Book Review – The Library of Fates

Title: Library of Fates
Author: Aditi Khorana
Published: July 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like It



A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn.

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

“All I had now were stories, words, and hope” (p. 185)

Thank you Penguin Random House for an eARC of The Library of Fates.

This story is unlike one I’ve ever read before and I absolutely love that fact. Khorana writes an #ownvoice story about Indian folklore that completely dunks you into this awesomely beautiful culture and storytelling. The descriptions are colorful and vivid, evoking a subconscious sense of wanderlust, presenting a world that you will want to reach out to touch, taste, feel, and can’t get enough. Who wouldn’t want to explore a place like this: “Blue and silver minarets rose above the walled city of Shalingar’s capital—Ananta. A layer of marine fog settled over Chanakya Lake, revealing miniature houseboats wearing elaborate gardens on their roofs like soft, mossy hats. They sailed placidly across the flat, misty surface of the basin” (p. 7)?

Amrita is the daughter of an emperor who has kept her primarily contained within the palace walls her whole life. Honestly, the palace has so much for her, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t have huge dreams to leave. She has a great relationship with her father, a best friend from childhood who recently revealed his feelings for her, and a handmaiden-type woman who is basically a mother figure. While she can be a bit of a brat when she doesn’t get what she wants (Can you blame her, though? Everything is generally given to her usually.), she respects her dad and his leadership of their lands.

But everything gets flipped upside down when her father’s old friend comes to visit. Sikander is a sexist, entitled jerk who wants to own and rule over everything. Soon into his visit, he reveals his plan to take over the kingdom and wreak destruction to make it happen. Amrita is encouraged to flee to warn her people. She then is sent on a great journey with her new friend Thala, learning about the world outside her doorstep, about how to take risks and fight for the people she loves, about sacrifice, and that the folklore stories she grew up hearing had more truth than she ever dreamed and she played a big role in them.

While the writing was absolutely gorgeous and the adventure exciting, there were some slower parts that I just wanted to rush through. Plus, there were actually a couple love triangles and I’m not really about that life. However, even with those things, I cannot recommend this book enough!

The Library of Fates is an enchanting story that heavily focuses on love and sacrifice. The amount of sacrifices made throughout this story make you want to be a better person and love your people harder. And while there is quite a lot lost on the journey, the fight is worth it and the end is inspirational. So I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“And we cried because I think we both understood that there was no life without loss.”
(p. 301)

Blog Tour – Lose Me.

Welcome to the last stop in the Lose Me. blog tour! If you haven’t been following along, you can start at the beginning with Shoshi Reads OR you can go BACKWARDS and start with the stop before mine, Mountains of Rain & Sun. I’m happy that you’ve joined me for my interview with the author, M.C. Frank. First, let’s take a quick look at what this book is about:

Title: Lose Me.
Author: M.C. Frank
Release Date: April 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance



Jane Austen meets New Adult fiction in this compulsively readable romance.

“Today is not the day I die.”

Ari Demos starts every day with this thought. Fresh out of high school, she’s landed a coveted role as a stunt double in a new Pride and Prejudice adaptation starring the Hollywood phenomenon Weston Spencer. But this job isn’t going to be easy: Ari will be performing complicated water stunts and driving fast cars along the narrow cliffs of Corfu. One false step and she could lose not only her job, but her life.

And then Wes Spencer, Mr Darcy himself, arrives in Greece. He’s got dirty blonde hair, a mile-long yacht and a bored look on that gorgeous face. Ari wants nothing to do with the rich actor boy, but on the day she meets him, she has an accident. One that almost claims her life. And now she can’t hide from the truth any longer:
She might be much closer to losing everything than she thought. She might be dying. And the British actor is the last person she’d expect to save her life.

She’s a hard-working island girl. He’s adored by millions.
Falling in love was never supposed to be a part of the job.
Staying alive was never supposed to be a part of growing up.

Was this story ever meant for a happily ever after?

