The Woman in the Mirror

“Rotten, stinking, hated love. Love is for fools, bound for hell.” –The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Rebecca James

(3.85 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Historic / Gothic

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: March 17, 2020, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 324 (Kindle version)

#TheWomanInTheMirror #WomanInTheMirror #RebeccaJames


Shadows crawl over the moors, spreading dark against dark. Their torches dance, lit from the fire at the barn. Burn her! Drown her!

Full disclosure, I read this ARC way back in March, but I’m just now getting around to reviewing it on the blog. Please do not read anything negative into my delay. Chalk it up, instead, to just being wholly and entirely distracted by Covid-19 and having to quickly relocate from my office at work to my home office around the same time as I was reading this book. But let’s get into it now…

Governess Alice Miller loves Winterbourne the moment she sees it. Towering over the Cornish cliffs, its dark corners and tall turrets promise that, if Alice can hide from her ghosts anywhere, it’s here.
And who better to play hide and seek with than twins Constance and Edmund? Angelic and motherless, they are perfect little companions.
2018
Adopted at birth, Rachel’s roots are a mystery. So, when a letter brings news of the death of an unknown relative, Constance de Grey, Rachel travels to Cornwall, vowing to uncover her past.
With each new arrival, something in Winterbourne stirs. It’s hiding in the paintings. It’s sitting on the stairs.

It’s waiting in a mirror, behind a locked door.


There was nobody for miles around, just her, the house, and the wide sprawling sea. But she wasn’t afraid. It simply didn’t occur to her to be afraid.

Somehow that blurb doesn’t quite do this book the proper justice. It doesn’t completely make me want to grab this book and start voraciously reading – which is exactly what you should do.

I finished it in one sitting – a rarity for me with any book, even ones that I eventually rate 5 stars. The Woman in the Mirror was just that intriguing! What will sell me on a book faster than almost anything else? Atmosphere. And this book has LOADS of it!

I am different. Winterbourne knows I am different. This house is my salvation.

It’s a Gothic creeper featuring a spooky house, eerie twins, and shadowy events that can’t be explained using common sense occurring along a dual timeline (1947 and 2018). Set on the foggy Cornwell coast, this story will drag you into its dark secrets right from the prologue.

I really enjoyed this march into madness from the POV of likable, but not entirely trustworthy main characters. I was actually surprised that the book captivated me as much as it did, as quickly as it did. It was that good.

But it was our fault she ended up like that. We drove her to it. Did she really lose her mind? Or did we steal it from her?

This is the book that I really wanted The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware to be – authentically moody and creepy with an underlying ominous tone that didn’t seem forced or manufactured. It didn’t pan out for that book, but this one gives me everything I was lacking from that other reading experience. This book is a ghost story, a forbidden romance, and a witch hunt all wrapped into one deliciously tragic tale. You should definitely read it!



Rebecca James

Rebecca James worked in publishing for several years before leaving to write full-time, and is now the author of several novels written under a pseudonym, as well as The Woman in the Mirror under her own name. Her favorite things are autumn walks, Argentinean red wine and curling up in the winter with a good old-fashioned ghost story. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two daughters. -bio from US.Macmillan.com


The Unsuitable

“A girl never stops needing her mother.” –The Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Henry Holt & Co, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Molly Pohlig

(3.72 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Historic / Gothic

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 14, 2020, by Henry Holt & Co

Trigger Warnings: cutting, self-harm, suicide, abuse

Pages: 288 (Kindle version)

#TheUnsuitable #Unsuitable #MollyPohlig


Iseult realized that the actual madness would be to live by the rules of the rest of the world.

