Darth Pedant

The Pedant formerly known as Pony.

Reading progress update: I've read 117 out of 323 pages.

SLAY - Brittney Morris

I’m guessing this takes place in the unspecified not-too-distant future, a time when VR gloves and socks are widely available for the average consumer at a low enough price point that high school students who tutor their classmates for extra cash can afford them. A time when two teenagers with no industry experience and no capital can code and maintain a fully immersive free-to-play (as far as I can tell) VR MMORPG with all original non-store-bought assets, complex crafting systems, card-based combat with animations that blend seamlessly with physical player input from their VR gear, insane character customization and more—all on a shoestring budget, all done in their spare time between school and homework, and all without anyone else in their lives having any idea they run a game with a 500k player base on one (?!) server  and thousands of active players at any given time. Meanwhile, here in the specified present, an indie game I’ve been keeping an eye on has barely managed to release a beta of the costume creator seven years after raising upwards of half a million dollars to cover development costs, and none of my big-studio-backed MMORPGs can figure out how to stop clipping issues with capes and hairstyles or prevent server lag during peak hours or effectively balance the meta when new gear/abilities/character classes are released.


I have no doubt whatsoever that Morris’s depiction of the constant racism Kiera deals with on a daily basis is 1000% accurate, but this coding stuff has my eyebrows climbing straight off my forehead. I need to get over it because I should not be focusing on whether the game’s development history is realistic or not. I just need to convince my pedantic brain that Goodreads lied to me about this book being contemporary and it really takes place in 2062 or something so it will stop screeching like the porg in my profile pic. Ugh, why am I like this?


That’s enough horrific run-on sentences for now. But before I go, in non-“a fictional game broke my brain”-related news, Malcolm is The Worst and Kiera needs to dump his ass ASAP. Sooner, even. Build a time machine and dump him yesterday.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 323 pages.

SLAY - Brittney Morris

I'm closing out Black History Month with yet another book that isn't a historical text, but it's written by a Black author so I'm running with it.


The Belles

The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton

I love dressing up and putting on makeup, but I so seldom have the energy for it that I have to live vicariously through shows like Next Top Model and Project Runway. I bought this book thinking it would scratch that itch while also delivering a pretty strong message about how stupid and harmful arbitrary beauty standards are. And it did scratch that itch. It scratched and scratched and scratched and scratched until it stopped feeling good and started to irritate. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I thought the book spent too much time in wardrobes and beauty treatment salons and not enough time on the plot. I was so bored that I almost abandoned the book in the sagging middle, which would have been a shame because it’s a decent plot once it picks up momentum in the last hundred or so pages. I’m interested enough to read the sequel whenever I can get my hands on it (cliffhanger ending, ugh), but it was a slog. A decadent, beautifully-described slog.

Reading progress update: I've read 65 out of 434 pages.

The Belles - Dhonielle Clayton

I'm continuing my celebration of Black History Month by reading another book by a Black author. I bought this one when it came out in 2018, which feels like ancient history, so it totally counts!

Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2)

Deathless Divide - Justina Ireland

The publication of this book was pushed back two or three times over the course of its production, which means that even though I held off on reading the first book for several months, I still had to wait nearly a year and a half for the sequel. It was well worth it. Deathless Divide is about 100 pages longer than Dread Nation and packs a whole lot more punch. Ireland was super mean to her characters, putting them through one rusty existential meat grinder after another, and I love her for it.


I still don’t like present tense, but Ireland’s pretty good at it, and I really enjoyed the addition of Katherine’s POV. I kind of dismissed her in the first book, but getting inside her head and seeing how she uses corsets and good manners to mask her anxiety totally won me over.


On a side note, this makes THREE whole books about zombies that I didn’t hate. Will wonders never cease?

Reading progress update: I've read 84 out of 560 pages.

Deathless Divide - Justina Ireland

It's Black History Month, so I'm reading alternate history by a Black author. That totally counts, right?

Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

It’s finally happened. I have read a Diane Setterfield book in which I liked the prose AND the plot AND the characters. The third time really is the charm, apparently. Persistence pays off! Sort of!


The story meanders like the titular river, seeming to flow slowly on the surface with hidden currents beneath. I enjoyed the fairy tale theme, but at the same time I found myself wishing that Setterfield had set out to subvert it instead of lean so hard into it. A whole lot of fairy tales and legends hinge on the suffering of women, and Once Upon a River is no exception. In fact, it plays most of the greatest hits, including but not limited to: rape, physical abuse, emotional abuse, abandonment, etc. Rita Sunday’s character journey had the most subversion potential, which is why the way she’s treated made me full-body cringe.



She starts out an educated, independent woman who is adamantly against getting married and having kids because her own mother died in childbirth, and as a nurse herself she’s seen what horrors are involved in procreation. I’m fine with that! I’m in the “Kids Aren’t For Me” club myself. I knew what to expect given the time period the book is set in, but every time another character told her she should have kids, I ground more enamel off my molars. I had such high hopes for the character at the start. She had such a great intro! Then she sits down with the mysterious girl in her lap and instantly regrets never getting married and having kids. The girl has a similar effect on everyone who touches her, but still. Rita’s personal struggle for the whole book is falling in love and realizing she wants a family but being too afraid of going through childbirth before ultimately deciding it’s worth the risk (after holding someone else’s baby “Not like a nurse. [. . .] Like a mother.” OH HOW MY EYES ROLLED).


