Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Debbie Wiley | Discovering New Women in History
Author Guest / September 13, 2021

History was one of my least favorite classes in school. Don’t get me wrong–I had some great teachers and I enjoyed a lot of the South Carolina history we were taught, but a lot of what we learned seemed far off and not relevant to my life. I knew that wasn’t true because one of my awesome teachers quoted us time and again about not forgetting the past or being doomed to repeat it, but I didn’t see it reflected through the history books we studied. Very little was taught about the various individual lives of people, in particular the women in history. Anne Frank’s story brought to life what the Jewish people suffered under Hitler, but I learned about her mainly through my literature classes. In fact, it was through literature classes that I learned about how women were treated as property or outcasted from society for exhibiting behaviors identical to the men of their times. Now here I sit, many, many years later, and I am still learning through literature. Whether it’s a graphic novel, such as PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi, or a novel such as BRIGID OF KILDARE by Heather Terrell, there is so much history to…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: The Extraordinary Far East
Author Guest / August 18, 2021

As lazy late summer beckons toward fall, we turn to stories about extraordinary women from the Far East, the circumstances, and actual characters of several based on real events. Beginning chronologically, John J. Healey’s THE SAMURAI’S DAUGHTER presents the unusual tale of a little-known episode in history.  In 1614, Japan sent a delegation to Spain to establish trade and cultural relationships with King Phillip III.  One member, samurai Shiro, became a popular figure at court and won the heart of a noble Spanish lady.  The story is narrated by their daughter, Soledad Maria, called Masako by her father, who is raised as both a samurai and a European.  After her mother’s death, Masako’s father decides to return them to Japan, sending them on a peril-filled journey halfway across the world.  Once back in Japan, they face new dangers from enemies at home.  Throughout this transition, Masako must decide who she really is—Spanish lady or samurai nobility.  Full of detailed descriptions of the customs and privileges of upper-class Europeans and Japanese at the time, Healey’s story illuminates Masako’s struggle between personal desires and family duty. Autumn Bardot’s DRAGON LADY brings us a fictionalized account of an amazing real-life woman in 18th…

Debbie Wiley | Back to School with Books
Author Guest / August 12, 2021

A new school year is starting, and thoughts typically would be on the fun new school clothes, the location of one’s locker, the squeak of tennis shoes on the gym floor, or if a best friend or favorite teacher is in one’s classroom. Instead, we find ourselves stuck with another wave of Covid and so many uncertainties about what to do and how to stay safe. I work in the school system and the fear and uncertainty are real, especially for someone like me with an underlying health condition that already impacts my breathing. Rather than focusing on the negative, and all of the things that are out of my immediate control, I’ve instead indulged myself in reading and enjoying books centering around the school system. Any time favorite books featuring a school theme are mentioned, Denise Swanson is the first author who comes to my mind! Denise Swanson was a school psychologist before she became an author, and her wealth of knowledge and empathy for students and teachers shows in each one of her books (with the exception of that horrid social worker in MURDER OF A ROYAL PAIN lol). BODY OVER TROUBLED WATERS features school psychologist Skye Denison-Boyd…

Danielle Dresser | Travel Through Books
Author Guest / June 17, 2021

When you read this blog post, I’ll probably be flying through the air on my way across the country to see family I haven’t seen in person in well over a year. I’m beyond excited to get on a plane and go somewhere I haven’t been for some time, see people I adore, and get out of my house! I’m also traveling with my mom and we’re having a tiny girls’ trip before we reach our final destination of Southern California. We are PUMPED. That being said, over the last year+, books have really been my salvation and a way for me to travel, so to speak. I love when a sense of setting is just as important to the story and I feel immersed in the place the characters are figuring out their lives. Here are a few recent reads where I felt like I was truly there, and felt a sense of escapism through reading: SCANDAL IN THE VIP SUITE by Nadine Gonzalez When two people accidentally get double-booked in the same luxurious suite at a gorgeous resort in Miami, instead of trying to find different rooms, they just decide to share. What could happen? A whole lot!…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: FAMOUS ROMANCE
Author Guest / June 16, 2021

Although marriages take place all during the year, June was traditionally the month of brides and weddings. For this June, as we emerge from isolation to actually be able to attend events like weddings again, we’ll look at novels that relate the stories of some famous romances and marriages based on real events. Starting with the royal, we have BEFORE THE CROWN by Flora Harding.  In the years before World War II, young Princess Elizabeth’s visit with her family to the Royal Naval College leads to her meeting the naval cadet detailed to escort and entertain them—Prince Phillip, son of the deposed Greek king and nephew of her uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who becomes the major supporter of the romance.  Smitten with the handsome blond prince, Elizabeth’s attachment never waivers.  Nine years later, with the Prince a decorated combat veteran intent on a brilliant naval career, Elizabeth will fight tenaciously against her family’s reluctance and the court’s disapproval to insist on marrying none but this penniless foreign prince.  A tale of “royal secrets and forbidden love.” A commoner who became royal stars in our next selection, THE GIRL IN THE WHITE GLOVES by Kerri Maher.  Defying her proper family to…

