Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ContempConvos: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Firsts

GoodReads Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

My Review:

Flynn’s Firsts is gritty, blunt, and truthful. She takes the topics of sex and high school from conventional to out of the box direction.

Mercedes uses sex as a control factor for her, otherwise, out of control life. Her mother is completely negligent, telling Mercedes, from an early age, she has to be skinny and pretty, and treating her like a best friend rather than a daughter. Her father basically abandoned her at the age of eight. Mercedes believes she is helping these guys, by taking their virginity, and giving them direction for their first time with their girlfriends. It isn’t until everything blows up that she has to re-evaluate her life, who her friends are, and what she really wants. This is a true coming-of-age story, one where Mercedes believes she is an adult, making adult decisions, but in reality she is lost, alone, and confused… and still a child in some ways.

When I first read the synopsis for Firsts I was intrigued. The topic of sex, high school students, and virginity is something Americans have a difficult time talking about. Especially when it comes to the pressures put on both guys and girls. Most high school sex-ed programs focus on abstinence only in a society where, more often than not, students are having sex earlier and earlier. I think this book portrays high school sex in the most accurate way possible.

Reading this book really took me back to high school, the pressure of sex from my boyfriend, my first time (and those subsequent times after), and what it all really meant. Everyone has a first time story and it really hit home. Guys are expected, by society, to know how to have sex, and how to make their girlfriend feel good. But in reality, it’s a learning curve, one that lasts for a very long time. And, as a society, we put too much stock into virginity and pureness, so girls believe that they have this precious thing  that has to be protected; that they can only give away at the right moment, right time.  It’s absurd.

“They have the hard part, physically and emotionally. Virginity is supposed to be something a girl gives up only when she is ready and feels comfortable, something a girl discusses at length with her friends and flip-flops over a million times in her mind before actually doing it. A guy is expected to be born ready.”

Above is the perfect description of society’s expectations. This topic is near and dear to my heart and Firsts really captures the truth of sex for teens today.

Rating: 5 out 5

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ContempConvos: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Red, vintage, neon motel sign on blue sky; Shutterstock ID 95002717

Goodreads Summary:

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

Review:

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That’s exactly how I feel right now after just finishing I’ll Meet You There. I am floating in the stars happy. Gahhhhhhh I can’t seem to form coherent thoughts, but I shall try!

Skylar and Josh. They are both the perfect match for each other if there is such a thing. When Josh needed someone to put him in his place, Skylar was able to do it, when Skylar needed someone to be her friend, Josh was there. The other was always what the other needed. It is amazing to see such a perfect balance. Of course there were some issues Josh had to work through and Skylar as well, but at the end of the day, I really loved their relationship from friendship to something more.

What I really appreciated was the fact that a YA novel was able to marry a coming of age story with the aftermath of war for the soldiers that are lucky enough to come home. The difficulty to be a civilian again after seeing horrendous things. Reading stories like this make you appreciate even more the freedom that we experience in our day-to-day lives and the sacrifice the brave men and women who serve our country have done so we can be safe and sane. Please read the Author’s note at the end. You won’t regret it.

I will leave you with this quote which summarizes Skylar and Josh’s relationship.

“I had to tell him we were like a collage. Pieces that could be put back together in a new way, a better way. If I didn’t say it now, I never would.”

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, ya contemporary

ComtempConvos: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything

GoodReads Summary:

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

Liz’s Review:

This was my first book by Sarah Dessen and I really enjoyed it. It is a classic of what I always assumed high school novels should be- uncomfortable interactions, personal growth, loss of innocence (not sexually), betrayal, tragic vanity, illusion vs. reality. These play out in the different relationships Sydney has- with her parents, brother, friends, love interest.

Dessen does an exceptional job at asking, and answering, questions that as teens we all have at some point. What meaning does my life have? Am I significant? Can I handle the events taking place? Do I have my best interest at heart? Are these people truly my friends? What do I want for my future? And even the simple questions- do I like this boy? Am I comfortable?

We are taken through the story by Sydney, who asks these questions, and has to evaluate what would be best for her, given the situation with her brother, and the lack of anything significant from her parents- emotionally and physically. Through out the book, she grows as a person- from a girl who just went along with her parents and didn’t ask anything of, because her parents have made her brother the center of their universe to a person who finally does what is best for herself, standing up to her parents, taking control back from her mother. Sydney is a complex character. Her friends are perfectly written as well, but are not without their own flaws and tragic backstory.

