Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
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…

Debbie Wiley | Crafty Cozy Mysteries + My Own Hobby!
Author Guest / March 9, 2020

Loom knitting is one of my favorite hobbies, besides reading, of course! The creativity and joy in finding the right yarn to match a pattern has ignited my creative senses and inspired me to seek out other crafts. Whether it’s a scarf, a shawl, or a blanket, each crafty adventure I take is both relaxing and inspiring. I thought it would be fun to share a few of my recent favorites with you guys before jumping into the books. Each one of these lovely loomed items is an act of love, as I often donate my work to charity, especially since I like using some of the thicker yarns and I live in Florida! And now onto the books. . . Peggy Ehrhart’s upcoming release, A FATAL YARN, is the fifth book in the Knit and Nibble series, and knitting is at the heart of the mystery. I love that the local trees are suddenly gaining sweaters, even better than the sweaters are to hide the dreaded X marks that signal the tree is marked for removal. Peggy Ehrhart has created a likable cast of characters and the entire concept underlying A FATAL YARN is sheer fun. Never mind that…

Debbie Wiley | New Urban Fantasy & Fantasy Novel Recs!
Author Guest / February 13, 2020

By Fresh Fiction Senior Reviewer Debbie Wiley Winter is in full swing in most of the country, while here in Central Florida we’re still trying to decide whether to even participate. So far temperatures are wildly swinging from the 40s to the mid-80s with a nice gusting of wind (all day for two days, I might add) thrown in just to keep us on our toes. So why does that matter? Because it’s the perfect weather to stay inside where I can adjust the heat or the AC (sometimes both during the same day!) and curl up with a book! Even better, January and February have given us some phenomenal urban fantasy/fantasy novels to choose from. Here are a couple of my favorites: Jennifer Estep concludes her Mythos Academy Spin-Off series with SPARTAN DESTINY. Rory Forseti, a Spartan and Mythos Academy student, and the rest of Team Midgard are determined to keep powerful artifacts out of the hands of the Reapers. Unbeknownst to the rest of Team Midgard, Rory has been secretly replacing real artifacts with copies. . . but will she be able to save her friends when their latest attempt to obtain an artifact goes sour?  I love…

Debbie Wiley | Crafty Cozies as Self-Care
Author Guest / January 13, 2020

Mindfulness and self-care are hot button topics right now in our fast-paced, technology-driven world. Whether it’s gratitude journals, vision boards, yoga, self-help books, etc, everyone nowadays is looking for ways to refresh and re-energize themselves, particularly with 2020 launching a whole new decade. Reading is also a way to rest and rejuvenate, particularly if it’s books that spark your imagination and creativity. What better place to look than cozy mysteries with a crafty theme? I’ve seen hygge yarn in the stores, but it’s Sally Goldenbaum’s A MURDEROUS TANGLE that sent me to google to learn more about the hygge lifestyle. The Seaside Knitting Studio is hosting its first holiday hygge and all the members are looking forward to a quiet gathering knitting or crocheting before a warm fire in their comfortable clothes with hot spiced cider and homemade cookies. Unfortunately, a murder disrupts the town of Sea Harbor and now the Seaside Knitters are tracking down a murderer in their midst. Sally Goldenbaum’s warm and inviting characters make me want to pull out my loom and knit with soft music and the scent of lavender in the air. If you’re looking for a cleverly crafted mystery that also inspires you…