Let’s talk about… Star Ratings

Book reviews. What do they really mean? Unlike most products out there, books aren’t reviewed for whether or not they function properly, books are reviewed through the opinion of a reader which is entirely different…

The word ‘subjective’ gets thrown around a lot in the literary world, Agents will cling to it when rejecting a query and many other reviewers will use it as an excuse to give good or even bad reviews of stories.

Above the sacred book review is an often overlooked factor of governance, the Star Rating which is the subject for discussion because on at least 3 platforms I know of in the book reviewing world, it differs..

Goodreads

Is Goodreads Free?

Goodreads (the Facebook of the Book world) takes their stance on the star rating system as follows…

More on caveats | lucinda sans

Now I’m pretty satisfied with most of their definitions and let’s face it, the only thing available to review on Goodreads is books so it’s pretty specifically set for them, that is until it comes down to the 2 star and below. To me 2 stars is less than OK for a book…

The truth is, I’ve never rated a book below 3 stars on any platform mainly due to the fact I just haven’t found a read like that yet; I am quite picky and know whether or not I am going to enjoy a book, so I see the star rating as a score out of 5 and anything below three isn’t a pass… (this is just my opinion folks)

Amazon

More Amazon delivery restrictions are coming | TechRadar

Amazon, arguably the most important place for authors to get reviews as it is where their work is sold exclusively from, like me. There appears to be a little difference between their rating and Goodreads, now Amazon have done the Amazon thing and I can’t find anywhere reputable throughout the Google that tells us straight up what each star in their rating system means. This could be because they don’t know, they don’t want us to know or maybe it’s a combo of both. So let us look to the 2 star review as an example:

beam me up

This ‘review’ is taken from my super hero comedy novella ‘The Teleporter’ and as you can see it’s not only a negative review but a DNF review also which is hardly in line with the Goodreads 2 star review of ‘It was OK’.

When comparing probably the two most important book reviewing platforms they contradict one another and that is without another major factor; personal preference which is what Mr Beam me up decided to do with his/her review because even if you put out guidelines, whether or not they will be followed is another thing and this reviewer didn’t then hop on over to Goodreads.

Reedsy Discovery

reedsy

You can expect my very first Reedsy Discovery review tomorrow and it’s a good one trust me! Now their rating system is strict compared to others. They feel that you don’t need to give every book a 5 star rating and of course save that for the truly exceptional reads.

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As you can see from their emoji heavy rating system that it agrees with me in principle. Anything below 3 is a ‘not for me’ but this also makes things tricky going upwards because of their stance of 5 star reviews, one has to find a truly exceptional book to use that rating.

Personal Preference

I don’ think there is one true way to rate a book using the above platforms and their own star rating systems. They differ too much, even without us realising. A four star review from Goodreads could mean something entirely different on Amazon because of the personal preference of a reader or because the guidelines aren’t particularly clear.

Personally I might have been way to generous in the past but arguably the books I’ve read had an effect on me and motivated me to rate them the way I did. The journey these authors have taken me on has led to what I thought of them and I pride myself on the support I give. The 5 star rating I give might not be for a truly exceptional once in a lifetime story but for the effort they put in to write something, to do research or even help me escape this world for just a while.

Authors view reviews as gold dust or even currency these days and it’s big business trust me. If it wasn’t for reviewing books, this very blog would be a ghost town.

What do you think of the star rating system for books? 

Erase history, erase the lesson…

France – June 10th 1944 

On a sunny Saturday in a rural farm village known as Oradour-sur-Glane 642 innocent people were massacred by the German 2nd Waffen SS Panzer division. They just turned up out of the blue that morning. Women and children were herded to the local church and then grenades were thrown through the windows. The men were split up and put in the many barns that surrounded the area. Those barns were set alight and any one trying to escape were immediately shot. The small peaceful village was then practically levelled by German grenades and fires. A harrowing tale of unnecessary violence toward fellow man. War has always been the same and the survivors were less than 10.

Instead of bulldozing the wreckage, it was decided that a new town be built very nearby and the current remains left as a reminder, as a monument of the harrowing destruction and loss of life war brings upon this world. And trust me, I know this because I have been there twice, and it’s poignant, quiet and sombre. You can feel the atmosphere among the silence. The still charred stone of buildings along the high street. A doctors car still left with it’s door open, rusted and sunken into the ground. The church, now without a roof or stained glass in the window frames. Bullet holes in the walls and many more plastered over a WW1 monument. The museum that straddles the monument puts everything into context, without it, maybe the place would be wrongly conceived as just a ruin, because new generations forget, but within those crumbled bricks and a growth covered tram line is the truth of what history really serves, a reminder and lesson of where humanity went once, and a hope that we can learn from it.

