Category Archives: Books

Don’t Trust the Rating

Google Reduces Star Rating Threshold: Why Businesses Should Take Notice

I read books. Lots of them. Always have and always will. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I think I’ve read enough to recognize good writing and compelling plots in stories that stay with me for a long time after the book is closed. On the flip side, I don’t hesitate to trash a book if it hasn’t gripped me with the first chapter or two. Even if it has a five-star rating on Amazon. Be cautious about those ratings.

This goes for the ratings people tend to give to your opinions, your beliefs, your YOU.

How many times have you experienced that deflated, discouraged, and even embarrassed feeling when someone you respect makes a negative comment about a value that you hold dear? Even though it is important to you, another person gave it a low rating and you, maybe unconsciously, begin to question and devalue your own belief.

There are, of course, times when we need to have things shaken up a little and hearing someone else’s views can give us a nudge in the right direction. That’s okay. Necessary, even.

But be careful.

Getting caught up in the five-star rating of an individual’s contribution in any area is reason to take stock. Examine the deeper workings of their heart. Read the book. And if there isn’t enough in the first chapter or two to grip you, move on.

Look for the ones who quietly encourage, the ones who speak truth, the ones who are seldom recognized or openly rewarded for their wisdom. Their seemingly low ratings on the social scale may well be the best book you’ve ever read.

Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. – Philippians 4:8 (TPT)

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Filed under Books, Christian, trust, Writing

That I May Know Him

A few days ago, I posted the following on Facebook, requesting responses from my friends:

Do you regularly read content written by Christian authors (books – fiction or non-fiction, articles, blogs, etc.)? If so, what do you like about them? What don’t you like? If you do not read Christian authors, why not Can you give examples of authors you like and those you don’t?

The responses I got were not surprising to me but would perhaps be surprising to some Christian writers and publishers.

Most of those who answered the questions said yes, they did read Christian content, although not many had good things to say about Christian fiction, particularly women’s fiction because much of it tends to stereotype women into very traditional roles and thought patterns. I have found this to be true in my own reading. Several authors’ names did come up as exceptions, though.

Of the I-do-read-Christian-content responses, preferences were primarily well-researched non-fiction books and articles. Some of the authors are well-known and others more obscure. There was an almost overwhelming negative response toward the “feel good” books that play on emotions and fail to address and deal with the root of the issues. My friends who no longer read much Christian content have been disillusioned with the shallowness of what’s out there, the poor quality of the writing, or the false perceptions such material leaves with readers.

Now I’ll tell you why I have embarked on this research.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a webinar for Christian writers and bloggers. I was looking forward to it, as most of the writers’ conferences and seminars I’ve attended have not focused on Christian content. I should have skipped this one. Let’s just say that after the webinar I was not compelled to respond to the “rate us” email. There was no option to give a minus rating. It was horrible. Worse than horrible. Not once was the name of Jesus mentioned. Not once did the speakers talk about digging into the Bible for content, answers, or direction. Not once did I hear anyone say that the focus needed to be on God the Father. As a matter of fact, the “best” advice, they said, was to go to a local Christian bookstore, look around at what is offered there, and write that. Because it’s what’s popular. It’s what sells.

Are you kidding me???

Okay, I calmed down a little and then yesterday, I took myself off to a Christian bookstore – the only one within a 100 km radius that hasn’t gone out of business. As a point of reference, I am a former Christian bookstore owner and I know the pain of having to close the doors on a labour of love.

My fact-finding mission at the bookstore uncovered no surprises. The department occupying the greatest amount of floor space was giftware. Yeah, you know. All those cheesy ornaments with Bible verses on them. The next largest area was fiction, most of which looked eerily the same as my own bookstore did twelve years ago – a HUGE number of Amish romances, a good number of mysteries (also romances), and a few really good books by really good authors.

I moved on and turned the corner and my eyes widened. Rows and rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves of Women’s Interest books. Do publishers not know how bad pastel covers look en-masse? I wanted to run away screaming. While I’m certain there were some truly excellent ones in there, anyone would have been hard pressed to find them among the volumes of drivel.

(drivel – childish, silly, or meaningless talk or thinking; nonsense; twaddle)

Seriously. A good 50% of the books even had the smiling face of the author on the cover. Who are we worshipping here? And the titles! Don’t even get me started.

Here’s my point: Where is Jesus? Who is He? What is He for/to you? Why do you follow Him? How can you know Him and the power of His resurrection?