Alma Katsu | Do Women Make Better Spies?
Author Guest / May 25, 2021

Alma Katsu is an award-winning novelist who happens to have spent 34 years in intelligence with CIA and NSA. Her first spy novel, Red Widow, the story of two women CIA officers pitted against one another in a race to find a deadly mole inside Langley, was named a NY Times Editors Choice and has been optioned for TV by FOX. In the world of espionage, it seems there’s finally a place for women—at least on television and, to a lesser extent, movies. Carrie Mathison (Homeland). Elizabeth Jennings (The Americans). Sydney Bristow (Alias). Maya (Zero Dark Thirty). If you look at lists of espionage novels, you’ll see that this is where things break down a little. Lists of the most popular spy novels tend to be dominated by male writers and male protagonists. If women write in the field, it tends to be historical fiction, standalone novels about women in the resistance during World War II or toiling away in the steno pool during the Cold War. And while these books are inspiring, as an intelligence professional it was a little disappointing to not see the work of my female peers being represented in literature. This was my main motivation…

Debbie Wiley | Blame It On Baby Yoda…
Author Guest / May 10, 2021

by Senior Reviewer Debbie Wiley Streaming companies had a huge economic boost during the last year or so, and I have to admit I’ve hopped on that bandwagon. Normally, I watch very little tv and only go to the movies occasionally, so I blame Baby Yoda specifically for my latest tv marathon viewing, as it all started with The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda! After all, who can resist that little adorable frog-eating, egg-stealing, tiny force-wielding hero?! A few of my favorites since then have been The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and of course, this long-time Godzilla and King Kong fan couldn’t resist Godzilla vs Kong – the movie that made me want to go back into a theater even when it still wasn’t a good idea for me (and is why I now have HBO Max LOL). Obviously, most of my favorite movies and series to watch tend towards the sci-fi or hero themes, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. After all, my all-time favorite book character is Harry Dresden from the Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series as his heroism shines through even in the worst of times as he strives to do the right thing, even when…

Kym Roberts | Cozy Corner: Mysteries in Bloom
Author Guest , Cozy Corner / April 26, 2021

As I write this blog my flower beds are in bloom. My irises are gorgeous, my daisies are abundant, and my carnations are fragrant. It’s too bad something dark and sinister is creeping into the shadows. That’s right, a murderer is on the loose in my garden and an APB won’t do my beauties any good. Because tonight they will face one of the worst killers known to their kind—Jack Frost. Their death by his hand (or heroic saving by mine) might lead to some nail-biting moments on my part, but I have a feeling I’m the only one who’s truly invested or interested in their next chapter. I mean it’s not like the New York Times will write about their premature death or my valiant attempt to save their lives. But I have dug up some truly newsworthy mysteries Jack Frost can’t touch. The covers caught my eye like the blossoms in my yard, the plots are much better formed than my best buds and the characters charmed me with their style and wit. Yes, the mysteries are in bloom, and all we have to do to catch the culprits is keep turning the page. Wicked Honeymoon  An Ivy…

Danielle Jackson Dresser | Go Ahead… Judge a Book By Its Cover
Author Guest / April 15, 2021

Friends–I am busy. Do you ever go through a time where you feel like you’re moving in a million different directions and yet you still feel like you aren’t getting much done? I’m having that moment right now. But somehow, I still find time to do something fun. It’s a huge personal indulgence of mine, but now, because of my future book release (Summer 2022!!), I can say I’m ogling… I mean looking… at covers for research. Here are some of my favorite covers of 2021 so far. I’ve noted which of these books I’ve read, too! WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES by DENNY S. BRYCE (March 2021, Kensington) 1920s anything, I’m here for it. 1920s Chicago–my home city–take my money. I’ve read this book and it’s exceptional. This gorgeous cover is the perfect reflection of what’s inside. THE GIRL WITH STARS IN HER EYES by XIO AXELROD (April 2021, Sourcebooks Casablanca) A second chance, indie-rock romance? Yes, please! Reading this book such fun entertainment. And LOOK AT HER SUNGLASSES!! I love the little details on this cover. HANA KHAN CARRIES ON by UZMA JALALUDDIN (April 2021, Berkley) The movement on this cover is so intriguing, and the line drawing…

Debbie Wiley | A Bookish Trip to the Sunshine State
Author Guest / April 8, 2021

Travel in person is slowly starting to come back now, but some of us have been traveling all along through the wonderful places our books take us. So far this year, I’ve traveled to places such as 1906 San Francisco in THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS, to Helsinki, Finland in THE WITCH HUNTER, to North Carolina in CLOSELY HARBORED SECRETS, and then off to France in THE LOST MANUSCRIPT. However, it always warms my heart to visit books set in Florida, both for the memories they may give me of places I’ve already been as well as learning new and interesting facts about the state I’ve called home for over 20 years. THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST by Chantel Cleeton is our first stop on the journey, where we meet three women whose lives intersect in Key West. It’s 1935 and a hurricane is approaching. I’ve visited several sites in Key West that talked about Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad but somehow the impact of the hurricane in 1935 was missed by me. Chantel Cleeton brings the tale to vivid life, offering us a glimpse of the hardships of Key West in its early days. I love books that delve…