Oradour-sur-Glane, France: Remember. – Rick Steves' Travel Blog

Statues fall and so does the lesson…

Every now and then a moment in history moves many people toward a desire for change. As humans we should always be trying to better ourselves. Regimes fall and over time they are forgotten mostly, or at least their context is. Those people who died on that sunny Saturday are forever immortalised by the wreckage of their home which serves as a monument. If the French authorities were to tear down this monument, or if a mob of protesters looking for change suddenly invaded it, then there would be public outcry.

I see the news and what is going on right now. I can only think the same thing when I see these mobs tearing down statues, some of people who serve important moments in our history. There is no thought, just spray paint and tear it down. Of course some of these statues represent people and a time far gone. Slavery or even genocide, people who probably shouldn’t be paraded in public places, but removing that statue and that name entirely is erasing history. Erase the history and you erase the lesson and again we lose our humanity. 

Not for one moment should you think I agree with these statues and what they stand for morally once upon a time, I agree that they should stand as a reminder of where we were and where we are now. Like Oradour-sur-Glane in 1999 they opened that museum and gave everything some context, because people of that age were rapidly passing away, time takes away good people and memories of a certain time.

Put these statues in museums with some context beside them. People have lost reasoning because there is no context and they are desperate to see something done. Why is there a statue of this person? And more importantly why was it re homed to this particular exhibit.

You keep the history, you keep the lesson and eventually you reinstate humanity. I know what happened recently is terrible. And Black Lives Matter very much so, even more now than ever because racism needs to be stamped out and we can only do that via education and history. I’m 100% with everyone who’s feeds have become activist feeds recently, keep flying that flag, keep being proud to call bullshit on racism, but remember the history that got us here and view it in the context of modern day. This year alone has been the true test of humanity and we need it more than ever!

Weekly Ramble #71

Everything feels boring at the moment. Social media has gone stale and seems to be the same broken record playing over and over again. As an introvert I’ve never had a problem with being confined to just my own thoughts but when you confine everyone else at the same time, there’s the problem. Maybe because the whole flock is bored too it’s started some vacuum of mundane repetitiveness.

Twitter for me right now has hit rock bottom in my opinion, my following and those I follow are saturated by the writing community which is overall good but I need to branch out. I’ve muted so many writing community hashtags to try and avoid the monotonous repeat of every writers lift or follow train. How can a room full of millionaires appear to be individually rich when their numbers are all the same, everyday?

I turned off the Prime Minister’s brief last night and substituted it for a few hours in Skyrim. My opinion of the authority dwindles as we try to navigate these pain in the ass times which need to fuck off. This isn’t some depressive slump or episode, I’m fine, trust me, but it’s like what someone once said to me;

‘It will always be them and never you…’ 

Wise words…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #70

What are you doing to look after your mental health? Right now more than ever do we need to be conscious of our subconscious because every so often in times that are different it’ll peek out from behind the curtain and catch you out..

Many of us are creatures of habit. We rinse and repeat in a our lifestyles, it’s how they were designed. The ‘routine’ was our nuts and bolts. In most structures, if you take the nuts and bolts away, things fall to the floor. Our brains are no different, and after extended time in isolation and away from those who make up the construct of our human routines, it’s getting difficult. Everything is making me fed up.

If you like me, you’re probably sick to death of hearing phrases like ‘unprecedented times’ or even ‘corona’. The news is a plague in it’s own right. It’s sole content is this crap the world currently faces, yet another uphill challenge but this one has us all directly gripped. I try to stay away from it. This whole deal won’t change in days or probably weeks. Journalists, or at least some of them have slipped in my opinion of them. If you watch the daily briefings in whatever land you are, and there’s an opportunity for Q and A, you’ll hear the upmost absurdities being regurgitated from their mouths.

Recently here in the UK the daily brief has included questions from real people who are asking what we want to know (not journalists). Not about the stupid fucking economy but when will we be able hug our grandchildren, or take them to play in parks. Real questions that have a human implication to emote. Journalists default to this mode of questioning that is both aimed at making a figure head stumble and bring a somewhat level of misery to everyone else. Are they things we need right now? How are we going to relate to them if they just ask questions that trigger bad thoughts?

