Reviews… how do you rate and review books?

It has been a while since I have posted a rant, so please grab your coffee and let us rant.

Here is my question for today, ‘When does an author deserve a 1 or 2 star review?’

Last night I picked a random book in my kindle by an unknown author (to me obviously) and started reading, the first chapter wasn’t too bad, not excellent gripping stuff and even though the female character was slightly annoying I kept going. Second chapter the main character becomes even more annoying than the first chapter, but I hate not finishing books, so I keep pushing and telling myself that it might get better.

By chapter four I was completely confused and had no idea what had just happened, by chapter six I skip to the last chapter to see how it ends.

I chose not to rate or review this book, first because I didn’t actually read all of it, and even though I did read the last chapter, technically I suppose I did not really finish it. But here is the thing, the book wasn’t badly written, no grammar or spelling crimes, the plot (as far as I read) was in fact interesting, and even though this book was no Nobel prize contestant it wasn’t deserving of a very poor rating either.

So if I had to be fair and put aside my personal taste I would probably give this book a 3 star rating (if I had actually managed to read through the whole thing). Does this author deserve a 1 or 2 star rating because I disliked her main character? I try not to rate a book only based on whether I like a story or not, I do try to give ratings and reviews based on the authors’ skill (and editor of course), there is the writing style, character development and the plot. Whether or not I liked the result is not really the authors fault, it doesn’t mean they did a bad job.

One of those was The Singer by Elizabeth Hunter, my expectations for this book were beyond high and when I finally did read it I was disappointed with the result. Now here is the thing, I still gave this book a 4 star rating and an honest review. No, I didn’t particularly like this book, but it was magnificently executed, perfect editing, wonderful characters, elaborate and intriguing plot and the research gone into this book must have taken quite a few many hours out of the authors’ life. Does she deserve less than that because she didn’t take the story in the direction I wanted?

Again, please don’t give books poor ratings and reviews because you did not like the result, some books deserve poor ratings for several reasons but not because you did not like it. Someone else might enjoy it and you just might be screwing it for the next guy.

It’s pretty much like everything else, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. You might not like paintings by Picasso, or the architecture of Gaudi or even books by José Saramago but they are (still) geniuses in their fields, and whether you find pleasure or beauty in their creations, is entirely up to how your eyes and mind interprets what they are seeing.

But to go so far as to claim that something is utter rubbish because it does not appeal to us personally, that people, is unfair and untrue. So let’s try for something down the lines of… “even though personally I did not like the story …… it is well written, etc. etc.”

19 Confounding Discrepancies Between American English and British English

As a lifelong Anglophile and a recent newcomer to London, I can understand America’s burgeoning love affair with British English. But even with the spike in usage of Britishisms, there are still a number of words and phrases that can baffle even the most pretentious BBC America fans. Next time you’re in London, keep these translations to hand—or as the Yanks would say, nearby—and you’ll be just fine.

1. Knock up: To wake up. Don’t freak out if your flatmate says he will be sure to knock you up in the morning.

2. Pants: Underwear. Be careful not to compliment your friend’s new pants, or she will be very confused. Trousers or slacks are what you wear over your pants.

3. Take the piss: To take advantage of; to ridicule. This is one of the more unattractive British phrases that show up frequently in conversation.

4. Bum bag: Fanny pack. For your own sake, don’t say “fanny pack.” (Come to think of it, don’t say “fanny” at all.)

5. Poncy: An especially negative version of the word “posh.”

6. Plaster: A band-aid.

7. Whinge: To whine.

8. Cash point: An ATM.

9. Car park: Though it sounds more like an auto show, it’s just a parking lot.

10. Garden: Backyard. A front yard or lawn is referred to as the front garden.

11. Accident and Emergency: An emergency room or trauma center; commonly referred to as the “A&E.”

12. Pot: Carton or container, as in, “I had a yoghurt pot for breakfast.”

13. Sex pest: Though it sounds like some unpleasant disease, a sex pest is more akin to a sexual predator or someone who sexually harasses others.

14. Sign on: It has nothing to do with AOL—it actually means to sign up for welfare.

15. The dog’s bollocks: If something is the dog’s bollocks, it is excellent.

16. Tramp: Homeless person. You can still get upset if someone says you dress like a tramp; you’ll just be upset for a different reason.

