Book Review – ‘Her Royal Highness’ (#2 Royals) by Rachel Hawkins

Everything Adorable and Cute.

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 274

From Goodreads:

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?  

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I knew I would get an entertaining read, though I must admit ‘Royals’ (or ‘Prince Charming’ as it’s been newly re-packaged & published) wasn’t the usual fare I’m used to from Hawkins. But ‘Her Royal Highness’ managed to raise back up to the standard I’ve come to expect from her.

Protagonist Millie, a studious, slightly awkward and budding geologist identifying as bisexual gets ghosted by her girlfriend. Bumping into her later, reunited with her ex-boyfriend (and Millie’s best friend). It’s then Millie realises she has nothing holding her back and goes ahead with an application to a Scotland boarding school… where she gets an upstart of a roommate. Who just happens to be a royal.

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Such a cute premise for a story, and I ate it up. I would have liked to see a bit more complexity in the plot, it did feel a little simplistic, but I guess that it fits in with the demographic for ‘Her Royal Highness.’ This is very predictable, like every rom-com involving a prince or princess, but with a female/female romance. But that’s what you want from a romance… and ‘Her Royal Highness’ delivers.

We get snippets of Daisy and crew from the first novel in this series popping up towards the end, which gave me a smile.

It was fairly well paced and kept my interest and I completed this novel in two quick sittings.

I’d recommend this for the younger end of the YA demographic. It’s got all the squee moments of a Disney movie. A more mature reader may find this meagre, but it is a fun wish-fulfilment contemporary with diverse characters that has become a guilty pleasure read for me.

Overall feeling: Makes me want to hug a pillow.

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Maybe This Time’ by Kasie West

Special events shine a spotlight on love.

Maybe This Time Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

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It feels like Kasie West has returned to her former writing form with ‘Maybe This Time.’ The last three or four novels I’ve read from her seemed to be lacking is some spark, but it was back proud and true with this release, and I couldn’t be more happy.

It did feel like a slow burn for me, and the pacing reflected that, but her writing style, interesting characters, and chunks of the novel centred around holiday events kept me engaged as a reader. I would have liked ‘Maybe This Time’ to have a faster pace just so the whole misunderstanding trope wasn’t as drawn out. But the character arcs were cute and ended the story with a satisfactory *ding*

Sophie is an adorable character as a protagonist. She is totally wrapped up in her fashion designing and has a clear path set out for her future. It acts not only as an escape from her small town life and family issues, but as her ticket to New York City and following her dream. All of her notions and attitudes get challenged – even the prospect of her imagined city life… it was a fun read.

Maybe This Time Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Micah, the best friend is a planner, orgainser, that girl that is always prepared for anything – and it was nice to see representation of a diverse character.

Our love interest, Andrew, is the typical hate-to-love trope, but it was done well, and I liked his sarcastic preppy charm, and the fact that he was the fish out of water.

I still think the narrative could have been tightened up a bit more, and the cast given a bit more time to shine; but all in all I haven’t enjoyed a title like this from Kasie West in a good long while. I’m hoping the trend continues as I eye off ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss.’

We get themes of what family means, the role we attribute to people versus who they really are, high school graduation all wrapped up in this collection of celebrations as seen through the eyes of practical and sensible teens.

Cute cover, lovable story, and a return to my favour. Definitely recommend.

Overall feeling: Halleluiah!

Maybe This Time Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Maybe This Time Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Rebels of Eden’ (#3 Children of Eden) by Joey Graceffa and Laura L. Sullivan

Richly themed sci-fi with slow pacing.

Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Rowan is finally in Harmonia, an Earth-friendly, sustainable commune in the wilderness she always thought was dead. Even in this idyllic world, she finds no peace. Harmonia has strict rules—and dire consequences. Thinking about Eden is forbidden, but she’s determined to rescue the loved ones she left behind. Though they are in terrible danger, her pleas for help are ignored.

After months of living as one with nature, a shocking reminder of her past pushes Rowan to act. With the help of new friends, she infiltrates Eden. What she discovers is even worse than the situation she left behind. In the chaos of civil war, Rowan and her friends join forces with the second children and other rebels trapped inside. They fight for their lives, and for the future of humanity in this broken Earth.

