Monday, 18 December 2017

Artemis - Andy Weir

'I live in Conrad Down 15, a grungy area fifteen floors underground in Conrad Bubble. If my neighbourhood were wine, connoisseurs would describe it as "shitty, with undertones of failure and poor life decisions."'


I was absolutely over the Moon about this book even before it came out. Seriously, ever since I read The Martian by Andy Weir two years ago, I've been pretty much waiting for this one. I've been on an orbit around it, seriously. Almost like a lunatic.

I must admit, this and The Martian are almost like from different planetsThe Martian was a very contained solitary adventure with a solid plot, filled with fun and jokes and written mostly like a diary. Artemis, on the other hand, was not solitary - Jazz has many interesting companions - and in some ways much more serious. It deals with a lot of topics I wouldn't have thought it would venture to. It was, still, a fun adventure.

The writing of this book wasn't necessarily like a sea of tranquility, but it was entertaining. One of my favourite things about The Martian was how I felt like I was learning new things, and this book certainly had that aspect in it too. It is, however, less science-driven and more character-driven.

Jazz is a career criminal who's grown up in Artemis, the first city on the moon. She's working hard to repay an old debt, so when she gets the chance to earn one million slugs (that's the currency) she jumps at it - turning the book into a heist storJazz is quite a complex character, and in my mind she gets points for (being female, obviously), being Saudi Arabian (representation!!), her sense of humour and her intelligence. That's not to say she wasn't sometimes annoying, but... protagonists. As I mentioned before, the rest of the cast was really cool and interesting too, and quite diverse. Jazz even has an Earth penpal living in Kenya, and their conversations provide the reader with more information on Jazz's background.

The actual plot of this book starts kind of late, and I felt that the beginning dragged a little too. Because of this, it took me almost a month to read. I bought it on day one, too! And just as unfortunately, the ending happened all too suddenly, and the whole main conflict was resolved and padded down in about 30 pages. For these pacing issues and the less scientific aspects of this book, I took it down one star. To be honest, I can imagine The Martian taking three years to write and this one taking half a year, or something of the sort. Regardless, this book was fun and I'd recommend it. I'll definitely read it again too - I'm sure there's a lot to still discover in the details.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 49: A new book of 2017 - I switched Caraval from that to 'recommended by a librarian' since I picked it up from being on show at Lahti Library.

PS. I won't even Apollo-gise for all these puns, it was just too good of an opportunity to pass.
PPS. @ Alex, I hope you're doing well!! Thanks again for introducing Andy Weir to me! 😀

Thursday, 7 December 2017

They Both Die at the End - Adam Silvera

'How often do you find yourself on train that's having a blackout with an eighteen-year old kid and his Lego house as he's on his way to the cemetery to visit his mother's headstone? Exactly. That's Instagram-worthy.'


This is the latest book I've finished so now I'm actually on track with these! Hooray! I guess you should expect mostly radio silence from me for the next week and a little (read: until my exams are done). This was another high-quality audiobook because I can actually make time for those while walking to uni and back.

The book was a heart-wrenching story, seriously. You'd think that with a title like They Both Die at the End, you'd be prepared for, well, the two main characters both dying. Well, you'd be wrong - I was not prepared for it in the slightest.

Anyway, in They Both Die at the End Mateo and Rufus both get the call from Death-Cast that they are going to die that day. They both find themselves in need of someone to spend their last day with and meet through the Last Friend app. Together, they set off to have a lifetime of friendship and adventures in one day.

Like I said, this book was terribly heart-wrenching, and I was absolutely totally not crying by the end of it. It was wonderful and real and awful and I really enjoyed it even when I knew how it was all going to end. If I had to mark it down for something, it would be for the suddenness of the ending... then again, what else can you do, when the ending is like that? Thankfully, this book wasn't a cop-out like, say, Everything, Everything by Nikola Yoon and actually followed through on its premise.

Mateo and Rufus were both very strong characters with their own voices, and their friendship was really precious and believable. They also came from different backgrounds both culturally and societally, and through them the book got to deal with varying issues that teenagers have to face. Rufus has lived a life you can look back to with happiness even if he doesn't want to die, while Mateo has played it safe and passed opportunities, only to find himself on the list of the dying anyway.

'We can get a handshake going when we meet, but until then I promise to be the Mario to your Luigi. Except I won't hog the spotlight. Where shall we meet?'