A key and gospel way of looking after your mental health is to choose. And by choose I mean not be around certain people and places. While this is hard because we are isolated, I have abstained from listening to the Q and A part of the daily briefings. While I wholeheartedly support freedom of speech and questioning the authority to an extent, there is some journalism that is just destructive and bares no necessity in the modern world. Fuck off with your negativity and stop trying to divide us. The one thing we will always have as a species, isolated or not is each other, let’s keep it that way shall we….

Revisiting ‘The Staircase’ – I think he did it…

True crime documentaries have taken a huge leap in quality as of recent. One of the culprits of that is Netflix and a few years ago I watched a documentary called ‘The Staircase’ and within a few episodes I was hooked and immersed. 

For those who have Netflix, this is essential if not mandatory viewing and covers the story of Michael Peterson – a man who is accused of pushing his wife down the stairs to a bloody death. The circumstances are odd and suspicious. After a second viewing of the whole deal, I am more than certain he did it… but why?

This post is best suited for those who have watched the Staircase. But those who haven’t be warned this will contain spoilers… 

The Staircase | Netflix Official Site

The whole docu-series is candid and unique look from the accused side of view,  for most it is seemingly on his side and it’s one hell of a roller coaster. Even with my now stance of thinking he did it, I am still aligned with how he was treated by the justice system of America. You do feel for the man and his journey. The District Attorney and Police force played some very dirty games and did everything they could just to get a conviction.

Peterson for all he’s accused of, seems like a nice and fair man. A veteran from the Vietnam conflict and father to four children, two of which are from a previous marriage and the other two, daughters from, well this is where the alarm bells begin to ring…

It turns out a close female friend previously died in very similar circumstances in Germany some years previous. After her death Peterson adopted her two daughters in an act of what appears to be kindness. But then the evidence begins to unravel.

All of this is just my opinion but I think he deliberately murdered these two women because both times they reacted badly to realizing his (bi) sexuality. Now this is just me spit-balling here but the sexuality concept is a big deal in the case. The police found stuff on his computer to suggest he was intending to do ‘stuff’ outside his marriage. While this alone isn’t any cause for murder and especially today with bisexuality and homosexuality being much more tolerated and considered the norm. Both times these women had to of found out and he either wanted to silence them or they didn’t accept it.

Another important point I noticed the second time around is that Michael Peterson loves the camera to a point where he is revelling in the coverage but not in an obvious way. We all know Ted Bundy loved the spotlight and so does Peterson but in a subtle way. He did it and that’s perhaps something we will never know.

What do you think? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Ramble #63

It’s getting more and more difficult not to get caught up in the storm that has seemed to encapsulate the modern civilized world.

This whole corona deal is becoming more and more absurd by the day. Is this really it or is this just hysteria? The internet age is not helping and that’s ironic for an information super highway – there just isn’t any of the right information at the moment and this thing is at all of our doorsteps.

Uncertainty is an uneasy thing and that’s what is forcing a reaction. That reaction vessel being toilet paper of all things. Events are shutting down and everything is getting cancelled but still there isn’t panic on the streets, nothing has gone to hell. Where are all the fires or bodies? Someone coming out of a coma right now will think that this is a now dystopian future but it isn’t.

Carrying on has it’s risks while isolation does too. You remove yourself from the world, eventually you’ll need to go back sometime. My line of work involves having to attend, it’s a must. A particle accelerator control room doesn’t fall under the ‘work from home’ umbrella. Our crew are shift workers, I arrive to relieve the next guy from his duties and he will do the same 8 or 12 hours later. It’s a radioactive site, it must be protected.

Writing involves staying in anyway and the show will go on. The blog will keep running and I shall do everything in my power to remain normal. I’m healthy, happy and semi muscular. I’m ready to step in and help those who can’t help themselves. My hands are cleaner than ever.

Social distancing does seem to be working. You should try it for a while. Not for others but for yourself. Even if you don’t stand beside what ever clown is in power, listen to their advice and watch the news.

Stay safe and stay healthy. We’ve got this. There has been worse… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem(s) with WWE in 2020…

Fans of pro wrestling have been saying for as long as I can remember that the WWE ‘modern product’ is dying. The truth is, and although I am a casual or even social viewer these days, they may actually be right. Even I’ll admit from a very loose standpoint that I no longer know what they are doing to tell stories. 

