Review of New Amsterdam, by Elizabeth Bear

I bought a copy of Elizabeth Bear‘s New Amsterdam.

Description from Goodreads:
Abigail Irene Garrett drinks too much. She makes scandalous liaisons with inappropriate men, and if in her youth she was a famous beauty, now she is both formidable and notorious! She is a forensic sorceress, and a dedicated officer of a Crown that does not deserve her loyalty. Sebastien de Ulloa is the oldest creature she has ever known. He has forgotten his birth-name, his birth-place, and even the year in which he was born, if he ever knew it. But he still remembers the woman who made him immortal. In a world where the sun never sets on the British Empire, where Holland finally ceded New Amsterdam to the English only during the Napoleonic wars, and where the expansion of the American colonies was halted by the war magic of the Iroquois, they are exiles in the new world – and its only hope for justice!

This is a hard book to review. The writing is lovely, as are the characters. But I find I didn’t like it much, because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be and I completely disliked the ending. How do you separate that out and be objective in the rating of a book? I don’t know that I can. So, I’ll just reiterate, the writing is lovely, as are the characters.

Review of Earthrise (Her Instruments #1), by M.C.A. Hogarth

I picked M.C.A. Hogarth‘s Earthrise up from Amazon when it was free. It was still free at the time of posting.

Description from Goodreads:
Reese Eddings has enough to do just keeping her rattletrap merchant vessel, the TMS Earthrise, profitable enough to pay food for herself and her micro-crew. So when a mysterious benefactor from her past shows up demanding she rescue a man from slavers, her first reaction is to say “NO!” And then to remember that she sort of promised to repay the loan. But she doesn’t remember signing up to tangle with pirates and slavers over a space elf prince… Book 1 of the Her Instruments trilogy is a rollicking space operatic adventure set in the Pelted Paradox universe.

I’m torn how to feel about this book. It’s easily readable, has an interesting universe and I very much enjoyed all the side characters (including Unpronounceably Named Male Lead). But I never came to like Reese. Not even a little bit. I understood that she wasn’t really meant to be a b*tch, but she was. She was so prickly that she pushed everyone away, even me, the reader. I kept hoping that she’d come around and settle down to likable. After all, there are generally expected arcs that such books usually follow. I sense that this series will too, but it didn’t happen in this book.

I kept thinking and being bothered by the idea that if she was a male captain, no author would have written her to be so coddled by her crew. They’re constantly sending her away when things get intense. The stress of leadership was literally eating a hole in her stomach. And she’s angry all the time, because she can’t express herself any other way.

There was also some uncomfortable language. Hogarth uses food to describe skin tones (admittedly for both black and white characters), which is understably a no-no, and Unpronounceably Named Male Lead thinks of Reese as looking exotic, several times. Which might not be so bad if he wasn’t a white man, her a black woman and they weren’t standing next to cat-people, dog-like people and a talking Phoenix. Kind of sure, being a black woman doesn’t make her the exotic one in those circumstances.

Lastly, the plotting is very linear. Reese is hired to rescue someone. She and her crew go right there and get them. Then she immediately has a medical emergency that they are miraculously on hand to fix and then they just go off on their next adventure. There are no red herrings or diverting paths to liven things up a bit.

Having said that, I appreciate there being a person of color as a lead character, even on the cover, and I was entertained throughout the book. I’d be happy to read another one.

Review of Witch Inheritance (Mackenzie Coven Mystery #1), by Sonia Parin

I downloaded a copy of Sonia Parin‘s Witch Inheritance from Amazon, as a freebie.

Description from Goodreads:
Lexie’s birthday has caught up with her, as have her cousins, Mirabelle Louisa Mackenzie – High Chair of the British Isles and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven – and Catherine Marianna Mackenzie, her down under cousin (If she has a title, she’s not telling her). They’ve been sent to remind Lexie of her family obligations and also to give her a birthday gift. The type she can’t return, refuse or exchange. It’s her heritage and it comes with a job she didn’t even apply for. It’s actually more a way of life than a career and it comes with a snazzy new outfit only her cousins can see. Thank goodness for that…

Not surprisingly, Mirabelle and Catherine Mackenzie are short on details and time to explain. In fact, Lexie has less than two days to brush up on her skills and fly to England… at the blink of an eye. The Mackenzie Coven has been enlisted to assist with a rising concern at House St James. It comes in the shape of an inky black fog Lexie calls the menace. It might not be in corporeal form, but it’s somehow managed to murder one St James family member. Now it’s Lexie’s job to make sure it doesn’t strike again, but she’s fallen under a spell. Suddenly she’s tearing off her beloved denim jeans and Rock Hard t-shirt and donning bespoke designer dresses and sipping ‘delish’ champagne. Even her accent has changed and her cousins can’t do anything about it because a covenant prohibits all three Mackenzie Coven witches from gathering in the house together. They must somehow circumvent the seal and guide Lexie through her first official task as a Mackenzie Coven witch and find the murderer before all the heirs meet their end…

That was…..that was a decent outline of the dialogue for a future book. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it was then fleshed out into an actual novel (or even a novella). It is literally like 80% dialogue, with no world or character building. The reader is dropped into the middle, characters appear and aren’t introduced or explained, the plot make no sense and the narration is cheesy. I mean, the villainous evil is called the “inky black fog.” And while I sense this was meant to be humorous, it wasn’t. Then the climax arrived abruptly and the book ended on a cliffhanger. I will not be continuing the series.