There were also many side plots in this book that expored the other ways in which Death-Cast would influence the world: What if a famous celebrity died? What is it like to work for the company? What if you weren't sure if the call you got was real? What if you thought you were invincible, just because you weren't called? Some of them are not as fleshed out as others, but they served to make the universe as a whole much more interesting. The book is structured so that it names the character from whose point of view each chapter is from and then the time, so that you know how long they have left, tops. That worked quite well, in my opinion.

I took a look at the other works of Adam Silvera, History is All You Left Me and More Happy Than Not, and they both seem... depressing, also. I might need to wait for a while before giving them a read, since I haven't gotten over this one yet. But I will read them too, one day!

Next up, when it comes to audiobooks, you can expect me to review The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, which I started after finishing this one. With my Mandarin Chinese studies and all that, I'm trying to get a feel of the culture, literature and anything else about China. It's been pretty good so far.   

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

''I am thinking that today we are leaving on our Grand Tour', I reply, 'And I'm not going to waste any of it.''


I finished this book recently and it says a lot that I didn't have much feels by the ending, which was clearly meant to make me emotional. Oh well. I stuck with it because I was curious in a morbid how can you tie up something so oddly mismatched -sort of manner. It wasn't a terrible book, just... not that good for me.

Points for the well-read audiobook narrated by Christian Coulson. To me, he was Monty, and everyone else along the way. I'd absolutely read other things by him if I didn't find the idea of Monty reading something else so strange. Seriously, narrating audiobooks is a talent we should give Academy Awards and the such for.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (shall I just call it Guide for short from here on?) is set in the 1700s, where Henry 'Monty' Montague, son to a lord, is going to have a Grand Tour with his best friend and secret love, Percy, before they're separated from one another. Yes, it's a LGBT book and yes, it's on the back cover so I can tell you that. Actually, Monty is bisexual and that's cool because there's generally not enough representation et cetera, et cetera.

Anyway, the Grand Tour starts quite promisingly (even after his sister Felicity and a companion nominated by his father tag along), but then they end up in possession of something they definitely shouldn't have and have to flee through several European countries. And it gets weird. As in, around 40% it sidesteps into a weird side plot that turns out to be the actual plot, and I have to admit it wasn't what I wanted from this book. The story also felt long (I think it's over 500 pages / 10 hours but it felt like much more, which is never good), probably because I was so floored by the new plot that was apparently the main one.

Guide is very clearly something I like to call 'Europe written by Americans'. What does that mean, you ask? It's when you read a book, watch a movie or anything of the sort in which the characters are in awe of their European surroundings, saying Paris in the dreamy tone you would use for filet mignon or something. Written with an admiration I found so foreign it took me ten minutes to decide the author could only be American. And it's a bit annoying, to be honest, because it makes the Europe seem unrealistic, nothing like the continent I've come to know.

The relationship between Monty and Percy was just as cute as it was incredibly predictable. There were very few things I couldn't have seen coming from the very beginning, and I can't decide if that means I actually got what I set out to read or if it was just a good old-fashioned flaw.

On the other hand, there is a sequel coming out next year from Felicity's point of view, with girl pirates and all, and it would be completely unlike me to miss it.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge... eh, you know the drill by now, surely. I need to step up my game to find those couple of missing books at this rate.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Teemestarin kirja - Emmi ItÀranta

'Kaikki maailmassa ei ole ihmisten. Tee ja vesi eivÀt kuulu teemestareille, vaan teemestarit kuuluvat teelle ja vedelle. Olemme veden vartijoita, mutta ennen kaikkea olemme sen palvelijoita.'

'All in the world is not men's. Tea and water don't belong to the tea masters, but tea masters belong to tea and water. We are the guardians of water, but most of all we are its servants.'

I finished this book at my favourite tea place on the
day it closed down ;o;
Hello again!

Yet another dystopia, yes, I am aware. I've been meaning to read this one ever since I picked it up some two years ago, and I finally got around to it as part of my Finland 100 thing. It has a blue and white cover too! Here's also a Finnish book I recommend you read in English, as the Finnish and English versions of the book were written side by side, so you'll get the authentic experience, kind of. Pikkuunen is actually going to host a web reading group on this book on her blog soon, so it was a good time for me to read it.