Side note about the mom- I really hated her. Once Peyton went to jail, it was all she thought about. Basically forgetting she had another child who needed her. And because she refused to acknowledge that what her son had done was wrong, Sydney was forced to take on that guilt. And when she finally did notice her daughter, she was a helicopter parent, afraid Sydney would make the same mistakes as Peyton.

This is a wonderful coming of age story.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Reviews, ya contemporary, YA Mystery

ARC Review: Sing Sweet Nightingale by Erica Cameron

Sing Sweet Nightingale (The Dream War Saga, #1)

GoodReads Summary:

Mariella Teagen hasn’t spoken a word in four years.

She pledged her voice to Orane, the man she loves—someone she only sees in her dreams. Each night, she escapes to Paradise, the world Orane created for her, and she sings for him. Mariella never believed she could stay in Paradise longer than a night, but two weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Orane hints that she may be able to stay forever.

Hudson Vincent made a pledge to never fight again.

Calease, the creature who created his dream world, swore that giving up violence would protect Hudson. But when his vow caused the death of his little brother, Hudson turned his grief on Calease and destroyed the dream world. The battle left him with new abilities and disturbing visions of a silent girl in grave danger—Mariella.

Now, Hudson is fighting to save Mariella’s life while she fights to give it away. And he must find a way to show her Orane’s true intentions before she is lost to Paradise forever.

My Review:

I had such a hard time with this book. I feel like that has been the trend recently with the ARCs I’ve read. I though the idea behind the story was interesting, but it turns out, it wasn’t written well.

The book opens with Hudson taking a walk with his little brother. It then jumps to a fight scene, and his little brother dies. This sets the whole book in motion. He is part of this dream world where a beautiful women has made him promise to never fight again… but he breaks that promise. Then he finds out she is a demon controlling him. He breaks from her and gets some weird “powers”. (Is this trying to be a twist on X-Men, on how they received their powers?) Then he has a dream about a girl, Mariella, who he has to save.

It is super confusing. I didn’t understand how Hudson broke from Calease, or where these powers came from. And why did his dream choose Mariella? Why is she so significant?

Mariella is a stubborn character who was frustrating the whole time. She is naive, but not in an innocent kind of way. She doesn’t speak, so you hear her thoughts… and they are so freaking repetitive I couldn’t stand it.

I think the idea- demons presenting themselves as angels in dreams to trap your soul and suck the life out of you- could be a good book… if it was written well, had better climaxes linking the characters to each other, and less repetitive moments. I think the author should have outlined more and fleshed out the characters more. In the end, I didn’t care if anyone lived or died. I just wanted to book to end.

Rating: 2 out 5

I would like to thank NetGalley and Spencer Hill Press for the opportunity to read this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free in no way influences my review.

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Contemporary Conversations, Reviews, YA Mystery, YA Thriller

ContempConvos: Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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Goodreads Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

Review:

Oh my gosh.

I am dead. No pun intended.

I was a huge fan of The Naturals, but Barnes just went ahead and blew me away with the sequel.

Killer Instinct is everything you’ve wanted. It’s dark, it’s gritty, and addicting. You have the action, the sick twisted mindset of the killer, and the relationships between the naturals. I wish this were a tv show.

In Killer Instinct we have the gang in the aftermath of what happened with Cassie and “agent” Locke. As Cassie deals with the aftermath, a copycat shows up, but it’s not just any killer he is copying, but Dean’s dad. MO right to the t. The entire time we are dealing with the team trying to solve who is the copycat, if the naturals program will be dismantled with Agent Sterlings presence now in the mix, and Cassie’s inner turmoil of Michael or Dean.

Now don’t be turned away because we have love in the mix. Ms. Barnes does it in a very tasteful way which actually adds to the story and doesn’t take away from it.

At the end of the day, if you haven’t read Killer Instinct (or The Naturals) please do so. You will not regret that decision.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Reviews, ya romance

Book Review: The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry

The Love That Split the World

GoodReads Summary:

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

Review:

The Love That Split The World is an enchanting read about young love and time travel. Natalie can see two different versions of her hometown, Union, and meets an intriguing guy, Beau, when she slips into the alternate town. Her grandmother, a “spirit”, tells her at the beginning of the book that she has three months to save “him”, but Natalie doesn’t know who “he” is. She spends the summer trying to discover who this guy she is supposed to save is, but also who she is and what she wants.

I found this book to be very interesting. There are stories within the overarching story itself. These stories come from old Native American tales passed down through generations, but also stories out of the bible. For Natalie, these stories have meaning because she is part Native American. Natalie is a complex character trying to find out who she is and where she fits in with the world. Since she is adopted, and one half Native American, she finds it difficult to determine where she fits in. When she meets Beau, who is an equally complex character, she is certain she has found someone who understands her circumstances because he is having a difficult time determining where he fits into the world as well.

