BOOK REVIEW: The Earl Next Door, by Amelia Grey

BOOK REVIEW: The Earl Next Door, by Amelia GreyTitle: The Earl Next Door by Amelia Grey
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Published: May 28th 2019
Genres: Romance
Pages: 294
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

What does a Wickedly Wonderful Widow really want? One noble suitor is about to find out. . .

Adeline, Dowager Countess of Wake, is all on her own after her husband’s sudden death. The good news? Losing him allowed her to find herself. Finally, Adeline is free to do, go, and be as she pleases. She cherishes her newfound independence and is not looking for another man to wed. But seeking out a new lover? Well, that is a whole ’nother story. . .

Lord Lyon, son of the two-timing Earl of Marksworth, wishes to have a respectable, loving wife someday. When he meets the beautiful and self-reliant Adeline, Lyon is instantly smitten. But Adeline would rather have the handsome suitor in her bed than to take his hand in marriage. It’s a scandalous proposal—and one that’s hard for Lyon to refuse. Unless the fire of his passion can melt Adeline’s resolve. . .and he can find a way to be the Wickedly Wonderful Widow’s lover for all time?

Only within the last year or so have I started reading romance, and I fully admit to having a lot of biases associated with the genre for the longest time until, you know, I actually started reading it and following some romance writers on Twitter and realizing there’s a lot more to the genre than I expected. Much in the same way I read fantasy to be delighted by magic systems and a subversive reality and science fiction to explore strange and familiar worlds, the romance I’ve read has offered a little swoon-worthy escape from the drudgery of every day. And since I tend to gravitate toward historical romance, I get to enjoy the commentary and dives into women’s spheres while escaping for a little bit.

Amelia Grey’s The Earl Next Door is about Adeline, Dowager Countess of Wake, who lost her husband at sea. Her two friends, also widows, have joined with her to open up a school for young girls who have also lost family members at sea. Her next door neighbor, Lord Lyon, Earl of Marksworth, first assumes she is running a house of ill-repute and then is later rudely awakened and frustrated by the house of school-aged girls disturbing his mid-morning sleep.This sets off the attraction, sparks, and tension between Adeline and Lyon that continues through the rest of the book.

I thought it was an easy, fun read, and perfect for a week that was more than a little stressful! To me, the ending was a little contrived, but ultimately it works with the story itself, and I’m curious to see how the rest of the series pans out because I loved Adeline’s two friends so much!

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an advance review copy! All opinions are my own!

BOOK REVIEW: Rouge, by Richard Kirshenbaum

BOOK REVIEW: Rouge, by Richard KirshenbaumTitle: Rouge by Richard Kirshenbaum
Published by St. Martin's Press
Published: June 25th 2019
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

Like Swans of Fifth Avenue and Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers, Richard Kirshenbaum's Rouge gives readers a rare front row seat into the world of high society and business through the rivalry of two beauty industry icons (think Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden), by the master marketer and chronicler of the over-moneyed. Rouge is a sexy, glamorous journey into the rivalry of the pioneers of powder, mascara and rouge.

This fast-paced novel examines the lives, loves, and sacrifices of the visionaries who invented the modern cosmetics industry: Josiah Herzenstein, born in a Polish Jewish Shtlel, the entrepreneur who transforms herself into a global style icon and the richest woman in the world, Josephine Herz; Constance Gardiner, her rival, the ultimate society woman who invents the door-to-door business and its female workforce but whose deepest secret threatens everything; CeeCee Lopez, the bi-racial beauty and founder of the first African American woman’s hair relaxer business, who overcomes prejudice and heartbreak to become her community’s first female millionaire. The cast of characters is rounded out by Mickey Heron, a dashing, sexy ladies' man whose cosmetics business is founded in a Hollywood brothel. All are bound in a struggle to be number one, doing anything to get there…including murder.

Kirshenbaum’s Rouge follows the fictional lives of Josiah Herzenstein, who reinvents herself as Josephine Herz, and Constance Gardiner who are vying for the limelight in the booming cosmetics industry in the 1920s,1930s, and beyond. In chapters of alternating perspectives, we get glimpses into the lives of Herz, Gardiner, Cee Cee, and Mickey. Kirshenbaum’s knowledge of business and the ruthless behind-the-scenes behavior between Herz and Gardiner are spot on and engaging. I liked the history woven into the story, illuminating the financial and personal struggles of the women and their businesses and showing how they persevered through the ups and downs of life.