Teemestarin kirja (lit. The Book of the Tea Master, but the English edition is called Memory of Water.  There's also lots of translations to other languages!) is the story of Noria Kaitio, a tea master in a world where some sort of catastrophe has turned water into a scarce resource. She finds herself guarding a secret that could cost her everything, but her and her best friend are also working on uncovering something long lost...

It was a great read, to me. It was refreshing to read something that felt, at the same time, so Finnish but also so foreign. There's a lot of Chinese tea ceremony -remnant elements in this book, blended with the normal, and it just worked. It's also beautiful writing in general.

Both Noria and her friend Sanja were really cool characters. It's always nice when the female mains are so self-sufficient (there's no romance in this book whatsoever, weird. I made a no romance tag since some people just hate that very deeply, you're welcome!). Noria especially spends most of the book completely on her own, and she grows a lot throughout it.

It was also a very well-written and thoughtful book. It flows both slow and fast, like water, and pauses to wonder and question. It felt depressingly real, with hints of global warming and other such catastophes. I also really enjoyed the 'not everything is humans'' aspect I picked my top quote for. It's a good thing to remember in this time of seemingly endless human greed. I suppose really the only reason I didn't give it five stars but four is because as a whole, the experience wasn't quite as life-changing as it could have been (it's easy to compare it to The Handmaid's Tale since I read these so close to each other).

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I couldn't find a place for this (haha, surprising isn't it?). I mean, I guess it would count for something I only know a little bit (tea ceremony?) but I bet myself I'll find something I know even less about before year end!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

"There is more than one kind of freedom," said Aunt Lydia. "Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are given freedom from. Don't underrate it."


I've been meaning to read this book for a while because dystopias. On the other hand, I anticipated it being a depressing experience so I've not been in any hurry to do it... And yeah, it was pretty grim.

The Handmaid's Tale is another one of those always upsettingly current dystopian books like Brave New World and 1984 (The Handmaid's Tale was written in 1984, which Margaret Atwood said was 'corny'). It's set in a world in which women have been stripped of their autonomy, prohibited from reading, owning things, and 'freedom to'. Any sort of plot synopsis honestly feels like I'd be butchering this story, because there's so much depth to it that I could analyse it for hours and still be just at the tip of the iceberg. Here we go anyway.

Offred, the main character who never gets an actual name, is placed as a handmaid for a Commander to give him and his wife a child. She is of the unfortunate transfer period as the country that was the United States of America becomes the Republic of Gilead. She had a husband and a child and a life, so she's able to sharply contrast the current world order to the old and is unwilling to accept the change the way she should.

It's purposefully vague and somewhat out of order, and you find out about the world bit by bit. I thought it would annoy me at first, but after I got into it, I was so interested in finding out more, even if it was at a slower pace.

'It isn't running away they're afraid of. We wouldn't get far. It's those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.'

The book has a very heavily metafictional epilogue of sorts which I don't want to further spoil from you, but it's very interesting and intelligent. It was so metafictional that I thought the book had ended and I was listening to the afterword.

The actual afterword by Atwood on this book was also very enlightening. She says that she was inspired by her travels behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, and she was determined not to add any concepts, ideas or technology that did not already exist. It's set in the US because it's her way of retaliating against the 'it couldn't happen here' mentality of the people she told about her experiences. She also calls it an anti-prediction: if a story like this can be told in such a detail, then maybe we can make sure it won't become reality. I'm definitely on board with that.

All in all, The Handmaid's Tale is a very harrowing read, with kind of an open ending. It plays on human emotion and humans themselves, and I find I keep thinking about it almost every day, even now that I finished it some two weeks ago. When is it acceptable to start reading again a book you just finished?

I gave this a 5/5 without thinking about it much, because I'm not sure if a book has ever affected me quite so much. It's probably my favourite dystopia, and I read quite a lot of those. I'd recommend it without qualms to anyone and everyone, though I'm not sure how the reading experience would change if you were not a woman and inherently, Offred.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 12: A book about politics and politicians. Because at least in part, that's what this book is, among so many other things. Politics.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Turtles All the Way Down - John Green

'I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumpted over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.'


This is the first book John Green has written since The Fault in Our Stars came out five years ago, and obviously I wanted to check it out! I'm curious and a hipster like that. Gotta read it before the movie comes out. So I went to buy it from Waterstones the day it came out. I read it within a week or so, but... yeah, I've been quite busy with uni and when I have free time, I've been reading, not reviewing. Whoops. Apparently I've not reviewed any John Green books on this blog, but I've read The Fault in Our StarsPaper Towns and most of Looking For Alaska. Obviously, this book has the highest expectations of perhaps anything ever, coming after TFIOS, and while I don't think it was quite as 'good' (more on this later), it was still good.