I was fortunate to receive an Advanced Readers Copy from the author before the release. You can check out my review here.

Blog Post Header

Tell me a little bit about your writing process – how do you get the characters and their stories onto the page?

  • It’s not that exciting if you look at it. The good stuff happens inside my head. I just sit down at my laptop and write! I take it everywhere with me, desk, bed, couch… and I just tap away. That’s pretty much it. Most of the book has been “written” before I start typing, however. It’s been already created in my head as well as fully outlined, and, of course, there’s a great deal of research that needs to be done beforehand, too.

What are your favorite books and authors? How do you feel like they influence your writing?

  • We could be here all day, but here’s a few: I love Jane Eyre, and I think it’s a pure work of genius. But I also love everything by Dickens and Shakespeare. From more modern writers, Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is my all time favorite, and it actually inspired my sci-fi series No Ordinary Star. From YA fiction I would definitely pick Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, because feels.

Tell me some about your Greek background and how that influenced this book?

  • My father’s mom was originally from Corfu, and there’s a lot of her in Ari’s grandma –although Ari’s grandma is based on both of my grandmothers. I have spent several summers on that island, and I’m so proud of the heritage I carry from those kind, talented and wonderful people. I love how they express themselves through music and song, and how kind they are to strangers. But I also love the beauty of the place, the wildness, the color, the water. When I first thought of Lose Me taking place in Corfu, I knew the setting would be almost as much a ‘character’ in the story as the protagonists. And it did turn out to be the perfect backdrop for the movie Wes and Ari are shooting, as well as…for some other things. (wink)

What has been the most fun book for you to write so far? The most challenging?

  • Lose Me has been by far the most challenging, because I had to do a ton of research on stunts and stunt performers. But the hard work paid off in the end. The most fun book to write was Ruined. I just love Regency, I have been reading Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and all the other amazing writers of the genre since I was a teen, so it just flowed naturally for me.

What projects are you working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for? Any new books?

  • I have already planned and outlined a lot more books in the Lose Me universe. So if you’ve got a favorite side character, it’s more than probably they will be getting their own book soon! Next is Theo’s, I believe. But deep down, it’s Pan’s story I’m swooning over. Can you imagine a girl that could make a guy like that actually fall for her? Yeah, me neither. We’ll see how that goes.

In Lose Me. you have references to social media outlets and articles between the chapters. How has Tumblr and Instagram helped you as an author?

  • On tumblr and instagram I have found some of the most amazing readers ever, and met my best friend. I have no idea where I would be without them. Also, I think social media is a reality of our lives, and it would hardly be realistic to write a book about young people without taking into consideration how much of their time is spent on the Internet.

Without any spoilers, what was the most exciting part of writing this book?

  • Oh, the stunt sequences, no doubt. I loved researching and coming up with those. Writing them was so challenging, I had to pick every word carefully, but it was completely worth it!



M.C. FRANK has been living in a world of stories ever since she can remember. She started writing them down when she could no longer stand the characters in her head screaming at her to give them life.

In her books, characters find themselves in icy-cold dystopian worlds where kissing is forbidden (among other things), or in green forests ruled by evil Sheriffs.

Recently she got her university degree in physics and is now free to pursue her love of reading and writing, as well as her freelance job of editor-in-chief. She currently lives with her husband in a home filled with candles, laptops and notebooks, where she rearranges her overflowing bookshelves every time she feels stressed.

She loves to connect with book lovers and other writers on social media. She’s found the most amazing friends and readers on tumblr and instagram, and they are what keeps her going when things get rough.

Connect with her on social media for awesome giveaways and free copies of her books! She would also love to talk to you about anything writing or publishing related.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads

Buy the Book: Amazon


One lucky reader will win a finished paperback copy of Lose Me!
Will run from April 11th to May 11th.

