Maybe I just have overly rosy memories of Winter in Sokcho, but this was really…underwhelming. Lots of interesting themes and moments here (I especially loved the ending), but the story was missing those important interstitial bits that make a narrative feel cohesive. I understand that Elisa Shua Dusapin’s writing is like this: that what distinguishes it is precisely that stop-and-start quality that makes every sentence or sentence fragment feel very punctuated and striking. I get that, and at times that quality does work; I don’t need every novel I read to have flowery, lyrical prose. At the same time, though, I feel like where Dusapin’s writing worked for me in Winter in Sokcho, it didn’t quite work for me here. I wanted more from the story, but the writing style seemed to constantly hold me at arm’s length.

Thanks to Restless Books for providing me with an eARC of this via Edelweiss!

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The Genesis of Misery and I didn’t exactly gel together.

On both a narrative and craft level, I struggled with The Genesis of MiseryNarratively, it is just too insular. For almost 50% of the book, the only character that’s developed in any kind of capacity, who we get any insight on, is Misery. During that span of the novel, other characters only exist for Misery to react to: to agree with, or act against, or listen to, or speculate about. They are not, in any real sense of the word, developed characters. It’s only after we get past that first 50-60% of the novel that other characters start making a place for themselves in the narrative (i.e. start actually being developed), but by that point it was just too little too late for me. To put it simply: there weren’t enough developed characters in this novel, and by the time we did get some, it was too rushed and just not enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Misery. She has a very strong narrative voice, a fallibility and a rolling-with-the-punches kind of attitude that makes it easy to be endeared to her. Thing is, we were in her head–and only in her head–for so long. It got to be a little frustrating: I wanted her to do something that wasn’t just thinking or speculating or ruminating or dreaming. It’s why I was desperate for more characters, an opportunity to let us get to know Misery through her interactions with other characters, who could then be developed themselves. Also, none of this was helped by the fact that the plot of the book is very sequential: Misery talks to some people, Misery goes to a new location, Misery trains, Misery does a mission, Misery is given another mission, etc. etc. It made me restless, especially because, like I said, all of this was heavily focused on Misery with very little development from other characters until much later on in the story.

In terms of craft, I struggled a bit with the writing of this novel. On the one hand, I liked how colloquial Misery’s voice was (she swears a lot, uses a lot of slang, etc.), and I also didn’t mind the way Yang incorporated some internet lingo throughout the story (there is, in fact, a “yeet” in this book). The thing about The Genesis of Misery, though, is that it operates on two kinds of registers: the super personal, colloquial one, and the super grandiose, larger-than-life one. At a certain point, some things happen in the book that change Misery’s perspective, and that’s when she starts looking at her world with a much grander scope, and where that grandiose register starts popping up. And it’s not even that I didn’t like it, or that it was badly written–it was just so repetitive. We have to read the same kind of super grandiose, over-the-top language over and over and over again, and frankly it started irritating me by the end of the novel.

The Genesis of Misery was the kind of novel that structurally did not work for me–and that in fact could not have worked for me. A novel whose story is primarily invested in only one character, a novel that only substantially develops that one character, is just not the kind of novel that I, personally, enjoy reading. I’m a reader whose investment lies in the interpersonal moreso than anything, and at the end of the day that’s really what I was missing from The Genesis of Misery.

Thanks so much to Tor for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!

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As soon as I heard that this was inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion I was on board. Alas, this turned out to be just an okay read for me.

On paper, The Hellion and the Hero has all the right ingredients for a great angsty read: it’s a second chance romance, the hero and the heroine met and fell for each other many years prior, and the book begins with them meeting again to investigate some threats that the female lead, Georgiana, has been receiving. Even beyond that, the fact that this is inspired by Persuasion–THE angsty second chance romance that started it all–tells you all that you need to know.

And yet, I just didn’t feel like that angst was there. The Hellion and the Hero played out like a pretty run-of-the-mill romance; I didn’t dislike anything about it per se, but I also wanted it to evoke more from me. As a romance, it just wasn’t emotional enough. I wanted more from the characters: more drama, more development, more conflict. I love second chance romances so much exactly because they make such great setups for angsty, well-developed relationships–and that’s why I was kind of disappointed by this one, in the end. It had all the parts of a really solid romance, but they just didn’t come together in the story’s execution.

All of this makes me sound quite critical of The Hellion and the Hero, but in all honesty I didn’t dislike this book; it’s certainly not bad in any way. At this point, I would mention some examples of things from the book that I enjoyed–thing is, The Hellion and the Hero just wasn’t memorable enough for me to able to do that. There weren’t any particular scenes or lines from it that really stood out to me. What I will say about it, then, is that it’s a quick read, great if you want a historical romance set in a more unconventional time period (early 1900s London, but also Monte Carlo).

Altogether, I can’t help but come away from The Hellion and the Hero feeling disappointed because I know that Emily Sullivan can write angst. I adored A Rogue to Remember, the first book in this series, precisely because it was so deliciously angsty. That being said, I’m definitely going to continue to read anything that Emily Sullivan releases in the future; her writing is really promising, and I’m hoping that I’m able to read another book of hers that makes me feel as much as A Rogue to Remember did.

Thanks so much to Forever for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!

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