You’ve read Victorian fiction before (most likely). Many of you may list it as one of your faves and may have instantly thought of books by any of the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, or George Eliot. You’re imagining full skirts with petticoats, and dapper gentlemen with calling cards. This is that, and just a wee bit more. Let’s read the blurb…

Iseult Wince is a Victorian woman perilously close to spinsterhood whose distinctly unpleasant father is trying to marry her off. She is awkward, plain, and most pertinently, believes that her mother, who died in childbirth, lives in the scar on her neck.
Iseult’s father parades a host of unsuitable candidates before her, the majority of whom Iseult wastes no time frightening away. When at last her father finds a suitor desperate enough to take Iseult off his hands—a man whose medical treatments have turned his skin silver—a true comedy of errors ensues.
As history’s least conventional courtship progresses into talk of marriage, Iseult’s mother becomes increasingly volatile and uncontrollable, and Iseult is forced to resort to extreme, often violent, measures to keep her in check.
As the day of the wedding nears, Iseult must decide whether (and how) to set the course of her life, with increasing interference from both her mother and father, tipping her ever closer to madness, and to an inevitable, devastating final act.


She wanted to go on unnoticed, unbothered, unperturbed. But her time was up.

Now, you’ve read the blurb and you think that you are ready for anything that Molly Pohlig throws at you, right? You are so, so wrong, my friend.

You are not ready for the oddity of having one of the main characters be a semi-corporeal dead woman, you are not ready for a silver man to appear as one of the more normal characters, you are not ready for the level of confusion and bitterness that exists within Iseult, and you are not even ready to deal with learning to say her name correctly throughout the entire book ( it’s “Ee-soolt”, by the way).

What young man wants a wife who loathes him, and whom he loathes in return?

I have read some odd books in my day. Most of them have been stories that came across through NetGalley or through a free ARC of some sort. Many of them have charmed me and eventually won me over in the end. Others have left me feeling blank, confused, and like I’ve wasted hours of my valuable time. And then there are books like The Unsuitable. It’s difficult to come to grips with a book where so much is happening that falls just left of center. But oh, you want to absorb it all and relate and grasp it all!

Full disclosure: I put the blame on you, but maybe it’s just me who was slightly unprepared. There is no way I would have known that the disembodied voice of someone’s nagging mother wouldn’t read more funny! Instead, it is a dark and not-so-subtle reminder about the importance of mental health and a strong family support system. Iseult had neither.

You do not get to win…you get to live… you do not get to do both.

So this one was difficult to rate, if I’m being honest. It’s a debut novel, so you feel that just a little as you’re reading through; however, it isn’t annoyingly amateur at all. This is a novel with depth and dark humor, an unreliable narrator, and questionable reality. If things like that are your jam, then you are in the best luck of your life, my friend!



Molly Pohlig

Molly Pohlig graduated from James Madison University with a BA in English, and from University College Dublin with an MA in Film Studies. She is the associate editor for Vogue Knitting magazine, and has written humorous pieces and personal essays for Slate, The Toast, Racked, and The Hairpin. -bio from US.Macmillan.com


Blog Tour | Sunrise on Half Moon Bay

Blog Tour | “Sometimes the happiness we’re looking for has been there all along…” –Sunrise On Half Moon Bay

**Many thanks to Harlequin/MIRA and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Robyn Carr

(4.24 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 14, 2020, by Harlequin / MIRA Books

Pages: 336 (Kindle version)

#SunriseOnHalfMoonBay #RobynCarr #MIRABooks


It’s just that I’m so careful about what I let myself feel because I’m afraid I might crack. And if I crack, I might collapse and never get up again.

This pandemic is teaching us a lot. I don’t think I’m only speaking for myself when I say that we are learning to appreciate the little things more. We are longing for what we considered to be normal. We are hoping to return to what we were used to before the world effectively stopped.

But that’s the thing about big changes; you almost never go back to the way things were beforehand, at least not completely. Addie and Justine – sisters who are each experiencing big life changes – are learning this the hard way. Let’s check out the blurb:

Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don’t really know each other. When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.
Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.
Neither woman knows how to start life over but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.


Real love can be a little boring sometimes. Or at least not so pretty.

Sometimes, like the global pandemic we’re all experiencing right now, big changes happen very quickly. Other times, change is very slow. It creeps up on you and surprises you when you’re least expecting it. Either way, your response to life-altering events will shape your immediate and long-term future.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay demonstrates that beautifully. The two main characters both manage their changes in different ways, but their resilience and fortitude in the face of tough decisions and major setbacks can certainly encourage us today irl.