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Blog Tour/Review – Off the Ice

Title: Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1)
Author: Julie Cross
Published: February 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Like it

Off the Ice CoverSynopsis:

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

“I’m breathing hard, my pulse pounding. Dad snatches the puck from my glove and stares me down. I can’t tell if he’s pissed that I blocked his shot or surprised. All I know is that I want him to go back to the center ice and do it again. And again.” (chapter 23)

I have the privilege of being on Entangled Teen’s blog tour for Julie Cross’s new book, Off the Ice. When I first heard of this book, I got excited because I love stories that involve hockey. After all, The Mighty Ducks was one of the best movies to grow up on. The boyfriend and I are even planning on going to a hockey game next week – bring it on! The hockey element definitely added some fun and tension to this story, which I loved. Before I get started with my review, I would just like to point out that there are many other stops on this tour! Check the banner below for more reviews, interviews, and guest posts to get you excited about this book.



I went into this book thinking it would be a fluffy romance with some conflict on the ice, something that was easy to read and made me feel good. That impression was shot down almost immediately. This snow-covered town of Juniper Falls holds so many secrets and the drama they cause can sometimes be dark. I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire day and a half it took me to finish this book. The drama! To reiterate, this isn’t a fluffy romance; the plot includes sex, alcohol abuse, underage drinking, physical abuse, and language.

Juniper Falls is a small, fictional town in Minnesota that lives and breathes hockey. The boys are raised to be hockey players and the girls to cheer them on (ayyye, sexist much? Though, there is mention of a little girl taking hockey classes, so a point for equality.) Tate grew up in the shadow of his hockey star father, whose dream in life is to relive his glory through his son. During the first game of the season, the Otters’ goalie walks out, and Tate suddenly goes from being a benchwarmer second goalie to the star goalie for the season. But can he get out of his head for long enough to catch the pucks? And what is he supposed to do with all these secrets coming out of the woodwork, including his own? The thing about Juniper Falls is that they have this perfect picture of what their town should look like. Anyone who strays from these perfectly functioning idealisms is ostracized and shut out. Tate struggles with keeping his own secrets from coming out, while also figuring out how to respond to those that have had their life and choices put on display.

Claire was chasing her dreams of being an actress at college when her world got flipped upside down and she was called home to help with her father and his bar. She develops this strong, independent will that ultimately puts other’s needs before her own. Whether this means sabotaging her own dreams or pushing people away so that they can find their own, Claire constantly has a battle in her head about what she deserves and what other people need. Like Tate, she also struggles with the secrets she knows and how different people would respond to these.

Chasing dreams, making them your own, discovering the values of friendships, and finding a love worth fighting for, Off the Ice has such beautiful themes, which are diamonds in the darkness of the heavier themes found. The writing feels very much as if in a high schooler’s head, so it wasn’t exceptionally stimulating, but the plot definitely took my by surprise and gripped me until the very end. The climax(es) had my heart pounding, but the fight for love and dreams melted me to a puddle. Tate and Claire’s adventure is a rollercoaster you will need to buckle up your heart for, wrapping up smoothly with hopes for the future.

Purchase Links:

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Amazon | Indies | B&N| Kobo | TBD | iBooks



Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, and Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press). She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credibilities, Julie Cross is a committed—but not talented—long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.


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Lose Me. – Book Review

Title: Lose Me. (ARC)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: April 11th, 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance 

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like It


Jane Austen meets New Adult fiction in this compulsively readable romance.

“Today is not the day I die.”

Ari Demos starts every day with this thought. Fresh out of high school, she’s landed a coveted role as a stunt double in a new Pride and Prejudice adaptation starring the Hollywood phenomenon Weston Spencer. But this job isn’t going to be easy: Ari will be performing complicated water stunts and driving fast cars along the narrow cliffs of Corfu. One false step and she could lose not only her job, but her life.

And then Wes Spencer, Mr Darcy himself, arrives in Greece. He’s got dirty blonde hair, a mile-long yacht and a bored look on that gorgeous face. Ari wants nothing to do with the rich actor boy, but on the day she meets him, she has an accident. One that almost claims her life. And now she can’t hide from the truth any longer:
She might be much closer to losing everything than she thought. She might be dying. And the British actor is the last person she’d expect to save her life.