Rouge is a fast-paced read that carries you along from start to finish. I read it in a single day, and lately it’s been rare that I’ve been compelled to start and finish something within the same day. The novel covers a lot of ground and manages to tie the lives of these two rivals together in a breezy narrative perfect for a summer beach read.

Because the novel covered so much history of the women and the business empires they created, I felt like I wanted more of the women’s personal spheres: how they felt wearing their creations, how they felt when they noticed other women wearing their creations, their private moments, and something a bit more grounded in the day-to-day. I think having more of those personal, intimate moments of some gravity would have added a lot more enjoyable weight to the story.

If you are interested in the intersection of business and creativity, especially in the beauty industry, definitely look into this book!

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a review copy! All opinions are my own.

Waiting on Wednesday, YA SFF edition!

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme originally hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine (though it seems as though it’s been a while since she updated that particular blog, so if you know of the current host, if there is one, please let me know) that highlights upcoming releases that we’re impatiently waiting for. This week I’m highlighting some new/upcoming YA SFF books that I can’t wait to read!

INTO THE CROOKED PLACE – ALEXANDRA CHRISTO

Even though I still haven’t read To Kill a Kingdom, Alexandra Christo’s upcoming gangster fantasy about a girl “who delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.” Sign me up! This releases October 8, 2019!

THE MAGNOLIA SWORD – SHERRY THOMAS

I love reimaginings of popular stories, and a Mulan retelling?? Yes, please. I have Sherry Thomas’s Charlotte Holmes series on my TBR right now (sensing a theme here…), and I’ve heard such good things about her writing. I’m excited to read her version of Mulan! It’s out September 10, 2019!

THE MERCIFUL CROW – MARGARET OWEN

All of this just sounds amazing, and I’m so here for more crows and bird-related imagery in fantasy. Crows especially bring up the imagery of cunning darkness, so I’m hoping for that to be reflected in this and the next title! It releases July 30, 2019!

THE STORM CROW – KALYN JOSEPHSON

Elemental, magical crows? Sisters? Taking back what was taken from them? Yes, thank you. This comes out July 9, 2019.

WAR GIRLS – TOCHI ONYEBUCHI

Bionic limbs, post-nuclear disaster survival, political unrest, and two sisters who dream of more. This cover looks amazing, and I’m here for the intersection of humanity and mech and hope for a better future.

Are any of these on your radar? What are you looking forward to reading in the upcoming months?

FIRST CHAPTER, FIRST PARAGRAPH: Rouge, by Richard Kirshenbaum

First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday is hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea! Today I’m featuring Rouge by Richard Kirshenbaum, sent to me by St. Martin’s Press for review! Rouge is a fictional account of the first women to build major corporations in America based upon their own creations – namely beauty products. The novel follows four main characters who are all intertwined with each other throughout the decades as business and profits grow while personal lives become more and more entangled with personal and professional rivalries. I’ll have a full review posted next week, so keep your eyes out for that, but for now, enjoy this little sneak peak!

 

New York City, 1933

A Technicolor sky hung over the city even though it was only early May. At times, even New York City seemed to have caught the bug. The pear trees that bloomed like white fireworks every April may as well have sprouted palm trees. Everyone, it seemed, had just stepped out of a Garbo movie, and Josephine Herz (née Josiah Herzenstein) would be damned if she would not capitalize on this craze.

A young, well-kept woman was the first to grace her newly opened, eponymous salon on Fifth Avenue. With bleached-blond “marcelled” hair, a substantial bust, and a mouth that looked as though it had been carved from a pound of chopped meat, her new client had all the ammunition to entrap any man in the city, to keep him on the dole, and her cosmetic hygienist, in this case Herz Beauty, on the payroll. She lowered herself onto the padded leather salon chair like a descending butterfly and batted her eyes as though they too might flutter from her face.

I’ve taken this from the actual first chapter, rather than the prologue, and included a bit more than just the first paragraph. What do you think? Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a complimentary review copy! Stay tuned for a full review next week!