And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me. Philippians 3:10 (TPT)

THIS is what we need. To know and experience the living Spirit of God moving through us, in us, around us. To understand what He is to us and for us. THIS is what it means to be alive in Christ.

Anything that does not point you to Jesus should be questioned. That goes for so-called Christian books that offer answers for every life problem – books that make you feel good about yourself and excuse you from having to actually deal with your issues without giving Jesus the liberty to work with you. I’ve read many of the books I’m generalizing about here. I know what’s in them. And for all the money I’ve spent, words I’ve read, and felt justified in my sanctimonious attitude, nothing, NOTHING worked until I let Jesus show me the areas in my life that needed work. He and I are still housecleaning in that regard.

My greatest desire is to write what the Father God puts on my heart. Not what sells the best. Not what makes readers feel good (aka fluff). Not what other people tell me I should write. I believe that when I write what God has burned in my spirit, lives will change, and He will be glorified.

My little Facebook research project is a good indication that there is an audience for authentic writers who truly hear from God and write what He says. So, if you’re one of those, GO!

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Filed under Bible, Blogging, Books, Christ, Christian, God, holy spirit, Jesus Christ, Women, Writing

21 signs that every day is National Book Lovers Day for you

My daughter sent this link to me today : 21 signs that every day is National Book Lovers Day for you

Today is the happiest day of the year, and we don’t mean Christmas. It’s National Book Lovers Day, and that means today is our own very special almost-holiday. Yeah, we’ll admit it. We love to read, and we’re guessing more than a few of you are in the same boat. A good book can take you to places you’ve never been before. It can make you laugh or cry in public and nobody around you will know why. Because they weren’t there. They didn’t know Boromir like you did; they only saw the movie. People say you read too much, but you just shrug it off. You know it’s impossible to love books too much. — By Nick Mangione

Still of library from ‘Beauty & the Beast’ – yearnisk via Tumblr

Plans for your future home always include this library.

Reading in the bathtub - © crash-from-space via Reddit

You’re kicking yourself for not coming up with this idea first.

Drying books - © thefuturistics via Flickr

Because you’ve spent too many days doing this.

‘Hahaha’ & ‘No’ cat - sam-scarlet via Tumblr

This is your response whenever someone asks to borrow a book.

Man gestures to his eyes - media via Tumblr

And when they finally wear you down, you’re like …

Woman under a desk with a bottle of wine - somedaygirl via tumblr

And as soon as it’s gone, you want to read it again.

Burgess Meredith in the ‘Time Enough at Last’ Twilight Zone episode – mannyblacque via Tumblr

This was the most heartbreaking moment in television history. (Even though you’d already read the original story.)

Dress made from a book - © paperbagboris via Reddit

You adore this dress made out of pages.

Animation of ‘Don’t you like books?’ - gemini-dragon-gifs via Tumblr

You don’t understand people who’d rather watch TV.

‘Book it!’ pizza- © profnutbutter via Reddit

You did this every year, and enjoyed the books more than the pizza.

Woman removes books from a shelf - gemini-dragon-gifs media via Tumblr

This is how you pack for vacations.

E-book reader (© Eric Audras/Getty Images)

You have one of these …

Bookshelves - © Koocheekoo via Flickr

But your bookshelf still looks like this.

Mara Wilson in ‘Matilda’ - losing-all-my-nuts-and-bolts via Tumblr

You were convinced “Matilda” was actually about you.

Alexis Bedel in ‘Gilmore Girls’- tookieclothespins via Tumblr

You know nothing smells as good as an old book.

Two copies of ‘Harry Potter’ - theyseemefangirlintheyhatin via Tumblr

You always buy two copies: One to read, and one to display.

Open book with text overlay – introverteddork via Tumblr.

When your friends talk about movies they want to see, you’re like…

Two burgers - oldwomanandthecrazy via Tumblr

And the book is always better.

Boy reading Manga in the rain - © JanneM via Flickr

Nothing can stop you from reading just one more page.

Still from the ‘Harry Potter’ film series - yabookfanatic via Tumblr

There’s no better or worse feeling than finishing a book.

Woman reads while books accumulate - readmeyourwrites via Tumblr

But you can’t wait to start the next one.


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Live on Purpose

Most people I talk to are not living on purpose. Not enjoying life. Simply enduring. They spend their time regretting the past or wishing it back. They are either looking forward to or dreading some event in the future. Today is just an in-between. They are certainly not taking hold of this moment and making the most of it.

I got to thinking about this and made a list. On how you can live on purpose. Make memories. Go to bed at the end of the day with a smile on your face.

1. Pick one small bad habit. Change it.

2. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Be positive. Encourage them.

