect the hard work you put in, even if I don’t give it a positive review.  

So, thank you.  And, good luck in 2009.  I hope every author has a successful year, and every reader discovers a new author or two.  And, since we’re all readers, I wish us all a successful reading year.  You can see my reading year at  One hundred sixty-six books, anyone?



Anonymous said...

Lesa, I wish I could read as fast as you do. You're inspiring. I'll also be looking for your reviews in more places. Thanks for the interesting blog. Looking forward to seeing you in March.

Lesa said...

Hi Anonymous! Vicki? Debby? Thank you for the comments. It's a challenge to read that fast, and keep up with my niece.

Hope to see ... whoever in March! (grin)

Chester Campbell said...

I enjoyed your thoughts on blogging and reviewing, Lesa. I'll be at the Tucson Festival of Books in March. Don't know if you'll make that one.

Lesa said...

I'm not planning on it right now, Chester, but you never know. A couple others from our system are planning to be there, though.

Donis Casey said...

Let's see, Lesa ... shall I read more books or write more books? Read more, write more...hmmm.

Lesa said...

Write more, Donis! Write more! But, I hope you took today off just to enjoy your birthday!

Donis Casey said...

I did! I'm going to have to fast for a week or buy a whole new wardrobe, though.

Jen said...

Lesa's my blog hero! I love your blog, Lesa. I learn from you every day! Thanks!! Maybe some year I'll reach 164 books...of course, you'll probably be in the 300s by that time! :) Happy New Year!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Jen! No, I'll never reach 300. I hope not! That would mean I had no other life. As much as I love books, I kind of like another life, too. I did read 198 one year, though. I wanted to read one every two days. That's a lot of work.

Thank you for the nice compliment about my blog, Jen.