Grandmother is a curious character. She tells stories that you don’t fully understand until the moment the Natalie understands them. She is an odd duck, only appearing to Natalie during the nighttime speaking in riddles.

Beau is my favorite character. He is chivalrous and benevolent. He is, generally,always there for Natalie when she needs him the most. And the bond that is formed between them is unbreakable.

Emily Henry’s writing is wonderful. I loved her use of the story within a narrative. As a reader, we are being told that these tales are important to the character in her quest to save a boy and discover herself. They play a major part in the plot and are a kind of foreshadowing, though at the time of reading them I didn’t know what they were foreshadowing.

I enjoyed the book, but I am not a fan of the ending. I was left with questions and wasn’t fulfilled. I need closure from my characters.

**SPOILERS** Don’t read below this point if you haven’t read! **SPOILERS**

If you have finished The Love That Split The World, great! I truly did love this book, HOWEVER, I did not love the ending. I was left with so many freaking questions and it made me angry (Veronica heard all about how angry it made me).

The second to last chapter leaves us with Natalie making the choice to try and change history, the accident’s that left both her and Beau dead in their own worlds. GREAT! I love that idea. However, the last chapter is another story, telling us how a girl had never met a boy but she had missed him. I get the continuity with the story, and metaphorically, we can draw our own conclusions- Natalie succeeded in saving them both and they live happily ever after. I am not one to assume these things. I enjoy solid closure. I like to know FOR CERTAIN that she changes their timelines and they end up together.

This is why a star was knocked off for me.

**End Spoilers***

Rating: 4 out of 5

NA Contemporary, NA Romance, Reviews, Special Review

Book Review: Scarred by Joanne Macgregor

Scarred

GoodReads Summary:

“Life leaves you scarred. Love can make you beautiful.”

Seventeen year-old Sloane Munster is trying to reboot her life after a serious car accident left her badly scarred and emotionally traumatized.

Starting her senior year at a new school, she’s delighted to see Luke Naughton, a swimmer whom she once crushed on, in the class in front of her. But when he glares back at her with disgust and revulsion, she’s shocked and hurt, and assumes it’s because of her appearance. Despite misunderstandings, the chemistry between them sparks and love grows against a background of guilt, secrets, and mounting tensions at a school where bullying is rife and Sloane is not the most deeply scarred person.

Sharp with bittersweet humor, Scarred is an intense, beautiful, compelling story of life, death and fighting for love against all the odds.

Review:

Scarred is about Sloane Munster, who suffers from a tragic accident in her life, leaving her physically and mentally scarred. Due to the trauma, she spends almost a year in hiding, finishing her junior year with private tutors. But through the help of her therapist, Sloane attends a new school for senior year, where she runs into old faces, new faces, and has to come to terms with the actions of her mother as well as herself and how she will move forward with her life.

Joanne Macgregor’s writing is a graceful look at the physical and emotional aftermath of a tragedy in a person’s life. It is evocative. It doesn’t push aside the effects mental illness has on a person. Or how, through the support of friends, family, and love, a person can move forward in their life- move past the tragedy and see there is a bright future ahead of them.

When I first started this book, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. Sloane Munster felt very one dimensional- she was focusing on how she looked and how her life used to be. She was beautiful. She was popular. “I didn’t used to get called anything nasty about my appearance, I used to be pretty. The GG’s- short for Gorgeous Girls- that’s what our clique was called, in my old school.” However, after moving further into the book, Sloane becomes more than a one dimensional character. The scar is just a representation of her emotions. By the end, I fell in love and didn’t want it to end.

Sloane is a truly tragic, and complex, character who has to adjust to her life A.S.- after scar. The girls at her new school taunt her looks, which shows just how juvenile and immature teenage girls can be. It also is a reflection of our society and how much pressure we put on young girls when it comes to physical appearances. She has to deal with boys staring at her. She has to acquiesce the lose of her family and guilt of ruining another family.

I truly enjoyed when Luke, Sloane’s love interest, was given a chapter. He is a central character, not only to Sloane’s development through out the book, but to the story itself. Seeing his point of view is vital to understanding his involvement in the accident and how he develops as a character. As a side sub-plot, the book also address the treatment of others in general, whether it is a student-student relationship, a student-teacher relationship, or a child-parent relationship, and how that can impact a person’s life, positively or negatively.