MONTHLY WRAP UP: MAY 2019

Hello, reader friends! I haven’t done a monthly wrap up in literally forever, so I thought now that we’re halfway through the year, I’d start doing it again! (Please note the mild case of sarcasm and self-loathing in the previous sentence…) May ended up being a really great reading month, and I read twelve books! I also updated my personal book bullet journal and realized I set up some challenges for myself that I don’t know if I ever announced on my blog, so I’ll be writing a little bit about those and giving a status update. Sometimes I think publicly making some kind of announcement/commitment is the only way I’ll follow through with half the things I want to do… so anyway, without further adieu, here’s the list of books I read in May!

  1. Star Wars: Poe Dameron, v.1: Black Squadron – Chris Soule (purchased) – 4/5 stars
  2. A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do – Pete Fromm (arc from publisher) – 4/5 stars
  3. Exhalation – Ted Chiang (arc from work) – 5/5 stars
  4. Work Optional – Tanja Hester (finished copy from publisher) – 3/5 stars
  5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Fred Rogers (e-arc from publisher/Netgalley) – 5/5 stars
  6. The Unquiet Heart – Kaite Welsh (e-arc from publisher/Netgalley) – 4/5 stars
  7. Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell (finished copy/borrowed) – 4/5 stars
  8. Wicked and the Wallflower – Sarah MacLean (finished copy/borrowed) – 4/5 stars
  9. Descendant of the Crane – Joan He (purchased) – 4/5 stars
  10. Bibliophile – Jane Mount (purchased) – 4/5 stars
  11. Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane (finished copy from publisher) – 4/5 stars
  12. The Kingdom – Jess Rothenberg (arc from work) – 4/5 stars

The average rating for my May books is 4.08/5! I think I put some half stars here and there in my blog reviews, but I’m going off of my Goodreads ratings for this average. I think I had a decent reading month! It didn’t feel like I read a lot, but so far May is the month with the most reads!

I’ve really been enjoying blogging more as it makes me feel more accomplished about what I’m doing with my reading, but I definitely want to stay in the groove of posting 3-5 times a week (or more). I also want to start posting on Instagram more, and last week I took a ton of photos to use for this month and next month. I’m going to try taking more this week just so I can have a steady backlog, and I might see about using Planoly to help with keeping a nice “grid” and to help with reminders to post. I have a scatterbrain, and sometimes I just don’t remember unless I have a reminder. Setting up with Planoly might help as I can use my laptop to type out captions and all that jazz, and that’s so much easier to do than with a phone keyboard… I also will be updating some of the pages on the blog and maybe adding the challenge lists I have in my book journal so I can keep track here as well!

Last year, I set up some yearly challenges for me to follow through with, and I did about half of them. I wanted to read twelve Star Wars books (I read four), twelve Star Trek books (I read zero), twelve “classics” (I read three and then included the eighty Penguin Little Black Classics in increments of 10 to account for most of them; I ended up “reading” eleven by that justification), twelve non-fiction (I read twelve!), and twelve science fiction books (I read eight). I also tried to do 30 days of 30 short stories, but I just sort of stopped around story fifteen. I think it’s because I didn’t mention anywhere that I was doing it, and I had no follow up publicly with myself over it. Overall, and especially considering I read eighty of those Little Black Classics, I think I did all right.

This year, however, I want to read twelve Hugo/Nebula award winners to tie in with #sffreverb (of which I’ve severely let myself down with across the board and have only read one), twelve romance (last year I got into the genre a lot, and I want to read more; I’ve read one so far), twelve NYRB Classics (I’ve read zero), twelve classics (I’ve read zero), twelve historical fiction (I’ve read five), and twelve YA (I buy so much of it but I haven’t read much of it at all, especially last year?? Why am I like this? I’ve read five so far). These are the official lists I have in my book bullet journal, but I also “unofficially” want to read more middle grade, works by LGBTQIA+ writers, works by marginalized writers, and non-fiction books about space/astronauts/the space race (it’s been fifty years since the moon landing?? ahh). One of these days I’ll make a post of my book bullet journal and the lists I’ve made myself, so you can see that!

I also did Whole30 during May, and it helped me realize a lot about my eating habits in general. Reintroduction has been fine, so I’m also happy I don’t seem to have any sensitivities to food. I just need to keep instilling those better eating habits!

In June, I’m not going to give myself a set TBR. I have a lot going on, and I’m just going to read on a whim (with exceptions to review copies that I want to have reviews done for on time) and work on whittling down my Netgalley queue and my physical TBR. It’s summertime now, and I should have a less structured month! (But let’s be real, most of my reading months are entirely unstructured…)

How was your reading May? What are you going to do for June?