3. Stand outside and listen. What do you hear? Take a deep breath. What do you smell? Look around. What do you see?

4. Set one measurable goal for the day. Especially if long-term goals aren’t your thing. I read a quote by Zig Ziglar once that said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

5. Stop caring what other people think about you. It’s your life, not theirs.

6. Make things happen. Don’t wait for things to happen. If all you do is react to situations, I can pretty much assure you that you’re going to respond exactly the opposite to what you really want to do. 

7. Be honest about what you want. Speak up. If you live your life as a people-pleaser, you will let people walk on you even if they don’t know they’re doing it.

8. Don’t let fear stop you. Say no over and over again to the lies that it tells you and live your life on your terms. You won’t be bound by fear, and you will be able to do what you believe is right, regardless of how terrifying it is. Fear wants you to fit in, to be mediocre, to do nothing that matters, to fly under the radar. It’s much easier to give in to fear. Take the hard and rewarding road.

9. Take responsibility. You can’t control the people around you, and you can’t control many of your circumstances. But you have complete control over yourself. Don’t blame the people around you, or the economy, or the weather, or your age. Just be wise enough to rise above it all or you’ll never get out of your victim mentality.

10. Be a positive person. Taking responsibility will certainly help with that. It’s difficult to be upbeat when you believe that your destiny is controlled by your circumstances. Listen to yourself when you talk or think.

11. Connect with people. Intentionally. It just makes life more fun.

12. Read. There’s no better way to change yourself than reading. A former pastor of mine always said, “Who you are a year from now is largely dependent on the books you read.” So true.

13. Be thankful. Being thankful just requires you to open your eyes a little more than you usually do.

14. Choose your emotional responses. You choose to stress. You choose to be angry. The situation may seem out of your hands, or it may seem like someone else’s fault, but realize that it’s always your decision how you react.

Do something. Today. No more excuses.

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Filed under Being Creative, Blogging, Books, Dreams, Life, Writing

Christian Fiction

I have been reading Christian fiction for fifty years. At several points during that time, I stopped reading the stuff altogether because the cheese dripping from those poorly written, lack of plot volumes could have topped McDonald’s burgers for a decade. I’m totally serious. I cannot believe how the majority of those books even got published, they were that bad. And if you’ve been around the Christian fiction circles for any length of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I can’t tell you how many times I picked up a book from the local bible book store or the church library only to toss it aside after reading the first chapter. Bad grammar, incredibly amateur sentence structure, incomplete or disjointed storylines. Did these people not have an editor? Even a fifth grader could have done a better job of writing some of these books.

And this is what the world came to know as Christian fiction. Ugh.

I started thinking about this perhaps a little too much because I got really upset. For years. It seemed somebody out there in the publishing world decided it was okay for Christian fiction to be crappy because Christian readers wouldn’t know the difference anyway. Like we were dummy heads who wouldn’t know a good book from a bad one. And these publishers kept churning out the junk.

Then along came the likes of Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Karen Hancock, Nancy Moser, James Rubart, Francine Rivers, Joel Rosenberg, James Scott Bell, and others who actually knew how to write. They had (and still have) the ability to create a great story with skill and excellence. They have studied their craft – worked at it to become skillful. And Christian readers everywhere thank you from the bottom of their hearts. Especially me.

But . . . yeah, there’s always a but.

The cheesy Christian fiction is still being published.  Lots of it. And I guess there must be a market for it or these books wouldn’t keep showing up on the shelves of every bookstore in town. Haven’t we seen enough Amish romance stories by now?

Contrary to what you might think, the purpose of this blog post is not to bash the writers of the cheesy fiction. Really. The purpose is to encourage the Christian writers out there to pay attention to the quality of their work.

Don’t allow yourself to settle for mediocre writing. Learn your craft. Develop your gift. Go to writers’ conferences and take the advice they give you. Read books about writing. Practice.  Practice some more. And for heaven’s sake, stop reading fluff (another word for cheesy).

Several weeks ago, our pastor prayed for me – that the books I write will impact and change lives. Yes, fiction can do that. I know because it’s happened to me. More than once.

The bar has been raised. Step up to the challenge.

Observe people who are good at their work—skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a backseat to anyone. – Proverbs 22:29 (The Message)


Filed under Being Creative, Blogging, Books, Writing

Books That Make You Think

I like books that make me think.

