Tag Archives: fantasy

Gladiator (The Arena Book 1) by Casey Lea (Book Spotlight)

One Arena. One Love. ONE DAY.

Happy-ever-after is never guaranteed but that’s the gladiator’s mission. It wasn’t his plan to fight to the death, but plans change. When Harvesters steal his wife, he tracks them down. The hunt takes all of his money and most of his self-control, but she’s worth it. He joins her as a slave forced to fight for his life without hesitation.

His wife is a deadly warrior, so it’s too bad she doesn’t know him. Memory stripped and struggling to survive she has no interest in the fool claiming to be her husband. He’s just another target standing between her and freedom, but not for long. She’ll take down anything and anyone in her way.

Can the gladiator live long enough to win his wife’s love? Unlikely. It’s the end of the season and the final day of fighting. They’re about to enter the Carnival of Death which leaves only a single survivor.

One of them must die.

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A Beginning

I want to tell you my story—or at least my part in a much larger story. It may seem sad, but like all of us, this story is a work in progress.

                                                                                           The Old Man’s Journal



The man standing in darkness had no idea who he was. That realization hit like a fist in the gut—folding him forward to rest his hands on his thighs. His head ached and dizziness came with the movement, tipping him to one side.

His shoulder collected a cliff face. He let the rough rock hold him in place while his fingers explored the pain in his temple. He found a sticky mass cutting across his brow. It felt like a furrow that was damp in the middle, but dry and crusted around the edge. When he lowered his hand to inspect his fingertips, they looked dark in the low light.

It took him a long slow minute to realize they were wet with blood. His blood.

The man sucked in a breath. He was shocked to be hurt, but not surprised. The wound explained his amnesia, although little more. Was he a fighter? A criminal? Someone who courted danger, or an innocent who’d suffered an unprovoked attack? More importantly, was he still at risk?

A careful step let him turn to brace his back against the wall.

Sweat coated his bare skin and he tasted bile when he tipped his head back to rest it against the cool rock face.

The stars above were strange.

He took a long breath and held it until his panic settled.

The confusion still made him dizzy, but he ignored it to look around, gathering information. It was night-time, with no sign of dawn or dusk on the horizon. His fingers drifted carefully across the cliff supporting him until they found a straight line of something more brittle than rock. It flaked away under his touch, and he realized it was mortar. He was leaning against a wall made of massive blocks.

They scraped the man’s bare shoulders, and he was suddenly aware of the chill night air against his uncovered skin. He looked down and was relieved to find he wasn’t naked. He was wearing a leather vest with a cloak thrown back over bare shoulders, and trousers with reassuringly solid boots beneath.

There was a matching wall opposite, across a rough path. He was standing in an alley that felt more like a gully. It fell away to angle down toward a cluster of lights in the distance.

Where the hell am I? he wondered and shrugged. He was jumping ahead, but questions were like that. They tended to stack up quickly. He needed to start at the bottom of the pile. He drew a deep breath, and his voice was surprisingly steady. “Who the hell am I?”

“Your gene tag identifies you as a gladiator. You are seeking work in the arena on the slave-trading planet Vertigo,” a warm female voice said beside him.

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Meet the Authors

Casey Lea is the pen name for a mother and daughter creative duo, dedicated to sharing their passion for all things sci-fi and fantastical.

A doting grandmother with too much time on her hands took the opportunity to put pen to paper.  Her older daughter kindly placed the resulting scribblings in one of those new-fangled so-called “computing machines” and a writing partnership was born.

The Lea (pronounced Lee) half of Casey Lea now spends her days wrestling with words and her memory while reading aloud to any cat careless enough to settle nearby. Daughter Casey edits the results while wrangling her adorable offspring.

After a decade on the rollercoaster ride of indie publishing their shared passion for epic love and grand adventure, spiced with advanced tech and ancient magic, remains undimmed.


You can find us at:

Sci-fi Fantasy Authors / Caseyleabooks.com
Casey Lea | Facebook
 Casey Lea (@CaseyLeaBooks) / Twitter

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As Red as a Munka Bean by Kristin T. Dethlefsen (Book Review)

Beings from all over the universe have gathered on Kamim for the yearly Interstellar Beauty Contest. Fifteen-year-old Liam and his best (and only) friend Absalom are there to represent Earth, although they never actually agreed to come. Now Absalom must put his reservations aside and convince the judges of something he doesn’t quite believe himself: that his short, fat, brown body is beautiful.

Liam only has to announce Absalom and translate the other beings’ sign language for him, a simple enough task for a deaf boy. But when he meets pretty Sadie right before the announcement, his mind goes blank and his hands can’t find the right words.

And then there is Topher, the boy who bullies Liam and Absalom on Earth and was accidentally brought to Kamim with them. He is sullen and mean, but he knows how to be cool and confident, two traits which would help Absalom immensely in the contest…

This contemporary fantasy for young adults and tweens is an adventure story about the power of friendship and believing in yourself.