… living well is the best revenge.

As you know by now, I try to be honest and fair in my reviews. If I love a book, you won’t get me to stop gushing about it. If I don’t care for it, I’ll say that, but I will always try to find the silver linings.
While this book won’t be one of my faves for the year, I think it’s an important read for those who have experienced the things these sisters do. Starting life over after having others depend on you exclusively for their well-being, or rebuilding a life after someone you love betrays that trust and commitment – both situations can be daunting and scary. These are common themes and relatable for so many. Carr’s writing speaks to those issues and offers the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel; lemonade for life’s bitter lemons.

I hope you and your family are managing the pandemic and quarantine well. I hope you are finding some zen in the midst of all the turmoil and that you are also finding some very good books to read!


Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is available now at any of the following retailers:


Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at http://www.RobynCarr.com.


Sin Eater

“No curse can harm me. I am a curse.” –Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Megan Campisi

(3.94 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fantasy Historical Fiction

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 7, 2020, by Atria Books

Pages: 304 (Kindle version)

#SinEater #MeganCampisi


Don’t I know by now that folk see their sins in the way they choose?

This is a book perfect for times such as this. Not just because we’re all stuck inside and we can finally read more of the books on our TBR that have been waiting patiently for us to find the time for them. But also because… well, I’ll tell you why, but let’s check out the blurb first…

For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven.
Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.


…the more you live, the more the sinner and the saint can’t be pulled apart. All of us just getting by.

So, that’s the blurb – only, I don’t like that blurb entirely. It doesn’t tell the whole story. And believe me, I know how that sounds. It’s a blurb, for the whole story you would read the book. The blurb gives us the high points, but May’s story is about so much more.

It’s the story about how lives can change in the blink of an eye. We can all relate to that right now. It’s also the story about making the best of those changes and creating a life out of the nothingness that some circumstances bring. Events are happening all around May that she has absolutely no control over. They cause her to grow up fast and to make certain decisions to preserve her own life. If that isn’t a book for today, then I don’t know what is.

I don’t know how to sort this mess. The ways I’ve tried have only put me in danger.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is fantasy historical fiction and expertly done. The action begins almost immediately and doesn’t slow. Well, I don’t mean like car chases or epic battles; this action was a game of survival and a battle of wits. This is May’s war – a little girl against her world.

This isn’t the rosy story of a cute little girl rising above her troubles on the wings of a magnetic personality and some dedicated friends. No. This is more like a pariah being stripped of everything that makes sense to her who is then only offered hell and chooses to survive through it all by any means necessary. It is dark, it is creepy, it’s about eating food over a corpse. That’s not a pleasant subject, but it is a really good book!



Megan Campisi

Megan Campisi is a playwright, novelist and teacher. Her plays have performed in China, France and the United States. She has been a forest ranger, sous chef in Paris and a physical theater specialist around the world. Originally from California, she attended Yale University and the L’École International de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family. -bio from Goodreads


One Perfect Summer

“She’d promised herself one precious summer, and she was going to have it.” -One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

**Many thanks to NetGalley, MIRA Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Brenda Novak

(4.35 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 7, 2020, by MIRA Books

Pages: 464 (Kindle version)

#OnePerfectSummer #BrendaNovak


They’d gotten to know each other on a level they couldn’t have any other way – had become real sisters – while staying in this beautiful place.

Three women discover that life has more than a few surprises in store as they discover each other as sisters, as women, and as friends. Let’s check out the blurb…

When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for 23andMe, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.
The women decide to dig into the mystery together at Serenity’s family cabin in Lake Tahoe. With Reagan navigating romantic politics at work and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the past and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie. But any future is easier to face with family by your side.


…any future is easier to face with family by your side.

As this title suggests, this book is best read during the summer, especially if you happen to be spending time at a lake or a beach!
It’s a light and easy read with an underlying mystery that will have you turning pages to get to the bottom of.