Joanne Macgregor is a counseling psychologist who specializes in victims of crime and trauma. It is very apparent that she knows what she is writing about; it is captivating and emotional and clearly understood from a psychologist’s point of view.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a gripping story of tragedy, loss, and survival. I think an anthem to this book is Scars to You Beautiful by Alessia Cara. Go listen to it during/after reading this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’d like to thank Joanne Macgregor for the opportunity to read Scarred in return for an honest review. Receiving this book for free doesn’t influence my opinion.

Reviews, Special Review, YA Paranormal

Novella Review: Proposal by Meg Cabot

Proposal (The Mediator, #6.5)

GoodReads Summary:

The last place Suze Simon expects to find herself during Valentine’s Day is a cemetery. But that’s what happens when you’re a mediator – cursed with the “gift” of communicating with the dead.

That’s how Suze has ended up at the graves of a pair of NCDPs – Non-Compliant Deceased Persons – whose drama didn’t end with death. It’s Suze’s job to make sure they move on—for good.

But the NCDPs aren’t the only ones with problems. The reason Suze is spending her Valentine’s Day with the undead instead of her boyfriend, Jesse, is because he’s having so much trouble adjusting to life after death . . . not surprising, considering the fact that he used to be an NCDP himself, and now his girlfriend busts his former kind for a living, while he tries to cure his kind of what used to ail him.

Can Suze use her mediating skills to propose a mutual resolution, and bring all these young lovers together – including Jesse and herself – especially on the night Saint Valentine declared sacred to romance?

Or will she end up alone—and possibly undead—herself?

Review:

First of all, I am so so so so so excited not only for this novella, but the book that comes after this novella. I didn’t think we would EVER get another Mediator series book. The series seemed so finished, but I always hoped and dreamed that we would get something. And we did.

Meg Cabot’s Proposal is a spectacular way to dip you toes back into the The Mediator Series. It is full of the usual NCDPs and Suze’s own throw a punch first, ask her questions later mentality. Of course their is a ghost who needs her help and the only way to help him is to punch her way through. And by her side is the ever swoon worthy Jesse de Silva.

Before jumping back into Suze Simon and her mediator ways in Remembrance, check Proposal out first. You don’t want to miss what happens!!

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

Book Review: Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

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Goodreads Summary:

A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

Review:

FREAKING ADORABLE. That is all I can come up with when I think of Hello, I Love You.

Many of you don’t know about my Kpop phase in college. I was OBSESSED with Korean pop my first year of college. I’m still a fan, but not in the obsessive way I was, so when I saw a YA book about a Kpop idol I went all grabby hands for it. I called dibs on Kayla’s copy.

HILY is a very fluffy and fun read, but it does have some serious moments. My heart broke several times watching Grace struggle with the family issues she was running from, but enter Mr. Kpop and the heaviness of the situation melted away. While I was not always a fan of Jason, I grew to like him. He was your typical aloof male Korean character. I felt like I was reading a Korean drama instead of watching one. It was GREAT. I devoured this book in two days. I am glad to report that I picked a great book as my first read of 2016.

I do want to point out that there are several out there that will most likely not LOVE this book like I do. If you are a fan of Korean dramas and the Kpop culture in general, I’m pretty positive you will at least like this book. If you are not into Korean entertainment, then it is 50/50.

If you are looking for a light, quick read, pick up Hello, I Love You. Give it a try at least. 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Reviews, ya romance

Book Review: 99 days by Katie Cotugno

99-Days

Goodreads Summary:

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Review:

OH MY GOSH. WHY. MY FEELS. *dead* I never thought a book on cheating would be so insightful and real. I am blown away. The entire time I was reading it I experienced many emotions. At times it made me feel uncomfortable, but I could not look away. It was addictive. I finished it in one sitting.

Cheating is a very messy subject. Many people see it as black and white, but in reality there is more to it. Take for instance the story being told in 99 Days. It makes you think. It gives you all the information you need in order for you to make an educated decision. Are you on the side of the cheater or the one cheated on? At first you think, she deserves what she got! But then as the story continues you see how complicated and messy it is, and you start to question if she did cheat on him? Was that really cheating? Once you get to know each party involved in the mess, you start to see it wasn’t what it all seemed like in the beginning. Katie leaves you confused, and questioning the side you took at the beginning of the story.

At the end of the journey 99 Days takes you on, your decision on whose side you are on doesn’t even matter anymore. Who did or didn’t cheat, who was at fault, none of that matters. What matters is the lesson being taught. There are many sides to every story. Is cheating wrong? Yes. Should you judge the person? No. Life is messy and the only thing we can do is our best to do what is right and pray for some grace for the moments we fall short.

99 Days will leave you catatonic. You’ll have no idea what hit you and left you in a pile of feels on the floor.

 

Rating: 5 out of 5

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