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Those stories is what first drew me to tune into the then WWF all the way back in the late 90’s. The men and women who collided in the ‘squared circle’ were gladiatorial super heroes to me – the whole pageantry of the bright lights and a ruckus crowd pulled me in and even inspired me to be a stage performer. But that was then, and now what stands in place of a company that seemed to be on the constant up is a plateau of ‘cash grab’ style events that most probably keep it afloat.

Of course I am talking about the multiple event deal WWE is aligned with putting on in Saudi Arabia who are opening their doors to more and more mainstream entertainment. While these ‘shows’ may do wonders for the WWE’s bank balance their true investment in the global fans is suffering for it. Their latest event which last Thursday saw a popular modern day Champion known as Bray Wyatt (the Fiend) drop his belt to a part timer and star of yesteryear Bill Goldberg (who wrestled a handful of times in the past few years). Their match lasted no longer than their entrances and even left me asking questions.

Aged multi billionaire owner Vince McMahon is at the very forefront of ‘creative’ decisions and has been since most probably the stone age of wrestling. And with the short term of pleasing a singular audience in mind he is pretty much imploding the company’s rep from within. WWE has been a money making super business for some time now but their tunnel vision towards making that cash has began to unravel and even casuals like me can see it from afar. You can see the reactions from the twittersphere…

fan reaction

Part time performers seem to be a theme these days in WWE with McMahon acclaimed ‘attraction’ Brock Lesnar being a high profile champion for some years but only appearing every now and then. In fact he appears on a sometimes monthly basis and hence demotes the rest of the roster. This whole ‘nostalgia’ thing is great for one night but it has no longevity for the performers looking to prove themselves and become big stars of their own.

goldberg tweet

I guess even billion dollar companies ‘sell out’, that’s why they are worth billions but how long can they sustain doing things like this? Those who are ‘smartened up’ will know there is another wrestling promotion in the US which has recently emerged known as All Elite Wrestling. They too are backed by a billionaire and could eventually ‘go places’.  Perhaps WWE’s days are numbered… thank God I’m not a full time viewer these days…

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Devil Next Door’ – Netflix Review

In quite recent times Netflix have led the way in creating some truly gripping and informative documentaries. Over the past year I’ve kind of become obsessed with the stack of true crime programs that the now giant of streaming has to offer. Even though many of these stories are harrowing, chilling and disturbing; I find myself fascinated sometimes.

devil.PNG

Last week I came across a new release and at the time it appeared in the #1 trending thingy that Netflix have recently introduced – a feature somewhat better than ‘stuff you might like’ – in terms of television shows and their popularity the masses don’t lie most of the time.

‘The Devil Next Door’ happened to be sitting in that #1 trending spot and the trailer began playing before I could do anything and I was instantly hooked on the premise. That premise being the story of John Demjanjuk a retired Ukrainian who lived in America and was an American citizen until he was arrested for being identified as a Nazi war criminal.

Even now the subject matter is pretty heavy and to this day there isn’t a definitive answer why so many Jewish people lost their lives in what was a mass extermination during world war two. For me, even thinking about it and how much those people suffered is enough to first make me angry and then upset. So some of this 5 part documentary not only covers some harrowing subjects but it also shows some footage of what is probably just the tip of a sinister iceberg – this one isn’t for the sensitive types.

John Demjanjuk or ‘Ivan the terrible’ as he used to be known as while working in Nazi death camps finds himself extradited to Israel and what unfolds is a lengthy court case which could lead to conviction and possibly execution. The whole thing is spread out over a long time and throughout I found myself asking have they got the right guy here? Evidence isn’t as definitive as it would be today and this court case took place in the 80’s. Photo’s of him as a younger man are from identification papers from the world war era and it’s obvious to see he’s a lot older. This is just one of the many variables in what is a gripping account of court room footage and angst amongst the people this man might have committed vile acts against.

The whole morale dilemma runs parallel to a battle of identity along with right versus wrong. If this is the right guy should they be entitled to execute him? Would letting him live be a compassionate act that rises above what all of those people suffered? Should the court case have taken place on neutral ground? The whole concept is layered intricately with these questions and a roller coaster ride that I couldn’t look away from. The outcome might come as a shock which I won’t share but recommend you watch.

 The Devil Next Door is an enduring watch with a heavy subject matter, a subject matter that history cannot and will not ignore, it’s graphic in some places but it has to be because what we are shown is nowhere near as bad as what the real people suffered. It’s dramatic and even shocking in places but will hold your attention throughput. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk about the Breaking Bad film…

A slight delay in reaction over here at the Hall of information because I have been in the cave of intensive writing and with the fear of my brain becoming mush I’m attempting to pallet cleanse as well as discuss the fact Netflix have announced a Breaking Bad movie.

