Book Reviews - Fact & Fiction

Many would think that the subject of Book Reviews would not be controversial. But far from it, the deeper you dig the more you find. Do I take book reviews seriously? Yes and no, much depends on who is reviewing and by what means.

There are many websites where you can buy books or dedicated websites about books where people can leave reviews or comment about books they have read.  The two biggest are Amazon and Goodreads; which incidentally was bought by Amazon in 2013. 

Many of you have probably left a product review on Amazon. This has been our privilege since the site started. The idea behind a review is to inform potential purchasers about the book, video, game, etc, you have purchased. The major flaw with this is a person's review is subjective. What someone may think is a great book or film, another may be of an opinion that is the complete opposite. You may argue it is the same case with film, theatre and restaurant critics, their reviews vary too. 

At one time the only place you could find a review for a book would be in a newspaper or magazine. Times have certainly changed, anyone and everyone can now have their say. This may not be a bad thing.  But, yes there is a big but, some will inevitably want to play God. This is where things can start to get out of hand. Should readers leave scathing or one-star reviews for books just because they: don't like the author, don't like the book cover, don't like the book genre or just for the sheer hell of it. In some cases they are just, sometimes the reviewer has never even purchased or read the book.

Our buying choices on sites like Amazon are influenced by reviews, if you find a product with many one or two-star reviews, you will more than likely not consider buying it. The opposite of a product with many five-star reviews. But are all these good or bad reviews genuine and honest reviews? The answer to that is No. There has been a lot of bad press over the years, particularly with book reviews.

As far back as 2012, a best-selling British crime author was exposed. He had several fake Amazon accounts. He left glowing reviews for himself but trashed his rivals. You can read more about it here:  

This practice is known as sock puppets, other authors have been suspected of doing it to create an interest in their work. One offender is an author who spent $6000 paying a company to leave reviews for his books. They also threw in a few one-star reviews to make them look legitimate. He even wrote a book called: "How I sold One Million Ebooks in Five Months. "Neglecting to tell readers about how he really managed to sell one million ebooks in five months. He claimed the reviews didn't affect his sales.

Does a review with a "Verified Purchaser" status prevent fraud? No, even though this is flawed, the above author also arranged for the fake reviewers to purchase his books from Amazon. So you can even pay someone to buy your books, seems like defeating the object, but with the kind of sales he was getting...

It has been known for dishonest reviewers to purchase a kindle book just to get the Amazon Verified Purchaser tag. They then proceed in giving the book a scathing 1-star review. They often use an ad hominem attack as their review and then promptly return the book for a refund.

I am very grateful to readers for reviews, and as long as reviews are honest and give positive feedback, and or constructive criticism authors welcome them. 


Book Reviews - Fact and Fiction

Monday, 9 May 2022

 Now for something completely different.

Are You A Chocoholic?

 Are you addicted?

Does the mere mention have your mouth watering?

Can you not get through the day without your fix?

If you answered yes to these questions it sounds like you're a chocoholic. I have to confess I am a big chocolate fan myself. The world feels a much nicer place after eating a portion of this delicious confection.

Chocolate is the ultimate comfort food. The taste of chocolate makes you feel better, and after a bad day what could be better than coming home to some chocolate treats, but even if your day has not been bad, you sometimes get those chocolate cravings that can not be ignored.

I have the perfect chocolate recipes to lift your mood and remove those chocolate cravings, even if you're a chocoholic. They are quick and easy to make.

Before you rush to get your aprons out (or not) I would like to begin with a few chocolate facts. 

Assorted chocolates -Image courtesy of

Chocolate Facts

Chocolate Trivia

  • Chocolate is obtained from the beans of the cocoa plant theobroma cacao.
  • Chocolate has positive mood-enhancing effects after consumption, as it contains the chemicals phenethylamine and theobromine. It also increases the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, high levels of serotonin also have a positive effect on your mood.
  • The chemical Theobromine found in chocolate is toxic to some animals. Particularly dogs and cats.
  •  40% of the world's chocolate is consumed in Europe and Switzerland is the country that consumes the most.
  • According to a study in Sweden of 33,000 women, who ate chocolate or increased the amount they consumed, lowered their risk of a stroke. It is thought that if the study had been carried out with men they would have had similar results.
  • Dark chocolate is more beneficial as it contains more cocoa and less fat. However, eating more chocolate than recommended decreases the health benefits because of the high levels of sugar and fat

So the old adage of everything in moderation applies.

Chocolate by Petr Kratochvil-public domain  

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first chocolate recipe is a favourite.

I have had the recipe book for these chocolate chip cookies for a long time (I will not reveal how long though). I adapted the recipe to make it into double chocolate chip cookies, if you want to make a softer cookie use the castor/brown sugar combination.

Servings: 18 small cookies or 9 large

Time: 1 hour or less


·         4 oz / 100 g Butter

·         7 oz / 100 g Castor sugar (superfine sugar)

·         (or 4 oz/100g  Castor sugar & 3 oz / 75 g Brown sugar) 

·         small/medium Eggs

·         ½ teaspoon Vanilla essence

·         5 oz / 140 g Flour

·         1 oz / 28 g  Cocoa Powder

·         ½ teaspoon Salt

·         ½ teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda

·         4 oz / 50 g Chocolate chips

 Double chocolate chip cookies picture/direction pictures are my own.