If you’re already a Brenda Novak fan, then you already know what to expect from her writing and her characters. You know how she connects a good story with enticing romance. You get both with her latest release.

Brenda Novak is a pro in this genre, and she knows how to write relationships. I guess that’s why I wanted so much more direct interaction between the sisters themselves. They fell into a respectful togetherness from the beginning, but it would have been nice to see their family relationship grow with each other even more throughout the story.

Also, can I just mention (carefully – without spoiling anything!) that each sister’s life drama could really have been a standalone book for each of them. Especially Lorelei’s story; oh man!

All in all, this is a book about acceptance, forgiveness, and rediscovery. It may include very specific triggers for those who have dealt with infidelity; however, those triggers become valuable life lessons for the characters and lead them into the next stages of their relationships.


Get an Autographed Copy of One Perfect Summer

Also available on Audio!



Brenda Novak

Brenda Novak, a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, has penned over sixty novels. She is a five-time nominee for the RITA Award and has won the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookbuyer’s Best, and many other awards. -bio from publisher


The Tenant

“Writing a murder mystery is like trying to braid a spiderweb, thousands of threads stick to your fingers and break if you don’t keep your focus.” -The Tenant

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Scout Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Katrine Engberg

(3.67 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: January 14, 2020, by Scout Press

Pages: 368 (Kindle version)

#TheTenant #KatrineEngberg


Sound is equivalent to life, except when the sound is a doorbell bearing bad news, then sound is equivalent to death.

We’ve all heard the saying that art imitates life. Is it true, and is it equally true the other way around? I think a solid argument for either is demonstrated very well in The Tenant. Here’s the blurb…

When a young woman is discovered brutally murdered in her own apartment, with an intricate pattern of lines carved into her face, Copenhagen police detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner are assigned to the case. In short order, they establish a link between the victim, Julie Stender, and her landlady, Esther de Laurenti, who’s a bit too fond of drink and the host of raucous dinner parties with her artist friends. Esther also turns out to be a budding novelist—and when Julie turns up as a murder victim in the still-unfinished mystery she’s writing, the link between fiction and real life grows both more urgent and more dangerous.
But Esther’s role in this twisted scenario is not quite as clear as it first seems. Is she the culprit—or just another victim, trapped in a twisted game of vengeance? Anette and Jeppe must dig more deeply into the two women’s pasts to discover the identity of the brutal puppet-master pulling the strings in this electrifying literary thriller.


A lack of evidence and divergent theories are not the optimum combination for solving a crime.

I started out loving this book. There’s just something about Scandinavian crime-fighters that piques my morbid interest. We’ve got Danish backdrops, imperfect main characters, a grisly murder, and a killer who is going off the rails. Can it get any better? The jury’s still out on that.

Although I do consider this a good series debut for Anette and Jeppe’s characters, somewhere in the middle the wheels fell off. Were there too many suspects? Too much internal conversation? Too much of not enough? I can’t precisely put my finger on it, but whatever it was, it made a good book just not quite click for me.

The second we die, we become someone’s job. In some ways a crime scene is reminiscent of a theater production. A web of silent agreement that, taken altogether, makes up a whole. On cue.

Ultimately, I gave this book a star and a half for captivating character development in Jeppe, a star for the excellent first few chapters, and a star for the future potential of this police procedural/detective series. I wouldn’t mind reading more about these characters as long as the plots stay original and the action doesn’t drag.

Oh, and let’s learn more about Anette’s backstory next time!


Katrine Engberg

A former dancer and choreographer with a background in television and theater, Katrine Engberg has launched a groundbreaking career as a novelist with the publication of The Tenant. She is now one of the most widely read and beloved crime authors in Denmark.


April ARCs Spotlight

⇒Shining a spotlight on just a few book requests I’ve received in 2019!⇐

When I started That New Book Smell over a year ago, one thing I didn’t count on is the amount of review requests I would receive. At first, I really did try to respond to each and every person/publisher that contacted me, I soon found that it was overwhelming. And while I am extremely flattered that authors would value my opinions about their valuable works, it would be an insurmountable task to read every book requested of me.