She’s a hard-working island girl. He’s adored by millions.
Falling in love was never supposed to be a part of the job.
Staying alive was never supposed to be a part of growing up.

Was this story ever meant for a happily ever after?

“The truth is, people don’t survive alone. And they certainly don’t thrive alone.” – p. 312

I recently received an advanced readers copy of Lose Me. from the author, M.C. Frank. I absolutely adored her No Ordinary Star series (reviews here and here), so I was pretty excited to hear that she had written something new and a little bit different. This is primarily why I picked up this book, whereas I would otherwise tend to stay away from NA Romance books. It seems that so many NA books out there have uncomfortable covers with shirtless guys, sometimes sensually grabbing onto a girl as if their life depended on it. What’s inside doesn’t get much more engaging. I’ve only read a couple books under this category, but the ones I have read or flipped through are filled with sex and sexual tension from beginning to end. Honestly, I’d rather not spend my time reading about the sex lives of flat characters. However, since I already know and love Frank’s writing, I decided to give it a shot. The first thing that told me this book would be different was the cover. Come on, guys—just look at that cover! It is way more inviting, creative, and well done than most novels in this genre. How could you skip over this beauty? Plus, the inside gets better! Once I picked it up to read, I cursed every distraction and responsibility that forced me to put it back down again.

Lose Me. is written in a carefree, conversational way as if Ari, our main girl, were sitting down with you, fingers curled around a mug of coffee, telling you all about her life. The story takes place primarily in Greece, with some appearances in New York and England. The descriptions of Greece are gorgeous and gave me a sense of wanderlust. I felt almost like I was there and had been there before, even though I’ve never even left the US in my life. The country’s beauty was captivating and felt like home. Frank, who is Greek herself, did a wonderful job of cultivating her sense of home and conveying that through her writing.

Without getting into spoilers, the middle of the book didn’t grab me as much as the as the rest, but I genuinely cared so much about the characters that I felt a sense of urgency to continue reading. I could feel the pain the characters were going through during some of the conflict and this pushed me on. I sometimes found myself wanting to yell at poor decisions made and tuck the characters in my pocket to keep them safe. Another disappointing aspect was that it felt like the book was rushed in the editing stages. Some scenes went on for a long time and were repetitive, and some of the edits just felt like they could’ve been better. Other than these two aspects, I loved this read.

A huge theme throughout this book is trust. Who should we trust our entire life with and when is it okay to not know? Everything Ari goes through boils down to this discovery: people need people. I absolutely love this and would smile (I’d say internally, but who knows what actually goes on with my face when I’m immersed in a book) every time Ari realized that she needed the support that the people around her are trying to freely give more than she needs to protect them and their emotions or to protect herself. You go, girl. Stop thinking so selfishly about yourself and let people love you. After all, how boring would life be if we didn’t have people near to our hearts to share it with, the joys and the trials? Life is much more rich when you have people to experience it with you, to encourage you, to challenge you, and to hold your hand when things get scary. “People don’t survive alone” (p. 312).

Memories Like Fireworks

66 Days.

My adventure in New York was 66 days long.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been reflecting on the highs and the lows, the unforgettable experiences and the lonely days. Through it all, what did I take from it and where do I go from here?

I love the feeling of an expected train. The cool breeze swirls around me, whispering of its coming while blowing at my clothes and loose hair. It tells of miles traveled, souls carried, stories untold.

Millions of little food options are crammed into small corners and apartments; they aren’t an easy find, but a worthy one. Donuts and bagels worth standing in line for close to an hour (I’m looking at you National Donut Day), summer food festivals in the park, little hole in the wall mom-and-pop places serving food from other countries, and elaborate dessert restaurants that fill you to the brim and leave you wanting more.