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)

Beings from around the universe gather together in an interstellar beauty contest. Liam, Absalom (Sal), and Topher were swept up in a green cloud and transported to Kamim, the host planet, for the extraordinary event. The three boys took everything in stride. They didn’t freak out about the situation. Topher, the class bully, was actually more upset about being mistaken for a girl than being abducted by a little green alien. 

Sal, the chosen contestant for Earth, wasn’t comfortable showing off his body. Fairies forcibly removed his shirt. Topher asks him to jiggle his fat. And he was repeatedly in a state of embarrassment. The aliens thought he was beautiful; he did not. I didn’t particularly appreciate how “fat” was constantly used to describe Sal’s physique. Words hurt. 

Luckily, as the story progressed, Sal became more confident with his body. However, it was a long road to this moment. I was saddened to see Sal body-shamed. I was upset to see how the cops manhandled him. They grossly abused their power. Unfortunately, that display of injustice happens far too frequently in real life. 

They were comedic moments in the story and had spectacular galactical beings with unique and fascinating skills. The aliens came in all shapes and sizes; some nice and some not so much. 

Whether you are on Earth, Kamim, Windshippers, or another planet, we are all different, and those differences shouldn’t divide us; however, they often do. 

Being comfortable in your own skin is hard for many people. 

Standing up to bullies is a challenging feat too. 

Both issues are addressed in As Red as a Munka Bean.

While I am thrilled Sal gained confidence, I would like another outcome for Topher. (Staying vague to avoid spoilers.) In a nutshell, I wanted him to do the right thing. 

This story did have a marvelous blend of hearing and deaf characters. It taught Sal to embrace his size and not let other people’s opinions weigh him down. For that, I recommend this story to teens. 


Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤1/2

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Meet the Author

Kristin has always been an avid reader of many kinds of books: young adult, adventure, fantasy, travel, the classics. As with her reading tastes, her novels don’t adhere to just one genre. You’ll find elements of fantasy and contemporary, books for young adults and those for middle grade readers. Travel often figures into her stories as well.

Kristin grew up in a small town in Connecticut and began writing after her daughter was born. She lives in Germany with her family, where she teaches English as a foreign language to adults. To find out more about Kristin and her current projects, take a look at her website: www.dethlefsenbooks.com or follow her on Twitter @dethlefsenbooks



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Orientella by Elisabeth Vildstjärna (Book Review)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

I’ve been captivated by magical carpets ever since I first watched Aladdin. While the magic rug, known as Carpet, in the blockbuster movie was fascinating, it does not hold a candle to Orientella. She’s the Rolls-Royce of carpets with her 24-carat gold threads, made from the finest worms Angelland. While she is masterfully constructed, her uniqueness comes from her ability to speak and express emotions. She cares for her owner/roommate/friend deeply, so when Madame Algarine Castel gets abducted, she doesn’t give up until they are reunited. 

As one would imagine, flying on top of a magic carpet comes with potential hazards, which the characters experience. But, being a magical carpet has its dangers as well. To perform at its best, the wondrous rug has to stay tightly woven. In addition, it has to avoid villains who want to own and control them. Speaking of villains, I love the last name choice, Tarantula. 

All the above came into play, but luckily Orientella wasn’t alone on her journey. She has acquired new friends: a talking church mouse (Walter), a sometimes cranky kitty (Frizzle), and a young neighbor (Emilia), plus additional help along the way. 

Orientella by Elisabeth Vildstjärna was a glorious, imaginative, magical read containing suspense, shocking disclosures, and the legendary Loch Ness Monster. It’s a story that could benefit from more images strewn throughout because readers will want to see Persley, the pirate ship, the castle, and more action and adventure shots. The cover illustration by Henry Johannes Matilainen, though, was spectacular. I adored Frizzle’s facial expression. He looked like a true scaredy-cat, whereas Walter, the mouse, appeared to enjoy the ride of a lifetime. 

I could see this story appealing to three-year-olds, possibly four if it had more images. As it stands, I would recommend the book to school-age children. 

Buy the book; you won’t regret it! 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤

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Meet the Author

Elisabeth Vildstjärna is an author from Sweden who writes fantasy for middle graders.

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The Tickling Tale of Smoo by Louiza Kallona (Book Review)

Some strange things arrive suddenly, like frogs that rain down instead of cats and dogs. Other strange things creep up slowly until one day no one can ignore them any longer. This is the story of the McClaffertys, and the mysterious disappearance of laughter.

Lucy McClafferty and her brother Ben are fed up. The weather has been dreich for months, and no one is laughing anymore.

It’s up to Lucy and Ben to uncover the mystery of why the world has stopped laughing so laughter can return to the world again.

Join them on their weird and wonderful adventure as they travel to the top of Scotland, meet fantastical characters, face unexpected challenges, and discover that there is more to some people and places than meets the eye!