17. Rude boy: Thug or delinquent. A rude boy in England probably has no special affinity for ska music, unlike the rude boys in the U.S. and Jamaica.

18. Jumper: Sweater or pullover.

19. Mucky pup: Messy person.



12 Letters That Didn’t Make the Alphabet

You know the alphabet. It’s one of the first things you’re taught in school. But did you know that they’re not teaching you all of the alphabet? There are quite a few letters we tossed aside as our language grew, and you probably never even knew they existed.

1. Thorn

Have you ever seen a place that calls itself “ye olde whatever”? As it happens, that’s not a “y”, or, at least, it wasn’t supposed to be. Originally, it was an entirely different letter called thorn, which derived from the Old English runic alphabet, Futhark.

Thorn, which was pronounced exactly like the “th” in its name, is actually still around today in Icelandic. We replaced it with “th” over time—thorn fell out of use because Gothic-style scripting made the letters y and thorn look practically identical. And, since French printing presses didn’t have thorn anyway, it just became common to replace it with a y. Hence naming things like, “Ye Olde Magazine of Interesting Facts” (just as an example, of course).

2. Wynn

Another holdover from the Futhark runic alphabet, wynn was adapted to the Latin alphabet because it didn’t have a letter that quite fit the “w” sound that was common in English. You could stick two u’s (technically v’s, since Latin didn’t have u either) together, like in equus, but that wasn’t exactly right.

Over time, though, the idea of sticking two u’s together actually became quite popular, enough so that they literally became stuck together and became the letter W (which, you’ll notice, is actually two V’s).

3. Yogh

Yogh stood for a sort of throaty noise that was common in Middle English words that sounded like the “ch” in “Bach” or Scottish “loch.”

French scholars weren’t fans of our weird non-Latin letters and started replacing all instances of yogh with “gh” in their texts. When the throaty sound turned into “f” in Modern English, the “gh”s were left behind.”

4. Ash

You’re probably familiar with this guy from old-fashioned Greek or Roman style text, especially the kind found in churches. It’s even still used stylistically in words today, like æther and æon.

What you may not know, however, is that at one time the ae grapheme (as it’s now known) was an honorary English letter back in the days of Old English. It still had the same pronunciation and everything, it was just considered to be part of the alphabet and called “æsc” or “ash” after the ash Futhark rune, for which it was used as a substitute when transcribing into Latin letters.

5. Eth

Eth is kind of like the little brother to thorn. Originating from Irish, it was meant to represent a slightly different pronunciation of the “th” sound, more like that in “thought” or “thing” as opposed to the one found in “this” or “them.” (The first is the voiceless dental fricative, the second is the voiced dental fricative).

Note that, depending on your regional accent, there may not be much of a difference (or any at all) in the two pronunciations anyway, but that’s Modern English. Back in the old days, the difference was much more distinct. As such, you’d often see texts with both eth and thorn depending on the required pronunciation. Before too long, however, people just began using thorn for both (and later “th”) and so eth slowly became unnecessary.

6. Ampersand

Today we just use it for stylistic purposes (and when we’ve run out of space in a text message or tweet), but the ampersand has had a long and storied history in English, and was actually frequently included as a 27th letter of the alphabet as recently as the 19th century.

In fact, it’s because of its placement in the alphabet that it gets its name. Originally, the character was simply called “and” or sometimes “et” (from the Latin word for and, which the ampersand is usually stylistically meant to resemble). However, when teaching children the alphabet, the & was often placed at the end, after Z, and recited as “and per se and,” meaning “and in and of itself” or “and standing on its own.”

So you’d have “w, x, y, z, and, per se, and.” Over time, the last bit morphed into “ampersand,” and it stuck even after we quit teaching it as part of the alphabet.

7. Insular G

This letter (referred to as “insular G” or “Irish G” because it didn’t have a fancy, official name) is sort of the grandfather of the Middle English version of yogh. Originally an Irish letter, it was used for the previously mentioned zhyah/jhah pronunciation that was later taken up by yogh, though for a time both were used.

It also stood alongside the modern G (or Carolingian G) for many centuries, as they represented separate sounds. The Carolingian G was used for hard G sounds, like growth or good, yogh was used for “ogh” sounds, like cough or tough, and insular g was used for words like measure or vision.