The area of Brooklyn I lived in during my 66 days was just a 10-minute walk from Prospect Park, which is far larger than any park I’ve been to in Charlotte, yet is still not quite as big as Central Park. Summer time thrives in New York. Concerts in the park every week, food vendors trying to spread their love for food to the masses, baseball in Central Park, and Shakespeare In the Park. The parks of New York are a revolving door of friends and families who like to soak in the adventures and opportunities available to them. Just add the tourists into the mix and you’ll see why it’s so crowded.

The sights are extravagant, the plays magnificent, and the memorials elaborate. New York embodies the phrase, “Go big or go home.”

A tall building on 20th Street has an office on the 11th floor, which crams in two independent publishing houses and a book distribution company. This is where I spend most of my days, asking for project after project in order to teach me about the publishing industry. Some of my projects are simple, such as packing boxes with books, weighing them, and bringing them to FedEX. Sometimes I input data or create fliers and email blasts. Most of my days are spent helping one of the companies develop a new website, uploading content and formatting different aspects to make it more user friendly. My favorite days were those in which I spend working with manuscripts, copyediting, suggesting changes, and brainstorming how to rework scenes so as to make them more believable. I love being a part of helping people tell their stories. My experiences have given me an outlet to continue to do what I am passionate about, and now I work as a freelance copyeditor.

On Independence Day, the weather is gloomy. I take the subway to Coney Island with my brother. As we walk up and down the boardwalk, a chilly breeze tugs at our hair and clothes. A large flock of seagulls do a dance in the sky as they battle the wind. The rides are old and look rundown, though they appear to be working fine. My brother and I dip out of the crowds and into a building to buy tickets to the freak show. We walk into the dark room and find seats on the bleachers. A man is on the stage, explaining some of the history of the show and interacting with the audience. Eventually, he demonstrates the first act by hammering a long nail and a screwdriver into each nostril. I cringe in discomfort. A performer who lies down on a bed of nails and allows others to walk on top of her follows him. Other performers come one after another, displaying amazing contortions and feats. The spectacle is a memorable one, and I leave feeling content in being normal. As we walk back out into the salty breeze, I still can’t shake the eerie feeling of the place. It reminds me vividly of the first time I read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury – it was during a storm at the beach. Certain smells have a way of bringing back memories. Even the rundown rides and the freak show feel like they could’ve been from the book. I smile as I think about this.

I took some trips to Pennsylvania and Jersey City, since they were so much closer to me than usual. Jersey City is a boardwalk galore. Shops squeeze together along the wooden walkway, their owners hoping to sell souvenirs, spray-painted clothing, and deep fried food. Giant, elaborate buildings line either end of the walkway, housing thousands of slot machines, poker tables, and gamblers with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. All the way at one end, by the Trump Taj Mahal, a Ferris Wheel stands tall in the blue sky – for just five tickets, you can be on top of the world. Another ride sends you flying in the air in a circle. I watch as my swing moves further and further out, eventually bringing me soaring over the ocean. I watch as the sun dances on the water below me. To my right (and then my left), I can see all the small people laying on the beach, walking the boardwalk, reaching for their wallets. Yellow and blue umbrellas line the beach, looking like something out of a picture. I later join the crowds on the beach; drink in my hand, soaking up the sun with one of my best girls. A successful weekend.