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The end to the trilogy brought about in formidable sci-fi finesse. It took me a good long while to get into ‘Rebels of Eden.’ Again out protagonist Yarrow/Rowan is in completely unfamiliar territory and a new place with new characters. It was disorientating. I found it hard to connect with her when we had a new world to build… only to have is thrown aside when we return to familiar ground introduced in the debut ‘Children of Eden.’

The concept of this trilogy does not feel all too original. And some aspects and symbolism introduced in ‘Elites of Eden’ were not addressed at all. While this trilogy is entertaining, fairly well written, and mostly engaging; it was well… messy. The main storyline did not feel strong or episodic for each instalment for this series. For the most part the plot makes sense and the main points are resolved, but not in a poignant, neat way that I’m used to in most of my science fiction reads. Maybe skill will come as Joey Graceffa grows as an author.

The writing style felt a lot different to the start as well. Again, I don’t know if this is down to Graceffa’s evolving style as he gains experience, or a different collaboration of team members behind the scenes in delivering this book to publication. It lacked the wide-eyed wonder and innocence of its prequels, and was frequently lost to long and unnecessary exposition.

Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

We get a more determined and together Yarrow/Rowan for a protagonist, and for the most part I liked her strength. There were too many situations that lost their realism for me. And I didn’t feel a strong connection to her past.  But on the whole, character development and character arcs are much better in this conclusion than I’ve come to expect from prior in the series. You can get a sense of Graceffa gaining mastery of the elements of crafting a story here.

I did feel like the pacing was way off until the last 80-50 pages. This was a real difficult one to get into. I have never put down a novel so often. In the end I pushed myself through just the get it finished. But I enjoyed the ending. Somewhat anti-climactic, but hit all the right notes to fill me with satisfaction.

I have a big soft spot for the themes, diverse characters, and technology explored in this series, all the while touting the importance of the environment and connection to the earth; but I feel like the series needs to be developed and worked on a bit more. All the elements are there to make this a truly outstanding collection, but it just didn’t quite get there. But it has left me excited to see what comes next from Graceffa. He has a great imagination, can build tension, write interesting characters and explores fun themes.

Overall feeling: Felt like a long journey but finally got there.

Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ by Riley Redgate

Love the themes and experiment in formatting but the delivery was lacking.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 343

From Goodreads:

Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

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I really struggled with this novel, and it’s doubly disappointing because I really loved all her other title. The pacing as just so slow. I put the book down repeatedly due to lack of interest. It sort of picked up in the second half, but I still didn’t get that hook I was hoping for. I even felt the amazing writing style that I have come to expect had dimmed significantly.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe formatting of the novel also threw me off big time.

I loved the diverse cast, the concept of the seven deadly sins as a theme for each characters struggle. The characters were beautifully flawed and realistic, but I struggled to relate to, and care about any of them. I don’t understand how I was so detached? Maybe the fact we were dealing with so many big issues – slander, drug dealing, drug use, bullying, abuse of power, suggested statutory rape, divorce, abandonment, alcoholism, autism, gender identity, sexual orientation, and so on – it was a bit much to stomach from such a small group of high schoolers. The teacher in me arcs up and struggles to swallow the narrative. I guess it’s a good thing to have a strong reaction to the subject matter. Like I said, I loved the premise of ‘Seven Ways We Lie,’ the cast are amazing… but the uber-slow pacing just about did me in.

With run on sentences and dialogue in chapters I found difficult to read, and prose driven narration in others ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ is a great experiment in presenting tone in the layout of words. I can appreciate the attempt, but wasn’t sold on delivery.

I had given up on predicting the novel, I was just focusing on finishing it. Granted the last third is much more palatable, and that benchmark Redgate writing style started to shine through, but it was too little too late for me.

I hate to say it, but ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ was a big flop for me.

Maybe it was also because we follow so many perspectives?

Overall feeling: Oh no.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Sanctuary’ (#1 Sanctuary) by Caryn Lix

A slow start for Sanctuary.

Sanctuary (#1 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 480

From Goodreads:

Kenzie holds one truth above all: the company is everything.