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‘El Camino’ will grace the screens (of those who have paid, mostly) this October and from the reaction I have seen, only present’s one real question:

AM I THE ONLY ONE CONCERNED ABOUT THIS? 

I’m trying not to be a party pooper here but can anybody entertain my point which I fully intend to defend.

Breaking Bad is simply a masterpiece, a fu**ing masterpiece of modern television storytelling. Some of you will know my favorite show of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer but even I know and appreciate there is a difference between something being the outright best and my personal favorite.

Digressing here but you can link the two shows, they both would have shared the same number of seasons initially but Buffy was basically ordered by the higher ups to keep running. (spoilers here but it’s no longer 2001) Buffy’s season five and it’s finality of the main character’s death sort of expressed that and quite honestly it’s the most powerful and beautiful moment of the whole deal. The same goes for the finality of Breaking Bad’s final episode (well we think ‘W.W’ died anyways). The story of Breaking Bad had a beginning and middle and finally an end. And it avoided cancellations, apart from the writers strike all seasons were of decent length and above all it finished on its own terms.

Of course the second billed ‘Jessie Pinkman’ rode off into the sunset during that finale but can’t the rest be left up to the imagination? A lot of what I liked about this show was killed off during the experience – the characters.

The defense

I am only suggesting this if ‘El Camino’ is bad, so my counter is simple.

Vince Gilligian – the genius behind Breaking Bad has returned for this film. So no matter what, we are in safe hands right?

Your opinion?

Don’t come at me with that ‘I haven’t seen it’ crap and I mean that in the most polite of ways, but seriously its the show of the decade! I’m excitedly concerned and look forward to seeing how they carry on what is a perfect story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The General Election : Britain can certainly moan

From glancing ever so briefly at social media over my weekend it’s safe to say people are rather unhappy with the outcome of the very recent UK General election. In fact I couldn’t name one person I know that is genuinely satisfied with the result.

Did people actually get what they wanted?

Is that the state of modern politics? People are somewhat becoming used to getting something else as opposed to what or who they voted for. Instead of vent and rant with an opinionated spat on the internet, I would rather look at little deeper as to why there’s some grumpiness right now.

The disgruntled are in simple terms reacting which is an effect. Writing 101 states that every cause has an effect so what is that cause?

all parties 1) The SNP Revolt

I sat next to my good (partially drunk on Asti) friend Matt Streuli as the election results came in at the rather wee hours of Friday morning. The theme at that time was SNP taking seats from Labour. Rather quickly a Scottish revolution became apparent. We even saw history right there, the youngest ever MP aged 20 had been voted in.

Now without voting numbers and proportions aside, the Scottish folk are obviously looking for change, with the referendum theme still fresh they looked for this change through Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. She wanted to get the Tories out and said this more than once during the debates (remember that, it’s important further down). She even offered to collaborate with Labour to do this, but was there any other choice?

2)  No coalition is better than a coalition

Down south most of the voting public were thinking either red or blue. We knew that team yellow proved to be irrelevant to Downing Street this time around. Ed Miliband of labour didn’t spend the last 5 years as prime minister, David Cameron did (elected or not).

 The devil you know?

The exit polls suggested this early on. But voting an all conservative government in is just an effect of the SNP wanting to get the Tories out. How would they do that, by teaming up with the only other party as big as conservative, Labour.

Again we are seeing people use their vote for a different agenda.  Think about it carefully for just a moment. Conservative got in because people didn’t want another coalition of two parties who hadn’t seen Downing street recently. It really is a case of the devil you know but this time there is no conscience of Nick Clegg on Cameron’s shoulder.

The minority of Scotland posed a threat to the majority and led to the election of David Cameron.

Conclusion 

That’s how I see it anyway, and even after looking at the first past the post rules and proportions. UKIP had a good day in terms of votes but were marooned by these rules.

It will be an interesting 5 years, seeing what Scotland will do, of course the deficit and borrowing. Will they put the rubbish of the deficit into just another bin called borrowing? Food banks, an issue that is ever increasing, how many will we see in 5 years?

There are some things that you can’t blame the past 5 years for. Our interest rate is rock bottom, but the world economy is still recovering. For me it will be interesting as in the recent budget they promised more control over the science and research budgets.

I am optimistic for now, but then again nothing ever works out how you expect it to.

 

political map

polls