In Pennsylvania, I went with my brother to his boss’s farm for his annual summer party. The farm is huge – one would need a golf cart or car to get from one end to the other. By the barn and by the house, tents litter the place, offering endless food and wine or beer. A platform holds a live band, playing for hours. Trucks come in waves to offer popsicles, cupcakes, and ice cream – of the best variety. Along the hill leading up to the barn, hired hands man a rock-climbing wall, blowup water slides and relay races, and a mechanical bull. At the bottom of the hill, people fish or paddle board in the large pond. A bus ride down the long winding road by the corn fields brings us to a rodeo, where we watch bull after bull kick their riders off before they can even qualify – I believe only two stayed on long enough. At the end of the night, when our bellies are full, we all gather around for the final event. I sit sideways on a hay barrel, one leg tucked under the other, turning behind me to face the fence. I rest my arms on the whitewashed wood and my chin on top. There is a crackling sound and a small stream of light soars upward through the air. BOOM. Colorful lights dance across the sky, holding their form for just a second, and then they slowly fade, falling back toward the earth. BOOM. Another burst of color. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. Several fireworks go off at the same time, lighting up the sky as if it were no longer evening. After each burst, the colors fade, leaving behind trails of smoke as if to say, “Remember me. I was the best one, gone too soon. Remember that elated feeling.” As more fireworks fill up the sky at once, the smoke trails mingle, fighting to stay the longest.

My memories from New York feel like those fireworks, each one bigger and more colorful than the next. Each moment gone, leaving behind a trail of smoke for me to remember it by. I hope that the smoke trails stay for a long time, fighting to be remembered as the biggest adventure I’ve had so far.

Book Review – True Notebooks

IMG_7875Title: True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall
Author: Mark Salzman
Published: 2003
Genre: Sociology

I finished this book while riding the subway to my internship in New York City. It took every ounce of self-control to reign in the tears threatening to overflow. Why? I’ll tell you.

Mark Salzman writes about on opportunity he had in 1997 and how it affected his life. He was stumped while working on a novel and wanted to get some insight on the life and character of a juvenile delinquent. Somewhat reluctantly, he started volunteering in L.A.’s Central Juvenile Hall as a writing teacher for teenagers charged with murder and other violent crimes. He had all these expectations of what to expect from these boys. I’m sure all of us do. That’s not a situation most of us would desire to find ourselves. Some of these stereotypes seemed to be well-labeled at first, but then…Through their writing, the boys found their voice and began exploring their experiences, their emotions, their thoughts. Many wrote about how it feels to be locked up, awaiting their court date, knowing the eventual outcome–often a life sentence in prison. Through this experience, they struggle to understand their lives now that these mistakes they’ve made define them.

A few of the boys stayed in the class for most of the book, but one of the hardest things was reading about boy after boy who came into the class, found hope in their self-expression and a positive role model in their teacher, and would suddenly, unexpectedly leave, being sent to spend a lengthy amount of years in prison. Salzman’s writing connects the reader with all the characters, no matter how vulgar or what they had done. They weren’t criminals in my mind. They were humans with passions, thoughts, creativity, longing, and personalities. Salzman humanizes the convicts and calls the reader to allow them in your heart.

One of the biggest themes the boys strive to work through in the book is their struggle with hopelessness. What would they do with their lives if they had done it differently, if they had had another chance? Some find hope everywhere they can, like being able to see a cloud out of their small window. Some are unable to find hope at all.

The reader learns about the culture of the boys and why they feel they need to do the things they do or why they wish they hadn’t done what they did. We learn about how gangs run and influence their lives and about how they believe they must be strong for their families. One boy explains that, when they go to court, they have to wait to cry until they leave because they don’t want that image to be the last version of them their families see. He wrote a long piece about his experience in court, how he was unable to stay strong, and one passage in particular hit me in the gut:

I thought about all the people that were sitting in the courtroom giving me their support and love and I lost complete control of my emotions. The tears that I had held in for so long streamed down my face as I cursed myself for letting these people down. Why couldn’t the judge see that the young man sitting before her was not the same person that had entered juvenile hall two years ago? Why couldn’t she see that I had dreams of getting out and getting my life together, to be somebody?
p. 207

This book caused me to feel a wide range of emotions and feel completely connected. Salzman’s writing is uncensored and raw. He gives a real look at what life is like for these boys while in juvie, and what their lives look like after. By including the writing from all the boys he was able to teach, he allows us to feel for the characters as if they were people in our own lives who made mistakes. He makes us feel hope, fear, sadness, anger, and joy with each of the characters. The boys all discover more about themselves and their world through their writing. My only wish is that they could’ve had an experience like this before they made the choices they did. My only hope is that others can experience the therapeutic aspects to writing their hearts.