As Old English transformed into Middle English, insular G was combined with yogh and, as mentioned earlier, was slowly replaced with the now-standard “gh” by scribes, at which point insular G/yogh were no longer needed and the Carolingian G stood alone (though the insular G is still used in modern Irish).

8. “That”

Much like the way we have a symbol/letter for “and,” we also once had a similar situation with “that,” which was a letter thorn with a stroke at the top. It was originally just a shorthand, an amalgamation of thorn and T (so more like “tht”), but it eventually caught on and got somewhat popular in its own right (even outliving thorn itself), especially with religious institutions. There’s an excellent chance you can find this symbol somewhere around any given church to this day.

9. Ethel

Similar to Æ/ash/æsc above, the digraph for OE was once considered to be a letter as well, called ethel. It wasn’t named after someone’s dear, sweet grandmother, but the Furthark rune Odal, as œ was its equivalent in transcribing.

It was traditionally used in Latin loan words with a long e sound, such as subpœna or fœtus. Even federal was once spelled with an ethel. (Fœderal.) These days, we’ve just replaced it with a simple e.

10. Tironian “Ond”

Long before there were stenographers, a Roman by the name of Marcus Tullius Tiro (who was basically Roman writer Cicero’s P.A.) invented a shorthand system called Tironian notes. It was a fairly simple system that was easily expanded, so it remained in use by scribes for centuries after Tiro’s death.

One of the most useful symbols (and an ancestor to the ampersand) was the “et” symbol above—a simple way of tossing in an “and.” (And yes, it was sometimes drawn in a way that’s now a popular stylistic way of drawing the number 7.) When used by English scribes, it became known as “ond,” and they did something very clever with it. If they wanted to say “bond,” they’d write a B and directly follow it with a Tironian ond. For a modern equivalent, it’d be like if you wanted to say your oatmeal didn’t have much flavor and you wrote that it was “bl&.”

The trend grew popular beyond scribes practicing shorthand and it became common to see it on official documents and signage, but since it realistically had a pretty limited usage and could occasionally be confusing, it eventually faded away.

11. Long S

You may have seen this in old books or other documents, like the title page from Paradise Lost above. Sometimes the letter s will be replaced by a character that looks a bit like an f. This is what’s known as a “long s,” which was an early form of a lowercase s. And yet the modern lowercase s (then referred to as the “short s”) was still used according to a complicated set of rules (but most usually seen at the end of a word), which led to many words (especially plurals) using both. For example, ?uper?titous is how the word superstitious would have been printed.

It was purely a stylistic lettering, and didn’t change the pronunciation at all. It was also kind of silly and weird, since no other letters behaved that way, so around the beginning of the 19th century, the practice was largely abandoned and the modern lowercase s became king.

12. Eng

For this particular letter, we can actually point to its exact origin. It was invented by a scribe named Alexander Gill the Elder in the year 1619 and meant to represent a velar nasal, which is found at the end of words like king, ring, thing, etc.

Gill intended for the letter to take the place of ng entirely (thus bringing would become bri?i?), and while it did get used by some scribes and printers, it never really took off—the Carolingian G was pretty well-established at that time and the language was beginning to morph into Modern English, which streamlined the alphabet instead of adding more to it. Eng did manage live on in the International Phonetic Alphabet, however.



The Dark Origins of 11 Classic Nursery Rhymes


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In the canon of great horror writing, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley tend to dominate the craft. But Mother Goose isn’t too far behind. Yes, that fictional grande dame of kiddie poems has got a bit of a dark streak, as evidenced by the unexpectedly sinister theories surrounding the origins of these 11 well-known nursery rhymes.


Though most scholars agree that “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” is about the Great Custom, a tax on wool that was introduced in 1275, its use of the color black and the word “master” led some to wonder whether there was a racial message at its center. Its political correctness was called into question yet again in the latter part of the 20th century, with some schools banning it from being repeated in classrooms, and others simply switching out the word “black” for something deemed less offensive. In 2011, reported on the proliferation of “Baa, Baa Rainbow Sheep” as an alternative.


It’s hard to imagine that any rhyme with the phrase “goosey goosey” in its title could be described as anything but feelgood. But it’s actually a tale of religious persecution, during the days when Catholic priests would hide themselves in order to say their Latin-based prayers, a major no-no at the time—not even in the privacy of one’s own home. In the original version, the narrator comes upon an old man “who wouldn’t say his prayers. So I took him by his left leg. And threw him down the stairs.” Ouch!

