My Pratchett Journey- So Far… A Love Story

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I’m absolutely giddy for today’s post! Because today, on the day of love, I’m going to tell you the story of how I fell head over heels with Pratchett books. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the giant orange monkey you see now. In fact, once upon a time when I was a wee uni student, two of my closest friends (hi if you’re reading!) were astounded to find that I was a barely familiar with the Discworld. Sure, I’d heard of Pratchett (who hasn’t?)- I even had vague but pleasant memories of The Wee Free Men from when I was younger- yet I’d never launched fully immersed myself in the wackiness of Pratchett’s universe. That, of course, was a mistake 😉

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it”

mort nice editionBecause I knew, the second I started reading Mort that I was reading something special. And, incidentally, so did the rest of my train carriage, where I sat for four hours, smothering laughter through my hand. I instantly fell in love with the humour. I mean, even years on, I still find myself randomly cracking up over the Great A’Tuin- a giant turtle hurtling through space with four elephants resting on its back which support the Discworld… Seriously, I just finished that sentence and I’m laughing again!  Really the jokes and wit *never* gets old.

“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”

“Apes had it worked out. No ape would philosophize, “The mountain is, and is not.” They would think, “The banana is. I will eat the banana. There is no banana. I want another banana.”

“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this”

hogfatherSoon I’d leapt into the rest of the series- in fact the Death series ran away with me- I couldn’t stop with that one. I absolutely loved the quirks and eccentricities of the entire world- not least of the characters! I still chuckle over the fact that Death enjoys a good curry- that is so quintessentially English and I love it!! (chicken tikka masala is the national dish after all). Plus, oh my goodness, the stories are so unconventional! If you’re looking for a different Christmas story, you won’t get anything better than the Hogfather.

“Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom”

witches abroadAnd actually that leads me onto the pure genius of the ideas. Not only is Hogfather a lovingly satirical take on the way we all act around Christmas, but it also gets right into the heart of the love of stories. Actually, this is a running theme with Pratchett- and is especially noticeable in the witch’s plots, such as the play with fairy tales in Witches Abroad and the *double double toil and trouble* Shakespearean mischief of Lords and Ladies. It’s this complexity and depth which makes the series *so awesome*.

“HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”

going postalAs you know, I absolutely *love* satire, and this is such witty and intelligent fare. And on such varied topics as well! Sometimes it’s simply about some good fantasy tropes like dragons in Guards, Guards. Sometimes it’s on a much larger scale, like questions around war, in Jingo. And sometimes books like Going Postal are just about that weird British obsession with the post office dammit- incidentally this is one of my favourites and the only one I’ve reviewed.

“What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.” 

guards-guardsAnd yet there’s more to it than all that. Over the years, I’ve fallen in love time and again with so many bonkers, wacky and fun characters from the series! If they were simply flat archetypes for satirical fodder, they wouldn’t be half as endearing as they are. But no! They are so much deeper than that. Death, the anthropomorphic personification of death, doesn’t just exist as a vehicle for the plot- NO!– he actually comes to learn about and sympathise with humanity. Vimes, the slightly world weary copper, who manages to upstage everyone with his unbending sense of right and wrong. Granny “I can’t be having with that kind of thing” Weatherwax, who takes common sense to a whole new level. Vetinari is the kind of despotic politician I can admire (thank you Sir P for giving me the opportunity to utter such odd sentences). Then there’s other favourites like the Death of Rats, Susan and Moist. And lastly, but certainly not least…

“Ook.”

unseen academicalsThe Librarian- who inspired me to create this blog! For those of you who don’t know, the Librarian is one of my favourite Discworld characters. My monkey owes its existence to the great big monkey in the sky… or something (*ahem* that sounded more poetic in my head…) Say hello to my little friend!

“If you try to to take my bananas from me, I will reclaim them from your cold dead hands.”

shepherd's crownAnd so we’re coming to the end of my journey so far… And the fact that I can say “so far” is something else that I’m happy about. Because, as I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I’m not done yet- and that only makes me more excited!! I have heard so many wonderful things about books I haven’t got to- not least the Shepherd’s Crown– and I’ve got to say I can’t wait!

