Category Archives: Reviews of Good Things


Questia – The Best Online Research Library

The Best Online Research Library is not an idle claim.  No matter where you are located around the world, be it USA, Great Britain (sorry I can never bring myself to call my former home “UK”), Europe or Australia, if you are studying or simply wanting to access some fantastic books and articles online, is for you.

The Beauty and Meaning of Words concerns itself with English words and the colourfulness, sound and feeling of words to enhance any written or spoken sentence.  The definitions in the posts and in the Word List are purposely not the norm and are meant to provoke contemplative thought for the reader.  Use them in your essays, in your research to add flavour to your work.

Questia’s library goes well beyond English Language and Literature with more than 83,000 academic books and more than 10 million newspaper, magazine and journal articles from more than a thousand of the world’s leading publishers, covering 14 major categories:

  • Art and Architecture (257)
  • Communication (473)
  • Controversial Topics (146)
  • Criminal Justice (447)
  • Economics and Business (541)
  • Education (450)
  • History (2,956)
  • Law (163)
  • Literature (3,202)
  • Music and Performing Arts (456)
  • Philosophy (594)
  • Politics and Government (730)
  • Psychology (813)
  • Religion (568)
  • Science and Technology (854)
  • Sociology and Anthropology (1,609)

There are also tutorials to help you write your research projects; different ways to research your particular topic;  various ways to save either entire pieces or just selections which you wish to quote in your work, including a great text highlighting feature.  Even bibliographies can be created easily for your work.

I was keen to undertake research on a favourite author of mine:  Thomas Hardy.  I was presented with 12,610 results in the forms of books, academic journals, periodicals, magazines, newspapers and encyclopaedia.  I haven’t finished them yet!

Another search for The Inklings (JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis et al) produced 1,292 results; Nick Hornby (e.g. Fever Pitch; About A Boy) 1,755 results; even Donna Leon, who wrote novels of and in Venice, had 91 articles.  Even my football team – Luton Town – brought up 3,898 results.  There seems to be plenty of items for everyone.

Yes, there are other online research tools available – many for free – but Questia is undoubtedly a better option.  Not only do you have access to all of these articles, you can easily create notes and bookmark pages for quick access and you are also able to gather and store your selections in appropriately named (by you) project files.

This, from a 2011 Study Guide Review:    “Overall, Questia is an invaluable resource to help you find your resources quickly and easily. It won’t do much for someone who is struggling with a subject, but it will help you to develop and research any topic that you might be looking into. This product is an amazing tool for any student who hates spending hours cooped up in a dusty library pouring over tomes and cracking their jaws to stifle their yawns.  8.5/10

Pricing:  I purchased a discounted first year’s membership;  this will automatically continue at the then applicable rate of, currently, $99.

There are three subscription levels for you to choose from, all of which provide unrestricted access to all tools and content on Questia:

  • Monthly at $19.95 per month
  • Semester at $49.95 every three months
  • Annual at $99 every twelve months

Several years ago, there were a number of disgruntled people that complained about the renewal policy of Questia, in that when the trial period was complete they were charged, automatically, full price for the continuation of the membership.  They argued that this was unjust, yet Questia state quite clearly – perhaps improving their process as a result of that criticism – that automatic renewal will take place unless cancellation occurs beforehand.  Fair enough!

Times have changed since then.  Join now by clicking here or on the banner below.

Questia 2


Beautiful Writing Desks and Implements


If you are writing beautiful words it is imperative you have equally beautiful and stylish accoutrements.  Be inspired by elegant and professional writing desks, writing pads and, of course, the finest and loveliest fountain pens.

There is no doubt that beautiful writing desks and implements increase your propensity to write better and be more creative.  It is a fact that business professionals in all walks of life perform better when they are suitably and correctly fitted out.

So if you are serious about being the best at what you do in your writing and in your life, ensure that you strive to have the best materials about you to enable that creativity in you to flourish.

Whether you wish to acquire a simply gorgeous writing desk as that pictured at the top of the page or a gorgeously simple desk like this one, find one to suit your needs and finances.Writing Desk







Then, having acquired your beautiful writing desk, you will need a luxurious writing pad and leather holder such as this lovely item which can be purchased at Amazon:

Jack George Pad Amazon

And perhaps the most important of all, it is necessary to have an exquisite writing implement along the lines of this superb Parker Duofold White and Ivory Medium Point Fountain Pen:

Fountain Pen 3

Or, at the very least a writing implement of some quality to elevate your word thoughts.

People have forgotten – those a little younger than I never have known – about the smell of ink. It really does imbue the written word with a certain je ne sais quoi.

A good pen (and I don’t mean ballpoints) puts one in touch with the elegance of handwriting and, unlike the altogether temporary tools that comprise our computing arsenals, it will last forever if properly maintained.

I had the great fortune of receiving mine as a gift, and I could hardly think of anything better. Yet even if you are not so lucky, I would encourage the investment: it will put you in touch with yourself in such a way that your computer never could.


Review of The Adventure of English (dvd) – A Fascinating Journey of Words

Adventure in English

The Adventure of English was a British television series on the history of the English language presented by Melvyn Bragg and which was released in DVD format in June 2009.

This fascinating and must-watch documentary investigates the evolution of the English Language in an adventurous, almost biographical fashion from its arrival in Britain in the 5th century, its voyage across the Atlantic to the Americas, its influence among slaves in the Caribbean and its survival in today’s techno culture.