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.


The Tickling Tale of Smoo by Louiza Kallona was a wonderfully weird story filled with excitement and humor. It all began when people seemed to lose their will to smile. Grandma said it must have to do with Smoo, a tickler of the world. 

As Grandma, Lucy, Ben, and Patrick arrived at Gabel Lylhu’s cottage in Durness, the weirdest factor increased tenfold. First, Grandma whistled, and fireflies answered her call. Then, there’s the cottage itself. Its unique decor was definitely on the strange side: bronze fox nailed to the front door, crocodile-tooth light switches, blowfish skeletons, and a clock that bleats. The most unusual discovery was a gargantuan nose on the turquoise, conch-shaped couch. The nose sent snot soaring out of its nostrils. Gross! 

After the visitors woke Gabel Lylhu (aka Belly Laugh), we learned about his connection to Grandma. The revelation surprised me as much as it surprised Lucy and Ben. With a quick rundown on the world’s happenings, Gabel and the kids set to find the Smoo and tickle her. The adventure has readers meeting extraordinary people, witnessing unusual events, and hopping on a spectacularly odd bus (Grand Express) that children will be utterly fascinated by and probably say they’d like to ride. 

The Tickling Tale of Smoo had humor, suspense, unforgettable characters, and a unique plot that required an out-of-the-box-thinking resolution. Oh, it also had puzzles that would delight and thrill those who like solving riddles and anagrams. I want to note that the anagrams are not very easy and might prove difficult for young readers. However, the answers are provided as the author tells the story, and thank goodness for that because they stumped even me. 

Kids will love The Tickling Tale of Smoo. Adults will love it too. It’s a story that the entire family can read and enjoy together! 


Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤❤

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Meet the Author

Louiza Kallona grew up in London but moved to Scotland aged eighteen, attracted by the history, the whopping volcanic rock, and the hope of meeting people as funny as Billy Connolly. She wrote The Tickling Tale of Smoo while living with five other bikers in a farmhouse in the Scottish Borders.

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Marco, Pablo, & Olivia Volume One: Bella The Alpaca (Story Two) by Ana Cortes (Book Review)

Meet the Costa kids. . .Marco, Pablo, and Olivia are two brothers and a sister who came from the mountains of Ecuador. The three kids grew up in a farmhouse with their parents and very little means. After their dad got a high-paying job, Marco, Pablo, Olivia, and their parents moved to the coast for a fresh start.

The Costa siblings’ lives turn into a wild ride when they make new friends, set on adventures, celebrate traditions, deal with rivals, embark on journeys, and experience things they never thought they could have experienced.

Marco, Pablo, & Olivia is a crafted book filled with nine stand-alone mini-stories that feature Ecuador’s beautiful culture, morality, and magic!

Story Two
Pablo loves animals more than anybody loves their pets. Back in Loja, the Costa siblings had some lovely yet messy dogs for pets, but they will never forget that one special animal they had. A magical alpaca! Pablo tells a flashback story to Diego about how he tried to adopt the magical alpaca, but it was against his parent’s rule to have pets.


I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy DiscoveryI voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.


Marco, Pablo, & Olivia: Bella The Alpaca by Ana Cortes is a children’s graphic novel about two brothers and a sister who have come from the mountains of Ecuador. At the tale’s start, we learn the siblings have been in Guayaquil for five days. Guayaquil’s pronunciation and background information might be unfamiliar to many children in the recommended reading age bracket: of 8-13 years. An internet search will give questioning children all the information they seek. 

As the story progresses, we learn about Bella, the magical alpaca who resides in Loja. Loja, like Guayaquil, might be unheard of to some. It was to me. Therefore, I quickly searched to learn more about this location. I would suggest looking up this city with your young reader/listener. Knowledge is power!

As I delved back into the story, I learned more about Bella. She’s unlike any alpaca you’d seen before! Her unique abilities will amaze young readers: she can talk and fly. Bella tells the young trio she’s a homeless alpaca. As a pet owner, Bella’s predicament touched my heart. I bet it’ll touch yours too. 

Marco, Pablo, & Olivia: Bella The Alpaca had tender moments, danger, action, and adventure. After you read this story, it’s important to stress to your child or class that sneaking out of your home is dangerous. You never know the trouble you’ll run into. Plus, your family will worry about you. This story had a happy ending, but not all real stories do. I would stress to young listeners that they should give a heartfelt apology if they do something wrong. The overall message was lovely: your parents will love you no matter what. 

Marco, Pablo, & Olivia: Bella The Alpaca did have some words in Spanish and required outside assistance in background information, but overall the story was lovely. I recommend this story to families with children currently enrolled in elementary school.

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

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Meet the Author

My name is Ana! I live in Orange County I am currently working on Marco, Pablo, & Olivia volume one, while studying at community college. My first book is available on Amazon! I love comics, cartoons, desserts, and movies!

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