So have you read Pratchett? Are you inspired to pick any up now? Let me know in the comments!

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The Book Courtship Tag

book courtship tag

Yes, that’s right, we’re really hotting up towards Valentine’s Day so I’m here to tell you of my one true love… books 😉 And it just so happens that I have the perfect tag for the occasion- that has for some reason taken me FOREVER to get round to (I’m talking years- so if any of you folks feel bad about not doing tags, look at my example and weep with relief 😉 ) Long overdue thanks to the fabulous Quirky Book Nerd, the amazing Analee@Book Snacks and the indomitable Vicky@Books and Strips!

Phase 1: Initial Attraction – A book you bought because of the cover?

pledge

I bought the entire Pledge series cos it was cheap and I loved the covers… and boy did I live to regret it!! The worst thing is the covers are sort of pretty- but I really don’t care for them much now. (Plus they’re on my kindle, so what difference does it make?!)

Phase 2: First Impressions – A book you got because of its summary?

vicious

Well I do this for most books- but I’d say I loved the summary of Vicious- the concept just sounded so cool- and boy was I right!!

Phase 3: Sweet Talk – A book with great writing?

Gonna go full on classic here and say The Great Gatsby– no one does tightly woven, flowery prose quite like Fitzgerald.

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Phase 4: First Date – The first book of a series that made you want to pick up the rest of the series?

Ooh I could say a fair number of books for this- but I’d say Red Rising was a stonking good read and cos it was so good I ended up reading the series back to back #noregrets

Red Rising Pierce Browns

Phase 5: Late Night Phone Calls – A book that kept you up all night?

Plenty of books have me reading into the late hours. One memorable book I stayed up all night to finish Court of Mist and Fury- which was kinda poetic considering the subject matter!

court of mists and fury

Phase 6: Always On My Mind – A book you could not stop thinking about?

Gosh- so many- I think I’m gonna go with Neverending Story- cos it ended up being surprisingly thought provoking.

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Phase 7: Getting Physical – A book that you love the way it feels?

My copy of Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales:

fairy tale hans christian anderson

Phase 8: Meeting The Parents – A book you would recommend to your family and friends?

Depends on the family member! I have to admit- I think the book I’ve recommended most often to friends is Picture of Dorian Gray cos it’s just a really universal book that everyone can enjoy.

Arkham cover D final

Phase 9: Thinking About The Future – A book or series you know you will re-read many times in the future?

Easy!

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Phase 10: Share The Love – Who do you tag? 

Jenna, Kelly, Sam, Misty, Mischenco, Invisible No More, Naty, the Cozy Pages, Carrie, Liis, and anyone else who fancies doing it!

And I really want to know, what books did you make a mistake cover buying? Let me know in the comments!

Book Crying Confessions

Hello all! Well in case you haven’t noticed, we’re coming up to an emotional time of year… February 14thooh err…. Now I’m one of those easy criers out there. Anything can get me going. In fact, this was me the other day watching The Last Kingdom…
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 (BTW if you are a GOT fan you *must* watch it- it’s insanely EPIC and just THE BEST! Get it on Netflix- #nonspon)

And I know I’m not alone- coincidentally, Nel made a WONDERFUL post the other day on this very subject- so worth checking out! Naturally, I wanted to share some books that’ve made me tear up… only trouble is there have been so many, I didn’t know where to start! Instead, I thought I’d do a list about some of my most memorable book blubbering moments. Here we go!

  1. Harry_Potter_and_the_Order_of_the_PhoenixHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix– YOU KNOW WHY! I also have to admit that when I finished this the first time, it was the first time I remember sobbing over a book. I flipped the book round and read it again, crying the whole time. J K ROWLING BROKE MY HEART.

 

 

  1. noughts and crossesNoughts and Crosses– this was another of the first books that ever made me sob. In fact it gets me every time- it’s that good.