So, I thought it would be good to at least shine a spotlight on some of the books that have landed in my inbox. This does not mean that I will never give these books a full review, it just means that these are a few that have caught my interest and I think they deserve more exposure and more readers!


Fate Came Calling

Author: Kurt Bryan

Nonfiction / Biography / Adventure

Warren Vest was unexpectedly chosen to transport a new species of animal to a continent on the other side of the world. His remarkable journey led to a series of events that altered the course of his life from farming to becoming an incredible pilot and airline executive.

Details: 378 pgs; Published March 21, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

fatecamecalling.com #fatecamecalling #AprilARCs


Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick

Author: William Harris

Science-Fiction

A science mission to investigate the planet Sworld goes wrong and the crew are marooned with no way to get home. As they explore their new home, they meet new species, discover a sentient forest that reveals a quest, and ultimately face off against the Gliders – an ancient race who have turned to violence and aggression.

Details: 458 pgs; Published date: May 3, 2019 by Chandra Press (Available on Amazon)

#Sworld #AprilARCs Sworld: The Chronicles of Malick


A Perfect Lie

Author: L. R. Jones

Mystery / Thriller

I am Hailey Anne Monroe. I’m twenty-eight years old. An artist, who found her muse on the canvas because I wasn’t allowed to have friends or even keep a journal. And yes, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m that Hailey Anne Monroe, daughter to Thomas Frank Monroe, the man who was a half-percentage point from becoming President of the United States. If you were able to ask him, he’d probably tell you that I was the half point. But you can’t ask him, and he can’t tell you. He’s dead. They’re all dead and now I can speak.

Details: Publish date: May 14, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

#theperfectlie #AprilARCs


Coda

Author: Keith Knapp

Horror

After a devastating earthquake hits Los Angeles, a group of survivors find themselves whisked away to a place known only as The Town. It is there that they will face their inner-most demons and relics of the past as they try to find a way out and back to reality. But an evil presence awaits them there. It knows their fears, their sins and their lies and will do anything to keep them right where they are.

Details: 426 pgs; Published March 13, 2019 (Available on Amazon)

#Coda #AprilARCs Coda on Goodreads


Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza

Author: Kitty Felde

Middle Grade Mystery

Legend has it anyone who sees the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill will be cursed with bad luck. 10-year-old Fina Medoza just saw it. And the last thing her family needs right now is more bad luck… The only way for Fina to save her family from future “cat”astrophe? She must solve the mystery of the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill.

Details: 182 pgs; Published February 28, 2019 by Black Rose Writing

#Welcometowashingtonfinamendoza #AprilARCs Website


Whether you’re a reader, a blogger, or both, I encourage you to explore books published by independent publishers. I know that books by established authors and popular publishing houses may feel new and shiny, but there are some amazing gems to be found in the indie world (and, apparently, right in my inbox)!


Restoration Heights

⇒He was the last person to see her alive and he has to find out what happened to her, but why doesn’t anyone else seem to care? ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Hanover Squre Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Wil Medearis

(3.44 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle Version

Published January 22, 2019, by Harlequin Enterprises / Hanover Square Press

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

#RestorationHeights


Because Restoration Heights had a bottomless appetite… [it] craved, finally, a murder, if not hers then yours, anyone, a body to consecrate the ground.


I have visited New York as a tourist: wide-eyed, with a camera, trying to see everything, eat everything, and learn everything that a born-and-raised southerner should know about the Big Apple (including that it’s really lame to still call it the Big Apple). Although I left NY generally unimpressed and wondering what all the hype is about – we have great Italian restaurants in Atlanta too! – I do respect the energy of that city and of the people determined to survive there.

Main character, Reddick’s, mysterious run-in with a female stranger and how distinctly that one night changes his life and perception is one of those “New York minutes” that will drag you – willingly – into the depths of a city and lifestyle the travel agent wouldn’t dare include on the brochure.