3. JACK AND JILL (1765)

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Admit it, you fooled around with the lyrics to “Jack and Jill” a bit yourself when you were younger, turning what you thought was an innocent poem into something a little bit naughty. But its origins aren’t as clean-cut as you probably imagined. One of the most common theories surrounding the story’s origin is that it’s about France’s Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, who were both found guilty of treason and subsequently beheaded. The only problem is that those events occurred nearly 30 years after “Jack and Jill” was first written. The more likely possibility is that it’s an account of King Charles I’s attempt to reform the tax on liquid measures. When Parliament rejected his suggestion, he instead made sure that the volume was reduced on half- and quarter-pints, known as jacks and gills, respectively.


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In 2006, Fergie got saucy with some of this classic kid tune’s lyrics. But the original song wasn’t much better. Depending on whom you ask, “London Bridge is Falling Down” could be about a 1014 Viking attack, child sacrifice, or the normal deterioration of an old bridge. But the most popular theory seems to be that first one. More specifically: the alleged destruction of London Bridge at the hands of Olaf II of Norway some time in the early 1000s. (“Alleged” because some historians don’t believe that attack ever took place.) The song’s popularity around the world is often cited as further proof that it was the Vikings who created it, believing that they brought the tune to the many places they traveled. Oh, and that whole child sacrifice thing? That’s an idea that is also often debated (there’s no archaeological evidence to support it), but the theory goes that in order to keep London Bridge upright, its builders believed that it must be built on a foundation of human sacrifice, and that those same humans—mostly children—would help to watch over the bridge and maintain its sturdiness. Which we’re pretty sure isn’t a practice they teach you in architecture school.


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“Contrary” is one way to describe a murderous psychopath. This popular English nursery rhyme, which reads like a solicitation for gardening advice, is actually a recounting of the homicidal nature of Queen Mary I of England, a.k.a. Bloody Mary. A fierce believer in Catholicism, her reign as queen—from 1553 to 1558—was marked by the execution of hundreds of Protestants. (Silver bells and cockle shells are torture devices, not garden accouterments.)


“Three Blind Mice” is supposedly yet another ode to Bloody Mary’s reign, with the trio in question believed to be a group of Protestant bishops—Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Radley, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer—who (unsuccessfully) conspired to overthrow the queen and were burned at the stake for their heresy. Critics suggest that the blindness in the title refers to their religious beliefs.


No, there’s nothing particularly inflammatory about the lines “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo, Catch a tiger by his toe.” But there is when you consider that the word “tiger” is a relatively new development in this counting rhyme, as a replacement for the n-word. Even with the lyrical switch-out, any reference to the poem still has the ability to offend. In 2004, two passengers sued Southwest Airlines was for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, following an incident where a flight attendant used the rhyme in a humorous fashion during takeoff when she told passengers: “Eeny meeny miny mo, Please sit down it’s time to go.” (The court sided with the airline.)


“Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is often sung as part of a children’s game. According to historian R. S. Duncan, a former governor of England’s Wakefield Prison, the song originated with that 420-year-old institution’s female prisoners, who were exercised around a mulberry tree. Which is probably not the connotation your six-year-old self had in mind.

9. ROCK-A-BYE BABY (1765)

One interpretation of this famous lullaby is that it is about the son of King James II of England and Mary of Modena. It is widely believed that the boy was not their son at all, but a child who was brought into the birthing room and passed off as their own in order to ensure a Roman Catholic heir to the throne.


Considering that some of today’s classic nursery rhymes are more than two centuries old, there are often several theories surrounding their origins—and not a lot of sound proof about which argument is correct. But of all the alleged nursery rhyme backstories, “Ring Around the Rosie” is probably the most infamous. Though its lyrics and even its title have gone through some changes over the years, the most popular contention is that the sing-songy verse refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.“The rosie” is the rash that covered the afflicted, the smell from which they attempted to cover up with “a pocket full of posies.” The plague killed nearly 15 percent of the country’s population, which makes the final verse—“Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down”—rather self-explanatory.

But Snopes labels this reading false, and quotes folklorist Philip Hiscock with a more likely suggestion: That the nursery rhyme probably has its origins “in the religious ban on dancing among many Protestants in the nineteenth century, in Britain as well as here in North America. Adolescents found a way around the dancing ban with what was called in the United States the ‘play-party.’ Play-parties consisted of ring games which differed from square dances only in their name and their lack of musical accompaniment. They were hugely popular, and younger children got into the act, too.”