 

 

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  1. 'Me_Before_You'Me Before You– I’ve mentioned before that this book made me cry at the wrong part… but that part did reduce me to a puddle of emotions

 

 

 

  1. serpent kingSerpent King– ahhhh it’s so painful to even think about- but I will say that I spent a good amount of time rocking back and forth with the book after I was done… cos I’m totally normal.

 

 

  1. king learKing Lear– this is the only Shakespeare play I’ve ever cried over. Something about it just cuts me to the quick. I was also lucky enough to find the McKellen version scene by scene on the RSC website years ago and that blew me away too. Wish I could have seen it live.

 

  1. persuasionPersuasion– speaking of “only ones”- this was the only Austen that’s ever made me cry too. That doesn’t mean the others aren’t amazing too- just in a different kind of way.

 

 

  1. little womenLittle Women– I actually knew what was going to happen (I was one of those 90s kids that grew up on Friends- it gave a massive spoiler) so I thought there was no way I would end up crying when I could see it coming a mile away, right? So so wrong.

 

 

  1. Trudi_Canavan_The_High_Lord_coverHigh Lord, Black Magician Trilogy– I didn’t actually like the first book, so the fact that I ended up sobbing my eyes out while reading the last one shows what a massive turnaround I had with this series (I also blame this book for why I now often continue series- cos this gave me hope that things get better…)

 

  1. we were liarsWe Were Liars– I sobbed over this- however I will always wonder if that’s because I was very emotionally vulnerable (someone died) at the time I was reading it. Who knows- doesn’t stop it being an awesome book.

 

 

  1. my sister's keeperMy Sister’s Keeper– I just wanted to include this one because WHY DID THEY CHANGE THE ENDING IN THE FILM. I cried in the book, not the film- because book betrayal makes me mad.

 

 

Oh my goodness that was so hard to narrow down to just ten- maybe I’ll do a follow up post one day. In the meantime, what books have made you cry? Let me know in the comments!

Iconic Movies I Probably Should Have Seen By Now…

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This is a bit of an impromptu post, inspired by the lovely Lucinda and awesome Chauncey, who were absolutely shocked the other day when I admitted I hadn’t seen… well…

spoilers

(although of course you could just scroll down and see the offending film on the list)

So I decided, what better to do than to make this whole thing worse by sharing a bunch of films I haven’t seen. Using tons of lists from IMDB I came up with some iconic films I probably should’ve seen by now- let’s get to the public shaming, shall we?

Jurassic Park– yup this is the one that sparked the controversy- I do plan to see it- I swear! (… at some point) I dunno why I haven’t- I originally surmised it was cos none of my family were into dinosaurs, however I asked them, and most of them said they’d seen it… so I’m feeling a bit betrayed now 😉

Edward Scissorhands– Johnny Depp walks on screen with those scissor hands… and I dunno I just freak and run out the room every. damn. time. I can’t take it. My sister is the same. I guess we’re just scissorhands-people-phobic. (And yes, I know the point of the film is to get over it, but I can’t even look at the thumbnail below)

Schindler’s List– I’ve actually tried to watch this a bunch of times, but just… can’t. I get five minutes into the opening and *nope*. I can’t take holocaust films. Can’t even watch the trailer. (The soundtrack’s amazing though)

E.T.- this is a weird one cos I’ve seen the ending a gazillion times- but never the beginning- I used to turn on the TV (usually round Christmas) and there’d be the closing scenes. I feel that kinda killed the urge to sit down and watch the whole thing. And now I really feel like I’ve missed the boat. Or the ship- cos doesn’t he go off in a spaceship? Told you I’d seen the ending 😉 (I’m going to joke hell for that one 😉 )

Citizen Kane– isn’t this one of those movies everyone’s supposed to see, but loads of people haven’t? *Cue loads of angry movie buffs*. Regardless, I do actually want to watch it.

Terminator 1 & 2– I shamelessly reference this all the time though.

Saving Private Ryan– started and not finished- several times. I’m not interested guys. (This list is starting to be all the Spielberg films I’ve not seen- yet the real question should be why has he made so many movies?! I can’t keep up!)

Blade Runner– I really, really want to see this… but after I read the book it was based on- sorry!