Previously, I've said that John Green's books are these great epics and stories bigger than life, and that's why they appeal to teenagers who don't normally get to go on these grand adventures. Turtles All the Way Down is... not that. It's big and ambitious in the way life is while not being very grand at all.

Anyway, the basic idea is that sixteen-year old Aza accidentally stumbles upon the case of her childhood friend Davis's missing millionaire father. Aza and Davis reconnect more or less, but they're also both very caught up in their own lives. Aza's best friend Daisy really wants to pursue the missing millionaire part, and Aza finds a kindred soul in the son of the millionaire, whose little brother just wants dad to come back home. Aza herself is suffering from OCD, which is a tightening loop of intrusive thoughts (turtles all the way down) and makes even the smallest things all too difficult.

The biggest downfall of the book is that it just attempts at being way too much, It wants to be a realistic portrayal of OCD, love, friendship, class differences, grief, family and all these other things, but of course it makes the different parts all kind of flat. It's also full of John Green's signature super philosophical no teenager talks like that conversations that sound extremely awkward if you think about it too much. This is really how you'll decide if you'll love or hate John Green's works: do you get put off by teenagers texting about the difficulty of defining self at night?

'Our hearts were broken in the same places. That's something like love, but maybe not quite the thing itself.'

This book is a tricky thing to actually review, because I know all of my friends either really like or really don't like The Fault in Our Stars. And while I don't think John Green is the best author in existence or anything, I have to admit he simply must have done something right to get to where he is.

And I thought Turtles All the Way Down was quite good, really. Not quite Looking for Alaska good, but better than Paper Towns and somehow less annoying than TFIOS. The latter is very 'good' plot-wise but has these super unrealistic and annoying bits that really hindered my experience, while Turtles is almost the opposite.

Turtles is philosophical and wants to be vey mature and all those things, but it also has some moments of genuine wisdom and feelings. Also lots of points for the portrayal of OCD as something that's not nice and desirable. This book leaves a lot to be desired (and I think in some ways that's the point), but somehow I enjoyed it quite a lot, and after I put it down, I wanted to pick it up again immediately.

I ended up giving this a 4/5 on the former grounds, but I acknowledge that this book is defnitely not for everyone, so I didn't put it in my recommendations label. If you think you'd like it, you probably will, but it's weirdly different from John Green's previous works.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I couldn't shoehorn this in (again). By the way, I just found out what 'shoehorn' means (it's a kenkÀlusikka :D)

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

It Only Happens in the Movies - Holly Bourne


I picked this book pretty much right away when it came out, seeing how impressed I was with Am I Normal Yet? by the same author when I read it two months ago. This book is not a part of The Spinster Club series, but a stand-alone story. Like Am I Normal Yet?, this book also had a really cool feminism aspect that I really appreciated.

It Only Happens in the Movies is a lot of fun. It's the story of Audrey, who's father left her family for another woman, who's mum has been drinking a lot since then, who's boyfriend left her in a traumatic manner and who no longer believes in romance movies. She gets a job at an independent cinema and meets her coworker Harry, who's a bad boy womanizer and everything she doesn't need in her life, and yet...

This book is many kinds of lovely. It talks about real issues that come with being young but also about what love and friendship are and when you should or shouldn't give a person a second chance. It was also a surprising book; I thought I knew what was happening, but then there were two separate plot twists that I hadn't anticipated, and it felt like a refreshing experience overall. It was also a very earnest story about what it's like to be young.

I liked Audrey a lot as a character. She's very shaken by what's been going on in her life and even angry about it sometimes, but she didn't get on my nerves too often. I appreciate that. All the side characters were also very much alive - this is one of those books were everyone except her is a side character, really. This is her story.

I liked the themes: there were many important messages I think people often need to hear. What if your parent just doesn't take care of you? What if you have a life planned for yourself and all of a sudden the base it's gone and you let it slip away? We're often told to decide everything as teenagers but in reality I'm in unversity and I still don't really have the answers. That's okay. I think we should talk about that more often.