I’ll admit that I’ve read a lot of fluff in the past. You know, that’s the kind of book you can skim through in an hour or two and by the next day you couldn’t even say what it was about. My daughters call them “bathtub books” because you can pretty much read a whole one during a nice long hot bath. Those are okay for the beach, but since I don’t get to the beach very often, I don’t read too many.

I look for books that will challenge me. Cause me to contemplate. Inspire and motivate me to grow as a person. As a Christian. As a woman. A wife. A mother. A writer. I’ve made a list of a few books I’ve read in the last year that have done exactly that. Some are fiction. Some are non-fiction. Some are by Christian authors. Some are not. Some I’ve read for the second or third time. But I’ve taken away some solid gold nuggets from each one. Nuggets of incredible insight and truth.

1. The Enclave – by Karen Hancock (one of my favorite authors)

2. Seasons – by Tim Gilligan (a very wise man of God)

3. Pathfinder – by Orson Scott Card (love his writing)

4. Crazy Love – by Frances Chan (worth reviewing on a regular basis)

5. Writing 21st Century Fiction – by Donald Maass (for anyone who wants to be a better writer)

6. Greater – by Steven Furtick (so motivating!)

7. Hunger Games – by Suzanne Collins (loved the book, the movie, and the book again)

8. The Holy Spirit is Not For Sale – by Lee Grady (wow!)

9. Garden Spells – by Sarah Addison Allen (light fiction, fun book, lots of wisdom)

10. Fablehaven Series – by Brandon Mull (my 11-year-old granddaughter just finished the 5 book series – she loved them too)

11. Agenda 21 – by Glenn Beck (lots of pondering here)

12. Creative Thinkering – by Michael Michalko (great for kick-starting the creativity)

13. Soul’s Gate – by James Rubart (serious make you think book)

14. This Present Darkness – by Frank Peretti (for the sixth or seventh time)

These books are not in any particular order, neither is this an exhaustive list of the good ones. I’ve read dozens more. Maybe even hundreds. But all of these have impacted me in some way. A good way, I hope.

So there you go. If you’re looking for something good and don’t know what to read, I’ve given you some suggestions.

Now go open a book.


Filed under Being Creative, Blogging, Books, Christian, Writing

Pack it Up

Today is packing day and all the books go back in the boxes. I have enlisted the help of two grandsons (ages 6 and 9) who have agreed to work for the reasonable rate of one large strawberry smoothie each. Yes, I will take advantage of child labour.

The last days of my bookstore sale went rather well and I am quite happy with the final results of my two-month return to the world of retail. I estimate that one third – maybe a little more – of my inventory was sold, which is pretty good for the short period of time I was back in business.

So what will I do with the leftovers?

Well, I just don’t know.

There were the usual vultures hovering around the store last week, hoping I would give them more than 75% off “because we’re in the ministry, you know”. And then they wondered if I could ship everything to them in San Diego free of charge. Um . . . I think they were a little put off at my chuckle of disbelief.  And there was also the lady who came in on the last day and was pretty ticked that I didn’t have another copy of the exact same Bible she had purchased from me three weeks ago because her son really likes it and she promised him one for Christmas and she didn’t want to go to the other Christian bookstore and pay full price. Yup, she was actually mad at me.

These are the people I will not miss. Not even a little.

But I was touched and honoured by the many who came in just to say goodbye, give me a hug, and tell me what a blessing it was to have my store in the neighbourhood. Those are the wonderful people who made it all worthwhile.

So now I’m off to sort, catalogue and pack.

I wonder how long it will take for the boys to demand payment.

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Filed under Bible, Blogging, Books, Writing

‘Twas Three Days Before Christmas

Twas three days before Christmas, when all through the store
Not a customer was happy, just asking for more.
The books were stacked on the tables with care,
In hopes that someone would find the price fair.

The children were running, instead of tied in their beds,
While visions of Wii games danced in their heads.
And mom on her iPhone, with a kid on her lap,
Had just settled in for a long winter’s chat.

No, I don’t have a Bible to give to your kids,
Or a VeggieTales video open for bids.
I’m all out of Odyssey, Message and Meyer,
You’re stuck with what’s left, and a Christmastime flyer.

So give me a break from your whining and talk,
And be happy with merchandise left in our stock.
But hear me exclaim, as I fade out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

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Filed under Being Creative, Blogging, Books, Humor, Writing

Weird Bookstore Customers


I have one more week of bookstoring and it seems that all the strangest and most eccentric customers have waited until the bitter end to grace me with their presence. I’m not complaining about the additional sales, mind you. I just have to paste on my Barbie doll smile, nod at the appropriate time, and endure.