(show spoiler)


So anyway, yay for Setterfield with her beautiful prose finally writing a book with a story that interested me. Though I have to admit, after Bellman & Black that bar was really low.

Reading progress update: I've read 34 out of 421 pages.

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield

Me reading The Thirteenth Tale: I really love the gorgeous prose, but I couldn’t give a toss about these characters or the story.


Me reading Bellman & Black: I still love the gorgeous prose, but ye gods, this is boring.


Me at the library: Oh, look! Another Setterfield book. I sure do love her gorgeous prose. Third time’s the charm???

The Dry (Aaron Falk #1)

The Dry - Jane Harper

It was probably a bad idea to read a crime novel set in a dying, drought-stricken, rural Aussie town when half my state is on fire and dozens of non-fictional towns are literally running out of water, but oh well. Can’t blame a four-year-old novel for being painfully relevant to current events. Depression practically oozed off the pages, and I couldn’t help thinking that if Kiewarra were real it would be cinders by now.


Depressing realism aside, I thought this was a well-written novel with a decent mystery and an interesting main character. To clarify, the present-day mystery was decent. The past mystery was a disappointing collection of violence-against-young-women tropes. Still, I’m interested enough to seek out more by Harper. I’m undecided if I want to read the sequel, though. Aaron Falk is an interesting character, but he definitely belongs to the class of crime novel protagonists in desperate need of a good therapist. I don’t know if I want to read a few hundred more pages of him not working through his abandonment issues. I hear Harper’s third book is a standalone and also pretty darn good. Maybe I’ll just skip to that one.

Star Wars: Lando's Luck

Star Wars: Lando''s Luck - Justina Ireland

Not quite as fun for me as Ireland’s other MG Star Wars novel (Spark of the Resistance), but still pretty cute. I’m all for increasing the badass space princess population, and Rinetta definitely steals the show. I’d happily read more of her adventures.

Stars Across the Ocean

Stars Across the Ocean - Kimberley Freeman

This is an entertaining historical novel that hits all the right tropes for me. Agnes Resolute is your typical Victorian pseudo-feminist protagonist. She’s a plucky orphan searching for her long-lost mother, and no matter how rough and sexist the Victorian world is, nothing is going to keep her down. Much adventure (and some romance) ensues. Huzzah!


There wasn’t anything I didn’t like . . . except for the framing device of a present-day woman coming home to take care of her ailing mother and finding a letter written by Agnes’s long-lost mother. Even though the book starts in the present-day woman’s point of view, I never connected with her and I found her chapters to be jarring interruptions. I ended up skimming them. Honestly, I skimmed the letter as well. It’s a bog standard tragic romance, and it wasn’t nearly as interesting as Agnes’s adventures.


In a nutshell: I quite liked Stars Across the Ocean, but I would have liked it even more if Freeman hadn’t tried to pull a Kate Morton and interest me in multiple timelines.

Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance

Spark of the Resistance - Justina Ireland

This is probably the most middle grade of all the MG Star Wars novels I’ve read to date. It’s cute, it’s fun, all the blasters are set to stun (hey, that rhymed!), but the teeth of the larger, more deadly Minfarian fauna are most definitely NOT set to stun, so there’s still a respectable body count. (RIP, dozens of nameless Stormtoopers.)


It was fun to see Rey and Poe butting heads a bit, and I’m always up for more porg content. Also, this book has about 9000% more Rose Tico than The Rise of Skywalker (the movie, not the book, which isn’t out at the time of this review), which I consider a huge benefit. Since the movies are consistently dropping the ball with their most interesting female characters, I appreciate that there are books like this to help pick up the slack.


I feel only slightly let down that the author promising murder bunnies in some of her book promo didn’t net any actual murders committed by bunnies, but this is a middle grade novel and I have to keep things in perspective. So what Disney needs to do is let Ireland write a more adult SW novel so she can REALLY deliver on the murder bunnies. That’s my takeaway. ;)


Hogfather (Discworld, #20) - Terry Pratchett

Near perfection. Minus one star for trying to kill me. (Not really.)


Happy Hogswatch, everyone!


Reading progress update: I've read 368 out of 445 pages.

Hogfather (Discworld, #20) - Terry Pratchett

‘What was a corpse doing in his wardrobe? And no one is to say “Not a lot,” or anythin’ tasteless like that.’

Fun fact: In my copy, ‘What was a corpse doing in his wardrobe?’ is at the bottom of page 367. The next sentence is at the top of page 368. Hand on my heart, after reading the first sentence and before turning the page, I said out loud, “Not much!” And then I read the next line and laughed myself into an asthma attack.

Reading progress update: I've read 226 out of 445 pages.

Hogfather (Discworld, #20) - Terry Pratchett

+++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++

Same, Hex. Same.


Reading progress update: I've read 143 out of 445 pages.

Hogfather (Discworld, #20) - Terry Pratchett

The mother took a deep breath.


‘You can’t give her that!’ she screamed. ‘It’s not safe!’




‘She’s a child!’ shouted Crumley.




‘What if she cuts herself?’



Honestly, you're never too young to learn which parts of a sword are the dangerous bits. Also, this is how I picture little Doreen right now (just pretend that cotton candy cone is a sword):