Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Debbie Wiley | The Magic of Book Conventions
Author Guest / February 11, 2021

by Debbie Wiley I miss attending book conventions. I’ve been lucky enough to attend quite a few in Orlando, Florida over the years, including Romantic Times (now known as the Booklovers Convention), RWA, and the Shameless Book Con. Memories of attending RT and RWA with my mom often pop in my head when reading certain authors because some of those authors are ones my mom introduced me to  their books when I was a teenager. Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz will always be loved by me not only for their books, but for the memories Mom and I are even now still making as we share a love for their writing.  Just this morning, Mom and I were chatting about the time she met Nora Roberts at RT. Her hands were shaking as she clenched a book in her hands hoping to meet Nora Roberts and get a signature- and she did, making a memory that lasts even now when she’s not as mobile and Covid has her stuck in her home most of the time. Books can tie us together in more ways than stories, but here are a few recent books from authors Mom and I have…

Debbie Wiley | Loom Knitting and More!
Author Guest / January 14, 2021

by Fresh Fiction Senior Reviewer Debbie Wiley My Great-Aunt Katherine shared her love for cooking, crafting, and reading with me in the form of gifts highlighting each of these hobbies of hers. I still treasure the first cookbook I ever used (with an inscription from her inside) and I have a lifelong love of reading fostered by her (as well as my mom and grandmother!). The crafting part, however, sat mainly dormant for years. She gifted me with a macramé kit I never figured out and then a knitting loom that I easily learned to make double knitted figure 8 stitch scarves. I lost interest in the scarves over the years, only finishing a handful, until several years ago when my interest was reignited… and a love of loom knitting sprang to life! Loom knitting is my form of self-care, and in these tumultuous times, self-care is a priority to cope with all the negativity and fear that surround us. Whether it’s concerns over long-ignored social justice issues, fears about Covid-19, or the violence erupting after an election, self-care has become a buzzword many are looking into. Some are using mindfulness techniques (GROWING UP MINDFUL by Christopher Willard, PsyD has…

Debbie Wiley | Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, and Steampunk Book Recs
Author Guest / December 10, 2020

Debbie Wiley is a senior reviewer at Fresh Fiction.  The last days and weeks of 2020 are thankfully drawing to a close, leaving folks with a lot of emotional turmoil. Yes, 2020 has been challenging at best, and heartbreaking if you are one of the many directly impacted by Covid-19. In the midst of the pain and distress, we’ve seen heroes rise to the occasion. First and foremost, our health care workers, but also the many grocery store workers, teachers, food bank volunteers, and so many others who have quietly provided essential services to people in the midst of a global pandemic. It makes me reflect about the heroes and heroines of the urban fantasy, fantasy, and steampunk books I read, and I’d like to share a few of those heroes and heroines with you today. THE AWAKENING by Nora Roberts, features Breen Kelly, a young lady who has lived her life feeling “less than”. Her mother constantly berates or belittles her, she works a job she hates, she has a mountain of student debt, and she even hides her flaming red hair under dark hair dye to keep from being noticed. All of that is about to change, however,…

Debbie Wiley | Cozy Comfort Reads
Author Guest / November 9, 2020

Book recommendations from Fresh Fiction Senior Reviewer, Debbie Wiley! You can read more of her reviews and columns here. Enjoy! — Comfort reads have always been an important part of my life. Some of my oldest (and favorite) books I own have been read and reread, particularly when life seems a bit tougher than normal. While many nowadays struggle to agree on just about anything and tensions and turmoil are heightened, comfort reads are a great escape and an excellent form of self-care. One of my all-time favorite comfort reads, THE RED CARNELIAN by Phyllis Whitney immediately pops to mind. However, I’m also finding comfort in new read, particularly cozy mysteries and I want to share a few of my recent enjoyable book escapes. Any book featuring a bookstore is almost guaranteed to be a hit with me and Lauren Elliott’s Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery series is certainly that! In A PAGE MARKED FOR MURDER, Addison Greyborne has her hands full. Not only is she the owner of Beyond the Page, a book and curio shop, but her flakey cousin isn’t coming to work regularly leaving only Addison and her shop assistant, Paige Stringer, during the Fire and Ice Festival. Worse…

Debbie Wiley | Mysteries & Mental Health
Author Guest / September 14, 2020

For more of Debbie Wiley’s articles and Fresh Fiction reviews, you can visit here. *** Everyone knows I love cozy mysteries, but I also love mysteries and thrillers with a mental health component. After all, my life’s work is devoted to working with children and families grappling with social and emotional needs and mental health is a major aspect of that. COVID-19 brought to the forefront the desperate need for both more mental health services as well as improved accessibility and availability to services in the United States. Hopefully, this need won’t be ignored once “normal” resumes as COVID-19 merely exacerbated a need that already existed. One trend I’ve been thrilled to see in the book publishing industry is increased attention to mental health issues and I’d like to highlight just a few books recently that have included mental health as part of the storyline in some capacity. The Helping Hands series by Annelise Ryan is quickly becoming one of my favorites as it features a social worker as the heroine. In NIGHT SHIFT, it’s only Hildy Schneider’s second official night on her new grant-funded side job riding alongside the local police officers with her canine therapy dog, Roscoe when trouble strikes….