Silence of the Lambs– FUCK NO. I don’t do scary. Still this came up on so many lists that I had to include it.

Alien– NO! Can these lists stop trying to make me watch horror- please?!

Rocky– hmm kinda surprised my family didn’t make me watch this one- in fact I know my mum and brothers love this- again, I’m feeling kinda left out… :/ (also I love the music)

Top Gun– huh kinda surprised I haven’t seen this one- it looks like something I’d like. (Annnd now I’m doing air guitar to Highway to the Dangerzone- seriously, why have I not seen this?)

Well there you go, I guess it’s a good thing I’m a book blogger and not a film critic 😉 I can’t be the only one though- what films are you most ashamed of not having seen? Let me know in the comments!

The Nope Tag

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So earlier in the week I was all about the positivity, so it seems like a good time to be a grumpus… JK I just wanted to do this tag for ages. Thank you so much to the lovely Emily @Embuhleeliest for tagging me for this one! The creator of this tag can be found here!

  1. NOPE. Ending: A book ending that made you go NOPE either in denial, rage, or simply because the ending was crappy.

captain corelli

Okay, so I don’t know many good books with a lousy ending- but I do know an awful book with a crappy ending and that’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Spoilers: why did Corelli have to come back 30 years later, why did Pelagia’s lover have to be an attempted rapist to justify her fickleness and why oh why did I even bother finishing this cos it was in no way satisfying.

  1. NOPE. Protagonist: A main character you dislike and drives you crazy.

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Beatrice from Wideacre– just everything about her made me go ugh. Ugh cos she’s thick and thinks she’s smart, ugh cos she’s a gross incestuous weirdo, and ugh cos she makes everyone’s life miserable. Just ugh to her and the whole book.

  1. NOPE. Series: A series that turned out to be one huge pile of NOPE. after you’ve invested all of that time and energy on it, or a series you gave up on because it wasn’t worth it anymore.

Poison-Study-new-UK

This is unfortunately easy to answer: the Poison Study series. I don’t know another series that started out with so much promise and awesomeness and sheer excitement… that ended up being so generic and pointless. And just when I think it can’t get any worse, it spends a whole book on a *very obvious* plot twist (oh I wonder why a character would be sick every morning after they’ve missed their period…)

  1. NOPE. Popular pairing: A “ship” you don’t support.

I’m one of those people who’s pretty meh about Ron and Hermione (I actually laughed when Rowling said they’d need marriage counselling)

  1. NOPE. Plot twist: A plot twist you didn’t see coming or didn’t like.

da vinci code

Oh easily the “twist” at the end of the Da Vinci Code where the baddie says “but I was trying to help you all along”… And no that’s not a spoiler- you can’t spoil a shit book.

  1. NOPE. Protagonist action/decision: A character decision that made you shake your head no.

Harry_Potter_and_the_Order_of_the_Phoenix

Most of Harry Potter’s decisions in Order of the Phoenix (and if you want to know why skip to question 15)

  1. NOPE. Genre: A genre you will never read.

I don’t know that there’s a genre I wouldn’t try- especially since I’ve been trying to diversify my reading- still, I tend to avoid straight up horror.

  1. NOPE. Book format: Book formatting you hate and avoid buying until it comes out in a different edition

Umm wellll my answer was going to be audiobooks, but I’ve been listening to a couple lately… so I don’t have an answer to this.

  1. NOPE. Trope: A trope that makes you go NOPE.

Love triangles- particularly the ones that are an excuse for cheating. I see that in a description and just go NOPE.

  1. NOPE. Recommendation: A book recommendation that is constantly hyped and pushed at you that you simply refuse to read.

Again, I don’t know if I would refuse to anything. I am saying “no thanks” to political fiction as much as possible right now (not including dystopias)

  1. NOPE. Cliche/pet peeve: A cliche or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.

Right now it’s the “I took a magic potion and now I’m evil” trick. It just seems to be a really lazy way to give a baddie motivation. I JUST WANT COMPLEX, EVIL CHARACTERS- IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?!