I decided to give this book a 4/5 because while I did like it a lot, it was not quite as good as Am I Normal Yet? and it was ultimately kind of forgettable. I finished it maybe a week ago but today I struggle to remember what it was even about.

Less importantly: this is kind of unbelievable, but this book is the second British (English, more specifically) contemporary book I've read lately (the first one was Me Before You, and yes, I mentioned this in my review) in which the main character dislikes films with subtitles. Seriously, my not-native-English-speaker-self is so offended that there's a privilege in not wanting to indulge in other cultures like that. Ew. Audrey even states that she's never watched a subtitled film before, but still claims to love cinema???? Please explain.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 18: The are no less than four words in a book's name.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Down the Rabbit Hole - Holly Madison

'In a few short months, I had gone from a friendly, optimistic, confident woman to a confused girl with a nervous stammer who second-guessed every thought that went through her head and rationalized every bad decision she made.'

(The full title of this book is Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, so I'm sure you'll understand why I wanted to shorten it a little bit.)

Hello! I've been reading too many books and reviewing too few lately, so my apologies if these feel a bit short right now.

So yeah, I totally read a book written by a Playboy Bunny. It was a litle awkward to make small talk about to people. But with Hugh Hefner's recent passing, I started thinking - I don't actually know all that much about life at the Playboy Mansion. I don't think Holly Madison is the best source of information there is, but for my purposes her book was pretty decent. I never watched The Girls Next Door (I must've been too young?) so I'm pretty sure I missed some of the 'while that was happening, this was going on behind the scenes' stuff. That's okay though.

Down the Rabbit Hole is a memoir of Holly Madison, starting before her introduction to the Playboy Mansion and following her through her seven years there, from a visitor to Hugh Hefner's number one girlfriend. Finally, there's her exploits and reinvention afterwards.

Of course, there's many ways in which to view this book. On one hand, she comes across as very likeable and her motivations understandable - she wrote this book herself, after all. But on the other hand, there's a strong undercurrent of why would you do that and why would you stay. Because of that, I had to spend a considerable amount of time justifying her actions while reading the book, just like she did to herself.

Another problem with this book was that since it's an autobiography, there's a lot of 'all the other girls were so mean to me even though I'm nothing but kind!!' which had me thinking there might actually be two sides to the story - but only one that gets put on paper. It's a very gossipy book and almost everyone other than Holly herself gets dragged through the dirt. Hence, it would be really interesting to hear what someone else had to say about all of this...

This book felt a little bit too long, and I have to admit that sometimes I was also confused about the timeline. I'll mark that down as 'there wasn't much to say about that year' but on the other hand I felt like the book didn't tell me all that much of the everyday, which I definitely wanted more of anyway. Ultimately, it was an enterntaining experience I found myself picking up every so often, but it won't change my life or anything.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 48: A book about something which you know only a little bit. Kinda obvious I suppose.

Holly Madison has since published a second book called The Vegas Diaries. I might have to give that one a look at least because I feel like a kind of know her now. I'm hoping it'll be like checking an old acquintance's Facebook or something.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Love & Gelato - Jenna Evans Welch

'"You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it's for the same two things."'
"Love and gelato."'


I picked this up from the library maybe 1.5 weeks ago? I don't know, it had been on my tbr list and honestly, the Aberdeen Central Library doesn't have as great of a range as back home so I just take what I can.

Really though, I have a love for summer books. You know, books about sunrises and grass and adventures and ice cream in which life seems a lot less complex than normally. So this looking a whole lot like a summer book, I gravitated towards it. Fair warning, I convinced Daniel to make both pizza and pasta with me while I was reading this, so it's definitely a dangerous piece of literature. They were both very good dishes though, so it definitely helped me get in the Florence mood and all that.

Anyway, Love & Gelato is set in Italy, where 16-year old Lina has to go meet a father she's never known after her mum passed away. She's still grieving and it's difficult to be so far from home in the States without anyone she knows. It was, however, her mother's dying wish that she gets to know her father, and Lina has her mother's journal so they can experience Florence together. She also makes friends, including the kind Ren who lives in a gingerbread house essentially next door and all of his friends.

Something I enjoyed about this book was how little emphasis there was on the romance aspect. Sure, that is a thing, but moreover it's a book about family and grief and blood ties and moving on. It was a very refreshing read because of that.