Debbie Wiley | Cozy Mystery Recommendations
Author Guest / July 13, 2020

Canceled plans, social distancing, and masks are a regular part of our lives nowadays. Can we all just give a huge round of applause to the authors, editors, and publishers out there who have kept the books coming even as the world has seemingly shut down? In fact, I’m supposed to be just returning from an Alaskan cruise right now, sharing pictures and memories of what was to be a trip to rival my outstanding trip several years back to Ireland. Thankfully, there are a plethora of phenomenal books out there to keep me entertained (and keep my mind off that missed Alaskan cruise LOL!). Daryl Wood Gerber adds a dash of the paranormal to the cozy mystery, A SPRINKLING OF MURDER, where readers enter a world where fairies exist and they have to complete certain goals to earn their wings. Courtney Kelly loves sharing her belief in the world of fairies with others through her store, Open Your Imagination, where she teaches and sells various items to help with landscaping, including how to design fairy gardens. Her own personal fairy, Fiona, is visible to those who are willing to believe. Can Courtney and Fiona uncover a murderer? Readers will…

Debbie Wiley | Finding Welcome Distraction in Urban Fantasy/Dark Fantasy Recs
Author Guest / June 18, 2020

Senior Reviewer Debbie Wiley 2020 has been a difficult year–a global pandemic, economic turmoil, and racial injustice finally being called out. . . Discussions about how to move forward are hard to comprehend, let alone actually have. As a social worker, I am in a position to see and hear about these issues firsthand, and there is much more work to be done. While I find myself scrolling through news posts and continuing to work through the things I want to improve on, I turn to my favorite way to find solace during difficult times–books. Urban fantasy and dark fantasy may not be the genres for everyone during all of this, but for me, escaping to a different world is a welcome distraction for a little while. Thankfully, there are a plethora of phenomenal books out there to keep me entertained! DEVOLUTION by Max Brooks is one heck of a scary thriller, particularly when read during this quarantine, and I can guarantee you’ll think twice about all those modern conveniences we take for granted (looking at you, Amazon one-click shopping, lol). Mt. Rainier has erupted, and the tiny ecological experimental town, Greenloop, is now cut off from the rest of…

Debbie Wiley | Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night…
Author Guest / May 21, 2020

by senior reviewer Debbie Wiley Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing- wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?  I have a love/hate relationship with birds that started with Mother Goose and the Song of Sixpence nursery rhyme. Sure, there are birds I dearly love, like the graceful Sandhill cranes and the majestic owls, but it is the mystery of those blackbirds that has left me with a healthy dose of fear for birds. I know I’m not alone as look at Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (shudders). Several authors recently have challenged me to rethink how I feel about some of these maligned birds and I’d like to share their wonderful books with you. Heather Webber tackles the Song of Sixpence directly with a bit of magical realism in MIDNIGHT AT THE BLACKBIRD CAFE. Anna Kate Callow has arrived in Wicklow, Alabama, to bury her beloved Granny Zee. Unbeknownst to her, she inherits her grandmother’s entire estate, including the Midnight Cafe under one condition- she has to remain in Wicklow and run the cafe for a specific amount of time. Anna Kate has preconceptions about Wicklow….

Debbie Wiley | Cozy Mysteries are the Perfect Escapist Reads!
Author Guest / May 11, 2020

by Senior Reviewer Debbie Wiley With the long days of quarantine both behind and still in front of us, if you’re like me you’re tired of hearing nothing in the news but gloom and doom. Luckily for us as readers, we have a great selection of cozy mysteries to curl up with and take our minds off seeing only the people we’ve been quarantined with. So, sit back, pretend it’s a cold day inside by the fire where staying inside is fun, and let’s look at a couple great books to choose from! Amanda Flower is one of my go-to cozy mystery authors and what could be better than a novella including an appearance by Jethro, the support pig? In BOTCHED BUTTERSCOTCH, a Mother’s Day fundraiser goes awry and now Bailey King is determined to uncover a thief. Amanda Flower offers up just the kind of heartwarming mystery we need, as BOTCHED BUTTERSCOTCH showcases Abigail’s Farm, a program opening up in the Amish community to help women recovering from substance abuse. We have a lot of fun bantering the wedding that isn’t even an engagement yet and yes, we have a great Jethro scene!  SIX CLOVES UNDER by Gin Jones features…

Debbie Wiley | Urban Fantasy and Fantasy Escapist Reads
Author Guest / April 9, 2020

Times are stressful right now. Parents and teachers are learning how to implement distance learning, going to the grocery store feels like a live version of Pac-Man, and we’re all desperately hunting for toilet paper. Nerves are frayed as everyone fears that even the slightest cough could mean a dangerous virus has entered their home. Quarantines are the norm. Who would have thought this is what 2020 had in store for us? Now, more than ever, is time to stop, take deep breaths, and read some good books that take us all away to other places right now. Urban fantasy and fantasy are two of my favorite genres and fortunately, there are some phenomenal new books out there right now to dive into. Here are a few of my recent favorites: The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of my go-to series when things seem depressing as Mercy Thompson Hauptman is one of the best kick-butt, loyal, and compassionate characters out there. SMOKE BITTEN is the latest in the series and things are definitely in a chaotic state in the Tri-Counties. Mercy’s mate and Alpha wolf, Adam Hauptman, has been emotionally distant, a rarity for a werewolf. There’s…