Here’s the blurb (courtesy of Goodreads): Reddick, a young, white artist, lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a historically black Broooklyn neighborhood besieged by gentrification. He makes rent as an art handler hanging expensive works for Manhattan’s one percent, and spends his free time playing basketball at the local Y rather than putting energy into his stagnating career. He is also the last person to see Hannah before she disappears. When Hannah’s fiance, scion to an old-money Upper East Side family, refuses to call the police, Reddick sets out to learn for himself what happened to her. The search gives him a sense of purpose pulling him through a dramatic cross section of the city he never knew existed. The truth of Hannah’s fate is buried at the heart of a many-layered mystery that, in its unraveling, shakes Reddick’s convictions and lays bare the complicated machinations of money and power that connect the magisterial town houses of the Upper Eat Side to the unassuming brownstones of Bed-Stuy.


The truth exists, but your ability to perceive it depends upon the assumptions you begin with.

I am being totally honest when I say that this book surprised me. Frankly, I didn’t expect it to be good. That was just my first impression, “Ugh, another book about a missing girl in New York. Blah blah, blah.” Thank you for proving me wrong, Wil Medearis!

Instead of the same-old same-old, I was treated to an evenly-paced mystery that stealthily wraps commentary about gentrification, racial bias, and inexcusable economic gaps around a thrilling plot that is not a bit cookie-cutter.

The story is headlined by a likable, imperfect, and complex protagonist whose ping-ponging grit and naivete equally made me cheer and cringe throughout. And this, dear “other authors”, is how you make a character who, in general, has absolutely nothing in common with me personally, relatable in a more personal way. Take notes.

…if I didn’t think this was important that a life was at stake, I wouldn’t be here right now.

I also noticed that Wil Medearis can really write! OK, see this as a blatant generalization, but often male authors’ prose lacks poetry! There is no true rhythm to it – no ebb and flow. They state facts and describe action, but there’s often no scenery, no scene-setting, and no reference to the “emotions” of the space around the characters’ actions.

Not so with Mr. Medearis. And who would actually expect poetry in a novel based in Bed-Stuy? But check out this short excerpt – this is exactly how an artist would view his city:

He put his coat on and left. The afternoon was already darkening, the day spent before he could use it. The sky and the hardened snow were an identical humming lavender, the townhouse windows seeped orange like cracks in the shell of winter.

Just that one sentence makes my little reader’s heart all kinds of happy!

There was meaning in the contours, the outlines a unity of shape and intent, facts that could be shimmied into being by proximity, by the tug of two-dimensional gravity. If he could just get the shapes right he could find her.

Thank you, Wil Medearis, for writing this book, for making it a captivating read, for not being preachy while you taught me about gentrification, and for naming your main character Reddick (enough Jacks and Maxs and Duncans, thank you). And for giving me a story that I can both rate and recommend highly to all of my reader friends and family.


Preview this book here: Restoration Heights (courtesy of Google Books)

Wil Medearis

Wil Medearis holds an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania. His artwork has been featured in galleries in Richmond, Philadelphia and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He has worked as an adjunct professor, tended bar at a country club, refinished furniture for an antiques dealer and hung art inside the homes of some of the wealthiest art collectors in Manhattan. Restoration Heights is his first novel. –Bio from Google Books


Blog Tour | The Girls at 17 Swann Street

⇒I am so excited to join the blog tour for The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib. What a great way to mark the very first blog tour for That New Book Smell! ⇐


Author: Yara Zgheib

(4.08 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Contemporary Adult Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publish Date: February 5, 2019

Pages: 384

#TheGirlsat17SwannStreet #Girlsat17SwannStreet #17SwannStreet


They look androgynous, their skin hanging in loose pockets around fragile frames. Not women; women have bodies, sex, lives, dinner, families. The patients in this room are girls with eyes that are too big.


In middle school, the health teacher crowded us into a room, pulled down the well-worn screen at the front, cut the lights off and turned on the projector (yes, the projector!). The class was giggling with nervousness – expecting more gross-out pics of genital warts or scabies; health class gave us conversation fodder for weeks!