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To many, “Old Mother Hubbard” is not a mother at all—nor a woman. The poem is speculated to have been written as a mockery of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, whose refusal to grant an annulment to King Henry VIII, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, led to his political downfall.



12 Predictions Isaac Asimov Made About 2014 in 1964

When sci-fi author Isaac Asimov sojourned to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 — according to his writings, he “enjoyed it hugely” — he regretted the Fair’s lack of foresight. So, thoughts turned to the future, Asimov penned a New York Times essay he titled “Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014,” a glimpse 50 years ahead into the future of human history. Here are twelve aspects of what 2014 should hold for mankind, excerpted from Asimov’s imaginative predictions.

1. The human race would be incurably bored

In what Asimov declared his “most somber speculation I can make about A.D. 2014,” the writer believed society would fall into a sense of enforced leisure: “Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.”

2. Appliances would no longer have electric cords

Instead, previously-plugged in gadgets would be powered by “long-lived batteries running on isotopes.” A probably expensive proposition in today’s 2014, except, according to Asimov, the batteries would be cheap by-products of…

3. Fission-power plants that would energize most of the world

By 2014, Asimov surmised that fission-power plants would be “supplying well over half the power needs of humanity.” But Asimov also predicted that fission-power technology would already be on the way out in favor of…

4. At least two experimental fusion-power plants

Scientists would also have constructed models of “power stations in space, collecting sunlight by means of huge parabolic focusing devices and radiating the energy thus collected to earth.” Solar energy would be just as big a deal on Earth, too: enormous solar power stations in a number of semi-desert regions (including Arizona and Kazakhstan) would be fully operational.

5. Cars would fly — sort of

Roads and bridges would be rendered all but obsolete: “Jets of compressed air will also lift land vehicles off the highways, which, among other things, will minimize paving problems…cars will be capable of crossing water on their jets, though local ordinances will discourage the practice.”

6. There would be robots

But they’d lack in quantity and quality: “Robots will be neither common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.” Asimov predicted one Jetsons-ish advancement in robotics with his idea for a General Electric “robot housemaid…large, clumsy, slow-moving but capable of general picking-up, arranging, cleaning, and manipulation of various appliances.” Another of Asimov’s predictions picked up on by The Jetsons was…

7. Moving sidewalks, raised above traffic

Which Asimov determined would only be be functional for “short-range travel.” The writer also envisioned that “compressed air tubes will carry goods and materials over local stretches, and the switching devices that will place specific shipments in specific destinations will be one of the city’s marvels.”

8. Humans would have colonized the moon

And Earth-bound citizens would be able to communicate with lunar friends by sending conversations through “modulated laser beams, which are easy to manipulate in space.” Asimov freely admitted that “conversations with the moon will be a trifle uncomfortable,” accounting for the 2.5 seconds it would take for a question or answer to reach the other end of the conversation — that’s how long it would take the light to make the trip.

9. Some of us might start taking up residence underwater

An attractive option for “those who like water sports,” Asimov foresaw 2014 as a banner year for the beginning of the colonization of the continental shelves beneath the oceans’ depths. He pictured the 2014 World’s Fair as boasting exhibits showing “cities in the deep sea with bathyscaphe liners.”

10. The area from Boston to Washington, D.C. would become one big city

Due to the region encompassing Boston to the nation’s capital being the most crowded area of its size on earth, the region would band together to form one metropolis of more than 40 million residents. That’s chump change compared to Asimov’s guesses of the world’s population (6 and a half billion) and the population of the United States (350 million). As of January 1, 2014, the U.S.A.’s actual population was 319 million, and Asimov’s prediction was a bit short of the world’s 7.1 billion citizens.

11. Life expectancy would hit 85 years old in some parts of the world

Which is one of the reasons Asimov concerned himself so much with the possible problems of overpopulation. Why would most humans live to such a ripe old age? Asimov chalked it up to “the increasing use of mechanical devices to replace failing hearts and kidneys, and repair stiffening arteries and breaking nerves.”

12. The world would be seriously automated

Asimov imagined that “the world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders.” To fit the need, all high school curricula of the future would make “binary arithmetic” and “formula translation” mandatory.