Now you know what happened. Now you know my story.
I hope I’m not just a face for you to see.
I’m a person with a past. I’m a person with a future.
So if I may, can I ask you to please pray for me?
p. 68

I Love You. I Promise.

I’ll be there.
When the distance is too far
And time ticks slowly away,
I’ll stretch my arms across the gap
And bid the void no longer stay.
I love you. I promise.


I’ll be there.
When the world seems to be too difficult
And managing makes your energy diminish,
I’ll pull those roots of fear, they have no place here
And help you make it through today, these ten minutes
I love you. I promise.


I’ll be there.
When your heart seems to burst with joy
And you can’t imagine a better day,
When you get to share your life with those you love
Don’t forget my words, don’t forget to pray
I love you. I promise.


I’ll be there.
I promise to never let you go
To walk with you through hard times
Bless you more than you know
And shape you to be mine
I love you. I promise.

The Hardest Goodbye

Don’t let me go
Don’t leave my heart in pieces
Don’t let me go
Please beg me to stay

It hurts me to see
Your tears clinging to your lashes
Your bottom lip quivering
Your attempt to smile


Don’t tell me to be brave
Because I’m certain I can’t
Don’t tell me to be confident
I’m sure I don’t know how

It feels like I’m saying goodbye
Instead of we’ll soon be together


Don’t let me go
Don’t leave my heart in pieces
Don’t let me go
Please beg me to stay

Don’t let me go away

Hearing In Pieces

Andy Mineo is a Christian rap artist that has an older sister who is deaf. Growing up, he chose not to attempt to understand his sister because he didn’t understand her disability. He released a song called “Hear My Heart” in 2015, in which he shares about his selfishness and apologizes for never learning to sign in order to communicate with her. I got to see him perform live in November of last year and this song moved me. He began the song by signing about his sister and I realized: this is for people like me. His lyrics throughout the song are so humble and his desire is for the listener to feel the sounds and to understand his heart. Here are the lyrics from the second verse:

I remember your son’s graduation
That’s when I met your friends
And they was all havin’ conversations
But they was sayin’ stuff that I couldn’t understand
Then all of a sudden it felt like, I understood something I missed my whole life
For the first time I was wearin’ your shoes
For the first time I was hearin’ your views
I never knew how complicated life is when you feel so isolated
And I know we don’t speak much
Cause when talking got hard all I ever did was throw the peace up
My big sister Grace, I’m sorry I never learned to sign
And even though you were born deaf
I pray you forgive me for the years I lived blind

Not all people with hearing loss experience things the same way because there are so many different backgrounds and levels of hearing loss. Deaf actress Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God, Switched At Birth) says this about different experiences: “In the deaf community, there are different types of people who have different philosophies. Some believe that they should only sign. Some believe they should only speak. Some people say you should use cued speech. Some say you should use cochlear implants. Some say you shouldn’t sign. Some people say you should sign” (NPR, 2010). I’m not even technically deaf in a cultural sense (legally, I totally am). For those of you unfamiliar with the deaf world, I’m technically hard of hearing, and this is my experience with that.

I was born with hearing loss. Due to several ear infections in my early years, my parents didn’t realize that I should be checked for it until I was three. They had taken me to a speech therapist who recommended I get tested. This was when my parents had to make a big decision in how to raise me: hearing or deaf. Since I was already communicating verbally (thank you, speech therapist!), they made the decision to raise me verbally. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I became interested in learning about the deaf culture. I started to teach myself sign language and took classes in community college. If you want to carry on a basic conversation in sign language without any specialized knowledge, I’ve got you. I’ve learned a lot since opening myself up to people like me, but I still have a long way to go.