The DVD is still available at  The price for the 405 minute, 4 disc series is  just $69.95 here.  And if you would like the companion book by Lord Bragg too, it is still to be had here with FREE DELIVERY WORLDWIDE.

Bragg Book

In the television series, Bragg – a prolific author, screenwriter and broadcaster in Britain – explains the origins and spelling of many words based on the times in which they were introduced into the growing language that would eventually become modern English.  Not in a tedious, studious way but as a fun and fascinating journey tracking the development and growth of words using a very organized and easily understood approach.

For those who regard English as merely a school subject, you really should look at this series as it will amaze you in the way that our words have come into being and the circumstances in which they have.  Much of the production scenes are done on-site around the world, as the history of the language is tracked.

The eight parts of the series takes us on a journey of words through time and location as it explores …

1.   Birth of a Language.

From the Romans quitting England, leaving behind a race of people, the Celts, to their own devices to the invasion of Germanic tribes in around 500AD Bragg examines how Anglo-Saxon, with its many forms and dialects became the basis of our English today.

2.   English Goes Underground.

In this second part, Bragg looks at how Anglo Saxon evolved as the language of England while in time the peoples of the small, separate kingdoms in England became part of the new developing Christian civilization of Europe.   Then came the invasion of the Norman peoples under William the Conqueror which brought further change to how language was used.  Norman French became the language of the court, with Latin, acquired through the Christianization of the church in England, became the language of learning.  The Anglo-Saxon tongue was subsumed to the peasant class.

Then gradually English began to oust French as the language of law and government and a new found confidence in English literature developed, especially through the works of Geoffrey Chaucer.  After Chaucer vowels were pronounced differently and words took on sounds more familiar to us today.

3.   The Battle for the Language of the Bible.

The Black Death in 1348 which killed up to a third of the population, weakened the hold of Latin among the educated and helped what is now known as Middle English to really take a hold.  It was clear that this English was to be the principal language and through the efforts of theologian John Wycliffe a new English Bible was created.

But it was the arrival of the printing press in the 15th Century that the various forms of English were brought to a standard in spelling and pronunciation.

4.   This Earth, This Realm, This England.

Repelling another planned invasion of England this time by the Spanish in 1588 England supremacy on the sea saw its language being taken to foreign lands and the trade that these mariners undertook saw new goods and words come back to England and become absorbed into what was becoming Modern English.

It was from here that the Renaissance blossomed in the land with Elizabethan poetry, prose and especially drama taking centre stage through the mastery of William Shakespeare.

 5.   English in America.

With the aid of a native man, Squanto, the new settlers were able to establish themselves in this New World.   Their background was one of Puritanism, with emphasis on the Bible and God-fearing obeisance.

The New England Primer which reinforced the way that the settlers chose to live and the Blueback Speller which taught strict pronunciation principles, ensured that class distinctions emanating from wealth, speech and manner were eliminated.

Bragg shows how English was given to the American slaves and evolved in the 18th and 19th centuries to become a form of English in its own right.

6.   Speaking Proper.

Science and the Royal Society in 17th century England now takes centre stage.

Academics and scholarly men now wrote their theses in English not Latin in this Age of Enlightenment.

Daily newspapers appeared widely bringing news and increased literacy to a great many people.  Books were produced not just for learning but also for pleasure and perhaps significantly Samuel Johnson produced his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755.  Female readers were making their demands known too and female writers came to the fore with the advent of the novel.

The impact of the Industrial Revolution on language is considered as industry was thrust forward as an institution in its own right.

 7.   The Language of Empire.

British foreign trade takes the language into India and the Caribbean, while convicts take it to Australia. As a result the English language is enriched immeasurably.

 8.   Many Tongues Called English, One World Language.

The final programme sees English establishing itself as the language of 21st Century International Commerce.  It is even seen as the new language of the Internet.

Wherever it has been taken and whatever it has encountered, the English language has adapted and met all of the challenges it has been compelled to face throughout this wonderful Adventure in English.

 Who will find this series of interest?

Some opinions of those who have watched the series:

“Diverse people with even a slight interest in the history of English language and literature will find the series interesting and enjoyable.  It is highly recommended.”

“an excellent series and rewards repeated viewings. Excellent.”

“it gets a bit less interesting when it gets to more recent, more familiar history. But it still is always enlightening and entertaining.”

“Lord Bragg’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for his subject matter infuses each episode with delight. Who knew English could be so interesting? Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of our language”

Not all opinions were as enthusiastic however:

“The host is not engaging, and the material presented barely scratches the surface. It is inferior to Robert MacNeil’s, The Story of English, which is from the 1980s, but is well done.”

So for those who wish to compare, I’m afraid there aren’t many DVDs around with which to do so, only a few VHS copies.

Other English Language Video productions

The Story of English, Robert MacNeil, 1986.  VHS only.

MacNeil dvd

A Light History of the English Language; Prof. Elliot Engel, December 2009. A light-hearted look at the development of the English language. Run time : 46 minutes. Available here.

Light History

Should you buy Melvyn Bragg’s Adventure of English?

You can see all eight parts of the series on You Tube for free, but personally I would need to possess (and do have) a copy of the series to watch again and again.

So, most definitely buy yourself a copy and enjoy it.


If you have any questions relating to this dvd or would like to leave your own personal comments about the series, please feel free to do so below.