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'But Where Are You REALLY From?': Mixed Race, Otherness and 'Off-Colour' Remarks

I learned early on that I wasn't seen in the same way as everyone else. My friends and I had been playing a careless game of Block 123 with a street lamp as our target post when a passing neighbourhood kid pointed at me. 'Eurgh,' she sneered. 'Why are your arms brown? You look dirty.' It wasn't said with malice, exactly; we lived in a small, racially homogeneous village and she was genuinely oblivious – both to why my skin looked that way and how her words might make me feel. And, having never been confronted with the brownness of my skin before, I didn't know how to respond. Although it had nettled me, I simply pretended not to care.

The Raven's Children by Yulia Yakovleva Book Review: Breaking the Silence around a Dark Period of History

The Raven's Children by Yulia Yakovleva and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (translation)
My rating:★★★★☆

A bestseller in its native Russia and translated into English for the first time, The Raven’s Children was written to ‘break the silence’ surrounding a dark and largely hidden period of history. However, despite its setting of Stalin-era Russia, a time of terror, paranoia and the Secret Police, Yakovleva delivers an accessible, engaging and resolutely hopeful story.

Charlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland Book Review: Dealing with Anxiety Through Laughter and Friendship

Charlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland (writer) and Sarah Horne (illustrator)
My rating: ★★★★☆

Meet Charlie. He’s a fairly normal nine-year-old who enjoys playing FIFA on the PS4 and tries to stay positive—even though he’s the target of the school bully and his brother is in hospital. Oh, and he also happens to turn into a colourful menagerie of animals when he least expects it, from a high-hopping flea to an incontinent rhino.

Young readers are sure to be delighted by Charlie’s lively tale, which begins in action-packed fashion and manages to sustain its pace throughout. Each animal transformation is as unpredictable as its consequences, setting off an imaginative chain of preposterous events.

Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within by Jane Jensen Book Review: A Warming Dose of 90s Lycanthropic Nostalgia

Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within by Jane Jensen
My rating: ★★★☆☆

Just as Gabriel Knight is finally settling into his ancestral home in Germany, he is called upon in his role as schattenjagger, or "shadow hunter", to help solve the savage killing of a young girl. The authorities claim it was a wolf escaped from the zoo, but the townspeople say it is a werewolf. Gabriel soon becomes certain the answer lies within an exclusive hunting club in Munich that celebrates the nature of the beast. As his loyal assistant Grace delves into the past to discover the truth, Gabriel finds himself ensnared in a sinister trap, in which the beast within himself becomes the greatest threat of all! (Roc Books description)

I found a digital copy of this as it turns out the paperback is near-impossible to acquire these days. I wasn't expecting much in the way of literary merit, simply a way to get my Gabriel Knight fix having exhausted many of the best classic adventure game titles (not unlike ho…

A Vegan's Guide to Surviving China: Xian and Chengdu Edition

Around a year and a half ago, I read a Guardian article with the provocative title 'Free range is a con. There’s no such thing as an ethical egg'. As a long-term vegetarian, while I was aware of some of the issues with factory farming, I had been somewhat reassured by labels such as 'free range' and 'organic'. The article confirmed what I think, deep down, I had already suspected but hadn't known how to address given that so many veggie alternatives are heavily reliant on egg and cheese ingredients. It made for an eye-opening, unsettling read. I shared it with my partner, proclaiming, 'I can't eat another egg again in good conscience.' We decided to trial a vegan diet almost immediately.

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Game Review: Brimming with Unrealised Potential

Touted as the spiritual successor to Gabriel Knight, I really wanted to love this. An intriguing murder mystery/supernatural crossover setup, a strong female lead and Jane Jensen as a story consultant; this has a lot going for it.

However, I never really felt that this had the heart that some of the best adventure games have, such as the Gabriel Knight and Blackwell series. You're plunged into the action from the get-go, but I missed those quieter, reflective moments that give more insight into the characters through idle chit-chat, relationship building and even the protagonist's home space. You never visit Erica's home (the closest thing is her work desk – this tells you something about her, but nothing particularly meaningful) or learn much about her outside of her job/predicament.

The other characters are similarly sketchily drawn. Your partner/best friend is resigned to his desk for the majority of the game, interactions with your romantic interest don't really p…

Nana by Ai Yazawa Book Review: A Very Unconventional Love Story

Note: This post contains spoilers.

After 21 volumes and 80 chapters, I've finally come to the provisional* end of a manga series whose characters have taken on the familiarity of old friends. Endearing, relatable and, at times, hopelessly infuriating. Saying goodbye to them was accompanied by a quiet sense of loss I'm sure the two Nanas would implicitly understand. So what was it about Nana that made me stick with it for so long?

Nana follows two young women who move to Tokyo in search of their dreams at key junctures in their lives. A frivolous airhead who attaches herself to men too readily and a fiercely independent punk rocker set on making it as a lead vocalist, on the surface, Nana K. (a.k.a. Hachi) and Nana O. share little more than a name and the same train journey. Nevertheless, they make an improbable connection.

The Perks of Being a Publishing Postgrad

Last September, I started a new chapter in a book I had convinced myself I had long since finished. Resuming higher education through an MA in Publishing wasn't something I'd mapped out as part of any five-year postgraduate plan. Though I had toyed with the possibility as a recent graduate, this was more out of a sense of obligation than anything else. Besides, I wasn't exactly grief-stricken to see the back of late-night essay-writing frenzies and endless grade-chasing. While I went on to pursue journalism training, this turned out to be one of the most unbalanced and stressful periods of my life. Why, then, was I potentially putting myself through something like that again?