As a citizen of Omnistellar Concepts, the most powerful corporation in the solar system, Kenzie has trained her entire life for one goal: to become an elite guard on Sanctuary, Omnistellar’s space prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. As a junior guard, she’s excited to prove herself to her company—and that means sacrificing anything that won’t propel her forward.

But then a routine drill goes sideways and Kenzie is taken hostage by rioting prisoners.

At first, she’s confident her commanding officer—who also happens to be her mother—will stop at nothing to secure her freedom. Yet it soon becomes clear that her mother is more concerned with sticking to Omnistellar protocol than she is with getting Kenzie out safely.

As Kenzie forms her own plan to escape, she doesn’t realize there’s a more sinister threat looming, something ancient and evil that has clawed its way into Sanctuary from the vacuum of space. And Kenzie might have to team up with her captors to survive—all while beginning to suspect there’s a darker side to the Omnistellar she knows.

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I was very excited for this novel – a space prison jail break mixed up in an alien invasion – all the hallmarks for a riot of a sci-fi read. Count me in.

However, the first half of the book was laboriously slow. I took me over a week just to reach the midway point, continuously putting ‘Sanctuary‘ down for a rest because I wasn’t compelled to read on. The subject matter was fine, it was the pacing. And a bit too much information off topic. I feel you could have edited out 100-150 pages from this first part and not lost a thing. It would have turned ‘Sanctuary‘ into a cracker of a read.

Comparatively, I completed the second half of this novel in an afternoon. The pacing and action were top notch, plenty going on to drive the plot forward, turning points for the characters… there was not much I could fault.

Our protagonist Kenzie didn’t seem all that interesting at the start, but certainly developed into a character I began to care about. She starts out very rule-following and vanilla; and I didn’t really get a strong sense of emotion and connection to other cast members of the novel. Even the growing romantic interest in prisoner Cage – motivations and situations felt tenuous at best. Not so realistic or justifiable. I’m wondering if it simply boiled down to the fact of the horrible pacing in the first half. A more compact, punchier introduction to the world of ‘Sanctuary‘ and getting to know the players in the field may have created the tension needed to create a strong bond?

Sanctuary (#1 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The plot and storytelling of ‘Sanctuary‘ was highly entertaining. I was gripped in action scenes, got all the feels from the right places, and even surprised at several plot twists. There was an element of predictability, but not enough to render this read unsurprising or boring. Pacing issues aside, I have to commend Caryn Lix for her debut. I am definitely engrossed enough to be picking up the next novel in this collection ‘Containment.’ Given that the world building is established, characters fleshed out, the sequel should have better pacing, and Caryn Lix’s writing experience improved from publishing ‘Sanctuary.’

I’m on the fence about recommending this one – it took a while for me to get into, and lovers of sci-fi may get bored quickly. But for YA readers who like a touch of science fiction, this may be thoroughly entertaining… so I’m torn. This was a slightly better than average read for me, so maybe it’s worth a shot?

Overall feeling: so-so

Sanctuary (#1 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sanctuary (#1 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Music of What Happens’ by Bill Konigsberg

One of the best contemporaries I’ve read this summer.

The Music of What Happens Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 338

From Goodreads:

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His “wives” and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk — to get the thing they want the most.

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This is a quaint contemporary with two gay protagonists told in alternating perspectives, switching with each chapter. Max and Jordan each have their own issues to wrestle with, and ‘The Music of What Happens’ is a fantastic character driven story that had me hooked from the first page.

Max is a sporty ‘dude guy’ who on the surface seems to have it all going his way. Out to his closest circle of friends, he’s comfortable in his role as the smiling, friendly jock – that is until he gets to know Jordan after accepting a job to work in his food van. Later he begins to question why he puts up this smiling front, stand up to his father who may be exuding some toxic masculinity, and falling into a dangerous situation which will have long standing repercussions.