This morning I had the – um – pleasure of serving a group of five rather strange women. Well, two of them were quite normal, one was in-between, and the other two were off the charts in missing smarticles. (I love that word, smarticles. I heard it this morning from my daughter.)

Anyway . . .

The two normal ladies shopped like normal customers. Asked intelligent questions. Made lovely comments. Purchased non-fluff books. Those are books with some substance. Not like a sappy romance you read in one sitting and then forget the entire story within minutes of finishing it.

The in-between lady stayed in the store while Martina McBride’s Christmas album played through two and a half times. She belched out loud twice (the lady, not Martina McBride) and left only after one of the normal ladies came to fetch her. No purchase. Even after looking through every single book in my inventory.

The two missing smarticles ladies left me speechless. And that is not an easy task. One of them – an elderly white-haired wonder – marched up to the counter and stuck her hand out in greeting, loudly introducing herself as Mrs. C. I murmured something in reply, purposely not giving my name. She caught that and demanded to know. I was tempted to say “Batman” or something equally silly. But I didn’t. Mrs. C proceeded to help herself to the free candy canes I have out for my customers, and then generously distributed them to everyone else in the store. Really. It happened just like that.

During her subsequent tour of the store, Mrs. C could be heard enthusiastically exclaiming, “Oh goodnessy, graciousy me! Look at this! And this! I could just stay here for hours!” Oh please, Lord, today is 12.21.12. I don’t mind at all if you come and get me right this minute! Of course, if He had come right then, there is the possibility that Mrs. C and I would have been on the same bus to heaven.

Oh yeah, she bought a pamphlet on the evils of Halloween. For $1.23.

The last weird lady stood in a corner and watched. She didn’t say a word, but her eyes darted around the room as if she were expecting something terrible to happen and I must admit that the words suicide bomber crossed my mind. She was a very small woman wearing a very large jacket.

Finally, they left. After I watched them all pile into one tiny car, I locked up the store and hurried over to the coffee shop to pick up my lunch. I found my staff in shock. The crazy ladies had been there, too.


Filed under Blogging, Books, Characters, Coffee Shop, Humor, Women, Writing

Retail 101

I am not cut out for retail. I know this. But for the duration of the month I am going to smile and nod and keep the peace. When January comes, however, I may offer the Retail 101 course free to all of those shoppers who failed it the first time around. Or the second. Maybe even the third.

The course will cover the following:

1. Read the signs. These are important indicators as to how a particular establishment operates and it will save you time at the checkout. For instance, when the sign says CASH ONLY, it actually means you must pay for your purchase in cash. Your VISA card is not cash. Neither is a coupon or your debit card. And your looks of disgust and dismay will not change the process. There is a bank machine across the street. Use it.

2. Confirm refund and exchange policies before making your purchase. If your receipt is stamped ALL SALES FINAL in big red letters, it usually means all sales are final. No refunds. No exchanges. Done. Finished. I don’t care if your husband didn’t like the little ceramic angel candy cane holder you bought for his mother. Give it to someone else.

3. Take your kids to the bathroom before you leave the house. Most retail outlets will have a public restroom, but the smaller ones don’t like to advertise it. We have to clean them ourselves and I won’t go into detail about how disgusting it is to have to mop up the mess kids make in there. It’s even more disgusting when the parents don’t buy anything.

4. A bookstore is not a library. I still shake my head in confusion when I see shoppers plop themselves down in a chair or on the floor with a pile of books and proceed to pour through them one by one. I get that you want to know what the book you’re thinking of buying is about, but when you leave two hours later without making a purchase, well . . . I used to have a customer who would come in every Friday while her daughter was in dance class. She would sit in a chair and read, but never bought a thing. I’m sure she read six or seven entire books in my store over that winter. I’ve removed the chair.

5. No pets allowed. Since when is it okay to bring your dog into a store? It isn’t. Ever. Unless it’s a pet store. And mine is not. I don’t care if Fido is like one of your kids. I don’t care if he’s cold. I don’t care if he cries without you. Please tie him up outside before you come in. Or leave him at home.

6. You break it, you buy it. That includes anything your children, your husband, your grandmother and whoever else you brought with you might break. That Bradford Exchange plate you just dropped on the concrete floor cost me plenty and if  you didn’t want to pay, you shouldn’t have picked it up. That’s why we have PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH signs everywhere (see point #1). Oh, and you’re welcome to take the pieces of the plate with you after we have your cash.

As you can see, my course outline is coming along quite nicely. The first ten to sign up will get a free personal consultation.


Filed under Blogging, Books, Humor, Writing