  1. NOPE. Love interest: The love interest that’s not worthy of being one. A character you don’t think should have been a viable love interest.

love lessons

Gonna go old school now, with Love Lessons– Prue and her teacher should *never* have happened.

  1. NOPE. Book: A book that shouldn’t have existed that made you say NOPE.

foxhole court

What even was this book?!

  1. NOPE. Villain: A scary villain/antagonist you would hate to cross and would make you run in the opposite direction.

“Take a tip from Bill Sikes

He can whip what he likes.”

He always gave me the heebie jeebies. And I also wanted to use an excuse to stick those lyrics in…

  1. NOPE. Death: A character death that still haunts you.

Stealing Emily’s answer (spoilers for Harry Potter 5): Sirius Black

  1. NOPE. Author: An author you had a bad experience reading for and have decided to quit.

our dark duetThis is a hard one to answer- I have a few authors that I was “one and done” for (like Dan Brown), but I would pick up their other works if I heard amazing things about them- so you never know. There is however, and this is going to be *so controversial*, an author who I’ve been seriously considering quitting lately. And that author is V E Schwab. I know, *deep breaths* everybody- I just couldn’t respect her ideological decisions, which effected the grammar and ergo the comprehensibility of her last book, Our Dark Duet (more on that here). That said I really like the look and sound of her new book and sequels I’ve heard she might write… so I can’t see myself keeping to this. I will pay attention to reviews and if she’s done the same thing again, I won’t buy it and that’ll be it for me. I’m genuinely quite conflicted about it cos I’ve never quit an author before.

Done! Phew that went in an unexpected direction- I tag:

Lucinda, Sophie, Stuck in Fiction, Samantha, Aislyn, Nel, AngelicaWinged CynicBeth, Camillea, Goreti and Andrea

Okay, *exhales*, lots of controversial opinions- dare I ask if you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!

Can we enjoy propagandistic art?

thoughts orangutan

It’s something I’ve been mulling over for a time and I’m not sure I’ve reached any satisfying conclusions. In fact, I’ve been puzzling over what even is propaganda– some definitions seem too narrow and some too broad. I’ve heard some weird things (some that would imply the only way to not be a propagandist is a to be a pantser), yet rather than talk on anecdotal evidence, let’s look at a definition, because I like definitions, as un-definitive as they often are:

information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

grapes of wrathOkay now we’re getting somewhere- if we focus on the misleading/biased element of this definition, most artists can be let off the hook. Yet, still there’s room for some, like Steinbeck with his pro-socialism bias. And not just a casual bias (for someone’s certainly going to argue “aren’t we all biased?”) but a conscious bias. There is no doubt, for instance, of the messaging in Grapes of Wrath. Now I’ve often joked that “when you can write like Steinbeck you can write what you like”- but the inescapable truth is he was trying to convey a political message in an emotive and ergo manipulative manner. Maybe the term is apt.

Here we get to the crux of the issue- because stating all of this will make many recoil in disgust. Either from my arguments, with a design to spare poor Steinbeck this label, or from his beautiful work, which is not my intention. It would, however, be a shame that reasoned individuals would fail to see the wood for the trees simply because the term is distasteful. It would be even more of a shame if art was dismissed entirely on these grounds.

Granted, not all propaganda is beautiful or interesting or worth examining- but then nor is a lot of art. I will not make the argument that all propaganda has merit- indeed I have a particular dislike for the Soviet or Nazi brands for instance- yet some, as I’ve mentioned, is very aesthetically pleasing. Take, for instance, the Roman propaganda machine. From the Republic to the last of the Emperors, they constructed divine monuments to display their power and beliefs. One of my favourite ancient monuments, the Ara Pacis, is designed purely to show the peace and prosperity of a new saeculum aureum under Augustus. Its friezes depict scenes of tranquillity and fertility- but make no mistake, this enters into the thorny snare of politicised art. Its very position on the Campus Martius dictated as much.

