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…

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…

Debbie Wiley | The Ultimate Lady of Mystery
Author Guest / July 12, 2021

I fell in love with mysteries at an early age. Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Hardy Boys were my first foray into the genre. Then I discovered Phyllis Whitney’s young adult mysteries, Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries changed my world. Hercule Poirot bragged about using “the little gray cells” while both he and Sherlock Holmes carefully observed the tiniest details and made brilliant observations around those details. Miss Marple, on the other hand, listened to town gossip and used her years of wisdom about human nature to deduce what others missed. All three of them shrewdly found the solutions to murders that stumped even the cleverest of inspectors. I devoured all sorts of mysteries and thrillers, trying to astutely deduce the murderer just as my fictional favorites of Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes had done. Recently, while driving back and forth to South Carolina, I listened to several of Agatha Christie’s stories as produced by the BBC, including POIROT’S FINEST CASES and MORE FROM MISS MARPLE’S CASEBOOK. My love for all things Agatha Christie re-ignited, and what a joy for me to…

Debbie Wiley | Vampires Have Come a Long Way
Author Guest / June 10, 2021

I don’t remember the first vampire book I ever read, but I do remember the first vampire movie I saw. I didn’t sleep soundly for days after watching Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT movie. In fact, even thinking about it now, I can still envision those vampires at the window and hear them trying to come inside! The sound still gives me shivers! It didn’t help that I was still young (not even a teenager yet) and my best friend had giant bay windows in the living room where we watched the made for tv movie. As night fell, the windows behind us seemed more and more ominous as I was just certain a vampire or two would come calling for us! After watching the movie,  I of course had to read the book, ‘SALEM’S LOT, and Stephen King’s words were even scarier than that old movie. I devoured all of his books that I could get my hands on, looking for something to grab my attention like the vampires had. And oh, did I love Stephen King’s books… but the vampires came back to bite me again when I discovered Anne Rice and Lestat. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE took me…

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…

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…

Debbie Wiley | Spoilers? Yes, Please!
Author Guest / March 8, 2021

I have a confession to make. Not only do I read spoilers for movies, books, and tv shows, I also peek at the end of books. If I don’t like the outcome, I stop reading or watching at the spot that seems “safest.” I’ve always enjoyed spoilers, but it was Stephen King’s novella, “The Mist” that started it all for me. That cliffhanger ending haunted me for years. What happened next? Did the people survive and repopulate the earth? Did the scary mist ever dissipate? I came up with my own stories to answer those questions (which is part of the purpose of open-ended cliffhangers like this novella had) but I wanted a sense of finality… until the movie for THE MIST came out. No spoilers, but that is one movie that I definitely stop watching and leave the cliffhanger ending in place without seeing the new conclusion to the tale–my own imagination has clearly been less horrifying! The final Harry Potter book, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, is another book that I refused to finish until I knew who would live and who would die. Despite standing in line at midnight and immediately starting the book as soon…

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,…