The description of location in this book was kind of breathtaking. It made me want to visit Florence so bad, to carry this with me and walk in Lina and Ren's footsteps. That is a sign that the description is well-written, in my opinion; when you can see it in your mind so clearly you can't help wanting to see it for real.

By setting, this book reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss; American girl has to go to a lovely European city for the time of her life, yet is unwilling and feels sorry for herself. However, unlike Anna, Lina had a very real reason to be upset and not want to be there, so this book takes the cake by comparison. On the other hand, Anna was maybe more enjoyable as a read, maybe because of being more laid back and silly. Make of that what you will.

I'll give this a 4/5 because it was different and well-written, especially the description of places, but it wasn't a life-changing experience by any means. Actually, now that I finished it a couple of days ago, I can't really remember what happened in it. Also, I'll read almost any young adult books if they seem decent and are not set in the US.

With this, I finally get to tick off category 30 from the Helmet 2017 reading challenge: There's a word 'feel/feeling in a book's name'! I never thought it would be so difficult to find one of those!

Also, the next book by Welch, Love & Luck, is coming out next year. That one will be set in Ireland and I'll be happy to give it a read once it's out!

Next up will be It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne 'cause I'm nearly finished reading that! Reasons to be excited! :)

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Doctor Who: Shada - Gareth Roberts

'Chris reflected that a horrific place like this, with all the odds so grotesquely stacked against him, was where the Doctor magnificently belonged.'


(I read this book because J made me but the timing of this post is pretty rad, check out the teaser for the complete, feature length version they're (finally) making based of the actual episode here. I might post about it when it's out because it's really quite cool!)

 I love Doctor Who but I hadn't read any of the novels before. Shada, though, was a unaired serial of the 17th series of Doctor Who with a script by Douglas Adams. That's pretty exciting, right?

Shada follows the Fourth Doctor and Romana to Cambridge, where a fellow Time Lord, Professor Chronotis, has found a home for himself. Upon leaving Gallifrey, he took with him something that proves to be dangerous. There's also a couple of grad students, Clare and Chris, cutely in love with each other but not able to admit it.

'But where was Chris? Why wasn't he there with her, starting off on this amazing journey? 'Aha!' the Doctor was saying, but she didn't want his 'Aha!' — she wanted Chris's 'Aha!' And where was Chris?' 

Because it's Doctor Who, there's also monster of the week - Skagra, who wants to take over the world with the use of Professor Chronotis's little souvenir. He's a cool villain and I definitely felt the urgency in stopping him.

I listened to this as an audiobook, with the sound effects and all, which was excellent. It was read by Lalla Ward, who plays Romana, and included David Brierley as K-9. What's not to love about that? The world needs more a) female narration b) female everything actually and c) K-9.

'At the woman's side, somehow looking equally concerned, was a metal box about three feet by two feet with 'K-9' emblazoned on its side in what somebody had obviously thought was a futuristic typeface. From the front of the box sprouted what was clearly meant to be a head, with a glowing red screen for eyes, a snout with a nozzle at the end and two miniature radar dishes in place of ears. It sort of looked, a bit, like a dog. It even had an antenna for a tail and, for a campy finishing touch, a tartan collar.'

You've probably figured this out by now, but this book definitely assumes that you know your Doctor Who. It doesn't really give you any general rundown of the background or any of that, but just plunges you in the deep end. Nothing wrong about that of course, but just something to keep in mind. I think no one assumes you pick up one of these and use it as your stepping stone into the wider universe, but the other way around.

All the characters are excellent, which isn't exactly surprising. It's hard to pick a favourite but my top three would be Skagra's ship that was tweaked to shower him with compliments, Clare and Romana. Girl power! Also, I feel like the Doctor was actually the weakest character here. He came across as a bit annoyed all the time (Which may have to do with Lalla Ward having been married to Tom Baker at one point, J tells me).

The writing is also excellent, very fun and smart and kind of tongue-in-cheek. There's a lot of both dialogue and description but it all kind of fits together.

All in all, Shada is an excellent Doctor Who story. It's weird and fantastical and fun and pretty much what you're meant to get. The dialogue and characters are more than enough to make up for the fact that the plot itself may not have been the most innovative out there. If I had to change something, I'd cut out around a hundred pages of nothing really happening, though I understand that could be detrimental to the experience. Still, sometimes I zoned out while listening to this, and I want to mark it down for that.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I could not find a spot for this. This is getting so tricky!