 

With that, all that remains is to discuss how effective it is. And the truth is I do not profess to know how susceptible people are to propaganda- especially the written kind. I have long held to the view “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink”. Frankly, unless you have an unformed opinion, books do not subvert entire mind sets, only nudge you in a direction you were probably already headed. My own perspective is that if I’m being clobbered over the head with an idea or thought I don’t hold, I instantly pull back from it…. so maybe potential propagandists should watch out- they don’t realise how many people they’re alienating with their heavy handedness.

And that rambling point leads me to my conclusion– for if it is not effective and potentially beautiful, I cannot discount all propaganda as unartistic. Personally, as curious as I am about where the intersection of propaganda and art lies, I do not think acknowledging that it is propagandistic is the be all and end all. So, yes, I guess you can enjoy propaganda.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Skating on thin ice in Beartown

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

beartown

This is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever had to write… Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic but NO JOKE I had trouble with this one and I’m so frickin nervous about sharing my thoughts guys. Part of this comes down to the fact that I had a lot of mixed feelings about the book and still felt the desire to rate it:

4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

I know that a lot of what follows will be confusing and I guarantee some people will walk away dissatisfied with my position here- either because they feel I shouldn’t voice my opinion in response to this book or because they won’t consider me strident enough in my rating. It’s really a lose lose situation for me, I must say, but I don’t think pre-emptive irritation is something I should take out on what was in fact a very well written book.

Because I was impressed by a lot of it. Kudos to the author, he’s very skilled and I was immediately blown away by the writing. There were so many layers to the story and characters that I found myself easily wrapped up in it. I am always admiring of books that can transport me so fully to a place you would never discover on your own- and Beartown felt a million miles away and yet so close to home. The characters felt beautiful and authentic. I could sense the serious issues lurking under the ice, ready to crack at any moment and I appreciated the chills that tension gave me. It was a little on the slow side and it took a while to get to the “I really can’t put this down” part, but that was okay, I could see this getting 4.5-5 bananas from me.

And then the scandal hit, at around 50% of the way in, and I started to have problems. I had some, shall we say, philosophical differences with the questions it raised and the answers it appeared to direct the reader towards. It began to feel borderline propagandistic, with lines from actual political campaigns plastered into the plot in a very noticeable way. But before we get into what that was, I’m going to politely ask the easily offended to *look away*, or just people who don’t want SPOILERS, and dubbing this section from here on out “You Asked For It”- where I explain, as comprehensively as I am able, my issues with said political elements. After all, if you’re entering the political arena… well then you can expect some differing opinions.

You Asked For It AKA The Spoiler Section

What I dislike most about this book is what it’s forcing me to do now. I’ve specifically stated before that I *do not* want this blog to turn political. Unfortunately, art is increasingly entering that sphere and I find myself in the position where I have no choice but to voice my opinion. So here we go. I very much support the concept of due process and don’t appreciate attempts to subvert it. As sympathetic as you can be to individuals who have to go through this, the rule of “innocent until proven guilty” must prevail, even with regards to rape cases (as in this book), otherwise there will only be a perversion of justice. In this book, however, the fact that the perpetrator is treated as innocent and the crime investigated is shown to be an injustice. The messaging being, perhaps innocent until proven guilty is not such a good idea…

For that reason, this book skirted verrry close to a moral line for me. Ultimately, the police questionings, supposed to be viewed as cruel, switched on the purely logical side of my brain instead. Let me be frank: you need to interrogate both the alleged perpetrator and victim in order to establish whether a crime took place. I don’t see “they’re just doing their job” as callous in this context, as the book seemed to imply, because it is exactly right that the legal system relies on evidence-based conclusions. There is no way to circumvent that without becoming unjust yourself. Lines like “that’s not the sort of thing you lie about” are unhelpful in uncovering the truth and this book did not succeed in changing my mind. No doubt the emotive circumstances of the book will be effective for the “listen and believe” camp. Yet I cannot say I found this book personally convincing. Nor was it educational. With that in mind, I can only think that this book will be useful in bolstering some casual confirmation bias for people in both camps.

Ugh, powder keg of opinions coming my way I presume. Please do try to be civil in the comments.