Heat oven to 350ºF / Gas 4 / 180ºC


1. Cream the butter and sugars together with a mixer or wooden spoon, until the mixture is light and fluffy.

2. Beat in the egg and vanilla essence.


3. Stir in sifted flour, cocoa powder and the bicarbonate of soda, followed by the chocolate chips.

4. Drop teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased baking sheet/s. Bake the cookies for 10 - 15 minutes or until they look golden brown. When the cookies have cooled slightly remove them from the baking sheet/s and transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Use 2 teaspoons of the mixture if you would like larger cookies. Tip: Leave enough space on the baking sheet for the cookies to spread during baking.

Chocolate History

The Cocoa Bean

The cocoa plant was discovered over 4000 years ago in the rain forests of South America. The Mayan civilisation was the first to consume cocoa beans they ground the beans and made them into a bitter, spicy drink; the spice was provided by adding chilli. This drink was called XocoatlCocoa beans were offered by Mayan priests as a gift to the gods and the xocoatl drink was served during ceremonies and sacrifices.

The Aztecs also highly revered the cocoa plant. The cocoa bean was reserved for the rich and nobility and was used as currency. It was also ground and made into a drink.

Chocolate; as it was now known arrived in Spain in 1528. It was presented to the King of Spain by Hernán Cortez. Cortez had a cocoa plantation in Mexico; he came upon the idea of adding sugar to the bitter chocolate beverage to make it more palatable. It became a fashionable drink for the nobility of Spain.

Image - Mayan civilisation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The world discovers chocolate 

Chocolate was kept a secret from the rest of the world for nearly 100 years.

In 1615 Ann of Austria, the daughter of King Philip III of Spain; introduced the chocolate drink to her husband King Louis XIII of France. It became popular with the French court and eventually with the rest of France.

The popularity of the chocolate drink spread to the rest of Europe. The first Chocolate House opened in London in 1657. It became a popular place for meeting and socialising.  

As the price of cocoa came down it became more affordable to the masses.

Image: Champurrado via Wikimedia Commons

Fair Trade Chocolate

Helping communities and stopping slavery

Chocolate slaves were the main workers on cocoa plantations in the past, but the situation hasn't changed much over the years.

The working conditions are harsh and the use of child slaves is rife. The introduction of Fair Trade chocolate has made conditions much better for the cocoa plantation workers and their communities.

Cocoa bean purchasers pay an above-market price for the beans and the extra money is given back to the community. The use of child labour is forbidden.

Many companies use fair trade chocolate, you can find them here

Image - swedish fair trade label[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate brownie image my own 

Chocolate brownies are another popular chocolate treat.

These are not quite so naughty, because some of the fat has been replaced by the addition of apple sauce.

This recipe is courtesy of Weight Watchers, so it can't be that bad for your waistline.

Servings: 10 - 12

Time: 1 hour or less


·         2¾ oz / 75 g Self Raising Flour

·         1¾ oz / 50 g Cocoa Powder

·         ¼ teaspoon Salt

·         1 Egg

·         2 Egg whites

·         6 oz / 175 g Castor sugar (superfine sugar)

·         2 tablespoons / 30ml  Sunflower oil

·         2 teaspoons vanilla essence

·         1 oz / 30 g Chopped Walnuts

·         6 tablespoons of unsweetened Apple sauce.


  1. Heat the oven to 350º F / Gas 4 / 180º C
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, and salt and sift into a bowl.
  3. Beat together the eggs, castor sugar, sunflower oil, unsweetened apple sauce and vanilla essence.
  4. Combine the mixture with flour & cocoa powder.
  5. Whisk the egg whites until they reach the soft peak stage.
  6. Gently fold the egg whites into the brownie mixture; the folding will incorporate air into the mixture which will help the brownies to raise.
  7. Add the chopped walnuts.
  8. Transfer the brownie mixture to an 8-inch square cake tin (pan), which has been lined at the bottom with greased baking parchment.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle, comes out clean.
  10. Cool slightly then cut into 10 - 12 pieces and transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Chocolate Fudge


Chocolate fudge image :By Aldude999 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This simple sweet treat recipe needs no cooking, so there would be no problem letting small children help you make this fudge.

Time: 30 minutes


·         8 oz / 225 g Dark chocolate

·         4 oz / 125 g Butter

·         8 tablespoons Evaporated milk

·         1lb / 450 g Icing sugar


1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water. 

2. Add the evaporated milk and give the chocolate mixture a good stir.

3. Sift the icing sugar and add to the chocolate mixture, stir well.

4. Transfer into a greased shallow baking tin.

5. When set cut into squares.

Chocolate Recipes for a Chocoholic

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Once Upon a Time Promotion :

 Fantasy & Science Fiction with Classical References

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Check out the promotion using the button link below. 

Once Upon a Time Promotion

Tuesday, 26 April 2022