Jordan has a reactionary personality, but is the responsible one in the family ever since his father died three years ago. Jordan and his mother are still dealing with the loss. With the bank threatening to repossess their family home because of his mother’s gambling addiction, Jordan rolls up his sleeves and runs his father’s food truck in hope of making enough money to keep their house. But it’s difficult when you don’t know a thing about food trucks. It’s a steep learning curve – especially when being prepared is not a part of your personality. Jordan is pretty naive and innocent in terms of the wilder world, him and his two female best friends (his wives) live in their own little bubble. Meeting Max helps bring him out of his shell and learn to be a little more independent. Take a stand. It’s a good thing too because like the frequent dust storms that weather Mesa, Arizona, Jordan will need these new skills, and his friends, to make it through an oncoming storm of a different nature.

Having two well-rounded main characters, flaws and all, draw and grow from each other was a wonderful concept to slowly evolve on the pages of ‘The Music of What Happens.’ The best friends of both of our main characters are supportive, have their own small arcs, and it was a real testament to friendship. We also see parents have a fairly strong presence in the narrative, warts and all.

The Music of What Happens Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

The Music of What Happens’ was instantly relatable for me. Having lost a parent, being a proud furbaby parent, and knowing what it’s like to have to get your head down and bum up and work your behind off for fear of losing your home… I saw so much of my youth in this novel. Not to mention the witty, catty banter of Jordan’s ‘wives’ is so much like my high school girlfriends. Revealing tragic family secrets – like coming out in a sense… this book has a lot going on, and it’s all handled with a gentle composure.

I’ve enjoyed Bill Konigsberg’s writing style in everything of his I’ve read. He always managed to make me cry, laugh and gasp in every novel. For a contemporary this is paced really well. I never had a moment of needing to rest or skim forward. Totally engaging. And I loved the inclusivity of the narrative with diverse backgrounds across the board.

Some trigger warnings around sexual assault, addiction, minor swearing, but it’s all dealt with in a delicate and responsible manner that does not have me concerned in letting the younger end of the YA demographic reading ‘The Music of What Happens.’

The plot is predictable in that I could see the two main characters ending up together – but in contemporaries these days, its never certain that they remain that way. Besides that, there are plot twists I did not see coming. Really. I was shocked. It was a delicious read.

On a side note – loving the cover art. I’m seeing a lot more of the hand-drawn artwork, like for a manga or comic.

Highly recommend this one for lovers of YA Contemporaries and LGBTQIA+ representation.

Overall feeling: Atmospheric

The Music of What Happens Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

The Music of What Happens Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Sky on Fire’ (#2 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

The kids from the school bus go on a rough ride.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 215

From Goodreads:

Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .

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Another quick, realistic, and gritty read from Emmy Laybourne.

I loved the circumstances and the everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong tone of this series so far. In this sequel we see the Greenway teens split into two groups, one on a journey to Denver International Airport for medical care of a gunshot wound and evacuation point; the other group, with blood type O – the beserker kind – remain behind waiting for rescue, scared to endanger the rest of the self-made family. They both go through the ringer.

I really appreciate Emmy Langborne’s writing style and how she can craft a story. The pacing kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I completed the novel within a day.

When you’re dealing with teens and children, they are selfish, naive and self-important at their worst… and seriously, I wanted to slap a bitch many times. A few of the characters were so narrow minded and stubborn I would have lost my patience and tossed them outside to fend for themselves, or like I said, clapped them about the ears. What a brilliant accolade for Langbourne’s writing and character development!

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This book does not pull any punches, the debut sets up that tone, and again we see death, blood and guts – many trigger warnings. Underage Drug and alcohol use, suggested sexual assault, underage sex, violence, shootings, murder and dismemberment by chainsaw. ‘Sky on Fire’ is not for the faint of heart.

But the strongest theme that shines through is that of family and survival. These kids band together and do whatever it takes to get the whole team to safety.

Because of the violent nature and constant plot twists I really had no idea of where this was going to end up. So I did not predict the ending at all. It ends on a good note and sets up the final book of the trilogy (‘Savage Drift’) nicely and I am eager to continue solely because of Langbourne’s writing.

This is one of the better dystopias I’ve read, and recommend of lovers of this genre.

The cover art isn’t that great for any of the novels in this trilogy, but I urge you not to judge these books by their dust jackets.

Overall feeling: ajklfmnato!.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.