One thing that is wonderful about the generation we live in is that accommodations are available to me most anywhere. This was something that was actually hard for me to accept, because I’m stubborn and hated that I needed help. If I could, I would’ve figured out how to do everything on my own, but that’s not the easiest thing when one of your major senses is lacking. I also felt like I was trying to take advantage of the system. Sometime in college, I realized that people are more understanding than I thought. I still get stubborn about doing excessive things, but I know what I need. If we’re watching a movie together, you bet I’m going to ask you to put subtitles on. I would rather not let my hearing loss prevent me from enjoying myself.


With my sister in Disney World. The only recent picture I have that shows my hearing aids.

A big part of my experience with hearing loss has been lip reading. Since I didn’t get my first pair of hearing aids until I was 3-years-old, I developmentally relied significantly on lip reading. Even though it’s something that’s been so engrained in my identity and my experience with hearing loss, it isn’t easy. After all, if a normally hearing person is able to understand 30% of what you said from lip reading alone, they’re considered an outlier (Altieri, Nicholas A., David B. Pisoni, and James T. Townsend; 2011). Another research project looked at the difference between the lip reading accuracy of a person with early-onset hearing loss and a hearing person. This one concluded “[t]he speechreading accuracy of the participants with early-onset hearing loss (M=43.55% words correct; SD=17.48) significantly exceeded that of the participants with normal hearing (M=18.57% words correct; SD=13.18)” (Auer, E. T. & Bernstein, L. E.; 2007). Basically no matter how good you are at it, you still miss a ton. It is pretty hard to get by on just lip reading, and I definitely can’t. That being said, I struggle getting by without it. Communication with people on a daily basis is kind of like putting together a puzzle, piece by piece. I take all of the information I gather from even just a sentence during an interaction and put them all together and hope I completed the whole thing. I take the sounds I’m hearing and match them with the movements your mouth is making. I add this to the information I’ve accumulated from reading your body language and eyes to understand the emotion behind what you’re saying. Every little piece changes how the overall picture looks. Most people are able to put together all these clues subconsciously very quickly, though I’m sure many of you couldn’t do it as well consciously. For me, I have to consciously put together these pieces, which can be exhausting. My brain doesn’t do it automatically because I can’t translate sounds into words the second I hear it. One thing that I have gained from consistently doing this is the ability to be particularly intuitive. Reading your body language and eyes lets me understand people’s unspoken emotions more clearly. I love it because I can tell when something is bothering one of my friends pretty quickly.

With all this puzzle piecing, there are some things that are particularly hard. Crowds are hard. Loud noises and multiple conversations make it hard for me to pick up specific sound cues. Accents are hard. It takes me a little while to get used to a specific person’s lip movement. The lip movements of those with accents are so foreign to me, I have trouble familiarizing myself with the words they are shaping. Mumbling is hard. When your lips aren’t distinctly moving, I cannot decipher what you’re saying. This does not mean I want you to over enunciate. PLEASE don’t do that. It really doesn’t make it any easier. Phones are hard. Relying only on the sounds, no matter how loud my phone is, is just not something I’m good at. Can you blame me? Really, being deaf is hard.


Being hard of hearing takes a lot of strength to get through the day-by-day life in a hearing world. I’m only human, there’s no way I can do it on my own. My strength to fight to be a functioning member of my community every day comes directly from God. Isaiah 40:31 says “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Boy is that true. Every time I try to glorify my own strength and not give my struggles to Him, I get rundown REAL fast. God is my strength. It is through Him I have the ability to walk and not be faint. He gives me strength in my weakness and grace for every day (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). My only hope is that He is glorified through my experience with hearing loss.

Rosie Malezer says, “Your hearing status doesn’t make you a better person. Your humanity does” (How to Be Deaf, 2016). I don’t want you to feel pity for me or that you are superior. This one time, I had a stranger say, “You wear hearing aids? I’m sorry you have to go through that.” I’m not. Yes, it is difficult, but it’s part of who I am. It’s an aspect of what makes me – well – me.