Instead, what we saw was an educational film on the types of eating disorders, their symptoms, and treatments. Almost from the first pictures the room was silent. No giggling. No whispering. No side-comments of any kind. The pictures were arresting. And horrifying. And sad. I remember that health class and its impact on me. I was skinny back then and could eat anything I wanted without repercussions (oh, the days!). It never occurred to me that there were people who saw themselves as overweight even when they were far from it, and that eating disorders were about so much more than eating.

I am not undernourished. I am starved for a meal I would not have to eat alone. For someone to love me and tell me that I am more than enough, as I am.

The Girls at 17 Swann Street is a diligent and careful representation of one young woman’s struggle through anorexia nervosa. Anna Roux moves to the United States from Paris with her husband, Matthias, and faces a new life in a new place without the familiarity of family, friends, and her budding career as a ballerina. As Anna attempts to find a place for herself in this new life, anorexia beckons her into what will eventually become a fight for any life at all.


Here’s the book cover blurb: The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound. Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears– imperfection, failure, loneliness– she spirals down into anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach-pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, who is always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day. Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.

I was ambitious once. I was a dancer, a dreamer. I was loved. I was in love, I loved life. I once had books to read and places to see, babies I wanted to make. I want to want those again.

I have never struggled with an eating disorder. I do love bread and eat far too many sweets. My BMI is no where near where it should be, but the doctor says I’m average for my age just as long as I watch my cholesterol (always something). Often, I read this book while I was chomping on cheesy slices of pizza, morning fritters, or afternoon chips n’ dip – trust me, the irony was never lost on me.

But what Yara Zgheib has done with this book is made anorexia less like those scary pictures in the health film from middle school. She gave the disease a human name, and a face, and a heart. Anna is “anywoman”, with circumstances that lead to a life event that she feels she has no control over. And that could happen to anyone.

Sure, there are several reasons behind Anna’s descent into the disease; Zgheib comments on them (pressures from ballet and a bad boyfriend, loneliness), but she doesn’t turn them into excuses for Anna’s condition. She highlights, instead, Anna’s inner demons dealing with anorexia and how it affects every part of her life, and the lives of those she loves.

This is a very personal story, and you see that even through the writing style and format of the book. The dialogue is written in italics– the way inner thoughts are treated in other books. This is Anna’s story; this is Anna processing her own journey, and we are silent spectators whispering, “Keep walking, Anna. Keep walking.”

The world around me is obese, half of it. The other half is emaciated… Standards come in doubles, so do portions. The world is overcrowded but lonely. My anorexia keeps me company, comforts me. I can control it, so I choose it.

If I had had the time during my busy days to read this all in one sitting, I would have done so. It is an instantly absorbing read with thoughtful introspection into a disorder that is so easily misunderstood.

Readers will appreciate that Zgheib doesn’t make Anna into a hero or a martyr. She is so realistic in her triumphs and failures, and that makes her not pitiable, but identifiable.

How sad, the power of a piece of cream cheese.

The Girls at 17 Swann Street is about more than eating disorders. It is about making positive decisions to change and about the value of the people who support us in those decisions. It is about choosing to live your best life and celebrating all the tiny little reasons that it’s important to do so.

This is my first 5-star read of 2019, and I highly recommend it. It doesn’t feel good while you’re reading it, but with each pound lost and gained, I felt that I learned more about myself and my own journey in life.


The Girls at 17 Swann Street will be released on February 5th, 2019! I am just one stop on the blog tour, which runs February 1st – 10th.

Buy it here:

Yara Zgheib

Yara Zgheib is a Fulbright scholar with a Masters degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in International Affairs in Diplomacy from Centre D’études Diplomatiques et Stratégiques in Paris. She is fluent in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish. Yara is a writer for several US and European magazines, including The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, A Woman’s Paris, The Idea List, and Holiday Magazine. She writes on culture, art, travel, and philosophy on her blog, “Aristotle at Afternoon Tea